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I recently put in my two-weeks notice and prepared a resignation letter as is generally expected. It was short, to the point, and did not provide much more than "I'm leaving, you've been a great boss, let me know how I can help transition." I see my boss every day and we get along well, so it was my intention to get across most of my points verbally.

When I walked into his office to talk, that's exactly what happened. We talked, he didn't do much more than glance at the letter before putting it in his desk. I provided the letter as more of a formality, but the formal way to resign at our company is to submit an online form. I felt like the letter didn't do much besides pass between hands.

I've always thought of a resignation letter as something mandatory you have to do when you leave a job, but is this always true? Is it ever acceptable (particularly in my situation) to just not prepare a letter?

  • I think the real answer is that it depends on your employer's practices and culture, and on how much of an evidence trail you think you might need later. Ideally departing, like hiring, could be done on a handshake. Legally, something more is appropriate; exactly what will vary somewhat. Certainly a polite printed letter can do no harm, especially if your boss already knows you're considering it. – keshlam Nov 27 '14 at 1:59
  • I believe you should still provide a resignation letter and avoid any verbal agreements as much as possible. For me, this is help you protect the possibility of disrespecting your last day of work with the company. Though sometimes, you need to modify your last day (if you will end up unemployed instead of being in a new company) to support them further on their transition, which is also a plus factor for both sides. You're a great employee and you'll get better feedbacks from your previous employer when someone does background checks. – Ju-chan Nov 27 '14 at 5:11
  • Just write the letter. Takes ten minutes. There cannot be any misunderstanding in resigning and the final date of working. But also do it verbally as that is polite – Ed Heal Oct 27 '15 at 19:29
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I've always thought of a resignation letter as something mandatory you have to do when you leave a job, but is this always true? Is it ever acceptable (particularly in my situation) to just not prepare a letter?

In my part of the world (US), I've never worked at a company where a written resignation letter was mandatory, or added any value at all.

As most businesses these days are far more casual than in the past, this is sort of an antiquated nicety. Particularly since you see your boss face to face every day, just talking makes perfect sense.

If you simply talk with your boss and indicate your resignation, she/he will certainly tell you if there are any additional formalities required - perhaps an online form, an email to HR, a phone call or personal visit to HR, or even perhaps a written resignation letter.

More typically, after your conversation your boss will simply call or email HR, letting them know that you are leaving, and arranging any necessary exit interview. That will usually also start the appropriate actions for HR, Payroll, Security, etc.

Note: as @RSmith points out, in other countries, Germany for instance, a written letter is indeed mandatory (by law even), and your resignation is not official until the signed letter is turned in.

  • I can add that in other countries, Germany for instance, a written letter is indeed mandatory (by law even), and your resignation is not official until the signed letter is turned in. I agree that the best thing to do is just ask. – RSmith Oct 27 '15 at 21:10
  • Agreed. I think the antiquated idea of a "resignation letter" was formed before the advent of email or IM. There's something very satisfying about quitting over IM to a horrible employer. I suggest anyone quitting from a horrible job try an IM or SMS resignation .. even just once. – MikeM Oct 30 '15 at 19:06
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A written communication will trigger their taking the steps to terminate your presence on their payroll plus whatever steps they take to disable your login accounts plus whatever remote access you have to their systems, etc.

I hardly imagine that HR will trigger all these housekeeping activities on someone's verbal say-so that they resigned, given that verbal communication gets lost, misinterpreted, etc. Never mind the possibility of someone doing a bit of social engineering and impersonating someone else and calling HR to claim that this someone else is resigning. Or the simpler possibility of someone announcing their resignation verbally, only to change their minds.

Even if a letter is not mandatory - and I can't imagine why it should not be mandatory, I believe that you should still, as a matter of prudence, hand in a written communication whether it's an email or a handwritten letter. You don't want to be in a situation where you are arguing that you resigned while they assert that you didn't - That dispute would have an immediate impact on you if agreements that were in force when you were employed are supposed to sunset once you are out the door.

  • "the formal way to resign at our company is to submit an online form" so technically a letter should not trigger any action either. Further, a physical letter is an easier way to impersonate someone else (if it's typed) than to do so verbally. – ExactaBox Nov 26 '14 at 22:03
  • @ExactaBox It's hard to impersonate physically handing in a letter, and probably just as hard to fake a physical letter that's sent by registered mail. – Vietnhi Phuvan Nov 26 '14 at 22:06
  • It's exceptionally easy to leave a letter on someone's desk or to slip it under their door. – ExactaBox Nov 26 '14 at 22:21
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    @ExactaBox And what makes you think that people will just accept letters of resignation that are slipped under the door without checking with their authors? That whole charade will blow up in your face if you tried to slip that fake letter to me and I'd have a talk with my subordinate about what business they need to wrap up and what business they need to hand over before they resign. – Vietnhi Phuvan Nov 26 '14 at 22:26
  • You brought up the idea of "social engineering and impersonating someone else." I've never heard of this happening and can't think of a reason why someone would try. But if somebody wanted to, faking a letter is easier than faking their voice on the phone, which is the scenario you described in your initial response. – ExactaBox Nov 26 '14 at 22:30
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I don't know about a resignation letter, but if I owned a company, I would want something with a signature on it indicating the employee left on their own. Otherwise, what is to stop them from running down to the unemployment office claiming they've been let go by the company?

Offering the letter on your own just makes things easier for all parties involved and is another way to try and leave on good terms.

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If the official way to resign at your company is through an online form, then no, a letter is clearly not mandatory. That being said, it sounds like your letter was very brief, which is good, and is perfectly fine.

In a broader sense, there are plenty of jobs and specific workplace situations, for which a letter is not necessary.

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    We appreciate the use of humor within thecontext of making a point. I am not sure what the picture you show does to enhance the point of your answer. Strictly speaking for me, it looks like you are making a gratuitous comment. Making gratuitous comments runs counter to the spirit of communication on the site where we want answers and comments to be on point, without unnecessary distractions. – Vietnhi Phuvan Nov 26 '14 at 22:12
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    The question specifically includes the word "always." Not just "in office settings where people are generally polite and considerate." I tried to use a comical but well-known example from a movie that relates to the millions of jobs that are quite different to the context in which the OP finds himself. Are your answers applicable if someone is resigning from a construction site? from Wal-Mart? from a temp job? from a babysitting gig? Try to have a little sense of humor, my friend. – ExactaBox Nov 26 '14 at 22:27
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    Do you know for a fact that resigning from Walmart and from construction sites don't require a letter of resignation, or are you asking rhetorical questions for which you don't know the answer? Ditto with temp jobs. Resigning from baby sitting jobs customarily don't require a letter of resignation - these jobs are off the books. If you are paid a salary and your employer deducts taxes from your salary, chances are extremely good that this employer requires resignation notices in writing. – Vietnhi Phuvan Nov 27 '14 at 1:20
  • I have resigned from jobs where I was "paid a salary and your employer deducts taxes from your salary" without writing a letter. So yes I know this as a fact. OK? – ExactaBox Nov 27 '14 at 1:47

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