Two weeks’ notice? Or twelve months?

Chris Dixon wrote last week about the trust- and relationship-centric approach of startups vs. the “legalistic, transactional mindset” in a post titled “Twelve Months Notice”:

For example, let’s suppose you are a two years out of college and have a job at a startup.  You like your job but decide you want to go to graduate school.   The big company legalistic types will tell you to secretly send in your applications, and, if you get accepted and decide to attend, give your boss two weeks notice.

What you should instead do is talk to your boss as soon as you are seriously considering graduate school.  Give them twelve months notice.  Any good startup manager won’t fire you, and in fact will go out of her way to help you get into school and get a good job afterwards.  They will appreciate your honesty and the fact that you gave them plenty of time to find a replacement.

I agree.  I have quit three jobs: D. E. Shaw, Amazon, and most recently Pelago.  Each time, I gave as much notice as possible, usually months.  I told my manager (and sometimes his manager) as soon as I was seriously considering leaving.  To the great credit of all three places (and all of those managers), they were all supportive.  In the same spirit, I’ve always tried to remain a 100% dedicated employee to the very end.

If you’re a productive employee, no manager worthy of his role will hasten your departure.  They’ll want to hang on to you as long as possible.  (You might even find yourself negotiating for how soon you can leave.)  The only motive I can imagine for firing someone in that situation is spite—a motive so petty I’d hate to think I had ever worked for such a person.

Chris stresses that the startup world is dominated by an approach that “relies on trust, verbal agreements, reputation and norms.”  I agree, but many bigger or more established companies take the same approach.  It’s just a matter of taking a broad perspective and a long-term view of what leads to success and reward.  What goes around, comes around—or to put it positively, you get what you give.