Business ethics – the huffy salesman who takes your data

Man tapping smartphone - Waaf Society
Downloading company information has become so easy – but a company’s IP is still is its IP, no matter who created it. Photo courtesy of the Waaf Society

Picture this: you are a hardworking salesman who is responsible for sales at your company doubling – or even tripling. So, thinking you’re well worth it, you ask for a pay rise. After all, you’ve been with the company for several years now and it is clear the boss needs and values your services.

But he doesn’t – well, not enough to give you the big pay rise you feel you so richly deserve.

So, what do you do? You could take your services elsewhere. Or, how about setting up in competition? The sales knowledge; the contacts – they’re all yours…

Well, actually they’re not.

The knowledge in your head that you have acquired over your time with your company is, but the customer list, the templates on your PC, and the associated documents, most certainly are not. They belong to the company – they are its intellectual property (IP).

People often don’t realise this when they download the contents of their company’s sales directory or email its customer lists to their personal email account.

IP theft is a crime. It is also considered such a serious one that anyone convicted of it will never be able to apply for a US Green Card.

“Far too often an employee thinks he has a right to his company’s IP. He helped to create it, so thinks that means it’s his,” says Computer Forensics’ Brian Eardley-Wilmot. “Then the person leaves in a huff after a row and takes it all with them.”

“You, the salesperson, don’t own your company’s sales lists, or their customer list either, so you can’t take these with you to help set up in competition. Basically, any data you can download and email off-site belongs to your company.

“What you do own is the personal knowledge in your head, including what you’ve learnt while on the job – from training, for example, or from your experience working for the company that has increased your professional development,” says Eardley-Wilmot.

“People who want to go into business themselves need to be content with this, and leave their company’s IP where it should be – with their old company.”

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