Don’t be a jerk: How to write a classy resignation letter

The flip-side to this post is my insanely popular How to write a resume series. People send me ‘Thank You’ email every day — you may too!

I’ve quit a few $hit jobs in my life. You probably have too. But when you resign from your position (yeah, the one that put food on your table) in an unprofessional manner, you’re a jerk.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the desire to ‘go out in style’ by flipping your boss the bird. But believe me, taking the low road by issuing a written highway salute gets you nowhere in your future career path fast. Former colleagues, bosses, and especially HR peops have a funny way of popping back into your life since many industries draw from a finite employment pool.

Free Resume Templates

Career & Work, Resumes

Free Resume Templates

A mix of free resume templates for your job hunting pleasure. Part of a fun resume writing series, 'cause job hunting can really suck.

Read More »

The trick to quitting any job, whether you love it or can’t wait to leave it, is to write a concise and classy resignation letter that keeps you connected and the door open for references, networking, and even future jobs.

Since no one wants to hire (or work with) an angry bridge burner, here’s how to ‘peace out’ from your position with more peace on the way out.

Five rules for writing a classy resignation letter:

1. Keep it short.

The point of a resignation letter is to resign. Period. So don’t list the million reasons why you’re leaving the job. Don’t write a thesis on why ‘The Company’ stinks. And never negotiate for better pay.

BAD

  • Let me list the 101 reasons why I hate working for you. But if you increase my pay by 15% I’ll stay another year.

GOOD

  • Write a three-line resignation letter. Seriously.

My Resignation Letter Example gets the job done in three sentences. Go on, count ‘em. Quitters never had it so concise and on point. Go me.

Resignation Letter Example

Career & Work

Resignation Letter Example

Write a classy resignation letter in just three sentences! I show you how with this downloadable resignation letter example.

Read More »

2. Be positive, even friendly.

Did I mention that the point of a resignation letter is to resign? So airing grievances, defending your maybe vilified work, or ranting about that someone who did that mean thing won’t help you win friends and influence people, ever.

Resignation letters tend to become part of your permanent employee record, so being ‘That Angry Resigning Guy’ can make it impossible to ever land a job in that company again. People do work for previous employers, but only if they’re wanted back.

BAD

  • I quit. This job has sucked the life out of me for three long years. You don’t appreciate my work and I hate sitting next to the office printer.

GOOD

  • Please accept this letter as my formal notice of resignation from [Employer Company Name] as a [Your Position].

Be professional, be friendly, and keep your letter positive. You’re leaving for greener pastures, after all. So leave, don’t grieve.

3. State your last day.

The most important part of resigning is stating when you plan to leave. Giving two weeks notice is standard, but some employers prefer a month.

BAD

  • I’m leaving this company effective immediately.

GOOD

  • My last day of employment will be September 15, 2013.

Regardless of how much notice you give, be sure to state your last day in your resignation letter.

4. Don’t be funny.

Humor is a funny thing. When the jokes work, people smile. When the funny fails, people feel bad for you. There’s a time and place for flexing the funny, but your resignation letter is not an open stage on amateur night.

BAD

  • So long, and thanks for all the fish!

GOOD

BTW: A former colleague really did cite The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in his resignation letter emailed to the entire freaking company. It was bad. Like, really uncomfortable. So unless you’re planning on leaving Earth with the entire dolphin population, please leave Douglas Adams out of your farewell letter.

5. Say, “Thank You!”

Being a nice person to other people has its perks. Nice people get awesome customer service, and nice people are more often considered for amazing opportunities in any economy. Saying “Thank You” to your past employer for employing you makes you a nice person.

BAD

  • I can’t believe anyone wants to work for this company.

GOOD

  • Thank you for the opportunity to work for such an outstanding organization.

Don’t be a jerk when writing your letter of resignation. Be nice and someone may hire you when you most need to be hired.

Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. David McKenna July 24th, 2013

    Thanks for a well written article. Do you have any idea how frequently poorly written resignation letters are handed in? I’d be curious to know how many burned bridges there are. You never do know when you may need to head back to work at the same employer.

  2. Simon Elstad July 25th, 2013

    Totally agree with David here. Don’t bang the door when you leave, you never know when you might need to walk through it again and eat humble pie :) I think from Kerry’s post I can surmise one thing, keep it professional to the very end however bad the job may have been.

  3. Christine July 25th, 2013

    Good tips-no fluff, straight to the point, and no emotion.

