Dear Liz,

When I took my job a year ago, my boss made me sign a piece of paper that said I would stay in the job for two years. If I don’t do it, there goes my reference from this job. I’ve only been in the job for a year but I’m ready to go. I can see why they asked me for a two-year commitment. This is not a good place to work.

I’m proud of myself for sticking it out for a year. The turnover rate is ridiculous and that makes sense because the managers’ expectations are unrealistic. I’ve put my whole life on hold to do this job for the past year and I get nothing back in return. Apart from losing my good reference from this company do I have anything else to worry about if I leave before my written two-year commitment is up?


Dear Rani,

There is a real way for a company to get a two-year commitment out of you (or any length of commitment they want) and that is to write an employment contract. In the contract, they make a commitment to you and you make a commitment to them.

If you leave before the two years is up, you’ll lose some kind of bonus or incentive. If they let you go before the two years is up (unless there is a good reason for it, like egregious bad behavior on your part) they have to pay you a fee that you and they will have negotiated up front.

The piece of paper you signed committing to stay with the company for two years is a fake agreement. It means nothing. You can quit a job whenever you want. Any employer that really wants to keep you on board will pay you to stick around.

It sounds like your soon-to-be-ex-manager thought he could twist your arm to get you to stay in the company longer than your gut is advising you to do.

That’s too bad for him! He could have proposed an employment agreement between you and the organization at any point during the past year and he didn’t do it. You can leave without apology.

In my opinion an employee’s job is to give his or her best at work every day. A manager’s job is to give that employee a reason to come back to work tomorrow.

Don’t worry about the glowing reference you won’t get from this organization once you leave. You weren’t likely to get a glowing reference even if you had stuck it out for the whole two years. Almost nobody gives glowing references anymore, since most corporations started funneling all reference requests to HR where they will only verify your titles and dates of employment.

You can collect some LinkedIn recommendations from your colleagues, customers and vendors, instead. Then you won’t need a glowing reference from your boss. If he or she is bent out of shape over your departure, that is learning that Mother Nature wants your boss to get. You are on your path. Take a step!

All the best,


Liz Ryan is the CEO and founder of Human Workplace. Follow her on Twitter

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