Posted on / Updated on / in Blog & HR Policies & Human Resources /

Employees come and go; it is a part of the business world. Sometimes star employees leave on their own after giving their two weeks notice and sometimes they are asked to leave. Usually the employer and fellow employees have time to adjust to the change. But what happens when the departure is sudden?

Let’s say your star employee walks into your office and announces he or she is quitting that day. Maybe your star employee is the amicable secretary, the encouraging floor manager or the beloved company president. Whatever position your star employee held, it is now empty. So now what?

This unfortunate situation just happened to one infamous multi-millionaire: Mr. Hugh Hefner. Never thought we would relate Human Resources to Mr. Playboy? Neither did we, but this legendary man is a pro at handling sudden departures.

We were a bit surprised when the eternal bachelor Hugh Hefner proposed to girlfriend and playmate Crystal Harris back in December. We were even more surprised when just five days before the nuptials on June 18, the bride-to-be called off the wedding. Hugh Hefner lost his star employee. What did he do? For the most part, he followed the five steps we recommend to employers when they lose an employee unexpectedly.

Here’s what to do when your star employee suddenly leaves:

Step 1: Tell The Truth

It is important to let the other employees know what happened. If everyone is included in the news, fewer rumors are apt to start swirling around the office.

Hef took to the social networking website Twitter to announce Crystal had called off their upcoming wedding. He tweeted, “The wedding is off. Crystal has had a change of heart.” He was short, sweet and to the point. He knew if he didn’t address the issue soon, false headlines would take over every celebrity media site out there.

Step 2: Don’t Tell The Whole Truth

We promise we aren’t contradicting ourselves. Your employees need to know the basics of what happened. You do not need to tell every little juicy detail. Just make sure everything you say is the truth. Just remember: Less is more.

In the case of Hugh Hefner, he gave the public the gist of what happened. A couple hours after his first tweet he said, “The TMZ report that Crystal & I ‘had a nasty argument,’ promoting her to call off the wedding, is untrue. There were no arguments.” He gave the public just enough to squash rumors without actually giving exclusive details. Then again, he only had 140 characters to explain himself. In the office, you have a little more room to talk. But that doesn’t mean you have to say everything.

Step 3: Find The Good

Find the good in the departure. For example, when Crystal left the mansion, Mr. Hefner saw the potential to add two more girlfriends to his roster. He didn’t hold a grudge against Crystal and wished her all the best (He even paid for Crystal and her friends to go to Disneyland a couple days after the breakup. Although, we don’t suggest you go that far for a former employee).

Employers should be happy for their former star employee and hope they succeed in their newest endeavor. Maybe your star employee had to leave because of downsizing. Your other employees should realize that this is the best thing for the company and it protects the employees left behind. As the employer, if you stay positive, others will follow your lead.

In Hef’s case, I’m sure his new girlfriends are happy Crystal bailed so they could fill her spot and cozy up to Hef’s multi-millions. Hef tweeted on June 18, “This was going to be my wedding day, but life is full of surprises. After all is said & done, staying single is probably for the best.” Way to stay positive, Mr. Hefner.

Step 4: Allow Time To Grieve

Now, Mr. Hefner did not follow this step exactly. But we’re not really surprised; he had other girlfriends while he was engaged to Crystal. He did wait a couple days before admitting he had a couple new girlfriends in the mix. We guess that was long enough for him.

We encourage our employers to give their employees time to grieve over the loss of a beloved fellow worker. If you bring someone in the very next day, you are setting them up to fail because the other employees will resist the change. You want to make the transition as smooth as possible. We recommend allowing a few days to a week before filling the position, but only you will know how long your company needs to adjust to the change.

Step 5: Focus On The Future

People leave jobs all the time. We promise it will be okay. For example, Hugh Hefner is 85, has been married twice and still has girls lining up to “work” for him. If he can find a replacement, you can too.

When Crystal left, Hugh Hefner had to evaluate the situation and make some quick decisions. What would happen to their Lifetime wedding special? What would he do about the already-to-the-printer July issue featuring Mrs. Hugh Hefner on the cover? Leave it to the multimillionaire mogul to keep his cool and not miss a beat. The solution: The wedding special will now have a runaway bride theme and air in July. And what about the magazine? Some issues are stamped with a big red sticker that says “Runaway Bride Issue.” Way to avoid a disaster, Mr. Hefner.

For your company, a sudden departure can be seen as an opportunity to change and improve. Take this time to reevaluate your business. In order to move on, figure out where the gaps are in your company and what tasks need to be done in order to continue to move in a more positive direction. Whether you need a new secretary, president or floor manager, there is someone out there who can do the job. And who knows, maybe that new employee will become the next star employee.

Every employer can learn something from the way Hugh Hefner handled this potential devastating situation. Tell the truth, but not the whole truth. Find the good in the bad; allow time to grieve; and then move on to bigger and better things.

Obviously, we don’t think you should model your life after everything Hugh Hefner does, but we do think he handled losing his star employee pretty well.

Have you ever lost a star employee, someone that everyone loved, unexpectedly? What did you do?

If you recently lost a star employee or if you company is just having trouble finding replacements, contact one of our HR professionals and we’ll be happy to help you with the recruiting process.

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about the author: Amy Letke

Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success.