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I was one of the first employees in the company. My boss (the founder) and I are close. Until two months ago, I'd enjoyed working there but due to changes in the working culture and team structure (which were done by my boss), now I do not. I do not see the situation improving in the near future.

Recently, I was offered a new opportunity and I want to accept it. If I resign, I would be asked for the reason. I do not want to give the actual reason as there is a possibility that it could jeopardize the relationship I have with the company and my boss.

Should I lie about my resignation? I was planning to say that I will need to take some months off to look after my family. But, since the industry is very niche, it would be possible for my boss to find out about my new job later on.

Edit: Just to give you more context I am with the company for only a year now. But situation has changed dramatically and I do not see myself working here.

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    "Should I lie [anything]" - NO. Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 16:16
  • 51
    @JoelEtherton, keeping negative opinions to yourself is part of everyday life.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 5:22
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    @TigerGuy: Omission or being vague is not lying. Joel is specifically focusing on lies, not just anything short of the entire truth.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 10:24
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    @TigerGuy: keeping your mouth shut and lying are very different things. If OP doesn't want to share it's simpler to say "It would be unprofessional to share those details." Lying is always a bad idea. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 14:38
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    Does this answer your question? How much should I say in an exit interview? Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 23:16

13 Answers 13

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There are two sensible options if asked why you are resigning:

  1. "That's personal, I prefer not to say".
  2. "The new opportunity is a better fit for my career goals" (or something similarly anodyne) - and then refuse to elaborate further.

This avoids direct lying while not saying anything which might offend your current employer.

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    Unless such a perfunctory response and refusal to elaborate is itself offensive.
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 16:52
  • An employer has no right to be offended by someone saying "stuff outside my work is none of your business". Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 16:54
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    It doesn't mean they won't in fact be offended, whether they have the right to be or not.
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 17:10
  • @Steve yeah. That is the reason why I wanted to tell comfortable lie that has almost no chance of offending my boss but if he found out later on, my reputation could be damaged. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 17:41
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    @UnknownUnknown Not creating a new answer, as this is more interpersonal advice than workplace advice, but if your friend (the boss) is offended by the fact that you would like to work in a different environment to the point that it damages your personal relationship with him, then he's probably not the kind of friend you want to keep around anyway. If he's harmful enough that you're worried about him retaliating from the personal grievance, then you need to change your strategy from trying to preserve the friendship to trying to protect yourself. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 19:46
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Why lie? Don't lie.

Tell them you're leaving to pursue new opportunities, which is the truth.

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    Or better opportunities
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 11:30
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You can tell the truth, and still keep a good business relationship with your boss.

There are 2 true facts (or 2 truths):

  1. First Fact: You don't like the new work culture, and team structures at your current company.
  2. Second Fact: You decide to join a new company to pursue an opportunity that fits your career goals better.

So, you can tell the boss the reason you quit is based on the Second Fact above. Your reason to quit can be very general and abstract as that. It does not have to be specific or in great details.

You don't have to mention the First Fact to anyone, and that will keep a good business relationship with your current boss.

Most bosses don't take it personally when their employees quit and move on to other companies for better salaries, benefits, work-life balance, etc...

We all know that the fact is that the majority of the workers don't work for 1 company for their whole life. It is the nature of business.

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You can lie, which will make your boss feel better and you feel worse (for lying), or you can be constructive, and tell them that you're leaving because the new working culture and team structure don't fit with your ideals.

Yes - it will turn into a conversation. But it's one that you and your boss need to have. If they don't know how bad the issue is, they're not going to fix it, and they may lose more people in the near future because they're not addressing issues that need to be addressed.

Might it damage your relationship with them? Maybe. But if other people start leaving for similar reasons, and they ask you the question directly, then they may realize you lied in your exit interview, and that you didn't share information with them that could have saved them other staff losses.

All this is speculation, of course; we can't tell you what to do, and we can't predict the future.

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    Might it damage your relationship with them? Maybe. – … and if it does: Was the relationship really worth keeping? Good relationships can survive constructive criticism.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 13:15
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I'm going to take a different tactic from the answers here and say you should be wholly truthful (and not give a non-answer like "I found a different/better opportunity"). But if you want to go this route, be very careful with how you word your conversation.

