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I am a junior developer, working for approximately two years at my current company. Lately things have not been great here (delayed raise, restructuring of the company, and lots of seniors leaving - which is not necessarily a good sign).

We have had lots of discussion with the team lead and in the team and I have complained about some things (salary, office, team atmosphere, and so on). These were done "anonymously" (but the team lead figured who was who). The complaints also reached HR. We talked about the issues and I do understand that most of them are not easily solvable. I have starting applying to other companies, because it's very unlikely that I will stay much longer here.

Today I had a discussion with my HR representative. She told me that working for a company is similar to a relationship and that both sides need to make it work. She asked me about the raise situation and told me that is was most likely miscommunication. Also, she told me that in a relationship you have two options:

  • Change the things that do not work and adjust your behavior

  • Move on

Did she basically tell me to look for another company? I'm sorry now that I did not ask for a clarification, but I was in shock. She asked me what makes me happy here and there was not much to say. Yes, I do plan on leaving, but I would like to feel less pressed and stressed about it.

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    If you plan on leaving anyway, why would anything she says matter to you? – sf02 Jul 9 at 15:40
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    HR people don't have that kind of authority. If it came from a line manager above you it might be different. – user207421 Jul 10 at 8:07
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    It would help if you said where you're located. In the US, if you resign you don't get to collect unemployment benefits, if they fire you, you do. At least in some states, firing people can increase what they pay for unemployment insurance, so it's to their benefit to persuade you to quit. Assuming you haven't found a better job, it's to your benefit to stay. – jamesqf Jul 10 at 16:44
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    "I have complained[...]. These were done "anonymously" (but the team lead figured who was who). [...] Today I had a discussion with my HR representative." What a great company. I think you could sue them over this in US or EU... This is not a suggestion but it seems beyond immoral. The HR also told 3. things, and it's a tautology. There are always those options: change things, adapt to things, leave. This list is exhaustive. – luk32 Jul 11 at 12:03
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    What strikes me about this is that this person made a very clear unambiguous and neutral statement, one that is just a universal truth, that you have multiple options and one is to leave but you interpreted it as something much different. This is a mistake and a bad habit that I see very often. I would recommend you try to get into a habit of taking people at their word. Listen to what they are actually saying and not the internal monologue in your head. It's frustrating to tell people things and then find out they have twisted it into something different than intended. – JimmyJames Jul 11 at 18:13
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Did she basically tell me to look for another company?

If this is your main and only question, I will just answer that instead of telling you what you should do.

It is impossible to tell with complete confidence what she meant when she told you what she told you. However, I would interpret more as:

"Stop complaining, focus on your work by looking at the positive aspects about your job and if you cannot do that, get out".

This is slightly different from your interpretation.

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    "Put up or shut up" – Richard Jul 10 at 6:48
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    That was my interpretation too. To put it more charitably, she's asking, are these things you don't like about the job things you are willing to learn to live with if they cannot be changed. But yes, the implication is that if you can't live with things the company is unwilling to change, that's basically an impasse that can only be resolved in one other way. – delinear Jul 10 at 9:25
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    @PagMax "Put up" isn't the same as "Put up with it". It means take action. So take action (leave) or remain silent (get on with the work). – Jamie Butterworth Jul 10 at 10:36
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    Same concept, but even more clear: On behalf of the company, she said, "The company is not going to change." – donjuedo Jul 10 at 13:03
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    To be clear, “put up” refers to put your money up. Put something on the line, participate, or else don’t talk. In this case, the money is translated to effort and “shut up” is to stop complaining. – vol7ron Jul 11 at 11:11
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Am I subtly told to resign?

In this case: Why / what does it matter?

Always remember: HR is not our friend, they will always try to protect the company's interest.

In this case, HR sees (or, you are portrayed as) you as someone who is complaining, and given that you started the process "anonymously" and got exposed later - somehow depicts either of two:

  • The anonymity of the (any) process in the organization is questionable
  • You did not want to stand up for the problems you are facing, rather tried hiding behind the cloak of anonymity.

In this scenario, irrespective of what HR said, I'd advise: accelerate the process of job search and move out. This does not sound like a workplace you want to continue.

To add, you already said:

I have starting applying to other companies because it's very unlikely that I will stay much longer here.

So, that's it, you already have started the process. What the HR has said now should not matter much and you also should not be bothered whether they are trying to hint you to quit : do it yourself.

