Resist urge to bad-mouth former employer

Dear Joan,
I recently resigned from a position at a company that promotes turmoil. The president believes that the controller should be disliked by all employees. She definitely filled the position well. She was very hard to respect. I worked for her and she was continually rude and even called people names. The office politics were unbearable and I found myself in the middle of it.

When I had a discussion with the President of the company, he informed me that I could not trust anyone and that included him. He said that everyone had an agenda. He also said that I was an exemplary employee and he felt that I was capable of replacing my boss, the controller. When I spoke to her about issues of concern, she always said, "That’s the way it has always been, that’s how they are and that’s how it will always be." I felt that I was continually hitting a brick wall.

I worked there for just over a year and one day I had had enough and I walked out. I realize this isn't the smartest thing to do, but this job was affecting my personality and my home life.

My problem is that I don’t know how to explain this to a potential employer without badmouthing the company. Any suggestions?

Too bad cock fighting is illegal; the president would have found his calling.
His misguided philosophy that pits people against one another should be illegal, too. I’m sure it will be interesting for you to watch this company (from a safe distance), to see what happens to it in the future.

You are right about not badmouthing your former employer, even though this company would tempt the most prudent soul. Some people say to me, "I left because the company/boss/job was horrible. Why shouldn’t I tell potential employers the truth?" The person feels wronged and righteous about their reasons for leaving.

The problem is that potential employers are suspicious about anyone who tells tales about a former employer. They think that the person doesn’t have good judgment for sharing this information. What’s worse, it always raises fears that the employee probably was part of the problem. It’s similar to what happens when we hear someone bitterly badmouth a former spouse and then claim to be an innocent, hapless victim.

So what can you do? Ask yourself, "What am I looking for that my past employer didn’t give me?" In your case, it might be, "a work environment that encourages teamwork," or "an opportunity to try new things," or "to grow on my job". When you are asked why you left your last job, you can use these answers.

If the interviewer probes for some dirt on your past employer, resist the temptation. Instead, be tactful and always try to turn the conversation to what you are looking for. For instance, "The culture of the company promoted internal competition. I do my best work in a more collaborative environment."

Dear Joan,
I’d like to see an example of a two-week notice. I plan on leaving my job soon and I’m curious to know the wording and format of a typical two-week notice. I’ve been searching the Web and I can’t find anything. Any help would be appreciated.

A two-week notice should be short and sweet, no matter how emotional you feel. Write it and show it to someone who will give you an honest critique. It might look something like this:

"Dear Bob,
Please accept this as my letter of resignation, effective two weeks from today. I have accepted a position, which offers me more responsibility and an opportunity to expand my interests in new ways. I appreciate everything you have done for me over the past two years and I will miss working with you and all of the other good people here at ACME.

My new position starts on February 1, and I plan on assisting in any way I can to make a smooth transition. If you would like me to participate in training my replacement, I would be happy to help."

If you have been with a company for a longer period of time, you would probably want to elaborate a little more on how much you appreciate them and what the company has meant to you. If your job is hard to fill or the transition will be difficult for the company, you would be wise to give them more than two weeks notice.

If you are in an upper level job, you may not want to write a letter at all. You would probably have a conversation with your manager and/or the president of the company. In these cases, an announcement has to be made to employees and customers. Companies appreciate it when a departing executive collaborates with senior management on how to tell various constituencies. Usually these departures take much longer than two weeks.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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