what to say to your resigning boss, when you hate him

A reader writes:

What do you say to someone you work for or with who is leaving? Someone who you kind of hate.

My boss is leaving. His lack of skills as a manager have been a very irritating thing to me, so much so that I think I could write a book .

He has been quietly telling a few employees today, and he’ll probably do that for another day before sending an email to everyone to tell them why he’s leaving (health reasons) and all that jazz. I’m pretty sure I’m on his “inform before the mass email goes out” list. And I really don’t know what to say to him.

Say, “Thanks for letting me know, and best of luck.”

If he were leaving for a new job, you’d also say, “Congratulations on the new job.”

You can also ask logistical questions, such as the plan or timeline for filling his position and how things will be handled in the interim.

You’ll notice there’s nothing here about telling him he’s made your life miserable or he sucks as a manager or you’re glad that he’s going. You do not say those things, although you can think them.

But he’s leaving — this is good news. Be gracious.

{ 36 comments… read them below }

  1. Just Laura*

    Sayonara, sucker! Just kidding. “I wish you the best” doesn’t have to be a lie, and allows you to take the high road.

  2. Ivy*

    Be gracious. Can we underline that a few times. Treat everyone in a dignified manner regardless of how much you can’t stand the site of them. It’s the basics of manners that many of forgotten.

  3. Jamie*

    Try to keep the smirk off your face. It’s really hard, but try.

    Also, you should wait until he actually leaves to pilfer his office for the good chair, better stapler, good pens…whatever he’s got that you covet.

    Wish him well – bosses come and go but references are forever.

    1. Ivy*

      HAHA Yes! Waiting to pilfer is important! Things can get awkward if he walks in on you trying to make a getaway with his stapler :P

      1. Aimee*

        When my old boss left, he pilfered his office for us and gave us all the good stuff. My stash of refill notebooks for my nice leather notebook cover is well stocked now!

        He wasn’t hated though. Someone who thinks about stuff like that couldn’t be! :)

    2. Kelly O*

      It might be a good time to surreptitiously check out his office supplies and see if there is anything you’d like to scavenge.

      You could also always go the “I’m so glad you’ve found a wonderful new opportunity!” or “that’s wonderful for you!” route. Because you ARE glad he’s leaving. So, not a total lie.

  4. Ackee*

    If he’s merely ‘irritating’ and that’s the reason you ‘hate’ him, there doesn’t appear to be much reason to say anything negative to him. I suspect you should be able to pull off ‘best wishes’ with some semblance of sincerity.

  5. Jillian*

    There was a cheer in my office when my supervisor and his wife (our clerical) emailed in to say they would be out for the day for their pre-retirement meeting.

    I will happily wish them all the best upon their retirement!

  6. Anon*

    I’m wondering if the OP thinks she’s expected to fake huge dismay – a “oh my God, that’s so awful for us, how will we ever get by without you” show (rather than that she’s contemplating saying anything like “Good riddance). To which I’d say the answer is an explicit no – you can be gracious without that.

  7. Anonymous*

    “All people have the capacity to bring us joy…some in their arrival, and some in their departure”

    Yup, be gracious!

    1. Blinx*

      I used “I’ve learned a lot from you” when my boss told me I was transferred to another manager during a reorg. It was true — I learned a lot about how I never want to treat subordinates, if I were ever to become a manager.

      OP, hope your next manager is a good one!

  8. twentymilehike*

    I have a feeling it won’t be too difficult to sincerly say something positive when the time comes. I have that same feeling of spite toward my boss and yet, I still find myself being nice to him at given times. It’s odd … If you follow this blog you may have read some of my comments about my boss’s unethical and barely tolerable behavior, and how we like to yell at each other periodically. But nice things still come out of my mouth sometimes … WTH?

    1. Anonymous*

      I know. I had my letter of resignation written when my boss was abruptly sacked. He had a quite a bit to do with turning the best job I ever had into something that had me crying my way to and from work – and I still felt for him enough to email him a couple of lines of sympathy and wish him well.

