Whether you adore your boss or loathe her, letting her know you’re quitting is tough stuff because you never really know how it’s going to go.
Since the range of possible scenarios is basically infinite, it may be useful to have a sense of what you might face when you give notice.
These 10 stories are just a taste of what can happen when you tell your team you’re quitting.
1. The Time My Leader Shunned Me
My last company was bought out, leading to a ton of acquisition pains. Eventually, my team was placed in a new department, and our new leader lived in a different state, so I’d only met him over the phone. He was scheduled to come to our offices in early June, which just so happened to be the same week I gave my two weeks’ notice (to my direct manager, not him). When he got to town, he pretty much avoided my existence and never even said hello. I understand I technically chose to leave his team but really you couldn’t even say hello to me?
2. The Time My Boss Rooted for Me
When I was ready to resign and start a new opportunity elsewhere, I let the CEO know directly. The first thing he said to me was, ‘What took you so long?’
I’d been promoted three times in less than two years (for context) and was still charging through the work I was given. I think he and I both knew that it wasn't the best culture fit for me, and he was just waiting for me to make my move.
3. The Time My Company Was in Denial
A few years back, I decided I was going to leave my job, after having been with the company for five years. I didn’t have anything else lined up; I was planning to take time off before my next corporate gig to travel, advise startups, and do some independent consulting.
I managed a big team and there was no obvious successor for my role, so I wanted to work with my boss to plan a nice, smooth transition. Because he worked in another location, I told him by phone that I wanted to leave within the next few months. I thought we’d agreed to work on a transition plan—until he went missing. For six weeks, he didn’t pick up my calls or answer my emails. It was as if he figured that if we couldn't speak or correspond, I couldn't leave. I finally had to send messages that said ‘I’m going to leave, plan or no plan, so we probably should talk.’
He ended up waiting until the last minute and shoving my job on some poor guy who didn’t want it and who couldn't relate to my team. Sigh, the best of intentions.
4. The Time a VP Made Up a Story About Me
I'd taken what seemed to be the opportunity of a lifetime with an international startup where I’d have the chance to build and manage my own department. Unfortunately, after a few months on the job, I came to realize that things weren't as they seemed. I grew increasingly depressed and was literally dragging myself into the office every day. My only ray of light had been a VP, who seemed to understand what I was going through and regularly commiserated with me about the endless list of problems at the company.
He was incredibly supportive to my face when I gave notice, but I later found out that he was telling everyone who would listen that I was likely leaving because my marriage was falling apart and that I couldn't handle the pressure. He also suggested that I didn't really want to work at all and was like ‘an old lady who just wanted to retire and live on a boat.’ I’d never discussed my marriage with him (nor was it in any sort of trouble) and I was 29 years old and very eager to build a career. But I'll give him the boat thing—that would be awesome.
5. The Time I Earned a Co-worker’s Respect
When I put in my resignation, one of my co-workers, the most feared (due to his acerbic wit and extremely sharp tongue) sought me out to find out why I was leaving the organization. I never knew how much he respected me until he expressed his sincere regret that I was leaving the team. I think I almost cried after our conversation.
6. The Time My Manager Tried to Play the Power Card
I was hired for a new position within my company. During the two weeks when I was wrapping up tasks with my department in preparation for stepping into my new role, my boss insisted on giving me a performance evaluation. Granted, this was during the company's annual review period, but it still felt strange, considering I was leaving, so I questioned it.
My boss snapped at me and insisted that we meet. Fortunately, HR came to the rescue and shut it down. My manager bitched about it for a good 10 minutes while I looked on in amusement. When she pestered me for a (big) favor a month after I started in my new role, I politely declined.
7. The Time I Got a Free Lunch Out of It
The first (and only) time I resigned, I was absolutely terrified! I was quitting my finance job to move into recruiting at a startup—a complete 180. While I was very excited for this next step, I spent the whole weekend a nervous wreck. Although my manager was a nice guy, I’d only been working for him for a short time and we didn’t have a close relationship. I rehearsed a whole speech and even cleaned out most of my desk in anticipation of being told to leave on the spot.
Come Monday morning, I pulled my manager into a room and told him that I was going to take the next step in my career and had decided to accept a new role. To my surprise, he was incredibly supportive, immediately congratulated me and seemed genuinely excited for me. He accepted my resignation (I didn’t have to leave immediately), and we talked briefly about a transition plan.
During my remaining time, he took me to lunch to say goodbye, and he even took an interest in learning about my new role and company. The transition was quick and easy, and I left on very good terms.
8. The Time I Became Everyone’s Confidante
I gave six months’ notice twice. When you give a lengthy notice, everybody, all of a sudden, wants to tell you everything they ‘really think’ about the employer, their job, and the boss’ cat. I’ve never had so many instant ‘close friends’ telling me their deepest, darkest secrets simply because I’d made the decision to move on. I felt like I was somehow voted team therapist without being asked if I was up for the position.
9. The Time I Quit By Accident
I accidentally gave my resignation. I sensed I was coming to the end of my run at the company, and it had been on my mind for a few weeks, but I didn’t mean to blurt it out when I did. I was on my weekly check-in call with my manager, and we were reviewing my sales pipeline, which, truthfully, was pretty weak.
Before I realized what I was doing, I said something along the lines of, ‘Yeah, I only have one deal that’s going to close this month, I don’t have any meetings booked for next week. I haven’t done much prospecting...and I think I’m just sort of done.’ When she asked, 'Wait, you mean done done?’ I said, ‘Yeah I think so.’
She was so awesome about it, telling me to take a week to think about it and make sure it’s what I actually wanted. She also asked how she could help, so I guess you could call it a happy accident.
10. The Time I Shouldn’t Have Listened
I had a great relationship with my boss and credited her openly with teaching me almost everything I knew about my industry. As much as I loved my job, after five years with the same company I was feeling ready to take on a new challenge.
So, after securing an exciting new offer I told my boss (through tears) that it was time for me to move on. She then flipped everything on its head and revealed that she was leaving too. But wait—she wanted me to hold off on telling anyone else because she wanted to tell the CEO her news first. She insisted this would be the best way to handle it, and I trusted her.
Long story short, I came off looking like the jerk who was only giving a single week of notice (even though I’d really given two!). I received a lot of flak from my co-workers, while she sailed out on heroic terms.
People—if you haven’t figured it out yet—are wildly unpredictable creatures. You never know if a colleague you thought hated you will want to be your best friend the moment you announce you’re quitting or if the CEO will give you genuine well wishes.
None of these stories should alarm you, however. If you find yourself ready to give your boss two weeks’ notice, just make sure you’re as professional as possible and 100% committed to your decision. If you do that, then no matter wow the other party reacts, you’ll know you did everything right.