Joseph Harrington of Ultimo, New South Wales asks:
I just conducted an
interview with a managing director of one of our major competitors, a
private company. He is obviously unhappy there, did nothing but
criticise them and even showed me their profit and loss reports. Was I
wrong to look at them? This executive seems energetic and knowledgeable.
However, I’m torn between his skill and disloyalty. Should I employ
Kenelm Tonkin, Chairman, Tonkin Corporation
If the profit and loss is publicly available, then there is no
problem even accepting a copy of your rival’s financial information. It
is already in the public domain and your candidate is doing nothing
wrong nor are you. You might question his constant criticisms though.
However, your major competitor is a private company and it seems very
unlikely that the profit and loss you saw is in the public domain. If
this is correct, then the answer to both your questions is an emphatic
First, while it is true you cannot help it if someone puts
confidential information in front of you, your response thereafter is
very much in your hands and a matter of character. Do not take or make a
copy of this information. Play a straight bat with this. You would
never like your rivals to take your proprietary information and,
undoubtedly, they will have some sanction against you and certainly
their managing director if you did.
Second, it would be an amazingly bad decision to witness an incumbent
managing director breach his fiduciary duty to his current company by
disseminating information to you in this unauthorised manner and then
employ him. You are playing with fire. If he can do such a terrible
thing to one company, he will have no hesitation turning on yours when
convenient to him.
What you can glean from this experience, however, is that your
competitor is making basic mistakes when recruiting its key people.