what should a resignation letter say?

What exactly are the mechanics of quitting your job? How do you tell your boss? How do you initiate that meeting? What do you write in your resignation letter? And for that matter, considering that it’s 2020, why are we still marking this important conversation by letter?

Here’s everything you need to know about resignation letters.

What is the purpose of writing a resignation letter?

Here’s the most important thing to know about how to write a resignation letter: It’s not the way you initially give your boss the news. When you resign, you should do it via a face-to-face conversation. Or, in situations where that’s not possible (because you work remotely or your boss is out of town or so forth), it’s a conversation that you have by phone. You do not resign by popping a letter in your boss’s inbox and waiting for her to find it. Nor do you walk into her office, hand her a letter, and stand there while she reads it, despite the fact that Hollywood loves to portray resignations this way. (Hollywood also thinks that you negotiate salary by writing your desired salary on a slip of paper and pushing it across the table. Hollywood is weird, and appears to be populated by people who have not worked in many non-Hollywood office jobs, or who behaved really oddly when they did.)

So if a resignation letter isn’t the way you announce your departure, what is its purpose? It’s really just documentation of your decision – a bureaucratic detail, not the main event. You have your resignation conversation with your boss, and then you follow up with your resignation in writing to formalize it and ensure there are no misunderstandings later. This is primarily in your employer’s interests; they don’t want you to, for example, be able to file for unemployment and claim that they laid you off when in fact you left voluntarily. But writing a resignation letter can be in your own interests too — for example, if anyone raises questions later on about whether you truly gave two weeks notice.

What to include in a resignation letter

Here’s the second most important thing to know about how to write a resignation letter: It can be short. Really short. In fact, it should be. This letter is not the place to pour out your complicated feelings about leaving your job, or your frustration with your boss, or your disappointment that you weren’t promoted or given better assignments. Your letter should be two to three sentences at most and should simply confirm your decision to resign, note when your last day will be, and indicate today’s date. You might then add a single sentence of fluff to pad it out.

Resignation Letter Examples

This is a typical resignation letter:

November 27, 2018

This letter is to confirm that I’ve made the difficult decision to resign from ABC Company. My last day will be December 12. I’ve appreciated my time here and wish the company every success.

Jane Jones

As you can see, it’s short and unemotional, but it gets the job done.

If you can’t stomach saying kind things about your employer, you can strip those out and instead write something like this:

November 27, 2018

This letter is to confirm my resignation from ABC Company. My last day will be December 12. Please let me know how I can assist in transition between now and then.

Jane Jones

You could even eliminate that last line if you wanted to, but typically at this point, when you’ve already decided to leave, there’s no point in being brusque and a sentence expressing some minimal good will (and this is really quite minimal) is useful.

That’s it!

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 146 comments… read them below }

  1. LuckySophia*

    …Or if a letter-on-paper strikes you as too archaic, you can go the mixed-media route and spell out I–Q-U-I-T in raw fish.

    1. The Original K.*

      This is one of my absolute favorite AAM stories. I low-key want to work in a fish market so I can do this. (I actually would probably like working at a fish market.)

      1. Close Bracket*

        You can implement this anywhere! Just lay them out on the floor by your boss’s desk, preferably late at night before a long weekend (or whatever would be the equivalent for your work week).

    2. JustAnotherHRPro*

      One of my favorite memes is the card that says something to the affect of “I’m sorry I’ll miss you”. Turn the inside to say “because I quit”.

    3. CatCat*

      That’s a classic!

      I also love the highly coveted new hire who, shortly after starting, found an all-staff memo/rant from the boss about start times, said calmly of the memo that he could not deal with that, and just walked out never to be seen again.

    4. Salsa Your Face*

      Bless Google search, because all I had to do was type ‘fish quit’ into the search box and the relevant article was first on the list. It was a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing the word of its existence!

    5. RC Rascal*

      I worked at the mall in college. They fired and employee in the office. She was sitting in a roller chair and refused to leave it. After the manager failed to reason with her they pushed the chair out onto the mall dock, shut & locked the door & left her there.

      ( Managers office was next to store receiving which connected to the dock).

