How much should I tell when resigning?
October 14, 2008 3:55 PM   Subscribe

How much should I tell the boss upon resignation from a very messy situation?

For two years, I have worked in a very small office consisting of 4 people until recently, and now it's down to two: the boss and me. The entire time I've been there, our office has held a contract from an outside agency to provide a specific service. This contract provided jobs for 2 people until it expired at the end of last month. When it expired, it gave my office and anyone else in the community the opportunity to bid on the contract.

We did not win it, but one of the contracted employees in this office won it for herself and is now in business on her own under the contract. This has impacted the money flow to my office significantly, and I would be surprised if my position stayed intact with full-time hours. I have many issues with my boss and the way he runs the office; now with just the two of us here I have more unpleasant face-time with him.

Here's where it gets interesting: The ex-coworker now in business for herself has offered me a position with her new business (which is under contract, remember, and offers a specific number of hours per week for two years). I would be working about 20% fewer hours per week and getting paid comparably to what I am currently. It offers the same benefits.

I am getting ready to hand in my resignation to the boss, but I know that when I do, he'll ask me where I'm headed. How much should I divulge? Should I be flighty in order to make things easier on myself before I'm done (boss and the board at my current job are understandably bitter toward this ex-employee), or should I buck up and tell the whole truth?

[Just for the sake of clarification, I am not asking IF I should quit - if I wasn't going with this opportunity, I'd be looking for another one. There are plenty of reasons to get out of my current job even without the new offer.]
posted by alpha_betty to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd focus on this: This has impacted the money flow to my office significantly, and I would be surprised if my position stayed intact with full-time hours. I wouldn't go any further than telling your boss that you are headed toward something more stable. Don't mention ex-coworker.
posted by Sassyfras at 4:02 PM on October 14, 2008

You don't need to tell him. If you're looking to get a good reference from him / etc., I'm not sure I would, provided that you can hide it from him (seems unlikely) in the future.

If you don't need tons from him - tell him the truth. You're doing nothing wrong, and it is more polite to be honest rather than lie.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:04 PM on October 14, 2008

I would be especially sure not to mention anything about this agreement unless you're positive that you aren't violating a non-compete agreement and that your former co-worker is not violating a non-solicitation agreement. Both are common in standard employment contracts.
posted by phoenixy at 4:16 PM on October 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is the crux of the problem: I want to stay on good terms with the boss, if possible, because I'd like to have a good reference. I suppose that I could ask him for a letter of recommendation before I tell him where I'm going, but like Lemurrhea said, it doesn't seem likely that I can hide it for all eternity. The thing is, in such a small office, it's going to look weird if I refuse to answer what my plans are, and it's going to be really difficult for the last two weeks if I DO answer it. I'd rather not lie if I can avoid it. Argh.
posted by alpha_betty at 4:16 PM on October 14, 2008

Questions like this confuse me. If he asks tell him the truth. Why bother with some flighty story.
posted by bjgeiger at 4:17 PM on October 14, 2008

from what you describe, yr boss would be a raging idiot if he didn't learn where you went after you left. if you have any hope of salvaging the friendship, then be honest.
posted by lester at 4:43 PM on October 14, 2008

You're not going to be able to keep it a secret once you leave, so your reference is a moot point. I mean, presumably you don't need a reference for this particular new job, since your co-worker knows you, and you're not going to get one from him for future jobs. All that's left is your desire to avoid awkwardness.

It's quite likely that if you tell them you're going to their direct competitor to work, they won't want you to work out your two weeks anyway.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:49 PM on October 14, 2008

I would cut through the drama and say:

- I'm giving two weeks notice. (Not required, but a way of leaving on good terms)
- possibly grit your teeth and say "I've enjoyed working with you."

That's all you need to say.
posted by zippy at 4:58 PM on October 14, 2008

If you happen to actually enjoy the type of work you'll be doing in the new position, tell him it was a very tough decision for you but you're leaving to follow your passion. It'll be a little easier for him to swallow because it's hard to fault that way of thinking, and it keeps the focus off the more personal reasons you may have. Offer two full weeks.
posted by mochapickle at 5:03 PM on October 14, 2008

Your boss knows the business he is in, or should. He will find out that you have gone with his former employee. You might as well be up front with him about it.

He may or may not be willing to give you a good reference in the future if you tell him the truth. He will not if you don't. And as Jacqui says, "a reference" is an almost non-existent factor in this situation. But you reputation is a factor. Be honest with him.
posted by yclipse at 5:05 PM on October 14, 2008

Best answer: "I'm considering a number of options."
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:45 PM on October 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Tell him, tell him why (stability, money etc) and then move on. If he has a problem down the track then it's his problem, not yours. You may have a tricky few weeks but think about the rest of your life......

