No matter how often you dream of marching into the office and telling your boss to “take this job and shove it,” you’d be wise to resist such an urge. Besides making a complete spectacle of yourself, you could be starting a career nightmare. In its wake, you’re left explaining to potential employers why you chose to depart your last job on bad terms. It’s best to give some sort of notice before exiting the doors for good.
Unless otherwise stipulated in a contract, you don’t need to give any notice at all. You could choose to pack up your things and leave a job on the spot. But giving two weeks’ notice is the standard practice. It’s considered a professional courtesy, and good employers respect and appreciate the time you’re giving them to make the transition as smooth as possible. Other employees have a chance to absorb your duties and responsibilities while you’re still there to field questions, minimizing any potential problems caused by your departure.
Two weeks is rarely enough time to hire and train someone new, and employers may add clauses to employment agreements requiring you to give a lengthier notice. This is especially true for upper-level and highly specialized positions. The pool of viable candidates is much smaller for these roles, making it harder to fill vacancies. A vice president of marketing, for example, will likely need to give an earlier notice than an account executive at that same company.
Not giving any notice -- though within your legal right -- isn’t in the best interest of your career. Former colleagues must pick up the slack without the luxury of your guidance, which can lead to a lot of ill will. You can also expect a less-than-stellar reference from this employer, and even if you have no plans to ask for one, she may be contacted anyway. The job is likely listed on your resume. To make matter worse, most industries are relatively small, so you could end up interviewing for a job with someone you once left in a lurch.
Though you’ve given two weeks’ notice, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll put in the time. Employers have been known to terminate an employee the very moment she announced her plans to leave. You could even find yourself in the unique situation of being escorted out of the building by security. So, prepare for the unexpected. Before handing in your notice, it may be a good idea to discretely pack up your belongings -- “discretely” being the operative word, of course.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.