update: should I be worried by how pushy an employer was with a job offer over a holiday weekend?

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer wondering if they should be worried by how pushy an employer was with a job offer over a holiday weekend? Here’s the update.

Thank you so much for the post and the comments were all very helpful during that process. I have an update for you.

Rather than talking to them on the phone because I was getting red flag vibes, I asked them to send the formal offer based on what we had already discussed so that I could have it in hand for the discussion. They hemmed and hawed for several days, acting as though they could not produce the letter until they talked to me yet again. They finally sent it, and it did not have the salary, the work schedule expectations, or several other things we had already discussed and agreed upon, and also had several expectations added in, such as the start date being less than two weeks out and with me having to move across the country and leave another role. So it was quite clear why they so urgently wanted to speak to me over a holiday weekend. On top of all of this, it was an exploding offer with a firm expiration date on it.

Needless to say, I did not accept the role.

There has been some significant fallout because as I mentioned it’s a very small industry and I have to interface with members of their staff, including my would-be supervisor and other members of their leadership team. They frequently choose not to respond to emails that I send, even if it hurts multiple groups within shared cohorts. Petty, yes. Unexpected, not really.

One of their leadership team asked me to have an aside with them and explain why I chose not to take the job. When I explained that the offer letter didn’t match the verbal offer, and that work-life balance seemed to be an issue, the leader told me I had no idea what I was talking about, couldn’t believe I’d make such accusations, and that we had better stop talking before I ruined my entire career.

Ultimately, I think we can all agree I dodged a major bullet there.

But in happy news, an old workplace knew I was looking and offered me a job. The new executive director there is kind, caring, values work-life balance, gives credit to everyone around her even when the work product was hers, sees the forest for the trees and solves problems without having to be asked/begged. We have very similar personalities and I find that I’m energized and always wanting to find ways to help her accomplish her goals for the organization.

It all worked out in the end.

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. Hannah Lee*

    WoW! to the WOWth degree.

    LW I’m so happy for you that you had your eyes wide open on that one. And that you’re old/new employer is working out great.

    Wonder if eventually you’ll start to hear rumblings of them being unprofessional or loose with facts with other stakeholders in the industry, because that kind of bananapants behavior with a *hostile* bananapants-cream topping from their leadership team person can’t be an isolated thing. Something is seriously off there, and it goes right to the top.

    1. RVA Cat*

      The implied *threat* makes me expect they’re up to something unethical that may make the whole company implode along the lines of Enron or Theranos.

  2. All het up about it*

    When I explained that the offer letter didn’t match the verbal offer, and that work-life balance seemed to be an issue, the leader told me I had no idea what I was talking about, couldn’t believe I’d make such accusations, and that we had better stop talking before I ruined my entire career.

    My brain exploded! The AUDACITY!! So glad that you didn’t take that offer and that you landed up in a place that makes you so happy!

    1. CommanderBanana*

      And then the leader went back to messing with the gaslamps in his wealthy wife’s mansion in order to steal her jewels…..

    2. Lizzo*

      Yeah, kudos to you, LW, for keeping your cool. I’m pretty certain I would’ve responded with, “Are you calling me a liar?” I have zero patience for this sort of nonsense.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        I would have laughed right in his face. “Yeah, sure, okay, pal”. I read somewhere that men’s greatest fear is getting laughed at so I’d save this for men like him.

        1. Who Am I*

          “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.” Generally attributed to Margaret Atwood. (And in the miniseries The Handmaid’s Tale, one of the characters says it. Not, if I remember correctly, in the book.)

      2. Inkognyto*

        Easy reply for me. “I record all phone conversations on my phone to help me remember later, and I still have those, and this thinly veiled threat.”

        You don’t need their permission to personal conversations, and I do actually do it for things related to jobs. I review them later to make sure I heard things correctly and I didn’t read into anything.

        1. Kara*

          Be careful with that please! It may be legal in -your- state, but some states require the consent of -all- parties in the call, and violating it can land you in a fair bit of legal trouble under wire-tapping laws. Google one-party vs two-party consent states.

