“Infamous Email Writers” headlined an article in the Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, February 21, 2006, Marketplace Section, page B1). A young attorney named Dianna Abdala rejected a job offer by email. She wasn’t very gracious as she reported the job would be neither “fulfilling” nor suppportive of her lifestyle. Abdala’s potential boss, one Will Korman, expressed dismay. He had already ordered business cards for her.
Ms. Abdala wasn’t a bit repentant. As a lawyer, she declared, he should not have relied on an oral agreement. You can read the some of the messages here.
And while Ms. Abdala was rude – even obnoxious – I believe she has a point.
Suppose the tables were turned. Mr. Korman could have changed his mind for any reason – or for no reason. He could have called to say, “Sorry, no job.” Or he might even have waited till Ms. Abdala showed up and then jumped up from behind her desk, yelling, “Surprise!”
She’d have a tough time proving the existence of an agreement.
Additionally, Mr. Korman apparently shared Ms. Abdala’s correspondence with colleagues. That’s how the story went public. Ms. Abdala was 24 years old at the time, so her lack of professionalism could be attributed to youth. Mr. Korman was a respected senior lawyer. it’s hard to excuse his conduct.
True, employers rarely default on oral agreements. But it happens. I once worked with a university colleague who learned the hard way. He accepted a job based on a verbal offer. He quit his job. A week later, the administrators called. It seems there was a little mistake about the salary. Could he take a ten percent cut before he even started? Needless to say, that man’s career was nasty, brutish and short.
So while I usually admire the WSJ and its writers, this time I say they’ve got the emphasis wrong. The point of the story isn’t Ms. Abdala’s ungracious email. It’s her employer’s unbusinesslike approach to human resources.
That all happened in 2006. Ms. Abdala appears online as an attorney in private practice, working with her father. She handles criminal defense and she’s picked up some nice reviews from DUI clients. You have to consider: if she’s not afraid to stand up to an established lawyer when she’s a neophyte, she’s probably quite confident standing up to judges and opposing attorneys. Lawyers are supposed to win cases, not get known as “nice.”
I have received rejection emails from prospective employers with whom I’ve interviewed, so why can’t a prospective employee do it too?
Joan Schramm says
I can’t believe you’re coming down on the woman’s side here.
This woman already accepted the job offer. Just because some companies (or other people) might back out of a verbal offer doesn’t make it right for her to do so. And both she and the company should have insisted on a signed, written contract up front.
Finally, though, the woman was rude, unprofessional and cowardly to send an e-mail telling the company that she changed her mind. If I was that employer, I’d be thankful all this cost me was the price of some business cards; based on her actions, she’d probably turn out to be a terrible employee.
Cathy Goodwin says
Delighted to get some controvery going!
Agreed – the woman’s cowardly style should be a signal of trouble ahead.
But what you have here is a business relationship – not a friendship. When the chips are down, businesses rarely “do the right thing.” They call their lawyers. And I believe employees need to understand this relationship and act accordingly.
Joan Schramm says
You’re exactly right — it is a business relationship and not a friendship. So why use a “friendly” and informal means of communication (e-mail) instead of a formal, business-like communication (phone call or letter).
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but that just isn’t the way I do business.