Is It Necessary to Give a Two Week Notice When Leaving a Job?
It’s always been the tradition to provide a two week notice of resignation to employers when you are ready to leave your job. Sometimes employees may even be expected to give months of notice if they are in an especially critical role, such as a business executive or someone that has been with the company for a long time.
It’s not an absolute requirement in most cases since most employment in America is “at-will” employment where either the employer or employee can separate and end employment at any time. (After all, how often does a company give you notice they are firing you?!) The cases that might require notice by law would be contractual employment agreements that perhaps state a working relationship will last for an explicit period of time or say a certain period of notice must be given when resigning.
But in today’s rapidly changing work world, how important is it to provide a notice of resignation when it comes to “at-will” employment?
Is Giving Notice Really Necessary?
I’m going to take a brave step forward and say NO.
First and foremost, the decision to provide a resignation or not will depend on many varying circumstances. If you happen to work for a company that treats you very good and you’re happy to work there, it’s almost always best to be respectful and give them a notice. For the typical situation, however, where your company is fairly neutral to you or rude, I don’t feel that it’s necessary to give a two-week notice. Let me tell you why.
The reason is that we need to protect ourselves and our best interests. The work dynamic has changed so much over the past several years that providing a notice of resignation can do more harm than good! In today’s work environment, the company may often turn around and just fire you on the spot if you give a notice!
This may seem shocking, but I assure you I’ve seen it happen time and time again. It’s even happened to me and it is much more common than you think. The majority of companies do not value employee tenure as much as they did in the past, and many companies do not think twice about getting rid of someone immediately once they give their notice.
The scariest part about potentially being fired or let go at this particular point in time is the devastating effects it can have on YOUR livelihood. It can affect your financial stability, you and your family’s well-being, and your future career prospects!
You might think to yourself, “What’s the big deal if I’m just starting another job in a couple weeks?” Unfortunately, the ramifications of being fired of let go can extend well beyond the two week period and lead to various issues in the future.
Getting Fired or Let Go Immediately After Giving a Two Week Notice
Why Your Employer May Opt to Get Rid of You Immediately
Some people may wonder why your employer would decide to cease your employment immediately after you give them the notice you’re leaving. Truthfully, there could be any variety of reasons why companies may do this, but I’ve found four main reasons that are usually the basis for the decision.
1. The Company May Not Think You’ll Be Productive Anymore
I don’t think it’s terribly unreasonable to imagine that sometimes an employee may sort of “check out” once they give their notice to leave a job. They might stop caring as much as they did before, their quality of work may decline, or they might start showing up late and/or leaving early. They know a new job is right around the corner and they are going to stop working soon anyway… slacking off might not seem like the worst thing to do!
Not every single person will “check out” once they give their notice, but companies are quite aware that some employees may. A company may think an employee is simply not interested anymore in the job and decide that instead of having an unproductive worker in the office until their proposed end date, they might as well just get rid of them now. A company may also think that the employee gave their notice to leave because they are disgruntled with their job or the company and they might not want a disgruntled worker in the office any longer than they need to be.
Whatever the reason may be, a company might simply think you won’t be productive anymore and would rather just get rid of you now than wait a couple weeks!
2. The Company May Have Wanted to Get Rid of You Anway
The inner workings of management and who’s on the chopping block is always churning. Perhaps your name was on the list to be fired or let go soon. Handing in your notice to leave is a catalyst that often will trigger the company to simply turn around and fire you on the spot instead. If the company was already considering getting rid of you, they likely won’t hesitate once you give them your notice.
3. The Company May be Worried You Will Steal Confidential Data, Clients, or Other Internal Documents
If an employee works with any type of confidential data, clients, or other protected information, the company may be worried they will steal or take that information after they give a notice of resignation. They may decide to let them go right away so they won’t have any chance to potentially take that information with them (Unless they did it already…)
One very important thing I want to say about this point is that this is actually a fairly standard practice for many businesses!
