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I am in my notice period. I think that I should just wrap things up and let my replacement, who should be an expert like me, take over what I do.

My main tasks are quite common for my area of expertise, but I have been asked to document everything in extreme detail so that management and other non-expert staff could easily understand what I did. This would be low-level documentation meant to be understandable by random project managers.

Moreover, I am supposed to teach everything I know to junior staff so that they can replicate what I have been doing.

I feel like an idiot, as my manager previously didn't give me the opportunity of teaching and training my own team. I was not valued, and now they want to take everything from me before I walk out, so that they can say that what I did was nothing special.

Q: are there reasonable limitations to how much information I should share, and should I even teach junior staff during notice?

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If not knowledge transfer, what did you think the notice period was for? – A E Feb 10 at 17:32
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If you don't like it you can just leave without giving notice. This is called "burning bridges" but you seem really upset that you have to do what your manager tells you for 2 more whole weeks. – djechlin Feb 10 at 17:42
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Every time I've transferred jobs, my notice period was documentation. Same goes for my colleagues. You should not be upset about this, this is very standard, especially in smaller companies. In bigger companies, this might not be that common. So gut up and just DO IT! – harsimranb Feb 10 at 21:16
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I don't think it's worth a separate answer here (there's plenty of great answers), but let me just add one thing: take it as an opportunity. For one, to leave a good impression of yourself. Two, improve your writing and teaching skills. If you want to grow as a software developer, both of these skills are essential, and any opportunity you have to improve them while being paid for all your work should be exploited for all its worth. When I was doing my last handover, I went crazy with both, and subsequently improved my worth considerably. Software development is more about people than code. – Luaan Feb 11 at 9:55
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It's just the way things are, and always have been. Thag The Caveman: "Ug, me quit go other job two weeks" Thag's boss: "Ug, sorry see you go. Write down everything know on cave wall. Make sure Dave know make fire before go." – Andy Lester Feb 12 at 23:10
up vote 20 down vote accepted

I think most of the answers are missing the essence of your dilemma.

You didn't have a great work environment and you felt slighted at the company, so naturally you found another job.

Now that you are leaving they seem to value what you did more. You may think your task are simple but your management may be freaking out. So what right?

First they can ask you to do whatever you want during your notice period. You can refuse most or all that don't have to do with your current job.

You may think you want to stick it to the company but you are also sticking it to your co-workers a bit too. They may have trouble functioning, they might have to work extra, maybe they don't but they remember you left in a hostile manner. So even if you don't want anything to do with this company for the rest of your life you now have 20-30 people in your industry that view you as a black cloud. So step one is play nice and have a good attitude your last few weeks since people will remember those the most.

Next have a talk with your manager and be honest about what you can get done. For example you mention teaching your coworkers to train them to your level. I personally see issues with this. I have been in tech for 20 years and had 40+ guys reporting to me at a time. I don't ever remember asking one to train their replacement when they gave notice. You are not a trainer or teacher of developers and if you were you would get paid more.

Asking you to document what you do is fine. If you want to do a half-ass job, whatever. Just have a good attitude about it and don't act like you are half-assing it. Any level headed tech manager worried about an employee leaving with knowledge first has already failed their job and second they would have someone shadow you do specific things - note I said shadow not have you train them. That puts the onus of when things get done on the manager not you. No manager should trust that you will get this stuff done when you are on notice so they should be managing what is being transferred. The same reason you wanted to leave is probably the same reason they are mismanaging this.

Also don't let your management or HR rile you up. If they want to act like you are being hard to deal with just smile and do your job. It is a tough situation leaving a company that has management issues. Don't focus on getting everything done. Let them manage that. Offer to be available after notice period (for a premium). If they don't want to take you up on it, that is on them. My gut tells me they will let their junior devs run around in circles for months.

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I'm assuming "to my level" is hyperbole since most management knows what's possible and what isn't in a given time period even if they ask for more.. Your milage will vary. Having had to pick up pieces after someone left without documenting their work, I can tell you that there is always stuff worth passing along unless you really are a mindless cog. – keshlam Feb 12 at 13:10
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+1 I quite like this answer, it gets to the essence of it from the OP's viewpoint in terms of his/her general dissatisfaction with the workplace. I had a manager downplay my skills and achievments and expect juniors to pick up my slack without losing a beat. In fact that company lost several clients after I left. The manager was an idiot, which is not as rare as you may think. – Kilisi Feb 12 at 20:13
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THANK YOU. My code is already documented. My domain knowledge is not, because for that you need a couple of degrees. But they want me to make sure that by removing the only domain expert they will lose nothing. – Monoandale Feb 12 at 20:57
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Great Answer, my only comment concerns the following: "Any level headed tech manager worried about an employee leaving with knowledge first has already failed their job" - In jobs I worked every employee leaving has some implicit knowledge that will go with them. Worrying about minimizing this is not management failure. – Underdetermined Feb 14 at 12:36

This is exactly what a notice period is for -- to transfer as much of your knowledge about the work as possible to other people so the company doesn't lose it. They aren't "taking from you" anything except what is theirs because they paid you for it.

