My employee quit without notice. What went wrong?

The two-week notice period is as American as apple pie and the flag, but sometimes employees up and quit without so much as a by your leave.

Considering that quitting without sufficient notice is widely viewed as unprofessional, discourteous, and unwise, why in the world would anyone do such a thing?

I’ll tell you why.

The employee is unprofessional, discourteous, and unwise

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Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, okay? Sometimes people do harmful or stupid things because they don’t care how their actions will impact others and/or they’re not wise enough to understand how certain actions might impact them. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do about that.

The new job needs the employee right away

Sometimes a new offer practically falls out of the sky, and the employee feels a sense of urgency to “seal the deal.” Generally, any respectable employer will honor a prospective employee’s need to give proper notice, but not always.

The employee wants to take a break between jobs

The new job starts in two weeks, and the employee wants a week off in between gigs. Guess where that week is coming from? Also, considering most employees lose vacation time when starting a new job, taking a break beforehand might be especially tempting.

Your work culture is toxic

Sad to say, but some work environments are truly unhealthy. Bob Sutton, author of the No Asshole Rule and maintainer of the Work Matters website, says that the “biggest and best lesson” for dealing with jerks at work is to escape. I can’t say I disagree.

The employee didn’t like you as much as you believed

Sometimes managers are surprised to learn their employees don’t like them all that much. Don’t mistake cordiality or “nice” for genuine affection, and don’t take it personally either. Truthfully, your power differential most likely hinders true friendship from developing anyway.

The employee wasn’t as loyal as you believed

Most employees are fully aware their at-will status means their employment can be ended at the will of the employer for no reason, a good reason, or a bad reason. They’re also aware that employees who’ve been let go have sometimes been asked to leave on the spot. As a result, some employees have taken the stance that loyalty is overrated, and they don’t owe their employer much—including a two-week notice.

When an employee quits abruptly, it’s inconvenient and a little annoying. However, it’s the employee’s prerogative and one that’s usually not exercised without a compelling reason. While it’s human to want to understand what happened (especially when you didn’t see the resignation coming) it’s better to accept the change and move on.


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