  4. shipcarpenter305 July 25th, 2013

    I couldn’t disagree more. In my 55 years and 2(?) recessions, every company large or small I’ve been fired from deservedly or not including lay-offs gave me ZERO notice, e.g. my last lay-off was 4 weeks ago @ 5:30 AM on the drive in to work! I’ve also read HR doesn’t give references, merely confirm employment dates for liability protection from lawsuits. In the good ‘ol USA, if you give 2 weeks notice, you had better be prepared to be asked to leave that very day. I’ve always held myself to the 2 week standard, but it has always been one-way!

  5. Alicia July 25th, 2013

    I agree so much with this. Even when I quit my retail job back when I was 20, I handed in a very straight-forward resignation letter similar to this to have all my t’s and i’s dealt with.

    It’s all about a basic level of professionalism that I feel like is generally lacking.

  6. DreamTiger July 25th, 2013

    Oops. In my last resignation letter, i had mentioned ‘Roller-coaster Ride’.

    You are so perfect. Too bad, you didn’t start to write early. ;-)

  7. sheila August 1st, 2013

    Having recently sent a resignation letter I certainly didn’t mention the “outstanding organization” which it absolutely wasn’t but I did mention appreciating how much I learned and how I enjoyed getting to know my customers and co-workers which was all true. Every job has some aspect you can express honest gratitude for – even if it is only that it was a “great learning experience”. :)

  8. I do feel you have to explain why you are leaving, but it is so important to leave things in the positive. You may end up needing to return to the company or applying to a sister or parent company without realising and you do not want to leave things badly.

  9. David McKenna August 4th, 2013

    @turn one pound into one million

    I see your point that you need to provide some explanation about why you are leaving. You will most certainly be asked why, and have to have some answer. However, giving the unvarnished truth could make things go negative quickly.

  10. Ms. Moo August 6th, 2013

    Thank you for helping to liberate me from my job!

    I agree with the two people above me… an explanation will be asked. However, I don’t believe it has to go into the letter. Maybe instead into personal emails to your preferred coworkers or superiors.

    Also would be helpful: a guide to ~*send*~ the letter (i.e. how to write the email to which your letter is attached or what have you).

  11. HeyJay August 11th, 2013

    What would you suggest as an appropriate reason for leaving the job when you really dont want to reveal that reason?

  12. Charlotte August 24th, 2013

    Thank you for the reminder that I need to resign gracefully from one of my current jobs. My suspicion is that no one will ask why because our owners believe that all businesses in their industry have 75% turnover every two months. However, I think the generic “pursuing different goals” is always a safe bet.

  13. S. B. September 23rd, 2013

    I could not agree more with this post. There were so many times in my career that I wanted to resign with a letter that really vented. Instead, I played it safe, gave (at least) 2 weeks notice, thanked them for the employment, and simply stated that I resigned to pursue other opportunities. Although I thought I was completely done with these companies, I was surprised at how our paths crossed later, and I was so glad I left on good terms.

  14. Robert Black October 25th, 2013

    One of the funniest things I ever saw was a resignation email that stated:

    “Stick job up a**
    Rude letter to follow”

    Without the asterisks of course!

    Back on topic, you are of course absolutely correct. I have written 2 resignation letters in my career (both in pre-internet days so I couldn’t even have done an online search for the correct “resign etiquette”).

    I actually hated both jobs and, tempting though it was to tell my bosses what I thought of them, I am pleased to say I followed your advice pretty much to the letter. You never know what will happen in the future; it’s always best to part on good terms.

  15. Andrea December 12th, 2013

    I’m writing my resignation letter now, I don’t think i would follow this advise since I will never work for this company or any ister or parent company.
    My opinion is they need to know how incompetent they are and I’ve never believed their lies…
    I am Italian and honor and respect come first, without respect’re not a man.
    if you put money ahead of respect for yourself, you will become a slave, not an Employee

  16. Cora February 28th, 2014

    Thanks for a great, simple letter. I can’t say the “outstanding organization” part though. Leaving those 2 words out…lol

    And your examples made me LOL. Especially “I quit. This job has sucked the life out of me for three long years. You don’t appreciate my work and I hate sitting next to the office printer.” That literally is what I want to say, only instead of “by the printer” it’d be “I hate sitting at a printer stand I dug out of the trash.” No really.

  17. Roz March 12th, 2014

    Thanks for the brilliant suggestions. I’m preparing my letter and really wanted to let them know how awful my boss is. Since I’ve read your recommendations, I’m going to use them and save the reasons for the exit interview.

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with a "*".

*

*

Technorati Profile