When you terminate an employee and they leave quietly without incident, you may think that’ll be the end of it.
But “vent letters,” messages in which ex-employees air all their grievances, are becoming increasingly common — and it’s important to know how to respond.
Take complaints seriously
A few old employees might just want to get some things off their chest, but others may raise some serious issues that need to be addressed.
Here’s how employment lawyer Adam Bartrom of the firm Barnes & Thornburg says you should react:
- Take complaints seriously and identify legal risks. You should treat these letters as if they were formal complaints raised in an exit interview. The ex-employee may even offer some helpful insights or suggestions. It’s also important to be on the lookout for any potential legal problems raised, such as harassment, discrimination or retaliation allegations.
- Investigate and document. If an ex-employee brings up something that needs to be looked into, save the letter and launch a well-documented investigation. Make sure your managers know to send vent letters with serious complaints to HR.
- Respond to letters with a PR mindset. Remember that anything you say could end up in court, so respond carefully and follow the usual policies. For example, does your company typically respond to social media comments or Glassdoor reviews? If it does, reply to a vent letter in the same polite, professional way.
It’s important to note that employers can avoid most vent letters if terminated employees are given the opportunity to speak their minds during exit interviews.