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Protect Your Job: Don’t give notice when accepting a new job

In the February 16, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader talks about breaking the “rules.” Good.

Question

There is a good chance that this spring I will score the federal job I’ve wanted for years. I finally have someone pulling for me on the inside and HR is waiting to pull my application as soon as they post the announcement and I apply.

at-your-own-riskIf I get this job — and even with help it’s still a big IF, — it will be my last job. The salary and perks will get me through my last 20 years before retirement, and a few years in, I can even move anywhere I like in the world and work remotely. Sweet.

I’ve done a lot of googling about giving my current employer two weeks’ notice. I despise my job and everything it represents, and sometimes I wonder if they’d even notice I hadn’t come in for days on end. But here’s where it gets complicated and emotional.

A few months ago, I was offered and accepted a position. I had even created an account in their online HR system and chose my benefits. Three days later, the job was rescinded for no more than vague “funding issues.” So, now I’m terrified that if I get an offer, it will vanish after I’ve quit and I’ll be left destitute — a not-so-improbable situation since I lost my job in the Great Recession, was unemployed for two years, and lost my house to foreclosure. It left a lot of emotional damage.

So, finally, my question: Do I really have to give notice? I’m thinking of just saying I’m going on vacation, moving back to D.C., and then calling on my first day and saying I won’t be back. I know that even though I think I’ll never need them as a reference again, it’s a small world and blah blah blah, but honestly I don’t think I even care.

The world has changed a lot and I’d really like to think this won’t come back to bite me. Am I right?

Nick’s Reply

What I love about Ask The Headhunter readers is that you ask the tough, in-your-face questions. The conventional wisdom about quitting without giving notice is etched in stone: Don’t do it! Always give notice!

Bunk. Life and business are full of choices, and the conventional wisdom is always wired to benefit employers and to make life easier for career coaches, who just love simplistic edicts and soft pablum.  So let’s explore deeply the hard choices for your benefit. I won’t let you off the hook — but not for the reason people might think.

You’re asking me for permission to do something that is bad form and bad business practice. I can’t give you that permission — you must decide whether to do it.

You’ve put a new spin on giving notice. Having had one job offer rescinded, you don’t want to risk it again. You want to actually start a new job before you resign the old one — and this hedge against disaster makes giving notice virtually impossible. Let’s distinguish between what’s allowed, what’s bad, and what’s advisable.

Is quitting without notice allowed?

I don’t know of any law that requires you to give your employer more notice than “I’m leaving today.” (You’d have to check with a lawyer if you want to be absolutely certain it will not bite you legally.) So I believe you can quit your job and leave without notice. Bear in mind that in most jurisdictions employment is at will and an employer can fire you on the spot for no reason or any reason. Employers do it frighteningly often.

You’ve already experienced the ultimate termination: A job offer was rescinded, effectively firing you before you started. See Protect yourself from exploding job offers.

The only other consideration here is whether your current employer imposes any sanctions or penalties for what you’re considering doing. I know employers that will withhold severance or other benefits, or attempt to recover educational investments they’ve made in the employee. If you work in sales, there might be a recoverable draw you’d have to pay back. (Readers making job changes between commercial companies should read Gotcha: The Non-compete agreement.) Check your employee policy manual to make sure you’re not missing anything.

If the law doesn’t prohibit it, you can do it, even if somebody else doesn’t like it.

Is it bad form?

Now let’s consider bad form. As you point out, leaving without notice could leave a bad taste in your employer’s mouth — assuming they care that you’re gone. But don’t skip giving notice thoughtlessly; don’t hurt your employer unnecessarily. Lousy references could follow.

If word gets out, your action could tarnish your reputation more widely. You might upset a co-worker who respects you. The HR manager at the company might mention to HR people in other organizations that you left them in the lurch. A bad reputation can grow from leaving without notice.

Will this come back to bite you? It might. Is it worth the risk? If you do indeed spend the rest of your career at the new job you hope to get, it may not really matter.

Is there any chance your old employer might contact your new employer after you’re hired and poison your new well? Scorned employers sometimes do stupid, irresponsible things out of spite. I’m not sure how much I’d worry about this, but be aware of the possibility and factor it into your decision — and take precautions. Since you’d be taking a federal job, I’m not sure how easy it would be to immediately terminate you. (See The 6 Gotchas of Goodbye.)

The warning I’ll give you: Do not disclose to anyone what you’re about to do or where you’re going until you’re already at the new job.

You don’t want your old employer — or anyone else, whether intentionally or not — to nuke your new job or your old job before the deal is sealed. The risk may seem small if you talk, but the consequences could be huge. That makes taking the risk imprudent.

Is it advisable?

This brings us to what’s advisable. An action that might hurt your reputation may be worth the risk and the price — you must make that judgment. It requires balancing the costs and benefits.

In another, related scenario — I call it juggling job offers — I point out that the consequences of a choice that upsets others may very well be worth the benefits. This is from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master Of Job Offers, pp. 15-17, and I think it addresses quitting without giving notice:

“Do I think it’s a nice thing to do? Of course not. It’s a crummy thing to do to a company… You will have to live with your decision and its consequences. It could affect your reputation. But life hands us painful choices sometimes, and we have to deal with them.”

In other words, calculate the adverse consequences of your sudden departure and be ready to pay for them. The new job could be worth it, and the risks may be acceptable. Hey — nobody said this was easy, and I’m saying there is no free ride.

What did you sign up for?

Finally, there’s the matter of contracts and agreements. People don’t realize what a can of worms they might leave behind when they quit. Think carefully. Plan ahead.

Study your company’s policies, because there could be grounds for legal action against you if you violate agreements you’ve made. Re-read the job offer you signed when you joined up — what did you agree to? Consider what you may have to sign in order to get your last paycheck. HR can be sneaky. (See The HR Gantlet: How to leave your job without getting hurt.) You don’t have to violate a law to get into trouble. You may subject yourself to a breach of contract that could cost you dearly.

Eyes open!

The last thing I’ll point out is that leaving a job — no matter how you do it — poses many routine risks. In Parting Company: How to leave your job, I provide a seven-page “Crib Sheet” about many of the gotchas people don’t think about. Leaving your job can exact costs you didn’t consider. Among the challenges covered in Parting Company:

  • What will happen to your stuff? Will you be able to take it with you?
  • Are you sure your vacation time will not be charged against your last paycheck?
  • Will you lose any benefits you are owed?
  • What happens to your pension plan?
  • Can the company take action against you over company property in your possession?
  • Do you know for sure “what’s theirs” and “what’s yours?”

I’m not trying to scare you. The new job you describe sounds great for you. And if you really despise your current job, it may be worth doing what’s bad form for the benefit of your career.

Hedge against HR

You shouldn’t have to risk your job if you want to accept a new one.

Nowadays, rescinded job offers have become frighteningly common — and as far as I’m concerned, it’s HR’s fault. You should consider whether you need a hedge to protect your current job when you get a new job offer. It may be prudent not to give notice when you get a new offer in case that new offer goes south — but be ready to pay the price of your choice.

If HR managers don’t like this advice, they should call on their brethren to stop rescinding job offers, because that’s what gives impetus to this hedge.

In any case, until employers start behaving with more integrity, proceed with eyes wide open. Protect yourself. Use your best judgment.

