what are the ethics of poaching an employee from someone I know professionally?

A reader writes:

I work with several other professionals. Basically, we are contractors who provide a management company a percentage of our earnings, and they take care of the other aspects of running a business (renting a space, IT, human resources, etc). I am not employed by them, but any support staff who I work with are their employees. I am not in a partnership with the other professionals. I don’t have any control over the support staff’s salaries, benefits, etc.

I am going to be leaving this company soon and starting up my own business, and I am going to need support staff of my own. At least one of the staff (Taylor) is looking for a new job – she disclosed this to me. I find Taylor to be an excellent employee and I would be happy to have her working for me. I believe that she enjoys working with me as well.

The catch is that Taylor primarily works with Leslie, one of the other professionals, and has done so for about 2-3 years. Leslie has been very kind to me over the years and she has been a mentor for me professionally and socially since I started working in this city. Leslie has worked in this city for more than 20 years, and she has a lot of experience in our field. She is well liked and well connected with many of the other professionals in my field in the city. I’m pretty new (working for less than 5 years).

I do not plan on asking Taylor to come work for me. This would not prevent Taylor from submitting a resume if I post a job ad, particularly if they know that I will be hiring.

Although Taylor is not directly employed by Leslie, I am worried that if Taylor left her job at her current company to come work for me, Leslie would see this as employee poaching and would be hurt and perceive this as betrayal of a mentor, even if I didn’t actively solicit Taylor to work for me. It would impact Leslie’s work because it would mean that the company needs to hire a new support staffer and train them to Leslie’s specifications, which takes time and effort. And of course, there is no guarantee that the new staff member would be as good as Taylor is, which would further impact Leslie longer term.

Primarily I want to preserve my good relationship with Leslie, but I also don’t want to become known in my relatively small professional circle as the one who left Leslie in the lurch by poaching her support staff.

I’m also a little torn because I recognize that Taylor is not an indentured servant to Leslie and does have the choice of leaving whenever she wants. If she were to submit a resume, I’m not sure that “you work for Leslie so I can’t hire you” is a good enough reason to strike her off of my hiring list, particularly when she has worked for me before and we have a good working relationship.

What are your thoughts? Could I hire Taylor if she submitted a resume to work for me, or is the risk of torpedoing a good personal relationship and a professional reputation too high?

This is always tricky.

It’s absolutely true that people are free agents. Acting as if a particular employer has “dibs” on them that other employers have to respect is bad for workers because it limits their options.

But it’s also true that your own relationships with people matter, and it can be harmful to you to upset a contact whose good will is important to you — even if it would be utterly unreasonable for them to be upset.

And to be clear, Leslie would be being unreasonable if she got upset that you hired Taylor. Disappointed, sure. Even a little frustrated at first, okay. It sucks to lose a good employee, and it’s understandable to have emotions around that. But any decent, reasonable person needs to pretty quickly move on from that and recognize that employees need to be free to act in their own best interests, and it’s not a betrayal to have let them know about an opening they were well matched with.

But not everyone is reasonable. Some people get pissy about someone else “luring away” their employees and see it as a betrayal, or unclassy, or just kind of crappy. And as unreasonable as that is, it can have real repercussions for you if that person has a lot of influence in some way.

I’d love to give you an ideologically pure line like “there’s no such thing as poaching because employees are free agents,” but that ignores the reality that of course you care about relationships that might get impacted.

This creates a situation that, frankly, sucks. It particularly sucks for Taylor that her candidacy will get filtered through the lens of “how much might this upset someone I know?”

What people often do in this situation is create plausible deniability. They won’t woo the candidate aggressively, but will take a lighter touch. For example, you could send Taylor the job posting and ask if she knows anyone who might be interested. You can even say something like, “Someone exactly like you would be perfect.” From there, you hope that she volunteers herself as a candidate, which allows you to tell Leslie — if she ever brings it up — that you didn’t deliberately try to hire Taylor away but she applied. There’s some fiction in there, obviously, but it’s a common way to do it.

Or, if you do hire Taylor, you could talk about the best way to talk to Leslie about it. Since Taylor was already actively job searching before you even had an opening, might she be willing to mention that to Leslie when she leaves? Knowing she was going to leave anyway can make it feel less like “you hired away my employee” and more like “my employee was looking to leave, and at least they moved on to someone we both know and like.”

But also, what do you know about Leslie? Is she petty or vindictive? Does she tend to think of employees as “hers,” rather than recognizing them as independent agents? Does she feel betrayed when people quit? Is she highly dependent on Taylor staying right now because there’s some temporary reason why she couldn’t hire and train a replacement immediately? Answering yes to any of those questions is a good reason to proceed with caution — meaning using the approach above, not excluding Taylor from consideration altogether. But otherwise, Leslie might be a perfectly rational person who understands that people move around and that hiring people you’ve worked with previously is exactly how networking works.

There are no perfect answers here. Sometimes you can navigate this perfectly and still end up with an upset client or contact. So you’ve just got to weigh all the factors and make your best guess about how to proceed.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 125 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    I think this is very industry-dependent, and also how you proceed depends on any agreements you’ve signed with the company you’re currently contracted with.

    In my niche of advertising, which is small enough that everyone knows everyone, it’s pretty much understood that poaching is going to happen. Agencies make people sign agreements when they’re hired that they won’t try to recruit people after they leave…and people flagrantly violate those agreements minutes after they start work at the new job. (“What? She sent me her resume on her own, I had no idea she was going to apply!”) It is indeed all about plausible deniability. At most, what happens is that one agency will send a cease-and-desist letter to another, and the agency on the receiving end might stop recruiting employees away from the sending agency for a few months. But it’s hard enough to find good talent in our industry that nobody’s going to ignore a chance to recruit a whole good team once you get one good person.

    YMMV but I think in this industry we realize that it happens, and those who take it personally are probably hypocrites who’ve tried to recruit others when the situation is reversed.

  2. Random Thought*

    if you have a contract with the management company, also make sure there is no non-solicitation clause that would impact how you interact with Taylor. doesnt mean you cant proceed along the lines of how Alison suggested (depending on how its drafted), but better to know up front in case it changes how you would otherwise interact with her about this.

      1. Flyleaf*

        I’m not sure that this FTC guidance applies. The FTC is saying that two distinct companies cannot collude to prevent one company from poaching employees of the other company. That is different from the OP’s situation.

        In the case of the OP, she works for a company, and is looking to solicit another employee from that company to join her new venture. A non-solicit agreement could cover this situation, and could prevent the OP from soliciting Taylor. These kinds of non-solicit agreements are common and typically allowed by the courts.

