Giving one week’s notice instead of two is something that many people don’t even consider doing. And for most situations, that’s a good thing!
But if you’re in a pinch, delivering a one week notice might be unavoidable. This guide will explain if it’s possible, when to consider this option, and how to go about it professionally.
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Is Giving One Week’s Notice Instead of Two Possible?
Most people are familiar with the standard “two-week notice rule.” It’s standard to provide employers with at least two weeks of advanced notice that you’re leaving, giving companies ample time to find replacements. This practice is so common that many people assume you can’t quit your job with anything less than two weeks’ notice.
However, that’s not the case.
Giving one week’s notice instead of two is possible. Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing that forces you to give you a heads up at all! In fact, it’s the opposite in most places.
Nearly all states in the United States have at-will employment. Employees and employers can end working relationships at any time without stated cause. There are a few exceptions, such as when contracts are in place, or discriminatory practices are involved. But for the most part, you and your employer are free to sever working ties anytime.
So despite what you might hear, in most situations, there’s nothing illegal about giving only one week’s notice. But does that mean you should ignore the “standard” procedure?
Generally, the practice of giving two weeks’ notice is a courtesy. While not legally required, it’s the norm and helps maintain professionalism even after you leave.
Reasons for Doing This
There are plenty of reasons why giving one week’s notice instead of two is acceptable (or even unavoidable).
Your current employer may have objections, and they may not like the short warning of your departure. But it may be the proper course of action in the following scenarios.
1. You Need to Start a New Job Immediately
This reason is one of the most common for breaking the “two-week rule.”
Most people search for new jobs while they already have employment. Having a gap in income isn’t ideal, so you might secretly start the job hunt before letting your current company know.
In an ideal situation, you would have the chance to negotiate your start date with the new organization. However, that’s not always possible. Some hiring managers need people to start immediately, giving you little wiggle room to go by the books.
When that happens, it’s perfectly understandable to only give a one week notice.
2. Personal or Family Emergencies
When it comes to family, personal illness, or other emergencies, providing courtesies to your employer is usually the last thing on your mind. That’s fine. Family and health come first.
Perhaps a personal emergency forces you to take significant time off or move to a new location. Whatever the case, you often don’t have time to plan much. It’s always good to provide as much notice as the circumstances allow, but most managers will understand if this is why you need to give a one week’s notice instead of two.
3. You’re Leaving an Easy-to-Fill Position
Giving less than two weeks’ notice is usually less of an issue if you’re leaving a position that’s not too difficult to fill once you’re gone.
This is most common when working in retail or the food and beverage industry (historically speaking). Low-skill jobs are typically much easier to fill. These companies receive applications frequently, and some have a rolling hiring process to fill high turnover rates.
While all employers are different, many companies that operate in high turnover industries are used to receiving a one week notice (or even no notice at all) from departing employees.
4. Unsafe or Uncomfortable Work Environments
If you’re leaving your job because of unsafe or uncomfortable work environments, giving a one week notice instead of two shouldn’t concern you (and in some situations it’s best to leave immediately). These working conditions are unacceptable, and laws are usually in place to protect workers. But that doesn’t mean that employers will address the situation quickly.
When an employer turns a blind eye to complaints from an employee, things can get ugly very quickly. Word spreads fast, people retaliate, and the situation can get worse. If that’s the case, you shouldn’t feel bad about giving less than a two weeks’ notice.
Ultimately, your safety and well-being are most important.
5. Paycheck Compromise
Finally, let’s talk about pay issues with leaving a job.
The two-week standard is often seen as the courteous thing to do. As a result, most employers will respect that professionalism. However, some managers don’t take any departures lightly.
While rare, supervisors might ignore your two weeks’ notice entirely and let you go on the spot. It’s an unfortunate reality that many people experience from more unscrupulous employers. Double standards aside, going two weeks without pay is enough to make anyone rethink their quitting strategy.
If you notice a pattern of employers firing people on the spot after providing notice, you may want to go into self-preservation mode. In those work environments, it might be necessary to give your employer one week’s notice to minimize your time without income.
Situations to Avoid Giving One Week’s Notice
Two weeks’ notice is the courtesy that most employers expect. It’s so ingrained in our modern work culture that most people don’t even think of anything but giving two weeks. However, we’ve now gone over situations where giving one week’s notice instead of two is acceptable.
But when should you avoid it?
