Giving two-weeks notice when resigning from your job is courteous, respectful - and sometimes very stressful.
In most cases, giving the standard two weeks of notice is a great way to quit your job while staying on good terms with your boss and coworkers (who will have to take up your responsibilities after you leave).
You're not legally obligated to give two-weeks notice (it could be shorter, or longer), but allowing some kind of "buffer" or transition time is a good practice. It gives your boss time to start to hire a replacement, or make a plan for how best to organize the team without you.
Of course, not every situation is as easy as telling your boss you're moving on, and getting a big "Congratulations!"...
If you're ready to leave your job, or even just toying with the idea, here's how you can give two-weeks notice in a professional and straightforward way, including examples of what to say.
When do I give two-weeks notice?
It's tempting to tell your boss you're leaving after you nail that second interview - but don't move too fast. When you're moving on to a new job at another company, only give your current employer your notice after you've hammered out the details and signed the offer letter for your new job.
Even if you've gotten a verbal offer from a new company, wait until you have that offer in hand and are totally satisfied with the terms and have signed before you give your two-weeks to your current boss. If something were to fall through with the new gig, there's no guarantee your current boss would be amenable to taking you back.
While two weeks is the typical - and often expected - amount of notice to give, it's not a legally required time period. Some companies or positions do have employee contracts or handbooks you might have signed that outline how much notice you're required to give to get any benefits you're entitled to, so make sure you're familiar with that.
If you have two weeks to give, that's a respectable and professional amount of time. But don't feel pressure to stay too long when you're quitting; you know what's best for you.
How do I give two-weeks notice?
“The best way to give notice is through a conversation with your direct manager. Not email or some other impersonal format,” career change coach Theola DeBose says. “As the employee, you may be eager to move on to your new role. But as the saying goes, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. How you end your job is important for future references.”
Set a meeting with your boss or plan on giving your notice in your next 1:1. Come with a printed resignation letter and set enough time to discuss the details of your departure and any responsibilities you need to transition.
“Be open if your employer asks for more time and try to come to a compromise. If the situation is extremely toxic and you want to hold firm to your end date, consider having a transition memo already written so that you can present them with a next steps plan,” DeBose says.
How to write a two-weeks notice letter
Depending on your relationship with your boss, it could be tempting to write a novel about what this job meant to you, or tempting to say as little as possible. Keep it professional with these five tips for writing your two-weeks notice letter.
1. Keep it short
Tell your employer that you’re leaving the company and when your last day will be.
You don’t need to tell them whether you have a new job or even why you’re leaving. You’re welcome to say thank you or to express what you’ve loved about the job. Your two-weeks notice letter isn’t the place to let your boss know what a drag the job has been, but consider that your boss may ask you why you're leaving. In which case, be prepared.
“Think carefully about the real reasons you want to quit and the reasons you wish to share with your employer,” career coach Kathy Caprino says. “They’re often very different. But be very conscious and intentional on how you want to part—amicably, angrily, abruptly, responsibly, etc. Be mindful of how you want to be remembered—the way you part with the company will dramatically impact your reputation, how you are remembered by your manager, leadership, and colleagues, and the legacy you leave behind.”
Read more:The Best Way to Quit a Job You Hate
2. Include the date
Be sure to date the letter—both the date you deliver (if it's printed; emails are timestamped) and the date of your last day. This helps your employer keep a paper trail and makes it explicitly clear when you’ll be leaving. Even if you say "this is my two-weeks notice," be sure to put the exact date you plan to be your last day.
3. Deliver it in person, if you can
If you can, deliver the notice letter in person to your direct supervisor during a private meeting. It’s a way to be courteous and thank them.
If an in-person meeting isn’t possible, schedule a video call or email your resignation letter and offer to discuss on a phone call or via video chat.
4. Send a copy to human resources
If your company has a human resources department, email a copy to HR. They will then likely schedule an exit interview with you to discuss your time at the company. This is also a good time to bring questions about cashing out PTO and how long your benefits will last after your last day.
5. Be honest in your exit interview
Your employer might schedule an exit interview with you to find out what you did and didn’t like about your time at the company.
The best thing you can do in an exit interview is to be honest. Talk about the bad experiences tactfully. You want to 1) be able to get it off your chest, and 2) give the employer the opportunity to change. Providing helpful criticism is an indirect way to help out the coworkers you're leaving behind. If the company doesn't know what's wrong, it can't improve for the remaining employees.
What if I can’t give two-weeks notice?
Most employees in the United States (except for those in Montana) are considered “at-will” workers, which means the job can end at any time for any reason. That includes your right to quit without notice.
As noted earlier, if your employment contract requires you to give two-weeks notice, your employer might not pay out your bonuses or cash out your remaining vacation days if you can't stay the full two weeks. You might also leave extra work for your coworkers to do in your absence. But if you need to leave immediately, you are not breaking any laws.
Two-weeks notice letter template #1 - standard, friendly
[Date of Letter Delivery]
Dear [Supervisor’s Name],
This is to inform you that I will be resigning from my position as [job title]. My last day will be [Day of the Week, Month, Day, Year].
