You just got into the office, put your keys down and an employee drops the bomb, I quit.
It might have come from one of your best employees or from an employee that you've never gotten along with.
Regardless of the reasoning, it's never a positive experience to have one of your employees unexpectedly quit.
Especially if it is one of your best...
Here are your three options of what to say and do:
1. "Let’s talk about it.”
In this response, you're reacting to your employee, not the other way around. If he has threatened to quit more than once, this could be a way for him to assert control. He could feel neglected or need approval.
Using this option puts the employer and employee at an equal level. You are no longer the boss. Though this might lead you to keep an employee out of sympathy, it will cost you later in business.
I once met with an employee after inviting him to talk about it. He gave me four pages explaining why our business was terrible. Some of what he said was true, but it wasn't constructive or an efficient use of our time because he'd already decided to leave. If he had come to me before quitting, it might have been different.
2. “I’m sorry, what can I do to get you to stay?”
With this response, you're putting the employee in charge. Often, this is a way for an employer to acknowledge his failures as a boss, which can make him feel better. However, it won't solve the problem and it can actually make it worse.
Bargaining with your employee is the weakest option and sometimes results in the employee receiving a raise. If an employee wants to quit, she's going to quit eventually and giving her a raise in the meantime won't change that.
3. “I’ll get your final check right now.”
This might come off sounding unfeeling and harsh, but it's actually the best way to go. When you tell an employee that you'll get their check, you force yourself to accept the inevitable and avoid contaminating your other employees.
It’s like a marriage. If someone is having an affair, their interests are elsewhere.
Even if they try to maintain appearances, they’d still rather be somewhere else.