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I work as a software dev and I'm about to change my job, signing new contract shortly. After I sign it I'll give a notice at my current workplace to my CEO. The management board is rather distanced from low-rank employees, so I guess if the CEO does talk about it to anyone, that'd be my project manager only, who may or may not relay that to the rest of the team (it's hard to tell).

There are quite a few reasons why I'm leaving, mainly because of a low salary, timeworn tech stack and overall terrible managing. In short: My colleagues are fine, the management is not (at least in their actions and decisions).

The notice period is 'till the end of the next month', so my coworkers will have plenty of time and opportunites to ask why I'm leaving. But how do I tell them my reasons without sounding rude?

While I don't shy away from socializing, being an introvert and a rather straight-forward person, I have a hard time formulating my thoughts in a way that would not be considered rude and I don't want to lie to anyone. I want to emphasize that my colleagues are great, they were always helpful and I really appreciate that. It's the management that's a problem here.

So, how do I reply when asked by the board, project manager or my colleagues for leave reasons without burning any bridges and without giving my colleagues an impression they could be at fault?

Edit about duplicate I'd like to emphasize on the fact that the question goes beyond just 'an exit interview' and it's not more about what to say, but how. I'm fine with giving a general answer to the board, my main worry is colleagues asking such questions. Giving them a general answer might not work that well, since we're on pretty good terms and have conversations on a daily basis and I don't want to sound rude or condescending etc while providing them with a satisfactory answer.

marked as duplicate by David K, mcknz, JasonJ, gnat, Wesley Long Jul 19 '17 at 16:21

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  • 4
    "I have a better offer". Leave it at that, nothing more. – Pete B. Jul 19 '17 at 14:39
  • Do your coworkers share your feelings about your management? – cheshire Jul 19 '17 at 15:23
  • @cheshire It's hard to say. I think I can see they're sometimes not satisfied with management's decisions, but they rather try to hide it and kinda just learned to accept it. I can be frank with them when noone from management is around, although I'd rather refrain from inciting them or anything. Not to mention it's quite likely they'll ask that question with project manager around, and they're not aware of how harsh my opinion is about the management. – Sazu Jul 19 '17 at 15:33
  • 3
    You don't owe them any explanation. And they can't force you to give one. Just say a great opportunity came up, and you chose to pursue it. Easy. – ell Jul 19 '17 at 15:40
up vote 20 down vote accepted

I'm looking to explore new areas of software development, and to diversify my experience.

That's all you need to say. It's nobodies business for your reasons, and by saying this you're not lying, and you're not burning any bridges. They can't argue with it!

  • That's a pretty decent answer, somewhat general yet still quite satisfactory for anyone asking. But what if someone's not satisfied with that and tries to ask about more details? Wouldn't denying them be considered rude? – Sazu Jul 19 '17 at 15:22
  • If they keep asking, you keep telling them the same thing. I don't think you'll have that problem though. Most people aren't that nosy. – DCON Jul 19 '17 at 15:31
  • 5
    @Sazu You can say something like, "There isn't any more to it." If they press beyond that, they're the ones being rude. It isn't rude to not want to discuss something or to enforce boundaries around that. You aren't obligated to tell someone something just because they ask. – BSMP Jul 19 '17 at 15:45

So, how do I reply when asked by the board, project manager or my colleagues for leave reasons without burning any bridges and without giving my colleagues an impression they could be at fault?

To Your Boss: I have enjoyed working for you. My time here on your team has allowed for me grow. However, I feel as though I must explore this new opportunity to further enhance my career. [ The end, rinse and repeat ]

For exit interview you can say something like "If a suitable opportunity come available for me in the future, I hope you will consider me eligible for re-hire". Take a look at this article for more details as certain approaches when giving feedback will be ignored. Article from Forbes: Exit Interview Do's and Don'ts

From the article above:

If you care about the company and want to make a difference, “make sure your comments are fact-based and professional,” she said. “In general, most employers want to know what you liked about your job and the company and what you would change if you could. But keep it simple.”

Be sure to mention how much you learned there and why both you and the company benefited from your time as an employee. You can also say that you were honored to have been part of the organization and are inspired by their mission and products, if this is true.

  • 2
    I can't say any of that as none of that is true. There's a ton of things they could've done to make my experience any better, but they ignored/dismissed my opinions. And while yes, I don't want to burn any bridges, I do not think lying is a way to go. – Sazu Jul 19 '17 at 15:06
  • 2
    "I cannot think of anything you could have done to make my experience here any better." Seems like a stretch when the main concerns are Wage and Management involvement – Joe S Jul 19 '17 at 15:06
  • @Sazu Answer updated. If you want a chance to ever be hired back, when it comes to the HR exit interview, if you have one, you basically should say nothing. If you do not care about the bridge, then its up to you. Also consider at some point another employer may wish to speak to your previous manager. – Mister Positive Jul 19 '17 at 15:08
  • 1
    @JoeS Answer Updated. – Mister Positive Jul 19 '17 at 15:08
  • 1
    @Sazu provided an article in regards to the exit interview. – Mister Positive Jul 19 '17 at 15:14

You're about to leave for a new, better job. So what's wrong with just - "I've received an offer for another opportunity that I want to pursue, and have accepted."?

You've been a good worker. You've earned your pay, you're giving proper notice. You don't owe your current employer (who underpays you, has lousy management and dated work tools) any kind of explanation or justification.

If they want feedback, you can give limited feedback, and if they want more details, you can keep it vague unless you feel like they'd definitely listen and try to make improvement, in which case you'd be helping them and your former co-workers.

The vague - It's a substantial raise, for one (no one faults anyone for improving their economic situation, as long as you don't seem solely motivated by greed). Their technology is more advanced, so it's a great opportunity for me to improve my skill set and be more current for my field.

Avoid references to management style, completely, if keeping it vague. If they want to know about that, maybe a "I feel like their work environment is a better fit for me."

If you do go down the road of more details, and it really seems like you don't want or need to, so, again, only if it seems like they already have some kind of epiphany about needing to make changes -

All the stuff above (don't dwell on the pay, other than you feel like they might not be up to market norms, and talk about specifically how the technology falls short), and then, when you go into details about management, talk about processes and results in cold, objective terms. Do not use any kind of adjectives that indicate judgment (like "lousy" that you shared with us). What are the specific issues that make the management lousy? Focus on describing those issues analytically.

Example - "We don't have enough regular, detailed interaction with our project manager, so it's difficult to get support that we need when we run into issues." instead of "It seems like the project manager isn't interested, so he/she can't do their job because they don't have a clue about what is going on."

Anyway, I don't want to spend too much time giving advice on topics I'm really advising you to avoid, if at all possible, so I'll leave it at that.

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