Leaders: 11 Tips to Consider When a Key Employee Quits


When one of your early employees decides to quit your new business venture, there are a lot of emotions to process and decisions to make. Depending on the size of your company, you might be scrambling to find someone to pick up their responsibilities — or worse, end up having to add more tasks to your already lengthy to-do list.

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

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

things to do when a key employee quits

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

1. Be Understanding

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

2. Have an Exit Interview

“Always conduct an exit interview with every employee who leaves to determine if there are fundamental changes that need to be made in your company to reduce turnover. It’s expensive to hire a new employee and train them, 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 OK 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 left. It’s possible that 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. Acknowledge the Resignation Right Away

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

5. Respond When You Are Level-Headed

“When an unexpected situation happens — especially one that has a significant impact — respond, but don’t react emotionally. I was once given the advice years back that people will look at how you respond in highly pressurizing situations. In this specific case, seek to understand what happened once you are level-headed. Then, strategize and see what you can do to move forward. Always remain professional.” ~ Greg Soh, RoadFlex

6. Look Inward

“Focus less on how horrible 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 learn 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 Be Discouraged

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

8. Be Transparent With Other Employees

“It’s never easy to lose an employee, but the best way to handle a resignation is to be honest and upfront about the reasons for their departure. This can help you avoid any 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’s 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 isn’t as bad as it seems. Take some time to process what happened, and you’ll find that it’s much easier to make rational decisions once 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 explore the issues that led to the departure of a particular employee and come up with fitting solutions. Even if you can’t find any reasons behind any employee quitting the workplace, there’s no need to worry. Sometimes, an employee is not the right fit 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. Don’t panic; instead, take some time to evaluate 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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The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

One Reaction
  1. Debajyoti Banerjee

    As a business owner, I am sharing my suggestions. First thing is to deal with the situation calmly without panic or getting emotional. Listen to the real reasons of the employee for leaving and clear him/her about the clear and real intention of the company about him/her and long term vision/goal and ask him or her to reconsider the decision if possible. Set a time frame of 3-7 days else professionally handle it with stipulated notice period.

    Meanwhile a backup plan to be implemented by empowering someone from the company in an acting role as immediate stop-gap and further recruitment process to initiate.

    To avoid any rumour or gossip inside the company, keep an open address meeting with all team members, clarify and clearly reassure them with company’s vision and direct them towards new goals/rewards.

    Keep an open ended and good relation with the leaving one as, if they want to come back again, there may be the provision to re-appoint them depending upon their performance, relationship and behaviour towards company.

    No one is invincible in business, nor even the owner. So take it as a lesson and move on with new challenges as part of life.

    Thanks for the nice and though provoking article.