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Post: What to Do When Your Best Employee Leaves



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Every good thing must come to an end. That includes the working relationship with your best employee. Losing a valuable team member is an experience every organization dreads. Good employees are the backbone of any successful enterprise. They bring experience, dedication, and a unique skill set that is often challenging to replace.

When a good employee decides to leave, it can create a vacuum. Their absence can affect not only the day-to-day operations but also the morale of the remaining team members. Understanding the impact of this loss is the first step toward addressing it effectively.

For leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners, losing their best employees can create a sense of panic. Questions begin to swirl in our minds. Is it the company culture? Was there a conflict between management or co-workers? Or, did the good employee just stop caring?

All of this speculation usually does no good. Oftentimes, the reason for a good employee’s departure is due to it being the right time to move on for that person. This may set the business back slightly. But, leaders should look at this as an opportunity to change and move forward with their business goals, personnel, and purpose. In this article, we’ll take a look at what you should do when your best employee leaves.

Reasons Behind the Departure

Before delving into the measures to take when a good employee leaves, it’s crucial to understand why they decided to move on. While some reasons might be personal, others could be tied to the workplace environment, compensation, lack of growth opportunities, or disagreements with management. 

According to Pew Research, 63% of employees leave a job due to low pay and no opportunities for advancement. While 57% depart due to feeling disrespected or a toxic work environment. While it is tempting to guess why the employee is leaving, it is best to find out the real answer.

If the employee did not disclose this reason in their resignation letter, leaders should be sure to ask them about their reasons for leaving during the exit interview. We’ll cover how to conduct an exit interview later on in this article. There are many reasons why good employees quit. However, uncovering the main reasons may help you retain future great employees.


Minimize the Disruption 

When one of your best employees leaves, there is bound to be a disruption of some kind. This could be a drop in productivity or sales. You may even experience customer service lapses or unfinished projects due to their absence. When this happens, the goal should be to mitigate the disruption. The key is to make sure the disruption doesn’t derail your organization’s goals.

One of the ways to do this is by redistributing tasks among existing employees. Decide who is capable and knowledgeable to handle some of the responsibilities that once belonged to the departing employee. You may also want to push deadlines back to make sure that the quality of work is not compromised. Although you may not be able to do this with deadlines related to customer expectations, you can absolutely do this with internal project deadlines.

Here are the most important things to do to minimize disruption.

  • Communication: Keeping everyone on the same page can prevent misunderstandings and miscommunication about who will be responsible for the departed employee’s workload.
  • Equal Redistribution: The spreading out of tasks should be done evenly to make it a team effort. One or two employees should not bear the load if other capable employees are available.
  • Interim Measures: Hiring a temporary employee or a contractor, using interim management, or even engaging a consultant can be effective stopgaps.
  • Knowledge Transfer: If there’s an overlap between the departing employee’s notice period and the joining of a new one, use this time for an effective knowledge transfer. 

When a key employee departs, it’s akin to a cog missing from a well-oiled machine. This can potentially cause hiccups or even a halt in processes. It’s essential to promptly address and reduce these disruptions.


Exit Interview

An exit interview is a structured dialogue between an outgoing employee and a representative of the organization. In larger companies, this interview is usually conducted by an HR professional. These interviews’ purpose is to gather feedback and understand the reasons behind the employee’s departure. As we mentioned, understanding why the employee left is important to prevent other good employees from leaving.

To conduct an exit interview effectively, begin by setting a positive and open tone. Let the departing employee know that their feedback will be valued and used constructively. Also, make sure to let them know that the conversation is confidential. Schedule the interview at a convenient time for the employee. Usually, the ideal time is a few days before their last day. This is so they have ample time to reflect on their experiences.

If you are conducting the interview, do not try to wing it. Instead, provide a clear structure for the conversation. Start with open-ended questions about the overall experience of working in the organization. For instance, ask about what they liked the most and the least, and their reasons for leaving. Listen actively, without interrupting or becoming defensive. 

