Your crisis is not my crisis, except it is
December 10, 2013 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Every time I commit to leaving my current job, something goes nuclear, and it falls on me. I'm sick of it. What is the best way to handle a current boss planning drastic future plans around you, while you've just interviewed for your dream job? Snowflakes inside.

This morning, I had a terrific interview for the closest thing I've ever considered a "dream job." I clicked well with my two-person interview panel and, after the formal/canned questions were done, they asked me some off the cuff questions (e.g., this is the impossible problem we're facing; what is your analysis/solution?); we had a five minute conversation about mutual hobbies; and then I asked my questions, which lead to about 10+ minutes of receiving advice about how to handle my first year in the position, tips on how to best succeed, discussion of the challenges I would be facing at that specific store, and the qualities that make for the best managers (and they used, verbatim, the qualities and descriptions that I had referenced/stressed upon all throughout my interview). I got the interview in the first place after being headhunted by a well-respected, high-level executive. I also have prior experience working for this company, left on wonderful terms, and always got the very best performance reviews. I feel good about my chances, but I understand that nothing's a guarantee.

My current job is a pretty toxic one (think: sick system/Start Up Stockholm Syndrome), with yelling, public shaming, and through-the-roof stress and anxiety levels. It's a privately owned company with 5-6 employees, including me. There's no HR or anything like that. I've been at this job for over three years and have wanted out for two; I've been actively looking for other work for about a year, but I've had panic attacks anytime potential employers called, and I didn't have the emotional energy to interview. I only interviewed for my "dream job" because I was being held accountable to do so in ways far too specific to get into. After my interview today, all of the stress and anxiety slid away, and I was the happiest I'd been in years. I felt gloriously emotionally checked out and more than ready to move on. I felt like my "old self" again, with genuine excitement for my future. And then something happened that always happens: Boss' problems.

Boss feels overwhelmed with work. Boss relies on me to handle the big projects and generally dig the office out of meteoric holes. We're buried again, with a massive incoming project that I'm the most qualified--by leaps and bounds--to tackle. More importantly, tonight, Boss finally realized that our current personnel set up is ridiculous, given our workload and the complexity of our work, and wants to terminate our part-timers. The plan is for me to recruit and train the one full-timer that would replace the part-timers. Boss also wants to hire another administrative assistant, who I would also train. Boss is going to talk to the two part-timers this week about being let go. I am the only one who is able to train these new people, as our primary admin assistant routinely frustrates people to the point of quitting (I almost did, when she trained me) or crying (at least two other employees that I'm aware of). I'm the only other full-time support staff. I realize I'm not irreplaceable, but I'm damned close to it. When I leave, I can actually see Boss calling it quits and closing the doors, and I know Boss pretty well. I'm not saying I know Boss will, but I think there's a definite chance it would go that way.

(FWIW, this is not a situation where I could (or even would) offer to pick up part-time hours in order to iron out all of these new problems; if I get my dream job, I'll be near instantly whisked away for a month and a half of out-of-town/state training. I don't even know if I'll be able to give anything more than a 2 week notice, which is all I'm required to give in order to get paid my accrued personal time.)

I understand that Boss' crisis is not my crisis, and I need to look out for me. That's why I'm asking this question. The advice I've always read and stuck by is, "Never let on that you're looking for a job, until you've found another job, no matter what." But I want to keep Boss as a positive reference, if only because I wouldn't be happy leaving this job without something in my pocket besides "live and learn." My dilemma is that I'm discussing all these future plans with Boss, while I know that I could be handing in my notice by the end of next week. That seems like a huge betrayal and a surefire way of lighting this particular bridge on fire. I also don't know that sitting on something like this, considering the drastic changes Boss is considering, is something that sits well with me at all. Despite Boss' temper and verbal abuse toward other employees (rarely ever me), we have a good rapport and Boss has taught me a lot.

