Effectively managing a resignation – By HPC’s Eluned Ward

I was once told think of an organisation as a bucket of water, and when somebody leaves it is like you remove a cup of water from the bucket – it causes ripples but eventually it will return to a smooth surface. How long those ripples continue will depend on how a resignation is handled.

So what should managers do when they receive a resignation:

Remove the emotion

Yes it is hard to receive a resignation as there is rarely going to be a good time for somebody to leave.  It can be particularly hard when you receive a resignation you are not expecting.  However act in a professional way as it is a good opportunity for you to give the person exiting the business a positive view of the company.  Therefore before you respond, take a moment to consider your response – you can express your disappointed but in a positive way i.e. ‘I am sorry you are leaving but congratulations on your new role’.

Establish the reasons for leaving

When the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004 were introduced, a lot of organisations moved away from completing exit interviews/questionnaires as they were concerned that if an employee raised any concerns it would have to be dealt with as a grievance.  Even though the regulations were repealed, many organisations did not reintroduce exit interviews.  However it is important for organisation to establish why people are leaving and to see if anything can be changed to encourage people to stay.  Therefore exit interviews should be completed with anybody voluntary leaving. 

Acknowledge the resignation

Always confirm receipt of resignation in writing as soon as possible including their last day of employment in the letter.  It is a good opportunity for you to remind employees of any contractual obligations they have around confidentiality and restrictive covenants.  As well as informing them of any outstanding holidays (this is why a good HR database comes in useful as it will include an up to date record of how much holidays the employee has taken).

You may want to consider whether you want the employee to work their notice or to place them on garden leave.  This should be reflected in resignation acknowledgement letter.

Don’t forget to ensure that you follow the company processes and the relevant people are told i.e. payroll so they don’t get overpaid.  Make sure you arrange for all company property to be returned on or before their last day. 

You can’t control how others react to the news, but you can control how it gets communicated.  Agree with the person leaving what is going to be said, when people are going to be told and who is going to be told.  Managers need to be careful not to express any negative views about the individual leaving as people can then worry about how they will be treated.  As a manager you need to consider what you tell your staff about how the workload will be managed in the interim and what you are going to do to recruit.  You can use the situation to thank the staff remaining and acknowledge the work they do 

Ensure a proper handover

Agree a plan of action with the employee leaving over the transfer of knowledge and work. Don’t overload the person with work, so they can spend time putting together notes. Allow time for individuals to meet with the employee so they can understand what the employee did and where information/work can be located.  There is always going to be some intangible knowledge that cannot be transferred in handover notes so discuss with the employee about being able to contact them after they leave.


Although it can be an automatic action to recruit straight into the role but you need to consider what is needed.  It’s good to consider your resources and look to what you need to grow the company.  If a decision is made to recruit, plan the recruitment process.

Last day
Beforehand consider whether the company wants to give a present or do the team want to put together a collection for the person leaving.  You also may want to discuss with the employee what they want to happen on their last day – they may not want a fuss.  However, on the last day, it is an opportunity for you to public acknowledge the work the exiting employee has done and thank them for their work.  It doesn’t have to be a big party or an over the top gesture.

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