How to write a resignation letter

Whether it’s your first job or your tenth job, resigning is never easy. Even when you know it’s the right thing to do. Writing a proper letter of resignation is particularly tricky. There’s the challenge of writing something formal and official, and knowing it’s a permanent record – you can’t take it back. Sometimes there’s so much that you want to say about your experience working there, but you’re not sure whether it’s OK or appropriate.

The good news is it’s easier than you might think. In fact, you can use templates (like the ones below) if you want. By including a few basic details in your resignation letter, you can make sure it’s effective and professional.

This article is a guide to writing a letter of resignation. But it’s also a manual for what to do right before and right after you deliver that letter into your boss’s hand.

After all, you don’t want to undo all the hard work you put into that letter by saying or doing something by accident.

Let’s get started.

How to write a resignation letter

How to quit

Reasons to resign

Feeling like you need to quit your job? Before you pull the trigger, take five minutes to think through your decision and make sure it’s in your best interest. You might still end up going ahead, but it’s worth taking the time for your own peace of mind, and so you can better explain the decision to your friends and family.

There are a lot of perfectly good reasons to leave a job. The usual reason is that you’ve got a new position lined up that’s a much better fit for your needs and career goals. You might feel like you’ve outgrown your role, and there aren’t any opportunities for advancement where you are now. Or maybe you need better compensation or conditions that your current employer can’t (or won’t) offer. Perhaps your values and priorities don’t fit with the company’s mission and values anymore; either they changed direction, or you’ve grown as a person. Sometimes people quit because they’re bored and need more of a challenge. It’s perfectly OK to leave a job because you feel you’ve outgrown it.

Retiring is another common reason to quit. Retirement can be a happy occasion, especially if you’ve worked hard and planned specifically to retire at this age. But chances are, if you had it planned out, you wouldn’t be reading this article. The truth is there’s a growing trend of people retiring before they had planned to. Or some work longer than they would have wanted to, but eventually need to make this critical decision for another reason. If you’re coming to the end of your time with an employer, and there’s a chance that it could be the end of your working life, it’s generally a good idea to discuss your options with an independent professional before you make the call. Depending on your circumstances, this could be a counsellor, a financial adviser, or someone else.

Sometimes, it’s also necessary to resign from a job that’s negatively affecting your physical and/or mental health. If your place of employment has a toxic culture, if you’re experiencing bullying, or if your employer is ignoring safe work standards, you’re not obliged to stick around and keep suffering. The same goes for if something once-off but very serious happens, such as violence. Make sure you have copies of all your essential employment documentation, including any incident records, before you give notice.

What you might want to avoid is the so-called rage quit. Quitting because of a temporary problem or conflict probably isn’t the best move in the long run. You might not be wrong for having the feelings that make you want to quit, but you’re still in charge of your reaction. Take five (or a couple of days) and see if you still feel the same way.

If you’ve taken some time, spoken to people you trust and you still feel like you need to resign, here are the next steps.

Giving notice

Under Australian law, both bosses and employees generally have to give notice to end employment.

Your award, enterprise agreement, registered agreement or employment contract will say how much notice (if any) you have to give. It’s important to look this up to make sure you get it right. As a general guide, the longer you’ve been there, the more notice you need to give.

There are a couple of exceptions. If you’re a casual employee, you don’t need to give notice, unless your contract of employment (or award agreement) specifically says so. If you’re an ‘award and agreement free’ employee, you don’t need to give notice unless your contract specifically says so. You may still want to give notice if you can. For example, if you have a strong working relationship with the manager or if you want to leave a good final impression, you may offer to stay until a replacement can be found and trained.

Once you give notice, your employer will check that the notice period is correct. They will choose whether they want you to work through the notice period, which they usually will, depending on the reasons for resignation. If they don’t want you to work through the notice period, they generally have to pay you for that time.

Your employer cannot choose whether to accept or reject your resignation. It’s up to you.

What to say and do

Resign in person if you can. Ideally, ask to speak to your boss in private, so that others won’t hear your conversation. You may need to make a time to talk to them outside the workplace, for example, if you have an open-plan office or a small work space with customers/clients milling around.

