should I give advance notice that I plan to resign?

A reader writes:

I’ve worked at a large non-profit for 4 years. I’ve recently interviewed at another non-profit and expect that they will make a job offer soon. I’m concerned about how I’ll resign if offered the new job, and I’d appreciate your advice based on the following:

* My manager and vice president constantly say they don’t want to be blind-sided by resignations; they want to be involved in employees’ decisions to leave…

* Former colleagues who resigned without advance conversations with management were told they’ve burned their bridges, they’re disloyal, etc. (These individuals worked here for 3+ years, gave 2+ weeks notice, and were model employees.)

* I’m amicable (but not close) with my boss, and I would jump at the chance to work in this new job if it were offered. I have no desire to remain at my current organization.

Would you advise me to tell my boss I’m looking to leave in the coming months (with no firm job offer in-hand)? If not, how do I involve her in my “decision-making process” to leave? I do not want to burn bridges or be perceived as unprofessional. Please advise.

Ha. Your company is funny. And also liars.

The first two points are in direct contradiction to each other: 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. That does not mean attacking people when they resign.

For instance, as I’ve written about before, I’ve always tried to create an environment where employees know they can safely alert me to their plans to leave soon, without having to worry about being badgered or pushed out early, and as a result I’ve rarely had employees give only two weeks notice; in fact, I’ve had employees give as much as 10 months notice at times. But it’s solely because they’ve seen how other people giving long notice periods have been treated. Otherwise I’d have no right to expect it.

So while I’m sure your managers want advance notice and “to be involved in employees’ decisions to leave,” the reality is that they’re making it impossible for you to do that. And there’s no need for you to stress over that; this situation is of their own making.

What people do tells you a lot more than what people say. Believe their actions. And their actions in this case say you’d be a fool to alert them that you’re thinking about leaving.

{ 7 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Nooooo!!! I lost my last job because my boss knew I was looking. It was obvious the job wasn't for me and I wasn't for them. She asked me flat out if I was looking elsewhere and stupid me said yes. She said she understood and that it was no problem, that she'd rather know than be blindsided. She said if I needed time off for interviews that was OK. About a month later she came to me and asked me what my end date was. I didn't have one as I was still looking (not easy in this economy). She said she needed to make plans and needed to know when I'd be leaving. She wanted a date right then and there. I asked her if I could think about it over the weekend. Monday morning came and I wouldn't give her a date. I didn't want her saying I had quit. I asked her what SHE was thinking. She gave me a date and that was that. I was gone 2.5 weeks later. They fought unemployment though eventually I won that. Maybe I'd still be in that hell hole looking for a new job but I'd have a lot more money coming in to pay the bills and good health insurance to boot.

  2. GeekChic*

    I'll never understand employers who do this as it just ends up hurting them in the end.

    At my last two jobs I gave 4 months and 6 months notice respectively (they knew when I started looking) because of the type of work I did. It allowed them to find my replacement and have me train them in the first instance and plan a smooth transition in the second.

  3. Kelly O*

    This has really only worked out for me once, and I didn't particularly want to leave that position, but we were moving because of my husband's job. I gave about six weeks' notice and was able to work with my boss to shift workloads, write a training manual, and spend hands-on time with people learning my job. It was a fabulous experience even though I hated to leave.

    Every other time? Not so much. The last time was a temporary assignment – originally temp to hire, but last summer it turned into less hire and more indefinite temp. When they started letting temps go, I started looking harder and asked my boss if I could take a long lunch for an interview. I thought she would be understanding based on our conversations. Two weeks later she was telling me it "wasn't working out" and escorted me to the elevators.

    That's been my experience thus far – I felt like I was being open and honest with an employer, letting them know when things changed, and most of the time it's burned me. I'm looking now, trying to get back in my field, and don't want to tell my current employer, even though this is a total departure and was only intended to be a part-time band aid fix. It's definitely a hard line to walk.

  4. Anonymous*

    Your comments really resonate with me and make A LOT of sense. Actions DO speak louder than words. Great advice!

  5. Anonymous*

    This sentence resonates with me:

    They want to be involved employees' decisions to leave…

    The decision is the employee's, and theirs alone. Yes, the implication there is that they want to have a chance to make a counter-offer or make sure you are happy, but if you are looking at another job, well that's WAY TOO LATE anyway. Clearly this place is losing talent and they think by squeezing those who are left HARDER they are going to be able to retain better. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    To me this suggests a company that seems to think they have a reasonable expectation to a share of an employee's personal autonomy.

    They don't.

    Good luck! I hope you get the new job and can give your absolutely no more than reasonably expected notice.

  6. Anonymous*

    I gave 6 months notice because I hold a senior position and I wanted to do the right thing by my employer. Now I have 2 months to go, I'm not permitted to tell staff and clients until the last month and my employer doesn't intend to find a replacement for me. To add insult to injury, despite almost 12 years of service on my part, my boss barely speaks to me now. It's hurtful and I wish I had given only a month's notice.

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