Dilemma - David Emin on the job

This week's dilemma ...

One of my team is leaving at the end of this month and I have to give the leaving speech for this person. While I like this individual, I must admit that we do not really socialise much and I am worried I don't have anything I can use in the speech. I've asked my colleagues if they have any funny anecdotes about this staff member and they have not come up with anything even remotely interesting, even though this person has worked for the company for more than 25 years. My colleagues are expecting me to deliver a witty speech and I am really getting quite worried about it, to the point that on my way to work the other day, I had a panic attack. Have you ever been in this situation and what did you do?

To be honest I have never had a panic attack on my way to work. I did once suffer an asthmatic attack on my way home from work.

As I walked into an alleyway, three asthmatics jumped out and attacked me. In hindsight, I realise that I should have heard them hiding, but I thought it was just a gale blowing.

Sometimes, when you are stuck for material, you have to think laterally. Don't panic if there are no direct stories about this person. You can talk about what the business was like when this person first joined the company and compare that to today. What were the news headlines on the day they started work? You can refer to some of the more junior members of the department, and what they were up to 25 years ago.

After all, some would probably not have had full control of their bladder or bowels, would more than likely have had very little hair and possibly found it hard to string a sentence together.

And going back 20-odd years, things were not really that different from today.

Keep it short, no longer than five minutes and keep it clean, but above all, keep it nice. Thank this person for the work and effort they have put in over the years. After 25 years, there are bound to have been some examples of how this person made a positive difference within the company.

Avoid saying anything that might be detrimental to the character of the person leaving. Don't refer to possible office romances that might have been rumoured, unless it's one that has been out in the open.

Don't deliver your speech as a poem. Unless you are really good at this, you will look like David Brent. Do wish the person good luck, success and happiness in the new role they are going to.

Finally, do tell them that they will be missed.

- David Emin is director of advertising at Mirror Group Newspapers and has 20 years' experience in national press. If you have a career dilemma you would like David to address, e-mail david.emin@haymarket.com. We will keep your name confidential.

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