I gave two weeks notice but got told to leave immediately — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I quit my first job out of college yesterday. I really liked that job, I was great at it, and I was on good terms with my coworkers and boss. So when I got a job offer I wanted to take, I thought it would be the professional thing to give a standard two weeks, finish off my existing projects, and write a thorough set of transfer documents.

Well. I told my boss I was accepting another job, and he immediately told me that would be my last day, to pack up my things and make a list of projects I was working on, and that someone would reach out to me about benefits. So 10 minutes later, I left, and I’m still pretty stunned and sad.

This happened at the end of the workday, so few people were around. I feel so guilty — I hate that all of my work is getting dumped on other people without warning or explanation from me. Part of me wants to reach out to my coworkers and tell them what happened and how sorry I am, and another part of me wants to not look back.

Emotions are running high for me because I’m going through a lot of personal stuff in addition to this, so I don’t trust my gut to assess this from a purely professional perspective. What’s the right move?

I’m sorry this happened! Your boss is most likely a jerk.

There are some fields where resigning employees are asked to leave immediately (while still being paid for their notice period) as a security measure or if you’re going to a competitor, but you usually know if you’re in one of them so I’m guessing you’re not. (It’s always struck me as kind of a weird policy since if you were going to steal trade secrets, you could just do that before you resigned. But if they pay out your notice period — and that part is a crucial item on the “not a jerk” checklist — then so be it.)

But you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. You did the professional thing and gave two weeks notice. If your work is dumped on other people without warning, that’s on your boss, not on you. Your boss had the opportunity to have a smoother transition and decided not to. There’s nothing for you to apologize for!

I do think it’s worth contacting your coworkers to say goodbye, at least the ones you were closest to. First, you’re entitled to say goodbye to people you worked with and give them your contact info so you can stay in touch in the future. Second, there’s a chance your boss is misrepresenting what happened — saying you left without notice or even implying he fired you — and you have the chance to say what really happened.

Don’t make it a gossipy or dramatic thing in your email, but make sure you clearly say you tried to give notice. For example, you could write something like: “I wanted to let you know that Tuesday was my last day at (company). I’ve accepted another job, and when I resigned to Cecil and offered two weeks notice, he told me I should leave immediately. So I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye or tell you how much I’ve enjoyed working with you. (You could insert some personal details here about why you liked working with them if you want.) I hope we can stay in touch and my contact info is below.”

In other words, straightforward, factual, and relatively unemotional.

This is also worth doing because people should know that their manager operates this way. They need to be able to take it into account when the time comes from them to resign — it’s useful for them to know they might be walked out that same day, so they can factor that into their own timing.

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