Why two weeks notice matters & how to write your resignation letter

Back in the day, little doubt existed that employees leaving a company would provide two weeks of notice before departing. Such a heads-up was simply standard practice. However, just as “dry clean only” clothes have given way to more casual attire at many workplaces, some people view two weeks’ notice as old-fashioned rather than necessary.

Instead of thinking of it as a relic on par with the fax machine or the three-martini lunch, anyone quitting a job should consider giving a two-week two-week notice letter. Let’s explore why.

Understanding 2-week notice

Two weeks’ notice is a formal declaration of an employee’s intention to terminate an employment relationship. Typically, it is written out (more on composition later), presented face-to-face to one’s manager, and given to a designated human resources representative. Nowadays, departing employees sometimes send a resignation email. In either case, the letter of resignation contains both the date submitted and the projected last day of work (the date in 14 days).

Some people mistakenly believe you must provide two weeks’ notice before leaving. In reality, no federal or state law mandates it.

Most modern work arrangements are labeled “at-will.” Such a set-up gives both the employer and the employee flexibility regarding continuing or discontinuing the work relationship. Employees who wish to leave can go at any time without a problem. Similarly, companies can get rid of employees with or without notice or reason (except for illegal reasons, such as based on sexual orientation).

However, employees who are not at-will must abide by the terms of their employment contract. Contracts frequently contain specifics on giving notice before quitting and should be read carefully. Failure to follow the terms is a breach of contract that could result in legal repercussions. The document also may state potential consequences of not giving notice, such as forfeiting benefits like unused vacation time.

Why Giving Two Weeks’ Notice is Beneficial

The case for two weeks’ notice

Why bother if the law prohibits you from providing a notice period? Three excellent reasons exist:

1. Professional courtesy

It gives your employer, colleagues, and clients time to adjust and make a smooth transition. The company can begin to figure out who will take over your duties both in the short term and beyond while you are still there to provide information, introductions, and training.

2. Good terms

Most people want to leave on a positive note. By allowing enough time for a transition plan, others won’t feel left in the lurch. It is in one’s best interest not to burn bridges, as you may want to tap your manager or co-workers as references down the line. Especially if you work in a small or close-knit industry, news that affects your reputation can travel fast.

3. Rehire status

Some organizations maintain a company policy (typically stated in the employee handbook) that a former employee cannot get rehired if he failed to provide two weeks’ notice when he initially quit. This policy can apply not only to the workplace or job left but to getting a position at any of the organization’s branches or in any capacity. While you currently may have no plans to return, it can pay to keep future options open.

Forgoing two weeks’ notice

Despite these benefits, some workers still do not provide notice. Common reasons for refraining include:

  • Lack of awareness

Some employees, especially younger ones, do not know about the practice since it is not as standard nowadays.

  • Anger

Employees with ill-will toward their employer may wish to refrain from extending the courtesy. Or, they see leaving without notice as an excellent way to “get back” for unfair treatment.

  • Excitement

When they get a new job, some individuals want to onboard as soon as possible. They do not want to wait two weeks.

  • Pressure

A new employer may want the person to start immediately and encourage quitting rather than giving notice.

  • Embarrassment

Sticking around for another two weeks after saying you are leaving feels a bit weird to some workers, and they’d rather not experience that discomfort.

Sometimes, workers have good reasons to head out the door without a two-week transition period. Only some can fault an employee who cannot give proper notice due to a family emergency or a sudden health issue. Many times, though, the organization plays a part in the lack of notice. A current employer should not be surprised when an employee bolts after being asked to do something unethical. Likewise, immediate departure (and perhaps contacting a lawyer) can be the best route for employees experiencing harassment, bullying, or unsafe working conditions. And places where departing employees fear retribution during the two weeks leading up to their final day have little incentive to stay around.

An interesting case exists in which forgoing two weeks of notice might be in the best interest of both sides. When a new hire accepts a job offer but quickly discovers during onboarding or initial days of employment that the fit is not right, severing ties can make sense. Misconceptions about the job’s responsibilities or a significant skills gap exist. If, after a thorough conversation, problems remain, not waiting two weeks to part ways allows the person to get on with a new job search and the employer to stop wasting time and money on the wrong candidate.

‌Putting a formal resignation into writing

A document stating the basics of your departure gives all involved a common point of reference. The paper trail leaves no doubt regarding when you submitted your notice and when your last day of work will be.

The Internet contains a variety of two-week notice templates. Find one that suits your needs. Some letter templates are very bare-bones. Others help you to express gratitude or offer a more detailed explanation about your departure. In general, aim to use civil, professional, and factual language. Favor brevity and positivity. This letter is not the place to present a list of grievances.

Here are a few samples:

  • Sample #1

(today’s date)

Dear (manager’s name),

This letter is to inform the company that I am resigning from my (job title) role at (company’s name). I am providing two weeks’ notice, and my last day will be (date two weeks from today’s date).

Sincerely,

(your name)

(contact information)

  • Sample #2

Re: Resignation

CC: Human Resources

(today’s date)

Dear (manager’s name),

This letter serves as official notice that I am resigning from (organization’s name). My last day with the company will be (date two weeks from today’s date). During these final two weeks, I am happy to assist with the transition however you see fit. I have enjoyed working with you and wish the company continued success.

Sincerely,

(your name)

(contact information)

  • Sample #3

(your name)

(physical address)

(your email address)

(your phone number)

(today’s date)

Dear (manager’s name),

I am writing to inform you of my resignation from my role as (job title) at (company’s name), effective two weeks from the date stated above. My last day will be (date two weeks from above date). Please let me know how I can best be of service during my final two weeks at the office.

I am excited about taking on new professional challenges, but leaving a company I have been employed for over eight years is hard. Thank you for the opportunities to learn and grow. I wish you and the organization all the best.

Sincerely,

(your name)

Additional considerations

Most employers genuinely appreciate two weeks of notice before an employee leaves. Especially in times of low unemployment, suitable replacements can be challenging to find. Extra time to explore options and prepare is much saner than waking up one morning to a stressful situation.

However, cases do exist where the company asks someone who turns in a resignation letter to not stick around. The organization may fear sabotage or other acts against the business during the “lame duck” two weeks, especially if parting is not on the best of terms. Other employers worry about office morale and fellow team members following suit. Some may not really need your services and figure they can save on wages by eliminating the two-week transition period.

Lastly, be sure to talk to human resources during your final days. The department may want to conduct an exit interview. This meeting and/or survey provides a better space than the resignation letter to offer thoughts about the company and your reasons for leaving. (Professionalism is still encouraged.) Also, HR can provide specifics on benefits and when you will receive a final paycheck. Confirm contact info for W-2 forms and other future correspondence.

More Resources:
Employee retention strategies to overcome the Great Resignation
How to fight resignations with low (or no) budget
9 questions to ask before you rehire an employee