Category Archives: Workplace

3 Ways to Build Community in a Distributed Company

3 Ways to Build Community in a Distributed Company

A lot of people spend more time at work than with their family and friends. That’s why community in the workplace is so key to employee happiness.

Yet “out of sight, out of mind” is often how remote employees feel. A lack of physical presence often translates to poor communication and a lack of team building opportunities.

Fortunately, companies can foster meaningful culture for employees that can’t gather around the watercooler. Here’s how.

Use technology to bond

Companies can lean on communication technology to build team culture. Don’t set rigid rules for internal communication on these channels. Encourage jokes, random discussions, and other things that would normally happen in an office.

Creating office traditions like virtual coffee breaks that match up random employees on Skype or Wednesday morning lightning talks on Google Hangouts or a designated channel for sharing music on Slack can help employees meet and engage with people from every corner of the organization.

Making these connections isn’t just good for employee happiness; it also builds networks beyond designated teams. Over time, this will encourage fresh perspectives and make it easier for people to request and receive help from colleagues whenever they need it.

You’re already using technology to communicate, why not use it to foster culture as well?

Assembling is important

No amount of messages, funny gifs, and video chats will replace face-to-face interactions. That’s why remote companies often organize company-wide meetups that range from meeting for company-sponsored events to attending conferences together to renting a house in a new city.

For most of these companies, the money saved from not having to lease expensive office space offsets the expense of bringing teams together. The cost is well spent toward creating amazing memories and building strong, long-lasting team camaraderie.

Remote companies like Automattic bring employees together with annual retreats in exotic locales, sometimes even including significant others. Teams are encouraged to plan their own outings (with a budget) and organize happy hours.

Not only are these sessions important for building working relationships, you’ll be amazed at how much the team can accomplish with time set aside for focused strategy and engagement.

Co-working spaces provide a network

If focusing on the company’s culture seems out of bounds, management can help employees beat remote isolation by encouraging use of coworking spaces.

These offices are filled with people who share similar workstyles and industries, giving lots of opportunity for networking and casual chit-chat. Many host events that encourage idea sharing and relationship building—two opportunities sorely missed for many remote workers.

Of course, it’s important to let your employees make the decision for themselves. You can incentivize this sort of culture-building by providing monthly allowances for coworking spaces, but understand that some employees prefer working from home.

Remember to focus on community

Establishing a sense of community is challenging with remote teams and traditional ones. The key is purposely creating opportunities to reduce isolation in the organization, whether that means taking advantage of technology, organizing retreats, or collaborating in co-working spaces.

Letting employees know that they are valued and their happiness is prioritized will go a lot further in establishing a positive culture than simply working in an office under the same roof.


Grow your community: Hire on Authentic Jobs.

Prioritizing Health and Happiness as a Remote Worker

Prioritizing Health and Happiness as a Remote Worker

A few years ago I worked for a company that took the health and well-being of its employees very seriously.

They provided a company cafeteria that cooked fresh food. In the mid-afternoon there would be lines of people holding apples and bananas, many of them coming from the company gym or miles of bike trails surrounding the main building. The health insurance offered a number of direct discounts to encourage healthy habits. Because this was such an ingrained part of the culture, it felt odd not to exercise or eat healthily.

But I couldn’t enjoy any of those perks because I worked from home. My daily situation was different—my pantry was stocked with pop tarts, Oreos, and Cheetos and my onsite gym consisted of stairs that I used to walk downstairs to my office.

Healthy employees are good for companies and workers

It’s in companies’ best interests to have healthy workers that are full of energy. The standard formula for employers is to provide incentives and in-person options to encourage proper nutrition and physical activity.

But the massive growth of remote work is disrupting this dynamic. It doesn’t help that the remote worker is usually painted as unhealthy, lazy, and unhygienic. Working from home can make it tempting to wake up late, forget to shower, and not leave the house for several days.

Companies and remote workers can still prioritize physical and mental health away from the office, but it will require a rethink of the typical incentive structure.

How to stay physically healthy when you work remote

Remote work gives employees new opportunities for physical activity because they have fewer restrictions in terms of physical presence or appearance.

To stay active, remote workers could consider going for a walk or run at lunchtime or pacing around the house while on the phone. Not only does this get the blood flowing, but it gives your brain a good break from thinking about work and lets you come back with more focus.

