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I'm relocating to another coast in 3 months. The move isn't job related, i.e. I don't have a job out there yet, but I'm committed, e.g. I have other reasons for going, and I've signed a lease on a house.

Ideal Plan

I like my company, I like my team-lead, I like my manager, and they like me too. In an ideal world, I'd

  1. let everyone know now, so the remainder of my time can be allocated to documentation and training (others), and short-term rather than long-term projects, and

  2. (openly) interview with prospective employers for the next 2 or 3 months, giving my official two weeks notice when I accept an offer.

I want there to be no surprises for my company. Is this plan viable?

Concern

In February the company pays out a fixed-rate bonus to all employees. But I don't know what to expect if my company were to know in advance that I'm leaving. One friend advises me to be cynical: even if my supervisors like me, they may be obligated to inform HR, and be powerless to stop me from being fired. I find this scenario hard to believe, as I have been with my company for more than 4 years, and I would think rational employers would understand that I only let them know in advance out of consideration for them. Am I being naive?

I'm torn about this. Any advice would be appreciated.


Footnotes

If I'm correct to assume that the bonus is a payment for my past year (not a payment for an expectation in the future), then I would like to collect it, and that is admittedly a small part of why I don't plan on leaving any sooner than 3 months. The more significant parts, however, are that

  1. I've only just begun my job search and expect it to take at least 2 or 3 months to have desirable offers anyway, and

  2. I genuinely would like to have sufficient time to wrap things up for a smooth transition. We are a 4-person team: the team-lead, myself, and two relatively new developers; I'm afraid my disappearance would leave my team-lead being the sole experienced developer.

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What would happen in 3 months if you are unable to find a job for some reason? You would expect them to hold your position open for you even though you told them you would be gone? Do you have paid holidays between now and then they could save if they just axed you now? –  Chad Dec 7 '12 at 18:06
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There's no reason you can't start documenting/training now; ideally, no knowledge should be lost should one member of a team become suddenly unavailable for an extended period of time (bus factor). Consider getting some of this done now as a best practice, without any need to consider if you should inform the employer of your job hunt. –  Matt Dec 7 '12 at 19:18
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Don't underestimate the pain of having to hire another employee. Even though it it inevitable, they'll put if off as long as they can. –  JeffO Dec 7 '12 at 20:57
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Can you work remotely? If you are happy with the company and they are happy with you, then you should consider this option. It seems like a win-win solution. –  emory Dec 8 '12 at 11:10
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I hope you realize that your colleagues may stumble upon this post / your W/SE account. –  Jasper van den Bosch Dec 10 '12 at 14:48
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14 Answers

up vote 45 down vote accepted

In my opinion, this is really your call, and there's no one answer here. Maybe that makes it a rocky SE question, since we work best for the format where a one good answer can bubble up to the top and be selected, but I thought there was probably enough good material here to make an answer worthwhile.

The Standard Practice is Standard for a Reason

In many industries and locations there's a standard for how soon to give notice. The standard is a standard for a reason. It really does, in most cases, NOT take longer than a few weeks to transition an employee. In my experience, giving longer notice rarely aids the company. If the company has solid guidelines for a transition, a good transition will occur within the standard notice-giving cycle. If the company has lousy practices, the transition will be painful no matter how much notice you give.

In cases where a company needs a transition time that is abnormal, they often build this into the employee sign-up agreements/contracts and it would already be something you knew about.

Losing a Good Employee is Lousy and There's No Way to Fix That

The other sad truth is that losing a good employee is simply the pits. Having the employee do a super-awesome job at training others doesn't fix that. It's the nature of the employee and how well they fit the business and the team that is the real value and that value can't be replaced.

At the same time, the how-to-do-this-job things that CAN be trained really shouldn't take 2-3 months to do. Unless you are the 99th percentile of niche workers who do such a specialized function that it would take the equivalent of a college trimester to learn everything you know and everyone else in your team is starting that completely cold, it simply shouldn't take 3 months. There's exceptions to every rule - certainly with the spread of experience you mention, you have the depth of experience that others lack. But no amount of explaining and writing on your part is likely to replace you on the team.

