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May my boss legally forbid me from telling anyone goodbye before I leave the company?

Working as a manager, I gave two weeks' notice in writing yesterday. Though I put it to her in a very different way, I am leaving because my boss doesn't treat people ethically and in the long run it's going to be bigger trouble which I want no part of. Even so, out of consideration for the impact my leaving will have on my team and clients and the big project the company is working on, I consulted my boss informally about my exact last date of work before submitting in writing. She then told me they would write the announcement themselves and send it after I had left. Don't say anything to anybody.

I said I didn't understand and gave reasons why I would want to say goodbye and why it would make sense for our specific business, too. She repeated firmly that the company lets people know if I am leaving and I do not.

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    you might want to ask the in the law substack. here in workplace, we usually treat with what you should do, not the legalside. My (non US-citizen) gut reaction is: Likely they can, though it's a dick move. But they can't controll what you do in private. So if you have anybody you want to keep contact too, write them after you left on Linkedin or the like.
    – Benjamin
    Jul 21 at 13:41
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    @VIR, Your boss' request is uncommon/strange. Perhaps, she or the company is afraid that if you tell your coworkers about your departure, some coworkers may also want to join your new company or just want to leave this company. So, after your final day, you can inform your close coworkers about your departure via private channels of communications : private emails, phones, LinkedIn, etc... Jul 21 at 18:25
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    Please add a location to this question. In countries with labor laws your company cannot touch you for things you do in private outside of company hours, but if you work in an at-will state, I guess your boss can pretty much do what they want.
    – nvoigt
    Jul 22 at 7:07
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    What are they going to do if you tell people you are leaving? Fire you?
    – Philipp
    Jul 22 at 14:23
  • Outside of workplace and workplace hours you can do as you want. What you do and who you talk to in your space and time is entirely up to you.
    – Dan K
    Jul 24 at 15:37
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Yes, they can.

There is nothing illegal about an employer asking an employee not to spread certain information to other employees. It's their company, not yours, so they can run it how they see fit within the bounds of the law. As long as you are an employee, and you still are until your last day, disobeying them is tantamount to insubordination and carries the same consequences as usual, including disciplinary action, terminating your employment early, or refusing to provide a reference for future employment.

Now, since you are on your way out anyway, maybe you don't care about those things. Since you are not going to be working there much longer and presumably have another job lined up, their leverage over you is certainly diminished. If telling your coworkers you are leaving is more important to you than maintaining your relationship with this employer, that is your decision to make.

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    How is this possibly the correct answer? I can see it being correct with a lot of modifiers (like "on company time" or "with company resources"), but as a blanket statement, what kind of dictatorship are you living in, that the employer can legally order you around that way? Could you add a location to this answer please?
    – nvoigt
    Jul 22 at 7:03
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    I believe the confusion comes from the Op not understanding who they arn‘t allowed to say goodbye to, it seems like it‘s customers and not their office buddies the OP shouldn’t be talking to. This would be perfectly normal in every business sense for an employer wanting to keep control of their own narrative.
    – morbo
    Jul 22 at 13:11
  • @nvoigt, United States, like the question title asks for.
    – Seth R
    Jul 22 at 13:27
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    Oh, sorry, I did not notice that. Well, everything is possible in the US I guess. That's why I wrote a comment and didn't vote :)
    – nvoigt
    Jul 22 at 14:17
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    This answer may even extend beyond employment (legally) depending on non-disclosure and proprietary information agreements. As with anything when the question of "legal" comes into play, OP should consult a lawyer for actual advice relative to their locale. Jul 22 at 14:21
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May my boss legally forbid me from telling anyone goodbye before I leave the company?

No. You have already resigned. The worst that they could do should you disobey their request is to terminate you before your notice period is up.

She repeated firmly that the company lets people know if I am leaving and I do not.

That's what they would like, but in reality there is nothing stopping you from speaking to anyone else either at the office or outside off the office.

