my whole team is going to resign at once

A reader writes:

My team and I are in a small satellite office, 50 miles north of the main office. The team consists of myself, my manager, and 3 other staff members. We rarely are visited by upper management, even when they are on this side of town to visit clients. Any issues that are raised to upper management, such as equipment, work loads, or an issue with another co-worker located in a different satellite office, are never addressed.

The opportunity has presented itself for the entire team to possibly accept positions at another company. The positions are open immediately, but out of respect we all would probably like to give our 2 weeks notice (and get the several weeks’ worth of vacation paid out that we have accrued but have not been able to take because of projects and workloads).

Seeing as upper management usually doesn’t even remember we are here, how best would the team go about resigning? I think many worry about retaliation from certain upper management (such as withholding of vacation time accrued, possibly pointing to one of us as soliciting to other employees, and damaging reputations in the industry).

Ouch. Yeah, a whole office resigning at once is rarely going to be welcome news.

Normally people should handle their own resignations individually, but having the whole office all resign within a few hours (or days) of each other is the type of thing that you can’t pretend isn’t weird.

So in this case, your manager should probably give the main office a heads-up about the whole situation. After all, you’ll presumably be giving your resignations to her anyway since she’s your manager, and she’d be conveying word on up the chain … so I’d suggest that she just have one conversation with the main office to cover the whole situation.

(I’m assuming that under normal circumstances, people in your office hand in their resignations to your manager, not to the main office. If I’m wrong about that, I’m still going to suggest that your manager have one big conversation with the main office about all the resignations, because it’s just going to be too weird if you all contact them individually within a short time frame. This is an unusual situation, and it’s reasonable to acknowledge that by handling it differently.)

As for worries about possible retaliation … The best thing you can do is to handle the situation professionally and responsibly. Work out your two weeks notice, devise a plan to create as smooth a transition as possible, leave behind lots of documentation about where your projects stand and how to do your job, offer to answer a few questions after you’re gone if you’re willing to, and don’t mentally check out during your remaining time there.

If you get the sense that they’re gearing up to damage your reputation or otherwise retaliate, contact their HR department with your concerns immediately, since HR reps typically have a greater appreciation for the law than the rest of the company does. Say something like, “I know that Jack is angry that my whole team is leaving, but I’m getting the sense that he is saying things in the industry that aren’t true and that will harm my future ability to get work. I absolutely understand that the whole team leaving at once is leaving the company in a bind, but I also can’t have Jack defaming me.”  Assuming that Jack is defaming you (and not simply relaying accurate information, which is legal), HR is likely to be concerned with minimizing any possible legal exposure for the company and to put a stop to it.

But as for them paying you out accrued vacation time: Most states (with a few exceptions, including California) don’t require that employers convert accrued vacation time into cash when employees leave. If you do live in a state where the law requires it, they can’t legally refuse it. But otherwise, it will depend on what your company’s policies are; not all companies pay out accrued vacation time, and yours might not. Check your personnel manual to see if this is addressed in there.

The next two weeks are going to be awkward. But hey, take comfort in knowing that they’re going to be a lot more awkward for your resigning manager — who needs to deal directly with your main office — than for you!

You can read an update to this post here.

{ 72 comments… read them below }

  1. Harry*

    I would tread extremely carefully. Is your potential employer a competitor? If so, wouldn’t this constitute a sabotage by a competitor? It may take just one threat of a lawsuit for your potential employee to change their minds about hiring the entire team.

    What do you think AAW?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think recruiting away a whole team would cause a legal issue for the competitor. If the employees themselves have non-compete agreements, that could be an issue (although a lot of those agreements don’t hold up in court).

      (Of course, simply the threat of legal action — even if there’s no real case — has been known to get employers to buckle.)

    2. Mike C.*

      Uh, they’re exercising their legal right to leave an at will job, not blowing up the office building.

