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November 30, 2022

PSA: Even in This Market, It’s Still Uncool to Quit Your Big 4 Job Without Notice

an exit sign

I was a bit surprised by the responses to this question on r/Big4 about quitting without notice. It seems even in this market we are in agreement that the least you can do is give the customary two weeks. Best case scenario they cut you loose immediately so you don’t drag your team down, steal trade secrets, and fill your firm-issued laptop with porn and viruses now that you are no longer a member of the trusted inner circle. Worst case scenario, you grind out two more weeks which isn’t so bad relatively speaking when you consider the average life expectancy of a public accountant of 54 years.

Let’s see what the peanut gallery says:

Of the two dozen or so comments in response, this one pretty much sums things up:

[A]as much as I know Big 4 is exploitative, this is a bit unethical to just disappear. Not sure if you are on any projects but your team members surely would appreciate the heads-up.

That last part is the important part. The firm couldn’t care less if you go (assuming you are a low level cog and not someone important) but your team will notice. They are already overworked, underslept, and possibly near the breaking point. Chances are you’ve been operating on a skeleton crew for some time, one less body will be felt.

Do you want to be that guy (or gal)? When they say accounting is a small world this is what they’re talking about. Not that some Big 4 partner you’ve interacted with a handful of times will bring your name up on the golf course and tell some client about how you left your team in the lurch so you could go chase a better salary, those people have watched thousands of people leave over the years. No, what they mean is that if you dip out suddenly when everyone is already buried in work then you are a dick and everyone will know it.

Put in your two weeks like the responsible professional you are and then just coast until mid-November. THAT is the way. Plus you don’t know what’s going to happen when and if the economy takes a dump in the future (it will), as much as you are loath to accept this there is a possibility that some day in the future you may need to come crawling back to the firm. If you burn that bridge, you won’t have that option. Unless you are at risk of an immediate mental and emotional breakdown, just stick it out a little longer and leave the right way. Copy us on the farewell email, please.

Oh and good luck at the new job. It’s not at all a glaring red flag that they want you to start immediately. Surely it’s because of the skills and talent you bring to the table and not because they’re just as overworked and chaotic as the Big 4 firm you’re about to leave.

Related: A Field Guide to Quitting a Job in Public Accounting
Somewhat related: Yes, You Can Quit During Busy Season

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3 Comments

  1. Your employer can fire you without notice and it’s not seen as unethical… so you should be able to fire your employer without notice. It isn’t this person’s fault that their team is overworked. Being scared of burning bridges only benefits the partners of your firm. Don’t stay at a job you hate. Leave ASAP.

    1. When you join a company, typically there are company policies which you agree to that govern these things. Some employers will mandate a certain notice period. If that doesn’t exist, then I agree. Leave at your whim. If it does, then you can still do what you feel is best, but it doesn’t mean the Company won’t abide by their own policy. Just food for thought. People also sue for wrongful termination all the time, and they either end up winning or settling, in which case the employer is not nearly as powerful as you are making them sound.

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