        1. pugsnbourbon*

          If you load up an office chair with a bunch of “old stuff I’m taking to my car” … turns out you can take the office chair too.
          Source: my family home

    6. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

      i was unfamiliar with this story until i searched it. THANK YOU i really needed that laugh today!

          1. 404UsernameNotFound*

            Just be aware your manager might get crabby – you’d betta not ask for a reference unless you’re sure eel clam up instead of talking a load of pollocks.
            Beyond that, don’t be shellfish, work your two weeks if physically and emotionally possible, and the world’s your oyster!
            (I’m going to shut up now.)

  2. The Original K.*

    “I’m resigning from the position of Senior Penguin Observer, effective February 25, 2020.” That’s it! I think some people think you have to say why you’re leaving, and that’s not true. It’s like a breakup – wanting to leave is enough of a reason to leave.

    1. Blue Horizon*

      Yes, that’s basically it. You can, if you wish, add (1) an anodyne statement about how you enjoyed your time there and (2) an anodyne statement about how you wish them the best. These mean, respectively, (1) that working there did not totally suck, or at least not all of the time, and (2) that you do not actually wish any of them harm and are not actively plotting revenge. If either of these two things is untrue, skip the step in question.

      The tradition is for the company to respond with similar anodyne statements about how they are sorry to see you go and wish you the best in future, both of which have a similarly broad range of possible meanings. Social niceties are thus observed, and everyone knows they don’t need to check under their bed for assassins.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Although there’s a certain value in letting them *think* you’re not plotting revenge (or have not already left aging lobster bits in the cane of the boss’s Venetian blinds–seriously, someone did this once).

  3. cactus lady*

    I was once advised not to use the word “resign” in the letter, but to instead say something like “I’ve accepted another offer and will my leaving my position as llama groomer at llamas r us on March 20.” What are peoples thoughts on this?

    1. Salty Caramel*

      I find that interesting, and I’ve never heard it as advice. It would certainly soften the blow.

      The last time I quit a job, I talked to my boss first, then sent a formal letter.

      For another job, I’ve actually written, “I hereby tender my resignation, effective xx/xx/xxxx,” but I can be an elitist snot sometimes.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        “This letter serves as notice of my resignation effective (date).”


        p.s. gfy

        Ok maybe not the p.s.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Did they say why not to use the word resign? It seems needlessly nitpicky to me, plus what if you haven’t accepted another offer or just don’t want to tell your company what you’re doing/why you’re leaving? You could leave that part out and just say “I will be leaving my position…on March 20” but that pretty much says the same exact thing as resign so it’s just semantics at that point.

      Genuinely curious what the reasoning was!

      1. cactus lady*

        It was an HR manager at a large organization where I had my first desk job. As I recall she said it would look bad to have a letter saying the word “resign” in our employee file, and advised me to not use it ever in writing when I was leaving a job. Maybe it was just her?

        1. Rachael W.*

          But… you are resigning! It’s not a dirty word. It’s factual.

          It’s just her being a weirdo.

        2. Close Bracket*

          Your employee file at the place where you are leaving? Who gaf what is in your employee file at a place you left?

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      I mentioned this below, but the only time I was warned not to use that was in an internal transfer. My soon-to-be-Old Boss had a history of being very vindictive against employees who left her department (to the point of putting them as “do not rehire” status with the institution), and even though it wasn’t needed at all, she was pressuring me for my resignation letter. New Boss said to not give her one, so I split the difference and wrote it up as a ‘transfer confirmation’ letter.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Yeah, that’s a little different. You weren’t resigning you were transferring. FTR… it’s pretty weird to be asked for a letter of any sort in this situation. I have seen offer letters presented for transfers but never a ‘resignation letter’

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Yup. I’ve actually transferred again within the institution and no letters of any sort were needed, though HR needed a fair amount of work to be done. (They even had to recheck my degree status!)

          1. Goldfinch*

            “Damn, better make sure RabbitRabbit isn’t a Time Lord who went back to erase her college experience since we hired her!”

              1. Quill*

                I don’t remember my entire junior year but I don’t think my method, or the traditional one of being wasted for most of it, is a good choice for you.

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              I know, right? I’ve commended them for catching things that temp agencies haven’t, but that was for external hires!

  4. JustAnotherHRPro*

    What? “Take this job and shove it” isn’t acceptable? Dammit.

