It happens all the time: You land a new position and find that there are other open positions that maybe your previous co-workers would be interested in. You tell your new supervisor and, on your recommendation, they give you the “green light” to reach out to them and ask. Nothing wrong with that, right?
But when do you go too far?
In the recruiting world, its typical for a recruiter to reach out to a client’s competitors to try and steal away their employees. After all, its easier to find someone who is already doing the job you are hiring for AND in the same industry that will be able to plug in right away. We call that “business.” And if an employee is happy at the job they currently have, no amount of wooing will be able to change that.
And it would seem to be perfectly acceptable to use a new hire to do the same type of scouting that would happen if you hired a recruiting firm. Let’s face it – they know exactly the environment these other employees are in and what may be the reasons they would entertain leaving. But, there is a point of crossing the line.
I recently had an employee move on to another opportunity with a competitor who began to reach out to his former co-workers to see if they would be interested in leaving and coming over to his new employer as well. We’re not talking one or two employees….he reached out to at least 5! Each were key employees in their own departments. Where this former employee “crossed the line” and has now left a bad taste in not only his former employer’s mouth but that of his former employees, is he began to harass these employees. And when employees wouldn’t respond or take his phone calls anymore, he turned them over to his new boss to try calling them…to the point that one of their targets came to ask me if we could somehow get them to stop calling him.
Now we’ve crossed into the unprofessional side…An employee determined for vengeance.
Just as we tell jobseekers not to bad talk your past employers during a job interview, seeking vengeance against a former employer leave create a reputation for you personally…not the company. This can be particularly harmful to you when it’s a niche industry and the power players all talk to each other. Competitors in the marketplace doesn’t always make them enemies. Word will get around if you go down the “vengeance” path that can come back to reflect negatively on your new company and you as an employee when you go to move on to another employer.
This can be particularly dangerous for small businesses who don’t have a strong reputation to fall back on, not to mention to potential for legal issues involved from cases of slander to non-competes. It may seem like an easy and cost-saving tactic to use, but its not always the smartest.
Keep it just business by taking yourself out of the equation.
There is a reason why recruiting firms exist and sometimes the “smarter” approach to poaching as a tactic is to use them to carry it out. They can approach your desired candidates from a point of confidentiality and feel them out to see if “jumping ship” is really something they would consider. Remember, just because you perceive an employee as unhappy at their current job doesn’t mean they have the same desire to leave that you did.