I'm not sure that any good could come from this. But it seems false to pretend I'm leaving for other reasons. How should I handle this?

  • Related (not duplicate though some of the answers apply) Question: workplace.stackexchange.com/q/1775/16 Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 14:32
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    What is it you are hoping to achieve by telling your boss this? Do think it will cause him to change in the future? Or that the company will suddenly fire him in order to keep you around? This is bordereing on a should I quit my job question since you have no real problem to help you deal with. Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 14:37
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    Who's "them?" In the title of your question, using the plural to avoid a gendered pronoun creates some confusion. Do you mean "Should I tell my boss I'm leaving because of him or her?"
    – user1113
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 5:34

9 Answers 9


If ever there was a way to burn your bridges, this is it. What do you expect to gain, other than possibly a sense of catharsis?

You don't have to give any reason for leaving, so if you can't find a positive one then simply provide the usual cliches about unmissable opportunities. Criticising your employer for things which could have been remedied, if only you'd asked sensitively, will come across as churlish; criticising for things that could not be changed will come across as petulant. Neither will leave them thinking well of you, and a bad reputation will spread through their networks - which may well include your new peers and superiors. Criticising your boss personally to his face will do all of the above, an order of magnitude worse.

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    Thanks for telling it to me straight, this is useful to hear. I should find my catharsis elsewhere.
    – blazerr
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 11:50
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    The feeling of elation that may come from it is temporary and as everyone else has already pointed out, you never know when it could come back to bite you on the bum down the road. As tempting as it is (and we've all been tempted), it is simply not worth it.
    – Mike
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 13:46
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    I wonder why we have the Exit Interviews, when no one is expecting an honest response. Isn't it just a formality then? Sign some papers and leave, we shouldn't be having any conversations. Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 3:28
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    I must admit I'm sad to see this is voted as the top response. While I agree that a resolution to issues should usually be attempted prior to making the decision to leave, I think that hiding the truth or passing your boss off with clichés through fear of "burning your bridges" is bordering on being cowardly & irresponsible. If for catharsis, then don't bother, but if you care about bettering the workplace for everybody and are able to discuss it maturely with your boss, then do it. If they can't listen to & care about the concerns of their workers, perhaps they shouldn't be managing them.
    – Stuart
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 5:50
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    I had a friend in a similar situation. She worked one day at a job, and the manager was so bad she was forced to go in and resign the next day. They sat down and maturely discussed her reason for leaving and he acknowledged it, endeavouring to improve his management style. I suspect he valued her opinion, and I would hope that workplace improves as a result; I at least doubt anything got any worse. I can't help but feel that so many companies would treat their staff better and appreciate them more if more people could speak their mind (maturely), and not live in fear of a bad reference...
    – Stuart
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 6:01

The only answer you should EVER give for leaving is, "I feel this is the best move for my career at this time."

It may be entirely about working conditions, pay rate, policies, broken promises, or whatever else, but all of that really boils down to something that fits in the above statement.

You're not going to be the "Karmic Avenger." No one is going to have an epiphany because you left. No one is going to suddenly wake up and realize that they're the problem. They will go on, and if they truly are bad managers, they will end up with mediocre talent and their business will languish. You will find a job where you're appreciated and thrive.

Besides, if you do trash him in an exit interview, and he is a vindictive person, anyone you were friends with at your current job will suffer because he can no longer touch you.

Hold your head high, shake his hand, thank him for the opportunities and experience, and go be happy in life.

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    I agree with your sentiment, but I'm not sure that's the only answer you can give. There are plenty of legitimate, non-objectionable reasons to leave a job, such as a career change, industry change, relocation, something with fewer hours in order to fit in family/study/leisure time, an interesting project that you want to be a part of. If any of these apply to you, I think any reasonable employer would appreciate the specificity, as an overly-generic answer kind of screams "I'm not happy here and I need to get out." But you're right that getting into details regarding pay/conditions is unwise. Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 23:43
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    @CamJackson - I understand where you're coming from, but if you lay out specific reasons why you're leaving, you are opening up negotiations. The employer could say, "If I fix all that, will you stay, then?" Specifics should be communicated in performance reviews, not exit interviews. Leave things as open and positive as possible, especially if you're leaving friends behind in a bad environment. Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 23:47
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    On the other side of the coin, I was recruited once to replace a senior guy who had quit. By the time I had worked my notice period and moved, they had persuaded him to stay. That was awkward. Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 9:16
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    @WesleyLong The reason I brought it up in the first place is because my partner recently left her job in occupational rehab to go and be a statistician. When she resigned she told them that she loved the company, and was only leaving to pursue a different career. All they could really do was say that they were sorry to see her go, and if she ever wanted back in to the industry, she would likely walk back into her old job. Had she been vague, they likely would have had a lot of pressing questions anyway. Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 4:57
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    @CamJackson - Perhaps, but I have found that when you start "bending" your principles, nothing good comes of it. In my experience, it is far better to stick with your core values and principles and suffer the momentary "shock" from colleagues rather than to play the accommodationist and let people see how far you're willing to bend, and usually end up in conflict when you've bent too far. My experience only. Your mileage may vary. Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 16:00