As the dialogue progresses, delve deeper into specific areas. Find out about their feelings about their manager, team dynamics, the workplace environment, growth opportunities, and any suggestions they might have for improvement. While it’s essential to focus on areas of concern, also take note of the positive feedback. 

Conclude the interview by asking if there’s anything else they’d like to share or if they have any recommendations for their successor. Express gratitude for their time and contributions to the organization. After the interview, compile the feedback and analyze it for patterns or recurring issues.


Boosting Team Morale

The departure of a well-liked and competent team member can often leave a dent in the morale of the remaining employees. It’s not uncommon for them to feel anxious about the future. Some employees can also feel overburdened with added responsibilities. Some may even consider seeking opportunities elsewhere. Addressing this promptly is crucial.

Leaders should act quickly to boost employee morale or at least maintain it while the company fills the vacant role. They should keep a positive attitude and outlook when communicating with employees. Also, it is a good idea to implement morale-boosting activities. This could be with on-site or offsite gatherings, stress-reducing activities, or rewarding employees for their hard work.



Address Internal Problems If they Contributed to the Employee’s Departure.

There is a saying that, “Good employees leave because of good or bad management and bad employees leave because of good management.” If one of your best employees leaves due to an internal problem, you should begin to address those issues right away.

Losing a good employee should also be viewed as an opportunity for organizational growth. Analyze the feedback provided during exit interviews and identify areas of improvement. Perhaps some changes can be made in terms of compensation, training, or creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment. By addressing these concerns, you not only make the organization more appealing to potential new hires but also ensure that current employees feel valued and satisfied.

One survey found that 60% of HR professionals take action after an exit interview. This is done by updating job descriptions, addressing management comments, and reviewing employee salaries. While many large companies take the exit interview seriously, this isn’t something that is always done in smaller companies. 

If you are a smaller business or startup, be sure that you are taking your departing employees’ feedback and making changes to your business. Otherwise, you risk losing other great employees.


Start the Recruitment Process: Quality Over Speed

While it might be tempting to quickly fill the vacant position, it’s important to prioritize quality over speed during the recruitment process. Rushing might lead to hiring someone not fully suited for the role. This could lead to even more challenges down the line.

Take the time to carefully evaluate candidates. Be sure to consider their skills and experience. But don’t stop there. Also, assess how they fit within the company culture. Remember, a good employee doesn’t just execute tasks efficiently; they also contribute positively to the workplace environment.


Leave the Door Open for Their Return

Saying goodbye doesn’t necessarily mean that it means goodbye forever. Depending on the reason for the departure, your best employee may return to your company one day. Employees who leave a job just to return later to the company are called boomerang employees. According to one study from the Workforce Institute, about 15% of employees were boomerang employees who had returned to a previous employer. Not only that, 40% of employees would consider returning to a past employer but in another role.

This is good news for employers who would welcome back a past top performer. While the likelihood of the employee returning to their past role is low, as the study shows, the odds of their return dramatically increase if they find a worthwhile opportunity within the company. One study of 13,000 employees found that returning team members were nearly always higher performers than new hires. They were also far more likely to receive a promotion. This is incentive for employees to create new opportunities. 

Employers should continue developing growth opportunities within their company. This will not only keep current employees happy, but it may also attract past, top performing, employees. 



No organization is immune to the departure of good employees. While the initial reaction might be one of disappointment or concern, it’s essential to approach the situation with a proactive and positive mindset. In business, change is the only constant, and embracing it paves the way for success.


Also read:

When Good Employees Go Silent and What to Do About It

15 Qualities of a Good Employee to Look For When Hiring

Why It’s Hard to Find Good Employees

When Good Employees Stop Caring and What to Do About It

Ralph Paul on Twitter
Ralph Paul

Ralph is the Managing Editor at StartUp Mindset. The StartUp Mindset team consists of dedicated individuals and is designed to help new, seasoned, and aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

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