I am currently a consultant at MyConsultancy, working for a client ClientCompany in a small team consisting of people from MyConsultancy. Recently I received a job offer from ClientCompany which I am likely to accept (I haven't signed anything yet).

Now a colleague from MyConsultancy has created a certain, rather complex, functionality X which needs to be carried out once a year. ClientCompany has employed MyConsultancy and especially said colleague for some time now to annually maintain X and to carry out all tasks related to X when the time of the year has come.

In my new role at ClientCompany, should I accept, I would take over X and thus ClientCompany would not need to employ MyConsultancy any more to maintain and annually complete X. Up to now, I have been marginally in touch with X but am far from knowing all details.

Recently, the people from ClientCompany have asked me to initiate a handover with my colleague from MyConsultancy, so that I will be able to carry out X myself instead of him. Some more background information:

  1. X has been developed in the systems of ClientCompany, has been paid for by ClientCompany and is in all respects legally owned by ClientCompany
  2. The time needed for the handover will be paid for by ClientCompany, both for me and for my colleague
  3. If possible, I would prefer not to disclose my intention of leaving to MyConsultancy yet, in particular as it is not certain yet that I will indeed quit

I am pretty sure that legally, everything is fine. Yet, it feels a bit like cheating, asking my colleague for the handover and later disclosing that by doing so he had made himself and company MyConsultancy redundant. On the other hand, as ClientCompany is paying for everything, it is in their right to ask for the knowledge transfer.

From a professional point of view, how can I handle this situation without burning bridges with MyConsultancy (or my colleague in particular) or annoying ClientCompany before even having signed on? Is it acceptable for me to initiate the handover? Which information should I disclose to MyConsultancy in any case and which information would be acceptable to hold back?

  • 34
    as a side note, some consulting company have clauses against their employees being poached by their clients, make sure that your current contract doesn't contain anything like that
    – njzk2
    May 11 at 21:23
  • @AndrewMorton : There would indeed be opportunities for A, depending on my cooperation of course, but I'd rather there was no "weighing off" with the issue of the question, but a way for me to proceed such that all issues are dealt with professionally and independent of each other.
    – DanielW
    May 12 at 5:26
  • @JoeStrazzere The OP doesn't work for the new employer at the moment, they work for the consultancy. May 12 at 7:29
  • I hate when people say thing like Myclientcompany and myconsulting company etc etc. makes the question so unreadable.
    – JonH
    May 13 at 2:57
  • @JonH What would you prefer? May 13 at 5:46

4 Answers 4


Since ClientCompany is paying for the services of MyConsultancy, they are in their right to request knowledge transfer of X (or anything else) to whomever they designate. They might start with requesting full documentation of X be prepared for them by your X-enabled colleague. ClientCompany might cite the low "bus factor" as the reason for the request.

If the request comes from ClientCompany, instead of you personally, it will not look strange.

Despite that, you moving eventually to ClientCompany and accepting responsibilities over X will burn bridges with MyConsultancy, at least to some extent, so you should take that into account when making your decision.

  • Thank you, this seems to me the most helpful answer. You reinforced my impression that B is absolutely entitled to ask for the proceedings and showed the way forward by suggesting that the request should come from them. I'm going to suggest this and will accept your answer.
    – DanielW
    May 12 at 5:29
  • 11
    This answer may not be correct in the general case. Just because ClientCompany has a contract with MyConsultancy, it doesn't mean that MyConsultancy is obliged to do whatever ClientCompany demands. For example, the contract may not include training people in functionality Y, or even documenting functionality Y. In addition, the OP is still an employee of MyConsultancy who, depending on how the contract between the parties is written, could decide to move the OP to a different project entirely. May 12 at 7:19

You have two concerns about switching employers, even ignoring the request that you take over a key function from A.

