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

6 Comments

  1. 6 employmentseeker 25 Nov
    @Maggie 17 Nov Maggie, I understand where you are coming from. Unfortunately, it is a matter of poor judgment expecting that since "we go out of our way" to accommodate others, they should exchange the favor. No matter how rude you find it, it is important to understand that "people are free", that "at will" goes both way (thank the Lord for it going both ways), and I personally believe it to be selfish and arrogant to use a double standard to judge employees differently from employers when enforcing their "at will" right. Aside from the fact that in some situations it is impossible to give proper notice, as you mentioned, it is important to consider that when employers enforce their "at will" side of the deal, no warnings are given. Often, employers use pretexts to dismiss employees so not to provide them severance and unemployment, and that is why they seek the "just cause" to terminate a relationship. I find it amusing how much people are willing to let their employers get away with. The "at will" case shows one of the silliest examples of "living urban legends", and I have heard it a MILLION times that, "if you do not give them the 2 weeks notice..." something bad is going to happen to you when you look for the next occupation. Luckily, that is not the case, and if an employer is so picky to take one's use of their "at will rights" as a mean to discriminate against a potential employer, then I believe that it is about time to raise this "at will right" to the level of discrimination as much as race, gender, and religion. Perhaps that beginning to use our employees "at will right" we could prove a point to employers that if you do not provide job stability, you do not get job stability? What good is a right that cannot be used? Cheers
  2. 5 katiemac 21 Nov
    I resigned today without notice. I have never done this before but wanted to get some feedback from others. First off my employer announced the facility was closing the doors in 5 weeks, and I would be layed off( no severance except for being ably to work until the doors are closed). This sounded good until I spoke with new prospective employers who asked about my no-compete clause. At this point I asked my current employer to provide a letter making the no-compete null and void. My employer refused to do this and told me that this would be covered the last day. Because of this I figured if I told the prospective employer I was no longer employed, that this could be a marginally better situation. Therefore I resigned immediately using a very courteous letter which explained how the company would benefit since I was not busy anyway and not having to pay my salary for the next 5 weeks would benefit there cash-flow which caused the plant closing in the first place. Thoughts?
  3. 4 Maggie 17 Nov
    I think, barring health, bereavement or medical emergencies, it's rude, disrespectful and immature to leave a position with no notice. Now that I manage hiring and scheduling, it irks me to no end when someone quits by leaving a voicemail or sending me an email. I go out of my way to accommodate scheduling requests, and I am very transparent about the maximum number of hours allowed per week--as well as pay--and I encourage feedback and suggestions from employees. The problem I have is that some employees say whatever it takes to get the job ("sure, 25 hours per week is great!), then the second they get an offer with a few more hours or $1.00 more per hour, they just leave without talking to me. Furthermore, some employees hoard their negative feelings and leave abruptly without letting me know they are unhappy about something. Had they taken a bigger picture approach, we could have worked on the whatever the issue(s) to make the environment better for everyone, and by demonstrating that they were mature enough to address the issue like a professional, they would have increased their likelihood of advancement in the company. Employees need to learn how to communicate with present and future employers. First, if you do not want to work for a certain salary and need a minimum number of hours per week, you should be honest with a prospective employer. Additionally, you should be wary of any prospective employer that will not allow you to give two weeks' notice. It says quite a bit about an organization that doesn't respect you or your the organization you currently work for. Lastly, if you have an HR issue, then you need to address it. Don't let it fester until you walk out of the building and never come back, and if cannot be addressed to your satisfaction, then you should still give a formally written resignation letter stating your last date of work, which should be, at a minimum, two weeks. Assuming your are not experiencing sexual harassment or physical abuse, there's no legitimate reason not to give a minimum of two weeks' notice.
  4. 3 KMCurtis 12 Nov
    I just quit today. I walked out without saying anything to anyone. I knew there were other ways, but that was the only way to get my point across. I felt bad for the others because there werent many people working. I liked one of the managers. He was very respectful and gave good constructive criticism. The other one? I hated her. She isn't respectful. She says mean things and thinks that no one hears her. Her attitude sucks and she's a hypocrite! I also don't like the way she talks to people. She constantly disrespected me. I had no problem with her constructive criticism because I knew when I was messing up or not doing what I was supposed to do. I will respect someone for their position and do whatever they tell me. I just didn't like the way she talked to people and then whenever we decided to stick up for ourselves, she acted like we were the bad guys. I just hated the way she "tried" to run things without being respectful. And I feel like if I've worked this hard, cleaned up dirty bathrooms, worked with rude ass customers, and did everything I could to help you see that I knew what I was doing, then I deserved and earned your respect👌 I'm also not good at being assertive and I think she knew that. So Monday I snapped back at her and then today I had chest pains and troubled breathing because I didn't know what was going to happen today. So I told myself that if this job is giving me chest pains and anxiety all the time, then it's time to go.
  5. 2 sandy 20 Oct
    I quit by texting my manager.I had another job lined up and they wanted me to start asap....My old job cut every one to 13 hours a week...Who can live and pay billes on 7.85 per hour on that= NO ONE......Dollar General can kiss my ass
  6. 1 Reb 01 Aug
    I work two part time jobs. One was my newer job in a restaurant, the second was continuing working in the vet clinic I've been at for the last 4 years, a place where I am excellent at what I do and my employers and boss love me -- but the hours were few and pay not great, so I had to look for more employment. On too of all this I run a petsitting/dog walking/housesitting business and every month somebody needs me. It pays well end non taxed. My restaurant boss has been horrible to me since we started, and I 've done my damn best to grin and bare it....but today in front of the other employees she screamed at me for doing something......exactly as she trained me to do, something she never cared about how I did it before. She then yelled at me for not taking some test last Sunday, to which I explained she never showed up to give me it, and she said I should have come in a day she was there (it made no sense). All the employees said she was out of line and I did nothing wrong. Well she had no idea my clinic has been begging me for full time hours the last few weeks. So after my shift I told the clinic you bet your ass I'll work. It was payday too and I noticed I even got a substantial raise! Called the restaurant right before I knew it closed and said so quit!!!!! I hope she has fun scrambling to get people to cover my double shifts tomorrow on our busiest night. I burned no career bridges and will not have a gap in my job history so I went for the hedonist route for once in my life and just did what I want, it feels GREAT! My family who always goes there Sundays have also stopped did to the boss' behavior. Rot in Hell.

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