One of our senior engineers recently disappeared. He left the office on Friday and didn't come back on Monday. We could see his accounts had been deactivated, but there was no official word about what happened. More than a week later HR announced that he had "decided to leave" the company. This announcement was missing the usual, "please join us in thanking him for his contribution.". In fact it was quite terse for someone who had been with us two years and made a significant contribution. We've had no more information from the company about his departure or why he isn't working his notice, which is usually a contractual obligation on both parties in the UK.
When I contacted him through social media to say we were sorry to see him go, he thanked me briefly, but gave no information as to why he'd left. I didn't press him for details as I get the impression he can't or doesn't want to talk about it.
I've been wondering what the causes might be and I can only think of a few possibilities.
Gross misconduct? Sexual harassment, bullying someone, using company servers to mine bitcoins, etc. This might explain the lack of explanation. However, we've known the guy for two years and these seem very unlikely. I'm not saying he's a saint, he says what he thinks, but he's not unkind to people and has some integrity.
Finding another job? Maybe he wanted to take advantage of another opportunity at very short notice, so worked out some deal with the company to leave immediately. Slightly more plausible, but he seemed very enthusiastic about his job and to care about the team he was leading. Leaving without notice leaves them in the lurch with a lot of technical questions which could have been resolved during a three month handover. I don't think he'd do that to them.
Family issues? Perhaps there was some urgent family matter to attend to and the company refused to grant him time to deal with it. Again, I can't see this happening. The company is usually good about this kind of thing and would allow him to return to work once it is resolved.
Professional disagreement? What I can say about my former colleague is that he speaks his mind. He is always the first to voice concerns over our technical direction, as well as working to find solutions. I think he speaks up because he cares about doing things right, which is supposed to be one of our company's values. Perhaps one such concern was seen as too negative (something the company seems to be quite uptight about) or he got into an unsolvable argument with the recently-appointed CTO. Surely a technical disagreement should not be grounds for instant dismissal or forced gardening leave, paid on the condition of his silence? Perhaps there are ways and means to get rid of someone who is critical of management. What could be so important to be worth losing a senior engineer over?
If that is what happened, it seems like a really bad idea to get rid of a valuable and respected member of the team when we are trying desperately to recruit more engineers. It has created a very uneasy and suspicious atmosphere and put at risk our hopes of delivering an ambitious project in the next year. We have fewer than 80 employees and are trying to expand.
Is this the usual or best way such departures are handled?
I like this company, but I'm very unhappy that people can mysteriously disappear like this. I have been giving anonymous feedback through our employee engagement program, but is there anything else I can do to improve the situation or help my erstwhile colleague?