7

My spouse is passionate about android programming and works from home. Our two apps have become popular with the targeted users. We really enjoy the success with those apps. It helps my partner gets engaged throughout day. There is little earning from those apps.

I got a day job. In evening free time and as a hobby I design logos, help her in decision making (Not programming stuff).

My company policy clearly says that I should not be involved in any business or any other job. My colleagues in the office are aware about what I do in my free time.

Is it ethical to help my partner and work outside office hours?

Will it have any impact on my day job?

  • 4
    Personally I would recommend you ask your management/hr whether what you're doing violates the contract's noncompete restrictions. Unless your day job also involves graphic arts skills, they will probably tell you that you're fine. Managing it so it doesn't cut into your work productivity is your responsibility. – keshlam Apr 26 '15 at 0:20
18

As far as legal implications go, I can't and won't even try to answer that as it's beyond the scope of this site. However, ethically as long as the work you are performing is not in direct competition with your employer, you are not using any company resources nor taking work time for your spouse's business, I can't see how there could possibly be any conflict of interest.

To determine if it truly is ethical, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is the targeted market for your spouse's Android apps in the same space as the company you work for?
  2. Is there any "inside information" you have carried forward from your day job to help further your spouse's business?
  3. Is there any conflict of interest between your employer and your spouse's business?

If the answer is "no" to each of these, then there is no ethical reason why your assisting your spouse is an issue. Legally, however, may be a different issue, given the contract you signed with your employer.

I'm not entirely sure that I agree with the "keep your mouth shut" advice given in other answers and comments. I would rather legally find out where you stand, then if there is an issue, address it. If there is not, then you and your spouse can go about your business without worrying about it any further.

  • 1
    what if the "where you stand" is "out the door" ~ i think that is the idea behind the keep the old mouth shut advice. – bharal Apr 26 '15 at 21:38
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    @bharal I didn't suggest the OP ask their boss :) Rather, someone who can tell them if they legally need to worry, or if necessary cease and desist so they don't end up "out the door". Because from experience, keeping your mouth shut only goes so far. Things normally surface one way or another. Me personally? I would rather control the way in which information is propagated, instead of leaving it to the rumour mill :) – Jane S Apr 26 '15 at 21:43
  • @JoeStrazzere Hence why I say that if the OP wishes to conduct this type of activity then it is wise to get legal assistance. The policy to me seems unenforceable if there is no conflict of interest. The question then becomes, is the company policy ethical or even legal? :) – Jane S Apr 27 '15 at 1:25
  • @JoeStrazzere That depends on how ethical (or even legal) the prohibition is :) I can't answer that, all I know is that if I as a manager had this policy, I would be looking for where it can adversely affect my project. Unless the OP is dragging themselves into work half dead from extracurricular activities, I fail to see how a request to prevent them doing something in their own time is enforceable. – Jane S Apr 27 '15 at 1:30
8

My company policy clearly says that I should not be involved in any business or any other job. My colleagues in the office are aware about what I do in my free time.

Is it ethical to help my partner and work outside office hours?

The fact that you used the word "work" here tells me that you know the answer.

If your company policy clearly says that you shouldn't be involved in any business or any other job, it seems almost certain that this "work" violates this policy.

You need to decide if violating your company policy is worth it to you and your spouse.

In some companies, the policy isn't strongly enforced and doesn't much matter. In other companies, violating policy can get you terminated.

Only you can determine which is the case here. Perhaps talking with your coworkers will help you figure that out? Be aware that the importance of a particular policy can change over time. Even if you determine it isn't important now, that may change later.

  • 2
    i don't always upvote an answer when that means the answer will score higher than my own, but when i do, i prefer to leave a comment – bharal Apr 26 '15 at 21:43
  • "can get you terminated" - Seems rather harsh compared to being fired ;-) – Ed Heal Jan 2 '16 at 2:39
7

I guess you should stop sharing too many details about your personal life with office colleagues. Having said that, how would anybody know what you are doing at home? You can surely work (its your spouse, you can help) but don't overdo it as it might affect your performance in office if you are too tired or your mind is diverted towards work at home.

5

You really need to get a lawyer to review your contract and/or employee manual.

I've seen several such contracts which would lead to the company being able to take over your spouses application if they so chose simply because they "own" anything you produce, regardless of when it was done.

So, my first step would NOT be to talk to the company. Rather, I'd seek professional legal advice. What they say would then give me enough information to know how to approach the company and what, specifically, I need to ask for.

4

You are helping your partner. You are not part of any decision regarding the management of the business, you are not liable about anything with the business, your partner owns 100% of the business and is the face of the business. You receive no compensation. And you are not using any of your employer's intellectual property. By my book, you are not "involved".

Keep it that way and stop volunteering info to all and sundry.

  • 1
    A court is unlikely to see it that way especially if the OP is say a director of their partners company - which is quite common for tax planning purposes – Pepone Apr 25 '15 at 23:03
  • @Pepone Being a director of the company meets the definition of "involved" – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 25 '15 at 23:55
  • this is typically good advice. – bharal Apr 26 '15 at 20:27
2

What legal activity you do outside of work is your business, but you are correct that some companies will formally declare that employees are restricted from certain activities.

