How do you quit your job when your boss is out of town?
June 1, 2007 5:39 AM   Subscribe

I desperately want to quit my job. Right now. Unfortunately, this is complicated by the fact that my boss is going to be out of the country for more than a month...

I've been pretty much miserable at my job for the last few months, ever since I was demoted (without warning, and with a considerable reduction in my pay) a few months ago. I've stuck around because much of the work itself suits me and I need the money. Also, I've been planning on leaving the area at the end of the year, and better the devil I know, since it's only a matter of months.

However, recently my company has adopted a business practice that I consider deeply unethical (although perhaps not illegal). This practice would require me to engage in unethical behavior every day; I can't avoid it if I stay at this job without defying direct orders from my boss. I have voiced my objections to no avail. I want to quit NOW, but...

It's a very small company. I only have one boss. And this boss is going to be out of the country (with limited communication) for the next several weeks.

I'm not sure I can handle even the standard two weeks, much less however many more my boss ends up staying out of the country. My departure would be inconvenient but by no means fatal for the company. The questions is: is it unforgivably unprofessional to quit while the boss is out of the country?

Also, since I know I'm likely to lose any chance at a recommendation from my current boss whatever I do, how can I explain the lack of a recommendation to a future prospective employer without bad-mouthing my current one?

In summary-- how can I minimize the destructiveness of this situation while preserving my future prospects?

[throwaway email:]
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Quit. Your job sounds craptacular and it certainly doesn't seem like they're giving you one shred of the consideration you're fretting over giving them.

Also, since I know I'm likely to lose any chance at a recommendation from my current boss whatever I do, how can I explain the lack of a recommendation to a future prospective employer without bad-mouthing my current one?

Current employees are essentially forbidden to give "recommendations" for former employees, thanks to discrimination paranoia. All that happens these days is that someone at HR confirms your date of employment and that you weren't fired.
posted by mkultra at 5:52 AM on June 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but how the hell did this get past the admins? Without knowing where you are, there's absolutely nothing we can do to help.

If you are in the UK, then you already have grounds for a tribunal because your boss can't just cut your pay like that. If you're in the US (which most people here will assume) I'm guessing the situation will change by state.

In theory, if you walk out of your job, your boss can probably bring you up before the courts for breach of contract. In reality, less so.

How completely unreachable is your boss? Can he still be reached by phone or sms, for example?
posted by twine42 at 5:59 AM on June 1, 2007

This is a risky strategy, but if the "deeply unethical" conduct is the kind of thing that most people would reject, why not blow the whistle in an e-mail? Then you have a credible reason for having left (even without the two weeks notice), and maybe they would even fire you/lay you off, which could perhaps lead to unemployment benefits.
posted by Duluth?! I Hardly Know Her! at 6:00 AM on June 1, 2007

Is it unforgivably unprofessional to quit while the boss is out of the country?

I'd say it's unforgivable for the company to force you to behave unethically against your will. So, no.

You say you will lose the chance for a recommendation whatever you do, so you've got nothing to lose. Quit now. (Of course, be aware of any legal consequences as the previous posters said, and adjust accordingly.)

I was in a similar situation with an unethical employer once, though the boss wasn't away. If your situation is anything like mine, persisting there until your boss comes back will make you miserable and depressed. I didn't have the nerve to quit in a hurry, and the couple of months that resulted were probably the worst in my life.

I'm sure you'll come up with a graceful explanation for the lack of recommendation later on. Any employer worth their salt will accept a non-too-specific explanation about an unresolvable ethical conflict, which forced you to resign in order to preserve your integrity.
posted by lifeless at 6:02 AM on June 1, 2007

Uh, quit now. You don't owe them anything.
posted by bshort at 6:02 AM on June 1, 2007

If they're asking you to do something you consider unethical, it would be unprofessional to stay.

Just stay quiet, maintain a neutral attitude, and go.
posted by Phanx at 6:04 AM on June 1, 2007

Life is too short. Quit.

I agree with bshort. You don't owe them anything.
posted by gomichild at 6:09 AM on June 1, 2007

Unless you have a contract stating that you have to meet certain conditions in order to leave you're job, you're under no obligation to even give them two weeks. Yeah, it's going to suck for them, but that's not really your problem. They are asking you to do things that you find yourself unwilling to do; so let them find someone else who is wiiling to do them. Make yourself happy and get out of there.
posted by Phoenix42 at 6:14 AM on June 1, 2007

How about you go ahead and give notice, and say you won't do whatever the new policy is; they can implement it when the next employee comes in?

