Is Giving Two Weeks Notice Really Necessary?

In today’s job market, it has become second nature to question old corporate customs and traditions. One such formality is the standard two weeks’ notice. Sure, it’s kind to give your boss a heads-up before you leave, but is it really necessary? Or is this just another corporate tradition that will soon go the way of the dodo?


The first thing people in the workforce should understand is that most employees operate under an “at-will” contract. If you read the fine print in those papers you sign when you start a job, they usually state that either you or your employer has the right to terminate your employment at any time, without notice. This essentially gives your employer the right to fire you for any reason, but it also gives you the right to quit without giving notice. Nothing in this contract says that giving two weeks’ notice is required. Your employer may say it’s “company policy”, but in terms of contractual law, you are not legally required to give advance notice before leaving.

So you might be thinking, “cool, so I don’t need to give notice before leaving a job, right?” Wrong! Giving two weeks’ notice isn’t just a nice thing to do. There’s a reason that the two weeks’ notice exists. Your employer needs time to find a replacement, and not giving your employer that time can put them in a tough spot. You might not think it affects you since you won’t be working there anymore, but as the old saying goes:

“What goes around comes around.”

And no, we aren’t talking about invisible forces or energies that bring balance to the universe. You will find out very quickly that leaving a company on bad terms will come back to haunt you as you begin looking for another job at some point in the future.

Your Track Record

One thing that hasn’t changed, and that we don’t foresee changing, is prospective employers wanting to know about your work history. It’s like when you look at seller ratings before buying something online. Bad reviews are an instant deal-breaker in most cases. Well, it works the same way in the job market. Until you land another job, you are really at the mercy of your previous employers having good things to say about you. If your last employer says you left devastation in your wake, how do you think a prospective employer would react?

There are also some less obvious ways that leaving without notice can bite you later on. We often think of our bosses as being stuck in their positions at the same company for all of time. Obviously this is ridiculous; what prevents them from changing jobs? Imagine how awkward it would be if you left a company on bad terms, and years later, you apply to another company, only to find out your old boss is now working at that company. To make it worse, what if they are the one interviewing you for the new position? This kind of cringe-worthy stuff actually happens.

Leaving on Bad Terms Can Haunt You

Perhaps the most insidious way that you can be haunted by leaving on bad terms is through company mergers. Say your old employer is acquired by a larger company without you even realizing it. Your employee file from the old company is now an existing record for the new one. That big company may have a very attractive position that you’re a good candidate for, but you’re out of luck since you have a bad record with them.

It’s also not uncommon to want to return to a company you’ve worked for in the past. If you left on good terms, having worked for that company years prior puts you at a huge advantage over other candidates for open positions. Your experience at that same company lets them know right away that you know how they operate, and you have what it takes. There’s no point in throwing that opportunity away.

Is it Ever OK to Leave Without Notice?

Life happens, and there are some instances where leaving without notice is necessary. In cases where you find yourself immediately unable to fulfill the requirements of the position, you should talk to your boss and make sure they understand why you are leaving. If your employer knows that you would have given two weeks’ notice in a perfect world, that alone can go a long way. Yes, they will have to scramble to find someone to fill your position, but you will still have a positive relationship with that employer, which will serve you well when looking for another job.

Putting it All Together

The job market is changing, but one thing that doesn’t seem to be going away is the importance of a good track record. Prospective employers are going to contact your references and check out your work history before hiring you. By making an employer scramble at the last minute, leaving a company without notice can hurt your chances of finding work at other companies. Giving standard notice, when possible, is just the right thing to do. Time and time again, the hiring process proves that nothing good ever comes of burning bridges.

If you have read this to the end and still have questions or need advice, please give us a call at 713-357-9565. We want to give unbiased answers, whether you choose to use our services or not.

Happy Hunting!