The question is a hypothetical "what-if" question, not a choice I actually have right now.

I work closely with 1-2 team members on developing a software by our company for the customer, on-site with close customer interactions, all as part of the same contracting company. My teammates have been severely slacking, which the customer definitely noticed, but hasn't pushed a red button yet. They are however very pleased with my work and productivity, and don't miss to acknowledge that. I enjoy the customer and the project I'm working on.

Due to culture problem reasons I'm leaving the company soonish. As the bus factor is quite low and resting on me, i would definitely not be suprised (due to signals) if the client became so fed up afterwards, that they contact me separately and offer me to continue working on the project independently before they'd ditch my current employer.

However this project is supposed to be the "entry-step" into an industry and this client for the company. I have a very good standing in my current company, which would be an good spoken reference for the future, but not a well known name. "Stealing" the project would definitely ruin that relationship, but would in turn give me a much more prominent and well-known, established reference.

I'm pretty sure it'd be an severe dick move on my part - but it could be a huge gamble that could have a huge payoff.

So my question is, would it be a huge ethical issue to accept such an offer? Would it even be worth it?

  • Would any client have the same project in progress with two companies at the same time?
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 6, 2020 at 14:30
  • No. What I meant to convey was them dropping the company and transferring the project to me.
    – Joe
    Feb 6, 2020 at 14:32
  • IANAL- but depending on location and contracts you've signed with your current company, such behaviour could get you in legal troubles, nevermind the ethical or moral part..
    – iLuvLogix
    Feb 6, 2020 at 14:36
  • 4
    probably your current contract has some sort of clause against this?
    – user180146
    Feb 6, 2020 at 14:36
  • 1
    "Is it Ethical" is not a good question, because that comes down to your own personal ethics. Personally, from an ethics viewpoint, if I didn't take any steps to 'steal' the project and the client reached out to me of their own volition, I'd be perfectly fine accepting that offer.
    – Kaz
    Feb 6, 2020 at 14:52

3 Answers 3


So my question is, would it be a huge ethical issue to accept such an offer? Would it even be worth it?

Legally, it depends if there is an exclusive clause in your contract between you and your employer, the contract between your customer and your employer and the intention of every party.

If a party feel it is not ethical, have serious intention and is ready to spend money on lawyers, even if you are right and again, depending of your region, it can screw heavily your professional plan. I would try to avoid any conflict.

A soft approach I attested multiple times in past for consultants companies where I work is the employer and the customer agreed to a price where the customer would pay to hire a coworker for a permanent position.

If you trust the customer, you could hint that you may be interested for a permanent position and validate if the customer would like to negotiate with your employer for an arrangement to hire you as a permanent position.

Very important to not disclose your intention of leaving your employer but converge the idea of you willing to join the customer full time.

In the end, the employer may have more to gain with an accord like this because you have already a feet out and the relation with the customer is starting to erode. Agreeing to a deal like this may safe their face, carry a positive relation and keep the business between your employer and the customer.


Whether it is ethical or not is an opinion-based question. But in the real world, it will often not be legally possible for this situation to come up.

When a company takes temporary employees from another company, then it is custom practice for the contract to contain a non-poaching clause. Such a clause forbids the client company form making any job offers to the employees who worked at their project for a couple months to a couple years.

It's not always clear how enforceable such clauses are. The legal opinions I found about this on the Internet are all over the place, and of course vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But you can expect the client company to stick to the agreement nevertheless and not try to poach you. At least if they expect to ever again make business with your current employer. Or anyone else in that industry, if it is a small one where word of mouth spreads quickly.


Ethics is too broadly defined to have a specific answer, but there is possibly a contractual problem with your situation.

Have you signed a non-compete agreement with your current employer or is there language in your contract?

As you will see in many questions on this site, non-compete agreements are generally not enforceable when it interferes with your opportunity to earn a living in your chosen field.

However, in my experience, they can often be enforced when you are "stealing" business or clients from your prior employer. The way you are describing your situation certainly seems to fall in this area.

IANAL, but ethics aside, I think you need to review any agreements you have signed and potentially consult a lawyer before proceeding. You also need to consider whether the client has an agreement with your company not to poach employees. While that isn't directly your problem, if your current employer pursued that, you could lose the new job as a side effect.

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