Two Weeks Notice – The Art of Quitting Your Job Gracefully

September 9, 2008

Quitting your job can be quite a liberating experience.  The weight of “all things crappy” in your job is lifted off your shoulders and you feel as though you can finally breath again.  Yet, no matter how bad your job seems at the time you leave, it’s wise to quit your job gracefully and not burn your bridges.

My Two Weeks Notice

After almost nine years of working for the same group, I had a long talk with my boss yesterday where I gave my two weeks notice and let him know I was taking a better job for a lower salary.  Of course I didn’t word it in that way, he asked about the reasons I was leaving and I was honest yet tactful.

The main reason for exiting cordially is that you never know when you’ll need a job or a reference in the future so it’s smart to keep the relationship you built intact.  In my case it was also because I’ve become friends with my boss and many of my co-workers.  However from a purely career-centric point of view, leaving gracefully keeps your professional network intact should you need to call on it sometime down the road.

Here are a few things to consider as you leave your job for greener pastures:

Give Two Weeks Notice

In many companies you’re required to give the official notice and go through an exit interview otherwise you forfeit being paid out accrued benefits such as vacation days.  Some companies have a policy that you can’t be re-hired in the future if you don’t give proper notice before leaving.

Wrap it Up

It’s really tempting to wash your hands of everything you’ve been working on and cruise through the last two weeks but if you dump a load of work on your co-workers or boss that will be the last thing they remember about you.  If you come looking for a job or referral in the future that last bitter memory will likely be the first to pop up.

Transition Responsibility

Let people know where all the bodies are buried.  Train your co-workers on necessary tasks and document important processes.  If you don’t do this you may be getting phone calls and emails for weeks or months after you leave your job.  Plus your co-workers will really appreciate the documentation.

Manage Change

Try and avoid the sinking ship syndrome.  When someone leaves a group, especially if they’re in a leadership or key operational role, the people left behind often ask themselves whether they’ll be the last ones left on a sinking ship. 

  • Why are you leaving?
  • What will happen once you’re gone?
  • Is the group or company in trouble?
  • Will they have to work overtime to make up for your absence?
  • Should they start looking for a new job as well?

These thoughts will likely go through people’s heads in a time of change but you can help calm their fears by the way you handle your exit.  Announce your departure personally to your core team, the people you work with on a daily basis, so that they hear it from you instead of the rumor mill.  Tactfully explain your reasons for leaving, don’t bad mouth the company or other co-workers.  Be ready to answer questions about transitioning responsibilities and shifting project work. 

Smile On the Way Out

Those poor suckers are still stuck working there and you’re moving on!  So smile and be friendly on the way out the door.  You can’t help but feel bad for your co-workers as you leave for bigger and better things.  If you can quit gracefully and leave as a friend it will be better off for your career in the long run.

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Ben

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Ben
Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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24 Responses to Two Weeks Notice – The Art of Quitting Your Job Gracefully

  • Katie

    I have been working as a dog groomer for a little over two years. The manager seems to not know how to compliment a hard worker, but finds something to be mad about once a day. I no longer feel wanted at the shop, but they talk as through they need all the help they can get. How do I give an already anger and stressed manager my two week without lash back?

  • Judy

    Do you guys think I should give a 2 weeks notice to a place I have only worked at for 5 weeks? The owner and his wife are rude and he smokes in the work place and I can’t stand him putting my health at risk so I want to quit right away.

    • Ben

      One of the big reasons you don’t want to burn your bridges is so you can get references for the next job you apply for. If you leave a job on bad terms you can always leave that employer off your resume but if you’ve worked there for a long time then the people you’re interviewing with for your next job will probably ask why there’s a big gap in your employment history.

      In your case, since you’ve only worked there 5 weeks you might want to just leave that job off your resume anyhow.

      Another alternative is to ask him if he’d stop smoking indoors at work. If he’s willing to avoid smoking around you then you could keep working there while you look for a new job.

