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I am in a situation where I need to tell my current employer that I am leaving. This will be the first my manager hears of it; for reasons I don't want to discuss here, we have not had a meeting about this. I know what I want to say in the body of the email I am using to do so, and have that written out in full. Problem is, I am not sure of what sort of subject line would be appropriate in this situation. Something like "Letter of resignation" sounds too harsh, but I want to make it clear as well that from the outset, this is not a negotiable thing, but merely me making it clear that I am taking the steps to move on from this place of employment to my next opportunity.

What sort of subject line would be appropriate here?

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None.

This is one of those things that you do in person. "Hey boss, do you have 5-10 minutes?". If you're remote, then a phone call is fine. They'll ask you to eventually write the email so there's a record, but your first step should be less... impersonal.

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    I'd agree with this - ask for a 5 minute chat. Apologise if you're on good terms. Explain your reasons in a positive way, thank them for any opportunities or development etc and then give them a letter stating the same basic things as you explained minus any apology – Jon Story Oct 15 '14 at 20:34
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    It should be noted that this answer is extremely country-specific. – O. R. Mapper Oct 16 '14 at 9:29
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    @O.R.Mapper: would you explain in which countries you believe this answer would not be good? Maybe add an answer of your own, indicating in which countries you would do it differently and how? – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Oct 16 '14 at 10:10
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    That may or may not be the best approach. Is she contacting her immediate supervisor or is she going over his/her head? What if the supervisor was harassing her? Sexually or otherwise. I would not approach the boss in a private meeting. – Gary Hayes Oct 17 '14 at 5:34
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    Depending on the culture of the company, assuming on-site, it may be reasonable to ask a senior supervisor (one's boss' boss) to join in that meeting. Particularly if the reason for quitting is any sort of harassment by one's immediate supervisor, whether that is spelled out/said out loud or not (that is a different question). – a CVn Oct 17 '14 at 9:21
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Something like "Letter of resignation" sounds too harsh, but I want to make it clear as well that from the outset, this is not a negotiable thing, but merely me making it clear that I am taking the steps to move on from this place of employment to my next opportunity

It may seem harsh, but it is correct, so I'd stick to Letter of Resignation

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    I also agree with this, AFTER you have the conversation with your boss, formally send the email with the correct title for easy referencing. – Tony Oct 16 '14 at 13:43
  • "Resignation Letter" is also fine – Jagz W Oct 22 '14 at 2:48
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What sort of subject line would be appropriate here?

I think you are overthinking this. Something simple like "Resignation letter" works fine. You want to be clear about the content, just like any other email you send.

Though, I'm not sure why you are doing so in email vs in-person or phone. See this question for why. It's generally best to communicate bad news in person/phone over email (regardless of what, whether resignation or about a system going down).

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    "Resignation Letter" suffers from the disadvantages that while emails are reasonably confidential, it's pretty common to be able to glance at a list of email subjects on someone's desk. – DJClayworth Oct 15 '14 at 19:57
  • @DJClayworth the fact that you're leaving will normally become common knowledge fairly quickly. Between handing off tasks, a farewell lunch/drinks (if you're leaving on good terms), or just that email to you starts bouncing and you're not in the office any longer. – Dan Neely Oct 19 '14 at 17:51
  • Even though it will become known fairly quickly, it's best not to let it spread before you are ready. – DJClayworth Oct 19 '14 at 19:43
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Title it "Notice of Resignation"(*). You don't want to be rude. You can afford ambiguity as to your intentions even less. Give them the medicine straight up. A clear, concise title defines the setting for the body of your resignation email.

I suggest the following content:

I am sorry to announce that I am resigning from the company effective [state date] to pursue another opportunity.

I very much enjoyed being able to work with you all. I would have stayed but for this irresistible offer. I thank you for the cooperative, helpful and supportive working environment you all contributed to provide and I hope that we remain in touch.