If you work with confidential data or have access to lots of customer or client records, you should almost expect that your employers will ask you to leave immediately after giving them notice. This is especially true if you happen to be taking a position with a competitor in the industry. The company might see you as a traitor, a spy, or at the very least, competition to them. They may want you out of their business ASAP before you have the chance to take any trade or company secrets.
4. The Company May Simply Not Want to Pay You Anymore
For the majority of businesses, the goal is to make money. Many businesses, for better or worse, focus heavily on a strategy of cutting expenses to obtain higher profits. Employee labor and benefits expenses are often one of the most costly. Do you see where this is going?
Unless a company feels that is absolutely critical to keep an employee around after they give their notice to leave, they may opt to save a few weeks of labor and benefits expense and just get rid of the person immediately. It may not even be anything personal at this point, it’s simply a decision based objectively around saving money.
The Reasons It May Be Awful for You
Getting fired or let go unexpectedly is never pleasant, but you would probably never expect it when turning in a resignation letter. You might think, “no big deal, I was resigning anyway!”, but there are some reasons this could potentially be one of the worst times to get fired.
1. Having to Explain You Were Not Actually Fired
Well, this is awkward. Imagine you’re interviewing for another job. You get to the part where they want to talk about your work experience. A fairly common question comes up, “Why did you leave your previous position?”
You tell them you decided to resign from that position, but the company has done their homework and called your old companies for employment verification. They call you out and say that when they called your old company, the company said that they fired you from the role. Uh-oh.
You know you resigned, but your prior company has records that say they fired you… After all, if the company did let you go after you gave notice, you can bet they threw out your resignation letter and replaced it with their own paperwork saying you were let go by them. They may have even tried to get you to sign paperwork stating you were fired!
This is never a fun situation to be in… if you’re saying you quit but your prior employer is saying they fired you, who is to believe? It will raise some serious red flags for any potential new employer who often may be more inclined to believe your old employer. Having to potentially explain this in every future job interview is going to be a serious hassle and may cause you to lose out on some job offers!
2. Temporary Loss of Income Until the New Job Starts
Were you counting on the last two or so weeks of pay from your prior job until the new one starts? Forget about that if the company fires you or lets you go immediately! Considering that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, most of us are looking for a seamless transition between jobs financially. Losing out on a potential two weeks of pay (or more) can be a serious issue.
If you do get let go immediately, there may not be flexibility to start your new job earlier than originally planned. There is a chance that your new employer may be able to accommodate an earlier start date, but you also might need to explain why you want an earlier start date now and questions about your previous employer may come up – awkward…
In many cases, there’s nothing you can do but wait and live without the income you were previously expecting or relying on. Two weeks can be bad enough, but imagine if you give a four week notice because your next employer couldn’t start you until next month. Even if you’re just quitting to quit and you don’t have another job lined up, the loss of income for a certain period can be a bummer.
If your company fires you or lets you go on the spot once you give your notice of resignation, you will need to be prepared to deal with this financial challenge!
3. Your Job Offer Gets Rescinded…
This is the nightmare of nightmares, the worst of the worst, but job offers do get rescinded. It will be your worst nightmare, too, if your job offer gets rescinded after your current employer lets you go.
You went from being employed and having a new job lined up to being completely unemployed and having to go on the job hunt all over again. The only saving grace MAY be that you could file for unemployment benefits since your prior employer did turn around and let you go, but obtaining and certifying for unemployment benefits is not always a walk in the park. The employer can fight against it, too. Either way, this is an incredibly unfortunate and unpleasant situation to be in!
Some might call this paranoid thinking, but it can happen! Hiring needs or budgets may have changed, the employer had second thoughts about you, or maybe they found a better candidate or option for their needs. Even with a written offer, employment is not really guaranteed since most offers have clauses that state the employment is at-will. They can rescind the offer, they can let you go on Day 1 of the job, they can let you go two weeks into the job. It’s at-will employment.