Laws, Policies, Bonuses and Bureaucracy

This stuff is pretty specific to where you live, your industry and your company. Whether your boss knowing in advance that you are leaving will prompt an early dismissal is unfortunately a complete toss up. Yes, I've heard of cases where it's happened. I've also experienced other cases (first hand) where giving the boss an early warning was the perfect thing to do, and no harm came from it. It has everything to do with your unique situation, and I'd be wary of any answer than claimed otherwise.

Same thing, unfortunately, from bonuses. Your HR policies and any documentation around the incentive program will help clarify more than anyone on the web can. As you say in the footnote - the big difference is whether it's a past-performance award or a future-commitment incentive. There could, easily, be the case where by moving into the realm of documentation/training to support the team, you are ALSO moving out of the realm of incentivized work, such that your payout for past performance is justifiably smaller.

Professional Courtesy

The big kicker is professional courtesy. If you value your direct manager and think there is an honest to goodness business risk to him not knowing you have other plans in 3 months, then maybe it IS time to gently introduce that. Honestly, I'd advocate being somewhat vague. Saying "I will be leaving in exactly 3 months" is different from saying "I'm considering a big move next year". It's skating the truth, but it's less of a hard and fast line, and in all honesty - your plans aren't all that concrete. If you still hadn't gotten a job in 3 months, would you move or would you delay the lease or sub-lease the house? If you got a job in 2 months, would you leave early?

Be careful about setting very specific deadlines with people who depend on you if you don't have totally solid plans yet. Similarly, reporting on lots of detail that isn't related to the job isn't necessarily helpful to your boss - for example, I really wouldn't want to know every time an employee of mine went on a job interview.

One big huge exception would be if you think remote work would be a possibility. Sounds like you like this job enough that if you could do it in your new location, you'd happily keep working there. If you think there's a possibility of remote work, it can't hurt to ask.

An Example

I've been in this situation. When I've judged that my leaving would cause enough damage that it could only be fixed by long term staffing choices, I've made mention to the most directly impacted manager that my staying in the company was problematic and he shouldn't have the mindset that "Bethlakshmi would never leave us!"

It was a hard compromise between the loyalty of being honest to those I deeply respect, and being careful about making claims that I wasn't certain about. I said it once, once only and then didn't ever mention it again until I had to give official notice. When I gave notice, I did it with a very firm eye on the best time I could pick to leave - I actually stretched the date so I could be there for the team for a key milestone before I left and I was clear with all job interviews that this was the only way of leaving I was comfortable with. I knew I had chosen a good new job when they applauded my decision, knowing I'd do the same for them.

Be aware that day by day status updates on a job interview process are agonizing for most - even your management. After all, you won't be certain when you are leaving until the binary condition of having reached the point in a new job negotiation that you have a job offer that you will accept. Up until then, you really don't know when that offer will come in, so there's not a lot you can tell your manager.

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Better answer than what I was starting ... one exception i can think of about informing a supervisor about a job interview is if you are traveling to the other coast for a face-to-face and need a few days off. –  GreenMatt Dec 7 '12 at 20:45
    
define:loosing –  Trevor Boyd Smith Dec 7 '12 at 20:49
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No need to inform your supervisor of why you need the days off, just that you need them. –  alroc Dec 8 '12 at 3:47
    
A+ Can't emphasize enough that plans or intents for three months down the road are always subject to change. A lot can happen in that time. The friend mentioned in OP's comments could go through some life-altering change or attitude change or whatever, that would blow the whole thing up. –  JustinC Dec 8 '12 at 7:24
    
Thank you so much for your well-thought-out answer, @bethlakshmi. –  Andrew Cheong Feb 27 at 0:30
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Yes, it's naive. If you are not prepared to spend a couple of months without a paycheck, it would be foolish to give notice now. Your manager and your colleagues are not your friends. Give notice after your receive your bonus. Leaving a job is not "screwing [someone] over". It's business. If they can't continue without you, then they weren't paying you nearly enough.

