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How to Write a Resignation Letter

by Ryan Guina

Last week I resigned from my job. I had been there for over two years, but it was time to move on.

Why I decided to resign

I decided to resign my position because I was not growing professionally. After job hunting for a couple months, I had a series of job interviews, followed by a couple job offers. One of the job offers required a firm answer this past Friday, so after evaluating the job offers and discussing the opportunities with my wife, I made a decision. I accepted one of the offers and resigned from my current position last Friday afternoon.

How to write a resignation letter

I believe your resignation letter should be simple, polite, and firm. The following is a clean version of my resignation letter (i.e. details removed):

Dear (Manager),

I hereby resign from my position as (insert job title). My last day of employment will be May 23, 2008, two weeks from today.

I thank you for the opportunities I have had with (company name) over the past two years. However, I decided to take another professional opportunity.

I have begun work on a transition plan and will be available to assist training my replacement. If there is anything I can do to make this transition go smoothly, please do not hesitate to ask.

Sincerely,

Signature,

Typed Name

As you can see, this is short, simple, and effective. I told them when I was leaving, I thanked them for the opportunities I had, and I offered to assist in the transition. There really isn’t any need to add more than this unless you are close to your manager and want to add a few minor personal touches. Even then, it is best to limit what you include. You never know who will read the letter.

What you should not include in a resignation letter

You should not include any negative statements about the company, your client(s), your management, coworkers, salary, or other issues you have. You are already leaving the company, so there is no reason to be negative. The only thing negativity can do is burn bridges.

Dealing with resignation questions

My resignation caught my managers off guard. But it shouldn’t have. Several months ago I asked myself if it was time to change jobs? At that point, I had already talked to my management multiple times about a new position within the company and taking on increased levels of responsibility. Since then, I continued to look within the company for more opportunities… but there was nothing available.

When I handed my manager my resignation letter he sat in stunned silence for several moments. I could see him going through several emotions – disbelief, anger, etc. I just sat there in silence while he worked things out. He asked for more details as to why I was leaving, but I kept it to a minimum. I told him I still had to give my resignation letter to his boss, and offered to speak to him after the weekend. I thought it best to let him gather his thoughts before further discussing my resignation.

Never burn a bridge

You will likely have an exit interview with your manager or HR before your final day with the company. This will give everyone (including you) time to gather their thoughts about your resignation. This may be a good time to bring up the issues mentioned above (company, your client(s), your management, coworkers, salary, etc.), but remember to keep everything civil. There is no point for blame. Offer constructive criticism and move on.

I don’t anticipate returning to my current (and soon to be former) place of employment. However, you never know what situations may arise, or who you may run into in the future. It never pays to burn a bridge – especially if you work in a closely knit professional community, such as the community where I work. In my professional community, most high level managers know each other and word travels quickly. I even know a guy how resigned his job, said a few choice words to his former employer and when he showed up to his new job, found out it was no longer there for him. It turns out the manager he cursed was an old military buddy of his new boss. His employment contract was conditional, and apparently he broke the conditions.

Resign gracefully. It is best for everyone involved.


Published or updated June 1, 2009.
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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Trent Hamm

Any company worth its salt will have some sort of exit interview so they can understand why you’re leaving and use that information to improve their organization. Participate in this and be honest – it’s the best thing you can do.

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2 Ryan

Trent, it’s already scheduled. :)

I plan on being very honest in my exit interview. I’ve been honest with my management for the past several months, and made it clear to them I was looking for more professional opportunity. I’ll be sure to share how it goes. I’m sure this will be an interesting week.

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3 Dividend Growth Investor

I have never heard of exit interviews. Good luck in your new endeavours Ryan!

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4 Llama Money

Whether I would participate in an exit interview depends on the reason for my leaving. If it was just lack of room to grow, then absolutely. But if the work conditions were simply vile and management was horrid, I would simply decline the interview. No matter how horrible the job, you never know when you might need to come back. So rather than lie my ass off during the exit interview, I would just decline it.

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5 No Debt Plan

Congrats on the new position. Exit interviews are crucial if an organization is going to figure out how to keep its best people.

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6 Ron@TheWisdomJournal

My company doesn’t really do exit interviews per se, but they send out a questionnaire that you mail back in. What’s funny is that many, many people are very honest in the questionnaire and only THEN does upper management take notice. You have to quit to get your voice heard.

Frustrating.

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7 Frugal Dad

I had to resign from my last position over the telephone because my boss was not in the same work location (I know…strange, isn’t it?). She was shocked and quite upset that I did it over the phone. I explained that I did not want to hand it to anyone above her locally, and I did not want to do it over email. If I waited until I saw her again I could not work an adequate notice. I figured phone and a follow up email with the resignation attached was the next best thing. It wasn’t as graceful as I would have liked, but the odd work arrangement forced my hand.

