Is it ok to resign when I've already essentially been let go?
March 9, 2014 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Was told by my bosses to start finding a new job as they are not happy with my performance but don't want to screw me financially--is it a good idea to just put my two weeks in?

So I've been at my job for about two years serving as the executive assistant to two c-level executives in a sales oriented field. I have been in this field for most of my career (I am 28, have been at it for almost 6 years now). I am, arguably, an expert in my field and could at this point just go into being a salesperson myself as opposed to assisting--in fact I have done this in the past, and was pretty good at it--I got into the assistant gig as working on their much larger deals made me more money than working on my own smaller deals and I thought the experience working in the top echelon of my field would be good experience--which it has been, I've learned a lot.

When I interviewed for the position I was asked if I would be ok with occasionally handling personal tasks for my boss, the example given was arranging travel, I said yes. However over time more and more of my job has become acting as a personal assistant which I have been deeply unhappy about--and apparently it showed as this week I was sat down, told I wasn't performing up to snuff, and told that I should start finding a new job and that they would happily provide stellar references for me.

I actually think most of the examples of how I haven't been performing well are bogus, and I wish I had defended myself better in that meeting but was so stunned I basically just said ok.

I have applied to jobs since then and have an interview scheduled this week. I am also considering taking the plunge and going back into straight up sales--but that means no income coming in for awhile, my wife and I can get by on her salary alone and she is on board with doing so, so that's another option.

My issue is that now that I know I'm "messing up" I am so stressed out that focusing on my next move is sooo far down on my priorities list--instead I'm totally preoccupied with trying not to fuck up at work. I'm exhausted.

To complicate matters I'm struggling with depression at the moment. My psychiatrist even suggested I try to figure out a way to take some time off work if possible at our last session, and the idea of doing so makes me feel SO relieved. Again, my wife is supportive and we will be ok on her income and should not have to go into our savings at all. I already have health insurance through her job so that's a non issue. We have no reason to believe her job will end for any reason--she's up for a promotion this year.

Would it be totally irresponsible to thank them for offering to let me stay on, but that I would prefer they start looking for my replacement ASAP? And how would you word that particular resignation letter? We do get on well and I would like to ask them not to contest my unemployment claim, as for all intents and purposes I basically have been let go.

If I'm being a fool and should stay, any advice on how to handle the stress?
posted by syrenka to Work & Money (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Keep your job until you find a new one. It is much easier to find a job when you already have one.
posted by rockindata at 5:08 PM on March 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

my wife and I can get by on her salary alone and she is on board with doing so, so that's another option

Offer two weeks as a courtesy but don't be surprised if you just end up agreeing to pack your things and go. You don't critically need to work, and seem to be leaning strongly to going back to sales, there's no point in hanging around where you don't want to be and you're not valued.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:12 PM on March 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Did you give you an end date and tell you not to come back? I'm unclear on whether or not you've actually been let go. I don't think you could leave now and get unemployment, unless they promised not to contest and they might not do that. Tread carefully if unemployment is important to you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:15 PM on March 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

In very, very general terms, if it's your boss's decision to let you go, you can collect unemployment, but if it was your decision to leave, you can't. Since you're being let go because of poor fit/poor performance but not "for cause" (i.e., not for behavior that wouldn't be OK at any job, like stealing) I would bet that you have a very good shot at getting unemployment. Since your employers are offering good references (but haven't brought up a severance?) I don't think they are even likely to contest your application for unemployment. So, personally, if it were me, I wouldn't resign so as not to ruin my shot at collecting unemployment.

If you're able to collect unemployment, that actually also might give you a little breathing room to shift to sales or at least give you a safety net while you job hunt.
posted by rue72 at 5:17 PM on March 9, 2014 [14 favorites]

You should never quit your job without a replacement job unless you are retiring. Even if you are perfectly able to survive in the short term to live off of your wife's salary, you will eventually have to find another job. It will already be inherently harder to find a job when unemployed - the reality is many employers are suspicious of unemployed workers. It will be worse when you either tell them you quit because you couldn't handle to stress, or tell them you quit because you weren't able to do your job, or have to lie.

I was [...] told that I should start finding a new job and that they would happily provide stellar references for me.

