How to send a team member off the right way

I didn’t have many jobs before I quit work to start my own business. When I think back on the roles I did have, the two periods that I remember most are the engagement period and the exit period. Basically, when I started, and when I finished. And more importantly, how I started, and how I finished.  

To me, these are the two most important periods of the employment tenure. And yes, there are many positive and negative times that you remember about your experiences in organisations, but how you come in and go out of an organisation is important. And the experience is driven by your leader. 

Spare a thought for the Twitter staff who are or have been ‘freed up for industry’ by Elon Musk. Think about the excitement that they would have felt starting their employment journey with a global organisation. Then, think about what they would have experienced as they were fired by email, or by Twitter post. Imagine how those employees would feel about their experience of being let go. 

I once had a manager who said that it is just as important to send team members off the right way, as it is to bring them into the organisation the right way. And I agree with that. But I understand that it is a challenge. I get that team members are usually leaving leaders, not businesses, so when team members leave, it can hard for the leader to stay positive, and focus on providing a good leaving experience. Especially if the employment has been ended prematurely, by termination. 

Here are some tips for you to send you team members off in a professional and caring way. 

1. Maintain the relationship until the end 

If the relationship is still intact when the decision is made (by you or the by the team member) to end the employment tenure, do what it takes to maintain it until the very end. Be personable, be professional, be approachable. 

Find a way to practice what Deepak Chopra calls Emotional Freedom. Which means to be emotionally free. Which is about being free of guilt, resentment, grievances, anger, and aggression. Emotional freedom is accepting the situation, whatever may have led up to it, and moving forward. Reframe the situation, find the positive, and carry on regardless. 

Most team members need provide between 2 and 4 weeks of notice and work this period after they have submitted their resignation. As a team member, that period is painful, and in my experience, most team members mentally check out. For the leader, not only do you need to be scrambling to replace the position, but you also need to be dealing with a team members who has not only formally resigned, but they have mentally resigned too. Be patient, be accommodating, and be ready to support the departing team member, as well as your other team members during the notice period. 

Tip: If you don’t think you can, end the notice period early, pay the person out, and end on a positive, before it gets you down too much and you say or do something that isn’t good for anyone. 

The message is to be firm, fair, and friendly, right through to the end of the relationship, and if it is possible to, maintain it, and end on a positive. 

2. Do an exit interview 

This is such a key step in the process of ending an employment agreement with someone. But it needs to be done properly. 

It needs to be done by another person in the business, probably HR (if they have been adequately trained in doing exit interviews, because like everything, it is a skill set). The skill is related to crating a safe space for the team member to say what they really think. To give us all the good. And to give us all the bad. So that you can work on improving the organisation for the next time that you hire someone.  

As a leader, have the courage to ask the person doing the exit interview to focus on the LMX (leader team member exchange). Ask the interviewer to focus on the relationship that the team member had with their leader. And what their experience of being led by you, was. This is crucial information, to determine what you could and should be doing differently as the team leader.  

If this section scares you, revert to point 1, and detach emotionally. Regardless of whether the team member was in your in-group or out-group, you need to hear what their experience was. You might not think that you do, but if you are open minded, and the interview is open and honest, you will get some tips to work on as a leader. And who doesn’t want that? 

The message is to get the exit interview done properly, to have it focused on your leadership, and to be willing to get the feedback from that interview and integrate it into your leadership style. 

3. Make it an event 

Bring in a cake. Buy muffins. Bang out some donuts. Do a morning tea. Do something special. Make it an event for the team member, so that they get the chance to celebrate the moment. Which most people want to, regardless of the reason for their departure.  

It is so uncool when leaders just let people leave without an event of some sort. And a speech or a few kind words. Because it is not about you as the leader, it is about the team member. They want to say goodbye to their team members, they want to know that they were valued, and they might even want to have the opportunity to say thank you for the experience of working with you and the team. 

Never deprive a team member of the chance to say goodbye and to be farewelled in the right way. 

The message is that a small event on the team member’s last day will send them off the right way. They will get the chance to end on a positive and with their head held high. They will maintain their dignity and their self-esteem. 

In summary, put as much time and effort into helping someone leave, as you do helping them join, the business. How you handle the exit process will say more about you as as their leader, than it will about them as a team member.  

And could you please do me a favour, and share this with leaders everywhere? This is an important topic for leaders. 

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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