When you've decided to leave your employer, no matter what your motivation for doing so—whether to take a new position, return to school, deal with a family situation or illness, relocate, or get out of toxic work environment—giving notice to your company can be your toughest task. Resignation is stressful, and crafting a resignation letter can be an afterthought.
But there are plenty of reasons, however, you should look at submitting a formal resignation letter as an opportunity to leave your position on a positive note, even if you're quitting because you've had enough. Jeremy Payne, head of people operations at Remote Year, said, “a few short moments of planning and focus can turn your resignation letter into a tool to help both you and your employer have a successful transition.”
Why You Should Submit a Resignation Letter
Some employers may require a letter of resignation to initiate the process of leaving the company. Even if your employer doesn't, submitting your resignation letter has many benefits: it will prevent confusion about the terms about your leaving, such as your last day, and will give you a chance to thank the company—or air grievances, depending on your relationship with your employer and reasons for leaving. You may not have to give notice at all, but it's considered good etiquette to do so.
In most instances, you should write a physical letter rather than giving notice by email. Your letter should serve as a followup to giving notice in person to your direct manager. This is the most polite way of resigning since your boss will be able to hear the news firsthand from you rather than through the grapevine. Follow this resignation procedure unless your employer requires that you follow a different one.
Components of a Letter of Resignation
Reasons and benefits aside, here are the essential components of a formal resignation letter that helps you turn your decision to resign into a move that builds both your brand and your career:
1. Start with the facts and be direct.
Your letter of resignation should be addressed to your immediate boss. The first paragraph should explain that you are leaving and should clearly state your last day of work. A two-week notice period is standard, but not required. You can give however many weeks worth of notice that you feel is appropriate. Just make sure that the end date of your current job is clear to your current employer.
2. Focus on the positive.
The next paragraph (the body of the letter) is the key to leaving behind a good impression. If you had a good experience, it’s time to share what you appreciated about the opportunity and highlight the experiences that were meaningful to you. It could be what you learned from your company or benefits you experienced from leading exciting projects, said Dr. Kathryn Bingham, executive coach and CEO of LEADistics.
A memorable and professional resignation letter can have more meaning to the reader than you may recognize. Early in her career, Valerie Streif, senior advisor at The Mentat, had a great job experience. Streif recalled writing a letter that touched on all the things she learned and how it would serve her throughout her career. “It was appreciated by my boss, and she ended up writing me a great recommendation letter to use for future employment."
If you are leaving with some small (or large) grievances, you can skip the gratitude and keep your formal resignation letter succinct. (You HR department doesn't need every reason you've decided you leave.) You can outline your current outstanding projects to help guide the transition out of the company. It’s the easiest solution. Not mentioning your issues or reason for leaving helps you maintain positive connections and a productive network. In this case, Payne suggests using your exit interview as an opportunity to share additional information, especially if the events surrounding your departure may continue to have a negative impact on individuals and the company’s culture.
If you are leaving a truly toxic environment, you have a unique opportunity to use your job resignation letter to call out ethical lapses, harassment or other behaviors at your company. There is no doubt this takes courage and care. Bingham suggests to “provide specific, factual descriptions and include the impacts of toxic behaviors, as well as any efforts you made to report on or change the environment. Be mindful that written communication could become evidence in legal proceedings. Ask a trusted individual to read the letter and offer feedback prior to submission or making public.”
3. Say "thank you."
Your final paragraph is usually simple. Thank the company for the opportunity and include your contact information, if not already provided. Regardless of the circumstances or reasons you are leaving, graciousness goes a long way. A good resignation letter, whether you're an assistant or a vice president, is an opportunity to remind your current employer what a strong employee you were.
Resignation Letter Samples
Below are three sample resignation letter templates, written for different scenarios. You should have a good idea of which resignation letter sample fits your situation best and add those unique elements that only you can share.
This resignation letter example is written from the perspective of someone who has had a positive experience, wants to maintain a positive relationship and is thankful for the opportunity:
Please accept this letter as notice of my formal resignation from my position at [xyz company]. My last day of employment will be [date].
I want to thank you for providing me with this opportunity three years ago. You saw my potential and provided the chance to learn from you and the team in ways that I could not envision and in ways that were unclear to me at the time. We’ve tackled many successful projects together, but my favorite was [project x]. That’s the project that showcased to me how much your mentorship expanded my [descriptive] expertise, and we had a lot of fun along the way. The time you spent teaching and challenging me has left a lasting impact on my career and development, and I'm grateful to have worked for you.
I wish you and everyone at [company] the best and look forward to staying in touch and helping in any way that I can — during and after this smooth transition. I’m reachable at [email] or [phone].
