Question: Hi. I’m trying to find out how to respond to management and colleagues who ask where I’ll be working once I tender my resignation. Any ideas?
Pawling, New York
Answer: Dear Delia, Your question is a common one, and one you are wise to ask, as well:
1. When an employee resigns, he or she is not obligated to tell HR, colleagues or managers who their next employer will be. Who you will be working for in the future is simply your business, and no one else’s. It’s that simple. Telling others where you are headed – especially before you have left your present job – can only create problems of one kind or another, from your present employer or from your next employer, some that we can anticipate and some that we cannot.
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2. That said, we all need to avoid “burning bridges,” and so we often feel a need to respond when colleagues and managers inquire, “Who’s your next employer?” There is a feeling of discomfort when we are asked that question. On the one hand, we want to avoid any future problems with our future employer, and on the other hand, we don’t want to create suspicions, or seem to be hiding anything, or even seemingly rude with our present employers.
3. For those with continuing (a) non-competition agreements, (b) non-solicitation provisions, (c) confidentiality obligations, or other post-employment restrictions, failure to answer that question often seems suspicious to employers. Human nature being what it is, together with the increasingly sensitive nature of employment relations, distrust is always existent, and always intensified by what may appear to be unnecessary secrecy. Not being forthcoming can also be taken as a kind of disloyalty, distrust or even disrespect.
4. Generally, the best answer to the question is “I have promised my new employer not to tell anyone until I get there.” The best response is something like this, “I have been asked not to share the identity of my next employer with anyone before I arrive at my new job, because some of their employees at the new job do not yet know of my arrival. So, I have been asked – and I have promised – not to share that with anyone before my arrival. I hope and expect you can understand.”
5. Here’s a possible variation: “My offer letter says that it is entirely confidential. The last thing I want to do is to violate a confidentiality requirement in my offer letter even before I arrive at the new job. After I am there, I am confident I can tell you and others where I am working. I’m sure you can understand.”
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6. Here’s another possibility: “I am not 100% certain where I will be working, because I have more than one offer outstanding, and I haven’t made up my mind. Not until I am certain where I am headed will I be sharing my alternatives with anyone but my husband.”
7. Concerned that these suggested responses may not be 100% truthful? Then this final suggestion should be good for you. How is this, in case you are concerned about being less than 100% truthful?: “I don’t know whether my new employer has told its present employees about my upcoming arrival, and I don’t want to do anything that could make them upset with me even before I arrive. Please imagine yourself in my position”
These answers to “Where’s your next job?” or “Who is your next employer?” accomplish both challenges you face: (i) avoiding giving information out that could only result in your being hurt in some way, and, at the same time (ii) not acting in a way others see as suspicious or secretive, all thus not burning bridges.
Keep these in mind, and share them with others. Simple, common sense thoughts, yet artful workplace navigation.
Delia, thanks for writing in. I hope this gets you exactly “where you want to go.”
P.S.: If you would like to speak with me directly about this or other subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations. (Even 5-minute “Just One Question” calls.) Just [ click here. ] Evenings and weekends can be accommodated.[newjob]
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