In late October, I became the new Money editor for eHow.com. It’s been a fabulous few weeks. I am so excited to help you with your money woes and bring you towards the light of financial responsibility.
Before I joined the eHow team, there was the small hurdle of telling my last employer that it was over. It had been a long term relationship – my longest, in fact. We had been on-and off since I was in college and this last time around, we were together for three years. We had some great times, but I felt like it was time to move on.
I quickly realized that calling it quits with your employer is somehow more awkward than doing so with someone you’re dating. Here are five ways giving my two weeks’ notice was more awkward than my last breakup:
1) You have to stay professional – With any normal breakup you are well within your rights to express yourself. “I feel like we’ve grown apart,” “I’m not ready to settle down,” and “I hate your mother” are all perfectly acceptable reasons to end a relationship. And depending on the nature of the breakup, you may also throw wine, burst into tears, or burn him or her in effigy.
Unfortunately, these don’t apply when breaking up with your employer. Your boss will never know your true feelings about your coworkers, or that if you heard the word “synergy” one more time you would scream. There’s no complaining, no honest airing of grievances, and don’t even think about crying. The best you can do is calmly express what a difficult decision it was and then something along the lines of, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
2) You have to admit you’ve been seeing other people – The two weeks’ notice implies that there was someone else involved. It’s not like you tripped and fell into your new job. You gave out your contact info. Maybe you even created an online profile. There were emails to your personal account and secret phone calls where you got to know each other. Next thing you know, you’re telling your boss you have a “doctor’s appointment.”
3) You’re stuck there for two weeks – Immediately after a breakup, the natural inclination is to get away. Whether it’s a trip to Hawaii or some time with your closest friends at the local bar, both parties involved just need their space. But after you give notice, you still have two whole weeks to collaborate with your colleagues in a thick cloud of palpable awkwardness. That’s enough time to accommodate at least two staff meetings where you can deal with #4.
4) Everybody wants to know where you’re going – Telling everyone about your awesome new job is the career equivalent of talking about your new boyfriend to your old boyfriend. The only difference is your old boyfriend would just as well not know you even have a new boyfriend, whereas all your coworkers want to know where you’re going next. And what can you say? “It’s this really fun company that’s focused on helping people with their everyday problems, and the whole team is smart and amazing. I mean, not that you aren’t all smart and amazing. Just, you know. In a different way.”
5) There’s no subtle way to empty your cubicle – After three years, I accumulated a lot of stuff – dishes, snacks, and even a spare set of heels under my desk. There is no sneaking that out of the office the way you sneak in your ex’s apartment while she’s at work to get back your favorite sweatshirt.
With some planning, you might be able to gradually remove your personal effects without drawing too much attention to yourself (though if you have my luck, the kind security guard you’ve known since you were an intern will offer to carry your things). But once your mural of family photos comes down, there’s no avoiding the questions from coworkers passing your bare cubicle.
While leaving your job is less painful than leaving your relationship, the awkwardness is comparable, if not worse. The best you can do is stay as professional as possible. Finish as many open projects as you can, leave detailed instructions for any loose ends, and be more pleasant than ever. Your soon-to-be former colleagues will appreciate your efforts to make a smooth transition, you’ll leave a positive lasting impression that will serve you well if you ever need a reference, and your demeanor will make things much less awkward for everyone.
Most importantly, focus on your new opportunity. One wholly awkward conversation and two more uncomfortable weeks is well worth the exciting new job you have waiting for you. Soon enough you’ll be embarking on a new phase of your career and putting all the awkwardness behind you. Well, at least until your next two weeks’ notice.
Photo credit: Getty ThinkStock