You want to quit. How can you best ensure your401(k) retirement account is transferred, any bonuses earned are delivered, and you leave in good form?
To get guidance, I interviewed Liane Fisher, a leading national employment attorney and founding partner at Serrins Fisher LLP. She has dealt with hundreds of splits between employers and employees.
In interviewing Fisher, she and I compiled 13 rules that may help you before you quit. We have broken the list into three sections: 1) Before You Quit, 2) Quitting, and 3)After You Quit.
(Please note, while this was written from a U.S. perspective, this checklist is worth reviewing no matter where you work around the globe.)
BEFORE YOU QUIT:
*RULE 1, Know The Rules: Your present company has its own rules and regulations regarding salary, bonus pay, health insurance, PTO (vacation and sick leave), expense reimbursement, and the handling of retirement accounts upon an employee’s termination (whether voluntary or involuntary). Know these rules. If you are unsure about the rules, speak with the Human Resources department (HR).
Also, federal, state and local laws may apply as your employment comes to an end. However, while laws and employer policies often intersect, they are not the same.
“Don’t confuse employer policies with employment laws,” Fisher advised. “An employee handbook alone generally does not create any legal rights.”
If you are confused about your legal entitlements and protection then get advice from an employment attorney. I have included tips on "How to Find an Attorney" from Dean Nick Allardof Brooklyn Law School at the end of this post.
*RULE 2, Know Your Personnel File: Your personnel file likely contains documents that apply to your resignation including the following:
Agreements between you and your employer including bonus agreements (which must be in writing in many states)
Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements
Non-compete and non-solicitation agreements
Works-for-hire agreements and more
If you have a bonus agreement with your employer, it should indicate whether and how monies are payable when the employment relationship ends.
Also, before you quit to go work for a competitor, make sure you don’t have a non-compete agreement in place preventing you from accepting your new position.
Fisher pointed out, “Most employees do not know what is in their personnel file. In New York, for example, an employee is not legally entitled to see his or her personnel file. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. Knowing about thyself is the first step to ensuring you get your bonus and other compensation owed when quitting.”
*RULE 3: Do Not Take, or Keep Any Company Property: Whatever you do, do not take company property – especially confidential property. This includes all proprietary documents, white papers, marketing and financial plans, lists of customers and prospective customers, and more.
According to Fisher, “If you ever have a disagreement with your former employer and it is discovered you kept company information, any legal claim you have may be overshadowed by the risk you face for keeping company property. As you leave, if you have company materials or property at home, return them – down to the last paper clip.”
*RULE 4, Get Your Bonus, Then Quit: I have worked with many executives who have confided in me that they were going to quit. I was a safe harbor, not working in their company directly. Every single top executive I have met who was owed a bonus -- never quit before the bonus was paid. Or if they did, their next employer paid it so they could leave early. So, either wait for your bonus to be paid out, or if you are lucky, your future employer will “keep you whole,” and pay it so you can leave your present job early.
What’s Fair Doesn’t Matter: “Your employer may treat you unfairly. And may do so when you resign. However, what is unfair is not necessarily unlawful. Focus on what is within your legal rights, versus what is fair, “ advises leading employment attorney Liane Fisher(pictured).
*RULE 5, Resign to Your Boss: Face-to-Face: Do not quit to human resources. Do not quit by email. Tell your boss face-to-face. If you work remotely, call your boss and tell her by phone.
I once had a person who worked for me remotely and quit via email to start his own business. It was fine that he quit -- but, not by email. The email was followed by his calling some clients -- to see if he could take them for his new business. While I do not begrudge the person for going on his own, I found him to do things in a covert, underhanded way. I lost total respect for him. And, to this day, that is all I remember about him.
*RULE 6, Give Enough Notice: Give your boss enough notice to transition your work. Offer to train a replacement during a lame duck period.
Fisher said, “Giving enough notice to allow your boss to transition the work is not only professional, it is honorable. It is simply not acceptable to do anything else.”
