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At my company, when someone leaves on their own or after being let go, an all-staff email is sent out along the lines of "Al is no longer employed by Company. See Bob for any work that you would normally see Al for."

While I fully understand the function of such a communication (privacy, work not getting lost, etc), I sometimes find the emails unsettling as they often come out of nowhere and serve to randomly remind me that the company could fire me at any time. Now, I work at a great company with no history of randomly firing quality employees like myself, but I find the emails unsettling nonetheless.

I have considered it from a few angles and can't really think of a means of communicating the info that doesn't just come out of nowhere, but I spoke with my supervisor and they said I was free to look into alternatives that accomplish the same goals.

So my question is this: Is there a best practice for this sort of notification or communication?

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    What is the issue here: the content of the email or the fact it's sent via mail in the first place? If the message is as you summarised it that's very cold, but typically these kinds of emails are a bit warmer than this. Summarising a person's accomplishments, wishing them well, etc. Is that not happening? And how large of an organisation is this and are these mails sent company-wide?
    – Lilienthal
    May 3 at 21:02
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    @Lilienthal Good questions. I think the idea is that it is neither warm nor cold to keep the reader from knowing whether the employee was fired or quit because if the quitting was on good terms it may be warm, and if it was only cold for the firings, there could be inference. The org size is around 100 people and it's an all staff email.
    – Forklift
    May 3 at 21:07
  • @Lilienthal Maybe the main issue is just that we are randomly interrupted in our workday with a reminder that we could lose our job at anytime?
    – Forklift
    May 3 at 21:08
  • Are you never told when an employee puts in their notice? If there is any transition of job duties that needs to happen, that's the time to find out about it while they are still there.
    – Seth R
    May 3 at 21:18
  • @SethR For employees who give notice, we hear about it if they're on our team and the necessary handoff is done.
    – Forklift
    May 3 at 21:22

3 Answers 3

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A weekly newsletter about staff changes, best sent out early on Monday.

  • Introduce the new hires - their job title and resume headline will do.
  • Thank the people who have left for new opportunities and wish them the best.
  • Congratulate the recent promotions and explain their new positions.

This way of communication is employed by a number of successful companies. It has the advantages of:

  • Being expected. You know you are getting this newsletter on Monday.
  • Putting the departing staff in the context of new hires and promotions.
  • Being easy to search for in your inbox.

The last part matters too. If you want to learn who has replaced Bob, and this information is being communicated, a search for Bob+"Staff news" will be way easier than looking through every mention of Bob ever.

It also softens the blow a lot. Now it's not just "Bob left", it's "Charlie joined", "Alice got promoted", and "There are new positions opening up".

There are two flavors: it's most common to only include people who have already left. Smaller companies sometimes also notify about people leaving this week. This depends on company culture around this. The former way is safer as it leaves the choice of telling others about leaving to the employee.

P.S. This applies to normal resignations, be it for personal, career, or performance reasons. If a person has caused harm and might do so again, it's best to use both email and have managers call meetings to ensure everyone's informed. This is extremely rare, fortunately.

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  • This would not be sufficient in the case that Employee XYZ has been terminated (for reasons not shared) and immediately has no further business on the premises. Then you're right back to square one.
    – Xavier J
    May 3 at 21:36
  • @XavierJ how so? Do you mean what happens if someone is terminated on a Tuesday, for example? Then the announcement will have to fall until next week?
    – DarkCygnus
    May 3 at 21:42
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    @XavierJ One-day terminations for cause are exceptional events. If you're a mid-size, that's maybe once a year. If it's a large company, the security should handle this, not every employee in the company.
    – ZOMVID-21
    May 3 at 21:42
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    @DarkCygnus No, that's what ZOMVID's comment is implying. Employee XYZ was on the news last night as a murder suspect, and also happens to have a beef with the CTO, but we're gonna wait a week to tell everyone (which should NOT just include security) that XYZ shouldn't be let into the building again. That's why I'm saying this approach is way too casual.
    – Xavier J
    May 3 at 21:47
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    @ZOMVID-21 I feel like this suggestion is very much in the spirit of what I was in search of. I do acknowledge your footnote that there are times where a notice must be immediate, but I think this is what I will suggest to our leaders.
    – Forklift
    May 4 at 13:12
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I think the current emails are sufficient from a liability and security standpoint. They don't convey anything malicious or poor-intended on the part of the company nor the terminated employee. The liability and security standpoint requires immediacy, no matter how alarming. The employee's behaviors prior to the termination might create a risk for the company if other staff don't immediately know that the employee probably shouldn't be on the premises any more, and definitely not trusted with property or confidential information. It doesn't have to be colored with all the "why" information about the termination - just that Elvis has left the building, and shouldn't be let back in.

