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Karin’s Leadership Articles


5 Reasons Not to Be a Jerk When an Employee Resigns

by | Jun 3, 2019 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning, Courageous Cultures, Winning Well |

How you treat your employees on the way out the door may have more impact than you think.

What do you do when an employee resigns?

I’m not sure exactly why this is a thing, or if it’s getting worse in a tight economy. But lately, my phone has been lighting up with stories of managers acting like jerks when an employee resigns.

Here’s what I heard from Joe, just yesterday.

I’ve been working here for almost two decades.  I just got my MBA (which I paid for, not the company). When I gave my notice, my boss was so ticked off he wouldn’t accept my resignation (I’d have to go tell his boss). I told him it had nothing to do with him or the company, and that I’ve loved working here. I’m not leaving for a competitor (I would never do that), I gave them a months notice so I could train my replacement. I really care deeply about everything I’ve built here. I’m just ready for something bigger that they can’t offer.

So I had to go to his boss to resign, and he was a jerk about it too. Now no one is talking to me, and treating me like I’m invisible. It’s devastating to me after all I’ve done for this company. I know one thing for sure, I made the right decision. No one really cares about me here.

And, this one really broke my heart, because he didn’t quit, he was RIFed.

I’ve been here ten years, and am consistently the top ranked sales manager. My boss and I got called into headquarters for back-to-back meetings with his boss to tell us we had no jobs. My bosses boss told us,  “I’m taking the department in a new direction, but I haven’t quite figured it out exactly. We just don’t need you.”

Not one ounce of recognition of my contributions, including the last huge sale I had just landed.  No “Thank you for all you’ve done.”  No, “We will miss you. It’s been awesome working with you.” No “Let me know how I can help.” Nothing.

Just “Give me your ID and we’ve already locked you out of our systems.”

I can understand the need for a change, that’s not the issue. But after all the long hours, the sacrifices my family has made for all the travel, not to mention the extraodinary revenue I’ve brought in, why don’t they see me as a human being with feelings?

Why Do Some Managers Act Like Jerks When an Employee Resigns (or is let go)?

Here’s what I’m finding as I dig deeper. Some managers feel personally hurt and betrayed, so they turn the tables right back and inflict some hurt of their own. Or they’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of the extra work of having to backfill the position. Or panicking about all the work that will pile up while they’re looking.

In the case of the RIF, they might feel bad and just move as fast as they can to avoid guilt or conflict. Some managers worry if they say “Thank you” for the contribution they’ll open themselves up for a lawsuit.

Or, let’s face it, it could be they are just a jerk.

5 Reasons Being a Jerk to An Exiting Employee is Bad For Business

1. Karma

Seriously. Life is hard enough. Do you want more trust and connection in your life? Treat people with respect and compassion.

2. Their Co-Workers are Watching

“Did you see the way they treated him? If it could happen to her it could happen to me.”  “No one really cares about us. They’re ruthless.”  Trust me, every time there is a restructure at my former employer my phone rings off the hook, with people saying those exact words. The fastest way to trash employee engagement is to forget you are dealing with feeling human beings.

3. Your Brand (for Prospective Employees AND Customers)

When people feel hurt and betrayed, they don’t just tell their therapist. They tell anyone who will listen. On Facebook and LinkedIn. On Glassdoor. At their son’s baseball game. At church during coffee hour and on the prayer tree. Before you know it you’ve done more damage to your company’s brand than any cheerful recruiter or zippy advertising campaign can overcome.

With just a little effort to say think you, and connect at a human level, your departing employee remains a brand ambassador and is more likely to share all the fond memories of working there with their family and friends—”I’m going to miss that place.”

4. Rocky Transitions

In the first example, Joe is in the process of training his replacement. Do you think his heart is in it? Once an employee resigns, all you’ve got left to hope for is a discretionary effort for a smooth transition. If you want your employee to care about the transition after he resigns, show him you care about him.

5. They’ll Never Consider Coming Back

Most companies have ditched their outdated “loyalty” policies of never rehiring someone who quits. In a high-turnover, gig economy, that high-performer you just kicked in the butt on the way out the door, may have exactly the skills you need in a future project.

The sage employment advice to not burn bridges goes both ways.

If you make people feel like they’re dispensable, the damage runs far and deep. A little gratitude, empathy and celebration can go a long way.

Your turn.

What would you add?

See Also:

How To Build Great Culture in a High-Turnover World

How to Take Your Retention Strategy to the Next Level (Training Magazine)

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Davor Gasparac

    6. (might be under karma, but…) You might end up looking for a job in the company they will work.

    • Karin Hurt

      Davor, Oh yes. That’s an excellent #6. Thanks so much for expanding the conversation.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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