Exit Interviews: Leave With a Smile

Quitting time (lomo variant), originally uploaded to Flickr by greg.turner.Reader J wonders whether she should complain about her rude and dismissive boss when quitting:

I will be giving my notice to quit my current job within the next couple of weeks, and I’m struggling with how much to say.  On the one hand, I don’t want to burn any bridges. I have good relationships with almost everyone I work with, and I want to preserve those relationships.  On the other hand, there is one partner who I work for that is disrespectful, rude and dismissive, and he is the main reason I’m leaving.  Are people generally honest about that type of thing when they quit and do you recommend that I say something? Or do most people stick with a stock line – e.g., I learned a lot here but I got a great new opportunity.

We got into this a bit when we talked about how to resign gracefully, but I’m curious what the hivemind is on this one:  should you tell employers the reason you’re quitting? (Pictured: Quitting time (lomo variant), originally uploaded to Flickr by greg.turner.)

I’m going to stick with my gut here and say you should resign with a smile and keep your lips sealed regarding any bad working situations.  My guess is you’re not going to accomplish anything by it, and you may tarnish your own reputation by saying something.  If the hiring office (or whoever takes your exit interview) knows about Person X’s attitude, then you’re not telling them anything new.  And if they don’t know about Person X’s attitude, they will most likely chalk it up to a “personality conflict,” and leave it at that.  And realistically, from a senior management perspective, they probably don’t care about Person X’s attitude — as long as Person X can bring in clients/money/do his job well, they don’t really care how he treats his underlings.

Furthermore, by  mentioning negatives at your exit interview you may come off as a whiner.  I say, leave with a smile, with as much good will as you can — you never know what you may want from the firm in the future (good recommendations, connections — perhaps even from Person X).

 Readers, what do you think — have you mentioned bad experiences in your exit interviews?  How were you received?


  1. Ask A Manager … who gives fantastic advice IMO … just wrote an article about this. It gives good advice for different scenarios.


  2. I too ran into this situation when I left my job a few months ago. I had a horrible situation with one of the senior associates, and it was making it difficult for me to do my own job. When I left, I thanked my bosses for giving me the opportunity to work with them, and wished them well. When they asked for more reasons, I said it was personal. You don’t want to burn any bridges, especially in this economy.

  3. I totally agree. You hit the nail on the head with this one, Kat. I left my last job because my boss was basically exactly like Bunkster’s boss (boorish, clueless, narcissistic, etc. etc. etc.). When I resigned, I did it in person and said I had accepted an offer at another firm. I handed him a letter as well that simply stated where I accepted an offer and what my last day of employment would be (two weeks’ notice). I didn’t even say, “It was a better opportunity”. I simply resigned. They wanted me to fill out an exit interview, and I just left it completely blank (didn’t even fill in my name or the date) on my desk on my last day. Honestly, I think saying nothing at all says way more than complaining because it sounds like you’re a professional and are holding back on what you COULD say, which was my case exactly.

    • Diana Barry :

      Agreed. The lack of exit interview in your case shows the HR dept *something*!

      It is frustrating (and too bad) that HR can’t be more separated from management, and that disgruntled employees can’t share with HR without being perceived as whiners, or pushed out, or what have you. I’m not sure how to solve this conflict of interest. Wouldn’t it be better if you could tell the truth about the bad boss without fear of blowback?

      I was fired from a couple of firms and now do my best to bad-mouth them in a very nice way. :)

      • Former HR Manager :

        The tie-up between HR and mgmt really depends on the org, and the power relationships in the hierarchy. HR is really to serve the business and how this gets interpreted will vary widely among and in various industries. Ideally, managers would know how to manage well and workers will show up, do their best and not complain about the small stuff. No place is perfect. An office is a community and every community has its issues.

  4. Anonymous :

    A number of lawyers have left my office due to the working relationship with one supervisor. The big boss knows what an ass the guy is but won’t do anything about it. Mabye the guy has incrimination pictures, who knows? But complaining doesn’t seem to help.

    • I had the same experience at my first job out of law school: Worked for an obnoxious partner, and managementregularly gave in to his demands and tolerated his bad — often abusive – behavior toward associates because he had a big book of business. I tried switching sections several times but he would always insist that he be allowed to keep me because he needed experienced associates. When I left, I was also asked to complete an exit interview, but in general everyone already knew why I was leaving. When you work for a partner or senior associate who makes life miserable, chances are you’re not the first person the partner has made utterly miserable and the firm knows why you’re leaving. All you do by complaining on the way out is risk losing the good will you’ve developed while working there. I found that being polite and upbeat on the way out helps preserve the good relationships you’ve built at the firm — even if you’re leaving to escape some toxic ones.

  5. Unfortunately, it’s corporate America, noboy really cares if you have an ass of a boss. Pointing it out in your exit interview might make you feel better, but in the long run it gets you nothing, except looking like a whiner as you leave. You could write out your feelings on this matter in an email to yourself, or put them down in a journal. Sometimes that helps!

    • Anonymous :

      Agreed. 100%.
      Co-worker quit and pointed out that his supervisor was horrible, HR said they’d never heard anything about it. He pointed out that half the department was out on stress leave. Nothing changed, and he’s not welcome back at the company.
      Tell them what they want to hear and preserve the reference. Let them pay consultants to tell them the truth.

    • Same for corporate anywhere !

