I want to poach staff from my friends. Is it ethical?

Dear Aunty B,

We are in the web space and my company is going gangbusters. My problem is we have been grabbing market share from our major (small) competitor, which is in trouble.

I have been patiently waiting for that company to lay off staff so I can cherry pick their two best people before Christmas, as I need urgently more staff. However it looks like they can hang on into next year.

I feel very uncomfortable going in and poaching, especially as I used to work with the principals and am still friendly with them in that we exchange words when we meet at industry events and so on.

What is the ethical thing to do?

eastern seaboard


Dear RN,

Look, you sound like a nice chap and we should always consider ethics in business. But this is not poaching. It is strategically hiring. If you don’t do it your competitors will. It provides two people with a new career path and a future, and it helps your company expand.

As I have said before, the notion that poaching staff is in some way unethical or immoral is a relic of the pre-skills-shortage world. After all, you haven’t felt bad about taking their customers, so why have qualms about nabbing their staff?

Also, see this gem of a related article: How to poach your competitors’ best staff

If none of this makes you feel better, then go and see a recruitment firm. Outline the candidates you want and suggest where they might find them. Let them approach the candidates for you and do the deal. At least that is arm’s length. And good on you for going gangbusters!!

Good luck!

Your Aunty B.


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