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What's the Deal With Giving Two Weeks' Notice?

By Daniel B. Kline - Updated Aug 18, 2017 at 7:59AM

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You may not want to, but you probably have to.

There are times when something happens at work that makes you want to storm into the boss's office, hand in your resignation, and walk out immediately.

That may be a satisfying move in the moment, but it's a short-sighted career move. Yes, your boss or the company may not deserve you, but walking out without two weeks' notice won't change that. Instead, it'll more than burn a bridge -- it will incinerate the bridge beyond repair.

You may not think you will ever need anything from the employer you are leaving, but that could change. It's also possible that not being professional and failing to put in your two weeks will come back to bite you somewhere down the line.

A man carries a box filled with his belongings out of an office. Image source: Getty Images.

Before you can pack up and leave you generally need to give proper notice. Image source: Getty Images.

Why two weeks' notice?

In most professions offering two weeks' notice when you decide to quit has become a standard. There are some specialized or high-ranking jobs where longer is common, but in most fields two weeks will suffice.

Giving the company two weeks to prepare for your departure gives it a chance to do a number of things:

  • Learn what you do: In many cases you will be asked to write an exit document explaining how you perform your job or to at least share that info with someone not leaving.
  • Find your replacement: Sometimes companies have a ready list of candidates or internal people ready to replace you.
  • Say goodbye: If you're not leaving in anger, your company may want to send you off in style or at least with a card or cake.

Two weeks is often not enough time for everything that needs to be done to happen, but it at least allows the company to put some sort of plan in place. In some cases, when the parting is a happy one, the leaving employee may even come back to train a replacement or at least have a call with them, but that is certainly not required.

Is not giving two weeks ever OK?

Unless you are quitting due to an unexpected, dire medical emergency, there's really only one case where you can skip giving proper notice. If your boss or company literally puts you in danger or creates an unsafe workplace and they won't rectify it, you can leave immediately.

Having a good reason won't protect you from possible negative consequences, but it will be explainable if it comes up in a future job interview. In addition it's better to have to explain yourself to future employers than putting your safety at risk.

Is it ever OK to give more notice?

If you like your job and are moving on for positive reasons, then sometimes giving three weeks, or even four, is a courtesy. In other cases your eventual departure may be obvious. Perhaps your coworkers know you are planning a move out of state or that your significant other has been transferred.

It's fine to be honest with your bosses, but there are consequences to that as well. As soon as you give notice, you may get phased out. You will still work there, but people will stop soliciting your opinion about the future because you won't be part of it. Some people may actually enjoy that as they prepare to move one while others will find it makes the last days much longer.

Do the right thing

Not giving two weeks' notice can cause your former employer to change how it sees you. That could mean a bad future job reference or even a failure to return a call verifying that you once worked there. It can also create unintended ill will from co-workers you have no issues with if they get stuck doing some of your former job.

You never known when one day someone from one company will work elsewhere. The easiest way to avoid that being uncomfortable is to make sure you act professionally on the way out the door by giving a proper two weeks' notice.

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