For many of us, when leaving a job, giving two weeks' notice is a way of life. What happens when that is just not possible? Can you leave a role with less notice? Here's why you might need to only give an employer a week’s notice before moving on and how to do it the right way.
What does a week's notice mean?
Giving your employer one week's notice means that you'll let your boss (and the company) know only one week before you're planning to leave a role.
You can still do this politely and professionally; no need to quit and storm out in anger. You want to try to leave on as good of terms as possible. You never know when you may cross paths with your boss or colleagues in the future.
This is especially true in smaller cities or even in very specialized professions. If you work in a skilled role that relatively few people know how to do, the likelihood of professionally crossing paths with colleagues is significantly higher.
Why would you need to give less than two weeks’ notice?
There are a few good reasons why you’d need to give less than two weeks' notice to an employer you’re leaving. These include:
1. You’re leaving for a fellowship, academic program or job that has a specific start date.
This may be the case if you’re joining a cohort and need to start on the same date as everyone else. While being notified a week before a program starts is unlikely, it's not impossible. This could also be the case of a new role in a larger company where new hires join a cohort.
2. You work in a commissioned or bonus-based profession like sales, and if you leave before a certain date, you forfeit your commission or bonus.
If this is the case, make sure you tell no one about your plans to leave after your commission or bonus is deposited. If management finds out about your plans you could be “walked” or asked to leave immediately.
3. You need to leave for mental health reasons.
If you work for a larger company and are protected by FMLA, you may want to consider filing for a leave of absence instead of flat out quitting. This will grant you job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks while you receive treatment. You also may consider using short-term disability during this time if available. Work with your medical team and HR if you want to explore this option before quitting.
4. You’re leaving to care for a critically ill family member.
Like above, you may also wish to consider applying for and using FMLA before quitting if that benefit is available to you.
5. The company is having financial issues, and you’re not being paid on time.
If your employer is having cash flow issues and you’re not being paid in full on time, you may need to make the decision to leave for another opportunity. When you leave, make sure to document any money owed and when you will receive it. You may also wish to consult with a lawyer prior to giving your notice.
How do I write my one-week notice?
Before you deliver your notice in writing, the professional thing to do is have a conversation with your manager and/or HR. Let them know you’re leaving, as well as when and why. This can be nerve-wracking for a lot of people, even if you’re excited about the opportunity you’re leaving for.
To soften the blow, you can offer to work on a transition plan to help ensure your work is covered while they search for your replacement.
When it comes to written notice, in this case, brevity is most likely going to be a big asset. State the facts and keep the editorializing out of your written notice. You just need to put in writing that you are resigning and when. If you’re leaving because you hate the job, your boss or a member of your team, this is not the time or place to share this information.
What you should say is "thank you for the opportunity." Even if things didn’t work out the way you had hoped when you took the job, saying thank you for the opportunity will go a long way in not burning bridges.
Your notice letter may be shared with HR or company leadership. This is especially true if the company is having issues with high turnover. You may also be asked to participate in an exit interview with HR. They may ask for additional information about why you’re leaving and where you’re going. If you feel comfortable answering honestly, do so, but be respectful and professional in your responses. If you don’t think you can do this, you are allowed to decline the exit interview.
The templates below will help you write your message. Tailor them to your role and reason for leaving.
If you’re leaving to pursue another opportunity use the message below. This also works if you’re leaving due to personality conflicts with a manager or teammate (it does not mention these issues at all):
This letter is to inform you that my last day with Acme Explosives will be November 15th, 2019. I will be leaving to pursue another opportunity that requires I report for work on November 22, 2019.
Thank you and the entire team for the opportunity to work at Acme Explosives. I value the opportunity I had to grow my career here.
If you are leaving for another opportunity and needed to wait to give notice until bonuses were paid out, use this:
This letter is to inform you that my last day with Acme Explosives will be November 15, 2019. I will be leaving to pursue another opportunity.
I will spend my last week working with Jeff and Joe on a transition plan to ensure my territory is covered until a replacement for me can be hired.
If you are leaving for a new role due to financial issues in your current company:
Thank you for the opportunity to work with you to build Feisty Media. Due to the fiscal uncertainty here, I have decided to accept another role beginning November 25, 2019.
My records indicate I am due back pay of $3,500 from the last three weeks as well as $900 to cover business expenses incurred on my personal credit card. An expense report and receipts are attached to this email.
Additionally I am owed $1,450 in vacation pay for the six days of vacation I did not take this year.
Prior to my departure I would like to meet with you and Sue to understand when and how this will be paid out.