Breaking Bad News to the Boss

092610-jt-daleDear J.T. & Dale: Four years into my career, I finally figured out what I want: a career in marketing. What I am now doing is completely different, so do I try to make the transition within my company, or start fresh elsewhere? My boss wants me to take over his position in a few years, which is not what I want. I don’t feel comfortable approaching him about changing careers. So a new company seems like the better option. — Roland

Dale: I worry when someone talks about “starting fresh,” which often translates to “starting over.” You’ve been successful in what you do, and there’s no reason to walk away from it. You didn’t say what you’re doing now, so let’s say it’s accounting. Big accounting companies have marketing departments, so if you joined one, you’d be far ahead of a rookie with a degree in marketing. The key here is to EVOLVE, not start over. Begin immediately: Spend time with your company’s marketing people, and suggest projects to get your department involved — after all, in one sense, every department is in marketing.

J.T.: Then, before you write off your current boss, let me provide another perspective — that of your boss. I know you fear the wrath when you tell him you don’t want his job, but can you imagine how much more upset he’ll be the day you say you’re leaving the company altogether?

Dale: But, on the other hand, if Roland is leaving …

J.T.: Staying could be too good an opportunity to waste. Go to your boss, Roland, thank him for the honor of considering you as his successor, then explain that you’ve fallen in love with marketing. Follow that with something like, “I was wondering if there might be a way for us to work together so I could find a way to stay with the company.” Explain how it could be in your boss’s best interests: “I can help you find and develop the talent necessary to replace me and make sure the department continues to run as well as you have it running now.” Let him know that part of the plan is making him look good.

Dale: That could work. Or, it could explode like the Acme rocket Wile E. Coyote keeps trying to ride. Here’s a test of which it will be: Does your boss ever say that you are “like a son,” or that the department is “like family”? If so, you have an emotional connection to deal with, and he’ll take your leaving personally. In that case, don’t mention leaving till you have put in place options at other companies or you have an offer from within your own company’s marketing department. If not, then start evolving internally, working up to the conversation J.T. is suggesting.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm,, and of the blog, Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with Please visit them at, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2010 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

One Response

  1. Patrick Says:

    flatten@betrayer.escapades” rel=”nofollow” onclick=”javascript:pageTracker._trackPageview (’/outbound/’);”>.…

    thank you!!…

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