I currently work for a large retailer which is in very serious financial trouble. The are likely to go bankrupt within the next year. I worked for the company for seven years but left last January and went to a company that had hired two former coworkers who I ended up working for. The guy who hired me got fired within a month and the job spiraled into a very ugly political mess. I approached my former employer who agreed to take me back at the same salary and benefits I had if I agreed to stay for at least a year. I agreed verbally so I have no written commitment. I'm six months into my one year and the company's financial situation has worsened. Benefits costs have gone through the roof and workloads are increasing because of people leaving in droves. I have an opportunity to go to a good company that hired a former coworker but I feel torn regarding the commitment I had made vs. the high uncertainty of my current company's longevity. I'm 62 years old so having an opportunity to actually change jobs at my age is encouraging but my ethical alarm is going off. My current employer is not known for treating people ethically and I'm receiving nothing towards my retirement either let alone not having received a raise for two years before I left in January.

Does anyone feel that I'm being unethical in leaving prior to my one year or is my personal financial well-being and having the ability to obtain a better retirement outweigh any ethical concerns that I have? I need to make up my mind fairly quickly. Thanks for any comments.

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    If you have no written contract, the company is going under, your job is unsatisfactory and you have another job to go to, why would you stay? – Jane S Oct 31 '15 at 1:44
  • Depends on what value you place on your given word. .. and if you want any kind of recommendation at all from this employer. – keshlam Oct 31 '15 at 15:24

Here in the United States most employment is 'at will', meaning the employer can dismiss an employee at any time, likewise the employee can quit at anytime.

I've personally seen companies hire someone and then a week later the new employee walks in the door only to be told he's been laid off!

I seriously doubt that your current employer would honor this agreement if his bottom line could be improved by laying you off.

I'm 63, I know where you're coming from. If it's best for you and your family then take the new job.


Ethics is a grey area, personally if I gave a verbal agreement I would not try and worm out of it, or justify it in any way based on the employers morals. So I think leaving is unethical.

Perfectly legal though from what you have described. And at your age I'm not sure you can afford to be ethical in this situation.

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    Ethically, the company should also hold up their end of the bargain and maintain the role that was offered. The OP states that benefits are being lost, and workload is increasing as the company is slowly going under. To stay in an environment that is not the same as it was when the OP started becomes less "agreement" and more "indentured servitude". – Jane S Oct 31 '15 at 5:12
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    True, but he didn't ask about whether the company is ethical, the OP already said it isn't. personally I don't let others ethics (good or bad) dictate or influence my own. And I certainly don't use them as justification for compromising mine. I've often fulfilled verbal promises that have hurt me financially and possibly career-wise although I don't see it that way. Because the reputation for being rock solid is an asset in itself. – Kilisi Oct 31 '15 at 6:07

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