No job lasts forever. Whether you’re a loyal employee who has worked for the same employer for decades or a rising professional jumping from position to position to acquire the experience needed to climb the corporate ladder, you will eventually leave that job. Leaving the job with grace and goodwill demands the courtesy of a formal resignation letter.

Writing the resignation letter

The best resignation letters don’t employ a great deal of creativity or florid expression: they’re simple, straightforward, and basic. Avoid the temptation to blast a less than wonderful employer with a litany of all his or her sins against you, other employees, and even clients. You can do that later on an anonymous review site like Glassdoor and Indeed. In fact, such sites have become practically mandatory for job candidates gathering information about prospective employers, Deep Patel cautions in his article, “Milliennials Love Job Review Sites: Leaders Take Notice.” Experts also advise against creating an “I quit” video. However emotionally satisfying that might be, it’s just tacky.

The elements of a resignation break down into basic parts:

  • The statement of resignation from employment
  • Your position title and the company name
  • The last day of your employment with the company
  • A statement of gratitude for having worked with the company
  • A statement of willingness to assist in the transition.

The Muse offers an example of these elements fashioned into a letter:

Dear [Your Boss’ Name],

Please accept this letter as formal notification that I am resigning from my position as [position title] with [company name]. My last day will be [your last day—usually two weeks from the date you give notice].

Thank you so much for the opportunity to work in this position for the past [amount of time you’ve been in the role]. I’ve greatly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunities I’ve had to [a few of your favorite job responsibilities], and I’ve learned [a few specific things you’ve learned on the job], all of which I will take with me throughout my career.

During my last two weeks, I’ll do everything possible to wrap up my duties and train other team members. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to aid during the transition.

I wish the company continued success, and I hope to stay in touch in the future.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

Adapt the template per your circumstances if there’s a compelling reason for leaving the job. Such explanations include better salary and/or benefits, a change in career direction, the job simply isn’t a good fit for you, the company does not offer adequate opportunity for growth or career advancement, a promotion, you are relocating or returning to school, you will be embarking upon extensive travel, and personal reasons concerning family, illness, marriage, childbirth, or other milestones. 

Since the resignation letter is an old-fashioned letter printed on paper, follow the customary etiquette of a business letter. If you are not sure how to write and format a proper business letter, Wikihow offers a quick tutorial. Ensure you keep a copy for your own records.

The prequel: what to do before the letter

Before you slap that resignation letter on your boss’ desk, prepare him for your departure. Sure, the conversation will likely be awkward and painful; but, stiffen that upper lip and square your shoulders, because the professional thing to do means acting like a mature adult. Since you initiate this conversation, you control it.

First, schedule a meeting with your boss. This alerts your boss that you not only respect his time, but that what you have to discuss isn’t social chitchat, it’s important. Don’t provoke an immediate visit from the boss when you’re unprepared, so soft-pedal the request for a meeting. Say something along the lines of wanting to discuss your position with the company and needing your boss’ undivided attention for a few minutes.

Once the meeting begins, it has a structure just like the resignation letter. Follow that structure to maintain control of the conversation and set boundaries. Business Insider recommends beginning with an expression to gratitude, such as thanking your boss for the training, the opportunity to work with great people, and anything else that establishes a positive note related to your employment with the company. In other words, butter him up.

The next part of the conversation begins with an announcement that you’re leaving the company. Even if you have to grit your teeth, reiterate your gratitude for the employment and acknowledge those coworkers who have been particularly helpful to you in your job there. This is not the time to complain or air grievances: keep it positive.

Finally, state that you agreed to be available for a limited time after leaving the company. Your boss knows that a lot of company information remains archived inside your brain and whoever replaces you will need access to that information. Establish boundaries: do not place yourself at the company’s beck and call in perpetuity.

Regardless of the reasons for leaving your job, maintain your professionalism and don’t get personal, even if your boss is the reason you hate the job and are leaving.

During this conversation, your boss may attempt to persuade you to stay by offering a promotion, a pay raise, or some extra perks. Listen to him. If you receive an offer to maintain your position and work part-time from home, then that’s worth serious consideration. If you do decide to accept the boss’ counteroffer, be sure to get it in writing under the boss’ signature. Therefore, if the company reneges on the deal, you have evidence of that breach of understanding. Experts generally advise, however, that you follow through on the decision to quit your job.

Leaving on the right note

Let’s say that you managed that difficult conversation with poise and grace and you submitted a professional and tactful resignation letter. You’re fulfilling the terms of departure, and it’s your last day on the job. Don’t blow a graceful exit now and ruin the goodwill you retain with the company.

Writing for Business Insider, Jaquelyn Smith understands that exiting employees face strong temptation to say what’s on their minds. Sometimes, employees hold grudges or feel bitter about the circumstances that prompted them to quit. Occasionally, emotion overwhelms a departing employee and destroys the filter between brain and mouth—seldom a good scenario.

Before heading out the door for the last time, remember the admonition from Thumper’s mother in the Disney movie Bambi: If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all. Expand that to include sincerity. Don’t offer a flippant “let’s do lunch” to a coworker you hardly acknowledged during your tenure with the company: it’s insincere and you both know it. 

Resist the temptation to lambaste the company, the boss, a colleague, or a client. If you must criticize, be constructive and tactful. Those final words on the way out the door may burn bridges necessary for later crossing if you ever wish to return to work at that company, if you find yourself under consideration by a former coworker for another position at another company, or if you simply need a job reference.

Don’t gloat. Making the people you’re leaving feel bad about themselves for staying at the company won’t win you any friends or favors. They know you’re happy and excited—express your happy anticipation without insulting your soon-to-be-former coworkers for their decision to stay. In conjunction with that, refrain from feeding those colleagues’ discontent. Your departure shifts the burden of your workload onto them until your replacement—assuming the company replaces you—has assimilated into the job. Your departure creates stress in their lives.

If you leave the company to satisfy your own entrepreneurial ambitions and intend to poach upon your soon-to-be-former employer’s staff, then wait until you have walked out that door for the last time. Many companies include noncompete clauses in their employee contracts which forbit departing employees from going into business with or working for competitors and former employees. On the obverse, express gratitude and accept offers from colleagues to help with this new phase in your life. Whether you have a new job waiting for you or you’ll be looking for work, their goodwill may make the difference in future employment.

In today’s connected world, chances are that you’ll hear from your colleagues and boss(es) again, whether through LinkedIn, a conference, a networking event, or social occasion. People talk, and you don’t know whom they know or what conversations they have. Leaving with grace and goodwill gives them nothing to use against you and maintains your reputation for professionalism and maturity, something future employers and clients will appreciate.