People ask me to help them write a resignation letter, which is funny. It really doesn’t matter what you write, because one of two things will happen:
- They’ll freak out that you are leaving and try to talk you out of it.
- They’ll say, “Oh, that’s too bad; we’ll hate to see you go.”
For your ego’s sake, you want No. 1, not No. 2.
What to say when you resign
Response No. 1 means your boss perceives that you’re valuable and more than likely doing more work than most. Your supervisors and colleagues don’t want to see you go, because they don’t want to take on your work.
Response No. 2 means they were probably looking at cutting you anyway in the next layoff and you just made their job very easy. Plus, they just took on a free summer intern who’ll probably do your job better than you did, or they’ll create a process that eliminates your job altogether.
There are three things to say when you resign, whether you believe them to be true or not. (To for all my former bosses, this isn’t what I did to you; I really meant what I said.)
- “You are the best mentor I’ve ever had; I want to thank you so much for all you’ve given me.” There’s a good chance you’ll need them as a reference later, so even if your boss is a jerk, make them feel that they changed your life forever.
- “You can always call me, and I’ll help you out with anything you need after I leave.” They’ll never call you—and you won’t ever pick up—but it makes everyone realize the world won’t end when you leave. Besides, the person who replaces you couldn’t care less about what you did and how you did it.
- “I’m really going to miss working here.“ Even if that’s an outright lie and leaving will be the happiest moment of your life, you have to say it. It might be the only option you have if you fail in your next job, or if the new workplace is even worse.
People have this glorified vision of what happens after they leave a job—that the company will implode and business will stop as they know it. The fact is, business doesn’t stop, the sun comes up, people show up to work, and they find ways to carry on.
That’s life: Organizations endure, even when they lose their best. Don’t view resigning as some historic event; it’s not. It’s part of the dance we do as employees.
Be appreciative for the opportunity you were given. Keep your options open. Don’t burn a bridge. It’s pretty simple.
Tim Sackett is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, Michigan. A version of this article was originally published on his blog, The Tim Sackett Project.