How to mitigate your best team member leaving

  • 26-02-17
  • Geoff Balmer

Everything was going so well. Last year was a great success and you’re already ahead of schedule this year. Then, all of a sudden, one of your best employees asks to have a private word to inform you that they have accepted a job with a new company.

A million questions go through your mind. How could they do this? Why didn’t they speak with you first? Do they know how important they are to this team? How will the team recover?

For many leaders, the sudden resignation of a great employee can be a nightmare scenario. However, the reality is that every manager will at some point have to face this issue. It’s not a question of if, but when your best employee resigns. If you’re not adequately prepared to handle your employee’s resignation, then you risk causing further damage to your company and losing even more crucial team members in the wake of their departure. To prevent these risks, read on to find out what to do when a key employee resigns.


When a great employee quits, even if you’re taken by surprise, the worst thing you can do is panic. The advent of anonymous online employer reviews from companies like Glassdoor, Seek and Indeed, has made an employer’s culture more transparent. If you provide a knee-jerk or emotional reaction in response to any of your team members resigning, then you risk having someone leave on bad terms. Allowing this to happen could reflect poorly on you as a Manager, and even damage your business’s reputation. In addition, if the process isn’t carefully managed, it can be detrimental to your team’s morale and lead to a domino effect, where more people decide to follow suit. On the other hand, if they leave on great terms, you’ll protect both your workplace’s culture and your working relationship, keeping the door open for them to return later in their career. Dealing with any person’s departure in a professional and empathetic way is key to mitigating this risk, and ensuring your organisation continues to be seen in a positive light. Our advice is simple, ask for some time to digest the news and say you’ll get back to them quickly.


Use this time to identify what impact the person’s departure will have on your organisation. Will it be as bad as you first thought or have you got a succession plan in place that will allow for someone to step up to fill any gaps? What do you need the departing employee to complete or hand over prior to leaving? If relevant, are you in a position to extend a counteroffer?

Once you’ve composed your thoughts, organise a time to catch up to further discuss their departure. This is where you’ll get the answers to many of your questions, including why they’re leaving.


If a linchpin of your organisation has decided to resign but you want to try and entice them to stay, then a counteroffer, when carefully considered, could be a valid option. However, for this to be effective, think about it from your employee’s perspective; they’ve resigned for a reason. There were obviously one or more things that weren’t working for them. The key here is to focus on addressing those specific reasons. As an example, if they decided to leave due to a lack of career development, then look at where you could move them internally to accommodate this desire.

Although counteroffers can work if they tackle every point of discomfort, they do come with significant risks for the employer if they are financially motivated. This is because it’s very rare that money is the only reason why good employees leave. So, even if you’re able to lure them into staying through increased financial incentives, you may end up with someone who is just as dissatisfied and disengaged as before – and now they’re on a higher salary.


If you decide to not provide a counteroffer and you already have a succession plan in place, then it’s time to get it underway. If you don’t, then the obvious solution is to look internally at your available resources. Consider who could potentially step into the now vacant position and whether this movement will create a new gap to be filled. It’s worth noting here that the number one reason people come to see us is because they lack opportunities for career progression in their current organisation. So promoting from within could have the added bonus of retaining other staff members. Another solution, that isn’t independent from the above, is to think about engaging contractors or temporary employees as a short-term solution. These temporary resources can cover the workload whilst you adjust your permanent workforce, or even help see a specific project through to completion. Read more on engaging contractors or temporary staff here.

You also might find yourself in a situation where you need to recruit externally. A key mistake we see in these situations is that organisations are rushing to back-fill a position, without due care and consideration. It most definitely is possible to hire highly skilled permanent accounting professionals quickly, but it must be done with vigilance. Just because there is a resource gap that causes extra work pressure doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your usual standards. In the long run, getting the right person will always pay dividends, so it’s important to ensure that your interview process is sound to avoid making costly hiring mistakes.

Lastly, if you’re lucky enough to have found someone to step into the departing employee’s position, then it’s crucial to set them up for success. If the incumbent is still with the business when this happens, then pair them up with the new employee upon their arrival, so they can help to transfer their knowledge to their replacement. If the timing doesn’t work out, as is most common, then it’s good practice to ensure that the departing employee has prepared handover documentation in advance. This way, your new hire has access to all the information they need about the role, its duties, and company procedures, from the very first day they walk in the door.


Every business will, at some point, face losing its best employee. The best way to avoid the damage a key team member’s resignation could cause is to ensure you have a comprehensive plan in place to deal with this eventuality in advance. If you’re lucky enough to have not yet lost someone, then now is a great time to put this plan together. However, if you have lost a star employee and need to connect with Sydney’s top accounting talent to close skill gaps, don’t hesitate to contact one of our expert Recruitment Consultants today.

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How To Identify Your Top Performers Before It’s Too Late 

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