Not sure what to say to start things off? Try “the reason I’ve asked to speak to you is that I’m resigning.” Give them a beat to respond. If they don’t say anything, note your notice period and your last day of work. You don’t need to go in to lots of detail about why you’re resigning (though you can mention it if you want). This can wait for your letter, or for your exit interview (if your employer does those). When the conversation is over, thank your boss for their time.

Before you go in to the conversation, think about what you’ll do if they try to convince you to stay. For example, they may offer you more money, a promotion, or they may ask you what it would take to get you to stay. If you’re 100% sure about resigning, be polite but firm. If, however, a raise or a promotion is the reason you were leaving, consider what might be an acceptable offer before you start negotiating.

You can resign over the phone if you have to. Reasons for doing this might include not feeling safe, not being able to get to your worksite, or if your boss is away. If you have to do it over the phone, keep it professional and polite, as though you’re speaking to them in person. It may help to have your letter in front of you (draft email, if you’re about to send) so you’ve got ready answers regarding your reason for leaving and your last day.

What not to do

Depending on your reason for leaving, it might be tempting to quit in a certain way to make a point or feel better. The truth is that going for a viral-video-worthy resignation could get you in a lot of trouble, from landing in hot water with your next employer, to serious legal problems. Avoid these pitfalls:

  • Don’t resign loudly in front of your whole team
  • Don’t steal anything – not even a bit of stationery
  • Don’t damage company property
  • Don’t slack off while working your notice period
  • Don’t burn bridges by being rude to your colleagues on the way out

What to include in your resignation letter

Before you start, know that your resignation letter should never be longer than a page (even with spacing and addressing). In fact, you can get it done in about five sentences. You might feel like you have a lot to say, but there’s a time and a place for that information and opinion, and it’s not necessarily in the letter.

Here are the things you need to add in.

Clear statement of resignation

Start the letter off with a sentence that very clearly says “I am resigning from my position”. There are lots of formal ways to do this. Try one of these:

“This letter is to inform you that I am resigning from my position as [job title].”
“Please accept this letter as formal notice of my resignation from the position of [job title].”
“I resign from the position of [job title] at [company name].”
“I regret to inform you that I am resigning as [job title].”
“Regretfully, I resign from the position of [job title].”

Even though it’s formal, try to write in a way that feels natural and makes sense to you.

Last day of work

Your notice period starts from the day after you resign, and ends on the last day of employment. If you have to give notice, calculate your notice period, work out your last day, and include it in a sentence like one of these:

“My last day of work will be [date], in accordance with the notice period required by my contract.”
“My last day of work will be [date], per the [applicable Award or agreement].”
“Per the required notice period, my last day of work will be [date].”

If you don’t have to give notice, and you want to leave right away, you can add “effective immediately” to the end of your first sentence. If you want to be extra clear though, add a second sentence along these lines:

“Per my contract, I am not required to give notice, so my resignation is effective immediately.”

If you don’t have to give notice, but you want to give your boss the option of keeping you on for a certain amount of time (like while they find someone new), make that clear:

“According to my contract, I am not required to give notice. However, I am willing to continue in my role until a suitable replacement candidate is found.”
“Under the Award I am not required to give notice. However, I am happy to continue working up to [date] to ensure a smooth transition. Please let me know within [time] how you would like to proceed.”

Handover details

If you are leaving on good terms (or even just OK terms), it’s a good idea to proactively offer to help with handing over your work to the next person, or training up a colleague to take on your responsibilities. Include this in your letter even if you think your boss would probably ask you to do it anyway. This helps show that you’re a real professional, and leaves a positive last impression. Try a sentence like one of these:

“I am prepared to assist with recruitment and training of a replacement during my notice period.”
“Please note that I am happy to help in any way I can with the handover to my replacement.”
“I will ensure that all my current tasks are completed, to assist with the handover to a new candidate.”

Reasons for resigning: if good

If you’re resigning for a ‘positive’ reason, like advancing your career, moving away with family or going to study full time, you may include this in your letter. You don’t have to go into detail about how you reached your decision, but a little explanation can be useful. Information about why you are leaving may be useful to your employer (or their HR provider). They may use this data, in combination with others, to change the way they do things in future. Try a sentence like:

“The reason is that I will be pursuing full time study at university.”
“I have accepted a position as [position] with [new employer].”
“I am relocating to [place] with my family.”

