The Counter-Offer: Why do they wait until you quit?

The Counter-Offer: Why do they wait until you quit?

Question

After I gave my two weeks’ notice and told my manager I’m leaving for a new job, my current company worked hard to try to get me to stay. My manager’s boss wants to make a counter-offer, but I said no, thanks, I won’t accept it. They both said the door is always open for me to come back. I knew my manager appreciated me, but I did not know his manager did, too.

counter-offerThink about it — my current employer made it clear that I’m a high performer. That said, my boss’s boss should have had this conversation much sooner and I told him so. He agrees!

Why don’t companies let employees know what their value is? Why do they wait until you quit? Think about what it would save if companies were engaged with their employees at that level. Sit down and have a chat — even if you are at a higher level of management. What’s so difficult about that?

Nick’s Reply

My friend, I have no idea what’s so difficult about that. Corporate CEOs are running around like proverbial chickens, squawking that they cannot find the talent they need to hire.

Meanwhile, valued employees like you are walking out the door for reasons those CEOs never bother to discern until you resign. (See Don’t shortchange yourself!) HR tells the CEO “We’ll do exit interviews. We’ll find out for you why our top talent is leaving. Then we can fix the problem.”

But that’s not “human resources management.” That’s a day late and a dollar short. That’s simply poor management.

Your story says it all: It’s too late for praise, a counter-offer and pleading. (It’s certainly too late for exit interviews!) Who’s going to fix this problem? Who owns this problem?

I’ve got nothing to add, except that you are wise to walk away. (See Inside a counter-offer disaster.) You shared an instructive story and you provided the solution to your boss and his boss: Pay attention and talk to your employees long before they quit. Thanks, and congrats on your career move!

I’ll throw it to our community: Why do they wait til you quit? Why don’t employers address issues about compensation and job satisfaction while it makes a difference? Why don’t they tell their employees, We love you! Have you been begged to stay after it was already too late?

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Should I tell my boss I might resign?

Should I tell my boss I might resign?

In the March 3, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader who might resign may tread dangerously close to getting fired. This is the 800th edition of the weekly Newsletter since its inception in 2002!

Question

resignI left a decent-size company for a start-up some time ago. Like any other start-up, the work requires a lot of hours. The work itself is very challenging and truly leading-edge technology. However, since the birth of my daughter, I’ve realized that I’m much more of a family man than I imagined. I can clearly see that the hours will only get worse as time goes on.

So, I’m considering leaving the job. My question: Do I wait until I get an offer to tell my boss? My current boss has been more than understanding about my personal life and fairly lenient when I was absent several days for family reasons. Rather than surprising him, I want to give him as much indication as possible before I leave the project. I want to say, at least, “I’m not sure this start-up thing is right for me,” as a passing remark without mentioning a job search. I might have left earlier, had it been a different boss. Thanks. I appreciate and enjoy your columns.

Nick’s Reply

First, you’re allowed to change your mind, especially about a career change like moving from a relatively stable company to a start-up.

Second, I think it’s wonderful that you respect your boss so much. After what I have to say, you may still feel you have good reasons to disclose your plans to your boss. But my first concern is not being nice to your boss. It’s to flesh this out in a way that helps you avoid a costly mistake.

Don’t get fired before you resign

Full disclosure isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Use your good judgment and remember that some things are better left unsaid until it’s time to say them. Don’t get fired before you resign.

Ready to resign?

  • Don’t disclose where you’re going until you get there.
  • Decline to do an exit interview.
  • Don’t sign any non-disclosure or non-compete agreements.

Learn why and how in Parting Company: How to leave your job. Today’s Question originally appeared in this PDF book. Nick’s Reply is expanded here.

As long as you act responsibly and ethically within the generally accepted rules of business, my advice is to decide what’s best, and then act on it. Don’t feel guilty for wanting time with your family, even if it means earning your employer’s ire. Likewise, don’t feel guilty for protecting yourself from a serious potential risk.

I would not tell your boss that working at the start-up may not be right for you — not any more than I’d tell him you may resign. Any smart manager would interpret a passing remark that you’re not happy as a sign that you’re out looking for a new job. And that could hurt you. There are other ways to show respect for your relationship. For example, if you do resign, assure your boss you will leave your work in a good state for whoever replaces you.

