The Resignation of the Amanuensis
January 2, 2013 5:44 AM   Subscribe

I need to give my resignation this week, but just learned my boss/supervisor is on bereavement leave. What's the classiest way to handle this?

I thought I had planned it so well! I carefully planned to give my 2-weeks notice today, checking that my boss had no appointments or looming deadlines that would interfere with our being able to sit down and talk for a while.

Then I get to work this morning and learn that my boss will be out until Monday due to a death in the family.

The start date for my new job is predicated on my giving notice this week; so are assorted relocation and house-moving items for me to move from here (FL) to my new place (CA). I cannot change these.

Since I can't resign in person today, what should I do? So far I have the following ideas but no clue what is better for everyone involved:
  • Call him today to discuss
  • E-mail him my resignation letter today
  • Wait until he returns next week and resign in person (this means fewer than 2 weeks notice)
  • Comedy 4th option
I really like my current employer and have been here for 6 years now. I want to leave gracefully, classily, and with the minimum of hassle for my colleagues and superiors.
posted by this reminds me of an achewood strip to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
E-mail your boss with a thoughtful letter and let your coworkers know in person.
posted by zizzle at 5:47 AM on January 2, 2013

You go up the ladder and send it to HIS boss, and cc him on the email. You need it in writing anyway; think of the email as the real, formal resignation, and the in-person talk as a friendly heads-up about this email you're about to send.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:48 AM on January 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

The only real kindness you can extend is to give him as much warning as possible so he can prepare for your absence. I'd email him sooner rather than later, and word the message to express my regret at the unfortunate timing.
posted by jon1270 at 5:52 AM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

If I were in your shoes, I'd either go with Tomorrowful's suggestion and take it to my boss's boss, or perhaps to HR, since they will understand the situation.
posted by miskatonic at 6:00 AM on January 2, 2013

This is why most companies have an established chain of command. Go to whomever would handle any other urgent situation that your boss would normally handle and tell them. This is probably their boss or the person they report to. If it's not clear who that person would be, go to HR or to the next most senior person to your boss and explain the situation.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:06 AM on January 2, 2013

Give notice to your manager and your next in line in the chain of command. That covers you. As for bereavement leave, you have no idea who died. It may have been a spouse's distant relative or someone very close to him. But either way, it can't be helped, don't view it as 'piling on,' you're just doing what you need to do.

When your boss returns, plan to sit down with a plan for transition and coverage of your current duties. If there are things that only you currently do, thoroughly document them for your successor.

If there are folks in your work-group who can cover certain tasks for you, discuss them with these folks, and have them observe you doing them, so they can fill in until a replacement is found.

The classy way to do this is to make the transition as easy as possible for your boss and your department.

Good luck in your future endeavors!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:08 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that letting him or her know promptly is the main thing here and your best bet is e-mail (cc'd to the next level up, someone who will definitely be in the office checking e-mails). If I were in this situation I might send an e-mail something like this:


I'm writing to you for two reasons. Firstly, I just heard about your loss and wanted to express my condolences. My thoughts [AND PRAYERS? YOUR CALL] and very best wishes are with you and your family at this difficult time.

Secondly, I am letting you know that I will be leaving to begin a new job starting on [DATE]. I wanted to let you know as soon as possible so that we can work together to minimize the challenges of this transition for you and the office. I have always had a great deal of respect and admiration for you and [EMPLOYERS] and am very appreciative of the time I have worked here. Thank you for everything and again, my thoughts [PRAYERS?} are with you.

Best wishes,
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:19 AM on January 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

Go to your boss's boss and inform that person. Explain to that person that you are telling him/her because your boss is on bereavement leave and you don't want to burden your boss.
posted by dfriedman at 6:19 AM on January 2, 2013

I had the same experience a few years ago. I submitted my resignation to my direct supervisor and cc'd her supervisor. Then I wrote her a separate letter discussing my reason for leaving, my appreciation of her support and guidance over the years and plans to stay in touch.

She was upset when she received the resignation letter, because it felt like another blow while she was dealing with a death in the family. But after receiving the personal letter, she was no longer mad and we were able to plan my transition more easily. We have stayed in touch over the past 5 years since I left.
posted by JennyJupiter at 6:36 AM on January 2, 2013

Thanks all. My original plan was to go to him in-person with a copy of my letter in hand, so I already had one written.

E-mail sent, and I expect he'll call to follow-up as soon as he reads it (if not, I'll call him after a respectful delay).

On the plus side, e-mail means I'm less likely to weep the weepy-weep way while delivering the bad news.

(There's only one layer above my supervisor - the CEO, who is out until the 7th. Our HR person is also out.)
posted by this reminds me of an achewood strip at 6:56 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm all about gallows humor, but don't take the comedy option. No good can come of that, unless you know your boss extremely well and are absolutely certain that he is thrilled to get a few days off to dance on the grave of a hated relative who finally kicked the bucket.
The only real kindness you can extend is to give him as much warning as possible so he can prepare for your absence.
As an engineering manager, I can confirm this. It is his job to deal with attrition. You have no reason to feel bad about the situation as long as you handle it politely and professionally.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:33 AM on January 2, 2013

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