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I am a PhD working in a critical role in a fortune company. I have been with them for 5 years. The company invested a lot in my research, and the technology is finally taking off. We have projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, with deliverables in 2023. The components I am responsible for are critical for the project success.

Bosses knowing the risk I impose to the whole program, have been trying to find someone to work with me, to give continuation if I decide to leave, get sick, whatever. They have desperately tried to find someone for the last two years. They hired specialized recruitment companies. But they could not find anyone.

For this reason, they gave me tons of restricted stocks. To make sure I would stay until everything is delivered. We had several talks years ago, and I said that I was committed with the company. However, this year, I started considering the idea of moving abroad. I have personal reasons, but suffice it to say that it’s the best for my family (wife and son).

A couple of months ago I got the perfect job offer from a company in the country I want to go. It’s very hard for me to find a job that really makes sense given my specialization. I have not guarantee that I will find a similar opportunity again. I do not want to lose this opportunity, and my family will be penalized by waiting for a couple years until the first deliverables.

How do I leave my current job without trouble? I consulted a lawyer so I should not have any legal problem. But I have no idea what they will do when I give them notice. I feel sorry for them. But I think I should do what is best for my family. I do not care about losing the stocks. I just want to go.

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    Have you considered talking to your company about working remotely? That might work out best for everyone..
    – PeteCon
    Sep 23 '21 at 23:30
  • I need to be in the lab most of the time. It is impossible to do my job remotely. Sep 23 '21 at 23:32
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    Does this answer your question? How do I resign without burning bridges when I'm a critical staff member?
    – darkside
    Sep 23 '21 at 23:41
  • This answers part of it. I do not hope to resign without burning bridges. I already accepted that. What I am afraid of is that they may want to do something about it ? Like reach my new employee and try to make them fire me ? I am not sure . . . I just don't want trouble . . Sep 24 '21 at 1:15
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    I would agree with you. But unfortunately, the company of made of people. Maybe one of the “bosses” decide to retaliate in some manner, since I will leave a really bad situation for them to deal with. I can see the house of cards falling and people losing their jobs. Maybe I am exaggerating about their reaction. I don’t know. I never been in this situation. That’s why I am here asking for advice. Sep 24 '21 at 1:55
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But I have no idea what they will do when I give them notice.

This isn't your problem to solve or worry about.

I feel sorry for them.

Sympathy has no place here.

But I think I should do what is best for my family.

Rightly so.

You have no moral or ethical obligation to your employer beyond performing the work for which they pay you. This is the risk of being in business. This is their risk, not yours. This is their responsibility, not yours. Many businesses fail. They may ultimately be one of them. This is neither your fault nor your responsibility.

Do what's best for you and your family. Your employer would have no hesitation to terminate you if it suited them.

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    If they really think you are critical for those hundreds of millions, they’ll peel off a couple and give them to you while telling you you can work from your target country somehow (if they’re a “Fortune” they can jolly well spin up a lab there). But no one is really that critical, which is why they haven’t.
    – mxyzplk
    Sep 24 '21 at 0:06
  • The lab is not only hardware. I need supporting staff. To setup the whole R&D environment it takes years, and we spend tens of millions per year just to keep going. I cannot enter into specifics; I really want to be anonymous. We are talking about a company with 50k+emplyees. We are the leaders in our industry segment. Too many people know about our project. But one thing you are right. They should not lose all of the business. But the damage will be considerable. Sep 24 '21 at 1:12
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    @dranonymous i think you already know what to do. Talking about and furthering the drama is only wasting time. Put in your two week notice and take your family to your new country. Stop worrying about your old job already. After a few days without you they will get by. Sorry as important as you think you are ( which is fine to think ) people come and go in every industry every single day. People also win lotteries, die, and get sick. So do what you want to do already.
    – JonH
    Sep 24 '21 at 2:25
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    This is the risk of being in business - this is spot on. The OP says the company will earn hundreds of millions on projects they work on, and I imagine they're not paid hundreds of millions, hence the company is playing a high risk/high reward game by betting on a single person staying around to complete the projects. It's company's business how it manages risk, e.g. it can invest more money to figure out backup options, thus lowering the reward. Anyway, it's not the OP's game to play, they should optimize for the wellbeing of their family and their own.
    – Egor
    Sep 24 '21 at 2:38
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    Agree with all comments that say to go, and let me say it was incredibly foolish of the company to stake so much on one person, if that's truly the case, when they've apparently known for awhile that you were that critical. Terrible risk management. Politely but firmly resist all offers to stay or extend your notice. And congrats on the new offer and good luck!!
    – RC_23
    Sep 24 '21 at 6:24
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They have desperately tried to find someone for the last two years. They hired specialized recruitment companies. But they could not find anyone.

This doesn't really seem to match up with one of your comments. It makes it sound like your skillset is almost unique if they can't find a single person in two years of dedicated searching can't find someone else who can do what you do. But if that's the case, why do you think that you only have "limited value" to the new company, and that they wouldn't be willing to wait a bit longer to hire you?

