Three Gifts Workers Should Stop Giving Their Employers – Part 4: The Gift of Two Weeks Notice

Oddly, a lot of well-intentioned, honorable workers are walking around with the completely erroneous idea that “something” requires them to give an employer two-weeks notice before the effective date of their voluntary termination. There is no legal requirement to do that. It is possible, in some rare cases, that a worker might have signed an agreement in which they agreed to do that; but I don’t think that is at all common. Meanwhile, your employer is walking around with another idea entirely: which is that you are “at will”, meaning you can be fired at any time, with no notice at all, for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all. (I’ve published a legal guide on this subject, “The Woes of At Will”, , and, of course, that is the first Gift that you should stop giving your employer.) So, when the employer reacts to the worker’s courtesy in giving notice by firing the worker on the spot, that is unfair, unprofessional, and just plan vicious; but there is no law against it. Many employers believe that two-week period between notice and termination will be the worker’s opportunity to burn up unused sick leave, sabotage projects, infect the office computers with viruses, and pilfer pencils. The employer is more likely to have security frog march you out the door than cover you with thanks for your professionalism in giving notice. One consoling aspect of this reaction from employers, though, is that, while a voluntary quit would ordinarily have made you ineligible for unemployment insurance, being fired for giving notice of intent to quit will NOT make you ineligible. File for your unemployment benefits. I have published a legal guide on that, too.

But, stop thinking that, if you have a new, better job, you owe it to your employer to give two weeks notice. If that is good for you, then do it. If you think your employer deserves that notice by its past treatment of you, then give the notice. If not, your are free to quit without notice. If employers want workers to hang around longer after giving notice, then, fine – they can offer incentives for your continued employment.

Update: I’m starting to see more and more career counselor types cautioning people about giving two-weeks notice.  Here’s an excellent example  If you look at the many public comments to this article, you will see that many people have sad stories to relate as a consequences of giving two-weeks notice; but some insist that workers should still do so. Everyone’s situation is unique.  Maybe you should give notice, maybe you should not. Just think it through, and don’t take either route automatically or reflexively. Good luck!

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