Should You Write A Resignation Letter When Leaving Your Job?

Thinking about making a big career change? Or perhaps you've already decided to take action and leave your current place of employment. Either way, you're probably feeling a mix of excitement and fear as you look forward to whatever is coming next and think about giving your notice. As you make preparations for this transition, you may also be wondering: in this day and age, is it necessary to write a formal resignation letter? After all, it's considered a best practice to deliver the news to your boss in person — or at least over a video call (via Harvard Business Review). So, why would you need a letter as well?

If the job you're leaving is a casual position that you aren't very attached to, it may feel strange or even awkward to go through the motions of a resignation letter. Worse, if you're grappling with bitterness at your employer, you may feel like a letter is a piece of courtesy that they don't deserve. But even in negative circumstances, submitting a polite resignation can have a few valuable benefits for both your career and your peace of mind.

Why it's a good idea to write a resignation letter

First and foremost, turning in a formal resignation letter is a way to show professionalism and maintain as much goodwill as you can. It may be considered customary to submit a letter at your company or in your industry, and even if you're leaving on an unhappy note, there's no reason to burn bridges unnecessarily. "Think of it as the last chapter of your story at your former company," career transformation coach Pat Roque tells Business News Daily. "Always keep the door open, because you never know when you may want to return or even work with other colleagues in a future role elsewhere."

If you wish, include a line or two about the factors that influenced your leaving, so that your manager and the HR team understand the reasons behind your decision. This can also be a strategy to negotiate a counteroffer. If you let them know you're leaving due to the opportunity for a better salary, your current employer might provide a raise for you to stay (via Indeed). Additionally, having a formal paper trail can be useful as you wrap up responsibilities and make arrangements for your departure. For example, if there is any confusion about your leaving date or final paycheck, you can point to the resignation letter as evidence.

And if you're dreading the actual conversation around giving your notice, having an actionable next step can help you segue out of that awkward meeting. Just say your piece, let HR and your supervisor know that you'll send a formal letter for their records, then thank them for their time and make your escape. That way, you can avoid some painful prevaricating and questions.

How to write a basic resignation letter

Fortunately, your resignation letter doesn't have to be a work of art. It doesn't even have to be long — a few quick paragraphs will do, as long as you hit all the key points. At the top of your letter, start by including your name, the date, and your current contact information, just as you would on a cover letter. The message itself should be addressed to your immediate supervisor. As you get into the body of the letter, clarify right off the bat that you are writing to resign your position. Specify your job title and the upcoming date that will serve as your last day. Ideally, this should be at least two weeks away, so the employer has time to begin their hunt for new candidates.

To soften the blow, it's usually a good idea to then express appreciation for the employer and the time you've spent at this job, thanking them for the opportunity and all the things you've learned. Time allowing, you can also offer to help train a replacement or at least help ease the transition. You can then conclude the letter with best wishes for your team, manager, or the company at large (via Monster).

No matter your personal feelings, keep it distant and civil. As Erica Alioto, global head of people at Grammarly, tells Fast Company, "Don't think of the resignation letter as a no-strings-attached opportunity to vent and complain. Rather, keep the letter professional and formal, maintaining an empathetic tone throughout." Once the letter is complete, submit a copy to HR and your supervisor, plus keep one for your records — just in case.