In today’s WSJ, Sue Shellenbarger addresses this question: Is it ever okay to quit on the spot? Her article can be found via this link.
For this article, Shellenbarger interviews a handful of HR managers, a few people who walked out and some people who coach millennials and entry level workers. The HR managers naturally point to the inconvenience caused by an employee who quits without sufficient notice.
My clients, who are mid-life career and mid-career, tend to respond differently to the question, “When and how should I quit?” Most of the time, they want to give more than two weeks notice. In his recent book, Disrupted, Dan Lyons gave Hubspot six weeks notice of his departure. He was surprised when they responded, “We’ll just pay you for two weeks and you might as well leave now.”
However, some of the advice in Shellenbarger’s article will be helpful for people at any life or career stage. Read your employee handbook and review the company policies, especially any documents you may have signed when you joined the company. Some companies stipulate that you lose accrued vacation pay if your notice is too short.
Sometimes you’re just in a touch spot. The article describes one executive who was offered a job with a 60% pay increase and a higher level management role. There was just one non-negotiable: he had to start the following Monday. His coach encouraged him to negotiate with his present company, offering to help out on weekends on his own time. Of course, this executive needs to check the rules of his new company, as he may be facing a conflict of interest.
Generally, I’d say you need to consider yourself as a vendor to your company, not a humble employee. You’re bound by an economic relationship, even if you like them, not a personal one. If you don’t have a formal contract, your employee handbook can serve as a guide. Whether the handbook serves as a contract depends on many complex factors so you would have to ask a lawyer in your state to review your status.
If you’re thinking of quitting, review your employee handbook. Your handbook may include provisions for resigning and for terminating your employment. If no provision is made, two weeks seems to be the golden rule at almost any company.
I advise my clients, “If the company claims you’ll be hard to replace and they desperately need your services, offer to sign up as a paid consultant who will work evenings and weekends.” When you do this, don’t be surprised if the company suddenly decides they’ll do just fine without you after all.
Shellenbarger quotes HR managers who claim to be concerned when employees get frustrated. “They should come to us before they quit,” is the rallying cry of HR managers everywhere.
Mid-life career executives have been around long enough to appreciate that HR isn’t in the business of helping them. A well-trained HR staff will be alert to legal claims and take action if they know you’ll probably get a lawyer and a settlement.
Alas, many (perhaps most) HR people will laugh off complaints unless a lawyer appears.
Finally, if your company is engaged in anything that’s illegal, you must leave, and it should be sooner rather than later. Don’t worry about the niceties of notice. When the Justice Department comes after your employer you want to be gone. You may need to consult a lawyer if there’s any way you could be accused of supporting illegal acts. I’m not a lawyer. But arguing that, “The boss told me to do this,” probably won’t help you.
If you’d like to chat about your decision to quit or stay, let’s set up a consultation. Click here for more information.