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I'm in a tricky position. I don't enjoy where I'm working and I've been offered another opportunity. Unfortunately, I know the current client that I'm consulting for isn't on good terms with my employer but has continued engaging with them as I have very strong domain knowledge with their product, something that will change once I leave.

How do I resign when I know my employer will lose a big client when I leave?

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Give Unto Caesar What is Caesar's

Assuming you are not the salesperson assigned to that client, your responsibility is to your employer. Your employer's responsibility is to the client.

If the client is really only staying with the company because you are there, then the company had a responsibility to plan for the possibility you would leave. They should have made sure you were happy and/or made sure someone was there to pick up your work if you left so that they wouldn't lose the client.

If they did not do that, it is not your problem. Taking responsibility for keeping clients satisfied is a great quality, but if you are leaving it is no longer your responsibility. Don't let that factor in to your decision.

Give Them a Fair Shot

It sounds like you have been unhappy for a while.

Have you let your employer know, either in a private chat or during regularly scheduled reviews? Will they have ample warning before you leave? Will you be able to properly transfer whatever domain-specific knowledge you need to pass on to a successor to do your job?

If not, it becomes a bit fuzzier. If they have been painted a picture of a happy employee with absolutely no indications of problems beneath the surface, and you suddenly give them 2 weeks notice, then that is pulling the rug out from under them.

So if you already have the new job, and know the starting date, and have agreed on everything and have the contract signed, let your employer know sooner rather than later. No sense in burning bridges.

Whatever You Do, Don't Poach the Client

Do not e-mail the client telling them you will be leaving for firm X. Do not e-mail the client telling them you will be leaving. Do not give any sort of indication whatsoever that you have done so privately or otherwise. Do not mention the client in any exit interview. Do not suggest that the company will lose the client (assuming you are not the salesperson in charge of that client relationship).

If it really is a big client, and the big client follows you to the new firm (or even just stops working with the current company), you do not want any indication that it is because of you. If a company gets hurt by losing a big client, and you have neon arrows pointing in your direction as the cause, they may want to share the pain. So be incredibly careful in that respect.

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    A Very good and very important last paragraph – Rhys Jun 5 '13 at 8:09
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    If you are concerned about the client, I would go to the meeting where I turned in my resignation with a plan for what knowledge needs to be transfered from my projects and how I intended to do that during my notice period. I woudl probaly write up the most critical stuff in a document that they can give to my replacement. If they don't take you up on the offer, then it is their problem, but at least you will know that you tried to transfer the knowledge. – HLGEM Jun 5 '13 at 15:00
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    BE wary of giving more notice to be able to transfer the knowledge. I have noticed through the years that people who give more notice than required in order to transfer knowledge usually end up with no one to transfer the knowledge to anyway as the company still won't have the replacement on board. If two weeks isn't sufficient to find someone in the organization right now to transfer knowldge to, 4 weeks won't be any better. The longer notice you give, the more management seems to hope you will change your mind and they often don't start looking until you actually leave. – HLGEM Jun 5 '13 at 15:02
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    @KeithS, really I've seen people return after only one day at a new place. I've seen people be begged to stay through their whole notice period. I've seen people change their minds after a week and ahalf of a notice period. I even saw one person offered twice her old salary (and a private office) to come back when her replacement destroyed their database. – HLGEM Jun 5 '13 at 21:36
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    This is all great advice. Sorry to be blunt but I need to add: YOU AREN'T THAT IMPORTANT. I have seen numerous cases where the "star worker" has left and we managed to fill the gap (sometimes with difficulty). You mustn't hold back your career because you are "irreplaceable" to your employer - you are probably not. If you are irreplaceable they should double your salary - yes I have actually seen this – teambob Nov 16 '15 at 2:59
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Its not your problem. Just give your two weeks notice and move on. I recommend not really going into the details of why you're leaving, that just might burn a bridge on your way out.

If its in the best interest of a company, they will terminate you, and possibly not giving any notice or being concerned about what happens to you. The OP indicated he's already decided to leave, so he should give a standard two weeks notice and do so. Why should he concern himself with the company after he's gone?

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    ... why? This is not really a complete answer. – enderland Jun 5 '13 at 11:31
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    @enderland What do you feel is missing? – Andy Jun 5 '13 at 13:30
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    why isn't it the asker's problem? You are suggesting something the person asking this question clearly is concerned about is "not your problem" without providing any reason why it's not his/her problem. – enderland Jun 5 '13 at 13:35
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    @enderland Why IS it the OPs problem? If its in the best interest of a company, they will terminate you, and possibly not giving any notice or being concerned about what happens to you. The OP indicated he's already decided to leave, so he should give a standard two weeks notice and do so. Why should he concern himself with the company after he's gone? – Andy Jun 5 '13 at 13:42
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    EvisLikeBear, since you are indeed such an expert in the domain, haven't you faced this situation before in your career ? I am sure you would find yourself in such a situation many times in the future. Would you ask the question in such repeatable tricky circumstances ? I fully agree with Andy's answer and it has been my personal experience : You should only focus on honoring your employment contract with the firm. Give your notice period and move on. – happybuddha Jun 5 '13 at 15:10
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You can't be responsible for that situation. However, you should tell your employer in as constructive a manner as possible what has lead you to move on. Be as open as possible without being accusatory.

As a manager this information is very important to me. Give them an opportunity to rectify the situation and provide a counter offer. If they are unable to persuade you to stay then you at least gave them a chance and gave them honest feedback that will help them retain people in the future.

If you sense that your boss is not receptive to hearing your honest thoughts about your workplace then you should probably skip giving them feedback or giving them an opportunity to provide a counter offer.

But I think that more times than not they will appreciate your perspective. Just do it in a way that is not "unloading" on them. Others won't agree with me. But life is too short and too often people don't really communicate. This is an opportunity to communicate.

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    No. Do not even discuss counter-offers. If you have decided you are leaving, then leave as professionally and pleasantly as possible. You're not happy there, and things aren't going to change long-term. They may offer you a little more money, but the conditions are what they are and the only change you will see is some resentment towards you for trying to leave in the first place. Some people are round pegs and some jobs are square slots. You aren't bad, the job isn't necessarily bad, but you in that job is bad. Counter-offers only work for six months, tops. Then you're back to square 1. – Wesley Long Jun 5 '13 at 3:40
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    Hey @user1888440 -- thanks for participating in the Workplace! While answers don't have to be long, answers that get a lot of votes are usually backed up with a bit more information on why that is the best approach, or personal experience with a similar situation that could help explain your answer. If you get a chance, you could edit your answer to expand on it a bit! – jmac Jun 5 '13 at 7:47
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    I'd suggest clarifying on the "feelings" aspect of this post. One might misconstrue this to mean it's okay to unload on your to-be former employer. This could prove quite harmful as one may run into that person again. I'm not sure if that's what you meant by implying one should tell his or her employer about feelings, but I do encourage you to edit and clarify. Thanks for contributing! Hope this helps. :) – jmort253 Jun 6 '13 at 3:20

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