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I'm an at-will software engineer about to leave the company I work at. I do not have a contract that guarantees me a severance payment if the company wishes to fire me, which they are permitted do at any time, so giving them advance notice of my departure seems very imbalanced – especially as the power differential in employment is already tipped towards the employer. If they needed notice from me, I would have been happy to sign a contract obligating it, presuming that I also received consideration (i.e. severance). However, they did not do that, they chose absolute at-will employment, and it seems fair to hold the terms that they decided on.

Am I really expected to give two weeks or more advance notice in this situation?

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    What country is this in? There may be cultural differences in play. – John Feltz Oct 16 '16 at 16:21
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I would give notice for the following reasons:

  1. It is handy to leave on good terms - you might need a reference
  2. People in IT seem to move about a lot. If you leave with things in order, your colleagues will appreciate this. In future they may be colleagues again in a different company
  3. You may wish in future to work again with this company - either directly or indirectly
  4. The new employer probably needs a few weeks to sort out references, desk space, IT so it will not harm you.
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Notice Period as Relationship Management

Am I really expected to give two weeks or more advance notice in this situation?

In the United States and under at-will employment, in most jobs you are not legally obligated to give notice. However, you should look at this as a relationship-management issue rather than a legal one.

Here are some things that resigning without notice will usually lose you:

  • A good reference.
  • The opportunity to list the job on your resume as a success story.
  • The goodwill of your direct managers and coworkers.
  • The confidence of your new employer (assuming you have one already lined up) that you won't do the same thing to them.

Of course, if you don't need those things, or will not receive them anyway, then there's nothing really stopping you from saying that today is your last day. That doesn't mean that it's generally a good idea, though. Even though there is generally a power imbalance in the employer/employee relationship, companies are made up of people. Leaving a job on the best terms possible can yield surprising dividends years later, especially if you're working in a relatively small field like I.T. or want to trade on your personal brand within your industry.

You'll need to decide for yourself whether it's in your own long-term interests to give notice or not. Usually it is, but occasionally it isn't. I'd certainly advise you to take the long view unless you have overriding considerations in play, and to treat your notice period as an exercise in relationship management. Preserving options for the future rarely has a downside, but your mileage may vary.

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Am I really expected to give two weeks or more advance notice in this situation?

Yes, you are expected to give 2 weeks notice. That's considered "acting professionally".

You aren't required to do so legally, but it would still be considered less than professional to do so. If you don't care about your reputation, what others think of you, or the possibility of getting a decent reference in the future, you can walk out without even saying goodbye.

That's generally not what I'd recommend, but it is within your rights to do so.

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