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I know it has been discussed a lot about reneging offers. This is generally something I’d never do.

However, this time there are some specificities:

  1. premise: I verbally (nothing signed) accepted an offer but received a better one soon after.

  2. gross salary is more than 60% higher (from EUR 50k to 85k). After taxes, I am getting nearly 80% more in my pocket.

  3. the new offer is in my country. On the other hand, the one that I have accepted is abroad and in a country that has particularly strict rules about traveling back and forth (due to covid).

  4. I have only accepted via email after receiving a brief explanation of salary and main benefits. I have never seen the details of the contract. For example; -I have no idea on how long of a notice they need to fire me. -I do not know their policy on the paternity of inventions (very important in my field). -I was verbally told about salary increases within the duration contract but I have nothing written yet.

  5. the hiring process is not finished yet, I have to go through some procedures with the HR (including, hopefully, seeing the formal agreement) and do a background check. As far as they know, I may be a criminal and be ineligible for employment (not the case of course). And in fact, my position is still advertised on their site. On the other hand, however, they already bought a pc for my office.

  6. I am quite competitive in my field and so I am sure they know that I have alternative.

  7. I had quite a hard deadline to accept, after being told the salary.

I want to join the second (new) place. How to handle this professionally?

My idea is to be honest about the higher salary and the chance to work near my family, and offer to donate them funding (they do research) to repay them for the computer they bought.

Would it be professional? Am I risking to put my recommenders in a bad light?

UPDATE: I will be sent the full contract to be signed electronically. So I guess I am not even reneging, since as far as we know I might disagree with its terms (that I only know in part), and nothing can proceed without my signature.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Feb 10 at 12:59
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How to handle this?

Reply to them with something like:

Hello X. Upon further consideration I will not be able to accept this position. Thank you for your time throughout this process and please accept my apologies for any inconvenience that this may cause.

Don't worry about the PC as it is meant for the position you applied to and not yourself personally. They will surely hire someone to fill the position at some point.

My idea is to be honest about the higher salary and the chance to work near my family,

You can be honest about your reasons for selecting another company, if asked but your reasons for joining/not joining a company are personal and none of their business.

Am I risking to put my recommenders in a bad light?

No. Your decision to join or not join this specific company has no bearing on the people who recommend you for employment.

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    "has no bearing on the people who recommend you for employment". This is highly culturally dependent. I've known multiple people who've turned down a job and received follow-up from the recommender urging them to reconsider as they had "stuck their neck out". – Nathan Goings Feb 9 at 6:50
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    I think that adding something like "considering the current Covid situation" after "upon further consideration" would also probably help allay any negative feelings by the employer in question. – nick012000 Feb 9 at 8:52
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    Obviously, tell them so only once you have a contract in hand from the other company. – jcaron Feb 9 at 9:05
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    @nick012000 Perhaps, but to me it sounds more like a lame excuse unless the hiring process started more than a year ago. – TooTea Feb 9 at 9:22
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    @nick012000 don't give reasons if they're not true. – Pieter B Feb 9 at 12:58
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I want to join the second (new) place. How to handle this?

Inform the first company that regretfully you will be unable to take their job. No need for details. Do not worry about computers or anything else. Your obligation stops there.

Am I risking to put my recommenders in a bad light?

No, your reason for changing your mind could be something unavoidable or of superlative importance. There is no way of knowing and you do not have to justify anything. Until a contract is signed it's just an offer.

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    People really have trouble with the idea that you owe them nothing. It's like we're conditioned to bend over for scraps and think it's the right thing to do. – Mad Physicist Feb 9 at 17:47
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    @MadPhysicist not even obligated to inform them about not taking the job, but it's the polite thing to do. Anything further though is just inviting unproductive dialogue. – Kilisi Feb 9 at 20:30
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  1. I have only accepted via email after receiving a brief explanation of salary and main benefits. I have never seen the details of the contract. For example; -I have no idea on how long of a notice they need to fire me. -I do not know their policy on the paternity of inventions (very important in my field). -I was verbally told about salary increases within the duration contract but I have nothing written yet.

  2. I had quite a hard deadline to accept, after being told the salary.

So you accepted the offer before they showed you the contract? And this is the first organization, not the second? I'm sorry, but you made a mistake.

You never accept an offer until they've given you the contract. That's what you should have told them when they gave you the hard deadline.

If they're not capable of sending you a signed copy of the contract (plus any employee manual referenced within the contract) through FedEx (or through DHL, or through DocuSign, or through whatever reliable messenger service you have in your country) within 24 hours or 48 hours, that's their problem, not yours.

