After you resign in person (which we recommend!), it’s a good idea to send a follow-up resignation email so your boss and human resources (HR) department have a record of you quitting.
Your resignation email only needs to focus on the facts of what’s going on. Even when you have a lot to say, fight the urge to make it an emotional farewell speech.
That means you need a resignation email subject line that’s professional, not creative—even if you’re a marketing-email-subject-line-writing genius. Here’s what to say.
Resignation email subject lines to use
In most cases, when it’s a safe environment, it’s best to tell your boss face-to-face that you’re leaving. That way, you know they got the message (imagine waiting to get confirmation they read your “I’m quitting” email!), and it gives you the chance to deliver your resignation in the tone and with the reasons (if any) that you want to give. Those can get lost or misinterpreted in an email.
Once you resign in person, send an email or printed letter to make sure your boss and your HR department have a record of you leaving and when your last day will be.
You can use the body of the email to thank your boss, briefly say you’ll miss the company, and offer help with the transition period. For your resignation email subject line, these are the key points to communicate:
You are resigning
Your resignation effective date (this is optional—although if it’s effective immediately, that’s good to note)
That’s enough to catch your manager’s eye so it doesn’t get lost in their inbox. The email simply serves as a “paper” record of what’s going on and loops in HR.
Here’s what an example resignation email subject line could look like:
"Resignation: [Your Name]"
"Resignation - [Your Name]"
"Resignation, effective immediately - [Your Name]"
"Resignation, Dec. 1: [Your Name]"
You get the idea.
What you don’t want to do is be vague or try to be clever. Those subject lines might be skipped over and go unread as the recipient scans their email inbox. Also, it’s not the time to be funny or vague. HR might need this email for a legal reason.
What not to write for a resignation email subject line:
"Parting is such sweet sorrow…"
"Hate to say this…"
"Maybe you’ve heard?"
Sure, “I quit” is accurate and straightforward, and in some cases might feel good. But it’s best to keep your resignation email all about communicating that you’re leaving and keep your frustration (if there is any) out of it, and “I quit” can come across as snarky.
If you aren't resigning in person, and the email will be the first time your boss and HR are hearing the news, use the same subject lines suggested above. The problem is, you won’t know if anyone gets your email, so you might want to set up a read receipt so you get a notice when your email is opened. You can send your message with “high importance” or put the subject line in bold or all caps to get noticed—although any of those choices could be jarring for the recipient. That’s why it’s best to control the message by delivering the news in person if possible.
What else to write in your resignation email
Check out these resignation email examples to write the rest of the message. Remember to keep the same professional tone and focus on communicating the who, what, and when. No need to get into the why and how.
Here are some specific examples to use if you’re leaving your job for personal reasons, as the wording can be a little different.
And you can use these templates if you’re resigning effective immediately.
If you’re staying for at least two weeks, which is the traditional transitional time period, you don’t need to communicate the details of that transition in this email. This email is solely to make sure your manager and HR have a record of you resigning and when you plan to leave.
What to do before you send your resignation email
First, be prepared to leave that day in case your company asks you to, which some do. Even if you put in your two weeks’ notice, your company may pay you for the two weeks while making the day you tell them you’re leaving your last official day. Sometimes that’s because of competitive reasons, and other times, it’s to limit staff disruption.
Be sure to have copies of any writing samples, contact information, or any files you need (and are allowed to take) in case your computer access is shut off quickly.
Also make sure you know how to access your benefits, especially if you're leaving anything on the table in terms of 401(k) vesting, stock options, or bonus money. Sometimes leaving before working a certain amount of years means you give up some of those benefits.
For a full list of how to handle your resignation, check out InHerSight’s guide to leaving your job gracefully.