Folks - I could really use some help. Please allow me to outline the scenario:

I work in business advisory at firm A. Firm A is in the process of merging with firm B. I decided that working at firm B was not for me and accepted a position at firm X. I listened to, and implemented the recommendations of the how to quit podcasts and that all worked a treat - I have managed my resignation well and all my relationships are intact - I will finish at firm A at the end of June and am in the process of managing the transition of my projects.

I work with a small team in firm A, geographically seperate from the remainder of our team. The rest of my local team at firm A are in the process of negotiating a deal with firm Z which is going to go ahead. Nobody else at firm A knows anything about this. Everybody knows that I am going to firm X. Firms B and Z are both clients of my new firm X.

[u]Ethical problem[/u]
My local boss is 'hiding' projects / clients from the wider team at firm A so that he can take them with him to firm Z. I am working on one of these projects and pressure is being applied for me to withhold this fact from senior people at my current firm A. The project has not been processed through the firms national project management systems so that there will be no record of it when the team leave.

I want to maintain good relations with my local team, and by extension with the people they will work with at firm X, but I don't want to be involved in hiding anything from or lying to anybody at my current firm as I am also keen that my exit from firm A continues to be handled professionally.

I would really welcome any thoughts any of you have about how I can best handle this situation.

Many thanks

AManagerTool's picture

This really does not sound like much of a dilemma. Firm A is still paying you. You owe them your loyalty till someone else's name is on your paycheck. Your manager is wrong for laying this at your feet. I would not run off and tell (don't snitch) unless it was in my job to report new projects, but if asked or in any business conversation on the topic, I would rattle off all the details just like I did before.

I would probably tell local boss Z that I would do this to give him a chance to 'fess up but only a few hours. You don't want this guy to have too much time to spin it like you are the jerk trying to hijack business.

I don't believe any manager has the right to order you to do something unethical, illegal or immoral. You never know if someday company A or B may buy company Z or X or swap management. Things like this have a tendency to follow you around.

jwyckoff's picture

There's one relationship you can't mess up... if you do, it'll nag you for the rest of your life.

That relationship is with yourself.

You need to do what's right, and that's what your head & heart tell you. You might upset some folks, but that pales in comparison with the guilt of unethical behavior.

Does this help? Are you looking for *how* to blow the whistle?

asteriskrntt1's picture

Hi K

First, I am young and a new manager, not a lawyer and certainly not Mark or Mike. However, this is how your situation reads to me.

On the surface, this looks like it is beyond a personal ethical choice between you maintaining your networks. If you have a lawyer in your network, I would bounce this off them.

At some point, because work is being done on behalf of these clients, billings are going to be made and the secret will be out. And I mean all the secrets, including the secret deal to take the entire team and existing contracts to company Z. This kind of skullduggary rarely turns out well and if the billings /client relationship are material, then you can be reasonably sure some lawsuits will be hitting the fan.

I am guessing the contracts/relationships are material otherwise this manager would not be making all this effort to hide them and drag them over to the new firm. Be proactive and find a way to both disassociate yourself from this behaviour while at the same time protecting yourself.


bflynn's picture

I'll admit to being confused. I had to draw some inferences to create this, please tell me if its not accurate.

Your boss is leaving A to work at Z and not registering new projects into the system. You believe he has intent to take those projects with him to a new company. Your dilemma is whether to let someone know that these projects exist. You are caught between what you know is ethically right and what would be convenient for you. Shame on your manager for putting you in this situation.

Rationalization 1 is to forget about ethics. This isn't your problem. If you act, you will impact your future work and will be less effective in the future. Rationalization 2 is to accept that the ethical choice means a rougher personal road in the future.

The decision is yours. Either way, you will learn and grow from the experience. What can you live with?


kennywj's picture


Thanks for the input - I feel less 'on my own' in this! If I let the situation continue then I will be complicit in his plan as I would have to write off my time rather than charge it to the proper timecode for the project (which has not been set up). I'm clear that I'm not prepared to do this and am happy to live with the consequences. Think the next few days will be interesting! Always something new to learn....

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

Good decision making going on.

And...I want to say that I love a community that fosters a place for such a question AND provides some perspective and assistance.

thaGUma's picture

I work in UK property development (US: realty) although I am not a developer. Rumours of this kind of thing are rife. The people considered to have acted this way may become successful, but there is always a significant difference in any future dealings: lack of trust and less chance of offering them a good deal.

You need to make sure there is a paper trail and strong recommendations at each stage in any discussions with your boss.
You are both professionals, you both know what's happening. Your boss is in the wrong. Even if short terms gains are possible for your boss, this kind of thing backfires frequently. If you conive or turn a blind eye, you cannot count on any future benefit.

'Begin with the end in sight'. This situation will not fit in any of your lifetime goals, so get out of the firing line somehow.

Suggest that in any dealings you make absolutely no reference to any 'hiding'. Rather use 'Hey Jack, nice report but you forgot XYZ.'. If your boss decides to hide things, he is perfectly able to exclude you and you therefore become insulated. Extremely unlikely he will coerce you to become part of his deception. If he does then he has escalated matters to the next level.

You may suspect that your boss if hiding something. If he excludes you then you have the decision to question the exclusion or let it pass on the basis that he is the boss.

Just think - if you did play part of this game and it came out. B will have serious issues with you. Z won't want to deal with you, or if they do dealings will be tainted. X will say "sheesh k, this wasn't on your resume, guess we'll have to let you go".

There is no win in this.

Chris (44 and seen a lot of rather 'interesting' slants) .

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

When I first read this post I was leaving a client. I almost responded to it while driving to O'Hare. WHILE DRIVING.

This is only a dilemma if you're prepared to consider doing something so unethical that if you worked for most value-driven managers you would be terminated immediately.

Do the right thing. What you're doing now is NOT the right thing.

Our community wishes you well with this important decision - this life-defining decision.

If you would like to speak with me person, please send me a private message. I am available this weekend.


AManagerTool's picture

If you would like to speak with me person, please send me a private message. I am available this weekend.


Now THAT is impressive. Mark, you are a good man!