You've been handed an awesome favor here, and it would be a very bad idea not to take advantage of it. They are looking to replace you without you having to get fired. It's particularly good for you, as your job is now to find a new job. You get to look for a new job while being paid and with your employer's support.

Most people don't get to do this. You will almost definitely never get a chance to take this opportunity again. Even better, you should have absolutely no guilt in refocusing yourself on finding a new job rather than performing your work duties. Your employer has told you to do so. So, go do it. You're going to find a new job one way or another, so you might as well get paid to do it.
posted by saeculorum at 5:18 PM on March 9, 2014 [23 favorites]

Don't expect them to be okay with you filing for unemployment if you resign. That is, in fact, part of why places do this. My last job, my boss literally ran out of cash to pay me, and his first move was to sit down and say that he'd made a decision about our data security (very small accounting firm) that I'd told him was a really terrible idea (which was to say, continuing the practice of not actually keeping backups) and then, when I didn't ragequit, *then* he told me he was letting me go. Zero reason to have done the first except to inspire the resignation, if he knew he was letting me go. Same thing here: They would rather not have a claim on their unemployment. If you find new work before you leave, then no claims. If you just leave, no claims. If they lay you off immediately, their unemployment costs go up.

I think the big thing to focus on here is that you probably aren't actually performing that badly, they just think someone else could do better, and they'd prefer to keep their costs down by making the transition timing your call. Your current #1 priority is finding that new job. Performing your old job like it's no longer your #1 priority is okay.
posted by Sequence at 5:28 PM on March 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you are struggling with depression you should NOT take time off work to be deliberately employed. Seriously, I have seen this play out so many times: "I'll take time off to figure my shit out; wow, great that I finally get to be caught up on my sleep; i'll take it easy for a few days; so exhausting looking for work, I think I will have my afternoon nap; I won't apply for this job because it looks too far outside my comfort zone; oh, I can't do that interview on Thursday because after my Wednesday pdoc appointment I am always so exhausted I need to sleep the whole next day; I should probably shower today, maybe wash the sheets; we can't afford to go out for your birthday sweetheart, let's just stay in; wow, has it really been two weeks since I left the house? Well, the weather has been bad and I have a cold; I should really shower today, I think it has been a week since my last shower, it I'll skip washing my hair this time because it makes my arms so tired...". Staying home when depressed is the exact opposite of what most people in your situation need to do right now. You are employable while employed, offer to help mentor a new hire which will free up your time to job search and get into a new position ASAP. Being in a job you enjoy will most likely give you energy to take on your depression and validate your self-worth.
posted by saucysault at 5:43 PM on March 9, 2014 [37 favorites]

i agree with what everyone else says - BUT - once you find that new job, i would suggest you try to negotiate your start date for a few weeks to a month past your end date at your old place. that vacation will feel SO MUCH MORE restful if you know you have somewhere new and great to go than if you try to recover with a big question mark in front of you.
also, are you doing things for your mental health, like exercising, taking vitamin D and magnesium supplements, and doing personal projects that make you feel good? it's very easy to feel depressed when your job isn't the right one for you. that feeling might very well disappear when you find something that is a better fit for you. good luck!
posted by andreapandrea at 5:58 PM on March 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

Do not quit.

They are handing you a golden opportunity on a diamond-encrusted platter. In your upcoming interviews, negotiate for a later starting date to 'transition out of the old role.' Give yourself some actual transition time out of your old position, then a week off--not two--and onto the new job. This should give you enough time to sit down and decompress, without being so much time that going back to work is a scary thing.

Be respectful of your current position; look for something good but don't hold out for the absolute best for so long that they just up and fire you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:32 PM on March 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

You are being "counseled out." This pretty much the best-case scenario for leaving a job involuntarily, and you absolutely should not waste it.

1. Do you have vacation days? Take them now. They should be amenable to that. I would take 2-3 days to recharge, and then spend the rest of the time thinking about what your next steps are.

2. Go through your workload. Anything long-term (say, longer than a month out) gets reprioritized. Turn down new projects, and focus on wrapping up things that are in progress. Make sure there are at least 2 hours of each day where you are networking/job searching.

