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Showing posts with label resigning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label resigning. Show all posts

Saturday, October 23, 2010

can I accept a job knowing I plan to leave it in a few months?

A reader writes:

I have recently been offered a job with a company locally and have accepted it. However the hiring process a extensive background investigation is needed and will not be able to start this position until the January of 2011. I have more recently been offered a another job a couple of hours away. I would prefer to accept the position locally but I need an income that I could get from the other job a couple hours away. Is it acceptable to use this job until the other job and background investigation on done?

I get versions of this question all the time, all ultimately wanting to know:  When is it okay to take a job knowing you're likely to leave it quickly as soon as something better comes along?

First, two situations where I'll give you an immediate pass:  (1) If you're being honest with the first employer about your intent and they hire you knowing that, go for it, and (2) if this is a job or industry where high turnover is typical and routine, such as retail, call centers, and so forth, fine.

But aside from that, here are some principles that you should apply to any question along these lines:

* If you're not being candid with the employer, what will the impact be on them? In many businesses, an employee leaving after just a few months means that time, money, and other resources were wasted on training; they have to go through the time and expense of a new hiring process; and often the area your role was responsible for suffers setbacks, either minor or major. Is this a large business that can more easily absorb the impact, or a small business that will feel it much more? Is it a nonprofit that will have to divert resources away from a valuable mission to respond? Different organizations are impacted to different degrees by this, and you want to think about what the impact will be in your case.

* Are you willing to accept a possible hit to your own reputation?  It's likely that you will always be "the guy who left after we spent two months training him." You won't just burn bridges with the first organization; it may impact you other places too, because the world is fairly small. Are you willing to accept the possibility that you might be going after a job you really want some day and find that your interviewer was the co-worker who picked up the slack after you disappeared -- or knows one of those co-workers? (I know this sounds like a loaded question, but it's a genuine one. You might weigh everything and decide that, yes, you are willing to accept this. That's fine; I just want you to think it through first.)

Speaking of reputation, it's also worth asking yourself what your new employer will make of this. They may assume you're willing to do the same thing to them.

* This one is hard to quantify, but you should at least be aware that there were probably other people who really wanted that first job and would have been thrilled to get it ... and might have gotten if it the employer had known that you had secret plans to leave after a few months. Again, your call to make, but this should be part of the ethical landscape that you think about.

Now, whenever this topic comes up, someone points out that you don't owe employers any loyalty because they may fire or lay you off without notice, etc. But it's a rare employer who will hire someone planning to fire her in a couple of months, or who will hire you and then rescind the job offer when a better applicant shows up. And yes, plenty of employers treat employees badly, but it's far from true of everyone, so at least make sure you know who you're dealing with before you paint everyone with the same brush.

All that said, it's certainly true that employers make decisions based on what's in their own best interests. But the reason they don't, for instance, hire someone planning to fire her in two months, is because that's not in their best interests. It's not in their best interests to become known as an employer who does that kind of thing, or to make their current employees worry they'll do it to them. And it's not in their interests to become known as a company that treats people unfairly or callously, because they want to be able to attract and keep good people. And something similar is true for you: It's not in your own interests to get a reputation as someone who doesn't keep commitments, who cuts and runs, or who acts without integrity or concern for others -- because you want to to be able to work with good people too.

So just as employers will act in their own best interests, you should too. But you should make sure you have a really comprehensive picture of what those interests are -- and for all the reasons above, it's not as simple as "Job A is better than Job B."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

will people think it's irresponsible that I quit my job?

A reader writes:

I am in a competitive field in a competitive market. I am also a second-year MBA student. I joined a brand-name non-profit right before the recession started and instantly knew the position was a poor fit. Unfortunately, I felt stuck due the increasing unemployment. I've stuck around around for almost two years and started looking for a new position four months ago. I've had two interviews, but nothing has come to fruition.

My job is taking an emotional toll. In addition, the limited resources at the non-profit are adversely affecting my employability and skill-set. Financially, it is feasible that I can quit my job. My thought is that I can spend more time networking, finishing my MBA and working on my skill-set (aka being the best in the world at something).

I'm afraid to just quit my job. How do I message to people I interview with in the future that I just up and quit my job? Doesn't that come across as irresponsible? Any other thoughts on this topic?

You know, it shouldn't come across as irresponsible. If you're okay financially, why shouldn't you do this? You should be able to say, "Financially I was able to quit and not work for a while, so that's what I did." But for some reason, a lot of people get very judgy about that, as if you must have a job all the time, even when your finances don't require it, unless you have one of a short list of sanctioned excuses (raising a kid, taking care of a family member, returned to school, etc.). This is stupid, and as a society, we need to stop thinking like this.

You, however, have a pretty good excuse that you can use with those people: You wanted to spend more time focusing on your MBA. It's reasonable, and it gets you out of having to deal with people who think there's something wrong with recognizing that your finances allow you to do something other than work for a while.

Friday, September 17, 2010

help! my department is imploding

A reader writes:

My department is imploding, and I'm struggling to decide what I should do.

