84

There was a recent death in my family and I need more time to focus on my mental health & family, so I tried to quit my job. I had already taken a 2 month leave of absence earlier in the year and returned to work, but things haven't gotten better and I decided to leave and move back home to spend more time with my family.

When I went to quit, my boss offered me a 3 month "grace period" where we would meet again and I could get my job back if I wanted it. I figure I have nothing to lose? He's drafting up a contract to make it official that I'm leaving and that we'll revisit this in 3 months. I think he doesn't want me to quit or thinks that I will change my mind, but I feel like I've moved on and want to pursue other opportunities.

Has anyone ever had this happen to them? I plan on waiting out the 3 months and just letting him know that I won't be back for real, but I'm worried there will be something weird in the contract? Is anything about this situation sketchy or will be bad for me in the long term? Any suggestions for how to handle this?

  • 28
    Outside of the death in your family, were there things you didn't like about the job, enough to make you want to leave anyways? It sounds like that may be the case but it might be worth making it more clear. – dwizum Jul 12 at 13:11
  • 11
    What's your location? In the US, for example, I think such contracts would be fairly "weightless" with the labor laws that exist. – John Spiegel Jul 12 at 13:11
  • 2
    It's probably not valuable for us to try and speculate about what the negative consequences of the contract may be without seeing it. – dwizum Jul 12 at 13:12
  • 18
    You typically don't need to sign a contract to quit a job. – sf02 Jul 12 at 14:19
  • 10
    I'd take this as a compliment. In my experience, unusual retention efforts like this are a sign that you're viewed by your management as someone who provides exceptional business value to the company. Make certain to maintain this relationship in your professional network after you leave, because this kind of job reference for future employers is gold. If you're ready to leave the company, then it doesn't really matter what the contract says, right? And you would have seen huge red flags already if there were shenanigans. If you're ready to move on, thank your boss and politely decline. – L0j1k 2 days ago

10 Answers 10

250

It seems to me that your boss believes the reasons you are leaving are entirely about you: your loss, your grief, your health. Your boss hopes that in a few months, these reasons will change leaving you back where you were before the loss: liking your job and happy to do it.

If you have information that your boss doesn't (actually I was getting pretty fed up of the job anyway before this happened, or just being in the building reminds me of those awful times) then you could spare them the trouble of writing up an official "permission to re-apply" contract by being honest now and then just walking away. But since your boss is making this offer, I'd say let it happen. Focus on yourself and your recovery for 3 months. Don't look for other jobs. Relax, get better.

About two months from now, when you think about returning to work, will you dread it? Does looking for jobs and going to interviews feel like a horrible burden or an exciting opportunity? Does it feel like a "safety net" to know your old job is waiting for you, or an anchor, or what? As the three-month mark appears will you be worried?

If knowing your old job is waiting means "I will have money and a place to go and people I already know" then that's a good thing. Your boss is offering you that. If it means "I owe an obligation to people I want nothing to do with" then that's not so good. You are unlikely to know which it is (because it's a mix of the two) until closer to that three month mark.

As for "hitches" or "catches" in this "contract" it doesn't sound like any are planned and in many jurisdictions they are not legally possible. The real reason for declining now instead of 3 months from now is to be nice to someone who is going out on a limb for you. The real reason for waiting is that a person who is unable to work due to grief and other issues is often also unable to make the right long term decisions: knowing that, it's wise to avoid long term decisions that don't have to be made immediately.

  • 25
    This is a fantastic answer. There's no downside to the contract, only possible upside for OP. – Max A. Jul 12 at 14:57
  • 28
    Some companies offer unpaid "leaves of absence" for employees who need a little time for health reasons, to take care of a family issue, etc. It sounds like your boss is trying to offer you something like that, even though it might not be on the company's "official" benefits list. – bta Jul 12 at 21:50
  • 19
    The last sentence is key here, and in addition the employer is attempting to reduce the impending stress when the OP decides they are ready to work again. In the meantime, they will likely hire a temp-worker on a 3 to 6 month contract and after the discussion in 3 months time, will extend or not extend a permanent offer to the temp worker depending on the discussion outcome. – Aaron Jul 13 at 7:16
  • This is a very good answer. It highlights that the boss is offering a slight alternative to a full resignation (for 3 months at least). However, only you can judge your mental health, and what your state it might be in 3 months from now. – Ramhound 2 days ago
40

Be grateful for the opportunity. It seems your boss is really valuing your work. Do not dismiss this opportunity right now. Wait the three months and see where you are then. You can always decide after three months to not return.

I'm worried there will be something weird in the contract?

If the wording of the contract is unclear, or if you are afraid it makes you promise something you cannot deliver, have a lawyer look at it. If you are a union member, they may provide job related legal counsel for free, or for a reduced fee.

