49

Background

I work as a software engineer (direct hire) for a small B2B SAAS company. Like most of the folks at the company, I work remotely and primarily communicate via Slack, Jira comments, and Teams meetings.

To be frank, I don't have a boss per se. In the employment contract, I report to our CTO. But on a day-to-day basis, I work on one of our product teams and report to our team's lead dev and our product owner. However, our lead dev is overworked and can't pay sufficient attention to me or anyone/anything. This is one reason I'm quitting.

Also, this company does not have a full time HR head currently. They have two part time HR assistants who mostly help our CFO with compliance stuff. Only have had limited contact with them.

What has happened

So to officially announce my resignation, this past Friday I announced I was leaving, last day of work would be three weeks from that day, thank you for the chance to work here and learning opportunities, etc. This was done via a polite email addressed to our CTO, CTO's second-in-command, HR, product owner, and our team's lead dev.

And what has been the response? Absolutely nothing. Nobody has responded to the email. The co-workers with whom I meet with daily have not said a word. Maybe they just don't know what to say, but that's no excuse for HR/CTO to not respond, right?

So now I have no idea what to do. I'm continuing to work as normal for now, but with this issue nagging at the back of my mind. How would you recommend to proceed in this situation?

Additional details

  • Employment contract is at-will. I gave three weeks notice as courtesy.
  • I have little contact with our CTO. We're friendly; we just don't have much occasion to directly communicate
  • This isn't the first time I've sent an email which may have been ignored. There was a recent occasion where I was trying to get credentials for another dev, so I emailed CTO+CTO's second-in-command+dev lead. It was a brief "hey I'm not sure which of you gentlemen is the right person to ask, but could you please get this guy the proper auth, thanks" kind of email. No response. Also, not sure the guy actually got the credentials as a result of that email either.
  • Company is based in U.S., has about 60-100 employees, 20-50 contractors.

EDIT: How it turned out

On Wednesday of my final week, I rang up Sam (CTO) on the phone. I mentioned I sent him an email letting him know I'd be leaving. He replied "oh yeah, sorry, I assumed somebody else would respond." I asked him "how do I get through to HR since they didn't respond to that email?" He said he'd handle it. Later that day I got an email from HR saying "sorry to see you go, here's an exit interview form, and let's set up time for an exit interview."

In retrospect, I was not either disliked or purposefully ignored by anyone. Instead, people were overworked and putting out fires. Combine that with diffusion of responsibility and the lack of a structured hierarchy of direct report / manager, and it makes more sense.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – motosubatsu
    Jan 26, 2023 at 13:54
  • 4
    Cheers for coming back with an update. Hanlon’s Razor invariably applies; Never Attribute to Malice That Which is Adequately Explained by Stupidity
    – Richard
    Jun 20, 2023 at 17:16

12 Answers 12

92

If your contract says you report to the CTO, get on the phone (or video call etc) with the CTO. If you don't have their number, message them and let them know you need to talk to them about your resignation.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jan 27, 2023 at 22:22
80

Get somebody on the phone so you can be sure it's actually been read.

Then once you've done that, stop worrying about it. It's not your problem anymore.

65

As for the most likely reason why you were ignored, this is an example of diffusion of responsibility so common it's directly mentioned in that phenomenon's wikipedia page:

Diffusion of responsibility

Diffusion of responsibility is a sociopsychological phenomenon whereby a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when other bystanders or witnesses are present. Considered a form of attribution, the individual assumes that others either are responsible for taking action or have already done so.

...

Workplace

Diffusion of responsibility can be seen in the workplace through the response to mass email when compared to many, individualized emails. When mass emails are sent out, people feel a lack of accountability due to the fact that the emails have not been addressed to them personally. This is a clear example of diffusion of responsibility. Studies have shown that email responses are more helpful and lengthier when personally addressed because of a greater sense of responsibility than compared to a mass email

Everyone who received your email was someone who was indirectly responsible for you, but didn't feel personally, directly responsible for your employment. Any one of them could have responded, but each person saw that it was addressed to many people who were at least as responsible as them, and so assumed someone else would deal with it.

It's not right, and it's rather sloppy on their part, but it's also a really common problem.

Follow up directly with a few people who you need a response from. Message them directly: if it's email, greet them by name, include only them in the "To" box (adding CCs is okay, so long as it's clear who it's directed to). It's okay to send several identical or near-identical emails to different people.

You'll probably get multiple responses this way, but that's better than no responses.


