A two-week notice is considered standard by most employers in the US and many other countries.
However, you’re not legally required to give a two-week notice (or any notice at all) in most states in the US. For example, in Massachusetts, employment is considered “at-will” and can be terminated by either side at any time and for any non-discriminatory reason.
Employers do often ask for a two-week notice (or more) when you resign. They prefer this so they can transition your work to someone else, begin planning for how to find a replacement for the role you were handling, etc.
However, it’s up to you whether you give a two-week notice, a one-week notice, or no notice.
What Happens if You Don’t Give Two-Weeks’ Notice? Risks and Dangers
If you’re considering not giving a two-week notice, there are some risks to be aware of.
There aren’t a ton of serious repercussions, assuming you don’t have something in your contract legally requiring it.
However, it can leave your employer with a bad impression. Word can travel fast within certain industries, so this reputation could spread to other companies as employees leave this company and move around in their careers.
You’ll almost certainly never be hired by this employer again, either. Most employers now keep a record of how/when all past employees resigned.
And finally, you’ll struggle to get a good reference from your past manager if you leave them in a tough spot by resigning without giving a two-week notice.
However, if you’re okay with these downsides to not giving a two-week notice, then go ahead and do what’s best for you.
Giving a One-Week Notice Instead of Two
If you are constrained for time and cannot offer two full weeks, giving a one-week notice is preferable to giving your employer no notice period, and will help your manager plan for a smooth transition after your departure.
While employers prefer that you give a two-week notice when quitting a job, it’s acceptable to give one week instead.
There’s also one more reason you might prefer one week rather than two.
Earlier, we looked at some of the risks of not giving a two-week notice. However, there is one big risk if you do give a two-week notice:
Employers aren’t required to pay you for your two-week notice period if they’d rather “let you go” immediately. So if you told your future employer that you can’t start for two weeks, and then your current employer dismisses you as soon as you give them your notice, you’re stuck without pay for those two weeks. Hardly fair!… And a big risk depending on your financial situation.
I left a job early in my career with only one week of notice because I had observed them dismiss people immediately and not respect notice periods.
I didn’t want to go two full weeks without pay. So I compromised and limited my risk by only providing them with one week of warning.
If you have concerns about this, then giving a one-week notice instead of two can be a good compromise that reduces your risk. And it will certainly be viewed better than leaving without giving any notice.
If you do have to give a shorter notice period and can’t give a full two weeks, just be apologetic and tell your boss that you’re really sorry to be putting them in this position.
Showing empathy will lessen the damage you do to the relationship. No matter how excited you are to leave a job, bad-mouthing or burning bridges at the end won’t benefit you!
Your Future Employer Probably Wants You to Give a Two-Week Notice Also…
If you’re considering not giving a two-week notice to please your future employer by being able to start sooner, that’s a bad idea.
Any good employer will want you to conduct yourself the right way and leave on good terms with your past company. You’re not going to impress them or get on their good side by telling them you left your last company without a notice period.
If anything, it’ll cast doubt on what type of person they’ve hired.
And beware of any employer that pressures you to leave your current job without giving a proper notice period.
This is your decision, and you may have some specific, good reasons for not being able to give a two-week notice. But pressure from your future employer should NOT be one of those reasons.
The Two-Week Notice Double Standard: Not Fair, But Smart to Follow
In terms of my personal opinion on two-week notices, I do not think they’re fair.
Workers are pressured to provide a two-week notice whenever leaving a company, yet employers feel no obligation to respect this notice period.
So the disturbing trend is the fact that more managers are choosing not to respect this notice period, yet still expecting job seekers to provide them with a proper two-week notice.
It’s an obligation for job seekers, and an option for employers. And that’s not fair.
However, in most cases, it’s still your best course of action to give a proper two-week notice, or one week at minimum (I mentioned above the cases where one week is better than two).
Leaving without any notice can damage your reputation, and you never know when you’ll run into someone from a past company later in your career, or when you’ll need a good reference.
Recap: Is 2 Weeks’ Notice Required?
Two weeks’ notice is not required when leaving most jobs. In the US, the typical employment contract is at-will, meaning either party can terminate without giving notice.
However, employers appreciate you giving notice. Giving advance notice of your intent to resign can help the company hand off your work and give you time to say goodbye to your colleagues (and arrange to keep in contact).
As a former recruiter, I recommend giving advanced notice when possible so that you can leave your job on a positive note and maintain relationships in your career.