They quit. What’s next?

Mar 26, 2023

If you take time to breathe, rally your troops, get team buy-in, and consider your options, you’ll be on your way to making this a positive change.

Picture this: It’s your busy season. Your organization is rolling full steam ahead. But then, you get that dreaded phone call, meeting, or email to let you know that a key member of your team has resigned. Let’s face it, we all have that one employee who you “can’t live without.” Been there? Maybe you’re getting the sweats just thinking about it.

You’re left with several questions, all of which come down to – what’s next? Let’s walk through a few steps that will turn a moment of panic to a moment of opportunity:

  • Take a breath. Sound simple? It is. The reality is, a lot of times when someone quits, you were already not getting their top performance. A recent buzzword refers to this as “quiet quitting.” In general, it means the person was most likely disengaged in many ways before actually quitting.
    First, you are going to be OK! It’s not personal. We all care about our employees. We check-in on individuals and teams on a regular basis. But, we also know you simply can’t please everyone (as much as we’d like to). What’s done is done, so it’s time to breathe, move on, control what you can, and don’t sweat the rest.
  • Rally the troops. You’ve taken a breath, so now it’s time to check-in with the team. Nothing is worse than navigating this kind of situation blind. You need to know how this transition is affecting everyone, and to provide a sense of assurance. To do this, show confidence and stability. You are your organization’s foundation, and nothing is more important than keeping that strong. Be an example on how to handle the news. This is also a great chance to be honest – this is a transitional period and therefore an opportunity to demonstrate more understanding and flexibility.
    Here are some questions you can ask as you’re checking in:
    • What are you concerns with this person leaving?
    • Was this person working on any critical projects that need to be completed and/or reassigned?
    • Which clients will be the most impacted by this person’s departure? And, who can become our new client contact?
    • What do you think was/is going well and not well with your team? Help me understand some areas of improvement.
    • Are there areas and/or initiatives you would like to see our firm support more?
  • Get team buy-in. Remember that understanding and flexibility from before? We’re going to need some of that now. Get together with your team and discuss your priorities. It’s possible that to get everything accomplished, you’ll need to shift priorities, and it’s best to do this as a team. If they weren’t already, now is the time for everyone to be unified under the same goals. Ask yourself: What is most important? What needs to be accomplished now, and what can wait? If they are a part of the solution, it’s much more likely that they won’t be debating their own employment opportunities.
  • Consider your options. Take time to look around. Could this role be filled internally by promoting another team member? Could you reallocate roles and responsibilities to team members who can handle more bandwidth or who crave more career growth opportunities? Could you hire a former employee back or even someone you previously worked with at a different firm? As they say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Take time to ask yourself – who do you already know who could step in?

Ultimately, this is a great opportunity to improve. Really listen to what your people have to say. After all, they are your most valuable asset. If you take time to breathe, rally your troops, get team buy-in, and consider your options, you’ll be on your way to making this a positive change. 

Eddie Wade, PE is the chief operating officer at Croy Engineering. He can be reached at

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