can I change my mind after accepting a job offer?

A reader writes:

Is it always a terrible thing to initially accept a job offer and then change your mind and back out? I have done some reading on this, and a lot of articles suggest it is unethical, will ruin your reputation, and essentially is a nasty thing to do. Yet I have been both an employer and an employee, and it seems to me that no one claims it’s “unethical” if the employer does the same thing.

Anyway, my situation is that I have a job and had a bit of a falling out with another manager. The company really needs me, so they don’t want me going anywhere, but the confrontation was pretty ugly and unacceptable to me, and it isn’t the first time, and nothing is ever done about it. So I started to look around and interview and got an offer.

However, a few things happened since I accepted. First of all, I feel like the offer letter I got was a little pushy. It stated that I would have less than two weeks of notice to give and suggested that if I did not sign the offer and agree to the terms within a day, it would be rescinded. I am really bad at confrontation, so I just signed it, and I can help out with my current company on weekends so the lack of two weeks is fine. But it has come to bother me that they acted that way about it.

Also, they have been contacting me to send me some reports that they want me to review before I start. I don’t mind that, although I think it is a little cheeky to assign me 200 pages of reading before I have even begun working for them. But I strongly dislike how they end emails with “let me know by the end of the day that you received this,” and if I don’t reply within a couple of hours they begin calling my cell phone. I have another job at the moment and don’t work for them yet. This is during business hours. I think it is inappropriate.

On the whole, I just have a bad feeling about it, about their pushiness and the way they have handled this. I suppose they are just eager, but it does seem they are crossing boundaries in some ways, and it doesn’t bode well for what working there will be like.

I think I made this decision emotionally, which I really regret and feel guilty about. I would live with the consequences had they not behaved this way in the last week, though I am not happy about this change. The more I consider my current situation too, the more I realize I am throwing away something I value. Granted, the problem that drove me to this is not insignificant, but the benefits of my current position outweigh the downsides in some ways. Further, there is a very good chance the company I currently work for is going to seriously struggle when I leave, whenever I leave, and they will have a difficult time replacing me. I am one of the founders of the company, and the clients are largely my connections, so it is pretty serious that I am going.

Anyway, I will start this job and do my time there, if I really must. But it already feels like “doing time” and I don’t want to leave my current job. Can I change my mind? How do I tell them? I am supposed to start in less than a week.

Yes, you can change your mind.

It won’t be welcome news to them, obviously, but it’s better to back out now than to end up in a job you don’t want to be in and that you’re feeling queasy about.

But should you? Well, the stuff that’s setting off alarm bells for you might indeed be harbingers of worse to come once you’re working there. People shouldn’t be pushy with offer letters, they shouldn’t push currently employed candidates to leave their jobs with less than two weeks of notice (unless it’s for a rare good reason and they explain why), they shouldn’t give you 200 pages of reading before you start, and they definitely shouldn’t expect you to answer their emails within a few hours while you’re not yet working for them.

That said, it’s also possible that this stuff doesn’t indicate serious problems there. I’d want to know more about what you observed about them before the offer stage. Did you do due diligence, talk to multiple people there, talk to anyone in your network connected to them, ask good questions, and generally work to understand what they’re like and what you’d be signing up for? If you did and you felt comfortable, I wouldn’t necessarily throw all that out now.

I’d also want to know who it is who’s sending these “respond today” emails and calling your cell if they don’t get a fast answer. Is it your soon-to-be manager, or someone else? If it’s the person who will be managing you, that would worry me a lot — that’s the sign of an unreasonable manager who doesn’t respect boundaries. But if it’s people who will be coworkers? That would worry me less (and for all we know, they’re not clear on what arrangement you have with their company). But that’s something I’d ask the person who will be managing you about. You could call her up and say something like this: “Between now and when I start, I’m going to be really busy wrapping things up with my old position. I’m not going to have time to read the materials you sent, and I probably won’t be able to respond to emails quickly. Jane and Fergus have sent me emails asking for immediate responses a few times, and called my cell phone when I haven’t responded immediately.” Then stop and listen to the response. Is she surprised that this is happening, understand that you don’t want that, and say she’ll put a stop to it? Or does she sound put out or irked that you’re pushing back?

All in all, though, if you’ve changed your mind and no longer want to take the job, you shouldn’t take it as penance. It’s true that it’s not good to back out of job offers, but no sane employer wants a new hire who doesn’t want to be there. It’ll be a pain in the ass for them, yes, but that’s far better for them than you leaving after four months or being miserable for several years, and it’s far, far better for you than serving time in a job you don’t want, if you have other options. (I’m assuming that you know that it is an option to stay at your old job; if you’re a founder, it probably is, although that wouldn’t always be true for everyone.)

Tell them ASAP if indeed that’s your decision and apologize profusely. Assume you’ve burned that bridge. (But also know that there can be things worse than a burnt bridge.)

And then resolve that in the future you’ll pay attention to your doubts and not be pressured into accepting offers more quickly than you’re comfortable with — and forgive yourself for this one.

P.S. Also, for what it’s worth, it’s not true that no one claims it’s unethical for employers to pull job offers. People pretty much universally think that’s horrible, unless there’s the rare good reason for it.

{ 167 comments… read them below }

  1. Lily in NYC*

    Yikes OP. Follow your gut on this one! This seems like a lot of red flags, especially their insistence on immediate gratification – I’d be worried that this is the type of place that makes you feel like a criminal for taking a vacation day.

    1. Nea*

      Take a vacation day? This is a place trying to make the OP feel like a criminal for working for the people actually paying OP’s salary!

      Way too many red flags to take this job.

    2. Ck*

      “they have been contacting me to send me some reports that they want me to review before I start.”

      In my situation, there was a huge rampup at my newest job when I started. I (among several other new hires) provided feedback to the hiring team that it would have been useful (and would be useful for future new hires) to receive some materials to help rampup before the start date.

      You may want to look at it from a different perspective – theyre eager for you to get started and hit the ground running, and may have received feedback from other hires (like my situation) that felt this info would be useful at this stage. Maybe the’re a bit over eager with constant followups, but it’s not necessarily a red flag.

      1. Dutch Thunder*

        The follow ups make it seem like less of a “here’s some useful materials”, and more of a “why haven’t you read this yet, you’re ours now!” situation, though. They’re not just eager, they’re putting pressure on the OP. More pressure than I’d enjoy working with even if I was already being paid by this new company, actually.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I think this is a very different situation than what you described. Calling to see why the email hasn’t been responded to is over the top, especially considering OP is still at the first job.

  2. AdAgencyChick*

    You can do it, but it’s a nuclear option. Never do it unless you have a REALLY compelling reason.

    Saying no when you’ve gotten far along in the hiring process, but haven’t accepted an offer, is disappointing to them, but employers understand that you can’t make a decision until you have all the information — which is why they’ll often continue to interview people until the very end.

    But once you accept, they stop looking for other candidates. If they’re courteous employers, they will then contact the other candidates to tell them thanks, but no thanks. So when you renege, they have to start over again. Some of those other candidates have probably taken other offers elsewhere. It’s not quite as horrible as when they extend an offer, you accept it, and they PULL the offer — because not only have you stopped looking, but you’ve probably resigned your current position and are thus out of a job, whereas when you renege, it doesn’t cause the company to lose revenue — but it still crosses the line from “disappointing, but we still like you and might want to work with you in the future” and into “pissed off, will remember you and you’re now on my blacklist.”

    This doesn’t mean you can NEVER do it — I’ve done it once, when I learned information after accepting the offer that told me the new employer was not going to be nearly the good place to work that I thought it would be from the interview process — but you have to do it knowing that you are throwing napalm on that bridge, and you have to be sure that it’s worth doing that.

    Far better to do the homework you need to do ahead of time to make sure you accept only offers you’re confident are the right fit, and not having to change your mind.

    1. moss*

      My story is below; in my industry they are not turning down other qualified candidates– they just need people and there are never enough. Depends on the industry I’d say.

    2. Adam V*

      > Far better to do the homework you need to do ahead of time to make sure you accept only offers you’re confident are the right fit

      Sure, but the only thing that happened before the OP said “yes” was “you have to give less than two weeks’ notice”, which, yes, red flag, but not necessarily a deal-breaker – maybe they’re just in a crunch. The whole “email me to let me know you got this email, read this long report, and why am I having to call you?” came once they’d signed on, and that’s the much-bigger red flag to me.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, I didn’t think any of this was that big a deal (and maybe was more about written communications coming across more demanding than intended) — until the cell phone calls. If it’s an acceptable practice at that employer to call someone’s cell phone mere hours after sending an email that gave a deadline of the end of the day, that would definitely not be a place I’d want to work. But I do agree with Alison that it’s certainly worth checking with the manager about whether that *is* a common practice before making a final decision.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Giving assignments, with deadlines prior to when they start working for you, to someone who is *not yet an employee* when you know they’re working out their notice at a prior employer, especially when they shortened that notice beyond customary at your request so you know it’s probably going to be a crunch, strikes me as a big deal. Having those deadlines be the *same day*, even more so.

          The cell phone calls seem just like the slightly bloated cherry on top of the red flag sundae, to me.

        2. Mephyle*

          Calling someone’s cell phone after getting no response to an email might be acceptable if it is in line with office culture, but only reasonable if the company is already paying the person to respond in a timely fashion.

          1. Dutch Thunder*

            The calls would bug me even if I did already work there – I’d like to think I wouldn’t be sitting idle until the next email came through, so logically, I may choose to finish something before starting the next thing (unless it’s urgent, of course).

            I… don’t think I could work in this place, and I think I’d be having second thoughts just like the OP.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        That is true. Cell phone calls before someone is even an employee? That might be worth burning a bridge, because it’s only going to get worse from there.

    3. INTP*

      I agree with this. It’s close enough to unethical that it should NOT be done lightly. However, it’s not so unethical that you should be all self-sacrificing about it and work against your own best interests. If you’ve attempted to do your due diligence and an offer with much more money or much greater upward mobility comes along, you don’t need to nobly sacrifice tens of thousands of dollars over several years or a more steeply upward career trajectory so they don’t have to start looking again. I don’t think that it’s totally equivalent when an employer rescinds an offer because on the employee’s part, it’s often for a very significant increase in their financial resources, quality of life, or growth possibilities, while it’s a drop in the pot for a company (usually). I wouldn’t think it was unethical if a company rescinded an offer because somehow, a situation arose that by not hiring that person they could dramatically improve the whole company’s growth rate and financial assets, either.

