When an employee leaves, it’s important to let your staff know in a way that avoids morale problems and legal issues. As a rule of thumb, discuss the impact of the resignation rather than the reason. The more generic a communication concerning an employee’s separation, the fewer problems you are likely to have.
Assess the Impact of the Departure
Before you begin drafting your announcement, determine how it will affect the company. It might temporarily increase the workload of some employees, result in an interruption in operations, decrease sales, affect morale or have little or no effect on most workers. Understanding the impact of an employee’s resignation will help you decide what you need to address in the announcement.
Decide Your Reasons for the Announcement
There are a lot of positive things you can do with your announcement: Quelling rumors before they begin; confirming the employee resigned and was not terminated; assuring workers the departure will not damage the company; discussing the impact the departure will have on other employees; explaining how you plan to handle any adverse impacts; and offering some guidance on how long the transition might last. Taking the lead on these points, instead of leaving them to the office gossip mill, might be the most important thing you do.
Discuss the Announcement with the Employee
Ask the employee who has resigned what they would like announced. A resignation might come because of retirement, an illness, another job opportunity, dissatisfaction with the company, a career change or other life situation that might be personal. If it doesn’t affect your operations, ask the employee when they would like the announcement made. Ask them to be present if you are making a verbal announcement to avoid any rumors about the separation being negative. Keeping on good terms with a former employee can reduce the chances they’ll badmouth you in the marketplace.
Choose your Timing
Decide when you want to make the announcement. Announcing the resignation immediately can decrease the chances your employee might reconsider and stay with you, since the news has been made public. On the other hand, a delay can cause the rumor mill to run rampant if some find out about the resignation before it's officially announced. In addition, the sooner you make the announcement, the sooner your staff can start preparing for the transition.
Saying Less is Better
Decide what you will say in the announcement. Avoid discussing the reasons for the departure to avoid legal issues, unless the reason is something noncontroversial like retirement. Let your managers know they are not allowed to discuss the reasons for the separation. While you might want to wish the departing employee well, avoid praising the employee if you think there’s any chance of legal action regarding the separation later. If the employee later says they were forced out and you want to make the case they weren’t qualified for their position, you don’t want evidence that you publicly stated they were an excellent employee.
Make the Announcement
Gather your employees or send your email or memo at the time of day you feel is best, depending on your situation. If you make the announcement in the morning, employees might spend the day wondering and whispering. If you make it just before it’s time to leave, there’s less chance for immediate employee gossip, but less time for professional questions. Announce that your employee has resigned, give the anticipated date of the separation and provide information on how you will handle the transition. Tell your employees that any personal discussion of employee separations is a violation of your company’s policies. If you want to open the employee’s position to applications from internal candidates, or want help recruiting, let your employees know the procedures.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.