do you have to tell your boss why you’re quitting?

A reader writes:

I will be giving my (two week) notice at my job this Friday.  I’m not leaving to take another job.  I’m leaving because the Army is moving us ….. again.  Unfortunately, in order to get the job, I had to fib and tell the bosses that we’d be staying in the area (and would eventually retire here) and I think that’s one of the reasons why they hired me — I said I was sticking around.  Many employers will not hire military spouses if they think they are leaving soon, and the reality is that I usually have to “fib” about how long we’re staying in order to get any job.  And while we do plan to retire in the area eventually, and we really DID think we’d be here longer, the Army has decided to move us two hours north so my husband can attend a school for a year (only to turn around and send us right back here next summer).

Do you absolutely have to tell your boss why you are leaving?  Is it really any of her business?

If you think it is, that’s okay.  I’m just curious if it is ever acceptable to write a simple resignation letter, thank the boss for the opportunity and wish her well (without giving an actual reason).  I plan to tell her in person, but honestly, I’m just so tired of quitting jobs because we have to move again.

Despite the “love-hate” relationship I have with my boss, In 20 years, this is by far the best job I’ve ever had.  So much so, that I would give anything not to quit.  But there’s no way around it.  And because I’m still “in denial” about having to move again (we’ve only been here in DC for 18 months), I’ve been putting off the “I’m quitting” notification.

You might ask why I’m only giving two weeks notice, when I’ve known we were moving since the end of April (April 26 to be exact).  Honestly?  I’ve quit so many jobs in my life (thanks to the Army) that I get so sick and tired of the dismissive attitude that immediately begins the second you tell the employer you’re leaving.  I suddenly become invisible, despite the fact that I’m still coming in every day, working very hard, and doing everything I can to set up notebooks and documents to help the next person.  Yes, I do realize I’m leaving, but for now I’m still here, I’m still the person who knows the job inside and out, I’m still the person who knows all the clients, knows how to work the schedule, knows the files, knows how to find stuff, knows the “unspoken rules” of the office, knows what the boss likes, and I can still be helpful … and yet, I quickly become the outsider and get ignored for two weeks.  Things vital to the performance of my job are kept from me, simply because I’m leaving.  And I fully expect this treatment again at this job, as my boss is just “that” kind of person.  I hate feeling like a leper for two weeks.

Anyway, I’m nervous about telling her WHY I’m leaving and wondered if it was okay to just not say anything other than “It’s personal.”

You don’t have to tell your boss why you’re leaving. No one can make you. But it’s probably going to be pretty awkward if you don’t, because when you resign, at some point most normal bosses will ask, “So what will you be doing next?”

You can certainly say “it’s personal” if you want to, but it’s such a normal question to ask and such normal information to share that a refusal will probably come off as odd. And chilly. And if you end on a chilly note, that’s going to be the most recent memory of you in your boss’s mind when she’s called for a reference at some point in the future.

So I don’t think it’s a great approach. I hear you that the alternative isn’t one you relish either, but I think just being honest is your better bet here. Be straightforward:  “In 20 years, this is by far the best job I’ve ever had and I would give anything not to quit, but the military is moving us.” (If your boss has anything approaching normal human emotions, that first clause is going to help soften things.)

Two other issues your letter raised:

1. Resignation letters are weird and generally unnecessary, unless your company specifically requests one after you resign in person.

2. I believe you that your boss wouldn’t have handled a longer notice period well — because you know her and I don’t — but I haven’t ranted about this in a while, so indulge me:

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.

On the employee’s side of things, you should pay attention to how your employer has handled other employees who resign. Are people shown the door immediately? Pushed out earlier than they would have otherwise planned to leave? If so, assume the same may happen to you, and give two weeks and nothing more. But if your employer has a track record of accommodating long notice periods, has been grateful to employees who provide long notice, and has generally shown that employees can feel safe being candid about their plans to leave, consider giving a longer notice period yourself. Some employers “earn” long notice periods by treating resigning employees well.

Okay, rant over. Back to your situation. In sum, you’re entitled to be secretive if you want to, but like many things you’re entitled to do, you’ll probably negatively impact the relationship. Just be honest.

{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike*

    There are a couple issues here. First you don’t have to tell them why you are leaving…but if you don’t it will come across really strange and secretive. It might affect their reference for you.

    Second, it was really bad form not to tell them the full circumstances when they hired you. You lied, not fibbed. Maybe that is why you have these ambiguous feelings about your employer. Put yourself in a manager’s shoes for a minute. You get notice that someone is leaving. Your mind immediately shifts to how we are going to continue. You still like the employee that is leaving, but they are leaving and you need to make preparations to keep the business running.

    If you look at the whole situation you might find a better atmosphere at your next job.

    1. Anonymous*

      I’m reading a lot of remarks from about others thinking it’s really “strange”, “odd”, “cold”, or “secretive” to leave your current position without explaining to your boss why you are doing so. Honestly, it’s not their business. The old example of keeping your work life separate from your home life is perfect here; your employer likely mentioned it to you. Using the exact same logic: your work has absolutely no reason or excuse to know anything regarding your ‘home’ life.

      It is not secretive, or strange, or odd. Employers who believe so are quite paranoid to be frank, and really out to have something better to do with their time.

      As an employer myself, I ask this question yet I ALWAYS make sure the employee knows he/she does not have to answer this question if he/she does not want to. I make sure they know I honestly do not mind why they are leaving (although I am sad to see them go); I simply like to know for data purposes (in regards to employee retention). If I see employees leaving, for example, for all the same reason I like to know so I can fix that issue.

      That all being said, it is 100% ‘your business’ as to why you are leaving. You do not owe your work an explanation. We’ve somehow developed this system in which employees are feeling guilty or wracking up huge amounts of stress over this issue. The simple, and obvious, solvent is that your employer has NO right whatsoever to even ask you that question. They may do so, but they should make it very clear you owe them no explanation.

      Jobs are 2-way streets. You gave them your service, hard work, time, and effort. They gave you a pay check. If all things were done properly, it was an even and fair trade. For that reason, neither party owes the other; this is proper business etiquette. In most cases, I’d argue, the employee is the one who receives far less compensation for the amount of work they do and/or the amount of profit they make for their company. In this light you owe your employer even less than your employer owes you.

