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Inspired by Basecamp
A Framework to openly discuss team turnover and the reason why people leave
Jason Fried of Basecamp has institutionalized a notable practice that addresses a typically sensitive aspect of work culture: employee departures. Rather than leaving the company in a cloud of ambiguity, individuals who leave—whether of their own volition or otherwise—are given the platform to express their parting thoughts to the entire company, not just their immediate team.
This is a potent ritual because, as Fried aptly states, "Information vacuums fill with rumors and rumors lead to anxiety." The efficacy of this practice is supported by psychological research which indicates that uncertainty and information gaps can trigger anxiety and erode trust within teams (Knight and Eisenkraft, 2015).
The individual departing is free to draft their farewell message with autonomy, provided it refrains from personal attacks or derogatory remarks. Post-departure, the team manager disseminates a follow-up message company-wide, filling in any gaps and clarifying the reasons behind the departure—be it performance-based, conduct-related, or other factors. This exercise is designed to leave no major questions unanswered while still upholding confidentiality where required.
The crux of this Framework hinges on its transparency, completeness, and ethical respect for the departing individual. It aims to uphold dignity while disseminating honest information, fostering a culture of psychological safety, and bolstering team resilience.
A study by Edmondson (1999) at Harvard revealed that psychologically safe environments foster a culture of openness, decrease fear of failure, and thereby improve organizational learning and effectiveness. By introducing such an open and humane exit process, the Framework not only counters the rumor mill but also cultivates an environment where people feel valued and secure, which is integral for team cohesion and resilience.
To implement this Framework effectively:
Introduce the exit ritual as a standard part of your organization's offboarding process and communicate its objectives clearly to your workforce.
Establish clear guidelines on what constitutes a respectful and dignified farewell message, ensuring no sensitive or confidential information is disclosed.
Have the team manager prepare a follow-up message that is circulated post-departure to add any clarifications and provide closure to the team and the company at large.
Reiterate that the objective is to foster a culture of openness and respect, thereby reinforcing psychological safety and team resilience.