        1. TooTiredToThink*

          I’m wondering if Mlana misread and thought Random Thought was advocating having one of those clauses after hiring Taylor? That’s the only thing that is making sense to me.

      2. Random Thought*

        first of all, this guidance is moot if the clause already exists. OP may decide, after consulting with an attorney, that it couldnt be enforced, but there are of course many valid non solicitation clauses which, as JKP notes below, require payment of a “finders fee” for the employee that can be quite exorbitant (for example, 1 year salary). this is common in commercial agreements and is a factor OP should consider even if it’s not determinative.

        1. Random Thought*

          one more thought– the clause may actually help if it acknowledges an exception for the employee deciding to apply “spontaneously” in which case it would coincide with Alison’s advice. but either way, OP would want to pay attention to how “soliciting” is described

    1. JKP*

      Second this. I have a business with a similar setup, where I work for myself but the support staff are employed by the management company for the benefit of all the businesses that work there. They do have a specific clause in my contract that I can’t hire their support staff away. If I do, there’s a huge penalty fee I would have to pay the management company.

  3. Mlana*

    The FTC has issued guidance that no-poaching agreements are illegal restraints of trade. Do not agree with your friend not to poach.

    1. CAA*

      Yes. Google “High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation” for information about what can go wrong. You’ll probably never get caught if it’s just between two people, but that doesn’t make it right.

  4. Mike C.*

    It’s kind of weird that you don’t really talk about Taylor’s interests here. Clearly Taylor is looking for something better, and if the LW is to be successful in hiring Taylor that means something clearly better has been offered. If Leslie can’t beat that, it’s her (or her organization’s) fault for not advocating for and providing adequate compensation. No one else. If everyone is afraid of Leslie being a complete monster over this, then Taylor’s chances of improving their lot are severely diminished.

    It also feels gross to even consider the “relationship” angle between the LW and Leslie. Those sorts of buddy-buddy arrangements (even if informal) lead down the path of no-hire agreements, wage fixing and so on. It seems incredibly unethical to me.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, it sucks, as I tried to note in the post. But the reality is that people’s professional relationships matter to them, and it’s unrealistic to expect them not to factor those in. “Just don’t worry about the professional repercussions for you” isn’t always practical advice.

      1. Purt's Peas*

        I think that’s really important to keep in mind. But the question is directly about ethics! It’s framed as, “is it unethical to Leslie to poach Taylor?” But the equivalent/flipside framing is, “is it unethical to avoid hiring Taylor because I’m friends with Leslie?” The answer to that other framing is, in fact: yes, it is unethical.

        It can also be true at the same time that doing the unethical thing will will help OP professionally, but that’s true about a lot of unethical behavior. I appreciate the pragmatism of “this is the real world” but that pragmatism can fall so easily into justification, and in this case it makes me uneasy.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think it’s inherently unethical to avoid hiring Taylor because it might upset Leslie. I think it absolutely sucks that it has to be a consideration, but I don’t think it’s inherently immoral for the OP to consider the entire context she has to work in. (I do think, though, that it would be unethical for Leslie to make a stink about it or to hold it against either of them.)

          1. Purt's Peas*

            Agreed that Leslie would be in the wrong to make a stink about it–and to be honest I think this is a low-stakes question because Leslie sounds reasonable enough to not make a stink!

            I do still think it’s lightly but definitely unethical to, as Mike C. said, start down a path of a no-hire agreement like that. I’m worried this will sound like a distinction without a difference, but I don’t think it would necessarily be wrong or immoral in this particular case, even if it is unethical; it depends on the consequences. For example, taking a sick day when you’re not sick is unethical, but I still do it and I’m not immoral or in the wrong for it. That’s a super, ultra low-consequences example.

            But in this case, it feels more like saying, “yes, you can go on this one golf trip with your male boss and leave your female coworker who ‘doesn’t like golf’ behind.” Yes, this one action is a unethical; no it’s certainly not immoral in and of itself; yes, it provides a little benefit to you and this one time may not materially harm your coworker. But it becomes immoral in the pattern, the continuation, and the build-up of unethical actions.

            What I want to say is that I think this one instance of avoiding “poaching” would probably be fairly harmless, and it’s natural for the OP to consider her own job. I agree with you, and I certainly don’t think you’re saying, of course it’s purely A-OK to avoid hiring Taylor for this reason. But I think it is unethical, and it makes me uneasy to excuse unethical behavior with a shrug of pragmatism instead of at least reckoning with it.

          2. tamarack and fireweed*

            This is a really interesting question. I’ve thought about circumstances under which it would be unethical to refrain from offering someone (C. Candidate) the opportunity of a job with me because of concern with my business relationship with Leslie.

            Well, one situation that would IMHO be clearly unethical is if I’m motivated of concern for managing Leslie’s bigotry (eg. if I hire C she might come into contact with Leslie, and Leslie is prejudiced against people with C’s background). Purt’s Peas’ golfing example is a variation of that. Say both me and Leslie are blokes and we conduct our business in part over chummy golf-and-brandy outings, and I make sure I don’t hire a woman, or even a working-class or immigrant man (from non-golfing parts of the world) because my new employee would be expected to grow into this role and I want to keep.

            But here the initiative in the situation is largely with Taylor, who, given her employment in Leslie’s organization is ongoing, can make the choice to leave it. I think how I think about the situation would depend whether employment opportunities roughly similar (in compensation, prospects, security and responsibility) the one the OP will be offering are more on the “dime a dozen in the area” side or on the “rare, precious pearl” side. If jobs like his open once in half a lifetime in that town I think it would be problematic if the OP excluded Taylor from it — a person he or she would apparently love to work with — just out of consideration of the relationship to Leslie. Especially since Taylor has made noises about wanting to move on.

            What the OP needs is plausible deniablilty, and I think scripts like Alison’s do the trick.

        2. Mediamaven*

          In my own experience (posted below), my ex boss called me unethical for hiring one of his employees. Was I a crappy person to do it? Perhaps. But don’t question my ethics. The real answer is that it’s not unethical to hire someone’s employee. Like, not at all unless it is illegal or immoral. But ethics simply is not the only thing to consider.

          1. Purt's Peas*

            Let me clarify, imo you acted just fine. My point was that I think it’s not super ethical to *avoid* hiring someone’s employee.

          2. Stick Together*

            It’s not “unethical” to make someone an offer that he/she deems better and he/she accepts the offer. I have heard plenty of stories where people’s managers move on to another company and “take the whole team along” because they enjoyed working with that team.

