In an age when an increasing number of employees ghost their employers, the resignation letter has become a long-lost art. For the uninitiated, "ghosting" is when an employee just decides they're not going to show up for work one day. No two weeks notice. No grabbing a plant on the way out after a dramatic Jerry Maguire style speech. Nada. Thin air.

I can't think of anything less professional than ghosting, and I've now heard of backlash techniques being used against ghosting employees--like informal circles of HR friends sharing a local bootleg "blacklist." It's not a list you want to be on.  

A resignation letter is just the right thing to do, but more importantly, it's an underutilized tool in the "you never know" department. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 3.4 million people quit their job in June 2019 alone, holding relatively consistent with all-time high numbers. And yes, that includes people in HR. Or any number of people you may have worked with when you quit. So, you know what they say about karma. It's a bi..., er, big reason to not do anything stupid.

I've seen my fair share of resignation letters from my corporate days, including some doozies shared with me by incredulous HR friends (I know, real professional). Gary Burnison, a 20-Year HR veteran has seen plenty too and recently shared in CNBC's Make It the best one he's ever received.

First, the ideal resignation letter as Burnison shared it, then some analysis.

Dear Gary,

As we discussed in our meeting today, I'm resigning from my position as (XXX) at (XXX). My last day will be (XXX).

Thank you for teaching me how to thrive in situations with tight deadlines and fast-moving parameters. I really enjoyed my time here and am so grateful for your support.

During this time of transition, I will continue to screen candidates for my replacement and send you a memo reiterating everything we discussed about who will be taking over my existing projects. 

Please let me know if there's anything else I can do to make the transition as smooth as possible. I wish you and the team continued success!

Sincerely,

(XXX)

Here's what's so good about this resignation letter.

Overall, it smacks of professionalism and positivity. You can't help but feel zero ill will towards the person. The departing employee is even trying to be helpful on the way out by offering to help find her replacement.

And she showed appreciation for what she learned, even giving well wishes--as opposed to writing a "burning bridge" note, as Burnison calls them, where negative experiences are vented and key offenders are called out by name, expletives included (don't laugh, I've seen it).

The letter is simple, clear, and has just the pertinent information required (the intent to resign to make it official, from what position, by what time, and with an indication that she will assist in her transition plan). Note that pertinent information doesn't include why you're leaving. That's something that should be communicated directly to your boss and HR.

Here's the rule of thumb as an HR friend once told me. Write the letter as if you were going to receive it. What would you want to see? You'd want all the contents of this example letter delivered on paper, with all the emotion delivered in person. Good or bad emotions, you'd need to hear that stuff directly as a boss/executive.

It's important to remember that while first impressions count, so do final impressions, because they'll be the most recent ones for anyone you may need to remember you in the future. (remember the Bureau of Labor Statistics thing?) So leave them liking you.

Just as important to remember, your last days will soon be someone else's first, and clarity of a transition plan in a resignation letter helps ensure things will go smoother for the newbie. I've seen enough nightmare transitions where the new person shows up with zero transition work done ahead of time. The HR person isn't much help because they're still sifting through the ashes of a scorching hot resignation letter from a pissed off ex-employee.

Don't be that guy/girl.

If it's time to quit, be legit. Write a sold resignation letter using the above model and it just might pay dividends someday.

Published on: Aug 27, 2019
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