There’s a good chance you’ve seen some turnover around the office, what with retirement or changes in family situation. Not to mention the findings in a Pew Research Center study1https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/03/09/majority-of-workers-who-quit-a-job-in-2021-cite-low-pay-no-opportunities-for-advancement-feeling-disrespected/ where 63% cited low pay and lack of advancement, and 57% cited feeling disrespected at work as factors causing people to leave their jobs.
So how do you decide which people should get a farewell message, when to send it, and most importantly, what to say?
Let’s dive in!
Why Send A Farewell Message To A Colleague?
Leaving a job can be an emotional rollercoaster—we’ve all been there. A farewell message offers some much-needed emotional support, letting your departing colleague know that they will be missed and that their time at the company was meaningful.
It’s like a virtual hug but without the awkwardness of coordinating when to let go.
No matter what the situation—retiring, being laid off, or moving up for a promotion—your colleague is about to start something new. In many cases, it’s something they’ve never done before.
What could be better than a little boost to their self-esteem to help them through that transition? It turns out research has found that most people underestimate the positive impact2https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/014616722094900 their complement can have on others.
There are a variety of other reasons to send a message, including:
- Acknowledging and showing appreciation for their contributions and achievements.
- Offering a sense of closure for both the departing colleague and the remaining team members.
- Ending their time on a positive note by reflecting on good memories and taking advantage of the recency effect3https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/recency-effect#:~:text=The%20recency%20effect%20is%20a,exist%20in%20a%20juror’s%20memory., where people have a cognitive bias towards the most recent information presented.
- I wish them good luck on the new opportunity and their next phase of life.
- Creating an opportunity to stay in touch for potential future networking opportunities and passing along non-work contact information.
And what are the occasions that justify a farewell message? There may be more than you think:
- Changing jobs or departments within the same organization. Just because they are staying with the company, a new position means new responsibilities and a new group of people to get to know.
- Leaving for a new company
- Health reasons or other extended time away—such as maternity or paternity leave. Leaving for health or family reasons can be daunting or even scary, and it’s nice to know there is someone in their corner.
Farewell Message Template
If you need to send a farewell message right away, you can use this template below (or see our tips for how to customize it).
It’s been so great working with you these last few years. It’s a bittersweet farewell, but I’m so excited for you, embarking on a new chapter! I’m going to miss [honest compliment of something you appreciate about them]. It may have been a small thing for you, but it really meant a lot when [something they did for you].
I hope you know how amazing you are at [specific skill]. I’m sure it’s a skill your new company is going to benefit from greatly. I’d love to hear how things are going at your new job! Feel free to reach out any time at my personal email: [email address]
You’ve been such a valuable asset here; you will make a huge impact as [their next role].
The Mechanics Of Writing A Message
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you start writing your message.
Pick a writing style.
The way you choose to write will most likely depend on the relationship you had with the coworker who is leaving.
- Formal: Best suited to those who only know you in a professional capacity, especially if you’re not sure what type of humor they appreciate.
- Casual: For those friends with whom you had a more casual relationship, either in the office or who you saw socially outside office hours.
- Humorous: This can be used to great effect if you know the type of humor they enjoy, and it can be included in any message, regardless of the style, but should always be kept appropriate.
Keep it short
Mark Twain famously said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
It’s tempting to start writing and then just keep going for fear of leaving something out. In many cases, though, just the fact that you cared enough to send a message will probably be what the other person remembers in the long run, not what you said.
Many, even those who write professionally4https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1046878120954567, struggle to write concisely. A concise message is more about the editing process than what you write initially.
To practice writing concisely and making it more impactful, give yourself enough time to write a draft.
Give yourself enough time to step away from your draft and come back later with fresh eyes to check for spelling or grammar mistakes and make sure the tone is correct for the message you’d like to send.
Keep it positive
Not every farewell message you send will be to a coworker you loved seeing every day. And for those you will miss, it may be tempting to describe in detail how miserable you’ll be without them.
Remember, the purpose of a farewell message is to offer support and encouragement to a colleague who is moving into a new phase of life.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Focus on the positive.
- Be genuine and truthful. Research shows that individuals can identify insincerity5https://www.jstor.org/stable/43828885 in both spoken and written forms.
- Set aside grudges.
- Keep the attention on the other person rather than how their departure will affect you.
Even if someone wasn’t necessarily nice while working together at one point during time spent together as colleagues (or even friends), try not to let old grudges get in the way of saying goodbye properly.
By staying focused on the positive, you can leave a good, lasting impression, keep it professional, and allow for the possibility that conflicts from the past can be amicably set aside.
