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I joined my current company with a group of other people. We all came from a startup that had to close after a financing issue. It was a good deal all around: we didn't have to do interviews or search jobs or anything and the company gained a functional and cohesive group of 10+ very experienced workers to staff its R&D department.

The integration of our group has been... chaotic to say the least. We never felt quite at home and since we joined, project priorities got shuffled 10 times in a month, we lost 5 people already. Very recently my direct boss told me he was resigning too. I have been thinking whether I should stay or not, but fate decided for me when I was contacted last week by another company for a very interesting position.

From what I've seen from the previous departures, people leaving has been announced in very little groups and not widely to the 100+ person company. My boss is currently in his last week and only a few of us were told he would leave. Since nothing was announced publicly - I suspect to avoid a domino effect - he can't really say his goodbyes to everyone. As I am contemplating my own departure, I fear that I won't be able to do so either.

And it just doesn't sit well with me: I'm not leaving because I don't like the people there. I'm just leaving because I don't share the company's values. I wouldn't feel good leaving and not being able to tell all the people I know. I already plan to inform my closest coworkers anyway but that's as far as it can get. I don't want to make an announcement myself and act unprofessional or harm the company... but I don't feel good leaving and having people realize I'm not here anymore only when they try to reach out in the company chat.

How should I handle this?

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    What is keeping you from announcing it? Are you working in a country where that would be a reason to fire you (or in a country where not reason is needed to fire you)?
    – nvoigt
    Dec 13, 2022 at 13:56
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    This is an IPS question. Because you're gonna quit, so.... it's about personal relationships, not work.
    – Mazura
    Dec 14, 2022 at 3:36
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    I've been in this situation, and IMHO it belongs more here than IPS, but we are lacking the country and other details such as non-disclosure agreements etc as other comments point out. In my cas I lost contact with those people as I was specifically told no to tell anybody and leave without notice, as part of an agreement to get a specific leave status in my country, that the company wasn't supposed to make available..
    – Kaddath
    Dec 14, 2022 at 13:16
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    "This is an IPS question. Because you're gonna quit, so.... it's about personal relationships, not work." - I'm not convinced. OP wants to quit, and knows how to tell people this. What they are trying to navigate is politics with their employer, who apparently want hushed departures. How to discuss this issue with the employer, and who to tell to minimize collateral damage are in my view workplace issues, not strictly interpersonal.
    – marcelm
    Dec 14, 2022 at 14:55
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    Is there something that contractually prevents you from telling people around you that you're leaving?
    – njzk2
    Dec 14, 2022 at 18:26

8 Answers 8

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You're making a lot of assumptions here around how your notice period is going to go. You don't actually know anything yet.

Wait until you actually give notice and then talk to your boss/HR about who you can tell and when.

The worst case scenario is that you can't tell people until your final day. Would that really be so bad? Especially since you can make it clear that you were under strict orders not to announce it.

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    You are right that these are mostly assumptions. It happened exactly like that the last 5 times for the other people that left though. They were instructed not to send anything announcing their departure, including on their last day. I still have colleagues who don't know these people left, and it was 3 weeks ago. I know I would not take it super well if someone I have a good professional relationship with left without me knowning, and I only discovered it a couple of weeks later.
    – ereOn
    Dec 13, 2022 at 14:16
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    @Nelson Do you even have to "lawyer up"? I mean, realistically, it's not like OP is under an NDA that prevents them from announcing their resignation. It's just HR telling him that he can't. But he's also leaving the company. What are they going to do? Fire him? If OP already has their new job lined up, and they don't care about burning the bridge with their current employer (which given their dissatisfaction they likely don't), then there doesn't appear to be anything directly preventing them?
    – Doc
    Dec 14, 2022 at 2:59
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    "Wait until you actually give notice and then talk to your boss/HR about who you can tell and when." No, don't do that. Tell the people you want to tell. Tell your favorite people. Tell the coworkers who will be impacted. Then tell your boss. If your boss gives you instructions not to tell anyone, then you can just say that you've told a number of people already. Dec 14, 2022 at 5:29
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    @Stephan In what jurisdiction can an employer forbid the employee from privately telling other people that they're quitting? I mean if it's in your initial contract (would be a weird clause, but I guess possibly legal?) it doesn't matter when you tell them and if it's not they can't really do anything about it anyhow. And if they're that uptight about not telling other people, telling them "ups I already did" is going to burn bridges just as much.
    – Voo
    Dec 14, 2022 at 13:51
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    @Voo, It's an ego thing. The skip boss may be upset either way, but that person will be even more upset if the OP disregards a clearly given direct instruction after the fact. And just to be clear, I don't think the OP should email everyone, but if they're working on projects with others from other departments, or if they're very close to certain colleagues, I think the OP should tell them. Dec 14, 2022 at 14:08
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How can I keep a good relation with people when my employer doesn't want to announce my resignation?

