At the Early Retirement Forums, many posters have a long struggle making the final decision to leave their jobs, but those that have done so rarely look back. If you are a hard-working, competent employee, it’s very likely your boss will be highly reluctant for you to leave. Employers may demand a full year of notice before leaving (only to let you go early once a replacement was found), plead and guilt you about abandoning your “family”, and so on.
My wife used to be a very loyal employee that genuinely enjoyed going to work. However, over the years, that changed. The COVID pandemic only accelerated the problem. If you read this NYT article about how “non-profit” hospitals actually make huge profits (gift article), you can get an idea of what happened:
More than half the nation’s roughly 5,000 hospitals are nonprofits like Providence. They enjoy lucrative tax exemptions; Providence avoids more than $1 billion a year in taxes. In exchange, the Internal Revenue Service requires them to provide services, such as free care for the poor, that benefit the communities in which they operate.
But in recent decades, many of the hospitals have become virtually indistinguishable from for-profit companies, adopting an unrelenting focus on the bottom line and straying from their traditional charitable missions.
She didn’t want to leave. She wanted to feel like a valued worker in a safe environment that actually followed their claimed “mission statement”. When that failed, she just wanted an unpaid leave of absence. They denied her that too. The best way to tell this story is through a role play:
Worker: I need to voice my concern that the recent policy changes are detrimental to employee safety and patient care, even though you say that patients are your top priority.
Employer: No, of course not! You are a greatly valued employee. Have a company-branded mug!
Worker: Why did all the lower level staff receive a pay cut when none of the executive team received a pay cut?
Employer: We hear your concerns and will take them into consideration in the future! Would you like a company-branded backpack?
Worker: Dear Management, I am burned out.
Employer: Everyone is burned out! We are a team! Let’s go team!
Worker: It’s been several months. I feel worse. I request an unpaid leave of absence.
Employer: You are a critical part of our team. You will hurt the rest of your team if you quit. We need you!
[two weeks pass]
Worker: I am still very burned out. I am concerned about my physical and mental wellbeing. I officially request an unpaid leave of absence. I don’t want benefits. I just need a break. Please.
Employer: We officially deny your request. Please read this glossy pamphlet on how much we value “Employee Mental Wellness”. See you at work on Monday!
Worker: Okay. Well, I quit. Here is my official letter of resignation.
Employer: What?!? Really? Okay, okay, you can have the leave of absence. Sheesh.
Worker: Too late. I quit.
Employer: Wait, wait, wait. You win! We will give you a 3 month paid leave of absence! With benefits! Stay! Please? Pretty please?
Worker: I decline your offer. You already showed your true colors.
Employer: This is outrageous! You are just being unreasonable!
[a week passes]
Employer: We already hired someone to replace you. We had to pay them double the hourly rate. Don’t forget to turn in your name badge.
Many co-workers and friends advised her to just take the three months of “free” money and then quit again afterward. But things had changed. She wanted a leave of absence to take a break and re-assess. She was unsure. When she was denied that simple and reasonable request, she no longer had to re-assess. She now knew that she would never go back to work for this current management team. Perhaps they should have read this Linkedin article Don’t beg employees to stay as they leave:
It’s disrespectful to the employee. When employers don’t consider an employee’s request for something to change to make their work environment better, the employee feels devalued. I’m speaking, of course, about high performers. You may not ever be able to make everyone happy but the worst thing you can do to your highest performers is to make them feel less than what they really are to you. Waiting until they threaten to leave to make a change doesn’t help. It takes a lot of energy for them to look for another job and go through interviewing processes. It is completely disrespectful to them when you make them an offer to stay only when you realize they can go somewhere else. […]
I’m not suggesting you give employees everything they want, not even your highest performers. The point is you need to take off the blurry glasses and at least take a hard look at what’s going on in your workplaces, how you are treating your best employees and consider making meaningful changes before you lose them.
The power of having F— You Money the ability to jump ship when you know it’s sinking, as you know you’ll be okay no matter what. She could explore her options, and already has a new position lined up. Otherwise, you may have to start your search while still working. But don’t let your employer convince you to stay longer with guilt trips and meaningless words. If your company treats workers like cogs in a machine, they won’t hesitate to find replacement parts (even if those replacement parts cost them double due to their short-sightedness).