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Casting my mind back to when I left my first employer, the 3 months of working my notice period were unpleasant. In hindsight, I wish I had been on gardening leave instead, defined to be:

Your employer may ask you not to come into work, or to work at home or another location during your notice period. This is called ‘gardening leave’.

You’ll get the same pay and contractual benefits.

My role was quite sensitive and customer facing, but not a senior one. I did not leave to work with a competitor (I went to a completely different industry).

My question is, how could I have negotiated to go on gardening leave?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man May 31 '18 at 13:56
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+50

My question is, how could I have negotiated to go on gardening leave?

You almost certainly couldn't have done. This is always going to be tough, since you haven't got a lot of cards here - you've already announced that you're leaving, and you may still need a good reference from your existing employer in the future (so burning bridges gives you no real benefit.)

Gardening leave, especially the "stop work altogether" kind, isn't something that's typically negotiated. It's generally mandated by companies that are worried disgruntled, soon to be ex-employees may decide to leak or sabotage company data / operations (or potentially steal clients - as per the comment.) In some cases more than others (think large hedge funds / banks), the cost of paying someone's salary in their notice period is nothing compared to the potential billions in damages a disgruntled employee could cause.

It should go without saying, but definitely don't try to use the above as a negotiating tactic. Going along the lines of "But if you keep me around I might deliberately screw everything up just for the hell of it" is a fast way to get the lawyers involved, a possible criminal record and no chance of ever getting a good reference.

If you're determined to go ahead and negotiate the "work from home" kind, then like any negotiation, concentrate on the potential plus points to the employer:

  • If you feel other people are giving you a hard time / cold shoulder because you're leaving, then you'll be more relaxed and able to do better work at home;
  • If people are asking you lots of questions because you're leaving about handover, etc. then you can also get on with your work more effectively if they're forced to send those via email instead;
  • (Any other potential other benefits of home working in general.)

Honestly, the above are really quite weak points though - it's unlikely your employer will be willing to let this happen unless it's something they were planning anyway.

  • dv - just because you misunderstood why gardening leave exists for banks/hedge funds. It's not about "sabotage", it's about stealing clients. The employees aren't "disgruntled" either, or at least, they're too professional for that to have repercussions. The worry is that Sam the leaving employee will take her rolodex of clients to the next place she goes. To stop this - or mitigate it somewhat - she is sent on gardening leave. After 3 months, enough has changed and new relationships have been made, so it is hard for Sam to take these clients with her. – bharal May 28 '18 at 17:21
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Your chances were about zero.

Gardening leave is given to people who get laid off, sometimes to stop disgruntled employees from doing bad things, often because a project was cancelled, and the employee isn’t needed at all, and it had happened to me when a company wanted to move a project from A to B and told employees months ahead that they wanted this transition done by the notice date, and everyone received a generous payment as reward.

In your case, you gave notice. The company wanted you to work. There is no reason at all why they would give you money for not working. The best you could achieve is asking them to accept a shorter notice period.

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Short answer - as part of redundancy negotiations.

As the other answers have stated, you don't get gardening leave from resigning from a position. You can potentially negotiate not working your notice period (I did this from my last position) - if it is mutually beneficial to both parties (In my case, I was not on a client site and was being paid to not do much - I suggested they stopped paying me and I'd stop coming in).

I did negotiate gardening leave when I was made redundant. As part of the negotiations I said that I was devastated to have given my all for the company and for them to get rid of me, and how did they expect me to turn up and work under such demoralizing conditions. They agreed and I was paid for a few months without working.

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There aren't really many scenarios where this is beneficial - almost always it is harmful.

The commonest scenarios are for people leaving 'under a cloud' (ie. mutually agreed that they leave rather than are fired or undergo formal disciplinary proceedings). This also includes redundancy where the employer appreciates that this was not leaving by choice (and hence the risk of corporate sabotage is high).