I'm thinking about going in tomorrow morning and telling Boss, "You caught me off guard last night, and I needed time to think through my options. I've interviewed for another position, which I fully intend to take, should it be offered. There is never going to be a good time for me to leave, and I need to do what's best for me. I'm telling you this because I want you to have a clear picture of the resources you will have going into your planned staffing changes." Of course, I run the risk that I don't get the dream job and then get replaced quicker than I can replace my current job. The job market's rough, and my partner and I would not be able to make do on my partner's salary alone. We've made recent, longstanding financial decisions based on the combined income we have now, which would nearly be halved if I lost my job.

I'm sort of in panic mode, and I don't know how well I'm thinking this out. So: what is the smartest, safest, best way to handle this? Are those three things even simultaneously doable in this situation?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (52 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You just leave. This isn't your responsibility. And don't tell your boss about the new job until you have an offer.
posted by chrchr at 8:08 AM on December 10, 2013 [76 favorites]

You think your boss would let you know they were considering firing you?
posted by Benjy at 8:10 AM on December 10, 2013 [36 favorites]

Do not tell your boss you've interviewed for another job and intend to take it. Especially because this dynamic is dysfunctional. You really, really do not owe them anything. Just wait and see what happens and if you get the job, resign with a written 2-week notice like you would in any other position.
posted by something something at 8:11 AM on December 10, 2013 [28 favorites]

Ah, I knew from just the opening description that you've got yourself a sick system. Quietly plan to get out and then put in whatever notice you feel comfortable with.

You need to get out so do so as professionally and unemotionally as possible.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:15 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Look to thine own ass first.

2-week notice is the standard once you have accepted the other job.

As far as references go, a smart employer will give nothing more than "They worked here from DATE to DATE" because a negative reference could trigger a defamation of character lawsuit.

If he blows up, something like "The atmosphere of yelling and abuse is part of why I'm leaving."

Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:17 AM on December 10, 2013 [10 favorites]

Once you get the offer, just quit. Give your notice and go. Write a handbook if it makes you feel better, but it's okay. This is how it works. You have the internet's permission to surround your sick system with a big old SEP field and stroll on.
posted by corvine at 8:18 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

See also "The No Assholes Rule" if you want to feel better about jumping ship from a toxic environment.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:19 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

No no no no no. You do not have an obligation to tell your boss you might leave; that is likely to get you fired, and the new job is not guaranteed.

You owe your employer hard work while you work there, and apparently two weeks notice. Nothing more.

Frankly, you're also not as important as you think. Your employer will move on without you. They can hire and train a replacement and new employees without you, and they will be fine.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:20 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do not tell your boss anything until you've taken the new job. Once you are offered the job and agree to it, offer -- if you want to, and if new job is okay with it -- to stay 3 or 4 weeks to tie up loose ends/write a handbook/train the parttimers quickly before you leave.

Either you're less irreplaceable than you fear, in which case no worries, or you're more, in which case your boss has truly fucked things up in running their own business.
posted by jeather at 8:20 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was in a similar situation earlier this year, complete with the feeling that just looking for another job without informing my boss was a "betrayal."

The thing is, those feelings are not normal. A boss that manipulates you into thinking this way is not a good boss, not worth working for, and most likely a Grade A jerk. Once you have been offered and have accepted the new job, respectfully put in your notice with current job. Try your damnedest to frame these feelings you're having as nothing more than proof you need to Get Out Now.

Don't stress too much over the reference. You've gained experience and life lessons at this job, so you don't need to worry about also getting a glowing recommendation. (And in fact, it's unlikely that a boss like yours would give any former employee a glowing recommendation.)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:21 AM on December 10, 2013 [10 favorites]

Things happen -- people get new jobs, go on family leave, get emergency medical treatments, win lotteries. And yet, the world keeps turning.

We, the internet, give you permission to leave, for whatever reason. But it's a nice touch to have a handbook or guide and really organized files when you do.
posted by mochapickle at 8:22 AM on December 10, 2013

NO, don't discuss this with your boss. You don't owe him anything. Is he warning the part timers they are about to be fired? Quietly work on some documentation, if you want. Even if you don't end up taking this job, having the documentation in place may let you feel less responsible for the person who replaces you in the future.
posted by Malla at 8:22 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

No no no. Do not tell your boss anything at this point. And if you get the job, leave.

