Talent Acquisition & HR Solutions
Leaving Your Job? How to Decide Who Owns Your Business Contacts
When you’re preparing for the last time you’ll leave your job, you find yourself in a bit of a quandary: Who owns the contact lists you’ve developed during your employment? The vendors you’ve talked with day in and day out, the thought leaders you’ve befriended on social media…
Are they your business contacts or do they belong to the company?Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear legally. Prior rulings around the United States suggest the three most important variables in determining ownership are:
- Whether the device holding the contacts belongs to you or the company
- What was stipulated regarding contact information in your initial contract
- Whether the contacts were given to you (like sales leads) or generated by you (like strategic alignments with thought-leaders)
Why social media matters in who owns business contactsThe question of who owns contacts transforms from a legal one to a philosophical one, answered only by attempting to understand how technology and social media have changed the nature of connectedness. It’s argued that social media is a new extension of public space, that Facebook and Twitter — and, to some extent, data about user behaviors all over the web — are a public facing, virtual town square where people interact, are recognized and are identifiable by others as themselves. We may not be able to see everything about someone we don’t know, but names, faces, basic modes of contact information… it’s like the phone book, except active. When we begin to consider digital information this way, business contacts take on a new life. They no longer live on corporate databases, residing instead in identifiable public spaces like LinkedIn, and in address books and emails, which are proprietary only in the sense that they’re records of communications you’ve engaged in, either through initiating conversation or responding to it. In that sense, you do personally own your business contacts. They’re nothing more than records that you’ve interacted with someone and allow for interaction with them again. But because they’re digital histories of interactions occurring in a space owned by a business, they can also be considered property of the business. After all, it was company bandwidth, possibly a company machine, and occurring on company time. The answer to the question is that both you and your company own the contact information.
An example to show the business contact quandaryImagine if we were to literalize this scenario: If you have a conversation in a coffee shop with an employee, does the shop own the conversation? The fact that the two of you now know each others’ names? Probably not. But taken a step further can you own other people’s names, numbers, or necessary knowledge to make future interactions occur? When we strip contacts of the values we apply to them — business potential, social capital — contacts become units of knowledge that inform us how to recreate interactions. (Click here to tweet this quote.) They belong to us in the sense that they’re records of our personal interactions; they belong to a business in the sense that the business provided the resources for their acquisition. Fundamentally, they don’t belong to anyone any more than your conversation with the barista does. Contact information is real in the same way that history is; it happened but can’t be owned. It doesn’t belong to anyone, but it also belongs to everyone. As we continue to globalize, we mustn’t shy away from the realities that the digital world forces us to confront, realities that we didn’t have to contend with before. It’s a frightening lesson to see more of what we thought of as private revealed to be public and accessible to all. But success is as much about adapting to new paradigms as it is creating them, and the opportunities that arise — more efficient commerce, a greater ease of interaction and connection — will surely be worth any conceptual discomfort. Rory Channer is Chief Business Officer of CircleBack Inc..Rory has spent over 15 years in sales and marketing leadership positions predominantly in the information services, software and consulting sectors. His career has spanned leading sales and marketing departments for small startups to large multi-billion dollar corporations.
The Brazen Blog
Feb 07, 2018
We Analyzed the Recruitment Marketing Strategies of the Top 25 Winners of the Glassdoor Best Places to Work: Here’s What We Learned
Not too long ago, Glassdoor released their annual “Best Places to Work” awards for 2018. And while Glassdoor described some of the things that each of these top companies are doing to make their company a best place to work, one of the underlying ingredients in all the ratings and feedback is the people. For example, Facebook, the winner of this year’s award, said one of the biggest drivers for creating their great company is the employee’s belief and appreciation that they are working with smart and innovative colleagues.
Feb 22, 2017
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Why is it important to keep your employees happy? To keep them working for you!
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What An Eventful Year It Was! A Look Back at 2015 [Infographic]
Dear Brazen customers, You totally rock. Love, Brazen