18

One possible reason for the formal contract could be that your boss is not sure if he is going to be in the company in three months. If he i still there when you return, he could just give you a new contract but if he leaves, his promise will just be forgotten and he cannot help you anymore. By giving you a contract, he makes the promise official and binds the company to it.

  • Not in the real world. An everyday manager won't have the power to bind a company to take the employee back - in most jurisdictions today the concept does not even exist for regular employees. But a contract can (and sadly often does) have terms which purport to limit the employee's future flexibility, and there's nothing to be gained by renewing those. It's at best no better than an expression of being open to reconnecting, and at worst something with terms that could prevent the asker from taking a future job, that unlike this one, they actually want. – Chris Stratton Jul 13 at 6:38
  • It could be implemented as a normal contract that starts in three months and with the option for the employee to terminate the contract without repercussions. He is also talking about his 'boss' so I'm not sure where your 'everyday manager' comes from. – FooTheBar Jul 13 at 7:11
  • 1
    @ChrisStratton: if the manager has the authority to sign a regular employment contract, he has the authority to sign one with a few unusual wrinkles. While the contract won’t guarantee a job, regardless of whether the manager is still there or not, it will make it a bit more likely. – jmoreno Jul 13 at 16:50
  • 2
    @ChrisStratton The legality of a contract drawn up by a specific manager at a specific company is in no way dependent on how common such contracts are in general. Weird one-off contracts are signed all the time, being unusual doesn't make it any less binding. – barbecue Jul 14 at 1:10
  • 1
    @ChrisStratton your broad sweeping claims are simply untrue. It's easy to find counter-examples of managers offering contracts to employees, and contracts being offered without the involvement of boards or attorneys. I'm not saying you're wrong about how things should be, I'm saying you're wrong about how they actually are in reality. – barbecue 2 days ago
12

I quit a job of 5 years and moved out of state. My company had never hired a person working out of state to work remote because it is a state funded agency and that's frowned upon. Five weeks later my former boss and I had a meeting and he outlined a proposal he would make to the powers that be... seven weeks later mountains had moved and I had my laptop delivered by FedEx.

All this to say - LOOK - when you're good at what you do the regular rules of employment don't always apply. Obviously - you were an asset to this company, your boss, and the other employees. They don't want to lose you and realize that you need some personal time due to some catastrophic events.

So take your time, enjoy it, and re-evaluate in 3 months.

  • Indeed, no reason to burn bridges. But also absolutely not reason to sign anything! If the offer is legitimate, it is legit without a signature. And if it isn't, a bullet best dodged. – Chris Stratton Jul 13 at 6:09
  • 3
    "enjoy it"? Maybe not the best wording – FooTheBar Jul 13 at 6:26
8

Any suggestions for how to handle this?

Just resign from the company and don't sign any contract. Since you do not plan on returning to the company there is no need to give your boss the impression that you will return. Your statements below indicate that you are not going to return:

I think he doesn't want me to quit or thinks that I will change my mind, but I feel like I've moved on and want to pursue other opportunities.

And:

I plan on waiting out the 3 months and just letting him know that I won't be back for real

You need to be upfront with your boss and let him know that you will not return. It is clear that the boss sees value in you if he wants to retain you as an employee but if you do not want to be there it makes no sense to pretend for three months. Thank your boss for the offer and your time with the company and move on. It is the best choice for all parties.

  • 7
    The boss is fully aware that he might not come back and is providing him with an alternative. There is no harm to either party in waiting the three months, while there is a clear downside for the OP if he changes his mind in two months. Situations change on a dime, the more options you have, the better. – Fábio Dias Jul 12 at 23:07
  • +1 on not signing anything. There's absolutely nothing to be gained from that, and not even any legitimate benefit to the company, so a request to do so would be an immediate red flag. But there's also no need to burn any bridges. Feelings could change - don't lead the boss on about likelihood of returning, but there's no need to absolutely rule it out as long as its been clear that it is not your plan – Chris Stratton Jul 13 at 6:06
4

Not something I've heard of happening before - could be a nice gesture, or it could have strings attached (especially since there's a legal contract he wants you to sign.) Difficult for us to say from the question, so I'd definitely exercise caution.

If you don't want to sign anything, and don't think it's something you'd use in any case, but appreciate the offer, then I'd just say:

Thanks, I really appreciate that. However, can we just keep it as an informal arrangement which we can use if necessary rather than getting into contractuals?