It's very hard to do this stuff. If you're a responsible person, you naturally get invested in your work and you naturally build ties to the people you work with. And your departure will cause them hardship - that's real. No amount of "look out for yourself" can wish that away.

But you're not tossing them off a boat to be eaten by sharks. You're living your own life and relying on them to act like adults and respond to that. If Boss elects to close the business, that's lousy for Boss (and even more lousy for the staff) - but this is the same Boss who is firing two part-timers right before Christmas. This isn't some saintly individual who will be tipped over into tragedy, the tragedy is already happening and you're living with it.

It's really, really hard not to take responsibility for things when you see other people fucking them up. Consider this: just last night, my housemate came in while I was dozing off, told me that two of his friends had a car problem and needed to wait at our house until 1am for Triple A. My immediate impulse was to get up, get dressed and make sure these two guests had everything they needed - blankets if they were sleepy, things to drink, snacks, etc - all the more so because I suspected that my housemate would not immediately think to do these things. But then I decided that this did not have to be my responsibility - the guests could ask my housemate for things, my housemate could look for things, or my housemate could ask me to tell him where blankets, etc, could be found. I went back to sleep even though I felt worried about the guests' comfort. It was really difficult. But it was a big deal for me, because I made myself decide that other people could take responsibility even if I saw a problem and saw that it might not be solved right unless I dealt with it.

It sounds as though you need to work on purposefully leaving others to take responsibility. This is an important skill, because otherwise you get into a headspace where you're trying to deal with all the problems.

Sometimes other people are lazy, disorganized, inexperienced or untalented at things and you are more capable than they are. This does not mean that you are morally obligated to fix all their problems (unless it's really pressing stuff like hunger, freezing to death, etc). For one thing, they will never learn if you fix everything.

Do you have a friend you can ask to hold you accountable about taking this job if you are offered it? Someone you can call who will help you plan your exit strategy and talk you through it?

I quit a job where I was needed. My boss was pretty upset. They had trouble replacing me. But after a few days, I felt fine - and it was a great choice for me, more money and a better title. And a year down the road, I really needed that money. Don't sit there mortgaging your future to a terrible job - you don't know what's coming and you should maximize your resources by taking a better job if you can.
posted by Frowner at 8:23 AM on December 10, 2013 [16 favorites]

When I leave, I can actually see Boss calling it quits and closing the doors, and I know Boss pretty well. I'm not saying I know Boss will, but I think there's a definite chance it would go that way.

The Sick System is telling you that this is your problem. This is not your problem.

In my field it's pretty common to negotiate a transition period of up to a month or even longer from the old employer to the new one, to complete knowledge transfers and the like. This negotiation happens AFTER the job offer. And it's also equally likely that an employee will give their two weeks notice and their boss will say, "Don't bother coming in on Monday." The time to figure this all out is after you have the offer.
posted by muddgirl at 8:23 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

You just give notice and leave when the offer is made and you've accepted. Mention nothing about it until that time.

Nobody is indispensable and the company you leave will be okay without you. I worked at a company that had 12 partners. One day, 9 of those partners left, taking their admins and junior executives with them. The original company was gutted, but did just fine within a couple of months.
posted by xingcat at 8:23 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

1. Keep your mouth shut.
2. Wait for a written offer.
3. Subtly make sure all your personal stuff is out of the building.
4. Resign quietly and professionally giving the notice you owe, in writing, saying nothing dramatic or confrontational. Do not apologise. Do not explain.
5. Be prepared to be turfed out on your ear and spend your notice on gardening leave.
6. Failing that, do what you can during your notice period to hand over everything you can as professionally as possible.
7. If pressured, provide a rather high hourly rate to your current boss at which you may be available for small amounts of consulting work when it fits your schedule.
posted by emilyw at 8:24 AM on December 10, 2013 [12 favorites]

And the best thing to do is:

1. If you get the offer, accept the offer if you like the offer
2. Ask what the planned start date is, and if it's flexible, you could go over the customary two weeks
3. Let boss know your last date and how you'd like to help ease the transition.

