Where Did the Two Weeks’ Notice Come From?


Is Two Weeks' Notice Still a Valid Rule?

For many decades, the rule of thumb for quitting a job is that you give your employer two weeks' notice. This practice, however, dates back to an earlier era, long before the internet, social media, and the information age. So much has changed when it comes to how people work, apply for jobs and change employers. Does this mean that the two weeks' notice rule no longer applies? The answer really depends on quite a few factors.

It Depends on Your Responsibilities, Circumstances and Contract

The consequences of leaving a job vary a great deal depending on your position and responsibilities. For example, two weeks is more than enough time to replace the average service worker while for a manager supervising dozens of people and overseeing many complex projects, it's probably not sufficient. These are extreme examples but the idea is that you have to consider your particular circumstances when calculating how long it will take to replace you.

There's also the practical question of whether your employment contract contains any reference to giving notice. If you signed a contract promising to give two weeks notice (or even more), leaving before this time could result in legal action. Even without a contract, however, remember that it's always best to leave on good terms. You never know when you might need a reference from an employer or even co-workers. Leaving on short notice is not the best practice for maintaining positive long-term relations.

Of course, you also have to consider your own circumstances. There's a big difference between leaving on a whim and because you have a personal emergency, such as caring for a loved one who is ill. There are some cases in which you simply have to leave on short notice regardless of how inconvenient it might be to your employer. Only you can decide when this is the case. However, you should only do this when absolutely necessary.

Alternatives to Giving Two Weeks Notice

While many people still adhere to the two weeks' notice rule, there are better alternatives. Here are some guidelines to help you leave a job as smoothly and gracefully as possible.

  • Keep the doors of communication open. Giving someone two weeks notice without any prior warning may be acceptable but it's not ideal. If you sense there are problems at work, talk to your manager and see if you can sort things out.
  • If you have another job lined up, ask your manager how much notice you should give. The same is true if you're planning to quit for another reason such as moving or returning to school.
  • When interviewing for new jobs, let your new employer know that you want to give sufficient notice at your current job. While this may be inconvenient, it also shows your future employer that you're responsible and considerate.
  • Make sure your boss is the first to know that you're planning to leave. If you tell co-workers, the rumor mill is sure to pick it up. It's always best to talk to your manager first.
  • Have a plan. There's always the possibility that you'll be terminated immediately after giving notice. You should have a transition plan so that you can adjust if this occurs.
  • Stay on good terms with your manager and co-workers. While it may be tempting to take it easy for your last few weeks on the job, resist this temptation and continue to do your best.

While the two weeks' notice rule is a bit outdated, it's still important to show as much consideration as possible when leaving a job. Keep the above guidelines in mind. Each position is a little different, so use your common sense and consider your own needs as well as those of your employer.

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John OwensComment