what to do when an employee announces she’s resigning … at some point but not now

A reader writes:

My part-time employee called me to notify me that she has decided that she is going to be leaving because she has decided that she needs a full-time job with benefits. This is not an option in my small business, so I can understand her position. However, she also said that she is not giving her “official resignation” but that she wanted to let me know ASAP so that I would have a heads-up. She is searching for full-time employment, but when she will leave is unpredictable.

My question is how to best handle the situation for my business moving forward. I am currently training her on several aspects of her job, which feels somewhat pointless now that I know she is leaving. Should I post the position and start recruiting candidates to replace her? If I find someone, what if I want them to start before she gives her “official resignation”? Would that be considering firing her? I don’t want to put her out of a job prematurely, but I also risk having a gap in her position if I don’t start looking.

First, keep in mind that she did you a favor by letting you know ahead of time what her plans are — this is a good thing.

Second, keep in mind that other employees will be watching to see how you handle this, and may choose how much notice they themselves give based on how you handle this with her. Treat her well, and you can expect other people to give you generous notice. But push her out, and others may assume that they should never give more than two weeks.

Third, realize that if she hadn’t given you a heads-up and instead just gave you a standard two weeks notice, you would probably have a gap in coverage for position. That means that you shouldn’t proceed as if you absolutely must avoid a gap at all costs now; the only reason you even have a chance to avoid the gap is because she gave you an early heads-up.

That said, you’re right that you need to be able to plan. I’d sit down with her and say this: “I really appreciate you being candid with me about this. This obviously has implications for us, and I want to talk to you about what makes sense as far as planning on my side. Do you have a sense of your timeline? Once I start hiring a replacement for you, it will probably take about (X amount of time) to hire someone. Is there a way for us to try to get our timelines to line up, or for me at least to not be starting that search prematurely?

You can also say: “If you were definitely going to be here X months, I’d want to keep training you on Y. If you’re going to leave sooner, though, then it probably doesn’t make sense to keep doing that. What do you think is most likely?”

Of course, she probably won’t be able to answer these questions with pinpoint accuracy, but that’s not what you’re going for here. You’re just trying to get a better sense of what she’s thinking her timeline will be. Basically, you just want to have an open, honest conversation with her, so that you come out of it aligned with what’s in her head, and so that she continues to keep you in the loop as her plans become more specific. (And of course, make sure that she understands that you’re still counting on her to give you two weeks notice once she has an actual date in mind. Notice can’t be “I’m going to leave at some point in the future but don’t know when” followed by “Okay, it’s going to be tomorrow.”)

In doing this, you should factor in how strong of an employee she is. The better she is, the more flexibility you should give her, up to whatever point is realistic for the role. If she’s an absolute rock star, you might say, “I appreciate you telling me. I want to keep you as long as we can, so just keep me in the loop as your plans proceed and you get closer to knowing what your end date might be.” On the other end of that spectrum, if she’s someone who you’re not sad to lose, it’s not unreasonable to say, “I appreciate you telling me. So that I can plan on my side, let’s pick a rough point in the future for when I’ll plan to have your replacement hired. Would X weeks from now make sense?”

(As for how long X should be: For someone mediocre, X might be eight weeks. For someone you were thinking of firing before this happened, it might be four weeks. I wouldn’t normally recommend keeping someone around for a month when they’re bad enough to fire, but this is about taking advantage of the fact that now you don’t have to fire her, and that’s better for everyone involved … assuming that there’s no outright damage being caused by keeping her on, of course.)

{ 96 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie

    I’m currently in this situation (as the employee in question). I wasn’t planning to say anything, but it came up inadvertently one day with my boss when we had some dead time at work. In my case, I think they assumed as much as they knew most people wouldn’t want to stick around for something that was part-time with no benefits. It was sort of a relief as I could say “I’ll be gone this day for an interview” or “I’m heading to this conference for the next couple of days.” I don’t *think* they’ll get rid of me, but I think they’re prepared that they may need to fill the position suddenly or have someone else work doubles until that happens.

    I know you said you run a small business, so it might not be feasible, but is it possible to turn this into something full-time or offer benefits (or a subsidy to go buy health insurance or something)? Problem is, I think this might be a recurring problem in the current setup. I’m the third person in the last year in my role because everyone ends up getting promoted to something full-time or leaving for something with benefits. There’s no incentive to stay long-term. There are some people who might want part-time work only (students, retirees looking for extra income, people with extra spousal support to name a few), but I don’t think that’s going to be most people.

    If it’s not too onerous, you could also try a temp agency for her replacement. Or perhaps advertise at a local school.

    1. Judy

      The place my kids are at before and after school have the same issue. The after school care teachers are part time positions. They hire someone, and then when a teacher in one of the daycare classrooms quits, the person from after care moves over to a full time position. Then they hire someone into the after school position again. It makes it hard for the kids, even though I know it’s easier on them than the younger ones. They’re on their third teacher since September.

