Tag Archives: quitting

Safety and job ethics

I made a 2 year commitment to the first company that hired me out of college. I said I would do that job and not quit. I had a safe job. I was over-educated and working hard. “Safety first,” I thought. I was happy to make that commitment. A year into it I got a sweet job offer. A huge promotion into another company. I was torn. I couldn’t take the new job. 3 months later I was laid off. I had made a commitment to my company, but they could not keep their commitment to me. 

Since then I have learned a few things about “Safety First” and job ethics.

Douglas Adams (Arthur Dent in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”)

“Safety” is important. Just remember, you are only safe if your company is making money and you are a significant part of that money making machine. By the way, all that safety goes out the door if someone buys your company.

Job ethics works just like a contract. A contract is of no effect unless both sides receive something of value. You should live up to your commitments. Absolutely. But, if your company is not living up to their commitments, your side of the commitment disappears too. 

Staying with the company was the right thing for me to do. Did it hurt? Absolutely. I could have gotten that promotion I was so eager for, but I would have had to break my own commitment. 

Yes, the company was sold a month before I was laid off, and 75% of the capacity of the whole industry was cut over the next month after the company was sold. They had to lay me off.

I learned to feel good about fulfilling my commitments. I also learned to be careful about what I commit to. I paid a steep price. I learned, and have used what I learned for the rest of my life. It was worth it. I made a 3 year commitment to EDS a little later. I fulfilled that commitment too. That also was worth it.

Something to do today

What commitments have you made? What are the commitments made back to you? 

Write down both sides of the agreement. Does it still make sense when you look at it today? 

How to know your company might be in danger

Some signs of trouble in your company are easy to ignore. They aren’t obvious signs of trouble. They can even look like progress.

In the great Indian Ocean tsunami some people survived because they knew the signs of a tidal wave of disaster waiting to happen. They learned, “When the sea retreats far past the beach, run for the high ground. It will soon come roaring back.” It is a natural occurrence before a tsunami.

Job disasters have signs of impending doom like the tsunami causing water to retreat from the shore. Think about it. What happens before a car plant closes down entirely? Work is cut back. Minor layoffs occur. Sales are obviously dropping. Cars stay on dealer lots for longer and longer. Rebates and special incentives are used to sell cars. Managers, supervisors and foreman are laid off. Finally the plant closing is announced.

An old Thai proverb says, 

At high tide fish eat ants. At low tide ants eat fish.

A healthy company succeeds by doing effectively what a dying company struggles to do over and over without success. 

Signs of doom I have seen where I worked included: 

  • A new quality program annually 
  • No more flowers sent to funerals of workers and their family members 
  • Business travel is cut back 
  • On-the-job training is cut back to “just in time” training 
  • Payments for outside tuition is cut back 
  • Technology innovation specialists moved back into production jobs 
  • Promised bonuses cut back or not paid 
  • Refusal to let employees transfer to other areas in the company 
  • Relocation expense reimbursement eliminated 
  • Sudden personal interest in the workers by the company president and chairman. 
  • Empowerment training during declining markets. 
  • Not replacing people who quit. 
  • Reorganizing more and more often. 
  • Stock price dropping. 
  • Replacement of salespeople at a quick clip. 
  • A frenzy of competitor acquisitions.
  • A sudden focus on getting “good press” or being in trade publications.

When you see the signs of impending problems, you may still have years to prepare. Or you may have days. The important thing is to start preparing without being part of the problem. Take positive steps in your own sphere of influence.

When the water retreats from the shoreline, it may look like a great time to go out and pick up the fish left behind. When your boss is sacked, it may seem like the perfect time to get into management. And it may be true. But be careful and look for signs that a tsunami is coming to wash your whole company away.

Later I will talk about how businessmen in India cope with far worse problems than Americans can even begin to understand, and do it with a smile.

