I'd like to give my year notice, please.
October 20, 2009 5:20 PM   Subscribe

My employer is impressed enough with my work that they want to promote me into a position which would ordinarily make for a great career move. I, however, am planning on leaving in a little over a year to earn a degree in a completely different field, and thus have no interest in the job (for reasons explained after the jump.) How do I diplomatically tell them no without jeopardizing my current position, and how much, if any, of my future plans do I mention to them?

I work in the IS department for a large company and, at the moment, am lucky enough to do decent work and still leave at 5:00 PM most nights (with a small amount of occasional night and weekend work that everyone is expected to do.) Later this week, I'll be having a meeting with my boss where she's essentially going to make a sales pitch for another job which under normal circumstances, would be ideal for someone in my position (far more visibility among the higher-ups, greater responsibility, increased salary, etc...)

The problem is that I don't want the job, and (other than the truth, of course) I can't think of a legitimate reason to explain why. In a little over a year I hope to be in school full time pursuing a nursing degree. At the moment, I'm taking all the prerequisite courses needed to even apply to these programs, and much of my nights and weekends are spent in class and/or studying. I have been doing this for the past year or so (taking one or two classes a semester) and have thus far done a pretty good job of managing both school and work. However, with this new job comes a lot more responsibility as well a good deal more after hours work. I wouldn't be able to accept the position and not have either school or work suffer.

I already know I'm not going to accept the position. I have no desire stay in the IT field after ten years in it (two and a half at this job), and the idea of being a nurse really appeals to me on many different levels. I'm just not sure how I should tell my boss no. Assuming, for the moment, that I wasn't planning on going into nursing, and that I was an upwardly mobile worker bee with high ambition and a desire for a larger salary, there should be no reason for me not take this job (aside from the increased hours, which I can assure you, are seen as necessary growing pains for future rewards down the road. They aren't really, but that's how it'll be portrayed.) I'd thought about telling her that I really like the work I'm doing now, and that maintaining a work/life balance is important to me, but then I keep thinking if I were a manager, is that what I'd really want to hear? Does a manager/director really want an employee on their team who, while doing good work, is content to stay exactly where he is as long as things remain status quo, especially if that person could be of greater value to the company elsewhere?

So, I guess my question is, how do I tell my boss no without jeopardizing the position I have now? Do I *gasp* actually tell them about my future plans? On the surface, that would seem (to me at least) to be a pretty stupid thing to do. It's essentially telling them that I have no real interest in my job or the company, and that I'm using them for a paycheck. On the other hand, my position will be a tough one to fill (similar positions have taken them months to fill, even in this economy) and, although I don't owe it to them, I'm sure they'd appreciate the extra notice. Or, do I simply say, "I'm flattered that you're considering me for this position, but for personal reasons I really have to decline" and just leave it at that, essentially making them guess?

What say you, hivemind? If you were a manager, what response would be least likely to raise your suspicions and allow me to stay where I currently am?

Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total)
Tell her that due to personal circumstances you need your evenings and weekends free for the foreseeable future. While you would normally be thrilled to consider such a promotion (possibly hint that even though you understand how unlikely it is given that you're turning it down now, that you would be open to such a position in say a year and a half), it just would not fit into your life at the moment. And yes, I wouldn't hesitate to use work-life balance, but if you think your boss wants people to be slaves only to their jobs, then go ahead and imply that your interest in balance is based on some temporary crisis.

I can't imagine that your boss will inquire about your personal circumstances, especially if you make it clear you're not sharing by hinting about them but not actually saying anything.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:30 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

However, with this new job comes a lot more responsibility as well a good deal more after hours work.

That's all you have to say to your boss to politely decline, anything else is not really any of their business.

Discuss your future plans with a human resources person under condition of confidentiality, that's what they're there for. They might be able to help you to ease that kind of transition while not burning bridges.
posted by milinar at 5:58 PM on October 20, 2009

You have plans for the future but you don't know what you're doing until you get there, so I'd tread with caution here. (I mean, if God forbid you get hit by a bus in six months, you're going to want the job and the health insurance that goes with it...) I would not discuss this with HR in any way shape or form.

Just tell her that you appreciate the vote of confidence but due to your family life, you're not in a position to take on a role with longer hours and more responsiblity for the next year, even though you are grateful for the offer.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:09 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd ask them for time to consider it, then wait a few days and send a thoughtful email saying that you're honored to be offered the opportunity, and enjoy working at the company, but you're going to regretfully decline the extra responsibility and increased time commitment for personal reasons.

