From time to time I have gotten messages from members who either had multiple offers outstanding or wanted me to discuss what to do when you are so blessed. Or, is it cursed? (I don’t know about you, but I hate having too many choices.)
Of course, when faced with the possibility of multiple offers, you can be assured that they won’t all come to fruition on exactly the same day. Hence the conundrum.
Being individuals of high integrity, there is an urge to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God” to everyone involved in the process. My first suggestion is to operate on a “need to know” basis. I know it will be difficult when you look like the cat that swallowed the canary, but it really is the best course of action.
I will start you off with the “dark side.” Most states are “employment at will,” which means that you can be fired at any time for just about any reason, including no reason at all. I would also point out that no one can make you come to work, even if you have “promised.” As it has been said: “If nominated I will not run. If elected I will not serve.” The same rule applies here.
Still, when it comes to your reputation, you can’t be too careful, especially if you are early in your career. If you are “over the hill” like I am, you don’t have as long of a future career to be worried about, but still, I wouldn’t ever recommend that you intentionally deceive or misrepresent your situation in a positive OR a negative manner.
I hate to sound like a cliché, but there is also the “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” syndrome to keep in mind. A variation on this is the “cup to the lips” problem, but I digress.
If you are the joyful recipient of a job offer but have another one potentially pending, ask the kind person how soon you need to decide, but don’t explain. If they say within a week, fine. If they say right now, you will have to give them an answer. It is always possible they won’t push you for a decision and you will have time to get a better sense of your other possibilities.
Jobs and job situations are brittle things, by which I mean they don’t come often (enough) and they are yes or no situations.
While I do know people who have accepted one offer and come back later when they had a better offer and told the first company they weren’t showing up for work, it really isn’t a good idea.
Ethics in business may be a vague concept for others, but I hope it isn’t for members of The FENG as senior financial executives. Better to stall than to disappoint when you have made a promise. (That said, there was a great line from the Soporano’s several years ago where Tony tells his wife by way of explanation that he “took an oath.” She replied, “What is this, the Boy Scouts?”)
Remember, you have to live with yourself and if you have a lot of years left on your career keep in mind that most industries are small and you can easily run into the same people you disappointed. People may forgive, but they often don’t forget.