Ready to leave? Why you shouldn't give two weeks' notice

Ready to leave? Why you shouldn't give two weeks' notice

Editor’s Note: See the latest installment – Two-week notices, nickel beers, and rotary telephones published February 1, 2010. .
The “Exit Stage Right” article on CareerBuilder in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune must have been written in a time of nickel beers.
Why? Because giving two week’s notice (let alone four week’s notice) went out with nickel beers. The article also needs a reality check on some of its observations and assertions of how life is in today’s corporate world.
It’s funny how the article on CareerBuilder, which, by the way, is owned by the Tribune Company, doesn’t tell a company what guidelines to follow. How come articles aren’t about laying people off on good terms?
Many people will remember when Ameritech was letting people go several years ago. They would call them in a conference room and say their services were no longer needed. They would then show them to the door. Any coats or personal effects left at their desk would be shipped to them. This is a terrible way to treat 10- to 20-year loyal employees.
What about Amoco, Cellular One and other companies leaving an envelope on your chair telling you that you were no longer needed? What HR expert offered that as a professional approach for “parting a company on good terms”?
How about the accounting firm where the managing partners faxed in a letter telling employees that the company was going out of business and they were all let go? No face-to-face announcement or anything. Just a fax.
Let me highlight the fallacies and follies of the article’s four steps of advice as well as some of its out-of-touch experts.

1. Follow the chain of command?

The article says to tell your boss first, which is common sense, but it then goes on to advise you to ask your boss how to inform your co-worker directly or having her deliver the news when she feels it’s appropriate. Aside from being sexist (are all managers female now?), that’s just bad advice.
It’s too often that someone leaves a company and their reasons are smoothed over or changed in order to cover the truth.
Has anyone ever told you that the reason Tom left was because he thought management was bad or he found out a boss was taking kickbacks or bribes? What about Jane leaving because of sexual harassment by her boss? I’m surprised the Tribune printed this article. It’s laughable and inaccurate.
Each situation is different. If you want the story told straight, tell it yourself or send an e-mail to everyone you want to tell. Then it’s uniform and there are no filters or omissions. Your reason could be better pay, a better work environment or a whole combination of things. Keep it short, and if you don’t want to go into detail, don’t.
The best way to tell co-workers and your boss is that you are leaving for a better opportunity. Period.
They are all going to know why if the company is experiencing a loss of accounts, bad management or many other reasons. In many cases, you may not even want to tell them where you’re going. Is a company obligated to tell you its future strategy when they lay you off?
You’re not obligated to give a laundry list of reasons. It’s a termination of service that you have initiated. Does the company tell everyone why they are terminating someone? They use corporate mumbo jumbo like having to do a “force reduction” or an “adjustment to resources.”
In seeing someone just quit a job, the reasons given to the bosses were not the same ones told later to the person’s co-workers. The reasons were changed. The advice from this Tribune article just isn’t realistic.

2. Preparing a letter of resignation

The letter should be short and to the point. The day you resign is the day you leave. If you want to share details with co-workers, that’s your prerogative. Again, the only way they know the truth is if you tell them.
Management will always paint your departure as a shocking event that comes as a surprise to them. They are never going to admit they overworked you, harassed you or grossly underpaid you.

3. Setting a departure date

The article says that if you are “in a professional or clerical position, two weeks are appropriate. If you are in a managerial position, three to four weeks is appropriate.” That’s a joke. You could give four week’s notice. There is no guarantee of a good reference.
There are critical situations today where the day you announce your resignation is the day you leave. This may not be up to you. The company may not want you at its offices as you are a potential threat to its systems and security.
As head of security, I would not want anyone around who has access to company networks and application systems.
You may want to give two week’s notice, but from a security standpoint, you are out the door that day. Locks are changed. Passwords and IDs are terminated so you should have no access to files or other confidential information. That is the reality of today’s workplace.
Did you know that many denial-of-service (DoS) attacks are initiated by disgruntled employees? If the company you’re working at doesn’t have that stringent of a policy, they are leaving themselves open for attack. That’s definitely not adhering to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or any compliance policy that focuses on secure environments.

4. Tying up loose ends

Making sure you turn in all IDs, keys and corporate credit cards is standard.
You don’t want the liability of being blamed for anything that happens after you give notice. Clear out your desk and office of all personal effects a day or two before you announce your departure. You just may be escorted to the door as soon as you tell your boss of your intentions. There is no going back to your desk.
Many companies are so paranoid today. They don’t want any employees hanging around after they submit their resignation.
Leaving contact information depends on the individual situation. You may not want to be contacted after you depart, or in most cases, companies will not give out your contact information. No one is going to forward leads or loyal customers to you for fear that they are losing potential business.

New best practice: immediate departure

Here is a true story that just happened where someone was leaving for a better opportunity and was debating this exact issue of “giving notice.”
My advice to her was to clear out her office the day before, give a clear resignation letter and have everything ready to turn over and leave the day of her resignation. She was in charge of critical information and computer systems. There were many legitimate reasons why she left (pay, workload, lack of recognition and the company’s loss of business).
It was a wise move to leave. She left on a Monday.
Two days later, the servers crashed and the company got a subpoena for a lawsuit. If she would have stayed, she could have been blamed for the crash and potentially held up to be a witness in the lawsuit. It could have jeopardized her new opportunity if she went the “old school” route. She was really thankful she resigned the way she did.
So much for giving two weeks’ notice. The potential liabilities aren’t worth it.
Follow-up: Employees debate ethics of giving two weeks’ notice
Carlinism: A person leaves the day they resign. Otherwise, they leave the door open for lots of liabilities.

James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. He is also president of Carlini & Associates. Carlini can be reached at or 773-370-1888. Copyright 2006 Jim Carlini.

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