            For example, Jane and Bob work together well at Company A. Jane got a New Job and soon there’s an opening that matches Bob’s skills. Jane hires Bob and they are working together again. There’s a saying that people don’t leave jobs necessarily, they leave managers.

            1. Flyleaf*

              It might not be unethical, but it might violate an agreement that Jane made with her former employer. That violation might have legal and financial implications for Jane.

              1. Close Bracket*

                If the agreement was not to recruit employees of Jane’s former company, then the agreement is illegal.

                1. Flyleaf*

                  If Jane signed a non-solicit agreement with her former employer, she could be precluded from soliciting/recruiting employees of that former employer from joining her at her new job. That’s what a non-solicit is about, and they are generally legal and enforceable.

                  That being said, an agreement that Jane’s new employer might have with Jane’s former employer that says that the two companies won’t hire the other’s employees, then that kind of agreement would be illegal. But that’s not a non-solicit.

    2. Flyleaf*

      If there is a non-solicit agreement in place, but Taylor still wants to join the OP, there are a couple ways to work around the non-solicit.

      1) Taylor can quit, without an offer yet from OP. Once Taylor is a free agent, OP should be free to make an offer to Taylor. There is some risk for Taylor that the OP doesn’t follow through with an offer. And depending on the timing, the company might argue that this is all a facade and that OP did in fact solicit while Taylor was an employee.

      2) OP can leave company with no agreement with Taylor yet in place. Once OP severs relationship with company, Taylor can reach out to OP, with a well documented paper trail, asking about job opportunities. Since Taylor is leading this process, there is an argument to be made that OP is not soliciting company’s employees. But it doesn’t mean that they won’t threaten legal action and possibly sue the OP. I have been in this situation, in OP’s shoes, and while there was a bunch of legal saber rattling, there was no lawsuit. It still cost us a bit of money on our lawyers.

      1. Important Moi*

        I may be daft…a well documented paper trail for whom?

        Also, because I’m a worker bee versus queen bee …the question about Taylor, the answers…has anyone suggested talking to Taylor so she can be as well-informed as they desire Leslie to be regarding Taylor’s potential future employment?

        1. Flyleaf*

          For both of them, but it’s mostly for OP’s benefit.

          For example, Taylor could send an email to OP saying that they heard that OP left, and was wondering if OP might know about any jobs. Save the email. This shows that Taylor is reaching out to OP about looking for a job, rather than OP soliciting Taylor. It sounds like meaningless semantics, but it isn’t. Taylor can reach out to OP, but OP cannot reach out to Taylor, for the purpose of having Taylor leave employer to join OP.

    3. Student*

      Consider that it looks more palatable if Taylor is being offered a new opportunity–e.g., she was an admin and now she is being promoted to office manager. Offering a promotion to a good former coworker looks less like poaching (in your own interests) and more like supporting the career of someone who did a good job for you.

      1. Mike C.*

        How so? In the view of the person hiring them, you’re filling a needed role with an employee you know is good, avoiding the dice roll on an open hire. In the view of the now former unreasonable manager, you’ve “taken” their employee, regardless of the role they are now filling.

    4. Venus*

      This is similar to a situation at my workplace, where everything seems to be working out well.
      A coworker is looking for work elsewhere, because they have been doing the same job for a while and want to explore options. A manager from another department has an opening, and the coworker applied. There are currently limits on hiring, which means that managers are more sensitive to being poached. My coworker resolved this by going to our manager, explaining that there is an opportunity in another department that they are really keen to pursue, and our manager responded positively by thanking them for their honesty and asking that they provide them with details if they get the job (so no yelled requests demanding more information, and if it doesn’t work out then the other hiring manager will never be identified).

      In my example the move would be internal, so the coworker felt able to tell their manager ahead of time, but I would still consider applying that success to the OP’s situation where they can have Taylor talk with Leslie first. Have Taylor tell Leslie that they have found a new job, and then if that goes well then Taylor can explain that it’s with the OP. This will also depend on how Taylor feels about talking with Leslie.

    5. Public Sector Manager*

      As a starting aside, if the LW posts an ad and Taylor applies absent any encouragement and gets the job, I think this isn’t poaching, even though the LW knows Taylor. But if the LW goes to Taylor, says I want to hire you, and offers Taylor the position without letting anyone else know there is an open position, I see that as actual poaching. The lines start to blur when the LW strongly solicits Taylor to apply but still runs an ad.

      But getting to Mike C.’s point about Taylor’s point of view, I think the LW needs to assess whether the LW’s potential offer would be something different or exciting for Taylor or more of the same. Simply because Taylor is looking for other work doesn’t mean that Taylor wants to do the same work for the LW. Maybe Taylor wants to change careers. Maybe Taylor wants a shorter commute. Maybe Taylor is paid way under market and making the leap to LW’s fledgling company is a deal breaker because Taylor doesn’t want to burn a bridge with Leslie or repeat the job hunt in 6 months. The LW really needs to assess whether the LW can make a competitive offer.

      And previously having been a sole practitioner, a lot of my attorney business was dependent on referrals. The LW does need to assess how the business model shakes out if Leslie is going to be a source of business for the LW.

  5. Kyrius*

    I don’t work in this type of enviornment so I don’t know how plausible this idea is but why don’t you proactively talk to Leslie? Say something along the lines of, “As you know I plan to start my own business soon. This is a bit awkward but I obviously can’t predict who is going to apply. It occurred to me since we work in the same field that we would be competing for the same candidate pool. And that people who already work for you might explore their options and apply to work for me to compare benefits and salaries. I know this is stressful and awkward but I hope it doesn’t put a strain on our relationship. It just occured to me eventually its bound to happen with us working in the same field.” And if you think about it, if your business does take off, this will probably happen at some point both ways. Her original employees could go to you and your original employees could go over to her. Maybe it will make it easier if you talk about it up front.

    1. valentine*

      competing for the same candidate pool
      Leslie is Taylor’s client, not employer.

      It’s also key that Taylor’s leaving, rather than OP thinking of asking her to leave. She might have told OP, though, because she knows OP’s leaving, too, and hopes OP will hire her. But Taylor may well want to do something different and/or work with different clients.

      1. WellRed*

        Where do you get that Leslie is Taylor’s client? I read it as Taylor is support staff to Leslie. or at least a coworker.

        1. OtterB*

          As I read it, Taylor is support staff to Leslie, but she is not employed directly by Leslie; she’s employed by the management company that Leslie, OP, and some other professionals pay to manage their shared office. So that makes Leslie a client.

          1. Beehoppy*

            Hmm- I am in a similar position-technically I am an employee of Waves Inc, as they provide similar services to my organization (Sands) among others, but I report to my boss the ED of Sands, am listed on external documents as staff of Sands, and my boss conducts reviews and determines raises. I would not consider myself her client.

