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As far as I remember, it has been mentioned several times that the answer to the question "when should I be looking for a new job?" is "always". We are supposed to protect ourselves as a first priority and try not to burn any bridges as a second priority.

But let's assume that I would like to leave my job and cause the minimum amount of damage to my boss. What would the best time/occasion be from a manager's point of view? Please note that there are no special circumstances (not about to get fired, nowhere near retirement, not pregnant, etc).

marked as duplicate by gnat, Xavier J, paparazzo, WorkerWithoutACause, mcknz Nov 26 '16 at 0:18

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A manager would be glad (not just "okay") with you leaving when it is more effort for him to keep you or fire you than it would be if you left on your own.

For example, my current company's policy is to never fire any employee, except, of course, if they were involved in fraud or some other activity seriously detrimental to the company.

Hence, poor performers – as well as good performers without much work to do – are moved to new roles where they can contribute better. The company is large enough for such movements to be feasible.

As a manager, it is my responsibility to make these movements happen within a defined time period. If I am unable to, the employee's salary eats into my department's budget without significant contribution in return. If the employee leaves on his own, I only need to handle the resignation formalities, which is a lot easier than doing all the legwork required to move him into a new role.

  • All answers were very interesting and helpful, but yours was a bit closer to my point. Thanks! – FlatronL1917 Nov 25 '16 at 17:04
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What would the best time/occasion?

There is never a perfect time to resign. By definition, companies employ people because there is work for them to do. If you move on from your current job you will always cause some difficulties or extra work for your manager and colleagues and that will last until whoever they replace you with is brought up to speed. That's just how these things go. If you want to know what to do to avoid souring the relationship or damaging a reference, that's the following:

  • don't move on too quickly: 1-2 years is a minimum in most office jobs, but this is frequently ignored and not the huge deal it once was
  • give at least the standard amount of notice for your location
  • continue performing to your usual standards until you leave: don't phone it in
  • don't change your attitude or how you interact with colleagues or clients: no griping, no "thank god I'm almost out of here", no trying to poach people to move to your new company with you
  • meet with your manager to plan your transition: determine what you need to document, which projects take priority, whether there's already stuff you can hand over to colleagues or your manager, ...

Beyond this, pick a time to resign that makes sense for you and your new employer and don't do so before you have a signed offer.

There is an argument to be made that you shouldn't resign during the final days of a major project or during whatever goes for the "busy season" at your workplace. Doing that and being cavalier about it can indeed damage your reputation and impact a reference you get so avoid it if possible. But don't let something like that stand in the way of what would otherwise be a good career move. It's impossible to time a job search in any more than a rudimentary sense, so don't try to do so.

There are situations where it makes sense to inform an employer that you're job searching: when you know without a doubt that they'll appreciate the warning and that there won't be retaliation of any kind. Great employers know that people move on and will make it possible for employees to share their plans openly. Many other employers will consciously or subconsciously punish people for announcing that they're looking to leave by giving them low-tier projects or lousy jobs, trying to push them out early, or outright firing them when they've found a replacement. What type of employer you're working for is something you need to determine based on your relationship with management and how your former colleagues were treated in their notice period.

This kind of advance warning is advantageous to the company as they can start some parts of the hiring process early (but it's bad form to start actively hiring before the person actually hands in his notice). It's also great for the employee who can use his current manager as a reference and take time off to interview. But sadly these environments are very rare and the standard advice is always to keep mum about your job search and only give the standard amount of notice.

