Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware that America is in the age of the Great Resignation. Employees are said to be quitting in droves, and employers are scrambling to fill the knowledge gaps left behind by those who have left.

It’s easy to become jaded in the midst of these unprecedented circumstances, especially if you’re a hiring manager or in a company that is suffering because of staffing issues. Maybe you feel you’ve done everything for your employees over the last two years especially – you’ve balanced staff working from home and on-site, you’ve covered company laptops and Zoom subscriptions, and held it all together while the rest of the world seemingly fell apart. Your reward? Disloyalty and your best employees looking elsewhere for work.

Getting angry, however, isn’t doing you any favors. If your employees are leaving – why is that?

Employees aren’t quitting to spite you

Every employee has their own personal reasons for quitting. And, unless you’re encouraging a toxic work culture, those reasons probably have nothing to do with you.

Maybe they’re concerned about their health or the health of their family and need a position where they can work remotely full time. Perhaps they’re trying to keep up with inflation and are looking for a salary that gives them a little more wiggle room in their budget. Perhaps their personal circumstances changed and they need to care for a child or another family member, and need more flexible work hours. Or maybe they’re looking to move into a different role, move ahead with their career, or even take their career in a different direction.

Whatever the reason, it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with their personal needs and the career path they’ve chosen for themselves. Your attitude, though, can make it personal and have repercussions beyond the current situation.

Former employees are still a resource

Employees are often told to avoid burning bridges when they leave an employer. But this piece of advice goes both ways – just as an employee can and should avoid burning bridges, employers have the same responsibility.

If you’re serious about keeping your employee, have a frank conversation with them. Maybe you can give them a raise, flexible hours, or other perks that would keep them on board.

And even if you’re not able to meet their needs, asking questions with an open mind goes a long way to understanding the reasons your employee is leaving and to give you ideas about how to keep the rest of your staff from following.

Your former employee is a wealth of knowledge, and with an open mind, you can skillfully excavate the information from them. Perhaps a few small changes can make a lasting difference in your work environment, encouraging other employees to stay on board.

They probably also have a network that involve others with similar skills. A shining referral from them could help you land high caliber replacement talent – talent that you don’t even have to hunt for.

Don’t discount the chance of rehiring them in the future, either. While you may disagree with their decisions now, none of us knows what the future holds. If your beloved employee is in the market for a new position in the next few months or years, rest assured they’ll remember the words you said when they left. Parting on amicable terms leaves the door open for re-employment in the future.

Gaslighting an employee, shaming an employee for leaving, or sending employees on a guilt trip to try to manipulate them into staying are all ways employers burn bridges. Your words don’t change the circumstances of their lives or their plans for the future, but choosing them wisely can help build your network, keep relationships intact, and go a long way in helping you retain your current employees.

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Brynn Mahnke is a freelance writer specializing in creating articles while the rest of the world is sleeping. In her real life she is a small business owner, a mother of seven and a mediocre distance runner who enjoys collecting obscure facts about anything. Get in touch with her at brynn.mahnke@gmail.com.