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5 Rules for When to Tell Your Employer You are Quitting?

Written on February 24, 2008 – 11:37 pm | by Coryan |

Man ThinkingIf you are considering a career change that involves leaving your current employment, there will come a time when you must tell your employer. That conversation is no less important than any other step in changing your career. Choosing the right time to announce your resignation requires some planning and understanding.

Rule One: If you have a contract that defines how much notice is required, honor that contract. Violating your contract can put more than just your honor at risk. There can be legal and financial consequences of giving less notice than is required by your employment contract. All of the remaining rules assume that you are first abiding by any contractual agreements.

Rule Two: Don’t give notice of leaving your job until you have firm confirmation of what you will be doing next. If you are going to another job, wait until you’ve accepted a written offer. If you are starting your own business or retiring, don’t turn in your resignation until you have begun a clear plan and are ready to act.

Rule Three: Except in certain circumstances, don’t give more than one month’s notice. The problem with resigning too early is that both you and your employer can easily grow anxious about your departure. This anxiety will often interfere with your work and do damage to your relationship. If you believe your employer needs more advanced notice, carefully consider the possible consequences. I have personally made the mistake of giving notice to early only to have my supervisor respond by showing dissatisfaction in my work for the first time. And even thought I thought my employer would use the time to search for my replacement, they did not begin looking until my final week on the job.

Rule Four: Tell your employer before you tell co-workers and other business associates. You don’t want your employer to hear from someone else that you are leaving. Telling others first will put your reputation and relationship at risk. You don’t want to burn bridges with your current employer. Who knows, they may someday be your customer.

Rule Five: Except in extreme circumstances, never give less than two weeks notice. Even if problems at work make you want to leave on the spot, think first about what is best for you. Working just two more weeks shows your commitment to doing thing right. Give your notice, put in a few more days of excellent work, then move on to the next exciting stage in your career. By the way, the two weeks should not include using paid leave unless your employer recommends it and you agree.

When it’s time to move on, give careful thought to how you will make your resignation. Choose a time that is fair to your employer and allows for a friendly departure. Regardless of your plans for today, you never know how important that relationship may be in the future.


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  1. 36 Responses to “5 Rules for When to Tell Your Employer You are Quitting?”

  2. By Ron@TheWisdomJournal on Feb 26, 2008 | Reply

    I agree wholeheartedly with your suggestions. How would you handle it if your employer didn’t want you to finish your two week notice? Should you insist?

  3. By Coryan on Feb 26, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Ron, great question. Before even discussing the matter with my employer, I would first be sure I’d given my written resignation indicating that I was intending to work up until my final day two weeks later. Then the specifics of the employer’s request become important.

    If the employer wants me to leave earlier and use my accrued leave time, I would only agree to do so if this option worked best for me. If I needed the money AND payment for my accrued leave, I would politely decline and share my reason with my employer. Then, if s/he agreed to pay me for the two weeks in addition to all my accrued leave, I would take the offer.

    I think you have to decide what is best for you and negotiate any other request your employer may have…whether it be an earlier or later departure.

  4. By Ron@TheWisdomJournal on Feb 29, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks – one thing I appreciate about my current employer is when we get asked these questions by people we’re interviewing, the CEO always says, “I want you to come to work as soon as possible. I will take you tomorrow, or two weeks from tomorrow. Either way, you will have a job.”

    It really puts candidates at ease.

  5. By Coryan on Feb 29, 2008 | Reply

    Ron – Good point. I think any decent employer is willing to wait for someone to give notice at their current job. I always tell new hires that I want them to give two weeks notice before coming to work for me. I would worry about my decision if they didn’t give proper notice (unless there are exceptional circumstances).

