What to Consider Before Returning to a Former Employer

“Saturday Night Live” cast member Kristen Wiig recently bid farewell to the show after seven years. And like many of us who depart from a job, there were a few tears and hugs. (Of course, there was also Mick Jagger, who is not usually around when most of us box up our stuff and turn in our parking pass.)

There’s much speculation about when – or if – Wiig will return to the show. If she goes off and becomes even more popular, the show would welcome her back with open arms. But at the same time, why would she want to return is she’s a star in other arenas?

That’s a question many employees have to answer when they’re wooed by a former employer. They’ve gained skills and experience that a former employer may desire, and their familiarity with the people and workings of a former company can make them even more appealing.

But should you be one of those boomerang employees? Or should you and Wigg just ride off into the sunset with a fond farewell, never to return?

Here are some things to consider:

• More money. If you’re being sought by a former employer, that means you’re valuable to them with your new skills and experience. Don’t be shy about negotiating for better pay, career advancement opportunities or a better job title.

• It can be better the second time around. You can re-enter the company knowing about the skeletons in the closet, the key players and how best to hit the ground running. That’s a win for everyone.

• Past relationships. If you didn’t get along with some team members – and they’re now in key positions – it could be worth exploring conversations with them. If hostilities or resentments still bubble up, it may not be worth opening that can of worms and returning to a company where your success could be undermined.

Remember, it can be flattering to be wooed by a former employer, but you can’t let that cloud your judgment about if it’s a good idea to return. Review the reasons why you left. If the same bully boss is there and you will have to report to him again, you may regret returning. Or, if the culture of the company bugged you and has not changed, you need to decide if you can live with it a second time.

Anita Bruzzese

Anita Bruzzese is a syndicated columnist for Gannett/USA Today on workplace issues and the author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy.” She has been on the Today show, and quoted in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Self.com and BusinessWeek.com. Her website, 45things.com, is listed on the Forbes top 100 websites for women.

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  • Heather R. Huhman

    Great advice, and certainly an interesting topic! I’d advise workers to craft a list of pros and cons when it comes to returning to a former employer. Carefully detail the reasons you left in the first place–often, these can be reason enough not to go back! If you originally left because of reasons that haven’t been reconciled, like difficult coworkers or a company culture you don’t agree with, sometimes it may be best to keep moving forward. Other times, returning to your former employer can be the best option in terms of increased opportunities. These issues are truly situational, so creating a list can help you to lay out your options in a logical way.

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