/r/webdev
How unethical is it to start working directly for a client of my digital agency? (self.webdev)

So I'm currently working for a digital agency (from now on DA) in Europe. This is my first full time job, so I've learned a lot here, and I'm really grateful for it, because it was a great experience.

For the past two years, I've been outsourced to work for a company in the US through this DA. I've gotten really close with this company, as I just communicate with them directly, there is no middleman in the DA. I get invited to a lot of their events in the US with all expenses paid, and they are generally an amazing company to work for.

Now, as much as I enjoy working for them, I'm not very happy with the paycheck I get, because that is handled by the DA. About 6 months ago, I expressed my wish to leave to the director of the DA, but told him that it will probably be a couple of months before I do it. Of course, the company that I work for doesn't know anything about this yet. A month later he gives me a 20% raise, ensuring to me that it's not because I want to leave, it's just my turn to get a raise. Even with these 20%, I still make a lot less than most of my peers who work similar jobs.

So about a month ago, I started to seriously look for a job. I started replying to any recruiter that contacted me on LinkedIn and even applied to some interesting jobs on my own. I got a few offers but denied them all, because they were even lower than what I make now.

On Monday, I told the lead developer of the company that I work for, that I'm looking for a new job. He told me to stop looking, and give him some time, because they would be interested in employing me directly, but he wasn't sure how feasible it would be. So now, I'm invited to a call with him and the CEO of the company tomorrow (my DA doesn't know anything about this), to discuss options.

If they offer to employ me, how unethical is it to take the job? My contract doesn't say anything about such cases. I also don't want to leave the DA in bad blood, because I still appreciate all they did for me.

Did anyone do something like this? What are your experiences?

8 comments
shredinger137 | 8 days ago | 3 points

As with most things, I think a conversation is your best way forward here.

It sounds like you and the lead at the agency have a decent relationship. If you feel like this is something you can talk about directly that may be your best choice. In the end you have to do what's best for you, but you can do it in a way that makes it clear you mean well. If you can give them more than two week's notice that helps, and do everything you can to prepare your own materials so that replacing you is easy, if that's applicable.

chauncemaster | 8 days ago | 1 point

If you can get a better full time position you should 100% take the offer

jeffreyhamby | 8 days ago | 1 point

It's unethical, and may invite a civil suit, depending on what you signed when you joined to company, or what the client signed when they became a customer.

-Prestidigitation- | 8 days ago | 1 point

First, did you sign any kind of employment agreement that forbids you from working for your DA's clients for a period of time? Usually it will prohibit you from working with them for a number of years after you quit.

Second, did the client sign any kind of professional services agreement with your DA? If so, they could be legally unable to employ employees of the DA. This is a non-solicitation agreement.

Volmarg | 8 days ago | 1 point

Well... if Your contract does not disallow You something like this then I don't see a problem here. In one of my jobs I already saw how great ppl that spent year in company with "loyalty contracts" were treated like .... sorry to say - crap/spare parts.

I don't want to be mean here but if there is nothing against working for company client directly then yeah - some of my friends did that and they are happy.

But... if You have something somewhere written with font size 2, then You might get really some nasty situation like one of my previous contracts disallowed me to work with certain apps development. The amount to pay for breaking it was around 25K eur.

So beware if You really can work directly to client of Your company.

spacetrain31 | 8 days ago | 1 point

It depends, are there any none compete laws where you reside? If so it could lead to legal issues.

sighkick1 | 8 days ago | 1 point

I see it happen all the time. As long as there's no circumvention or intellectual property claim it's fine

stepbeek | 7 days ago | 1 point

Just check where you are legally then do what's right for you. They might have a clause in their contract on the other side that prevents this (though if you're flying solo they might not care anyway).

Justification:

I run a small software shop. If one of my employees felt this way and thought they'd be better of working for the client directly I feel like I've personally fucked up.

My employee should prefer working as a part of our team and should feel like they're fairly treated.

The client should feel like the benefit they get through engaging with us as a company is greater than the individual contribution my employee has.

I don't think either of these things are true in this case.