Proper to resign with NO notice?
September 16, 2008 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I just landed a new job, but they want me to start ASAP! Can I give a resignation letter to my old boss effective immediately or does good manners dictate that I MUST provide two week notice? I am/was a part-time employee at a law office, basically one step above an intern.

More Info: I never signed any real contract/agreement of employment for the job I am leaving, it was really the Lawyer who runs the office giving me the job, almost as a favor, so that I could have a chance to see what law was all about before going to law school (obviously I am not going to law school now). I have no critical skills or responsibilities; the normal secretarial/paralegal staff could get along fine without me.

I don't want to burn any bridges, but at the same time, I feel that if I wait the full two weeks there is a small but real chance I will lose the new job.
posted by DetonatedManiac to Work & Money (21 answers total)
Ask the new job if they are willing to allow you 1-2 weeks prior to starting as it's the professional thing to do and you'd really prefer to not burn any bridges with your current employer.

Hopefully your new employer will be understanding of this. If not, and if they tell you that your new employment is contingent on you starting ASAP, then perhaps consider if this is the kind of employee you'd like to work for. If they are inflexible now, before you've even started, what's it going to be like down the road? What if a family member becomes ill and you need time off, etc?...

I'd like to believe that a prospective employer wants to hire me because I'm the best person for the job, NOT just because I was the first person that applied. Are they hiring you because you bring great value to the organization, or are you an expendable cog in the machine. If they say to you "look, either you start tomorrow, or you don't work here and we'll find someone else" then it sounds more like the latter is the case.
posted by xotis at 10:09 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Does your boss know you were looking for a new job? Do you have the kind of relationship with your boss where you could talk about this situation? If so, I would recommend telling the boss what the situation is, and letting her/him decide what you should do. It sounds to me like your boss may be OK with you leaving right away, given that they won't have to replace you.
posted by geeky at 10:10 AM on September 16, 2008

You may burn bridges, but I wouldn't worry about it that much. Try to avoid leaving them in the lurch - maybe try to buy a few days at the old place so that you still start at the new place within a week but have a few days to wrap things up at the old place. But don't jeopardize the new job in any way. You're a part-time administrative employee, and you don't owe your employer any legal duty or any ethical or moral duty to stick around after you tell them that you are resigning.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 10:10 AM on September 16, 2008

I'd be careful of a job that won't allow 2 weeks notice.
posted by electroboy at 10:15 AM on September 16, 2008 [6 favorites]

Go talk to your boss, give her two weeks and ask nicely if you can leave earlier so that you can start your new job. Offer to be available to help whenever they need you.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:18 AM on September 16, 2008

respect to xotis, but the old job is part-time hourly, low pay, NO benefits, low responsibility and (since I am not going into law now) of no experiential value to my future endeavors or career.

The new job is stable, salaried , full time, full benefits (very important to me because I have a chronic medial condition), and in the area I have an interest and for which I am currently taking night classes and beneficial to my career. I don't believe I would be a cog in the machine, but even if I am, I will be a cog with benefits.

As for my current employer knowing that I am leaving, they should have SOME idea, since I have not hid the fact that I am taking computer science night courses for the past 5 months at a local university.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 10:22 AM on September 16, 2008

And I should say, it is not that they "forbade" two weeks notice, it was just that felt I was a very strong fit and they are in a situation where they are expanding and are in need of people for the position ASAP, and my training will be a few weeks so... the sooner I start, the sooner I can get trained, the sooner I can help with their staffing shortfalls. I offered to try and sever ties with my previous employer more quickly to help them out and because that's two weeks of pay that I could get, which at least 2x more than I make in a month in my old job.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 10:29 AM on September 16, 2008

I think given the part-time and low-level (as you describe it) status of your current job, giving notice is less important than it would be with a full-time mid-level job. I would go in excitedly to your boss and say something along the lines of -- Oh, I have good news and bad news. The good news is, I have a great new opportunity -- full-time and with benefits and in the field I've been studying. The bad news is, they want me to start right away! If your boss views him/herself as a mentor-type figure, they will jump in and assure you that it's fine for you to start the new job. You, then, can jump in and talk about how great it's been to have the opportunity to learn about law and law firms. Even if the boss person isn't cool, you'll have been positive and honest.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:31 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, I would ask the new job for a few days to tie up loose ends. I would also tell them that if you have to start immediately, you're 100% willing to do so.

It shows confidence in yourself and your abilities if you're willing to ask for things you want, while remaining flexible.

If they tell you they need you now, bid adieu to the old job but make yourself available to help them if the need arises (which it probably won't).

posted by sondrialiac at 10:32 AM on September 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Ah, and either way send a kind note (hand-written) to your old boss, thanking him for the favor and the experience.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:33 AM on September 16, 2008 [3 favorites]

I am/was a part-time employee at a law office, basically one step above an intern.

More Info: I never signed any real contract/agreement of employment for the job I am leaving, it was really the Lawyer who runs the office giving me the job, almost as a favor, so that I could have a chance to see what law was all about before going to law school (obviously I am not going to law school now). I have no critical skills or responsibilities; the normal secretarial/paralegal staff could get along fine without me.

I don't think any of this really matter as to whether you give two weeks notice or not - it's not like there's a legal requirement that you do so; it's just the cool thing to do. However little you're actually in the office, they depend on you to be able to do certain things; otherwise your workload gets piled on top of other people. If it's actually the case that they're not so busy that they'll be fine without a full two weeks, great, but I'd let them make the call on that.

Ideally, I think what you'd want to have happen is this, and obviously not all of these events are under your control: You tell your new employer that you need two weeks for your current position, which is pretty normal and should be okay; but also say that you'll ask your current employer how much time they need. There's really no reason that they shouldn't accept that. Then, give notice, saying that you're willing to do two weeks, but it would be great if they could let you go sooner. If they don't need a full two weeks, then everybody wins. If your new firm is adamant about wanting you to start immediately, it would be best to explain things fully and honestly to your current employer - nobody will gain anything from you making excuses.

