Question

rehireA new hire in my department resigned after two days at work. He took a counter-offer at his previous company where he had been 22 years. I know you advise against accepting counter-offers because it “marks” you as a wayward employee that will likely be replaced soon. My manager says that he burned bridges with our company and we would not interview or rehire him. My take? Employment at-will rules the day, so I would have no problem, but it’s not my decision. Should he be “marked” here, too, because he quit? How would you advise my company if he were to apply again in the future?

Nick’s Reply

You raise a good, new question, even if it’s hypothetical. How should your company, which he jilted, view this if the errant new hire returns and applies for a job again later? I think the answer lies in another question: What’s the a difference between an employee that quits 22 years after they were hired, and one that quits after just two days on the job?

Why rehire?

To some extent, I agree with your boss. Why take another chance on a new hire who quits to go back to the old employer? Again, it depends on the circumstances. It’s important to remember that hiring and getting hired is a business and financial decision. Certainly, other factors matter. But in the end, that new hire had to consider several things, including leaving your boss in the lurch and hurting his own reputation.

If he revealed a callous disregard for your company, was rude or manipulative and dishonest, then I’d never rehire him.

Why rehire someone who walked out on you? Well, why did his old company take him back? You do it if they are forthright, very good at their work and honest. I would seriously consider hiring him again if only because my company needs good workers. So I agree with you. Hiring him back would be a business and financial decision. Isn’t that why his original employer made a counter-offer to a “disloyal” employee who “walked out on them” after years instead of days? (Of course, it is possible he’s now “marked” — we may never know!)

Why do we hire?

The unknown is whether he might disappear again. It depends entirely on the individual and the circumstances. If this sounds wishy-washy, consider an extreme case. Suppose this guy was not very pleasant, but your company desperately needed his skills. You might hire him anyway. Sometimes we have to swallow hard, ignore the difficulties, and make the purely pragmatic decision. We don’t hire because we want to be happy. We hire because we need good workers who can get the job done.

The bottom line is, if the guy was worth hiring the first time, he’d probably be worth hiring again. Of course, it would be wise to have a heart-to-heart about “Are you going to do it again?” Perhaps his old employer asked this question, too.

Sometimes we make decisions in business that hurt others, like laying someone off or quitting our job. We’re inflicting pain unintentionally but perhaps unavoidably. Each person and company must do what’s best for them. So, I’ll reiterate the puzzle I already posed: Does it make a difference when someone quits after two days or 22 years?

Where is the line?

Is a no-rehire policy prudent? If this individual were to apply again for a job at your company in the future, I agree with you that they should consider him. Since your boss hired him once, I assume your boss has judged him to be good at his job and pleasant enough to work with. While this episode has been inconvenient and has cost your company time and money, that’s business. If your company writes people off as “no rehire” because they quit, it’s going to miss out on some great talent in a highly competitive economy. And meanwhile, the work is not getting done. So where is the line?

Have you ever started a new job only to accept a counter-offer and quit? What’s your company’s policy on re-hiring employees that quit? Would you re-apply at a company you quit after just two days? Where is the line?

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43 Comments
  1. It seems very short-sighted to have a no rehire policy based on something so bland as quitting “at will” after a couple days. If this guy came back 5 years later, would he still be blacklisted? A lot can happen in 5 years and businesses are, for all practical purposes, immortal beings.
    Were I work, we act as something of a “feeder” organization for other organizations in the region which results in us having influential contacts across our state. If they decide they want to return to the fold after a few years (or a couple days in one case I am aware of) they are welcomed back.
    Caveat: My professional experience comes almost exclusively from working at a non-profit, quazi-governmental organization so our mission is bettering the economy rather than taking down our competitors. I assume that changes the mindset against rehiring people who decided to check the how green the grass was on the other side of the bridge. $.02 deposited.

    • Unless it was unethical or deceptive, I agree.

      I do think that sitting for the role is bad (not fatal) form. And it could open questions of judgement. It would have been better if he had not sat for a couple days.