    2. Episkey

      I don’t know, I work part-time with no benefits and I actually love it. I was specifically looking for part-time, so there are those of us out there! I’ve been in my position for 2 years now with zero plans to leave. I do have a husband who I get benefits through (medical/dental/etc).

      1. Kimberlee Stiens

        Yeah, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with having some part-time positions, if you’re up-front that that’s what it is and it won’t be going full-time at all. It’s surely a problem that some people take those jobs and then continue to look for full-time work, but I don’t think it’s fair to tell employers that if their positions are part-time no-benefits, turnover is their own fault for having a morally deficient business model (which I’m not saying anyone on this thread is alleging, but I’ve heard it done in the past).

        1. Loupalooza

          Sometimes you don’t have a choice when taking part time whilst looking for full time, because currently part time hours are all that are available. Where I live, full time is scarce these days.

          1. Zillah

            This. While some people absolutely do prefer to work PT, IME there are far, far more PT positions out there than there are people who would prefer to work PT. That’s a recipe for high turnover, and employers who offer PT positions need to understand and accept that. I don’t think there’s anything more inherently wrong with taking a PT position and continuing to look for a FT one than there is in only offering a PT position with no benefits in the first place.

            1. Retail Lifer

              Most places I’ve worked have been aboit 10:1 part-time to full-time. There are a ton of part-time jobs and very few full-time ones, and the competition is a LOT stronger for the full-time jobs.

              1. Zillah

                Yep. It doesn’t bother me so much when there’s just not the work for a FT person, but it’s often a lot of people doing the same thing for 29.5 hours a week – and that bugs me. They could have FT people – they’d just rather not pay for the benefits. I’ve taken those jobs before, and I’m sure I’ll take them again, but it bugs me.

            2. Jazzy Red

              I agree. I’ve known many people who were holding down 2, 3, or even more part time or occasional jobs because full time with benefits jobs were so scarce. I’ve done part time and temp work, while continuing to look for full time, just to keep a roof over my head. I figure working and paying my own way is better than just relying on unemployment (which I’ve done) or welfare (which I’ve come close to). And, yes, I’ve had one or two part time bosses get pissed off because I found full time jobs and had to leave them. Others were understanding and expected things like this to happen.

        2. Jamie

          No – it’s a valid business model if it suits their needs, as long as they are transparent about it as you mentioned.

          But higher turnover usually comes with this business model as the pool of people for whom part-time/no benefits is a fit for their needs and even fewer for whom that’s a permanent fit.

          1. Manders

            Yeah, I think it’s likely that a great deal of part-time employees without benefits are searching for other jobs, or might be soon; this employee was just more up-front about it than most. The fact that she gave notice while she’s still being trained is making me think that something’s a bit weird here: either she’s declaring that she’s looking elsewhere after a very short time in the position, or the owner’s spending way too much time training employees who aren’t going to stick around for long enough to make that training worthwhile.

            1. Jamie

              Right – and part time jobs make sense for many people at certain periods in their lives. Small kids at home, illness or other family obligations which won’t last forever, taking a job after retirement, etc.

              Just that the pool of people who will take a part time job and still be there in 10 years, part time, is a so much smaller than people who will eventually need more hours/benefits or go full retirement that they need to factor in their turnover will be higher than for full time positions (over longer periods.)

              Good point about the training. I assumed this was additional training, like learning new tasks, not initial new hire training. I hope the OP comes back and clarifies.

        3. Stephanie

          Yeah, I don’t necessarily mean to say it’s the employers’ fault. Where I am now, I’m not even sure how they would make a lot of the roles full-time, given that they support a specific shift. As Jamie pointed out, higher turnover and a limited pool are the drawbacks to having the position as part-time with no benefits. OP seems worried about being left in the lurch by having no coverage and investing training into this person, but it seems like this’ll happen again in a few months as someone like Episkey is probably an exception to the rule.

          I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either as long as there’s transparency and no dangling of carrots (“We might increase you to full-time! Maybe!”), but I don’t think the employer should be shocked or annoyed if the employee wants to leave for something full-time with benefits.

    3. Another Museum Person

      “Problem is, I think this might be a recurring problem in the current setup.”

      This is pretty big problem in my field. They want people who have X years experience and graduate school behind them, but they want to pay $10/hr for 20 hours a week and no benefits. Some higher ups are reasonable about the fact they’ll have high turnover in those positions, but others start getting upset about it. Sure there are people happy to work that position for years because of life circumstances they’re in but you have to expect that vast majority of the population will use a position like that as a stop gap.

    1. LBK

      Oh, that opens up another possibility – any chance the budget will support temporarily having two people in her position? You could potentially start the candidate search now, hire her replacement, and then just have her train the replacement until she finds her new position. I would absolutely want a hard end date in mind if this were the plan so that you’re not stuck spending double for the role for more than a few months, but that could help smooth out the transition without having to do so much guessing about the timeline.

      1. De Minimis

        We did this at my job when I came aboard….my predecessor actually stayed on board a little over two years to help train me. That might be a little long for the average company, but even a couple of months could be invaluable.