  • 3
    The contract could possibly be for the OPs peace of mind rather than the employer. – Bee Jul 12 at 13:52
  • 1
    @Bee "I think he doesn't want me to quit or thinks that I will change my mind, but I feel like I've moved on and want to pursue other opportunities." <- doesn't sound like it. – berry120 Jul 12 at 13:58
  • Worth noting that that is the OPs interpretation about the situation. You'll also notice I wasn't disagreeing with you, only adding another perspective – Bee Jul 12 at 14:01
  • 3
    It may not be clear to the boss that the OP is adamant to never return. As @Bee said, the boss may be doing what he believes is supporting the OP. – Gregory Currie Jul 12 at 14:22
  • 1
    @GregoryCurrie Boss seems like he thinks he's supporting OP through this difficult time. – Max A. Jul 12 at 14:58
1

Be aware of the type of contract you are given. Signing a temporary leave might mean having to come back and give the notice period 3 months from now. I was in a very similar place two years ago, where my team lead tried to convince me into not giving notice before holidays, and coming back for a month more.

Fortunately, as they say, several heads think better than one, and while tempted, several friends advised me on not taking the "offer", e.g. cutting the cord and go on a care free holidays without having worries when coming back.

It was one of the best free advise people ever gave me. It allowed me to put all that behind my back, focus in myself, my wife and our holidays. More importantly, it allowed to completely close and turn my mind off about a chapter of my life, and move on. It also allowed me to not carry my mobile number in roaming to be there for them.

Whilst it seems a security blanket, do you want to be on call, own them something, or have that in the back of the mind for three more months?

PS Off-topic: I also had un unplanned bonus at the end of the fiscal year, the tax return for not working 1.5 months was roughly around the same amount I would have had gained if I had returned for that month.

0

This actually has happened to me once some years ago. I was employed full time working for a large multinational, based in Northern Virginia, near Washing DC. My wife was accepted into a graduate program abroad (in UK) and I decided to move with her. I wasn't sure how things would work out in the UK, so it was great when I was offered a similar 3-months "grace period". Essentially, within 3 months they would take me back for the same role with the same salary.

I ended up not needing it - and I'm still in the UK 16 years later.

New contributor
Aleks G is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
-3

Frame challenge

"Keep calm and carry on" is good advice, while existing in misery with nothing productive to do is bad advice: you just sink deeper into depression.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

-5

DO NOT SIGN ANY SORT OF CONTRACT FOR SOMETHING YOU DO NOT EVEN WANT

If this is a legitimate, well intentioned offer to consider taking you back, then there's absolutely no way that benefits from your signature. A willingness to consider taking you back is just that - a willingness - and it's only practically meaningful if at a future time both you and the employer end up interested in pursuing it.

In the meantime, any insistence on your signature is a serious red flag - there's nothing to be gained by binding yourself to this employer you are presently determined to leave, or them to you in a way that you would be unable to enforce or enjoy anyway. If they want to list conditions that limit the situations in which they would take you back, they are free to do so unilaterally. But put simply, if they are honest about having your mutual best interest in mind, they will be able to understand from a single, polite objection why it is pointless for you to sign anything, and accept your refusal. If they push the issue, it indicates there's something more going on - either a shady purpose, or a serious failure of understanding. In either case, that would be a sign that it is time to disengage even more actively than you had already been planning to.

Best case - they make the offer, you say "thank you, I will keep this in mind" and in a few months you feel better, reach out and they take you back.

Intermediate case - one party ends up interested in renewing the relationship, the other is not, so nothing happens - but that is also for the best, because trying to use a previous agreement to force employment when either party is unwilling will not be a positive outcome

Worst case - they do not have your best interest in mind, and leaving them behind with no remaining ties was the right choice.

(For that matter, unless you are being given something new of useful value in return, you should not sign any sort of agreement, acknowledgement, or anything beyond the letter of resignation comprising your own words when leaving a position. Any terms or restrictions you were previously bound by do not need another signature; anything you were not previously subject to is definitely not an obligation to take on when there is no longer anything to be gained in return for doing so. People may make bogus arguments why you should, but these are empty - they are still obligated to provide your final paycheck without delay)

  • Did you read the original post? He talked about "I could get my job back if I wanted it" and not " A willingness to consider taking you back". And the option to get your job back is definitely something useful. – FooTheBar Jul 13 at 6:29
  • 2
    "Working contracts" do not exist in much of the world today, except for unusual cases like high level executives, sports talent, etc. Pretty much everyone else could be arbitrarily back on the street without explanation five minutes after being hired, and is only protected from being dismissed for specific illegal reasons, which they would have the difficulty of demonstrating were the actual motivation. – Chris Stratton Jul 13 at 13:30
  • 7
    By "much of the world today" you mean "USA"? – FooTheBar Jul 13 at 17:58
  • 3
    That doesn't change the generality of you comments. – FooTheBar Jul 13 at 18:44
  • 3
    I think this answer is a little too concerned that there will be something nefarious in the contract. While it—and all other contracts—should be read carefully, it's also possible this "contract" will just clarify a few fairly mundane things: when/how you need to notify them about your decision, whether vacation time and seniority will accrue during this gap if you return, the status of your health insurance and other benefits, and so on. – Matt Krause 2 days ago

protected by mcknz yesterday

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.