If saying goodbye were easy, there probably wouldn't be thousands of quotes on the subject. Telling your colleagues adios when they or you leave the company is likely to conjure up a few unpleasant feelings and awkward moments. Keeping your farewells positive and letting your colleagues -- even managers you may not see eye-to-eye with -- know that you appreciate them is the best practice.
Draft a general goodbye letter if you're the one leaving. You probably don't need to take this step if you work with only a few colleagues, but in a larger workplace, it's not feasible to meet with everyone face-to-face. Explain that you're leaving the company, say you enjoyed working with everyone, and wish them well. If your colleagues are the ones who are leaving, skip the letter and instead opt for a face-to-face farewell, keeping the same tone and theme.
Take a personal touch to those you were close with. Friendships that developed within the workplace don't deserve a sending off with a quick goodbye. Help such co-workers pack and carry their belongings out to their car, offer to take them to lunch in the upcoming week or two, and tell them you'd be happy to give them a good recommendation as a reference. For co-workers who were terminated or laid off, offer your sympathies and tell them if they need anything, you'll help out as much as you can. Mind Tools suggests saying what you'll miss about your colleagues or what you'll always remember them for, such as a co-worker's constant willingness to help you out when you were juggling too many projects.
Swap contact information with colleagues you want to stay in touch with. If you're leaving the company, you can add your phone number or personal email to the bottom of your goodbye letter and ask co-workers to send you their contact information. If you plan to keep in contact with only certain co-workers, exchange numbers or email addresses before they or you leave.
Thank your manager and supervisor. Regardless if you were fired or laid off, or even if you disliked your superiors, leaving your job or seeing your manager or supervisor leave without offering a few positive words is unprofessional. Plus, it always helps to have a professional reference in the future. Speak to your manager in person and thank her for everything that she's done. If you two shared a friendly relationship, go a step further and talk about how her management style made you look forward to coming in to work each day or how you respect the way in which she fairly handled all situations and problems.
Keep your emotions in check. Leaving the workplace or seeing your colleagues leave can turn you into an emotional wreck. Never say something you'll regret. For instance, don't trash management if a co-worker was fired, insult the company for laying off employees, or insinuate you're happy to leave such a horrible company.
Consider giving a departing co-worker a small token of appreciation. Ceridian Corporation, a company focused on human resources, and career development specialist David Roper suggest flowers or a card signed by everyone in the department as potential gifts. The gift doesn't have to be expensive or outlandish -- something small tells your colleague how much you and everyone else appreciate her.
If you're the one leaving, prepare your goodbyes before you give notice to your supervisor or manager. Some companies terminate employees immediately after receiving notice of their resignation and escort them out of the building. In most cases, you'll have the opportunity to send a mass email to your colleagues informing them of your departure, but you may not have time to write up a goodbye letter.
- In case you're not given access to your computer after you hand in your resignation, write down or send a copy of your colleagues' email addresses to your personal email beforehand.
- Never tell your colleagues goodbye before first informing your supervisor or manager of your resignation. Preparing your goodbyes is fine, but you never want your co-workers to hear about your plan to leave before your boss does.
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.