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Background

I switched job from a big company to a much smaller company. I gained good technical skills at my previous job as it was one of the world's best product development company. However, I joined the current company as it had good reputation.

For the first few months, my coworkers treated me like a "master", so I had a very good time. However, my manager and other senior management began asking me to share my previous company's product methodology. I refused to disclose any details of my previous company's projects and instead offered to use my skills to complete any project that they would assign me.

They remained silent for a couple of months, but then stopped giving me projects. They instead asked me to guide other coworkers on their projects or to answer their technical questions. I fended this off for as long as possible, but after 5 months without any project, I complained about the managers to the highest level management. This complaint put an end to all the harassment and requests to answer technical questions. I also started getting assigned to projects, though they are mostly unimportant projects.

I decided to leave the company. Now my manager began giving me bad feedback, and nudged me to move to any other team within the company. This manager is the oldest employee in the company, and commands a lot of power within the company.

Questions

  1. When I move to another company, I need to provide this manager's reference. How much would this manager's feedback affect me at my new job?

  2. Why would the manager prefer that I switch teams than leave the company entirely?

  3. What is the best strategy to leave the company with a good reputation and good relationship?

  4. Is this situation I am facing common in the corporate world?

  • 1
    Where are you from? India? – Gregory Currie Sep 29 at 15:47
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    I'm wondering why you need a reference from your manager when you shift to another organisation. – Gregory Currie Sep 29 at 15:49
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    Good luck getting meaningful answers then! Culture plays a bit part of what to expect in the workplace, and your location plays a bit part of the kind of information you need from your current employer when switching jobs. – Gregory Currie Sep 29 at 15:54
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    @sharp FYI on an ethical standpoint your behaviour is fine. Whether or not your companies behaviour is common, ethical or even legal depends on culture and jurisdiction. Poaching employees themselves is fine, but what you're describing sounds more like industrial espionage to me which may well not be find and in fact be very illegal depending on where this is taking place. Hence why it'd be hard to answer the question without knowing the context (i.e. where this is taking place). – Cubic Sep 29 at 16:23
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    By "product methodology" do you actually mean "trade secrets" - I don't see being asked to improve companies procedures using best practice from your previous employer as unusual – Neuromancer Sep 29 at 22:59
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  1. When I move to another company, I need to provide this manager's reference. How much would this manager's feedback affect me at my new job?

It depends on many factors, particularly (1) what exactly your manager says/writes in your reference and (2) how much importance your next employer gives to the contents of this reference.

Don't worry about things you cannot control. Once you get your next job, put in your best efforts to leave a good impression there. In any case, the employer should evaluate you based on the work you do for them, not what your previous manager thinks about you.

  1. Why would the manager prefer that I switch teams than leave the company entirely?

We cannot know the exact motivations that drive this manager, unless the manager chooses to disclose them. However, a reasonable guess is that this is directly the consequence of you escalating the complaint to the highest level management. He is probably already under the pump due to that, and you leaving the company soon afterwards would make him look worse. Whereas convincing you to move within the company would let him save face and perhaps even present it as an achievement. ("I found a more suitable role for sharp within the company as his skills didn't perfectly align with my team's work.", etc.)

  1. What is the best strategy to leave the company with a good reputation and good relationship?

It might be a bit too late as the relationship has been already damaged quite a lot. However, learn from this experience and avoid doing the following things in future:

  • "I complained about the managers to the highest level management."

Now, assuming your description is a reasonably accurate description of the actual situation, your reasons for escalating are certainly valid. It is unprofessional (to put it mildly) for a manager to pressurize a subordinate to reveal confidential information from their previous companies.

However, the other people don't see it that way, and nobody likes getting involved in an escalation. Gain the skills to resolve these conflicts directly with the concerned people, because you will face a lot of these throughout your career. "I am sorry, I cannot disclose confidential information from my previous job, as that would be unethical/unfair/unprofessional." would have probably worked better. (Not sure if you did try it and that didn't work, so I will cut you some slack here.)

  • "They instead asked me to guide other coworkers on their projects or to answer their technical questions. I fended this off for as long as possible"

I have to be blunt here, but this is wrong. You don't "fend off" work you have been asked to do simply because you would rather prefer to work on something else. Nobody ever gets to work 100% on things they love doing. You will have to entertain such uninteresting work all throughout your career.

You should rather learn to negotiate to be assigned some more interesting work in addition to (not "instead of") the more boring work. Your uncompromising attitude displayed here is probably also what led to escalation (as against discussion) in the previous bullet point.

