askST Jobs: I’ve secured a job with a rival firm. What can I do so I don’t burn bridges?

In this series, manpower correspondent Calvin Yang offers practical answers to candid questions on navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.

Q: I have secured a job with a rival firm. What can I do so as not to burn bridges with my current employer?

A: Amid the excitement of starting a new chapter of your working life, it is natural to be concerned that the news might not go down well with your current bosses.

If word gets out that you are joining a competitor, there is a chance they may feel resentful or angry.

Joining competitors is a common occurrence and should not be seen as a betrayal, says Dr David Leong, managing director of human resource firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting.

“Skills, experience and network become valuable, and these are why competitors pay better dollars to attract someone to cross over,” he adds. “There is no need to burn bridges, as the parting of ways can be professional and dignified.”

It would be wise to check if you have signed any confidentiality agreement before you start working for another firm. Your current employer can pursue legal action if you divulge sensitive information for your own gains, caution experts.

In your employment contract, there may be non-competition clauses, which state a specified period that you are not to work for a competitor.

You may also be put on garden leave depending on your seniority and job scope, which means you are not supposed to report for work while serving your notice.

Honouring these commitments can help preserve your good name.

There may be future entanglements and engagements with the previous employer, so it is always better to honour contractual arrangements, explains Dr Leong.

Of course, one can get the employer to waive the non-competition clauses. If this can be negotiated in good faith, then that is the best outcome, but it is not always the case.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem says it is important to be transparent with your employers. “Don’t bad-mouth your current employer and respect intellectual property,” she notes.

Your employer is bound to hear about it if you were to talk bad about him, says Ms Linda Teo, country manager at ManpowerGroup Singapore. “This might come back to bite you when your future employer calls to do a reference check.”

During the notice period, outgoing workers must also be prepared to face some tension as some co-workers could become suspicious.