For laid off workers, so hard to e-mail goodbye

Neill, who joked about free food in the office lounge, sent a separate, more formal e-mail to outside business contacts, but wanted to lighten the mood inside the office.

"There was a lot of tension in the air," says Neill, who has since landed a job as Vice President of Product Safety for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. "I wanted people to feel comfortable saying goodbye. I didn't want anyone walking on eggshells around me. Humor seemed the best way to do that."

Staying professional doesn't mean checking your personality at the inbox. Before Pete Seat, a deputy press secretary under President George W. Bush, left the White House, he sent a goodbye e-mail to friends, White House colleagues and journalists.

"With most of us embarking on a new personal or professional adventure over the next few weeks and months, remember the words of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone when he said, 'This is it, don't get scared now.' That always helps me," he wrote.

Seat also included a quote from former press secretary Tony Snow, reminding those who have worked in the White House how special it is. "Leave no room for regrets, for someday, in the not-so-distant future, you will be back where you started: On the sidewalk with the folks, gawking at that grand, glorious, mysterious place — where Lincoln walks at night, and our highest hopes and dreams reside."

With that, Seat had the e-mail hat trick: His message was lofty, humorous and satisfied his basic need to get his new contact information out.

"I wanted to have a little bit of fun with it," he said. "It's a silly line from a silly movie, but it does have a practical point to it. Even in uncertainty, we need to move forward."

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