If you're truly irreplaceable by your current company, and your skillset is that rare and unique, you're in a very powerful position to negotiate with both companies.

We have projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, with deliverables in 2023. The components I am responsible for are critical for the project success.

If you're the key person without whom it's possible to deliver these projects, then it's worth considering that while this might not be your dream job, if you play this right then there's a real prospect that it could be you last job. If they lose hundreds of millions of dollars because you leave, then they should be willing to pay you whatever you ask for - which could be enough (cash + stock options) for you to retire once the projects are delivered.

I would think very hard before throwing that away to join a company who thinks that you "have a limited value to them", who may be willing to withdraw a job offer rather than waiting a few weeks/months, and who may well decide after a few months that it's not working and let you go.

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  • I am not worth for the new company because I am not an asset yet. Just a promise. Besides, I am not exactly using the niche knowledge from my current employer. They are different industry segments. But the experience I had was the reason for them to offer me a job. Not everything is binary. Let me trace an analogy. Imagine you work with Boeing, you have a PhD in propulsion technology, Imagine you are the guy specialized in specific parts of propulsion systems, and you are developing something core for a new commercial solution. State of art, nothing similar in the industry. Sep 24 '21 at 13:36
  • (continuing) Imagine someone placed an order for some airplanes, where they want this specific technology. Now, you want to go work elsewhere. The other job is about propulsion technology. You will not be using (nor you could) the exact same solution you worked with Boeing. It's their IP. You are just a "propulsion engineer" for the new company. They sure value the fact that you have experience with the technologies you had. But you will still need to work your way up to be a key employee in their company, by producing some new IPs. Sep 24 '21 at 13:36
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You are incredibly naïve.

Firstly, you are not "critical"; nobody is. Your employer is only telling you this to make you feel special, which makes you want to continue working for said employer while making you feel guilty for ever thinking about leaving them. This is the oldest, most basic psychology trick in the book and you fell for it.

Secondly, there is no world in which they are unable to find a replacement for you in two whole years. You are not as special as they've allowed you to think you are, which means it's fundamentally impossible that someone equally as "special" as you (i.e. with the same skillset) doesn't exist in the city/state/country the company operates in. The truth is simple: they know they've got you with their cheap psychology trick and stock options, so they simply haven't bothered looking for a replacement.

Yes, your employer has been lying to you - deal with it. It's easier, cheaper and more cost-effective for them to lie and use cheap psychology on you than it is to find a replacement; from their viewpoint, it makes no sense not to lie. Almost certainly they're paying you below market value too, which means they'd have to pay more to replace you, which again disincentives them from doing so.

So what else has your employer been lying to you about? Almost certainly, the value of the projects you're working on, and/or their profitability. If these projects really are worth hundreds of millions of pounds, why is your employer not willing to pay the comparatively irrelevant thousands of pounds extra for the market-related salary that your replacement would demand? This phantom value is yet another psychological trick used to shackle you to your employer.

You're being taken advantage of in so many ways it's not funny. Get out. Go. Don't look back. Almost certainly this company will never succeed, the stock will never be worth anything, and moving on to something that actually makes you and your family happy is the best decision you could ever make.

Employers never do what is best for their employees. Employers always do what is best for their bottom line. Remember this and you will never be taken advantage of again.

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    Your first sentence is unnecessarily rude and your second paragraph is making a lot of probably false assumptions. Many, many employees have a bus factor of 1, this is particularly true in the case of PhDs working in very advanced technical roles: especially if they developed the technology themselves. Sure, the company would probably find a way to struggle through but the departure of one person can absolutely derail a project. Does this make it OP's problem? No. But I don't think you have the right to say they're wrong about their criticality. Sep 24 '21 at 9:13
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    No, it's forthright; straight talk; reality. The fact that you've chosen to interpret it as rude is your choice, not my problem.
    – Ian Kemp
    Sep 24 '21 at 9:28
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    @IanKemp and you're being rude again. You don't have enough information in the question to conclude that someone is being naive... You could perhaps say that they might be being naive but you can't conclude that they are being. There's a difference between being forthright and being straight up rude. The fact that you can't see the difference is absolutely your problem. Sep 24 '21 at 10:41
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    Let me clear some misconceptions. There are industrial segments that are very specific in nature (you won't find a degree in that area). The only way to be proficient on that subject is to be exposed. My company was very generous with me, in providing the right environment, the right mentorship, and financially supporting the research. Sep 24 '21 at 12:42
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    My salary is way above the market. I am not cheap. I am actually moving to a lower salary with the new job. The prospective employer does not see so much value in my because I am not a proven asset for them yet. They paid a lot of stuff for my relocation already, and have been very considerate with many of my requests. It's all about context and perspective. Sep 24 '21 at 12:43

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