Sample retirement speech honoring a co-worker

Need a sample retirement speech to help you organize your thoughts when it's your turn to honor a retiring co-worker? 

The sample retirement speech below has notes to give you a structure you can use for your retirement tribute.  But first, some guidelines about what to say and what to avoid.

Retirement speeches and toasts can be funny or touching. They are often the highlight of a retirement party given to recognize the retiree’s work or the person's role in the organization. 

Funny photo of a groundhog wearing a cap and speaking into a microphone.Be calm, be cool and tell some funny stories.

If you are the main speaker, your tribute should include humor.   How did the retiree interact with coworkers, the bosses, or those in subordinate positions?  Such personal associations are often a source for good-natured fun.

But you'll also want to include comments about the person's character, leadership style or contributions.

A mix of light-hearted anecdotes and thoughtful observations is always a fitting tone for this capstone event. 

If you are the main speaker, your tribute should include humor.   How did the retiree interact with coworkers, the bosses, or those in subordinate positions?  Such personal associations are often a source for good-natured fun. But you'll also want to include comments about the person's character, leadership style or contributions. A mix of light-hearted anecdotes and thoughtful observations is always a fitting tone for this capstone event. 

The main retirement speech

If you are honoring the retiree, you'll want your speech to be entertaining and touching. Open your speech with something that will grab the attention of the audience.  A quote, statistic or funny story about the honoree works well. And since retirement parties are walks down memory lane, most of your speech should include recollections of what the individual has meant to the workplace.

Aim for a 5 minute talk.  That's  long enough to do justice to the retiree and short enough to keep your audience from secretly reaching for their phones.  The body of your talk should be a blend of stories and observations that paint a picture of the retiree and the role he or she has filled with the organization.

Put some thought into your conclusion.  It may be funny or serious but be sure to mention how much the person has contributed or will be missed. If you’re a pro, you’ll end your talk with a conclusion that ties back to your opening remarks or an earlier story. Hard to do but that is always a winning formula.

For help with polishing your retirement speech, check out these tips from Toastmasters International. 

(If you are retiring and will be making a speech, See When you are the retiree for a suggested speech outline.)

And in case your sensitivity monitor does not always work, remember that over-the-hill remarks or nursing home jokes that were hilarious at a 50th birthday party are not  so amusing now. Most retirement parties include members of the family and some will probably be elderly. A safe option is to focus on the workplace and relationships there.  Highlight some funny things that happened to the person while at work or earlier in his or her life.

drawing of business man waving goodbye to illustrate a retiring co-worker

If the person is healthy, active and looking forward to leaving work, it’s appropriate for the retirement speech to include some light remarks about a laid-back future enjoying hobbies. But if you’re not sure of the person’s situation, focus on their role with the company.

If the retiree is leaving the military, include some stories or sayings about military service that apply to the retiree and the branch of service.

There are a variety of retirement sayings or quotes you can use but be careful. In all cases, avoid those dire predictions about a toothless, drooling, declining future that, while intended to be funny, may embarrass others or make them uncomfortable.

Sample retirement speech honoring a colleague

The following sample honors Joe Smith who is retiring from Always There  Insurance in Wilkesboro after working there for 15 years. You can adapt this formula and the tips for retirement wishes listed in the left-hand column to fit your honored guest. If you're stuck for ideas, incorporate some of the retirement sayings on this website. 

If you are the main speaker, keep your remarks to around 5-7 minutes.  (The average attention span of an audience is about 7 minutes.)  If there are several speakers (besides the retiree), aim for no more than 4 minutes.

Avoid a boring opening.

Start out with a joke, quote, question or some statement that captures the attention of the audience.

Then recognize special guests or family members if they have not already been introduced. 

Statistics tells us that 10,000 Baby Boomers reach retirement age every day.  And one of those retiring today is Joe Smith.

We're sorry to say goodbye to Joe.  But, every ending has a bright side when it also marks a new beginning.

