Professionalism is key when leaving

  • 25-08-16
  • David Landau

Your employer brand and reputation have a significant impact on your ability to attract, engage and retain talented people. The way in which your workplace culture is perceived plays a critical role in maintaining this. Even if as a manager you’re not aware of it at the time, the moment an employee decides to leave can be detrimental to the equilibrium of your workplace. So, what can you do to ensure that an employee departs on great terms and even benefits you in the future?

Reputation by recommendation

In 'days of old', the traditional word of mouth, whether positive or negative, was always a powerful influencer on the decisions of potential new employees. This made ending the relationship on a good note between employer and employee critical.

Today, however, employees have even more influence than ever in determining how a company is perceived by their peers and the general public. Websites such as GlassdoorSeek and Indeed have changed the way employees communicate their opinions by allowing them to post reviews of their companies (current and past) online.

The consequence of this is that the information isn’t just being shared with a group of friends but with the wider world. This has an impact on the company’s brand even if that isn’t the intention.

If departing employees are unhappy, you and the company can often expect to be on the receiving end of a bad review; and for them to share their thoughts publicly across social media.

When going through your hiring process, it’s likely that candidates will review your company online and are at risk of encountering these bad reviews. So, when faced with a departing or retrenched employee, what can you do to ensure that you get good feedback?

Dealing with departures

Firstly, it’s important to avoid overreacting when the employee notifies you of their intention to leave; irrespective of how specialist the position or important the person is. Providing there is no direct conflict with their new employer, don’t show them the door the moment they hand in their notice (unless of course, you have a good reason for doing so). Provide them with support during their transition and give them time to transfer any critical knowledge to others and finish outstanding projects.

If you’re set on retaining the employee, you can explore the option of presenting a counteroffer, such as increased pay or a change in role. However, bear in mind that even when counteroffers are accepted, they don’t usually turn out to be successful. Employees who accept them will often remain unhappy and end up leaving within the next 12 months regardless. If they’re not interested, focus instead on giving a positive impression during those closing interactions.

Naturally, you will be disappointed when an employee chooses to leave, but it’s important to wish them well and mean it. Whether it’s by hosting a leaving party or simply signing a card, show your appreciation for their time with you and let your team say goodbye appropriately. Ending the working relationship on a high note can have many benefits later down the track, and will increase the sense of community around your remaining employees by showing them you care about your workforce.

By the same token, if the employee has been let go due to redundancy, providing outplacement support above and beyond the minimum standards is not only a great thing to do but will also paint your organisation in a positive light.

Boomerang employees

It’s good practice to stay on friendly terms with ex-employees after they leave your company. Maintaining the relationship – and keeping them in your talent pool – means you’re likely to catch them should they come to market again. This occurrence is so common that it’s even been given a formal term, ‘boomerang employees’. An added bonus with boomerang employees is that they need less time to settle into a role and can often come back with new skills.


In today’s constantly connected world, being on good terms with departing and former employees is no longer a choice. Having a friendly relationship with your alumni network can boost your employer brand and generate referrals, and also leaves the opportunity open for them to return to the company in the future with new skills.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you’re looking for advice on how you can utilise your employer brand to attract and retain top talent, or take a look at our employer's page for more hiring help; such as our interview training offering and our hiring manager toolkit.

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The most important step for parting on good terms is the exit interview. Read Exit Interviews – An Unheralded Business Tool for tips on this topic.