Beanplating a job offer
April 3, 2014 7:14 PM   Subscribe

A potential employer has extended a formal offer to me. Taking the job would solve some problems, but would create so many others because of the time commitment involved. Is it ethical to turn down an offer at this stage?

I've been making myself a list of pros and cons about accepting a job offer I received last week. Notably, I can't come up with a pro that shows I'm excited about the employer, or the kind of work I'll be doing. Mostly, on the pro side, it's practical stuff like not being unemployed, not needing to hit the savings account anymore, giving my spouse a break. I guess a big pro is that it's a job, and there aren't any competing job offers right now.

But on the con side, my proposed work schedule creates so many problems in terms of work/life balance. I'd see my spouse early in the morning before my spouse leaves for work, or just on Friday nights after my spouse gets home, and Saturdays when we're both home all day. The job hours would also prevent me from ever attending rehearsals with a touring band I'm in. Ever. I'd fear getting let go from the band due to lack of commitment. I'd be able to perform with them on the weekend, but occasional weeknight and Sunday performances would mean using vacation time that I wouldn't need to use if I had a more standard job schedule. Isolation from my spouse, family and friends and important extra-curriculars would take a toll on me psychologically. I'd need to keep looking for a job.

tl;dr: I have a supportive spouse, can pretend this job offer didn't happen, and just wait for the next one, but I'm not sure how much of an idiot I'm being by turning it down despite the numerous downsides.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You really need to talk to your spouse about this.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:18 PM on April 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

It sounds like you've already made the decision to turn it down, and you just want our permission.

Talk to your spouse. They may have a different view and, frankly, it's their opinion that matters here, not ours.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:20 PM on April 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

What's the context here? Do you have other potential opportunities? How critical is it for you to be employed now? I don't think this is a question of ethics. Rather it's a question of how this job fits into your overall life plan.
posted by Dansaman at 7:20 PM on April 3, 2014

It is a lot easier to find a new job when you already have a job. If you took it and it didn't work out, would quitting within a few months burn any bridges? Because you can always quit a job once you have one.

But it really depends on your spouse and how they feel about your mutual finances.
posted by jeather at 7:23 PM on April 3, 2014

How locked into this work schedule would you be? Is this something where there is really going to be very little flexibility about number and scheduling of hours, ever, or is it something where after you've been there for a while and have proven you're generally reliable, the possibility of working from home/working fewer hours/working an off shift would open up?

And also: would taking this job allow your spouse to work fewer or more flexible hours (and possibly give you more time together)?
posted by kagredon at 7:29 PM on April 3, 2014

How long have you been unemployed? Do you have other job prospects? Would your spouse feel the same way if you were still jobless in six months? A year? Longer?
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:36 PM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

If nobody else except you had the responsibility of making sure you had food and shelter, what would you do? It's nice to be in a band, but feeding yourself is usually the thing to be excited about wrt a job. It's the main reason folks work.
posted by Houstonian at 7:42 PM on April 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think whether or not you should take the job depends on how good the pay is. If it's really good, you should take it. But if it's not that good, or you feel like it's likely you can do better, it's just going to cut into your job search time.
posted by bleep at 7:51 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is the employer known to be scum? A totally dysfunctional workplace? What is the turn over like?

Turn it down if you can afford to AND this place is a hell hole to work in.

Take it temporarily if you need the $$, but be prepared to quit at the drop of a hat.


posted by jbenben at 7:57 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Talk about burying the lede.

You don't owe the potential employer anything. There are no ethical concerns about turning down the job just because they made you a formal job offer.

That doesn't seem to be your real question though. Your spouse should weigh and their opinion is worth that of a million internet strangers, but: "Taking the job would solve some problems, but would create so many others because of the time commitment involved." Come on. I can imagine many plausible reasons I would not want my partner to take a job in similar circumstances, but cutting into band time would not be on that list. The 50 hours a week I spend at work really cuts into my extra-curriculars, but I still head in to work everyday.

You talk about work life balance, but if there is any truth to that phrase, your work life balance can't get any worse. You've got all life and no work, any future mixture of work and life would be more balanced.
posted by pseudonick at 8:00 PM on April 3, 2014 [24 favorites]

Oh yes, to answer your actual question, absolutely you can turn down the job after they make the formal offer.
posted by bleep at 8:02 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I n'th talking to your spouse, with the caveat that a "supportive" spouse may have meant they would be supportive up until the point where you deliberately choose to be unemployed in the face of a job offer because of your band. I know the band is important to you but are they REALLY more important than "practical stuff' like supporting yourself, and "giving my spouse a break"? You just prioritised your band over your supportive spouse in your own words.

