Job Offers, Ethics & Gray Areas!

Set the stage:

Like most things, the job market swings on a pendulum: leverage goes back and forth between employers and candidates. Right now, there is a shortage of talent. There are not enough good, available and interested candidates to go around.

Things get a little crazy in this type of market. Talented people often get multiple offers. When resigning, people are getting counter-offers from that employer trying to get them to stay. (Use this Checklist immediately upon accepted offers) Companies are getting aggressive with offers, sign-on bonuses and perks.

In a market with this much activity, interesting situations are bound to develop. Which leads to this…

Situation:

Someone, we’ll say it’s Bob, accepted a job. Shortly after starting that new job, Bob got an offer from a company he interviewed with during his search. The offer is a fair amount higher than the offer he accepted. But he’s only been with the company a few weeks. He can’t leave, right?

My thought process as this unfolded:

My initial reaction? I was pissed. It was my client. “Bob” is my candidate. Client is going to be upset, understandably so. As I settled down, I couldn’t stop thinking about the scenario.

I really want this to be cut & dry. If you start a job and leave after a few weeks because you got a better offer, I want that to be wrong, 100% of the time. But is it?

Let’s say you accept an offer at $100k. Shortly after starting that job, you get an offer of $200k from another company. Most people would take that, even if they didn’t feel great about leaving a company after only a few weeks. And who could blame them?

This is where things get interesting. Obviously getting this hypothetical offer of $200k isn’t real-life for someone who just accepted an offer of $100k. But, if you think doubling your salary justifies leaving a company after just a few weeks, doesn’t that mean it’s justifiable for a “certain amount”?

If so, only the person and family receiving that income can determine what that “certain amount” is.  It’s not my place to draw a line in the sand for them. A $10k difference can be impactful for one individual, but wouldn’t be enough for another person to justify leaving a job they just started.

If I agree with this line of reasoning, this is not a cut & dry situation. Dammit.

This is a great example of why recruiting can be so fun and rewarding, but also challenging and frustrating. We’re not dealing with widgets. Both sides of the transaction are real people with emotions, opinions, personal agendas, families to support, careers and personal situations. 

Conclusion:

  • Leaving a job after only a few weeks at a new job is generally bad business. More often than not, it is wrong.  That employer invested time, people and money on and for “Bob”, based on his commitment. There is a strong possibility doing this will come back to bite him down the road. Not just karma. I’m talking about Bob crossing paths with someone who knows about this situation or asked around about him and found out.
  • If the better offer came because “Bob” kept interviewing after accepting the first offer, that is bad business.
  • When you accept an offer, it should be for a variety of reasons. The money has to be right, or course. You should also be excited about the company, the people, the position, and so on. Accepting another offer for more money and leaving after only a few weeks will call that into question. Were you really that excited about the first job you accepted? (Should you accept the offer?)

So, what am I left with?

Generally speaking, leaving after a few weeks for a better offer is wrong. But, like most “rules of thumb”, there are exceptions.

What do you think? I would love your feedback on this one. Please share via the social media platform where you found this, I look forward to discussions and opinions on both sides of this.

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2 thoughts on “Job Offers, Ethics & Gray Areas!

  1. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with anything you stated above. However, just a few other thoughts to consider as well:

    1. Is there an employment contract in place, or is employment “at will”. If it is “at will”, then by definition, isn’t either party entitled to terminate it at any point in time? If it was the objective of either party to ensure employment for a certain minimum duration, wouldn’t an employment contract be more appropriate?
    2. In 2001, when I graduated from college there were a number of companies that were extending offers to candidates, only to then defer them, or worse, rescind them entirely due to the deteriorating economy. It happens on both sides of the fence depending on market conditions. I’m not suggesting it is right, but it happens.

    I think whether one chooses to jump in your scenario should be based on an individuals principles. If they believe they should take the better job, or the greater challenge, it shouldn’t matter if it is 2 weeks or 2 years. However, principles shouldn’t have a price. They cannot be bought or sold.

    Well, unless it is the Ohio State football program.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kevin, thanks for the comments! This particular situation was employment at will. Agree, tough to say an employee should “never” leave after just 2 weeks when employers rescind offers, go through downsizing or layoffs . It goes both ways. This blog was about a specific situation. The topic in general certainly has more angles and considerations than I covered here. Thanks for reading!

      Like

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