Did you ever quit without giving notice? How should this reader handle this situation? What other factors should you consider when deciding whether to give notice?

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82 Comments
  1. When you read this article did you think, “Not give two-weeks’ notice? I never even *thought* of that.”

    The idea never occurred to me — which shows you how biased our employment system is setup to brainwash us to favor our employers, even at the expense of ourselves.

    Without giving it a second thought, I’ve given two-weeks’ notice from every job I’ve left. Whether I did the right thing is not the point.

    The point is that I never considered that I had the legal right or personal choice to not give it.

    With due fairness and respect to employers, in the future I will *also* consider my own employment risks and well-being. Even if it requires hedging to protect myself. Goodness knows what employers do these days to protect *themselves*!

    • That is so true. These companies are selfish. And its best to worry about yourself.

    • I agree, completely. I am among those who are so perfectly programmed that I wouldn’t even consider doing anything that may cause detriment to the employer … even if they or others caused me or others detriment in the past. Leaving without giving sufficient notice is a new concept, indeed, at least for some of us.
      But, actually, it may only be a consideration deserved by employers who’s practice it is to offer severance pay to their employees upon dismissal.
      Any employer who reserves the right to terminate without notice, without reason and without offering any kind of compensation can’t expect their employees to behave in a manner notwithstanding of comparable behavior towards them,

      • haha, that’s cool. for some reason

        • That was a comment I was going to post in response to the “pulling a Wells.” I had forgotten to subscribe to this post when I posted the previous comment and I had forgotten to delete the “lol” comment, I had hoped to subscribe just by submitting what I thought would be a blank comment, ooops… No edit/delete function, huh?

  2. Most jobs are at will any more so you don’t need to give notice–most employers don’t. They tell you, you’re done and then escort you from the building so I have no problem not giving notice, especially if it is with a company I never want to work for again.

    I try and give notice and any future employer I like to give notice–after all if you’re willing to walk on your current employer, you’ll likely do it to your new employer. Most employers, for this reason, are willing to allow for two weeks notice. However, I also explain I must have my new job offer in writing.

    • I work for a conservative community bank. One of our departments has a management team that is not well respected by the employees that work there. One of those employees quit one day without notice by standing up at his desk, saying “I am out of here and I might not be back.” When his lunch hour ended and he didn’t return, the department heads started to freak out a little. By the end of the day it was all over the bank. Six years later we still call quitting without notice, “Pulling a Wells.” (Wells was the name of the employee in question.)

  3. I do not comprehend the hypocrisy of the double standard stated above – an employee is expected WITHOUT EXCEPTION to give two weeks notice, yet no one blinks an eye when an employer has someone show up at your office, relieve you of your badge, company phone and credit cards, and escort you off the premises with a “don’t worry, we’ll be sure to send you all your personal stuff later.” Where is the quid pro quo? Employers have been giving pink slips for decades, yet the employees who urgently leave are villified if they do the same.

    Nick, in prior posts you have advised NOT to meet with HR upon termination, to the point of giving subterfuge excuses when they call for the exit interview appointment. I would like to know if an employment contract mandating two weeks notice is even enforceable in an at-will state, particularly if the employer has a history of frequent walk-out terminations on their end.

    Aside from the reputation following you argument, I can’t see it.

  4. I agree with @xatsmann. I believe in giving notice because I don’t want to walk on my current employer or give the impression I would do so to a future employer. However, before notice is given, a written job offer must be in hand–signed, sealed, delivered.

    • I have a situation right now where I was given a verbal offer and welcomed to the company yesterday and told I would receive a written offer in the mail, but expected to give my company I work for now two weeks notice.

      What do I do?

      • @Sarah: Use your judgment, but I’d politely tell the new company that you look forward to accepting their offer as soon as you have it in writing, but that until you have the document, you cannot give notice to your current employer, and that the two weeks will start when you give notice. (What this also means is, you’re technically not accepting the offer until you have it in writing.)

        Could that upset the new employer? It might. But if you give notice and something goes wrong with that offer before you get it in writing, will that upset you?

        Lawyers tell me that even written offers can be rescinded, but having it in writing gives you a better legal position if you’re forced to take action. I’m told that it also helps to send a written acceptance on which you note that in order to accept their offer, you will have to resign your current job. That might seem obvious, but stating that in writing apparently (I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice) puts the new employer on notice that because you’re giving up another job to take the new one, you will suffer a loss if the new offer is for some reason withdrawn. That may give you better legal standing IF you need to take legal action. I’m not trying to scare you — most job offers work out fine. But the consequences of something going wrong are so big that it’s not worth taking chances — do it right to protect yourself.

        If you need legal advice, please talk with a lawyer. I wish you the best.

      • As Nick said, even an unconditional written offer with a specified start date that has been signed and dated by all parties can be rescinded, so long as it says the employment is at-will (unless you work in Montana or a country outside the US, where the employment laws are more reasonable). This happened to me, and I talked to several lawyers. In some states (such as California), a case can potentially be made that the company owes your lost wages from your job that you quit to take the new job, or any other expenses you incurred based on the false promise of future employment (detrimental reliance). The problem is that proving this requires you to convince a judge that the “contract” (which was intentially drafted by the company’s attorneys to convince future employees that it’s legally binding when in reality it’s a fake contract) is in fact a real contract, even though that clearly wasn’t the company’s intention. So it is very hard, although it’s maybe possible to get a settlement if you manage to credibly threaten litigation.

        That said, I would still think that having a written offer would make it more likely that you will get the job. So you definitely will need a written offer. I would suggest explaining your concern to the new company by saying that you’ve read that even written offers sometimes get withdrawn, and that you’d like there to be a sentence in the employment agreement saying that the offer can only be withdrawn for-cause before the start date. If they can give you this, then it is a real contract up until the start date, and they won’t withdraw it unless they’re really stupid. In the likely event that they won’t be willing add this clause, you will have to decide whether you want to risk giving two-weeks notice or not. This is a personal decision, and I can’t answer it for you.

        However, if you don’t give notice, you’ll be burning bridges anyway. Remember that you can still be fired on your first day or first couple of weeks if they happen to not like you for whatever reason. If you did a good job in those first couple of days and they still fired you, and you happen to be a member of a “protected class” where you live, then you might have a strong case even if that’s not the reason you got fired. Otherwise, you’re SOL. So if you don’t want to give advance notice to your employer, you should go ahead and use everything you’ve got to ensure that your new job is actually stable, since you won’t be getting references from that employer in the future anyway. Take all the vacation time you have available starting at your new job’s start date. If you still have the new job at that point, let the old employer know that you’re quitting. Otherwise, you’ll still have the old job.

  5. A couple of thoughts on this piece:

    In regards to not telling people where you’re going until after you’re there, I would suggest not telling until you’ve been at your new position long enough to establish yourself and your reputation. Think about it. You could start a new job, let people at your old employer know, and a former boss who has it out for you could call on your second day there and cause trouble.

    But what effect would that same call have if you’ve already been there for six months and are performing well?

    Now, in terms of just leaving without notice damaging your future opportunities, people have already pointed out how companies do that when they fire people. They also do it when an employee *does* give notice and they immediately escort them out. (In my company, it’s pretty much SOP that when a sales person resigns, he or she is shown the door immediately.)

