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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.


Mike said...

I'd love to hear a counter to this, but as your former company is treating you terribly now and in the past, and since your management is already angry with you, you should just walk out and leave. By not being willing to work for their terrible wages and in their abusive environment, you've already burned your bridges with them.

Enjoy the next two weeks and start your new job with a fresh start. More importantly, send a message that people need to be treated like people, regardless off the economic environment.

Suzanne Lucas said...

I totally agree with the advice here. I also think Mike has a very good point--they won't be good about you leaving, ever. You'll always have a black mark against you as far as this company is concerned, so why suffer any longer?

Congratulations on the new job.

Ask a Manager said...

I would say that if they become outright abusive, it's reasonable to leave earlier than the two weeks (but be professional and calm about it; no storming out).

However, absent outright abuse, I think she should work out the full two weeks -- because it's the professional thing to do, even if her managers aren't professional. Also, in the future, you don't want them to be able to tell people, "She left on the spot and didn't even give us two weeks." (Plus, even if she's given up on caring what her managers will say about her, there are coworkers to consider; people who don't know the full story may end up just knowing that she didn't stay the two weeks, and if they pop up in her future, that could be problematic.)

Anonymous said...

Unless they're offering benefit payout incentives for a certain amount of notice (which is a new one for me - I'm not sure how common that is), a company has basically two carrots at their disposal for employees to give any notice at all in an employment-at-will situation: the possibility of rehire, and future references.

Based on the question-asker's scenario, future rehire isn't at all desirable unless there are radical changes at the current firm. And it seems likely that the reference issue is already questionable. But unless the supervisor is willing to just outright lie, the worst she can say is that you "only" gave two weeks notice. Clearly the asker is a valued employee, if such a significant counter-offer was made at a time when they're not hiring to fill vacancies.

However, having a questionable reference from your first post-college job can be a real liability when you go to get your third job. Those prospective employers will want to talk to people you've worked with/for, and that first job is the best resource (if you're not working for someone as cool as AAM and therefore able to ask your current manager for a reference).

So start thinking now about building a network of people you can use as professional references - people who left (or leave) the original firm that know the quality of your work, or people who leave your new job after working with you for a while. If you can give a reference who knows the story of how you performed in and left the first job, not offering someone who currently works there is less important, and lessens the impact of any "off-list" reference future prospective employers might seek from there.

Marie Bayer said...

Stick to your guns and work out your two weeks. As tempting as it is to walk out early don't do it.

Two reasons I suggest this.

Reason one is that you may end up working with some of these people again in your career so you don't want to have that following you around.

Reason two is that it is the professional thing to do and getting into professional habits is very important.

You gave a standard two week notice. The company accepted your notice then provided a counteroffer you declined. You're not obligated to do anything beyond what you originally stated you would do - work two weeks for knowledge transfer.

Good luck in the new job.

Suzanne Lucas said...

Just wanted to clarify that I wasn't agreeing with Mike's suggestion just to walk out--absolutely work the two weeks. Just observing that working 4 weeks won't make them any happier with her.

Ask a Manager said...

Yes! The day EHRL recommends walking off the job is a day I would be very amused to see.

Mike said...

I'd just like to give a bit of context to my earlier comment. The workplace environment described in the original post is nearly word for word the sort of environment I'm currently working in. Rampant workplace bullying, under compensated employees (we're in an industry that is currently growing, by the way), boss unwilling to hire enough people or purchase enough good equipment, it's all there.

So while the advice given by AaM is certainly the smart way to go, I'd give anything to leave right away.

Ask a Manager said...

Mike, totally! But two weeks will fly by, and I'm a big believer that it's more satisfying to leave a crap job knowing that you behaved awesomely than to give into the (admittedly satisfying) temptation of telling them to go shove it :)

But god knows we've all fantasized about it...

Jamie said...

