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March 03, 2005

Two Weeks’ Notice

Most of us have given an employer two weeks’ notice at some point in our lives. Usually, it’s a calculated moment in which you have found a new job and have made a plan to transition to your new employer. So you walk into your boss’s office and begin to explain why you’re leaving, all the while imagining his response to be something like, "No, please don’t leave us! We can’t go on without you!" But instead, he looks at you blankly and says, "Why wait two weeks? Let’s call today your last day."

This happened to a friend of mine recently, and she was shocked. How could they do that? She had planned her farewell so carefully, using up her vacation time and allowing for some days off to transition to her new job, and now she was left with no income for three weeks. But to her dismay, this is a common practice for some companies -- and perfectly legal.

In many places, when you are hired, you become an employee at will. This gives you the right to leave whenever you’d like, but it also means your employee can say goodbye at any time, even before your two weeks is up.

In reality, for the most part, the last two weeks of any job is practically a vacation anyway. You try to pass on some of your knowledge, files, etc., but let’s face it -- you left the job mentally the moment you found out you were hired somewhere else. Allowing your resignation to start immediately saves your employer from paying you for two weeks of semi-productive work.

While there is not much you can do when an employer wants you out early, you should give proper notice whenever possible and leave gracefully. Just remember to keep a little extra dough in your savings account and clean out your desk before you give notice, as anything can happen once you say, "I quit."

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Posted by Jayme on March 3, 2005 at 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (86) | TrackBack (1)


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Tracked on Mar 12, 2005 8:40:39 PM


I was offered a job by my immediate supervisor's husband (with whom I had previously worked) at a new Company. It was a great opportunity and obviously had been discussed between them prior to my being approached.

Given the "in-house" cooperation between the old and new employers, the bind my current boss would be in if I left in 2 weeks and the new company's imminent move to new offices, I decided to wait it out at the old job and gave 5 weeks notice.

No big deal, except when I was sick one day. An employee gets no paid sick time after they give notice. I had no sick days for years up to that point, was a model employee, and I lost a day's pay for being ill.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Posted by: Neal Phenes | Mar 3, 2005 1:25:00 PM

The choice of giving notice should reflect the company's culture. Are you at will? Are you getting benefits? Would this company give you notice if they were going to fire you? Do they fire people on Friday evenings or Monday mornings?

In other words, would they be this nice to you?

imho, the prudent, safe thing to do in most cases is to quietly pack up your personal items and resign at the end of your last day; no notice. Offer to take questions or otherwise help if they want, but be prepared to be out of there when you give notice.

Posted by: Phil Wolff | Mar 17, 2005 1:34:44 AM

Maybe I've been more fortunate than most, but I recently had my first experience with giving notice (my first job since military retirement) and it went very well. I am an independent contractor (whose contract had ended so I thought it was a good time to give notice) and they were willing to write me a temporary contract for as long as I was willing to stay.

I finally agreed to a 3 week contract to give them time to find a replacement (though they found one in 2 weeks so I left early). I got a farewell party (two in fact) and wonderful recommendations. I thought this was pretty good considering I had only been there 10 months! I guess it all depends on where you work.

Posted by: Dawn Vance | Mar 29, 2005 4:42:28 AM

I agree with Neal, be prepared to leave upon giving notice. Also, be prepared to stay for your notice! The reason I usually do not allow an employee to work out their notice is because it usually does not pay to do so. If you really mean two weeks, then you should be prepared to maintain your productivity at the same level you did prior to finding another job. If not, do not be surprized if your soon-to-be former employer asks for your keys the afternoon you resign.

Posted by: Chris | Mar 29, 2005 7:13:01 AM

What you do should have little to do with the company itself. Common courtesy is to give two weeks notice. Not sure why it is two weeks but that seems to be the way it is. For executive positions the transition time may be months but I assume we aren't at that level. When I have resigned from previous positions, I had my desk cleaned out except for a small box of personal items (pictures, etc.) and was prepared to leave that day. Employers have let me work "until my duties were transitioned" which usually took a week or some have made me work up until the very last minute on the very last day. It all depends on the employer.

