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25 February, 2005

Professional or personal?

Disclaimer first: the following does not imply my personal opinion, it's just a chain of thought which occurred to me whilst cycling!

Is an employee required to support the interests of his/her employer?  Does he/she need to care about the business in which he/she works?  Are these moral issues, or matters of employment law?

If someone maintains a commercial website, and does so to the employer's satisfaction, should it matter to the maintainer whether the organisation produces PhDs or PHD-brand valve gaskets? Should the employee regard his/her products as superior? Does it matter if an employee of 'Company A' personally uses the products of 'Company B'?

Should the employee care whether the company thrives (and consequently make an extra, unpaid commitment of time or effort), so long as his/her salary is secure? Again so long as pay isn't affected, is it reasonable for an employee to actually dislike his/her employer, and (in his/her own time) openly recommend competitors instead?

I'm obviously not suggesting anyone is obliged to enjoy his/her job – that's an entirely separate issue – but if he/she has to work somewhere, does the employee have a duty to promote the interests of that employer ahead of the interests of other companies (or even market sectors), beyond the direct requirements of the role for which he/she is employed?

I suppose what I'm asking is, presuming the professional obligations of confidentiality, working hours and reasonable effort are met, does the employee need to be loyal (overtly, anyway) to the company and product?

If an employer says:

Staff are expected to contribute to setting the goals and objectives of the company and seek as best they can to achieve them [and] ... contribute to the company beyond the immediate responsibilities of their role.
a) is that a reasonable expectation and
b) is it legally binding?

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