Posted by Mary Ann Kelly
I once received a goodbye email that started: “As many of you know, today is my last day. But before I leave, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know what a great and distinct pleasure it has been to type “Today is my last day.”
Then, in painstaking detail, the email listed every offense and mistreatment this person had endured for the past 7 years. It was a train wreck! I’ve saved it to this day and at one point, had it hung in my cube as a What not to do.
Indeed, your resignation may seem like an apropos time to explain your decision or finally let your boss and colleagues know what you really think of them. It may seem timid or against your values to go gently into the night, without commentary, but that is exactly what you should do!
In this post, we talk about what a signoff email is and what’s it not.
What it is:
- The primary purpose of your email is to let your colleagues know you’re leaving and that your contact information is changing. Especially if you’re sending a mass email to the entire company, the theme should be functional, concise and professional.
- It may also provide instruction for what to do in your absence, who will be handling your former duties, etc. E.g. “Please direct all future correspondence to my boss.”
- Finally, you may wish to thank your colleagues and mention what a pleasure it’s been to work with them.
What it’s not:
- You may be tempted to make observations about your employer, or reveal the icky details of your departure, as did Andrew Mason, the former CEO of Groupon, who wrote to his employees: “After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention.” Not saying we don’t appreciate his sense of humor! But instead of blasting an email like this that will follow you around for years, consider the small subset of people you want to tell your innermost thoughts and have the conversation with them.
- Discuss a strategy for telling your co-workers and clients with your boss before you break the news. It may even be prudent to ask your boss to vet an email before you send it out. Why? To anticipate any sensitivity or questions that may arise and prepare a response.
- Aim for a warm, appreciative tone. If that’s truly not possible, neutral and courteous is best.
- You don’t need to provide details around your departure or disclose where you’re going. A smug, boastful or gleeful email is likely not how you want your colleagues to remember you. Humble and respectful is good: “I’ve enjoyed working with you all, though recently made the difficult decision to pursue something different.” It’s okay to be completely silent on your rationale too.
- If time permits, write a draft farewell email and sleep on it before you send it. Allowing a bit of time to pass will help quiet your emotions and gain perspective. Your goal is to not publish something impulsively that you’ll later regret.
- If you’re passing along new contact information, you may want to send your email from this account rather than your work one. That way you’ll receive the replies that roll in after you leave. Especially face-saving if your work account will be forwarding to a co-worker, or yikes, your boss. Imagine after you’ve been mindful not to say anything mean, you BFF replies “Oh good, you’re finally leaving that POS.”
- Finally, update all your social accounts and/or logins to ensure nothing goes to your work address after you’ve left.
Here is a sample email:
I want to take this opportunity to say goodbye and let you know that today is my last day at work.
It’s been a sincere pleasure working with all of you, though I recently made the difficult decision to pursue something different.
Please direct all future correspondence to my manager; he/she will be handling my projects in the immediate future.
I hope we can keep in touch! My personal email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you all the best,