Once upon a time I quit a job by giving two weeks notice. My employer took advantage of me by immediately sending me home without pay. I didn’t learn for years what I could and should have done differently. By sharing my tale I hope to help people who find themselves in a similar situation.
I was working a decent job when I decided to accept a new opportunity. I was on good terms with all my bosses and fellows employees so I wanted to quit properly. On a Friday afternoon I asked my lead if we could talk. I told him I had accepted a new job offer and was giving my two weeks notice. He was incredibly respectful, congratulated me on the new job, and we chatted for sometime. I talked to a few more people up the chain and everyone was equally kind and congratulatory. It went quite smoothly.
On Monday I came into the office and some of my equipment was gone. Not a surprise because there was a shortage and it had been borrowed for weekend crunch. Unfortunately I was dead in the water without it so I went to my lead. Here is how our conversation went.
Me: “My equipment was borrowed over the weekend. I need it back.
Lead: “Ah, yes…”
Me: “I can't work without it.”
Lead: “Oh, ok…”
Me: “No really. I'm dead in the water.”
Lead: *sigh* “I wasn’t supposed to be the one to tell you this… It was decided that we don’t need you for two more weeks and today will be your last day.”
Ouch. Shortly thereafter I met with HR, had my exit interview, sent a friendly goodbye e-mail, and left with my box of stuff. I didn’t even get a proper last day lunch.
When a company has layoffs there is often no notice given and no severance paid. Yet when an employee quits it is expected that they give two weeks notice. That seems rather unfair.
In my case I don’t actually blame the company too much. Why would they want an employee to stick around after giving notice? They aren’t going to get much work done. It’s a distraction to other employees. It may even bring morale down. No one wants that.
I accepted it would be my last day, effectively gave up a paycheck, and moved on.
What Should Have Happened
For an employer to expect two weeks notice but then immediately dismiss someone when they give it is wrong. Luckily there are options.
When I was told it would be my last day it changed things. At that point I was not quitting my job in the legal sense. I was fired. During my talk with HR I should have politely presented the following three options.
What is not an option is getting sent home early with no compensation. At this point it’s up to the employer to decide. For paperwork and legal reasons alone they are incredibly likely to pick option #2 over #1. You get a paid vacation and they don’t have to deal with a bureaucratic headache. No matter which they choose you come out ahead.
That’s my brief tale. I did not know my options and was taken advantage of. I have known many friends that had the exact same thing happen to them. I sincerely hope no one finds themselves in a similar situation. However if they do then I hope they know what options are available.