  2. Joanna Reichert*

    Most companies will pay any accrued ‘sick’ hours – vacation hours, nope. Check with your company manual, it should be spelled out there.

    Good luck to you – sounds like you’re leaving dysfunction and I hope it doesn’t burn you!

    1. April B*

      No company I have ever worked for paid out sick hours; most have paid out vacation hours (to guarantee some sort of notice period from employees, if nothing else).

  3. Interviewer*

    As the manager or even one of the departing team members, I would be very prepared to be escorted from the building on the same day you give notice. A large group leaving all at once, even if you aren’t in sales and this isn’t a competitor, would probably be viewed as more detrimental to hanging around for the notice period than if one person was leaving. Especially considering that the team is largely unsupervised by the main office – there’s no way to know what trouble they will get into during their notice period. Even if they are all fine upstanding employees with spotless records, I would consider exiting most of them sooner and dealing with the aftermath.

    The good news is, if you leave early, you could start your new job early.

    1. Henning Makholm*

      Escorted from the building, by whom? If I read the question correctly, the team that’s quitting are the only people there. And if they are all going, then whichever trouble they could want to get into they could just as well have gotten into before informing the head office.

      As far as I can see, the only hope the parent organization has of salvaging anything is to get a busload of people up there immediately and spend the notice period getting braindumps from the leaving team.

      Otherwise, in effect, the branch office has not just quit but seceded from the parent company. The company will regain dead things such as buildings and business records, but actual operations will have to be rebuilt from the ground up.

      1. Under Stand*

        I would say that if upper management cannot remember that this office is there, then upper management will not consider it any great loss.

        Instead management may just opt for employee from other satellite office to go over and lock them out.

        1. Anonymous*

          I would say that if upper management cannot remember that this office is there, then upper management will not consider it any great loss.

          An experiment to consider…. find a toddler, and observe them playing with their toys. Identify a toy which they never touch. Then, try removing that toy in full view of that toddler.

      2. Interviewer*

        Henning, this is not a difficult leap to make. Once the resignation is offered, someone from the main office could very easily travel to the branch and escort them out. I think a lot of “trouble” can still happen after notice is given, esp. if the company avoids payment of expected benefits or creates a lot of drama in handing over the work, and thus creates some seriously disgruntled workers in their final notice period who have very little incentive to perform well.

        The manager might want someone from the main office to come in person for the resignation meeting (or possibly go visit personally), just to make face-to-face assurances and build up trust that they all want a smooth transition/exit. However, the company might react strongly. No way to predict, but I would be prepared for it if I were in that branch.

  4. Jamie*

    Does anyone else wish that more crappy employers would have to face this situation? Might knock the complacency right out of them.

    This is pretty awesome.

    1. Under Stand*

      I must say, it did make me laugh, but it also made me feel sorry for the manager of that office, she will catch the crap from corp and will blamed for them all leaving, because it is never upper managements fault, not in crappy employers.

  5. Joey*

    Not defending the employer but it’s possible that the office/team was consistently overlooked bc they performed adequately not bc they weren’t valued. I can assure you some conclusions will be made if the whole staff resigns together:
    1. The group conspired to stick it to the employer
    2. The group probably organized their job hunt when they should have been working.
    3. The manager should have alerted someone as far in advance as possible if staff were planning on leaving.
    4. They’ll likely be worried you’re taking trade secrets to a competitor.

    If its a smaller company you can reasonably assume they won’t pay you vacation unless there’s a written policy or legal obligation. And they’ll likely tell you to leave as soon as they make plans to man the office. And I’m sure they’ll find a way to convey your separation in a negative light while still being truthful.

    1. Anonymous*

      I have to say, while this is rather awesome karma, I agree with Joey’s assessment. Someone will take all the blame for this, and you can bet it won’t be a manager that is still with the company. Tread carefully.

    2. Mike C.*

      You’re really bending over backwards to come up with unsupported hypothetical reasons as to why the employees are to blame and should suffer negative consequences for leaving a worse job for a better one.