Also, I can't see you needing his reference as you know your future boss. If he does write you a lovely letter and then he finds out where you have gone, you can forget him saying anything nice about you to future employers (or anyone) anyway. If he truly is a professional he will accept your decision and still give you a good reference (presuming you have earned it!)

Good luck.
posted by micklaw at 6:12 PM on October 14, 2008

"I've decided to pursue new opportunities. Best of luck in the future."

Also, yeah, make sure you're not under a noncompete, and if you are, find out if it's actually enforceable in your state.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:14 PM on October 14, 2008

It's none of your boss's business, and seriously, it's your life- and sounds like you're putting his feelings before your career. Fuck him, who cares. Leave, tell him where you are going with a big broad smile and have done with it.

Just make sure the job you have been offered is bona fide BEFORE you tell your boss- and get a letter of engagement if you can.
posted by mattoxic at 6:44 PM on October 14, 2008

On one hand you risk the perception of being less than honest (when your boss, inevitably, it seems, finds out you went to work with the ex-employee, he'll obviously realize if you gave him a run-around answer to avoid telling him your real plans). On the other hand, given the situation and the animosity towards the ex-employee, you really have to ask whether maintaining a positive relationship with this boss is particularly possible. He's going to see you as jumping ship to join forces with the traitor that stole business from him, right?

If you are upfront there is likely to be drama, but it probably best preserves whatever slim chance there is of your boss maintaining a better opinion of you, and it eliminates the possibility of being forced to lie (it's easy enough to tell you to say "oh, I'm exploring other options," but when your boss comes back with "so you don't have anything else lined up?" or, not improbably, "has ex-employee tried to recruit you yet?" you either come clean, give an answer that is as good as telling the truth ("I'd rather not discuss that,") or lie). I think I'd tell the truth and deal with the flack up front, but I think it is perfectly acceptable to keep it to yourself - it just might not be strategically the best choice overall (but again, let's face it - from the not-burning-bridges perspective, your situation is a little bit hopeless).
posted by nanojath at 6:51 PM on October 14, 2008

You don't like your boss and you'd be wanting to move on anyway, right? I don't know why you want or need a letter of reference. Since you're going to a job which will quarantee you hours for two years, this letter from this boss will be kind of moot should you go job searching after that time.

I don't think I'd be that eager to come out with the full truth. I'd probably try to hedge. But, I wouldn't want to be the one to bring on the shitstorm by bring it all up. On the other hand, you are the only other employee in the firm -- time to act like the partner you very nearly are. Try to be a grown-up and ask your boss for some time to talk about the business, maybe even over lunch. Ask what he thinks is going to happen to the company and whether there is a future there. Maybe he'll say that he's thinking of hanging things up or that it's going to be really lean for awhile. This would give you an excellent opportunity to discuss your fears -- that there won't be enough work for you and that you're thinking about your options. Ask his opinion on what he would do in your shoes. Then go do what you're gonna do. He may surprise you. He may be a dick. Either way, it's aired and out there.
posted by amanda at 7:45 PM on October 14, 2008

Best answer: FWIW, I left a bad boss (a university academic) on short notice, and with limited other work opportunities coming my way. By the end of my two week notice period, I'd had enough offers of work that I was pretty sure that I was doing the right thing, and three months later (i.e. now), I've got enough work lined up to keep me at full time or more until next year.

Ask the old boss for a reference? No way, no need to (and I have had to provide references in the past). You can use your new boss for a reference instead, and don't have to tell future employees about the exact nature of the working relationship with them at all.

So, getting to the point, I think you should tell your soon-to-be-old-boss absolutely nothing, and if he asks, gloss over it.
posted by singingfish at 1:02 AM on October 15, 2008

Companies go belly up, people you depended on as references move on, retire or die. It's always safest to part on good terms, you never know when a stage in your reference chain will vanish without warning. And jobs involving security checks (like an airport or the government) will sometimes call your bosses for every job you've held in the past decade!

Don't say where you're going in your resignation letter, but if he asks, you should tell him as politely and sympathetically as possible.

But check the situation regarding employee-poaching, first.
posted by the latin mouse at 10:03 AM on October 15, 2008

Response by poster: Okay, point taken about the reference. Thanks for all the responses. I think I'll go with the flow and not volunteer the information unless asked, and then I'll decide whether to tell.
posted by alpha_betty at 10:04 AM on October 15, 2008

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