Do You Know the Benefits and Downsides of Returning to a Previous Job?

Do You Know the Benefits and Downsides of Returning to a Previous Job?

Going back to a previous job also raises a lot of questions, especially for the talent considering the move. How do expectations change? How will the workplace respond – especially management? How much should responsibilities and compensation change? And is it really worth all the trouble of renegotiating?

These questions don’t always have easy answers, but there are pros and cons to returning to a previous job. That can be true for both the employer and the talent involved. Let’s take a look at why this happens and dig deeper into the important details so you can start navigating this situation.

Diverse business team celebrating a successful deal at a round table.

Who Might Return to a Previous Position?

Many talented workers may leave a job because of a particular point of tension. They may have disliked an old boss, or were determined to find a similar job with better pay. Some may have refused to work for a business without a flexible schedule that allowed working from home. 

Others may have been looking for a job with less demanding hours, or with more reasonable responsibilities. But if an organization is willing to negotiate, then sometimes these employees are willing to return, under the right terms. This is more common when an organization feels pressure from losing valuable talent and considers making some changes.

Other employees may also return out of regret: A UKG poll found that 43% of people who quit their job during the COVID-19 pandemic think they were better off in their old job. There are also some employees, especially those in high-demand, who quickly find a new job and then realize it’s not for them. They may decide the old company culture was a much better fit, for example, a trend The Muse calls Shift Shock

Some may find that a higher wage isn’t enough compensation for a more tedious or annoying job. Or they may just prefer living in their previous area and working with colleagues that they like.

Benefits of Going Back to an Old Position

Why does returning to a previous job work out? There are a number of advantages, both for workers and their old companies. Let’s look at some of the benefits of returning to a former job:

  • Employees have a position to negotiate from. They know what they didn’t like about the old job, and what changes would lead them to return. That type of direct negotiation can save time and help workers achieve their own goals, including higher pay, promotions, and more reasonable hours. Employers in turn may be more likely to listen to them if the business is facing time crunches or talent voids that need to be fixed.
  • It can be more effective than quiet quitting. Quiet quitting can be tempting: A Monster survey recently found that 61% of workers say they are burnt out, and 62% are quiet quitting or thinking about it. But even quiet quitting can be stressful, and the act typically burns any bridges that could allow an employee to return. Instead, it may be healthier and more effective to quit immediately, clearly cite the reasons, and start looking for a better job. This is more likely to leave the door open to returning if the employer is willing to negotiate.
  • Employers see an easy transition. Employers are often more likely to consider rehiring than talent may think, especially if someone left over resolvable issues. Hiring new talent, especially for a complicated job, requires a lot of training and transition work. There’s also the chance that an important new hire just won’t be a good fit for the company. But a returning worker is a known quantity: They know the job, the rules, the workplace environment, and the customers. That can save both sides a lot of time. 
  • There’s reliable job security. Leaving to find a new job comes with a lot of uncertainty, especially in industries that are going through harder times. Employees may prefer the job security of the company they left if the current job market looks inhospitable. In fact, negotiating a return to the company could lead to more job security and a better path forward in the company.
  • It can lead to important job updates. In many cases, returning workers request changes to their job scope and responsibilities. This can help make positions more manageable, and show companies the ways they need to expand their teams. It can also show flaws in the company structure, or management problems that went untreated before. Everyone can benefit from the resulting changes.

Challenges of Returning to a Previous Job

There are both pros and cons of going back to an old job. Returning to a previous company isn’t always the best idea, and sometimes it’s simply not possible. Let’s look at downsides of returning to a previous job, and how to know if you should go back to an old job.

Sometimes the price just isn’t right. It is important that workers return to their employers with clear requests so they can get the changes they want. But that doesn’t mean it will happen. The company may not back down when it comes to pay, promotions, working conditions, or other problems. If a worker can’t reach an agreement, returning to an old job will reintroduce the old problems that caused them to leave. That may not be worth the job security.

Workers may simply want more opportunities. Sometimes, employees like expanding their horizons. They find that looking for new ways to grow their talents and new organizations to help is an exciting process. In these cases, going back to their old job would limit them, and keep them from growing in the ways they want to. If a worker is looking for learning opportunities or new possibilities they didn’t have before, returning to an old job could be a mistake.

The work environment may turn hostile. It’s not easy to predict how other people in the organization will respond to an employee returning to their old job. They may feel betrayed, or they may feel like the returning worker is getting special treatment. Some may feel like they are being denied a potential promotion by bringing the employee back. Supervisors might think that the returning employee is no longer loyal and can’t be trusted. All this can combine to create a very different work environment than it was before. Employees may encounter new hostility and toxicity, making the experience worse than it was before. 

Benefit packages may not be the same. Many types of benefits can accrue over time, or only kick in after staying with the company for a certain amount of time. It’s not uncommon for companies to start returning workers at the base level of benefits again, no matter what they accrued in the past. This can wipe out stock gains and other important types of compensation, which makes coming back less appealing. 

Employers may be more interested in younger, newer talent. Some companies may see workers leaving as an opportunity to hire newer talent with the latest ideas and skills. Or they may see an opportunity to find someone they believe is a better fit for the company culture. If that’s the case, negotiating isn’t really possible and it’s best to move on quickly.

If it’s been a while, a lot may have changed. If it’s been a couple years or more since an employer worked at a company, they may find it less familiar than it was. The company could have taken a different direction, adopted new software, or ran into financial difficulties. Employees may have to spend time learning new procedures and tools. Or their previous position may no longer exist. It’s important to research the business and look at what has happened lately before trying to jump back in.


While going back to the same job may not be for everyone, it also enables talent to bargain from a position of power and get the working situations that they want. Employers who rehire can also maintain their workflow with disruption, and continue securing the best talent. It also offers some room to switch up responsibilities and positions in a way that works better for everyone. 

If you are deciding whether to go back to an old job under better circumstances, it’s good to have leverage. Your new interviews and the ability to set new expectations will be vital when meeting with recruiters – and even your old bosses. KnowledgeCity’s training guides can help you prepare. Our approachable and effective lessons discussing how to exude confidence and improving persuasive speaking may provide the edge required to make a strong comeback.

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