I have side projects too, but as they never compete with my day job it hasn't been a problem. It would not seem unethical or a threat to your day job, but much of this will depend though on your company and management and how sensitive they are to such things.

In a couple of my past jobs, the employer would have us fill out surveys identifying any activity outside work, and once or twice I've had a compliance or human resources representative interview me to get more detail on my side business. They understood the activity did not compete with the company's business and did not pose any security risk, so I was never asked to cease or seek employment elsewhere.

You may want to see if your HR department can clarify exactly what is restricted. Making logos on the side is something you could easily categorize as a hobby. You'd think that wouldn't bother them but again it may just depend on how sensitive or pedantic your HR department chooses to be.

  • No its not if your contract says and a lot do that any outside work must be cleared by the company. – Pepone Apr 25 '15 at 23:01
  • And I'm not disputing that. I'm suggesting he should clarify specifics with the company to see if there is any room for interpretation that allows for non-competitive activity or if anything (non-profit, hobby, etc) is out of the question. – Bernard Dy Apr 26 '15 at 2:21
2

I think it's fine as long as you are not competing with your employer, getting enough sleep to give your employer all the productive hours he is paying for, and taking care of your health so that the hours you are working for him are productive and not take up by dealing with unnecessary stress or issues from overwork. I think you have a duty as far as ethics go to be in optimal condition during the hours you are working for your main employer. I think this would include mental and emotional health as well.

0

When you decide whether to help your partner or not, there is ethics, there's the question whether your boss minds you doing it, and an important thing to consider is whether it will give your company any ammunition against you if they need it.

Less important in the USA, where you can be laid off without any reason in very short time anyway, but in Europe where you have rather strong rights as an employee, the fact that you helped your partner may mean that you are in breach of an employment contract, and just by coincidence the company might find out about it at the same time when they want to reduce the number of employees.

-1

Oh boy oh boy ETHICS!

My favourite topic. Engaged readers (or those that clicked that link) will recall my last ethics-based answer, and the ensuing down-votes that occurred.

First up, this is a silly question.

How can you say is it silly? Everyone is precious and nothing is silly

Um, yes they are, we're all lovely in our own way. I'm not attacking the OP here - the question really is silly. Or rather, misplaced.

What? How?

Because it is about company regulations - it is clearly off topic. None of us here know what the regulations at the company are like, so none of us know if the OP is a minute away from being walked out the door. So the last question Will it have any impact on my day job? is misplaced - it doesn't belong on this site.

There are two parts, smarty

Yup, and the second part is ethics. OMG ethics i love talking about ethics! Let's look at @Jane's answer - it is an expression of what he/she thinks is ethical. Hume (1711-76) ~ I'm giving dates now, I think that down-voters wanted dates to cross reference ~ &Ayer (1910-89) both roughly argue that expressions aren't ethical.1

That is not what the downvoters were - oh, you don't care, do you?

Nope. So, OP can now decide if OP wants @Jane's approval or not. If the OP does, then it is clear what OP should do - but it is not clear from an ethical standpoint.

Huh. So what, if ethics is just about liking people, then...

The best bet is actually Machiavelli (1469-1527).

Ummm, that sounds like bad advice

Hear me out! He is misinterpreted - what Il Principe argues is that the ruling elite have their own morality, that supersedes "typical" morality. This is because the ruling elite have a different motivation - attaining and holding onto power.

"Il Pricipe", seriously? Also, OP should absolutely not have a dinner and murder everyone.

Right, right. Geeze, yes, OP, do not murder anyone. Also, don't go to any dinners by anyone called "Oliverotto".

Sure. So is there another philoso-

I'm not done though! Just - just hear me out. By that logic, it is readily apparent that what OP is doing is ok. It just means OP has to look at it from another point of view.

Um, that at least OP won't have to worry about boring conversation if OP murders everyone at the party?

No! All Machivelli really notes is that if you change the viewpoint of what you're after - let's say you are after money/spousal happiness/your pick - then taking steps to attain that is the only "right" thing to do.

So... say you're worried about being bored at a dinner party you're hosting in a week's time

Well, you should just take the view point of not being bored as your new moral compass! Everyone wins!2

Yes yes, I see. Also, that sounds rather first half 20th Century wrong

Hey, ethics is tricky!

So, any other advice?

The inimitable @Vietnhi has it right - stop telling everyone what you're doing and keep on keeping on. As an addition -

Right, because you didn't actually add anything with all that philosophy stuff

-aHEM. As an addition, staying as a non-director and providing information and advice is not really doing "outside work". After all, a lot of us are providing advice here on this forum, and nobody is asking if answering questions here is ethical or not.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  1. "Not ethical" in the sense of not being about ethics. As an example, if I said "I like cats", that is a statement of fact, not ethics. So is saying "I like people who don't trade industry secrets". Saying "you ought to not trade industry secrets" just restates this fact, but with an implicit "because then I won't like you. Or rather "You ought to not trade industry secrets because then I won't like you, as I don't like people who do that."

  2. All joking aside, the important thing to note is that not everybody wins in a closed system - like a dinner party.

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