I work for a consulting company where I am the most senior person on my team after my boss, who’s the founder. In the three years I’ve been here, I have lost count of the number of people who have been hired and left in less than a year. Expectations are high, and the deadlines are nigh impossible to meet — which leads to most people working lots of (unpaid) overtime on nights and weekends and a high degree of burnout. Last year, one person who quit sent an email to the entire company (60-plus people) airing her grievances about low salaries and internal ethics. Two months ago, two people quit on the same day. This is only a small fraction of the drama (which comes primarily from the directors) that we experience on a daily basis. Needless to say, it’s been a very draining atmosphere to work in and has significantly impacted my mental and physical health. I was trying to make it through the end of my current contract, but after not being paid for over three months and witnessing a new co-worker be bullied to the point of quitting, I decided that I needed to get serious about looking for new work.
After a few months of searching, I landed a job and am very excited! I gave my notice two weeks ago. We have a very long notice period (two months), so I gave my boss — let’s call her Sally — nine weeks of notice. She has had a rocky relationship with most other staff members, but for some reason we have cultivated a good working relationship (though I would say she is still abusive). I was honestly expecting the worst when I quit, as I know she has tried to refuse other colleagues’ resignations, but mine was received well. We have already hired my replacement, and I’ve been working on training her, wrapping things up, and continuing to manage certain projects until my departure.
However, this week there has been a noticeable shift in Sally’s behavior toward me. She has started piling additional work onto my plate, outside of what we agreed upon in my handover note (in which I outlined key tasks I would complete). Today, she admonished me for the quality of my work, saying that she had felt a dip in recent months and now understood why (i.e., because I was job hunting/wanted to leave) and that she expected I would continue to give 100 percent and think about my legacy at the company. I will admit that I have started to withdraw from internal conversations on team-building and morale, so perhaps that is where this comment came from. However, I also think my priority should be training my replacement and wrapping things up as much as possible in the next few weeks.
I did not engage with her comment. Later she sent another very long message about how she understands it’s normal to switch off to some extent once you land a new job, but my attitude was impacting team spirit and her own workload (I guess it’s not her recent demands that all staff work unpaid overtime or witch hunts punishing staff members for not doing a task correctly). She then went on a lengthy rant calling me and other co-workers robots. Again I did not engage and answered very noncommittally that we would finish our collaboration “strong.” But I am unsure about how to respond if these sorts of comments continue, as they are quite emotional and very draining to receive. I would like to finish up my time in my current position well and on a positive note. How do I navigate my last few weeks (if this is even possible) with these sorts of comments?
Given how you’ve described the management in your organization — and your boss specifically — it’s no surprise that Sally is handling your resignation in a ridiculous fashion. It’s almost a hallmark of poorly run companies that people are mistreated during their notice periods, and yours is no exception.
But first let’s talk about the length of your notice period, because nine weeks is a really long time! In most jobs, two weeks notice is typical. There are jobs and fields where the convention is to give more, and perhaps you’re in one … though I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is just one more weird thing your dysfunctional company demands for no real reason. And to be clear, nearly all employers would like lengthy notice periods, but it’s not generally a practice expected in the U.S. outside of some very specific circumstances, like if you have a contract that requires it. (And if you do have a contract that requires it … well, I’m pretty sure your employer already violated that contract when they stopped paying you for three months. You would have been entirely justified in leaving with no notice when that happened.)
So my first piece of advice is to revisit whether you really need to stick to the nine weeks you’ve offered. You might feel like you’re locked in now that you’ve offered it, but you’re not. At any point you can say, “Unfortunately my circumstances have changed and I will need my last day to be [earlier date].” You can also tie that directly to how your manager is treating you, if you’d like to: “I’m happy to spend my remaining time training my replacement and wrapping up projects, but I’m not willing to [insert whatever you’re not willing to tolerate here]. If that doesn’t work on your end, let’s plan to make my last day this Friday.”
But if you’d strongly prefer to work out the full nine weeks you’ve offered, you can still do that on your own terms. You can set limits on how much work you’re willing to do during your remaining time and say, “I only have time to complete X or Y before I go. Which would you prefer I do?” If your boss keeps piling work on you and tells you to get it all done, you can (and should) decline to work unpaid overtime to finish it all and can simply say, “This is more than I’ll be able to finish during my remaining time. I’ll do what I can in my normal work hours, but I want to make sure you know I won’t have enough time for all of it.” If your boss demands you stay late or work over the weekends, you should calmly say, “I’m not able to do that. I’ll keep you posted on how much I’m able to do during my normal hours, though.” After all, you’re leaving! They don’t have much leverage over you at this point (and if you find yourself losing sight of that, remind yourself that you could leave tomorrow if you chose to; whatever time you give them at this point is optional).
You should also decline to answer any accusations about your commitment or other emotional missives from your manager. If Sally tells you she thinks you’re not giving 100 percent, you can ignore that … or if you must respond, you can blandly say, “Hmmm, I don’t see it that way. I’m committed to wrapping up what I can in my remaining time,” and then pivot to a work question. If she sends you lengthy messages about team spirit or her own workload, you can ignore those.
Right now I think you’re getting too emotionally engaged in the things Sally is saying to you. That’s understandable, because this is someone who has played a major role in your professional misery for the last few years. But you’re leaving! Her power over you is ending. You no longer need to be invested in how she feels or what she thinks or says. If anything, you should see her hectoring as validation of your decision to leave; every time she approaches you with this stuff, tell yourself, “Yep, here’s the reason I’m getting out.” I think that will help you disconnect from caring — because you really don’t need to anymore.
Find even more career advice from Alison Green on her website, Ask a Manager. Got a question for her? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.