When You’re Writing a Resignation Letter, Less Is More
I have, unfortunately, decided to resign from my job, and I will not be leaving on good terms. I have been subject to harassment and other unfair treatment, and have been fearful of being terminated. Rather than pursue the legal route, I would rather extract myself, at some urgency, and retain what integrity I can.
While it is my direct manager who I feel is mistreating me, it is likely that I will see this person on a regular basis at meetings and conferences in our very small field. I do not wish to add to any negativity that she has already created.
Any tips on what to include, and what not to include, in a resignation letter? ANONYMOUS
When the circumstances of one’s departure are unpleasant, it can be tempting to use the resignation letter as a forum for getting the last word. That’s a mistake. As a general rule, it’s better to keep a resignation letter as minimal as the circumstances allow.
In some cases — and, I suspect, in this one — that can be very minimal. State that you’re resigning, and give adequate notice. Your dissatisfaction will be clear enough from the fact of the resignation itself, so there’s no need to reiterate it. Limit any explanation to the boilerplate basics, whether you’re “accepting a new opportunity” or have concluded this job is “not an ideal fit.”
If you want to send a no-hard-feelings signal for the sake of future conference-circuit encounters, put in some vaguely positive statement: You’ve enjoyed “aspects of the job” or “learned a lot.” (The latter phrase is handy because it sounds nice but could mean almost anything.)
If you want to go beyond that, examine your motives carefully: It’s easy to rationalize mere venting as helpful advice.
As I’ve said in the past (in the context of exit interviews), I don’t think offering useful tips to your soon-to-be-former employer needs to be a priority; you’re better off focusing on your own future. And if your advice amounts to “So-and-so is a horrible manager,” you run the risk of your well-intentioned critique being interpreted as sour grapes — not helpful in a field where you may interact with past colleagues regularly.
Besides, if you think a frank discussion of your manager’s behavior with the higher-ups might make a difference, it would be far more helpful to you and your bosses to have it before you quit. So what you might do is write two resignation letters. In the first one, hold nothing back: Vent with ruthless honesty and achieve full catharsis.
Now set that aside (where no one else will stumble upon it) and start over. This time, keep it concise. Then, if you think there’s a chance of fixing the situation, have that honest conversation about your issues. If you’re not satisfied with the results, hand over Version 2 — and don’t look back.
Peer Review: Flexible Scheduling
I’m writing to object to your characterization of workplace scheduling that includes flexible hours as being a recipe for chaos. When I arrived almost five years ago to be director of social services at a hospital, the department was held in very low esteem by other departments. Staff members did not seem to be able to find a social worker when they needed one. And when they did track one down, the response time was too long and not necessarily helpful.
Most of the social workers felt overworked, underpaid and unappreciated. Staff morale was in the tank.
One of the critical components to turning this around was my introduction of self-scheduling. Every social worker now works the hours he or she chooses. Chaos? To the contrary. I now have a happy, smoothly operating team with high morale. LOS ANGELES
It’s a fair point: Flexible scheduling systems can certainly work, and I did not mean to imply otherwise. It’s useful to remember that freeing workers from overscheduling can definitely have benefits — on morale and effectiveness.
But it’s all in the details, and even the most open scheduling system still has to function as a system, with parameters and clear communication. If I can actually decide on the fly to leave early without warning anybody (the situation that the earlier reader described), friction seems inevitable. And if everyone in your department takes Friday off, it’s hard for me to see how any colleague who needs a social worker that day will be satisfied.
So the trick would be determining a staffing (or even task-specific) baseline and then giving everyone as much freedom as possible. Even the much discussed “bossless” notion currently embraced by the online retailer Zappos, and intended to let workers manage themselves, has a lot of rules.
Still, it’s certainly true that sometimes managers fail to recognize how significant it can be to give employees a sense of control over their work lives. Easing up on needlessly restrictive schedule demands can do just that.
Reminder: Overcoming Age Bias
In my last column, I turned the tables and asked for readers’ advice on handling age bias in the job market and workplace: As a practical matter, what can workers and managers do about it?
Thoughtful suggestions have been piling up in the Workologist’s inbox, but there is still time to chime in; I’ll be sharing highlights when I observe this column’s second anniversary next month. In particular, if you’re a younger manager with thoughts on seeing beyond age differences, I’d love to hear more from that perspective.