How do I quit my job?
July 16, 2011 10:29 AM   Subscribe

I am terrible at quitting jobs. Please walk me through how I can actually quit, frame my quitting, and how to act in the meantime.

I have problems ending things. In the past, big/justifiable excuses (going back to school) were helpful. In this case I'm quitting because I don't like it generally and it isn't flexible enough for me as a parent. We can get by on 1 income for the time being, so this is a good decision for me. I've only been in this job for a year.

I am now speculating about the outcomes of my quitting. I realize that I don't really know how people will react and I have no control over how people will react. I also realize that worrying about their reactions does nothing for me. Nonetheless...

Part 1:
I already set the stage with my boss. I told her that my special needs child is going to need me more as the new school year begins and I asked for greater flexibility to come in late. I offered to take a paycut. Nothing came of this discussion in the past few months. I tried to go through HR as well and in this office, work/life balance/flexibility is determined by individual bosses. (But I don't like it anyway...)

My plan is to tell them about 3 weeks before school starts that "Upon weighing all the options, we decided that it'd be best for one of us to be a stay-at-home parent for the time being" and remind my boss individually that my child has special needs. (There is a remote possibility that my trying to quit might push them into trying to make things more flexible for me, but I'll cross that bridge if it comes.)

However, in the past, I've been very hesitant to tell coworkers that my child is special needs.

Question 1: If my official reason for leaving is to be a stay-at-home parent and only my boss knows about my child being special needs, how do I deal with the possible questions/gossip like "But your child has been fine in daycare for years... Why are you leaving the workforce now?" Or maybe do I say "Yes, but Child has some special needs that mean that having more one-on-one attention is important right now." and leave it at that? (I think that with this sort of "she's making a good/right decision" framing, it might make things less bumpy overall.)

Part 2:
I've been working really hard to tie up all loose ends now. I'm not going to be totally screwing them in terms of work, but others will have to take on a greater load in my absence.

(In the meantime, I'm tying up loose ends, we're switch to other parent's health insurance, I'm spending all my pre-tax health savings, I'm slowly bringing personal items home from work, etc. -- just to be on the safe side, I want to have almost all of that tidied up before I give my notice just in case I'm asked to leave that day. (Which would suck financially because we prepay daycare monthly.))

The only worry I have on this front is that I feel that people may be upset about the time/energy that they put into training me. Again, I don't really know what people will think, but I am worried about this.

I HATE those weeks that everyone knows that you're leaving. I hate knowing that, quite possibly, people are gossiping about your exit.

Question 2: How can I make those 2 or 3 weeks after everyone knows that I'm leaving less awkward?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You tell your boss that you're leaving in 3 weeks, DATE is your last day. You assure them that your work will be completed, no loose ends. Thanks for everything, and it's been swell. That's it. No reason, no excuses--it's not anyone's business but your own. When pressed, you say that it's best for your family and while you'll miss everyone, you're looking forward to spending more time with your family. Don't apologize. You haven't done anything wrong.

Make sure your work does get done, find out if you can train someone already there to pick up any on-going projects, and that's it, You don't need to agonize over what they'll do. The place won't fall down, and people aren't going to curse and spit whenever your name is mentioned. Keep things cordial, don't leave stuff hanging, and be professional.

People quit jobs all the time. It's not awkward, it's life. You're moving on, and so will this office.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:55 AM on July 16, 2011 [12 favorites]

Most parents would love to have the chance to stay home with their child, special needs or not. So people are not going to be judging you for wanting to stay home with your child.

It's easy to get stressed out about these things and imagine horrible conversations in your mind, and assume that people are upset with your or angry or sit in judgement on you, but really, most people are going to be happy for you, that you have the means to make this choice. If you tell them why and they question you further, it will likely be out of interest in your situation, sympathy, or the desire to make conversation, rather than because they are in any way judging you. "Why now?" doesn't have to carry any more meaning with it than "I am interested in knowing why you are choosing to leave work now?"

So tell them what you want to tell them. "Child has some special needs that mean that having more one-on-one attention is important right now," is an excellent answer.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:55 AM on July 16, 2011

Nixon style:
Effective August 5, I hereby resign my position of XXXXXX.
You don't need to tell them anything else. Keep doing your work like normal until your last day.
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:05 AM on July 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Other than your boss, just don't tell them you're leaving.

Do you have to train anyone to take over your work? Doesn't sound like it. If you're leaving on a Friday, let them know it's your last day on Friday when you say goodbyes.

When you tell your boss, just give them a resignation letter with the date you are leaving and a short thank you (two sentences total). Don't worry about elaborating why and justifying the decision. Just say, "I want to spend more time with my child." Smile a lot and let people know you're happier leaving than staying and excited about the new change.