      Of course, if either side shows major red flags after the acceptance process, I don’t think it’s unethical for either side to back out. Better than the employee quitting or being fired after a few miserable months. But I also wouldn’t expect the company to understand. Toxic managers, like toxic people in general, tend to think everyone else that can’t tolerate them is the problem, not themselves.

      1. Anna*

        I guess I don’t see the unethical part of it unless the OP were using it as leverage for her current employer.

        1. INTP*

          I was speaking generally, rather than about the OP’s case in particular. Sometimes people will accept an offer knowing that there are others pending that they will prefer, or even that they will keep looking, which is acting in bad faith imo. I understand that you have to do what you have to do to pay your bills, it’s just not totally kosher.

          Acting on information obtained after the acceptance, like the OP with these red flags, is a different thing. It’s not wrong in any way, though I would expect to still burn bridges because unreasonable people rarely understand that they are being unreasonable. (Changing your mind because you decided you want to stay at your current job is a different matter – not that someone should uproot their life when they don’t wish to just to avoid backing out on a job offer, but ideally you would think carefully about it before you accepted the offer rather than after.)

  3. LawBee*

    Call them for sure, OP. Like Alison suggests, find out what’s going on – what are they truly expecting from you for the next two weeks (or whatever), and see if you can get a feel for how the office actually is. If these materials are coming from HR, as a kind of on-boarding exercise, then I would worry less.

    I think the danger here is that you may continue to make decisions based on your emotions. You accepted this job while still angry at your current job, right? Now that that anger has passed, make sure you’re not seeing your current position through rose-colored glasses. Ongoing issues don’t go away just because you’ve decided to stay.

    The third option is, of course, turn down this offer, stay in your job, and keep looking. If New Job isn’t right for you, that doesn’t mean you have to stay in Old Job forever!

    1. Adam V*

      > make sure you’re not seeing your current position through rose-colored glasses

      +1. That reminds me of an episode of How I Met Your Mother, where as soon as Ted decided to break up with Zoey, every interaction was tinged with pre-nostalgia for the good old days.

    2. INTP*

      I agree with calling them – just make sure to call your future manager/supervisor rather than your HR contact. The reason I say this is that it’s possibly just a pushy/nutty HR practice, and not an indication of unreasonableness on the part of your hiring manager. If that’s the case, the hiring manager should set you at ease, ask HR to back off, and let you know that you aren’t expected to read 200 pages before you’re even on the payroll. On the other hand, if the nuttiness is coming from the hiring manager, HR may attempt to defuse the situation a bit and take responsibility or back off, because an HR employee could be in hot water for answering a question in a way that causes an employee to renege on an offer. (Ideally, HR would be able to be completely honest with you, but the reality in my experience was that you are work for the company’s interest foremost and must use diplomacy and salesmanship rather than running off the candidates by being transparently honest about how flaky or toxic the hiring managers are.)

  4. moss*

    I signed an offer letter and then my current company counteroffered (which I know Alison says never to take but I wasn’t unhappy with my current position, I just got recruited). I wanted to stay with my current company so I accepted the counteroffer. I was worried because I had already signed the offer letter with the new company but my HR department says that happens all the time. I emailed the new company HR and they were a bit brusque but there have been no other bad consequences.

    My industry is a bit different in that my skills are very very heavily recruited (we are currently offering $5000 to any employee who can recruit someone into the type of position I hold) so it’s not really surprising (in retrospect; I was surprised at the time as I am not particularly a rockstar) that I was counteroffered.

    Point being, it can be done and might even happen frequently. A signed offer letter is not a signed contract on your end, I believe. (Not a lawyer)

    1. TootsNYC*

      Or if it’s a contract, it’s a contract that includes “at will” employment most likely, which means either side can quit.

      1. moss*

        SAS programmer in Pharma. you can email me if you want to talk more about it… um, I’m going to give my etsy shop email but I’d be happy to talk about programming as well haha. so it’s coloringforadults at gmail.

          1. moss*

            Big pharma is also always hiring in business development and other non-technical areas so if you haven’t yet looked into that area, you might give it a try.

            Good luck to you as well!

          1. moss*

            PLEASE DO, the_scientist!

            Anyone else interested in SAS programming for a career, I would be happy to answer questions.

    2. Colette*

      Industries change, though, so in two years (for example) when you’re looking again, that company may not be willing to consider you since you backed out after accepting the offer.

      That doesn’t mean it was the wrong thing to do, but consequences aren’t always instant.

      1. Dan*

        My company is an 800 lb gorilla in my field. I would *not* back out of an offer from them, unless I was ok with never working for them again.

        There were any number of federal government contractors that I would have renigged on an offer from, no questions asked.

        Know your industry.

      2. moss*

        This is an excellent point. I may have to try to get a job from them in the future. And at some point in the future my industry might not be so white-hot that employees get to pick and choose like that.

        On the other hand, my current employee certainly demonstrated they value me so I feel loyal to them & confident in management.

        It’s certainly not the way I wanted it to play out. Had I been less naïve I would have formally notified my company sooner instead of just giving my manager a heads-up that I was planning to leave. I never expected a counter-offer & was floored when they presented it.

        The proper way to handle it on my end would have been first formally notify my current company and then deal with any counteroffer and then sign or decline the other offer letter.

    3. MashaKasha*

      I got OldJob because candidate #1 signed a counteroffer and I was candidate #2. My reaction at the time was “why did he do it, it’s such a self-destructive move, now his current job will lay him off the first chance they get” etc etc.

      Ten years later, I met a guy in a social setting, and after talking for a bit and comparing dates and names, we both realized that we were candidates ## 1 and 2 in that old story. He was still at the same job he’d had back then, had moved up the ladder significantly, and was doing well for himself all around. So yeah, I guess it can be done!

  5. TootsNYC*

    As someone who hires, I think it’s worse for an employer to pull a job offer than it is for an employee to renege on an acceptance. I am convinced that in my own industry and situation, it would be harder on the employee to be suddenly out of a job than it would ever be for me to find out that an employee wasn’t going to take the job after all (especially when the decision is made within that 2-week notice period).

    Sure, I may have told me 2nd & 3rd choices that I’ve chosen someone else, but I am pretty sure most of them won’t have snagged another job in that 2-week timeframe. I wouldn’t be happy, and most likely never consider them again, but I’d base that on how they handled it and what they said.

    It would be a major ding against them with me. And in my field, hiring managers *do* compare notes. So it would probably get around in their field. Would that hurt them? Maybe; maybe not. I don’t think I’d go all revenge-y on them and notify every one in my network.
    If I heard such a story about someone I was considering, it would make me really scrutinize them. It might or might not make me decide to not hire them, but it would hurt their rep.

    But I would rather not have them start if they’re going to be unhappy from the very beginning. I want people to be pleased to work for and with me. There are other people out there who will be. And I can find them–I’ve already gotten résumés from almost everyone qualified for the job.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I agree with your first paragraph. I think it’s bad form for an employee to renege after accepting a job offer, but it’s far worse for an employer to pull that crap. In fact, I think the employer has an ethical obligation to offer some sort of compensation, especially when the person has quit their job and is now unemployed.

      1. books*

        And let’s be honest, if that story gets around about a potential employer doing this at company M, but all the hiring managers know company M is a little nutso, it may not have that same impact. (George rescinded on an offer from the Soup Nazi? I don’t blame him. – Steinbrenner)

    2. Kelly O*

      Agreed, although I will say we’ve had a couple of situations recently where people accepted our offers and backed out quickly – one was the Friday before she started on a Monday, and the other after he’d worked here a full week.

      Not only did the company lose out on the first choice, but by that time we’d lost others who’d been up for consideration (we’d let them know the decision had been made, and so they’d moved on to other things.)

      It’s just not great on anyone’s part to pull out unless there really are extenuating circumstances, or something you could not possibly have foreseen. I don’t think anyone would put a black mark on either of these candidates’ names, but it makes us think long and hard about people, and it affects how we trust candidates going forward (right or wrong, you experiences dictate your expectations.)

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I agree with you. Rescinding job offers for any reason other than shocking new bad information about employee coming to light, anything other than that is bad bad bad.

      Employee backing out in an accepted offer, it happens. Not too often, but it happens. It’s not anything worse than the next aggravating thing that happens to a hiring manager.

      Also agree that if it’s a small field/industry, lots more risk to reputation.

    4. INTP*

      Agree that it’s not equivalent for employees and employers. For one, the impact is usually far greater for the employee than the employer, whichever side reneges. An employee that reneges is often doing it for reasons that majorly impact their quality of life for years to come – another offer that pays significantly more, leads to significantly greater career possibilities later, does not require them to relocate, etc. The ensuing inconvenience costs some labor hours in HR and some time before the position is filled, but doesn’t significantly affect the financial health and general well-being of the company for years or longer. OTOH, if the employer reneges, they’re usually saving themselves a little – drops in the bucket really – but could cause extreme hardship to the employee.

      If, for some reason, it turned out hiring a particular employee WOULD significantly decrease the financial health and growth potential of the company, then the company would be just as justified in rescinding as an employee who reneges to accept a much better offer. (In both cases it would be better if everyone was careful about giving/accepting offers to prevent the situation, but not worth major self-sacrifice if they happen to fail at that.)

    5. Desdemona*

      I agree. I’ve hired candidates only to have them tell me a couple of days before that they’d changed their minds. It’s a nuisance, but no real harm is done. (In fact, I’d a lot rather that than have them come in and waste two weeks of my time training them, only to have them tell me they just got another offer.)

      But as the employer, when you extend a job offer and then revoke it, there’s a real risk of the candidate falling through the cracks, having given up one job and who knows when the next offer will come in. You can cause real damage that way.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    OP – if I can point something out, it seems like you tend to view things in all-or-nothing terms. For example, your statement that nobody claims it’s unethical if an employer pulls a job offer – that’s not the case at all and letters here have indicated that it’s definitely a terrible thing to do.

    It also seems your approached your current situation with a similar perspective – you decided it was untenable but it doesn’t appear that you tried to resolve your issues with your manager. Maybe you did, but it’s not clear. Similarly with this new job – you’re about to jump ship because of a few potential red flags.

    I’m not saying you should take the job or not, but I think it might be a better approach in general to address the specific issues as much as you can before throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yes! I had kind of a sense of “something tying this together” reading the letter, but it hadn’t coalesced for me, and Katie really distilled it, I think.

    1. Alma*

      This. I’ve been wondering if, as a founder of your current business, had made a concerted effort to clear the air and make way for a positive work dynamic (whether you were staying in the position or not). Was the person with whom you had an issue also a founder of the company? Has the company moved past the point where the founders/lead officers meet to discuss growth challenges, company culture, expectations, and setting your business apart as a place where (choose one or more:) miscommunication, power plays, one-upping, genuine misunderstanding, or any other disruption of the ability to communicate and work well together do not get in the way of the corporate ideal? As a founder I would expect you to be a significant voice at the table.