      “To what end? Vengeance? That is an expensive luxury. Statesmen cannot afford it.”
      -Cardinal Richelieu (“The Three Musketeer” 1973)

      • There are some interesting and important details that are left out in this (presumably hypothetical) scenario. One of them is: was there a contract? If he violated his employment contract by leaving the way he did, then there is no reason to trust him again. Especially if the original company (the one hiring him for 22 years and then giving a counter offer) fired him so soon after re-hiring (Nick warns us against the counter-offer game because of this risk).

        I have known only a very few co-workers who were so good at what they did, that an employer would consider rehiring him even after he quit. Most will consider that employment history too dubious, even outweighing all the positive employment history of 22 years.

        In fact, it sounds to me like he was abusing the counter-offer: you are supposed to get a counter-offer after getting the first offer but before you accept employment elsewhere. That he accepted that employment elsewhere is already a mark against him: he does not consider himself bound to keep his word.

        The Victorian Virtue of keeping one’s word may sound hopelessly old-fashioned, so let me bring it up to date by pointing out that although corporations don’t care when they break their word to employees, they get very upset when it is the employee who is breaking his word to their bosses!

        • @Matt: The Victorian Virtue is indeed still worth something. But when it’s one-way, it’s difficult to justify worrying much about an employer when the worker has to make an important choice.

          The Q in this week’s column is not hypothetical. It’s from a real person and the scenario is real. I don’t think there was an employment contract. Contracts are rare except at the highest levels, and this was apparently a staff position.

          • I don’t think one can make such a choice based on absolute rules. Sometimes a single day at a new job is enough to repent taking it, and call up fonder memories of the old job, and a former employer to regret losing him or her.

            • @Tom: I have placed candidates I lost to a competitor that way. They started the job. I called them just to say sorry it didn’t work out with my client, but I’d just like to stay in touch. How’s it going?

              As you note, the first 2 weeks are the riskiest time at a new job. Sometimes it just doesn’t click. If someone’s waiting in the wings to rescue you, you listen.

  2. I had a similar discussion with a friend and former boss.

    He recommended me for a role at a place he works now. We had a long talk about, if I were hired, how long would be appropriate to stay (the compensation was not particularly good). I offered on year (I value our relationship and his reputation).

    His take was neither he, nor anyone he works with, would think less of me for accepting a role in my best interest. Even if it was less than a year.

    The only “but” he offered is if the company made a significant investment in me up front. He told a story of a guy that came in for a role, took six weeks of paid training, and within two weeks of completing the training, turned it around for a position with another company (using the training). There are hard feelings about that guy.

    For myself, one time I was offered a contractor role for a six-moth project. The head hunter wanted my word that I would stay for the whole six months. Poor pay, a crappy company, no new or exciting technology. I declined (I was not legally bound to remain, but my word is my word).

    • Gregory, I may (may) be facing a similar situation to what you described in the last paragraph. I accepted a contract position on my second strength (content editor/writer, not marketing with a side of writing) starting next month. The rate is low, but the company is fairly prestigious (BPO consulting in healthcare) and beyond the writing there’s planning, exposure to digital, and a possible conversion. I took the below-market offer because I want to get back in the game, secure my finances, and the people I’d be working with seemed nice enough (but the agency is amateur night). I’m also tired of a year of fruitless effort and rejection since I learned my position was eliminated last year as a result of an acquisition.

      Interestingly, I’m now getting multiple approaches for other positions, also writing/editing/content, at far better rates (about $10-20 per hour–and more). These now seem to be ‘catching’ and I’m interviewing. If one of them offered and I cleared, I would quit what I accepted with notice of course. (I’m also looking at my last 1-2 jobs and years before hanging it up for good, so I’m not overly concerned about burning bridges or advancement, but income.)

      Part of this is that I can’t seem to make a dent now in direct hire, FTE positions as a marketing director in healthcare/health tech, probably because I’m a generalist and hard to categorize, not a digital native nor 40 (age discrimination is real, even when you’re networked in, and when you are better qualified than your boss you get DQ’d fast), but I keep hearing that will change with the influx of investment and my skill set.

      My question is how unethical is quitting a few weeks or months into a contract assignment?

      • Normally, I have no issue leaving a job or contract. With the six-month contract I referred to, I was specifically asked by the headhunter to commit to the entire six months. And I seriously considered. But all the advantage was for the employer…I could have been let go during that contract for any (or no) reason.

        I firmly believe that leaving a job is ethical. Between layoffs, I have worked various low-level jobs, just to maintain cash flow. And I put in my notice as soon as I line something up.

        The thing is, when employment is “at will,” the employer can let you go whenever they wish. Which has happened to me plenty of times. Usually the severance is the amount of time it takes to drop off my laptop and badge. Ultimately, their game, their rules.

        • A lot of people don’t look at or redline the offer letter. I did as I always do, redlined it, and it was all accepted. You did and saw that the six-month commitment was strictly one-sided. Had the employer committed to a full six months, and if the project ended or they terminated you without cause before the time was up, if they stated that they would pay you out, would you have taken it?

          What’s unusual are the number of marketing jobs spilling out into the market that are worded to actually eliminate the most experienced with the broadest capabilities, especially using ‘digital’ and ‘SEO/SEM’ as eliminators. These are areas where you can outsource the specialized expertise. These jobs appear again…and again…on the boards. Doesn’t speak well to leadership or some of the relatively inexperienced people I’ve met with senior titles, does it?

          • @Dee: No, I would not have accepted, even if a payout was agreed.

            By making that commitment, I would be removing myself for at least three months (figuring that 90 days is not unusual from initial contact to sitting for a role). Two weeks after an offer to sit for a role is typical. A month is not unheard of. But asking an employer to wait months is pushing it. Especially for a role that is not particularly attractive to begin with.

    • @Gregory: When I used the word “manipulative” in my reply, that’s what I was referring to — using the company and taking advantage.

  3. I have worked for companies that have a no rehire policy. These are not formal policies but preferences of senior management not to take back “disloyal” staff.

    • One of my former employers didn’t have a formal no re-hire policy, I did notice that the former employers who did come back to the company only stayed a short while. My suspicion? Whatever it was about the company drove them to leave in the first place had not changed.

  4. As a hiring manager, I would say it depends entirely on the person, the job being filled, and the reason they left. It’s not a simple question.
    We recently hired an employee in procurement as a buyer and they quit after two days. I would not choose to rehire the individual simply because the return on investment is not likely to pay off.
    Some years back, I hired a highly skilled technician who was fantastic but left after two weeks to rejoin his previous company. I would rehire him if he applied for a job in the future.
    The difference is a reflection of the value placed on the skill set and how the employee communicated the situation. It shouldn’t be emotional but honesty and integrity go a long way.
    Great question.

    • @John: Thanks for the two examples. I don’t mean to reduce a complex decision to one point, but I’m curious. If you judged the buyer good enough to hire to begin with, how would the ROI be inadequate upon rehire?

      • Hi Nick,

        The buyer role is easier to fill and requires no special skills. (We are willing to train the employee on our methods and business system.) In this particular case, the employee was struggling to learn the process and left abruptly without explanation. These two factors influenced my assessment.
        Thanks for always stimulating topics. :)

        Cheers,
        JP

        • @John: Gotcha. Thanks for the clarification. And thanks for your kind words! :-)

  5. I’m all for people choosing what is best for them. God knows the businesses do the same, so turn-about is fair game, but there can be consequences. With that being said, a quick turn (a few days) does imply a level of poor planning and using the ‘new’ company as a tool to leverage their old company, which has an ethical component. But, I get it. This person probably knew his old company would counter, but he had already quit and didn’t want to take the risk of informing the new company he was no longer available until the counter offer and acceptance was finalized.
    I guess, personally, I would avoid someone who did this to me in the past, as ‘fool me once…’ comes into play. But, what is the line? I would say about 6 months of work implies you tried to make it work, or you just got a better offer and it’s time to move on.

    • @Paul: Can’t say I disagree with you but it’s a finer point than that. A good friend of mine was fully planning to leave her job and join another firm. She accepted the offer with no plan to use it to squeeze a counter-offer from her old employer. She was all ready to go.

      At the last minute her boss made a full-court press and a good counter-offer. Granted, she had not yet started the new job, but she had made a clear commitment. She apologized, and she took the counter. There was never any intention to take advantage of anyone. It all worked out very well for her — she made the right choice.

      The final bit is that a headhunter was involved. He wasn’t happy! But he bit his lip hard, congratulated her and thanked for for the chance to work together. Over the next 5 years he made a lot of placements in her group.

      So where’s the line? This isn’t always a neat and tidy story. I don’t disagree with anything you said — I think your judgments are all valid.

  6. If would be nice to know the terms of the counteroffer especially salary bump and promotion? A good friend of mine advanced in his career by hopping back and forth between two companies. He would stay at least a year in each position. Sooner or later the previous company would call him with an offer. So no real work on his part. Every time he hopped he would get a nice pay bump and a promotion to justify the new salary. I called this the ping ball way to job hop. I wish I had thought of this when I was younger.

    • @Felix: Nah, you don’t. I’ve known people that do this. It always ends badly. I met one guy, a talented engineer, who jumped jobs every few months. He got so arrogant that he actually managed to hold down 2 or 3 at the same time with no one the wiser. Each jump boosted his income.

      He hoped I’d help him because I could earn loads of fees. I valued my biz relationships too much to walk him in any client’s door.

      Didn’t take long for word to get out. He was blacklisted.

      • Just to play devil’s advocate: This guy could hold down 2 or 3 full-time positions simultaneously?!?! Seems like he would be worth 2x – 3x what companies were willing to pay.

        • @DB: That’s one way to look at it! I met him in Silicon Valley many years ago. He averaged 10-15% on each jump. In those days, engineers might work from 6am to 3pm. Or pull 48 hours straight. As long as the work got done, nobody cared. So this guy just ran himself ragged playing the clock. After he told me all this, he suggested we work together and he’d share part of his winnings in exchange for my help. I never spoke to him again; I just didn’t need that kind of game in my life.

          • Nick, that guy sounds like a real jerk, no question. But consider the ways that large tech firms in the SV colluded to not poach each other’s employees, something that held salaries down (along with outsourcing, etc) and forced people to ping and/or pong bt employers there. I could name people and companies I know which of course I won’t. Just hard working folks trying to climb the ladder. There was a lawsuit and settlement over this. I agree with the poster that said it’s an employment at will landscape.

            • @Yoomi: Yes, it was truly the Wild West back then. Everyone knew everyone.

  7. I think a “no rehire” policy is shortsighted. For any hire, if I have concerns during the application/interview process, we have the conversation up front. “You mentioned you prefer X and we do Y. If you are tied to X, you won’t be happy here. Let’s talk about that.” For a rehire, it might be around motivations and what changed so I can understand the thought process.

    In a similar vein: I personally accepted a job many years ago and then received an unsolicited and much better job offer just before I was to start at the first job. I had previously worked with both the hiring managers, all of us at the same company so they knew each other. When I received the unsolicited offer, I told him I couldn’t accept because I’d already given my word on the other job. He said, “This is clearly a better job, call Joe and tell him about this.” I did, explained the situation and said I would defer to what he needed because I wouldn’t want to cause harm to him. His response: “That is a better job, you have to take it and go with my blessing.” He made it clear that he would rehire me, even though I never started.

    Life is better when you work with good and ethical people.

    • @Annette: True! But how many folks here would ever be in the position of calling “Joe” expecting to get an honest, enlightened response like that?

      You’ve been very fortunate, and I’ll guess you’ve also had the foresight to make very good choices about whom you’ve worked with. My compliments!

      I just wish everyone played on that level.

      • @Nick – I don’t disagree, Joe is an exceptional person and I was shocked at his response. At the same time, I do believe my approach (telling him and then remaining committed to the position I accepted) positively influenced that as an outcome.

        I’ve heard people say that companies will take advantage of them so they need to take advantage of companies. With that perspective, you are probably destined to have a bad experience just about every time.

        For example, a small company with a long-term employee might not be aware of an external change in compensation for that particular role. Perhaps they weren’t operating with malice, which seems to be the assumption by some in these comments. Perhaps they were busy and when they became aware, they did try to make things right.

        It’s not all roses, I have been treated poorly as a job seeker and as a hiring manager. It simply informs me about the people with whom I will do business going forward.

        • @Annette: We all have to decide what kind of person we want to be. It affects what kinds of people we wind up working and living with — that is, who is drawn to us.

  8. When you think about it all hires are case by case considerations, this one just presents another case.

    Generally I think blanket no rehire policies are bad business. They eliminate even a case analysis and leave the door open for missed hiring opportunities. Unless, as Nick noted, there’s dishonesty, attitude, mistreatment of people involved a manager should always take a look.

    Because, if you assume the offended company has a hiring process they believe in, if the person was considered a value add last week, they are a value add this week. If some time’s elapsed most likely a better hire as their value has increased due to more experience.

    And in the case of a counter offer. Knowing the likelihood that the person will later find it didn’t stick, I’d simply have given my biz card and said “give me a call if it doesn’t work out.”

    The 2 day situation is unusual but not rare. I’ve even seen no shows. Acceptance with a start date…and nothing. Those I would not do business with.

    I’ve seen enough of this no rehire stuff on the part of hiring managers to believe egos are at the heart of them and not business decisions. They took it personally & mixing that up with a business decision usually is bad business.

    Personally my belief is, if as a manager you are losing a valued person from your team, the day they leave, is the you start your recruitment plan to bring them back. Not with a counter offer. Just keep in touch/network. Bless them if they do well. And if they do, if I can bring them back, I bring back a known performer with added know-how.

    Years ago I read of some office furniture manufacturer. Where as policy, gladly rehired. Their experience showed them that the retention of rehires well exceeded first hires. Seemingly the rehires came back better informed (that grass wasn’t really greener), had real-life experience to compare to other companies & wanted to be back. It really is good business.

  9. So why exactly is the worker in this question suddenly worth more money to his previous employer after quitting after 22 years of tenure? By today’s standards, 22 years of tenure is a chunk of lifetime, in fact, its almost unheard of today (I had a phone interview just last month where the two young millennial hiring managers were absolutely flabbergasted that I had 8 years of tenure with my current employer).
    Many years ago, I worked for a (toxic) steel company. We had a guy who did the Q.C. inspections. He wasn’t particularly an outstanding employee, nor was he all that adept at his job. But he was the only guy there who could half-way do the job. Every year like clockwork, he’d demand a raise, and he threatened to move on if he wasn’t granted one. As bad as this employer was, they eventually stopped meeting his demands. The rub was he never walked. The last I heard, he’s still there today, and hasn’t seen raises since.
    I’ve been out in the trenches for a very long time now, and my gut tells me that this guy used this technique as a ploy to get a raise from his former employer. Why else would he leave after 22 years of tenure?
    The asker of the question brought up at will employment. The bottom line is you always have to look out for yourself professionally. I’ve seen employers terminate people after two days on the job, in fact I’ve seen people terminated after one day on the job for that matter, and not always for anything aberrant, nor for gross misconduct. Employers aren’t watching your back, and you’d be foolish to think otherwise.
    Every employer I’ve ever had (save for a small metal fabricator I once worked for, and who invited me to reapply one day)had a no rehire policy. That’s the nature of the game.
    The question begs, if you quit after 22 years, or after 2 days, why pray tell would you return to that employer?
    The narrative in this question is fishy, and it stinks.

    • Antonio, there’s too many unknowns & assumptions in counter offer situations, particularly without knowing the context e.g. the company.
      People leave companies with 20+ tenure all the time, e.g. “firing the boss”. And why counter offer?
      I’ve seen what I’ll call the “Oh shit!” moment in companies more than once, mostly from layoffs. Where upper management in their wisdom, based on #’s lay off someone as you noted, happens to be the ONLY person who knows how to maintain the company’s legacy nuffling bar product.
      Or a manager permits the transfer of the only guy who does software builds & they can’t convince an engineer to do it.
      Here’s a quote “Why can’t you fix it?” Answer, you laid off/fired the only guy who knows how.” Does this mean that the boss was an idiot? No. It often means upper management makes out the hit list without consulting the people who really understands the impact.

      And I’ve never done it, but I’ve seen a few counteroffers happen (or not happen). And a not uncommon reaction to the person who got the offer is …anger. really pissed off. Reason, “Why did I have to threaten to, or quit, to get this offer?? If I was worth this, why wasn’t I given it?”. And they walk.

      Smart managers never put themselves in position to have operations derailed by a beer truck. i.e where you have only 1 person who knows how to do something. Hit by a beer truck and you’re screwed. Likewise they aren’t positioned by threats to leave by anyone.
      But…it happens.

      And what’s a company these days. You can technically have 20 years tenure, but in the history of it you went through a series of acquisitions where you started with a nice job in a nice company then find yourself in something toxic, with bosses and mentors you liked to work with…gone & you’re hanging in the breeze.

      • > I’ve seen what I’ll call the “Oh shit!” moment in companies more than once, mostly from layoffs. Where upper management in their wisdom, based on #’s lay off someone as you noted, happens to be the ONLY person who knows how to maintain the company’s legacy nuffling bar product.

        Many years ago, I was part of a small team working on a portion of a big modernization project—one team among many from several different consulting companies working on different portions of the project. One day, the company’s SME — who was key to most, if not all, of the bits of the project assigned to the consulting companies — is canned. The resulting climbing-all-over-each-other of the various consulting companies to woo this guy into joining *their* team would have almost been funny if it hadn’t been a result of some extreme short sightedness by the company’s management team.

      • Don, I’ll concede, the Devil is in the details with counter offers. I’ve seen less and less counter offers being made today, even for long termed tenured employees in good standing who decided to jump ship. Sure, many get mad at counter offers. Expecting the average narcissistic (and often morally bankrupt) employer to make such a counter offer is like believing a crack whore who says she loves you.
        “Smart managers never put themselves in position to have operations derailed by a beer truck”. But in actuality, how many “smart” managers have you seen out there who pay even a lick of credence to this axiom? I might (and I stress might) be able to count on one hand the number I have encountered.
        The British have a saying “from sandals to sandals in three generations”. The gist of it being the hardworking entrepreneurial grandfather started the company, the children took it over, then the grandchildren finally took it over and drove it into the ground and bankrupted it. The British also have a saying “that’s just how life is” (a mantra I’ve learned to embrace).
        “What’s a company today” you ask? Some of us know the answer (including yourself) to that question.

  10. IMHO, I think it is short-sighted and bad business to have a blanket “no re-hire” policy without any exceptions, because there are always nuances that might justify taking another chance on someone.

    I agree that your word should mean something, but I also think that cuts both ways, i.e., that Victorian value of your word meaning something should apply equally to employees AND employers.

    In this week’s question, the discussion is about the employee’s behavior, but how many times have we seen unethical behavior from employers? If the employer decided to fire a new hire after two days on the job, the employee would wonder why he was hired in the first place, and perhaps regret quitting his old job.

    I don’t know what happened at the employee’s old job that suddenly made his former employer realize his value (after 22 years, they should have recognized it before he quit, but I’ve found that too many employers don’t recognize an employee’s value until he’s not there to do the job, and then it is “uh oh, now what do we do–project x won’t get done without Bob). Apparently the employee either received a big enough bump in salary or promotion to make it worth it to go back to an employer who previously didn’t value him. Will the employer value him now, or just long enough for him to train someone else and then fire him?

    I also think that today, employees have to look out for themselves. Yes, you can be ethical and keep your word, and hope that your employer will also have some kind of honor. But too many do not, and with at-will employment the law in 49 states, there’s nothing to stop an employer from firing an employee who has been there a short time, and that employee will be told “this is business and not to take it personally”. Recently, in my local newspaper, there was an opinion piece written by a woman who, when discussing jobs, wrote that she had taken a job in desperation, and she was fired before the “training” period was over (3 days). She wrote that she knew it was a bad fit, but she was willing to try because she needed to work, but she didn’t think that she would be fired after a mere 3 days. That’s not long enough to learn anything, to do anything, or even for feuds to develop.

    If I were the employer, and this guy should, at some time in the future, apply for another job there, I wouldn’t blacklist him. If he was good enough to hire the first time, then I think I would have a conversation with him about why he quit after only 2 days, etc. That doesn’t mean I’d hire him, but I wouldn’t immediately write him off either.

    • @Marybeth, where can one access the op-Ed article you speak of? I’d really like to read it.

      • @Antonio Zoli: After some searching, I found the opinion piece. I’ll very gladly send you the link, although I’d prefer not to post it here. What I remembered about the piece was that the writer had been taken a job that she knew was a bad fit, and was fired a few days after her start date. What I had forgotten was that the article’s primary focus wasn’t so much about jobs, employers, etc. as about politics.

        I’d rather not post the link here, in order to keep the discussion focused on the topic, and given how divisive politics can be.

        My apologies for tuning out and forgetting the politics part. So if you’re still interested, please let me know (and we can go through Nick so our contact information isn’t posted quite so publically).

  11. I am reading a book on corporate espionage. If the company he had laft and went back to was a competitor, that would raise a red flag.

  12. There are so many unknowns about both the rationale for returning to the old company, and the situation at the new company. We don’t know why this employee left the original job, what they walked into at the new place, and what changed to make him return.

    I left my first engineering job after two weeks. The other company I’d interviewed with came in with a generous counter offer just as I was realizing that my new coworkers were still smarting from a major layoff that took out friends and colleagues. The company was hiring fresh out engineers instead of recalling any of those let go, many of whom were still unemployed. They were not welcoming, helpful or engaged, but distrustful and waiting for the other shoe to drop. I would not reapply, because I’d learned that the environment was toxic. Who knows, maybe someone who has been at the same job for 22 years lacks the same savvy to evaluate the culture during the recruitment process that I did at 25. In my case, it wasn’t the size of the counter offer but the timing of the outreach. I told my supervisor that I wasn’t coming back on Monday because I received an offer from a company where I felt I was a better fit. Which ultimately I was, but at that moment I was just relieved to have any out at all. I’m sure I would have kept interviewing and wouldn’t have lasted more than a few months.

    When you break up after two weeks, “it’s not you, it’s me” is just easier to say, and it’s easier to accept at face value rather than looking in the mirror.

  13. Wow. This reminds me of what happened at my company. One day, we were all surprised to see one of the top guys of our main competitor walking through the office. Turns out, our MD had hired him. What a coup! Next day he’s gone. The story goes that he forgot to tell his wife about the decision to leave his long-term company and she made him go back. Oh well.

    So would we rehire? Actually yes, he was a really good guy. He was really strong and exactly what we needed for business development.

    • @David: Your story reminds me of an engineer that received a good offer from my client. He wanted 2 weeks to decide, and said he’d also need to give 2 weeks’ notice so the soonest he could start was in a month. 2 weeks to decide might sound extreme, but there was a time when it was common. I kept checking in with him but didn’t apply pressure. He kept telling me he’d decide in 2 weeks.

      On the 14th day he called me, frantic. “Tell them I must start tomorrow! Tell them! No delay! I can’t afford to be without a paycheck!”

      Turns out the guy spent 13 days working up his courage to dangle his new offer in front of his boss so he could ask for a raise. His boss showed him the door. When the wife found out he was suddenly unemployed, she flipped. Ordered him to start immediately.

      Anything can backfire.

  14. I’m always surprised at employers when they get upset about people and when they leave or leave without notice. If the employer valued the employee they would not leave after 22 years. On another note, when employers get upset that an employee doesn’t give much notice or at all surprises me. When an employer is deciding to let you go they don’t consider giving you notice. I will say some will give pay in lieu but most don’t. I come from an HR background and have tried to get employers to see this point.

    Karen

    Have a Good Day!

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