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Can I just clean out my desk and disappear?

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have tendered my resignation. The issue is that the notice period required by the company is one month. I would like to leave earlier, but I'm afraid the company will not let me do so. Should i just clear out my desk and leave? I already got a job offer and am ready to move on. I do not think I will use my current employer as a reference. Please advise.

Unless you've signed some sort of contract, you're under no legal obligation to give even 5 minutes notice. You could certainly just pack up and leave.

But that would be really stupid.

I do understand the temptation. Once you've decided to leave a company and have even found a new job, all the reasons you chose to move on keep coming back to you. Formerly mild workplace annoyances start to grate on your every nerve. But strolling out the door is a bad idea. Here's why:

You could be giving up benefits. Many companies have a required notice period, but in order to enforce it they have some sort of carrot or stick. Usually, if you don't work through the notice period you'll give up vacation, for instance. Check your employee handbook to see what the consequences are. (State laws may vary as well.)

You don't get to choose your references. I know, I know, you always provide the names and phone numbers of three people who think you are fabulous. And it's certainly normal to withhold the name of someone at your current position because you don't want people to know you're looking. But when you apply for your next job, there is a high probability that the recruiter will call THIS company looking for a reference. Think they won't find your manager? LinkedIn makes that super easy. And it doesn't even matter if you have a page.

You're burning bridges. Fine, you may figure that you'll never work at your company again. But you are highly likely to run into a former coworker or supervisor in the future. And what will they remember? How you just cleaned out your desk and disappeared. It will be the story they tell when someone asks if they know you. And you know what? No job for you.

This is immaturity at its finest. I know you're a university student. (Yes, even though your email contained only a first name, the address itself gave me your Facebook page. Think a recruiter won't do that? Ha! Your page is locked down very nicely, by the way.) This is the kind of behavior that your friends may think is acceptable, but in the grown-up world is not.

If you don't want to fulfill the notice period, be honest. If the new job won't wait for you, then walk into your boss's office, apologize, and tell her that while you wish you could work the entire month you will only be able to work two weeks (or whatever). Then ask her what you can do to ease the transition. This helps maintain your reputation and still gets you out earlier.

The reality is that each job isn't an independent bubble. Sneaking out the door on one lame job may come back to bite you in the future. And let's face it, finding a new job is difficult enough without having to overcome a bad reference.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your question to

Photo courtesy of Flickr user quinn.anya

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