  6. Give the amount of time that works best for you. When I left my last job, I gave them much more time than I was comfortable with, because I didn’t want to “burn the bridge”. At the end of the day, I ended up having no time to myself before starting my new position ( literally started the following Monday) and it honestly wasn’t all that appreciated.

    As far as being honest about why you are leaving, it depends. If you have a HR department that will be conducting an exit interview, I think it is beneficial for everyone to alert them to real problems within the company/ firm. If not, I would go with the above advice and just resign.

    Good luck!

    • I agree. If you work for a large company and your exit interview is with the HR department, then by all means give the feedback that needs to be given – but nicely and in a constructive manner.

      • I had an exit interview with HR of a very large company and voiced some of my concerns. They were specific to my department/program and so talking to the HR was pointless.
        The HR rep made the appropriate noises and nods of agreement but in hindsight it would have been better for me to keep my mouth shut.

        • I have no idea whether my comments were productive in any way. However, my view at the time (and I would do the same thing again in the same situation) was that my department was so hopelessly dysfunctional that the more people who complained about it (and left because of it), the better. They say it costs $200k to hire an associate and bring them up to speed. Well, if enough associates leave, that’s got to hurt somewhere and HR should hear the reasons.

  7. Dress-jack:

    Anyone own this? TTS?


    • Oh Theory, why must you tempt me . . . I know that you will never be cut appropriately for my curvy body.

    • Diana Barry :

      I was just looking at that on the sale! Beautiful dress.

  8. Threadjack. I was recently given a pair of earrings that are a knockoff of this pair: http://bit.ly/s0PlyH (my giver paid about 1/7 the price; Tiffany is never not a scam, so far as I can tell). I love them, but I am having trouble figuring out what to wear them with besides basic black outfits. I feel like they don’t go with gray because of the yellow gold, and they don’t go with most colors because the green is so vibrant. I also don’t feel comfortable wearing non-discreet necklaces with them because even though they are simple, the color makes them pretty noticeable. I would appreciate any styling suggestions. Thanks!

    • they’re beautiful. I think they would go well with anything in the brown family (camel, tan, etc), cream or earthy neutrals, blacks, or other warm colors … deep/burnt oranges, perhaps. i guess i would avoid icy or blue tones, or reds. just MO.

      re-neckline, i think they would look great with a silk scarf. same color ideas.

      enjoy wearing them!

    • SAlit-a-gator :

      These earrings are incredibly versatile! Besides the obvious (black), I would pair them with almost any other color except gray (I agree with you that grays look better with sterling silver / white gold). For example, any of the deep winter jewel tone colors would look great with these – think purple, maroon, brown, green, blue, etc. Also, I think all earth tones with look great with them as well – camel, light brown, kacki, dark brown, sienna, burnt orange, you name it. If I had these, I would wear them with a red top and call it my Christmas outfit (not sure if you celebrate Christmas or not, so going out on a limb here). It sounds like you’re afraid of the bold color – emrabace it and try out different color combinations. These are classic and almost fool-proof :-)

    • I’ve seen gray styled with gold a lot lately and it’s grown on me. A year ago I would have said absolutely not. I especially love my JCrew schoolboy blazer in light gray with gold buttons. So keep an open mind towards wearing yellow gold with gray and maybe your “eye” will change.

      With that in mind, I’d wear these with pretty much anything in my wardrobe, which consists of black/gray/white/beige and purples/lavenders. I’d avoid reds (unless you intend a Christmas theme) and most greens.

      In terms of necklaces, I’d consider pairing them with pearls or this black onyx bead necklace I have. Plain yellow gold necklaces or chains would look good too, I think.

      Dammit now I want those earrings.

    • Very nice. I have similarly-coloured ones (jade) and find they work with all tones of white/ cream/ camel/ brown including prints, plus navy, plus certain warmer tones of grey.

  9. Sorry if this becomes a double-posting, but this was originally in moderation due to link, so now am posting with link as follow-up comment.

    Threadjack. I was recently given a pair of yellow gold/emerald earrings. I love them, but I am having trouble figuring out what to wear them with besides basic black outfits. I feel like they don’t go with gray because of the yellow gold, and they don’t go with most colors because the green is so vibrant. I also don’t feel comfortable wearing non-discreet necklaces with them because even though they are simple, the color makes them pretty noticeable. I would appreciate any styling suggestions. Thanks!

    • Above-mentioned earrings are a knockoff of this pair: http://bit.ly/s0PlyH.

      BTW, my giver paid about 1/7 the price; Tiffany is never not a scam, so far as I can tell.

    • I think gray – yellow gold combination is fine.
      You also may want to consider navy blue.

    • I have two pairs of go-to earrings, and one of them is a pair of emeralds in yellow gold and diamond halos. I wear them with just about everything–gray, black, white, blue, yellow, beige, other greens, even some purples (despite the fact that I can’t fully embrace that combo, due to an apparently-immutable association with Barney). The only colors that I actively steer away from are reds and oranges.

    • MissJackson :

      Take this with a grain of salt because I prefer yellow gold over platinum/white gold/silver: but seriously, I think yellow gold goes with everything.

      Your earrings sound gorgeous! I would pair them with purple/abergine, navy blue, cream, camel, and yellow. And probably practically everything else :)

      • I agree with MissJackson. Yellow gold is my favourite and I wear it with everything. I especially like wearing my gold and emerald earrings with mustard yellow, turquoise, navy blue and moss green.

      • ohhh! nice call on the yellow gold/emerald and purple combo!

