While this note cuts to the chase, it’s not ideal. Your resignation letter should have a number of elements in it to ensure that your transition out is as smooth as possible, and that it sets you up for your next phase. Here are five elements your resignation letter should include.
1. The facts
Start with a statement of what role you’re leaving, and when. You might have had an unofficial discussion with your manager already, but it’s best to make things as clear and official as possible in your note. You don’t need to go into any detail about what you’re doing next (leaving for a new company, quitting to raise alpacas, etc.). You might end up telling people your next-step plans, but this is not relevant for your on-the-record resignation letter.
2. A gracious tone
No matter why you’re leaving and no matter how angry or frustrated you might be, keep it on an even keel. This is not a time to burn any bridges. I promise you it is a very small world out there, and a goodbye missive full of personal insults, angry accusations, and general unpleasantness could definitely come back to haunt you.
3. A thank you
Again, this resignation note is not the place for bitterness. I was once in the position of leaving a company when I felt like I’d been, well, shafted by someone in a position of authority. On my last day, as I was writing a goodbye note, I took the time to thank that person (albeit not as effusively as I might have otherwise), and I’m still glad I did. It might have felt therapeutic for a few minutes to have left a snotty and sarcastic parting word, but that wasn’t really me—and wasn’t what I wanted to be later on. No matter what specific grievances are going on, always take the time to thank someone for the opportunity you were given in this position. Be grateful for what you’ve learned, and shut the door gently behind you.
4. A timeline
Your company may have a minimum notice requirement, which makes this part especially important. The timeline may end up being different in the end (maybe you won’t need to stay the full two weeks or however long), but it’s best to get the timing in writing in case there are any questions later from your manager, HR, etc.
5. A plan
If your resignation is a surprise to your manager and colleagues, an outline of the next few weeks shows you’ve put some thought into your exit plan. Also, it can help smooth any upset caused by your news. Offering a kind of succession plan (“I’m happy to spend time documenting my processes and training anyone on my day-to-day tasks over the next two weeks”) can help your boss manage the transition as well.
Think of your resignation letter (or email) as your official transition to your next step—even more so than accepting a new job. Once it’s in writing, you’re already looking beyond your current role, so it’s time to let go of any drama. Similarly, it’s not a party time, either. The resignation letter is a way to remind yourself (and show your boss) that you will be handling the transition with professionalism and grace—and no swears.
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