HR Lessons from Ariana Grande’s Grammys Ditch

When Grammy-nominated Ariana Grande dropped out of Sunday’s Grammy Awards ceremony, producer Ken Ehrlich did damage control by publicly claiming the superstar “felt it was too late for her to pull something together.”

Grande, never one to mince words, tweeted that the real reason she quit was due to the producer’s need to control her artistically. She wrote, “i can pull together a performance overnight and you know that, Ken. it was when my creativity & self-expression was stifled by you, that i decided not to attend.” Grande went on to explain the specifics behind her decision not to perform, “i offered 3 different songs. it’s about collaboration. it’s about feeling supported. it’s about art and honesty. not politics. not doing favors or playing games. it’s just a game y’all.. and i’m sorry but that’s not what music is to me.”

The Grammys went on, despite the disagreement. However, not every ‘best and brightest’ departure is as easy to recover from. Had the same social media banter taken place in a corporate atmosphere after a superstar employee’s departure, the company would have to spend a lot of time and effort doing damage control. Especially, if the employee in question is well liked and blames management for leaving.

So, how can a company protect its reputation when a disgruntled employee quits and is ready to name names? Here are five exit prep steps to help avoid a poison publicity dart like the one Grande (rightfully) aimed at Ehrlich.

  • Have a backup plan. Your best and brightest employees should be tapped regularly to train co-workers on their job tasks. Passing the baton is inevitable (especially among the current crop of Gen Y job-hoppers) and preemptive training will go a long way to keep performance and profits rolling when that key player leaves.
  • Conduct an exit interview. Asking a departing employee why he or she is leaving, and asking specific, probing questions about possible management issues, may release disappointment and anger that would otherwise surface as angry tweets.
  • Mention the confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement at the exit interview. (Of course, you had all employees sign one. No? Here’s a free sample from NationalLawDoc.com.) explaining that sharing of information about management is considered confidential and that while you understand they might want to discuss why they are leaving, it may be considered a breach of the agreement.
  • Schedule a meeting with the group or department where the employee worked. Explain that everyone will miss him or her and that management is interested in how they might improve productivity and teamwork within the department. A couple of questions to kick off the conversation could include- Are there any issues you would like to bring to our attention? Did (the employee who left) voice any problems/issues that you would like to discuss?
  • Interview the group/department manager privately to debrief on any issues they think might have caused the employee to leave. Since you are already meeting, it may also be a good time to go over job duties and update the job description for the position.

A little planning will go a long way to protect your company from a social media fiasco. But the real champions in the creation of smooth employee exits and great employee relations are supervisors. Need a little skills checkup? Then be sure to check out the on-demand webinar- “SUPER” Supervisory Skills for Increased Employee Retention: Be the Manager They Won’t Want to Leave”.

By V.L. Brunskill

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