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One of the most uncomfortable parts of business can be when you have to let people go. Unlike when an employee moves on from your company voluntarily, firing staff means there is no planned hand off of projects or a plan for updating a co-worker on job elements. When you have to let an employee go, there are going to be loose ends and frayed emotions, all of which can impact client relationships. What is the best way to inform a client that his point person has been let go?
Notifying Clients of Employee Termination
Many managers have a fear of letting a client “see behind the curtain,” but when you have terminated someone’s employment, it may not be possible to keep that fact private. It can be a delicate balance between respecting your past employee’s privacy, your current employees’ emotions about that firing and, of course, the needs of your client.
When you have a client who was working closely with an employee who has been let go, you should notify her as soon as possible after the firing. This way, she will hear the original news from you and not from the employee or anyone else. This becomes less important the less contentious a firing was. For example, if an employee is clearly not a good fit and unhappy, he may be more relieved than upset at the decision to separate.
The form that your notification should take is largely dependent on the way that the client usually prefers to be contacted. If the client prefers to be dealt with via phone, for instance, then a phone call would be the best way to notify her. This remains true in the case of email. If you have not heard from the client within about 72 hours, try again. That said, it can be ideal to have a verbal conversation rather than putting sensitive information in writing.
Sample Email and Letter Ideas
Consider this sample letter you might send to clients about an employee leaving. It also could apply as a sample email informing clients of a resignation.
I am emailing to inform you of a change to your contact person with our agency. As of [date], [employee name] is no longer employed by our company, but we are working to quickly transition all of your accounts to another associate. If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to contact me directly at [phone number] or by email. We apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused you, and we appreciate your business.
Reasons to Say a Firing Occurred
Many times, a quick email like this is plenty for a client. Business means that people can come and go at any time for a variety of reasons. However, there will be times that a client wants or needs to know more details about what happened. Here are a few short answers that will respect your ex-employee and your current client.
- The employee and our agency have agreed to an amicable separation.
- Unfortunately, the employee was not a good fit for our company and has moved on.
- I cannot share the details due to the employee’s privacy. I can simply inform you that he is no longer with us.
Keep all of your reasons for terminating the employee vague and brief. In the instance that the firing was volatile or there are serious concerns for safety, you still shouldn’t say so to a client. Instead, keep to something like these responses or “due to unforeseen variables, the employee is no longer with us.”
How to Avoid Legal Issues
Details about why an employee was terminated should never be shared outside of those who absolutely have to know. If you are pressed about the employee’s termination, you should be firm about not sharing details. If you have a legal department, asking them how to field these questions to keep with local employment laws is advised. In some companies, all questions concerning employment should be transferred to HR.
- Consult an attorney if the employee has engaged in illegal activity that may cause the client to become involved -- for example, if the employee was engaged in fraudulent activity. Keep it classy and brief; imagine how you would want to be treated.
- Do not say too much about why the employee was terminated, as it may result in a lawsuit.
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She has been writing on business-related topics for nearly 10 years. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com) and she works with a number of small businesses to develop B2B content for their websites, social media accounts, and marketing materials. In addition to this content, she has written business-related articles for sites like Sweet Frivolity, Alliance Worldwide Investigative Group, Bloom Co and Spent.