my boss may be insinuating I was fired

A reader writes:

I recently accepted a job in a different division of my company, and so I resigned my current position with a decent amount of notice, at a time when our department is going through substantial transition (both supervisor and super’s supervisor got promotions out).

Supervisor and boss are only allowing me to tell a few people they approve of first, and are delivering news of my departure to most people in meetings that I’m not a part of. It’s to the point that I am unable to wrap up certain projects because they don’t want me to inform partners of my end date, and are taking on the work themselves.

A colleague who was told just connected with me and said a few things that make me wonder if my supervisor and boss are insinuating the departure was mutual. The colleague said something like, “Oh, yeah, people have different skill sets” and “at least you get to stay at the company.”

I am concerned about my reputation in the company if people think I am being forced out. Last year someone in our office was forced out this way, and another quit but everyone assumed firing, and she was similarly not allowed to announce.

Should I address it with my supervisor directly? It’s possible I’m over-interpreting this colleague’s response, as I believe he has been shuffled a bit, and he may have incorrectly assumed. But when it’s all hush-hush, of course people will speculate!

Yep, talk to your boss and find out what’s going on.

It’s certainly possible that you did misinterpret what your coworker meant, or that she misunderstood what she was told. You could go back to her and say something like this: “Hey, your comments the other day made me wonder what you were told about the terms of my moving to the X division.  You talked about it in a way that almost sounded like someone had implied to you that I’d been pushed out, and that definitely wasn’t the case — I sought out the other job and resigned this one.. Is your sense that there might be a misunderstanding about that?”

But even if that was just a misunderstanding, it’s not cool that your boss is muzzling you when it comes to letting other people know you’re leaving. It’s generally reasonable to give your employer a few days for something like that (because they may want to handle things in a way designed to minimize drama) … but this feels fishy, and it’s worth pushing back.

Say something like this to your boss: “Can we talk about the messaging around my move to the X division? I talked to at least one person who thought I’d been pushed out, so obviously I want to correct the record. I was fine with giving you a couple of days to tell key people, but at this point I need to be able to talk about it with people I’m working with so that I don’t end up looking like I left them in the lurch, and I also want to make sure there aren’t rumors going around. So I’m planning to announce the move on Monday.”

Alternately, if you find your boss generally untrustworthy and think she really may be deliberately misleading people about the situation, you might be better off not giving her this heads-up and just going ahead and sharing the news with people yourself (and if called out on it, say that you assumed since so much time had gone by that it was fine to talk about it). I don’t always agree with the idea that it’s better to ask forgiveness after the fact than permission beforehand, but in this case I think it applies.

{ 42 comments… read them below }

  1. Hilary Faye*

    Is it common to have to resign and give notice when you’re changing jobs internally? I’ve never encountered that but don’t have a ton of experience with internal transfers.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I haven’t heard of that before… At the jobs I’ve had, when coworkers moved departments, it was just a transfer (we knew it was happening in advance, and they just chose some Monday and moved desks).

    2. Anonymous library person*

      I have had to do this. I got a transfer/promotion from one library department to another in the same library and had to resign and give a month’s notice.

      1. Ama*

        I changed divisions at a university (went from a central admin department to a particular grad school) and I had to resign and set an official end date about two weeks out as well.

        1. Justme*

          Same, at a University. Not when I moved within a department but did when I moved to a different department.

      2. AnotherLibraryPerson*

        Me too! Also at a library. I transferred from one branch to another and had to give an official two weeks at my old branch and everything.

      3. Fortitude Jones*

        I had to do this at my current company after accepting a promotion into another division, but I didn’t know I had to do this (no one informed me). I thought HR would let my former manager know the new division hired me since HR alerted her to my getting an interview in the first place (and our internal postings policy says HR would be communicating these decisions). Well, HR did not, and the hiring manager for my current job ended up contacting my former boss about my transfer date – only former boss knew nothing about it. It was a huge mess.

    3. Knitty*

      Yeah at my job you’d resign one location and give notice of what you’re last day there would be before starting the new one.

    4. Cookie*

      In my old office, you’d still be responsible for all your old cases while getting new ones until your replacement in the old dept was hired so you could transfer them. Even then, if the case was close to resolution you’d just keep it.

    5. OP*

      I was surprised I had to submit a resignation letter, but this is apparently pretty normal at my company (at least 10,000 employees). Although I’m not sure what my term code is in the HR system, true transfers seem sort of rare here. I was approached about the job before a posting was made, but if a direct transfer was a possibility it didn’t register with me fully (also timing was terrible at previous office). It turned into an official posting to which I applied against other candidates, and at that point you can’t just quick transfer over.

      As for notice, I definitely needed to provide at least the standard two weeks–I hopped over to a completely different division and am handling completely different projects, so it was effectively like I was quitting for the old office. To transition I really did need all that time.

      1. MoinMoin*

        Not to get too off topic, but may I ask if your benefits start over? Like 401k vestment or if your company gives X weeks PTO and X+1 weeks PTO after being employed 2 years, are you starting as a new employee?

