How to switch companies?
August 11, 2008 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Controversial Job Change: Family business broke up, 1/2 the family left current company to start competing business. Considering the bad blood, how do I make a switch to the other team?

I have been working for a family business for the past 5 yrs. When I started, I was hired by one of the owner's children. At that time, the company was a complete family affair (parents and children).

Approx 1.5 yrs after I started, the parents got a divorce. At the same time, the family split and 2 children not-so-secretely went off to start a competing company. Currently, There is bad blood between the 2 halves. The person who hired me, my boss at the time, was one of the children that left. I truly enjoyed working for them and agree with their vision, business model, and values.

The company they started up is ready to take me on as an employee. The position would be a promotion and I would be entering on the first floor of a growing company. If it is successful, I stand to do very well. I am very excited at the prospect of being able to help shape the development of a company.

I've decided to take the risk and made a commitment to moving to the start-up.

How do I leave my current job?

In an effort to be honest, I feel I need to tell my supervisor (non family member) why I am leaving and where I am going. I feel he knows that it's business and will congratulate me. Once the owners get wind of this, I feel they will fire me, or just ask me to leave. The thing is, I would like the time to train someone to takeover my position. My coworkers and I work in a sort of "team" and my leaving would negatively affect them until a replacement can be found or trained.

Does anyone have experience with something like this? Should I just leave the ball in the owner's court? I feel an ethical obligation to not leave my coworkers hanging.

Thanks for any help.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Once you know you want to leave, it's no longer your responsibility. For that matter, you'll be (essentially) helping out your new employer's competition unnecessarily. Tell your supervisor what's going on, and give your two weeks' notice; from there it's none of your business how they choose to handle it. Go to your new job and enjoy.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:47 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

What tomorrowful said. If it's a true competitor, there's no way in hell they will want you around for two weeks... in the same "just business" way as your decision to leave in the first place.

Whatever value you have decreases dramatically once you're on the way out, and your desire to train someone isn't likely to outweigh the logical risks in that.

Give your two weeks, but expect to be asked to leave immediately. It's just correct all around.
posted by rokusan at 1:50 PM on August 11, 2008

It sounds to me like you are taking on obligations and responsibilities that really don't belong to you.

For starters, you have no obligation to tell your supervisor where you are going. If they ask, you can always give them a non-answer like "I'm considering all of my options."

But if you do tell -- and they (or the owners) choose to kick you out before you can train your replacement -- then that is fully their problem, not yours.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:51 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I feel an ethical obligation to not leave my coworkers hanging.
If your owners terminate you immediately on getting wind of your plans (which is pretty likely, given the circumstances), then it's not you who left your co-workers hanging -- it's the owners.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 1:52 PM on August 11, 2008

If the owners are bitter they are going to treat you badly on your way out the door. If for nothing else but to keep the current workers in fear of the same treatment if they decide to jump. It's too bad that people act this way but don't take it too personal. Business is business. I have a friend who spend 15 years doing everything for a similar company and decided to jump to a competing company made up of former workers. He came back from a vacation to find all his belongings boxed up. He wasn't expecting it and felt incredibly violated and unappreciated. Just be ready for it and if it doesn't happen you'll be pleasantly surprised.
posted by any major dude at 2:35 PM on August 11, 2008

Copy your personal email address book onto your thumb drive, and give notice. Be prepared to be asked to leave immediately, since you are going to a competitor. Do not take any proprietary information with you. Be prepared for them to be angry.
posted by theora55 at 2:56 PM on August 11, 2008

While your immediate (non-family) supervisor will probably respect the just-business aspect of this, family members higher in the hierarchy may not. Given the situation, they may well decide to screw with your reputation, either vindictively or to disincentivize other employees from following your lead.

You should take any ethical steps you can to avoid this. If you have friends you can trust at your current company, ask if they'd be willing to be references in the future. Make a list, now, of what specific accomplishments you had at your current company. If you legally can, try to take some evidence with you. For example, if you're a programmer, take code samples. Again, only if you legally can and be absolutely sure you don't inadvertently reuse any of your old work at the new company.

And importantly, don't tell your current employer where you're going... if they find out then they find out, but hopefully you'll have faded from their ire by that point. Ottereroticist (nice) is right, the nonanswer is time-tested and has zero chance of backfiring.

Things will probably be fine... hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Good luck and congrats on the new opportunity!
posted by Riki tiki at 3:00 PM on August 11, 2008

It's very possible that they will take it personally, because well, it sounds like their business IS personal for them. Echoing everyone else - it is their choice whether or not to boot you out the door as soon as you give notice, and there isn't much you can do about it. But if you were my coworker genuinely didn't want to "leave me hanging," you'd be forever in my good graces by writing some documentation about your job and important issues and files, and letting me know where to find it prior to your giving notice just so you're prepared no matter what happens.
posted by universal_qlc at 3:01 PM on August 11, 2008

It's a family business, but it's not your family business. Don't take it personally.

1 - Take home all the personal items from your office. Don't make a big deal of it, just put a few items in your briefcase each day. Depending on how much personal stuff you have at the office you may need to do this over several days. This step will spare you the uncomfortable time packing up your stuff if they ask you to leave immediately.
2 - If 2 weeks without pay will be a financial hardship, make sure your new employer will allow you to start immediately.
3 - Decide how you'll handle informing any clients with whom you have a personal relationship. Your current company should inform clients of their new contact person at the company, but you may want to follow up with a personal note with your contact information. (Depends quite a bit on your individual situation.)
4 - Copy whatever you'll need from your PC. Don't take any intellectual property of your current company.
5 - Turn in your resignation. In your letter you can offer to provide support during the transition period of your 2 week notice.

Good luck!
posted by 26.2 at 10:49 PM on August 11, 2008

When you think of business, you need to think of the Mafia. Remember what Sal Tessio said to Michael Corleone. "I always liked you. It was only business."

Don't think about the old business. Don't think much about loyalty from the new business either. Both will let you go and take anything that you won't fight for if you let them.
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA at 12:40 PM on August 12, 2008

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