Your Tricky Work Farewell Questions

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Need advice on ways to say goodbye at work?

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I've been laid off, what else can I say besides "thank-you"?

How do I let my old clients know that I'm still professionally available in my new workplace?

I don't want to cry at my work goodbye!

A coworker was fired - how do I farewell her without the office politics?

A colleague is retiring without a farewell party...


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Work Farewell Question 1
"Due to budgetary cuts and lack of re-funding of grant applications, I was just laid off. It was not my choice, nor can I say "I am exploring new opportunities" or moving.
My farewell question is: what should I say, besides a thank you to the mentors I trained, the very young children they were "Big Brothers & Big Sisters" to for over 2 years, their parent or guardians?
I want to say something that won't alienate my executive director, who will stay on in his position as well as take over mine as their case manager.
Of course I know the basics well enough to include a reassurance that they will be left in good hands, but I do not want to minimize their feelings about our specific relationships."

'Ce from the United States

To add more to your farewell message, you can use philosophical terms - that we are in people's lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
No matter how long we can know each other for, we must appreciate what we have NOW.
You can say that you will look back on this time as enriching and fulfilling, and that it's time for you to move on to the next part of the unknown future, while they continue on their own life journey.
If you wish to be more personal (and more emotional) you can talk about what you have learned from each person (to show the ways in which you have treasured those relationships), which would be lovely considering how much you have taught them.

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Work Farewell Question 2
"I am leaving my current job but will still be in the same industry with more or less same clients in the same regions. How should I farewell my clients and inform them that I will still be in touch in a professional way?"
Don from Singapore

This situation can be tricky because you don't want to alienate your old workplace by poaching clients, yet you still want your clients to know that you are still a presence in the industry.

If your old workplace is having a party for you (and it needs to be an appropriate party) you should invite the clients. You don't have to ask permission to do this - after all, they are attending a company function of which they are clients, and you may have developed good personal relationships with them, so it is entirely appropriate that they be invited. Inviting them will also make them feel part of the company 'family'.

Make sure that you deliver a speech that includes your continued presence in the industry and say that you welcome everyone to keep in touch.

If the company is not hosting a send-off for you, you should organise one yourself. And as you will be inviting clients, you should invite as many colleagues and managers of your old workplace so that it doesn't appear to be a poaching exercise.

If there is no party, you should send an email to everyone (workplace and clients) saying a nice goodbye, thanking everyone for the time you had there, and your new contact details so that everyone can keep in touch.

Send along a cookie basket or wine with a letter saying the same thing (and thanking them for their support over the time you have worked with them) to the clients if you really want to chase them down. The latter is more aggressive but just shy of actual poaching, as you are only saying what you would be saying to your old workplace.

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  Show them their worth with a tribute.



Work Farewell Question 3
"I find goodbyes very emotional - I work very closely with people in some remote workplaces (I am a locum pharmacist) - and am always overwhelmed when I have a farewell thrown for me. How do I get some control over myself - I'm not ashamed about crying but I do want to appear professional!"
Melanie from Australia

This is quite a common issue: you are not alone!
It can be very overwhelming to have a mass of people show so much appreciation for you.

During the work farewell itself, keep things light.
Don't ever say good-bye, but "I'll see you in the outback somewhere when you need first aid".
This way you are neutralising a farewell - with all of its 'never see you again' connotations - into something less intense.

During a farewell speech to you - conduct a mental exercise with yourself. After every sentence think of a witty reply - this way your brain is engaging in something and not focussing so much on the intense meaning of the speech.

And don't read the card until you get home!!

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Work Farewell Question 4
"A co-worker of mine was recently let go unexpectedly and I feel really bad about the entire situation.
My plan is to have everyone who worked with her sign the card and, if they want to, contribute some money for a gift card for her.
However, I don't want to make it seem like I'm undermining the senior management that made the decision.
I'm not going to ask the people who were involved with making the decision to let her go to sign the card.

Is this the best way to deal with this situation?
I just want people to sign their name on the card and not include a personal memo.
This will not be related to the company in any way.
It will be from her friends at work.

Is there any other circumstance I should be aware of?"

Jason from the United States

First of all, thank you for considering your colleague in this way.
Being let go is an emotional and devastating event. To offer a card that will essentially say "thanks for all you've contributed and we're glad to have met you" can really help lessen the blow and restore some dignity.
It really is awful to be hurried out the door and to feel that you never even existed in a workplace. Some kind of a work farewell is necessary for closure and for validation.

Just remember that anything to do with a work farewell should be voluntary - whatever people choose to write or donate should be up to them (tips on organizing office farewell donations here). If people want to add a personal memo, it may help her feel better, and what they write does not reflect upon you.

As for the office politics there are several ways to view this:
  • any sort of farewell gesture is an act of acceptance of leaving - this is not a rebellion. It is also an act of closure for everyone and is bad for morale if prevented
  • senior management may have found this decision very difficult and may be glad that someone in the company is thoughtful enough to try to lessen the blow (and without the involvement of management)
  • remember the farewell card is for her, the human being, and it's not about the company you work for
  • if office politics is so petty that your gesture is construed as rebellion, it will only look bad for management if they punish you for what is just a farewell card. Remember that there's likely to be plenty of signatures on the card - is management going to punish all of you for your sympathy? There could be safety in numbers!
So if you are worried about any repercussions, just keep the act of organising the work farewell card and donations low-key and unemotional, like any other task that you do at work.
If anyone approaches you negatively about it, you can always say that if you leave, you would like people to do the same for you. Making this a general human gesture will remove it from the drama of this specific situation.

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Work Farewell Question 5
"A fellow employee is retiring after 20 years of being in the fire service. He wishes not to have a farewell party.
How do I write a retirement announcement to let everyone know he is retiring and his last day at the fire district and that he wishes not to have a farewell party?"

Sallie from United States

First of all, it's worth mentioning that it's wonderful that you are respecting how he feels.
Everybody has their reasons for wanting or doing what they do, and it's lovely to know that you have 'heard' him.
In your announcement, you can send a message to the other employees that your friend "is retiring, and that after a huge 20 years of serving the community he has decided that a farewell party is not his style of saying goodbye.
I respect his wishes (he has earned it!), but have decided to have available a farewell book for anyone to write something to him"
.
You might also add that you can arrange a gift also, and your other colleagues can donate.

If people feel that there must be some sort of send-off on his last day, then maybe something very low-key might be a possibility. Like a surprise goodbye gift presented to him at his workstation, and ensuring that everyone lines up and gives individual congratulations but NO SPEECHES. This would require someone very confident who can direct the mini-event and keep things light, wrap it up toward the end and usher people away. When this is done at his workstation - a small space that is easily crowded, then it won't seem overwhelming like a farewell party would.


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