In the end, two weeks really isn't all that long - it'll take your new firm almost that long to find someone to replace you, assuming they don't have one lined up already. I've been hired for jobs where they *wanted* me to start immediately, but my hiring wasn't contingent on it. I've also given two weeks notice on a Tuesday, but been told by my employer that they wouldn't need me past Friday of that same week.

And seconding what xotis said, a firm that requires you to forgo giving notice to your current employer sounds pretty skeevy.
posted by LionIndex at 10:33 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Taking classes doesn't mean that you're looking for a different job. It just means that you have an interest. And in this case, an outside interest. besides, computer science classes could be useful at the lawyer's office. So don't use that as a basis for why they should know anything.

I would tell them now that the new company wants you to go to work as soon as possible. If you're really not as important as you say, then the old work place shouldn't have a problem with this. But like xotis, I'm getting some red flags from the new company if they won't let you give a 2 weeks notice to the old place.

I worked at a sit down restaurant as a waiter one summer. Right after they hired me I told them I would have to stop at the beginning of August for school. And that's all I said until my second to last day. If you ask them they'd probably say I didn't give them any real notice. But it hasn't hurt me in any way.

Leaving without the 2 weeks won't kill you in the workforce. But give them some kind of notice, even if it's just a few days. If they need someone bad enough they can start talking to a temp agency now and find someone for next week. It would be harder to find someone for tomorrow.
posted by theichibun at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2008

respect to xotis, but the old job is part-time hourly, low pay, NO benefits, low responsibility and (since I am not going into law now) of no experiential value to my future endeavors or career.

I don't think whether you get to be a dick or not is contingent on your current benefits package. Seriously, fully explain the situation to your current employer, it's quite likely that they'll fully understand your position and let you go sooner.
posted by LionIndex at 10:36 AM on September 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

From the sound of things, I sort of feel you owe a certain debt of decency to your current boss. Giving you a job as a favor, when there wasn't (apparently) a solid need for someone, is kind of a big deal.

So: go talk to him and see what he says.
posted by aramaic at 10:36 AM on September 16, 2008

You want to bail on the firm that hired you as a favor. You get exactly what you want, benefits and additional pay. They get you off the books which is probably the kindest thing you can do. Particularly if you were just wasting time there, collecting a pay check but completely uninterested in the work. That's what it sounds like; you don't care about law school or law and maybe you want to be in computer science or really any job with benefits.

As a professional, you should give notice, but you're looking for a way to weasel out of it. Two weeks is customary, but not always required. This is something to discuss with your supervisor.

I'd be wary of a firm that encouraged you to bail on your current employer because they didn't plan their workforce needs well. Why are you worried that you'll lose this job? If you're such an exceptional fit, then they'll wait a few days. If you're one of many interchangeable candidates that they could lob into their training program, then it may be a different story entirely.
posted by 26.2 at 12:16 PM on September 16, 2008

Do the right thing -- do the 2 weeks. The only real currency you have in life is what other people say about you, and the bad stuff sticks a lot more than the good.

If you found a good opportunity now, then you must be a worthy recruit and something else will come up for sure if this one doesn't work out. Plus, if your new employer screws you out of your new job while you were serving out your 2-weeks at the old job, then why would you want to work for such assholes?
posted by randomstriker at 12:27 PM on September 16, 2008

When I hire people I ask "When would you be able to start?" If the person is employed, and if the person says anything other than "I need at least two weeks" or "Let me talk to my boss and see if they need the two full weeks", then I pretty much have decided not to hire that person.

If you have any, any, any responsibility at all, or if anyone is relying on you, you need to give 2 weeks.

If you're a cashier at a major chain store? Don't worry so much---but still try to give 2 weeks.
posted by TomMelee at 12:30 PM on September 16, 2008

If things go horribly wrong at the new job, you may be in big need of a good reference from your current one. So extract yourself very carefully.

I would play things the way @ClaudiaCenter suggests, but basically be prepared to serve your two weeks. If you plan to be a professional, then acting professionally matters. Any worthwhile computer job is quite demanding in terms of responsibility -- obey the rules even if no-one is watching, be trustworthy etc etc. So look reliable from the start.
posted by Idcoytco at 12:39 PM on September 16, 2008

I disagree that two-weeks notice is somehow sacred, especially in a clerical position with no significant responsibilities. Split the difference and take a week -- that'll be long enough for them to figure out whether they want a temp to come in or not after you leave. Explain to your current why your new employer is eager for you to start ASAP and ask if he'd be okay with you finishing up in a week rather than the traditional two weeks and tell the new employer that you'd like a week to tie things up with your old job so that you don't leave them in the lurch.
posted by desuetude at 5:21 PM on September 16, 2008

How part-time are you? Is there any chance you could, say, spend mornings at one job and afternoons at the other for a week or two?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 12:23 AM on September 17, 2008

There are lots and LOTS of reasons why an employer would want you to start as quickly as you could - the main reason being someone else left them, which put their employees in a bind. The point is simple: in most cases, people (also read: employers) care only about themselves. If you're willing your current / soon-to-be-past employer with no / very little notice, all the better for them. While it probably costs them little or nothing to wait, it's a point that you're conforming to their wishes instead of them giving you anything that doesn't directly benefit them.

Seconding asking for "a few days to tie up loose ends" (sondrialic) - better a few days than nothing at all. It also lets you get phone numbers from co-workers, the boss, etc. - and do anything to avoid burning bridges.
posted by chrisinseoul at 9:01 AM on September 17, 2008

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