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Moonlighting – An Ethics Issue

Even as it is primarily the IT sector where companies are warning, or even terminating, employees on taking a second job, moonlighting is a byproduct of work-from anywhere and raises a core work ethic issue

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In the creative industry, especially advertising, the examples of leaders who have taken up ‘second jobs’ are aplenty. Advertising gurus have taken pride in being part of movies from screenwriting and lyricists to directing movies while maintaining their primary jobs as creative directors of large agencies. This practice of doing something additional was applauded as it not only challenged but offered a wider canvas for creative leaders to hone their craft and connect with a larger audience.

This may be a bit of a grand picture but the reality of people holding two jobs is not recent, especially among those who work in shifts or have structured work hours and are seen taking the chance of making the extra money. In principle, an additional job that does not conflict with the primary job was not a reason for warnings and termination. Some company CEOs even today say they are not against their employees earning a bit more as long as it does not conflict with contracts.

The work-from-anywhere phenomenon may have boosted the current format of moonlighting but the reason it must be taken seriously is that it counters work ethics and raises questions on transparency.

In most earlier cases where people took up an additional job away from their company, they have made their actions known, they have discussed with their existing companies and teams how the work will not impact their ongoing responsibilities, how they will manage their time spent without compromising on their work requirements and the discussion includes both sides. it is not an arbitrary decision wherein the employee believes he or she is doing his or her job as required.

Wipro fired 300 employees recently and rishad premji did not mince his words when he said that moonlighting is a “complete violation of integrity in its deepest form”. In this specific case, wipro said these employees were working directly with at least one of its competitors. companies such as tech Mahindra, infosys and tcs are also among those that warned their employees against practices violating the terms of the work contract.

While the black and white print of a contract is important, work ethics are a much larger conversation. they entail both company culture and individual integrity. This is not limited to the scope of an agreement as it runs deeper. The current debate around moonlighting therefore is a much larger concern. Work ethics can be encouraged and seen in examples but they cannot be taught. They are formed over a much longer time. they include commitments from employers and employees both.

The IT companies have been vocal on this issue but it is not just their concern. At present, every sector including the media sector will face some version of this and it must be tabled. As hybrid working styles become the norm and ensuring hours away from work become important, the subject of moonlighting must be discussed to be understood and then addressed.


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Moonlighting Magazine 8 October 2022