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Why did my employee quit without notice?

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Crystal Spraggins, SPHR

You thought you had a good relationship with this employee. As far as you’re concerned, you were a decent boss. You treated the employee fairly, were supportive of his work, addressed him respectfully, and said “please” and “thank you.” You may even have gone out of your way to provide this employee meaningful development opportunities or a bigger salary.

All that, and out of the blue your employee tells you he’s leaving in two days, or maybe tomorrow.

Or perhaps you didn’t even get that much consideration. Instead your employee left a voice message in the middle of the night that he wouldn’t be returning—thanks for the opportunity, though.

“At will” goes both ways

Most states are “at will,” meaning an employment relationship can be ended “at the will of” either party without cause and without notice, barring legal prohibitions, contractual obligations, or actions not in the best interest of public policy.

Employers exercise their rights under at will employment all the time, and some circumstances warrant abruptly letting an employee go.

But when employees quit without giving the ubiquitous two-week notice, lots of people have lots of opinions about why that’s just wrong. And, truth be told, quitting without notice has the potential to negatively impact the employee way more than the employer, which is why such behavior generally falls squarely under “cutting your nose to spite your face.”

Still, people do quit jobs without notice (sometimes quite spectacularly). Now why would anyone do that? Here’s why.

The employee wanted time off between gigs

The new job starts right away, and the only way for your employee to get a breather between positions was to shave time off on your end. In an ideal world, the employee wouldn’t have had to make this choice, but, well, it’s not an ideal world.

The employee didn’t think you’d care

In your mind, you treated this employee well. In her mind, you barely noticed her existence and rarely showed appreciation for her work or efforts. So, when it suited her to stop coming to work, she stopped coming to work. She honestly didn’t think you’d give a hoot.

Work was making the employee sick

Maybe you did your best as a boss, but your good actions couldn’t outweigh the real problems in your company—problems that were making your employee anxious, depressed, and angry. For his health’s sake, your employee had to go and the sooner the better.

The employee is a user

Sad to say, but some people don’t have much consideration for anyone but themselves. When working for you ceased to be beneficial, the employee up and quit. End of story.

The employee is angry at you

Despite your opinion of your relationship with this employee, he’s upset with you about something. Quitting without notice is his way of letting you know.

The employee took a preemptive strike

The employee knew it was only a matter of time before you terminated her employment, so she beat you to it. If that sounds a little crazy given the economy, consider the employee might have a sideline business, a part-time job, a working partner, or gumption to spare. Whatever the reason, it pleased the employee to quit before getting fired.

When employees resign without notice, it’s an inconvenience and maybe even a small blow to the ego.

Even so, an employer’s best bet is to not take the employee’s choice personally and instead look at the vacancy as a chance to bring a great new hire on board.

Compensation Best Practice Report

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