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I began work at a medium-sized startup that neglected to inform me of their impending acquisition. It is possible that it had to be kept secret due to legal reasons, but the fact of the matter is I was interested in this position for the environment of fast development free from large-scale corporate bureaucracy.

Since the merger things have gone downhill. I've found an another job with an acceptable offer working in edge technologies I have experience with and I'm going to take it. However, the senior-most member of my team recently tendered his own resignation.

This has sent shockwaves through our team and the managers and manager's managers are scrambling to figure out what they can do better.

How can I gracefully and professionally resign from this situation without causing a panic?

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Maybe you should rephrase the title, or maybe it's juste cause english isn't my mother tongue, but before reading the question I thought a coworker beat the crap out of you 'til you quit your job –  ero Aug 17 at 11:33

7 Answers 7

up vote 169 down vote accepted

How can I gracefully and professionally resign from this situation without causing a panic?

You can resign as gracefully and professionally as you would have, had the senior-most team member not already resigned.

The fact that these two events happened in close proximity is not your fault, and should not be of much concern.

Just be professional and don't bad-mouth the company. The remaining folks will think whatever they are going to think anyway.

The first resignation is often the most surprising, but subsequent resignations won't likely be panic-inducing. (And I'm sure you suspect you won't be the last to leave anyway.)

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As above - by coincidence I once resigned within 20 minutes of a colleague. These things happen and the world still turns. –  Dan Mar 10 at 17:55
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Both companies (the acquirer and the acquisition) take retention into consideration as part of the deal. They assume a certain amount of loss of human capital in the transition. Don't sweat it, just follow the regular ethical procedures when resigning any position. –  Art Taylor Mar 12 at 20:19

You would resign in a normal, professional manner by going to your boss, giving them a letter with 2+ weeks notice, and calmly explaining the reasons you're moving on - just like (hopefully) you'd do normally. You can control your professionalism, you can't control other peoples' reactions or emotions. If there's a panic because of wider retention issues, that's unfortunate, but it's not really your responsibility - or really, practically inside your control - to manage that.

When a startup gets bought or IPOs or whatever, it is usually quite expected for people to move on. If they haven't gotten you under contract or given you enough stock or benefits or whatever to keep you for a while (a standard precaution taken in this kind of buyout) then that's on them; either they are making "sad noises" but don't really feel all that bad about shedding some people, or they're managing haplessly enough that they don't know how to get through that. In any event, if you are professional none of this reflects on you. "I have enjoyed working for company X; as we have succeeded and the company has moved into a later stage, I feel the need to move on to another earlier stage company. Good luck!"

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Yeah - so? The other guy resigning has no bearing on your departure. Give them a couple weeks notice and wish them the very best. In a situation like this a wave of resignations is not unusual and should have been planned for - i.e. if they thought they really wanted people to stick around the acquiring company should have handed out a pile of stock options and/or delayed bonuses "to ensure continuity during this difficult process" - i.e. to pay even the dumb techies sufficient blood money to stay for at least a year or two. If the acquiring company didn't choose to do this it means either

A) they don't know much about the acquisition game and are about to learn a painful lesson,

B) they don't think this is necessary, i.e. they don't value the current "team" all that much, or

C) they told the former owner that any continuity bonuses, etc, would come out of HIS end of the deal, and he (rightfully, IMO) balked at that idea.

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If you want out of there, you are outta there. What your senior co-worker did is his own business and what you do with your life is yours. The people who made you an offer actually do expect you to show up and the more you drag your butt being indecisive, the less professional and business-like you look and in fact, are.

I'll point out that you were not the one who caused your employer's company culture to go down the tubes and that you are reacting to the situation that was created for you by taking the only professional, business-like option that's available to you, which is voting with your feet. And which is a hell of a lot better for everyone including your management than going postal or being thoroughly demotivated from doing any work.

Let the management sort out the consequences - worrying about the impact of your employer's actions and decisions on himself - that was never your job and it's not in your job description and it's accurately reflected in your take-home pay, so be clear eyed about your responsibilities and your management's responsibilities and stop trying to do your management's job. Get the EFF out of there, gracefully or not. Because gracefully or not, you're outta here.

If you can keep in touch with that senior co-worker who resigned, use him as a reference. In fact, ask any senior person who knows about the quality of your work to act as your reference - It DOESN'T have to be you immediate supervisor, although that would be nice.

I've been in NYC's Silicon Alley - that's its rough and tumble, hard edged high tech sector - for 13 years and I am responding to you based on that experience.

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You just need to own your own professionalism. Approach your boss in the proper setting, in a quiet room or private area depending on layout. Present him with your written two weeks notice and thank him/her for the opportunity of working in your current place of employ. I'd mention factual reasons but not personal attacking reasons as to why this is a move that you are ready to execute on.

Don't get into any arguments. If asked for more detail and you feel safe in sharing, feel free to professionally add any feedback as requested. Keep the feedback professional, and don't ramble on and on. You need to keep in mind that your roads may cross again; therefore, it is always best to maintain professional courtesy. At the end of the day, this choice is yours, and you have the right and freedom to make choices that you feel are best for you and your family. Most employers understand and respect this. They may disagree with your choice, but many will respect that it is yours to make.

For more details, check out CIO.com's How to Quit Your Job The Right Way.

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this does not seem to add anything substantial over what was already posted in prior 5 answers –  gnat Mar 11 at 14:45

Follow your heart and resign, go on to pastures new. There is nothing professional, or unprofessional about a resignation. It just happens.

Any good company (professional) will have a debrief/exit meeting with you before you go. It is their chance to get a list of things you are working on that need to be handed over to another employee (Your client list!) and it is a chance for you to express your reasons for leaving. If it is a good company they will take your concerns on board and build on them. Bad companies ignore this information so it makes no difference what you say. If you do get an exit meeting tell the truth about why you are moving on.

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This doesn't answer "how can I resign in a professional manner" - which is the question being asked. Not, "should I resign?" which is what your answer appears to be focused on. –  enderland Mar 11 at 14:55
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Hi Mandy, since editing is a key part of how our site works, you can take a second look as per @enderland's suggestion and edit your post to address anything you missed. On our site, the goal is to create a resource of knowledge in Q&A format, please check out tour and the back it up rule for more details on how our site works. With that said, you have a great start to an answer, being professional and helpful in an exit meeting is one approach, but is there more? Hope this helps! –  jmort253 Mar 12 at 1:12
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[cont'd] - Can all that knowledge transfer really be done in an exit interview? Hope this helps –  jmort253 Mar 12 at 1:21

If you have even the slightest health problem then you can use that as the reason that you have chosen to leave.

You can cite the time of your commute as not being good for you rather than anything to do with your actual job. Your reasons for leaving could sound entirely true and reasonable, decision made, case closed without there being any need for invective regarding colleagues, management, project management, clients or anything else.

Politicians do this type of thing all the time.

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