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I work at a small company - there are fewer than 5 employees and my boss is actually the president and owner. I put my two weeks notice in yesterday. I made this decision as my work environment has been so toxic that it's taken a toll on my physical and mental health. (My boss is one to slam, punch, yell, and be vindictive when something goes wrong or when stress levels get high -- that's the short of it but it's been a cycle of toxicity for my entire time here.)

Since the company is so small, there is no HR department to speak of, which is why a lot of this toxic behavior is able to exist in the first place. I've been here just under a year. There's been a lot of turnover through the years.

Since I put in my notice, my boss has completely shifted gears and has been apologizing non-stop, has offered to leave the office entirely, I've had two meetings explaining my decision and how I won't change my mind, and just recently asked my other coworker (not HR or my direct superior in any way) to pull me into a meeting and lay out why I'm vital to the company.

This last point is what's got my nerves so fried. I think it's completely unacceptable to involve her in this way, and unfair to both of us. I'm firm on my decision and these manipulations are taking a huge toll on me. It's obvious to me he wanted to manipulate me by having my friend beg me to keep my job. This backfired on him spectacularly because she just told me the truth of what he said to her and shared that she felt like he was putting her in an impossible situation.

I feel like this has gotten completely out of control.

What should I do? Would it be unprofessional to leave without fulfilling the rest of my two weeks if this continues? I'm afraid I'm about to get pulled into another meeting so he can ask me again and try to bargain.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive Jan 30 at 12:28
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    If youre looking for someone to give you guidance on what behavior to look for in order to pursuit legal action, maybe take it to law.SE. I mean, you're already quitting, why does this need to be answered? What else is there to do beside wait 2 or less weeks and leave? – 8protons Jan 31 at 0:29
  • Do you have your next job lined up? It might (might) work out to say "I already have another job". – Pablo H Jan 31 at 14:45

11 Answers 11

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It's hard to deal with constant manipulation. Two weeks of this nonsense will surely be a challenge. It may be tempting to sabotage, lash out, not show up for work, or otherwise try to avoid the problem or strike back. But do your best to be the professional one in this scenario, and keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • Disengage and de-escalate. Do your best to not show any reaction to your boss's tactics. Showing that you are emotional will just indicate to your boss that their tactics are having an effect on you.
  • Don't try to argue with logic, don't try to defend your decision, and don't try to explain yourself. You're allowed to leave and don't have to justify that. Any explanation you try to provide will just be fodder for your manipulative boss to try to manipulate you in a different way. If your boss continues to pester you, just tell them, sorry, my decision is final and I'm not interested in discussing it further.
  • Don't assume any responsibility past what you are obligated to do in order to perform your job. Don't let your boss guilt you in to working extra hours, or weekends, or coming in to help after your last day. You've given your obligatory notice - transitioning your work is not your problem. In fact, pretty soon, doing your job at all will no longer be your problem. On the one hand, you should obviously be cooperative and help others get up to speed, or do other tasks as assigned to transition things, but don't let yourself be pressured into assuming additional responsibilities. Your boss has been given a leadership role. Your boss is responsible for planning for and handling employee transitions.
  • Make sure you understand how your company handles paid time off (PTO) for departing employees. Some companies will have specific policies about taking PTO or paying it out in a lump sum as of your last day. If you are truly unhappy to the point that it is affecting your health, consider taking PTO for some (or all) of your remaining two weeks, if that is allowed.
  • Every time you feel uncomfortable, or upset, or frustrated, or bothered by your boss, remind yourself: This is almost over. Soon, I will be forever done with this jerk.
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    Another fun way to think of it-- what kind of consideration do you think your boss would give you if they decided that the company would benefit if you no longer worked there? Afford your boss that same courtesy as you head out the door. – NegativeFriction Jan 30 at 13:15
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    In the meantime, keep humming Soona Will Be Done to yourself. "No more … weepin' and a wailin'!" – T.E.D. Jan 30 at 14:27
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    I agree with the answer and want to add two options that I used myself a year ago in the similar situation: 1) Consider using sick leave (if this isn't against the law in the US). I was shivering from pressure at work. I visit a doctor and it took a couple of minutes only. The doctor just gave me sick list with 'cold' for remaining ATM 5 days. 2) You may want to use easy (no-presc. kind) drugs to tone down stress a bit. Helped me a lot. Congrats on heading out of the place. – doz10us Jan 30 at 15:15
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    And in case you think @NegativeFriction 's comment was rhetorical, I expect it actually isn't. I have been party to cases where the company was getting rid of people and went incredibly far out of their way to make the transition smooth and painless. Once had 11 months of lead time, paid transition services,almost double the statutory minimum severance, and stellar recommendations, in exchange for a comprehensive work breakdown and transition from us. It was actually refreshing! – corsiKa Jan 30 at 23:38
  • It is not unprofessional to not show up for your 2 weeks in this circumstance. I would report to HR that due to the harassment, you require either immediate change or the remainder of the notice to be taken as unpaid leave. Since it's nearly over, it's more than likely that they'll just accept the unpaid leave. – UKMonkey Jan 31 at 13:07
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Don't be unprofessional and potentially compromise a reference. If he does pull you aside, then simply restate your position clearly and politely:

I have given you my notice and am leaving on X date. I am not going to reconsider, so please do not ask me again.

