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Written by Emily StokerEmily Stoker

How to say goodbye to a colleague

17 min read
How to say goodbye to a colleague
Artwork by:Nelly Borisova
Saying goodbye is never easy. However, nailing workplace etiquette while saying something sincere to a coworker who is moving on is particularly tricky. Find out how in this blog post including 40+ examples of leaving messages for a colleague.

Your colleague has stealthily passed you an envelope under your desk, and you know what that means. It’s time to sign a coworker’s leaving card. Yet just like that card that is now sat staring at you, your mind has gone totally blank. Why is choosing a leaving message for a colleague so difficult?

The workplace leaving card is the epitome of where office etiquette and professional expectations meet office politics. Even if you’re pondering what to say to your colleague by email or one-on-one, a lot of the same pressures apply. However, this may not be the only thing that stresses you about planning your colleague’s farewell.

There’s a whole host of other departure-based decisions that you could be faced with, from deciding on a gift to coordinating a leaving party. So, how do you write a leaving message for a colleague? In this guide, we will cover the following topics: 

  • The many different ways you can write a leaving message for colleague
  • Examples of what to say to different colleagues when they are leaving
  • Other farewell messages that you can use.

Ways to say goodbye 

If you’re wondering the best way to say goodbye to a colleague, you’re not alone. While you should indeed find the opportunity to communicate that in words, take a moment to think of the best format to send that message. 

A leaving card is really the least that you can do. It’s always more heartfelt to make this a physical card that your other colleagues can sign so they can leave their own personal messages. Of course, remote working can make this a difficult option for many workplaces. There are plenty of services that offer digital cards, or even cards that are signed digitally and will be printed and delivered as a physical card. 

If the colleague who is leaving is someone who you worked with closely, then it’s certainly good etiquette to send them a meaningful message via email on their last day. This can echo your sentiment from the office card, however, it gives you a chance to say some of the more personal things that you want to share. Let’s face it, it feels pretty vulnerable to have the rest of your team reading your message as they pass the greetings card around the office to sign. 

If it’s your last day of work

Perhaps it’s you who is moving on to new professional pastures. If you’re the one who has handed in your notice , you’ll still be looking for ways to say farewell to your colleagues. This can be tricky. You want to cement the strong relationships you’ve built. After all, that’s what building a professional network is all about. 

If you want to show a mark of appreciation and respect to your soon-to-be former team members, then you also have options at your disposal. A card or nicely thought-out email could be enough. Although you might choose to show some additional signs of appreciation that we’ll discuss later in this blog post. 

While gifts are optional, gratitude is not. The last thing you want to do is to burn bridges. Aside from being a bad idea that risks procuring a less than favourable reputation, your old colleagues could be helpful contacts later in your career. Who are you going to call when you need a reference or are stuck in a tough spot professionally and need some advice?

What to say to a colleague that is leaving

So, your colleague has told you that they’re leaving. If you’re reading this blog post, this moment has likely already passed. However, it’s important to meet this announcement with a suitable reaction at that moment — especially in the office. The circumstances around them leaving could be positive or negative, so a compassionate response is the only acceptable reaction. 

If their move is a career step or personal choice, this will probably look like enthusiasm for their success. However, if the situation is more complicated and congratulations are not in order, you still never want to burn your professional bridges. Be sensitive to their individual situation and wish them well. You’ll have more time to consider a carefully crafted message for their leaving day. However, what you say to them the moment they announce their departure will surely stick with them too!

Statistical insight

Who is most likely to leave their job?

It may not surprise you that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sector with the highest turnover rate is accommodation & food services, followed closely by leisure & hospitality.

Choosing the best leaving message for a colleague

Now that you’ve thought about all the top-level considerations in a meaningful goodbye, it’s time to get down to the details. You’ve got a blank leaving card staring at you, and you don’t know what words to commit to paper for your colleague (and the rest of the team who are yet to sign the card) to see. So what do you write in a goodbye card for a colleague? 

