on the importance of integrity 

Today, for probably the very first time in my life -- at least, that I can recall -- I'm faced with a real challenge to my sense of ethics.

I've been in the job market for a little while, and have been lucky enough to attract significant interest from two potential employers ("E1" and "E2"). These employers are represented by recruiting firms ("R1" and "R2", respectively).

E2 was the first to produce a verbal offer. Once that occurred, I let R1 know, because thought it was important R1 and E1 not be blindsided by the progress of events outside of their shared sphere. E1 informed me that they'd had a setback with their program that would delay them about a week, and I had been advised by R2 that things were moving slowly with E2's Human Resources department. I made sure each recruiter knew progress with the other. This gave E1 some hope, because they now felt they could make up some time.

By the close of the week, I had the official offer from E2. It arrived in the evening of either Thursday or Friday, and I took the weekend to think it over. With no additional input from R1/E1, I signalled my commitment to E2 the following Monday afternoon.

This kicked off a series of calls from R1 and E1, and prompted an extremely generous offer -- so generous as to create suspicion. It was at this point I realized I was being confronted with a question of ethics: my options, as I saw them, were to either abandon E2 in favor of better renumeration from E1, or to honor the commitment I made to E2.

Rule Number One

I have a list of rules. These rules are expectations I have of others, and expectations I have of myself. The complete list follows:

  1. Do What You Say You're Going to Do
It's not rocket surgery. If you've said you're going to do something, you've made a commitment and you have to deliver on your promise. If you can't follow through, you have to explain yourself and agree upon an alternative arrangement. (Corrollary: Don't overcommit. If you know you can't follow through from the start, keep your gob shut.)

I take Rule Number One very seriously. I've been burned a few times over the years by people making promises on which they ultimately did not deliver. The trouble that I had, in each of these instances, was that once they realized they couldn't deliver, they made no effort to change the expectations they set. Convergence occurs at the point where I deliver the work product and the other delivers disappointment. In my view, at this moment, the other participant reveals himself to be dishonest and untrustworthy, and now I have bigger problems.

I would deserve every hard feeling and harsh word if I was that bad actor. And I couldn't bear it. I've too much integrity to allow that to happen.

Sour Grapes

So I have chosen to honor the commitment I made to E2. Fundamentally because I made a commitment to E2. R1 has, over the course of the week, made multiple overtures to attract me to E1, but hasn't seemed to accept my decision. R1 even went so far as to name someone from my professional community who had backed out on an employer to take a better deal, and to tell me that "this sort of thing happens all the time."

I find it unacceptable. I'm walking away from a lot of money, but I get to do that walk with my integrity -- and that's worth far more to me than money.