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I'm leaving my current company at the start of the new year for various reasons, and during those discussions with upper management, I made the mistake of offering to spend my weekends throughout January to continue to help out and onboard new candidates.

I initially brought this up because one of my teammates left recently, and my departure would leave only one full-time engineer on the team. Since then, we've secured 2 engineers and likely another, all of them starting in January.

I've thought about this more and I'd rather not spend anymore time at the current company, (which has retained roughly 10% of the employees over the past year) especially since I'm starting at another company at the beginning of January.

While originally I felt bad for leaving at such an inopportune time, the same situation has played out with several previous employees, who were on the way out but suddenly had an extended contract or last day. Would it be remiss of me to refuse spending any more time training the new hires and move on?

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    Is it a negotiation you want or do you just want to leave? – Matthew Gaiser Dec 18 '19 at 8:02
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    If you do work those weekends, would you be paid to do so? Would there be a certain contract with expectations and a specific end date or is it just an unspecified amount of your free time you promised/are expected to voluntarily spend training people for a company you don't have anything to do with anymore? – Imus Dec 18 '19 at 8:02
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    Your new employer is aware of this arrangement, right? I can't imagine many would be too happy with it. – Lightness Races in Orbit Dec 18 '19 at 17:06
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    I don't think this Q is answerable as it stands. Can you include more information about your current status with your soon-to-be-former employer? When you formally resigned, what did you give as your last day? How did you negotiate your pay rate for the weekends you 'offered' to work? Are you exempt or non-exempt (that's assuming you're in the US)? All you've said so far is that you 'offered to spend weekends' to 'help out'. Was this offer verbal or in writing? To whom was it made? How did the company's representative reply to this offer, and what was their response? – Alex M Dec 18 '19 at 17:46
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    When you offered weekends, were you insincere? Did you not think they would take you up on it? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 18 '19 at 20:09
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Any offer can be revoked at any time.

Your plans might have changed. Your new employer might want to send you on weekend training. You might just not feel like it.

Even if you signed a contract to do that job, you can resign from it, just like you resigned from your current job.

If it was a verbal offer, it goes where all of upper-management's verbal offers go.

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    Plus 1 for the bit about “upper management verbal offers” :) – Solar Mike Dec 18 '19 at 8:27
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    It sounds to me like this answer is suggesting that offers, contracts, etc. have no meaning, and you can just do whatever you want, no matter what, without any further thought. While this might be functionally true in some cases, I think you could round out the answer by discussing potential impacts, learning opportunities, or other factors that may be important for the OP. Or, at least, suggestions on how the OP could communicate their change in plans or discuss the change with their employer. – dwizum Dec 18 '19 at 21:21
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    No offers turn into a binding contract if accepted by the other party. Verbal contracts are usually also valid. @Mast well they can sue for damages (most companies wont) – lalala Dec 19 '19 at 9:45
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    "Any offer can be revoked at any time". Totally false under contract law. Once an offer has been accepted it cannot be revoked. Saying that "OP managed to get out of [a binding contract]" is a straw-man argument. A contract can be terminated in accordance with its terms. That has no bearing on the revocation of offers. Now it may be the case that practically you can ignore the legal effect of an accepted offer because nobody is going to do anything about it, but that is not the same as saying "any offer can be revoked at any time". – Jon Bentley Dec 19 '19 at 11:14
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    I do not understand why this answer is getting so many upvotes. An offer cannot be revoked at any time. You cannot just offer someone a new job and once they quit their current job just revoke your offer. There are so many other examples. – Koray Tugay Dec 19 '19 at 17:08
63

Just say:

I know what I said. I just changed my mind. My heart is just not in it anymore. I'm not going to work on weekends. The new developers will have to figure things out without me.

Say this. Do not email it, unless your original offer was in writing.

Just curious, why not email it? So far there hasn't been any official writing regarding this yet.

If you made a verbal offer you want to rescind, it's better if you don't put it in writing. If it ever goes in front of a court of law, it places the burden on them to prove what you said. I know it's not very nice. But trust me that they would do the same to you if the situation was reversed.

Now maybe you could send an email, but not knowing your contract, your employee handbook, the notice period, the jurisdiction you're in, or any of your other details, and the fact that I'm not a lawyer, just makes me want to err on the side of caution when giving out advice.

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You made the offer, so its your word that's at risk.

・Do cancellations happen? Yes
・Could something come up? Yes
・Are you legally obligated? Probably not, especially because it was verbal
(And the question I think you're asking)
・Will this hurt your reputation with the company you're leaving? Probably

If the company canceled your extension, they probably wouldn't be liable for anything, but you'd complain and maybe spread that reputation about the company, so the same goes if you cancel.

TLDR
Can you? Yes. Should you? Not if you value your reputation at this company or fear damage to your reputation.

