The long and short of it is that my workplace is chaotic and mismanaged. I have made numerous attempts to fix issues but I’m always blocked by someone more senior than me. It’s very stressful and I’m thinking of changing jobs.

Should I tell my workplace? I ask because I really enjoy the field I’m in, I know my job extremely well, the commute is short and my working hours are exactly what I want. Should I take the risk that my workplace might actually try to fix the problems if they know they’re going to lose me? (It’s not a big business and I suspect I’m one of the reasons it’s still afloat) or is that bad business practice?

The other consideration is I’ve seen multiple staff leave over the years and the boss has taken every resignation very personally and given staff a terrible time before they’re able to leave. By giving him a warning I think I could minimise his reaction.

What would be the best way to handle this? Say nothing and hand my notice in as a surprise or warn first and see if anything good comes from it before I start job hunting?

marked as duplicate by gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Dukeling, Anketam, The Wandering Dev Manager Nov 15 at 20:01

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    Rather than bemoan the employees that left before you, has your manager made any attempt to address the reasons why people are leaving? From the sound of it, it sounds likes the higher-ups are ignorant or don't care. – Kozaky Nov 14 at 15:21
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    No, the employees are often considered to be ‘bad eggs’ so once they’re gone the line he takes is ‘thank goodness we’re free of them’ rather than ‘isn’t it odd that this is the 5th person this year?’ – Weebo Nov 14 at 15:29
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings I don't think the duplicate quite fits this question. In the dupe, the OP is leaving no matter what and is just wondering how much warning they can give their employer/team. Weebo is only thinking about leaving and is hoping that by warning their employer they'll change things so they don't have to leave. Both their situation and their goal are different. (The answers on each are different as well.) – BSMP Nov 14 at 23:08
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    @Kozaky I'm not entirely sure how upper mgmt could ever "address the reasons why people are leaving" because, pretty much every place you look, people are told to _never_ expalin why they're leaving during "exit interviews", if any. The only place where people would've had a chance to genuinely/honestly state why they're leaving without fear of negative consequence within the company is never used based on recommendations that I always come across... so, can upper mgmt really be blamed for not knowing the real reasons why people choose to leave (assuming they really don't know)?... – code_dredd Nov 15 at 0:17
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up vote 141 down vote accepted

Should I take the risk that my workplace might actually try to fix the problems if they know they’re going to lose me?

Definitely not. They're not going to magically change their attitudes as soon as you threaten to leave.

If they were serious about fixing problems then they would have done so already. If you threaten to leave now, then the realistic best case scenario (for you) is that they promise to fix a few things to keep you happy, maybe fix one of those in a half-cocked way much later than expected, and resent you for forcing their hand.

The worst case, which is arguably more likely, is that they start looking for your replacement immediately, they then let you go when it's suitable for them, not you, and you're left without a job and a stable source of income.

You have the luxury of an existing job and steady income stream at present, even if you'd rather move. If you want to leave then use that luxury to your advantage, and maybe take a bit longer over finding a new job that's a really good fit for you. Don't hand them all the cards, cross your fingers and then hope that you're not fired and things start to get marginally better. That's a hell of a risk for very little gain.

The other consideration is I’ve seen multiple staff leave over the years and the boss has taken every resignation very personally and given staff a terrible time before they’re able to leave.

He's going to do this whenever you leave, warning or no warning. Not resigning for this reason is just delaying the inevitable.

  • 9
    +1 Nice answer! *If they were serious about fixing problems then they would have done so already. * in particular is nail-on-the-head accurate. – motosubatsu Nov 14 at 15:20
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    I don't agree about the worst case - the worst case is that you get a reputation of making threats to leave to get things your way and that reputation comes back to haunt you in the future. – eis Nov 14 at 19:38
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    I don't agree about best case. It may not be very likely, but there is the chance that an employee who is integral to the business staying afloat threatening to leave could be the impetus needed for management to actually make real changes – Kevin Nov 14 at 20:01
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    I can't quote a specific source but there's definitely research available that basically proves this is the correct answer. Employees that threaten to leave in order to get a change they want, or who take counter-offers, are pretty much statistically going to be unhappy about it in the long term. @Weebo points out things they like about the job, but you need to make a decision on the entire package, any job will have pluses and minuses no matter if you threaten an employer or not. – dwizum Nov 14 at 21:17
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    Also, from experience having an existing job makes finding a new one much easier. It also gives you negotiating power for a salary. – Eridanis Nov 15 at 10:48

I would say no - I've been in a near identical situation and ultimately you need to face the fact that at this point you're basically beating a dead horse.

