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My postdoc contract was near its end, and I asked briefly my manager earlier this year if the chances of extension are high, they said no, so I started looking for jobs with a new mindset, without mentioning this again. (it was literally a 1 minute conversation) Months later, my manager messages me to talk about my extension in their office. Verbally, they state there is new money available, and the extension can be granted for a few months, with almost complete certainty. A month later (and a month to the end of the contract), I am called again to their office only to be told how my publication record is low and the extension cannot be granted anymore. No matter how many times asked, no clear tangible reason is given for the shift. Clearly, legally I cannot do anything as there was no extension contract. However, is it considered absolutely fine for a manager to keep going back and forth on contract extensions? Psychologically, it creates an enormous amount of stress. Now, I am almost guaranteed to have a gap in employment. Of course, none of this is to excuse me for not having clearer plans earlier, but this situation made it significantly worse.

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  • Did you stop looking for a different job?
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 25, 2023 at 15:14
  • In the time period when I thought I would have the extension I did. Now of course I resumed.
    – Alex Smith
    Sep 25, 2023 at 15:17
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    There doesn't seem to be a real question here. But, no it isn't fine. But we can't say whether the manager was acting in good faith or not.
    – Buffy
    Sep 25, 2023 at 15:33

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There are different degrees of "fine" and "not fine".

Sometimes things are sufficiently not fine that you can sue to force things to change or for some compensation. This wouldn't be one of those.

Some things are not fine in that they cause distress or hardship to someone in a vulnerable position, like in your case. You are justified in being upset but there's not much you can do about it except to move on and get yourself a new position. It's possible that no real harm was ever intended and the decision may not even really be in the hands of the people you interact with: maybe they really thought there would be more money available and now there is not.

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  • I agree with you, and it would have been a lot easier to digest if there was at least an apology and a recognition that this puts me in a difficult situation. I instead received hints that it might actually be my fault. I am sorry for the rant in here, some said it's not a true question, I just wanted to hear the opinions of other people in academia.
    – Alex Smith
    Sep 25, 2023 at 16:59
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    @AlexSmith Sure, but apology and recognition won't actually get you another job. Some people may worry that apologizing makes them guilty or in some legal jeopardy. I don't think any of this is that specific to academia: it sucks in any context when you're offered something informally and then the offer is withdrawn. Other people just might not care - what value is there to you to hear an apology from someone that doesn't actually mean it? Lesson for the future is to not change your behavior (e.g., stop looking for jobs) when you only have an informal offer, as inconvenient as that may be.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 25, 2023 at 18:48
  • I agree with the lesson and it is surely learned. If they're worried that apologizing makes them guilty still means they're unwilling to claim full responsibility. Also unwilling to provide the reason behind their choice despite me asking several times is suspicious in my view that the reason might be ill intention. If I were a manager I would feel obliged to provide a proper reason for going against my own word, especially when it affects other people's lives, but let's see when I get there.
    – Alex Smith
    Sep 28, 2023 at 11:52
  • Thank you for the responses!
    – Alex Smith
    Sep 28, 2023 at 11:52

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