old manager berated me for not taking an offer at his new firm

A reader writes:

I recently started looking for a new job, due to feeling stuck at my current level, with no signs of a promotion or change in sight. I contacted my previous manager, who is now at a different company, about a position at his firm I had interest in. We set up a lunch meeting to discuss the role, which was not in his group. As a side note, I interviewed with this guy, received an offer from him, and declined last year because the comp package wasn’t great and it would have been a lateral move.

Fast forward, two months after our meeting, I am brought in to interview for the job, along with another position that is more or less my same job now. My contact was not involved in this process, as I wasn’t interviewing for a position in his group. I was offered the job for the other position (not the one I was originally interested in), but coincidentally my company came to me proactively with a promotion and a raise a day later. This put my company’s offer substantially higher than the other firm’s offer, so I had to decline the other firm again to stay with my current company.

I call my contact to explain the situation before I declined the job at his firm, and he practically berates me for not taking his firm’s offer. I explain that my company made me an unexpected offer out of the blue, that I pretty much can’t turn down. He told me I was making a shortsighted mistake, but couldn’t give me any reason as to why he felt that way. I am going off the assumption that his ego is bruised, and I can understand if he feels burned by my decision, but I can’t help but feel he acted unprofessionally over our phone call. If he was going to convince me of the merits of taking the job, he failed and only acheived badmouthing my employer and berating my decision. Is this unprofessional?


I mean, it’s possible that he felt that he stuck his neck out for you. Maybe he worked to convince his firm that you were the right hire, expending his own capital to do so, and now he’s frustrated that it was for nothing.

But no one on either side of a hiring process should be convinced that the other side is a “sure thing” — i.e., just as candidates shouldn’t count on getting a job offer until they have one in hand, no matter how promising the signs, neither should employers count on a particular candidate saying yes.

If your old manager was going to feel burned or resentful if you turned down an offer, he should have talked to you before he expended any capital helping you get that offer. He should have told you that he was going to go out on a limb for you and asked how likely you’d be to accept an offer. But even then, he should have known that things change, and nothing is guaranteed.

All of this is to say:  Yes, this guy was out of line. If he was so annoyed by your not taking the offer, he should deal with it by not connecting you with jobs in the future, not by berating you over this one.

{ 18 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    ” If he was so annoyed by your not taking the offer, he should deal with it by not connecting you with jobs in the future, not by berating you over this one.”

    Wow. I usually agree with you, Alison, but it sounds like you’re in favor of the former boss being passive aggressive instead of upfront and honest about his feelings.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Sounds like the OP has already fooled this past manager not once but twice. I wouldn’t expect any future leads from this source. Consider it burned.

    I’m not even sure what “practically berates” means. The old boss isn’t berating the OP. Just practically. Seems like an overreaction on the OP’s part to me, and seems like normal behavior from somebody that’s been shunned twice.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t even think the OP burned the manager, though. She’s not obligated to take a job just because he connects her with it or she expresses interest in it. She didn’t do anything wrong here.

      But it’s certainly the manager’s prerogative to decide that he doesn’t want to put her forward as a candidate anymore. I agree that he should tell her that straightforwardly if that’s the case — but not to berate her. Just a friendly, polite, “hey, just so you know, I feel like I expended my own capital getting you this offer, so I don’t think I can help with future leads.”

  2. Ashley*

    OP here – I totally get where the first commenter is coming from.

    However, I think the reason I don’t fully agree with you is because I didn’t even get the job I was interested in – the one I met with him to specifically discuss. I was offered a secondary job that would essentially be the same thing I am doing now, again a lateral move. He and his firm already got declined last year for offering me a lateral.

    I am not “overreacting” to his behavior – I anticipated some level of dissatisfaction, and even called him to discuss my decision. I also am not questioning my decision and its repurcussion. I am questioning whether he crossed the line of professionalism. I think he did, so much so that I have no interest in maintaining any contact with this guy. As AAM has said, nothing’s certain on either the candidate or employer’s end during the process. I wasn’t certain which position they were going to offer, they shouldn’t have been sure I was going to accept.

    I guess I feel it’s one thing to let me know you’re disappointed and not to expect anything in the future – I can handle that. It’s quite another to berate me and act personally offended. I am fully considering this bridge burned on both ends.

    1. Anonymous #2*

      I am not the original anonymous commenter; just an FYI.

      If you were not interested in a lateral move like what they had offered you last year, then why did you interview? I would think you would know what job you were going for unless they completely misrepresented the job. Did you know ahead of time they were interviewing you for both jobs? Did you tell them ahead of time your interests were solely in the higher job rather than the lateral one? It’s hard to tell if you were clear in what you were seeking to the potential employer.

      While he took it a little far with the berating you apparently got, I’d be doing a little reflection on myself as well. You technically turned down two offers so even if you left this one amicably, on both accounts, I highly doubt they would intervew you again, let alone offer you a job. Now while they aren’t sure whether or not you get the job, they are probably more than certain it’d be a waste of their time to offer you a job in the future, no matter how interested you are in the next position. You aren’t worth that time and effort anymore.