        1. Jamie

          My predecessor was moving out of state and gave enough notice to find her replacement and then stay another 6 weeks after I was hired. Then stayed available as a consultant (with a market fee) for a while. I was grateful for every minute of it – everyone won in that situation.

          1. College Career Counselor

            That’s the way to do things! In contrast, I gave two months’ notice on a job, and on my LAST day got a call from the dean’s office saying, “we’ve just hired (recent grad student), so can you train her?” I told them I left documentation and who else in the office had been briefed (they should have hired the temp guy who’d been working in the office for six months). I also said I’d be happy to talk to the new hire if she came by in the next hour, but I was leaving.

            I wound up fielding calls and emails from that new hire for MONTHS. Obviously I let that go on far too long, but I just felt so bad that this person had been set up to fail that I had trouble saying no. I did do some paid consulting for training the next person who was hired into that position.

        2. Jazzy Red

          When I was a temp, I gave my notice because I found a full time job, and the company arranged for another temp to come in before I left. I made a Desk Manual for her and had 4 days to train her. On our last day together, she brought me flowers (which was more than the employer did). All these years later, this still makes me fight back tears. I would have LOVED working with her permanently.

      2. Sam

        That’s what we are doing: having us both on for a few weeks so I can pass things over to him/her. Makes me feel better about leaving

      3. A Bug!

        This was my thought when I read the question. On the surface it looks like unnecessary duplication of costs, but there are so many benefits to it that make it worthwhile if it’s at all possible to find the budget for it. It’s so much easier on everyone. The employee goodwill alone makes it a sound investment, but there’s also the fact that you’re getting your new employee up to 100% faster and with less stress.

        For me, a new job tends to be really hectic until I get a handle on everything, and then it calms down a bit. I’ve only had one job where there was overlap and a smooth transition, and it was awesome to be able to slowly increase my workload up to its normal level, and to have someone who could answer my questions without it being an imposition on their own workload. I was so much more effective an employee so much more quickly at that job than at any other.

  2. Jamie

    Wow – you owe her a huge thank you. She’s saving you short notice and the time you’d have spent training her on the other stuff can now be devoted to creating job documentation (if applicable) and looking for the right replacement.

    You don’t owe her forever to keep it open ended, but I’d definitely follow Alison’s advice and have a talk with her about her timeline and work out a plan.

    And since she is doing you this pretty enormous favor I think you owe it to her to agree to be contacted for a reference while she’s looking – being able to contact current employer is a rare luxury and if she’s a great performer she should get a glowing reference. Be as flexible as possible if she needs to use PTO for interviews as one should never job hunt at their current employer, most interviews are scheduled during work hours.

    As long as she’s maintaining high levels of commitment in working for you and helping with a smooth transition it’s only fair to return the favor to the extent that you can.

    She gave you a pretty big gift with longer notice, you just don’t want her to regret being so generous.

    1. Zillah

      I agree with this, but it is worth pointing out that the employee may not have PTO at all – a lot of PT workers don’t.

  3. Jessie

    Such good advice!

    I wish more managers would see this for what it is – a genuine heads-up from an engaged employee who doesn’t want to leave you in a lurch.

  4. Dan

    My mom tried the “I’m going to be leaving soon, but I don’t know when” trick and then almost got replaced because her employer got tired of waiting for her to leave. And then the prospective job fell through.

    The reality is that you can’t plan too much without exact dates, unless you’re lining up a temp agency or something like that. As a a prospective applicant, *I* want a definite start date, not a “we’ll call if/when she quits.”

    1. some1

      I guess this is why I can’t really see myself ever giving notice without an offer lined up, unless I was moving or dropping out of the workforce.

    2. Beezus

      My husband was on the other end – he took a job with the expectation that he’d be replacing an employee who had announced plans to leave, and after he’d started, the employee changed his mind and decided to stay, and my husband was redundant and was laid off. Evidently the employee felt underappreciated and it was just a power play that didn’t work out as he hoped. (There were other red flags, but Mr. Beezus was unemployed when he got the job offer and wasn’t in a position to reject it.)

  5. illini02

    This advice is great. You really do need to be as nice about this as possible, even if you don’t particularly like her (not saying that is the case). If you really do need a specific date for hiring, I think 2 months is plenty of time, but if you do “force” her out in 2 months, I think you should still try to be flexible when she is interviewing. As Alison said, she could have just found a job anyway and left with 2 weeks notice (or less)

  6. Loupalooza

    I’ve never told my bosses but they have always found out through the grapevine via another employee. There’s a reason I left my last job, my last manager was really smug and gloating when she found out I didn’t get the job at this other company ‘Oh just as well you wouldn’t be able to cope’, ‘you have it just right, to your ability here, you would not be able to cope in any other environment’.

    Lucky enough another position came up at this company. They called me up first and we had a talk and I got the job there and then. I was scared of handing in my resignation because of how she would belittle and put me down at work. I did and the first thing she did was laugh at my face, said I would not cope and that once the three months probation was up I would fail and have no back up so was I was sure I wanted to proceed and ‘I am only thinking of you, love’.She then said I couldn’t leave within the week and had to stay for a month but I checked my contract it said I could and I was gone within 5 days.

