I placed a candidate recently who was struggling about how to give proper notice to his employer. He is an incredibly loyal person who was terrified that he was letting his manager, team, and company down after spending the last six years trying to impress, support, and inspire them. He asked me for many different drafts of resignation letters, advice on whether he should take his boss/team out to lunch to tell them and lost a few nights sleep over giving notice the right way. This candidate was doing everything in his power to be a professional and to be a team player, and to avoid burning a bridge.

It ended up happening at a lunch with his boss and while the candidate was incredibly appreciative to everything that the manager and company had done for him, the manager didn’t even finish his lunch and walked away from the table after a curt: "Yeah, great."

Much has been made about not burning bridges with your employers and about how you should be a professional when leaving a job, but how many times is an employer or manager held to the same standard?

Face it. Eventually your star employee will quit on you and leave your team. How do you handle it? Do you really need to ask? Be a professional.

For the same reasons a candidate doesn’t want to burn a bridge you shouldn’t as well. Don’t think that because you’re in a higher role that you’ll always be there. Some of your "star" employees leave your team to spread their wings in another opportunity that offers a faster growth path, propelling them to become your peer or even a superior if you were ever to look for a job yourself.

With all the talk about brand awareness and social media, what do you think former employees will say about their experience with you and your company if they’re treated like yesterday’s news? In the old days, there was Fucked Company, and in the old OLD days, there was word of mouth. Today, there are countless ways of spreading negative press about a company or a manager via Twitter or Glassdoor as two examples.

So when a star employee comes to you and gives his notice what do you do? Chances are he'll give his notice verbally out of respect for you. You need to appreciate this as a professional gesture and react accordingly.

  1. Thank him for all his hard work while you worked together.
  2. Talk about his next role and be empathetic with him on how it will be good for him.
  3. Always leave the door open. Things can change, and you'll want to keep the lines of communication open down the road.
  4. Don’t counter offer him – have more pride in your management style and respect for your employee.
  5. Don’t talk about you, the company, or the team, other than to say that you will miss him, and that you would appreciate the time to conduct a proper knowledge transfer to make sure that nothing gets lost in transition.
  6. Have a dedicated team member(s) be in charge of tying up all loose ends especially if he is client facing.
  7. Notify the team and company of the news so that they can say their goodbyes in plenty of time and so the employee can see/hear/read your thoughts on what they did while they were working for you. This also shows your current employees how much you care about them.
  8. Throw a going away party if possible and have people say goodbye in a way that you’ve encouraged. They’re going to do it anyway, so having this event come from you makes you look exceptional.
  9. Let the rest of the team know what your replacement strategy is and how to make do in the interim until the team finds a suitable replacement.

The funny thing about a bridge is that it connects two separate landmasses together and if that bridge ever is "burned," it no longer offers that connection no matter which side starts the fire. You know what side you’re on at all times and the bridges that lead to you are valuable, but don’t forget about the other end of that bridge – you’re going to venture that direction at some time or another.


Originally posted on: Hiring Juice


Views: 858

Comment by Sandra McCartt on December 16, 2010 at 5:55pm

Timothy i think your post is excellent and a topic that bears a lot more discussion than we normally see.  Resigning is like firing your boss  in his mind ,even if the reason is an upward move for a person.  In this instance i think your candidate picked the worst possible environment to deliver what for the boss is bad, bad news.  Lunch or dinner is a semi business ,social setting normally reserved for positive announcements or confidential discussions that probably are best not held in the office.

My take is that there is less likely to be an abrupt, negative response on the part of the boss if he/she is given the opportunity to hear the news, think about it, be irritated or disappointed to lose a team member ,then be able to go to lunch or dinner before the person departs after the shock wears off and a transition plan is in place.

It is seldom that we hear of a situation where an employee is taken to lunch or dinner and fired.  Then have to sit through an uncomfortable hour over chicken salad before having the opportunity to deal with any emotion.  Perhaps if the boss is given the same consideration of receiving bad news there would have been less of an emotional response.

From what i have seen it has always been considered the best time to terminate an employee is late afternoon on a Thursday or Friday with the suggestion that they take the next day and or the weekend to give some thought to how things can best be transitioned.

I advise candidates to write a professional letter of resignation with as brief an explanation of their reason for leaving as is necessary, state the two weeks or whatever time frame of their notice ending with a thank you for the opportunity to work for you and the company etc and reiterate a commitment to complete work in progress, customer transition and to be available in the future by phone for questions that may arise.  Make an appointment with the boss mid to late afternoon, deliver a verbal notice followed by handing over the formal letter then say something to the effect that they know this may seem unexpected or sudden so the employee will be happy to discuss any concerns about transistion after the boss has had a little time to think about the transition. 