    If that’s the case for your current employer, I don’t see the problem with quitting with no notice. After all, you could just say, “Well, every time other people have quit, they’ve been shown the door that day. I was just following the normal routine and figured I’d be escorted out anyway.”

    Given that often times you commit to a start date with a new employer, the out-the-door-immediately treatment means you’re technically without income for two weeks or more. What’s wrong with protecting your paycheck?

  6. For the person who asked the original question; the feds will first give you a tentative job offer. Definitely do not give notice at this stage. They will conduct their background check and anything could still fall through. Once you have a firm offer it’s up to you but even inside the government they generally don’t consider you official until the day you start. So much with budgets and approvals can fall through before then especially these days. Your first couple weeks will be slow and waiting around before you have access to do your job. Maybe you can schedule a couple days of leave after your first week and then can go back and give notice then. The downside of not giving notice is they may never take you back. You never know what your new job really will be until you start it. It may not be the answer to everything.

    • Are the Feds in the habit of rescinding offers? I suspect OP is on much more stable ground than with the private sector.

  7. Just thought of a crazy idea. It may not be feasible got some, but for others it just may work…

    Take a vacation week or two when you’re about to start the new job. Once you’re a day on the new job and the ink on your new contract has dried, give a week’s notice at the old place.

    • I’ve done the same… Taken vacation and worked the new job and then gave notice. It also allows you a chance to change your mind if you find out your new job was all lies and glitter. But then I usually saved up a good amount of vacation time.

    • My brother has also done this a couple of times. He actually ended up not liking the new job and went back to the old one. Had he given notice, he would have been out of a job. I recommend doing this as well.

    • I have done that. Twice actually. It gave me time to adjust, get a feel of the place and I did it ONLY when I knew there was absolutely no risk – I would never be in that job again or in that industry. It is a very precarious position and one you should think long and hard about. I know old bosses that would usher you out the minute that 2 week notice hit their desk. That is hell if you had counted on working those two weeks. My current job only pays accrued vacation if you give 2 weeks, but they do not pay vacation you rolled over, so before I would leave them I would take my roll over and decide if it was better to take the new job and bale or risk doing the 2 weeks notice. There is no way I could train anyone in house to do what I do – it is very specialized. It took them 9 months to find me after the last guy left and man did I have loads of back up work to do. I would be leaving as soon as my vacation was used up I believe…no love loss.

  8. Great advice, Nick —

    In today’s world when it appears that there is a better employment offer with another company, candidates need to remember to “trust but verify”. Just launching off into the new offer, because you’re so glad to get rid of the current crappy position you’re in… may come back around to bite you.

    Yet also in today’s world, as much as a company has a right to fire you “at will” for some undisclosed reason — you also have the right to fire them (and you don’t have to disclose why, either!)

    You don’t have to explain why you’re leaving; though you do need to make sure the transition is orderly and not emotionally showy like an adolescent would. You don’t have to “be honorable” and worry about hurting their feelings; would they worry about hurting your feelings if the shoe was on the other foot? (Naw, not likely; it would be more like “don’t let the door hit you on the way out).

    Remember: It’s a business, not a country club. They have problems they can’t solve, you have solutions that can fix them. The agreement is that they will give you money if you give them labor and solutions. It’s a business transaction. And if, for any reason, one side doesn’t feel things are fair or no longer applicable, then there is no longer a basis for doing business between the two parties. It’s nothing personal… it’s a business transaction that has to have a mutual basis for doing business.

    People come to work for an organization, because of the opportunities involved. People leave an organization, because of unsolvable management issues. This is true in the federal job environment as well as the commercial environment.

    You still have to be careful. And an old adage still holds true: Before jumping ship, make sure you have a row boat along side… preferably with one foot inside… before you make the full change over. Otherwise you’ll wind up in the drink.

    Great topic, Nick. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

  9. I echo FrauTech’s advice – get the solid job offer in-hand before you do anything. It’s also not outside the realm of consider Jurassic Carl’s suggestion seriously. If the job with the Feds is the one you’ve wanted (especially given what you’ve been through since the Great Recession) you are probably best to protect yourself financially and emotionally.

    My two cents: in an at-will employment arrangement, you can be fired on a Friday afternoon and given 15 minutes to clean out your desk. If you are willing to accept any potential consequences, I don’t see why firing your employer on a Monday morning is any different.

    Certainly keep you lip zipped and don’t tell anyone where you’ve gone – even after you’ve started. Keep your social media (e.g. LinkedIn) quiet – if anyone is really interested they can find out on their own, just don’t make it easier for them.

    Sounds like you’ve been through a lot of crap and I wish you the best.

  10. I have resigned w/o notice after paychecks bounced & major commercial mort. banking firm in SF was not following terms of emp. contract originally negotiated. After receiving next payck and cashing it at the employer’s bank (for cash, not deposit) to ensure it wouldn’t bounce, I gave written notice effective that day. They went belly up within the year after liquidatintg their assets/services. This occurred 20+ years ago & they were garden variety arrogant bad actors.

  11. Carl: I remember programmers doing this 30 years ago. It’s a good idea. Get in and get started, then resign the old job. Don’t say anything to anyone first. Honor the committment of a contract, but you may not have one in an at-will state.

    OP: Good luck to you, but be careful. You may not last 20 years. Things change. Think about the internet 20 years ago.

  12. At the risk of stating the obvious, every circumstance has it’s own twist, so careful analysis with the help of this blog’s input can be helpful.

  13. @Kevin Kane: Hah – thanks for putting a bow on my point. I really don’t suggest that people NOT give notice when they can. Giving notice is a good thing, it’s friendly and respectful. But friendship and respect are two-way streets. The employer should demonstrate the same. But avoiding catastrophe is objective #1. HR has a lot to answer for today, because I’ve gotten a stunning number of stories and complaints about rescinded job offers in the past year. If HR expects notice, HR must stop rescinding job offers so casually and thoughtlessly.

    Employees should always realize that giving notice is an option. It’s earned by the employer. But as we’ve seen, the old employer and the new employer are yoked. When the latter rescinds an offer, the former is not likely to erase the employee’s resignation – and the employee winds up in limbo. In both cases, it’s HR that needs to belly up to the bar and do the right thing.

    @Hank: “I would like to know if an employment contract mandating two weeks notice is even enforceable in an at-will state”

    Good question. I’m not a lawyer, but my first guess is that if you sign a contract agreeing to give two weeks’ notice, that’s between you and the employer, and you must perform. But of course, “at-will” laws may make that unenforceable. I’ll check with an employment lawyer buddy of mine and report back.

    But this brings up a point that I raise again and again: Employment is a two-way street. If you’re going to sign a job offer (or, more rarely, an employment contract), you should always negotiate. Get fair value for fair value. They want two weeks’ notice? Then get them to write in two weeks’ notice for termination. Or, get a guaranteed severance in writing.

    @dlms: And I agree with you and xatsmann – it’s best to give two weeks’ notice. But this week’s Q&A puts a new spin on that. What if giving two weeks’ notice puts you at serious risk? As we’ve seen in other cases, a written, bona fide job offer can be meaningless – it can be rescinded. So, where does that leave the earnest person who’s given two week’s notice – on the street?