    In my career the best one I ever saw was “On this day, I, Ronald Weasley, quit”.

    1. Anna Maus*

      I was a disk jockey a long time ago. When I was thinking of quitting, I envisioned putting on a very long song like In a Gadda Da Vida and bolting. I’d be home by the time the song finished and the figured it out.

  5. Goldenrod*

    I would like to propose baking a giant cake, write BUH-BYE on it in frosting, leaving it in the breakroom, and then just………vanish.

  6. Master Bean Counter*

    I’m totally doing the sympathy card resignation if/when I ever leave my current position.

    1. Seifer*

      I did that. I got the “I’m sorry for your loss” card, and then on the inside, I copied something I saw on reddit and wrote, “it’s me, I’m leaving in two weeks.”

      I totally hated my supervisor though and wasn’t counting on a reference from her so I was able to bask in the hilarity.

  7. Stormy Weather*

    I like that Allison included that fluff is not needed. When I was younger, I would include things like, ‘thank you for the opportunity, I will use my experience here in all my future positions” but as mentioned above, just wanting to leave is enough reason to leave.

    1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

      I don’t know it feels like “I will use my experience here all my future postions” kind of feels like rubbing their nose in it.

  8. knitter*

    I did, though, have a salary negotiation through passed slips of papers once. (My first! negotiation)

    I was asked what monthly salary I wanted and I wrote the post-tax amount. Then got slammed by the hiring manager’s boss for underselling myself even after I explained. It was an internal position after an internship, so I think he felt he was mentoring me through this ridiculous exercise because our organization was like a family. (I hope you read the latter statement as dripping with sarcasm)

    1. Beth*

      Haha — I once worked for a place where we were given our salary information on slips of paper pushed across the desk by the manager! I was really new to the workplace, so I didn’t even know how weird it was.

      1. Goldfinch*

        …I still get mine on a Post-It note. My manager doesn’t have an office, and conference rooms are hard to get.

  9. Threeve*

    After handing over your short, reasonable resignation letter, writing another one just for yourself with all the grievances and four letter words you want to say can be quite cathartic.

    1. De Minimis*

      Whenever I’ve been stressed at work, I like to practice writing unfilterred resignation letters.

    2. Stephanie*

      A colleague had a resignation letter in her documents with a form field that automatically updated to show the current date.

      1. starsaphire*

        Two jobs ago, I had two unsealed envelopes in my desk, properly addressed — one to my boss and one to HR — with undated resignation letters printed out in them. Kept them there for several years, tossed them in the shredder the day I got laid off.

        There were several occasions, upon which I was summoned to a closed-door chat in my boss’s office, where I carried those letters with me in my pocket.

        It’s a lovely feeling. Gave me some power and autonomy in a really shitty situation. (Try getting chewed out for a 15-minute personal phone call when, in order to get chewed out, you have to walk past the dude who is SLEEPING AT HIS DESK and SNORING. On the CLOCK.)

  10. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

    I wish a former colleague of mine had read this advice before sending her two page resignation letter that included a bullet point list of all of her grievances against the company, which she sent to the entire company, some community partners, AND two local newspapers.

    1. Sunflower Sea Star*

      Way to advertise what kind of employee you might be! I’m sure that helped her job search immensely.

      1. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

        Yeah the consensus in our very small field seemed to be, “Well, we’ll never see her again.”

      1. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

        There were some legitimate issues. Most of them came down to interpersonal problems. This woman and her boss were never going to like each other, and things just got out of control on both ends. However, she did tend to play the victim and refused to admit that some of the problems were of her own making. So, I’d say her version was about 60% accurate.

    2. Spills*

      Oh! Oh! I found one of these once – we had a senior director who had gotten fired due to sexual harassment of several of the people on our team and he printed a several page tirade…which he then left on the printer for all to see. It caused quite a stir!

    3. Anon for this*

      Someone at my company sent a mass resignation letter to the entire company (over 1000 people, all over the country) that spelled out all sorts of grudges and wild accusations. Literally, spelled out, as in the first letter of each paragraph was 36 point bold font, reading down it spelled out the company name.

      Our industry tracks people with licenses so I could check her work history, she had something like 9 employers in the prior 10 years, the longest stint was 18 months, it really made me wonder how she made it through the hiring process.

