How to Write a Resignation Letter
Whether you have secured a new position or you’re leaving your job for some other reason, you will need to write a resignation letter to inform your employer of your intention to leave. Simply telling them verbally that you are leaving is not enough.
The main purpose of a resignation letter is to inform your employer that you are leaving, provide them with brief reasons for your resignation, state your notice period and to leave on a positive note.
A resignation letter is your written record of the circumstances and conversations around your resignation, so you must get it right.
Copies of your resignation go to your employer, the human resources department of your workplace and one copy stays with you.
What a Resignation Letter Should Include
A resignation letter must include a statement that you are leaving your employment and the date on which your resignation comes into effect. As an employee, you are also encouraged to thank your employer for the opportunities you had during your employment.
The way in which you resign will often depend on the place where you work; that said, the norm is to resign in person and then follow this up with a written resignation to your manager. A formal letter is commonly used, though email is increasingly common. If you do opt for an email resignation letter to your manager, make sure it is still formal and professionally presented.
There are numerous reasons why you may be resigning and no matter how you feel about it, if you do mention the reason why you are leaving, avoid including anything negative about the company, your colleagues, supervisor or management. It’s not worth burning bridges, and resignation letters will be kept on file and may be viewed by future employers. You don’t want something that was said in the heat of the moment to negatively impact your future chances of employment.
Always try to end your employment on a positive note with a graceful exit. A letter of resignation should offer thanks to the manager and mention any experiences that you have valued, or anything that you have particularly enjoyed.
In the majority of cases, resignation letters should aim to assist any transitional phase, whether that’s helping with the recruitment of a new member of staff or training up an existing member of the team. Either way, both the employer and employee should leave the situation with closure and a sense of respect.
If you do have a complaint or concern about your employer, a colleague or the company, the resignation letter is not the place to raise this as an issue. Below we cover what else you should avoid including - no matter how tempting.
Resignation needs to be done calmly, professionally and positively.
Resignation Letters: What Not to Include
If you are leaving a company because of a particular situation or things have escalated to a point where leaving is the only option, it can be tempting to let your employer know exactly what you think.
We recommend that you do not include any grievances or complaints in a resignation letter. Saying the wrong thing in a resignation letter can have a detrimental impact later on. Making allegations or statements in the heat of the moment can come back at a later stage.
Other things you should not include, or be wary of, are:
In a resignation letter you should be as precise as possible. Never attempt to provide vague information. A specific date from which your resignation takes effect should be stated. Don’t hand in the letter until you are absolutely sure that you wish to leave.
When you joined the organization, you should have been provided with information about your notice period. Often this information is included in your contract. Make sure you check what the notice period is for your place of work, and give that rather than a specific leave date. You can subsequently negotiate your final day at work with your employer.
Criticism of Product
As well as avoiding negativity in your letter, you should also avoid making critical comments about the products or services that the company sells. Equally, don’t say that you are moving to a competitor because their products are more effective.
Watch your language in a resignation letter. You are still employed by the company and professionalism is very important. If you really want to indicate that your new appointment is an improvement, then highlight how the new post will help to advance your career, turning it into a positive.
Even if you are leaving because you will receive a better salary elsewhere, don’t state this in your letter. Your employer may want to make a counter-offer, in which case they will enquire as to your new salary. But let them make the first move.
Criticism of Co-Workers
Even if you don’t get along with a particular colleague or you don’t agree with the way they work, avoid stating this in your letter of resignation. Bear in mind that the company you are leaving may be asked as a reference for future employment, and this could be used to your detriment as evidence you do not work well with others in a team.
Ensure that you proof your letter for any errors - not just the basics but any factual information that may need checking such as notice periods.
When writing your letter, try not to be overly positive about the business. This could be interpreted as being insincere.
Any concerns that you have about the organization are best left unsaid. If you find it essential to mention the behavior of a colleague or your manager, state this verbally to the human resource department rather than writing it in your letter.
Exit interviews are the ideal place to explain your grievances, problems and reasons for leaving that are not suitable for placement in a resignation letter. You can always ask for an exit interview if they are not commonly provided.
