"If you manage for long enough, you're going to have really popular employees that are going to quit on you. It's going to come from out of the blue, and happen at the worst time. You're going to have an emotional reaction because you're going to take it personally. You'll be disappointed, angry, and frustrated, and then you'll start to worry. But you've got to manage your emotions because the rest of your team is watching you.
It'll be tempting to downplay or discredit the employee, but that's a mistake. When you downplay their departure, you come across dishonest, and when you discredit them, you seem petty. Remember, what you say and do will indicate to others how you feel about each of them. When you downplay or discredit a popular employee, people view you as self-serving, insecure, and disingenuous. Just acknowledge your disappointment and give them all the credit they deserve.
When a popular employee decides to move on, you have a coaching opportunity. You can build your leadership brand, get great feedback, and make people feel more secure. It's uncomfortable when good people leave, especially popular people, and you've got to deal with that discomfort. So get the team together and announce the resignation as soon as possible. You want people to hear about this from you, not the grapevine.
Include the person who's leaving on the call, celebrate their time with the company, and thank them for all their contributions, and ask the person to share their thoughts. Chances are they'll take the high road, and it's always better when popular employees leave on good terms. Chances are you won't have all the answers. You'll still be thinking through how you're going to replace the person, so schedule another meeting with the rest of the team.
This is a good chance to update them on your plans, and to get their ideas on how to cover for the employee. It's also a key team building opportunity, gives people a chance to rise to the occasion, and they can offer you very useful feedback. When a popular person leaves on good terms, it provides a happy ending for their tenure, and it makes people feel more secure, and that's the key.
When you downplay or discredit a popular employee, people feel less secure and begin to question their role and their future. So don't get caught off guard, manage your emotions, and seize this coaching opportunity."
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