      I surely hope all of you who read this can initiate this change of attitude: It is not ‘strange’, ‘odd’, or ‘secretive’ to keep your home life private. The sooner we all get this concept through our heads, the sooner it will be the ‘norm’ for employers to accept and respect your privacy, instead of attempting to invade it with their double-edged questions.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You’re talking about how you’d like things to be in theory. In practice, someone who responds to “so what are you doing next?” with “I don’t want to discuss that” is going to come off as cold and even rude. You make a perfectly logical argument for why this shouldn’t be the case, and in the abstract, I think most people would agree with you. But in practice, with current norms, it doesn’t change the fact that it will be alienating.

        1. Kelly*

          I have to agree to disagree with that taken on the situation. If you are asking questions that edge into someone’s personal life and they do not wish to share, then that is rather rude. If someone tells you that “it’s personal” and changes the subject, then you should accept it and move on as you will not be holding his or her hand while going through whatever “personal” matter has prompted a leave from the job.
          Usually, this is the best course of action for someone who hates the job and is leaving because the boss is a jerk or the company has questionable practices. It is usually not a good idea to share information about your plans with people you do not like or trust. In that case, of course, it is also not very likely that the employee is going to be asking anyone there for a reference anyway. Let’s be frank about this–if someone had developed a good relationship with colleagues or felt appreciated at a job, he or she probably wouldn’t be leaving in the first place.

  2. Mikey*

    Wow, when I lived in LA I had a two hour commute, I didn’t mind it a bit. I did that commute for about four years — it became my Zen time. I sort of miss that me-time.

    1. Suzanne Lucas*

      Yeah, I commuted for an hour for 8 years and my husband commuted for 1.25 hours for 3 years. I would seriously consider moving 1 hour north and each of you commuting 1 hour and not quitting the best job in 20 years.

      Good jobs are hard to find.

      1. Jamie*

        I have a 1.5 hour commute and I like it – it’s the only alone time I get – but there are expenses that go along with the longer commutes; gas, wear and tear, warranties on the car running out faster…etc. This may be a viable option but I would suggest doing the math to make sure it makes sense financially.

        We were stationed in DC as well – Andrews AFB – and two hours north could mean a 3-4 hour commute in beltway rush hour. Not to mention a dusting of snow will turn every thoroughfare into a parking lot.

        DC is a great city and has a lot of fabulous advantages – but driving there is worse than Boston – and that’s saying something.

        Before anyone jumps on me – I’m from Chicago, where we’ve also earned our reputation for crappy commutes complete with lousy drivers and potholes big enough to swallow your car…so I know whereof I speak. :)

      1. WomanRebellious*

        I don’t understand why it has to be a 2 hr commute? Why not take Suzanne’s approach and split the difference? Or, since they’ll be back in a year anyway, why not hold on to the main residence now, and the husband can get a little studio up near the school? Let him stay there during the week, come home on weekends. Many couples do something similar, and a 2 hour distance doesn’t seem significant enough to give up the best job you’ve ever had.

  3. Brian*

    You say that you will be moving back to the area in 1 year and you have really liked this job. The obvious thing to me is to talk with your boss about how much you would like to return to the position when you come back. Maybe you can arrange a 1 year leave of absence instead of quitting.

    1. Anonymous*

      I was wondering about writing this too. Unfortunately the OPs boss doesn’t sound like the kind of person who would be happy to discuss this.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      That’s what I would do. Either that or keep the job, pick a place about an hour away and both commute from there. If he’s in the military, they’ll put him up somewhere on base for the year and he comes home when he can. I don’t think these are insurmountable problems.

    3. Jennifer*

      I agree with Brian and Wilton. Either ask for a 1 year leave of absence or look for a place to live midway between and commute for the year and keep the job. If it’s the best job in 20 years, it’s worth a bit of a sacrifice for a year to keep it.

      1. Suz*

        I’m not sure what you do, but is there a possibility of you keeping your job and performing some of your duties from a home office? Then when you move back to the area you can resume a full-time in office arrangement (if necessary)?

  4. MillenniMedia*

    Ugh, what a frustrating situation. I agree with AAM on starting the conversation by telling your boss how much you loved working there and how much you wish you weren’t leaving. Not only does it soften the blow, it allows you the opportunity to mention your plans to move back to the area in a year and express interest in working for the company again should there be a position available at that time.

    I’ll offer another suggestion, though not knowing your personal situation (kids, etc) it may be useless. 2 hours isn’t that far. Is there any chance you’d consider staying in DC for the next year and going back and forth to see your husband on the weekend? It’s obviously not ideal to be away from your spouse, but if you don’t have obligations like children, maybe it’s a sacrifice worth making to hang on to a job you like and stay rooted in one community for more than 18 months.

    Good luck!

  5. Joey*

    I’m surprised Alison didn’t get on your case for continuing to “fib” when you apply for jobs. Your guilt is why you’re asking for advice. All it takes is for a prospective employer to call a couple of your old bosses and you’ll likely be outed as a liar. You might be able to explain it away once-“I really thought we were staying”-, but if multiple employers tell the same story you’re going to be SOL.

    1. a.b.*

      I think what people are ignoring here is the crap situation that army wives and “trailing spouses” are put in. She doesn’t her professional life to be constantly colored by her spouse. And she doesn’t KNOW that she’ll have to move, so why should she be forced to live on hiatus?

      1. fposte*

        But she required the boss to assume the same risk without knowing about it or choosing it. That’s not a fair solution to her problem.

        It’s one thing not to mention that you may be relocated, but to outright say, when you’re asked, that it’s not going to happen when it remains a possibility? I think that makes managerial frost over your notice understandable.

        1. Mike C.*

          Yes, but managers do this all the time. They have much more information about the state of the company and will regularly hold out on information that would be useful to the employees.

          For example, if I’m about to buy a house my manager doesn’t have a responsibility to tell me that I’m going to be downsized within the next month.

          1. Suz*

            Exactly. I was laid off 3 weeks after I bought my house. My manager knew layoffs were coming before I even started shopping for a house. But the company wasn’t ready to announce it to everyone so he couldn’t give me a heads up. I didn’t take it personally.

        2. Liz*

          What kind of boss would expect an employee to guarantee long-term availability? That’s not how it works. Things happen, people sometimes need to leave. And no one expects a corporation to guarantee employment these days, either.

