#646 “I feel guilty about quitting a job I have hated for the last 10 years.”

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.

Thanks,
Job Jumping

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.

145 comments
  1. aebhel said:

    Aww, LW, I’ve so been there. You have nothing to feel guilty about, and (maybe this is overstepping? If so I apologize) I’d guess that at least part of it is just that this is a BIG change. 10 years is a long time, and even if you hate the job it’s at least something familiar. Stepping into a new job after that, even one you want, can feel like stepping off a ledge.

    This is a job, not a marriage, and even if it was you’d be under no obligation to sit there and be miserable just because it’s been your life for so long. If people are guilt-tripping you, that’s THEIR problem, and not reflective of anything you’ve done wrong.

    I hope everything works out wonderfully for you!

  2. FlyBy said:

    “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.”

    A friend of mine once gave six months notice (she was headed to college), and got told that wasn’t enough. Yeah. Six months. Her manager had issues.

    I co-sign everything the Captain says about not feeling guilty. Two weeks is a courtesy, not a rule, and you’re not a horrible person to skip that in order to jump on another job immediately. When leaving toxic jobs I’ve told the new job that I could start in three weeks and told the toxic job I was leaving in one week, giving myself two weeks to decompress. I didn’t lie to either employer, I just said ‘this is the date I am available/no longer available.’ It was blissful.

    Congratulations on the new job, and I hope the next chapter of your life is a good one!

    • alexmegami said:

      Yes. I did this when going back to school. SO good for my mental health (which was honestly seriously damaged by the job I was leaving).

      LW, that situation sounds super crummy, but please don’t destroy yourself over it.

    • Yup, I gave six months notice once because I wanted to move to a completely different state to help care for my DYING GRANDPARENTS and I wanted them to have time to train someone because I knew I’d be leaving them short staffed. They A) Didn’t hire anyone til less than a week before I actually left and B) Guilted me daily, even though I was upfront about why I was leaving..

      LW, it’s hard because Jerkbrain is, well, jerky, but don’t be afraid to let yourself feel relieved and excited. You deserve a job that is not horrible, don’t let jerkbrain and guilt-trippers take that from you.

      • Cactus said:

        Ugh, my last job did that. I gave them about 6 weeks notice officially, but they had known I’d be leaving at some point for 4 months (school), I just didn’t know the exact date at first (and honestly I left earlier than I intended to at first because everything started coming up roses in other areas of my life while my boss became more and more of an ass). Regardless, though: 6 weeks. They weren’t even interviewing anyone to take my place, nevermind hiring (I’m sure they eventually did, but having worked there for a while I knew this was…what they did. Someone left, and the solution was operating short-staffed, not bringing someone in so a replacement could be trained before the old person left).

        Plus I constantly got the “what are we going to doooooo? We’ll miiiiiiiiiss you!!!!!” bullshit, which was absolutely true from some people (but they were less dramatic). But that workplace was full of backstabbing and jerkiness, and when one of them launched into that spiel, I just wanted to barf. If they were going to miss me…they shouldn’t have treated me so badly or been so hot-and-cold, you’re-great-you’re-terrible, undermining, arbitrary, and snide. Then maybe I would have considered staying. But as it was I was already applying for other positions prior to getting my acceptance to grad school, making lists of things I thought I might be good at, scouring online listings, figuring out how long I could go on just what I had saved, etc. I wanted to leave one way or another, and that was ALL on them.

      • eightysixed said:

        At my last job, I gave 3 months notice and was given all sorts of grief. However – our Finance Director has ‘tried’ to quit for the past two years. He keeps on giving 6 months notice unless someone is found. No one ends up being found, and then he’s guilted into another six months.

        As much as I really value the work done by the organization and know they would greatly miss him – they also have crazy dysfunctional management (i.e. why they can’t find someone to replace him) and I know this cycle has been driving him nuts as he just wants to retire (as he’s nearly 70). So yeah…..this notion that there’s ever a perfect way to give notice where there’s not a chance for people to complain just isn’t there. At some point you have to take care of yourself.

        • jordanjay29 said:

          I think your Finance Director doesn’t quite understand the bargain here. He should be gone after six months, regardless of whether someone is found. If someone is found, THEN he leaves sooner.

          Sounds like someone is taking advantage of his lack of understanding.

    • hebbyn said:

      This is so strange to me, as someone from the UK. Pretty much every job I’ve had, 4 weeks notice is the minimum for, say, a standard admin role without too much specialist knowledge. A lot of places I’ve worked have had three months for more senior roles or ones that would be a more involved recruiting process– anything with any kind of strategic or specialist knowledge. That’s after the probationary period (6 months, my last two jobs) where you could get fired (or resign) with one week’s notice. Basically, the harder you’d be to replace, the longer your notice period is– I’ve known academics who were on a term’s notice in their contracts.

      But yeah, every job I’ve ever had, 4 weeks is in the contract.

      • ReanaZ said:

        The difference is people in the UK and Australia, where 4+ weeks is the norm, usually have employment contracts which a) mandate the notice period and b) require employers to give you similar notice (or pay out an equivalent number of weeks in salary) if they let you go. Workers in America basically never have contracts of any sort, either requiring notice or offering them any protections. Most employment is “at-will”, meaning either party can walk away at any moment, with no legal or financial consequences (although there will probably be professional consequences, like bad references).

        • Jenna said:

          In America,when you tell your bosses you are leaving, it is a good idea to be ready to leave that moment(stuff pared down. Nothing you regret leaving on the computer) regardless of how much notice you think you are giving. They may decide that they don’t want those four weeks, they only want you gone(cue portal 2 credit music) and may have security walk you to the door and some one else pack up your stuff.
          Normally you get to pack up your own personal belongings, and even MORE normally they take the time they give you, but…
          My last layoff? An unscheduled 10 am meeting for 30 people, and we were locked out of our computers before we got back. To our desks. Confidential information and all that.
          I understand that it is different elsewhere. Here, two weeks is a standard courtesy, but, when the company has used up all your patience and goodwill already, less is fine.

        • Holy shit, people don’t even have contracts? In NZ a lot of low-level jobs are two weeks, general rule is two pay periods (so two months if my partner, who’s a regional manager, quit). I’ve always given four weeks though. Not that I’ve ever worked somewhere where they actually used that period properly to hire and train someone.

          I was going to say though that in NZ if they want you to leave early, they still have to pay out your notice. Bloody at-will laws, wtf. >_<

    • ReanaZ said:

      Yup, I gave 3 months once before moving abroad, and they were so shitty and dismissive and rude about it, I ended up leaving about 3 weeks afterward (one week of vacation, gave notice while on vacation, came back and worked a week and a half or so wrapping up projects/writing doco). People who are going to whine and be shitty about you leaving are going to do it regardless of how much notice you offer.

    • Mr. Bells left a job after 12 years and gave a full month’s notice. The day after he gave notice his boss threw a tantrum and said he couldn’t work on any of the things he’d been working on, because she “couldn’t trust him anymore”. The next day she changed her mind and started being super nice to him, but this was kind of the reason he decided to leave in the first place.

      It’s been two years since he left, and he occasionally still gets a phone call asking about the code for such-and-such program.

      • Cactus said:

        Ha, I got some of those too (always from the same person) until she, one of my sometimes-friendly-sometimes-abusive coworkers decided to go full-on abusive at me on social media while I was super-sick and I blocked her everywhere.

  3. paddlepickle said:

    Uuuuuugh I am already a ball a guilt and I haven’t even found a new job yet. I just want to leave my city and move to a new one where I can live with my best friends and work with them on starting a nonprofit/art space, and right now I’m really bored in my job even though I love the nonprofit and my coworkers. I’ve only been here a year and that’s the main source of guilt, because I told them I would want to stay for several (and I mostly thought I did, when I started!) I am super worried that all the lovely people here are gonna hate me.

    • JenniferP said:

      They will not hate you and as soon as you leave they will steal your stapler/hole-punch/anything on your desk that is not nailed down for their own. Take care of you.

      • paddlepickle said:

        Aw, thanks. So often the advice on this is ‘corporate America doesn’t care about you, so don’t care about them!’, which doesn’t really apply when it’s a lovely nonprofit that does care about me, hence continued guiltbomb.

        • FlyBy said:

          Lovely people who care about you understand that plans change sometimes. They’ll be happy for you that you’re moving on to work on the non-profit thing that YOU care deeply about. (And you’ll learn who the smart coworkers are, they’ll steal your stapler before you’re gone.)

          • paddlepickle said:

            Thank you 🙂 Hehe it’s funny that you both mentioned my stapler because there has been a lot of office drama surrounding my Stapler. I demanded a Fashion Stapler when we made a Staples order except the one that came was way less fashionable than advertised (just plain pink instead of pink with patterns) and I was/am extremely upset. I will definitely be making a big deal of bequeathing my Fashion Stapler to someone when I move on.

          • FlyBy said:

            Stapler drama is the best!

        • Mary said:

          How would feel if one of your colleagues left for a thing that was good for them? You’d be like, “waaah, I’m going to miss you! Nobody can squark the bodzoidles like you do! But yay you, and good luck!” Trust that they’ll be as generous as you would be.

          • paddlepickle said:

            This is an excellent point, thank you!

      • SpinachInquisition said:

        Hear hear! Totally agree (people were fighting over my chair and personal printer before I even left my last job) – plus, your coworkers won’t remember how “little” notice you gave or how quickly you left… they’ll remember how easy you made it for them to pick up where you left off. If you draw them a treasure map and a little legend on how to figure out your files, where you are in your projects, how you organize your stuff, etc. – they will love you for eternity. Honestly.

        • paddlepickle said:

          Thank you! Man I have so much guilt surrounding this job now that I think about it, because I feel guilty about wanting to leave AND about feeling like I’m not as dedicated as everyone else. We do have a real ‘working long hours for low pay’ culture despite being lovely, and I feel guilty that I’m the only person working 40 hours for the most part. But for everyone else, this seems like their dream job and for me it’s just not, quite. AND I mess around on the internet a lot, but I still think I do a good job and take a lot of initiative and my own projects? Ugh thank god for my therapist.

          • hummingbear said:

            If it’s a lot of people’s dream job, they should be able to find someone else awesome to replace you pretty quickly – maybe that can alleviate some of your guilt?