Remember that until you have a job offer in hand, you’re not going anywhere. If you don’t get another a job offer, it’s all moot. But if you’ve told your boss you may resign and then don’t, you may find yourself fired.

It’s just business

Imagine what could happen if you tell your current boss your plans, but you don’t find a new job and he is forced to make a choice he doesn’t want to make. For example, suppose you go nowhere, and in six months your boss is required to eliminate one or more employees. You will have signaled that you want to leave anyway. That puts a target on your back. Remember that your boss, though he is friendly, has obligations to the company.

In another scenario, what if your boss feels obligated to notify others in the company about your possible plans? What if his boss questions your loyalty and orders him to terminate you?

Suddenly you could be on the street, and your boss could very honestly tell you, “Nothing personal. It’s just business.”

Planning to quit is also just business, and it’s confidential business.

Resign on your terms

I respect and admire your attitude, but you must ensure that you will always be able to care for your family. That comes first. Signaling in advance that you may resign puts you and your family at unnecessary risk. Resign on your terms; don’t get fired by surprise.

You can still show your boss that you value your working relationship. For example, when you get an offer you plan to accept, try to negotiate as long a “notice to current employer” period as you can. That’s what you should give your employer when you actually resign. (Caution: Even giving notice can blow up in your face.)

Your old boss must be prepared to handle this without rancor, and to accept this vicissitude of life. If he can’t accept it, you’ll be able to rest knowing you did all that was prudent to part on good terms.

This is a difficult situation, but you can handle it if you approach it as you would any tough work decision you have to make — responsibly.

Did you ever speak too soon before you resigned your job? What happened? Is it ever worth letting on that you are unhappy and might resign soon? How would you advise this reader?

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I will make your life miserable if you quit!

I will make your life miserable if you quit!

In the October 8, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a boss threatens an employee who’s going to quit.

Question

quitI 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?

Nick’s Reply

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.

[Your resignation] letter should be just one sentence because — sorry to be the cynic, but careers and lives might hinge on this — it can come back and bite you legally if it says anything more.

“I, John Jones, hereby resign my position with Acme Corporation.”

That’s it. Sign, seal and deliver. Any other details can be worked out through discussion, including… when you’ll get your last paycheck. If you are forced to take legal action for any reason, or if the company sues you for, say, stealing information, anything you put in your letter can be used against you.

Excerpted from Parting Company: How to leave your job p. 46

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.

The best time for an employee to discuss concerns, dissatisfactions and suggestions with his employer is while he is a committed employee, not on the way out the door. There is no upside for an employee in doing an exit interview, other than having the chance to vent. And the potential risks are significant enough to warrant caution.

From “Exit Interviews; Just say NO” in Parting Company: How to leave your job, pp. 53-57

Get out

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?

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Resigning Your Job? Don’t tell.

In the July  16, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader worries about resigning the wrong way.

Question

resigningI finally landed my next job after months of interviews. Now I don’t want to blow it until I’m actually on board at the new company. I say that because the last time I changed jobs I made the mistake of telling my boss too soon, before I even had a job offer. I thought he respected me enough to wish me well, but it blew up in my face. He told HR and I was walked out the door. I can use some advice. How should I handle it this time?

Nick’s Reply

Congratulations — now be careful!

Before I offer my suggestions, I’ll tell you about a vice president of engineering I placed. I moved Hans from the southern Florida “spook industry” (that’s what he called it) to San Jose, California, where he was hired to run an engineering department at a company that made state-of-the art communications equipment.

Resigning & telling

A week before Hans was to move his entire family and start the new job, the president of my client company called me. “Someone left me a worrisome voicemail. They didn’t leave their name and the number is untraceable. They said Hans has affiliations we should be aware of. What’s this about, Nick?”

The tight-knit Florida “spook industry” (purveyors of electronic equipment that spies use) didn’t like that Hans was leaving their little community and taking his insider knowledge with him. They made that call to nuke Hans’s new job — and his family’s future. Never mind how I found out; that’s my job. In the end, it all worked out and Hans had a long, successful career in San Jose.

What happened? Hans made the mistake of telling someone back home where he was going. Hans knew full well how to keep his mouth shut — that was the business he was in. But Hans also had a healthy ego and he wanted to impress some of his close friends, not realizing the risk he was taking.

Risking getting nuked

When I discussed this with him later — he was incredibly embarrassed at his own behavior — I explained risk to this seasoned executive.