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+1: couldn't have said it better myself –  amphibient Dec 7 '12 at 18:52
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...but they are my friends. I believe they care more about me as a human being, than they do about our company. I believe my team-lead and manager would stick up for me; to me, it's more a question of whether they can do anything about HR, and also, my desire not to put my manager in a dilemma where the only way to keep me "safe" might be to (wrongly) keep the news to himself. –  Andrew Cheong Dec 7 '12 at 19:51
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Maybe another way of putting it is that it is unfair to expect that they would act as your friends in their business behavior surrounding this information. –  JohnMcG Dec 7 '12 at 20:59
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@acheong87 They (Team leader, Manager) are your friends. What about HR? Your manager's boss? CEO? Are they your friends? How big is the company? is EVERYONE your friend? Leave on a good note, but it's still all about CYA. Clean up what you can, do your best not to take on anything and provide at-least one month notice (After your bonus clears). –  WernerCD Dec 7 '12 at 21:16
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"Give notice after your receive your bonus." - I learned this one the hard way. Definitely don't think the company won't try to protect itself regardless of how good your relationship with your immediate coworkers is. (If anything, an early notice might put your immediate coworkers into an awkward conflict-of-interests type spot.) –  Anna Lear Dec 10 '12 at 20:21
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The bottom line is that you could be terminated immediately upon letting your manager know of your plans. In a 'Right to Work' state you'd have little or no recourse.

But the responsible thing to do would be to have a chat with your line manager and let him know of your plans. This allows for planning and preparing on his part and depending upon your role and responsibilities this could be a major undertaking with a large scope.

A reasonable manager won't hold personal/life/career goals against you and shouldn't take any action against you. But of course there's no guarantee of the way that they will react.

All of that aside you'll have to make a decision based on your own feelings, the expected reaction, and the value you hold on your relationship with your current employer.

As for the bonus, well it's for past performance and contribution. But like many things in management/HR the determination is often subjective. Meaning your manager/HR could easily decide that you don't qualify for the bonus at all or greatly reduce it once they learn of your plans.

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Of course, you should keep in mind that your boss is not the only one who could cause trouble. There's no telling what your bosses' boss or HR will do when they find out. –  Tom Marthenal Apr 2 '13 at 3:16
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It is not naive. It depends on your relationship with the people you work with.

Jobs and companies do not exist in a vacuum. People will remember you for the work you've done and for how you left. Moreover, you may work with these people in the future, or with people that they know. You may one day need their help. You might one day want to come back.

If you really are on great terms with all your managers they will appreciate the favour that you are doing them by telling them early. If you're leaving for personal reasons and moving, it will not be taken in a negative light.

I have known a number of people who would move to the west coast from my (east cost) location to work for Google/Facebook/Yahoo/Apple. They would then come back to visit family and we would all go for beers (management including).

Don't be bitter and cynical about work relationships unless you have a reason.

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Giving 3 months is almost certainly unwise. Nothing good can come of it from the point of view of the employee. I'd strongly suggest the OP give at most a month's notice. For sure if the shoe was on the other foot, the company would not give the OP 3 months notice that he was going to be laid off. –  Jim In Texas Dec 7 '12 at 19:22
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@JimInTexas So the last coworker that left like that was getting married and moving to live with her husband. The company knew about it for ~6 months. Evenually she gave the exact date, and the transition was smooth, a new team lead was hired, there was knowledge transfer, and everyone was grateful. If it had been 2 weeks, there would be a lot of problems. If she ever comes back to here she will have her job back the same day. The direct benefit to her? A large number of people that will always vouch for her. These are the sort of people I want to hire. –  MrFox Dec 7 '12 at 19:32
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I gave nearly a year's notice at the last job I quit; but I had the advantage of not really giving a damn either way. As an employee you stand to gain almost nothing by giving extra notice; but if the company decides to let you go early, you stand to lose a LOT. I've also known employees who get screwed out of would-be bonuses or would-be raises, once it's known that they will be leaving, since many companies view those as tools to keep employees (even if they are based on the past years work). –  user3497 Dec 7 '12 at 20:33
    
