update: how to say “I’ll quit over this”

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer asking about how to tell his employer “I’ll quit over this”? Here’s the update.

To the commenters who asked, yes I left the letter intentionally vague for two reasons. A) For anonymity and B) To keep the discussion away from the questions of ‘is this a warranted reaction’. Apologies I was not able to participate when the letter went up, I very much wanted to but could not.

Things took a weird turn and then slowly started to crumble. Shortly after I sent this letter, we paused our pursuit as some positions in management changed again, and we wanted to give them a chance. When things continued to get worse, we resumed trying to address our issues. I felt prepared to resign after reading the advice, but things didn’t go as expected.

One of our outspoken group was “asked” to resign in a – to put it nicely – very unfriendly manner, effective immediately. There was yelling involved. It was a big hit to morale to lose him across multiple departments, and especially painful without any notice period. He had a lot of important, highly visible and specialized work on his plate. Him being friends with many people in the company, word got around about what happened very quickly. We gave up pursuing the issues at that point, because it was obvious it would happen to us as well.

Immediately after that happened, our new boss pulled us both individually and directly asked if we were planning to leave (because we were all close friends). In more professional words, we both basically said, “I don’t know. We’ll see.”

They opened a position within a week of him leaving and ~6 months later still haven’t been able to fill it. We were understaffed to begin with. As I mentioned, it’s a competitive market. Their pay/benefits/etc aren’t bad, but it’s also not highly competitive in this area.

His “resignation” happened about mid January. That happened on a Thursday, and by Monday he had 2 job offers on the table, an interview planned, and was expecting another company to contact him. (The power of networking!) He took a week of vacation and then started a new position.

Bonuses got paid about a month later, and that same day another person quit in our department (voluntarily) effective immediately.

Also the new VP quit without notice around the same time, because of problems with his bosses. He’d been here around 2-3 months, and was impressively not hesitant to voice his issues. I’ve heard he told a small number of people he was leaving that day, but it took awhile for most people (self included) to find out about it. There was no announcement or anything, he just vanished one day. He still has not been replaced either.

Our department had an emergency meeting shortly after that, because our (new) boss panicked about quitting without notice becoming the norm. Those of us who remained explained that while we appreciated his assurances and support (and held no ill-will or blame towards him), none of us believed that the company would follow through on it. We’d all seen many patterns of this promise-then-pivot behavior from upper management.

A few people in other departments quit in the following months. A couple managers who were planning to quit got promotions suddenly, so they’re staying around for now. This week (late May) another one in our department quit (with notice).

So now, there are 3 of us left – myself, my friend, and 1 other. The 1 other had always been on another project (and is currently job hunting). My friend had been transferred to a different project months ago, and it happy there. Both of them will refuse to change projects if asked, and given our massive shortage I fully expect their demands will be respected. We all have some major job-security right now and for the foreseeable future.

I’m the only one remaining in our department who works on the company’s largest and most profitable project. There’s supposed to be at least 10… (For anyone concerned for my sanity, all 3 of us help each other whenever possible. I’m not completely isolated.)

I’m thinking about asking for a raise.

In other departments, I know of about six more people currently looking. 3 others are about to have babies in the very immediate future. There’s going to be a lot more shortage pains soon – as predicted.

I’m (probably idiotically) planning to stick around 6 more months before I start job hunting for a few personal/family reasons. We’ll see, that may go out the window at some point.

{ 48 comments… read them below }

  1. Daphne Moon*

    Yikes, you’d think the company would have learned the lesson that you reap what you sow. I get why you’re sticking around but I still think you should at least be keeping an eye out for greener pastures.

  2. Thankful for AAM*

    So sorry for all the craziness there! It does make me appreciate the lower level of craziness here.

  3. Lance*

    Even if you’re not going to actively job hunt yet, I’d make sure to put a few feelers out there all the same; even just information on where you might be able to/want to go and what might open up in the future would be very good to have.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This, plus you don’t know how long a job search will take. You could find something in a month or it might take a year. The sooner you get your ducks in a row and start looking at options, the better.

  4. WomanFromItaly*

    Because your company seems to have serious issues with not keeping their word/firing people, even if you plan to stay 6 months you might want to start actively looking. If you’re the only person left in a 10-person department, it is completely physically impossible for you to do all the work, but totally possible for you to end up as the scapegoat for work not getting done, especially since your company seems actively terrible at the super important skills of “realizing you’re doing stuff wrong” and also “fixing it”. I hope you’re not overlooking you own best interests in favor of the company’s.

    1. Prof. Space Cadet*

      This was my first thought as well. I take the LW at their word that they have good reasons for wanting to stay 6 months, but it sounds like there are enough serious issues here that I wouldn’t take anything for granted.

    2. EEOC Counselor*

      This was written 7 months ago, so hopefully they’re job hunting right now. LW, please update us – hopefully you’ll get a new and better job soon!

  5. A Simple Narwhal*

    Ooh I wonder if there’s another update we could get – it sounds like this update is from May, I wonder where the LW is now.

    1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      The OP says “This week (late May),” so I think you’re right.

      Alison, can you tell us when this update was sent?

  6. Dragoning*

    I’m a bit puzzled as to why you said you would, and could, quit immediately, and now you’re sticking around, being overworked.

    Update us again, OP.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Same here. Usually when you get to the point where you’re ready to walk over issues, one doesn’t tend to stick around long.
      But people also have to make ends meet.