3. Get new job, or prospects in your sales pipeline, and then quit.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:44 PM on March 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Get a new job. Once you have one, quit without notice because fuck them, that's why.
posted by w0mbat at 6:50 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have been given a great opportunity. Take it and don't waste it. What you need to do is use those stellar references to your advantage - start job searching and lean heavily on the people saying adios to you for those stellar references they promised. You'll have a new job in no time.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 6:54 PM on March 9, 2014

about two years serving as the executive assistant to two c-level executives in a sales oriented field

You have my deepest sympathy. I cannot imagine any reason why any person could conceivably be happy in such a position.

I actually think most of the examples of how I haven't been performing well are bogus

The rarefied air in a C suite usually does eventually deprive its occupants of their ability to connect meaningfully with reality, so that's absolutely unsurprising.

Certainly time to jump ship, but as everybody else has already said, that's much more easily done from the deck of the one you're on than from floundering in a life preserver. You've effectively been offered the chance to look for a new job on the company dime; take it.
posted by flabdablet at 7:55 PM on March 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nth'ing those above who say that they are trying to get you to quit, mostly because that relieves them of having to pay unemployment and partially because firing people sucks and it's a lot easier to just make them miserable.

Do not let them do this. Make them do their jobs and fire you.
posted by Etrigan at 4:24 AM on March 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

If I had quit my last job when I was thinking of doing so, I wouldn't have received the severance pay I got. If you can stand to wait it out, and there's an end in sight, I recommend it.
posted by windykites at 6:01 AM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get a new job. Once you have one, quit without notice because fuck them, that's why.

Your employer lets you know that you're not meeting your job's expectations. Instead of kicking you out on the street, they agree to keep paying you and providing you with benefits while you look for a new job and will provide you with stellar references.

You would respond with "fuck them"?

OP, this is crap advice. Your employer may have done a poor job working with you to help you get back on track with their expectations, but they are doing right by you here. Take advantage of what they are offering, work diligently to find a new position and then send a "Thank You" note to your former employer after you start the new gig.

Professional paths have a funny way of crossing again over the course of a career. Be kind to your future self.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:43 AM on March 10, 2014 [11 favorites]

Not sure if it was noted, but...

If you unemployment checks while you job hunt. Get fired....yes unemployment checks!
posted by BearClaw6 at 6:59 AM on March 10, 2014

so much great advice in here, thank you! I think my main problem is what several of you noted--that I am still prioritizing my job as the #1 thing, when I should be prioritizing my next moves--so I am going to try to give myself permission to make that mental shift and stay on until I know where I'm going next.
posted by syrenka at 7:39 AM on March 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

nthing staying for the unemployment payments. Also, how much better is it to say, "I was laid off" because baby, that's what it is.

So, go in with a smile on your face, start taking home your personal shit, and basically, look for a job on their dime! If you want, you can even train your replacement. Money is money, benefits are benefits.

Think about how much less stress you'll be under with those sweet, sweet unemployment checks rolling in.

Hell, you may land something before your time is up, even better.

When employers ask why you're being laid off, you can say, "They've redefined the position into more of an administrative role. I'm a sys admin for X program and basically, I'm over qualified."

THAT'S an amazing and awesome narrative and THAT'S exactly what happened.

So go in with your head held high, do what needs to be done and whistle a happy tune because, yay! You don't have to do it any more!

Good luck, I know you'll find a better job that's more in tune with your skills an abilities.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:39 AM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you want, you can even train your replacement.

If you have the opportunity to do this, take it. They have extended you an enormous amount of goodwill, it's appropriate to give it in return.

Plus, you are setting your replacement up for success. You know the various quirks of your bosses--how they like their coffee, when they want certain reports, phone numbers of babysitters/drycleaners/favourite restaurants/mistresses/whatever. In fact, if you don't have one already, make up a binder for each boss with everything you can think of about how they like things to be done. I did this when I transitioned out of executive assisting into a (very slightly) more senior role, and in the end it meant a few days of actually training my replacement followed by maybe a week of occasional hand-holding, and they were off to the races. This is the sort of thing that makes you look like a valuable, stand-up employee, with the added bonus for everyone that you're making the stellar references they want to provide even more true.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:19 AM on March 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

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