And yes, contracts can have a clause that say "pending a background check that verifies the information given". Those aren't a problem. Contracts can still be signed before a background check is complete.

I have no idea on how long of a notice they need to fire me. -I do not know their policy on the paternity of inventions (very important in my field). -I was verbally told about salary increases within the duration contract but I have nothing written yet.

Did they give you the starting date? Or tell you who would be responsible for any relocation/visa expenses? Initial hotel/AirBnB expenses? Or tell you would be financially responsible for any visa delays/travel delays/potential quarantines outside of your control?

If they didn't make any legally binding commitment to you, you do not owe them anything. And honestly, I think you may have dodged a bullet with that one.

My idea is to be honest about the higher salary and the chance to work near my family, and offer to donate them funding (they do research) to repay them for the computer they bought.

Did they actually send you that computer? Or are they really going to send you that computer if you reimburse it for them? I doubt it.

If they really did buy a brand new computer in advance, it's because they buy them in bulk, or it's because they keep some as potential backups in case there is equipment breakage. In most modern countries, it doesn't take more than one or two hours to buy a new computer, so there is really no reason to buy them in advance unless you're willing to let them sit in your closet for a while.

Don't let them manipulate you. They didn't give you anything. You don't owe them anything.

If you're too honest and disclose too much, you're also potentially creating legal troubles for yourself. Do not let them know that there is even a second company. If you really want to explain things, say that you haven't received the contract yet and this makes you feel really uncomfortable.

As to the second company, did you actually get the contract yet? Do not make the same mistake again. Do not reject the first company until the contract with your second company is signed. And if/when you do reject that first one, do not disclose too much.

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  • Thank you @Stephan. An important note: in my intention (and also according to the brief presentation of my conditions), accepting the few conditions presented to me meant that I was OK with the salary and benefits and that I was ready for the next steps, and to have more details on the formal contract. In no way I was accepting the whole contract without even reading it! I was quiet and relaxed, expecting for a written contract to gain some time until I had a contract from the other employer. I was pissed that they were preparing an office without a signed document! – Wolf Feb 9 at 0:00
  • And second: I accepted those PARTIAL employment terms because they told me to do so before talking to the HR (from which I was hoping / hope to receive the full agreement). – Wolf Feb 9 at 0:19
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    @Wolf, Yeah, if they're preparing your office and your computer, but not sending you the contract, my gut feeling tells me you're probably not going to like that contract (even if you didn't have a second offer already). Anyway, I hope you've learned your lesson. Never accept "partial" employment terms because of a deadline. That is giving your leverage away. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 9 at 2:29
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    @Wolf, By the way, if you start with the second company, do not update your LinkedIn for a while (or unless you absolutely have to). You do not want them to contact your new employer and tell them that you accepted an offer, but reneged on them. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 9 at 2:35
  • Important update at the bottom of my question. – Wolf Feb 9 at 13:23
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Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

If nothing is signed, then you have not agreed on the terms of your employment. Therefore you can simply say you have reconsidered the offer and chosen a different path, and that's that.

The counterpositive of this would be that the company can say "you're hired! Do you accept?" and if you say yes then they can say "Oh and by the way, the salary is [half of what was actually discussed]* and you get no benefits and your required notice period is 5 years, with a $1MM penalty if you fail to serve haha good luck" and you'd be screwed; even if you took them to court, you have hearsay over what was discussed on the phone, and they have written proof that you agreed to be hired and written terms of the agreement (presented after the fact of course) which would give them much more credibility in court.

So the rule is that nothing is final until official documents stating the terms are signed and countersigned. Until that happens, do what you want. If you like the other offer better, simply return to the first company and say "something has come up, I've decided not to accept your offer". You may want to expect your bridge to be burned with that company if you do this though, so there's that to consider, if it matters at all.