            Here’s something it took me far too long to learn: the ‘long hours for low pay’ culture eventually eats organizations alive because of the high turnover and mostly less-experienced staff. If people see they’ll never make enough to buy a home, support a family, pay medical bills, etc. they will leave – often with great reluctance – when they reach those life milestones, and the org will suffer from the lack of deep experience and relationships. Super-shoestring budgets may be necessary in the first years of getting a group going but it’s simply not sustainable in the long term, especially if guilt is a primary motivator. Perennially stressed out, overworked people burn out, hit a wall and quit the movement, contributing far less overall than if they’d paced themselves and kept doing the work. You’ll do more good and be a better activist over the long term of your life if you take care of yourself first and keep the passion alive that brought you to your cause in the first place.

          • Cactus said:

            Concurring with hummingbear’s thoughts on this sort of work.

          • thelittlepakeha said:

            Fun fact: several large employers supported the 40 hour working week when it was first introduced in America because that is the maximum optimal number of hours for someone to work. Beyond that they become less effective the longer it goes on and even when it’s just temporary to meet a deadline a lot of experts recommend a break afterwards for people to recuperate from the stress of working that much.

  4. Scorched said:

    When I find myself in stick situations at work, I find it helpful to remember that anything that goes down between you and your employer isn’t personal. That’s why they call it business.

    Always take care of yourself, LW …and remember that your employer certainly isn’t going to do it for you.

    • miss_chevious said:

      Yeah, my mom said something similar to me once: “It’s great that you love your job; just remember it isn’t going to love you back.” At the time, I laughed, but when that job went south a few years later, her saying made it easier for me to bail (professionally and with notice 🙂 ).

  5. Do not, do not, do NOT feel guilty! I appreciate that you want to make things as easy / convenient / smooth for your employer as possible, but trust me – if they want to let you go, they don’t care at ALL whether things are convenient for you. My last employer let me go right in the thick of my biggest, most complex job of the year. My immediate manager was more of a nervous wreck than I was when the news came out! I work in a field where employment is generally pretty easy to get if you have a certain type of resume (which I did), so I really wasn’t the least bit offended when my manager said, “This is really not what I wanted to be dealing with right now – I don’t know how I’m going to do this without you!”

  6. Cait said:

    The last time I switched jobs, I told the new company that I needed to give notice and negotiated a start date 2.5 weeks out. Then I told my old company the new place needed me immediately and Friday would be my last day. Then I did not leave the house for two weeks. It was the best thing I ever did.

    In all seriousness, no company you work for will ever be anywhere near as loyal to you as they expect you to be to them. All’s fair in love and war and business.

    • Anothermous said:

      “In all seriousness, no company you work for will ever be anywhere near as loyal to you as they expect you to be to them. All’s fair in love and war and business.”

      Co-signed on this. Businesses often don’t seem to give a damn about their employees, so I don’t see why we should give a damn about their business.

      • Laughing Giraffe said:

        I was once working in a coffee shop, and in a discussion with the manager, she said, “I think your attitude could use some work.”
        “Am I doing something wrong? Customer complaints, shoddy work?”
        “No no, everything’s fine in that respect, it’s just…lately I get this feeling like to you this is just a job, you know?”
        This was a manager who knew, by the way, that I had a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate, and that on top of aspiring to a master’s degree, I directed and managed my own small-scale theatre company. Uh, yeah – slinging lattes might not be the worst job, but it definitely wasn’t where I was going to direct the bulk of my passion and devotion.
        I responded by saying that I’d worked for that company for three years, and in that time they’d never shown me that I was anything other than an employee – no special recognition of my efforts, not even a raise, so what did she expect? She was taken aback to say the least.
        Fortunately I got a teaching job shortly after that and skipped merrily off, but I’m still blown away by that encounter. You don’t get my soul for ten bucks an hour and free coffee.

        • Yeah, I had a boss like that. I worked there >3y (the most anyone had lasted before me was 8-10 mos), completely revamped their client tracking system, was loyal and enthusiastic and present, got one raise in that 3+y, and when I gave 3 months’ notice (going back to school), my boss told me that my attitude was shitty and she was glad I was leaving because I clearly wasn’t dedicated to the company. Then she left me to advertise, screen applicants, check references, interview, hire, and train my replacement. I was obviously doing a TERRIBLE job and couldn’t be trusted! (My replacement lasted, I shit you not, mere months before cracking from the stress, writing I QUIT on a post-it note and leaving in the middle of the afternoon.)

        • hrovitnir said:

          You’re awesome. ❤ I can't even deal with the attitude that you should be inhumanly fantastic to work for the honour of 50c over minimum wage, but we probably won't give regular pay rises or even overtime (since our current government wiped that). ORLY?

        • Anothermous said:

          I’m not surprised by this attitude but it consistently blows my mind that employers seem to think any of us actually WANT to be working for them. I feel like saying to all of them, “Darlings, if your employees didn’t NEED to have paid work so that they could eat and sleep with a roof over their heads, none of them would be here.” I mean, even if I had an awesome job that I loved, if I suddenly came into a buttload of money I would quit in a heartbeat. I’d rather do what I want with my time, thanks!

        • Courtney said:

          That reminds me of the “flair” scene in Office Space. Jennifer Aniston is a server wearing the required amount of silly pins on her uniform–no more, no less. The manager gives her a lecture about her attitude, and she asks if he wants her to wear more pins/how many pins, etc. He looks frustrated and keeps talking at her…the gist is that he wants her to WANT to do more than the minimum…which was not gonna happen.

  7. caprid said:

    The best advice I’ve ever received about guilt from leaving a job came from an older friend of mine who had been a manager for years. She told me “If you worked for me and I had to fire you, I would do it without hesitation.” Any boss should understand, as they have likely fired somebody in the past and probably don’t feel any lingering guilt about it. You should never feel guilt about firing your employer.

    • hrovitnir said:

      Huh. I find that interesting. My partner has had to fire people, and he always hates it. Even when making people redundant, he feels bad, and tries to negotiate alternative cost-cutting with the rest of the management team where possible. (Though there were a couple of horrendous employees that were kind of satisfying to fire, but that’s a bit different.)

  8. Mary said:

    I can’t believe people at your workplace are making nasty comments! No no no no no! Unacceptable!

    I’ve never had anything but, “we’ll be so sorry to see you go! Congratulations on your new job and good luck for the future!” from my managers. Your managers are horrible!

    “After ten years you owed them something better” – no. They weren’t employing you as a favour!

    • paddlepickle said:

      When I quit my terrible high school fancy-deli job, on my last day my boss FLIPPED OUT at me for throwing away a miniscule amount of ketchup that was at the bottom of a barrel, and yelled “JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T NEED THE MONEY DOESN’T MEAN I DON’T”.

      But then a few years later I found out that when that boss tried to sell the business, it came out that they hadn’t been paying any taxes for the past 15 years and the whole family disappeared overnight. So, shitty comments about you leaving are a good sign that these are Bad People!

  9. CKinIL said:

    And sometimes the negative comments come from coworkers are doing a poor job of disguising the fact that they want you take them with you. A lot of people work in jobs that they don’t like; sometimes that’s because the job itself is a poor fit, and sometimes it’s because the company is terrible. Those coworkers might be somewhat jealous that you took the initiative and did something about not being happy. They could be sad that they just haven’t mustered that much action on their part, so it’s better to say a mean thing to you than to admit that they haven’t actually done anything to quit a job they hate.

    Jobs are sticky for lots of reasons–economy, inability to find a better job due to not having enough time for a job hunt while you’re working (my personal downfall), and the phenomena of being the frog slowly boiling to death in the pot of water on the stove. It’s sometimes hard to face up to how bad a place is–because employees learn how to get along in the bad place–and anyone taking an action that says, “It really is this bad, and I’m leaving” makes those frogs realize just how hot the water is. Something like, “It’s hot enough that one of us jumped out? It’s that hot really, because I didn’t think it was that bad.”

    But what the Captain said is right. They probably spoke a little too quickly and you probably won’t be on their minds much past that first week of your new job.

    • Jenna said:

      I had to learn to follow the leaping frogs. First layoff I experienced, I had noticed the high self confidence people leaving. I didn’t jump and got caught in the layoff. Now I know.

      • For the job I had during Dot-Com Bubble 1.0, I caught the hint when my manager talked about updating HIS resume.

        • CKinIL said:

          Oh, and if there’s wind of layoffs, etc. coming, and your boss doesn’t have any sense of what’s going, update your resume. Your boss isn’t in on the decision-making process and you might end up sinking with their ship just because you were on their team.

    • Cactus said:

      I was first in a long line of leaping frogs at my last position. It was BAD.

  10. Never feel guilty. Never ever ever. Two weeks is a courtesy and it is a courtesy that effectively 0 employers offer to employees who they no longer want to have around. A well-run organization plans – for its own sake and for the sake of its other employees – for dealing with when people quit, win the lotto, get hit by a bus, have sudden medical/family issues, etc and so on.

    If your former employer is NOT a well-run organization… why is that your problem? How is that your fault?

    In twenty-cough years of working I have been at places where someone’s departure caused a problem. In that time I have never once had it be the fault of the person leaving – it was always bad management, often from on-high, that lead to situations where there wasn’t staffing or preparation for someone leaving.

  11. RodeoBob said:

    There have been a few barbed comments about how I probably owed them better after so many years.

    Emphasis mine, because it highlights the dynamic nicely. When it comes to actual debts, there’s no ambiguity, (“You owe me X”) though there is often negotiations. (“You owe me X, but I’ll accept Y”) No one says “you probably owe me for that drink” or “I probable owe you for dinner”.

    Remember that what’s happening right now with your bosses trying to guilt you probably isn’t you at all, it’s about them.

    That you (and they?) think they might deserve better, or you probably should have given more notice is the tell. Some employers feel entitled to loyalty from their employees, but only good employers actually realize loyalty is earned and take the steps to earn it.

    After 10 years, and all the opportunities for raises, trainings, transfers, and promotions, you say you still dislike the job, which means your bosses haven’t done anything to earn loyalty. In the case of bad bosses, loyalty is viewed as something they’re entitled to, by virtue of being “your boss”, and you choosing to quit upsets the established power dynamic that they’re accustomed to. Bad bosses tend to take employees quitting as a challenge to their power.

    You have a 10-year relationship with the organization, and maybe as many as 10 years with people there. Those connections with people may not be as significant as friends or romantic partners or family, but they’re still connections that will be severed once you leave. (you can always choose to continue a friendship, but you can also choose not to) Your bosses might be processing the loss of that connection, and reacting in a poor (but understandable) way by trying to guilt you. Good bosses will be sad to see you go, but bad bosses will take your decision personally.

    Leave well, leave things as well as you can, and better than you found them if at all possible, and be guilt free.