        2. Random Bystander*

          Just wanted to add a caveat–before taking this advice, verify local laws. I live in a 2 party consent state, so I would have to notify before making any recording and wouldn’t be able to use an existence of a recording unless I could prove consent to the recording.

        3. Batman*

          I’m gonna go one step further than the other commenters: please don’t do this, even if it’s legal where you live. It’s deeply hostile to everyone you interact with and I cannot imagine many people would react well to finding out you had done this, regardless of how innocuous the conversation. I understand that some workplaces require this level of subterfuge, but taking this into a normal, non-toxic situation does not reflect well on the person doing the recording.

          1. Scrimp*

            One person recordingphone conversations for their personal records really isn’t hostile.

            In particular, the person we’re threaded under does this does it to help her remember the conversations properly.

            It isn’t that much different from the “these phone conversations are recorded for training purposes” that many companies automatically do as a matter of course.

            1. MassMatt*

              I really wish this hadn’t come up, it always derails the discussion to the legalities of recording.

              And for the record, the suggestion is VERY DIFFERENT from companies that record their calls for protection or training purposes. Companies doing this announce the fact up front, they don’t spring it on them after the fact as a “gotcha”. Which yes, IMO is at least confrontational, if not outright hostile.

            2. ecnaseener*

              The difference is that those companies tell you the call is being recorded for training purposes. Recording all your phone calls without telling the other party, while legal in some states, is ethically pretty dicey and most people would be upset to find out you had done it without asking.

              1. EmF*

                Yep. And, for all the companies I’ve worked for that record or monitor calls for training/quality, we either delete the call recording immediately afterward, stop monitoring it, or (with newer systems, I have been doing this a while) stop recording if the person we’re speaking to tells us they do not want to be recorded.

        4. Saberise*

          Besides what people have already replied you are ignoring the fact that they work in a small industry and they have interactions with them on a regular basis. She clearly has no desire to take things further than needed.

    3. Lily*

      Exactly! The nerve of this guy! I know the LW said it was a small industry, but I hope some magic happens and they never have to work with this guy again.

    4. OrigCassandra*

      Classic DARVO, really. And somebody who’ll DARVO is noooooot somebody to work for.

      (DARVO: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender. Common set of responses when an abuser is called on their abuse.)

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      It’s about as subtle as Pearl Forrester insisting she isn’t chemically bombing Mike and the ‘bots. They might as well be wearing a big sign saying WE’RE REALLY SUPER SHADY.”

  3. BellyButton*

    It is probably incredibly biased of me to assume this is a nonprofit. The pettiness made me roll my eyes, and I wasn’t surprised that the leader didn’t take the feedback.

    1. B*

      I am dying to know the industry here and cannot help but also notice the breadcrumbs leading to “nonprofit” of some flavor.

  4. SarahKay*

    the leader told me I had no idea what I was talking about, couldn’t believe I’d make such accusations, and that we had better stop talking before I ruined my entire career

    I mean, even before that, I agreed with your assessment that you were well out of it. But when I got to that bit I literally exclaimed out loud.
    I’m so glad you’ve found somewhere normal to land.

    1. Rick Tq*

      I’d be temped to publicize their bait-and-switch tactics in the industry just to see who’s career/reputation is ruined. Especially since they are shunning you even if it impacts other groups.

      1. Grey Coder*

        Absolutely worth a Glassdoor review. There’s a company in my field where the Glassdoor reviews are about 20% “best place to work ever, leadership is visionary” vs 80% “it’s a cult, run away!”

        1. Bast*

          Glassdoor can be amazing when there are actually enough reviews to spot a pattern. A handful of reviews are really hard to gauge either way, but if 80% stated “it’s a cult” I’d be inclined to believe them.

  5. FricketyFrack*

    Yiiiikes. I guess it’s good that these people showed their hand (and uh…behinds) before anything was excepted, and good on LW for trusting their gut. These people are a full barrel of bananas and I’d want nothing to do with them.

    1. Project maniac-ger*

      They waved those red flags in your face! It’s really concerning that a leader would accuse you of lying about something easily provable like the contents of an offer letter. Yikes. Glad you’re at a good job now, OP.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Which was on THEIR LETTERHEAD, presumably, and signed by an employee or representative of their company!

