New job offer: Out of the frying pan and into?
May 15, 2018 11:06 AM   Subscribe

I've received an offer for a new job that I'm genuinely conflicted about taking. The company I'm working for is undergoing some... changes. We're rapidly running out of money, in the process of being acquired, my department is now barren after layoffs, and there's a small possibility my role doesn't survive the transition after acquisition. Sounds awful, an an easy choice to jump ship, right? There's more to it... (maybe)

I like the people at my current job, hours and work are insanely flexible, I have a nice little office, I have nearly complete freedom over my work (how and what), and there's a good chance all of this continues in the future. It isn't a place I would want to stay for the next several years, but it's a good fit for now. I'm relatively happy here.

The new offer will, with bonuses, pay significantly more (~30%). The company seems a lot more buttoned up and formal though. I haven't gotten a friendly/good vibe from them throughout the interview process. The work will be more narrow and intense, and I'll be in a cube with a non-preferred kind of laptop (I work in IT). The company seems stable though, and my logical brain says I should just accept the offer and leave the possibility open of finding my perfect job later (since my current place might keel over any moment).

What to do, what to do?
posted by theplatypus to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What about staying where you are and mounting a job search for stable job, but one more in your wheelhouse in terms of your role and company culture?
posted by creiszhanson at 11:13 AM on May 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

By my estimation the vast majority of acquired companies are dissolved, so my standard advice is either to quit or get a lateral promotion into the pre-existing structure of the acquiring company. In my experience these are the only two options if you don't want the Sword of Damocles hanging over you.

I would take the offer or continue interviewing, but I would also try to forget about staying at the current company. You can stay in contact with all of the coworkers you like, possibly cherry-picking them over to the new company (or you to theirs, wherever they land), but since the company can disintegrate at any moment you are primarily in a "bird in the hand" situation, with an option of working to get more hands (offers).
posted by rhizome at 11:14 AM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Taking a not-perfect job that pays you 30% more doesn't put you any further from the perfect job later.

Plus, something like flexible hours and a better laptop more in line with what you need to be productive in the job is the kind of thing I would absolutely ask for in a counter-offer. It will also give you another data point as to whether or not this company is friendly/flexible - if they say no, it may confirm your suspicions on their stuffiness, but you may also find out that they're totally cool with you keeping some of the elements of your existing job you like.
posted by notorious medium at 11:18 AM on May 15, 2018 [9 favorites]

On paper, yeah, the new job looks like a good idea, but you can't discount gut feeling, which counts for a lot. If you stay at your current job and you get laid off, would you be fine living on unemployment benefits for, say, several months while you looked for a new job? It's how much risk are you willing to take and that sounds like the biggest risk here.

If you didn't ask these questions already, say you'd like to speak again with the person who would be your manager and be direct in finding out what the culture is like and if there is flexibility on the things that matter to you, like the hours (I usually refer to this as "work-life balance" in interviews so I'm not making it seem like I want to work as little as possible), your own work-flow and whether they can give you a different kind of computer. (I convinced an office to get me an external monitor for my desk once, as a compromise because I hated the laptop they made me use.)

I stayed at a job I knew was shaky. I knew the company was sort of a mess and would probably need to fold or merge, but I was ok with taking a little funemployment break because I had been there a while. Others jumped ship to new jobs to avoid having to go through that. It's your call.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:25 AM on May 15, 2018

Your current job is about to get very stressful, due to the looming threat of layoffs. The culture at the new place might not be perfect for you, but it pays more and at least you won't have to worry about suddenly becoming unemployed.

Also, I think you're worrying about some less-important things. Having to dress up a bit, use a different kind of laptop, even working in a cube are less important than things like vacation time and health insurance. Flex time is a big benefit though, and might be worth negotiating.

A 30% raise and not having to worry about layoffs are huge though. Take the new job and if you hate it, start looking for another. Better to be doing that from a position of making 30% more than of having just been laid off.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:34 AM on May 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

If I were you, I'd jump from the slowly (possibly quickly) sinking ship that you're in now (and don't even want to be in long term) to a stable job that pays substantially more. It's possible that once you show them what you can do, things like telecommuting and flexible hours will open up for you. If you don't like it, then use it as a launching pad to some place you think you'd want to stay medium to long term.

That 30% paybump will have a substantial effect on your lifetime earnings. Per your previous Asks, it may not be life changing money to you now, but saving that extra salary now will allow you to shave years off of your retirement age, which is life changing in its own way. Or make substantial donations to charity or take a midlife crisis gap year to travel the world. Whatever makes you happy.

I'll say that personally the tension of not knowing whether I'd have a job the next month is worse than the tension of working in a cube on a Windows machine causes me. YMMV.
posted by Candleman at 11:36 AM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

What are your savings like? Do you live in an area with lots of jobs?

Basically, I'm wondering how long it might take you to find a job that you are excited to start? Maybe making a lot of money might help you build your emergency fund so you have more options to wait on jobs later? Or do other thing you really want to do?
posted by Kalmya at 12:21 PM on May 15, 2018

Dissenting opinion here: every time I have gone with a job on the theory that the money would make up for the gut feeling I had of a bad cultural fit, I've been miserable. What is the likelihood you will get severance from your current position and is it enough to allow you to keep looking?
posted by rednikki at 3:10 PM on May 15, 2018

If you live in an area with lots of jobs, stay put and see what happens because who knows it might work out, it might not (gamble on severance?), but if not then there's always another offer out there.

If you live in an area without many jobs (of the sort you enjoy, or are skilled at) then jump ship immediately.
posted by aramaic at 4:24 PM on May 15, 2018

Have you directly asked your new potential employer about work hours flexibility? Of the things you might miss, that one you might be able to negotiate up front.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:55 PM on May 15, 2018

I've been on the receiving end of four or five acquisitions and have watched a few more from the sidelines as a consultant. Here is what the acquisition playbook looks like from the point of view of the acquirer. They have some specific reason to acquire your company: intellectual property, customer list, talent, whatever. They'll be interested in protecting/retaining any employees involved in that activity and will offer some incentive to stick around through at least the end of transition to make sure they don't do exactly what you are considering. The people who generally don't get these offers are people in roles that can be consolidated, like accounting, HR, payroll, IT, administrative assistants. The questions you might ask yourself at this point are: (a) why is my company being acquired? (b) do I have any special skills or knowledge that supports that reason? (c) does keeping my particular location/office open support that reason? If the answers to "b" and "c" aren't yes and yes, then I would rate your odds as being low of surviving a transition. You don't mention anyone talking to you about sticking around or a retention bonus; assume your co-workers haven't gotten any of that, either. It likely won't be a situation where someone taps you on the shoulder or you get a lot of warning, it will be your entire group invited into a conference room with a couple of HR types with clipboards who are going to offboard you right then and there.
posted by kovacs at 6:15 PM on May 15, 2018 [7 favorites]

Not sure whether anyone will ever see this update, but I ended up declining the offer.

I directly (politely) asked them whether there was any flexibility on the items that I was concerned about, and received a rather curt "no" for them all. This added to my discomfort with the place - if they couldn't bend a little on something as minor as a few days on the start date while trying to woo me, what would they be like after I was theirs?

I also found myself advocating against taking the offer when I was talking to friends and family about it. In any case, I'm going to hang around my current company until it's absorbed, with the expectation that my role will be eliminated. I was able to finagle a promotion (title change) out of it, which should fit my career progression nicely as I look for something new. The scuttlebutt is that they intend to keep most of us for a while at least, but for me, it won't be the same company anymore.

Time will tell whether I've made a huge mistake.
posted by theplatypus at 9:57 AM on June 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

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