I've worked in in the IT department for a small health clinic for 10 months. In that time, 5 employees have left, and the rest are actively looking for new jobs elsewhere, including the VP and my direct supervisor. Reasons for leaving include the president of the company, who is demanding and hostile to employees, and the department's current managers, who seem to have checked out completely.

I've moved around a bit over the past few years (this is my third company in 5 years), and I was hoping to stay here for several years. I like a good portion of my work, and I have friends in the company who I admire and respect. Still, I feel worn down by the negativity in my department and constant whispering about potential job interviews and company gossip. Owing to the small size of the company, an internal transfer or promotion seems unlikely, as I'm the only employee who works in my field of technology and I don't have the expertise to become a manager yet.

Should I stick it out? If I decide to look for another job, how should I explain my current situation to a prospective employer? What questions should I ask during an interview to hopefully ensure that I find myself in a more productive office next time?

I can't tell if you're thinking of leaving because you too are bothered by the company's president and managers, or if it's that the instability of so many others leaving and actively seeking to leave that's bothering you. I get the sense that it's more the latter -- and if that's correct, then my advice is this:  Tune out everyone else's opinion of your bosses. The fact that they find conditions there intolerable doesn't mean that you do (unless of course you do, but again, I'm not getting that from your letter).

Different people have different deal-breakers. I once had one of the best working relationships of my life with a boss who a lot of other people found challenging to work with. You've got to get clarity about what your deal-breakers are, not what your coworkers' are.

And yes, high turnover can be stressful, but it can also be filled with opportunities for the people who remain, depending on your mindset.

Now, all that said, if I've interpreted your letter completely wrong and in fact you're miserable because of the management too and would be thinking about leaving even if your coworkers weren't, then that's a different matter. In that case, you need to decide what you value more: having a longer-term job on your resume or getting the hell out. What's your bottom line in this context? Only you can decide that and there's no right answer, but it's important to get really clear in your own mind about what matters most to you.

And if you do decide to leave, you have a fairly understandable reason you can use to explain your decision:  "In the 10 months I was there, __% of the employees in my department left." That kind of thing tends to function as social proof that you're not overreacting. And as for what you can ask next time to avoid a toxic situation, here are some previous posts that may help:


But remember, figure out what's tolerable to you, not your coworkers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

update about the boss who's angry over two weeks notice

Yesterday I printed a letter from someone whose boss was angry that she had only given two weeks notice and was pushing her to give at least a month. Because her boss had always been a jerk, I advised her that she should hold firm and stick to her original plan. She's now written back with this update:

Thanks so much for answering my question yesterday. Your advice and that of the commenters was invaluable. I have a follow up question, though, that I'd be very grateful to get your perspective on.

So, after I said I couldn't extend my notice past two weeks, the situation has now gotten to the point where I would label it abusive. Just this morning, my actions -- which I've done my absolute best to keep courteous and professional -- have been called "unprofessional," "a betrayal," and "an insult." My manager sat me down and berated me and even insulted me personally for 15 minutes, then copied me on a very nasty email to the head of the office and another manager here. I was also copied on the reply from the other manager, who called my actions "odd" and "hostile."

I have done nothing more than give my two weeks notice -- which at this company is seen as a betrayal apparently -- but that is all I have done. I'm now contemplating leaving even earlier though, as the work environment has really gotten hostile.

I am not due to get my final paycheck until the end of the month (we are paid monthly, so if I leave today, I still have 19 days pay owed to me). What is the likelihood that I would receive this paycheck at all if I left today? I'd like to walk out today, especially if it gets worse, but I need that final paycheck to tide me over until my new job starts in September. For those of you with experience in this, do you think they'd withhold that check at this point? I can't really afford a legal battle, so if that's a possibility, I just have to stick this out until I have it in hand...


As I said in the comments yesterday, unless they become outright abusive, you should work out the full two weeks because it's the professional thing to do, even if they themselves aren't professional. Additionally, you don't want them to be able to tell people in the future that you "didn't even give two weeks."

However. The caveat there was "unless they become outright abusive." 

You have three options at this point:

#1. Tolerate it. Suck it up and deal with it, knowing that it's only two weeks, and knowing that you're about to escape this forever, so who cares how crazy they become? This option gives you peace of mind about your paycheck. It also ensures, as someone pointed out in the comments yesterday, that the worst they can say about you in a reference check is that you "only gave two weeks notice" (unless they're willing to lie, which of course they might be). 

If you take this option, look at their craziness as entertainment and fantastic future stories.

#2. Leave now. Tell your boss, "Your treatment of me since I gave notice is unprofessional and hostile. I'm not willing to be subjected to that, so today will be my last day." Be prepared to leave immediately, as their reaction will probably require it. (This means have your stuff all packed up, personal stuff removed from your computer, etc.)

#3. A middle ground. Sit down with your boss and say, "I'm sorry you're upset with my two weeks notice. Two weeks is a very common professional standard. However, it's clear that you're upset with me. Is it still fine for me to be in the office for the next two weeks, or would it better for everyone if I were to leave now?"

