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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

What to Say When You've Resigned

Dear Sue: I have a question that really needs an expert answer. I recently resigned from my position after over eight years of employment. For over my last year of employment, we had a new manager who was verbally abusive and told the most inappropriate jokes. For example, he once said, "I would like to put my hands around your neck and squeeze until your eyes pop out of your head." Another time he said, "Do you think it would hurt if I stuck your fingers in the door and slammed it shut?" He thought he was being funny, and claims these were jokes. I contacted my home office and they did not offer any help.

Two weeks ago we were having our morning meeting and I wanted to discuss something that was bothering me. This manager became very upset and threw a pen at me. It missed hitting me, and then he asked me if I wanted more. I was scared and upset. I called his supervisor, but he never returned my call.

When my boss called me later that day he acted like everything was just fine. I was so upset that I gathered my belongings and left a note of resignation. I have since learned that my boss has denied any wrongdoing. From what I have been told, the old company's policy regarding references is to only provide the dates of employment so I am not worried about anyone saying anything, but do worry that telling future employers about my experience could reflect negatively on me, and I am concerned about what to say when I am asked why I left. How do I explain this? I want to put this nightmare behind me. - Moving on

Sue Says: I am glad you are moving on because you should not have to tolerate such behavior and will be better off now that you are out of there. I understand your concern about what to say when people ask about past employment, but don't worry because you don't owe anyone a detailed description or reason. People leave jobs and move around frequently, and there are many reasons for doing so. Consider the information confidential and personal. Lawrence Alter, president of The Arthur Group, a Minneapolis based career management firm said that opening up too much could be an indicator that you are a troublemaker. Your former employers policy to merely confirm the dates of your employment is a policy many corporations have implemented to protect themselves from legal action. However, Alter suggests that you get a written statement from your former employer stating that they will only provide dates of employment to anyone asking for references.

Consider asking one of your former managers to give you a positive professional reference if contacted by a potential new employer. In addition, you can put on your application (or state in an interview) that you felt it was time for you to move on, after 8 years, to pursue something that allowed you to better use your existing skills, develop new skills, or that provided greater opportunity for advancement. The fact that you were with the same company for eight years tells anyone that your performance was strong and that you are a loyal and dedicated employee. Be sure you emphasize this in a job interview.

It does appear as though you may have legal recourse, Alter said, and should you choose to pursue it, you may want to speak with an attorney or consult the State Attorney General's office. In addition, since you never heard from your manager's supervisor, you should contact the director or vice president of the human resources department of the company to advise them of what occurred and find out what they intend to do so that other employees are not subjected to this type of behavior.

However, do what you need to do and try not to expend too much energy on the issues of the past; chalk it up to a learning experience, be glad you are out of that environment and move on.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

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