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During my freshman year of college I was working for a company which I resigned from very unprofessionally. I was able to get the job with the help of a good word from a former colleague and was asked in the interview what my work hours would be like. The interview happened before starting my freshman year, so I didn't know what my time constraints would be, but I had talked about working 20 hours a week and during breaks.

I've always had poor time management skills, so that coupled with trying to adjust to campus living and college coursework was really stressing me out. I was offered another job which I could do remotely and was more closely related to the type of work I liked to do, so I decided I would quit the first job. I felt bad about the idea of leaving a company which I had talked about working long term with, but at the same time I was brought on as an intern and wasn't filling any crucial role in the company.

I was extremely nervous when I went in to talk to my boss and barely pieced together my explanation of wanting to pursue a different working arrangement (remotely instead of commuting). He asked when I was planning on leaving and, not sure what the correct response would be, said that as soon as I wasn't needed. He asked if that would mean I wanted to leave that day and I said yes.

This was two years ago already, but I still think about it somewhat frequently. It was definitely disrespectful to the colleague that put his neck out for me, and I feel like I also deceived my manager by talking about my plans to work long term and then jumping at another opportunity.

Would it be inappropriate for me to reach out to my manager at this job and apologize for having in the way I did?

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    "He asked if that would mean I wanted to leave that day and I said yes." It sounds from this statement that you reached an agreement. Leaving the same day is not generally ideal, but if both parties agreed... Bringing this up 2 years later is probably not needed (especially if he agreed to it like you imply, he probably has long forgotten about it) – Brandin Oct 9 '15 at 9:38
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    Actually it sounds like he might have insulted you at the same time - if I was working somewhere and asked that question, and he said "you can leave today, you are not needed" - I would be insulted that my work was not important to the company. – Sh4d0wsPlyr Oct 9 '15 at 12:57
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    I felt bad about the idea of leaving a company which I had talked about working long term with - Expressing interest in staying someplace long term is not the same as promising to stay (much less an actual contract). Furthermore, you said it before you knew the job wasn't a good fit for you. You are being too hard on yourself. You do not have a moral obligation to suffer (struggle with school) to avoid inconveniencing someone else (hire a new intern). – BSMP Oct 9 '15 at 14:58
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    If he hired someone fresh out of high school, chances are he was fully prepared to have you leave at any minute. I would be. – corsiKa Oct 9 '15 at 15:46
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    Courtesy, respect and consideration are never inappropriate, no matter how delayed they may be. – RBarryYoung Oct 9 '15 at 19:01

11 Answers 11

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  • Is it strictly necessary - No
  • Is the manager likely still bothered - Probably not
  • Is it something that still bothers you - I think so
  • Would you get closure by writing an apology - I think so
  • Would it harm you by sending it - Don't think so

Is it a good idea to do this - Yes, if it allows you to move on and draw a line under the whole matter.

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    Alternative proposal: write it, then decide whether to send it. Sometimes just writing your thoughts down and observing the lessons learned is all that's needed to get closure, even if nobody else ever sees it. – keshlam Oct 9 '15 at 11:59
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    @keshlam That's a beautiful suggestion – Dawny33 Oct 9 '15 at 13:53
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    @keshlam That's what I do with my Stack Overflow posts. I write about 5x as many as I post just to get my thoughts down in a structured manner. – corsiKa Oct 9 '15 at 15:47
  • @keshlam has the right idea. This is how I get many things off my chest without necessarily bothering the other party :) – user17163 Oct 9 '15 at 16:30
  • Very nice, clearly reasoned answer. @corsiKa OT but I often find that with my thoughts in general! Sometimes I wouldn't really be aware of something until I 'wrote through it'. I guess this says somewhat more about my particular brain than the miraculous power of writing, though... – underscore_d Oct 11 '15 at 19:04
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Would it be inappropriate for me to reach out to my manager at this job and apologize for having in the way I did?

No, it is definitely not inappropriate to write an apology mail to your manager.

But, as both of you have agreed on a mutual consent(you being rude, doesn't really matter here then), it is not a good idea to bring it up again.

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    +1 If this was six weeks later, then perhaps it would be worthwhile, but two years?! I sincerely doubt anyone was ever even superficially troubled by an intern suddenly leaving with the agreement of their manager and they would probably struggle to remember the OP if he sent an apology! On the other hand, if you were now thinking of applying for a position there then I would open the discussion with an apology for acting rashly through lack of maturity (at the time) and get it out of the way. I doubt anyone would hold it against you. – Marv Mills Oct 9 '15 at 10:31
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As a general rule:

Sincere apologies are never inappropriate, and have no expiry date.

Whenever you feel sincerely sorry to anyone about anything, no matter how long ago it happened, just apologise to them (in person, over the phone or in writing. IMO email should be a last resort).

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    Yours is one of the few answers that did not have some mercenary aspect. When did an 'apology' change from something done to address a wrong to something done if you can derive some benefit from it? – Michael J. Oct 9 '15 at 16:28
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    @MichaelJ.: It didn't. But it was also not something that magically/automatically does address that wrong. Social interactions are complex. Sometimes it's better to just leave it alone. Why re-open old wounds? It'll likely have next to no impact on the recipient. People who go stomping around apologising for things they did two years ago that nobody even cared about at the time and have long since forgotten just end up looking like they think they're more important than they are. – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 9 '15 at 17:03
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    Reminding someone of past events may sometimes be inappropriate or otherwise unwise, even if the reminder is in a form of an apology. – hyde Oct 9 '15 at 21:04
  • Excellent points in the two above comments (as well as the answer), though in this case, I don't think there's much potential of harm in the proposed apology. (I'll leave cases where the reminder would be detrimental as an exercise to the reader.) – underscore_d Oct 11 '15 at 19:06
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You need to realise that (occasional) unprofessional behaviour is often part and parcel of an internship. You're new to a working environment and sometimes you can have trouble transitioning from the mindset of a student to that of a working professional. This is normal. If you're talking on a "real" job while still studying that added stress can also complicate things. People who hire student interns know that they sometimes screw up and while ideally they should hold you to the same high standard as other employees, you are not expected to get everything right from the start.

