I work in a company, solely owned by my relative, on a part time basis, as a programmer.

I wanted to leave the company a long time ago to concentrate on my own business, but was unable to do so until recently. The reason for this inability to leave was because there were some core parts of the code which my boss (who is also my relative) is not comfortable to entrust to "outsiders". 2 weeks ago my boss son came to the company, with the aim of taking over my job and I was glad that finally I was able to handover.

The part time gig doesn't have a contract; so there is no "minimum notice" I need to give before I leave, legally speaking.

But the boss mentioned no time frame for the handover part.

On my side, I gave myself 3 months time to teach the handover, and then after that I want to do something else. I have not, however, communicated my desire to leave the company. To an outsider it would appear as if the boss son wants to learn something from me, so that I can move on to other tasks in the same company.

However, just a few days ago, a very unpleasant conflict erupted (the conflict didn't involve me, though), and I felt that I could no longer stay in the company for even one more day. The whole thing not only affected my ability to function but also my mental health.

I am aware of my obligation to properly handover. But The conflict is so serious that I want to just disappear from the office, despite my obligation.

How can I communicate my desire to leave my relative's company, yesterday? I don't want the awkwardness when we meet ( again!!) at family function.

  • 1
    What is your location? Do you have an official contract with a notice period?
    – Erik
    Jan 28 '19 at 10:16
  • @Erik, no official contract. I submitted my resignation letter quite a many years ago and have been helping them on part time basis since then.
    – ProgDog
    Jan 28 '19 at 10:20
  • Prop, three months is an incredibly long time for a handover. The absolute max would be 3-4 days.
    – Fattie
    Jan 28 '19 at 12:19
  • @Fattie It's very culture specific. I'm on three months notice at my current job, and I have had two other jobs where I have been on three months notice. Jan 28 '19 at 16:50
  • @MartinBonner - fair enough. It does seem extreme to me. In broad general terms what countries are we talking about here?? Anyway IMO for the actual situation described, it's just not possible a hand-over could take "3 months".
    – Fattie
    Jan 28 '19 at 16:54

There are no friends or relatives in business.

although it is difficult, you must separate the two.

You leave this company the same way you leave any other company. You give the standard notice, whatever that is for your country/culture, and move on. Handle the personal aspects outside of work.

This, by the way is why it is considered a bad idea for family to work for family. Emotions and family loyalty get in the way of good business sense.

Treat this as any other job. Give your notice, and get out

  • totally - well said
    – Fattie
    Jan 28 '19 at 16:55
  • What notice period? Does the OP have a contract? probably not, in a family business. Also, the Op says "I am aware of my obligation to properly handover" - moral obligations, perhaps, but contractual? If it's so bad that you want to get out yesterday, then do so as soon as contractually allowed. And no contract means no notice period. Jan 29 '19 at 7:44
  • 1
    @Mawg In my answer I posted "Whatever that is for your country/culture". You always remain professional. You don't just walk out on a job unless there is a damn good reason. Jan 29 '19 at 13:43

From a business perspective: Your boss is afraid to hand over parts of the code to other employees. That is not your problem, it is up to your boss to ensure continuity within the company, if an employee leaves with appropriate notice. It is up to the employee to ensure a proper handover (if at all posible, within the notice period). Leaving without proper notice understandably upsets the employer: you have not managed his/her expectations properly. (Whether you are currently contractually obliged to give notice or not is besides the matter - bosses have feelings too.) The way you describe the current situation, it seems as if your boss does not know that you've given his son 3 months to take over from you. That sounds as if you have not been honest with your relative about your desire to leave, for fear of hurting the relationship.

From the perspective of (not) burning bridges: Understand that this behavior has hurt (and is hurting) your chances of leaving amicably. It is not entirely up to you either: Your relative may take your departure as a personal rejection. But if you cannot accept that your relative will hate your guts, you must accept that you cannot leave immediately or without damage control. You cannot perfectly predict how your relative will react, nor can you change it. He doesn't need to like it, but ideally he accepts the situation.

Although you feel strongly about leaving, you must consider your options as factually as you can: How can you manage the boss's expectations effectively? What is the customary notice period where you live? What is the shortest timeframe that would be reasonable (how much code are we talking) for the handover? If it is impossible to hand over properly in a given timeframe, how do you mitigate that? How will you manage help requests (a call by the son, with a question about code) after leaving? Setting aside your current feelings, will you survive another X weeks with the company? Write all of this down. Create a few scenarios: Leave on Tuesday, Leave on Friday, Leave in three weeks, etc. What do you need to do, arrange and communicate in order to execute each scenario? Which scenarios are acceptable to you? Where are you willing to negotiate? How will you deal with objections? If you communicate clearly when you will be leaving and what you will be doing to hand over, then you have done all you can currently do to save the relationship.