The reason I say this is because you said you and your boss are close and you would like to remain that way, and your boss is the CEO and founder of the company. If you care about him, you should want his business to succeed, and part of the business succeeding is being able to retain good people. Therefore, you should feel, personally (and not professionally), that you have the responsibility to tell him as much of the truth as you can to help him not implode his business.

However, once again, it's very important how you say it. Here are a few tips:

  1. You don't want to assign blame; rather than saying "You did X and I hate it", you can say "I noticed X was occurring, and I found it uncomfortable because Y. You may want to reconsider X". Focus on the problems, not the people.

  2. Be as specific as possible about the things you don't like; for example, you mention the company culture. Rather than saying "the company culture has changed and I don't like it", say something like "When I joined the company, we used to have a lot of parties and company outings, now all we do is work, work, work, and I don't feel as connected to my coworkers; I valued that experience and I don't have it anymore", or perhaps the inverse: "When I joined the company, I could just work and then go home in the evening, now I feel obligated to attend all sorts of company events after work that I'm not comfortable with".

  3. If you are refuted, don't take it personally or start an argument. If you say "I don't like X because Y" and your boss says "I think X is a good idea because Z", just drop it. Don't try to argue, it's not your place. You made your point, your point was not accepted, move on, don't argue. It's about providing feedback and trying to help, not being right and making him do things your way. At the end of the day, he's the CEO, not you.

It's not conducive to a successful business to receive no feedback, just as it's not conducive to a successful interview to receive no feedback (yet companies do this all the time). If you don't care about the business or the people in it, then you can give a non-answer and just leave on as amicable terms as possible as other answers suggest, but if you actually do care and want to help make things better, and you have that sort of relationship with the CEO where you can make those suggestions without hurt feelings, then I say go ahead and do it.

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  • Might also be worth keeping in mind that your tastes might not be universal. If your boss thinks something's a good idea and you don't, maybe the boss is right: the boss's goal is presumably not to have you specifically as an employee.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 22:45
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    I upvoted this answer because its definition of truth is actually matches what most people actually consider the honest and real truth: the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I find it fascinating that so many people are advising (or upvoting) the OP to "tell the truth", but in the same breath are advising them to evade the truth. That's not really truth, and it's concerning that so many people on Stack Exchange apparently think it is. Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 0:42
  • @wizzwizz4 That's why I included point 3. If you say something and your boss refutes it, don't bother trying to change his mind. He's the boss, at the end of the day.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 14:41
  • @RockPaperLz-MaskitorCasket In normal circumstances I'd agree with the other answers posted; the thing that is different about OP's situation is that he has a friendly relationship with his boss, who is also the CEO. Except for that, the other answers are right: there is no benefit for you for helping your ex-company, but the more you say the more it can get you in trouble in ways described in other answers.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 14:43
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Should I lie about my resignation?

No, lying is rarely a good idea. Getting a new job is going to jeapordise your relationship with your boss and the company. Lying about it just gives you a reputation for dishonesty if found out.

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  • I would prefer to not jeopardize my relationship if possible. Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 14:24
  • @UnknownUnknown: It's not. Commented Aug 14, 2022 at 20:14
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    Your relationship is company employee, obviously it will change when you get another job. If you want to remain an employee then that is different
    – Kilisi
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 0:34
  • Lying is quite often a good idea. This is one of those times.
    – Ian Parry
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 6:22
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Taking a bit of a different perspective on this. This really sounds more like a professional relationship issue rather than an issue about how forth coming you should be about the reasons behind your resignation.

I would start with having an honest conversation with your boss/founder. It sounds like you have a good relationship with them and a discussion with them would do a lot more than creating a white lie about your reason for leaving. I feel statements are good way to approach these situations. The changes in company culture can make you feel like the position is no longer a good fit while the changes are still the right thing for the founder to do. Both things can be true, for example lots of people enjoy startup culture and leave when the company becomes large/successful. That doesn't mean a company should strive to be a 3 person startup forever, nor that people should stick around a company they no longer a good fit for.

If you're goal is to keep your relationship with the founder, which it seems like it is then having a conversation is far more likely to keep the door open in the future. A lie even a white lie is something you will have to keep up with and will create a break in your relationship in the long run. I would also say that giving no answer is also likely to harm your relationship albeit less than a lie about taking time off to care for sick family members, which is likely to be fatal to your relationship.