*RULE 7, Leave on a Good Note: Even if your boss is a coward, and a creep – leave on a good note. Don’t be underhanded like my employee who resigned above. I may have been perceived as a creepy boss to him, I am not perfect – but most bosses in the world are understanding.
Anecdote:I just spoke to a friend of mine who runs a consulting company. He had an employee who had worked for him for years and years. She found her next opportunity that offered her growth and better pay. She talked to him about it and she was torn about leaving. However, the boss, in this instance, insisted that she take the next job. The transition for both boss and now former employee was tough, but the parting was on a good note – and forever they are connected.
Conversely, I have worked for executives who treat employees like a disposable diaper. If you leave, they figure they can always find another one. In dealing with bosses like that, count your fingers every time you shake his or her hand. And, if you quit, make sure it is formalized and guided by the rules of the employer and laws of the land.
*RULE 8, Leave With a Note: Have a letter of resignation addressed to your boss and “cc” those in the HR department. Make it formal by saying that on an effective date, you are resigning from the position of (name of position). If you have any editorial comment in your note, only make it positive. If you have negative feelings, omit them. I repeat, if you have negative feelings, omit them.
*RULE 9, Do Not Resign To HR: I know I said resign to your boss. But, do not resign to HR. Informing HR is Step Two after you resign to your boss.
Fisher added, “HR may know the company rules and procedures. But, in the end, your boss hired you, not HR. Give your boss that respect.”
*RULE 10, Know Your Rights When You Speak To HR: Earlier, I said, “Know the Rules.”
Fisher made this point, “Knowing the rules (employer policies) does not mean you will know your legal rights. You must go beyond company rules to understand your protections and entitlements,” she advised.
Before you meet with HR, understand how your bonus is paid and how it is calculated. Note that your last salary paycheck should be paid no later than the company’s next regular pay date. Understand how your 401(k) is transferred if you have one? Know whether there is a transition period for health insurance, or whether you can get insurance in the new public exchanges.
*RULE 11, “Refrain From Complain”: Quitting is not the time to complain about the job you’re leaving, or the boss, or the company. Don’t tell them what idiots they are, or why you have been wronged. It is a waste of time and you will leave on a bad note. You do not have to tell them why you are leaving. Focus on your future and what you are doing next.
HR will often request an “exit interview.” Only share factual information. Quitting is about you, not about the company. Less is much, much more.
Fisher recommends a good-bye note approved by your boss. “Write a good-bye note to your team, but get your boss to okay it first,” she said. “In the note, you can thank them for your time together and provide your personal contact information to stay in touch.”
AFTER YOU QUIT:
*RULE 12: Transition Well: Fisher could not emphasize this enough. If you have a job with responsibilities, document work-in-progress and what needs to be done on each assignment.
She said, “If you are good to your former employer, you protect yourself and your reputation and leave the door open if you ever want to return.”
*RULE 13: Know the Deadlines for Your Rights and Obligations: Fisher said, “Once you have left, know deadlines for signing up for COBRA, or healthcare in a government exchange. Plus know the timeline and procedure for transferring a 401(k). Similarly, know the timeframes for any confidentiality, non-compete and non-solicitation agreements you may have.”
SIDENOTE -- Don’t Let The Door Hit You In The Behind: When you resign, your boss may flip out and ask you to leave immediately. Don’t be surprised no matter what your boss’s temperament. Just make sure you close the loop with HR.
As Fisher said, “I have seen and heard it all -- even a boss throwing a chair when an employee left. Be ready for anything.”
She concluded by saying: “Knowing the rules, knowing your rights, knowing the laws, and not burning bridges will assure that you have a successful transition.”
Now, quit on a good note, get paid, and move forward.
How To Find an Employment Attorney, or Any Attorney For That Matter:
As you can see, conferring with an employment attorney before you quit is probably a good idea. If you do not have one, below are ten tips on how to get one from Dean Nick Allard of Brooklyn Law School.
Ten suggestions on how to get a lawyer if you need one.
Personal reference is always the best. If you don't know an attorney then ask people you trust for recommendations for the kind of lawyer you need.