  11. Goldfinch*

    LOL at the art chosen by The Cut for this article.

    How To Write a Resignation Letter

    1. Cut off your hands
    2. Place the stumps on an old-fashioned typewriter
    3. ?

  12. Double A*

    I admit in my last resignation I noted the reason, which was that I had been involuntarily transferred to a job I did not feel qualified or prepared for. Even though my job was eliminated, I didn’t qualify for unemployment because my union contract technically transferred me to another position, even though it was a position for which I had no experience (e.g. my experience is with llamas, and this position was working with snakes. There’s some crossover, but it’s very helpful to have specific training). It was extremely frustrating and ended up costing me several months without income or health insurance.

    I also learned my job would be eliminated two weeks before coming back from maternity leave, so it was a particularly tough time to job hunt. Ugh. So glad 2019 is over, it was a rough year.

  13. RabbitRabbit*

    There’s always Nixon’s resignation letter from the Presidency, which consisted of the date, addressed to Sec. of State Henry Kissinger, and consisted of “Dear Mr. Secretary: I hearby resign the Office of the President of the United States. Sincerely, (signed) Richard M. Nixon.”

    I had an old boss who was deeply unhappy with my within-company transfer and tried to get me to give her a resignation letter, when I wasn’t actually resigning. My new boss strongly warned against it, so after additional pressure for the letter I came up with a transfer confirmation letter which very carefully avoided any mention of leaving/resigning and focused on transitioning to a new role in the same institution (with no gaps in employment). The suspicion was that Old Boss would try to turn it into something fishy with HR otherwise.

    1. Stormy Weather*

      I find that strange. I think your new boss had the right of it. You weren’t quitting the company, you were transferring. I am wondering about her motivation and why she would want to get fishy about it.

      A good manager wants their employees to succeed and understands that means moving on when it’s time.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Old Boss had a high turnover rate in her department; I was told by multiple people who worked more closely under her that she would vindictively mark people who quit as being ineligible for rehire at the institution. Obviously this isn’t effective if they just internally transfer but does have an effect if they go elsewhere and would like to return later, even to a different department.

        I’ve transferred again since then, on a much more friendly basis – my previous manager told me about my current position’s job opening. No letters to write, just hoops to jump through with HR and an offer letter to sign.

        1. Massmatt*

          Sad that there are many toxic bosses that treat people moving on in their careers as threats, and also seem to bear no consequences for high turnover. I worked for a boss whose team (of several doing the same thing at the same site) turnover more than doubled when she took over. She was nasty and rude, and NOT a resource anyone could go to. Sadly, it only changed when she was promoted.

            1. Massmatt*

              No, strangely. She was hated by everyone who worked FOR her, and most of the people who worked WITH her, but is seemed her own bosses couldn’t promote her enough.

              I twice came to her cube to find her writing handwritten thank you cards to her boss, maybe that was her secret? Promotion sponsored by Hallmark?

              The sh!t finally hit the fan when it was revealed her department had screwed up tax documents, going back years, for a state employer. Including for the governor’s MOTHER. We lost that account, and no amount of thank you cards was saving her job then.

  14. 1234*

    LOL Reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my best friends years ago. After he calls me and makes some chit chat, he goes “I have a question. Have you ever written a letter to quit a job?” Yes, he really called it “letter to quit a job.”

    He then proceeds to tell me how he walked into his boss’s office and said that he was quitting his job. He had gotten another opportunity that was more aligned with what he wanted to be doing. His boss responded with “Ok, I need that in writing” and my friend seemed shocked.

    I wish I had this post years ago so that I could show it to him.

  15. we're basically gods*

    At my very first job, I didn’t realize that resignation letters were for paperwork purposes. I had to quit because I was going to a different town for college, and my boss told me that I had to write it down somewhere.
    Since it was in food service, I believe the note was written on a scrap of paper in our back room, and was probably something to the effect of:
    Dear [Boss Name],
    My last day will be August Whenever.

    ….followed by a shaggy bit of torn paper, because we’d just pulled it off of something else.

    1. Drew*

      I had occasion to look through a rehired employee’s personnel file in a long-ago job. His previous resignation letter was on the back of a pink phone message slip and read, in toto:

      I fucking quit.