As you say you've made multiple attempts to try and fix the dysfunction, it's possible that threatening to leave might shock them into making a change but I doubt it, I think you might hear them say all the right things (to walk you back from leaving) but real and lasting change of the kind that it sounds like this company needs only happen with sufficient collective will (and importantly - desire) to do so.

And of course their remains the distinct possibility that they just drop you (depending upon the locale - if you're "at will" then they can fire you any time for any reason other than those protected by law).

The other consideration is I’ve seen multiple staff leave over the years and the boss has taken every resignation very personally and given staff a terrible time before they’re able to leave. By giving him a warning I think I could minimise his reaction.

Ahh..the Boss-who-takes-it-personally-when-someone-leaves. I've seen that species in action more than a few times (unfortunately) and giving them more notice won't help - you just get the poor treatment for longer.

You've tried to help this company - that's admirable. Now it's time to help yourself, look (discreetly) for another job and as soon as you have something signed and sealed, resign and work your notice.

Should I take the risk that my workplace might actually try to fix the problems if they know they’re going to lose me?

What do you imagine is going to happen? This would be the absolutely best scenario there could be here:

  • Weebo goes to boss and says "Boss, I'm unhappy with X, Y and Z and I think I want to leave because of it."
  • Boss goes and talks to the rest of management, tells them "Weebo is upset about X, Y and Z, and we might lose a good employee because of it."
  • Management gets right to work fixing the problems.
  • After some period of time (how long would you give them?), Boss would come back and say "Weebo, we've worked on X, Y and Z. We hope that you will stay here at the company."

Sounds silly, doesn't it?

It's not going to happen.

By giving him a warning I think I could minimise his reaction.

Not likely. If your boss is a bad enough boss to 1) take an employee leaving personally, and 2) hassle the leaving employees because of it, there's probably nothing you can do to stop that.

There is pretty much zero upside in announcing your intentions to leave, and lots of downside.

  • 1
    Yep. If his goal is to have a better workplace, it's much easier to just get a different job. – fredsbend Nov 15 at 1:12
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    Walkthroughs are good visualistions – goamn Nov 15 at 4:09

I was in exactly the same position in 2010. Admittedly, the boss was my father and the only employees were me and my sister, plus regulars we brought in during busy seasons.

I laid it on the line for him (my boss/father). Shape up or I ship out. The results were mixed. With all humility possible, the company was only operating because of my diligence. He immediately recognized this and granted my raise request, but other issues he stalled. A few things did get better, but ultimately he did not do anything. It was actually me essentially taking over all operations and edging him out.

Today, he's retired and I'm running a tight ship. For you, I recommend against advanced warning more than is common for your culture. All you have to look forward to the likely verbal placating and ultimate inaction. I at least had the unspoken promise that I would be boss and owner one day, which is ultimately what kept me around. Without that little carrot, I would have left with very little warning (and I almost did, submitting a few resumes and entertaining a few call backs).

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    If your boss hadn't been your father, I'm about 100% sure your story would have a different ending. Which I think is your point - without blood ties to your boss then it's a terrible idea to let them know you'll be looking for greener pastures. – Wayne Werner Nov 15 at 6:37
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    @Wayne That is my point. – fredsbend Nov 15 at 8:29

I was exactly in the same situation. It was September 2017 and I was working for this company for around 5 years already, and several very good developers came and go in this time. (They are not even aware what they have lost, they were some very good developers.) I was practically the only one left. (There was also one person hired by Jan 2017 and he also ran away in around 8 months).

I first told the manager things were chaotic, explained him in detail what I think was wrong. His response was that they would invest on some mobile application, they would hire a remote team, I would be the technology team lead whatever.. I told him it was not what, it was how. I do not think I was successful explaining myself.

Then it was January I told them I was going to quit by April (my notice period was way shorter but I wanted to leave in dignity and knowing I would transfer all the knowledge I have to the new coming person myself) and I asked them to take action. They wanted me to prepare a job ad, which I did (for the position I was going to leave) but somehow it was never posted.

In May, I was fully burnt out, I could not take it anymore, and I told them I would not work anymore. They told me "You are practically giving us a 0 day notice". I could not care less and I did not even bother arguing..

I am much, much more happier now since I gave up.