My advice would be different if you're concern was that the founder would try to sabotage your new position or career in general, at which point no answer is a much better solution. Still avoid lying it can only really hurt you.

A note on the I feel statements, I feel like these work just as well in work environments but most articles on them target personal relationships. Here is an article that explains the thought process in greater detail.

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IMHO, you shouldn`t volunteer any information on the exit interview that can, in any way, harm you future carrier prospects or personal relationships.

Every idea / issue can be addressed in a neutral wording.

You do not lie, just find the right words to frame your answers in the neutral tone.

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So you were closely involved with a young company, being one of the first employees a year ago. When companies grow, changes in work/team organization and culture tend to occur.

Some people do better/fit better with "young" or very small companies, while others are better with more "mature"/larger organizations. There's nothing wrong with that.

In case* the company grew "too old" for you to be productive and enjoy working there, there's also nothing wrong with letting the boss know that you were happy to work there in the very early start-up days, but now the company grows too mature/settled/... for you and you'll go for another opportunity.


*It's not clear from the question whether this is the case, but it is IMHO a possibility.

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If you are a close with your boss as your question suggests then why lie? I don't feel that lying is a part of any close relationship.

Instead you can either take one of the other suggestions and give the standard answer of "I found another opportunity that more closely aligns with my career goals", which is indeed factual but not really the truth or you can tell him the truth in a professional manner. Explain that you have appreciated and enjoyed working at the company but XYZ has changed over the last few months and your level of satisfaction has gone down. He may get offended or upset but then you now have the truth as to how "close" you actually are with him. He may also be surprised and question why you didn't approach him sooner so you may want to have an answer ready for that. Either way, I wouldn't make anything up since lying rarely gets you anywhere and he may appreciate the truth and be able to institute positive change in the company.

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You almost never have to give them a detailed reason. Just give them a very short non-specific but truthful reason.

Long reasons imply you are wanting to negotiate. Long reasons tend to be ones where you are trying to convince your self you are justified.

The company should always want to know the reason so they might learn. You as the leaving employee gain nothing by giving them a complete answer.

Because you don't have to give a detailed answer just use a generic phrase: I feel this new opportunity is better for my career. Then leave it at that.

The resignation letter is only to start the clock on the exit process.

They might want an exit interview. But most of that isn't required. They may have to meet with you to sign paperwork, and return company property. But that is it.

Giving a lie : wanting to take x months off to look after my family; can also lead to them making a counter offer. They will bring up family leave options. The could offer leave without pay, or a leave of absence, they could offer a temporary switch to part time. Giving them an excuse could lead to more questions which you have to keep living the lie.

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    "Long reasons imply you are wanting to negotiate." - This isn't always the case. I was assigned to a project with an impossible timeline, the complexity of the project, was simply to grand to complete on time. Had the project been started 2 years earlier then the schedule would have been realistic and could have been completed on time. The reason I was able to be frank as I was, due to the fact I was jumping fields within the same company, and had enough successes under my belt. I have no idea if the frank feedback was heard or not. It was an hour discussion about the topic.
    – Donald
    Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 19:51
  • If you tell them 5 things: pay, work life balance, training, location, benefits. They will comeback with the statement we can do 2 now, and two more within the next year. Honesty led to a negotiation. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 20:45
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You do not have to lie unless you want to for some reason. Even if you boss does not find out, you will always be worried about them finding out and such.

You do not have to address the changes you don't like. Young companies as they grow tend to change over time, and there is nothing wrong with you not liking the new culture or direction. I have left companies for the same reasons.

Quitting is hard to do when you have a friendship with your boss. Best advise is really to leave on good terms and don't really complain about anything. The classic "It's me, not you" lines. You want to leave room to come back incase the other company is not as good as you think. I have known co-workers who took off to another company and ended up coming back a year later.

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You must NEVER lie -- that should be a default moral position.

Whether you chose to disclose your reasons is a different matter that depends on situation. If you feel like keeping that to yourself - don't say; if you think they deserve to know - tell them.

Nothing hurts relationships more than lying.

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