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The two-week notice has become a standard for most corporate and retail jobs.  Though not a requirement, it is generally preferred as a way to give notice to your employer and allow for a transitionary period.  Giving your two-week notice can be a nerve-wracking situation and one that is likely to cause a few questions.

That is why we are addressing the questions surrounding the two-week notice in our definitive guide to the two-week notice.  We will go over the history, mechanics, and transition that takes place during those two-weeks.  In addition, we’ll provide templates that can be used in-person or via email to give your manager your two-week notice.

Is the Two-Week Notice Required?

This is, perhaps, the most common question asked by employees.  However, the two-week notice is not a requirement, nor does it have to be provided.  As most employees are employed at-will, meaning they can be fired or let-go from the company for any non-illegal reason, so too can the employee decide to terminate their working relationship with their employer at any time and for any reason.

However, if you have an employment contract or are part of a union, then there may be certain rules in place which dictate the amount of time that needs to be provided before resigning or terminating a working relationship.  These rules vary from contact-to-contract and union-to-union.  If you happen to have either an employment contract or are part of a union, then read up on the contract or union handbook for additional information.

You should be aware, that some employers may not accept your resignation or termination of employment.  This can occur for a variety of reasons.  There is generally no way to know how your manager will react to your resignation news.  Therefore, you should prepare your items and any personal belonging before relaying the news.

Why Give Two-Week Notice?

Career success is highly dependent on your ability to create relationships and to network with your internal and external colleagues.  Although a job may be a means to an end, there are nuanced relationships which can affect your career trajectory.  As these relationships can be useful in the future, it is nearly universally recommended to provide an adequate amount of time before terminating a working relationship.

In addition to keeping close ties and a warm relationship with colleagues, the two-week notice helps to maintain cordiality between coworkers.  This cordiality can be useful if a reference or recommendation is needed.  Breaking ties abruptly and leaving your department with a sudden vacancy can cause levels of resentment and frustration and can alienate even the closest of colleagues.

Lastly, most employers understand the need to provide a two-week notice to a former employer.  With that expectation, most job start dates are pushed out to provide adequate time to wrap-up at the previous employer.  Foregoing the two-week notice may be noticed by a new employer and may not reflect well.

How to “Put In” Your Two-Week Notice

Putting in your two-week notice is a nerve-wracking situation.  Most people feel nervous, uncomfortable, and worried about the steps that go into providing your notice.  These feelings are incredibly normal, even for people who absolutely despise their role or company where they are employed.

Providing a two-week notice is generally difficult as you are placing your manager and colleagues in a difficult situation and predicament.  They will need to plan for your transition and make do without your support until they have found a suitable replacement.  There is a lot that goes into both having an employee resign and hiring a new one.

Speak to Your Manager First

Above all else, you must speak with your manager and break the news to them first.  Although this will be a difficult conversation, it is a crucial one and one that should be done face-to-face.  Your manager may have an idea that the conversation is coming, but you will want to be the one to initiate it.

Ideally, you should look to find some private time to discuss your resignation.  Typically, this can be done during a weekly one-on-one.  However, if you do not have any upcoming or recent one-on-one’s, feel free to place time on your managers schedule to discuss.

If you do have to place time on your managers calendar, you should look to book a quick 30-minute meeting.  You should also label the meeting something innocuous, such-as, “quick discussion” or “quick meeting”.  Again, your manager may have a feeling that you are going to provide your notice, but you will want to break the news in-person.

When breaking the news to your manager, it is up to you and your discretion how much information you would like to disclose.  This is highly dependent on your relationship with your manager and how comfortable you are in letting them know which company you will begin working for.  You should also speak with them regarding your estimated last day with the company.

After discussing and providing your two-week notice to your manager, you will want to let your close colleagues and work-friends know of your decision.  Word of your resignation will begin to spread naturally from there.  Many managers will likely hold a quick team meeting to provide the information to anyone who may not have heard and discuss next steps for the team.

