11 tips to consider when a key employee leaves

When one of your early employees decides to leave your new business, there are many emotions to process and decisions to make. Depending on the size of your business, you may be scrambling for someone to take on their responsibilities—or worse, end up having to add more tasks to your already long to-do list.

To help you deal with this difficult but common situation, a group of members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) answered the following questions:

“Especially when you’re new to business ownership, an employee leaving can feel overwhelming and confusing. What is your best advice for how to deal with an employee leaving and why?”

Here’s what they recommend you do when faced with this situation.



1. Be understanding

“It is important to show understanding. Supporting the employee, even if it is difficult for you, will ensure that they leave on a good note. Employees who quit may be related to a lack of job satisfaction, a problem with the company culture, or they just came across a great new opportunity! Knowing the reason they leave helps you put things in place to prevent other team members from leaving.” ~ Dave Hengartner, ready

2. Have an exit interview

“Always conduct an exit interview with each employee who leaves to determine if there are fundamental changes that need to be made in your company to reduce turnover. Hiring a new employee and training them is expensive, so do your due diligence to find any problems and solve them. Of course, your company and the job may not be the right match for the worker, and that’s okay, too.” ~ Jonathan Prichard, MattressInsider.com

3. Remain calm

“When an employee quits, the best thing you can do is stay calm and try to understand why they quit. It’s possible there was something you didn’t know about and you can learn from their departure. Maybe they weren’t a good fit for the company or didn’t share your values. If you handle the situation correctly, the employee may be willing to provide some good references for future employees.” ~ Blair Williams, MemberPress

4. Confirm the termination immediately

“Your employee will definitely hand in a resignation letter before they finally quit. It can be frustrating to read these termination emails, but acknowledging them the moment you get them can help calm things down and keep both parties on the same page.” ~ Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

5. Answer when you are fair

“When an unexpected situation arises – especially one that has a significant impact – react, but don’t react emotionally. I was once advised years ago that people will look at how you react in high-pressure situations. In this particular case, try to understand what happened when you’re in the clear. Then strategize and see what you can do to move forward. Always remain professional.” ~ Greg Soh, RoadFlex

6. Look within

“Focus less on how terrible you think the person is for leaving and more on what you could have done differently as an employer. It took me years to figure out that I need to do exit interviews and then many more years after that to find out that I shouldn’t be the one doing them. I now have an HR professional who gets answers about what we can do better as a company and how I can be a better leader.” ~ Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office

7. Try not to get discouraged

“Check in with the employee so that you can get an answer that gives you peace of mind. Remember, in business, we all owe it to ourselves to make the best decision for our careers, and fundamentally, your business won’t always be for someone. Do not be discouraged; just get back to hiring, and consider letting recruiters do the work of finding good people for you.” ~ Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts

8. Be open to other employees

“Losing an employee is never easy, but the best way to handle a layoff is to be honest and upfront about the reasons they are leaving. This can help you avoid future problems with other employees who may have questions about why they left.” ~ Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

9. Take time to process

“It is frustrating when an employee quits, especially without warning. Instead of letting their decision ruin your day, stay positive and focused. In many cases, the initial feeling of overwhelm is not as bad as it seems. Take time to process what happened, and you’ll find that it’s much easier to make rational decisions when you’ve cooled down.” ~ John Turner, SeedProd LLC

10. Come up with solutions

“No business can escape employee turnover, so the best decision is to just move on. However, you should investigate the problems that caused a particular employee to leave and come up with appropriate solutions. Even if you do not find any reasons why some employees leave the workplace, there is no reason to worry. Sometimes an employee is not the right one for the company and vice versa.” ~ Stephanie Wells, formidable forms

11. Be professional

“When an employee quits, it’s important to stay calm and focused. Do not panic; instead, take some time to assess the situation. You want to maintain a cordial relationship with your former employee, so try to be as professional and understanding as possible. By doing this, you can learn from the experience and move forward without conflict or risk to your business.” ~ Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

Image: Envato Elements


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