How to Quit Your Job Without Shooting Yourself in the Foot

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A few weeks ago, Harry—an eight-year member of the Forster-Thomas team and one of our lead consultants who we depended on to run so much and guide so many subordinates—quit with no warning. So why do we still love him? Why is the door always open for him to return? Why would we always give him a great reference?

It’s the way he did it that counts: with complete authenticity, grace, and appreciation.

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He made sure to send a resignation letter that explained his struggle openly—a desire to go after a career change and take an offer that utilized skills he felt he had but could never be applied to in his role at our company. In his heart, he’s a filmmaker. Truth is, he’s a damn good one, and we always knew that. He was also open about the fact that he wanted to take a risk and go after an opportunity to really be one. Can you blame a guy for that? Nope. Opportunity knocked. Do I think it was a mistake financially? Yup. But life is not always about a paycheck. And that’s what he basically said in his resignation letter, plus the fact that he loved working with us and gave us eight, count ’em eight, great years!

And to make matters better, he made sure to complete all of his work before he left. He met with my partner and me in person, went over what was done, what was unfinished—and how and when he’d be available even after he left to answer any questions.

So you’re definitely quitting? And they haven’t made you an offer you can’t refuse? Here’s what you can do to make sure the door doesn’t hit you on the ass on your way out:

*Spill it! Be honest when you take a job—especially one that pays well and requires training. Let them know after you get the offer, up front (that means before you formally accept), that you have this “other thing” you’ve always wanted to do and that you’re doing it on the side. Then it’s really no big shock if the side gig becomes your day job and you do leave down the line. Ah…honesty. Works every time.

*Were you raised by wolves?! You know your mother taught you to say thank you. Don’t be like our former employee Katie. Hopefully you grew in that job you’re leaving and it helped you get the next gig. Let your bosses know in that exit interview, letter, or before your last day, what you learned. Skills you didn’t have before. And let your boss or supervisor know how she helped you grow—even if he or she was an ass (always take the higher ground). Be specific. Make your growth something big picture like you learned how to manage during a deadline and include something on-the-ground like how you were given an opportunity to master Windows 8 or taught to value a property.

*Pour some sugar on me. Even if it wasn’t the best place to work or your boss wasn’t that lovely, always take the high road and make it a personal thanks. Stop by, handwrite a note or, at the very least, send an email from your personal account and let them know how difficult the decision was to leave him or her. Supervisors and bosses are people too. Doesn’t matter if they don’t respond the way you want them to.  Remember, you represent you. It’s just who you are.

*Clean your room and put away your toys. That means make every attempt to finish what you started before you leave. A client meeting. A filing system. A report. Make sure you let your coworkers and your boss know where everything is, what you’ve completed, and what’s ongoing. Leave them with the tools to get it done and make it easy for the next guy or gal to come in and hit the ground running.

After all, its what your Auntie Evan always says: leave people and things better than you found them. That’s how you don’t burn bridges.

 

–Auntie Evan

Follow me on Twitter: @AuntieEvanSays

GET FIRED-PROOF EVEN WHEN YOU’RE ABOUT TO GET FIRED

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SHOW DATE: JULY 2, 2014

No matter how long you’ve known your co-workers or boss, no matter how buddy buddy you are with your work peeps and superiors, you can never rely on friendship to save your ass on the job.

Let’s make this crystal clear: friendship is NOT leverage.

If you had to choose between your favorite co-worker and your job, which one would it be? We all know the answer. There are very few people on the planet that will willingly throw themselves under the bus for you at work.

Don’t rule out the fact that great work relationships are a bad thing. It’s only when you use them as a support beam for your career when you discover the foundation won’t hold.

You ALWAYS, ALWAYS have to have leverage when it comes down to matters concerning your job. What does leverage mean? It means you have options, some sort of barter than can be taken place to cover your ass in case of emergencies.

Friendship is not barter material. It’s not something used to tip the scales in your favor.

