Not even spies and politicians like to keep secrets, so why would a professional communicator like me? That was the spot I was in last Friday when I and the CIO’s other direct reports were pulled into a conference room and told that the CIO had just been terminated.

“We’re writing an email now that will go out later today,” the company president said. “Until then, don’t say anything to anyone.”

I left that meeting with a heavy heart and even heavier weight of responsibility. Although we regularly work to earn a seat at the table where important decisions are being made, we don’t often talk about times like last Friday, when you can’t do the thing that you do best: communicate. Sure, by being present at the meeting, I could convince the president and HR executive that we needed to schedule an all-IT meeting to be held later that day, and to quickly compile a list of Q&As. Things that should have been considered and planned long before Friday–but weren’t.

As I walked quietly back to my desk, I was screaming inside! I listened to the usual chatter floating through the department. It was the calm before the storm. Just as I sent the first draft of Q&As to the printer, I heard the “ping” that signaled a new email arriving in my mailbox. It was the announcement of the CIO’s departure. Chatter within the department died almost instantly. It was the calm within the “eye of the storm.” Soon, the whispers began and reached the throbbing effect of a tree infested by cicadas. The whispers didn’t make me as uncomfortable as the sporadic laughter that followed.

This wasn’t the first time that I experienced the awkward silence of bad news. Tomorrow I’ll write about the time when my boss learned about his termination AFTER his staff, and then confronted us!

Until then, do you have your own examples to share?