job changed on first day of employment

A reader writes:

I submitted my resume in response for an ad to be a Risk Management Training Specialist for an insurance company who performs safety, health and risk management training. I went through a three-step interview for the position of Risk Management Training Specialist. I was offered and accepted the Risk Management Training Specialist position, and gave notice to my other employer.

However, on my first day at the office during new employee orientation the job description that my boss (who interviewed me) presented me with was a job description for a Training and Development Specialist. The new job description was a trainer who presents, develops and markets to clients leadership and human resource training, and has nothing to do with risk management or safety.

Is this job description switching common? Are there legal ramifications?

Um, have you pointed this out to your manager?

To answer your direct questions — which are so not the point — no, it’s not common. It’s legal; employers can reassign you at any time. You can decline to be reassigned, of course, although that might mean you’re out of a job, unless you have a contract. However, that’s not really the point here. This sounds like a mistake, not a deliberate attempt to trick you into working in a different job against your will.

The proper way to handle this was on day one, by immediately saying, “I think there’s been a miscommunication. The job I was hired for and accepted is Risk Management Training Specialist.”

They could have been hiring for both, gotten things mixed up, and if it’s a large company, not noticed that they had put the wrong new hire in the job. You likely could have had this fixed instantly by speaking up.

But if you didn’t and you’re now days or even weeks in, it’s much, much weirder. Have you been doing the other job, the one you weren’t hired for and perhaps know nothing about? In any case, you can still speak up by saying, “I should have said this on day one, but I was hired as a Risk Management Training Specialist. Can you tell me how I ended up as a Training and Development Specialist?”

Moral: When something happens that seems wrong or confusing to you, the answer is not to stay quiet and wonder if it’s legal. The answer is to speak up and ask about it.

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. Kelly O*

    I guess I’m simple or outspoken, but I guess I don’t understand why you would not immediately say “I think there might be some confusion. I believe I’m taking the Risk Management Training Specialist position instead of the Training and Development Specialist.”

    I mean, I can see how you might just grab the file with Training where you could see it and wind up with the wrong thing. Professional? No, but mistakes happen.

    Honestly, if I were this person’s manager at this point I would be asking all kinds of questions and having all sorts of second thoughts about someone who wouldn’t speak up when given the wrong paperwork, and is this a precedent for future behavior… get where I’m going?

  2. Kim-free classified posting*

    I definitely agree that you have to speak up. I had the same experience when I applied for an HR position and was offered a contract in sales. It was weird but in the end it is still your choice whether you’ll accept or turn down the offer.

  3. Charles*

    I agree. As a corporate trainer myself, I would have spoken up as soon as I realized something “wasn’t right.”

    This is even more true as these two job descriptions are VERY different. Do you have experience in training on both? If you don’t then Kelly O’s point is even more true – your new boss is really going to be wondering about your competence and basic professionalism.

    I do have a further question – Have you received you first pay check yet? Is that going to be different than what you expected? How about benefits? Vacations? etc.? What miscommunication has gone on with those as well?

    I think this is a very good reason why both the hiring organization and the job candidate should communicate in WRITING a job offer and the acceptance.

  4. Anonymous*

    Ok, I want to weigh in here for a second. I am not sure if the OP asked about the “switcheroo” right off the bat, but the post infers probably not.

    So here’s my thing. Something goes wrong at your job and instead of speaking up for yourself and reversing what is most probably a simple error you want to know if it’s legal?

    So am I to glean that you are skipping the part where you try and resolve the issue with simple human to human discussion and are already considering legal issues? Legal action? Court? Lawyers?

    What happened to giving someone the benefit of the doubt, and at least trying to resolve something for yourself?

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