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

2018-01-18T12:14:38+00:00Careers|

I’ve quit a few jobs in my life with a resignation letter. 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.

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.

Related: How to write a resignation example in three sentences.

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

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.

Related:

Love,
Kerry

30 Comments

  1. David McKenna July 24, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    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 25, 2013 at 1:56 am

    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 25, 2013 at 3:41 am

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

  4. shipcarpenter305 July 25, 2013 at 4:51 am

    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 25, 2013 at 5:03 am

    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 25, 2013 at 11:19 am

    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 1, 2013 at 9:19 am

    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. turn one pound into one million August 4, 2013 at 7:57 am

    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 4, 2013 at 8:05 am

    @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 6, 2013 at 7:21 am

    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 11, 2013 at 12:07 pm

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

  12. Charlotte August 24, 2013 at 9:50 am

    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 23, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    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 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    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 12, 2013 at 2:56 am

    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. Best of #FreeFormFriday January 3, 2014 at 6:19 am

    […] Don’t be a jerk: How to write a classy resignation letter  Kerry at Squawkfox gives a simple template on how to write a letter of resignation. My last one simple said, “Bye and thanks for all the fishes”. […]

  17. Cora February 28, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    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.

  18. Roz March 12, 2014 at 10:19 am

    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.

  19. Kym June 27, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Thanks for the tips. I work for a small company for an owner who started it 16 years ago – no other branches. Considering I like things about my boss and things I don’t, this letter is perfect. Short & sweet. I to deleted the “outstanding organization” but did add
    “Thank you for the opportunity and I wish you every success in the future.”

  20. renee February 15, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    I’m a little on the fence about this one. I’ve worked for a greeting card company for several years, and frankly am fed up with my local manager and the territorial manager. There’s so much back biting, deceit and treachery until it’s disheartening; particularly at my age. I really would love to give folks a piece of my mind, and had every intention until I read this. I really have no plans of EVER working for these folks again, or even listing them on any future job application again, so I could really care less. But the Christian part of me says…let it go and move on. Thanks.

  21. Ryan June 7, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    So, is there way to politely give a one week notice? I work retail where they make the schedule three weeks in advance. My wife starts a new job in two weeks but I will need a week of transition.

    I work for a big box store/ grocery store, and while I’m not planning on returning to work here, but I will be shopping at this store frequently. Thanks for the article and free help.

  22. Laurie June 12, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Dear Ms. Taylor,

    Hope you are well. Thank you for this posting. It was very helpful in guiding me through writing a short resignation letter and the exit interview.

    Being angry, telling the owner about the problems within the company, or even offering solutions weren’t going to help me or change the company, so during the exit interview I just said, “It’s just time for me to move on.” It made the exit interview quick, easy, and painless.

    With all my gratitude,

    Laurie

  23. Jo January 20, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    What a dumbass. Looks like a politician to me. How about saying exactly what you mean. In my 40+ years of experience, never once I’ve even consider going back to the place i’ve worked. More so, regardless how you resign, even if you apply 10 years later, you will never hear from them again. Good example, some of the major hotel chains.

  24. Pavan February 29, 2016 at 7:12 am

    Good one and funny too…the article not the sample 😉 – nice way of conveying the message.

  25. Kat March 20, 2016 at 4:26 am

    Jo,

    You’re the dumbass. Most would never *choose* to work for a company they’ve quit before–that’s like dating an ex: there was clearly a reason it didn’t work out so why go back to it?–but times are hard and you might be surprised to find you *have* to work for that company again (or a sister/parent company even) And even if you had the good pleasure of never seeing their ugly mugs again, do you think future jobs would never check out your job history to see what kind of employee you were and on what terms you left??? Articles like these exist for ppl like you who’d end up in the food stamp line because you went and burned all your bridges in attempt to stick it to the man and go out in a “blaze of glory” and can’t get hired anywhere else.
    Use your head.
    The one on your shoulders, dummy.😶

  26. Gabby April 22, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    Po, or how about not be an asshole? That is basically what this article is trying to say. As much as I dislike my job at a retail store, I still have a shred of respect for my boss and myself. Besides, imagine one day you’re applying for a job and they go around interviewing some of your previous jobs, do you really think they’d wanna give a good reccomendation for someone who left a bad (and IMMATURE) taste in their mouth?

  27. Uyen October 25, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    I totally disagree. If you have been bullied by your boss, why do you need to be nice in the resignation letter? Why do you ever need to worry about returning to the same company? There are many jobs out there.
    I am so tired of people being fake when they leave. When are people ever going to stand up for what is right? Burn bridges, yes I will. Because I never want to walk that same bridge again.

  28. Jack December 22, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    lol I just used the so long and thanks for all the fish in my goodbye email to some (not all) of fellow co-workers. The email was kind, telling them I’ll miss them and learned from them – not at all vindictive. Humor is fine, in my opinion, depending on the audience.

    I’ve been tempted over the years to write resignation letters that spilled the beans on every thing that goes on in the workplace, hoping things can change. I’ve even tried to change things while I was still working. In the end, it’s you that looks bad – the trouble maker, the non-team player. That piece of paper, your resignation letter, will follow you. Regardless of what HR says, people will talk and breach confidential information. Your boss, HR, co-workers – people have friends that work in other companies. You may not apply there, but where you apply, the person looking at your resume may know the HR person or your former boss. Guess what – you now are excluded from the candidate pool. I’ve seen it. I’ve also seen people spill the beans on exit interviews and on resignation letters and nothing gets changed. So what really are you gaining?

    In the end, however pathetic as it sounds, it’s better for your future career if you pretend you loved your job but just need a change rather than bad-mouth anyone.

  29. Meniker November 13, 2017 at 7:39 am

    I am just about to resign from the second time from a company that I absolutely hated working for and I promised I would never come back to. But I left in good terms and yes I am here to prove It does happen. And how that happened well I lost a child, lost my husband and had to stay out of work for 1 year to recover, zero income and got financially stranded. Moved back to parents house and couldn’t wait to rebuild my life again with nearly zero hope of getting a job in the far away city that I loved. And guess what I found out my job vacancy after over 2 years was still there as no one seems to stop in the position. I came back to find out they had 12 employee in my position after I left and none stayed. I made a plan and promise myself as soon as I pit my life back on track I am out. The place is so unbearable I managed 3 months and I also knew they would never check that I had bad credit etc. I sorted out my credit, come back to this awesome city, rented a place and now is my time to say farewell to them again. They will be surprised as they were delighted to have me back. Revanche? No, not really necessity.

  30. RP August 27, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    I feel sorry for people who have so few skills and therefore opportunities that they need to beat around the bush, spouting obvious garbage instead of just politely telling the truth and explaining why you’re leaving. If you even were of the mind that there’s no point talking to a brick wall, I could respect that. No point in telling a jerk they’re a jerk. But if you’re leaving because your boss is a micromanager, have the guts to politely say so. People aren’t honest enough in life. Those of us who can be kind and honest at the same time tend to stand out and garner respect in the process. Flinging obvious sycophantic bullshit around isn’t nearly as effective as you think. All people tend to think is “they’re a coward”. As Warren Buffett says, “Honesty is a gift. Don’t expect it from cheap people.”

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