what should an internal “farewell” email say?

A reader writes:

I have to send the “farewell” mass internal e-mail to my co-workers. You recently wrote about what should be in a resignation letter. I am curious what you would say about the mass internal e-mail bidding goodbye. What do you think is appropriate/inappropriate? What’s the best way to wrap things up?

Ugh, the mass internal goodbye email. I prefer short and sweet — “wanted to let you know that I’m leaving on X date, moving on to do Y, enjoyed my time here, see Z with questions about logistics until my replacement starts.”

But I’ve also worked places that elevated the mass internal goodbye email to an art form — people routinely sent multi-paragraph treatises reflecting on their time there, what they learned, who helped them along the way, their bittersweet emotions at leaving, etc.

Handle it in accordance with what feels comfortable to you, with some consideration to what the norms are in your workplace. Obviously, if the long-form goodbye email is the norm in your office and you send a curt one-line “My last day will be March 10,” expect people to read all kinds of things into it. But that doesn’t mean you have to compose an epic ode to your coworkers; it just means you throw in an additional line or two to soften it.

And if you’re wondering if you should cite your reason for leaving, go for it — if those reasons are about moving, taking a new job, or leaving the workforce (to retire, take care of family members, etc.). You should not cite reasons for leaving if they’re about hating your job, your manager, or your coworkers.

(The most amusing goodbye email I’ve ever seen was from a guy who spent paragraphs thanking numerous people who no longer worked there themselves, some of whom had been gone for years. It clearly read as an F-you to his present coworkers.)

Really, the main rule is to stay professional, don’t say anything inflammatory (either directly or implied), and ask yourself what your next employer would say if they read it.

{ 24 comments… read them below }

  1. Spreadsheet bringer when she quit*

    I’ve never heard of the mass bye-bye email. Every place I have ever worked has just let word-of-mouth spread the news. A more important consideration for me is the good bye lunch. Not one to enjoy that sort of thing. So, when I quit my last job (after presenting the spreadsheet to my boss) I planned a commando action. I got gag gifts for everyone I thought would be there: invisible ink for the clumsy one who kept having pens explode on his clothes, monopoly money for the financial guy, an unsolvable puzzle for the smart a$$, etc. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and it took a lot of pressure off of me!

  2. Sarah*

    Keep it short, sweet and professional. Don’t burn any bridges you might need to retreat over.

    A former co-worker had decided to strike out on his own. His farewell was “amusing” if you’d like to call an F/U email that.
    Imagine everyone’s surprise when he called less than a year later, looking for an opening in our company…mostly that he had the gall to reapply after such a “colorful” exit.

  3. Wilton Businessman*

    Ugh. Anybody that will be affected by your leaving should already know you’re out of there and what to do in your absence. The bean counter down in accounting could care less.

  4. Anonymous*

    I liked Blackadder’s solution:

    Blackadder: Baldrick, I would like to say how much I will miss your honest, friendly companionship.
    Baldrick: Thank you, Mr B.
    Blackadder: But, as we both know, it would be an utter lie. I will therefore confine myself to saying simply, ‘Sod off and if I ever meet you again, it will be twenty billion years too soon.’

    One could always skip the final riposte.

  5. Jamie*

    Personally I would go with very short and to the point – like Allison said – give a date of departure and contact info for coverage and that’s that.

    When it comes to the details your work friends already know, and no one else cares – so I don’t see the point.

    Although I have never had a co-worker leave and send a scathing email on their way out – I would find that very amusing. I would never do it myself for the reasons mentioned, but watching someone else burn their bridges could liven up an afternoon.

  6. mouse*

    I once sent a thinly veiled, bitter and simultaneously hilariously appropriate to the company email upon leaving after a rather nasty layoff. To this day I keep that missive in my portfolio of writing samples. I think it actually got me one or two jobs over the years. I’m probably the exception to the rule.

  7. Anonymous*

    I always liked receiving “farewell” e-mails. When I was with a large non-profit, it was a nice way to know where people were going. I worked quite well with quite a few people in other departments that I saw once in a blue moon. It was great that later we could re-connect later in our new positions. It has always been a form of networking for me.

    Though I was sad that my department head was irritated that someone sent out a farewell e-mail for me. Four years of service, plenty of people who knew me, and yet I was still considered not important. At least my department head had her mind changed when she saw the different people who dropped by to give good wishes and goodbyes!

  8. esra*

    I made sure to bomb out a mass email at my last job. It was for a giant corporation, and management never told anyone who was coming/going. It would take days trying to figure out who owned what, and you’d get repeatedly directed to people who didn’t work there anymore.

    I didn’t want that to happen to the people I’d worked with, so I sent a short email letting everyone know my last day, and who to talk to if they needed anything.

  9. Brian*

    I sent a farewell email when I left recently. I kept it short and sweet, about one paragraph. It’s a nice way to let people you only know casually know where you’re going, mainly for networking reasons. But I only sent it to people I knew, not the whole company or even entire departments. When there are hundreds of layoffs, farewell emails from people you never heard of gets old.

