3 Things You Should Say When Resigning

I have people ask me to help them write a resignation letter – which is a little funny because it really doesn’t matter what you write – only two things are going to happen:

1. They’ll freak out that you are leaving and try and talk you out it.

2. They’ll go “Oh, that’s too bad, we will hate to see you go”

For your ego sake, you want #1, not #2. #1 means your boss/company perceives that you’re valuable and more than likely doing more work than most and they don’t want to see you go, because they don’t want to take on your work.  #2 means they were probably looking at cutting you anyway in the next layoff and you just made their job very easy, plus they got a free intern for the summer that will probably do your job better than you did, or create a new process eliminating your job all together.

Now, about that all important resignation letter…

I tell people there are 3 things to say when you resign, whether you believe them to be true or not (and for all my former bosses that I resigned, this isn’t what I did to you, I really meant what I said):

“You are the best mentor I’ve ever had; I want to thank you so much for all you’ve given me.”  (there’s a got chance you’ll need them as a reference later on in life, so even if your boss is a tool – make them feel like they changed your life forever!)

“You can always call me and I’ll help you out with anything you need, after I leave.”  (They’ll never call you, and you won’t ever pick up – but it makes everyone feel like the world won’t end when you leave. Plus, the new person they hire to replace you could care less about what and how you did things.)

“I’m really going to miss working here.” (Even you aren’t and leaving will be the happiest moment of your life – say it.  They might be the only option you have some day to go back to work when you fail at your new job.)

People have this glorified vision of what happens after they leave a job – like somehow the company will implode and business will stop as they know it.  The fact is, business doesn’t stop, the sun comes up, people show up to work, and they find ways to carry on.  That’s life – organizations move on, even when they lose their best.  Don’t make resigning some historic event, it’s not.  It’s part of this dance we do as employees of organizations.  Be appreciative for the opportunity you were given. Keep your options open.  Don’t burn a bridge.  It’s pretty simple.



4 thoughts on “3 Things You Should Say When Resigning

  1. Sackbow- Many will be genuinely surprised that you’re leaving, saying things like, “Wow, I didn’t know you were looking. Why didn’t you come see me?”

    Of course in most cases this means moving on is a good move.

  2. So I shouldn’t say:

    “You know, people don’t quit jobs – they quit bosses.”

    Then drop mic and exit stage left?

    • Tim –

      The biggest lie that we’ve sold in HR in the last decade is that statement: “People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses”. The fact is, people don’t leave, period! Employees hate change, hate changing jobs, and will stay in a horrible job way longer than they should. The whole reason that quote was started was an attempt to get leaders to care about their development and get better. It didn’t work.


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