    This new company I have excelled and doing so well. I have surpassed expectations and achievments and goals she’d never let me reach because she said I wasn’t good enough.

    I had no leaving interview as required by the company and she never told the tax man that I left my job so now I’m waiting on a tax rebate. And the company thought I was still working there.

    1. Merry and Bright

      Wow, that sounds like one horrible company. Brilliant that you got out and are doing so well now.

    2. Emily

      Wow, your old manager sounds appalling. I’m glad that you’ve moved on and are doing well at your new job.

    3. Dynamic Beige

      Wow. If there’s any company that should have an exit interview, it’s that one… provided that witch wouldn’t be the one conducting it (or so long as there were witnesses). It’s so demoralising working for someone like that.

  7. plain_jane

    Could this employee cross train some of your other staff on what they do so that if there is a gap it isn’t as onerous on your team?

  8. BadPlanning

    For the new things you are training her on — could she be making training documents as she learns? Or updating existing documents? This way your training wouldn’t be “wasted” assuming she does a decent job making the training materials. Having fresh/new eyes on training materials is usually pretty useful.

  9. De Minimis

    BTW I’m probably going to have this discussion within the next week, so giving around six weeks notice. No way can they hire someone in that time but I can get things arranged for when they do, and to work to finally create an adequate level of coverage for my role.

    Might also bring up the idea of doing some work remotely but I don’t know if they can sign off on that themselves and I’m sure the higher ups would say no.

  10. C

    This writer is giving me major guilt about likely leaving my job within the next few weeks. I was told by a recruiter that I should expect an offer within days for a job I interviewed for last week (which I realize isn’t the same as an actual offer but I was told to “be prepared”). I also have an interview for another position next week. I would happily take either of these jobs and have told both places I will need to give two weeks’ notice. My current workplace is a nightmare– we’ve had over 100% turnover in my department in the last year and what was originally a team of 6 will be a team of 3 by the end of May (or a team of 2 if I leave). I don’t feel bad about the management /CEO but I feel bad for the 2 remaining team members who are fairly new and already overwhelmed. I have two upcoming projects assigned to me right now that will be quite intense and I don’t know if it would be wise to give my supervisor a heads up now that I’ve been looking for another job.

    1. Jamie

      I know we’re not supposed to tell other people how to feel, all emotions are valid, yada yada but STOP IT!

      No guilt! It is great if you can give longer notice if you know it won’t hurt you. If you are not 100% sure it will have no negative repercussions than you are completely and totally smart, correct, prudent…pick your adjective…to adhere to the customary 2 weeks.

      People should only consider longer notice for employers who have proven (not just stated) that they can be trusted not to use it against you. That means someone has to be the first but I’d never advise anyone to volunteer to the test case.

      100% turnover in a year is bad management – they can’t manage their company so why would they manage your exit timeline better than you? If they want employees who give longer notice they can stop being a nightmare.

      NO GUILT! and with that I’ll stop yelling. :)

      1. Kyrielle

        It depends. The volunteer test case should be someone who can afford to be shown the door the instant they say it, and is just doing it to be nice, if at all possible tho!

        1. Jamie

          Absolutely. But for people who will be in trouble if they are pushed out without another job I’d never advise anyone to take one for the team without an offer letter in hand and no financial hardship if asked to leave…no matter how nice the sentiment. :)

          But sure, if one was financially okay if there was a longer gap between jobs then expected that’s totally different. All about risk assessment.

    2. Amber Rose

      I empathize, but agree with Jamie. Never feel guilt for the unfortunate circumstances of others when it’s out of your control. Or rather, let me ask this: if you were to stay, would the other members of your team be exempt from the toxicity of your workplace? Probably not right?

      As to whether you talk to your supervisor, it depends. Will your supervisor be supportive? Or will telling make your life worse?

      I’d say do as much as you can to support your team members and get out when you can.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        if you were to stay, would the other members of your team be exempt from the toxicity of your workplace?

        Or would your coworkers opt to stay if they were given another opportunity?

        Nope. They might feel badly that you had no choice but to stay in that environment, but they would get out while the getting was good and save themselves. It’s natural to sympathise with your coworkers, you’ve been through a lot together, but you can’t let it hold you back.

    3. A Bug!

      Your loyalty to your coworkers is commendable, but please listen to everyone telling you to rein it in. You are under no obligation to make up for your employer’s failure to staff appropriately. You owe your coworkers nothing but a good, strong work ethic for as long as you’re their coworker, and to do your best to transition your work and leave it well-documented once you give your notice.

      If they’re decent people, they’ll be thrilled for you when they learn that you’re leaving for a better opportunity. If they’re not decent people, smart people will be thrilled at this possible new connection to a better employer. If they’re neither decent nor smart enough to pretend to be, then what are you doing feeling guilty at all?