I left a job recently due to company policies and not due to my boss though this is a similar situation. These policies were in place due to maybe four separate individuals. I wrote a three page document calmly and efficiently explaining my issues with the company which I gave them in an exit interview. I did this not to change the company for myself, but to maybe change it for the future. I did not belittle, begrudge, or condescend to anyone, nor did I single out any individual; just laid out company policies I disagreed with and my reasoning why.

The company was very respectful of this and though they admitted to me that most of it was not going to change, they did accept it as feedback and constructive criticism.

I was also very honest with everything. I explained that I knew it wasn't my company and it wasn't my decisions. I explained that I knew other companies would have items I didn't care for as well, but that there were too many of these issues at my current job for me to continue employment.

All in all, I left on very good terms. I know this because after a few months off, I was propositioned to come back to the same company who offered a few concessions to me.

As long as you stay on the side of honesty and don't come off like a disgruntled employee who is just griping about your job, I think you should consider expressing your feelings to your employer.

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    You left because you were not happy with policies... that is different than not getting along with your boss. I think you are right though the way to do this is with objective criticisms of specific issues rather than criticisms of the person. Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 19:02
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    big +1, calm explanations of the problem and your point of view is the best for everyone Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 10:39

Should I tell my boss I'm leaving because of them?

The answer here is unequivocally "no". Telling somebody above you that they are bad at their job is pointless. Especially when you are leaving.

The key question is

Should you tell other people at the company who care?

This is up in the air. Companies that provide exit interviews generally care about the quality of their people and they actually rely on your feedback to filter out bad managers. Have you ever spoken with your manager's manager? Do they know this is why you're leaving?

Without some feedback more people will be hired under your ex-manager and may suffer similar fates.

Side Note

Don't jeopardize your future references on the back of a bad manager. If you are leaving because of your manager, ensure that you have independent good feedback from other parts of the company. This could be other team members or people from other departments who backed the quality of your work.

Ideally you get written references from these people before you leave (such as a LinkedIn recommendation).

EDIT from comments below.

If you are leaving because of a manager, there's a reasonable chance they don't like you either. Regardless of what you tell HR during your departure, you want to build a fence around that manager to ensure that people don't accidentally talk to them.

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    Even if a company does exit interviews and takes the feedback the right way, it doesn't really help the person leaving and its a risk as you can't know for sure how they will take it. Best to do what so other answers say, leave it positive and vague.
    – Andy
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 1:26
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    That's why I added the side note about hedging. If you're leaving because of a boss you're basically treating that person like poison. It doesn't really matter how they feel, because you don't anyone in your circles to touch them. You don't want future employers to talk to that boss. You're getting references from other relevant co-workers. I mean, even if you don't say "I'm leaving because of person X", there's a chance they know this anyways, regardless of what you say in the exit interview. At that point "how they take it" is irrelevant.
    – Gates VP
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 2:47
  • I've seen companies that do exit interviews and the like not because they really want to change things base on feedback but because it's something that they feel they need to do to provide the appearance (if not the reality) of doing a good job. In such cases, honest feedback in an exit interview (or via any other means) can only do you harm, since they'll take any negative feedback as an indication that something's wrong with you. This isn't to say that you ought not provide feedback where it can be helpful, but that you should carefully evaluate whether it really will be helpful or not.
    – cjs
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 4:40

Allow me to offer a contrasting opinion. I absolutely value the feedback from my team members who are departing - especially when it comes to how I can be a better leader. Frankly, the exit interview is the time I expect my team members to be the most honest with me - especially about difficult topics.

Now, I've got very good relationships with my team members who have left and have spent their entire tenure fostering a culture where open and honest feedback is promoted. Did your boss do that? Can you provide constructive feedback? I can't answer that. I can't imagine many departures are that cordial.

But if my employee left and fed me a line of bullshit, I'd think far less of them (and provide less glowing recommendations) than if they provided open and honest feedback.

Worse, if I didn't know for sure why they left, I'd have to guess. If I guess wrong, then I may be "fixing" something that wasn't really an issue - only to make things worse for myself and those who remain.

So I would say to at least consider it. If you can provide open, honest, constructive feedback - and your boss will accept it, then go right ahead. If you have any doubts, err on the side of cordially fibbing through the exit interview.

