Knowing When to Leave - Make sure you do it peaceably
Today, a social media platform was so kind as to bring this photo to mind from years past.
It was a photo I took at the first waste water treatment plant I ever visited for the first integrator I worked for. Despite the fact they were a good company and I hope to get to work with them on projects in the future, I still chose to leave them. In the hope of assisting integrators who are just starting off their careers, we decided to start a series on "Knowing When to Leave" and intermixing it with the technical tips we have to offer. As with all such advice, "your mileage may vary" and we highly recommend talking to peers and mentors before acting on anything just because of what you may read here.
I personally have left companies because of changing life circumstances, or for a job on a better career path, or because the people I had to work with were, in my opinion at the least, crooks or inept, but rarely because the company itself was bad. For this reason, the name of every company I leave will only be Acme Co. as I have no desire to insult a past company just because of a bad co-worker.
Acme Co is a conglomeration and caricature of the different places I have worked and the accounts of others related to me, any resemblance to actual places I may have worked is unintentional.
I had worked at Acme Co for some time when various small and large issues came to head and I decided it was time to leave. Acme Co had been... a hard place to work. The hours had been long and without overtime pay, the middle-management team treated the integrators like a nuisance distracting them from partying, and the co-workers were difficult, to say the least.
So, I quietly turned in my two week notice to the HR team, desiring to stir up as little trouble as possible, and dug into tying up as many loose ends as possible before the two weeks were up. After a couple hours I saw my supervisor walk by briskly, finally arriving for the day. Shortly after that, I began to overhear co-workers talking about how my supervisor, his supervisor, and HR were running between their offices having meetings and speculating what it could be about.
After another hour, I looked up to see my direct supervisor standing there. The conversation started pleasantly enough, they didn't really care why I was leaving, but was blaming it some random tangential issue. At this point I was faced with a dilemma, I wanted to leave peaceably as possible, however this supervisor was willfully ignoring systemic issues going on in their department that had already caused several good integrators to leave; issues exacerbated by this supervisors work attitude. Since I was technically still an employee of their company did I have a moral obligation to inform my supervisor of these issues, issues that if fixed may hurt a future employer by strengthening the competition?
The answer I quickly came to as the supervisor was talking was yes. There's no law that says you have to give a two week notice, it's a professional courtesy. If I didn't want to share this information because the company was morally bankrupt then I could quit on the spot and leave, if I wanted to finish out my two weeks then I was the moral and professional obligation to do my work, as Colossians 3:23 says, "[whole-heartily], as for the Lord and not for men."
Here was the key though, I did it dispassionately and calmly. A task that became increasingly difficult as the supervisor began to seethe and visibly shake in anger towards me before finally storming out. Soon after, I was walked to the door.
I haven't seen that supervisor since then, however I did gain a reputation for being calm and collected that has followed me and been a great benefit to my career. Moreover, I later had an opportunity to go back to them, turns out that after enough of us had left in a calm and collected manner upper-management had intervened and fixed many of the issues. I chose not to work for them at that time, but they remained a viable option and all because I made sure to leave honestly and peaceably.