Hey Captain and Crew,
I’ve got… well, let’s say I’ve got some guilt on how I handled a situation, and I could really use an objective perspective. I’m a master of the JerkBrain Guilt-stravaganza, and I can’t tell if I should tell my brain to shut up or if it’s on point.
I’ve been working at a job I dislike for a long time (almost 10 years). It was relatively steady work and in the economy no one else seemed to want me. This past spring I took additional education, in the hopes of that making me more viable. Since July I’ve been actively (read desperately) hunting for a new job. Yesterday I was contacted by a headhunter I’ve been working with. She had a “possible” with the catch of having to start immediately.
I’d gotten nothing but rejections, and things have been so bad here at the office I was considering just leaving anyway. I told her to put me forward thinking it would go nowhere. That same day she came back with a positive response. I’ve been offered a temp-to-perm opportunity for more money and while not the position I was hoping for, it’s at least in the industry I just trained for.
I didn’t think, not for more than a moment. I accepted, and felt the bottom fall out of my world. I told all my bosses that Friday is my last day. They’ve been resigned and more or less gracious about my sudden departure. There have been a few barbed comments about how I probably owed them better after so many years. Captain, I’m a creature made of guilt right now. It’s never been a secret I was actively trying to leave, but this isn’t how I wanted the final farewell to go.
I guess I wanted someone else’ opinion- how much of the guilt I’m feeling is appropriate? Did I just act like a total jerk to people I’ve known a decade? I’m already so overwhelmed trying to wrap up everything at my old job, and mentally prepare for my new one that this guilt-monster is just, exhausting and beginning to convince me I’m a bad person who was nasty to people who’ve been more or less good to her.
What do you think Captain? Any insight would be appreciated.
Dear Job Jumping,
The next time this comes up in your life, know that your start date *most likely* is negotiable. “I’d love to start ASAP, but I’d prefer to give my current employer two weeks’ notice. Can we work that out?” But it is more than okay that you did not negotiate around this, and it is okay that you did whatever you needed to be secure and happy. I can understand a reluctance to test what “immediately” means, and it was in your interest this time NOT to play Start Date Chicken.
Two weeks is often not really enough time to recruit, interview, and hire someone new, as well as wait for that person to give notice to their employer, as well as train them into the new position. It’a custom, not a rule. It is also very normal for bosses and colleagues to lay on a guilt trip no matter how much notice you give. I’ve gotten similar guilt trips when I give two months’ notice. Strangely, you never seem so integral to an organization as you are in that two weeks between handing in your notice and your last day, like, O HAI, NAO U offer me the raise you “couldn’t” give me for the last 3 years due to “budget constraints?” Well, my personal “budget constraints” have also forced some tough fiscal decisionmaking, so, byeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
Another thing to consider: I don’t know if you live in “at will” employment state, like I do, but chances are if your bosses wanted to fire you, they wouldn’t have to wait two weeks. You could be gone this second, if it suited them. Several times I have given two weeks’ notice only to be told that nope, my job was actually ending today, because my employer had a duty to protect all the sensitive client information I handled.
Giving notice is nice, if it works out for everyone, but really the most gracious thing you can do when you exit a job is not about the amount of notice you give, it’s about leaving your files & workspace as organized as possible and typing up some kind of “Here’s the status of all my projects and what you need to know if you’re taking over this work” memo. If you want to put a cherry on top, I’ve sent (and received) nice thank you notes to bosses I really liked after changing jobs, along the lines of “Dear so and so, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed working with you, and how much I appreciate your mentoring/advice/support/training (whatever there is to be appreciated). Happy (whatever holiday is coming up), and FYI, my new email address is ______.” Don’t use that note to apologize for not giving notice, if you send it, just keep everything positive. You never know when you’ll need a reference or cross paths again, and most people don’t hate being thanked or getting mail that isn’t bills.
My advice is that you should do whatever you need to do for yourself. If you were so freaking valuable, they should have worked harder to keep you. You will feel guilty until…Friday (like, TODAY Friday?) And then you will go and work somewhere else, and you will not think about this place or these people all that much. These people making these comments were not your benefactors; you had a business relationship that you are now ending amicably to go work somewhere else. Ignore the weird comments like they didn’t even happen, and don’t hold onto them too much. All too often people start talking before their thinking is all the way done. One suggestion is to treat it as if they’ve told you they will miss working with you, so, you could answer “Ten years sure is a long time! I’m sure I’ll miss working with you” and leave them to puzzle out the non sequitur.
Tell the Jerkbrain to shut it. If these guilty tapes play for more than a few days, consider seeking the support of a pro. Leaving a job after 10 years is a big change, so be very gentle with yourself right now, as your brain tries to sort out what unhappiness belongs to the disliked job and what you still might carry with you for a bit. At very least, take the weekend to be nice to yourself.
And, CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEW JOB! We at Captain Awkward Dot Com Enterprises hope that it’s a great fit for you.