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Can You Resign a Job Without Two Weeks' Notice?

It is commonly known and preferred that employees provide a two-week notice when resigning or quitting from a job. Two weeks is considered the "professional" and respectful amount of time to give before leaving a job position. However, there are situations where giving two weeks' notice is either not necessary or impossible due to a professional's current employer and work environment or due to requirements at the new job. In such instances, what are a professional's options?

Contractually bound. In some situations, an employee signs a contract that legally requires the employee to provide an employer with two weeks' notice. In these circumstances, failure to give two weeks' notice could result in penalties. First, an employee could lose bonuses or payment for remaining vacation and sick time, which could add up to thousands of dollars in lost pay. Secondly, a supervisor or company/organization may prevent you from receiving any reference letters, which is problematic for in the future when you need an employer to verify your employment and experience. Most job seekers have already lined up co-workers to provide work references, which can overcome this problem. For others, this is a real concern with potentially long-lasting consequences for their careers and advancement if work references must come from former supervisors.

Not contractually bound. In most situations, when an employee has not signed a contract requiring a two weeks' notice, quitting or resigning could be done immediately with no notice whatsoever. In these instances, employees can just quit and still be paid whatever is owed in salary for time already worked. In most cases, employees in these circumstances will likely still receive payment for accrued vacation and sick time. In instances where a work environment or supervisor is toxic, abruptly leaving may be necessary for the employee's health and safety. That said, leaving suddenly often leads to "burned bridges," resulting in poor recommendations if any are provided at all. Again, most job seekers have co-workers who will give glowing recommendations no matter what, so this may not be an issue. However, sometimes abrupt departures can lead to an increased workload for a co-worker who in turn might be less inclined to serve as a reference.

Ethically bound. The issue of contracts aside, most supervisors prefer employees to give two weeks' notice so the company/organization can adjust schedules and possibly even hire a replacement to take over, so work continues as normal. For instance, in retail and restaurant workplaces, work schedules are often set up two to four weeks in advance, so an employee quitting without notice could significantly impact operations for the near term. For professional job positions, employers often need longer than two weeks' notice. In these situations, colleagues and supervisors are especially dependent on having two weeks' notice or longer before an employee quits. As stated earlier, quitting without sufficient notice could prevent an employee from receiving good recommendations from colleagues. If you work in a deaf-related field, your resigning on short notice could be the talk among your colleagues, even out-of-state, given that the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community can be very small.

Concerns with new employer. How employees quit a previous employer is always of concern to new or potential employers. If you quit abruptly to take a new job, your new employer will likely question your professionalism. Is that how you will treat your new employer, too? With all concerns mentioned above addressed, you should do everything possible to provide two weeks' notice before leaving an employer. It is a good practice and is mostly preferred among employers. You could offer to train a replacement, especially younger workers just getting started in their careers, as the safety net of being able to return to a past position during future layoffs can be a lifesaver. In an ever-changing world economy, the kindness and consideration of giving two weeks can be impactful long after leaving a job.


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