Announcing Employee Departures: How to Break the News

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Occasionally, when an employee leaves a company voluntarily or involuntarily, colleagues heave a sigh of relief. More often, though, a worker who has chosen to move on was a valued team member, and his or her decision may leave peers feeling confused and sad.

The job of announcing the departure and addressing employees’ emotions falls to small business owners or managers, who must walk a fine line between saying too much and not enough as they communicate vital information, quash rumors and reassure remaining team members.                                                                     

The Good Goodbye

Generally speaking, these announcements should be made as soon as possible and should focus on the departure’s impact rather than the reason behind it. To protect morale and discourage speculation, employers should share the transition strategy, describe plans for filling the position and name the staff member or members who will be temporarily assuming the departing employee’s responsibilities.

The best way to communicate the news internally is via email, unless the company is very small or everyone works closely together. In those scenarios, employers may choose to make the announcement at a staff meeting. Employers should date any written communication and note when the employee’s last day will be.

Wording will vary based on the circumstances surrounding the departure, but employers should be concise and, to limit legal liability, avoid commenting on the exiting employee’s job performance. Expressing appreciation for the employee’s service and wishing him or her future success are appropriate no matter the situation.

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Voluntary Departures

In cases of retirement or an employee leaving for a career-advancing position or other reasons unrelated to performance, emphasize gratitude for the departing employee’s contributions to the company. You also may want to mention specific characteristics you believe will serve the employee well going forward. With the employee’s permission, also consider including the reason for the departure or sharing the employees’ future plans so remaining workers understand the separation is taking place on good terms.

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Involuntary Departures

Crafting messages announcing employee terminations will require even greater care. Brevity is best. Writing a memo that states an employee has left the company effective on a specific date, describes the transition plan, provides the name of the team member remaining employees can contact with questions and wishes the employee future success should suffice.

To mitigate legal risks, avoid saying the employee was fired or terminated, and remind employees that discussing employee separations is against company policy. Clearly communicate to managers that they are not allowed to discuss the reasons an employee has been fired.

Be discreet, gracious and professional in your dealings with all departing employees. This will show those who are still on the payroll that the company values employees and that all workers will be allowed to exit gracefully, whether the departure is your decision or theirs.

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Cori McClish

Written by Cori McClish