    • I have a pair of yellow gold earrings with emeralds, too. I think gray and gold looks great, but agree that gray, gold & emerald doesn’t work too well for some reason (although it works much better with lighter gray than dark). I really like the way the earrings look with camel, navy, black, some shades of green, eggplant, fuschia, teal, yellow, and cream… The only color I don’t wear them with really is red (too christmas-y) and light or bright pink (too Lilly Pullitzer).

    • I would wear them with navy, purple, or pink (think a deeper shade, not a pastel). Personally, I love the look of a bold color used as an accent to another bold color.

  10. What Kat said. I was in exactly your position many years ago, early in my career. I left Employer A because of Partner X was making me hate my life. Everyone in the firm knew without my saying anything that he was the reason I was leaving, and in fact I think I may have lasted longer than anyone else had in my position in the past. I gave a month’s notice, and then planned to take off one week between Christmas and New Year’s as a break between jobs. Partner X strong-armed me into working that week, which was really unnecessary and meant I had NO time off before starting the new job, and I was tempted to refuse (after all, I’d already given my notice, and not just two weeks), but I sucked it up and worked the one more week.

    I went on to Employer B, but decided I needed to move on again after a couple of years. When I was ready to leave Employer B, the best opportunity I found was with a company with which Partner X was closely associated. I applied for the job, and didn’t give Partner X as a reference but it was clear from my resume that I had worked for him at Employer A. Lo and behold, he called me and asked me if I really wanted the job (so Employer C reached out to him directly), I said yes, and voila — the job at Employer C was mine! Turns out Partner X thought highly of me, even if the feeling wasn’t mutual.

    Had I said anything negative about Partner X, there is a good possibility that it would have gotten back to him, and my story — and perhaps my entire career! — would be very different. It’s not as if my critique would have helped him to change his behavior, or alerted HR or senior management to anything they didn’t already know. The truth is that powerful partners often get to where they are precisely because of the very personality traits that can make working for them so miserable. If he earns money for the firm, nobody is going to care if he makes some associate cry (I’m speaking about myself now). So I say do as Kat says: give a neutral reason for why you are leaving, and move on with a smile.

    My answer MIGHT be different if the person making your life miserable were not yet a partner. Then, depending on the circumstances, it might be useful for the firm management to know that this person’s people management skills leave something to be desired. But even that is risky, if it is a senior associate with a powerful mentor, so I would tread carefully.

    • karenpadi :

      This. I worked for an evil partner but she was a “rising star”. An associate who has an issue with a partner is not news to HR. The partner will not be fired or otherwise penalized.

      I have had a hard time trying not to bad mouth the partner. But who knows where I will be in 5 years? She’ll still be around and her opinion will likely still mean something.

      If there are personality issues/harassment issues, people know why you are leaving. It’s no surprise. No need to put it in writing.

  11. I’m of two minds on this one. When I resigned from my previous firm, it was in the middle of a exodus of of associates and the managing partner specifically wanted to know why so many of us were leaving. I was fairly circumspect, but still honestly (and I think, tactfully) informed them of why I was leaving and what some of the root causes for the rash of departures were. I couched it in terms of “I loved working here, and I want to see this place succeed, so here’s what I think…” I also worked for a partner who was a walking hostile-work environment lawsuit (and I’m a labor & employment attorney…so I’ve seen it all) and while I never felt compelled to complain, I did think that needed to be addressed or else someone would complain/file a lawsuit. Management’s response was, of course, “Oh, that’s just Partner X, we’re aware that he’s like that.” (!!!).

    On the other hand, I have a friend that gave notice to go to another firm. He said all the right things about a new opportunity, etc. Within two weeks at his new firm, he realized that he had made a terrible decision and had to come crawling back to our old employer and ask for his job back. Luckily, the firm was in a position to take him back. But if he had just flipped double-birds on his way out the door (as he was tempted to do originally), I don’t think the offer to return would have been forthcoming.

  12. momentsofabsurdity :

    Thoughts on how to handle unused vacation days when leaving a job? My employer does not have a “buy back” program that I know of, and I get 26 per year. I may leave in the fall for a graduate program (so no threat of stealing company info/move to a competitor) and have never once used it all (most I’ve used in one year I think is 13, probably closer to 5-6 if you could the vacations I’ve spent actually working – spent my whole European Alps weekend sitting in an internet pub and on calls!).

    There is no formal approval process for vacation time, or, I think, anyone keeping track of how much vacation I have/haven’t used. I would hate to have it all go to waste if I choose to go to grad school (as I believe I am entitled to it). However, I don’t want to “screw my company over” either. How do people typically handle this?

    • If you will be leaving in the fall for grad school, I say start taking vacation time and use up as much as you can.

    • If you are in the US, you should first check your state Department of Labor and see if there are any relevant laws. In my state, the employer has to pay out unused vacation time at the end of employment. If you have an employee handbook I would also check there and see if there is any written policy.

      • Don’t know what the law of my state is, but my former firm had no problem breaking agreements about providing the cash value of unused vacation time at the time of an associate’s departure.

        I would use up the time before leaving.

    • Agreed–if you are in CA, vacation must be paid out. Hence a lot of BS policies from law firms about “take what you need–we don’t have a formal policy.” Thus, when associates leave or are laid off, there is no associated “accrued” vacation. This was a slight of hand that many CA-based law firms turned to during/after the downturn to decrease liabilities. Lame.