She will probably rant at you about how of course you need to be there for the next two weeks. At that point, say, "I'd like to work the remaining two weeks and I don't want to leave anyone in the lurch. However, I need to be treated professionally during that time. I very much want to use the next two weeks to put my projects in order, write up documentation to leave behind, and so forth, but I do have a bottom line as far as respectful treatment. I'm not willing to continue to be berated for my decision. If we can't work together without the hostility, it would be better for everyone if I left now."

If the hostility continues, then you revert to option #2. (And be prepared for her to explode with hostility and tell you to get out immediately.)

Now, as for your paycheck, the law is very clear that they need to pay you for the days you've worked. But that doesn't mean that they will, of course. I recommend checking out wage laws for your state, because some of them require that a final paycheck be issued within 24 hours or other short periods, and if that's the case in your state, you can follow up with them about your check right away, rather than having to wait and see how they handle payroll at the end of the month. There are also fines for violating those laws, so if they have any sense at all, they'll conclude it's not worth the hassle to them. (Email me and let me know what state you're in, and I'll walk you through how to research this and how to approach them about it.)

In the future, I'd plan to warn reference-checkers that these people imploded when you gave notice. A good reference-checker will understand -- and hopefully by that point you'll have plenty of references from sane people at the new job you're about to start.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

manager is angry that I'm only giving two weeks notice

A reader writes:

I have been working at the same company (my first post-school job) for about 2 years now, and I've been moderately to very unhappy for most of my time here for a variety of factors (different working style from my boss which has lead to clashes in the past, public belittlement if something goes wrong, a team that is perennially understaffed, a boss who "passes the buck" and doesn't stick up for her employees with management, underpaid, very long hours -- 55+ per week is typical, etc.). 

I have been offered another job with very similar duties and a modest pay raise at a firm similar to mine, but who isn't a direct competitor. The benefits are better, as are the hours and the commute, and when I met with my future manager, I had that intangible feeling of connection -- we have similar styles, and I believe will work together harmoniously.

I've decided to take the new job, and yesterday I gave my manager my two weeks notice. She did not take it well, and she and the head of the office came through with quite a large counteroffer (which is almost an insult -- if they are able offer me a 40% pay raise now, then clearly I've been very underpaid for quite a while now.) I've turned it down -- my moving companies was never about the money -- and she did not take it well. 

Now the management is angry with me and want me to give more than my standard two weeks notice. They have basically threatened that I'll "burn bridges" in my entire industry if I don't give them at least a month (my team is quite understaffed and has been for about four months now, but my manager hasn't hired anyone to help out with the workload). I am fairly junior, not an executive or a manager, and as I understand it, two weeks is the standard notice for someone at my level.

What is the proper protocol here? I want to make the transition as smooth as possible, which I've said, and I would like to leave without any acrimony, but now I no longer think this is possible, as my boss takes people leaving quite personally. Should I have given more than two weeks notice, and am I at all obligated to do so?


Hold firm, remain professional, work out your remaining two weeks cheerfully no matter how unpleasant they are, leave behind as much documentation for your replacement as you have time to create in those two weeks, and then go start your new job without any regrets.

It's true that in some offices, more than two weeks notice is expected. But because that expectation differs from the wider norm, it's only reasonable if it's an office where employees are treated well. By asking for more notice than the cultural norm, an employer is essentially asking you to do them a favor. And guess what -- you don't get to poop all over your employees and then ask them for a favor.

(There are other ways of incentivizing longer notice periods too -- such as by linking a higher vacation time pay-out to a certain amount of notice -- but it doesn't sound like that's the case here.)

The best option for managers who want more than two weeks notice is to do what I've always tried to do: create an environment where employees know they can safely alert me to their plans to leave soon, without having to worry about being badgered or pushed out early. As a result of doing this, I've rarely had employees give only two weeks notice; in fact, I've had employees give as much as 10 months notice at times. But it's solely because I've treated them and other people giving longer notice periods well. Otherwise I'd have no right to expect it.

The fact is, while your managers would like you give them more time than the two-week standard, they've given up any right to expect it, by behaving like asses while you worked for them. And there's no need for you to stress over that; this situation is of their own making, and their bad reaction reflects poorly on them, not on you.

Stay professional, reiterate that you've enjoyed your time there but will be moving on, emphasize what you're planning to do to make a smooth transition, and stick to your plans.

Monday, November 2, 2009

should I give advance notice that I plan to resign?

A reader writes:

I've worked at a large non-profit for 4 years. I've recently interviewed at another non-profit and expect that they will make a job offer soon. I'm concerned about how I'll resign if offered the new job, and I'd appreciate your advice based on the following:

* My manager and vice president constantly say they don't want to be blind-sided by resignations; they want to be involved in employees' decisions to leave...


* Former colleagues who resigned without advance conversations with management were told they've burned their bridges, they're disloyal, etc. (These individuals worked here for 3+ years, gave 2+ weeks notice, and were model employees.)


* I'm amicable (but not close) with my boss, and I would jump at the chance to work in this new job if it were offered. I have no desire to remain at my current organization.


