Should I keep my resignation secret?
December 12, 2013 3:46 PM   Subscribe

I sent my resignation a few days ago after several years in the company. Historically people either disappeared without a word if fired or they were requested to keep their resignation secret and announced their resignation in the very last day. I found it to be extremely uncomfortable doing that.

I've been there for almost 6 years and play a rather key role in the company. I'm leaving on good terms. The company is based in Ireland.

Tomorrow will be the last day at work for December, and I'll be finishing in the end of January. There's a Christmas party tomorrow, which is probably going to be my only opportunity to socialize and talk with my colleagues at work, as during the workday it's too busy to socialize. I would like to share my thoughts, my plans, get feedback, and I wouldn't want to lie if somebody would ask me what I'm doing during my holidays/Christmas. By nature, I'm not the kind of person who keeps their thought to themselves. The boss wants to wait at least until January before announcing, and he wants to announce it himself to the staff.

Is that kind of request reasonable? Have you ever experienced such a request?
posted by Sharcho to Work & Money (25 answers total)
Have you talked to your boss and asked him why he wants to do it that way, and what his objections would be if you told people? It's hard to imagine he has a good reason, but at least if you knew what his objections were you could have a conversation about it.
posted by brainmouse at 3:50 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

You say you're leaving "on good terms." Do you want to make sure you leave on good terms? If so, then you probably shouldn't contradict your boss without talking to him first.
posted by Aleyn at 3:51 PM on December 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

I think your boss's request is reasonable. I don't think it is appropriate to announce your resignation at the company Christmas party. That would make the party about you, which it isn't. This is one of those many times when it is better to keep our thoughts to ourselves.

Your question doesn't suggest in any way that your boss's reasons to announce your resignation on the company's terms is untoward in any way. I am sorry that the way other people have been fired or resigned was uncomfortable for you, but that frankly isn't your business unless perhaps the last-minute notice left you in the lurch as far as your work duties were concerned. I think you should trust your boss's judgment and defer to him in this matter, because he is still your boss.
posted by Tanizaki at 3:55 PM on December 12, 2013 [12 favorites]

Talk to your boss and ask her how to manage this event, being perfectly clear that you are uncomfortable lying to colleagues.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:57 PM on December 12, 2013

I think the boss' request is reasonable too.

Personally, I wouldn't be happy if they announced my departure on my last day of work because that doesn't really give you much time to say goodbye. It can also leave some ambiguity on the reason for your departure.

If you had at least a week or two, I think it gives you enough time to connect with your workmates and hand off any unfinished business, get your feedback etc. It will also be clear that you weren't fired.
posted by caroo at 4:00 PM on December 12, 2013

I think Tanizaki is right on the money here:

I think your boss's request is reasonable. I don't think it is appropriate to announce your resignation at the company Christmas party. That would make the party about you, which it isn't. This is one of those many times when it is better to keep our thoughts to ourselves.

And as for this business about "I'm uncomfortable with lying." You should be able to put your thinking cap on and come up with some vague explanation of your holiday plans if asked ... You know, something like "spending it with the family, as always" or "all the details aren't firmed up as to what we're doing, but I'm really looking forward to the holidays ... What about you?"
posted by jayder at 4:06 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I've sent an email to the boss, he said we'll have a chat tomorrow.

To make it more complicated, to comply with my boss request means that I have to hide this information from both my best friend and my girlfriend.

My best friend is a colleague my boss specifically named as someone not to tell, and wants to resign as well in the same time that I do. This means I also need to hide it from my girlfriend as she talks all the time with my best friend and unable to be discrete or filter her thoughts. If I tell her, my best friend will also immediately know as well against my boss' wish. There are 7 people in the company who already know about it, and I don't want my girlfriend or my friend to be the last to know.
posted by Sharcho at 4:33 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

My best friend is a colleague my boss specifically named as someone not to tell, and wants to resign as well in the same time that I do. This means I also need to hide it from my girlfriend as she talks all the time with my best friend and unable to be discrete or filter her thoughts.