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Let’s get practical. You’re walking into your boss’s office, about to have the Talk about the fate of your job. How would you prepare? How do you make sure that you have enough leverage in the interaction to tip the scales in your favor?

Here’s a few golden tips from Auntie Evan and Uncle David:

1) Never walk into your boss’s office asking about the fate of your job. It’s like waddling into the room with your tail between your legs. Powerlessness and pleading only make you an easy target.

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2) This is not the most helpful tip when you’re too far down the rabbit hole, but vital to the Job Talk mantra nonetheless: you have to be really good at what you do if you want some serious leverage.

3) Create leverage if you don’t have it. The best leverage is having another job offer. Have a place you can go to in the worst case scenario. Just like your partner looks at you more lustfully when someone else is vying for your attention, you’re a much most attractive prospect when there are others vying for your employment.

4) If you don’t have that offer to fall back on, get out there. Get a headhunter, get your resume out. Afraid you’ll be found out? It’s a bogus fear: if you’re going to be fired, there is nothing to lose. If you’re looking to be promoted, now you’re just that more attractive. It doesn’t mean wave that acceptance letter in management’s face; just don’t leave yourself at somebody else’s mercy.

5) If you’re playing high-stakes job poker and put up the “I’ll quit” bluff, you better be willing and able to follow through with it. To add on to the metaphor, get your poker face primed and ready: walking into an office full of emotions (read: anger) is sure to spell disaster. Emotions are easy to manipulate, and are the biggest form of anti-leverage on the planet. Additionally, when you’re going through your spiel, start off with what you want and need, and then transition to the fact that you’ll be looking for alternative employment otherwise, not the other way around.

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Bottom line, steel yourself. Stop thinking everyone is your friend, and if they are, don’t count on their support when shit hits the fan. When the reaper comes knocking, keep the five tips listed above taped to the inside of your eyelid: in the tentative job world, leverage is king.

WORKING ON THE HOLIDAYS: WHEN TO SAY NO

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SHOW DATE: NOVEMBER 27, 2013

Thanksgiving (or, more appropriately, Thanksgivukkah) is the real kickoff of the holiday season, and it’s a time full of obligations.

You’ve got obligations with family and at work; you’ve got Uncle Joe’s party you don’t want to go to, and your boss has this dinner or lunch thing that everybody has to go to. The big question is, should you honor these obligations?

We want to help you figure out where that thin line is—when you should buck up and say “no more,” or when you need to take one for the team and just tell yourself “I got to do this, there’s no way around it.”

Black Friday has turned into Black Thursday, which is making us think about this issue. Suddenly, beyond just the partying obligations and the gift-giving, there’s a new obligation that’s creeping up—Black Thursday.

Black Thursday is this new trend where stores like Wal-Mart, Sears, Macy’s, JC Penny all have decided to open up on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and July 4th are really the only big, secular holidays we have where we don’t have to worry about religion of politics. Now that these stores are opening up on Thanksgiving, the employees that work there can’t really say “no.”

Here’s one side of the issue: times like these are the best opportunities for employees to buck up and get into a leadership role. It’s an opportunity for you to get out there and rally your teammates and co-workers to do a great job, even on a holiday, because it’s going to look amazing to your supervisor and boss. They’re going to remember that you chose to be onboard.

But where’s the line? When should you come in for no extra hours and no extra pay, and when should you finally say “no”? We’re not just talking about Black Thursday. We’re talking about any time of the year where your boss is making you work when you’re not comfortable working.

Here are several points you should consider before deciding that crucial decision whether to come in or stay home:

  • You have to figure out how much leverage you have and how replaceable you are. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to put my job on the line and basically tell management that it will be harder to replace me than to give me what I want?” Don’t undersell yourself; you may have a lot more leverage than you think.
  • Ask yourself: “Am I getting anything from this job? Why am I here?”  When you have a hard time finding a solid answer, it goes beyond simply drawing a line in the sand, it might be a signpost: when you put your all into a job and there is nothing left to be returned, it’s time for you to start looking for a better one.
  • If you still have something to learn, if you need this job to pay the rent, if you don’t have any leverage, the bottom line is that you have to do what management wants. Remember: don’t operate out of fear, just figure out your leverage with the company.

