How to quit a long-term job without being a dick.
April 18, 2013 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I am, at 55 years old, capable of retiring comfortably. I intend to do this as soon as possible. The question is how do I quit my job?

There are projects we are in the middle of that I am deeply involved in, which is always true. I work for a small family owned company (not my family). They are good people but they aren't my friends. There used to be a lot more employees but there are only 6 employees left including me. I want out but I don't want to be a dick about it after almost 30 years of steady employment.

So what do I do? I don't think 2-weeks notice is in order but it's conceivable that once I gave notice they might tell me just to leave right then - which is OK by me. Should I offer to stay until they can hire somebody else and I can get them up to speed on the current projects? Should I offer to stay until my current big project is over in 7 months? Just exactly how do you quit a company you've worked at for 30 years? Am I over-thinking this?
posted by lordrunningclam to Work & Money (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Am I over-thinking this?

Yep. Here's your letter:

As of TWO WEEKS FROM NOW, I will be leaving my position of JOB at COMPANYNAME. I wish you best luck in the future and I have enjoyed my time at the company.

Best regards,

Any company that can't replace an employee is already failing. Keep in mind that employees leave randomly non-voluntarily as well - for instance, due to illness or family issues. The company needs to be prepared to deal with that situation and with employees voluntarily leaving.

If you want to be generous to them, offer your time at a consulting rate after you leave. If you don't want them to take advantage of it, make your consulting rate high so that they really need to be in a bind to need your time again. There's no particular reason to make the rate low, because then you'll never leave, as they will just keep you on as a consultant doing effectively the same work forever since you are cheaper than a replacement. However, you are under no obligation, ethically or legally, to offer to consult for them, and it would be the exception rather than the norm.
posted by saeculorum at 7:51 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Go to whomever and tell them, "I'm at the point where I'm ready to retire. I'm always in the middle of something, so I wanted to work out a plan where you can hire my replacement, and I can ease/him her into what I'm doing so that the transition can be seamless to our customers."

That's the classy way of doing it. What they do from there isn't really your problem.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:52 AM on April 18, 2013 [71 favorites]

You're over-thinking this. If someone quitting would devastate them... they're not managing their business wisely.
posted by Unified Theory at 7:53 AM on April 18, 2013

"Dear Manager/Boss/Owner, I wanted to let you know I'm going to be retiring in the next year. I'd like to schedule a conversation with you to look at how you'd like to manage my exit to make it as smooth as possible for Family Corp. One option is that I stay through the Client Co project and finish up here before Christmas. Another is that I stay only long enough to help you recruit and train a new Ball Bearing Engineer. Please take some time to let me know how you'd like to approach things."

You should of course be prepared to be shuffled out the door immediately but this seems less likely.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:54 AM on April 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Don't just offer to stay indefinitely (until they hire someone else is not a clear time frame). I'd balance my goodwill for the people/company with my desire to get out, and pick a clear time line, even if it's long. Seven months is fine. I would say two weeks is pretty short if you don't want to burn bridges. I'd think a minimum of two months' notice should be sufficient, though.
posted by vegartanipla at 7:55 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I disagree with that Dear Manager letter. You need a more personal touch along the lines of Ruthless Bunny. Just tell them you have decided you would like to retire soon and would like to work out a plan with them that meets both your needs or that helps them transition to a new person or whatever.
posted by Dansaman at 7:56 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Saeculorum's 2-weeks-then-consult is fine advice, but is a bit tough if you've been there for 30 years and aren't on bad terms.

I like some of the softer approaches better, but I'd be clear on a nearer-term deadline, and then offer consulting. I.e., darlingbri's "Dear boss--I've determined to retire in the near term. I can stay with you to help with transitions through (June 30), but then I'll be traveling. If you'd like, I can come back periodically on a consulting basis thereafter, but I'll be retired and spending time with [whatever], so I can't be with you on a full time basis. Thanks for 30 great years, and I wish you the best, etc."

posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:58 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

This depends on your relationship with the powers that be. I would think that after thirty years there's someone in the org that you can go to and say, "Mrx, i'm getting to the point where i'd like to stop working. can we start talking about this transition?". IMO communicating early and often is the best way to plan transitions like this in places where you're liked, respected, and valued - but it depends on the culture of your workplace.
posted by sid at 7:59 AM on April 18, 2013

Ruthless Bunny is exactly right.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 8:00 AM on April 18, 2013

I think it's good that you want to be nice about this, especially since it's a small business not a faceless corporation. The fact that you don't need the job also makes it easier for you to be nice about it, because the repercussions of them taking your niceness and turning it into firing you immediately aren't there.

So, first figure out what you'd be willing to do: What's the maximum length of time you're willing to stay? Are you willing to work part time while you transition out of some projects? Interested in long term part-time or consulting assignments?

Once you've got a rough sense of what you're willing to do, go to them with the idea that you'd like to retire by X date, but you don't want to leave them in the lurch, so you want to work with them to put together a transition plan. If you've got a good working relationship with them, this should seem like a cooperative exercise in finding the right solution for everyone. If it's not, they might fire you.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:03 AM on April 18, 2013

Ask your boss what the best plan would be, if you're more or less equally prepared to hear "Leave now" and "We'll talk about this in a year."

If you get the former, great, you're ready.

If you get the latter, be ready to reply with, "I was thinking more along the lines of after Big Project is done, which should be November," or something around your absolute last acceptable date (which you've calculated ahead of time).
posted by Etrigan at 8:06 AM on April 18, 2013

Ruthless Bunny + giving a "drop dead date". You don't want to make it indefinite or you'll be there 5 years from now while they are still looking for your replacement.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:09 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think Ruthless Bunny has it - include a finite time frame (two months, six months, etc.) because transitions like this have a way of not happening if there's no deadline or external pressure.

