Last letters and parting shots: How to say goodbye at work

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's a sad fact of life, and particularly this economy, that people get laid off and fired from jobs. Femi Oke went out and found stories behind the statistics. She joins us with their tales of last emails and bitter adieus. So what is the etiquette of saying farewell? Do you send a mass email to your entire contact list? Or just pack up your cubicle and slip out the back door? Here to help us figure out what is the best (and worst) way to say goodbye is Sheryl Spanier a career management consultant.
"Don't say anything negative about your former boss, because there's going to be a future boss who's going to know about that. And do you think he wants you to work for him if you've spoken that way about your current employer?"
—Sheryl Spanier, a career management consultant, on leaving a job gracefully

Be sure to check out our video "Parting shots: Allison Walker's goodbye email":

Contributor's Notes: Tips for making an elegant exit from your job from Sheryl Spanier

•The last thing you say and do is the first thing others will remember.
•Preserve your reputation and relationships with grace and gravitas.
•Keep the emotion out of your communications. Vent, if you must, privately and only to loved ones.
•Engender respect: Behave in exiting the way you behave in excelling at work — with dignity and self worth.
•Leaving gracefully requires courage and consideration for others' feelings. Remember, they are suffering a loss, too.
•Make your exit statement simple, short and strategic. Speak positively about your accomplishments and experience, state simply the business facts of your departure (downsizing, cutbacks, position elimination, change of direction/management). Say you are putting some thoughts/plans together about next career steps. Create opportunities for future follow up.
•Create a “Reason for Leaving" statement that your organization will support so that what you say and they say are consistent.
•Communicate your departure (and contact information).

Want to read Allison Walker's good bye email? Click here.

A "Goodbye, Job!" Email from Allison Walker

How would you have written Allison's goodbye email differently? Add your notes in the comments...

After I start by apologizing for not having contacted you all personally, I wanted to offer up an additional apology to Reverend Pickett, who is I think the only person I know and love who might be offended if I accidentally slip into profanity during the course of writing this note. I don't intend to, but if I forget and it happens accidentally, I'm so sorry.

F***ing Bernie Madoff (and other evil, greedy ***holes like him destroying our economy) has caused the ACLU to scale back and eliminate 36 positions. I, Allison Walker, have been eliminated. Many, or at least some (ok, maybe, many) of you have heard me mutter from time to time that this, Entertainment Industry Liaison for the ACLU, was a thankless job. I'm writing now to you all to say that is not true. If you have received this email it is because I am genuinely thankful for having had the opportunity to know you, learn from you, work with you, hug a few of you and so on. You collectively lifted me out of a shallow existence of Page Six and red carpets to a more humbling, life-changing professional and personal path. I can honestly say I'm most likely in the top 1% of all entertainment industry professionals with knowledge of Guantanamo Bay. I have met some of the most extraordinary human beings these last 3+ years and I hope to cross paths with all of you again really soon. (If you did not receive this email from me and someone forwarded it to you, you are either one of the 5 people I'm mortified that I didn't include or one of the thankless and…enough said, let's both move on.)

Shifting gears for a minute... In December I did a day long yoga retreat, billed as a "Personal Revolution". The yogi who led it said that students have revelations at different points either during or after the session. About 90% of the way in, a heated discussion began between a student (not me I swear) and said yogi master that ended with the yogi saying "Who you are on the mat is who you are in life." And there, my friends, (said not at all like John McCain) is where I had my revelation. The person I am on the mat is not who I am in life…but it is who I aspire to be. And I'm grateful now to have the opportunity and the time to become that person. Ommmmm...

Outside of my unfortunate professional turn of events (and a handful of others which I'll save for a future email or drink) a few other (less philosophical) things of late have reminded me to be grateful… I have moved back to the West Village, to an apartment in the very building on Horatio Street that I've dreamed about for 6 or 7 years...I'm back in the delivery range of several of my favorite eateries...I am within close walking distance to the vet, my orange ribbons shut down Guantanamo and most of all, Richard Jenkins was nominated for an Academy Award for "The Visitor"...

Can't top that.

So, please keep me in mind when and if you hear of professional opportunities, either full time or on a project or consultant basis. I'll forward on my resume soon to those of you who have been nice enough to offer assistance (and those of you who would offer if you knew or if you had gotten around to it) and will also notify you when my professional profile has been updated on LinkedIn. I'm also open to lunch, dinner, drinks, movies, personal donations...I'll be busy writing, infiltrating film festivals, reading the trades, reading Page Six again, doing yoga, salivating over things I can no longer afford to cook from Whole Foods and then cooking ****** from D'Agostino...and generally, becoming that person from the mat.

Guests:

Femi Oke and Sheryl Spanier

Comments [3]

Priros Herceg

The career consultant's advice is probably sound. I your final parting words just before the door hits you in the backside on the way out is not used as a a final opportunity to suck up one last time, how will your next potential employer know that you will be a dull and compliant cog in his machine?

The mechanics of the lay off exercise, "reduction in head count", at least in companies not going under, has to do with the short term sacrifice of your livelihood so that a set of other people, higher up, don't need to sacrifice theirs. And they have expensive lifestyles to maintain.

I frankly wish there was more rage. The powers that be have decided to treat us like cattle and somehow we have decided that it is okay, moral, capitalist, Christian, free market... Keep in mind that the same banks that torpedoed the economy, costing you your job, who got the bail out money you paid in taxes while you were working, will be the ones repossessing your home.

Oct. 10 2009 09:53 AM
B.

Regarding invocations to not say anything negative, well, gee, since it's the negative things I have to say about some employers that make the decision to leave their employ seem logical, what the hell is that about? Gee, one employer was a drunk and a drug abuser who showed up naked in the hallway one day (The company worked out of his loft)-- do I say that I decided that I wanted to find someplace with a more professional dress code?

Oh, right, this is really about not being perceived as being negative. And since I am an American and being optimistic and yet somehow servile to my corporatist masters is the National Dogma, well, Reality isn't our thing.

Apr. 16 2009 01:31 PM
Meta G'bye

what's weird is to suddenly get a burst of emails from people you've never met and who are on their last day. someone types "it's been a great ride! i love you all!" and sends it globally. i'm thinking, who the hell is this!?!

Apr. 16 2009 09:21 AM

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