Come Clean ASAP – #54

If You as a Manager want to experience the potential loss of trust by your employees due to someone leaving by voluntary or “fired means” keep doing the following:

  1. NEVER SPEAK THEIR NAME
  2. TRY NOT TO MAKE ANY REFERENCE TO THE EVENT
  3. FOR THE MOST PART AVOID ANY OF THE DISCUSSIONS THAT MIGHT ARISE

If the reason for someone not being employed remains a mystery, the employees will come up with the answer themselves.  They make up the ending, and it’s almost always worse than reality. That’s the problem – if you don’t tell people “why”, they will make up a “why.”  The wrong “why” can be a destructive element to all your direct reports and all company employees. Rumors contribute to anxiety, plus they spread faster than lightning in an information vacuum.

Was Larry/Jane laid off? Are more cuts coming? Am I next? Did they have any warning? Were they just shown the door 10 minutes before the end of the day on a Friday afternoon? It’s usually not a healthy scene.

So here’s our recommendation, when someone leaves – voluntary or not – we give that person an option of saying goodbye on his or her terms by sending a message to everyone in the company.  It can include anything this person wants to say, and as long as there are no personal attacks or slights, we approve the posting.  Employees often reply with best wishes, while some share pictures and memories.  In the case of a person providing notice and staying around for a few days, this notice should not be sent to early – you plan the mass posting time. The idea to let someone go on a Friday is to get the message out with minimum negative impact that could arise if not properly handled.

Then a few days later after this person’s departure, his or her Manager writes a follow-up post that provides the missing details from the personal goodbye posting.  This posting should lay out details of why the person left or why he or she was asked to leave to provide insurance that there are no big questions hanging over everyone’s head. If we let someone go for conduct (unrelated to job performance), we say as much, acknowledging that we can’t divulge details. The point is to be clear, thorough and honest.

All company Managers, are to present this to their direct reports at their next informational meeting to make sure that all the questions have been answered.  Most employees will have used the follow-up post to ask added questions if a need for additional information exists.  This challenge of clearing the air with two different approaches, at two different times and Managers that provide moments that we can put everything on the table and clear the air of concerns anyone might have about why a onetime co-worker is no longer part of the company.  The final point that should be covered is to ask your direct reports to help in doing everything they can to help him find another job – if the reason is not performance related.

This approach will require Managers to embrace the uncomfortable, and do their best to treat these moments with the utmost dignity and respect. Leaving a job without having one to go to is a challenging situation for most people.  However, you as the Manager have to make that transition to make sure that people don’t start rumors that can affect the whole company and most importantly cause the employee to lose trust in Management.  The next time you are faced with a departure, don’t pretend it never happened, tell everyone “why”.

Parts of this Blog were taken from Jason Frieds article in March/April 2018 issue of Inc. magazine.  Thanks Jason. (Founder of Basecamp a Chicago based software company).