“Use ‘The Three D’s’ when resigning from a good job.”

Question: I have a job offer that’s going to pay me much better than my current job. I have been working at the current organization almost 6 years now. I have a wonderful boss, got excellent opportunities, responsibilities, recognition and success. The only reason I want to leave is the pay offered by the new job. 

I will have to stay here for at least the next two to three years to reach the higher pay scale being offered to me in the new job. 

Everyone here has been so nice that it would not be nice to mention pay as a reason to quit. I do not want the stigma of seeming un-loyal, and do not want to hurt anyone here. 

How do I convey my decision and yet keep relations intact?                                                           

Name Withheld
Pune, Maharashtra, India 

[Note to Readers: Pune is the seventh largest metropolis in India, an important center of political, educational, cultural, spiritual, sports and business activity.]   

Answer: Dear Visitor: For the benefit of my blog readers, I enjoy answering a variety of questions, and I especially enjoy those questions that are “a little different.” Your letter made me consider and apply a bit more of my “beliefs” than my “knowledge.” Here is what I mean:     

1. First and foremost, I applaud (a) your appreciation for the goodness around you, and (b) your concern for the feelings of others. Though your appreciation and concern are not exactly central to the question you present to me, they comprise its context, what I sometimes refer to as the “ground from which your question grows.” Appreciation and concern – or perhaps the words gratitude and compassion might be more accurate – are positive elements in any life, and in any life experience that is shared with others, such as work. I am confident you do not seek “applause,” but I “applaud” your appreciation and concern, nonetheless.    

2. Second, while I do not know the amount of pay increase in question, or your financial needs, may I suggest that you give thought to your entire set of “employment values.” Having been in severe financial need at times in my own life, I would never say that money is not important. It is often very important, especially when it comes to providing necessities for others in our lives. That said, your description of your employers, your colleagues, and the great personal fulfillment you find in your present job, is an unusual one in how positive and rewarding it seems. In my experience, what you describe as the extent of positive attributes of your present job are difficult to find in this world, and should not be given up on without very good reason. Perhaps I say this because most of my clients, and most people who write to my blog, have very significant problems at work, and very few who write to me find such satisfaction and fulfillment in their jobs as you do from yours. I just want to share with you my positive feelings at hearing of your positive workplace experience, and my sense of how fortunate you are in this respect. I consider periodic review of, and changing course in light of, a person’s “employment values” to be a valuable self-discipline. 

If I might suggest you review a newsletter I have written on the subject of “employment values,” to which I refer quite often. To review it, just [click here.]  

3. Third, have you considered a candid conversation with your boss – who you describe as “wonderful” – to discuss your dilemma? I am reminded of an old Yiddish saying that goes “It is no shame to be poor, but it is no honor, either.” While you seem to view discussions of compensation with discomfort and unease, bear in mind that your losing your good working relation, and your wonderful boss losing your good talents, may cause both you and him greater and unnecessary discomfort and unease than might a candid discussion.  

Experience teaches us that people often regret what they did not say, due to feared discomfort, than things they summoned up the courage to say, and did say. 

I cannot tell you how many times I have had a client like yourself – who is quite valuable, very loyal, and a great asset – leave a job, only to be told “Why did you not come to me and be honest with me? I could have gotten you a pay raise, and faster pay raises in the future?” Though it may seem to some like such a conversation may be “manipulating” or even “extortionate,” and thus seeking a counter-offer, who cares what others think when, in your mind and in your heart you know you are doing the right thing in the right way. 

It is for this reason that I often – but not always – counsel my clients to consider openness and honesty, in the right way, at the right time, in the right circumstances and – and here is the big one –  with the right boss. That last one – the right boss – is critical.

 4. If you want to avoid the possibility of any sense of disloyalty, that might require that you instead be less than candid, or even “a little bit dishonest.” Let’s both face the truth: if the sole reason you are considering leaving your present job is the higher pay being offered by your next employer, either you will say that fact with complete honesty, or you will be “a little dishonest,” what some people might refer to as being “diplomatic.” I do not believe that you must be 100% honest 100% of the time, but rather that it is acceptable to limit, tailor and/or modify the words you use to express yourself, depending on the people, situation and purpose of the communication. 

This is how I have heard this concept expressed: “If you meet a friend who has a newborn baby, and you think the baby is not at all a pretty baby, but rather quite unattractive, must you tell the parent the truth?” Is it a sin to say, “What a wonderful, happy and healthy baby!!”? I don’t think it is dishonest, although it is not exactly what you are thinking and feeling. 

As to your own situation, when  you explain to others your reason for leaving, I might suggest you offer that “A number of factors – all of them positive, and none of them negative about anyone at this company – led to my conclusion that a change was the right thing for me to do at this time.” That, it seems, is about 90% honest, and about 10% not exactly true. However, I would say that it is “honest enough” for the circumstances.   

5. So, I finally answer your question: How do you say it? With equal measures of (a) Dignity, (b) Diplomacy and (c) Determination. Let’s start off with “Dignity,” that is, maintaining your dignity toward others, as well as your dignity to yourself. If you are certain you are going to make the move to the new job, I would speak to your boss, and tell him or her of (a) your immense respect for him or her, (b) your deeply felt gratitude for the opportunities and respect given to you, (c) your fond memories of every day of your work and collaboration at the company, (d) your sense of continuing loyalty, (e) your inner turmoil about the move, and – last but not least – (f) your determination not to “burn any bridge,” “cut any cord,” or “ruin any relationship” that has grown so beautifully over the last six years.  

Now for “Diplomacy”: Be aware that, no matter how hard you try, your “notice” might be taken as a disappointment, or even a disloyalty. You cannot control others’ feelings, and you can’t be responsible for them, either. We can only be responsible and be held accountable for our own actions, as they may or may not take into account the feelings, interests and perspectives of others. No matter what negativity may come your way, accept it, and embrace it, without engaging in it, but offer up only “I am sorry you feel that way.”  

And now for “Determination”: Be aware, too, that your giving notice might also be met with pleas that you reconsider your decision, and even the presentation to you of a counter-offer, such as “What will it take for me to get you to change your mind and stay?” If, in your heart, you would consider a “counter-offer,” then I strongly suggest you reread section “3,” above, and consider a frank and candid discussion of your dilemma, but before you hand in your resignation. 

I say this because, if there is one thing that I have seen engenders a sense of “disloyalty,” it is a person who accepts a counter-offer, and remains on the “old” job. I say this because this often makes people feel like they were, in effect, “held up” or “extorted” under pressure. In fact, many people who accept counter-offers end up being terminated not too long afterward, as soon as the employer is able to replace him or her. Counter-offers can work, but they often end up developing a greater mistrust and sense of disloyalty. The message: if you resign, do so deliberately, and don’t consider counter-offers.     

For great info and insight, consider viewing our 12-minute Sklover-On-Demand Video entitled “Resigning – What to Do, How to Do It.” To do so, just [click here.] 

So, when resigning from a “good employer,” always focus on these “Three D’s”: Dignity, Diplomacy and Determination. With those as your guide, you will almost surely do well in your transition.  

As always, I hope this helps. Again, I applaud your approach to work, and I am confident that, no matter what you will do, you will be successful. And, also, thanks for writing in from India, where so many of our most loyal visitors live. 

My Best to You,
Al Sklover

P.S.: We get more compliments on our 100-Point Pre-Resignation Checklist than we do for any of our Model Memos, Letters, Checklists and Agreements. To obtain a copy, for your Peace of Mind, all you need to do is just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

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