Something to do today

Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. On the left side write signs of company strength, reasons for optimism. On the right put a list of troubling signs of decline. Now pick how you can help accentuate the positive or eliminate the negative. Not only will your actions help your company, they will insulate you from layoffs and prepare you for a new job if disaster strikes.

How to resign your job – part 1

“The non compete clause is never enforced.  I’m not worried if they find out where I am going.”

A very real guy I know said that to his new boss.  He went back and bragged to his old coworkers about the new job.  He got a phone call from his old company’s lawyer.  Guess what?  They are enforcing the non compete clause.  If he fought it, he very well might beat it.  But during the ensuing battle he couldn’t work. So he is staying.  What do you think his career pway_out-710184_640_pixabayath looks like now?
Resignation should always be done with a simple letter stating:

I appreciate the opportunity I have had to work for XYZ Company.  I am resigning my position effective <date>.

Don’t say where you are going.  Don’t brag to your coworkers.  Don’t even admit which state or industry you will be in.

What if there is not a non compete clause in your contract?  You should resign the same way.


You may be accused of bringing trade secrets to the new employer.  They may not be able to stop you, but they can still cause you and your new company pain in the courts.

Resigning should always be done the same way.  Simply and quietly. Gloating is never a good idea.

Something To Do Today

Don’t quit today unless you already have a new job.  Then quit in a short professional letter of resignation. Practice avoiding questions about where you are going to work.

Suicidal glory is the luxury of the irresponsible.  We’re not giving up.  We’re waiting for a better opportunity.  (Bujold)


Later:  How to resign – Part 2

A successful email

The guy who invented running died

I make the milk every morning

Propagating blueberries guerilla style

Great ideas are a dime a dozen

Volunteer to be the first person laid off

The best people have the hardest time finding jobs when they are laid off. It is a fact. It is not for the reason you are thinking.

This is my experience.

I was the only person out of 300 that knew for sure that layoffs were coming.  I had a mole in the headquarters in Dallas.  I asked my boss, Mike, when the layoffs were going to start.  He said, “There won’t be any layoffs.” Then, he checked with Dallas and was told there would not be any layoffs.

He was wrong, and I knew it.  My source sat 50 feet from the division president who was laying plans.

So I told Mike, “If there are layoffs, I want to be in the first group you let go.”

Mike assured me that it wouldn’t be necessary.  There would be no layoffs.

I started looking for a job and started a small recruiting company.  A week before the layoffs were announced I gave my 2 weeks notice.  My company, AGI, had its first contract.  Mike acknowledged that my timing was perfect.  The only thing that could have gone better was waiting a week so I got severance pay.  The new job security was a lot better than any severance pay.

Everyone who was laid off in the first group got a job immediately.  Everyone. And they were the problem children that managers wanted to get rid of.

There were more layoffs.  The people laid off 6  months later didn’t find as many open jobs as the first group.  Those laid off a few months after that were unemployed for a lot longer.

The funny thing is that the best employees were laid off last.  But they couldn’t find jobs.  Why?

By the time they were laid off, there was a serious business malaise.  All the local companies had staffed their urgent projects.  Now everyone was afraid to hire more people.  So the best people had the hardest time finding jobs.

Isn’t it strange that the best workers, the most loyal staff, the absolutely essential people all had a hard time finding jobs? The reason is that they were let go at the absolute worst possible time.  Every job was filled months before. They were hurt the most by their own loyalty.

Are you concerned about layoffs?  Even if you are planning to stay, start setting yourself up for a job. Start setting yourself up for a promotion. Work harder than ever.  Take over new tasks.  Figure out how to make the company more money. Write a resume and hand it to your boss.  Ask for a promotion or an award for doing so well.  Don’t worry about a raise. Worry about getting recognized for exceptional performance where you are.  Then figure out if you really should look for a new job.

And consider asking to be the first person laid off.