        To quote an old Garfield strip: “His lying to me isn’t half as insulting as the credit he’s giving my intelligence.”

        1. BatManDan*

          Yup. I guess it’s a sign of my fragile ego, but I always took the assumption that I didn’t know someone was lying as a way worse offense than the lie itself.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I assume he was claiming the verbal offer matched the written one, not the reverse. Which is bad, but not directly stupid in the short term (it is in the long term when people with options don’t accept their offers and their reputation among people in the industry rightly tanks).

  6. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    “we had better stop talking before I ruined my entire career”
    Crazily toxic. Thank goodness you refused to work for those nightmares

    1. Quill*

      You know, I used to have a boss who constantly joked about how other businesses in the building must think we were in the mob. He was somehow MORE SUBTLE than that statement.

    1. Michelle*

      Running for your life (from Shia LaBeouf)
      He’s brandishing a knife (it’s Shia LaBeouf)
      Lurking in the shadows
      Hollywood superstar Shia LaBeouf

  7. AJ*

    Good for you! That pushiness is such a bad sign. My husband recently received a job offer in a similar fashion – they rushed an offer on a Friday, wanted to talk to him that evening. It turned out the offer letter had a different title than verbally agreed to, had a start date of that Monday, and called him an independent contractor instead of an employee (oh, you thought benefits were included?). He did talk with them but their continued pushiness let him know he really needed to end the conversation.

    (Thankfully, he was in the interview pipeline of another company, and when he told them he had an offer in hand, they expedited his process and he ended up taking that offer, so it worked out)

    1. B*

      The mindset behind this bait and switch behavior is fascinating… like, you can rush someone into making a bad deal in a transaction where you’re never going to see them again. But this isn’t selling a used car, it’s a job… you’re going to spend more time with this person than with your own family. What exactly is the endgame here?

      1. WS*

        The endgame is they get someone who responds to pressure by giving in and settling for less. It could be for nefarious reasons – “oh, I have to get this financial report to the board right away, just sign here and here, don’t read it” – but it could also just be for mundane reasons – “oh, I have to go early today, you won’t mind staying for another four hours and covering all my calls, will you? Thanks, bye!”

        1. münchner kindl*

          And sadly, it works for them; it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy by self-selecting.

          Those people with options, or boundaries, select out because of the red flags.

          The people who are desperate, or come from toxic companies with no boundaries, accept because they think no boundaries are normal, and then stay, because they think it’s normal, while accepting the abuse of bait-and-switch, and no boundaries.

          Sure, they won’t get good work out of down-beaten, tired employees like that, but the company doesn’t know the difference, they just know it works (for them), so they keep doing it.

      2. Antilles*

        I find it fascinating too because not only do you spend lots of time with them, there’s nothing keeping you from looking elsewhere once you realize that they misled you. Even if you did take the job before realizing just how terrible it was, you could then re-start your search almost immediately and leave.

        In your car analogy, they have the benefit that once you sign that terrible deal you’re stuck for the next 48 months. But in a job (at least in the US), most jobs don’t have binding contracts and in fact explicitly state at-will employment that that either party may end at any time.

        I assume that (like munchner suggests), it works mostly through self-selection where anybody who’s willing to put up with this during the offer phase is going to stay a while anyways.

        1. Zweisatz*

          Probably one of those “people keep leaving the role and we don’t understand why!!” kind of jobs.

        2. a good mouse*

          Especially in a small industry, starting and immediately leaving would really burn a bridge in a legitimate career harming way (as opposed to here where they’re salty you didn’t take the job). I know in my niche I’d probably try to stick it out at least a year before moving just to try to mitigate that.

          1. Bast*

            If it’s a small company, don’t any places have A Reputation? As in, high turnover, everyone knows they are awful, no explanation needed? While my field may not quite be as niche, I started my career in such a place, and I actually had interviewers skip over, “tell me why you’re leaving” and say something along the lines of, “No need to tell me why you’re leaving Employer A, I’ll assume the usual reasons people leave there.” When a place is truly that awful that they have A Reputation I find people tend to be a little more forgiving (though to be fair, I was there 2 years, which for that company, made me one of the “senior employees.”)

