when I resigned, my company offered to fire a coworker and promote me

A reader writes:

I’ve been with my current company for 7 years. I am a highly respected and valued employee in this organization. I do my job tremendously well. I am seen as the backbone of this company in many ways.

Six months ago, our Director of Sales & Marketing left to move on to another company. Unbeknownst to me, the president of our company decided to split the job duties of the now vacant position creating a “Sales Director” and a separate “Marketing Director” (instead of keeping the two tied together).

Since my current position is in middle management in the marketing department, had I known he was splitting the two up, I would have expressed interest in this vacant and new “Marketing Director” position–I would have been the most obvious choice for this. The President did not look internally to fill this spot but instead brought in someone he had known through school (way back when) and the last 6 months she has been in this position has been incredibly frustrating — not just for me, but for everyone in the organization. So much so that I decided to seek out other opportunities.

I was offered a position with another company, recently and sent in my resignation. The company, for lack of a better word, FREAKED out. I was immediately called in and was told that the new director wasn’t working out and was being shown the door in the very near future. The offered to can her, and give me the Director of Marketing position (raise, etc.) and they wanted to do this immediately.

My question is: Should I even consider accepting the promotion and stay in this situation? I’m having a hard time swallowing: #1. Why wasn’t I good enough to be given this position 6 months ago? #2. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but getting promoted this way is not honorable in my eyes–do I really need to resign to get a promotion? #3. I don’t want other people getting fired (even if she was on the way out) to promote myself.

I’m just sick about making this decision. It feels unethical to me, but I need to make sure I’m not being overly sensitive about this as well. To me a big promotion should be something to celebrate, but I find myself just feeling sick about it. The company even admitted the made the wrong decision 6 months ago by not offering the position to me.

Why not ask about it? You could say, “To be honest, I was surprised that I wasn’t given the opportunity to at least compete for the job when it was originally created. Can you give me any insight on what the thought process was at the time?”

You can also ask about the situation with the current marketing director, of course. It sounds like they were already preparing to let her go (and that they’re not doing that just because of you). Hell, it’s possible that they were even thinking about you for her replacement, and your resignation just sped up their timeline.

But ultimately, I’d look to how this company has treated you the rest of the time. Yes, perhaps they should have thought of you for the marketing director position originally. But people don’t always get hiring decisions right, or even promotion decisions. How has your experience been there aside from this? Have you received recognition and appreciation for your work? Been given opportunities to grow professionally? Been paid competitively? Been generally treated well? If this is one flubbed situation out of a seven-year history of treating you well — and if you enjoy the work and the culture — it’s not crazy to consider accepting their offer, if you truly want it more than you want the new job you planned to take.

But if you do decide to consider it, you’d want to consider it in the context of my usual advice on counter-offers, which is that you should be pretty cautious about accepting them under the best of circumstances because (1) employers often make them in a moment of panic and then resent you for it later, (2) there’s a reason you were job-searching in the first place, (3) it took you having one foot out the door to get the offer, and (4) you’ll burn the bridge with the other company whose offer you already accepted.

The ones that would worry me most here are #1 and #3 — are they just offering you the job now because they don’t want to lose you but otherwise wouldn’t have, and is the relationship going to be permanently changed because you were about to leave? I don’t have enough information to know that … but talking with them to learn more about where they’re coming from will help you get closer to one.

I’d talk with them and see what you learn. But if the answer to “how has your experience been there aside from this?” is anything less than “really good,” I’d lean strongly toward moving on to that other offer you already accepted.

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