Would you advise me to tell my boss I'm looking to leave in the coming months (with no firm job offer in-hand)? If not, how do I involve her in my "decision-making process" to leave? I do not want to burn bridges or be perceived as unprofessional. Please advise.


Ha. Your company is funny. And also liars.

The first two points are in direct contradiction to each other: Managers who react badly to resignations give up any right to expect employees to give them more than two weeks notice.

Managers who get significant amounts of notice when an employee is thinking about leaving are managers who make it safe for employees to do that. That does not mean attacking people when they resign.

For instance, as I've written about before, I've always tried to create an environment where employees know they can safely alert me to their plans to leave soon, without having to worry about being badgered or pushed out early, and as a result I've rarely had employees give only two weeks notice; in fact, I've had employees give as much as 10 months notice at times. But it's solely because they've seen how other people giving long notice periods have been treated. Otherwise I'd have no right to expect it.

So while I'm sure your managers want advance notice and "to be involved in employees' decisions to leave," the reality is that they're making it impossible for you to do that. And there's no need for you to stress over that; this situation is of their own making.

What people do tells you a lot more than what people say. Believe their actions. And their actions in this case say you'd be a fool to alert them that you're thinking about leaving.

Friday, September 18, 2009

giving notice when boss will tell you to leave immediately

A reader writes:

I am working in retail fine jewelry at present, and have secured another job. I know that my current manager will tell me to leave the day I resign, most likely call someone in to cover my shift. How do I resign gracefully, appearing to be giving two weeks' notice when in fact, it will only be a few days' notice? I cannot afford to lose two weeks' pay.

If you are confident that you're going to be asked to leave the day you give notice (because you've seen your manager do that to others in similar situations), then you should simply wait to give your notice until you're ready for it to be your last day.

This is the price managers pay when they handle resignations like that. Smart managers create an atmosphere where this doesn't happen to them -- because they treat resigning employees well.

There are some employers who do have a legitimate business need to have resigning employees leave immediately (for instance, those worried about trade secrets), but most don't. Smart employers will make it known that employees are welcome to work out their notice periods, since that ensures that employees will continue to give them that notice.

Employees can figure out what type of employer they're working for by paying attention to how your boss has handled other employees who resign. Are people shown the door immediately? Pushed out earlier than they would have otherwise planned to leave? If so, assume the same may happen to you. But if your employer has a track record of behaving well in these situations, return the favor and give a reasonable notice period.

(Note: This is NOT license to skip giving notice in any situation other than one where your boss has a sustained track record of having people leave immediately. If 9 times out of 10, she has welcomed the notice period and just once told someone to leave that day, there were reasons for it that were specific to that one person. In that case, you still need to give notice -- at least if you want to leave without burning bridges.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

new HR coordinator without resources asks whether to leave

A reader writes:

I graduated in 07 with a BA. Since than, I’ve been working FT while completing my MBA in HR as well. I began my HR career working as a recruiter for a staffing agency for about a year, but soon found out that sales is not what I really want to pursue. As a result, since Nov. of last year, I found another position working as a HR Coordinator for a local company. As for my MBA, I will be done with it this Sept. My ultimate goal is to work in corporate HR.

Now, you may ask me what is the problem? Everything is sounding to be on the right track. Well… the problem lies with my current position. I accepted this position thinking that I would learn a lot from it and that it would prepare me for a future corporate position. However, to my surprise, that is not the case at all. I get no guidance from this position. Besides me in the HR department, there is only one other person and she is solely responsible for payroll. So as a result, I have to rely on myself to research on things. For instance, right when I started, I was asked to redo the employee handbook by myself. Everything that is going here, I have to research and figure it out on my own. Now I know some people will say that this is a good learning experience but I really don’t think so. There are so many aspects of HR and I would rather work for someone who’s experienced and not put the company at risk.

So for the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to apply for other positions but have found no luck. I think the main reason for that is because my length of employment. I’ve only been at this position for 8 months and already I’m applying somewhere else. If this is the case, do you advice that I should stay with this position longer and apply later or should I continue my application? Does short length of employment really raise a red flag?

First, let me say that I'm not in HR and so I'm hoping that people who are will weigh in here as well.

For what it's worth, you wanted a position you'd learn from, and having to figure stuff out on your own is a damn good way of learning. There are a lot of people who'd love to have a job where they're given that kind of autonomy and responsibility. (Although I hope they're providing you with access to legal counsel so that you have someone reviewing your work to ensure you're complying with the law.)

Out of curiosity, did you realize when you accepted the job that there would be no experienced HR person working with you? I'm trying to figure out how this ended up being a surprise.

But in any case, if this really isn't what you want and you just aren't the type of person who wants to teach yourself (and you're not alone if that's the case), you can certainly look for other jobs. Yes, short stays are a red flag, so you'd want to make sure that you stay in your next job for a good long period. And obviously you shouldn't quit this job before you have another one lined up.

(I want to really emphasize that to everyone: Do not quit your job without having another one lined up. The economy is astoundingly bad. I'm advertising for several positions right now, and I've been blown away by the swarm of highly qualified applicants for relatively low-paying positions. You do not want to be jobless if you can help it.)