  • Anonymous

    I started working at my job, about 22 days ago at a retail store as a sales associateand only a part time with minimun wage. Everyday at the store I have a goal for my self for some amount of dollars that i need to sell and i always make double of what i need to sell, everyone has noticed and think Im a great sales associate but my boss; abuse, screams and humiliates me infront of the other coworker and doesnt appreciate my work. I am the only one that gets treated this way, no one else does. yesterday i got a phone call from a diferrent brand BUT from the same company. I had an interview today and it went great, the manager offered me the job and as a full timer. They dont do transfers so the only way for me to get the job is to quit my this job and make sure i dont get a bad record, if I do she cant hire me at all. so how can i put in my two weeks notice if i just started working there and another thing, not to get a bad record? should I lie about? should I tell the truth or what?

    Any suggestions??Im desperate : (

  • Anonymous

    I have been dealing with an extrememly abusive boss for almost a year now. After being screamed at, deameaned and humiliated in front of other staff- I will be leaving in three days and not giving any notice.I don’t want a reference from her anyways, and I wouldnt’ be courteous when there has been none given to me.

  • Beantown

    In the two months I’ve worked at my job I’ve seen 5 people quit, two were “no notice” one pretended to be sick for two weeks and then emailed a letter of resignation on the day he was supposed to show up. The other left a resignation letter in our boss’s mailbox without a word only to be found the next morning. All I can say about this tactic is that you will be the offices source of gossip for the entire week “Did they say anything to you? Did they get a new job? Why would they quit like that?”. For myself, I would rather be there to answer the questions for them. Giving two weeks notice is a courtesy (depending on your company) and it can be voided if anyone at the company makes you feel uncomfortable about quitting. You have the right to find a new better job and you also have a right to refuse to answer any questions as to why you are quitting if they aren’t in a formal exit interview. Its intimidating but you should give every job good etiquette when leaving because it will only get easier with each job. Also if anyone helped you get that make its your responsibility to make sure they don’t regret that decision and maybe even help you out again! Long story short always be the bigger person especially when you get to leave your crappy job!

  • Jonas

    I recall quitting a job on same day (no 2 weeks notice), then in my next job, they fired me on same day (with only 4 hours notice). I had only 4 hours to train my boss & coworkers to do my tasks. That sort of thing made feel like the system “was getting its revenge on me” even though these were 2 different companies. When I was training my boss & coworkers in that last day, I did my very best to answer their questions. In this company, unlike the last, I took extra care to be friendly to everyone & left smiling. Those guys email me from time to time… The people from the company where I quit don’t. Although the company that fired me is now getting known for being cruel, it’s clear the people who worked with me from that company aren’t like their upper-management brethren. Even if I never see any previous coworkers from past jobs at new jobs again, it always puts a smile on my face to get an email from a former coworker asking what I’m up to… Hence, if you are friendly with anyone in your company, this should be a reason to give 2 weeks notice, regardless of how cruel you’re being treated. Friends are always nice…

  • Addison

    Most of you would give the 2 weeks notice…Interesting…
    I guess none of you has received any harassment at work, or has seen how other co-workers have been taken to the door the same day they have been noticed they are fired…No two weeks notice, no chance to go back to their desks to pick up their coats or belongings…
    When you have decided not to give that advance notice, there are many reasons that push you to it. And probably once you leave the company, you don´t care at all about what those staying will think about you. You cannot do things or not do them, just based on what they will think about you.
    You gotta do what is best for you depending on your own circumstances.
    If you give that two weeks notice, you give the company an enormous opportunity to blame you for anything that might go wrong during that time. And in certain positions and in certain companies, way too many things can happen in that time frame.
    And the co-workers…well, again, it just depends on your relationship with them. But if you get along with them, probably they know how you feel and you have been giving them warnings that you will sooner or later be leaving. And two weeks notice or not, they’re going to end up having to do your job. At least, if the type of work you do, can be done by them. It could also happen that you are a certain type of skilled professional and nobody else around you knows how to do your job. Then, even with the two weeks notice, the company wouldn´t have time to hire somebody on time before you leave and give you the chance to show them around. And the chances of them harassing you in that time, are way too high. That is my experience.
    A company is a heartless entity that acts on its own interest, let’s not forget it. Why should I act, when leaving a company, still in its interest? Why shouldn’t I think about what is best for me? Why not quit the day I am planning to leave? Especially if I just got my pay check and I am even with the company. I don´t owe the company anything, they have given me a salary for my work, it has been a reciprocal interested relationship. But I am the one who has decided to terminate with that relationship and I do it in my own terms, not in the terms the company would like. Because doing it so, you give them way too many options to make your last two weeks there miserable.
    Each company is different, but I’ve been working in one that has treated its leaving workers badly. So why are they going to make an exception with me? Why give them that chance? No way. I wait to get my paycheck, and then, I leave.

