16

I'm an almost 2 years experienced programmer, currently working as a team lead in my company. I'm the above average, geek programmer who friends and colleagues generally thinks highly of. And my company doesn't like to let me go.

One of my friends, a junior programmer in my company, is talented, but his last project didn't go smooth enough. So the company extended his probation period and they are planning to pay him only a very nominal increment. So he told the management that he is resigning unless he gets this much (say 1000, currency doesn't matter) increment. Upon this, the company decided to let him go.

The person is my friend and I'm kind of a mentor to him. I told the management that I will be leaving also if he is not staying. I'm waiting for the company's final decision, which I hope will come in a few hours.

But I want to know if what I'm doing is unethical - professionally or else. People bargain for salary hike; I'm bargaining for my friend's job. Is this wrong?

UPDATE: I asked this question 2 years ago and stumbled into it accidentally today and thought of updating what happened.

The company made him a slightly better offer regarding increment, which still wasn't good enough. So he quit and I also did after a couple of days. After that we decided to take some time off and did freelancing together for around 2 months and partied away the days. After that, he joined for a better job in a better company with a 100% hike.

I spent another 6 months playing around (I was 23yrs then) getting involved in some open source projects and joined my current company some 6 months ago with more than double my previous salary.

My decision was probably stupid and I wouldn't advice anyone to do stuff like that. But in my case, I'm glad I did it.

closed as not constructive by pdr, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Rarity Sep 28 '12 at 13:12

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    In its current form, the question is asking about ethics. As you can see from the responses, that's just not possible to answer. See also the discussion here: [Are ethics part of our purview?](ethics-part-of-our-purview). But, I agree that REGARDLESS of the ethics, it's just a bad career move, and that would have been a good question. – pdr Sep 28 '12 at 11:47
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    This question is basically did i do the right thing. If you were asking about something you were considering I would fight to keep the question open. But it is already done. So judging it is not constructive. I suspect your company will let you go. Even if they do not want to they can not allow the precedent to be set that they can be bargianed with like this. This is not a personal decision it is a business one. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 28 '12 at 12:37
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    Employee rule #1: Never give an ultimatum unless you are prepared to leave. Mgmt Rule #1: Never accept an ultimatum, see Emp rule # 1 – cdkMoose Sep 28 '12 at 13:41
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    Interesting to read an update about what happened, glad it worked out for the both of you! – Fredrik Feb 26 '14 at 10:36
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    I would say that double your pay after only 2 years is a pretty good deal. Being out of work for 2 years isn't. – Ramhound Feb 26 '14 at 12:47
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You are not bargaining for your friend, you are bargaining for yourself. You are essentially requiring the company to keep your friend on payroll as additional compensation for your work.

I disagree with Oded, this is not unethical. You are free to determine what types of compensation you expect for your work and as long as you are not violating your current contract with the company (giving proper notice etc.) you are ethically in the clear. If you don't want to work for a company that fires your friend, that is your prerogative.

What this is is stupid. It is a fairly outrageous thing to demand of an employer and can only damage your career prospects. What you asked for is tantamount to demanding a salary hike equal to what your friend was making (the company has already decided that they do not require his services, so they would only be paying him to retain you). Nothing good can come of this.

Another way of looking at this, when looking for a new job would you ever make it a condition that the company also hires your friend? Even when the company in question does not have a job opening for him? No, of course not.

TL;DR No, not unethical, just stupid.

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    I would probably have used the word Ill advised so as not to bruise any sensitive eyeballs – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 28 '12 at 18:16
  • "the company has already decided that they do not require his services" -- actually, they decided he was worth somewhere between his current salary, and his current salary+1000. They would have kept him at "current salary plus very nominal increment", but wouldn't give him +1000. So arguably, the demand was for slightly less than 1000. Still, the demand was a political nightmare, because most managers have no interest in encouraging any kind of collective bargaining ultimatum, even when the collective is two people. – Steve Jessop Jul 13 '15 at 18:53
10

Instead of pondering if what you're doing is ethically wrong or right, I believe you should think about what your goals are and what's the most effective and safe way to try to achieve those goals.

If your decision to support your friend in this way was a "in the heat of the moment" thing, maybe you should approach management with an apology and say that you reacted the way you did because you felt that the company was throwing away a great opportunity in not going that extra mile in order to keep this employee. This might work better in your ambition to reach your goals, and you might be able to keep your job even if your friend is fired (and you can then take your time finding a new employer if you still want to leave). Also this discussion gives you an opportunity to mention your friend's strengths as reasons for keeping him.

