As a manager, it's your job to ensure that your direct reports are motivated and relatively content. But when an important member of your team leaves, whether to transfer to another department or move to a new company altogether, it can easily produce negative feelings in those left behind. Here's how to keep the rest of your employees going when they lose a valued colleague.
1. Be honest about why that person left
Maybe you lost that key team member to a better salary at another firm. Or maybe that person just wanted a change and decided to transfer within your company. No matter the circumstances, it pays to be honest with your employees about why their colleague left and see if there are folks on your team who are similarly motivated to move on. For example, if you acknowledge that compensation was an issue for the person who left, other folks on your team might feel more comfortable stating that they, too, are unhappy with how they're paid. That knowledge at least gives you something to work with.
2. Talk up the opportunities
Losing a colleague is hard, but you can soften the blow by emphasizing the opportunities that are now available to the rest of your team in the wake of that person's departure. Maybe the employee who left got to attend an annual conference that other folks on your team want to experience. Or maybe now that that person is gone, there's a chance for someone else to get promoted. Uncovering whatever silver lining exists is a good way to turn an otherwise trying situation into a more positive one.
3. Have a plan for sharing that person's load
One of the hardest aspects of losing a colleague is having one less person available to do the work that's required of your team. But if you develop a solid strategy for tackling that employee's workload, the rest of your team members will have one less thing to stress about. You might consider hiring a temp, taking on some of that work yourself, or implementing a rotation strategy wherein each person on your team is responsible for those added tasks for a few days at a time only. This way, no one will feel unduly burdened.
4. Involve your team in the hiring process for a replacement
Losing a team member means having to find a suitable replacement, and as the manager, that's generally your responsibility more than anyone else's. But that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't give your remaining team members a say in the hiring process. Quite the contrary -- let your employees help craft a job description, vet applicant resumes, and participate in the interview process. Allowing your team members to play a role in hiring someone else will help compensate for the fact that a trusted colleague has moved on.
Losing a team member can be hard on you as a manager, but it can be even harder on that departed employee's peers. Be sensitive to that, and you'll make an otherwise difficult process easier for everyone involved.