          1. Joey*

            Your missing the point which is that it’s wrong to lie about it. And the more she lies about it the more likely she will be found out. I never hire anyone who tells me an outright lie in the interview, although I will certainly consider hiring someone who will stay for a reasonable amount of time.

            1. a.b.*

              She doesn’t know exactly when they’d leave– they could be in the same place for ten years. Mentioning that in every interview would hobble her chances of getting work, all for a “what if” situation.

              Has anyone even defined “reasonable amount of time” here?

            2. fposte*

              Right. a. b. talks about her not “mentioning” it–it wasn’t an absence of mentioning, it was an admittedly untruthful response to a direct question to paint herself as a stronger candidate than she actually was. I think there’s a big difference there. I understand why she’d do it, but that’s not the same thing as thinking it’s a fair approach.

              It’s not the employee’s fault that she’s been a job-hopper, but she promised the thing that made her a job-hopper was over when it wasn’t. I’d be annoyed.

            3. Liz*

              I think it’s perfectly fair to say you don’t know, or just say nothing, when, in fact, you don’t know.

              To me, the point is that this is NOT like lying about having a degree or some other resume fabrication. It’s really a discussion they shouldn’t even be having because no one knows what will happen down the line, on both sides. So it’s not a fair topic for discussion, and there’s just no reason to play “gotcha” with employees.

        3. lets just say*

          If she was not a military spouse, would it be an issue about whether she might have to move, no! To demand that military spouses have to tell the prospective boss that they may have to move is ridiculous. What if she did not like the job, should she have to stay there because she said she would not leave? At the time she thought they would most likely not move again. Once you reach DC in the military, you often have moved for your last time. I went to high school in DC. I can name on one hand the number of kids who’s family had to move during my four years of high school because their government employee parent got transferred- and one of those was a kid who’s parent was in the diplomat corps for another country! No, I do not have a problem with it. Any more than I do an employee deciding I am too much of an @ss and wanting to quit. That is part of the deal we worked with each other.

          1. Anonymous*

            I love the “it’s okay to do something wrong if you’re in a crappy situation” responses here. Making it up as they go along, haha!

            1. Mike C.*

              What exactly was done wrong? Why is it the employer’s business who someone is married to?

            2. Anonymous*

              Lying is wrong. It’s the employers business because it greatly affects the likelihood of the OP staying at the job long-term. If it weren’t a big deal, the OP would have no incentive to lie about it.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Except that she did stay a year and a half. Can you predict with certainty what you’ll be doing in a year and a half? Most people can’t. Things come up that you didn’t think were likely. Circumstances change. Sensible employers know this.

              I would feel differently about this if she took a job knowing she could probably only stay there for a few months, but she was there for a year and a half. A lot of people leave jobs after that amount of time, for all kinds of reasons.

      2. Kim*

        THANK YOU!!!! I agree, the pain and misery that our soldier’s spouses must endure in order to work. Usually I am spot on agreement with AAM – but feel like you really missed an opportunity to educate on this issue. Skilled, qualified “trailing spouses” are often overlooked because of the often moving perception of hiring managers. This is a huge issue in our country.

        1. Anonymous*

          A year and a half-that’s nothing unless your talking about a clerical job. For a professional job it’s usually not worth it when you take into account all of the time and costs associated with training, recruiting, etc. I don’t care if your a military spouse ( you knew what you were getting into) or a regular ol job hopper, the impact is the same.

  6. Katy*

    I would suggest being completely honest because you don’t want to burn any bridges that might stop you from getting a job in that area in the future. Your manager should be happy that you are honest with her. If not, then you will know that you don’t want to work for her in the future.

    I agree, that the 2 hour commute might be something that can be worked around instead of a complete move for 1 year. Seems like there would be other options for a short term assignment like this.

  7. Susan E*

    I’m sorry. My dad’s father was in the Navy and he had to move again and again as a child and has talked about how tough it was starting over each time in a new place. For this situation, I would suggest telling as much of the truth as you feel comfortable sharing. In an area like D.C. with lots of military folks, it’s unlikely to be a surprise to the company that military families can be relocated on very short notice regardless of what you told them when you were hired.

    1. a.b.*

      So true. And if you’ve been there for a while, haven’t they already figured out about your spouse being in the military? If so, then it shouldn’t really be a surprise.

    2. Jamie*

      Exactly – your employer in DC should be well aware that whatever the military’s plans were they can change at any time.

      I was a Navy wife for 11 years – fortunately I was home with my kids at the time so the job situation didn’t affect me, but I’m very familiar with how hard it is for civilian spouses to get decent jobs when you move so often.

      Typically the fibbing would bother me – but I see this as a necessary evil rather than malicious intent.

      Just try to leave as diplomatically as possible as to not burn any bridges.

  8. MillenniMedia*

    It sounds like she really did believe they’d be around longer, so I’d hardly call this a blatant lie. Not to mention, companies really are leery about hiring military spouses, which is SO frustrating on so many levels. She has a right to work just like anyone else, and should be commended for the sacrifices *she* has made in her life, marriage, and career so that her husband can serve this country.

    And let’s be honest here…I’d bet that *most* people have told a fib of some kind to get a job. Maybe you’ve made yourself sound a bit more important than you actually were or inflated your role on that one big project. Maybe you fail to mention that you’re planning on starting a family soon and may take some time off with the baby. Maybe you see the job/company as a great career stepping stone but not a long term growth opportunity.

    1. Jamie*

      MillenniMedia’s comment brings to mind how much “truth shading” happens on both sides of the interview desk.

      It would actually be kind of funny, yet amusing, if everyone was blatantly honest in the hiring process.

      Candidate: “I’m not passionate about the widgets you make, but I’ve been out of work for four months and I’ll pretty much take anything at this point. Since the commute won’t be bad and the bathrooms are relatively clean, I might not hate it here – so feel free to lowball me because, as I’ve mentioned, I’m desperate and have a payment due on my house.”

      Hiring Manager: “Well, that works for us, too, although we wanted a superhero to do the work of three people, with a skill set not yet seen in any one human being, we’ll settle for you because you seem slightly less crazy/irritating/entitled than the other applicants. That and you’re willing to accept the ridiculously low salary we’re about to offer you, because being out of work has shaken your confidence and once you remember how awesome you are and that you should be making market rate you’ll be in too deep here to make a fuss.”