In some fields where intellectual property value is significant (ie. between competing tech companies) it is mutually beneficial to the old and new employer that this occurs to protect IP or avoid either corporate sabotage or espionage or even the inference that this could have occurred. It's not unknown for the new employer to support this from the old employer in such circumstances.

If you leave to go to a totally different field and it's amicable then there is absolutely no benefit to the employer in doing this. You can often use up any leave, but that's about as far as it goes. You might even negotiate unpaid leave beyond that.

If it's in an area you might ever return to or still be associated in, the period after you hand your resignation is really critical in terms of your reputation and legacy with an organisation. If you ever plan to return, your resignation period is a time you really should be telling people how much you've enjoyed the role and will miss it, and you'll miss the people you worked with etc, and being maximally helpful in setting up your succession plan. You never know when you might enter the same area again and doing that for the weeks leading up to you leaving ensures that you leave with as good a reputation as possible - which will stick for years given you're not around to influence it subsequently. There are many scenarios where having a positive reputation 'in the bank' might be invaluable later - calling in a favour, or future employment.

So I'd strongly advise to use the time as positively as you can - ensure stuff you have done or processes are documented and handed over properly, and be as absolutely pleasant as possible to your current work colleagues - even those you historically haven't gotten on so well with.

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As others note, it is hard to negotiate gardening leave.

As others haven't noted, gardening leave is not to stop you from doing malicious damage. That's what firing you is for.

Gardening leave is primarily a competitive process, to stop the loss of company resources. Most commonly, in banking or management consulting, these resources take the form of relationships. Danny, working at CompanyX, might have an excellent relationship with the CEO of a company. When Danny announces her move to a new company, it is very plausible that the CEO of CompanyX will want to continue working with Danny.

To mitigate this, CompanyX mandates that Danny must go on paid leave for 3 months. The aim here is that the CEO still needs work done during these 3 months, so Danny's replacement begins to foster a relationship with the CEO, and progress is made on whatever the CEO needs done. When Danny finally returns from her trip around Asia, enough has changed and enough new work has been executed that it is too costly for the CEO to follow Danny.

As such, the investment the company made in Danny taking 3 months off was substantially repaid by stopping the loss of the client, whose billable hours are, of course, worth far in excess of Danny's salary.

As to your question - it is not sufficient to have a customer facing role. You need to have a customer facing role with a senior manager - eg C-suite - for a role where you provide most of the value, eg Management consulting or banking.

If you are customer facing and you're supporting a product your company sells, then even if you move the product is still there. For example, let's say I'm Atlassian, I'm hiring you, and you're the Atlassian rep at support Ford Motors. If you leave, even if you work with the ghost of Gerald Ford (who is somehow the CEO), it's unlikely that they'll drop Atlassian to pick up Fog Creek software. The value is the product, you're incidental to the relationship.

On the other hand, if you're advising Gerald on the structure of layoffs, or where to build the next plant? Most of the value is with you. On the other hand, if you're not working with Gerald, but only Jimmy Carter (who is only mid-level ghost management) then even though he might love you he cannot sign off on taking up whatever company you've moved to - so again, it will be hard to negotiate gardening leave.

That Said

If your company offers gardening leave, then it's because you're likely capable of taking a client with you when you move. If you cannot do this, you can negotiate gardening leave if you offer to take one month's pay instead of, say, 2 months (ie your notice period is 2 months. You offer to leave the next day for one month's pay, your company saves one month's pay).

If you are a manager (the more senior the better), you could negotiate gardening leave if you, say, agreed not to hire employees from the current company for some period. I've seen that done before - all that happened was people were poached a little later.

In Your Particular Case

Being customer-facing, as noted, isn't enough. It needs to be with key decision-making personnel where you are the product. Leaving to different industry and a non-competitor further hurts your chances - it's unlikely you could reliably use your direct reports, so offering a non-poach agreement wouldn't be useful (as you probably couldn't poach anyway).

Your best bet would be to ask for a reduced total leave period, and for that reduced period to be as gardening leave. Perhaps even just 2 days / week?

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