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    I'd qualify the risk to his/her reputation. There's no harm to withdraw an offer that was never accepted. As the OP is currently written, acceptance is not known. P.S. If I were the employer, I would have accepted the moment the offer was made. – donjuedo Dec 18 '19 at 16:47
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    @donjuedo I got the impression that acceptance is known, details such as payment(how, how much) and employment status are not. As someone who has done similar, I can't blame OP for not getting every little detail--OP trusts the company, ike many of us do – Mars Dec 19 '19 at 0:17
  • But the offer was made when the company was in a bad spot. They've since rectified this, and so it's reasonable to assume OP's offer is no longer needed. Though to be honest it is never needed. It is the responsibility (except in cases where there is a moral duty to protect life and limb) of the employer not the employee to ensure continuity of operations in the event an employee decides to leave. And even in such rare situations, the greater burden is on the employer. So as long as OP isn't snarky here, I think they're totally good with rescinding it. – bob Dec 19 '19 at 14:07
  • @bob There may be tactful ways to do it and it depends on the company how it will be received. Of course it's more accurate to say there is a chance of damaging your reputation with the company, but I don't think it significantly affects this answer – Mars Dec 20 '19 at 0:13
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There are just a lot of details that you have left out that could be crucial to understanding this scenario.

Were they going to pay you for the month? If so, that was a very generous deal, amounting to paying you something on the range of 2.5x - 5x salary-per-unit-time. It also means that this was at least a contract offer and if the company has clearly indicated that they plan to take you up on that offer, it becomes a contract. Hypothetically they could ask a court to compel you to train their employees in exchange for the money, or ask for damages based on however much this is worth to them, less that one month’s salary.

Note that once you have made the offer, it is considered valid until you revoke it. That is, in the US and UK and most similar places, it is formally illegal to do that negotiation tactic of “I will mow your lawn for $20.” “Deal.” “Actually I refuse, it will be more expensive than that to me... but I will do it for $50. Still interested?”. So this is why lawyers like to be involved in these sorts of things, they phrase offers that for example self-terminate, “This offer will be valid until X date.” Also note that it does not matter whether the agreement was verbal or written, or whether the offer was verbal or written: lawyers may advise against litigation over verbal contracts because it is harder to figure out what was agreed to, but they are still valid contracts where two people agreed to exchange things for their mutual benefit.

On the flip side, if they have not accepted the offer, you can revoke it whenever you want. Just say “Hey I have reconsidered that offer to stay on for training in January, I no longer am willing to do it, for various personal reasons that I would rather not discuss.”

If you were not getting paid, then you are working for free. Offering to do something for free is technically no longer a contract—it is legally classified as a gift. Gifts do not have the same rule. “Oh it sucks that you broke your leg, I will mow your lawn every week this summer to help you out.” ... “Hey I can no longer mow your lawn.” Perfectly legal. It is a promise of a gift and you can take away any such promise without contract law being involved.

Were you at-will employed? This is a very common status in the US where labor laws are very weak. Assuming that this is a contract extension, then this works to your benefit, for once. If you look at your employment contract and you are in the US, you might see that it contains the words “at will”. This is a special employment status in the US that allows the employer to fire you at any time, for any reason or for no reason: it completely voids that aspect of employment-related law. But that part of labor law cuts both ways: if you are employed at-will you can also leave at any time for any reason or for no reason. If you are employed at-will then giving notice becomes a courtesy, rather than an obligation. This perversely could be held to apply even if your contract specifies a notice period: you would have to ask a lawyer, but my understanding is that a lawyer can make a good case that, if you terminate an at-will employment relationship without notice, then the contract which specified the notice period is immediately trashed and the notice period no longer applies: so that it was never legally enforceable in the first place.

In terms of renegotiation, if you did make an offer and it was agreed to, and it involved them paying you and you are not at-will so you cannot simply terminate it, then you can still ask about what is necessary. “Hey, I don’t want to overwork your employees every weekend and you can save a bit of cash by not paying me for all of January, why don’t we cut this short after the first weekend and I will give them just enough knowledge that they can figure everything else out afterwards? They just need to know how our servers are laid out and where the code lives and they can read it for themselves during their actual work-weeks. Seems like we all win in that case. If you really need, maybe I can show up one other weekend to answer any questions, if you're ready to pay me for another week.”

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Keep your promise, that is what makes you a decent person. Let this be a lesson to you not to speak without thinking again. A promise is meant to be kept. You will feel bad for a very long time and lose self respect if you break your promise, it just does not worth a few weekends.

We are not machines or corporates, let us stay that way.

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    Really. The best way to keep your word is not to give it. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 18 '19 at 20:26
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    I don't think of it as a promise for work, i know that what people say in a conversation, they might feel emplored to offer something and i would know that if i was a business manager. When you are talking about stuff like this that is outside your normal area you speech is really not that precise. And i'm not going to feel to obligated because i forgot to qualify something in a conversation. It could be a starting point for some talk about further assistance though. – cognacc Dec 19 '19 at 11:11
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Have your new company accepted that you work for another (your old) company as well as for them? Did you get it in writing?

If the answer is no to any of the questions above you aren't legally allowed to work for a competitor. You could get in all kinds of trouble, being fired is among the least of the troubles.

