-30-: The Psychology of 30 Days in the Workplace

Back in the mid 2000s, the documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock who rose rapidly in fame due to “Super-Size Me”, created a show named 30 Days in which they filmed a person living in someone else’s shoes for 30 days.  It was meant to be provocative and more intelligent than say, Wife Swap (which had a similar premise).  For many, participating in such a show was a sign of personal fortitude and courage.

However, how long can 30 days really be. These days, doesn’t it feel like a month goes by in a blink of an eye. I know that as a manager I think of a month (30 days) in terms of 4 staff meetings, 3 outreach events and 2 payrolls. Thirty days is a series of discrete events and deliverables.  Get through one and check it off of the list.

Thirty days, despite its quickness, is weighted heavily in our collective psyche.  Specifically, the number 30 in popular culture is quite significant.  At the end of the 1952 film, Park Row, about the birth of theNew York Globe in 1886, the word “THIRTY” is shown instead of “THE END”. Throughout various pop cultural moments, 30 is used to signal the end and it has been traditionally used by journalists to indicate the end of a story.   In a meta moment, the television show The Wire ended its series finale credits with -30- signaling the end of a good bleak series. The number 30 is so finite.

As RUN DMC reminded us in their song 30 days, often we get 30 days to return something if we don’t like it.

“And if you find that you don’t like my ways, Well, you can send me back in 30 days”

Thirty days? Why is it so seared in our brains?  A month is what we can tolerate. Beyond 30 days, our threshold for pain, panful interactions and annoyance reach their limit.


Which is why I am kicking myself for giving a 30 day resignation notice twice in one year. What have I been thinking?  The first time I gave a 30-day notice, it was the longest 30 days I had ever experienced.  I was treated like a pariah and a traitor. I was not to be trusted.  Staff and managers didn’t know how to react around me or what what to say when I was around.   Well, actually it was more so those that weren’t also planning on leaving. To some I was a role model.  When you make it clear that you are leaving someplace, those that are staying become suspect of you.  They wonder if you will be bitter and try to sabotage things. They wonder what made you decide to leave. They wonder why you didn’t just leave after two weeks. Trust me, those of us required to give 30 day notice also wonder why we didn’t just give two weeks notice and be done with it all.

You supposedly have to give 30 days notice in order to find a replacement and in order to aid in the transition. At first you really, really try to be helpful . Then you don’t care anymore.  The second time I gave notice, people didn’t see me as a traitor. They thought I was being smart and doing the right thing for me and my family. It was just such a better offer that no one could argue against it.  What has troubled me, however, is that there is so much to do for the transition that I wonder at what point do I just say its up to the next guy to handle this.  It is hard to remain motivated for 30 days after turning in one’s resignation notice.


Thirty days becomes a mixture of a sprint and a relay race and there is awkwardness at every step. At times there is not enough time to take care of all one wanted to do before moving on. At other times, it is a long slog of a time where you start wondering why the next runner hasn’t grabbed the baton just yet.  This is particularly true when problem upon problem arises and you start thinking “well, in reality this isn’t my problem anymore.” and then you start thinking “oh shoot, it technically still is my problem.”

Next time I am thinking of giving a 30-day notice, I hope someone hands me the remote control Adam Sandler used in the movie Click so that I can bypass those 30 days. If not, just knock me out and wake me up 28 days later (so I can fight off the zombies).


6 replies »

  1. Thirty days is the length of time I have to raise the extra funds for rent, try to resolve that months issues, four to five trips to the pub and four weeks to contemplate why I’m bothering to survive
    Every new thirty days becomes harder to stomach and filled with a sense of declining joy, how many more ,30’s will I endure or care to pretend to be human anymore
    “Make it through the month” is the mantra by which I am cursed to slowly die a painful life

    PS: Take a few anti-depessants now if I was you!


  2. Thinks for the new to me info re “30.” Maybe due to the intervening holidays it will feel like the 30 days are only 28 or possibly even less. That’s my hope for you, at least. Just don’t try to pack 30 days or more of work into them!


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