should I leave my good job for a better one?

A reader writes:

I took a job at a company a little over a year ago after being unemployed following being a part of a large lay-off. I was so grateful for the job and ended up really loving the company and its culture. After the trauma of the lay-off, I passionately told them that I wanted this role to be my career and I would stay for at least 3 years, which is what they expressly wanted and I wanted at the time too.

Fast forward to today – a company found me on LinkedIn and, after a series of very positive conversations, offered me a very unique upward-moving role that is focused on the areas of my work that I enjoy most. They also offered me a 30% pay increase with 15% annual bonus – I believe they wanted to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse! They really like me and I really like them and it would be a huge move for my career… BUT I also love my current company and enjoy my current role! I also feel so guilty for leaving this role so soon… and they just gave me a 8% raise because they say they value me and would never want me to leave!

Am I making the right choice by leaving? The known vs. the unknown is terrifying, but the money and more strategic focus of this new role is great. It’s also a jump in title (which I know I would get eventually at my current company but would take another 1 – 2 years)… but are these ultimately the right reasons to leave?

Well, first, let’s talk about that promise to your current company that you would stay for three years. Unless they gave you a contract where that’s in writing, it’s not entirely right for them to hold you to that, at least not to the point that it would seem like a betrayal if you leave now. If they really wanted to lock you in, a contract was the way to do it … but U.S. companies tend not to do that kind of contract, because they want to preserve flexibility on their own end. (In blunt terms, they want you to commit to them without giving you a binding commitment in return. Your employers sound like lovely people, but this is just a normal part of how this tends to play out, even among lovely people.)

To be clear, informal agreements to stay for at least a few years should be taken seriously — you shouldn’t make that agreement in bad faith (like if you knew when you were saying it that you had no intention of honoring it). But things change. Goals change, life circumstances change, and sometimes impossible-to-pass up offers fall in your lap. You can’t be expected to act against your own interests when your employer wasn’t willing to make a binding commitment back to you.

That said, will they be upset? Possibly. But if you explain that you weren’t job searching and this company approached you rather than the other way around, and the offer is too good to pass up, despite how much you’ve loved working for them … well, they may still be a bit upset, but they should also understand your decision.

However! This doesn’t mean that you should actually take the other offer. On its face, the money and job itself sound hard to pass up. But jobs that sound fantastic at the start don’t always turn out that way. So because you’ll be leaving a job that you really like, you want to really, really do due diligence here. Make sure that you’ve truly dug into the new company — that they’re stable, that the job isn’t likely to disappear in a year, that the department it’s in isn’t likely to be slashed, that the manager is respected and considered a good person to work for, that the culture is one you’ll thrive in, and so forth. Make sure you’ve talked with other employees there, not just the manager, and done a lot of research and searched your network for anyone who can give you the inside scoop. The goal is to make sure that you won’t be kicking yourself in six months because you left a job you liked for a situation that isn’t as good or that’s outright bad.

But if you do all that, and do it thoroughly, and you’re still convinced that this will be a better situation for you than your current one … well, I think that’s your answer. Just be careful that you’re looking at it through clear eyes, and don’t let excitement about the job or the money prevent you from doing that digging.

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. IT_Guy*

    Never, ever trust a promise of a bonus! The bonus is usually dependent of things which are not in their control. Usually hitting sales goals or production numbers are the basis for goals. Unless it’s in writing that they will pay the amount of money regardless, it shouldn’t count on accepting an offer.

    I’ve known quite a few people including myself who have fallen for that ploy.

    1. Cautionary tail*

      Because I practice what you just preached I have never been burned by the empty promise of a bonus. The only time a bonus is real is when it’s in your bank account.

      For my position, there is no practical way I can ever impact the Fortune 500 company earnings which are required to trigger any bonus availability. Next are corporate performance goals that have nothing to do with me. After two more levels, finally there are goals I impact. If I get this part of the bonus, I earn enough to go out for dinner.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      Yep. My husband was leaving a job that kept cancelling or postponing the bonuses at the last minute (twice the day of!) even when the threshold goals were being met. So when he was negotiating at his current job, he dismissed the promise of the “8% annual bonus” when all they were willing to do was match his salary at the ex company. The hiring manager swore up and down that it’s guaranteed and the company is so committed to it that during the Recession, the board voted to pay out the bonuses even though they had to cancel dividend payouts to do so. This was factual, but we knew it’s still not a guarantee. He took the job because they would relocate him to someplace with a much lower COL and he needed some experience outside of his narrow field that uses skills that aren’t directly useful outside of that industry.

      They paid the bonus the first two years. They didn’t pay it in 2016. The company was apologetic, gave plenty of notice (announced in July, bonuses are paid in December) and even lowered the goal threshold needed to be met before the bonuses are paid, making it easier to hit in the future. But if we’d been counting that money as what we had to live on, we’d have been 8% short.

      Stuff happens. Only count on the salary/hourly rate in your contract.

      1. Anon Anon Anon*

        This. Where I work we have a bonus plan. We have some members of our HR department that tell new hires that it’s guaranteed as a way of paying people less base salary.

        It’s never guaranteed, and I’ve worked here long enough to remember years when there was no bonus.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          I have heard this spun so many ways. It’s guaranteed – if the company hits all targets or some other version of “if….”