  6. By Mid-life Personal Achievement | Phil on Mar 14, 2008 | Reply

    Nice article. Just found your blog and just this WEEK gave notice :) Your article rings very true. Although, for the first time in my many years of working, and because of various conditions, I ended not staying the two weeks. The ending was amicable, but corporate policy says I would not be re-hireable by them….even though this is a company that has and will hire people they have previously fired! :)

  7. By Coryan on Mar 15, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Phil – I’m glad you found us.

    I understand that sometimes you just can’t give the two weeks notice. But I agree that it is strange that a company would not rehire someone who left on short notice, but would rehire someone they’ve fired.

  8. By Kris on Apr 8, 2008 | Reply

    Hi — I just gave notice to my job that I’ll be leaving at the end of July (trying to be nice and make sure they have plenty of time to find my replacement), but now they are saying they’d rather I leave at the beginning of June, which I simply cannot afford to do. Is it legal for them to make me leave earlier than I had planned? What options do I have? Please advise.

  9. By Coryan on Apr 9, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Kris. First, let me say that I’m no attorney, so this is just my opinion based on my years in business.

    If you have given notice of leaving at the end of July, your employer is well within their rights to ASK you to leave sooner. But you don’t have to comply with their request. On the other hand, if they say you must leave or pressure you into leaving, then they are, in effect, terminating your employment. In that case, you should have the same rights as any other employee being terminated, regardless of your intent to leave after July.

    If it were me, I would sit down with my employer and ask if my employment is being terminated. If the answer is no, then I would simply say that I will be leaving at the end of July as I had indicated. Then go back to work.

    If you feel you are being terminated or pressured to leave, I suggest you speak with an attorney.

    I’m really sorry to hear that this is happening. I hope that your employer does the right thing. This is an example of why I recommended Rule Three: Except in certain circumstances, don’t give more than one month’s notice. This lame duck period can be difficult for both employers and employees.

    Good luck. I hope this is helpful.

  10. By Norma P. on Apr 29, 2008 | Reply

    After working for only three months with the present company, my husband has submitted his two week notice,after accepting another job. His present supervisor after reading the letter wants to meet with him and seems that he wants to convince my husband to stay. My husband does not want to work there anymore and has made a commitment to the new employer. Would it affect him in any way if he ewas to leave a week earlier and not honor the two week notice he submitted?

  11. By Coryan on Apr 30, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Norma,

    If it were me, I would honor the two week notice. If the new employer really wants your husband, he should be willing to wait. Most employers understand the need for giving notice and would expect the same from their own employees.

    Will leaving earlier affect him? That depends on the reference policies of his current employer. The current employer could give a bad reference in the future, but many would not. Again, I would honor the two weeks, not out of concern for the reference, but out of respect for the employer.

    Finally, I am not surprised by the current employers attempt to keep your husband. Many employers do this when losing a good employee. However, it sounds like your husband already has a commitment to another employer. So, he really has two commitments to keep…stay two weeks, then move on.

  12. By Trent on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    By contract, either party must give 30 days notice to terminate for any reason at any time. Because I work overseas, I work nearly a full year to take my annual home leave which is already approved, and the ticket purchased.

    I have now received my offer, and am ready to give notice.

    The question is should I give the 30 days notice, and tell them I will take my leave, and return for another two weeks following leave to help them through the transition?

    Basically, it would look something like this

    May 30 – Resign
    Jun 20 – Begin home leave
    July 8 – Return from home leave
    July 18 – last day

    I would think this is fair, and the company OWES me the home leave, and with my new employer, I am not eligible for home leave for another year.


  13. By Coryan on May 29, 2008 | Reply

    Trent, that’s a tough call. Since you have contractual obligations, of course, you follow those first. But you ask a good question about how to structure this.

    Personally, I’m not nuts about the idea of giving notice, taking leave, and then returning to the job. But that may be best, if you think it will go well with your employer. Another option is to give notice after returning from leave, but that would mean 30 days more, instead of a couple weeks.

    Good luck!

  14. By Brian on Jul 28, 2008 | Reply

    On Thursday I interviewed and accepted a job with a new company. This new company gave me the option to start work asap depending on my current employers decision on finishing my two weeks.

