Should You Quit Without Notice?

Letter of resignation
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Under normal circumstances, it is typical to provide two weeks notice to your employer when you quit your job. You might even be required to stay longer than that, if you’re covered by an employment agreement that stipulates how much notice you need to give.

However, there are some occasions when you need to resign without giving notice, or giving less than two weeks notice. In those situations, it’s important to be sure that quitting immediately is in your best interests – and to be as professional as possible when leaving your job.

Should You Quit Without Notice?

Most U.S. employees not covered by an employment contract are employed at will. This means that neither you nor your company is required to provide a notice period prior to terminating employment. However, it's considered good etiquette to let your employer know that you are leaving your job.

Why do employers want workers to give two weeks notice? In short, it helps them prepare for your departure. They’ll likely need to hire a replacement, as well as take other steps to continue business with as little disruption as possible when you're gone.

For these reasons, it makes sense to be sure before leaving on short notice. Consider the feasibility of staying before you walk.

What to Do When You Can't Stay

Sometimes, it can be difficult or even impossible to stay on the job. I've spoken to a couple of people who quit their job without providing two weeks notice and weren't sure about the repercussions.

One person decided to quit after only having been on the job for a week. In this situation, it did not matter much that he did not give the employer notice since he had been there so briefly. He may not even want to mention this position when he applies for new jobs.

Another person simply stayed late at work one day, cleaned out her cubicle, and left a resignation letter on the desk of her supervisor. The letter apologized for not giving notice and said she needed to resign immediately.

If circumstances allowed, it would have been wiser for her to speak to her boss first, and then send her employer a resignation letter apologizing for not giving much notice, rather than just quitting without any notice.

Even though a conversation about leaving your job can be difficult, it can be smoother if it's possible to take the time to explain why in person.

If it's a difficult situation at work, it may not be wise to discuss it unless there is the possibility of changing whatever is going on so you can stay. However, if it's for personal reasons, most people will understand that things can happen that are outside of our control.

A major family or personal illness, for example, can happen unexpectedly. A hostile work environment is another example of when it could be just too difficult to stay on.

When It's Acceptable to Not Give Notice

That said, there can be times when it is just too difficult to stay. Two weeks can be a very long time when you're in a stressful situation. Or, there may be personal reasons that make it impossible for you to continue to work.

If you need to leave without notice, it’s still best to discuss the matter with your boss before your departure. Then, you should put your intentions in writing, so that you’ll both have a record of the details.

Note that it isn’t necessary to provide a great deal of detail in your resignation letter. You may refer to family or personal issues if those are the reason for your departure, for example, but you needn’t get into the precise nature of the conflict. 

Resignation Letter Without Notice Sample

No Notice Resignation Email Example

Subject: Resignation - Pamela Davis

Dear Ken,

I regret to inform you that I must tender my immediate resignation from my position with DEF Company.

While I appreciate the opportunity I had to work with your group, I am unfortunately unable to fulfill my duties any longer.

Thank you for your understanding.

Sincerely,

Pam Davis
(555) 222-3333
davisp@email.com

1:39

Watch Now: 7 Tips for Quitting Your Job

More Resignation Letter Examples

Here are more examples of resignation letters to use when quitting with short or no notice:

Ending Employment

Whether you decide to give notice or not, there are probably going to be things that you will need to discuss with your employer or Human Resources department. These include compensation due for unused vacation or sick time, your last paycheck, termination of employee benefits, pension plans, and possibly getting a reference.

How Quitting Impacts Your Job Search

The person who left the "I quit" letter on her manager's desk will likely run into problems when she starts a new job search. It's doubtful that she'll get a good reference from the company that she quit without notice.

That means she's going to have to do some explaining to prospective employers, and it's always easier to move on when you've left your last position on good terms.

If you have a new job lined up, it's not as problematic. You should be able to use references from your new employer, or from a professional contact or former colleague, next time you're job searching. However, even having a job lined up won’t necessarily protect you from a future employer finding out about your hasty departure during a background check.

Key Takeaways

Give Notice Whenever Possible: Two weeks notice is the standard in most industries, unless you have an employment contract that requires a different amount.

Put Your Resignation in Writing: Even if you cannot give two weeks notice, write a resignation letter or email stating when you’ll be leaving.

Be Prepared to Deal with the Consequences: Line up other references and be ready to explain the situation in interviews.