Google Co-Founder Resignation Letter Shows How It’s Done

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have resigned from their leadership positions with the company. While continuing as CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai will also inherit the role of CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, from Page.

This is a big change in tech, to put it mildly. Although Page and Brin weren’t the most public figures (neither gave many press interviews in the past few years, and Page hadn’t spoken on an earnings or investor call in quite some time), they were icons within Silicon Valley, where the mystique of the startup founder persists. Just as it’s hard to imagine Mark Zuckerberg stepping back from Facebook or Jeff Bezos deciding to leave Amazon, the idea of the Google duo handing off the reins was seemingly unimaginable.

But Google faces a number of controversies, including the rise of activist employees demanding their employer terminate its military contracts and adjust its sexual-harassment policies. Google has also endured persistent antitrust investigations, accompanied by massive fines. Perhaps Page and Brin thought that they should step back so a new generation of Google leadership could tackle these very public, very messy issues.  

It’s worth examining what Page and Brin wrote to their employees about their departure, if only because it provides some good insight into the “ideal” resignation letter. Because their posting is very long, we’ll just pull out some choice excerpts. Here’s a key paragraph from the beginning:

“Since we wrote our first founders’ letter, the company has evolved and matured. Within Google, there are all the popular consumer services that followed Search, such as Maps, Photos, and YouTube; a global ecosystem of devices powered by our Android and Chrome platforms, including our own Made by Google devices; Google Cloud, including GCP and G Suite; and of course a base of fundamental technologies around machine learning, cloud computing, and software engineering. It’s an honor that billions of people have chosen to make these products central to their lives—this is a trust and responsibility that Google will always work to live up to.”

When writing a resignation letter, it’s important to express gratitude. This can take multiple forms, depending on your circumstances. If you’re not feeling particularly loquacious (and to be fair, most resignation letters should be short and to the point), you can simply write something along the lines of, “We accomplished some interesting things, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow.”

Recapping your company accomplishments is a great idea, especially if you plan on turning around and asking for a recommendation or favor from your former employers in the near future. As people leave, it’s sometimes easy to forget everything they managed to accomplish.

Page and Brin spend hundreds of words detailing those accomplishments. While they might have some personal bones to pick with people within the company, they have nothing but praise for their successor:

“Sundar [Pichai] brings humility and a deep passion for technology to our users, partners and our employees every day. He’s worked closely with us for 15 years, through the formation of Alphabet, as CEO of Google, and a member of the Alphabet Board of Directors. He shares our confidence in the value of the Alphabet structure, and the ability it provides us to tackle big challenges through technology. There is no one that we have relied on more since Alphabet was founded, and no better person to lead Google and Alphabet into the future.”

When writing your own resignation letter, take care to not burn bridges. Sure, you might be leaving under less-than-ideal circumstances, but there’s no reason to use your letter as a way to settle old scores—there’s simply no upside for you.

One last bit worth quoting:

“We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders. In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about!”

Your resignation letter should feature a timeline and next steps (“My planned last day is two weeks from today”), including a definite date of departure, a mention of how you’ll handle any outstanding projects, and so on.

While it’s a little lengthy, Page and Brin just showed how to craft an ideal departure missive. Keep some of its core points in mind if you ever find yourself drafting a resignation letter.