  13. I got a new job a few months ago and left on good terms with my firm — just explained that a great opportunity in more desireable city presented itself (all true). Now, however, a few months in, I have been contacted for an phone interview at old firm. I’m not really sure whether to do it and/or what tone to take. I’m a little worried I’ll resort to “It’s great not to work at XX” – as I’ve told my close friends. The grass really is greener at my new firm (better salaries and bonuses, the partners I work with have more work in my area of interest and I’m able to get involved more substantively, more competent staff, better technology, better associate perks, firm advancement system seems more favorable). Does old firm really want to hear this?

    • I think you can thank the firm for calling and just say that you’re enjoying desirable city too much to be ready to leave so soon.

  14. I am also of two minds – 1. Dont burn bridges, but 2. Dont fail to report illegal behavior either. If you are in a small firm this may be harder to do, if other people have written off X’s behavior as “boys being boys”. If its not to that degree, then dont mention it – your replacement may be a chip off his/her block and they could get along famously.

  15. In the past, I gave exit interviews to departing staff. The worst one I ever had was an African American lady who told me someone had offended her so deeply she had to leave, with no notice. She refused to tell me who it was, or the nature of the offense, just walked out that very day. It still drives me crazy not to know, and I still honestly have no idea who it could have been, or what they might have done. If it was a racial or sexual harassment type of thing, I really would have liked to have known, so we could have dealt with the issue. So in that situation, I would say yes, at least give the employer some idea there is a problem. It still bothers me that our office may have a closet racist. She was the only African American in our very small office, so whoever it was has not offended anyone since then, at least so far as I know. And maybe it was something else entirely, I guess I’ll never know.

  16. Wondering If My Relationship Is Over :

    Threadjack – I could use some words of wisdom. My fiance came home and broke up with me last night. He’d had a horrible day and came home after some drinks and started a fight. He said he’s not happy in our relationship and that I should acknowledge that I’m not either. He refused to talk about it beyond that. Instead he went on to say things that were clearly only intended to hurt my feelings. Bottom line is he used me as his punching bag for the bad day he’d had. I told him that. He responded “whatever” or “I don’t care.” In the middle of the night after I’d gone to bed he apologized and said we can work it out. No other explanation offered for what had happened. I told him that I was hurt and that working things out for another 3 weeks or 3 months doesn’t make sense. I feel blindsided by everything that’s gone on even though he’s right that I’ve been unhappy in the relationship for the past few months, and lately he finds anything and everything I do or say annoying. I didn’t see him this morning but he’s left me messages asking for a call. It sounds like he wants to apologize again. Part of me thinks it makes sense if we part ways now. On the other hand, I love him and thought I would spend the rest of my life with him up until yesterday. I also worry whether he’s financially stable enough to move out. Also it’s hard to be single at my age and everyone I know is happily married. Then again maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to break things off. I feel lost and don’t know what to do. There’s no one I can confide in about what’s happened.

    • Fooey on him, I say. I had a similar experience, but was NOT engaged, tho I might as well have been b/c I had given all of me to Alan even without a ring.

      You are so much better to be without this creature now, rather than later if you had gotten married and he then decided to get cold feet.

      I think we all would rather be MARRIED, but it has to be to the right guy, not some looser that takes out his bad day’s on us. Besides, this doofus is young(er) now, but imagine when he gets older, fatter and balder! Do you really want THAT on you at night? FOOEY I say to that!

      You are also young and now able to go out and find a decent guy who will treat you right. You do not want to live with a looser that is there just for a warm bed. FOOEY on that!

      It is tough, but I have been thru it with My Alan. I am still looking for a good substetute for him.

      But do me a favor. Pleease Do NOT send your looser my way! FOOEY on him!

    • whoa. this sucks. the first thing i would do is take a deep breath and let the flaming emotions calm down a bit. write him back and set a time in 2 days or a week to sit down and have an adult discussion (no drinking, no blaming your bad day, etc) and in between now and then, try and get some sleep and be rational about this. are you guys happy? if not, why not? do you want to stay with him b/c you don’t want to be single, or b/c you really want to be with him? it sounds like right now you’ve got so many conflicting ideas and thoughts in your head, it’s hard to keep them straight.

      can you (or he) stay at a friend’s or at a hotel for a couple days, or at least sleep on the couch? this sounds like the kind of thing that could very easily slip into apologies and makeup sex (sorry if that offends you – just my opinion) and if your relationship really has all these issues to work out, i agree that you should take the time now to address them and not just treat this as a one-time fight, “kiss and make up and forget about it” kind of thing.

      good luck and i hope things work out.

      • karenpadi :

        This. If this is the first time he’s done something like this, last night was probably a much-needed wake-up call for both of you. Take some time to cool down and decide whether you are interested in staying in the relationship. Your relationship might end but it might also be much stronger going forward.

        If you decide to stay in the relationship, may be some counseling is in order? I know a lot of men don’t trust marriage counselors because many therapists are biased (or come off as biased) against the man. But maybe he’d be open to it?

        You will get through this. Trust your gut–it knows what’s best.

    • Anonymous :

      Run, Forest, run.
      He’s on his best behavior before the wedding, it just gets worse after. You know what he’s really all about now.

      • Another Anon :

        I second this. It does not get any better after the wedding. Move on.

      • I don’t agree with this. Plenty of good marriages have bad moments.

        This sounds like a bad moment, and a good chance for you to reevaluate your relationship. I don’t say “run for the hills” because this can happen to anyone who has had a bad day. Seriously. However, don’t stick it out if you can’t reconcile the things in your relationship. Marriage is a big deal (you know that).