    @Jurassic Carl: “Take a vacation week or two when you’re about to start the new job. Once you’re a day on the new job and the ink on your new contract has dried, give a week’s notice at the old place.”

    Good idea, but be aware that some employers’ employee policy manuals require that employees NOT be employed anywhere else concurrently, and/or that they disclose any other employment. READ THE TERMS OF YOUR HIRE CAREFULLY. If your new employer learns you are still technically employed elsewhere, it could be cause for termination – because you agreed to that when you accepted the offer and the company’s policies “by incorporation.”

    This ain’t as simple as it looks. It’s why I wanted to discuss it.

    @ALL: I think the underlying problem here is that even though we all know (as Christopher C puts it) “It’s a business transaction…”, and that employers fire people without notice, there’s a conspiracy among HR folks. Yes, I think it’s a professional conspiracy – the promotion of a “standard of behavior for employees and job seekers.”

    HR makes it clear that giving notice is necessary and good and the sign of a responsible employee… and that not giving notice is unprofessional, unacceptable, and a sign of bad faith. In other words, not giving notice reveals poor character. “You’ll be judged.” Evidence of this is found in all the career-counseling claptrap on the subject – giving notice is a standard. It’s a foregone conclusion. Only bums, of course, don’t give notice. You don’t want to be a bum, do you? But when employers terminate people on the spot, that’s not bad.

    There’s an underlying problem that we’re constantly talking about here on Ask The Headhunter: HR maintains a double standard. Any behavior toward employees and job seekers is excusable due to business exigencies. But your behavior must always benefit the employer.

  14. Quote
    If I get this job — and even with help it’s still a big IF, — it will be my last job. The salary and perks will get me through my last 20 years before retirement, and a few years in, I can even move anywhere I like in the world and work remotely. Sweet.
    End quote

    Even in government, you need to rethink this way of thinking. You have no visibility on career security beyond 3 years in today’s world. Just as your offer can be revoked , your career path can be torched with stroke of a pen or a new party in power.

    • Especially in government. Lots of nepotism abounds. My boss’s second in command used to be her boss at one point.

      I used to work at an Attorney General’s office. Whenever the new AG comes in, most of the staff hired by the old one left before they were torched.

  15. @marilyn: Thanks for the reminder. “every circumstance has it’s own twist”

    Never take anyone’s advice – including mine – without leavening it with your own good judgment, based on your specific situation.

  16. Is the current epidemic of rescinded job offers all HR’s fault? Or should the trend be also credited to managers who see an opportunity to cut costs?

  17. To the writer of this question: if you really want to be a Fed, get to know the applicable Federal civil service rules. Your situation differs depending on whether the job offered is under the General Schedule (GS) or under Schedule A, B or C, or if the agency is one of those for which Congress has specified alternative work rules.

    Read every piece of official personnel paper given to you before you sign it, and save it. The time will come when you will need it.

    FrauTech is right — if you have never been a Fed before, there will be a background check (and drug test too). The background check is simple for some jobs but may take 6 months or more if this is a job that requires a security clearance. People who are selected for the Foreign Service generally have to wait in limbo for half a year for background and security checks. After various scandals concerning OPM subcontracting its background checks, OPM has moved some of this work back in-house and there have been more delays.

    (The upside of these problems getting in the door for a Federal job is that once you have a clearance, you are extra attractive to any employer that needs people with clearances. There are even special job fairs for such people. Also: if you leave a Federal job, your HR office will issue you a SF-50 form that states your job series and pay grade on the date of departure. Keep this in PDF form because it makes you a “status employee” eligible for being rehired without as much red tape, and exempt from veterans preference.)

    Absolutely don’t give notice before you have passed the clearance or background check. If at that time, you are in a new fiscal year and the agency’s budget situation has changed for the worse, you may be out of luck. Uncertainties around budget also can push agencies into hiring faster.

  18. Nick–Thanks for illustrating the point that most job search advice that begins with ‘always’ is wrong (though I suppose ‘Always wear clothes to an interview’ is pretty solid), but I see it all the time.

    OP–‘it will be my last job’? With 20 years left to work that’s highly unlikely. Median length of service in a job is barely 4 years, and that’s longer than before the recession. The last lesson of the 3 week job search skills class we teach is ‘When you get your job, start looking for your next job’. That my be overstating a bit, but far too often I see people, especially those that have been unemployed for some time, land a job and never want to think about job hunting again. That’s a big mistake. They put their blinders on, their ear plugs in and keep their heads down. They don’t see the next downsizing coming because they don’t want to. It’s wise to have a plan about what organizations you might work for next, what people you should be talking to because odds are you will be looking again.

  19. This excellent post reminded me of a situation I faced at a software company several years ago. After interviewing many enthusiastic and qualified candidates in January, I hired a intern for the summer who was a first-year MBA at UC Berkeley. The role was for a choice spot on my team, was part of a formal, structured internship, and was 1 of only a handful of internships available at the $2B market-leading company. On the intern’s first day, he called to say he’d accepted a similar internship at rival software company. By then, it was too late for me to hire another intern. However, this person was hired 8 years later for a senior role at the company and went on to great success there over a 10 year period. He didn’t suffer any negative repercussions for his earlier behavior.

  20. As akways it depends. The company’s history with other employees who have left (resigned or terminated) would give some indication on how they may handle you.

  21. @Tim Cunningham: “Is the current epidemic of rescinded job offers all HR’s fault? Or should the trend be also credited to managers who see an opportunity to cut costs?”

    The day HR took over responsibility for recruiting and hiring, when it started setting policy, and the day it started spending mucho bucks on “best practices,” rescinded offers became HR’s fault. IMHO.

    @ExFed: Thanks for the insider’s view. I’m not an expert on fed/govt jobs. Is it true that it’s far more difficult to fire someone in a civil service job than a private/commercial job?

  22. I know companies have the advantage, and I work for an at-will employer. But I have a good relationship with my supervisor, to whom I recently gave two years’ notice. That is, we’re putting into place a succession plan. In another instance recently someone who gave two weeks’ notice was asked to leave that day. It’s almost impossible to generalize about giving notice even at this one work place.
    In re at-will employers: My state’s Supreme Court ruled that an at-will employer may not imply that employees’ performance will affect future employment –nix on performance reviews, policy manuals, etc. Of course almost every employer I know does both.

  23. Where I work, no one I know was asked to leave when he/she gave two weeks notice. However, that could change. I had a rageaholic boss before, but at least I knew what was expected of me and the work to be done. My current boss is passive aggressive and has cut me out of every meeting and project in my department, and I cannot get an answer as to why. IF I’m not let go, I will give two weeks notice when I find something new but know I could be expected to leave the day I give notice.

  24. lots of very intelligent comments here, and I won’t repeat what’s already been said that I agree with. I want to add two points, however. Someone noted that leaving without giving notice could be charged against vacation time. If there is any accrued, but unused vacation time, it is – in many states, including NY and CA – considered compensation and by law must be paid out. Secondly, I feel the original writer’s pain of having had an offer rescinded, but the harsh reality is that NO job, regardless of one’s tenure, is “permanent.” Accepting any offer and moving on to a new company is a risk – but so is remaining in one’s current job. The axe can fall at any time.

