IT Employment

How serious is 'job offer' from consultant?

An IT pro working for a firm is working with a consultant who compliments his work and jokingly offers him a job. How serious can he take this?

I got an email from a TechRepublic member who is seeking some advice on what constitutes "networking" and what crosses the line into the unethical.

I came across a situation that gave me a bit of pause recently, and would be interested in your opinion. I'd also be interested in the opinion of the TR community at large to see if anyone has experienced something similar.

About three months ago, I made the decision to actively begin pursuing another job. My current position has me about at the end of my rope with 80+ hour work weeks, a new manager whom I believe is very caustic to the morale of the team, and just a general sense of dissatisfaction with the job. I have long said that, if I get to the point where I begin looking for an excuse to not go into the office, it's time to begin looking for something better.

About two months ago, one of the vendors I work with closely on projects made a comment that two of his support specialists were raving about how knowledgeable I am on a certain subject. He went so far as to mention, on a call that included my current manager and his own boss, that if I am ever in the market for a new job, he'd be glad to have me work for him. At the time I thanked him for the compliment and thought no more about it. (continued on next page)

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

31 comments
Daylight-TT
Daylight-TT

All Master Service Agreements that I have used or written include a clause that prohibits the consultant from hiring anyone from within the client company. Even if there is not a contract clause, it would be a great way to lose business with the client. I can't believe he said that in front of the manager.

beckiebr
beckiebr

I don't know if they crossed a line or if this was more than flattery. In my experience, these words of praise may be part of vendor-supplier relationships, however they are normally only given to people they truly believe in. I don't think it would hurt to casually and vaguely mention that you may be on the market without disparaging your current employer. See where that takes you. They will either have a position to discuss or can assist you with networking. In addition, they sound like they would be a good reference for you. In fact, that may be your way to broach the subject. If you did take a position with this other company there may be some conflict if you will have to deal with your current employer in the new role. I would address that before any move. If you are truly at the end of your ropes it is time for some action. Of course, another solution would be to address your concerns with your current employer. It sounds like you are a valuable resource and perhaps they would work with you rather than lose you. I wouldn't do this, however, without having something in the works - at least not in this job market ;)

mikewor
mikewor

My take on this is moving jobs is stressful. Maybe you've been with the current company a long time, and would like to stay. So tell your boss you're unhappy and at the same time start the job-hunting. Now your client will hear you're looking, and he can then approach your company along the lines of "I hear Joe wants to leave. I think it will be a great loss, and I'd like him on board with me. Do you mind if I hire Joe?" You could even go as far as asking your client if he would give you a recommendation. Doing it this way is a win-win for you and you let the bosses sort out the ethics and relationship stuff. But you must be sure you want to leave. I've seen too many people leave for the other side of the hill and find the grass isn't greener - in fact its often a desert.

mikewor
mikewor

My take on this is moving jobs is stressful. Maybe you've been with the current company a long time, and would like to stay. So tell your boss you're unhappy and at the same time start the job-hunting. Now your client will hear you're looking, and he can then approach your company along the lines of "I hear Joe wants to leave. I think it will be a great loss, and I'd like him on board with me. Do you mind if I hire Joe?" You could even go as far as asking your client if he would give you a recommendation. Doing it this way is a win-win for you and you let the bosses sort out the ethics and relationship stuff. But you must be sure you want to leave. I've seen too many people leave for the other side of the hill and find the grass isn't greener - in fact its often a desert.

