Quitting a new job too soon? (an ethics question)

Okay, here’s the situation…

My friend (I’ll call him James) is on the low end of the employment pole; he has a high-school education and few job skills, but he managed to get a job working as a customer service rep for an electronics company.

Anyway, James got hit by the Bush Recession in January, and got laid off as a result. He managed to get by on unemployment while looking for a new job. In mid-March, he finally found one, working as a clerk in a hospital cafeteria to replace an outgoing employee. The pay is less than what he was previously making, the work is more physically demanding, and the hours tend to be up-at-4:00am-early-morning-shirt affairs, but hey, it beats unemployment.

Anyway, James has bee working at this new job for about two weeks now, when he gets a call from his supervisor at the previous job – they want to hire him back, can he come along? And they’ll throw in a slight pay increase to sweeten the deal.

Sooooooooo… ethically speaking, would it be right or wrong for James to drop the hospital job and go back to his old boss? Materialistically, it’s a no-brainer – the pay is better, the hours are more “normal”, the work is less exhausting, and he gets to be back with his old friends. On the other hand, the hospital has invested some time and effort to train him, and if he leaves, they’ll have to go look for someone else to fill the hole.


He should feel no qualms about giving his two-weeks’ notice–or whatever is required by his contract with the hospital. Ethics don’t require him to continue slaving away at a low-paying job when something better is available, unless he has some kind of an agreement with the hospital to work for certain amount of time.

It’s an inconvenience for the hospital to lose him and have to train someone new, but they have to expect a certain amount of turnover. If he gives the notice that they require, they’ll have time to find someone to replace him–that’s the whole point of giving notice. And if his leaving would be such a terrible hardship for them, they can try to convince him to stay by offering a pay increase.

I dunno. It’s easy for me to sit here and say that he should fling aside his surgical cap and go for his old job back. And, truthfully, jobs that don’t pay well are pretty much concomitant with high turnover.

That said, well… if I were James, I would be conflicted, and fear bad karma. Wouldn’t keep me from doing it, however.

When I got the job I have now (after several temp stints), I’d just been trained on a temp job for someone’s maternity leave (she stuck around to train me, but that thing was about to pop out at any second, I tell ya) in a hospital business office.

When I took the temp assignment, I assured them that, barring some unforeseen tragedy (like my death or dismemberment), I’d stay with the job for the whole maternity leave. I figured it was a safe promise to make; I’d only applied for one “real” job lately, and I was NEVER getting THAT one–not only was the pay much more than I ever anticipated earning around here, but they’d given me a math test in the interview!! :eek:

So I figured that if I shelved my job hunt until this temp assignment was over (and there was a chance they’d hire me for good, because the mama-to-be was thinking of quitting entirely…but it turned out I made more as a temp than she did as a real employee), I could safely promise that I wouldn’t bail on them.

Well, guess what?

I did better on that math test than I thought!

It was excruciating to have to tell the people at the hospital (of whom I’d become quite fond) that I was leaving, but I did it!

They were upset, but understanding. And I did stay with them for two additional weeks (instead of taking the new job right away) which, because of the difference in pay, cost me $600…

So I felt that my karma was repaired.

my stance : For a “professional position” the more notice (generallY) the better. I was miffed when some one gave exactly 2 weeks notice (tho’ she’d been working her ‘new’ job for about a month before she quit. I really should say, before she stopped ‘turning in a time card’ - she’d stopped working about 2 months before)

for the situation you describe 2 weeks is ample. Generally at stuff like that I’d give the same amount notice as the schedule or two weeks, whichever is shorter (ie if they post a schedule once a week, then 1 week would be ample).

I’d tell the old boss “yeppers, but to be fair to my current employer, I’d like to be able to give notice, is it ok if I start such and such a time?” most often bosses are not unhappy about some one wanting to give notice and not screw their current employer, since it can always happen to them. I’d also go to the current boss and express regrets, but 'my old position opened up again, it was more in my field, I don’t want to leave you in the lurch, however, 'cause I was happy to work w/you (no sense burning bridges), how much notice do you need? " (and hope they say 1 week…)

If the hospital had to lay him off, do you think they’d give him two weeks’ notice, or would they have told him not to come back at the end of the day?

I think that at best, he should show them the same consideration as they would show him.


I would have to agree with DanielWithrow on tihs one. For low paying jobs my experience has been that the employers have not given or expected much notice.

I think for professional positions or where it specifically states what is expected in your contract, you are under no obligation to give a lengthy notice period. However, IANAL and my feeling would be to give them a little bit of notice (prolly a week).

OTOH, if the company wants “James” back so much, would they be willing to wait? I think they should. Just MHO.


Ethics be damned. If I were in your friend’s position, I would go back to my old job. Easier work and more pay is a no-brainer in my opinion.

I also wouldn’t be overly concerned with how much notice I give, either. Companies can dismiss you without any notice; why do they deserve more consideration than the workers? (Personal bitterness plays a role in this. About 12 years ago, I walked into work one Monday morning and the boss told me he was letting me go because he owed the Social Security Administration $100,000 and had to get rid of someone).

For better or worse, this is a capitalist economy and you have to take care of yourself. No one else is going to do so.

I’m afraid this one is pretty much a no-brainer to me:
Since your friend is

and has only been working there about two weeks.

Of course he should be polite, but there’s also no doubt in my mind that he should leave. Staying, IMHO, would be pretty close to co-dependent. If the hospital is willing to recoup more of its investment, they make decide to make him a better offer, especially since he’s already proven himself valuable to one other employer.


Well, it seems like the consensus is “go for it, don’t let the guilt hit you on the way out.” Thanks for the replies, I’ll pass 'em along.

As for high-paying jobs giving adequate notice: a year ago, I was working as a high-end internet developer, and when they laid me off, they gave me five minutes notice. :frowning: At least they were nice enough to give me two weeks’ severance pay, but the abruptness of it all still stung.

This isn’t much of an ethics question.

He’s not debating the atom bomb here, and there really aren’t all that many factors. Low wage shit jobs with little training are pretty replaceable. He’s fine to give notice (“Hey, got another job offer that is better for me, I’ll be leaving on x such a day.”) and wave happily on his way out. Unless there is a contract or something that he himself needs to be there for, he’s free and clear.