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Feb 10, 2006

On the 300th Day... She Resigned

The common rule of business writing -- simple is best -- serves your resignation letter as well. Typically, simple can be difficult to get to behind regret, defeat, and vitriol.

As I began to research for this article, I discovered that any "tips for writing resignations" has already been done. So I'll just discuss my own. Feel free to use it; it wasn't submitted.

Dear <>,
Please consider this notice that I am vacating my position on
the *** staff end of day Friday, February 10, 2006. I am unable to commit to the ****business, and the role that has been defined for me in it. I believe it is in the best interests of the team for you to find a better fit for your needs; it is in my best interests to undertake a full-time effort toward finding the
right fit for myself.
I will be able to provide a list of my expected end-of-week deliverables in our 1:1 meeting tomorrow afternoon, including a discussion of any transition plan you feel is required.

The ball began rolling in a cross-functional team meeting when I heard myself think, "I'm not doing this anymore." And I knew it as clearly as I knew anything that by the end of the day I would have said my good-byes. I had been meaning for several days to prepare a letter in advance, to carry on my person like a concealed weapon.

Last Wednesday demonstrated why people should not carry either.

When you realize you are about to walk away, you might just tell your boss where to step off in a cross-functional team meeting -- in front of his peer and both of their subordinates. I can tell you however that I never raised my voice, I never used profanity, I never called names, or so much as waved a hand. Nothing is more intimidating than a woman who says, "I am angry" without any appearance of being so.

One guaranteed outcome of a display like this is some private time with the Boss. And if he was expecting that I was afraid of getting fired (when I was instead reloading) that would explain the look on his face. As they used to say in the Uncle Arthur Bedtime Stories, "let us draw a veil over that scene."
It ended with this:
He: You haven't come by once to even ask me questions about your job.
She: I've been focused on leaving it.
He: I'm not going to pay you to look for other jobs.
She: How much notice would you need?
He: A week.
She: I can do that.
I had a project milestone at the end of the week, and said I was committed to that (a jab - this project is not owned by our department), but Monday we would see where we were.

Knowing it is unusual to have such a long run-up toward the walk-off, I took my time.
Thursday: Cleaned off the hard drive. This probably would have been easier if I could have figured out how to burn a CD, but it only took a few floppies to capture was what mine: about 10 variations of my resume, my browser bookmarks, my Outlook contacts, and my Schwab 401k statements. Just for good measure, I copied work-related folders onto the department's shared drive (because I don't screw my co-workers).
Friday: Lots of time spent on IM and phone calls with friends and colleagues. To all of you said "you'll be fine," because you know I have done this before, my many thanks. To Pete, for the offer of part-time work before I even needed it, I will always be indebted.
Saturday: Project delivery day. Then I packed my desk and wrote my letter. The message is not very different from what I had told the Boss a month before. Adding the sentence about deliverables and a transition plan was just a bit of the Ice Princess. Also wrote 3 other letters to execs who knew I had been trying to break free, but could not get more action from the Company than "you are such an asset." I wanted to be able to come out of the Boss's office with the deed done, hit send, and get right back to work.
Sunday: Faculty meeting with our Dean of Students, Miss Minchin. If you question your affiliation with BWFS&SC, let me assure you that membership has its rewards. We strategized the Monday meeting to come and explored the concept of "fit and match" in light of MBTI type indicators (one of our preferred topics).

Monday afternoon: 3 copies of the letter in a manila folder -- one for him, one for me, one for HR -- in a leather portfolio, which I set on the floor beside the chair. And I let him set the tone. I let him decide where this would go. I was prepared to follow through, but I was not hoping for either outcome.
He: I thought you were going to come in here with a decision.
She: I can do this job, but I will always be unhappy, and I will still be looking for something else. And I understand that is not acceptable to you.

Here he had the opportunity to fire me if he wanted to, and I thought I could at least collect (thanks, employment at will) while I job-hunted. But I quickly realized he wasn't going to.

Even he knew this wasn't a win -- not for him anyway; he could not care less about me. Firing me sent a message that he had no other options, that he couldn't handle me, and all things considered, was disproportionate to embarrassing him. Letting me resign would certainly solve both of our problems (hating each other and all) but sent the wrong message about how to solve labor/management relations.

Toe-to-toe, eye-to-eye across that desk, we both knew there was still a way for us to close this incident with both of us saving face. I took a weak scolding on my lack of deportment and a warning about continuing to complain. I was genuinely contrite about my behavior and pledged to control it.

He never saw the letter. Perhaps he believes he called my bluff. Perhaps I called his. Because now he is invested in coordinating my clean departure from his department (and expects daily thanks for his effort).

And I have an interview tomorrow that he doesn't know about.

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