Dear Matthew: When should I tell them I'm quitting?

BD’s career doctor advises an architect who is about to be handed a plum assignment - but knows he’s leaving in a few months

Question: I have a problem about concealing quitting from my boss. My wife has been in negotiation for new job elsewhere in the country for quite a while. Her starting date is now fixed for a few months away, so we are now planning the move. So far I have not breathed a word at work about leaving as her role has been quite a negotiation. Meanwhile they seem to have me lined up for a big and long-lasting project with one of our major clients. We are a small practice and I have been around for quite a while. My bosses can be quite temperamental and I have seen them react quite badly to staff issues in the past. So, basically, my quandary is when to tell them I am quitting? I am on a month’s notice.

Answer: Well, as you are aware, contractually you need only do the one month, but I would say most employers would love to have more notice than the bare minimum. I can completely see why you might have wanted to hold off until you had a fixed date. But now you do know when you will leave, I don’t think it is fair to go up to the wire, given you don’t have to. Of course you know the characters of your bosses, so maybe that is why you are hesitating. Perhaps you are worried that they would see having a “leaver” remain around for months as a threat - you might get demob happy, cut corners and potentially spread a bad ethos around the office. I guess the decision comes down to how much commitment you know you will show, and whether you can remain professional.

So my advice would be, the longer you give the better. You risk burning bridges unnecessarily, which is not a good idea, as you never know how you might need to return to the contacts you have made in this office in the future. I know someone who, after moving to a rural area, landed a great arrangement with a previous practice when, a couple of years down the line when they won a project in his area, he was approached to supervise it. While working from home he worked with a team he knew and respected, a set-up that suited him very well.

Though it might not be a pleasant thing to announce you are leaving, you are going to have to do it at some stage. Staff move on all the time, even if it rarely happens in your practice. It isn’t like you are a partner or connected intrinsically to the office: you are an employee. If the office has become as dependent on you as you suspect, then you owe it to them to be upfront, allowing them to plan the workload.

Architect Matthew Turner of has worked at a range of offices as well as being a client adviser, project manager and competition juror

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