Idly looking at websites for some design ideas, I ended up on those concerned with the letters of resignation. The multitude of such sites offering advice and instruction on how to write resignation letters was very noticeable, as was the large number of instructions about things that supposedly should and should not be written in them. Resignation letters, it seems, should formally set out the exact title of the job or other position the writer has held, the exact name of the person resigning, the exact period of notice they are expected to give, an offer to train any replacement, and a thank you to the organisation they are resigning from. They should not say there is a problem that has led to the resignation, there should be no mention of any incompetence etc on the part of anybody in either higher or lower organisational positions, there should be no mention of better pay or a better job or other organisational position elsewhere, indeed, it seems that there should be no mention of anything relevant about why the person has resigned. Why these ‘do not write’ instructions? What is on the websites is kind of guide to conventional etiquette. And the reason boils down to self-interest, because the organisation may be asked to provide a reference later, and the organisational people being complained about might be those writing such a reference.

But. But what if the purpose of resignation is not to make a clean getaway like this but to make waves, to express what the problems are as part of a deliberate exit policy? This is briefly considered on some of the websites but just as unnecessary moaning. The idea of principles driving resignation is not considered, there are no principles in the guides, just self-interest. However, most of the letters of resignation that are written about are those that involve principles, bold dramatic gestures of a public kind, like politicians resigning from government. The variants indicate the existence of a spectrum from resignation entirely on principle through to formulaic resignation for unstated reasons, and that apparently clear-cut examples might include different impulses.

The photograph? The Abdication [aka resignation] letter of Edward VIII as King of Great Britain. it is a model of blandness, and behind the scenes while principle was emphasised about ‘I cannot do this without the woman I love’ stuff, in practice and behind the scenes it was driven by self-interest.

Last updated:  19 September 2019