But I'd stay. It sounds kind of awesome to me, as long as your boss is willing to give you access to legal people when you need them. But maybe actual HR people are about to tell me I'm wrong, so stay tuned in the comments section.

Monday, April 13, 2009

the right time to resign

Can you resign when your department is in the middle of a huge, important project in which you're playing a key role? Will leaving at a "bad time" hurt your relationships or references in the future?

Over at U.S. News & World Report today, I answer a reader's question about this. Please head on over there and check it out! (And leave your own thoughts in the comments on that page.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

choosing end date when resigning

A reader writes:

I am leaving my job within the next month. I would like to carry over my end date into a new month in order to stay eligible for benefits within the next month. When I give a 2 week notice, is it 10 working days and can I give my notice mid-week?

Typically, two weeks notice means 10 business days, and you can give it any time during the week that you want.

However, be aware that employers can handle this however they want; your boss is free to tell you that they don't need you to work the full two weeks and your last day will be this Friday -- or even today.

Companies vary widely in how they handle this. Personally, I am a big fan of letting people work their entire notice period, even when they give months of notice -- because it's very helpful to me to be able to get a head start on the hiring process before the person is gone. However, there are some circumstances where I'd have a resigning employee leave faster than their notice period, such as a new-ish employee who is still being trained (since there's no point in continuing to train someone who is about to leave) or a poor performer.

Other companies do things differently. Your best bet is to pay attention to how your employer has handled other employees who resign. Are people shown the door immediately? Pushed out earlier than they would have otherwise planned to leave? Allowed to work their full notice period?

In any case, don't assume that you control the selection of your last day once you give notice (especially if you're deliberately manipulating it in order to extend benefits, something your employer might not be thrilled about).

Monday, December 8, 2008

resigning without 2 weeks notice

A reader writes:

Six months ago I was laid off from my job where I was a salaried employee with benefits. Since then, I have found employment freelancing for a media company where I am paid hourly with no benefits. The people in my position do not have a contract or a set schedule so you never know if you will be working a 2 hour shift or a 20 hour shift. Frequently we receive day-of notice that there is no work for us that day. If I were working 40+ hours a week, I wouldn’t mind so much, but lately, the work has slowed down to a point where in the past month I have been working 4, 8, 12 hour weeks.

I have expressed my concern to my boss about work being so slow lately. She keeps telling me that it will pick up, but things keep falling through (due to reasons beyond her control). She assures me that it will pick up in January. I love my boss. She took a chance on me when a lot of people didn’t and I have learned so much from her, which is why I don’t want to burn this bridge.

I am considering moving back home which is in another part of the country in order to save money. But with the holidays approaching (and my company being closed for nearly 2 weeks around Christmas and New Years) and the current economy, I can’t hold out much longer. I would like to cut my losses while I still can. Is there ever a situation where it is acceptable to give less than 2 weeks notice? And if so, how do I quit on good terms so that I can work for this company again in the future?

This is one of the few situations where it might be okay to quit with less than two weeks notice -- because your company is giving you little work and little notice of what your work (and thus your pay) will be like day to day.

I recommend simply talking to your boss. If you've made up your mind to leave and it's just a question of timing, just tell her that your finances have made it impossible to stay. Ask for her guidance on the question of whether you could leave with only a week (or less) of notice and whether it would be a problem or not. With the company about to close for the holidays and work so light, it might be a non-issue to them. Just ask.

And if she tells you that they really need the two weeks notice and can't be flexible, then you can figure out from there how much of a hardship it would be to you to give it. If she makes it clear that two weeks is expected no matter what, and you really can't give it without significant hardship, then just be really apologetic, even mortified, and explain that there's been so little work that you're now in dire financial straits and need to take this opportunity while it's in front of you. Sounding genuinely sorry often makes people want to cut you some slack.

Good luck!

Monday, July 28, 2008

how to resign gracefully

I get a lot of questions from people who are nervous about the best way to tell their boss they're resigning. Fortunately, there's a basic formula for doing it well, and that's what I wrote about for U.S. News & World Report this week. Check it out, and as always, I hope you'll weigh in in the comments over there.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

should I tell my boss I'm leaving after my vacation?

A reader writes:

I have been with my employer for 1.5+ years, and at the start of this year I told them I was going to go to Europe in September. I booked my leave time, even though half of it is unpaid as I haven't accrued enough paid leave. This is all fine, and very nice of them to allow, but then I did give them 8 months notice!

In the last 6 months, however, I've become increasingly dissatisfied with my job. Eventually I made the decision that I wanted a new job, and about 3 months ago I put out some feelers about whether it was worth trying to find a new job, since I would need 8 weeks leave very quickly. A recruiter friend basically told me there was little point trying to find a new job since a new employer was unlikely to want to take me on with an 8 week holiday in the future.

So I put the issue to bed until after the holiday, but I'm feeling a bit guilty now. Essentially I intend to go on holidays (we leave in 7 weeks), and then come home and try to find a new job.
I already know they aren't replacing me while I'm away, the owner of our business (in another branch) was too disorganized to hire + train someone new, so our little office will go from 2 to 1 (+ 2 in warehouse) while I'm gone. I know this stresses out my manager, as he will have to cope with everything alone while I'm gone.

