In recent years, an unprecedented number of people have left their jobs for new roles, remote opportunities, or to pursue options besides working. In March of 2022 alone, over 4.5 million workers voluntarily left their jobs, a record number.
Leaving a job can be stressful even when it is the right choice. You may worry about burning a bridge with your employer or worry they will be upset. But following the accepted protocol for leaving a job can make the process smooth and avoid hard feelings. Along with giving proper notice, a formal resignation letter is an important part of leaving your job. Writing a resignation letter doesn’t have to be intimidating; just use these tips.
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What is a resignation letter?
A resignation letter, or letter of resignation, is an official letter that an employee submits to their employer to state an intention to vacate their current position at the company. The goal is to provide details about your last day of work, steps for a smooth transition period, and to share why you’re leaving.
Depending on your employment contract, location, and relationship with your former employer, a resignation letter can be printed or sent via email. They should be written professionally and kindly, rather than used as a substitute for an exit interview where you may share your opinions on the company and the job itself.
Do you really need a resignation letter?
Writing resignation letters has become less common in recent years, and some people feel it is equally useful to quit in person. But even if you choose to have a conversation first, it is still important to present an official resignation letter for the benefit of yourself and your employer. These letters are more than just a social practice; but can leave a lasting impression and be a good habit throughout your career. Resignation letters serve a variety of purposes.
Maintain a positive relationship
Writing a resignation letter is a polite and respectful way to leave a company. Whenever possible, you should try to maintain a good working relationship with past employers. They may be references in the future or could move to a new company and be hiring for your role. You do not want to quit in anger or cause a rift that can jeopardize future opportunities. We suggest checking out ZipRecruiter to find them.
If you have a good relationship with your managers, your resignation letter can be used to share gratitude for your time at the company. You can take a moment in the letter to share what you have learned and how you have felt supported. This may be easier than trying to share in person and can contribute to the positive impression left after your departure.
Let the company prepare
A letter of resignation serves as a formal notice to your company with a specific date you plan to leave. When they are submitted with adequate notice, a resignation letter can set into motion a transition process that allows you to prepare co-workers as much as possible before you leave.
Proof of resignation
From a legal perspective, it is always better to have a resignation in writing. Formalizing your decision in a letter of resignation can act as an official document that you have left the company, what notice you gave, and that you shared the proper information with the company. HR departments can use this as a record of your time at the company and keep it on file for reference in the future.
What components should a resignation letter include?
Your letter of resignation should be written in your own voice and words, but there are pieces that are important to include. Customize each detail to your specific situation, but be sure to hit all of these points.
Always use your own letterhead for a letter of resignation, not your company’s. Include your full name, date, and contact information in the upper section of the letter. You should also address your supervisor (or whoever you are submitting to) directly.
The beginning of your letter should look something like this:
Mr./Ms. Your Name
If you are submitting to a manager you usually interact with, it’s okay to use their first name or however you typically address them. If you are submitting to someone above them or an HR representative, use their full name, Dear Mr. Bob Smith or Dear Miss Linda Johnson.
Official statement of resignation
Your first sentence should be a clear, upfront statement of your intention to leave your current employer. Include the date that you intend to be your last.
An example of this statement may include:
Please accept this letter as my formal notice of resignation from the employment of ABC company. This serves as my two weeks’ notice, with my last date to be Month Day, Year.
You could also include any flexibility surrounding your last date:
My last date of employment can be no later than Month Day, Year. I will be happy to work with you on the best time to transition out of my role before that date.
Reason for leaving
You are not obligated to include information on what your next career step is or any personal reasons you may be leaving. However, you should offer some information as to the reason in order to retain a mutually respectful relationship, especially if you will be working for a competitor in any way.
If you are going to a competitor, they may need to make specific decisions about how to protect sales leads and move forward.
No matter where you are going, include information about your next steps and how you will assist with the transition.
For personal reasons, you can simply state:
I am leaving to attend to personal affairs outside of employment.
When leaving for another career opportunity, write something like this:
I have greatly enjoyed my time at ABC Company but have been presented with a new opportunity to grow in my career. I have accepted an offer at XYZ Corporation that I feel aligns with my future career goals. For the duration of my time here, I will be happy to do whatever is needed for a smooth transition.
