how to resign when you’re about to go to a 3-day conference

A reader writes:

I just had a terrific second interview interview and was verbally offered a job yesterday, and I am over the moon about it. It’s a huge jump in title and salary. The CEO said, pending my reference checks, I will have the offer in writing on Friday. They are small and scrappy, and they need me to start as soon as I can, so I said I would give notice two weeks after I have the offer in writing.

However, the organization I work with now (another lovely nonprofit, but very large and resource-rich) is sending me to a three day conference on Sunday — flight, hotel, the whole nine yards. My boss will be at the conference too — and she’s not a very positive person to be around as it is. She has a mean vindictive streak, which is part of why I am so excited about moving on.

How should I handle this? I don’t want to ruin both of our conference experiences by giving notice on Friday and then enduring awkwardness, and I don’t want to look like a jerk who purposefully planned a free conference out of this and then gave notice on my first day back. (It was a total coincidence — this organization even recruited me, I wasn’t job hunting!) Should I back out of the conference altogether? The fees/hotel/airfare are all paid and non-refundable, nor are they transferable, so it’s not like I could send someone else in my stead.

I have great relationships with the whole team at my current organization, except my boss. I want to do the right thing here. What do you recommend?

Talk to her your manager and give your notice on Friday, after you have the written offer (and have accepted it). Tell her that you will do whatever she prefers regarding the conference — go or not go, whatever she thinks makes the most sense.

From there, it’s up to her. You’ll have been open and transparent and willing to do what the organization prefers. And some job offers just aren’t perfectly timed; reasonable people understand that.

That said, if you’d really rather not attend the conference now and you don’t think there’s any benefit to the organization for you attending since you’re leaving, it’s fine to push the scales a little in that direction, by saying something like, “I realize that it won’t be very useful to the organization to send me to the conference now, so I could stay home but see if I can negotiate refunds for us from the hotel and the conference.” (You have better chances of succeeding at refunds with those two, even if they’re allegedly non-refundable, than with the airline tickets.) And even if you can’t get any refunds, not going will still save the organization some money — your meals, cabs, etc. So it’s worth offering.

But don’t wait until you’re back. Be transparent, give the organization as much notice as you can, and let them decide how they want to handle this.

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. Victoria Nonprofit*

    That’s an interesting challenge!

    What if she doesn’t hear from the new organization on Friday? She’s certainly not going to give notice before having the forma offer, but that leaves her in a tough position with the upcoming conference.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In that case, she’s got to proceed as if there’s no new job — because this stuff does fall through on occasion. It means she’ll probably end up giving notice soon after the conference, but she can explain that she would have spoken up earlier if there was anything to tell.

  2. D*

    I was in a similar situation, but they were going to toy me and my boss out to Montana for a couple days. Let my boss know a few day ahead of time and offered to be on call so that the other newbie could go instead of me. Just let them know that you have their business as top priority as long as they employ you.

  3. C*

    Im in the EXACT same situation. I have been offered a position with a company that recruited me, its much better for me, and like you my boss is the exact same, and theres an upcoming conference they were planning on for me to attend in Vegas. Obviously I don’t want to go because it will be somewhat awkward. But I say let her know on Friday. Congrats on the new job offer!

  4. Canuck*

    Remember that no job offer is guaranteed until you have accepted it. So unless you have officially accepted the new job by Friday (including any salary negotiations), then you should continue to operate as if you do not have a new job to go to. This would mean attending the conference.

    If you do get an official offer and accept it, then AAM’s advice is spot-on.

  5. DA*

    The wording is a bit clunky, but I presume Alison means to talk to your manager after you receive and accept the new job offer in writing.

    Even if it is 15 minutes before you leave the office on Friday, you are still covering your basis. If you still end up going on the trip, fine, and if not, that’s fine too. Good luck!

    1. Sarah G*

      I disagree that the wording is clunky and see no basis for that statement. No presumption is required on the reader’s part; what you say you “presume” is exactly what Alison specifies in her response.

  6. Brandy*

    Agree you should give notice before and offer to do whatever your boss wants. Your airline tix may not be refundable/tranferable (though, at my company, unused airline tix go back into the travel pool), but you may be able to give your conference pass and hotel reservations to someone else in your org.

  7. Anonymous*

    Remember, OP, this is Ask A Manager, who will represent what she believes to be management’s position.

    Companies act as if everything is business as usual after major decisions have been made if merely making the announcement will affect what is best for the entity. I believe turnabout is fair play.

    If it’s in your best, professional interest to attend the conference then I think you should. If you happen to receive an offer before takeoff think about the offer for a few days before making an announcement. Even when you do make a decision delay the announcement if it would better serve your preferred timeline.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’ve missed the point; she wants to both start the new job as soon as she can and give two weeks notice. If she delays, she needs to push back her start date.

      It’s also pretty ridiculous to talk about “turnabout” being fair play when you know nothing about how this organization has treated her, and when she explicitly says she wants to do right by them. Not everyone dislikes their employer or feels they’ve been treated badly by them.

      1. Anonymous*

        Management is stunned that there is a disgruntled employee in the ranks! I half-expect to be given a personal performance plan tomorrow AM. =)

        AAM, unless you presented a highly edited letter, you know nothing more than I do about how this organization has treated her. My recommendation is no more ridiculous than yours.

        That said, I am concerned that some might mistake what you recommend, on a regular basis, for what is “right” or “ethical.” You are speaking as a manager with more concern for the employer than the employee. That’s not to say you won’t call out bad employers–you do (earlier today, even.) There is much helpful career information here (I wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t,) but I do not believe the site should be mistaken for “HR Advice for Employees.” This is “Ask a Manager.” Ceteris paribus we should remember you will side with management.

