Subscribe

Forum

Advice on turning down a job offer.

Welcome to the newly redesigned Science Careers Forum. Please bookmark this site now for future reference. If you've previously posted to the forum, your current username and password will remain the same in the new system. If you've never posted or are new to the forum, you will need to create a new account.

The new forum is designed with some features to improve the user experience. Upgrades include:
- easy-to-read, threaded discussions
- ability to follow discussions and receive notifications of updates
- private messaging to other SC Forum members
- fully searchable database of posts
- ability to quote in your response
- basic HTML formatting available

Moderator: Dave Jensen
Advisors:   Ana, PG, Rich Lemert, Dick Woodward, Dave Walker
Meet the Moderator/Advisors

Advice on turning down a job offer.

Postby KRA » Tue Jun 14, 2016 3:51 pm

I'm a young, female research faculty. I was a post doc for two and a half years and was recently promoted to research faculty. Since my current job is a non-tenure track position, I've been applying for faculty positions. I've received a couple of offers, one from a university which was my top choice. This was my dream job. However, one of the other faculty members at this university has been sending me inappropriate drunk texts. I met this person twice in the interview process and ran into him once at a conference - all in a very professional setting. I politely declined his advances (I wasn't sure if I was going to accept the job or not at that point so didn't want to be rude), however he has continued to send me inappropriate texts over multiple days. This is not a situation where he got drunk once and regretted what he said when he sobered up. I'm not going to accept the offer because of this individual. I really don't want to be in that sort of work environment, but my question is how do I turn down this offer? I really don't want to get dragged into a legal situation or have this negatively impact my career moving forward. I'm also in a relatively small field, so I want to be careful not to burn any bridges. In my previous interactions with the head of the department, search chair, and the other faculty, I've been very excited and positive about this job and the opportunity to join the university. How do I explain my complete change of mind? The actual offer was exceptional. It was a great startup package and salary. Do I simply say there was another offer that was a better fit and leave it at that? I'm not sure that the head of the department or search chair will believe that excuse, but I also don't want to give the real reason I'm turning it down. Any advice on how to handle turning down this offer would be appreciated.
KRA
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:09 pm

Re: Advice on turning down a job offer.

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jun 14, 2016 4:18 pm

KRA,

Why would you want to lose out on an exceptional opportunity, at an institution that excites you and with a great offer, because of a jerk? There are jerks everywhere. We work primarily in industry, and we hear stories about equally crazy people on that side of the fence.

I've no idea what it's like to get unwelcome advances. But, my thought is that someone like this is going to wash himself out of the system by his own conduct. How can something like this exist at an otherwise fine place to work? That's the question, and probably the reason you are now leaning towards declining.

While I wouldn't want to report the guy in my decline letter, I'd definitely be open for a private conversation after turning it down, with someone who should know about this (the department chair?). It might be that there is already a history of this and they only need one more "straw" of evidence before they take action.

Anyway, I'll await other (women) posters with perhaps more appropriate advice, but the way I view it, he's a sideshow that will go away eventually on his own, and I wouldn't want that kind of nut case to affect my ability to get and accept a good job offer.

Dave
"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
 
Posts: 7924
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Advice on turning down a job offer.

Postby Rich Lemert » Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:36 pm

KRA

I understand where you're coming from, and how it's easy to say "you ought to do this" when we're on the sidelines and don't have any real stake in the situation. You must do what feels right for you, and while I might be disappointed in your choices I will support them.

Consider, however, that there are at least three sets of victims here.

1) You are obviously the first. You are being driven from what you obviously consider a dream job by this jerk's behavior. He has victimized you, even though you have rejected his advances. He will likely continue to victimize you, too, since you're apparently likely to run into him at future conferences - and he may be on review boards reviewing your grant proposals.

2) His institution is also a victim. They stand to lose out on someone they apparently feel has great potential because of this jerks actions. To make matters worse, they may never know why they are losing this talent if no one ever files a complaint.

3) You are probably not the first person he's exhibited this behavior with, and you won't be the last.