      So while none of that condones his outburst towards you, I don’t doubt he was thinking this. Reflect on the questions I asked earlier.

      1. Ashley*

        You make some valid points. I felt at the time declining the lateral job interview would have sent the wrong message, or maybe insult them. I guess I didn’t see that I could have been disingenuous by accepting that interview. The salary range was within reason for the title, sr. accountant, but the job was the same.
        The difficult part for me was dealing with the convergence of my company offering me a promotion to financial analyst. Out of the blue, I am having to struggle with declining this firm again, offending the contact, or putting myself back in my career by being a sr. accountant for a few years when my company is ready to make me a fin. analyst now. Not an easy decision for a variety of reasons. The guy knew the career path at my company, and I asked him to please tell me why he felt I was making such a mistake or being shortsighted. It should not have been an agressive or explosive conversation, in my opinion. I wasn’t operating in bad faith, I had a genuine interest in the firm, and no bridges were burned from the hiring managers or HR – they in fact asked to keep in touch. But again, I can see how this guy won’t be a viable contact down the road, and I take responsibility for any shortcomings on my part.

  3. Joey*

    Telling you that you’re making a mistake doesn’t sound like berating to me. Sounds like he was just trying to sell you on his company.

  4. Eric*

    So, I’ve heard this advice before about taking an internal promotion as opposed to a job offer at another company:

    Because you actually went through all that effort of finding another job, your mind basically “checks-out” of the company you work for currently. By taking the internal promotion, you have to reestablish your mindset. Also, you may realize 1 year later that its not really all that different from your old position and you have to start your job search all over again.

    I stumbled over that explanation trying to type out something fast. This could be the advice your old manager was giving you as well. Maybe Allison can reword that better (if she understands what I’m getting at.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that’s often true where your current job makes a counteroffer of more money but for your same position, but not as much when there’s an actual promotion involved.

      That said, it’s definitely worth thinking about why you went looking in the first place — was it just about money / moving ahead, or was it also about your old employer itself? If the latter, you’re likely to end up just as unhappy and wanting to leave pretty soon after accepting the counteroffer. But sometimes it really is just about wanting to move up, and either company can offer that.

      1. Ashley*

        Agree with you on your last sentence there AAM. It was strictly regarding career path. I like my employer and have built a strong network here, but I’ve outgrown my responsibilites, which my current manager is very much aware. I am at that point in my career where I want to progress and gain experience, and my current employer came through with that. All said, it was just a really tough, unusual spot to be in. In hindsight, I kind of wish I hadn’t started looking in the first place.

  5. Anonymous*

    Also, if I interpreted correctly that the previous manager used to be the OP’s manager at the current company (as opposed to both of them being at a different company before), he may have some inside information that he’s not at liberty to divest…

    1. Malissa*

      If the manager has extra information that may benefit the OP in the long run there are better ways to get the message across than yelling at her.
      I had a situation once where I was going to leave a company. I called to inform a former boss who I respected greatly and he told me not to do it. He said he couldn’t say anything, but better things were coming down the road in 6 months.
      I stayed and ended up working directly for him for another two years at a new location that the company opened up.

  6. Snow Hill Pond*

    “Just a friendly, polite, ‘hey, just so you know, I feel like I expended my own capital getting you this offer, so I don’t think I can help with future leads.'”

    AAM, if you can say THAT in a polite and friendly way so that both parties are still on speaking terms, then you ARE good…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I find that you can say all kinds of things if you say it in a really nice tone, one that conveys sincere regret. I kind of want to post an audio recording now of what this would sound like.

      1. anonymous*

        But you have an unnaturally sweet voice and, I’m guessing, balls the size of an elephant’s!

      2. Snow Hill Pond*

        Posting an audio recording would be nice. Saying stuff like that is definitely a skill set I do not have…

  7. Snow Hill Pond*

    Not to change the subject, but how often does a promotion and raise come out of the blue?

    In my experience, there are usually three P&R tracks:

    1. Superstar: You’re a superstar and you shoot up like a rocket and no one minds because they all recognize your shine.

    2. Clockwork: There’s a planned schedule for promotions and you’ve satisfied all the requirements and you know you’re getting one in, for example, 6 months.

    3. Grooming: You’re “surprised” with a promotion after your boss gives you more responsibility and different tasks to do, which you accomplish with success.

    I’ve not seen a case where a person asks for a promotion, is given no hope, and then all of a sudden is given a P&R to do a new job with bigger responsibilities. I guess it does happen, but is it common?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d love to hear people’s responses to this. I suspect it depends a LOT on the particular company (which is a really good reason to get a feel for how this type of thing works before taking a job).

    2. GeekChic*

      Hmmm…. maybe it also depends on differences in perceptions between the employee and the manager.

      I don’t go into to jobs expecting promotions – partially due to my personality and partially due to the industries I work in (the “clockwork” option is not typical in the areas in which I work). However, at both my last job and my current job I was offered a promotion after one year. It was a surprise *to me* in both instances – but not to my bosses.

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