      Why is that?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t see that in what Joey wrote. He pointed out that it’s possible that performance was why they were overlooked. And it IS possible that that’s why. It’s also possible that that’s not why. It’s one possibility, of several, which is basically what he said.

        Blinding defending employees is just as silly as blindly defending employers. Neither side is always right.

        1. Mike C.*

          I haven’t blindly defended anyone in that post. In other posts sure, but not in the one you’re replying to.

          I’m not disagreeing that the post is wrong, I’m trying to understand why every possibility Joel suggested means that the employees were deficient or will be harmed by finding new work.

          What we’re seeing is just how the labor market works. They found new jobs and they’re going to leave. It’s rare that an entire team does so and should be investigated, but in and of itself it says little about the employer or the employees.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think he meant that the current employer (the one they’re leaving) will assume those things about them (which they probably will), but not that the world at large will assume that. In other words, I don’t think Joey’s response was anti-employee, just pointing out some stuff that’s realistic to expect.

  6. Nichole*

    Maybe I’m focusing in on something that isn’t important, but I’m really curious about how these positions became open and offered to an entire team. Is the other employer starting up a new department, so they just took you guys instead of processing applicants one by one? Are you in an industry where superstars are known as groups rather than individuals? I know you may be in a position where you can’t divulge details, but if you can, OP, I’d really like to know if this is common in some industries or if the situation stemmed from super unusual circumstances. (Just realized that the above may be taken sarcastically, but didn’t know how to rephrase it. Please accept my assurance that no snark was intended.)

    1. jmkenrick*

      Yeah, I was curious about this as well. It seems unusual that they all know about the other’s job searches and are all receiving the same offer around the same time.

      I’m not criticizing, I’m just genuinely curious as to the situation.

    2. J.B.*

      I’ve heard of something similar where another company was going after the first’s contract. They hired away everyone who was working on that contract.

    3. Anonymous*

      The ONLY case in which I’ve seen almost a whole branch depart at the same time was a group of escrow officers and their support staff. And they essentially all did go to one of their direct competitors.

      This didn’t happen to me personally, so I can’t speak to all the details, but from what I understand everyone at the branch was unhappy and after one person left to go to the competitor, the rest of the staff was quietly encouraged to apply. They didn’t all leave the same day though – but within a month or so the whole branch was gone, (and replaced).

      1. Natalie*

        It happens sometimes in real estate management, but usually because a building has been sold or the management contract changed hands. If it’s a large building, the existing staff will often be hired by the new landlord/manager.

  7. MLHD*

    I’d make sure their new offers are in writing, that’s for sure! It would suck to have them all quit only to have a verbal offer rescinded.

  8. Liz T*

    I think they might just have to bite the bullet on vacation time, here. In an ideal situation they’d get that payout, but an ideal situation this ain’t. They’re screwing over their company (and it sounds like deservedly so!) and they’re probably not gonna get out of there without giving SOMETHING up.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Being at-will means they’re legally allowed to do this, but let’s not pretend that having an entire department leave at once isn’t likely to cause big problems for the company. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it, but the company will understandably feel screwed.

        1. jmkenrick*

          I think this is especially true if members of the branch haven’t been clear about communicating their dissatisfaction in certain areas. Maybe their company thought that the branch appreciated the hands-off approach.

          On the other hand, maybe they’re just terrible managers. But if you’re going to quit in so dramatic a fashion, it’s probably better for your reputation if people in the company feel you gave them/the company time to respond to your grievances before leaving.

        2. Anonymous*

          Being at-will means they’re legally allowed to do this, but let’s not pretend that having an entire department leave at once isn’t likely to cause big problems for the company

          That’s hardly the case – if the sudden departure of the entire department constituted a serious threat to the company, then upper management would have taken steps to ensure that a sufficient fraction of the staff were under contract that something like this couldn’t happen. Then fact that they haven’t can only logically mean that it would not be a significant difficulty for the company.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That defies logic. The vast majority of U.S. employees aren’t under contract, and that doesn’t mean that losing a whole department at once wouldn’t be a pretty big deal to most organizations. Again, that doesn’t mean that the employees aren’t justified, but I think the above is hyperbole.