9 Steps To Writing A Farewell Message
When it comes to how to structure a farewell message, it’s entirely possible (and, in some cases, recommended) to write an entire message in 6 sentences. Using the templates below, choose one meaningful, heartfelt sentence from each category, and then just sign your name.
- The warm greeting
Start with a simple, friendly greeting. If you’re at a loss for something clever, start with their name or a good, old-fashioned:
- “Dear [Colleague]”
For something just a little more dynamic, try:
- “Hey there, [Colleague]!” or
- “To the Office [a flattering thing they were known for].”
- Start with a farewell.
As you offer congratulations, get the elephant out of the way. They know they are leaving, you know they are leaving, you can start just saying it.
- “Congratulations on the new role, but I’m sure going to miss you swinging by to say hi every morning on your way to get coffee!”
- “It’s a bittersweet farewell, but I’m so excited for you, embarking on a new chapter!”
- “Bon voyage, friend! It won’t be the same around here without your infectious energy.”
- “It’s been great working with you these last few years.”
It’s important to keep the message upbeat and supportive. Even if they are leaving you with a pile of work strewn about your office from their desk, now is not the time to make them feel guilty for leaving.
- Go ahead and reminisce.
If you’re taking the time to write a farewell message, you probably have some good memories of your time with them. After all, some people spend up to a third of their lives6https://www.freshbooks.com/hub/productivity/how-many-hours-does-the-average-person-work#:~:text=It%20has%20been%20estimated%20that,average%20hours%20per%20week%20worked. alongside their coworkers.
Consider talking about any of the following that apply to your relationship:
- Shared projects that were great (or not so great). If there were funny moments while working together, include those details here! It’s good practice because it shows people how much fun it was, even though things ended up going south anyway.
- Inside jokes that developed over your time together
- Their achievements and milestones that they can be proud of.
- Memorable moments like team outings or office parties you both attended.
- Special traditions they created or contributed to.
- For more topic ideas, check out How to Talk With Coworkers (and Have Meaningful Conversations). Offer sincere thanks.
Chances are, there is something your coworker has taught you during your time together. Offer sincere appreciation for the positive impact they’ve made in your life.
- Ways they supported you
“Thanks for always going to bat for me when it came time for my annual review. I know you put a lot of work into those reports that kept getting me raises.”
- Moments they were a mentor for you professionally or personally
“I have you to thank for my promotion. I don’t know where I’d be without your encouragement (and ruthless nagging to make sure I turned in the paperwork…) 🙂”
- Kind gestures you remember, no matter how small.
“You may not remember this, but during my first week in the office, you sent me an email with a gold star for having jumped in headlong to help host a 200-person conference. I can’t tell you how encouraging it was, especially when I felt I’d made many mistakes.”
For more ideas of compliments you can offer, check out 150 Best Positive Compliments For Praising Someone Anywhere.
- Remind them why they are amazing.
As we’ve discussed, upending one’s life to start something new can be scary and sometimes overwhelming, even when you know it’s the right thing. Give your friend a little boost to remind them of the positive, unique qualities that they are taking with them to their new phase of life.
- “Being with you is like a happy little vacation.”
- “You’re an inspiration! I’ve always admired how you are able to talk so easily with strangers. You seem to walk into a room with strangers and out of the room with friends!”
- “I’m going to miss your insights at kickoff meetings—your comments were often the catalyst for some of the most creative conversations. I’m sure it’s a skill your new company is going to benefit from greatly.”
- Offer to stay in contact.
In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell says, “The more acquaintances you have, the more powerful you are.” Acquaintances, to clarify, are not close friends and colleagues; they are people you know who inhabit different social circles than you do.
In the professional world, keeping even occasional contact with acquaintances can translate directly to future opportunities. Statistics show that 85% of open job positions7https://financesonline.com/networking-statistics/ are filled through networking, and 60% of people have gotten a job through their network.
So, as you are wishing your colleague all the best in their next phase of life, make sure they know how to stay in touch with you.
- “Even though we won’t be desk neighbors, I’d still love to hear how things are going at your new job! Feel free to reach out any time at my personal email: [email address].”
- “I fully expect to keep in touch during basketball season so I can trounce you in the March Madness bracket!”
- “I know you’re going to be slammed with your new little guy, but I’d love to reach out in a few months for lunch to hear all about your new adventures in fatherhood.”
- I wish them well in future endeavors.
To wrap up, offer your departing coworker a goodbye message specific to their next adventure.
- “This next chapter of starting your own business is such a big step—I know you’ll rock it!”
- “You’ve been such a valuable asset here; you’re going to make a huge impact as a team lead—Sending my best wishes to you.”
