Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ask The Expert: Obligation to New Employer

I took a little while but we're now back to our "Ask the Expert Series", where our resident expert, Jennifer Loftus, answers your questions. Feel free to submit one and we will post the best of them here on the blog. The latest is about what happens when you get a new job...but a better one comes along?

Anonymous asks 

I recently took a new job but at another company, a position that I interviewed for that's better overall (pay, location, benefits, etc.), said that they would get back to me next week--what is my obligation to my new employer to stay and is there any repercussions to my leaving? (I'm just trying to really figure out if there is a "good" way to handle this tough situation and be fair to the company that I just started at since I don't want to burn bridges)

Answer from Jennifer

Congratulations on being accepted at two positions! That is great for you, particularly in this economy! However, moving between jobs very quickly does pose challenges. On the one hand, you want to do what’s best for you and your career. On the other, you don’t want to do something that potentially could come back to haunt down the road.

Assuming that your job with your new employer is “at will,” meaning that you don’t have a contract for employment for a set period of time, there’s no legal obligation to stay. If you do have a contract, however, leaving before the contract is up could put you in a breach of contract situation.

Legal issues aside, you do have the ethical dilemma to address. Your employer has spent time interviewing, on-boarding, and training you. Those activities have cost the organization time and money. How would it feel to you to leave after only a few weeks? Would you feel comfortable with your decision to leave? Think carefully about your decision to accept the new position. While pay, benefits, and work location are important considerations, you must also reflect on the culture and work environment of the potential employer. Will you like working for this organization? Does the culture match your style? How do your current manager and your potential manager compare, in terms of work styles, expectations, and reputations? While more money is appealing to most people, many have found that a few less dollars in salary is worth the peace of mind that comes from working with a fair and pleasant manager in a supportive work culture.

If you have made the decision to leave, you still should give your two weeks’ notice, even though your employment has been relatively short. As for the reasons why you’re leaving, this is challenging. If the change in the commute is great, such as 20 minutes as opposed to two hours, focus on that. We’ve all known people who left positions because they didn’t realize how grueling the commute would be every day. If that’s not the case, is the job offer one that is for very different work than your current role? A change in career direction can also be an effective way to start the conversation. If neither of those options fits, however, you can be honest and say that the total compensation package is much larger than your current one, and to pass it up would be a disservice to your family.

No matter what reason you give for leaving, end the relationship on positive terms. Do you know someone who would be a good fit for the job? If yes, bring their resume to the meeting to demonstrate your support for your employer and not wanting to leave them in the lurch. Do your best to show that you care for your employer, even though you’ve been there only a short while. While the employer may not want to serve as a reference for you, the more you can do to help them get through this sudden transition, the less negatively they’ll view the bad news that you’re leaving.

Good luck with one of life’s hard conversations, and good luck with your new role!

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