What to Do When an Employee Quits Suddenly

What can cause employees to leave and what can your company do about it? Learn more about it here.

fired employee packing their belongings in a box

Whether your company is large or small, having an employee suddenly quit can be trying. Even if the employee submits a two-weeks’ notice, hiring and training a replacement can take a lot longer than that. This can increase the burden on other employees or leave you, the employer, in the lurch.

What can cause employees to leave and what can your company do about it?

Why Good Employees Quit

Employees quit their jobs for a wide variety of reasons. For some of the more common reasons, there may be nothing you and your company can do. If an employee is relocating with a spouse, nothing your company does can affect that decision. On the other hand, there are reasons employees quit that you should pay attention to. There may be problems within your company causing turnover that need to be addressed.

Lack of Flexibility

Flexibility in scheduling is becoming more and more common. If your company doesn’t offer some amount of flexibility for employees, they may leave for another company that does offer that perk. Flexibility is something that a lot of employees would consider leaving for. However, if your company did offer flexibility, your employees would have increased loyalty.

A Bad Boss

No one likes working for a bad boss. It’s said that employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Up to 75% of employees who quit do so because of their boss. A micromanager stifles creativity and productivity. A boss who steals credit leaves employees feeling unvalued. A boss that tries to force an employee to choose between their job and their family will most likely come first. Bosses should be empathetic and treat their employees as people rather than only as employees.

Stress and Overwork

It’s important to ensure that the workload is balanced across your staff. If some employees are taking on more work and responsibility than others, that may lead to stress and those employees feeling overworked and overwhelmed. If your employees are picking up the slack because other employees have quit but haven’t been replaced, hiring should be a higher priority. If employees are stressed out and overworked for too long, they can end up burning out.

Lack of Advancement Opportunities

If employees don’t see a path to advancement, they may quit for companies that do offer promotion opportunities. Employees don’t just want a job, they want a career. If they feel like they’re stuck in the same position and aren’t learning, they may leave for another company that will offer them better advancement opportunities.

Poor Company Culture

Company culture is very important in employee retention. Employees spend the majority of every day at work if they work full-time. Therefore, they want to spend those hours in a welcoming atmosphere that makes them feel like they belong. If the company culture promotes favoritism or allows for harassment, that’s an environment that will encourage employees to seek employment elsewhere.

Personal Reasons

There are a variety of personal reasons why an employee may leave that have nothing to do with the company. If an employee’s family is moving out of state or their health has changed, they may choose to quit and there’s nothing you or your company can do about it. The only thing you can do in cases like these is provide the best possible working environment for your employees. 

What to Do When an Employee Quits

High turnover is expensive. If you have a lot of employees leaving, that can harm your company’s productivity and the bottom line. If you see a lot of employees leaving, it’s important to address the reasons why in order to prevent others from leaving for similar reasons. If an employee does quit, however, these dos and don’ts can help you handle the situation professionally. You may even discover things that can be improved within your company to reduce turnover.

Don’t Get Emotional

Most employers’ initial internal reaction to their employees leaving goes something like “How can you do this to me?! I thought we understood each other!” However, that’s a reaction that will make the encounter infinitely more uncomfortable. Taking a breath and putting emotions aside can help you to move forward faster and to keep a good relationship with the departing employee.

Do Find out why the Employee is Leaving

There are a million reasons that an employee may leave, so don’t assume that the reason is obvious or personal. Ambitious, hard working people work on improving themselves constantly, which can cause them to “outgrow” your business. If you are tactful, you may also glean some insight into what you could do better to keep your next great employee longer.

It may be awkward for an employee to tell you all of their reasons for leaving face-to-face. Even if you speak to the person in depth, it may still be helpful to follow up with a digital exit interview. Employees may be more candid when they are on their own time and not right in front of you.

Don’t Make a Counter Offer

If an employee has gone through the thought process of leaving and made their decision, it’s generally unwise to make a counter offer. If they do stay, they may be unhappy with the position that they are now in, a job that they have already imagined themselves moving on from. If they don’t stay, it makes you look weak and unprepared.

Do Cover Legal Bases

It’s important to make sure that you draw up a final paycheck for the employee, disperse benefits, figure out bonuses, provide COBRA notices, and comply with any other legal obligations. In an already tumultuous time, it can be difficult to remember everything. For the best results, have a checklist of obligations for terminations to help you remember and cover all of the bases.

Do Transfer Knowledge and Duties

The first step to moving forward without your employee is to make sure all of their duties and shifts are covered. It may be necessary to distribute their tasks among existing employees or to take on some of their tasks. Hiring a new employee or looking at existing employees for promotions is the next step.

It may be prudent to have the employee list all of the things that they do. This can help you to figure out exactly who will take on what, filling the gaps in a more organized fashion while you look for someone to replace your employee.

Do Evaluate Your Leadership

Many employees quit because of their managers. It may be worthwhile to assess your own leadership and to survey how employees feel about your other managers. This can help you to spot leadership issues that may be contributing to turnover. If you know where your problems lie, you can work to correct them and keep future employees happy.

Do Make a Plan for Replacement

If an employee resigns, it’s important to replace that employee as soon as possible. Putting that employee’s work on other employees for too long may result in your remaining staff members feeling stressed and overworked. This would have the unwanted effect of more staff members quitting.

Communicate with your remaining employees that you are working to hire a replacement. Reassure them that any additional work they’ve taken on will only be temporary. If the employee that left held a higher position in the company, the open position is a good opportunity for someone to grow into a promotion.

HR software can help you to engage your employees and can assist with exit interviews. If you would like help finding HR software that works for you, check out our Software Match page.

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