[Coaching Tips] How Much Notice Should You Give When You Quit Your Job?

There’s been a flurry of comments on this morning’s Twitter stream regarding how much notice people should give when they quit a job. And as a side note, it’s an interesting shift in the job market when the conversation is about how to leave a job, rather than how to find a job.

My short answer for how much notice to give? It depends.

As a quick aside, some countries outside of North America have required notice period. In the UK, for example. these so called “gardening periods” might be several months before someone can start worth with a new firm. But back to the main point.

Chris Dixon suggested 12 months last October on his blog in a post titled Twelve months notice. Chris writes, “For this reason, if you are an employee working at a startup where the managers are honest, inclusive and fair, you should disregard everything you’ve learned about proper behavior from people outside of the startup world.” Chris, who is the co-founder of Hunch, adds that you should recognize some folks are different (“the transactional types”) and 2 weeks is more appropriate.

Mark Suster in a post this morning called How to Quit Your Job on his blog Both Sides of the Table suggests quick exits – something on the order of 2-4 weeks. (Mark also provides some good tips on how to help someone script an exit so they’re not kept hostage – my words – by their prior employer.)

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson, writing on his blog A VC, weighed in with a response: “So to summarize, if you are the employee, it is best to give as much notice as you can comfortably give to your current employer without putting yourself in a vulnerable position. If you are the hiring company, you want to get the new employee onboard as quickly as possible, but don’t put the person you are hiring in an awkward and damaging position.

Why do I suggest “It Depends?”

First, there is more to the issue than meets the eye. Having a consulting practice coaching CEOs and their teams in start-ups, having been a principal in a start-up, and having worked at senior levels in corporations that are mature with run rates of $15B+, the simple fact is that most of the time you get back what you give.

Let me explain: the company that consistently hires people with “exploding offers” – offers that expire with a set, usually short, time frame – should expect the same type of quick consideration and notice when people exit.

A firm that “trims” its workforce and provides 60 days pay as a base severance exit will likely get 1-2 months notice when someone voluntarily exits.

People that think – as Chris has suggested – longer term in the sense of having sustained relationships with people will likely have the same sort of longer term consideration – and notice – from its employees.

And by the way. Whatever “signals” play out at the top of the firm will reverberate throughout. When Andrew Trader’s departure was announced from Zynga, many of the 800 employees will read all sorts of “tea leaves” into how people – in this case one of founding team members – are treated on their way out. If it came as a sudden surprise and quick exit, then people will use that example as the new norm. If it had been widely communicated with lots of advance notice, then people will assume that’s how Zynga operates.

Trader’s exit note “I’m leaving Zynga to pursue other entrepreneurial opportunities and to spend more time with my family . . ” will get read and interpreted any number of ways. If your Zynga’s CEO Andrew Pincus (or Andrews HR Head) you’d like the exit to set the standard for others to follow.

Two other thoughts. You can read some earlier posts that may be helpful for you: “How to Say Goodbye” and “5 Landmines to Sidestep When Changing Jobs.”

So how much notice? At least 2 weeks, and if your employer has been good to you and others, longer – but not too long – if asked.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive and team coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above.