Here are a few scenarios where you might want to avoid giving anything less than the standard two weeks’ notice.
You’re Leaving a Hard-to-Fill Position
Do you have a position that’s difficult to fill? Maybe you’re part of a small team or the only person in your company with specific skills crucial to everyday operations. Or perhaps you are a manager or supervisor who plays an instrumental part in overseeing projects. Whatever the case might be, these hard-to-fill positions often require lengthier hiring processes.
Your skills and qualifications are difficult to replace, and not everyone can fit into the role seamlessly. Don’t be surprised if your employers ask you to stay. It’s never easy filling these positions!
While you might not be willing to change your mind, do your best to provide as much advance notice as possible. While you can technically turn in a one week notice, you’re going to put your employer in a bind by doing so. Two weeks is typically the minimum for these kinds of positions, but some employers might expect anywhere between four and eight weeks of notification if possible.
You Want to Maintain Professional Relationships
Maintaining professional working relationships is the most common reason to avoid giving one week’s notice instead of two. When you give anything less than two weeks, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your employers to fill the job vacancy. Some scenarios are perfectly understandable, but if you don’t have a good reason for not following the two-week standard, you might burn some professional bridges.
Some hiring managers will take it personally, blocklisting you from ever working at that company again. Others will refuse to write letters of recommendation or give you a good reference.
There’s an Employee Contract in Place
Most states have at-will employment, allowing you to quit at any time. But there is one exception to those laws: Contracts.
If you sign an employment contract, you must abide by the terms you agreed to when onboarding. Those contracts are surprisingly comprehensive, and most include details about expectations when severing employee ties. The company might have a strict notification timeline or various HR steps to take when leaving.
Others might lock you into an employment timeline. Breaking any stipulation in your contract could potentially lead to legal ramifications. Read through your agreement and consider hiring a lawyer if you’re unsure about what to do when ending your employment.
Advanced Notice is Available
If you have plenty of advance notice, reach out to your employer early. Things happen that force you to quit your job without much warning. But in some cases, you might know it’s coming for months!
For example, you might have to start school, take time off to raise a family, etc. Talk about your departure with your higher-ups. Giving the company advance notice allows you to maintain professional ties and discuss future opportunities.
Potential Downsides of Giving Less Than Two Weeks’ Notice
Giving less than two weeks’ notice might be necessary for some situations. But if it’s avoidable, it’s best to stick with common courtesy. There are several potential downsides to giving one week’s notice instead of two.
The biggest is hurting your professional reputation. You never want to cut ties with old employers. You might move to a different company or gain employment at a direct competitor. But even still, there’s a chance that past indiscretions can come back to haunt you.
There’s also the risk of financial or legal repercussions. Earlier, we mentioned that some employers fire people even after they’ve given two weeks’ notice. If you provide only a week’s notice, the chances of that happening are much higher.
Little to no notice can leave companies scrambling, and upset managers could fire you on the spot. That leaves you without a week of pay!
On the legal front, you must consider contracts. Pay attention to every document you sign, and read through those agreements carefully. Telling your boss that you’re quitting without following legally binding expectations could make you susceptible to legal action.
One Week Notice Etiquette
If you must give one week’s notice instead of two, it can feel awkward and stressful. There’s a good chance your employer won’t be thrilled with the sudden prospect of having to fill your position. To avoid conflict and maintain professionalism, you must tread softly and practice good etiquette.
Start by drafting a professional letter addressed to your immediate supervisor. Keep the letter concise. Wordiness only opens doors for misinterpretation.
Be direct and provide the exact date of your last day of employment. Maintain a professional tone and thank your supervisor for the opportunities provided. You can even thank them for specific skills they taught you or impactful moments you’ve experienced in this job.
Reread the letter several times, then offer to set up a meeting at your supervisor’s earliest convenience. Deliver the letter, and don’t hesitate to set up an in-person meeting.
Extending that offer shows that you’re leaving in good faith. Be open to tying up loose ends in your remaining time, and be open to the possibility of training a replacement if they bring one in during your last week.
Always be gracious and professional. Delivering a one week notice doesn’t have to be intimidating. Follow proper decorum, and it’ll be painless for you and your employer.
As you can see, giving one week’s notice instead of two is definitely an option. There’s nothing stopping you if it’s absolutely necessary!
However, it’s important to understand the potential impact this could have before you proceed. Think things over, be professional, and do what you think is right for you.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.