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The 5-step plan for handling an employee’s 2-weeks’ notice


Beyond sending the email announcement and ordering the sheet cake for the send-off party, there’s plenty for managers to do when employees give their two weeks’ notice. For a smooth exit that’s favorable to both employee and employer, use these five steps for any departure:

STEP 1: Realize that the employee’s interests have changed. His new job—or his search for one—will be uppermost in his mind. He will feel like he is in a “lame duck” situation in his final days, and may be less concerned than before with the quality and quantity with his work.

He may feel some regrets about leaving his co-workers and the job’s familiarity. But his basic concerns will be to get through the two weeks, wind up whatever he must and try to depart on the best of terms.

STEP 2: Plan how to make the most of the employees’ last days. Your goal is to work out a complete plan for taking care of his needs and the organization’s interests. Start by making four simple lists:

  • List the things you know must be accomplished before the employee leaves. Example: Reassign any long-term projects the employee has been working on.
  • List what the employee needs to be told to get done, such as HR meetings, exit interviews or wrap-up projects.
  • List the things the employee will need to do. For example, help train his replacement or finish up any specific tasks that would be difficult for someone else to finish.
  • List the questions you need answers to. Examples: Is this the time to redesign the job? Should you eliminate it and spread the work? Are there problems regarding the job?

STEP 3: Hold a checklist meeting with the employee. This is best held the first working day after he serves notice. It has three purposes:

  • First, it allows the employee to ask questions about procedures for wrapping up his job as well as HR procedures.
  • Second, it gives you an opportunity to resolve some of the items on your list of things you’re not sure about.
  • Third, and most important, this is the best time to plan with the employee exactly what he will accomplish during his remaining time, and who will help him or learn from him.

STEP 4: Keep on supervising. In the days after your checklist meeting, continue your usual supervisory activities. But remember the changes in the employee’s outlook and feelings. You may want to monitor his results more closely than before, with particular reference to the plan for his last two weeks that both of you agreed on.

Items that often need supervisory attention during this time: progress being made in transferring the employee’s job responsibilities, status of his deadlines, coordination of production plans with other employees, daily priorities, the condition of the records he’s responsible for (including any revisions of his job procedures), and how the training of his replacement is proceeding.

STEP 5: Conduct a closing interview. Such meetings are usually more effective when held on the employee’s next-to-last day, not the final day. Make sure the employee understands that the reason is to wind everything up. This applies to the work he has been responsible for and his relationship with you.

Clarify what will need to be done on the employee’s last day: forms that need to be signed, keys or entry cards to be returned and when the final paycheck will be issued.

Discussion of these items should lead naturally to a brief review of the employee’s work during the last two weeks and, ultimately, with his entire tenure. It is at this point where you may discover what the employee thinks might improve the operation of the department or the particular job that he’s held.


Why a good send-off is important

Obviously, you want the employee to leave on a positive note. Asking for—and listening to—his view of the job, the department and your approach to supervision will give him a satisfying feeling of closure, and his summing up gives you some useful ideas for the future.

The attention and thanks you deliver during the interview will send the worker off on a positive note. It will also help reduce the chance that the ex-employee files a legal complaint against your company, and it will encourage that ex-employee to send good applicants your way.

Final perk: Your attention to departing staff sends a message to the remaining employees that you care about them as individuals. And that’s the cornerstone of being an effective leader.