“I have a good working relation with my employer. If I collect my bonus, and then resign, will I jeopardize my reputation and the respect I have earned?”

Question: My question involves timing, money and respect.

I’ve been offered a new position, and have only to sign and return my offer letter. I will start the new position over a month from now, so giving enough notice is not the issue.

My annual performance review is scheduled for next week, at which time we will discuss my performance and bonus. I realize that this time might be better spent discussing my upcoming transition, than spent discussing my achievements, areas for improvement, and goals.

However, I do not want to jeopardize any leverage I have in negotiating my bonus. I also do not want to be seen as manipulative if I go to my annual bonus review as usual, negotiate my bonus, and turn in my resignation only after the check has been cut.

I have a good working relationship with my employer, and many former employees have maintained excellent relationships with the employer, as well. If at all possible, I would like to do the same.

What do you recommend is the most effective way to navigate this situation, while respecting both (a) my right to collect a bonus for past performance, and (b) the relationships and reputation I have worked hard to cultivate? My question reflects my own strong desire to remain respected.

A Reader and Fan
Location Unknown

Answer: I love your question, because it exhibits something we don’t see too often at work these days: mutual respect, the first and primary building block of any good working relation. Hooray!! As almost always, the answer to your question lies in The Golden Rule: “Treat Others as You Would Have Them Treat You.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with waiting until after receipt of your bonus check to resign and make your career move. Nothing at all. To give notice before receipt of your bonus, and in that way jeopardize your hard-earned bonus would be, to my mind, simply foolish, for you should have no shame for prudently protecting your rightful interests.

At the same time, you should show respect to the employer in the way you are leaving. How do you navigate that? Simple: consider your employer’s interests, and take reasonable steps to protect them, just as you have done to protect your own interests:

(1) You might wait a week or more after your bonus check clears the bank before you give notice. (Please note: For those who are paid by “automatic deposit,” employers can go back and withdraw payments previously made, so we urge those who are leaving to withdraw bonus monies immediately upon their being cleared, and depositing them into another banking institution.)

(2) Give your notice discreetly, not with public fanfare. Ask your immediate superior how he or she would like to notify others internally and externally.

(3) Make sure to emphasize that you are not leaving in anger, dismay or disgust, but instead are changing jobs due to an irresistible opportunity, or significant amenity or lifestyle improvement.

(4) Make sure you express appreciation for the opportunities, collaboration, and courtesies you have been given, even if they have been few and far between.

(5) Draft a written Employee Transition Plan which includes all necessary information, documentation and steps that your employer and your replacement might need.

(6) Give enough notice to ensure that you can do a good job of executing on your Employee Transition Plan.

(7) Provide sincere assurances that you will be reasonably available to answer any inquiries that may come your way.

(8) Do not do anything that could possibly be misinterpreted as (a) criticizing management, (b) urging others to leave, (c) taking with you anything of value, or (d) not putting in a full day of work every day.

(9) On your last few days in the office, don’t hide. Rather, try to say “good bye” to everyone, in the most positive, uplifting way you know how. Express appreciation of anything and everything you can think of. People remember feel that in a special, positive way, and never forget it.

Remember this: Respect begets respect. It’s in these respectful measures that you continue to earn respect, even in leaving. Anyone whose respect you are concerned about should only respect you more for leaving in this way. As to any negative feeling anyone may have about your “cashing in” just before leaving, these kinds of positive, caring, respectful measures will likely make any such feelings of disappointment just dissipate, if not disappear.

Hope that helps you in your own navigation from your present position to the next. As an employer, myself, if you followed these steps, I would be so impressed with your leaving, I just might be tempted to try to get you back.

Best, Al Sklover