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Context

I've recently negotiated and accepted a contract with a new company. My starting date is set to few months away. After signing, I notified my current company of my intent to leave (this seemed like the prudent way to transition jobs). However, my current employer was quite shocked by the announcement, and have informed me that they will be in a very difficult position should I leave. They have requested that I stay a bit longer so that they can have time to find a replacement.

Key facts

  1. I have given my employer an advanced notice of 6 weeks. The contractual agreement is a minimum of 4 weeks advanced notice.
  2. I can recognise how they will have legitimate difficulties should I leave, since I perform a specific task that no other employee is available to perform.
  3. My current employer has agreed to compensate me at the same level as my new employer for any extra time that I agree to spend.
  4. My current employer would like me to ideally stay two months longer.
  5. I am leaving my position a bit earlier than the length of my contract (although either party may exit with an agreed amount of advanced notice (see 1))

Dilemma

I am happy to help my current employer out, and work for them for a month or two extra. However, I don't know how to phrase this intention/request to my prospective new employer having already signed on. The advice I have received from friends is to be honest about the situation and simply explain the circumstances along with the desire to defer my starting date. Is this the best way to go about it? Am I asking for too much time (should I ask for one month?) Should I try to approach the problem by negotiating a time or is frankness the best way to go about it (and I take what comes)?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Dec 18, 2021 at 14:34

10 Answers 10

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The advice I have received from friends is to be honest about the situation and simply explain the circumstances along with the desire to defer my starting date

Your friends are smart.

The only thing I'd add is if that your new employer seems in any way hesitant about the idea to just say "OK, forget it then. I'll start at my originally agreed date". Your current employer has had plenty of time to deal with the possibility of you leaving, they chose not to and it's not your responsibility to fix that.

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    I wouldn't even put it as strongly as a desire. You could simply tell them about your current employer's request, and see what their reaction is. If it's anything but “That's fine. We understand. What's your new start date?”, then stick to your existing start date. After all, you've already given your current employer more notice than they required. (What if you'd gone under a bus, and they had no notice?) Do all you can in those 6 weeks to tidy up, document, and make things easy for your successor(s); but then leave with a clear conscience.
    – gidds
    Dec 16, 2021 at 11:40
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    Bringing it up with your new employer will only show good spirit, unless you make it a demand. Chances are they say they would rather have you on board sooner than later. Ultimately your goodwill with your old employer is not going to be of use with your new employer.
    – Olaf
    Dec 16, 2021 at 15:32
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    I would actually say to ask "Is it of any help to the new employer" for you to start later. I.e. let them know you have been given this offer; and would of course turn it down unless for some reason the new employer would prefer you to start later. In times of Covid etc. they might be suffering from lack of work etc etc. You didn't mention whether your two companies are competitors, or maybe even have some trading relationship where this good-will might help?
    – JeffUK
    Dec 16, 2021 at 17:39
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    You run the risk of losing the new job completely. They might not be willing to wait 3 months. This is bad advice, dont do it. Dec 16, 2021 at 18:37
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    I disagree with "Ultimately your goodwill with your old employer is not going to be of use with your new employer". Your goodwill with your old employer is the same goodwill your new employer will appreciate from you. They may be sympathetic to this request. My opinion is that at least having an honest conversation with your new employer about this is a good idea. I agree with others though that your new employer should be the priority if they're unwilling to wait. Dec 17, 2021 at 1:13
142

Do not renegotiate your leave. You've given your notice. That's enough.

However, my current employer was quite shocked by the announcement, and have informed me that they will be in a very difficult position should I leave.

This is not your problem.

...since I perform a specific task that no other employee is available to perform.

If this is really the case, that's the failure of the organization. That's not your failure and it's not your responsibility to put your career on hold to fix their failure to plan.

My current employer has agreed to compensate me at the same level as my new employer for any extra time that I agree to spend.

At the minimum, your current employer should be paying you multiple times the amount of your new rate (not that I recommend going that way even if they did make such an offer).

After all, you're not a charity (and neither are they), you have a career progression to follow, and you shouldn't have to bear the cost of their lack of redundancy and contingency planning.

My current employer would like me to ideally stay two months longer.

What? You've given them one month and a half of notice already.

Now, they want you to stay three month and a half? That's completely unreasonable. You've been more than generous already.

