Last year I got one tenure-track job offer and accepted it, even though I wasn't thrilled about the position. The institution allowed me to defer my start date by a year, so that I can complete a postdoc. I fully intended to start the job when I signed the offer.

Now, several months later, I received a tenure-track offer from a top institution with resources and benefits that can never be matched by the institution that is currently waiting on me.

I understand it is unethical for me to bail on Institution 1. At the same time, I only have one life and one career and don't want to sacrifice my prospect for loyalty to an institution where I haven't even started working.

What would you do?

EDIT: What are the range of professional consequences I can expect if I switch to the new institution?

closed as off-topic by Massimo Ortolano, virmaior, earthling, Coder, David Richerby Sep 13 '17 at 14:05

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "The answer to this question strongly depends on individual factors such as a certain person’s preferences, a given institution’s regulations, the exact contents of your work or your personal values. Thus only someone familiar can answer this question and it cannot be generalised to apply to others. (See this discussion for more info.)" – Massimo Ortolano, virmaior, earthling, Coder, David Richerby
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    I understand it is unethical for me to bail on Institution 1. ethicist here, I don't fully understand why you think this is unethical. / But the question is not a good fit here, because What would you do? = asking a bunch of strangers on the internet to make a decision only you can make based on reading 3 or 4 sentences of description (switching to 100 sentences only transforms the problem to skimming quickly 100 sentences). – virmaior Sep 13 '17 at 11:23
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    No offense, but I wonder how someone who is offered a "tenure track position from a top institution" cannot make this decision and goes on the internet to find out how to handle the situation... – Herman Toothrot Sep 13 '17 at 11:28
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    You signed something. So the problem is less what is unethical, but what is written in that contract about how to get out of it. – skymningen Sep 13 '17 at 11:31
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    Jerry you should change the last question to " What are the range of professional consequences I can expect if I switch to the new institution?" It is more objective and people can better help you. – Dawn Sep 13 '17 at 12:39
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    @virmaior In Stack Exchange language, "unethical" seems to mean "might annoy at least one person." As a non-ethicist, I'd say this one comes closer to ethics than most questions on this site that use the word (e.g., 1, 2, 3). – David Richerby Sep 13 '17 at 14:05

Be upfront, be polite, and be quick. First make a decision if you really want to accept the second offer. If, so make sure you sign the contract with the institution that made the second offer. At that point, inform the institution who made the initial offer ASAP and let them know in the most polite way that you cannot follow through with the contract you have signed. It will be painful and embarrassing and there is no way to avoid this situation. Then you will feel relieved and can start with the new job.

The institution you dumped might still be able to contact other candidates who were shortlisted. I do not see any other way of handling this, other ways will involve making some excuse and later they would find out that you are at a different institution. Better be embarrassed now and save face later.

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