update: my boss is handling my resignation badly

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.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss was handling her resignation badly? Here’s the update.

Thank you for your response — as well as to everyone who commented. I found all of the responses to be helpful — they really helped me keep my sanity for the remaining five weeks of my notice period. After I wrote to you, things continued to go downhill with my (now former) boss. This only scratches the tip of the iceberg in terms of how banapants things got during my last few weeks, but gives you enough of the picture I think. :)

During my notice period, I took a week of vacation (pre-planned before I gave notice). When I came back, I discovered my boss had decided — without consulting me — that I was going to lead research for a project I was still managing in a very unstable country that had recently undergone a coup d’état — scheduled the week before I was due to move back to the U.S. for my new job. It will not surprise you that my former company did not have any safety or evacuation protocols in place. I told my boss I was not comfortable going to this country, nor was I willing to travel during the remainder of my notice period.

In response, she gave me the silent treatment and then reported me to HR. During the conversation, the head of HR repeatedly tried to convince me to travel to this country, as well as tried to trap me into badmouthing my boss. I told them that they did not understand the concept of a notice period, which is for wrapping things up and handing things over. After 15 minutes of extremely circular conversation, I told him if we could not find a way forward, my last day would be tomorrow. He immediately backed off and went, “No, no, no, you don’t need to leave tomorrow,” likely because they were so understaffed and desperately needed me to finish the work I had outlined in my handover note.

After this meeting, my boss denied approving my handover note — which she had agreed to the day of my resignation — and stated it had to be a living document. After this particular comment, I added a list of every single task I had completed during my notice period, including links to all documents, to prove that I had, in fact, done quite a bit of work during this time.

After this incident, my boss tried publicly bullying me, stating that I had intentionally slowed down the timeline on the aforementioned project to avoid travelling. When this did not work, she gave me the silent treatment for a week and only communicated to me through her assistant, which I honestly preferred. She changed her tune and started being “nice” to me when someone else on our team made her angry a few days later. After this, I more or less checked out of work, as I figured she was going to badmouth me even if I worked 60 hours a week, and I preferred to start my new job rested.

They did try to short my last paycheck by about $1,000. Luckily I kept detailed records of everything related to my remaining PTO days and confirmation from HR of my official last day. I did actually receive my last full two months salary (my former company paid every other month — another red flag).

I have been at my new job for about four months, and it has been a really nice change. My work-life balance is much better and I actually look forward to opening my laptop now. The work is challenging and fast paced (I work in the humanitarian / development field) but my new boss is very supportive, and the team I work with is really great. I am actually learning things and feel like I’m making an impact, versus managing someone’s insanity on a day to day basis. I am still in touch with a couple of people at my old company who have said things have continued to go downhill since I left — several people exited after my departure as well. When I think back on it, I can’t believe I stayed in that situation for as long as I did. My old boss has reached out a couple of times since I left and I haven’t replied.

Thank you all again for your great comments and advice. I used a lot of it during my last month at my job and it was incredibly helpful to keeping both my sanity and energy intact.

{ 86 comments… read them below }

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Seriously! I really wasn’t expecting it to go in the “try to ship the OP off to a dangerous and unstable regime where her safety was in serious doubt” direction. There’s taking things badly and then there’s trying to get your employee killed!

  1. Goldenrod*

    OH MY GOD. This is all completely batshit crazy, but I think my “favorite” part is that HR tried to pressure/bully you in traveling to a dangerous location. What leverage did they think they had, exactly?? I already think very badly of HR in general, and stories like this do NOT help.

    I think you were incredibly gracious (also: savvy) in the way you handled all of this, and should be very proud of how you conducted yourself. Your boss, on the other hand, is an assclown.

    So happy you got out of there!!

    1. king of the pond*

      “What leverage did they think they had, exactly??”
      Literally! What are they going to do, fire you?!

      1. Observer*


        Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

        Talk about wishful thinking! It’s stupid enough when someone has already given notice. It’s even stupider when you are desperate for the person to serve their entire notice!

        The OP held all the cards, and HR tried to play as though the company had them all.

        1. Czhorat*

          “If we can’t agree, my last day will be tomorrow” is the kind of escalation that usually isn’t appropriate, but in a case like this ABSOLUTELY what needed to be done to hit the brakes.

          As OP said, the notice period is to wind things down and hand them off to other staff, not to pretend you’re still a full-time engaged worker for another two (or – ulp! – 9) weeks.

          1. stratospherica*

            Maybe I’m just petty, but given the length of the notice period, any kind of slight would have me offering (threatening) to move my last day up to the following or same day, especially if I’ve already served the standard two weeks.

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        “We’re going to withhold a good reference” or “this is going to go on your permanent record” vibes right there!

        I’m also befuddled with companies think they have the power.

      3. goddessoftransitory*


        “I’m resigning as of Date X.”

        “Well, just for that, we’re sending you to Dangerous Country!”

        “Okay, let’s go over what resign means.”

    2. Antilles*

      Even more wild is that the travel was going to occur a week before OP was going to move internationally for the new job. Even without the safety concerns, that’s still something that I can’t imagine doing for the job I’m departing.

