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Basecamp cofounders: Everyone who leaves the company has to say why



goodbye is always hard, but it doesn’t have to be formal or

Nieuwe Instituut

  • 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
  • The goal is to be open and honest.

Basecamp is known for its unconventional people practices.

Employees at the small web app
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 $5,000 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.

Read more:

A tech CEO explains why he ‘throws résumés out the door’ — but
places huge value on the cover letter

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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