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Leaving me Speechless: One Liners and Top Tips When Managing Exiting Employees

8 July 2021

When an employee leaves a business, it’s not always as harmonious as we would like it to be. Remember the famous ‘conscious uncoupling’ of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, and other celebrity couples? Well sometimes in the workplace it’s a nasty divorce. We are also now seeing the increasing use of ex-employees turning to social media to rant. However, you can do something to prevent that.

When it goes wrong, a contentious exit can result in unnecessary cost, stress and high emotions for both parties which can have a damaging effect on the businesses reputation and the remaining team. The first sign of any trouble ahead often comes in a meeting with an employee, whether an informal meeting to discuss a concern or a more formal meeting of a disciplinary or grievance nature.

One Liners

Our team have shared the one liners that raised alarm or indicated this is not going to be an amicable parting. Here are a few of the best (or worst!) …

  • “I’m leaving because you never gave me a tea break and made me look after your dog for 10 years”
  • On a Zoom meeting – “I’m not going to listen to anything you have to say, you can’t make me stay in the room anyway so goodbye”
  • When confronted about poor performance – “Not performing? Me? F*** you”
  • Starting a meeting with – “Just so you know, I’m recording this meeting”
  • “I don’t know why I’m here – you are not going to listen anyway”
  • “I know why I’m here, there’s no need to tell me – you’re going to sack me, so I’ll just go”
  • A poor performance meeting started with – “Thanks for inviting me to a meeting, I’ve been meaning to tell you something – I’m pregnant. Now, what would you like to discuss?”
  • An old favourite – “I’ll see you in court”

With the increasing use of social media, it’s important to try to control the potential negativity online post-exit. If you don’t have a contract that contains a contractual restriction to prevent negative comments being posted, then get in touch with us now.

Top Tips

What you do next in these exit situations may alter the outcome. Here’s our top tips for managing the situation where it feels like the rug has been pulled our from under your feet:

  1. Do not match the behaviour of the employee, however tempting.
  2. Pause, adjourn, ask for help.
  3. If you can, keep focussed on the purpose of the meeting. Say you will make a note of the unexpected issue and come back to it at the end.
  4. If needs be, reschedule.
  5. Make a note of any physical actions such as slamming the table, shouting or storming out so that the minutes and outcome of the meeting letter can reflect the tone of the meeting.
  6. Always follow up in writing with any outcomes.

It’s not you – it’s me

Ultimately, you can’t stop someone leaving you if they want to. If it’s turned sour at this point it’s often the best option to let them go and not counter or become upset. Where possible, try to treat employees warmly, regardless of the reason behind their departure. Keeping former employees as part of your network will help with your reputation, future hires and reduce any negative ‘press’. Once they calm down they may see things differently.

If they don’t change their mind and are exiting, here are some simple steps which you could take to help you manage an exit and potentially avoid costly claims:

  1. Always acknowledge the resignation or exit situation with a letter explaining leaving arrangements. This should include the date the contract will end, any holiday excess, pay arrangements and how to return property and equipment
  2. Remind employees before they leave of any contractual obligations that apply. These would include any confidentiality clauses as well as any post-termination restrictions.
  3. Turn off access to any IT or security systems to avoid any disgruntled employees changing or deleting information before they go or taking any confidential material with them.
  4. Have a handover list of what you need to get from them before they leave, including passwords and any key client or customer information.
  5. If appropriate, carry out an exit interview to allow the employee to provide you with any further feedback and understand if there are any unresolved issues. Sometimes, venting at this meeting can be a type of therapy for exiting staff which provides a valuable insight to things you can improve on and possibly results in closure for the employee too.
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