    On Friday I put in my two weeks notice and sat down with my manager and he asked how soon could I leave. I mentioned to him (which I probably shouldn’t have) that the new company said I could start in less than two weeks. My manager then said “well then we’ll make tomorrow (Saturday) your last day.”

    Turns out that after I met with my current manager I called the new boss and we decided on next Thursday to start.

    My Question: Co-workers at the old company are telling me that I have to receive 2 weeks pay for the time they didn’t allow me to finish. I wish I knew this before I put in my two weeks. Is there any way this is legally possible? My exit interiew is tomorrow where I get my final check and I was going to ask about getting paid for the time they didn’t let me finish.



  15. By Coryan on Jul 30, 2008 | Reply

    Hey Brian, sorry I didn’t respond a little sooner. And actually, I’m not sure I would be of much help. Your question seems to need a legal response and I am just not the right guy for that. If you and your past employer came to an agreement about your departure day, you may have no recourse. But I suggest that if you want to pursue this, you should speak with an attorney or H.R. specialist competent in the labor laws in your state.

  16. By Scott & Kim Tiehen on Aug 4, 2008 | Reply

    I am in oiutside sales and have just found a great opportunity and have accepted the position at the new company. Today, I plan to give my 2 to 4 week notice, I know that is is not uncommon in sales that if you are “going to the competition” your previous employer cannot leave you on the payroll due to conflict…thus they let you go immediately. In this case I am going to a competitor and expect this to happen, no problem though, the new employer is ready for immediate hire if I need it. My question to you is my current employer will pressure me to tell them where I am going, is this legal or can I just say “a competitor” instead of disclosing the name of the company? they will eventually find out but just do not want to give them information they do not need.

  17. By Peppermint on Aug 8, 2008 | Reply

    I gave 3 days notice. I could not care less about doing the “right thing”. My pregnant wife was on vacation and I wanted to be with her. Doing the right thing is to be true to yourself, not being a corporate tool your whole life.

    When laying people off, the company I worked for did not give any notice to the employees they terminated. When I gave my 2 weeks notice in the past, I was walked out of the building immediately. People should put themselves before the corporation they work for. You are just numbers on a report to them. They don’t care about you. If you are lucky enough to work for a company that really treats you good, then what I am saying does not really apply to you.

  18. By Coryan on Aug 10, 2008 | Reply

    Scott/Kim, First, thanks for visiting UTurnAhead. I see no reason you have to give your employer the name of the company you are leaving to work for. Saying “a competitor” should be plenty.

    Peppermint, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. There are many who feel as you do that it doesn’t matter how you treat the corporation and the coworkers you have been with when you are leaving. As you see in the article, I take a very different position. First, for selfish reasons…I don’t want a reputation as someone who leaves people or corporations hanging. That reputation may hurt me in the future. Second, I want others to know I respect the work they have to do to fill in after me and find my replacement. I would never treat one company poorly because of bad treatment from an unrelated company. I don’t see how being a respectful employee and person make one a “corporate tool”.

  19. By gio on Aug 25, 2008 | Reply

    I have a situation. I worked 3 years with a company and left giving my two week notice but they asked me to leave because I was going to a competitor. Two weeks prior we got a new manager in which I only worked with him 3 short times. Anyhow about 8 months later I spoke with my buddy which was a manager that tried to get me rehired but h.r. Asked the for a recommendation from the manager that I only worked with for 2 weeks and for whatever reason it was negative one so they didn’t rehire me. I have several managers that I worked with for over a year that would praise my work what should I do or tell the h.r. Dept.

  20. By Coryan on Sep 8, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Gio,

    Sorry about the negative reference the short-time manager gave the HR department. I would suggest that you get written references from the other managers you worked for in the company and share those with HR Director. Also point out that the bad reference came from a manager who doesn’t really know your work and the fact that there is no negative report from that manager in your personnel file (I assuming there is none).

    Simply make your case as you did here.

