A reader writes:
Yesterday, I had my mid-year review with my boss and during the conversation, she shared that it was obvious how unhappy I was and that no matter how much I demonstrate that my position is overworked, absolutely nothing would come off my plate (in fact, there is a good chance the workload would increase). I’m doing the work of 2.5 people and am often relied upon by colleagues across the organization to do work outside of my job duties, because of my background/skills.
My boss told me I need to think about whether or not this is the job for me, and if so, commit to the job description as it is (and stop raising issues/concerns) or work with her to develop an exit plan. At this point, I shared with my boss that I have been actively looking. It was a scary thing to say, but I think it opened up a productive dialogue. My boss asked me to think it over and share my decision in my next one-on-one.
Over the last year, I have hated my job, but I come in and work hard every day because I truly believe in my organization’s mission. There are a lot of reasons why this position is not for me beyond the workload and the general trickle down of “don’t expect things to change.” This has helped me cement that developing an exit plan is the right step for both the organization and me.
As part of the exit plan, my boss would like me to commit to working through the next 60-days to get us through some big projects but then has said that she would give me through the end of the fiscal year to find a position (5 months). Though I am confident that this is the right step for me, I am actually not sure how it would work. I would appreciate any advice on how to exit gracefully and how to manage my part of the situation.
Well, good for you for getting it into the open so that you can both figure out how to move forward. And really, good for your manager for being honest with you that the expectations of the job aren’t going to change (whether or not they’re reasonable).
I’ve been on your manager’s side of that conversation, and it’s a conversation I often coach other managers to have. When you can tell that someone is unhappy and you know that the thing making them unhappy isn’t going to change, it’s far better to just be really up-front about that so that everyone can figure out where to go from there. (That doesn’t mean that your manager isn’t a loon for thinking one person should do all the work; maybe she is. But I’ve also seen people convinced that their workload was way too high, and then the next person came in and handled it just fine. I’m not saying that’s the case here — I have no way of knowing — but maybe it’s useful insight into where your manager might be coming from.)
Anyway. Usually what this looks like is:
* a mutual agreement that you will leave your job by a particular date
* some agreement about what your work will include during that time
* sometimes an agreement that you’ll mainly wrap up projects during that time, rather than take on anything new
* sometimes an agreement that you can job-search from work and take off extra time for interviews
Details that you should cover with your boss as you figure out the logistics:
* What’s the exact timeframe that you should plan on? You don’t want to be thinking that you have a job there until the end of August and discover later that your manager is thinking something different.
* What are the expectations for you and your work during that time? Will you still be expected to take on new projects, or just wrap up existing ones? I’d default to assuming that you’ll be expected to continue to work at the same pace you’ve been working at, but it’s possible that she’d be fine with you slowing it down. (It sounds like that might be what she was getting at with the “get us through the next 60 days and then take a few months to job search” thing, but find out for sure.)
* What’s the messaging to the rest of the staff about you leaving, and the timing for that message?
* Are there other things that you can do to make this period go smoothly? (This is a question to ask your manager, and it’s a good way to acknowledge that she’s giving you a graceful way out and making things easier on you than another manager might have.)
One other thing to keep in mind: You probably already know this, but this kind of agreement isn’t an ironclad guarantee that you will have a job for that full period. Managers who operate in good faith will do their best to ensure that’s true, but if you were to suddenly start doing less work or lower quality work, or to be a toxic presence in the office, assume that you could be let go earlier. It’s also true that if your manager found the perfect replacement for you and the person needed to start earlier, it’s possible that you could be pushed out sooner than you’d agreed. A manager operating in good faith won’t do that, but it’s a possibility you want to be aware of. Not that you’re likely to embark on a leisurely job search, but keep that in mind to maximize good results here.
And again, good for you for being honest with yourself about what next step makes sense. So often, people aren’t able to do that and it leads to much longer-term unhappiness all around.