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How to write a letter of resignation (with examples!)

Leaving a job isn’t easy. While it might be the right thing to do professionally or personally, the relationships you developed with your managers and co-workers can make it difficult to move on. But it can be done! And when it needs to be done the professional way to leave an organization gracefully is by writing a letter of resignation.

Understanding the reasons why you have decided to resign from a position can help you craft the language that will go into your resignation letter. It’s not always a matter of listing your last day, the company name and other technical information. The resignation letter is also an opportunity to leverage the professional relationships you forged down the road in a new company or when pursuing new opportunities, keeping your proverbial bridges intact.

We sat down with Jamie Johnson, a career advisor at University of Phoenix with more than 30 years of experience in career coaching, for her insights into what goes into a good resignation letter. Later in this article, we’ll provide a resignation letter template to help you craft yours.

That being said, by the end of this article you should be better equipped to resign from a position gracefully, if you so choose. The skills required for a good resignation are skills that you can take with you into your future employment. We’ve included a resignation letter template and a few bits of advice to make sure that your resignation is as smooth as possible. Of course, every resignation is different and will be informed by the particular employee’s experiences.

Why do employees quit?

Bad management, better opportunities — let us count the reasons!

No opportunities for growth

Moving up within a company is a major motivator for employees to stick with a job. Of course, an employee might not be promoted every year, but a sense that they can grow within a company is important.

For employees who have devoted years of their lives to a particular position, it can be disheartening to be passed over for promotion, so much so that it might justify leaving the company.

There are essentially three stages they may find themselves in as they progress within a job or career process, Johnson says. These are:

1.    Stay-cate: You like your position and don’t want to move, so you develop new responsibilities closely aligned with your existing role. Example: A marketing assistant designing and spearheading a social media campaign.

2.    Update: You like your role but want to grow, so you take your existing position in a new direction. Example: A marketing assistant gets promoted to marketing manager, overseeing general marketing operations.

3.    Innovate: Your role is old news, so you take your career in a different direction with new responsibilities — and opportunities. Example: A marketing assistant moves to the financial team.  

Recognizing where you are in the process can help you make good decisions, whether to stay, move within the organization or move on. It can also help you in the resignation process by clarifying where you would have liked to grow in your former role, and what kind of work you would like to perform in any future position at a future employer.

Clashes with management

Understanding and articulating your reasons for departure is not about being critical towards your employer but relaying why you are moving on in a constructive and professional way. Your soon-to-be ex-employer may not be aware of particular problems that have motivated your resignation. If there are problems, then your resignation letter can serve as an opportunity to address those problems for employees who remain with the company.  

Collaborating in a professional setting requires the successful alignment of several personality types. That process can range from very positive to intolerably negative.

Some employees have horror stories of managers who bullied, degraded and humiliated their employees. Others have stories that are less dramatic but equally negative with employees and their managers simply not seeing eye to eye.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. According to the Plotkin Group, an HR assessment agency, a 2017 Gallup poll revealed 50% of employees quit their positions because of their managers. Clearly the employee-manager relationship can be very taxing.

An untenable work-life balance

Working with everyone from experienced professionals to high school graduates, Johnson has noticed a changing emphasis on work-life balance. For many older folks, coming into the office for eight hours a day and sometimes working extra hours can feel comfortable and familiar. The Gen Z and Millennial crowd, on the other hand, tend to emphasize the importance of the time they spend outside of work.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of work-life balance, the fact there’s a spectrum matters. When businesses fail to cultivate a healthy balance between time on and time off, employees may start searching for companies with more progressive policies.

How to leave a job (the right way)

When it comes to leaving your job, Johnson says there are several ways to do so in positive way. Here’s how to make the parting as pleasant as possible: 

1.    Take care of all of your duties and give notice of your last day.

2.    Give your manager time to find a replacement before your last day.

3.    Keep up a positive, forward-looking attitude both in your exit interview and in your resignation letter.

4.    Consider which relationships you want to maintain after you leave the company.

5.    Get everything in writing in the form of a resignation letter.

How to write a letter of resignation

On that last point, Johnson recommends writing a letter of resignation to your employer that outlines the important details of your departure. This formal letter should be written professionally, even if the work experience has been negative. She recommends thanking your employer for the opportunity, before stating your last day of work.

This letter of resignation can be a very useful document. Not only does it formally lay out crucial information in an easy-to-read document, it serves as a record of the company name, the length of your tenure at that company and (if you decide to include it) the reason for your resignation. This can be useful for legal purposes, as it lays out this important information in plain terms. That’s definitely preferable to resigning over the phone or in person, where a document like this may not be produced.

The goal of a good letter of resignation is to provide your employer with as much information as possible to make the transition easier for both sides. This includes giving your employer enough notice (most commonly a two weeks notice) to find a replacement and sharing an outline of your duties at the company, so your employer has notice as to which skills to look for in a replacement.

If you’re looking to resign it’s important to be as professional as possible in your resignation letter. This might mean addressing your employer by the company name, instead of directing your notice towards a specific person in the company. This helps turn your resignation letter into a professional document, instead of a personal one.

We’ve included a resignation letter template below to help you if you are looking to resign. You’ll be able to insert the company name, job title, phone number, your final day, and any other information that should be included in a professional document.

Why is it important to leave a job gracefully?

“Relationships are everything,” Johnson says, and she has a number of reasons for believing this. First, your reputation can precede you. Leaving a job on a sour note can make it difficult to get a positive reference for your next job.

Leaving on bad terms can also create personal tension between you and your former manager and co-workers, which can follow you even after you resign. At the end of the day, to resign with grace is the right thing to do if you want to maintain a positive impression with the people you used to work with.

And that positive impression can really pay off! When former co-workers have a positive memory of you, they are more likely to speak on your behalf. This can open up opportunities for career development that you may not be able to foresee right now.

In short, leaving a job with grace sets the foundation for a fresh start that can build a lifetime of network opportunities now and in the future.

Quality job resignation isn’t always easy, but it can make the transition period between employment so much easier. Writing a resignation letter shows that you know the work environment that works best for you and are willing to resign without personal conflict.

That’s not just important for your relationship with your former employers, but is the kind of attitude that can seriously make your future employment much more pleasant and productive.