Leave job on a positive note

Dear Joan,
In January, I told my boss of three years that I would be leaving his business after graduating from graduate school in August. At that time, he assured me that I could work for him as long as I wished. However, since telling him of my plans to eventually leave, he has treated me with indifference. In fact, I feel as if I am totally alienated from my boss and his business. I would however, like to work there until I graduate. What do you suggest I should do?

Imagine, if you can, your spouse telling you she wants to divorce you because you aren't what she wants but that she will be living under the same roof for the next eight months while she looks for another man. Imagine that she expects you to treat her just like you did before she rejected you. Although this analogy is stretching it a bit, many business owners don't use the expression, "married to my business" lightly. Perhaps this strong, personal identity with his business is at the heart of his treatment of you. He may be hurt that you're leaving, as in, "Apparently, the business I built isn't good enough for him," or "Well, if he's not going to be a part of my future, he'd might as well leave now!"

Often, people who are looking for a new job or who are in your situation are tempted to tell their employer about their intentions. They feel that it is an honest way to deal with their own discomfort or with the guilt or anger they are feeling. Some say they want to tell their boss because he or she can then begin looking for a replacement. Although it seems like the right thing to do, it almost always turns out to be a mistake. Human nature being what it is, the boss usually stops seeing the employee as a part of the future and mentally cuts them out of the action.

Typically, two to four week's notice is sufficient for most jobs. Even when notice is given, however, it's interesting that many employers will tell the employee to leave sooner, or even at once. This is because once the announcement is made, the employer is limited in what he or she can assign to you. Even if you should offer to stay on and train someone else, there may be a fear that you'll badmouth the organization or the boss. After all, the reasoning goes, if you liked it there you wouldn't be leaving.

If you feel that you can have a positive impact on the business during the next few months and wish to stay, you will need to have a heart-to-heart talk with your boss. You will need to do some advanced preparation so you will be able to deliver a sensitive message and be prepared for his reaction.

Your comments should include: your regrets about leaving the company, praise for him and his company, objective reasons why you feel your decision is best for your career, specific areas you feel you could have a positive impact on the company in the next few months and some ideas for replacing yourself or for training your replacement.

Focus most of the discussion on how you would like to be useful to him in the next few months. Clearly state that you won't be job hunting on work time and that he can expect 100 percent from you. If you have worked closely with him over the years, you will also want to add your feelings about your friendship and your hope that it can continue. If he opens up about his feelings regarding your departure, listen openly and try to understand his point of view.

The good news here is that he obviously values what you have contributed, or he wouldn't be so disappointed that you are leaving. Your goal is to perform so well during your last few months with the company, he will rise above his feelings and give you a glowing reference. Next time, I'm sure you will learn from this experience and keep your intentions to yourself a little longer-for your benefit as well as for your boss's. 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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