To put it in more coarse terms: you know where the line lies by the grip management has around your throat. If you’re somebody who feels like you’ve learned everything you can at the job and there’s no more promotions for you to get, and they’re still giving you a hard time, it’s time to find another job.

But if you need the job, you go in. Don’t whine and complain—make it an opportunity to thrive and succeed and be a leader. If you can’t pay the rent, and Wal-Mart or whoever is giving you the opportunity to work, clock in and stop complaining.

TWO FAST-GROWING, HIGH-PAYING CAREER FIELDS

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SHOW DATE: OCTOBER 9, 2013

Two quickly-growing, high-income career fields are currently hot on the market:

Radiation therapist: This is the tech who actually takes the X-rays and MRIs. The pay is excellent: 70k – 80k with relatively little training. This field is growing fast. Just remember, you’ll need to be decent at interpersonal communication, since you’ll be talking with a lot of nervous people. If you’re not into the whole people skills thing, there’s always…

Dental hygienist: Okay, fine, the people who clean your teeth usually never shut up. But hey, the guy in the chair can’t talk back. This field is one of the fastest growing in America, expected to expand 38% by 2020. The median pay as of 2010 is just under 70k.

Also, be sure to check out our excellent job tools page for some great career-hunting resources.

LEAVE YOUR JOB WITH GRACE

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SHOW DATE: OCTOBER 9, 2013

The way you leave your job is just as important as how you got there.

When you first arrived at your new job you were kicking ass, you were on top of things. When you leave, you should put in just as much effort. Slamming the door on your employer’s face won’t get you a recommendation or potential networking connections.

Leave your job with grace and put it as much effort into your departure as when you first arrived.

FIRE OF THE WEEK: SAN DIEGO MAYOR BOB FILNER

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Every week, Auntie Evan and Uncle David scour the news to find a Hire or Fire of the Week. Hires display impeccable aplomb and go above and beyond what they’re expected to do on the job. Fires do the opposite. Tune in every week to see who’s getting Hired or Fired next.

SHOW DATE: AUGUST 21, 2013

Playing big and being amazing is our theme this week. And that includes how you leave your job. You can leave it powerfully, or you can be like Sand Diego’s mayor Bob Filner, who adamantly refused to give up his post even after 18 women—including two veterans who were sexually assaulted during their service—accused him of everything from inappropriate comments to forcible kissing and groping.

If you’re in a bind like Filner’s, it’s beyond doubt that it’s time to pack up and ship out. Filner can leave powerfully by simply scraping whatever little dignity he has left and parting with his job quietly. Instead, he keeps holding on and on, carving an even deeper pit of shame that will eventually swallow him whole.

Somebody needs to seriously give this guy the boot.

Also, a note of advice to those of you who are in the process of leaving your jobs for whatever reason: there are two things people usually email out when they leave—a rant along the lines of, “everybody here sucks, and you can all go to hell,” or a huge eye-rolling email detailing all the good times they’ve had and how much they will miss everybody. Avoid both. Take a lesson from Filner’s mistake and choose to leave powerfully: keep your parting email short and elegant, and don’t tell anybody off.

The way you leave your current job is the way you’re going to operate in your next one.

Update: On August 23, Filner finally resigned. Upon his terms for resignation, the San Diego City Council agreed to fund a portion of Filner’s expenses for a sexual harassment lawsuit brought on by Irene McCormack Jackson, Filner’s former secretary.      

ONLY BECOME A WHISTLEBLOWER IF…

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SHOW DATE: JUNE 12, 2013

When former CIA employee and intelligence contractor Edward Snowden decided to blow the whistle on a top secret NSA surveillance program, he became one of the most prominent whistleblowers in history.  In the process, he divided a nation, with some calling him a hero for speaking out about corrupt government practices and others calling him a traitor for illegally leaking top-secret information he had sworn to never disclose.