Then go back to their office and give the boss a minute to think, review the letter, call HR, call the bosses boss or just bang his head against the wall because he didn't want to lose someone.  Given even an hour or overnight to accept the news, think about it and plan for the future it is less likely that bridges will be burned.

Dropping a rock in somebody's soup then expecting them to enjoy lunch seems like an unrealistic approach for being wished well in the future. 


Good topic, that's just my take but everybody has to do it the way they feel is the best.



Comment by pam claughton on December 16, 2010 at 8:12pm

I've advised candidates to approach their resignations in a way that has been received very positively by most managers.


The key is to explain that the reason for leaving is not personal, but rather is simply a business decision, and a good way to phrase it is something along these lines, "It's been a great experience working here and for you. I've learned a lot and appreciate everything, however, after much careful consideration I've made the decision to move on and have accepted a new position that is an outstanding opportunity, something I simply could not pass up. I hope that you will be happy for me, and I am eager to work with you to make the transition as smooth as possible."


Something along those lines, but the bit "I hope you'll be happy for me," is designed to have the manager pause and if is a good relationship there, unless they are a complete jerk, the manager should understand and wish the individual well. People generally can relate to "this is an opportunity that I just can't pass up, it's my dream job."

Comment by Timothy Yandel on December 17, 2010 at 9:40am
It's sticky any way you slice it really, but both parties need to see the bigger picture of things and realize that work relationships hardly ever completely fizzle out. Aside from references, you can engage in constant communication to make your network better.

One of the main reasons recruiters are in business is because most people are short sighted when it comes to their network.
Comment by Justin Miller on December 17, 2010 at 9:42am

Great post Tim.


As you know I recently had the issue of how to pull the trigger on the President of my former company...and you're right I did lose a lot of sleep over it and it was one of the hardest things I've had to do. The guy was awesome and I wasn't leaving because I wasn't happy...I left because I got an awesome opportunity at my current company.


I get the vibe that a lot of managers take it personally, which in a sense I get...these are people you spend the lion-share of the week with, it only makes sense to have some sort of connection with them...it's just important they know how to handle it and the list you put together I think is both fair and a great way to build yourself as a boss who people can approach, not some sort of tyrant like the candidate's boss comes across as.


Turns out my old boss saw it coming anyways which made it easier and a much bigger relief. Now I'm very happy at my current company and plan to be here for a while.

Comment by Ken Forrester on December 17, 2010 at 11:27am


You make very good points and this is good advice to hiring managers.  Another benefit is that the younger workers today are more receptive to returning to a former employer compared to years gone by.  So not burning a bridge is certainly good advice, but I doubt if it will change anything.  Because at the end of the day, they are losing more than an employee; they are losing revenue and a piece of the puzzle that took years to assemble.  Look at what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers after LeBron bailed. Plus if the best player or one of your better leaves-you will have a weaker team; and that’s how managers get fired.  They have a right to be pissed, and I say let them.  Because that is how the need for real headhunters is created-a weak team.


Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on December 20, 2010 at 10:48am

I work for a company many years go.


It was a body shop and i had over 100 people on billing. Mking the company plenty of $$$.


My wife was transfered and we we excited to move. I went in and gave the boss 1 months notice and he seemd ok with everything. That afternoon The gang took me to lunch for a congradutalions lunch. when I returned I had a check for 3 weeks pay my desk was cleaned up and was aked to leave.


I am all for trying to leave on a good note but take care of # 1

Comment by Timothy Yandel on December 20, 2010 at 11:17am
CB -

Everyone's out for #1 and I think the more people put that as their primary objective is the reason that we run into these problems. Being happy for someone else when they're leaving you is hard to do, but it does more damage when you're blatantly not. It's too bad you experienced that, and I'm sure you've told people about your experience after that which ends up hurting your boss's reputation. Karma's a bitch.
Comment by Bill Ward on December 20, 2010 at 2:08pm



That's hilarious your remember Fkd Company! that site was a riot. "Rumor has it that the good folks over at SellMyJunk dot com are leaving the company hq today with all the copper wiring they can carry and Herman Miller Aeron chairs!"

Phillip Kaplan aka "Pud" (site creator) is mostly on twitter these days http://tinyletter.com/pud.


Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on December 21, 2010 at 9:42am

@ Tim,

There is a company I recruit for called MTL Company. They keep a bottle of Dom in the fridge and they tosat people that find a better place to work,  If they can...



Comment by Timothy Yandel on December 21, 2010 at 1:52pm
@ CB -

I like that. Nice.

@ Bill

I follow Pud everywhere - he's surprisingly a pretty innovative dude.


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