            1. Devil Fish*

              That doesn’t sound like a similar situation at all?

              OP says the support staff are employed by the company, not the professionals the staff supports. The letter says they have no control over raises or benefits and it sounds like the company is providing support for individual professionals, not other companies. The support staff might not consider the professionals their clients but it’s a reach to think they don’t know who their employer is.

          2. Filosofickle*

            Yes, this is what I understand as well. To me, this helps tip the balance. Taylor isn’t an employee of Leslie to begin with!

            1. JSPA*

              1. OP is the only outsider / contractor; as a contractor, everyone else there can be construed as each others’ coworkers, and as OP’s client. “I am not employed by them, but any support staff who I work with are their employees.” Pretty cut-and-dried.

              2. If Taylor is so great, Leslie is presumably at liberty to offer Taylor a raise or some other positive inducement to stay.

              3. Timing matters. OP is, I hope, not building her new company on the presumed availability of Taylor, who might go to some third place, entirely, or take an inducement to stay; if so, OP should start with some other first hire(s), and let time clear the air / loosen the connection.

              4. Advance notice matters. Offer Taylor a particularly generous changeover period which is thus, also, generous to Leslie, so that Leslie is not blindsided, and has plenty of time to bring someone new on board. If there’s talk of poaching, being able to say, “we worked out a plan that would allow her to give you three months’ notice, instead of the two weeks that would have been ideal for me” should do a lot to label you as “the collegial one.”

              1. Nitpicker*

                I’d like to correct your first point.
                As a matter of fact, OP isn’t the only contractor, and Leslie is actually also a contractor.
                As they say first: “I work with several other professionals. Basically, we are contractors” and then: “Taylor primarily works with Leslie, one of the other professionals”.

                So no, Taylor is in fact not Leslie’s employee.

                I do think it changes the relationships at play here, but I’m not sure how much. I’m an avid reader here (and first time poster), not an expert!

          3. tamarack and fireweed*

            Yes, but if Leslie and the OP are still going to have a business relationship, then “competing for the same candidate pool” doesn’t sound too far of the facts, even if some of the candidates, such as Leslie, are employed via some sort of staffing agency. So Leslie may have no leverage to keep Taylor, but it also means that if Taylor is getting a bit unhappy about aspects of her employment with the management/staffing company, it should be extra understandable to Leslie that Taylor may like to go work for the OP directly. Leslie, given she doesn’t actually employ Taylor, can’t very well be visibly upset about Taylor moving on (whether to the OP or elsewhere) and still be considered professional.

  6. animaniactoo*

    How about approaching Leslie and others making it known that you are looking for recommendations and if they know anyone who is job searching, to please send them your way to fill the support staff roles?

    If it’s an open discussion that you’re opening your own business and looking for hiring recs, it makes it much easier for Taylor’s hiring to be viewed as “I was interested and I applied” rather than “I was approached and took the opportunity”.

    1. Anonymeece*

      I was thinking the same thing.

      It might be that Leslie knows that Taylor is looking, and will actually recommend her for the job.

      Or it might be that you find out that Leslie is petty and vindictive and that will give you information going forward. I think talking to her in a general sort of way isn’t a terrible idea, particularly as OP says that Leslie has been a mentor to them.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      That might help. It might not. I used to work somewhere that had 4 employees in 2 years leave to work for a particular vendor. Management got pissed and basically told the president of the vendor “you need to promise not to hire any more of our people for” some ridiculous amount of time “or else”. The vendor had not approached a single one of those employees. They all applied on their own. It was a pretty empty threat because it’d cost the company way more to cancel their contract with the vendor. I suspect they did it as an attempt to get a discount or something for free or who knows what, but I still thought it was extremely crappy of them to do. They made sure their current staff knew about the threat too, so some people may not have bothered to apply if they thought their candidacy was shot to begin with. So it doesn’t always matter if you approach someone and invite them to apply vs them do it of their own volition. It may still be taken badly either way.

  7. Build Trust*

    I was on the receiving end of this situation. My employee was poached by a professional acquaintance and I admit that the negative feelings have lingered. I absolutely agree that everyone gets to leave jobs based on their own professional needs and interests; I wasn’t upset that the person left. However, it would have gone a LONG way with me if my acquaintance had politely given me a heads up that she was going to hire my employee. I had had at least one super professional developmenty/peer mentoring conversation with her with lots of laughs and wine, so I really did feel like we had established a basis for that kind of professional courtesy.

    In the end he was a bit of a dud anyway. He left me in about a year.
    He also left the new company in about a year as well.

    1. Qwerty*

      Most candidates do not want their current managers to be contacted by interviewers before an offer has been accepted. How do you see your acquaintance giving you a head’s up while protecting the privacy of your employee? If your employee had turned down the offer from your acquaintance, then you still would have known that your employee was job hunting before they wanted you to.

      1. gbca*

        Exactly. I think the thing to do in this situation is to ask them to let you know as soon as they give notice so that you can quickly follow up with the other manager.

    2. Arctic*

      Going behind a potential hire’s back to inform their manager he or she is looking would be extremely unprofessional.

      1. Build Trust*

        I hear that it is unreasonable to expect a heads up before the notice has been given, thank you.

        I guess the way it shook out for me left a bad taste overall. The professional acquaintance never spoke to me again (and I didn’t go out of my way either, I admit). And the guy who left gave me two weeks notice, during which he was on his honeymoon for all but three days. I was not upset he was leaving, I do maintain that people need to do what is best for themselves, but I do wish that it had been done differently.

    3. bluesky*

      I also had someone poached and have poached someone myself. This is the reality of training good people, especially in small fields. I find it is hard to approach proactively as you should respect the candidate’s confidentiality.

      What really bugged me when I had someone poached from me by a former manager – that she did not give me a courtesy call after to say – hey, you trained a good person and I appreciate your understanding.

  8. TootsNYC*

    Since Taylor already told the OP that she’s looking for a new job, I think it’s a pretty good bet that she has told Leslie as well.

    After all, she doesn’t work directly for Leslie so her job wouldn’t be at risk by revealing that, and Leslie has a good opinion of her, and maybe Leslie would be happy to help her find a job elsewhere. Though she primarily supports Leslie, Taylor is in exactly the same relationship with her that she is with you, right?

    So if Taylor expresses an interest, or even before, I think you could ask if she’s told Leslie. If she doesn’t say yes, and you decide you want to hire her, I think you could ask her to help you navigate this a bit, because it is in Taylor’s interests to stay on good terms with Leslie as well, right? Leslie can be a reference for her in the future.