“The risk that someone you told would hurt you was probably very small, so you overlooked it. The trouble is, even the tiniest risk is not worth taking when the potential consequences could be catastrophic. The tourist who climbs over the railing at the Grand Canyon to take a selfie knows the chances they’ll fall into the abyss are tiny. But the consequences are enormous. So it’s not prudent to take that risk.”

That’s why, when you plot your exit from one employer to another, you should never, ever disclose to anyone — least of all your boss and co-workers — what you’re about to do and where you’re going.

Don’t jump the gun

Ask yourself, who needs to know and what do they need to know? Your employer needs to know you’re leaving, but only when it’s safe for you to tell them. No one needs to know where you’re going — that’s private and confidential. And you can tell them later, when it’s safe.

The following is from my PDF book, Parting Company: How to leave your job. It’s just a short excerpt of the chapter, “Resign Yourself To Resigning Right,” pp. 42-43:

Too often, in the throes of deciding whether to accept a job offer, a person will start the resignation process too early. That is, he’ll let his boss know he’s thinking about leaving in an effort to get more input as he’s working through the decision. But he’s looking for advice in the wrong place. (See “Should I tell my boss I’m leaving?”, p. 38.)

Unless you have a rare boss who is more concerned about your future than about his own or the company’s, don’t do it. Regard any discussion about your potential resignation as tantamount to tendering it. Once you let the cat out of the bag… it may be impossible to put it back.

Word may get out among your co-workers, and it may affect their attitude about you. Your boss may view what you’ve divulged as an indication that you’ll continue looking, even if you don’t accept the job offer. And, if you haven’t yet made a decision, all that talk may lead you to make the wrong decision.

I’m a believer in getting advice and insight about a potential job change. But, I think it’s dangerous to seek such advice from people whose own jobs and lives will be impacted by your decision. If you work in a very tight-knit organization of mature professionals who respect one another both personally and professionally, your experience might contradict what I’m suggesting. But most people don’t work in such an environment. If you need advice, get it from a trusted peer or mentor who preferably works in another company. Don’t jump the gun. Don’t disclose your intentions when it might hurt you.

Protect yourself

My advice is to give notice to your employer only after you have a bona fide offer from the new employer in writing, signed by an officer of the company, and after you have accepted the offer in writing. Your acceptance letter should include a statement to the effect that you are “advising that my acceptance of this job will require me to resign my position at [the old employer] and to relinquish my income from that job, and that I will rely on the compensation of [$X — whatever the offer is] from you.”

Also covered in Parting Company:

  • Getting fired is a state of mind
  • Stock option handcuffs
  • Did you get downsized?
  • Should I take a package to quit?
  • How to handle exit interviews
  • What about counter-offers?

That “statement of reliance” is recommended by an employment lawyer who advises that it might protect you legally if the offer is withdrawn. (Please see Lawrence Barty’s comments in Job offer rescinded after I quit my old job, but please understand that this is not offered as legal advice in any particular situation.)

Don’t tell anyone at your old company where you are going, even if you’re so excited you could burst. Tell them you’ll be in touch once you’re settled into your new job (preferably for at least a couple of weeks) because you value your friendships and want to stay in touch. You can decide later whether you really want to do that.

If they beg to know where you’re going, just tell them that some headhunter once cautioned you to keep it confidential — and that when the time comes, they should, too.

Has resigning ever come back to bite you? What does your employer really need to know when you resign? How risky is it to tell people where you’re going? What “parting company” tips would you offer this reader?

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The 6 Gotchas of Goodbye

In the February 17, 2015 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we discuss how HR can make your exit tricky — and how to protect yourself.

The last word on leaving your job

When you leave a job, HR is often waiting for you with a few tricks. I call this exit gantlet the 6 gotchas of goodbye.

gotchaThis is the last of three special editions about what happens when it’s time to leave your job — and what to do to protect yourself. We’ve already discussed How to leave your job and how to Leave on your own terms. Then, of course, there’s the HR process that kicks in (and often kicks you!) when you’re on your way out the door.

Some HR departments are actually quite helpful to departing employees. Others are ready to exact a last pound of flesh from you. In any case, it pays to understand some of the gotchas and to be prepared — in the midst of an emotional ordeal — to escape intact.