Give up and go elsewhere when things are bad

I found a great job for someone and was told”

“If I leave, deliveries will stop, sales will stop, and a lot of people will be out of work. I’m going to have to turn down this job.  I owe it to my boss and coworkers to see them through these hard times.”

Is this you? What’s next?  Layoffs 3 weeks later.  Suddenly it really is self sacrifice because you are laid off.  And you may lose the house too.

First secure an independent income, then practice virtue. (Greek proverb)

I am not saying to abandon ship when you are needed.  I am saying that you must be aware of what really is happening.  You finding a new job may free up enough money to save another person’s job.  The shock of your resignation may be what finally gets through to the big boys that things are going badly.  Sometimes a company is going bankrupt no matter how heroic everyone is. Reality is not always what you think it is.

When business is bad it taints your whole outlook.  You see problems everywhere.  In your distorted world, no business can be thriving.  You are wrong.  Some are growing.  Don’t be afraid to join them. I guarantee that you are replaceable. If not, the problems are so severe you should leave anyway.

There is an alternative. A while ago I was talking to an accountant at a company that was in bankruptcy.  He said, “I am earning more money than ever before.”  They REALLY couldn’t afford to lose him, so they gave him bonuses and guarantees. If you are the hero, make sure you are compensated and protected.

When business looks bad, it may be time to leave.  Don’t let the lens of self sacrifice or fear fool you.  Many times what is best for you, leaving, is also best for the company. If you really are indispensable, get paid and protected for it.  If they might fire you for asking to get paid for your risk, you are not indispensable.

Something to do today

Is business bad?  Find someone you trust who has business experience.  Talk with them about whether you should stay where you are or find a new job.  You may just need an outsider’s perspective.


Coming up

How to ruin a phone interview

Start a new job excellently

New and better or cheaper

How everyone else sees you

The difference between fertilizer and ****

Why would your boss think you are as bad as a cheating husband?

This may be counter-intuitive, but when you try to leave your job, your boss looks at YOU as the cheating husband.  Your boss sees YOU as the betrayer no matter how many times he has failed to follow up on his promises. He may have not given you any raises in 4 years, but he sees you as the person who is making his life miserable.

Your boss sees himself as the righteous WIFE in this story when you quit.  If you agree to stay due to his pleadings, pay raises, promotions, and cajoling, he absolutely loses his trust in you.  Here is how he feels.

Your boss thinks he is the wife in this example

Your husband asked for a divorce last week. He quit. He has been dating another woman who is so much nicer than you. He is cheating. He told you about her looks, personality, family, and friendship. He was preparing to move out until last night. You begged him to stay for the kids’ sake. You agreed to change the way you treat him. You will start exercising, get a facelift and breast implants. He finally agreed to dump that floozy. It is so nice to have him in your arms again. He’s yours. (Remember, you are the husband, he is the wife who is getting surgery to get you to stay.)

It’s two weeks later. He needs to “work late” for the second time this week. Can you keep yourself from calling his office?

He’s gone on 3 overnight business trips this month. Are you going to check the credit card statements when they come?

You called at 3 pm and the receptionist said he is out of the office. You really want to get an ankle bracelet to track him, don’t you?

Your boss

When you tell your boss you are quitting, and he sweet talks you into staying, he has already lost faith in you. The next time you have a dental appointment he is going to wonder. When a big opportunity comes up he’ll remember that you took an extra half hour at lunch one day last week. He’ll give the big project to someone else who he is sure will stay in the company and finish it.

Once you give notice you are quitting, leave. Come back in 6 months if you were wrong. Then your boss will know that your commitment to your new employer was firm, but things didn’t work out. When you accept his pleas to stay, he knows you just screwed the other company. He’ll be wondering when you will screw him.

That’s real life.

Something to do today

Prepare a resignation letter that only says: Thank you for the chance to work here. My last day of work will be xx/xx/xx.

Now practice this phrase 20 times: “Let’s not talk about why I am leaving, let’s talk about how I can make the transition easier on you.”