Should I tell him I'm unhappy with my position and will be job hunting after my holiday? My fear is I will come back to no job entirely though!

(As a side note, I haven't told my manager I'm unhappy in my position, as there's only two of us. Essentially if I don't like my duties, I simply need to ship out, there's no way to reorganize them, and I don't hold it against him. It's just unfortunate that this job isn't the best fit it could be for me.)

I'm in Australia, have no contract exempt/non-exempt status or anything like that to consider. Its more that we're such a little team I don't want him to think I'm screwing him over.

This is tricky. A lot of it depends on your relationship with your employer and your knowledge of how willing they've been to work with other people in similar situations. If you were a very long-time employee, I'd say to go ahead and give them a heads-up now ... but at 1.5 years and a long vacation planned, I'd be more cautious.

If you talk to them now, you risk them either reneging on their agreement to let you take the long trip (because they have no more incentive to keep you happy) or replacing you before you're ready for it.

Regarding the ethics of it and the guilt you're feeling: It's true that I wouldn't be thrilled if I gave an employee special permission to take eight weeks off and she quit soon after returning. But these things happen; people move on to new jobs, and employers know that (well, the sensible ones do). The fact is, they approved your vacation time, and they didn't ask you for any sort of long-term commitment in exchange. So I don't think it's crazy to look at this as two entirely separate issues.

Additionally, you don't know how long the job search will take once you return; if the Australian job market is anything like the U.S.'s right now, you may end up staying there long enough that the vacation will become a non-issue anyway.

Ultimately, I think this illustrates the need for employers to make it safer for employees to be honest with them when they're thinking about leaving. The reason most employees aren't candid about it is because they have reason to think they'll be pushed out earlier than they wanted to leave (often because they've seen that happen to others). So it's in employers' best interests to create an environment where employees know they can safely talk about this sort of thing, but too few of them do, and they end up with employees who can't safely divulge their plans.

old employer torpedoing new job offer

A reader writes:

My brother in-law, Ryan, has worked for his now-former company for a couple of years now. He began looking at changing careers and was recently offered a new job. This new job would be as a product representative for a company that is utilized by the same company he had been working for. He accepted his new offer and was very excited to start. However, the new job required that he start immediately, so he was unable to give notice to the former and he had to leave abruptly, not by his choice, but because he wanted the new job and it seemed a necessary evil.

His immediate supervisor wished him luck and understood the situation. The district manager, however, after hearing Ryan was leaving, took it upon himself to call Ryan's new employer to tell them he would not be welcome in the stores as a product rep, simply because he was upset that no notice was given. This was not a reference check, nor did the new company instigate contact. It was simply the district manager's attempt to submarine Ryan's new career. Upon hearing this, the job offer is in danger of being rescinded, post-acceptance, because "if he is not welcome in-store, he is of no use." Now, Ryan cannot go back and may effectively be unemployed because his former district manager decided to keep him from succeeding at his new job.

My question is whether this is legal or not, and what options he may have going forward as he will also have to explain this situation to every prospective employer should he not get this job, and his professional reputation may be tainted. Can you help?

Ugh, what a horrible situation. Yes, it's probably legal. Really jerky though.

If I were Ryan, I'd appeal to the immediate supervisor and ask him to intervene. Ryan should ask him to plead his case to the district manager and see if the damage can be undone. He should also speak with the new employer, explain that he gave no notice at their request, and ask them to work with him on finding a way to fix the situation.

I know it's of no help now, but always, always give notice. A company that refuses to understand that you need to give notice to your current employer is a company that is likely to be unreasonable in other ways too (as we're seeing now).

Update: A reader wrote to suggest that Ryan might have a legal case under tortious interference, which is a legal violation related to intentionally damaging someone's business relationships. My own reading (and I am not a lawyer) was that it doesn't apply here, because the old employer is within his rights to say that they won't deal with Ryan as a product rep because of the way his employment ended (again, a jerk, but within his rights). But I'm not a lawyer and if he's seriously interested in potential legal action, he should talk to one who specializes in employment law.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

should you be honest in an exit interview?

A reader writes:

I am leaving my job in a few days, on excellent terms. Our HR manager just set up the exit interview and (somewhat to my surprise) asked me to fill out an exit survey. Is this normal? This is my first "real" job, so I don't know.

The survey asks, among other things, my reasons for leaving. Fair enough. However, I'm concerned that the unvarnished truth could damage the terms of my departure. Am I supposed to tell it? My stated and primary reason for leaving is to go back to school, but I've been very unhappy with certain changes in company culture in recent months, such as increasingly long hours (55 is the minimum, 60+ is very common) and the expectation that we all work the weekends. The company has grown faster than we can hire, but these were not the expectations I signed up for. I have a great boss with whom I have spoken in private about these items (my boss agreed but is not in a position to make changes), but I'm not so comfortable talking with HR. At the same time, my coworkers have expressed fear over my imminent departure, and turnover is through the roof. Morale is terrible. Should I voice the concerns of the junior people, or should I just make sure the terms of my departure stay excellent?