Few of us have access to the kind of juicy gossip that Snowden came across. But that doesn’t mean we won’t come across opportunities in which we feel compelled to become a less exotic kind of whistleblower.

For example: You discover that your co-worker is secretly taking three-hour lunches. Or you hear Bob take the credit for a great idea, and you’re the only one who knows that he stole the idea from a client or competitor. Or maybe you find out that your director is about to promote someone who is quietly planning to leave the firm in a couple of months.

In any of the above situations, what do you do? Are you justified in blowing the whistle, or will that backfire and come back to hurt you?

While every situation is different, and there’s no accounting for questions of individual morality and ethics, there are two questions you should be asking yourself in any circumstance to help you determine what to do:

1. Who is primary beneficiary of whistleblowing?

If the only clear beneficiary of your actions is you, then you shouldn’t blow the whistle. Chances are you are only out for personal gain, and even if that isn’t the case, that’s how it’s going to look to everyone else. So if you’re tattle-taling on your co-worker, who you also happen to be in competition with for a promotion next month, you’ll appear to be conniving, not moralistic. Long story short: if personal gain is your goal, don’t blow that whistle.

On the other hand, if the beneficiary is your firm, your group, or another important person to whom your interests are not selfishly aligned, then your intentions are pure, which is a good first step. It implies that you are seeking justice and equality, or at least doing what you were hired to do, which is to make your company be the best it can be. Proceed to question #2…

2.  What specific outcome are you hoping to achieve? 

After you blow the whistle, what are you hoping will happen? If the likely outcome is for someone to be fired, then you need to dig deeper: are you just trying to get rid of someone you dislike, or are they actually jeopardizing the company’s success? The key here is that the likely outcome of your actions should be loving, or at least positive—you are trying to make sure that the most possible good comes to the most possible people. Anything shy of that, and your heart is in the wrong place: selfish gain or revenge are not whistleblower-worthy goals.

Ultimately, your answers to the above two questions are very helpful, but they can’t provide the final answer. Sometimes there are much more complex factors; for example, if you have signed a non-disclosure agreement, blowing the whistle could lead to legal action against you. And if you are sitting on a bona fide scandal, you may qualify for official legal whistleblower protection, but you may not. For these matters, always consult a lawyer.

IT’S YOU, NOT ME: KNOWING WHEN TO DIVORCE YOUR JOB

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SHOW DATE: JUNE 5, 2013

Just as every happily married woman can’t help but fantasize about what life would be like with Ryan Gosling and George Clooney instead of the snoring, sheet-hogging lump beside her, it’s completely normal to fantasize about leaving your job once in a while.  Some days, you’re just going to hate your job.  That’s the way things go.

But what happens when “some days” turns into “every day”? What happens when the mere thought of your job sends shivers down your spine?  And how do you know the difference between an uncomfortable but temporary vocational version of the 7-year itch, and a job that is unhealthy for you to stay at any longer?

The first thing you need to do is determine if the job is actually the problem. Sure, your job might seem terrible, but what if the real culprit is you?  What if your ideas of what a job is supposed to be like are way out of whack? If that’s the case, your next job won’t be any better—you’re actually going to bring your problems with you throughout your career!

Here are the gut-check questions you should be asking yourself:

1. Have you ever felt fulfilled, or at least satisfied, at any job you’ve had—even if just for a few months? If the answer is no, it’s very possible that your standards are simply too high. After all, jobs are called “work” not “fun”. While it’s absolutely possible to find a career you love—and we hope to help you how on this site—even people who love their careers don’t wake up excited to go to the office every day. So if you’ve never had a job that you find any fulfillment in, it’s very possible that the real issue is what you expect a job to be.

2. Have you tried to make things better? It’s amazing how much people complain about things instead of working to change them. If your boss is so hard on you that you can’t stand working for him anymore, don’t quit before you’ve asked him to be more kind and gentle—and given him a chance to improve! If you can’t stand working the late shift, ask if there are other opportunities! And if you find your work boring, ask if there is more interesting work for you to do! Sometimes the answer will be no—in other words, the situation is here to stay, whether you like it or not. But sometimes the response will be: Thank God you spoke up! I had no idea! Let’s make it work better! Either way, you have nothing to lose by simply asking or making a suggestion. If the powers that be are unreceptive, then you know moving on is the only way to go.

