This article comes from SHRM.
Social media and other methods of online communication have made it easier than ever to keep in touch with former employees—and there are good reasons why businesses may want to stay in contact with them and maintain positive relationships post-employment.
If an employee disappears on a former employer—which is known as a type of “ghosting”—it can be a headache for a variety of reasons, said Jennifer Betts, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Pittsburgh. For instance, employers may need to send required employment documents or try to retrieve company property. “Additionally, from an employee-relations perspective, if a high volume of employees ghost without notice or accurate forwarding information, it may raise questions about the work environment,” she noted.
With the rise of social media and employees’ ability to openly critique their employers on the Internet, everyone is now a potential target for bad press and critical reviews, said Eric Stevens and Rachel Rosenblatt, attorneys with Littler in Nashville, Tenn., in a joint statement. “As a result, it can often be in the best interest of an employer to maintain, when possible, a cordial post-employment relationship.”
“The area where I see employee ghosting causing the most headaches occurs when the employee has retained something he or she shouldn’t have kept,” said Isabel Crosby, an attorney with DLA Piper in Dallas.
An employee may leave with a company-owned laptop, and in some cases, the value of the computer is secondary to the information contained on it. If the ghosting employee stored protected customer information, source code, or research and development reports on the computer, for example, the employer may have to report the loss to state or federal agencies or sue the former employee to ensure sensitive information is returned, she noted.
To prevent these problems, employers should consider how they will protect sensitive information and limit employees’ access, from the start of employment, to only what they need to perform the job.
“If the employee left on good terms and was a good employee, you never know how that relationship might benefit the company down the road,” noted Kristen Gallagher, an attorney with McDonald Carano in Las Vegas.
A former employee could be a brand ambassador for the company, assist in transferring knowledge to workers who are taking over responsibilities and provide referrals for job openings, said Nadine Abrahams, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Chicago.
Additionally, maintaining a positive relationship may reduce the chances that a former employee would participate in a lawsuit against the employer. If an employee feels that he or she was mistreated, an employer might avoid a lawsuit by hearing the worker out and maintaining positive ties, Abrahams said.
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