sub
sub

maj37 and LMH are right on track. It concerns me that there is discussion about nuances of contract terms, relative employee satisfaction, whether or not the supervisor knew about the offer, or whether or not it was made to "give props." None of these relate to the underlying ethical issue. Soliciting of employment (or any other activity that leads to a material conflict of interest) interferes in the relationship between employee and employer. As long as a vendor or consultant has a relationship with a company (includes past/inactive clients), the clear path is, "I will refrain from inviting an employee of an active or inactive client to consider alternative employment without prior discussion with the client. (Institute of Management Consultants USA Code of Ethics)." Even the ???prior discussion??? part of this code section should give pause to even holding open discussions with the client executive staff about hiring away employees. A consultant or vendor asking an employee to leave their current employer and join the consultant/vendor company is staff poaching. If there is no relationship between the "asking" firm and the firm of the person being asked, this is an arm???s length transaction and no ethical issues are apparent. However, when a consultant/vendor is privy to closely held information, is given unusual access to staff, and is in a position to use that knowledge to solicit employees to leave, this starts to tread on the same principles as insider trading. Whether by fact or appearance, the soliciting firm is using nonpublic information to take away valuable assets of the client firm. It would be bad enough if another firm got access to this kind of information and used it to poach staff,. When a company's own consultant or vendor does something like this, it would be hard to trust them with your data and people ever again. Mark Haas CMC, FIMC IMC USA Ethics Officer

drumm
drumm

I am not surprised by responses all over the map on this one, i.e., comments ranging from "it if isn't illegal it isn't unethical" (that isn't correct) to "wow, this one crossed the line big time" (I agree). We must remember that words can easily be misinterpreted (as we have done so in these responses). The consultants??? comments, however innocuous, were not appropriate. The ETHICAL thing to do would not have been to add in the "we would hire him on our team" - the praise would have been appropriate otherwise. However, having said that, the consultant should have said to the manager in private that this was just praise, and that they would not hire anyone away from the client without first discussing it with them. They also should have then told the person that same thing, and that if the person had approached the firm for a job that the consultant would be bound to tell the manager. There is a reason why there is a Consulting Code of Ethics - to protect their clients from consultants' behaviors like this. This is what happens when people are not familiar with the Consulting Code of Ethics as published by the Institute of Management Consultants USA and the other standards bodies around the world. Something doesn???t have to be illegal to be unethical, but (unfortunately) that is the perception of many of the people in our profession. And when those lines crossed, the profession can (and does) suffer. If you don't think that is correct, just wait until you read about the upcoming trial (August) with the DOJ and a major IT consulting firm for ethical breaches in billing. There isn't anything illegal that has gone on, but there are questions around ethics. Ours is a profession that doesn't require licensure as do the accounting, legal, engineering, and medical professions, and as such we must both educate and hold ourselves accountable. We have no barriers to entry - anyone can hang out their shingle and call themselves a consultant. Unfortunately, there are far too many people out there who do not have the training and/or education around the myriad of complex issues such as ethics that being a professional consultant requires, and because of this they ultimately get themselves in trouble and damage the profession's name. Ignore (or not be knowledgeable about) ethics and the Code at your own peril...

-
-

"Working with" might be taken in the context that it arose in - meaning a repeat of the experience with you in the same capacity on a future project with the same vendor for your present employer.

LMHinWEHO
LMHinWEHO

1. If this offer was from a consultant then they certainly were not a Certified Management Consultant nor a member of the Institute of Management Consultants. Such behavior is extremely unethical and violates the Code of Conduct. 2. Legal? What do you know about the nature of this Consultant's contract with your company? If the lawyers were any good they would have a "no poaching" clause in the contract. Do you really want to get tainted by a potential legal problem? 3. EWWWWW! Do you really want to work for someone who would behave in such a manner? If they are willing to screw over one of their clients who PAYS them, who next? You? It sounds like "you got skills". Hold your head up and YOU pick the place you most want to work and go for it.

delta47
delta47

Neutrality in this means you get to think this through but not overthink it to the point that you get insomnia from lack of sleep and stress. Remember the saying? "Not all grass on the other side is green".

delta47
delta47

You might want to weigh the pros and cons of going to the other company. Ex. If you move you might be contented/satisfied BUT might not be able to enjoy the current lifestyle advantages you have with your job. OR you might want to stay and be able to enjoy the current lifestyle advantages you have with your job BUT be discontented with your job. YOUR CHOICE. :D

tony
tony

Suppose that this all comes to pass and you go to work for the vendor. You could then find yourself having to work with your old company, and if the boss you are unhappy about there is not over the moon that you left, this could spell trouble. So if you do explore this as a potential job opportunity, I would also explore if there is sufficient scope in the new company that you would not have to work on a project with your old company for some time. There is a real risk that you can get caught between the two companies, especially if things go wrong, and it does sound like things are not going right where you are at present.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Since the project is over with, there's no current conflict of interests, and no ethical reason not to seek employment with them. Check out what seems to be available at that company. Send them a tailored resume with the skill sets they would be interested in. Use your contact in your cover letter as a tickler for them to remember you by. Don't burn your bridges until you know you have the job and it has adequate duration.