    3. robot*

      I understand what you’re saying here, but take note that different industries have different expectations around bonuses. Certainly I wouldn’t take a job solely based on the bonus expectations, but every software engineering role I’ve had has had a bonus percentage, which has always been paid. Payout varies somewhat by individual and company performance, but not by much (i.e. the bonus is 15%, you’ll get between 12-18%); it’s an expectation of the field. Certainly they don’t have to pay it, but it’s silly to treat it as inconsequential. I would say that the OP should definitely do due diligence about how the bonus structure works at that company, but you suggest essentially ignoring it, which seems similarly unreasonable.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        The two experiences above *are* in Software. The first, because even though software kept meeting their goals, other areas of the company were under-performing and they couldn’t afford the pay outs. Consistently. For 2-3 years.

        The current one because the overall industry is in a slump and it was based on overall profits of the entire company.

        So your “always has been paid” against my “hasn’t been paid in Software for two different industries- the one, consistently unpaid”

        1. esra*

          I’ve been at three different software companies, all promised bonuses, only one has actually paid out.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I’m in software too. I work for a company with a great reputation, but I’m glad I didn’t factor the bonus into my considerations as anything but a sort of “And if the bonus materializes, I’ll get an extra boost that year; awesome” thing…because I’ve been here through two bonus cycles and never seen it pay out. And from everyone’s reaction who has been here far longer, it almost never does.

      3. olives*

        Also in software, and I’ve definitely gone times without a bonus even when I expected one, was promised one, etc. In terms of budgeting and life planning, it’s a good idea to ignore promises of a bonus from most companies. This is especially true when deciding whether to take the job, because you don’t yet know what the internal culture is regarding whether they set goals that they think they’re going to meet.

        If you end up in a company which isn’t keeping bonus promises? (Which can happen to anyone – you’ve pretty much gotten lucky with this so far!) You can start looking for another job – but that’s a much longer time scale. When you’re evaluating a job offer, it’s *entirely* reasonable to treat bonuses as a nice extra, because otherwise you might be depending on income you aren’t going to get.

      4. Kathleen Adams*

        I’m very glad you’ve been so lucky, robot, but look at it this way: If it’s an absolutely sure-fire thing, why call it a “bonus”? Why not call it “salary”?

        They call it a bonus because that makes it easier not to pay it, should that be necessary. Giving everybody a pay cut is difficult and traumatic. Not paying a bonus isn’t good, particularly if the company has almost always paid them before, so people are counting on them, but it’s simply not as awful as cutting salaries.

        So by all means, enjoy those bonuses. My current company offers them too, and has so far always paid them. But don’t count on them the way you do your salary.

        1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          ” If it’s an absolutely sure-fire thing, why call it a “bonus”? Why not call it “salary”?”

          I said this very thing in negotiating my salary for my last job.

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            Exactly. Why tell anybody (including oneself – after all, the people who say “Oh, we always pay our bonuses” are oftentimes quite sincere because they really want those bonuses, too) that it can absolutely be counted on just like salary…and then call it something besides “salary”?

            Because it’s not just like salary. That’s why it’s got a different name. That’s why it’s paid out differently. It’s a *bonus* – something that you’ll get when times are good enough, but not otherwise. It’s as simple as that.

    4. Chaordic One*

      Beware about the bonus.

      Back at “Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd.” at the end of the fiscal year employees were paid a “profit-sharing” bonus contingent on the company being profitable. The company usually managed to be somewhat profitable and when bonuses were paid, they were small, but nice.

      However, it was also the custom at “Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd.” that there would be quite a few layoffs beginning about a month before the bonuses were awarded. (Often it would be on the day before the bonuses were awarded.) Many of the people who contributed the company’s success did not get anything for their hard work. The company would also do most of their hiring starting on a date after which new hires would not qualify for “profit-sharing” bonuses.

      OTOH, the raise seems to be significant enough to make the job offer worth seriously considering.

    5. NicoleK*

      Agree. Several jobs ago I accepted a position. At the time, Boss told me verbally and in writing that I was eligible for a bonus. The week where bonuses were issued, Boss pulled me aside and informed me that she made a mistake and I wasn’t eligible. So never count on a “bonus”.

    6. Ck*

      Another software person here – the company I’m at now guarantees the first 4 years of bonuses by working them into the employment offer as signing bonuses that “vest” after each 6 month period.

    7. copy run start*

      Agreed. It’s a “bonus,” after all. Our bonus is tied to customer satisfaction scores overall, not my exact department’s performance. And we have outsourced a particular function that customers are deeply unhappy with that I have 0 control over. I know recently bonuses have been less than the stated rate because we didn’t meet the threshold. Not sure what would happen if the company lost money, I haven’t been through that experience yet. I’m guessing the bonus would evaporate first though.

      I’ll be happy if I get this year’s bonus, and it’ll help pay off some debt. But I’m not relying on it, nor do I consider it part of my salary. The only money I plan on is my hourly wage. Any OT or bonus is just gravy on my potatoes.

