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Am I right to leave my company in this way?
March 15, 2013 9:03 AM   Subscribe

I am planning on leaving my company in late spring to go to grad school in the fall. Am I employing the ethically right approach here?

I have been working for the Acme Company as a salaried, at-will employee for several years and on my current client (Global) for a little bit over a year. This year, I applied, was accepted and am planning on attending graduate school in a totally unrelated field. My plan all along has been to leave Acme at the end of May, travel for a bit and start grad school in the fall.

In early February -- at which point I hadn't heard back from any schools -- I was basically reassigned to the Widget Co business (with a really rough commute), a new client of Acme's, as their one-person on-site analyst. They theoretically phrased my reassignment as an "offer," but it was really clear that I was being expected to take on the Widget business (and it would have looked strange not to jump at this new, higher-responsibility quasi-promotion). Widget had signed a contract with Acme effective 1/1, including an on-site, which Acme hadn't provided resulting in pressure from Widget. When they found me internally there was a huge sigh of relief; I am transitioning over from the Global business to Widget this month, effective 4/1.

However, I've subsequently been accepted to grad school and fully plan on going. Since they've moved me over to Widget, Acme has already started recruiting for my current position at Global with some pretty compelling candidates. I haven't mentioned my imminent departure to Acme/Widget because my suspicion is that if I did, they would just let me go and fill my position with someone new -- after all, if you knew that the person you'd just tapped to fill this position was leaving in two months, wouldn't you find somebody else instead? And I could really use the couple of months' savings to pay for my summer travel.

So my current plan is to get set up on the Widget business, work there for a couple of months, give two weeks' notice mid-May and then depart at the end of the month.

My gut feeling is that this is ethically totally fine -- Acme is a big public corporation, and they don't (and haven't) hesitated to let people or whole divisions go, and I'm on at-will employment. They haven't hesitated to move me around to new clients, frequent travel to which severely impacted my quality of life, so I shouldn't hesitate to leave as well with the courtesy two weeks' notice.

Is that right? I'm asking so that people can either confirm this feeling: that's totally OK! Or tell me why this is unethical and what I should do instead (longer notice?) I want to do the "right thing," but also the right thing for me.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
My gut feeling is that this is ethically totally fine -- Acme is a big public corporation, and they don't (and haven't) hesitated to let people or whole divisions go, and I'm on at-will employment. They haven't hesitated to move me around to new clients, frequent travel to which severely impacted my quality of life, so I shouldn't hesitate to leave as well with the courtesy two weeks' notice.

Yes, it's totally fine. Two weeks is all you owe them, and not even that—I doubt they have that much loyalty to you. Follow through on your plan and don't feel bad about it.
posted by The Michael The at 9:08 AM on March 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


My gut feeling is that this is ethically totally fine -- Acme is a big public corporation, and they don't (and haven't) hesitated to let people or whole divisions go, and I'm on at-will employment. They haven't hesitated to move me around to new clients, frequent travel to which severely impacted my quality of life, so I shouldn't hesitate to leave as well with the courtesy two weeks' notice.

Trust your gut. If they lose the Widget contract, they aren't even going to give you two weeks notice you've been laid off.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:08 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is that right? I'm asking so that people can either confirm this feeling: that's totally OK! Or tell me why this is unethical and what I should do instead (longer notice?) I want to do the "right thing," but also the right thing for me.

Do the right thing for you - not only can companies marginalize you if they know you're leaving, if you're at will they can also terminate and replace you immediately.

You don't owe an employer anything outside of the legal notice - this is the common courtesy employers often give to employees (only what is legally required.)
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 9:08 AM on March 15, 2013


Yeah! You work for yourself, not Acme and certainly not Widget.

While you are in your position, take the view that you are the transition team. Get the files in order, get an up-to-date inventory of what the customer has, establish an escallation team, put processes in place so that when you leave, someone can slide into your role and it won't affect the customer too much.

If there's an on-site or dedicated Customer Service person, lean on them, ask for lots of input and share everything with them. That way, while they are recruiting for someone to replace you, the wheels and cogs will continue to turn.

Two weeks is perfectly okay. Enjoy your vacation and your new career!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:12 AM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you are an at-will employee, that means either you or the employer can terminate at will. Two weeks' notice is a courtesy, nothing more. I do not see anything in your question to indicate that it would be unethical to keep your mouth shut until you are ready to go.

Also, they do not have to accept the two weeks' notice. If say, "My last day will be in two weeks", they would be within their rights to say, "actually, your last day just ended. We'll watch you pack."
posted by Tanizaki at 9:14 AM on March 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I agree with Ruthless Bunny. You know you are leaving so make sure things are in order and that you leave enough detailed instructions that someone else can pick up where you left off as well as possible.

You will still want the good reference so be professional and responsible but don't give more than the legally required notice. Also do not agree to be a phone contact for the subsequent employee unless they offer a suitable retainer (and deliberately overestimate this as they will always ask more questions and require more help than you expect - informal part-time commitments are nearly impossible to constrain).
posted by srboisvert at 9:20 AM on March 15, 2013


You're actually doing them a favor by keeping mum about your later plans, because a new person wouldn't have your knowledge of the business and how it relates to the Widget account.

People come and go from companies all the time, for every reason under the sun. There's nothing unethical or unexpected about employee turnover.
posted by xingcat at 9:45 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes. Do what is best for you, which in this case is earning your paycheck for as long as possible.

If you work in an employment-at-will state, you're not even required to give notice. Two weeks' notice is common courtesy, however -- any less and you're likely to not be able to use that employer as a reference in the future.

If you give more than two weeks' notice, they may just fire you, and that would be perfectly legal in an at-will state.
posted by tckma at 12:53 PM on March 15, 2013


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