@MrFox - For the better part of the past year, your words, "Jobs and companies do not exist in a vacuum." had been ringing in my mind. Thank you for your answer. I did have a good relationship with my manager and coworkers, and I maintain that relationship today, working from the other coast. (More in the answer I just added to this question, way below.) Anyway, thanks again. –  Andrew Cheong Feb 21 at 12:59
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I asked this question a little over a year ago, and, at the time, overwhelmed by the multitude of responses (and the nerve-racking decision ahead of me), I didn't quite follow up as well as I would have liked to. Which is a shame, because these answers and comments gave me the caution to guard myself and my coworkers from an undesirable or awkward parting, but at the same time sufficient courage to take into account my unique relationships in my company and do what I felt was right for me, for a wonderful result in the end. I can't thank everyone enough for their insights and anecdotes. In the end I took a "compromise" between the various answers, as well as my own thoughts, so I was hesitant to accept any one answer as correct.

In light of Workplace.SE graduating from beta, and today marking exactly one year since my move to the West Coast, here's an update!


tl;dr — I gave 1 months' notice, and offered to stay up to 2 months.

Through the December I asked this question, I was content to sit back, review answers and comments in this thread, and mull it over and wait, as my managers and coworkers were in and out of the office for the holidays anyway. As the new year rolled past and everyone got back into their routines, I asked my manager if I could speak with him in a conference room.1 I wasn't sure whether to include my team-lead in the same meeting—it seemed somewhat disrespectul not to—but I decided I'd simply make it a point to ask my manager about it first thing during the meeting, and call in the team-lead if it was a good idea to do so.2 I broke the news to my manager, saying it wasn't job-related or anything personal against coworkers or the company, but just a desire to move to the West Coast, and that I was committed. As I had a comfortable relationship with my manager, I elaborated a bit on why I wanted this move for myself (I suppose also to relieve my own guilt and reassure him that it wasn't anything job-related; but he'd have asked out of curiosity anyway). Of course he wasn't ecstatic, but all things considered he reacted quite optimistically, and clearly not upset with me, which is what I had feared (though in retrospect I had no reason to). The next thing that happened completely took me by surprise, though it was mentioned by several users.

Here, I think a disclaimer (and simultaneously my own "answer" to this question) is warranted:

Things worked out for me, but, as the diversity of answers in this thread already hint, your answer really depends on your circumstances, the leadership and culture in your company, as well as your values and priorities. My particular "success story" should not inspire anyone to follow suit; I'm just contributing one more case study for readers to consider and factor into their own assessments. Meanwhile, to answer my own question, i.e. whether it's "naive to tell my current employer that I'll be leaving, months in advance," succinctly, I'd say: Yes, it is naive to take such risks, especially unprepared (e.g. 3 months without salary), and naive to assume a company wouldn't protect its own interests first. But, jobs and companies do not exist in a vacuum, and if in your own assessment of your circumstances (e.g. an understaffed team), your work quality, and your work relationships (keeping in mind that this is a self-assessment and may not accurately reflect reality—i.e. are you really as valuable as you think you are?), you earnestly believe that an extended notice would be considerate, appropriate, and beneficial to all (and you're prepared for the worst case, to avoid being naive ;-) then that's an assessment no one else can make for you: I'd say, after you've covered all the bases, do what you feel is right, and won't regret.

I cut down the whopping 3 months' notice I'd intended to give, to 4 weeks, as had been suggested by some. But, I offered to stay up to 8 weeks—making it an option for them, and an ideal case for me. My manager, after hearing my case, said that for me, though he emphasized not for most others, the company might be willing to set up a remote arrangement, on a trial basis. I was stunned, since at best I was expecting to be allowed to work another 8 weeks. To this day I don't feel deserving of such consideration, and am grateful that my manager held me in such regard. He subsequently consulted upper management, I got the thumbs up the next day, and within a week HR summoned me to sign a remote working agreement. (It's my understanding that only one other employee in the office had been granted this privilege before, due to special circumstances; fortunately for me, this meant a template for a remote working agreement had already been drafted up and available for me.)3 The agreement was that my salary would be cut by a certain percentage (for no longer having to commute, maintain business casual clothing, or pay other New York City-related costs), that I'd continue working East Coast hours (5:30am to 2:00pm local time), and that there'd be an evaluation in 6 months to see whether all this is working out. They made it very clear that all this was a "trial period," not a guarantee of employment beyond the period; I'd be swiftly let go if things didn't work out. All that said and done, 6 weeks later (1 year ago today), I was on a flight to California.


