How Much Notice Should You Give When Quitting a Job?

Michael Scott from The Office was never scared of quitting his job, but his methods were questionable

Michael Scott from The Office was never scared of quitting his job, but his methods were questionable | NBC

All good things come to an end, as do all awful things. If that good or awful thing is a job or career phase, it typically means planning an exit strategy, bowing out gracefully, and telling your manager you’re quitting. Quitting a job isn’t always a bad thing. Sure, you have your situations in which you’re ready to burn the place to the ground. But it may mean you’re ready for bigger and better things. Or at least just a raise and a promotion at another firm.

People quit their jobs all the time, and they do it in any number of ways. Some people storm out, stealing or breaking things along the way. Others make it known well in advance that they’re planning to quit, retire, or otherwise move on. Some seemingly fade away — they stop showing up, and their colleagues forget all about them. There is a right way and wrong way, traditionally speaking, to go about quitting a job. How you do it, though, is ultimately dependent upon you and your circumstances.

But what if you’re just a prototypical employee who’s ready to move on, or has accepted a job somewhere else? You’re not angry or spiteful, for example, and just want to make the quitting process as smooth as possible?

You’re probably familiar with the term “two week’s notice.” That’s a good place to start.

A two-week notice?

Colleagues shake hands

Colleagues shake hands | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Let’s start with the general rule of thumb: giving your employer two week’s notice. The idea here is that you’re doing your employer a professional courtesy by cluing them in. They’re going to have to replace you, in most circumstances, and by giving them a buffer to work with, that transition can be easier. It’s the same logic if you’re being fired or laid off — though that often doesn’t come with the courtesy of notifying you before it happens.

That’s the gist of the “two-week” rule. Though you’re not legally bound to or obligated to follow it in most cases.

What’s the proper etiquette, though? Who better to ask than the folks at the Emily Post Institute, the keepers of all things etiquette related?

Peggy Post, of the Post family and Post Institute, wrote up a five-step plan for quitting in Good Housekeeping. The basic rundown is to tell your immediate supervisor, keep working hard, take care of your responsibilities, and don’t burn bridges. Essentially, you’ll just want to handle it like an adult.

Remember, though: You can leave anytime you want, and never come back. So, if you simply can’t stop yourself, storm out in a blaze of glory. If that’s what you feel you need to do. But be aware that there are consequences.

Consider your overall strategy

A job-seeker (top) hands his resume to a recruiter

A job-seeker (top) hands his resume to a recruiter | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Professional courtesies aside, you’ll really need to take stock of your individual situation to know how and when you announce your resignation. While you might hate your boss or employer and spitefully want to walk out when it would hurt them the most, they can do the same. Your employer can tell you to kick rocks the second you give them your two week’s notice, for example.

That might put you in a bad spot, particularly if you were planning on having another couple weeks’ worth of pay coming in. So, there are contextual details that apply. If you have a decent read on how things will play out, then do what you can to be courteous and professional. If you know it’ll backfire? Employ a different strategy.

Basically, what you want to do is ensure that you’re not doing any damage to your long-term career goals or strategy. This is why you want to be courteous — leaving on a bad note might cost you some references. If a potential employer calls the place you left, while breaking a printer? That’s going to be a black mark. You want to avoid these types of grudges and stop short of all out bridge-burning.

To sum it all up, consider your individual situation. In most cases, giving your boss a heads up two weeks out is appropriate. People expect it, and it’ll save you from ruffling too many feathers.

Follow Sam on Facebook and Twitter @SliceOfGinger

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