can I apply for a job at the place that I quit without notice?

A reader writes:

I won’t go into the gory details, but I quit a job without notice via email (I know, very unprofessional). The truth is I was offered another position, but had to start right away, and I was embarrassed to face my very kind boss to tell her. In short, bridge burned. A few months later I got up the nerve to send a handwritten apology. I never heard back from her, and believe that she did not accept my apology. Now there is an ideal job open with the same organization that I would like to apply to, but I’m afraid to.

Should she have accepted my apology?

Should I forget about ever working for this organization again?

Sincerely,
Ashamed and Embarrassed

You are ashamed and embarrassed, so I’m going to try to minimize this lecture … but yeah, you need to forget about working for them ever again.

It sounds like you know that quitting without notice burns a bridge. There are times when you can finesse it — by apologizing profusely, explaining the situation, being mortified, offering to do whatever you can to help in the transition. But it sounds like you didn’t do that, and it sounds like you didn’t even return to work after sending the email. So that bridge is thoroughly burned, and with good reason.

That means that you can’t try to go back there. They will forever see you as unreliable and unprofessional (and also probably a little cowardly). You shouldn’t even try to apply again, because that will make you look as if you don’t understand how Not Okay it is to quit without notice. Then you’ll be not only someone who quit without notice, but also someone who doesn’t think it’s actually that big of a deal.

It’s good that you apologized, because that was the right thing to do. But apologies can’t come with strings — “I’m apologizing so I expect you to forgive me for what happened.”  Apologies only count if you mean them despite the recipient’s reaction.

You asked if your old boss should have accepted your apology. That’s really her call — but it’s also not really relevant here.  She could accept your apology but still very reasonably not ever consider hiring you again.

All you can do is accept the consequences of how you handled this and move on. And in the future if you’re tempted to quit a job without notice, use this situation as a reason not to. (Besides, any new job that asks you to is sending up a big red flag about how they themselves operate.)

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