It's not about you, it's about the business. Stop sulking and cooperate. As others have pointed out, you're still being paid to do so.

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Documenting things for the company in no way damages you; it just keeps your departure from damaging them more than it must. So you help them get better -- so what? If you're on your way out they aren't your competition, and even if you weren't leaving this is a positive-sum game and trying to hoard info hurts you more than it hurts anyone else. – keshlam Feb 9 at 23:23
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@Monoandale, believe it or not, your employer employs you to provide value to their business, not to improve yourself and develop your "precious professional capital". I advise you to adjust your attitude if you want to succeed in the workplace in the long term. Being directed to spend your notice period documenting and transferring knowledge is absolutely normal and commonplace, I can't think of a time when I changed jobs and was not so directed. Until your notice period is over, you still work there, so act like a professional and follow these directions. – Carson63000 Feb 9 at 23:31
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@Monoandale It's actually not your professional capital. It's the employer's. You take away certain skills you learned in this job, they take away the work that you did. To hand over is a win-win, not a zero sum game. – Jane S Feb 10 at 0:14
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@Monoandale Furthermore, they are paying you to do this. – EJP Feb 10 at 2:59
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@Monoandale: "I just give away everything I know, am I not losing precious professional capital?" And yet, you're asking people on Stack Exchange to share their professional capital with you? Take a lesson from this experience: Helping others only enhances you, it doesn't in any way take anything away from you. – T.J. Crowder Feb 10 at 9:22

The best and most professional thing I have found to do is create a handover document. This would include step by step procedures on any tasks only you are familiar with (complete with screenshots if necessary), things like network diagrams of clients (depending on what your position is), any passwords that only you know etc,. Everything consolidated in to one document. Use working hours to make this.

As far as training juniors go that's up to the company if they will give you time for that. Usually you can just give them the handover doc and go through it with someone if need be.

You already have one foot out of the door, so some companies will try and squeeze the last ounce out of you that they can. However you're leaving so don't let any pressure get to you. Just do the professional thing and do what needs to be done with the focus on your work carrying on with the least disruption when you're gone.

Take your time and do a solid job of it.

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I'd suggest on top of this (if your short on available time) you could also speak to the manager who is making these requests and suggest that they can have a handover document, or training for the staff - but that there isn't time for both and ask them to prioritize which they prefer. – Ian Feb 10 at 9:23
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The answers are slightly different, mine advocates what is in my humble opinion best for the OP, the other champions the business. A good handover document negates the need for extensive training and will still be used in years to come as a base reference by people who haven't even started working there yet. I'm always going to advise what is best for the OP as I see it, not the company. I see nothing wrong with my solution, and it's what works for me. It focuses my knowledge of the job and is extremely useful to whoever takes over. It's far superior to any hurried training I might give. – Kilisi Feb 10 at 18:41
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It's not rocket science, it's also an unhappy environment for the OP, this lets him/her concentrate on one task. As for simple things will be forgotten, that's rubbish. Documenting and procedural step by step will not forget the basics, I have written many manuals like this, in fact it helps make sure nothing is missed. You take your time and do it thoroughly. Not write a 2 page doc in an hour. You do it methodically and professionally if it takes 100 pages, then you do 100. – Kilisi Feb 10 at 19:05
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For training you use the document as a base reference and when you write it you assume you're writing for a not-too-bright beginner so there's little chance of misunderstanding. I'm not advocating refusing to train as you said, but realistically I've seen some awful training in my time, because most people are not teachers. I'd rather have a comprehensive doc to refer to. – Kilisi Feb 10 at 19:48
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@Monoandale That's perfectly fine. You're still an employee until your notice period ends. You still do whatever the people in charge ask you to do (within your job description, of course), and if they think your time is best spent preparing documentation, that's what you must do. As noted before, the whole point of the notice period is the handover (at least in software companies). Do your job. Don't push yourself into overtime or anything - just do your job, during your normal work hours. If they want to be cheap about your replacement, that's their problem and their decision. – Luaan Feb 11 at 9:48

are there reasonable limitations to how much information I should share, and should I even teach junior staff during notice?

If you want to remain professional, and keep a good reputation intact, you work hard during your notice period - documenting, aiding in knowledge transfer, and helping in any way you can. That's what a notice period is for, and that's what you are getting paid to do.