World destruction by accident

The smartest guy in the room

Humility and job suicide, there is a difference

4 ways quitting with extreme prejudice hurts careers every day

Jack’s temporary assignment at the salt mine was coming to a close after a great 9 month term. He was only scheduled for 3 months, but he had done so well it was extended several times.  He was getting antsy.  Two days before his scheduled last day, he stalked into his bosses office, threw his ID badge on the desk and said, “Take this job and shove it.  If I’m not appreciated, I’m not going to take your bull**** any more.” He stalked out.

The client called me and told me what happened.  Jack did not return my calls.  Guess what?  Soon I had another assignment.  He would have been able to do it.  It was closer to his home.  I never called him.  He burned a bridge he didn’t need to.

When you build bridges you can keep crossing them. (Rick Pitino)

No matter how much you hate your current situation, quit gracefully.  Burnt bridges only prove that your eyes once watered from the smoke.  You may destroy an opportunity down the road by throwing gasoline and a lighted match at your old boss.  Let me give you some more real life examples.

  • Your old boss gets a job at the same company you went to. He is never again your boss. When they are reviewing internal resumes from several teams for a promotion, he mentions what you did upon leaving your old job. A confidential note is put in your employee file.  For some reason you stop getting pay raises.
  • A coworker who stayed hears about how you yelled at the boss, formatted your had drive and destroyed all your customer entries in the database.  He eventually changes jobs.  You apply for a job where he now works five years later.  He hears about it and warns his company.  You were the top candidate but don’t get the job.
  • You apply for a job.  The new hiring manager worked with your old boss 20 years ago.  Your old boss is not on the reference list, but the hiring manager calls him anyway.  They are friends.  The company policy that they will only disclose your hire date, termination date and salary is ignored.  The hiring manager can’t tell you what really happened because he has to protect his friend. You lose and never know why.
  • The recruiter has a great job.  He is excited to present you. The next day he says, “You just aren’t a fit.”  He won’t elaborate.  You are crestfallen.  You never find out that he placed five people in your old company.  When he was checking references he called someone who wasn’t on your list.  He was warned about you.

You may feel great for few hours when you trash your old boss and company. If you already have a new job, it may even seem perfectly safe.  These things have a way of coming back to haunt you.  When you burn a bridge behind you, you may create a ghost that follows you for years.


Something to do today

Next time you are out with your friends ask them about the most dramatic bridge burning exits they have heard of.



Later: How to quit

The old boy network

Exploit the old boys

The money question

$250,000 too proud

A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.  (Harris)

Mike’s expertise selling into FEMA was critical.  Their product was more than an idea, but not a proven solution.  Mike was already calling on FEMA contacts even though he wasn’t officially on payroll.  The feds wanted their product.  This would be a big win for everyone.

Mike had been unemployed for 8 months and was running out of money.  This was juicy.  If Mike quit or was fired the day after he started, he’d still get $250,000.  The commissions would double that. Still, he was worried he wouldn’t get everything he deserved.  The contract wasn’t tight enough.  What about bonuses in year 4?  He brought in the best lawyer he could find.  The company balked at his demands, his lack of flexibility.

Then the lawyers and the dragging negotiations wounded Mike’s pride.  A venture capitalist said the wrong thing.  The CEO didn’t want to completely get rid of the non-compete agreement since there was a one year severance guarantee.

Mike quit the negotiations. The product was cancelled.  The company was closed.

What hurt the most was that it took Mike six more months to get a different job.  That job paid half as much with no commissions or bonuses.  He had to clean out his savings accounts and sell his cars to survive.  Mike told me, “My pride cost me $250,000.   That was the best offer I ever had. What was I thinking?”

This was an extreme case.  The problem was pride.  When you know you are essential to a project, you want to be treated with respect.  Sometimes that respect kindles the flame of overarching pride.