*(they would of course not mention in writing that they had presented another number to you and just give you the number which would be significantly less than discussed)

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    “If nothing is signed, then you have not agreed on the terms of your employment.” verbal contracts are also binding. Though I guess in this case it’s obvious that OP only stated an intention to sign the contract but hasn’t yet agreed on anything specific. – Michael Feb 9 at 9:38
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    "your required notice period is 5 years, with a $1MM penalty if you fail to serve haha good luck" and you'd be screwed" No. (At least) this part of the contract would just be invalid. – FooTheBar Feb 9 at 9:42
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    Even if you could be held to your agreement via email (which you definitely can, under some circumstances, but probably not here), them changing the terms of what you agreed to would be a very different scenario. Not to mention the addition of unexpected, extreme and unreasonable terms that may be invalid even if you agree. Then there's the issue of having differing accounts of what was said (which I don't believe is hearsay, but I am not a lawyer either). And maybe the salary was noted elsewhere. This unnecessarily raises a number of legal questions outside of the issue being asked about. – Bernhard Barker Feb 9 at 10:29
  • Important update at the bottom of my question. – Wolf Feb 9 at 13:23
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    @Wolf Your update is indeed important. It basically says what my answer says: You don't have the full terms on the contract, and without having that presented in written form in full and signing and countersigning then you haven't actually agreed to anything and aren't "renegging" as such. – Ertai87 Feb 9 at 17:46
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You are free to take back your word, but you might be able to benefit from being open.

It's a bit dependent on circumstances though.

  1. Ask a lawyer. You accepted, in writing, so your first employer may try to enforce this, and depending on your jurisdiction, this may or may not have consequences.
    Don't ask just about the law, ask what the typical outcomes of attempted enforcement are.
  2. Enforced acceptance is usually not in the best interest of the employer. An unwilling employee will typically resign as soon as possible, and not give quality work.
    Not all employers have this level of insight though. Pushing a hard deadline without giving the full contract first is a big red flag, indicating an abusive employer - they might try to enforce anyway because it's working for them (it's no use arguing the point with them, they won't understand because the employees that they have are those that actually yield to that kind of pressure).
  3. In the (somewhat unlikely) case the enforced deadline was a mistake, or not meant the way it came over: If you talk about the better offer, there's a chance that they will make a better counteroffer.
  4. If the field of work is small enough that reputation matters, you are now building a reputation of driving monetary bargains. That's good for you: You won't be getting as many cheapskate offers anymore.
    As a side bonus, you will also gain a reputation of being open and honest.
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  • According to our call, I agreed with the conditions as they where presented to me, so that HR could proceed with the formal, complete contract. My pre-acceptance of the main conditions was requested to draft the contract. It seems natural to me that my final acceptance needs me to read it. At first, I didn’t even thought this was already reneging, I just said that salary was OK but I was still expecting to sign. I started thinking they may see it as reneging when they told me they’re setting up my office. – Wolf Feb 9 at 11:53
  • @Wolf with that description, this now looks more like the usual negotiations about what should be in the contract, not the company trying to squeeze out an agreement even before you saw the contract. With that, you haven't agreed or signed yet, and you are not bound. But better ask a lawyer - it's too easy to miss details like this on a website like Stack Exchange, and with incomplete details, there's a high risk that any advice that you may get here is inapplicable or even detrimental. – toolforger Feb 13 at 10:10
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Would it be acceptable, in your opinion?

It really doesn't matter if we think it is "acceptable" or not. Even with your reasons for reneging on the offer, it's not going to show you in a good light - you went back on your word. At the very least, you can probably forget about ever having a job with that company at any point in the future.

Am I risking to put my recommenders in a bad light?

That depends what your recommenders said. If they said "Wolf is a the most honourable person I know, they would never go back on their word", then yes, it makes them look like a very poor judge of character. If they said "Wolf is good technically but I don't know their character very well", then probably not.

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    Come on Philip, who’s so honorable to let 35k more (at home) go? That’s business. Are employers so naive to think that all the other companies are making their offers simultaneously? – Wolf Feb 8 at 18:00
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    @Wolf, I agree. The increment is so compelling that it may be best to just state the fact to the employer which is losing out. They can't seriously think that is dishonourable conduct in some moral way, and it will only make clear that there's no point arguing about the matter - they don't want to hold someone worth 35k more, just to see him leave a month later for a similar increment anyway. It's done them a favour to drop out immediately than go through the charade of starting then giving notice. – Steve Feb 8 at 18:22
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    Philip I didn’t even know they wanted to offer me the job. I was just thinking that they did not chose me as I hadn’t heard from them for a while. If I had known, of course I would have done that. – Wolf Feb 8 at 20:11
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    @PhilipKendall, No, that's not what you say. He should have told them that he wanted to see the actual contract, and then that he would make an actual decision. There is no need to disclose more than he has to. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 8 at 20:43
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    @Wolf Did you contact them and say "I've got another offer - could you please let me know in <x-1> days what the next steps are in the process with you? Thanks" If not, you should have done; we have plenty of questions on this site on how to manage the process of multiple job applications at once. – Philip Kendall Feb 8 at 21:30

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