Bob has been in this career field for 30 years with 8 years in this particular organization. For the last 6 months he is not feeling good about the leadership of his organization. He operates as a satellite of 5 people away from the home office.

Here are his most pressing concerns:

  • Lack of support from the main office. Sporadic communication and conflicting direction.
  • Failure to support his desire to move an employee off his team who is not a good fit
  • Forcing the team to operate with less equipment by denying requests for upgrades
  • Feeling burned out
  • Feels the leadership is not being fully truthful with him
  • Leadership reacting to complaints from clients without asking for clarification from him

These concerns are weighing heavily on him and he is seriously considering leaving. The focus of his coaching is to gain clarity on what to do next.

We started with two overarching questions:

  1. What is the impact you are making or want to continue to make in this position?
    1. How are the current conditions affecting those goals?
  2. What would you regret if you left now?

These questions have gotten him off to a good start in defining what is important to him in this position and his career.

He wanted to dig deeper and sought out guidance from a moral perspective. We did find some guidance from J. Patrick Dobel in his book Public Integrity. There, Dobel explores the moral criteria for resigning from public office, which we found useful in this instance.

Dobel develops the construct of three domains to consider for resignation. In each domain individuals must be able to:

  1. Maintain their personal moral capacities and commitments
  2. Live up to the obligations of the office
  3. Remain effective

If an individual is compromised in any one area, trust is damaged and provides strong moral reasoning for resigning. If compromised in two areas there is a moral obligation to resign.

Interestingly, working through this has provided significant personal insight along with insight into the organization. No final decision at this time however, he has implemented new behaviors, strategies, and boundaries as triggers for action.

Think of a situation where you were considering resigning. How easy was it for you to rationalize your reasoning to stay, even though one or more of the above criteria was met?

A reasonable exercise may be to deliberately define the threshold in each category. For example.

What does it mean to be unable to maintain your moral capacity or commitments?

A violation in that domain may be your inability to push back against leadership decisions in areas you are morally obligated to act. Maybe you have been cut out of meetings or committees because the leadership knows you will disagree on moral grounds. Or, your organization is taking on a new line of business you disagree with morally.

What about a violation of living up to the obligation of the office?

Suppose your role is to provide unbiased expert input. If opportunities to provide input have been eliminated or your leadership ignores the data because of their agenda, that is probably a violation.

Lastly, remaining effective.

This may manifest itself by being “sidelined” by new policies, procedures, or restructuring that renders you ineffective in your role. Your job is to do X and a new arrangement has created so much distance from the decision making you have little to no influence.

You are ineffective.

Have you ever experienced or witnessed a situation such at this? If so, you probably found it frustrating, stressful, and at times consuming your mental capacity.

When we witness a peer in this situation, we usually see a tendency to rationalize not resigning. They think they can do more from the inside. As an observer, we will think this is a no-brainer – it’s time to go.

These are not easy dilemmas to analyze when you are immersed in a situation. It is difficult to work through your thresholds for each domain, based on your specifics. Individuals need time, space, and an object sounding board to assist.

What are your thoughts on criteria or questions to guide someone through a resignation decision?