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Ask Dave

Should I Quit?

John wants to know how to quit a job at a small business when your boss is a good friend and you're a key player. Dave recommends putting himself in his boss's shoes.

QUESTION: John in Texas wants to know how to quit a job at a small business when your boss is a good friend and you’re a key player. Dave recommends putting himself in his boss’s shoes.

ANSWER: Almost all business ethics questions can be solved just by switching moccasins. Walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes. If I am your friend who owns the business and you’re the key player for me, how would I want you to quit?

Assuming he’s a real friend, then he would want you to better yourself. He is going to be sad that you’re leaving, but he wants you to be able to live your dream. Hopefully his sadness won’t overwhelm his excitement for his friend.

That will be a bit of a test because I’ve had some of my closest friends in the world on our team leave. It really is heartbreaking. Yet it’s not so heartbreaking if they do it with class and properly, and speak highly of their time here and those kinds of things, then the friendship is not damaged.

I don’t get to see them every day like I used to, which is sad. I don’t get to bounce ideas around like we used to or work together every day. But they are not any less of a friend. Our friendship was not ruined by them choosing not to work here. That’s how I look at it as a leader.

What do I want them to do? First, I don’t want them to be working on a project and leave me in a lurch. If I am leaning heavily on someone and they walk out in the middle of something, that’s known as low-class. That does damage the relationship. It won’t be to the point that I won’t be nice to someone, but I won’t think of them as highly as I used to. Reasonable notice in your situation is priority one.

The second thing is to heap loads of gratitude into the situation. This is not a reflection of the fact that you care about your buddy or you care about his future. It’s just that God has shown you a different direction here.

Also, develop the story that the other team members are going to be told that is the truth, but that is a unified front between the leader/owner of the business and this key player that is leaving. I had a key guy who left the other day who had been with us for 12 years. I stood up in front of the whole team and talked about that guy in positive ways because he did a lot of positive things here. We miss him, but we understand that he moved on to something else. That’s a part of life.

I think the big issue is just you being forthright and you are being kind and giving plenty of reasonable notice. In some cases, that’s two weeks. In some cases, if you’re not a key player, it might be three days. In some cases it might be five weeks. You have to look at that through his eyes and say you’re going to stay there long enough that you are not going to leave him there in a lurch.

If they want you next Friday, and you’re a key player of his, you have an ethics problem because that won’t be fair to him. That’s not fair to walk out on five days’ notice. As long as someone offers that, then what we want to do is we want them to leave as soon as the transition is done. If an issue needs to be handled and you can subcontract to them for a time, then I think that’s good.

The big thing is that you don’t want your friend’s business, whom you care about, to be harmed by you walking out the door with an inappropriate schedule. But it’s fine if you get the work done and you leave next Friday, or you can work as a contractor at a distance, or you might even just finish up the project for free. You don’t have to, but those are some things you can just consider.

I think the big thing here is to just have lots of class. But people who get mad and storm out or get their tail in a twist; that’s not what’s going on here with you. You don’t have to be all corporate and give appropriate two weeks’ notice. Two weeks might actually be appropriate, but some people give us two weeks’ notice and we are able to transfer their work in three or four days, so we let them go ahead and leave. When your spirit leaves, we think you ought to take your body with it.

We don’t require people to work out notices unless we need them to. So it’s classy of our team to offer it, but oftentimes we don’t require it. We can let them move on whenever they are ready to move on. It’s a friendly way of doing things.