can I apply for a job at the place that I quit without notice?

A reader writes:

I won’t go into the gory details, but I quit a job without notice via email (I know, very unprofessional). The truth is I was offered another position, but had to start right away, and I was embarrassed to face my very kind boss to tell her. In short, bridge burned. A few months later I got up the nerve to send a handwritten apology. I never heard back from her, and believe that she did not accept my apology. Now there is an ideal job open with the same organization that I would like to apply to, but I’m afraid to.

Should she have accepted my apology?

Should I forget about ever working for this organization again?

Ashamed and Embarrassed

You are ashamed and embarrassed, so I’m going to try to minimize this lecture … but yeah, you need to forget about working for them ever again.

It sounds like you know that quitting without notice burns a bridge. There are times when you can finesse it — by apologizing profusely, explaining the situation, being mortified, offering to do whatever you can to help in the transition. But it sounds like you didn’t do that, and it sounds like you didn’t even return to work after sending the email. So that bridge is thoroughly burned, and with good reason.

That means that you can’t try to go back there. They will forever see you as unreliable and unprofessional (and also probably a little cowardly). You shouldn’t even try to apply again, because that will make you look as if you don’t understand how Not Okay it is to quit without notice. Then you’ll be not only someone who quit without notice, but also someone who doesn’t think it’s actually that big of a deal.

It’s good that you apologized, because that was the right thing to do. But apologies can’t come with strings — “I’m apologizing so I expect you to forgive me for what happened.”  Apologies only count if you mean them despite the recipient’s reaction.

You asked if your old boss should have accepted your apology. That’s really her call — but it’s also not really relevant here.  She could accept your apology but still very reasonably not ever consider hiring you again.

All you can do is accept the consequences of how you handled this and move on. And in the future if you’re tempted to quit a job without notice, use this situation as a reason not to. (Besides, any new job that asks you to is sending up a big red flag about how they themselves operate.)

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. Monique C.*

    You definitely burned a bridge with that one. I wouldn’t bother applying to the old job. The apology should be enough.

  2. bemo12*

    I’d add that if you’re in a field where word travels this could get around and people who didn’t know you quit without notice find out and it can harm your reputation.

    I can just imagine the woman opening your resume and telling people about how you had the gall to apply after what you did.

    Don’t do it.

  3. Sandrine*

    Yup, what Allison said.

    The only reason I’m still at my current job is, in fact, because I don’t want to burn bridges (and lose money :D ) .

    One of the girls in my team is actually “quitting” … she hasn’t been to work in a month and no one knows she’s not coming back, except a few. I only know because it came up in conversation casually with someone else.

    I’m not going to rat her out, but really… it’s a rather bad thing to do, and I can’t imagine the number of people she will have crossed, considering sometimes people move on to places you wouldn’t expect them to.

    1. Josh S*

      Um, if she hasn’t been to work in a month, isn’t she FIRED? Or is she using up Paid Time Off somehow…?

      Another quite unprofessional thing on her part.

      1. Sandrine*

        Nah, just a no show. The thing is, in France, you have “firing” , “quitting” and a bizarre “job abandonment” thing, where after X time they considered you abandoned your post and write you off.

        And nope, she wasn’t fired, at first I thought she wasn’t going to come in a certain month because of religious reasons (when others have been able to come to work just fine) , but then I learnt that nope, she’s not coming back and she has a new job lined up, even.

        I don’t wish her anything bad, really… but alas, I’m not surprised.

          1. Sandrine*

            Ah, I just checked up. I have to correct what I said.

            If you don’t show up for work in X amount of time without justification, the employer can fire you “for a grave cause” (there’s a difference, say, between being fired because you can’t perform well or being fired because you assaulted a coworker, for example) . They do, however, have to send a registered letter first. If you don’t respond, you’re toast.

            In certain cases, what’s messed up is that there might be consequences but apparently the law has decided that some people can just disappear and come back and not be fired on the spot.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              What’s the practical difference between being fired for grave cause or just firing you? Is there some advantage to the company if it’s grave cause, like their responsibility for paying you benefits afterward?

              What if they send you the registered letter and you do respond?

