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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

5 Possible Ways Your Boss Might React When You Resign (and How to Know Which to Expect)

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Turning in your two weeks notice can be terrifying—because no matter how well you think you know your supervisor, you can never be 100% sure of his or her reaction.

Will he be furious and insist on walking you out the door immediately? Will she beg you to stay, enticing you with an enormous raise? Or will he be completely civil and wish you the best of luck?

However, if you know the right signs to look for, there’s a good chance you can figure out what kind of reaction to expect—and that can make the conversation go much more smoothly. Here are a few common reactions and how to anticipate which one you’ll receive.

Reaction 1: Tempting You to Stay

It’s a reaction that’s both good and bad: Your boss values you so much that he or she offers you a raise or promotion to stay. But it can leave you feeling conflicted: You have another great job lined up—but now that there’s more money on the table, do you really want to leave your current position?

Spot the Signs

You may receive this reaction if you’re a high-ranking executive or director. These positions can be difficult to replace quickly, so it may be worth it to your company to tempt you to stay rather than letting you go without a fight. It can also happen if you have extremely specialized knowledge that would make it challenging to replace you.

On the other hand, if you’re in an entry- or mid-level position, and someone could be hired into your position without much trouble, it’s less likely your boss will put up a fight—and a counteroffer.

Prepare for It

The best way to prepare for this reaction is to simply know your stance ahead of time by determining if you would even consider a counteroffer. Yes, it may be more money or a better title, but there’s more to consider—including your career goals, level of job satisfaction in your current role, and the opportunities that your new role offers.

Reaction 2: Asking You to Stay Beyond Your Notice

In this situation, you won’t necessarily get the promise of more money or a better title—but your manager will ask you, perhaps as a personal favor, to stay a few additional weeks or months until the company is able to hire and train a replacement.

Spot the Signs

Again, you may receive this response if you have specialized knowledge that would make it difficult or time-consuming to hire your replacement—or if it would be helpful for you to be actively involved in that search.

However, it could also be the reaction if your company is approaching or is currently in a busy season and needs the additional staff, or it’s experiencing unusual circumstances, like a hiring freeze, which would prevent it from replacing you entirely.

Prepare for It

Like the situation above, you should go into the conversation knowing how you’ll respond if your boss asks you to extend your notice.

If you’ve landed another job offer and have already set a start date, this may not be possible—so practice sticking to your guns: “Because I have a new opportunity lined up, my last day here is firm. However, I’m happy to help out however I can in the next two weeks.”

If you haven’t landed a new gig yet or your new start date is negotiable, know your limits. If you’re willing to stay an additional three weeks, for example, don’t let your manager talk you into staying three more months.

Reaction 3: Refusing to Let You Work Out Your Notice

This is perhaps the most dreaded reaction—that you’ll hand over your two weeks’ notice, and your manager will insist on walking you out the door immediately.

Spot the Signs

According to Alison Green, who writes the blog Ask a Manager, this is common practice for some industries, especially if you’re leaving to work for a direct competitor. However, in those situations, you’ll likely know it’s coming and can prepare accordingly.

Otherwise, look to the history of your company. How have your boss and other managers handled employees’ resignations? If you see a pattern of upper management refusing to let the team members work out their notice, you can likely expect the same.

Also think about your relationship with your manager. Would he or she have reason to think that you’ll waste your last two weeks or distract your co-workers instead of doing what you can to make the transition seamless? If so, you may be asked to cut your two weeks short.

Prepare for It

Your best option in this scenario is to accept it with dignity and make sure you’re ready to leave the office for good when you turn in your resignation letter, whether that means gathering up your personal items or making sure you’ve collected the names and contact information for the teammates and clients you’d like to stay in touch with.

Then, steel yourself for your manager’s reaction and react with grace.

Reaction 4: Acceptance With Displeasure

It’s possible that your boss won’t take immediate action like the reaction above—but will make it clear that he or she isn’t exactly happy about your resignation.

Maybe, for example, she’ll mutter a curt, “Thank you for letting me know,” followed by two weeks of obvious displeasure or denial that you’re leaving—through gruff comments (“You know, you’re really leaving us in the lurch”) or a refusal to interact with you more than absolutely necessary.

Spot the Signs

The most obvious sign that you’ll receive this reaction is if you haven’t had a healthy relationship with your manager in the past. Maybe you continually challenged his ideas, and he took that as a sign of disrespect. Or, maybe she always made unreasonable demands, and you were never able to see eye-to-eye on your to-do list. Or perhaps his moods were completely unpredictable.

In any case, if your relationship has been strained, you may receive a less-than-ideal response to your two weeks’ notice.

Prepare for It

In this case, all you can do is politely deliver your resignation, then strive to make the transition as easy as possible for your team. Your manager may not have the ideal reaction to your news—and your workplace may not be the most pleasant environment for the next two weeks—but to avoid burning bridges, it’s best to work through it with a positive attitude.

Reaction 5: Acceptance With Grace

The best-case scenario—and honestly, the most common reaction—is that your boss will accept your resignation with understanding and sincere congratulations. Your manager will be happy to see that you’re advancing your career and moving on to something bigger and better.

Spot the Signs

Do you have a good relationship with your manager? Is he or she relatively reasonable? Do you have regular one-on-ones where you talk about your career goals and growth? If so, it’s likely that your boss will accept your resignation with grace, help develop a plan of action for your last two weeks, and maybe even attend your farewell happy hour.

Prepare for It

This one is easy. All you have to do is smile and say “Thank you so much for your support. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I’ve learned a lot from you. Let me know what I can do to make the transition easier.”

Are you always going to get reaction number five? Probably not. But if you look for the signs, you can likely anticipate your boss’ response, go into the conversation prepared, and come out stronger on the other side. Then, you can breathe a sign of relief and start looking forward to starting your new position.