So, you’ve decided to change jobs. You have been agonising over this momentous decision for some time. You’ve gone through the initial stages of change [1]:

  • You have come to work unhappy, but are unsure why.
  • You started to notice other opportunities ‘out there’.
  • You’ve discussed ideas with friends, family and mentors.
  • Finally, there is another opportunity, and you are ready to grasp it.

It is now time to have the conversation with your current boss about leaving and you’re stressed. You know it’s going to be difficult. There will be a range of emotions involved on both sides; sadness, anger, disappointment, betrayal, desperation. Above all, there will be a high degree of uncertainty. How will the boss take it?

This situation was a scenario for one of my clients. Morgan (not her real name) was working in a small business. She was unhappy with her bosses moody behaviour and felt trapped in a job that paid little and provided no personal development. Over several months, Morgan decided she wanted to branch out and start her own business. She was excited by the freedom this would bring. She was concerned about her bosses reaction.

Through role-play, there were two situations that could play out:

  1. Morgan’s boss would become angry and exit her from the business immediately.
  2. Her boss would make an attractive and tempting offer to stay.

Morgan and I decided the best way to prepare for the conversation was to develop a clear sense of the benefits she would gain by leaving. This included:

  • An ability to generate her own business.
  • Flexibility to work the hours and days she wanted.
  • Control over her time and the ability to spend more time with her family.
  • Increased income … eventually.

I suggested to Morgan that, when having the conversation with her boss, she remain focused on those benefits. When asked why she was leaving, only talk about the personal positives. Don’t mention the negative aspects. There were two reasons for this approach:

  1. Talking about the negatives may have triggered her boss’ defensiveness and increased an already emotionally charged conversation.
  2. It’s hard to argue with a person’s reasons for leaving when they talk about the benefits and growth opportunities. It’s personal for them, after all.

So, if you are considering leaving your current employment for a better opportunity, and you are ready to have the conversation about going, make a list of all the positive aspects of moving and what you will gain by taking that opportunity. Focus on the growth opportunities and stay away from the negatives. This approach might make the conversation with your boss easier to navigate.

[1] According to Prochaska and DiClemente, there are six stages of change; 1. Pre-contemplation; 2. Contemplation; 3. Preparation; 4. Action; 5. Maintenance; 6. Relapse.