Whether your employee is retiring, giving up work to be a stay-at-home parent, or moving to another branch of the company, you will want to honor him with a thoughtful speech at the farewell celebration. Saying goodbye can be difficult because it is often accompanied by mixed emotions—you are glad for the new opportunities your employee is embracing, but sad to see her go. The best goodbye speeches will be honest and positive.
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Make several lists about your employee. First, make a list of good qualities your employee possesses. Be specific: Don't use "nice" or "great," and try to name at least five. Next, list some projects the employee participated in that were particularly successful, or some tasks she did exceptionally well. Then make a list of funny anecdotes or situations involving the employee. If there are items that accompany the anecdotes, such as a favorite coffee mug, an offending stapler, or a desk knick-knack, gather those as well. Choose stories that will be amusing to everyone present and not embarrassing or offensive.
Search for an applicable goodbye quote. Open the speech either with a quote that sums up your feelings about the employee, or start with an anecdote that gives an overall impression of his time with the company. Use this as a springboard to list the other qualities you wrote down and supply brief examples for each quality.
Discuss the achievements and successes this employee has had in her work life. Be specific, yet brief. Rather than, "she takes initiative," say something such as, "she spearheaded her department's conversion to a paperless system." Also use this paragraph to explain why the employee who is leaving won't forget you, her coworkers, or the company. Think about what affect this job has had on her. Another funny or poignant anecdote can wrap up this section of the speech.
Conclude the speech by saying something about the impact or lasting impression on the company, how much your employee will be missed, and what you hope for his future. If you have a departing gift, present it to him at this time.
Give the employee a chance to say what is in her heart as well, and pass her the microphone after you have presented her gift.