  • you might have a clause restricting your movement to a company that they already have a contractual arrangement with.
  • The contract between the two companies might block your transfer unless certain conditions are met. You might have to be gone from x months, or you might not be allowed to work on the same project. You might not have access to the agreement, it is also possible that the person who your are negotiating with might not know about the agreement.

Recently, the people from B have asked me to initiate a handover with my colleague from A, so that I will be able to carry out X myself instead of him.

Danger. Your current customer has asked you to gain knowledge in a way that weakens the income of your current employer. If you weren't seeking a job with this customer the proper procedure is to alert your management that the customer has made the request. Then step back and let them handle it. They may ask for you to provide more details about the request. They may contact the customer directly.

If asked to provide the details and the context you will either have to omit the key facts, lie, or tell the truth. If you lay out the entire plan your current job is in jeopardy.

From a professional point of view, how can I handle this situation without burning bridges with A (or my colleague in particular) or annoying B before even having signed on?

You can deny the request from B, and tell them it makes you uncomfortable. Then see how they respond. They could pull the job offer.

You can alert your current employer about the entire plan. Then let them take it from there. Both your current job and future job are in danger.

Is it acceptable for me to initiate the handover?

No. Management and the contract provisions dictate how tasks are assigned.

Which information should I disclose to A in any case and which information would be acceptable to hold back?

You should talk to A before moving forward.

  • "you might have a clause restricting your movement to a company that they already have a contractual arrangement with." Unenforceable in California and many other places.
    – Joshua
    May 13 at 17:15
  • @Joshua And highly enforceable in many places too. Including countries in Western Europe. May 13 at 19:47

You are still an employee of MyConsultancy. Ultimately, they decide what you work on, up until you no longer work for them.

If ClientCompany wants you to start with some knowledge handover that will assist you when you work for them directly, that is something that you need to discuss with MyConsultancy to get their approval.

In the general sense, ClientCompany does not get to automatically unilaterally decide what employees of MyConsultancy get to work on. It's possible there is some sort of agreement between ClientCompany and MyConsultancy that makes this possible, but it's not automatically true.

There are many contracts between companies that stipulate manpower or outcomes, but not individuals. In the absence of an agreement preventing it, MyConsultancy could even decide to move you onto a different project for your remaining employment.

You should work with ClientCompany and MyConsultancy during this transition period to make sure your existing employer and future employer are happy.

Clandestinely trying to acquire knowledge to make your current employer redundant is a big no-no. You are not acting in good faith.

  • On the contrary, MyConsultancy would be acting in bad faith. Contract to hire may be an insidious pest, but this move stinks to high heaven.
    – Joshua
    May 13 at 17:17
  • @Joshua Unclear what you mean exactly. May 13 at 18:36
  • It is not fair for company A and company B to make an agreement that limits the employees of company A from moving to company B without the consent of the employees company A; however ability to enforce such agreements has been very hit and miss.
    – Joshua
    May 13 at 18:57
  • @Joshua My answer has nothing to do with such an agreement. Maybe you meant to put your comment (and maybe your downvote?) on a different answer. May 13 at 19:25
  • No, I meant to put it here. The structure of the question suggests a single kind of consultancy; that of a surge position filling consultancy. While OP is assigned to this employee, he works on what that employee wants him to work on.
    – Joshua
    May 13 at 19:31

It would be rather strange from you to push back on a clients request that is perfectly reasonable, so there is no reason to not do the handover with your colleague.

To ease your conscience, as long you haven't signed a contract at B, it's totally possible that you never will transfer to B. Maybe you get a raise at A and you decide to stay, or some other Company offers you something, or....

That said, please check your contract for any enforceable non-competes. What you are planning to do may be illegal, if you signed something in that regard.

If you end up doing the transfer to B, it's very likely that A won't loose the whole contract immediately. Maybe there is some other work to be done. In contract business it's quite common for employees to switch from contractor to employee, so I would expect your managers at A to have a backup plan for that. If B really ends business with A, you won't be in fond memory at your old place, but that's something you have to live with.

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