Sunday, October 16, 2016

Is It Okay to Quit Without Giving a Two Week Notice?

I recently talked with a 55-year old woman who had been so stressed working as a freight logistics specialist she quit without giving a notice.

When asked why she didn’t give a two-week notice she says she gave a two-year notice:

For the past two years she repeatedly asked her boss for an assistant and complained about her workload. She had told him if her work load didn’t improve she was going to quit. She felt it wasn’t her fault he hadn’t taken her seriously. After a particularly grueling Friday she went home, sent an email to her boss telling him she quit and never went back.

She spent the summer relaxing and spending time with her family. She had recently gotten a part-time retail job for the holiday season and is searching for permanent employment with a placement agency. She wasn’t looking for career advice from me. Instead she wanted to vent about her former employer and receive reassurance she had done the right thing.

My response:

She isn’t the first person I’ve met who has complained about this company. I had talked to another employee around the holidays who had been furious when this company announced a surprise weekly shut down over Christmas. If employees didn’t have PTO time available they had to take four days off without pay. Since they received holiday pay for Christmas day, they would not be eligible for unemployment. So much for a holiday bonus.

This woman confirmed the shut-down story and also told me she had also received a pay-cut.

I told her many companies, including my own, had to institute these types of cost-cutting procedures to stay in business. I also think the business economy is more competitive than ever. Companies that don’t get scrappy don’t survive.

She did not like my answer, so I moved on. If our conversation had continued I would have told her the following:

There were two employees that left my company last year. Both had been with our company for several years. One had worked for me.  This employee had also been stressed for years and had asked repeatedly for an assistant. Her requests were denied because I and the managers above me thought she was inefficient and resistant to more efficient procedures. After a particularly grueling year-end she resigned to work at her son’s company. She gave a three-week notice and agreed to work part-time for several additional weeks to train her replacement. Since leaving, our company has utilized her son’s company a few times giving his business thousands of dollars of revenue. Also, my boss came to the conclusion my former employee was right – her job was too much work for one person and we have hired an additional part-time employee. We talk fondly about this employee and reminisce about her accuracy and knowledge.

Contrast this story with the other employee who quit last year. His wife suffered from a debilitating decease that required him to go home every day at lunch to care for her. He was assigned a new manager who felt these lunch breaks were excessive and told him he had to make other arrangements. This employee came in the next Monday supposedly to give his notice. When he discovered his boss was scheduled to be out of the office the entire week he sent the following email to all employees:

“It has been nice working with everyone. I quit.”

He gave another manager his keys and phone, left and never came back.

To this day when someone talks about being stressed at work they laugh and say, but I’m not going to pull a “Jerry.” This employee whose excessive lunches most likely were protected through FMLA, after 20 years of employment was now a company joke.

In hindsight, when the above woman realized her boss wasn't going to improve her situation she should have started to plan her exit; getting her finances in order, updating her resume, and taking much needed time off.  When the time was right, she could then resign with a two-week notice.

So is it ever okay to quit without giving a two-week notice?

I think unless your employment is severely effecting your mental or physical health it is in your best interest long-term to give a two-week notice. Who knows they might escort you out the door regardless, but at least you are giving them the opportunity to ask you a question or two and are giving your co-workers time to wish you well. As Michelle Obama says, “When they go low, you go high.”

What do you think – is it ever okay to quit without giving a two-week notice?


  1. It really depends on the situation. Each one is different. You make very valid points but in the long run it's really up to the person and the circumstances involved. I was in management for over twenty years and quit for health reasons without giving a two weeks notice. I could have taken medical leave or stayed for the two weeks after giving notice, but why? So it would look good on paper or for the company? My boss was a micromanager and I couldn't take him one more minute. And I never once regretted doing it my way and that was nearly ten years ago!

  2. Great comment. Happy to hear it worked out well for you.

  3. The obvious down side is that the employer you left may someday be asked for a reference and will be justified in saying that one left without notice ... not something that a prospective employer wants to hear. If you do it, then you should be prepared to tell all future employers that you did it and have a really good reason why. Both of the people above could have worked two more weeks .... they just didn't want to do it. In a small town, or in an industry where people know each other it's a risky move.

  4. I do kind of wonder how long things like this will continue to matter. I feel like the notion of the company being largely in control is starting to pass - so many of my generation and even Gen X are moving toward entrepreneurial/self-employed endeavors that companies may soon be struggling to retain good workers. You even pointed out that the company she left was a hot mess and she had warned them several times that she needed assistance and didn't receive it. I wouldn't hold her actions against her as a potential next employer and would be pleased that when she feels she needs help, she actually asks for it.

  5. I've learned a lot over the past few years, both as an employee, and now as someone who owns her own business. Obviously both have their pros/cons, but what I will say is that I have done things in my younger years that I absolutely regret, including leaving a boss in the lurch like the situations you described above. Looking back, I felt slighted and as though I was being taken advantage of... I was an intern, and yes, all interns are taken advantage of to some extent BUT! does not excuse leaving without a two-week notice. It is, I believe, the decent thing to do.

  6. I think if your back is against the wall and you don't have to worry about consequences (you're at the end of your career anyway) then it probably doesn't matter beyond a basic sense of professionalism. I know more than one employee who felt they had such grievances that they were justified in walking off the job the same day they were aggravated. I remember that but I am pretty sure that they don't care because they had other jobs. I definitely had staff on the younger side who decided that they just wouldn't show up again as their way of giving notice. I'm also sure that those young ones won't suffer any consequences because their career paths took them in very different directions.

    I'm not saying that it isn't a good idea to respect the professional norms but that it's also not the end of the world when they don't. Heck, I had some employees quit with 2-week notice who spend those 2 weeks cementing their reputations as someone we should never hire again so sometimes I think it's better to get the heck on out if you're going to thoroughly trash your reputation if you stay.

  7. I think in most cases a two week notice is a good thing :)

  8. An interesting topic, Savvy. Without your post and these comments, I would never have imagined that as many people felt that giving two weeks' notice was a "negotiable" point. I am more of the opinion that come's two can do almost anything for two weeks. And I say this having quit two public service jobs where I was actually starting to fear for my safety (late-night shifts; questionable patrons/customers, etc.).
    When you think of what you have to gain--better references, helping out your co-workers, a bit of closure for yourself--I don't think two weeks' worth of days is that much to ask.

    1. No it is not. We just had another long-term employee quit without notice. He came in over the weekend and sent an email to HR, our President and his boss telling him he quit and where he left his keys, etc. I'm sure he has a new job that he is ready to start, but if that doesn't work out it will be hard to fill in a lack of reference for a 15-year job. All for a few minutes of glory thinking "I showed them."