On the nutritional side, remote workers can leverage the fact that they have a kitchen throughout the day. Throw lunch or dinner in the crockpot or start a marinade in the morning for dinner, and make sure you have healthy, quick lunch options in your fridge. Because you aren’t limited to food that needs to be transportable, you can more easily plan what you eat and add more variety.

It’s more difficult for companies to incentivize healthy eating and activity, but remote teams can push for creative perks like Basecamp’s fitness and community supported agriculture allowances. Providing a Results Only Work Environment (R.O.W.E) can also add the needed flexibility for workers to take a two-hour lunch to cook, exercise, or meditate before returning from work.

Also, as discussed in Solving Communication Problems on Your Remote Team, opting for written communication can help your remote team stay productive while also allowing your employees the freedom they need to stay healthy.

Simply put, employees are more in control of physical health when they work from home. But this freedom comes with the responsibility of planning and willpower. No one but you knows if you’re exercising and eating salad or playing video games and eating cookies.

Don’t forget about mental health

A lot of fun has been poked at how unhinged an at-home worker can get after staying inside for too long. It’s true that remote workers have to work towards social interactions that come naturally to someone in an office environment. Coworker relationships, serendipitous relationships, and new friendships require maintenance that isn’t automatic when you eat lunch or work in the same space as others.

Isolation is a problem for remote workers, and it’s a frequent reason why people quit working from home. Employers might not be able to detect social isolation or mild depression, but they can encourage their employees to build rapport with their team members by using video chat tools for a closer connection. Simple techniques like the Question of the Day (QOTD) can also help build the sort of connections that naturally happen in an office.

The other side of mental health for remote workers is that they have the chance for much greater freedom and autonomy in their daily work lives. They don’t have to wear certain clothes, get to work at an exact time in an exact location, or be stuck at a desk away from sunlight.

These might seem like small things, but they can lead to powerful changes in the mentality of those who enjoy these benefits. Working in a cubicle with bad lighting an hour from your home can make you feel helpless, but getting to dance to music at your standing desk, wearing your favorite shorts during meetings, and getting outside for a walk offers the ultimate version of health: being in charge of your life.

Staying Healthy Long Term

Companies want their workers to be healthy, and workers want to be healthy. Remote work offers flexibility for this to happen as long as employees take responsibility for their personal time and prioritize healthy habits. Employers can help out by offering location and schedule flexibility to distributed team members.

Remote work lets people design their lives around priorities, and physical and mental health should always be at the top of the list.


If you’re looking for remote opportunities, look no further than Authentic Jobs.

But Will You Be Happy? 5 Things That Make a Job Fulfilling

But Will You Be Happy? 5 Things That Make a Job Fulfilling

When you are on the hunt for a new job, there are a variety of factors to weigh in your decision. What will my responsibilities be in this role? Is it a growing company with opportunities for advancement? What kind of compensation and benefit packages does the company offer their employees?

All of these questions are important and will help you make decisions as you take the next step in your career. The real dilemma occurs when you have to decide what questions are the most important for you. Some job seekers may be driven heavily by salary, while others may be more interested in working for with a cause they’re truly passionate about.

This is a personal decision that everyone must make for themselves in their career. As you get older, your priorities may change and this will also have an impact on your career aspirations and trajectory. Wherever you find yourself in your journey, consider the five factors below as you move forward in your the quest for that dream job.

Flexibility

The opportunity for flexibility in your workday is often one of the most celebrated workplace perks as it allows the job to fit into your life (as opposed to the other way around). With greater flexibility in your schedule, you’re better able to complete all of your priorities in a day and reserve your downtime for activities that recharge your body and mind.

Depending on your industry, many workplaces are coming to understand the value of this flexibility. A happy employee means better work and productivity in the long run. If your workplace does not currently offer flex work schedules, it might not be completely off the table. This could be worth a discussion with your manager. When approaching this conversation, be sure to be explicit and compelling in your motivation, but also make it clear that you’re open to compromise and a formal review after a trial period.

When asking for a more flexible schedule, it can also be helpful to have several options for discussion. Perhaps working from home one day a week, working a compressed four-day week, or even having the option to take an extended lunch break on certain days of the week to fit in an afternoon exercise class. With multiple options on the table, you’re more apt to have one of your requests granted or at least considered.

Work-Life Balance

Not every job is going to have the ability for flexible hours and remote work, but there are many other factors that contribute to a healthy and satisfying work-life balance. The hard part is figuring out which factors are a deal-breaker and which can be reorganized or better prioritized both at work and at home for the betterment of your overall lifestyle.