If possible, schedule your exit interview as close to your departure as possible. Many employers will arrange them for the last day of your notice.
How to Open a Resignation Letter
The opening sentences of a resignation letter are often the most difficult to write. They should strike a balance between being friendly while maintaining the formality that is expected within a letter of this nature. The letter should start formally, addressing your boss by their first name if you are on friendly terms.
The first section of your resignation letter should clearly state your intention to resign and your notice period. Being unambiguous is important so your boss doesn’t misconstrue your letter as a request for higher pay or revised conditions. Your statement should be confident, clear and concise.
As an example, you could write:
“Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation from the post of (job title), effective from today. In accordance with company policy, I would like to give my notice of (notice length) to commence on (today’s date).”
It is common courtesy to give your employer the proper notice. This gives them time to recruit a new member of staff or make arrangements for your role to be filled temporarily. Organizational policy will state what your notice period should be.
How to Say Why You are Leaving
Although there are many reasons why you might wish to stay at your current employer, remember the reasons why you are leaving. Reflect on the reasons behind your decision to leave and keep this in mind as you write your letter.
It should be noted, however, that you don’t have to state why you wish to leave. If you are leaving your job because you are very unhappy with your role, your work or your colleagues, you don’t have to give any detail. If you have accepted a new job offer, you can briefly state this to give your employer a better overview of your situation.
Examples of ways in which you could do this are:
“After careful consideration, I have decided to leave to explore new opportunities and develop my career further.”
“I was recently offered a new employment opportunity with a different company and have reached the decision to accept their offer.”
Discussing the Transition
Leaving your post is an unsettling time for your colleagues and managers. As a matter of courtesy, always offer to facilitate the transition until a new member of staff can be recruited into the role.
This could be training the new recruit, if you are still there when they are appointed, or training a colleague who will step into your role after you leave. Writing a manual could be a great way of doing this, or even a simple set of procedures in the key areas of your job.
Even if you are on your notice period, reassure your employer that you will keep engagements and you can introduce your predecessor to customers and suppliers. Any offer to make the transition easier will be both recognized and appreciated by your current employer.
Giving Thanks and Feedback in a Resignation Letter
When drawing your letter to a conclusion, be sure to give thanks to your employer. Write something like:
“My experiences at (company name) have been extremely valuable. I appreciate the opportunities I have been given for training, development progression and the chance to work with a well respected company. I wish you and your company all the success for the future.”
The final section of your resignation letter should end on a positive note, giving the employer your best wishes and expressing an interest in keeping in touch once you have left their employment.
“I hope to continue our professional relationship and trust we will meet again in future. My very best wishes go to the company and staff.”
Can You Resign From a Job With No Notice?
In an ideal world, you would always aim to work your full notice as a courtesy to your employer, but sometimes that is just not possible.
If circumstances leave you no choice but to resign from your job with immediate effect, you should handle it gracefully and in a dignified manner to help minimize the impact on your employer.
Your contract of employment will specify the expected notice period, but employers recognize that unforeseen situations can sometimes render that impossible.
In the US, if you are employed ‘at-will’, you are not obliged to give a notice period, but it is generally accepted that most people try to give at least two weeks’ notice.
Trying to make the process as smooth as possible for your employer means that you are less likely to face repercussions or backlash.
If you do not handle your departure well and end on a sour note with your employer, they have the power to make future employment difficult by refusing to provide a reference letter or relaying your circumstances around leaving to other employers.
Why Might You Need to Resign With Immediate Effect?
There is a multitude of plausible and valid reasons as to why someone would decide to resign from a job without notice.
A common situation is that ‘personal reasons’ arise, leading to a sudden change in circumstances that renders an employee unable to continue working.
Giving a vague reason such as ‘personal reasons’ can cover a wide range of circumstances, and if you wish the matter to remain private, then this term will usually suffice.
However, if you feel able to explain your reasons further and provide greater detail about why you are leaving, you are more likely to leave on good terms with your employer.