... and repeat as necessary. It works just as well if other people are dragged in; don't address them directly as it's not their problem. It's annoying to have to keep repeating oneself but you only have to put up with two more weeks of this charade and then it's over for good. You could always consider taking it up with his superior, but given that the clock is ticking down it may well not be worth the effort and hassle.

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    This is a great answer, I think the only thing I would add is to not continue explaining the decision to leave. Take the JADE approach - don't Justify, Argue, Defend or Explain. The manager's behavior is alarming and the type of person who behaves this way is best handled by giving as little information as possible when it's something they don't like. His continued badgering of the OP over this issue borders on harassment/hostile workplace but with less than two weeks left, it's probably not worth calling that out. – alroc Jan 29 at 20:29
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    I really doubt that op will use this manager as reference, let's be realistic, would you? – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 29 at 20:37
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    Why would you bother even listing this boss as a reference? Ask the colleagues to be a reference! This boss will never be a good reference. Of course, no need to intentionally set the bridge on fire, but no need to keep it from burning... – rkeet Jan 30 at 11:00
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    @JuliaHayward OP said their boss is the president and owner of the company, so I find that a rather unlikely scenario. In this case I think it's pretty darn likely that nobody at this company will serve as a usable reference. – Klaycon Jan 30 at 14:29
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    It goes much deeper than just a reference from that company. To a certain degree, you want to contain the potential damage that could be done on a larger scale. You don't want to give this jerk any reason to spread bad information to his peers, his subordinates, others in the industry, or other employers he may work for in the future. Even if you never get a reference from this company, the boss can still influence others against you in more subtle ways. You don't want to set a bomb off as you go out the door, you want to just exit professionally with as little drama as possible. – dwizum Jan 30 at 15:24
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It's not unprofessional to take sick time, because you are becoming ill because of this situation. This is causing you harm and you need to be healthy and fit for your future role.

You need to get this out if your mind as dwelling on it further will be harmful, find distractions to take your mind away from this.

An element of professionalism is being self aware about what is going on around you and dealing with it accordingly. If you brain and body are indicating to you,that you are becoming unwell, act on that information.

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    This. This is the answer. You would not be faking, lying, or cheating. He is genuinely making you sick. Get a doctor to confirm that, leave and don't ever, ever, ever look back. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Jan 30 at 7:45
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    I would also look back on whether he had ever done anything that might be construed as assault by a lawyer. If so, get one. Whether or not you actually take any action, insist that all communication subsequent to you signing off sick goes through that lawyer. I'm guessing the boss will completely drop out of your life forever at that point. (UK law - USA may be different). – nigel222 Jan 30 at 12:42
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    Agree that this is the correct answer. To suggest you are being unprofessional, by protecting yourself from being bullied is silly and deserves down votes. If the OP really needed a job, but the employer did not have need of them, they would be laid off in an instant. The OP does not have to tolerate being bullied and if there was actual physical violence involved they should be talking to a lawyer and may want to do so anyway. – Pete B. Jan 31 at 14:59
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What should I do?

That we can't tell you.

Would it be unprofessional to leave without fulfilling the rest of my two weeks if this continues?

Unprofessional, maybe. But let's be frank - you will not be giving out this guy as your reference anyway as the boss is unreliable to say the very least. So that ship has sailed. And while we should strive to be professional at all times, your health should come first.

If you decide to not show up, there is very much nothing the employer can do to you, besides reducing your final pay accordingly. You won't get hired there again, or get a reference, but that seems more like good riddance than a loss. The idea of a court order forcing you to "work it off" is a Hollywood trope, and even if they tried to sue (not going to happen for list of reasons longer than the internet) there is nothing for them to win there, and it just will not happen.

I honestly would not blame you for not showing up, especially after:

Since I put in my notice, my boss has completely shifted gears and has been apologizing non-stop, has offered to leave the office entirely, I've had two meetings explaining my decision and how I won't change my mind, and just recently asked my other coworker (not HR or my direct superior in anyway) to pull me into a meeting and layout why I'm vital to the company.

This is extremely unprofessional, unfair and verges on emotional blackmail. I was in a similar situation once, and after the next day, I turned in my notice, effective immediately by text after the end of the day, leaving all company property inside the office previously. I didn't want to deal with them in person anymore in fear of, well, more of this type of unpleasantness.

They were unhappy, but also at this point it was already done, I was not coming back, and they had to deal with it. We wound up doing a short exit interview over the phone and that was all she wrote.

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    The gearshift is simply bog-standard behavior for sociopaths. It's manipulation. If you assent, it will be right back to the same-old aggression in a couple of months. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 30 at 15:14
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It sounds like your boss feels like everything is falling apart, and doesn't know how to respond to that kind of stress.

