How To Ethically Quit A New Job For Another

Today I want to share my thoughts on how to handle what amounts to a moral dilemma for some people; quitting a job you’ve just started in favour of a better job.

Now some people wouldn’t have any problem quitting the first job whatsoever. They might just stop showing up and delete the calls on their phones from that employer wondering where they are. To me that’s cowardly, childish and demonstrates an incredible lack of appreciation for the company who hired you in the first place. If your name is then shared within your field behind closed doors as a, “Do Not Hire”, I think you deserve it.

However, let us assume that you took the original job in good faith. Perhaps the job was offered to you after a prolonged job search. You jumped at it although it wasn’t your dream job, or perhaps the work was ideal but it was part-time and you were seeking full-time work. Then you get a phone call from another employer you had previously applied to offering you full-time employment. If you have a conscious, you may be fraught with anxiety, wanting to please the employer who had the confidence to offer you the first  job, but at the same time you want to look out for your own personal best interests, and take what is in fact a better situation.

Let’s look at some realities. First of all, if this second and better job offer comes to you after only a few days on the first job, so that employer likely still has all the resumes and applications handy from their original job posting and will not have the expense of advertising the position again. They may just go back to someone who was their 2nd choice and offer them the job stating that the position has unexpectedly come available.

Another reality is that they have invested only a few days in your training. Those few days are lost, but much better than if you jumped ship after a month or two just as you actually started to be trusted to work with some independence.

Now most people understand when you are job searching, you have many applications out there, and unless you tell them you’ve been hired, your perhaps being considered for a few positions. It isn’t unreasonable or surprising therefore that you get a call either asking you in for an interview, or as in this scenario being offered a job based on a previous interview.

So, you’ve got a new job and a 2nd job offer when days ago you may have been unemployed or perhaps working in a job you really needed to replace with something better. So your stress of not liking your job was replaced by the stress of learning a new job, and then added to that stress is having a 2nd job offer and having to tell one of the two that you are not interested! Yikes!

Most employers will understand – they may not be thrilled losing you, but they will understand. If the job they gave you is part-time and now you have a full-time job doing something similar and it comes with better benefits, they’ll get it. They may even wish you well in your new job and tell you that if it doesn’t work out to call and see if where they are at. After all, they really wanted you!

Your moral dilemma is a good sign. It means you are already emotionally invested in the job you’ve only been at for 2 or 3 days. You really want to leave the job on positive terms, hate the thought of leaving without notice and don’t want to burn any bridges and leave a bad taste in their mouth. The one thing to remind yourself of, and to communicate to the boss you are about to disappoint is that you had ceased applying for other jobs or interviewing for them once accepting their offer of employment. At the time you accepted, there was no other job offer on the table, but now there is and unfortunately for the boss, the 2nd offer is too perfect to pass on.

You cannot control the reaction of the boss when you share your news, but you can control how you deliver it and how you receive their reaction. \Understand that in one day you will no longer know your current boss for whom you worked 2 or 3 days. You’re not so irreplaceable after that time that they won’t get over you. Your best bet is to deliver the news quickly and in private. Allow the boss to decide if you get escorted out the front door right away or get a chance to say so long to your now ex-co-workers.

The boss has more important and urgent matters to attend to than worrying about your feelings. They have to get on to Human Resources and get those applications sent back over. Their attention has shifted to the next hire and any outburst is more of a short-term reaction of disappointment and not necessarily real anger at you, just the situation. .

By the way, make sure you accept the newest job offer first just in case the awkward situation arises where you quit one to take the other and the other one suddenly is withdrawn because the company has decided not to hire at this time. That would hurt!

6 thoughts on “How To Ethically Quit A New Job For Another

  1. Although it is a good idea to accept the newest job offer first, there is no guarantee the offer won’t be withdrawn after you accept. I had this happen to me. I was hired for a cashier job one day and given a list of instructions to review on how to run the cash register and told to come in to start training the next day. Several hours later I was called and told they had changed their minds and decided not hire anyone.


  2. Companies put their interests first.So employees have to think about their own interests too. I mean, if you live from paycheck to paycheck, you cannot afford to be in an insecure position with no job guarantee.


  3. I have a particular issue that relates to this question. I currently work for a large company with multiple locations; I like their core values and the people who work there. I applied for a position months ago at a different company, which is in the same field but a different overall career path. Said position pays about $10k more than what I make with current company. They did the whole interview process, then decided to hold off on hiring, but stayed in touch.

    Fast forward several months and I have an opportunity for promotion with my current company. I go through 6 interviews. The day before my 6th and final interview, I get a call from the new company saying they have a position they want me for, again paying significantly more. I explain that I’m up for promotion, but haven’t been selected yet, so although I’m interested, I need to know because I don’t want to waste my current employers time. They assure me they want me, but cannot make the job offer just yet. A little over a week later, I had to make my decision, so I advised the new company of the deadline. They got back to me before the end of the workday again saying they want me, but wanted to set up a conversation on Monday – no solid job offer. Through encouragement of coworkers, I accepted the new position with my current employer. I know I like the people and I know I have potential to learn a lot. However, the pay and hours don’t compare to the new company, and it isn’t really what I want to do for my career. On the other hand, the new company has an amazing reputation for employee satisfaction ( I know people who have worked there for 10, 20, even 50 years because they love it so much) and I think I’d really like the job there (but of course there’s no way to know until you’re actually there – trying not to get the grass is greener feeling).

    So my question is this. If the new company offers me the position, can I take it ethically? This isn’t just a new company I just started. I’ve been here for years and they chose me because they think I’ll be a good fit, but I think I may have taken the position because they (including a precious boss/mentor) wanted me to more than I actually wanted the job.

    I’m trying to decide if it would be better to turn them down now so they can hire one of the other candidates, or if I should stick it out for a while. I won’t even start the new position for a few weeks because I need to train my replacement. My other thought would be to work with them and ask the new company to keep me posted on future opportunities. I just don’t know if it’s worse to leave now, or later.


  4. Hi.. I was recently hired abroad for a regional post. They paid for my airline ticket, visa, work permit etc. After 1 month received a call from my previous company in my country offering me a new position. The reason why I left my previous job is because of my boss, i felt that i needed to go and take some time off. I was out for about 6 months. But this new position they are offering really interests me. The question is, is it ethical if i leave my super new job knwoing they paid for everything to get me? I am so confused. I needed a perspective from a very neutral person.


    1. Ultimately the choice is yours alone to make – which you know of course, and you’ll have to live with the decision you make. Yes the company you are with now has made a considerable investment in getting you there and up and running and they’ve not yet received a return on their investment in you. Did you leave ONLY because of the boss? You haven’t mentioned whether that person is still working there or not, and if they are, there still exists the possibility you’d find yourself working under them in the future. As the new position really interests you, it makes it harder to choose, but I assume the current job must also interest you or you wouldn’t be there.


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