The previous incident you mention looks similar. You said:

It was a brief "hey I'm not sure which of you gentlemen is the right person to ask, but could you please get this guy the proper auth, thanks" kind of email. No response.

Neither recipient felt personally responsible for responding, both probably had some reason (right or wrong) for assuming the other was more responsible, neither responded.

Now, this one really does look unprofessional on their part: it's just two people, someone should at least have replied, at least confirming they're leaving it to the other. But sometimes we have to deal with unconscientious people.

Instead of sending a message at multiple people that could fall through the cracks between them, you're more likely to get a response if you send it addressed to one, while CCing and acknowledging the others in a way that makes it possible for them to step in if they know it's more their responsibility, but if they don't, leaves clear, visible responsibility on the named person to ensure someone replies.

1
  • This is absolutely great advice in email communication. Even when there is just a handful of people in a thread, accountability drops to near zero.
    – julealgon
    Feb 5, 2023 at 23:44
37

You need to get this resolved. It isn't as simple as stopping work.

  • You may have to return equipment, so you need to know who to send it to. It could be a phone, laptop, or even a smart card.
  • You may be expecting them to cash out your vacation and sick pay, so you will want to know when this will be done.
  • In addition, if you are getting insurance though them you need to know when will it end. It could be on your last day, or the end of the pay period, or the end of the month.
  • You may even owe them money because of training or some other benefit.

The purpose of the resignation letter is to start the out-processing. You need to know that this has started.

You will have to send a reminder email. You will have to make a phone call.

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    "It isn't as simple as stopping work." why not? isn't that what "at-will" means, over there?
    – njzk2
    Jan 26, 2023 at 19:11
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    Then after they terminate you after you stop showing up, you still have return the stuff, get paid for your vacation, and everything else. Of course you will be doing this while you are searching for a job, or after starting at the new place. Jan 26, 2023 at 19:43
  • At-will employment is a two way street. Some employees are messed up and need to be fired, ASAP. The other side of the street is that some employers are messed up and need to be walked away from, ASAP. If the employer is going south of the South Pole, there's no point in asking for a cash out for unused vacation and sick pay as employees are the last debtors in line in most states. So ultimately it is as easy as stopping to work in an at-will employment state. That of course is an action of last resort. It's best to give communication a shot, but it doesn't always work. Jan 26, 2023 at 20:19
  • The good thing about this answer is that it points out that exiting a company is often more complex than signing off and walking away. The bad thing about this answer is that it doesn't explain that no matter what other issues are involved, they can literally all be ignored - at the ex-employee's risk! I once left a company with an antiquated computer with the full approval of both my supervisor and a division mgr., but the official paperwork was not completed before I had to move to a new location hundreds of miles away. The head of security knocked on my door and accused me of theft....
    – JBH
    Jan 27, 2023 at 23:02
  • @njzk2 You can definitely quit immediately and without warning, but even in an at-will state, there can be things to clean up, as listed in the answer. Returning IT equipment that is their property and not yours is definitely pretty important and remains an obligation after you've resigned; otherwise it's stealing. Paying them back for training for early resignation can also be a factor, if this is in your contract. Jan 27, 2023 at 23:45
25

Ask for acknowledgement

Reply to your initial email with something that asks for reinforcement from your direct manager. Something along these lines would suffice:

Dear CTO,

please confirm that you received this email and acknowledge its contents. 
Please advise on handover and offboarding procedures.

Best regards,
KapparinoC

If the CTO does not answer within one working day feel free to call them.

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    Add a read receipt as well. Jan 26, 2023 at 21:33
  • Does anyone have read receipts on?
    – User65535
    Jan 27, 2023 at 9:03
  • @User65535, nowadays we use email tracker addons, depends on the email app you use though... There are opposite apps that block trackers.
    – brasofilo
    Jan 27, 2023 at 20:58
  • @StackerLee The read receipt only checks that the email was marked as read, not that the person has read it with their own eyes and would act accordingly. Jan 31, 2023 at 13:15
  • Given that OP sent the original resignation email to 5 people, I'd send an email like the one you suggest individually to each of those 5 people. Feb 1, 2023 at 0:44
11

The answer to this is rather simple:

You work in an at-will state. You have lost your will to work (at this company), so you don't have to work. At-will means you can simply call in one day and say "I'm done" and you're done. In context of that:

You've done what you need to do. You sent in your resignation, and you went above and beyond by giving them 3 whole weeks to read it and prepare for you no longer working there. If they choose to not use the resources you have given them, that's their problem, not yours.

