Leaving a job? Watch your e-mails

With more and more Americans downsized or leaving a job, sending the "good bye" e-mail has become standard procedure. It use to be that the boss would send a memo or make an announcement at a meeting that an employee was leaving, but now the person leaving has additional technology to say good bye.

For some, this is a chance to be clever and leave with a little humor. That's exactly what Jim Neill from the National Association of Manufacturers did when he sent around a farewell e-mail announcing "Free food in the employee lounge." Others use their farewell message to leave on good terms or fish for some job leads. Such a message is usually crafted with praise for their employer and then distributed to co-workers with a resume attached in hopes of finding a new job.

But for some, the farewell e-mail is used to rant about the unfairness of the company, the boss, and, perhaps, the world in general. While this may temporarily provide soothing for an injured psyche, it really does nothing positive for the worker that is leaving. Other employees may view him as simply a trouble maker or "sour grapes." They may be reluctant to recommend him for another job because of his "attitude."

I remember a word of advice given to me when I was leaving a large hospital system in Milwaukee many years ago. The CEO wanted me to meet with him and give him my impression of several leaders in the organization. I consulted with a friend before this meeting and asked what I should do. He said, "Remember the rule of relationships. Unless you want to continue and deepen the relationship, there is absolutely no reason to discuss issues or problems. Since you are leaving, the CEO simply wants to use you for his own agenda."

He was right. I met with the CEO and thanked him graciously for all the wonderful experiences at the hospital. I have followed that rule ever since. And when I was laid off from my VP job ten years ago, I attended a party in my honor and again thanked everyone. It is an approach that has worked for me. I always seem to land on my feet.

Barbara Bartlein is the People Pro. For her FREE e-mail newsletter, please visit: The People Pro

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