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Celeste Barta
Celeste Barta

Do You Really Have To Give Two Weeks’ Notice?

Find out how to quit the right way.

I am a total wimp when it to comes to giving two weeks’ notice. I loathe it — so much so that I have quit jobs (yes, that is plural) with no notice at all. I have even blocked former bosses and coworkers to ensure that they cannot contact me after quitting. I know, I know, that’s completely unprofessional, thoughtless and rude, right? I have seen many jaws drop when I tell my juicy stories of ghosting former employers, and heard, “How could you burn bridges like that? I could never!”

Well, I could and I did … and I just may do it again. Experience has taught me that giving notice never ends well — for me, anyway. A manager has never once been happy for me or understanding of my desire to move on. I have never been sent merrily on my way with well wishes, high fives or a heartfelt “best of luck to you.” It has always been met with shock and awe and comments like, “If you were unhappy you should have told us!” “How could you put us in this position?” “The timing is terrible!” “What are we going to do?”

The painful conversations are followed by awkward social exchanges and high tensions for two weeks. Why in the world would I put myself through that again? I can’t be the only one who loses sleep over the dreaded notice talk, so I reached out to Paola Accettola, principal and CEO of True North HR Consulting, and asked for tips for anyone like me who is tempted to skip the awkward conversation altogether. Here’s what she says.  

Yes, you have to give notice 

I guess I better muster up some courage and get ready to do the right thing. I am not thrilled about this advice, but I get it. Accettola says, “As a general rule of thumb, notice is always required and two weeks is widely accepted as being the minimum notice for a polite and respectful exit.” You can help by leaving policy and procedure guidelines, detailed notes and an organized office space where things are easy to find. It’s more about preparation than replacement.  

Do it the right way 

Always tell your direct manager in person before sending a written notice, and give an explanation. “Oftentimes, even with a full two weeks’ notice, managers can feel blindsided if they get a letter rather than hearing it from their employee first.” And although I would have thought less is more, Accettola explains that “if you tell your boss you’re leaving without giving a reason, there is the chance their imagination will run wild with thoughts of you not enjoying your time with the company or not liking them.” An explanation can be as simple as, “I received an offer I can’t turn down.” It is probably best not to mention your reason if it is personal, such as, “I can’t stand the way you micromanage me!” Definitely mention anything you have enjoyed about your time with said company, manager and coworkers. Remember the goal is to leave without burning any bridges.   

Stay motivated  

It’s tempting to throw your sticky notes in the air and twiddle your thumbs all day for the two weeks that follow your notice. Don’t fall to temptation, girlfriends. Continue to be the best employee you can be, even on your way out. Accettola says it’s wise to set goals and focus on tasks that will help your successor. “Write these down and strive to check them all off before finishing your time with the company. Think about what you would want your coworkers to do for you to help you in your role and let that motivate you.”  

Know the exceptions  

There are times when it is acceptable (or even necessary) to quit without giving notice. Being nervous to have the conversation is not, however, one of them. If you are “being mistreated in some way, such as in cases of harassment, not being paid fair or full wages, or if the workplace is engaging in unethical practices,” Accettola says, you can and should comfortably leave without giving notice. Likewise, if after you resign the workplace becomes toxic or intolerable, or you feel there is retaliation for your decision to part ways, then leave before the two weeks are up.  

Remember it isn’t personal 

This is where I always get it wrong. I spend so much time at work, I pour my heart and soul into it, and I am by nature a people-pleaser who seeks approval. Leaving a company feels personal. It feels like I am disappointing people. It feels as though I am creating a stressful work environment during the transition. And, if I am being honest, I feel like I will be judged by my coworkers. But work is work. It’s a contract between an employer and an employee who each has the freedom to part ways when it no longer is working in their favor. So, when your nerves kick in … say it loud, say it proud, and say it over and over until you believe it: “This isn’t personal.” Your decision to leave isn’t personal and your manager’s reaction isn’t either (or shouldn’t be, anyway).   

And what if you are following these guidelines and respecting your employer and coworkers, and your boss still reacts negatively? Well, “don’t let it get you down,” Accettola says. “You’re moving on to bigger and brighter things, and you didn’t make any mistakes in the resignation process.”

Bottom line? Do the right thing and focus only on what you can control. Maybe parting can be all sweet and no sorrow, after all.    

How much notice do YOU think one should give their employer? Let us know in the comments below.

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