There are so many factors here though; have you been looking longer for than a month for a job and this is your first offer (then yeah, you don't really have the luxury of waiting for another offer)? Are you getting any income (like unemployment benefits)? How much longer will your savings last and how long will it take to rebuild those saving when you are employed? How much are you relying on your spouse to cover costs/reduce their lifestyle to your current no-income one? If you and your spouse break up tomorrow would you be able to rent an apartment/support yourself? Will your band pay you fpor reheasals/perforamces in line with what you would have earned at the offered job?

I am really surprised they have waited a week for you to accept/decline the offer - have you been in contact with them since the offer to request time to think about it?
posted by saucysault at 8:17 PM on April 3, 2014 [13 favorites]

If you're officially on unemployment, you are not allowed to turn down a job, period.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:01 PM on April 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

As alluded by others, a big pro is money. Most jobs interfere with our hobbies one way or another. How much do you need the money and how comfortable is your partner being the only one bringing it in? Howsatisfied are they in their jobs?

I don't think the internet can answer this question - though I do note that some of the cons you bring up are likely to be present in almost any job. I think it's important to be realistic about the prospect of a job that satisfies all your needs. I don't know what those prospects are like but important to contextualize.
posted by smoke at 11:30 PM on April 3, 2014

We can't answer this. This is all about your arrangements with your spouse, and how your spouse feels about the situation in general and this job in particular.

For what it's worth, as someone in a position similar to your spouse's, I would want my partner to take the job while he kept looking for another. But that's me in my life, and I don't know enough about your situation to say what you should do. You should talk to him or her, and maybe also put out feelers to your band to see if they could live with you being a bit less available for a few months, with the understanding that you intend this to be a short term thing.
posted by Stacey at 3:13 AM on April 4, 2014

Take the job.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:09 AM on April 4, 2014

Talk to spouse.

If I were spouse, I'd lovingly ask you if you this job would pay more than the band does. And then I'd tell you to take the job and keep looking for another.
posted by kimberussell at 4:12 AM on April 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

nthing speak to your spouse about it. She may not want you to take the job because of the schedule. She may desperate for you to get back to work and may be freaking out about carrying the financial load. Until you have that conversation, you have NO worthwhile input on this decision.

As for the band, it will suck, but you and the band will survive your departure. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a job is WAY more important than a band.

If you are on unemployment, your benefits can be affected if you decline a job offer. So there's that to consider.

Besides, if you hate it, you can always look for other work in the meantime.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:57 AM on April 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you should take the job. There were two points in my young day when I turned down "unsuitable" jobs and each time, it made things harder. (And that wasn't in the recession.) It didn't destroy my life or smash up my relationships, but looking back I can see that it would have been smarter to take them - in one case, a lot smarter, as I think it would have pushed me to go to grad school (in an employable field) while I was still young enough for that to make sense.

The other stuff does sound like a huge drag.

The only thing I can think of is this - if you take this job, will you be getting off-track in a bad way on your career? Will it be harder to get a suitable job because this job will make your resume look really different? Is this job low-status in some way so that it will be harder to get back to your chosen line of work? If that's the case, then think twice. But if not, hey, work this job for a year or two and move on.

Bands come and go, as far as I can tell. I think it will be easier to resolve the band situation a year down the road when you have a better job than it will be to deal with your life after another year of un- or para-employment.

My experience (not in a band, but in various bohemian circles) is that there's almost always another satisfying project down the road, even when it's sad to lose something you have now.
posted by Frowner at 6:41 AM on April 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Of course you don't owe your prospective employer the acceptance of an offered job -- you do, however, almost certainly owe your state unemployment agency the acceptance of an offered job. If it's suitable work, you'll have to choose between taking it or losing your UI benefits. The only reason you'd like to decline the offer is because you don't want to spend your time doing things you don't specifically want to do, but them's the breaks.

I'm trying to find a delicate way to express my shock at the notion that any unemployed person in the world would ever consider turning down a job because the employer and work aren't perceived as being exciting enough, but it's more than that: You used a handful of words to briefly acknowledge that taking the job would mean "giving [your] spouse a break," then two sentences to explain that you don't want the job because it would interfere with... your band.

You acknowledge that there are no competing job offers right now, so the only way your lifestyle is going to be able to go on as-is indefinitely is if you have the sort of spouse who is wealthy and understanding enough that s/he would readily respond to your concerns with, "No, you don't have to take this job. I am more than happy to continue working to provide for both of us, indefinitely, if it means you can continue going to band practice."

Other possibilities that will allow you to stay the course:
* Your rent or mortgage is $0/month
* You will soon come into a great deal of money (inheritance?)
* You're bringing in considerable sums from playing out around town and/or on tour with your band
* Your savings account balance contains at least six digits, not including cents
* Your spouse is so in love with their job and the number of hours they currently have to work that they would just continue doing everything exactly the same forever, even if you had a job

You know there's a hobby or practice your spouse would prefer to engage in rather than having to go to work every day, but they don't have that option right now -- and unless you've talked about it and agreed that you should continue to be the one who gets to pursue your passions full-time while s/he has to stay busy relenting to the daily grind, s/he is going to start resenting you sooner or later. It's human. If roles were reversed, you'd feel the same way eventually.

