Don’t Make Offboarding an Afterthought

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on LinkedIn here

The second you hire your first employee you should know how to say goodbye when the time comes. This is not to assume you will have massive layoffs or that this needs to be some heavy 120-page plan with 500 steps. You do however need something in place to protect the company while ensuring the employee feels like they were treated with respect during the process.

If offboarding is not handled correctly you can have bad Glassdoor reviews, disengaged employees, wasted time, mistakes on pay, even lawsuits. This, in turn, impacts recruitment, productivity and makes the net benefit of offboarding in the first place a potential loss.

The stakes are high, yet offboarding is an afterthought. It’s often an ad hoc process with no repeatable structure. So, to help you get started here are my top 5 elements of ensuring an amazing offboarding experience.

Logistics Logistics Logistics

To ensure a smooth exit you need to construct a timeline/checklist on what needs to happen and when. You don’t want to miss a critical step like paying someone their final commission payment or forgetting to shut down their company email because you forgot. Leaving access to open or not sorting benefits has serious implications to both you and the former employee.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Whether they are leaving voluntarily, involuntarily, or any other scenario you may be in, the key is to start communicating early. Between you and their manager, any exit other than gross misconduct shouldn’t be a total surprise. This gives you time to get things right, but also minimizes the ill-feeling from the employee.

Have a Team

Just like recruiting, onboarding and promotions, saying goodbye to someone should not happen in a bubble. You cannot do this all on your own. Whether you are a 20 person startup or a 3,000 person company you need to identify who is going to help you manage a successful program. At the very least this should include your IT team, their manager and finance.


Change is hard and people don’t always work out, but there is a wrong way and a right way to exit people. Have a plan on how to tell your teams and the individual in a gracious and HONEST way. Remember we hire for intelligence and our teams are smart. If you are not upfront and honest cover-ups always become known.

Be Human

The most important thing and why offboarding often goes wrong. We are all human and saying goodbye is difficult. Prepare for your conversations with the individual and their teams, treat them with respect just as you would want to be treated. Stay aware of how you are speaking about the company and the individual so as to not hurt their cred, but remember to have a conversation rather than just dictating.


Schedule yourself 1 hour away from your desk and jot down a basic offboarding plan that includes the above. Use it, iterate, and improve the process as you go. Treating people with respect and managing the process of an exit is the secret to them leaving on the best terms possible. And while you can’t always have the perfect exit, having no plan is a surefire way to fail often.

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