  25. Hi Nick,

    Thought-provoking article, to say the least. We also live in litigious times, and although no one pointed it out, doesn’t someone who quits his job and then has his offer rescinded have a legal right to sue the company that didn’t make good on its promise to employ him/her?

    Granted that initiating a lawsuit is generally a thing to be avoided, in such circumstances, it might make sense, and damages for lost wages as well as punitive damages could be substantial.

    On the other hand, I don’t know of any successfully prosecuted cases, but this does fall under the general umbrella of “false employment”, doesn’t it? Punishable by both civil and criminal laws, potentially.

    Just a thought…

  26. It’s simply unacceptable to leave without giving notice. Even if your present employer is scum of the earth, why lower yourself to that level?

    I would never hire someone who left without giving notice. If you treated your last employer like a jerk, you’ll probably treat me like a jerk too.

    I don’t know where “two weeks” came from, but you need to follow your employer’s policies. If you work hard before you give your notice, maybe you don’t have two weeks of work to do, in which case your employer has nothing to gain by preventing you from leaving earlier than company policy.

    Sure, it’s a mean, tough world out there. But you should want to walk out the door with your head held high. The original questioner doesn’t sound like someone with much class. With that attitude, there’s no chance of lasting 20 years at that next job.

    • How would you know?
      “Hey , did you give notice? ”
      “Yes of course.” ( laughs inside )
      “Ok, Cool.”

    • I’d love to work for you. All but 1 of many employers in my loooong years of employment treated employees very poorly and did not warrant a two week notice ……that I gave anyway. My last job , that I quit without notice, was due to being chewed out in public the second time for a minor infraction. From the “new” owner that inherited the business but couldn’t see the forest for the trees. He had hired a quasi HR specialist that told him to fire two of the employees that were screwing him[one a kingdom builder and the other a cheating stealing alcoholic] and it took two years for the owner to do that. I performed as a manager/department head yet always found time to help out in other areas of the business[ especially in the “bosses” area that was constantly backlogged]sometimes putting myself behind No, he didn’t deserve two weeks notice.

  27. @Addie: ” My state’s Supreme Court ruled that an at-will employer may not imply that employees’ performance will affect future employment –nix on performance reviews, policy manuals, etc.”

    Please explain?

  28. Most of the comments above are of limited relevance to the federal job environment.

    Nick asked about whether federal employees are more difficult to fire. The answer is: it depends on your status and your situation.

    The OPM website tells us that there are 3 types of federal jobs: the competitive service, the excepted service and the Senior Executive Service.

    Jobs in the competitive service are filled by competitive examining. You apply online via USAJOBS (which is run by Monster.com under contract by the way). Permanent employees are hired with a 1-year probationary period. After that period, yes there are protections against arbitrary firing and rights of appeal.

    Jobs in the excepted service may or may not be advertised on USAJOBS and are easier to fill. Persons in such jobs also have rights of appeal, but after a longer period of continuous service. SES jobs are advertised on USAJOBS and have a special set of shibboleths that the applicant must master in order to get hired.

    For those interested in getting a Federal job, I recommend the many books of Kathryn Troutman. Her books decode the HR-speak on the application forms and provide guidance on how to respond to the KSA and ECQ questions on the forms (these are like college application essays). I have no connection to Ms Troutman, I just find her books helpful.

  29. I just did this a couple of months ago.

    I am a mature female who was laid off two years ago with no notice from the job I liked with a federal contractor. For the next ten months I searched for another position. I got a decent number of interviews but I am certain age discrimination was a factor in getting no offers.

    I finally got a “contract-to-hire” position through a staffing firm. I was told that the position would become permanent after a couple of months but the numerous screw ups in the hire process should have been a warning. I accepted the contract position with no leave and benefits because, frankly, I needed the money and the position would convert to permanent soon. I kept my job search going but several life events the long hours and crappy commute interfered.

    I learned that the organization I worked never intended to hire me permanently and, long story short, treated my like furniture even though I was responsible for an important compliance area. After a few months I asked the staffing firm to at least give me some leave time or paid holidays and was turned down after getting the run-around saying that the employer would not amend the contract. I loathed every day I had to go to that job but I need to work now to keep the roof over my head and eat. Meanwhile the job site did an internal un-posted hire to take over my duties. I was to train her and they gave me a job end date a couple of months away

    I refreshed my resume on several job boards before putting the job search into high gear and two days later got a call from a firm looking to fill a newly-created job in one of my areas of expertise. After a couple of interviews they offered a position and I accepted but I said nothing to either the staffing firm or the current place.

    The new place needed a lot of paperwork for federal contract compliance but finally all was in place and they confirmed my start date in two weeks. That same morning I informed the manager at my workplace that it was my last day- 4 weeks earlier that the date planned. The look on her face was worth it since my replacement was nowhere near trained (her fault). I gave them no reason other than I had asked the staffing firm for leave and holiday and told that the job site declined. The director tried to convince me to stay by offering me a few days off. I expected to be escorted out but they told me to continue training the replacement until the end of the day!

    The staffing firm went nuts and had someone call me to try to see what they could do to keep me on the job. I told them it was too late and some other choice words.

    I have no regrets about leaving without notice. I slept like a baby that night and enjoyed the two week “vacation” before the new job. So far I have not updated my LinkedIn profile and probably won’t until next summer.

    • Good for you, Chris!!! Too many staffing agencies string us along & then will cut you with zero notice but then bitch & moan if you don’t give notice to them/their client. I’m glad you didn’t give notice to those jerks & I hope you are doing fandamntastic at your new job!!!

  30. “I don’t know of any law that requires you to give your employer more notice than “I’m leaving today.”

    Reading the above from a European (EU) perspective, I feel gobsmacked. Is that really in line with the employment law in force in U.S.??

  31. @Nick
    I live in Illinois. A number of years ago someone brought suit against an at-will employer because he had good performance reviews, was dismissed and was not federally protected. That is, he was a white male under 40. The case was brought to my attention some years ago during union organizing activity in my workplace. I didn’t read the decision myself. The ruling didn’t cover displacement for reorganization. My understanding (but, again, I haven’t read the decision) was that the Court found need for balance between the employer’s right to terminate at will and the employee’s performance in good faith, with performance reviews and conformance to written policy constituting an implied verbal contract. In Illinois verbal contracts have as much legal weight as written. [n.b. here if you are offered a job, and the job is rescinded, you have grounds for a suit.]

  32. @Nick
    Here’s a reference to the statute, the Court’s decision was based on the legal exceptions to at-will employment in Illinois documented here: http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2001/01/art1full.pdf

  33. I am an expert with federal hiring and this statement: There is a good chance that this spring I will score the federal job I’ve wanted for years. I finally have someone pulling for me on the inside and HR is waiting to pull my application as soon as they post the announcement and I apply.” Is not a federal job offer at all.

    Don’t quite your job.

    AND… make SURE you get excellent help with your federal resume, so that you can get Best Qualified for the federal job announcement, when it is posted. If your resume is not Best Qualified and you are not Referred, that manager Cannot offer you the position. So, you should work on your federal resume starting now. Since you have people who want to help you, you have to have a GREAT federal resume. And if you get BQ and referred and interviewed. Then, maybe you will get an offer. (STILL DON’T QUIT).