    • fussbot said:

      When it comes to actual debts, there’s no ambiguity

      This is definitely one of those “I want to embroider it on a pillow” statements. Thank you for the wonderful comment.

    • thepaintedlady said:

      Yeah, I don’t understand how anyone should feel indebted in a situation like this. I mean, it’s not out of the question – I’ve done it, too, and realized later how little sense it made, and I would probably do it if I left my current job. It just logically doesn’t follow. You do work, they pay you, in exchange for the work. When you stop doing the work, they stop having to pay you. Even if they have “done you favors” like not firing you when they might have or giving you more time off than they strictly had to, they did it because they wanted to keep you around, or because it was the decent thing to do.

      • miss_chevious said:

        I so want to insert that MadMen gif here of Don Draper yelling at Peggy: THAT’S WHAT THE MONEY IS FOR! (Of course, not directly relevant, because Don is a shitty boss in a lot of ways, but a good reminder that business is business.)

        • JenniferP said:

          Almost included that in the original post, TBH. 🙂

  12. Guess how much notice you would get from your employer if they decided they were unhappy with your work and it was financially beneficial to get rid of you.

    0 days.

    Do NOT feel guilty. You do not owe your employer anything. In fact, if your employer is like the vast number of employers during this recession who haven’t given even adequate cost of living adjustments to employees, you owe them LESS than nothing. It doesn’t matter HOW long you’ve been somewhere.

    And you know why it doesn’t matter how long? Because it wouldn’t matter how long you’d worked there either. Now maybe your company isn’t that mercenary, but chances are when loyalty came to profits, they would pick PROFITS. Most employers will never chose you over the bottom line.

    So it’s your turn to be the CEO of your career. It’s your responsibility to yourself to choose the new growth opportunity, chose the profits, choose to invest your resources in something that is going to pay better dividends for you in the future. You HAVE to look out for yourself, because it is not your company’s job to do that.

    On a more personal note always feel guilty when I quit a job. I always like to buy myself a nice treat when I get a new job. (I usually get a new purse. Or something pretty that I wouldn’t normally buy.) I know that seems silly, but it is a big scary step, financially, socially, and in a lot of other ways. And taking the time to buy myself something as a reminder that I’m moving on because I want to take care of myself, I dunno, it helps. Choose your own therapy, big dinner out with friends, day home reading a book. But indulge yourself, because you deserve a reward for going through a surprisingly upsetting thing.

    It is normal to feel this way, but those feelings are steering you in the wrong direction. They are the feelings you have when you leave behind friends, or family. But your job is neither one of these. GO RUN FLY LITTLE BIRD!

    Best of luck with your new career!

    • VG said:

      Thissssss. I have seen so many people with 10 or 15 or 20 years of service turfed out in a matter of minutes – they come in one morning suspecting nothing, and are on their way out the door while other people are still straggling in. Unless you work for your own family’s business, the only thing you owe your employer is to do the work you were hired to do, for however long that lasts. (And even if you do work for your family’s business, you don’t owe them your soul.)

      • Even though I have good relationships with some former coworkers & management at my old workplace, I am still meanly a little happy that they laid off a third of my department (me included) TWO DAYS after I completely dismantled some of our resources to update and fix them so they weren’t 5 years out of date, and hadn’t documented a goddamn thing yet.

        Oh you needed that? Sucks to be you, old workplace!

        • cavyherd said:

          Heh. I mind the time I got fired, with two weeks notice (for not being “resilient enough”, whatever TF that means). That manager then proceeded to jack me around even worse, so walked out, despite desperately needing the money.

          As I was collecting my stuff, the manager whinged, “But [project] isn’t finished!”

          “Oh, welllll…,” I said.

          What do you mean ‘Oh well’?”

          I think I just rolled my eyes as I headed out the door.

          • Drew said:

            “What are you gonna do, fire me AGAIN?”

          • Myrin said:

            @Drew: Fire cavyherd MORE, obviously!!

        • Jenna said:

          If the bosses are clueless enough to suddenly lay off/fire/let go people who are in the middle of something important, or are the only ones who know how to do X, then, it’s the bosses’ problem for being clueless. I’ve seen it happen. I was amused.

          • Amtep said:

            That’s one of those situations where if they whine, you tell them your contracting rates. And the more they whine, the more those rates go up.

            (This may be specific to the IT industry — does it work that way in other fields?)

          • thelittlepakeha said:

            It might work that way in government. I know in NZ (and suspect elsewhere in the west) they’re on a massive kick of downsizing the public sector. Only it means they have to hire a ton of contractors instead for much more expense…

        • Guava said:

          Yeah!!! When I left my last job, they hadn’t hired my replacement yet, so I left a drawer full of meticulously organized files, along with a detailed letter that explained the file format – where the proposal was located, what phase each project was in, what needed to be billed next, etc.

          My old boss was too lazy to read the letter. He told the new hire that I had been a “pack rat paper hoarder” and together they tossed all of my files into the trash. GUESS WHO WASN’T HOME when they started calling me a month later with urgent questions?

          • Courtney said:

            Oh wow. I’ve taken over positions from other people before, and I would NEVER just throw all the files away, no matter what the new boss said. I would flip through them for things that were obviously trash or personal papers from the prior employee, and then save the rest for at least a couple of months (until i knew the job well enough to actually KNOW whether the information was useful or not.) In my current job, I replaced someone who was let go. When I was hired, the IT department didn’t start a new email account for me. They changed the name on the old employee’s account and gave that to me, in case anything in the email history was useful. Most of it was junk, but there were a handful of emails that were useful to me, and 2 or 3 that actually helped me pull off a “save the day” moment. There wasn’t much to speak of in terms of paper–about 2 hanging file folders of stuff. I finally threw the last of it away about 6 months after taking the job.

          • Guava said:

            Yeah, I couldn’t understand that either. I’m with you – I like to have as much information as possible when I’m starting a new job and jumping into active projects with clients. To me, it’s a professional courtesy.

            My friend who remained at the company said that my replacement felt she was overqualified for the job (she had an MBA; I didn’t) and expressed that she ‘didn’t have the time’ to go through my files. Which is hard to fathom…I kept those files for a reason, and had she just sat down with them for half a day, it would have made her job so much easier. At it was, the clients started complaining…all kinds of major mistakes were made that could easily have been avoided…yeah.

  13. Groovy Biscuit Intervention said:

    The thing is, there will always be some reason you can give yourself why now is a difficult time to leave a job; why they really need you; why you should just stay that bit longer. And eventually you just need to go anyway. Workplaces expect to have staff leave, from time to time. They can deal with it. It’s OK to do what you need to do for you.

    And congratulations! I hope you really enjoy your new job.

    (On a side note, as a British person I always find the whole US ‘two weeks notice’ thing really odd. Aside from casual work, I don’t think I’ve ever had a job where I wasn’t contractually expected to give a month’s notice; and for my current job it’s a THREE MONTH notice period!)

    • Look at it this way: in Britain, you have single-payer health insurance, so you can’t be instantly bankrupted by a medical emergency/accident, as most Americans can. (In Britain or Canada or France or Australia or Germany or pretty much everywhere else, if you go to the hospital with, say, appendicitis, you might expect a bill of around $100 or so. Even with health insurance, Americans expect to pay anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars when they go to the hospital, because the for-profit insurance industry has a direct financial incentive to deny coverage for common medical procedures and medical help costs are enormous. Ironically, the high prices are largely the result of the for-profit insurance industry as well, because doctors are effectively strong-armed into giving insurers discounts and thus are massively penalized if they lower their prices — to say nothing of the fact that, thanks to the proliferation of insurance companies, every doctor now needs a clerical staff just to handle all the ramifications of billing, which increases medical overhead dramatically. It’s a nasty situation, but one which my fellow Americans seem determined to permit.) You also almost certainly have more time off than your American counterparts, and also higher wages for comparable work. The ability to quit without penalty is almost the only thing American workers have in their favor, as compared with other first-world countries, and even then employers CAN have contractual obligations which prevent it, they simply usually don’t.

      • Victoria said:

        I’m not sure quitting without penalty is that much of an advantage – in most British contracts the notice period an employee has to give is the same as the notice period an employer has to give to lay off their staff. It’s supposed to protect everyone and give them time to find another job/worker.

        Also, if you accept a new job the new employer is less likely to expect you to start immediately because they know there’s a statutory notice period, and it’s less likely the previous person quit without warning. Essentially, it’s supposed to avoid awkward situations like the one the LW is in, although of course it doesn’t always work.

        • Nineveh_uk said:

          In practice, it is possible to leave with no notice without penalty in the UK, as in order to penalise you your employer would have to take you to court and in reality they’re highly unlikely to bother. But it’s a bad idea if you ever want a reference from that company, unless you are specifically employed as a temp, so people in professional circumstances won’t do it unless they are leaving and e.g. planning a claim for constructive dismissal.

          • Mary said:

            Although it’s also often possible to negotiate an immediate exit with your employer, especially if you’ve got annual leave. I’ve done, “my notice period is one month, I’ve got twelve days of annual leave, so that makes my last day next Friday.” And I’ve known people leave even quicker because it’s just rarely useful for a (decent) employer to force someone to work out their notice against their will.

      • Dr Sarah said:

        Also, the UK requirement to give notice applies to bosses as well as employees. This whole thing in the US about ‘you can give them 20 years loyal service and still be out the door the minute they decide they want to fire you’ horrified me when I found out about it. In the UK, contracts normally contain minimum-notice provisions for the boss as well as the employees, and even if you’re doing casual work I believe (although I’m not acquainted with the details of the law) there’s a requirement for them to give you something like a week’s notice.

        • Rowan said:

          I’ve had “you’re fired, get your stuff and bugger off” after working for 3 months. I’d just found out I was pregnant. Coincidence?

        • Slow Learner said:

          A lot of contracts allow your employer to turn your notice period into “gardening leave” (they still pay you, you’re out of the office), so they can get you out of the door earlier but you do still get the money!

          • jordanjay29 said:

            That’s really silly. I guess if I had tons of money to blow, I could afford to do that, but I’m not sure how a company can justify paying someone for work they’re not getting. Even substandard work is worth more than no work.

          • Mary said:

            Well, even fewer employees can afford to lose their salary with no notice. It makes no sense to me to say individuals need to plan for that eventuality but employers don’t!

            If your business functions, you take on the costs of employing people, and that includes paying out your employees’ legal notice!

