- The Washington Times - Monday, March 9, 2009

When Jim Neill got laid off, he sent around a farewell e-mail with a subject line designed to get people’s attention: “Free food in the employee lounge.”

Then Mr. Neill, who had been with the National Association of Manufacturers for years, left ‘em laughing.

“These are tough times and with a young family I’m hunting for employment,” he wrote, “but you’ll be pleased to know I’ve also begun work on my long-delayed book and instructional DVD ‘Rhymes With Truck: How to Use Profanity in Every Sentence.’”

There’s an art to the goodbye e-mails flooding inboxes as a result of massive layoffs. Some are bitter flameouts. Some read like brief memos or mysteries with no explanation of the move. Others are like lengthy Oscar speeches thanking co-workers.


Whatever the tone, they are everywhere; more than 45 million Americans were either laid off last year or left their jobs for greener pastures.

In the days before company e-mail distribution lists, the task of letting friends and colleagues know about a departure was primarily done by phone or through an interoffice memo written by Human Resources.

With the wider reach of e-mail and more casual messages comes some danger: An e-mail will last longer and may pop up into the inbox of unintended recipient.

Lawyer Shinyung Oh’s angry goodbye quickly made rounds of legal blogs. Ms. Oh was let go from the Paul Hastings law firm’s San Francisco branch six days after having a miscarriage. She wrote a blistering e-mail accusing the firm of heartlessness, and sent it to all her colleagues.

“If this response seems particularly emotional, perhaps an associate’s emotional vulnerability after a recent miscarriage is a factor you should consider the next time you fire or lay someone off,” she wrote.

Ms. Oh has since started her own blog but declined to comment on the incident.

Truly angry flameouts are a rarity for that reason — most people understand they will whip through the ether at breakneck speed. One scathingly funny goodbye that has been posted on blogs around the world with the subject line “So long, suckers! I’m out!” turns out to be a hoax, written by comedy writer Chris Kula.

“For nearly as long as I’ve worked here, I’ve hoped that I might one day leave this company,” the mock kiss-off reads. “And now that this dream has become a reality, please know that I could not have reached this goal without your support.”

Experts warn against real displays of such anger over concerns that it could hurt a future job search. Many caution against even a hint negativity.

“Don’t show any bitterness. Don’t complain. Just be positive,” says Donna Flagg, a workplace expert and president of the Krysalis Group, a business and management consulting firm in New York.

At its simplest, the e-mail only needs to let friends and colleagues know you’re leaving and how to reach you. A goodbye handled properly can even help with the job search.

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