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When writing a letter of resignation where you are not happy with the company's direction, is it good form to add a detailed laundry list of what those things are or just keep it generic like "the direction of the company..."?

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    do you have to give a reason at all? Just state that you're leaving and leave. Unless you want to rant and don't care about the bridges you may be burning, in which case rant, but it won't help you or anyone else.
    – Esther
    May 18 at 18:45
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    Do you already have a new job to go to after resigning ? Or do you not have any new job yet, and resign because you are not happy with the company's direction ? - Either way, what good does it do to you if you complain about the company's direction ? It appears from your previous questions that the owner or the company already does not care about employee's inputs, and only care about fast delivery of the products. So, they are not likely to care about your opinion in your resigning letter. May 18 at 20:09
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    No, not even in an exit interview. They won't change anything anyway; at best they will badmouth you for it.
    – Gertsen
    May 19 at 7:27
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    Are you leaving on good terms? What is the size of the company? If it's small company where you know everyone and get along well, but for other reasons want to leave, then I'd let them know why (in general terms, though, not a whole laundry list).
    – towr
    May 19 at 7:49
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    Is there a reason to believe that somebody actually wants to know?
    – RedSonja
    May 19 at 8:16

5 Answers 5

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is it good form to add a detailed laundry list of what those things are or just keep it generic like "the direction of the company..."?

If you want to keep it professional you should avoid the detailed laundry list. There is no need for you to give detailed explanations, and doing so unrequested could burn some bridges.

Saying such things would be more appropriate if there were some sort of exit interview and were asked about your reasons in detail. Anyways, you also want to keep it professional and constructive if such interview ever happens.

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    Even in exit interviews, be cautious. I’ve been in exit interviews as observer, interviewer an das leaving employee. And I can tell you, it’s not worth it to provide reasoning.
    – KMSTR
    May 19 at 11:17
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    The typical response would be "I want to develop myself in a different way".
    – MechMK1
    May 19 at 13:55
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or just keep it generic like "the direction of the company..."?

Don't even go that far. No reasons are necessary. Just something like this is sufficient and clear:

I hereby give X days notice of my resignation. My last day with the company will be [date].

Giving even a vague reason opens the door to bad feelings ("What's wrong with the direction of the company? It seems fine to me!"), and the consequences that can come from that (which will vary depending on where you are in the world).


I'm surprised that I need to write this, but apparently a lot of people consider resignation letters and exit interviews to be things that should be handled the same way, so: This is only advice about what to write in a resignation letter. I do not recommend saying this in an exit interview.

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    And to add to that: the person who needs that letter doesn't care why. Maybe someone else does, and maybe you want to risk a burned bridge to tell them. But the purpose of a resignation letter (at least in the US) is just to establish that you're leaving voluntarily, for legal reasons. (For example, they won't have to pay for your unemployment benefits.)
    – yshavit
    May 19 at 6:38
  • @yshavit, yeah thats also a grey area. In some States of the Union if you have some vague reason of why you are leaving that can help you with unemployment in a case where you should feel the need to obtain it. I am not an attorney, but I have since learned this.
    – Daniel
    May 19 at 15:47
  • I feel this could be improved by clarifying the difference between an exit interview and a resignation letter. To me it currently sounds like you shouldn't give reasons in a letter, but you can in an exit interview, which would presumably invite the same repurcussions and bad feeling as putting them in the letter. Jun 5 at 13:02
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It's not mentioned but some companies request you do an exit interview and there are times you can mention things like:

  • I've capped out in my position and I'm looking for more opportunities
  • didn't feel like I was growing within the company
  • new position is offering a better salary

And a few other things that you can mention that may not necessarily burn a bridge. If you're never wanting to go back and have an exit interview then fully disclose.

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    An exit interview is definitely the place to give you feedback. If they don't request one, they don't want your feedback May 19 at 7:46
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    @noob, new position is offering a better salary is a good one.
    – Daniel
    May 19 at 15:49
  • @SirDuckduck, I have a feeling no exit interview will happen. I am not the only one leaving this place and they did not seem to care what this other colleague thought either, its full steam ahead, parties in Aspen, Colorado, lavish trips to Europe all paid for by 30 million of VC funding, who cares what I think.
    – Daniel
    May 19 at 15:50
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Resignation is a very formal milestone in the life of an employee. It it is the one action he can take without any possible recourse for the employer - the employer has no say in it whatsoever. It is not a discussion, it is not something that can be taken back easily.

Interestingly, threatening resignation while not having formally resigned yet is not a powerful tool for an employee. It usually does not work in the way intended, it just puts you on an (at least) mental blacklist with your manager - he'll probably not spend a lot more effort or money on you if he knows that you're looking for a new job anyways.

Any attempts to improve the situation have to happen before your resignation.

If you resign out of the blue, with your boss having not a single idea of why that could be, this means that you never even tried to improve anything. Anything that leads to your resignation could have been discussed with your manager beforehand - without threatening resignation. So if you brought problems up, and they were not resolved, and you do eventually resign, your boss will know perfectly well what the issue was (or if not, because they were unable to listen, then it wouldn't matter anyways).

If you have a new job (a freshly signed contract) at the time of your resignation, then the standard reason for resigning is "I got a new offer which was just too good to pass by". This is never a lie - whatever "too good" means (could be money, incentives, time to travel, interesting topics, whatever). I wouldn't go into too much detail, and usually not even tell them the new firm.

If you do not have a new job, then saying something like "I need substantial time off to take care of my own life" is perfectly fine. This could include fixing stuff that broke because the job was so bad - but there is zero reasons to let them know that. They can't help you anymore, in the best case it's neutral, and worst case you're burning bridges.

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    The employer might be called for references for future jobs. Better not to burn bridges. May 19 at 13:00
  • Yes, that's the advice I give - don't burn bridges. Do you see something else in my answer? If so, please point it out and I'll optimize my wording... @vikingsteve
    – AnoE
    May 19 at 13:07
  • Well, "It it is the one action he can take without any possible recourse for the employer" - this is incorrect. A bad employer can affect your future reputation and chances of employment May 20 at 7:02
  • @vikingsteve, he can burn bridges by behaving badly after resigning, but the act of resigning in itself can never be bad - or else we're living in slavery. I think (or intend) that the rest of my answer gives hints as to which course to take after resigning with respect to giving details and so on. If you find I misrepresent those points in some way, let me know. But we cannot tell people that they cannot ever resign...
    – AnoE
    May 30 at 10:12
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Unless there is a contract or other legal constraint requiring you give a reason, I wouldn't offer one. Just say you are leaving to pursue another opportunity.

Other answers suggest that you present your reasons at a formal exit interview. I generally disagree:

  • If the exit interview is the first time you're airing your laundry, then you've done your employer and yourself a disservice by not at least trying to improve things while you were there.

  • If you raised these issues as an employee but couldn't get support to address them, then don't expect your comments to change things after you leave. Even if they change, it won't benefit you.

One possible benefit to giving some of your reasons is if you think it may benefit someone you leave behind.

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