      Not sure why we rehired him after that, TBH.

    2. Ama*

      Hee. Did that work or did he make you type it up on a full piece of paper.

      I do think you are right that people don’t realize the main reason for getting it in writing is so there’s documentation of what was decided. At my last job, the HR department was notoriously disorganized and prone to both putting the wrong last day in the system as well as miscalculate when people were supposed to get vacation days paid out — so my boss told me to look that up in our payroll system myself and include in my letter “At the time of my last day I will have accrued X vacation days that should be paid out to me, [my boss] is happy to verify this if there are any questions.” She had recently had to do a massive intervention when someone else who resigned had their last day put in the system incorrectly, and it was only because she had proof that she’d sent the letter with the correct day on it to HR that they agreed to fix it.

      1. we're basically gods*

        He was the one who handed me the little bit of paper, actually! They’d known from when I was hired that I’d be leaving at the end of the summer, because I was a high school senior, and it was all pretty cordial and laidback. I think he just needed something for corporate to show why I wasn’t there any more.

    3. Quill*

      The first job I ever quit I just emailed the people signing my paycheck and was like “I’m not doing this anymore, do you want your terrible itchy shirt back?” (Yes this was food service. At my college! Looking back I wish I’d Jeanette Rankin’d it and been nastier, because that boss constantly told me off for not doing things that I could not do, i.e. be in two places at once and magically never leave the till but also maintain stock at all times.)

  16. Czhorat*

    I like one sentence of “I wish everyone well/Appreciate the opportunity” bit of fluff as a way to end on a positive note, even if it isn’t quite sincerely meant. OTher than that, for me it’s never been more than a formality after you’ve had the conversation, and .. yeah. Just that you’re resigning effective whatever day is sufficient.

  17. Beth*

    Years ago, I resigned from an insanely toxic volunteer organization, where I had wasted fifteen good years on the underside of the plumbing, if you get my drift.

    I sent an email to the head of the organization, and copied it to the three senior individuals who pretended to help him run it. The email said, in its entirety, “After a great deal of thought and consideration, I have decided to resign from Organization, effectively immediately.”

    I knew damned well that if I said anything else — anything at all! — it would be distorted and used to smear me. I also knew that there would be smearing and bad-mouthing, but that the only thing I could do was make sure they’d have to make it all up themselves, instead of using my words as prompts.

    As soon as I had hit Send, I blocked their emails.

    I got a letter from the Leader Dude by mail, declaring that my email had “confused” him and demanding to know WHAT I was resigning from. I ignored it.

    Life has been much, MUCH better since then.

  18. 1234*

    Until reading this post, I didn’t realize “send boss an email and wait for her to find it in her inbox” isn’t the way to resign.

    At my first job, I did exactly that, right before I left for the day. I literally hit “send” and bolted out the door. I remember I asked my coworker how she did it and she said she had also resigned via email to boss so younger me thought that would be a good way to deliver that news. At Current Job, I would never think to do that without a conversation.

    1. button*

      The image of you sending that email and running away like you’d just lit a bomb fuse is cracking me up!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Don’t fret.

      We had someone resign by slipping into the CEO’s office, leaving his badge/paperwork and a note saying “Sorry this job isn’t for me.” and vanished into the wind.

      I have also had people simply not return from a break/lunch. “Where’s Jimbo? Oh, he never came back from lunch…”

      I’ve quit my email, text and personal conversation. It depends on how much I like you and if I’m going to continue a relationship afterwards though ;)

    3. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

      We once had someone quit by writing “I quit. [Name]” on a scratch piece of paper and crumpling it around her door key before leaving it on her direct boss’ desk before she’d even come in yet. It was really strange.
      She later emailed an “exit statement” to the head boss and her grievances were confusing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  19. MillersSpring*

    Because the email is meant to follow up on a conversation by phone or in person, I’d do the following:
    “As we discussed this morning, I’m resigning my position. To reiterate, my last day will be X. Over the next X weeks, I’ll be doing A, B, and C, as we agreed.”

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Huh. In my area you send the email first, give them time to process it, then follow up to deliver a print letter in person.