    2. MissM*

      Ditto. There’s a lot of discussion that this update was from May, but it seems a little strange reading now.

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Yes, I’m curious on that to.

      Staying until you’ve got a new job lined up I understand. Not starting the job search for a while is odd.

    4. Sally*

      Maybe there is a strong sense of duty or belief in the mission. I know it’s useless to speculate, but if it were a government department I could see them staying a bit longer to provide services (for example the state department is hemorrhaging people, but she may really believe in the value of international diplomacy)

      1. Helena*

        OP mentions family reasons, so maybe healthcare issues than need to be wrapped up, or getting the kids through high school/some other big event where you don’t want to add the stress of a new job to the mix.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Ah! Ok Insurance FLMA or such would make sense.

          It just read kind of weird because when people say they’re ready to walk, they generally mean, like now, and are prepared to take immediate action.

  7. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    How does the company rationalize losing so many people in such a short time frame? Does no one higher up in the food chain look at the numbers and realize that this is very alarming? I’ve only seen this level of turnover in the food and hospitality sector. My last Toxic job had a turnover rate of 70% in the timeframe I was there. Someone needs to be held accountable.

    1. J.B.*

      I saw it before and had a hard time avoiding laughter when the two worst bosses commiserated with each other “good people get promotions” naah that ain’t it. No one sees their own flaws as manager, and unless someone above sees and pays attention to the pattern, they are more likely to listen to the bad managers that the employees “had attitude” (yes I also heard that).

      1. Sara without an H*

        Ah, yes…many years ago, I had a job in the Library at Toxic State. There were a few people who’d been there for decades, most of whom fought constantly with each other. New hires tended to turn over very, very quickly, and often landed plum positions elsewhere. (Academic libraries often do national or regional searches, since it’s rare to find a large pool of qualified librarians locally.)

        When asked about the turnover among the new hires, the dean’s response was, “We develop young people so they can go on to great careers in other libraries.” The fact that most of the young people had fled screaming and cursing was not mentioned, nor was his own failure to manage.

      2. Berkeleyfarm*

        In one very toxic (because of a very bad manager, who was very good at sucking up and quite skilled at punching down) environment, the “turnover” was certainly noticed. After one particularly stingy departure, we all got pulled into the grandboss’s office to get yelled at “are you planning to leave? do you know someone else who is?”

        It got “solved” by siccing the lawyers on the Well Known Silicon Valley Company who disaffected employees were finding jobs with, claiming “intellectual property” and demanding a no-hire policy. Which was hilarious considering it was local government, but WKSVC agreed. When it came out in the news years later that WKC and some of its tech giant neighbors had a “no hire from each other” collusion pact, I was NOT surprised.

    2. SusanIvanova*

      When my Silicon Valley tech company merged with a Los Angeles company in the 90s we had a round of layoffs and then many people departing, because of mismanagement and it being in the middle of a Silicon Valley boom. Recruiters were circling like vultures.

      It wasn’t booming in LA, which is the only excuse I can think of for the LA-based VP to reply to “What are you going to do about all the people leaving?” with a condescending “Only you can project your job.”

      Another dozen people, out of the remaining 70 or so, sent out their resumes that day.

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      OldJob’s owners mumbled something about “ungrateful people” when more than three left in a row. But they were so cheap they even refused to fix broken stuff because they were about to move to a nearby office.

    4. WS*

      Millennials! Let’s hold them accountable for being, uh, lazy! And entitled! Yeah! That’s definitely the problem and not the terrible working environment.

    5. Alternative Person*

      ‘Couldn’t hack it’ is the go-to I’ve seen the most, without acknowledging the too-high workload, massive understaffing, obtuse mid-level staff, and whatever other toxicity is going on in the company.

    6. What a waste*

      HA. I was the first one on my team to leave following an idiotic restructuring. It’s been a few months, and 70% of the team is now gone. Yes, that’s right, 70% of the team left voluntarily within a few MONTHS. It wasn’t until the 60% mark that the grandboss started paying attention. My old boss was fired, but the damage was already done. It makes me sad, that was a great team.

  8. Anne*

    OP, if you don’t mind me asking, why are you still working there? Why give them six more months? Things have been going from bad to godawful, your job is literally impossible right now, the company sucks and there’s zero reason to suspect it’s going to change. Why do you want to sacrifice yourself to that?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We have to trust OP when they say there are good family reasons–that could be as simple as maintaining eligibility for FMLA or maternity leave, or being a stable long-term income to secure a mortgage.

      1. Anne*

        These are all good reasons not to quit without something else lined up, but not to postpone the search IMO.

        1. MsSolo*

          I understood that if you started a new job you have to wait for eligibility to build up again, which if, say, you’re already pregnant, isn’t really an option.

  9. Duke Flapjack*

    Your company is crumbling around you. I would highly recommend abandoning ship before your executives drag you down with them.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, OP makes the place sound extremely unstable, and job searches usually take longer than anticipated. While it wouldn’t hurt to ask for that raise, OP should probably have an updated resume and LinkedIn profile, then start sniffing around.

      On the upside, it sounds as though most of the OP’s colleagues have come out of this in highly marketable condition, which is encouraging for OP’s future prospects.

  10. AnonyLawyer*

    Why the heck are you still there??? That’s not really a question for you to answer here, just my personal reaction. I hope that whatever you need to take care of that’s keeping you there goes smoothly and that you can transition into a new job quickly when you are ready.

Comments are closed.