Give Proper Notice – Even If the Company Doesn’t Deserve It

by Sharlyn Lauby on February 10, 2013

How many times have we heard the phrase “take the high road”? And, I’m very aware that there are plenty of times when taking the high road stinks. Especially when people don’t deserve to be the beneficiary of our gracious behavior. Today’s reader story is one I can empathize with:

I’ve been at my job for almost 5 years. My relationship with my direct supervisor has been challenging. It’s been a game of chess for me; trying to figure out her mood and doing a lot of CYA. She has a pretty bad reputation within the company. She’s been caught in many lies and has continuously tried to sabotage me and my coworkers. Why she is still with the company I’m honestly not sure. I, as well as many of my co-workers, have complained about her. The reason I have survived for this long is because I have some awesome co-workers that make this place easier.

However in the past 3 months, we’ve managed to lose 2 entire teams with no replacements. This has greatly affected the company morale, making it even harder to work with my boss. I have been communicating with another company on a very promising job lead and needless to say, I fantasize on a daily basis about resigning.

I honestly do not want to give my company 2 weeks’ notice. I don’t feel they deserve it. They do absolutely nothing for the employees so why should I do anything considerate for them. In this case, would it be okay to give a 1 weeks’ notice?

I’ll be blunt here. If the company policy is two-weeks, then give the company two-weeks’ notice. I hate reciting old clichés but in this case two wrongs don’t make it right.

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I completely understand that, in your eyes, the company has done you and your co-workers wrong. But if you don’t give proper notice, the people you’re really hurting are the co-workers you’ve said are so terrific. They will still work there even after you’re gone. And they will have to pick up the slack for you if you don’t work out your proper notice.

Now that being said, when you give your two-weeks’ notice, you can let the company know you’re cool with not working a full notice period if they are. Some companies will say, “Just wrap up projects A and B and that’s fine. You don’t need to work the entire time.” But just in case, be prepared to work out the full two-weeks.

Let me also flip this conversation to the employer angle. If your organization is experiencing a lot of “no notice” resignations, you need to find out why. And no company should ask an employee to “not give proper notice”. They wouldn’t want it to happen to them. So they shouldn’t do it to someone else.

Companies also should clearly set expectations when there are jobs that will permit working out their notice. Sales positions are an example. I’ve worked several places that, when a sales person gave notice, that was also their last day. Everyone knew it. It wasn’t handled in a mean-spirited way. And the employee was paid for their notice period. Granted, this doesn’t happen in every organization but where it does happen, the practice was well-known.

Lastly, companies shouldn’t force an employee to stay during a notice period when there’s no work for them to do. It just creates hostility. I’ve seen managers make employees come in for two solid weeks when the employee wrapped up their projects in a few days. It looks vengeful and everyone notices.

Creating a notice period has a business purpose. Turning it into an emotional decision doesn’t do the company or the employee any good.

Image courtesy of Robert Smith

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Anna-Marie February 11, 2013 at 3:46 am

I’m so with you on this. Let’s face it, two weeks is really a drop in the ocean in the great scheme of things.

Paul Hanrahan February 11, 2013 at 5:36 am

Hello,

Unless you are preparted to; 1. Be fired before the resignation period is up and 2. Have one company sue another do not tell your current employer where you are going.

Just say:

My stay at abc company as been a good one. My last day will be xyz.

Non-competes, employment law, reassurances and contracts do not matter. All that matters is who is “networking” with who.

If you think you know who is “networking” with who think again. You don’t.

If you think you understand the intentions of your current employer and your value to them and what they are or are not willing to do to retain you sit down and think again.

Do not be naive.

Be reasonable however stay firm in your refusal to tell your current employer where you are going unless you are absolutely certain you have not offended them by not being “loyal.”

Paul Hanrahan

Jeff February 11, 2013 at 8:23 am

I like your point that effectively “giving notice is helping the people left behind. ”

I recently left a company where the supervisor doesn’t tell anyone aside from his own supervisor. Everyone knows the person is leaving by word of mouth but there are always those folks who are surprised.

I saw this happen before I left and since, and the guy keeps pulling the same routine. They’ve lost one employee a month for the last twelve months and there are no signs of that letting up. For those who will be leaving, what would you recommend? Send out the two weeks notice yourself? Keep quiet? I’ve never seen anything like it- unprofessional and selfish.

Sharlyn Lauby February 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm

@Anna-Marie – Thanks for the comment. I love the “drop in the ocean” analogy. Might have to use that sometime.

@Paul – I agree the business world is smaller than people sometimes realize. It’s important to understand corporate culture – that will offer insight into the best way to respond. Not every business reacts negatively – I know consulting firms that love it when an employee is hired by a client.

@Jeff – Agreed. When an employee gives notice, there should be a discussion about how to inform the company. I’ve seen supervisors ask the employee to keep quiet for a day or so giving the supervisor time to inform senior leadership. But then an announcement is made.

If an employee has questions about how to inform co-workers of their resignation, ask for some guidance. “I’d like to tell so-and-so about my resignation since we’re working on XYZ project together. Is that okay?”

Geoffrey Anderson February 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I am in a role that has lots of loose ends. When it is time to leave, I always tell my new company that I need 3 – 4 weeks to be fair to my current employer (regardless of how bad it is there). I know that 2 weeks is standard, but when a product manager resigns, there are huge ripping holes across the organization that need to be delicately handled.

This usually works well on both sides. I know that I did the best that I could for a transition (6 months overlap with a replacement would be about ideal), and usually the company I am resigning from is happy to work this out.

Of course, there is the corollary to the “give and honor your two weeks”. That is to not torch the bridge in your exit interview. Be professional, courteous, and upbeat. Complaining about your boss, and the culture will just sound like whinging, and any constructive comments you make will get filed in the “ungrateful employee” bucket.
Geoffrey Anderson recently posted..Shelf Life of a Product Manager

Sharlyn Lauby February 14, 2013 at 11:29 am

Hi Geoffrey. Thanks for the comment. Let me toss out a few contrary opinions. First, I think it’s great that you’re being so conscientious. Consider whether the company will ever figure out they need to change their notice policy to 3 weeks if everyone gives more notice than required and no one tells them.

It reminds me of a situation where I invited a colleague to speak at an event. I told her to charge me for her travel expenses. Later she tells me personally, “I wanted to do you a favor so I didn’t send a bill.” Very nice but, unfortunately, it hurts the organization because they don’t realize they’re the beneficiary of someone’s gracious behavior.

Also, I’m a big advocate of conducting exit interviews after a person has left the company. It gives the employee time to separate themselves from their employer’s work environment. Their comments are much more constructive. I believe comments, even constructive ones, are valuable. But it’s all about timing.

Geoffrey Anderson February 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

Sharlyn,
As I said, my role is somewhat unique and when someone like me decides to move on, there can be a lot of ripples in the organization that can be very disruptive. Hence, the offer for three weeks or to be negotiated.

Since I became a salaried employee, none of the companies I worked at had an official “notice period” at least in writing. Of course I have only lived in “at will” states, and the explicit language in the terms are “termination by either party at any time” so anything beyond a “jag off” is pure courtesy on either party.

When I leave an organization, it is for one of two reasons, either the environment is toxic, and I can no longer hold my nose, or the job has become too routine and boring.

What I always do is act professional even when every bone in my body screams to torch the bridge. Last day exit interview, or two weeks later, I doubt it would change how I personally handle it. But two weeks later, I would probably decline to be interviewed already in the “drinking from the firehose” phase of a new job.

Love the site!
Geoffrey Anderson recently posted..Shelf Life of a Product Manager

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