For many, time spent commuting is one of the biggest deal-breakers. If you’re going to be facing a lengthy commute each day before and after work and you don’t have much flexibility in working around rush hour, this will have a significant impact on your daily life. If it takes you one hour to get to and from the office, that is two hours you’re losing each day that could be better spent doing all of the other things on your list.

To help maintain a better balance when factors like this are out of your control, look for ways you can work around it in order to maximize your time. For example, go to the gym close to your office in the morning or at lunch so that you get all the benefits of your workout before you get home. You can also maximize your time by doing meal prep once or twice a week so that you’re not rushing to make lunches each morning and dinners will be ready to go as soon as you get home from work.

There are many options to consider that will help you boost the effectiveness of your downtime for a satisfying lifestyle.

Fair Compensation

While a cozy salary shouldn’t be your only consideration on your job hunt, let’s be honest—it certainly helps. Everyone deserves to be fairly compensated for their work and you should strive to work with a company that understands that and is willing to invest in their employees.

To get a better grasp for what is considered “fair” compensation for your industry and level of experience and expertise, consult job postings and pay scales for your industry and your region. Authentic Jobs offers a variety of tech-centric job postings from which you can compare your job and salary aspirations to similar roles in comparable cities. This will help you set realistic salary expectations so you’re prepared for this discussion with a prospective employer.

That being said, no matter how great a generous salary may seem, it isn’t going to keep you motivated and happy in a toxic environment, so make sure the company and the role is a good fit first.

Aspirational Goals

Any fulfilling job will offer goals to aspire towards. Your goals could be within the company itself, like the opportunity for advancement or greater responsibility, but they can also include your greater career path. If you know you would enjoy this role and also gain skills and experience that would help you take the next step in your career in the future, it is worth exploring the opportunity.

If you’re currently in a position and lacking the goal-driven motivation you crave, ask yourself how you want to grow. Once you’ve defined your goals, prepare some ideas on how you could work towards these goals in your position and discuss them with your manager.

More often than not, management will be more than willing to provide opportunities for internal training or accommodation for training or participation in events that will help you grow your skill set. After all, the company will also benefit from your ever-expanding expertise.

Respect and Recognition

Finding a position where you’ll be respected and recognized for your hard work is a huge factor in job happiness. If you’re working in an environment where you feel your hard work is being overlooked, you’ll inevitably begin to feel unmotivated and resentful in your workplace. Healthy and productive work environments give credit where credit is due.

If your company isn’t quick to give recognition, don’t jump to conclusions. It may not be that your superiors are not supportive, it could simply be that there is no real organizational process or structure in place for this type of acknowledgment. Many smaller organizations and startups may run into this problem given that senior leadership is busy working right alongside you and there is often a lack of designated HR and admin support.

To help promote more of a culture of open recognition in your office, take a proactive approach and show consistent, informal recognition to others for their professional victories. As this practice spreads throughout the team culture, you can bet your accomplishments will have their time in the spotlight soon enough.

For a more direct approach, it can be helpful to stop by your boss’s office for a quick update on your projects every so often—don’t wait for a quarterly or annual review. This can be completely informal but gives you the opportunity to make sure your boss is aware of your hard work and achievements. Do be sure to be a team player and also mention any colleagues that played a part in the victory as well.

Weigh the pros and cons to make an informed decision

Do your research on any company you are aspiring to work with. Look at how they’ve branded their company, what they share on social media, what kinds of community events and initiatives they support, and what they are presenting with their mission and values.

Get a more personal account by referring to your network to see if you know anyone that has worked for the company (past or present), or if someone you know may have a connection that has worked at the company. If possible, ask around to see what the work environment is really like for the employees. Companies can market themselves however they want, but ultimately it is the employees that will be able to tell you about the true culture from experience.

If everything you’ve learned about the company seems to be a good fit for you and your career aspirations, reach out. Companies are always on the hunt for other like-minded individuals to join their team and you could be just the person they’re looking for.


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Working Remotely with your Partner: How to Not Breakup (Or Get Fired)

Working Remotely with your Partner: How to Not Breakup (Or Get Fired)

Filed under “Things I Do Not Recommend,” my partner, Patrick, and I changed jobs on the same day. We accepted remote job offers within hours of each other, ending one of the most stress-filled weeks of our 8-year marriage.

