what should a farewell email to external colleagues say?

A reader writes:

I have accepted a new position and am in the process of transitioning from one job to another. I know it is fairly customary to send “farewell” emails to coworkers, but I would also like to let colleagues outside of my organization that I am departing. I am, however, struggling with what to say to these external colleagues.

I work for a nonprofit on an issue within a fairly tight-knit, collaborative professional community, and although I’m sure word of my departure has already traveled quickly through the grapevine, I would like to let those who I’ve worked with most closely know personally. How much information (where I am going, personal contact information, etc.) is it appropriate to divulge in a situation like this?

Generally speaking, you want to say something like this:

“I want to let you know that after four years with Chocolate Teapots Inc., I’ve made the difficult decision to move on to a new role outside the company. After May 1, Skyler White will be your contact for anything related to teapot manufacture; she’s fantastic, and you’ll be in good hands.

After May 1, if you’d ever like to get in touch, you can reach me at (personal email address).”

Obviously, modify as appropriate — making it more or less formal, etc. And you don’t need to say they’ll be in good hands if you don’t actually believe it, but it’s nice to include if you do. Same thing goes for calling the decision “difficult” — you can remove that if it’s not true and you can’t stomach saying it.

Now, what’s not included in the message above is where you’re going — and that’s because whether or not to include that depends on the practices (and maybe policies) of your current workplace. Some places really, really don’t like you promoting your next employer to their clients, particularly if it’s a competitor. (Of course, they can’t stop you from sharing that information after you leave, but if you’re sending the email while you’re still working there, you should take that into account.) Others don’t care at all, and in some fields it would be really odd not to include that info — so you just need to know how it’s typically done in your field and in your office.

And if you’re not sure, it’s fine to ask your manager. Speaking of which, ideally part of the discussion with your manager when you’re planning your transition should be a communications plan — who needs to be told you’re leaving, what additional information do they need to be given (such as “please see Skyler for X after I leave”), and are there any additional considerations to take into account (like whether you should wait to tell Jesse until you talk to Walter, because Walter would want to hear it first). And this fits perfectly into that discussion.

{ 23 comments… read them below }

      1. Julee*

        The real question is when to tell Hank and and Marie, if you should even tell them at all!

  1. Jubilance*

    I’ve left 2 positions, and at each position I pretty much sent the same goodbye email.

    “As many of you know, tomorrow is my last day with Acme. It has been a joy and a pleasure to spend the last X years working with such amazing and talented people. My experience here at Acme, especially within the Chocolate Teapots group , has proven invaluable to me, and I look back on my time here fondly. I thank you all for contributing to those fond memories, and I do hope that you keep in touch as I transition to the next phase of my career. Below you will find my personal contact information. Once again, thank you for all you’ve given me during my time with Acme. I wish you much success and many blessings, and please stay in touch.”

    I also BCC everyone on the email – both times I’ve sent it out to a pretty big contact list & I didn’t want everyone’s email address to show.

    1. Tori*

      Use BCC! There were 50+ of us who received one of these emails from a colleague a couple years ago; her email was completely professional, but the reply from one of the other employees, to the entire group . . . not so much.

      1. Jessa*

        OH yes, and when someone does goof and NOT BCC, why is it that every idiot who responds has to hit “respond all.” Seriously.

        1. Henning Makholm*

          Information bias. Responses not to all are not visible to you, so to you it looks like all responses are to all.

          Alternatively, by definition those who respond directly are not idiots.

          (Oh, was that a rhetorical question?)

  2. Josh S*

    Also, depending on how…functional your company’s IT department is, you may want to draft an auto-reply message for your email that gives the new contact person (and their contact info) for any emails you receive. You might, as an option (depending how much personal email you’re likely to get), also forward emails automatically to that new point person.

    Turn it on when you leave the last day.

    In an ideal world, IT would have it set up to bounce email to the appropriate person when you leave. But that doesn’t always happen, so it’s nice to be a bit proactive so that none of your organization’s clients get left in limbo.

    1. Jamie*

      Josh is correct in that ideally it would be set up to forward emails so none are lost…but because I can’t help but defend my kindred souls in IT in some orgs they aren’t told of departures right away.

      So this is a PSA for managers to remember to let the appropriate people know when someone leaves so there isn’t this email/equipment/access limbo.

