How do I resign politely?
May 3, 2008 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Writing a resignation letter and quitting gracefully in a slightly slippery situation

I am a part-time temporary employee who was hired for a project that wraps at the end of June. The job has not been as flexible as I was led to believe it would be, and I would like to quit at the end of May, a month before I am expected to leave.

I plan on writing a resignation letter and giving them two-weeks notice. There is some possibility I may be interested in a full-time position at this place of business sometime in the future, so I don't want to burn any bridges. However, I have a feeling my boss will not take my early departure as very good news. I am *not* under any kind of contract to stay there. Here are my questions:

I have never written a resignation letter before. Any advice? Do I have to say why I'm leaving? i plan to make it as polite and gracious as possible because in general I have enjoyed this job.

How does one deliver such a letter. I ask because I am not very good at confrontation and would like to avoid it if at all possible while still maintaining my dignity.

How do I respond if my boss makes my last two weeks unpleasant? I have a feeling this could happen but I am going to do my best to take the high road from the start and I hope she does too.
posted by Brittanie to Work & Money (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As difficult as it is, I recommend that you inform your boss of your departure face-to-face, not by leaving a letter for him or her. There's something about telling it to someone personally that goes a long way toward not burning any bridges and leading them to respect you.

Don't think of quitting a job as "confrontation." If they didn't need you around any longer, they wouldn't hesitate to lay you off. You should never feel bad about quitting a job, as long as you give notice and don't do it in an unethical manner.
posted by jayder at 6:40 AM on May 3, 2008

If your job requires any amount of training, that is, if a replacement won't be able to join next-day and pick up as you left off, you're leaving them in a bind. With 1 month left on the project, your replacement will spend their first 3 days getting up to speed, if they even get a replacement in right away.

You didn't really explain the situation very well regarding why it's not flexible enough, or why you need it to be more flexible. However, I'd tread lightly here. Whether or not you agreed to stay, etc, leaving the company mid-project will have some negative impact, even if it's small.

Instead, try first to sit down with your boss and explain the situation to your boss. See if more flexibility can be attained. Gauge the possibility of the later job, and definitely explain to the boss why you want to stay with the company. Essentially, you want to be laying out for your boss what you need from them, and asking how you can manage to stay with the company.

The first step has to be a meeting with your boss, it is the most professional thing to do, and it may well be the only step you need to rectify a situation that the boss may not have even been aware of.
posted by explosion at 6:59 AM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

this is an easy one.

Just set your letter out like this.

Dear "employer"

Thank you for the opportunity you have given me.

please consider this letter as notice of resignation.


job done..

just google resignation letter you'll find a million ways people have worded the same exact thing.
posted by complience at 7:04 AM on May 3, 2008

Letters of resignation are simple things -- they don't normally provide reasons. Just something like 'I resign from my position at Company Name effective Date.' Some people include a second line of sucking up like 'I appreciate the opportunities I've had here, and hope to work with you again in the future.' but it's not necessary.

That said, a letter of resignation shouldn't come as a surprise to the person reading it, because you should already have told them face to face when and (if you can do it graciously) why you're leaving. So, first you have the conversation with them and say something like 'Unfortunately, the flexibility of the job isn't what I need, and I'm going to have to leave before the project ends. My last day will be X.' And after there's a few rounds of 'what? you're leaving?' and 'yes, unfortunately, the flexibility of the job isn't what I needed', you ask your boss if they need a formal resignation letter or email, or if there's a form to fill out with HR.

You can also say things in this conversation like 'I've really enjoyed working here and I think X is a great company. I hope I'll be able to work with you again in the future, but right now, the flexibility of the job isn't what I needed.'
posted by jacquilynne at 7:05 AM on May 3, 2008

are you leaving because you don't like the job or because you have another offer?

if it's just dislike, i would stick it out, take the paycheck and talk to your boss about how the job hasn't played out as it was described to you. quitting itself will probably burn the bridge, even if they say it won't. really. so if you don't have anything better to be doing with your time, i'd hang onto the job and see it through.

if you have another offer, then you will simply have to tell your boss that you've accepted another position elsewhere and that you'll have to leave earlier than planned. use the upcoming two weeks to get as much done for a transition to the new person as possible.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:07 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

The first step has to be a meeting with your boss, it is the most professional thing to do, and it may well be the only step you need to rectify a situation that the boss may not have even been aware of.

Absolutely true.

I know your question is more "how do I bow out gracefully" than "how do I make my last month of a temp assignment good," but since you said you might be looking for full time work at this place, if you leave a project one month before it is over (Assuming it isn't a 6-week project) you can pretty much forget any full-time work there.

In my experience, two weeks notice with one month left on a project - which means the project might be delayed while they hire a replacement for you - pretty much will get you blacklisted from there.