  20. Employment Lawyer*

    Three Things that Employment Lawyers Wish You Would Know Before You Resign:

    1) You cannot unilaterally “take back” a resignation. Resign in haste, repent in leisure.

    2) If you resign you will usually be automatically ineligible for unemployment and similar post-employment benefits. This is hard or impossible to reverse unless you have very specific circumstances and documentation.

    3) If you are resigning in whole or in part because of job problems (harassment, bad treatment, discrimination, retaliation, nonpayment of wages, etc.) and if you are even somewhat considering talking to a lawyer about it, DO NOT RESIGN UNTIL YOU TALK TO A LAWYER.

    I can’t tell you how many people don’t seem to know these things. When they walk in post-resignation I have to break the bad news that they have lost substantial money (or entirely killed their case) by doing things in the wrong order. It sucks for them, but the problems cannot always be fixed.

    1. miss_chevious*

      I literally had an employee resign in haste as a result of a performance conversation and then try to claim unemployment saying we had constructively terminated him by giving him payment in lieu for his two week notice period, instead of having him come in to the office. (He was not a person I wanted in the office for two weeks telling everyone his tale of woe.)

      This was the convo with the unemployment administrator:
      UA: you say you were fired?
      Him: yes
      UA: but your letter says you resigned
      Him: I did resign. But then they didn’t let me work for my notice period.
      UA: but they paid you for the notice period?
      Him: Yes
      UA: [chuckles] okay, I think we’re done here.

    2. ThatGirl*

      When I got fired, my mom asked me if I had been allowed to resign instead. Well, no, I didn’t even ask because I needed the unemployment money! I know her thought was that it would be easier to find a new job if I could say I left on my own, but…

    3. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      #2 not always true! If you are “forced to resign” (yes that’s a thing) you can bargain for unemployment benefits as part of the deal. If they agree to not contest the unemployment & you get it in writing, you will usually have a good chance of getting those benefits.

  21. WinStark*

    An acquaintance once included this passage in her very long resignation letter (which I have saved because it’s so facinating):
    Coming in on the eve of an incredibly unpopular hiring decision I have had the chance to see how my city-parish sausage is made and am afraid I have lost the taste for it. There are plenty of fish in the civil service sea. You will find someone who enjoys spending hours each day involved in personal conflicts, Facebook pages, using slurs and being asked to pray for people in office emails. Best of luck on your search.

  22. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    My all-time favorite resignation that I witnessed was at an ad agency back in the 90s. Grumpy graphic designer got fed up with his creative team laughing about something, said, “Oh sure, everything is hilarious to you,” and walked out, never to return. The graphic designer had a fairly strong German accent, which made his delivery of that line even funnier.

    Second-favorite was a guy (at the same ad agency) who was trying to get a job at Disney. Most of the creative coworkers knew about it. When he got the Disney job, he stood up on his desk and screamed, “I’M GOING TO DISNEYLAND!” while the creatives cheered and management/non-creatives looked puzzled.

    I’m too practical to do such a dramatic resignation; I do the whole, “No, really, it’s been lovely working with all of you, I just need to make a change for my family situation” thing.

  23. Stephanie*

    Oh, I totally did walk into a conference room with my former boss and hand him a letter. He was basically like “What’s up, Stephanie?” and I was like “I’m tendering my resignation”, handed him a letter, and he was like “Oh. God damn it. Let me figure out what to do with this letter…”

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Early in my career, I could never understand why my bosses didn’t seem more surprised… until I started supervising people, and it’s really obvious! Some time out of the office in the weeks prior, and then an unscheduled, “Do you have a minute?” and a closed door.

      Not to say I assume everyone who takes a personal day/has multiple doctor’s appointments is leaving!

  24. Bun Bun*

    I have recently resigned via email only and I don’t feel terrible in the slightest, but I think I had justification in doing so. My resignation email was also a little longer than Alison recommends.

    My reason was I had been on medical leave since the fall, and my doctors had said I am physically cleared to returned to work in early 2020, but they recommended I leave my job as they were worried returning could trigger me into a relapse. I left on medical leave due to harassment and the toxic environment (my office was offsite with just me and my boss, who was my harasser, with the rest of the team was located at the main office), and was suffering from depression, severe anxiety and panic attacks. Unfortunately, because the harassment was not explicit (nothing sexual or discriminating…he just hated me and didn’t want me to do well in the job so he sabotaged me slowly and sneakily), I couldn’t make a case for a lawyer or anything. But, they couldn’t keep me on leave as I was technically healthy enough to return since starting meds.