These gotchas and my advice about how to beat them are from the 7-page Crib Sheet at the end of the PDF book, Parting Company | How to leave your job. The Crib Sheet is an extensive checklist compiled from my personal discussions with top HR insiders who know how the system works.

The 6 gotchas of goodbye

1. Don’t vent.

Your employer can use anything you say against you later. If you’ve resigned, avoid official discussion of your reasons, unless you want them in your personnel record. (See also pp. 46-47.) If you want to express yourself to your boss or to co-workers, do it off the record, casually, and preferably off-site at a restaurant or coffee shop. (See last week’s discussion about why you should not consent to an exit interview.)

2. Protect your future.

If you’ve resigned, don’t discuss where you’re going. (See also “Keep your future to yourself,” pp. 47-48.) Disclose it later, after you’ve started your new job, when there’s no possibility someone might try to nuke it. I once placed an executive whose resentful old boss contacted the new employer and made wild claims that almost resulted in withdrawal of the offer — until I completed an investigation and my client was satisfied none of it was true. Some employers feel betrayed and can behave irrationally. Don’t risk it.


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3. Protect your stuff.

Don’t leave your personal belongings exposed. Upon termination or resignation, you may not be permitted to retrieve them easily. Some employers will lock you out and pack what they believe is yours and ship it to you later. (See “Get your stuff,” p. 46.)

Tip: Don’t presume you have privacy at work. What you consider private might actually belong to your employer. When you start your job, make it clear in writing what belongs to the company and what belongs to you. One of my HR buddies, who contributed some astonishing tips to the Crib Sheet, says her IT department will confiscate a departing employee’s company cell phone and e-mail account immediately — and will not return any contacts or other digital files, even if they are personal. Never take anything that’s not yours, but think and plan ahead to protect your stuff. (See p. 71, “Protect yourself.”)

4. Outplacement: Don’t settle.

Should you accept outplacement help, or should you negotiate for an even more valuable alternative? One of HR’s dirty little secrets discussed in the book is that some employers offer outplacement not to help you get a new job, but to protect the company from lawsuits.

Tip: Outplacement may be negotiable, as discussed in “Outplacement Or Door #2?”, pp. 28-30. Start by negotiating for as much as you want, and settle for as much as you can get. Don’t assume the company’s first offer is set in stone. You may be able to negotiate a cash alternative so you can hire the career coach of your choice — not one that reports to the employer. Or you can pocket the cash.

5. Document.

HR has an extensive personnel file on you, and it will document your departure. You should document the process, too. Without such records, you may be at a disadvantage if, later on, there’s any controversy about your exit. For example, if you were fired after being put on a Personal Improvement Plan (PIP), obtain copies of relevant documents. Even if you don’t expect to take any legal action, your employer’s behavior may lead you to change your mind. The outcome may hinge on what kind of information you can provide to your lawyer. (See p. 69, “Benefits & documents.”)

Tip: Bring a pad to all meetings with HR during your exit process. Take lots of notes, including names, dates and times — especially about any promises made or terms discussed. Be polite, but make it clear you’re documenting. This puts HR on notice that you’re not a pushover. Your diligence could save you from a trick or two.

6. Don’t be in a hurry.

gotcha1Perhaps the biggest gotcha of the exit process is that HR is expert at it — and you’re not. HR will run loads of forms past you. Don’t be rushed. Make sure you understand every step of the process. For example, if you are given a letter of separation to sign, consider having an attorney review it first. Don’t forfeit your rights in an effort to exit quickly. Protect yourself. (See p. 27, “Do you need a lawyer?”)

(These 6 gotchas are from the 7-page Crib Sheet at the end of the PDF book, Parting Company | How to leave your job.)

Your employer’s HR office conducts an exit process to protect the company. It might be the friendliest, most responsible process possible. Or it might not. The risks to you could be enormous. Think of leaving your job like selling a house. There’s a written legal trail for good reasons: A lot is at stake and no one wants to get screwed. When you exit, be aware of the gotchas. And be ready to protect yourself.

How smooth was your last parting with an employer? Did you ever get surprised on your way out the door? What happened? What advice would you offer to the dearly departing?

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Quit, Fired, Downsized: Leave on your own terms

In the February 10, 2015 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we discuss how to know it’s time to go, what to say to exit interviews, and how to resign right.

How are you leaving?leaving

Last week I introduced you to my new PDF book, Parting Company | How to leave your job, and we briefly discussed a reader’s question about what she should say to other employers about getting fired.

