Quitting Your Job: Dramatic Exit or Inappropriate?

Apologies to Paul Simon, but there must be 50 ways to leave your employer. But quitting on the spot is usually the worst. Granted, everyone who's had a job has probably dreamed how sweet it would be to bid adiós and walk out the door. Of course, 99.9% of us never do. And for many good reasons.

First, quitting without notice shows zero concern about the impact your departure will have on your co-workers. Who do you think would have to clean up the mess you're leaving?

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Second, it shows no respect for their feelings. No matter how alienated you feel, surely you've made at least one friend who would like to wish you well.

Third, it brands you as an unreliable jerk who doesn't understand business etiquette. And good luck to you if your supervisor is ever asked to provide a reference for you later on down the line.

I don't know why the tradition is to give two weeks' notice and not one or three or four, but that's the number. Two weeks seem reasonable. It gives your employer time to react and decide if they want to try to change your mind. It also gives them a start on finding your replacement. And if you deal with customers or vendors, it gives management a chance to explain your impending absence.

I hadn't given the matter all that much thought until I read the June 21, 2016, article in The Wall Street Journal by Sue Shellenbarger about an apparent trend among younger workers who decide on impulse that they've had it, clean out their desk, and decamp without notice.

One of Shellenbarger's theories for this behavior is that television dramas have made the dramatic exit seem normal. There are also those TV ads where scratch-off lottery winners have hired brass bands to announce their resignation to an oblivious boss. In theater, dramatic exits are the norm. In real life, not so smart.

I have another explanation. At one time, employers actually gave workers to be terminated notice their employment would end in two weeks. That gave people time to look for a new job while they were still technically employed.

Often this offer was made with the understanding that the employee could instead choose to take severance pay and leave immediately. In any case, the organization extended the same advance notice as it requested from its employees.

In today's environment that's almost unheard of. When employees are being let go, they are typically summoned under pretext to a room where they are formally fired. As this transpires, their computer access and email are being disabled.

After they leave the termination room, still reeling from the news, they are told to put their belongings in a cardboard box. And then they are perp-walked out the front door.

I understand HR's reasoning. Yet in its desire to protect the company from potentially vengeful employees, HR may have engendered a climate of “what's good for the goose.”

See also: Moving Forward — Without the Promotion

In other words: “If they can fire me at will, then I can fire them, too. If I get a better job, then why should I even bother to let them know?”

Look, the more courteous employers and employees can be to one another when parting, the better. Quitting a job on the spot should be a last resort, just as when an employer terminates an employee on the spot for cause. Something happened that's so egregious your continued presence is impossible.

If you decide to “fire” your employer, make sure you're doing it for the right reason. Then, and only then, is it OK to “hop on the bus, Gus.”



Sander Flaum is a principal at Flaum Navigators. 

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