You've all made showing up to work something I was looking forward to every business day of the week

Wishing you all the best and again, let's stay in touch

@Xrylite stylistically prefers "Notice of Resignation" as a smoother formulation of to "Letter of Resignation" - whichever is you prefer :)

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    Something feels smoother just by switching it to Notice from Letter. – Xrylite Oct 15 '14 at 16:55
  • @Xrylite I edited my answer to incorporate your comment, giving you full credit, of course :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 15 '14 at 17:11
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    My apologies for the confusion. I was agreeing that Notice of Resignation was a great improvement over OP's original Letter of Resignation. Letter sounds too much like a template. I appreciate your kindness though in taking that into consideration ^^. – Xrylite Oct 15 '14 at 17:19
  • Good letter. Especially if you're hinting at and hoping to get an offer to stay with a pay increase. Otherwise, you leave on good terms and could be a rehire for a fall back plan. – Gary Hayes Oct 17 '14 at 5:41
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Something like "Letter of resignation" sounds too harsh, but I want to make it clear as well that from the outset, this is not a negotiable thing, but merely me making it clear that I am taking the steps to move on from this place of employment to my next opportunity.

What sort of subject line would be appropriate here?

"Making it clear" isn't accomplished by a Subject Line.

You should talk to your manager in person if at all possible and resign face-to-face. That's by far the best way to do this.

Follow it up with an email or printed letter, if necessary. Don't worry about the subject line - that's not at all important. Instead, make sure the body of the email conveys your appreciation for the job (if that's appropriate for this situation), as well as conveying your end date, along with any other details that are important.

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First of all, I would do this in person / over the phone.

For the follow up email (if necessary) I would go with "PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL"

This indicates the importance to the receiver, but also if someone happens to glance their emails does not expose the fact you are resigning.

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    Frankly, any email i receive with a subject like "PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL" is likely to get treated as spam. A subject line should be as clear as reasonably possible, especially in this case -- a resignation isn't something you want the receiver to put off handling for a couple of weeks, let alone ignore entirely. – cHao Oct 16 '14 at 21:33
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    Out of curiosity have you ever had a line management role? I can't picture EVER ignoring an email with a title like that from one of my direct reports, it would get full attention. Maybe it's a culture thing - I have only worked in New Zealand and Europe. – SpoonerNZ Oct 17 '14 at 8:58
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    If an in person conversation is not appropriate/possible then a subject heading like this is exactly what I would use. No manager should ignore an email from their direct report with such a subject line. Or "confidential - urgent" to make sure it doesn't get put into the "later" bin... – Floris Oct 18 '14 at 22:43
  • Emails get my attention by subject first, then by sender. And i have literally never gotten a legitimate email with a subject like "private", "confidential", "urgent", etc. I've certainly gotten enough spam with them, though. So my first instinct is to filter them. Only the sender's name and/or address would save such an email from the junk bin -- and if i'm in too much of a rush, i might overlook the sender's name. Maybe managers actually get legitimate emails with such subjects, i dunno. But starting from that assumption seems dangerous. – cHao Oct 19 '14 at 18:49
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"2 weeks notice"

Everyone knows what it means, and well it might sound less harsh while making you intentions crystal clear. That is what I used and it worked better than expected as I was escorted out of the building right away :) Just kidding - but they didn't need 2 weeks, I was able to leave right away. Next time when I did it in person - it wasn't so easy as they did not want to let me go, so fire up that email & good luck!

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Two assumptions have been made by other answers.

  1. That the line manager is based in the same office or at least that the relationship shared with the manager is one where they converse on a fairly regular basis and that the conversation has certainly extended beyond the brief greeting.
  2. The relationship between the colleague resigning and his line manager is not strained or was the sort that discouraged unnecessary conversation.

The situation we are experiencing is where the line manager is on a different continent, 5 hours behind us and, due to poor management on the business's part, have made her the manager to whom our research colleagues in London need to report. Needless to say, she has kept her distance from all bar one of them and her relationship with the others is such where she appears indifferent to them and their day to day needs. In this instance I would advise contacting her via email (especially due to the differences in time zones and her already manic if not erratic schedule) and, whilst always displaying professional courtesy, keep the message short and to the point.

Notice of resignation, as a subject header, allows the email to stand out from hundreds of others while remaining professional and to the point. In the body of the email I would also advise thanking the business for the opportunity given to work for them and/or polite thanks for the experience gained. Remember, no matter how much you did or did not enjoy working for the company you're leaving, your written words will stay on file long after its context has been forgotten. So always be a good sport.

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