The main thing is to always respond to any argument with "I'm sorry, I have given notice, I am happy with my choice, I am leaving on xx.xx" If you try to give explanations/reasons, then that gives him a way to "win", as if dealing with those reasons would force you to stay.


The other thing is that you can try to reduce his stress. You can use your remaining time at the job documenting everything you do in a really clear format. You can explain to him that you are doing so, and that the next person to fill your role should be up to speed in no time, since it's all written down. Then (apart from finding someone) he wont feel like the sky is falling down.

You may not want to help someone who is being abusive, but a good way to look at it is: It's not what he deserves to receive, but what you deserve to be. Be the kind of person that adds value wherever you go.

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There is one way you can be professional and still leave in less than two weeks. The next time your boss pressures you, let him know that the pressure is becoming a problem, and you will be willing to leave earlier if it continues.

Boss, you keep pressuring me, and I'm not going to change my mind about leaving. I will, however, be willing to leave earlier if you don't let up. If you continue to pressure me, then I will plan on leaving the same day.

And then, the next time he starts, ask "Shall I leave?" If he doesn't stop it immediately, then pack up your things, let him know that this is your last day, and leave.

You gave 2 weeks notice, but you're not obligated to stay for all of it if the conditions are intolerable.

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    Threatening will just escalate the emotional roller coaster. Also: there is no HR. – Hilmar Jan 30 at 4:16
  • +1 this is the right approach. Shows you are willing to serve out your notice but are not going to be a floor mat for that period of time. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jan 30 at 4:58
  • -1. If his boss is manipulative, he will instantly point out that the employee is threatening with illegal action, and will instantly use that lever to induce guilt or threat. – toolforger Jan 30 at 17:09
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    @toolforger The OP is in the US, and most states are at-will. There is nothing illegal with just walking out and not returning. The most they can do is not pay for any time not worked. – thursdaysgeek Jan 30 at 17:54
  • I guess it depends on the applicable clauses. If they sum up to "you may work, and you will get paid for the hours you worked", then yeah it's okay (but maybe unwise). If they sum up to "you promise to work such-and-so-many hours per day and the employer promises to pay XXX", then you are in breach of contract. Maybe the answer should include this: Under what circumstances is it tokay to do what. – toolforger Jan 31 at 8:10
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You sound like an Agreeable and Conscientious person (some of the big 5 personality traits). These kind of people are very hurt by manipulation attempts. Some psychologists advise to toughen up. Just like Disagreeable or Neurotic people (not the opposite of the former) need to learn to soften and open up.

Use these two weeks as your hell training to endure this kind of situation better in the future. The fact that it will be over in a preset timeframe makes it more bearable. Be professional, do your job, transition, and don't be goaded to take more work.

Boss has dug his grave, let him lie on it. It is a lesson for him too. And if he offers a raise or something else, don't take the bait. Don't burn the bridges either.

Also don't try to fix it. Usually doesn't work and feels like doing the laundry on the burnt bridges.

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Since the team is small, it's likely your boss is caught off guard by your sudden departure. By asking you to stay, it's clear they are looking for a short term solution to your eventual replacement. So don't fall for it. Just continue to remain professional and work your notice period. Don't "tell them" or get back at them, just try to remain as professional as possible and leave on good terms.

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There's a lot of opportunity for you here.

Your boss has laid out his cards basically and put you in a very strong negotiating position. You can easily ask for much better terms than what you've got now since you're 'vital' to the company.

If he is the main reason you're leaving then isn't him leaving the office going to resolve this for you? Lay out your terms: boss needs to not raise voice/ or punch things/ can't go into your office/ etc.. whatever you want. and you ask for a nice pay increase as well.

If you're set on leaving no matter what, then you can just say "I've already entered into another contract so staying is not an option"

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As much as he continues to pressure you and apologizes, clearly he is incapable of changing so you have been honest in maintaining you cannot be swayed to stay and he needs to respect that. Continue to maintain you integrity, do not show him reaction and carry on; though easier said than done....I know. If it becomes unbearable, it is within reason for you to leave prior to your 2 weeks. As long as you are not under contract, the relationship is at will and you have offered him a courtesy of two weeks and he is not respecting your decision during this time. It largely speaks to his character if he is involving other people to try to sway you and it is not worth your mental well being.

As far as a reference goes if you do leave early, references have become very sensitive and most places will only verify employment. Companies uphold policies where they will do no more than verify employment due to legal implications; so I would not be concerned about using him as a reference. As a recruiter for many years, I am lucky if I can get a character reference on a candidate and that typically comes from a colleague in the form of a "personal reference" and is acceptable y my terms. Good luck!

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  1. Stay calm.

  2. Stand with your original decision.

  3. On Day-X, just GO.

    Just imagine how fast he will turn-around in his behavior if you revert your decision. And how much guilt he will try to embed in your mind because "you've tried to escape and leave them alone".

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