Re-thinking employees’ departures

By 8 March 2023 No Comments

Saying goodbye tends to be a bittersweet experience for all involved. How have you communicated to your team and clients about your last leaver? Did you do this in the way that created a positive impact or were you trying to pretend that nothing happened and carry on?

Recently, I received this email from my daughter’s swimming school and found it noteworthy of sharing:

“It is with great sadness that we are saying goodbye to Amy at the end of the year.

Amy has been amazing, teaching swimming to hundreds of little ones for over 6 years and we are sorry to see her leave. Amy has been offered a fantastic opportunity where she can transfer many of her amazing skills.

To honour Amy’s teaching, Chris has kindly said our swimmers are able to bring one spectator with them on Amy’s last day of teaching (please note spectators will not be allowed at any other lesson after this date). I’m sure Amy is going to be missed by you all as much as she will be by us and we wish her all the very best with her future endeavours.”

Power of gratitude

The above email made me reflect on how firms in our profession (and other firms generally) communicate about leavers. Upon reading it I found myself rooting for Amy and was excited to see where this next opportunity took her. Although communicating a team member’s departure may be a difficult task, it is crucial to celebrate their achievements as part of the team and support their decision to take on a new adventure. On one hand, it’s a time to reflect on the valuable contributions the employee has made to the company. On the other hand, it’s a time to adjust to the changes that come with the departure and plan for the future. The email about Amy’s departure ticked a lot of boxes. Firstly, it informed all concerned of Amy’s impending departure. Secondly, it celebrated Amy’s work with the organisation. Thirdly, it gave the reason for Amy’s departure. Finally, it gave the swimmers (clients) and Amy a nice opportunity to celebrate and show additional spectators the work being achieved. Overall, it was a positive, feelgood message taking the opportunity of Amy’s departure to present the organisation in a favourable light. 

Face difficult conversations head-on

There are multiple factors that could influence the decision to ignore communicating difficult messages to the team and stakeholders, such as fear of conflict, lack of proper communication skills, or uncertainty about how to handle the situation. These difficult conversations often involve addressing performance issues, providing constructive feedback, or addressing the reasons for someone’s departure. Ignoring these conversations can lead to missed opportunities for growth and improvement, both for the departing employee and for the company. By avoiding these conversations, managers risk perpetuating negative behaviours or performance issues and losing valuable insights into the company’s strengths and weaknesses. It is important for leaders to approach these conversations with empathy and openness, and to provide employees with the support they need to succeed, both in their current roles and in their future endeavours. Crafting the message to relevant clients and stakeholders is equally important and creates a real business opportunity when done well.

Sensitivity, respect and professionalism

When communicating an employee’s departure, it is important for managers to handle the situation with sensitivity, respect, and professionalism. The first step is to inform the rest of the team in a timely and transparent manner. This can be done through a team meeting and/or one-on-one conversations. Be honest about the reasons for the departure (as far as you can), whether it’s a resignation, retirement, or termination. This will help the team understand the situation and provide closure. The manager should also take the time to understand the reasons for the departure and provide support to the team during the transition period. The second step is to inform relevant clients and stakeholders, again in a timely and transparent manner. Once again, these conversations can be an opportunity to present your organisation in a positive light. Reframing the departure of the employee to reflect positively on the organisation, regardless of the circumstances of the departure, is crucial. Don’t let this opportunity slide.

Acknowledgment of the departing employee’s contributions to the team and the company is also essential. This could be in the form of a farewell speech, team lunch, a thank you note, or a gift to show gratitude and appreciation. (This could potentially be done through a Kudoboard). Overall, the key to effective communication during an employee’s departure is to maintain open, honest, and respectful communication while ensuring the well-being of all parties involved.

Following the announcement of an employee’s departure, especially if this employee has been with the company for many years, other team members may be confused and overwhelmed with the changes this will bring. Therefore, opening up two-way communication can be essential for employees to feel heard and appreciated. Encourage the team to reach out to you or HR if they have any questions or concerns. This will allow them to raise any concerns they may have about the changes that will ensue and provide them with the necessary information.

Communicating and celebrating an employee’s departure is an important part of managing a team. By being transparent, showing appreciation, planning a celebration, sharing the next steps, offering support, and providing closure, you can make your firm stand out. Always remember to leave the door open, you never know what the future holds.

Take a look at this inspiring Kohen video that outlines the importance of having tough conversations and gives you a formula to help you succeed.

Kohen reveals the key to leading tough conversations in his TED talk linked below

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