What To Say In That Awkward Goodbye Email When You Quit

Make sure your farewell hits the right notes and doesn’t leave any mixed messages.

What To Say In That Awkward Goodbye Email When You Quit
[Photo: Flickr user Eric Norris]

There may be no office communication more fraught than the departure memo. This missive–mass-sent to colleagues on one’s last day–has a simple point: You’re telling people you’re leaving. You’re letting them know how to reach you. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get carried away with this soapbox and say things that won’t help your career. Here’s how to tread carefully.


Consider individual notes

Just because you can email a lot of people at once doesn’t mean you should. The mass email also leads to that ubiquitous but already divisive opening line “As some of you may know…” Instead, send individual notes to close colleagues thanking them for your time together. Send (personalized) LinkedIn invitations to those you don’t know quite as well but want to keep in your network. One-on-one communication builds bridges in a way mass emails don’t.

Be in the right frame of mind

Leaving a job can be an emotional experience. But the only proper mindset in which to compose a departure memo is one in which you are at peace with your choices, both now and in the past. Beware even slight slips; “I’m looking forward to finally being able to put my family first” implies that your colleagues have their priorities out of whack. Listing old grievances might feel good, but that’s what non-work friends are for. Even if your colleagues agree with you, such a list won’t make you look like the sort of person anyone will want to do business with in the future.

Less is more

Thanking people by name is a nice impulse, but such a list in a mass email will inevitably exclude (and risk insulting) someone, so proceed with caution. Unless you’re a comedy writer, your rehashed office anecdotes won’t be as funny in memo format as you think they are. A few sentences about how much you’ve learned, and how excited you are about your new adventure, should suffice.

Ask a friend to read it

It never hurts to get a second set of eyes on any bit of writing that will be read broadly. First, a friend might stop you from making one of the mistakes listed above. Second, she might also notice if you’ve botched your grammar. A poorly written memo will reflect poorly on you.

About the author

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at