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Handing in your notice: How (and why) to do it the right way

Nov. 8, 2023
There’s no rulebook about the best way to quit your job, but following some commonsense principles can help both employees and employers move on with grace and professionalism. Amanda Hill explains.

Change is hard. This is certainly true when it comes to employment. Whether you’re the one leaving a job or the one being left, it can be an emotional process.

And how you leave a job or accept a resignation can have a lasting impact on your professional reputation. While the two-week notice is an industry standard, there’s a lot of chatter on social media about if that’s too much or, in today’s challenging hiring market, enough.

According to HR expert Kara D. Kelley, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CEO of Clinical HR LLC, 49 of the 50 states (Montana is the hold-out) enforce at-will employment. That means an employee can quit at any time, for any reason, without any notice. Likewise, employers are not required to honor the notice period (with exceptions). So, what’s the right call when it comes to giving and accepting notice?

From an employee’s side

When it’s time to move on, giving proper notice is not just a formality; it’s an opportunity to leave a positive, lasting impression and maintain your integrity. Providing that transition time will enable your employer to hopefully find someone to replace your position and ease the burden that your departure places on the rest of the team. Leaving on good terms increases the likelihood of getting a positive reference for future job opportunities.

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However, there’s a lot of fear around what happens after the resignation letter is read. Many employees report being let go immediately, leaving them without pay until their next position begins—or returning the next day to a toxic work environment. Facebook groups are full of stories of employees who find their schedules completely changed, and somehow, all the “difficult” patients are in their column. Even worse, some people report facing verbal abuse from an angry employer and hurt team.

And if you're the boss ...

Getting notice from an employee can feel like a sucker punch if you weren’t expecting it. It’s tough to separate yourself from the emotion and concentrate on what’s best for the practice. Some employers are tempted to let the person go right away for worry of an unproductive employee or, worse, someone who will damage morale or the practice as a whole.

How you handle the transition period will set a precedent for how future employees give notice. Since notice is not required, your behavior sends a message to other members that might discourage them from providing any notice when they separate at a future date. Kelley says, “I would advise practice leaders to speak with their dental HR advisor or management-side employment attorney when determining whether to let an employee go before the end of a notice period. Depending on the state and length of the notice period, the state may determine the employee was terminated rather than having quit.”

Receiving resignations gracefully is a vital aspect of managing a successful office. Don’t miss the opportunity to perform an exit interview. The information you learn at this meeting could prove valuable for improving the practice’s environment and retention of the rest of the team.

Professionalism on both sides goes a long way to a successful transition. An environment where both the practice leader and the departing team member can be transparent and communicate with one another to find the most mutually beneficial arrangement is a win for everyone.

About the Author

Amanda Hill, BSDH, RDH, CDIPC

Amanda Hill, BSDH, RDH, CDIPC, is an enthusiastic speaker, innovative consultant, and award-winning author who brings over 25 years of clinical dental hygiene and education to dentistry. Recipient of OSAP’s Emerging Infection Control Leader award and an active participant with the advisory board for RDH magazine, DentistryIQ, and OSAP’s Infection Control in Practice Editorial Review Board and membership committee, Amanda (also known as the Waterline Warrior) strives to make topics in dentistry accurate, accessible, and fun. She can be reached at [email protected].