When You Can’t Give Two Weeks’ Notice

There are numerous reasons for quitting a job, but very few reasons for not giving two weeks’ notice.

While not always mandated by your contract, but appropriate notice is a common courtesy and can go a long way to staying on good terms with former employers.

You don’t want to burn any bridges with your boss or co-workers by dropping everything and leaving in the middle of an intense deadline. These days, professional contacts and references are more important than ever and alienating them can only come back to haunt you.


Why the Short Notice?

Of course, the two weeks’ notice rule doesn’t always make sense and may even be impossible to honor. These circumstances might include:

  • An abusive boss
  • A toxic workplace
  • An ailing family member or a personal emergency
  • A new job that requires immediate geographic relocation

In these cases (with the exception of the abusive boss) an employer might be more willing to cut you some slack for leaving early.  And even if they don’t, you have a more credible explanation for lukewarm or non-existent references from these places.

How to Smooth Things Over

If you do find yourself in a situation where two weeks’ notice is not possible, there are a couple of things you can do to soften the blow.

  1. Be apologetic. If you have a legitimate reason for leaving without notice, most reasonable employers and co-workers will forgive you. But this still doesn’t make it any easier on them once you’ve gone. Even if you feel justified in your reasons for a quick exit, acting as if you’re entitled to it will quickly cause any goodwill to evaporate.
  2. Be as helpful as possible while you’re still there by offering to work more hours or do extra work. If possible, you can even make yourself available via email or phone after you’ve gone.
  3. Be grateful to those who’ve made your time at the company worthwhile. Send an email stating how much you’ll miss everyone and how you’ve appreciated your time there. After you’ve gone, send a quick note to colleagues describing how you’re getting on. Try to stay in touch by connecting through LinkedIn or Facebook.

One a final note of caution: Some companies have policies that you lose your vacation compensation if you leave without notice. Check with human resources about this and any other company policies. Sometimes companies will make exceptions.

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Nicole Cavazos writes about the job market for ZipRecruiter.

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