Unless there is something more to the lack of flexibility than is indicated here? Like extreme work personality clashes or dysfunction?
posted by xetere at 7:07 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

My advice:

1- Are you sure you can't stick it out for another month? Actually, if they hold you to the two weeks notice, you are talking about two weeks. It might be easier (given your future goals of wanting to work for them later) to just hang on and make the best of it.

2- If you must leave, then you are on the right track. Giving two weeks notice is the right thing to do.

3- If it was me, on the Friday you plan to tender the resignation, I'd go into the boss's office and simply have a frank discussion. Don't think of it as a confrontation, just as a "meta" discussion about business. Say something to the effect of, "Mary, I'm having trouble meeting your expectations for me. I took the job with the understanding that there was going to be some flexibility, and I haven't seen that happening. I am having trouble meeting my committments in other areas. What can we do to solve this problem?"

If you get a defensive response like "I never told you that" or "that's not my problem" or anything along those lines, where the boss isn't going to make any changes, tell her that in that case, you have no choice but to resign and that you will give her a resignation letter by the end of the day.

3b- If you really really can't take doing that, put the above in a memo. Stressing that you really want to maintain your end of the bargain, but that you can't if the situation doesn't change.

3c- Don't feel bad about asking for things that were already promised to you. Remind yourself that this is a business arrangement, and that they are not holding up their end of the bargain. Give the the opportunity to fix the problem. This will go a long way in upholding your reputation within the organization.

4- If it comes to resigning, it's sort of up to you what you put in the letter. It can be as simple as "Dear boss, Regretfully, I need to resign my position effective two weeks from today." If you feel like you want to detail your reasoning, do so in a clear and concise manner. Like, "unfortunately, I am unable to meet the demands placed upon me. I was hired with the understanding that I would have flexibility to [whatever], and that is not happening. I would have liked to finish out the project, but after our conversation, I know that I cannot."

It might be good to include specifics, so that it's down in writing why you are leaving. If you think the organization is good, but your boss is incompetent, send copies of the letter to the president of the organization and the HR person. That way there's a paper trail. If your boss is a weasel, he might tear up your letter and tell the others in the org that you just quit and that you are nuts.

5- If you do those things, you will have done everything you can to solve the problem. And failing that, you will have quit in a professional manner and IF they hold a grudge in the future, that's their problem and you don't really want to work for such a place.
posted by gjc at 7:09 AM on May 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's a couple thoughts based on my personal experience...

I've always patterned my resignation letters after Nixon's--a resignation letter is a statement that I'm leaving, delivered in writing, and nothing more.

When I resign, I ask to see my boss, hand him/her the letter and tell them that I've leaving. I never provided more information than that. If asked for an explanation I usually say that I'm looking a new opportunities--I never take pot-shots or say anything negative at all. I always offer to stay two weeks and during that time I try hard not fall into that "see you later, suckers" attitude.

Most people have quit a job one time or another and I've found that all my managers, even ones that are in a tight spot when I leave, take it pretty well. If your boss ends up giving you grief, there was probably nothing you could have done to finesse your way out of it. Remember you can always walk out during those two week if it becomes unbearable.

If you want to do your best at not burning bridges in hopes for future employment, I would recommend that before you resign (at least a couple of days) you talk to you boss. Tell your boss about your concerns (the flexibility) and give your boss an opportunity to make things right allowing you to stay on until the end of the project. If your boss ignores your concerns, shame on them and no one would begrudge you leaving.
posted by sexymofo at 7:16 AM on May 3, 2008

I echo everyone's comments here. People's memories fade as time goes on; but the paper remains. Don't make some long, drawn out excuse for why you are leaving. Leave it simple and to the point. If the company files it, and pulls it back out later they probably wont have any memory of why you left if you keep it short and simple.

I have always done mine face to face with a letter (ie, ask if they have a moment, sit down, hand them the simple resignation, leave time for a discussion, and then thank them and continue to work for the remainder of my sentance).

In most cases it has worked well; except one psycho guy, who seemed more like I was working for a abused self loathing girlfriend than an employer.
posted by SirStan at 7:23 AM on May 3, 2008

If you resign 1 month before the end of a project as a temp worker, you have two chances of working at that firm again, slim and none.

If the situation is so untenable or inconvenient that you must resign, then the above advice about talking to boss a few days before to discuss the flexibility issue and then if not fixed a short, factual, no explanation letter is my advice if you must write a letter. The Nixon letter linked to above is quite frankly a work of art in its simplicity of message. There is nothing that says a resignation must be in writing. One time when I was resigning a job, my attorney advised that I not put anything in writing. I simply talked to my partners and told them I resigned.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:08 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

When you're leaving a project with only one month to go before the project's end date, you're pretty much making it impossible to hire a replacement. If this is going to be a problem for the client they're going to resent it, regardless of how you phrase your resignation letter.

The polite thing to do depends on what your actual problem is.

If the problem is that the 'job has not been as flexible as you were led to believe' - whatever that means - the polite thing is to give your client and / or your temp agency (if there is one) a chance to remedy the situation.