Notes

1 I imagine most companies do this, but I want to be clear about the context for others who may not have this luxury in their workplace. My company requires managers to speak to employees twice a year, personally (one-on-one) and explicitly, that they should feel comfortable requesting additional one-to-one meetings, at any time of the year (not just during annual performance evaluations), about anything. Despite the obligatory nature, for me at least, it did make me feel very comfortable asking my manager for such a meeting.

2 It turned out that speaking to my manager privately, first, was the right thing to do, which, in retrospect, seems obvious for numerous reasons. Not at all that a team-lead doesn't deserve as much respect or visibility, but that it's the manager's role to handle these types of situations, and also the manager is privy to more information (e.g. budgets, my salary, staffing prospects, etc.) relevant to processing such news.

3 I am being careful throughout not to reveal information my employer would not want revealed. In sentences such as these I'm more trying to emphasize the rarity of this action by my employer so as to discourage others who may be familiar with my employer, from drawing any conclusions.

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I recently went through almost this exact scenario. I knew I needed to move for personal reasons, and while my time frame was somewhat vague, I did know that I needed to move by approximately 4 months from when my decision was made.

I was working for a large company, and tried to transfer within my company initially. This is what I told my management, that I wanted to transfer to a different location within the same company. It ended up that a transfer opportunity didn't happen, so I ended up leaving my company. I ended up giving them 4 weeks official notice, which was enough for me to finish my projects, document what hadn't yet been documented, etc.

In my case, giving plenty of notice was the right thing. It allowed my manager to find other people to take my void, which was a process that took some time. As it was, I left on very good terms with my employer, knowing that there are no hard feelings anywhere in the company with my decision.

The bottom line is, it depends on how your company works. It seems unlikely that an employer would fire you because you told them you are about to leave (Unless they had some sort of mandatory layoffs and chose you because you were leaving early), especially if you are playing a valuable role currently. Be as open about the reasons as you can, no company worth anything would fault you for trying. They might even be willing to let you do something like telecommute from your remote location. But all of this is dependent on you having a good relationship with your management. If you don't, or suspect company layoffs in the near future, you'd be better off just keeping quiet for a while.

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Four weeks notice is pretty reasonable. Three or four months is a bit long in a lot of situations. –  Jim In Texas Dec 8 '12 at 22:34
    
3-4 months was the time it was taking to replace an employee at the time, so I wasn't too worried, and it helped them out. –  PearsonArtPhoto Dec 10 '12 at 11:31
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Fear

The main issue here is in my judgement not naivety but fear (fear being the motivator for having doubts and asking the question here instead of just doing it).

The questioner and the persons with the currently three highest scores are all from USA, and I think that heavily influences the content. I want to contribute with an outside view on this.

I think that just having two weeks is a very bad idea and let me explain why. Only two weeks notice like common in USA makes employees fear that they will loose their jobs. Two weeks is a way too short period for finding a new job. Those two weeks will probably be stressful in terminating the employment. And with poor unemployment benefits and health care, loosing the job is a big deal for people, so they understandably have fear for this.

And management will fear that people leave, because if they just sign a contract to sell something that should be delivered next month and then find out that one or more of the persons they planned on performing the work will be leaving in two weeks, then management faces a serious problem. In some way, planning is based on hope rather than certainty. Finding a replacement for someone in just two weeks is not easy either.

Fear is a crappy motivator. Or more precisely, fear is (only) beneficial for short term issues while seldom for long term issues. If you actually meet a bear in the woods, fear is good for you - run! But if the fear of possibly meeting a bear in the woods is keeping you from ever going there, your fear is not serving you well.

Fear is virtually never beneficial in any business setting. As very well put by Mirage V2.0 AWOL

Fear generally only achieves involuntary compliance, which ceases once the threat disappears.

My suggestion

If you have doubts about the consequences for yourself by telling right now, what you could do is write an anonymous letter to the management, something along the following lines.

Dear Management.

I am presenting to you an issue that I believe we can resolve in a way that is win-win for both parties.

