resigning without 2 weeks notice

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A reader writes:

Six months ago I was laid off from my job where I was a salaried employee with benefits. Since then, I have found employment freelancing for a media company where I am paid hourly with no benefits. The people in my position do not have a contract or a set schedule so you never know if you will be working a 2 hour shift or a 20 hour shift. Frequently we receive day-of notice that there is no work for us that day. If I were working 40+ hours a week, I wouldn’t mind so much, but lately, the work has slowed down to a point where in the past month I have been working 4, 8, 12 hour weeks.

I have expressed my concern to my boss about work being so slow lately. She keeps telling me that it will pick up, but things keep falling through (due to reasons beyond her control). She assures me that it will pick up in January. I love my boss. She took a chance on me when a lot of people didn’t and I have learned so much from her, which is why I don’t want to burn this bridge.

I am considering moving back home which is in another part of the country in order to save money. But with the holidays approaching (and my company being closed for nearly 2 weeks around Christmas and New Years) and the current economy, I can’t hold out much longer. I would like to cut my losses while I still can. Is there ever a situation where it is acceptable to give less than 2 weeks notice? And if so, how do I quit on good terms so that I can work for this company again in the future?

This is one of the few situations where it might be okay to quit with less than two weeks notice — because your company is giving you little work and little notice of what your work (and thus your pay) will be like day to day.

I recommend simply talking to your boss. If you’ve made up your mind to leave and it’s just a question of timing, just tell her that your finances have made it impossible to stay. Ask for her guidance on the question of whether you could leave with only a week (or less) of notice and whether it would be a problem or not. With the company about to close for the holidays and work so light, it might be a non-issue to them. Just ask.

And if she tells you that they really need the two weeks notice and can’t be flexible, then you can figure out from there how much of a hardship it would be to you to give it. If she makes it clear that two weeks is expected no matter what, and you really can’t give it without significant hardship, then just be really apologetic, even mortified, and explain that there’s been so little work that you’re now in dire financial straits and need to take this opportunity while it’s in front of you. Sounding genuinely sorry often makes people want to cut you some slack.

Good luck!

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Krupo

    Not having work to do = not getting paid = not much of a job to declare 2 weeks notice from in the first place? :p

  2. HR Maven

    Another option if it creates such a hardship, as a freelancer, you could suggest to finish projects from your new location.

    I agree with the advice that financially you can’t continue with this arrangement and you are giving as much notice as possible.

  3. Anonymous

    One point though: “not two-weeks notice” and not returning from that two-week holiday break you mentioned, and resigning via phone call ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS.

    You need to sit down, face to face, and give her a heads up. Anyone who resigns via phone call from afar is not someone I ever want to have to work with again, unless it was due to an unforeseen circumstance that they could not control.

  4. Rachel - I Hate HR

    I assume “moving back home” means moving in with the parents? Try to at least give them a weeks notice. It doesn’t seem like they really need you now anyways.

  5. RJ

    Wow.

    It doesn’t actually sound like you’re employed. They give you 1 day’s notice – you give them 2 weeks? That doesn’t sound right to me.

    As a freelancer, it seems like you are a short-term contractor, not an employee. You are, in effect, casual labour.

    I’m not living in your jurisdiction, but the key thing here is managing the relationship.

    Sincerity and enthusiasm should count for something.

    Be honest. Tell your boss what you said here – you love working with her, and have learned a lot, and would love to work closer to full time, but the very limited hours you’ve had recently just aren’t enough for you to survive on financially.

    Ask if there’s any prospect it will pick up – if not, explore other options.

    No reasonable person will resent the fact that you can’t survive on 8 hours a week’s work.

  6. Anonymous

    I often think about how unfair the labor law is. For example, during 3 months probation period, after a hard day the employeed might be called into the office and hear that this was his last day. No notice, very little explanation, just “not a fit” is good enough in the eyes of the employer. But if the employee wants to leave, they expect 2 weeks to accomodate the company. Of course, you can argue that the company loses too in terms of training, replacement, etc. Still, the company always have more resources and money than the individual who might be depending on that cheque coming and losing that job can ruin the whole pyramid he might have started building….Some companies change workers like gloves and they don’t care of the consequences.
    Just food for thought!

  7. Hayli @ Rise Smart

    May I ask why you have all your eggs in this one basket? If you’re a freelancer, you can juggle up to six or seven projects for various clients, and set your own rates to make a decent living.

    Why don’t you consider diversifying your income for the present time, which would allow you to keep your connection with this particular client. Or even do it from home in a different part of the country on a telecommute basis, if they are willing.

    As a freelancer, you pretty much own your own business and this is your client, not your employer. Also, are they handling taxes or will you need to look at self-employment taxes?

  8. Anonymous

    Thank you guys so much for your feedback and insight. I really appreciate it. Unfortunately, I cannot take my work with me to my new location since all of my work is done on complex computer systems and therefore, must be done on-site. I have been submitting applications to other jobs while work is slow, but no one is hiring right now. So, Im looking at my options and looking for new opportunities. Once again, thank you guys so much for your advice.

  9. almostgotit

    Giving notice? Having to do the work on proprietary equipment?Doesn’t really sound like a “freelance” situation at all to me, just an employer who’s avoiding employment tax.

    And a bunch of employees paying (therefore) twice as much to the IRS as they should have to — while doing w/o bennies, security, and decent salary besides.

    You’ll probably be better off w/o these guys, even if (yes) you should do what you can to protect your references/relationship here. But really, it’s best to look next for a situation where you are EITHER self-employed OR employed. Otherwise, it is invariably you, the employee who gets screwed.

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