        On a different note, given how they handle transfers, I’d think you now have a new boss who would want you making the announcement that you’ve moved departments and are no longer available for projects in your other department. “Quitting” and being hired to another department seems like if they’re delineating time with each department so strictly, it’d be the same case for projects.

        Anyways, good luck!

        1. sunny-dee*

          I was wondering the same thing. I negotiated the day that I would move from one role to another, but I didn’t resign my job. I just told OldManager that I had a new job and we worked out the day for me to transition over. At my company, PTO (and a few other benefits) is directly tied to years of service, so if I had to “resign” before I could transfer, I’d lose, like, 5 PTO days. But I’m 18 months away from a PTO increase, and if I had to resign, it would take 5 years to get where I am today and another 5 years to get where I will be. (I’ve been at the company for 8 years, and we get a bump in PTO and benefits every 5 years of service.) That would be a loss of I think 14 days in PTO, which would SUCK.

        2. OP*

          Thanks! Everything transferred over because there was no break in service (and because of some other minutia about the type of job I hold here).

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            If this gets weird, I’d maybe let a few of your trusted coworkers see your resignation letter, just in case. ‘Cause you know the old “they told two friends and then they told two friends” and your reputation would be in tact and those supervisors would look silly. If anyone confronted you on it, you could just be like “oh, i think i had it sitting on my desk one day when bob stopped by”.

          2. Fortitude Jones*

            That’s how my company does it, OP. You would never lose vacation time or other benefits for an internal transfer (which is really not a transfer, but a brand new hire since you have to apply for a posting and interview to move out).

        3. the gold digger*

          I worked for two F100 companies and transferred between and within divisions for each one. It never even occurred to me to question whether my vacation, health insurance, or pension (oh defined-benefit pension, how I miss you) would go with me. And they did.

          A few years ago, I worked for a very small non-profit. I moved from the head company to a subsidiary – and the CEO of the subsidiary (the one whom the board fired last year! I am still so happy!) – refused to accept my accrued vacation. What a jerk. I quit eight months later.

      2. NW Mossy*

        I think this is more common when you switch divisions in a big company. At least in mine, each division is technically a company in itself, and all are entities under the larger corporate umbrella. Those that switch divisions “terminate” at Entity A and “hire” at Entity B, but there’s service continuity between all entities.

    6. TheCupcakeCounter*

      I think it depends. For internal moves within the same general area (different position with the Finance umbrella) it was usually with all the bosses involved so no official resignation. However if someone moved from finance to operations then it was a bit more like a traditional resignation and notice period.

    7. turquoisecow*

      I went from working in a retail environment to working in the corporate office of the same company. After I had accepted the offer and it was confirmed, the HR guy I was communicating with told me he’d take care of talking to my store manager, who then passed on the message to the department manager. Almost everyone at the store knew by the time I went to work the next day. I didn’t have to do anything.

      Also, when I’ve seen people transfer internally in the same company, I think some people informed present boss if they were applying for a transfer or promotion in another department, but I don’t know if everyone did. One of my coworkers did, although she didn’t get the job. One of my coworkers made the jump successfully, and I don’t even remember there being much of a transition period. It was more like “Oh, Jane’s got a job in Other Department,” and then a day or two later (if that), Jane had moved her stuff to a new desk. We weren’t close, so I don’t know if she told her Old Boss that she was applying for the new job or not. There wasn’t a lot of work for her to hand off or anything; maybe if there had been the transition would have taken longer.

  2. LawCat*

    I had to when I switched teams at my last job. It set off some managerial turf wars in which I was a pawn. Former manager just could not get over it. It was one of the reasons I started looking for a new job elsewhere last year (and got one.)

      1. LawCat*

        Because she was a terrible manager and a control freak. She did a lot of snotty and underhanded stuff. When she became acting Big Boss, I started looking.

  3. neverjaunty*

    When your supervisor and boss are taking on additional work in order to keep you from talking to people who would have to do that work, something is not on the up-and-up. Maybe they think your voluntarily leaving makes them look bad? Or there is some benefit they’ll lose if their bosses know you will no longer be there after a given date?

    I think the rumor is a good entree into telling them you’re done playing along: “I’m now starting to hear rumors that I was fired or let go. Of course you can understand that it puts me in an untenable position to have to say nothing and let speculation happen – so now that you’ve had the opportunity to let the appropriate folks know first I’ll be explaining to people that I’m transferring.”

    1. OP*

      Yeah, my guess is it’s a part of impression management. The old office is a politically charged one for a few reasons, and if they are allowing or leading people to think the departure was mutual, it’s all about being able to spin the story. Not the most transparent place I’ve ever worked, to say the least. They even do this with more neutral information, and I think they have absolutely no idea how much of an effect it has on overall morale, and how more neutral things start to look really shady from the outside.

