Monday, November 18, 2013

Ethical Issue?

I want to know how ethical it is to:

1) accept an academic offer i.e. sign your name on the offer
2) and tell the department that you are not going to join (due to circumstance or better job offer)

Isn't this that regularly happens in industry? Is it different for academia?

I will love to know your thoughts !


  1. Obviously, they won't be happy. I also feel that they will perceive it as unethical and you might burn some bridges in the process if you are in this situation and planning to rescind a signed offer letter. That said, if your circumstance or other job offer is significantly better and will greatly enhance your future career development, you gotta take care of you future first.

    -Dr. Noncoding Arenay

  2. This happens in industry all the time. I've recruited two PhDs after they already accepted offers, and I had one PhD stolen from me.

    When I talk to candidates, I always say, "You have to do what's best for your and your family." Taking a better offer is a no-brainer that those on the search committee you're turning down would do in a heartbeat (whether they tell you or not). I did feel spite, but I understood, and would still hire the person again. As long as it's a one-time mistake then it's not big deal. Doing this repetitive tells me the candidate is not decisive, which is a big issue. In academia, I could imagine it hurting your grant chances given that those people you spurned may be reviewers, but I have no idea.

    In industry, it happens all the time, and I don't think it's a big deal. Better opportunities come up rarely. You need to do what's best for you. End of story.

  3. You gotta do what you gotta do. They could sue though for breaching contract, but likely won't. Your career comes first, they may be grumpy but that's life. It won't be the first or the last time this happened. Good luck!

  4. Thank you for your comments. This is the feedback that I am getting on the ground as well. Lets see what happens.

    @GMP: Have you ever witnessed anyone sued for breaching a contract in academic world?

  5. Tell us how things developed -- did you drop the signed contract in favor of that better offer? Inquiring minds want to know! :-)

  6. Dr. Noncoding ArenayDecember 17, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    Yeah tell us what went down. Did you sign a contract for a different offer?

  7. The new position is still in administrative pile and they cannot make a decision this soon. So for the time being I will accept and start working at the position that I have signed up for and see what the future holds.

    If the second position does materialize, I will take up the position and leave the current position after a semester. Lets see ;)