    Wait until the offer is really solid. And if a clearance is needed. Still don’t quit.

    Calm down and go to work. And work on your federal resume. It’s great to have friends inside! It’s better if you are working, you can negotiate better with the feds. Good luck, Author, Federal Resume Guidebook, 6th Ed.

    • How does one create a “Best Qualified” federal resume? Do you have any links with tips on creating those? Thanks!

    • Ditto on the above but additionally, what is being suggested as the basis for being hired is contrary to opm policy unless you are a veteran or have special status. One can not be hand picked for a position held in abeyance to wait for a non-status candidate. Further, the fact that you have had to wait for the position suggests that you might not trump a better or equally qualified disabled vet or military spouse, etc. I am astounded that an hr person would be telling you this – while I have no doubt it happens. I think you should keep your job until you have a start date in writing with all conditions and benefits clearly articulated. Imho.

  34. While it seems many companies today are behaving badly, It should NOT be used as excuse for bad behavior on the employee side.

    It’s a character issue IMO. While I am always cautious in how I proceed and who I confide in, I would choose not to lower myself to “their” level.

    While it’s work relationship, it’s still a relationship and it is OK to break-up when you are in a relationship that is not working out for both of you. The key is NOT to do it with malice or too antagonize the person unnecessarily. I have left positions due to a lack of respect for my boss and how they chose to do business, but I’ve never shown my a$$ when I left, especially since I still work in the same organization and see them from time to time. Always protect yourself and your reputation and leave with your character intact.

    Always try to be the best person/employee you can be each day. No one is perfect, but that does not mean we should stop trying.

    Most of all, don’t TRY to justify bad/poor behavior on your part, based on an action by someone else. I would hope you are better than that.

  35. As far as reputation goes, another data point to consider is the reputation of the employer. If they have a long history of employees quitting without notice… well, people in their industry will start to notice that. As the saying goes, if all your relationships are awful, well, the common denominator is you. Outside observers are certainly smart enough to pick up on that.

    You could conceivably ask around (discreetly!) to see how your company is viewed by others in the industry. If everyone things they’re fab, then quitting without notice might carry a higher risk. If you consistently get feedback like “I hear they’re an awful place to work” the risk to your own reputation may be less.

    I’ve never quit without notice, although there was one gig I wish I had. I was there for all of three months and later learned I’d lasted LONGER than anyone else had in that role (the manger was practically a cartoon villain). And when I called the agency that had placed me to quit, they were utterly unsurprised. Looking back, I really doubt MY reputation would have suffered if I’d just walked out.

  36. Don’t quit your job yet. As a long time government employee (state, and prior to that, local/town/municipal employee, with a few years and various jobs in the private sector), just because someone is pulling you in is not a guarantee of a job today. At the federal gov’t level, there’s still that pesky thing called sequester, and even a so-called sure thing could wind up not being funded and thus no job for you. Or someone higher up in the food chain could nix your contact’s wish to bring you in because he has a son or a nephew or his old college roommate’s son needs a job.

    To the question of how much notice, if any, should you give at your current job, there are two answers:

    Legally, if you’re in an at-will employment state (which are most if not all states in the US), you don’t have to give any notice. At-will employment means the employer can fire you for any reason or no reason so long as the reason is not that you’re a member of a protected class (think race). It also means that you the employee can quit for any reason or no reason.

    If you are under contract, then take a look at the terms of your contract: they probably specify when and how you can quit.

    Morally, ethically, you should give notice to your employer. While there is a standard “two weeks notice” rule that many employers like, some employers want more notice and may expect you to train your replacement, to finish up a project, etc. Still other employers may, in a fit of pique, inform you that since you’re quitting, they no longer want your services and may not let you pack up your personal belonging, and may in fact send security to escort you off the premises. You might have given a 2 week notice, only to find yourself out on your ear and minus the paycheck for those last two weeks.

    Additionally, your new employer could rescind their offer before you begin….and then you have no job at all.

    If you have a good relationship with your boss and colleagues, then take the high road.

    There’s a big double standard: employers rescind job offers, change the terms of employment, change the job, change the salary, do all kinds of unethical things and claim it is just business (expect you not to take it personally) but god forbid that you behave in such a way as to give them a taste of their own medicine (they don’t like it).

    Your reputation is important, too, and once damaged, can be very hard if not impossible to rebuild.

  37. Our little group of lottery players has always said “Of course there will be notice … you’ll notice we aren’t here.”

    It’s either that or a party with a local country cover band playing “Take This Job and Shove It”.

    @Nick
    “If HR managers don’t like this advice, they should call on their brethren to stop rescinding job offers, because that’s what gives impetus to this hedge.”

    You know, some times it’s just the simplest thing. Employers from coast to coast and border to border lobbied, cajoled and bought state legislatures in order to have employment at will (code for breaking the power of the unions, and forcing blue-collar workers out of the middle-class, but that’s a topic for another day).

    Corporations are now surprised that, having been shown no loyalty for nearly 60 years now, employees leave at-will, with no more notice than “Did Joe just leave with his stuff in a box?”

    @Original Questioner:
    “I’m thinking of just saying I’m going on vacation, moving back to D.C., and then calling on my first day and saying I won’t be back.” Awesome!

  38. Nick, I appreciate your wisdom and have learned a lot from you over the years. However, I have a different take on this.

    Regarding the person who wrote this letter: I’m sorry the previous job offer was rescinded. It’s disappointing, yet it happens. But you now have an excellent opportunity you most likely wouldn’t have been open to if things didn’t go south for that job. I don’t blame you for being cautious.

    With that said, unless the previous employer was abusive, it’s always best to have integrity and leave notice.

    You did mention, however, you sometimes wonder if they would notice if you were gone. Is this a position with much responsibility? Will it take your employer time to find and train someone to replace you? If so, even if you are miserable, leaving notice is “doing the right thing.”

    “It’s a small world,” as they say. And people talk. Also, “What goes around comes around.” (There’s a reason mothers say expressions like that! Life experience teach us such things.)

    I agree with Bulldog. I wouldn’t want to hire someone if I thought they didn’t leave proper notice with their last employer.

    (Ha! Listen to me preaching. I once quit a professional job by making a huge scene and ended up cussing in someone’s face. And I’d do it again, minus the cussing, because they deserved it.)

  39. Nick, I love your blog.

    I have a question. I have already received a verbal offer and am expecting the formal offer letter this week. The new company (PRIVATE SECTOR) already knows that I could start “sometime in August” although I didn’t give a specific date yet.

    My current supervisor at my FEDERAL JOB has already approved my use of annual leave from July 25 to Aug 3 and I will be out of state with my family. This was approved more than a month ago, before I’d even started the process of finding a new job (hadn’t even thought of leaving at that time).

    If I give 2 weeks notice tomorrow, the “end date” would come up during my vacation. If I waited a week and gave 2 weeks notice a week from tomorrow, the end date would be 2 days after I get back. It would give 2 weeks, but I would only be there for 3 of those days.

    Would it be best to give 3 weeks notice, during which time I’ll be here for a week and a half of that? Is it bad form to give notice, then take a pre-approved vacation? Or would it be better to just give 1 week notice tomorrow, for a last day right before the vacation?

