Elegant Exits

April 28th, 2009

If you are losing or leaving your job, think carefully before hitting send on that clever, critical or complaining email blast.

Words written hastily can have an unintended and long term impact on your future career moves.
Consider this:  the last thing you do or say is the first thing your contacts and colleagues will remember about you.

Recently, I had the honor of being interviewed on NPR’s morning show “The Takeaway” on the topic of how to write a proper goodbye email when leaving a position. Three different email samples were presented: one edgy and humorous, one trashing the former boss, and one gracious thank you to all former colleagues. You can hear the program on the link above.
While it is tempting to vent and dump in a parting shot, remember that what you wrote can go viral and put  your career into the dumpster!  Emails can remain in the system and follow you many months later after you are over your loss and ready to move on.  A cute comment about wanting to enter a monastery or a negative comment about your former boss can be found and forwarded to a potential employer at the most inopportune moment of your re-entry.
Clearly, elegance is the way to go!

Here are some tips for an elegant exit message:

Open your communication with gratitude for the work you have achieved and years you have had the honor to serve the employer. This is a good place to mention briefly a few of your achievements while there.

Give the basic facts of your departure.  Create a simple business-based (not personal) reason for leaving statement consistent with your former organization’s statement (cut backs, restructuring, redirection, merger, etc).

Provide information about how you can be reached.  Offer to be in touch so you will not unduly burden your former colleagues.

If you don’t know what you will be doing next, resist the impulse to say something that may be misconstrued as lacking professional commitment.  Indicate you are putting some thoughts together about your next career step.

Thank your co-workers.  Remember, they are suffering from a  loss as well.

Above all, keep negative comments and emotion out of your communications.

Before you send your exit email, save it in draft and go back later to review it with the eyes of your most important readers. If in doubt use this measure:  Would you want your content to appear on the front page of The Wall Street Journal?

These steps will enable you to behave in exiting the way you want to be known and remembered:  with dignity and self-worth.

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