Believe me when I tell you this. Whenever you give your notice, work becomes exponentially more difficult.

People give you all the shit work, or all the most difficult work, because they know you're going to leave and they know that there is no one else to pick up the work once you've left. Your boss asks you to document every little thing. Your boss wants you to complete every project you've ever started (whether it's feasible or not). Everyone stops listening to your opinion. You get left out of important meetings and fun events. You're no longer considered an insider. You're considered an outsider now.

But then, there is also the psychological effect this decision has on you. Once you know you're going to leave, you're going to lose your motivation (whether you want to or not). And work that used to be extremely fun and challenging is going to feel like drudgery. Do not stay longer. You're going to regret it.

If anything, if your current employer keeps on trying to extend your notice period, don't be afraid to retract your original notice period and send out an email stating that's it's now going to be 4 weeks starting from today.

Am I asking for too much time (should I ask for one month?)

No, don't ask for any time. Your last six weeks are already going to be very difficult for you. Don't prolong that. This stackexchange is full of people who retracted their notice period, to give their employer more time, only to regret it later on. Learn from their mistake.

Besides, you need to be loyal to your new employer, not to your previous one. Do not endanger that new relationship.

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    "If you're a good employee, this is always going to be true." If you're referring to the I can recognise how they will have legitimate difficulties should I leave then- yes that surely could be true, However if you're pointing it at the since I perform a specific task that no other employee is available to perform. part- it really isn't true and represents some failure on the organizations part.
    – rob
    Dec 16, 2021 at 16:54
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    @rob, You're right of course. I've just corrected my answer. Dec 17, 2021 at 0:12
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    @MarkRotteveel Anything more than the legally/contractually obligated minimum is more than generous enough to begin with.
    – nick012000
    Dec 17, 2021 at 0:18
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    you need to be loyal to your new employer, not to your previous one. Do not endanger that new relationship. That what it's all about!
    – Vickel
    Dec 17, 2021 at 1:21
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    "Once you know you're going to leave, you're going to lose your motivation (whether you want to or not). And work that used to be extremely fun and challenging is going to feel like drudgery." This is so true. Dec 17, 2021 at 17:36
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Put the new employer first--do not defer your start date on behalf of the current employer; otherwise, you might unintentionally be signalling divided loyalty to your new employer.

It is "too-bad-so-sad" that the current employer did not plan ahead for continuity of business if something happened to an essential employee. You can be polite to your current employer and explain how you would not want to send the wrong message to your new employer, and how this new opportunity provides a better fit for your lifestyle and career future.

A possible solution for the current employer would be if you were to offer more hours of your time prior to leaving the current employer. But no, do not defer the start date at the new position.

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  • I think that offering more hours, if legally possible, is a nice option to show you're willing to help without deferring your start date at the new position.
    – magma
    Dec 19, 2021 at 8:13
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You need to ask yourself what is more important:

  • Looking good for your new company

or

  • Looking good for your old company

By approaching your new company to change the start date, they are going to wonder why did you sign and agree to a start date only to come back an ask to change it? Yes, it is admirable that you want to leave your old company in a better position but by signing your offer you committed to the date on that offer and now are asking to change it.

You have already gone above and beyond for your old company, don't start off on the wrong foot with your new company just to appease the old one.

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    Absolutely. Do not even approach your new employer with this request. You don't want them to question your loyalty before you even start work. If I were your (OP's) new boss, this would be a huge red flag for me. Your old employer is just going to have to learn to live without you. Dec 19, 2021 at 7:24
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There's a couple of excellent answers already, but, when I have advertised for someone to work in my team, I needed that person to start ASAP. I've usually had to plead with the folks who hold the purse strings to convince them that I needed an extra person, so usually the project was already hurting because I don't have the new guy today. Being realistic, I know I need to new guy to work out their notice first. But why should I jeopardize my project for them to help out their old boss? Is there is possibility that they are planning to go back if they don't like it here? Come to think of it, was the 2nd best candidate really that much worse? Maybe I should check to see if they are still available?

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    An HR person once said that the easiest head to cut is one whois not there yet. Jan 3 at 18:57
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I agree 100% with the answers that state that you should move on at the end of your 6 week notice. It's obvious, however, that you feel some loyalty toward your current employer and some empathy that your departure is putting them in a tight spot, so here's an option that would allow you to help them out while not jeopardizing things with your new employer:

Negotiate a contract work position with your current employer to maintain the current work, finish the project, whatever it is that they're expecting.