      • LittleRedKite said:

        To be honest, in the UK, you only really think about the costs of treatment if you’re ‘going private’ – the National Health Service is free at the point of use (apart from prescription charges and the like). That’s the thing about the American healthcare system that terrifies me – surely if a health problem may bankrupt you, you stay away, get more ill, then eventually it gets worse and you have to pay more in the end? Yikes.
        There’s lots I love about the US, lived there for a while in my early 20s, but the employment laws and healthcare system are…scary. The idea of being bankrupted by sickness is so frightening- being ill is crap enough as it is!

        • thelittlepakeha said:

          New Zealand is a bit worse than the UK but still much better than the US. It costs me about $45 for a doctor’s visit, though they’ll often find some excuse to make it cheaper because I have to go every three months for the GP to re-prescribe meds and check how I’m doing. And that’s as an enrolled patient – if you just go to a random doctor it can be more like $80. Prescriptions are $5 each, recently increased from $3. I definitely have to plan to have money available for my check ups, but I can do it even on my poverty-level student income.

          The real problem though is when you’re working, you don’t have paid sick leave (run out, casual contract, not eligible yet, etc) and the business insists on a doctor’s note for sick days. Especially in some areas where you’d be lucky to get an appointment in the next couple of days.

        • Courtney said:

          “surely if a health problem may bankrupt you, you stay away, get more ill, then eventually it gets worse and you have to pay more in the end”

          Exactly. And if someone cannot pay at all, that cost contributes to higher health care costs overall in the form of charity care and bad debt. In addition to all of the for-profit health care/health insurance issues, we have a federal law that forbids hospital emergency rooms from turning away people who have immediately life threatening conditions or who are in active labor, regardless of their ability to pay. They must be stabilized before they can be discharged. So we ended up with lots of low-income (or variable income) people only getting health care when it was serious enough to go to the ER. At which point, their illnesses were most likely more expensive to diagnose and treat, and may have led to additional health problems.

          When people argue against the Affordable Care Act (which is far from perfect, but SO MUCH BETTER than the prior system) saying that they don’t want to pay for other people’s health care, I wanted to scream and tear at my hair. They refused to believe that they were ALREADY paying for it, and that fixing the problem of access to primary, preventive care would mean that they pay less money for better outcomes. And that doesn’t even touch on the costs to businesses related to employees not having access to preventive/primary health care, which regular consumers ultimately pay for in the price of goods and services.

    • It depends on your contract. Mine said ‘one week’ but as the contract was only for 20h (I usually worked 40), they simply handed me a pittance. I got fired two days before Christmas because the owners wanted to draw All The Cash from the business and did not wish to invest or pay their staff (out of 9, 2 layoffs and the rest had their hours cut).

      That was a very cheerful year indeed, and as everybody knows, finding a new job on December 27 is the easiest thing in the world. I couldn’t even sign on, because the job centre was helpfully closing early the Friday before Christmas…

    • Mary said:

      Also British, and I’ve had temp/zero hours/casual jobs with a week or no notice. But yeah, it’s usually a contractual requirement, and the minefield of negotiating an etiquette-based system sounds … hard. And designed to give employers even more power and make individuals feel bad.

      I also find the US “you’re fired, starting from now, no notice” really scary.

  14. LW: do you have any critical job functions — the kind which will cripple the business if not performed? Is there anything you, and you alone, know how to do, which the business needs? If the answer to both of these questions is “no” then the only problem your resignation is going to cause for the business is some temporary scheduling problems while they find a replacement — and in this economy, they will almost certainly have their pick of applicants. It would be a little rude, but not otherwise a just cause for guilt, to just say “I quit” in the middle of a working day and walk out, and giving two weeks’ notice puts you well into the “not rude” column. If you were underpaid — which is suggested by the fact that you’re getting a better deal on a temporary position — and didn’t enjoy the work, then you were probably being exploited, and if anything you were doing them a favor by staying there for 10 years.

    If the business is, in some way, resting on your shoulders, then that’s a little different. But even then, the only guilt you should feel is if you fail to transfer your unique duties (and information) to somebody else in time. If your soon-to-be-ex-coworkers have bad attitudes, that isn’t your problem.

    (And, incidentally, you should feel no obligation to go out of your way to assist your former workplace if you DID have mission-critical job functions. They had ten years in which to get you to train somebody else to do your functions in case you left, or got hit by a bus, or whatever, and you’ve said you made no secret of wanting to leave. You even gave them two weeks of time in which they could have had you write everything out, or train somebody else. If they failed to take advantage of that, it’s their fault, not yours.)

    • aebhel said:

      Even so…you know, I read Ask A Manager a lot, and she always basically says that having a situaion where losing one person would cripple the business is almost always bad management–because people quit, or retire, or get hit by a bus, or need to take maternity leave…managers have to be prepared to re-assign that person’s work.

      So even if LW is in a role like that, it’s sort of bad management on their part anyway. She should make sure that her coworkers get the necessary information, but yeah, she shouldn’t feel guilty for it.

      • Lisa M. said:

        Yes, and that type of bad management won’t function even WITH three months’ notice (as I once learned when I gave three months’ notice and they didn’t have me train anyone else to do my job. I was the only person who knew how to do it. They finally hired someone to start a week before I left, so I had a week to train someone, who, as it turned out, was not at all qualified for the position [they didn’t let me in on the hiring process, either.])

  15. Erin McJ said:

    The last time I left a job, I gave 3 weeks notice and worried that it wasn’t enough. Let me tell you, it felt real awkward to linger that long. Your business will do fine, just as they would if you had a health emergency and were out for twelve weeks.

    I hope the guilt leaves you as soon as you hand in your keys. It did for me — I just felt free. Congratulations!

  16. Jill said:

    I’m going to respectfully disagree with people saying not to feel guilty. Don’t feel guilty. But do think twice about how often you leave like this in the future. All these comments along the lines of “they should’ve done X if they really wanted you” and “you don’t owe them” may be true to a certain extent.

    But professionally speaking, LW has pretty much screwed themself out of any positive recommendations from this employer. (Future employers can contact ANY former boss, not just ones you list on your resume). And she may have burnt bridges with co-workers that may have otherwise been willing to be networking contacts.

    Also, LW, I am concerned for you that this headhunter pushed you to take the job now, now, now. How thorough was your interview process? I don’t want to scare you, but a truly professional entity would EXPECT new hires to want to give a reasonable notice to their current employer. I apologize for sounding discouraging, but to me, it’s a red flag that your new employer pushed to have you drop your currently employer so fast.

    Best wishes to you. And do stop worrying about this. It’s done. You’ve got a new adventure ahead. Learn from this and move on to better things!

    • paddlepickle said:

      I didn’t catch that on my first read, but. . .did she even have to interview for this job? She said the headhunter put her name forward and came back with an offer that day. . .is that normal? I’m not familiar with headhunters really but that does seem odd. Ugh I hope this all works out OK!

      • paddlepickle said:

        Oops I didn’t mean to assume this LW’s gender identity 😦

    • Annie said:

      If it’s anything like the agency I was once placed through, they may do their own interview process and then just give you to an approved employer who already trusts them and their judgment. Or it may be sketchy, I’m not sure, but it’s not unheard of.

    • Mary said:

      Would an employer really give a bad reference for leaving with one week’s notice when there isn’t a contractual obligation to give more. And would a future employer really see that as a significant negative? I am not American, so this may be a cultural difference. But that sounds bizarre to me. If I got a reference saying, “this person worked for us for ten years and our only complaint is that they gave one week’s notice instead of two”, I would not be taking much notice of it.

      • MuddieMae said:

        Well, they might mention it in their reference, and it generally wouldn’t be considered a positive thing. Because we don’t have contracts, violating the custom of 2+ weeks notice is considered to be kind of a big deal.

      • Zillah said:

        It could be worse, of course… But think about it like this: without a contract saying so, an employer can fire you with no notice and no severance. They’re allowed to, no question. However, it’s a pretty crappy thing to do, and will be seen as such, and it will almost certainly impact their ability to hang onto/attract great workers. It’s the same dynamic.

        Now, I don’t think this is going to kill the OP’s chances at a decent reference, and there’s nothing they can do about it now, so there’s nothing to be gained by dwelling on it. But, it’s not quite as simple as a good reference that just says “oh, but they only gave a week’s notice.” How you leave a job can affect how they speak about you. Lying isn’t legal, but “OP was great” could turn into “OP was a decent worker, but a bit unreliable, and they didn’t give enough notice to hand off their work, which disrupted their department.” It’s not even necessarily conscious sabotage – it’s understandable when a poor parting colors your opinion a little.

        Can companies get away with this easier than workers? Yes. Absolutely. Which sucks and isn’t fair. But I think it’s important to live in the real world, which means not shooting yourself in the foot on principle.

        That said – OP, you did give a week’s notice, which is much better than “today is my last day,” and I don’t think this will really screw you, especially not if you head it off when you call them about a reference.

    • Russian Violet said:

      That would have been very sound advice had the LW written in before she accepted the new job. What’s to be gained from giving it now other than to heap alarm and worry on top of the guilt she’s already feeling?

    • attica said:

      I have the sense that ‘leaving abruptly leaves a black mark on your permanent record’ is becoming less and less true. In the current job market, when labor is plentiful and jobs are less so, the taking of an opportunity while the iron is hot is getting more and more common. And ergo, less and less indicative of a character flaw.

      Also less common is checking job references: a) employers are wary of doing more than confirming dates of employment because they might be/have been sued for giving a bad reference; b) nowadays we have The Google.

      Something to be conscious of, but not enough to stop a person from getting the hell out of Dodge when that’s the best thing to do.

      • JenniferP said:

        I, personally, would always prefer to give as much notice as possible and to leave my work in as tidy a bundle as possible.
        But that has not always been the reality. In my current job, my class assignments are agreed-to in advance, where, I sign a paper and block out the time, but if the class doesn’t fill (or if someone with more seniority has a class that doesn’t fill) I can be bumped the night before classes start, given $150, and told “Oops, we miscalculated enrollment, sorry!” If that happens, I cannot claim unemployment.

        At other times, I have given 2 months’ notice, wanting to be as helpful as possible, and been out of a job THAT DAY because there’s a company policy I didn’t know about that once you give notice you can’t have access to any confidential client info.

        If you are recruiting and you are at the point of checking references, you most likely want to hire this person. You don’t bother doing checks on people you’re not very interested in hiring. You’re looking to see if their story of themselves matches up with the story other people tell – Do the facts line up? Does the vibe line up with what you know? Some companies have the policy of only confirming dates of employment for former employees, though there are always ways to get information informally. But a reference who says “X was here for 10 years, and did good work, though we wish they’d given more notice when they left” is most likely not a make or break thing for a candidate.

