Say “I Quit” Gracefully
It’s a job offer you can’t refuse—a major step up the management ladder and a big boost in pay. Accepting the offer was easy; the hard part is telling your current boss and colleagues that you’re leaving to go to a major competitor. You want to handle your resignation gracefully and leave without feeling you’re deserting them, taking company secrets with you or planning to steal their clients. After all, you not only respect your boss and many of your colleagues, you consider them close personal friends. Because of that, as a way to show your loyalty, you plan to offer to stay on for at least a month to clear up loose ends and help find and train a replacement.
So you meet with your boss over lunch and tell him the news. You explain that you understand the delicacy of the situation and will handle company secrets in an honorable way, that while you certainly plan to compete for new clients, stealing old ones is out of the question. Feeling rather good about yourself, you look forward to your boss wishing you well and maybe even arranging a good-bye party.
Think again. To your surprise he suggests you clean out your desk immediately and orders security to escort you out the door that afternoon. Worse, he makes it clear you won’t be getting the yearend bonus you expected next week.
What went wrong? Plenty.
First of all, don’t underestimate the reaction you’ll get if you move to a competitor. Your boss has the responsibility to envision the worst: not only that you might share company secrets with your new employer and steal customers, but even that you might sink so low as to try to lure colleagues to join you. And for that you expect a party?
You’re lucky he didn’t hit you with a noncompete lawsuit. Which brings up another sensitive issue: If you did indeed sign such an agreement, you should have spoken to your lawyer before accepting the new job and certainly before making your move public. Depending on how tightly the agreement is written, you may have no choice but to turn down that job.
If your new employer is not a competitor, you may get that party and wishes of good luck. But don’t count on it. Owners of small companies often identify longtime employees as family and interpret a resignation as a “divorce.”
How should you handle the period between your announced resignation and your exit? If the company has been fair to you, don’t spend it playing solitaire at your desk. Prepare detailed memos for your replacement listing the status of incomplete work and things that need to be done. If asked, help train a replacement.
At the exit interview, resist bringing up old complaints or identifying those you view as incompetent. It’s best to be diplomatic; after all, you never know whether you’ll want, or need, to return, or to ask your old boss for a recommendation if the new job doesn’t work out.
Of course, if your company regularly awards bonuses at fixed times of the year, don’t announce your resignation until after the check clears.
In other words, expect the best, but prepare for the worst.
Empower Your Firm With Express Mail
A message delivered by express mail carries much more urgency and importance than a letter delivered by regular mail. So if you want your letter to deliver that powerful subliminal message, spend the extra money and send it express.
STANLEY ZAROWIN, a former JofA senior editor, is now a contributing editor to the magazine. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
|An Invitation |
The JofA publishes a monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).
Send your ideas to contributing editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at email@example.com or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy , Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.