Ready to quit your 9-5 gig for the life of an entrepreneur? You'll first need to break the news of your departure to your employer. Read on to learn when and how to write an effective resignation letter.
Why do you need a resignation letter?
All states in the U.S. recognize, to varying degrees, the at-will employment doctrine. This doctrine lets an employer or employee end employment for any reason. This condition in the U.S. can make submitting a resignation letter more of a formality than a strict rule. That said, the terms of some employment contracts force you to submit a resignation letter to avoid breaching contract terms. When in doubt, check your employment contract or handbook or consult HR for the resignation policy. Even in the absence of these requirements, you should learn how to write a resignation letter as a professional courtesy to your employer and create a paper trail that documents your departure. If issues arise in processing your final paycheck, the resignation letter can attest to your employment until a specific date.
What elements should you include?
Your resignation letter can take the form of an email or a paper letter, but it should include the following elements:
- Contact information: Include your name, job title, address, phone number and email (and comparable info for the business) in the header of a paper letter. If writing an email, you can put your contact information after your signature.
- Resignation date: The date you include at the top of the letter before the body text generally serves as the start date of the notice period. Alternatively, you can choose to add this date in the body text, e.g., "As of 6/15/2018, I am resigning..."
- Recipient: Start your letter with "Dear X," where X is the name of your manager or the other person in the chain-of-command to whom your company recommends sending the resignation letter. In a small business, you might submit your resignation to the business owner herself. Check your employee handbook for the right contact if you're not sure.
- Intent to resign: Cut to the chase immediately and announce that you are quitting.
- Date of last day of service: Declare your last date of service with the business, e.g., "My last day will be 6/29/2019." If your company requires giving notice, the last day of service should reflect the notice period. Consult your employee handbook if you're not sure whether your company calls for notice. Generally, a two-week warning amounts to ten business days.
- Thank you: It's a courtesy to acknowledge your supervisor at a minimum. If your experience at the organization was generally positive, feel free to heap on more praise, but be brief.
- Polite sign-off: "Best wishes" or "Sincerely" are one of many warm and appropriate greetings. Follow the sign-off with your name, either typed or as a handwritten signature.
What elements should you leave out?
It's inappropriate to include the following in your resignation letter:
- Criticism of specific individuals or the business at large
- Language that comes across as bragging about your next opportunity. There is no real need to mention where you're going next.
- The decision to work for a competitor
- Intent to take legal action against the business
When should you not write a resignation letter?
As explained above, how to write a resignation letter is often up to your discretion. However, there are scenarios when you should reconsider writing one, such as:
- When your organization advises against it.
- When you're making an internal transfer: If you're only leaving a department, but not the company, it's more appropriate to send an internal email to your manager and team.
- If you anticipate getting a pink slip: If you leave in anticipation of a layoff that will occur, realize that you may lose out on severance and unemployment benefits by resigning as opposed to being let go.