What should you do when an employee gives you two weeks' notice? Help write a happy ending with these steps:
Realize that the employee's interests have changed. Her new job—or her search for one—will be uppermost in her mind, and she'll feel like a lame duck who's less concerned than before with quality or productivity. This is perfectly normal even for outstanding workers. She'll also likely have mixed feelings about leaving your team and giving up familiar routines, no matter how good the new opportunity. There's no point trying to ignore these basic changes in the relationship—or, for that matter, ignoring your own feelings about the employee's departure.
Plan the last two weeks. Start out by making some simple lists of the things that must be accomplished before the employee leaves; the things he'll need to be told; the things he'll need to do; and anything you're not sure about. The first three of these lists are fairly straightforward. You'll need to replace the employee in some fashion and/or reassign his duties and projects. You'll need to take care of the usual business such as collecting keys and equipment. And you'll need to identify for the employee his role in training his replacement or other staffers, or finishing up his outstanding work.
The last list—what you're not sure about—is where you can explore opportunities and challenges created by the employee's departure. Is this a good time to redesign the job? Are there workplace issues that you need to understand that motivated the resignation? Putting these questions to paper helps to keep you (and the employee) thinking about them while he's still part of the process of finding answers.
Hold a checklist meeting with the employee. The first day after receiving notice, hold a one-on-one to cover both your list and the employee's—because she's likely to have some unanswered questions as well. Keep the focus of the meeting prospective, to make sure the last two weeks are productive and useful for both you and the employee. Save the retrospective discussion of the employee's history on the team for an actual exit interview—which you should schedule at this meeting, ideally for the day before her last day.
Keep on supervising. Your focus, of course, should be on monitoring progress on the items that you and the employee agreed upon during the checklist meeting. But making sure that results rise to what's required is the best way to position the team as a whole for success after the employee departs.