I was part of a layoff that impacted about a dozen people at my company. Some of my former clients have reached out just to say they heard I left and wanted to say goodbye. I would like to make it clear to them that I did not choose to leave but was part of a layoff, not related to performance. I'm not trying to steal them away or work for them so I don't feel like this is in breach of anything in my separation letter. I'm not defaming the company, merely stating the situation. And I would not elaborate with any details beyond that, just that I wish them the best and it's been great working with them. Is this ok? Can this in any way be used against me?
Dear [former client] Thank you for reaching out to me. I enjoyed my time working with you at XYZ company. The layoffs at XYZ were a bit of a shock, but I expect that I will bounce back. It was unexpected, but that's the nature of layoffs. While this was not voluntary, it was also not performance related. There is no ill will between xyz an myself. It has been great working with you, and if the opportunity to work with you again ever arises, I know I will enjoy it as much in the future as I have in the past. Thank you again for reaching out to me, I very much appreciate it.
kindest regards, R.J
or something like that.
I'd assume that they wouldn't even be talking to you if they had anything but a good impression of you, so I'd interpret this as a subtle hint that they might be interested in working with you in the future. There is a good chance that this is a veiled employment offer.
So I wouldn't plant the seed of doubt in their mind there — nobody has talked about your performance so far, and you definitely shouldn't start this conversation.
If you're not interested in directly working for them, a short thank you note is sufficient.
If you would be interested, check whether you are permitted to join former clients straight away (the fact that you were laid off is in your favor here, since these terms are meant to prevent employee poaching), and if you are, send in an application and hint at this in your response.
From the other side: I've sent mails like these twice, both times for exactly this reason and after talking to local management, and I've always also taken their reply to the local management as well, who probably then informed HR to look out for a specific name on an application.
Welcome to the wonderful world of office politics.