Also consider that the reason your friend is in this particular predicament might be because the way he stubbornly threw out his offer possibly without any room for negotiation. An employee that is unable to compromise and negotiate a situation in a way that doesn't feel like an ultimatum is probably not an employee anyone wants on his payroll no matter the technical skills.

6

My best advice is to look for a way to walk this back. What Buhb and Kris has already touched on in their answers, this sounds like a bit of an irrational overreaction to something that I'm sure was an emotional situation but nonetheless, irrational.

Talk to your manager, explain that you said some things that you regret and if given the opportunity to replay that situation, you would not handle it the way you did. Explain that you are very happy with your job and that whole resignation-business was an emotional response since the guy is your friend etc. Also mention that you do believe that he has potential and you hope he'll be given a fair chance to redeem himself in spite of his previously failed project.

If your friend still decides to turn down the offer, then that is his decision. Also consider that the managements decision may be based on rational considerations. He did fail in his project but rather than terminating him, the company has decided to give him a second chance. But their not rewarding him either, and why should they? Ultimately, he's responsible for his career, not you. If he's truly your friend, he would not want you to trash your career for his sake either.

You can also look at this as a learning experience (sounds patronizing, but bear with me). You say that you were kind of a mentor to this person, then why did he fail in his project? I'm definitely not suggesting that you should feel responsible for it, if it was not your project then you are not, but reflect on what you could do in the future in a similar situation to help someone avoid the same situation. Part of acting like a mentor is helping other succeed (and guiding them to avoid failure).

You are still learning and still early in your career. Don't burn yourself on some emotional blaze of glory that you're sure to regret once things settle down. If your boss is half-decent, he'll let this slide if you approach him right.

3

You are not bargaining for your friend.

What you are doing is called blackmail - that is certainly unethical and in some countries may be illegal. Even if not quite blackmail, it certainly is not a professional thing to have done. Your career is yours, and your friends career is theirs. Your friend has made a stand and got fired - this has nothing to do with your career.

I can understand wanting to look out for someone you have mentored and befriended, but this is not helping anyone. Helping your friend to find a new job would have been much more productive.

I'd expect that you will be getting your notice soon and if you and your friend are to remain, chances are good that you will both be gone fairly quickly. I don't see how the company would have any interest in keeping you after this.


I can see that my use of the word blackmail is not popular and I may have chosen a word that is a bit too strong for some liking.

Calling this "negotiation on the compensation package" is completely off base here - the OP is making a threat, using his perceived worth to the company as the stakes.

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    +1, would have fired you both straight away without any further payments or notice, there are always people, delivering better work for less, everywhere on this planet, always remember you can be missed no matter what and act upon it. – Viezevingertjes Sep 28 '12 at 9:23
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    I must disagree; he is requiring a change in his compensation package as a requirement of continued employment. I don't think the choice was wise on the asker's part, but that doesn't make it blackmail (unless he is going to break his contract, of course). – Matt Sep 28 '12 at 11:22
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    The company will probably reject it as unreasonable (I would). But you can demand anything as part of your compensation package (window office, telework, personal airplane, trip to the moon). So long as he gives sufficient notice per his contract, he can leave; for his friend to stay he would probably need to renegotiate his contract early and make concessions elsewhere. Given that blackmail is a crime, it seems a bit strong. – Matt Sep 28 '12 at 11:47
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    I suggest that were this considered blackmail then no employee could never choose to sever their relationship with a company, because they would be depriving the company of something valuable. The company does have a right (conferred by contract) to his services until a set date, or a right to his services until X number of days following notice (during that time his work must be unaffected by his intention to leave). If his contract has conditions that allow him to server the relationship prematurely, he has a right to sever the relationship prematurely upon meeting those conditions. – Matt Sep 28 '12 at 11:58
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    This is not blackmail and calling it that kind of diminishes the word. Blackmail is saying "give me a $x raise or I'll erase all database servers". If this was blackmail, then "give me a $x raise or I'll quit" is also blackmail and I think we'd all agree that it's not, it's negotiation. What this is is an outrageous demand at his level and I agree it can be seen equated with "compensation". Senior managers and experts often demand that certain other key people be brought on board as part of their conditions for joining a company, but that's a very different situation. – pap Sep 28 '12 at 13:00

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