Examples of personal reasons could be:
- A close bereavement
- Caring duties (for example, looking after children or elderly relatives)
- An illness or health condition
- A loved one’s illness or health condition
- A change in family circumstances
Concerns about the workplace itself can also prompt immediate resignation, especially if the employee feels that they are being placed in danger, or are being asked to do something unethical, illegal or that goes against their moral values.
Harassment in the workplace can be a cause for resignation and it is left at the employee’s discretion whether they report this officially before they leave.
An employee may decide to leave with immediate effect if their employer is not fulfilling their end of the agreement, for instance, by not paying agreed wages, not providing personal protective equipment or failing to prioritize employee wellbeing.
If your reason for leaving is due to an issue with your employer, refrain from including anything negative in your resignation letter. It will benefit all parties for you to leave on good terms.
A bitter or dramatic exit will stay in peoples’ memories for a long time and may overshadow any good work you did at the company.
An immediate resignation differs from a standard resignation, as the lack of notice can be extremely inconvenient and disruptive to the company you are leaving behind. As such, you are encouraged to provide an explanation.
Your resignation will almost certainly come as a shock to your employer, so the way you handle the process is crucial in not causing bad feelings.
How to Write an Immediate Resignation Letter
The letter should be written in correct and formal layout, with your contact details and date at the top.
This is followed by a greeting, then the main body text of your letter, concluding with a polite sign-off.
Use clean, neat paper and seal it in an envelope, ready to deliver.
State Your Intent to Leave
As you proceed to write the main body of your letter, include a statement of your intent to leave with a brief explanation.
If you would like to go into more detail, do so at a level in which you feel comfortable.
The circumstances in which you are resigning usually dictate the level of detail that seems appropriate and relevant.
Remain professional and do not lay blame with your employer or colleagues, even if you feel that way.
Include the Date of Your Last Day at Work
Clearly state when your last working day will be, giving as much notice as possible.
Express Your Apologies
It is polite to apologize and express regret at having to leave so suddenly (whether or not these are genuine sentiments).
If you are resigning for reasons out of your control, you may well have genuine regrets that you have to leave.
If you’ve been an employee at that company for some time, made friends there and enjoyed your role, resigning suddenly can be quite an emotional experience.
Update Your Employer on Any Outstanding Work
Update your employer on where you are up to on your work projects, whether there is outstanding work to pass on, and any projects you have recently completed.
Offer to Help
Your unexpected resignation is very likely to leave your employer in a tricky situation.
Unless you have a colleague who can cover your workload, there will probably be a quick scramble to find a replacement.
If you can help make this process any smoother, by supporting a new starter or handing over to your replacement, it will benefit your employer and is more likely to result in a positive reference letter in the future.
Thank Your Employer
If you wish, you can give your employer thanks for their support, especially if you have been with them for a substantial amount of time or they have invested in your professional development.
To make sure this sounds sincere, avoid any gushing sentiments. You can always thank people personally before you leave if you have colleagues who you have grown particularly close to.
Hand delivering your resignation letter also means you can sign it by hand, which is advised.
If you have to submit it by email, don’t worry too much about a handwritten signature.
The following is an example of a template you might use to write a letter of immediate resignation:
[Your telephone number]
[Your email address]
Dear [Manager’s name],
Paragraph one: State that you are resigning with immediate effect and explain the reason why. Provide as much detail as you feel is appropriate. Remember that ‘personal reasons’ can cover a lot of situations. Give the date of your intended last day of work and apologize for any inconvenience caused by your sudden resignation.
Paragraph two: Detail any ongoing projects that you have managed to complete, or any outstanding tasks or work that you will need to hand over to someone else. Add any further information your employer might need to know.
Paragraph three: If it is possible, offer to help the smooth transition between you leaving and another employee taking your place. Only make genuine offers that you can honor.
Paragraph four: Show gratitude for all your employer has done for you during your time of employment.