  1. Is this situation I am facing common in the corporate world?

No, absolutely not, though you probably know that already. If it were indeed that common, it would have been all over the newspapers, and people would have talked about it once in a while in social conversations.

  • Thanks for your answer! This is also very helpful. For point 2, I actually tried everything before complaining the highest authority. For point 3, I never said I don't want to guide other people. But what they were doing is not giving me any project, and telling me to help others so that I could impart all my skills to them. This happens for over 6 months. Point 4 is most helpful. It's nice to know this is not a common norm. This whole incident was driving me crazy! Using learned skill is never been an issue with me. But replicating the previous organization project had been an issue. – sharp Sep 29 at 17:18
  • What that manager did is not just unprofessional, it is a huge legal liability for the company. OP could at any time inform his old company that he was pressured into revealing company confidential information, and then the new company is in deep trouble. – gnasher729 Sep 29 at 21:03
  • It's most likely that the new company is only in deep trouble if they were successful. The old company would probably have to prove damages in court. Of course, in that case the employee would also be liable. – Gregory Currie Sep 30 at 1:17
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This really doesn’t sound like “exploitation” to me: it just sounds like you weren’t a good fit for the position. They hired you for your career experience, but you refused to share it with their other employees either directly or by knowledge transfer. As a result, you were poorly thought of. You reacted by blaming others and complaining to upper management. I’m honestly surprised you didn’t get fired.

  • Upvoted! The last sentence is something which I thought immediately after reading the question. Looks like the OP was given enough opportunities to help others via technical advise etc. But, instead OP has taken it to higher levels of management unnecessarily (from what I understand from the question). – Prasad Raghavendra Oct 5 at 10:15
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I am going to assume there is an actual NDA that you are adhering to.

1) When I shift to another organization, I've to give reference of this manager. How much this manager's feedback will affect my new job?

If you need a reference from your previous employer, and they reflect on your uncooperative behavior (whether it be justifiable or not), it's likely to have a severely negative impact on your chances. It would be far better to only acquire a proof-of-employment, which is just a letter stating the dates you worked, and instead get a reference from someone in your past who can speak about you in glowing terms. Because you don't want to share your location, it's hard to tell if this is feasible or not.

2) Why this manager is giving me bad feedbacks? He don't want me to leave the organization. Otherwise he could made me leave the organization.

It's possible that the manager is trying to convey the idea that you are replaceable to try to entice you to stay. Perhaps they expect you will soften your stance over time.

4) Why is telling me to shift the team? What will he get if I move to another team.

They are the oldest employer, maybe they feel an obligation to the company, or an obligation to you.

5) What's happening to me, is it common in corporate world?

They hired you for your experience working in a different organisation. That is common.

It is advisable for companies, in some jurisdictions when hiring, to attempt to discover the scope and effect on any NDAs that the prospective employee may have, to avoid these kinds of misunderstandings, and to avoid the falling into legal hot water for an inducement to breach contract. (Though in other jurisdictions they are probably advised NOT to become aware of such facts)

3) What's the best strategy to leave the organization with good reputation and good relationship. My manager is the oldest employee in the organization, so very powerful.

Unless they are the one writing the reference, or will go out on a limb, I don't expect that they will have much influence. Sometimes it's impossible to leave an organisation with a good reputation and good relationship. You've spent five months refusing to help others solve problems (even if your reasons are sound).

You best approach is to write a letter, state the facts of the scenario, state that people within the organisation have multiple times attempted to get you to breach your NDA, even after it has been explained and, to protect the company, you are submitting your resignation. State that your first company takes the NDAs quite seriously, and that you don't want the company to get in trouble for tortious interference.

Then you give them the most amount of notice that you can bear.

  • Thanks for your answer. This is very helpful. I always maintained that I'm not adverse of doing or helping any complicated work using all my skills. I even told them if I could not do it, please fire me. But if someone ask (e.g.) how this particular app has been build (the one my previous organization has created), how the particular functionality is used, etc. The likes which is very specific to particular project, then I refused to help. – sharp Sep 29 at 17:04
  • I still not have reputation to upvote your answer. Once I've I'll upvote it. Again, thanks for all your help and guidance. It's has been really helpful and gave me some peace of mind. Thanks :) – sharp Sep 29 at 17:20
  • @sharp The question so far reads like you were mainly asked for project management processes and general technical questions. A question for how a particular app was built is indeed typically unethical (assuming NDA etc). you might want to highlight that in your question. However, there is also a thin line between "How was that app built at the other company?" and "We are building an app similar to the one you built at the old company, how do you think we should be solving problem X and Y?". The latter question you can answer based on your skills/experience and thus, this is generally valid. – Frank Hopkins Sep 30 at 2:57

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