    2. Jzilbeck*

      My spouse also had a job offer on a Friday night of a major holiday weekend, after interviewing earlier that day. And they called kinda late which we thought was odd and a bit concerning regarding future work/life boundaries with this employer. Fortunately I went into labor with our baby a few hours later so we had the best excuse to not answer phone calls, LOL. The headhunter relayed this info to the offering company, which bought us some time while in the hospital and waiting on another potential offer, which came right after coming home later in the week. Sometimes I think a bullet was dodged with that first employer.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I was interviewed at a place where they said we had to start early because of customers in China, and finish late because of customers in the US, but that we had a mandatory 2-hour lunch break. As the person interviewing me walked me out, she bumped into a colleague and had a quick chat to set a meeting up, and during that quick chat it transpired that neither had had time for lunch.
        They asked me to do a test, and I didn’t bother because I didn’t want to work for free for two hours in the middle of the day. The guy I would have been seconding called me at about 8pm one night to inform me that I’d missed the deadline for the test and when would I get it to him. I said I wasn’t going to bother, and explained why, and pointed out that the fact that he was still working at 8pm simply reinforced my opinion that much further.
        I very often see positions advertised at that place, their turnover must be wild.

  8. Ms. Murchison*

    That’s not a bullet dodged; that’s a whole hornets nest. Glad that LW found a better place to land.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Not just hornets, but a whole nest of Murder Hornets.

      Glad the OP dodged that nightmare.

  9. Green Goose*

    I’m so glad you are not there as an employee because YIKES. I feel like a lot of people can be judge-y when someone does not provide honest feedback when doing an exit interview or in this situation where someone directly asked you…but this is a prime example of what can happen when people are honest.
    I would love a transcript of that whole conversation, I’m so curious was the person being openly hostile when they threatened you or were they saying it in a “friendly” way to convey that message. What did you say when they said it was an accusation ( to be clear, you don’t owe us an explanation/answer but if you want to tell it would fill our morbid curiosity), what a spooky person and definitely bullet dodged.

    If you want commiseration:
    I worked at a really dysfunctional private school over a decade ago that had a manager that was so bad that it united the entire teaching staff in a common hatred for her. She was mean, vindictive, super disorganized, bad at her job, and had no self-reflection so she would cause the same issues repeatedly and just kind of made everyone’s lives miserable. She would always have an exit interview with teachers who never said directly that SHE was the reason they were leaving. Until one day, my coworker *Sanna decided to be very honest about why she was leaving. She wasn’t being nasty but she laid out specific examples of what the manager did and how those things had been brought up to her but she continued doing them so Sanna decided to leave.
    Bad Managers reaction? She started demanding to know “who had told her this”, Sanna was confused and repeated that it was her personal experience with the manager and that is why she was leaving and Bad Manager kept demanding who had told Sanna these stories about her. WHAT!
    So even when people provide honest, critical feedback, if the receiver isn’t open to it their minds will reject the information.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, absolutely. But the whole organization was full of bees dressed in banana pants waving red flags because they allowed the Bad Manager to keep her job.

      But at least Sanna tried.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Bad Manager’s question really was “Who ELSE has said these things about me?” Bad Manager wanted Sanna to give her a list of complaining people who were still there so she could go after them now that she had “proof” that these things were said.

    3. LW*

      I’m the OP. It was not said in a friendly tone at all. She is was absolutely rude and she had obvious menace in her voice. I sent the update several weeks ago and in the intervening weeks their entire team has purposely ignored me for many things, including leaving me out of a critical discussion about an upcoming conference that everyone in the industry with my type of job should be looped in on. In a terrible turn of events, a very good friend from the past got a job there and was running from a toxic situation so did not take my advice to not take the job. They’re now living in a hotel part time because they also received a “move right this minute from across the country” letter and their family has still been living in another state. I feel so bad about this nightmare for them.

      And oh, they’ve still never filled the job they offered me. I have COVID this week and I had to call a high level director yesterday at my job and the first words out of his mouth were to ask how I was feeling and why I was checking email instead of trying to get better. I don’t imagine that if I was with the exploding offer company that this would have happened; I imagine they’d be expecting me to work through every minute.

  10. learnedthehardway*

    Always get it in writing.

