Author Topic: How to Broach Sensitive Topic w/ Boss  (Read 1366 times)

soily

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How to Broach Sensitive Topic w/ Boss
« on: March 22, 2021, 12:57:33 PM »
I work at a relatively small engineering firm (~20 people) and am one of two engineers. The other is the boss who relies heavily on me. I want to leave. Eventually. The thought of having that conversation with my boss is intimidating to say the least. Its not that we have an unhealthy relationship (quite the opposite), its that the work isn't fulfilling and I want to live in a different city. My ideal workplace has a healthy work-life balance, good bennies, and an office that is bikeable. My current situation lacks all three. I feel guilty for wanting to leave though. My absence would put an even greater load on his overworked shoulders and the company would not function well without me. Finding a replacement engineer will take some time as we have been looking for a couple years. Also my boss is approaching 70 and I'm not sure of his long term plans for the company. I'm too young to take the company over and honestly, I don't have the appetite to run a small business.

I do not feel comfortable giving him a 2 or 4 week notice when my time comes. I (think?) want it to be planned with both parties aware. How should I bring all of this up with him?  Right now, my plan is to at some point ask him what his long term plans for the company are. My motivation for asking is that if he plans on selling the company to outsiders, I can time my resignation on that. This doesn't feel like a hashed out idea though. I would like some feedback. I have a history of being too timid to voice my needs. This feels like I'm being too timid. I've read similar threads and the prevailing advice seems to be "your company will let you go when you do not fit its needs anymore so why would you not do the same?" My situation feels like its deserves more nuance though.

Malcat

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Re: How to Broach Sensitive Topic w/ Boss
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2021, 01:07:52 PM »
Your issue isn't how to bring this up to him, your issue is that you're treating this like something personal when it isn't.

People leave jobs for all sorts of reasons. If management isn't prepared for that, then they're really shitty management, no matter how well they treat their staff. Being prepared for improtant staff moving in is a critical part of running a company.

How do you bring it up? You do it in writing and keep it simple. When your boss follows up with you, you can choose to explain if you want to, but you don't have to. If you tell them it's because you want to move away, then even the most poorly prepared and unprofessional manager should accept that graciously.

But really, as I said, the bigger issue is why you are internally struggling with this. That's not a healthy relationship to have with an employer. It's fine to feel grateful, and gracious towards your employer when giving notice, and to do what you can to ensure as smooth a departure as possible if you want to, but in no way should it cause you angst to move on from a company if you are ready to move on.

It's not personal, it's business.

soily

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Re: How to Broach Sensitive Topic w/ Boss
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2021, 01:23:39 PM »
Your issue isn't how to bring this up to him, your issue is that you're treating this like something personal when it isn't.

People leave jobs for all sorts of reasons. If management isn't prepared for that, then they're really shitty management, no matter how well they treat their staff. Being prepared for improtant staff moving in is a critical part of running a company.

How do you bring it up? You do it in writing and keep it simple. When your boss follows up with you, you can choose to explain if you want to, but you don't have to. If you tell them it's because you want to move away, then even the most poorly prepared and unprofessional manager should accept that graciously.

But really, as I said, the bigger issue is why you are internally struggling with this. That's not a healthy relationship to have with an employer. It's fine to feel grateful, and gracious towards your employer when giving notice, and to do what you can to ensure as smooth a departure as possible if you want to, but in no way should it cause you angst to move on from a company if you are ready to move on.

It's not personal, it's business.
This is good advice. It made me realize that it feels personal because I know my boss will take it personally. Thank you Malcat.

Malcat

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Re: How to Broach Sensitive Topic w/ Boss
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2021, 01:41:32 PM »
Your issue isn't how to bring this up to him, your issue is that you're treating this like something personal when it isn't.

People leave jobs for all sorts of reasons. If management isn't prepared for that, then they're really shitty management, no matter how well they treat their staff. Being prepared for improtant staff moving in is a critical part of running a company.

How do you bring it up? You do it in writing and keep it simple. When your boss follows up with you, you can choose to explain if you want to, but you don't have to. If you tell them it's because you want to move away, then even the most poorly prepared and unprofessional manager should accept that graciously.

