how to resign when you’re about to go to a 3-day conference

A reader writes:

I just had a terrific second interview interview and was verbally offered a job yesterday, and I am over the moon about it. It’s a huge jump in title and salary. The CEO said, pending my reference checks, I will have the offer in writing on Friday. They are small and scrappy, and they need me to start as soon as I can, so I said I would give notice two weeks after I have the offer in writing.

However, the organization I work with now (another lovely nonprofit, but very large and resource-rich) is sending me to a three day conference on Sunday — flight, hotel, the whole nine yards. My boss will be at the conference too — and she’s not a very positive person to be around as it is. She has a mean vindictive streak, which is part of why I am so excited about moving on.

How should I handle this? I don’t want to ruin both of our conference experiences by giving notice on Friday and then enduring awkwardness, and I don’t want to look like a jerk who purposefully planned a free conference out of this and then gave notice on my first day back. (It was a total coincidence — this organization even recruited me, I wasn’t job hunting!) Should I back out of the conference altogether? The fees/hotel/airfare are all paid and non-refundable, nor are they transferable, so it’s not like I could send someone else in my stead.

I have great relationships with the whole team at my current organization, except my boss. I want to do the right thing here. What do you recommend?

Talk to her your manager and give your notice on Friday, after you have the written offer (and have accepted it). Tell her that you will do whatever she prefers regarding the conference — go or not go, whatever she thinks makes the most sense.

From there, it’s up to her. You’ll have been open and transparent and willing to do what the organization prefers. And some job offers just aren’t perfectly timed; reasonable people understand that.

That said, if you’d really rather not attend the conference now and you don’t think there’s any benefit to the organization for you attending since you’re leaving, it’s fine to push the scales a little in that direction, by saying something like, “I realize that it won’t be very useful to the organization to send me to the conference now, so I could stay home but see if I can negotiate refunds for us from the hotel and the conference.” (You have better chances of succeeding at refunds with those two, even if they’re allegedly non-refundable, than with the airline tickets.) And even if you can’t get any refunds, not going will still save the organization some money — your meals, cabs, etc. So it’s worth offering.

But don’t wait until you’re back. Be transparent, give the organization as much notice as you can, and let them decide how they want to handle this.

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