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I work for company A (energy provider) which offers a great product and a great app which we constantly look at during work together with other colleagues. Everyone here is very proud to work for the company and it natural that you use the companies product for private use, even though we don't get any employee discount we have been cheapest on market for a long time. Colleagues that don't use the company products often have to explain why they aren't during the coffee break (in a informal way).

Recently there is a new competitor, company B which offers better prices but a worse app. For me, the price is the most important and I am considering switching but the only thing holding me back is that I work for company A. I am worried how this will be seen by colleagues.

The monthly savings are about $50/month.

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    How are your colleagues finding out who your energy supplier is? Feb 14, 2023 at 13:51
  • Well, if you work at a Ford assembly plant and drive to work in a Chevrolet, it is pretty obvious. Which energy company you are signed up for? Not obvious, unless somebody is actually checking up on it (which has a whole other vibe to it).
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 14, 2023 at 15:11
  • I think you already know the answer to this, if you are already discussing this with colleagues in your coffee break. The most relevant questions would be; how do people find out which people don't use your company, and secondly, how would you feel explaining why you don't use the product? The answers to those should guide your decision Feb 14, 2023 at 16:28
  • As a Comment - I agree that there's no real way for someone to find out you aren't with your company - but the real question I'd be asking to management would be about Staff discount/perks - every utility company I worked at (a couple when I was early on in my career) had staff benefits, so that it was never cheaper to go with a competitor. That's probably the bigger question. Feb 14, 2023 at 18:41
  • Maybe not one of OP's colleagues, but certainly someone at company A can look at customer/subscriber list and see that OP is not there?
    – cdkMoose
    Feb 15, 2023 at 17:41

4 Answers 4

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I am worried how this will be seen by colleagues.

So don't show or tell them. They will have no way to know which app you use.

Keep your private use private.

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    It's all good until a colleague asks the OP about an issue with their company's systems/App. At which point the OP will either have to lie in order to maintain the fiction that they support their company. Or the truth finally comes out. Either way it just delays the inevitable.
    – Peter M
    Feb 14, 2023 at 14:39
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I have seen that in the banking industry in Germany. Unless they are very specialised, they really don't want their employees to use a different bank (if you owe a lot of money to another bank, and can't pay it back, you could be pressured into doing things you shouldn't). The problem is solved by giving employees better conditions than normal customers, so a mortgage with your own bank will be cheaper than a mortgage with any other bank.

In your case, you get your energy from whoever offers you the best deal. Unless your company is willing to give employers a better deal. Giving your company free money isn't loyalty. Loyalty is telling them that their prices are too high and they might lose customers.

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  • The same scenario could happen with energy companies: you get into debt with company B, who offers incentives in return for industrial espionage in your employer. Most employers have some sort of clause about getting into bed with the competition to avoid this possibility. However, if that doesn't apply, then employers can't enforce it. Feb 14, 2023 at 14:15
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    @AndrewLeach Let's keep it sane please. Feb 14, 2023 at 14:33
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Get your energy from whoever gets you your best deal. Get your salary from whoever offers you the best job.

I have quite a few friends who work for various internet and telecommunication providers here in Australia, and I'm pretty sure they all get their internet and mobile plans from companies other than who they work for, without any repercussions from their employers.

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You are under no obligation to be involved in the coffee break discussion. You don't have to volunteer it, you don't have to respond to questions, you can be evasive, you can declare it boring and change the topic, you can walk away.

On the other hand, presumably you have a reason for using the competing product, and others have said those might be good things for the company to be aware of. And this is far from being a significant conflict of interest. Plenty of IBMers used Macs, when those were a better fit for their needs. Call it market research, or just say that for you the other product was a better choice. This is nothing to be ashamed of.

And frankly, company loyalty is dead in most of major industry, since companies no longer reciprocate that loyalty, or even take much notice of it. Again using IBM as an example, back when both employees and company thought in terms of staying with one company for a decade, or an entire career, the company made active efforts to build a team mentality; layoffs were considered a last resort, there was a significant amount of money spent on community activities/resources, and so on.

But IBM stopped honoring that mutual commitment long ago, and most younger companies never had that level of "respect for the individual" in the first place. Without that mutual commitment, your obligation, even your implied obligation, is strictly a business one. Do your job the best way you can (including going beyond your specific assignment when appropriate), don't actively work against the company's interests, respect whatever agreements you made when hired... but beyond that your responsibility is to yourself, not the company.

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