This job resignation letter example is written from the perspective of someone who has not had a great experience but is choosing to keep any feedback private:
[Address, including zip code]
[Phone number or email]
I am resigning from my position as [title] for [xyz company] on [date].
I am happy to work with you and the team throughout the next two-week transition. To help ensure a seamless handoff of responsibilities, I’ve listed the projects that I still expect to be outstanding on my last day, including:
Thank you very much for the professional and personal development opportunities that you have provided me during the last few years.
This resignation letter example is written from the perspective of someone who has had a negative experience and wants to speak up. This option challenges the conventional wisdom of many career experts. However, nothing changes without some workplace courage. If you are okay with the potential for negative consequences, go ahead and stand for what you believe.
(Note: the basic resignation letter below focuses on a specific scenario that may not be relevant to you. When modifying this for use, you should update all the language in the template while keeping the tone and style similar to what's below.)
[Address, including zip code]
[Phone number or email]
I am resigning from my position at [xyz company], effective [date].
One year ago, you took a chance on me, and I took a chance on the company. I appreciate that both sides took a risk on each other. While it’s tempting just to walk away, I feel obligated to explain my decision in hopes that it sparks positive change for the colleagues that I’m leaving behind.
I'm resigning because the company is using improper accounting to bolster its financial performance. In my initial memo to you dated [month, day, year], I outlined each accounting trick that is hiding losses the company is sustaining. In a subsequent meeting on [month, day, year] and attended by you, [name], and [name], we discussed each of the accounting issues in detail and decided to refer the matter to the company’s Vice President. On [month, day, year] a follow-up meeting was held and attended by the same group, the Vice President said the matter had been investigated and concluded that no changes would be made because we are an “aggressive company.” This is an outcome that I cannot accept.
The company’s business is built on trust. When its customers and employees find out about the true financial performance of the company, their trust will be destroyed and I expect the company will have to cease operations. This letter of resignation is my last effort to implore the company to correct its practices.
Thank you for the opportunity to be heard.
If you are writing your letter strictly as a formality, you don't need to say much more aside from the fact that you're leaving, when your last day will be, and any other information your human resources department or manager asks you to include.
[Address, including zip code]
[Phone number or email]
Please accept this letter as a notice of my resignation. My last day of work will be [date]. I will make an effort to tie up any loose ends and inform you of outstanding projects before then.
You should submit your formal resignation in letter form, not only because this makes the process more official, but also because you may need a record of your resignation in the future. You won't be able to access an email because your company will likely shut down your email account when you leave—so make sure to also cc your private email on any important communication between now and then. You might also send an email asking about the official steps for your resignation or informing your manager or HR that you're submitting a letter or resignation. Here are examples of each:
Email inquiring about the next steps
Hi [HR representative's name],
I just discussed my intention to resign from the company on [Date]. I will be submitting a formal letter of resignation shortly. Is there any important information I should include in my letter, and what are the next steps?
Email informing the company that you're submitting a letter of resignation
[Manager or HR representative's name],
I have submitted a formal resignation letter informing you that I will be leaving the company on [Date]. I interofficed the letter on [Date]. Please confirm receipt once you receive it.
I'd also like to reiterate [any important points you included in your letter].
After turning in your letter of resignation, you should take some further steps to ensure a successful transition. Here are some items to add to your to-do list.
1. Work with your manager to develop a plan for the coming weeks.
You've already informed your boss that you'll be leaving and given her an end date. Now, you need to work together on the details of what the coming weeks will look like. Determine which projects need your attention the most, and develop a list of priorities. Let your manager know how much you expect to accomplish, and do your best to meet those goals.
2. Create a document listing your essential responsibilities.
If your successor already works at your company, you can discuss your duties in person. Otherwise, describes your responsibilities in a document. It's a good idea to make this guide even if you do work with her already since she'll be able to use it as a reference in the future.
3. Complete any pertinent projects and tasks.
Using the plan you've created as a basis for prioritizing, complete as many outstanding projects as you can. Tackle the most important ones first before turning to the ones that can be done at a later date by your replacement.
4. Make a list of projects that are in progress, noting necessary next steps.
While you should try to finish as much work as possible, you may not be able to complete everything. Create a document listing all projects that you haven't completed by your departure to share with your boss and successor. Describe what your replacement should do next to ensure successful completion.
Resigning with Class
Each resignation letter format above and resignation step to take is a great starting point for when you plan out the transition period for the company and yourself. This formal letter will help you leave a professional image of you in your current job with your current employer, and will help you turn your resignation into a brand-building career move. You never know when you might want help from your former company in the future, so leaving on good terms is the best way to approach your resignation.
About the Career Expert:
Jennifer Bewley is the founder of Uncuffed, which provides detailed research into prospective employers. Jennifer has an unhealthy love of financial data and speaking her mind and she uses each to help candidates choose the company they work for wisely.