    1. Flyleaf*

      I have never told an employer/boss that I was looking, but I have told co-workers. It’s not unreasonable to assume that has not told Leslie about looking for a new job.

      1. TootsNYC*

        except Leslie isn’t her boss; Leslie is the same kind of client that the OP is. Leslie is just the client that she’s currently assigned to help.

  9. Qwerty*

    Does Taylor work directly for Leslie’s company or is she an employee of the management company and is just currently assigned to Leslie’s team? If it is the latter, that makes it easier it Taylor decides to come work for you – she isn’t leaving Leslie, she’s leaving the management company. Presumably she was leaving anyway, or the management company could have transferred her to a different client at any time. She can leave on a good note with Leslie (“I’ve decided to move on from Llama Inc to work for single company” or flattery “You were one of my favorite clients here at Llama Corp, I hope we can stay in touch!”)

    However, you may not be able to hire someone away from your management company. Check your contract to see if there is a clause for this and Taylor applies, ask her to check her handbook/employment contract. It isn’t uncommon for places like this to have a clause that employees cannot be hired directly by a client for a period of X months after they resign.

    1. Qwerty*

      Also, since Taylor disclosed that she is looking for a new job and you seem to have a positive opinion about her work, it would be kind to let her know that you would be willing to be a reference during her job hunt (make it clear that this is even if she doesn’t want to come work for you). Some of the best references are “I used to work with this person and I’d hire them in a heartbeat if I could”

      1. Flyleaf*

        This is not a non-compete situation. It’s also not a non-poach situation, as brought up above. It could be non-solicit, which are perfectly legal.

      2. Qwerty*

        I’m referring to a non-solicit, which is more enforceable than a non-compete. It depends on how it is worded, and I’ve seen the courts rule in favor of the company in my state (or at least consider the case enough that the two parties agree on a settlement and build up a bunch of legal fees).

        Part of the issue is that OP would be firing the management company while hiring their employee to do the same service they were providing. Now, if Taylor has been doing zero work for OP and she only knows about Taylor because of Leslie, then it might be fine. But if Taylor was doing essentially the same role for OP as part of the management company as what she would be doing at the newly formed company, then it gets tricky.

        Obviously these things vary by state. My state/industry figured out the wording that is legally binding so all of the contracts are pretty enforceable. Before they figured it out, the trick was usually to move to a bigger company with better lawyers so that no lawsuit got filed in the first place.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I had a non-solicit clause in my severance package, and when someone in HR called to ask me about someone who’d reported to me who was being considered for a role at my new place, I told them because of that clause I’d rather not be in on the conversation.

          (I also didn’t want them to come to the same company as me; it had been unpleasant before I got laid off, and they were in that mix somehow. If I’d really wanted them to come, I might have asked my new HR for guidance. I don’t know if they were casting about for applicants; it would have been weird for her to be actively looking, because she’d been given my old job, sort of)

  10. From That Guy*

    This is a tough one. It reminds me of the saying: “Family is family, friends are friends and business is business.” Ultimately you need to do what is right for yourself and your family and welfare. Yes, you do have to have a concern for Leslie however what is also important is Taylor and her future, as someone else mentioned. It is a free marketplace, she is able to apply anywhere she wants and it may happen to be you. I concur with Allison’s soft approach and let the rest sort it out. To live in fear of Leslie is no way to run your career or business. Good luck on hiring the best candidate for the job and your new business!

  11. voyager1*

    I think it is cool you are wanting to do the right thing here LW. But yeah know Taylor may not even apply.

  12. LuckySophia*

    Does OP know WHY Taylor is planning to leave the management company? If it’s because she’s decided she’s sick of that field and wants to work in a completely different industry….then she wouldn’t want to work for OPs new company anyway. If it’s something like “better salary/better benefits”, OP has to do the math to figure out whether her brand-new business is going to be able to afford that. These are all things OP should be thinking about before contemplating the poach/no-poach decision.

    1. emmelemm*

      Yeah, that was a bit of my question. If OP is just starting her own company, is she going to be in a position to offer better salary and benefits? Especially since it’s hard to get competitive health insurance with a company of under, say, 5 people (such as the one I work at)?

  13. lyonite*

    Something like this happened at my old job, and my grandboss handled it about as badly as possible. Another employee at my level left to work for our former department head at another company (mostly for the shorter commute; she was saving about an hour a day) and she (grandboss) just lost it. Kept going on about how they had put all this work in to training coworker and she was being ungrateful by leaving (bear in mind that coworker had worked there for over five years, and was the top performer in the group). What’s more, she was saying this to me, a peer of the person who she seemed to think should stay indefinitely as an indentured servant. And then she refused to attend the going-away lunch, because apparently she was gunning for the role of chief petty officer on the HMS Petty-fore.

    Anyway, my point, such as it is, is don’t do this, it won’t make people like or respect you.

  14. staceyizme*

    People appreciate being told the truth. That dynamic is balanced by the term “appropriately disclosing”. What that means in this instance is that let things unfold organically. If you court Tayler, that’s poaching. If you use softening language to “break it to your mentor, that’s disingenuous. If, instead, you merely post the position when it becomes available, accept the candidates who apply, and allow them to handle the terms on which they separate from their current employer, you won’t need plausible deniability and you won’t have to filter anyone’s candidacy through a needlessly serpentine construct composed of worry and self-interest. Stay out of the middle of Taylor’s job hunt. If she expresses interest in your eventual posting, go from there.

  15. Frustated*

    I have been impacted by a situation like this. I am directly employed by a medium size business who provides services to a very large prime contractor. A few years ago I applied and was selected for a position with the large prime contractor. I was asked to come over to my company’s office and they told me that there was an agreement between the company and ABCD’s local offices that they wouldn’t hire each other’s talent, so they’d gone ahead and did a contract mod to shift the position to my current employer. I am an up & coming program manager who would love to stay working on my current program, however I have almost hit the ceiling because to go any higher I would have to be a direct hire to the prime contractor….and well the “gentleman’s agreement” is standing in my way.

    How do gentleman’s agreements stand up against the FTC and DOJ guidelines someone mentioned above?

    1. Flyleaf*

      These non-poaching agreements, whether informal “gentleman’s agreements” or formal contacts, are illegal.

      A number of silicon companies, including Apple, Google, Adobe, and others, ended up settling the case for hundreds of millions of dollars.

      As part of this case, there was an interesting email chain released showing an interaction between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt. Jobs, showing what a real scumbag he was, demanded that Schmidt fire a recruiter that had the gall to hire away an Apple employee. That kind of thing happened a lot between the colluding companies.

