What Not to Include in a Resignation Letter

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It can be tempting to let your employer know exactly how you feel about your experience in their organization in your resignation letter.  There are several reasons why it would feel good to say how you really feel. Your motivation can vary from payback, catharsis, or a sincere interest in providing feedback to your employer. 

Regardless of how much you’d like to say it, don’t do it. Saying the wrong things in your letter can bring unwanted consequences if you aren't careful.

 Before you write your resignation letter, review these guidelines to avoid any damaging mistakes that could come back to haunt you.

10 Things Not to Include in a Resignation Letter

Don't be vague about your resignation.  State a specific date for your departure and don't hand in a letter until you are sure you want to leave.  

Don't say that you will be leaving immediately.  Research the norms or policies at your employer for giving notice.  Provide adequate notice and offer to help train any staff who will assume your duties -  even if you are certain your employer will ask you to leave right away.  You want your parting impression to be that of a concerned professional. The exception would be if there are personal or work issues that preclude you staying. Here are some reasons why an employee may not be able to give two weeks notice.

Don't put anything negative in writing about your supervisor.  You may have worked with the most incompetent or negative boss imaginable.

  However, your letter of resignation is not a confidential document and may be shared with your supervisor.  Most likely she will not forget her embarrassment when a future employer does a background check. 

Don't disparage the company, or its products and services.  Avoid phrases like "I am moving to an innovator or industry leader" that imply your current employer is inferior.


Don't pass up the opportunity to express your gratitude for any of the positive aspects of your experience with the organization.  Individuals who believe that you appreciate them will be more likely to say good things about you.

Don’t use language that frames your tenure with the organization as unsatisfying.  Your letter is one of the last impressions you will make.  If there is a negative tone to your communication, then you might be perceived as a disgruntled employee with an attitude problem.  If you want to point to a new job as an improvement, then emphasize how the position advances your career. For example, you might say "I am moving on to a district manager position that will enable me to apply my strategic planning skills.”

Don't mention a better salary as the reason you are leaving.  If you want to use an offer as leverage to negotiate more money from your current employer, meet with your boss and discuss the situation.  Make sure you are willing to leave if your needs are not met.  

Don't criticize or imply a criticism of any of your subordinates or co-workers in your letter.  Future employers may reach out informally to individuals who aren't listed as your references to determine whether you were a good manager or team member.

Your resignation letter is one of the last samples for your employer of your writing skills and attentiveness to detail. Don’t forget to proof it carefully and be sure there are no errors.

Don’t phrase your letter in an overly positive tone that will be interpreted as insincere. For example, if it is well known that you had difficulties with your boss, don't say something like "It will be difficult to leave such a capable and visionary manager as Brad." Save the sarcasm for your friends.

How to Address Your Concerns About the Job or Company

Because you have already decided to move on it is probably better left unsaid, but if you believe it is absolutely necessary to address your manager’s behavior or a difficult situation at work which led to your resignation, verbalize your feedback to a trusted individual in management or to Human Resources.

Try to do so in a very objective manner, devoid of emotion.  Your focus should be on specific problematic behaviors. If you balance your comments with some positives, it will enhance your credibility.

You may have the opportunity to share your reasons for leaving in an exit interview.  If that’s not an option, schedule a time to address your concerns.  It’s best to do it as close as you can to your departure date, so your last days on the job aren’t any more difficult than they have to be because you ticked off your boss.

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