Yes, exit interviews and exit surveys are very common. People frequently recommend not being candid on them, out of fear of burning your bridges ... but I totally disagree. As a manager, I know there are things going on that I don't know about, and I rely on people being candid with me so that I can fix things that need to be fixed -- whether it's unreasonable expectations, a tyrannical manager, or whatever. So I cringe every time I see people advised not to be forthright in exit interviews.

That said, you do want to factor in what you know about how your company, and this HR manager in particular, handles honest feedback. Do they have a history of shooting the messenger? If so, they have only themselves to blame if no one is candid with them. But assuming they've seemed reasonably open to feedback in the past, my advice is to be honest about the things that bothered you. And assuming you can do so without resorting to lying, balance it out with comments about things you did like, so that you don't leave them with an impression of overwhelming disgruntlement.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

didn't give full two weeks notice

A reader writes:

I quit my first job out of college after staying at a company for a year because I found a new opportunity. However, I did not give a full two weeks notice. I told my manager the day he came back from a vacation and by that time, I had to start my new job in a week and a half. He was very upset and asked if I could stay a week longer but I wasn't able to and I didn't want to start my new job on a negative note. It still haunts me to this day. I have learned my lesson and this time around, I gave a two month notice to my employer that I am quitting to go back to school.

When looking for a job in the future, how negatively will this affect me? And what could I do to not jeopardize future opportunities? Should I bring this up before a background check is conducted? I am sure that my future employers will find out about what happened at my first job when doing background checks because I am ineligible for rehire.

Oh jeez. Penalizing you for giving two or three days less notice than they would have preferred is silly, especially since it would have been a full two weeks if your boss hadn't been on vacation. Believe me, I am huge on giving lots of notice -- like months and months -- but two or three days really doesn't amount to much in the larger scheme of things.

You can explain this to future employers if it comes up, by explaining it exactly the way you did here. Any reasonable employer isn't going to hold it against you.

Should you bring it up ahead of time? If you're sure the reference isn't going to be a good one because of it, then yes. You could say something like, "By the way, I had glowing reviews from my boss at that job, but I was only able to give a week and a half notice rather than a full two weeks when I left, since he had been on vacation earlier. He wasn't happy about it, and I do worry that it could color that reference. I've always given lots of notice ever since." And if you can offer another reference from that company who can speak to your work there, that would be good too, although not strictly necessary. (In fact, sometimes merely offering it in this sort of situation is reassurance enough, even if they don't call the alternate.)

But I do wonder if the reference is going to be as bad as you think. It wouldn't be a bad idea to call them and ask, so that you know for sure.

By the way, if you need to give notice and your boss is on vacation, give your notice to someone else -- HR or, if you don't have an HR department, your boss' boss. Less than ideal, yes, but then you can't be blamed for not giving appropriate notice. People will understand why you wanted to alert them right away and not wait. And most of them will appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

quitting after only six months

A reader writes:

First I would just like to say I am a frequent visitor of your blog and have gleaned a lot of helpful information from it, so thank you. Secondly, I was wondering if you could provide some insight about the appropriate amount of time to stay at a job you dislike. I've been at my job for six months now and really do not like it. My manager and co-workers I interviewed with did not misrepresent the position in any way, I just feel like it is not a good match. I also have not received any negative feedback and had a pretty good 90-day review. However, despite all this, I feel very uncomfortable in my position. The majority of the clients I have to deal with are very demanding and difficult to manage. I feel, however, that you should give a job at least a year before moving on. In fact, I have a nine-month internship on my resume and I'm always asked in interviews why I was there for such a short period of time until I explain it was an internship that ended. Because I receive that question so often, I don't want to add another "black mark" to my resume, so to speak. Any insight you have would be greatly appreciated.

I have two suggestions:

1. Have you talked to your manager about the things you're not feeling comfortable with? He or she might be able to help. Frequently when people are unhappy with some aspect of their job, they suffer silently rather than speaking up. Not every problem is surmountable, of course, but quite a few are, and even if you're convinced it's not worth raising, you might be surprised if you give it a shot. Of course, it's also possible that there might be nothing he/she can do -- because it truly is just a mismatch, or because the manager isn't particularly adept in such situations, or whatever. Which leads us to...

2. I'd wait three months before you start looking for another position. Your job search is going to take some time, so if you start when you've been in your present job nine months, you'll likely have been there a year (if not longer) by the time you leave for something else. Three months isn't all that long to stick it out before you start looking, and it'll position you better to have the full year-long stay to point to.

