To rescind or not to rescind...
February 17, 2013 7:28 PM   Subscribe

I’ve agreed to a job offer that I would now like to turn down. How do I best handle this situation?

YANML but I'd like to hear your advice and what you'd do in my situation.

I live in Japan. I have worked for Company A for four years. For various reasons, I decided last fall that it was time to part ways and search for work elsewhere. After several interviews and offers, I accepted an offer at the end of 2012 (Christmas Day, actually) at Company B. The offer was for a permanent position starting from April, 2013. (Contract at Company A is set to expire at the end of March.) The salary was lower than what Company A paid and the cost of living would be higher, but I thought it was a good step in the right direction, career-wise. However, there were several large changes in Campany A’s organization after I accepted the offer from Company B—changes that have created career growth opportunities for me that were not there last year. But I decided to stick by my decision to leave. Excited about the offer from Company B I have spent the past month and a half preparing for the move and exchange emails in preparation for starting. Everything had been going according to plan, and life was good.

Until last week, when the President of Company A himself called me into his office for a chat. (A first for a low-ranking cog like me.) He got word that I was planning on leaving in April and would have nothing of it. Seeing opportunity, I asked about the possibility of a raise and a transfer in positions to work more in line with my career goals. To my surprise, he said yes, if I’ll stay on for another few years to help the company through its recent organizational changes.

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided I’d like to stay at Company A. I’m comfortable here, I'll make significantly more money, and I have a lot of hope for the new position it appears I’ll get. I feel absolutely awful about stiffing Company B, though, almost to the point where I feel I should just go ahead and move to Company B anyway. Well, not really, but almost. I mean, Company B has been extremely helpful and welcoming, and from what I know about their situation, for me to bail at this point will put serious screws on them (they are a smaller company), at least in the short term.

Anyway, my questions to everyone are: How would you handle this situation? What’s the best way to inform Company B of my decision to withdraw from the offer? (Other than tell them ASAP, obviously.) I imagine short and to the point is best, but I feel like I owe them an explanation with more substance than "sorry, I changed my mind."

In case it’s relevant, I never signed any employment contract after being offered the job at Company B, although I did confirm my intentions without provisions in an email. I know nothing of Japanese labor law, and I don't know whether or not the email agreement alone makes me legally liable for any loses on Company B's part.

Thanks in advance for your time and your advice.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Seeing opportunity, I asked about the possibility of a raise and a transfer in positions to work more in line with my career goals. To my surprise, he said yes, if I’ll stay on for another few years to help the company through its recent organizational changes.

Are you saying that if you stay with Company A, it will be a few years before a transfer to a position more in line with your career goals?
posted by Yowser at 7:32 PM on February 17, 2013

No, I think she is saying that they will give her the raise and promotion in exchange for her staying a few more years.

I have no knowledge of employment law in Japan or anywhere in the world for that matter. I know nothing about Japanese culture and what is appropriate in terms of how often people will back out of an agreement because their current firm made a game changing counter offer. Having said all of that, I have found the best course of action is forthright honesty. Tell Company B as soon as you can (after tying up any legal loose ends with company A) that you will not be joining them after all, that company A made a counter offer that much better fits your career path and that if there is anything you can do to help them find a new candidate, you would be willing to help. Thank them profusely for having made such a generous offer in the first place and for having shown confidence in you as the best candidate.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:49 PM on February 17, 2013

I think it's that anon will get the raise and promotion if he agrees to stay.

I would be honest. Write to company B and say that company A found out about your desire to leave and made you an offer you couldn't refuse. You're really sorry and all the best with finding someone suitable.

It happens all the time, plus I bet there were other applicants. Don't sweat it, do what's right for you!
posted by Youremyworld at 7:50 PM on February 17, 2013

Yup, just tell them that you got another offer that is too good to turn down and that you apologize for backing out after accepting the job but that you're sure they understand. They will.
posted by Scientist at 8:02 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

You could speak to a labor lawyer in Japan if you wanted a concrete opinion (feel free to PM me if you want a recommendation.) IANAL but if you haven't signed a contract, I think you're in a good position. Remember, IANAL.
posted by gen at 8:40 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Before you say "thanks but no thanks" to Company B, could you get something in writing from the president of Company A? At this point, you've had a chat, he's lead you to think there will be better things for you in the future but... it doesn't sound like you have a new contract with them? So I would get one that outlines what you can expect in return for committing to a new term. THEN, tell Company B that you regret to tell them you cannot start as planned, etc. Obviously you'll want to get the new contract in place soon but if that isn't possible then at least get something in email from the president. Just email him with a "Thanks for the conversation, just re-iterating what you said about new opportunities here for me... etc." and ask him to reply. Now, that won't necessarily mean anything (in the US it may vary, not idea in Japan) but it's a show of good faith on his part if he's asking you to turn down a firm offer elsewhere that's well in the works.
posted by marylynn at 8:49 PM on February 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

Agree that getting something in writing is a good idea before backing out of the new company. That said, they will understand, you need to do what is best for your career.

If you know anyone you would recommend for the position you are not not taking, I'd volunteer names.

I don't know much about the Japan angle in terms of legal issues.
Good luck!
posted by mazienh at 9:04 PM on February 17, 2013

I've always lived by the adage that accepting a counter-offer is always a mistake. For one thing, Company A now knows that you're not happy there and that you're planning to leave. Sure, maybe you'll be taking on some important new account and you'll stick around for a while, but if there are layoffs coming up or your position becomes redundant for any other reason, you'll be the first to go.

That said, if you're intent on taking Company A's counter-offer, I would look up the labor laws in Japan. (Assuming both jobs are in Japan.) If you've already signed a contract with Company B, you may be in breach of contract by not rescinding the offer, in which case you'll need to hire a lawyer to sort it out for you. Before you do anything, though, get it in writing from Company A, so if they try to back-out and leave you stranded, you'll have some legal recourse.
posted by deathpanels at 10:12 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

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