I am one your employees. Sorry for writing anonymously, but I am (hopefully wrongly) worried that there might be some negative consequences for me to be open with this right now.

For reasons unrelated to this company, I have decided to move and therefore I will in a couple months time resign. I really want to be open about this now so that you will both get sufficient time to find someone to replace me as well as opportunity to plan the handover properly. And I will feel good about being able to help transferring knowledge to my successor.

I have not resigned from this company before, so I am unsure of what to expect. I would like it to be a good experience, but one hears various horror stories from other companies about how termination notices might get handled.

While giving notice further ahead than two weeks perhaps is not so common here in USA, several months of mutual lay off/notice time is common in other counties. This build trust and gives both the company and employer much less to fear about losing work/employees since the time will make related challenges less critical.

Long lay off periods is not a magical wonder tool that fixes all problems, it will for instance make companies more reluctant to employing new people, but it will most certainly has a positive effect on trust.

If management does not trust employees and employees do not trust management, both have a serious problem.

I kindly ask you to ask yourself "Do we want to punish or reward employees for telling early that they plan to resign?" and then take steps to make it clear for all your employees that you want them to be open about plans for resigning, and that there will be no negative consequences for telling this early.

Best regards, one of your employees.

This way, you will give management a very good reason for discussing the scenario. And this way they will have to discuss it just principally as there is no-one specific to put blame on (unless they behave really immature and try to put blame on this anonymous employee, but that will still not hit you).

If they act on it, you will notice. If they ignore it, well then you did what you could (and maybe they just need time to realize the benefits of long term thinking and mutual trust, and you planted a seed that someone else will benefit from).

My experience

At my previous employer (where I worked for 13 years) we had a downsizing of around 50% a couple of years ago when I was one of the persons being laid off. Management had a very open process about the whole thing and we had all employee meetings early on already before things were decided about who that would leave. I do not remember exactly when I was personally informed that I was to be laid off, but I continued working there for three to four months after that until my last day.

And I have actually experienced "quit in two weeks" there as well. When my current employer asked me if I had anything against going back to my previous employer and work there as a contractor for some months, I said that that I had not (I have a very good relation to my previous employer. There is nothing about the lay off process that I am dissatisfied about). Toward the end of my stay there, some changes triggered my previous employer to ask my current employer to terminate the contract earlier and thus I suddenly had to finish everything I was working with and try to transfer all the relevant knowledge in just two weeks. I did my best, but this is really not sufficient time.

Three months of mutual lay off/resign time is the standard contract in my country and I would never consider working for anything less.

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You raise a really good point about the difference in norms across countries and the expectations in different places, but I can't agree with your process of trying to change a company-wide, or even country-wide norm with an anonymous letter. What would you expect management to do in response to this letter? The very lack of trust implied by an unsigned note is likely to raise defensiveness. –  bethlakshmi Dec 11 '12 at 21:27
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Worked for me, but depends on your manager's leadership style

I want to share my story with you in hopes that it might help in your decision. Almost a year ago, my boss confessed that she might be leaving the company in a few months. Relieved, I told her that I might be as well because I am relocating. Approximately six months later, I told her that I thought a company was going to extend me a job offer (references were checked, the job description was changed per my interests, and a new budget for the position was in the approval process). Upon request, I gave her permission to tell our chief officer. He was disappointed, but understood.

Then, I never heard back from the company. I continued interviewing with other companies, but was struggling to find another opportunity with such a great job and boss. I toyed with the idea of continuing to work for my current company working from home more often or from a closer office, but ultimately decided that wasn't a permanent fix.

I had been scheduled for an overdue promotion at the end of last year. My chief officer considered not giving it to me because I might leave, but my boss talked him out of it. After all, I had earned it, it had been promised to me, and there's a chance I could return to work for them again in the future.

Now, months after I was expecting to have left, I have received and accepted a suitable job offer. I had plenty of time to document my job responsibilities, sit down with the managers who will be handling the transition of those responsibilities, document and provide training to existing employees and new hires on how to carry out some of my responsibilities, and start closing out existing projects. I have set the company up for an easy transition. Given the way they handled the situation, I will certainly return in the future if possible and with even more skills and knowledge for them.

