Skip to main content

Go ahead. Tell your people how to quit.

employee leaving companyWith more years in talent management than I’d like to admit, one of my biggest pet peeves is how employees quit their jobs and how employers facilitate their departures. Since the “great resignation” seems to be one of the only issues employers are talking about lately, perhaps it’s finally time to get a handle on the best way to quit. I’m serious. And if you’re serious about turnover, these tips will help.

The same old song and dance

We all know the drill when it comes to the time-honored tradition of leaving a job. An employee drops the two-week notice on the boss’s desk; this is when the predictable theater begins. The departing employee explains how they’ve accepted an offer that they can’t turn down. They’ve loved working at the company for whatever time they’ve been there. They appreciate the opportunity to have been part of such a great organization. They’re grateful and will do everything to ensure a smooth transition.

The supervisor, worried about management questioning another employee quitting, dances right along. If the employee is competent, the supervisor will head to HR and quickly put together a counteroffer that the employee will likely turn down. The employee will ride off into the sunset while the supervisor dodges the bullet by explaining they did all they could to keep the employee. In truth, we all suspect, and rightly so, there’s a lot more to the story than just getting an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Quitting time starts early.

the most important part of the onboarding process should be telling a new employee how to leaveThere is a better way, starting with the first day of employment. But then, the most potent part of the onboarding process should be telling a new employee how to leave. Because when employees are told how they should quit, they are less likely to do it. And, if they do, they are more likely to come back.

Adding a “how to quit” component to onboarding lets you precisely layout your expectations on how employees should leave the organization and outline what the organization will commit to in this process. All solid relationships are built on a foundation of open communication, so start by communicating the following:

  • No surprises: Explain that a “walk-in and give us a two-week notice” scenario regrettably catches employers by surprise and means both sides have failed.
  • Commitment: Establish that a commitment from both sides is needed to address issues before they become “reasons to leave.” Give yours and expect the employee to offer the same.
  • Candid dialogue: At least quarterly (or at least a part of the annual performance review process), ask some version of the questions below and discuss them with employees:
    • “What would make you leave our organization, now or in the future?
    • “What’s the number one thing that we could do in the near term to improve your work life?”
    • “What roadblocks can we remove to make you more productive?”

All for one and one for all

Organizations that commit to revising their onboarding process with this approach must also be willing to be accountable for seeing it through with transparency and consistency with all employees. Employees will notice and compare notes, so be sure to demonstrate that every employee’s input is expected and valued.

In my next blog, I’ll dive into what happens after the conversation – both if the employee decides to stick with the decision to leave and if the employee is willing to stay under new circumstances.