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Over the last 2 months, many of the top performing employees have left my current company. They each had different "official" reasons for leaving, but the timing of it is pretty obvious (it happened right around when the company put a temporary paycut in place due to covid-19). At this point, paychecks have been restored, but morale is still low because so many good employees have left within such a short amount of time.

(Note that these are NOT upper managers who are leaving - that would signify that the company's financial standing is in bad shape, which isn't really the case currently. It's just excellent employees from across many levels).

I'm aware that my manager, the leadership team, and my coworkers all consider me a top performing employee. If I'd leave now, it would be a major blow on top of a series of big blows.

It's especially bad because there's no one available to even take over my work (everyone is completely booked up since they took over work from my other coworkers who left).

And naturally... Someone reached out to me recently about an interesting opportunity, which ended up turning into a once-in-a-lifetime type of job offer which is so good that I can't turn it down. I definitely plan to accept it, but I also definitely feel bad about the timing of it.

When I give 2-weeks notice to my manager, and when I'm talking to my coworkers who will be very upset that I'm leaving, is there anything I can do to cushion the blow?

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    "Note that these are NOT upper managers who are leaving" - I wonder if that is because the upper managers didn't get pay cuts?
    – marcelm
    Aug 30 '20 at 14:49
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    Does this answer your question? A coworker beat me to resignation. How can I resign in a professional manner?
    – mxyzplk
    Aug 30 '20 at 16:26
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    Devil's advocate: you may not want the blow to be softened so much (without being unprofessional or actually causing more problems). The company reaping what it sows here may be the only way the upper management will learn.
    – zr00
    Aug 31 '20 at 2:45
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    There's a difference between being professional and being emotionally invested. You always have to be professional, because it's your job. You don't have to be emotionally invested because it's not your wife :-P
    – ChatterOne
    Aug 31 '20 at 6:35
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    What cushioning would the company provide to employees that are slated to be made redundant? ...
    – mcalex
    Aug 31 '20 at 7:02
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The blow will be bad, no matter what you do, but there are some things you can do to minimise it:

Do it sooner rather than later

Management is working hard on a plan for the future. Right now, that plan includes you. They might be thinking up new structures, where you play a specific role. Knowing as soon as possible that you won’t be around will save them the work. Same goes for your coworkers and even yourself.

Decide if there is anything they can do to keep you

They might offer you more money, a fancy title, ... If there is anything that can change your mind, be honest and upfront about it. If there isn’t, do the same, be firm AND

Focus on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Don’t mention the recent paycut situation or other negative things that play a role in this decision, unless it’s something major they need to fix to save the company. The new job is just too good not to do it.

Be as helpful as you can during your notice period

Document your work as much as possible to help the person taking over your responsibilities. Tie up loose ends on things you’re working on as much as you can. If possible and within reasonable limits, see about extending your notice period. A week or two extra just might make the difference in finding your replacement. And finally, try to keep up a good spirit among your coworkers till the end.

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    Hey AsheraH, I've replaced the bullet point formatting with the smallest titles available. To me it reads better this way to highlight the key messages you have in your answer but go ahead and revert / edit it if you dislike this format.
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 31 '20 at 10:45
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    Sooner rather than later, sure - but not so soon that the new contract isn't signet yet - Do nothing until the new contract is a done deal. I know it's obvious, but I think it's better to say it once to many than to screw up on that point :-)
    – Gertsen
    Aug 31 '20 at 11:50
  • I think strike the "Decide if there is anything they can do to keep you". Few long term outcomes arrive from the "I quit....but wait" story. OP described their new opportunity as once-in-a-lifetime not just some other company was interested. Aug 31 '20 at 12:33
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    Just wanted to add,DO NOT announce anything until you have a start date and signed contract at your dream job
    – Strader
    Aug 31 '20 at 14:31
  • @Strader Truth. Too many polite 2-week notices have turned into impromptu firings.
    – IT Alex
    Aug 31 '20 at 18:16
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I'm seeing a very similar situation whereby employees are switching employer to those that have coped better, and more professionally, with the current economic situation.

If your employer had better understood business needs, who were the competent employees, and more importantly how they were feeling they'd have made a better job of it.

Besides, with a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity your loyalty is to yourself, not your employer. Go with a free conscience as you would at any other time. Move on.

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When I give 2-weeks notice to my manager, and when I'm talking to my coworkers who will be very upset that I'm leaving, is there anything I can do to cushion the blow?

You can offer some of your colleagues to ask at your new place if they are looking for more people, though you will want to do that off current employers property, time and comms.

Besides that there is absolutely nothing you can, or should, do about it.

