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There may have to be some leeway around the traditional two-weeks notice to help your former company with its transition.Nicoleta Ionesco/iStock

There was the flight attendant who ended a 28-year career by grabbing a beer and deploying the plane’s emergency exit. He was arrested and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour of criminal negligence.

Then there’s the fast-food employee who posted his resignation, and an f-bomb, on the restaurant’s outdoor neon sign.

Even when it’s exponentially less adversarial and well-planned, quitting a job can be awkward.

For Marie, a 36-year-old Montrealer, the COVID-19 pandemic led her to a career change but she wanted to maintain the good relationship she had with her former employer.

“I was there for three and a half years,” she says. “It was important for me to make the transition as easy as I could for my past employer out of respect for them and the relationships that we built and also for all the trust they put in me for the years that I worked there.”

Marie and her supervisors agreed on a three-week exit, giving her time to wrap up projects as much as possible and provide a smooth transition.

“I did everything in my power to make it easy for them,” she says. “It’s something, changing jobs, and it’s a hard process. There are a lot of people involved.”

There is a right way to leave your job even when you can’t wait to get out the door, says Tiffany Uman, a Montreal-based career strategy coach.

She says you don’t want to ruin any relationships you’ve built, and that may mean some leeway beyond the standard two weeks.

“Leave with your head held high, going out without any regrets and knowing that you’ve done what you could to be as professional as possible without bringing everybody down or sabotaging yourself on the way out,” Ms. Uman says.

She says that two weeks’ notice is not legally required, “but it might backfire down the line” if you don’t provide that period for transition.

Try to help set up a proper transition plan with a list of everything you’ve been working on and what remains to be done. She suggests trying to finalize work projects if possible.

And take the time to have conversations with the people you’ve been working with, including leaders of the organizations, Ms. Uman suggests.

“They might want to get your feedback on why you’re leaving, etcetera,” she says. “It helps to have that kind of mutual engagement and leave on a more positive note.”

She says that even if your experience was on the toxic side of the work experience spectrum, try to give those two weeks of notice.

“At least as an employee, you’ve done your part, and you can leave with your head held high and move on to your next step,” she says.

You don’t want to keep your new employer waiting but keep them in the loop and they are usually supportive, she adds.

“Let them know that you might want to leave a little bit more time to wrap things up nicely with your previous organization, which they’d likely appreciate because that shows a solid work ethic that you’d also be bringing into this next role,” Ms. Uman says.

The much discussed ‘Great Resignation’ that occurred in the United States throughout the pandemic was less of a trend in Canada. Still, almost 12 per cent of permanent employees plan to leave their job within the next 12 months, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent labour force survey.

Regardless of the circumstances of your departure, be professional in taking your leave, says Lissa Appiah, founder of WeApply Canada, a career and leadership development agency.

“Leave with grace,” she says. “In certain industries, you’re often in a small circle of people even though it’s a different company, so you don’t want to burn bridges.”

The amount of expected notice depends on the person’s specific role and responsibilities.

“Legally, you are expected to provide a ‘reasonable’ amount of notice, but then that’s kind of left to interpretation as to what ‘reasonable’ means,” Ms. Appiah says.

Two weeks is the norm, but individual employment contracts may specify a different length of time, longer in the case of management or other roles with high-level responsibilities, or immediate departure in some cases, she says.

“I’ve worked with some clients in the banking and financial sector, and if a person is going to a competitor, often when you leave your role, you’d have to leave immediately. That’s understood in the industry and laid out in your employment contract, as well,” she says.

Have a conversation with your leadership team to decide together on an appropriate period. They may ask for insight into onboarding your replacement or other transition measures. The amount of time it will take to prepare for your departure varies depending on your role and responsibilities, seniority level and tasks in progress, and how that will impact the organization as a whole, she says.

Always inform your boss in person before telling anyone else, and follow up that conversation with a written resignation, she says. That might include laying out your plans for winding up your work.

“Be respectful and leave on good terms,” Ms. Appiah says.

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