    • AB: That’s a judgment call for you to make. My guess is your boss would like as much time from you as possible after you return from vacation. If you want to leave on good terms, I’d just call the boss up and tell him/her something unexpected has happened (you got a job offer), and you want to give him/her as much notice as possible under the circumstances. Why not just ask your boss when s/he would prefer that you file the notice? Just say that the new employer expects you to start no later than X date, this was all unexpected for the timing, and you want to do the right thing. Of course, use your judgment – I have no idea what the risk is here. Hope that helps. In any case, congratulations. Just make sure you decide in advance how you’d handle a counter-offer, if one might be made.

  40. Here’s an interesting article from the perspective of a former co-worker of someone that did not give notice.
    http://m.kiplinger.com/article/business/T012-C013-S002-how-much-notice-should-you-give-boss-when-you-quit.html
    Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, September 2016 edition, How Much Notice Should You Give Your Boss When You Quit?
    This is missing several tidbits.
    • What pushed the other person to look for a new job in the first place?
    • What was the other person’s work relationship with their boss and co-workers?
    No two people are going to have the same opinion of the work environment or job satisfaction level.

  41. I worked for a company that was moving its corporate office at the end of the year. I told my boss and others that I was not going to move with the company. I also said I didn’t want to inform some of the higher ups, because I could see them walking me and putting in someone who was going to “be loyal”.

    We go into a big meeting and one of the VP’s starts talking how some people are planning to “not show up” when the big move happens. He won’t look me in the eye the entire time. I raise my hand and ask, “Are you talking about me? I’ve told my boss that I won’t be going with the move…” yada yada yada. He says, “I wasn’t talking about you…” But when the meeting ends, he goes directly to my boss.

    A few weeks later, I get a fantastic job offer and turn in my two weeks. My boss (a great guy) and I talk about what we need to do in the next two weeks to make the transition easy. As a courtesy, I leave my very nice resignation letter with the VP who ranted earlier.

    The next day I get walked (while my boss is out of the office). What he insisted he wasn’t going to do, he did. Flash forward to the big move… 30% of the office staff didn’t show for work after the move! They figured they would get walked as well. [sad trombone]

    • Chris Lion: What goes around…

      I admire that you stood up to be counted. Sometimes, when the chips are down, all we have is our self-respect and integrity.

  42. This is a great article. I think the mutual respect of an employee-employer should exist, but after reading this I think it’s healthy to prepare an exit before giving two weeks notice.

    I’m adjusting my strategy, now. I will prepare my exit for my employer so they have passwords, documentation, etc. before I give notice, so no matter how they choose to react I will still be in the right.

  43. I gave 6 hours notice (10am on a Friday) at one company. Why?
    They had a hard and fast (undocumented) rule that the moment you give 2 weeks notice, they walked you out the door.
    And they also never paid employees for that 2 weeks.
    We saw it happen day in and day out.
    I didn’t want that abusive treatment to happen to me.
    So I gathered up my personal stuff, took it to my car, and sent a very courteously worded 6 hours notice (via email) to my manager, mentioning that I had prepared a full transition document, etc.
    She got around to reading my email 2 hours later.
    She was upset – and walked me out the door.
    Once outside, she asked why I didn’t give 2 weeks notice.
    I just asked her “what would have been different if I *did* give 2 weeks notice?”
    When she (sheepishly) acknowledged that nothing would have been different, I said “And there you go.”
    Instead of feeling abused, I felt empowered.
    I started my new job on the following Monday and never looked back.

  44. There is no right answer to this as the “right thing to do” is context-sensitive. There are a few things I’d like to point out .
    This is about looking out for your own best interests, because no one else will.
    This is not about sticking it to the man, or getting revenge, or anything negative like that. It’s about making a smart business decision.
    There is always risk, whether you stay in your current job or change to a new job, The risk of changing job is more visible because you there are a number of administrative and physical changes , new job, new title, new work location, etc.

    It does feel wrong to me to be juggling multiple on opportunities, and say yes to one to “reserve” it while waiting for another one to reach the job offer stage. You may also delay the 2 weeks notice until you are sure that you have at least one “cat in the bag”. Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut feeling, and the knowledge that none of this businesses will fail or be homeless because you left without 2 weeks notice, or you accepted and offer but then took a different job later that had a better offer.

    Flip that around. If your employer terminated you with no notice, or that new job rescinded the offer after you left your old job. How does that impact you?

    This is something to think about in addition to etiquette and reputation.

    • Ikomrad: All good points. Unfortunately, employers routinely make then rescind job offers, keep good candidates on hold while they continue to pursue better ones (then are surprised when the former take other jobs in the meantime), and lay people off without notice. I agree that this is not about sticking it to the man. It’s about having a responsible yet realistic perspective — this is business.

  45. Great article as I find myself grappling with a similar situation. Previously, I was laid off after almost eight years of excellent performance from one job and terminated from another after almost a year. Although I try to be professional and move forward, I’m extremely leery of employers and the horrible way in which a growing number treat at will employees.

    Presently, I work for a small organization (less than 100 employees) and direct supervisor used to be my intern ages ago even though we are the same age. Anyway, the direct supervisor failed to live up to an informal promise of promotion made to me during the interview process. When I subsequently inquired about it, he declined and trashed me on my annual performance review with a rating lower than my direct reports who I help with their work. The rating is not low enough to be put on a remedial plan but he has made it clear that he was the boss here to save the day and help me with my “issues” that interestingly came about after I asked for a promotion for doing his work during his sabbatical.

    In the interim, I have accepted a better offer with local government (i.e., more $ and higher title) to start shortly after the new year and I’m deciding whether I should give some notice (i.e., a week vs. a couple of days) or just right before I leave on the last day. I recently found out via the employee handbook that they want four weeks for supervisors (which I am). Regarding references, the handbook indicates that HR only verifies position and dates of employment as well as if sufficient notice is given, it is looked favorably upon if one wishes to return.

    I’m pretty much up to speed with all of my projects-there’s only a couple of loose ends should be cleared up before I leave and my direct reports have been there longer than I have and keep up with their tasks. Presumably, my supervisor will have to do anything that I haven’t done (or pass it along) until someone else is hired.

    Even though we are both on holiday vacation, we were asked to check emails and voicemails during this time. So in theory, I could email my resignation as a last resort even though I prefer to call since he lives in another state and won’t be in the office during my last week. My employer definitely escorts terminations off the premises but I haven’t seen them escort out those who quit and these individuals were allowed to work during their notice period. However, given all that has transpired over my year tenure there, I simply don’t trust my direct supervisor or HR and want to work as long as I can due to finances. I just don’t put anything past them. My main dilemma is I don’t want to be seen as unprofessional with the two, new execs who have commended and rewarded me on my work thus far (unbeknownst to my direct supervisor). However, given their levels and salaries, they simply don’t have to put up with petty supervisors as they’re in charge. Just wish there was a way to justify the lack of notice without looking like an unprofessional who lacks character, which is far from the truth. Sorry for the long comment but any advice would be appreciated!

    • Mary: You need to do what you have to, to protect yourself. Do not do anything that might jeopardize your new job. Make sure you have your offer in writing, signed by a govt official who is authorized.

