How Much Do We Really Owe Our Employers?

It's been nearly one year since I quit my career as a concert promoter. Many family members, friends, and colleagues never saw it coming. But I didn't leave without a plan.

I saved 40-50% of my income for several months, invested in other skill sets, and planned to take some time off before transitioning into digital marketing.

I chose to leave in August, which had historically been a slower month for the company, giving my co-workers time to take the reins and prepare for my upcoming fall shows. Also, I left after wrapping up my work on two major festivals.

Before I gave my notice, I told my boss I was going to start looking for another job. Why? After seven and a half years with the company, I felt like I owed him an advanced warning. And he appreciated my honesty.

But what did I really owe the company?

A good friend of mine recently asked herself the same question.

After several years with a major entertainment company, she started getting fed up with the long hours, unreasonable expectations, and cynical work environment. Recently married, she thought about the honeymoon she'd put off, the lack of time with her new husband, and the future children she planned to raise.

Looking around, she didn't see many women making it work.

Between the constant travel, never-ending events, and lack of days off, a more sustainable lifestyle seemed more out of reach them ever.

After an especially punishing weekend, she carefully typed up a resignation letter, and hand-delivered it to her boss.

First, she was pressured to reconsider. Then, she was asked to stay through the end of the year because taking off would leave them in a “bad situation.” She was shown little appreciation for her generous offer to stay for five more weeks.

Her predicament got me thinking.

Is it fair for employees to suffer through a toxic work situation until it's convenient for them to leave? What about the health and well-being of the individual?

You know what happens while we're waiting to make a necessary change until it's more convenient? Life.

And you know what the rest of the world is doing? Taking chances, giving birth, spending time with ailing family members, and finding other jobs that make them a hell of a lot more happy.

Would most companies hold off on planned layoffs until it was convenient for their workers? During a recent merger, her company didn't. And most others wouldn't either.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't be heartbroken to discover your company doesn't always have your best interest in mind. And follow your heart when it comes to making major life changes. You know what you need.

I'm not going to lie and say that quitting your soul-sucking job is the answer to all of your problems. But it's a start. Even if you don't have an immediate plan for what's next.

Readers: How much do you feel you owe your company?

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Discussions — 32 Responses

  • Ali @ Anything You Want August 7, 2015 on 9:28 am

    This is such an important topic and a really hard question to answer. I feel that it really depends on the company and how the company has treated you. If you’ve been mistreated, then I don’t think you owe the company much. If you’ve had a great experience and respect the people you work with, then you owe much more. Working for a company is a two-way street; you give to your company but you should also derive value from your company. If both sides of that equation aren’t fulfilled, then it might be time to move on.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Ali @ Anything You Want August 8, 2015 on 11:29 am

      Great point, Ali. It’s interesting to see what different people perceive as being treated well. I used to think perks and culture were most important, but now I value work-life balance above all.

      Reply
  • Brian @DebtDiscipline August 7, 2015 on 9:38 am

    The cover up or excuse line I love to hear is “it’s just business” well if you fire me or lay me off, it may be just business to you, but has a personal impact on me. Your insane requests and crazy hours may be just business, but impact my life. I thing so may of us feel stuck because we don’t have other options. We need to be spending a little more time on those other options.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Brian @DebtDiscipline August 8, 2015 on 11:28 am

      Well said, Brian. In the past, I’ve put all other things behind my job. It’s no way to live! Sacrificing your well-being for a job just isn’t sustainable. Period.

      Reply
  • Michelle August 7, 2015 on 10:40 am

    Great post! I felt horrible when I left my job. I felt like I owed them so much and I gave them a ton of notice. Would they have done that for me though? I just don’t know…

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Michelle August 8, 2015 on 11:25 am

      Thanks for sharing, Michelle. I’ve always felt a ton of guilt for leaving jobs, and I’m realizing it’s probably hurt me. It’s tough to get out of that mindset.

      Reply
  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal August 7, 2015 on 12:32 pm

    This post really resonated with me Kate. I left my soul sucking employer a year ago when we became parents. I honestly felt that the employer had been awful to me, so I didn’t feel like I owed them anything. I would have liked to continue working part time, and had originally planned that, but i ultimately decided that if I stayed at that job it would likely impact my performance as a mother- and not in a good way. Best decision I ever made.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Dee @ Color Me Frugal August 8, 2015 on 11:20 am

      I’m really sorry you had to go through that, Dee. And it sounds like you made the right choice. Family definitely comes before any job.

