It’s still considered good business, and the decent thing to do, but the practice is no longer as standard as it once was.

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Time was, when you were leaving a job, you automatically gave two weeks’ notice. Sometimes three. It was considered the professional and courteous thing to do.

But is it still wise? After all, nowadays some employers escort you out the door the minute you resign, not even giving you the chance to say goodbye to co-workers.

Worse, you could find yourself losing two or three weeks’ pay you were counting on, just because you were trying to do “the right thing.”

It’s a brave new world. Here are some points to consider:

Keep in mind that most employment is “at will.” This means that employers are not required by law to provide you advance notice of dismissal; indeed, they can fire you on the spot. By the same token, there is no law requiring employees to give notice to employers. It’s still considered good business, and the decent thing to do, but the practice is no longer as standard as it once was.

Before you make any move at all, check your company’s policy. Some employers have an explicit, written protocol that resignations result in instant dismissal. They may do this for security considerations, or because they’ve determined that departing employees are unproductive and/or a “bad influence” on remaining employees. Other companies have policies stipulating that employees who resign without notice may actually be subject to sanctions, such as being asked to reimburse the employer for any education they may have provided you.

Karen Burns, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs
Karen Burns, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs

Observe your company’s actual behaviors. What happens when other people give notice? Do they work out their two weeks and everyone goes on his/her merry way? If so, then you are probably safe to do likewise. Does your boss immediately fire everyone who gives notice? Well, then your question may be answered for you.

If you do decide against giving notice, however, be sure that you did not previously sign something promising you would (sometimes employment contracts or job offer letters include this verbiage).

In general, while you should always aim to conduct yourself ethically, job situations vary. So assess the pros and cons, and proceed with prudence. Be as open and honest as you can. And strive to conclude your relationship on the best possible terms, for both you and your soon-to-be-former employer.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at wg@karenburnsworkinggirl.com.