In the wake of Michael Strahan’s announcement to leave "Live! With Kelly and Michael," much has come to light about how Kelly Ripa was in the dark about his departure.
Frequently, business partners, founders, executives and entrepreneurs move on to work within new environments and initiatives. Navigating big changes like these represent critical moments that can either strengthen or weaken an organization.
Now that Kelly has returned to the show, it is evident that lack of transparency between the two partners, and with executive management, can have nefarious outcomes. Not only will the network have to make amends with their beloved co-host, but the tension between Kelly and Michael may plague the show and encourage tabloid headlines for months to come.
While there is no perfect recipe on how to handle the departure of a business partner, there are a few important steps that can be followed to reduce the ensuing distraction.
1. Enlist the help of advisors.
Regardless of the circumstances of any business partner’s departure, it is vital to enlist the help of experienced advisors and also a good employment lawyer. In an ideal situation, both parties can agree on a transition and communication plan, and also a separation agreement that clearly defines expectations and financial rights. While this is generally a desirable outcome for both parties, it also does not always happen as such. An advisor most likely would have insisted that Kelly be privy to Michael’s departure before the announcement to viewers, which could have saved them from the tumultuous aftermath.
2. Communicate preemptively when possible.
Following the departure of a partner or executive, speak with shareholders and investors first. This allows both individuals to present the situation as a united force, with the nature of the separation sorted out amicably, if not in full agreement. When an agreed-upon consensus can not be reached, default to a lawyer’s recommendation about how to communicate and with whom. Had an initial conversation happened between the executives, Kelly and Michael, they could have made the announcement as a team. Not only would it have reinforced Kelly’s support, but it would have largely dispelled any myths about the stability of the show.
3. Acknowledge the situation with employees, then move on.
When announcing a partner’s departure to employees, the leader should always emphasize the future of the business to prevent people from getting mired in the past. A good CEO should be able to share the information soon after the departure and avoid a swirl of rumors or feelings of confusion and speculation. It is best to avoid an emotional conversation so employees stay focused on the goals of the business. Kelly and Michael’s situation is now long drawn out, with fans taking sides and perpetuating the feud with #TeamRipa and #TeamStrahan plugs on social media. These overblown reactions will require extra attention from the network, whose resources should be focused on finding a new co-host.
4. Speak respectfully when asked about the situation.
If asked about the departure, refrain from venting or giving pointed words about the individual, regardless of personal feelings. Badmouthing contributes to a toxic work environment. Employees and customers do not need to be privy to useless drama. While Kelly did officially congratulate Michael upon her return to the show, the media attention will continue to override all well wishes. As the conversation evolves, Kelly and Michael should continue to support each other’s new ventures to maintain equilibrium within the network.
5. Get back to business.
Founders and entrepreneurs have a responsibility to continue the momentum of success, despite residual feelings toward an ex-partner. For instance, some entrepreneurs will undo strategies their partner held sacred out of spite. Emotional reactions such as these can be detrimental to the business and organizational culture. The key is to ensure the team is making the best business decisions possible regardless of who is, or is not, there. Kelly may be moving forward solo, but the aftermath will tie her to Michael for months to come. Despite the network’s best efforts, the future of the show is now being questioned, making it difficult to return to the daily grind.
More information may come to light in the following weeks as Michael’s last day draws nearer. The dispute is now raising questions about how networks treat their female hosts in general, and could continue to be included in the national conversation about respect in the workplace. Business owners can learn a great deal from the fall out and how to deal with an exiting partner gracefully, without harming the development of their companies.