But there’s a lot more to the challenge of “parting company” with your employer. This gets short shrift from career writers and advisors because it’s considered water under the bridge — everyone wants to talk about “what to do next.”

The thing is, how you handle leaving your job is largely up to you. It can affect your prospects dramatically — and it can hurt your career. Even if you get fired, you have choices. It’s important to know what your options are. Whether you quit, get fired, or get downsized, do it on your own terms.

Leave on your own terms

This week, I’d like to share some advice straight from the book — just a few of the many issues you need to consider before you take that big step out the door.

Say NO to exit interviews

Whether you get fired or quit, never do an exit interview. (pp. 53-57) I have polled HR managers for over a decade. None can name one benefit of the dreaded exit interview for the departing employee, but I can name several serious risks. Whether you say complimentary things in an exit interview, or make critical comments and vent your frustrations, your words can be used against you.

Most obvious: Suppose you need to take legal action to get your final paycheck or a bonus you’re owed, or because you later realize you were discriminated against. Your employer can use your verbose comments to support its own case. Or, if someone later calls this employer to check your references, any negative comments saved to your personnel file might influence the quality of references you’re given.

Consenting to an exit interview just isn’t worth it.

HR managers argue that they need your candid comments if they’re to improve the company and their processes. But if that really matters to your employer, then HR should be asking you exit interview questions regularly, while you’re an employee, so you can benefit from any resulting improvements.

These are just a few reasons why, when you’re leaving your job, the prudent response to an exit interview is, No, thank you.

Read the signals now

Is it time to go? (pp. 9-11) You should be the best judge of whether it’s time to leave your job, before your employer decides for you. People often get fired because they don’t see signals that it’s time to go. It may be time to go when:

  • You’ve got no professional support. You’re the “top dog” in your department, and there’s no one to mentor you further. You start to stagnate, while everyone else comes to you for help doing their jobs.
  • You’re always ahead of your employer. You understand your work, your tools, the market, and trends better than your employer does, but no one listens to you.
  • You are isolated. There are too many walls between your job function and the rest of the company. You’re not allowed to put your head together with other departments to produce the best solutions. Everyone is isolated.
  • You’re not growing. Your employer doesn’t encourage continuing education and offers little, if any, training. They like you just the way you are, and they want you to stay that way.

Resign right

Do you know how to resign? (pp. 40-49) Many people simply don’t know how to resign properly. This can be catastrophic. Get your ducks in a row before you do it.

  • goodbye1Check your employer’s exit policy. You may be ushered out the door instantly, without being allowed to return to your desk. Find out how others have been treated, and check the written policy.
  • Never resign your old job unless you have the new offer in writing. I’ve seen too many people treat an oral offer as bona fide, quit their old job, and find themselves on the street when the offer is never finalized, or rescinded.
  • Get your stuff. Never take what’s not yours, but if you announce your departure too early, you may have to fight to get your belongings back. Plan ahead.
  • Resign in writing, one sentence only. This is no time to hand your employer ammo against you. Keep it short: “I, John Jones, hereby resign my position with ABC Company.” Sign and deliver to your boss with a copy to HR. Anything you say beyond that can be used against you by your employer. A resignation is business, not personal. Keep it simple.

These tips are excerpted from Parting Company | How to leave your job. There are far too many topics in the book to summarize here. (Check the Table Of Contents for a complete list.)

Next week, we’ll take a look at the HR process that kicks in when you’re on your way out the door. I’ll tell you about The 7 Gotchas of Goodbye. (Oh, yes — HR is waiting for you with a few surprises!)

Have you been fired or downsized? Did you quit for a better job? Did anything happen in the process that you didn’t expect or plan for? How have you controlled your departure from an employer?

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Parting Company: How to leave your job

In the February 3, 2015 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we take a look at how to leave your job without hurting your career.

Fired? Downsized? Need to resign?

pc-cover1-211x275In last week’s edition, Your Boss Hates You: The politics of CYA, we discussed a reader’s difficult parting with her employer. Some of the busiest areas of the Ask The Headhunter website and blog are about what happens when you leave your job. If you’ve been fired, downsized, quit or are considering moving on, you may have already read some of my advice about these difficult situations:

Although this blog is mostly devoted to Q&A — your questions and my advice — I’m going to take the liberty of using most of this edition to tell you about Parting Company | How to leave your job — a new PDF book that I’ve spent months preparing. I’ve gotten so many requests for a thorough Answer Kit about how to leave a job that I’ve produced this new 73-page guide that covers almost everything you could possibly need help with.

