Quitting your job without notice … is it ever okay?

When quitting a job, giving two weeks’ notice to your current employer is a customary and widely known standard that most people default to (or at least, feel obligated to follow).

It not only gives your current company a reasonable heads up that you’re leaving and therefore the opportunity to begin recruiting for your replacement if necessary, it also allows you to ease out of your current role and move on to your next opportunity in professional way. Yet, circumstances sometimes arise where you may wonder whether you really have to give those two weeks notice.

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Learn when quitting without giving notice is acceptable (hint: only in rare circumstances) and when you’re better off sticking to the standard.

The rules around giving notice when quitting

Although most might think so, the two weeks notice rule doesn’t come from a law  – there are no federal or state laws that require an employee to provide two weeks’ notice to his or her employer before quitting – but instead, it’s more based on professionalism, courtesy and individual company policies.

Some employment contracts may stipulate that you must give two weeks notice or even longer before terminating your employment, with the penalty of losing unused vacation days or other benefits if you don’t comply. So if you’re thinking about leaving your job, it’s smart to dig up the employment contract you signed at your current company to see what rules are in place.

In any case, remember that in most states, most employment contracts are “at-will”, which means you can quit at any time, for any reason. The same goes the other way around though — your employer can fire you at any time, for any reason. In either scenario, giving some sort of notice is indeed just a courtesy, but for you to quit without giving two weeks notice means inviting some potential negative backlash on your career.

The perils of quitting without notice

The primary consequence of not giving notice when you’re quitting is the likelihood that you will very likely burn some bridges or otherwise leave a very negative impression – with the company itself, your boss or manager, your clients (if you have any), and your co-workers who are still at the company.

Even if the circumstances of your quitting weren’t great and things at your current company actually drove you to quit, it’s always smart to stay on good terms with an employer. Life is long, and you may need a reference or run into people from your old company in the future at a business function or other professional situation. Leaving your job with grace and tact can go a long way to maintain your professional reputation.

It’s also important to remember that no matter how much you want to “stick it” to your company, your coworkers are the ones most likely to suffer from you quitting. Your work will likely fall on your colleagues or subordinates until a replacement can be found, meanwhile, any clients may be caught by surprise by the sudden shift. This means that a whole network of people in your industry may be left with bad feelings about you if you quit unexpectedly and those negative feelings can follow you for the rest of your career.

Scenarios in where it actually might be okay to quit without notice

No matter your best intentions, there are still some rare circumstances where a decision to quit without notice might actually make a whole lot of sense. Some examples include:

  • Your manager fires anyone who gives notice. Some managers are unreasonable, and if past performance tells you that your boss will fire you immediately if you give notice, don’t waste your time. Go ahead and secure another position and quit without giving notice.
  • You’re being emotionally abused. If your manager or coworkers terrorize you at work or your mental health is in jeopardy the more time you spend at your current workplace, your professional relationships have likely already been ruptured beyond repair and staying for another two weeks is more damaging than beneficial. In this case, quitting without notice may be best for your own sanity, especially if the emotionally abuse might worsen after you’ve given notice.
  • You’re asked to do something unethical. If you’re asked to do something unethical, your own professional reputation is at stake. Attempt to resolve the problem first. If that goes nowhere, quitting without notice may be your only choice.
  • You feel unsafe. No job is worth your physical or mental safety. If you don’t feel safe at work, quit immediately. Any negative repercussions are worth your continued health and safety.

Unless you find yourself in one of these rare circumstances, giving notice is the most professional and respectful way to leave your job. Spending an extra two weeks in an uncomfortable position may be worth preserving your professional reputation.

This article first appeared on Kununu.

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