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Moral conundrum

Another in the list of employment conundrums posed here.

The background: I am a consultant on a huge (50+ developers) implementation project. My company is tiny (20 employees). We are (deep breath) a sub-sub-contractor to the prime contractor to the client who is selling the product to their corporate parent. (No, I don't understand it either.)

The prime contractor informed my company our services will soon no longer be needed - even though we just finished the product last week and it still needs loads of testing and bug fixes before it's finished. I expect this is a negotiating ploy and they actually want to keep most of us, but at a lower rate.

My company in turn informed all on the project that we "might" be laid off in a month, while keeping us onsite. The owner of the company is furiously negotiating with all and sundry to get the prime's decision reversed but offers no assurances.

The conundrum: I've been offered a position at another consultancy, which would turn around and sell my services (at a lower rate) to the prime contractor. My income would be a little lower than it is now, but still decent. Should I take it?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

If you enjoy the job and the loss of income is not to big (not enough to change your lifestyle for the worse), take it ... still far better to have a job that pays a little less but that you love than to be unemployed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Thanks Renaud

Certainly employment is to be preferred over unemployment - but by doing this, I'm screwing my current employer out of consulting income. I certainly couldn't come back to them for a future employment reference after this, and I do feel an obligation to treat them fairly.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Your loyalty to your company is very commendable, but if your employer is starting to talk about laying you off in a month and can't garantee your future income, maybe you need to get in survival mode and make sure you know where the next salary comes from ... of course that depends of what kind of trust you have in the company that is offering you the new job, and if you think it will be more secure than your current.

Moreover, I think they'll understand that you're looking elsewhere if they are in position to lose the client and put you out of a job, and won't think of it as a betrayal. Maybe you can talk to them and see if they have another project to put you on if this one does fail ? Then you can compare their proposition to the one you already have.

Don't forget that if they need  to lay you off, they won't hesitate for more than a second before doing it (or they are a lot  more morals than most companies I've worked with ...)

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Why not explain your problem to your current employer?  Unless you're dealing with complete assholes, they will understand your desire for security. 

It seems to me they are being upfront and honest about the possibility of work falling through.  Most companies wouldn't say anything until the day comes to pull the pin.

If can't they offer you some assurances of job security, jump.

dear abbey
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Presumably you aren't working in the US, since almost all US companies would use non-compete clauses to prevent you from making such a move.

Otherwise, make the jump.  Your employer isn't promising to keep you employed for any length of time, so don't feel like you have any obligation to stay employed with them.

T. Norman
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

> I've been offered a position at another consultancy

Completely out of the blue? I doubt it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Here's a scenario that has been played in the Netherlands. The Netherlands have laws that protect employees during lay-offs and that charge their former companies for part of the unemployment benefits.

During a period of imminent lay-offs the employees are offered a job at another consulting agency.
After having received a temporaray work contract it 'suddenly' appears as if the new consulting agency doesn't get no projects anymore and the contract is terminated after 2-3 months.

The former agency does not have to pay any part of the benefits, and since the new contract was shorter than 6 months the new agency does not have to do this either. I don't exactly know whether this scheme has been proven to exist.

Jan Oosting
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Ok, where's the moral conundrum? If you'd rather have the job than taking the risk of getting laid off, then go for it.

As you can see, your boss has no problems with letting you go if it's in his best interest.

And as for non-compete employment contracts, in my state those are illegal. You can't enter into an agreement that keeps you from earning a livelihood.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Puzzled, sounds to me like the intimation of sackings is a ploy to have you accept lower wages.

Just stay where you are and make it clear you will not accept lower pay rates.

You're not working for an Indian outsourcer by any chance?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Thanks everyone for your helpful thoughts.

Renaud, I already know there isn't a guaranteed project for me to go to - I am involved in most sales for the company and there's nothing there. They may sell something in the next month, but it's unlikely that servicing it would involve me.

T. Norman, you are right, I am not in the US, and am not limited by a noncompete in my contract. There might be a noncompete in the contracts among the _companies_ - I'm hiring a lawyer to help me with the technicalities as I don't understand them at all.

Part of the urgency here is my immigration status in the (anonymous) European country where I am. I need any changes in employment to be approved by the government, which involves several weeks' delay, so I can't just wait until the old guys dump me and then jump to the new guys. Jan O., this means that I'm not eligible for the unemployment benefits that the employer is dodging in your scenario - but thanks for the warning.

Brahmin, I'm not working in India - does this happen often there? Staying at the current employer and insisting on an unchanged wage seems like a way to ensure I lose my job and get booted from the country, so I don't think that's possible - or am I misunderstanding what you are saying?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

You are going to be laid of. You are offered a job at another company. It pays slightly less. You need a job quickly or loose the chance to work in the country you are residing in.
Take the offer.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Interesting responses so far, I am suprised everybody thinks you should jump. My guess is if you are asking this question your not comfortable going.

I always have a policy of sticking with whoever introduced me to an end client. If somebody else comes along and wants to use me for the same end client then the answer is always no.

This has cost me business on a couple of occaisions but I suspect its also brought in more work because I end up with a better relationship with my prime customers.

