I spent the last year at a company where I created a new department, but I got no raise, bonus or promotion -- just five-star feedback and promises of future growth.

I found a better job at another company which pays better, and I want to take it. However, as the creator of this department, I am responsible for the execution of several high-profile projects. If I leave now, the company will be set back for several months.

I am worried about getting a bad reputation for leaving at a critical time (it would be critical for several months, even if they got a replacement in the next few weeks).

Does the company have a right to badmouth me or not recommend my services for leaving (regardless of my reasons), just because my absence also leaves them at a disadvantage for those projects?

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    Perspective check: it's always a critical time.
    – user42272
    Dec 28, 2015 at 0:36
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    Happy you finally got another job. I'm hopeful that you'll take it. Based on all of your previous posts, this should have been done a long time ago. Unfortunately, this is a legal question, and will probably be closed as off-topic.
    – Kent A.
    Dec 28, 2015 at 1:13
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    Some companies only promote at certain intervals, and at higher levels those intervals become more sparse. You should double check that you didn't simply get caught in an 'off-year'. That being said even if you are in the middle of a promotion cycle, don't let that stop you from considering other options Dec 28, 2015 at 1:55
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    Can you foresee a time when the department will not be in the middle of several important projects? Surely if you refrained from leaving until the current projects were complete, there would be new projects in the critical stages? Dec 28, 2015 at 19:46
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    If they really needed your services critically but made no attempt to compensate you proportionally, that's on them. You are no more obligated to keep working for them if it is in your best interests to leave than they would be to keep you on if it was in their best interests to lay you off or fire you. I say tell your boss about the other offer and give him/her the opportunity to make a better offer...but only if you really want to stay. Otherwise, accept the other offer and give reasonable notice. Badmouthing is largely irrelevant if you never plan to return to the company. Dec 28, 2015 at 20:39

6 Answers 6


Badmouthing you is a very risky business. You didn't say which country you are in; in many countries you could take the company to court and win a good amount if they said bad things about you unless they were true (and even then they might lose).

Do they have a moral point: Your employment had a first day and will have a last day. From the first day to the last day you should work for the benefit of the company, and they should pay your salary. Before the first day and after the last day you have not the slightest obligation towards the company.

If this department goes down because you left, that's not your fault and not your problem. It's the fault of the company who (1) didn't prepare for the event that you might leave, and (2) didn't pay you enough money or gave you enough recognition or both to make you stay.


No organization should expect an employee to remain until all projects they are involve in have completed and in my professional experience, none has. If you leave abruptly without customary notice, you may leave hard feelings behind or damage your reputation. And there is a bit of humor around how everything that goes wrong for the next six months is the fault of that guy who just left the company, but that is generally understood as corporate satire.

People leave companies all the time for all sorts of reasons. It's part of the cost of doing business and companies understand this. Unless you have a personal services or an employment contract there is no legal obligation for you to stay (and even if you do and leave early, the contract will spell out the consequences for an early departure, giving back a signing bonus for instance). Also unless you have some other explicit understanding to the contrary, you have no moral obligation either.

You are bound only by the terms of a non-compete after separation and of course may not steal or use confidential or trade secret company information that you may have come across in the course of employment.

So move on, enjoy your departure party (if you are given one), and apply yourself to your future endeavors without hesitation or guilt.


will my company have the right to badmouth me/not recommend my services because I am leaving according to my own needs?

Everyone has the right to badmouth anyone they choose. And nobody is obligated to recommend your services, should they choose not to do so.

Unless slanderous or libelous, what someone says about you isn't under your control.

That said, if you leave on good terms, they are unlikely to say anything at all. Since you already have a new job, I don't see why you would care.


Legal rights depend on jurisdiction, from moral point of view I'd guess if your company did not object to having a whole department and several high-profile projects depend on one person without any replacement it serves them right to suffer if they cannot persuade you to stay. What if you were run over by a bus?


Do you actually want to leave, or is it purely because your needs aren't being met at the current place? If it's the latter, then go to them, tell them what you've been offered at the new job, and see if they're willing to negotiate on your current position. If they've offered you "future growth", then it's time they make good on it!

If they decide not to offer you anything more, then they don't think you're worth keeping. I'd see that as a business decision on their part, including any consequences for their projects. Clearly if another company is willing to offer you more, they recognise your value is greater than what your current company is willing to offer.

  • Thanks. They might even promote me to keep me, but there is simply too much politics for me to be happy yo go to work.
    – user38290
    Dec 29, 2015 at 13:28

You shouldn't be "bad-mouthed" for leaving. People leave all the time. Employment is a two-way arrangement and when it becomes your best interest to leave for another opportunity it is absolutely your right to do so. Anyone who asserts the contrary doesn't know what they are talking about.

However, it sounds like your leaving will have troubling repercussions for the department. Accordingly, there may be complaints after you're gone that — as a high-profile manager in a top leading role — you did not sufficiently prepare your department for the loss of personnel. In this case, it's a tough irony that the personnel leaving is you.

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    you did not sufficiently prepare your department for the loss of personnel - since s/he is the personnel, are you suggesting s/he should be searching for their replacement before they leave? That sounds like something their boss should do and not the responsibility of the employee. Dec 28, 2015 at 18:02
  • I'd say sensible employees (especially those that create new departments and get five-star reviews) do not create systems with a single point of failure -- including themselves. But OP's boss did not demand that, so it's his problem now.
    – che
    Dec 28, 2015 at 23:13
  • Good grief no wonder so many companies fail Dec 29, 2015 at 0:29