I'm also going to disagree with Dave that this guy will "wash himself out of the system." Guys like this have an uncanny ability to hide their actions, and to laughingly avert any negative consequences if his actions are exposed. Furthermore, if this guy has any stature his department is liable to want to look the other way to "avoid alienating our superstar."

To answer your specific question, I would simply state that "while I am flattered by the offer and find your program interesting and exciting, I have determined that it is not in my personal best interests to accept it at this time." That's all you need to say in your letter.

However, I would also make sure that someone at that institution is given the whole story behind your decision, "off the record" if necessary. My preference would be to tell the department chair or the dean since they are being directly impacted by this guy's behavior, but that would depend on your perception of whether or not they are e.g. a 'strong' or a 'weak' chair. Other possibilities include any ombudsman the institution may have, or any compliance or harassment officer.

Again, it's easy for me to say what I'd do since I'm not the one in the hot seat. However, I'm also sure that one of the things he's counting on is his victim's unwillingness to challenge his actions.

Good luck to you whatever you decide.
Rich Lemert
Advisor
 
Posts: 2596
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Advice on turning down a job offer.

Postby Ana » Tue Jun 14, 2016 11:53 pm

Hi KRA,

First of all sorry to hear this is happening to you. I’ve come across that behaviour in the past in places I’ve worked at so i can relate to that.

About the job offer, you actually don’t need to give much explanation as to why you are turning it down, you could do it without mentioning the specific problems, but I see why you feel you owe them an explanation because the offer is so good and your interactions had been so positive with everyone else.

This looks like one of those cases it is hard to know what is best to do because multiple options seem equally good (or bad!).

My personal recommendation would to give them the polite “thanks but another offer was a better fit” and don’t bring up the reason. As you say, the real reason might not be needed to run down the offer. And if the chair specifically asks, then up to you. If that were to happen I could see myself both answering that I felt uncomfortable with some people at the department or avoiding the specific answer altogether, so I would understand either. This sound similar to the advice from Dave and Rich (don’t say it in the turn down communication) but unlike them I would not volunteer the information later if the chair doesn’t follow up with an interest. That’s my difference.

Turning down this offer will protect you from this particular place but what saddens me is that you might still come across some other more senior male showing the same behavior. It happens with professors academia and it happens with managers in pharma just as it happens with bosses or male colleagues at many other work environments. As Dave says, there are jerks everywhere.

When I was in academia as a trainee I reported him to the department head just to get a “well, you are two consenting adults so you will know what to do” reaction. The chair didn't want to act - or pretty much to even hear about it. I graduated and left that one behind, and then years later came cross the same problem at a different environment where avoiding the problema man was enough since his job wasn’t so close to mine. I’m sorry to sound negative but I don’t have much faith that having a conversation with the department chair will solve the problem therefore my reluctancy to try to engage them into that conversation. That man and his behavior is their problem. Your problem is how to protect yourself, not to fix the man. Some times you don’t need to convince people that they’ve done something bad to you to justify walking away. It is not like you need closure, you need distance. And that's how I would frame it: very unfortunate yet not my problem to fix that man.

That said I understand someone wanting to explain them the reason and I don't pretend this is an easy situation to know what to do. Go with what will help you feel better.

And again, I’m very sorry to hear this is ruining such a good professional opportunity.

Ana
User avatar
Ana
 
Posts: 652
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:48 pm
Location: Madrid, Spain

Re: Advice on turning down a job offer.

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Jun 15, 2016 9:33 am

I'm sorry to see that both Rich and Ana seem to be saying that turning down the offer is the way to go. Isn't there anyone here who feels as I do, that there are weirdo's everywhere and that the gutsy thing to do is to say "The hell with it. I'm going to take this great job" and just persevere?

Dave
"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
 
Posts: 7924
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Advice on turning down a job offer.

Postby Cory » Wed Jun 15, 2016 12:24 pm

My thoughts about the accept and tolerate or refuse and move on would be cast in light of the career trajectory of KRA. While I would probably side with Dave a bit in some circumstances, it's hard to recommend this path for a new faculty member where progress to tenure would be a huge impediment to taking the steps necessary to push the issue to resolution.