Use this when telling your current employer. Tell them that you didn't think of the fact that you can't work for two companies, and that you because of that can't work for them during weekends. I think this is the action you can take that affects your reputation the least, since it's not your choice to not help them out.

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    You can certainly work for two competing companies unless it's explicitly specified in writing that you can't. For example, there's nothing preventing you from working as a cashier at Walmart on Monday and as a cashier at target the rest of the week. – Matt Samuel Dec 18 '19 at 21:22
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    @MattSamuel I've never in going on 25 years had a job where my contract didn't state explicitly that holding other jobs or even volunteer positions without written permission from my employer was ground for immediate termination. – jwenting Dec 19 '19 at 6:09
  • How do you know what is legally possible? The question doesn't say anything about the location of either company, so there's no basis for knowing which laws apply. – Peter Taylor Dec 19 '19 at 14:45
  • I checked it, and it's law where I live. And as @jwenting says, it's in the contract in other locations. The result is basically the same, but I didn't think of making that distinction. – Polygorial Dec 19 '19 at 17:52
  • @jwenting I've never signed an agreement that said that. I have it removed if it's there. It's often boilerplate and is even more often unenforceable anyways. Greatly depends on jurisdiction. – evandentremont Dec 19 '19 at 20:04
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Your post suggests that your offer is to work for free. You haven't explicitly stated what the company will pay you for your weekend work. I strongly suspect you left it out here because nothing was discussed at all.

Whether it would be remiss to go back on your (presumed) free work offer depends on your goal. Let's look at your options, and the possible consequences:

  • You do the weekend work as offered

    • The company clearly benefits. How much they benefit depends on how well you "help out and onboard" the new candidates.

    • You benefit by ..., uhm, let's see ... the "satisfaction" of having kept your word? From the overall tone of your post, I don't think so.

    • Let's try again. You benefit by retaining your bridges with the company. However, given that the company has a turnover of 90% (whoa!!), I strongly doubt gratitude (and similar emotions) are a part of the company's culture. In other words, this bridge is likely not important enough to matter.

  • You go back on the offer:

    • The company will clearly be at loss here. However, they have themselves to blame. If their (mis)management is so bad that they have a turnover of 90%, nobody should be surprised if they have continuity problems. Specifically:

    one of my teammates left recently, and my departure would leave only one full-time engineer on the team.

    This is not your problem. It is the management's job to manage the business, not yours. Managing a business involves foreseeing risks and managing them, as well as dealing with unforeseen risks on the fly. If someone expects that things will always go smoothly without problems, then they shouldn't be in management.

    • You benefit by not having to do the free work that you don't want to do.

Now, let's consider your options for escaping from this predicament:

  • Simply walk away and don't do anything: When your last day is done, simply walk out the door. Come weekend and you will likely get a call from the company, "reminding" you of your offer. Simply respond with "Sorry, I can't do that for reasons I don't want to discuss." This works, but will likely spoil your weekend, especially if they go on a long rant following your response. So, consider the next option. If you don't get a call from the company, forget about it and move on.

  • "Renegotiate" the offer to a "middle ground" closer to you: Tell them before you leave that due to change in circumstances, you cannot come to their office on weekends, but you would be "happy" to have a "Q&A" session for an hour or so with the new engineers. They would have to prepare beforehand and be ready with their questions. This puts most of the work on the company's shoulders, while you get to be "helpful".

  • Exploit "loopholes" in your offer: You most certainly don't want to do this, but I will leave it here anyway. Depending on how they treat you for the remainder of your stay, you can decide to twist the knife. You offered to "help out" the company on the weekends but (presumably) didn't agree on exactly what you would do. There's plenty of room for loopholes there depending on how much of a jerk you want to be.

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I made the mistake of offering to spend my weekends throughout January to continue to help out and onboard new candidates.

This does not mean you need to spend every single weekend, or full weekends helping them out.

If your situation changed and you can't help as much as your initially thought you could, a reasonable person won't hold it against you. Just put in a good effort to resolve their main issues, and your previous coworkers will be grateful.

Also, it is common for ex-employees to be hired as contractors. If it is OK with your new employer, you might consider this option.

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It's worth saying up front that I can't tell if they agreed to pay you for this work or not. If they didn't, then you were certainly not obliged to do this. However, you did offer. And the key to that is here:

originally I felt bad for leaving at such an inopportune time

Don't offer things because of how you feel, if you're prepared to rescind the offer if how you're feeling has changed. If you do these weekends, and you probably should (see below), use them as a reminder to only offer to do things you are prepared to stick to.

Having said that, in light of this:

Since then, we've secured 2 engineers and likely another, all of them starting in January

It's possible that you don't need to do it any more. Call whoever you spoke to and arranged this with, and have a conversation. Be prepared to keep your word, but also have an estimate in your head of what you now think it would take to hand over. Perhaps it's just one weekend now, for example.

Good luck, and congratulations on the new job!

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