      I think it’s probably for the best that people gild the lily a little bit.

      1. esra*

        That would be brilliant. Because it’s always in your head somewhere, when they ask the question: “Why do you want to work here?”

        “Because you’ll pay me.”

  9. Erica B*

    a one hour commute isn’t really all that bad and I think Suzanne has a great suggestion here. I know several people that split commute times with a spouse by living in the middle of the two. Is there an extenuating circumstance that would prevent this from being something that could be done (i.e. childcare or another job)?

  10. becky*

    If she will be back in a year, why not a leave of absence? Or work from home, with one week in three at the office?

  11. nuqotw*

    How much of your job requires you to be on site? Can you negotiate for work at home time? Maybe you don’t have to quit. As a lot of folks have suggested, the commute is long but doable. Another option is to ask about working from home some of the time. You won’t know unless you ask, and you have nothing to lose by asking.

  12. a.b.*

    As a future “trailing spouse” (I hate that term) I empathize with the OP. Getting married or starting a family doesn’t mean you can’t still want a career, and women are often the ones who have to give up what they want and follow. There are still so many gender biases in the workplace, and though I’ve never worked with military families, I can imagine that hiring managers WOULD be weary of that situation. If she keeps waiting for her spouse to get a job in the place they intend to retire and die in, she might wait forever. Give up opportunities, get pissed at herself and her spouse. You can’t live your life like that, and no one should have to stand so solidly in their spouse’s shadow.

    And what’s the alternative? Not work?

    1. Riz*

      Assuming your knew your spouse was in the military when you got married then quicherbitchen. You knew what you signed up for… live with it or get out.

      1. a.b.*

        Heaven forbid she want some control in her professional life, or express herself. “Quicherbitchen” is really just another way to say “shut up”, which is not exactly good counsel.

        1. MillenniMedia*

          Oh Mike, you didn’t know? Riz is perfect. He never complains about his job, salary, relationship, car, home or any other aspect of his life. He knows what he signed up for with all of these things, so he would never be so irrational as to get irritated or want to bitch. We should all strive to be so well informed.

            1. Mike C.*

              You sound like on of those people who is cool with people having their hands cut off “because of the choices they’ve made”.

      2. Anonymous*

        Amen! Amen! Amen! If you were going to lie about being a trailing spouse later in life, then you should have just ended the relationship when you were newly-dating. But if you thought, “No, he’s too great. I want to marry this one.” then you should be able to tell the truth now. It’s a crappy situation, yes. Crappy situations don’t enable lies.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          As someone else in this thread pointed out, employers also withhold info that’s highly relevant to employees when it’s in their best interest, such as not telling someone who’s buying a house that there’s a good chance they’ll be laid off next month.

          She stayed 18 months. It’s not an unreasonable amount of time.

          1. Anonymous*

            “As someone else in this thread pointed out, employers also withhold info that’s highly relevant to employees when it’s in their best interest, such as not telling someone who’s buying a house that there’s a good chance they’ll be laid off next month.”

            She didn’t “withold” information; she was asked a direct question and lied about it.

            “She stayed 18 months. It’s not an unreasonable amount of time.”

            That’s great, but it doesn’t retroactively turn a lie into a truth.

            I think if the OP had just said “Yes, I lied, but I feel justified in doing so” instead of calling it a “fib” multiple times, less people would take issue with her. Misrepresentation of the truth just rubs some people the wrong way (myself included).

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Employers asked a direct question about layoffs are highly unlikely to answer it with the truth, before they’re ready.

              And actually, I think the OP is using the wrong word by calling this a fib. She expected they’d be in the area longer. (And very few people here are actually taking issue with what she did; I think it’s just you, Joey, and Brian, out of 50+ comments.)

              I think you’re seeing this in very black and white terms, which is just not how this stuff works. There are nuances.

            2. Long Time Admin*

              I don’t really have a problem with the OP letting her hiring manager assume she would staying for the rest of her life. (Did the manager even ask how long she planned to stay?) Employers lie to employees all the time (for example, when’s the last time your job duties even came close to the job description you were given?).

              It’s a tough world out there. When the “best job in 20 years” is within your grasp, do what you have to do.

              AND be prepared to take the consequences of your actions.

  13. Dawn*

    I’m not sure if OP’s work requires in-office time, but working from home would be a great idea if that’s a possibility. As an alternative she can commute. For me personally a two hour commute is way too long, but maybe they can move somewhere in between so they each have an hour commute.

  14. BossLady*

    My sister is an army wife and she and I talk about this issue alot. I agree with others that its not fair to call the OP a liar. Consider if her husband were working for a large multi-national who just said “you have to move to Hong Kong.” He knew it was a possibility? Yes. Fair to assume she should enter every job as “a flight risk?” No.

    On the issue of giving notice: It is totally true that some bosses will push you out the door, I’ve seen it happen, it sucks. But your feeling of being a “leper” might be partly your own projection of some impression you have that you’ve done something wrong or are abandoning your employeer. Remember that you aren’t and you are doing the right thing (if you decide commuting options aren’t feasible) and you sound like you are doing it thoughtfully.

    Of course it’s important to be a good employee and respectful to the last minute, but don’t think you’ve done anything wrong by putting your family’s needs before your employer’s.

    1. Jamie*

      Why do some employers think it’s an act of treason for their employees to explore other options, to see if they could make more money elsewhere?

      As long as it isn’t done on the clock and performance and work ethic doesn’t suffer – I don’t know why some bosses don’t get that it’s a business decision like anything else.

      They want to charge the highest price the market will bear for their goods/services. They want the lowest prices from their vendors – and if another vendor can beat the price for the same quality they will jump.

      Why would it be any different for their employees – who are providing services for a fee…why of all a sudden does it become personal? You can like your job and company and still be open to seeing if perhaps there’s something better – and if not you still like your job and company. You might even have a greater appreciation once you’ve seen what else is available.

      I really don’t understand why it’s seen as an act of betrayal – but it’s a common problem I’ve seen at more than one company.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        Jamie, you’re right. We’re all independent contractors, in a manner of speaking. We have the right to accept, decline, and quit any job for any reason.

        When I started working 44 years ago, it was assumed that I would work for that company my entire adult life. Being tossed aside like a used tissue after 23 years changed my outlook forever. (Good thing, too, or the frustration would have killed me.)