But really, if your manager is even the tiniest bit approachable and competent, talk to her about the discomfort you're having. Good luck!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

offering to consult after resigning

A reader writes:

Pending a job offer, I'm looking to leave my current organization, a non-profit, where I have been for over 5 years. During this time, there has been a tremendous amount of growth - when I started there were just over 30 full-timers, now there are well over 200. While there, I launched all web and e-business practices and I can solidly say I am currently the only one on staff that can maintain the current website. When I resign, I would like to offer my services as a "consultant" or at least continue the work they need on a part-time basis until they hire another full-timer, which I do not think will be a quick nor easy thing. While the option of taking a consultant hourly wage is extremely beneficial for me, my hope is to offer them the best financial option with the easiest transition because I certainly do still care about the organization and don't want to see it struggle. I believe I could make double my current hourly salary doing this, as well as underbid any flat web consultant they could hire - who would not know the business or those things that are particularly difficult to accomplish in our industry.

So with all the being said, what is a proper and appealing way to approach this as I resign? I certainly don't want to seem cocky or rude, but they are going to be a bit shocked, and even more so if they sever ties with me with no back-up plan.

This should be pretty straightforward. When you meet with your manager to give your resignation, say that you want to help however you can to ease the transition, including continuing to work on a consultant basis until they have a replacement trained. Your boss will likely not give you an answer then and there, and meanwhile you should also mention the other usual things you should offer when you want to leave an organization on good terms, such as working during your remaining time there to thoroughly document your areas of responsibility, leaving a detailed training manual for your replacement, etc.

If your manager doesn't bring up your offer to work as a consultant on her own after that, it's fine to directly inquire -- "Sue, have you had a chance to think about whether you'd want me helping out as a consultant after I go?" If the organization is interested, they might have no idea what an appropriate rate of pay is -- they may even think it's appropriate to offer whatever your current salary breaks down to when calculated as an hourly rate. If so, you can explain that consultants typically charge more than salaried workers, because they aren't getting benefits, etc. Tell them what rate you think would be fair, and explain that it's lower than the market rate for this sort of work because you care about the organization (assuming that it is).

Do be prepared for the possibility that they won't take you up on it, of course. I would actually be surprised if a 200-person organization wasn't able to continue running their Web site in this situation since -- unless the site is in some particularly rare programming language -- a competent Web person should be able to step in and pick up where you left off. That doesn't mean your offer won't be hugely helpful -- it very well may be, particularly while they're searching for a replacement. But we all tend to think our offices would be in shambles without us, even though life goes on when someone resigns. I mean that in a nicer way than it probably sounds; it's clear that you care about your nonprofit and I like that. Good luck, and write back and tell us what happens.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

leadership style in Afghanistan

A reader writes:

I have been working with First Micro Finance Bank of Afghanistan for the last 8 months and I am leaving this organization because of personal problems. The leadership style in Afghanistan is very authoritative and I have brought a new sort of leadership style in this company where everyone is open and free to speak up. I think I have spoiled my employees a little. Now that I am leaving, they are hiring another Training Manager for my department. How do I talk to the new manager and what should I tell him/her how to handle the training department’s employees?

What an interesting dilemma. You probably can't change the new manager's management style, since you'll presumably only have a limited period of overlap with him or her. But you likely have the most chance of having an impact if you talk to him or her about how a more open style has benefited the company. Are there bottom line results you can point to, as support for a less authoritative leadership style?

Of course, many incoming managers may have their own plans and reject this advice, particularly if the advice is contrary to the dominant culture you're operating in. So to get the best results, frame it as much as possible as being the approach that got you the best results, rather than a personal preference that you're pushing on the new person.

You might also talk to the department employees and prepare them for the fact that the new person is likely to bring his or her own style to the job.

Beyond that, I'm not sure how much of this is in your hands. Any ideas from anyone else?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

old boss blackmailing reader after new job offer

A reader writes:

I gave my two weeks notice this week at my current company. However, there is now some sort of issue. My boss said yesterday she would like me to stay until after the holidays. I already accepted the offer for two weeks from now and I had told her this when I resigned. However, yesterday she threatened to call my new boss and tell her I have a poor attendance record. This is really not true, in that I only took the amount of sick days granted to everyone but for some reason I had gotten in trouble for this awhile back when I had doctor's notes and was even in the hospital for a bad infection. But they even wrote on my last review that I had poor attendance and needed to obey company policies, even though I never thought I did anything wrong. But really after all of that I would not want to stay and jeopardize my time with the other company. I don't really know what to do.

It's unprofessional of your boss to try to blackmail you into staying longer. If she had an issue with your attendance, she should have addressed it with you at the time or utilized the option of discussing it if she received a reference call for you.

You know what? I wouldn't let it bother you at all. Tell her firmly and politely that you're sorry but you already made a commitment to the new company and can't alter it, but that you're willing to do whatever you can to leave things in good order when you go -- i.e., put time into leaving the work you're responsible for organized and in a form that will be understandable to her and your replacement, perhaps even writing a "manual" for your job. But hold firm on the exit date you gave her.

Chances are very good that she's not going to follow through on her threat. If she does, explain to the new company that your boss is reacting poorly to your leaving and tried to push you into staying longer, then blew up when you wouldn't. (Present this in as neutral and unemotional a light as possible; you don't want to sound like you're badmouthing her.) You can explain that you followed company policy on attendance as well. Hold firm -- you're out of there very soon. Congratulations on the new job!