Here's my advice, assess how openly your supervisor speaks with you, his/her opinion/reaction to upper management/HR, and leadership styles. Is your manager easily walked over by superiors, consultative of them, or happy to take ownership and make the decisions? Tell this or a similar story to him/her and gauge the reaction. I did this in interviews with hiring managers and chief officers and it helped a lot. Typically the companies who were more progressive and focused on innovation/teamwork responded well to it.

Start documenting your job now regardless of whether you decide to spill the beans, it will ease the blow later on. Plus, it's a best practice. Maybe your manager will put two and two together and ask if you're leaving. In which case, you should be honest, but how specific you should get (ie. disclosing exactly when you plan to leave) depends on your manager's nonverbal cues. Best of luck!

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Speaking as a manger, I would much rather not receive extended notice of a departure. It greatly weakens my negotiating position with other managers, because they know my team is effectively minus one for the purposes of any project commitment with no hope of replacement for months. I will have no leverage with HR or my CxO boss concerning any issues that may affect you. What you become is a liability rather than an asset.

Don't do that to people you like.

I also perceive a touch of arrogance. Almost no-one is irreplaceable. Anyone who is hard to replace will have already been given huge retention pay and a three-month notice period with a succession plan in place. If that wasn't you, then you must assume that the company is perfectly happy to lose and replace you. It rarely takes very long.

The bonus thing is a furphy. Companies don't actually know why they pay bonuses - indeed most are bogus; they simply indicate that a particular individual was underpaid. Keep quiet, collect your bonus; there is nothing unethical about two parties meeting a contractual obligation.

Your friends will still be your friends. A good friend will celebrate that you have found something new in your life, and will harbour no grudge. Only a very, very bad friend would pile on the emotional blackmail for "letting them down". Take this as an opportunity to discover the difference.

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"Anyone who is hard to replace will have already been given huge retention pay...". I don't agree with this. It really depends on the company, staff, funds, etc. If the company cannot afford to do it, they won't, or maybe they don't realize how necessary you are until after you leave. I believe NOBODY is irreplaceable, just some harder to replace than others. But the point I guess is it doesn't really matter how integral you are, most companies will find a way to fill the gap that you leave. –  flem May 19 '13 at 10:55
    
flem - you're quoting me out of context. That statement was a conditional for the actual point, which is that "you must assume that the company is perfectly happy to lose and replace you". The corollary is that companies that don't do this at all are ipso facto taking a strategic position that the employee is replaceable. Whether this is a conscious position or otherwise doesn't matter - as an employee, you should assume it is so; it's not your problem if HR were asleep on the job. –  inopinatus Jul 24 '13 at 3:30
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Well as this is currently the second hottest question on Stack Exchange and there's a picture of you under said question, this may be academic ;-) That said you are very naïve to think that the company will owe you anything if you let them know now. What you have to decide is if you have more to lose by not telling them vs waiting til after your bonus is paid. Sure, every company has great people in it and we are often great friends with our colleagues but what happens if you let them know tomorrow and get fired. Will you feel worse than you will by not telling them. Maybe you suffer from extreme anxiety and can't cope with the guilt you feel. Bottom line, only you know what's going to make you feel worse but DO NOT think that the "Company" will think they owe you anything for your honesty, regardless of how great those in your close team may be.

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+1 on the basis of the first sentence alone! ha ha –  DrFriedParts Dec 8 '12 at 19:38
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I agree overall that they should be prepared for a situation like this, after all they are the employers, it's part of their job to handle this kind of situations.

Anyway, I don't think that the It's just business culture justifies anything, having a double standard is not cool at all.

In the end, this is a very personal decision, you are the only one who knows whether you should warn someone or not and when to do it.

I think it's a combination of "how much damage I'm going to make" and "How much I care about it" for all people involved (including yourself).

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It's nice but a little naive

I had a friend do this at a place I used to work at when he decided to go back to college and so let me ask you a few questions and you can answer and see how they match up to your company:

1) Does your company spend money it doesn't have to?

No? Be prepared to see any raises, bonuses, and promotions you may have earned but that you aren't contractually obligated to recieve go to other people.

2) Does your company hire two people to do the same job?