But every time we shared the news, we were met with “I could never work with my partner.” or “Good luck with that.” While I’m somewhat offended by those comments, let’s consider the subtext. Can you work at home, with your partner, and still want to remain a couple? And how can you still be an effective member of your team?

Your Mileage May Vary

First, a disclaimer. I work on a website. I’m not a marriage counselor or a couples therapist. Real professionals exist to help you with the relationship side of things. If you need them, use them! They’re super smart and pretty helpful.

When you start this adventure, your first order of business should be having a candid conversation about each other’s needs for personal space, and focus. You’ll also need to discuss your employer’s expectations for the work day, your availability after hours, and your office environment (i.e., are you expected to have a quiet place to take client calls). Speak as frankly as you can, because this is the time to set out your ideal work day.

What works for us

We transitioned from jobs that were very regimented- commute, clock in at 9, lunch at noon, wrap up around 5, commute. When we began working from home, the thought of ditching the schedule was tantalizing.

My team is fully distributed, Pat has slightly less flexibility. His team is based in Dayton, Ohio, so he’s got to synch up with the office.
So to respect his co-workers, and to structure the day, we act like we’re still in an office. We go to our workspaces around 9 AM, resurface at noon for lunch and to walk the dog, then go back to work until 5-ish. We’ve found that the afternoon dog walk has been invaluable. The dog forces us to get away from our desks and gives us a chance to bounce ideas off of each other.

The most critical part of this is what happens after 5 PM. At 5, barring anything being actively on fire, we both leave our work laptops plugged in on our desks, and walk away. Establishing a barrier between work and life is crucial when you work from home because failing to do so will lead you quickly to burnout, frustration, and exhaustion, which are bad enough as an individual, but partners both burning out at the same time will greatly diminish your ability to help each other cope.

I need some space

Physical space is critical to being an effective work from home duo. I advocate each person having a workspace in a different location whenever practical. Pat and I are fortunate that our home enables us to work in different parts of the house. We can listen to our music at an obnoxious volume. Team calls can remain private. I can dance at my standing desk in my running tights and fluffy slippers (Remote work has its upsides, eh?). My messy organizational system remains my problem.

This separation also makes it possible for us to feel “at work.” We joke about “congestion on the morning commute” (meaning the dog is sleeping on the stairs), but even that small physical act of going to a space devoted to work helps to cue the brain for work. Conversely, leaving at the end of the day marks a transition to home life.

Work Style

That said, it doesn’t mean we can’t enter/visit each other’s spaces during the day. As the extrovert in our relationship, I need to talk to a human being during the day. Pat is also a social human but requires more time to focus and find a groove in his work. To respect his work style, I had to learn some of his signals.

If the door is closed, he’s on an important call, likely with clients. That’s a clear do not disturb sign, unless the house is literally on fire.

If the door is open and he’s wearing his big black headphones, that means he’s just listening to music and can be briefly interrupted.

If the door is open and he’s wearing white iPhone headphones, that means he’s on a call, but it’s a standup or company call. Still not to be disturbed, but if I cross the hallway, I can wave to his coworkers.

No headphones? Fair game.

Having a discussion about what type of things help you focus, and what the signals will be when focus time is needed, and when you can and can’t be disturbed is valuable. Most of the time, it’s headphones, but you can also revert to the good old dry-erase board on the door, or maybe a “Do not disturb” tag borrowed from a hotel?

Office Slack

Related to discussing Do Not Disturb signals, might I suggest having an office Slack? Yes, I send Slack messages to the person who works two floors up. Yes, we are the only two people on the team.

Why should you Slack with your significant other? Well, for both of us, Slack is already a tool we use for our work lives. It’s ingrained in our minds as “place where information lives” and is relatively unobtrusive. If something comes up and I need to run out while he’s on a call, I just send a Slack message, knowing he has his notifications set as he wishes.

It also is a way to have searchable documentation of your conversations. “Wait, did they say they had a call today at 1? Let me search our Slack channel.”

Get out

While spending a lot of together time with your partner and your dog is undeniably excellent, spending 80+ hours a week with anyone is a lot. While Pat and I share many interests, a key to our 16 years of bliss has been having our hobbies and respecting the time needed to enjoy them.

I recently bought a classic car, and the restoration process is a dirty, loud, infuriating labor of love that only I enjoy. My spouse has the distinction of being a former Nintendo Master, and recently resurrected his classic SNES system. Spending significant chunks of time doing these separate activities, and time alone doing things like reading, shopping, or going for coffee outside of the house, is good for the soul.

And the mind.

And your relationship.

Divide the labor

There’s no getting around it. Working from home drastically increases the amount of mess in your home. Dishes, paper, chargers, cords, mail, etc. I cannot stress this enough: have a grown up discussion about chores. When you work and live together, you have less space to go and be angry, and a disagreement over chores can be distracting and disruptive to your workflow. If it’s necessary, make a chore chart, or have an agreed upon level of disorder. Do whatever you need to do to find a balanced, equal, shared agreement around cleaning and cleanliness. Might I suggest Slack’s /remind command for this? Or a shared Google calendar?

When it’s not working out

You may decide this arrangement is hell, personally or professionally. But to avoid getting to that point, set up check-ins to see how it’s going for each of you. Think of it as your standup meeting. It’s a time to pipe up about what you need to work more effectively, and harmoniously with your significant other.

If you share an apartment or your home lacks sufficient soundproofing for you to ignore your partner’s glorious rendition of “The Rhythm of the Night,” it’s time to consider a membership in a coworking space.
Others have adopted work sheds – fully wired, sometimes very upscale, prefabricated sheds plopped down in their back gardens – as a way of putting a barrier, albeit small, between home and work. While this is resource intensive, it might be worth it if you desire solitude while still being able to be close to home, and may up your property value.

Can it be done?

Well, eight months into this arrangement and we’re still married, and, at last check, still employed. So our answer is yes, but with the recognition that it can’t happen without work, compromise, and communication. Being open about your needs for space, quiet, and focus will set you up for an efficient workplace and a harmonious home.


Ready for your next adventure? Find a new job on Authentic Jobs.

The Good Goodbye: On Your Way Out

The Good Goodbye: On Your Way Out

In the first part of the Good Goodbye series, I talked about the mechanics of resigning and how to handle your coworker’s reactions.

In this installment, I’m going to talk about how to make the most out of your last weeks, and how to make a positive contribution on your way out

Chart Your Course

Once you’ve decided on your last day, it’s time to think about what you need to complete before you leave. Think back to your first week of this job. What mess did your predecessor leave for you to untangle? Be kind to the future you, and leave your work and projects in a better place.

But be realistic. Between meetings, work, potentially packing and moving, and possibly interviewing your replacement, you won’t have time to fully complete everything. And that’s ok.

If you cannot complete something, get it to a happy place, and by that I mean a place where the next person who looks at doesn’t need to be you to figure out what is going on. You may have to go in and comment the living daylights out of your code or start a completely separate document for comments or instructions. There is also great utility in writing down some historical moments in a project or product’s lifespan. You know, those moments when you decided that the app would do x instead of y because of z reason.

Whoever is handed your project will thank you for this.

Get what is coming to you

Be sure to read your contract, and your terms of employment to make sure you are going to get everything that is coming to you in terms of compensation, health coverage, and retirement benefits.

Schedule a meeting with your HR representative to go over what you will and will not get. Have them answer these questions, and bring data to back up your answers:

  1. Will you be paid for any leave you haven’t taken?
  2. What is the status of any retirement plan contributions?
  3. Are you owed money from performance bonuses?
  4. Do you have outstanding expense reports that need to be fulfilled?
  5. Will your last pay be mailed to you, or will it be electronically deposited? If it will be mailed, make sure they have your correct address, particularly if you’ll be moving.
  6. Who is the person to contact for pay related matters once you leave? What is their direct line and e-mail?

Schedule Your Exit Interview

This is where I have to turn towards the employers for a moment. Employers: you need to do exit reviews. Yes, they can be awkward, but you need to do them for the good of your company. I’m going to assert that off-boarding people can be just as important as onboarding them.

Back to you, job leaver.

Schedule yourself an exit interview. In some companies, an exit interview is not a given, and will only be scheduled if the outgoing employee requests it. If that’s the case, request it.

As a leaving employee, you have valuable feedback and experience you can share relatively freely. Remember when I asked you to write down your real reasons for leaving in my first post? And remember how I said your resignation letter was not the time to air your dirty laundry?

Well, folks, it’s time to do the washing.