Example Immediate Resignation Letter
912 Atlantic Street
Ramsey NJ 07446
201 187 4924
Dear Mr Johnson,
I hereby give notice of my immediate resignation from my position as receptionist at Johnson Electronics Co. My last day of work will be 09.30.2020.
Please accept my apologies for not providing notice, but due to a sudden family bereavement, I am temporarily relocating to Chicago to support my family and provide urgent childcare for bereaved relatives.
I have sincerely enjoyed working at Johnson Electronics Co and will be sad to leave this team as I have made some true friends during my time here. Thank you for your support and the opportunities you have given to me to progress.
I have completed the data transfer onto the new system and will give full handover of any outstanding work to other staff members before I leave. If you would like to contact me over the coming weeks, I am happy to offer my support in training my replacement. I will be checking my emails daily and will gladly answer questions, particularly about the new IT system, as I know very few staff members are up to speed with it.
Many thanks for your understanding.
Ms. J Williams
Top Tips for Resigning With No Notice
Remain professional – Remember that this is a formal document that will be kept in your personnel file after you have left the company, so choose your words and phrasing carefully. Although you may have built up a very friendly relationship with your manager, don’t be over-friendly or informal in your letter. Similarly, if you are leaving under bad terms, resist criticizing or apportioning blame in your letter.
Only disclose as much as you are comfortable with – It is acceptable to cite personal reasons if you don’t wish to go into too much detail about why you are resigning. If issues with the employer or a colleague are prompting your resignation, you don’t have to go into detail in your resignation letter (although you may decide to take your grievance to the HR department before you leave).
Give as much notice as you can – Your employer will look more favorably on you if you work even one or two days after handing in your resignation. Try to give as much notice as your circumstances allow.
Hand deliver your letter – Handing in your resignation letter in person gives the recipients the chance to ask you questions and allows you to explain your reasons.
Offer to help with transition – Depending on the reason for your resignation, you may be able to help your replacement transition into the company. Suggest ways the company can contact you if they wish to, and put a timeline on your offer if you feel colleagues may take advantage (you don’t want to still be receiving calls months after you have left). If you know that you have no intention of helping, resist offering, as it will reflect poorly on you when you cannot deliver.
Proofread your letter – Make sure you proofread your letter before submitting it. Ask someone you trust to look over it if you would like a second opinion. This letter will stay in a personnel file for some time and you do not want errors clouding your message.
Do not bring up grievances in your letter – The cause of your immediate resignation could be due to unpleasant circumstances in the workplace. Unfortunately, bullying, harassment and inappropriate behavior do happen and, of course, these are valid reasons for a sudden resignation. It is always advisable to take issues like these to your company HR department before you leave. Your resignation letter is not the appropriate place to personally name people or make accusations (even if true). If your reason for leaving is immoral practices, unsafe procedures or any other company-wide issue, you do not need to go into detail or make sweeping statements in your letter. If you have a legitimate concern about the way the company runs, you can report them to the appropriate watchdog or governing body and leave it to them to investigate further.
Do not ask about money – You may have outstanding wages owed to you due to your sudden departure, but your resignation letter is not the appropriate place in which to raise them. See your payroll or HR department for any questions regarding pay or your 401k.
If you have been offered a new job, you are leaving for personal reasons or you are embarking on a new self-employed venture, writing a resignation letter must be approached properly.
Ideally, working your full notice period is always preferable when resigning from your job.
In some circumstances, however, that is just not possible.
In this case, managing your immediate resignation carefully can reduce the negative impact on your employer, improving your chances of receiving a positive reference in the future.
Whether you are resigning immediately or after working a notice period, it's recommended that you:
- Keep it short – Lengthy resignation letters are not required. Stick to the facts; be clear and concise, including the relevant information which has been discussed in this post.
- Consider your contract – In your letter, mention the terms and conditions of your contract. This shows that you have read and considered the terms, and your decision has been properly thought out.
- Maintain professionalism – Even if you are good friends with your manager, a resignation should be dealt with formally and your letter should reflect this.
Resigning from your employment is not the easiest thing to do, but it is important that you approach it properly and show that you have given it due consideration.