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How to Give Feedback When You Leave a Job

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I've found a great new job, and now it's time to resign. What's appropriate to include in a resignation letter—how honest should I be?

A: While it's tempting to unload all your frustrations with the job you're leaving in your resignation letter, this isn't the time to do it, and you certainly don't want to put anything in writing that might come back to haunt you.

Your letter should be short and to the point. Basically, it should say something like this:

"Effective today, (date), I am resigning my position of (title). My last day will be (fill in date—usually two weeks from your resignation date). Thank you for the opportunity to work for (name of organization), and I wish you continued success."

Keep in mind that you still may need a reference from your current organization—even if you already have a new job. You also want to be paid for any accrued vacation time and any retirement funds you invested in the employer's program. I wouldn't expect an organization to be vindictive enough to try to keep your money, but why chance it?

So how should you provide feedback when you're on the way out? An exit interview is the appropriate time to share your complaints or suggestions for how the organization can improve.

Typically, the exit interview takes place on your last day of work and is conducted by HR. The interviewer usually asks a series of questions about why you're leaving and your opinions on how the organization generally treats its staff. You may be asked to rate the benefits and compensation you received or to share any suggestions on how to improve the organization. You'll be asked to return any company property that belongs to the organization (like keys and cellphones or other electronic devices) and be reminded to update your mailing address for your W-2 at the end of the year if needed. Lastly, you'll learn when your employer-paid benefits will end and about your rights related to continued health insurance coverage under COBRA.

An exit interview is the appropriate time to share your complaints or suggestions for how the organization can improve.

Ideally, you'll have an opportunity to give any final thoughts on your time with the organization. Expressing your thoughts in this context will have a much greater impact on the organization and won't require you to put any negative feedback in writing.

If your employer doesn't offer an exit interview, ask for one. Most organizations want to learn how they can get better, so speak up—just don't put it in your resignation letter.

One final note: If you're resigning because you've been bullied or harassed, let HR know, and, if it ever happens again, please don't resign before you give your organization a chance to resolve the issue.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected].

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