Parting company is a trying right of passage — and it’s important that you know how to do it on your own terms.

Resigning a job can be a stressful experience. Getting fired is far worse. But, on top of either, who wants to face a gut-wrenching exit interview on the way out the door? Suddenly, otherwise-confident people get clobbered by unnerving choices. You may have gotten fired or downsized, or you may be thinking of quitting — or perhaps you’ve landed a new job and you’re facing a confusing counter-offer from your old employer.

If you don’t part company on your own terms, you can get hurt.

Let’s look at an issue that’s not in Parting Company — but that suggests doing it wrong could cost you a great new job:

Question

I was recently let go without being given a reason. I believe it was because we had a disagreement. I felt my boss was too demanding and high strung, and he felt I was not aggressive enough. When I apply for jobs and they ask me what happened, what should I say?

I have been saying, “I was let go without being given a reason, without any warning.” Would it be better to say, “It was decided they need someone with a different type of background?”

Nick’s Reply

First of all, let’s quibble about semantics. “It was decided…” You make it seem that some unknown force took action. That’s how cowards phrase things. Use a definite source of the action:

“My boss decided the organization needed someone with a different background.”

Then add,

“I agreed. Our philosophies don’t mesh. In that business, it’s crucial to mesh. I’m looking for an organization that I’m compatible with.”

Don’t worry that you might turn an employer off by saying that. If you’re not compatible, it’s best to know immediately.

Don’t avoid discussing the fact that you were let go, but check your personnel paperwork carefully. Did they actually terminate you, or did they ask you to resign? In Parting Company | How to leave your job, see the section titled “Getting Fired is a State of Mind,” pp. 12-14. The attitude you project can make all the difference.

Parting Company | How to leave your job

Parting company fearlessly is just as important as joining a new employer confidently. For this new Answer Kit, I selected the toughest questions you’ve posed to me over the past 12 years — and I’ve enhanced and expanded some of the best advice I’ve shared on the website, in the newsletter, and on this blog. (You’ll find some articles are now gone from the website, because I’ve beefed them up and added more how-to juice to make them key parts of this new 73-page Answer Kit!)

These are just a few of the daunting challenges Parting Company is designed to help you with:

  • Do you know how to resign? (p. 40)
  • Should you consent to an exit interview? (p. 53)
  • Did getting fired shatter your self-confidence? (p. 12)
  • Should you accept a “package” to quit your job voluntarily? (p. 26)
  • What’s the truth about counter-offers? Should you accept one? (p. 50)
  • How can you prepare for the shock of a downsizing? (p. 20)
  • Is outplacement a big, costly mistake? (p. 28)
  • How do you explain to a new employer why you left your old one? (p. 58)

(Please take a look at the complete Table Of Contents.)

My goal with this new book is to help you make your next move successfully — and on your own terms!

The Crib Sheet

goodbyeIncluded in Parting Company is a 7-page Crib Sheet: A checklist of gotchas to avoid as you prepare to exit your company for the last time. I asked some of my favorite HR managers (Yes, I’ve got friends who are good HR managers!) to disclose their insider tips — about what departing employees must do to avoid trouble later, and to make parting as gentle an experience as possible. You’ll learn things that until now you never even worried about — but should have!

+ BONUS MP3

But I won’t leave you hanging after helping you move on from your old job. Parting Company comes with a BONUS MP3 mp3-logo— It’s “all the best stuff” distilled from a workshop I gave at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management. A lecture hall full of Executive MBA students came to learn How to make contacts that can lead you to a new job! If you’ve enjoyed the How to Say It tips I sprinkle throughout Ask The Headhunter, you’ll love this short, tip-filled audio bonus.

If you’ve subscribed to this newsletter for any period of time, you know that Ask The Headhunter is where you can come for answers — and not just answers you pay for when you buy a book. Every week, I welcome you to bring your questions, comments, stories and suggestions about the topics we discuss here — on the blog — where I do my best to offer advice about the unique problems and challenges you face. And, as a buddy of mine likes to put it…. Mo’ betta than that… you’ll get the insights and advice of the entire Ask The Headhunter community.

