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Whenever somebody resigns, or does something out of the ordinary, the president at our institution always sends out an email that begins

It is with extremely mixed emotions that I announce the resignation of so-and-so. He's leaving to go do another job Z at institute W.

I am kind of confused by this kind of statement from a higher up. What does it mean?

I imagine one of the following:

  • "I didn't really like him, so it's kinda good he left. Anyway best of luck to him."
  • "Always hated him".

Why do people phrase resignation announcements like this, and what are the goals with the ambiguity (in writing "mixed emotions", but without elaborating)?

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    What would you say instead? "I'm devastated, and frankly wondering how the business will survive"? Or "He shouldn't let the door hit him on the way out"? – pdr Apr 3 '13 at 22:42
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    Quoting a Dilbert cartoon (can someone find a link to the actual cartoon?): "Tim will be leaving the company to pursue other opportunities. Note the absence of key phrases such as 'we regret' or 'years of dedicated service'. And notice that his new opportunity is not called 'exciting'." "I think you're reading a little too much into that announcement." "No, I'm reading the footnote." – Keith Thompson Apr 4 '13 at 0:06
  • The weird part about this to me is announcing what the person is leaving to go do and what company. I can think of a lot of reasons this is a bad idea. – enderland Apr 4 '13 at 1:50
  • Downvoters, as always, you should explain. – bobobobo Apr 4 '13 at 2:07
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    Most people don't really know how to express themselves very well. They use meaningless clichés because they've heard them & read them, they use awkward language when they write because that's what most people write, except in informal prose, & they don't understand the connotations & social value of the words they use. The president at your institution could just as easily have said "I'm sad to announce that So&So will no longer be working with us next week, but happy to say that it's because So&So's found a better job at XYZ Co. I wish So&So the best of luck." What could be easier than that? – user264 Apr 4 '13 at 14:10
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Normally, the "mixed emotions" comment is intended to be a positive one. The person sending the email is stating that he's sad to see a valuable employee go but happy that the employee found such a wonderful opportunity. Of course, it is entirely possible that the person sending the email isn't happy to see the person go or could care less about the departed employee's happiness. But the polite fiction is that you're always sad to see an employee resign and always happy for the new opportunity the employee found.

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  • I guess this is the most plausible interpretation. The mix is "happy you got a new one, sad to see you go." Not "happy that you're going, but also sad that you're going" – bobobobo Apr 4 '13 at 1:34
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    @bobobobo Definitely; even if the president didn't like the person, they likely wouldn't admit it. (Also since you said they do this every time, I find it unlikely that they dislike everyone at the company!) It means "I'm sad to see you go, but glad you're doing something that makes you happy." (Also welcome to ELL! I know this question was migrated, but I hope you'll continue to post great questions like this here!) – WendiKidd Apr 4 '13 at 13:32
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The kindest interpretation is that the president is sorry to see the employee leave, but happy to see the employee succeeding.

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The mixed emotions is stating that there is more than one way to see this news. It could be taken as good news and bad news would be the politically correct perspective to have. In a way, it could be taken as rude that someone is leaving as that could put out the perception that this isn't a good workplace. At the same time, each person has their choices which should be respected when it comes to where to work.

Consider that someone else now has to take on this work so there will be changes that weren't expected. Will this person be happy taking on the new stuff or ticked about having even more to do now?

Consider that this person's influence may be gone and thus morale may improve because various people didn't like him and he is finally gone for another side here.

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  • I keep thinking the non-exact wording is intending to communicate this! – bobobobo Apr 4 '13 at 1:32
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Taken literally it is saying that he/she has more than one emotion. What does that say? I have always disliked the saying as it could mean that they are anything from 'happy for' to 'really pleased' that they are leaving. And it isn't limited to two emotions. Could mean that they are excited, relieved, and happy that someone has left. The saying is meaningless without surrounding context.

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