All good things must come to an end, but some end far too quickly and abruptly. My recent experience proves (in some cases) there’s absolutely no point to the two week notice anymore.
[Important note: I’m not an attorney, I just dated one while I attended law school.]
Every state in the United States of America supports “at-will” employment, with varying degrees and exceptions. Oregon is one of those states that embraces at will employment, meaning either side can terminate employment at any time for any reason. There are obvious exceptions to the rule (race, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) but the overarching tone of the law is, “don’t fuck up, we can fire you whenever.”
After a downward slide into depression and a seemingly animosity-filled work environment, I decided I was ready to leave my job. I loved the people and I loved our mission, but times were really hard for the seasonal company and I had become their “task rabbit” when the bottom dollar became the only thing that mattered. My job (proposing, building, and coordinating a brand ambassador program) was deemed “not worth the time” because there wasn’t an immediate ROI, so for weeks I had been called on daily to do random, seemingly meaningless, and distracting “tasks” to keep me from my work. I was asked to step into various positions I had already been promoted out of and blatantly belittled along the way. I spoke up about my feelings and this caused upper management to label me an “insubordinate.” From that meeting on, upper management never fully communicated with me, at many times to the detriment of my job.
Despite the seeming lack of support, I had an extremely successful month of August, reaching nearly 9x the financial goal set by upper management for my department. But rather than take the opportunity to say something supportive about my success (or even acknowledge it), the upper management looked into my methods, and (quite naturally) found something to complain about. And rather than bringing their concern directly to me (to stop mention the stacking of coupons) they chose to air it out to the management of the company, which trickled down to my co-workers in other departments. Nobody ever gave me suggestions and guidance for the crafting of my marketing in relation to the sale we were having, and when I brought it up to my supervisor, her response was “nobody else would do that.” No professional cultivation, but rather I was derided for my proactivity.
The time had come to give my notice. I printed out my resignation letter, tucked it away in my desk drawer, and got to work, continuing business as usual while slowly starting the transition phase in each of my projects (outside the brand ambassador program). Sure enough, I was asked to table all my work for the afternoon to find possible income sources for wood dust. Truly impactful work here. As I researched composting toilets, I knew this was not the best use of my time, energy, or emotional stamina. I knew this place was no longer an atmosphere cultivating my professional development. I loved the people, but the machine itself was the problem, so I had to pull the plug.
I handed my written notice to my supervisor at the end of the day on Monday. Her eyes started to water as she asked me, “How do you feel about this?” “Great,” I said as I copied the content of the letter to the HR department.
“What are you going to do?” She asked.
“I’m going to be happy.” I said with a smile. She really started to tear up then.
“That’s the most genuine smile you’ve given me in months,” she said. She was right.
It was true. I was in a downward spiral and this was the best thing I could possibly do to start the process of getting back to the happy man I used to be. I went home happier than I’ve been in months. I couldn’t wait to go in and put a bow on all the hard work I’d done over the past ten months. I wanted the passing of my work to my co-workers to be an enjoyable, inspiring, and manageable task, because I loved the mission… and I still love the mission.
I went into work on Tuesday ready to get to work on the gameplan we’d set out the night before. The problem was, I couldn’t log into anything. My e-mail was shut off. My access to our e-commerce platform and other apps were all cancelled. Then my supervisor asked me to attend a meeting next door with another coworker. She said she’d buy me a cup of coffee.
Sure enough, I was handed a letter that notified me Tuesday was to be my last day at the company. I was fired. To add insult to injury, there were no representatives from HR or upper management present, just my supervisor and another co-worker. I was being “let go” but upper management couldn’t look me in the eye while doing it. They hid.
I wasn’t allowed to transition out. I wasn’t allowed to contact anyone and thank them for working with me. I was to go back, clean out my desk, say my goodbyes and my final paycheck was going to be ready the following day.
Now, don’t get me wrong. “At will” employment makes this seemingly-spiteful decision completely legal. My legal recourse in this situation, had I any intention of doing so, would be less than fruitful (and most likely a failing effort). I had no choice but to accept their decision, but what came next was truly impactful.
Those only concerned with the bottom line were never my primary target of impact. In retrospect, my greatest achievement at the company may have been my unrelenting support of my coworkers and teammates. As I returned to work after that meeting, I was met with an outpouring of tears and hugs. Perhaps never truly appreciated while I was there, my coworkers made it clear to me that my presence would be missed dearly. I took the time to tell each of my friends (no longer co-workers) how I supported them, and I was cheering for their successes to make the company what it could be… something truly special that changed the world.
I said my goodbyes, “borrowed” some office supplies, and left work for the last time. As I walked out into the sunshine, I didn’t feel nervous or scared. It was more liberation than anything. I could now pursue my passions, work hard, and once again start my process of following my unrelenting curiosity.
You can’t say a proper goodbye without drinks, so this past week I asked my former coworkers, my friends, to join me for “happiest hour” drinks. Even a few of my friends from my earliest days at the company stopped by (they’ve been long gone). I was truly flattered at the turnout. I felt all the feelings.
The idea of the two-week notice came about as a courtesy from employees to employers, allowing the company to prepare for the transition of work. Perhaps more importantly, it is a sign that you care about your co-workers. You don’t want to toss on a bunch of work onto them without assistance or guidance. When a company takes that opportunity away, it doesn’t just hurt you, it hurts the team. It hurts morale.
The product of your labor is one of the easiest ways to quantify your impact on a company, but sometimes the biggest mark you can truly make doesn’t stand out in spreadsheets or the return on investment… it is the lasting impressions you leave on those around you.