I work on a series of 3 month contracts for Big Corp.. Each contract has had the same terms as the original contract had (pay, vacation, etc.) and each has been renewed for the last 27 months without a gap in my work.

My most recent contract expired December 31st. I had asked for a raise on the next contract on November 3rd and the raise (smaller than I had asked for, but acceptable) has been verbally accepted but it still has not been approved by the higher ups- this is a very bureaucratic company, and my immediate manager's manager did not request approval for the raise until December 19, which is causing most of this problem. This large delay is caused by the contract terms changing- several executives need to approve it.

I have been unemployed since Jan. 1st and I have used this time to seek other positions. I have a third interview later today with Small Corp., and I intend to accept an offer if it is made. Big Corp. is not prepared for me to leave- they are contractually obligated to two customers for projects I have begun and none of the other current employees have the necessary skills to complete them, so they would need to bring in someone new to complete these projects.

I am now only interested in returning to Big Corp. if:

  1. I do not receive an offer from Small Corp., in which case I would still be searching for another job while working for Big Corp.
  2. Big Corp. offers me the raise I had originally requested- my immediate manager told me he believes I would not be offered any contract at all if I pressed the issue and I believe him, so I will not ask for this unless I have another offer in hand. I joined the company as an intern over two years ago, and my skills have grown greatly since then. Company policy does not generally allow for as large of a percentage raise as I am requesting.

I had previously said I was interested in returning to Big Corp. after the hiatus, but it was implied that this hiatus would be under two weeks. I enjoyed working with my immediate peers and do not want to sour my relationship with them, but I am also struggling financially and would like to begin working as soon as is possible.

Under these circumstances, would it be unprofessional to not offer 2 weeks notice to Big Corp., and leave them in a bind, so I could immediately begin working for Small Corp.? Although I work on contract and am currently unemployed, I fit into the company culture with regular employees and my peers fully expect me to return. I believe the upper management has mistreated me and has created this situation, but I do not want to cause hardship for my peers. I would also like to maintain the good professional and personal relationships I have developed with my peers.

  • 1
    They have no rights to complain whatsoever if they haven't even offered you a new contract. If they say "but we need you urgently!" you say "then why didn't you offer me a new contract!"
    – gnasher729
    Jan 22, 2015 at 13:00
  • You could of course tell them that you are going to accept a different offer and if they really need you maybe that makes the bureaucracy run faster. I doubt it, but it doesn't hurt.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 22, 2015 at 13:03
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    The moment there was a "hiatus" - a break in which they aren't paying you - was the moment you no longer had a job nor any obligation to even speak with Big Corp. They should have been paying you along the way and it is entirely unreasonable for them to delay. They are just playing games with you and it's time to move on.
    – NotMe
    Jan 22, 2015 at 15:20
  • Why is this on hold? OP is not asking for "advice on what to do." S/he is asking "how to make a decision," specifically, which circumstances and criteria (loyalty to ex-coworkers, responsibility for client tasks, compensation) should factor into that decision and which should not. Please explain decision to close.
    – ExactaBox
    Jan 23, 2015 at 16:22
  • Thank you for acting as custodians of this very valuable resource. I am a little confused, though- I am not asking "what should I do?", I am asking "Is it professional to take this course of action?" I have put my question in bold to help it stand out from the context. I would greatly appreciate an explanation of how my question is off topic.
    – anon
    Jan 23, 2015 at 17:02

3 Answers 3


There is nothing unprofessional. The situation as you described is quite symmetrical: they do not have any obligations to renew your contract, and you do not have any obligations to accept their offer. In fact I'd be very surprised to receive a two week termination notice from somebody who is formally not with a company. You may verbally warn your immediate manager; however from what you said I think it would not make any difference. Similarly, do not expect that the abandoned project may affect the Big Corp's decision - you noticed already that the decisions there are made by the bureaucracy.

I bet your soon-to-be-former coworkers would understand your decision perfectly fine; yes they may expect you to return, but it is your career, not theirs.


would it be unprofessional to not offer 2 weeks

No. No. No. No. No. Not sure yet? No. They have decided not to pay you. You are unemployed. You owe them NOTHING. Not two weeks, not two minutes.

You are very fortunate to be close to an alternative employment offer. Companies can usually get away with unfair practices because in almost all cases, they hold the upper hand over an individual who needs to work, now, to pay rent and put food on the table. You should absolutely continue to pursue the other job, and take it if you get it. BigCorp has chosen not to keep you around -- there is no clearer message that it does not care about you at all.

  • This is the pro and con of contract based employment. Your employment ends with your contract. If they fail to renew you're a free agent. (Meaning zero income, but zero obligations) Jan 22, 2015 at 19:46
  • This is exactly the "upper hand" I was talking about. You are a person, and you feel loyalty, compassion, etc. The company is a thing, it has no feelings. The company will never be distracted from pursuing its mission. Kind of like The Terminator. It has an advantage when negotiating with you, because emotions such as empathy, consideration for others, and guilt may influence you to act against your own best interest. Side note: please clearly understand that you are not creating "hardship for my peers."
    – ExactaBox
    Jan 22, 2015 at 21:41

Under these circumstances, would it be unprofessional to not offer 2 weeks notice to Big Corp., and leave them in a bind, so I could immediately begin working for Small Corp.?

If I understand you correctly, you are not employed by Big Corp. Nor do you have a contract indicating that you are starting work with them on a particular date. There is no resignation here.

Thus, there is no requirement to give notice, and nothing unprofessional in starting to work with Small Corp today. (Although it would be a courtesy to tell Big Corp you are now off the market).

If Big Corp wanted to have you obligated to them, they would either have you on the payroll or would have given you an offer to return that you subsequently accepted.

When I (and I believe most companies) retain contractors, I fully expect them to be setting up their next gig before the current contract ends. If I want to keep the contractor around longer, I ask if we can extend their contract. If I don't extend them, I always expect anyone good will attempt to find another job (and usually succeed) - not sit around hoping that I will bring them back eventually.