    My letter basically said what Alison’s said, but I threw in a sentence about how my doctors recommended I leave to fully recover (partially true), along with an apology noting the inconvenience of me not being there for months and then just up and quitting. Then I threw in a closing sentence about how ‘I learned a lot from my experience there’, since I couldn’t say “hey, this was a terrible working environment and I learned what toxic workplace means!”, and wished the company and the team ‘success’, even though I couldn’t say “you’re gonna need it! People drop from this company and this team like flies!!” (seriously, my team alone had seen 10 people leave in the span of 1 year on a team comprised of approximately 20 people).

    The reason I sent the email and didn’t do face-to-face or call was because it ended up being too triggering for me. Even when I had to drop by the main office to return my office key, I was having massive anxiety and had to do breathing techniques just to get me through that.

    1. Random IT person*

      I think in some previous letter about resigning Alison did mention that if you fear for retaliation or similar (and you can say you feared for facing this person) – then using mail is acceptable.

      Given your story – i`d say this is a prime example of why it is.

      Hope you`re doing better now – no one should stay in a toxic environment.

  25. 30 Years in the Biz*

    I had a wonderful long-term employee working in my department let me know she’d be retiring the next month. I asked that she put her resignation in writing. She immediately sent me the official email for her personnel file:
    “I quit. Love, Pat”

  26. Close Bracket*

    I daydream about writing “I Quit” on my badge and leaving it on my boss’s chair at the end of the day for him to find in the morning.

  27. Goliath Corp.*

    I’m curious if the Hollywood version is because that’s an old-school agent thing, and because none of them work in regular offices they think it’s universal.

    1. Cyrus*

      I assume they do it that way so that they don’t have to show the audience specific numbers. The characters react based on whether it’s high, low, etc. but the audience and writers don’t get bogged down with details. No need for research about salary bands and regional costs of living, no worry about the work getting dated due to inflation, etc.

  28. JessicaTate*

    Alison writes: “Hollywood is weird, and appears to be populated by people who have not worked in many non-Hollywood office jobs, or who behaved really oddly when they did.” Unrelated to resignations, but related to this statement…

    I was watching an episode of the new show Zoey’s Amazing Playlist (or whatever it’s called), and one character says to another, “What, now that you’ve been promoted to be my manager, that means we can’t be friends anymore?” I literally said out loud, “Yes, that’s exactly what that means.” Then the whole episode arc seemed to be moving to, “Of course you should stay BFFs with someone after you become their boss; only a monster wouldn’t.” Alison: I was frustrated and thinking of your advice the entire time.

    1. Goliath Corp.*

      I once started a job where my manager was best friends with the person who previously held my job (and was still at the company in a new role). It made things really awkward for me to see their dynamic and how different it was from ours, even though it was preferable for us not to be friends.

  29. Sleepless*

    I’ve never written a resignation letter! Nobody has ever asked me for one.

    I worked for one of Those Bosses many years ago, one of those “they should be grateful they HAVE a job” types. Whenever he fired somebody, he’d persuade them to write a resignation letter. Including teenage part time employees. He was apparently counting on them not to know they couldn’t file for unemployment if they resigned. And they didn’t. The older I get, the madder it makes me.

  30. Wave-off-the-future*

    I just resigned a few weeks ago, and our company is large enough that we use a program called Workday. I gave my letter to my manager with a brief conversation and the next day he asked me to update my Workday profile, which pretty much involved a resignation notification with notification date and quit date. I now question whether resignation letters are necessary in these cases.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I guess if they’re properly audited – that is, that only the person resigning can activate the resignation, or a sufficiently senior manager or HR in possession of a written resignation or formal termination paperwork or whatever, and the system can report who and when. You do not want to get into a situation where someone could change it anonymously and maliciously, or deny having resigned.

    2. Random IT person*

      We use workday too (bloody inconvenient program, but that`s besides the point).
      But still – HR does process the ‘termination of employment’ .
      But since i`m still here , i don`t know if I even CAN do this. Not willing to gamble.