I know the popular answer to most "how should I quit my job" Ask MetaFilter questions is "Do you think they'd give you any notice if they were letting you go? You don't owe them anything beyond the standard two weeks!" but 30 years of steady employment with the same company is nearly unheard of these days. Although you're not friends with the owners, it sounds like you've had a decent relationship with them over the years and giving longer notice is a classy way to go about it.
posted by usonian at 8:13 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yeah, the normal advice here is "never give more than two weeks notice — and don't ask to leave, announce that you're leaving."

But the reason that's the normal advice is, most people who ask are quitting one job to take another one. They've got bills to pay, they've got a fixed inflexible start date at their new job, and they would suffer hardship if they ended up with a long stretch of unemployment in between. People stick with two weeks notice because they're afraid that if they give two months notice, their boss will say "Screw it, just leave this afternoon" and they'll have no paycheck for two months. And they announce they're leaving in two weeks rather than asking "When should I leave?" because they're afraid that if they ask, their boss will request a timeline that conflicts with their new job's start date.

That's not your situation. You aren't worried about a month or two of unemployment, or making sure you're free to start your new job on time. You're about to retire.

So unlike most people, you can afford to be generous and flexible. Do what Ruthless Bunny says: just ask "How should we do this?" If the answer works for you, go with it. If it's too demanding or inflexible, you can still always say "Sorry, I tried to be nice but that's ridiculous and insulting, now I'm giving you two weeks' notice."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:40 AM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Even if they don't hire someone immediately, start getting as much information as you can out of your head and written down somewhere accessible. That's the hardest part about transitions, usually. I once took over a job with only one day's training because the girl handed me written instructions for basically every aspect of the job when I took it, as well as a spreadsheet of the status of everything that was in-progress, what it was waiting on, etc. Same information could have taken weeks for her to demonstrate in bits and pieces.
posted by Sequence at 8:50 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

You're retiring, not heading to a new job, so there's not the same level of pressure about being done and gone by a certain date. Since it sounds like you have multiple projects, which end at different dates, the best solution might be to go to management, tell them you're ready to retire, and work out an arrangement where you complete what you have on your plate, but don't take on anything new. It benefits them because they don't have the shock of an immediate loss of an employee, and it benefits you because you can ease yourself into retirement (you might be ready for it, but it's still a significant transition, especially if you've been working 30 years).

If someone quitting would devastate them... they're not managing their business wisely.

Given the economic issues over the last several years, there are a large number of small businesses that are doing the best they can, and would be devastated by the sudden loss of an employee. That doesn't mean they're doing anything wrong. And for those who think something like this would only be bad for management, recognize that it could easily lead to five other employees losing their jobs if the company went under.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:15 AM on April 18, 2013


Yeah, it's not a particularly good time for the business although things are picking up and projects are projects - just one headache after another.

Regarding Deadlines:

I really don't want to be here in 7 months. I want to be sailing and snorkeling around Fort Jefferson. I really don't want to come in tomorrow morning but I've felt that way for the past couple of years and I keep coming back anyway.

I think some hybrid of Ruthless Bunny's answer seems best, but with a relatively near date. It's entirely possible they won't hire anyone to replace me, that's how we got down to 6 employees - everybody's just had to pick up the slack. Honestly, that's one of the things hastening this on for me. If they told me not to come back tomorrow I think I'd do a happy dance.

They did bring in a guy to learn my job a couple of years ago. I don't think he's learned it particularly well. I wish him luck. He'll need it.
posted by lordrunningclam at 10:26 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a friend pointed out to me recently...there's never a good time for you to leave. You aren't the Once and Future King. There isn't going to be a time when everything is done and no new projects are coming. Pick a date, negotiate a date, stick to it.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:18 AM on April 18, 2013

So I think this is going to be the email text:


This is to let you know I'm going to be retiring. I will stay on through June 7th if necessary to make the transition as smooth as possible. However, I am prepared to leave immediately if that is what you think is best for the Company. Please let me know how you want to approach this.

I'm going to sleep on it, but I feel better already. Thanks for everyone's help.
posted by lordrunningclam at 11:45 AM on April 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bear in mind, they must have it somewhere in the back of their mind that you might be thinking of retiring. Most employees are after 30 years. And as you said they did bring someone else in a couple of years ago, presumably as a precaution for when you got around to leaving. So don't feel guilty at all about giving the amount of notice that you want to give - be it two months or two days. It's kind of you to stay on a little longer than 2 weeks, but they can't really be too pissed if you don't.

Sleeping on it is good. Taking a few sick/vacation days is good too, just to decide if you really do want to give longer than 2 weeks.
posted by vignettist at 12:21 PM on April 18, 2013

So I think this is going to be the email text:

Wait, wait, wait... this isn't something done over email. Go have a conversation, in person, face to face. Follow it up with something in writing afterwards.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:30 PM on April 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Wait, wait, wait... this isn't something done over email. Go have a conversation, in person, face to face. Follow it up with something in writing afterwards.

Oh, all right.
posted by lordrunningclam at 1:24 PM on April 18, 2013

It's not going to be that bad.

Oh, and congratulations! Enjoy that snorkle!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:29 PM on April 18, 2013

Well that went way better than I thought it would. Just so you know, I said more or less what I wrote above. He appreciates me sticking around until he can find somebody (but not later than mid June) and congratulations.

Thanks for your help, everyone.
posted by lordrunningclam at 6:37 AM on April 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

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