How To Write A Resignation Email

Here's what to write when you quit your job and what is better to leave out.
Quitting your job is more popular than ever. But there's a tactful way to broach the subject.
Siriwat Nakha / EyeEm via Getty Images
Quitting your job is more popular than ever. But there's a tactful way to broach the subject.

More of us are saying goodbye to our jobs. In September, more than 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs, setting a new record high, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Once you decide to leave your job, the next step is how. Quitting can be done on the spot if you’ve reached a toxic breaking point, but if you want to preserve working relationships, a heads-up gives the company and your boss more time to prepare for your departure.

In a world in which you do have a relationship worth preserving with your boss, you should share your resignation face to face, then follow up with an email that’s more of a formality for human resources.

In these cases, the conversation is a chance for you to share specific feedback about how the job or your boss benefited you so that you’ve helped them walk away feeling like it was a conversation that strengthened your relationship and makes it easier for them to be an advocate for you as you leave, said Phoebe Gavin, a career coach who specializes in supporting early- and mid-career professionals. After that conversation, you can ask your boss to whom you should direct the formal resignation.

“In an ideal world, this is a conversation you bring up in your regular check-in with your manager, and not a sudden declaration slipped under their door,” said Gorick Ng, a career adviser at Harvard University and the author of “The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right.”

“This also means that your immediate supervisor should be the first to hear about your departure. You don’t want them hearing about it through some rumor mill or from their boss.”

Wherever you stand with your boss, a resignation email will be necessary to inform the company about your imminent departure. Here’s how to write it tactfully, including what you must say and what is better to leave out.

DO share your last day. Other details are a courtesy.

Victorio Milian, a human resources consultant at Humareso, sees the email as a brief formality. “I really just need to have an understanding of when you are stating your resignation and when your last day is,” he said. “More often than not, I already know the reasons behind the resignation.”

Milian said the email also lets human resources know how much lead time they have to recruit. Send it to key organization people who need the information, like your boss or HR, and let your other colleagues know face to face.

Career development coach Jessica Hernandez recommends also stating your willingness to help transition your responsibilities to others while your replacement is found. If appropriate, you can mention one or two things that meant a lot to you while working at the company, she said.

Even if it’s just a formal resignation email to human resources, it’s good to throw in a thank-you to keep the email from seeming adversarial, Gavin said.

You never want to make an enemy of HR, even if your direct supervisor is terrible,” Gavin said. “There are a lot of things from an offboarding perspective that you are going to really need HR for, and you may need to circle back with them afterward because you have questions.”

“If you are going to put emotional energy into thinking about how you are leaving, put all of that energy into transitioning your relationships from being co-workers to being members of your professional network.”

- Career coach Phoebe Gavin

Keep in mind that giving a resignation notice of two weeks is standard, but it’s a courtesy to your boss, not a binding requirement. If you want to ask for less time, speak with your manager in person before you submit the resignation email, recommended Danny Speros, vice president of people at the software company Zenefits.

You could say something like, “I want to help make the transition smooth. I believe we can accomplish that in two weeks or less. Should we set up some time to talk through a plan?” he previously told HuffPost.

Resignations are usually disruptive to teams, but you can make them less so by timing it right for colleagues with whom you want to stay on good terms. Consider sending in your resignation when colleagues won’t feel like you’re screwing them over, rather than right before a big deadline when everyone is counting on you, Ng said.

DON’T share why you are leaving and what you are doing next.

The resignation email is for delivering the logistics of your departure; it shouldn’t be a space for you to vent.

“Many people feel compelled to explain why they chose to leave or where they’re going next. These aren’t necessary in your resignation letter and can be discussed in a one-on-one meeting afterward,” Hernandez said. “Whether you share this information is a personal choice.”

Gavin recommended reserving these insights for an exit interview, or to a one-on-one conversation with your boss if they ask you for more details directly.

“The big conversation about why are you leaving, where are you going, what could we do better — that kind of stuff is an exit interview. That’s not what a resignation email is for,” she said.

In the end, agonizing over whether to pick between “Notice of resignation” or “Thank you for the opportunity” as your email subject line may not be the best use of your time. Gavin’s advice is to not overthink it.

“If you are going to put emotional energy into thinking about how you are leaving, put all of that energy into transitioning your relationships from being co-workers to being members of your professional network,” Gavin said. “That is a much better use of your energy than stressing out over a resignation email.”

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