Surprise. Your High Performer is Resigning. What to Do Now.

Photo by Eutah Mizushima on Unsplash


It’s a random day — at a random time — in a week that seems like any other. Except for one glaring reality. One of your “stars” is in front of you resigning. Your utter shock is only matched by the nagging shame that comes from the knowledge that as a manager, you had absolutely no clue.

As your eyes widen in panic, try to remain calm. There are steps that can be taken.

Here’s what to do next:

  • Set up a time to talk, but… Do this, but realize you have some pre-work to complete. What kind of problems might have contributed to this scenario? Be brutally honest. Does this truly come out of left field or were you turning a blind eye to developing issues? (You can read “How Not Manage a High Performer” for a few ideas concerning what may have gone wrong.)
  • Discuss exchange agreements. If you haven’t already acknowledged the existence of the psychological contract, it’s time to do so. This is an often unstated “give & take” agreement concerning what your contributor brings to the table and what they need/expect in return.
  • Don’t talk money, yet. Refrain from a conversation about money. In many cases, the reasons behind a high performer departing are much more complex. If you make this exclusively about salary, you may miss the driving point entirely and any chance of redemption.
  • Read the room. If you’ve struck a chord — ask for another conversation that would allow both of you to present/discuss short & longer-term solutions.
  • Don’t make quick promises you cannot keep. Any progress that you forge needs to be carefully considered and 100% genuine. If your contributor is looking for something you or your organization really can’t give — make peace with that — and let them move on.

As a manager, have you found yourself in this situation? What did you do?

Learn more about utilizing The Core to empower managers here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.



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