Nov 15, 2021

Leaving Messages: What to Write in a Leaving Card

by Verena Hallam

Messages in cards should always be delicately worded and genuine, especially if you’re sending someone a card when they leave the workplace. Leaving cards messages can be difficult to write, especially if you’re close to the person leaving.

Writing the message may bring up some unpleasant emotions, but it’s important to keep the focus on the person leaving. To write an effective leaving card message, be sure to:

  • Express sadness (but not too much) that the person is leaving the workplace
  • Thank them for the impact they’ve made on the work environment
  • Wish them well in their future endeavours

If your leaving message follows these general guidelines, you’re guaranteed to write a message that’s impactful and straight from the heart. But let’s explore some more specific circumstances related to goodbye cards and craft some example messages.

Leaving Card Messages for a Colleague

So, your colleague is leaving the office. You’ll lose the person you exchange glances with during staff meetings, the person who always asks if you want anything when they order lunch or the person who took you under their wing when you first started.

It can be emotional to lose a colleague, and you should channel that emotion into your card message, within reason. Obviously, talking about how sad you are for the entirety of a card message doesn’t strike a great tone. Additionally, there are some other Dos and Don’ts for card messages for colleagues:

Do: - Share a fond memory of your time together at work - Be vulnerable, but don’t lay it on too thick - Ask them to keep in touch after they’ve left the company

Don’t: - Make them feel guilty for leaving - Talk about any negative relationships with colleagues - Mention their pay or financial situation

The thesis statement of these guidelines: keep it light and positive. While you may be torn up about losing a favourite colleague, the person could be leaving in order to advance their career, pursue an exciting new venture, or undertake a major milestone in their personal life (like moving, having a baby, or taking that once-in-a-lifetime trip).

Here are some example messages you could use for a leaving card for a colleague:

“Christa, I’m so sad to see you go. I’ll never forget covering for you when you accidentally put cutlery in the microwave on your first day! You’ve had such a positive impact on the work environment and procedures here, and you’ve made this company better in so many ways. I’m thrilled for you to start your next chapter, and you’re going to take Edinburgh by storm. Please keep in touch. I’ll miss you!”

“Joey, I’m upset that you’re leaving us! I’m so glad I got a picture of your costume from the office Halloween party last year because that was such an unforgettable moment. You’ve made a huge impact here, especially on office morale. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish at your new job, and I wish you the best of luck in the future. Don’t be a stranger!”

These two examples strike a great balance between emotional vulnerability and a positive tone. The messages heed the Dos and Don’ts list, but they also have the three big elements of any successful leaving message: sadness to see the person go, gratitude for their positive impacts, and well-wishes for the future.

Either of these examples is sure to make an impact on your departing colleague!

Funny Leaving Card Messages

If you think you can get away with a little humour in your message, by all means, go for a laugh! But, sometimes a joke doesn’t hit in the way we intended. If your message strikes a humorous tone, consider running it by a third party to make sure the jokes land. The last thing you want to do is accidentally offend!

Of course, we also have to acknowledge comedic boundaries. Here are some tips for writing a funny leaving card message that doesn’t cross the line:

Do: - Keep in mind the sense of humour that the recipient has - Make light of appropriate things - Try to inject some emotional vulnerability in your message

Don’t: - Make light of anything serious that led to your colleague’s departure (like a death in the family, or any other serious personal matter) - Rely completely on sarcasm to get the message across (sarcasm can be difficult to read on the page) - Make light of your colleague’s financial situation or pay at the company

Humour is delicate, and only some of us have the chops to pull it off, especially in our writing. Take care that your seemingly funny message doesn’t cross the line, and you’ll be good to go. Here are some examples of funny leaving card messages:

“Claire, I can’t believe I’m losing my work wife! And after such a long and arduous courtship! You’ve made such a positive impact at this company, from your perpetually distracting funny faces across the table during serious meetings to your jet fuel coffee recipe (I had never experienced heart palpitations from half a cup of coffee until you showed me my true caffeinated potential). But, in all seriousness, I wish you nothing but the best in the future; I know you’ll bring your winning attitude, your infectious positivity, and your ability to make criminally strong coffee to anything you pursue. Keep me posted on your life, and don’t you dare replace me! Work wives forever!”

“Charlie, I’m thrilled you’re leaving so I can finally take back my #1 spot in the office fantasy football league! I’ll be honest, when you first started here, I had no idea you’d be such a fierce competitor in the league. But after watching you score the Sanchez account in your first week, I should have never underestimated you. You bring that winning instinct to everything you do, and whomever you work for next will be lucky to have you and your passion for the industry. If you keep in touch (and if I’m feeling generous), I’ll consider letting you join my non-work fantasy league… Maybe. We’ll see.”

