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Friday, April 16, 2010

retaliation for not accepting previous job offer?

A reader writes:

I recently applied for a position in a company. A few months ago, I had interviewed for a different position in another division within the same company and received an offer. I reflected on where I wanted to go with my career and what I am presently working on and decided that this was not an opportunity that would help me move forward career-wise. I explained that to the recruiter and the hiring manager at the time, when turning down that offer.

Back to my applying for a different position with them now. When the hiring manager for the new position discussed my application with the hiring manager for the previous position and the HR person handling that previous position, apparently they raised a large number of objections and ultimately convinced the new hiring manager to not extend an offer. I also know that the new hiring manager was extremely interested in hiring me because I was an employee referral and was very impressed when we met for a brief two hour chat.

Is this kind of retaliation legal? What connection does a previous job offer have to do with another position in another division even though they are within the same company?

Yes, it's legal. Their reasons could be petty (taking it personally that you turned down an earlier offer) or rooted in something legitimate: for instance, maybe they felt that you hadn't been straight with them about your interest level for the other job earlier in the process, and that you'd wasted their time when you'd never had serious intentions of taking that job if offered. If they feel that way, they could be right, or they could be misinterpreting in an uncharitable way, or they could be flat-out wrong.

(By the way, one way to try to head that off when turning down an offer is to explicitly assure them that your interest in the position had been strong and genuine all the way through.)

But the real question here is whether there's anything that you can do about it now. It may be too late, but if they haven't yet firmly closed the door, it might be worth reaching out to the hiring manager for the second position and say that you're worried that the two others are reacting to the fact that you turned down their earlier offer, that your reasons for doing so were ____, and that that doesn't apply to this new position because _____.

Good luck!


Jonathan said...

It seems to me that we probably couldn't give an accurate accounting for what is going on without talking to the specific people involved. AAM is correct that there are a lot of reasons - some not malicious - that could be the cause.

It is possible that in such a situation, there is something that the candidate did when they declined the offer for the original position that didn't sit well with the hiring managers.

For all we know, the candidate did not express their reasons for turning down the job properly. This, in and of itself, could be an issue, for if the company is looking for strong communication skills, but did not see them in action, it would be quite telling.

Bottom line, though, AAM is right. You might still have a chance. Go after the job. Explain yourself. Even if you don't get this one, show some tenacity and some grace and maybe they'll keep you in mind for the next job.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know how the OP knows what the various hiring managers have been discussing about her. I've been turned down before, and I was never privileged in knowing who was talking to whom.

Ahmed G Abdel-Wahab said...

It is over. You should learn from it. But look for a job somewhere else. Good luck.
Ahmed Gad Abdel-Wahab
Professor of Management

Anonymous said...

I have a follow-up question: if the OP pursued that first position all the way through to the job offer, and then reflected on career direction, etc. and chose to turn the offer down, doesn't explicitly assuring them that his/her interest in the position had been strong and genuine all the way through reflect a bit poorly on the OP? Wouldn't a hiring manager say, "Why is it just not occurring to you that this isn't where you want to go with your career? Didn't you think about that before?"

I ask because I'm thinking about withdrawing myself as a candidate for a particular job because I don't think the position is right for me, though I would really like to pursue something different within the same organization in the future. I don't want to appear indecisive, uncertain, or not ready to commit by with drawing or by turning down the job, if I get an offer. But I also don't want to accept a position that's not right for me/for which I'm not right just to save face with HR at this organization.

Anonymous said...

Ack! FOUR days without a new AAM post?

I'm starting to suffer from withdrawal symptoms...

Ask a Manager said...

Ha! I've had the flu -- a horrible, never-ending flu. The sort of posts that my fever-addled brain would produce right now are NOT anything you would want to read.

Anonymous said...

20 years ago I interviewed with a Fortune 10 company. They offered me the position but I stated that what I had learned through the interview was that I did not feel that the position was a good fit for me and my goals. Three weeks later, the HR manager called to offer me another position which was perfectly aligned with my goals and their needs. I worked there almost six years. I think their response to your honesty proved that it might not be a place you would want to work.