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    I believe what the OP is asking is "Will there be consequences to informing people I'm leaving". You say "no" but then say they can use it to terminate the contract early which is a consequence I'm fairly sure the OP would rather avoid. Perhaps the answer is a "yes" instead? Jul 21 at 14:08
  • @LioElbammalf Legally forbid/order implies some sort of legal consequences for saying goodbye to OP's coworkers, which in the US is not the case.
    – sf02
    Jul 21 at 14:30
  • You first say, no, they cannot legally forbid OP from saying goodbye, but then say they can fire OP for doing so, which would be the normal consequence for disobeying an order from an employer. This answer contradicts itself.
    – Seth R
    Jul 21 at 14:34
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    Well, if there's 14 days notice and you say "goodbye" to your colleagues in the middle of the last week, you can be fired for that, but assuming you have a new job lined up this is just two days of unpaid holiday. Of course you are still employed after resigning, until the end of your notice period. It's just that "don't do that or you get fired" is not a very strong threat anymore.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 21 at 14:40
  • Thanks for considering, everybody.
    – VIR
    Jul 22 at 3:13
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Do as they say.

Once you have left and they have paid your final salary, then update linkedin and email all your friends / colleagues as you wish.

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On a practical level, you could tell close colleagues on the understanding that they keep it to themselves. It sounds like they are worried about you emailing everyone and letting the whole office know. So don't. Keep it discreet until you leave.

It's very hard to keep this kind of thing totally secret. If you're friends with any colleagues outside work, it's natural that you'll tell them or it'll slip out - I assume you are telling your family, friends you don't work with, etc. On a practical level you may have to arrange things for starting your new job, so keeping it totally secret is ridiculous. And within your current company, some people are going to have to take over your work, organise a replacement, handle security issues, or gather any company property you have, so they will have to know you are leaving. So most likely it will get out sooner or later, probably before you leave. You just don't want to be the one blamed for spreading it around the office.

They can certainly forbid you from sending an email on the company system. But they can't keep it totally secret. And if someone asks you if you're leaving, you may say "I'm not allowed to comment" but that basically gives it away.

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Yes, obviously.

(Also, this is very common.)

Work is pretty simple: you're being paid to do what you're told.

(That's the "horror of work" - it is what it is.)

If boss directly and clearly tells you "Do not tell people you are leaving", then do what boss says. (Like anything boss says.)

If you disobey the boss on this, they will very likely just march you out and simply withhold all your salary owing.

(What will you do in return? Sue them? Whatever: they win.)

To repeat: by the way, this is a completely common and normal thing. Many bosses/companies/teams want only the boss to announce departures. It's no big deal, and common.

One thought,

"I would want to say goodbye ..."

Why? It's not your company. You're not the boss. You're a paid employee - unfortunately paid to do what you're told. Why would you see that you have a "right" or something to "say goodbye to people"?

Just let it go, "do what you're told and take the money" for two weeks, and leave.

One more thought,

"Even so, out of consideration for the impact my leaving will have..."

This is an unbelievably bad idea. As stated a zillion times on this list, if you're resigning, SAY NOTHING other than politely handing in your notice, following the agreed timetable to the day. It's also really misguigded: as also stated a zillion times on this list, once you walk out nobody will even remember your name in five minutes; the conception that you're important to the team/clients/etc is really misguided.

Workers are a tool, used by companies, to make tens of millions for the company, while the worker gets a pittance and free sandwiches.

"Do what you're told and take the money" for two weeks, and leave.

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  • Note that once you are not employed anymore, you can say goodbye.
    – Maxime
    Jul 21 at 14:16
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    They can't withhold your salary. Except that you can get fired and not work or get paid for the rest of your notice period. Anything before that, you must get paid.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 21 at 14:43
  • This answer was ultimately helpful for prompting multiple people to specifically rule out their withholding my pay or something. Thanks for considering, everybody.
    – VIR
    Jul 22 at 3:13
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    Workers are also people. It's completely reasonable an employee may want to let other employees know they are leaving. These are people they may have spent several years getting to know. Jul 22 at 5:01
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    What will you do in return? Sue them? - Yes, and you would likely win.
    – Philipp
    Jul 22 at 14:25

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