Do NOT tell your boss you're even looking, or hint in any way. Things happen. And it's good.
posted by mochapickle at 8:24 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ditto. Don't give him the slightest hint that you might be about to escape his clutches... and when (I'm praying for you) that offer comes in, accept, give notice, and bail, ASAP. Two weeks, in most cases and locals, barring contracts that say otherwise, is the guilt-free time period for notice.
posted by stormyteal at 8:27 AM on December 10, 2013

Yeah, never tell that you might leave. Follow the magician's principle: never go on stage until the rabbit is in the hat.
posted by plinth at 8:30 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just a thought: if you feel bad about seeing the part-timers terminated this week (when in fact the boss would keep them if he knew you were leaving) maybe you can suggest to your boss to hold off until after the holidays?
posted by acidic at 8:35 AM on December 10, 2013 [7 favorites]

To make it pretty unanimous: do not tell Current Boss (or really, anybody at your current company!) anything until after you have accepted the new job: don't tell him you are looking for another job, don't tell him about any interviews, don't tell him anything.

1. Once you have a guarenteed offer of a new job, tell New Company you can start in two weeks.
2. Next, clean out everything personal from your desk and computer: act as if you will never see that desk and computer again. There are companies and bosses who act as if anyone who has given notice will spend their last days there doing nothing but sabotaging their old employer, and will therefore have people escorted out of the building immediately after they've given their notice. Your Current Boss sounds like he would happily to just that, so: get your personal property, your paper files, your computer files, your favorite coffee mug and anything else out of there beforehand.
3. Then and only then do you go to Current Boss and tell him you are giving two weeks' notice: not one minute more. Not three weeks, not four: two weeks notice, tops. If he says that's not enough, tough --- for him. He doesn't 'own' you, and you don't owe him anything..... you've done a job for which he's paid you, and that's all either of you owe the other. Do not agree if he tries to make you stay longer: it would only be for his convienence, not yours, and it might annoy New Company.

Have your notice written up before you finally go talk to Current Boss --- keep it simple, there's no need to go into detail or make long explanations about why you're leaving:
"Dear Boss:
Please accept my resignation from X Corporation, effective (date). Thank you.
posted by easily confused at 8:42 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

It sounds like the admin assistant can train incoming employees, even though she's not ideal. She did train you.

I know the feeling of duplicity when you're getting ready to quit and it does suck. On the other hand, your boss is getting ready to fire people just before the holidays, and it's not clear (to me) if your boss is offering either of them the chance to go full-time, or planning to wait until a new recruit is found, trained, and off the ground before firing them, or maybe working with the primary admin assistant to be less terrible.

While I think it's better to keep the high ground wherever possible, the company's foundation isn't shaky because you designed it that way, and the boss's decision to call it quits would be their own.

See in what ways the boss's plan can be made more future-proof and suggest those improvements in a way that doesn't imply that you're leaving. But don't tell them you might (if things work out) leave.
posted by trig at 8:47 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Give adequate notice and enable them finding a replacement for you.

Fuck 'em.

Seriously, though, do you really think your company would avoid firing you if they wanted to?
posted by Sara C. at 8:52 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Milllonthing what everyone else says. I know you think your boss cares about you and needs you, and in some ways he might buuuuut if it was the other way around he wouldn't hesitate to let you go. Cut him loose!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 8:55 AM on December 10, 2013

Never, never, never, never tell your dysfunctional boss that you are thinking of leaving. Crazy dysfunctional bosses become even more crazy and dysfunctional at the thought of "being abandoned". Listen to all the great practical advice above about how to quit, and don't say a word about your plans until you're protected from the crazy by a new job.
posted by medusa at 8:58 AM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

1) Tell yourself you'll make an earnest, thorough effort to make the transition without you as smooth and painless as possible... two weeks AFTER you've started your new job.