              1. Sandrine*

                If you do respond, apparently, in certain cases they have to take you back but there can be consequences (which ones, I don’t know… but I bet this is one instance in which they SO WISH it was “at will” like in some states :P ) .

                Apparently part of it is, indeed, about unemployment. But it’s quite complicated, I can do some research for you at some point if you’d like, and since your blog is so international maybe one day you can do a huge “cultural differences in the job force” post XD .

              2. KT*

                In Canada (where I live) it’s “firing with cause” and “firing without cause.” Firing with cause is firing for a major reason: theft, embezzlement, assaulting someone, etc.; really any sort of gross misconduct. A regular firing is firing someone who is just not working out (such as chronically late, slow worker, just not a good fit, etc.).
                The advanatage to firing with cause is you are off the hook for unemployment, severance, benefits, etc. It also makes it a lot harder for the fired employee to sue you.

                Fired employee: I’m going to sue you. You discriminated against me and had no right fire me.

                Company: Well, you slapped your assistant across the face. We have witnesses.

                1. AB*

                  Same thing in Brazil — firing with cause has advantages for the employer, as they don’t have to pay additional expenses incurred when you fire someone without cause (certain benefits, unused vacation time, etc.).

                  You can be fired for cause in the case of “job abandonment” after 30 days have passed and there is evidence that the absence is unjustified (i.e., it doesn’t count if the employee was in the hospital, unable to communicate with the employer). 30 days seems excessive to me, but then we copied France in most of our legislation…

          2. Anonymous*

            UK here – we can’t just take a day’s AWOL as having finished. Theoretically, after a few days, you could write to them and say you will assume they’ve resigned unless they contact you within (say) a week. To be really safe (especially if someone has been with you long enough to get unfair dismissal rights) you’d go through a complete rigmarole of a disciplinary hearing. Which they probably wouldn’t attend. Obviously you’d do all the contacting NOK first, just in case.

              1. GeekChic*

                As someone who has worked and managed under both types of laws, the abuses of at-will are a heck of a lot worse….

            1. Josh S*

              Wow. There’s times I think the ‘at-will’ employment laws in the US are rough on employees, but ya’ll over in Europe (or FR/UK at least) have it rough as employers.

              If you can’t fire someone for being AWOL without jumping through hoops, that’s a problem.

              1. Jamie*

                Yes, because if budgets work the same way there as they do here a lot of times you can’t hire for a position until the previous employee has separated from the company. The longer the period where the current employee is AWOL but still on the book the longer the employees who are actually showing up have to pick up the slack.

                1. Sandrine*

                  In France, I’d assume yes until the employer figures out that “whoops” someone is missing… in my company, I wouldn’t be surprised that it would take them that long.

                  For example, in my team, we originally were supposed to be 18 people. We were regularly under ten, until they added more people two weeks ago (my boss was still on vacation) . I wouldn’t be surprised if it took him a few more days to realize Coworker isn’t coming back.

                  Not that she has the best track record on attendance, but to each their own. I do hate my job too, but at least I have enough pride that I will work my ass off till the end and go out not only with a bridge NOT burnt, but you can be sure it’s going to be a hell of a bridge, complete with lights and decorations and all :D .

          3. Jamie*

            Yeah – most places I’ve worked 3 days no-call no-show = voluntary quit (job abandonment). But that’s just to give people a fair chance to have someone notify work if you were hospitalized and unable to call, kidnapped, or suffering from temporary amnesia and can’t remember where you work.

            In reality no-call/no-show even once is very hard to recover from.

            1. Eggs and bacon*

              Although still kind of weird and long (30 days!), I think some of these laws reflect times when communication was much harder than it is now, when we have cell-phones and email. We just recently had to send a certified letter to someone who wasn’t responding and it just made me realize that I haven’t sent a business one in forever, where I think it used to be more common when I started working.

    2. Hilary*

      This happened to me! When I was working in an internship, a woman in the office went on a “sick leave” and they asked me to step into her position in the interim. This included taking over her phone and voicemail…where I got messages from prospective employers and employment counselors. I let my boss know about the messages because all phone messages for her were supposed to be passed onto my supervisor who would then pass them onto her.

      In the end, it worked out great for me! I gained a ton of work experience I wouldn’t have otherwise received. As for the “sick leave” employee, she ended up quitting and, as far as I know, has not been able to keep a job in the last 5 years.