Here are 40 examples of a leaving message for a colleague: 

Managers and other superiors

Whether it’s your boss or another colleague who is superior to you in the professional hierarchy, you want to demonstrate a suitable amount of thanks while remaining respectful. The right leaving message for a colleague who is superior could even help keep you in their good books as a useful future connection.  

“Thanks for your leadership and dedication to us. It’s been an inspiration to work for you, and I hope that you’re just as valued in your new job!”

“Thank you for everything over our time working together! I hope that your new role is everything you hope it will be and more.” 

“It’s been a special opportunity to work together with you and the team here. I value the lessons I’ve learned through your work ethic. I am sorry to see you leave, but I’m looking forward to seeing what you do next.” 

“It’s been such a journey joining your team. I sincerely hope our paths cross again!”

“Thank you for the opportunity to join the team. It’s been a true privilege, and I wish you nothing but the best as you move forwards in your career. Many thanks!”

The colleague you don’t really know

There is an art to writing a leaving message for the colleague you just don’t know that well. Sure, you worked in the same office space. However, you didn’t really interact with this person. What can you say that seems genuine but doesn’t come across as sarcastic or overstate a professional relationship that just didn’t exist? Here’s how to write a polite leaving message for a colleague you don’t know well.

“Congratulations on your new position! I hope that your new job brings you everything you hope for. Take care!”

“Wishing you all the best in your new role. Good luck!”

“It sounds like you’re in for an exciting new chapter. Congratulations on this new opportunity and wishing you every success!”

“Sorry to see you go. Wishing you a smooth transition into your new job and every success in the future!”

“I hope that everything goes well for you in your new job. Wishing you all the best!”

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The co-worker who’s also a buddy

The best of the best. Some coworkers just make coming to work a pleasure. How do you start to reduce that into a few words? How can you write a leaving message for a colleague who is also a friend?

“You’re a true friend and working with you was one of the great pleasures of my career so far. I hope to cross paths with you again in the future. Take care!”

“I hope you make amazing new friends in your new job — just don’t replace me! I have no doubt you’re going to do great things as you progress professionally. Don’t be a stranger, and good luck!”

“Monday coffee meetings aren’t going to be the same without you. It’s a real joy to see you going from strength to strength in your career. I can’t wait to see what you do next!”

“Thanks for all of the memories — work always felt a little less like work when you were around. Your new colleagues don’t know how lucky they are yet!”

“We’re going to miss you so much. I hope you know what a great worker, colleague, and friend you’ve been. They’d better appreciate that in your new job!”

Your employees and/or subordinates

For the workers that you manage, it’s important to show sufficient gratitude. Writing a leaving message for a colleague who you’ve managed is tough. You don’t want to overstep your boundaries, but if it’s a coworker you really value then let them know.

“I wish you nothing but luck and success as you venture into this new path. Thank you for everything you brought to the team!”

“I speak for the whole team when I say it’s been amazing working with you. Your new boss had better appreciate what they’re gaining! Take care and please stay in touch.”

“Thank you for your dedication and perseverance. You’ll surely continue to do great things. Good luck in your next professional chapter!”

“What an asset to the team! While I’m happy about your new success, I’m sad to see you go and wish we could keep you a little longer. Stay in touch, and there’s always a place for you here if you change your mind!”

“Congratulations on your new role! We appreciate everything you’ve done for the team. Wishing you every success.”

Expert tip

Consider the hierarchy

Sure, your colleague is leaving and you can afford to let your guard down a little bit. However, make sure that your leaving message for a colleague still reflects the nature of the professional hierarchy.

Whether your colleague sits above or below you in this power dynamic, you don’t want to upset this balance. It could be inappropriate if you say something that comes across as too pally. Plus, if you’re signing a card then your other colleagues are likely to see your message, too.

When you’re new and don’t know anybody yet

The dreaded scenario — you’ve just started a job or joined a team, and you’re already expected to say something to a colleague who’s leaving. What can you write that is polite without coming off as cold? Is it even possible to say goodbye tactfully when you barely had a chance to introduce yourself?

“Wishing you all the best in your new chapter. Take care!”

“Our time working together was short but sweet. Thanks for being so welcoming and good luck in your new venture!”