Aside from that, what I'm picking up from your text are a couple of things:

as they often come out of nowhere

Unless you work in HR, you can have no expectation on when layoffs, firings, and resignations are going to take place. Alternately, think about what it would look like if there was a chart of pending terminations posted conveniently at the reception desk or in the company lunch-room!

serve to randomly remind me that the company could fire me at any time

You are carrying your own insecurities into the mix. People leave companies. They relocate. They retire. They find other jobs. They expire. None of these imply some negative event going on.

randomly firing quality employees like myself

Maybe you are feeling sort of dispensable, in light of labelling yourself (I am passing no judgment) as a quality employee. Maybe it's time for some professional development courses, and some realignment on how your skillset measures up. Quality employees don't worry about getting fired because they are in demand and can take their talents elsewhere, right?

There's something gnawing at you from the inside. You might consider using the services of a career coach, or maybe a therapist, to figure out what that is. It's unfortunate that it's projecting out into the real world and causing you some anxiety through these harmless emails, but changing the text of the email isn't going to solve the anxiety problem.

Best of luck!

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  • I think you have captured the feeling of my question quite well. However I actually do feel like a quality employee and that my job is not at risk. But these emails still unsettle me a little. I am honestly not even feeling dispensable as I perform an important function well. It's just the suddenness of the information, I think.
    – Forklift
    May 3 at 21:30
  • @Forklift, and if the company decided they needed to eliminate a department, they might not give a heads up then either. Layoffs are often sudden (to the affected employees), firings are usually sudden, and resignations are often known only to the affected team members. May 4 at 0:11
  • +1 to security considerations from someone who works in cyber and know the insider risk
    – Anthony
    May 4 at 13:38
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In the companies I've worked for, employees have always been given the choice of how to communicate to others that they were leaving. In the majority of cases, this meant the employee writing their own goodbye message on either email or the company intranet, some people would just announce it during a meetup with their own team and occasionally someone would ask HR to make the announcement instead.

In all cases, with people saying their own goodbye, they would include a few kind words and usually something about where they plan to go from there. This made them sound less like "someone just got axed" and more "someone has different future plans", even in the cases where the company let them go.

It also made any follow-up messages from HR about practical concerns (like who takes over which part of their job for now) much less surprising and everyone already felt "in the know", even though we don't actually have any idea why people left.

This personal touch makes quitting/getting fired feel much less like "the dice decided it's your time to go" and much more "there was a good reason for this and the person will be okay". (Even if it's not, because again, we don't really know).

Of course this only works for cases where people aren't being removed from the premises immediately. I've only experienced one case where someone was terminated for cause, and for that one the owner of the company called an all-hands immediately after (fairly small company) to inform the others that so-and-so was removed from the company effective immediately. In that case, it is a shock, but it is also very clear to everyone that this is A) an unusual occurence and B) not a random decision

So you still don't feel like you might be let go at any time.

Of course, these behaviors work best in a company where people aren't let go at any time and then immediately removed the premises. If that's how your company operates, I don't think any kind of sugarcoating is going to really remove the feeling you might be let go at any time, because that is the truth of the situation. My only advice at that point would be not to work for a company like that, the best way to not be reminded about the situation you're in, is not being in that situation in the first place.

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  • I can appreciate the sentiment in your last paragraph. I don't feel that my company would randomly dismiss someone without cause or without opportunity for redress in cases of low performance. And I do understand that sometimes these communications must happen immediately due to trust or immediacy issues. It just seems that every departure doesn't need to be in real time for the unsettling feeling it may cause.
    – Forklift
    May 4 at 13:11

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