Write or flight?
April 10, 2012 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Quit-my-job-Filter: Some long-simmering animosities between my boss and me have just come to a full-rage boil, and I need to leave my full-time journalism job as soon—and as safely—as possible.

Ready for the sordid details? Here goes:

I’m a magazine writer. I’ve been at my publication for 14 months, and from the get-go, I’ve had a toxic relationship with the editor in chief. After months of personality clashes, out-of-the-blue outbursts, passive-aggressive bullying, belittlement, dressing me down in front of other staff, taking credit publicly for work that I’ve done, and a whole host of other slimy maneuvers by a psycho boss, the other shoe has finally dropped.

Today, I was called into a conference room. My editor unloaded a litany of complaints—some personal, some professional—onto me. He gave me a firm deadline for a serious feature assignment (due in two weeks) and added that, if I can’t knock it out of the park, he may have to “re-evaluate the value of funding my position.”

My interpretation of this is that he is setting me up for termination. (I’ve seen him pull stuff like this before.) He’s putting in place an ultimatum (“re-evaluat[ing] the value of funding my position”), as well as the conditions for me to fail (the quick-turnaround deadline), so that he can reasonably fire me at the end of the month when I don’t pull off the story.

Now, I’ve been planning on quitting for a long time. And I may finally have an escape plan lined up. I’ve been admitted to a full-time, professional masters program for this fall (totally changing careers; I have no interest in sticking with journalism). Plus, a friend of mine who owns a gardening company has offered me full-time work through the spring and summer.

So my out is coming together nicely.

But here’s the question: Do I put in two weeks’ notice? Because if I do, it means I have to tackle this writing assignment (or at least pretend to tackle it), which I have ZERO motivation to do. And plus I’d run the risk of having something shoddy, embarrassing, and irresponsible published under my by-line.

But if I bounce tomorrow, it will look ugly. And I may run afoul of certain conditions of my employment; a woman from another department who recently quit said something about how she was required to give three weeks of notice. (Can a company really impose restrictions on how you can quit?)

Another question: Would it be possible to hand a resignation letter directly into HR? Hate to say it, but I’m a little nervous of how my boss would handle a face-to-face resignation. It’s not like he’d physically attack me, but he is a pretty volatile guy.

So, MeFites, what’s the best way to leap from this awful situation? Should I just walk out of the office right now?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total)
I think you may want to anon this question for future job hunting purposes. There might be benefits to sticking it out for severance/unemployment.
posted by countrymod at 12:49 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. anonymize
2. you should have a contract of employment that outlines how much notice you agreed to give.
posted by jacalata at 12:55 PM on April 10, 2012

But if I bounce tomorrow, it will look ugly

So what if it does? What do you care? You have another job lined up and are changing fields.

But, since he worded your assignment that way you could always go with "I don't want to stay in a position if there is doubt I am the right person for the job."

Would it be possible to hand a resignation letter directly into HR?
Sure, that's what HR is for. It should say only this "I am resigning my position effective (today's date)".

Can a company really impose restrictions on how you can quit?
Not really. Did you sign a contract with them? If so read your contract.

They might give you a hard time about collecting money owed for unused sick days, etc. But they can't force you to stay there two weeks.
posted by mikepop at 12:57 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

What is wrong with calling his bluff, letting the two weeks lapse, and then getting laid off? You would get severance and could file for unemployment, no? You're not going back into the field anyway.
posted by spicynuts at 1:04 PM on April 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think you should give your two weeks and try to knock that last piece out of the park as your swan song. Especially if you're planning on starting your new career in your current location, it's always good to have not burned your bridges, and leaving a career-type job without notice is pretty unprofessional.

As a bit of encouragement -- I left newspaper journalism in 2008 for grad school in a completely different field and it has worked out great!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:06 PM on April 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

I think that even if you are switching industries/careers, you want to look as clean as possible. If nothing else, before you do anything or make decisions, please anonymize your question.
posted by sm1tten at 1:14 PM on April 10, 2012

Well, is this likely to be a layoff (or a technical layoff if it's a case of "pulling your funding"), or a flat out FIRING? If you are outright fired, you tend not to get unemployment. Unfortunately "quit to avoid getting fired" counts as fired for purposes of unemployment too. Either way, you get no money. (Disclaimer: I live in CA, don't know the rules where you live.)

Now, if this could be counted as a layoff, I'd say do the work, let him get rid of you, collect money on your way out the door for awhile. But if you're going to get a firing on your record if you let this wait two weeks, then hell, might as well go.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:26 PM on April 10, 2012

As toxic as the relationship has been, can you use your relief and new life plan to help you assemble your rise-above-it self, and have a sit down with your editor? Lay out the issue as one of wanting to leave on a good note, and can you two work out a plan for the next 2 weeks that serves both you and he? I guess that's Pollyanna-ish, but I dunno, I like trying the high road. Also, you get to be in control.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:36 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a good chance that if you give two-weeks notice your boss will tell you to go ahead and leave now. Especially since your relationship is so bad. I've known people that happened to. The boss didn't want to have an angry soon-to-be ex employee hanging around where he could do some damage.
posted by lazydog at 2:42 PM on April 10, 2012

If you are outright fired, you tend not to get unemployment.

This is almost always untrue, unless you were fired for gross misconduct (i.e., theft or workplace violence or similar).
posted by Violet Hour at 3:43 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to take this totally nuclear, do whatever research you need about how to bow out but keep it from your editor. Say that progress is going well on the piece and give the bare minimum to him to read and review. On the last day, hand the resignation over in place of the piece saying that you re-evaluated the necessity of your position.

If he is an asshole, your co-workers will probably envy that satisfaction. It is a publication, your name cannot go on a by-line of something that does not exist. Giving two weeks will get you booted now without you being able to get your ducks in a row.

Scorched earth! Also, what spicy nuts said...
posted by milqman at 3:43 PM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

After nearly a decade of lurking on Metafilter, I just paid $5 so that I could answer your question.

I was in a situation very much like yours. On staff at a publication. Toxic relationship with the top boss, who had done some slimy things. Saw that he was setting me up so that he'd have an excuse to get rid of me. And I had been laying the ground work to get out, though maybe not quite that soon.

I could have quit cold. I gave three weeks notice and stuck it out. Told him he should have someone in my position who wanted to work for him, and I wasn't that person.

Here's why I worked the final weeks. First, there were other people depending on me. If I had stuck it to the boss, I would have stuck it to them too. They didn't deserve it. Second, I wanted to keep the high ground. You never know who is paying attention to how you handle your business dealings. You never know when you may cross paths with them again.

The jerky boss? Maybe he's still a jerk. I don't know. I haven't dealt with him since. But he's gone from the publication, and I occasionally deal with the people who are running things now. I also deal with a former co-worker who has moved on to a new gig.

If you are going into a different field, maybe you could get away with walking out the door. But it's better if people remember that your boss was the jerk, not you.
posted by Longtime Listener at 4:20 PM on April 10, 2012 [18 favorites]

If you are outright fired, you tend not to get unemployment.

This is almost always untrue, unless you were fired for gross misconduct (i.e., theft or workplace violence or similar).

Agreed. I don't know what state you're in, but in NY at least, the onus is on the former employer to defend why they shouldn't have to pay you, former employee, unemployment, and the people looking into it are very tough.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:30 AM on April 11, 2012

Give your two weeks notice. It's the professional thing to do. You never know if you are going to work with these coworkers or this boss again, so why burn bridges? I realize you may not want to do this last assignment, but I think you should, to avoid leaving a job badly.
posted by emilynoa at 8:04 AM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

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