"This can be a very evil city," Tillerson said, as the staff present in their comments laughed and applauded.
"But you do not have to choose to participate in that," he added.
In Tillerson's short speech before his official departure at the end of the month, he told State Department employees to cling to his integrity. "It belongs to you," Tillerson said. "Only you can resign or allow yourself to be compromised."
Tillerson's mandate was marked by falling morale and multiple vacancies in important posts, while the Trump administration moved to cut the agency's budget and move decision-making on many high-profile issues to the Pentagon or the White House.
But the 69th Secretary of State received sustained applause from the staff, who applauded for many minutes after Tillerson finished his comments and as he slowly advanced towards the exit, shaking dozens of hands as he left. State Department officials say he was going directly to Texas.
Tillerson mentioned Trump only once in his comments, in passing and not by name, while telling employees about the preparation of background materials "that were the basis of discussions in National Security." Council and finally with the President. "
Tillerson said he had prepared those materials for Pompeo so that he could see the foundations of the strategy and the tactics that guided the department in the main foreign policy issues.
"The country faces many challenges: in some cases they disconcert foreign relations and in other instances serious threats to the national security, "Tillerson told a crowd of several hundred people gathered at the main entrance of the State Department and on balconies that dominate her." In these times, your continued diligence and dedication to the mission of the Department of State has never been more necessary. "
The crowd listened in silence until Tillerson ventured into more personal territory, and touched on topics that had reviewed more than once during his term. Officials from the foreign service and public officials erupted in laughter and applause, with many assent, after Tillerson observed that Washington can be a mean place. When he continued with the advice that people do not have to participate "in that", he was interrupted again by applause.
"I would like to ask that each of you commit to guarantee an act of kindness each day towards another person," Tillerson said. And he called on employees to "treat each other with respect" and added that "we are all just human beings trying to do our part".
"Each one of us chooses the person we want to be, and the way we want to be treated, and the way we will treat others," he said.
The former executive director of ExxonMobil in the State was characterized by frictions often public with the White House and the president himself about personnel and politics.
Trump very publicly took a position different from that of his secretary of state over a dispute between the Gulf nations, publicly mocked Tillerson's diplomatic efforts with North Korea and disagreed with his chief diplomat on how to approach Iran .
And, as with his call to State Department employees treated each other with respect, Tillerson repeatedly seemed to distance himself from the President in matters of behavior and treatment of others.
Following the President's comments that there were "good people" among the white supremacists joined in Charlottesville, after a woman was killed by one, Tillerson delivered a speech at the State Department about the importance of the integrity.
After Trump dismissed African countries as "shitholes" in statements to lawmakers , Tillerson spoke about the importance of inclusion, diversity and respect.
As the #MeToo movement on sexual harassment gained strength, Trump defended a White House employee who was fired after an alleged story of wife beating, and said that "people's lives is destroying "for" a simple accusation. "  Days later, Tillerson addressed the employees of the State Department about the need to intervene if they see sexual harassment and denounce it.