I don't see any reason to tell your boss (or an HR person at your company) anything about your future plans right now, which risks them deciding to replace you before you're ready to leave. Your first loyalty is to yourself. Giving them 2-3 months notice when *you're* ready to move on is more than kind enough. Hell, it's almost certainly more than they'd do if they had to lay you off.
posted by mediareport at 6:12 PM on October 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Remember HR is not there to protect you, they are to protect the company. They are not your friend. I would not discuss this with them.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 6:18 PM on October 20, 2009 [24 favorites]

Just popping in to add on to the "don't say anything to HR" chorus. I wouldn't trust your HR dept. as far as I could throw them with that information. And I used to work an HR-related job, fwiw.)
posted by hegemone at 6:35 PM on October 20, 2009

I'm hopping on the "don't say anything to HR" train.

I once had a closed-door, "confidential" conversation with my office manager (our office's de facto HR rep, as we were a small NYC office of a large Minnesota firm and HR was located in Minnesota) that I was contemplating leaving. I was young and really naive and thought I was doing the right thing by giving her the heads up. She swore that she would take no action until I let her know my definite plans. The next day, she went to the managing attorneys with that info and they began looking for my replacement.

Did I feel betrayed? Yes. Was she doing her job? Yes. Live and learn.
posted by Majorita at 7:33 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

If your company is paying for your education, you might need to feel this out a bit more. In some companies I've worked for, continuing support for generous tuition re-imbursement benefits was invisibly connected to advancement. If you were offered a promotion after the company had paid its share of 10+ college credit hours, you were expected to take it, or see a much tighter "work related" "filter" applied to subsequent requests for tuition re-imbursement. A lot of companies mark employee profiles that have used tuition re-imbursement programs, as possible candidates for internal promotion. They see it as a payoff on the tuition re-imbursement investment, and also as a way of retaining ambitious, influential people, who, if not offered a way of getting ahead, may naturally turn bitter and affect morale in other employees.

If it stands a chance of affecting your education benefits, you might find it pays to take the promotion, and press ahead on the education, making what excuses you need to make to have time for class and study. Make that a #1 priority in taking the promotion, and you've pretty much insulated yourself from layoff in the coming year, while guaranteeing your education re-imbursement benefit. Few companies will promote you, based on improved education they've supported, and then fail to support you further in your education efforts, so long as the courses you are taking are still prepatory to a degree, or, at least, not completely unrelated to their business.
posted by paulsc at 7:55 PM on October 20, 2009

Nthing the don't talk to HR thing. Really, don't do that.

Just thank them sincerely for the offer, and explain that it just isn't a good fit for you right now. But don't make it a 'never, no way' kind of thing, because you really never know what the future might hold for you.

And be polite.
posted by spilon at 8:38 PM on October 20, 2009

Don't burn your bridges before they're hatched, to mix metaphors. Nursing school is grueling.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:52 PM on October 20, 2009

Discuss your future plans with a human resources person under condition of confidentiality,

Do not do this.
posted by spaltavian at 9:12 PM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't tell HR and don't tell your manager. You could say that you don't feel ready for the responsibility, partly because your taking classes at night and need to keep your time open.
posted by xammerboy at 9:24 PM on October 20, 2009

Take the job, pocket the additional money, and then leave when you're ready.
posted by junger at 7:05 AM on October 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow, I know the HR people where I work pretty well and they would never violate something said in confidence. I guess it varies company to company. Or maybe I'm not cynical enough?

Anyway, good luck!
posted by milinar at 9:04 AM on October 21, 2009

I agree with penguin...

Your out is the additional hours. Tell your boss that the additional after-hours responsibilities are not suitable for you. This is a perfectly legitimate reason for declining the position, and I'm not sure that there's anything they can say about it. They might offer you more money, but if you're firm about not being willing to work more hours, they will ultimately understand, and you're not tipping them off to what you're really thinking.
posted by Citrus at 9:23 AM on October 21, 2009

I know you're dead set on not taking it but... consider taking the promotion. You never know what it might mean in terms of a change of perspective and it will look great on your cv whether you go on to be a nurse or a firefighter or a librarian.

But if you're definitely not going to take it - don't tell them now (a year is a long time) but do give them some advance warning so they can replace you in time and have a smooth transition. That will ensure excellent references etc.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 9:36 AM on October 21, 2009

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