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Recently (~1.5 mos.) started a position at a tech startup, in a tech support position.

Some friends and I are thinking about forming a company to see if a project that we've been working on is viable as a business.

When I was hired at this position, the project was listed on my resume, and I have talked to HR and to legal about this in order to make sure that I was doing everything by the book.

I haven't had an explicit conversation with my boss about this, however -- what is the best way to approach him?

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What is the topic you want to discuss: You are switching to part time? You can no longer work weekends? You want a raise? –  mhoran_psprep Aug 24 '12 at 4:28
    
I mostly just want to make him aware of the fact that this is something that I am pursuing, I don't anticipate it affecting my performance or availability in the meantime. –  anon Aug 24 '12 at 5:16
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If you have talked with HR and legal about this I would go off of the assumption your boss already knows about it or has no need to know about it beyond what they have shared. Unless your boss asks about the project I would not bring up the subject with him at all. I would try to build a wall between the 2 jobs. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Aug 24 '12 at 12:18
    
You've already covered your legal bases. Bring it up in conversation one day in a casual manner. Make sure it doesn't come up in a business context of any sort - like, "Oh, in my side project we used X technique, we could do that with our company's Y project." Keep it anecdotal. –  Joel Etherton Oct 2 '13 at 17:30

5 Answers 5

I would avoid talking to your boss/supervisor unless you have a compelling reason to do so. And your comment on the question doesn't give a compelling reason.

You have already dealt with HR and legal, which I am assuming that they have agreed that there is no overlap of IP or customers, and that you can divide your time and effort adequately.

I would have any paperwork you have signed reviewed by your lawyer when you setup the company to make sure you are on firm legal ground, and that you understand the implications of what you have agreed to.

From a boss/supervisor point of view they are only concerned about can you do the jobs they need you to do with out distractions, and that you won't skimp on their work to focus on the new company. They also want to know that you will be around for a long time, so they don't have to start looking for a replacement, and can count on you as they try to grow their part of the business.

If you can avoid the conflict and can work the hours they expect, I see no reason to worry them.

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Given the information you have provided, dare to say, don't disclose anything unless it may impact your performance on the main job.

The key to good relationship is openness. However, your private life is yours, and you are not obliged to let others in.

There are serious exceptions to that. I'm not sure if they apply to you, but the others who may read this, should consider those very carefully:

  • Once you sign a working contract, you write all prior inventions. They are specifically for the purpose of protecting you against any accusations. Here's a good article to learn from.
  • Your private life should not violate your prior agreements on your job - NDA, non-competing, etc. If the side project is in a similar business area or uses some knowledge you have obtained while working in your company, please stop and consult your lawyer.
  • If you work on a side project till late, you may simply not have enough time to sleep. This will certainly affect your performance during daytime. This seems to be a good reason to ask for fewer working hours.
  • Avoid spending even a tiny fraction of your work time for a side project. It sounds trivial, but hard to follow.

One can't sail on two boats. Sooner or later you have to choose. I've seen a few people who constantly have side projects, but they all are highly motivated and self-organized. They just can't stop inventing. You know better who you are.

You should also prepare for accidental disclosure. Make sure you are absolutely clear on your main job so that nobody even suspected you wasting business time for a side project or violating any rules. Depending on a country, you may risk a legal prosecution.

Also, there are several discussions you may find useful: one, two, three. Notice there is no agreement on this subject, so please consider everything above as a suggestion, not an ultimate answer.

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Its a good thing to be transparent with the side works you do "but all fingers are not of equal length" so as the bosses. Let just discuss the thing once not at regular intervals as that may show that you are more inclined to your project implementation. The best time to discuss it is after work when you feel that your boss is little relaxed. Then you can discuss the things with him.

Points to remember -

  1. Don't make them feel that you are more inclined to your project work and showing less responsibility with the current office job.
  2. Every individual wants to reach his/her career heights so make them sure it is just a try to reach that and you are open to every consequences (as you mentioned that you are testing the project to be viable as a business).
  3. Talk about this only when you feel your boss is in a good mood and he will actually hear to what you are going to say.
  4. Talk to the HR as you already explained your situation to the HR REPEAT POINT 1 for the HR too.
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At some point you may develop enough rapport with your boss to have this discussion. You also should have demonstrated early on that you get the things done that your boss thinks are important (You should be able to make the distinction.). He may just say, "As long as it doesn't interfere with work, go for it." You have to be able to answer questions that probe deeper. You're young, so claiming you have enough time to juggle both is not a stretch. Maybe your partners have other jobs as well, so off hours are the only time you get together.

He may want to know if this is for fun or are you trying to make it a full-time enterprise. And if so, what do you think is the time-frame.

Any boss that has an interest in your career development knows there is always the risk of you finding a better opportunity. It's not something that gets discussed frequently, but is understood.

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do not ever tell your boss about work you are doing outside the company. the risk of termination is too high. most companies will not like this. it is not his business. do not do any work on company equipment, you can get sued for that. do not do work during the work day, you can get sued for that. do not use code from work. at all costs avoid doing something that is directly in the industry you are currently doing work on.

this includes if you sign an employment agreement saying they own all your intellectual property. If you sign that they will almost certainly say 'no you can't do it' or fire you.

anyone who says you should share this information is naive. we are all basically self employed. your company is paying you for a service. it makes perfect sense to find other revenue streams. capitalism is rather cold-blooded so look out for yourself.

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