Saying a Professional Goodbye


Heather Foley presents a step-by-step guide on how to say goodbye professionally to a valued employee.

How should you react when you receive notice from an employee?

When your employee hands in his/her notice, try following these steps.

  1. Express genuine sorrow that you won’t be working with him/her.
  2. Find out where s/he is going and what the new role will entail.
  3. Ask why s/he is leaving. If you think that s/he would prefer to stay but has not had the right pay or promotion, now is your chance to express that a promotion/pay rise is on the cards. Ask if s/he would be tempted to stay if you were to bring forward the promotion or pay rise.
  4. If your offer is rejected, wish your leaver the very best of luck.
  5. Finally, deal with the practicalities of the notice period. If the leaver is changing career, s/he should be able to work through a notice period. If s/he is going to a competitor, you may feel the need to suggest ‘gardening leave’.

Exit interviews can help improve conditions for the people staying

Next, arrange an exit interview. This is a valuable opportunity often overlooked by employers.

When they are done well, these sessions tell you why people are leaving. You may be able to spot a pattern. Are conditions poor? Have people lost faith in your products? You may also discover what you can do to improve working conditions for the people staying.

It’s also a chance for you to thank the person formally for his/her hard work. The world is a small place and there is a good chance that you will work with this person again.

Ensure that everything is in place to hand over to his/her successor

In the majority of cases, the person leaving will want to be professional and will have been impressed by the respect and graciousness with which you are treating him/her. This means you can hope that s/he will work diligently.

One of the most fruitful occupations for the leaver is to prepare a clear and easy handover for a successor. All work should be up to date, clearly documented and accompanied by a list of contacts with notes.

Other things to bear in mind…

Your team will be watching you very closely throughout this period

The remaining members of your team will be watching you very closely throughout this period to understand exactly what type of manager you are.

The more dignified and in control you can stay, the more your team will support you throughout the period, and the subsequent months and years.

Many people return if communication lines are kept open

It’s very easy to say ‘let’s stay in touch’. If lines of communication are kept open and friendly, it’s surprising just how many times people return after seeing that the grass isn’t actually greener and that they’d be welcomed back.

Very frequently, people joining a new company are asked who they’d recommend to join them and it certainly won’t harm your career to be offered new and potentially better opportunities!

Try to see the leaving as an opportunity to re-energise the business

No matter how great you think the person leaving is, no matter how big a hole you think will be left, try to see the leaving as an opportunity. Other talented people can now be promoted, and teams can be re-structured to re-energise the business.

Fresh and exceptional candidates may be recruited from other companies. You may find yourself, and your company, in a much stronger position, one that, perhaps, you hadn’t initially envisaged.

Remember that one day it may be your turn

Heather Foley

Heather Foley

The next time someone leaves, focus on the many opportunities you’ve been given, and don’t allow yourself to experience that sinking feeling.

Also remember that one day it may be your turn. If you have already demonstrated how leavers should be treated, you can hope for the same treatment yourself!

Heather Foley is a consultant at, a leading HR technology company.

Author: Megan Jones

Published On: 9th Jul 2014 - Last modified: 22nd Mar 2017
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