      1. Suz2*

        Re: employers treating you like a leper once you give notice, I’ve seen this as well, even from managers who don’t take it personally or view it as an attack on the organization (at least outwardly). The attitude seems to be, “Well, they don’t need to attend the meeting since they’re leaving anyway” which affects morale, sets the tone for the office and leaves the departing employee (DE) with bad residue. It also affects the performance of the DE, who (as the writer stated) is trying to ensure things are in line prior to their departure.

  15. BossLady*

    Thanks a.b. ! Perhaps someday, but AAM does such a good job, I am happy for the moment to be a reader and at-times commenter.

  16. OP*

    Original Poster here.

    When we moved to DC, we truly did think this was the last move. This (upcoming) assignment was not even on my husband’s radar and we did not expect to leave the area. This is home for both of us and we thought we’d come home for good. That said, he is in the Army and the Army has a funny way of changing its mind about where you will be sent.

    I did give two weeks notice (plus two days) and I told the truth. My boss was not pleased and the first thing out of her mouth was, “I thought you were here (in the area) to stay”. To which I simply replied, “Unfortunately, while we had planned to stay here until he reitres, I cannot control what the Army does and they have decided to send my husband to this assignment for a year, immediately followed by a deployment for another year. (The Army continues to deploy troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan, despite what the public might have been told otherwise). I will return to DC when my husband deploys, as my family is here in the DC area. Because we are a military family and because we endure so much separation as it is, we do not wish to be separated for the upcoming year if we don’t have to, and therefore I will be moving to **** with him”.

    I was told that I was free to call the office when I returned to the area to see whether or not she needed me, however, no guaratees were made (didn’t expect her to make any) and no leave of absence was arranged.

    Telecommuting is simply not an option for me. It is a very hands-on job, with lots of client interaction, phone time, billing, emergency document drafting, putting out fires, etc. It is also a very small business and the boss is the owner. I am her only full time employee (she employs a part-time clerk (once a week) as well). There is one other professional person who shares office space with my boss and she has two employees of her own, both part-time. And although my boss and the other person do co-mingle some aspects of the shared space, it is not a partnership and I work only for my boss.

    As for moving one hour north and commuting, that is not an option either. We will be living on post/base) and although we will live two hours away, a commute (on the I-70 and I-270 corridor) would take three hours and is simply not an option. Additionally, should something happen to my son at school, I would be two hours away from home and unable to pick him up. Not to mention the fact that my husband will be living within walking distance of his new job on post and he has no intention of commuting an hour to and from work every day when he doesn’t have to (because the Army has already provided us with quarters). So no “splitting the difference” as far as moving distance is concerned. And being a geographical bachelor for a year isn’t an option for my husband either — he does not wish to “come home when he can”. We endure much separation as it is. We have the opportunity to be a family for another year in this next assignment, and we choose not to pass up that opportunity.

    As for “knowing what I was getting into”, let me address this as best I can. First, we’ve been married for 18+ years and my husband has been in the Army for 25 years. When I married him yes, I did know that we’d be moving every 2 to 4 years. Yes, I did know that getting a job in my chosen field, in a new city, every 2 to 4 years would be tough every time we moved. And I married my husband fully expecting to not be able to find work in some cities. However, I did not marry my husband with the intent of sitting at home all day and having babies. I simply prefer to work and I have been exceedingly lucky, finding employment in the same field at almost every duty station. I’ve worked (in the same field) in 5 states and 10 moves. As to knowing exactly what I was getting into, no, I did not know exactly what I was “getting into” for no one can predict the future. I married my husband pre-9-11. There was no way to possibly know that my husband would be deployed 3 times in seven years immediately following 9-11. You simply cannot predict war.

    Lastly, I truly thought we WERE here in the DC area to stay. Again, this is home for both of us and we were ready to be home. I called it a “fib” because until my husband retires after 30 years service, I cannot 100% guarantee to any employer that I will be staying in one city forever. Period. We thought we were done moving, but clearly the Army has other plans for us. If you’d like to call me a liar, fair enough. That said, many employers will not hire a military spouse if they cannot be assured that she will stick around for two years or longer. Without exception, every single job interview that I have participated in for the last 18 years included the following questions: 1. What does your husband do? 2. How long will you be staying in the area? NEITHER of these questions have ANYTHING to do with how well I can do the job you hire me for. But I get asked these questions anyway because my resume makes is clear that I have moved often. The easy answer is “He’s in the Army” and “I don’t know”. Sadly, many prospective employers want something more concrete than “I don’t know”. I have received glowing reviewed from my last 8 employers, all of whom KNEW the risk in hiring me, but assumed the risk anyway.

    For whatever reason, my boss has decided not to hire a replacement and instead split my duties three ways between the existing office staff (her own part-time clerk and the two part-time employees that belong to the other person sharing office space). Additionally, two days ago, my boss realized that not hiring someone to replace me might have been a mistake and I have already been asked to come back to work for the month of August while my son is at camp (I’d stay with my in-laws who live here locally) and work while the boss is out of the country on vacation — as she does not feel confident leaving the country and not having me here.

    Am I whining about having to quit yet another job? Yup. Did I “expect” to move away from DC after only 18 months? Nope. We really thought we were here to stay since my husband plans to retire in five years, after 30 years of service. It is what it is. Sometimes it just gets tiring to continually convince employers to hire me, knowing I’ll eventually leave and yes, it gets tiring to have to quit job after job. But I DID know that I’d have to do that when I married my husband, so I was okay with it. This time around, it was just harder to quit because I loved the job and we thought we were done with moving.

    In the end, although this has been a fabulous job, my family comes first and I would prefer to live in one place, all together, for the next year. We’ll just see what happens when we return to DC next summer.

    Thanks to everyone who commented — I really enjoy reading everyone’s opinion.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You know what? No one can predict exactly how long they’ll stay at a job. You could be sure you’re never leaving the area, and something could change — a family member could get sick and need you to move there, you could get a dream job offer across the country, you could … I don’t know, fall in love online and move to Australia to be with them! No one can predict these things, and your boss is silly to hold you to a higher standard.

      Moreover, I’d argue that you should be cut EXTRA slack, because you’re bearing a higher burden than most of the rest of us in order for your husband to serve the country. (And thank you both for that.) It would be kind (and, frankly, fairly patriotic) for your boss to recognize that.