  2. Jeanne*

    The grass is always greener. A good company that you like working at, who gives you a raise to keep you, should not be thrown out without serious thought. Can you really not wait 1-2 years for a promotion? Money is nice but not everything. You need some serious pro and con lists, some thoughts about what is most important to you about a job, etc. Money isn’t everything. Check benefits, flexibility in your hours, your commute, your office space. There are many intangibles at a job also. How important are those to you? Do they actually listen to your ideas, are coworkers kind, is there a lot of tension? Designate an hour or two f quiet time to work on these. Good luck.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Money is not everything, but a 30% raise is pretty major, assuming equivalent benefits.

      It’s really not about waiting at her current company to catch up to that 30% increase. First, the 8% can’t be expected every year. . .if these are 3% raises here on out, it will take a lot longer than a couple years to catch up. Second, she’ll get raises at the new place. . .3% of 1.3x is more than 3% of 1.0x. Basically, she will make almost as much in 3 years as she would in 4 at her current job. Even if it doesn’t work out, she could save that delta and take almost a year unpaid to job search. Another factor is savings and growth. . .if she’s able to put more in her 401k, a few thousand difference saved per year really adds up over 20-30 years.

      Personally, I really do agree with you about the intangibles, but IME, those have all changed a lot and often. I’ve worked at my company 11 years and had 8 managers and 6 division name changes, so you can imagine. . .

    2. Chief Operating Officer*

      Also be sure to review health insurance. If the new employer’s plan costs more that could take up your raise.

    3. Zombii*

      I agree that money isn’t everything but as someone working barely above the poverty line, it is a damned huge factor in my job seeking. Not all money concerns are frivolous, I’m mostly fixated on the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy, and I’d like to be able to afford to save something (anything) for retirement; I don’t think I’m unique.

      1. Mookie*

        Yes. At a certain point, discomfort at a job (that pays well and isn’t actively or passively killing you or your spirit) is an acceptable compromise for more comfort at home.

    4. designbot*

      In addition to what’s been said so eloquently above, the promotion in 1-2 years isn’t a rock solid thing. Just like bonuses, you can’t hang your hat on it. By the time LW is eligible at her current company, she may have a new boss, or there may be a new hire at her level who has more experience than her, or there may simply not be an opening to promote her into… things happen. The promotion the other company is offering is the bird in the hand, the one that she may potentially in the future be eligible for is definitely hanging out in the bush.

  3. Cant go*

    Wait.. so OP wants to leave current job based on a conversation on LinkedIn? Have they even interviewed? I am suspicious of any offers made on Linkedin, especially by a company who hasn’t even attempted to meet you.

    1. IT Kat*

      The OP said that the company found them on LinkedIN, and then they had conversations – which I read to be interviews? I agree with you, if the OP hasn’t interviewed than she needs to, but it looks like they probably have.

    2. Jesmlet*

      OP says they’ve had several positive conversations… I’m curious what the nature of those conversations were as well… interviews? phone calls? This would obviously affect the advice given. Regardless, it’s definitely important to speak with other employees you’d be working with. The role and pay might be great but if the environment isn’t, it’s not worth it IMO.

      1. Good to Better OP*

        Hey OP here! To clarify, they found me in LinkedIn after which I had a phone convo with the recruiter, followed by two in-person interviews (where I talked to two people, including my direct manager, each time) and three different phone interviews with other stakeholders in the hiring for this position, including one with one of my potential direct reports. The company definitely did their due diligence! I like the advice that I talk to current employees and dig a bit deeper there, I’ve spoken a lot with my potential future manager and the recruiter but need to talk to somebody who isn’t as biased…

    3. justsomeone*

      Yeah, that was my question too – it wasn’t clear whether or not the OP had actually interviewed for the position yet.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She said she had several conversations, which I assume were interviews. I think her point in mentioning that was to explain that she wasn’t out there looking — the job fell in her lap.

  4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Oooh, man. I don’t think I would do it, but I know that I’m (privileged/lucky enough to be) less motivated by salary than most folks. 30 – 45% is obviously a huge increase in income, but a known, loved current job is priceless.

    (I took a nearly 40% pay cut to take the job I’m in now. It was worth it.)

    1. BRR*

      I also know that not everybody can pass up the money but I’m a firm believer now in happiness over money. I got a 25% raise moving from my previous job to my current job (and had to take this job as I was about to be fired from my previous job) and hate it. I used to say I could do this for a lot more money but I’m not sure I really could. I would give up a really good amount of money for a better job. I have student loans that equal a mortage but I’d easily cut some things out. We spend so much time at work, I find it important to be happy.

      1. 42*

        That’s me too. In my field, my company is akin to a little haven from the typical companies in my industry. The pay is competitive and I’m comfortable, but I know I could be making more money elsewhere, and in the process trading my 40 hour workweek for 50-60, and my flexible schedule for a more rigid one. So unless things here change drastically, I’m not at all coaxed when I get hit up on LinkedIn.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        I’ve taken several jobs with a pay cut from my previous job, and I never regretted a single one. I want more money, sure (San Francisco Bay Area is expensive!!!), but I will take happiness over money any day (within reason, of course).

    2. Catalyst*

      I completely agree with this. I left a job where I loved everyone I worked with for one that gave me a significant raise and higher title…… it was a disaster! They were in financial trouble (I worried every time I went to cash my cheque) and wouldn’t even let me do the job they had hired me for. I got lucky 8 months later when someone from my old company quit and the called me up to offer me her position. Be wary of offers that sound too good to be true, research the company thoroughly before you leave a company you are happy with.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I can see those types of scenarios happening, but I also have several former coworkers who went to perfectly stable and nice competitors for legit 50% raises.

