In the October 8, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a boss threatens an employee who’s going to quit.
I am planning to quit my job, but my boss said to hold off on quitting until we can at least hire my replacement. Otherwise, he said, “I will make things very, very bad for you.” How should I respond to this?
The challenges of quitting a job seem to be much on people’s minds. (See last week’s edition, Can we make employees pay for quitting?) Maybe it’s because more people are choosing to quit their jobs and move on?
Once you have decided to quit, you are already psychologically and emotionally “done” with the company. It’s best to leave as quickly as possible. The first mistake you made was to tell your boss you’re going to quit. (See Protect Your Job: Don’t give notice when accepting a new job.)
A boss who threatens you is not someone you should trust while he tries to find your replacement.
Don’t get burned when you quit
Under normal circumstances, you should act responsibly when you quit. If you can, you should offer help transferring your work to another employee. But your boss turned this situation into an abnormal one. In any case, the company is no longer your responsibility. Don’t let anyone tell you it is.
Don’t burn a bridge if it’s not necessary, but be brutally honest with yourself: Your boss is trying to burn you. If you file a complaint against him with HR, all you will do is put yourself at more risk.
While some kindly HR person may try to do right by you, remember that HR’s first obligation is to the company, not to you. You’ll be gone; your boss will still be part of the company. Thus HR’s job is to protect your boss before it protects you.
How to quit
Your boss’s threat makes this easy. Tender your resignation in writing.
I would hand it to the HR manager personally.
How to Say It
Then say this:
“I would offer you two week’s notice but my boss has made this impossible. When I told him I was resigning, he threatened me. He said, ‘If you quit before we hire someone else, I will make things very, very bad for you.’ So as you can see, it would be unsafe for me to continue working here. How you handle my boss is up to you, but I will not participate in it. Please be advised that if my boss makes good on his threat to harm me after I leave here, I will turn the matter over to my attorney. My resignation is effective immediately. I would like to work out the details with you right now.”
Then expect HR to promptly process your paperwork.
Don’t complain, don’t explain. Keep it short and to the point. It’s not your job to help HR deal with the manager. There is no upside to you, but there is considerable risk.
Do not disclose to anyone where you are going to work next. You just don’t know what a bitter boss is capable of; for example, attempting to nuke your new job by making a disparaging phone call to your new employer. (See the sidebar above, More resources.)
A caution about exit interviews
If they ask you to do an exit interview, decline politely but firmly.
Do you think for a minute that if you stick around until your replacement is found, your angry, resentful boss isn’t going to make your life miserable anyway? Even if you are reassigned until you actually depart, you’ll be looking over your shoulder. During that time, even HR could make your life miserable.
The best response to such a threat is to protect yourself and to leave as soon as possible. You owe nothing to a company that has threatened you. That’s right: When the manager threatened you, the company threatened you because he represents the company. So does HR. You really are on your own. Get out.
I wish you the best.
Has your boss ever turned on you when you announced you were going to quit your job? What did you do? Was HR helpful? How did it turn out?