24 February 2009

E-mail etiquette: f-you or miss you?

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: work

This morning the TODAY show and RedEye both hit on a topic I found very interesting: the tone of your “goodbye e-mail” if you’ve been let go from a job

Note: I have not been let go from my job nor do I have any plans to leave. But as layoffs become more of a reality for some, this issue did catch my attention.
Most of the goodbye e-mails I’ve received are the standard, cordial, “I’ll miss working with everyone here,” type of e-mail, but there have been a few with a more biting, bitter tone. And I shook my head while reading them.
Hey, I’ve been let go from a job, I know the feeling of anger and resentment that you feel in that moment when you are suddenly losing your income for the foreseeable future. I’ve been more than tempted to tell my co-workers to go f*ck themselves and that they are all d-bags, but I didn’t.
And I didn’t do that for one reason: I might need something from them again. And really, in many industries, it’s a small world and that stuff isn’t forgotten.
There is nothing worse than telling someone off, only to run into them again when you need something from them. And the momentary thrill of leaving with your middle finger extended wears off shortly after and you can’t take it back.
So while some may not resent sending off a brutally honest e-mail, I don’t have the guts to do it and I don’t think I would even if I did have the
What about everyone else? What kind of e-mail would you send out: cordial or brutally honest? Or, if you’ve been let go from a job, what kind did you send?


  1. EP says:

    I don’t think sending out an eff you e-mail to co-workers would ever be productive. Even though a lot of us have been burned more than once at our workplaces, I’d like to think that we can end things cordially. (And think all the awful things we want to say instead.)

  2. LBluca77 says:

    Unless I win the lotto I would never send out an email that could come back and bite you in the butt.

  3. MissAudrey says:

    When I got laid off, I got escorted from my desk, while the rest of the staff was in a separate meeting room. Really wish I had forgotten my company laptop and phone that day, as they were abruptly confiscated. Seriously felt like a felon, it was bananas! So yeah, no time for email, but the people I needed/wanted to stay in contact with, I did. And still do.

  4. Jaxie Fantastic says:

    I actually just got laid off yesterday… and they didn’t give us a chance to say much to anyone. I emailed one of my friends that was still with the company and had her pass out my personal info to others.

    If I’d been given the opportunity, I would never burn bridges. I’d send something nice out, then go home and bitch about it in my blog.

  5. I’m not sure I’d send anything, but I guess if I did it would be a “here’s how to contact me” kind of thing. Let the people whom you’ll miss know you’ll miss them and leave everyone else out of it. You may have a right to be bitter, but be bitter around your friends.

  6. joralv84 says:

    Oh, and as a result of being fired, I’ve decided to move. And as though I’m Big and Rich: I’m comin… to your cit-ay!

    … And yes, I’m so excited about it I am quoting Big and Rich on random blogs.

  7. Got fired last month. I sent a mass email, but with personalized notes for each person I worked with. I dug deep to try and think of that little inside joke I shared with each person.

    I wasn’t really sure what to do with the management, if I should send them a letter or anything. I’d like to say thanks for the opportunity, not burn the bridge, but… they fired me, so what good would their reference do?

  8. Maris says:

    I sent the mass email that says “it’s been real. xoxo, maris” when i left my first job. just as a friendly gesture. i wrote handwritten notes to the people i worked closely with. but i left on nice terms. if i’d been let go i would probably just contact close colleagues individuallly.

  9. P says:

    I think if you HAVE to have a go, don’t do it in writing. Then there’s evidence of it!

  10. heels says:

    I totally agree with you. I think that you need to stay cordial no matter what. Even if you want to lash out, you are always bound to run into people again, whether it’s socially or professionally. Burning bridges is never a good choice.

  11. heels says:

    I totally agree with you. I think that you need to stay cordial no matter what. Even if you want to lash out, you are always bound to run into people again, whether it’s socially or professionally. Burning bridges is never a good choice.

