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Several weeks ago, the small company I work for (about 30 people) declared that there would be an "all hands meeting" for all employees worldwide. However, I have recently gotten a job offer that I have decided to accept. I would like to give my two weeks notice, which would end my employment a few days before this business trip.

I am one of only a few intercontinental employees and so the company has needed to pay a sizable amount for an international plane ticket and a hotel: about $2000. I believe that the plane ticket is non-refundable, but I don't know for sure (and I can't really ask). I am concerned that having the company take a loss on all of this, not to mention declaring that I am leaving so soon before the meeting, would damage my relationship with the company, which I would like to preserve.

So my question is, is it alright to quit right before a business trip of this sort? Or would it be better to wait until afterwards to give my two weeks notice and quit? (Having the two weeks overlap with the trip isn't an option since the event is all about teambuilding and such and it would be incredibly awkward with everyone knowing that I will no longer be part of the team).

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Companies big enough to fly all their staff to an all hands meeting are big enough to handle "wasting" the cost of a plane ticket. It would be more of a waste to incur the hotel, meals, and team building expenses when you have no intention of staying. Give your notice now and mention that you did not have this job offer at the time the plane ticket was bought. –  Kate Gregory Aug 28 at 17:14
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So how does the company save money on a plane ticket, hotel room, food and other expenses only to have you turn right-around and leave? Seems like you would be cutting their losses by not going and the cost of the ticket is negotiable. –  JeffO Aug 28 at 20:10
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"so soon before the meeting" won't annoy your management anywhere as badly as "so late before the meeting". –  Vietnhi Phuvan Aug 28 at 21:31
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so the way to make people stay is to have regular all-hands meetings that require travel? hmm... –  jwenting Aug 29 at 9:09

5 Answers 5

up vote 34 down vote accepted

Is the business any better off having you leave just after it spent the money to send you?

It would be different if this were a meeting or onsite visit where you were expected to produce or do something. But given these circumstances, it doesn't seem like it would matter either way.

Any part of your expenses that are refundable or haven't been paid yet will be a savings for the company. So might as well get it over with.

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Yep, once you know you're resigning and you've signed off on the paperwork accepting the offer, it's time to put in your notice. It's the company's job to handle things with you leaving the company. (Case and point, I worked a job I was away more than home, their was no time that my notice wouldn't result in "non-refundable" expenses.) –  RualStorge Aug 28 at 17:45
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Most business airplane tickets are, at least, partially refundable –  borjab Aug 29 at 13:40

Note that the company made the decision to accept the risk that something might keep you from going when they bought non-refundable tickets. You could get sick and not go. You could have a customer crisis and not go. Or you could quit and not go. That's all figured into their original decision.

It's just part of the cost of doing business.

Tell management, apologise, make clear that you did intend to go before you got an offer you really couldn't pass up. They may be able to get the airline to reassign the seat to someone else.

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heck, they could have fired him after ordering the ticket... Seen that happen, invite everyone to a Christmas party abroad, then terminate a number of them in between making airline and hotel reservations and the date of the party... –  jwenting Aug 29 at 9:11

You should answer this question in the context of your relationship with your supervisor and co-workers; travel is a bit of a red herring. The world is a small place. Only you know if you have a relationship with them in which they would expect more than just 'here's my two week's notice'. If you've been trading in an economy of favors with them, and you drop them on their heads, well, what comes around goes around. If you have relatively vanilla professional relationships with them, well, off you go.

Your supervisor could always respond by saying, 'it would be very valuable for you to attend and transfer knowledge. Could you give us a bit more notice?' And you could choose to oblige. Or, conversely, by saying, 'thanks for sparing us some expenses.'

If you wait until afterwards, you give them no choice at all. So you are being nice to them by giving them more information. It's up to you to decide if you want to be nice, or even, as per the start of this answer, if you feel that you owe them it.

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At the beginning of my studies I worked as a secretary in a major Swiss bank and often had to organise diners, trips, etc.

Your company surely has a fixed number of people they don't expect to show up anyway. Your case may be a bit special, since you're coming from far away, but I'm sure that in their overall-calculations that won't really make a difference. They may have this one expensive case now, but they had many cases in the past - and will have in the future - where the numbers are much better than they expected.

Tell them now, it's only fair. Then they have the chance to cancel whatever can be cancelled. And I expect that they actually got refundable tickets. A company of this size is prepared for cases like you.

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I don't know for sure (and I can't really ask)

That's the major problem here. You're trying to be polite but only in a way that best suits you.

Treat your employer like an adult and let them decide what's best for themselves. They're probably not going to be happy that you can't go but they have options that they could take if they know in advance:

  • Get a refund. The longer you leave it, the less possible this becomes.
  • Fly somebody else out on your ticket (if it's such a long way, even a nearby transfer seems more economical).
  • Ask you to come still, and do exit interviews as part of the team-building (losing a member of the team is a worthwhile learning experience).
  • Leave you where you are (getting work done) for the duration of your notice so they can recoup some of the cost.

Is it going to be awkward? Possibly.
Is it going to be more polite than just going (or just not)? Definitely.

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