When your small business decides to terminate an employee, it can come as a shock to other staffers, especially if the office is close. Small business colleagues often form close professional and interpersonal relationships. Sharing the news that a staffer has been let go can cause tension, concern and genuine feelings of grief from remaining co-workers. How you handle the announcement can set the tone for how employees deal with the news.

Share News Promptly

News travels fast in a small business, so get the official story out before rumors and gossip start running amok. Don’t talk poorly about the departing staffer, but instead maintain a calm and professional attitude. A statement like, “Effective this afternoon, Joan Smith is no longer employed with the company,” or, “It has been decided that it is in the best interest of all parties involved that John Doe pursue employment opportunities outside the company” reports the news simply and effectively. If you get the go-ahead from HR, you might be able to elaborate with an additional explanation, such as, “Susan was terminated for violation of corporate policy,” or something to that effect. This general statement covers a variety of professional infractions and needs no additional explanation.

Make a Personal Announcement

While dismissal memos are common practice in large corporations, smaller businesses are better served delivering the news in person. Plan to share the news during a staff meeting or by visiting departments individually. People are likely to have questions, especially about how the existing staffer’s workload will be covered. Be prepared to answer as many questions as you can, including if and when the terminated worker will be replaced. Maintaining continuity after the fact will help staffers get back to a new norm while ensuing there’s little reduction in productivity.

Reassure Staffers

While you aren’t under any obligation to explain the details of the termination -- and in fact, should check with your corporate attorney or HR about what details you can and can’t legally share -- you should make an effort to set others’ minds at ease. An unexpected dismissal can make other staffers fear for the safety of their own jobs and cause concerns about layoffs, downsizing or even business closure. If the termination was for cause and is an isolated incident, let staffers know there is no cause for concern over job security.

Prepare for Backlash

In a small business, staffers are likely to maintain some contact with a departing colleague, so if the termination is related to anything volatile or controversial, be prepared to confront and dissuade gossip after the fact. Saying anything negative or potentially defamatory about the exiting staffer may get back to that individual and give them cause for legal retribution.