A reader writes:
I will be giving my (two week) notice at my job this Friday. I’m not leaving to take another job. I’m leaving because the Army is moving us ….. again. Unfortunately, in order to get the job, I had to fib and tell the bosses that we’d be staying in the area (and would eventually retire here) and I think that’s one of the reasons why they hired me — I said I was sticking around. Many employers will not hire military spouses if they think they are leaving soon, and the reality is that I usually have to “fib” about how long we’re staying in order to get any job. And while we do plan to retire in the area eventually, and we really DID think we’d be here longer, the Army has decided to move us two hours north so my husband can attend a school for a year (only to turn around and send us right back here next summer).
Do you absolutely have to tell your boss why you are leaving? Is it really any of her business?
If you think it is, that’s okay. I’m just curious if it is ever acceptable to write a simple resignation letter, thank the boss for the opportunity and wish her well (without giving an actual reason). I plan to tell her in person, but honestly, I’m just so tired of quitting jobs because we have to move again.
Despite the “love-hate” relationship I have with my boss, In 20 years, this is by far the best job I’ve ever had. So much so, that I would give anything not to quit. But there’s no way around it. And because I’m still “in denial” about having to move again (we’ve only been here in DC for 18 months), I’ve been putting off the “I’m quitting” notification.
You might ask why I’m only giving two weeks notice, when I’ve known we were moving since the end of April (April 26 to be exact). Honestly? I’ve quit so many jobs in my life (thanks to the Army) that I get so sick and tired of the dismissive attitude that immediately begins the second you tell the employer you’re leaving. I suddenly become invisible, despite the fact that I’m still coming in every day, working very hard, and doing everything I can to set up notebooks and documents to help the next person. Yes, I do realize I’m leaving, but for now I’m still here, I’m still the person who knows the job inside and out, I’m still the person who knows all the clients, knows how to work the schedule, knows the files, knows how to find stuff, knows the “unspoken rules” of the office, knows what the boss likes, and I can still be helpful … and yet, I quickly become the outsider and get ignored for two weeks. Things vital to the performance of my job are kept from me, simply because I’m leaving. And I fully expect this treatment again at this job, as my boss is just “that” kind of person. I hate feeling like a leper for two weeks.
Anyway, I’m nervous about telling her WHY I’m leaving and wondered if it was okay to just not say anything other than “It’s personal.”
You don’t have to tell your boss why you’re leaving. No one can make you. But it’s probably going to be pretty awkward if you don’t, because when you resign, at some point most normal bosses will ask, “So what will you be doing next?”
You can certainly say “it’s personal” if you want to, but it’s such a normal question to ask and such normal information to share that a refusal will probably come off as odd. And chilly. And if you end on a chilly note, that’s going to be the most recent memory of you in your boss’s mind when she’s called for a reference at some point in the future.
So I don’t think it’s a great approach. I hear you that the alternative isn’t one you relish either, but I think just being honest is your better bet here. Be straightforward: “In 20 years, this is by far the best job I’ve ever had and I would give anything not to quit, but the military is moving us.” (If your boss has anything approaching normal human emotions, that first clause is going to help soften things.)
Two other issues your letter raised:
1. Resignation letters are weird and generally unnecessary, unless your company specifically requests one after you resign in person.
2. I believe you that your boss wouldn’t have handled a longer notice period well — because you know her and I don’t — but I haven’t ranted about this in a while, so indulge me:
Managers who react badly to resignations give up any right to expect employees to give them more than two weeks notice. Managers who get significant amounts of notice when an employee is thinking about leaving are managers who make it safe for employees to do that.
On the employee’s side of things, you should pay attention to how your employer has handled other employees who resign. Are people shown the door immediately? Pushed out earlier than they would have otherwise planned to leave? If so, assume the same may happen to you, and give two weeks and nothing more. But if your employer has a track record of accommodating long notice periods, has been grateful to employees who provide long notice, and has generally shown that employees can feel safe being candid about their plans to leave, consider giving a longer notice period yourself. Some employers “earn” long notice periods by treating resigning employees well.
Okay, rant over. Back to your situation. In sum, you’re entitled to be secretive if you want to, but like many things you’re entitled to do, you’ll probably negatively impact the relationship. Just be honest.