You might want to be wary of this 3rd party who is getting involved, if they are just there as a lever to help negotiate a better price from your customer then you could end up with nothing at all.

Tony Edgecombe
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

It seems strange that your current employer is having trouble extending the contract and another company is offering you the same job. Why hasn't your boss made the same deal?  The principaly contractor must be working with the second company or how would they know about the situation?

Talk to your boss about it and offer to take the same cut in pay.  If he cannot get the same deal then take the other position.

Have others on your team been approached by the new company? Perhaps they just want a few of your team to stay.

Finally, I would make sure I was ready to return home as the next contract could end quickly also.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

If you're that important to the project negotiate directly with the client, or at least bring it up informally.

Personally, I wouldn't get involved in a third party to do the same job for a lower rate.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Thank you again to responders.

Tony E., you are right I am uncomfortable. I would rather stick with my current company but they are signalling they may dump me. The problem is that being dumped is not only a financial catastrophe (which I could accept) but an immigration one (which I can't).

john, I've repeatedly offered to accept a pay cut but the owner of my company just mumbles about "revenue recognition problems" and says he can't cut his rate. (Part of the negotiation posturing? I don't know.) I'm trying to get the new company to fix my term of employment somehow so I can be sure the new contract won't disappear also.

Simon, I've considered negotiating directly with the end customer but am certain my current company would fire me on the spot - making future immigration matters difficult - if they even suspected I might have raised the possibility.

Further thoughts very welcome - thanks again all

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Take the offer. Done.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Make it an unofficial conversation, of course you're going to have to trust them, but then that's what the relationship is all about.

And you don't have to say 'giz a job' :-)

On the other hand, you might think about considering telling your current employer that you've been approached by a third party.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Wow, this is one of my all time Mysteries of Developers. Let's recap where we are...

>>> My company in turn informed all on the project that we "might" be laid off in a month, while keeping us onsite.

>> Take the other job, better than being unemployed.

> Certainly employment is to be preferred over unemployment - but [by leaving before I am laid off I'd be] screwing my current employer out of consulting income. I certainly couldn't come back to them for a future employment reference after this, and I do feel an obligation to treat them fairly.


>>> Dear Abby, my husband told me that he is seeing a 19 yr old girl with firmer breasts and that he might be filing for divorce. I have an opportunity to become Chairman of the EU, but I don't want him to miss out on my home cooking.

>> Take the presidency.

> But how can I do that? I would be betraying my man! I do feel an obligation to treat him fairly.

OK, dude, here's the thing -- you are acting like an abused woman. Seek counselling. Your reaction is not normal. Did your mother tell your dad what to do a lot? Or don't tell me - you were raised by a struggling single woman and there was no consistent male figure around, right?

Dennis Atkins
Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I would not recommend that you tell your current manager that you've been offered another job. I did that with my last manager, who I'd known for 8 years, at a company I'd worked at for 20 years. It ended up burning me very badly.

Given that you have a significant immigration situation, I'd say take the new job and leave the old one as professionally as you can.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Well, I would take the job but I might take my current boss out for a beer and talk to him about it. If he was a reasonable guy. He'd have to tell me a hell of a story to keep me from jumping ship, though.

It sounds like they are squeezing the middlemen and hiring all of the workers. Someone's going to get a big bonus!

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

One thing I'd like to point out -- you shouldn't leave a job with even a slight thought in your head of ever seeking employment there again.  Quitting a job is a lot like ending a romantic relationship -- it causes hurt feelings, distrust, and pegs you as being disloyal.  And it's twice as bad if you leave to go work for a competitor. 

If you happen to stay in touch and remain on good terms (which is always desirable), and down the road are offered another position there, then great, but don't count on it.

To digress and rant for a moment:  For some reason, corporations seem to have a double-standard when it comes to employment practices.  They expect 100% loyalty from their employees, but are willing to throw the crew and cargo overboard at the first sign of a financial leak in the ship.

Also, you mentioned that the bulk of the project work has been completed and now all that's left is bug fixes and revisions.  Sooner or later, this project *will* end, and if your employer doesn't have anything else lined up, you'll be in the same position regardless of if cuts happen now or not.  Such is life in the world of software consulting.

However I do think it sounds suspicious that this other company would be offering you a job on the same contract.  If the prime contractor doesn't feel they need the services of your sub-contracting firm, they won't need a different sub-contractor either.  It would seem foolish for the prime contractor to switch teams at this point in the product lifecycle -- they'd have to bring the new sub-contractor's staff up to speed on the whole project, just to take it the last mile.

If there weren't immigration issues to contend with, I'd say stay put and stick it out, at least until you have more concrete information upon which to base a decision.  But if you're feeling antsy, then I would suggest scouring the employment websites of the country in which you are residing (we have here in the states, they also have european sister-sites, like  If you are going to make a change, taking a chance on a completely new company sounds like a better idea than continuing in the odd state of affairs you seem to be stuck in.

Best of luck!

Thursday, May 20, 2004

At least here in Europe switching contractors on long projects is quite common, and the project going into a different stage is a natural breaking point. Rehire of consultants that where on the project is quite common and infact encouraged by the client. The client prefers it since the contracts are not fixed cost, and the people already in the project do not need ramp-up/transition time.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, May 21, 2004

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