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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

How to tell your boss you’re quitting

10 min read
How to tell your boss you’re quitting
Artwork by:Alexander Kostenko
That’s it, you have made the decision to seek pastures new. You may be leaving for another opportunity, or you may want to find some clarity before making your next move. Whatever the case, here is how to break the news to your boss.

While a resignation letter is the only formal requirement should you wish to leave your job, it is advisable to have an informative (and not exploratory) discussion with your boss before you submit the formal letter. Resigning effectively without a fuss is far from a simple matter.

This is, of course, assuming you have already exhausted all possible options around improving your employment situation. If that is the case, any decent boss will sense that this conversation is coming. The chat will then depend on the level of their preparedness and their attitude towards you as an employee.

Notwithstanding all the nuances of this difficult moment, we explore some considerations:

  • How to approach the resignation discussion
  • Three things to mention when you quit verbally.
  • How to strike the right tone in a resignation chat
  • Sample resignation template with six essential elements

No one resignation chat is like another. Circumstances can vary dramatically, but if you are mentally prepared you should be able to do it “your way.”

Expert tip

Inform yourself of the HR procedure in advance. Time to dust off that employment contract. Check your notice period and uncover any other information that may be relevant (such as garden leave or non-compete clauses). You need to be confident that you have covered all the official bases before thinking about the more human elements of the conversation. Don’t let your boss surprise you with something you had overlooked.

How to approach the resignation discussion

Preparing the ground for a resignation discussion takes some thought. Give it every chance of going well by approaching the resignation meeting in a professional manner:

Request an in-person meeting.

Ambushing your boss at the water cooler won’t end well. Choose to let them know on a day when their diary doesn’t look rammed and ask them for the meeting with a couple of hours’ notice. They may need some time to process the inevitable thought of what is about to come but will also want to have the chat swiftly.

Ensure that the chat is in a private place.

Booking a meeting room in advance is a great idea. You may be working with certain colleagues in the future, so both boss and employee will appreciate the privacy. It will also allow for a more honest conversation.

Prepare a resignation “monologue” in advance.

Your resignation speech needs to be exactly that. Plan what you want to say and ensure that you are not interrupted until you have said what you planned to. Politely say “may I finish” if your boss tries to interject.

Remember the reasons that you are going.

In the back of your mind there will be so many other reasons for leaving that you have wisely decided not to share. Use these deeper motivator factors as fuel to help you get through the difficult chat, but don’t let them come out of your mouth.

Expert tip

Don’t feel that you need to explain yourself. The natural reaction for any boss is to seek closure. They will want to delve into your deeper motivations for a variety of reasons, but you have no obligation to share. Keep your resignation chat as brief as possible. You can always share more details later if you have a close relationship. There is certainly no obligation to tell them where you are going.

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Three things to mention when you quit

It is important to keep any resignation conversation as brief as possible. No matter how close the relationship with your boss, stick to the formalities in the official resignation chat and you can then follow up with your resignation letter.

The content of the chat will vary depending on your relationship and the situation, but you should make sure that you include the following three elements.

1. How you will fulfill your contractual obligations

You need to make it clear that you are aware of your contractual obligations and intended to stick to them. Your boss has a formal duty to remind you, but you can get to the more human element of the chat if you make this clear up front.

2. Your gratitude for the opportunities

Most importantly of all, show gratitude for the investment that your manager has made in your career. This will allow you to part on a positive note and your boss will feel that they have done their job. Another bird flies the nest.

3. Ability to provide assistance with transition. 

Your boss may well need help making the transition to your replacement, so be as flexible as possible here. If they ask you to stay an extra week and your future employers don’t mind, consider it. Give your all right up to your last day.

Expert tip

There is no obligation to share your reasons for leaving. 

You might feel that you owe your manager an explanation, but this isn’t the case. People move jobs all the time. It will be a “cleaner” conversation if you keep your reasons to yourself. If you are happy to share, and feel your boss would welcome it, leave the debrief for a later time.

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Resignation letter template

At the end of your verbal discussion, you should make it clear that you will immediately communicate your intent to leave in writing. A formal letter of resignation should be included in the text of an email or ideally as an attachment that will be included in your employment record for future reference

Unlike a formal conversation, where you can shape the chat depending on the situation and your relationship with your manager, a resignation letter should contain six essential elements:

  • Intent to resign. The first sentence needs to be unequivocal.
  • Position you are resigning from. For clarity, include your formal job title.
  • Last day of employment. Follow the letter of your employment contract.
  • Gratitude for opportunities. No matter what the circumstances, be gracious.
  • Help with the new employee. If there is an overlap, say you will assist.
  • Contact information. Include a personal email and mobile number.

This resignation letter template should give you an example of the concise and brief nature of what might be your last piece of formal writing for your employer:

Sample Resignation Letter

YOUR NAME

Address, City, State/Province, ZIP/Postal Code  
Phone Number  •  Email

Supervisor’s Name
Supervisor’s Title
Company Name
Address
City, State/Province
ZIP/Postal Code

Today’s Date

Dear (SUPERVISOR’S NAME):

With regrets, I will be departing from my role as [JOB TITLE] at [COMPANY NAME] in two weeks. My last day of work will be [MONTH, DAY, YEAR].

Although I’ve been very happy working at [COMPANY NAME] for [XX] years, I will be leaving in order to [REASON FOR DEPARTURE].

Working for [COMPANY NAME] has been an honor and a pleasure. I’ve learned so much, and I’ve formed friendships with my outstanding colleagues that I will always value deeply. 

I’d be more than happy to do anything I can to train my replacement, should you find one before my departure. Thank you so much for having given me the golden opportunity to work at [COMPANY NAME].

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

Copied!
Expert tip

What if the employer wants you to stay? Bosses may choose to lay on a guilt-trip to test your resolve, but if you are clear about your reasons no amount of emotional manipulation should sway you. In the same vein, counter-offers are very common, but, unless you are particularly motivated by money, they rarely work out well in the long run.

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Key takeaways

  • At a difficult time, the best possible parting gift is to ensure a professional and emotion-free resignation process.
  • There is likely a lot that you would like to say to all sorts of people, but resist the temptation. Don’t leave with a bitter taste in your mouth.
  • Follow the tips listed above and you can move to your next role with a clear conscience.
  • Remember, this isn’t the end of your relationship. Mention that you would be happy to keep in touch and wish them well with any upcoming projects.
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