        Chances are the LW has *not* burned their bridge forever with this company and these colleagues. They didn’t hide the fact that they were looking to leave, and if they tidy up as much as possible and follow up later with a nice note, these people will honestly not care about this at all 2 or 3 months from now (and if they do, it’s because there were other problems with the LW and their work). It’s good for businesses when people who are unhappy there leave. Even if you do great work, having one foot out the door for more than year is noticeable by the other people on your team.

        I too have side-eye for the “You must start IMMEDIATELY.” What is this new job, a mission to Mars that leaves tomorrow? I think the LW could probably have negotiated a later start date, and I don’t think the recruiter was best serving the LW by setting up this dilemma, but I can understand jumping at the chance to get out. 10 years is a long time to be unhappy at work.

    • I confess that I’d be kind of tempted to look sideways at “LW worked for us for an entire decade but we absolutely cannot recommend them and you shouldn’t hire them.” 😉 (Also LW didn’t mention pissed co-workers despite being in the kind of state of high jerkbrain fret that tends to amplify such things makes me guess that while they may have burnt bridges, it’s actually pretty unlikely.)

      I know short turnarounds aren’t common, but I’ve gotten at least one same-day start call for work, and a couple which ask me to start on Monday when it’s Wednesday or Thursday. If^W When a company comes to a staffing agency and says “We need someone right away”, the staffing agency will smile, get off the phone, possibly swear at ridiculous requests, and start going through everything they have to find a fit as soon as possible. Their success is not measured by how long their pool (who are not always employed, certainly not always employed in a way that would conflict with new positions) has before starting, their success is measured by how quickly they can put candidates together with positions and how good a fit those candidates are.

      Yes, it’s unusual, but I don’t think LW needs to start ringing the tocsin because a headhunter warned them they might need to start immediately and then they had to start immediately. This happens. 🙂

      I concur on the best wishes for the LW! Just wanted to note that IME, the situation is not inherently worrying, so there is no concern that I think needs to be added to the guilt.

    • MsM said:

      I think this is unduly alarmist. The worst reference most employers will give is a simple confirmation that the person worked for them from X – Y date. And even if this particular employer goes a bit further or the person checking the references interprets that as a non-recommendation, the fact LW was there for ten years says they either must have liked something about her, or they’re not great managers to begin with and that makes their opinion suspect.

      As for networking contacts…again, LW’s been there ten years. Is she really the first person to leave in all that time? Surely there are others who worked with her who will still happily go to lunch and share contacts and even serve as backup references, even if she’s persona non grata with everyone else currently there (which I doubt).

      I do agree with you and the Captain that LW should feel more comfortable about pushing back on giving notice next time, but if this new job does turn out to be a bad fit, I don’t think she should worry that she has to stay there because she’ll never be able to get through the screening process with anyone else.

      • Courtney said:

        Agreed. Also, with a decade-long tenure, it is perfectly reasonable that some of your references from that company have moved on to other companies. When I was leaving a position in which I worked with several people at the same level of my direct report, I solved my “I’m really anxious about letting my current supervisor know I’m interviewing” issues by contacting one of the former directors to secure a reference. (This is also a good tactic for when you have a bad boss but good working relationships with other current or former supervisors from the company.)

        Prospective employers can call any former company that you list on an application, but if they are moving beyond the list of references you have provided, they are probably going to contact the HR department. In the US, the HR folks can confirm dates of employment and whether or not someone is eligible for rehire. If they contact someone outside of HR whom you haven’t talked to about a reference, you might get some weaksauce responses, but a company big enough to have in house counsel is probably going to tell managers to redirect reference requests back to HR due to liability reasons. I’m not saying that bad reviews don’t happen or that reference checkers using The Google and The Facebook and The LinkedIn won’t ever find someone from your past who will talk about you, but in a situation like the LW’s? Not likely. LW was recruited by an agency for a temp-to-permanent position. I’ve been there several times in the past 15+ years. The agency checks references from the employee’s list, and usually isn’t required to talk to them all. Once you are hired as a temp, the decision to make you permanent is based solely on your work with the new company (unless they find out something egregious like that you lied about something like having a degree when you don’t or failed to disclose a relevant criminal record.). I have never had a reference check for former job references as part of transitioning from temp to perm. It’s pretty much a “yes/no?” to the managers you work with, so do what you can to clear your mind of the badfeels about old job and put your energy into being the most Awesome You That Ever Was in the new job.

  17. Corporate America has demonstrated time and time again that it has no loyalty whatsoever to its workers, but would love you to buy into the idea that you owe it some amount of loyalty. Total crap. If you want to utilize and be valued for new skills, or even old skills sharpened by experience, you have to be willing to look for that next opportunity. Many times many employers are perfectly happy to let your pay and position stagnate while they enjoy the benefit your skills and experience bring to their organization.

    It took me a long time to learn that lesson. Learn it faster than I did, LW, and best of luck in your new career field.

  18. Postosuchus said:

    There have been a few barbed comments about how I probably owed them better after so many years.
    Can I just add to what other commenters have said: HAHAHAHAHA! You don’t owe them anything. Companies will lay you off at the drop of a hat and have you escorted out of the building with no notice. Best wishes on your new position!

    • Postosuchus said:

      Well, messed up the HTML tag.

  19. MK said:

    I must say I am very disappointed both with the CA’s advice and the comments (though not particularly surprised). A few points:

    1) Everyone’s horror story about their horrible employer is not relevant here. So is the fact that the employer could have fired the LW at any time with no notice. The fact is, they didn’t fire her with no notice at the worst time of her life and we don’t know that they would do that. Also, the LW, as far as I can tell, doesn’t complain about the people or the company; she says it disliked the job and that the new one is in the industry she trained for, she also says people have been generally good to her. That doesn’t necessarily imply a toxic workplace or an employer who doesn’t appreciate the LW, it could just be someone stuck doing work they don’t like.

    2) Captain, I am sure two weeks is usually not enough to replace an employee. But “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” is also not accomplished in a couple of days either, in most cases of professional work. Two weeks is reasonable time for the person who quits to wrap up things they have in progress or hand them over to coworkers while being there to give infromation as needed and for the company to explore short-term solutions, like a temp. Also, the reason most people do adhere by the two weeks notice rule is not out of consideration for their employer, but concern for their own reputation. If people ever call this copmany for references about the LW, they will probably hear “she was great while she was here, but she quit with a few days notice”. It might not matter at all for the LW’s career (I hope so), but it might harm her along the way too.

    3) The LW says people have been resigned and more or less gracious about her leaving without notice. I don’t think “a few barbed comments” from people who have co-existed with the LW for 10 years and are now left scrambling to cover her work with a few days notice is all that unexpected. Sure, it’s not a nice thing to do and it’s also pointless and maybe petty, but it’s not unreasonable that they are not feeling all that charitable towards the LW right now and they let the odd stinker slip.

    Lastly, I don’t think it’s helpful to rush in with “no, no, no, you did nothing wrong”, when someone did something dubious. We are all human and we make mistakes. What’s wrong with admitting that, feeling a little guilt and resolving to do better? Would anyone really like to be the person who always justifies her bad behavior with excuses about how it’s not her fault and out of her control?

    All that being said, LW, I also must say that the amount of guilt you feel seems inappropriate to me. I think you made a mistake that you should feel bad about and learn from, but you didn’t kill a puppy for heaven’s shake. There is not reason to feel like a monster because you caused some inconvenience; your company will manage and your coworkers will probably forget their irritation with you in a couple of weeks. Count this as expierience earned and move on yourself.

    • aebhel said:

      Honestly, I could type up eveything I’m currently working on in about a day, and my workspace and files are already organized so that anyone could find them. Maybe for people who subscribe to the ‘pile eveything in one gigantic pile’ school of organization, and/or people who are always working on multiple complex long-term projects, that wouldn’t be true, but I don’t think that actually describes the vast majority of professional jobs.

      I think what a lot of people are saying here is that American business culture has a lopsided expectation of loyalty which can lead people to feel really outsized amounts of guilt when they choose their own best interests over that of their employer. I think if LW had written in before accepting this job, most people would have advised her to give two weeks notice–but that’s for the sake of her own reputation, not out of anything she owes her employer. As it is, though, a lot of us don’t find what she did morally dubious at all. If she left her coworkers with a pile of work and inaccessible files, sure, they’d have good reason to be annoyed with her, but there’s no real reason to assume that’s the case.

      • MK said:

        There is no real reason to assume that it is the employer’s fault that the OP was unhappy either, but comments have pretty much taken it for granted “Oh, you were unhappy, so they made your life a misery/didn’t do enough to retain you/are trying to pour guilt you, etc”. Also, I am very sceptical of this,

        “I could type up eveything I’m currently working on in about a day, and my workspace and files are already organized so that anyone could find them.”

        When you ‘ve been doing something for years, a lot of things seem self-evident; that doesn’t mean someone who hasn’t had your experience will find it equally so. Also, people organize their work in the way that seems most reasonable, simple and convenient to them, but it’s usually somewhat subjective, and even those who have organized their files in the most insane way believe their system is the most convenient and functional one; chances are, anyone who isn’t you will need a considerable amount of time to figure it out, no matter how simple you think you have made things. And that’s discounting that many jobs have more complicated responsibilities, running projects, clients who have a relationship with a particular worker in a company, etc.

        • aebhel said:

          Okay, no, actually, I know for a fact that I can do this and have it work because I have in fact done this; I just recently took maternity leave, which necessitated portioning out my tasks and ongoing projects to other people for several months. I literally took about a day to type up the needed info and walk people through the rest. I did no reorganizing of my files whatsoever. No one had any trouble finding what they needed or understanding what needed to be done.

          And yes, I understand that this doesn’t apply to all jobs, but neither does your assumption that no one could possibly organize their desk and summarize their job responsibilities in under two weeks.

          I actually don’t agree that we should assume that the OP’s employers are horrible, but I also don’t see why we should replace that with the assumption that the OP has massively and unfairly burdened her coworkers.

          • MsM said:

            I do have one of those jobs where it probably would probably take at least a month for me to properly train my replacement, not counting the time required to hire them. But few employers – particularly in my field – are going to be able to give me that kind of time before they need me to start, and my current employer knows that. At some point, you have to pass over all you’ve been able to document, offer contact information if there are lingering questions, and go. If you wait for a situation where the transition is going to be 100% smooth, you never will be able to leave.

        • thelittlepakeha said:

          My last office job we had a universal system for dealing with files. I spent my last couple of weeks doing process charts/lists (and balancing transactions) but to be honest that was mostly just so they could say they had them. They weren’t hugely necessary.