        These are not good reasons to stay in a relationship that is bad: ” I also worry whether he’s financially stable enough to move out. Also it’s hard to be single at my age and everyone I know is happily married.”

        This is a good reason: “I love him and thought I would spend the rest of my life with him.”

        But not at the expense of your happiness. I will say it’s normal to be at each other’s throats at times, or when everything your partner does annoys you. But you both have to work through it, and figure out the cause and away around it, or you SHOULDN’T get married.

        Bottom line, don’t throw in the towel because of one big argument where you both probably said things you shouldn’t have. Do throw in the towel if you have irreconcilable differences in your relationship. Because everyone else is right, marriage won’t solve those issues. They’ll still be there, and you will feel even more trapped than you might feel now. Take this time to reevaluate your needs, and your fiance’s needs, and whether they are both being met. I second the idea of premarital counseling. Either way you choose, make sure it is the right choice for YOU, and not because you feel pressured one way or the other.

        • Anonymous :

          Yes, I also don’t agree that you should automatically “run, run, run.”

          Good people somethimes act badly out of their own insecurities or fears.

          I’ll tell you this: I have, in the past, behaved somewhat similarly to my own wonderful boyfriend, for reasons having nothing to do with him or our relationship’s awesomeness, but because of my own professional misery at the time (kind of reflecting on “I suck at everything, so I shouldn’t be happy”) and general fear/insecurities about myself. Somehow, he could see through me, and I am forever grateful for that. I’ll also be dam*ed if I ever behave toward him in that way again.

          So, what I am saying, I guess, is that I think you guys should talk about the reasons underlying the outburst. I’m sorry. :( I hope things get so much better soon.

    • I certainly wouldn’t just ignore this and marry him until you’re BOTH happy in the relationship. I also don’t think any of us can tell you if this is a salvageable relationship.

      I agree with above that you both need to go to your corners for a couple of days. Are you planning to spend the holidays together? I would also suggest that maybe counseling for the both of you would be a good idea. It sounds like you both have issues you’ve been holding back, but the lowered inhibitions of alcohol allowed him to say them.

      Internet hugs….this sucks big time.

    • Definitely take a step to the side and just breathe. And then, do two things. The first, pretend that it’s over. It’s really over, you’ll never see or speak to him again, that’s it. How does that make you feel? Do you feel relieved? Or does everything inside of you yell “NOOOOOO!!!!”?

      The second thing, pretend that you forgive each other and make up and what not and that not a single thing changes – the relationship does not change. AT ALL. How does that make you feel? A lot of the time in this second step, we can’t determine how we feel because we get sucked into the emotional whirlpool but that’s ok – pay attention to your body. Are your neck and shoulders tense? Did you wrinkle your forehead/brows? Are your typical physical reactions to stress manifesting?

      It’s obviously not clear cut but every time I kept dumping my loser ex, I felt SO RELIEVED. And then I’d fall for the emotional crap every time he called again because I cared about him – so for me, there was some “nooooo” but the actual feeling of relief was so strong that there was no other choice. Granted, we had other issues but I hope this helps you. If homeboy isn’t willing to work, WORK to make this relationship work, then walk. Skip away with a light heart. Good luck.

    • On the other hand :

      I would normally agree that you should run. But I am guilty of having a random, out of the blue, drunken rage where I said things I would never ever say to my fiance. It was almost as if I was trying to make him break up with me. In my stupor, I had perceived something he had said as insulting one of my best girlfriends. In reality, he wasn’t. I dumped a drink over his head, called him a pu$$y, shoved him, and was just really really abusive. I have never acted like that in the past nor have I in the future.

      Luckily, while he was very hurt, he realized that drunk witch wasn’t who I really am. We talked about it a lot. I agreed to not drink that much in the future. We were engaged another 2 years and have now been married happily 6. I have only had one other night, again after too much alcohol, where I said something I didn’t mean that was hurtful but I have never gone off the deep end like I did that weird night.

      Only you know if it is out of his character or not.

      • wow. thanks for sharing that.

        somewhat related – i now make it a point to NOT discuss relationship matters (good or bad), or even let myself think about them, if i’ve had a drink or two. i’m pretty thrilled with my relationship anyway so it’s not a issue but, wow, a little wine seems to color everything the shade of drama.

        OP, hope things work out. people say and do terrible/stupid/crazy/dumb things after a few drinks.

      • I really agree with this. I know that I’ve said some really hurtful things to my husband when I’m sick/not feeling well, etc. He acts like a whiny 2 year old when he’s sick. It doesn’t excuse the behavior, but it also doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed.

      • I can understand how this would happen. When you get really upset, it’s hard to put a lid on it. You just want to let all your anger out. And sometimes, you try to hurt your significant other because you don’t feel like they care about you as much as you care about them. So you push them away (even though you really want to pull them closer). This *could* be one of the reasons the fiance blew up like he did.

        Anyway, that’s all just theory… I’m sending the OP a big hug. That really, really hurts. Know that whatever happens, you will be okay. All is well. You are safe. Take care of yourself, honey.

    • It is not your problem if he is financially stable enough to move out, you cannot think about his needs right now. You need to think about your needs and wants.
      I would take a few days, as long as you need, to process your feelings before making contact. You have the right to take some time without the pressure of his wants and feelings being imposed on you. Good luck!

      • Wondering If My Relationship Is Over :

        OP here. A huge thank you to all of you for taking the time to share your thoughts and advice. I cannot emphasize enough how much it’s helping me process and cope with the whole situation.

