Surprise —Your High Performer is Resigning. What You Can Do Now.

Photo by Eutah Mizushima on Unsplash

It is a random day — at a random time — in a week that seems like any other.

Except for one glaring reality.

One of your “stars” stands in front of you resigning. Your utter shock can 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, you fast forward to your world without them.

Try to remain calm. There are steps that can be taken. Not all relationships can be saved. However, there is hope.

Here’s what to do next:

  • Set up a time to talk. 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? Were you turning a blind eye to developing issues? (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 is time to do so. This is an often unstated exchange agreement concerning what your contributor brings to the table and what they need/expect in return. If the contract has been inadvertently broken, address a possible repair — although know it is far better to avert a breach.
  • Don’t talk money. Refrain from a conversation about money. In many cases, the reasons behind a high performer departing are much more complex . If you make this about salary, you may miss the driving point entirely and any true 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. Set up a follow-up talk.
  • Don’t make quick promises you cannot keep. Any progress that you forge needs to be carefully considered and must be 100% genuine. Do not make a promise you cannot keep. If your contributor is looking for something you or your organization really cannot offer — make peace with that — and let them move on.

I have no doubt that you will grow as a manager— even if your team member ends their tenure. At the very least, look at the situation as an opportunity to learn.

Have you found yourself in this situation? What did you do? What happened?

Learn more about utilizing The Core Philosophy™ training, to empower your 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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