Your Employee’s Resignation Just went Viral. Now What?

Posted on March 22, 2012.

While Greg Smith may have chosen an op-ed piece in the New York Times, his public resignation was far from unique. Who can forget the flight attendant, Steven Slater, who left his job via the emergency ramp of the plane? And just a year later, Joey DeFrancesco the hotel worker who brought his band mates with him as he told his boss exactly what he thought.  Why do some people feel the need to be so vocal? Would you know how to respond if it happened to you?

Assuming for a minute that you’ve done everything in your power to avoid a public bashing, you need to accept that fact that sometimes ego and personal frustrations take over even the most rationale of employees.  What’s the best way to respond?

  • Take the high road. Remember what your mother always told you, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”.  Bashing the employee that lashed out at you only makes you look worse and validates whatever the ex-employee has said about you.  If you need to comment at all, keep it short and professional. In fact, if you have to make a public comment, wish them the best!
  • Don’t negate their contribution. It’s very tempting to rationalize why someone chooses to leave your company. I’ve heard everything from, “they weren’t really that good”, to  “we did everything for him, but he wasn’t realistic”.  Keep in mind that what you tell your remaining staff will stick in their minds. If someone’s on the fence about leaving, they may be pushed over the edge if they feel you don’t appreciate their contribution. Let’s be honest, if they were a terrible employee, or had a terrible attitude, you would have fired them.
  • Don’t be defensive. Whether your ex-employee blames your corporate culture or unfair treatment, being defensive only adds fuel to the fire and escalates the issue. It’s not unlike when you provide your employee with feedback and they get defensive. Pretty soon you can find yourself in a screaming match.  Agree to disagree and move on.

The more attention these public resignations get, the more often we may see them. Viral YouTube videos and reality TV only add fuel to the fire.  Even in the best of companies, you can’t always control the emotions of your employees, so be prepared to handle your response the best way possible.