      Is the new job a lateral move, or a position that brings new challenges, more of what is important to you, and will your level of influence be commensurate with what you are leaving?

      These questions come from my observation that you mentioned the ugliness with the other director and zipped on from there. I’m kindof thinking that what was happening at your current job – and how you are/n’t managing these dynamics – are a much more significant issue than the new offer.

      It is difficult to say because of lack of information. But the issue should be part of your discernment. The events since Company Two’s offer letter sound as if they are happening to you. If you were not speaking up in Company One, you had little opportunity to build your chops.

      If I had been a founding member of a company, I would want to address this with the Chair or Managing Officer at the least to come to healthy closure, as well as to practice for Job 2.

  7. TotesMaGoats*

    I think AAM is right but here’s what happened to me.

    I was hiring for a replacement position and someone who had worked for me in a contractual position applied. I was super excited because I knew she was a great employee. She already knew our systems and policy. She had great experience. Had I been able to keep her on earlier I would have. Anyway, make it through interviews and she’s clearly my top candidate. The position is a serious step down but that’s what she says she wants. I make the verbal offer and she accepts. Then about a week before her start she calls me. She’s accepted another position. It’s director level at a sister institution. I get why she wanted it but I still harbor a lot of irritation at her for not being up front and then waiting till the last minute to renege. She knew me well enough to know that I wouldn’t have held it against her if she was looking at other jobs and probably would’ve still made the offer. So, I would say that context has an impact on what the consequences might be.

    1. F.*

      At least she backed out a week before her start. I had an employee e-mail me at 6:30 a.m. on the morning she was to be there at 7:30 to start. Then when the same position became open again a few months later, this person had the audacity to send me a happy, chirpy e-mail saying “Remember me?!!!!” and telling me to give her the job because I had thought she would be a great fit in the first place. Needless to say, I DID remember her, and she did NOT get even an interview. We certainly dodged a bullet there!

      1. Anon for This*

        This actually happened to me in a slightly different manner- my organization hires people for certain seasonal positions, and one day a woman came to our program’s information session saying that she first heard about our organization when she’d been hired for one of the seasonal positions but declined it in favor of another position at a different company, which didn’t end up working out. I realized halfway through our conversation that she wasn’t really interested in our program’s services, she was trying to finagle her way back to the job. When I told her that we were no longer hiring for it, she assumed this really haughty tone and tried to invoke upper management, saying, “But Mr. John Q. Public hired me,” like she was going over my head and I was supposed to be really scared. She agreed to have a follow-up appointment with me to revise her resume to reflect the last job she’d worked, but even in that appointment, she kept asking, “Have you talked to Mr. John Q. Public yet about that position?” I had to explain to her that when you reject an offer, you don’t get to just ask for it back, and that there are more appropriate ways to do so than to badger other employees of the company who don’t know you from Adam to speak on your behalf. I am actually really happy that she wasn’t one of my co-workers even for a short time.

      2. AshleyH*

        Ugh I had someone back out of a job at 8:30a when they were supposed to report at 9:00a the same day, after I had already let go our second (but still VERY strong) choice. So annoying.

        I think it’s almost less annoying, though, when I had two separate employees, within one week of their start date (same week, though!), turn in their two-week notice because they had been interviewing elsewhere all along (same company!). The other company was their first choice, they just took longer to hire, so they accepted and started with us.

        Needless to say we did not ask those employees to work the remainder of their notice period….

    2. Lily in NYC*

      This happens to my dept. way too often! I think part of the problem is that we are very, very willing to give people a long time off before they start (example: we hired two people in early June and neither of them is starting until August so they can get their bonuses before they give notice). It gives people too much leeway to leverage our offer into a higher-paying one elsewhere.

  8. Bend & Snap*

    I’m eh on this issue. If an employee backs out, it’s an inconvenience. If an employer backs out, it can be a disaster.

    Stuff happens. I do think you should try to resolve the issues with the new employer before you walk though.

  9. DarjeelingAtNoon*

    This is a great question, and one that I have researched for my own purposes. There is a lot of warnings to not back out, but little guidance on what to do if you suddenly realize that the hiring company has held back vital information. I recently was hired and accepted a position. Upon acceptance I discovered a carefully hidden detail that one of my new job duties would be visiting the homes of people who have committed a certain violent crime. As a female with literally no ninja skills, the prospect of this frightened me and may family members. I did back out, but carefully chose my words, so as not to imply any criticism towards the company.

    1. Chinook*

      ” As a female with literally no ninja skills, the prospect of this frightened me and may family members.”

      I did the same thing after my first week on the job as a bartender at a golf course when I was 19. One of my jobs was to walk through the recreation centre (which housed curling rinks) and make sure everything was locked up and then take the nights earnings (in the days before debit card machines and cell phones) and deposit them in the bank. After the first night I did this, I came to the conclusion that even our local criminals were smart enough to eventually figure out that they could push me down the stairs, grab the money and no one would notice until the next morning. I called in the next day and basically cited a lack of ninja skills as a reason not to come back, no matter how good the tips were.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        Most places I’ve worked had a policy that bank deposits had to be made during daylight hours and/or you needed to have someone accompany you to the bank. What they asked you to do was not at all safe and I’m glad you quit.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Yeah, seriously. I ran (check) deposits for a company I worked for in college and that was fine, but once they asked me to go and cash a check for something like $7,000 and bring back the money for a vendor that preferred to be paid in cash. Even though the bank was only about 2-3 blocks away, I really didn’t feel comfortable carrying cash like that as a 20-yr-old. My boss was totally understanding when I pushed back and went herself.

    2. INTP*

      In your case, backing out was 100% understandable and 0% unethical. That is such a major thing, I am convinced it was a deliberate bait and switch for them not to mention it up front. They held back and just hoped whoever accepted the job would feel obligated not to back out.

    3. Doreen*

      Not only was it vital information, but it’s foolish on the employer’s part, Every job I’ve had that involves visiting ” involuntary clients” makes that requirement clear early in the hiring process. And still people quit in droves during the training and shortly after they start working, Even more would quit if that detail was hidden, What the heck kind of job was this?

    4. snuck*

      Agree… sometimes the company reveals more information about you after the offer, and that information is going to shape your perspective of them. Whether it be small print details (ninja skills indeed!) or their culture ….

      If it was a yet to start employee who was emailing questions and following up via email about the job details day after day would this be ok? Would an employer look sideways at them and say “Look, I know that you are keen, but let’s wait until you start before we get into the work processes and software package mkay?” and then if the prospective employee kept coming back might you be tempted to say “Look Wakeen, we are re-thinking the skillset for this job, and you aren’t such a good fit, I’m terribly sorry, here’s two weeks wages as compensation” and be glad you dodged a management nightmare. Possibly. All in the tone, receptiveness and communication skills.

      (And while that two weeks compensation (or whatever amount is fair) is for pulling the job offer, it’s also a wake up to management to make cautious decisions, it flows both ways.)

  10. Anon for This*

    I think Alison’s advice is spot-on, but please, please make sure you think this through completely as the bridge burning is huge. In my industry (education), it’s a small world. I recently hired someone who accepted an offer with a start date three months in the future. She didn’t give notice to her current employer until 2 weeks out (despite the fact that her employer is used to this, we have a good partnership/relationship with them and truthfully she should’ve given more notice). They counteroffered, which she indicated in her interview would happen but that it didn’t matter – she wanted out.

    She called me one week before she was scheduled to start to let me know. It was the worst possible timing and I’d lost three months when I wasn’t looking and could’ve been. Our Executive Director called their ED to let them know they had someone on their team who played by these ethics. Don’t know whatever came of it.

    Another cautionary tale – one of our new hires a couple years ago accepted an offer with us, but continued interviewing. He ended up getting an offer with another branch of our organization in a different city. When he called to let us know he was reneging on his offer, we called that branch who then rescinded his offer because of the professionalism/integrity issue. So he ended up with no job with us when he could’ve had his choice of either one had he been honest and up front.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      That was a dick move on the part of your Executive Director.

      And I’m on the fence about the new hire story.

      1. KT*

        Regardless, it happens–so many industries are very small worlds and this kind of thing–calling someone to tell them how someone behaved–is pretty normal. It is good to keep that in mind when making these decisions.

        1. Rachel*

          I always hear “it’s a small world” but it never feels that way to me in any of my jobs. At my last company, we hired someone who later backed out after initially accepting. She wanted to be able to work from home and have a higher income, and she got a better offer somewhere else. My boss was angry and frustrated but people move on and I doubt anyone but my boss even remembers what this person’s name is. I doubt it’s going to be an on-going problem in any way for her.

          1. KT*

            It all depends on your field, industry, etc. I keep getting surprised with just how small this world is…I moved 900 miles,s witched from big pharma to a nonprofit, and am astonished to run into the same vendors, agencies, reporters, and potential employees all the time. It makes me very happy I was so cautious when I was a young whipper snapper to behave myself!

            1. Chinook*

              “It all depends on your field, industry, etc. I keep getting surprised with just how small this world is…”

              As someone who has successfully played “do you know…” in the middle of northern Japan with 3 different people (one of whom was a 70 year old Japanese guy who was wearing a dealership jacket from the place in Alberta I bought my first truck whiel talking about surviving the bombing of Tokyo), tried very hard not to work for someone who knew my mother only to end up in a job where they knew my grandfather, and ended up marrying a guy from out East whose mother’s sister, a Newfie, worked for my mother and with my dad (the Irish immigrant)’s cousins out here in Alberta, I have learned that this world is a lot smaller than you think and those connections will crop up in the weirdest of places if you aren’t careful.

              1. Mephyle*

                Well this is clearly because Canada is so small that we all know each other. Of course we all know Jimmy, Sally and Suzy from Canada. :)

            2. AnotherAlison*

              So much this! (and I wish I had understood it better when I was a young pup in the industry.)

              Quick story: I was running with a guy a few weeks ago who was in his 60s, who I had never met before. Got to talking & he had also worked at the company I started at, and it turned out that I went to college with his son-in-law (and had been on project teams with him) and his daughter. Sure, this was in town, but I had know idea this person I was randomly running alongside had any connections to my industry. Glad I didn’t shoot my mouth off about work!