  • ex aerospace

    I just left a big name Aerospace company in PHX a few weeks ago. They paid me out my accrued vacation, however forgot to pay me my last two weeks’ pay. I have tried to contact them but am not getting anywhere with them. Is there a non-profit or government group I can go to for assistance in regaining my last paycheck?? and yes, I did give 2 weeks’ notice.

  • ex aerospace

    I just left a big name Aerospace company in PHX a few weeks ago. They paid me out my accrued vacation, however forgot to pay me my last two weeks’ pay. I have tried to contact them but am not getting anywhere with them. Is there a non-profit or government group I can go to for assistance in regaining my last paycheck??

  • RM

    For those that aren’t worried about burning bridges because they aren’t going to use the company as a reference….

    I assume that you will still be listing on job applications and your resume that you worked there. You may not list them as a reference, but a potential employer may still call them to verify past employment and find out you just up and left w/o notice. It can still come back to bite you in the butt. Be mature and give two week’s notice.

    The argument that since some companies fire people w/o the same courtesy, then it’s ok to quit w/o notice is such a childish response. That’s akin to saying, “He hit me so I’m going to hit him back.” Grow up and don’t sink down to the level of the “dogs” you can find in this world. Don’t let them drag you down.

    Giving two week’s notice is the right thing to do, even if you’d like to give them “a piece of your mind” on the way out.

  • Niljay

    In today’s world I have to agree with Jules. I’ve been reading all over the internet about how important 2 weeks notice is; however, few consider the cut throat mentality of companies who let people go without the same professional courtesy. My company is in a city of 4 million and there are just a handful of similar organizations around, therefore the talent pool often ends up cycling from place to place and most often knows workers at the other places. Reputations can get around and the way my manager has been letting people go without notice he deserves equal respect. I work in a high turnover industry as well. Anyway, I will not be working in the same field in the future and will most definately not be using my current and soon late employer as a reference, ever! In the meantime, their reputation has been growing as the place not to work.

  • Jules

    Please, anyone who is frustrated enough to leave a job without giving notice, clearly has NO intention of using that job as a REFERENCE. Better yet, a miserable employee is under no obligation to make the world a better place for the source of that misery. If you want people to do the “professional” thing, then treat them professionally, otherwise accept that you will have high turnover rates and people who walk out on you and leave you in a lurch.

    My organization is learning this the HARD way. We have had five receptionists quit in the last three months; all without NOTICE. Just walked out. in the past I have stated that we undervalue and underpaid them, and many of the organization’s members treat them like servants.

    Now we have no receptionist and my boss is freaking out trying to find someone to accept the position (we’ve offered the position to SEVEN people and they all accepted then quickly opted to pursue other opportunities.)

    Bad reputations can work BOTH WAYS.

