You might be tempted to dance your way out of the door, charm your ex-employer with the message iced on to a cake, or even get your own back by lambasting your boss to the whole office (one of the funnier Twitter hoaxes). But you need to resist these temptations when the time comes for you to resign.
Erring on the side of caution with a polite resignation letter means you won’t burn bridges. You might not want to work for the company again, but remember, paths might cross with your ex-line manager or other colleagues in a different company in the future. Making sure your exit is as professional as possible will help you retain credibility – even if you’re leaving under a cloud.
Letting your manager know
Show courtesy by telling your boss first. Request a meeting to say that you’re leaving, following up soon after with an official resignation letter. Do this before you blast out an office-wide email.
Work out how you can ensure a smooth transition and minimise disruption to your employer. There may be a range of things you can do to hand over professionally, such as completing projects, working out the priorities with your line manager, leaving clear documentation or training up your successor in processes or software.
Before the meeting with your boss, write a list of ongoing projects along with status updates and suggestions for completion.
Use the meeting to clarify any other points, such as your notice period and leaving date, how you will inform others (colleagues or external clients, contacts and suppliers). Ask about references too; your employer may only supply the most basic type (including dates worked, job title etc) but your line manager might also give you a more personal reference. Making sure you get a good written reference before you leave (or trying to agree the wording if you leave in less happy circumstances) can make subsequent job hunting less stressful.
Keep your letter short. You don’t need to give lots of explanations or justification for why you’re leaving, or even to say where you’re moving to. Don’t be tempted to address the failings of the company or your boss, either. Instead, thanking your employer for the job and mentioning what you appreciated about it is a graceful touch. Here’s an idea of what to include:
• First paragraph – the basics
“I am writing to formally give notice of my resignation from my post/position/role as (job title) at (name of employer).
According to the terms of my contract, the notice period is (length of notice period) and my final working day will therefore be (leaving date).”
• Second paragraph – thank your employer
“I have enjoyed working here and particularly appreciate/would like to thank you for … “
Mention any particular career-building projects you worked on or opportunities to develop skills and contribute to the employer’s goals and successes. You can also mention your appreciation at being able to work in a great team or to develop your knowledge of the industry, for example.
• Third paragraph – state your willingness to hand over
“I will do my utmost to complete existing projects and to assist where possible in the hand-over process.
Yours sincerely … “
Letting others know
As well as telling your closest colleagues in person, you may also want to email others. Again, keep this short and sweet, such as: “As you may already know, I’ve decided to leave the company to pursue other opportunities (in … ) /to take the next step in my career.
I’ve greatly enjoyed working with you all and hope that our paths will cross again in the future.”