    4. C

      Thanks a lot everyone. I got an offer in writing a few hours after posting this, so looks like I’ll be moving on to a new opportunity. Now I just need to give notice. I am very nervous but very excited!

  11. Chriama

    Also, if she’s a good employee, it’s worth being flexible with her to encourage her to be flexible in return. Maybe she’d be willing to commit to a month-long ‘official’ notice period or come in 1 day a week after you hire the replacement to train them if you can be flexible with her hours so she can make interviews on shorter notice.

    1. nicolefromqueens

      Yes, see if you can negotiate a one day or half day a week while a replacement comes in and is trained.

      Admittedly I’ve never been a manager officially, but having worked in various PT jobs, including training temps and PT’ers I’d advise against having a PT’er specialize in whatever tasks if you can help it. If you have FT’ers, train them in those tasks, or if not spread the burden among all (or most) of the PT’ers, if you can’t do it yourself.

  12. June

    Please, please, please follow Alison’s advice.
    I was on the other side of this situation. I worked for a small business of roughly 60 employees. Another business closed and merged with ours, with us taking on their 8 employees. This made 3 people with my role (had been two of us). The third asked to go part time, this was granted. Shortly after I made the decision to move out of state. I told my boss out of respect and so that she would be expecting reference calls. She gave me a glowing reference letter. I told her I expected to move in late summer, the current month was May.
    A few weeks later, I am called into her office and informed the part time employee now wants full time. Since they couldn’t afford to keep her on even as part time, they decided to lay me off by giving me a two weeks notice. I’ve never felt so betrayed! If I hadn’t said anything then I would have kept my job until I was close to moving. I’m not sure if it was coincidence with the other employee requesting full time after I announced plans to leave.
    Other employees noticed this happening, and they have since had a huge turnover.

    1. Another Museum Person

      Wow. This is why no one wants to give more than two weeks notice. So sorry that happened to you.

  13. Sabrina

    See, I don’t see how this can work out for the employee. Job searches can take a LOT longer than you think. Her timeline means absolutely nothing because you can’t force HR departments to work on your schedule and call you back or conduct interviews in a timely fashion. I was in a similar position once and at first I thought OK this is good, I don’t have to lie to take off for interviews. Until my boss asked for my timeline and I didn’t have one. So she gave me one, and after that I was out of a job for over a year. I know this advice has been given before and I don’t get it. Further, it totally conflicts with the “Don’t turn in your notice until you have a definite offer” advice.

      1. tango

        I don’t know. Sometimes it’s hard for people employed full time with good tenure to secure a new FT job in a quick manner so I would not assume a part timer who wants to go full time will have better luck right off the bat. Who knows. It could be a few weeks or months. It all depends on so many factors. But I can understand how it could be frustrating for a business owner if the part time employee is still there months from now and they never did more of that training thinking she was leaving soon and they really can’t hire anyone new to take her place.

        1. De Minimis

          Oh I’m not saying it’s any easier, just that it’s not as much of a risk to quit a part-time job without something else lined up.

          1. Zillah

            I’m not understanding the logic here, tbh – on one hand, yeah, you likely have fewer perks to lose, but on the other, people who are working PT are less likely to have had the chance to build up solid savings, IME, so not getting a paycheck is really going to hurt them.

            1. doreen

              I think the logic is that part-time incomes are more likely to be supplemental than full time ones. Not always of course , but a lot of people working part-time aren’t doing it because they need the income to live. I’m not saying this applies to the letter writer but I’ve known lots of people who could lose their part-time jobs without financial difficulty because there was some other income ( a spouse ,a pension or a full-time job) being relied on for necessities while the part-time income was used for extras.

    1. some1

      This. That’s why I don’t really get what an employee is supposed to say about her “timeline”. It’s not the applicant who has the timeline, it’s the employer.

      I mean, unless the employee hasn’t started applying anywhere yet, her timeline isn’t really going to help anyone guess when she will be moving on. “I’m applying to other jobs” could = I will have interview(s) lined up by the end of the week. “I’m going on interviews” could = I will have an offer within a week, or I won’t get any offers until months from now. And the offer might not work out for either party.

    2. Episkey

      I feel the same way. You (as a job-seeker you) have really no idea how long it could take to find a new job. My husband started job searching at the beginning of March and had an offer and accepted it within 3 weeks. He had his network on his side and luck. In a different situation, it could have been months. I understand wanting to give your current employer a heads-up, but honestly, I think I would be annoyed if I was the employer because it kind of just puts you in a weird limbo. You might not want to expend resources training/putting that employee on a large project, but at the same time, you can’t hire someone else.

      I think it’s different if you are leaving for something like moving, grad school, etc — and want to give more than 2 weeks notice because in that case, you do still know when you are going to leave — you are just giving your employer a longer lead time. In a case where you are actively job hunting, it’s anyone’s guess how long it will take.

    3. Stephanie

      Yeah, I thought it was a little odd since job searching’s so open-ended. Main benefit is that OP’s employee could use OP as a reference.

