How to Write a Farewell Letter to a Person Who Is Leaving Employment

by Lisa McQuerrey

    Saying goodbye to someone you've worked with can be a challenge, particularly when you're trying to combine personal sentiment with a professional relationship. Putting your thoughts down in words is a thoughtful way to express your feelings for the individual and wish him or her well in whatever lies ahead.

    When writing a farewell letter to a colleague who is retiring, let him know you have enjoyed the opportunity to work with him. If there's anything in particular you learned from him professionally, mention that as well. End on a light note, and with good wishes. For example, you might write, “Sam, during the past several years that we've had the opportunity to work together, you've made me a better writer and a better marketing professional. I'll always remember the dictionary you gave me on my first day of work with the note that read, ‘Happy writing.’ Enjoy your sailing, golf and gardening -- you’ve earned it!”

    When someone is terminated, it can be difficult to know what to say. This is especially true if the reason for the termination was related to poor performance or behavior, or the reason is unknown. Regardless, if you friendly relationship with an individual who was terminated, a few kind words can help bolster a downtrodden spirit. Don't say anything negative about your employer in the letter. Rather, focus on your feelings and offer encouragement. For example, “Keith, I know I'm not the only person in this department who is sorry to see you go. I know this is a tough time right now, but I wish you every success and happiness in the future and know you will find it. Let me know if there's anything I can do.”

    When someone is leaving the company to take on a new professional opportunity, wishing her well in a farewell letter is a good way to say goodbye while staying connected in the event your paths cross again in the future. Offer your best wishes and encouragement. For example: “Sue, this place isn't going to be the same without you. I've enjoyed our time working together and I know you'll be a success in all your future endeavors. Please stay in touch. I’d love the opportunity to work with you again in the future.”

    If someone is leaving the job because of personal illness, or to care for a sick loved one, the parting of ways can be difficult to address. Be mindful of the circumstances when writing your farewell letter. Use language that is uplifting but still acknowledges the seriousness of the situation. For example: “Martha, I know this is a very difficult time for you and your family, and you will be in my thoughts continuously. I have always admired your tenacity and your spirit, and I know these traits will bolster you during this next phase of life. If there's anything I can do to help, please don't hesitate to ask.”

    About the Author

    Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

    Photo Credits

    • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images