        I agree with your response. Go if you have no offer. If you’ve accepted an offer tell them. We all know it’s not bloody likely they’ll make her go. My response was a ridiculous attempt to add a caveat for those in similar situations with the exception that they want to attend the conference. They want the training opportunity. They want the networking opportunity. I see nothing wrong with delaying a final decision. Who knows what would happen over the weekend? One might learn of a better-yet job opportunity at the conference. I stand by my ridiculous statement, which is more general in nature and, I believe, much more employee friendly.

        1. CoffeeLover*

          Even if the employer was terrible to OP, I still think there’s a higher ground to be taken that will benefit OP in the long run. No one will ruin your reputation faster than you. At the end of the day, if OP tells the manager she’s quitting after going to the conference, she’s going to leave a bad taste in her current employers mouth. Who knows how this could follow her. The damage she would do by being disingenuous is greater than the benefit she might have by going to a conference (which really, is unlikely to be THAT beneficial… maybe she’ll find a husband though as per the previous post :P). On a more personal level, I think you should always treat others with respect and dignity regardless of who that person is and how they’ve treated you. Better peace of mind; better karma. :)

          Of course the situation is unavoidable if OP truly isn’t sure she has the job before the conference.

          1. CoffeeLover*

            Also, to me it sounds like OP is looking for a reason NOT to go to the conference. I’m going on her apparent dislike for spending any length of time with her current manager.

        2. Cube Ninja*

          The thing is, though, that you didn’t present it in a ridiculous way. You presented it as a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the advice offered as well as Alison’s integrity by outright stating that she “will represent what she believes to be management’s position.”

          Frankly, this most recent post smacks of trolling, so I’m going to stop feeding you now.

    2. Cube Ninja*

      Welcome to the Internet. You must be new here. :)

      Far be it from me to step on Alison’s toes, as she’s more than capable of defending herself, but have you read this blog at all? There are dozens of posts in which the employer is eviscerated in prose for doing stupid things.

      Many more companies will be grateful for notice and upfront discussions than not. If that hasn’t been your experience, I’m honestly sorry – it sucks working for a company that doesn’t appreciate its staff.

    3. AG*

      Um yes it’s “ask a seasoned, level-headed, reasonable manager” but it’s not “ask HR!”

      1. HR Guy*

        I don’t speak for AAM, but I’m fairly certain she never said that this was “Ask HR.” Please reference blog title for evidence.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          And besides, HR’s first job is also to protect the company, sometimes at the expense of the employee.

  8. Sunshine DC*

    For better or worse (for your hopefully soon-to-be-former employer) remember that the value of any airline ticket booked in your name—*unless* you are traveling on a fully refundable ticket—reverts to YOU, and not the employer. The value of a discounted coach ticket does NOT disappear, but remains and can be rebooked or reapplied to a future ticket for your (sans change/reissue fees.) You can’t be expected to give them money for this, and it is impossible for the employer to recoup any value for this (it’s a CDB.)

    So, with no other options but an unintentionally positive on in your favor, be sure to cancel the flight prior to departure time, and you will then get a voucher/credit toward a future flight.

  9. Liz in a Library*

    This just happened to me, only the conference was happening at the dead end of my notice period (I came back to work for two days before leaving). How has your employer treated folks departing in the past? In my case, I was worried that they’d revoke my paid time to go (I’d paid flights, hotel, and registration out of pocket), but was pleasantly surprised.

    There isn’t much benefit to them to not send you since everything is non refundable. They wouldn’t have to pay a per diem I guess. So if they have been decent in the past hopefully they will be here as well.

    Either way, definitely wait til you have that formal offer, even if it means feeling funny about going on the trip.

  10. Anonymous*

    What if the OP wanted to attend the conference? Are they obligated to offer to pay? Or just hold off and find out if the employer will just pay and not ask the OP to refund the costs?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As long as she’s up-front about it, she’s not obligated to cover any costs. Unless they tell her not to go and she wants to go anyway.

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    Ah yes, the frustration which is “Expect the offer by the end of the week and we want somebody to start as soon as possible”.

    In which case, hurry up and let me have the contract to sign! I think there was a delay of about 10 days until I got mine. And of course, never assume the job is guaranteed until then.

  12. Victoria*

    My non-profit (a fairly large one) has just started making everyone that signs up for a conference sign a contract stating that the cost of the conference will come out of our last paycheck if we leave within one year after the conference. EEk! Makes most people not want to go to a conference!

  13. Anonymous*

    I was in a similar situation when I resigned. Wasn’t a conference, but needed to have some face-to-face meetings in another location. Non-refundable airline tickets purchased and hotels confirmed.

    I offered to do whatever made the most sense for the company. If it had been my decision, I would have sent somebody else. And they did. Didn’t make sense for a departing employee to gain that knowledge. Plus, I didn’t want to go. But I told them that as long as they kept paying me, I would represent their best interests. :) As far as I can tell, there weren’t any hard feelings. I still meet my former manager for lunch on a quasi-regular basis. I had nothing against the people I worked with. Just had a better opportunity.

    It’s a small world. No point in burning bridges. Just do what’s honorable, and everything else will fall into place.

    I would give notice as quickly as I had something to give notice about, and then let the details work themselves out.

  14. books*

    Hotel tip:
    If you’ve passed the deadline on canceling, call the hotel and tell them that your business travel has changed and you need to move it back a week. Then call them back and cancel.

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