EntertainHR, Recruiting

EntertainHR: Voluntary Resignation – What Employers Can Learn from Meredith Grey’s Departure

I still remember March 27, 2005, vividly. It was the day my friends and I huddled together in my college dorm room to watch the pilot episode of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. It was the very first (and last) time I had the rare pleasure of collectively gathering to watch a television series from its inception. The first episode follows the original main characters, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Christina Yang (Sandra Oh), Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), and George O’Malleys (T.R. Knight), during their first 48-hour shift as surgical interns at Seattle Grace Hospital. The night before Meredith’s internship begins, she has a one-night stand with a handsome stranger she meets in a bar. In classic television irony, she discovers that the “stranger” is, in fact, the chief of neurosurgery at the hospital and one of her new bosses.

It was clear we were going to be in for a wild ride!

Building a Legacy

Grey’s Anatomy did not disappoint! Meredith starts the series as “dark and twisty” due to the emotional unavailability and neglect of her world-class surgeon mother, Ellis Grey. Meredith, however, undergoes unimaginable growth throughout the show’s impressive 19 seasons. That growth is precipitated by both joy and more tragedy than one human could possibly endure. Meredith’s fellow interns become her family. She eventually marries that handsome stranger from the bar (but not without a fight from his wife first). They have a couple of kids, and he unexpectedly dies in the most infuriating way possible. She herself has an unbelievable number of near-death experiences. All the while, Meredith climbs the ranks at Seattle Grace from intern to the eventual chief of surgery.

Passing the Torch

As a loyal viewer from day one, I feel like I grew up right along with Meredith and her friends, as evidenced by my viewing patterns. What started as in-person viewing parties morphed into watching the show while on the phone with my best friend and discussing our opinions during commercial breaks and then became recap phone calls after we both got around to watching the episodes on our DVRs.

This makes Meredith’s February 23, 2023, departure from Seattle Grace, now renamed Grey Sloan Memorial, particularly bittersweet. Last season, Meredith decides to join her former coworker and friend Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams) in Boston to find a cure for Alzheimer’s (a disease that ravaged her mother). She also makes the move so her daughter can attend a school that challenges her extreme intellect. It’s a move that makes sense, but it’s still hard to say goodbye. Luckily, Meredith did not leave us or the new interns she was overseeing in the lurch. Instead, she passes the torch and literally leaves them the keys to her house so they can form the kind of friendships that sustained her throughout the last two decades.

Making a Smooth Transition

How can employers ensure such a smooth transition when employees voluntarily resign? They can do the following:

  • Ask the employees to submit a written resignation letter.
  • Have the employees create a list of any outstanding projects and the status of each.
  • Have the employees help facilitate a knowledge transfer, including creating training documents, procedure/process manuals, and/or how-to manuals.
  • Conduct an exit interview to get honest feedback on why the employees are leaving and areas in which the employees believe the employer could improve.
  • Make sure the employees’ final paychecks are paid timely in accordance with state and local laws.
  • Ensure employees return all company property, including the passwords for any important password-protected documents they created.
  • Deactivate employee access to the employer’s IT systems and physical access to the worksite (i.e., employee badges).
  • Determine whether the employees are entitled to severance pay under any existing employment agreements.
  • Reiterate any post-employment obligations (i.e., confidentiality, noncompete, nonsolicitation).
  • Treat the departing employees with kindness, and try not to burn bridges, if possible. Today’s departing employees could become returning employees or clients.

It is not easy to say goodbye, particularly to beloved employees. However, the experience can be navigated strategically and with grace.

Alyce Ogunsola is an attorney at FordHarrison.

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