    • human said:

      The LW should feel less guilty, but not until AFTER you pile on, huh? C’mon, s/he didn’t do a thing wrong. Maybe she made some people unhappy but that happens in life and it doesn’t mean a person did something wrong, it just means s/he did something that other people didn’t like. There’s a big, big, big, big difference. Employers would like us to conflate these two things so we don’t stand up for ourselves and so we place their interests way above our own, but there’s no reason for us to behave that way — it does not benefit us at all.

      LW did just fine. Congrats on the new job, LW! I hope it goes awesomely!

      • Zillah said:

        I don’t think the LW should beat themselves up, but at the same time, I don’t think MK is wrong to point out the potential issues with how the LW handled this – it’s good to keep in mind for the future, both in dealing with this job if they need a reference in the future and with jobs going forward. It’s not about right vs. wrong – it’s about adhering to professional expectations bc it will help you in the long run.

    • JenniferP said:

      MK, thanks for this perspective, minus your “(though not particularly surprised)” aside. Reading people for snark while snarking at them is a difficult line to walk; I probably fail at this more than anyone.

      You are correct that:

      -The LW’s coworkers are going to have natural, immediate, blurty sort of reactions to feeling “left in the lurch.”
      -The LW’s bosses are naturally going to feel inconvenienced.
      -It’s natural that they would be put out by the LW’s departure (though one would wish they’d contain themselves) and that the LW would, as a responsible person feel bad for inconveniencing people they like.
      -In a best-of-all-worlds situation, the LW would have given more notice.
      -Now that the cat’s out of the bag, it’s understandable to wonder, “Did I make a mistake here? Could I have negotiated better?”
      -And you were kind in suggesting that the LW is beating themselves up too much about this. If it is a mistake, it’s a tiny mistake.
      -I really liked your framing around it being better to admit & move on from a mistake than to act like mistakes don’t happen to you. As a recovering perfectionist that will stay with me in a good way. So the question might become, if this IS some kind of mistake, so what?

      As I read the rest of the responses, I realize how US-centric my response was, and that this could be more of a reputation-hurting/reference-hurting/contractual sort of mistake in the UK, for example. I shouldn’t have made that assumption.

      I personally like to give employers and people I work with as much notice as possible so that everyone can make good decisions and work can be tidied up and transitioned as smoothly as possible. Once classes start, for example, it would take a great deal (like, literally, a great deal – “HBO wants to pick up your series idea, please come out now to start preproduction“) to make me leave my students before the end of a semester because those are relationships that I am committed to, personally and professionally. I try to work with every person like I plan to work with them again and again, and I think that’s a good way to be in the world.

      But I think the “you can be fired at any time” thing IS absolutely relevant, in this case and many others. In the UK, where more notice from employees is expected, more (more=any!) notice is given.

      Here in the US:
      -Workers are routinely discussed as “costs” that must be “cut” for the sake of efficiency. Your work can make your company profitable all year long, you can be laid off without notice at year’s end to make them even more profitable! Negotiators for my employer referred to adjunct professors (70-80% of the college teachers, they would shut down tomorrow without us) as being similar to extra retail workers hired for the holiday season.
      -Workers can and are fired without notice, and are punished for giving notice. “Sorry you tried to help us out, bye!”
      -Young people must do extended unpaid auditions for their jobs in the forms of internships.
      -See also how your entire adult life is audited every time you seek a job.
      -Anyone else have this piece on getting rejected for a job at The Container Store all over their feeds this week?
      -Barbara Ehrenreich wrote Nickled & Dimed: On Not Getting By In America in the late 1990s, when the US as a whole had a relatively great economy, compared to the last decade. The only thing that has changed since then is that people in so-called “professional” positions are now in the same boat as entry-level retail workers (see Bait & Switch, her 2005 follow-up).
      -There is a culture where we are told we are easily replaceable, that anyone could do our jobs, that we are lucky to have our jobs, that we should be grateful for our jobs, that we must do everything absolutely perfectly or risk damaging a reference and then maybe never get a new job. The background music of this entire recession has been “You are doing the work of several people for no additional pay, you could get laid off at any second, no, you can’t have a raise, and you are lucky to be here at all.”
      -See also “If you don’t like it you can just quit.”
      –Well, which is it? If you do manage leave for something better, suddenly, noooooooooo, you are unprofessional, you are leaving us in the lurch, this will haunt you forever in the form of bad references, we are owed more gratitude.

      I think there is enormous value in having integrity in your work and treating everyone you meet with kindness and good faith. I also think that appeals to abstract “professionalism” can be really empty in cases like these. Maybe the LW’s employer values their employees way more than current cultural and economic norms suggest, but while (as you pointed out) we can’t know whether they don’t, we also can’t know whether they do.

      The LW did their job for 10 years. They sought out additional training to make themselves more valuable and more able to get jobs in their desired field. They job-hunted, in their words, “desperately.” And then, when they got a chance, they jumped at it. This is what we are “supposed to” do. And the cost was approximately one week less notice than is customary to a business where presumably the LW is not the only worker. I think a later start date was probably negotiable, but for the recruiter, it may well have come down to “Which candidate of these 5 well-qualified people can start the soonest? That’s the one we put forward.” I am in a situation like that right now, btw, in talks with a recruiter where the employer wants a start date that is very soon and I have a firm “not til the end of the semester” start date. If someone equally as qualified as me can start sooner, that job is theirs, but I’m sure I can eat my professional integrity all winter. Is anybody really going to tell the LW that they should roll the dice on that chance for the sake of “professionalism”?

      You said the LW should feel bad about their mistake and then learn from it. What do you think they should learn? What do you think they should have done differently, or could do differently next time?

      • Mary said:

        Just to clarify the UK/US difference (if anyone’s interested) (and I think what I’m saying about the UK would probably be true in most of Europe, certainly Ireland, pretty sure it’s true in Germany and France) is that your notice period is purely contractual here and there isn’t this greyish area of etiquette which can trip people like the LW up if they don’t know the rules. You can give more notice than your contract requires if you like (though generally people don’t), or if you want to leave earlier than your contracts states you can negotiate that with your employer and hopefully come a mutually-satisfactory arrangement. If you gave less notice than you’re required to, your employer would just point out that no, your final day of work is actually X.

        If you really want to leave before the end of your notice period and can’t square it with your employer, your only alternative is just to not turn up at work, and that’s a clear breach of contract. (Though many employers won’t bother pursuing it unless you’re a very high earner or something, because it would mean a civil suit and that’s rarely financially worthwhile.) On the flipside, if you gave notice and your employer needed you to not see any more client information, they’d probably send you straight home but in most circumstances they’d be obliged to keep paying you until your notice expired.

        In my public sector jobs, I’ve always given notice informally to my boss verbally (because I know they’ll be asked for a reference), and then given notice formally in writing once my written confirmation of a job offer has come through. I certainly wouldn’t dare claim that the kind of punishing people for resigning thing that you and others NEVER happens -I’m sure it does – but it would be pretty widely regarded as bad management, I think, not just Hey, That’s An Inevitable Thing That Employers Do.

        TL;DR – oh god don’t vote UKIP.

    • unlurking said:

      CA’s and the commentors advice is the way it is likely because they cannot wave a magic wand and create a magical 2-weeks-notice that doesn’t exist, and so the only questions at hand are the ones that will help and support the LW going forward, which you touch on in your closing two sentences, which are spot on: is LW an Irredeemably Bad Person (no), might they do it differently next time (sure! though it might not help anyway), have they Ruined Their Professional Career (lol no), should they feel endless guilt and shame (no).

    • AW said:

      That the employer could fire LW without notice is relevant because it means LW gave more notice than the employer would have.

      “If people ever call this copmany for references about the LW, they will probably hear “she was great while she was here, but she quit with a few days notice”.”

      According to the Evil HR Lady, most businesses will only confirm that the former employee worked for them because they don’t want to get sued. Besides, the LW can always counter with the fact that they knew the LW was going to leave for some time before that.

      “it’s not unreasonable that they are not feeling all that charitable towards the LW right now and they let the odd stinker slip.”

      Why is the LW the only person expected to act like a professional in this situation? You know the correct place to whine about co-workers? NOT AT WORK. You address your issues with a co-worker to them in a respectful manner, you lodge a formal complaint to your boss or HR, but you do not piss and moan out loud about what you think you’re owed.

  20. harvestkitchena2 said:

    I am a boss. I run a small business where the staff is very informal and friendly. However, as a small business, there are not that many opportunities for advancement here. So, I KNOW my staff will be leaving eventually for greener pastures (more school, jobs with more money and more opportunities for advancement). I do NOT ever want them to feel guilty for leaving, even if I’m sad to see them go. New people will come, and they will be awesome too.
    I understand that your bosses are not being supportive, but this is YOUR career, and you need to look out for #1. As a boss, I am letting you know that a good boss should not make you feel guilty about this, and so you don’t have to feel guilty. Do your best work, try to leave things in order, and tell your jerkbrain to take a rest. A job is a transaction where you are being paid for your work, not a life-long commitment to stay-at all costs-in a place that was kind enough to hire you 10 years ago

  21. Frost said:

    My employer sometimes guilt trips me about the length of time I’m going to be out of commission after surgery (noting how I’m one of the very few people trained in my area of the store, that I know more about the products than anyone else, he doesn’t know what they’re going to do while I’m gone, ect) but it’s like…okay, I can either get the surgery and be unable to work for a few weeks and unable to do any heavy lifting or such for a month or two (it’s a very invasive surgery that might require MULTIPLE go-throughs) or I can not get the surgery and be unable to work forever out of the whole being dead thing.

    Employers always guilt trip you when you inconvenience them, even a lot of the nice ones. My manager’s a pretty cool guy who didn’t even get mad when I put a rubber snake in the cash box this halloween (even if it made him shriek like a five year old cheerleader on helium) and instead chose to get revenge on me by hiding a rubber scorpion in the drawer I keep bags in.

  22. Katamari said:

    I feel that this is one of those times when it’s good to ask: Is this helping? Is feeling guilty changing anything? Is it making people less pissed at me? Is it making amends? Is it the the useful kind of guilt that prompts one into positive action, or is it useless guilt? If it’s the latter, you may as well just let the fucker go.