        For example, at my company, if you start in HR and get paid an HR coordinator salary, but move into a sales role, you will still get paid the HR coordinator wage. You might get a 10% bump, but they won’t move you from $65k to $130k. However, once you’ve spent a year or two in that sales role, you can get $130k from a competitor.

        I think you just have to understand (as much as you can) why Role X is paid more at the new place than your current place.

        1. always in email jail*

          This is often the case with transitioning from government to private, at least in my area. You get “locked in” to a certain salary range if you start your career with government, but are actually worth much more on the market. This leads to people leaving to work for government contractors or think tanks and getting a 30-50% raise, often with increased flexibility.

      2. Ck*

        There are a lot of “watch out” stories here of people leaving good jobs for higher paying ones that turned out worse – not all changes go like that though!

        Two years ago I was in a similar boat to OP – had a great job that I liked with good colleagues, and then in a whirlwind of interviews, had an offer from another company wanting to pay me ~30% more (plus bonuses, worked out as signing bonuses that vest every 6 months in order to guarantee them).

        I was initially enamoured with the huge pay bump, but made sure I made the time to go over details – Changes to benefits, insurance, vacation time, retirement plans, etc. The hardest things were the fear of the unknown, and going from 5 weeks to 3 weeks vacation (I pretended my vacation was worth triple-time in my difference calculations).

        I made the switch 2.5 years ago, and have no regrets. The new job allows me to put more focus on the aspects of my job I like, and I still have great colleagues.

        It’s scary to change from the known to the unknown, but can be worth it – consider the risks but don’t let them paralyze you!

    3. Mike C.*

      On the other hand there are folks who leave terrible, low paying jobs all the time and get a huge increase in both money and happiness.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Sure. But this OP doesn’t have a terrible, low-paying job. She has a job that she enjoys with an employer that she loves, who is committed to increasing her pay and keeping her on the staff.

      2. mskyle*

        I’m one of them!

        As far as I can tell there is close to zero correlation, positive or negative, between pay and job satisfaction. Or even between pay and job-related stress. Heck, I’m not even sure how close the correlation is between weekly income and hours worked per week.

    4. Chriama*

      I think it depends on what point in your life you’re at. Right now I would totally jump at a 30% increase (although I have some really good benefits that I’d need to factor in so it’s not a straight salary comparison). But I’m in my first job out of school and I feel that this is the ‘incoming increasing’ stage of my career. I know the next few jobs will be the difference between me making 100k vs 200k when I’m 40. If I was in my late 30s or 40s and looking down the latter half of my career, or had kids or a house or other major financial obligations that made me more risk-averse, I would be more cautious. In either case though I wouldn’t let some sort of feeling of loyalty or obligation hold me back from something that was actually better for me.

    5. Marcy Marketer*

      I often find that when I’m working a stressful job, all that extra money goes to things I wouldn’t normally buy if my job was less stressful. For example, I worked a job with a 1.5 hour commute, so I spent money on going out to eat, gas, etc. I was getting paid more but that difference really disappeared in practice.

      1. mskyle*

        Taking a new job is always somewhat stressful but there’s no reason to assume that just because a job pays more, it’s more stressful. I get paid literally twice as much as I made five years ago but my job now isn’t any more difficult or stressful.

    6. Bethlam*

      I started this job with a verbal promise that I’d stay. 2 months later, I was contacted by an agency that I’d worked with about a great opportunity. Told them I’d found a job, not interested. She said, “But I haven’t told you what they’re paying.” It was 20% more than what I’d started out at here. But, like others, I’m less motivated by salary because I’m at a stage in my life (no mortgage, no other debt, money put aside for retirement) where other things are more important. I loved everything about this place and wasn’t willing to take a chance on the unknown. Besides, I promised.

      Fast forward 2 months, and the agency calls back – the company hadn’t found anyone they liked, were still really interested in me. Reminded them I’d said no. She said, “But they upped the ante.” It was almost 30% more than what I was making. Took a day to think about it . . . turned it down. For all the same reasons. That was 13 years ago and not one regret.

    7. oranges & lemons*

      I’m with you in theory (which is why I work in the arts) but I think that pay jump is a more significant factor at the lower end of the income scale. I’m making 30K now, so I feel like 30 – 45% would make a much bigger difference to my quality of life than if I were making 70K or even 50K.

      1. smailman*

        So true. A 30% bump at 30K would have a significant impact on your life. Less stress around money can be a huge boost to happiness and well being as well.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        Hell, I’m at a little over $51k for my base salary (made close to $58k this year with bonuses), and a 30% increase would be life changing for me (student loans are kicking my ass and are about to get worse *sigh*).

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          The higher you make, the more 30% is. I have a really hard time believing that that much of an increase wouldn’t make a difference to most people. I live a comfortable life, but I could sure use 30% more.

          1. anon for pay*

            Exactly! I make a little over $100K, and an extra $30K would actually make a significant difference in my finances. I’m comfortable for sure, but daycare and student loans (plus living in major city with a higher cost of living) take a big hit.

  5. LoFlo*

    I once changed jobs for the same reasons and similar circumstances. The new job was a disaster, and I ended up getting fired. I believe there is a post on this blog regarding what questions do you wish you asked during the interview?

