“How can you resign from a job in both silence and good conscience, if it means that people in need will only remain in greater need?”

Question: I am a Social Worker who took an oath to protect the people I serve. For years now I have been doing my best to do that, but for years I have also been constantly “beating my head against the bureaucracy.”

Sadly, I have reached the conclusion that, in order to preserve my health and sanity, I only have a choice of either (a) leaving, or (b) pretending I do not see the incompetence, the uncaring, and the absence of accountability of my colleagues that, together, prevent my clients from being helped as they should be. I just can’t stick my head in the sand; I really must leave.

However, every article I have read about resigning recommends “Don’t say anything negative.” When I do resign, should I be honest about why I am leaving? Should I say anything after I leave? If I do say something, should it be anonymously?

Name Withheld
Santa Rosa, California

Answer: Overall, the answer to your very difficult dilemma is quite simple: Sometimes you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. So, first, take care of you.

My suggestion is that, if possible, you stay on your job until you can find a new one. If that’s not possible, I suggest you resign, and then seek a new job. Your resignation need not include a reason for your leaving. You can always deal with that later. There is no law, rule or regulation that says you cannot say or write, “I am going to wait until I feel the time is right to advise you – the people who run this agency, and those who fund this agency – of my reasons for leaving. If you want to register your voice regarding the sorry state of affairs at your agency, it would be far better to do it when it is “safe” for you to do so.

If you do later share your thoughts, feelings and frustrations, do so in writing, with passion but without poison, with compassion but while maintaining your composure, with conviction but without contentiousness. Remember that no one can hear your voice through a closed door: the way you say things can stop, or stimulate, people hearing your message. You might want to do it anonymously, but your message will be that much more powerful if not anonymous.

Be careful, though, not to defame anyone (defined as a false statement of fact that harms reputation), or violate any rule about confidentiality, both of which could get you in legal “hot water.”

The world surely needs more people like you, who care, and who work each and every day helping those in our community who need help. But, first and foremost, you need to take care of yourself, to your best ability. I hope these thoughts help you do so.

Keep the faith, and don’t ever lose your courage to care.

Al Sklover

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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