How to avoid saying why I really quit?
August 18, 2017 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Due to really bad drama, I am about to submit my resignation to my position in the board of an organisation. How can I graciously avoid answering questions about my reasons?

Since the beggining of the year, I have been serving in the board of trustees of this small civil rights organisation, a local chapter of a larger organisation.

The board's chairperson, who has a history of driving people away in previous years, and I, have had many disagreements that they have turned into personal issues. This has escalated to the point where they have resigned to their position in the board, but remain in management of a project, a festival, which is our biggest activity of the year (it accounts for half of our budget). The festival is a great initiative, which differentiates itself in many aspects from similar festivals in the region, and targets several points of intersectionality with our organisation's focus.

I am also part of the workgroup that organises the festival, and this person, right after quitting, made a big public post about how the whole team wants me gone and has to vote to get me out or everything will be cancelled. The team met, turns out only this person wanted to vote me out, possibly they had been trying to convince everybody that all problems were my fault (I know that conversation happened with at least one person) and failed.

Since that tactic failed, this person and their spouse (who is still in the board, and was neutral until now) have written to the national organisation recommending my removal, twisting and stretching facts and conversations we've had. A number of those things were said over email, facebook or messages, so I do have records I can provide (and this person has been reported before by other people), but that is beyond the point.

The national organisation may not take any action one way or the other (as they didn't before), this person is still in charge of that working group, and the board of trustees is now practically locked (the other members are not very active, so it could be said it's just this person's spouse, who is no longer neutral, and me).

Regardless of wether I am in the right or in the wrong, all this drama and this person's actions have led to this situation where it becomes really difficult to do any work, so I am seriously considering stepping down. Unlike this person, I do not want to make the organisation look bad as I leave, so my announcement is going to be very concise.

But people are still going to ask. Members, as well as people from other organisations we collaborate with. I have no desire to create more drama, to get down to this person's game of personal attacks, or to make the organisation look unprofessional (it has its issues, but this person may not be there next year for other reasons, there are amazing people doing great work, and I hope more will take a more active role next year or after the likely to happen anticipated elections).

When being directly asked about what happened, how can I graciously avoid explaining the whole crisis to anyone that wasn't involved, and preferably not even hinting at it passive agressively?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"As time went on, it became clear the role wasn't a good fit for me."


"I've decided to look for a role where I can put my X and Y skills to more use."
posted by DarlingBri at 8:02 AM on August 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

"I'd rather not discuss it." And then don't. If the person persists, repeat yourself until they get bored and go away or stop asking.
posted by rtha at 8:03 AM on August 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

I guess I'm not sure why you want to shield this person, but you can always use the standard explanation of being overcommitted.

Myself, I'd be honest. "Unfortunately Wendy's made it impossible for me to stay." But I'm a very, very bad liar.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:08 AM on August 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

I've decided to pursue another opportunity that has come my way.

As much as I've wanted to unleash on a few previous employers, I've never done it. Say as little as possible, and move on.
posted by COD at 8:22 AM on August 18, 2017

"While I will always support [ORGANIZATION] and the amazing and necessary work that it does in our community, I am electing to resign my trustee position in order to devote myself more fully to a wider range of community groups and causes in addition to [ORGANIZATION]." I mean, if that's what you're planning on doing. Feel free to swap out that last bit for "to spend more time with my family" or "to accept a promising opportunity that makes better use of my skills" or whichever rings true for you.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:35 AM on August 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Here's President Nixon’s resignation letter. You don't need to say anything more than he did.
posted by Ampersand692 at 8:36 AM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

There were some personal issues that were starting to get in the way of the mission of the organization, and this seemed like the best way to keep everything focused on what we're (if you're still a member, just not a board member) are trying to accomplish. It's been a great experience overall and I hope I get to do more work with them in the future.

Or, if you want to give even less information, you can say that you had some personal things going on that made leaving a good choice for right now, but, again, you hope to get a chance to do more work with such a great and worthy organization in the future. The personal reasons are conflict, but they could just as easy be scheduling or family.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:24 AM on August 18, 2017

Could you just go with something like "it just seemed like time to move on?" Something vague like that will allow people who already have a sense of what's going on to not feel lied to or even smile ruefully along with you, while people who don't already know will relate to the feeling of it just being time to move on from something.

