want to have a pleasant goodbye for both sides
July 5, 2012 12:39 PM   Subscribe

How to part with your current employer in good terms?

I had discussions with a few friends on the experience of leaving a company or a group to work for another company or group. From my limited sampling of the situation, it seems that if you just tell your current employer out of the blue that you will resign in two weeks and you will start working for another company, you will likely to get angry or cold response back. In one situation, the current group leader asked the person who's leaving to work for another group in the same company to continue work for them for 8 more weeks which is the upper limit set for that company for group changing transition period. Even after that person worked for another 8 weeks, they are still treated coldly. In another situation, after giving the two weeks notice, the group leader asked the person to leave the company the next day instead of the two weeks the person had planned to continue to work. In the situations where the parting was nice were that cases when the person who's leaving would stay home for the kids or start his/her own research stuff. So it seems that if the boss feel that you either hated them or abandoned them for the better, it will angry them. If it's personal issues, then it's ok. I understand this, but there got to be ways when you jump ship for better career opportunity and do not anger your current job, right? This whole discussion makes me wonder what I need to consider when I need to resign my job. Is it better to give hint to the group leader that due to family reasons or misfit or something else, you are likely to move in a few months, then ask what things need to transfer and wrap up and stuff like that. I want to ask the hive mind here of your experience, and how to handle it with the best manners possible without sacrifice yourself unnecessarily. The standard requirement in industry setting is merely two weeks notice. Thanks folks.
posted by akomom to Work & Money (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Give your two weeks, wrap up your work, make sure your process is documented somewhere your successor can find it, and don't smack talk anyone on your way out (including in your exit interview.) Don't try to lie or justify your leaving or whatever, just be pleasant, professional, and matter of fact. Whether or not people are cranky about it is entirely out of your control.

In my experience, good bosses may be disappointed but they know this is how the world works and they don't take people leaving personally (unless you actually have personal drama going on.) Bad bosses will almost certainly take it personally and get mad. It really doesn't have much to do with the person leaving at all.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:45 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

The best terms I've left places on have been when I've spoken to my boss about how a new situation has come up and that they have given me a starting date of X. Ideally X will be more than two weeks into the future. And I then ask my boss what he would like out of me to ensure that I am not leaving him in the lurch. Does he want me to train my replacement? Does he want me to document all of my work? "How can I make my exit as smooth as possible for you and this company?" And follow through on the reasonable requests that he might make.

But at the same time, have boundaries about it, like don't work more than, say, 20% more than your usual hours during the transition, and don't let them try to get you to come in in the evening or the weekend after you've started your new job. Your offer to help get things sorted is not an overture to being taken advantage of.
posted by gauche at 12:47 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

A rational manager will understand that people will sometimes move on to better opportunities, and will appreciate being given more than the contractual period of notice in order for you to complete work that can be completed and transfer stuff that can't be completed. With an irrational manager, all bets are off — for all you know he'll be more angry that it's for personal reasons, or just assume you're lying — so you might as well be honest. If he tries to make your remaining days hell, revise your period of notice and get the hell out.
posted by ubiquity at 12:47 PM on July 5, 2012

Akomom, a functional workplace with a sane manager will be reasonable when you give notice (though they may ask you to leave immediately in any case). You should not give excessive notice, or warn that you are going to give notice in the future. Depending on the office, giving 2-4 weeks can be nice.
posted by jeather at 12:47 PM on July 5, 2012

From my limited sampling of the situation, it seems that if you just tell your current employer out of the blue that you will resign in two weeks and you will start working for another company, you will likely to get angry or cold response back.

Well yeah, if they're assholes. The good ones will shake your hand and say "Congratulations and good luck, we'll miss you." They might even buy you lunch.

The bottom line is you cannot control other people's reactions. Giving two weeks is a nice courtesy but if I did so and they were rude about it, I would probably walk right then.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:48 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

On a tangent:

The less said about where you are going and why, the better. I once literally became involved in a lawsuit and was subject to legal harassment because I made the mistake of mentioning I was going to work with my old boss. The claim was totally baseless, but it was a pain the butt for everyone.

