How do I tell my boss I want to leave my job before my 3-month notice period ends?
May 6, 2012 4:47 PM   Subscribe

How do I ask my boss to let me leave a month before my 3 month notice period ends when he wrote me a nice recommendation letter for a job that I was applying for?

I have a 3-month notice period at my current job. At first I wanted to just serve 2 of those months and pay the necessary salary in lieu for the 3rd month..just to get out of the job as quickly as possible (can't afford to pay a full 3 month salary in lieu!) However, my boss persuaded me to stay for the full notice period so that I can smoothly pass over my work to the new person coming in to take my position. Hiring has started for that position and the new person should be coming in by early to mid June (abt 1 month before the end of my notice period). I agreed and put down a date 3 months away on my resignation letter. The main reason I agreed was because I had no new job lined up at that time and because I had been doing my job as a one-woman-show and no one would be able to really explain all the stuff I've been doing to the new person besides me.

Abt 3 weeks into the notice period, I applied for a new job. I asked my boss to help me write a recommendation letter and help forward it to his contacts at the new place I'm applying to. He was kind enough to do so. Now, the new place has decided to hire me, but I am barely into the first month of my notice period, and they need me in by another month's time (i.e.: a month before the full notice period is served). By that time, my replacement may not have come in yet and I may not be able to train him/her as earlier promised. I have no problems paying off the necessary salary in lieu as required by my contract, but I feel bad about asking my boss to let me leave earlier than promised, especially since he wrote such a nice recommendation for me.

So, what is the best way for me to broach the topic with him? How can I put it across to him that I want to leave a month earlier than promised in a way that minimises the damage to our professional relationship? (I won't be working with him anymore, but would like to maintain a cordianl relationship in case I need to work with him or the organisation again in the future. In any case, we will still be working in the same industry so our paths may cross from time to time).
posted by bie81 to Work & Money (12 answers total)
I don't actually think there's any way for you to leave earlier than you promised on good terms. Especially if you'd be leaving them with no one in your position, and no one to train the person who's filling it. Ouch.

Why not explain to the new workplace why you need to start 4 weeks later than they want you to? It's not likely they'll rescind the offer over that amount of time, and saying that you need to train a replacement doesn't strike me as something that would negatively impact you at all.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 5:03 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Hey, Bob. Wanted to let you know I've got good news and bad news; the good news for me is that the new position came through. Unfortunately, bad news I need to start there at $DATE. So I'm not going to be able to hold to my originally stated last day here. Instead it's going to be $DATE_MINUS_SOME. Wanted to give you plenty of advance notice so we can readjust turnover plans as needed."

Then be professional about helping readjust those turnover plans. Document things, etc., and let them worry about it. Frankly, if there's literally no one that could pick up what you're doing as of right now (the morbid example I always use at uncomfortable managers is, what in the world is your game plan if I suddenly got ran over by a truck?), they're not running themselves very well. But you don't need to tell them that, of course.
posted by Drastic at 5:08 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

That said, there's also no harm at all in giving sarahnicolesays' suggestion a whirl first. Or see about splitting the difference, if you could start a couple weeks later than new employer wants, and in return leave a couple weeks prior than old employer might prefer. Minimizing even mild bad blood is good to strive for--just don't get caught up in thinking you're obligated to strive for it.
posted by Drastic at 5:15 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you do both half time on that last month?
posted by salvia at 5:20 PM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Walk into his office with a realistic plan to start your replacement a month early. That is the way to bring this up, get him to agree to it, and keep him thinking you're a person of your word.
posted by michaelh at 5:24 PM on May 6, 2012

Spend the next day writing down everything you do and how you do it. Organize it into a binder. Make it look nice.

Bring it to your new boss and as he is looking over it, let him know that you have to leave a month early but you will be available by phone to answer any questions.
posted by myselfasme at 5:35 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

The recommendation seems pretty irrelevant here, the question should say "How do I ask my boss to let me leave a month before my 3 month notice period ends when I've already discussed it with him and agreed to serve out the full 3 months?" (and I'm assuming an unstated "and remain on good terms" because otherwise you just tell him you're leaving).

At the last discussion, you agreed because
1. you didn't care about end dates anyway (your motivation to agree)
2. you knew that there was no realistic plan for training the new employee if you left early (their motivation for wanting you to)

so 1 has changed on your end, and now you have to fix 2 on their end. Suggestions above like get the new guy to start sooner, document the shit out of everything, etc, are all possibilities. (Working half time at both jobs sounds like a nightmare to me). But first I would also check with the new job that you can't put off your start date - that sounds like the easiest solution.
posted by jacalata at 9:04 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your boss helped you get this new job. It's not going to be a complete surprise to him if you get it--in fact it's quite possible to imagine that he'll be pleased for you, despite the likely (but short-lived) inconvenience to him. Frame it the right way--that you're grateful for his assistance in your jobsearch, that the success of your jobsearch has put you in an awkward position, that you'd like to do everthing you can to minimize the inconvenience caused--and long after he's forgotten the awkward handover period he'll remember how much effort you made to limit the disruption.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 1:38 AM on May 7, 2012

Yeah, I second lapsangsouchong. Your best bet is to book an appointment with him in his office, thank him sincerely for helping you land your new job, and politely tell him that you're leaving one month early. Be sure to say a few things about what you learned from your time at the company and how much you value his mentorship. All the best!
posted by lotusmish at 7:08 AM on May 7, 2012

REALLY? 3 months notice? That seems very unusual. You can't realy plan anything with that kind of albatross hanging around your neck.

If you want to leave, you can't line up a job before you go, because who is going to wait 3 months for you to serve out your notice.

Let your current boss know that you've got a new job and that they want you to start on such-and-such a date. Explain that you tried to work it out for the full 3 months, but it didn't happen.

You can't jeapordize a job in the hand for one you've already given notice at.

Where are you, and what kind of job is it, that seem outrageous to this American.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:49 AM on May 7, 2012

Ruthless bunny, I don't know if the OP is in the UK but it's pretty standard here. It's rare for people to need to give less than a month's notice from a permanent job and three months is common once you're beyond entry level. My job has three months and the director of my dept has six months. It's expected that someone making a job offer will wait out the notice period of the employee-to-be's current role.
posted by freya_lamb at 10:40 AM on May 7, 2012

Thanks everyone! Your answers helped me frame my request to leave a bit earlier to my boss. I assured him that i would tie up the loose ends and scheduled several meetings to outline what those loose ends were and update him on my progress. He kindly offered to put across a request to HR to waive the last few days (less than a week) of my notice period. I didnt get to leave as early as I wanted to, but i didnt burn any bridges either.
posted by bie81 at 4:52 AM on July 18, 2012

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