Jun 21, 2010  •  In Career, Personal

What is the Best Way to End a Professional Relationship?

When I quit my last job, I sooo wanted to march into my supervisor’s office, happily declare, “I QUIT!” and go on a tirade on everything I hated about working there.

But all the professional advice I have heard and read advised against it. They told me that if I had major beef with the boss and/or company, I should give it in the form of constructive criticism so that I do not sever any bridges that may be beneficial in the future. So I prepared a list…

…and when the time came for me to quit…

…I chickened out.

More specifically, my boss looked so crestfallen at my announcement, told me that I was the best person that this position had ever had, and sincerely wished me luck in my future endeavors. So as much as I wanted to tell him off, I just couldn’t.

I am now at a point where I must sever another professional relationship for the reasons below:

  • I do not get paid very well. It is a start-up I joined as a favor about 1.5 years ago and I’m starting to wonder if I will ever see any rewards.
  • They take me for granted, assuming that I can make deadlines without checking with me first, hardly ever meeting their own deadlines when I am patiently depending on them so I can do my work.
  • I do not agree with their marketing strategies and believe that our target audience would respond better to different game plans. 

They are aware of my pregnancy and have been talking about hiring someone to temporarily fill in for me while I am on a maternity leave.

However, for the reasons above, I am thinking that this may as well be the best time to quit.

I was friends with one of the co-founders of the company before signing on, and I have become friendly with some of the people I have met through the company, so I do not want to leave on a bad note. So my options are as follows:

  1. Just quit, giving them B.S. reasons about how my hands will be tied with the baby, how they will more likely benefit from someone who lives closer to them (they are located on the west coast), how I am too busy, etc.


  2. Quit and tell them my real reasons for leaving. It will sting, but will only benefit them in the long run.

A (more sneaky) third option would be to go on my maternity leave and just never return.

What would you do in this situation?

15 Responses to “What is the Best Way to End a Professional Relationship?”

  1. Honestly, I would go on mat leave and never come back. I seriously dislike confrontation; but am fully aware that this is probably not the best option :)

  2. Honestly, I would go on mat leave and never come back. I seriously dislike confrontation; but am fully aware that this is probably not the best option :)

  3. Well, are they aware of your blog? Have they just found out?

    Unless you just don’t want to stay, I would also leave after maternity leave. You could also offer some of the criticism in the course of working for them — you may already have — and see how it goes over. And, you may have to quit anyway, but the criticism would be more constructive outside of the context of leaving (even if you’re planning to do that already). I have a friend who tried to do that, but ended up giving a list of reasons he quit and things he disagreed with because his concerns weren’t taken seriously.

  4. Geek in Heels:

    @Jessica — While they know that this blog exists, they never check it. I feel perfectly safe writing about them here. :-)

  5. Sunny:

    Yeah unfortunately you always leave a professional trail. I personally hate dealing with professional relationships and have trouble maintaining old contacts for future needs. I’d suggest doing a combination of 1 and 2. Make the pregnancy your main reason for leaving, saying you feel it’s the right timing to quit, but also add that on a parting note, you’d just like to share your opinion on the marketing strategy. I’d exclude the part about low pay and taking you for granted because I don’t think it will benefit anyone – it’s not gonna change how they treat you since you will be gone though it will feel good to vent and they’re probably not gonna treat the next person any better or pay them more based on your criticism. And obviously just leaving and not coming back wouldn’t be common courtesy, you wouldn’t want one of your employees doing the same to you someday. Hope this helps! :P

  6. Becky:

    I think you have an interesting predicament. In a perfect world I’d like to think you could just give them your real reasons and really believe it would help them but I would personally be worried at how they would take that, would/could it backfire. If it were me I guess I would ask myself a few questions first, do you care about having this company as a reference, what is your relationship like with the co-founder, how would feel if the friendship ended, do you know how they are at accepting this kind of criticism. I would like to think a start-up, especially, would be open to constructive criticism. If it were me, I’d take the sneaky way out, even with the company I’m at now and I’ve been here almost 5 years. Let them fill in the position, see what it’s like w/out you. Everyone knows kids are a lot of work so quitting with the reason that your hands will be tied kind of looks like "well..you could have told us this months ago." I guess I’m just looking for the most legit way out w/out burning bridges. I think being on leave and then saying that you aren’t coming back because of the child looks more realistic. Heck, you could even use your maternity leave to look for another job. If they weren’t going to fill your position, shuffle your work to others and just wait for you to come back, I would have to think hard on every option because each one could burn bridges. Also, in regards to what Jessica said, you just never know about the company reading your stuff. An ex-coworker from my office kept a blog and she was open about it and although my boss never revealed to her that she read it she revealed it to me. BTW, she’s an ex-co-worker because she left on her own, nothing to do with the blog.

