The difficult task of saying goodbye nicely

The difficult task of saying goodbye nicely

Monday, 15 october 2018 | Redacción CEU

Farewells are always bitter, especially when someone has to assume a position of responsibility. Although an employee's goodbye is desired with fervor and their dismissal is more than justified, firing someone is not an easy job to perform. There are many articles that address this matter: how to prepare to face this uncomfortable task, some advice on proceeding in the most appropriate way, circumstances that must be met in order for these dismissals to comply with the law and even issues about the ethical perspective when it comes to carrying them out. Nevertheless, the matter of knowing how to accept the departure of talented professionals when they want to leave, which is not easy either, is treated with less emphasis. How to proceed when employees are the ones who decide to leave the company in search of a better job opportunity? How to say goodbye in these and other cases, and why is it necessary?


Talent is a lever for the progress of companies. Organizations will not achieve progress, if their march is not accompanied by the firm pace of good professionals. Most companies are fully aware of this circumstance, ever greater number of them dedicate a titanic effort to seek and attract the best talent. Sometimes, they do not make the efforts which are necessary in order to retain those professionals (lack of recognition, expectations that are not met, few opportunities for growth, etc.) and the exceptional employees end up leaving. Other times, the issues that motivate their withdrawal are external. But, whatever the reason for their departure is, their farewell should never be done in a careless manner.

The principles of an ethical goodbye

In many articles, we have addressed the unavoidable need for facing the leadership of any organization with a strong commitment to ethics. As we explained, ethics is a transversal issue, which means it concerns different areas and dimensions within the company. For that reason, it can never be left behind in the decision-making and should guide the behavior of employees and, above all, of those who are responsible for setting the course to follow.

Companies' leaders, which are always accompanied and driven by the response they get from their employees, are responsible for creating the ethical framework and the culture of values on which organizations rests. From this perspective, it is necessary for them to establish the limits, since the ethical approach must be complete to be effective, it should not only be limited to safeguard different key points such as the principle of equity and impartiality or the indisputable precept of not harming any human being. In other words, for a company to be ethical, it must take into account sound values and clear fundamentals in all circumstances. Of course, it should also do so when it comes to saying goodbye to professionals.

One of the most frequent mistakes when facing the departure of talented employees is labeling them as disloyal or ungrateful workers. Just as it is difficult for managers to proceed with the dismissal of employees, it is also not easy for professionals to make the decision of ending their employment relationships (even when these ones have not been satisfactory). Besides, behind their decision of leaving there can be very different reasons: the uncertainty in their current job, the improvement of their working conditions in other companies, the inability to grow as professionals there, personal circumstances, work overload, etc. Then, these moments can be exceptional opportunities to learn more about these companies, see the organizations from different perspectives and understand what situation they are in (especially if their talent drain is persistent).


The difficult task of saying goodbye nicely

How to say goodbye to a good employee

For the proper functioning of companies, managers and intermediate leaders must be aware of the importance of identifying the employees' potential and managing the talent in a way that is aligned with the ethical values. When companies strongly believe in ethics, employees feel more satisfied; it is easier for them to work there and, of course, it is harder for them to leave.

Although most companies put a special emphasis on welcoming the new talent, just as important is for them its good reception as well as its farewell. Of course, this is an ethical issue, because leaders cannot judge workers in a different way than they would if the people who make the decision were themselves, apart from the fact that it is important to promote the professionals’ wellbeing until the last moment in their employment relationship and accept the role of responsibility that companies have in it.

One of the main aspects to take into account when capable professionals decide to leave companies is to try to understand, as far as possible, what the reason for their decision is and especially what role companies play in it. A good way to achieve this is to conduct a farewell interview. It may even be possible to make a new offer, reformulate the conditions or conclude some kind of agreement; as long as the demands are fair and the companies are in position to carry them out.

Once the decision of the professional to leave the company is firm and irreversible, the company must not resist and obstruct their exit, since this reaction, in addition to being unethical, can be counterproductive for both parties. What image does a firm offer if it does not say goodbye to its workers in a good manner? Experts in Human Resources recommend following in these cases some steps such as offering a letter of recommendation, reinforcing positive behaviors, trying to make professionals feel as good as possible, communicating that the doors are wide open if they decide to return, maintaining contact after their departure and, the most important thing, preventing other professionals from leaving.

Nobody is essential, although it is always painful to say goodbye to talent. These moments are what can serve as a turning point for leaders, so they can reflect on their companies and carry out actions that contribute to changing what they consider convenient. At The CEU IAM Business School we teach a Global MBA which is adapted to the current requirements that are demanded by today's business environment and that is focused on training the leaders who will face the future of the business world, always with a strong sense of ethics and clear values.


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