07 December 2023 |

📓 SO not fetch: putting profits over people

By margaux

✍🏽 What is the best way to communicate departures in a company to avoid the rumor mill? My leadership team is pushing to have all departures communicated across the company to limit the rumor of wrongful termination vs. termination for performance. How do we balance employee privacy with sharing the real story?

Context: We are 100+ employee in healthcare services. We have many front line working doing in home patient visits.

📣 Laura García-Courrau, Global Director of HR at Our World Energy:

Approaching this from the angle of timely communication may help. What I’ve seen is sending an email to need-to-know contacts to share that John Doe is no longer with the company eff. XX date, and share who folks should expect to reach out to for XX responsibilities. If there is already a replacement, share that info instead. We can’t stop rumors, but sharing needed information for the sake of continuity is helpful for those that remain in the org.

📣 Marnie Robbins, Founder of VibeHRC:

Here’s a sample of guidance I’ve used (it’s such a tricky balance):

  • Communicating to rest of team via email:
    • We wanted to let you know that we have parted ways with [name], effective today. We’re grateful to [name] for what they contributed to Resolve. These situations are always difficult, so please feel free to reach out to your manager or People Ops with questions/concerns. Out of respect for the individual, we don’t share more information on the circumstances of a departure.

❓If asked questions about employee departure:
We don’t share peoples’ personal situations and it’s important for everyone to respect that.

  • Then speak about go-forward information such as the plan to backfill, etc
  • If the manager needs further talking points, depending on the situation:
  • Change is natural, especially for a startup. We are very selective regarding who joins our team and proud of the contributions of everyone who has been part of our team. Changes at the company or in individuals’ lives or situations sometimes mean that moving on to something else is best for them. In that case we are proud of them if what makes sense for them is to transition to being an alum.

📣 Rebecca Dobrzynski, Senior HR Business Partner at Klaviyo:

I try to keep a few things in mind for all internal communications:

  1. People will talk whether you give them information or not.
  2. There will be less swirl or drama if you provide a narrative, so people don’t fill in the blanks themselves with their own (likely inaccurate) information.
  3. Consistency helps to make news routine, i.e., less worthy of gossip or speculation.

Marnie’s sample guidance is great. I would add that in the case of performance, it’s immensely helpful if the team already knows how performance concerns are managed in a progressive manner, so they aren’t left wondering if they will be fired out of the blue. That way you don’t actually need to describe the circumstances of an exit due to performance; you can just focus on the impact to remaining team members.

Most of those should be direct communication to immediate team or impacted stakeholders only. (Do I care if someone I never met or worked with is moving to Costa Rica next month, so today is their last day? Not really, I’ll just be envious!)

Exceptions to that are a) if the person exiting is really high profile, like a senior leader, or b) the reason for exit is something like sexual harassment and you want employees to know the company has a firm stance on it. You can still keep announcements fairly high level (“Employee B unfortunately violated our code of conduct, and in the best interests of our team and our patients, we could not keep them on”), but in those cases I’d argue it’s important that the remaining employees know that there are consequences for particularly egregious behavior.

✍🏽 The owner of my company views employees as a cost to be mitigated rather than as people who need inspiration and leadership. Recent exit interviews & employee reviews have highlighted that current + outgoing employees feel the company puts profits above people. The owner has shut down all attempts to solicit feedback from employees and multiple attempts to make meaningful changes that make minimal dents in the bottom line. I’m trying to speak his language, $, when I make my pitches. How do I implement change when the owner/CEO doesn’t think we need any, won’t listen to feedback, and won’t invest any resources?

Context: 150 employee retail company with brick and mortar and eCommerce, $75 million annual revenue, the owner is the third-generation family owner.

📣 Laura García-Courrau, Global Director of HR at Our World Energy:

Is it possible to frame things from the perspective of cost of hire, cost of turnover, cost of onboarding/offboarding? If you can make that case that retention is cheaper for the company, maybe that is your way in. There is a ton of research and data that talks about the cost of turnover. SHRM last published that with inflation & COVID the avg. role cost about 9-12 months worth of the role’s salary to replace, and I don’t believe that factors actually having the person produce.

If you frame your changes as a cost-savings, that may make you more persuasive.

📣 Rebecca Dobrzynski, Senior HR Business Partner at Klaviyo:

I hate to say it, but you may not be able to implement change. If the owner/CEO really doesn’t care, and you can’t frame it in ways that resonate (like cost of turnover, etc), then your only other hope is to find an ally in someone whose opinion the owner/CEO values nearly as much as their own. If they won’t listen to you as a people expert, there is some chance they will listen to a [peer, direct report, board member?] whose perspective they tend to respect.

And while you’re looking for a new job (because you probably should…), don’t sell yourself short on the value of creating flexibility and autonomy when you can! Make sure people take their PTO, utilize any benefits available to them, make or keep connections that will benefit their careers going forward, etc.

📣 Anessa Fike, CEO & Founder of Fike+Co and Fractional CPO:

This may just be one of those times when you decide to move on and leave. If you’ve tried and tried, and still aren’t making headway with getting the leader to do something as simple as respect humans, then your efforts will be better used toward somewhere that is at least open to feedback. And you’ll have more of an impact in that place while feeling valued yourself.

📣 Mariel Davis, Co-Founder & CCO at Spokn:

I really like Rebecca’s point on finding a ‘peer influencer’ whose opinion the owner may be more likely to accept.  If you can, look for a company whose ‘people first’ culture you admire – focusing on companies of a similar size and in the same or related industry. This can help the advice feel more relevant and credible, and gets ahead of the common “well that’s just not realistic in our context” defense. Since it can be hard to broker a direct conversation, you can look for data/evidence from Glassdoor reviews, podcast interviews, or even job listings that reference people-first investments.