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Do I Still Need To Give Two Weeks’ Notice?

Dear Stephen, 

I’m a regional manager for an office furniture manufacturer and recently landed a new job! It’s a great company—a great position. I’m going in as a regional VP – so it’s also somewhat of a level-up for my career.

I won’t work for a direct competitor, although my new company shares similar customers. So, my question is, what’s the appropriate amount of time to give notice to my current employer? I always understood it to be two weeks. 

My concern is that if my boss asks me to leave immediately, I’m not sure I want to lose two weeks’ income. On the other hand, when people quit our company, I notice leadership often asks them to stay longer to stretch out the notice. And sometimes they even give a counteroffer. What’s the norm?


Onward and Upward.


Dear On and Up, 

Two weeks’ notice is a myth. 

There is no rule on when a person needs to tell their boss they’re resigning for a new job, competitor or not. Think of it this way: when you quit your job, you’re firing your current employer, but when your boss goes to fire someone, they don’t give the person two weeks’ notice that they’re firing them; they fire them. It’s basically the same thing, and what’s good for one side should be good for the other.

Now, specifically concerning salespeople, if a salesperson or sales manager is going to direct competitors or similar companies where they may have the same customer base or market, it’s not unusual for the boss to tell resigning employee to leave immediately. They don’t want you using their database, customer relationships, or your colleagues at your new job! And why should they?

On the other hand, in Europe, it’s not unusual for companies to expect three months’ notice. It’s considered a common courtesy, and many Italian, Scandinavian, and British companies have carried this custom to people they hire in The United States. It’s done in the form of an “employment agreement” made when they hire you that explicitly outlines the notice you must give when quitting.

Frankly, I think the three months’ notice is a bit of a gimmick on the European company’s part to make it difficult for employees to resign. Furthermore, that notice complicates their lives when and if they do decide to leave the job. It’s a bit manipulative. But guess what? This is not Europe. If you want to do business in the US, you follow our rules.

Here’s what’s important to remember, and something I always tell people in this space: never burn a bridge with a former employer, which means leaving a job on a positive note whenever possible. That’s where the two weeks’ notice comes in: it’s simply a common courtesy to your employer that I believe is essential, even though not always necessary.

For those of you reading this column who are not in a sales role, where going to a competitor may not be as relevant, it’s more likely that your current employer will want even more extensive notice so you can finish up projects and possibly even train your replacement. This, of course, is at your discretion. Again, not required.

I should warn you, however, that new employers hiring you, especially if they were paying you higher than what you’re making, will have very little understanding of or patience for this. The new job is always the priority. 

Finally, if you are worried about losing two weeks’ pay… well, that is a bigger problem for you, or maybe the new company is not paying you enough, and you can always ask for a “sign on” bonus!

I hope that helps. Good luck with your new job.