            1. Anonymous*

              The vast majority of U.S. employees aren’t under contract, and that doesn’t mean that losing a whole department at once wouldn’t be a pretty big deal to most organizations

              That’s nonsense. The companies took the decision to make their employees at-will, meaning that they are hardly in a position to complain if the employees leave. If the companies want to give the employees contracts, because they need to prevent things like this happening, they are free to do so. They don’t, so one must presume that it’s not a serious problem. If the companies then complain when it does happen…. well, I’m sure that plenty of bookies get blamed when the punter’s horse falls at the first fence.

              1. Anon*

                I like the way you think–it’s the whole “rational actor” model of classical economics, taken to its logical extreme. (And of course, the agencies of power and repositories of wealth are the ones who most insist on that model! Hoist with their own petard!) And when it doesn’t reflect reality…well, then, where are we exactly? A flaw in the model? But…that would imply that OTHER actors aren’t rational EITHER and then the whole MODEL falls apart!

              2. Anonymous*

                Sorry, but I think you’re out of touch on this one. I think you’re arguing about you think things should be, rather than how they actually are

                Not at all. It is precisely because of the way things are that the departing employees will not be harming the company in any way. If they are at-will employees, then they can leave at any time, and be safe in the knowledge that the company did not consider them essential, and hence that their departure will not harm the company. Insinuating otherwise is not helpful to those departing employees.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Come on, that assumes that companies give people contracts when a whole branch leaving at once would cause problems, but the vast majority of employees aren’t under contract and in the vast majority of cases, a whole dept leaving at once would indeed cause problems. That doesn’t mean the employees shouldn’t go (they’re perfectly entitled to), but you’re twisting facts to try to make a point.

    1. Mike C.*

      It doesn’t really matter how many folks leave – if the company policy is to pay out vacation time, then the company has to follow that policy. They’re allowed to say “you need to give us two weeks” or something along those lines, but it doesn’t matter otherwise.

      Look, a company just can’t say, “sorry you hurt our feelings by following the law”. They own everything and they need put on their big girl/boy pants and deal with the situation in a non-retaliatory manner.

  9. Yup*

    Just reiterating the excellent advice from others to make sure a written offer is in place first, and to have all your personal items (pay stubs, online address books, timesheet documentation of unused vacation days, HR contact info) ready to go before turning in your resignations.

    The main office might react to an en masse quitting by shutting down computer access and asking everyone to leave immediately, so you’d be wise to be prepared for a quick exit.

  10. bob*

    I will amplify what Yup said above me, everyone who cares about their address books and contact lists, in particular, and even building access should have all that stuff squared away before the big pile of resignations gets submitted.

    MANY companies have a policy of yanking network access on the spot if an employee resigns and with the fire you guys are about to start it wouldn’t surprise me if the home office said please hand over your badges NOW and you will be escorted back into the building to get your stuff . The company may very well say give us your badges right now, here’s a check for 2 weeks pay so please leave and thank you very little because everyone going to a competing company is REALLY going to piss off management to the point they could be concerned about your group taking some IP with them and react accordingly.

  11. anon-2*

    I saw this happen once many years ago — where an entire shift of computer operators quit on the same day to accept programmer training positions with another company.

    It was a matter of management miscalculating individuals’ market value at the time — also, they had been passed over for opportunities for advancement. If they weren’t going to do it there, they were going to do it SOMEWHERE.

    The firestorm began when one guy on that crew left. He had been promised an opportunity to advance himself, but a change of managers resulted in “well *I* didn’t promise you that! Ho Ho!”

    The disgruntled employee found a position around six weeks later. The other joker in the deck — he wound up taking all of his colleagues with him a month after that.