      It also seems incredibly risky from a PM standpoint to make an employee who’s about to take a job in a different country the lead researcher on a project that requires international travel. What if my field notes are unclear, incomplete or I forget to leave copies? If I still work for the company, it’s a (relatively) easy fix to just get me to address it but when OP is no longer working there moved to a different country? That information is just flat out g-o-n-e gone.

      1. ariel*

        100%! “I’m too busy running around throwing out random paper clips so I don’t move internationally with them, I can’t go anywhere!”

      2. Festively Dressed Earl*

        Given the rest of the details about this company, I wouldn’t put it past them to hope that OP would be stranded in a war zone and then just keep working until they forgot about the new job. For free, of course.

      3. Orv*

        Depending on the country, having their stamp in OP’s passport might have even made it hard to travel internationally afterward.

      4. OP*

        I saw them do this to numerous people before they left to squeeze as much work as possible out of them. It was always an absolute disaster that involved those who took over projects reaching out desperately asking former colleagues for information or to do additional work after they left. It is a terrible management strategy but given how much staff constantly changed, few people ever stayed long enough to fully see projects through.

    3. Phryne*

      “I already think very badly of HR in general”
      The thing about HR is, you hardly ever hear the stories of how things went well… If everything is running smoothly in the HR department, they tend to be invisible or very boring at best. So there is probably some skewing in perception there.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        This is true of a lot of jobs. As a translator I need to write in a way that would come naturally to native English speakers while making sure all the points in the source text are covered. A common mistake is to stick too closely to the source text, making it hard to read. People only notice that it’s a translation when it’s badly done.
        I always say it’s like housework. You never notice except when it’s not done, or done badly.

      2. Wah*

        If no news is being heard, it’s called “doing their job” and not necessarily showing excellency. The egragious problem with HR is how much they can fvck with people’s lives with how little usefulness or good they actually are capable of doing. In the sense that regardless of the industry, the average worker is most often doing something to move the industry along. And the sole purpose of HR is to manage people but they can’t so it correctly.

        1. OP*

          I didn’t include it in my response above, but it was also obvious that my former boss was listening in on the call, which was 100% not okay.

  2. Procedure Publisher*

    Just wow. Glad you are in a better place and can hear about the situation at your old job.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Louder for the people whose ears are ringing from the HR threats.
      You get paid every 2 months?
      Yeah, wait right there.

    2. Ess Ess*

      Agreed! I’m so glad there is a state law where I work that employers must pay at least semi-monthly so they have to pay out at least twice a month.

    3. OMG, Bees!*

      Yeah, that had me verbally whisper an expletive, it was so shocking. And I have even worked at a badly managed company where I had to hold onto paychecks for a couple months due to all employee checks going thru the owner’s personal checking account.

  3. Seeking Second Childhood*

    so OP you had 2 bad employers in a row. The first one didn’t pay regularly which made the bananapants boss at the 2nd one seem bearable.

    I hope your luck has changed and you thrive in your new role! You deserve some normality after all that.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      I read it as LW’s “former company” had both Bananas Boss and the bimonthly paychecks. And I didn’t think the LW’s former position could get any more bananas until I got to the part about the paychecks. Definitely the banana suspenders that hold up the banana pants.

  4. Observer*

    my former company paid every other month — another red flag).

    In the US, that’s illegal. In other words, another sign that you made the only reasonable decision to get out.

    I don’t know why that’s catching my eye even more than all of the other crazy stuff?

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      It IS a workplace advice blog so there are plenty of crappy bosses and incompetent HR to go around. I think the bimonthy paychecks are a brand new WTF for everyone.

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Probably because its, as you said, illegal. The rest of it is otherwise bananapants ensemble, but technically “legal” (most likely, in most places).

    3. Ess Ess*

      I looked this up and it states there is no federal requirement for length of payroll time. However some states have laws requiring shorter pay cycles.

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        Just from a dim memory, I want to say that some state positions pay monthly while the state laws say that private employers have to pay every two weeks or twice a month. But I can’t remember which state(s) do that.

    4. M2RB*

      It sounds like the LW was not working in the US so US federal and state laws would not apply.

      When I came back, I discovered my boss had decided — without consulting me — that I was going to lead research for a project I was still managing in a very unstable country that had recently undergone a coup d’état — scheduled the week before I was due to move back to the U.S. for my new job. – emphasis mine.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Yeah, my impression is that this was legal in the country where the banana pants job was located, though that still doesn’t justify it from a respecting employees perspective.

        1. OP*

          I have actually looked at the laws governing payment in the country where the company is domiciled and they stipulate payment has to be made once a month, so it is illegal.

  5. Curious*

    Could someone please explain what is a handover note?
    Also, in the context of the letter, what is a living document?

    1. Watry*

      A handover note details the tasks the departing employee is doing to make their departure easier on others, as well as the statuses on any ongoing tasks/projects/clients/etc.

      A living document is one that can be changed.

