5 Quick Tips

When Staff Quit

Written by Patti

It’s never fun when staff quit, but there’s the right way to handle it and the wrong way to handle it.

There are two types of people who resign from a job, those who leave on good terms – they were good workers who liked their job but have to leave because of circumstances out of their control, a better opportunity, or they realize that they’re just not up for the demands of the role.

Then there are those who leave on less than good terms – they’re really unhappy with their role, pay, or environment and there’s potentially some drama around their leaving.

Your job as director is to make sure that their resignation is as smooth as possible, with as little drama and disruption to the rest of the team as possible.

Read on for my suggestions on how to handle it the right way.

 

 

5 Tips on dealing with a staff resignation:

  1. Don’t take it personally.

    In many cases, their leaving is not about you – it’s about them and their needs.
    No one else is as concerned about the wellbeing of the camp, ratios, and the bottom line as you are – we all just have to accept that fact and move on.
    We can never expect a team member to be as invested in our camp’s success as we are – and that’s ok. That’s why you’re the director and they’re not. (And if they are – Awesome! You found a gem!)
    So, we need to stop acting like someone quitting is a personal affront to us.
    It’s a business decision, just like it was a business decision when you left your last position.

    Orrrr…. maybe they’re leaving because they just don’t like you.. and it IS personal. And that’s ok too.
    Not everyone is going to like you.
    If you’ve been hard to work with or a jerk to that person, then take some time, reflect, and learn from this opportunity – but that’s really a post for another day. We’re going to assume their decision is not about you.

  2. Try to problem solve.

    If someone comes to you saying they’re quitting, take some time to chat with them. Chances are this won’t be a surprise, we usually know when someone is struggling, but maybe it’s a scenario out of their control like a family emergency, or maybe they’ve been hiding their unhappiness from you.

    Ask if there’s anything you can do to help.
    Don’t try to lay a guilt trip on them, but you may want to ask if they’ll stay on until the end of the session or x date so you can find a replacement (more on that below). If they can’t, don’t get upset with them – again, no one cares about this program as much as you.

    If they’re unhappy about their work environment or a relationship with a colleague, you may want to try a mediated conversation (let me know if you want a separate post about facilitating mediated conversations).

    At this point you’re just figuring out what’s wrong and seeing if there are steps you can take to improve the situation (ideally this all would have taken place before it’s gotten to the point where they’re ready to leave, but hey, we’re talking worst case scenario here).

  3. Don’t beg them to stay.

    I decided a loooong time ago that I would never again coax, convince, or cajole someone to stay.
    It doesn’t turn out well for anyone.
    If you can solve their problems as suggested in step two and they decide to stay because their situation has improved, then great!

    But convincing them to stay out of guilt, sense of duty, or fear of retribution will only hurt you in the long run.
    They won’t do their best work, the camp culture will suffer, and it may even cause drama within the team.

    I’ve sometimes said those exact words to staff “Well, I’m sorry to hear that you’re considering leaving; I won’t beg you to stay, so this decision will be entirely yours. If you need some more time to think about it, or need my support in solving some of the problems you’ve identified I’m happy to do that but please let me know as soon as possible so I can make arrangements for a replacement.”

    I say this with kindness, but I’m also firm. No one is irreplaceable – including you and I, so there doesn’t need to be a ton of drama around one person leaving.
    Sometimes this throws people off, I don’t know if it’s that they were looking for attention, or that just talking about their concerns helped, but after this conversation a number of staff over the years have left the office looking slightly bewildered only to come back and said that they wanted to stay.

  4. Explain next steps.

    If they decide that they’re absolutely ready to go, then I usually opt for having them leave site as soon as possible.
    There are reasons for trying to get someone to finish out the session, but in my experience – unless they’re in a crucial position that you NEED a replacement for before they leave, like the nurse – then it’s better to have them gone once they’ve decided they no longer want to be there.

    Walk them through the following administrative steps:

    • Explain any paperwork or pay information, depending on how your pay is structured, they may end up owing your organization money that’s already been issued to them.
      Tell them about their final pay period and make sure you have an accurate address for their ROE.
    • Have them complete an exit interview (if that’s something your organization does).
    • Have them write a letter of resignation for your files. For many staff this will be their first time writing such a document so you may have to walk them through it, have them (very briefly) identify their reason for leaving, that they’ve been informed about pay details and include any other pertinent information the have them sign and date it.
    • Let them know your policies and protocol for staff who’ve resigned or been terminated – for example, once a staff is officially no longer an employee (once they’ve given their verbal notice) I no longer give them full access to the site.
      I explain to them that they no longer have access to the campers and that they will have myself or someone else escort them back to their space to pack their belongings.
      This may seem like overkill – but believe me when I say that you do NOT want drama filled, tearful goodbyes with the campers (or other staff).Now with that said, depending on the staff, the reasons for leaving, and the other people involved, I’ve allowed staff to say their goodbyes on occasion – with the caveat that it was to be quiet, calm, professional and that someone would be with them.While escorting them around, it’s important to remain cordial and polite.
      You may feel angry on the inside, but try to keep reminding yourself not to take it personally, and if you’re not feeling up to the task of being cordial – at the very least, be cool but professional.
      The main thing is that you’re polite, try to make it as smooth a process as possible. The might involve some small talk.
    • Have them make arrangements to leave site.
      In some situations where staff have identified that they weren’t up to the demands of the role for mental health reasons, I’ve gone so far as to drive them to a hospital or their family home (and skipped some of the other steps until after they’ve gotten the help they need – I’m not going to make someone in the middle of a mental health crisis complete an exit interview). I’ve also driven staff to the nearest bus stop, or let them stick around their room for a few hours while they wait for their parent to pick them up.
      Again, base your decision on the person, their reason for leaving, and choose the route that seems most respectful to their needs, the needs of the camp, and what is best in terms of public relations.
  5. Be respectful and kind.

    Yep, it’s frustrating.
    I get it.
    I really do.
    But, to revisit number one on this list, it’s not about us.
    It’s about them and their needs, and it’s about the camps needs.
    Getting angry, or hurt, or offended is not going to help your camp program.

    Acting professionally, being respectful of someone else’s decision, and leaving a good final impression will help your program.

    You have the power in this situation to turn what was a bad work experience for that person into a “less bad” (or even good) final experience – your treatment of them might make them overlook how unhappy they were, and speak kindly of you to others. There’s nothing wrong with a few extra kind words about your business.

    Alternatively, you could turn what was a positive work experience, with someone leaving on good terms into a negative one pretty quickly.
    If you make a fuss, throw a tantrum, talk crap, make them feel guilty about their decision, or any other number of unprofessional behaviours, you can turn someone who would have been an advocate of your program into someone who only remembers how poorly they were treated when they no longer served your needs.

  6. Bonus Tip – Be discreet

    Discretion is your friend here.
    Not only is part of your job as camp director to keep some information confidential, but providing just enough information to your remaining staff to keep them informed without spilling all the gory details will go a long way to creating the smooth exit you’re looking for.

    Once the person resigns, let your key leadership staff members know so that they can make arrangements for coverage.
    Once the person who resigned has left site, either you or your leadership members pass on the information to the staff at the soonest, appropriate time (staff meetings are a good time for this).
    Don’t get into details; saying something like “Some of you may have heard this already, but I wanted to take a moment to let you all know that Sally has made the decision to resign from her position here at camp. We wish her all the best in her future endeavours. And don’t worry, we have a plan in place to cover her duties…” and then give a few very brief details about how you’ll fill her position or cover her duties.
    Give this little speech calmly, with confidence, and matter-of-factly and your staff will be SO much less likely to gossip, or panic that there’s a gap to be filled.

    Resist the urge to vent about how inconvenient this is for you, how stressed out you are because of it, and how much Sally sucks for leaving you high and dry. It’s just not professional and it’s not going to help anything.

 

So, long story short – don’t be a jerk. LOL
I know it’s hard to stay calm and even harder to be kind when you’re disappointed, frustrated, and worried about your campers and program. But it’s better in the long run to handle disappointment with grace and professionalism.

I’ve had a handful of staff quit over the years… partially because if someone is not working out, and rather than dismissing them I help “walk” them to the conclusion that they should resign.
But I think THAT is another post for another day too!!

Have you ever had to deal with a staff quitting? How did it go?

 

If you liked this post, let me know! Either comment below or hit me up on Instagram – that’s where I spend most of my time on social media. 🙂

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4 Comments

  • Great article, thank you! Yep, I have had several staff quit and it seems it has been happening with more frequency as of late. I have started hiring 10-20% more staff than I need to buffer for this. Ha, I have been guilty of begging folks to stay as I work for a camp for people with disabilities and it can be extremely challenging for the camper and the other staff in the cabin if the person leaves. Though you are right on, it’s not worth it for someone who really doesn’t want to be at camp to stay.

    • Thanks Alex! And you’re welcome. 🙂
      That’s so smart to hire extra staff members, if you’ve been able to create a budget that allows for it then it’s a brilliant solution!
      I think it would be wise of every camp director to try to get to a place in their budget where they could have those extra team members.
      I totally feel ya on how tempting it is to beg people to stay when you’re working with campers who have disabilities – that’s where a lot of my background is too. It makes SUCH a difference in terms of safety, ability to support personal care, and of course change can be really difficult for a lot of campers. It’s sometimes helpful to have volunteers you can draw from in emergencies, former staff, board members (and/ or their family members lol), camp neighbours, community organizations, etc. if you know they’re on standby to come in and help you get over the hump for a few days until you can find a replacement it helps take away that temptation of begging someone to stay. lol

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