By Ken Hegan for The National Post

How to write the perfect goodbye email

So it’s officially a recession. Because I just got laid off.

Not from this column, mind you…I have – or rather ‘had’ – a day job.

Unfortunately, our budget got slashed which meant 5-7 job cuts. Everyone was stressed. Nobody slept well. One woman had a nightmare that the office floor swallowed her.

“We were typing away at our open-concept cubicles,” she said, “when trap doors opened up and 5-7 of us fell screaming to our doom.”

Yet somehow I figured my job was safe. Three peers were hired after me and The Boss liked my dog.

But then came The Tragic Events of June 3rd. I should have suspected something during the morning meeting in The Boss’s office. I’d been there for about five minutes (and even spoke a few times), when The Boss turned to somebody and asked, “Is Ken not in today?”

He wasn’t joking. My presence just didn’t register. Granted, I was wearing a charcoal sweater and sitting on a black couch. But no matter how you look at it, I had become part of the office furniture.

End of day, I was emptying my garbage can when Head Boss asked me to come in his office for a chat. Uh-oh. I started to say, “Is this a closed door meeting?” when he closed the door. I chuckled and said, “Are you asking me out on a date?” He didn’t smile. Then he said the recession had killed my job. To his great credit, Head Boss looked close to tears.

I was shocked. Embarrassed. Gutted. I managed to say, “I appreciate how difficult this conversation must be for you.” I thanked him for a wonderful opportunity. Shook his hand. Gathered my stuff. Then I stole someone’s yogurt on my way out.

Because more than anything, I was furious. I had performed well, worked like a maniac, ate lunch at my desk. Plus I’d been a nice guy…and sure enough, I finished last.

My bike ride home was a blur. I screamed at drivers for no reason and got into a shoving match with a jerk in a wheelchair (his fault). When I got home, my wife hugged me. Then I downed some scotch, drunk-walked my dog, and we yelled at squirrels together in the park.

The next morning, I went BACK to work —

–because my termination wasn’t effective for another week. I HAD TO WALK AMONGST THEM FOR 5 MORE DAYS like a confused ghost who refuses to accept his death.

Meanwhile, rumours were flying about who’d been pink-slipped. I silently boiled in impotent fury. Threw a water bottle across an empty room. When my annoying co-worker wasn’t looking, I sprinkled a crushed M&M under her K and H keys. I figured if I couldn’t work there, she didn’t get to type my name anymore.

I wanted to email an angry letter to the entire staff. Something that started with “See ya, suckers” and ended with personal attacks. If there are 5 Stages of Job Grief, I had skipped Denial and plunged straight into Anger. I didn’t just want to burn my bridges, I wanted to blow up my bridges with C-4 explosives.

On the bright side: whenever I’m pathetically lost, I’m not afraid to ask for directions. So before I hit ‘Send’ on a scathing email, I searched for a goodbye guru. Some wise sage who could spin my pain into gold. Maybe a layoff survival guidebook. Or perhaps I’d turn to the Bible for comfort. Or the Koran. Whatever. Anything to stop me from going postal.

Then I found the perfect guru. Dr. Melvin Luthy is Chief Editor of WriteExpress.com, which sells “4,001 prewritten Business, Sales, and Personal Letters” for all occasions. Need to dump your boyfriend by email but can’t find the words? Book an appointment with the good Doctor Luthy.

His article on resignation letters caught my eye. Entitled “Resigning Your Way to Success…Your Ticket to Good References for Future Jobs,” it makes the case for why goodbye emails must be positive. For starters, Luthy says an employee’s character is “more valuable than gold.” He says your resignation letter “will be the final document in your personnel file” so it will be “the first document seen when a future employer calls for a reference or if you reapply at your company.”

Damn. I re-read my goodbye letter. Then I deleted ‘dickwads’, ‘phonies’, and ‘scumbags’.

Dr. Luthy says your ex-coworkers “may affect (or afflict) your future life. Treat them accordingly…keep a cool head and show that you are a person of composure and style. Settling scores by venting has no place in a letter of resignation.”

Boo.

I deleted ‘suckholes’ and ‘sweat pimps’ which cut my letter in half.

Dr. Luthy says a proper goodbye email must include the following components:

– the purpose of your letter
– your regret in leaving
– positive things about your company, co-workers and your experience
– highlight your accomplishments at the company
– express gratitude for your opportunity to work at the company, plus skills and knowledge you’ve gained

I sighed and deleted ‘whores’. Then I trashed my letter and started over. Here’s what I sent instead:

“Dear co-workers:
Either my criminal record under that bogus identity finally caught up with me, or the recession nipped my job away like a dingo steals a baby. In short: I’ve been laid off.

It’s a shame. You’re a wonderful team and I’m proud of our work. For decades to come, I can look back, point to my time here, and say to the guy slumped next to me at the bar, ‘I was part of something special.”

“So what’s next? Well, besides my tireless volunteer work with unwed mothers, I’m kicking off my funemployment in Central America … flying to Belize to do some action-packed cave tubing / cliff jumping / crocodile-tagging articles for fancy pants travel magazines. Current temperature is 33 degrees & sunny with scattered clouds.”

Then I gave my contact info, “in case you want to say hi, subpoena me, share a job tip, or slap me with a paternity suit.” I also attached my bio which I encouraged them to “pass on to friends or simply use it to dab away your tears.”

I wished everyone a great summer. Finished with a heartfelt “I will miss you.” Then I hit Send, turned off my computer, stole some more yogurt, and moonwalked outta there.

— Ken Hegan

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