    I wish you the best!

  21. By JAMES CARLINI on Nov 14, 2008 | Reply


    I suggest you read some of my articles as well as the 100s of comments after them as to why Two-week notices went out with nickel beers.

    Here is the first one with several 100 comments since it was first wtitten in 2005:


    there are others at my blog as well as on the Net.


    As to still getting paid for another two weeks if your employer says they want you out the day you resigned and not two-weeks later, you WILL NOT have any leverage to getting that two-weeks money. You’re gone.

    You will get accrued vacation pay – that is all they are obligated to pay you. You may try to negotiate it, but you will not get it.

    Many comments to that effect after my articles – EMPLOYERS ARE NOT OBLIGATED to pay you that two-weeks. As you stated- if you have a contract, that’s different but as they say – if it’s not in writing, they don’t owe you anything.

    And as to “Keeping good relations” that’s a two-way street and based on 100s of people’s experiences, companies only see YOUR obligation and not anything from their side.

    It is unfortunate, but there has been a paradigm shift in what is considered customary.

    Companies always say it’s for business reasons that they are letting you go and that there should not be any negative feelings. Well, when the shoe is on the other foot, anyone resigning with a one-day notice should not be looked at negatively. It’s business.

  22. By Coryan on Nov 17, 2008 | Reply

    Well J. Carlini, I believe we will just have to agree to disagree on this point.

    I understand that some employers do not respect the employment relationship enough to honor the two weeks notice and may terminate me immediately upon my notice. But I do not believe that my goal when leaving a company is to preemptively trash the relationship before my employer.

    The two weeks notice, in my opinion, is not a nickel beer concept. I have not yet taken the more commonly emerging belief that all employers care nothing about their workers and, therefore, I should care nothing about my employer. This dog-eat-dog mentality, I believe, contributes to ever growing problems in the workplace long before one’s employment has ended.

    I will give you this…if an employer has a clear record of terminating employment immediately when a worker gives notice, then two-weeks is unnecessary. But short of this, I will continue to work with my employer in the same way that I expect them to work with me. Will I sometimes be disappointed? Sure, but I’ll accept that as part of living life in a manner that respects relationships and honors commitments.

    BTW, I did read your article and the many comments that were left and responded to. And, although I respect your opinion, I find it to be a pessimistic view of the employment relationship. I do not subscribe to the idea that employment is simply a means to a paycheck and the relationship be damned. Your position, as best I can tell from your writing, is based primarily on your view that employers just don’t care about the employee. I would suggest that you may have worked for the wrong employers.

  23. By Laura on Jan 3, 2009 | Reply

    Hello -

    Are you required to tell your current employer (from which you’re resigning) who your new employer is going to be?

    In some cases, my current company requires you to sign a non-compete, but I don’t think I signed one. Also, the new firm offers SOME similar services as my current company, but I would not consider them a direct competitor anyway. In general, I think it’s none of my current company’s business where I go next – is this a fair statement?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  24. By Coryan on Jan 10, 2009 | Reply

    Laura, unless you have committed in writing to tell your employer where you are going, then you have no obligation to do so. If you have a reason to not want to share this information, then don’t. I would agree that it really is not your current employer’s business to know who your new employer will be.

    Having said this, just be sure that there is no violation of a non-compete agreement. You may even want to run this by an attorney just to be safe.

  25. By Teresa on Jan 26, 2009 | Reply

    I have given my 2 week notice at my current employer. He is upset with me saying that it is very unprofessional to only give him 2 weeks notice and not 30 days. I am the quality control manager for a small manufacturing company. Did I blow it by not giving 30 days notice. I am suppose to start my new job ASAP.

  26. By Coryan on Jan 28, 2009 | Reply

    Teresa, in my opinion, two weeks is probably an appropriate amount of notice for your employer. It’s not surprising that an employer would want more time, but two weeks should be appropriate. The idea that there is a standard of 30 days notice for positions like yours is, again, in my opinion, just not the case.

