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Leaving? How Much Notice Is Fair?

by on March 18, 2013

I recently had a conversation with a colleague who is gearing up to retire. Along with ambivalence about leaving the profession, we discussed leaving work in general, simply being tired, and how much notice does one give when planning to retire?

As both an employee and an employer, this made me pause. I did some brief research to see legal requirements, I found nothing substantive. The general rule seemed to be the policies of the institution. But what happens when there is no such policy in place? Turning to the Internet and the opinions of the masses was not much more enlightening. I read numerous pages on how to write a letter to your supervisor (be sure to spell check!) But nothing about professional protocol and fair play as related to giving notice of intent to retire. Common knowledge seemed to suggest that one should give a pay period’s notice. Our pay period is bi-weekly. Is it reasonable to expect that  a vital, professional employee lets administration know that he or she will be retiring two weeks?  The administrator within me started to have heart palpitations.

In thinking about such situations I had suggested to my colleague that a least a month’s warning and ideally three months would be my desire as a manager. But then the employee in me started to question this. Three months for a retirement I could accept, but for simply changing jobs?  Of course, this issue is influenced by circumstance. In our situation, our library is small in both physical size and staffing.  The absence of anyone in the mix for even a few hours can send us into a scheduling nightmare with work at a standstill. To lose a key player?  The heart palpitations started again.

We would need to place an ad, interview, hire, and then train. Is it a reasonable expectation that the leaving employee would be present for this process and participate? If not, how does that person’s work get done? Is it fair that another employee do two full time jobs in this interim period?  Or that no one  can go on vacation or get ill while this transition process is occurring? In a large library system, there are interims, more staff to cover, agencies that can be sought for assistance. In small and rural libraries the entire staff maybe two or four individuals. I am struck by this too, not only the difference between the small/rural and large/urban library,but the nature of the library versus other professional institutions.  A school or hospital would not find itself in this predicament.

I do not have an answer to this, but it does keep me up at night. While the simple solution is to make the policy, the question of what is a fair and reasonable amount of notice is not answered by this path.