            3. T3k*

              I wish I had kept the whole “small world” concept in my mind several years ago. I had gotten a chance to tour a studio in my desired industry and see if they had any upcoming internships. When I didn’t hear anything a week after sending an email during the time I was told to do (about a month after the visit) I sent a very brisk email because I was pissed off at my mom, who had been constantly bugging me if I had heard back, so I sent one that went something like “Did you receive my last email? If not, I was just wanting to know if you could let me know if there’s an internship position open for this summer? It’s ok if the answer is no, I just want to get my mom off my back.” (and no, I didn’t feel comfortable lying about it to my mom in that particular case) The guy, to his credit, was actually courteous enough to respond that he hadn’t gotten my first email as it had ended up in spam and they weren’t offering any internships that summer (which was true, as none were posted online that whole year, or the next).

              Thankfully, it probably wasn’t bad enough to warrant the guy to go to all his contacts and go “if this girl ever applies, don’t hire her!” but yeah, lesson learned. Good news is that, after that incident and telling my mom exactly what I wrote (her face was priceless) she backed off on bugging me if I’d heard back from other companies.

              TL;DR: don’t write emails when you’re pissed off at someone as it can make for a rude sounding email.

              1. Observer*

                Your story is hysterical, although if I were in your Mother’s shoes, I’d probably be ready to fall through the floor.

      2. Colette*

        That was a dick move on the part of your Executive Director.

        I don’t think I agree with this. This is an employee who is actively harming the relationship between the two organizations – if she’d been trying to sabotage them, this is what she would have done. If it had been a two-week notice period, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal, but she cost them three months, and likely significantly reduced the pool of people they had to choose from (as I assume they three months coincided with the start of the school year).

        1. Ad Astra*

          Not to nitpick, but the candidate wasn’t “actively” harming the relationship between the two organizations. She was clearly acting in her own best interest, not with the intent to make life harder for both potential employers. For all we know, something significant changed in the candidate’s life over the summer that made staying with the old job a better choice than taking the new one.

          I get that she left them in a lurch, and I wouldn’t be happy about it either, but going out of your way to damage someone’s professional reputation because they inconvenienced you is quite petty.

          1. Colette*

            We don’t know her intent – we just know her actions. She probably was acting in her own best interest (as opposed to trying to damage the organization), but the impact was potentially destructive.

            If the Executive Director had rented a billboard to trash her, or started telling people she met on the street about the experience, I’d agree she was out of line, but she shared the information with someone she knew. The director of the other organization isn’t obligated to do anything about it.

            1. Ad Astra*

              I’d draw the line at making a phone call specifically to trash her to the other ED. It also seems like the other ED would be aware of the situation already, since they made a counteroffer. It just doesn’t make sense to take time out of your busy day to tell someone’s boss they have a crappy employee, especially when that boss has already benefited from the crappy employee’s “unethical” decision to work there.

              1. einahpets*

                Did the ED trash the employee, though? Or did the ED just report the employee’s actions to the other ED? The employee herself did the trashing of her reputation (as Colette pointed out below).

                In my field and position, if I did something that damaged a relationship between one of our clients, my manager and upper management would want to know about it. If it were me, I’d tell my manager myself no matter how awkward that conversation would be. Because I can see how this sort of thing might not be ‘unethical’ but can affect business relationships. But my industry (clinical trials) is way smaller than some people realize based on what I’ve seen some people do…

          2. Colette*

            One more thought – I’m not convinced it’s the ED who’s damaging her reputation. As long as the ED is passing along factual information (i.e. “she accepted a job with us in May but told us in August that she was going to stay with your organization”), the employee is damaging her own reputation.

            If there were extenuating circumstances, the employee could have mitigated the damage by explaining briefly what the issue is (e.g. “I’m sorry, a family member has been diagnosed with a serious illness and this isn’t a good time for me to take a new job”), but it doesn’t sound like she made any attempt to show that she understood that this was a big deal.

            1. bob*

              Have to disagree.

              The only reason the ED would call the other office is to be punitive, vindictive and probably hoping the call would get that person canned.

              1. Colette*

                Or to let the other ED that their employee acted badly,me cause that kind of thing (particularly if it’s not an isolated incident) can strain the relationship between the organizations.

                But even if it was vindictive, the employee made the decision to back out and take the consequences. This happens to be one of them. It could easily have come up in conversation, since the EDs know each other and work together.

                I don’t think anyone involved had an obligation to protect the employee who backed out.

              2. snuck*


                But the other ED would probably know the ‘flavour’ of the nuttiness that the complaining ED exuded.

                Frankly the employee’s existing ED would have already known there was an offer at the new institution – otherwise why counter offer…. the only thing they might not have known is WHO the new offer was with. If the industry has deep and tight ties it might be worth saying to the old company “This is why you can’t have your new chocolate teapot training, because the person who agreed to present that and work for us has just cancelled on us and it will take time to recruit someone else, this is something we’ve had in line for almost three months as you know. We believe we have a trusting and partnered relationship with you, so I wanted to bring this to your attention in case something similar happens.”

      3. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah that ED, wow. Way out of line. It would be different if it were a case of “you hired as your new COO someone we recently fired for embezzlement.”

    2. AnonAcademic*

      I’m not sure that the retaliatory tactics you’ve described here are any better than the candidates behavior. Employers have a lot more power than individual potential employees.

    3. Marcela*

      People in your office is that vengeful and work in education?! It’s no wonder things are like they are…

    4. BRR*

      I’m kind of ok with calling a different branch of the same organization although I’m kind of uneasy about it.

      I think your ED was out of line in calling the other ED. Even if your two organizations worked closely, I don’t think it was your ED’s place to interfere with personnel matters at another organization in this situation.

      1. jmkenrick*

        I’m absolutely OK with calling another branch of the same organization. Now they know this is the sort of person who will make a commitment and back out, why wouldn’t they share that info internally?

        But I have mixed feelings about the other situation described.

        As a social analogy, it sort of seems like the difference between warning a friend that their new partner has been unfaithful before, versus actively tracking down the new partner of someone I know to be unfaithful. One seems natural, the other seems…unnecessarily vindictive.

        1. Colette*

          I’d say it’s closer to talking to a friend who is considering dating that person to tell them – the ED in this situation already had a relationship with the other ED.

          1. jmkenrick*

            I could see that argument. I guess it would depend on what sort of relationship they had with each other, and what sort of industry norms they have.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, there are a ton of colleagues in the field that I couldn’t imagine *not* telling, and some that I’d never mention it to.

    5. T3k*

      Honestly, I’m not so sure if it was right to do that to the new hire in the last paragraph. Yes, bad form to continue interviewing and take another offer, but was there a reason for him doing this? For example, maybe the other branch kept him close to where he lived, or put him close to an ailing parent, or maybe he was divorced and wanted to be close to his kids. Granted, I’d probably have done things a bit differently if I had been in that situation, but it makes your company sound vengeful and if I read a story about this happening in a glassdoor comment, I’d put that company on my list to avoid applying to, even if you were outwardly known as a great company.

      1. snuck*

        I’m with you… to an extent. I’d put this information down as “useful to keep in mind”.

        And yes… why did the employee go elsewhere…

        The power difference between the person seeking work and the person offering work means that the prospective employee will inevitably say what it takes to get the job…. if you then get snickerty at the employer about some of this it shifts the power balance even more… and makes GOOD candidates leery of you.

    6. themmases*

      I really don’t think these stories make the point you seem to want them to.

      It sounds like your industry is a small world because the leadership at your organization goes out of their way to make it so– by using their power to actively harm and get even with individuals who cause them moderate inconvenience. It reflects terribly on them, and on anyone involved who thinks that’s OK.

      1. The Strand*

        I agree. This doesn’t say anything bad about you for sharing your story, but about your organization – it sounds like you work for petty, vindictive people who want it their way, and can’t handle any inconvenience. That phone call sounds like the cry of someone who wants to blame someone, anyone for her predicament.

        At the beginning of my career, I was hired in an educational job where the previous occupant (and several other people) had left with about two weeks notice, about oh, three months before the semester started. I heard over and over about how they left everyone in the lurch by not providing more time.

        I gave them five months notice when I left, and suddenly I was the disloyal swine who, after all the positive reviews, was not giving them enough time.

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t know that I’d go as far as your ED did, but I absolutely agree that in education it’s a small world, and you do not want to be someone who changes her mind after accepting an offer.

      Especially at schools (and especially in teaching positions) that run on an academic schedule, having to hire a teacher in August when you thought you’d finished hiring in May isn’t just in inconvenience–the pool of good candidates is drastically diminished at that point.

      On the other hand, I have friends in the tech industry who regularly take new offers after having accepted offers from other companies, and it doesn’t seem to work against them in terms of burnt bridges or a perception of a lack of ethics. It’s just very cutthroat there.

      1. Sunflower*

        This would depend on where you’re located though. I live in an area where pre-k thru 12 teachers are clawing over each other for jobs so if someone backs out of an offer, yeah it sucks but it’s easy to find a replacement.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Yeah, my husband was hired for his first teaching job in August, about two weeks before his first day. And I like to think that he was a strong candidate. :)

          Not that I don’t appreciate the severity of the inconvenience — I do. But many good teachers are struggling to get noticed because districts see them as a dime a dozen.

      2. jmkenrick*

        I’m almost 30, and I still remember a 7th grade math teacher who quit mid-year because his commute was too long. We were shuffled between a number of substitutes until they found a replacement, and that poor guy was never able to gain full control over the class. I don’t know about my classmates, but my grades certainly suffered.

        In retrospect, I imagine the principal must have been running around like mad to get that all sorted, and the teacher who left must have really burnt a bridge.

    8. AcademicAnon*

      I usually think that employers shouldn’t bad mouth employees, but in education this person burned their own bridge and got what they deserved. Locally if something like this came out, that person would probably be essentially blacklisted by people in the local unions and wouldn’t be able to get a job.

      1. Honeybee*

        Honestly, I kind of agree with this. Particularly since I suspect that the three months were probably summer break, and she left the school in the lurch 2 weeks before school started. The executive director contacting the other ED is just telling the facts.

    9. Anon for This*

      I should clarify as many of you indicated it was petty and/or vindictive on the director’s part to call the other organization – I agree. I wasn’t on board with that decision, but when you’re in charge of an organization you get to decide all the decisions. :)

      As for the second story – you’d have to understand our context a little more but as someone points out below, in education, you really need committed people on your team. Even in organizations like ours that are not actually school systems, the cycle of coming and going revolves around the school year and not having everything in place at the start of the year (or not able to hire quality people because someone quits in August) is going to ultimately negatively affect the kids, schools, and communities you serve. So there was no way we were comfortable with another office (in a different city) hiring someone who had already made a commitment months back. It seemed to indicate he was likely to do that to them, thus harming their results, their kids, etc. We would’ve done the same had the situation been reversed as it’s just too important to have committed people in place throughout the year to take that risk.

