What Should You Do When An Employee Resigns?

How HR Can Professionally Handle the Employment Resignation Process

Businessman examining ëexití sign in office
••• Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/Getty Images

Why Do Employees Resign From Their Jobs?

Even the best employer has employees resign. No matter your work environment or your positive employee relationships, employees resign for reasons that are beyond your control. Sometimes they resign for reasons that are out of their immediate control, too.

They resign for new jobs and better opportunities for advancement. They resign to return to school or move across the country. They resign when their spouse takes a job in another state in a hard-to-find employment field. They leave because they want more money than you can afford to pay. They also leave if they have children so they can move to an area with better schools or where their family can support them as the children need care and growth.

The reasons why an employee might leave your employment are endless and endlessly challenging to you as an employer. Whatever the reasons why employees resign, these are the recommended procedures for employers to follow to handle an employee resignation with dignity, professionalism, and grace.​ You can learn from these recommended steps.

What Managers Must Do When Employees Resign

Employees will often tell their manager first when they resign from their job—this is usually the person with whom they have the closest relationship. The manager needs to inform the employee that the first step in the resignation process is to send a letter of resignation to the Human Resources office. This gives the employer official documentation of the employee's resignation for the personnel file.

This triggers all of the end-of-employment events necessary in employment termination. The boss needs to contact HR immediately to plan for a replacement employee. Or, to look at the structure of the department and how work is divided to determine the best next steps is often an opportunity when an employee resigns.

For matters of employee confidentiality, neither the manager nor any HR staff person should share with any colleagues the employee's plans. They are strictly confidential until he or she chooses to share them with their colleagues. All information that is known within the organization must come from the employee who is resigning from their job.

How to Act When Employees Resign From Their Job

Your job, no matter what the reason is for the employee's resignation, is to act with grace, dignity, and professionalism. Congratulate the employee if the opportunity sounds like a promotion or another career-enhancing step for them. 

Work with the employee's manager and coworkers to make sure that an appropriate ending party is scheduled or there's a chance to share memories and a drink at a local tavern or a cup of coffee at a coffee shop. You want every employee's last memory of your firm to be positive and professional. You want the employee to feel as if he had a special opportunity while working with your organization.

During this time, here's how to handle the details when an employee resigns.

Employment Ending Checklist

After you receive the employee's official resignation letter, work with the employee's supervisor to make certain that the employee's last two weeks remain positive and contributing. If the employee has provided the standard and expected two weeks' notice, you have ample time to wrap up the employee's job.

If the employee is viewed as a threat to the ongoing work and environment for your other employees, you can escort the employee from the workplace and terminate the employment relationship immediately.

This is, fortunately, a rare situation, so you normally have the opportunity to wrap up the employee's job and pass the work to other employees while you begin the recruitment for the employee's replacement.

Or you may rethink the organization of the work and the department as a whole. An employee resignation is also an opportunity for restructuring how work is accomplished in the department and by whom.

Final Items to Work On in an Employment Resignation Process

You will also want to work on:

  • Planning the recruitment for the replacement employee
  • Holding an exit interview with the terminating employee and
  • Finishing each item on the employment ending checklist.
  • Arranging the delivery of the employee's final paycheck.
  • Ensuring that the employee knows to keep you up-to-date on their address so you can send any follow-up paperwork.
  • Hold the above-mentioned going away event.

In Conclusion

You can manage employment resignation so you minimize the impact of the loss of the employee on your workflow and work environment. If you handle the process effectively, the exiting employee leaves knowing that he or she has contributed and added value during her time in your employment. Follow your standard procedures in your employment ending checklist for the employee's last day.