  4. Allison*

    No, you can’t go back. My question is, why would you WANT to? No matter how understanding your ex-boss is/was, you were out looking for another job. There was obviously something about that company that you didn’t like, otherwise you’d still be there.

    Sorta like remarrying an ex – why? The problems are not guaranteed to have gone away, just because the ex looks good now. Write it off to experience, and don’t do that again!

    1. fposte*

      Remarrying an ex who was left standing at the altar after you were a no-show at the wedding and took all the money in the joint account.(Maybe that scenario helps illustrate why a note saying you’re sorry wouldn’t obligate somebody to forgive you, too.)

      Even if you did go back, you’d have strikes against you for promotion and growth, so the job wouldn’t actually offer the possibilities it looks like it would.

  5. some1*

    The only other point I was going to make that wasn’t mentioned was that you apologized to your boss, which is a good thing. It’s not a good thing because it might help your career, but because you did a crappy thing. It’s like apologizing to your partner after screwing up really bad (cheating or lying about something huge) — you should apologize because it’s the right thing to do, not so they will take you back.

    However, you didn’t apologize to your co-workers. They more than likely had to pick up more of the slack than your old boss when you quit, and probably not for any more $. If I was one of your co-workers, I’d be extremely angry if you got re-hired after pulling that. I’d be professionally courteous to you, but you can bet I’d never do anything extra for you work-wise, or want to socialize with you in any way.

  6. KT*

    A friend of mine was actually in this same situation. He quit X company with almost no notice (I think he gave a few days). He was actually leaving to go work for our biggest competitor. His manager was so disappointed and angry that we would leave us high and dry and not give his two weeks.
    My friend always felt really bad, apologized profusely, and ended up sort of “reconciling” with this manager. He would go out for drinks with him, etc.
    A job posting came up at our company and my friend applied for it. His old boss called him to say “not on your life, pal!” We have “made up” socially, but I couldn’t trust you not to do it again if you came back on board.

    1. Jamie*

      Yep – perfect correlation to the ex-spouse analogy mentioned earlier.

      I can have a pleasant conversation with my ex-husband and even ask him in for coffee when he stops by to see the kids. Forgiving and forgetting are two entirely different things.

  7. Jamie*

    Oh – and because it’s bothering me: From the original post:

    “Should she have accepted my apology?”

    Only if she felt like it. How could any impartial observer answer that.

    I have a pet peeve with people thinking just because an apology is offered it’s rude not to accept it. People should apologize for the sake of decency and doing what’s right. That bestows exactly zero obligation on the part of the recipient to care if you’re sorry or not.

    (Caveat: unless you are the parent of the recipient. That’s understood to come with a whole lot more leeway. Other than that I stand by the above.)

      1. Jamie*

        Oh, I agree. I’m just saying there isn’t even an obligation to care if you don’t.

        But yes – accepting an apology doesn’t necessarily equal a clean slate. If it did I wouldn’t have spent so much time grounded as a kid – because my mom could forgive you totally without lifting the consequences.

    1. SW*

      Could you clarify that caveat for me? Did you mean that the onus is on the receiver to forgive if the one apologizing is their parent?

        1. Jamie*

          Exactly. Because it doesn’t matter what rotten thing they’ve done, you remember them when they wore cookie monster jammies and smelled like baby shampoo.

          1. SW*

            OK, that makes sense. My dad would verbally abuse me, apologize and then repeat the process (several times over, throughout my childhood until he kicked me out of the house), so I would have been kind of horrified if you’d meant the reverse!

            1. Jamie*

              I have no idea why my fingers typed the opposite of what I meant.

              They are tricksters sometimes.

              But no – just that when kids are going to screw up sometimes and one needs to be more forgiving than with say co-workers.

              Because even though for the millionth time they swore they brought down all the used towels from their room, but there’s nothing in the laundry and the linen closet is bare so you go in there and find 6 million towels on the floor, in the hamper, draped over chairs and they are sorry because they didn’t see them…

              You forgive them because the alternative is the impeding stroke you are about to have from the stress of speaking but never being heard.

