"Do you have a minute?"
I know when someone pokes their head in my office and asks for a minute, there is a tiny chance they are there to resign. I can usually tell by their tone of voice in how they ask - a bit timid, cautious.
Over 20 years and a fair share of resignations given to me, I've learned the immediate reaction I have to that unfortunate (sometimes not entirely unfortunate) news becomes part of my legacy that's remembered by this employee. Am I giving them a memory of working for a jerk boss who made them feel horrible in moving on or a memory of a caring boss who was supportive right up to the last minute?
So that first second following a resignation I will say, "Personally: I am so happy for you, I'm sure this is an amazing next step and I want to hear all about it." Followed by, "Professionally, I am so bummed, it's been great working with you."
By first celebrating with this person, you'll do the most unselfish thing you can in the moment: You've made it about them. Not about the company loss, not about how hard it will be to replace them, and not about the sh*t ton of work they are leaving in the middle of. Give them this tiny moment to feel good about the course of their career; you can be upset later.
Let's face it, for most, resigning is a bit nerve racking, so your employee is most likely feeling anxious. Getting a positive reaction by their boss is not what they expect and you'll be appreciated all the more if you celebrate this next step in their journey.
The idea is to make them feel just as valued as they were the minute before.
I have practically shocked people by popping up and giving them a huge hug after they've told me the news. As a fellow human being, I want what's best for my employees. And if that means their happiness needs to be somewhere else, then so be it. If they are a stellar worker, I'll ask if there is anything I can do to convince them to stay. I will admit there have been resignations that I've shed tears over, feeling sad for both me and the company. But I try and save the sadness until after they've left my office.
I've had colleagues share some horrible resignation responses. They are listed below to make sure y'all never ever repeat them. Like ever.
"This is the worst decision you could possible make."
"Just know you will regret this."
"You'll thank me later for teaching you everything you know."
Seriously, who says this stuff? And even more horrible, these 3 statements came from the same manager.
Your employees are in your care for as long as their stay at your company lasts - six months, two years, or a decade. Your job is to support them and encourage them right up until the very end when they come up and ask, "Do you have a minute?"