I am leaving my job after 19 years and taking “early retirement”. My question concerns leaving drinks. What I would like on my last day is just to slip away with no goodbyes and no fuss. However, this is not the done thing, which is to invite the entire office for drinks, put one’s credit card behind the bar and give a gracious speech. Even if I accept that I need to do something like this – although I am far from convinced – do I have to invite everyone? There are several people I will not miss and who I feel no need to socialise with. And just how much money do I have to put aside?
Manager, female, 52
There are four arguments for inviting the whole office out for a drink. It is the done thing. Not doing it can cause offence. You may need to work with these people again, so it’s wise to butter them up. And it will make you feel better to tie up the past 19 years with a pretty bow.
All four arguments are feeble. Leaving drinks may be the done thing, but you don’t have to do it. One of the joys of early retirement is that office conventions need no longer concern you.
Not giving a party won’t cause offence — there are so many leaving dos now that one fewer may be a cause for celebration. Nor will a drinks party help you get work in the future, as 19 years’ experience will surely count for more to former colleagues than a glass of plonk.
The only decent argument is the fourth: leaving parties can make one feel better about going. But if you think buying drinks will make you feel worse, and poorer, then I’m sure you’re right.
A leaving party is a bid for immortality in the minds of one’s colleagues; if you have any colleagues who you care about being immortal to, you should do something, but do it your own way. To have drinks in a nearby pub is a waste of money as your dreary do will merge with everyone else’s. The most memorable leaving party I’ve been to was given by a delightfully eccentric woman who slipped out of the office quietly on her last day, just as you would like to. Three months later, she hired a cinema and subjected chosen colleagues to a three-hour film of Don Giovanni. I will never forget her.