There has been some recent attention given to a new trend where employees, millennial's in particular, are ‘ghosting’ their employers and not giving the customary two weeks’ notice before quitting a job. Employers are understandably upset at the new ‘leave on a whim’ attitude of employees, so a workplace friction is developing between workers who feel encouraged to seek better opportunities by low unemployment rates, and employers who feel cheated when a worker suddenly quits without notice.
If your quitting a job because you feel undervalued and underappreciated, it will be tempting to just walk in and tell your boss "I QUIT" - but is there a need to give an employer two weeks notice? It’s been the custom to formally announce to your employer that you intend to leave your job and give them a written statement of your intention two weeks before you actually leave the job. The idea is that your company gets the chance to properly prepare for your departure (or fight to keep you by making a counter offer) and has time to find a replacement in your role.
It sounds very colloquial and it is. The idea comes from a time when employees received fully paid benefits, pensions, incentives and perks that created a loyalty to a job and for many a lifetime commitment a company. That mutual investment in a career started to erode in the 1980’s as union were busted, guaranteed wages and benefits were taken away, and salaries fell. Slowly workers rights diminished and the corporation was able to dissolve any partnership with its workers on a whim. Profit became the number one priority of corporations and workers were often left out in the cold wondering what went wrong after their years of service.
That makes it feel like a bit of well deserved karma that employees are now turning the tables on the companies they work for. It's the fault of the companies themselves who have completely degraded employee rights by eliminating unions and encouraging legislation which removes an employee’s sense of security in a job, and therefore their loyalty.
In today's hiring environment, most employees are at will meaning that you or your employer can terminate the relationship (job) at any time. It may sound like it is a dual protection, but really it’s a just another way that corporations hold the power and we as employees are fairly helpless against their whims and profit oriented business decisions. Your employer can fire you at any time with or without cause. You could walk in on Monday morning, be called into the office and let go for no reason. The company owes you nothing – no severance, explanation, apology for the years of work you may have provided.
At will employment is the legal reason you have no requirement to provide two weeks notice before quitting - but should you? Officially no. but it’s probably a good idea. Even though an employer cannot legally bad mouth you, they could make off the cuff remarks about your departure or even performance to a prospective employer as a sort of revenge.
Of course this is against the law, and it’s doubtful you would see this kind of behavior from a large company with a full-fledged legal and human resources department. They wouldn’t risk the potential lawsuit, and chances are the HR department wouldn’t know you as an individual well enough to even offer such personalized comments. That doesn't mean the company couldn't mark you as a "non-rehire" and therefore put a black mark on your record when a new employer calls for a reference.
If you work for a small company, things could go a little different. Again, it’s against the law, but Barbara - the one woman ‘HR Department’ for your ten employee local construction company - just might have a stick up her ass and bad mouth you to whoever calls to check your reference. So while you may have the legal right to leave on a whim, you probably should make an effort to give two weeks notice.
If during your job hunt you find that dream job, advise them of an availability date that includes two weeks notice. A company worth working for should respect your desire to leave on good terms - and respect that you are looking to be the type of employee that employers are looking for. If they demand an earlier start date that cuts into you giving notice, think twice about your job move. It may mean that they see workers as easily replaceable pieces.