    Have to say that I enjoyed watching that play out…

    Advice for the process of resigning = everyone hand in their notice, one person at a time. You’re an individual leaving one job for another. And do not mention the other employees’ actions when you do so. It’s a one-on-one deal.

  12. Cassie*

    I didn’t learn to write concisely in college – I can’t remember ever writing anything less than a five-page paper. College in the US (at least, universities and such) are not designed to be technical/vocational schools so I think many times, we learn more about the abstract than we do about stuff that we will actually use in the “real world”.

    I think this is why my comments tend to be overly long. :(

    I do agree with #7. I was a work-study student throughout college – I was doing clerical work in the dept that I’m working in now. I ended up staying there after I graduated, but even if I hadn’t, my experience would have been enough to get an entry-level position elsewhere. My sister, on the other hand, did not work during college (like me, she majored in a humanities-related field) – even after she took some accounting courses at a vocational school, she still couldn’t find a job because she had zero work experience (not even babysitting). I see a lot of kids at our university participating in honor societies and aside from their science-related stuff that they do, they are also learning about dealing with budgets, planning events, contacting industry folks, etc.

  13. Anonymous*

    Yes, expect computer lock-down & no vacation pay payment!
    Heres wishing the manager loads of luck ..shes going to need all of it :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks for asking! I’m doing a bit better. Figuring out how to get around slightly more. Have succeeded in cooking a few things, which made me feel much more normal.

  14. Kelly O*

    I do think it would be reasonable to be prepared for someone at the main office to start yanking network access and saying “thanks but no thanks” to the two week notice period, considering the circumstances. Not that they actually would, but from a preparation standpoint, it’s probably better for your group to be ready to walk out the door with as little “stuff” as needed.

    By the way, congratulations to everyone on this team for finding a way out of a bad situation. Gives the rest of us feeling stuck a little hope.

  15. Wayne Schofield*

    Don’t think it has been said, as I have read most of the posts, but make sure your resignations are in writing. This way, if you get walked out, the company is obligated to pay you the 2 weeks notice that you have given them. I don’t expect everyone to get walked out as they give their notice, but do expect for corporate to surprise everyone at some point and ask you to pick up and go.
    There is also the potential for divide and conquer counter offers. “just stay and we will pay you more” STRONG suggestion….stay unified. Even if you are being offered the managers job as you walk out the door…realize there is always going to be a target on your back and corporate is just biding their time until they replace you…so not only will you not have a job where you have stayed…you will have made enemies of the current co-workers who departed and you will have no place to go forward to.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      Some very good advice here, particularly from Wayne.

      CYA, CYA, CYA! This cannot be stressed enough. Everything in writing, be prepared for the worst, and try to stay professional at all times.

      Aside from that, I’ll be laughing all day over this. I’ve worked in some really terrible places, and it’s enjoyable to imagine this happening at any or all of them!

      OP, please make sure to let us know how this goes down. Good luck to all of your team!

    2. Joey*

      Wayne, you sound like a union rep. Most companies don’t have to pay you just because you give 2 wks notice in writing unless there is some specific legal obligation like a cba, state law, etc. And your advice to stick together is more about making a point to the company than doing what’s right. Each person should make the decision that’s best for them, period.

      1. Wayne Schofield*

        @ Joey. Kind of simple minded response just because I used the phrase “stay unified” you think of unions. My advice to do so is ABSOLUTELY NOT about making a point, it’s about doing what’s right for the individuals. I intentionally did not get into the “this company deserves what’s coming to them because they have dismissed this small group’s feelings” corner because it’s not about the company, but the people who are walking. To simplify….counter offers of any type are bad for employees to take.
        As far as 2 weeks pay being required if the notice is in writing. I stand corrected, but have never experience (from the HR side as well as an employee) anything different. Good to know it’s not the law of the land and I apologize for the misinformation.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The company is NOT obligated to pay you the two weeks notice just because your resignation is in writing. Don’t get lulled into thinking that. They can ask you to leave that day, and have that be your last day of pay. (Generally my advice is to watch the way the employer handles other employees who give notice, but this situation is one that I assume hasn’t come up at that employer before, so you need to be prepared for the worst.)

