Good and Bad Form in Business

Good and Bad Form in Business

I screwed up during my job hunt in 2015.

I backed out of a job offer I’d already accepted days earlier.  The timeline played out as follows: I rescinded the offer before I officially started, but the other party had already bought me a laptop, told his team about me, and told his board about me.  Maybe not such a big deal if you join a BigCo, but at a 6 person startup, I definitely left the other party feeling burned.  And worse, I sullied my own credibility with a prominent member of the Boulder community.

If *bad form* is an offense against social conventions or shameful behaviour, this was surely bad form on my part.

This post is my retrospective of the situation.  What went wrong?  Three things, I think:

  1. Zero-sum game situations (like negotiating or choosing one job over another) do not come second-nature to me as a programmer.  As a software engineer, I’m used to situations in which everyone around the table has very similar incentives.
  2. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to someone that you’re going to work for.    If you’re not careful, being eager to please can land you in a spot where you want to be there for another party, but haven’t fully considered what’s best for yourself.
  3. Compressed timelines coming with each job offer mean that there’s not an opportunity to compare offers apples-to-apples.  It’s hard to know what’s going to become real and what is not.

Gaining experienced in business means making mistakes, but I’d never considered that I’d burn bridges in order to gain experience.  Next time, I’ll be more assertive in pressing for a timeline that fits for *me*.

Some friends have suggested that this is ‘just how it goes in the highly competitive world of tech’, but I think I can hold myself to a higher standard.  I am sorry for how the situation played out, but now I’ve lived through it, and I know I won’t do it again.

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