      1. Sadly*

        Unfortunately, these informal illegal agreements are commonplace and usually criminals who make them are never punished.

        1. Life is Good*

          Wait, what? I went to the competitor that old dysfunctional company had a non-poaching agreement with. I approached the competitor for the job, but was asked to put in writing, by the new employer, all the details of how/why I came to the competitor and that I was well aware of the terms of the written contract. I’m sure they needed this in case the old employer wanted to sue. So, you’re saying these agreements aren’t legal in the first place????

  16. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    But also, you don’t HAVE to hire Taylor – I assume you will have additional candidates, and hopefully you’ll have several good ones to choose from, and maybe Taylor won’t even make the cut. Don’t get tunnel vision here! It’s good to think about the things Alison talks about and you’re concerned about, of course, but I guess this is just a reminder that there may be other fish in the sea.

  17. Morning Glory*

    I’m curious whether the headline came from the OP or Alison? Neither the letter nor the response really discussed the ethics of this – just a pragmatic look at potential consequences for the OP.

    1. Close Bracket*

      That’s because it is ethical to recruit talented people even if they are currently employed with people you know. The pragmatic angles of minimizing hurt feelings is all that needs to be discussed.

      1. Morning Glory*

        So why the headline? it would have been nice for AAM to say ‘yes it’s ethical to hire Taylor’ to answer the question she posed in the headline before diving into the rest.

        And, as the thread with Mike C. notes (which I didn’t see before posting, unfortunately), the ethics of hiring can be more complex than just that. I’m on the side of feeling like it strays into unethical (not illegal, not morally unforgivable, but not ethically great) territory to avoid hiring Taylor if she applies and is the best candidate.

  18. Mediamaven*

    I had a situation incredibly similar to this. I left my employer after five years, started my own firm, had one of their people apply, so I hired her. I figured she was going to leave anyway as she was interviewing, she hadn’t even been there that long, was entry level, so not a huge loss.

    I knew they might be irritated but I did not expect the gates of hell to open and a fury that knows no comparison to befall me to that point that 13 years later I still deal with the aftermath. The CEO, a person who considers his employees personal property, went after my employees, my clients, bad mouthed me, tried to put me out of business. He shouted at my lack of ethics on social media. He was unbelievably livid, like a fire breathing dragon. Like mentally incapacitated over it. I’ve never witnessed anything like it. Could I have handled it better? Possibly. Should I have done it? Maybe, maybe not. But his reaction was so over the top insane that I really wished I had not.

    So, like Alison said what’s reasonable and what’s not does literally not matter here if you want to maintain the relationship.

    1. Important Moi*

      “But his reaction was so over the top insane that I really wished I had not.”
      I appreciate the candor and the pragmatic approach acknowledged here. (That was my attempt at a soft approach.)

      Was this person a poor employee? Was there no one in your professional circle who shared the perspective that the CEO was out of line?

      Further, many are dancing around the indentured servitude calling it pragmatic. Those people get to do that. Other people get to feel differently.

      1. Mediamaven*

        It was a B level employee to be honest. She was fine, not great. But the reaction from him would have been the same. He felt that I BETRAYED him. And I think indentured servitude is a great description. It’s been 13 years and this man still feels that I should prioritize his business over my own. It’s maniacal.

  19. Non-profiteer*

    The business specifics are different, but I was, perhaps “ethically poached” in a way that did not create any outward hard feelings. This comes with the caveat that everyone directly involved was a reasonable person. But one thing that made the situation better was my new employer agreed – even though she would have liked me to start earlier – to allow me to give six weeks’ notice so I could help the old employer transition. It also helped that old and new employer already had a lot of respect for each other, and my move was seen as a good one, despite old employer being sad.

    1. Non-profiteer*

      Adding more thoughts on why my situation turned out well:
      I think new employer did a lot of talking nice and smoothing over when she did my ‘reference check’ call with my old employer (which was not really a reference check, since I had received and accepted my offer, and told my old employer).

      And one of the reasons I asked for 6 weeks was so I could finish a specific project that would have been hard to transition. Be thoughtful and patient, and do a lot of talking about how the grateful you are for the training old employer gave the employee. It can soften the blow.

      1. Sincerely*

        I’m glad you share this lovely story, because it’s unusual. It’s nice to know that sometimes people do the right thing and it all works out. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Panda*

    My husband was (and still is) Taylor in this scenario and it sucks. He’s so valuable to his current company (a contractor employed by X on site at another company Y) that he’s been passed over for jobs he’s applied to at Y. Eventually, they’ll both lose his expertise.

  21. ACDC*

    Does Leslie know about your plans to open your own business and your need for support staff? It sounds like you guys have a pretty good relationship, so maybe start by having this conversation with her. That why she won’t be as blindsided if Taylor leaves to come work for you.

    Side note: I don’t know what this is called, but I sort of cannibal-poached one of my team members recently. I knew she wasn’t happy here and I empathized because our company is, quite honestly, cray-cray. My husband’s company was hiring for a position I thought she would be great for, so I referred her and she got the job. She started her new job yesterday.

    1. ACDC*

      Another poaching experience…my old boss was incredibly sensitive about anything she perceived as poaching. I mentioned something about a side hustle on Saturdays and she lost her mind saying that I might as well quit that day since I found something better. Jane, I am not going to quit my accounting job to sell popsicles at the farmer’s market.

      1. 1234*

        WTF. Jane sounds nuts. God forbid, you actually enjoy selling popsicles at the farmer’s market and making a few extra bucks is an added bonus. How is that even poaching???

  22. Close Bracket*

    There is no such thing as poaching, there is only recruiting. We should care about the impact to our relationships of recruiting good employees from other companies, and we should call it recruiting, not poaching.

    1. Witchy Human*

      I’m not sure what your point is. If it’s a specific type of recruiting, why not give it a specific word?

      1. Close Bracket*

        My point is that there is no such thing as poaching in recruiting. Employers do not own employees. There is no trespassing in hiring a free agent. There is no encroachment in hiring a free agent. Therefore, there is no poaching in hiring a free agent.

        I will make an additional point that having a relationship with the person’s employer doesn’t make it a specific type of recruiting. Most people are employed, and most people who are recruited are employed. Knowing a candidate’s employer or manager doesn’t make the recruiting different.

        I recommend changing how you think about recruiting.

      2. Devil Fish*

        The point is pretty obvious? You’re talking some nonsense about stigmatizing people for their supposed disloyalty but the company hasn’t demonstrated sufficient reason for a employee to continue working for them except out of (misplaced) loyalty. If an employer can’t offer good enough compensation and benefits, employees will look for better, but if working conditions are good, no amount of recruiting will drag them away.