      1. KellyK*

        I totally agree with this, and would love to see military spouses cut some more slack. (Not knowing what the OP’s field, I can’t say if it’s an option and it certainly depends on the company, but she might find more employers who understand that situation by applying with defense contractors.)

      2. Anonymous*

        So are you saying it’s okay to lie to a prospective employer as long as you have a good reason? That’s like saying it’s okay to steal from an employer bc they stiffed you on a raise. Rationalizing a lie is not okay.

        1. Nichole*

          After the original letter I may have agreed, but the clarification shed some light. What she called a “fib” comes across more as overcompensation for the insecurity that comes from years of being uprooted. She thought they were staying, she didn’t say they were knowing that it wasn’t going to happen. Even based on previous moves she could have said she averaged at least 2 years per location. Moving was just a possibility, not a certainty. It’s not ok to lie, but I don’t think anyone can be expected to predict their availability for the next 2 years. It’s like saying you’re pregnant in an interview because you bought a pregnancy test.

        2. Natalie*

          Did she really lie, though? She believed she would stay in the area, but understood that she couldn’t guarantee that. I’m not in the military nor a military spouse, but I also know that I can’t guarantee any future living situation. That doesn’t mean I’m going to tell every job interview “well, I’m planning to be here for X years, but of course I can’t warranty that information”.

    2. Kim*

      OP – Thank your spouse for his service to our country and dedication to his job. Thank you and your family for your service of sacrafice. As a recruiting professional, believe me, your post caused me great pause and consideration. Thanks for sharing.

    3. lets just say*

      I agree with what others have said. Thank you and your husband for your years of sacrifice for the freedom we all too often take for granted. You are not a liar, you are someone of greater honor than most will ever have the pleasure of working alongside. Best of luck and hopefully you will be able to retire home soon.

    4. Jennifer*

      Thanks for clarifying your situation, OP. I can completely understand why you would choose to leave such a great job situation in order to spend time with your family. I hope you have a wonderful year together and that you can find equally fulfilling work when you return to the DC area.

    5. Anonymous*

      “How long will you be staying in the area? NEITHER of these questions have ANYTHING to do with how well I can do the job you hire me for. ”

      Actually, “staying in the area” is a basic prerequisite to doing the job well! Just be real: You don’t think it’s fair that you have a harder time finding work based on your situation (despite the fact that you created it) so you lied about it. It’s okay, just own it.

      1. Mike C.*

        Why don’t you be real for a minute? You expect people to be able to predict how long they’ll live in an area. That’s not possible.

        You sound like one of those managers that expects people to put work above all else. No one sits in their deathbed wishing they had worked more, just remember that.

        1. Anonymous*

          Actually, I expect her to say “my husband is a member of the (insert whichever armed force here)” when asked “What does your husband do?” Just like I would expect someone who never spent a day in the classroom to not lie about being a college graduate. A lie is a lie. Crappy situations (being a “trailing soldier”) do not transform lies into “fibs.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Except that her husband is none of their business. In fact, it’s illegal to make a hiring decision based on someone’s marital status.

            1. Anonymous*

              Do you base right and wrong solely on the law? Because while the majority of the laws out there are in harmony with my ethical standards, not all are. And that’s a stupid law to forbid basing a hiring decision partly on the spouse’s employment. There’s nothing wrong with a company going with another candidate because he/she more likely to stay there longer.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No, but I’d like to see employers not ask questions that are obviously based on an intent to break the law.

              I agree that there’s nothing wrong with a company picking the candidate they think likely to stay the longest. And there’s nothing wrong with a candidate not accounting for all possible scenarios in which she might leave a job after 18 months. People act in their own best interests, within certain ethical boundaries, and I think she did that here.

              Look, my perspective is the employer’s. That’s the whole point of this blog. But employers act in their own best interest ALL THE TIME, even when it means screwing over employees. And she didn’t even screw over her employee; leaving after 18 months just is not that big of a deal. I’d never think when hiring someone that there was zero chance they’d be gone in 2 years. Life happens.

            3. Anonymous*

              “No, but I’d like to see employers not ask questions that are obviously based on an intent to break the law.”

              I’m sure you are aware that an appeal to authority is a logical fallacy. If you’re going to argue that its wrong to hire based on the spouses employment, then make that arguement on its own merits. Saying “It’s the law” doesn’t address whether its right or wrong.

              “People act in their own best interests, within certain ethical boundaries, and I think she did that here.”

              That’s the crux of the problem right there. You’re making it up as you go along. I’m sure you would find it wrong to lie about whether you graduate from college. But it’s okay to lie about what her husband’s job is because her situation stinks? With that rationalization (rational LIE zation), you can justify anything.

            4. Hey Anon*

              Hey Anon,

              Get off your high horse! You just tried to argue that the employer has no ethical obligation to follow laws. You are the type that make managers look like jerks and the exact proof of why it was necessary for her to state that she would definitely not be moving rather than she did not think they would be moving. If you had spent any time living in the military- or if you had spent any time living around the military in DC- you would know that it is reasonable to expect that a soldier stationed in DC could expect it to be their last stationing.

          2. KellyK*

            You know, I don’t recall her saying that she fabricated some other career for her husband–where are you getting that she lied about what he does?

            1. Joey*

              “..and the reality is that I usually have to “fib” about how long we’re staying in order to get any job.”

              It’s not about the husband it’s about being truthful when asked “I see you’ve haven’t stayed at your jobs very long due to moving. Do you expect to move again?”

            2. KellyK*

              “..and the reality is that I usually have to “fib” about how long we’re staying in order to get any job.”

              And then she clarified what she meant by “fib.” Read her clarification post, please. It obviously felt like a lie to her to not volunteer the “with the Army you never really know if you’ll move” disclaimer. But she did think she’d be staying. Since DC is a lot of people’s last move, since he only had 5 years left and had already been deployed multiple times, it wasn’t an unreasonable belief.

              If you think it’s *likely* that you’ll be leaving the job inside a year (maybe inside two years for really high-level or hard to fill positions), I think the ethical thing to do is to mention that. But if there’s just a *possibility* that you *might* leave at some undefined point in the future, it isn’t the same.