  • rob

    hi i have learned a big!! lession!!! allways!!!! when leaveing a company to go to another company! PLEASE GIVE A TWO WEEK NOTICE!! and also no matter how mad you are at the company you are leaveing!!! dont!!! i say dont!!! cuss at the boss!!! the old saying goes!! you got to take the good with the bad!!! cause not everything will go the way you want it to go! it never will!! even if you are your own boss! thers allways going to be some kind of headach!! i,m so burnt out on my job i have been doing for 25 years!! and i found something ele,s that is a lot easer! and more injoyable to do! but my problem is sticking with a company and giveing it some time to see if it works out!!! being paycince and lisining and takeing what comes along with the job! is my problem!! in which i know and understand much better now!! then i did when i left this company!! that i wsh!!! i did not leave! i went to this other company ! cause i trought it was much better! and the grass was greener on the other side!! in which it was not!!! it was bad!!! the company is a big joke!! the owner dont even know how to run a company!! he cussess us out! sends us home early! then wants us to go out late at night and work!! wont even pay hodly anything! just an all round bad company! if i would of stuck with the other company! i would of been makeing double!! then what i was makeing when i started there! and it would of been ony about 6 months time!!! THINK!!! things out! and allways give a two week notice!!!!!!!!!!!!! even if its a bad company give a two week notice!!! and be very nice to the company when giveing a two week notice!! cause you never know when you might just need to go back to the company you left!!! cause that company that you left!! might just be the company for you!! the company i left!! in which i wish i never did! and i give anything to be back there!!! they put me down as no rehire! cause of the fact i did not give them a two week notice!!! in which they said unles the policy changes!! i will not be able to come back!! yes i,m hopeing somehow someway!!! i will be able to go back to that company!!!!! burning a bridge is not a good thing! yes there are good companys!! and there are bad companys!!! but regardless!!! ALLWAYS GIVE A TWIO WEEK NOTICE!!! it can mean everything!!!!! dont make the mistake i did!! again i,m hopeing the company i left! will maby again give me a chance!!! . and again i will say the grass is not allways greener on the other side!!!

  • guinness416

    *Many people take the opportunity to spill their guts and say everything they always wanted to say on the way out the door.*

    Is this really true? I know plenty of people who felt miserable, bitter, depressed, and angry when they quit jobs but I don’t know a single person who’s gone out like that.

  • Jerry

    Shortly before I left my job in the States to pursue an opportunity overseas I watched a colleague commit near-professional suicide on her way out the door. She had been offered a better job at a more prestigious laboratory, and so she took the opportunity to burn every bridge possible, telling off management and basically being as UN-graceful as she could. Suddenly, she found out that the new job wanted her to interview with one more manager before signing the new contract, and she was stuck without the insurance of her old job. Fortunately for her, the new job came through, but it would definitely lead her to some unnecessary stress. These are great tips, thanks!
    Jerry

  • Shadox

    All very good advice.

    Many people take the opportunity to spill their guts and say everything they always wanted to say on the way out the door. Very bad strategy.

    The world is round – and in most industries, you will run into the same people over and over again throughout your career. Making enemies or bad impressions is the wrong way to go.

  • Everyday Finance

    I wish all professionals would follow this code of conduct. I had an employee quit on me on a holiday weekend in a Biotech manufacturing area. They gave a day’s notice. Ridiculous. I had to get another person to cover on a holiday with no notice. I would always give at least 2 weeks. It’s rare these days to be walked offsite or treated harshly. Job movement is the new reality and everyone understands it’s not a generation or two back when the expectation was loyalty and 35 year employment.

  • marci

    I did the same – better job at lower salary – and I got to move back home with family :)
    Total agreement here. Give proper notice and stay friendly.
    Do not badmouth. If possible, leave a work manual with notes and
    ‘how-to’s” in it. It’s not only proper but can answer a lot of questions that
    you won’t be getting phone calls for later. But do offer to be available to
    help train the next person if they will not be coming on board until after you
    leave. And after you leave – keep in touch with those friends you’ve made there -
    email is my choice of communication – instantly! I treasure and value those
    friendships from places I’ve left behind, and 10 years later they are still some of
    my dearest friends :)

    I remember the shock of losing a work associate because she just upped and quit – same day notice. This totally changed our opinion of the person because we couldn’t believe she would leave us in such a lurch when it wasn’t an emergency. Don’t burn your bridges! Even if you don’t think you would ever return to that job again, the people you left behind might be part of your networking for a future job or in management at the next job :)

  • JoshuaBest

    These are great tips. We’ve all been there when somone left a group and left projects completely undone and their work was a mess… don’t be that person. Like Ben says, wrap up your projects and transition responsibilities. Great tips.

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