    Also the way I see it is this – if I stuffed up big time in my job, my employer can in a sense “punish” me, by giving me a bad reference or refusing to give me a reference in future. So if I did bad by my boss, they will do that. If my work over the years was good enough, they’ll give me a good reference. So LW this is what will happen – either you angered your bosses enough to lose a reference, or you didn’t. The guilt is pointless – there’s no need to punish yourself on behalf of your bosses’ possible (but maybe nonexistent) hurt feelings. They are perfectly capable of punishing you themselves if they decide what you did was that bad. The onus is 100% on them (not you), come reference time, to decide how good or crappy an employee you were.

    On that note, have you actually asked them if they would provide you with a good reference into the future? That’s an important thing to ask any time you leave a job.

  23. Anna Sthetic said:

    My mum’s Rule About Working With People:

    if someone says something nasty to you in a work situation, it is because they are so unhappy that they are letting their professional shell slip. The chance that the thing you did which they’re commenting on is the thing which is making them *that* unhappy is probably not that high.

    Happy people do not snark in work situations. Assume that their cat is ill or their mother in law is coming to stay or the snack they just ate which they thought was gluten free was contaminated and they can feel their abdomen swelling. You’re just a thing they can use to let steam off.

    thus endeth mum’s rule.

    • Mary said:

      I like this!

    • Mary said:

      … Though I might change it to “happy, non-abusive people do not…”. Because sometimes it’s just a one-off stressed-out nasty comment, but sometimes it’s a whole pattern of nasty behaviour by someone who thinks they’re entitled to belittle you.

      • Anna Sthetic said:

        Yes, good shout.

        Not sure I’ve ever met a happy abusive person. But maybe that’s a discussion for another day.

        • Mary said:

          It’s not so much that I care whether the boss/colleague who makes a habit of bullying someone is happy, but just remembering seeing a colleague repeatedly try to rationalise bullying behaviour with, “oh, she’s probably just having a bad day!” whilst the rest of us were, “no, she’s having a bad day AT YOU, she does it all the time, you are upset by it, it’s not OK.”

          If it is just someone having a bad day, it’s great to be able to brush it off as their problem, but you don’t want to take it to the extent of minimising bad behaviour that’s part of a bigger pattern

          However, I am not disagreeing with the basic excellence of your mum’s advice!

  24. tawg said:

    LW, you mention that it wasn’t a secret that you were trying to leave. I had a similar situation when I was working a job that I hated. I made certain that it very much wasn’t a secret – I was going through the job section of the paper in the break room, I was proof reading my resume while waiting for my shift to start. It was a shitty workplace with a lot of bullying from the management, and they couldn’t fire me unless I stole or turned up under the influence so, whatever. When I got a new job it happened so quickly! Thankfully they needed paperwork to be done, so that kind of covered my two-weeks notice, and I told my manager that I wouldn’t be able to cover any shifts because my days off were being used to train me for the new job. I was out of there so fast.

    And look. If it was no secret that you were leaving, and the company wanted you to stay (of course they did – you have skills for doing your job and hiring is a pain) then they could have made steps to negotiate with you. They could have decided to try and keep you by talking about changing your job to suit your interests or whatever. But they decided to assume that you would never leave. They took a gamble and it didn’t pay off for them. Oh well.

    As for the comments. Probably you’re in your new job now and can’t respond any more (congrats, by the way! And best of luck). If you do have any more contact with people from your old job, I guess don’t trash talk your old workplace and focus on how you really appreciated some aspects of it but you wanted to pursue this thing you dig and got more training in. If you have a chance to indulge a passion, why not take it? Try not to tell the story that you left your old job because you hated it (even if it’s true). Probably people at your old work are feeling rejected, maybe they feel like they invested into you and now they own shares in all of your career forever. (The second one is pretty dangerous, imo. I’ve seen people get so nasty because DON’T YOU KNOW THAT I OWN YOU.) So I guess one way to deal with your feelings of guilt is to go “Okay, maybe some people feel hurt or disadvantaged by my leaving… but those feelings are theirs, not mine. And those feelings are also quite presumptive and also a little weird. I’m going to stop worrying about those feelings right now”.

  25. BiancaSnoozes said:

    I may be projecting here, but when I left my job that was a terrible work environment, I got the same reaction, and so I’m guessing that their bad reaction has a lot to do with the sour culture that is their aura. Yes, it’s best to give two weeks, but I’m sure they didn’t bend over backwards to be super considerate to YOUR needs (or why would you be so desperate to leave?), so you have nothing to feel bad about. Could it be that this is how they have gotten you to stay so long? Making you feel like they are doing you a huge favor just by allowing you to work for them? If so, this dynamic may be playing into your feelings here.

    I gave two weeks’ notice was treated like I was pulling the rug out from under them. I was at a different job and someone else gave 30 days notice, and our boss had an absolute fit, telling her how inconsiderate and awful she was. Some people just have that reaction because they feel entitled to never be inconvenienced. The only thing that would have been good enough for them would have been for you to keep on with the status quo. Congratulations on your new job!

  26. Dizzy said:

    1. You are a worker, not a slave. You are entitled to leave jobs for any reason, which you do not have to disclose, and to not feel bad about it.

    2. You disliked your job, enough to skill up and desperately (in your own words) look for another one. You were unhappy. You only get to live this life once – make the choices that make it the best ride possible. Sounds like for you, that choice is leaving.

    3. People talk about contractual periods of notice, but not giving notice is actually NOT some kind of heinous crime you need to flagellate yourself for committing. It happens all the time. Your contract (or general contract law) will often set out other remedies your employer can seek if you don’t give the required notice (for example, my employer can dock my pay). The reason for this is that the law gets pretty squicked out by the idea of people being compelled to work against their will, because, um, slavery.

    4. Congrats on the new job! Hope it’s great!

  27. Drew said:

    Quite a while back, I quit a job with EXACTLY two week’s notice (and ended up negotiating one extra day at Old Job with New Job for that last little bit of handoff and training). Things with Old Boss were pretty strained for a while, but we stayed in touch and several years after that, when New Job was folding, I got a New-New Job at Old Workplace. Take the high road, don’t publicly slag Old Job or Old Boss (advice I did not heed as often as I should), and any minor scorching on the bridge should be repaired if you need to use it again.

    I also once walked off a job right at the start of my shift. In my defense, it was shitty pizza delivery work (shitty applies to ALL the nouns in that phrase) and after I had been there for TWO MONTHS I was being called “old timer.” It was a second job when I was an undergrad, and I had made it very clear when I was hired that I could work mo more than 20 hours a week during the semester and that I had firm times I could not work, either because of First Job (which had a consistent schedule) or because Classes or because Drew Must Sometimes Sleep. The week I quit, they scheduled me for a full 40 hours, including tromping all over First Job’s schedule AND my needed sleep times (sure, I’ll close at 4 am when I have a 7:30 am class, no worries), and when I saw that, I handed over my cap and shirt and said, “I’m done. I’ll be in for my check next week.” I probably left them seriously in the lurch that day, but too bad for them if they couldn’t treat one of their most senior drivers better. (TWO MONTHS!!!)

    • Mary said:

      Oh hey, I resigned from a waitressing job with notice for exactly the same reasons! Part-time, I said. No more than 4 shifts a week, I said. No split shifts, I said. Sure! they said. They gave me four shifts a week for three weeks, then five shifts, then six shifts, then seven shifts, including a split 9-4, 5-12am shift on New Year’s Eve and a 9-5 shift on New Year’s Day. I am so, so, so lucky I was in a position to phone up and quit on the spot.

  28. Jae said:

    *hugs* to LW. I’ve been there, like many said above, and maybe I can ease your guilt a bit for you. Notificationperios where I live and work are much longer. Usually months. The longest I’ve had was six months – half a bloody year. New employers are used to that and they wait. But the important thing is – employers never even once made use of this. I was always fast in telling them I’m leaving after the next quarter, I’ll wrap up my work, please assign someone I can hand it over to, so the projects don’t suffer. Any you know what? Not. One. Of. Them. had someone assigned in time I could hand it over to. In the end I always left extensive descriptions of where projects stood, and very upset customers, and a successor who was then stuck with it a month or so later.

    I understand the need for professionalism and courtesy. Yet, nobody is paying you for guilt. The best you can do is leave your stuff in order and if that helps your feelings, leave them a number where your successor can call should they have questions.

    The guilt will pass – and good luck for your next job. I hope it is all you’ve been hoping for!

  29. Ellen Fremedon said:

    I’m about to start a job that I know I’m not going to stay in longer than it takes me to find a better one (though that may still be a while), and I am already preemptively guilty.

    • Courtney said:

      The first job I was able to find in my town after I moved here (in the middle of the recession) was at a horribly toxic work place. I called a temp agency on my lunch break sometime in the 2nd week and made arrangements to come in for skills testing on a Saturday morning. As soon as I had a regular (non-training shift), I started interviewing around my schedule. Bad fit jobs are bad fit jobs.

      And to echo the “businesses will do X to workers” theme, companies will hire people to cover a shortage knowing that layoffs are likely in a few months and won’t tell the interviewees. Companies will extend an offer and then retract it because business reasons. Doesn’t help the prospective employee who maybe quit a job or turned down another offer or made arrangements to move to another city.

  30. Write a really nice note on good stationary to your old boss (and the people you liked at the old job, if there are any) and tell them what you enjoyed about working with them,and how you’re happy to have had an opportunity to have worked with them and leave it at that. Hand written thank you notes are jerk brain kryptonite

  31. victoria said:

    One thing I’ve noticed about people with really fantastic, enviable careers is that they by and large do not have a lot of angst about leaving jobs, to the point that a lot of them are to some extent always open to new opportunities even if they are basically happy where they are. These are not people who are mercenaries or generally assholes; they work hard wherever they are, leave honorably if they find a better opportunity, and a lot of times will recommend a good person to replace them when they leave.

    I’m aware that this is a generalization based off of the people I know and talk to and, as such, is anecdata. OTOH, I know a lot of people and I suspect there’s something to it. (The last time I heard the statement “I hate my job and I want to quit, but I owe it to my employer to stay,” it was from someone who delivered pizzas. Holy crap, dude, Obama’s on his fourth chief of staff; the pizza place will figure it out!)

    • Fergie said:

      A bit elitist, this comment.

  32. Legacy of silence said:

    LW, I once had a job where I told them three months in advance that I needed a specific time period off, and that it was non-negotiable, and that I would happily quit if they didn’t give it to me because it was that much of a big deal.
    I reminded the manager and the owner once every two weeks. They told me two weeks before hand that they couldn’t give me the time off, so I promptly handed them my two weeks notice. They guilted me (they even engaged my co-workers in guilting me). I still quit, I had my time off that I needed, an as soon as that time was up I finally let my boss talk me into working for her again.
    The guilt they are trying to lay on you is their own toddler type tantrum distress at actually having to step up and cover things. It has nothing to do with you, and you are not obligated to bear their emotional laziness. I’m assuming they are adults and perfectly capable of acting like it.
    I wish you all the joy and happiness of a cool new job and cool new people to meet and learn about and from!