Any person subject to this type of sexual harassment would be advised to start a diary and save any incriminating information until a sufficient dossier could be assembled such that any person seeing the evidence will be compelled to act. Even if we assume that KRA has the fortitude to push this issue, the time window is hugely compromised. Who would want to litigate this issue pre-tenure? Even with evidence, I can't see how there wouldn't be at least some shade thrown on KRA's tenure progress. If one waits to cross the tenure threshold before raising the issue, then it could be 4-5 years during which KRA would have to endure. And after that, there is the painfully unsettling prospect that KRA could be asked why she decided to endure for 4-5 years. If she could endure that long, it really couldn't be that bad could it?


Dave, I'd say that the odds of taking your strategy would be much better in a big company with a competent HR department.

Cory
Cory
 
Posts: 273
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Advice on turning down a job offer.

Postby I.K.K. » Wed Jun 15, 2016 1:29 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:I'm sorry to see that both Rich and Ana seem to be saying that turning down the offer is the way to go. Isn't there anyone here who feels as I do, that there are weirdo's everywhere and that the gutsy thing to do is to say "The hell with it. I'm going to take this great job" and just persevere?

Dave


First of all KRA, sorry you have had to deal with this despicable behaviour.

From my experience, I have to agree with Rich and Ana. I've seen this kind of thing too many times in academia. As Rich said, these people are very good at hiding their behaviour and, from what I've seen at multiple institutions, the bottom line is that if you're tenured, fairly senior and bringing enough grant money in, you're pretty much untouchable. At my current company at least, you'd be out the door in 2 seconds if you acted like this.
I.K.K.
 
Posts: 17
Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2012 2:33 pm

Re: Advice on turning down a job offer.

Postby Dave Walker » Wed Jun 15, 2016 2:32 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:I'm sorry to see that both Rich and Ana seem to be saying that turning down the offer is the way to go. Isn't there anyone here who feels as I do, that there are weirdo's everywhere and that the gutsy thing to do is to say "The hell with it. I'm going to take this great job" and just persevere?

Dave


I think KRA might have a fighting chance to take care of things in a regular business setting, or perhaps if they were coming in at a more senior position and not as a brand new faculty. But I actually think it's worse than you mention; without the right support this situation could happen any time, not just at application. I have heard the laments from young faculty at a Very Well Known University for exactly this.

Unfortunately I think the power dynamics and issues raised in this thread exist in just about every academic workplace, not to mention in every department inside of every university or college. For all the differences between colleges, this one seems, to me at least, to be universal.
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder
User avatar
Dave Walker
 
Posts: 316
Joined: Tue Apr 23, 2013 11:25 am

Re: Advice on turning down a job offer.

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Jun 15, 2016 2:39 pm

Looks like the majority agrees with your decision to not take the offer, KRA. Too bad. Personally, I've always tried to learn about my candidates and whether their "locus of control" is internal or external. Most successful people have an internal locus of control -- they own their career choices, no outside person is going to affect their decision process because they will power on through. The person with an external locus of control will always sway with the winds of fate, or whatever forces are pushing them one way or the other.

Reacting that way to a jerk like this (not taking a good offer for a job you are enthused about) seems to me to be allowing external forces to make your decisions for you. Perhaps this category of harassment falls into a different category of thinking -- I'll have to dwell on it a bit longer, since I am in the minority. But I can't help but think that a powerful decision, to take the job despite being within the orbit of a jerk, would be best in the long term. Good luck in whatever you do -- won't you keep us appraised?

Dave
"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
User avatar
Dave Jensen
Site Moderator
 
Posts: 7924
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: Advice on turning down a job offer.

Postby Rich Lemert » Wed Jun 15, 2016 3:38 pm

Dave - I'm not necessarily advocating the KRA turn down the position. I'm telling her that I understand why she might decide to do that, and that I would support her decision even if I don't necessarily agree with it. I'm also suggesting how she might go about declining the offer if that's indeed what she winds up doing.

As far as I'm concerned this type of behavior will continue until enough people of both sexes decide enough is enough. Unfortunately, the deck is still stacked against women who do choose to complain.
Rich Lemert
Advisor
 
Posts: 2596
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Next

Return to Science Careers Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 19 guests