The job market is really heating up.  I am seeing more examples of this destructive pride.  A manager once told me his policy is, “If two people are absolutely critical to a project and they disagree violently and refuse to compromise or go down one of the two paths, FIRE THEM BOTH.”

Don’t forget, even if you are irreplaceable, the project can be cancelled.  There are always alternatives for an employer.

Don’t let destructive pride make you expendable.

Permanent employment DOES exist

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty, not knowing what comes next.  (LeGuin)

Success isn’t permanent, and failure isn’t fatal.  (Ditka)

I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time. (London)

Here is what happened to me:

Our company made a record profit.  The industry was booming.  The company was sold for an unbelievable amount because its future was so bright.

95% of the employees were laid off by the end of the next month . We were in a boom no one thought was a bubble.  The bubble burst.  The company had to lay off almost everyone. I lasted until the end of the next month.

10 years later I was employed by a huge computer company.  The world was good.  This was a permanent job.  I had been there 9 years. I was safe.

Then I got a letter from a friend at corporate headquarters.  There were going to be layoffs in 3 months.  I asked my bosses. They denied it.  My contact said, “I read the memo.”  I quit for a new job one week before the layoffs were announced.

What has happened to permanent employment?

Permanent employment does exist.  It exists in your skills, networks and planning.

Union negotiations, trade laws and employment contracts are all useless against the tides of change.  Your guarantee of permanent employment comes only through your own efforts and flexibility.  Permanent is what YOU bring to the table.

Even people who have been in the same company for 20 years have switched careers 3, 5 or 10 times.  During my 9 years at EDS I had 4 very different job paths in 9 years.

Look at where you are.  Prepare for the changes that absolutely will come.  Learn new skills.  Pay for your own training if you have to.  Get certifications.  Pay for the tests yourself if your company won’t.  Get trade magazines for your specialty and industry.  Bring ideas to the table where you work.

The world is changing.  You can either benefit from the changes or lose everything you have.

Permanent success means constant change.  Make your job permanent, though your career changes.

Something To Do Today

List what you can do to become a “Permanent” employee.  Meaning you always have a job.

Poison and disease – your job and search

Malice sucks up the greater part of her own venom, and poisons herself.  (de Montaigne)

Do you know why Al Qaeda has not used small pox, nerve gas, or sarin in an attack on the USA yet?  Because they are not as fast, painless, or sure as a car bomb….in killing the attacker

Terrorists are smarter than people who are mad at their boss or a coworker. Poison and disease kill attackers as horribly and slowly as they kill their target. Terrorist attackers want to die quickly and relatively painlessly so they won’t use poison and disease. People who are mad at their boss die slowly, painfully, and publicly from their own venom.  Their boss rarely suffers. The terrorists are smarter.

Every day I talk to people with serious reasons to leave their jobs.  Most briefly state the problems, then go on with their job search. They are winners.  Some state the problem and then they try to poison and infect the people who contributed to the situation.  They are losers.  Examples of stupidity, gross unfairness, lawlessness and cheating are given. The trouble is that the attacker slowly poisons himself.  His pain is horrible to behold. 

What is left is a twisted wreck of a person who is unemployable.

So what do you do?  Forgive.  Forget. Get on with your life.  The best revenge you can have is to be happy while they are miserable.  Let them wallow in depravity.  Don’t hop in the mud puddle to wrestle the pigs and expect to stay clean.  Forgive them.  Pen them up in a part of your life that is through.  Don’t talk about them.  Don’t even think about them.  Stop letting them ruin your life.

If you are still employed, you can pay them back.  Stop talking about them.  Stop worrying and fretting.  If something illegal is going on, quit now and tell the police.  Otherwise find a new job and then leave.  They’ll hate having to replace you.  Never say an unkind word about them to anyone, just give notice and leave.  Then forget them.

Something To Do Today

How To Stop Worrying And Start Living by Dale Carnegie can help.  It can help you get rid of anger and start living for the good things in life.