We're here to say a few words about his life at Always There and wish Joe well as he goes to that place in life we all look forward to . . . retirement. 

Thank you, friends and coworkers,  for joining us . . . .   Joe, you didn't know, did you, that so many people would be celebrating your departure!

Before we get started, I'd like to take just a minute to introduce some special guests.  . . .

Make your remarks about the retiree and address the person directly as well as occasionally describing the retiree in third person.

Tell a story about the retiree and his work habits. The story should relate in some positive way to others in the organization.

Make some comments about the retiree's role in the overall organization.

Tell some stories about his work or experiences others had in working with the retiree.

Seriously, Joe, … you've been an anchor in our marketing department for the past 15 years. He was one of the first ones in every day and would watch we Gen X’ers and  Millenials come dragging in an hour after he’d finished his second cup of coffee. And he’d always have something cheerful to say before 8 a.m. Sometimes it was irritatingly cheerful for those of us who are night owls. (How could someone smile that broadly just after daybreak?)

He’s definitely not like those people who come in late but make up for it by leaving early.

Joe was always here, greeting us with a wide grin. I asked him once why he was always so happy and Joe simply said, “You might as well smile because you’re here anyway and there’s no point in bringing anybody else down by complaining.”

That comment says a lot about who Joe Smith is. His glass is always half full. And on those occasions when our marketing team's creativity had run wild and out of bounds, Joe knew how to gently guide us back in the fold while complimenting their ingenuity.

One of the things people like most about Joe... besides his ability to smile all the time . . .  is the fact that he can laugh at himself.  And Joe has provided the rest of us with some laughs along the way.

Remember that time when his team developed the campaign with the talking locks? That campaign had a memorable slogan:  Always There makes every house a safe house.  Joe’s bright idea to the idea was to show everybody how we were the one insurance company with the talking locks that could make every house safe.

His pitch  – Let Always There Insurance put you in a safe house today and tomorrow – was a great success until it was abruptly ended. As you recall, that was the time the Wilkes police launched a raid on a prostitution ring that covered five states and was headquartered in a safe house in nearby Winston.

Suddenly Joe’s idea of pitching Always There as the backer of the safe house didn’t fit the image the executive suite wanted.

I think cracks about  Joe's  safe house went on for months. . . . And he laughed every time he heard it.    Thanks, Joe, for being such a good sport.

Make some overall comments restating how the honored guest has influenced the organization or his work area.

Repetition of a key phrase can emphasize your point.

Looking back over Joe’s career here, we all have stories about him. Others will share some of those shortly.

To Joe, I want to say how much we admire your dedication to your colleagues and this company. When Joe started working here, Always There was a small agency with just 6 employees but with a vision of customer service that would transform us into a major player in this market. And Joe... you have been a major player in our growth and prosperity.

It’s the people like Joe, who come into work with a smile, make our clients happy and understand that we always have to keep  improving our service  . . . those people like Joe are the ones who have made Always There Insurance the success it is today.

It’s impossible to measure what Joe has meant to this company all these years. And I know I speak for everyone when I say this is a bittersweet moment . . . saying goodbye to a friend and coworker who has meant so much. But we are all happy that Joe and Laura will have time to kick back, get off this treadmill and do what they want.

Work in some lighter comments to say how much the person will be missed but how happy everyone is for the retiree as he or she embarks on a new life.

End with some comments that refer back to one of your stories.

We’re now at the point in a retirement party when someone presents the retiree with a watch. But we don't have one and that's okay because Joe will no longer need a watch.

What we do have are some more memories we’d like to share.

It is obvious that you will be missed. We wish you and Laura all the best and like knowing that your smile will be even broader now that you don’t have to take that commute in every morning.

And we know that if the Wilkes police ever break up another safe house, they can call you because you’ll know just what to say.

Invite people to applaud the retiree and close family members. Others should then share their own reflections.

Joe and Laura, would you please stand so we can say thanks.
(Lead others in applause.)

dog in business suit with caption My Work Here is Done.

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