“Small Firm Employee: Will They Take My Leaving “Personally?”

Question: I am a first-year graduate student, and employed by a three-person law firm. One of my superiors is condescending and inappropriate every day, though he thinks his behavior is harmless banter. I have maintained professional distance, but the firm is very casual, so casual that I have been invited to family functions.

This is the problem: I just learned I must leave my job. I do not want to discuss my reasons for leaving, but I’m certain they will take an unexplained resignation as a personal insult. Also, I’d like to leave on a positive note, and have them available as a reference.

I can only give them two weeks. They have no training procedure, so I am preparing a detailed memo on my job, and how to do it. I really don’t know what else I can do. Any suggestions?

Leigh from Altamonte Springs, FL

Answer: Your question is probably best answered this way: “You can’t do better than your best, and you seem to be doing just that.” Frankly, your letter to me showed a true concern for your employer, a valid desire to keep your personal business personal, an honest attempt to be considerate to your employers in every way, and a sincere desire not to burn bridges. I suggest you put those very same feelings and concerns into writing, meet with your bosses, and give them a written memo that does that, as well.

The four things you might add are the following: (a) thank them for all of the grace, courtesies and kindnesses they have always shown to you, (b) if it is feasible, assure them you will try to make yourself available by telephone to answer questions by your superiors and your replacement, (c) tell them that your leaving is not a rejection, disapproval or insult, but instead fulfillment of a commitment to yourself and others that you simply cannot dishonor, and (d) finally, ask them if you might count on them as a future reference that you are a good employee.

Many people are so compassionate and caring as to deny themselves opportunities and rewards that they, themselves, deserve. Your own well-being might be something you have been brought up to consider secondary, but being good to yourself is a kind of taking care of your loved ones, as well. You might be just a touch too caring for your employer, and not to yourself.

I may be wrong, but I think you have far less to fear than you do. And, again: you are doing your best; no one can do better.

If you’re ever looking for a job in New York . . .

Hope that helps.

Best, Al Sklover