  10. EngineerGirl*

    A few years ago I was on a program with a reputation for bullying and retaliation. My boss at the time was trying to fire me – kind of tough to do when I was a top performer. She and her lead were enraged that I easily found a job – with career advancement – in another program. It was a source of delight to my fellow co-workers who were also under her oppression.

    When I wrote my farewell e-mail to the team, I closed with a simple blessing/curse: “May you each have the success you deserve”. All the nice people thanked me for wishing them success. The bullies were enraged by the statement – but couldn’t tell anyone why without admitting what they had done.

    1. Anonymous*

      Nice one!

      I also used a similar email in a past job.

      I was given 3 weeks pay in lieu of notice. I was actively interviewing for a different job at the time. I got a better job within a week and I emailed back my old manager and everybody in my old department thanking them for the 3 weeks pay, but if the manager had given it less than a week, I would have given my 2 weeks notice without them having to pay anything. I also added that the money was better in my pocket than the company’s.

      A old co-worker relayed to me that enraged my old manager.

      Much more fun than an F-U email on the way out..

  11. Cassie*

    I think it would be nice to send an goodbye email to the coworkers that you work with closely. It sure beats having them confused as to why you are no longer replying to email. But I don’t know if a mass email is needed (depending on how large your office/company is).

    It should be the organization’s job to inform everyone that you have left the organization and so-and-so will be now handling xyz.

    We had a coworker resign (via email to her boss & HR), effective immediately. No emails were sent out – by either the coworker or management, so people didn’t know that the coworker was no longer there. I wasn’t particularly close to the coworker but it would have been nice to get some kind of notice since we did work on some stuff together.

  12. The gold digger*

    It should be the organization’s job to inform everyone that you have left the organization and so-and-so will be now handling xyz.

    Except they don’t always do that. I was laid off at a time when people were disappearing left and right. It was like the old Soviet Union: you never knew when they would come for you in the middle of the night and you never knew who would be left. You only found out someone was gone when you called her for that important thing only she knew so you could finish your report.

    I really liked the people I worked with so I sent an email letting them know my last day would be in a month and the request that we finish the projects I was involved in. I know – I shouldn’t have cared. But I did. I still wanted to leave things in good shape.

    Then, when I left, I sent another note telling everyone whom to contact for the things I used to be in charge of. It wasn’t the fault of anyone at the factories that I was being laid off and they shouldn’t have had to go through a lot of work to figure out how to get things done once I was gone.

    1. Cassie*

      Oh, I know – “ideally” the organization should send out an internal email, but I think I’ve only seen 1 out of 20 departures.

      And speaking of this, should the organization write the reason for the departure? In the one internal notice that I have received, HR put that the person resigned. I thought it looked strange (maybe infringing on privacy?), but then I realized it might look stranger if they just wrote that she “is no longer with our organization”. Then people may speculate that she was fired when she wasn’t. I guess it would be different if the employee had let people know she was leaving because then her departure wouldn’t have been out of the blue, and people wouldn’t try to read into the notification email as much as they did…

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ve worked places where the owners called a full staff meeting to explain why they fired someone or in one memorable meeting, to review why someone quit in diva mode lying to everyone about being fired.

        The level of uncomfortable in the room was always off the charts. I remember the new manager’s face well – she wanted no part of this meeting and although put politely, drew the scorn of the owners. She didn’t last long. She got a better offer and told us to roll our eyes at the cul8r meeting held in her honor!

  13. Kyle*

    In my previous job it as typical for people to send very bitter “I’m getting the hell out of here” type e-mails. Since I did the scheduling for the entire department and we were open until 2am and on weekends, I typically got a big “FU Kyle” in these e-mails. I’m not exaggerating… people called me serious names just for doing my job… (The background here is that Managers would blame me for poor schedules to avoid having to take ownership and discuss the business need)

    While I’m sure handfuls of people found them funny, it burned their bridge and hurt their rep with over a dozen Managers and Leaders.

    Now I only wish I had kept a file of these e-mails.

    1. Jamie*

      I will never understand why some people get scapegoated for merely doing their jobs, but it happens all the time.

      It’s so counter productive when people are just trying to meet business goals – but departments working at cross-purposes is so frustratingly common.

      I’m glad for you that this is your former company, I hope you found place without such a toxic environment.

  14. Y*

    I am the one who submitted this question. Thanks for all of the feedback! I’m surprised by how many responses this post received. I guess everyone has a story to share about the internal farewell e-mail!

  15. Anonymous*

    My company does not notify us when people leave, either. They just disappear. This has happened to a few coworkers that were FRIENDS of mine. They got in touch later to tell me what happened. It’s crummy.

    Anyhow, when I leave–whether it’s on my terms or not–I’ll be sending an email to my work friends and favorite coworkers and telling them exactly what happened, whether it’s good or bad. I won’t embellish, but I will let them know what’s up. I will also let each and every one of them know how very much I enjoyed working with them and let them know how to get/keep in touch with me, if they would like.

    As potentially amusing and tempting as it is, I can’t see sending an FU email, not even to the people that are causing me problems. They simply won’t hear from me again.

    I’m looking forward to that day, actually!

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