Breaking-Up With Your Boss

By Lisa Frank

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As an executive recruiter and career coach, I’ve spent many hours guiding candidates, peers and friends through all aspects of the career and job search process (and, boy, do I have stories…).

As we’ve seen in recent job reports, the job market is finally showing real signs of improvement and hiring is on the rise. Many who have been unemployed are finally landing new opportunities, and those who have been fortunate to stay employed during this rocky road are now also actively making job changes again.  

Recently, one of my gainfully employed and very successful readers contacted to me for counsel about how to leave her job gracefully, without burning bridges with her boss.  

A little background: this woman is a senior level professional who was recruited to her current firm less than a year ago from a larger, top-tier firm in the same industry. She made the move because she was very attracted to the new firm’s more boutique setting and thought that the smaller, family-like environment would alleviate some of the frustrations she was feeling in a larger, more corporate culture. But, that wasn’t the case - the move was not a good one for her. Not only has it not been a good culture fit, she has come to realize that she truly doesn’t like the work she’s doing anymore. To complicate things even more, when this firm hired this woman, they made a big financial investment in her because they expected this would be a long-term “relationship.” They even let go of other employees and transitioned their work to her.  But, no matter what, at the end of the day- she just wasn’t happy.  So, she did what any of us would do- she went looking for something new.

When she reached out to me, she was beyond excited to tell me all about the new job she accepted, but couldn’t ignore the pit in her stomach about breaking the news to her boss.

Frankly Speaking, having the break-up talk with your boss, no matter how much you love or hate him/her, is rarely an easy one to have. It’s anxiety-ridden any which way you look at it. In this particular case, it’s pretty likely this woman’s boss will be angry and might even lash out at her for leaving only months after they bent over backwards to bring her on board.  How can she exit gracefully?  Bring a resignation letter. Stick to the facts. Stay calm. Don’t get emotional. Be grateful for the opportunity you had with the company. Don’t use this as an opportunity to unleash all of the pent up anger or frustration that you’ve been keeping inside – no matter what he/she says to you. Let your boss know that you’ve given this a lot of thought and you’ve decided to leave the industry altogether. Remind your boss that you, too, intended for this to be a long-term relationship when you joined and you are very sorry that it didn’t work out.  Be empathetic, be understanding, but stick to your guns. Most importantly, remember why you went looking for something new in the first place and keep your eye on the new opportunity that awaits you.

One more thing.  Today, it’s more common than not for people to make multiple job changes in order to stay challenged and keep moving forward in their careers.  Remember that your bosses have most likely been in your shoes.  It may not seem like it when you’re “breaking-up” with them, but they too will come to their senses and realize that it was for the best – for you and for them.  

Lisa Frank is the founder of LBF Recruitment Strategies. As an executive recruiter, connector and career/life coach she offers a "Frank" approach to all aspects of life. Her blog, Frankly Speaking shares her insights, guidance and outrageous (but true) stories about career and life topics with plenty of humor, relatability, experience and candor.

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