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    Why does HR have to be the enemy here? (Not our friend). That sounded like pretty legit advice to give to a friend. "Complaining doesn't solve anything. Do something about it. Trying to fix things is an option, leaving is an option. Being a toxic (coworker or friend) is not an option" – Mars Jul 10 at 4:17
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    @Mars "We have had lots of discussion with the team lead and in the team and I have complained about some things (salary, office, team atmosphere, and so on)"...if complaining about things are being "toxic", then we all are toxic. There is a difference between complaining and nagging. – Sourav Ghosh Jul 10 at 4:31
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    @Mars Perhaps better phrasing is “useless to the employee” vs. “not a friend”? I often find HR to be likable people and I think they want to help. In this case the advice was true, but really had no new information. It’s a perception issue. HR says, “you can come to us with anything.” Excepting fairly narrow scenarios outside of the mechanics of benefits, they generally can do nothing or in “opening a dialog” often make things worse. – John Spiegel Jul 10 at 19:01
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    I'd be extremely upset if feedback was solicited anonymously then my comments used against me. – Rob Crawford Jul 10 at 19:46
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    @Mars How exactly do you expect OP to produce a "solution" to his lack of a raise or seniors leaving? The solution is to give him (and possibly them) that raise, and it's gotta be produced by the company, not OP. – Demonblack Jul 11 at 17:00
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All great answers above. In short yes, you are told to

deal with it or resign

I'm a senior developer now (10+ years) but I've been through this stage of struggle in personal development.

If you've had regular formal reviews, it is a common practice to belittle your achievements and exaggerate your failures, which usually means another yellow/red flag to consider resignation. For example if you had 100 things done right, they'll pick the smallest 3. And if you did 3 things wrong, they will all be on the review, in shiny colors.

There are some informal phrases that are subtly telling you to resign.

In short anything that is telling you obvious things about titles and subordination.

Or anything directly targeted at you and/or which qualities of yours make you a bad fit.

Below are some example phrases and their loose translation (you may have heard some of these well before the last conversation with HR, so those could have been some yellow/warning flags, if we consider the last conversation a red flag):

  • "You need to understand that" - it is you who needs to understand, not them
  • "I am your manager" ("She/He is your manager") "... architect, team lead etc" - and you are a junior.
  • "People complained about you" - exactly 1 person complained, but let's make a deal out of it, because there is really nothing else against you.
  • "You were late from lunch break by 5min" - well, if nothing else.
  • "Stop being defensive/aggressive" - nobody cares about your opinion/feelings, just follow orders.
  • "You are being very (any negative word)" - no other facts, blame personality, you can't argue this way.
  • "We don't have time for (something)" - we don't care about (something)

And weirdly enough:

  • "You are a great member of our team", "...very talented developer" etc, especially if you hear this often in 1-on-1 conversations and never in team discussions - means no raise/pay, but the company will tolerate you for the time being.

I haven't been to the stage when I'm told about an option of moving on, just never waited that long before leaving. However, if you tell them you even remotely consider leaving, in any shape or form - consider yourself written off. They'll just look for a good moment to let you go. So treat them the same, I think it's fair.

Hope this helps you in future career, so that you can make informed choices sooner. Most important lesson I learnt - if you want to switch jobs and can afford the uncertainty, then go ahead and do it, it will almost always work in your favor, no matter the struggle in between the current you and the success that lies ahead.

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    This appears to be a rather good manual for something but not quite on topic for this question. :( – Joshua Jul 10 at 2:53
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    This is great advice! Also, never believe your employer when they claim that something you say will be treated anonymously. Especially when they ask for "honest and anonymous feedback", it's usually a trap to identify who they need to deal with. – Niko1978 Jul 10 at 5:57
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    Another of my personal favorites is "we need you to be a team player." What this actually means is "we need you to do things you were not hired to do, that fall well outside of your core competencies, and we're not willing to put up the time and money to train you in it." (In an actual team, the players have well-defined roles; you don't put your pitcher in the outfield or have Nate hack the computers and Sophie fight the thugs!) – Mason Wheeler Jul 10 at 12:22
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    This answer is a pleasent change from the usual ones here. It really resonantes with my experience of reviews. Focussing on small insignificant "problems" despite doing 100 good things, etc. Really is a massive red flag and usually highlights both personality and managerial problems... – user9993 Jul 10 at 12:28
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    @MasonWheeler great reference! (and I'm proud of myself for getting it before clicking the link.) – FreeMan Jul 10 at 14:21
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I believe that the message was more like, "We aren't going to be able to restructure every aspect of your work experience to your satisfaction, so if you're serious about these complaints, you should just move on."

So it may be a gentle attempt to get to commit to dealing with the reality of things staying as they are or commit to leaving, but I wouldn't call it a direct call for you to resign.

I seems like they have noticed that you are making multiple complaints about wide reaching issues and want you to know that they are unable or unwilling to expend the resources to resolve your current issues.

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Going to throw in another interpretation:

There are issues in the company. There are reasons for those issues, as we have previously discussed. We can't magically make them go away, so either be part of the solution, adapt, be silent (not specifically mentioned as an option), or go away.

Complainers accomplish little. It sounds like you've already spoken about the root reasons behind those complaints, and you don't seem to have a way to fix it.

Ideally, you'd help fix things. Companies like that. They usually even reward that.