There is no need to announce anything. You can privately reach out to all the people that you have a good relationship with that you value and tell them. The others will find out when/if the company makes an official announcement.

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    Very much this. If you don't have personal email addresses for those you want to keep in touch with, send them a note at their work address from your personal email and ask them to respond with/from their personal address for future contact. You can explain to them why you couldn't tell them earlier, apologize for the inconvenience and rudeness of it all, then offer to move on, keep in touch, be a good reference in any future job hunt they're doing, and keep them appraised of any new positions at your new employer.
    – FreeMan
    Dec 14, 2022 at 17:11
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There is nothing to feel sorry about.

The integration of our group has been... chaotic to say the least.

and

We never felt quite at home

and

we lost 5 persons already.

and

Very recently my direct boss told me he was resigning too.

Additionally,

I was contacted last week by another company for a very interesting position

So the path is simple: resign, go ahead with your life, leave the problems of this company in the hands of this company.

Also, if the company wants to keep things secret, then you can still bring some snacks on your last working day, to say goodbye.

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    +1 for a cake with Bye Bye written on it :)
    – Tom Sawyer
    Dec 13, 2022 at 19:18
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    Aww, you left and you didn't even tell me? From that company? You bet your ass. Try not to take it personal. ... "This is a sign!" Yeah... that they're going out of business.
    – Mazura
    Dec 14, 2022 at 3:34
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It sounds like you're in a difficult situation. Leaving a job can be a difficult and emotional experience, especially when you've formed close connections with your coworkers. In this situation, it may be best to speak with your boss and HR representative to discuss your departure and the best way to handle it. They may have guidelines in place for announcing departures and saying goodbye to coworkers. If not, you could suggest that you would like to have a meeting with your team to say goodbye and explain why you are leaving.

At the end of the day, it's important to be professional and respectful of your employer's wishes. However, you should also consider your own feelings and need to say goodbye to your coworkers in a way that feels right for you. It may be helpful to have a frank and open conversation with your boss and HR representative about your concerns and see if there is a way to address them.

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You already have a new job lined up - why do you care about what your soon-to-be-ex employer does or doesn't want?

Once you've given your notice there is practically nothing the company can or will do about your behaviour, unless it breaches your employment contract. It simply isn't worth their time and money to try to discipline or punish someone who's leaving, because that time and money is far better spent on finding a replacement. Even the pettiest manager can't get around that simple accounting.

In my (sadly personal) experience, workplaces that attempt to prevent employees knowing about resignations are run by incredibly bad management, who are trying to cover up their inherent failures to retain employees by imposing ridiculous policies like these. Not only do said policies never work, when they inevitably fail (because, y'know, people talk to each other) they end up making such management look even weaker. Good on you for getting out of such a toxic environment!

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  • Always seemed like such a silly thing to me. So Bob can't tell anyone he's leaving on Friday and somehow nobody will notice when he doesn't come in on Monday? Dec 16, 2022 at 0:42
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    @RetiredNinja Exactly. It's the kind of policy put in place by people who don't think any further than the ends of their noses. "Oh no employees are going to panic because others are leaving", imagine how much more they'll panic when they realise they're being "managed" by people this clueless.
    – Ian Kemp
    Dec 16, 2022 at 1:16
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This is the rare situation where I wouldn't comply. I would go ahead and send the goodbye email to all@ or whatever.


Now, this isn't strictly professional! For me, the insubordination is dwarfed by the stunning unprofessionalism of a company denying its employees the natural human courtesy of a friendly farewell; but my sense of what's right is no guarantee of a good outcome. So let's talk about the risks. What's the worst that could happen?

  1. Some higher-up might get annoyed and question you about it. That's unpleasant. I might say "I didn't think it was right to just disappear." (I might add, since they are being an asshole, "You understand.")

