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My wife and I have been discussing a family “job change” dilemma. She currently works at a very large matrixed firm.  In addition to her “regular job”, she manages a relationship with a business partner/sometime competitor.  She’s the top performer on her regular team by far and has tripled the previously struggling business with the partner since becoming their liason (she also does all the work the partner sends to her).  She is underpaid relative to her education, experience, and pre-kids jobs, and is earning her company over 100 times her salary.  Her manager would like to promote/reward her, but has been rebuffed by HR. There really isn’t the possibility for career advancement or meaningful pay raises within her segment of the business.  I can confirm that advancing quality candidates is a real problem there, as I was a manager in the same firm for a few years before being laid off in management cost-cutting.

In order to get paid “what she’s worth” she needs to leave the company, but the industry contains only a couple of firms, so if she is going to stay in the same line of work she’s going to end up working for a competitor of some kind.  In a world of “at will” employment, obviously she’s legally and ethically allowed to consider this sort of alternate employment. 

The ideal job for her would be working directly with the competitor/business partner with whom she currently liases.  She knows the people, has proven she’s great at the job, and could get paid a lot more while still increasing the partner’s revenue on work she’s doing by a huge margin -- her current employer is taking 95% of the profits!  Keep in mind that if she left for any other job, the partnership would probably fall apart within a few months...

Is there any ethical and professional way to discuss this with the partner?  Or is it sleazy to even consider it?

Thanks for your perspective!

G3's picture

Let me see if I've got this right. It sounds to me like you think that your wife is not getting paid what she's worth. She works in a very small industry. And you are wondering if it makes sense for her to persue an opportunity with a competitor (with whom she has a relationship). Do I have the right?

winnetkat's picture

Exactly. There's something about it that doesn't feel right, but we can't put our finger on it exactly. For instance:

  • It's clearly ok to seek another job
  • even in the same industry
  • even with a competitor
  • nor is it a problem to plan ahead, thinking about what the best opportunities for you might be...
  • The problem doesn't seem like it can be that the employee leaving inadvertently costs the company money or an important business relationship. Nearly every departing talented employee is an "inconvenience" to their former employer in one way or another. Also, my wife isn't primarily in a sales role, but in this relationship she is filling a sales function and sales staff, brokers, lawyers, etc. move firms with their book of relationships all the time. Solving business problems and profiting from creating the solution also seems innocuous enough. On the other hand, it seems awkward and potentially unprofessional to raise the idea with the competitor. Or can you suggest a good way to bring up the topic?