        • anon for this :

          Whatever happens, you guys need to talk about Rules for Fighting. My then-fiance (now hubs) came home one night after drinking, picked a fight, and then said “Well maybe we shouldn’t GET married, then!” I burst into tears, he calmed me down, and the next night we talked about it. I said, OK, first: do you want to get married? To me? And he apologized profusely and said it was just the drink talking, and I said, no, I’m really serious about this. If breaking up is on the table, it’s on the table, and let’s talk about it. But if it ISN’T on the table, I don’t want it thrown in my face when we’re fighting. If we have kids together I don’t want him/her/them wondering if Mommy & Daddy are getting divorced because Daddy threatens it randomly. It’s kind of like a ten-year-old saying, I can’t have my lollipop? I’m GOING TO KILL MYSELF! It’s overly dramatic and childish and in a relationship it affects way more than you and it isn’t cool.

          I married my husband — and we’ve never fought like that again. I’m really thrilled with my marriage — he’s amazing.

          • Rules for Fighting – love it. What a smart idea.

          • My DH and I have rules of engagement too. They were created two months after we got married, when we got into our first real and to this day, biggest fight. I give him complete credit for it. I said something really snarky to him that was completely off topic and unnecessary. He stopped me, took my hands, and said very nicely something like ” we can have moments when we are p*ssed at each other, we can be frustruated, but we need to promise right here and now, that we will always argue with love and respect”. First, it ended our fight because I told him how cheesy it was and it made us laugh because it really was cheesy. Second, it opened this amazing new world of communicating and we have a whole host of rules so much so that our discussions very rarely escalate into an argument (no name calling, no yelling, no slamming of doors or using other items to vent, no threatening of separation or anything of the like, the other is always permitted to ask “what is this actually about” and the other is required to pause and honestly answer the question, etc.). We’ve been so very happily married for 10 years now and I’ll tell you, it’s the ultimate secret to our success.

            So, if you decide that you want to make this work, I really suggest that you sit down with him and have a serious discussion (not a lecture, but a discussion) about what it does to you when he says those things and both come to an agreement about how you will handle arguments as a married couple and what the first few rules of engagement will be. And, if you need to postpone the wedding to give you guys time to work things out, do it. An extra few months of engagement (or even a year) will not matter in the scheme of things.

        • my spouse and i have used the gottman book “7 habits of effective marriage’ or something like that when we have a patch- helps give you framework/tools to communicate better with. you might try using something like that privately together to evaluate/explore situation.

          • Carla Harper :

            That excuse of “it’s the alcohol talking” doesn’t hold water. Criminals use it all the time, and if a court of law won’t accept it, you shouldn’t either. I am sorry, but saying “I was drunk” is a lie. You are the same person if you are drunk, but with less ability to choose your words carefully, or to filter your comments. If what was said was just said rudely that’s one thing. But what he said was probably the truth, it is just hard to admit that.

  17. Is there a reason you believe that “working things out for another 3 weeks or 3 months doesn’t make sense?” Sounds like a situation that is ripe for counseling, even if it is just to reassure you that it is time to move on.

  18. Former HR Manager :

    Some perspective from the other other side. Exit interviews serve a few purposes and these purposes will vary depending on the size and culture of the business. So, take this with a grain of salt. And know your office.

    Generally speaking, you will not do yourself any favors if you come into an exit interview and, for the first time, let it be known that you’re leaving because of a manager’s terrible management style. Instead, you will leave the impression that you didn’t have the maturity or professionalism to deal with this issue while you were there. If it is well known that a manager is terrible, the powers that be will not sit around in a post-mortem and say, “Wow, we lost Susie – even though she was awesome – because of Mgr. Jerk.” Instead, they will say, “She should have come to one of us, and since she didn’t, this reflects poorly on her judgment. Thus, she’s not really a loss. And even if you can argue that she is a loss, she’s a loss we can live without.” One day, yes, the Mgr. Jerk will have his comeupance, but it will likely take many years, and many losses which will only be used to support the final straw that shows him the door. This is how, IMHO, it goes down in small organizations. Bigger orgs often do take this info to heart, but still, there is nothing that they can do for you once you’ve already decided to leave.

    Exit interviews are sometimes a good way for the HR person (or dept) to gather information about any exposure for liability that they were otherwise unaware of. **PLEASE do follow the mechanisms for reporting and documenting illegal behavior in the workplace.** I’m just explaining that sometimes the exit interview is used to try to pick-up on whether or not something unlawful and unreported has occurred and is coming down the pipeline, in the way of a filed complaint, after you walk out the door.

    Exit interviews are also sometimes only used to explain benefits and your final check.

    Appropriate feedback for exit interviews includes topics such as the benefits programs, the review process, work you were excited to work on, but sadly dried up. That sort of thing. But you should probably frame your criticism in a diplomatic way. No HR person likes to hear that the benefits they struggle to contract for the org are terrible. They probably already know that they are terrible. Just like they already know who the terrible managers are, but cannot do anything to really change them until the powers-that-be decide to act.

    If you don’t want to burn bridges, and you haven’t already tried to improve a difficult work situation, then I think the best reason to give for your departure is, you are leaving for a better opportunity/more responsibility/more room for growth/different type of work/closer to home.