Neal suggested you resign on the last day, giving no notice. If you are so good at your job that you can always find work elsewhere, or the job is a minimum wage burger flipping job then that may be OK. But, if you are a professional employee, you can't burn bridges with behavior like that. You never know when you could be interviewing with the same company again or one of your co-workers or superrvisors is now at a company with which you are interviewing. People have long memories.

So, save money to cover those last couple of weeks and be prepared for anything. If they keep you for the 2 weeks you now have money for a prty or to make an extra car payment. Humility and gratitude throughout the process will help you in the long run.

Posted by: Scott | Mar 29, 2005 7:18:35 AM

If you are leaving a job you are firing your employer. If your employer fired you, would they let you stay another two weeks? I think not. Be prepared to leave immedately, saving vacation time or sick days for the departure moment. If they are prepared for you to be on vacation for two weeks, they are prepared to do without you that long. If there has been any hint of dissatisfaction in your job beforehand, it will come as no surprise if you do not intend to return.

Posted by: Laura | Mar 29, 2005 7:21:02 AM

I worked for 25 for a major distribution company, perfect job. When they relocated regional offices to one central location I was offered a perfect relocation package. P&G is the only company that treats employees fair. Since then I've worked contract postions, treated no better than a common street "whore". Most promise, "if you work well, we'll certainly hire you on". Unfortunately once the problems were fixed, system back up and running, and the company was running again, you guessed it, I was told I was not needed. After the third contract postion, I the strategy. One learns quickly. I do not do hardcopy CBA's anymore, keep passwords on selective documents, share as little as possible. My last contract, I worked at Lucent for several years as a contractor, quit May 1, 1998, notified everyone (especially my co-workers) except by immediate supervisor, told them I would work until a replacement was found. August 15, I was still there working my usual 52 hours a week, working with the company identified "difficult people", there was NO incentive for them to let me leave and there was no concern that I had many many sleepless nights. Then one day I made my final demand to leave. The following Friday, two security officers and one manager showed up at my desk an hour and a half after my scheduled day end. The impression was to make it look like I was terminated. Luckily I had informed my coworkers in May of my intent, they were well aware of it and as I was being escorted out stated, "they are finally letting you leave", my immediate boss was very surprised that I worked three months, working hard, dedicated and then the company scripts this show at the last minute. Tell all your coworkers your plans, they will back you up or at least know the truth.

Posted by: Ed | Mar 29, 2005 7:51:42 AM

A manager told me that once he decides to let someone go he does it right away. Whatever the reason he decides the employee isn't right for the position/company, it's better for the employee to be gone and not hang around poisoning the minds of other employees. Pay the employee two weeks, goodby, it's the best two week's money you'll ever pay.

Posted by: Bruce Tucker | Mar 29, 2005 7:55:33 AM

Throughout my 35 plus years of employment, I have experienced many types of Job ending experiences. In the early days, it was very common to give two weeks notice and to work the last two weeks as if it may be nessesary to recross "that bridge" in the future. Many people in the same field had memories like an elephant's memory and often spoke to each other at professional levels that could tend to poision any similar job opportunities in that field. In later years I have had employers tell me that it was fine with them to end the job that day because they felt from the beginning that "It was not a good fit between me as an employee (business and aptitude wise, but not personally)". Hey at least I had to respect thier honesty.
One of the best jobs (one that I still hold for 6.5 years now) was earned by displaying my work ethic while on a voluntary unrelated job while helping to renovate my present boss' house, while working with a friend we share in common. This job was offered from the display of the work ethic that I hope preceeds any known reputation I have. I was merely a "gofor" on the job.

Posted by: Dary Cauller | Mar 29, 2005 8:03:08 AM

One small item to consider is unused vacation time. You might want to check your firm's policy on whether they will pay you for it when you leave. I believe that different states have different laws governing this. If they will not pay you for unused vacation time, you may want to use it before you give notice.

