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I'm working at an IT service provider. The job is fine, and I would consider my payment as quite good.

In the past months I have been mainly working for a single customer. By my colleagues and managers, they are considered as a very tough customer. They're always very demanding and have withheld payments when they didn't get what they wanted (even if that was way beyond what was agreed before). However, I get along with them quite OK.

A few days ago the customer's manager asked me whether I could imagine working for them. I was hesitant (for the reasons above), but he asked again a few days later, and asked what salary I'd imagine. I then asked for a very high salary (more than twice as much as I earn now), hoping that this would end this discussion.

He came back to me today and said I would get the salary I asked for, also when I would be joining them and a few other contractual details. They told me the reason they wanted to hire me is that at my current company, I also have other duties (working for other customers, and stuff like internal meetings), but they wanted 100% of my time.

I'm unsure whether I really should join them – I actually didn't consider to work for them, that's why I asked for a salary which I thought no-one would accept. Also, I like my current colleagues and managers, and they surely would be irritated if I switched to this "tough" customer. I would most likely continue working with them (on the same project as before, but of course on the other side). This could bring me into weird situations, where I could need to demand much from my former colleagues.

On the other hand, earning more than twice as much as before is a very attractive opportunity. I don't think such an offer would come along any time soon. Also, I checked my current contract, there's no clause in there saying that I cannot work for a customer.

How can I handle such a situation? Also, in case I accept the offer, how can I communicate this to my current colleagues and keep our good relations?

  • Why did you ask for a salary if you were not interested? – sf02 Nov 5 at 21:23
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    @sf02 to be fair, he did say he threw out a number he thought was so high that they would refuse. – Keltari Nov 5 at 22:46
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    a 'very high salary' is still probably less than they pay your current company for you. Tell the client that you're thinking about the position, but you need an offer in writing. Discuss with the client your concerns about working directly for them, and then make your decision. – PeteCon Nov 6 at 3:08
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    @PeteCon I know how much the customer is paying for my work at my current company, and they're paying less than what they offered me. I already told them I wasn't sure whether that was a good idea, but they told me it wouldn't be a problem... – Sam Nov 6 at 11:32
  • A promised salry is just that, promised. "They're always very demanding and have withheld payments when they didn't get what they wanted". I would be cautious around such offers as they might want to bait-and-switch you. – SZCZERZO KŁY Nov 6 at 15:05
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IANAL,First thing first, you have to check you contract

See if there is a clause about working for a customer your current employer introduced you to.

Then do your math, salary, job security, advancement potential

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    I always find it strange when people mention non-compete clauses as if they were legally binding. I always assume people know that they are unenforceable in the US, except under the rarest circumstances. It is extremely common for a person the leave their position and work for a direct competitor in the same capacity. However, if you want to be sure, consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction. – Keltari Nov 5 at 22:37
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    @Keltari, I wouldn't say that entirely. I know for a fact they're unenforceable in California, but in other States, I don't really know. – Stephan Branczyk Nov 6 at 0:19
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    @Keltari This is slightly different than a non-compete clause. He currently works for a company offering consultation/ temp work agency and wants to switch to one of their customers. These two companies don't compete with each other. His current company loans workers/ consultants to his potential new company. – quarague Nov 6 at 8:45
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    Thanks for your answer. I checked my contract, there is no such clause in there. So this shouldn't be a problem. I'll add that to the question. – Sam Nov 6 at 11:29
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    @Keltari i agree that in some cases these clauses are unenforceable. But there are few that are, and given OP didn't specify his location, industry or position this is the issue number one that need to be addressed, IMHO. after that he can do the math :) – Strader Nov 6 at 15:32
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As said by other answers, check your contract and local laws. IANAL, but depending on your country, you can accept your offer even if your contract is supposed to prevent you to do this (in France, most IT Service Company contracts contains clauses preventing you to accept an offer by a customer but are never applied because they're not really legal).

I work in an IT Service Company and a lot of our clients have recruited from our company. I have worked with former colleagues that are now working for clients and that works well as long as:

  • You don't break any confidentiality clause, and this can be pretty wide: don't disclose financial informations (profitability, employees salaries...), internal processes, HR strategy etc.
  • You're respectful with your previous employer
  • You're honest
  • You don't burn any bridges by being disrespectful during your notice period, during your quitting interview if your company do this, etc.

If you do this, you can accept and work for them if that's what you want and it will be awkward for a few weeks/months at most but you will quickly be accepted as a "classic" customer.

But wait for a written offer to make your choice: don't tell your current employer anything until you have one.

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How can I handle such a situation?

You have 3 choices:

  1. Refuse the offer.
  2. Tell your employers of the offer and possibly ask to renegotiate your salary.
  3. Accept the offer.

How can I communicate this to my current colleagues and keep our good relations?

There is not much you can do other than tell them the truth: You were offered an opportunity that was too good to pass up. How they respond to that is unknown. We dont know your employers or how they will react. They might be happy for you. Or perhaps you have just burned the bridge. Its entirely possible that they will drop the new company as a client.

Its a tough decision and only you weigh all the options, good and bad.

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A few thoughts spring immediately to my mind:

  • First and foremost, do not make the decision based on money. Money is certainly a factor, but there are more important factors, specifically: how much do you think you would enjoy working for the new company? If they make extreme demands on your current company, would they make extreme demands on their employees? Are you okay with that?

  • Second, the fact that they are offering you twice your salary could mean different things. It could mean they pay well above the market rate (perhaps to offset a poor work environment, or perhaps to attract the top talent). Or it could mean that you're severely underpaid, and you could make substantially more working many other places (or even your current company). If it's the latter, then you could use this as leverage to ask for a raise, or start shopping around to see what the market is.

  • Third, it should be manageable to switch companies and still interact with your former colleagues. This sort of thing happens all the time, and people will understand (and not hold it against you) that you took a job where you doubled your salary. As long as you continue to be nice and respectful toward your former colleagues, it shouldn't damage your relationship. (Or, if someone does hold it against you, such a person is probably someone you'd be better off separating from anyway).

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