How to Handle a Beloved Employee's Exit

How to Manage Employees

At work, a team is a delicate ecosystem. When an important or popular member of that team leaves, therefore, it throws the entire ecosystem off balance.

"When a favorite team member resigns … your role as a manager becomes more complicated," author Lisa Lai writes in a recent article for the Harvard Business Review. "You not only have to manage the work burden that comes with a vacancy on the team; you also have to be aware of the social impact of the loss. The social fabric of your team can unravel if you don't manage the situation with care."

To keep both productivity and morale high after a beloved employee's exit, Lai says managers should speak highly of the departed team member regardless of any negative fallout.

"When a well-liked and favored employee resigns, the most important thing you can do is show that you, too, are sorry to see the person go. This may or may not be completely true in the broader sense, but acknowledging the positive aspects of the employee's contribution will help you connect emotionally with your team's sense of loss," explains Lai, who says it's especially important to keep the departed employee's memory alive while searching for a replacement. "If you can include team members in the selection process for a replacement, assure them you'll work closely with them to choose the right fit in a new hire to complement the team. When you respect the contributions of the employee who's leaving and acknowledge how important it is to find a replacement that fits well with the team, employees will be more likely to see that you understand what they're feeling."

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