“I quit.” Seems easy, right? Like everything else in this world, not so much.
You could send that very-on-the-nose note to announce your departure, but it’s really poor form. If you’re ready to move on to a new position, or you just can’t deal with your job any longer, there’s a process to sending a good and proper resignation letter. No matter how POed you are on your way out the door, you’ll be thankful later that you took the time to send a well-crafted, anger-neutral letter or email to your (soon to be former) boss.
Why Send a Letter?
Different offices have many different ways to reach someone: interoffice chat, phone, email, meetings, coffee machine ambush, etc. So why go the official resignation letter route? It leaves a paper trail, in case there’s any question later about timing, or your intent to leave. You can tell people you’re leaving through any channel, but you should always tell your boss first, and make sure that you follow up with an official letter. That way, he or she can forward it as necessary, and HR will have an official document and be able to start any necessary exit processes.
When to Send the Letter
The timing on the letter varies according to a few different factors. First, always check your company’s HR policies. When you started, you may have signed something agreeing to give a particular amount of notice. Two weeks (10 business days) is an informal standard, but definitely double-check to make sure that this is a courtesy and not a legal requirement. If your start date at your new place is in two weeks and your current company requires three weeks’ notice, then things could get sticky. If you kept your onboarding documents at your current job, you can check those. Otherwise, a discreet email to HR should be able to resolve the question for you, without advertising to everyone that you’re on your way out the door.
When It’s Okay to Leak
If you have a good relationship with your boss, you should also plan to give him or her an unofficial heads-up before you send the official resignation note. Getting a formal announcement out of nowhere can feel like blindsiding, especially if you have a good working relationship.
So you might want to precede the whole process with a quick face-to-face meeting (as private as you can get it), and let your manager know that you’re leaving for a new job, or just leaving. You’re not obligated to go into great detail, about what your next steps are after you leave, but given that this person will likely be responsible for handling your duties in the interim and for initiating a search for You 2.0, a heads-up will likely be appreciated. It’s a professional, respectful way to set the tone for your leaving.
If you are genuinely worried about your manager having a bad reaction to the news, you can skip this step and go straight to the letter, or go through your HR department. Otherwise, most professional people accept this as a fact of life in the workplace, and will accept your resignation with the same level of graciousness that you put into it.
Once you’ve sorted out the amount of notice you’ll be giving and have given your manager the courtesy heads-up, it’s time to hand over the letter.
How to Send the Letter
If your company is one that handles everything via email, you can probably get away with emailing your resignation to your boss (after the face-to-face meeting). As a rule, though, it’s best to go the analog route and have a printed, signed version. If possible, have it printed, signed, and ready to go for your meeting with your boss. There’s no need to send it through the mail, or recruit a singing telegram-ist to deliver the letter. If you don’t have it ready for your face-to-face meeting, make sure to hand it to your boss shortly afterward—you don’t want there to be any conflict over the amount of official notice you’re giving.
What to Write
The content of a resignation letter is pretty straightforward. There’s no need to write a novel, with plotlines or long, tear-stained devotional passages about how you haven’t slept since you decided it was time to part ways with the company. The letter should have just the most straightforward information, with a little of your own voice thrown in:
- Greeting (addressed to your boss)
- I resign.
- My last day in the office will be…
- I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had in this role…
- I will be available to help with any transition duties, or training a replacement staff member.
Pretty simple. It’s not the place to weigh in on your replacement, or ask if you’ll get paid for unused vacation days. The purpose of the resignation letter is just to get it in writing that you are leaving in X amount of time.
What NOT to Write (Or, Don’t Burn Bridges)
The resignation letter is also definitely not the time for axe-grinding. (That’s more of a venting-to-friends activity, not to be committed to paper.) If your boss is a jerk, or you can’t work for the company for X, Y, Z reasons, it doesn’t matter here. If you can’t quite manage a friendly tone, go for a civil one. And if you can’t find anything good to say about your time there, dig deep and…fib a little, if you need to.
You may be about to blow this popsicle stand, but keep in mind that you’re probably not quitting to go live in a wifi-less cabin somewhere. You’ll be moving on to other jobs, possibly even in the same industry. And people talk, especially when there’s good gossip. You want to be known as a consummate professional, especially as you’re gearing up to start somewhere new. The last thing you want is for your new boss to catch wind of a tantrum thrown on your way out of your last job. So even if the circumstances of your leaving are less than ideal, shake off the anger/annoyance/temptation and be gracious in your parting letter. If you really need to get some residual anger out of your system, funnel it all into an “I quit” movie marathon.
Never forget that this letter will be part of the official record in your company. It will be seen by your boss, yes, but also HR and goodness knows who else. Please apply the same policy you should apply to all workplace communications: don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to be posted for the entire company to see.
The Sample Letter
I quit. I have a better job offer, and honestly can’t stand the idiots in this office any longer.
Umm, no. Not only is this the wrong tone and unnecessarily antagonistic, it leaves out important information like an end date, and basic niceties like a “thank you.” Let’s try that again.
Yo Michael, The time has come to say goodbye…
So yeah, this is an official note to say I quit…
It is with a heavy heart and a veil of tears that I announce I will be resigning…
Please accept this note as a formal notification that I am resigning my position as Assistant (to the) Regional Manager to pursue other opportunities. My last day will be March 18, 2024.
I really appreciate the opportunities I’ve had here these past 12 years, and hope you know how much I’ve learned and grown in my role. I’ve learned an incredible amount about how to market and sell paper, both from our colleagues here and our clients.
Over the next two weeks, I’d like to work with you on any necessary training or transition duties as I wrap up my time here.
I know the company will continue to have great success, and am so thankful to have been a part of it for so long. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s anything you’d like to discuss about my departure.
Much better! Resignation letters are hard because you’re writing an official document, so it may sound a little stiff or formal by default. Definitely err on the side of formality, because again—you never know who will be seeing this once you release it at work. It’s okay to make it sound like your regular voice, but just make sure you’re not going too informal, and that you’re hitting all the necessary elements (gracious tone, end date, availability to help with the transition up until that date).
So while it might be tempting to create a stir on your way out (possibly involving Kanye West), you will never go wrong with a thoughtful, clear, and definitive resignation letter. It may be tempting to dismiss your current job as old news, or use this as a chance to burn someone or the company on the way out, but if you resist that urge, you’ll be the better for it later on. Viral social media stardom is fleeting, but your reputation is forever.