How To Handle An Employee Who Wants To Leave

a man packing up his stuff because he told his boss he wants to leave his job

Do you know or suspect that your employee wants to leave your business?

This realisation might put you in a panic. You might be worrying about the process of replacing them, or have the mentality that if they want to go they should. However, there is always the potential to learn and better your internal processes by listening to what an employee who is ready to quit has to say. Furthermore, how you handle the situation could positively or negatively impact that individual’s mindset and that of the rest of your team.

Why would your employee be ready to quit?

Long gone are the days when people feared job hopping. Nowadays, it is not unusual for a professional to have a number of short-term stints at organisations, especially at the beginning of their career as they begin to climb the ladder. A good employer will understand that eventually, everyone leaves.

There are various reasons why your employee might be wanting to leave or is actively thinking of handing in their notice. The process of understanding why your employee wants to leave is crucial to stemming the potential flow of other employees doing the same. Some reasons include:

  • Pursuing a higher salary
  • Hoping to specialise in a particular area
  • Wanting greater career progression
  • Looking for a company that offers more training and development
  • Issues with management
  • Personal reasons, such as needing to reduce hours, relocating to another location, requiring a break from work etc.

How can you pre-empt your employee who wants to leave?

A great manager should be aware of issues impacting an employee. Through regular check-ins and performance reviews, you should ask them open questions to understand what they enjoy or don’t like about their role, and any additional flexibility or compensation they are seeking, as well as their short, medium, and long-term goals / motivations. By doing this, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if you have an employee who is thinking of handing in their notice, if you already know that they have pain points in their role.

Of course, in an ideal world, your employee will tell you if they are considering moving companies. However, they may feel like they need to keep these plans secret in case it ruins workplace relationships and nothing comes of their job search.

Signs your employee wants to leave

Sometimes a resignation can seem like it came out of nowhere. However, your employee might have “quiet quit” or disengaged from their job long before giving in their notice. Here are some of the common signs your employee has become disengaged:

  • Decreased work productivity
  • Attending fewer work socials and events than normal
  • Disinterest in future/ long term projects
  • Increased LinkedIn activity
  • The resignation of a close work colleague
  • Previous salary negotiations/ career opportunities being refused by the company

None of these are a definite sign that your employee is ready to quit, in fact some of these, such as decreased productivity and not attending work socials, could be a sign of mental health issues. A serious behavioural change should be investigated. But don’t jump to assuming the worst!

What not to do when you find out your employee is ready to quit

Before laying out the great ways to handle your exiting employee, here’s what not to do. Behaving in the following ways could negatively affect workplace relationships and cause more colleagues to consider leaving.

  • Don’t take it personally

Your employee telling you they want to leave might make you feel betrayed – but don’t take it personally or react badly. Behaving poorly with a negative reaction to the person will reflect terribly on you and will likely spread around the team. It will affect your business’s Employer Brand and could cause more employees to disengage from work.

  • Don’t jump to offer more money

It’s understandable to think that offering to raise an employee’s salary might do the trick. On average, employers may need to spend up to 6-9 months’ worth of an employee’s salary to replace them. Immediately offering more money could work – after all pay might be the reason why they’re looking to leave. However, statistics show that up to 80% of those who accept a counteroffer quit within 6 months. Why? It is often not only due to pay why an employee is ready to quit their job. Often there are bigger issues an employee might have, such as the company culture, or lack of career opportunities that culminate in them eventually quitting.

How to deal with your employee who wants to leave

If you are aware of your employee’s intention to leave, whether that’s finding out that they are applying for jobs or have a job offer, there are a number of things you can do to best handle the situation. It’s unlikely that you will be able to convince an exiting employee to stay but you might be able to limit the chances of others leaving too.

  • Ask and address issues

Have a conversation with the employee who wants to leave, covering their reasons, and ask if there were any external factors or events that have triggered this. It is important to ascertain the reasons behind an employee who is ready to quit, as you might find a way to address their issues and the employee might choose to stay. If not, it’s important to know in case it’s a common issue or pain point amongst other employees.

  • Conduct an employee happiness/engagement survey

If you were unable to glean from your employee who wants to quit the reasons why they are leaving and are noticing that there is a pattern, there might be a bigger issue at play. In which case, don’t delay and conduct an employee happiness/engagement survey. This can help you give a much bigger and more accurate view of the company and identify any causes that might be making employees quit.

  • Arrange a handover

In the situation where your employee has found another job and declined your counteroffer (if you gave one), now is the time to organise a handover. Depending on the length of their notice and how happy you were with their performance prior, you might want to ask them to help with the recruitment process for their replacement, list any ongoing projects they were working on, or train a temporary replacement.


VIQU is an award-winning IT recruitment agency. If you need help supporting your recruitment process or finding a fantastic IT professional for your company, please get in touch with our team here.

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