Unless you wear a paper hat to work, the generally accepted etiquette of quitting dictates you give two weeks’ notice before jumping ship.
But the reality is, it’s rarely so cut and dry.
Sometimes, you have to begin your new position pronto, and two weeks is all you can reasonably offer. Others, staying even two weeks is just prolonging the awkwardness. But occasionally, two weeks is a laughably short runway to tie up your affairs, and adding another week or so might be a good idea, not only for keeping you in good graces with your colleagues, but for your own sanity as well.
Obviously there’s no simple answer, but ask yourself these questions and you’ll be one step closer to landing those coveted LinkedIn recommendations after you leave—not to mention give your conscience a breather.
1. How Many Emails Are in Your Inbox?
Or, more specifically, how many follow-up or unanswered emails? I’m not suggesting that you need to get to Inbox Zero before you pack up your desk, but the number of emails, files on your desk, or loose ends you have hanging is a great gauge of how much tying up you’ll have to do before you leave.
Once you’ve decided to quit and before you’ve handed in your two weeks notice, scan through the past quarter or two of emails in your inbox. Do a quick calculation of how much time it would take you to resolve each of the requests or how long it would take you to responsibly pass them off to someone else. If the work will take you more than one full week, then it’s probably a good idea to tack on another few days to your two weeks notice, given the business of quitting itself will likely eat up at least a week of your remaining tenure.
2. How Do Your Relationships Stand?
No matter what you do, you’ll no doubt have developed some important relationships in your work. Part of leaving gracefully means making sure those relationships are left on the best terms possible before you clock out for the last time.
As soon as you suspect you might be out the door, start taking the temperature of all your closest relationships, both internally and externally. Find out what’s going on in everyone else’s world, and try to anticipate how your departure might impact them. If you’re helping with a deal-clinching presentation coming up in three weeks or a conference next month that’s been in the works for the past year, cutting out in two weeks will probably put those relationships at risk.
Consider how your resignation will impact your relationships, and make sure your exit date gives you and your network a workable cushion.
3. How Will Your Departure Impact Your Team?
Whether you manage a team or you’re part of one, there’s no doubt your departure will impact them the most. And even if you think you’ve cleared the two-week check on questions #1 and #2, don’t overlook how your team will feel if you check out in 10 business days.
If you have direct reports, spend some time going through each individual’s file and make notes of where you’re at with their career progression plans, goals, and any special projects. If you have an employee taking an important certification exam in a month, leaving in two weeks might wreak havoc on his study plans, not to mention his confidence. If you’re part of a team, the same applies. Think about how your team will be impacted and what they’ll be left to cover for when you’re gone.
Leave too soon, and you’ll risk losing the hard earned respect you’ve built up so far. Give your team enough time to get into position (OK, but not too much), and they’ll appreciate the extra effort.
Yes, convention has us all believing all we “have” to give is two weeks, but there are definitely times when that just isn’t enough time. Ask yourself these questions before deciding on a two-week departure, and you’ll help maintain your good reputation for all the jobs you’ll have in the future.