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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

offer changed once I was on the job

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.


TheLabRat said...

If this offer to relocate landed you here in California, you have my condolences. In writing or not, with our housing prices here, an employer should be metaphorically flogged for even implying that something like this was part of the package and not following through.

The Engineer said...

If your story is correct then start looking for another position. I wouldn't fight it and waste the energy. Either the supervisor outright lied to you and knows that management cannot/will not make it right, or the company tacitly supports supports such tactics (and lied to you as an institution).

I think you will find more unsavory experiences as you continue there. I would continue to work and give no more than one weeks notice when you find a new position.

Charles said...

I do not understand; how did the OP move without a place to stay? Is the OP now staying at a hotel or something?

If a company is going to provide me with housing as part of the offer, would I be out-of-line to request to see it first?

This doesn't make any sense to me.

Anonymous said...

I don't necessarily think the employer was being cynical here, perhaps the manager really did exceed his authority and is now put in an awkward position by HR/his superiors.

I've seen this happen before, typically with inexperienced managers who don't stand up for their employees like good managers should.

It's time for you to go over his head. He might be unwilling to confront HR or his superiors but as the affected individual you certainly have a right to raise the issue with them.

Anonymous said...

Go directly to HR, do not pass Go, do not tell the manager.

Even if you were supposed to be a regular employee instead of a 10-month contractor, you do not want to work for a person like that any longer than you have to.

Turn the tables - do what you can to get the housing offer honored and also start looking for another job immediately (as well as backup housing, which sounds like it's your parents?).

When you find something else, give them two weeks' notice if the housing offer was honored - if it wasn't, you don't owe them any advance notice at all...

Anonymous said...

A verbal agreement is just as binding as a written agreement, just more difficult to prove.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 1:23 is entirely correct about verbal offers. My fear is that if the OP pushes the issue, and his contract has no early termination penalty, he will be early terminated.

Vidhya said...

I know how you feel. I once accepted a job and then when I came on board I was actually put on a job that was in a completely different function than what I had interviewed for. There is little we can do in these situations. Thankfully, it's just 10 months. Get the experience and move onto the real job of your dreams.. one that pays fairly and is permanent, and in the field you want.

Susan said...

I think the writer who was lied to should use caution with where to go from here. Yes, you could go straight to HR and try and burn your new boss, but that really could sour your relationship. This could make it difficult to find another job, especially in today's job market.

I do think it was wrong for the manager to either lie about the housing arrangement or make an offer that was out of his league. If the job search world was in better shape, I would say move back home with your parents and get another job. Considering the writer looked for 2 years to find a job in his/her field, I would caution him/her away from doing something he/she might ultimately regret. Then, it depends upon how bad the situation is.

Excluding the housing offer gone bad, do you like working there? Have you learned anything on the job that you can use to beef up your resume? Do you otherwise have a good relationship with your manager? Can this job lead to a better job at another company?

I definitely think the writer should seek other employment, but he/she should not leave until that other job has been found. It is easier to get a job when you have one than it is when you are unemployed. It sounds foolish, but I've found that to be true. Also, you don't want other employers to think that you're going to leave them anytime something goes wrong. You don't want to explain why you left your employer so soon during a job interview either. Although you are justified to leave, I feel it would leave a lasting negative impression on a hiring manager's mind, which might scare them away given so many other applicants in the pool.

I know that my advice sounds wimpy in a way. I do think you should use your current employer as much as possible to step into something else. I don't think quitting, unless the living expenses are bankrupting you, is a good idea in today's market. If the employer is going to use you, then use your employer for all you can get such as experience, training, references, and strong resume bullets.

Jamieson said...

AAM -- what do you think about the advice to leave with no notice?

Ask a Manager said...

Jamieson: I think she's ethically entitled to leave without notice; after all, they've reneged on an agreement. But I think she's got to weigh all the factors and figure out how much she wants the job/what she can get from it versus how much of an issue this is for her.

buscar siempre said...

Great news, everyone--I did go to bat and win, sort of, securing housing for myself. As AAM guessed, my boss has turned out to be an unpleasant person to work for, and someone I do not trust. I've continued the job search and found another position that is a fantastic fit for me--hurrah! The new employer would be willing to wait until my 10-month contract with my current employer is up... I'm a bit hung up on honoring my commitments, and would like to remain through the end of my contract if possible. I don't know if I'm being committed or a glutton for punishment.