An unexpected resignation is always a shock. Sometimes managers react badly and refuse to accept it – as if it were their choice. We aren’t indentured, we are free to choose where to work, and managers don’t have extraordinary powers to retain people. If someone wants to go, they can go. Candidates tell us this and our response is always the same: they have the right to leave when they want (as long as they fulfil their contractual obligations).
Often the manager pulls internal resources together to cover the loss. This may work well and the restructure makes everyone happier – even saves a bit on payroll. But the reverse is also true. Some managers can’t imagine having that position empty - perhaps it's mission-critical - and try to maintain the status quo, asking HR for a replacement. When that fails, either HR or the line manager comes to us.
That's when the drama starts. Now we are weeks into the notice period, and the incumbent is leaving in a matter of days. They may ask for a discount on fees (which we won’t do) or insist that the position be filled within a week (despite them having tried for a month). All very entertaining to an outside observer, but less amusing up close.
One antidote is building a talent pipeline. This isn't something that HR or the line manager has to do alone – we can help. It’s fairly easy, not particularly time-consuming to manage, and the dividends may be substantial.
When that shock resignation comes in, we pick up the talent pipeline, dust it off and see what we have. Within a few days it may be possible to be interviewing and selecting a replacement. Yes, there might be a hiatus of a couple of weeks between departure and new arrival, but that’s much better than months – which we have seen all too often.