If you’re thinking about quitting your job, you might be feeling pretty anxious about the mechanics of actually doing it. How do you tell your boss? How do you initiate that meeting? What do you write in your resignation letter? And for that matter, considering that it’s 2020, why are we still marking this important conversation by letter?
Here’s everything you need to know about resignation letters.
What is the purpose of writing a resignation letter?
Here’s the most important thing to know about how to write a resignation letter: It’s not the way you initially give your boss the news. When you resign, you should do it via a face-to-face conversation. Or, in situations where that’s not possible (because you work remotely or your boss is out of town or so forth), it’s a conversation that you have by phone. You do not resign by popping a letter in your boss’s inbox and waiting for her to find it. Nor do you walk into her office, hand her a letter, and stand there while she reads it, despite the fact that Hollywood loves to portray resignations this way. (Hollywood also thinks that you negotiate salary by writing your desired salary on a slip of paper and pushing it across the table. Hollywood is weird, and appears to be populated by people who have not worked in many non-Hollywood office jobs, or who behaved really oddly when they did.)
So if a resignation letter isn’t the way you announce your departure, what is its purpose? It’s really just documentation of your decision – a bureaucratic detail, not the main event. You have your resignation conversation with your boss, and then you follow up with your resignation in writing to formalize it and ensure there are no misunderstandings later. This is primarily in your employer’s interests; they don’t want you to, for example, be able to file for unemployment and claim that they laid you off when in fact you left voluntarily. But writing a resignation letter can be in your own interests too — for example, if anyone raises questions later on about whether you truly gave two weeks notice.
What to include in a resignation letter
Here’s the second most important thing to know about how to write a resignation letter: It can be short. Really short. In fact, it should be. This letter is not the place to pour out your complicated feelings about leaving your job, or your frustration with your boss, or your disappointment that you weren’t promoted or given better assignments. Your letter should be two to three sentences at most and should simply confirm your decision to resign, note when your last day will be, and indicate today’s date. You might then add a single sentence of fluff to pad it out.
Resignation Letter Examples
This is a typical resignation letter:
November 27, 2018
This letter is to confirm that I’ve made the difficult decision to resign from ABC Company. My last day will be December 12. I’ve appreciated my time here and wish the company every success.
As you can see, it’s short and unemotional, but it gets the job done.
If you can’t stomach saying kind things about your employer, you can strip those out and instead write something like this:
November 27, 2018
This letter is to confirm my resignation from ABC Company. My last day will be December 12. Please let me know how I can assist in transition between now and then.
You could even eliminate that last line if you wanted to, but typically at this point, when you’ve already decided to leave, there’s no point in being brusque and a sentence expressing some minimal good will (and this is really quite minimal) is useful.
Anatomy of a Resignation Letter
Date: Make sure to date the letter so there’s no doubt later about how much notice you gave.
Content: Just two to three sentences documenting your decision.
Last day: Make sure to include when you’re proposing your final day will be.
Fluff: Fluff is optional.
Order Alison Green’s book, Ask a Manager: Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work, here. Got a question for her? Email email@example.com. Her advice column appears here every Tuesday.