OK, just kidding, not really. You don’t want to use your exit interview to trash your soon-to-be-ex-employer. Use your exit interview to provide constructive feedback and to (hopefully) help them improve.

Talk about why you’re leaving, specific incidences where company policy or structure let you down, share ideas you have for correcting problems. I want to caution you against personal attacks. These tend to shut down the conversation and it can cast you in a bitter light.

In the past, I have used generalizing structure words to abstract away any personal feelings or implied guilt.

Try to use statements like “The company’s management structure sometimes made my reporting and review chain unclear. I think I would have benefited from a much clearer and better-documented management structure.” rather than “Jane was a bad manager, I never knew if I was reporting to her or to Tom.” which focuses on individuals.

While yes, individuals can be a huge reason for leaving, think of the feedback you’re giving as working to rebuild a foundation, rather than repaint the walls.

If you’re escaping an unpleasant workplace, it can be tempting to just want to lash out at everything and everyone and tell them just how bad their workplace is, flip some tables, and steal all the ketchup from the cafeteria. Those are legitimate feelings (Please don’t flip tables. And put the ketchup back.), but share that with a therapist, friend, or partner, rather than your ex-employer. The tech world is very small, and leaving on a Hulk Smash note or like an angry toddler can and will haunt you.

Remember, you may need them for a reference some day.

Spread the word

If you work with outside vendors, you’ll want to come up with a strategy to pass them off to another coworker, and also to communicate this transition to them. Again, they don’t need to know the details, they just need to know that you are leaving, when you’re leaving, and who will be taking over for you.

Inevitably, you’ll miss someone or they’ll type your email out of habit. Be sure to arrange inbox forwarding to the person who is stepping in for you.

Your Last Day

On your last day, review the map you laid out for passing off your work. Did you get to everything? If not, make a note.

If there is something that you have password protected and those credentials might be lost, work with a tech lead or IT to hand off those keys.

Check in with HR about the state of any payments or benefits owed.

Be sure to bring any keys, passes, books or hardware that belongs to the company and return them.

Bring a box for your personal stuff, and be sure to take it all.

Enjoy your celebratory cake. Say goodbye to your coworkers, and exchange contact details if you want to stay in touch.

Leaving a job can be stressful and emotional, but it can also be a chance to improve the workplace for future employees, and it can be a way for you to cruise off into your new career, knowing that you did your best to say a Good Goodbye.

 

The Good Goodbye: Resigning with Dignity & Kindness

The Good Goodbye: Resigning with Dignity & Kindness

Because Authentic Jobs is a company devoted to helping connect creative professionals with fantastic job opportunities, it’s easy to forget that there’s a less fun side to all of this.

When you get a new job, you’ve got to leave the old one.

People change jobs for many reasons, some of which are personal. It could be moving into a new phase of life where you need to be closer to care for a friend or relative. Your partner may have just got their dream job in another city. You may be looking to cut out an expensive and stressful commute.

Of course, people leave for career reasons, too. You cannot see an opportunity to grow on the horizon. You feel your skills and ideas aren’t valued. The company made a choice to ax a product you’ve labored on for months.

For whatever reason, it is time to make the leap. But before you burn bridges, I want to make the case for making a good goodbye and walk you through it. In this first part, we’ll talk about the mechanics of resigning.

Before I begin, be sure to read your employee handbook and your contract. Know what your reporting structure is, and what you are contractually obligated to do for your employer when you resign. Take a moment to look at your state and country’s labor laws, as well. 

Know why you’re going

Remember that first day you went home and said: “No watching Antiques Roadshow tonight, I’m working on my resume.” What got that stone rolling?

Was it just because of money (an entirely valid reason, by the way) or was it because you felt you would have more job security moving to a new corporation?  Do you love your job, but remote work isn’t an option, and you need to relocate for personal reasons? Was there an incident where you felt you weren’t valued, or your contributions were discounted, and you realized that there was a pattern of behavior?

Identify the things that are making you go. Save those thoughts. Write them down, and we’ll come back to them soon.

Decide when you’re going

Do not resign from your current job until you’ve negotiated an offer and signed it. Trust me on this one.

Don’t resign until the papers are signed. 

The process of deciding your end date is complicated, a mixture of wanting to leave your old team in a good place, respecting your new employer’s needs, and possibly taking a small break between jobs.

