Leaving a job with your personal tech intact

IT employees often have no problem melding their work lives with their personal lives. Until it's time to switch jobs.

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The high-tech kill switch

Many employers already are protecting themselves, and using technology where possible to help. Companies can track and even block what files employees forward, print or copy, Segal and others say, to ensure that workers aren't making off with trade secrets, client lists and the like.

On the hardware side, companies can even disable devices remotely.

"Most companies that I know of that support smartphone use have enabled it with a feature that allows them to erase all data — 'spike the phone' — at their discretion, usually at termination," says Sean Ebner, regional vice president for Technisource, the IT services division for SFN Group Inc. "This means that the employee would lose pictures, contacts, emails, files, and so forth."

Some workers might find that draconian, but legal contracts like non-compete and non-solicitation agreements give companies the right to take such actions to protect their assets and interests, according to Segal and other experts. (For details, see "Leaving? Do it legally.")

That said, employers do recognize that the lines between personal and professional are blurred when gadgets are involved, and, as a result, many are trying to accommodate employees' needs when possible, Ebner says.

Whether a company allows a departing worker to remove files from a company device, forward e-mails to a personal address or keep a cell phone number all depends on the way in which a person is separating from the organization. "If the firm feels threatened, very little flexibility is given. If the associate is leaving on great terms, flexibility is often the rule of the day," Ebner observes.

Here's your hat...

Norman Hollander, an IT worker based in Palms Springs, Calif., had a leave-taking that fell somewhere between those two extremes.

Hollander had worked for six years as a technology architect for CA Technologies, an IT management software company based in Islandia, NY, when he learned he would have to relocate to Pennsylvania — a move he didn't want to make.

When he resigned, CA cut off his e-mail — a typical practice in corporate America these days — without allowing him to create a response that would direct people to a new account. His work laptop went right back to the company, too. Luckily, he had kept personal copies of contact data and other files backed up, and the company allowed him to remove other personal information from the machine. His BlackBerry was his own, so he didn't need to relinquish the smartphone.

Of course, the loss of corporate e-mail no longer leaves a person feeling completely cut off. He posted his new contact information on LinkedIn and Facebook (see "Job hunting via social network") and had a colleague email co-workers a goodbye note with the contact data on his behalf.

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