I want to thank you for your support and the opportunities afforded to me during my time at [Company Name]. In this role, I have tremendously grown my skills and experience and I leave a better [skill], [skill], and [skill].
In my last two weeks, I will do everything I can to wrap up my duties and pass along my knowledge to other team members.
Two-weeks notice letter template #2 - short and sweet
[Date of Letter Delivery]
Dear [Supervisor’s Name],
I am writing to inform you that I am resigning from my position as [job title] effective two weeks from today. Thank you for your support in this role.
Please let me know what I can do in my remaining time here to make the transition as easy as possible.
Two-weeks notice letter template #3 - emailed notice
Dear [Supervisor’s Name],
I am writing to inform you that I am resigning from my position as [job title]. My last day will be [Day of Week, Month, Day, Year].
Please let me know what I can do in my remaining time here to make the transition as easy as possible. I am happy to discuss the transition via phone or video call.
Two-weeks notice letter template #4 - less than two weeks
Let's be honest. Sometimes you can't give a full two-weeks notice. You need to start your new job sooner than later, you want some time to yourself between gigs, or perhaps you just can't wait to get out of a toxic environment.
If that's the case, here's how to give your notice.
[Date of Letter Delivery]
Dear [Supervisor's Name],
This is to let you know that my last day at [Company Name] will be [Day of Week, Month, Day, Year], one week from today.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this team for the last six years. I've learned a great deal and grown as a person. I leave a better professional too.
Please let me know what I can do in this final week to prepare for a new hire to take my place.
What to do if your employer counter-offers
When you meet with your boss to give them your two-weeks notice, they might counter-offer to get you to stay, which is a huge compliment to your skills and abilities. A counter-offer might mean a higher salary, more fringe benefits, or the ability to work from home.
While you should never assume you'll receive a counter-offer, take a moment to consider what it would take for you to stay, if anything.
“Before you give notice, understand what you will and will not negotiate on,” Caprino says. “If they want to give you a counter-offer, have a clear idea in your mind of what would need to be in the compensation package or in other aspects of their counter-offer for you to say yes. If they counter-offer and you want to consider it, don’t say yes right away. Take the time you need to evaluate it.”
A counter-offer is a great chance for you to negotiate a higher salary or flexible work hours, but as Caprino points out, it's not always dollars and cents that amount to the “cost” of staying.
“Remember, if you absolutely hate this job and have another lined up but your employer offers you more money, think about the ‘cost’ of staying. Most people who stay in a job they hate just for the added money, end up regretting it. It’s preferable to find a great job you’ll enjoy that offers you that better compensation package.”
If you do take a counter-offer, let your would-have-been new employer know ASAP. It's not unheard of to lose a potential hire to a counter-offer, but it's absolutely inconvenient. Give them the courtesy of alerting them as soon as possible.
Dear [Supervisor's Name],
I wanted to let you know that I accepted a counter-offer from my current employer this morning and will not be joining the [Name of New Company] team. I apologize for any inconvenience this causes in your search for a new [job title]. I have the utmost respect for your organization and the work you do, and I appreciate very much the opportunity to join. I wish you the very best in your search.
If your current employer doesn't counter, it doesn't necessarily mean they're glad to be rid of you, they just might not have the resources to offer you anything more. And, Caprino says: “If you’re wanting to give notice just to push them to give you a counter-offer, don’t do it. That’s not the way to rise in an organization, plus you may not get it—and you’ll be out of a job that way.”
After you give two-weeks notice, how to wrap up your responsibilities like a pro
Here are some tips for finishing up your responsibilities and making sure you stay on good terms once you've turned in your two-weeks notice.
Document all your day-to-day tasks, big and small, and the process for each
This will make it much easier for your boss to write a job description for your replacement or to delegate your responsibilities among your colleagues.
Offer to train colleagues
Ask your manager if there's any knowledge they'd like for you to pass along to a coworker before you leave.
Don't just check out
It may be your last two weeks, but showing up late, shirking responsibilities, or wasting time won't leave them with pleasant last memories of you.
Keep it professional if you want to return
Sometimes after getting more experience elsewhere, or because your original company changes for the better, you have an opportunity to return. That's why you always want to leave on a positive note after giving two-weeks' notice. Reaching out to those coworkers and managers in the future is easy when you didn't burn any bridges. It happens more than you might think, so never rule it out. This doesn't apply if the company is not one you want to associate with again, or if problematic employees or managers don't leave.
About our sources
Theola DeBose teaches career changers to remix their skills so they have the confidence to jumpstart their career transition and create the life they want. She is the founder of JSkills, an online bootcamp to guide journalists through career discovery. Formerly, she was a senior communications leader in the Obama administration and a journalist at The Washington Post.
Kathy Caprino, M.A., is a career and leadership coach, senior Forbes contributor, TEDx speaker, LinkedIn influencer, and podcast host of Finding Brave, which has ranked in Top 100 Apple Career Podcasts. Her mission is to support the advancement of women in business around the globe; see her TEDx Talk here.