How to Write a Resignation Letter: Examples & Tips from CEOs

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Given that some people change jobs on an almost annual basis in today’s economy, one of the common hurdles for the modern worker is the resignation letter.

Whether you’ve been recruited into a new position or have found the next rung in your career ladder, the ability to write a professional resignation letter is a necessary skill.

There’s a whirlwind of emotions and obligations that occur when you decide to quit a job, but that’s not an excuse for neglecting to submit a resignation letter. Your team, and your manager, deserve a fair two-weeks’ notice in order to process your announcement and prepare for their own next steps. So, in order to give them a professional notice, read on to learn how to write a resignation letter.

How to Write a Resignation Letter: Dos and Don’ts

It’s important to write a polite and respectful resignation letter, regardless of your experience or place of employment. You want to take the high road, thank your boss for the opportunity and generally leave on a positive note. There’s no downside to this, and there’s a lot you’re risking by burning bridges. So, to leave a good impression as you leave your old job behind, follow these tips to learn how to write a resignation letter.

Do Deliver the Resignation Letter in Person

Once you’ve written a professional resignation letter, deliver it personally to your boss. You could mail it or leave it on your boss’ desk, but that’s not as respectful as presenting them with it. This will allow you to talk about the departure and, hopefully, the boss will wish you luck in your new endeavor. Even if that doesn’t happen, your boss will appreciate that you let them know first, privately and professionally.

Don’t Resign by Text, Email or Social Media

Yes, communications have become more casual over the last number of years. Teams communicate via online collaboration tools; news is disseminated in real time via social channels, and texts no long follow grammar rules. In short: expediency rules the day. That is, except when you’re making an official announcement that you’re leaving the company. To announce your resignation in a line of text with abbreviations and emojis is not only disrespectful and inappropriate, it shows a lack of professionalism and seriousness.

Related: How to Know When It’s Time to Quit Your Job

Now, there’s always an exception. A few years ago, an employee of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, ended his relationship with the organization by making a resignation cake. It read: “Dear Mr. Bowers, During the past three years, my tenure at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard has been nothing short of pure excitement, joy and whim. However, I have decided to spend more time with my family and attend to health issues that have recently arisen. I am proud to have been part of such an outstanding team, and I wish this organization only the finest in future endeavors. Please accept this cake as notification that I am leaving my position with NWT on March 27. Sincerely, W. Neil Berrett.”

While unique, the text itself is a model of appropriateness. Depending on your relationship with your employer, a creative approach to your resignation letter can show your gratitude and even bring a smile to a situation that could otherwise be tense.

Do Be Concise

There’s no reason to go on and on. There’s really not much to say in a resignation letter other than you’re moving on to new opportunities. While there is some pertinent information that must be relayed, like the date you’re leaving the company, you shouldn’t write a novel.

Even Steve Jobs’ resignation letter was brief: “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”

Don’t Use Emotional Language in the Resignation Letter

A resignation letter is not a document in which you get to even the score. If you’ve felt wronged at work, well, you’re leaving, so there’s no reason to use your resignation letter as anything more than an official parting of ways. If you feel inclined to give a reason, just flatly state the cause of your departure. Be honest, but not brutally honest.

Do Tie Up Loose Ends

Whether you need to address this specifically in the letter or not is up to you and your situation. However, you should never leave a position with unfinished business. If there is work that you cannot complete, you should offer your services to help complete those tasks, or help your replacement to do so.

Don’t forget to wrap up your benefits package as well. If you have unused vacation time, be sure to address it with the human resources department.

Don’t Give Reasons for Resigning

If you have a good reason that isn’t insulting to your previous employer, then by all means, state it, but you’re under no obligation to explain your reasoning. Most jobs are at-will, meaning the employer can fire an employee for no cause at all. Likewise, you, as an employee, don’t have to give your company a reason why you’re leaving; you just have to state that you’re leaving and when that termination date will be.

Infamously, Greg Smith resigned from Goldman Sachs with a long and detailed explanation that included what he called a “toxic and destructive” environment. His whole letter can be read here, along with other noteworthy bad examples not to follow.

