I work for a startup in Ottawa, and have been with the company for just over a year now. The CEO promised me stock options, a massive completion bonus, and a month of paid vacation to offset the massive overtime I put in. I helped bring this company from a 2-employee operation to 25 people.

The CEO has reneged on most of her promises, I don't have the money to launch a lawsuit, and don't want to go down in history as the guy that sued his boss and stain my reputation. I know for a fact that there's plenty of money to spare. I have a much better offer from another company, and was planning on leaving with minimal notice. The company will almost certainly fail with me leaving. I'm not a director, just a "Web developer", but given the lack of redundancy, we're guaranteed to miss a critical funding milestone if I left.

What is the best excuse to give when the boss asks "why" I'm leaving? Stress leave? Medical? Be honest and say "you should honor your contracts"? I suspect she's the type of person to exact personal vengeance via nasty twitter comments (she speaks whatever comes to mind on twitter). I want to avoid retribution, and have already given up on trying to get her to honor her promises. I just want to get on with my life without making myself a target. Her company sinking is a free bonus.

I don't want my coworkers to suffer. But I've been pushed too far to care. I'm not being immodest about the company failing if I leave. I'm certain that's the case.

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    Don't explain yourself at all. Keep your resignation letter short and sweet. Make sure it includes the day you've notified them and the last day your willing to come to work for her. If those are the same day, great. You don't have to use her as a reference anyway, you can use anybody else at the company who you had a working relationship with. Just tell your employer "I've enjoyed working here but I've received a great new opportunity to advance my career. As such, I must inform you that I intent to resign effective date()." Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 2:48
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    "company will fail if I quit" Uhm no, I am willing to bet that is not the case.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 2:49
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    "company will fail if I quit"... that's overconfidence that made you stay longer than expected, and I hope you don't work with the same attitude in next company. Anyone can be replaced, and nothing stops because of one person or even a team.
    – javadev
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 5:04
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    An important step for companies that have developed "hero workers" is to "fire" them (but not really fire them, just learn to do without). You'd be taking that step for them, and the sooner they learn to live without you the better. Secondly, there's always a tiny tiny chance that they won't fold. So, get a job offer, ask her for your dues, and then - whatever happens - quit. Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 8:08
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    If a company is utterly reliant on a single member of staff for its survival, then it already has failed. You should command the CEOs salary at that place given that the company is basically a shell wrapped around you.
    – Richard
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 9:43

7 Answers 7


Just resign, you're not obligated to explain anything. Set your focus on your own future and don't worry about that company. Once you have seriously decided to leave you have one foot out the door already.

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    The question is what to say when the boss asks why. It's a small company and the OP has been there since it was only a 2 person operation. Of course the boss is going to ask why. Ignoring the boss' question is probably going to create a very awkward atmosphere.
    – koan
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 9:58
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    @koan there is already an awkward atmosphere, if someone is breaking all their promises to you and has been ripping you off for quite some time, you don't bother pandering to them. They know full well what the problem is. You focus on your future and ignore them as best you can
    – Kilisi
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 10:16
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    Kilisi, usually you drift into this kind of situation gradually. When OP resigns then the boss will ask a direct question and that is much more awkward. You haven't answered the question or are you suggesting OP say nothing and not answer the question ?
    – koan
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 10:36
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    @koan if OP has her promises in writing or in email, then he can answer "why" with only a mention like "see our correspondence from 2016-05-05" and end at that. Or indeed do not answer at all. "I filled my resignation papers, and that's all I have to say" is a valid response.
    – Mołot
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 12:06

I once had a boss that I really didn't enjoy working for. I was pretty happy when she left the company.

To my surprise, a few months later she called me and invited me to work for her again, at a new place for more money. I accepted. I didn't enjoy working for her the second time, either. For many of the same reasons.

I have come to realize that some of those reasons were really my fault. But the important take-away here is that no matter how mad, sad, spiteful, etc., you feel, don't burn any bridges.

If you "go out in a blaze of" anything, it will probably roll off her back. She's the CEO. She has probably had people quit before. But she won't remember you fondly. More importantly, there are many other people who won't remember you fondly. The boss' secretary, the HR manager, your supervisor, any direct reports you have, and maybe some cross-functional people that are depending on you. You will come to realize that the aphorism is true: it's not what you know, it's who you know. And if those people think of you well, maybe they'll call you out of the blue in 5 years with a job offer.

