Two-week notices are no longer "customary"

Two-week notices are no longer "customary"

Editor’s Note: See the latest installment – Two-week notices, nickel beers, and rotary telephones published February 1, 2010. .

Giving a two-week notice is not required and is becoming less and less “customary” as workplace dynamics change. This is the bottom line assessment after more than two years of people involved in layoffs, outsourcing, bad corporate environments and just moving to a better opportunity keep responding to a column that was originally written back in 2005.
After receiving over 300 responses on two articles that are not even in the mainstream press, along with numerous phone calls from around the world and other personal e-mails, I believe a real shift has been made.
A sign of good faith?
How many people were let go immediately after trying to “do the right thing” in giving two-weeks notice? How many were cheated out of bonuses after trying to “do the right thing”? How many were cheated out of vacation pay after trying to “do the right thing”? Here are comments from someone who just wrote me:
“Thank you for writing about reasons not to give two weeks notice. It was very refreshing and honest. I’ve given my two weeks and now I think it was a mistake and I should’ve left that day. I’m pretty sure I won’t even finish up the notice because I’m so fed up with the job. I hope resignation without notice is the way of the future. Thanks again!”
It’s a balance. No “good faith” on one side? Why in the world should there be “good faith” on the other? Put it into a contract – mutually agreed to and signed if you want notice.
Bridges are a two-way street
The subtle threat of “Don’t burn your bridges, give two-weeks notice or it may hurt you later” is a well-worn device to help slow down the inevitable loss of a person that is contributing to the organization. It has definitely slipped from being customary and the “right thing to do”, to more of an option based on how the company has treated the individual.
This is from one reader, who sent me what his regional manager wrote to him after finding out the reader was leaving:
“One piece of advice about departing companies, as a friend and not a manager. It’s a small world in our industry, and how you conduct yourself as you exit can often pop up unexpectedly later in your career. It is what it is at this point, but if you move on from your next company (and I hope you never have to), you should really consider giving two-weeks notice. No matter how frustrated you may be with the environment you are leaving (and I’ve been there), it’s the right thing to do to protect yourself in the future.”
How come organizations don’t care about “their” reputation? If it’s such a small industry, managers, executives and those that set policy should be concerned about THEIR reputation as well in treating people and maintaining a positive work environment. What ever happened to lead by example?
Somehow many local and regional managers are not at all concerned about their employees but just their immediate boss, meeting their immediate objectives and collecting their quarterly bonuses. That’s the reality of the corporate situation in many cases. If you leave, you may impact my money and my bonus. That’s all.
From another reader:
“Loyalty is a laugh. When I started at Ameritech, I was thrilled. I thought I would be there until I retired – that’s what I had been told. Also, this idea of people saying you need to not burn bridges and ensure a clean network. Here is my answer. If I burn a bridge, I assure you that I will never go down that bridge again for a damned good reason.”
Telling you that a two-week notice is the right thing to do does not fit in many individuals’ circumstances. If your managers never cared for or recognized you when you were there, why would they ever give you a glowing reference after you leave and you are not even helping them meet THEIR objectives?
If you have been “in the industry,” no matter what industry you’re in, you know that some places are great to work at and others are sweatshops – or worse.
A good manager (at another company) might give you MORE credit that you figured out that you did not have to stay in a bad environment and that you just might have more integrity and value your own work. Just the opposite “insight” from the reader’s all-knowing regional manager.
THINK ABOUT THIS. It defies logic to think that a mediocre manager is even going to remember you, let alone comment on your job performance if he or she never recognized it while you were there.
If company executives really care and see that people are leaving without “customary” notice maybe it’s because they are working for bad managers? Maybe it’s time that low-level and regional managers are replaced. Good workers are hard to find – and harder to keep if you have poor management.
Leaving a job immediately is customary
As more companies hire contractors, non-citizens and other workers into the organization, these people see no obligation to give notice and in fact, take the same view as the company does. At-will employers can terminate people at any time with no notice and the same goes for the employees.
One reader posted this:
“I have worked in HR for the better part of the last two decades and have myself struggled whether to give notice. After reading most of these posts, I would say that these are for the most part the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, employers do not want bad feelings among former employees, mainly because former employees often talk to current employees. It is simply not in anybody’s best interest to create animosity. That being said, it does happen and people do get shafted. The best advice I can say is to be aware before you give notice. How have other employees been treated? Are policies written involving extension of benefits? If you immediately get let go, will you get paid for the two weeks? Whether or not you give two weeks or not, the most important thing is to know what questions you want resolved and have them resolved, in writing, before your last day, that day or in the future.
“Finally, when employers let you go immediately after giving your notice, it is not a personal decision, it is strictly self-preservation! Most commonly, if you are going to work for a competitor, refuse to disclose your future employer (which you have every right to do), are in the IT field, in a high tech/research field, or are privy to sensitive or classified information, you will most likely be let go the day you give notice. Most firms will pay you full for those two weeks, but are under no right to do so. Personally, I ALWAYS give notice. Yes, ALWAYS. It is a sign of good faith, and most employers will treat it as such. My last position, I gave notice, was immediately let go, and went on my way. No hard feelings, just business.”

Unfortunately, there is an epidemic of people that have been “shafted” as this reader puts it, and it’s time that “customary practices” that ceased on the company side for “self preservation” as this HR professional calls it, be matched by new practices by individuals.
Employees leaving immediately after giving notice should be looked at neutrally from the employer’s perspective just as the HR professional put it when the company takes action. No hard feelings, just business. There should be no stigma attached to someone leaving immediately when the company has that same timing option for termination.
CARLINI-ISM: Good workers are hard to find – and harder to keep if you have poor management.
Recent articles by James Carlini
Jim Carlini: Employees debate ethics of giving two weeks’ notice
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James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, and is president of Carlini & Associates. He can be reached at or 773-370-1888. Check out his blog at
This article previously appeared in, and was reprinted with its permission.

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