What to Do When You Receive a Resignation Letter

On most Sundays in the Bible-belted South, you can hear the faithful and the fair-weathered shout with their hands raised and heads bowed, “Hallelujah” and “Amen” when pastors nearing the close of services recite the benediction. Maybe it’s because some parishioners know bottomless mimosas will be served at brunch until three (it is the South after all), there’s just enough time to get home and catch the kickoff of the big game, or it’s a very joyful noise made at the end of a much appreciated service.

Either way, those words are not something you’d usually hear on a weekday in corporate America! Not unless it’s from an equally weary and relieved in-house manager—a faithful servant to the professional development and growth of their entire in-house team who just received a resignation letter from an underperformer.


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Why the relief? It might be because none of the manager’s efforts to assist the employee in improving their poor performance has worked—not the extra skill sharpening or professional development courses that were budgeted, the creation and facilitation of the clearly defined development plan, or even the whole or half-hearted efforts made by the employee.

It could also come from not having to begin the official process of voting this individual off the island and executing all the necessary documentation to do so. This alone is enough for any manager to think, “Hallelujah!”

The relief could also be mutual. The soon to be former employee may have never been a good fit (both personally or creatively) with the rest of the team—a truth recognized by the employee and the manager. Or they just want to move on to bigger and better challenges.

If the employment arrangement was less than desirable, chances are the bell has been tolling on this split for months. The employee may have finally heard the gong signaling that it was time for them to move on and depart voluntarily, with hopefully a modicum of class and dignity. This isn’t the time for anyone on either side of the resignation letter to get all “Rambo” and burn bridges, remember, smoke travels.

Whatever the circumstances, obviously not all breaks are bad or reason for relief, either way, the manager may want to view that resignation as if it were a benediction to all the good service they provided while the employee was a member of his or her team.


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If you receive a resignation letter, one that’s resolute, what are the next steps in the transition process?

Well, first, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with thinking, “Hallelujah!” or “Damnation!” depending upon the situation. Follow that thought up by genuinely saying to your ex-teammate, “Thank you for your service.”

The next question you may want to consider asking is if they’ve had a chance to secure all the sample work they contributed to during their tenure on your team. Let them know that you appreciate their contributions and would be willing to assist them in gathering both printed samples and PDF files to populate their professional portfolio.

Once your ex-teammate has communicated how long they intend to work before their official last day, determine if their continued presence will have a positive or negative impact on your team. Communicate the resignation and your feelings about his or her departure’s impact on your team with senior management and Human Resources.

These folks are there to provide you with valuable insights as well as protect the organization from any type of liability or litigation. Allow them to do the jobs they were hired to do by providing them with all the information needed to facilitate a smooth departure. You won’t regret it.


Then move on from your ex-teammate.

Don’t hesitate; begin the process of updating their old job description and determine how a new person in that role can contribute to your in-house team’s continued success in raising the bar of excellence provided to your organization.

Once the process is finally complete, fill a flute with ice-cold mimosa, raise your hand with head bowed and think (or shout), “Amen!” just before taking a sip on a job well done.



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