I’ve been reading several articles about companies who are rescinding their job offers before the new worker starts in their position. This whiplash is happening because many businesses have been desperate for employees, and were a bit blindsided by recent economic turmoil.

Imagine what that does to someone who left their previous job, perhaps even moved in anticipation of the great new job. It’s more than devastating.

I sure hope you haven’t had to do this to someone, but it might be good to think about the implications of making this kind of decision.

My view is that once you’ve extended an offer, and the candidate accepted, then you’ve entered into a moral contract with them. Not a legal contract, sure, but you’ve created an obligation.

If things go normally, your moral contract is to give the person time to gracefully leave their old job and to upend their personal life. To make the onboarding process go smoothly so that they can become a dedicated and productive employee.

But disasters can happen. If your building burns down, you may have to let people go or take other drastic measures. Your moral obligation is to help people deal with those impacts at the job, career, and personal levels.

Please don’t think that you’re primarily treating people well so that you don’t get crucified in the press, or even that they’ll take you to court. Instead, a moral contract means doing the right thing just because we’re all humans who deserve respect.

The job offer you just rescinded was to a person who did all the right things on their end, so you now have a really imbalanced moral equation to deal with. Even if the decision was made by your bosses, YOU are the representative of the entire organization in that person’s eyes. Sorry, but it’s on you right now.

So can you help that person best deal with the disaster you introduced into their life? It certainly takes personal conversation. Listening. Caring. And some collaborative problem solving.

You owe it to them if you have any kind of conscience.