Let me get this out of the way: there is no legal requirement that you give two-weeks notice. In the US, giving two weeks notice is a courtesy to your employer and more of a societal standard than a requirement. That being said, if you can give two weeks, do it. It’s a kind thing to do. You may also have reasons you want to give more, but there are a few things to consider.

As soon as you tell an employer you are leaving, the dynamic between you has changed, and thus continuing to work with one foot out the door for months isn’t recommended. However, if you feel that leaving after a feature ships, or that organizing your work for a smooth transition would take longer than two weeks, you’ll need to identify the soonest end date that won’t leave your almost-former employer in a bind.

Passing off work and documentation in a good state is a great way to maintain a collegial relationship with your former employer. Think about the last job you took. Were there things you wish your predecessor had done? This is your chance to do those things.

How to say something

When you’ve got your new offer in hand and signed (and not a second before), you should schedule a face to face meeting with your supervisor, boss, or team lead, depending on your reporting structure.

Do not fire off an e-mail as soon as the ink on your offer is dry. Do not send a text. Do not send a Slack message. Do not do any of the above if you are having/have had celebratory drinks, in particular. Schedule a meeting. If you work remotely, schedule a video chat. It may seem old fashioned, but telling folks face to face indicates respect for them as a colleague and for the opportunity of working there.

Once your meeting is scheduled, prepare what you’re going to say. A skill I learned in my sorority days was to use “Positive and” statements. Leading with positive words and phrases encourages people to listen when you’re about to share challenging news or feedback with them.

The trick is to be sincere and assertive in equal measures because this is a statement. You’re not looking for permission to leave, or support for this decision. You are merely informing them of a fact. Something along these lines:

“Thanks for meeting with me, I know your schedule is full. I wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to be part of your team for the last three years. It has helped me grow tremendously. However, I’ve been offered a new position outside the company that I am going to take. Looking at the schedule, I think that my last day should be in two weeks, on March 1, after we get the product launched.”

If you are the type that gets nervous in these situations, or if you feel you may cry or get emotional, I encourage you to prepare and practice your resignation speech ahead of time. Do some simple breathing exercises right before the meeting. And if you’re like me and tears can happen, come prepared with a tissue (this is stressful, there’s no shame in tears!).

After the meeting, take a break. Go to the restroom, take a walk, get some food. The process of leaving can be draining, and righting yourself afterward can make all the difference.

After you’ve notified your most senior supervisor and taken a moment to compose yourself, go ahead and inform the rest of your team. If your company has procedures on this notification chain, be sure to follow them.

Write it Out

You’ll likely be asked to put your resignation in writing for your HR file. Your written resignation letter should include a few points of order:

  1. Your last day
  2. Your forwarding address for pay, tax forms, etc.
  3. Contact details (non-work email and phone)

You are not under any obligation to state where you are going, or why you are going. Don’t air your dirty laundry in this letter. Its purpose is only to document that you are leaving. Follow the “Positive and” sentence structure. You can even use your prepared speech as a template for your resignation letter.

What to do if it goes south

Someone once told me something right before an uncomfortable conversation: “You cannot control people’s reactions. You can only control your reaction to them.”

I wrote the above with the best possible scenario in mind, one where everyone acts like adults and professionals who want to remain at the very least civil with each other. But that, my friends, is sometimes not how it happens.

Sometimes, these things go badly. For introverted, shy, or non-confrontational people, actually, ok, for most people, the thought of a hostile reaction from an employer is terrifying.

Let me state unequivocally: if you feel unsafe in your meeting or after you’ve told your team, leave. Forget everything I’ve said. If you feel unsafe, threatened or harassed, you’ve done your part, grab your personal items and go (or leave and have someone from HR ship them to you).

If you are an “at-will” employee, your employer can tell you to take a hike right then and there. Be prepared for this possibility with a contingency plan. This may mean dipping into savings, freelance work, or moving up your start date at your new job.

Be sure to read your employee handbook on what belongs to the company, including software, hardware, and intellectual property. If there’s the possibility of the interaction going badly, you do not want a fight over software licenses.

For US employees, you’ll want to consider what resigning or being fired after you resign means for your health care coverage. Depending on the date of your resignation, and the effective start date of your new job, and the start date of a new insurance plan, you may find yourself uninsured for a period of time. You may need to factor in the cost of COBRA coverage for you, and any dependents you have, into your contingency plan so that you are continually covered.

So now that they know, what now? In part 2, I’ll talk more about using your remaining time, and how to get and give the most from your exit interview.