accepted offer, then backed out, now wants back in

A reader writes:

I applied for two jobs. I accepted the first job and then declined the offer and accepted the other. The one I accepted was closer to home and every other Monday I would have off. Unfortunately, the other job did not offer this.

Now I feel as though I should have taken the other job because I am not happy. I have to deal with a person who has a serious attitude. At first I thought it was me, but people were telling me that this has been going on before I got here, and it seems unfair to me to come into a situation like this. The staff tells me to hang in there — she is looking for another job, but this has been going on before I got here and I have only been here for one month.

I am ready to call the other company and see if the job is still available and see if they would take me back. The job is not what I anticipated. What should I do?

Seriously? The other employer isn’t going to re-extend their offer to you. Let’s review: You accepted an offer from the first company and then later reneged because you thought you had a better offer. When you accepted that first offer, the company cut loose their other applicants and started putting time and money into preparing for you. When you then decided to back out, you did what’s called “screwing them over.” I can pretty much guarantee that you’re blacklisted with them at this point.

Of course they won’t accept you back. And why should they, when you’ve shown you’ll walk away at the slightest hint of a better offer, before you’ve even started?

What if this company had made you an offer, you had quit your job in preparation, and then they called you back and told you that they’d changed their mind because they found a candidate they liked better? (And yes, I know that occasionally some unprofessional company does this. It’s just as jerky when the employer does it. It’s jerky regardless.)

Frankly, my advice is to stick it out where you are. Not only should you not try appealing to the first company, but you shouldn’t start looking for other jobs either, since you’re only one month into your current position. Otherwise instead of having one black mark against you in your industry, you’ll have two — one for reneging on a job acceptance and one for quitting just a few months in.

I’m sorry to sound harsh, but your letter reeks of self-entitlement and a lack of understanding of the commitment you make when you accept a job. Eventually that kind of behavior will harm you professionally, if it hasn’t already. Cut it out.

{ 21 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    So you’re telling an employee to stay in a job where the boss is a prick, and the stress of working for such people can impact a person’s emotional and physical well being? In a time when there is no employer loyalty at all in any industry? Just tough it out, suck it up, and take the abuse because another employer might (And might is more accurate than will) hold it against you?

    I guess you really are a manager. Of the worst kind.

  2. Kerry*

    Oh my goodness.

    So in the original post, you say you “have to deal with someone who has a serious attitude.” In your comments (assuming the comments are from the original correspondent), you say that there is “abuse” (which is not the same as “serious attitude”) “the stress of working for such people can impact a person’s emotional and physical well being?”

    Honestly, if your emotional and physical well-being is compromised by a single month of working for a prick, you are screwed. Pricks abound. Every job you have will include working with at least one of them. You’re going to have to find a way to work through that, and you might as well start now.

    I’m also confused as to why the other employer would take you in just because you don’t like your new boss. Since the last offer, you’ve demonstrated that (a) you’re willing to screw them if you get something that looks better, and (b) you’re a really poor judge of “what looks better,” because you clearly didn’t do your homework in terms of who your new boss would be. In other words, you screwed them for something you didn’t even check out thoroughly. That doesn’t make you look good.

    I’m not sure why you’re angry because you don’t like the answer you got. The bottom line is that it’s up to you what you do–but don’t be surprised if you end up with no job in the end. There are a lot of people right now who would be delighted to work for a prick and receive a paycheck. That’s just the reality of the marketplace right now.

  3. Sadistic Manager*

    Oh, wow. You handled this with a lot more tact than I would have. The situation as presented tells me that someone has either led a charmed life up to this point in that his or her co-workers have all been sunshine and light, or that he or she isn’t prepared to deal with conflict in the workplace.

    If someone’s behaving unprofessionally or abusively, deal with the management chain and get it resolved. Handle it like an adult. End of story.

    If I had cut other candidates loose to prepare for you only to have you back out, I’d only want you calling me to ask for the job again if I happened to need a good chuckle.

    I’m also sorry to sound harsh, but this one seems to need a reality check in a hurry.

  4. Just another HR lady...*

    If you’re really unhappy there, you need to do what you need to do (i.e. deal with the problem person or leave), but approaching the first employer again will not show you in the best light. You already came off as somewhat flaky to them when you accepted their job offer and then declined, and now you’re going to approach them again? I would say move on from that opportunity, it’s gone.