  • Excellent answer! People would often feel obligated to warn an employer before the standard notice period, even if it means lowering there chance to land a new job. And it's rarely a good idea. There is a standard for a reason. – François Gautier Nov 25 '16 at 9:55
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    @FrançoisGautier I didn't touch on this in my answer but there are situations where it makes sense to inform an employer that you're job searching: when you know without doubt that they'll appreciate the warning and that there won't be retaliation of any kind (firing, second choice projects, ...). Great employers know that people move on and will make it possible for employees to share that information openly. It's advantageous to the company and the employee (who can use his current manager as a reference or take time off to interview) but these environments are certainly not common. – Lilienthal Nov 25 '16 at 10:13
  • Indeed, if it's not hurting the chance of getting another job, there is no issue. – François Gautier Nov 25 '16 at 10:15
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A colleague recently quit in a way which I believe is exemplary in regard to what you are seeking to do. Steps/considerations:

  1. Give reasonable advance notice. In his case 3 weeks, which is 1 week above the typically required 2 week notice. An extra week may not seem like much, but a manager can use all the advance notice they can get, to help them plan/strategize on how to best handle the resource shortage.

  2. If you are a key player or lead on any projects, bring those projects to a good stopping point, if completion is too far off in the future (or it's a kind of project that is never really 'done').

A good milestone might be major code release to production, or completing any other major task by the deadline. Once the task is completed, typically there is some 'lull' afterwards, which involves tasks of secondary (but not critical) importance -- example could be handling some minor Q&A or non-critical maintenance requests, catching up on documentation, etc.

  1. Transition/knowledge transfer: Make sure you do your best to create a well documented paper trail of your activities, using whatever tools do the job best: usually a combination of Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, well documented program code and logs, intermediate and final output from some processing workflow, etc.

  2. Once the manager determines who will take over your work after your departure, setup a series of transition meetings with this individual(s).

Use the meetings to review and discuss the transition documentation you prepared, answer questions, explain various steps or project plan phases, show location of files on the shared drive, highlight critical to-do's or deliverables in the immediate future as things to keep an eye on (1-3 months). Make sure all this is appropriately documented (not just spoken but actually written down).

  1. The manager might wish to meet with you individually to discuss to whom to transition your work, what the next major tasks would be for this person(s), etc. Think about all these issues ahead of time so you are prepared to provide feedback on these points during the meeting.

  2. Think in advance of a good 'cover story' about why you are leaving. This does not have to have anything to do with your real/honest reasons for leaving, but it does have to sound convincing enough to allow everyone to pretend like it is a plausible reason which does not single out any individual or paint anyone (or any group) in a negative light, i.e. essentially allows everyone to save face while letting you go.

This makes departure easier for everyone involved. Make sure to stick to your story and not to reveal the 'actual reason' during a happy hour etc. Keep things impersonal, consistent, and to the point.

  1. If you are on really good terms with the manager and anticipate no retaliation of any kind for your decision to leave, you may consider ASKING the manager the question you ask here, and let them suggest the strategy.

Make sure that once you reveal your intention to leave, that you remain firm to follow through, and do not appear to waiver at any point in time. This is easier when you have already accepted another offer, or (if you are leaving the workforce at large) have a bulletproof reason for it (e.g. pregnancy, taking care of relative, spending more time with family, going back to school, etc).

Finally, leave a good impression, not just with the manager but with your colleagues, partners, stakeholders, clients, and any other leadership. Make sure that those staying behind do not feel like they are getting the short end of the stick. Do your best to leave on a high note with anyone and everyone with whom you have interfaced on work-related issues, and say only good things about those who are taking over for you. Lay a good foundation for the work to be carried on. This effort may not be as obvious to the manager, but it will be appreciated by your team, and will come back to you through positive indirect feedback post-departure. On related note, try to keep any drama to the absolute minimum. No picking confidants among the team members to tell them 'the real scoop'; no criticizing others behind their backs; no over-blowing of whatever potential work-related issues may have contributed to your decision (unless it really had nothing to do with work but more with personal circumstances). No drama. Keep it professional.

I am sure others can add some other good pointers, but this should help put you on right track. Good luck!

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When would a manager be ok with me quitting?

When you have been asked to resign because they don't want to fire you. Or if you are a troublesome worker who they want to get rid of but can't because of legal reasons.

Otherwise there is no ideal time (assuming you are a valuable worker). Give the normal notice, work professionally until you leave is about the best you can do. Once you have made the decision to leave you have one foot out of the door. Focus on where you, your life, and your career are going, not where you have been.

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