Note that you’re not under any obligation to tell them where you are going or where you’ll be working next. If you’re worried about what they would do with that information, you’re free to keep it private.

Reasons for resigning: if bad

If you’re leaving for a negative reason, such as bullying, safety problems, or other unacceptable working conditions, be clear and simple about it. Make sure that you have evidence (if available) to back up your statements. If you’re comfortable with discussing the reason in an exit interview, say so. Try:

“[negative working conditions] are unacceptable.”
“I can no longer accept the working culture I have experienced here, such as [example]. I am willing to discuss these incidents further in an exit interview if required.”
“I cannot continue to work safely in the conditions as found by [authority] [date/report number].”

Even if you’re feeling strongly about your reason for leaving, try to only use examples and descriptions that are objective. In other words, things that have been recorded or reported, and things other people can back up.

Leaving on a good note: expression of appreciation for the opportunity

If you are leaving for a positive reason, and you want to leave a good impression, it’s a good idea to thank your employer for the opportunity of working with them. You can be specific if there’s something you really appreciated; again, they might use this information to inform the way they do things in the future. Try a sentence like:

“I would like to thank you for the opportunity to work at [company] in this role.”
“Thank you for the opportunities you have given me over the years; I will miss [company] and our team!”
“Thank you for the great experience of working for [company], and I wish you all the best.”

Leaving on a less-than-good note: constructive feedback

If you don’t expect/don’t want to do an exit interview, you may use your letter of resignation as a chance to give feedback on your experience. Even if you’re not sure the organisation will do anything about it, it could be worth putting it in writing. That way it’s officially on record. Make sure your feedback is calm but firm. Try to refer to the law and to the best interests of the organisation as a whole, rather than your own needs and interests.

Resignation letter templates

Short and sweet

[Boss’s name, boss’s job title]
[Organisation name]
[Organisation address]
[Date]

Dear [Boss’s name],
I resign from the position of [job title]. My last day of work will be [last day per notice period]. I am happy to help with a smooth transition for my replacement during this time, and to make time for an exit interview.

Sincerely,

[Your name].

Extra positive

[Boss’s name, boss’s job title]
[Organisation name]
[Organisation address]
[Date]

Dear [Boss’s name],

I am writing to (regretfully) inform you that I am resigning from the position of [job title]. Per the notice period specified in my contract, my last day of work will be [date].

I have accepted a position as [job title] at [new company]. While I would have loved to stay with [company], I needed a new challenge that was only available elsewhere. I wish you and our team all the best, and I am sure you will continue to do great things. I especially appreciated [thing you liked about working there] and

I am sure my replacement will too. To help make things a bit easier for everyone, I am happy to help find and train this person during my notice period.

Should you require anything else, please do not hesitate to ask.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name].

No notice / casual

[Boss’s name, boss’s job title]
[Organisation name]
[Organisation address]
[Date]

Dear [Boss’s name],

I resign from the position of [job title], effective immediately. I will be returning to full-time study. I am willing to make time for an exit interview should you wish.

Sincerely,

[Your name].

What NOT to put in a letter of resignation

  • Rudeness

Don’t use rude, crude or mean language in your letter of resignation. Ever. Even if someone at work was mean to you, or you think your boss ‘deserves’ to read it, the resignation letter is not the time or place to communicate that.

  • Threats

Never threaten anything in your letter of resignation, even if it’s something ‘small’ like telling a third party about an incident that happened at work. These kinds of statements could get you in legal trouble.

  • Inappropriately personal details

Don’t share details of any personal relationships you had with your colleagues, clients or customers, even if those relationships had to do with the reason you are leaving. Those details don’t belong in this letter.

Exit interviews

Exit interviews, like the name suggests, are kind of the opposite of job interviews. They are formal discussions with your employer where they ask you questions about why you’re leaving and your experience working with the organisation. The exit interview is also your opportunity to offer information and feedback you think is important and appropriate.

