The Haught guide to work farewells


While in Barcelona, I once hid in a lavatory to avoid dancing.

The Contiki Tour I was on took us to a Flamenco bar and it became clear that, after dinner, each member of the tour would have to get up and dance with a proper Spanish Flamenco master (or mistress). The members of the group with natural rhythm fared OK, but then a bloke who went by the name of The Dazzler got up and made a complete fool of himself, approaching his partner as if she was covered head to toe in bedsores and dancing like he was covered head to toe in the sort of sunburn I thought only existed in the 1980s.

I watched for 90 seconds, realised that despite looking like a malfunctioning robot in a 1960s science fiction show – one whose flailing arms are made from corrugated tubing – he was a far more accomplished dancer than me, and fled to the toilets.

What’s that got to do with work goodbyes?

When it comes time to farewell a colleague you don’t like or didn’t know worked with you until they announced their resignation, my advice would be to simply avoid. It would be my advice, that is, if I knew it were usable.

‘‘Avoid’’ is easy for me to say. I am, you now know, the ultimate shirker. Not many people can shamelessly dodge difficult situations like I can, and I understand that ‘‘avoid’’ has a touch of Marie Antoinette’s cake about it. So here’s a brief practical guide to office farewells.

  1. Putting silver coins in the collection envelope is not OK. Neither is putting in a five and taking change. Unless you’re a Victorian public school teacher, you can afford the (bare) minimum $2 towards a parting gift.

  2. You’re better off writing ‘‘Your departure is inconsequential to me’’ than ‘‘All the best for the future’’ in the customary we’ll-miss-you-so-much-we-can-only-convey-our-sense-of-impending-loss-via-a-picture-of-a-teddy-bear-on-a-gargantuan-card card. If you can’t say anything original, don’t say anything at all. Or at the least, make the effort to look up an Einstein, Twain or Churchill quote on Google.

  3. Don’t be sucked into lemming-like final-day collegiality. There is absolutely no need to embrace, shake hands with or kiss a departing colleague you’ve seen only a handful of times. A small nod— a close wave at the most — is all that is required.

Trust me, these aren’t guidelines so much as goodbye golden rules. When you hide in a lavatory for as many hours a week as I do, you get plenty of time to consider these things.


An edited version of this article first appeared in the MyCareer section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

You can read the column – Benign to Five – in those papers every Saturday, and if you miss it, you can look it up online in the BusinessDay section of The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, WAToday and Brisbane Times. (I now wankishly call myself a “syndicated columnist” on my CV.)

Read more Haught newspaper columns

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