Writing a resignation letter

Writing a resignation letter: The dos and don’ts you need to know about

You’re finally writing a resignation letter! Are you thrilled you’re leaving? Or are you anxious about the future? You may feel both daunted and exhilarated. It doesn’t matter whether your relationship with your employer is good or bad. You’ve made a decision and are following it through. Just because you’re on your way out doesn’t give you licence to behave however you’d like, though.

There are a couple of things to consider as you write your letter. This isn’t simply an abrupt notification – it isn’t just about going through the motions. You probably have at least two weeks you need to get through before you leave permanently. You know what you need to think about before you leave, but how do these work in practise?

Why it’s more than just handing in a letter of resignation

Getting ready to leave means a change in mindset too. You can’t just get through your last few days apathetic and disengaged.  It’s in poor taste – a negative reflection on you, and also a blow to your future networking and relationship prospects.

Picture this: John leaves behind a pile of incomplete tasks, annoyed clients, and unhappy colleagues in his wake when he resigns. A few months later he approaches you for a recommendation. Do you say:

a) Sure! I’d be happy to write you one. You were an excellent example of leadership!


b) Sorry, no. I don’t feel comfortable recommending you after the way you left things at our previous company.

The answer is a no-brainer. So, apply this to yourself too. Don’t be like John! You don’t want to be remembered as the weakest link in your organisation.  The impression you create with your colleagues and boss or manager really matters.

Preparing yourself and others properly

To this end, you may want to prepare your manager for your imminent resignation.

Before placing an envelope on their desk, or sending an email, talk to them face to face. Not only is this more professional, it’s also courageous and honest. It shows that you are not shying away from responsibility.

You can never predict or control how someone is going to react, though, and that is not your concern. Keep calm, and stick to the facts. If you are asked why you’re leaving, be honest. However, you should not answer questions that make you uncomfortable. If the line of questioning leans toward the inappropriate or personal, state that you are uncomfortable.

If you are at loggerheads with your line manager, you can ask that a mediator be present. You can also speak directly with your human resources representative.

How do I maintain my professional reputation while being honest about why I am leaving?

The keys to maintaining your reputation, and to writing a resignation letter, are simple:

1. Leave on good terms.  Whatever the circumstances, do not burn your bridges. Avoid casting blame on everyone and remember the people who have treated you well.
2. Be courteous. Always. Regardless of how you have been treated by your boss, manager, or colleagues, your responses are a reflection of you.
3. Express gratitude. Despite the ups and downs (and maybe the continuous downs), you have gained some good and useful experiences. Reflect on how you have improved and developed, then express your gratitude for those experiences.
4. Acknowledge growth. Remember that it hasn’t been all bad.  You’ve become resilient, acquired new skills, and will be taking everything you’ve learnt with you.
5. Be willing to support. Spare a thought for those left behind. This is particularly true if you’re fleeing a toxic work culture. Demonstrate that you are willing to mentor others, and leave a comprehensive handover document behind.

Writing a resignation letter: What do I say? 

Here’s a template you can adapt:

Dear [Insert your line manager’s name]

This letter serves to notify you that I am resigning from my position as [Insert the position you hold] with [Insert company name]. As per the responsibilities in my appointment letter, my last day will be [Insert date].

I will complete all tasks assigned to me during my notice period with diligence, professionalism, and commitment.

I appreciate the opportunities I have been given at [Insert company name].  


[Insert your name].

Keeping your letter short and to the point is a good idea. Your letter is informative and factual. You can be polite and cordial, but you shouldn’t write an essay.

Good luck!

There you have it – simple and stress-free steps to writing a resignation letter.

Stick to these three rules and you’ll be well on your way to success:

  1. Keep emotion out of it.
  2. Be calm and factual.
  3. Deal with the reactions which arise as they occur.

If it all goes pear-shaped, don’t worry! You are on your way out, so if you have to grin and bear it for a few days let it be.

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