Quitting gracefully (and when to give notice?)

So I will soon be quitting my job as a designer at a P.O.P. company that I’ve worked at for the last three years, and I would like to do it with some grace and tact. I got into an MFA program I’m really excited about and got a full scholarship offer, so I’ll be starting classes halfway across the country in June. While my company can be monumentally frustrating to work for, I’m not leaving because I’m disgruntled or anything, and I bear them no ill will. I just need to make the right move for my future, and grad school is more important to me right now than designing candy shelves.

That being said, I’m not sure how much notice to give them. I know the standard is two weeks, but given that I won’t be moving for over a month, I could hypothetically give them up to four weeks notice. They have been good to me, and they are chronically understaffed, so I don’t want to leave them in the lurch when I go. On the other hand, given their small staff and general lack of organization, news of my departure could send them into a panic and could have me working crazy hours for the next couple weeks trying to squeeze in as many projects as possible before my last day. If I’m going to be packing and getting ready for a big life change, I won’t have the hours to spare.

I also don’t want to get tossed out the moment I turn in my resignation. I don’t expect that to happen, as I’m in very good standing at the company and to be frank, they kind of really need my help. I have however had a “bad breakup” like that happen once before and it always leaves me a little nervous in situations like this.

Would you have any advice? Should I give extra notice since the company has been good to me and risk battling for my time? Or should I stick to the standard two weeks and hope for the best?

That is a hard one…

I had a similar situation and thought i was being nice by giving 4 weeks notice in order to help properly wrap up projects with 2 major clients… I was escorted off the property (boss later admitted that was the wrong thing to do)

I was lucky cause i could afford to take a 2 week unpaid vacation it also helped me to organize my move. Plus the new company wanted me to start earlier so i only took 1 week off.

Ask yourself are you prepared if for the worst case scenario - if so then do the right thing as it could be a great way to support them and leave on a high note - if it goes south can you deal with it.

Also are you going to a competitor… that many times determines the exit policy.

I could suggest a couple of things. Make sure you give yourself enough time for packing, moving, and planning for school. Maybe give them a 3 week notice, 2 weeks to complete projects and the third week to wind down and hand off your work. If there’s anyone where you work that could take on some of your workload offer to train them in. With your resignation I would recommend offering to help them find a replacement (while you’re still employed there), if you have a referral to make it may be appreciated. Also, if you want to supplement your income while in school and you think you can take it on offer to make yourself available for freelance work until they find your replacement.

All of that is if you’re really that worried about burning bridges. But really, giving two weeks is standard and most employers wouldn’t expect more, that’s business. Personally I would want to buy as much free time as I could before I started an MFA just so I’m well prepared and in the right head space to begin.

Also are you going to a competitor… that many times determines the exit policy.

I’m leaving to go to grad school, so I’m not even taking another job. I’m hoping that softens the blow a bit.

If there’s anyone where you work that could take on some of your workload offer to train them in. With your resignation I would recommend offering to help them find a replacement (while you’re still employed there), if you have a referral to make it may be appreciated

For a long time, our entire design department was just two guys (myself and my direct supervisor). After a year and a half of being crazy swamped, we finally convinced the management it was time to grow the department and hire a third guy. He started a couple of weeks ago and it’s been a mixed success. I’ve been trying to show him how to do the things I’ve learned work well for our business without hinting at the idea that I’m trying to prepare him to replace me.

The person I’m worried about most is my direct supervisor. We both worked so hard for so long to get the department from two to three people, I feel like he might feel a bit abandoned when I leave and the department shrinks back down again. He’s pretty jaded by our industry at this point, and he has some anxiety issues and is having some personal problems at the moment, so I feel like losing his working partner of the last few years might be a bit of a blow to him. In reality, I can’t let that be my problem, but I still want to give him some consideration in the matter. I was thinking of going out to lunch with him on a Friday (this one or the next), and giving him a personal heads up before officially turning in my resignation to HR in the afternoon.

That is a tough one, but it sounds like you have it figured out, and giving him the consideration of a personal heads up is the professional thing to do, just prepare to anticipate his response good or bad. In the end you have a full scholarship for an MFA and I don’t think anybody would blame you for wanting to pursue a good opportunity. If responds badly then he’ll be validating your decision, if he responds well then he’ll be validating your friendship, and you can leave on a high note.

Out of courtesy I would think an earlier notice = better.

But from what I’ve seen/heard in the real world, is that usually the employees are more thinking of the well being of the company than the company thinking of the employees that are leaving… Not really harsh, just reality. I’ve heard many career counselors give out this advice too: "You aren’t that “special.” Not to be taken in the wrong way, but rather that if you were to leave, you don’t have to feel like your position is so important that the company will not function without you. In other words, don’t let the company’s well being be on your shoulders, it shouldn’t be the thing that stresses you out or causes you to worry. In the end, the company will probably do what makes sense for them as a business.

Now if you are in a higher position where you actually have stake in the company, thats a whole other story :wink:

True. It’s not the company that I’m so much worries about as it is my boss, as I mentioned. I think I’ve settled on giving my notice sometime next week (closer to 3 weeks) as a good compromise.

I appreciate all the help.

Two weeks is totally fine. Talk to your boss first one on one and explain it is all about grad school. Don’t say anything about being frustrated designing candy pop, just say you would like to continue your education and get a terminal degree that will position you to achieve your goals.

Let your boss decide how to break it to the team. He may ask you to stay an extra week (been there), he may ask you to leave that day (done that) all depending on how he feels it will effect work and team moral. Sometimes it’s good to have someone stay on, sometimes is best to move on right away. Be emotionally and physically prepared for either.

Good luck. Quitting is never easy, even on the best of terms.

So to clarify, are you saying that I could give my boss a personal heads up over lunch three weeks or so out, but not put in my formal resignation to the HR department at the two week mark? Or just wait until the two week mark to tell both?

I would tell your boss on a Thursday afternoon over coffee or some other 1 on 1 situation appropriate to your relationship. Ask his guidance for how to proceed (i.e. telling HR verbally or in an email, telling team members, he may prefer to tell the team, he may prefer for you to tell them, if there is a staff meeting it might happen there.)