Lawyers Know Lawyers. Ask people you trust for a good lawyer to speak with whom they respect. Then ask that lawyer to make a recommendation for a lawyer who specializes in what you need. Again, lawyers know lawyers.
Local Bar Associations. Bar Associations can give names based on affordability, but then double check with people you know for quality assessment. Ask the lawyer you are considering for client references.
Your Local Chamber of Commerce, Local Merchant Association, Rotary and Lions Club and other organizations can help refer lawyers
Legal Services for Indigent – these are legal services provided at the state expense. Here is a link for example to Maine
Local Law School Clinics. For example Brooklyn Law School has one where you can get a good young student who is supervised by some of the best college professors/lawyers
Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and other religious organizations often have members who are lawyers and you can ask the clergy
DIY and Legal Clearinghouse Services now available on line. DIY sites include Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, and LawDepot.
Lawyer Networking Services include Priori Legal, LawDingo, Wirelawyer, UpCounsel, and a host of others, some regional or city-based
Ask For a Free First Consultation, and don’t be afraid to do that with more than one lawyer, and then follow your gut instinct about who to hire.
When it comes to entry-level positions, a resume can only tell so much about a candidate.
With somewhat limited previous experience, employers need better ways to get to know the new, tech-savvy digital generation that is entering the workforce. For this reason, employers are finding new ways to engage with and get to know candidates before hiring them.
One of the ways they are doing this is by providing candidates with interactive challenges or tests. These can tell employers a lot about candidates and what their true abilities are.
As a job seeker, you need to understand what these challenges are, why companies are using them, and how to ace them:
What is a job interview challenge?
Challenges, or tests, are short projects that candidates are given by potential employers. They are used as a way to give employers a good idea of the candidate’s proficiencies and competencies.
Depending on the type of position you’re applying for, they may require you to write an article or press release, develop a marketing pitch, list technology devices and their capabilities, or design a logo. They generally don’t take more than a couple hours to complete.
Why do employers use job interview challenges?
Hiring a single candidate can cost upwards of $10,000, so companies want to make sure their hires are a good fit. Resumes can only tell employers so much about a candidate, so they utilize things like job interview challenges to get beyond the piece of paper.
Job interview challenges allow employers to determine a candidate’s technical skills for the job, as well as see their personality and ability to respond to problems. These challenges are generally very similar to actual work that the role would require, so employers are able to get an all-encompassing view of a candidate before hiring them.
What you need to know about job interview challenges
Aside from getting to know your hard skills, these challenges can also tell employers about your “soft skills.” Soft skills are different from the technical skills you learn in school and need to know in order to complete a project. Soft skills describe the way you communicate, your critical thinking abilities and attitude toward challenging work.
According to the Talent Shortage Survey, nearly one in five employers worldwide can’t fill positions because they can’t find people with soft skills. Therefore, it is extremely important that you remain mindful of not only how well you complete these challenges, but also how you’re presenting yourself before, during and after you complete them
Show off your strong communication abilities by making sure to connect with the employer about the challenge, and if it makes sense, update them on where you’re at with it and when it will be completed. If something unexpected comes up, make sure you keep a positive attitude to show that you can handle any challenges that arise.
How to prepare for job interview challenges
Pick a good time to start.Make sure to set aside plenty of uninterrupted time to complete the challenge. You need to put your best work forward to prove you are the right candidate for the position.
Do your research.Don’t start the challenge until you have a good understanding of the company and what they do. It is likely that the challenge will not only test your skills, but also your comprehension and knowledge about the industry and the company.
Get the details.Ask the employer what they are looking for with challenge responses and if there are any additional details you need to be mindful of. This will not only show that you are comfortable asking questions when needed, but also you are taking the challenge seriously.
Keep a positive attitude.Prove you are up to the challenge by showing your enthusiasm for the task. Don’t go overboard, but do small things like finishing ahead of time or sending out a tweet about how neat the challenge is.
Tap your professional connections. If it is allowed and possible, tap one of your trusted connections to review your work and make sure it is perfect. You should also ask for their feedback to ensure you’re submitting your best work.