Now, ideally your manager at the time would have used that as a teaching moment and explained that it's not standard to leave without notice, but by your description he was okay with you leaving immediately so as Brandin mentioned in the comments you reached an agreement to end your employment. This is not nearly as bad as a no call no show.

You realise now that what you did was unprofessional to the point that you're still beating yourself up about it. It sounds like that internship taught you a valuable lesson and you've taken it to heart. If you ever run into that manager feel free to apologise but there is absolutely no need to do it now. As Marv Mills commented: "I doubt anyone would hold it against you."

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    Interesting perspective in this Answer. Made me think that perhaps the apology letter could be framed as a thank-you letter in gratitude for the manager and the company teaching you this lesson. A token of gratitude is more relevant given the time passed, and always appreciated. – Basil Bourque Oct 11 '15 at 1:27
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There is absolutely nothing "inappropriate" about reaching out to your former manager and colleague and offering an apology and explanation for some past transgression.

You're certainly not obligated to do it, but if you're troubled about what happened, communicating about it with those involved will help you feel better and might redeem you of any bad impression you left behind. More people should do things like that: non-transactional, good-will behaviors.

Keep in mind, however, that your colleague and former boss might have completely different memories about what happened and they might not understand why you feel as you do.

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This was two years ago already, but I still think about it somewhat frequently.

Would it be inappropriate for me to reach out to my manager at this job and apologize for having in the way I did?

It's not inappropriate, but it is rather late.

After two years, while it may bother you, it almost certainly is forgotten by the manager. Dredging it up after two years may ease your conscience, but probably won't do much for your former manager.

If it were me, I'd just find a way to let it go. But if it is still bothering you this much, and you think it will be cathartic to apologize, go for it.

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    This post reminded me that I had an employee that resigned in a very inappropriate and unprofessional manner after only being with the company long enough to collect a single paycheck. The key word... reminded. I forgot about it even though it made me regret hiring the individual. I never took it personally so it didn't bother me and I would not be moved by an apology. They guy was replaced and "boom", back to business as usual. – Morpheus Oct 30 '15 at 16:10
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The one thing that hasn't been covered in the great answers to this question already is that if you're apologizing because this is bugging you, then by all means apologize, but if you're apologizing for other reasons - for instance you want to start using that person as a reference, or you've heard through the grapevine that prospective employers are doing their research on you and that former boss is saying not-nice things about you*, don't expect anything to change. You done goofed, and while it's great that you're aware of it, it's too much to expect forgiveness from others.

As noted, though, this is hardly the end of the world, even if you have made something of an enemy for life. The world is a big place and as long as your own conscience is OK, it is possible to survive with people who dislike you populating it.

*Few companies in the US actually do this by the way; I keep hearing about a law that states that all people can disclose is whether or not a person was employed and their start and end dates. However, just because it's in a legal grey area does not mean it never happens.

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I would suggest: apologize.

It doesn't sound like a huge matter but if it's already two years since the "incident" and you still think about it, it will bring you to a closure and make you feel better about the whole matter. The fact that it's still in your head means that you are not over it.

Whatever happens, you will have done the right thing on your part.

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If you felt bad about that, I don't think a sincere communication about it would be out of line. It could be something short and simple like "Dear Mr. _____, When I left 2 years ago, I later felt that I should have let you have 2 weeks notice, and I felt bad about not doing it. I want to apologize for that, and for any inconvenience it may have caused. And also I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to work there. Sincerely, ________________" You don't have to give any long explanation, or ask him for any response. It will just express your regrets and hopefully put your mind at ease, as you are obviously still troubled about it. And I would write it and send it in a letter in the mail, not email.

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Don't sweat it. You are just one in a long line of flakeball interns. Companies do not expect much from interns, which is why they don't pay them very much. I am sure the manager barely remembers you at this point. I can't even remember the interns that worked for me, much less the ones who disappeared prematurely.

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Do not bother to apologize to your former boss. Managers and executives are not exactly enlightened saints and they tend to behave quite arbitrarily anyway. Keep in mind that most managers behave a whole lot more "unprofessionally" to their employees than what you did. But you may want to have a chat with your friend and explain why you had to leave that job.

A workplace is just a place where employees provide labor and get a salary and benefits in return. There is nothing oh so sacred about it that you cannot leave it when you find it is no longer convenient for you. In your case you were an intern, possibly unpaid. So your connection to it was even less. You did nothing wrong.

Above all, bear in mind that "professional" is just a meaningless corporate jargon created by managers to manipulate employees into doing exactly what the managers want them to do regardless of whether it is in the employees' interests or if it even makes sense to do that. All that matters is whether you behaved sensibly or not and that is for you to decide. Try to develop a notion of what is right and meaningful within you, that is independent of external, meaningless, fake notions like "professional" and "unprofessional". Otherwise managers will play you like a violin throughout your work-life.

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    He isn't apologizing for he boss's approval, he is apologizing as the embodiment of his own good character. – Tony Ennis Oct 10 '15 at 21:54
  • I'm as cynical as the next person, but this answer - while probably true for many workplaces - strikes me as being too biased and ranty for the SE network. – underscore_d Oct 11 '15 at 19:08

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