Unless you have one of the rare contractual agreements that explicitly states the terms and dates of employment, you are relying on good faith that your next employer will have the job they offered you when that day comes. Most times it will be OK, but will you be OK if it’s not?
What You MUST Do If Your Current Employer Tries to Fire You When You Resign
If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, DO NOT LET THE COMPANY FIRE YOU. You quit, remember?
Often the company may try to get you to sign papers that say you were laid off or fired. They may say they are needed for legal purposes (their purposes only!) Do NOT sign the papers. Simply walk out. If they won’t let you collect your belongings, call the police. I’m not even kidding. (It sounds dramatic, but it’s the right response if your employer is being a jerk and not letting you collect your belongings). The only thing the company is trying to do at this point is getting a record that they fired you and have you sign off on it! Do not do it.
I feel especially strongly about this because I had this very thing happen twice in my career. One time was much more amicable than the other, as in that case it was strictly a confidentiality issue and the company offered to pay me for the two weeks anyway. The other time though… it is still one of my biggest regrets till this very day.
I gave my two week notice and later in the day my employer called me into their office to tell me they were firing me for “attendance issues” (not true at all). They pulled out a piece of paper and said I MUST sign it. It said I was being fired for attendance. I said I would not sign it because I didn’t believe that to be true, and they insisted I must sign it or they would take legal action against me. They also said I could not leave until I signed it.
Being a naive young adult at the time, (and just wanting to get the heck out of there already), I signed it, but put a big note saying I did not agree and that I provided a resignation. In hindsight, I should have never ever signed it. That employer was absolutely toxic to begin with, and I probably could have reported them to the Labor Bureau for using the scare tactics they used on me.
Nonetheless, it was a lesson learned and one I will never forget. Do not let the company pressure you into signing papers saying you were fired. Heck, even if you do get legitimately fired, you don’t need to sign anything!
Deciding To Give A Notice of Resignation or Not
At the end of the day, it’s ALL about protecting yourself first. Take care of your needs, not the company’s needs. I have always loved this particular saying that expresses the thought perfectly.
If you do work for an employer who is good and has treated you well, it is likely best to give them a notice as a courtesy and to show your respect and appreciation for them. It will help you maintain a good relationship with that company should you ever want to return to work there or network with them down the road. The power of your network shouldn’t be underestimated!
But for most other companies that don’t value their employees? There are risks involved with giving a notice of resignation.
I’m not exactly recommending that you just quit on the spot each and every time you leave a job, but it’s very important to recognize that you may be let go immediately once you give your resignation notice.
If you’re OK with that or feel it’s simply best to let your employer know, by all means, give your notice! It reflects very positively on you regardless of the outcome and you did a professional courtesy. It can also help maintain your professional network and important relationships.
But do yourself the favor of preparing for the worst. Even if you and your employer are on extremely good terms, you can’t assume your employer will honor your request unless there is a contractual agreement.
Prepare a backup plan. Think of all the risks. Will I be OK if my employer lets me go on the spot when I give this notice? What if my other job offer gets rescinded? Has the employer done this to other employees in the past? Look at all the factors, prepare a contingency plan, and make sure you’re comfortable with the potentially negative outcomes. Then, you can give your notice without worry!
If you’re not OK with being let go immediately, however, then I would recommend just waiting till the very last day or two and quitting on the spot. Unless you have a contractual obligation to provide a notice, you’re not required to give one. Simple as that, and you’re protecting your best interests and well-being.
I also recommend that whether the company you work for is good, bad, or somewhere in between, you should always keep your job search, interviews, and job offers under the radar at all times. Sometimes if your employer even catches wind that you’re considering leaving or looking for other jobs, they may feel you’ve checked out and not want you there anymore.
Wrapping It All Up
Why does figuring out the world of work and the optimal moves to take have to be so hard? I don’t know, but I hope this article can help prepare you for deciding how to best leave your current position while protecting what matters most, your well-being.
Have you had any bad experiences giving your notice to leave to your employer? I would love to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments below!
– Mr. Happy Work