I recently accepted an offer for a management position with company A, and am set to start in just over 2 weeks. Today, I received an offer from company B, with whom I interviewed around the same time as with A.

Here is my issue: both the offer and the position with B are far more attractive than with A, but I've already accepted the spot with A. I have not signed a contract, but I have given my verbal commitment to join. Is it appropriate to now accept B's offer and call A to let them know that I am now retracting my acceptance of their offer? If so, what should I say to A?

US41's picture

The question is basically "Is this wrong?" We can't decide that for you. We can only tell you what we would do. Some of us would take the better offer, and we'd argue that while it's kind of scummy, putting food on the table is what work is for, and that has to come first. Others will just as strongly argue that you have a gentleman's agreement, and now you need to live up to it.

I think taking the better offer would be moderately wrong, and I think you believe it would be wrong too, otherwise you wouldn't have asked and would have simply accepted the better offer while sleeping the sleep of the just.

But I also have to admit that I would take the second offer and welsh out on the first since I hadn't started there yet. OK, I'm a bad person. Fine. I can live with that to a small extent if it means a better life for the rest of my family.

If you choose to accept the second, and I'm not saying what you should do, but if you did, I would take these steps:

1. Call them to ensure it was a solid offer
2. Accept
3. Call the first company and cancel out on them. Let them know the truth: "I received a better offer almost immediately after we spoke, and I can't pass it up."
4. Pray the second offer doesn't dry up or go sour since the first company will now be forever closed off to you.
5. Do not pay any attention to counter offers from the first company. They might make them, but counter offers usually precede your termination some time later. It seems counter offers are mostly about "winning", and then having won, the grudge must still be satisfied so there is retribution anyway.
6. Tell no one where you work now of either offer nor of your choice.

Now, given what I have learned here, expect the following possibilities:

* The first company has people with relationships with people in your company. They will talk. Your reputation will be mud

* The second company will be bought out by the first inside of a year. You will see a bright laser dot on your own forehead as they target you for termination with prejudice during the takeover.

* The second company management are friends with people in the first company, they will talk, and you will be fired and then lose all three jobs - current, first offer, and second offer.

Given those possibilities, the question comes down to this: Just how wrong do you think it is, how much does that bother you, and what do you think the chances are of any of those consequences happening.

So, now I start thinking, "Just take the first offer and something better will come along, because good things happen to good people who do their best to do the right thing."

It's a lot to think about. Good luck with that. No matter what you choose, you will have an opportunity cost you have to live with.

jhack's picture

This is a tough one, and US41 hits on the major issues.

Employment in most of the US is "at will" meaning that you can resign or they can let you go at any time for no real reason. That extends to the offer period. Companies have been known to withdraw offers, too. This says nothing about how this affects reputations.

You have to ask yourself if this "far more attractive" situation offsets the potential damage to your reputation.

Is there more information here that we don't know?


ashdenver's picture

I'd personally jump at the chance to go with B. With 2 weeks lead time, A may still have the opportunity to offer the job to their 2nd choice and have that person start on the same day you were planning to originally.

It happens fairly regularly. So close on the heels of the interview process, I'm guessing it will be barely a blip on A's radar. It sucks that they have to go with their second choice or even start over but it's not like you'd started, put in three months, racked up training and integration costs and then bailed out.

I'd run gleefully to B! But that's just me.

RichRuh's picture
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How would you feel if roles were reversed?

1. If you were a hiring manager who had gotten a verbal acceptance and had told the other candidates that you went with someone else?

2. If you had received a verbal offer from a company, who later reneged.

Presumably, feeding your family is not an issue here- you accepted A for a reason, right?

US41 states above "We can't decide that for you. We can only tell you what we would do."

With that in mind, in my personal belief system, a handshake and verbal acceptance is a promise, and promises are priceless.

Some people consider this naive. So be it. I'd rather be thought naive and be taken advantage of from time to time than to be anything else.

What's [i]your[/i] belief?


ashdenver's picture

P.S. - if A has already told the runners up that they'd gone another direction and then the second choice was offered the job, who's to say that Company A isn't Second Choice's "company B"? A isn't your ideal but it might be someone else's ideal and having a chance to get your ideal job with the ideal company (or whatever) would likely offset the sting of "yeah, you're our second choice so we'll settle for you." (After all, who's to say that you're not already B's second choice?!)

lalam's picture

When you accept an offer, you are making a commitment to the hiring company. I strongly believe that the right thing to do is to keep the commitment. As previously noted in this thread, you yourself probably know that this is the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking the question. The downsides of doing something that you are having ethical concerns about are greater than the benefits of a higher salary or a better position (US 41 has a great summary of the possible negative outcomes). It is impossible to predict the future, of course – the promotion rate at Company A may be faster, a reorg at the Company B may change the nature of the role for you, and so on and so forth. But if you go with the Company A, you will have the benefit of knowing that you did the right and honorable thing. Ultimately, your reputation is your most important asset. Besides, things like that always tend to become known in the long run, and your position at the Company A may be improved when people find out that you turned down a better offer because you have made a commitment to them.

bflynn's picture

Not that it helps to know what others do. In the last week, we've had two new hires "quit" the day before their first day.

Ten or twenty years ago I would have advised you to stick with job 1. Today, with companies absolutely not looking out for you, you have to look out for yourself. If job 2 is firm take it.


thaGUma's picture

As many have said, tough one. On balance I would plump for the better offer. It would be perfectly acceptable to seek the best return on investment and if a better contract comes forward - you maximise your return.

Consider turning down B and then A rings you nicely and says they have lost a client and no longer need to employ you.

You have comitted to a contract with the ability to break. Your loyalty extends no further than your notice period until the company put some credit into the relationship.

If you are sure B is better for you - get out of contract with A as soon as you can. If you haven't signed then withdraw your offer.


FlatFeeKing's picture

It seems to me that either company you choose, is a gamble. It is a gamble that you will like the people, your job, the culture, the nearby restaurants, everything about the job is basically a gamble.

I would put my money on the gamble that has the better odds of paying me better, unless there is any insight to your situation at A that makes you think you will fit into that culture better, and more importantly, be happier on a day to day basis.

ashdenver's picture

Estabok, I hope you come back to provide us with an update of what you ultimately decide to do.

bflynn's picture

Again, as time passes and others give input, I'm reminded of another important fact. My answer above (take job 2) was given in the context of an Employment At Will state in the US. If that doesn't apply to your situation, that answer might not be legal.

One other point - many people recommend delaying the answer to an offer and this is the reason why. I know this is well recognized by most people, but I'll beg your indulgence if you know this already.

When you get an offer, you should contact anyone else that you're interviewing with or planning to interview with and let them know. The conversation could go something like this - "Hey, I wanted to let you know that I have another offer on the table. From what I know about the position at your company, it might be a better fit for me and I'm still interested in talking with you about the position. Can we schedule an interview for later this week?"

Many times, the presence of a competing offer will galvanize their decision. Sometimes that decision is no, in which case you've lost nothing. Other times, you'll get a second offer and you've gained the ability to make a better choice for yourself.

I would say DO NOT try to play one off the other. The odds go way up that you will end up with nothing.