Recently I learned a magic phrase: "I was asked to keep it confidential."
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:50 PM on July 5, 2012 [11 favorites]

Tell your current employer that you have received a higher-paying offer, and even though you are sorry to be going, here's two weeks' notice.

As for leaving on good terms, get your desk as cleared as possible; plus either train your replacement or make sure to leave accurate notes about what you do/when you do it/how you do what you do. Don't say anything snarky about anyone or anything at the current job: let them know that you're sorry to be leaving, but cannot turn down this wonderful new opportunity.
posted by easily confused at 12:54 PM on July 5, 2012

One thing that I plan to do when I leave my current company is offer to continue to work for them on weekends (not indefinitely, just for a month or two) as a private contractor, in case it takes them longer to get the new person up to speed. This approach (Which I learned from a very successful career woman I used to date) has several advantages.

1) You make some extra money.
2) Your company doesn't feel like you abandoned them.
3) The fact that your old company kept you as a consultant on even after you officially left shows that you were indispensable and looks great on your resume.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 12:55 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

The moment you walk out the door, you change from "person who's abandoned us by leaving" to "former colleague, potential networking resource, industry peer." The disappointed attitude you may get during your notice period should evaporate instantly once you are no longer working there. (Of course, if your boss is crazy then all bets are off.)

Just be professional (no smack talking, no gloating); give the standard (usually two weeks') notice (but be prepared to be asked to leave immediately if you're going to a competitor, that's not unusual and it's not personal); fulfill your obligations to hand off projects and brief your manager and team on the state of your work; tell everyone you will miss them; and don't worry about it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:06 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think there are many factors here. As some have said already, if the employer is a jerk or otherwise unprofessional, it probably won't matter what you do to make your transition smooth for everyone--they're gonna be an asshole no matter what.

If your employer is not an unreasonable jerk, there are a few things you can do to make your departure a pleasant one.

- Don't slack just because you know you're leaving, and tie up as many loose ends as you can. If possible, train your peers or your replacement (or offer to!) if there are some things that only you can do.
- Make yourself available after you leave (leave your email address or phone number), just in case they need your help after you've left. I've done this, and I did receive emails and IMs from ex-co-workers for several weeks after I left.
- If you think giving more than 2 weeks would be beneficial to the employer, do it. (Maybe others won't agree, based on their experiences, so YMMV.) I gave 4 weeks' notice to my previous employer because I was leaving in the midst of a big project. The extra time actually allowed them to hire a replacement before I left.
posted by methroach at 1:08 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have seen several co-workers leave my company. Some of them, if leaving to a direct competitor, were not allowed to work out their two weeks notice, but that didn't mean anyone was annoyed with them for leaving - it's just legal/HR standards. Some managers will be annoyed at the extra work they're about to do to organise a replacement, and that might flow into annoyance at the individual, but that's unprofessional and their problem, not yours. Lying about where you are heading is foolish, especially if you want to stay in contact with anyone after you leave as they will quickly figure it out and probably turn into gossip around the office.

If you tell your manager that you're thinking of leaving in a few months, you may stop being considered for big projects, and be sidelined, if not just fired. If you're in a more paranoid industry, you should basically not say you're planning to leave until you are ok with leaving that day (although you should never rely on this, you should be ok with working out your notice period as well).
posted by jacalata at 1:15 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Give your soon-to-be former employer as little detail as possible. Just cite "a better opportunity" or "an opportunity in line with my goals" and leave it at that.

If your boss gets emotional or belligerent, let them rant. Then politely restate the above.

Do not give them the impression that you can be swayed to stay -- be very clear, and very direct: you're leaving, you'll be glad to help out with the transition, your last day is XXXX.
posted by gsh at 1:18 PM on July 5, 2012

In this economy you go where the money and opportunity is, completely without regard for how it affects anyone but you and your family.

How your boss responds, how your co-workers respond, how anyone you currently work with acts is out of your control.

I find the best letter of resignation is the shortest.

Dear Job,

Please accept this as my letter of resignation. My final day will be XXX.


Ruthless Bunny.

That is all that's required.

Find out if they'll pay you for unused vacation. If not, use it before you resign.

