Saw this question. I was perplexed that the question was even posed. In what world does this person live that they believe they have an ethical obligation to work on a project?
Well, maybe they signed a contract? Or made a promise to a manager?
Even if they signed a contract, it’s not unethical to break a contract, as long as you follow the rules (i.e. people and company break contracts all the time). A promise, well, even that can be broken under extenuating circumstances…
So I read the question. No – no contract, no promise. Just someone who feels underpaid and, since the company is about to begin a new project, and they are the one person who can do the work, that the company would be hosed without them.
Now, the obvious, spit-take element is “no, of course that’s not unethical!” . But that seems way too obvious. So I started thinking about the underlying issues.
1. Is the writer of the question confusing “unethical” with “impolite”?
Quite possibly. Even so, I think the answer is ‘no’. The company will fire you in a heartbeat if necessary, regardless of the politeness of the act. You have no higher obligation.
2. Is the writer of the question a narcissist?
This seems more likely – the person posed this question to get sympathy and attention. and they structured the question and the scenario in such a way that no-one would argue with them about the ethics. But the “tell” for me is in the “I’m the only/best person for the job” subtext. This is a developer who feels special and elite.
I suspect that this question was asked so that the developer can stay, and work on the project, and feel like a savior.
“Well, I’m underpaid, and I could have left, and no-one could have blamed me (I checked!), but I feel like the company would be lost without me, and so I felt like I should just be the hero and stick with it, and get the work done.”
Hey man, whatever works for you.