Both of these messages make light of appropriate matters, don’t rely too heavily on sarcasm, and ultimately maintain a positive tone. Writing a funny leaving card message should be fun, and the message should send your colleague out the door with a smile and a fond memory.

But, the best tip: Again, read your funny message to a friend, spouse, or another colleague before writing it inside the card. Even the office’s resident comedian has to face a room full of crickets every now and then, and you want your card’s message to send the recipient off on a high note.

Maternity Leave Messages

Writing a maternity leave message for a colleague is bittersweet. You’re likely thrilled for them and their growing family, but you’ll miss them while they’re gone. Luckily, maternity leave may be temporary, and you’ll have to craft your message accordingly. But, there’s also some pregnancy etiquette to keep in mind, so here are some tips:

Do: - Express excitement for the new baby - Use the baby’s name (if you know it) - Express excitement for them to rejoin the team after the birth (if they will be)

Don’t: - Make any sexual innuendos - Point out any weaknesses that the person may have as a parent - Poke fun at the person for choosing their family over their career

Armed with these tips and the basic tenets of an effective leaving card message, let’s write some example maternity leave messages:

“Colleen, I’m so excited for you and baby Killian! If your impact here is any indication, you’re going to be an amazing mum. Thank you for everything you’ve done during your time here. I wish you endless happiness and joy on your parenting journey. I’d love it if you brought Killian to the office for a visit now and then, even if you decide not to return to work. You’ll be incredible at anything you take on in the future, motherhood included. Keep in touch, be well, and have a wonderful pregnancy!”

“Kara, congratulations on your pregnancy! You and Lucy are going to be incredible parents, and I’m so excited to watch your family grow. I’ll miss you (and all of the amazing things you do here) during your maternity leave, but I’m taking you to lunch (and/or happy hour) as soon as you return. Wishing you and Lucy a peaceful pregnancy and many precious moments when your little one arrives. See you soon!”

The example messages above serve as an excellent template for your maternity leave message. In one example, it’s unclear if the person is coming back to work after they give birth, and in the other, the writer expresses excitement for the pregnancy and for the person’s return.

Remember to strike a balance between sadness for their departure and excitement for their new chapter. Pregnancy is an exciting, emotional time, and you want to send your expectant departee out the door with a smile.

Leaving Card Messages for Your Boss

Writing a leaving card message for your boss requires the utmost care and delicacy. After all, this is likely a person with whom you’d like to maintain a professional relationship, so you don’t want to burn any bridges.

However, your boss leaving the office may be an exciting and positive time for you. If you hate your boss, you’ll likely be happy to see them go! But, it’s important to repress those sentiments while keeping the tone light and upbeat. Here are some tips for achieving that balance:

Do: - Thank your boss for their leadership, mentorship, and positive impact on the company - Urge them to stay in touch - Wish them well at their next place of business (or in their retirement)

Don’t: - Express excitement to have a new boss - Discuss who was promoted to their position (if applicable) - Talk about the negative impacts of their departure

With these tips in mind, take a look at the examples below. Since writing a leaving card message for a boss can be difficult, we’ll explore three examples instead of two.

“Kasia, thank you for being such an outstanding boss. While I’m sad to see you go, I appreciate your leadership and guidance, and I’m grateful for the positive impacts you’ve made at this company. You have big shoes to fill! Please keep in touch; I’d love to hear about your future endeavours. You’re going to take your next workplace by storm, and everyone you work with will be thrilled to have you. Thanks again, and best of luck in the future.”

“Kayla, this company won’t be the same without you. I so appreciate your mentorship (especially when I first started here), and I’m certain that you’ll have the same positive effect on your next workplace that you’ve had here. I’d love to keep in touch, so please don’t be a stranger. Goodbye, and good luck!”

“Darien, you will be missed. Your ability to pivot when faced with a challenge is inspiring, and you took this office in unexpected and successful directions. Thank you for your leadership and all that you’ve done at this company. Please keep in touch, and let me know how you’re doing in your new position. I’m excited to see you excel at your next company, and your next team will be lucky to have you.”

As you can see, these messages express sadness without laying it on too thick, thank the recipient for their impact, and wish them well in the future. And, the advice for a funny leaving card message applies here: get a second opinion. Ask one of your colleagues, a friend, or spouse to read the message to ensure that you’re striking the right tone.

The Perfect Leaving Card Message

Crafting the perfect leaving card message is all about combining emotional vulnerability, gratitude, and wishes for success in a positive package.

Whether you’re losing a colleague to a competitor, sending someone off on maternity leave, or saying goodbye to your boss, a leaving card message is a great way to express thanks and excitement. Craft a message that will send the recipient out the door with a smile and a sense of closure.