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I was working with a client for the past year on a site. I was let go from my company.

I don't like the idea of just disappearing. I'd like to contact the client and tell them I've left, and that it was good working them, etc.

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    Which country is this in? Opposite recommendations may be appropriate in different countries. – O. R. Mapper Nov 24 '14 at 9:25
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    Sent any PEOPLE at the client that you know well an linked-in request, ideally with an truthful recommendation. – Ian Nov 24 '14 at 12:52
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No. They were not "your" clients, but rather clients of your former employer. Let your former employer make contact with them and explain who will be handling their projects/accounts going forward.

Attempting to contact those clients yourself, if your former employer got wind of it, could be construed as you attempting to steal business from your former employer or use that connection to get a job with them which might violate a contract or other agreement you signed. A bit far-fetched, but some people can get really litigious these days.

If those clients contact you afterward, just tell them it was a pleasure working with them and you're disappointed that you're no longer working with them.

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    ... and that you are sorry that you were not able to say goodbye or to conclude the matters with them, but that you hope that your company handled everything to their satisfaction. Take the high road. – RoboKaren Nov 24 '14 at 5:05
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    Is this country-specific? While I do not have any first-hand experience with that situation, various people in Germany have told me on various occasions how they did exactly what the OP suggested. Resources such as this, this and this strongly suggest it is downright rude not to contact long-term .. – O. R. Mapper Nov 24 '14 at 9:19
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    ... clients when leaving a position there, and as it will reflect badly on the previous employer (by confusing customers and partially destroying the "connection of trust" established by constant interaction with a particular contact person), it is fully in the interest of the previous employer that the departing employee announces their change to customers. – O. R. Mapper Nov 24 '14 at 9:21
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    And with that said, in my experience, I have seen several instances of support staff in user forums of U.S.-based companies say good-bye to the regular "customers" and announce their future unavailability, in both situations (being fired, and leaving on their own initiative). Are you sure your suggestion is even commonly accepted across all contexts in the U.S.? – O. R. Mapper Nov 24 '14 at 9:28
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    "going forward" #ugh – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 24 '14 at 13:59
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In my view, you don't only have a business connection with people you've worked with, you have a personal connection with them as well. It's natural that you want to say goodbye to people you've worked with for a year.

There are two things to look out for:

  • Let your employer inform them first, so that they can tell the client who will be taking up your work, who is their new contact, that sort of thing. It may be that you are the one who gets to inform them anyway, but let your employer decide.

  • Don't actively try to steal the client. Besides possible restrictions in contracts, it's not really the ethical thing to do.

Other than that, I don't see a problem.

(other people say that culture may matter here, I am in the Netherlands)

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    @reinierpost - they are not your employer anymore, and you don't report to them. – Davor Nov 24 '14 at 14:38
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    @reinierpost: it's only talking to someone, the employer will have to live with the fact that people do that... I mean, you're at least going to link with such people on LinkedIn etc anyway. – RemcoGerlich Nov 24 '14 at 14:44
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    I agree that "I'll be available for contracting" is over the line, that's actively trying to steal the client. Sending a LinkedIn mail with a message saying "it was nice to have worked with you, let's connect, maybe one day we'll meet again" shouldn't be a problem. – RemcoGerlich Nov 24 '14 at 15:46
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    And he's specifically asking about a client for which he's worked on site for the last year. That's rather different from "everybody you've eve had contact with". – RemcoGerlich Nov 24 '14 at 15:47
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    This is the best answer. You are a person, not a robot. As a human, it is natural to gain some sort of "friendly" feelings with customers if you spend any significant time working with them. So there's nothing wrong with saying "goodbye" to people that you'd like to say goodbye to, even if your employer asks you not to. Once again, you aren't a robot, you aren't a slave, you are a human being entitled to develop relationships with other human beings. Even if that relationship is just a work relationship, it is still a connection on some level. Saying goodbye is just polite. – Dunk Nov 24 '14 at 17:24
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If the situation is that you have an end of employment date set up ahead of time but you're expected to keep working in the meantime, THEN it could be a breach of contract to reveal that you're being laid off. So definitely don't say anything in that case.

So that's the part of my answer that's new, below is the rest of my answer in the form of rebuttals to existing answers.

"No. They were not "your" clients, but rather clients of your former employer."

The company I work for exclusively does contract work for other companies. The way that our contracts work, we are employees of the company where our offices are (the company I would casually say I work for), but also legally employees of the clients whose projects we work on. So, in a very real and LEGAL sense, my clients are my clients. We have no way of knowing the legal circumstances of the OP's situation, so the above assertion is baseless.

"Attempting to contact those clients yourself, if your former employer got wind of it, could be construed as you attempting to steal business from your former employer or use that connection to get a job with them which might violate a contract or other agreement you signed."

