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Twhile some share pictures and memories. Then, a few days after this person’s departure, his or her team manager writes a follow-up post that’s also sent out to the whole company. This note provides details that were missing from the personal goodbye. We lay out the reason someone left, or why this person was asked to leave, to ensure there are no big questions hanging over everyone’s head. If someone is let go for conduct (not related to job performance), we say as much, acknowledging that we can’t divulge details. It’s important to be clear and thorough and honest. This follow-up post is also a place where people can ask for clarification or share their point of view. It’s a cathartic moment designed to put everything on the table and clear the air of concerns anyone might have about why a onetime co-worker is no longer part of the company. For example, we recently had to let someone go who was a great, highly skilled person but ultimately didn’t fit the role he was hired for. We thought he could eventually adapt to the position, and that the position could adapt to him, but ime proved the gap was too great. In our memo to the sta;, we explained this, and we also let them know we were going
to do everything we could to help him find another job.
We do our best to treat these moments with the utmost
dignity and respect. Leaving a job without another one to transition into, or being let go without a clue as to what you’re going
to do next, is obviously a challenging situation for most people.
But when someone leaves, that a;ects everyone across the
company. The fallout isn’t isolated. Trust is shaken, and suddenly a happy workforce can become a paranoid one.
The next time you’re dealing with a fraught departure,
don’t pretend it never happened. Instead, take a deep breath,
embrace the uncomfortable, and tell everyone why.
he average tenure in the software
industry is short—somewhere
around 18 months. Ours is higher.
Just about half the 56 people at
Basecamp have been with us at least
five years, and 12 have been with us
for more than seven.
But people still leave. Some
want to try other things at other
companies, or the fit isn’t right, so we have to let them go. It’s
the natural cycle of business.
What’s never been natural at companies, though, is how
these departures are handled. So at Basecamp we’ve created
a ritual for when someone leaves: We tell everyone in the
company why. Not just that person’s team, or his or her immediate co-workers. The entire sta; gets the memo.
At many companies, when people walk out the door for the
last time, their name is never spoken again. “Hey, what happened
to Larry?” “Oh, Larry? We don’t talk about Larry anymore.” The
departure remains a mystery. The name becomes unspeakable.
One thing we know about human nature is that when there’s
a mystery, people will solve it themselves: They make up the
ending, and it’s almost always worse than reality. And that’s the
problem—if you don’t tell people why, they’ll make up why. And
the wrong why is almost always destructive.
Information vacuums fill with rumors, and rumors lead
to anxiety. Was Larry laid o;? Are more cuts coming? Am I
next? Did Larry have any warning? Or was he just shown the
door 10 minutes before the end of the day on Friday? It’s not
a healthy scene.
So at Basecamp, when someone leaves—voluntarily or
not—we give that person the option of saying goodbye on his
or her own terms by sending a message to everyone in the
company. It can include anything this person wants it to,
and, as long as there are no personal attacks or slights, we
approve the posting. Employees often reply with best wishes,
JASON FRIED ; GET REAL
Want to take the taboo out of an employee’s
leaving your company? Begin by telling
your staff the truth.