      1. Josh S*

        For sure! I wasn’t trying to point the finger of blame at IT. Just they’re the ones doing the final execution of the change, and if the process breaks anywhere along the line, it doesn’t happen.

  3. likesdesifem*

    In honesty, I don’t think an e-mail to outside vendors is required. It should be the company who advises organisations of new contacts, which is not overly taxing to do.

    Speaking from experience, when external firms have changed reps, my organisation was not directly contacted at the time of his or her departure, and it’s been on subsequent inquiries that a new rep is mentioned.

    I would say though that it may depend on how close the working relationship is. If it’s a firm with whom numerous personal visits have been conducted, then obviously some degree of rapport will be established. If not, then it shouldn’t matter IMO.

    1. Elizabeth*

      I disagree – I think there are times when it’s a nice gesture. Maybe not with vendors, but with other contact people. For example, I’m a teacher and organize the outdoor education trips for my school. Last year the coordinator at the outdoor school where we go for one of our trips left, and she sent out a farewell email to the teachers she’d been working with. Although I only saw this woman in person once a year and exchanged maybe ten emails with her yearly, I really appreciated the farewell email and was glad of the chance to wish her well. I also liked knowing that I would have a new contact with the organization before just having someone different reply to one of my emails.

    2. Neeta(RO)*

      I can understand farewell e-mails to clients/vendors, if you have worked really closely. Ideally, the management would also notify them, but the e-mail is a nice gesture, wherein you can thank them for their collaboration.

      When it comes to work colleagues, I’ve always hated these things though. At company I had previously worked, people used to do this all the time. It was really cheesy, saying things like:

      “Today is my last day at ____. The time for a change has come, but I have really enjoyed working with you all and will miss you terribly. Don’t hesitate to contact me via email/messenger at cuddly_bear23[at]emailprovide[dot]com”

      It always seemed so “fake” to me. I mean, you’re not that heart-broken. And let’s face it, a lot of people were leaving after a year or so…

      Not wishing to take part in such a tradition, I refrained from sending a farewell email. As a matter of fact I only told a few colleagues I was somewhat close with. The team had been notified by my boss.

      Ironically enough, I ran into a colleague a few months later, who kind of told me in a sort of “kidding tone” how she had looked for me, and was told I had quit. So I had a brief moment of “whoops, didn’t think she’d care”.

      But I still maintain my opinion on sending farewell emails to colleagues: way too cheesy!

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t know – I hate phoniness, too, but for me it’s preferable to not knowing someone left until you need them for something.

        I have worked places where there was spotty notification, if any, and that’s frustrating as well. Even if just a short and sweet note from HR or the dept manager saying so and so is no longer with the company – please see Wakeen for XYZ going forward.

        1. Neeta*

          Well yes, obviously, you need to make your team and other people you regularly interact with, aware.

          The colleague I was talking about, was not looking for me for a work related issue. She was just making a friendly inquiry, i.e. “Haven’t seen Neeta around lately, is she on holiday?”

        2. Neeta*

          Oh and of course I have nothing against HR sending a quick note. It’s just that when you have to send it yourself, you kind of have to make a bit “nicer”. HR can get away with, “From now on, please see XYZ for any issues relating to A, B and/or C”.

  4. Elizabeth*

    I think the less related your new role/company is to your old one, the more acceptable it is to say where you’re going or why. For example, if you’re switching industries, moving across the country, going back to school, or leaving to be a stay-at-home parent for a while, it’s fine to say that. None of those situations would lend itself well to you luring clients away!

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    “Chocolate Teapot has finally left the building. Thanks for everything and Good Luck for the future.”

  6. ArtsNerd*

    I didn’t do this at my last job, and one of my external contacts had to track me down in my new position to find out who to contact at the old org for XYZ. I had set up an auto-reply with that info, but I guess they shut down my email pretty quickly after I left.

    This post is stirring up old frustrations about that whole resignation process actually–I couldn’t access my boss and ended up resigning by email and voice mail, and then he canceled the meeting I set up to discuss it… and before ever contacting me, teased my coworker about my quitting. Thank goodness I had already informed her! It took him almost half of my notice period to give me any of his time to discuss a transition plan (and I was the only one in our small department with knowledge of certain major functions/processes.) Ugh.

  7. Corporate Drone*

    A more appropriate message would be to say that “Skylar White will be laundering drug money at the car wash. Stop by on Tuesday–ladies get $2 off!”

    Some days, starting a meth empire doesn’t sound too bad.

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