  7. Geek in Heels:

    @Becky — I think you made an interesting point. To answer your question, no I wouldn’t mind if my relationship with the co-founder ended. This has been a take-take-take (on their part) relationship from the beginning and I’m frankly getting sick of being promised things over and over again only to be disappointed. And since it’s not a completely "legit" company — there is no physical office, there are only three "employees" who contribute regularly (me being one of them) — I’m not too worried about leaving a burnt trail, so to speak.

    P.S. — I appreciate your warning about the company reading my stuff but I know for a fact that they don’t. :-)

  8. I am going through a similar situation right now. I’ve been fed up with work for awhile, and a lot of it is due to the poor management style of my boss. I recently interviewed with a few different places, and I found myself fantasizing about how I would tell my boss that I was leaving by listing all the things I think he needs to improve.. but realistically I know I won’t do that. In the end I told him that I found another exciting opportunity and made it seem like that is why I am leaving ~ in this vein, you could use the maternity as the main reason that you’re leaving now.

    But I am debating giving him feedback at some point. I think it is important and when it comes down to it, a few changes with his management style could help the lab be much more productive, which he would obviously be very happy with. But figuring out how to do that in a helpful way so as to avoid damaging the relationship is challenging! Not to mention the fact that I’m very non-confrontational as well, so we’ll see if I ever manage to brave this type of conversation. It’s not an easy thing to do!

  9. bohemianbailie:

    My last position that I had to quit I said in the letter that I felt my style of work was not in line with what they expected and perhaps my ethics varied from theres. It made me feel much better being unemployed that I knew I at least said something about how I felt they did business and frankly hired people under false expectations.

  10. Go on maternity leave so you get paid money. And when your benefits run dry, quit and tell them that you now have other "priorities" which does happen. At that point, you can be constructive but gentle about how the long work hours, etc. Don’t burn your bridges. No matter where you are, people talk. And if you stay in the same industry and city, I’m sure people will talk.

  11. Geek in Heels:

    @The Asian Pear — Since it’s such a small company (I don’t even get a regular salary), they probably won’t pay me through my maternity leave and I don’t expect them to. The industry that they are in (entertainment) is completely out of what I usually do and we honestly don’t have ANY professional contacts in common, and we’re on opposite coasts so I don’t think I need to worry about that.

  12. I would not just not come back from maternity leave if you have no intention of returning. It’s not fair to the company and it’s better for them to find a long term replacement now. Plus you may "piss in the pool" for other women who go on maternity leave in the future.

    Would they make any changes if they knew the real reasons for you wanting to leave? Would you stay if they followed your marketing suggestions? If the answer is "no" to both, then better to exit gracefully and say something vague like, "I’m not sure of my plans post the arrival of the baby" which is TOTALLY true. I don’t think any woman can definitively say "I will definitely go back to work" or "I will definitely be a stay at home mom" before the baby is born. Things change, and you don’t know until get there.

  13. Juliette:

    Not sure if it’s helpful, but there’s a series of three podcasts on how to resign here that might be worth listening to: http://www.manager-tools.com/2006/07/how-to-resign-part-1-of-3

    One very minor warning that given your circumstances, you can probably ignore, but that I feel that I ought to give. Some of my friends with young children who are now looking for work having not returned to their job, are having immense problems finding positions. Obvious this is very location and sector-dependent, but I suspect it is still always easier looking for a job when you are already in one.

  14. BB:

    Ditto to Sunny & Becky. Be up front and honest in a way that will allow them to improve their company, but you can still use the baby as an excuse to make it feel less confrontational.

  15. Sarah:

    I recommend telling them, politely, about the reasons you are leaving–including that you might want to spend more time at home with your baby beyond the typical maternity leave. If you are friends with some of the people there, they would probably benefit from knowing how they could improve the company, and you may feel you owe it to them as friends. If you are worried about the confrontation, you could tell them that those reasons (ppor pay and poor marketing strategies) are only secondary to wanting to stay home with the baby. But giving them this information will allow them to make a more appropriate replacement knowing you will not be coming back, and your feedback and suggestions could allow them to grow stronger.

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