This may seem unrelated to your question, and I would not know the definitive answer anyway (and I never understand people claiming they know), but what I am trying to explain it is: who cares what you say? Do say if you feel like it, do not listen to anyone. But do quit and do not wait to burn out completely, there will be no good in it.

Be professional (which I was not, I acted emotional), try your best, no good? Quit.. Tell them before or only by notice period? Does not matter really. It seems like you are already wasting your time..

  • 1
    This is bad advice. By your own admission, you wasted your time, accomplished nothing, and felt badly because of it. A better course would be to find a better job quickly (without saying anything), quit with a brief but appropriate notice period to end things on good terms, and move on to better things. – Matthew Read Nov 15 at 16:48
  • @MatthewRead Thank you for your valuable input. – Koray Tugay Nov 15 at 17:05
  • This is a rather long introduction - the answer here is just the very last two part : "Quit.. Tell them before or only by notice period? Does not matter really.". – MSalters Nov 15 at 17:51

Should I tell my workplace that I’m thinking of quitting?

Do not threaten your employer with quitting — it's just bad form.  Work with them as a fully-on-board team player pushing for continuous improvement until the last.  Use the most rational and logical arguments you can articulate — and as you go, try to learn new arguments by learning more about the business.

The last would be that you have another job lined up and are fully prepared to switch companies.  Then you can calmly inform management that you're leaving.  If they choose, they may ask you what it would take to keep you, and, you might have a chance to negotiate — though you will have to factor in the opportunity cost with the other company.

You want to leave things with the old company as respectable as you can: you ceaselessly tried to work with them as a team player for continuous improvement, you never threatened anything, and eventually found a better opportunity..


It is not uncommon that having solid experience at several companies gives you more clout, so that even when returning to your old company you may get an advancement (more than if you'd stayed), which could help you in effecting change for the better.

It it's truly horrible to the point you can't stand it, and you're going to leave anyway. you can play it several ways.

  1. Set up a meeting, send an email or barge into the office of the owner/most senior company official and tell them you are taking a week or two off because you love your job but the company's problems are making it impossible to do your job and you need to time to decide your future and seek other opportunities. Risk: Fired on the spot. Reward: The knowledge that you tried your best.
  2. Find another job and just not show up one day with no notice. Risk: Bad Reputation and reduced chance of rehire. Reward: Putting them in a bind.
  3. Find another job then put in your two weeks notice with a written letter of resignation outlining your grievances. Risk: They ask you to leave that day. Reward: The knowledge that you severed with your employer the most professional way anyone would expect.
  4. (The hail mary) Set up a meeting, send an email or barge into the office of the owner/most senior company official and tell them that you are taking a week or two off because you love your job but the company's problems are making it impossible to do your job and you need to time to decide your future and seek other opportunities. And, If you do decide to come back, they need to make some changes, pay you more and give you 1 more weeks vacation per year. Risk: Punched or laughed out of the office while getting fired. Reward: If you don't get fired, you're a rockstar.
  • 1
    Unemployment benefits vary greatly depending on location. – Notts90 Nov 15 at 11:57
  • ... and by the manner in which you're fired. Telling them you're taking two weeks off, when the HR manual says you can only request it might be grounds for summary dismissal, costing you all benefits. – MSalters Nov 15 at 17:54
  • Also, "two weeks notice" is also location-dependent. In some countries, it's not optional and can be way more than 2 weeks. E.g. in the Netherlands it can be as high as 15 weeks. And there you're not going to get fired on the spot in either scenario; merely having opinions is simply not grounds for dismissal. – MSalters Nov 15 at 17:57

Here's my two cents:

  1. Try to address the issues at work that are forcing you to leave, go into it accepting that this might be a completed waste of time.

...give it some time... not too long (2w~?), and at this point you've tried.

  1. Tender your resignation, you've done all you can.

Telling somebody you're thinking of quitting can only backfire on you as others have stated, but by letting your employer fail to address your concerns first, you can do it with a clear head... or as somebody else here has stated you may be pleasantly surprised!

I'm going to suggest a completely different approach to telling them or not telling them.

I was at a workplace where I was ready to quit, but then I thought, "Given that I am ready to walk away, why don't I give it my all for three months to try to improve things first?"

I started taking risks that could potentially get me in trouble to make things better, because I was already prepared to walk away.

This worked out really well for me. I asked for and got a role change, an extra raise above my annual raise, I became more outspoken and honest about company problems (but always suggesting solutions), and I helped change the team process a lot. Work got a lot better!

If you are not afraid of walking away from the company, what could you try doing that was risky but could make your company better?

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