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What to Say When Your Employee Quits

You’re in the midst of dealing with all the usual work drama when an employee pulls you aside and asks to speak with you in private. You schedule in a time slot and walk into the meeting room with no clear idea what new issue will arise.

That is when your employee says, “I accepted a job offer at a different company.”

Well, that was unexpected. Immediately, your mind starts racing.

  • What do I say now?

  • Did I do something wrong that made them want to quit?

  • How will I find someone to replace them? I’m already stretched thin!

  • Will my manager view this as my failure?

Losing your first couple of employees is hard. I struggled to know what I was supposed to say when they told me they were quitting. Should I congratulate them? Maybe fight for them to stay? It felt-- awkward.

Learn from my mess-ups and use these tips to make the next departure smooth for everyone!

Show Interest

No matter what, this is a big life change for your employee. It’s okay to ask for details and show interest.

What to say: “Congratulations! Tell me a little bit more about the role and what you’re looking forward to.”

Ask to Keep Them

If your employee is great, it will definitely cost your business to lose them. Lots of companies are open to negotiation in these cases. If you’re not sure what can be offered, but know that you want to try to keep your employee, bring it up! It’s worth advocating for them to your management if they identify something that would make them want to stay.

What to say: “I’m sad to hear you are leaving. You are a great team member and I’d love to keep you. Is there anything we could do to keep you here?”

Handle the Logistics

When people leave, there are inevitably things that need to get sorted out, typically with IT, finance, and HR. Make sure you have the details on when they're leaving so you can pull in the right teams.

What to say: “When is your last day? I’ll need to take this information to my manager and HR, so they will follow up with any logistical items to handle before your last day.”

Request a Plan

Most employees give two weeks notice (sometimes more) so make sure those weeks are put to good use. Communicate to your employee what you need from them, and hold them accountable so they don’t check out in their final weeks of work.

What to say: “Can you put together a list of all of the things you’re actively responsible for by tomorrow and who you think is the right person to help manage it once you’re gone? We can then walk through the different items and discuss what you need to do over the next two weeks to set the team up for success.”

Communicate with the Team

It’s good to agree on how to best tell the team together. At the end of the day, you can’t force your employee not to let people know, but having a plan in place is best.

What to say: “I definitely want to let the team know, and I’m sure they’ll be excited to hear about your next role. However, I’d love to have a bit of a plan in place before we tell them. Is it okay if we announce this to the group in the team meeting tomorrow, after I’ve had a chance to work with [my boss] on how we’ll be covering your work?”


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