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Putting the Cart Before the Horse

My supervisor is about to retire and has not mentioned it to me personally, nor has it been officially announced. However, most of the office personnel are aware of her plans. Some of the staff had made plans and threw her a retirement party on Monday. I was asked to participate. Of course, regardless of whether I had been personally informed of her retirement by her, I would help in any way I could with what they needed. Her party was on Monday. The very next day she came to me to officially let me know that it is her intent to retire at the end of the month. Granted we are not friendly with each other; but was it wrong of me to expect the professional courtesy of letting me know her intent to retire (at least prior to her party) – after all is she is my direct supervisor?

P.C. Honolulu, HI

What seems strange to me is that the office, you included, held a retirement party for her before her retirement was officially announced. I’m not even sure from your letter whether she had informed other staff personally prior to the party. If it turns out that was indeed the case, then, yes, expecting the same of her for you is reasonable. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it.

More to the point is the issue of when to announce a retirement and when to hold a retirement party. Once an employee has discussed his retirement with his supervisor, he and the supervisor can determine when it is best to inform the rest of the staff. In a small office, people can be informed individually as long as it can be done reasonably quickly so other employees don’t start hearing about the retirement through the rumor mill. In a larger office a group announcement is necessary to prevent any rumors or to avoid hurt feelings such as has happened in your situation. The retiring employee and his supervisor should also discuss how the impending retirement will be announced to any clients, suppliers, or prospects with whom the employee has been working.

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Retirement parties should only be held once the retirement is official and everyone has been informed. One vexing problem occurs when a few employees get together to throw a retirement party. “It can happen too soon,” “Not everyone is invited,” or “Who pays for the party” are all problems with an employee planned event. It’s much smoother and better if an event acknowledging the employee’s service is planned and paid for by the business. Often a gift is also provided by the company which removes yet another problem individual employees would face: “Do I get him a retirement gift?”

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