On the Job

Leave Your Company on a Good Note

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, November 21, 2008; 12:00 AM

Employers react in different ways when workers announce that they plan to leave the firm. Some escort you to the front door and say that someone else will pack up their belongings and ship them to you. Some allow workers, by mutual agreement, to stick around for a specified time, perhaps two weeks to a month, to finish a project or train a replacement.

But what does a worker do when the company allows you to stay and then basically shuns you? That's this worker's dilemma.

I found a great job with another company and the job starts in less than two weeks. I gave my employer my two weeks' notice on Monday. (I told my two immediate supervisors on Friday). On Tuesday, I left him my resignation letter and said my last day here would be two weeks from Monday. The problem is, since I've put in my two weeks' notice, everyone has stopped giving me work and I have no ongoing work to finish. I just sit at my desk and do nothing. My boss has started to ignore all my calls and won't pick up if I need to talk to him. I feel very unwelcome here and, since I don't have any work to do each day, I would like my last day to be tomorrow, Friday. It doesn't make sense coming into work the next six days just to sit at my desk, doing nothing. It's a waste of time. It has almost become hostile by the fact that everyone has stopped communication with me. Should I just tell them I'm walking out? And are there any consequences for doing that?

On the Job notes that this is a very short-term problem and wonders why you don't bring along a couple books to read for a week if the company does not want to give you any small project to occupy your time. Our guess is that the firm does not want to pay you for even the extra week you might be there yet does not want to fire you even though it most likely could without any legal consequences.

When you announced your departure, the company, if it didn't want you around, yet wasn't willing to fire you, should have just offered to pay you for the two weeks and told you not to bother to show up. In fact, any severance is usually at the company's discretion

Pegine Echevarria, who owns a human resources firm in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., offers some more thoughts for this worker.

She says this worker "is uncomfortable because she has a very strong work ethic¿and feels she should be working. You could walk out but it would not be good for your reputation."

That being the case, Echevarria suggests that the worker "write a report for whoever is going to take over her job. What were they working on? Who are the people who would impact the job?

"She ought to walk around the office and make sure she has well-mended fences," Echevarria says. "People will not remember what you did for the last two years but the last interactions."

Aside from doing this, Echevarria says the worker should check the company handbook and see what departure policies might be relevant, such as severance payments and pay for unused personal or vacation time.

And she could simply go to her manager and ask, "'What's the best for the organization? What do you want me to do, stay or leave? If you want me to leave, just pay me for the last couple weeks and I'll leave."

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com.

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