2) Two weeks after you start your new job, sit down and... laugh at yourself for giving a shit about the undeserving joke of a boss you used to work for.
posted by Rykey at 8:59 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your boss would treat you just as he is now treating the part-timers. When you consider going above and beyond to be good to Boss (for example, giving him warning that you might leave), remember that. Also remember the yelling, public shaming--all of his unacceptable behaviour. You do not owe him anything.

Also, I don't think that you can ever get a good reference from this person. It will always be a bad time for you to go, and he will never be understanding about your needs. And remember, your awesome interview at "dream job" happened without a reference from Current Boss. You don't need that reference anyway. Don't take the risk of giving extra notice--there is no payoff for you.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:02 AM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Came in to write pretty much exactly what easily confused wrote above.

But I want to keep Boss as a positive reference

Your boss should still be a positive reference after you professionally give notice, because that is how it works. If not, reference checks rarely deviate from "did person work here" as noted above these days.

I realize I'm not irreplaceable, but I'm damned close to it.


My dilemma is that I'm discussing all these future plans with Boss...

If you were talking about closing on a house tomorrow, your boss would not tell you if the company was letting you go the day after.

Of course, I run the risk that I don't get the dream job and then get replaced quicker than I can replace my current job.

You are under-assessing the risk. If you tell your boss anything before your new job offer is officially signed you run the risk that you'll be fired that instant.
posted by mikepop at 9:05 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with those who are saying that telling your boss you intend to leave is a terrible idea, especially if you're financially reliant on this job. That said, the dilemma of being involved in conversations about future workload planning when you have relevant information about your availability you're not prepared to share isn't a totally uncommon experience even outside of getting a new job (see: women in their first trimester of pregnancy, people who know they will need more-than-usual time off because their spouses are going to deploy or a relative or child is ill).

The way that I've seen people handle this is to try to steer the decisionmaker towards making the decision that makes the most sense given your likely unavailability, but using stated reasons that don't talk about your absence. This doesn't seem that hard in your case: after all, can't you tell your boss you have major reservations about letting the part-timers go before you've found and fully trained up a full-time replacement? What if that person unexpectedly quits, or isn't a good fit once you've started training them? You'd want to have the part-timers available to step in and pick up the slack if the new person doesn't work out. Additionally, replacing everyone at the same time (both the administrative assistant AND the part-timers) seems unnecessarily risky in terms of knowledge loss--I'd tell your boss that it seems more prudent to figure out which replacement is more pressing, do that staffing change, and only after the new person seems to have their bearings would it make sense to move onto replacing the next position.

Very possible that your boss will blow you off and do whatever they want to do anyway, but that gives you the ability to say to them later if they get angry that you encouraged them to move forward with a plan that would minimize the effect of your leaving (versus encouraging them to rely on your availability when you knew you'd be gone). If they're still mad at that point and won't give you a good reference, it's likely that nothing you would have done would make them okay with your leaving, so a good reference was never in the cards.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:07 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

You give your notice after you get the job offer. 2 weeks, 4 if you're feeling generous.

You tell your current boss that you will be in every day in that time period to work your normal hours (no ridiculous overtime) and that you are willing to do absolutely whatever he deems fit to best prepare the company for the transition to not having you.

Figuring out what tasks you need to accomplish before you go is absolutely his problem. And if (when) he assigns you tasks that are impossible to complete in that time frame, you give him regular updates on progress and then, when time runs out, you just leave them unfinished. And that is also his problem.

posted by 256 at 9:08 AM on December 10, 2013

Also, as others are saying, if your boss is not making business plans based around the possibility that you could give your two weeks notice at any time, well... that is also his problem.
posted by 256 at 9:09 AM on December 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

I realize I'm not irreplaceable, but I'm damned close to it

This is not the first time irreplaceability has been discussed here of late, so let's be a little systematic about it for future reference.

Thoughts of irreplaceability - no matter whether they're realistic or not - function as a lifeline, a motivator, an augur's animal carcass, whatever, for the time that you are employed and hoping to keep your job.

As soon as you begin contemplating getting another job, your attention shifts, or should shift, to not prematurely destroying your bridges, to paving your way [I'm on a metaphor diet today], and to diplomatically keeping your mouth shut, or not.