  11. Beancounter in Texas*

    Something isn’t jiving with me, and I’m assuming it’s limited information. First the LW says that s/he’s had a falling out with another manager, but then ends the letter with the revelation that s/he is a company founder and largely connected with the clients. So is the other manager with whom the fall out occurred is also a company founder or other equal in the company? Because I would think the LW has a bit more clout and influence than the other manager and would have the political pull to resolve the fall out situation to the LW’s satisfaction.

    1. Kara*


      When I got to the end of the letter and saw the co-founder bit, it made me really wonder. S/he says that the confrontation was “ugly” and that “nothing was done about it”, but s/he’s a co-founder? Wouldn’t a co-founder have the power/authority to do something about the situation?

      I kind of get the impression that the OP has a pattern of making knee-jerk, emotionally based decisions in order to avoid confrontation, and then coming to regret them later. And I’m thinking that regardless of what happens with this situation OP might want to consider changing that MO going forward. :)

      1. Kyrielle*

        One of the co-founders at my old company ended up as the CEO for a while. Another one never rose above being “a salesman” and others achieved the role of VP of Sales. A co-founder may yet not be the right person, especially if they were a technical expert, to rise high in management – or may not have wanted to. They have more weight than someone else with their title usually, but not necessarily more weight than everyone.

      2. Anna who posed the original question*

        I posted some details in two comments below. One in response to another comment and one comment of my own. I left some detail out as I was trying to be brief. But I explained it below.

    2. Christian Troy*

      Co-founder doesn’t always translate to “top of the hierarchy”. Like in tech, there are often people who start companies but eventually have reduced responsibilities for whatever reasons/preferences while maybe another co-founder is still on board still managing actual day to day projects.

    3. Observer*

      I missed that sentence.

      That really makes me wonder about what is really going on, and about whether the OP is really thinking things through carefully.

  12. AnotherAlison*

    A couple thoughts on this. . .the offer letter, compressed schedule, and push to sign immediately could be the way HR operates, rather than the manager. If could reflect overall company culture, but I’ve also read some boilerplate with hard-core sounding instructions that were actually harmless. (Things like “you must send all invoices via hard copy in triplicate to the parties listed below,” and then when asked, the company tells you that’s just old boilerplate from 2002, and you can just email it directly to the manager.)

    Also, some candidates express that they’re so eager to start that they want information to read before they officially start. I definitely agree with the OP’s reasons to be put off by this, but I can see the flip side where a candidate is surprised that the manager didn’t contact her from the time she accepted the offer until her first day on the job.

    1. INTP*

      Agree that it could just be HR. What I would do is contact my future manager/supervisor to ask them about it. If the actual manager acts like it should be no big deal, then you have your clear red flag. If they say “Oh, no, you don’t have to read all of that before starting!” and apologize for HR calling you so many times, then you might be walking into a place with nutty HR practices, but have no evidence that your manager will be pushy and unreasonable.

    2. Nobody*

      That’s a good point. At my current job, I was waiting for a security clearance to come through before I gave notice at my old job. HR informed me that the security clearance was done — 13 days before the originally agreed-upon start date. I asked if I could push back the start date so I could give a full two weeks’ notice. The HR lady was kind of snotty about it and argued with me, saying that the manager wanted me to start on X date and I had agreed to it, but she finally gave in and asked the manager. I was really worried the manager would be mad at me, but it turned out he didn’t mind a bit (and I’ve seen him be flexible with other employees hired after I was). It was just the HR lady who was being pushy.

  13. Sara The Event Planner*

    I realize this is anecdotal, but my gut has always been right when it comes to these things. The companies and managers that raised red flags during the hiring process turned into my most miserable jobs. I know longer brush those bad vibes off as just nerves or a different culture; I really take them to heart and trust what I’m feeling. I would do the same here, if I were in your shoes. It’s far better to burn a bridge now than to start, be unhappy, and leave bitter.

  14. BRR*

    First I want to throw out there was a letter last week or two weeks ago where an employer pulled an offer after everything was set and the LW’s husband had already quit his job. We were unilaterally against that employer (also because they did it in an email and wouldn’t give a reason).

    I don’t particularly have an answer for you. You say it was your emotion that drove you to leave but it seems like your emotion is also driving you to stay. I’m getting the sense that you had to talk yourself into the new job then talk yourself into staying. Just from what you’ve said I think you need to weigh if at the new employer was it HR or your manager and were there other warning signs. You mention the event was unacceptable at the beginning but by the end you seem to go back on that. I think the new employer might not be great but is part of you holding on since you were a founder?

    1. BRR*

      Also to directly answer your question, yes it’s ok to change your mind, better now than two weeks in. It will likely burn a bridge (hopefully you never want to work for this organization again). Also I’m assuming you haven’t given notice. If you gave notice I’d probably stick with going to the new one.

    2. jmkenrick*

      “We were unilaterally against that employer.”

      Yes, but we might not have been if that OP had indicated her husband revealed some big red flags after the offer, and I would argue that some of what this OP is describing is a red flag.

  15. Ad Astra*

    Backing out after accepting a position will absolutely burn a bridge. The trick is deciding how much that particular bridge mattered.

    At my old company, a woman who was pretty fresh out of college accepted a job with us and then backed out the night before her first day because she got an opportunity she “couldn’t turn down” from a competitor. My manager was really mad about it, and I doubt this woman will ever be able to find a job with that employer in the future (which includes a much larger, more prestigious organization a few hours away in an arguably more desirable city). But, now that I know what I know about my previous employer — and a bit about the admittedly cool project she worked on instead of working with us — I think she made the right choice.

    In the OP’s case, I’d say get out while you can. The way this company is handling its hiring really rubs me the wrong way. Alison’s advice is reasonable as always, but I don’t think I would even bother looking for signs of sanity at this place. It’s just so far from how a company is supposed to act when they hire a new person.

    1. jmkenrick*

      “Backing out after accepting a position will absolutely burn a bridge. The trick is deciding how much that particular bridge mattered.”

      Exactly. If OP follows up on these red flags, and it turns out it’s a dysfunctional organization? Well, maybe it’s OK to navigate forward without the option of working there.

  16. cv*

    I think this depends on the level of the job, to some extent. I’ve seen a few new hires at relatively low-level admin positions leave within the first two weeks, sometimes to pop up somewhere else very quickly, and I’ve always assumed that they’d been in the running for a few different jobs and accepted one while waiting to see what happened with others. It’s a big irritation for the employer, to be sure, but for a low-level position the chances of having other qualified applicants that they can go back to, or a fairly quick hiring process if they start from scratch, is pretty high. Those employees also don’t lose that much, since these positions aren’t really industry-specific. The chances of word getting around and damaging future prospects are relatively low for, say, someone applying for office assistant positions in a big city.

    But if you’re hiring for a senior position, there are often relatively few qualified candidates and the interviewing process is often much longer and more intensive, and the employer becomes more invested in the strengths of a particular candidate and how they fit in with the organization. The employee is much more likely to have an established career in a particular field or industry, and the employer is more likely to be in contact with others within the industry. The bridge-burning effect is likely to be much, much greater.

    1. BRR*

      I agree with this to a certain extent. For all positions I think once you start you should have the intent to stay but for lower level positions, it can be more easily remedied if they change their mind after accepting.

      For higher level positions there are more consequences in changing your mind and it’s a bigger pain for employers.

      1. ConstructionHR*

        “For higher level positions there are more consequences in changing your mind and it’s a bigger pain for employers.”

        And typically, more than (a less than) two week notice period.

  17. GroverT*

    I agree with Cv when it comes to this conversation. I believe that if you are at a low-level job industry, and before beginning work there, you decide to back out, that it should not be an extremely large deal. In my opinion, as long as you let the company know that you are no longer interested in being employed by them, you cannot ruin your name. It is entirely unprofessional to accept a job offer, leave no word to them whether you are coming in or not, and basically avoid them at all costs.
    BUT on the other hand, you cannot just back out of a job situation if you are in a high-level type of employment. If you are to be hired as a CEO of a company you would be ruining your name if you were to just back out of a job offer. But I think you should definitely go with your gut on this situation because It sounds like this employer is just a bit too pushy.

  18. themmases*

    Alison is right, OP really needs to make sure that the person responsible for these emails is someone senior to them.

    This could be my idiosyncratic experience, but whenever I’ve gotten a high-handed email (overly formal sounding, rude, pushy, maybe with inappropriate bold and italics) that sounds like what the OP describes, the author was actually an assistant or admin. I’ve even received them from people I’m friends with who I know aren’t like that in person! It’s the email style of people who are used to having their important emails ignored. The place I saw this was very hierarchical and even I, as research support staff, name-dropped like crazy to get normal requests fulfilled from certain people.

    An email like that could still raise questions: why isn’t their boss letting them know their writing style could offend people? Why are some people here so frustrated or rude that this is how they write? If they’re getting ignored, why is it acceptable to ignore this person? It does suggest some dysfunction. But it doesn’t necessarily suggest a problem that would directly affect the OP or that would be so bad they need to burn a bridge over it.

    1. themmases*

      I forgot to add– someone in that position wouldn’t necessarily know that the OP is still at their old job. And they might be used to phrasing requests as hard deadlines and demands because in *their* role, it is the only way to get a response. That doesn’t always mean it started as a demand up the chain.

      My rude emails from bosses have usually read more like they were composed on an iPhone.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I had the same thought. The person who came to mind when describing the offer letter/situation was a client of mine who is about 5 years out of school (a short amount of time for the work he’s doing). He often has unrealistic expectations about how fast we can do something, and sometimes it comes across as an unreasonable request when it’s just an uninformed request. It could be a situation where the hiring process took longer than expected and rather than point out to their Big Boss that the hiring company is only giving the OP minutes to consider and accept the offer, the person handling the hiring is pushing the offer package out the door and asking for an unneeded tight turnaround to meet some predetermined date.

      Or, the new company sucks. Who knows? But there are some plausible explanations.

  19. Erin*

    I think the fact that you’re opting to stay at your current job is important here, as compared to going with a better offer you received after the fact. Or bringing this new company’s offer to the current company to push for a raise. Those two things would raise red flags to me as being unethical, but they’re not applicable here.

    I think you’re fine. You will burn this bridge, but I think it’s worth burning.

  20. John*

    When you find yourself dreading the new job, I think the course of action is pretty clear-cut, even though I’m not a fan of backing out.

