How to leave a small team for another job.
October 27, 2009 8:37 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to inform your employer that you're looking / have found new employment?

Asking this for the bee eff:

"I've currently been employed at my current company for over a year. It's never been my plan to work here more than two or three years, as I miss living in the city and having easy access to the people I left behind there. However, this is my first "real" job. All my prior employment has been either grunt work, or student research positions that were, by their nature, of fixed length, so I don't have a lot of experience with leaving jobs for new opportunities.

I've gotten to like a lot of my coworkers, and we're a fairly small division within a fairly small company. I know it might be stupid, but I'm having difficulty figuring out how to inform them, when the time comes, that I've found new employment, because somehow it seems like a betrayal or abandonment. Weird, I know. Complicating matters is that I work for a software company with a roughly yearly release schedule. I definitely don't want to leave in the middle of a cycle, as that would really throw their planning out of whack.

With that in mind, what is the best way to inform your current employer of a change? Do you let them know while you're looking? I would think you'd only let them know after you've found another position. In that case, how much warning do you give? Two weeks notice doesn't seem like a lot of time to find a replacement, especially on a small team.

Thanks for any input."
posted by dorothy humbird to Work & Money (21 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Dear so and so:

Please accept my resignation as of {two weeks from now}. I appreciate the opportunity that you gave me, and I am proud of the work we have done together. I hope that we are able to work together in the future.


Dorothy Humbird's Bee Eff.

As for any of the lovey-dovey hard feelings, well, tough noogies. A new position is in your bf's best interests, and he has to take it. If it was in the firm's best interests to can him, you can bet he would be out on his ass. That's just how things work. Adults won't take this personally, and if they do, then rest assured that they would have found some other thing to flip out over had he stayed on. It's not abandonment, it's not a betrayal. Those are loaded, emotional words which have no purpose in a working environment.

If you have the opportunity to stay on longer, make sure that it is worth your time to hang around. It's always possible to negotiate a consulting agreement with the old gig to finish up what you were doing in your spare time. Make sure to negotiate a rate that is worth your time, and don't sell yourself short here.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:44 AM on October 27, 2009 [6 favorites]

You don't tell them that you're looking, ever, except in very specific circumstances like when you're employed by a family member who's happy to see you hunting. I told my last employer, but that was a matter of "hey, I don't have anything to do now that I'm out of college, need any more data entry?" and my boss bought me lunch after I had a great phone interview in my office.

Your employer is not your friend. Yes, it can feel like an abandonment, but at the end of the day, they will not hesitate to throw you to the curb if it suits their business needs. You do your search, get an offer in hand, and then and only then hand in your two weeks' notice and walk away with a clean conscience. They're not going to find someone on such short notice, no - but that's not your problem. It's their job to be able to survive the loss of a single person - imagine if your bf was hit by a bus, or got sick. Frankly, right now there are a ton of people out of work who'll be able to replace your boyfriend, and prevent their planning from getting too badly screwed up.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:48 AM on October 27, 2009 [7 favorites]

I would let them know as soon as you find a new position. They can deal.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:52 AM on October 27, 2009

Yeah, never tell your employer you're looking - you have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Probably nothing would happen, but why risk it? There's no benefit.

As for telling people, I've found that saying "Well - I've put in my notice." I scheduled a meeting with the boss to "check in" and sat down and was just out with it, and it's not been awkward. As for notice, I would give a month if you are able to, but two weeks is completely acceptable. I would caution against giving much more notice than a month.
posted by ORthey at 8:53 AM on October 27, 2009

Do not tell them you're looking. There are some exceptions to this rule, but if you are not absolutely certain that your employer is one of those exceptions, it isn't and you shouldn't tell them.