  12. Kate says:

    My favorite was the book-length e-mail a co-worker sent to all 700+ employees in our Chicago and Amarillo, TX offices. It was an in-depth account of how God saved her son and it was a miracle, etc., etc. I still have no idea what it had to do with the fact that it was her last day. Early the next morning, the e-mail was recalled.

    Incidentally, the recall function may be the dumbest e-mail function ever.

  13. Katelin says:

    i would definitely send a cordial goodbye email not a bitter one at all. because hey i mean what if i need a recommendation letter from them for my next job. that and i don’t think i’d be too bitter, but who knows.

  14. Lil' Woman says:

    I would def. be cordial but probably would only send it to people I worked in close contact with, not a mass email.

  15. Miss Grace says:

    I left my last job primarily because of some serious issues that came up when a new manager was promoted over our department. My goodbye email was perfectly cordial, but I didn’t pull any punches in my exit interview. I felt it was important that HR know exactly why I was leaving, especially as I still held the company in fairly high regard.

  16. Cheryl says:

    Cordial. Assuming I’m doing a mass email. There is no good from burning bridges. You can just get screwed. And in the end, you have to act in your own interest for the long run.

  17. I saw that segment too! That woman who wrote the nasty e-mail really shot herself in the foot.

    I could never do that! Like you said, you never know when you will need something from your former company. Plus e-mail gets around, and a nasty gram could haunt you for the rest of your career.

  18. laurwilk says:

    I work in a very small office so I would never need to send a mass email. I’d prefer to not do that ever and instead just say my goodbyes to those who need to know. I would always be cordial. I’m a wuss.

    We all seem to be worried about burning bridges but what if that isn’t your concern? I’m thinking of like a 50 year old exec who has certainly proved her/himself in the field and is being let go so that some analyst kid can do the same job for a quarter of the cost. What would we do then?

  19. Jamie says:

    Cordial. Probably. I would likely do a lot of pissed off venting and threatening to burn the place down on the side, but my email would be cordial! :)

  20. Nelle says:

    I’d say cordial. As pissed off as you may be, you don’t necessarily want to burn bridges in the work place either. It might turn around and bite you in the ass someday.

  21. Deutlich says:

    burning bridges is just a bad – bad idea.

  22. I’d send a cordial message. What’s the use in venting your anger like that anyway?

  23. Daisy says:

    Definitely a nice one- there’s nothing worse than leaving the office like Jerry McGuire in cloud of shame! Plus, you’re right, these are the people you are going to need to contact for references for your next job- it’s just such a bad idea to burn bridges like that. Good topic!

  24. Kimberly says:

    Our network access is killed as we’re being laid off so there is no opportunity to do such things.

    However, during the 2 rounds of layoffs last year I had a thank-you email to offsite coworkers (server support staff, other offices, etc) composed so all I’d have to do is hit “send” if the HR person tapped me on the shoulder.

    I survived both rounds. Maybe that email’s a good luck charm!

  25. Jules says:

    Someone at Hubby’s job just got fired (and he needed to, he was skipping meetings, etc) but he sent out the nicest email E-VAH! Hubby was so impressed he wondered if the company did the wrong thing (even after he had complained about the guy for a year). It CAN change people’s opinions.

  26. I would still try to be more personal about it – I know it’s archaic in thought but preferred nonetheless…

  27. SoMi's Nilsa says:

    I guess my question would be, why would you write a mass email at all? If you can’t take the time to write personalized emails (either before or after your departure), then do those people really need to hear from you at all?

    Having said that, never burn bridges. Whether emailing one person at a time or to a group as a whole. People won’t soon forget and you will likely run into these people again.

  28. SA says:

    Want to do: big honest f you email

    Would I do: cordial

    Like you said, you never know when you need these people for a future job, whether as a reference or maybe they’ll be the person who’s going to hire you next. You should never burn any bridges.

    Plus, I’m too much of a wuss for the big honest email.

  29. cavy says:

    i left a “thank you for everything” note on my desktop for my coworkers to read at the end of my internship. it was well-received, but i don’t think i’d send an email after being let go. too much could go wrong!

    and i agree, burning bridges is NEVER an option.