    I hate to be harsh, but I just have to comment that you accepted a job because it was closer to home and have more time off. Possibly you should have considered which job was more suitable for you and where you felt you were a better fit, which is likely why you accepted the original offer in the first place? If closer to home and more time off is still the most important thing to you, then you’re going to have figure out how to deal with this problem person.

  5. dave wags*

    Anonymous has been reading too much news and not living enough life in the real world. There is PLENTY of employer loyalty all over the industry, even in companies who’ve had to resort to layoffs.

    AAM, great response. You said what I would have wanted to, but in a much more… level headed… way :)

    OP, be happy you have a job with coworkers who understand your situation. Take solace with them and “brush your shoulders off” in regard to your problem coworker.

  6. Erin M*

    Great post. I especially loved the “cut it out” advice. Many an HR issue has been solved that way.

  7. jaded hr rep*

    If we play this out, and let’s say the original company were forgiving and allowed this employee to start. What would happen if the employer finds an even more offensive co-worker there? Does he call back the employer he just left, and say…”Nah, actually I changed my mind. You don’t suck as much as this new company.”?

    Grass is always greener for some people. He made a gamble that didn’t pay off. Live with the consequences.

  8. Kelly O*

    Seriously – there are attitude problems and jerks everywhere. Trust me, I went through a phase where I quit every time someone started getting to me (because someone gave me the job advice of “don’t do anything that makes you unhappy” and I thought it was awesome at the time) and now I’m paying for changing jobs on my resume, and then getting stuck in short-term temp stuff… it’s a vicious cycle and HARD to break out of.

    You have to learn to deal with jerks, arrogance, passive-aggressiveness, stupidity, and a host of other things when you venture out in the “real world.” Might as well learn to deal with it now and try to bring something good out of a not-so-great situation.

  9. Charles*

    Asking to see if a job offer that was first accepted then turned down is still available.

    Enough has been commented on that already so I would like to comment on two other items.


    AAM and other managers – Have you never had an applicant NOT show up for work or turn down an offer after accepting? I know that many times employers will wait for the first day or even the first week for a new employee before notifying other applicants, if they notify them at all. I am not saying that you do this, I am just saying that many employers do this.


    While I agree with the substance of your answer I dislike the tone.
    The language used – “reeks” “cut it out” – is terrible. Really, AAM, this is not language that I would expect from a professional manager.

    The original poster might be naive in how things work (and, yes, perhaps even “flaky”) But such language sets a tone for treating an employee like a two-year old. Part of your job as manager (and here’s where my being a trainer comes into play) is helping people learn. Treating adults like little children is not helping them learn. In fact it is, more often than not, counter-productive.

    No matter how much a superior thinks the subordinate deserves such treatment; adults should be treated as adults and with respect at all times. To treat them otherwise undermines the manager’s (and the business’s) professional standards and authority more than it “puts them in their place.”

    This was so out of character for you AAM!

    P.S. My apologies if you (and some of the commenters here) were trying to be funny; but it did not come across that way.

  10. Ask a Manager*

    Hey Charles, thanks for your thoughts on this. But I’m not the poster’s manager or colleague.

    I assume anyone writing to me here wants straight, unfiltered thoughts, since anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that’s what I give here. (They also know I’ll call people out for behaving like an ass, if they are.)

  11. BossLady*

    OP: The comments you’ve received thus far may seem harsh, but many who contribute here are in a position similar to your former-almost-employer. These responses reflect the most likely response you are going to get. Maybe that can help you make your decision a little more objectively? Which to me has always been the purpose of this blog anyway.

    AAM or other posters can’t make you do anything you don’t want to. But you’d be unwise not to take heed to the advice you’ve received here thus far.

    The power to choose is in your hands, and yours alone.

  12. RLH*

    I agree with Charles in that we need to handle this sort of question in the professional matter that we would any other workplace situation. It is a legitimate question, and was being asked because the person truly wanted to understand the possible impact of their actions. We know only a slice of the story here. Perhaps the person is young, from a different culture, or any number of other reasons.

    In short, while my message would have been similar to those in the post and other comments, I think the way to communicate this learning is in the same way you would any other mentor-mentee interaction.

