What to do When an Employee You Don’t Want to Lose Quits

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Taking action after a star employee leaves is something businesses of all sizes face on a routine basis. If not handled properly, it can generate “a vast amount of anxiety and turmoil within an organization,” says Chuck Gumbert, Founder and CEO of The Tomcat Group, a Turnaround Specialist, CEO Mentor, Business Coach and Advisor, and author of three books, including Pinnacle Leadership: How to Navigate Change, Move Forward and Reach Your Peak.

Gumbert has utilized a wealth of life and business experience, as well as a knack for overcoming challenges, to guide numerous clients to success. One of Gumbert’s first major challenges – overcoming the debilitating effects of polio at age two – did not stop him from eventually participating in high school athletics and later becoming a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy, graduating at the top of his class. His drive for accomplishment, led to him climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and becoming a nationally recognized business leader, entrepreneur, speaker and mentor.

Today he assists small-medium businesses with improving or accelerating their business.

Gumbert recommends these tips for business owners, managers, or other dealing with a star employee leaving:

1. Always have a succession plan prepared to handle these types of situations.

2. If one of your star performers tells you he/she is leaving, listen to their reasons, but do not try and talk them out of it.

“It’s been my experience that they have already made up their mind to leave and no amount of money or promises will keep them,” says Gumbert. “Do not grovel.”

Gumbert recalls a time when he resigned and was offered a 25% increase in salary and a promotion to stay.

“I asked them why I wasn’t worth that yesterday and stuck with my decision to leave,” says Gumbert. “I have no regrets. In a majority of cases, if you do manage to talk the employee out of leaving, statistics show they’ll be gone within 6-12 months anyway. It rarely works out in the long run.”

Plus, you do not want to be held hostage, says Gumbert, who said: “I had one strong performer come in and unexpectedly resign. She told me she had an offer from another company for 20 percent more in salary, and that if I matched it, she would stay. I stood up, shook her hand, accepted the resignation and wished her the best. The organization didn’t miss a beat.”

3. Do not make a big deal out the departure with the employee or with the leadership team.

“Stay calm and do not overreact,” says Gumbert. “The departing employee is usually wanting to see a major reaction from you. Just handle it in a professional manner and work to replace the individual. Without all the drama, this takes all the perceived power away from the departing employee and put’s it with you as the leader.”

4. Strive to make the exit/transition sooner than later. If they offer 2 weeks’ notice, do not ask them to stay longer.

“If the departing employee exhibits a poor or negative attitude at the time he/she submits their resignation, or any time during their notice period, then terminate them on the spot,” says Gumbert. “You’ll be helping the organization in the long run.”

5. It may be obvious, but strive to take care of your star performers before they opt to leave by following these tips, from Gumbert:

  • Keep them challenged and motivated.
  • Make them feel appreciated by providing them the proper respect, feedback and rewards.
  • Value their input. Bring them ask them their opinions/ideas on issues or problems. Make them feel valuable and part of the team.
  • Try to be a mentor to them from both a business and career development aspect. Show them what their future could be.

“People leave organizations for a reason and usually it’s not for money,” says Gumbert. “It’s your responsibility as the leader to fully understand and accept the reason good people leave.”

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