No? We didn't start the hiring process until the official 2 weeks period had begun and no offers were made until well after he had left. If they do go ahead and hire someone, why keep you around full time or at all? (see question 1)

3) Does your company give you plenty of time to cross train and write documenation?

No? Either they haven't been burned yet or people are able to muddle through well enough on what can be crammed into 2 weeks. Either way they may agree that it's a good idea but it will still be a LOW priority, and low priorities have a way of being swept out of the way.

4) Do you want any interesting work the next few months?

Yes? Better to give the interesting work to employees that are staying. You will be told to focus on closing out your current projects and then you may only get the short-term projects and things that no one else wants.

There is a decent chance that they'll figure out that SOMETHING is coming just from the way you'll have to act (try asking for a copy of your non-disclosure agreement in a non-suspicous way). There are ways to leave while still being nice but I can tell you for sure they wouldn't warn the employees far in advance if they were going to be layed off and you should take a cue from that behavior on how they expect you to act.

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It is the same as if you were to tell your husband or wife that you are leaving them in 3 months. You could reasonably expect 3 months of pure hell between the present moment and your departure date. You could also reasonably expect that if they really like you, they will attempt to convince you to change your mind, and your will to move on would be broken long before the three months had passed, but the general trust between you and your co-workers would also be broken.

Reasonably, they might just decide to hasten your departure so they don't have to look at you again. To reuse the marriage analogy, tell your wife or husband you are leaving and then drag it out 3 months, you might find yourself in an early grave, which in this case the analogy is "fired".

Best bet is to give 2 weeks notice when you hit that point.

Also, what if you change your mind and decide you aren't leaving after all? Will they let you stay?

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I don't think you quite have a grasp of the company structures. Assuming that this is a large public company with a formal HR department,

  1. Their first obligation is their shareholders.
  2. Some companies believe that to look after their shareholders, they need to look after their employees to the best of their ability. That list of companies does not necessarily include yours.

Telling them you're leaving early will likely involve the following.

  1. Your line manager being required to inform HR. Even if your manager would rather they didn't, they may have to out of job preservation. If you're manager doesn't inform HR but word gets out, it reflects badly on him/her that he didn't follow due process.
  2. HR's primary role is to ensure their human resources are as efficient as they can afford it to be, (remember primary obligation is to shareholders). Your bonus is discretionary, an incentive for you to work hard next year. You can near guarantee you will not receive the $7,000 in a public company if they know you're leaving. It adds no shareholder value, and regardless of how liked you are by your management, you leave them in the impossible situation of arguing that paying you is good for the company's bottom line despite you no longer being an employee.
  3. You are now a security risk. You are leaving, you probably will work for a competitor as this is where you'd get the biggest bang for buck with your experience. Will you steal code? Will you steal designs?

The most likely outcome of forewarning your company is you will work your notice period, asked to ease the transition, and you'd then be asked to leave.

I have been in a similar position in the past working for a Fortune 500 company. Because of my seniority I have a three months notice period. Despite being there for over 6 years and with excellent relations with everyone, in my HR exit interview I didn't confirm where I am heading to next. That translated to them as one of

  1. I am going to work for a competitor.
  2. I am harbouring ill will towards the company and plan on stealing information.

My 3 months got shortened to a week.

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Apparently, the shareholder value thing is a myth "U.S. corporate law does not, and never has, required directors of public corporations to maximize shareholder value. Most are formed “to conduct or promote any lawful business or purposes.”" scribd.com/doc/112384700/… –  jmoreno Jan 31 '13 at 3:25
    
For companies I've worked in, it's a mission statement. It's discussed in every town hall hosted by the CEO (quarterly after results are published). It doesn't matter what the law is if it is part of the company culture essentially. –  M Afifi Feb 6 '13 at 21:52
    
The difference is that one can bankrupt the person with a fiduciary duty and possibly even lead to a jail term, while the other at worst gets them dismissed by the board if it happens to notice. I am not saying that the company is likely to pay, just that it can without penalty. Which means that you need to evaluate an INDIVIDUAL companies culture to determine whether or not it is likely to pay. –  jmoreno Feb 7 '13 at 0:02
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