What to Do When an Employee Quits and You Didn’t See It Coming

What to Do When an Employee Quits and You Didn’t See It Coming

I wasn’t qualified to interview or hire people. It’s not something I wanted to be responsible for. I never wanted to be a boss. I was in my early 20’s and working out of my spare room. Finally, the company started to make enough money to pay my salary and start hiring. It was both a scary and exciting time.

The first few people I hired were in a somewhat haphazard fashion. A very laid back interview, more like a friendly chat. There was no second or third interview. I went with my gut instinct.

Fast-forward a few years, the company had grown to around half-a-dozen full-time employees. During those early years, I never once thought anyone might want to leave the company. Things were going well. Everyone was happy, or at least I thought they were.

Then one day, one of my staff said to me, “can we have a quick chat?”

Not thinking much of it, I said: “Sure, what’s up?”

He then told me he was leaving and handed me a resignation letter.

I was calm as I listened, but it was painful to hear. I’d built the company, and it felt like we were a bunch of friends making some products. To me, it was.

Later that evening, I remember feeling very low and thinking, “how am I ever going to replace them? This is really going to mess things up”. It was then followed by asking myself, “why would they want to leave? what if other people leave?”

It was a very unsettling and stressful time.

Over the following weeks and months, I got over it. The business adapted and changed, I rehired, and things worked out.

When someone decides to leave a business, it’s a waste of time convincing them to stay. You’re just deferring the problem. They’ve already made up their mind, and mentally they’ve moved on. A natural reaction is to offer them more money to stay, but don’t do that. If they wanted more money, they would have asked — I’ve found that out over the years, but I’ll save that for another time.

Long before I started my company, I remember leaving my first job in London, and my boss at the time said to me, “If I offer you more money, would you stay?”.

I said “No” without hesitation. I didn’t even ask how much. In my mind, I’d already moved on. I was halfway out the door. I was looking forward to my next adventure.

When someone leaves, it’s an excellent time to re-evaluate where the business is heading. Look at the bigger picture. Don’t rush to hire a replacement. Perhaps the business needs have changed, or you need someone with a different skill-set.

Make the best out of what can be a stressful time in any small business and use it to your advantage.