A reader writes:
Recently, I accepted a part-time RN position, but resigned within the 90-day probationary period due to several personal and professional factors. I had tried to re-enter the workforce after being a stay-at-home mother for 9 years. I had mixed emotions about leaving the position, but overall it was not meshing well with our family needs. I felt like an RN number rather than a respected individual.
My husband sent a polite, professional email to my former nurse manager, expressing our family decision for resignation. He sent the email to communicate that he was no longer going to be able to support me in the endeavor of working. He was fed up with the financial burden the job had become. Childcare costs and commute were draining my earnings. He told me that I was not being “assertive” with them and so he took the matter into his own hands. He felt he had the right to do so since he is deciding what is best for our family situation.
His email said (editor’s note: names changed to protect identities), “Speaking to you as Jane’s husband, I now have a problem with Jane’s full time schedule, which is producing unnecessary stress and financial burden on my family. My original support for her was limited to part time weekend only work to maintain a healthy family structure. From one professional to another, I ask for your understanding that Jane can no longer continue to meet the needs of ABC’s work schedule.”
The nurse manager expressed during my exit meeting that she and the nursing director were “concerned” about the email from my husband and sent it to H.R. I had sent her an additional email in my own words after my husband had sent his. My email was much more emotional and expressed apologies for resigning. I told her that my husband meant well and was only trying to help me out. She stated she has never received an email from a husband before and that it appeared as if he were sending in my resignation for me.
I did not want him to send the email, because I knew that they would not understand where he is coming from; it is odd and unorthodox. It’s absolutely “out of the box.” But nothing threatening or negative was said to justify her sending it to HR or telling me it was “concerning.” I can understand her saying to me that it might be inappropriate, but “concerning” seems very judgmental.
What is the meaning behind sending his email to H.R.? And does quitting within the 90-day probationary period banish you from possible employment in the future for a different role? Or did my husband’s email cause that? Should I be apologizing for his email with another communication to H.R. or the nursing director? I personally think the nurse manager has a hard time with thinking outside of the box. There is a first time for everything.
Oh dear. Yeah, you can’t have your spouse contact your employer on your behalf about anything. The only exception to this would be if you were in the hospital and he needed to inform your manager.
Having your husband involve himself in your resignation (or salary negotiations, or requests for time off, or anything else) is … well, it’s not done, it’s unprofessional, and it would absolutely be alarming. It’s not about “out of the box” thinking; it’s a huge violation of professional norms and what it means to conduct yourself in the work world as a professional. Your husband crossed a line that made you look unprofessional and made him look … a bit crazy, and possibly scary too.
The thing is, this is so very much Not Done that when it happens, people will assume that you’re either in a scary, dangerous situation or that you lack professional judgment:
1. Scary, dangerous situation. You may bristle at this, but the reality is that having a spouse appear to dictate your decision to resign — and to go so far as to convey that decision on your behalf — makes most people wonder why he has this much control over your professional life … and whether that level of control indicates an abusive relationship. This type of control (including speaking on the spouse’s behalf in a situation where she should speak for herself) is a common hallmark of abusive relationships. That doesn’t mean that you’re in one — but it means that it sure looks like a possibility from the outside. (If this rings at all true to you, you might take a look at this for more information.)
2. Professional judgment. First, let me be clear: It’s completely your prerogative if you want a marriage where your husband makes the decisions for your family. As long as you’re a willing participant, that’s your call and no one else’s. But this arrangement only applies to the two of you, and you can’t expect people outside your marriage to play by those rules. Your employer’s relationship with you is with you, not with your family or your husband. You can’t ask an employer to accept that they’ll be talking with him rather than with you. It just doesn’t work that way. And if you appear not to recognize that, it will raise questions in people’s minds about your judgment.
I’m hoping this situation is #2. I suspect it probably is, and so I’m going to answer the rest of the question assuming that it’s #2. But please don’t disregard #1 without thinking it through.
In any case, this is why your manager reacted the way she did. She said it was concerning because it is concerning. And she forwarded the email to HR because if it’s scenario #1 above, she wants HR in the loop, and if it’s scenario #2, they’d want it in your file in case you apply in the future, because they’d have concerns about your professionalism and judgment.
As for what to do now, I would just let this go at this point, rather than sending another email; another email will just make this more convoluted than it already is. I would not reapply with this employer in the future; getting emails from an employee’s spouse announcing her resignation is not something they’re likely to sign up for more of.
And I think this does raise questions that it’s worth spending some time thinking about. Good luck.