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Background: I've been working a few paygrades above what I'm paid for about 15 months now, and made significant contributions for my team and my division (i.e. stepped in for a drunken manager and sales engineer when they nearly botched a $2,000,000 contract due to talking like used car salesmen, and saved the contract, even though I'm not a sales engineer and didn't get any commission;

I also overhauled a large piece of our main tech we sell to customers to be "Docker-ready", trained a few employees in its use to "spread the knowledge", significantly benefited the company, and automated a lot of our products and processes).

My boss decided to finally "promote" me to "senior engineer", but told me I'd basically have to work my butt off for another six months (i.e. "we like to test people in the new role"). I get all the new work and responsibility, but no new title or pay. I told my boss "the company already got three times that trial period the past 15 months: time to 'buy WinRar.exe' and the time is now to provide the remuneration adjustment). My boss declined.

After taking some time to think on it, I resigned yesterday, so my last day of work is Jan. 6th, i.e. my notice period occurs over the holiday break). I also enabled a "publish my new job information" option on LinkedIn so my new job (was able to line one up with a cloud services provider rapidly) was announced to my colleagues, and all the people I trained have jumped ship, without my deliberate influence or communications.


Problem: my employer is bad-mouthing me, and my boss keeps sending e-mails to teams outright stating that I've "deliberately sabotaged the division for personal gain". Most people I speak with messaged me on Slack and IRC, and noted that they trust my decision and believe I had good reasons for leaving (even though it means products will have to be shut down and layoffs will be a certainty by Feb. 2021).

Also, the company is making me work (oddly) during my notice period, though I generally ignore most e-mails on vacation days, rather than just paying my "garden leave to go away". They're also trying to extend my notice period another two weeks (due to the holidays) and another eight weeks due to "fiduciary duties" (trying to get me to sign paperwork I refuse to sign, since they will only provide the papers in-person, and not via e-mail, for some odd/nefarious reason).


While the company has a "final farewell/email" policy for my last day, there's nothing stopping my from e-mailing teams now (while I still have e-mail access) and informing them that my resignation was due to a dispute between me and my boss, and not a lack of consideration for my colleagues and teams I helped. Should I send a pre-emptive "farewell, and here's my reasons (because my boss is unethical)" e-mail to the teams that will be impacted in the new year? There are several people my boss is bad-mouthing me to, and I don't want to lose their respect (some of them even provided references for me in the past)?

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    Does this answer your question? How to handle when you are the target of gossip? – gnat Dec 25 '20 at 2:43
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    This is very long and contains a lot of unnecessary detail that will not be of relevance to anyone else. What is meant by "time to 'buy WinRar.exe?" – Ben Crowell Dec 25 '20 at 14:42
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    @BenCrowell - WinRar is a software program that most people run as freeware (with nag screens) for years on end. OP is opining that they've had more than enough time to decide whether to "buy" him or not. – Richard Dec 25 '20 at 14:52
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    OP's situation appears strikingly similar to the one in this previous question. – Daniel Hatton Dec 26 '20 at 21:51
  • @Tucci en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation#Truth? – user2284570 Dec 27 '20 at 10:40
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they will only provide the papers in-person, and not via e-mail, for some odd/nefarious reason).

It doesn't matter. When they give it to you, just say that you need your lawyer to review it.

And of course, do not sign it. Do not sign anything. Also, refuse any extension and refuse any exit interview.

so my new job (was able to line one up with a cloud services provider rapidly) was announced to my colleagues

In the future, do not announce the name of your future employer to your current employer.

Should I send a pre-emptive "farewell, and here's my reasons

Send a positive farewell. Do not address the allegations. Print them out for your personal records, in case he escalates, but do not defend yourself. Do not justify yourself. Stay classy. If you want to maintain a great reputation among your former colleagues, that's the proper way to do it.

And in that farewell message, thanks to Lawmowerman for the great suggestion, "Recount the things that teams/colleagues did well while you worked there. If you accurately identify good behavior, then that builds your professional credibility and helps the folks who get a +1, which will at least help keep them on your good side for future networking opportunities."

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    I would go a bit further than that and recount the things that teams/colleagues did well while you worked there. If you accurately identify good behavior, then that builds your professional credibility and helps the folks who get a +1, which will at least help keep them on your good side for future networking opportunities. Also, they are more likely to correct FUD spread by your ex-boss. – Lawnmower Man Dec 25 '20 at 21:44
  • @LawnmowerMan, That's an awesome suggestion! I've just incorporated it into my answer. Someone writing such a farewell demonstrates that they're operating at a completely different level. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 26 '20 at 10:48
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    I suspect OP's coworkers understand the frustrations of the OP that led him to leave. Employees know whether they are valued or not. I'm sure the other employees are thinking "good for them!" and recognize that the boss is just doing what they've always done and blamed everyone but the culpable parties. Congrats on getting out of a toxic environment. – David Schwartz Dec 27 '20 at 4:40
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Should I send a pre-emptive "farewell, and here's my reasons (because my boss is unethical)" e-mail to the teams that will be impacted in the new year?