      Reply
  • Michelle August 7, 2015 on 2:58 pm

    It’s so sad because more and more organizations are focusing on profits before people. The problem? Shareholders and boards of directors demanding more and more and more. I’ve found that most public companies couldn’t care less about their employees. They try to make it look like they care but never actually do. I’m in a life sucking situation now and realizing I need to get my finances in order asap.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Michelle August 8, 2015 on 11:18 am

      I’m really sorry you’re in a rough situation, Michelle. Getting my budget under control made me feel so much better. Plus, it’s insurance against future bad situations!

      Reply
  • femmefrugality August 7, 2015 on 8:31 pm

    Yeah, I wouldn’t wait until it was convenient for them. Legally they’re not supposed to be able to say anything except that yes, you did work there, so what’s the point in making a company that sucks your heart and soul out happier for a few more months while you’re dying inside?

    That being said, I haven’t had too many wretched employers. I’ve always tried to give a lot of notice and make the transition easier, but I’ve generally liked all of my bosses, and not too many of them have tried to take advantage of me. Definitely not like that.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore femmefrugality August 8, 2015 on 11:16 am

      Great points! I think the reference factor is always there, but my friend is very good at what she does. Hopefully, her company will come around and do what’s right!

      Reply
  • Dividend Mantra August 8, 2015 on 2:15 pm

    Kate,

    I don’t think I or anyone else owes employers anything at all. In the end, it’s just a business transaction. You’re exchanging your (very valuable and dwindling) time – and any relevant skills – for money. That’s it. When employers let people go, it’s generally fairly quickly. I was fired once back in 2009. Middle of the week. At like 10 in the morning. You think they could have done it the previous Friday afternoon and saved me the time.

    I gave my previous employer two weeks’ notice, but then I found out co-workers were stealing my work (we were on commission) because I was “retiring early” and “didn’t need the money”. So I left before my two weeks was even up.

    I think two weeks is more than enough accommodation since it’s generally more than employees get. Hopefully, I’ll remain my own employer for the rest of my life. I’ve been my favorite boss of all. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Dividend Mantra August 9, 2015 on 9:18 am

      Thanks for sharing that, Jason! Totally agree! And being your own boss definitely avoids these problems ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Tre August 8, 2015 on 5:42 pm

    I think it is harder for women because we have a sense of responsibility to our coworkers. We tend to put others before ourselves. When it’s time for layoffs, your boss isn’t going to let you stay until it’s convenient for you to leave.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Tre August 9, 2015 on 9:21 am

      Great points, Tre! I’ve read women tend to feel more guilty about leaving a job, and consequently, often stay way longer than they should.

      Reply
  • Theodore Nwangene August 9, 2015 on 10:49 am

    This is so sweet Kate,
    I don’t think we owe them anything at all. I so hate this job of a thing. All they care about is how best to use you, how to control you and if you really want to live a happy and fulfilled life, quit that job.

    No amount of money can be compared to your time my friend so, its better you use that time for something else other than suffering for people that will never know your worth and value until you want to quit.

    This is a wake up call dear, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Theodore Nwangene August 9, 2015 on 10:57 am

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Theodore! Time is definitely far more important than money.

      Reply
  • NZ Muse August 9, 2015 on 11:50 pm

    The last 2 jobs I left, the timing was terrible. A bunch of other people had just left/were leaving at the same time so with the turnover, everything was in turmoil. But it happens!

    Reply
    • Kate Dore NZ Muse August 10, 2015 on 8:02 pm

      You’re right. You can’t allow other people’s actions influence what’s best for you!

      Reply
  • Michelle August 10, 2015 on 8:16 am

    Honestly, when I was working at a major university — I felt like I owed them a lot. Maybe it was because I work in nonprofits when I am employed by someone else. Maybe it is because the university did so much in terms of providing educational and health benefits beyond what most other jobs would. When these places provide loyalty + purpose, I actually had a much harder time just cutting lose or even looking at other positions.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Michelle August 10, 2015 on 8:03 pm

      That’s understandable, Michelle. Especially when you felt like your job was making a major impact on other people’s lives.

