Guest Columns

Grace needed at separation: People don't forget

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Jeff Kortes
Jeff Kortes

Recently a candidate I had recruited gave notice to his current employer to take a position with one of my clients. Like most candidates, she was nervous about giving notice.

Handing in your resignation is rarely an easy event. Anyone who has ever resigned will probably tell you that. It was a big move, and she wanted to make sure that she handled it in a professional matter so that she would be viewed in a positive light and not burn any bridges for the future because she was remaining in the field.

I had prepped my candidate that she may get a rush to convince her to stay, or potentially the cold shoulder. Maybe even hostility.

What she got was the latter. Actually, she got the cold shoulder and then hostility. This was precisely the wrong approach for the administrator to take. Had he responded with the same level of professionalism as the resigning employee, he would have been viewed with respect.  The administrator of the facility would have sent the message that he was a class act. Instead, what he gave himself was a black eye.

As a leader, be it a program manager, assistant or an administrator, ask yourself this question: How do I treat people when they resign to take another job? This sends a powerful message to everyone else in the organization who is remaining about whether or not you respect people. I hear from candidates all the time that people become “lepers” upon resigning, or worse, are treated horribly.

Leaders take note: Your people are watching your every move and absorbing how you treat their departing coworker. Treating the departing employee shabbily is often the deciding factor for other people in the company who are wondering if they want to continue to work in your organization. Your actions speak volumes about the professionalism of the organization to the remaining employees.

Your actions as a company may push remaining employees over the edge from wondering about leaving to actively looking for another job! More importantly, people are like elephants — they never forget. They will file the memory away of how you treated the departing employee and use it as another reason to rationalize why they should leave your organization in the future when the right opportunity presents itself.

Also remember: People talk. Word will spread rapidly on the floor and across shifts about how you are handling the situation. In addition, in many care facilities, family ties are often very strong and relatives may still be working for you after the person has left.  Depending on the negative reaction, this can influence attitudes and directly impact patient care. That's why I always emphasize this point when giving my “No Nonsense Retention” presentation to organizations: Always treat a departing employee with dignity and respect, wish them the best and do what you can to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible. Be classy! The departing employee will appreciate it and the remaining employees will see it as a positive reflection on the organization.

Most often, we do not see someone leaving as a key element in the retention process. But it is. When deciding how to treat a departing employee, remember that people never forget.

Jeff Kortes has more than 30 years of experience in human resources and can be followed @nononsenseguy. He currently runs Human Asset Management LLC. He is a member of the National Speakers Association. Jeff is the author of “Employee Retention Fundamentals…No Nonsense Strategies to Retain Your Best People and Welcome to Dodge…Tales from the Frontiers of Business.”

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