Should You Quit Without Notice?

Letter of resignation
••• ra-photos / Getty Images

Under normal circumstances, it is typical to provide two weeks notice to your employer when you quit your job. It could be even longer if you are covered by an employment agreement that stipulates how long you need to stay.

However, there are some occasions when you need to resign without giving notice, or giving less than two weeks notice. Read below for advice on when you should (and should not) leave your job without giving notice.

Should You Quit Without Notice?

Employees not covered by an employment contract are employed at will, which means that neither you or your company if they decide to terminate you, need 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.

The short answer is, yes, you should give appropriate notice whenever possible. Giving notice enables your employer to plan for your departure, to hire a replacement, and to continue business with as little disruption as possible when you're gone.

The longer answer is that, in some cases, it may not be possible to stay for the duration. It's important to consider the feasibility of staying before you walk out with no or short notice.

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. I suggested that he not even 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.

It would have been wiser if circumstances allowed if she had spoken to her boss first, and then sent 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. 

How Quitting Impacts Your Job Search

With the person who left the "I quit" letter on her manager's desk, the problems are going to arise 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.

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.

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 with your group, I am unfortunately unable to fulfill my duties any longer at this time.

Thank you for your understanding.

Sincerely,

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

More Resignation Letter Samples

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.