No. The people who know you and know your work already know the truth and won't be swayed by your boss' email.

The people who don't know you and don't know your work won't be swayed by your email.

At the end of the day, you owe nothing to anyone but yourself. In 5 years you'll have long forgotten this experience and the people will have long forgotten you.

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    As user Stephan Branczyk points out in his answer, do send a positive farewell note. Remember that the more professional that you behave, the worse you boss looks. – MaxW Dec 25 '20 at 16:29
  • Sending a positive farewell email is a personal choice. Would I? Probably not. If I'm leaving then the people I'm close to already know it and I've already had conversations with them. As for everyone else, there's nothing to be gained or lost by doing it or not doing it. – joeqwerty Dec 25 '20 at 17:02
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    @joeqwerty "Goodbye everyone! I am moving on to new opportunities. I am very proud of project X, Y and Z we did here." is a positive farewell email that doesn't look like sour grapes, tells the truth (about being proud of the OP's accomplishments), does a bit of bragging (mentioning things you did that had high value) placing a purely positive version of your time there in everyone's minds. What is the downside? – Yakk Dec 25 '20 at 21:04
  • I didn't say there was a downside. I said that it's a personal choice. You do you and I'll do me. – joeqwerty Dec 25 '20 at 21:52
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    @Yakk, I think Lawnmower Man nailed it in his comment to my answer. Do not use this opportunity to brag about your accomplishments (or your projects), use that farewell as an opportunity to brag about others, and the help they've given you along the way. Be truthful and sincere. Do not use this to defend yourself (even if only indirectly). Doing that would be very transparent. Besides, people don't really care about your accomplishments, but they will definitely care about the message if it includes them in some way and recognizes some of their contributions. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 26 '20 at 11:02
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Talk to a lawyer and/or union representative ASAP.

I'm not familiar with Canadian law, but what your boss does might cross into libel or other types of defamation. It might also be actionable on other grounds. A letter from a lawyer can also make THE COMPANY send a retraction of those accusations to everyone, which is a million times more valuable than anything you could possibly write.

Additionally, you want that lawyer to talk about those notices and paperwork they're trying to push on you.

What you are seing is highly, highly unprofessional behaviour from the boss. Something that should get him fired. That's none of your business, though. Getting him to stop and stay behind the line is, however, before he gets any ideas of escalating this further.

You do not want to write that farewell notice. joeqwerty already summed it up well. No matter what you write, it cannot be in your favour, and can possibly be used against you.

If you have a small number of people whom you feel you need to explain anything to, don't do it in writing. Invite them to lunch, if possible (due to Corona) and explain face-to-face. If not possible, at least in a phone call. Make it more personal and less formal and official. Your farewell letter should be positive, not accuse anyone or put anyone in bad light. Not sure about the customs in Canada, but here in Europe the proper way to express something negative in a farewell notice is to not mention it. If you want to say that your boss was awful, then you thank your colleagues and mention the interesting clients you got to work with and praise upper management for their vision and leadership or whatever, and leave the boss out. That way, you didn't say anything negative, put nothing in writing anyone could use against you, but the message is very, very clear.

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    Why bother with a lawyer - will cost you money and probably for little gain. – Ed Heal Dec 25 '20 at 23:39
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    If you have legal insurance or are a union member, a lawyer consultation can be for free. – Tom Dec 26 '20 at 0:00
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    I'd rather spend an hour with a lawyer and have the issue solved than ten hours running around trying to manage it myself. But hey, that's just me. YMMV. – Tom Dec 26 '20 at 1:09
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    Talking to a lawyer is usually not free, but in a case like this where a former employer (or boss) may be able to do REAL damage to you and your career, expert advice may be VERY helpful. You don't have to ACT on that advice, necessarily, but you will almost certainly want to HEAR it. Looking at it from the opposite side, NOT receiving a lawyer's advice in a timely manner may, in fact, allow you to be blindsided by something with severe negative consequences. – Forbin Dec 26 '20 at 22:18
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    @StephanBranczyk The boss is defaming him in writing - he is putting those things into e-mails. And one of the things a good lawyer can tell you is if it's worth going after this or not. – Tom Dec 29 '20 at 10:01
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Talk to HR. Make it clear that

a) You get emails from the team where the team expresses understanding, and that while you won't actively push for a negative impression of the company in a team with an already high turnover rate, you also will not lie to you former team members

b) That you are going to take a lawyer if things don't go reasonable

HR is not your friend, but in this case HR is not your enemy either.