Like all Ask The Headhunter PDF books, Parting Company | How to leave your job comes with a 7-day full-refund guarantee.

Got a question about something that’s not in the book? Post it to the blog and we’ll all do our best to help you. If you try Parting Company, I’d love to know your reaction to this new 73-page Ask The Headhunter Answer Kit!

Are you facing a downsizing? Getting fired? Moving on and need to resign? What’s your specific issue or problem? Post it, and we’ll discuss it — and share the entire community’s great advice and suggestions!

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How should I quit this job?

In the May 21, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job applicant invests more than eight hours in interviews and asks why the employer acts like her time is free:

I currently work for a tiny family-run office and have just gotten a job offer elsewhere. It’s an offer I cannot refuse. I am feeling guilty because they have trained me and I am needed. How much notice should I give and what should be said (what information can be shared)?

I’ve been at this office less than one year, which may or may not make a difference. I would like to remain friendly, but I don’t want to get into a whole big dialogue about where I’m going, why, and so on.

And what about being paid for vacation time earned? Is is reasonable to ask about this?

Nick’s Reply

Congratulations. Some jobs end quickly, while others last years. But changing jobs is no different from a company doing a layoff — it’s business. Don’t make it personal. I admire your desire to keep it on good terms. But the first order of business is to protect yourself while you pull away from your old employer.

leaving-your-jobWe recently discussed a related question, Is it ethical to go on this job interview? Now let’s talk about how to quit when you feel kind of uncomfortable about it.

I’d ask HR about the vacation pay, but first I’d check with your state’s department of labor. Find out what your state requires of the employer.

I think offering two weeks’ notice is the right thing to do. Some companies want only one, some just want to make sure you train someone to do your job — or just that they know where your work flow is so nothing gets dropped. Some employers will walk you out the door immediately and ship your belongings to you later. So be careful. It might be best to gather what’s yours first, before you resign.

I’d never tell the employer where you are going next, but I’d tell them I’d be glad to share that once you are settled at your new job.

How to Say It: “I don’t think it’s appropriate to disclose my new employer until I’m actually working there.”

Some people quit a job without another to go to.

How to Say It: “I’m still considering where I’m going to take my next job. I’d be happy to call and tell you after I decide.”

That makes it easier. You don’t owe anyone the information. All you owe them is a smooth, friendly, responsible transition so your work flow is not disturbed at the old company. I find that when a departing employee gives that assurance from the start, the parting can be on very businesslike terms.

I wish you the best. Please keep in mind that my advice is based on the scant information you provided. You must use your judgment and decide which of my advice to use in your situation for the best outcome. (Finally, remember to hedge your bet just a little bit because There is no sure thing.)

What’s your best and worst departure story? And what are your tips to this reader?

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Out of exit excuses

In a recent edition of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, I discussed exit interviews — the cockroaches of the HR world. You just can’t get rid of ’em, but you don’t wanna swallow one, either.

Ed Heron, a seasoned manager, submitted comments that I’d like to share with you. His perspective is sharp and on target. His message is simple: Good managers don’t need to do exit interviews.

I have been a successful manager for three decades. I do not believe that anyone who is fired should engage in any form of exit interview. Their employer has already indicated their opinion of their worth!

For more about exit interviews and related topics, see Parting Company: How to leave your job.
However, if they are voluntarily resigning, and if the parting is amicable, it might be considered. Consider it more if you are leaving behind co-workers that you respect a lot. I agree with Tony Banaro’s comment, “It amazes me that with all of the volumes and volumes of books and articles and papers out there, managers still do not understand the number one rule of business: Take Care of Your People”.

Through out my entire adult life, I have found it amazing the way companies have made it easy for me to appear successful. I would take almost any employee who was about to be released, and treat them with a little human dignity and respect. In short order, I would rehabilitate the deficient area or areas. Positive reinforcement would be employed whenever it could be “genuine.” (Simple “One Minute Manager” stuff.) In no time at all, the employee in question would feel and act as though they worked principally for me, and not just for our company.

The need for exit interviews was extremely rare in any area that I managed.

Thanks, Ed!

Every reason I’ve heard to justify exit interviews is an excuse for not talking to employees while they are still your employees. This manager reinforces my view.

Have you ever been exit interviewed? Ever done it to anyone? What’s your advice to managers (or employees) about this practice?

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