      In my case, my boss asked me about my background and long-term plans mostly because she knew a lot of the part-time entry-level jobs didn’t really pay a living wage and most people wanted more hours, responsibilities, money, or benefits.

  14. RFM

    Well, if she’s still job searching, it could be months before she finds another job. Maybe you can ask her to check in with you when she’s getting interviews.

    1. RFM

      Ask her then to check in with you if she expects an offer, and once she has an offer, ask for a couple weeks notice.

  15. Anonymous Educator

    I think the most ethical thing to do is wait to get her official two weeks’ notice.

    If you hire someone before her official two weeks’ notice, and then try to bump her out, you’re essentially saying “Thanks for giving me the heads-up so I can screw you over.” And that means that anyone else still there will be sure to give you exactly two weeks’ notice and never more.

    It’s possible that she may be able to give you more than two weeks’ notice of the exact end date, but probably not. So just work on documenting everything.

  16. Original Poster

    Thank you Alison and all of you for your thoughtful advice. I am pleasantly surprised by the response. I like Alison’s advice and reminder to me about employee morale and how to handle the situation. I firmly believe in running my business in that way and that was a great reminder.

    Ironically, this employee gave her 2 weeks notice today, so this dilemma is no longer. However, I do appreciate the perspectives on the part-time position. I have considered how to handle this moving forward to prevent turnover. The problem is that my budget does not allow for a full-time person and there is not enough work for one. I would love to have the extra help, but I cannot afford to do so. I am curious, what is your opinion of a minimum # of hours for a part-time employee? The current one works 16 hours, but I was considering increasing to 20. What are your thoughts on 30 hours? Would that be satisfactory to more people or am I still too far into the “part-time” spot?

    Also, I wanted to clarify regarding the training of this employee. She has been here since January 2015 and we have changed some procedures, including software since she has come on board. She was the first person in her position and we are all adjusting to having another person to do admin tasks, so we are solidifying these procedures. To be honest, I think part of the continued training has to do with our evolving procedures and part has to do with her skill set. I will know more about the answer to this when I hire someone else, but that is my impression so far.

    Again, thank you all for your thoughts.

    1. Chriama

      If you can’t afford a full time employee, then you need to look for candidates who are happy with part time employment. A few categories include:
      – stay at home parents who want to work while their kids are at school
      – retirees, or people close to retirement, who want to do something with their time but don’t need full-time benefits (e.g. health insurance, retirement contributions)
      – people wanting to transition to your field and willing to work part-time in order to get relevant work experience
      – students or interns

      Also, just like there are things people consider attractive when looking for a full-time job, there are things that people consider attractive in a part-time job
      such as:
      – flexible schedule (either flex time so they still get their hours if they can’t make a certain shift one week, or allowing them to work a schedule that fits in their life, ex. 2 days a week or between 10am and 3pm so they can drop their kids off and pick them up)
      – decent pay
      – a good environment (kind coworkers, managers who actually manage)
      – other things that I can’t think of, but I’m sure other commenters can

      1. Retail Lifer

        Yup. Students, retirees, and semi-stay-at-home moms have worked out the best for me over the years. And being flexible enough with their schedule to be able to accomomdate school, family obligations, and/or childcare is sometimes the only benefit we can offer over another company.

    2. Stephanie

      Hmm, if you’re upfront about it being part-time, I don’t think the specific number of hours is going to make a difference. Especially if you focus on the groups Chriama mentioned, people will self-select out depending on how many hours a week they can work.

      I would definitely be upfront about the hours and guarantee a minimum number if you can and have consistent hours so the paycheck amount isn’t a mystery every week. I’d also mention the salary/wages upfront so people can get an idea of how much money they’d take home.

      A big perk with a part-time job would either be set hours (it can be annoying to have a part-time job that expects full-time availability and would preclude another job, classes, etc) or flexible hours so the person could work around school, kids, whatever.

    3. Zillah

      I agree with everyone else that when you hire the next person, you should be specifically looking for someone who’d rather work part-time. Others have mentioned a lot of core demographics for that – another idea I have is looking for freelancers who might want something PT that provides a steady paycheck to supplement a more unstable income. Don’t know how feasible that is – it’s just a thought.

      As far as the number of hours goes… hmm. Assuming that there’s the work, I think that how many hours they’d like to work depends a lot on the individual circumstances. For some people, 30 hours will be enough to make ends meet, especially if they have health insurance through someone else, and they enjoy having that extra free time enough to give up the extra pay. For others, 30 hours can actually be terrible – for example, a lot of PT jobs seem to want 25-30 hours a week, which makes it difficult to have two jobs. It depends.

      IMO, what’s actually likely to affect your retention rate more than the number of hours is the pay and benefits. If you’re paying above average for the position and offering even just some PTO, I think you’re going to find better candidates in general and candidates who are more likely to be willing to stick around.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot

        I was just about to suggest freelancers!