    “It don’t mean nuthin’ til you’re signin’ on the dotted line,” to quote a Richard Marx song. Seems applicable.

  11. a bit confused*

    What is “an exploding offer”?

    Side note: Getting an offer with an end date seems like such an easy reason to refuse quitting your permanent job for.

    ”with me having to move across the country and leave another role.” Is the other role they wanted you to leave your current job? And how does one move across the country in a week?!

    I am surprised this bonkers company has a good reputation in your industry. This kind of operating can’t not leak out.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I think an exploding offer is one that has a time limit for accepting it or it goes away. “Exploding” because it’s like it has a fuse and will self-destruct after a time.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        I don’t understand how an offer can be “exploding,” which sounds like it’s designed to create false urgency like a clearance sale, but also be so genuinely urgent that the people involved are asking to be called after midnight on a holiday. You know what I mean?
        They either so desperately need someone that they’re asking OP to move across the country… or the position will disappear. I don’t see how it can be both.

        1. Curious*

          it’s the offer that disappears, not the position. After the deadline, they can move on to their second choice candidate.

        2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          I’m not familiar with the term “exploding offer,” and it would be weird to me if an employer told me Friday, “We need your ‘yes’ by Monday Or Else,” but it’s always been kind of implicit to me that there is on some level a deadline for saying yes. I may have a bit of room to negotiate, along the lines of “Can I think about this for a week and get back to you?” but the employer often has other candidates they might want to offer to, who have their own timelines, and I’m not the kind of unicorn candidate where an employer is going to wait for me for three weeks while I dither.

          It’s not fair that an employer can take MONTHS to get the offer out, and then once I have it I can probably only get a week or maybe two, max, to think about it, but that’s what I consider normal, even if there isn’t a formal “this offer null and void after December 10” or whatever.

      2. MikeM_inMD*

        So, it’s like the door-to-door sales people who will quote a “if you sign today” price. I usually tell them I need to think about it, and then every time they mention how much I’ll lose by delaying they lessen the chances that I’ll ever say “yes” to them. My theory is if they’re in that much of rush, they’re trying to hide something.

    2. Candi*

      On the company having a good reputation but being currently bonkers, it might be something we’ve seen on here on occasion, and also shows up in stories in Not Always Right and elsewhere.

      Company is great, fantastic, gives proper benefits, respects the workers, expects them to take care of themselves, owners/management get along with the workers and listen to them.

      Old management goes away, business gets sold, whatever. Time for the new kings.

      And morale goes down the toilet as the new management abuses the workers more and more.

      But the company manages to coast along on its old reputation. For a while.

    3. Always Tired*

      As others said, “exploding offer” just means it has an end date and will “self distruct”

      I’ve worked for several companies that set expirations dates on offers. We wanted the role filled in a timely manner, and didn’t want someone coming back months later about an offer we moved on from, or have a candidate string us along waiting for a counter offer then decline while the role sat empty for a long time. That said, our windows were 2-4 weeks, depending on the role, not like, three days.

    4. LW*

      Hi I’m the OP. An exploding offer is an offer that typically gives you an extremely tight deadline to respond. So basically in most cases it’s 24 hours or less. In my case it was about 36 hours. And I received it in the middle of a huge conference they knew I was at because they were there and they knew I was working 20 hour days. It was just insanity to the very end. And has continued to be so with their behavior towards me in the aftermath. One of their directorial staff is so abusive to me when we have to talk about collaborative things that I finally took myself out of the collaboration, told my directors why and they didn’t even ask for proof; they took me at my word and put him in his place hard stop. He now isn’t allowed to contact me for any reason unless it’s by email and he copies my directors, to keep his behavior in check.

  12. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

    This isn’t dodging a bullet, this is reenacting that scene from the Matrix.

  13. LCH*

    definitely a bullet dodged.

    if an employer truly values you and really wants you to work with them, they will not have use such high-pressure tactics. i recently accepted a position to finish up a project that has been lagging since it began in 2013 so hiring for it was a priority. since i was in the running for two positions at the time, i couldn’t give them an immediate answer. but they gave me the extra time i needed to make my decision and worked with me on a reasonable start date. this is how it should work.

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