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The etiquette of saying goodbye: How to resign from a job in 2023

Two hands shaking through a door as an employee resigns from a job

At a glance

  • A resignation letter demonstrates professionalism and leaves the door open for a good reference or even a return to employment with the company someday.
  • When you quit a job, never use a resignation letter to criticize management or air grievances.
  • Be mindful of tone when emailing resignation letters and posting a change in your job status on social media. It’s important to stay positive and professional.
  • Get ready to take the next step in your career with free resumé templates, career guides and more from University of Phoenix!

It’s not uncommon to invest hours perfecting your resumé and cover letter to land a particular role. But, when it’s time to quit and move on from a position, how many of us take the same time to write a resignation letter?

Younger generations may consider notifying their boss of their intent to resign as an archaic workplace formality. (Like pantyhose!) However, in today’s rapidly changing, post-Great Resignation work environment, in which job hopping has become commonplace and company loyalty is less expected than ever, resigning amicably is crucial for maintaining a professional reputation and future prospects.

So, is writing a resignation letter still a good idea before quitting a job? Read on.


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Is a resignation letter still required?

In today’s workplace culture, most companies don’t require a formal resignation letter when you quit your job. But providing one is still a professional courtesy and can ensure a smooth transition for your employer.

Sarah Rodriguez, senior human resources partner at University of Phoenix (UOPX), advises: “It’s best practice to set up a time to speak with your direct manager to inform them of your decision. Follow that conversation up with a resignation letter that formalizes your decision to leave [and includes your] expected last day of employment and any other relevant information to your final weeks of work.”

It’s also a good idea to check your company manual or speak to your human resources department for specific guidelines before turning in your notice. Doing so will ensure you have all the information you need regarding benefits, your last paycheck and the return of company equipment.

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If it’s not required, why write a resignation letter?

While not always necessary, writing a resignation letter offers several benefits to both you and your employer.

Its most important function is to start the official paper trail regarding the circumstances of your departure. It gives your boss a chance to come to terms with your leaving and begin looking for a replacement.

This is what makes a resignation letter a closing opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to maintaining positive relationships with past employers.

After all, you might not expect to be a boomerang employee (people who return to their previous employers after quitting), but it’s a growing trend. A recent survey found that almost 20% of the employees who had quit during the pandemic returned to their previous employers. Therefore, when you resign, do so on the best terms possible to keep future opportunities available.

How to write a resignation letter

This does not need to be complicated — a short resignation letter is the way to go. Include your name, position, the date of resignation and the intended last day of work in the first paragraph.

You do not need to elaborate extensively on why you are resigning. Still, a brief explanation can be appropriate — use your judgment. The Indeed.com Career Center recommends using variations on the life-change situation to explain your reason for departure:

  • You have a new job opportunity.
  • You’re moving.
  • You’re going back to school.

Resist the urge to criticize or complain about the company, your boss or your colleagues in your resignation letter, even if you had a negative experience. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of your time with the company and express your appreciation for your opportunities. (Even if you’re sure you’ll never return to that employer, you will likely need a reference letter at some point!)

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What about resigning over email?

In today’s virtual workplaces, notifying your boss that you’re quitting will inevitably happen over email. Follow the guidelines for a written resignation letter (short, sincere and inclusive of relevant information only) but remember to choose an appropriate subject line.

Indeed.com’s Career Center recommends putting your name and the word “resignation” in your subject line (e.g., “Notice of Resignation – Tyler Matthews”). This way, a supervisor can easily find the resignation letter email and pass it along to interested parties, like human resources, to start the off-boarding process.

Remember, several employees at the company will undoubtedly see emailed resignations, so triple-check your letter for a professional tone.

Should a resignation letter be shared on social media?

Generally, it’s best to wait until your transition to your new job is finalized before taking your announcement to LinkedIn.

“Things can change so quickly in the world of work that it may be best to save sharing the details of your new role until you have started in your position,” Rodriguez says. “At the very least, save sharing on social media until you have notified your manager and relevant leaders, colleagues and key stakeholders.”

Although participating in TikTok trends like #quietquitting and #quittok might be tempting, doing so may cause lasting damage to your “hireability.” Instead, take time to think clearly. And when you post, keep it professional, knowing that future and past employers will see your messages.

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How should bosses respond to an employee resigning?

Bosses must remember that employment is a two-way street.

“Employees have a right to decide what is best for them and their career,” reminds Rodriguez. “An employee’s decision to move on shouldn’t be viewed negatively. Resigning workers should be treated with support, grace and respect for their decisions.”

Although it can be challenging, bosses must refrain from taking an employee’s resignation personally.

“How you handle an employee’s resignation speaks volumes to your current staff and future candidates,” Rodriguez says. “[It can also] make it more likely that, if the time is right in the future, those employees may choose to return to your organization or refer others to work with you.”

Delivering bad news to an employer, such as the resignation of a workplace standout like yourself, is never easy. However, doing so with confidence and grace is a vital workplace soft skill that will serve you well after moving on from a job.

Rodriguez offers a final piece of advice for those considering a career transition. “Above all, keep it professional,” she says. “Even if you’re leaving a bad work environment, focus on the future. Going out in a ‘blaze of glory,’ as we sometimes see going viral on LinkedIn and other sites, can damage your personal brand as outsiders don’t have the context to your personal experiences.”

You are, after all, your own brand. Make sure it’s one that hiring managers want.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire O’Brien has led copywriting teams for Hilton Worldwide Corporate’s creative studio and advertising agencies specializing in the real estate, hospitality, education and travel industries. In 2020, she founded More Better Words, a boutique copywriting agency that taps into her global connections. She lives in Costa Rica with her husband and six rescue dogs.

 

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