Managers: How bad do you feel when an employee quits?

I’ve heard that being fired is one of the worst experiences in life. I recall reading somewhere that it’s one of the few life events that can impact happiness in the long-term, a category reserved for events on the level of death of a spouse. No idea where I read that.

So, my question is how much pain we peons may be causing to our innocent managers: how bad do employers feel when an employee quits? The last time I quit a job, I overheard my manager mutter something along the lines of “FML”.

Possible factor: I assume it also depends on replaceability. I was in a position where it requires approximately a year to get employees trained on the massively complex system we worked on.

Yeah, it all comes down to replaceability to me. First and foremost a manager should have the concerns of his team in mind. While there might be a personal angle when someone who is a friend or that you liked quits you have to think in terms of the team first.

Totally depends. Sometimes you are so relieved that you barely wait until they are out the door before doing the happy dance.

When I was nearing my expiration term of service (ETS) in the Army (i.e., my “I’m done date”), there were also four or five others in my platoon nearing their ETS as well. We weren’t grunts; we were very highly trained and skilled technicians with opportunities in the civilian market, and as a result, not a single one of us ever considered re-enlisting. This was a great concern to the chain of command, because from the perspective of their commanders, people not re-enlisting was indicative of bad management (which was really good; it’s just that military pay sucked.).

This was usually my experience as a manager. I never managed people who would be difficult to replace, and so when good people left for better opportunities I was happy for them. But most often the guy who thinks too highly of himself would quit in a snit and there was a certain amount of insincere “oh, I’m sorry to hear that…I wish you the best of luck.”

Meh…people quit. They get laid off. They transfer. Etc. Etc. It’s tough to get emotionally attached to coworkers.

I never feel bad at all, I hired them to do a job, they don’t want to do it anymore, I’ll hire another one.

I’ve been a manager for 20 years. It’s got nothing to do with emotional attachment. It’s about managing. If you get a resignation letter, you suddenly have a shitload of work to do that you didn’t plan for. You have to figure out how to transition everything this person knows and their work in progress to other people, and you’ve got two weeks to do it. You have to decide whether you can absorb the loss, or whether you have to replace the person. If the latter, maybe you need to write a requisition, get it approved by your management. Prepare a final performance review. Start the recruiting effort, review dozens of résumés, interview a bunch of people, make an offer, get turned down, make another offer…

However, one two occasions I had the pleasure of taking resignations from people I was working to fire; I think they wanted to beat me to the punch.

It depends. A few who quit were a relief. If any quit because they were pissed at me I’d be very depressed, but it hasn’t happened as far as I can tell (not that I can prove that.) Some people quit to really go on to better things, things we couldn’t offer them, and there are no hard feelings there at all - in fact I stay in touch with them at conferences.

The biggest batch of people quitting was during the AT&T trivestiture - but since I quit at the same time, I could hardly feel bad about it.

I ran a restaurant for many years, and people came and went all the time. I didn’t give most of them a second thought. However, there were more than a few who stayed on for years at a stretch; losing them could be tough. These were people who knew the job so well they could do it in their sleep, meaning that if I wasn’t there I could sleep, and they were people I could TRUST. On top of that, there was the emotional factor.

But again, these were few and far between. For every person like this, there were a hundred that left that I wouldn’t remember two weeks later, let alone care about.

In my experience, the ones I wanted to quit never did!

If I’m right in my thinking, the OP is asking if someone quitting has some level of emotional impact on the manager, feeling some sense of rejection in line with how someone feels when they’re fired (or laid off), would that be right?

In which case, I’d say it really depends on the manager. Many (and frequently men, if I’m going to get sexist about it) see their staff has commodities, don’t particularly care when people leave except for the upheavel it causes, or sometimes have a ‘fuck you’ reaction, which I guess is an emotional response.

Myself, I didn’t enjoy losing good people. I suppose at some level it felt like a rejection, like I’d done something wrong, hadn’t supported them enough or given them an environment they enjoyed working in. Clearly many times people left because they’d been given an opportunity to do something better/earn more/whatever, and I always professed happiness for them, but always had a nagging feeling that I’d failed in some way.

So I guess the answer is, ‘yes’, I often felt bad about it. But I don’t think it remotely compares to losing your own job.

I’m generally happy for the person, and depending on the quality of their work, I’m sometimes happy for me as well.

As far as management pain goes, I’ve found that firing someone is the most painful thing. I know that it’s painful, demoralizing and scary for them, and I tend to empathize heavily. Fortunately, it’s been a rare occurrence in my various jobs.

