Whether You Should Write A Resignation Letter and How to Do It

Writing resignation letter

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Do you Need to Write a Resignation Letter?

The short answer is that most of the time, no letter of resignation is necessary.

Many people believe you need to formally resign by writing a resignation letter. However, at most companies there’s no formal requirement that you do so. Most employment in the United States is called “at will”, which means that your employer can fire you at any time and for any reason (except those that are prohibited under law). Even those that require you give a certain amount of “notice” before you quit often may not provide any formal requirement that you do so by writing a letter of resignation.

Why Might You Still Want to Write a Resignation Letter?

Many experts believe that if a letter helps make you seem more courteous and professional. However, the real reason to write a resignation letter is to create a paper trail documenting that you have given notice (if your employer requires it) on a certain date, and to formally kick of the process should there be any legal hiccups (quite rare) with incorrectly processing your final paycheck and last day of benefits.

What Should My Letter of Resignation Say?

In our view, the shorter the resignation letter, the better.

[Date — Don’t forget this since this starts the clock on your notice period]

Dear [Manager’s Name],

Please accept this letter as notice that I am resigning from [company name]. My last day will be [Insert your last day].

[Your Name]


The 3 points you want to get across can be accomplished in 2 sentences that include (a) your announcement that you are quitting, (b) as of a certain date, and (c) provide information about your last day.

There is really no need for any other information in your resignation letter (including a reason — which is completely optional). No effusive template and formatting effort is required. This is not a letter that is going to be hanging on anyone’s wall and it probably won’t even be filed away!

If You Want to Do More Than Just the Basics

You can always write more, and craft a longer resignation letter but the truth is that it isn’t necessary. You can add a portion of the note where you thank your manager for the opportunities and time you have had together, or add that you hope to keep in touch, but in reality, if you really feel this way you probably should make an effort to say these things in person (rather than getting an email). Breaking up is hard to do, but pouring your heart out on paper is rather awkward.

What Else Should I Do When Resigning?

First, out of respect and common courtesy, you would ideally tell your manager in-person that you are resigning. If you can’t wait for that or work remotely or some other complication prevents that, the telephone is the next best option. You can choose to follow up or accompany that discussion with a formal letter of resignation afterwards, but it would be a rare workplace that would require that formality.

An email is often completely acceptable (and permanent) proof of a resignation if your concerned about making sure you have a documented paper trial. In fact, an email is probably better than an old fashioned piece of paper since it cannot theoretically ever be “lost” and you can send yourself a copy of the letter.

In lieu of giving or emailing your boss your resignation letter (which can feel overly formal), you can also send an email to your HR department or give it to a member of the human resources team. The main legal reason you might want to make sure you have documented your specific last day of work is that you receive all your pay and benefits through your final day.

Who Should You Send Your Letter of Resignation To?

You will want to address your email or letter to your manager but it can also be helpful to cc: your human resources contact in order to make sure you’ve kicked off the logistics of processing the paperwork associated with your departure.

What Else Should I Consider in My Resignation Process?

Be sure that you follow your employer’s policies (which may be in your initial employment contract or located in an employee handbook) about how to give notice. Some companies require a 2-4 week notice period.

Other than following the policies that apply to you, try putting yourself in your employer’s shoes. It’s up to you whether you want to help or train team-mates and colleagues adjust to your departure as a measure of goodwill, but if you feel guilty and loyal to your team, this may be something you plan to do. If this is the case, be sure to get permission from your manager so they know you plan on telling others and that they are on board. You never know whether some managers prefer that you simply walk away in order for them to be able to manage team morale or restructure responsibilities after you leave.

Try to complete your outstanding and projects, or at least leave them in a state where your manager or someone else can understand where you are and what else someone may need to know in order to finish where you left off.

Finally, remember that there is little benefit to burning bridges. There is no reason to gloat about your new role or complain about past grievances. Even if you have plenty to complain about, take the high road and exit gracefully. You never know when you will run into old colleagues and managers in the future!

As a logistical note, you may want to collect colleagues and friends’ email addresses and contact information as well as get together with them after you depart. Sometimes quitting a workplace can feel like breaking up with a group of friends or even family — after all, many of us spend more time in the office than we can at home or with friends. Take the time to say goodbye and thank people who have been important to you.


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