A former colleague last week told me she is leaving her current company, and she showed me a rough draft of her letter of resignation. My jaw dropped as I read a litany of complaints, many of them superficial. I asked her if she was excited about the new position, and she confirmed that it’s the perfect job. “Then,” I asked, “Why do you want to throw a grenade at the employer that provided experiences that opened the door to this opportunity?”
The momentary delight of writing an overly direct or nasty letter of resignation is soon diminished by the word-of-mouth rumblings that such letters often cause. Inevitably, the person writing the letter becomes the focus of concern with people asking “what is her problem?” or worse. Your letter should be as diplomatically positive as you can write it. Most firms will arrange an exit interview on your last day. Come prepared with some positives about your experience, and be prepared to respond to inevitable questions about issues that might have driven you to this decision. Remain as positive as possible, and carefully frame any complaints or recommendations that you might feel necessary to share. You can say more in an exit interview than in a letter that remains in your file forever–long after others involved are no longer at the firm.
If you’re at loss for the right words, check out these resignation letter samples from About.com. Don’t worry if they appear too generic for your current state of mind. Your career and long-term reputation will be better served by a bland, positive letter of resignation. Final note, you must resign in person and in writing–not by phone. The face-to-face discussion is important for your reputation and your letter remains in your file long after you’re gone.