  13. Anonymous*

    1. We do not know this jerk is the OP’s boss.

    2. If one vaguely annoying/snipetty coworker is making this person’s physical and mental health suffer, well, (I’ll just roll my eyes as hard as I can).

    3. I mock how frequently this phrase is used, but, “in this economy” there are plenty of qualified responsible candidates who would take a pay cut for steady work.

    4. This person has shown a few things with their behavior: irresponsibility, poor judgment and a complete lack of integrity. The idea that they have any chance at Job A is beyond me. I have had a candidate do this before. When they called me to see if they could be reconsidered since the position was still open I gave them a little insight into their behavior and told them that they would not be considered for any position within the company in the near future.

    There is always a jerk in almost every office, and the fact that they’re looking for another job and your coworkers realize that it’s difficult to work with them shows that you have a decent environment. Stop whining like a child and grow up.

  14. Anonymous*

    who is this first anonymous? what dream world are they living in where people don’t hold it against you to leave a job after only a month? seriously — suck it up.

  15. Anonymous*

    I’m gonna take a slightly different tact than most of the folks here.
    It sounds like a tough situation and not what the original poster thought they deserve.
    I agree there is a lot of merit to the maxim that “when you accepted the job, you also accepted the responsibility that goes with it.” If you can embrace that, it may make doing the right (and the professional, grown-up, etc.) thing an easier pill to swallow. On the other hand, if you were mislead, treated unfairly, etc. by the company you eventually joined, you have a legitimate issue. But you MUST consider that every other company you apply to is going to consider whether THEY think you were mislead or have a legitimate issue. The company you accepted the offer from and then backed out, will ABSOLUTELY think you mislead them and treated them unfairly, so they will *not* hire you. Before you go looking for yet another job, consider what those you’ll apply to would think and if you have a good answer–in the form of the right character, degreee of integrity, social skills to do well, etc. If not, then I agree that staying where you are and working on becoming the sort of employee YOU would want to hire, will better equip you to get the job YOU actually deserve.

  16. Anonymous*

    It’s funny, because in other posts AAM has seemed to say that people should leave jobs if they don’t feel like it’s working out, so long as they are professional about it, and are aware that it’s better to have another job lined up before they leave.

    I’m guessing the person is very young and/or inexperienced. Don’t really understand the overkill in the various responses.

  17. Rachel - I Hate HR*

    To the OP – It’s worth a try. As AAM already stated you may be blacklisted but if you are there’s no hurt in finding out. But you may find them to be nicer than you thought. It’s hard enough for me find a candidate that we like and meets the qualifications so if one of those people offered to take the job again I would really think about taking them back.

  18. HR Godess*

    Here’s my advice: If you listen to the gossip that is validating your feelings for this person with a “serious attitude”, you are part of the problem. Handle yourself the way you would if the other person was being nice. Or address this person with the attitude problem head on. Say to them “I saw that my question upset you, how would you like me to handle this in the future if I need your help” or something to that effect. You have to make some sort of effort before you give up or you will get a reputation for running when the pressure mounts.

    Also, was this person whom you are now having problems with the only reason you took the job? Weigh it all out. Most new jobs aren’t what you thought they would be right away. It’s what you make of them and that could take 6 months to a year.

    As always, only you can decide if the abuse is too harsh and cannot be tolerated. Bring it up to someone first before you throw your hands up and walk away. You owe it to yourself and this company to make the effort.

    Good luck!

  19. TAD*

    My goodness to the people saying AAM was too harsh and not professional I say, “balderdash.” People want to be mollycoddled too much. You made a bad decision so you have to live with it.

    I tell this twerp to suck it up and stick it out a while. Don’t listen to the people gossiping about the person, especially after just a month. That shows you’re easily influenced.

    It’s a free country so by all means ask the other company if they’ll reconsider and let you come to work there, but I sure as heck wouldn’t hire you.

  20. Gingerale*

    Anonymous on 2/25/09 at 6:13am should get a clue that all parties in the situation are people. News flash: even managers are people!

    Even though the original poster did treat people poorly at the place of the first (and backed-out) offer, they are actually better off without this individual on their team. Better that the first employer has to restart their search now, than be stuck with this person.

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