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      I once accepted a job offer almost on the spot (called me twenty minutes after the only interview ended) and I was too excited to think clearly. I ended up quitting on the spot six months later. Everyone at the office was miserable. Learned that lesson the hard way.

  6. BRR*

    First, I would take guilt out of it. You should never make job decisions based on guilt (see the last letter). If they wanted you for three years they’d give you a contract. Although an 8% raise sounds like they’re trying to keep you. I’m not sure from your letter but have you heavily evaluated the potential employer? Have you visited their office? How are their benefits? If you do that and it looks good this could be a great job for you since you’ll get more money and get to focus on the part of your work you enjoy the most. Another thing to consider is how does your job history look as a whole? You need to consider if it will come off as a job hopper

  7. Startupwife*

    Another factor to consider: can you survive if you are jobless? You know nothing about the new job’s long term stability. If you can afford to be jobless for a while because of a spouse, savings, understanding parents, etc., then take the risk! If not, you may want to do a LOT of research before jumping ship.

    1. MoinMoin*

      Or calculate how long it would take to save that extra income to build a 6 month emergency fund- could you last that long if the job turns out to be completely heinous?

      1. always in email jail*

        Excellent idea- but don’t forget to factor in not just joblessness… but the fact you may have to explain the frequent job-hopping to employers if things go south in the new gig.

  8. AMT*

    I’m (sort of) in this boat right now. Current job: good salary, good benefits, okay duties, not-so-great working environment. I have an interview for a job with a better salary, good benefits, better duties, and an unknown working environment. To top it off, I’ve only been here for six months, so if I leave, I’ll need to stay at the next one for a few years so I don’t look like a job hopper. I’m getting anxious just thinking about it.

    1. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious*

      “I’m getting anxious just thinking about it.”

      This might be your signal not to change jobs unless you can obtain iron-clad evidence (based on good data from reliable sources) that the new place won’t be worse. I’m a big believer in trusting my gut instincts. Leaping to a new job after 6 months in your present position may be a great choice for some people. That doesn’t mean it’s also a good choice for you.

  9. Cant go*

    Again. I would not trust a company that would ty to poach me so casually. “Conversations” are not enough to indicate a real job offer. And again, I would be weary of a legitimate company making offers after “conversations.”

    1. NK*

      How is this poaching? What’s unfair or unethical about it? A company saw someone they thought would be a good fit on LinkedIn, they reached out to OP, OP was receptive. OP’s comment above clarifies that the “conversations” were actually a structured interview process and a written offer. The mistrust of this company by so many commenters is a little baffling to me.

    2. Jesmlet*

      See above for OP’s clarification on ‘conversations’. They’ve had 2 IPIs and 3 phone interviews. The best candidates often are currently employed so I wouldn’t hold the poaching against them either. With that said, exercising more caution isn’t a bad thing because if OP turns it down, they’ll still be in a job they like with room for growth.

    3. Mike C.*

      I really don’t see anything wrong with poaching. It’s supposed to be a free labor market, right?

      1. Gaara*

        Yeah. There’s actually a lot of major antitrust litigation right now about companies’ agreements not to poach employees. Those kinds of agreements may be anticompetitive, suppress wages, and violate the antitrust laws.

        Now you’re not talking about a no-poaching agreement, just, like, an independent company’s willingness not to poach for some reason. But I’d be very cautious of the idea that there’s anything wrong with a company that identifies talent at its competitors and tries to hire them away. It’s possible they could do something shady in that process, but simply reaching out to initiate a conversation is totally fine.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agreed. Framing this as “poaching” is a bit misguided—if employers want to lock down their employees, they need to guarantee them the same stability/loyalty re: continued employment that they expect from the employee in terms of length of service. If they’re not willing to do that, they should not be surprised if an employee leaves for better pastures.

        I think the most important advice to OP (and I’m glad that OP has indicated that they’ll do this) is to do their due diligence, discount the bonus unless it’s guaranteed in writing, factor in the value of benefits, and evaluate the intangibles. If New Company checks all of those criteria, then it seems fair for OP to leave.

      3. Zombii*

        I disagree that this is even poaching; I thought poaching was knowingly and intentionally seeking out someone who was already employed, usually by a competitor. If the LW was listed on LinkedIn, and was able to be contacted, that indicates that she’s at least open to the possibility of discussing another job offer.

        Note that this isn’t a shot at the LW. There’s nothing wrong with being open to another job offer: if the employer wanted to keep her, they should have put a contract on it.

        1. NK*

          Exactly. Poaching is defined in this context as “take or acquire in an unfair or clandestine way”. This isn’t poaching at all.

  10. NK*

    I’m really surprised by some of these comments! Other than the known vs. unknown factor, everything else seems to be in favor of taking the new job. It’s not just about the money. But even if it were, 30% a year is nothing to sneeze at. The career opportunities that will come with the job could increase the compensation potential even more. Given that there are no red flags and the OP has done some due diligence, I’d have a strong bias to leave unless there’s something the OP didn’t mention that is holding her back.

      1. Chriama*

        Me too. OP is being held back because this current company ‘saved’ her after a year of unemployment. But as long as she’s vetting the new guys thoroughly, a raise and a promotion is *so* worth leaving for.

