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I am preparing to resign from my position at a private engineering firm I’ve been with for 5 years. My boss and I were both previously employed by the federal government at the EPA (he was my boss at the EPA as well). He left that job to start his own engineering company and recruited me to join his team. My position at the firm is to provide all EPA-related guidance and ensure we remain in compliance with governmental regulations. Since my company’s projects are monitored by the EPA, I still maintain a professional relationship with my old coworkers and must correspond with them on a regular basis.

One month ago, a former colleague/friend at the EPA encouraged me to apply for a vacant position at the agency. She also said that the person who is currently in the position my boss used to hold would like me back at the agency. I applied for the position and accepted an offer of employment last week.

I know my boss will find out, no matter what, that I'm returning to my old company, but I would rather him learn the news from me than someone else. I am also anticipating major shock and anger from him. He has created a very hostile workplace culture over the past few years and the last three people who resigned didn’t get to stay their two weeks. My boss immediately escorted them out of the building, even though their resignations (in writing and in person) were extremely professional and respectful.

Because my boss is a very powerful/wealthy individual and does so much work with the EPA, I am worried when he finds out he will call someone important at agency HQ in Washington and try to sabotage my new job before it even starts. Once I’m back at the EPA in a few weeks, there will be nothing he can do to me; however, until my employment there officially starts, I am concerned of what he will say or do.

My question is this: If I don't mention I'm returning to my old company in my resignation letter to my boss (and HR), what might the consequences be? What are some possible strategies for communicating this fact to my boss?

  • The choice is up to you if you tell them or not. It sounds like you have a good relationship with your boss. Not sure why you think you should keep it secret from him but you may know better. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 20 '18 at 19:34
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    If your boss does not respect notice periods then there is no reason you should either. – atxgis Jul 20 '18 at 19:38
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    Edited question in an effort to keep it from being closed -- feel free to edit if I have anything wrong. – mcknz Jul 20 '18 at 19:42
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When I send my resignation email to my boss (and HR), should I mention that I’m returning to my old job?

No. There is never a need to detail your future plans when resigning from a job.

And you should always resign in person whenever possible. Barring that you should do it over the phone, not by email.

Follow up with a letter/email if requested to do so.

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You should give your notice but be prepared for immediate termination since that seems like a trend. Do not tell him you're returning to your old team, since you said he may sabotage your new position. Instead, after your start date, you could reach out via email or LinkedIn (or phone if he isn't hostile about you leaving) and let him know. This allows you to be the one to tell him, but does not put your new position at risk and you avoid any verbal backlash.

If your boss has been creating a hostile work environment, you don't owe him any courtesies. Look out for yourself.

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My question is this: If I don't mention I'm returning to my old company in my resignation letter to my boss (and HR), what might the consequences be? What are some possible strategies for communicating this fact to my boss?

There is no need at that point to tell the boss. Getting marched out as soon as you tender resignation is normal in many companies and not necessarily malicious or hostile at all. There are plenty of reasons it is done especially in high security environments.

If asked outright you should tell the truth, it goes both ways, his business is dependent on where you will be working and he has no idea where you may be in a couple of years. So he'd be silly to make an enemy while there is every reason for him to have a friend there.

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