Quitting Without Notice…Is It Ever Okay?

Quitting without notice is the ultimate no-no…right? The practice is generally frowned upon, but sometimes it’s your only option. Leaving your job with less than two weeks notice is a big decision to make, so what might the consequences be for your career now and in the future?

When it’s okay to quit without notice

Quitting a job without notice can be a tough decision to make. Sometimes situations in life occur that make it impossible to work: medical issues and family emergencies that become long-term responsibilities. Sometimes a toxic work environment is the reason you need to leave quickly. And in those situations, you have to do what is best for you, on a timeline that works for you. You’re the only one who knows whether or not leaving a position without notice is the right decision.

Will leaving quickly damage your career?

We’ve all been told that quitting a job without notice could do irreparable damage to your career. But while leaving without notice is generally frowned upon, it won’t wreck your career or your life. 

It can be difficult to ask your employer for a reference down the line if they feel you left them in the lurch. It may also inconvenience your coworkers for a short period of time. But if leaving your job is truly necessary, those are the risks you might have to take.

Before you leave your job without giving notice, be sure to look at your contract, if you have one. Certain contracts might stipulate specific terms under which you’re legally required to give notice. If you are in an industry that frequently relies on contracts and word of mouth, really do consider if you have any options that wouldn’t mean your quitting immediately. You don’t want a reputation for breaking contracts. 

How does it affect your coworkers?

No matter how you leave a job, with or without notice, your coworkers will be affected. You know what it’s like when the team is suddenly down a member. There is just more slack to be picked up. If you have to quit your job without notice, it’s likely your coworkers will be asked to cover your duties—and they might not be happy about it. If you feel comfortable doing so, you could let them know about the circumstances surrounding your exit. Your explanation could provide them with some context that encourages empathy.

How much information do you have to give?

Although it’s a cliché, honesty is generally the best policy.  Of course, you should give your employer only the information you are comfortable with them having. It’s understandable that your employer will expect some sort of explanation, but they should respect that you are only able to give a certain amount of information. To put it simply, there’s no amount of information that you have to give. You should aim for honesty but give so much information that you feel exposed or uncomfortable.

If the reason you’re leaving your job without notice is due to a hostile work environment that is negatively impacting your physical or mental health, it might be a good idea to explain that to the higher ups, or at the very least express that in your exit interview. Maybe they don’t understand the unhealthy situation that’s been created and they can take steps to alleviate the pain points for the employees who stay on. And, who knows, maybe those changes will be enough to encourage you to stay.

Quitting without notice can be an awkward situation, but if you are truthful and appropriately apologetic it can be successfully navigated. It’s usually best to tell your boss or supervisor face to face, if that is possible. Sitting down with your boss will allow you to give some context, although many employers will still require a formal resignation letter—or at least a resignation email. Below, we’ve included an example letter to get you started.

Sample resignation letter – no notice

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