Volume 93: Should You Give Two-Week Notice?

Every Wednesday afternoon, my team at Oberg and Associates does training together. This training can cover anything from an internal system, a generic industry or recruiting article we want to discuss, or maybe there was a recruiting situation that didn’t go our way, so we want to talk about what we can do in the future to avoid these situations. It’s a great weekly company event that helps us all stay sharp and hopefully invites a free exchange of ideas on how we can be better.

A few weeks ago, we had a training about helping candidates navigate the resignation process, and a pretty spirited debate unfolded: should a candidate turn in two-weeks’ notice anymore? And should a company accept it and have employees work out their two weeks?

There was a time when a notice wasn’t optional: if you didn’t do it, you might never find a job in that industry again. It was just expected. You gave your company time to work out a replacement, or at least a plan to fill the void, and train someone else to do the job. It was certainly a lame duck period, but it was the professional thing to do.

In today’s workplace, as Gen Xers and Millennials have become the primary drivers, and their entrepreneurial, individual-first attitude has taken hold, notice isn’t always a given.

So, let’s take a look at both sides:

The Argument Against Giving a Two-Weeks’ Notice:
The arguments I heard from my team in regard to why not giving a two-week notice was acceptable boiled down to this: companies often don’t give you notice when the tables are turned and they’re firing you. Most of the time they kick you out onto the street without a second thought about you or your family.

So why is an individual held to a higher standard than a corporation?

In most cases, the corporation will hurt much less from losing an employee than the employee will hurt from losing what is probably the primary source of their income. So, why delay the inevitable? Cut the cord and leave.

There are plenty of jobs where you won’t be allowed to work out your two weeks anyway. Sales jobs, for instance, or any job that is market-facing. The company most likely doesn’t want someone that is probably going to a competitor, but at the very least, is not engaged in the company’s best interest anymore, representing them to the public. Even non-market-facing jobs often get walked out the door for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s an emotional response from the manager, but for whatever reason, the giving of notice in these situations is purely symbolic, and everyone knows it. So why do it?

On top of this, there are obviously times when your new company is waiting urgently for you to start, or you need to begin the moving process to start by a certain date. Are you supposed to risk not starting off on the right foot with your new employer to appease your past one? Ultimately, you have to do what is right for you.

The Argument For Giving a Two-Weeks’ Notice:
This is the side of the argument that I found myself on, and the answer for why you should give notice boils down to this to me: it’s the right thing to do.

In all likelihood, the company you work for now has invested heavily in you. They’ve trained you, they’ve supported you (and not just by paying you), and you’ve probably made strong connections with the people immediately around you.

Even if you want to ignore the investment the company has made into you, the argument against is right that the corporation as a whole will be hurt a whole lot less than the individual were the roles reversed, but I think that argument misses the mark in two places:

1.      I was taught we should treat others the way we want to be treated, and that two wrongs don’t make a right.
2.      Your coworkers. They’re the ones that are going to have to work longer hours, take a heavier load of work, or often both, to keep things running until a suitable replacement can be found. They’re going to have to train the new person on how things work in that facility. They are the ones that are hurt most by your leaving without notice.

Finally, I recommend giving two-weeks’ notice because you never want to burn a bridge. You never know when a past employer or coworker will appear in your future career, or when you might need a positive reference.

Especially in an industry like ours that is still very old fashioned in a lot of ways, leaving without notice often leaves a bad taste in peoples’ mouths, and in an industry this small, that can be the kiss of death to a career.

While I lean pretty heavily towards the “yes, always give notice” camp, the arguments against can be compelling. But, before leaving without notice, I do recommend taking a moment to really think about the possible repercussions down the line.

It might be incredibly emotionally satisfying to quit in dramatic fashion, to scream angrily that you quit and have a good storm out, but a quiet meeting with management where you offer notice might be the better play long-term.

At the very least, take a moment to think about it.

Stay Strong.

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