The Employer’s Role When the Employee Leaves

Several weeks ago I wrote about the employee leaving the job and how it is important to demonstrate the highest professional standards during the process of moving from one organization to another. I received a question from a reader about the organization’s role when employees leave. Exactly how should a non-profit organization respond to the employee when notice is given? Is there a difference between the employee who is asked to leave and the employee who leaves voluntarily?

I find these questions very appropriate for the present time of year because it is during the days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that we find ourselves evaluating our lives, taking stock of where things stand, and perhaps evaluating our behavior. The same can be true for a Jewish non-profit organization and perhaps it is very fitting for organizations to look at their policies and practices in regards to employees who leave voluntarily as well as those who are asked to leave their positions. Actually every time an employee leaves their position it is an opportunity for the organization to receive “feedback” from the employee about their experience and what they thought of working at the agency.

When an employee voluntarily gives notice of his intention to leave the organization there will be a discussion to decide the last day he intends to work. There may be some discussion with the director or the human resources professional about how to use existing vacation days and the amount of time that is needed to complete programs or projects. The agency’s perspective should view the employee as a productive member of the staff until the last day on the job.

Of course this very much applies to the situation where the employee is voluntarily leaving his position. In cases where an employee has been asked to leave it is best to reach an agreement on the last day as soon as possible. It is not a healthy situation for the organization or the employee when the person is fired to continuing working in the offices of the organization. The sooner the person leaves the agency the better it is for the employee and for the morale of other employees.

In either case it is important for there to be an “exit interview”. Having someone from the administration or from human resources, depending on the size of the organization, meet with the employee who is leaving, can be very useful and instructive. It is an opportunity for the organization to receive feedback on how the employee experienced the agency as a place to work. During the interview the employee can be free to speak about his experience without worrying about it having an impact on the relationship the person has with the administration or on the person’s direct supervisor.

It does not mean that everything that is expressed has immediate relevance, and often the discussion is a reflection of the totality of the person’s experience in the agency. At the same time, the final meeting does provide an opportunity for the organization to receive feedback about its policies and practices from a unique perspective. The employee who is leaving has a view that may provide the organization with a lens that sheds some light on how they deliver services and how they relate to employees that is unavailable from other sources.

The professional staff members from the administration or human resources conducting the exit interview have to be open to listen to the feedback and to determine what is useful and may lead to changes within the organization. It is not a time to be argumentative with the employee or to contradict the perspective that is being shared. The purpose is to reach some closure with regard to the employee’s experience in the organization.

The same holds true for the employee and the issues discussed should be focused on the organization’s policies and practices. Thought should be given to what feedback can possible assist the agency in developing better internal practices as well as the way the services are provided to the community. If the time is used to “complain” and not offer constructive ideas the meeting will not be useful either for the employee or the non-profit.

One of the questions raised about exit interviews why is should the employee or the employer be invested in the process. There is a basic commitment to professionalism and to the participation in a professional process that should be motivating both the employer and the employee. If there is a commitment to excellence and to achieving excellence then both parties recognize the importance of the final step in the employer’s relationship to the employee. If there is a focus on ending the relationship and both parties want to sever their ties with each other then there is no reason to conduct an exit interview.

We are about to begin the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and traditionally we use this period to take stock of our accomplishments during the past year and what we hope to accomplish in the coming year. This will be discussed in a forthcoming posting.

Wishing all those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah Healthy, Happy and Productive year!

Stephen G. Donshik, D.S.W., is a lecturer at Hebrew University’s International Leadership and Philanthropy Program and has a consulting firm focused on strengthening non-profit organizations and their leadership for tomorrow. Stephen is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.