          3. Mike C.*

            So when a woman misses her period should she also report that to her boss? Is it a lie not disclose that information?

            1. a.b.*

              I think we should just stop replying to any posters who go by “anonymous” for forgo a name. I am seeing a trend.

  17. Anonymous*

    Managers who react badly to resignations give up any right to expect employees to give them more than two weeks notice

    I thought that according to most employee agreements, managers have no right to expect any notice at all.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No legal entitlement, but two weeks notice is the convention (in some cases, more) , and there are typically negative consequences to breaking that (references, reputation, etc.).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In most industries, a minimum of two weeks is the expected professional standard. It’s just what the convention is, for better or for worse. If you don’t do it, yes, you’ll often tarnish your reputation.

        2. KellyK*

          There’s usually a difference between what you’re legally obligated to and what you have to do to avoid being (or being perceived as) a jerk.

  18. Rose*

    One of the reasons the marriage question is illegal is because employers can then discriminate against women because they think they will get pregnant and quit. I get that question all the time. If someone asks me, I just pull their crap back on them and volunteer that I’m not “planning to have kids”, even though I am.

    Honestly, army spouses should be a protected class as well.

    And sure, you could say that ethically, no one should ever lie, and these protection laws are BS. Then you’d have companies not wanting to hire black people, or gay people, etc., etc.

    The laws are in place so that people don’t have to lie. If a company goes ahead and breaks that law, they are the offenders, not the employee.

    1. Anonymous*

      I’ve heard stories (probably apocryphal, unfortunately) about one approach to dealing with such questions. The interviewee in question had been half expecting a question about marriage/children etc., and also had a friend at a teaching hospital. When she was asked, she reached into her bag, pulled out a glass jar containing a preserved uterus, and placed it on the desk. :-)

  19. Anonymous*

    I won’t interview anyone who has a history of “job hopping”. I do not care about the reason. I think we all know that the “fibs” were just lies. Sad ones too, since she has so many glowing references. That’s the part I don’t get. Why bother with lies when the truth is just fine?

    I also do not care for the they lie/we lie line of thought. Not all employers/employees act that way, and to justify it by pointing fingers at the other side is just.. well… childish. It’s not OK just because someone else does it.

    1. Mike C.*

      I too am so dense as to completely ignore the economic leverage employers hold over employees and fully expect employees to uphold an arbitrary set of moral principles which just so happens to grossly favor the employer!

      1. fposte*

        Oh, come on, Mike, “don’t lie in response to a direct question” isn’t an “arbitrary set of moral principles.” I don’t do that to my candidates or staff, I think they’d have a right to be annoyed if I did it to them, and I’d be annoyed if they did it to me. I’m not buying the theory that the power imbalance justifies lying, especially since it also screws the candidates who actually and truthfully met all the qualifications. I wouldn’t turn the employee into a pinata or anything, but yes, it would color my view of their departure and probably of references that I’d give.

        Some of that is due to the specific situation I’m in, where you really have to be going some to lie about the duration of your commitment, but it also just seems like a pretty straightforward view to me–I don’t lie about what I can deliver to people, and I don’t want them to lie about what they can deliver to me.

        1. fposte*

          Okay, my very bad–I missed the update from the OP wherein she stated that she actually did think they were in DC to stay. That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish then. (I don’t roll back from my general dislike of deliberately lying to an interviewer when asked, though.)

          So here’s a question, though. If a candidate says “I’m a military spouse and can’t guarantee anything until we retire, but we’ve been promised stability” is it kosher/legal to take that status into consideration either positively or negatively? It’s not basing it on marital status per se, so I’m inclined to think it’s okay, which would give HMs some additional slack to cut. But maybe some of them aren’t sure either?

          1. Mike C.*

            Don’t worry about it, folks who lie to interviewers ruin it for the rest of the qualified folks looking for work.

        2. Mike C.*

          She the following:

          “Lastly, I truly thought we WERE here in the DC area to stay. Again, this is home for both of us and we were ready to be home. I called it a “fib” because until my husband retires after 30 years service, I cannot 100% guarantee to any employer that I will be staying in one city forever. ”

          Unless I missed something here, this doesn’t sound like a lie to me, it sounds like an optimistic response. Unless I missed some other detail.

          More importantly, the question as to the nature of her spouse itself is completely inappropriate. That crosses a lie from work life to personal life that should not be crossed, and leads to many different forms of discrimination.

          Look, I’m a guy and no one ever asks me about my family relations. No one ever asks me if I plan to have children or if I’m married or anything of that nature. I could be married to a dog or just sleep around with people I find on Craigslist and none of my employers seem to care. To them as long as I show up to work and do my work that’s all that matters.

          If I was a woman instead of a man, I don’t believe I would get such an easy pass.

          1. fposte*

            I totally agree that “What does your husband/wife do?” is utterly inappropriate in an interview, and I continue to be baffled by how many people are prepared to ask such idiotic things in interviews; you’re probably right that you don’t get that because you’re male. However, we actually include a commitment duration in our job postings, and we follow up on that in interviews. I don’t care whether an applicant will be able to meet it because he’s finally settling down for domestic bliss with his lemon-party pals or if she managed to find the perfect location to expand her My Little Pony collection or not, so I’m not asking why–I just want the duration and I ask if the applicant plans to be able to deliver it. So I think this is probably a more important point in my positions than it is in most jobs, and that that’s the perspective I’m coming from.

        3. Liz*

          That still goes both ways, though. Of course interviewees should respond truthfully to direct questions, but interviewers still should NOT ask questions designed to elicit illegal or discriminatory information.

  20. NicoleW*

    OP – First off, thanks to your husband for his service and to you and your son for your sacrifices as well. I think a lot of people don’t understand all of the sacrifices that go into being a military family – not just the actual person in the military – it’s often even harder for the spouse and children. While I understand that it can be frustrating for employers to lose employees and retrain, I really think an exception should be made for military spouses. I agree with AAM that it would be fairly patriotic to hire military spouses. You hear a lot of people give lip service to “Support our Troops” – well, giving their spouses employment and not penalizing them for their spouse’s service would be a great way to support them!

  21. Anonymous*

    We all lie, fib, omit, or conceal the truth. Call it what you want, but every entity (person, manager, company) acts (or should) in its own best interest. Heck, even some popular HR blogs *tell* us to lie!

