All Articles Leadership Communication An early employee is leaving your startup. How do you take the news?

An early employee is leaving your startup. How do you take the news?

9 entrepreneurs on how they'd react if an early employee said, "I'm quitting."

4 min read



The Young Entrepreneur Council is an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Read previous SmartBrief posts by YEC.

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Q. How do you react when you learn an early employee is looking for another job? Any do’s or don’ts for leaders in your shoes?

1. Learn from them

Regardless of the employee’s reasoning, do not take their departure as a personal affront but instead as an opportunity for growth. If the position has a common turnover, then revisit the job expectations and assess whether the tasks outlined are realistic. Otherwise, know that resignations happen. Assemble your standing team and strategize a plan to move forward and maintain company morale. — Rakia Reynolds, Skai Blue Media

2. Don’t automatically assume it’s a bad thing

Everyone assumes people leaving is bad and people staying is good, but that’s not necessarily true. There is a time for all employees to leave. So ask yourself, “Is this person better off going and growing somewhere else?” If the answer is yes, then understand your company will also be better off by finding their replacement. Don’t take it personally. Do focus on the person first. — Sean Kelly, SnackNation

3. Be helpful and encouraging

When any of our employees have told us they’re looking for new jobs, we’ve always been encouraging and done whatever we could do to help them find their next career step. Encourage the departing employee to be honest about why he/she is leaving, and ask what steps (if any) can be taken to help ensure the incoming candidate loves the job he/she is stepping in to fill. — Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

4. Think before you respond

Don’t berate an employee for looking for another job. Your main concern should be why that employee doesn’t want to stay. If there is a disconnect between employees and leaders, this can harm your business. Try to gently get to the root of the problem and resolve the issue. As a business leader, you don’t want to lose talent. But at the same time, you don’t want to hang on to underperformers. — Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

5. Stay positive

Never show your disappointment or disapproval of what they are doing. They have their own lives and plans so you need to be happy for them even if it means losing that talent. You will be able to find someone else who shares your objectives. Think of it as seeing your child grow up and wanting to try out their abilities. People need to grow and it won’t always be by staying with you. — Peter Daisyme, Due Invoicing

6. Be supportive

Ask why. If they’re a good employee and good fit for your company, find another role they are interested in. It’s always best to have people doing what they’re most passionate about. If they are no longer a good fit, then be helpful and supportive. Use your contacts to assist them in the search for a new role. Who knows — your former employee could become your next client at their new gig. — Dan Golden, Be Found Online

7. Speak from the heart

This is not the scenario to start pointing fingers of blame. Instead, sit down and focus on finding a solution that works for both parties while speaking from the heart. This generally starts with preparing thoroughly, defining the emotions, and setting the stage before the conversation. Once the conversation starts, you should listen very carefully and hear your employee out completely. — Anthony Pezzotti,

8. Have an open conversation

As you grow, perhaps those early employees do not really fit the direction or the strategy of the company anymore. It is not always a bad thing — their blind loyalty to you, or your loyalty to them could bring misery to both sides. If possible, try to place them in a different seat within your company that allows them to regain their mojo. — Andre Chandra, I Print N Mail

9. Assess the situation

If an employee is looking for a new job, it’s important to assess the situation and understand why. If they are no longer invested in the company mission, keeping them on board may not be in the best interest of the company. However, understanding if the problem causing their potential departure can be pinpointed and solved is vital to saving valuable employees from leaving. — Hongwei Liu, mappedin