That new information does sort of change the situation for me ... Yeah, I think you are doing the best thing possible to talk to the boss.

One thing I'm unclear about. If your best friend wants to resign at the same time as you, why did you tender your resignation without telling him first? That seems weird, to me.
posted by jayder at 4:42 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Discreetly tell bf & gf and tell them not to gossip because you don't want or need to leave this firm on a bad note and you ANSOLUTELY need the good reference.

Your boss has knowingly asked you to lie to your best friend and girlfriend? No wonder you're leaving this job.

Good luck!!
posted by jbenben at 4:58 PM on December 12, 2013 [7 favorites]

Have you mentioned gf and bf in that email? Hopefully not.

Keep your meeting to:

- What to say to colleagues at the party

- Small issue of how boss wants you to respond if any of the other SEVEN PEOPLE THAT KNOW GOSSIP and colleagues start inquiring.
posted by jbenben at 5:06 PM on December 12, 2013

Are the seven people your boss, his boss, payroll and HR? If not, the cat is already out of the bag. So, I would not mention it unless someone else brings it up with you. Enjoy your party. And maybe think about the girlfriend situation if she is that indiscreet that this is a legitimate concern for you, cos... what if you get a job with an NDA or with the government or something? Who can you trust to offload to without sharing that information inappropriately? Ie/ if you can't trust your girlfriend who can you trust, personally or professionally?
posted by goo at 5:23 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why can't you keep your mouth shut tomorrow, tell your girlfriend/best friend the day after tomorrow when you're all on holiday, and then have your boss announce it when work resumes in January? Or does he want to announce it much later in the month?

Also, did the boss say why you shouldn't mention it to your best friend? And does your girlfriend also work for the company?
posted by acidic at 5:25 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

This reminds me of workplaces where employees are told not to (or just refuse to) talk about what they are being paid, i.e., I can't imagine a situation where this policy is good for the employees in general*. And, I can't imagine a workplace policy that would trump my relationship "policy" re honesty in relationships with friends and SOs.

I also understand the importance of leaving on good terms. If I were in your situation, I would listen to the boss' reasoning with an open mind and I would probably share the info regarding who already knows.

But, unless he/she came up with a reason heretofore unimaginable to me, I would consider the details of my life were mine to share as I please.

*Of course, those at the high end of the scale may benefit.
posted by she's not there at 5:37 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just want to clarify the possibly naive sounding: I can't imagine a workplace policy that would trump my relationship "policy" re honesty in relationships with friends and SOs.

I have worked many jobs that required that I not share particular details of whatever I was doing with "outsiders". These details were unrelated to the lives of friends/SOs, who would never have asked me to violate the confidentiality in the first place.

In other words, the nature of your work makes a significant difference regarding options for handling your situation.
posted by she's not there at 6:01 PM on December 12, 2013

Tell your girlfriend. More iffy on whether you tell your best friend who is a coworker, but probably him also.

I'm less fixed on whether to ask them to keep it quiet, or whether to tell others. It sounds like your boss isn't ordering you not to tell others (or can't), so really, my question now is: what is your objective here?
posted by J. Wilson at 6:12 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A few clarifications:
* My girlfriends does not work for the company.
* Her being indescrete is not a problem.
* My boss didn't directly ask not to tell my girlfriend, but my friend will know as soon as I tell her, so it's sort of implied. If I tell my girlfriend, soonafter everybody in the company will know.
* Today is the last day of work in December for myself as I'm taking annual leave, but not for everybody else.
* There's nothing secretive about the job, and normally the company is very open regarding most matters.
* My best friend is also grumpy and not very discrete.
* I'd like to talk with my friends and colleagues regarding my options (e.g. contracting, working in another company, starting my own business, etc) and just to share my experiences and get things off my chest, networking, etc.
* My girlfriend saw my resignation letter draft and told about it to my friend. To respect my boss request, so far I told them that I haven't sent it yet.
posted by Sharcho at 6:25 PM on December 12, 2013

Sounds like you want validation that it's ok to continue to keep the secret from both your best friend and your girlfriend. So, yes - continue keeping the secret from these two.