    1. BRR*

      I agree with this. It feels like perhaps because it looks like a good step up on paper we’re being overly cautious. Take out the promise to stay three years part (which they should) and it’s just like how you would consider any other job offer.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      Agreed–for me the ability to move to a position that was focused on my favorite parts of the job might be enough, let alone the pay jump. But my engagement with my work is a really important requirement for me.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      Yah, really. I’m pretty risk averse and also feel a great sense of obligation when I make a commitment — and still, given the conditions the OP described, I would take the offer in a heartbeat, no question. In fact, I wish I had that offer in hand right now. And I like my job!

    4. Jesmlet*

      I think it’s hard to say without knowing OP’s priorities/financial situation so we’re all responding based on what we’d do in that situation. If the extra money would significantly affect standard of living, then of course that’s a move they should make. If liking their job responsibilities is more important than liking their coworkers, then of course they should take the offer. But if neither of those are the case, then it’s not as black and white and there are things to be considered.

      I for one would never leave my current job for what OP has been offered because I don’t care what my title is, am comfortable at my current salary and love my coworkers too much to ever risk having to work around people that don’t meet our level of camaraderie. But if all that’s holding OP back is the promise to stay 3 years, take the job!

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I prefer to like my coworkers, too, but dang, 30%! She doesn’t even know that the new coworkers would be complete assholes. I worked with someone I didn’t like for 5 yrs (nice enough, just a pain to work with and gave me crappy reviews), and I’d go back to working with him for 30% more. There are just so many other benefits to earning a higher salary (more saved for future retirement, perceived worth by other future employers).

        1. Jesmlet*

          Obviously 30% is not chump change but if my salary got bumped by 30% my lifestyle wouldn’t be affected at all. I think it really depends on OP’s current financial situation. If it’s paycheck to paycheck then 100% she should take it but otherwise it really depends. Like I said, I personally don’t desperately need another 30% so I wouldn’t want to risk an unhappy environment for that.

    5. Whats In A Name*

      This was my initial response and what I was going to comment if someone else didn’t yet. To me the only hesitation here is feeling guilty about a verbal commitment, which OP should address but not let stop her from making the move if that is the only thing stopping her.

      Just adding that a lot of people seem to be focused on whether or not the bonus will come to fruition, but with a 30% increase to bottom line the additional 15% bonus sounds like icing on the cake, not a way to skirt paying salary.

    6. Jaguar*

      Yup. OP, you’re not going to work at your current job forever, so you’re just doing something you were always going to do earlier than you expected.

    7. AdAgencyChick*

      It’s certainly not a bad problem to have for OP.

      I personally would be in the “make DAMN sure it’s the right place” camp with Alison, since I did leave a job I liked all right for a job that I thought I was going to love — I clicked with everyone I interviewed with — and I ended up HATING the job. Turned out my interviewers had been coached to sell me hard on how much they loved working there (and they pushed me to do the same thing when we were trying to hire an account person a few months later).

      I’d try to find out what’s what from sources who have no interest in the hiring decision, if at all possible. OP might not need to be so cautious if she’d been in her current role for longer (thus making it less likely that she’ll look like a job-hopper if this one doesn’t work out).

      1. Zombii*

        But how to you avoid getting snowed if all the interviewers were coached to lie, and that’s just the company’s SOP? Similar has happened to me before to (a few times), and I’d love to sidestep that whole mess but I don’t see a way to do so that doesn’t look unreasonable to companies who aren’t lying to candidates.

        1. NK*

          One way, is to look through your network (one of the benefits of LinkedIn) and see if you have any connections with anyone who has previously worked at the company. If you know someone who knows someone who used to work there, you can ask to be connected. But that is often not possible. It’s tough. I think it comes down to reading people too. I would think you could start to pick up on coaching if you knew what to look for.

  11. 2 Cents*

    Is there any way you can do a day in the potential new office to see how things work? In my industry, it’s not unheard of to trial someone for a day / week before offering a position (the person is paid for their time. The weeklong ones tend to be people who are currently freelancing. The daylong ones are people who already have steady employment). That way, you’d really get a sense of the office rather than the carefully selected vignettes you’ve been treated to.

  12. MuseumChick*

    Go to your current boss and say “I recently received an offer from another company for X amount. I really love it here and ideally I want to stay. Can you match this offer?” Or something to that effect at least. But don’t have this conversation unless and until you know for sure the other company is a place you would want to work.

    1. Courageous cat*

      Yeah, and I’m wondering if you started the conversation like this, that it would make the transition into “well, I’m leaving” easier. Kind of in the way that it’s giving them an opportunity to keep you and, at the same time, making sure they know how hard of an offer it is to refuse (aka you wouldn’t just jump ship for anything, but this fell in your lap and it’s hard to not consider it)

  13. NW Mossy*

    One other thing to consider, OP, is the relative sizes of the organizations in question – are they pretty similar, or very different? If it’s the latter, it ups your due diligence requirement because many of the things you take as given are likely to be different in the new environment, and that may or may not be a good fit for you.

    For example, when I moved to my current company, I went from a small (<30 employees) private shop to a publicly traded company that employs more than 3,000. It was an adjustment for me to adapt to the added layers that come with that kind of a shift – no more direct relationship with the principals of the firm, more structure and required buy-in to make changes, the need for a much bigger network within the company, etc., etc. Now, I'm so embedded in big-company style that shifting back down to a small organization would be the same sort of culture shock in reverse.