Phrase it politely; always assume there are things about the situation that you don't understant. You're quitting because _you can't go along with the new policy_, not because they are evil. No one's evil; they're just putting their priorities in a different order, possibly because they were formed through different life experiences than you.
posted by amtho at 6:16 AM on June 1, 2007

Pick the one that's more ethical:

1) "unprofessionally" walking away from your job
2) engaging in the business practice you find repugnant
posted by desjardins at 6:21 AM on June 1, 2007

Quit. Regardless of the situation, you are obviously miserable and being paid less for that privilege.
Whether or not your boss is out of the company is not germane. If there is no actual person performing HR duties, you simply hand your resignation to whomever was left in charge during your boss' absence.

And do not send out an email exposing whatever practice you find unethical. Doing so will most certainly lead to your dismissal. And it's better to quit on your own than to be fired for a disciplinary action.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:22 AM on June 1, 2007

two weeks isn't required, unless you signed a contract to that effect. it's a courtesy. if they demoted with you without warning or cause, then you certainly have no reason to extend them any courtesy.

don't sell yourself out, especially since you don't think you'll get a good recommendation anyway. leave the job. just tell them you no longer feel you can perform your job functions in good conscience and that you will be leaving in x days or not coming back on monday or whatever.

the only incentive for staying is that it's generally easier to find a job if you're already employed. but in this case, i would recommend quitting, signing on with a temp agency (or freelancing, if you can) and then hunting.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:32 AM on June 1, 2007

When you say you have only one boss, do you mean that your boss is the ultimate boss in the company and you are one level on the org chart below him?

If your boss has a boss him/herself I suggest, as others have mentioned above, that you write a letter to that boss outlining your distaste for the unethical working practice you are being required to perform and request that it be changed. It would be very strengthening to your argument to provide an alternative that, as much as possible, meets the business need (profit, cost constraints, speed to market, whatever). Make sure the letter is formal, unambiguous, impersonal and unemotional. Make sure you also request a response by dd/mm/yyyy date.

If no response is forthcoming, or the response received is unacceptable, draft a (formal, unemotional etc etc) resignation letter to that boss referencing the letter and the response (or lack thereof).

I think this approach allows you to:
a) Give the company fair chance at amending or explaining their practices
b) Ensures you have all the facts before quitting (there may be a rational explanation for the problematic working practice)
c) In the event that you do resign, allows you to do so in the most professional manner and with bridges intact (you never know when you might run across ex-colleagues/bosses)
d) Be more open with prospective employers, in that you can show both moral fibre and fair-mindedness towards your employer, which as a someone responsible for recruitment myself, would appreciate greatly

Good luck whatever you do though!
posted by mooders at 6:41 AM on June 1, 2007

Yeah, just do a runner.
posted by reklaw at 6:47 AM on June 1, 2007

Whistleblowers are protected in the US if the company violates public policy.

Why were you demoted? Was it retaliation? Are you of a protected class? Do you think this might be an EEOC matter?
posted by onepapertiger at 6:49 AM on June 1, 2007

Do the right thing. Give 2 weeks notice. Refuse to engage in unethical behavior in the remaining time. Make your resignation letter short and classy, not a rant. Make sure you tell your boss that you expect them to confirm your dates of employment and nothing more, to prospective future employers.

If you are in the US, and depending on the state, you may be able to make a case for constructive termination, i.e., they made it impossible for you to work., and may be eligible for unemployment compensation. IANAL

Right now, you must be feeling depressed about the demotion and the crappy treatment. But you should be proud of yourself for having integrity. Once you're out from under, you'll feel so much better.
posted by theora55 at 7:09 AM on June 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Personally, I'd leave the minute I was told to do something illegal/unethical.

Explain it to your next employer. Don't take a job with an employer that thinks leaving under these circumstances reflects poorly on you. It doesn't.

Good luck!
posted by FauxScot at 7:22 AM on June 1, 2007

If you are in the UK then you could talk a lawyer about the possibility of claiming for "Constructive Dismissal".
posted by rongorongo at 7:36 AM on June 1, 2007

If they demoted you and cut your pay, it sounds like they want you out anyway, but are trying to avoid the financial/legal exposure that comes with firing someone. So, keep that in mind in your planning.
posted by Good Brain at 8:28 AM on June 1, 2007

A very important part of the responsibilities of being a professional is saying "No, that is not right, I will not agree to that". Ethics matter, stick to yours.

Practically, I suggest you go with the suggestions of theora55 and mooders. If you have time and energy, investigate applicable employment legislation, but I doubt if the potential payoff is worth the hassle.
posted by Idcoytco at 10:34 AM on June 1, 2007

Leave. It's better for your emotional well-being and your professional future to not be associated with what they're asking you to do.

A future employer, if told the whole story, may well see your departure from this company as a positive, because it demonstrates that you have high ethical standards.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:38 AM on June 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

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