- “After all these years of dedication to your career, you deserve a fantastic retirement and finally enjoy spending time with your grandkids at your cabin—without worrying about checking your emails.”
Your signoff can be as simple as your name with a farewell that feels appropriate to your personality and the tone of the message:
- “Until we meet again,”
- “All the best,”
- “Wishing you well,”
- “Farewell for now,”
- “Stay in touch,”
For more ideas, look at 51 Best Email Sign-Offs Guaranteed to Make You Stand Out.
- Follow Up
For those colleagues you will miss and want to see, don’t forget to follow up.
Start by writing down a goal to reach out again. Simply writing down a plan makes you 33% more likely to achieve it! Make a note or set an event in your calendar to reach out between one and three months after your coworker leaves.
Be aware that during the first month8https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/starting-new-job/new-job-guide, they will be heavily involved in trying to learn their role and the dynamics of their new life.
That one- to three-month window is where your friend is likely to be just starting to settle into daily work but may be slowing down on their learning curve9https://professionalleadershipinstitute.com/resources/learning-curve/ and could use some encouragement.
Consider calling, sending an email, or texting around the one-month mark of their departure:
- “Hey [Friend’s Name], it’s been a month! How’s the new job vibe? Let’s plan a coffee catch-up to celebrate your success!”
- “One month into the adventure—spill the beans! How’s the new job treating you?”
- “Time flies! I’m curious how you’re settling in at your new workplace. Let’s catch up soon!”
- “Have you become the office [mention a strength of theirs] pro already? I’d love to hear how it’s going at your new job.”
- “Hey, superstar! How’s your new job shaping up? Share some office tales—I’m all ears!”
What Not To Say In A Farewell Message
We’ve touched on a few of these already, but keep in mind a few things to steer clear of in your message:
- Negative comments about your colleague’s personality or work with the company. If you can’t find anything nice to say, reconsider writing a message.
- Criticism, even constructive criticism, has no place in a farewell message.
- Apologies. While it may seem like this is your last chance to clear the air, keep the farewell message focused on the other person and their future success.
- Overly emotional or dramatic statements, phrases including “always” and “never,” should be reworked into something positive and realistic.
Remember, the goal of a farewell message is to express appreciation, well-wishes, and positive sentiments.
Keep the message respectful, professional, and focused on the colleague’s contributions and impact during their time with the team. By doing so, you can create a meaningful and uplifting farewell message that leaves a positive impression on the departing colleague and others.
How Well Should I Know Someone To Send Them a Farewell Message?
What you say and how you present it depends on the nature of the relationship you have with the colleague. A good rule of thumb is to communicate with your coworkers in the way you most commonly contacted them previously. For someone you spoke to regularly, a face-to-face conversation would be most fitting. On the other hand, when the tech person you only ever talked to via email announces their departure, a heartfelt email is sufficient.
I still remember the head of the makeup department from the first feature film I worked on. The project was only three weeks long, but on the last day, she passed out handwritten, personalized cards to each member of the crew, saying how much she enjoyed working on the project.
Not only do I remember her better than most of the members of the crew, but I’ve also reached out several times since when I needed a make-up artist for other projects. That one card has kept us in contact professionally for years now.
Only 2 in 1010https://apnews.com/article/workplace-friendships-poll-relationships-best-friends-office-faa0858e623e78c70e6f7eb02c55c7f1 US employees say they have a “best friend” at work. So what do you do about ALL your other coworkers?
Like someone from another department you only spoke to occasionally on business matters?
Or the coworker who you met recently who will be off on extended family leave?
A good question to ask yourself is, “Can I find something nice to say about them that they may appreciate hearing?
If the answer is yes, send a message!
Taking the time to send a farewell message is a great way to show that you are invested in the positive culture of your company. Over time, that type of engagement and work ethic will become obvious to your boss and team.
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We’ll cover how to deliver your message in more detail shortly!
How to Deliver A Farewell Message
Face-to-face is the most powerful method of communication and the best way to deliver a farewell message. After all, 90% of communication11https://online.utpb.edu/about-us/articles/communication/how-much-of-communication-is-nonverbal/#:~:text=The%2090%25%20figure%20wasn’t,%2C%20and%207%25%20words%20only. is non-verbal! It’s also the best way for your own personality to come through sincerely.
I recently performed in a community theatre musical. Before the start of the show, the director would pick three people to highlight in the cast pre-show huddle. Even more than hearing people say nice things about me, I loved having the chance to tell my cast mates how they had made an impact in my life.
