Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: “I Know I Gotta Go”

This week, R. Eric Thomas and Heather Schwedel discuss a Prudie letter: “I Know I Gotta Go

R. Eric Thomas: Hi Heather! What did you think about this letter writer’s dilemma and the emotional bonds of small workplaces?

Heather Schwedel: Hi, and thanks for having me! This LW sounds like a very conscientious employee, so I’m not surprised their boss doesn’t want to lose them. But it also sounds like the LW is so conscientious that they tend to take responsibility for things that aren’t their problem, which is what this situation is. Imagining what they’re going through, I can totally see how they would feel anxious about leaving their employer in the lurch, but from an outside perspective, it’s an open-and-shut case: The employer is guilt-tripping the employee!

Eric: I agree. As someone who has been guilt-tripped by employers before and has talked friends through guilt trips at their own jobs, it’s amazing how frequently this occurs.

Heather: I know we are all human and it happens, but the boss should really have kept it together and not cried. They gave ample notice! This isn’t their field anymore! There’s absolutely no incentive to stay other than not hurting this person’s feelings … this person who isn’t considering their feelings or priorities at all.

Eric: Right! As much as work can be fulfilling and can add to one’s life experience in a positive way, work is still work, and the employer is basically asking the employee to sacrifice their own happiness for the good of the company.

Heather: I don’t know the field, but as niche as it is, if the employer pays decently, I have no doubt they can find another person to fill the job. It doesn’t have to be so dire. I assume the company existed and had some degree of success before the LW got there, so there’s precedent.

Eric: Yeah, I was struck by how many objections the boss put up. Like, if you don’t want to do the work of finding an employee, maybe you shouldn’t be a boss?

Heather: Right, the boss mentioned retiring … they could just move that up and solve this whole issue, no? But when you’re a people pleaser, you’re going to very susceptible to objections like that.

Eric: Exactly. I am immediately distrustful of anyone who frames another person’s growth as a personal inconvenience.

Heather: I am so curious how long the LW has been at this company. And if the boss is acting like this now, how they’ve been as a boss the whole time…

Eric: Right. At least a couple years through the pandemic, but possibly more. And from the LW’s account, it seems they were always working multiple angles and trying to better themselves. My suspicion is that the boss conveniently ignored the idea that their employee might have bigger dreams.

In my reply, I suggested a conversation with the boss that attempts to keep a bridge unburned, but I’m a little ambivalent about that. Do you think there’s a benefit for the LW to try to make the boss feel okay about this?

Heather: I think your point that it won’t be any easier to leave in December was right. There may just be no pleasing this person. I don’t think the LW should do anything like, tell the boss off and walk out of there with their middle fingers up, but if they have one more compassionate but firm conversation about leaving, I think that should be more than enough.

Eric: Compassionate but firm, that’s exactly it. Thanks for chatting with me today, Heather!

Heather: You’re very welcome! Now I quit, and I hope you can accept that.

Eric: 😭 😭 😭