    Best wishes for your new job!

  27. By Kailey on Jul 17, 2011 | Reply

    Strange question…I have a previously planned vacation for two weeks before I am set to begin my new job…I feel bad turning in notice then leaving but I’m going out of the country… Yikes!! Is this ok??

  28. By Dori on Jul 26, 2012 | Reply

    Experiencing extreme tension at work. Told there are explosives in a safe in the ladies room and that if I show the safe to anyone it will cost me my job. Also have reason to believe there was a camera in the ladies room-off hand comments made about articles of clothing and bathroom duties being made fun of. A under the table employee disrespectfully talking about sexual things is stopped from talking (saying too much) & is told I am taking it so well because I know he only kidding- the man says no I’m not, you all have cameras and videos of her and the office is recorded, I’m covered, she started it. this was the last day I worked there. I have not gone back-no notice- how can I move on without being slapped by this intrusive/abusive employer? I am a wreck! I have never done anything like this before-I have always moved to another employer with favor and letters of reference. How do I handle this? Police know employer and would not make a report, DA said they would have to investigate the police department but could not guarantee there would not be any retaliation-very nast fight or worse. I am scared and unemployed and a wreck!

  29. By Ljc on Mar 4, 2013 | Reply

    What happens in an employee from the new company tells your boss (they are friends) at present you have applied and received a job offer?

  30. By AlPhi on May 2, 2013 | Reply

    Like most people, the timing of giving notice is a quandary. I am leaving my current employer after 4 successful and mutually beneficial years. I moved to this area from a seriously downtrodden economy and strictly for employment purposes … but now it’s time to ‘go home’. While these are good things, the timing of giving notice is problematic. Let me explain – from 2009 to current, my Accounting Dept (I am the Acctg Mgr) was downsized from 6 to 2. I perform the higher level functions (financials, audits, internal controls among, +others) while the other person does the ‘grunt’ work. When I leave, my boss (the CFO/President) will be forced to take on (or rather ‘take back’) all but a few of my responsibilities – which will be a MAJOR “ouch” for him. I’m considering 4 wks notice … that’s fair, right? (I seriously doubt my boss or the company will say ‘go now’ but anything’s possible….

  31. By Julie on May 15, 2013 | Reply

    After pressure form a new line manager at work and feeling bullied and intimidated by her, I decided to give 4 weeks notice. Two days later I was asked by the same person to hand in my work keys and mobile phone. She told me I could leave that day and I would be paid until the end of the month.
    This might sound great but I Had worked there for 7years and would have liked to work my notice and said my goodbyes to my colleagues and clients I had been working with.
    Was it legal to ask me to leave in that way, I did state that I would rather work my notice but was told to go.

  32. By Steve on May 21, 2013 | Reply

    Hello all,

    I am in the middle of an awkward situation. My current employer has taken me on in a more key role in the company which has not resulted in a significant amount of pay, but has added a lot of responsibility. I have worked for this employer previously, and they took me back after the company I was working for closed down.

    In order to advance in my schooling I must practice under someone who is licensed. If not, I will not receive school credit to be able to graduate. I have opportunities for job interviews from other companies with a properly licensed staff member, as well as more money, who would allow me to advance my schooling. My schooling is extremely important to me. As this is a stepping stone job, not a career one in my eyes.

    How do I present this to my current employer? If I do want to go to the interviews for networking, how can I pitch this to them? They are business owners who are very strict.

    Please advise.

    Thank you,

  33. By Lisa on Aug 5, 2013 | Reply

    Hi, I was wondering if you could tell me if anything can be done
    If I was offered a job, accepted the job and worked my last day at my old job
    and the day I started I was told that the owner said they can’t hire me? Where does that leave me now besides unemployed?

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About Me

Hi, I'm Coryan. I want to welcome you to my blog about making a midlife career change. I started this blog because of my own midlife change, and I want to share my experiences and the lessons I've learned with others. More

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