      1. Antilles*

        Indeed. So when you combine them, the result is basically this chain of events:
        1.) OP prepared a list of tasks saying I’m going to do A and B before leaving because that’s a reasonable list of stuff.
        2.) Boss initially agreed to the list, that yes these are the priorities.
        3.) Boss later backtracks claiming that it’s not a set-in-stone list so I can totally also add C and D and E to that list and I’m expecting you to get it all done.

        1. OP*

          Yes, that was exactly my boss’ strategy. It’s also why I linked to every single thing I produced since I had given notice – they withheld payment from another coworker who had left a couple months before me until they gave HR a document of everything they had done during their notice period.

    2. SereneScientist*

      To layer on to Watry’s answer, a living document (sometimes also called an evergreen document) is intended to be refreshed regularly with new information, rather than being a static guide or process doc. In the context of this letter though, it’s a bit insane because the LW is leaving and won’t be adding or changing anything, therefore, the handover document being a living one makes no sense actually.

      1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out!*

        It would make sense if it were “Even though I agreed at the time to A, B, C, and D, I realized later that I would prefer A, C, E, and F.”
        But what LW’s ex-boss tried to say was “You need to do add E, F, and G to that list without removing anything, OR ELSE!”

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          But in this case the response would be – Or else? Friday is now my last day.

          Employers who threaten an Or ELSE to an employee that has already handed in their notice is playing with fire.

          (One place I worked and left amicably – I was moving out of state – I started joking in the last two week. What are you going to do – fire me? My boss did not really appreciate it. I thought it was pretty funny.)

  6. Bookworm*

    Dang, OP. That was a ride of a letter and I’m so glad you’re out of there!! Thanks for updating us. O_O

  7. Sara without an H*

    LW, you handled this superbly. Congratulations, and I hope your new job continues to be satisfying and enjoyable!

  8. MissGirl*

    Controlling people go batcrap crazy when the people they control realize they don’t have to be controlled anymore.

  9. Ophelia*

    Wowza, OP – I also work in this field, and IMO it’s a pretty unbreakable rule that you don’t send someone to an unstable place unless they are absolutely comfortable going! I’m glad you are somewhere else now, and hope the better balance at the new job continues. (And I will admit I’m totally curious about where you were before! Bananapants indeed!)

        1. Vi*

          I feel like it’s unfair to add an entry at the last minute but that Coup d’Etat Boss should definitely get an honorable mention, or get grandfathered into next year.
          (My gosh! I can’t get over it! Coup d’Etat Boss as in, we are talking about a literal coup and not a corporate restructuring or whatever. An actual coup.)

          1. Vi*

            Truly I hope Coup d’Etat Boss will eventually be added to the lexicon like Cheap Ass Rolls, Guacamole Bob, etc.

  10. BellyButton*

    I am so glad OP was able to get out. We often normalize whatever environment we are in and don’t realize just how bad it really was until we are out of there and can gain a little perspective.

  11. MassMatt*

    Wow, so much crazy with this employer, I thought I remembered it but more craziness was unearthed when I reread the letter. “not accepting” resignations, going months without pay, public bullying? Honestly, while childish, the manager’s “silent treatment” was probably a blessing in disguise. I’m amazed this place has any employees at all! Congratulations of getting out.

    1. Princess Sparklepony*

      I might have resigned in fish.

      I don’t know if it was here or not but there was a listing of ways that people quit. One person in either a supermarket or a fishmongers spelled out I quit in a display case with fish. I quite like leaving like that. I’d never have the nerve though and I’ve never worked in a place with fish… Spelling it out in office supplies doesn’t seem quite as dramatic.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, it’s odd. That said, the LW was quitting this job to return to the US, payroll laws are different elsewhere.

  12. Anonymouse*

    Who did they send to the unstable country?

    Was it your boss?

    Was it HR?

    Was it the former Special Forces guy who took your place?

    1. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      My money is on they realized that nobody actually HAD to go to the unstable country once the person they wanted to punish declined to go.

          1. OP*

            They decided no one needed to go in the end! It was too short notice for the clients timeline and we already had people based locally to do research anyway.

            1. OP*

              Though they initially told me I needed to think of a back up plan to send someone in my place. I didn’t respond to that and as a result, no one went!

  13. JaneDough(not)*

    “After 15 minutes of extremely circular conversation, I told him if we could not find a way forward, my last day would be tomorrow.” LW, you’re brilliant. And, thank you for teaching me an effective way to get a conversation back on track, and for reminding me to think about who actually has the power in a given situation.

    So sorry you had to put up with craziness for so long; so glad that you’re now in a good environment.

      1. Princess Sparklepony*

        (insert GIF of Waiting to Exhale, Angela Basset setting cheating husband’s car with all his clothes in it on fire and walking away.) Best fire revenge scene I can think of.

  14. Project maniac-ger*

    1. Forcing you to travel to an unstable country when you’re about to come back to the US? Heck no. What was their plan? To fire you if you didn’t go? Please.


  15. Ellis Bell*

    “My old boss has reached out a couple of times since I left”…Hahahaha! Wow, it’s amazing how long the silent treatment lasted there.

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