    It's not necessarily a deal-breaker one way or the other, but something to keep in mind – it falls into the category of intangibles that can have a big impact on your day-to-day.

  14. always in email jail*

    As others mentioned, I think there’s posts about this around here, but things I would want to know before making the leap are:
    -Flexibility. Mainly, is flexibility a two-way street? If I have to stay late a few days in a row to finish a project, is it going to be a big deal if I leave half an hour early one day to get my son to his baseball game across town?
    -Office space. Do you have your own office? cubicle? completely open plan? I’m one of those people that has to have my own office, that has a real value for me.
    -Commute. I’m sure you’ve thought about this, but don’t underestimate the effects of a long commute.
    -Direct Reports. If you’re going to be supervising people, is there any way to get an idea of their past performance? Have they ever been on performance improvement plans, etc.? I’m not sure how much of this a company can share before you’re onboarded, but inheriting difficult employees is the worst.
    -Work-from-home options… do these exist?

    I’m sure there’s others if I stopped to think about it, but those are some of the big things that would trump $$ for me.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      Commute is huge. I once took more money but added 45 miles to my commute – one way. IDIOT. Not only did the raise cancel out, I know spent 2.5 hours of my day in my car. At least I got to listen to Stern.

  15. Chief Operating Officer*

    The best plan is to dream of things you MIGHT do with a bonus during the year and then enjoy one (or more) of those things once you actually get the bonus. My husband often gets large bonuses at his company but we never, ever spend the money until we get it. We know of more than one employee who has spent it on credit cards or loans for purchases and then had big problems when the bonus was lower than expected.

    I have always been a big risk taker in my career. I have taken jobs outside my previous field, moved companies, left a job with no job offer, and taken a year off to complete my doctorate and now work for a start up at less than half my last salary. Sometimes you need to be bold and brave but I have also lept from the frying pan into the fire which is no fun. Take the job if it feels right and leave with no guilt. Just be sure that it is a good opportunity.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      At my husband’s former company, his grandboss ended up scrambling to pay for his son’s Ivy League tuition when their bonus was canceled a week before it was supposed to be paid out. It must be amazing to get that much in a bonus, but then it’s so much harder when it doesn’t pan out, if you’ve counted on it!

  16. Christian Troy*

    I think if you’ve ever dealt with unemployment, it can significantly impact your own decision making and confidence. You maybe in a good situation now, but there are better situations out there and you may feel lack of confidence in making decisions because of what happened in the past. If you’ve done your due diligence and think this is a good professional opportunity, then I would take it.

  17. Risk Averse*

    If you’ve been at your current job a little over a year, then if you take this offer you really will need to stay at the new company for 3 or more years or risk looking like a job hopper. This, combined with the fact that you “really love the company and the culture” mean you need to be much more certain that the new company has an even better culture. Because you will almost certainly be staying there a while, whether you want to or not. If you aren’t a regular reader here, spend a few hours reading through other people’s questions about bad coworkers and bosses to appreciate how valuable a good company is. When you’re at a good company, it can be easy to forget that there are a lot of bad company cultures out there.

    I also agree with the other commenters who said to ignore the bonus. Bonuses are easily lost, and there are too many larger factors in this decision for it to have much pull.

    In fact, I would take a hard look at how much salary should factor into your decision. We tend to focus on it because it is a significant thing (it’s the main reason we work, after all) and because it is so much easier to compare two salaries than two cultures. Many people are in a place where 30% more money would make their life so much better that they would be reduced to tears. Many other people are in a place where they could comfortably give up 30% of their salary to have a job and workplace that they love. Where are you on that spectrum?

    If you take the offer you need to be very sure that either the new company culture is even better than your current one, or that the increased salary will be so great that it will be able to compensate for the things in the culture that could be bad.

    1. Teclatrans*

      Yes, this. If you have a very strong resume with a few long stints, the cost/benefit ratio is better, but in any event your threshold for leaving has to be extremely high.

      OP, if you had been at current job for 3+ years, the stakes would be lower (though you’d have less angst over leaving, I imagine). Think about this: what if you find yourself in a really dysfunctional office, or laid off, and out of a job within 6 months to a year? You will have two short stints back-to-back (and maybe an unemployment gap prior to that as well?). I don’t know if I could pass up a 30% raise myself, but I am also struggling with unemployment and two resumes (mine and my husband’s) which have too much job hopping, most of which has some decent narrative behind it, but we have to contend with hiring managers who won’t bring us in for interviews or who can’t shake their unease at the gaps. One thing I would want to have very clear on my resume (via title if possible), is how much of a promotion this position is. If it is bumping you up a few steps (whether on your current trajectory or through moving to a specialist role) and that is part of the attraction, I would want to be able to discern that from looking at your job history (as opposed to having to verbally explain to someone that it was a 30% salary bump). And on that thought, remember that you will likely always have to explain this 1-year position and why you left, so think about what that narrative would be and what it would convey about you to an employer.

      One last thing, if salary is the major factor, I think it might matter whether that 30% is on a smaller amount (like moving from $42k to $56k) vs. something larger (from $90 to $120).