Posted by: Dave Laband | Mar 29, 2005 8:39:50 AM

It depends on how long you have worker there and if there are any severance pays involved. If you give two weeks and that is accepted you lose any severance owed unless you have accumulated more than two weeks worth. if your boss turns your two weeks into two minutes he has to pay you all severance and what not. So it could be a good thing.

Posted by: Steve | Mar 29, 2005 8:44:57 AM

Honesty is always the best when giving your employer 2 weeks notice. Although I've only done this once myself, it was a positive experience as my then boss was a true gentleman.In fact it was a short lived experience as my new place of employment was not where I wanted to be. My old boss took me back no questions asked & I was very greatful to him for giving me this rare opportunity. Today there are alot of people in the workplace who are only in it for what they can get. Respect for the employees or employer is becoming very scarce. That is probably why good people come and go like a revolving door. I've been working for 25 years and have seen alot of changes in the workplace. Companies have begun to treat people like cattle & respect on both sides is very rare. One year I remember a woman at my office who could not get into her computer that morning & was upset to find the reason being she had been let go. What a wonderful way to find out 2 weeks before Christmas that you have been relieved from your duties by a machine. Tecnology while a good thing has also made the workforce seem a very cold place to be. Gone are the days of true friendship only to be replaced by Big Brother. No wonder people no longer have long work histories in companies. Now it is looked down upon where at one time it was an asset. If companies continue in this fashion people will always be in and out the door. So sad, so very sad it has to be this way. It's amazing to me that people like myself still have this need to be truthful. I guess giving 2 weeks notice it becoming a thing of the past as well. Now that I am unemployed (you guessed it) due to "Corporate downsizing" I will be thrown back in to the muck. Finding a good employer is not an easy task but I still believe that thier are still some good people left. I've actually come across them in my job search & oddly enough they are the same good people I worked with years ago. My search is quickly comming to a close as I will be offered a position soon. Thank God that some things never change.

Posted by: Bernadette | Mar 29, 2005 9:06:36 AM

I gave my boss 2 weeks notice and she told me I could use my vacation time that I earned. I did not slack on the job. I gave it my best because I wanted it better than when I came in. Personal satisfaction and you never know, you just might be back. One should always leave the door of opportunity open when they leave.

Posted by: Helen | Mar 29, 2005 9:12:31 AM

I am planning to leave my job of 7 years in May of this year. I have already written my letter of resignation and intend to start in April taking my personal possessions home, especially my file with Performance Reviews and memos to an from my bosses.

All jobs are different, I remember when I worked for two Fortune 500 investment banking firms in NYC and the first one was bought out in a merger and all those who chose not to stay with the company that bought it was immediately escorted off the premises and only allowed to take personal items exclusive of their Rolodex because it had business contacts in it, the second one, we were "disbanded" another polite word for fired in August and were allowed to collect our full salary until December 31.

I too have wondered why we give employers two weeks notice and when they fire us we do not give any notice. Actually this job I am on, they gave a woman who had been with them for 17 years, 24 hours notice to resign or be fired. I do it because it is professional, and I never know when I may have to come back. Trust me, your name will long outlast your performance or the manager.

Do what is right and never mind what anyone else does is my motto.

Posted by: PRogers | Mar 29, 2005 9:12:54 AM


Posted by: DELORES | Mar 29, 2005 9:30:41 AM

My experience is that any employer will screw you if givn an opportunity. I will never give two weeks notice again. Delores, scum like you are the problem.