              And you forgive them because they are grinning at you with the dimples they got from their dad and the teeth which are only straight because you financed the orthodontist’s boat. And car. And addition to his house.

              And you forgive them because in the long run love trumps being right.

              I am now feeling incredibly guilty because I left the house today mad about the towels.

              1. Job Seeker*

                I join your club about towels, Jamie. Yes, forgiving your children is a given. Love my kids.

  8. Sophia*

    This just kind of boggles my mind. In retail, I would have given 2 weeks knowing that was just the right amount of time for them to fill in the new schedules without me. If the job was really horrible and I knew other people could fill for me, I might have considered 1 week.

    In an office setting, I know my boss would be struggling if I just gave 2 weeks (although she wouldn’t hold it against me).

    I absolutely couldn’t fathom giving less than 2 weeks at my job… let alone just not showing up one day.

    Seriously, I would not even think about applying to that company again. If anything, you’re lucky if they havn’t spread the word that you’re inconsiderate and unreliable throughout your industry.

  9. Hello Vino*

    Oh dear. Quitting via email, no standard 2 weeks notice. You’ve definitely burned a bridge here. Whether the apology was accepted or not is irrelevant. You recognized it was unprofessional, you apologized, time to move on. Treat this as a life lesson and don’t let it happen again! Hopefully, this company will not have spread the word to others in the industry.

  10. Elizabeth*

    At my employer, a no-call/n0-show resignation is required to be marked as “Not eligible for re-hire” in the HR file. It wouldn’t matter what your former boss thought, you couldn’t come back. You would have A History with the entity that says we can’t trust you.

    1. Jeb-Ray Gumpeater*

      Same here. Even if your old boss actually WANTS you back, you cannot be re-hired. Actually had it happen a few years ago. someone tried to come back, manager wanted her back, HR would not allow it.

  11. HRAnon*

    … there are no words. Seriously. Just. No.

    I second both Elizabeth and bemo12. Not only is your file almost certainly marked “Not eligible for rehire” but if you apply, and there are people there still who know you, they will be appalled, and tell everyone they know.

  12. EngineerGirl*

    I’m boggled about the line Should she have accepted my apology? Seriously? Really? Why is there an obligation to accept an apology? That is something the other person decides to do on their own. It isn’t an obligation if you say I’m sorry.

    And since when is an apology ever enough when you’ve done damage? You have to make it right too, and you didn’t do that. I mean, even in car accidents (which are by definition, accidents) we still make it right by carrying insurance. So if accidents need reconciliation, don’t “on purpose” need it even more? Gahh.

    I’m sorry to say, but if you apply after doing this stunt, you are only adding insult to injury. Don’t do it.

  13. Dwayne*

    It’s only OK to quit a job without notice if you know you (beyond the shadow of a doubt) that you won’t be working in that particular industry again.

  14. mary*

    Hi I left my job of 33 years after my boss retired. I did not get along with the new owner of the practice. A lot of stress through the years and at times I wanted to sit and talk to him about working things out but I did not. I had another job all lined up when I gave my 2 weeks notice. Sadly I was let go after 2 months. I was told I wasnt a good fit. I was devasted! I ahve since found a new job but I really would like to try and get my old job back. I am struggling and feeling very anxious over everything. What should I do?

  15. JD*

    To be honest YES you should give notice of quitting your job!!! At least 2 weeks if possible & absolutely No less than a week notice.

    How ever I do find it rather ironic that an Employer can be angry at you for quitting without notice, yet (in employee at will jobs) fire you with No Reason & No Notice, even if you are an outstanding employee & you as the employee just have to except it & be alright with the situation. Maybe employers should understand that employees are NOT Commodities to be just thrown away when done with them & more employees will be less likely to quite without notice if the same courtesy was given in return.

  16. Anonymous*

    I have a question, I would like to ask if I can apply for internal position while I’m completing my weeks leaving notice?

  17. Tom*

    I think you should apply for the job. Who cares if you left with no notice, so what. Times change, people change. Its no big deal.

  18. Tom*

    In some industries people quit with no notice all the time and then return after effectively walking out. Its normal. Just ignore the majority of the above posts, I would. Sometimes you have to leave at short notice due to circumstances. Its nothing to worry about.

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