Boss loves me. I'm leaving. Help me figure out how to leave well?
July 11, 2017 11:47 PM   Subscribe

Boss loves me but I am planning to move on and need your help to not burn any bridges because my boss really likes me as an employee. More questions and details after the jump.

My boss likes me. I got a glowing performance review including a few of those high numbers that bosses are not supposed to give out. No one got any raises this year but we got bonuses and my boss went to bat for me to get a higher amount than the CEO wanted to give anyone.

I asked for more responsibility as I am a bit bored with the role and also for a bump in pay. My boss was initially receptive to advocating for this but then restructuring above my boss's head made this plan fall through. I am considered at a midpoint in my career and do not really want to wait and see another year.

So with some ambivalence I have decided to move on to another company. This move offers less time off, more challenging work, less prestigious work (I feel like people will be very confused about why I went from A to B), more flexibility within my work schedule, more opportunities to do what I am educated and trained to do, more opportunities to move up and a higher salary.

I want to make this move as gracefully as possible. This is pink collar work and there aren't many places to do it. I want to leave on good terms out of a general desire but also because I may want to work for this employer later on. Since my boss was pushing for the larger bonus and gave me such glowing reviews I'm feeling guilty and confused about how to move on as gracefully and graciously as possible.

Also, in my exit interview, do I mention the pay as my reason for leaving? It is a combination of pay and a flat structure with few chances to move up. All else being equal I would love to stay.

Now I feel a bit like I need to go regardless of what current employer has to say, i.e. if they offer a lot more money, because my probable-future-boss'-boss went out if their way for me I guess you could say, and is advocating for as high a salary as they can justify. I guess I am being poached a little?

Any advice for a gracious exit under these particular circumstances is appreciated. I am setting up a throwaway Gmail for clarification at mefite-snowflake-work@gmail
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If your boss is a good boss, which it sounds like he is, he will be sad to see you leave but happy for you to go.

In my first office job, my boss eventually told me "you should know, they are never gonna promote you or give you a raise here, you should look somewhere else." I did, and his response was basically "well damn I was hoping it wouldn't be this soon," but he went on to give me glowing references and in fact just recently tried to poach me for a position at his new org. I realize that's not every boss, but from how you describe your boss he sounds like he will mostly just be happy for you.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:03 AM on July 12, 2017 [8 favorites]

I think you should be pretty honest with the reasons you are leaving.

"I loved X, y, z and esp. how much you supported me. In spite of this, I made the decision because the new job offers more salary, more salary potential as well as more career possibilities."

Then say... "I plan to do a, b and c, to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible and that my successor can start as seamlessly as we can manage. What more do you need me to do before my last day?"

If your boss asks if there is anything they can do to make you stay, say: 'I absolutely haven't considered that and that is too big a question to answer without some serious thought. I'll get back to you tomorrow.' Then, the next day, if you are really open to staying, you can say: 'I would be open to staying, but we really need to seriously address the salary issue as well as the possibility for advancement. What do you have in mind to address these?'
posted by jazh at 12:17 AM on July 12, 2017 [6 favorites]

Look, exit interviews do shit. You do not get points for honesty. If you want to maintain a good relationship with the boss you have now, I would focus on the thing he didn't have influence on. "I am very grateful for your support and the bonus it got me this year. I am leaving for the opportunity to grow my role and take on more responsibility, which I know you already tried to do for me here."
posted by DarlingBri at 2:47 AM on July 12, 2017 [24 favorites]

You might want to browse through the questions at - I know I've read similar questions there before, and everything I've read there has given me expanded insight into perspectives from employees and managers.
posted by chr1sb0y at 5:16 AM on July 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Since my boss was pushing for the larger bonus and gave me such glowing reviews I'm feeling guilty and confused about how to move on as gracefully and graciously as possible.

It's great that your boss was doing everything in their power to provide you with sufficient compensation to convince you to stay. That the corporate structure did not allow your boss enough power to get there is neither your boss's fault nor something you should feel guilty about. As a matter of fact, your boss can easily use your departure as vindication for the efforts they made that upper management quashed.