Posted by: CV | Mar 29, 2005 9:49:14 AM

Listen to this one...I worked for a company awhile back (about 10 yrs). When I gave my 2 week notice, I was ill-prepared for what happened next. Lo' and behold...here I am prepared to complete my last two weeks with absolute professionalism, tact and promise...I was determined not to burn any bridges whatsoever. Let's just say that the torture that I endured those last two weeks were right in line with the years of horrid hell that I lay sacrifice to. I cannot begin to describe being trapped in a position, couldn't transfer due to lack of jobs, job market choices were stinking, couldn't get a raise and my bills were piling high. Did I mention that there was really no one to complain to since most of the other employees felt similar in their situation. I heard enough horror stories to know that I needed to get out of there. I felt so trapped but I managed to endure it long enough to pay off 14 creditors (mostly medical due to the stress)...so I guess something positive did come from this.

When I gave my notice...within minutes, news of my resignation literally traveled system wide. I was made fun of by my coworkers within the department probably because I did what they wanted to do...resign in a depressed job market with no job or prospect. I didn't care...my health was going downhill and I had to get out!

My supervisor pretty much ignored me and when he wasn't he took great pride in the fact that "he'd" finally gotten rid of me. Which is really funny to me...I worked my "hiney" off to make this guy look good to the American public. I don't know when I was ever so disappointed in the human race - corporate America anyway!

Oh well...it just goes to show that no matter how you leave a company...leaving is still leaving! Be prepared for anything because ANYTHING can happen these days!

Posted by: Tee4tee2 | Mar 29, 2005 10:20:17 AM

I recently gave 2 week's notice at my job and just had to share with you the last straw that led me to do it. The struggling young company I work for had not paid me for a month. However, that did not stop my boss from threatening to fire me when I complained about using a new form to replace an old one. I could not believe that he would be so stupid to disregard the loyalty I had displayed up to that point! At that point I realized he was not only a poor financial manager, but also a fool. I had had enough. I cleaned my office that day and was ready to walk out, but realized I could not leave my clients high and dry. So I gave my two week's notice, but it actually took almost another month for me to complete projects and tie up loose ends. During that time I completed several large projects out of loyalty for the clients who were expecting results. They were also clients who I knew would promptly pay for those results. Now the company owes me several thousand dollars, and I have to pursue them to get it. But I still feel good about not leaving on the spot. It gave me time to talk to my clients, collect references and recommendations that should help me in the future. I am sure I will always look back on that moment when my boss threatened to fire for me for complaining about that form, and shake my head in disbelief!

Posted by: Jen | Mar 29, 2005 10:31:26 AM

It seems to me so much is about attitude and self-respect. I am in limbo at my current job because after working well for a solid year I discovered a pay discrepancy that was really insulting and exploitive; I was then offered a promotion/new position and the pay was insulting. I did a professional reply asking for a higher amount; they are seeing what they can do. I am currently training my replacement for the old position. While I could have easily dragged the past years way I was treated in this job into things, I let the past be the past and focused on right now, being professional (which caused them to see where they were not being so) and thanking them for the opportunity. Even through crummy things, one can learn a lot. I think the key is leave with your own sense of self-respect and self-worth in tact, and let your professionalism and positive attitdue be reflected back on them. Hopefully, they'll get it and at the very least, won't do it again to another person.

Posted by: Aly | Mar 29, 2005 10:32:36 AM

It seems to me so much is about attitude and self-respect. I am in limbo at my current job because after working well for a solid year I discovered a pay discrepancy that was really insulting and exploitive; I was then offered a promotion/new position and the pay was insulting. I did a professional reply asking for a higher amount; they are seeing what they can do. I am currently training my replacement for the old position. While I could have easily dragged the past years way I was treated in this job into things, I let the past be the past and focused on right now, being professional (which caused them to see where they were not being so) and thanking them for the opportunity. Even through crummy things, one can learn a lot. I think the key is leave with your own sense of self-respect and self-worth in tact, and let your professionalism and positive attitude be reflected back on them. Hopefully, they'll get it and at the very least, won't do it again to another person.

Posted by: Aly | Mar 29, 2005 10:33:54 AM

I was always taught (by mom and dad) to always give two weeks notice...."if you don't your next boss will find out when he calls your former employer."

