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Coworkers leave: Sometimes it's surprisingly hard to say goodbye

October 7, 2022 - 12 min read

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Cultivating work relationships

Why is it important to say goodbye?

What is the best way to say farewell to a coworker?

15 ways to say farewell to a coworker

For the future: tips to consider when saying goodbye

Finding the right words or gestures when losing a colleague is challenging, at best, and a situation many of us aren’t entirely sure how to handle. Even if you weren’t close, saying farewell to a coworker is a touching gesture, and one they’re sure to appreciate. 

Anyone can say goodbye, but few know how to deliver a carefully-crafted farewell. We’re here to help. Here’s how to navigate tricky situations when losing one of your favorite or even your less-than-favorite colleagues.

Cultivating work relationships

Nothing makes saying goodbye to a coworker you’ve come to appreciate any easier. You spend countless hours building good working relationships with your team members, and then they’re gone. 

Even if they landed their dream job and you’re excited for them, it’s normal to feel a little down. Losing a friend at work isn’t easy, after all. But it’s a good habit and a compassionate move to say your goodbyes and put some thought into it. 

Goodbyes are a part of any work (or life) experience and it’s the perfect opportunity to wish your favorite colleague — or the one who can be difficult to work with — your best as they embark on their next adventure.

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Why is it important to say goodbye?

Everyone wants to feel appreciated, to get a sense that they left a mark on a place before navigating the offboarding process and moving on to a new role.

Aside from the importance of maintaining professional relationships, saying goodbye gives a sense of closure, both to you and the colleague leaving. It’s here that you get a chance to express gratitude for all this person has done. It’s a final opportunity to express how grateful you are for what they brought to the team or to you, personally. 

Studies have shown that people who get a proper sendoff have an easier, more positive transition into their new role. Saying goodbye to friends at work, as it turns out, is actually one of the best things you can do to start a new job off on the right foot. And you owe it to our colleagues to set them up for success.

coworkers-talking-at-office-farewell-to-a-coworker

What is the best way to say farewell to a coworker?

People like to know hard work is appreciated. Whether delivering on a team project, displaying strong leadership skills, or going above and beyond on a specific task, these are things you should acknowledge. When thinking through what to say when someone leaves a job, recognizing what they’ve accomplished or how they’ve inspired you is a safe place to start.

Finding the best way to express your goodbye might seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Here are four ways to extend your farewell message that are both professional and moving:

1. Send a card or gift

A simple farewell card or gift says a lot. You have the opportunity to write a little farewell note of your own or have other coworkers join in. It's also a nice keepsake for the departing coworker. They can take it with them wherever they go next, and it'll remind them of their time at your company.

A card or farewell gift is handy for coworkers who you might not know very well. It doesn't have to be ultra-personalized, but it still sends a message of gratitude — especially if your whole team contributes.

woman-writing-a-letter-farewell-to-a-coworker

2. Say it in person

You want to say your goodbye in person if the coworker is someone special to you. Sharing a farewell message to a coworker in private often reflects your relationship; it's personal. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and share how you feel about them leaving, but avoid making the conversation about you. This is a difficult time for them. Don’t let your feelings overwhelm the exchange.

3. Throw a farewell party

Put together some decorations and order a cake. Get your colleagues together to laugh and reflect on this person’s time with the company. Unwind. Relax. And above all else, enjoy your time together. It’s these moments you’ll miss most when they’re gone.

goodbye-party-at-the-office-farewell-to-a-coworker

Whether at the office in the break room, restaurant, or local pub, get a few friends together and celebrate their departure. If you work remotely, a group Zoom or virtual game night will let you connect from afar. Send them off with positive memories of your time together.

4. Send an email or message

Remote work environments require you to get creative. Maybe you can't come together in person, but you can still wish your coworker the best. A farewell email or Slack message is a solid alternative to meeting face-to-face, but you can also arrange a video call if you’re close.

You can also fire off a personal email. There’s nothing wrong with dropping a few paragraphs in someone’s inbox detailing what you enjoyed about your time together and what you’ll miss when they’re gone. It’s also a great way to exchange contact information to keep in touch.

15 ways to say farewell to a coworker

When pondering how to say goodbye to coworkers, you don’t need to get too creative. These situations are all about expressing your feelings and wishing someone well, not showy gestures. Brevity tends to be more impactful in emotional situations. 

If you’re stuck, here are 15 messages you can tweak for your departing colleague. 

  1. "I'm going to miss seeing you around the office. I wish you all the best with your new company and future endeavors!"
  2. "Good luck with your new job! You were always such a great team member to have around and work with. I'll miss your positive attitude and funny stories."
  3. "Thank you for being such an important part of our team these past few years. We couldn't have accomplished what we did without you!"
  4. "Your new job is lucky to have such a hard worker like yourself. Your problem-solving skills taught me a lot about the industry and inspired me to improve my own. We will miss you!"
  5. "Great leaders like yourself impact their workplace, and it's obvious that you’ve touched a lot of people. Thank you for your dedication and hard work."
  6. "I'll never forget how patient and understanding you were with me when I first started working here. I appreciate your kindness throughout the years and your dedication to employee well-being. Take care!"
  7. "Working with a team member like you was so eye-opening — I learned a ton. Good luck with your new position. I know you'll teach them many important things like you did here!"
  8. "I'll always think of you when we have problems with Zoom because you were always the person to call for tech help! Thank you for being a wonderful presence. I wish you good luck moving forward."
  9. "Great team members like yourself make working the overnight shift easier! Thanks for all your help."
  10. "Take care of yourself. I can't wait to see what you do in the next chapter of your career! All the best."
  11. "I'll miss you when I take my lunch breaks. You always knew how to cheer me up and keep morale high."
  12. "You've been an incredible mentor to me this last year, and I'll always appreciate the time you took to help me understand things and grow. I'll miss you."
  13. "Being desk buddies with you has taught me a lot! I'm grateful for your strong work ethic and inspiration. Thank you for all the great times."
  14. "Keep up all the awesome work at your new job! I know you'll continue to motivate others to reach their goals and be a positive role model. We’ll miss your kindness."
  15. "Your fearless leadership guided us through challenging moments, and you always ensured everyone's mental health was OK. Thank you, and I'll miss you dearly."

couple-of-coworkers-laughing-farewell-to-a-coworker

For the future: tips to consider when saying goodbye

Saying farewell to a coworker isn’t easy. Our colleagues often make meaningful contributions to our lives, even if we’ve only known them for a short time. These are the people outside our immediate family or roommates we spend the most time with, after all.

When wishing a colleague farewell, here are a few final considerations.

  • Keep your message positive and uplifting
  • Exchange contact information, like phone numbers or LinkedIn profiles, to keep in touch
  • Don't craft a message that’s too long or off-topic
  • Don't be afraid to be vulnerable

Regardless of what you say or how you say it, your soon-to-be former coworker will appreciate you taking the time to reach out. So don’t be shy — send your best wishes with that farewell message.

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Published October 7, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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