At some point, when you haven't shown up for work for a while, your company may realize you're not working there and they may come for you to wrap up your employment. Be kind to them and do what they ask with respect to returning equipment and so on, and proactively delete any company files you have on your personal machines, and do not use any company system permissions you may still have after your last day, even if they are not revoked.

If your company tries to claim for whatever reason that you still work there and won't let you quit after your last day, remind them you submitted your resignation 3 weeks early and they had 3 weeks to negotiate this with you and chose not to. Don't press the issue, just be firm and confident.

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    Not sure why you're getting down voted. The at will employment cuts both ways. There's no legal responsibility to submit a notice of resignation. Doing so is a courtesy. The op has done that, so when they reach their resignation date, they have no obligation to communicate with their (ex-)employer further.
    – PC Luddite
    Jan 25, 2023 at 5:06
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    This advice sounds quite concerning. What if the E-Mail didn't get delivered and seen as expected? Maybe some anti-spam measure deleted the E-Mail or placed it in a location where it isn't seen. Just ignoring the concern could lead to some significant troubles that could be easily avoided if there is just a bit more effort to confirm.
    – TOOGAM
    Jan 25, 2023 at 9:11
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    @DKNguyen If the employer lost a letter of resignation before reading it, then if employee follows up to make sure that the letter has been received, then employee's eventual departure is not a surprise thanks to the successful additional communication attempt. Sometimes employers want to have management discuss what response will be, before trying to respond informatively. If a day or two later employee follows up again just to get quick confirmation that the message was seen, employer will typically not feel too bothered (but will internally know it was because of their slowness responding).
    – TOOGAM
    Jan 25, 2023 at 16:35
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    This seems like a pretty dangerous slope to go down. It seems like the argument is that an employee can't quit until either their resignation letter is acknowledged, or they have followed up by another method of communication. To turn that in reverse, if an employee "loses" their termination letter (does not acknowledge it), and subsequently refuses to answer any phone calls or join any meetings from the company, is the company required to employ them indefinitely?
    – Ertai87
    Jan 25, 2023 at 17:52
  • 4
    In a right to work state, you can quit by simply not showing up anymore. Anything else is a professional courtesy. OP has already dotted the i's and crossed the t's. Jan 26, 2023 at 15:11
7

Not exactly an answer in and of itself, but wanted to get the point across and it was too much for a comment....

One thing here, when combining user56reinstatemonica8's answer with Phillip Kendalls'.

Your contract states you work for the CTO, further, you state it was the CTO Oliver, he was replaced by the CTO Sam, after Oliver's retirement. Chance are VERY GOOD that Oliver, when turning over his responsibilities to Sam, if he even did so, did not mention to Sam, "Oh, by the way, you have a direct report, and here is his name and contact info". Note that this might not have been malice, but rather simply forgotten.

Now, Sam has absolutely no idea he is your direct boss. In fact, a C-level would rarely have one, other than their personal assistant and any vice-presidents, or the equivalent. Certainly a C-level CTO would not normally have any individual developer as a direct report. Therefor, when the CTO (Sam) read your email, he basically did what Phillip suggested and went, hmmm, lost a dev, wonder if I need to get HR on replacing the body.

I would suggest that you do what you possibly should have already done (and if you did, I'm sorry , I didn't catch you saying it.) You should ask for a meeting, right away, with Sam. In your meeting request, you should be explicit, and say something like,

Sam, I'm not sure Oliver ever passed it on to you, but you are, believe it or not, my direct supervisor, by my contract with [company name]. I've submitted my resignation, but having not heard anything from you, perhaps you didn't even realize you were my boss. I need to have you start [list out-processing tasks].

6

Simple: Work out your notice period and leave.

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    what about the paperwork? The money? The company's property if any? Just work until the last day without worrying about anything and walk out?
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 26, 2023 at 10:04
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    The problem is when you work out your notice period and they claim you never gave notice and sue you for damages. You MUST be able to prove you gave notice.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 26, 2023 at 13:47
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    @OldPadawan - he works in an at-will state, that's all the companies problem to sort. Jan 26, 2023 at 18:38
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    "he gave 3 weeks notice": I'll stop here because arguing is useless, but he gave nothing he can prove and rely on. Courts use proof/evidence. Ending in court for anything, whether you win or not at the end costs time and money. So just walking out is a problem, at-will state or not.
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 26, 2023 at 20:22
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    @OldPadawan, it's not exactly like discovery would be difficult here in the very unlikely event that the company were willing the spend the money to take this to court. (For that matter, if it's a company that has in-house legal staff, they may also have automated discovery tools they can use to quickly search in-house email archives before starting the suit, and the result of doing so would almost certainly convince them not to proceed). Jan 27, 2023 at 22:47
6

If it was in the UK: The company must have an official address. You look up that address at companies house.gov.uk. Any mail delivered to that address is legally received by the company; if they don't read it or act on it then it is their problem. You can send your resignation in a printed letter using recorded delivery, then whatever happens, the company has received it legally. What could go wrong?