    Case in point: if you were fired from a job, the advice you will get is to *not* tell the cold hard truth during an interview. Spin, spin, spin… When does spin become a lie?

    That said, if you’re a military spouse and get transferred every 2-4 years, it’s going to show up on your resume. AAM seems fine with someone leaving after 18 months of work. That might be true in an isolated case, but if someone has a 20-year record of leaving professional positions after 2 years, it’s going to raise questions. In my field, you’ve hardly established yourself and learned the “ins and outs” of the company and your job role in that time.

  22. McCartha*

    This is really awesome advice. Especially the part about a manager earning more than two weeks. I believe in three months or so i will be approaching this same situation. Although the last resignation we had was nice, she honestly had the best reason( her mother in another state is battling cancer and she wants to be at her side) and I’ve seen some very awkward ones previously to that one.

  23. James*

    To those who are now claiming that the OP did in fact tell the truth: are you dense? From the OP:

    “Many employers will not hire military spouses if they think they are leaving soon, and the reality is that I usually have to “fib” about how long we’re staying in order to get any job. ”

    The OP admits to REGULARLY lying about how long she plans on staying at the job. Even if you granted that she told the complete truth during her most recent job interview (which I don’t believe, given the contextual information), that still means that she regularly lied about this sort of thing.

    1. Jamie*

      Really. Why don’t you just admit that you hate the military and think they deserve to be discriminated against.

  24. Anonymous*

    Sorry, but why not sign up for temp agencies if you know you will be moving frequently? Or create a freelancing business that can move with you? There are alternatives to the “9-to-5” lifestyle. I freelance as an illustrator and even after moving around the East Coast I still get referrals and work from previous haunts. Life is hectic, but when I work hard enough I can earn a salary comparable to 40k (and do what I love).

    1. JoBee*

      I’m really happy for you that you can do that, but not everyone has a specific skill that can translate into freelance work. I keep seeing advice in job articles to “be your own boss” or “set your own hours doing consulting work” (even if you have no experience). It gets really fatiguing. If it were that easy to be your own boss, everyone would be doing it. And things would be a mess.

        1. 123Cara*

          Fair point, but if you think it’s a mess now, imagine if everyone suddenly felt they were above working in an office and wanted to work from home or freelance. I agree with the OP that it’s ridiculous to say “JUST be your own boss.” Every 20-something SAHM wants to collect a full salary while fitting a little light work in here and there, but that’s not how the world works. I’ve worked very hard to keep my small business successful, so seeing it get brushed off like anyone can do it is insulting.

  25. Chinook*

    As a former military spouse, I learned that there really was no other good way to explain why I would be in a different province every other year or why I was only working in my professional field half the time other than to say what my my husband did. In fact, at one interview (where my resume was submitted by a temp agency without a cover letter) the interviewer took one look at my experience and said that I was either on the run from the law or a military wife! (I now use that as a line in my cover letter)

    I have also learned to respond to the the “how long does he expect to be here” question by pointing out that they wouldn’t ask me if I plan on having children, so how can they ask me about my husband’s career plans? (I got the last 3 jobs I interviewed for with that line, so I obviously am not turning them off with my abruptness, thank goodness.).

    As for those who see us as just another for of “job hoppers,” I want to point out that we have a unique set of skills that include adapting quickly to new situations, an acceptance that there is more than one way to do things, and we usually give 100% up until the last hour we work there because we know that they will be our next reference because we usually don’t have another job yet. We can also be a hidden resource of unusual skills because of our varied experiences. My current big boss (who didn’t interview me) was surprised to learn that her new receptionist was an expert in adult education, IT support and graphic layout. When she asked why I was “just” the receptionist, I pointed out that this was the only job they had open at the time I was looking and that I hated being unemployed for longer than a month. Now I am running a few lunch and learn classes while someone else covers the phones.

    “Anonymous” won’t find people like me with an attitude like theirs. Then again, people like me are quite fine with not working for the likes of them. We woudl be a wrong “fit” for their office.

  26. Anonymous*

    there is many factors into why people dont want to hire military spouse and you prove to be the reason.. you except them to hire you and you lie? they can easily fire you cause you gave them false information. also you quiting doesnt look good on your work experience.. many employeers will look at that and base their decision solely on how long you have worked have to sit in their shoes.. would you want to hire somebody who chances are they be leaving within 3 years? no cause they want to make sure they hire people who wants to stay with them on a long term basis.. lying to your potential employeers is starting off on the wrong foot and later down the road if they find out by spread of word then they have grounds to fire you…

  27. Sisco Lady*

    Absolutely not, at least not in the state of California, you do not by law or any other jurisdiction tell your employer why you are leaving.
    Whether you decide to do that should be either a strategic decision (you may actually consider staying if they offer you a higher salary based on you going to the competition etc) or that you simply do it out of company culture – not wanting to burn bridges, and generally being in a safe open environment where NOT saying what you’re up to after you leave may be seen as unusual.

    Otherwise, you are an at will employee and have no obligation to disclose your future plans.

  28. Innovativemomma*

    I actually screwed up and gave my employer advanced notice and got treated horribly. I was hired as a bookkeeper in a family owned business and was the only person who knew the job (no exageraration). They sent another employee to learn my position but kept telling me that she wasn’t going to be my replacement. I was told that I would be doing inventory and other office jobs while waiting to leave. I got my schedule on Friday and was off Saturday. When I came in Monday they had reduced me to 25 hours and kicked me out of the office. I am now a part time cashier. I was so angry because of the way they treated me because I was being open and didn’t want to leave them hanging. I would tell military spouses not to tell their employers anything. I don’t think it is fair that we should have to give them any notice when they don’t have to give us any if they change our hours or decide to fire you.

  29. Anonymous*

    I realize that this is an old thread, and long after the fact, but I can’t help but wonder why the OP felt compelled to disclose the entire situation that was compelling her to quit. I think a perfectly appropriate reason to give for leaving would have been “my husband is going to be attending school for a year, two hours north of here.”

    The fact that The Army is forcing this move to happen is the husband’s own business, and not really pertinent to anybody at the wife’s place of employment. I can understand the conscientious feelings driving OP to come clean, but from the perspective of a practical “how do I get through this situation” approach, it would seem to me that telling the whole truth as she ultimately did was unnecessary and damaging to the relationship with the employer.

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