Indispensability is, at that point, likely to be hijacked by Master Guilt, who's a tricky fellow, as we all know. Fuck guilt.
posted by Namlit at 9:15 AM on December 10, 2013

Agreeing with everyone here, but came in to say that some years ago, a person I know was in almost exactly the same situation, and chose her own health and sanity. I got to know her because I became her new daily partner (she was hired by my boss). From the position at my workplace, she has only moved ahead into better and better positions, and become a happier person.
Her original boss, the crazy start-up guy, was forced to get his act together and acknowledge the work she was a doing as something vital to his business. So he became a better employer for her successors (well, a slightly better employer). I actually doubt she could have brought about this change, because in a way she was enabling him.
In other words, a fairy tale ending for all. Do it
posted by mumimor at 9:15 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also also, I once left a similar situation (I was the only person with my vital skill set at a company of four people) and it resulted in a few inappropriate betrayal emails from my boss, BUT...

A few months later, the company had achieved its new normal, former boss reached out and apologized for his behaviour, and now gives me positive references.

So there's that.

sorry for the triple post, didn't want to abuse the edit button
posted by 256 at 9:19 AM on December 10, 2013

Realise, that you are totally replaceable.

I work for a multinational. After six months of working on average 65 hrs/wk and being screwed over on a promotion an opportunity arose for me to go and work for the multinational overseas. In the course of less than a week I went from hearing about the opportunity, to having a preliminary short call with somebody in my own country to being asked to send an email with some background and having a 20 minute chat with somebody in the other country to being offered that job at the end of that call. I thought carefully about it for all of 30 seconds and told my direct supervisor I wanted to go to other country immediately. This was at about 9.30am.

As it so happened they had a portfolio review meeting scheduled for that morning and by noon all my clients had been reassigned to other people. Note how I'd been working 65hrs/ totally replaceable.

There is no moral or other obligation to give your boss any heads up. You get a new job you like, you leave. Part of your boss' job description is to deal with this kind of thing when it happens. It's one of the reasons they are getting paid more than you.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:40 AM on December 10, 2013

Yeah, don't tell your boss you're leaving until you have a job offer in hand. Hell, don't tell your boss you're leaving until you've signed a new contract. Until you have that offer, operate as normal. Accept new projects, work on timelines, and generally assume that you will be at this job indefinitely until you know for a fact you will be gone. The most I would do is work on a handbook/transition report in your downtime, if you have any, but that is a kindness you are doing them. Do not tell your boss you plan on leaving. You do not have a moral obligation to your work to do anything other than a good job while you are there. You do not owe them your future, or knowledge about your future.

You may also be surprised by how resilient the sick system is without you - they self-perpetuate for a reason. I've been in a similar situation where everything was CRISIS and FEELINGS while I was job hunting (in my case the boss had a vague idea that I was leaving at some point soon because I had a work visa timeline) but everything moved on like clockwork after I gave notice.

Your workplace will be fine without you. And if it isn't, that's a failure to plan on your boss's part and in no way your responsibility or fault. If your boss decides that shuttering the business makes more financial sense than hiring a replacement for you, then that means there was no longterm viability in his business plan, whether you leave today or ten years from now. And if what you do is so mission-critical that the business literally can't function without you, then you should've been treated as such, with appropriate autonomy, input into decision-making, and compensation. I don't get the sense that any of those things are true.
posted by Phire at 9:41 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd weigh "if only because I wouldn't be happy leaving this job without something in my pocket besides "live and learn." vs. "Dream Job" - which is going to make me happier? Are you really willing to write off your dream job because you wouldn't be happy writing off a place where you are miserable?
posted by jeffe at 9:42 AM on December 10, 2013

Definitely don't tell your boss anything before things are finalized -- even with a great boss, you don't know what would happen, though if I truly had a positive relationship with a boss, I MIGHT consider a heads up. You describe this guy as a terrible boss, so DO NOT go there -- you don't owe it to him, and it's very, very possible you could end up getting fired and then not get the job you're interviewing for! No good.

