Would it be wrong of me to walk away from a 2-month old job?
June 28, 2021 5:11 AM   Subscribe

I've been working in my current role for a couple of months, and am feeling unfulfilled by it at best (bored at worst). Now a new opportunity has come up… but I feel guilty about the idea of accepting it.

I'm a contract software engineer. I'm good at what I do, and I have developed a reputation for helping clients build their development teams around best practices.

I've been in my current role for a couple of months. I was taken on because the client (a major manufacturer) needed to build a team in a particular set of disciplines in which I'm experienced, and in which I've worked for most of the last decade.

However, now a new role has come up, recommended to me by a friend, working on something that could actively do some good in the world. It's a really interesting project, working with tech that I really want to work with, and the pay is nearly twice what I'm getting now.

The current role isn't bad, exactly, it's just not fulfilling me. Although I've been brought on to help the company change things, they're quite resistant to actually changing things. A lot of what I say gets ignored, or argued about, and we've had three weeks of meetings to try and decide one little thing and it's still not been decided. This is because it's an enterprise-sized company, not a small, scrappy scale-up.

The team do depend on me, however, to help them build the stuff that they need to build. I feel like I would be abandoning them if I got to this new role just for the sake of my own self-interest. I don't like not helping people who need my help, and when I started this role I was told that the client "really needed someone who can commit to 9 months." But I don't know if I really want another 7 months of this type of work.

My friends and spouse tell me that I'm not doing anything wrong by thinking of switching jobs, even though it's only been two months and I worry that I'm abandoning people. Help me out here, mefites: what's the moral thing to do? Am I overthinking this as massively as I suspect I am?
posted by six sided sock to Work & Money (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So, nothing wrong, exactly. You can see what options are there to mitigate things. Will the other job allow you to give the current role maybe 4 more weeks to hand over?

Also, easy enough for the current role; "Look, this isn't really working out, so best we find someone that can take over the role.. I'll help in transition, but better to do that now rather than in 2 more months."

It's all in how you position it to the current role people, as you don't want to burn a bridge of working with them again.
posted by rich at 5:18 AM on June 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

It's not a moral question. It's marginally (and I mean very marginally) an ethical one. If the current position, pay, and role are not matching what the new opportunity provides you are completely fine to take the new opportunity. I'm a "nice guy" too and so always try to offer a longer transition period but often times old employer doesn't want it...
posted by chasles at 5:45 AM on June 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If permission from someone who walked away from a job after a couple of months helps, you have mine.

I realised I wasn’t enjoying it, and wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as the rest of the small company was. Not only was I dissatisfied, I wasn’t doing a brilliant job, and didn’t see that changing. They deserved better, so it seemed wrong to drag it out further. I felt bad, a bit of a failure, but I think it was the right thing to do,

If this other job didn’t exist, how would you feel about the current job? If you’d still be thinking about leaving, then it’s probably the right thing to do, for sure. Leaving after two months is arguably better than leaving after four, or doing a half-hearted job for the rest of the contract.

Also, ruthlessly, do what’s right for you, because, generally, companies will do what’s right for them
posted by fabius at 5:53 AM on June 28, 2021 [15 favorites]

If the new role could "actively do some good in the world", some would say the moral choice is the job that does the most good (which sounds like the new job).

It is commendable that you feel loyalty to your commitments. But loyalty is not always purely moral. Too much unquestioned loyalty can become nepotism (e.g. hiring an unqualified relative and keeping them in the job). It can become enablement (e.g. turning a blind eye to the organization's injustices in order to stay loyal).

In the new job, you would also be helping people. You just don't know those people yet. But they are just as deserving of your help as your current coworkers.
posted by sandwich at 6:05 AM on June 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

There is no morality involved in this question, because corporations aren't moral actors. If the client cancelled the project, they would end your contract in a heartbeat.

If you want to mitigate your (unnecessary) feelings of guilt, suggest a couple of people who do similar work to you as replacements.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:10 AM on June 28, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: If they decided they no longer needed you today, they would dismiss you and not even think of it again. Companies are not people, even though they are made of people, and you are not abandoning anyone by taking care of yourself first. Life is very short. If you have an opportunity to work in a job that is even marginally than the one you're currently in, take it and don't look back.
posted by twelve cent archie at 6:12 AM on June 28, 2021 [23 favorites]

Probably by the time you get all the details nailed down for the other job, it will be a few more weeks - and you could ask them for a slightly delayed start date. With that runway, you can position your current team for success by documenting your thoughts, educating those around you - maybe even more freely than you could if you were staying.

If you can't do that, it's still 100% fine to take the new job. A job fundamentally is work you do for money. Unless you are abandoning patients in the middle of surgery, it is truly okay to leave at any point.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:25 AM on June 28, 2021 [8 favorites]

I'd add that this is something you can do once, maybe twice. If your resume is filled with two-week jobs, it will be hard to get interviews for future work.
posted by tmdonahue at 6:36 AM on June 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Take the job.

Also, you mentioned you’re on contract? Definitely review any ramifications in your contract (some may require notice, etc.) And, if the “we’d like 9 months” isn’t in your contract, well, that’s just a nice thing the employer wants.