Randy Hagan
Randy Hagan

I would navigate these waters carefully. First things first, what's his vendor's relationship with your immediate supervisor? Don't forget for a second that he wasn't the only person on that call. His boss was too. What the IT Pro is interpreting as a sly job offer may have been intended by the consultant as a good way to butter up his client by complimenting the staff, or just an awkward way to compliment the IT Pro for help on his billable project. Unless the IT Pro is ready to tip his hand that he wants to work somewhere else, I'd want to be sure that the consultant wouldn't immediately go back to his boss and let him know I was job hunting. This is the most basic issue here: can he trust the consultant to respect his confidentiality? Other reasons to exercise caution have already been mentioned here: What would hiring him on would to to the consultant/client/former employer relationship? Especially considering that switching allegiances in this business relationship could destroy the whole deal? Finally, is he considering this move because he'd actually like this job, or just looking for shelter from the storm? Is the consultant hiring? Would he be a good fit for that organization? Are his skills readily marketable elsewhere, or is he looking to jump to the consultant because it's one of the few options available to work anywhere else but his dead-end job? These are dirty questions, but ones that a friend should ask of our IT Pro before he considers doing anything. Only after carefully and honestly considering these issues should he want to share with the consultant that he's considering a job change. Even then, I'd advise him do as the article suggests and mention it in general terms. He should ask first for a referral or reference and let the consultant bring up anything about a potential job offer.

maj37
maj37

I do not believe it would unethical for the worker to bring it up or to take a job with the vendor but it may be unethical for the vendor and as others have pointed out dangerous for their business with this customer. Whether it is a problem for the vendor is the vendor's concern if they are concerned then they won't hire the person. I do like Toni's way of broaching the subject with them. We had a situation several years ago where we had hired a consulting company to assist us in a system conversion, after the project got going someone on our team announced that he was leaving to go to work for the consulting company. The consultant that was working on our project wasn't from the office that was hiring the guy but he called that office and told them about the ongoing project and stopped the hire. He indicated to me it just wasnt ethical for them to hire away from a current customer, apparently the office agreed. maj

TechRepFollower
TechRepFollower

You could ask them, considering their earlier comments, whether you could use them as a referee on your cv or if they could provide a recommendation on linked-in or in writing. That way they realise you are looking and might also put pressure on them to come up with an offer quickly.

jck
jck

Unethical? Neither getting a compliment from someone about work ethic/proficiency nor being offered a job (however directly or indirectly) is unethical. It's a testament to your skills and efforts. Now is it illegal? That depends on your employment agreement and laws where you are. You want to be careful not to get yourself into a legal problem. If you thought they were fishing and you got to talk in-person, one-on-one with the other person...it wouldn't be wrong to do a "hey...just between you and me..." inquisition...since you're obviously not happy with the situation where you are. A move to a better situation would be better for you and them. I hope you get a move to a place that makes you happier, pays just as well, and has a more reasonable work schedule. 80+ hours is not reasonable even if you're getting overtime. You need downtime.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

We love you and want you to stay Honest. OK so Jason isn't a nice guy at the moment is that what you are trying to say? Or could it be that if the rest of the E-Mail was posted it relates to someone else? Col

faithingod1970
faithingod1970

I agree that caution is needed in such a position. The company he currently works for may see this as having been an attempt to steal an employee and should he take the job with the vendor could actually lose the vendor that business. On the other hand, the networking possibilities even if not hired by the vendor may open doors to other opportunities that might not otherwise have been presented. So I would ultimately echo the first answer and just mention that he is looking and see what happens from there.