        Why are we blaming anyone except the company when their employees leave due to finding better working conditions? What century is this supposed to be?

  23. Bee Eye Ill*

    I work in a “right to work” state where we can be let go at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. In fact, it is mentioned no less than 3 times in the employee handbook. For that reason, I say the employee has the right to go work for whoever they want, whenever they want. There’s no such thing as loyalty in this kind of environment.

    If company A wants to keep their employees from being sniped by company B, then company A should create the better work environment so people won’t leave.

    1. Bear Shark*

      Right-to-work just means employees can’t be compelled to join a union as a condition of employment. It doesn’t really have anything to do with what reasons an employer can let employees go.

      You’re thinking of “At Will” employment.

      1. TootsNYC*

        yeah, the full phrase is “right to work without being made to join a union.” Maybe not literally, but that’s what it means.

        1. Devil Fish*

          Every state except Montana is “at will” and in Montana that’s mostly ignored anyway.

          Source: I’ve never filled out a single stack of employment paperwork that didn’t have a page that says “Employment at [company] is considered ‘at will employment’ [explanation of that]” and the first time I questioned that (since Montana doesn’t do “at will,”) I was shown the door, so I stopped pointing it out at future jobs.

    2. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      I think the issue the OP is worried about the company hurting her/him – not Taylor. You’re right that the company can’t do anything to Taylor about it, but they might be able to hurt the OP’s professional reputation and some other things, since they might be more visible.

  24. TexasThunder*

    I found out my current employer had formed an agreement with a partner to agree to avoid “poaching” each other’s staff.
    I was in the process of interviewing at the partner, and I was livid when I found out.
    My current employer was paying considerably less for work I could do at the other job.
    I’m obviously trying even harder to leave, not least because I view this as an appalling way to avoid paying a competitive salary.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        Apple and a bunch of companies. Apple wasn’t a demon alone by any means. Plenty of companies still do it.

  25. Norm*

    Seems like some other commenters have already made the obvious point that the OP seems to be missing: Taylor is looking and Leslie will likely lose her, whether she goes to work for the OP or somebody else.

  26. OP*

    Hi everyone,
    Thanks for all of the feedback – I’m trying to go through everything!
    I will try to clarify a few points and give some updates since I initially submitted the question:

    – I did post a job application. Taylor applied, along with many other applicants. Some of these applicants have more experience than Taylor does, and I will be interviewing several of them.

    – Soon after she applied, Taylor asked if I received her resume – I told her that my position was a bit delicate with the other contractors and with the management company and I was considering many applications. She did note that she was aware that she wasn’t guaranteed a job with me, but was at least hoping for an interview. I am not sure if she has applied for positions elsewhere – she implied that she had not.
    I will likely end up interviewing her – this will give me the opportunity to talk about what she has and hasn’t discussed with Leslie and what her expectations are for a new job. It’s entirely possible that there will be other dealbreakers on her part or my part.

    -The job that I am offering would be similar roles and responsibilities to what Taylor is already doing – sideways rather than upwards. Leslie has no control over Taylor’s salary so she can’t offer Taylor any incentives to stay.

    – Taylor has not given me permission to discuss her job search with anyone at the company, including Leslie. The management company is not too reasonable if they find out that their employees are job searching, even though there are no non-solicitation clauses that I am aware of. Staff turnover is high and morale is low (part of the reason why I’m leaving). I would most definitely have to ask Taylor before telling Leslie anything. I’d be concerned about talking to Leslie because if I don’t hire Taylor, I’m worried it could negatively impact her relationship with Leslie.

    -Leslie is aware that I’m starting my own business – she’s been very supportive and given lots of information and ideas about how to make this easier and more efficient. She has given me the names of other support staff who previously worked for the company who might be looking for a new position. Notably, she didn’t name Taylor as one of these people.

    -Leslie seems like a reasonable person, but sometimes you never know what a person’s “berserk button” is going to be! If this is Leslie’s, then there might be some unofficial professional consequences for me.

    Thanks again – all of this is very helpful.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      “She has given me the names of other support staff who previously worked for the company who might be looking for a new position.”

      This really stood out for me. I think a quiet, subtle message has been passed.

        1. Flyleaf*

          Just to be clear, do not use that list to solicit others at this company. Taylor is free to share your contact information or job openings with these other people, and they can contact you directly. Assuming you have non-solicit, you can’t solicit these people, even though you didn’t come up with the list. A non-solicit typically covers people at the former company, even if you didn’t know them or work with them.

          1. OP*

            I figured as much! None of the people Leslie named have applied for the position, and I hadn’t planned on seeking them out.

          2. Devil Fish*

            Dude, stop. OP literally just said there is no non-solicit. They also said this was a list of people “who previously worked for the company,” which makes them fair game.

    2. Close Bracket*

      A lot of the “have a talk with Leslie” comments seem to want you to talk to Leslie *before* you hire Taylor, which would be problematic for all the reasons that you and others have mentioned. You could talk to Leslie *after* Taylor accepts the position (and still run this by Taylor first).

      Either way, you are not poaching Taylor bc the workplace is not a feudal forest and nobody owns employees. You might hire Taylor, and you might be worried that you damaged your relationship with Leslie by doing so, but you are *not* poaching Taylor.

    3. Flyleaf*

      OP, there’s a key question that wasn’t addressed. Did you sign a non-solicit with your former company? That’s the key to all this.

      If you did sign a non-compete, can you share some details (e.g., how long would it be in force for, how would damages be determined, etc.)? Depending on the terms, it might or might not be something you need to be concerned with.

      1. OP*

        I have not signed any non-solicit or non-compete agreements.
        There is no contract indicating that I can’t hire Taylor and I would not incur any financial penalties.
        It’s more that Leslie has been my mentor – I’ve benefited from her advice and her connections, and I respond to this by making her working life substantially more difficult in the short term and possibly the long term. This may not be a reasonable way of looking at the situation, but it may be valid from Leslie’s perspective.

        1. Flyleaf*

          That’s key, and thus any discussion about a non-compete is moot. Your concern would simply be whether this will burn a bridge with your former company/co-workers, possibly impacting your professional reputation. It sounds like you are giving this serious thought. Good luck, with your new venture.

        2. Blue Horizon*

          Possible thought experiment for you:

          What if the positions were reversed? (In a year or two, they might be!) What would you expect Leslie to do? If one of your employees left to work for her, how would you feel about it? How about if you found out somehow that one of them had applied, but been turned down (even though they were the best candidate) because she’d been worried about how you would take it? Which of those two scenarios sits better with you?