3. Do you have money for a job search? Let’s face it: looking for jobs takes time, especially in the current economy. If you quit your current job before finding another, you’re going to need some savings to get you through the job search process—to be save, at least three months’ savings. And don’t forget the expenses related to a job search: travel to and from interviews, parking fees, printing costs, and in some cases, a new suit to look your very best. If you haven’t allowed for these expenses, you need to stay at your current job a bit longer and accrue some savings before you can afford to leave. In the meantime, start your job search now!

WHAT KIND OF MONSTER BOSS DO YOU HAVE?

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SHOW DATE: MAY 22, 2013

One of the biggest viral videos of 2013 is the episode of Kitchen Nightmares featuring Amy’s Baking Company. If you haven’t seen it, watch it NOW. We guarantee it will make you incredibly happy. Why? Because the restaurant’s owners, Amy and Samy, are the two worst bosses EVER. And why should that make you happy? Because you don’t work for them. And you never will. And you’ve just dodged the biggest bullet in the world when it comes to Monster Bosses.

But if you do have a Monster Boss—someone almost as bad as Amy and Samy (as hard as that is to imagine)—we want you to know what to do. Everyone has worked for a terrible manager at some point in their careers, but a real Monster Boss can have truly negative impact on your life. The stress you experience at work will begin to affect the rest of your life, jeopardizing your relationships, happiness, and health. And at the end of the day, a job isn’t worth all that.

But all Monster Bosses are not created equal, and how you handle a Monster Boss depends on what kind of Monster Boss you have. So, let’s look at the three kinds of Monster Bosses and how you should handle each:

1. The CRAZY YELLING AGGRESSIVE MONSTER BOSS. This is Amy from Amy’s Baking Company. This boss has a terrible temper, robust vocal chords, and will never be satisfied by your performance. She’s confrontational, lashes out at you constantly, and is probably regarded as “crazy” around the workplace.

What’s important to know about this Monster Boss is that it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. This Monster Boss is deeply insecure.  She’s stressed. She’s probably under great pressure from an outside source, whether her own Monster Boss or something unseen (financial or personal issues). In other words, this Monster Boss isn’t responding to anything you’re doing wrong, she’s coping with her own demons. And that means you can’t take it personally (even when she calls you a “moron”).

Once you understand that, you should see how to cope with this boss: Trying to fight back will be like throwing gasoline on the fire. So instead, take it down a notch. When the boss gets emotional, stay calm and cool.  When the boss makes it personal, keep it professional.  When the boss yells at you, don’t yell back. Simply apologize—even if it’s not your fault. These tactics will keep your boss grounded and feeling in control. And over time, she’ll stop yelling because she’ll realize how crazy she looks. Sure, this strategy might bruise your ego a bit (who wants to apologize when it wasn’t their fault), but so what—would you rather be right or be happy?

2. THE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE MONSTER BOSS. This is Samy. This boss won’t yell and scream. Instead, he will be manipulative and underhanded in ways you may not even see. Instead of confronting you, he will tell someone else about your flaws.  Instead of screaming, he will write you off and start ignoring you. And when you’ve crossed this person too many times, he will slowly and quietly do whatever he can to dismantle your career from the inside-out.

The best way to handle this boss is to earn his trust. Direct confrontation will not work; if he felt confortable with confrontation, he’d confront you. And avoidance will only lead him to think you don’t like him, which will make things worse. But by proving yourself to this boss and showing that you respect him, you can remain on his good side. While he’s not particularly loyal, he is petty—so as long as you don’t give him things to nitpick, you’ll stay in his good graces.

3. THE MONSTER YOU CREATE. Sometimes the boss is not a monster at all—you’ve just decided he is.  For example: if your boss yells at you for frequently being late (and you are late), your boss is not a monster. You are! It doesn’t matter if your boss is particularly nasty about it—he is within his rights if you are being negligent and repeating the same mistakes over and over.

