How to write a resignation letter: tips and template - main region

How to write a resignation letter: tips and template

Resignation letter template

In an ideal world, resigning from your job would be stress-free and straightforward. Your boss would be understanding and supportive of your needs and no bad feelings would arise. The fact is, not everyone experiences such an easy ride, so quitting your job can understandably feel like a daunting process.

Indeed, while you may be looking forward to your new job, this can be a time of quite mixed emotions. It means you’ll have to break the news of your impending departure to your manager, perhaps one you’ve come to admire and trust during your tenure.

How you break this news can have an impact on your career, and so it is vital to know how to write a resignation letter in the right way. Remember that while the submission of your resignation letter will be one of your last acts as an employee in your current role, your career and reputation in the world of work are going to be around for a much longer time to come.

In addition, it’s likely you will be asking your current manager to be a reference for your future roles, so it’s important to end your employment positively and on a good note. After all, a good reference is not just valuable, but vital.

What is a resignation letter?

Once you have accepted your new job offer and signed the contract, your most urgent task is to inform your manager. A letter of resignation is the formal way to communicate your departure and it acts as a legal document stating the date from which you wish your notice period to begin and when your last day of employment will be.

If you’re used to communicating with your manager via emails, instant messages, or informal catch up meetings and calls, then writing a formal resignation letter might feel a little unnatural and difficult. However, since your resignation letter will be kept on file by your employer it does need to be written and structured professionally.

How to write a resignation letter

When writing your resignation letter, the following points should be communicated. 

1. Record today’s date and your contact details:

Like any formal letter, you need to start with the date you are writing it and your contact details – the most suitable being your phone number and email address.

2. Address your letter to the right person:

The addressee would usually be your current line manager, the person you report to at work or your HR department.

3. State your intention:

In the opening statement of your letter, inform the reader of your resignation in a clear and concise way.

4. Outline the key dates:

State your notice period, which should be in line with the terms of your contract and include when your last working day with the company will be.

5. Express your willingness to assist in the handover:

Outline that you’re happy to help your employer in any way during this handover period, such as by coaching a new employee, or helping a peer to upskill or become familiar with your role and responsibilities.

6. Acknowledge the positive experiences you’ve had:

Thank your employer for the opportunity and time they’ve given you and note any learning experiences, projects or moments that you’re particularly grateful for. If these experiences have helped you to secure your new job, this is your opportunity to communicate to your current employer how beneficial their trust and investment in you have been to your career. A touch of sentiment, concisely phrased, can go a long way and costs nothing.

7. Sign off appropriately:

Conclude with your name and signature.

Why it’s important to write a resignation letter

First and foremost, it’s important to write a resignation letter for the simple reason that it provides formal evidence of the decision you have made to leave. Just imagine if you merely verbally told your manager that you were leaving – there would be no official record anywhere that you had decided to move on.

From your point of view, this letter enables you to detail the effective date of your resignation and the intended date of your last day at work. This ensures you have made your exit clear to your employer. In addition, putting it in writing means it cannot be altered later.

It’s also important to explain that you’re thankful for the position you’ve held with your employer and the opportunities you’ve been given over the course of your employment. Remember that your departure will be bad news for your employer, so your resignation letter is a chance to show your gratitude to your manager and the organisation.

A resignation letter is also a good opportunity to communicate to your manager that you’ve enjoyed the role and working with them, and that you’ve learned a lot – as well as to thank them for their personal support. It doesn’t need to be a cold letter – and nor should it be, even if there are aspects of your current job that haven’t necessarily been very rewarding for you.

What not to include in your resignation letter

Even if you are leaving your role for negative reasons, such as a lack of progression opportunities or because the organisation’s purpose no longer aligns with your personal view, your resignation letter is not the place to explain them. Remember, the letter has one sole purpose: to inform your employer of the date you wish to terminate your employment.

Therefore, do not cite any negative reasons for your departure. If you do have concerns about the organisation, your job or the workplace culture, your exit interview with your manager is the place to voice these. Even then, however, your feedback should be directed in a way that can be constructive for your employer.

You must also not be vague about when your final day of work will be. Instead, be clear and certain, so that your employer can plan effectively for the handover period and beyond, and so that there can be no future dispute over your employment termination.

What happens next?

Now that your resignation letter is ready, you simply need to plan when and where you’ll be handing it to your manager. This could either occur during a face-to-face meeting or, if you work remotely, by email following a telephone or video conference in which you deliver your news.

The following tips for handing in your resignation letter will help ensure everything goes as well as possible:

  • Have your letter to hand: If you’ll be meeting your manager face-to-face, print a copy to bring with you. Remember that your manager will probably need to scan the letter once you’ve given it or sent it to them, then send it for internal processing, so it needs to be professional.
  • Arrange a face-to-face meeting with your manager (where possible): Simply leaving your resignation letter on your boss’s desk isn’t just awkward – it can also come across as dismissive. So, be sure to arrange that meeting in a private location and know what you’re going to say before you go in to see your manager. Alternatively, if you are working remotely, then you need to organise a video or telephone call with your manager. During the meeting, be professional, clarify any uncertainties such as leftover pay and holiday, and thank them personally for the opportunity they gave you to work for them.
  • Rehearse: If you are feeling nervous about delivering the news to your manager, prepare for your meeting by reviewing your reasons for leaving and, if necessary, rehearse them out loud.
  • Decide if you want to tell your manager where you are going: If you don't want to reveal your next step, you're perfectly within your rights to keep this to yourself. However, if you feel comfortable telling your manager the name of the organisation you are moving to or what your plan is, go ahead. Just ensure you make this decision before the meeting, so you are prepared in case you are asked.
  • Be prepared for a counter offer: Your decision to leave may come as a shock to your manager, which may lead to a counter-offer. If you do receive such an offer, don’t necessarily just accept the pay rise or promotion and agree to stay. Instead, remind yourself why you wished to leave in the first place, what attracted you to the new role and whether accepting the counter-offer is likely to overcome the reasons that drove you to look for a new job elsewhere in the first place. Are those circumstances likely to change?
  • Follow up: Presuming you don’t accept a counter-offer, the period between handing in your resignation letter and exiting your role should be all about ensuring a seamless transition and concluding your time with the organisation on a good note. So, once you’ve had a meeting with your manager to inform them of your departure, send them a short email confirming your conversation and reiterating your thanks. You may also like to note that you will tie up any loose ends and ensure your colleagues – and whoever may replace you in your own role – are well-equipped to manage the handover and the weeks and months immediately after you leave.
  • Keep your news confidential: Finally, do not leave the meeting and start telling your colleagues of your departure. Your manager will appreciate being the one to decide who else to tell, and how and when to break the news to your team.

Once you’ve made your decision to go to pastures new and handed in your letter, it’s not uncommon to experience a mixture of emotions. You may worry about how your colleagues will treat you during your notice period, for instance, or feel sad about those you will leave behind.

The reality is that most people at some point in their lives – your manager included – will have been in your situation. Even though you may have been a valued member of the team, the organisation will not collapse without you. Trust your decision and look forward to the new exciting opportunity ahead of you.

Once again, congratulations and good luck in your new job.

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