Turning Down A Job After Accepting It

It may be the best thing to do at the time, but there could be implications.

Turning Down A Job After Accepting It


What do cars, Netflix movies and job offer acceptance have in common? You can reverse each of them. Even signing a valid employment contract could potentially be walked back.

Mind you it might take more than a gear shift or rewind. There are legal, ethical, and reputation issues to mull. Plus declining after saying yes takes diplomacy.

Still, it might be the right thing to do. Getting stuck with a sucky job or bum deal’s not in anyone’s interest. Backing out before starting’s an option, though one with repercussions. 

Why People Change Their Minds
Committing to a new employer ain’t like picking a movie to stream. Once you accept, you’re expected to show up on the start date. Here are some typical reasons for backtracking:
•    A better offer comes through from elsewhere
•    Second thoughts could lead to buyer’s remorse
•    Circumstances shift markedly for you or them 
•    FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) leads you to indecision
•    You made a verbal vow, but the written version they send you is way out of whack

Two main employment law questions apply here. One is if you’re legally allowed to rescind your acceptance. The other’s whether you’ve got to give notice.

About being legally allowed or not. A bunch of factors figure in. For one, agreeing to a job offer might not be the same as signing a valid employment contract. If you’ve OK’d an offer either verbally or in writing, then afterward receive a more detailed contract to sign (which is usually wildly biased toward the employer), that contract may be unenforceable against you.

If the agreement you made is valid, it might stipulate how much quitting notice to give. Breaching that clause could get you sued for wrongful resignation (yep, that’s a thing). But unless you’re super hard to replace or senior in rank, it’s usually not pursued. Anyway, check your provincial labour laws.

Beyond legality lies morality. Is it ethical to walk away from an offer you’ve accepted? Hell no! Unless they’ve tried to screw you somehow, or if you plan to take the job but quit soon after (which would be even scummier). 


The employer you disappoint (or is that betray?) won’t organize a happy send-off bash for you. More likely they’ll bash your name off their hiring list for good. And if you’re in a small community or tight industry, the word could travel of your antics.

Withdrawing Respectfully
Sure you could just not show up. Or write an in-your-face email (Hey cheapskates, got a better offer, so I’m bailing!).

For the sake of your career, maybe do a proper exit. Let the employer know quickly you changed your mind. Be concise (nothing says you have to tell them why). Do it in writing to show you made best efforts to mitigate possible damage. As well thank them profusely for this opportunity.

If the greener pastures you opted for turn out to be swampland, you may decide to beg for that reneged-on offer back. Karma might guffaw but you gotta eat, right?
This article provides general information only. For specific legal advice, please contact a qualified employment lawyer. Here is how to do so inexpensively.