You should be limited only by the hours you work, and your abilities.

If you don't care about your reputation, you could hold your breath and refuse to teach junior staff. Aside from vindictiveness, you have nothing to gain by taking this route. Perhaps you don't care.

A while back you asked if a company has a right to bad-mouth you and not recommend your services after you leave. Refusing to aid in the knowledge-transfer is one of those things that could matter. You don't want your last impression to be your worst.

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Thanks Joe, very good point. I am letting resentment prevail here. – Monoandale Feb 10 at 14:56

You should put in your best efforts to provide them a 'hiccup-less' transfer. The reasons are in my humble opinion, some of them already mentioned above,

  1. You do not want someone in the middle of the night to call you for some stupid stuff. Which can be taught in a minute.
  2. You do not want to burn the bridges with the present company. Just because today you do not want to work here does not mean you would never want to work here.
  3. This is in fact the best time to show your managers what they are losing.

When I left a small company where I had worked for a year, I made sure my juniors understood everything they needed to take care of, even the stuff I was doing R&D on that had no compulsion to be "handed over." In spite of that fact, my managers refused give me a raise. And when I found I had finished my 'KT' and still had time left over, I very politely asked whether they needed my help on anything else as the juniors were still learning to cope up.

They sure did.

Two months after I had joined my new company, my (ex) team lead called up and asked me whether I would like to rejoin my old company. I refused politely.

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If in two years of time, a prospective employer calls your former manager and asks him about your work, what do you prefer him saying? "His work was good and he made sure to document it and train his replacements. We are still using it productively." or "He refused documenting his work or handing it over in a proper manner, so we had to throw it all out and have it rewritten. His employment ended up being a huge financial loss to us because of his attitude."?

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I think a lot of the other answerers don't get what you are saying. It is your job to document things to a level that someone of equivalent skill can use, it is not your job to spell everything out step by step for a novice because you can't possibly account for every unexpected eventuality.

Imagine that you were a chef in a fine restaurant, they can't expect you to bring a trainee upto your own level during a notice period. It is your responsibility to pass on business knowledge but it is an unrealistic expectation to handover a level of skill.

So what you need to do is manage your boss's expectations but also ensure that everything is thoroughly documented for someone with the appropriate skillset.

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@user22217 The company paid him to learn it, doesn't mean he can teach it, that a junior is good enough to learn it too or that any of this is doable within the restricted timescale of a notice period. – JamesRyan Feb 10 at 20:08
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@user22217 going back to the chef analogy. If he developed an amazing dish for the restaurant he should be passing on his secret recipe. But he can't be expected to turn a trainee into a michelin star chef in that time or even ensure that the trainee can cook that dish as well as a proper chef would. – JamesRyan Feb 10 at 20:11
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I'd also note from " I was not valued, and now they want to take everything from me before I walk out, so that they can say that what I did was nothing special", that it seems the problem isn't that the OP fears the task is impossible (although I agree that would be a reasonable fear). The problem the OP has to deal with is fearing that it is possible and their role in fact can be filled by a junior trained up during the notice period. But there's a difference between handing over specific tasks and processes to a junior, and that junior taking on the whole role and showing you up. – Steve Jessop Feb 11 at 12:46

I don't see what your issue is. You're still an employee during your notice period, so it's still your job to do whatever reasonable tasks your manager assigns to you. You have been assigned the reasonable task of training other people to do something that you're an expert at.

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It's very human to only value something once it's lost (I bet there's a saying about that, but it doesn't come to mind). It certainly feels disappointing to be undervalued until you decide to quit, but you should expect that attitude (to some degree), otherwise you'll be setting yourself up for constant disappointment. Getting unfriendly and refuse to cooperate now will be quite unprofessional.

Instead transfer as much knowledge as you can, and try to prevent this situation to build up on your next job. A good indicator of "irreplaceable guy" issues is when you take vacation. If your tasks just pile up during that time (even urgent ones), you should tell your boss it's a problem and ask him if you should spend some time training your peers.

Also don't hesitate to tell your boss you can't handle your regular activities and transfer knowledge at the same time. If your boss is willing to dedicate enough time for training your peers, he's not the worst kind, believe me!

Personally, I go as far as leaving my personal e-mail to the team lead when I quit a project, and telling them I'm ready to answer questions should they be blocked. So far, I was contacted only once, to attend a project milestone celebration in a restaurant, and I must admit I take pride in always carefully preparing my departure. I believe you should, too.

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I believe the song for this is "Don't it always seem to go/That you don't know what you got 'til it's gone/They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot" (Big Yellow Taxi/Joni Mitchell) – Bob Jarvis Feb 11 at 2:52

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