Question: A member of staff keeps threatening to resign and is using this as a negotiating tool to get a salary increase. How should I respond and manage these threats?

Answer: Every business has had to deal with a disgruntled employee at one stage or another. Employees who do not get things their own way, or think they are being treated unfairly in comparison to others, can use threats to leave as a negotiating tool. Employers may not know how to respond and can find themselves making the situation worse, rather than better.

It is important to discuss the employee’s issues with them. If there is an upcoming appraisal or review meeting, then ensure the employee is aware that this is the appropriate forum in which to raise their concerns. If not, schedule a meeting with the employee.

This meeting can be used to discuss what the employee is unhappy about, ensure the current salary structure is explained and review what they can do to achieve a salary increase now or in the future. It may be that the employee has a genuine complaint and a pay increase has been overlooked or that they are simply overestimating their worth. Either way, an open conversation will get to the bottom of this and could be enough to resolve the underlying issues.

This meeting can also be used to explain how to make a resignation appropriately if they do wish to resign. Explain that threats are not suitable because they unsettle the workplace and can lead to lower morale and that any future resignation should be made in writing to make sure they cannot be misinterpreted. Even if resigning, they will have to work out any contractual notice and you can explain what this means for the employee, both in terms of pay and what they will be subject to in the terms of their contract during any notice period, including implied terms such as fidelity.

It is important not to act hastily when an employee threatens to resign. Instead, the employee should be left to cool down and then both parties should seek to clarify the situation. Even if the employee is adamant they wish to hand in their notice the employer can still ask them to reconsider their decision in the light of day.

Pushing disgruntled employees with pay concerns to resign could be classed as constructive dismissal, for which an employee can bring a tribunal claim if they have qualifying service. However, good, effective communication is absolutely key in fostering feelings of worth in your organisation, so take the time and effort to speak to unhappy employees.