The next time you’re applying to a company that utilizes some form of challenges, make sure you keep these tips in mind.
You may have heard John C. Maxwell’s quote, “Leadership is influence.”
Have you also heard him say, “Connecting increases your influence in every situation”?
There are lots of rules telling us how to not become “too friendly” at work. So, what does connectinglook like in the work environment?
Let’s start with his example of what work feels like when you do not have those important connections. Have you ever felt that you were the most skilled person in an area of work, yet you aren’t being promoted? Or that you work hard and produce, but others don’t seem to appreciate what you do? Or you desire to build relationships with people around you – but no one will listen to you and you feel like an outsider? What’s missing is being connectedto those you work with.
Connecting sounds easy – most people do it naturally with our family and long-time friends. But when it comes to new people or new situations, we don’t know the steps to go through. That’s why I have been so inspired by John Maxwell’s book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect.” In it, he shares his struggle to connect:
“I was working from a deficit position. I had a lot of ambition and clear goals during college and the early years of my professional life, but my inability to connect with people was a barrier to my success.”
Have you ever felt like John? I have. One of the paragraph titles resonated strongly with me,More Talk Isn’t the Answer! And I remember trying just that – if someone brought up a topic, I tried to find a way to relate it to something I had thought, read, or experienced. I wanted to show we had something in common – instead I gave the impression that all I wanted to talk about was me… and people did not find that very interesting.
Luckily not only has John gotten better at connecting over the years, he’s figured out what he DOES to connect with others and in his book, teaches us how to do it too. When people follow John’s advice, they see changes in their life by having deeper personal relationships, experiencing less conflict, and getting more things done. Add to that the personal satisfaction of making the most of your skills and talents and you have a win-win for everyone.
But don’t worry! All the techniques and principles that John teaches maintain one’s privacy and professionalism. He does not promote TMI (Too Much Information) but provides a guide for how and what is appropriate, and even necessary, to forge a connection.
While I hope you’ll join me on a group exploration of this book – or at least get the book and read it yourself (links below)– here are some tips you can put into action to become a better connector today.
The 3 Questions People Are Asking About You:
Do you care for me? “Whenever you can help other people to understand that you genuinely care about them, you open the door to connection, communication, and interaction.”
Can you help me? “If you want to get someone’s attention, show how you can help.”
Can I trust you? “Business goes where it wants to, but stays where it is appreciated.” Mike Otis
Have you been feeling overwhelmed at work lately? Your boss could be the source of the problem.
Seventy-five percent of employees believe their boss is the worst, and most stressful, part of their job. Unfortunately, there are a number of things a bad boss can do to hurt the morale and productivity of their employees.
If you’re beginning to wonder if your boss is the source of your unhappiness at work, you know you have a bad boss when:
1. Your boss damages your self-esteem.
Does your boss bring you down at work? Unfortunately, you’re not alone. Sixty percent of employees say their boss at some point or another damaged their self-esteem.
2. Your boss isn’t good at their job.
Research shows 34 percent of workers believe their boss is not effective at his or her job. Not only that, but more than half believe they could do a better job than their boss.
3. Your boss doesn’t motivate you.
Bosses are meant to be an employee’s No. 1 advocate and motivator in the workplace. However, 39 percent of employees either feel only sometimes or never motivated by their bosses.
4. Your boss doesn’t listen.
Transparent communication is key in the workplace, but one-third of employees say their boss sometimes or never listens to their work-related concerns.
5. Your boss ignores you.
According to Gallup, 57 percent of employees who feel ignored by their bosses are not engaged at work.
6. Your boss plays favorites.
Does it feel like there’s always one employee who gets more opportunities than you, even though you are equally or more capable of performing? Research shows 34 percent of bosses are guilty of playing favorites in the workplace.
7. Your boss makes you dread work.
Research shows employees dread difficult conversations with their boss (20.4 percent) and returning to work after vacation (16.6 percent).
8. Your boss doesn’t ask for your feedback.
Two-way communication is essential in the workplace. However, 49 percent of employees say their boss only sometimes or never asks for their ideas when solving problems.