But really, as I said, the bigger issue is why you are internally struggling with this. That's not a healthy relationship to have with an employer. It's fine to feel grateful, and gracious towards your employer when giving notice, and to do what you can to ensure as smooth a departure as possible if you want to, but in no way should it cause you angst to move on from a company if you are ready to move on.

It's not personal, it's business.
This is good advice. It made me realize that it feels personal because I know my boss will take it personally. Thank you Malcat.

Sucks for your boss that they have an unhealthy personal aspects to their management style, but that doesn't mean you need to absorb it as well.

I went through it with my last boss, and I wouldn't give her an inch when she tried to make it personal. I kept saying "staff leaving is the rule, not the exception. You need to be prepared for it."

reeshau

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Re: How to Broach Sensitive Topic w/ Boss
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2021, 02:03:57 PM »
I can give a small business a little more slack for feeling things are personal.  It *is* more personal when you know the entire staff of the company.  But that would not excuse some kind of fit / guilt / etc. on people leaving.  Life moves on.  If your boss is 70, I'm sure he's encountered such during his career.

I also want to bring you back to:

Quote
Finding a replacement engineer will take some time as we have been looking for a couple years.
That is pretty telling.  I know how they could do it--pay more!  Offer benefits!  Offer work / life balance!  All the problems you see with your current job, the rest of the world agrees and has stayed away.  Or your boss isn't *really* trying--either enjoying the fruits of working you hard, or enjoying a harder pace than you feel comfortable with.  They could easily replace you, if they really wanted to.  Maybe your leaving will bring some welcome change to everyone else, too, if the boss has to rethink a few of his assumptions.

I also had a bit of a chuckle at the "payload" in your company.  A 20-person engineering firm with 2 engineers, and one's a manager to boot.  Seems like a lot of overhead for that kind of ratio at a small place.

soily

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Re: How to Broach Sensitive Topic w/ Boss
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2021, 02:12:53 PM »
I can give a small business a little more slack for feeling things are personal.  It *is* more personal when you know the entire staff of the company.  But that would not excuse some kind of fit / guilt / etc. on people leaving.  Life moves on.  If your boss is 70, I'm sure he's encountered such during his career.

I also want to bring you back to:

Quote
Finding a replacement engineer will take some time as we have been looking for a couple years.
That is pretty telling.  I know how they could do it--pay more!  Offer benefits!  Offer work / life balance!  All the problems you see with your current job, the rest of the world agrees and has stayed away.  Or your boss isn't *really* trying--either enjoying the fruits of working you hard, or enjoying a harder pace than you feel comfortable with.  They could easily replace you, if they really wanted to.  Maybe your leaving will bring some welcome change to everyone else, too, if the boss has to rethink a few of his assumptions.

I also had a bit of a chuckle at the "payload" in your company.  A 20-person engineering firm with 2 engineers, and one's a manager to boot.  Seems like a lot of overhead for that kind of ratio at a small place.

All good points! A big part of my boss's career was switching companies multiple times. I hadnt thought about that. Its a natural part of life.

Regarding the 20 employees, context is needed as most of them are field personnel. But to your point, "good engineers make terrible leaders."

the_hobbitish

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Re: How to Broach Sensitive Topic w/ Boss
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2021, 02:15:39 PM »
You said your plans to leave are "eventually". Have you thought about asking for more work life balance or benefits in the mean time? You may still end up leaving eventually, but that's no reason not to work toward a better current situation too. (you may have already gone this route - if so ignore the above)

Sibley

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Re: How to Broach Sensitive Topic w/ Boss
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2021, 10:45:18 PM »
I think you might find value in askamanager.org. Best place for work advice I've ever found.

The resigning topic link seems most applicable to you for this question: https://www.askamanager.org/category/resigning

socaso

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Re: How to Broach Sensitive Topic w/ Boss
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2021, 08:52:05 AM »
You say you know your boss will take this personally. This means you have a good read on him and remember that is an advantage. There are so many non-arguable ways you can structure your leaving. For instance, with the pandemic a LOT of people are rethinking their lives and what they want out of them so you can lean into that and say you've realized you aren't happy living where you do and you want to go live somewhere else. This is very hard to argue with. You can also just say it's time to leave and go. You don't owe him anything, not even an explanation if you don't want to give it. You did the work you were paid to do and there's no obligation on your part to stay forever.

 

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