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    It would be nice if everyone handled things in such a positive and useful way, but unfortunately most don't.
    – Andy
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 1:29
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    that's definitely the way to handle things. I did say what I think when I left because I thought it could be useful for them to know where they can improve.
    – user14433
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 8:57
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    I'm sad that this answer is the one with fewest points. If you tell him, you are being altruistic (i.e. good), since you give him the chance to know the truth and to improve. If you don't tell him, you are being egoistic (i.e. evil), since you hide the truth, preventing other people from improving their condition, in order not to risk yours. This shows that the vast majority of this site's users are evil, and I'm pretty sure they don't even realise it. Quite very sad.
    – o0'.
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 14:24
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    @lohoris - I wouldn't say evil, simply realistic. It will be uncommon that a departing employee will be unbiased enough to give good feedback and the boss will be open enough to take it.
    – Telastyn
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 14:39
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    Probably Telastyn isn't going to have people leaving because they can't get along with him, or if they do, he'll just understand that there can be two people of equal worth who just are better off apart. But the typical 'bad boss' is that way because he's insecure and/or immature, and is the boss likely to try and punish the peon who dared to question his ability. I agree with either not giving a reason, or just give the typical BS about 'this seems best for my career blah blah blah'. Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 19:26

I like Julia Hayward's answer, but here is a small argument for the other side: if I were your boss, I would certainly want to know that somebody found my leading so bad that he decided to leave the job because of it. It may trigger self-reflection resulting in me attempting to change my ways, and in the end, a better working atmosphere for others who stay in my team. Of course, there is no guarantee that I will actually attempt a change - I might dismiss your opinion as wrong - or that I will succeed if I attempt it.

But if I were the person leaving, I probably wouldn't take the risk in most cases. The chance of actually achieving a change depends a lot on the personality of the boss and their preferred ways to deal with the cognitive dissonance caused by you pointing out that for you, their leadership was badly executed. You may want to try it only if you have the impression that the boss is a person who welcomes criticism and doesn't overreact even when he/she judges yours to be unfounded.

But even in this last case, there comes the question why you didn't try to talk about your differences during your work for them, rather than to wait until leaving. If you judged your boss to be likely to listen to your criticism, you should have expressed it earlier and helped them change. If you are sure that they are the person who would just deny everything and hate you for having a bad opinion of them, then there is no sense in talking to them about it at all.

  • I feel that being honest in that situation without being arrogant, without blaming anyone, but only stating that you had a bad experience working at the company and that you weren't a good fit, will be relieving. Let the higher ups decide what to do. You owe the company to tell them that.
    – Spidey
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 19:51
  • Just do a google search for "Dale Carnegie" and "teach a pig to sing".
    – Ian
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 22:26
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    @Ian, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. You waste your time and you annoy the pig." is not Dale Carnegie to the best of my knowledge. The web seems to suggest it's Robert Heinlein. Still a good point regardless.
    – jmac
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 2:19
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    I'd assumed the OP had either tried talking about his difficulty with the boss, or realised such a conversation would be futile because positions were too entrenched. A boss who was open to self-improvement might also have seen the problems coming and tried to find a remedy himself. Then again, if the OP suddenly announces out of the blue that he's quitting, that in itself may be pretty hard to recover from. Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 9:21
  • @JuliaHayward sometimes people will, out of fear, stay in unpleasant conditions until they have taken the decision to run away, and then suddenly run away as fast as they can. This is usually not the most constructive behavior, but it happens all the time. I have done it too (not on the job), I have observed it in others. So your assumption will not always be true. Especially if the person thinks that they have to tell the boss their negative opinion now, it sounds as if the boss doesn't already know it from a previous talk. But if your assumption is true, I agree there is no need to talk.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 13:54

There is no need to explain things which are no longer necessary. Since you are leaving your job, thank your boss and colleagues for their support and help. You never know you may need their assistance in future. Must remember that the needs of any boss can change as the business climate does, and the good rapport you once had with your boss will give you future benefits.


When leaving a job I think that it is not fair to be dishonest and avoid the real reason why you made the decision to resign. For example if you are asked to to complete paper work during your shift and your employer has not provided time for you to complete it during your shift then they are being dishonest. If your employer will not accommodate you with scheduling, but makes accommodations for others.

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    You don’t need to be fair to your ex-boss. He’s your ex-boss, not your boss.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 16:38

There are lots of good answers here explaining why not to do it. In some cases, it will help the company you're leaving, but it's unlikely to help you personally and may well hurt you.

If you feel like you need to do something, my advice is to write a letter on your home system explaining why your boss is such a problem. Spend some time on it. Once you have it finished, leave it in your system so you can reread it now and then. (Alternatively, you can delete it, but that dilutes the effect for me.) Never send it to anyone and never show it to anyone. In my experience, that takes care of the emotional reaction well enough, and letting anyone else see it is much more likely to hurt you than help you.

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