    I had a colleague from my last job who backed out after accepting an offer from my current employer. The head of our division vowed our company would never again try to hire him. Well, that manager moved on and my former colleague was later brought on. Had it come up in the interview process, all he needed to say was, “Look, I support my family. I fully intended to take the job, but then my current employer offered me more and I couldn’t walk away from that.” I think a lot of hiring managers would fully understand that, so long as he was able to articulate why he would no longer make the same choice.

  21. AGirlCalledFriday*

    I love AAM, but reading posts like these always makes me feel as though there’s an US vs THEM culture in the American workplace. I read a post like this, and coming from the perspective of an employee who has worked in some very toxic places and ignored the warning signs because I needed the job, I want to shout “YES! This is a good reason to rescind an offer!”, but then reading Alison it seems a bit like waffling to me. Yes, it’s possible, but maybe the workplace isn’t that bad, it will reflect badly on you, etc etc etc. To be clear, I don’t disagree with the advice, but I do wish that there was more trust and respect for the employee. I’ve only had limited hiring experience, and limited management/mentoring experience, but in that experience the very vast majority of people were normal, decent people. Maybe less than 5% were awful in some way. In spite of this, it seems like almost every workplace and hiring norm is directly against the employee. Many employers refuse to be transparent about salaries/benefits, attempt to lowball candidates rather than paying market worth, run background/credit/drug/IQ/personality tests, overwork employees, fail to respect employees, overly scrutinize time arriving/leaving/on lunch, refuse to interview candidates who have been laid off/out of work for any period of time/quit their job without another lined up, fail to provide adequate cost of living raises or vacation/sick time, the list just goes on and on and on. The somewhat recent post of what to say when you quit a toxic environment and how to spin it so you look ok really rankles. Why can’t a person just say something like “My manager screamed at me every day?” Why the necessity of playing word games?

    I get that a lot of this stuff is necessary because employees are just playing the hand that they are dealt. I also understand that businesses have to worry about their bottom line – the business needs to run smoothly, after all. But I think that in between the two there’s got to be a point where employers can safely give a little trust and respect. When I read stuff like this, I KNOW Alison is giving the advice to handle the situation as it should be handled in the reality that is the common workplace, but I also shake my head and feel frustrated about it too.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      To a certain degree, and especially in certain industries, there is an us-vs.-them culture in the American workplace. That said, what you read here is a version of the truth. After all, why would anyone write a letter to Alison saying “My manager and I get along great, and I have the perfect job. What should I do?” People asking for advice are a self-selected group that is having problems.

      In terms of playing games… yeah, it’s annoying, but that’s how life is. We all play games to a certain extent. If you’re on a first date, you usually pretend to be together and pleasant, at least for a while before you open up to your partner. Very few people just start off with “Hi! Nice to meet you. My last boyfriend was physically and verbally abuse, and I have a restraining order on him. I’m depressed and on medication. And I sleep on the left side of the bed. What about you?”

      Likewise, in job interviews, if you show up and say “My last manager screamed at me every day,” obviously screaming at you isn’t acceptable, but there’s this game that job applicants have to play to get a job. After you’ve taken a new job, it’s okay to say “Oh, my last job was terrible. My manager screamed at me every day,” but if you’re looking for a new job and are asked why you’re interested in a position, it’s not okay to say “Well, actually, I’m not that interested in this position. I just want something better, because my manager screams at me every day.”

    2. Suzanne*

      Thank you. Yes, it is the way it is. I’ve had more than one job that I was pretty much lied to about the hours, time off, work load, etc. One of my former co-workers was recruited by a competitor who then proceeded to change the job after the fact. They admitted they lied to her to get her to come on board.

      A friend of mine was in a very similar situation as the OP. She was working a horrible, no benefit job with a horrible boss. She got a offer for a job, they required her to do a whole day trial (a receptionist. Seriously) which she had to use PTO to do. Then they pressured her to decide within 24 hours. Meanwhile, she was waiting to hear from another position that she really wanted, one with better salary, better benefits, and much more room for advancement. She took the first job just to get out of the job from hell, but before she started, the other job came through, so she told job offer #1 her circumstances had changed and she would not be starting. They were very angry, but if they had not pressured her to accept the job ASAP, they would not have been in that situation. She would have waited until she heard from the job she wanted.
      You have to do what’s best for you. Most companies would drop an employee on a dime without looking back, so I don’t see why an employee, or potential employee, shouldn’t do the same.

  22. Anon21*

    Timely! My company had a candidate accept an offer (with a fairly delayed start date), report for work, then tender his resignation that same day when he received an offer for his “dream job.” That is not a good look.

    I think OP is in a different spot, given that they have some real reasons to be wary about this new situation based on the new employer’s behavior.

  23. Retail Lifer*

    Retail is different from most professions, but people back out of job offers all the time. All. The. Time. They usually find something that pays better or offers more hours or it’s something in the field that they went to school for. I can’t blame them, especially when they let me know as soon as they can and it’s a reason such as one of those. The bridge is usually burnt in terms of me ever being willing to hire them again, but it happens and you move on.

    I know the OP is a company founder, but my biggest worry would be are you certain you can get your old job back? Has the hiring process already started? Will they accept you rescinding your notice? This new job sounds off-putting, for sure, but make sure you’re positive you can get your old job back before you make anything final.

  24. Dan*

    AAM is giving the employer too much credit here. Many times (and rightfully so) she counsels advice seekers with, “the employer has to act on imperfect information. All they know is that requires some deeper investigation that others don’t. So why should the spend the extra time with you? Most of the time, employers have their choice of good to great candidates.”

    Well, the same is true here. The OP has the choice between the devil she knows, and the devil that’s done a good job of rearing some ugly horns. I’m not sure I’d be giving future employer that many opportunities to explain themselves. IMHO everybody is allowed a screw up that can be excused for any or no reason whatsoever, but a collection of screw ups should be ignored at your own peril.

  25. itsame...Adam*

    It is only unethical if you accepted the positions with intend to retract later on. In this case you accepted but in light of new information about the company realized that this is not a good fit. It would also be unethical to start the position with intend to quit shortly after to evade the awkwardness to deal with the current situation. If you realize this is not a good fit after all tell them and explain yourself. That’s the ethical thing to do.

  26. einahpets*

    Slightly related to this topic: I have had two recruiters (external to the respective companies) make it seem like a huge deal recently when I pulled my resume and/or declined an interview after invited. I have a full time job that I do enjoy already (but am always trying to be open to new opportunities), and each time something seemed odd about the process so it didn’t seem worth going forward to me.

    Anyone else have experiences like these? Do you think that by submitting a resume for a position, you need to go forward with the interview if invited no matter what? I just didn’t want to waste anyone’s time, but if I am thinking about this wrong I’ll definitely reconsider for future opportunities.

    1. itsame...Adam*

      No it is not a problem to decline. Recruiters don’t like it because they get paid for matching candidates. More qualified interviews means higher chance for a successful match. When dealing with recruiters think of them as salesman. Getting pushy is just another sales technique.

    2. Retail Lifer*

      I’ve done that several times before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. Jobs can seem like a great match for you when all you see is the job description. Once you speak with someone about it, it’s often a different story. For me it’s always amount of travel and pay. If there’s a lot of the first one or not enough of the second one, I’ll pull my resume, too.

  27. Hollis*

    I’m skeptical that’s legal, under wages and hours law, for an employer to ask a new hire to do 200 pages of reading prior to starting work. At the very least, federal law requires that I-9 forms be completed not later than the first day of work and not prior to signing a completed job offer, which makes it seem unlikely that the OP has filled it out.

    My recollection of wages and hours law is that it is illegal for an employer to ask a non-exempt worker to do work of meaningful value to the organization without paying them for the time, and that the rules similarly prohibit having exempt workers do any work without paying them for a full week of time. Reading assigned material seems pretty likely to be considered meaningful work. The fact that it’s before the agreed-upon start date shouldn’t change the calculus of whether it’s “work”, legally.

    So, I have some concerns about this employer for that reason, independent of the others.

  28. Observer*

    I haven’t read the responses yet, so maybe someone has already addressed this.

    I do think that Allison makes some very good points, but on the other hand, is staying where you are really the right thing to do? Your guilt about this is a bit of a red flag to me. You say that the confrontation was ugly, it was unacceptable to you and it is something the company knows about. Why are you feeling guilty over leaving them? you can be sure that if the company needed to let you go, they would do so no matter how much you would struggle. And if they won’t protect you from your coworker when you are a valued employee, the sure won’t lift a finger to try to protect your job.

    And, right now you say that there are things about your job that outweigh the issue that drove you to look around. But, is that really true? Right now it’s quiet so you are minimizing it. But it was bad enough that you didn’t justlook around – you went through a hiring process that surely didn’t take two days.

    Also, now that you have given notice, what are the chances that even though your company will take you bake, they won’t be looking to push you out? There ARE exceptions to this, but you need to think very carefully about that.

    The bottom line is that from an ETHICAL point of view, you have absolutely no responsibility to worry about the fact that your current employer will have a hard time replacing you. So, the only real factor here is whether this is the best move for you, and that’s something that requires a bit more thought, I think. It certainly would be a good idea to follow Allison’s script. It will give you some more solid information to based your decision on.

  29. Kadee*

    Something feels “off” about this letter.

    The OP had a major falling out and couldn’t get it rectified even though they’re a founder responsible for most of the clients. That tells me something, provided the current company even knows the person accepted this other job. I re-read the OP’s letter and I don’t see any language or signs that the OP told the current company they have accepted another offer. It’s possible that was omitted or supposed to be a given, but I’m wondering whether the OP got upset one day and decided to look for another job, got an offer, accepted it, and are now wanting to go back on it without the current company ever knowing that any of this took place. The OP’s statements about leaving are very vague, as if they never actually had the conversation. They state that less than two weeks is “probably” fine since they could work on the weekends and the company is going to struggle when the OP leaves “whenever I leave”. That reads as if they haven’t had any concrete discussions about their departure due to this impending job offer.

    Because I’m wondering about that, it’s leading me to wonder how much context is being provided overall. Is the 200 page report to read something that really needs to be read before starting or is it a “here’s a guide that may be useful to you on the job and we’re providing it advance at your convenience”? Are they sending “reports” or are they sending paperwork/documents/contracts that they need completed before the start date, hence the desire to receive acknowledgement and why they follow up with phone calls? I probably wouldn’t assume these things given the OP is making it sound like they’re pushing for work, but given the lack of context elsewhere in the letter, I’m left to wonder if there isn’t more to the story. (Maybe there isn’t.)