Some people will understand that you need to focus on what's best for you - those don't need to hear anything. Others will just kick up a fuss and get annoyed - for those no amount of talking will do you any good.

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    I fail to see how poaching people will help mitigate the blow for his current employer. Aug 31 '20 at 9:51
  • @DiegoSánchez It's the good old 'Make them forget they have stomach pains by punching them in the face' strategy. If they lose everyone else, then losing you won't really make a difference anymore anyway. Not to mention the fact that once they hear it was you who is responsible for them losing so many employees, they will not even be a little bit sad that you're no longer going to be with them. Blow successfully cushioned. In all seriousness though, this answer seems like it will just make the OP feel worse.
    – Mark
    Aug 31 '20 at 10:39
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    @DiegoSánchez it was regarding the other part, of making the blow lesser to already demoralized employes. Aug 31 '20 at 10:42
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Don't needlessly limit yourself.

Three reasons I say this:

  • "job offer which is so good that I can't turn it down"

  • "I'm aware that my manager, the leadership team, and my coworkers all consider me a top performing employee."

  • Over the last 2 months, many of the top performing employees have left my current company.

In other words, your current company is crazily desperate for top talent, they consider you top talent... and you've put a constraint that you won't continue to work there because of the new offer.

What if a member of the leadership team said, "C36, you've been an amazing asset to the company. Starting next month, we'd like to offer you a senior role in the company and give you more agency to help shape where we take the department and the company - it's roughly a level-and-a-half promotion, and it'll come with a 65% raise to your salary."

Would you still leave? (My guess would be no.)

And that relies on them randomly coming up to you and proposing this out of the blue. Have you proposed this? Why not? I mean, from a purely cynical viewpoint, you've got the best possible bargaining position possible: they know you're extremely talented, they're desperate for your skills, you've got a BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement) that's so amazing that it blinded you to other opportunities and they've got a BATNA that sucks so badly you're trying to figure out ways to soften it for them.

What I'm saying is... you've leaped to a specific conclusion: there's no way you'd turn down this offer from the other company. Why not see if you can get another offer to compete with it? Worst case, they simply say, "Sorry, but we don't have the budget or openings for a raise or promotion." - in which case, you're merely in the same boat you're in now (with a bit less guilt about leaving.)

Don't limit yourself needlessly.

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Don't worry about it. Business is business. If the company was going underwater, do you think they would give a second thought to terminating you? If you do, you're naive and you need to snap out of it, because the answer is a thorough and resounding NO. And thus, you should treat them with the exact same amount of respect they treat you, which is none.

Here's what I got from your question: When Covid-19 happened, salaries were slashed. Do you know if salaries were slashed across the board? I presume you don't (such information would be hard to know), but given the fact that only junior employees (in the sense of people below management level) left the company, it's reasonable to assume that management was not affected by the salary cuts, only the low level employees were. Which tells you how much you, as a low-level employee, are valued. They could have chosen to not cut salaries, or they could have chosen to make across-the-board cuts, which would have seen more people from all levels of the company choose to leave, but instead they made all the lowest level people take the punishment of a decision they had no input or control over. If that's not enough to show you how much respect they have for you, then I don't know what is.

Now, you know you have talent. They also know you have talent. They know it would be a big cost to lose you. You have a competing offer that you said is once-in-a-lifetime. So you can continue working at a company who has already shown you that they live and die on management cronyism, or you can take this other offer from a company who respects your skills. But it looks like you've already seen and decided that part of it.

As for how to leave: When the company decided not to cut salaries for management, they did so by taking the stance that they believe management runs the business, not the junior employees. That's the official stance of the company. So my suggestion would be to have them put their money where their mouth is. Metaphorically speaking, you should tell them, "If you think you can do this job without me, then let's see if you actually can" (don't actually say that literally, but act in such a way to communicate that). It's literally the one and only job of management to ensure that if you leave the company, that the company doesn't die. If they are so highly respected that they didn't get the same Covid payroll slash as everyone else, let's see if they're worth it. If you leave and the company dies, then it was a shitty company with mismanaged priorities and horrible management and you jumped ship at a good time. If you leave and the company doesn't die, then everything is fine and this is a problem you didn't need to worry about in the first place. Either way, you win. So just leave. Don't apologize, don't "make amends", don't do anything beyond your normal duties, requirements, and responsibilities. Just leave and be done with it.

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Nope there is very little you can do to cushion the blow just hand in your notice work out your notice period and then leave that's it.

Never try to be super nice and helpful when leaving any org as they will take advantage of this for sure. Be formal, here's my notice this is how long this is what I think my end date should be that's it.

If you had someone leaving and they offered a bunch of stuff to help would you take it ? I sure would especially if it was free !

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