Staffing Issues? How You Say Goodbye Matters

Nearly every healthcare leader is struggling with staffing issues. It can be painful when someone turns in their resignation, especially when retention is already a problem. How you say goodbye matters, so be mindful of your reaction. It can make all the difference in your culture.

Coaching healthcare leaders over the past two decades has given me insight into how saying goodbye matters, not only to the individual resigning but to the whole team. One manager talked about how she is fed up with nurses leaving to become travelers. “It’s all about the money,” she said. “I just tell them good riddance, if that is what you want.” She also tells them she will classify them as “Do Not Rehire” in their personnel file. Her reaction slams the door on the person resigning. It is also visible to the rest of the team. The messages she is sending are:

  • You are only valuable to me when you fill slots in the schedule
  • Your previous contributions are forgotten immediately
  • You have betrayed me and the entire team
  • I will blackball you with the company so you can never come back

Just yesterday, I was talking with a leader who oversees the OR function in a large academic medical center who told me that six people who left over the past 18 months came back. In talking with her, I found that how she managed their resignations was a big part of their return. What did she do? She:

  1. Expressed that she was sorry to see them leave
  2. Affirmed that as their leader she supports their personal and professional growth
  3. Thanked them for their contributions
  4. Asked what prompted their decision
  5. Asked if there was anything she (the leader) could have done differently
  6. Affirmed that she would gladly welcome them back should things not work out (should there be openings)
  7. Asked how she (the employee) would like the information shared with the team
  8. Publicly wished her well, talked about her contributions during the last morning huddle, and said she would be missed.

It can be hard to manage your emotions when a valued team member resigns. It’s normal to feel shocked, sad, scared, abandoned, and/or angry. Just keep those feelings in check when responding. Have a plan and begin with the end in mind. If you want that employee to come back, make sure you do your best to leave the door open and the light on.

If you’re struggling with staff resignations, our course, Be the Leader Nobody Wants to Leave, is a great first step to learning the eight skill-builders to great leadership. Learn more by clicking here, or schedule a free 30 minute consultation here

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