Well, that can backfire too. I had one employer tell a new employer that I "left in the middle of the night" and they didn't have a clue where I had gone!
I still got the job, but I had some explaining to do. Luckily, the new employer believed me....and I had a copy of my resignation letter too (dated 2 weeks prior), and initialed and date stamped by the "human resource" secretary.

I've learned (especially since I'm an independent contractor now) to get everything in writing!!! And duplicate everything!!!

Posted by: LS | Mar 29, 2005 11:01:17 AM

Let me give you the opposite side of the spectrum. My company has given me notice that my job will be eliminated sometime this year due to an outsourcing agreement that one of our Operating Companies is about to enter in to. No date yet, just a broad range of "sometime between July and December".

My job responsibilities have not changed, and I am still expected to come in each day and "get the job done". I manage a staff of 10, and besides me two of them are in the same boat. I cannot, and will not tolerate them or myself taking a defeatist attitude and shutting down. It's all about professional behavior.

In the meantime, here I sit, unable to plan for the future yet, waiting for an end date. It's a lot different than resigning and giving two weeks notice, which I've only done twice in my 28 year career.

Posted by: Scott Pacich | Mar 29, 2005 11:05:06 AM

I have always given 2 weeks notice. I have always accepted two weeks notice from those that worked for me. If you don't either way then you open yourself up to not being given two weeks notice from the next employee. It is better for me to have a half interested person for two weeks while I start the search process, than no person. Even if the person is only there for the hot items, not the day to day, you still have a resource.
Always give a two week notice as the word will get around if you start burining bridges.

That being said, the company I work for just let a manager go without letting him work out his two weeks. I do not know if they will pay him for the two weeks but it leaves the tasete in everyones mouth of whether they will give two weeks.

Posted by: Will | Mar 29, 2005 11:37:36 AM

Note that all of this varies quite a bit between states as to what severance pay is required, whether they're required to reimburse you for vacation days not taken, etc.

I've given two weeks notice before and intend to do so in the future, out of courtesy. But I slowly cleaned out my desk during the two weeks or so prior to giving notice. Not that I expected to be escorted out the door, but I'd heard of that happening before, and had no idea how my boss would react. (Well, I found out -- he begged me to stay, then a year later, tracked me down at my next employer and begged me to come back to him). In my case, I possessed knowledge of how things were done that was not possessed by anybody else in the company, and spent the last two weeks writing documentation of processes and locations of critical items. But then for the most part I've been rather lucky in my employers, I have not yet had the Supervisor from H*** experience... and I avoid large corporations where employees are just interchangable cogs, for places where I can make a real impact and be so valuable that they want me for that remaining two weeks (and preferably more, but I don't play that game, when I put in my resignation letter that's that, no toying with the employer for more money or anything).

- Elron

Posted by: L. Ron Waddle | Mar 29, 2005 12:10:32 PM

I worked for a company for two and one half years. Due to a change in management companies, the latter company being completely unreasonable with hours, and a short corporate ladder that really stunk below the second tier, etc., I gave my two weeks notice, but asked for it back by saying that "I will give two weeks notice, but I feel that you have the position covered well enough and I would like use the time to visit with my daughter in another state before I start my new job at..." I gave a good excuse for leaving even though I had no other job prospects. I made a list of things that I would be willing to do for the company on my own time to make the transition smooth and explained them in my letter.

Instead of going to my newly placed direct supervisor, who tried to make my time there a living he_ _, I decided to email the notice to the president of the company. He positively responded to my email and left my notice at the bottom of his email when he replied. His reply was that he agreed that they could get along for the period and for me to come by and visit anytime I had the chance. I printed and saved a copy just in case there were any undisplayed hard feelings or comments made to a new prospective employer, I would have my evidence of a graceful departure.

PS:I also used the comany supplied email address even though I knew that my immediate supervisor had access to my account. I also made good on my promise, including helping the company out with some pending litigation testimony, state level appeals board testimony against frivolous unemployment claims, finding some lost electronics in storage, etc...

Posted by: James | Mar 29, 2005 12:20:48 PM

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