Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Guest Post: The Workplace Farewell

I hope everyone had a very happy Fourth of July. As everyone is getting back to the workplace over the next few days and going back into work mode, we have a guest post about the opposite: the workplace farewell. This one is submitted to us by Maria Rainier. Maria is a freelance writer and blogger for First in Education where she’s recently written about online landscape architecture programs along with a piece on tax examiner jobs. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, playing piano, and working with origami. Without further ado, here is Maria's guest post:
It has become more and more common for employees to send out a mass e-mail to their co-workers announcing their departure. The e-mail usually offers some words of appreciation for co-workers, provides some details about future plans, and invites everyone to keep in touch. For most of us, the e-mails are forgettable, if not groan-inducing. But in a few rare cases, some disgruntled employees have become Internet legends for their memorable send-offs. Your writing skill and your ability to inspire or inflame aside, should you send out a mass e-mail bidding farewell to your co-workers when you’ve decided to move on to greener pastures? Or is it unprofessional not to send such a note?

To Send or Not to Send

There are many reasons to send out the farewell e-mail. If you work in a large company, it gives you the opportunity to notify those in other departments of your departure and the impending change in procedure. No matter the size of your company, the farewell e-mail also gives you the opportunity to express appreciation for your co-workers and to lay the ground work for maintaining those relationships after you’re gone.

There is no rule of thumb for whether you should or should not send the e-mail. The best barometer is your own company culture. If workplace farewells are common at your company, your co-workers may think you cold or aloof if you don’t send out a note. On the other hand, if no one sends out such notes, you may seem inappropriate if you do.

Follow precedent for constructing your note, but be sure to always keep it positive and end on a high note. If company e-mails tend to be long and reflective, don’t be too terse in yours. You don’t have to match previous examples sentiment for sentiment, but do try to convey the same overall tone (i.e., adding a few more sentences if you’re usually brief, or learning to pare it back if you tend to go on and on). Try to fit in, but always be sincere and do what feels comfortable.

Some Guidelines

Farewell e-mails can be as unique as you are. However, there is one concrete rule: Don’t bash your boss or your company. There are plenty of notorious examples of letters that broke this rule, but it’s safe to say those employees won’t be getting a good reference and won’t be able to rely on those contacts for any networking in the future. If you want to be able to list your job on your resume or maintain your contacts, then keep any bitterness or frustration out of your e-mail. Focus on the positive.

Some easy ways to keep things positive are to thank your co-workers for the work you shared and to reminisce fondly about the times you had together. Remember to be appropriate and professional. Don’t talk about that wild bachelorette party in accounting or your boss’ rumored affair. Do share funny stories if you have them. It will help break up the tedium of the typical, form e-mail farewell.

Give some reason for why you’re leaving, but don’t get too personal and – again – don’t vent frustrations about the job. It is appropriate to say that you’re leaving to take a new job, or to move for family reasons, or because you’re taking time off from the work force. It’s not appropriate to talk about how you’re taking a new job that pays a lot more, or how you’re leaving because you’re sick of your boss.

Leave your contact information, such as your e-mail or links to your Facebook or LinkedIn page. But leave these details only if you really want to stay in touch.

Finally, remember to be yourself in your e-mail. You want to say goodbye, but you also want to be memorable. No one wants to read a tedious, form e-mail. Let your personality shine through, but remember to be appropriate. When in doubt, ask yourself: What would your new employer think if he or she saw your e-mail?

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