  • Get it in writing!
    • Do not attempt to do this on a verbal only basis.
  • Set a predefined work period.
    • It sounds like they're asking for 8 additional weeks, make the contract for 8 weeks only. Include an option to extend if and only if you're feeling generous.
  • Set a predefined work scope.
    • Ensure you have in writing exactly what you're to work on during this time and that no other tasks will be accepted.
  • Set predefined hours per week and expected hours of availability.
    • It's pretty unreasonably for them to expect you to work 40 hours per week for them after putting in 40 for your new employer. Negotiate 20 hours per week, or something that's acceptable to both you and the old employer.
    • They cannot expect you to be available 9-5 (09:00 - 17:00) for them when you're working those hours for the new employer. Maybe agree to 6-10 (18:00 - 22:00) or whatever works well for both of you. Or, maybe make your work time flexible or give Saturday & Sunday hours to get the work done.
  • Specify an hourly pay rate.
    • Make sure that it's commensurate with what you're making at the new job, after all, they offered you that to stay on and not take the new position.
    • On the other hand, you're doing them a real favor, so maybe ask for even more money. If they're in that desperate a situation if you leave, then you have all the negotiating power.
    • If you're feeling generous, agree to do the work at your current pay rate, but... see the points above.
  • I'm not sure about Dutch employment law, but you may want/need to get this approved by your new employer.
  • Have all points reviewed by your lawyer, don't rely on your old company's lawyers to write the contract - it may not work out well in your favor if you miss a detail or two.
  • Get it all in writing!

This will get you off on the right foot with your new employer by not asking them to change their contract with you. This will get you a win with your old employer by being a "team player" willing to work with them. This will be a win for you by putting some extra cash in your pocket.

Sure, you'll be tired and you may have to miss out on some social or family engagements, but you'll have a contract with a firm end date. You can put up with anything for 8 weeks..

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    My new employer unfortunately forbids me from working for third parties - which means I cannot offer such a service after my departure. However, this was an excellent suggestion otherwise!
    – Micrified
    Dec 17, 2021 at 16:28
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    I suppose that's common elsewhere, but in the US, that's a mostly foreign concept. I don't see how employers get away with telling you what you can do with your free time, but that's a totally different topic. Working for a direct competitor does seem a bit questionable, but otherwise, I just don't get it.
    – FreeMan
    Dec 17, 2021 at 16:59
  • Yeah, I was going to say the same thing, except that the contractor rate should obviously be a multiple of the employment rate, and I don't understand on what legal basis an employer could try to forbid you from working for third parties, whether in the US or no. How are they to know what you're doing with your evenings, anyway? Dec 18, 2021 at 21:20
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Tell them you cannot and will not be deferring the new job. Do not leave room for doubt or argument:

"As I'm sure you understand, I gave extended notice, and they are going to be my new employers. Make no mistake, I will be starting with them on the date we contractually agreed."

"They have already been generous and understanding, in allowing 50% more notice than they could have."

If they want you, then there is a charge for it - look on it as a bonus to you, and a strong incentive for them to cease being dependent.

"I believe transition is possible within 6 weeks. If needed engage an interim contractor until you fill the role. I can help in that time, too. That's the usual way. After all, I could fall under a bus or die of covid, with no notice at all.."

"...However, I understand you may want me to help beyond that, after I take up my new role. In effect I'd have to work two jobs, one my main job, one as a contractor."

Then, without blinking, tell them your daily rate as a contractor, after that 6 weeks is up. Make it appropriate for the open market daily rate they'd have to pay, for someone capable of getting up to speed in that time. Probably that'll be between 2 and 4 times your pay as a salaried employee. If it isn't, then pick a figure that's a significant premium to (i.e. multiple of) your pay anyway. If you want to.deter, pick an unreasonable multiple - but be prepared. They may say yes after a while of tantrum and coercion.

Make it a sum that is worth it to give up extra time, and be clear your time is limited, its "as able" and probably from home.