    2. Jules*

      Unless your job is specialized and in great demand. Some roles we hire for, we source nationally because we can’t find any good candidates locally unless we poach. Don’t really care about the short stint if it is a progressive career growth and not liner.

  18. Blossom*

    Oh gosh, I really empathise. I was in a very similar position once, and still feel conflicted about it. I took the new job. It was not what I’d expected – firstly, I inherited a mess, which is probably why they’d been so keen to hire me. I don’t even think the people who hired me knew just how messy that area was, or how much time and skilled resource it would take to fix – which was concerning in itself, with hindsight! Anyway, that organisation went through a big and unexpected change during my time there, and though it was a huge learning curve, I didn’t enjoy my days there and left before the year was out. Then again, had I stayed at my much-loved lifesaver job, things would still have changed. That place has had a restructure and most of the colleagues I was close to have (for various reasons) moved on. It wouldn’t have been the same forever. Even so, I can’t help but feel some regret at the way I left – they had treated me amazingly well, shown such confidence in me and offered opportunities, and I really left them in the lurch. I know it’s “just business” and Alison’s advice is very sensible, but I feel your pain. Not sure how helpful that is, sorry! I guess it is also a question of where your life is at – for me, at the time, earning good money was really important to me and I thought the new job would broaden my horizons and ultimately boost my earning potential. Nowadays, that’s not my priority so I’d be less tempted.

  19. mehkitty84*

    Speaking from experience make sure that the move (like Alison said) is truly vetted. Look at other factors then just the salary and title. I moved in to a new role after leaving a wonderful company. The company I left had a director that supported me and my career as well as gave me a promotion. The supervisors, managers, and staff loved me and thought I was great. I left because I felt the new job would offer more salary and a better overall work life balance. However the new job only lasted a month as the manager I reported to didn’t give me a chance. She never took the time to train me and also felt I wasn’t keeping up. I wish I still worked for my old company as looking back that might have led to bigger opportunities if I was willing to wait. I was also there only over a year. The grass always looks greener, but if you leave you have to be prepared that you may have to start all over if the new job doesn’t work out.

    1. regina phalange*

      so out of curiosity what ended up happening? Were you able to go back to your previous job?

        1. mehkitty84*

          Sorry been super busy this week! I was not able to go back to my old job. I trained my replacement there and even though she was temp, they ended up hiring her in. I emailed the director and asked for the chance to interview, but she told me they were going in another direction (hence hiring in the temp). I am still in contact with the managers I worked with and the director emailed a nice holiday message to me recently. I was without work for about two months. I see it as a lesson learned and my new job is working out wonderfully so far.

  20. Good to a Better OP*

    Finally had the time to read through all of your thoughtful comments…thank you so much for all the different perspectives! And for the bonus advice! I have done a lot of research and I do feel the benefits are more or less equivalent, location is just down the street, and culture is similar to where I work now (although perhaps a bit more conservative) which I’ve discovered is why they regularly woo people from my current company because they end up being good fits. And thanks to your comments going to reach out to some of those people asap to get their thoughts on how they like it! The salary increase is huge but also the path this role will put me on is an opportunity for my career I ultimately probably shouldn’t pass up still being less than a decade into it with no kids. Think I’m going to take the plunge… Sad to leave a wonderful place and only hope the risk is worth it in the end as judging from comments it could really go either way!

    1. It's only Wednesday?*

      I really hope it goes well for you! Would be interested in seeing an update from you down the line as to how things are working out or how the convo went with current employer!

      Best wishes

    2. Cassandra*

      Has anyone made the leap to Down-the-Street and then come back? If so, that suggests that the leap might not be as irrevocable as all that, if things don’t work out at Down-the-Street. Leave as amicably as you can, of course, to keep that door open.

    3. Venus Supreme*

      Hi, OP! I’m glad to hear you’ve really thought this out and took time to read everyone’s input.

      I think the best thing to do is take a long walk/meditate/carve out time for just yourself and really think about the choice. I was in a situation similar to this and I think I ended up walking for 2 hours, and I listened to my gut reaction and that’s what gave me the answer (and I am very happy with my decision).

      If at all possible, maybe you can leave on excellent terms with OldJob and they can leave the door open for you? My sister worked at a (corporate) place for a long time, and at the 5(ish) year mark she left the job for similar work strictly because the commute was hellish. OldJob told her she could return if NewJob didn’t work out, and she ended up coming back after a month- she missed OldJob that much. Currently she’s been there close to 20 years now. Commute still sucks but everything else is apparently worth it for her.

      I don’t know if that’s possible given you’ve only been there a yearish, but it sounds like you have an excellent relationship with them so it could maybe be worth a shot.

  21. MuseumChick*

    Good luck! I would still speak with current company and see if they are willing to match the salary/opportunities being offered by the other company.

  22. Zapp Brannigan*

    Interested in someone’s thought on my situation and would greatly appreciate it. I interviewed with two companies: one with my former employer (fortune 10) of three years and another that’s much smaller in scale (less than $B in sales).
    Because I had been laid off just recently, and in fear that it could happen again, I figured I would take the safe approach and return to my former employer. However, I realize in hindsight this was a mistake and would rather take the smaller company offer that I had rejected (more interesting work, shorter commuter, great benefits).
    I’m set to begin in 2 weeks. Would it make sense to reach out to the smaller company? Thanks!

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