Instead, just provide the minimum necessary info. Notify HR, your supervisor, and anyone else that needs to know, that you're going to leave, effective whenever. And then make sure you leave!

If the CEO comes back and offers you twice as many options, a corner office, and a personal masseuse, GTFO. Once you tell people you're leaving, the worst imaginable thing you can do is stay.

So: don't burn any bridges, don't send any spectacular hate-letters, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

  • @JoeStrazzere 'more money' I would think, perfectly legit reason.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 12:07
  • It would be a perfectly ok situation for me, I just work for the money. But I know what you mean.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 12:19
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    @JoeStrazzere I wouldn't call it "misguided". I think it's a matter of personal priorities. If one needs the money, and is willing to - if necessary - work with someone one's had negative experiences with, hoping they've changed, that's perfectly fine.
    – Seth
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 12:30
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    @JoeStrazzere I was young and dumb. I attributed many of our problems (correctly) to the environment and the changes she was asked to make at the first job. My problem with the second job (and one of several problems at the first) was that she wasn't technical, and I didn't know how to talk to her. I hadn't learned to translate manager-speak back then. (Ex: "Can we do X?" doesn't mean "Tell my why this is technically impossible", but rather "I want Y result, how can we implement it?")
    – aghast
    Commented Mar 8, 2017 at 14:56
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    +1 " the aphorism is true: it's not what you know, it's who you know ". I find it quite helpful to be reminded of this again and again. I had to spent my notice period at my last job extremely carefully, not burning the bridges. I had planned the "perfect excuse" to leave. I remember the last day, they were still nice to me as opposed to the girl who left with a fight. Commented May 27, 2017 at 11:05

Don't explain. Don't justify yourself. Don't even mention that you have a better offer. Just resign.

You'll need to keep your new employer secret for a while. It's better if your boss thinks that you resigned without having another job in sight yet. Don't even tell your former coworkers, because if you do tell them, they could be coerced into letting your boss know which company it is.

And then, be careful about telling your friends, or family members, because they could be fooled into inadvertently divulging that information if she contacts them under some pretext.

Because if what you say is true, that your boss is of questionable moral character, that she's likely to be vengeful on social media, and that her startup is likely to fail when you leave. Then, it's likely that she'll try to sabotage your relationship with your new employer.


Something the other answers don't cover but is in fact really simple is this:

If the company will fail if you quit, then someone else isn't doing their job properly, and thats not your fault. Don't be bullied into thinking it is.

The moment you stay in a position for involuntary reasons, such as guilt, pressure or a sense of obligation, you are no longer being employed, but rather something else. And that something else isn't a good thing, whatever label you put on it.


Simple and to the point is my suggestion, send an email along the lines of -

Dear [your boss],

As required by my contract of employment, I hereby give you notice of my intention to leave my position at [company], with my last day being [date].

I have enjoyed my time working with you and please be assured that I will do all I can to assist in the smooth transfer of my responsibilities before leaving.

I wish both you and the rest of [company] every good fortune and I would like to thank you for having me as part of your team.

Yours sincerely,
[your name]


I get you are stressed but you are too emotionally vested here. You would sue the company not your boss. You don't know the company will fail and it does not matter.

Resigning from a company is very simple. You turn in a letter of resignation with a final date. After that the less said the better.

The only difference is if you liked the job is "I regret to inform you I am resigning" versus "I am resigning".


You don't "need" an excuse if you want to change your job. If you want to do it, just do it. You have a better offer, and that's all you need

About your coworkers, you might want to talk to them, but you should do it out of the office, and tell them the reason why you're leaving. But that's more related to the human relation you have with them, as nice people you talk with, rather than you owing them an explanation of why are you changing your job.

If the company fails, they might want to retain you, maybe giving what they've promised to you plus some extra things, but it's up to you how you want to negotiate with them, and if you want to deal with that now.

  • The "some extra things" may be "a lot of extra things" - much higher wages. It could be like this: You resign, they let you know that they really need you. Say no, except if I get "double the money". Something that is normally to absurd to ask for. But in this case, it can realistically work. Of course, they have to pay whatever they owe you including interest before the conversation even starts. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 3:13

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