      1. 2 Cents*

        You also said the supervisor and supervisor’s supervisor recently transferred out of the department. Now you’re leaving. Maybe it’s the optics of “three long-time employees are fleeing this division” or something.

        (Slightly related: When I left OldJob, my other two coworkers who’d been furiously job hunting left in the next two months. Yeah, that didn’t look good for my old (micro) manager.)

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Ha. Yeah, the department at Old Job had MORE than 100% turnover in the 10 months I was there. Manager was a micromanager with a compliance-type job, which she was 100% cut out for. But she definitely is NOT meant to manage people. Every person who left was asked in their exit interview if there were any issues with the manager. Most of them said nothing, of course. One would think that senior management would have taken a look at the manager after having so much turnover, but not so. She’s still there and she’s had even more turnover.

          1. Artemesia*

            The biggest flaw in American business management is the failure to manage managers and hold them accountable for effectively managing people. It is so costly to companies when bad management results in turnover like this, but rarely are managers evaluated for their management of people.

      2. Sas*

        Well, it’s good you found another position. Bad that all of this is going on. Good thoughts jaunty!

  4. OP*

    OP here–at this point I’ve been at the new job for a week and I’ve told a few more key people I used to work with, off the record, so they have a heads-up but don’t fly into my old office asking questions. I’ve had to sit silently on emails and wait for others to reply, and I’ve had to apologize to a few people who found out that I couldn’t tell, both of which don’t make too much sense to me now that I’m in my new position.

    Alison, thanks so much for the advice. I guess I’m going with your more rogue plan! I really don’t want to burn a bridge or put them in a bad place, but at this point people really do have to know (so they don’t think I’m ignoring them, for one).

    I get the sense that there are significant changes coming to that old office on top of what’s already happened (all based on hints from people outside our office, very little directly from leadership), so this may be part of why they’re being so quiet–they don’t want to seem like everything is piling up and there’s no stability. The secrecy still doesn’t make much sense to me.

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      It makes zero sense for you not to discuss your transition… When it’s already done?!? You should be able to focus on your new position without this side track.

      1. "Computer Science"*

        Especially at this point- if the OP IS comfortably in your new job, what standing do these old managers have to dictate how OP responds to these old clients?

  5. AnotherHRPro*

    OP – I think it is completely reasonable for you to take ownership of your story here. It was fine to give your managers a few days to talk to whoever they wanted, but after that you can discuss your career, job and move with anyone you want. Glad you got out of what sounds like an unhealthy department.

  6. Mena*

    I can only wonder if your boss thinks that your departure is in some way a negative reflection of him or her … you are leaving this role for something else within the company, and is trying to somehow save face .. ?? You’ve given notice and notified your supervisor … time for YOU to share the news with colleagues.

  7. Annonymouse*

    Yeah, reminds me of what happened at last (toxic) job.

    You should definitely take Alison’s advice and be in control of your own story and reputation.

    It was at Teapot Sports Club where I was in charge of the children’s programs as well as all the office admin. (Children made up 75% of our members)

    When I gave notice bad boss refused to let me tell anyone I was leaving. Not children or their families, not an email to our most important contacts, no one.

    Partly because he was a control freak, partly because of his ego (I was the first person who left voluntarily instead of being fired or forced out) and the other part is he was scared the children would leave if I told them I was leaving – instead of, you know, keeping them informed and letting them have time to adjust to the changes.

    I was told I could drop by occasionally or help out with some children’s sessions and I did 3 months later.

    The amount of people who asked “how my holiday was” was insane.

    I had to kindly inform them that I was no longer working there because my health did not permit it (it’s not polite to add “and because boss is a raging assh*le”.) But I might drop in from time to time to see everyone and help out.

    Boss did not like that and sent me a text later on.

    But I was annoyed as it was my reputation out there and having to deal with families saying “child really misses you” and “why didn’t you say “goodbye” before leaving?”

    1. Annonymouse*

      Oh I forgot to add my health not permitting was due to me damaging my knees at work while running a session – twice for each knee over 4 years.

      Pain so bad I had to ice them twice a day but was still expected to coach instead of doing admin duties instead.

      No workers comp.

      My knees are much better now and if no comp is the price to pay to never have to be in contact with him again, I’ll pay it.

  8. Werecritter*

    Something similar happened to me. I got a major promotion to the department everyone wanted to be in. Think 30% raise type promotion.

    My old managers who I did not get along with asked me to keep it hush as well to the point where they asked me to not answer emails.

    I ran into a friend in the gym at work a few weeks later and she was shocked and stated she had been told I was fired! I immediately reached out to key folks and let them know about the promotion. Folks were surprised but happy for me. My old boss huffed and puffed some but she couldn’t do anything.

  9. EB*

    I so agree with Allison’s advice and that final quote , “It’s better to ask forgiveness after the fact than permission beforehand.” I think that quote’s principal can be used and abused in many so many ways, I almost really hate it. 99.9% of the time it’s for purely self-serving ways. However, .1% it applies so perfectly – and this is one of those situations.

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