    I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but the red flags I see are as much on the OP’s side as the new employer’s. At the very least, I think Alison’s advice applicable and useful regardless, but this letter left me with more questions than answers.

    1. Anna who posed the original question*

      Kadee – I just posted below, which would answer some of your questions. Part of the confusion, or what may seem “off” is that though I really wanted some advice (this problem has been driving me nuts since the offer came through) I also didn’t want to go on and on, and was trying to be brief. The situation at my current position is a bit complex to explain. With a couple other people I started the company, and it is now running to the point where I could step away without it being the end, but for a very long time that was not the case. Having been so closely involved in the company, I was crystal clear with them about all of this. I explained I was seeking other work, and when I got the offer I told them immediately. Given that I was a founder of the company, and basically created my own role in that process, I knew that I would be able to help on weekends, and that, given the very short lead time to my departure, this would be critical to the company – so there wasn’t any question about that in my mind. Again, explaining all these details in the question I asked would have been cumbersome for AAM, I think. There was no intention on my part to deceive or harm anyone. And though I decided this somewhat emotionally, as I admitted in my question, making a change is also something I have been considering for over a year.

      The 200 pages of reading were reports from various departments in the company – background information they wanted me to know about prior years’ work, so that on day one I would be able to discuss, take action, create strategic plans, and have all that history fully understood. Basically they wanted to speed up the learning curve that is in play in any new job.

  30. AcademiaNut*

    I think that both the employer and employee have the right to back out in between the offer/acceptance and start date when new information comes up during that period to make them reconsider the agreement. And that can include either party switching from reasonable to unreasonable behaviour during that period.

    It shouldn’t be something that’s taken lightly. The bigger the impact it has on the other party, the more seriously it needs to be taken, and the potential repercussions on future jobs should be considered.

    The employer, of course, should complete background and reference checks before extending a firm offer – I don’t think that not doing so is reasonable grounds for rescinding an offer.

  31. Yup, anonymous!*

    I’ve always wondered what the most tactful way to back out of an offer is. I’ve only done it twice in my life, and both times it was fairly soon after accepting an offer (but before signing any paperwork). I only backed out because I got an offer that paid the same but was more aligned with what I was studying at the time since I was still in college and thought the experience would benefit me more, and the second time it was a similar but better-paying position — so nothing shady was going on. I think I handled them alright, but I’m curious what other people think is the ideal way to handle it.

  32. Anna who posed the original question*

    Wow thanks for the great answer to my dilemma, and thanks for all these helpful comments and input. To answer a few questions that have come up about the situation I described:

    Some comments wondered why, if I am a company founder with a connection to the clients, can I not resolve the problems with the other manager, or why I don’t have the power/pull to do so – and what our relationship is within the company. The situation is that the abusive person also has a significant bit of power in the company, for entirely different reasons (a relationship to one of the other founders) such that he really gets away with quite a bit, and due to that relationship, no one who can get involved is willing to get involved. It isn’t something I’ve been successful in managing myself since these confrontations turn personal and hostile so fast with this guy. As I said in my original question, there are some definitely very troubling things about the way this company is structured, and this dynamic is disturbing, and that is what drove me to look elsewhere.

    AAM’s questions were exactly what I was struggling with. The person contacting me, demanding to hear back immediately was the assistant to the person to whom I would report, and I was lead to understand that she was instructed to push for the fast reply -was reporting to her boss throughout this contact. Had she just been an overly eager assistant, wanting to make sure the task she’d been assigned was successfully completed, I could likely have understood and looked the other way. But it was the person I would report to who was driving that urgency, from what I could tell from the emails.

    Regarding doing my due diligence, that is such great advice, and I think I did, to the extent that I felt I could. I interviewed with 6 separate individuals at varying levels within the company. On the whole it struck me as not a bad place to work, though even then it was a touch troubling that it seemed the interviews were uncoordinated, with little communication between the interviewers, thus not optimizing the interviews, and leading to a great deal of repetition. Particularly as so many interviews were needed, I think it would have been in everyone’s best interest had they had some kind of interaction/communication between those conducting the interviews. But perhaps they had their reasons for doing it that way.

    I have to confess, having had a bit more time to think about it, that there were other red flags, which I won’t go into since I also fear publishing it so close to the time it has happened. But I could have dug deeper. However, I think that is a challenge sometimes. Often people interviewing for a job are so focused on getting the job, that it can be hard to seize the upper hand, even if done professionally and politely, to investigate further. Even in my case, where I am employed and there isn’t any desperation or urgency in getting a new position, I found it tough to do. But I think it is important, and my example illustrates it. I would have been helped by a better understanding. I think a solid company that is well run and serious about finding a good match should facilitate that, if not during the interview process, then at least after the offer, if possible. In this case, the offer was so rushed, and in terms that were somewhat dictatorial and did not seem to invite discussion, let alone even any thought, I didn’t feel questions were welcome.

    In the end, it boiled down to what Alison’s response to me was. I was dreading it, and the red flags had me very nervous, and though I felt absolutely rotten for putting them through the hiring process only to change my mind, I decided not to take it, and I let them know, very apologetically. I know I have burned a bridge, but I don’t think it was the solution for me – wasn’t a fit. And I think I need to do some thinking about my situation and plan my next steps carefully. It would have been a lot worse for them if I took the job, feeling as uncertain/unhappy as I was, only to leave a short time later, or to be miserable and wishing I wasn’t there the whole time. It’s unfortunate, but they can now go find a better match.

    The tricky part is going to be forgiving myself, but I need to do that too – nothing is served by feeling so lousy about it. I really meant no harm, and I honestly went into this feeling strongly I wanted a change, so I would not have done this frivolously, and in fact had they handled things differently, I may not have waivered. I’ve been on the other side of the coin in terms of hiring, often still am, and know how difficult hiring can be. I will move on and so will they, but it certainly was a learning experience. In the future, I plan to be more careful and learn from these red flags, and as others noted, I need to be a bit more careful about reacting emotionally to such situations, unless I am very certain it is really what I want.

    As for my current position, I am still in it. Given the situation, as long as the company I work for is successful, it’s very unlikely I will ever have to leave this position unless I choose to do so, which in itself is something I value a great deal, as I do having control to a degree over my time, enjoying the work itself, etc. However, as noted in my original question, it comes with its downsides, and a cast of characters I cannot really change. Still, the grass isn’t necessarily greener elsewhere, as the experience here has demonstrated to me.

    Thanks so much to everyone for the input!

    1. NickelandDime*

      I think your response here is valid. A lot of readers guessed there was more to your feelings than what was originally posted. You have to do what’s right for you. This job wasn’t right for you, but another one will come along. The pushiness, the emails and the calls…they knew you were in the midst of a transition from your old job to a new position. People want to take the time to leave things at an old employer the right way, and they didn’t seem to respect that.

      Good looking out.

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      Thanks for the explanation. The details really help see the situation more clearly.

      I once read somewhere and this has stuck with me, “If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, water your own grass more.” I hope you’re able to find a way to contain The Manager or at least distance yourself from them.

  33. Erin*

    Thanks for the comment – questions need to be kept as brief as possible for obvious reasons, and sometimes you just can’t include all this vital stuff. :)

  34. Nom d' Pixel*

    If possible, I would back out. Those are some big red flags. I had a similar experience with my last job. After I got hired, I realized that all of the pressure was because the place was poorly managed and they were looking for some miracle person to fix all of their problems. However, I wasn’t given enough power to do anything, and the management was such a mess that I doubt anyone could have. Because I didn’t turn out to be a miracle, I turned into a scapegoat (I found out they had gone through three other people in two years in the same situation) and was laid off in less than a year.
    If a place is properly managed, they want to hire new people, they don’t desperately need to.

  35. tb834*

    It really bothers me when employers can rescind their offers without any problems but employees should not change their mind to avoid burning bridge.

  36. Katey Kay*

    I had a similar experience and mine has backfired. PLEASE HELP- I’m very confused:
    I was offered a position by a small company. I’m at the very top of my field and it would be beneficial for them to have me. I am well known, working for top companies in the same field. I ignored all my due diligence because I liked the small company. After 2 meetings (1 with the company head), they immediately began the push and gave me a hard sell. They made some promises of things I would miss if I didn’t accept. Without more time to consider, I accepted (an emotional decision…I liked them so much as ‘buddies’). After I joined; within 1-2 days, an insider suggested that this company was using me as a pawn to strengthen their own company. I re-thought the situation and after 1 of their promises proved empty, I decided to tell them I had ‘cold feet’ and would it be alright if I waited until I saw their new plans for an upcoming project? They were disappointed (and only thinly masked their annoyance at me) all the while saying they totally understood and yes they would show me the new plans. The plans never came and I proceeded to chase them to show me the plans. We played 2 months of telephone and email “tag”. I stupidly did not look for another position because they told me the decision was MINE and they would welcome me at all times. Finally 1.5 weeks ago, I telephoned to say “YES, I’m in and happy to accept!!” Their reaction was odd: they said “YAAY!!!” and then proceeded to talk all about their company how great it was, how busy they are, about events they were doing and places they went to and big people and plans to see and do…so on and on, yet not much of anything about me joining the team. I asked them to please email me when they’d like me to report and what files they’d need from me to bring with me (Ie. how should we proceed from here-on)…I’ve heard nothing! It’s been 1.5 weeks. After a day or so, I thought it normal they said how busy they were)…then I wondered where was the warm email from the company head, to welcome me? After 1 week of SILENCE, I put in a call. I left a VM about my concern that there has been silence and no communication. NO REPLY! That was 4 days ago.
    Now I feel like a fool. It seems they are acting vindictively…but why? They are professionals in a huge industry. I didn’t have ‘cold feet’ and doubts to be mean-spirited, …I was un-sure. I am shocked they would behave this way as a ‘pay-back’…Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I want to think they are very busy and will deal with me soon (they mentioned something vague about this)…How would I proceed? I feel like this is the FINAL red flag,,,,yet maybe I am the one acting pushy? Any advice? I don’t like to think they would be vindictive.

  37. SooperDooper*

    I am in this situation right now. I accepted an offer from one Company 1, but then found out a competitor was hiring. I’m going to be purposely vague here, because I’m just paranoid enough to fear someone from Company 1 will find this post and figure out who I am. Company 1: everything is automated, and the sphere of duties is much smaller, and does not include an area in which I am very interested. Company 2: duties are some automated, but some are also manual (more thinking, less just pushing buttons), and I would get to learn more about one of my favorite parts of this job.

