Here's the context:

I'm a Software Engineer at one of the most elite companies in the world, I've been in the industry for five years, having worked on numerous projects, ranging from small to very large in scope. I've had the chance to dabble into some really new and exciting, bleeding edge technologies.

On paper, my resume looks great! I have five years experience, worked with lots of different technologies and languages, and I graduated from a respected university. Recruiters from prestigious companies, large and small always contact me. I'm on top of the world, and living the American dream!

Or so I thought I would be...when I was much younger and naive. The sad dark truth is: I've been dealing with severe depression for the majority of my life. I smile, I laugh, I feel great around people, but at the end of the day, deep in my core, I'm not happy.

Here's the problem I'm facing now:

The last company I had worked for, I got along really well with my coworkers. A great group of people. Gregarious, easy going, and generally very fun to work with. However, I moved on for other purposes, in order to explore new opportunities to grow my career.

I've been recently reconnected with a previous boss of mine, who I really respect and enjoyed work with him in the past. We've got along well, and he's always had a good impression of me. He's been asking me to join his start up for some time now. But now, he's really pressing for it becuase he needs me. Logically thinking, I would join him right now at the blink of an eye, but my depression has gotten a whole lot worse. If I were to join him, I wouldn't be able to perform to the standard that he has of me. I've been given multiple offers from other companies, but frankly, I'm not emotionally stable to join any other company even though it's the best for me career wise.

I've put his offer off for too long now, and I don't want to tarnish this relationship with my past boss, I just don't really know how to effectively communicate this to him without seeming or appearing weak or disrespectful. I always had mentioned that I'd like to continue working at my current company for X amount of time to think things through. But I've delayed this for too long. What can I do?

  • 22
    First step is to seek treatment. If you depression is bad enough that it is affecting your work performance (and noticeably enough that someone that knew you from years ago would notice) then get help today.
    – HLGEM
    Dec 11, 2015 at 20:32
  • 2
    @HLGEM: I see nothing to indicate that the OP is not already receiving treatment.
    – jwodder
    Dec 13, 2015 at 22:49

5 Answers 5


Hi [name],
Although it sounds like a fantastic opportunity, I'm really not at a place in my life that I can join your company right now. I would like to revisit this with you later on.


  • 2
    Short and to-the-point, but still seems a bit personal.
    – Lilienthal
    Dec 12, 2015 at 19:33

Why mention your depression? He does not need to know.

Just write an email saying that you appreciate the offer but at this current time I cannot join you company. Add a bit of praise that he has considered you and wish him well in the future. Also add to please stay in contact. Perhaps email him six months down the line when (hopefully) things might be better


If you feel you owe him a little more of an explanation, as a friend or as a business acquaintance, you might tell him that you're not able to work for him right now because you're dealing with some personal medical issues, because depression definitely qualifies. You don't have to say what the issue is, and if he asks about it out of concern, you can say "I'd prefer not to talk about it," and if he presses any further he's being rude. Obviously, you don't owe him that information, but that little clue, that it's medical, will tell him it's nothing personal and nothing you have control over. If he isn't understanding and supportive after that, he's nobody you want to work with. In addition, maybe you can introduce him to someone you know from work that has the skills he's looking for. Both people might be happy you helped them team up.


I agree with the others that you don't need to mention your depression when you decline the offer.

But before you reject the offer, consider if it might possibly be a blessing in disguise. This person already has a high opinion of you, so if you joined the company you wouldn't have that awkward phase of trying to prove yourself. Of course, all of this depends on how bad your depression is, whether or not you're getting treatment and getting it under control. You might even ask if you could work part-time.


Since its not uncommon for people to take a hiatus from their current field, I'm sure he'd understand without much explanation and would probably keep you in mind down the road.

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