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I'm in a situation in which a colleague informed me that he/she was looking for a new job and has a couple of good prospects. I am concerned for the team if this person leaves and I'd like to give my boss a heads-up. But I'm torn because I told this person I wouldn't say anything to anybody about it.

Should I let my boss know about this anyway? And why or why not?

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    Suppose you were looking for a new job and trying to keep it quiet. Should your colleague go behind your back and tell your boss -- after telling you he wouldn't say anything? – Keith Thompson May 1 '13 at 17:54
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    Loyalty to your team means nothing if they cannot trust you. – Telastyn May 1 '13 at 18:46
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    @Chad: An employee has every right to look for another job, and a human being has every right to expect that a promise of confidentiality (from a co-worker or not) will be honored unless there's some overriding obligation. The OP has no obligation to tell the boss that his colleague is planning to leave. He does have an ethical obligation to keep his promise. People leave jobs all the time; it's the boss's job to deal with it. (Personally, I wouldn't tell the boss even if I hadn't promised not to.) – Keith Thompson May 3 '13 at 15:20
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    @stevejessop I somewhat doubt journalists apply that to personal interactions. I imagine it's because they don't want to be treated with the hostility and automatic distrust of an interview setting by the people who used to be their friends. If you are going to break the conventions of personal interactions I would suggest it's your responsibility to be upfront about that. – Nathan Cooper Mar 1 '15 at 1:05
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Don't tell your boss that your colleague is looking for another job. You explicitly state you told the colleague that is leaving you would not say anything. Just on general principle you should not say anything. Let the managers manage, and keep your honor intact.

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    Good point. I'm just concerned about the impact to our team. – Chimera May 1 '13 at 17:56
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    You were told in confidence. Ethically you should respect that confidence. If the person in question felt comfortable informing your boss s/he would have done so. – Timonides May 1 '13 at 18:01
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    Managers know that employees leave, and they should have a plan that they are not required to share with the team. The prospects may or may not pan out, and you could get your coworker fired. The only positive of telling the manager is if somehow you can turn it into better terms or working conditions for the entire team, to help retention. – Amy Blankenship May 1 '13 at 18:07
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    If you're that concerned about it, ask your co-worker to let you know when he's turned in his notice and then go talk to the boss about it. If the boss wants to try retaining your departing co-worker, he will. Your team should be prepared for the departure of a team member at any time, because one could get run over by the beer truck. – Blrfl May 1 '13 at 18:54
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    @Blrfl: Once the colleague has turned in his notice, what is there to say to the boss about it? – Keith Thompson May 1 '13 at 19:35
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Don't do this.

News Flash: People typically find the best jobs by networking.

Do not kill your relationship with this colleague.

If you keep a good relationship with this colleague, he/she can be a source of information and a reference going forward. If you develop a bad relationship with this colleague, he/she could sully your name, and hurt your chances with a prospective employer.

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    +1 for pointing out a good reason why it's a bad idea to break your promise to your colleague about not saying anything. – Rachel May 2 '13 at 20:10
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Keep your word and don't tell your manager.

Since you are concerned about the well-being of your team, maybe you need to start working on ways to lessen the impact of one person leaving. Without giving up any secrets, start looking into your contacts to see if you can find a qualified candidate a little quicker than normal.

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Aside from the matter of personal integrity, there is also the whole idea that you are trying to work above your level. Your manager or team lead is the one who has to worry about the impact to your team, not you. I hate using football analogies, but here goes:

You're a lineman. It's not your concern as to whether it's a pass play left or right, or whether the QB is going to run to the side. Your job is to take that defensive lineman and either stop him, or push him left or right. You're not the QB, you're not the offensive coordinator, and you're certainly not the head coach. You're a lineman. Concentrate on your assignment and do it well, and let the rest of the team worry about their assignments.

Realistically, play it out:

1) You tell your boss. The employee gives notice. Boss gets angry, "Yeah, John already told me. Thanks for keeping me in the loop."

2) You tell your boss. The employee decides to stay, but your boss already recruited the replacement. Boss has a budget problem with you to thank for it.

3) You tell your boss. The boss confronts the employee. Maybe even fires the employee (Thank you HLGEM). Now the employee is angry and will let all your coworkers know that you can't be trusted. Good luck on the team from now on.

NOTHING good will come from telling your boss. Best advice I ever got: "Never let a good opportunity to shut up pass you by." Sounds personal, but it's not.

The only thing you should take away from this is that you should get familiar with your coworker's responsibilities to your project, and do it quietly.

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    4. You tell your boss and he fires your coworker – HLGEM Apr 14 '14 at 19:27
  • This is the best answer :) – Maria Ines Parnisari Apr 16 '14 at 1:51
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    Never let a good opportunity to shut up pass you by. Well said. And all options are analyzed. This is the best answer IMHO. – Peter M. Jun 3 '14 at 0:10
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If you are concerned about the impact to your team, tell your colleague as much and advise him/her to disclose to the boss as soon as he/she feels comfortable. But do not tell the boss yourself.

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There are two things here. One is your integrity. You gave your word and should keep it. Second, the professional relationship between your employer and coworker is their business alone. Should your employer ever give any indication a coworker would be let go or reassigned, its up to the employer to communicate that, not you (unless you're a manager of that person).

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From experience, my recommendation is that you do not tell your boss. There are other good answers that explain some reasons why - mostly this may lead to a lack of trust from both your co-workers and boss.

That said, I want to add something I've not seen mentioned: You don't yet know for a fact the other employee will leave. Just because this other employee goes on interviews doesn't mean that a job offer will be issued to them, even if the interviews appear to be "good prospects". If the other employee receives a job offer, it doesn't mean they will accept. So, telling your boss may lead to a lot of unneccessary anxiety on everyone's part.

Furthermore, through actions like this, your boss may come to think of you as his/her informant within your team. That might help you with your boss for a while, but will likely hurt you with your co-workers. Ultimately I'd expect this to be more negative than beneficial - your team members will tend to shun you and then you won't have information for your boss anymore, at which point the boss is likely to stop viewing you as useful. (Also, I don't think having such a boss who would do such a thing would be good, but that's starting to get off topic.)

protected by Jim G. Nov 14 '13 at 3:42

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