Do Leave Your Forwarding Contact in the Letter

We already suggested that you shouldn’t burn bridges, but now it’s important to note that you can use your departure as a way to build bridges. Colleagues and management can be good future contacts; you never know when you might need the services of your old organization or where coworkers might end up in the future. It’s good to keep the lines of communication open, and you should always be looking to expand your professional network. Therefore, pass on your number, email and even social info.

Don’t Gloat

The last thing you want to do is tell everyone in the office you’re glad to be gone. Worse, you shouldn’t go on social media and start bad-mouthing your previous employer. It’s in bad taste and will likely come back to haunt you. It makes things awkward for your coworkers, especially over the two weeks’ notice until you leave, and posting negative comments online could even lead to legal repercussions.

Resignation Letter Examples

Here are two sample resignation letters to help you get started drafting your own letter of resignation. Read the tips at the bottom of the blog for additional help personalizing your letter!

Formal Resignation Letter Example

Date

Manager’s Full Name

Title

Organization

Organization Address

Dear [Insert Manager’s Last Name],

I will be resigning from my position at [Insert Company Name], effective two weeks from today, on [Insert Date].

My time at [Insert Company Name] was immensely valuable, and I appreciate all of the opportunities you have afforded me.

Good luck in all of your personal and professional endeavors. Contact me at [Insert Phone Number], or email me at [Insert Email Address] if I can be of service during this transition period.

Sincerely,

[Insert Name]

Informal Resignation Letter Example

Dear [Insert Manager’s Name],

I am writing to let you know that I will be leaving [Insert Company] two weeks from today, on[Insert Date].

I can’t thank you enough for all of the opportunities you have given me. I wish only the best for you, the team and the company.

Please let me know if I can be of any help during this time.

Sincerely,

[Insert Name]

Resignation Letter Tips from Managers & CEOs

Although we’ve outlined best practices for resignation letters, every work situation is different, requiring unique nuances and procedures. To get a breadth of preferred resignation letter styles, read some real tips from prominent managers and CEOs that we’ve collected below.

Use an Exit Interview to Vent

Angela Beeler, founder and CEO of REFIT Revolution, thinks that the resignation letter should only serve as a formal document and shouldn’t be emotionally charged.

“A resignation letter is not your opportunity to verbally attack your employer or ‘let it all out’ — save that for your exit interview. A resignation letter is simply a formality and should be used as such. If you need to share your thoughts and experiences, ask for an exit interview.

Say Thank You

Chris Chauncey, founder of Amplio Recruiting, thinks that it’s essential to maintain a positive relationship with the delivery of a resignation letter.

“A good resignation letter should at least include a thank you note to your employer and a few lines detailing why you enjoyed working at the company and the best lessons you will take away. This is a great way to maintain a positive relationship with your employer because you never know when you might need them as a reference at some point in your career.”

Outline a Transition Plan

Walker Peek, CEO of Commercial Acoustics, thinks that including a transition plan will really make your resignation letter stand out and leave a lasting impression.

“All managers know that employees will eventually resign for a variety of reasons. They might have outgrown the company, or simply found better pay and opportunities elsewhere. However, something that really stands out and I really like to see in a resignation letter is a quick transition plan. This would be a brief summary of the employee’s responsibilities and how they plan on handing these off to other to ensure their work is covered.”

Consider Legal Advice if You’re Upper Management

Esther Sauri, a marketing specialist at Linkilaw, says that you should review every detail of your employment contract before resigning.

“Before writing a resignation letter, with the help of a legal consultant, a comprehensive review of your contract should be done with special attention to specific company policies regarding resignation. This is vital to the process of resignation to avoid a breach of contract.”

Be Specific

Kraig Martin, commercial director at Storage Vault, says that if you really want to help out the company you’re leaving, then include specific details.

“I prefer seeing specific reasons for leaving in a resignation letter because it allows you as a manager to attempt to tackle any underlying problems that are affecting morale and causing people to leave. That said, I don’t want to read a 10-page essay, but I appreciate detailed feedback about a person’s decision.”

Once you’ve presented a professional letter of resignation, don’t forget to pack up you desk, including the tools that helped you do your job effectively. If you can’t take them with you, then you should tell your new employer about great project management software like ProjectManager.com. Our cloud-based software offers collaborative project management tools to help you complete tasks and projects with your new team. Resign yourself to trying it; it’s free for 30 days with this trial offer.

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