How to respond when being asked by my manager about a coworkers plans to leave the company?
This is almost always accurate:
I don't know.
Because... often you don't really know.
- Maybe they were just mad when they said it.
- Maybe they were told by x that they would get a job offer.
- Maybe they were just talking to a recruiter to see what kind of offer they would get.
- Maybe they went to an interview for the same reason
I've heard a lot of people say that they are leaving and stay right where they are - still there years after I moved on.
I've seen a lot of people leave when they said they're staying.
I'm not trying to get you to lie, I'm focusing on the fact that often - no matter what the person told you - you really don't know what they are going to do.
Best example is from High School, a friend named Jon got really mad and wrote his resignation (two weeks notice) on scrap sheet of paper in orange crayon. He did this because it was the closest piece of paper and the first writing instrument he could find. We all knew he was mad and that he meant it. The manager, seeing the crayon, laughed it off as a joke. Two days later Jon's car broke down and he didn't have another job lined up so he kept working there.
If the manager had asked me if it was a real resignation, I hope I would have responded with something like, "He really is mad at you." (Manager already knew Jon was mad)
Don't betray a trust; it's not your place.
Note that I'm not telling you to lie either, "I don't know" is almost always accurate.
It isn't really your place to tell your boss about someone else who might be looking unless they report to you, and even then think carefully about it.
In the comment someone took my post as "weasel words".
I assume they read my comment
Note that I'm not telling you to lie either and their take-away was that I'm basically advising the person to lie.
I want to clarify why I disagree:
From the OP (original post) reworded a bit:
A colleague... told me that he wishes to leave the company and asked [me to keep it private]
[He discussed] this issue with his manager.
A couple of days after this, my own manager asked me if I knew something about my colleague wanting to leave.
Let give an opinion of mine which I didn't specifically address:
The person in the wrong in this situation is the boss for pressuring the OP to get personal information about something that isn't his business.
• "I don't know" works here because you don't know if he still wants to leave.
He talked to his boss a few days ago, right? If he talked with his boss I'm guessing he would like for something to change so that he can stay and be happy. (Again, that's a total guess on my part.)
• "I don't know" is a way to say: "Leave me out of this" without being rude.
So, if that isn't "weasel words", what would be ?
If a person gives you details like they said where they were going, or that they were turning in their notice 'as soon as the background check is complete' you can be reasonably certain that they are actually going to leave. In that case "I don't know" would be weaseling or maybe an outright lie.