Provide Written Documentation of Your Notice

While not a requirement at every company, many do prefer or require that you submit a written letter of resignation to your manager.  This is done to ensure that both the employer and the employee are aware of the termination in employment and that the decision was made by the employee.

This is also done as a form of protection by the employer.  By initiating the termination in employment, the employee forgoes certain benefits and legal protections, such-as unemployment benefits, severance, and health care coverage.  If you are concerned about any of these benefits, you should speak with an attorney or your human resources department.

When composing the letter of resignation, you will want to keep it short, direct, and to the point.  Don’t provide additional or unnecessary information.  You will want to be polite and formal in the letter.  Lastly, remain professional throughout the body of the email, regardless of personal feelings.

“To whom it may concern,

I, [Your Full Name] am writing this email on [Today’s Full Date], providing my notice of employment with [Company Name].   While I appreciate the opportunities afforded to me throughout my employment here, my last day of employment will be on [Date of Last Day].

Thank you,

[Your Full Name]”

Keep it Professional

While there are a varying number of reasons why you may be terminating your employment with your current employer, you will still want to remain cordial and professional throughout the resignation process.  Don’t speak ill of the company, your manager, or your colleagues.  You should continue to come into the office and complete your assignments and any tasks on your plate.

Although the time between providing your notice and the last day of employment may feel awkward, you should try to ignore those feelings.  Remain committed to your core duties and responsibilities and try to make yourself as available and useful as you can.  This will be appreciated by your manager and your team and will help to leave a good impression on them.

Prepare a Transition Plan

While remaining committed to your duties and responsibilities, you will want to begin discussing your transition plans with your manager.  This will likely include a comprehensive list of your roles and responsibilities and what daily tasks you handle.  Providing a comprehensive list to your manager will help them to determine who can handle those duties and tasks after you have left the company.

Your transition plan will likely include training sessions and knowledge transfers.  You will likely be asked to provide or train colleagues, coworkers, other members on your team on the responsibilities you have.  You will also likely be asked to provide written documentation of the tasks you handle.  This material will be used by your manager and team to ensure all work is handled appropriately and completely once you have left the company.

Say Your Goodbyes

As your length of employment comes to an end, you will likely feel a mix of emotions and feelings.  You will certainly miss some of the better aspects of the job, while feeling relief on leaving other aspects behind.  These are normal feelings.  As you begin to wind down your tenure, you should make plans with your colleagues and coworkers to keep in touch.

Connecting over social media accounts and ensuring you have their most up-to-date contact information can also be done.  You should also exchange email addresses and make it as easy as possible to remain in contact or in touch if needed.

Lastly, you should begin to prepare a farewell email.  Although not done at every company, many employees find it polite to send one last email to work colleagues thanking them for the support and opportunities over the years.  This email is a nice way to depart from a company and a sweet form of saying goodbye to colleagues.

Conduct an Exit Interview

Although exit interviews are not done at every company, they are becoming more and more popular.  Exit interviews are typically conducted by a member of the human resources team.  They will set some time on your schedule to discuss your time with the company and why you are choosing to resign from your position.

While the purpose of an exit interview is to get employee feedback in an honest, non-threatening manner, they should be conducted carefully.  While there may not be any threat of direct repercussions, whether via termination or reduced working opportunities, there is still a chance that any negative comments made may end up reaching an unintended audience.

Therefore, we recommend approaching exit interviews carefully.  Always act in a professional, mature manner.  Don’t make any statements that you wouldn’t want to be overheard or would be embarrassed if it reached the wrong audience.  You also shouldn’t use the exit interview as a time to vent your frustrations.  Speak professionally and cordially and complete your tenure with grace.

The Do’s and Don’ts of the Two-Week Notice

Do

  • Talk to your manager and give them your two-week notice first and before telling anyone else
  • Discuss next steps and a plan of transition
  • Train appropriate colleagues on your workload, projects, and current tasks
  • Create documents and one-sheeters to help your team once you leave
  • Say your goodbyes and send a farewell email

Don’t

  • Tell everyone the news before speaking with your manager
  • Badmouth or complain to your colleagues about the company
  • Slack off or stop showing to work

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