RANT: Stop Being Weak When Announcing Resignations…

Ah yes. The voluntary resignation.  Of a good person.  Or maybe just an OK person.

We love to wring our hands – both inside and outside HR – about the best way to communicate a resignation to the rest of a team, department or location inside a company.

We have to communicate something so people don’t panic.

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the resignation of Billy Thompson.”

For the most part, we want to explain that it will all be OK.  We’d like to say that we’re supportive of the person, and that we wish them many returns on their excellent career decision.

“Billy’s done great things in his time at FOT Enterprises.  His work will not be forgotten, and we wish him the best as he joins an up and coming company in a related industry.”

We are weak.  Our fathers and mothers are looking at us and are shamed with the compliant, mealy-mouthed managers we’ve become.

We’ve turned into politically correct beings that think we have to communicate something when a resignation occurs.

Just stop.  Now.

There’s basically 3 things you can communicate when you tell the rest of the organization about a resignation (of a good, solid performer):

1. You really appreciate them, wish them luck,  and they’ll be missed (What you’re really saying: I AM A SCARED LITTLE (wo)MAN, PLEASE EVERYONE, NO ONE ELSE LEAVE!  This happens about 70% of the time.  We over-communicate like I did above with Billy, and I’ll be damned, it appears that Billy got the better end of this transaction.

Where’s he going? Seems like Kris is down in the dumps a bit and is surprised.  Why are we losing great people like Billy?  We’ve got to stop the bleeding!


Why didn’t Kris say anything about Billy leaving?  I heard he was sleeping with <name of key co-worker>’s wife and they’ve had to start therapy. There’s a 50/50 chance this whole thing is going to shut down. If Billy left, he must have had a good reason. Maybe I ought to start getting active on the recruiting trail.

3.  Billy’s gone. It’s a great opportunity for someone, and here’s what I’m looking for in addition to what Billy was able to give us. (What you’re really saying: I AM IN COMPLETE CONTROL. THERE’S A HIGH LIKELIHOOD I CRUSHED BILLY’S CAREER AND MAY CONTINUE TO KEEP HIM DOWN IN HIS NEXT GIG JUST FOR ####S AND GRINS.  WHAT AN INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY TO UPGRADE.  HELP ME WITH A REFERRAL AND LET’S BUILD THIS THING. #winning)

Wow. Didn’t seem like Billy’s going to be missed at all.  You know, when you think of it, Billy always struggled in some key areas.  I’m actually glad he is gone, because it just means more meat for the meat eaters.  I’m glad Kris didn’t put up with Billy’s shit.

So go ahead and communicate the fact that Billy left.  But make it more about moving forward, opportunity, Apple pie, Mom and Chevrolet – and a whole lot less about Billy.  You crushed Billy and would gladly do it again.  You’re a Viking with a late generation iPhone and $200 a month in consumer cloud subscriptions.

You control the confidence meter at your company when you communicate that Billy left.  Say a lot, but forget Billy.

Billy’s gone.  May that sorry SOB find happiness at the third-rate company he’s going to for 30% less money.

That’s what I heard, anyway.

FOT Background Check

Kris Dunn
 Kris Dunn is Chief Human Resources Officer at Kinetix and a blogger at The HR Capitalist and the Founder and Executive Editor of Fistful of Talent. That makes him a career VP of HR, a blogger, a dad and a hoops junkie, the order of which changes based on his mood. Tweet him @kris_dunn. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard the good word, he's also jumped into the RPO game as part owner of a rising shop out of ATL, Kinetix. Not your mama's recruiting process outsourcing, that's for sure... check 'em out.


  1. David Berke says:

    Of course all of this depends on context. But generally speaking, the message you find weak is actually just a pro-forma message that says approximately nothing – because it’s a pro-forma message. The talk starts when you send a message that deviates from that familiar pattern.

    Billy or Brenda or whoever is now gone. I fail to see what positive purpose badmouthing them serves. They can’t defend themselves and so the person doing the bad-mouthing looks like someone to avoid. Sure Billy probably wasn’t a star in some areas. Few people are stars in everything they do.

    Billy’s gone. Move on. Get the person you want.

  2. Kellee Webb says:

    I agree with leaving off all the mush, they will be missed, best wishes, etc. They are not seeing the email anyway. We dont say how much they will be missed, because it might be that we were finalizing our own documentation for involuntary on some of these! So we have our standard that we send on everyone who leaves, voluntary or involuntary, and it always comes from HR.

    We do one sentence stating they are moving on and thanking for their contribution to our clients (whatever that level of contribution may have been, we are ALWAYS driving the message back to our mission). And then we get right to the true point of the email, which is communicating about the great opportunity, a few bullets about the job and link to apply.

    Always love a good rant, KD!


  3. Sarah Funk says:

    Amen! Great rant. At a previous employer the message was always, “Billy Bob has decided to pursue other opportunities. We wish him the best of luck.” What we all knew this meant was that Billy Bob probably got fired or was involved in some seedy activity and no one is really sad he left or cares how lucky his future endeavors are. We looked at the message and took it as our queue to start emailing someone else on Billy Bob’s team and then gossiped about what really happened.
    Every time someone moves on, a chance for a team to be better arises. Even the best person on the team has something he or she could have done better….

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