They will jawdrop. And tell you its unreasonable. But really its their issue. Your new employer gives your next reference. They failed organisationally to plan. To fix it, they would have to engage someone at that rate, or decide actually they only need you for 6 weeks. The choice they get is having you as that person or not, if they did choose to engage a contractor. Not engaging a contractor on the cheap.

This presents them with a fair situation. It also forces them to consider how much they need your help. If they can find someone as good for them cheaper, good for them. And its quite possible they will decide they can't afford you. That's their choice, too.

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  • I would not advice on some kind of contractor route, unless OP really wants the extra work. You don't owe them that, and unless you really want some contracting work, it is of no interest to you. Neither do I advice OP to start talking about what is possible for the role. It is not his responsibility (anymore) to think about that. Talking about it just invites the employer to think that it has something to do with him.
    – Petter TB
    Dec 27, 2021 at 10:10
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You are only forced to do exactly what your work contract says you should do.

However, my current employer was quite shocked by the announcement, and have informed me that they will be in a very difficult position should I leave. They have requested that I stay a bit longer so that they can have time to find a replacement.

This is not your problem in the slightest. If your ex-employer does not make contingency plans for when employees leave then that piece of poor management is their problem, not yours.

I have given my employer an advanced notice of 6 weeks. The contractual agreement is a minimum of 4 weeks advanced notice.

So you are already going beyond what your contractual obligations towards your ex=employer are as a show of respect to your ex-employer. You are already doing more than what is required of you.

I can recognise how they will have legitimate difficulties should I leave, since I perform a specific task that no other employee is available to perform.

Again none of this is your concern. It is yet again poor management to have business-critical work being done by a single employee. They can and often do quit, they have and often do have mental break-downs and go on year-long sabbaticals.

People in tech leave all the time for a host of reasons. Employee turnover has always been high in this profession. That is still not your problem

My current employer would like me to ideally stay two months longer.

This is ideal for them, not for you. You are by no means forced to do what is best for them. You don't really owe them anything. Think of yourself, don't do it.

I am happy to help my current employer out, and work for them for a month or two extra. However, I don't know how to phrase this intention/request to my prospective new employer having already signed on. The advice I have received from friends is to be honest about the situation and simply explain the circumstances along with the desire to defer my starting date. Is this the best way to go about it? Am I asking for too much time (should I ask for one month?) Should I try to approach the problem by negotiating a time or is frankness the best way to go about it (and I take what comes)?

The best way I would do it is, I will do exactly 100 percent what my work contract with my ex-employer says I have to do and not a single minute more.

I would not discuss my plans with anyone. By the same token, I would also not burn any bridges or sabotage any existing work with the ex-employer.

By hook or by crook, this organization did employ you for a certain amount of time and did pay you a living wage while you were doing the work. This does earn a certain amount of respect towards this organization. It may have ended poorly or maybe you just left with no ill feelings towards anyone just for better pay and a less terrible commute. Who's to say?, but either way act professionally but also don't let yourself be taken advantage of. If you act in accordance with the contract that both you and your employer signed then you are doing nothing wrong.

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I completely agree with the answers telling that you should now be loyal (or look good) to your new employer. Do you recall on a daily basis old coworkers that left a year ago?

What you could do is to arrange for a contract work during these 6 weeks. Arrange within the limits of the law a way to work extra hard for extra pay and help them this way.

  • I understand your position, it is a human one. You never know when you will meet them next.

  • I understand the employer's position - they did not plan (this happens) and would like to recover.

Money and your time may be a solution suitable for both of you.

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Well, the capitalist solution is to go to the new employer and say "Suppose I were to say that I'm starting two months later, but I'm okay with taking $X less in my first year. For what value of $X would this be good news?" Then go to your old employers and say "Suppose I were to say that I'm staying two months longer, but I want to be paid $Y for these extra two months. For what value of $Y would this be good news?" If Y>X, then stay at your old employer. People do seem to be uncomfortable about acknowledging that the economy consists of auctions, so you may need to find a more indirect way of asking those questions. You could, if you value your old employer's goodwill, ask your new employer if they would be open to your old employer negotiating directly. But if your new employer is firm on wanting you now, and isn't interested in delaying your start, you should prioritize them. And make sure that when you're communicating with them, it's clear that that's your attitude, and you'll be starting at the agreed upon time unless a mutually beneficial arrangement is found.

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