The company's address might be wrong. That's their problem, using registered mail the letter will return with a note "not at this address". They might refuse to take a letter, the registered mail goes back to you, and it's their fault. They might ignore the letter, that's their fault.

Of course that's not the usual way to hand in your notice. It's the way to do it if you try to hand in your notice and nobody replies. The best result is always peacefully parting your ways. The second best result is parting your ways, and if the company complains about anything, you can prove that it is their fault. And if your manager doesn't respond, HR would be the next to contact - just in case your manager is in hospital after a car crash, for example.

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    Surely these are methods of last resort in this kind of situation? Some in-between attempt at immediate communication via phone or chat is worth attempting in the situation that OP finds themselves in, before reaching for a legal cover-your-ass backup. Jan 26, 2023 at 13:29
  • 1
    Not necessarily last resort. The clock starts ticking the minute this letter arrives at the company. So you can do that early, it won't matter. Say you have two weeks legal notice and want to start at another place in three weeks time, then you can wait four days + three days for delivery or delivery attempt + two weeks notice. And simultaneously try to contact someone in person.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 26, 2023 at 13:45
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    Maybe add the "simultaneously try to contact someone in person" part to the answer? Jan 26, 2023 at 13:59
  • I had used this method to report a bug to a US company that did not have a way to do so in their Internet site. It worked very well. Feb 2, 2023 at 8:13
2

Send a follow-up email to confirm whether the notice has been received or not.

Make sure to CC in relevant departments like CTO/HR/line manager.

If that follow-up email is also ignored/unnoticed, you may try sending a certified letter to your company address.

In my country (Spain), there is a service called "burofax" where you get not only confirmation that the mail has been delivered, but also the contents of the letter are registered, so the company can not argue that the contents were different. I couldn't find a similar service in USPS, but still with certified mail you'll get at least confirmation that somebody received the letter.

Once you've attempted all reasonable means to contact the company about your resignation, and if you still get no reply, you may have to organise the off boarding yourself. Keep making emails and contacts to the relevant departments, like HR or logistics for handing off the company equipment. If nobody is willing to give you instructions, you may also have to send the equipment through certified mail. On your last day if still nobody replied to any single mail, send a last mail confirming all the offboarding steps you have made, offering your contact information (for hand over purpose only), and leave.

With the evidence of all the attempts to contact the company and with you complying the notice period, you have strong evidence to defend you not showing up after your notice even if the resignation was not acknowledged/accepted, then the next move will have to come from the company itself.

0

Nobody has responded to you yet, but that doesn't necessarily mean nothing is being done.

It could be that the CTO is looking into a counter-offer. It could be that he/she has responded to everyone but you on the e-mail thread to sit tight while they try to figure it out. It could be that they have reached out to HR on the best way to respond. It could also be that they haven't gotten to your e-mail or it is buried in their inbox.

Or, it could be they are hoping the problem goes away if they don't deal with it.

I would send a follow-up e-mail this Friday, and copy your HR representative so they are aware.

If nobody has still responded when you have one week left of your notice period, I would follow up directly with HR asking when you can arrange a checkout time, per your previous e-mails regarding your last work day.

If you have any company property assigned to you, you definitely don't want to just not show up after your last day. You want to have confirmation that you are no longer accountable for a phone, laptop, or keys.

I would encourage a follow-up edit after this is resolved so future searchers can see how this played out.

-3

Check your local employment laws to see what legal requirements need to be fulfilled for a resignation to be valid. For example, in some countries, there might be a requirement for the resignation to be in writing and on paper. So verbal or electronic communication might not count. So make sure you resign in a way that complies with the required legal form so nobody can claim your resignation wasn't serious.

Then just do what the resignation clause in the contract says. Do what you are supposed to do until the resignation period is over, then return any equipment you might still have and then ghost them.

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    "Check your local employment laws to see what legal requirements need to be fulfilled for a resignation to be valid." The OP has made it clear they are in a (US) "at will" state, there are no legal requirements. Jan 25, 2023 at 12:06

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