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How much information should you give when resigning?

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,
I've been at my job for two years, and I make a great salary and love the company, but a year ago, my new boss joined and he is a micro manager/control freak and I know that he will never allow me to progress. Outside of that, I've been maintaining two apartments for the past year - one with my signficant other in NYC, and one close to my office in Philly.

I've decided that I would like to take the summer off to travel and then look for a job in Manhattan this fall. I realize taking time off is risky at my level - I have over 10 years of experience, but I've reached burnout and need to recharge. I'm planning to resign [at the] end of this week, and not sure if I should merely make it about location vs. I'm accustomed to having much more responsbility and a team underneath me, etc. that I'm not getting in my current role. I suppose, I could do a combination of the two. I should also note that I'm offering to give anywhere from 2-5 weeks of notice so my hope is to leave on good terms.

Any guidance here would be appreciated!

As an HR person who loves data and loves to be able to have concrete things with which to go back to a manager and say, "You're losing employees because..." I would say, "Tell everyone everything!"

But, as someone giving you advice, I'd say you say, "I really love this company but the strain of maintaining two households has gotten to me. I wish there were a practical way to make this work, but there isn't. As such, I am officially resigning."

Why? Because what good does it do you to say that the reason you are quitting is that your boss in an annoying micro-manager who has torpedoed your chances for promotion and growth? It makes you feel better but it won't help you in your career. It won't help you with the reference you will need from this boss in the future.

Exit interviews and resignation letters should be thought of as marketing documents just as much as your resume is. Not that I expect either one to get you a job in the future, it's just that you want to leave in good standing. You need a reference. You may wish to come back to this company in the future (and they'd pull your old file which will, most likely, have a copy of the resignation letter). If you leave in a spectacular way, telling everyone how rotten your boss is, it will get around. People will discuss and they will remember that about you. And you never know when you will run into your former coworkers.

What? You mean that exit interview that the HR person swore was confidential isn't confidential?!? Well, it is confidential in the sense that only HR types will see it. Your name will never be attached to it and no one will ever say, "Here is Jane's exit interview!" But, how many employees does any one manager have? 4? 10? 20? Even with 20, how many quit within a year? 1? 2? 5? Even with 5, how difficult is it to read the "anonymous" feedback and figure out who said what?

Precisely. Because the sad fact is that the only way that HR can use the data from exit interviews to help a manager become a better manager is to bring it up. And yes, you can bring it up without saying it's from an exit interview, but really, your manager will be able to figure it out.

So, resignation letters are about how sad you are to leave, but you had to take this opportunity/you can't do the commute/you're leaving to stay home with the dogs. And exit interviews can mention non-confrontational things like, opportunity/more money/returning to school/changing industries but not bad managers, unfair practices and how you never got to use vacation days.

You have nothing to gain by giving them feedback on this and plenty to lose. Your answers should be honest (you don't like maintaining two households) but remember the marketing answer (no need to mention the bad boss).

Good luck on your travels and your new job search.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to

Photo courtesy Flickr user Alan Cleaver.

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