The farewell email is one of few art forms in the corporate world. There are good ones. There are bad ones. There are the ones that when you read them, you recognize its genius instantly. They are similar to street art in the sense that they have very short shelf lives; you will probably see each one only once, maybe a few times, and then it's cast into the abyss, never to be seen or remembered in its original splendor ever again.
Yesterday we received an attempt at an epic farewell email that was sent by a senior manager from Ernst & Young. And when I say "epic," I really mean "epic failure." This email is over 3,000 words, has ten sections (including some kind of Dragnet disclaimer) itemized advice to colleagues at each level of the firm including firm leadership, and seven – SEVEN! – videos. I spent approximately 20 minutes working through it yesterday. I will NEVER get that time back. Adrienne smartly stopped after the second paragraph. Because of its length, I refuse to republish it in full (I could be convinced otherwise, but it'll be in a separate post). To do so when only encourage the author to do it again and copycats to follow his lead. We are here to prevent the awfulness that perpetuates this industry. However, just so you don't think we're exaggerating the sheer abomination that is this farewell email, we'll present excerpts so that you may thank us later for saving you from this awful, awful farewell email.
Intro:When I started at Ernst & Young as an intern in 1999, I thought that my going away happy hour from Ernst & Young would be my retirement party. Always one to become passionately attached to those around me, the firm has been an integral part of my life over the past 11 years. I’ve made myself at home around here as I’m sure General Counsel’s Office would agree. Now that I am leaving, you had to know that I wouldn’t just have any going away e-mail.The Beginning
On September 23, 2000, 28 bright faced new college graduates entered the training rooms of Ernst & Young. Among them were [dude who writes terrible farewell emails] and four others who remain at the firm to this day. All had determined that this would be the last company they ever worked for, as they were quietly certain that THEY would be the statistical 1 out of 28 that obtained the title of:“Ernst & Young Partner” [Imagine this centered, a much larger font size and bright yellow]
Yes, friends. This went on for 3,000 more words, and approximately 10 minutes worth of videos. At one point the author of this travesty tells an anecdote about upon his return to the States after an international rotation, trying to fit back in:
The fact that he knew so few people in Houston, or more importantly that so few people knew him, did not sit well with [dude who writes terrible farewell emails]. He was a Houston legend. And if there was one way to get your name out there in public accounting, it was with a good old fashioned intern prank. […] A few weeks, a demotion, a pay cut, 12 hours of ethics courses, and a nervous breakdown later, [dude who writes terrible farewell emails] came out on the other side a better person, fully committed to living ethical values and executive presence in every way from that day forward.
When we asked our tipster for details, this is what (s)he wrote back:
It was this elaborate prank involving partners, senior managers and the client to make an intern look like he was covering a fraud, shredding workpapers, burying audit differences, etc. It all go documented and sent in an email that got forwarded literally around the world. Not a good prank considering Houston is where all of the Andersen shredding went down a la Enron.
First of all: dumb. Second of all: This somewhat explains the author's desperate need for attention.
This attempt is the Waterworld, John Carter, and The Adventures of Pluto Nash all rolled into one awful disaster of a farewell. It's trite, monotonous, and self-serving. All the things that you don't want your farewell email to be.
We'll follow up this mockery with a guide to writing a great farewell email but for now, I think it's best that you think long and hard about how this damages the great creative work that has come out of E&Y in the past. I'm not sure the firm can recover.