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8 deepali

Great advice. I confess than when I quit my last job, I burned some bridges, but I was young, and it was a complete career transition, so I’m not too worried. My internal transfer at my current place did not go as smoothly as I would have liked, but I think we are all ok with it now. I guess I’ll see further down the line. :)

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9 Lisa

I’ve been on both ends, the quitter and the “quittee” — I must say, if your manager didn’t see it coming that’s really testament to his/her failure to really “read” the employee. When I was a manager and had people quit, I pretty much knew they were ready to move on. Sometimes it wasn’t a good fit for either of us, and other times it was not the employee’s fault, but because of circumstances beyond my control — ie: higher level management making things difficult for my department.

On the other end, I am self-employed now and so glad that I never burned any bridges, though the temptation was always there to give them a piece of my mind! Some of my old employees, employers and contacts are part of my client roster now and I am so glad I went with the less is more strategy in my exit interviews!

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10 Ryan

Jason,

I think you did the right thing. I resigned via a voice message once because my boss left early for the weekend and didn’t tell anyone. I stopped by his office and he was out, so I left my resignation letter on his desk and called his cell, which went straight to voice mail. There wasn’t anything else I could do at that point but leave a message. It definitely wasn’t what I had planned, but there wasn’t much else I could do.

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11 MoneyNing

Good luck on your interview and new job! It’s always a good move forward once you decided and I’m sure you will make the best out of it.

It’s very hard for someone to leave the comfortable and venture out even if everything is telling him so I applaud the bold move!

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12 fathersez

I have burned my fair share of bridges. Now I am back (after a gap of about 15 years) to a former boss from whom I had also resigned not too gracefully.

Your advice is correct. It always better to be civil.

As someone said, on the way down we pass all those whom we passed on the way up.

PS: Have you told everyone about your choice of Company A or B. I may have missed that!

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13 PT

Great advice. No matter how ready you are it’s always awkward to resign. More so if you have an insecure boss that takes it personally. I hope the move works out in your favor.

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14 MITBeta @ Don't Feed The Alligators

My last job was with a 25,000 person company. 15 of us (in a 50 person group) left over the course of about 1.5 years. Management and HR never conducted a single exit interview. It took me a year to get my unused vacation pay settled. Management eventually conducted an investigation into the rash of turnovers and concluded that nothing was wrong. But then, what evidence did they have?

It boggles my mind to this day…

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15 Ryan

MITBeta,

There are quite a few companies that don’t conduct exit interviews. But I think that if almost 30% of your workforce turns over in under 2 years there are some problems that need to be resolved. The thing is – many times these aren’t pay issues, but things that can be resolved before they grow large enough that workers just decide to leave. It really is unfortunate because companies are costing themselves hundreds of millions of dollars annually by not listening to their employees.

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16 Writer's Coin

There is always an urge to go out with “a bang” and say things you’ve felt for a long time. You’re right: don’t do it. Never burn a bridge no matter how good it’ll feel right then. No matter how much they deserve it.

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17 sharon wrigley

i handed in my resignation letter by 4oclock that afternoon my job had been advertised in the job centre the next day someone was interviewed and taken on .Does any one know are employers allowed to do this ive still not worked my weeks notice out yet

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18 Ryan

Sharon,

In the US, many jobs are “at will” employment, meaning the job can be terminated at any time by the employee or the employer. However, it is common for the employee to give 2 weeks notice in the US, and if the company terminates employment, they usually have to give a reason and may be required to offer some form of compensation such as a severance package or be entitled to unemployment benefits. As for your particular case, or in other countries, I cannot say.

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19 Cathy

I have resigned my position after 23 years. I have 24 days of accrued vacation. Does my company have to pay me for that time?

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20 Gates VP

Hey Cathy, the general answer is Yes.

However, there are several caveats here. You’ll have to check your employment contract and it depends on the manner in which you accrued the vacation time. Was it one day / year for 24 years? Or was it all collected in the last year (i.e.: you get 6 weeks vacation and didn’t use it all)

Either way, vacation time is money you’ve earned so it generally has to be paid out. There may be some obscure exception, but it’s certainly not the norm.

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21 Dave

Pouring your heart out in exit interviews is an absolute waste of time and depending on what you say it can be detrimental to your future if you happen to cross paths with your old employer. It’s naive to suggest that HR or the employer will turn over a new leaf: “Pennington as a result of your valuable insight into the errors of our ways were going to institute changes immediately – so that we don’t lose anymore great employees such as yourself!” Not! It doesn’t work like that, they just wanna know what’s in your head. Stick to the script; be polite, professional, and give as few details as possible. You’ve already won; you’re leaving.

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22 Ryan

Dave, I agree, one shouldn’t get emotional. The last exit interview I gave was similar to the script you mentioned – polite, professional, and quick. But then again, my managers knew exactly why I was leaving. I had repeatedly asked for a change of assignment and finally decided to make my own change.

Some companies, especially some smaller ones, make better use of the exit interview than other companies and try to make changes. But, yeah, it’s naive to think one can change the ways of a Fortune 500 company just because you had a bad experience.

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23 Gloria Wadzinski

Doing an exit interview is a little like talking to the police. It isn’t done for your benefit. You’re never going to hear, “Anything you say or do can be used in your defense.” The information shared will not benefit you; you’re already gone. The information can only hurt you by being included in your permanent record.

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