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The Jewish Ethicist: "I Quit!"

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem

Morality and being a mensch in quitting.

Q. I’ve decided to leave my current job to work in a different field. If I leave my boss only two weeks notice, as the contract requires, he’ll be in a really tight spot. But I’m afraid that if I let him know too far in advance, I’ll get less out of work. AS, Florida

A. A few weeks ago we talked about ethics and etiquette in firing workers. The same considerations apply to someone who is quitting a job. A worker is allowed to quit for any reason he or she deems suitable, but the departure should be carried out in a thoughtful way. One aspect of this is that you should never just suddenly disappear. Rather, you should make suitable arrangements to ensure an orderly transition, when this is appropriate.

If you have a relationship of trust with your employer you can explain to him that you are giving early notice in order to help him, but you request that he reciprocate by continuing to give you challenging and responsible work.

A more practical solution is to delay starting your new job. Instead of fixing a starting date for your new position, ask your new employer to give you a few weeks to finish off at your current workplace. Then you can give flexible notice, notifying your boss that you would like to leave in two weeks but you are willing to stay on a little longer in order to enable him to find a replacement and provide a smooth transition.

While you are probably anxious to start your new job as soon as possible to make a good impression on your new employer, nothing will impress him more than seeing that you are a responsible, thoughtful worker who refuses to leave his employer in the lurch.

Avoid using your resignation statement or letter to express your anger towards the boss or to slander fellow employees. An outburst like this is not only unethical, it will also give you a bad reputation which you may find hard to live down. If there are serious lapses in the workplace which you feel a responsibility to report, wait until a few weeks after you quit when you will be less excited and more objective. If you are asking for a reference, then it is only prudent to wait until after one has been provided.

When Yaakov was commanded by God to return to his homeland, putting an end to his employment by his father-in-law, he hid his actions only because he was afraid that Lavan would prevent him from leaving – a fear that was confirmed by Lavan’s subsequent hot pursuit. Even so, the Torah tells us that Yaakov deceived Lavan, indicating that in normal circumstances such an approach is unethical. (Genesis 31:20.)

SOURCES: Mishna Bava Metzia chapter 6.

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The Jewish Ethicist presents some general principles of Jewish law. For specific questions and direct application, please consult a qualified Rabbi.

The Jewish Ethicist is a joint project of and the Center for Business Ethics, Jerusalem College of Technology. To find out more about business ethics and Jewish values for the workplace, visit the JCT Center for Business Ethics website at

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