On preview, I think gideonfrog's answer, something about some interpersonal issues becoming a distraction from the organization's work, could be a no-blame way of being transparent if people are really pressing. I wouldn't share that with people who don't know. But that's how I might handle it with people in the know -- not "I was right and have documentation," but "I felt this was becoming a distraction from the organization's important work." (They'll read between the lines that you had better things to do with your time.)

But other reasons people use for leaving boards include "after 7 years of service, I wanted to make room for new energy and explore new projects myself" or "my work on Other Board / Project is starting to grow and I had to make a tough choice" or wanting to spend more time with their families.
posted by salvia at 9:43 AM on August 18, 2017

I have resigned from a lot of jobs and volunteer positions and always use the same note and there has never been a situation where I wished that I had done more or said more (in retrospect.)


To whom it may concern:

I have decided to resign my position with Company or Organization Name effective (immediately/date).

Thanks and Regards,

posted by n9 at 9:53 AM on August 18, 2017

It is worth telling the board why you are stepping down -- if they're genuinely invested in the organization they should know why you're leaving. But that doesn't have to be in writing and it doesn't have to go beyond the board.

The last time I stepped down from a board, I just told the board president that I was overextended (the truth) and that I thought it was a good time to make room for someone else. It wasn't an issue and there wasn't much discussion of it. Do you have elections? I made my resignation effective with the next election, but really stepped back from any work in that time. There was no letter, I just didn't stand for reelection. And I don't think anyone asked me about it, except possibly in the context of wanting updates about the organization (which is involved in a big capital project that people have questions about.) I had no trouble saying "Eesh, I wish I knew, but I'm not on the board anymore so I have no idea what's going on!" -- that was all accurate and for me, not at all loaded.

"It was time for me to move on." is fine phrasing for anyone who asks and isn't on the board.
posted by amandabee at 9:58 AM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

"The time required for my volunteer work for ____ was interfering with other aspects of my life, and I had to decide between those competing obligations. I still support ____'s mission passionately, but at this time, I don't have the resources to devote to continued board membership."
posted by kevinbelt at 10:23 AM on August 18, 2017

As a member of the board, I think you have a responsibility to let the national org. know why you are leaving. A (very calm and factual) letter marked Confidential seems reasonable. To anyone else, a simple It was requiring far too much. is factual and simple.
posted by theora55 at 10:52 AM on August 18, 2017

"It just wasn't a good fit."

I promise you that it is unlikely that people are going to press you on this.
posted by k8t at 11:01 AM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

fwiw I think that that result of leaving without an explanation will be some introspection on the part of the board which can lead to positive change. Leaving with an explanation will very likely lead to your remarks or message being misinterpreted or misunderstood, which is kind of a roll of the dice.
posted by n9 at 12:26 PM on August 18, 2017

You don't need to give a reason, either at the time of your resignation or afterward when people ask you about it. Unless you're looking for a way to resign which is professional but makes it clear to those in the know that you're really resigning because the former chairperson is being a huge dick, all you have to say is "Effective immediately, I am resigning my position with this organization," and then if asked you can use a universal excuse (not a good fit, no longer have time, etc.) or just say "I'd rather not discuss it."
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:28 PM on August 18, 2017

"It was time for a change."
posted by DrAstroZoom at 12:44 PM on August 18, 2017

My only concern after reading what you wrote is that if you step down without an explanation, the former chairperson and that person's spouse may publicly or privately tell others that it shows they were right about you - or that others in the organization may draw that conclusion, particularly the national organization to which these folks complained. For that reason, even though it will create some drama, I'd provide some explanation - not publicly, but to others in the organization and to the national organization.

Sounds like a shitty situation.
posted by slide at 3:41 PM on August 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

You're "resigning for personal reasons" and if anyone asks you've decided you "need to focus on other priorities." No need to go beyond that.

Sorry you went through this. It's tough when something that should be positive turns out to be anything but. Sounds like you did your best, and had the misfortune of running across some truly dysfunctional people.
posted by rpfields at 5:34 PM on August 18, 2017

I helped in an volunteer organization for a number of years. I felt that one member was doing something that was legally questionable but didn't want that person accused of wrongdoing, just the process changed. When I privately proposed the changes (stating that it would be an easier workflow for everyone), that person later publicly accused me of mismanagement. At the time, I was doing over 50% of the daily work for that organization. I resigned before the next meeting with no explanation. I thought that others in the organization would defend my work. No one did.

That person continued in the organization for about another year and is still praised for all the work they did. I'm not even remembered as being associated with the organization. It's been over 5 years and I'm still angry over how I resigned.
posted by bCat at 5:23 AM on August 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

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