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I started working at a large tech company a couple of months ago. I also signed an agreement to be a scientific advisor on the advisory board of the start-up where I used to work.

The problem is, I found out that the moonlighting policy of my current company doesn't allow me to be a member of an advisory board for other companies. It might have been possible to make an exception if I had requested approval in advance. However, I had originally only seen a shorter version of the moonlighting policy which didn't mention the advisory board restriction, so I didn't submit such a request. Now that I have seen the full version with the advisory board clause, I am concerned and I face a dilemma where I can do one of two things:

  • Terminate the advisory board agreement with the start-up as soon as possible; or

  • Tell the HR team at my current company about my bona fide mistake and ask them if my moonlighting request can still be accepted as an exception.

If I do choose to request permission to remain on the advisory board, I fear that once they find out that I have signed an advisory board agreement with the start-up, there might be consequences (like getting fired).

On the other hand, I wonder if they would be understanding and possibly even accept my moonlighting request, which would be the best possible outcome.

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The path of least resistance is to resign from the advisory board and leave it at that.

However, if you wish to continue being on the advisory board then you should come clean to your new employer and outline the mistake. Explain that you hadn't seen the full version of the moonlighting policy, and as soon as you discovered your error, you immediately flagged it.

More importantly, indicate that if you are in fact in breach of their policy and they won't give permission to remain on the advisory board that you are prepared to withdraw from the board.

This way you are showing that the mistake is honest and that you want to do the right thing in accordance with the rules, but also give your new employer the opportunity to give permission if they choose to.

But the choice is yours as to whether your position on the advisory board is worth the possible kerfuffle with your new employer.

  • Thank you. I have chosen to be on the safe side and resigned from the advisory board. I am now wondering though if I could approach the HR team at my current company and ask for an exception now. I would tell them about my previous mistake. The fact that I resigned should be evidence that I want to do the right thing in accordance with the rules. Would that still put me at risk of undesirable consequences (like getting fired)? – user289366 Jun 2 '18 at 17:47

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