Employees debate ethics of giving two weeks' notice

Employees debate ethics of giving two weeks' notice

About a year ago, I wrote a column criticizing an “advice article” in the Chicago Tribune about the practice of giving two-week notices when leaving a company. (Ready to leave? Why you shouldn’t give two weeks’ notice) It was published both on ePrairie and with the Wisconsin Technology Network (WTN). The Wisconsin copy was left up for comments. Since then, there have been many comments and personal stories of people leaving jobs.
According to WTN’s editor, it is the most hit-upon article on their Web site [for a number of weeks well after publication]. When you do a Google search on “giving notice when leaving a company,” the article comes up first (even before all the articles from “expert” career counselors and coaches). I never thought this particular article would have such an impact on people and would change their attitudes about their careers.
HR experts, coaches and companies better understand this new philosophy in the workforce. Company policies have created this backlash.
No notice, no blame
While some people disagree with my advice, they are the ones living in a dream world. I believe individuals who give what many companies are giving – an immediate departure upon notice – should not be viewed as negative but as initiating a standard business practice that companies and other organizations themselves have instituted.
When it’s to the company’s advantage from a pay and benefits standpoint, they want people to leave immediately. When an individual leaves, they want them to give “adequate” notice so the company isn’t left in a lurch. In today’s society, you can’t have it both ways.
With security issues being what they are today, companies will say it is for security purposes that you have to be let go the same day. Shouldn’t this then apply from the individual’s standpoint as well? Leave immediately. You might be blamed if something goes wrong in that two-week period. You might have this scenario:

“Joe left and didn’t finish the quarterly report.”
“Sally was supposed to contact the clients for the new product presentation.”
“The new pamphlets were supposed to be added to the folders by Bob.”

If something isn’t finished, the person leaving becomes the scapegoat for everything that has failed or has not been completed in the last six months.
Global feedback
On the WTN web site, comments are from everywhere. One person from New York wrote:

I just finished reading your article. It is refreshing for someone to write about some of the injustices played out on American employees every day by American corporations.
I recently gave my two-week notice of resignation to my employer and am absolutely appalled by the way I’m being treated. Not only was I overworked, severely underpaid and underappreciated for 3.5 years here but I was told that giving only two week’s notice is unprofessional. That’s funny because a co-worker of mine was told her services were no longer needed and was escorted out of the building the very same day.
As far as I know, New York is an employment at-will state. This means my employer can fire me for no reason (as long as it’s not a federally protected reason such as race or religion) and I can resign for no reason. I don’t feel I owe my employer an explanation (though they have been continually asking me for one).
In an ideal world, we would all want to give our employers notice of our impending departure far in advance and vice versa. However, this is far from an ideal world and I feel that American corporations are partly to blame for that.

Another reader pointed out the frustration she went through after giving the two-week notice at a medical office. While she was begged to stay and she did, things worsened:

The switch of physicians has not been a good switch. Yes, I have been able to keep my head above water with a new doctor, but it has caused a ton of stress with physical and mental problems. I have been asked to take on more responsibilities that three people could not do.
I was contacted by someone who was opening a new facility in a different field of medicine and they wanted to interview me. While I was not looking for a new job, I went and interviewed any way. This was just in the last week and I received an offer that will increase my pay, lessen my workload (by a million tons), give me better hours and is closer to home.
I believe everything happens for a reason, and when something like this just “falls” into your lap, you shouldn’t ignore it. It’s a “looking a gift horse in the mouth” sort of thing. After considering the opportunities, I have accepted the new position.
Now comes the issue with giving my two week’s notice again. I am to start my new position exactly two weeks from this Monday due to specialized training out of state. After all the stress they gave me the first time around, I am inclined not to give any notice at all. However, I am still torn about the “right thing to do”.

In my advice for her situation, I said to leave now. Putting up with stress isn’t worth it. Others vow they would never give two week’s notice again after the way they were treated after giving notice:

As required by my contract and with heavy expectation on my part to “do the right thing,” I gave a two-week notice to leave. One week into the notice, they publicly walked me out the door in front of staff, kept $9,000 of back commission wages and put out a defaming letter to my past clients.
This letter produced 34 client and employee telephone calls to my personal residence about what happened. This questioning was very embarrassing as I had to take the high road with regard to speaking negatively about this employer. Though this event happened nine months ago, I still continue to receive phone calls from clients.
When you work with the highest intention for your employer, remain ethical in communication and interactions, practice honesty and high ethics, receive outstanding sales awards, create a repeat clientele base and provide proper notice to leave, why would a company treat me or anyone else like this? Is it simply company ego?
I’m unclear what proper work ethic is within the corporate structure as the reward for acting with integrity is repaid by public humiliation, non-payment of wages and loss of reputation. If I ever decide to leave a job again, I will not be giving a two-week notice. The valuable insight and comments from this Web site has started my healing process. Thank you.

Several weeks ago, I was called on a Saturday from someone who read my article and was going to leave his situation at an American university in Greece. He wanted to get an outsider’s perspective on his situation and we wound up talking on the phone for about 30 minutes. His situation warranted an immediate departure.
Stress: a motivator to move
Look at your paychecks. Nothing on your check adds money for job-related stress. Still, job-related stress will add to your doctor bills significantly.
A doctor treating patients for acid reflux and stomach problems said the source for 80 percent of these problems is related to work. He told my wife: “The best prescription I can give to you is to change jobs.” She did. Her blood pressure went from 145/90 to 100/68. She stopped taking Nexium, too, which is a prescription drug for acid reflux.
A long time ago, a mentor told me there are three things to look for when thinking about moving to a new job: more money, more convenience and more advancement.
If you can get two out of the three elsewhere, move. If it also lessens your stress, my recommendation is to move immediately. For those who are taken aback by employees leaving and creating an immediate void, maybe you should get some training on how to work with people.
Carlinism: While stress isn’t part of your paycheck, it is part of your doctor bills.

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

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.