Every time someone quits or is fired from tech company Basecamp, a detailed, company-wide 'goodbye announcement' email explains why

Flickr/Het Nieuwe Instituut‘Saying goodbye is always hard, but it doesn’t have to be formal or cold.’
  • At web app company Basecamp, every time an employee leaves, a “goodbye announcement” is sent to the entire staff.
  • The person can write it themselves or have their manager write it.
  • If the person doesn’t include details about why they quit or were fired, the manager sends a follow-up note.
  • The goal is to be open and honest.

Basecamp is known for its unconventional people practices.

Employees at the small web app company work from places all over the world. CEO and cofounder Jason Fried places more value on a candidate’s writing skills than on their résumé, and has hired several people who didn’t attend college. And everyone who works there gets a $US5,000 annual vacation stipend.

Fried and cofounder David Heinemeier Hansson recently published a book titled “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.” The book is essentially a polemic against the modern workplace, broken down into super short essays about Basecamp’s unconventional culture.

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One of those essays is titled “Calm goodbyes.”

Fried and Hansson identify the problem with employee departures (whether firings or resignations) at most companies: “When someone’s let go, all you get are vague euphemisms. ‘Hey, what happened to Bob?’ ‘Oh, Bob? We don’t talk about Bob anymore. It was simply time for him to move on.'”

So people start coming up with crazy stories to explain why the person left.

At Basecamp, whenever someone leaves, a “goodbye announcement” is sent around to the entire company. The person leaving has the option to write the announcement themselves or have their manager write it.

If the person does not mention in their goodbye announcement the details around why they’re leaving, Fried and Hansson write that their manager will send a follow-up message filling in the gaps.

In a 2018 Inc. article, Fried writes that he recently had to let go of a “highly skilled” employee who simply didn’t fit the role he was hired for. In the staff memo, management explained what had happened, and said that they were going to help the person find another job.

Fried also writes in the Inc. article that if someone is let go for “conduct,” management is upfront about that too, although they don’t include specific details.

Standard advice is to let your employees know that an employee is leaving and who’s going to cover their responsibilities

Basecamp’s habit of sending goodbye announcements differs significantly from standard advice on letting your staff know that someone was fired. On the “Ask a Manager” blog, Alison Green recommends saying something like, “Today was Amanda’s last day. We wish her the best. Her projects will be temporarily handled by Luis until we hire a replacement, which we hope will happen with six weeks.”

If someone quit, Green recommends saying something like, “I’m sad to announce that Julie has decided to move on and her last day with us will be August 30.” Green writes that you can mention positive things about her work and that you wish her the best, and include some details about things like who will cover her responsibilities.

As for Fried and Hansson, they write in the book that, in response to most goodbye announcements, employees share photos, memories, and stories. They write, “Saying goodbye is always hard, but it doesn’t have to be formal or cold. We all know things change, circumstances shift, and s–t happens.”

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