I totally agree with DarlingBri; the exit interview is precisely your chance to explain why it has been great/was not your boss's or anyone else's fault/whatever damage control you think necessary to leave your bridges unburned. Sure, in a perfect world it would be a chance for corporate learning, and brutal honesty would allow them to avoid making the same mistakes with the next employee, but how likely is it that really do you think? I mean, I'm not saying *lie*, but there's no reason to dwell on what went wrong where and because of whom.
posted by solotoro at 5:55 AM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

One of the best ways to avoid burning bridges is to do everything in your power to assure the smoothest transition possible. Give as much notice as you can. Two weeks is the bare minimum; if you can make it longer, be sure to mention that you're doing this because you want your departure to minimize disruption. Even before your replacement is hired, start documenting what you do and how; this will be an invaluable reference for whoever follows you. Once your replacement has been designated, start training him/her with an eye to helping them gain the confidence and knowledge they'll need to function independently once you're gone. If you can offer to answer questions via phone or email after you've started your new job, so much the better. IME people rarely take advantage of this, but a sincere offer will certainly burnish your image.
posted by DrGail at 6:33 AM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Why would you think your boss doesn't know that the company is not exactly offering stellar reasons to stay? Chances are good he will be unsurprised and maybe even relieved that you have finally decided to go get something better for yourself. (Don't assume your boss isn't job-hunting as well, either.) Every time this guy has tried to go to bat for you, what he told the CEO or whoever was "she's going to leave". And the company, for the most part, has replied, "meh."

He knows you're going to leave eventually. Liking you doesn't mean you're supposed to stay forever.

Just don't screw him in your leaving. Like, document where all the critical bodies are buried, and your procedures for filing the TPS reports, for the next person. Have a private meeting with him to tell him verbally that you're giving notice, and ask him if there's anything specific you can do before you go that'll be helpful. Then go connect with him on LinkedIn if you haven't already so you can stay in touch when he leaves the company as well.

Avoid exit interviews, say as little as humanly possible about anything if you're forced to have one, and then schedule lunch with your boss for a few weeks after you've left, when the two of you can speak candidly. You can give him a card when you leave saying how great he was to work for.

Nothing you've said about this person suggests they're going to take it personally or be awful when you give your notice.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:04 AM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Be honest when you give notice and you might find that they can suddenly fix things to be the way you want. I once got offered a $10K bonus and a huge raise when I gave notice (alas I had plans to move so I didn't take them up on it - but on the plus side the dept was axed a year later so it was probably a wash for me).
posted by srboisvert at 9:07 AM on July 12, 2017

I am a boss who was just in this position! I was sad to see the person go, but I completely understood and support her decision. If your boss is as great as you say, he will have the same attitude.

As for exit interviews, there are two kinds. The one with HR, where I do think it's valuable to be tactful but honest. I used to think exit interviews were worthless, but I have actually seen in my last two orgs, they made a difference. In my last org, I was honest that I was leaving because there didn't seem to be opportunities to advance. Within a few months of my leaving, several of my peers got promoted, and a manager told me my leaving was a wake-up call. At my current org, HR takes note of feedback people give about their managers - they keep it confidential but that information does inform how they deal with HR issues with that person. So I think it's reasonable to be honest about how great your boss is but how the re-org over his head made it hard for you to stay. You can't control whether or not this will have any impact, but it's useful information for HR to have.

For talking to your boss, there will probably be two conversations. The one where you tell him you're leaving, and the one where the two of you get into they whys of it. These might be the same conversation, they might be different, the latter might take place over several conversations. As for telling him, I think just saying something like "I wanted to let you know I've been offered another position and I've decided to take it. I really have enjoyed working with you and I appreciate how you fought for me, but I think it's time for me to move on." And with the deeper conversation about why you're leaving, I don't see anything in your question that would be inappropriate to share. And honestly, sharing these reasons will probably help you maintain a good relationship with him - he'll see that you didn't make this decision lightly.

Congratulations and good luck!
posted by lunasol at 11:46 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think a good boss will be disappointed you're leaving, but not personally upset at you or otherwise negative about you leaving. When phrasing the reasons for leaving, I would stick to the potential for advancement and getting to focus on work tasks that are most interesting/challenging/etc. and aligned with your educational background and career goals. This makes it less about comparing the numbers of salary and just emphasizing that it's a different position.

I would also be gracious, thank your boss for going to bat for you, say you want to keep in touch, etc.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:22 PM on July 12, 2017

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