  30. A Super Girl says:

    If I’m being let go from a job (a fate I will personally find out within the next month), I don’t think they’ll ALLOW me to send an e-mail. We’re a pack your box and leave kind of operation. And I think in the case of layoffs, most companies would be that way because they know the negativity that would rain down.

    However, I’ve sometimes thought of the e-mail I’d write if I’m voluntarily leaving. And there would be no bridges burned. Because I enjoy the job and the people I work with and in a situation like that, there are no ill feelings.

  31. LJ says:

    cordial you never know when you may need a contact from that job to get a new job. Usually if you are planning on sticking in the same field you will likely run into the people you possible send the email to again.

  32. Mandy says:

    I’ve never dealt with this and for me personally probably wouldnt send a group email.

    I have learned though from others experiences that is a very small world. Burning bridges is never a good idea.

  33. Hi! I'm Erin says:

    I’m still new to the whole “everyone at work has email” thing so I’m unsure of what I would do in that situation. Honestly, probably not send an email at all. To anyone. Depending on what IS/IT does with my email account, I’d just put up an “out of office” message saying I’d left the company and any questions should be direct to….

    At least, that’s what I did when I moved on (voluntarily) from my last job. That place was a gossip mill so pretty much anyone who needed to know I was leaving knew within two days of me giving my notice.

  34. Allison M. says:

    That chick had major balls. She thought about it over the weekend and still sent it out.

    Me, nope, I wouldn’t.

  35. Pam says:

    Hmm interesting question. Five of my coworkers were laid off a couple weeks ago and 2 of them sent out a mass email. One of them ended with “take care of yourselves and take care of each other” and it was really nice to read. Though she was one of my favorite coworkers so it made me really sad, too.

    I think if it was me, I’d send out something short and sweet. I don’t know, though. Tough question. I hope I never have to go through that!

    Oh! And I just nominated you for an award. Check it out on my blog!

  36. you know i’ve never sent out an email of that sort and depending on the situation i would have to see how i would handle it.

    but i do follow the rule that it’s best to wait a day to send an email if you are fired up. that works for blog posts too!

  37. Maxie says:

    When I left my last job I sent out an email that was part miss you, part funny. It had jokes that 99% of the company would get.

    The thing that bugged me SO MUCH is when people would send out emails with inside jokes to everyone. no one got them! it was just awkward.

  38. I have never had the opportunity to send an e-mail of that sort, and given the opportunity, I would definitely take the high road (and probably not send a mass note at all).

    My employer does an “exit interview” on paper, so all grievances can be aired there without the intimidation of telling your boss or some HR suit what they’re doing wrong.

  39. Kyla Bea says:

    When I've left workplaces it was a common thing to send a "Thanks!" e-mail to everyone, and I've done it at my last two jobs. I would definitely write thank you cards to my senior managers & the owners, but I also e-mailed everyone quickly informing them of my personal e-mail so they can find me if they need to.

    At my last position about two months ago a girl did the massive bridge burning. We had a huge good bye party for her, she spoke and cried, said how much she loved the place, then went into her office, hit send and left. When we went back to our desks there was an "F-U" e-mail sent to the whole staff, our major supporters, key business contacts, and members of the media. It was horrifying.

    I think that how you say goodbye has a lot to do with corporate culture, but what my ex-coworker did wasn't just burning bridges, it was torching neighbouring towns and that reputation will definitely follow you.

  40. Blaez says:

    edit: i should say January before last… 2008 I was laid off not 2009.

  41. Blaez says:

    when i was laid off last january i decided not to go the email route and visited each person i felt i had a connection with. i waited until i had my car packed and all i had was my purse.

    it was very emotional and the tears were flowing freely from everyone i said good-bye to.

    i’m very happy i didn’t say good bye via email and kept it personal.

  42. I wouldn’t send an email. Perhaps to a supervisor(s) saying I enjoyed being with Company and wish them well etc, but I wouldn’t send out an email to everyone.

    And I know this girl who burned a MAJOR bridge by telling off basically THE GUY who has every connection in the field she is in within the state and now she can’t get a job.