Most places are cool and won't take it personally. Besides, who cares if they treat you coldly? It's a freaking job, not your family.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:19 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Manager Tools covers this in a podcast. When you start interviewing, start thinking about how to transition stuff, producing documentation on your projects, etc. Then when you give notice, have a transition packet ready for your boss explaining how they can pick up and reallocate your work with minimal disruption.

Stay positive. You appreciate the opportunities you had at the current gig, but there are new opportunities and challenges you're excited about at the new one.

Finally, remember that employers are only entitled to honest answers to questions that are entitled to an answer.
posted by bfranklin at 1:29 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's important that you not be counting on working through your notice period, particularly in an "at will" state. This means don't count on those last two weeks of pay, and don't count on being able to tie up personal loose ends in your office (gather your belongings, phone calls to clients, etc.).

Be ready to go the moment you give notice. In most cases, you'll be able to work through the notice period without incident and leave amicably. But in some, particularly in competitive industries, you might not get to go back to your desk\office.

This is another reason not to given an overly generous notice period.
posted by rube goldberg at 1:52 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

After you give notice, if they keep you on for your two weeks or whatever, what you do in those two weeks will have a huge impact on what sort of mark you leave. Wrap up as many things as you can, and notify 3rd parties of your impending absence, e.g, on a client call, say "just so you know, Person X will be taking this project over as of..." Clients are happier, and your co-workers are happier because they're not an unpleasant surprise for clients.

Leave a memo about where you've left things -- are any projects on fire, or have impending deadlines? Let your replacement know. How can you be contacted if a project needs something that's in your brain and your brain only? How are your notes organized? The important contacts for your projects? Putting this all in writing makes life easier for your replacement and may get you a better recommendation down the road.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:55 PM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks a lot for all the great answers, pretty much all pointing to the direction of being professional, detach personal feelings from the standard transaction. If wanting to leave a good expression, do the best to tidy up things and offering to help by phone or extra work to the current company. Nobody here recommend extra long notice or hint of intention to leave. I understand this is the work culture in America, better go with the flow. I appreciate any personal story of satisfying departure. If anybody has different personal stories reflecting different culture, I'd be interested in hearing them too. Thanks
posted by akomom at 3:02 PM on July 5, 2012

I've left jobs and then ended up working with my old bosses or at my old company at least three times now. In all three cases, I left voluntarily (pretty much using the scenario I described above) and when I came across openings with these people that I'd worked with before they were happy to see and work with me again. Now, these were all the sort of bosses that I was not only willing but delighted to work for again, so it was definitely a mutual good fit sort of thing, but that, at least, is totally possible.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:07 PM on July 5, 2012

No matter how tempting it may be, don't act on bitterness or anger. Your frustration will fade pretty quickly, but angry gestures will fade much more slowly.
posted by morninj at 3:31 PM on July 5, 2012

While two weeks is considered standard, it's also the bare minimum for a "professional" leave of absence. I have seen many people, myself included, leave under excellent circumstances, but usually a month, or perhaps even a bit more, tends to engender the most good will. Also, leaving for a drastic change (go back to school, move across the country, transition to an entirely different industry) tends to be received better than, "I have accepted a position at (your competitor)." That said, if you have an excellent opportunity and all you can give is two weeks notice, that is perfectly alright. If you make sure your projects are completed and leave a comprehensive guide/list of things to do as appropriate, you can leave with your head held high and conscious clear. Two weeks, or any amount of, notice is meant to minimize chaos upon your departure, not to protect people's feelings or egos.
posted by katemcd at 3:51 PM on July 5, 2012

Personally, I give the barest minimum of details, a simple resignation letter and before I send it in, I assume I'm going to get frog-marched out and do the Nixon, purging everything private like IM accounts and logs, internet history, etc., and making sure to save records of any work I want to save in my email or on one of my jump drive. That doesn't mean I take everything and don't leave a copy, but I otherwise try to make sure all my work is there and I have everything I need if I get the swift boot out the door and no time to say my goodbyes. If there's people that you trust and want to stay in contact with, make sure to add them on Facebook or LinkedIn or Industry Tool Of Choice.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:57 PM on July 5, 2012

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