    Let’s compare it to working in a kitchen: Company 1 wants me to make fries in a huge industrial kitchen by throwing potatoes into an automated slicer, pushing a button, and waiting for the cooked fries to come out the other end. Maybe I will get to make other fried foods on that same machine, and once in a while when the machine breaks I get to try to fix it. Maybe I’ll also get to make burgers using another machine once I’m good at automated fries, but I will not EVER get to make desserts, which is what I am most interested in…at least until a dessert job opens up in months to years.

    Company 2 is a smaller kitchen where people work closely together, and they will let me make fries, burgers, salads AND desserts, both with machines and with the manual skills I learned in “Kitchen School”. I’m really excited about making desserts, because that was my favorite class in school, and I can even see myself getting a certification as a Dessert Specialist by going back to school for several more years. Company 2 has called me for an interview, which I have scheduled for a few days from today. I have a week before my official start date with Company 1.

    This may all be moot. Perhaps Company 2 won’t offer me a job…but according to a friend who already works there, I have a very, very good chance of getting an offer.

    The only thing that makes me *not* consider reneging on Company 1 is that these are pretty much the only two “kitchens” in town to work for. If I renege and piss off Company 1, I might get black-listed.

  38. Anna*

    In reply to that recent dilemma regarding the “kitchen job”

    First, no matter how good your chances at company 2, you don’t have the job till you have a written offer. You know the saying about a bird in the hand, etc. I’d be worried about ending up with no job at all in a two kitchen town, as you describe it.

    Second, I don’t think companies really “blacklist ” people. That’s not to say however that you can’t destroy your reputation and harm job prospects. The worst way to do that is by somehow alienating an employer such that your reference will be a bad one. But even that you usually have to do something extreme since many employers will avoid bad references for fear of legal issues these days. Turning down a job you’ve accepted can certainly burn your bridge with that company, and it’s a small world, but I think it’s unlikely they are going to get on the phone to every competitor to assure you never work again.

    You can always continue the interview process at the second place and of an offer comes then leave the job you’ve accepted. Again, you will likely burn your bridge at the place that offered the first job and it’s going to feel awful to do it. That said, I think people have to live their lives. And foregoing major opportunities in life because it feels awful and feels wrong are not wise choices. I’ve had employees do this to me many times. They take a job and a couple weeks later leave because one of the others came through. It’s disruptive and a nuisance. But it’s the nature of doing business and I think employers just need to realize it happens. Again though, to do that means you will never work for the company you leave and it’s a small world so people could find out (though I don’t think anyone will actively blacklist you). These are just the hard choices and painful situations that so often happen on the job market.

    You could discuss your concerns with the place you have accepted too. Perhaps there’s a way they can accommodate your dessert making desire. You could mention to second place that time is an issue. That won’t solve the problem but may prevent them dragging their heels on a decision so that you can decide sooner than later.

  39. SooperDooper*

    Anna, thanks for replying! Yes, I’m trying to avoid “counting my chickens”…I wouldn’t renege on Co1 before getting an offer from Co2. Luckily, in my friend’s experience, the hiring process for Co2 is very fast. She got a call/phone screen, interviewed the next day, then got an offer the day after that. My phone screen is today (yes, on a Saturday, which tells me they want to hire someone NOW).

    As far as Co1 accommodating my “Dessert” desire: there is one “main kitchen” and then many smaller kitchens around town that serve particular communities. The job I was offered is in the main kitchen. There is no dessert making in the main kitchen; desserts are too important and time critical to make in the main kitchen and then distribute to the smaller kitchens, so the smaller kitchens have their own dessert making equipment and process. While it is possible to get a job in one of the smaller kitchens, those jobs *usually* go to employees with longer tenure, and don’t tend to open up as often as the more general “cooking” jobs.

  40. SooperDooper*

    Oh, and just to make it clear, I have not started with Co1…I do have a start date, though, and an appointment with HR to do orientation activities. If I were to start at Co1, THEN get an offer from Co2, I would suck it up and keep working for Co1, at least for 6 months to a year. BOTH jobs are classified as “as needed”…meaning, we will call you into work when one of the other cooks is sick, or on vacation, or on maternity leave, or we have particularly high volume and need extra hands.

  41. Gale*

    I’m seeing this post long after the fact, but can contribute. A similar situation happened to me. I knew when the job where I was at the time would be coming to an end and was investigating new industries for a career change. In the preceding months, things had also changed drastically in my family and I needed to find a different job anyway to accommodate those needs, not to mention I was in graduate school pursuing a long desired degree. I interviewed at one place that was particularly appealing as they promoted themselves as family-friendly, and went back for a second interview. Everything seemed good about the new potential place with the exception that they said I would realize I wouldn’t need to finish grad school to work for them, which I thought strange but contributed it to them saying long term potential of moving up and earning money was their way of trying to sell the role, & they made an offer. They knew I wouldn’t be available for a while as I had committed myself to the current job until the transition was complete, and that I have family and grad school commitments, so I told them I would think about it. A few days later I received emails regarding meetings I had to attend. I also received emails for training modules – unpaid training at that. I thought they were auto generated & ignored them until I received a call from the HR guy who sent them that I needed to complete them and ongoing training was for a month. I explained I wasn’t starting for a couple of months and I had not formally accepted the position. He said I needed to do the meetings anyway as they were on a time line for the new hires regardless of where they were in the onboarding process & they were mandatory, which I couldn’t do them at the designated times as I was either on my commute, in class (he reminded me grad school wasn’t necessary to work for them) or was in other things like my current job. This led to me learning from both my soon-to-be manager and divisional manager that I had to take the training modules unpaid & they also were mandatory at the designated times. They also told me to rearrange my mother’s doctor appointments or have someone else take her, which I could not due to the nature of the appointments and they were aware of this. It didn’t take long for me to decide that the new place and I were not a fit. I realize some places will have you take unpaid training but they were asking me to do so on my current company’s dime & clock, and they initially said training wouldn’t start until I got there. Another thing that first appealed to me about the job was the fact it was flexible, which I needed for family needs. I promptly called the division manager and the HR guy who was sending training modules and told them professionally and specifically thank you, but I would not be accepting their offer as the job and my goals would not align and wanted to tell them this so they could begin looking for an appropriate fit immediately. I then sent a formal notice in writing to the hiring manager telling him the same things, but also saying I felt the position was misrepresented, that I could not proceed forward with the company, and very professionally gave the reasons. I would normally not have done this but in this case I felt it was necessary as they were very aggressive and I wanted it to be clear that I was not their employee. Being honest, at least in this case did not hurt me because even though the hiring manager contacted me with some not-so-professional things to say (confirmation that they were not the right company for me, & yet another red flag), their much more honest and reputable competitors contacted me for interviews.

  42. ChrisH*

    OP, stick with your gut instinct. It’s trying to tell you something. Yes, you made an emotional decision, but so what? That’s what happens to many people under extreme stress. Being human is ok.

    I disagree that you should call and talk it out. You should let them know verbally when you are certain you have made a final decision. Never go into that discussion with open ended uncertainty. HRs job is to overcome your objections (close sale, save sale), if they can. Your notice definitely needs to be before you start.

    It’s rare these days to have an offer pulled. Really unlikely, in fact. Offers sometimes expire, but it would be even rarer for a recruiter to not be closing you before that happens. Recruitment is human capital sales, not much else.

    For the broader audience, you owe these people and companies nothing. These people are paid to do this. You are not damaging anything because hiring is inherently a risk management exercise – the risk on not meeting deadlines, incomplete projects, inadequate staffing levels, etc. Those risks existed before you agreed to join. People come and go from companies every day. It’s not your responsibility to assume that risk.

    There are very legitimate reasons to back out of an existing contract or offer that’s been accepted. As long as you are direct, polite and confident with your decision, that’s all that can be expected.

    Ultimately each of us has to do what is best for ourselves and our families. This is perhaps the only time where it’s ok to be selfish. If you’re not, no one else will be looking out for you or your loved ones. It’s too important to not get this right, so if you have accumulated doubts like the ones listed, don’t do it. I have said many times that I am responsible for others who depend on me to make the best decision possible, and they can’t protect themselves. That’s my job.

    It’s never OK for an employer to demand you start immediately or face retribution. It’s never ok for them to start giving you work before you start. It’s absolutely never ok for them to send you threatening and/or demanding e-mails. It is beyond reproach for them to blow up your mobile phone with follow ups because you didn’t get back to their e-mail immediately. ANYONE who tells you differently is speaking on behalf of being in HR, or they are completely nuts. Don’t do it. The respect that you are shown now is an indication of what you can expect; once you onboard fully it will be 5x worse. You’re supposed to be in a honeymoon period. Any employer who acts this way deserves to get their hire blown up, and you HR and Recruitment folks know it.

    Make sure you are decisive, professional and quick with your response. You don’t need a counseling session, you’re there to deliver bad news and get out. Keep it simple, don’t explain yourself or your reasons (this just opens doors for them to explore to overcome your objections). If they want the feedback, tell them to call you in a month (they won’t). In fact, just use the standard rejection letter dialog that you regret to inform them that you’ve decided not to proceed and have accepted a different opportunity that more closely aligns with your skills and career objectives. If anything changes in the future you’ll let them know or you wild be happy to invite them to contact you in the future if their needs change.

    Don’t buy in to the guilt trip of ‘napalm’, burning bridges and blacklisting. Trust me, if you’re reasonably good at what you do and they need you, it won’t matter one bit as long as you handle the rejection with some maturity and class.


  43. Raman*


    I am looking for suggestion! I’ve signed a contract (non-copmetant) before joining the client but I haven’t joined it. This I did inform one week before the joining date (recruiting process happened within 15 days!). Does my non-competant contract still valid?

    Here is the non-competant agreement…

    3. Non-Solicitation/Non-Compete. During the Term of this Consultant Agreement and for one (1) year thereafter, Consultant will not directly or indirectly:
    (a) Compete with xyz company by soliciting or accepting any engagement with a Project Specific xyz Customer (as defined below) other than through xyz.
    (b) Hire or assist in soliciting or hiring, any employee or consultant working for xyz company or cause any such employee or consultant to leave the services of xyzt or assist such employee or consultant to take up employment with a Project Specific xyz Customer, a competitor of xyz or any other entity or person.

  44. Cody*

    I’ve been accepted for a intern position, and I received a call as “offering”. I accepted the offer in that phone conversation and I’m waiting for the offer letter.
    But now I’ve changed my mind, I wanted to know if in the worst case there could be any legal issues or not?
    (am I behaving too persnickety?)
    Thanks !

  45. Brian Smith*

    Can the new employer that you decide not to take the job after you’ve signed the offer letter contact your current company?

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