You have an option on the table that pays more and may be more favorable. That feels more cut and dry from where I sit.

tmdonahue is right though - if this becomes A Thing, that could make future jobs hard to get.
posted by hijinx at 6:46 AM on June 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

You will be opening up an opportunity for someone else to take on your current role enthusiastically. Is there anyone in your current team you think you can mentor into the role - even continue past you starting the new job as someone they can seek non-judgemental advice from?
posted by saucysault at 6:46 AM on June 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Two things:

1. Everyone else has covered the flipside, that your current company wouldn't think twice about cutting you loose after two months if it was to their benefit. That's true, and you should consider it, but you sound like the kind of person who is hoping to exceed the bare minimum, so:

2. You did not actively seek out this new opportunity. It found you. It's one thing to start a job and keep interviewing (although that's not as bad as it sounds), but it's another for something to take you by surprise. Had you known about the new opportunity applying with the current company, that's a different question. But this wasn't something you planned for. There's no way you could've handled this any better than you are.

So, first order of business, don't do anything with your current job until you've got a written offer in hand from the new opportunity. Then, when you do get the offer, say to your current boss: "Hey boss, I said I'd commit for nine months, and I want you know that I wasn't looking for anything, but something found me anyway." Mention that it's twice the pay, with other benefits. If your manager is a good manager, they'll shake your hand and congratulate you on moving up. If your manager is not a good manager, well, who cares? Everybody I've ever had this conversation with, even pretty terrible managers, has understood that a significant pay increase is something almost no one can refuse. Give them the opportunity to counteroffer, although 2x at a large manufacturing company is probably not going to happen. But it's nice to let them think they can; they know the deal too. And then once you leave, the two months didn't happen. It doesn't go on your resume, and no one ever knows your worked for the manufacturer.

It happens all the time (especially in tech), and you have nothing to feel bad about. (And actually, quite a lot to feel good about.)
posted by kevinbelt at 6:50 AM on June 28, 2021 [5 favorites]

I worry that I'm abandoning people

This is, intentionally or not, a tool that management uses to keep people in less than ideal situations; it's shitty. But the fact is, you are replaceable, as is true of most if not all labor. As others have said; no one will die if you leave; they will be inconvenienced, but fine.

Quit with minimal guilt; find better work, try to join a union: In lots of union contracts, the "trial period" is longer than in non-union jobs, so that new prospective workers can feel the position out to see if it works for them. This probationary period can be as high as six months, where each party can say "this isn't our jam" and duck out. This is an oft-not-talked-about union benefit. At my current union-represented employ, we had a worker come in and it just wasn't a right fit. They left after 4 months and my manager was thrilled with this, to the point of offering to be a reference to help explain the short employment date with future employers (which she has done several times to good effect!).

This is one of those things that doesn't have to be this way, but just is because we let it. This could be different if more and more people unionized their workplaces.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:52 AM on June 28, 2021 [7 favorites]

Response by poster:
I'd add that this is something you can do once, maybe twice. If your resume is filled with two-week jobs, it will be hard to get interviews for future work.
I'm a contractor, so most of my roles are 6-9 months, no more than a year in most cases. But yes, I understand that. The only other time I've walked away from a contract was because it was toxic, and that was after 8 months.
posted by six sided sock at 6:52 AM on June 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh geez, go do the thing that could do more good in the world and make twice the money. It doesn't sound like things are going to get better for your current team very quickly, given the resistance you're encountering and overall slow pace of change there—that's not something you can change yourself, nor is it a weight you need to carry on your own shoulders. You're not going to solve that for them in just a few months with them, whereas you could be doing more for yourself and the world somewhere else.

Do your best to put them in a good place before you go, but go. You don't owe them all that guilt.
posted by limeonaire at 8:15 AM on June 28, 2021

I have developed a reputation for helping clients build their development teams around best practices.

I knew without reading past that line that you'd be thinking about leaving because they're not open to developing those best practices. It's a classic situation for consultants and, to borrow a sci-fi metaphor, your shields are down. That link is written towards managers because I think on some level this is an unforced error by whoever brought you in.

You're bored right now (another failure mode of management, not you), and you have an opportunity to do something fulfilling and be paid more. Take it. Do right by your current position with a reasonable time of offboarding (almost certainly less than 4 weeks), and then move on and enjoy your better position.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:50 AM on June 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer:
You know, you remind me of the man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town, and that the all the residents should evacuate their homes. But the man said, "I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me."

The waters rose up. A guy in a rowboat came along and he shouted, "Hey, hey you, you in there. The town is flooding. Let me take you to safety." But the man shouted back, "I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me."

A helicopter was hovering overhead, and a guy with a megaphone shouted, "Hey you, you down there. The town is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I'll take you to safety." But the man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God will take him to safety.

Well...the man drowned.

And standing at the gates of St. Peter he demanded an audience with God. "Lord," he said, "I'm a religious man, I pray, I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?" God said, "I sent you a radio report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here?"
Father Thomas Cavanaugh (Karl Malden) in West Wing
posted by kirkaracha at 9:52 AM on June 28, 2021 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Not sure if going straight past my defenses by posting TWW quotes is cheating, kirkaracha :).

Thank you all.
posted by six sided sock at 1:24 AM on June 29, 2021

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