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    "HR is not your friend": no argument there. "but in this case also not your enemy": interesting, I've always seen them as the enemy of those that "rock the boat". – Tucci Dec 25 '20 at 1:44
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    What do you think this course of action will result in exactly? – mxyzplk Dec 25 '20 at 4:32
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    @Tucci you'd have to wonder in this engagement who is "rocking the boat", though – Erik Dec 25 '20 at 9:25
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    @mxyzplk-SEstopbeingevil I think HR will want to have this gone as silently as possible and talk to boss. – Sascha Dec 26 '20 at 10:23
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Should I send a pre-emptive "farewell, and here's my reasons

It is better to not put any reasons for leaving when the actual reason is your boss/company. This won't do much good. As Stephan said, a positive generic feedback is the best option.

However, if you want to convey your colleges of your contributions to the company, you can highlight some of the things you have done in the company and describe how you enjoyed it or learned from it or thank someone for it or how you'll always remember it, etc... Keep the farewell email in a positive note.

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    Plus, everyone at the shop already knows the boss is a jackass, so you're not adding anything new to the conversation, yet paying a price in reputation as a rumormonger yourself. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 26 '20 at 21:04
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You are overthinking this. Do not worry about some nonsense your boss is telling some random employee, it is meaningless. Do not send an email on the work network unless it is work related, and this is definitely not work related.

If you have a personal relationship with other employees and have their personal contact information, then send a personal email, or better yet talk to them in person to explain why you are leaving.

Obviously, you should not sign anything and giving notice is just a courtesy. If they were firing you, you would get no notice and probably be frog-marched out the door the same day.

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Regarding what your boss is doing: If you believe it rises to the standard of libel, then you should speak to a lawyer. If you do not, then leave it alone. Those who know you, know you, and those who don't, don't. If the people who were willing to offer you recommendations knew you properly, then they should still be willing to offer you references (this is where I'd draw the line at what is/is not worth speaking to a lawyer about: if you have doubt that anyone who liked you before will like you after reading this letter, then I'd talk to a lawyer). Otherwise, you have nothing to lose from this letter by your boss, it doesn't matter, just ignore it. The fact is, the people who know you in a positive light will see this badmouthing and know it's a lie and see that this will happen to them too, and they might jump ship with you; the company stands to lose a lot from this behaviour and not a lot to gain. Let them sink their own ship, you don't have to help them.

As for the extending of your notice period and so on, they need to have leverage on you in order to make you do something. So think about it from that perspective: What leverage do they have on you if you refuse to do the things they asked? Anything written in your currently-signed contract is not leverage; if they withhold your paycheque, or they withhold your severance, or they threaten to falsify your record of employment with a termination, that's all stuff you can sue them over, and you definitely should. But none of that is leverage. If they threaten any of that stuff (or anything similar), you should talk to a lawyer immediately and begin legal action. If they have no leverage, then screw them, tell them to shove their paperwork and you're signing nothing, thanks and goodbye.

Where they can build leverage (and this is something a FAANG company has done to me in the past, not going to name which one but they are one of the 5 FAANG companies, so it does happen) is to promise you additional benefits for doing what they want, and withhold those benefits if you don't. For example, they'll pay your usual severance if you don't sign those documents, but they'll give you double severance if you do (and you adhere to them). If your employer does that, then you have to determine for yourself, is doing this extra stuff worth the extra bonus you'll get, and that's a personal choice.

As for the final address letter:

  • Shout out the people you liked
  • Shout out your team as a whole for "being awesome" or "great to work with" or however you'd like to phrase it
  • (If you feel comfortable, not necessary) Provide a personal contact email or LinkedIn profile or what have you in case some of your coworkers want to keep in touch after you're gone

That's all I'd put in. Don't try to "clear the record" or what have you, it's not worth the fight, and your contract probably has some kind of anti-defamation clause in it and you don't want to give your employer a legal reason to countersue you in case you decide to sue them for whatever reason based on their actions.

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Rules of thumb when serving your notice: :)

  1. HR is not your friend.
  2. Do not sign anything, unless you get a clear and substantial consideration upfront
  3. Anyone that knows you will continue to know you as you are and no defamatory emails will sway them

If you can, save boss`s badmouthing emails and talk to a employment lawyer for potential defamation of character

And most important, stay cool, congrats on new position and keep us posted if you can

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