        – a freelancer with a FT day job, dreaming of the perfect 25-30 hour part-time position

    4. Chriama

      I would say number of hours depends on the work. Someone shouldn’t feel like they don’t have enough time in the week to do all the work they need to do or like they spend their whole day trying to stay on top of a never-ending pile of time sensitive tasks, but you shouldn’t be paying them to surf the internet for an hour a day either. Overall, if you’re flexible on what you can offer and screen for the right kind of candidate you’ll be better off.

    5. Clever Name

      Do you offer benefits to full time employees? Is there a reason why you couldn’t offer pro-rated benefits to part time employees? My company offers benefits to part timers who are salaried. It’s a very small company, but we get benefits through our trade group. There is a minimum threshold of hours worked, though. I’m not sure if it’s 30 hours or what. Employee retention is quite high.

      1. Chriama

        Pro-rated benefits would be nice if you can afford it, and it might not be that hard if you think creatively. Here in Canada, part time employees get additional an 4% in every paycheque because they don’t get paid vacation days (I think 2 weeks vacation might be a legal minimum though). And if you can’t offer a reasonably priced health insurance plan because of the employer premiums, then providing a HDHP or even contributing a small % of their pay to an HSA would be attractive.

  17. Chriama

    I think it’s a lot harder for an employer to deal with an employee who doesn’t have a firm(ish) date. If you’re moving away or going to grad school, the employer knows when you’ll be gone. They can start building a pipeline now, advertise a job with a start date of 6 months down the road, or, assuming they can accurately predict how long it would take to find a replacement, wait until they have the appropriate lead time and then begin advertising the position.

    If an employee wants to leave but you don’t know if it’ll be 1 week or 6 months, that makes it hard to plan. Especially since it sounds like this is a new employee (not finished training in all processes), you kind of want to either cut your losses as soon as possible or get them to commit to a minimum time period that makes it worth your while to bother training them.

    Therefore, what is the correct thing to do if an employee doesn’t have a timeline? Do you force them to commit to a schedule that works for you, or do you just ask them to be considerate when giving you their notice? If they hadn’t told you anything you could have been left with just 2 weeks or less of notice, but once you have that information shouldn’t you act on it?

    1. Retail Lifer

      Honestly, if I found a replacement before the other employee had found something, I’d gradually start shifting the old employee’s hours over to the new one’s. It’s great that all this notice was given, but at the end of the day you have to run your business and make sure you’re properly staffed. I wouldn’t completely screw over the old employee given how considerate they were, but you can’t wait and wait for them to leave and then just cross your fingers that the right person will come along at exactly the time they give their notice.

      1. Chriama

        From your username it sounds like you’re in retail. Would you do something different in an office environment?

        1. Retail Lifer

          I doubt this would work in an office environment. The needs in retail are ever-changing anyway but I assume they’re pretty steady in an office.

  18. Umvue

    My previous job was part-time, which was perfect when I was hired, but my circumstances changed. I would’ve been happy to stay if I could’ve gotten more hours, so I brought it up in my annual review: “I think I’ve done well overall, but could be making more progress on X if I were full-time.” I pitched it this way for a couple of reasons: I didn’t want to come across as though I was making an ultimatum, and I thought I’d have a better chance of getting what I needed if I cast it in terms of what I could bring to the organization. I had imagined that the subtext here would be obvious to my boss — my skillset is reasonably in-demand these days, so there are always other options for people in my role — but it wasn’t. Noncommital positive noises were made, but the financial picture for my org took a turn for the worse a couple months later, so at that point I started sending out resumes, and gave my notice not long after (three months and change after asking for more hours). I was surprised at how surprised my boss was to hear I was leaving. The last weeks on the job were very uncomfortable. For reasons I don’t want to get into here, I probably wouldn’t have done things differently regardless in this specific case, but it did leave me wondering what the proper protocol is generally in a situation like this one.

    1. Chriama

      It kind of depends. Did you leave because your org’s financial state made you worried for your job security or because it made you think you wouldn’t be getting those additional hours? If the first, I don’t think you did anything wrong and your boss shouldn’t have been surprised that you wanted something with more job security. If the second, I think you should have made it clear that you wanted more *paid* hours. Making additional progress in X doesn’t necessarily bring value to the organization if X doesn’t directly translate to more profits — especially in tough financial times. However retaining a valuable employee who will leave if she doesn’t get more money, in a situation where paying her more money also means you’re getting more work (even if not profit-producing), is valuable to an employer. So I think you should have presented it as “I need more hours, and this is why you’ll benefit by giving them to me”, rather than as “hey this non-priority work could get done if you paid me more”.

      1. Chriama

        Also: If they can’t (or won’t) give you something you ask for, any reasonable employer should assume that you’ll probably look around to see if anyone else can. Now it could be your request is out of line with the market and so they’re reasonably confident you won’t find what you’re looking for and therefore aren’t likely to leave, but they should expect you to at least look.

        Therefore, every request for more money from an employer is basically an ultimatum unless you make it sound like it’s a ‘nice to have’ but not a deal breaker.

