Out of all the anxieties that land in my inbox as a workplace-advice columnist, anxiety over quitting is probably the most common. Even when they’re glad to be leaving, a lot of people get stressed out about the mechanics of actually quitting. How do you tell your boss? What do you write in your resignation letter? And, for that matter, why are we still having this important conversation by letter in the year 2023?
Here, a guide to everything you need to know about resignation letters.
What is the purpose of writing a resignation letter?
The most important thing to know about writing a resignation letter is that it’s not the way you should give your boss the news. When you resign, you should do it via a real conversation with your manager — in person if you work in person or via phone or Zoom if you’re remote. Your boss should not learn that you’re leaving by finding a letter on their desk! Nor should you walk into their office, hand them the letter, and stand around awkwardly while they read it, Hollywood movie conventions to the contrary. (Hollywood also thinks that you negotiate a salary by writing your desired number 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’s it for? It’s intended to be 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, for example, to be able to file for unemployment and claim that they laid you off when you actually left voluntarily or to later allege that you were wrongfully fired. But writing a resignation letter can protect you as well — 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 should be short. Really short. This letter is not the place to air 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. You might choose to share those details in your exit interview (though that doesn’t always make sense, either), but your resignation letter definitely isn’t the place for them.
A resignation 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. If you want, you can also add a single sentence of fluff to pad it out.
Anatomy of a Resignation Letter
Date: Make sure to date the letter (and submit it that same day) 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: This is optional.
Resignation Letter Examples
This is a typical resignation letter:
May 30, 2023
This letter is to confirm that I’ve made the difficult decision to resign from ABC Company. My last day will be June 16. 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. Most people use this “just the facts” type of template.
If you can’t stomach saying kind things about your employer, you can strip those out and instead write something like this:
May 30, 2023
This letter is to confirm my resignation from ABC Company. My last day will be June 16. Please let me know how I can assist in the transition between now and then.
You could even eliminate that last line if you wanted to, but when you’ve already decided to leave, there’s nothing to be gained by being brusque, and a sentence expressing some minimal goodwill (and this really is quite minimal) is useful.
Find even more career advice from Alison Green on her website, Ask a Manager. Got a question for her? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.