I work in the US, so of course this may be different where you are, but here any such non-compete clauses are generally a joke. They have never held up in court. The legal basis for this is that once you are laid off or quit, you are no longer under contract with that employer. And no matter how your employer tries to construe the language of your work contract, one of the most fundamental aspects of contract law is that any involved party can back out of the contract at any time. Your former employer can claim that the contract covers say, a one year period after you leave the company, during which time you can't work for their competitors. You of course can then say, "Well I'm backing out of the contract now, so too bad for you."

"Don't actively try to steal the client. Besides possible restrictions in contracts, it's not really the ethical thing to do."

Since I've already covered the contract aspect, let's look at the ethical concerns. You and that company were engaged in a mutually beneficial working relationship. That relationship has ended. Your former employer is not a human being with whom you are still friends. Ethically speaking you own your former employer NOTHING, just as they owe you nothing after you leave.

I don't like that people keep using the word "steal" here, as that is literally not applicable. The client isn't a small physical object you can sneakily slip into your pocket and walk away with. It is literally not possible to steal one of your former employer's clients. What you CAN potentially do is engage that client in a risk/reward discussion with regards to hiring/contracting you to work for their company. But that is no different from any other person trying to get a job. That's just how the process works.


*edit: "The only thing this doesn't cover is burning your bridges. It could be a very real disadvantage to piss off your former employer or coworkers." – Tim Seguine

I feel like Tim raised a good point in so far as I should have addressed this. I'd like to try to do that now, but I've been finding it difficult to express what feels very self-evident to me. So first let me re-iterate what I said before that you DEFINITELY should NOT reveal to your client that you're being laid off before your company does. You're still under contract and most likely there's privacy clauses, and it would just be asking for trouble. But assuming you wait until after your company makes the announcement, and assuming that you will wait until after you've left the company to make your good byes IF the situation plays out that way... then I couldn't come up with any plausible scenario where you're burning any bridges or pissing people off.

So as much as I'd like to cover this "issue" it seems unrealistic to me. It may just be the combination of the country I live in and the industry in which I work. Maybe non-compete clauses are a big deal where you live. Maybe your company has a long dark history of suing former employees for "violating" non-competes. If you know that to be a fact, then I guess you have to decide for yourself how you feel about that.

But let me paint a picture for you one last time. Your company is laying you off. However, the word "company" is just a label we use identify a group of people working together under some government charter, blah blah blah. The point is that there were actual people involved in the decision to lay you off. Your direct supervisor, plus probably your supervisor's manager, plus a couple of HR reps, plus who knows who else. Unless your company is very small, there was a whole chain people involved in making this decision. Those people are the ones who might be pissed off if you were to go work directly for their client. Do you think that THEY were concerned that laying you off was "burning bridges"? Those people got together and decided that the best decision for their organization as a whole, was to kick you out of it. Are you really going to concern yourself with how those people feel about YOUR CAREER after you leave?

  • The only thing this doesn't cover is burning your bridges. It could be a very real disadvantage to piss off your former employer or coworkers. – Tim Seguine Nov 24 '14 at 21:58
  • @TimSeguine How does it matter? He is laid off. Who cares for their former employers, after getting sacked? BTW I like this answer – BЈовић Nov 25 '14 at 8:01
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I will assume that you are still in your notice period. If that's not the case, you really shouldn't write such an email.

But if you are still working for the company, it's perfectly fine to send such an email as long as you atleast include a sentense with helpfull information about how the relationship between them and your company will be in the future (like introducing your replacement, giving his contact information, saying that your email adress will be dead in a week, etc.), because this will make the email a business matter.

Writing a 100% personal farewell letter is indeed (as others already said) somewhat a no-go. Also you will want to use your business email for sending that message. Sending it from a private email would really be a no-go again.

If you want to be sure, you could simply ask your manager if you are allowed to write such an email. Of course in that discussion with your manager you will want to highlight the fact, that it's in a strong interest of your company that the clients are informed about what's going on, because that's the professional way.

  • Notice period? He was laid off, he didn't resign. I assume he isn't there anymore. – tcrosley Nov 26 '14 at 4:00
  • @tcrosley I think that depends on the locale, which isn't given in the question. For example notice periods for layoffs are atleast 4 weeks (and up to 7 month) in any EU member state. – s1lv3r Nov 26 '14 at 9:05
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    Thanks, my ignorance. In his post, the OP said he was "let go", and I mistakenly assumed that meant he'd left already. – tcrosley Nov 26 '14 at 13:34
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Legally, you'd probably need to check your contract.

Ethically, no... to a point.

This actually recently happened to my father.

He joined a pretty large well known company about 25 years ago. When he joined the contracts in place didn't have any clauses about taking clients upon leave. He worked there for ~25 years and when they decided to get rid of him they finally asked him to sign a new contract regarding this (he wasn't obligated to sign). Since he joined the new contracts had clauses added about that type of thing, but he was still bound by the one he signed decades before.

According to him, a lot of his clients just wanted him to do the work for them, and weren't interested in other people at the company doing the same work. I think in the end he came to an arrangement with the company that he would only take a select number of clients, and probably got a payout for doing so.

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