“It’s a shame we didn’t have longer to get to know each other. I can tell the team really values you and is going to miss you. I hope you’re just as loved in your new job!”

“While we haven’t worked together for long, your presence on the team really made an impression on me. Wishing you great things in your next professional chapter!”

“Congratulations on your new role. I hope that your professional transition goes smoothly, and I wish you every success!”

The one who’s not really leaving

So, what about when a coworker is just switching departments within the same organisation? You’ll likely still see this coworker around. However, it’s still important to take a moment to celebrate what they’ve brought to the table during your time working together.

“The office won’t be the same without your laughs coming from across the room. Luckily, I’ll still be able to hear them from down the hall! Good luck in the new role.”

“Glad that we’ll still get to see you around the building. Thanks for all the ideas and hard work you brought to this team. See you soon!”

“Congratulations on the new role. I can’t wait to see what you do next for the company. See you around!”

“You always made our Monday mornings so much more bearable. Grateful that this isn’t ‘goodbye’, but ‘see you soon’. Good luck in your new role!”

“Your new department is lucky to be gaining a strong team player like you. I hope we can still get together for lunch!”

That special mentor

Some colleagues show us the ropes in a way that goes above and beyond. If you’re writing a leaving message for a colleague who you see as a teacher and has guided you through your professional journey so far, then tell them so! It’s worth preserving relationships like these. 

“It’s been a pleasure to learn from you. I’ll always remember your strong work ethic and philosophy towards the job. Thank you for everything, and good luck.”

“I’ve gained so much personally and professionally from watching you work. It’s been a great privilege, and I really hope our paths cross again. Wishing you every success!”

“Thank you for all the time you’ve spent helping me to grow. I don’t doubt that you’ll continue to make each workplace you go to better for having you there.” 

“I’ll always carry the lessons you shared with me. Thank you for your generosity. Stay in touch and good luck!”

“It’s not every day that you get the chance to work with a professional like you. Thanks for the endless hours you spent helping me, the lunchtime chats, and the project guidance. You’ve been the best mentor!”

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The colleague who was let go

Not all workplace stories have a happy ending. Sometimes people would rather not be leaving and might be uncertain about their future. You can still write a heartfelt leaving message for a colleague that communicates the complicated nature of the situation.

“We’re so sorry to see you go. Thank you for everything you’ve done, and sending you well wishes for whatever comes next.”

“It’s such a shame to lose a great colleague. Please stay in touch, I would love to work together again in the future.”

“Thank you for everything you’ve contributed to our team, and I’m so sad you’re not staying on. Don’t hesitate to reach out in the future. Wishing you all the best.”

“We’re losing a great team member and a friend. I hope we’ll continue to be the latter, but it’s hard to see you go. Please stay in touch and take care.”

“I’m going to really miss having you here. Don’t be a stranger, you’ll always have a friend here cheering you on.”

Other farewell messages of appreciation

While it’s usually considered the minimum of office etiquette, sometimes a greeting card alone doesn’t cut it. When it comes to showing your appreciation to your coworker, there are other options at your disposal. After all, the leaving messages we leave for our colleagues can go beyond words on a piece of paper.  

On one end of the spectrum is a full-blown leaving party. For a colleague who is going into retirement, this could be a nice touch. Equally, a leaving dinner or lunch is fairly simple to organise through official work channels or privately with your other team members. 

Of course, there are plenty of choices in between. Encouraging your workmates to pitch in for a thoughtful gift that will help your colleague on their next professional chapter is a common way to wish them well. When it’s done right, it can feel truly personal. 

If this is a colleague you really value and want them to know, you might want to consider inviting them for a private lunch, meeting, or call. The one you choose will of course depend on your working relationship. This could be a great chance to let them know in a heartfelt way how much their work really mattered to you, one-on-one.

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Key takeaways

  1. While there are many ways to say goodbye to a colleague, the best approach to take is the one that feels authentic.
  2. If a colleague really means something to you on a personal level, then forget the workplace pressures and office politics. You’ll find a way to make them feel valued in the way that they deserve.
  3. Take a look at our examples of the best leaving message for a colleague for some inspiration now!
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