        1. Under Stand*

          That would almost be as funny. It would push the companies Unemployment rates up. Ouch!

          I agree with Wayne not to accept a counter offer. Ever. You are marked as disloyal and although you get more now, you have traded all your good will from HR and execs for that pay increase. I would be surprised if you are still employed within 6 months.

  16. Stacey*

    Resigning en masse creates a whole host of issues for remote management to handle and, whether intended or not, is like giving them the middle finger. Whether or not the employees feel valued, the reason they are still employed means that someone, somewhere feels it important to have that office/team in place. I really think each of the resigning employees needs to be prepared (have all your personal items, paperwork copied, etc.) before word moves up to the chain because I don’t think it’s unrealistic at all for management to say ‘leave now.’

  17. Wilton Businessman*

    Hope your boss doesn’t have a “no pilfer” clause, otherwise they’re going to be in deep doo-doo.

  18. Emily*

    Darn, I’m sorry I missed the spam now. I definitely agree with the comment upthread about taking all your personal stuff home etc. before you resign. I’d also grab important records off your computer.

    I hope you update us when you’re free and clear, I hope it works out well for you and your team.

  19. One of the Team*

    Ok, sorry I will try to answer as many questions as I can. I had no idea that there would be so much feed back in this. My lack of response is due to my current employer. No we have not left as of yet, attempting to set forth everything for a smooth transition, after we receive offer letters and get our “Ducks in a row”. We also out of duty to the project feel we need to bring it to a point where someone else can step in. If we are escorted out, we wouldn’t want to leave a mess and have a innocent co-worker in another office get dumped on. After all anyone who leaves gets blamed for things until the next person departs.
    * Yes it is a competitor – in this field the network of people and employers are linked very well. Everyone knows everyone, and often competitors have to work with each other for various clients. Many of us have worked with each other on and off over the past couple of decades. I would like to think that the mindset is you never know who will be your next boss.
    *About the Vacation time – often the projects we are on don’t allow for us to just take off on vacation, key players and no one to fill that role makes it difficult. In this industry the holiday season allows work to slow down, no clients demanding products on Christmas Eve, so most of the time part of the vacation time is taken around December (this could possibly be our transition time to other company). We are only allowed to roll 80 hrs to the next year, this being said the last few years have been very busy, and several of us end up rolling the max. It would be nice to get to use it since it has been postponed to allow project completion.
    *The team does not wish any malice on the company, and while it would be nice to take a client with us our work will show for itself. There is a clause of not soliciting to co-works, but the wording is geared more till after departure. That could be the tricky part, however the future employer did approach my manager with the offer and if he knew of any others. (Not sure where that leaves us in the legal department) but we are all known in the industry.
    *As far as Joey’s comment on job performance – I totally understand your concern. On that note it is typically felt that if you are not getting reprimanded that means you are doing a good job. Most of the time our projects are smaller ones compared to the rest of the company and typically not something the rest care to bother with. Other cases consist of “We have a bigger and better project coming in, we need to free up our teams to work on that.” Thus project is transferred to our smaller office. There have even been times where key players have left the company and we have picked up the project for the purpose that we have those skill sets.
    *Enlightenment on managements lack of involvement – a few months ago the other division of the company that we share an office with chooses to move office locations to a nicer office. And when I say other division I mean you would think they were a whole different company entirely, a global company that has many divisions. We did assist on the setup and the move of the new location, however our upper management had no involvement. Months later even when upper management has been on this side of town visiting clients, not one of them has stopped by. Nor had they called to check to see how the move went.
    This is all I can answer for the day. Need to go start my 15 hour shift

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