Depending on your employer, your position, how long you’ve been there and your reasons for leaving, the exit interview can take five minutes, or it can take an hour. It’s a good idea to make an appointment for the exit interview if possible, so you can be prepared and ready to answer any questions. This might mean making a time for a phone call, or coming back in to the office if you’re not working out your notice period. But generally, it will just be about setting aside some time during the working day to chat to your boss or to an HR representative.

These tips will help you get through an exit interview in a calm and dignified way (and with a positive reference).

  • Have your rant before you go in.

Talk to someone you trust (not a colleague) about everything that you didn’t like about the job. Get it all out, even the little details (like that annoying software or the break room lunch thief). If you don’t want to talk to anyone, write it down on paper – then keep it to yourself. This way you’ve not kept anything bottled up, so you’re better prepared to calmly answer any questions as briefly as possible.

  • Plan and prepare

Just like you’d prepare for a job interview, prepare for your exit interview. Bring some notes with you if you need, so you don’t forget anything you want to say. You might also need to note down details of any incidents you think they may ask you about.

  • Provide useful facts

Are there details about your reason for leaving that weren’t in your letter of resignation? If so, now might be the time to share them. For example, if you’re resigning because you’ve accepted a position with a much more competitive salary, you could tell them (in a polite way). You might also bring some examples to show that your new offer isn’t unique in the market. Even if they don’t (or can’t) do anything about it, at least they know. It’s all useful data.

  • Focus on the positive

If you only have bad things to say – even if it’s all true – you’ll come across as a negative person. That won’t be great for your reputation, or your chances of a glowing reference. Try to focus on positive things, even if they’re small things. For example, you could talk about special opportunities you got, people you liked working with, benefits you appreciated, etc.

Your last day

Whether you’re sad, excited or indifferent about your last day at work, it’s important to stay focused. Do your job as usual, focusing on finishing any tasks and tying up any loose ends where possible. If you’ve run out of work but you’re still on the clock, ask colleagues if they need a hand with anything, or take a minute to pack up and clean your office or work station as a courtesy to the next person.

Take some time to say goodbye personally to the people you’ve worked with. If it’s not too disruptive, you can have your own informal exit interview with them. Chat about the things you liked about working with them, what you learned from shared responsibilities/projects, and how you’d like to keep in touch. It’s a good way to treat the working relationships you valued, and maintain your professional network for the future.

What to do once you’ve resigned

1. Take time

You may have already planned this already when working out your notice period, but if not: consider taking some time off. It’s generally a good idea to have a (mental and physical) break between jobs (or between jobs and study, or jobs and moving). This gives you time to relax, get your energy back, and start your next step with a fresh mind and good attitude. Whether it’s a staycation at home for a week, or heading overseas after years of no leave, you won’t regret it.

2. Speak to someone

Changing jobs is right up there in terms of stress, alongside moving house or going through a breakup. Lots of articles, commentary and studies will tell you the same thing. Make sure you talk to someone about how you’re feeling, whether it’s your best mate or a professional counsellor. Even if you think you’re feeling fine and normal, talking through things could be important. And the worst that could happen is you’ve spent a bit of time talking to someone who’s going to listen without judgement.

3. Study / training

Whether you’re trying to climb a ladder, start a career (not just ‘have a job’) or switch careers entirely, study could be your next step. No matter how old (or young) you are, it’s never too late to learn something new. It’s just a matter of working out your goals, and finding a course that’ll help you get there. From full-time on-campus study to flexible online training, you’ll find something that fits your needs.

Studying with a pet

Your next step with Monarch Institute

Speaking of learning, Monarch Institute offers a variety of courses that are designed to help you upskill effectively in less time than you might think. Our VET (vocational education and training) nationally recognised qualifications cover a range of career paths with exciting future prospects. Earn a Certificate, Diploma or Advanced Diploma that’ll leave you confident and ready to take on your next challenge. Plus with the flexibility of fully supported online learning and no term dates, you can keep your options open. Study full time and get your qualification ASAP, balance your training with work and family commitments – it’s up to you.

Check out our course options and make a time to chat to one of our friendly course consultants today.