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Your Options When Forced to Resign From a Job

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/19/2011

The two main options for the employee when forced to resign from a job are “fight" or “flight." The “fight" option involves refusing to quit and possibly suing your employer, while the “flight" option concentrates on how to make the change as seamless as possible.

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    Are You Being Asked to Resign?

    Forced to Resign from a Job In normal circumstances, job resignation involves the employee leaving a job voluntarily. However, many companies try to force underachieving employees to resign to avoid the unpleasant business of terminating them.

    Irrespective of the circumstances leading to the forced resignation, it is almost always an unpleasant and degrading experience for the employee. It also leaves the employee with limited options and ineligibility for unemployment benefits in the US. How the employee reacts to this development determines his or her future career path.

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    The “Fight" Option

    Very often, management puts pressure on employees to resign on their own to avoid the unpleasant task and hassles of termination. The “fight" option in front of the employee is to capitalize on this point and refuse to resign.

    The employer, when terminating the employee would have to follow a laid down procedure, which usually entails first issuing a notice and then holding an inquiry to establish reasons for terminating an employee before actually terminating the employee. Very often, the employee becomes eligible for compensation as well. The employee can always challenge termination when a company has not adhered adherence to such procedures, or when a company tries to terminate on weak grounds.

    Even after handing in a resignation without waiting for termination, the employee can approach the court and claim constructive dismissal, stating reasons such as the boss’s behavior, dangerous working conditions, discrimination, or other reasons for resignation. The employee, however, needs to have raised such problems as a grievance before resignation, and such constructive dismissal charges are not easy to prove.

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    Drawbacks of the "Fight" Option

    Most employees when forced to resign from a job do not adopt the “fight" path, because although the firm might be reluctant to go through with the hassles of terminating, most firms remain competent to establish grounds for termination. These companies are also capable enough to ensure the employee stays out.

    Even if the employee gains some compensation out of a lawsuit, it would be at the cost of negative findings when a future employer conducts a background check. No matter how talented or skillful the employee may be, very few companies would readily hire someone who has dragged a previous employer to court by refusing to quit, whatever the reasons or background of the issue.

    Apart from negative feedback, the company can also make life difficult for the employee who refuses to quit gracefully by:

    • Delaying or misplacing the record of pay and tax deductions that need to be submitted to a new employer.
    • Creating obstacles to change from the company’s pension plan and health insurance to other plans.

    In the rare cases when the employee manages to hang on to the job without resigning even when asked to do so, it can be rest assured that such employees would probably not enjoy easy career progression or salary increments in the future.

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    The “Flight" Option

    Forced resignation is equivalent or, in some cases, even worse than dismissal from a job. The “flight" option when forced to resign from a job entails trying to make this experience as seamless as possible, and trying to eke out the best from a bad situation. Three such approaches include:

    1. Quitting gracefully in exchange for a good reference.

    If a company is determined to get rid of an employee, the best option for the employee may be to quit gracefully in exchange for a good reference, and a possible recommendation to some other company. A background check is an indispensable part of the hiring process, and unfavorable feedback from a previous employer is a major obstacle to securing a new job.

    2. Taking a break and re-evaluating options.

    The forced resignation might actually be a blessing in disguise, provided the employee puts forth an effort to perform a serious and honest introspection.

    An employer might force resignation on an employee for one of the following reasons.

    • Unsuitability for the job in terms of skills deficiencies or unreliable work behavior.
    • Employee’s basic nature or personality orientation not suited to the job, such as an introverted person doing a marketing job.
    • Habitual lateness, frequent absences, alcohol abuse or other behavioral issues.
    • Inability to maintain good interpersonal relationships with co-workers or customers, or low social IQ.
    • Inability to maintain focus or pay proper attention to work due to family or other distractions.

    The employee can try to find out what went wrong and work on developing shortcomings to avoid repeating such situations. This might also be the time to make a career change or acquire new skills.

    3. Work on new terms.

    At times, the employer might try to force an employee’s resignation not due to any issues with the employee as such, but due to other factors such as the company going through bad times, or an unfavorable external environment such as a recession. In such cases, the employee may want to express willingness to agree to a change of employment terms such as a lower designation or lesser salary as an alternative to resignation.

    In most cases, the “flight" options score better than the “fight" options, for in the latter case, most victories obtained are quite pyrrhic.

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    Desktop Lawyer. Resigning from a Job: