A reader writes:
I just finished my second week in my "dream job," but there are some complications, and I'm not sure how to proceed.
The job required moving from the Midwest to the West coast; I both received the job offer and accepted it by phone. At the time of offer, I was offered a salary for a 10 month interim position with no benefits. To compensate for the lack of benefits, the company offered me a rent-free apartment for the duration of my employment there in a very attractive location if I would like. I accepted, but did mention that the housing opportunity would be necessary for me to relocate.
They needed me to start right away--a week later I began my new job, but was told by my boss that the housing opportunity had fallen through, and that the company could no longer offer me housing. I tried to discuss that this was unacceptable--housing is astronomical in my area and cutting housing from my offer equates to cutting my salary by a third. My boss replied that because housing was not included in the written contract, but was rather an additional "perk" that they had hoped to provide to sway the best candidate to accept, that he was not liable to hold up his end of our verbal agreement. I was quite flabbergasted at this response, which I find unethical. It is important to me to work for someone I can trust. He further asked me not to discuss the matter of housing with anyone else at work, as this is something he apparently did under-the-table, without approval from those above him, so basically, there's no one to advocate for me. I definitely got the sense when talking to him that this conversation is closed and that there will be no room to negotiate in the future.
But it's a job, and the first offer in my field I've had in almost 2 years of hunting; I'm not sure if I'd rather stick it out than stay with my parents and resume the job search.
What are my options here? And how can I gracefully exit if need be?
Okay, everyone repeat after me: Always, always, always get every detail of a job offer in writing, if you want those details to be respected.
If they don't offer it in writing, ask them to send you an email outlining what's been agreed to. Or send your own summary, asking them to write back with confirmation. Otherwise, later on, it can be like the conversation never happened. As you've discovered.
Okay, lecture over. What should you do now?
Option #1: Go to your boss. Say the following: "I'm extremely concerned about this. As I mentioned to you during our negotiations, the housing offer was 100% necessary for me to accept the offer and relocate. I did make that clear at the time, and you made a clear offer to me of housing. No one indicated it was anything but a definite part of the offer. I accepted the offer with that understanding. Removing that aspect of the package now essentially cuts my compensation by a third, which obviously isn't practical. What can we do now?"
This is your boss' problem to deal with. He made an offer he apparently didn't have the authority to make -- but the fact is that he made it, while acting as a representative of the company. If he refuses to deal with it, you need to discuss it with HR or someone above him. Frankly, I would do that without bothering to tell him you're going to, as you don't want him to get there ahead of you and do something to undermine your claim.
When you take this over his head, he may claim he never promised you that, so be prepared for that to happen.
Option #2: The alternative, of course, is to suck it up and not fight it, especially since you have nothing in writing.
If you do fight it, you may not win. If you win, you may have permanently poisoned your relationship with your boss. Either way, this may not be a man you want to work with anyway.
(I'm assuming that your version of events is correct. If it's possible that your boss didn't give you a firm commitment on housing, even though you thought you heard that, that changes things.)
It's hard to advise someone to quit a job in this economy. On the other hand, this job was only slated to last 10 months anyway. You have to weigh all of these factors and decide how you want to proceed.