Anytime someone talks about being 'irreplaceable' in a job, I want to say -- look, what if you get killed in a car accident tomorrow? It could happen! And the business you work for will carry on -- there may be some difficult transitions, but if it's truly the case that they would need to shut down without you there, that is a management problem that should be corrected regardless, not something you should be dealing with or worrying about.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:00 AM on December 10, 2013

You must not, do not tell your boss!
Yes your gain is that man's loss;
You deserve better than that stress-
Not your prob if he makes a mess
You deserve a better day!
Better colleagues and better pay!

I had a Dr. Seuss moment but really. Don't tell him. Get your offer. Give notice. Get out and don't look back!
posted by pointystick at 10:03 AM on December 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

Just to pile on: Keep it ALL to yourself until you have your offer letter in hand.

Be prepared to give two weeks notice. And that's it.

Your boss's inability to hire appropriately and to handle his own business is NOT your problem.

As for a reference, bwahhahhhaahhh. It doesn't matter. All they can say is, you worked there from Date to Date. That's it, and that's all anyone really checks for.

You're too wrapped up in the whole job thing. "They depend on me." "I'm the only one who knows where the toilet paper is." Forget it, they'll advertise your job and hire your replacement. Life will go on.

Don't think of yourself as working for X Corporation, you work for Anonymous, number of employees, you. YOu make every job decision based on, "What's in it for me."

Corporations don't think about you and your needs when drawing up lay off lists, or merging, or breaking about 70 SEC laws.

Your boss is nothing more than a guy with a business. C'est Tout.

When your offered the position, negotiate for a great salary, and when you have that offer letter, quit.

Dear Sir,

Please accept this as my letter of resignation. My last day will be December 31.



Seriously, that's it. You exchange your labor for money, that is the full and total extent of the relationship you have with your job.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:19 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

No, no, no, no. Do not give notice at your current job until you have accepted an offer from the new employer (and preferably have begun the necessary paperwork).

And don't be surprised if when you do attempt to give two weeks' notice, you're told to clear out your desk and leave the premises immediately, possibly with a security guard to escort you to the door, depending on how mean-spirited your boss is. Some employers do that kind of thing, and it doesn't sound like you should count on your current employer to choose the less-jerky option.
posted by Lexica at 10:35 AM on December 10, 2013

Of course he makes you feel like if you leave the roof will collapse. That is the very definition of a toxic work environment. You do not have to make this your problem. You making it your problem is your anxiety's way of screwing with you. It is not a real issue even though your brain wants you to believe it is.

Head down. Mouth shut. Evey day you want to say something, go out and treat yourself to a nice lunch instead. or a new pair of pants. or an interview tie.

Power through until an offer comes and then give your two weeks and don't look back.

You can do this anon- and congrats to making it to that job interview! Even if you don't get the position, I hope you know that this is a great start to getting to a better place.
posted by haplesschild at 10:52 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was in exactly your position six months ago. I am not there anymore. Wait until you get a written offer and have completed negotiation on the terms to do ANYTHING ELSE. Until that happens just do your job as well as you can.

Once you have done so and ONLY THEN, give your notice to the current job as simply and professionally and unemotionally as possible. Just act like a true pro but do not get drawn into any crap. TRUST ME, they will try. And yeah, maybe he'll try to screw you over but if you really did do your job and acted professionally then that will win out in the end. It isn't like other people don't know your Boss is a problem, they do, and they'll see what you did and how you handled it as the most important part.

The fact is that I too thought the place would shut down when I left, but they're still struggling along - and who knows maybe they'll get better. And I am much better off and much happier.

Finally, this is a side tip: do not discount the kind of employment PTSD you suffer when you come out of a situation like that into one that's actually healthy. I have to constantly check myself against bad habits and bad thinking I engage in that worked as a survival mechanism in the old place but do not serve me well here.
posted by marylynn at 10:52 AM on December 10, 2013

If it will make you feel better, you could start to work on creating the manual or job-aid that your replacement will need. DON'T say it's because you are leaving, but say that it's for training the new fulltime person that boss is already thinking of hiring.
posted by CathyG at 12:10 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lots of excellent advice above. This situation is not your fault. You only owe them 2 weeks' notice.