Words of gratitude
The letter should end with a reaffirmation of your positive feelings and kind words towards the company or your manager. Even if you are not leaving on good terms, end on a positive note to maintain a good relationship. Remember that this letter will go into an official HR file, so it should be professional and positive.
An example of this section could be:
In the five years I have worked at Company, I have had the pleasure of working with wonderful people, including yourself. I am grateful for what I have learned and the lifelong connections with team members.
Use the end of your letter to reiterate your willingness to help with a transition and your desire to maintain a good relationship. If you’d like, include your personal details, including contact information, so they can get in touch with you. Offer to speak further in person if you haven’t already, and end with a salutation like “kind regards” or “sincerely”.
End your letter with something like:
Thank you again for all of your help during my time here. I look forward to working through the next steps of this transition and will help in any way possible.
What should not be included in a resignation letter?
Just like there are things you should always include in a letter of resignation letter, there are other things it is considered unprofessional to include, like:
Lengthy explanations for why you’re leaving
While you should provide basic information on your next role or if you are leaving for personal reasons, you do not need to use the letter to list your grievances with your job. You may be offered an exit interview which you can use to share frustrations and suggestions for how they can change in the future. In general, you should not include anything negative about the job or your time at the company.
Negative comments about your boss or peers
Similar to keeping a positive outlook on your job, you should not direct any negativity at your boss or team members or discuss poor working environments in a resignation letter. Remember that even after they leave the company, your letter will be on file and could reflect poorly on you.
Write a resignation letter as if it is a professional document because it is. Do not use language you wouldn’t use in communication with your new employer or a customer. It may seem obvious, but when emotions are running high, it is easy to lose sight of your language. Stay level-headed and professional to leave on a good note.
Details about your plans
You should give a general idea of your new job, whether it is the company you are going to or a simple explanation of personal reasons. However, you don’t need to share details about things like location, salary, benefits, or your job responsibilities. Similarly, if you are leaving for reasons besides another job, you do not need to share what you will be doing or any intimate family details.
Too much emotion
If you have a good relationship with your employer, it is considered kind to be grateful and open in your letter. However, save any personal sentiments about your time there or your relationship for face-to-face conversations. Don’t say anything in your letter that you wouldn’t tell your new employer about the job.
Threats of retribution
Again, when emotions run high, it may feel appropriate to threaten to take legal action, share negative information, or otherwise hurt the company. Hinting at any kind of retribution or revenge can not only have you dismissed early, but it could also lead to serious trouble and a call from the general counsel.
A good resignation letter will be written professionally and in a positive light. Be sure to include a concise explanation of when you are leaving, offers of help with the transition, and be open to further conversations. Don’t include unnecessary or unprofessional information, and stay clear on your intentions.
A two weeks notice letter should be written any time you leave a current job voluntarily. Even if you need to give more or less time, a resignation letter should be written.
Resignation letters should be concise and not exceed one page in most cases. You can discuss the exact details of the transition and answer other questions in a follow-up conversation. Use a common font and size to write your letter and format it on a single typed page.
An emailed resignation letter is acceptable unless your contract specifies otherwise. In some ways, emails may be preferable as you can prove that you sent your letter and when. If you turn in a printed form, you may also email a copy to HR in order to ensure you can track the receipt.
Either option is acceptable. It is best to verbally share your resignation and then follow it up with a hard copy of your resignation letter. If you are remote or in different offices, it is acceptable to share the letter via email.
While two weeks’ notice is considered standard, you can write a resignation letter that is effective immediately. This letter may include details about termination and how you expect to proceed regarding logistics like pay, benefits, and transition activities. Be sure to specify the notice period, whether it’s effective immediately or on the last day of employment.
Yes, if it is possible to share notice in person first, that is usually seen most favorably. After the initial discussion or the letter is shared, you can set up follow-up discussions surrounding the transition and next steps. HR will likely also work with you on an off-boarding plan.
While you can find free resignation letter templates online, it’s best to use them as a guide. You can also read resignation letter examples, but you should always customize your letter to fit your needs.