  9. TW*

    I have always enjoyed the “the place will not be the same without you”. It is a completely true statement.;)

  10. Zee*

    Save the happy dance for when you are home. When you speak with him about his leaving, be very polite and wish him the best of health (since you say that’s why he’s leaving and I don’t think you wish him ill will). Take the high road.

  11. Kerry Scott*

    He’s leaving for health reasons? Is it possible that his crappy management was due to the fact that he was having health issues, and was maybe, y’know, not functioning at 100%?

    If somebody’s health is bad enough that they have to leave their job, it’s pretty bad. Maybe cut him a little slack there, eh?

  12. Steve G*

    OK, I’m the type that HATES when people put holier-than-though comments on this blog that stress taking the high road (when many wouldn’t if they were in the situation), I must say that this is one of the few times I actually do “take the high road” and give well wishes. I try to get as much info from the person as I can. And I usually end up feeling guilty some point in the process. For example, one person that was totally incompetent at one job confided in me at the very end (as he was being pushed out the door) that he had no friends. I felt so bad, then felt bad I had gossiped about him…

    1. Mike C.*

      That irritates the heck out of me too. I will say when I had the option I chickened out and just shook his hand. At the end of the day I just thought, “I’m headed for a much better place, and this poor guy is stuck here. Why be an ass?”

      1. 22dncr*

        Well, I have to admit, when forced to sign a goodbye card for a person I totally disliked I put “May you have the luck you deserve.” Figured that was as polite as I could get considering the way the dude had blatantly tried to make my life miserable.

    2. Zee*

      Some people actually do take the “holier-than-thou” way (aka the higher road). To reiterate Mike C.’s point, “Why be an ass?” Usually, it makes the person who takes that way the sane person to outsiders and it usually highlights the real troublemaker.

  13. Lisa*

    I never liked my previous manager, he was a micromanaging freak, but he taught me alot. So when he moved back home (east coast to midwest) I wrote him a card. I told him that even though we never saw eye-to-eye, I learned a great deal from him and for that I will always be grateful, told him good luck and stay in touch. I will never hear from him again, especially when my boss told me that this manager hated me and said i could get away with murder. Its funny how people perceive things since I felt he was the golden boy of the office and he saw me as the favorite one. I don’t regret telling him how much he taught me even though i despised his management style.

      1. Lisa*

        I have only learned now how much he taught me because he was a micromanager. His ADDness made pay attention to every detail to avoid his red pen of corrections and it made me better at my job – i am extremely slow because of it, but i am really thorough and get things done well.

  14. Anon*

    If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Wise words but you can’t get away with silence in this situation.

    So, if you can’t say something nice, say something nice anyway. Doesn’t hurt you even if you don’t mean it in the cockles of your heart.

  15. some1*

    Honestly, I agree with Allison’s advice. At a previous employer, when I left (I was not a manager), co-workers I didn’t get along with still said “Good luck” (or equivalent), even though we both knew they were not sad to see me go. It helped me leave with seeing them as decent people I didn’t necessarily get along with as my last impression.

  16. Elizabeth West*

    A department I worked with (but not in) had a manager who was awful–lazy, a jerk and a bully, dropped the ball on numerous occasions. We all wanted him gone in the worst way. When I left that job, he wished me luck and I did the same. I later heard he had been let go. Yes, I did the happy dance, even though I’m not there anymore. However, I stopped when I realized yes, he could get hired someplace where I might get hired. ARRRRGHHHHH….

  17. Bart*

    Like AAM says: say nothing if you hated your boss. Don’t give the douche any ammunition against you which could hurt your future work possibilities. Talk to your friends (offline where it can’t be recorded), vent to your parents and partner, do Bikram yoga until your legs turn into jelly, just don’t shoot yourself in the face by giving the ever-loving jerkwad ammo.

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