In my experience, most people react in sadness that someone is leaving and happiness that they are going on to better things. The only time I've heard people gossiping was when everyone hated their job and were bracing for the fallout the person left behind. In that case, the gossip was focused around management/HR, not the person leaving.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 11:12 AM on July 16, 2011

It's none of their business why you are leaving. Period.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:50 AM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

YMMV based on your office culture, but think about giving two weeks notice rather than three. One of my team members just left after giving three weeks, and by the third week I wished she'd just GO already. She was trying to stay involved in projects that needed to be migrated to the person who was going to manage them after she left sooner rather than later, and it was awkward to try to have meetings about replacing her while she was still there.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2011

You sound like you're going about this the right way. Just keep telling people how hard a decision this was to make, how much you appreciate everything the company's done for you, and come up with a thing or two about staying home you can wax enthusiastic about every time people ask about motivations for this change. If this is a good work environment, people will be happy for you as you move on. In crummier work environments people may pile on the guilt, but it's really not your problem is it now, is it? So do a great job in your last days, be kind & warm to the people you're leaving behind, and exit stage left.
posted by Ys at 11:55 AM on July 16, 2011

Why on earth do you have to justify why you want to leave to them? You don't owe them your services. That's what they pay you for. There's no guilt here.

Tell them it's better for your family if you're a SAHM for the time being, and that you've enjoyed working with them. That's ALL you need. (and really, that's just so your leaving isn't mysterious and ominous to the rest of your coworkers.)
posted by Caravantea at 11:58 AM on July 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

how do I deal with the possible questions/gossip like "But your child has been fine in daycare for years... Why are you leaving the workforce now?"

On the very remote chance that anyone is so obnoxiously intrusive as to raise questions about your parenting choices, you could have a vague statement to repeat as necessary. "I've decided to spend more time with my child/family." Nobody in their right mind would criticize you for that. If you don't want to mention your child's special needs, then don't. Being a stay-at-home parent is often an excellent idea, period, regardless of the child's specific needs. And as everyone has said, you don't owe anyone any explanation at all.
posted by John Cohen at 1:24 PM on July 16, 2011

You don't need quitting advice, you need deflection advice and basic skills on how to maintain your boundaries where you want them. Or maybe you just need to stop thinking that your desired boundaries are subject to the desires of other people.

They're not.

I'm leaving to spend more time with my kid(s). If people ask gossipy questions you ignore them or answer them with the minimal information you've decided to give. If they ask further questions feel free to give the exact same answer. Courteous people with manners don't press others for information they don't want to give. You don't need to worry about failing to please discourteous people.
posted by phearlez at 1:55 PM on July 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Question 1: It is no one's business why you are leaving officially. I would give a 2 weeks notice of resignation in a letter hand delivered to your boss. In the letter I would say something generic like Brian Puccio said.

Question 2:
I'm not going to be totally screwing them in terms of work Not your problem.

The only worry I have on this front is that I feel that people may be upset about the time/energy that they put into training me. Not your problem

I hate knowing that, quite possibly, people are gossiping about your exit. Probably. If you leave them will little explanation you give them little to gossip about.

Mr. BuffaloChickenWing announced his resignation to become a Stay at Home Dad in person to his boss/owner with a bottle of Scotch. That went over very well and due to some health issues I have faced recently he has gone back to that employer to inquire about jobs in the field. He did not inquire about a job at the company (though it was made clear the door was open) because we felt they did not value his work. My point - you can leave without drama and not burning bridges if handled properly.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 1:57 PM on July 16, 2011

Nthing that you should consider two weeks notice rather than three. I have made this mistake—and sorely regretted it—every time I've quit a job. Two weeks is plenty.

Also, nthing that you don't need to tell anyone about your child's special needs. "I want to spend more time with my family" is plenty of explanation. I've also heard people use this: "Our current arrangement is just not working for our family." No need to elaborate.
posted by purpleclover at 2:15 PM on July 16, 2011

I will say this as gently as're probably not important enough at your job for this level of angst about leaving it. People will forget about you in about two days. They might even look forward to meeting your replacement, because it will change their daily routine. And this may be what you're having a hard time with.

Sometimes I get myself into a place where I fantasize that I'm really important to my job, that it would be tough to replace me. I do this because it sucks to go in everyday knowing the opposite is true.

People leave their jobs all the time. There's even an employer name for it --it's called turn-over and all employers know that they have to be prepared for it.

I'm actually hoping that you'll have an exit interview moment in which you say "Well, I met with you a couple of months ago to discuss my needs regarding increased flexibility ---and you never followed up on it. I took that as my clue that this job is not a good fit for me."
posted by vitabellosi at 2:30 PM on July 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

If some asks you "But your child has been fine in daycare for years... Why are you leaving the workforce now?", you can give the Miss Manners approved response of "Oh don't you worry about me. But how kind of you to take an interest!".
posted by dave99 at 12:42 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm just agreeing with all the people who are saying, "Just give notice and don't over-explain." You don't owe this company anything more than the professional, standard 2 weeks. Trust me, if they were laying you off, they wouldn't be having this much angst about it.
posted by driley at 1:50 AM on July 17, 2011

I feel it would be better if you don't mention your child's special needs. You probably have lots of reasons for leaving the job: you don't need it financially; they're inflexible; and whatever else. Your child's special needs are a reason that most people would accept graciously, but that's why it's a seductive justification to use. You don't want to become that person who finds out how easy it is to get people off your back by using your child's condition, and then starts using it more and more often, and then starts to believe that you've given up so much for this child who really should appreciate you more...

My concerns are probably overkill, but there they are. Best of luck.
posted by Net Prophet at 3:26 AM on July 17, 2011

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