should I tell my boss I’m leaving after my vacation?

A reader writes:

I have been with my employer for 1.5+ years, and at the start of this year I told them I was going to go to Europe in September. I booked my leave time, even though half of it is unpaid as I haven’t accrued enough paid leave. This is all fine, and very nice of them to allow, but then I did give them 8 months notice!

In the last 6 months, however, I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with my job. Eventually I made the decision that I wanted a new job, and about 3 months ago I put out some feelers about whether it was worth trying to find a new job, since I would need 8 weeks leave very quickly. A recruiter friend basically told me there was little point trying to find a new job since a new employer was unlikely to want to take me on with an 8 week holiday in the future.

So I put the issue to bed until after the holiday, but I’m feeling a bit guilty now. Essentially I intend to go on holidays (we leave in 7 weeks), and then come home and try to find a new job.

I already know they aren’t replacing me while I’m away, the owner of our business (in another branch) was too disorganized to hire + train someone new, so our little office will go from 2 to 1 (+ 2 in warehouse) while I’m gone. I know this stresses out my manager, as he will have to cope with everything alone while I’m gone.

Should I tell him I’m unhappy with my position and will be job hunting after my holiday? My fear is I will come back to no job entirely though!

(As a side note, I haven’t told my manager I’m unhappy in my position, as there’s only two of us. Essentially if I don’t like my duties, I simply need to ship out, there’s no way to reorganize them, and I don’t hold it against him. It’s just unfortunate that this job isn’t the best fit it could be for me.)

I’m in Australia, have no contract exempt/non-exempt status or anything like that to consider. Its more that we’re such a little team I don’t want him to think I’m screwing him over.

This is tricky. A lot of it depends on your relationship with your employer and your knowledge of how willing they’ve been to work with other people in similar situations. If you were a very long-time employee, I’d say to go ahead and give them a heads-up now … but at 1.5 years and a long vacation planned, I’d be more cautious.

If you talk to them now, you risk them either reneging on their agreement to let you take the long trip (because they have no more incentive to keep you happy) or replacing you before you’re ready for it.

Regarding the ethics of it and the guilt you’re feeling: It’s true that I wouldn’t be thrilled if I gave an employee special permission to take eight weeks off and she quit soon after returning. But these things happen; people move on to new jobs, and employers know that (well, the sensible ones do). The fact is, they approved your vacation time, and they didn’t ask you for any sort of long-term commitment in exchange. So I don’t think it’s crazy to look at this as two entirely separate issues.

Additionally, you don’t know how long the job search will take once you return; if the Australian job market is anything like the U.S.’s right now, you may end up staying there long enough that the vacation will become a non-issue anyway.

Ultimately, I think this illustrates the need for employers to make it safer for employees to be honest with them when they’re thinking about leaving. The reason most employees aren’t candid about it is because they have reason to think they’ll be pushed out earlier than they wanted to leave (often because they’ve seen that happen to others). So it’s in employers’ best interests to create an environment where employees know they can safely talk about this sort of thing, but too few of them do, and they end up with employees who can’t safely divulge their plans.

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. HR Wench*

    Wow, it’s that easy to get another job in Australia? I need to move!

    If it were me, I wouldn’t say anything. Enjoy your trip, come home, go back to work, see if you still feel the same, then start looking.

  2. thia-cat*

    Australia is interesting at the moment. The words “two-speed economy” seem to get thrown around a fair bit.

    Western Australia and to a lesser extent Queensland are in the middle of a massive mining boom. If you have skills that are in anyway useful to the mining industry, are in any way vaguely decent at what you do, and are willing to either move to the mine towns or work fly in/fly out (FIFO), it’s not hard to find a job. In fact, you’d probably have to be actively trying to be unemployed to not have a job, given a month or so for application processes etc to go through. And switching from one employer to another isn’t difficult; no-one has enough staff of any sort.
    The boom, of course, is supporting other industries as well, so there are a fair few jobs that aren’t mining related around as well.

    The other states, though, are slowing, and finding jobs in those would be a bit more difficult, I expect. Again, though, it really depends in what industry you’re in and what role you play in it. From what I’ve been reading, Australia’s situation isn’t quite as bad that of the US or the UK, although we have of course been dealing with rising food and petrol prices etc.

  3. The Office Newb*

    “It’s in employers’ best interests to create an environment where employees know they can safely talk about this sort of thing, but too few of them do, and they end up with employees who can’t safely divulge their plans.”

    I agree that employee retention would be much higher if people felt safe taking with their managers about their job disatisfaction but it is also equally important that management be willing and able to work with employees to improve their situations.

    I had one such conversation with a previous employer, at her request, and gave her candid feedback as to why I was considering leaving. She then spent the rest of the meeting trying to convince me that the company was great, the job was great, and that my feelings were displaced.

    I left a few months later and was not sorry to go.

  4. The Engineer*

    Your employer never needs to know your ultimate career goals. That said, you obviously have a good relationship since they are letting you take such a long vacation. I would go on the trip. Really relax (don’t stress about the job). When you get back talk to your supervisor about the possibility of changes to keep you more interested. You didn’t specify why you are dissatisfied, but I would explore what options may be available. If after all that you still want to leave, then do so in good conscience.

  5. Question Asker*

    Hi Thia Cat, nice to see another Aussie.

    I’m in Sydney, which for the Yanks is the biggest city in Oz, so I’m confident I could find a job, doing anything (if desperate), in a heartbeat.

    Industry/Specialty-Well I work in Admin, so essentially I’m not skilled, but I’m a dime-a-dozen and my job search would only be limited georgraphically within the city. Ideally something close to home, but at the end of the day there are 1000’s of people that live in Sydney that travel 1 hr+ to go to work.

    Job Market in Oz I don’t think is nearly as tough as what I’ve been reading in the US.

    @The Engineer
    To keep a long story short, our business changed a few months after I joined it when the Sales girls both left. I was new, I picked up the slack where required even though I was meant to be Admin. I’ve coped, and done both jobs ever since as our business slowed down a little and there is no real reason to get another person in as I can do both roles, but there isn’t enough “job” for two roles anymore.
    Just unfortunate circumstance, I don’t want to DO sales, I got out of it once before. My boss doesn’t press me to do any “sales” type tasks, but we have an uneasy, unspoken truce about it all that can’t go on for the business sake either.

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