Giving Notice: What to do When you Change Jobs.

Giving Notice or Not: Tension during layoffs

Do people still give notice to their employer?

Do employers have an obligation to give notice prior to layoffs?

If you give notice, is the employer required to pay you for the 2 weeks?

Can they show you the door that day?

As a career coach, I often hear stories from both employees and employers about what really happens in the workplace.

 Giving notice is  topic which figures into many of these conversations. There is a big difference between what people aspire to and what actually happens.

Although the typical North American will change jobs  every 2.5- 3 years, these transitions can be a challenge. Giving notice is still a potential minefield. What works at one company, may be a disaster at another company.


In all American states (except Montana), employment  is classified as an 'at will relationship' between employer and employee. They can let you go at any time, and you are free to leave at any time. There is a lot of debate about 'notice' the amount of notice and how it should be handled. I would base your decision on precedent and company culture. How have other employees been treated after they give notice? What is your companies typical way of handling layoffs, downsizing, rightsizing etc.? What is the length of time that other employees in your company have provided as notice?



If your employer has been good to you and you have been treated fairly, give two-weeks notice.  

Some experts recommend asking - did they earn the two-week notice? Once you give notice, an employer may escort you to the door. Just because you provide notice, doesn't mean the employer is obligated to let you work during that time period, nor can you count on being paid the last 2 weeks. Save up! The day you resign may be your last day on the job!


The range of employer procedures for layoffs is quite varied. Some corporate employers act with great tact and sensitivity when an employee gives notice. On the other hand I've also witnessed an organization that prides itself on 'family values' and which is a non-profit - act atrociously. The way a company treats you when you leave, should be as good as they treated you when you were hired (barring any criminal activity).



I’ve had employers complain about lack of staff notice when their employees quit and then turn around and lay off an employee the same day! No notice or severance of any kind. They may say that the former employee dealt with sensitive information or systems or clients. and that this was necessary. But I'm not so sure this is always the case. If it suits their business needs, they will justify this. However, it may damage to their reputation in the community. It's really how they show you the door that counts and it can be done humanely. If you genuinely need to layoff a long-term employee who's done a good job, try to do it with dignity. Many people would appreciate the chance to say bye to their coworkers.



I do wish that overall, more companies handled an employees departure compassionately - whatever the reason.  Over the years, many of my career advising sessions have been with employees who left or were laid off or were fired. Helping someone debrief the situation is the first step in moving forward.  I feel honored that people come to me at such an emotional and delicate juncture and trust me to help them.



Bottom line - only you can judge the “climate” of your workplace and only you know the history of how others have departed, when they gave notice and how they’ve treated the departed.

I'd love to hear your comments and experiences from the trenches.

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© 2015 - All Rights Reserved - Sharon Cohen, MA,CPRP. Business Career Coach & Social Media Strategist. 

 "Virtual Career Counseling: helping business professionals, reach their career potential!"
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