    • human said:

      Good for you, legacy! It makes me happy to hear about someone standing up for themselves that way. 🙂

  33. Dear LW

    Your behavior is just fine. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

    You were miserable there. Your former employers didn’t try to keep you. Just make you feel lousy.

    Go enjoy your new happy job

  34. Job Jumper said:

    Hey everyone, Job Jumper here. Thanks for all the positive notes, and yes I’m feeling much less guilty. Because as so many of you said, it’s done. I gave the notice I did and now it’s done. I’m really nervous about starting a new job, especially after ten years of doing something. (show of hands who hates change)

    I will say this, my previous job was at a very small company (no raises for 7 years- ouch, hours cut to help “keep the lights on”, and our health insurance was cut too for the same reason). The environment was not “toxic” persay but the job was stressful and made all the worse by all the ways we were asked to sacrifice in order to keep our terrible paying jobs. The company has a very high turn over, and the fact that I stayed as long as I did is more a testament to my fear of change than anything else.

    To allay fears about the headhunter, I will say that I interviewed with the headhunter earlier this year and they’ve been searching on my behalf. From what I understand most positions they fill aren’t on such short notice. Both I and the new company will get a feel for each other over the next month or so. And while there is some anxiety of hurting my professional reputation by leaving in this manner, I did wrap up all the last outstanding projects, did a mini-training session with a co-worker, and typed up/printed all the notes and guides for doing the majority of my work. So while it was short notice, I did my utmost to leave them capable of carrying on in my absence. I even brought doughnuts my last day as a peace offering. And actually, it was the office manager who was the bearer of barbed comments. And as I look over the past ten years, she and I never had the smoothest of relationships, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that her first inclination was to be herself.

    Ultimately yes, I have chosen to be my own advocate. In the current US job market, that sounds like the best thing I can do for myself. It wasn’t how I wanted to leave (I would have preferred the two weeks notice), but it’s how it happened. Now I have to move forward making the best of it I can. Thanks again to all the well wishes, I’ll carry them with me to the new office Monday morning!

    • You sound like you were awesome, and I hope Monday is wonderful. 🙂

    • Mary said:

      Good luck! Hope New Company and New Colleagues are great!

    • Dizzy said:

      Thirded – you sound like you’ve done all the right things and made the right choice. Best of luck for Monday 🙂

    • Good for you!!!

    • AW said:

      Awesome!

      I wanted to point out that while your official notice may have been short, it isn’t like your leaving was a surprise. As you say, “It’s never been a secret I was actively trying to leave”. They had every opportunity to prepare for your leaving. So if you’re worried that this will come up at some point, you can always say that they already knew you were going to leave. “My employer knew for some time that I was trying to change industries and had in fact gotten additional education in order to do so.” I doubt it will ever come up; most companies just confirm you were employed there when people check on references. But really, your unofficial notice was plenty of time.

  35. In general, I’m skeptical of employers who pressure you to leave a job without giving two weeks notice. They’d rarely like that if you did it to them, and they shouldn’t push you into a situation where you feel you have to do something that could impact your relationship with your current employer, potentially impact future references, generally make you feel like you’re not meeting your obligations, etc. So my first thought here is that I wish we knew if they would have backed down if you’d said, “I’m excited to start ASAP but I owe my current employer a reasonable amount of notice.” Most employers will — and if they won’t, it can sometimes be a red flag (unless they are able to explain to you some very unusual circumstances that make that impossible, and unless they’re very apologetic about it and recognize the position they’re putting you in).

    Speaking of being very apologetic … If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to resign with very little notice, I think the key is to acknowledge that it’s less than ideal and be very apologetic about it … and offer to do whatever you can to ease the transition. The two-week notice period isn’t usually intended to get your replacement hired (as the captain notes, it’s pretty rare to do that in two weeks); it’s more for transitioning your work. So being over backwards to do that in whatever time you have left there is pretty key when you’re cutting that time short. But really, if you’re super apologetic and explain why the situation was unavoidable, you have a better chance of preserving the relationship, your reputation for professionalism, etc.

    I do agree that they probably wouldn’t give you notice if they wanted to fire you, and thus the two-week notice convention for employees is unfair. But it IS the convention, fairly or unfairly, so I think the more you can do to either give that notice or be super apologetic if you can’t, the better.

  36. blackcat said:

    My last job was in a field with long hiring timelines (4 months notice was required in our contracts). My particular position was hard to fill with me, and hard to fill with my replacement. Since I know LONG before the required notice, I told them (for various reasons involving long term projects, they could not fire me early) that I was applying to grad school. At the time, they were super appreciative at the notice. My input in interviewing and selecting my replacement was deemed crucial. And 4 weeks before the end of my job, I got a laundry list of everything I had done wrong in the past three years from my boss. And (in my head) I was all like WTF? I would have been happy to do things differently IF YOU HAD F-ING TOLD ME TWO YEARS AGO. My boss said all sorts of snide things to me. My coworkers were baffled because for years I had seemed like the golden child who could do no wrong the boss’s eyes, and yet now I was getting a talking to for looking “unprofessional” (in that case: having my hair in a quickly done bun while I was working with POWER TOOLS for 10 minutes. Because apparently I was supposed to take 10 minutes to do my task looking flawless.)

    Many employers will shit on you no matter how well you try to handle your departure. Do what is best for you. In my case, I genuinely cared about my coworkers getting another awesome person on their team, and giving 9 months of notice wasn’t going to get me fired early. It was worth it, but I also didn’t hesitate to tell the boss’s boss about that laundry list during my exit interview…

  37. X said:

    One of the most satisfying moments of my life was when I handed in my two weeks notice to my employer. I hated that narcissistic witch, and I hated the crappy job, but I left it short and polite “I’m relocating, blah blah” so I didn’t burn any bridges with the DA and the multiple managers of other stores that I’d volunteered to work at while they were short on employees. I’d been working there for ~5 years on two separate occasions under 85% crappy bosses (Amy, you were amazing! ). The line Jenna used struck me hard – they used up all my patience and goodwill already, and so had my mom after living with her for five years, and the constant babble in my head was just GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GETOUT. So after planning and hemming and hawing over the course of about 5 months, I was like, “You know what? Fuck it. I’m /going/.” So I handed my two-week notice in the next day and 15 days later I drove cross-country to my new home.

    Guys, I feel like I’m walking on air up here. I like my job and I like my coworkers, and I got accepted to university, and better cost of living and nicer people, and opportunities and new interests and meeting new people and ALL THE POSSIBILITIES.

    And there’s the store I worked at, still trying to hire for my position three months later. /unladylikesmirk

    tl;dr : FUCK the guilt. You don’t owe them anything. You hated your job, and the healthiest thing for you is to nope right the hell out of there. 🙂

  38. quinalla said:

    I just recently changed jobs, I’d been at my company for 13 years (!) and it was the first job after I graduated. Luckily, the people I worked with and my boss were all very nice about it, even if my boss and some others were surprised. I did not share that I was looking as until I got an offer, I didn’t want anyone to know I was looking and no one did, though some folks in retrospect were not that surprised I was leaving as there was a lot of little stuff over the years and some bigger things that had been bothering me and I had not been quiet about those things. Anyway, I did give 2 weeks (+1 day) as I gave notice on Friday since the next week Monday was a holiday and I left everything as tidied up as possible with a status report for each of my projects.

    But I have to say, I still felt guilty. My boss (and others at this place) taught me so much and we’d been through a lot together, it felt like I was leaving a family behind, but I had to do what was best for me and my actual family. Which was advance my career, get a higher salary*(had not gotten a raise, no one had, in 6 years, not even cost of living raise), do something new so I wasn’t bored to tears, get out of all the travel I was having to do (bleh, 2-3 times a week travel on day trips was getting to be way too much after 13 years, especially since I have small children now), get better vacation & sick time with the ability to earn more (I had the exact same vacation at 13 years as at 0 years, and I was pissed about it and had talked to my boss about it on several occasions) and more. I’m over the guilt now that I’ve had about 2 months of space from my old job, but it was tough and I didn’t even have people guilt-tripping me about leaving.

    *Side note, as a woman I feel I’ve been socialized to feel guilty about wanting to make more $$. This is utter BS, but I have to fight that feeling often. So I tell myself and other women I know, you deserve that $$, you work hard for it, and the men around you don’t feel bad about wanting to make good $$. Navigating asking for a raise or asking for more $$ on a new job is tougher as a woman, but don’t ever feel you don’t deserve that $$.

  39. i quit a 4-year job and an almost 15-year career in 2013.. and i felt incredibly guilty. because one of the reasons i was leaving was that we all had impossible amounts of work to do, and it wasn’t managed well, and me leaving just meant more work for my coworkers(most of whom i liked). no one said anything critical, and in fact everyone was *way* more supportive of my choice than i had expected. i still felt i was doing something terrible. i think there’s still some deep assumptions we grow up with about loyalty to a group/job, about “quitting” being a failure, about letting people down by putting yourself first.

    i planned it for almost 4 months, worked like *crazy* to leave things in a state i felt ok about handing off to my coworkers, and then gave 2 weeks notice. even with that much planning, there were some things that were loose ends and weren’t going to get fixed in time. i certainly felt bad about it, but at a certain point i had to prioritize and draw a line. it felt *so good* once it all sank in and it was real that i was leaving. so good to say “no, i’m not working on that, they can finish this project without me”. and then it took about a month to stop waking up in the morning in a panic about things i needed to do for work :p

    i quit without a new job or much of a plan! luckily i had saved a lot up and was able to take 6 months off worry-free. i was just completely overwhelmed at that job and couldn’t manage to go to school or network or volunteer on the side to try and change directions. i decided to spend the 6 months doing that stuff and see what i could rustle up. i ended up in a new-but-related career and it’s not exactly what i want, but it’s WAY better than what i was doing before and i can continue transitioning bit by bit to my dream job.

    LW, i wish you the best of luck with your new career! even if this new position isn’t a great fit, or it ends up being short term, it is a great move in the right direction and there will be many more good things to come! sometimes you have to take a bold, even sudden, move.

  40. golden peanut said:

    GOOD FOR YOU. Remember, your employer will let you go in a heartbeat if necessary. All you owe them is politely-given notice.

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