If your coworker is the type who enjoys a good party, you can consider putting together a celebration in their honor. (Before you go all gung-ho, thinking a party is the perfect thing, consider if it’s what they really want or if you think it would be cool. In fact, check out Advanced Tips for Extroverts: How to Harness Extroversion before any party planning).
If face-to-face isn’t an option, consider retaining that same ability to communicate non-verbally by sending a video message with your good wishes.
In a world where the average person receives 121 emails12https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/shocking-truth-about-how-many-emails-sent/#:~:text=At%20a%20personal%20level%2C%20DMR,of%20value%20to%20the%20recipient. per day, consider writing a handwritten note. Handwritten notes are still one of the best ways to send a heartfelt goodbye.
Of course, if none of the other options are feasible for time or resource reasons, you can always send an email or a text. Remember, any act of kindness, no matter how small it feels, can have numerous health benefits13https://www.apa.org/news/apa/kindness-mental-health, including improved mood and lower stress levels.
In addition to any of those options, you can also consider giving a gift. It could be:
- Practical for their new phase of life.
- A sentimental reminder of your time together.
- Something lighthearted and fun that makes them smile.
Keanu Reeves14https://www.huffpost.com/entry/keanu-reeves-john-wick-chapter-4-stunt-performers-gift_n_6425c007e4b01284198bf7b8 is known for being a great gift-giver. Yes, he’s the one that gives his crew Rolex watches, which is cool. But he also took the time to choose a personalized message to inscribe on the back of each watch.
After filming “John Wick: Chapter 4”, Reeves presented the stunt crew with custom t-shirts featuring the number of times they were “killed.” It was a big part of the filming, and some actors performed as many as 20 death scenes.
While having vast resources to give gifts is nice, it really is the thought that makes them special. 200+ Unique and Thoughtful Employee Appreciation Gift Ideas has oodles of ideas to get you started!
When To Send Your Farewell Message
If your colleague has given a notice period before leaving, it’s best to send the farewell message before their last day at work. Ideally, you would deliver your message in the few days before their final departure.
This gives them some breathing room to enjoy all the heartfelt messages and sentiments without feeling rushed or overwhelmed on their final workday.
Unless you have a social relationship with your colleague outside the office, try to send a farewell message during regular working hours. Generally, 3:00-5:00 p.m. are the least productive15https://www.deputy.com/blog/employee-productivity-survey hours of the workday and would be a time when your colleague may especially appreciate a reason to take a break to enjoy your message.
If it’s a physical card or a group gathering, make sure delivering it aligns with your colleague’s schedule and preferences. We don’t want to trap them in an awkward “surprise” party.
Which raises a good point: Always remember to respect your departing colleague’s wishes. If they express a preference against a formal gathering, share your message privately. If they’ve mentioned they’re uncomfortable with hearing others talk about them in public, share your thoughts in a card or email.
You get the idea…
Bonus: If You’re The One Leaving
What if you’re the one leaving the office? Generally, the same rules apply, but for slightly different reasons.
- Keep the focus on your coworkers. Since you’ll no longer be seeing them on a regular basis, sending a farewell message can leave a positive final impression.
- If you are giving notice, sending out farewell messages several days before you leave gives people some time to process the news and respond without feeling rushed.
- If you prefer, sending a farewell on your last day is a good way to share memories and offer a final goodbye on a positive note.
- Include a way for coworkers to contact you in the future since your business accounts will be closed eventually.
The Art Of Saying Farewell
Saying goodbye to a coworker may be just a formality or a fundamental shift to your daily life. Either way, being able to express a concise, heartfelt farewell takes some time and preparation. Here are some things to remember as you get started.
- Occasions that justify a farewell message include changing jobs within the same organization, leaving for a new company, retirement, or health-related reasons.
- Saying goodbye to a departing colleague is essential, especially when you share a close working relationship. Express gratitude for their friendship, support, and positive impact on your professional growth.
- Farewell messages offer emotional support during the transition, boosting their self-esteem and leaving a positive, lasting impression. Reflect on shared challenges, triumphs, and memorable moments, creating a sense of closure and appreciation for their contributions.
- Knowing someone well is not a prerequisite for sending a farewell message. Suppose you can find something nice to say about them; go ahead and send a message to show your support.
- Tips for writing a farewell message: Choose a style that matches your relationship, keep it concise, stay positive, and offer genuine appreciation for its impact.
- Delivering the message can be done in person, through video, or a handwritten note, depending on your relationship and resources.
- If you’re the one leaving, consider sending farewell messages to your coworkers before your last day or on your final day, leaving a positive final impression.
Do you want to make sure your employees have great reasons to stay? Read 30 Fun Ways to Make Employees Feel Valued & Appreciated for ideas to boost employee productivity and retention!
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