    • *If it is well known that a manager is terrible, the powers that be will not sit around in a post-mortem and say, “Wow, we lost Susie – even though she was awesome – because of Mgr. Jerk.” Instead, they will say, “She should have come to one of us, and since she didn’t, this reflects poorly on her judgment.*

      I would be interested to know if you have actually witnessed situations in which employees tell the powers-that-be about a serious problem they are having with a manager (instead of just moving on to another job). That would seem like a very risky move to me.

      • Very Anon :

        I actually had a situation less than a month into a new position (within the last few years). One of my supervisors (thankfully not my primary supervisor) was just terrible, and aside from the general unpleasantness of working with this individual, she also made several really inappropriate disclosures that culminated in her discussing ways her recent personal issues have made her incompetent to practice. The whole thing was rather horrendously awkward and stressful. I wound up doing a couple of relatively generic anonymous consults with people I respect in the organization — which helped me identify the right person in higher management with whom to share my concerns. I also had to think really carefully about what aspects of the situation I reported, and what changes I was hoping to have happen. For example, I chose not to report most of the nuisance factors of working for the individual, but felt ethically obliged to report the concerns about competence to practice to someone above me.

        It turned out really well for me, I think because I was careful about disclosures, didn’t whine about my own personal frustrations, but demonstrated the ability to appropriately consult and address significant professional issues directly and appropriately. I’m acutely aware, though, that with different people in higher management, I would have made a different call or had different consequences, so YMMV by office culture, etc.

        • Very Anon :

          Forgot to mention — this was in an academic medical center (west coast) in case that’s relevant.

  19. What do you guys think about the specific issue of compensation in this context? One major reason I want to leave my job is that my firm (regional biglaw) simply doesn’t pay enough to ask us to work New York-style hours, especially given cost of living in my city. I know for a fact that this had been key to several departures this year. Should this still go unmentioned? I’m not sure how else the partners will get the message.

    • Former HR Manager :

      I would definitely mention it, but again, in a constructive and diplomatic way. But also consider whether they could ever pay you enough to work NY style hours. Some firms are fine churning out associates after burning them out (even nice partners to work for are known to do this) and are otherwise content with being “handcuffed” by their comp policies. You explained comp as a major reason for leaving. If comp was not an issue, would you stay? If not, then you aren’t really giving them a reason to change their comp structure, right?

      • Yeah, my firm definitely doesn’t have the burn-out-the-associates model – our leverage is very low, and we have more partners than associates. We’re actually losing more people than we can afford lately, but the partners always seem to dismiss each case as individual (“oh, she always wanted to teach” – well, when she realized that teaching would pay almost as much as this job for about 60% of the hours…). In my own case, I can say that if they were paying me more, there’s a good chance I would stay, although the years of being underpaid (not just vis-a-vis hours expected, but also for my city) have left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth regarding the firm in general. It’s hard to separate the specific complaint from the general sense of my office as underappreciative.

    • I think it may be worth mentioning, if the firm is not upfront about the hours they expect during the interview process. People are willing to make tradeoffs in salary if they are working less hours, but if it’s a situation of more hours than average + less pay than average, they’ll only keep losing people once those people get enough experience to leave. If they keep hiring new associates only to see them leave once they get enough experience to go somewhere better, then the money they’re losing in that process could easily be put to higher salaries (or fewer billables) to keep the associates they have who are trained. Make it clear that if the pay was better or the hours were more humane, you’d be more than happy to stay.

      • This is the exact situation I’m in and I just gave my notice almost 2 weeks ago, leaving at the end of next week.

        We are expected to work insane hours (I regularly bill close to 300/month and have billed as much as 350 more than once) be on call 24 hours a day (nature of the type of law we do is 24 hours, but it would be a lot easier to stomach getting out of bed at 1, 2, 3am to go to an 8 hour + situation if I wasn’t already sleep deprived/knew I would have time to sleep any time soon. We travel insane amounts, up to 12 hours of driving in a day depending on the account we’re servicing, we are not permitted flex time, etc…

        My new position offered me the salary schedule tentatively and have bent over backwards explaining that I’ll only be at the lowest step for the first 6 months, then I will automatically jump, jump again after another 6 months, and then I’ll have control. I don’t have the heart to tell them I’m still getting an approximately 12% raise at their bottom step.

        But my firm knows it. And they don’t care. My boss brags about making $3 million profit last year and not giving bonuses or raises and managing to cheat the lone equity partner out of all but $40k. Any time HR tries to make change, they just get fired or “encouraged” to retire/quit.

        So it really depends on the situation.

        People here have asked me why I’m leaving and I just mention the “great opportunity” but they all look at me like…my real question is, what do I tell my clients?? I keep saying the same thing, but I’ve already had two call bullshit and say that I wouldn’t have been looking for a job if I was happy at my firm. So what’s wrong with my firm and is it something they need to know about? So far I’ve managed to put them off by talking about moving my life in a different direction (my new office is about an hour away, but it’s in a region still covered by my current firm) and evading the question, but I get a bad taste in my mouth when they do this. People need to just leave it alone!! Accept the platitudes!! :-)

  20. I think it depends on what you think they will do with the information. You have to be able to read your HR department. Whatever you say should be based solely on professional characteristics (i.e. ineffective at giving feedback vs. an asshole) and should be supported by specific examples (preferably in writing i.e. with email documentation). I tend to think that bad employment practices, especially those that are discriminatory or hostile to women of people of color or disabled or any protected group, are perpetuated by a code of silence in exit interviews. If there’s a way to get this stuff on the record, it helps future employees make a case if need be.

