Writings and observations.

Effective resignation letters

Michael Strickland teaches literacy education at Boise State University. He consults about writing, publishing and social media. Join the discussion and for free tips and resources.

An employee baked a cake with her resignation letter written on top. A marching band accompanied one guy with his announcement. The worker threw a brick through the window with the words “I quit” written on it. An employee left a sticky note explaining he was quitting. The individual sent an email blast to all staff.

These examples, from real cases, are from an article called “The Worst Ways To Quit A Job” written by The Office Team. As the above scenarios illustrate, moving on from a job can be fraught with emotion and a wide variety of potential perils. Sometimes it is clinical exercise. Other times it’s as messy as breaking up with a lover.

A well-written resignation letter is crucial to setting the tone for a positive transition. The business world is surprisingly small and word-of-mouth travels like wildfire. In the future, you may find yourself working with a previous co-worker or boss. You may need to request a letter of recommendation from such a person. A professional reputation is a priceless commodity that is yours to own and protect. Here are tips to keep your resignation letter safe and effective.

Since the official document you submit will set the tone for your relationships throughout the rest of your career, a good resignation letter sets you up to leverage your former position and relationships. Your writing style should be formal and friendly. Whenever possible, schedule a meeting to hand the letter to your supervisor in person. If you feel inclined to, you could offer to help make your resignation easier for the organization. For example, include a sentence or two that offers to train another person to do your job.

If a future employer calls to verify your employment, you want them to see that the last thing you said was “positive, uplifting and thankful,” according to Jacob Young, a small-business consultant and Web developer. “Even if there are marks on your file, the human spirit will take over and pause on the side of caution if you look nice and non-threatening on paper.”

Include the reason for your resignation if it is due to positive circumstances such as relocating or going back to school. In negative situations, spare the details. Instead, focus on the date of departure. Senior executives should give more than two-weeks notice. Use the length of your vacation as a good measure of the amount of time before the final day, since vacation time is typically a measure of seniority. Thus, if you have six weeks’ vacation, offer a minimum of six weeks’ notice. If there are specific terms in your contract, follow those.

Avoid negative criticism. No one will appreciate being blindsided by information that reflects poorly on their managerial or work skills, especially in a document that others will read. Avoid silly grandstanding, as in another case from the Office Team article in which a woman created a music video to explain she was leaving. This letter will be part of your permanent employment file so it’s important that it doesn’t contain much more than the basics.

Several samples of good resignation letters can be found in the web article “How to Write a Resignation Letter” on WikiHow.com. Jobsearch.about.com has several samples, too, including Professional Resignation Letter, Independent Contractor Resignation Letter and Maternity Leave Resignation Letter.

Finally, close on a warm note and show gratitude. It’s always good business etiquette to thank your employer for the privilege of working with him or her.

Have you written – or received – a resignation letter? Do you have suggestions for doing it right? Please share them in the comments section..

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