You are already certain they would blab your news to the entire world, and risk damaging your standing in the eyes of your boss.

If they are truly supportive people in your life they will understand you keeping this under wraps. Enjoy your party and holiday!
posted by hush at 6:37 PM on December 12, 2013

I made sure my coworkers got their hardware upgrade before me. I took time out of my day to go over / stealth train my co-workers on some of my responsibilities. I documented the snot out of everything I could and told them where things were. I organized my email. I made it clear that each of the people I worked with heard something good about them from me.

When the announcement came that I was leaving - they all suddenly understood - and they really really appreciated understanding that I was going out of my way for them and that I thought of them on the way out.

Show everyone your merry side this holiday party. Toast each of your coworkers in private. Make them shine in the eyes of their peers. Your girlfriend will be amazed at your care for your co-workers. Tell your best friend that you need to catch up for a beer some time in January - just the two of you. On the ride home you can let your girlfriend know that you are leaving your company in January and that she needs to NOT say anything about it - period.

Your best friend gets a few days to enjoy the glow of your compliments. Then in January, when your boss makes the announcement, that's when you've made sure that you and your best friend have a beer scheduled for that night. They'll have that moment of loss from knowing that you are leaving them, but they'll be happy for you and they'll have the opportunity to see that you took special time for them.

On the day you leave have linkedin recommendations written for all your co-workers. Then update your profile with your new position.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:53 PM on December 12, 2013 [14 favorites]

I have had to do this also, minus the girlfriend part. Boss asked me to keep it quiet (they said they did it because they were trying to convince me to stay and wanted to give me the opportunity to change my mind, I think it was also partially to stop my other colleagues from getting the same idea), so I did. Except after a while I did tell one of my friends at the office who I knew I could trust to keep it quiet, and not to another friend who I knew would be resentful and gossip. They let me announce it more widely with a week to go, when I was needing to do some handover. Everything worked out fine.
posted by Joe Chip at 6:57 PM on December 12, 2013

You need to decide for yourself which is more important to you: staying on good terms with your present boss, or staying on good terms with the people you actually work with and others close to you like your girlfriend.

I would personally not be spending more than two seconds thinking that one over, because I have a longstanding personal policy where anybody who explicitly requires me to make a forced choice between staying on good terms with them and staying on good terms with some other person has just lost that contest.

What can he do? Sack you?
posted by flabdablet at 9:17 PM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

but my friend will know as soon as I tell her, so it's sort of implied. If I tell my girlfriend, soonafter everybody in the company will know.

So your girlfriend being indiscreet *is* a problem. Because this isn't normal.

I can understand your boss not wanting you to discuss this at work. I think it's a wee bit unreasonable given he's likely doing it to cover his arse but, at the same time, your networking and future career ruminations aren't relevant to your current job so there's no reason for you to be discussing them at work anyway. So yeah, be professional and keep this to yourself at work (and office Christmas parties count as 'work' generally).

But your company gets no say over your discussing your personal life outside of work. And resigning a job is a personal decision with all kinds of implications for your overall life, discussing it with your girlfriend and close friends outside of work is a reasonable, normal thing to do. Sure, your company can tell you not to discuss the nature of the work you're doing or whatever other privacy concerns are relevant to your actual job duties (my husband has worked for the military, I know how it goes), but this is not that. Personally I've never resigned any job without my boyfriend/now-husband knowing about it first because I don't make those kinds of decisions without his input.

Except that your girlfriend and best friend apparently can't keep their mouths shut and won't keep this outside of work where it belongs. So you're kind of stuck not being able to tell them since they won't behave appropriately. Not really your bosses fault unfortunately.

(and really, if your friend wants to resign there's nothing stopping them making up their own mind about that one)
posted by shelleycat at 11:09 PM on December 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

Your clarification didn't address what I consider to be an important question here: Since you knew your friend intended to resign at the same time as you, why did you not tell your friend that you were about to resign?