If you get this or any other job, tell the new employer you need 3-4 weeks to transition. Then give your current employer 2 weeks of notice. And then go on vacation or hang out at home for a bit, so that you can get a break from this toxic situation. Maybe find a counsellor who can help you deal with the experience at your current employer, so that you are more likely to find yourself in a healthy work environment. Not that it's your fault - it's just that the system made you sick and you might need help to stay healthy and get out of an unhealthy situation faster next time. But take a vacation.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:28 PM on December 10, 2013

thing everyone's advice above, to sum up:

1) Say absolutely nothing to Current Job until you have an accepted job offer from Other Company in hand
2) Clear out your desk of all personal items you want to retain
3) Give two weeks notice using easily confused's excellent template
4) Celebrate!

That's what I did last year and it worked out fine. Best of luck to you.

posted by Gelatin at 1:35 PM on December 10, 2013

Agreeing with what everyone else said. Get a firm written offer, accept it, and tell them that you can start in two weeks. Then give notice. Do not apologize or negotiate.

If your old boss becomes abusive, tell him he can keep your last paycheck in lieu of notice and walk out then and there.
posted by rpfields at 2:23 PM on December 10, 2013

Accept your offer at the other place and get a start date.

Give two weeks notice at current place.

You don't owe anything more.
posted by ewiar at 2:44 PM on December 10, 2013

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
I just wanted to update with a "thank you" to all of you--for the tough love, the well wishes, the on-point and unwavering advice, and everything in between. I wish I could mark all of your answers as the best. It must get frustrating to keep getting the same variation of this sort of question; however, it's so easy to fall into the mental trap of "well, *that* question doesn't take into account My Special Snowflake Circumstance, so the answers *could be* different!" - point being, it makes an immeasurable difference to get these answers to my own question, so *thank you* for taking the time to steer me right. I hope this thread can also be a help to others who are in the same or similar circumstance.

I haven't heard back from the "dream job," but even if that falls through, I've seen the door, made that gigantic first step toward taking control of my own career and personal well-being, know there's better and healthier jobs out there, and will have a print-out of this ask and all your incredible answers to keep me on track. You're all amazing. Thank you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:09 PM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Indispensable should be seen as a terrible thing. If you feel indispensable, you feel like you can never leave, or progress your career. Plus it doesn't really exist in my experience.

I used to work at a small firm where I was the go to guy for a niche area. I set it up, I configured it, I supported it, I was the only one who knew anything about it in the whole company. Sounds indispensable right? And I felt indispensable too. I left for a variety of reasons and guess what? Company is doing well, they hired someone else who is now indispensable. He's improved things that I probably wouldn't have, automated some tasks that I didn't get around to doing and generally from what I hear kicking goals all over the place.

And if he leaves he'll replaced by the next "indispensable".
posted by Admira at 5:32 PM on December 10, 2013

I realize I'm not irreplaceable, but I'm damned close to it. When I leave, I can actually see Boss calling it quits and closing the doors, and I know Boss pretty well.

The above indicates you are very optimistic; wait until the job offer is signed, as you may be wildly misestimating your chances.
posted by benzenedream at 2:51 PM on December 11, 2013

To reiterate--if your boss is the type to give you a bad reference and act betrayed when you resign professionally and give two weeks notice--he's gonna do that if you give three weeks, or three months. Giving more notice is not going to make him act like an adult.

Also--you've been there for 3 years. The standard minimum amount of time to stay at a job to not look like a job hopper is 2 years. Your boss is an idiot if he doesn't see this coming.

I'm in a similar place job-wise, though in a much healthier environment, and the advice at Ask A Manager has been golden. I would suggest browsing the resigning tag to get a sense of what is normal, but the rest of the advice about applying and interviews and thank-you notes has all been really beneficial to me.
posted by almostmanda at 6:30 PM on December 11, 2013

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