This. It’s not that the person is leaving per se, it’s the mad scramble you have to do to shift gears and make sure work flow is not adversely affected.

I’ll just speak about the good employees who leave. Bad/mediocre ones really have no lasting effect other than finding another (hopefully more productive) body to fill the space from a managerial stand point.

Even just narrowing it down to the good employees, there are tons of different categories/reasons that they move on. I’ll discount a lot of the smaller ones and go through the main two that I deal with.
Good employees who quit/resign for career/life betterment.**
It’s always hard to lose a good employee, especially a key specialized one. A lot of these guys you’ve come to bond with a bit and have friendly conversations in the work place with on a daily basis. It’s really never a surprise when most of them move on. The majority of the ones I’ve dealt with have used the job as a filler between graduation and their ideal careers.

Good employees who quit/resign for bullshit reasons.
When I say bullshit reasons, I’m not insinuating that their reason for quiting is bullshit. This is the category where good employees leave because of shit situations beyond your control in the company. I’ve had a few of these over the last few years. Employees who I trusted to run production completely in my absence, and would make just as good if not a better manager than me. Yet for whatever reason (bad interviewing skills, no degree, etc.) they get denied promotions too many times and get fed up. These are the only ones that really bother me because I know they’re a boon to the company and yet they will probably never make it to the next level. Even though I’m happy that they found a different place that hopefully they’ll thrive at to their full potential, it still pains me to think that they run things better than half of the management in my absence and yet small corporate bullshit holds them back from being paid for it.

It just sometimes seems like a betrayal when somebody leaves, particularly when someone earnestly tells you in the interview that they take the “long term view” of the job and imply that they will be there when you need them. I think the shortest one I had was a guy I recruited out of WA, who uprooted and moved to Alaska, worked for me for six months, then bolted to a better-paying position elsewhere. That was bad enough, but he was very talented and the guy who replaced him, while he talked a good show in the interview, turned out to be a loser who I couldn’t get rid of.

Having just resigned my job for a new one I’ve worked at less than two weeks, I can tell you my boss, the CEO of a small defense company, really didn’t even care. He hired one of his buddies to replace me as a proposal writer. I’ll be curious to see how that guy does in the coming months and if my boss will ever regret his decision. The truth is that if he didn’t try to dick with my salary making me more commission based (where he got to decide what was eligible for commission), I wouldn’t have left. I guess he figured he could get away with that sort of thing in this economy.

If they are ehhhh…or not so good…then good that they quit. I have had few of these though.

If they quit because they received a good offer…they are moving ‘up’…I am very happy for them. I have another person ‘out there’ that knows me and can vouch for me if I ever need it. Someone I hired and showed the ropes doing well. Sure, I have to replace the person but I’m much more happy/proud than annoyed.

The ones that REALLY bug me are the good ones that move onto another job that is NOT a step up…but they think it is or are annoyed with the company in some way so they leave or their spouse is moving and so they are giving up their job but they don’t have a new one or it is not much of a move up etc.

It is such a waste.

It is true that it’s generally the good employees who quit. The duds just stay until you force them out. For me, I might have had an initial drop in my mood when someone good has left my team, especially if it was totally unexpected. But it’s almost always soon replaced with a feeling of gladness or satisfaction that the person will be moving to something better. And my professional network has expanded as a result. And then the search starts for a replacement. That’s probably the part that I dislike the most – finding a suitable replacement when an able employee has left. No real resentment towards the person who’s left.

I have learned not to take it personally. Almost all the problems I have seen as a manager and on the other side of the fence as a “worker bee” is when someone becomes too involved.

There were a few times when I felt bad, but it is only a minor thing. I especially like it when the person quits to get a job that is a position that is a step up. For instance, I had an A/R clerk quit to become an accounting manager at another hotel.

I liked her so I was sad to lose her, but it was nice that I trained her and helped her so that she could step up to the next level so those things balance each other out.

And on the flip side, I have known some manager to take everything as a direct affront to them.

I’ve had two employees quit recently. One was an excellent junior staff member who is going out into the world to start his own business (completely unrelated to mine). I have to give him credit for his entrepreneurial spirit - though I think his business has a very good chance of failing. In any event, I amvery sorry to see him go but I respect his decision and wish him nothing but the best.

The other was a recently hired senior staff member who basically said to me, do it my way or I’m leaving. I said, buh-bye.

So, in other words, it completely depends on the situation.