I think this is important because, from where I'm sitting, you've got the two people who are closest to you that you've kept in the dark about your resignation for reasons that aren't exactly clear. I mean, after all, if you had already told them at the time you handed in your resignation, this wouldn't have been a problem because it would have been impossible to comply with your boss's request. So it seems that you anticipated that revealing your resignation would be a problem in your boss's eyes. You say that historically people were asked to keep their resignation secret until the last day; I can't imagine how you would be expected to know that since you've never resigned from the company before.

So, on the information you've provided, it seems you've weighed the spurious interests of an acquaintance (your boss, who really doesn't have a good reason for this to be hush-hush) over the real interests of your friend (who understandably may desire to leave if you no longer work there). Which is weird.

Your friend's and your girlfriend's lack of discretion wouldn't be a problem if you weren't asking them to keep a secret. And it's not clear why you would want this to be a secret to the degree that you didn't even tell them the day before. I mean, if they are so untrustworthy that they would immediately get on the phone and blab it to everyone in the company ... then why are they jn your life? And if they're not that untrustworthy, then why didn't you tell them?

Something here just doesn't add up.
posted by jayder at 8:59 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I agree with Jayder. I can imagine, just barely, deciding to turn in my resignation without mentioning it to my best friend, but to my girlfriend? No.

You are leaving your job, this is a major life decision that you share with those close to you. Out of respect for your boss's wishes to keep it under wraps at the company, you ask them not to talk about it to others. If you can't trust your girlfriend and friend to keep a secret for a few weeks when you have clearly laid out the ways in which blabbing will measurably hurt your career, then it's unclear why you are interested in maintaining these relationships in the first place.

It really sounds like you are deliberately deceiving the two people closest to you and decided to do so well before your boss made it an official request. What gives?
posted by 256 at 10:00 AM on December 13, 2013

Every time I have kept secrets from my SO and close friends, no matter how well intentioned, it has bitten me on the ass. I am now convinced that there is no way to do this without it eroding all the other sorts of intimacy and trust in a relationship. For one day? Maybe. Til Christmas? Nope.

Talk to your boss to see if his reasons are in any way in YOUR best interest. I doubt they are. If they're not, I'd tell whomever I liked, including co-workers. It won't burn your bridges in the industry- your co-workers are also in the industry and no one loves someone who chooses authority figures over mates (and any co-worker that I told would be one I thought of as a friend, even if we aren't super close. )

I would not "announce" it though, in any fashion, and certainly not at a holiday office party.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:32 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am sorry to reply again, but I wanted to comment again based upon your follow-up.

I don't take from your question that your boss has told you not to discuss your plans with non-employees, which would have been a very odd and unenforceable request. You should feel free to tell any non-employee you wish. However, if telling your friend or girlfriend would be the functional equivalent of telling the office, you should not tell them. I know you are getting replies to the effect of, "how could you *not* tell your friend or best friend?" but I do not understand that reaction unless you were financially supporting them. Being married, it been many years since I've had a girlfriend, but it never occurred to me to talk about my job with a girlfriend (or my best friend)). It's not as if they would have any say in my career decisions. But, I am probably your opposite to the extent that you are "not the kind of person who keeps their thought to themselves", I am Mr. "Need To Know". If you don't need to know, chances are, I am not going to tell you. In deciding whether or not to tell someone something that needs to be confidential, there is a brief story I was once told that I like to bear in mind:

A: Can you keep a secret?
B: Can *you*?

Shelleycat really hit it on the head. You say if you tell your girlfriend, soon everyone in the company will know because she will tell your friend (who is not discrete), who will then spread the news at work. That is not normal behavior for adults and frankly, this is something you need to decide if you want in a girlfriend. That issue will still be with you long after you've left your current workplace. I found the story of her seeing your drafted letter and then reporting to your friend to be unsettling.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:16 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

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