          You know Leslie and we don’t. It’s possible your concerns about her reaction could be well founded. At the other extreme, you could be doing her a disservice by worrying about a possible ‘berserk button.’ Maybe she has been on both sides of this scenario multiple times before and it’s not a big deal to her?

        3. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          I’m confused because Taylor doesn’t work for Leslie. Leslie can do nothing for Taylor–she can’t increase her pay, etc. Leslie loses nothing as the management company would simply give Leslie another “Taylor”. If Leslie gets annoyed Taylor is leaving, Leslie has the chance to hire Taylor herself.

  27. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

    Ugh, one of the many reasons capitalism sucks. Those with power get to call the shots while employees don’t. I’ve seen several people in my own company get denied internal moves/promotions because managers are intent on covering their own asses. Forget the employee’s professional development, compensation, or anything like that.

  28. distribution guy*

    I’m an SVP and have about 200 direct reports. It is my first time commenting here.
    I usually agree with AAM, but not on this one. it’s not tricky. To me, it’s pretty clear:
    Taylor is looking for another job. She applied for OP’s new position. OP should interview/ consider her equally with other candidates.
    OP is starting a new business. Lots of hurdles to begin with. Why not get the best employees you can from the start? If Taylor is a good fit for this role, then hire her.
    As for Leslie, it may not be pleasant to lose Taylor’s services, but it sounds as if Taylor is going to leave whether it is with OP or another company. And Leslie has no control over Taylor’s job.
    Yes, Leslie may not be happy and may hold it against OP, but that should not influence OP’s decision to hire Taylor. The decision should be based on what is good for OP’s business moving forward.
    As for the ethics…. it is absolutely NOT unethical for OP to hire Taylor. It’s just business.

  29. Lady Blerd*

    I’ve had this happen to me and I’m still sore even though I’m much less bitter about it now. I fully understand why you’d want to consider the whole picture before hiring Taylor. That said, we did do the same thing to another branch to find the replacement for that employee but I am not in close contact with them so their reaction was not as important to us. But I like the suggestions above that you have a chat with Leslie, I think that facing a fait accompli is what would really sour your relationship.

    Short version is that my employee was poached by another branch of our org. Realistically, I knew that them leaving was very likely: their job with us was on the low end of the pay scale, they were looking for other positions, they loudly complained about their work. You’d think I’d be happy to see the back of them but I was blindsided as it was all done hush hush and the manager of the other branch openly gloated about poaching them. I admit that my reaction was not the best. My consolation is that they left that org as well and moved on to an even better paying job.

  30. TGOTAL*

    Hang on a minute.

    Taylor is *not* Leslie’s employee. She works for a third party that provides services to both Leslie’s employer and OP’s.

    How is Leslie’s opinion relevant here at all?

    Surely if Leslie wanted to ensure Taylor’s loyalty to her, Leslie could offer Taylor direct employment under competitive conditions.

    If Leslie is not in a position to make such an offer, or is not willing to do so, I can’t imagine how either Taylor or OP owes Leslie anything in this scenario.

    Unless it conflicts with a specific (and justified!) non-compete agreement, offering a talented individual an employment opportunity is in no way poaching. That so many people think OP should first discuss with Leslie before they hire someone who *isn’t even Leslie’s employee* is mind-boggling.

  31. Susana*

    My goodness, if Leslie thinks Taylor is “hers,” then I hope Taylor leaves anyway – to go anywhere. She’s not chattel.

  32. Troutwaxer*

    Hey OP, why don’t you make a list of the things that you like about Taylor. Really dig deep into what makes Taylor helpful to you and hire someone who has those credentials/talents.

  33. Snuck*

    I’m not sure what industry this is in exactly, but I have the impression it’s something like Physiotherapy or Chiropractics or similar… where a professional would hire out a room on an agreed roster, with the reception and so on being run by someone central (usually the owner of the business has a related discipline for example, and employs the office staff/maintains the building etc).

    If this is the case… then you might want to consider what the reputation to you is…

    On top of Taylor wanting new work is the question about WHY she wants out… does she want more challenging work, more independence, a change of scene? And… that’s not something you can ask until an interview, without being seen as poaching for sure. Taylor might well want to be part of setting up something new, and it could be a good opportunity for her, but if she’s wanting to move because the work is too repetitive, then it’s going to quickly become that with you too, and you might want to work out whether bringing a known experienced person on for a short term set up role is a good idea, or whether recruiting someone who will be happy in the role for some years better suits your needs.

    As for poaching… if Leslie is well known and respected in the field, if Leslie is the type to generally want to retain staff and not replace them, if if if… in a small industry like the ones I’ve mentioned it’s worth considering not only the impact of you setting up a competing business, but also the optics of taking her staff if she isn’t keen to let them go.

    Another thought is… has Taylor actually told Leslie she is looking elsewhere? If not… why not? If it’s that Leslie will get upset and replace her… there’s an answer in that. If she has told Leslie, then I don’t see a reason why you can’t explore the role with Taylor with diplomatic openness.

  34. Project Problem Solver*

    Chiming in to say that a former manager did for me exactly what Alison is suggesting here. She moved to another role, needed someone in my role, and sent me the posting to “see if I knew someone who was interested.” I actually told her I wasn’t, because I wasn’t looking at the time, but when she was replaced with a truly awful manager, I did apply and go back to work for her. She later told me she had hoped I would.

    It’s a bit different because I had directly reported to her once, but it did provide just enough remove that my current manager took it gracefully (a miracle in itself, as she didn’t otherwise take ANYTHING gracefully).

  35. Poachee*

    So I was actually just poached by another department in my organization, and it was an excruciating situation for the 5 weeks between me being poached and telling my managers and starting my new position (exacerbated by a very quick turn-around and getting caught up in some department politics).

    Totally agree with those commenting about how this is a shitty situation for the employee – my old manager was (unfairly but also understandably) pretty displeased with me about not telling her ahead of time, despite her encouraging me to apply for other jobs for the past 6 months, saying that I was ready to move on and that I should be moving up with my career.

    If I could do it over, there’s a lot I would do differently, despite it working out ok in the end (she’s now fine with it, we still work together, all is good). I’d say don’t let it stop you, but work out a plan with Taylor to have individual conversations with Leslie beforehand.

  36. somebody blonde*

    To me, the best way to handle this is by letting Taylor give Leslie a longer-than-usual notice period and also volunteering some of your new company’s services while Taylor’s replacement is found. Basically, make the transition as easy as possible with Leslie.

Comments are closed.