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Need an Employee to Resign? Learn Some Tips Here

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 6/26/2011

At times, owing to unfavorable business conditions, mergers and acquisitions or sheer incompetence, an employee becomes untenable in the firm. While the “at-will” employment doctrine allows employers to hire and fire at will within reasonable grounds, employers do pefer resignation requests.

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    Leaving Quietly

    Resignation Request 

    Voluntarily resignations over firing benefit both the employer and the employee. For the employer, firing precludes any legal issues, reduces paperwork, and may reduce unemployment costs. For the employee, having “resigned” from a job rather than being “fired from a job” is a redeeming feature and leaves the door open for future jobs. In recessionary times with many employees chasing too few jobs, fired employees rarely get a chance with another employer. Resignation also allows the employee to negotiate some exit package such as an out-of-contract severance pay or good reference, which firing does not provide.

    Resignation precludes the employee with rights to claim damages for an unfair dismissal, and may make securing unemployment benefits difficult. Such considerations may make some employees dither. The employee agreeing to the employer’s request to resign depends on how the employer asks for the resignation.

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    Provide Subtle Hints

    The best approach to eke out a resignation is to start giving subtle hints. This could take the shape of suddenly turning cold and informal, keeping the employee out of the loop of events, not assigning any substantial work, and informally spreading the word of impending cuts across the board. Another option is to enlist the marked employee’s friend, colleague, or some other trusted person to warn about the possible termination and suggest the option of voluntary resignation instead of termination.

    Being away from the loop and not allowed to make any worthwhile contributions means the employee would rusticate if they choose to continue. Employees given such treatment usually get the message and start looking elsewhere, and even if they do not resign within a given time, usually expect the message when it comes and do not resist much.

    Although these approaches are seemingly unprofessional ways and attract the risk of someone not targeted affected by rumors of the impending axe, it serves as a tactical way to go about the task, especially when a direct confrontation is not possible for any reason. Make sure to take this approach subtly and not leave any documentary trial, which would make it easy for the employee to file a lawsuit alleging discrimination. Make sure to nip in the bud any employee grievance regarding such a cold shoulder treatment by adopting a direct approach immediately, as a formal grievance would make it easy to prove charges of discrimination in court.

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    Direct Approach

    The straightforward approach of resignation requests is to call the employee for a one-on-one session, explain the situation clearly, lay out facts, figures, and supporting documents, and ask them to submit a resignation or face termination. Most employees initially try to deny charges as allegations and confront the HR manager or the employer, but soon when realization dawns, no matter what the protest and they find no future in the company, they mellow down.

    Hear out the employee, and counter all they have to say with facts and documented proofs that make denial or challenge difficult. Explain the advantages of resignation and the possible implication of defiance, such as not getting a good reference and the difficulties in getting another job when fired. Be prepared to offer some concessions such as a favorable reference or additional two-week severance pay, or something else the employee wants to negotiate the resignation letter.

    When asking the employee to resign, make sure to enforce it immediately. Hesitating, wavering, or reconsidering after asking for resignation is a sure sign of weakness. The workforce would surely interpret it as such, leading to severe negative consequences down the lane. Provide the employee with no more than a day to consider and prepare the resignation letter, and if the employee dithers, issue the termination letter without delay. Make sure to monitor the employee or restrict access to the workstation when the employee ponders. This not only sends across a sure signal to the employee they have no future in the company, it also blocks the possibility of the employee stealing data or compromising network security in vengeance.

    Most employment contracts specify a notice period before an employee may quit, and the same clause may apply when the employer sends off the employee. The company asking the employee to resign obviously means waiving the notice period clause for the employee, but fair play requires compensating the employee with wages for the notice period. The employer agreeing to any other demands made by the employee for resigning voluntarily depends on the extent of effort and hassles to terminate the employee.

    Employees forced to resign can still file a lawsuit alleging forced resignation. The court considers resignation under pressure as a type of discharge, but the onus lies on the employee to prove the same, and the inability of the employer to prove misconduct or other valid reasons to fire the employee as a counter to such charges.

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    The author is experienced in HR management.

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