If there is even a remote possibility that you’ve created a monster, you need to check in with yourself. Get real: Did you cause this? Are you working as hard as you can? Are you overly sensitive to criticism in general? If the answer is yes, then you need to adjust your behavior. You need to become more responsible at work and stop creating stories that are convenient for you but ultimately untrue.

If you follow the instructions above correctly, you should start to see a change in your relationship with your boss.  If not, then it’s possible that your situation is simply irreparable, and that you need to start looking for another job.  That may be a tough pill to swallow if you love your job (or if you’re terrified of being able to find a new one), but you owe it to yourself to have a job that doesn’t make you miserable.

 

ARE YOU A VICTIM OF WORKPLACE BULLYING?

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SHOW DATE: May 8, 2013

Several recent articles suggest that there has been an alarming increase in workplace bullying over the past decade. A whopping 35% of Americans report being bullied at work.  And 64% of people who experience workplace bullying lose or quit their jobs.

But are you being bullied?  Even if your first instinct is to say “no,” it’s very possible that you are experiencing workplace bullying and don’t even know it—because you don’t really know what it is!  So let’s define it for you right now: Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence.  It’s an intentional campaign of personal destruction carried out by another person (or people) towards you. In other words, it is emotional abuse…and it frequently results in emotional harm.

Even if you have experienced some of the above behavior, chances are you think you can cope with it.  That’s because you’ve been raised to believe that it’s OK to get yelled at and demeaned as long as you get paid at the end of the day.  But that’s simply not the case. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and the right to be fulfilled by your job. You won’t love your career every day, but if your job haunts you and destroys your sense of self-worth, you need to do something about it.

The action you take depends on the nature of the person who is bullying you.  There are three different types of bullies, and each requires a different action:

1. Some bullies are merely insecure. These people bring you down because they are worried that you’ll outshine them. With people like this, you can often change your behavior to improve the situation (i.e., play to their egos, laud them publicly, become an ally, etc). While this might be a bitter pill to swallow at first, you can often transform an insecure person into a confident one over time.

2. Some bullies are just really bad managers. They’re not actually out to get you, they just don’t know how to manage people. If this is the case, you can work with HR to fix the issue.

3. Some people are simply mean and bully you for sport. If this is the case, you have to leave your job. You simply can’t work with or for this person.

It’s also important to determine something else: what is your responsibility in this matter? Many bullied employees stay in detrimental situations for the same reason victims of domestic abuse stay in marriages: they feel responsible to the well-being of the “family”. While this thinking is understandable, it is not acceptable. Your primary responsibility is to your own health and well-being. Don’t worry that you are “abandoning” your co-workers or clients; as great as you are, they can and will survive without you. It’s your own survival you need to be most concerned with.

Finally, if you decide that going to HR is the best path for you, make sure you follow these steps first:

  • Find an ally.  If you go to HR alone, it’s your word against the bully’s. If you know that others feel bullied, form an allegiance.  Your case will be much more powerful if others can corroborate the behavior.
  • Document the behavior. Begin writing down the offensive incidents when they occur. Just a brief paragraph explaining what happened, with the date. You may end up submitting these to HR, or you may only use them as notes when you approach HR. Either way, it’s important that you have specific incidents that you can refer to; otherwise, you risk sounding vague, which will not help your case.
  • Finally, when you go to HR, make a business case.  Don’t make a personal case (“my boss isn’t fair,” “he doesn’t deserve his job”). Instead, explain how the bully is bad for the business. Explain how the bully’s behavior has resulted in low morale, loss of productivity, increased turnover, dissatisfied clients, or a greater risk of the company getting sued, etc. Personal beefs sound like whining; a business case will show that you are the team player and belong at the job more than the bully.

Workplace bullying is a serious problem and a very difficult situation to navigate.  But if you follow the above advice and keep your own needs in mind, you will be able to make it through.