Reversing a Job Acceptance: Is It Ethical?
Am I the only person who has an ethical problem with this scenario discussed by Fortune magazine's Anne Fisher?
Two weeks after a person accepted a job, the dream employer - who had been delaying making a selection - called with a job offer. The article centers on whether there are legal repercussions to backing out of the second job, but my objection is an ethical one. The person made a commitment to the "second choice" employer. Does that count for nothing? I think the lawyer's analysis is nothing but a huge rationalization for unethical behavior.
Consider coach John Wooden's account of how he landed at UCLA where he went on to 10 national basketball championships. UCLA wanted him but his "greatest desire" was to be the head coach of the University of Minnesota's team. At that time, he wasn't very impressed with UCLA's program. His negotiations with Minnesota, however, were bogged down on his unwillingness to accept their stipulation that he retain their current head coach as his assistant. Not wanting to be second-guessed, Wooden insisted on appointing his own assistant coach. Minnesota told him they would discuss his position and make their final decision the following Saturday. It was agreed that they would notify him at exactly 6 p.m. Wooden told UCLA of the situation.
That evening, no call came at 6:00. At 6:30, however, the UCLA athletic director called and asked for his decision on whether he would take the UCLA post. Wooden replied that since Minnesota didn't call, he guessed they didn't accept his request. He accepted the UCLA offer.
He subsequently learned that Minnesota had decided to accept his terms and had tried to call at 6:00 but their phone lines were dead due to a blizzard. Wooden later noted: "By the time service was restored again and Minnesota was able to get through to me - about 7:30 p.m. - it was too late. Fate had made the first and final call. I had already given my word to UCLA that I would be the next Bruins head basketball coach." He continued: "As much as I wished the conversation with [the UCLA athletic director] had not taken place, I couldn't go back on my word. If your word is nothing, you're not much better."
I side with Coach Wooden.
Labels: Job Acceptances