Getting a better understanding of your options now may not make it easier to pick the 'right' option, or to salvage the relationship. But it gives you a solid plan to execute and less room to doubt yourself. In the long term, it may even help you accept that you've made the best decision you could make with the information you currently have.


The answer to the problem from a workplace perspective is obvious. Declare your intent to leave, and leave immediately. The only thing that complicates it is the family aspect. That tells me that you aren't asking this on the right Stack. You should ask on the Interpersonal Skills stack, where they're a lot more about the fuzzy family stuff.

I'll try to give a bit more of an answer here, however. The big question is why you care. If you've been hanging around just because you care about your relative and don't want them to be harmed by your departure, then that ship has sailed. You've hit your limit, and you will be leaving. That's good. It simplifies things. The question that's left is how much you care about their opinion of them.

If you don't care about their opinion? You're basically done. Be polite, be professional, be brief. Approach them as an employee who is resigning, and get out as quick and clean as you can. The more complicated (and more likely) case is if you do care. In that case, then you need to have a discussion with them not as your boss but as your relative - as a person who presumably cares about the sacrifices you have made for them, and the emotional cost to you of whatever the blowup was. Unfortunately, we can't give you advice on that one without all sorts of specifics of the family situation... and, once those specifics are available, that's a question for the interpersonal stack.


Are you on good terms with the bosses son? Also, is the boss aware that you plan to leave?

One option could be to teach the bosses son from home or another location where you are safely separated from the workplace.

This may not be comfortable for you to negotiate because the boss would probably prefer to keep the status quo. You need to make it clear that the status quo cannot continue and that this is better than the alternative (leaving the company abruptly). You don't need to do this but it could be a good way to extend the olive branch and make sure that you don't leave your relatives company in disarray.

You need to make it very clear exactly how long the handover will last and how much time you will be spending on the company on a weekly basis. You also need to be clear about whether or not you can pop in "to help out" after the handover period. You want to make sure that both the boss and the bosses son are aware of these expectations and agree with the plan. Expect some pushback from the boss, especially when you are coming towards the end of the handover. You can mitigate some of this by doing things that will give him confidence in his son's ability to perform the task. It would also be very sensible to talk about what you are planning to do after the handover. Set the expectation that you will be busy and therefore unavailable.

Only do this if you think the bosses son is intelligent and hard working enough to be able to accept the handover. If they are stupid or lazy you might get blamed for their failures and all the extra effort will be wasted.

I wanted to leave the company a long time ago to concentrate on my own business, but was unable to do so until recently. The reason for this inability to leave was because there were some core parts of the code which my boss (who is also my relative) is not comfortable to entrust to "outsiders".

This is a bad reason to stay.

You should have negotiated a graceful exit from the company as soon as it was clear that you wanted to leave. Given 2-6 months notice your relative could have trained a replacement or found a contractor to hire. This might not have been their preferred option but it would have been better for you.


They may be a relative, but at the end of the day it's a business relationship and you owe them nothing and have no obligation to help them beyond what is specified in your contract. The only reason you still work there is because you haven't worked up the effort to actually leave them, so what you do is quit for real with the minimum notice specified in your contract and then you walk away.

You have no obligations to perform a handover outside of your working hours - if the boss can't be bothered to organise one then that's on them, not you.

  • The thing is, there is no contract to begin with when it comes to leaving the company. Does that mean that I can just not showing up the next day, will it be proper?
    – ProgDog
    Jan 28 '19 at 10:31
  • @PropDog it's up to you - give as little notice as you want. Personally if I liked them I'd give them 2 weeks or a month. If I felt wronged by them, then yeah just tell them that you quit and walk out the door. But it's up to you to follow through on it. Jan 28 '19 at 10:38
  • In that case, they are still your relative, and at the end of the day, you will meet them during family gathering... won't things be awkward?
    – ProgDog
    Jan 28 '19 at 10:41
  • @ProgDog That's only if you make it awkward, or they take it personally. Either way it's his problem
    – Twyxz
    Jan 28 '19 at 10:45
  • 1
    @ProgDog There is a contract - it's just not written down (if your boss didn't pay, you could sue him). If you didn't discuss the terms of the contract, it will be implied by your local laws. In the UK it would be one week's notice; in at-will US states, it would be zero. I don't know about other jurisdictions. Jan 28 '19 at 16:54

I would say this is the standard problem when quitting:

No company manager likes it when employees quit (unless they want to get rid of them). It's always at least an inconvenience and often actually costs money. You don't want to burn bridges, so you white-wash your reasons. For this purpose entire lists with acceptable reasons can be found online, including "new challenges" and "opportunities for career growth".

Your boss is your relative, so you want to burn the bridge even less. But on the other hand, as your relative they should consider your interests even more than with a non-relative employee. So, if your relationship is not close enough to be honest with them, give non-informative "acceptable" reasons.

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