How to get the best out of a resignation

Posted in : HR Updates on 10 June 2019
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

I remember years ago a manager telling me that he never knew how to handle an employee's resignation; should he congratulate the person or not, given that they have decided to leave the organisation and go elsewhere? Of course, the reasons employees leave their job are endless and sometimes it can even be welcome news. But on this occasion the manager was talking about an employee who was leaving to go to a similar job with a competitor.

Over the years I have witnessed different reactions to resignations from positive to negative. While some resignations can come as a disappointment, my advice would always be to think of the bigger picture. Northern Ireland after all, is a small marketplace. Employer brands need to be strong to attract and retain the best talent. And yes, while it is difficult to lose a valued employee it is much better if that person leaves on good terms. This will help raise the profile of the organisation and may attract new candidates either now or in the future. And sometimes the grass isn't always greener. The former employee may decide that they made the wrong choice and want to come back which is more likely when they have left on a positive note, assuming there is capacity to re-recruit them.

The very best example that I recall of resignations handled well, was by a manager who had a very open and honest relationship with his team. He was straight but fair with an incredibly positive leadership style. He knew how to get the best out of his staff and how to look after his key players. He expected the same level of courtesy and honesty in return and would ask his team members to be open with him if they were ever considering a new job opportunity. He said that he would rather have them be upfront as opposed to being faced with a resignation out of the blue having had little opportunity to think about a contingency and plan ahead.

Admittedly this can be difficult for an employee. What if they go for the job and get rejected and then feel embarrassed and awkward having 'upset the apple cart'? But that said, this manager's approach seemed to work. His reaction to a resignation after having had prior notice was always positive. He advised the employee to take time to consider the offer before making any final decision and would arrange time with them to thrash things through. He took an incredibly impartial view of the situation, taking into consideration the employee's circumstances; something I have not seen very often.

Where the final decision was resignation, those final weeks of employment were a period of huge focus and commitment by the departing employee. And inevitably, when that person left, they did so with a great story to tell. This was by far the greatest example of an incredible leader acting selflessly, and the long-term impact could only ever have been positive. When a former employee shares their experience of a great boss and workplace then this will boost the employer brand and potentially attract new recruits either in the short or longer term. Bad news spreads fast so while this leader was not only a nice guy, he also had the foresight and vision to think of the bigger picture.

Imagine a workplace full of these types of leaders? Wouldn't that make for a happy place to be?

Useful reading:

Handling Resignations 

How to Handle an Employee Resignation 

This article is correct at 10/06/2019

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Olga Pollock
firmus energy

The main content of this article was provided by Olga Pollock. Contact telephone number is +44 (0)79 7389 3448 or email

View all articles by Olga Pollock