Steps in Handling Employee Resignations


There are many steps to go through when an employee resigns.
There are many steps to go through when an employee resigns.

A small client asked me the other day “What do you do when someone resigns?” For someone who has been in HR for a long time you just don’t think about that anymore, you just do it. But the question made me think that they may not be the only company out there that has not really dealt with resignations. So here is some guidance on the steps needed in handling employee resignations.
Decide on notice
Most of us ask employees to provide us with at least two weeks’ notice when they are resigning. Of course we seldom give them two weeks’ notice when we “resign from them, aka fire them” but that is a different topic. Often we even tell them that things will be denied them when they resign without having provided that notice. More about that below.
The first thing that needs to be decided is if it appropriate to have the employee work out that notice. Generally you do want a transition period in order to make sure you have an understanding of everything the person is working on. You want to make sure you have a grasp on how that job is currently being done. However, there are some positions where it is not in the best interests of the company to let person to have any more access to records and files. This is generally true for sales, technical and management positions as they employees are more likely to be going to positions where they may be working for competitors.
If that is the case, you need to remind these employees of any non-compete, non-solicitation and/or confidentiality agreement they may have signed. If you find they are going to a competitor it may be appropriate to send a copy of those agreements to their new employer making them aware of the restrictions on the employee. (Note: These agreements may be controlled by state legislation, so be aware of local restrictions on the use of such covenants.)
If you decide to not have the employee work out their notice you may ask them to spend a day detailing in a document all the things they are working on and have underway so that the transition will be a smooth as possible. Then pay them for their notice.
Check computers
Naturally you will also want to check their computers. Have they downloaded or transferred any sensitive material, such as formulas, customer lists, price lists, employee lists, etc.? If so take action to recover this material. Additionally, if they controlled things such as Twitter or Facebook access, make sure you have the appropriate passwords to those accounts and then promptly change them.
Other items
Prior to the person leaving you will also want to recover the following:

  • Any and all documents pertaining to company business;
  • Any and all credit cards;
  • Any and all keys, badges or other access cards;
  • Any and all computer equipment, company smart phones or other devices.
  • Make sure access to all computer accounts is closed.

There are several things that will be done to close out paperwork. These will be:

  • If the person was on the insurance program inform the insurance carrier so the appropriate continuation paperwork will be sent to them on a timely basis, i.e., COBRA.
  • If the person was in the 401(k) or some other retirement fund make sure they are informed of how to withdraw/rollover monies from those accounts.
  • If your state requires that a final termination document be produced, make sure you produce that document.

If they are working the full notice
If the individual is not leaving immediately make sure you take full advantage of the time you have with them to have someone learn as much as possible about what they were really doing. Just because there is a job description does not mean that is the “real” job. But be nice to them. If you truly do not need them to be there for two weeks don’t make them stick around just for the heck of it. But don’t take that as an opportunity to get them out the door and cutting their pay. I mentioned above I would make a comment on this. I think it is just bad HR and ultimately bad business to refuse to pay employees for a notice or to withhold accrued vacation because someone could not give you a full two weeks. The small amount of money you would pay will be offset by the good feelings you engender in the person leaving. Believe me they will talk about how they were treated.
Conduct an exit interview
Always take advantage of the opportunity to conduct an exit interview with someone who is resigning. You never know what valuable information you may learn.
What would you add to this list? I am sure I have overlooked something.

7 thoughts on “Steps in Handling Employee Resignations”

  1. But first, accept the resignation, in writing. You can change your mind later and try to talk the person into staying if you want to but ALWAYS accept the resignation and make it official by putting the acceptance in writing. Sounds cold but your company (and employment lawyer) will thank you.
    Excellent and useful article, Mike.

  2. I wouldn’t worry so much about the computer, if they wanted something, it went home on a jump drive long before they gave notice. Also, somepeople think it is a game in order to get a counter offer. This is the stupidist thing they can do, because if it does work, any manager is going to be sure he’s never put in the wringer again, and the next time he get’s a chance to thin the herd, you can imagine where the loyalty lies. If a manager is not already aware of what this person is doing, then I would suspect that this is part of the reason that they were looking to begin with.

    • Dave, you make some good points. Companies actually need to check on the computers periodically to see what is being downloaded. But I think you need to do it when someone resigns, just because not everyone thinks ahead. I agree that managers should be paying attention to what people do, but many managers are spread thin and they don’t necessarily do a good job of it.
      Thanks for the comment.

  3. Michael, thanks; it’s good to review policies. Regarding your comment on Exit Interviews – they’re also an opportunity to give the employee one more chance to voice complaints; e.g. sexual harassment. If they leave, then try to file complaint with EEOC or other agency, the Company can show the employee failed to take advantage of internal complaint programs, giving the Company an “Offensive” defense. It also gives the Company one more chance to learn something about a possible offensive manager. SL

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