      (then again, as i am in IT – with the level of access i have – once i notify them ‘i`m out’ – they`ll probably hold the door open and give me paid holiday until formal end of contract)

  31. JM in England*

    I have always resigned face-to-face with my boss first, then handed them the resignation letter to formalise the process.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I usually have a draft of it saved to my email to send right after I talk to my boss about it in person.

  32. Gravitas*

    Hivemind (and Alison): is it standard or expected to write a resignation letter for service jobs? Think part-time restaurant work, here. Of course I know it’s necessary for office jobs, but this seems different.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve never had immediate experience but have loved ones who are career kitchen workers. No, it’s not expected to be given in those situations. Hell, two weeks is rarely heard of in that world unless you’re management level. Not at all standard!

    2. Eurekas*

      It’s not the only way people quit, but it’s common. I’m in retail.

      I’ve seen (or heard of) a few typed letters that basically said I quit effective immediately, I’ve seen more giving two weeks notice and being specific about when the last day will be.

      We also have our share of people just not showing up anymore, which is a bigger problem. (I’m in a very coverage based department).

      People who turn in two weeks notice on paper are probably more likely to be eligible for re-hire. Though it’s questionable which is the cause and which is the effect. Also, at least at my store, people who turn in two weeks notice on paper–or talk to a manager about their intent to quit–are more likely to have offers to transfer them to another department.

  33. NotAnotherManager!*

    Not to use “resign” in a resignation letter? That’s weird. I mean, there are plenty of other words for it, but they’re just synonyms. I actually think including the reason why you’re leaving falls into Alison’s fluff category, too, and I’d be more careful about including that than the actual word resign.

  34. Scarrie Fisher*

    A former coworker at the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and beer store I worked at (yeah… it was New York) submitted his resignation by yelling at one of the owners and storming into the store, where he proceeded to turn the tap of every vinegar cannister on and then smacked the handles to all of the beer taps on his way out the door. I wasn’t there to see it, but I did see the aftermath and let me tell you… several gallons of vinegar is incredibly difficult to clean off of wood once it has begun to congeal.

  35. Dave*

    Working for the urban school district you had to declare your intentions to leave/retire between certain dates to keep health insurance through the summer. I went to HR on the first date available and proclaimed, I quit. They looked up my information and the woman came back and stuttered, at your age, it’s called retirement. I smiled, and said, “Call it what you like, I quit.” I was so happy, I sang show tunes the entire way home.

  36. Nini*

    I once quit by leaving a handwritten note on my manager’s desk.

    I was coming off FMLA leave and they’d been awful to me before and during, and they’d hired a permanent replacement. I came in very early in the morning with my sister to help pack up my desk, wrote the letter in sharpie on a piece of printer paper, and left it and my badge and keys on his desk and high-tailed it out of there, only to get a flat tire in the parking lot!

  37. Cyrus*

    I’m surprised people are talking about physical letters so much. The last two times I resigned (sort of), I did it first with an in-person conversation and then by email, no paper involved, and there was no problem with it. Is this a distinction without a difference and people are just saying “letter” because “resignation letter” is a common phrase? Are there offices or industries where using paper for this is still important?

    1. Eurekas*

      I’m in retail–management has e-mail, but many more people don’t. I could quit by text message to my boss, but I’d be much more likely to type a letter at home and leave it on her desk.

  38. Bob Dob*

    Nice timing, since I will be writing a resignation letter soon. It’s probably going to be the 7th or 8th resignation letter of my career, and it has gone pretty much like AAM wrote in her article. I meet with the boss in person to give the news in person, and also provide the letter. So maybe the one variation is that I come to the meeting with the letter in hand.

    My standard letter goes something like:
    “This letter serves as notice of my resignation as an employee of Banana Inc. My last day of work will be March 14, 2020.”
    I have always given at least 2 weeks notice, but never more than 3.

    I have occasionally used almost identical “fluff” sentences like AAM mentioned, if I felt good about my departure:
    “I wish you and the company success in the future”
    “I have appreciated the learning opportunities…” (only used this one once!)
    or, more commonly, the transition sentence, such as
    “If there is anything that I can do to facilitate a smooth transition…” or
    “I will endeavor to create a smooth transition…”

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