Is Going Back to My Former Employer Good For My Career?

Psychological Safety in the workplace

(Yes!…if you use your leverage to negotiate a great package)

In this month’s Pivot HR911 post we are talking about the benefits of going back to a former employer. We got a call from Callie (name changed to protect her confidentiality) after her old boss asked her to return to a job she’d left two years prior. Callie was worried this could be a step back in her career. As you’ll see in our response, we think this can be a golden opportunity to negotiate the job offer you really want.

Employers take note: Work with your star performers before they resign. Don’t make them leave to get what they want. See below for more.


Dear Pivot HR911: Is going back to my previous employer a good idea or is this a step back?

Here’s the backstory: Callie had worked at her former company for 13 years as an IT programmer. After her long tenure, Callie wanted to progress to a senior level role where she could take on new challenges and make more money. There weren’t any forthcoming opportunities with her company, so she moved on to another organization.

She was happy with the money in her new job, but the hours weren’t quite right. She wanted more flexibility in her workday so she could take her kids to school in the morning. Unfortunately, her new employer had fixed hours and wasn’t able to grant this.

Meanwhile, Callie’s former employer was experiencing a spate of high turnover in her old department, and they realized that Callie had the exact skills, knowledge, and experience they needed to get the team back on track. They sought her out and made her an offer. Unsure what to do, Callie called us.


Our Answer: Going back to a former employer allows you to negotiate the job offer you want.

1. You are in the position to ask for what you want

As we told Callie, when a former employer comes calling, you are in the perfect position to get exactly what you want. Don’t forget, you already left, and you have a new job. They are going to have to sweeten the deal to entice you back.

Figure out what you really want. Is it a higher salary, a more senior role, better hours? Or possibly all three? Think about your ideal scenario and then ask for it. This is the time to negotiate the job offer of your dreams.

2. You know what you’re going back to

You know the company, you know the culture, and you know the staff. We cannot overstate the value of this intel. Getting to know a new workplace is a critical part of successfully settling into a new job. In this situation, you don’t have to deal with that. You can confidently walk back in ready to take on an exciting new opportunity in the comfort of a familiar setting.

However, we do caution that before saying yes, carefully reflect if there are any downsides to returning to your old employer. For example, did you have any problems fitting in with the culture when you worked there? Were the hours horrendous or did internal conflicts abound? It’s unlikely the issues that may have bothered you before would have changed in your absence, so you may want to fully consider that before accepting an offer.

The Happy Ending: We are glad to report that Callie took our advice and negotiated a job offer that met all of her needs: she returned to her former employer as the department manager with a much higher base salary than her previous one. She is also now free to set her hours to better balance her parenting responsibilities. Callie is glad to be back with her former company on her terms, and they are thrilled she is there.

This leaves us with one last point:


Employers, Don’t Wait Till They’re Gone!

Callie was with her company for 13 years. At any point during that time, they could have offered her a more senior role, better wages, and flexibility. They didn’t even do this when she handed in her notice to go work for someone else. It took her leaving and being gone for two years for her former employer to realize her value.

Imagine the turnover dollars Callie’s employer could have saved by working with her to give her what she wanted instead of paying to replace her. Not to mention losing years of organizational knowledge that she took with her when she walked out the door.

Don’t make this mistake. Find out if your star employees are happy. Then, work with them to keep them that way. We recommend starting this conversation in a stay interview , where you check in with your top performers to see how they’re doing before they even think about leaving.

We hope you enjoyed this month’s Pivot HR911 post. If you would like to submit an employment question, please send it to We will answer it here on our blog (we will change your name to protect confidentiality).

Read more of our Pivot HR911 posts:

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Creating a Winning Corporate Culture
How to be a Success in the First 90 Days
Stay Interviews: How to Stop You’re Employees From Leaving 

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