WorkingDigital
WorkingDigital

Given that this person's boss was on the call, the vendor's remarks may have been primarily aimed at "giving props" to the employee. I've worked with a lot of vendors and have heard similar things said to my employees in situations where they worked well together. That said, there may have been potential interest with the intent to plant a seed for the future. Here's another consideration: how important is the vendor-client relationship to the vendor? Assuming that there aren't any contractual restrictions, recruiting may not be illegal or unethical. However, recruiting a company's talent away is likely to affect the trust between the two companies, and could negatively affect their future business. So yes... it is possible that he could land a job with the vendor, but there is a risk. I would only proceed if he is ready to burn a few bridges within his current company. If that decision has been made, then I agree that the vendor could be a help even if they don't extend an offer... perhaps as a reference if nothing else.

rjhawkin
rjhawkin

The one item that no one touched on from the original article was that the complement was targeted to one perhaps narrow area of expertise. This sounds like vendor schmooze, however, not terribly well done. The vendor would be better off to assist you into a new company than to take you on themselves. The reason is that once at a new company you can bring the vendor additional income. I would only consider going to the vendor for a job after breaking ties with the current company, not a s a preplanned thing. It would be interesting to hear how the questor made out in their choice.

jck
jck

which is more stressful: 1) Staying at a job that's stressing you out and will until you leave. 2) Finding another job and having additional stress til you get there. I just moved 1300-1400 miles, paid $ks out of my own pocket, borrowed money from family, and packed up my entire house by myself and left to come up where employment was good. The new job is awesome. People here are not anywhere close to as uptight and digging at each other. The atmosphere here is more laid back, and they take advantage of my skills here. Moving isn't always bad. But, you have to do your research. I've been on that finding out it's not greener ordeal. The only job I have ever stayed at less than a convenience store job...and that's cause the stress almost killed me.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Never tell your employer you are job hunting, unless you have an offer in hand that you would be comfortable accepting. Two things can happen when you tell your boss you are looking elsewhere. 1) They panic and try to get you to stay by offering to improve conditions, offer to match or beat any offers you get, look to see if they can find another position to move you to ,,,,or 2) They think you are ungrateful, and look to see if they can find an excuse to get rid of you. I would wager 2 happens much more than 1. I experienced number 2 when I asked about a mediocre wage increase. I have done number 1 with an employee who came to me, but I think most of my peers don't work that way.

jck
jck

So, you can't solicit someone yourself? So, is hiring a headhunter to do it for you any better? Honestly...in the situation discussed, there was no direct offer. It was a passing comment, not a solicitation or "staff poaching". Hence, your push of "by the books" ethics is inapplicable. Also, your "(includes past/inactive clients)" is absurd. If I followed that ethic strictly, I could never work for dozens of companies or other government entities because I worked for government operations where we worked with hundreds of vendors and dozens of departments in other government bodies. There's a difference between actively pursuing your business partner's staff in a clandestine fashion as to "poach" them, and putting it out there that if someone was not employed that you'd hire them because you like their work ethic. Nice thought trying to make business ethical...but, that's like trying to clean ugly off a vulture.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

That wasn't soliciting. Soliciting is saying "Hey, dump these deadbeats and come work for us!" Telling, when the other persons' employer is present, that d00dz, take care of this guy or someone else will... that' NOT SOLICITING! It's helping the other company keep track of which employees this vendor prefers to work with, which is not in any way construable as an unethical practice. Get a grip people!

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

My reply was going to be just about identical, if I hadn't read it here first.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

Unless they fire me. Even then, I'm still going to come in, ala George Costanza.

jck
jck

Toni doesn't need our advice for this sorta things. She's like the HR/PR/Interview/how-to-handle-management expert. ;) It's gotta be Bill D. :^0 :p

jck
jck

Causing angst with your boss is never good. If he's more worried about who's gonna do the work, he'll try and keep you. Otherwise, you become a gnat to get swatted.

Daylight-TT
Daylight-TT

@jck you are wrong on all counts. By the way, I am not concerned with the value you place on ethics, only my own and the people I deal with.

jck
jck

It's been rumored that sometimes I make sense. :^0

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