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Employee Resigns - Walk Them Out the Door Or Let Them Work a Notice?...

It's a morality tale that's played out countless times across corporate America every day.  Employee resigns, and manager and HR figure out whether they'll honor the two-week notice or send the employee packing on the same day. 

Playbook as follows for most of us:

Employee stays to work out a notice if:  Transition needs are high, limited risk exists for them staying inExit the environment, company's feelings aren't hurt regarding them going to work for a competitor, employee won't spend two weeks telling everyone how cool the new gig will be compared to where they are...

Employee is walked to the door if:  They were a conduct/performance problem on the way out anyway, they're going to work for a cometitor that troubles the company, history suggests they'll be mailing it in, they're in a position where company policy/protocal is to walk them immediately.

You're not alone in trying to figure it out on a case-by-case basis.  Even Microsoft has to figure it out, especially with Google picking off their talent.  From Valleywag:

"Stuart Scott, Microsoft's former CIO, is not the only Microsoft employee unceremoniously being shown the door. Some staffers who are putting in their notice are being escorted off campus immediately. Why? Because they've put in their notice to join Google. In Microsoft's eyes, Google is Enemy No. 1. Anyone leaving Redmond for the search leader is a threat. Not because they'll scurry around collecting company secrets -- as if Google's interested in Microsoft's '90s-era technologies.

Departing employees, however, might tell other 'Softies how much better Google is. If an employee is leaving for Amazon.com or another second-tier employer which doesn't make Microsoft so paranoid, they'll probably serve out the traditional two weeks of unproductive wrapping up. So if you're planning on leaving Microsoft for Google, pack up your belongings and say goodbye to friends ahead of time. There'll be no cake and two weeks of paid slacking for you. And, Microsoft, don't expect former employees who are treated like security threats to ever want to come back, even after their Google stock options have vested."

Of course, as a HR Pro you know where it REALLY gets interesting, if you decide to walk the employee out on the same day you receive the notice - the decision on whether to pay them for the two weeks notice you are waiving.  My experience suggests this is primarily a cultural call, and if you want the majority of your employees to work a notice when they resign, you don't want to withhold the notice pay.  If you have a history of doing that, ultimately folks will simply resign same day with no expectation they are going to work a notice.

But you probably have a provision in your handbook that withholds vacation pay if employees don't give a notice.  That's why employees call you Catbert...

Comments

Jon Hyman

Contrary to what I've seen as popular belief, there is nothing in the law (at least in Ohio, where I practice) that requires employees to give or employers to accept a notice (two-weeks or otherwise). As you point out, in my experience this decision is usually one of organizational culture. The only instances where I would advice an employer not to accept a two-week notice is where there are performance issues or concerns about confidentiality. Otherwise, I think marching a good employee out the door on the day they give notice sends the wrong message and has the potential to badly affect the morale of remaining employees.

Does anyone even know where this practice comes from, or why custom dictates two weeks?

Scott

Does it seem odd to anyone that when an employee resigns they are sometimes treated to a "farewell/good luck" lunch, but when the company "right-sizes/down-sizes" the employee is quickly shown the door, even if they have been model employee?

Why does Catbert (sometimes) trust them in one situation and not the other?

I have actually seen a manager notify (against upper management wishes) that two of his long time employees would be laid off almost 12 weeks in advance. These employees continued to perform as they had for over 15 years up until the actual day they left.

This allowed them to find other jobs and demostrated that they weren't just "resources" but people that should be treated with respect and not as a "risk" to the company.

What a crazy idea!

Michael Moore

If an employee resigns to go to a competitor, he or she should be walked to the door, unless you want to keep him or her around to delay their customer contact efforts so your organization can get a head start. After all, you're either with us or against us. No hard feelings, its business. Employees understand that.

If the employee isn't going to compete, assess the pros and cons of keeping him or her around. Treat the employee with respect, but either way, pay them for the notice period, even if you cut it short. No company needs a wage payment claim over two weeks pay or the remaining employees left with the impression that the company acted unprofessionally.

Shawn

In my experience forcing a person to leave simply because they have found new employment or are seeking new employment entitles them to Unemployment benefits. I told a former employer that I was beginning to look for another job (in a completely different industry) and they forced me to leave prior to finding another job. I was able to collect unemployment benefits during that gap in employment. This is a cost that should be considered by employers, as it will affect the unemployment payroll tax rate when claims are made.

Rhonda McAlister

The practice began when employees, being shown the door, fell on the door mat, injuring themself, and filing for Workers' Compensation benefits. It's simply a Risk Management move. One Work Comp Claim can cost the employer much more than the empty desk for two weeks.

Alan

You can determined the length of time you want your exiting employees to give you as long as you spell it out in your Employee Handbook. We asked employees to provide at least a one-week notice in ours. We've given some employees additional notice time, but the length of time we gave them was dictated by factors such as how long we needed in order to fill the position, how well the employee performed for us and what affect the employee's leaving would have on the other staff. If we felt there was any threat in any of these areas, we would indicate to the employee that we wanted them to leave prior to the notice time but gave them at least a week paid or a week to finish up their work (or transition their duties to another member of the department).

There may be additional issues for specific departments such as Sales, MIS or other departments who may have access to sensitive information. But you definitely have to consider each case individually instead of lumping all notice situations as a canned approach. There is too much at risk for the company, and since the employee has made a decision to leave, their considerations must be reduced substantially.

Ana

I've recently resigned from a high-level technical position and stayed for one and a half month, helping recruit and train my replacement.

Nobody even asked where I was going to work next, and the company (a Fortune 100) was thankful that I stayed to properly transition my duties to the new person. I'm glad both sides had enough confidence on each other to establish an effective transition plan. My willingness to stay for as long as necessary (within a reasonable timeframe) gained points with the senior management, and I'm sure I'd find the company open to rehire me in the future if I wanted to go back to working for them.

Joe

We had a sales agent tell us she was leaving and could not work for us any longer. She has been a bit of a problem over her employment. We told her we accepted he resignation... she then said I was going to give you a months notice and wanted us to pay her for the month.

She is an At Will Employee in California. We feel she would not be the best person to stay around based on things she has done or not done over the past.

We were told by our attorney's that if we didn't let her stay we would be changing her resignation to a firing. I am having a very hard time accepting this.

Any thoughts from anyone?

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