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Q: We've recently learned that one of our employees is planning to leave the company and has been applying for positions elsewhere. Can we terminate them?

A: Terminating employment because an employee is looking for work elsewhere isn’t expressly prohibited by law, but we wouldn’t recommend it. You might be surprised by how many of your employees are looking for other opportunities—either actively or passively—while still doing good work for your organization. If you start terminating everyone who is keeping an eye out for the next opportunity, you may find yourself with woefully few employees left. This is also the kind of organizational behavior that makes the watercooler news, hurts morale, and may even make it into an online review of your business. For all of these reasons, we’d suggest a different approach.

Instead of terminating this employee, you might consider talking with them to determine why they are looking for work elsewhere and what might motivate them to stay. There may be issues you can fix. In fact, a lot of employers regularly conduct both exit and stay interviews to get more insight into the reasons that their employees leave or what keeps them motivated to stay. This information helps them better engage their workforce and increase retention.