How to Communicate the Sudden Death of an Employee

I learned today that one of my new, part-time employees who we were planning on hiring full-time in another 60 days suddenly passed away last night. I quickly looked on the internet and didn’t find much of anything that was helpful to me in knowing what to say to my staff or how to break the news to them. Because we have a geographically dispersed staff and only perform monthly staff meetings, I felt that e-mail would be the best mode of communication.

Basically, what I did was to be honest with them concerning the following details:

  • When this individual died
  • At a high level, what the proximate causes were for this individual’s death
  • Because some on staff never met this person, I explained what this individual’s duties were
  • Expressed my regret and reflected briefly on the positives I found in this individual’s persona
  • Gave my staff a way to express condolences to the family

My wife read my email and felt it was fine. I thought getting a second person’s input into the communication to the staff would be important.

I don’t think there is a neat, clean way to communicate the death of an employee to the rest of your staff. Simply pray and follow the Lord’s leading. Each communication will be different and contextually sensitive.  And that’s how it should be.

Bill English, CEO