I’m Cheating on My Employer

I have a good friend who is a top-notch civil engineer with a very well-known firm. He has been with the firm for ten years and is sort of the golden-boy among the partners. He’s the biggest rainmaker the firm has and has saved numerous projects and clients. He’s well compensated and in line for partnership within a few short years. In short, he’s got a great job and he’s happy with it.

The problem arose when his home town mayor contacted him to offer him the job of City Manager. The pay is the same, the benefits are equal, but the hours are much better. The job is also in his home town where his family lives instead of a two hour drive away as is his current job. The downside is that every election cycle he will have to worry if the new administration will decide they want someone else in his place. Proximity to family has suddenly become more important than ever because he and his wife just had their first child. Better hours and being close to a support system have become new priorities in his life. Should long term job security outweigh these issues?

He’s been on a couple of informal interviews and has been told the job is his for the asking. He came to me to see if I could help him clarify his thinking. “I feel like I’m cheating on my employer,” he said. “I feel like I’m sneaking around behind their back in considering this other job. My conscience actually hurts!”

How would you advise him? Should he take the job that will better fit his priorities or stay where he is and go for the gold? Have you ever faced this problem?

My advice to him was:

Take your time. The mayor does not need a decision for another month so that gives my friend the time he needs to think about it and consider all the options. It provides an opportunity to look at the housing market and consider the school systems in the new location. It gives them time to consider if living close to relatives is a good thing in practice rather than just in theory.

Keep it to yourself. If my friend decides he does not want to take the new offer, the present employer will never know the difference. No need to rock the boat if it’s not needed.

Consider the next three years. No job is guaranteed. It’s possible his current employer could have some sort of catastrophe and be out of business before he makes partner. He could get a new boss who wants to make life miserable for him. Before making a decision on something that might happen in ten years, consider the needs of your career and family for the next three. It’s much more accurate to think short-term rather than long term.

Burn no bridges. If he does decide to take the new job, he should do an outstanding job in leaving the current one. A month’s notice would be best in order to make sure all projects are turned over to others in a professional manner and that all clients are visited personally with the news. He has been such a boon to his current employer that he would be hired back in an instant as long as he doesn’t make a hash of his leaving.

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