Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 39 – Turning a job offer down

This month we discuss turning job offers down. This may seem like rather a strange subject to look at, however, there may come a time when you will have to consider the possibility that the job you thought looked great on paper, turned out to be less than perfect.

In this issue we will look at:

• Are you afraid to say no?
• Weighing up the possibilities
• Do you have any questions?
• A Thought to ponder

Are you afraid to say no?

Most people are, especially when it comes to turning a job down, they feel that by turning a job opportunity down they are:
• Never going to work again;
• Wasting everyone’s time – including their own, the interviewers, the HR people and/or the employment agency;
• The job market is so tight there just isn’t anything else going; and
• You need the money, so anything will do – right? Actually no.

If you are typical of most people, your internal critic will be expressing its opinion – over and over again. Add the comments of friends and family and all of a sudden it seems like you really don’t have a say whether you take a particular job at all. In fact people are probably telling you that you’d be mad if you didn’t. And one by one, those niggling doubts that you had during the interview are silenced, drowned out by the voices that are “shouting loudest” and you reason that the money would solve a few problems after all.

By taking a position that you don’t want, can create more problems than it solves. You may start out by trying to do the right thing by your new boss, you arrive on time, you do what is expected of you. But you are not happy. The doubts that you had in the first place start niggling, and the inner critic who told you to take the job in the first place starts telling you – “well I told you so.” You may even resent those well meaning family members and friends who urged you to take it.

Then what happens?

Some of you may start to look for other opportunities, whilst a few will stick it out. After all, a promise is a promise. Unfortunately with an attitude like that, things will gradually start to deteriorate.

Your attitude towards your job and the people you work with, will start to show. This can be in many subtle ways that include:
. Your appearance; What you choose to wear, whether you bother to polish your shoes or remove the chipped nail polish speaks volumes about your attitude to the job you are doing and the people you are working with;

. The way you answer the telephone and deal with customers and colleagues;

. Your time keeping may be poor – for instance, arriving a few minutes late each day, or ducking out early “to miss the traffic”; taking slightly longer lunch breaks; or feigning illness;

. You do what you are paid to do, and nothing more.

I’m sure there are some people reading this who may recognise themselves in this scenario. There may be some people who recognise their work colleagues or partners.

Why are we so afraid to trust our instincts that says – actually this job isn’t right for me. The job sounded great on paper, and that is why I applied for it, and that is why I took on the job. But it’s not really what I want to do at all. 

Weighing up the possibilities

If you are faced with the problem of whether you accept a job offer or not, then it is important to weigh up the possibilities before you say yes or no.

Do you take the job even though you know you will be looking for something else the day after tomorrow? Would you feel guilty because of the time, effort and money that has already been spent interviewing you, and what about all the on-the job training that you are going to need?

If you are ever faced with this situation, then it is important that you weigh up the positives and negatives. Ask yourself some questions, and be honest with your answers.

• What are the benefits of taking the position? Is it for the prestige, better money, closer to home, new challenges, better hours or any job is better than no job at all.
• What are the benefits of staying where you are? Is it comfortable – you know the people, you know the job, there is a possibility you can take on other duties or take on project work, you are close to retirement and don’t want the hassle of learning something totally new if you are going to be leaving the work force in a few years.
• Do you have any other job prospects that would suit you better than the one on offer?
• Have you spoken to your network? What are their opinions about the organisation and/or the people? Be careful with this one though as you will get opinion, bias and hearsay.
• What does your family say? Whilst this can be a double-edged sword. Having a frank and open discussion at the beginning of the process can assist everyone to understand what your misgivings are.
• Have you spoken to the organisation? Can you arrange to meet your new colleagues, or your new boss to discuss the role in detail? Whilst you should have taken the opportunity to contact the organisation for more information before attending the interview, and asked some pointed questions during the interview process, post interview gathering of information can be a valuable tool to help you make up your mind. We will offer some useful questions to ask should you ever be faced with this situation.
• Do you worry about what people will think?
• Are you afraid to say “NO” this job isn’t for me after all.
• Will this new position take you further down your chosen career path, or will it take you away from where you want to ultimately end up? Of course if you don’t know where you want to end up at the end of your career, bear in mind that any road will get you there.

Do You Have any Questions?
Post interview fact gathering can be used to determine if a job really is for you or not.

If you have done your homework correctly, researched the organisation, re-read the job description, selection criteria and application package you should have formulated some questions. You may also have been able to make a mental note of one or two others from the questions that the interviewers have asked you.

Whilst most of the questions that you will be asking will be based on the job description, and the specific industry and/or position that you are applying for, there are a number of questions that you can ask regardless of the job you are going for, or the organisation that you will be working in. For instance “What do you like most about this company?” and of course its opposite, “and what do you like least about working for the company.” The answers are always interesting and can tell you an awful lot about the organisation, its culture and the people it employs.

• What can you tell me about the culture and the environment?
• What do you like most about working for this company?
• What do you like the least?
• What is (your) the department head’s leadership style?
• Is someone currently “acting” in the position or is it a new role?
• What are the company’s objectives for this year? Have you managed to meet them?
• What are the company’s objectives for next year? What plans do you have in place to meet those goals and objectives?
• What will be my primary role on the project?
• What is the time frame for completion? Do you think this is realistic?
• What other resources (people and equipment) have been allocated to it?
• Does the project have a budget allocated to it?
• What would be the first aspect required and by when?
• What would be the deliverables?
• What does the client expect at the end of the project?
• How will success be measured?
• Have similar projects been completed in the past? Were they successful?
• Will there be other opportunities within the company once this particular project has been completed?
• Are there additional opportunities to expand my responsibilities if I meet or exceed the company’s expectations?
• Who would my co-workers be, and what are their functions?
• How many people would I be managing?
• What are the goals of the department?
• What makes this company different from its competitors?

If after you have weighed up all the possibilities, options and information, you are still not sure, remember that there are no right or wrong answers to this dilemma. Whichever decision you take will simply give you a different set of experiences to take with you as you move through your professional life. It’s how you handle the experiences that really matter.

A Thought to Ponder
“We belittle an intuition, calling it only a hunch, and therefore not to be taken too seriously. I encourage you to take your hunches and intuitions very seriously. They contain some of your highest, most profound insights and wisdom”
Lucia Capacchione
American art therapist and pioneer in inner healing