As others have stated - I wouldn't leave prior to the two weeks unless things because abusive. Management aside, coworkers who have been short staffed for a while will need those two weeks to make sure to get all the to get all the important information out of the OP's head and into documentation before she goes.

That said, if it becomes hostile and abusive then walk - if that's the case your coworkers have bigger problems than lack of documentation.

When I took my current position I was replacing the previous IT who was moving out of state. She gave six months notice which left her the time to conduct the search for her replacement and four months to work with me before passing the torch.

I am so grateful that the execs here let her work out such a long notice period and that she was willing to stay for a smooth transition. It was a win/win for them - but I benefited the most.

Some positions - especially when training is highly specific (no network/database is exactly alike - you have to get to know them) and when the person will be the sole person in their department require more than two weeks notice.

I can't imaging wanting to leave, but if I ever did I wouldn't be comfortable giving less than a couple of months notice - I couldn't do that to the company or my replacement.

R.B. said...

I'm anticipating leaving my job (my spouse is job-searching post-PhD, and I won't miss it anyway) and I also work in a hostile environment, with only one other person (my boss). I will likely have months of notice before I go, but I am pretty certain she'll take it badly (even though I have kept excellent documentation). Should I talk to HR about it first?

CK said...

Hi everyone,

This is CK, the original question asker. First off, thank you all for the really valuable advice. Sticking to my guns and not giving them the extra is what my gut was telling me, but as I said, I've never resigned a position before and I wanted to make sure I did it correctly to preserve my own reputation and for the purpose of future references.

I always thought my boss would take it poorly, as he sees people leaving the company almost as a personal insult, and it has been a full-court press since I spoke with my supervisor to get me to stay or commit much more time than I'd like to now that I've officially given my resignation.

I've seen how other people who left voluntarily have been treated (inappropriately - for example, sending around a company-wide emailing saying that person wasn't a great loss or a good team member), so I always anticipated some of that, but I had no idea that the response would be as strong as it has been.

Thanks for the support - this seems like a great community, and I'm glad I stumbled upon it.

I look forward to starting my new job, and that will get me through the next two weeks!

Ask a Manager said...

R.B., I think the point here is that if an employer treats you well and has a track record of handling lots of notice well, then it's reasonable to consider giving extra notice. But you sound like your situation is the opposite of that!

CK: Good for you for sticking to it, and congratulations on your new job!

Anonymous said...

Notice is a courtesy, (not a right or expectation), given by someone who wants to leave on good terms, that may want a decent reference or possibly be eligible for rehire.

You've already given standard notice and are now labeled a flight risk if you stay and a traitor if you don't stick around to meet their needs.

Well, they weren't meeting your needs which is why you're leaving. Stick to your notice, wish them well and be done with it. Don't be surprised if you come back to find your desk boxed up when you don't agree to their terms. Good luck in your new job!

Rebecca said...

Do leave as much written help behind as you can for the next guy. My first two jobs out of college were ones where it took me months to figure out what was going on because my predecessor left no records on what they were doing or how. Now I always make sure to leave heaps of documentation for the next guy!

Waldo said...

Despite the temptation to say what you really think or bite back at the abuse, now is the time to ascend all of your previous cares. As the willow in the storm, bend in their hot breeze. (No, I'm not on anything...) The more they get red-faced, the more you should smile pleasantly - remember, you're leaving and soon won't be dealing with this. This is when you should allow their tirades to wash over you. Do your work. Be professional.

Don't react except to smile at them. When they've run out of steam, calmly state "I'll do the work that you ask of me, but there is no reason to scream at me. I have done nothing to deserve that."

One of my first professional jobs was horrible and made me miserable (no yelling, but a lot of disrespect), but occasionally customers would call me and scream their problems to me. I took great care (and joy) in stating calmly something to the effect that they must have called a wrong number and hung up. One time I may have said "Clearly you are emotional right now, and that is influencing your judgment. When you have calmed, please call me back so that I can best assist you."