    • anonymous :

      I agree. It shocks and depresses me that so many women here think that doing nothing is the answer. If a structure supports an unreasonable person who also is racist or sexist, a subordinate is unlikely to be able to “handle the situation” except by leaving.

  21. Anonymous :

    Your situation sounds exactly like mine. I worked at a courthouse. Even though I got along with most everyone else in my office, I left my job mainly due to a catty, female co-worker who never much liked me even when I first started working there. To top it off, when I took the situation to my supervisors, their genius little solution was telling me to walk over to her desk so I could tell her, “I’m gonna be your new best friend!” I’m not kidding about that. I was fed up after that point. But since I hadn’t been there for a full year, I stayed until I had worked for 18 months. One day this past November, I dressed myself for work in a bright red dress, high heels, red lipstick and diamonds. I walked into my office looking like the most confident woman on the planet even though I was scared out of my mind. I strolled into my supervisor’s office—who remarked how fantastic I looked the moment I came in—and I handed in my resignation letter. I felt awesome. They were slack jawed and stunned. I didn’t badmouth them, even though I didn’t much like them or the catty lady I was forced to work with. It’s smart not to burn bridges, because these are people who will potentially be recommending you for a future position one day. I lied through my teeth. I mentioned the good things I learned from the job and tried not to dwell on the bad. Interestingly enough, even though I didn’t much like my supervisors and some of the people I worked with, I still got invited to the office Christmas party after I left. I went. Go figure.

  22. I have been a few times in a situation of leaving a job with a hated boss. Both times, very hard, left without complaining about them. It isn’t worth it in long run though they don’t deserve the courtesy.

    In one case, I had quietly expressed that I was unhappy to a more senior person by asking if there was a chance I could work on a project in another area. Everyone knew my boss was a total jerk and treated me poorly. A year went by after I made that ask, nothing changed. When I left diplomatically, said senior person came in and said ‘i’m sorry your job sucked. the work had to be done at the time.’ clearly he knew. i sort of looked back and didn’t say much.

    In the next case, I got a much cooler job, and it was hard not to gloat. I kept contact with jerk boss to a minimum before leaving. Both times I left with proper notice, transferred my projects highly responsibly. I still occasionally think about what I’d have liked to say to them:) but it just wouldn’t have helped me. It seems like the best thing to do as tough as it is to do.

  23. Kim Scholes :

    Reader J should indeed outline the reasons for her resignation from a company via the written or oral exit interview (which can certainly be completed and submitted to the company anonymously). The exiting employee can certainly provide feedback in a professional manner to make it more credible. The company cannot investigate and correct the issues surrounding a potential hostile work environment without this invaluable feedback. Hopefully, if it was so intolerable, the company provides employees like J an outlet for making such complaints.

  24. The reality is that it’s hard to provide consequences for a bullying partner if no one stands up and says something. Without formal complaints, it is next to impossible to do something about a bad manager, even a bullying one. I’ve personally seen consequences when people have had the courage to complain through exit interviews and 360 degree interviews, but too often people don’t do that. I understand the fear, but at the same time you have to know that nothing will happen as a result.

    • anonymous :


      Not the same thing as an exit interview, but here are some examples from my own experience.

      –I turned down a job in another field because someone was openly telling racist jokes in a public space. Some of the managers were racist, too, one mistook me for a woman who had worked there for years who looked nothing like me, but the person telling the joke was a consultant. I only mentioned him when I explained why I was not accepting the position. I learned years later that the guy got fired.

      Another employee at the company, with whom I worked a few years later at a different company in a completely different part of the country, actually had the nerve to complain to me about how I had been responsible for the man losing his assignment.

      I was dumbfounded. I said, “Did you expect me to ignore a man loudly telling a racist joke in the middle of [a public area]?” The guy continued to think I was a cruel, hypersensitive bitch.

      –As a summer associate, another summer associate asked me to speak to the head of the summer associate program because of something very disturbing that had happened. We spoke to other summer associates and they all nodded about how unfortunate it was, but not a single one offered to come with us. It was very uncomfortable, but something was done. Neither one of us went back to work at the firm, although fortunately, we both got offers.

      Obviously, it was easier to complain in both of these scenarios than at the end of a permanent employment relationship, but it still was not easy.

      I hate free riders. On the occasions that they come crying about some injustice that’s finally happened to them I have no sympathy.

  25. HR is not your friend.
    HR works for management, including your boss, yes, including the boss you want to complain about.
    You can pretend that HR is even-handed but they never will be.
    If you want, on your way out, complain. You are leaving anyway. But it won’t make any difference.
    If you really want to make a difference, maybe threaten a lawsuit unless you receive severence pay for harassment or discrimination or hostile work environment or whatever. Money talks. And HR is afraid of lawsuits. But they are not afraid of your simply “bad review” of your boss.

  26. Propecia Lawyers :

    I agree, when leaving a job you should be professional about it. Even if the working conditions were bad if you leave that means you are heading for something better so leave with a smile.

    • Paul Thomas :

      Hello! Please remove my comment under the name Propecia Lawyers. Thank you!

  27. I couldn’t disagree more! I work for a company that has fired poor managers because they were causing so many good employees to quit. It’s important to provide honest information.

    If the person in question isn’t a manager, you might just want to give HR a heads up, like “I’ve experienced some issues with Samantha missing deadlines. It’s probably worth mentioning to her manager in case she has questions about missed orders.” A casual mention will put it on the record without making you look like a big whiny butt.