      I agree that an e-mailed resignation is poor form. I’d do it in person or by phone. You might consider tendering your resignation to your boss’s boss — why deal with someone who has such animosity for you?

      That way, you can explain that you’d like to give notice, but your new job makes that very difficult. (You have no obligation to explain that in any detail if you’re asked.) Then suggest that you’d like to do whatever you can to ensure a smooth transition — and let the employer suggest something if he likes. You can discuss, negotiate, agree, decline, whatever you wish.

      There’s a hidden agenda in resigning to a boss other than your own: Your own angry boss will not be able to manufacture a story about how you departed, e.g., you were unprofessional, uncaring, etc. Resigning to someone who doesn’t have it in for you could be cleaner and more honest.

      The thing to be careful about is not doing anything that may justify them withholding any money they owe you. While labor law in most states protects salary/wages they owe you, they might withhold bonuses owed, reimbursements for expenses, etc. Just think that through.

      Make a clean break as far as your belongings and what belongs to the company. Don’t do anything that might appear you’re taking company property with you, and make sure you’ve got anything that belongs to you before you go. Clean break, no loose ends.

      Good for you for taking control and quietly landing a new job. I wish you the best!

  46. Thanks Nick for the well wishes! I called boss and resigned verbally following up with a written letter. I didn’t even tell him about new job only that it was due to personal reasons, including taking care of family matters. I got the offer in writing and accepted in writing so I’m all set to start next week just got to get through the last few days. Interestingly enough, boss seemed too calm and didn’t offer options to keep me on. Oh well, I guess he knew deep down my departure was inevitable. Excited to start a new opportunity this year and grow professionally! Definitely will ask HR about any 2016 bonuses and remaining sick leave as I tried to exhaust every possible leave that I could to run out time on the clock. But I’ll check state regs as well. Cheers!

    • Mary: Nice work! I’m not surprised at your boss’s reaction — you thought it through, covered your bases, didn’t disclose anything that might enable him to hurt you, and you’re moving on. I wish you all the best!

  47. Also I made sure to get personal items before tendering resignation. ;)

  48. Whether or not you give notice depends on your personal situation and is completely up to you. As far as having adefinite job ofer that you received in explicit verbiage goes, if the other party rescinds the offer after you have already left your currnt job you can recover damages on the grounds of promissory estoppel aka bad faith. As for non compete agreements, a mere blanket statement from a handbook will not hold weight in court; you had to have entered into an explicit signed agreement. And even then non competes can be ruled unenforceable by courts on the grounds of unconscionability. Courts generally will not uphold agreementswhich are deemed unreasonable and cause you undue hardship. Again, this is general advice; it really all depends on your individual circumstances. The thing to take away from this is that people do have rights and avenues to recourse; employers cannot just do as they please without consequences. I think it is irresponsible for the author of this article to not bring up the aforementioned points.

  49. I work below the Mason/Dixon Line where at will employment is the norm. Reason, no reason or just because your employer can dispense with your services at any time. My company which is doing quite well, the stock has increased steadily over the past several years and it has the largest market share in its industry. Over the past couple of months people I have worked with (senior people) and some I have not worked with have been “laid off”. No notice, no one saw it coming. The most recent round targeted 35 people. And the company is loaded with work in my division. So if the company has no qualms about letting people go on the spot I feel as an at will employee I have no problem with letting them know that whenever I choose to discontinue the relationship will be my last day.

    • Robert: Companies either don’t realize or don’t care that they set the standard of behavior themselves. I know enough companies that go out of their way to demonstrate respect to employees even in the worst of times that I think there’s no excusing what your company has done. Perhaps they had good reasons to make the cuts, but what does that matter if they did it carelessly — literally without caring?

      So do what you need to do, but keep it to yourself until after the fact. I wish you the best.

  50. A possible option: take a 2 week vacation when you get the new job offer, the first week spend starting your new job. if it works and doesn’t get rescinded, then you have the opportunity to give the old job a one week notice. a one week notice is better than none and it gives you a week to test drive the new job to see if it is what they said it would be. if it doesn’t work, you can always cancel your vacation or use it to focus on more job hunting.

    • @Heather: Your suggestion might seem a bit too clever for some, but I think it’s a reasonable idea. Keep in mind that some employers have a policy that prohibits working for another employer at the same time you’re working for them — check your employee handbook. In any case, changing jobs is always a bit risky: You must do what’s best for you.

  51. I definitely recommend either going on vacation or taking a leave, and starting the new job to see if you like it first before quitting. I lost 3 weeks sick time like that but I was so glad to leave I didn’t even care. Afterwards I was like “Damn! I could have called out sick for 3 weeks and then submitted the resignation letter!!”

    After getting a call back from the previous employer to come back on my first day at the new job, at least twice in my working years, I no longer feel obligated to give 2 weeks notice. I’m the asset. The last job I gave 10 days to, my boss tried to have HR hold on to my vacation days they owed me. Here’s the thing about that: if you’ve earned them, usually having to work at least 15 days of the month to earn a day or whatever, they have to pay you for them. If they’re given to you in one lump sum at the beginning of the year, etc, then they don’t have to pay you for them at the end. Check your manual, I tell people that is the bible, read it back to front when you get it and save each updated copy. Your lawyer might need it.

    As for any government job,as a prior poster said, proceed with caution. If you don’t pass that background check or you don’t clear for any reason, you won’t have that job. That offer is conditional on the clearance. I work in a city education job and have seen plenty of candidates NOT get the job or have been recommended against hiring by internal investigation office. At current job, leaving without a formal resignation letter is enough to have a mark against your name to not rehire.

    I’m currently negotiating a hefty raise (which I well deserve, ha ha!) It has been verbally agreed to when the new budget rolls over (July 1) No sweat here, I haven’t verbalized it but I’m sure my boss knows I will not be showing up for work in September much less helping out over the summer like I usually do if I don’t get it. And anything can happen as you well know.

    I have loyalty to who has loyalty to me. Period.

  52. I worked as an IT Admin for 30 years. I never expected to give or receive notice where I had knowledge of root or admin level passwords. I was always released immediately, had my accounts disabled in front of me, and usually walked out the door. I also insisted they perform a forced system-wide password change for all users and accounts, especially the admin level ones.

    It’s too much of a liability for both parties when dealing with the “keys to the kingdom”

    • It seems to be increasingly common for employers to refuse to allow an employee to work out their notice. I’ve known several people who turned in their 2-week (they thought) notice, only to be escorted out immediately. No-one is trusted.

      • @Crystal: I see that more and more, too. But some companies still expect a notice period. The thing to keep in mind is that everything is negotiable, and you’re still in control.

  53. Thankfully, rescission has never happened to me or anyone I know. But for any poor souls affected by this, were they able to file for and obtain unemployment benefits?

  54. I get that giving 2 weeks notice in most situations is the polite thing to do and I see where, in complicated situations, that is not always the best course….but what about if, as I am, you are only 2 weeks into a new job & find out it is a bad fit? Does it even make sense, in terms of time & training for either the employer or myself, to give 2 weeks more to a job when I’m not even trained?

    • @Rana: If you’re determined to quit so early, I see no reason or benefit to anyone in a notice period. But it’s up to you, of course. I’d cut my losses and move on.

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