What to do when your best employees quit

When your best employee says they are leaving, you may wonder why they want to go and whether you can convince them to stay. Use these tips from other business owners to understand why good employees quitand how to keep them when possible.

by Jenn Morson
updated May 11, 2023 ·  4min read

Successful business owners work hard to provide a positive environment for their employees, check in regularly to make sure they feel valued, provide benefits and competitive wages, and remind them how essential they are to the success of the business. Despite this, good employees may quit for any number of reasons—some within your control as business owner, and some not.

What to do When Your Best Employees Quit

You should be prepared in the event that a good employee decides to move on.

Why do good employees quit?

When a good employee gives notice, you may wonder why. Are they unhappy? Did you do something to cause them to leave?

Martin Luenendonk, co-founder and CEO of Cleverism, suggests that good employees leave for three reasons: They got a better opportunity, the company is unfair to them, or they perceive the company as unfair to them.

"Employees may be discouraged if, for example, a company promotes a non-deserving employee in place of them," he says. "Sometimes, a company is not doing wrong to their essential employees, but they feel it is. If an employee quits because of this reason, then executives should take all measures to wipe away the misunderstanding." Luenendonk says this last step is essential to preserving the company's reputation in the market.

According to Heidi Pozzo, founder of Pozzo Consulting, sometimes an employee outgrows their role. When they decide to move on, you should be proud of them.

"One of the best parts of being a leader is developing talented people," she says. "As they grow and develop, only so many people can make it to the top of the organization because positions are not open for as many people as want them. When this happens, it opens positions for others in the company to advance and continue to develop."

Can I talk an employee out of quitting?

When an essential employee gives notice, you may be tempted to try to convince them to stay. There are two schools of thought on whether this is wise.

Some experts believe that under no circumstances should a supervisor attempt to retain an employee once they have given notice, no matter how valuable they have been. Christopher Prasad of JookSMS, suggests that, once an employee has made this decision, they are no longer fully invested in their work.

"Don't be forceful with employees if they feel it is best for them to leave," he says. "Reinforce them positively, but don't pressure them into staying [and] explain how worthwhile their work is to the company. It is possible that, even though they are of value to the business, their heart is not in it, which will lower their work ethic."

Other experts think that retaining your best employee is worth trying. According to Alex Azoury, founder and CEO of Home Grounds, the employee may just need something you can actually offer. "Are they interested in more money, a new job title, or increased responsibilities?" he says. "Sometimes, an honest conversation can turn what seems like the worst of scenarios into a win-win for both parties."

How do I handle losing my essential employee?

Whether you decide to let the employee go without negotiating or attempt to retain them, ultimately, you may lose your best employee. This can be stressful as you adjust to their departure, but with some planning, you may find that the loss translates into success.

Azoury suggests that your next move should be making a list of all of the departing employee's responsibilities and prioritizing the tasks. "See who of your team members can step up to tackle the most important tasks and delegate in that manner," he says. "If there's a gap in skill set or experience, hire based on your needs. This could mean crisis mode for some organizations until the position is filled, so stay focused and give all your energy to this task until it's resolved."

He advises taking some time to reflect on your employee's departure once you've filled the gap. "After the chaos subsides, ask yourself: Why did they quit in the first place? What can I do to ensure we don't lose our best employees again? What's in our control to ensure a fun, thriving work environment?" he says. "If you can handle this effectively, your best employees quitting may become the catalyst to a new level of company growth."

Losing your best employee, no matter the reasons will mean extra work for you and for your remaining staff. You will need to keep your business running smoothly while filling the role, training the new person, and reflecting on any changes that need to be made if you were at fault. But if you remain patient during this adjustment and are willing to examine and improve your company culture critically, your business will grow from this setback.

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Jenn Morson

About the Author

Jenn Morson

Jenn Morson is a freelance writer whose work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic … Read more

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