      Reply
  • EL @ Moneywatch101 August 10, 2015 on 9:42 am

    That is the game corporate America plays on people. If you want to leave and provide value, they will ask you to stay. Its business as usual because it is convenient for them, and they will try to get what’s beneficial for the company’s bottom line.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore EL @ Moneywatch101 August 10, 2015 on 8:04 pm

      Truth! Most companies are just looking out for their bottom line and that’s it. I’ve been lucky my jobs haven’t been like that.

      Reply
  • Abigail @ipickuppennies August 11, 2015 on 2:59 pm

    I actually owe my company everything. I never thought I’d be able to hold a real job, let alone a full-time one. But the owner of the company was looking for someone with a disability or other extreme reason that working from home was necessary.

    The paychecks have helped us afford a home, start a savings account and so on. That said, he consistently shows his appreciation for my work. And because of that, I agree to take on overtime when needed (for extra pay, of course) because I want to help out.

    As for a workplace where health was being ruined, you owe them very little. If you want the reference, then obviously give the two weeks. But no, you don’t owe them more than that. If they have a problem with that, be very clear that your body can’t handle more time than that. It’s nothing personal; you just can’t endanger your health further.

    Yeah, it’s considerate to hold off leaving work until it’s best for the company. But if there are very legitimate, negative reasons you’re leaving, then don’t worry about it. Leaving them in a lurch is not your problem.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Abigail @ipickuppennies August 11, 2015 on 7:06 pm

      Wow, thank you for sharing this, Abigail. It’s wonderful to hear your employer has been so generous to you and your family! And you’ve made some excellent points. There are definitely some amazingly caring companies out there (I’m working for one of them!) But, sadly, I think we’re in the minority.

      Reply
  • Holly@ClubThrifty August 12, 2015 on 7:27 am

    “Would most companies hold off on planned layoffs until it was convenient for their workers?”

    No! One of my friends was laid off a few weeks before Christmas once. Businesses do what is best for them, period. We should all do the same, as long as we are professional about it.

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Holly@ClubThrifty August 12, 2015 on 8:24 am

      Ugh, I’m sorry to hear that happened to your friend. And I agree. Maintaining professionalism is important.

      Reply
  • TheHappyPhilosopher January 5, 2016 on 1:32 pm

    Really great question to ask, in fact I was just writing some stuff about this the other day. I will ping you when I publish ๐Ÿ™‚

    I don’t think we owe anything to a company or corporation, but we have to be mindful that there are people that will be affected. Each situation will be different but in general the more skilled the position, the longer it will take to fill. Everyone will have their own personal morality and values with respect to what feels right to them.

    My rough guideline would be this: If they reserve the right to fire me at any time without good cause, I reserve the right to quit anytime without good cause. If they want me to have to give a certain notice, then write it into the contract and compensate me for that certainty. There is nothing like the clarity of a signed contract.

    That being said, I would tend to be thoughtful about leaving a job and give people the courtesy of as much advance notice as I could. I don’t ‘owe’ it to them…I owe it to myself to live through my values. I value being kind to people and making their life awesome ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Reply
    • Kate Dore TheHappyPhilosopher January 10, 2016 on 10:10 am

      Thanks so much for sharing this perspective, Jeff. I definitely agree about being thoughtful when leaving a job. We’ve all been burned by former co-workers who quit suddenly. And it’s not a positive way to end the working relationship.

      Reply
  • Carol Solow Freedman August 26, 2016 on 7:09 pm

    I gave two weeks notice to my former employer, taking into account Thanksgiving, but then was told that my last day would be three days later….so there’s sometimes that. Later, I read an article listing Ten Unmistakable Signs Of A Bad Place To Work,and realized that my former company had 5 out of ten unmistakable signs!!. This is the link; it’s been helpful for me to review when I’ve been considering other places to work. http://www3.forbes.com/leadership/ten-unmistakable-signs-of-a-bad-place-to-work/2/

    Reply
    • Kate Dore Carol Solow Freedman August 30, 2016 on 12:08 pm

      I’m really sorry you had such an unpleasant work environment, Carol. But I’m happy you gave your notice! Best of luck with your next move.

      Reply