I started my skincare company S.W. Basics in 2011, and although we haven't had tons of employees, I've been super proud of the growth of my team. We've gone from one person (yours truly) to three people to eight people in less than five years. What I'm even more proud of is that no one has ever quit. I've gone through mutual employee break-ups, but never someone putting in their notice despite me not wanting them to.
As you probably guessed, that spotless record ended in April. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty brutal. Tears were shed.
In the middle of a very difficult conversation, I realized I was experiencing a milestone. It was bound to happen at some point -- you can't avoid change forever. I did my best to get present and think of the best ways to handle the situation. Luckily, it turned out okay.
Here's what I did to survive...hopefully with some grace.
1. Listen with an open mind (and heart).
It's not that fun to sit across from someone and say, "I want to do whatever it takes to make this better" and for the response to be "I think it's time for me to move on." I mean, it even sounds like a break-up! The emotion you feel can be deafening. Take a deep breath. Drown the emotion out. This is happening.
How do you want to look back on the experience? You certainly don't want to remember acting like a selfish fool. Listen to the feedback you are receiving, and take it really seriously. I find that the bigger my business gets the less people give me negative feedback. Someone quitting is someone not afraid to hit you with the real stuff. Take it in; you'll need it.
2. Take the hit.
Once you listen, it's easy to start wanting to defend yourself and your business. Essentially, you want the person to think they are making a mistake, and they'll be sorry -- at least I did. This is not helpful. Do you really want to convince someone to stay around if they don't want to? The relationship metaphor works here: Why would you want to date or marry someone who tried to leave? That's sad for both of you. If possible, have empathy and move on. Not everyone has to be as confident in your business as you are.
3. Remember your humanity.
The reason I cried is because I truly care about this employee so much. I'm going to miss her tremendously. Once I started really taking the steps above, I was able to remember that. I don't want to set fire to our relationship. I would argue the relationships I've built thanks to my business are more important than the business itself. If that's the case, why would I shut someone out? Think about how you would want to be treated, how you want all of the relationships in your life to look and behave accordingly.
It's not easy losing employees. I'm sure I'll learn more as it continues to happen. But I'm hoping I'll remember these tips each time, and that I'll end up with positive memories and stronger friendships because of that.