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I recently made the mistake of not asking upfront what the compensation and benefits package were for a company I was interviewing with and we only discussed benefits after receiving the tentative offer (lesson learned.) At that point, the hiring manager admitted that the benefits were poor but arrangements could be made to make things work.

Later that night I received an email from the manager's personal email address and was offered a number of things "under the table" or better put "undocumented" outside of the signed offer.

Is this act normal? Was I right to decline the position and further negotiations on this ground?

I would have loved to work in that position and on the projects he had lined up, but I'm confident this is some type of ethics violation that could be considered grounds for termination if discovered.

[The following is copied from a comment by the OP]
The amount of PTO I had initially asked for was offered off the books and that we'd make arrangements to use them outside of the current system. The current policy is that PTO is earned and I wouldn't accrue it until X amount of days. What bothered me was that I could not get this in writing and it was offered without HR being present or through an internal email address

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    What sort of things are we talking about? There are plenty of companies that have official policies on things but look the other way if individual managers want to handle things differently as long as it doesn't cause problems. A company might have a relatively strict policy on taking PTO, for example, but the CIO may have an unofficial policy that they're not going to ding people for an hour here and there if you need to run an errand on the assumption that IT folks are likely to need to work an extra hour here and there. – Justin Cave Jun 13 at 17:11
  • was offered a number of things "under the table" or better put "undocumented" outside of the signed offer - that's pretty vague. How do you know they were "under the table?" Maybe he intended to amend your offer letter once he had a verbal acceptance from you. Also, what exactly was he offering? Offering you a sign-on bonus might be normal. Telling you he can cheat the expense reporting system to unofficially get you a lump of cash if you take the job might be a problem. – dwizum Jun 13 at 17:15
  • Agree with the above comments...what was offered? – Keith Jun 13 at 17:16
  • The amount of PTO i had initially asked for was offered off the books and that we'd make arrangements to use them outside of the current system. The current policy is that PTO is earned and I wouldn't accrue it until X amount of days. What bothered me was that I could not get this in writing and it was offered without HR being present or through an internal email address. – ModusPonens Jun 13 at 17:21
  • This is a situation where the title, the body, and the comments are all asking slightly different questions. If we're talking about "I plan on giving you this benefit, but I don't want to put it in writing" in general, that's completely normal behavior (although explicitly saying that you don't want to be committed to a benefit isn't). For instance, if a company offers free coffee to their employees, they're probably not going to want to put this down in writing as a benefit and risk someone suing because the coffee machine is broken for a few days. – Acccumulation Jun 13 at 21:17
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Is this act normal?

Generally speaking, no its not normal practice.

Also, holding the company accountable for what was promised in a personal email would be hard to do. You would even be in worse shape in regards to under the table benefits should the hiring manager leave.

Was I right to decline the position and further negotiations on this ground?

Your best bet was to act as you did, decline it, and maybe go back to them and insist that all benefit offerings are made official through the companies standard flow.

There is probably a good reason the extra perks weren't offered officially.

  • small stuff, or short term stuff I could see not being an issue, but ongoing under the table benefits would definitely be a concern. But almost certain if HR found out, there would be ramifications. – Bill Leeper Jun 13 at 19:48
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    "Should the hiring manager leave", not just leave, what if the hiring manager suddenly "forgets" about these arrangements.. ? – Caroline Jun 14 at 8:15
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Is this act normal?

I've never seen that happen.

Was I right to decline the position and further negotiations on this ground? I was in love with the position and would have loved working on the projects he had lined up, but I'm almost surely confident that this is some type of ethics violation that could be considered grounds for termination if discovered.

You are right to be suspicious. You are right to avoid accepting "under the table/undocumented" benefits. But you didn't have to decline the position entirely.

You could have indicated that you didn't want under the table benefits that might disappear if the manager leaves. You could have continued job negotiations with the understanding that you would accept the normal PTO just like any other employee.

It's up to you to decide if the normal package of salary plus above the table benefits were sufficient for a position you are in love with, or not.

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This is super unusual.

Later that night I received an email from the manager's personal email address and was offered a number of things "under the table" or better put "undocumented" outside of the signed offer.

But frankly, I'm not at all surprised.

Potential employers try to make verbal offers, that they'll refuse to document/acknowledge immediately after the fact, all the time. It's a way to make their offers non-binding. It's just super peculiar and super weird that in this case, that this person used email to try to have the same effect.

If I were you, I would have offered to make an official counteroffer listing all the additional terms he included in his email (but offering to make it seem like those additional terms were coming from me, not from the supervisor). If the supervisor would have been amenable to that idea, then I would have emailed his official email address with my counteroffer (carbon copying HR on it).

But otherwise, I think you did well to reject the job offer. Non-binding terms are never a good idea. That supervisor could be lying to you, he could be replaced tomorrow, and the form of the offer itself was a red flag.

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