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Joe Produce: Saying Goodbye - The Dos and Don'ts of a Successful Separation

We all experience changes in life. Some happen to us and some are from us. Breaking up is one of those changes that is no fun—on either end of the equation. Business’ version of breaking up is the separation of the company and an employee. Again, it’s typically no fun on the giving or receiving end of the situation. And it can be tough on the “extended business family,” too.

Like most things in life, there is a wrong and a right way to do things, or, perhaps more applicably stated, there is a better way and a bad way to do things.

Here at Joe Produce, we hear stories from employers, employees, references, and more about these separations—and sometimes how they were handled on one or both sides. Through those conversations, we’ve identified some of the dos and don’ts of a successful separation.

“What is a successful separation?” you might ask. More often than not, it’s NOT going to be all rainbows and unicorns. What it can be, though, is peaceful, respectful, mature, thoughtful, professional, and empathetic. In the end, our business may be vast, but it’s made up of many small communities. A successful separation may not build into a friendship, but it should not create an enemy either. A successful separation is a success before, during, and after.


If an employer is letting someone go for performance issues, the employee should not be surprised. If a person is quitting for issues related to an employer’s shortcomings, they should not be surprised. In other words, the issue should have been discussed in the past, and it’s finally time to make a change.


If the ‘before’ steps were followed, this isn’t much of a surprise and should be done with respect. So, the one leaving should do everything to make sure it happens face-to-face. If the employer’s making the change, it should be done with a witness, for your best interest and theirs, and the decision should be delivered clearly, concisely, and as the final word. One of the key steps I’ve read is not to let someone go without a checklist. You won’t miss anything, and there will be no question this was a well-thought-out decision with more than one contributing factor. Finally, hard as it may be, you should try your best not to leave it on a low note, even if it’s wishing them luck.


A truly successful separation is punctuated when both parties—and other stakeholders, such as other employees, friends, family, customers, and more—are not feeding the gossip mill. Life goes on without fanfare. Neither party is talking about the other. It’s over.


The legal side of terminating someone’s employment varies by state. Before you do anything, you should meet with HR and/or your legal counsel. If you’re being given a resignation, accept it with grace and understanding. Use this occasion as an opportunity to learn about your company and how to improve. Remember, you may want them back someday, and at the very least, you want to part as friends. Always practice the Golden Rule!

Be sure to announce any departure as soon as it is appropriate and control the message as much as possible. Ask the outgoing employee to allow the company to make the announcement. Take the mystery out of the termination/departure as much as you can. Don’t leave too much room for speculation or gossip.


Beyond the actual act of “letting someone go,” there can be lingering effects with your team, the discharged employee, and even others in your industry.

We recognized that we could help employers and discharged employees by providing our services earlier in the process. We know that the sooner people set a new course and work towards their new objective, the sooner they’ll be productive and happy. In answer to this need, we started Next Step Outplacement℠.

Outplacement is a service provided at no cost to employees by their employer through a third-party supplier during times of workforce restructuring, layoffs, and termination. Today, outplacement is delivered by companies, such as Next Step Outplacement℠, to organizations concerned with the outplaced employee, and the long-term implications of workforce transformation on their employer brand, employee retention, and overall business success.

Learn more at NextStepOutPlacement.com.


Quitting is not easy. Even if you’re fed up, end it gracefully and professionally. Use the Golden Rule.

Give as clear of a reason as you can for why you are moving on. People appreciate that even if they don’t like the reason. Be respectful and professional, and try to help them understand how they can improve if applicable and/or appropriate.

  • Try not to leave them with no notice. Two weeks is the standard and more is sometimes appreciated.
  • Be thankful and pleasant...no matter what.
  • Resign in person and have your letter ready to hand them.
  • Speak positively or don’t speak at all.
  • If you are resigning then do not accept a counter offer. They rarely work out for long. That said, think this move through carefully.
  • Don’t leave just for money!

We started this story by saying that breaking up is one of those changes that is no fun—on either end of the equation. It’s not. All that said, when done correctly, it does not have to be ugly, angry, or with lingering contentious feelings.

Most of us have dedicated ourselves to this business, and it’s a whole lot more pleasant to share our careers and lives with those we respect. If you’re not familiar with the Golden Rule, I suggest Googling it soon!

Happy New Year!

Contributing Author

Founder and President, Joe Produce Search℠. Joe Produce Search (JPS) is the Executive Search division of Joe Produce®. Joe Produce Search is comprised of experienced search consultants and produce professionals. Our placements range from middle management to C-level positions, throughout North America, covering a wide range of produce and produce-related businesses. Joe Pro Resumes is another service of Joe Produce®. Joe Pro Resumes helps you write and refine your resume to help you find the produce industry position of your dreams. We have written hundreds of resumes for many professionals in the produce business in addition to various related sectors.