When is a resignation, not a resignation?

The only thing more common than verbal resignations is a classic, “I quit.” But there are other ways to express one’s frustrations. In some cases however, they may be during a performance discussion when an employee feels they can’t do anything about it or out of pure frustration with their work environment or boss.

There may be times when this is for the best, as it saves everyone involved — a lot of headaches and stress — but there will also be those instances where you know that someone has been with your company through thick and thin. Their leaving would leave both parties feeling disappointed in each other.

It’s not always easy being on either side of employee resignations, so whenever possible, managers should try to make sure that any resignation comes out mutually beneficial for everyone involved.

Employers often respond to verbal resignations with a quick confirmation letter or email, as they believe this is an easy way of protecting themselves and their company if the worker changes their mind in future.

Are we obliged to accept a change of heart?

A common question that we’ve heard in the HR world is this:

“We accepted the verbal resignation, they can’t withdraw now, can they?”

Unfortunately, it isn’t so straightforward.

The “heat of moment” can cause people to do things without thinking through first – resigning from their jobs being one such act. Giving notice may not mean anything more than just blowing off steam. Which is why employers should take these cases on a case-by-case basis.

The employee may cool down after a period of time, change their mind overnight, and rescind the resignation. Once this occurs, they have a strong argument that the verbal resignation can no longer be accepted. A refusal to accept the rescinded resignation can expose an employer to an unfair dismissal claim.

So how do you manage a situation of what may seem like a resignation in the ‘heat of the moment’?

  • Give the employee a reasonable amount of time to cool down
  • Contact the employee (ideally via phone or face to face) to check and confirm if it is truly their intention to resign.
  • Request a written confirmation.
  • If the decision to resign is confirmed, to write to them accepting the resignation.
  • Record the series of events providing as much detail as possible.
  • If the employee subsequently confirms their resignation after a cooling off period and the confirmation to resign is clearly not a ‘heat of the moment’ situation, it would be reasonable to say that any further requests to withdraw their resignation would not occur without your agreement.

How about text message resignations?

The same advice applies, no matter how convincing they may sound. Always check in and confirm with the employee after a cooling off period.

No doubt there are countless ambiguous situations facing you as leaders and employers – we understand, it’s a minefield! If you’re ready to take the next step in growing your business, we can help. HR can be painful. Our team of HR experts do the heavy lifting, so you can focus on running the show. Get help now. Contact us today!