Resigning? Don’t give more than two weeks’ notice

By Eve Nicholas

Recently, I spoke with a technology executive interested in returning to the work force after a year-long sabbatical. She held her last position for 10 years, and loved every bit of it. Except for the last few months.

“I made a mistake,” she said. “I gave them six months notice. Six whole months. It was a nightmare.” Her colleagues grew resentful. Staff members questioned her loyalty. And the leadership team took advantage of her dedication and expertise by throwing her some extremely challenging, morale-busting projects.

They pushed her to design and implement complex systems from scratch to make sure the company would remain productive without her. They asked her to revamp the compensation structure, trimming costs by eliminating merit increases for top performers. They assigned her the awful task of downsizing personnel. She rolled up her sleeves, worked nights and weekends and performed tasks that were far outside of her job description.

She wanted the company to succeed. That was her only goal. “I’ll never do that again,” she said.

Most professionals, including senior executives, tell employers about their resignation two weeks before their final workday. Two weeks is the standard amount of time for “giving notice” in almost every industry, at all organizational levels. This time frame allows the company to start pulling together resources to ensure that it won’t fall to pieces after you are gone.

It’s not up to you to repair the organization, restructure operations or manage the company’s future performance. No way. But it is your responsibility to take a fair, courteous approach to your resignation. And then meet your professional obligations (the ones listed in your job description) for the remainder of your tenure.

Your boss might scramble a bit, and that’s OK. The challenge may be good for the company in the long run. It might teach the leadership team how to prepare for unexpected changes. It could lead to a surprise promotion for a well-deserved employee. Plus, your departure will hopefully remind managers to appreciate the people who keep the business running every day.

Still, many professionals feel tempted to announce their resignation far in advance. Maybe they may feel guilty about quitting. Or passionate about their work, and not ready to let it go. Perhaps they genuinely care about their coworkers and supervisors, and want to do everything in their power to help them, now and in the future.

These are all valid feelings, and it might be beneficial to share them with friends, family members and colleagues (in a professional manner, of course). But, don’t let your emotions lure you into a negative situation. The organization will survive — and probably thrive — without you. Your boss and coworkers will adjust, and so will you.

It’s quite simple, really. Loyalty is good. Overextending yourself is bad.

Next time you plan to leave a job, try this: Look at the calendar and choose a day approximately two weeks into the future. Inform your boss. Then, step back and let the company adapt. In the meantime, fulfill your daily responsibilities with a positive attitude. On your last day, say goodbye appropriately, pack up your personal items and walk out the door.

This is loyalty. This is dedication, professionalism and a clear commitment to your company and your career.

Send your job-search questions to