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I work as a developer for a university in the US. Due to various reasons, my manager feels that my performance is not good enough and that the role is not a good fit for me. He has talked to HR a few times already and in my last meeting with him, he said that they had discussed an exit plan for me to leave by next Friday. He said he had advocated that I resign from the position instead of be terminated by HR, so it would say that I had "resigned" in my file which would leave me in good standing with the university. He also said that I would be able to apply for unemployment and that he would give me a good recommendation for my next job. Since it sounded like a decision had already been made for me, I agreed with it because I didn't feel like I had a choice.

Yesterday when I talked to HR, HR said that it was an option that my manager had talked with them about but that I didn't have to agree to the plan. It seems like if I didn't agree with it, then I would be terminated sometime in the future, but she did not specify when that would happen.

In this situation, would it be better for me to take my manager's resignation plan or say no and wait for HR to terminate me?

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  • Yes, unemployment laws vary state to state. Where I am at, if you quit you do not get it typically unless its under harassment -- and then it can take forever to kick in. Nice point @PeteCon
    – Neo
    Oct 16 '20 at 14:48
  • Does your place of employment have any kind of severance package? If so, asking you to resign could be a way to avoid having to give it to you.
    – Herohtar
    Oct 16 '20 at 15:39
  • I had a discussion with HR & my manager end of last week about this. I was asked to take the offer, as a way to exit more gracefully from the university. HR said they would not contest unemployment when I go to file
    – Nia
    Oct 18 '20 at 14:24
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would it be better for me to take my manager's resignation plan or say no and wait for HR to terminate me?

Do neither. Don't resign now. Don't just wait around to be terminated.

Instead, work hard to find your next job first, then give your notice.

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    Sometimes this isn't the best option. It looks likely that if the OP doesn't agree to the terms of resignation they will be fired, which will be worse for them if it happens before finding a job. Oct 16 '20 at 13:48
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    @DClayworth How is that worse for them though? "Poor performance" requires a significant paper trail and the OP being allowed chances to show whether they can improve, all of which the OP can challenge, giving them a lot more time to look for another job. Unless there's some evidence of gross misconduct, they can't just be fired on the spot, assuming you're not in an at-will employment state of course. And as other answers have said, resigning can affect benefits claims.
    – Graham
    Oct 16 '20 at 14:26
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    I downvoted despite this being good advice because OP didn't ask what else he should be doing while facing this decision. It could be improved by answering the question. Oct 16 '20 at 14:34
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Do not resign. Take your chances. In these Covid times, employers will be more understanding even if you are terminated.

Also, as others have pointed out, you may actually be able to get unemployment benefits for being terminated and not for resigning.

Finally the point about good recommendation; If he is asking you to resign because of bad performance, then do not ask for his reference either ways. It does not make sense that he will give you a good recommendation if you resign but will not do that if you are terminated.

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  • +1 about the recommendation being fishy.
    – q-compute
    Oct 17 '20 at 4:43
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Usually in the United States, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits if you have resigned, but you are eligible if you were fired for poor performance. Your manager's claim that you could still claim unemployment benefits if you resign contradicts this, and you should not necessarily believe that he is right about this. Perhaps you are in a unique situation, and what you're being told is correct. Perhaps he's just mistaken. Perhaps you're not being told the whole truth. Employers' tax rates depend in part on how many of their former employees have become eligible for unemployment, which means that they have an incentive to have you resign instead of being fired.

On the other hand, it will be beneficial in the future to say you left a job on your own terms. It will be easier than explaining that you were fired.

Be wary, though, of your boss's promise of a good reference. As mentioned above, he does have an incentive to talk you into resigning, which means that he might not be being completely honest with you. If he's ready to let you go, why would he speak well of you to future employers?

The best option will depend on your specific circumstances. How badly would you need unemployment? What are your prospects for a different job, depending on different ways of leaving this one? But keep in mind that your boss has his own interests, which are not necessarily the same as yours.

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    "On the other hand, it will be beneficial in the future to say you left a job on your own terms. It will be easier than explaining that you were fired." - yes and no. If you resign, it's easier to spin in into something positive by focusing on why it wasn't a good fit and your career aspirations. But you'll need to explain why you left a job without having another one lined up (if this is true) or it might look bad if you didn't stay in the job too long (especially if you left other jobs quickly too).
    – NotThatGuy
    Oct 16 '20 at 11:48
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Your manager has his own best interest at heart, not yours. So when it is about losing your job, following the manager's advice without checking it very carefully is never a good idea.

Here's a possibility: Your manager doesn't like you and wants to get rid of you. All his talks with HR are just made up, and he can't lay you off at all. But if he convinces it to resign, then he is rid of you. How sure are you that this isn't happening?

But resigning is almost always a bad idea. The only situation where you would resign is if you forced to, like you were caught stealing things and have been given the choice between resigning or having police involved.

I don't accept the "leave in good standing" argument at all. People are in good standing or they are not. Resigning doesn't put you in good standing, but it can remove you from being in good standing, depending on the situation. And being laid off doesn't change your standing. So resigning is never better and sometimes worse in that respect.

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  • The question makes clear that the talks with HR are not "just made up." Oct 16 '20 at 20:06
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Your manager is at least right that resigning rather than being terminated will look better for you in the future. Jobs may ask whether you've been fired from a position in the last x years, and whether or not the manager actually gives you a "good" recommendation, he'll at least be able to confirm you left in good standing if you resign instead. On the other hand, generally unemployment benefits are better for people who are fired or laid off rather than leave on their own, but you should check your local jurisdiction to see. Even if you won't be able to get unemployment if you resign, being fired may make your life more difficult in the future, so unless you need the money you should strongly consider taking the offer to resign.

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    The author should verify if they will be eligible for unemployment benefits if they resign from the university. There are to many unknown factors with regards to that fact, since the author is working for a university, many are funded by the state themselves. A proper determination cannot be made with regards to that fact without more information
    – Donald
    Oct 16 '20 at 11:18

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