If the problem is that you want out, regardless of what anyone might do to make the job more to your liking, the most polite thing would be to just sit it out until the project ends at the end of June. The next best thing would be to sit down with the temp agency and / or the client to discuss how you can leave prematurely with minimal damage to the project / the temp agency's relationship with the client.

It's only after exploring these options that you should be thinking about resignation letters, and your resignation letter can be short, simple and to-the-point.
posted by rjs at 9:19 AM on May 3, 2008

All of this advice is really good. I'm just not sure the procedure is clear if you've never gone through it before.

If you're prepared to quit, you have nothing to lose by first asking for what you need to make the job workable. See GJC's #3 suggestion on how to do that. If it makes you uncomfortable, well, sack up. You never have to see these people again if you end up quitting; if they give you what you want, then yay, massive win.

If after conversation #3 nothing can be changed, then hand in your notice the next day.

Also be prepared to lose your job effective the moment you hand in your notice. Not every employer wants you to work out your notice; some prefer to shunt you out the door immediately to preserve moral. Do not take it personally.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:58 AM on May 3, 2008

No, you're never working for that firm again. You should really forget that idea.

If, knowing and accepting that, you still prefer to quit rather than finish the project.... then it doesn't really matter HOW you quit, does it?

The two liners recommended above will do fine.
posted by rokusan at 10:04 AM on May 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

sexymofo writes "When I resign, I ask to see my boss, hand him/her the letter and tell them that I've leaving. I never provided more information than that."

This is exactly the approach I've taken. With the exception that when I've been moving out of town I've verbally let them know that so they know I won't be locally available to provide contract support after my end date.
posted by Mitheral at 11:41 AM on May 3, 2008

I agree you won't win any long-term supporters there by not finishing your project. Particularly so if they put a fair amount of time into training you or if you are the person with all the pieces in your head. Less so if it's a big company with different departments or if you're immediately replaceable with no time lost.

The reason that you give for why you're leaving will be important. Quitting is even sometimes a time for the white lie, half truth, or vague generality. I don't think I've used this myself, but I did recently find out the real reason (or more central reason) a coworker left a year ago. It made me glad she'd told us the other part of the reason. She left because of the salary & benefits but said it was because she really couldn't turn down another exciting project somewhere else. It was nice to imagine her leaving for a great new opportunity rather than leaving saying "This place sucks. Why are you suckers staying?" So, whether or not you discuss your desire for more flexibility first, I would not have your final reason be "you went back on your promise!" Instead, use "important obligations elsewhere... a really important and exciting time on another project..." as your more public and official reason. Just imagine that whatever reason you give will resonate in the air and stick to your memory long after you've left the building, so make sure it's the impression you want to project.
posted by salvia at 12:01 PM on May 3, 2008

If you are going through a temp agency, tell the temp agency first. They will probably want to call their client to inform them and to suggest a replacement. The temp agency will not want to lose the business.

If you are not working through an agency here are the steps:
1. You write a resignation letter that says you are leaving and you specify the effective date.
2. You meet with the manager and explain that you are resigning the position and you tell them the effective date. No need to go into detail about your disappointments, expectations, etc. At that time you give the manager the letter.

Also the chances of getting a permanent position there are slim. If you really want to work there permanently you go to work every day with a "make it work" attitude and you meet your deadline. You prove to everyone around you that you have what it takes to complete a project.
posted by Soda-Da at 12:56 PM on May 3, 2008

Response by poster: To give a bit more detail: I am leaving to take a trip that was scheduled before I accepted the position. When I broached the topic of the trip with my boss I was told that under no circumstances would I be able to take off. Before I was hired I was told just to let them know anytime I needed off and I would get it.

I do not work at a "firm". I work a minimum wage job at a large organization and I was hired for an event that is still ongoing. The event ends in llate June and I would like to be gone by the end of May (I plan on giving the letter soon.) So I'm not quitting with 2 weeks left.

With my wages, I would have to work a loong time to make up for the money that I would lose by canceling the trip.

I have interest in working here again but I am not that set on it, as this is not my regular field. My main concern is not having work be hell for the two weeks remaining.

Not sure if these details change anyone's advice but I appreciate all the answers so far. I am going to speak with my boss again and see if there is anyway we can work together but barring that I plan to leave.
posted by Brittanie at 1:50 PM on May 3, 2008

As a temp they may very well ask you to leave immediately when you tell them you're resigning, particularly if it is a low-level assignment.
posted by winna at 3:34 PM on May 3, 2008

You are a temporary employee. They have zero commitment to you. Display a positive attitude, do your best to complete your work, leave good documentation. I once had a "month or so" temp assignment. I was given @ 1 hour of training, and was reliable and helpful for several weeks. Got a great job offer and gave notice. They were snotty. Screw 'em. No commitment from them = no commitment from me. As long as you are productive while you're there, they have no cause to complain.
posted by theora55 at 3:41 PM on May 3, 2008

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