      2. Umvue

        More the latter. I had the feeling that the noncommital positive noises were a form of stalling; I knew she was asking her own boss for another big expense at the same time, so I suspected she didn’t want to put this request first (and honestly, that was the right call), but also didn’t want to say no outright. And I couldn’t figure why that would be unless she knew that saying no outright would mean I’d start looking for other jobs. Which is why I was so flummoxed by her surprise!

        Of course, since I left, the financial picture for the org has taken a further nosedive and it’s very possible I would be looking at a layoff had I stayed — so I’m feeling pretty good about my choice. In any case, if something analogous happens in the future I’ll remember to try to be a hair more direct.

        1. Chriama

          I understand your reasoning, but it’s also possible that she didn’t want to say no because she was still planning to eventually make the request, and she wasn’t aware you had a deadline. If she thought your current hours weren’t a deal breaker, then she probably didn’t think it mattered if you only got those additional hours in 6 months or a year.

      3. random person

        Do you have a flexible schedule (for the employee, not just you)? Can she say “I can’t work my usual T/Th this week, I’d like to make it up Th/F or M/T/Th next week”? If yes, I think that’s ok. If not, that’s overly harsh. I’m a part time worker (32 hours a week, regular, inflexible schedule, and only benefit is PTO – I accrue about a day a month). If I weren’t allowed to take a day off or switch my schedule for personal reasons for a whole year just for a 2 day a week job with no benefits, and had to miss stuff like major family events or take a big pay hit when I was sick as a result, I’d be pretty unhappy.

  19. Retail Lifer

    I’d start looking for a new part-time person now, with the understanding that they’d only be working a few hours a week until the other person leaves. In retail, someone is always on the verge of quitting so I pretty much always have to hire like this.

  20. Student

    What do you do when the employee does this and then just doesn’t ever leave? Do you push them out after a point, or do you reach a point where you just decide this is “noise” and go back to acting like the person is an employee for the foreseeable future?

    We’ve got one employee who’s been doing this for over a year.

  21. Original Poster

    The comments about prorated benefits have led me to consider this as a potential option. As far as PTO goes, my current policy (lame as it may be) is to start earning PTO after 1 year of employment. I don’t have a problem allowing unpaid time off (e.g. illness, etc.), but my policy is to wait 1 year until receiving PTO. Do you view this as an unreasonable policy?

    1. Zillah

      If by unreasonable you mean uncommon, no. I’ve seen that policy at places before.

      But if by unreasonable you mean not really a great way to treat employees and pretty unlikely to help you retain employees – yes. I think it’s quite unreasonable, particularly if they can’t have even been accruing PTO during that first year (can’t tell from your post).

      Having some length of time before they can take PTO isn’t draconian, but an entire year? Yeah, that’s pretty harsh. You’re essentially telling them that for their first year of employment with you, it sucks to be them if they get sick and you don’t value them enough to give them vacation. You don’t have their backs, so why should they give you loyalty in return?

      OP, I think in terms of that policy, you really need to ask yourself two things.

      1) Would you want to work in a place with those restrictions?

      2) How much will it truly cost you to relax those restrictions and show your employees that you’re invested in their happiness and well-being?

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        I work for a very small business, and new people who start are eligible for PTO immediately. We have 10 vacation days per year that reset in January, and the days are prorated if someone starts later in the year, so when I started in October. I had 2.5 days that I was free to use immediately. That seemed fair to me.

        A whole year of nothing seems draconian, and I don’t know if a lot of people whole be able to make it.

    2. Retail Lifer

      Do your part-time employees earn PTO? If so, that’s rare. Given that you probably have higher turnover with your part-time staff than full-time staff, I think that’s fair. They probably wouldn’t be getting anything better from your competitors.

    3. random person

      Do you have a flexible schedule (for the employee, not just you)? Can she say “I can’t work my usual T/Th this week, I’d like to make it up Th/F or M/T/Th next week”? If yes, I think that’s ok. If not, that’s overly harsh. I’m a part time worker (32 hours a week, regular, inflexible schedule, and only benefit is PTO – I accrue about a day a month). If I weren’t allowed to take a day off or switch my schedule for personal reasons for a whole year just for a 2 day a week job with no benefits, and had to miss stuff like major family events or take a big pay hit when I was sick as a result, I’d be pretty unhappy.

    4. Chriama

      It’s not uncommon, but it’s not quite kind for full time employees. For part time employees offering a flexible schedule is a reasonable alternative, especially if they can make up their hours in a different week (so if they’re sick one week they can still earn the same amount of money in the month). And if you’re offering both a flexible schedule and pto after a year for part timers then that’s actually very generous.

  22. Fiona

    “Second, keep in mind that other employees will be watching to see how you handle this, and may choose how much notice they themselves give based on how you handle this with her. Treat her well, and you can expect other people to give you generous notice. But push her out, and others may assume that they should never give more than two weeks.”

    I have a friend who worked at a private school. Two years ago she found a new job, but made the starting date a few weeks after the school year ended. She then let the school know so they could begin looking for a replacement. They cancelled her health insurance at the end of the school year even though the employee contracts ran thru the end of summer. Now they wonder why nobody gives any advance notice…

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