Being the sole earner, even in a household of only two, is incredibly stressful. It doesn't make it any less stressful when a given breadwinner knows that the reason they have to continue rearranging their entire life around supporting themselves and their partner is because their partner doesn't want to rearrange their creative pursuits or social life around the prospective full-time schedule that necessarily goes along with gainful employment.

Give your spouse a break. Take the job, and you can start looking for one that suits you better right away.
posted by divined by radio at 7:38 AM on April 4, 2014 [13 favorites]

As a spouse in a similar situation: consider that your spouse may be, in an effort to seem supportive, very much understating his/her own feelings of being concerned/upset/abandoned/angry/stressed/depressed/judgmental about your joblessness.

Your spouse is likely working from a basic assumption that so many of us have: that we will all support at least our own selves. You don't seem motivated to do so, and that brings all sorts of things into question. Your spouse is, like me, probably holding their breath hoping you at least step up to at least this basic level of self-support. Please do so at once.
posted by Dashy at 8:22 AM on April 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

To follow up what Dashy said: Yeah, I am a supportive partner. Or at least I'm doing my best to be. Day to day, I keep a fair amount of frustration/sadness about the situation to myself, because I'm aware that my partner is doing what he can to remedy it, and I talk about it with him to the extent needed to keep honest and open communication going, but beyond that there's no point in expressing every time I have a feeling about the situation. Makes me dwell and feel like a nagging shrew, makes him sad, doesn't change the facts of the situation, does no one any good.

But if we were actually at the point of having a job offer to consider, then I would have more to say on the topic because that is when it would actually be relevant and useful to say those things. So I would not necessarily assume that what you think you know about your spouse's level of supportiveness in your job search in general is what he or she would tell you at this exact moment about this specific job.

Have the conversation, be a partner to your partner and let him or her be one to you, talk through the decision together. Whatever decision you make will be on firmer ground because of it.
posted by Stacey at 8:37 AM on April 4, 2014

I do think it's reasonable for a job offer to give you pause if it's asking for way more than 40 hours of work per week. I can't tell if your concerns about time are about the amount of time, or the way that the work hours would be scheduled. If it's the latter, I promise that you can find ways to enjoy the time that you're not working, even if it's not the same as you enjoy your time now.

Either way, talk to your spouse!
posted by rivenwanderer at 9:39 AM on April 4, 2014

So, I came to answer the first question about the ethics of turning down the job. It's fine to turn down the job at this point.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:37 AM on April 4, 2014

I can't tell if your concerns about time are about the amount of time, or the way that the work hours would be scheduled.

I think this might be the thing people are missing. Reading between the lines, it sounds like maybe your spouse works 1st shift (M-F 8-5) and you will be working 2nd shift with a partial weekend (Sun-Thurs 2-10pm, or 3-11pm, or whatever).

It's hard, but lots of couples work off-shifts. If money is tight, some of them even work multiple jobs, so they are working BOTH shifts, essentially, and only see each other a few hours a week. In lots of cases, the couples agree to do this type of schedule for a certain period of time so they can achieve some goal, then work harder to get better jobs with matching schedules once things have calmed down. Honestly, this sound like the best plan at this time for you.

Take the job, agree to stick to it 6 months or a year, save all you can, and use your daytime hours to look for a better job.
posted by CathyG at 11:09 AM on April 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

From the OP:
The band probably seems to many of you a frivolous thing and perhaps you pictured a bunch of over-the-hill dudes reliving our youth and trying to rock out in a garage. We’re not. Our practice space is a professional recording studio that we own and manage together. We’re an established wedding/party band with awards under our belts and a significant internet following that gets the band booked up months in advance. I already know dates in 2015 when I’ll be out of town. Although the income from the band isn’t enough for any of us to quit our day jobs (which is by design) the band represents a second job for each of us.

Thank you for all the helpful answers and the mostly-well-deserved criticism. I realize that the way I worded the question made it seem like I was keeping this impending job situation a secret from my spouse, but that’s not the case. When I said I have a supportive spouse, I meant that we have been talking all along about the upsides and downsides of taking the position. My spouse is supportive to the point of being willing to make changes to their social calendar in order to make the rare weekends I won’t be doing the other thing I do more bearable. I know I would do the same if the tables were turned. That level of sacrifice alone from my spouse is enough to get me to accept the position, which I did.

posted by jessamyn at 1:28 PM on April 4, 2014

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