This Ship Is Sinking. Can I Jump to a Client’s?


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I am in a senior position with a marketing agency that is in bad shape. Employees are on reduced hours and pay because our work has slowed substantially. The owners pledged to get new work but have not made any moves in that direction. I’m looking for a new job, and I’ve seen some very appealing openings with current clients. I’d be a great candidate, because I know many of the players, and they know and like my work. We don’t have a noncompete, but I am worried I would further harm my employer if I applied for a job with its clients. Will the clients take it as a red flag? Will I accelerate the demise of my current company if I jump ship to a client?

— Anonymous

You will not harm your employer by taking a new job with one of its clients. You are not responsible for your employer’s demise. If the roles were reversed, it would not offer you a fraction of the consideration you are offering. It is a job, and maybe you love it, but as I have said many times before, it will not and cannot love you back. If there are no noncompete issues (which may not matter anyway, as the Federal Trade Commission banned noncompetes last week), by all means, take a job with a client. If the client asks why you’re leaving your agency, you’re welcome to offer a diplomatic answer — or you can tell the truth. This is not an ethical quandary. It would be unethical only if, for example, you took a position with a client and then shared proprietary information about your former employer or its other clients.


I manage a small, stellar team at a nonprofit. After annual reviews last year, I reached out to my supervisor to request raises for each member of my team and myself, factoring in both the annual cost-of-living raise and the merit raises I would like to see. I then shared what I was hoping to get each individual with that person, so they would know they had someone advocating for them. This seemed like a good decision at the time, to show I valued their hard work.

However, we recently received our raise notifications, and, while everyone did get a salary bump, we didn’t quite hit the numbers I was hoping for. Now, based on some reactions, I’m worried that they’re disappointed because expectations were set too high. Did I make a mistake in giving them the specific salary increases I was hoping for? How should I follow up? Should I follow up at all?

— Anonymous

Though you meant well, you did make a mistake. In the future, you can certainly tell members of your team you are going to push for raises, but don’t give them exact numbers until you know what those numbers are. In this instance, you set your team up for disappointment, and that’s what you’re seeing right now. I’m not sure if you should follow up. It may just deepen any resentment they’re feeling — a bit of salt in the wound. They probably don’t care about your good intentions right now. The best path forward is to learn from this misstep. And don’t be too hard on yourself. You were acting from a good place. I’d also think of some other ways you can show your team how much you value its hard work.



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