did boss trick me into resigning?

A reader writes:

I work at a small company for now. 3 and a half people (the half being a part time contractor). There is no HR. The boss is HR.

I have had several therapy sessions trying to figure him out. My therapist thinks he is an attention-deficit narcissist. He won’t apologize, take responsibility, or listen. He disregards years and years of software engineering common knowledge, experience, and wisdom. He think it doesn’t apply to him or something.

I am an unruly employee. I have been outspoken in an attempt to bring our company out of the stone age and do things better. My boss will not listen. I tried everything and finally exploded.

We mutually agreed verbally that I would become a contractor and change our relationship. I would send a resignation letter, he the contractor paperwork, basically the same rate, la di da.

I sent him a PDF copy of a resignation letter where I wrote the signature using Microsoft Paint (basically) and sent it to him.

He informed me this afternoon the contract stuff may not be a possibility.

I have been looking for a month and a half to get out of this job and now I’m obviously going to have to. However, I feel like I’ve been totally screwed. His idea of how we were going to proceed changed after I sent him a letter.

Do I have any recourse until I find another position?

First, you may want to rescind your resignation. Of course, you clearly need to get out of there anyway, but I’m assuming you’d rather do that on your own timeline rather than his, and it seems like your resignation was clearly part of an overall plan and not something you would have offered without the contracting agreement.

So let’s clean this part up first. You want to do this both in writing and in person (because doing it only in writing comes across as too aggressive — you want it to be primarily an in-person conversation, followed up by a written document). In both cases, you basically want to say, “My resignation of my staff position was offered as part of our plan to switch me to a contracting role and was contingent upon that plan. As you’ve indicated that plan is no longer a certainty, I want to make sure we’re both clear that my resignation is be triggered only by a contracting arrangement, as we previously discussed.”

Say this nicely; don’t be adversarial. Go into it with the mindset that of course he understands you need to formally retract this, since his plan changed. If you’re adversarial, he’ll be adversarial. If you’re not, he still may be, but the risk goes way down.

Now, I suppose it’s possible that this was all some master plan of his to obtain your resignation under false pretenses, but I doubt it. First of all, most people just aren’t that conniving, and secondly, it wouldn’t help him that much anyway. You could still collect unemployment, for example, just by explaining the situation. So there’s not much benefit to him in doing it this way, unless it’s that he knew his alternative was to fire you and he’s one of those people who go through all kinds of contortions to avoid firing someone.

But while it’s likely that this wasn’t a nefarious plot, I would still be braced for the prospect that he still thinks it’s time for you to part ways, whether or not you become a contractor. It sounds like the relationship has been a contentious one. And you want to leave as well, but you want to do it on your own timeline, once you find another job.

I recommend that you talk to him about a plan for a smooth transition, one in which you continue to keep your responsibilities covered, perhaps prepare training materials for a replacement and so forth, and give him time to search for the right person, while you conduct your own job search. Many managers will be very open to this solution, and it can end with all parties reasonably content with the outcome.

But if he makes it clear that’s not an option, you should try to negotiate severance and come to an understanding about what he’ll tell prospective employers who call for a reference.

And in future jobs … don’t explode. That never goes well.

{ 8 comments… read them below }

  1. class-factotum*

    I have been outspoken in an attempt to bring our company out of the stone age and do things better. My boss will not listen. I tried everything and finally exploded.

    My brother was stunned when he was fired years ago. "But I told them and told them they were doing it wrong," he said. "They had POLITICS in that office."

    Funny how bosses don't like it when you tell them over and over that you are right and they are wrong.

    Good luck in fixing this situation or finding one that is more suitable!

  2. raskal*

    Kerry, I agree. The working relationship is volatile and lacking respect. Might be better over the long haul for the OP to move on and count this as a life lesson. You know, leave explosions to those skilled working with dynamite..

  3. TheLabRat*

    Get a different therapist; seriously. Your's has no business diagnosing a person they've never met (from the second paragraph). If they are prone to do so, then it's no wonder you've made so little progress.

    Either that or YOU suggested that diagnosis and worked your therapist's response to mean what you wanted it to in your own mind.

    Either way, I feel sorry for the boss even if he is a pushy jerkface.

  4. Anonymous*

    I'm surprised no ones mentioned the risks associated with leaving jobs off of a resume. Yes it markets you in a better light, But what happens if you get an offer. Most employers will have you fill out an app and consent forms. Are you going to falsify your employment history then. If an employer does a background or credit check they might find out about those jobs you omitted anyway. Don't you think that will throw up all sorts of red flags if it doesn't get you fired. And if you make it past all that I will probably investigate if you slip and talk about some recent job that you conveniently tried to hide. I don't want people working for me who lie by omission. You're taking your chances!

  5. Anonymous*

    Does no one else see a problem with writing a resignation letter in MS Paint? This is akin to a child drawing it in crayon. Sounds like the LO is a passive aggressive know-it-all.

  6. Anonymous*

    Anon, Maybe I'm blind or my search function is buggy, but I don't see any mention of leaving this job off the OP's resume.

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