Originally Posted by Mountain_Mike
So....what's the best way to leave...give the minimum notice (4 months for me to get lifetime health benefits), or tell them a year or so in advance
* The trouble with giving lots of notice is that I don't really want to work day-in-day-out with a replacement shadowing me constantly.
So, those of you who have pulled the plug...how did you exit?* Those who have not yet left, what are you planning to do?
You owe your office and your bosses as much fealty as they've demonstrated that they owe to you!
I retired when the military was gapping my billet by six months. The poor lieutenant required to warm my chair for my relief had a huge turnover file of projects, personnel, and issues. He also had my personal memo of things that weren't considered proper topics of discussion in front of impressionable young JOs, but that he needed to know in order to keep the CO out of his business. What I didn't even share with him, though, is that the job was truly in autopilot. Everyone had chosen their projects, I'd cleared their paths of the worst obstacles, and things could lurch onward for the next six months without anyone's intervention... and in spite of it.
Eighteen months later the guy who'd "relieved" the JO tracked me down to ask if by chance my office safe combination had been changed. (Of course I wasn't gonna return THAT voicemail.) It turns out that the answer was "Uhm, no." He invited me to lunch at the local food court to discuss the upcoming major inspection. I showed up early, he never appeared (he forgot), and that ended my consulting career. A year later an old shipmate of mine showed up on my old job and all the old issues had been overcome by new crises. Plus ca change...
So the stuff you're working on now will get finished just fine without you, or else it wasn't worth finishing in the first place. If you do a good job of setting it up then it'll get finished as well as can be expected. If you can't accept the fact that it might not survive your departure, then you may not be ready to retire until you confront this emotional issue.
My CO at the time of my retirement had been my boss a decade before at another command, and although by now I'd learned to pity him I still wasn't going to let him mess up a good retirement. He had actually been the subject of a Congressional inquiry for not giving one of his sailors a well-deserved award, so his views on the subject of awards & retirement ceremonies were pretty rigid. He wanted every retiree to run his entire gauntlet so that none of us could complain that we'd been slighted. So when my retirement request was accompanied by a memo saying that I wanted no final fitness report, no award, no ceremony, and no farewell-- I had to play hide & seek for six months.
My XO, who I actually respected and worked quite well with, was concerned that I was in retirement denial (or deeply in debt). He offered to extend my career, to arrange a big retirement ceremony, to keep the CO out of the way, to write me a nice recommendation letter to a headhunter, whatever I wanted. I think he was finally persuaded that I was OK when I offered to invite him up to our house for a tour & a frosty beverage. He still can't understand why I wouldn't want to have a "me" day, but although he's retired on $40K/year now he's still working as a consultant for a six-figure salary. We like each other but we sure don't understand each other.
Stuck between me and the CO, the XO agreed to do as I asked if I would pay a final call on the CO. (For those of you wondering what type of Navy we were in, this is one of the signs of a truly dysfunctional command.) I did so and was ambushed with an award and a short farewell ceremony, so that completely cleared my conscience.
From then on I pretty much did as I pleased. I came & went when necessary, attended meetings only if it was worth something for my shipmates, and skipped a lot of dog & pony shows. I spent most of my final weeks in the office getting more funding for "our" projects and writing letters of recommendation. When some of my shipmates asked me to attend a farewell BBQ at their firefighting trainer, we decided it would have to kick off a three-day weekend for everyone. When I arrived I was greeted with sideboys. Instead of a traditional sword arch I was given a salute from the discharge of eight carbon dioxide fire extinguishers-- a total abuse of taxpayer property & funding that's one of the fondest memories of my career.
When I wasn't working on things that I cared about or ignoring things that I didn't give a @#$% about, I was either at medical or at dental or at the records office. I made sure that every little medical issue was checked out and addressed and that I had final exams, cleanings, and perfect documents. This took approximately half a dozen doctor's visits and a long dental appointment. Every one of my personnel files & databases was 100% squared away, and it took even more effort than the medical/dental stuff. (Some of the paperwork took six months to straighten out.) Make sure you use every benefit you can get before it's too late to correct things (and before you have to pay for them!).
Over the next few weeks, small groups of shipmates arranged for get-togethers at local lunch spots. That was much better than a formal blowout. I enjoyed spending the individual time with everyone (instead of a mass meeting) and I think I managed to corrupt a few more to the ER lifestyle.
When I started my terminal leave, people walked into the office for weeks afterward saying "He what? When?!?" I came back a month after my official retirement date for a lunch with the civil-service employees. They got to see me with shaggy hair & civilian clothes and we all had new gossip. It was much better than doing it when I was still working with them.
On the day I could have had a formal retirement ceremony, my spouse & kid & I took surfing lessons. It was a much better use of our time and the uniforms were much more comfortable.
My advice would be to give the absolute minimum notice required. (If for no other reason than the prospect of a surprise buyout or a RIF.) When you give it, be ready to provide (only when asked!) your turnover file and the training guide for your relief. Don't be coy about what you want or don't want-- be explicit, be polite, be low-key, be firm, and don't negotiate or appear to be having second thoughts. If people feel obligated to set you up for "surprise parties" or "roasts", then avoid them as much as possible. You may even have to explain to your boss or to the individual that you will take administrative action if they continue to harass you.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to write recommendations and, if necessary, to obtain them. Give everyone everything they need to process your request and to keep it moving. Try to avoid surprising them or leaving them any discretion in how they're going to accomplish the task.
Don't be like the CO who, on the day of his retirement, stayed in the office until midnight finishing "just one more thing". Apparently the Navy was going to screech to a shuddering halt if he didn't take care of those last few crises that were threatening democracy. The Chief of Staff had actually arranged for him to be relieved of his access badge and escorted out of the building to make him go home.
Instead, finish everything well in advance and spend those last few days wrapping up your personal office affairs & paperwork. Tell your relief that they need to be actually answering your phone, running your job's e-mail, and making the decisions for a week before you leave so that they can ask for your help with unexpected problems. Leave a few decoy items on your desk that you don't want to take home with you, so that people won't fear you've already left and won't be coming back.
On your final day, show up a little early and start shaking hands. Around 8 or 9 AM discover an urgent need to be over at another office or building. Then drop your badge at the front desk, leave the building, and don't come back. Better yet, mail your badge from the nearest post office.
BTW this process will quickly separate friends from co-workers. Your friends will actually look you up on their own time to see how you're doing and perhaps even to get together. Your coworkers... well, some of them are going to be looking for your input to their projects for another six weeks before they realize that you're truly not coming back!