And when you do get a job, don't feel too bad about leaving. It's great to work with a close-knit team, but they probably won't fall apart without you, and the ones who are truly your friends will be happy to see you get a great opportunity. When the time comes, tell your boss with a minimum of fuss or drama. Let him/her determine how the rest of the team is told.
posted by lunasol at 8:54 AM on October 27, 2009

I just didn't complete that sentence about giving notice, did I! I meant to say: I've found that saying "Well - I've put in my notice" is easier than saying "I've found a new job" or "I'm leaving the company." Personal preference, but it was slightly indirect and led to good, fruitful conversation.
posted by ORthey at 8:55 AM on October 27, 2009

Two weeks is standard notice. If the new job you find happens to have a longer lead time than two weeks, you can give more notice if you like.

Don't give notice while you are looking unless you are prepared to be out of work while you look.

I definitely don't want to leave in the middle of a cycle, as that would really throw their planning out of whack.

Leave whenever you need to leave - your team will adjust. You've been there a year - you are not invaluable or irreplaceable.

At some time, everyone in your division will leave for another job, or to retire, or to move across the country, etc. It's not a betrayal - it's the natural flow of life in an office and it is just your turn now.
posted by mikepop at 8:55 AM on October 27, 2009

Absolutely, he should not inform his current employer until he has a) secured a new position, and b) knows the date he plans to leave his current job.

Even in cases where there are not positive feelings toward the employer and team, two weeks notice is a bare minimum. I personally believe that four weeks notice is a more practical time period to ensure an orderly replacement, providing that the start date on the new job can be pushed off that far.

As Geckwoistmeinauto suggests, a letter is necessary. Particularly since your bee eff has warm feelings toward the people at his current company, I think something beyond the bare minimum in a resignation letter would be entirely appropriate.

Without addressing at all the reasons he has sought and accepted another position, he could certainly mention how much he has enjoyed his work there and his respect for his teammates and the management. It is always good form to state in writing his commitment to ensuring a smooth transition, perhaps even suggesting a meeting so that he and his manager can discuss who should assume each of his responsibilities.

While this may seem excessive, especially in this day and age where companies show little loyalty to their employees, it never hurts to be gracious and doing so may pay off big-time down the road for him.
posted by DrGail at 9:05 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: Such dogged insensitivity! You can be careful and make a clean break and still be kind to people's feelings.

How about:
  • Breaking the news to people he especially feels close to in a personal conversation, rather than in a mass e-mail or even printed letter. The letter or e-mail should follow the conversation;
  • Accompanying the statement "I've put in my notice" with words that demonstrate some degree of regret, and that acknowledge the friendship that he feels for the individual to whom he's talking. Something like: "..although I'll sure miss working with you in particular. That time we had to send faxes until 2 am? I can't imagine a better work buddy for that kind of thing."
  • Giving a sincere sense of why he's leaving, so that it doesn't seem to be a decision he made lightly. A deep motivation for leaving means he had to leave in spite of the warm relationship he has; if he could just leave for no or a trivial reason, that minimizes the bonds he has in his current job. Conversely, if his current co-workers imagine some terrible tragedy that's pulling him away, that's a burden on them -- and his seeming to assume that they wouldn't care again trivializes the relationship. He could say something like, "It's going to be hard to leave, and I really have enjoyed my time here -- even more than I thought I would -- but I kind of wilt when I'm away from [X City]. This might sound weird, but I really miss living in the city and having easy access to the friends and family I left behind there. I'm sure I'll miss some things about life here, too, but those roots go deep, I guess."

posted by amtho at 9:17 AM on October 27, 2009 [5 favorites]

I can understand being a bit nervous about telling people, but it was such a relief when I finally did it. I agree with everyone saying don't tell them you are looking, don't give notice more than a month in advance.

I wanted to chime in about software project cycles - there really is never a good time to leave, which means that just about anytime is fine. Over the years as a team lead for a software development group, I went from thinking "O we are so screwed if so and so leaves" to realize that the team really adjusts. It was surprising to me. Even the most crucial people (project managers, lead developers who were "the only one who really understands the system", etc.).
posted by ugf at 9:31 AM on October 27, 2009

This works well, every time.

Save the mushy sentimentality for face-to-face conversations. Only put in writing what is absolutely necessary.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:33 AM on October 27, 2009

Best answer: The nature of the modern office is that people move on a switch jobs. Company loyalty went out the window years ago, you need to look after your own interest.

However, you can still remain loyal to your coworkers. Do not tell anyone that you are looking for another job, but once you have an offer, see what kind of lead time they will give you to wrap up at your current position. 2 weeks is a bare minimum, but if that is what you have to do, noone in the office will take it personally. If you can give a month's notice, that would be great and you'd be able to maybe even assist in the training of your replacement for a week or so.

You can write your coworkers a personal letter explaining how grafeful you are to have worked with them in such a positive first "real job" experience. Give them your personal contact info so you can remain friends outside of work. Remember, its really the people, not the company that you are attached to. Would you be mad at someone else in the office that you were friends with giving notice so that they could work another job / move / have babies or whatever? Chances are you would be happy for them. Confusing company loyalty and people loyalty is a comman office newb mistake.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:38 AM on October 27, 2009

2nd Amtho

If you like the people you work with or even just the boss, then the best way to go is to have a conversation to say that you have found a new job and that you plan on finishing on X date. Followed up with a letter like the one suggested by Geckwoistmeinauto.
posted by MarvinJ at 9:47 AM on October 27, 2009

oh and don't think for a minute that your coworkers wouldn't up and leave if there was a better job on offer. You have to look out for you.
posted by MarvinJ at 9:51 AM on October 27, 2009

Before handing in your notice, make sure the job offer and their acceptance is in writing from a representative of the new company who is actually authorized to make, and accept that offer.
posted by lalochezia at 10:46 AM on October 27, 2009

He should check his employee handbook as well for any notice policies; I recently learned that my organization technically requires four weeks notice for exempt employees or they won't pay out vacation.

I agree with others that the standard and safe approach is to not say anything about the possibility of leaving unless you have an offer in hand, and that he shouldn't feel at all guilty about this because it is standard practice. However, I will say that there have been times in my career when colleagues, including supervisors, have known I was interested in moving on, and have helped out a lot with networking and sourcing prospects. Maybe this is more of a thing in small nonprofits, where upward mobility can be difficult and people know that the only way it can happen is via inter-organizational moves. Not sure how likely it is to happen in for-profit companies.
posted by yarrow at 10:52 AM on October 27, 2009

Two weeks notice for your employer. Bring donuts and good coffee after you hand in your notice. Your colleagues will be sorry to see you go, but, hey, donuts and coffee, sweet!
posted by IanMorr at 1:58 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Loyalty is an excellent trait. But employers have zero loyalty to employees (for the most part) and would lay you off in a heartbeat if they felt the need. Give them an honest days' work. When it's time to go, don't sweat it.
posted by theora55 at 3:12 PM on October 27, 2009

Lots of good advice above, but just wanted to add that job offers are often contingent upon background checks, medical exams and/or drug tests. Never give your notice until you've cleared all of the new company's hurdles.
posted by contrariwise at 3:19 PM on October 27, 2009

All good advice about keeping mum as you explore new options.

As you're planning your exit, you may want to consider the impact on your colleagues and put some effort towards minimizing the impact of your departure. Worrying about this kind of thing used to be pretty minimal, but with the advent of social networking it's become very easy to engage in informal research about prospective employees (both good and bad things). Poor transitions, hasty exits and all-around ill feelings can spread more easily through "the network."

Therefore, as you prepare to resign I would make sure that you prepare a transition plan for the things you do. Create a list of your current projects, their status and provide recommendations you think should take over these projects. Walk through this plan with your direct supervisor after giving notice. Afterwards, meet with your peers and review the plans and collect additional requirements.

Good luck!
posted by cheez-it at 7:14 PM on October 27, 2009

Response by poster: Dropping back to say thanks to everyone for your responses. You've all been helpful, but I'm marking one or two as best on the boyfriend's advisement.
posted by dorothy humbird at 6:50 AM on October 28, 2009

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