But not everything can be fixed. And if you feel that is the case, or that fixing things isn't worth the effort, then finding a better environment is probably in your best interest.


I wouldn't consider that pressure from your HR rep--more like genuine career advice.

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    "Ideally, you'd help fix things. Companies like that. They usually even reward that." This doesn't really align with my experience - usually anyone wishing to bring change however small or helpful it is are (unfairly) viewed negatively. Maybe I've just worked for bad companies... – user9993 Jul 10 at 12:30
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    Let me concurr: I've seen plenty of business situations where managers claim they want to fix things, but when it comes down to it they don't actually want to make the changes necessary to fix things. (Many, perhaps most, people are uncomfortable with change.) – Curt J. Sampson Jul 11 at 0:43
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    @user9993 I think that mostly depends on whether or not the company sees it as an actual problem. I think we all often feel that resistance to making things better when it requires some kind of change, IF things weren't broken to begin with. I think you typically have more luck when you present a plan, a small budget, and offer to do all/most of the work – Mars Jul 11 at 5:30
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    This is the only answer so far that accounts for the "Change the things that do not work" part of the non-quitting option. All the others focus just on the "...and adjust your behavior" part of that option. I agree with this answer in that I don't think the HR rep was saying "shut up or get out". I think it's more like "help change what you can and adjust your expectations where things can't change or your behaviors if you're at fault, or find a better fit elsewhere if that doesn't work for you". It really didn't sound toxic to me--surprisingly gracious, actually. Good answer. – bob Jul 11 at 16:31
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HR are not stupid enough to directly pressure you to leave. That may be illegal in your country anyway. But I would translate the coded message as

"The company is not going to change any time soon. That piece of information may be useful to you when making your own decision about your future career plans."

Informally, you have already been marked down as a potential trouble maker and likely leaver. Of course you won't find those words on any records that you could produce in an industrial relations tribunal for unfair dismissal, but the objective record of what you have done and said - and the fact that this meeting with HR took place - won't be forgotten if you stay.

  • I translated the message as "yes, the company is going down. Abandon ship as soon as you can." – Robin Bennett Jul 10 at 13:58
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    HR can be very explicit with the "pressure to leave" thing. HR serves the company. They are also very good at serving the company. – Julie in Austin Jul 10 at 18:47
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    "won't be forgotten if you stay" -- chilling and accurate -- perhaps the best part of your answer and a great phrase to end with. – user23715 Jul 10 at 20:05
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To be clear here, @PagMax has already provided a perfect answer to the main question - whether you are 'subtly being told to resign' or not.

The answer is - you're being told to either accept the company's practices or resign.

Which is a subtle way of saying that your demands are not going to be met by the company.

Do not change your current course of action

In your question, you describe how you are subtly looking for work elsewhere while keeping your current job.

You should continue to do this. It is apparent that you are dissatisfied with your working conditions, and HR has made it clear to you that those conditions are not going to change.

Do not be pressured into resigning early - provide your two-weeks resignation (assuming this is the standard in your geographic region) only when you have a new job lined up.

HR does not want to be paying into a resource that will dry up shortly - but that is their prerogative, not yours. Your prerogative is keeping this job up until you find better work, and only then resigning.

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No actually it's more complex than that. She clearly told you that you might resign or possibly get fired as well! The both sides need to make it work that you mention plus the metaphor of the relationship is the important part. It sends a clear message that the bullet points work both ways. Now combining this with your bullet points we can translate as follows:

  • Both parties of the relationship change the things that do not work and adjust their behavior.
  • If one one of them is unhappy moves on and the relationship is broken.

Having that in mind she also told you that the raise thing is a misunderstanding so it's a clear sign that they are willing to make changes from their side. The ball is in your court now and you need to decide:

  1. Is this step enough for you to keep the relationship?
  2. If the answer to 1. is yes, then do you want to make changes as well and ask if there is something from your side to change?

I skip the "no" part in 1. as you already said that you are thinking of leaving. In my opinion and without knowing the details of your conversation, she seems to me very professional and diplomatic. If only I had half of this professionalism and even half of this "subtlety" in the jobs that I've been, I would have been a very happy person.

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She gave you the freedom to interpret it as you wish.

So is it. If she had wanted to fire you, she had communicated that. If she formulates unclear, that means that she does not want to communicate what she did not. They are the experts (in theory) of the personal matters and not you.

Of course you have all the reasons to start to check your alternatives, it would be so even without this HR talk.

But, you have not got a clear message to start to seek your next job.

Other answerers would say "leave", but I think it is easy to give ideas for others, if not we need to accept the consequences.

In your case, what I would do: I would fight for my job until the last shot - but, I would also seek for the next one, for the case of a firing.

Don't resign for an unclear HR statement. Don't resign even for a clear one. Resign only if you already have your new job, and it is really much better than your current one.

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