  2. Slightly worse is if someone gets really mad and makes a scene. You can make this unlikely by using some tact and kindness in the message itself. I would go so far as to

    • avoid going into my reasons for leaving
    • avoid saying anything negative (especially anything sarcastic) about the employer
    • thank someone for something

    If I'm nice, anyone who raises a fuss about this will look positively unhinged. That's only a social constraint, but it's normally enough. Of course, if the higher-ups at your company really are unhinged, watch out.

  3. They might be so ticked off as to fire you, even as you're walking out the door. You might care, or not.

  4. Something else to watch out for: when you give notice, someone may ask you not to tell anyone you're leaving, intending to extract a "yes" from you. You have to either fold, or be willing to say "I'm going to at least tell people". You don't want "two-faced" to be the last impression you leave.

  5. If any of your colleagues later end up at the same company as you, it's not impossible that your old employer, somehow still angry about your last-day email, could sue you for poaching them (which you may have promised not to do in an employment contract).

    ...Or umpteen other ways an ex-employer with a grudge might "go after you". Is a grudge really that likely? I don't know.

    Obviously, regarding any contractual obligations, ask a lawyer.

  6. Generally speaking: people might remember this.

    They may remember it favorably or unfavorably. To some it might seem like taking a torch to the place on the way out. It could affect whether you can use them as references in the future.

    To others it might seem brave. It might stick with them for a long time. It might affect how they see themselves and work, and the self-respect they're entitled to.

In case it helps: Whatever you decide to do, your employer's policy here is extreme and disrespectful. In my best ethical judgment, you're absolutely entitled to say goodbye. Please accept my congratulations on not working there anymore, and best wishes for the future.

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  • If it's only a small team, then why not talk to them, rather than sending out an email?
    – Simon B
    Dec 15, 2022 at 21:23
  • I think five is a risk either way. The employer (if very vindictive) could accuse you of having reached out later, whether or not you send email. Dec 16, 2022 at 9:52
  • Simon, the question says, "I wouldn't feel good leaving and not being able to tell all the people I know. I already plan to inform my closest coworkers anyway[.]" Dec 16, 2022 at 20:24
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I've noticed if a newscaster leaves a TV station, they rarely announce it (except for retirements of longstanding figures), you just one day realize they aren't there anymore. In a similar manner, people will figure out you are gone.

I think everybody will understand. If you want, you can use LinkedIn (if applicable in your country) to keep up with them. I try to be open to remaining friends with former colleagues, but with a very few exceptions, it rarely happens. It's just part of life to "move on".

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    A business is not a comedy-show. Most often, there are hand-over and take-over activities going on when someone leaves the company.
    – virolino
    Dec 13, 2022 at 14:32
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    @virolino -- I'm assuming that such hand-over and take-over tasks would be accounted for. Of course, the boss can't have it both ways: If you need to do the hand-over and take-over tasks, people will find out. If you really want to keep it secret, by definition, there won't be hand-over tasks. Dec 13, 2022 at 14:34
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    Usually there are contracts regarding this issue. And breaking the contract for the sake of secrecy is a very bad decision. And why would one want to leave cowardly, without even say good-bye? OP clearly stated that he does not leave because of the people.
    – virolino
    Dec 13, 2022 at 14:38
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    LinkedIn is a good suggestion. Connect with all the co-workers before resignation (if not already connected). Send private messages around the last day and explain.
    – Theodore
    Dec 15, 2022 at 15:52
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It sounds like you have a difficult situation on your hands. While it's understandable that you want to be able to say goodbye to your coworkers and let them know why you're leaving, it's also important to be respectful of your company's decisions and not do anything that could be seen as unprofessional or harmful to the company.

One possible approach could be to talk to your manager or HR representative about your concerns and see if they can help facilitate some sort of group goodbye or announcement. This way, you can let your coworkers know that you're leaving and why, while still being respectful of the company's wishes.

Another option could be to reach out to your coworkers individually and let them know that you're leaving and why. This way, you can say your goodbyes and let them know why you're leaving without making a public announcement.

Ultimately, the best approach will depend on your specific situation and the relationships you have with your coworkers. It's important to consider the potential consequences of any action you take and to try to find a solution that allows you to say your goodbyes while still being respectful of the company.

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