My company, company A, is being sold. It has been bought by a major player in the field, company B, and everybody was quite happy with it. However, due to antitrust concerns the European Commission requires some parts of A to be divided to a third party. This third party, company C, is a hedge fund.

My department is being split. Out of the twenty-ish people here, myself and two others will go to B as planned. Everyone else will go to C.

My colleagues are not happy. They are putting together a protest email which will be sent to the top brass—which, by the way, will almost all go to B—complaining about the unfairness of the situation, and expect me to join the protest.

My dilemma is:

  • All my colleagues, including the other two going to B, will join the email.
  • While I believe the situation is unfortunate, on a very selfish level it suits me well. I don't want to sign the letter.

How can I not join the email and yet keep working in harmony during the acquisition process, which could take a month?

  • Who is choosing how the teams are split? Also, would your colleagues know if you don't send the mail?
    – sf02
    Dec 3, 2018 at 16:48
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    How would they know that you did NOT send it?
    – Sandra K
    Dec 3, 2018 at 16:57
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    What outcome are your colleagues hoping to achieve? And is that realistic? If they're looking for an explanation of who's going where it might be worth going along with it, but complaining that it's "unfair" is unlikely to achieve anything useful - particularly as there seems to be a legal reason why the department is being split - which would be a good reason for anyone not to sign. Dec 3, 2018 at 16:58
  • 3
    Our current management suggests an organisation, but the European Commission has final say. As for the mail, we are supposed to CC our union representative (one of our colleagues, going to C), officially so that he does not miss an answer (needless to say, it also adds a lot of peer pressure) Dec 3, 2018 at 17:06
  • Are you afraid of repercussions? If the company decides to fire people for sending the letter, both your colleague and line manager would be fired and you'd be the only person moving from your department? Have you talked with the other two people about this? Dec 3, 2018 at 21:42

7 Answers 7


Just do nothing.

You're not required to send the letter, and you shouldn't be forced to send a letter you don't want to - be it a protest letter, or any other kind.

Neither are you required to express that you're not going to do this.

So just don't do or say anything, and let it go. If anyone notices and ask, you can be sincere and tell them why you're not doing it, or you could just evade the question with some excuse. Once again, they shouldn't force you to explain why you don't want to be involved in this situation.

I agree with you that it's a selfish attitude to take, so I don't think that stating out loud that you're being selfish is the best way to keep a good relationship with your peers for the next month - it will probably burn some bridges whenever they find out. So just ignore the situation, fly low, and hope no one notices.

If they (try to) force you to send the letter, you can state that as an issue that prevents you from being involved - you don't want to be forced into empathizing with your colleagues. It may be an excuse, or it may be true - but I wouldn't care about coming up with false excuses to people who's forcing me to do something I don't want, even if it's a good thing to do.


Just tell them you don't want to burn bridges before you even get there.

I can't tell you how your co-workers will react, but I feel that this response is reasonable.

Tell them you don't want to compromise your standing with the new company in the event they take offense to this type of email and that you would rather keep your head down. If you must, tell them you fully support them in their endeavor, but you will not be partaking.

  • 2
    Indeed, towing the company line now might put you next in line for a promotion this time next year. The management isn't going to change anything as a result of these pleas, so logically the best move is to just move forward as suggested.
    – corsiKa
    Dec 4, 2018 at 4:16
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    I would advise against saying anything like "I fully support you, but I won't be actually doing any supporting". That's just going to annoy them. "I sympathise", "I wish I could change things" or other platitudes seem less obviously contradictory to me.
    – Eric Nolan
    Dec 4, 2018 at 9:51
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    @EricNolan I don't see anything contradictory with saying I support you in what you are doing, but its not something I would do myself. Look at it this way, a lot of people would agree giving to charity is good a thing and most people would be supportive of someone donating, but that doesn't mean those same people would donate themselves. I understand where you are coming from, I just disagree. Dec 4, 2018 at 12:31
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    @Agent_L you fully support THEM in THEIR endeavour. Not your own. Dec 4, 2018 at 14:30
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    @SaggingRufus "to support" means "to give assistance to". The word you're looking for is "well-wishing".
    – Agent_L
    Dec 4, 2018 at 14:35

My addition to other answers is an alternative delivery.

I'd be totally straight with them and say something along the lines of I'm not interested in wasting time and making waves on a protest that will not change anything.

This is in my own best interests and potentially theirs as well if they get over their pique and think about what they're doing before they potentially get themselves some negative attention from higher up.

I wouldn't try and talk them out of it, just indicate I'm not getting involved.

  • 3
    Yup, better to be direct with them than potentially get caught in a lie.
    – sf02
    Dec 3, 2018 at 20:40
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    "on a protest that will not change anything" +1 for that part. If it is an European Commission regulation, they have about 0 chance of success, company will fear sanctions more than few unhappy employees, no way around that. If they are reasonable, they will accept that OP is not going to fight a battle already lost.
    – Mołot
    Dec 3, 2018 at 23:33
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    @Mołot: Ugh. The employees actually have some power here. The threat of a blanket strike of all employees going to C is rather powerful.
    – Joshua
    Dec 4, 2018 at 3:41
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    @Joshua sure is they'd love it, most important part of restructuring is getting rid of dead weight and employees with issues. Worst part of buying out a smaller company is dealing with contracted employees, so great if they give a reason to make an example or get rid of them.
    – Kilisi
    Dec 4, 2018 at 3:46
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    @Joshua it doesn't work like that, you don't normally buy a company for the people. It's makes more sense to buy the people.... it's pretty basic business strategies.
    – Kilisi
    Dec 4, 2018 at 3:50

While some answers suggest that you could play the "Signing this mail won't make a difference"-argument I am afraid this might get you into a bigger discussion.

I am with you on the point that it suits you quite well and would build my argument on that exact point, that you are confident or convinced of. Fact is that some people, including you, are in a position others may envy them of; it is completely reasonable to not disagree on your fortune and not wanting to push for a decision that might have a disadvantage on your position - and it is not given that

  1. something will change anyway
  2. the change favours more people or is considered more fair.

There is no solution that suits everybody in this scenario I am afraid, so no solution will be fair for everybody.

Personal note: Please be aware of that your colleagues may at some point even project their frustration at you. So maybe don't put to much effort into keeping friends who maybe aren't your friends.


How can I not send the mail, and yet keep working in harmony during the acquisition process which could take month?

Just tell them that you don't think it will do any good.

  • Point out that the deck on this one is already stacked
    the exec's are already going where they want to go.

  • There are causes which are worth dying for, but
    this is more of a live to fight another day situation.

Hopefully this helps in France, (which you've tagged) I've never been/worked there.


All my colleagues, including the other two going to B will send the mail.

Are each of the colleagues sending it from their own email accounts? Or will it be a joint letter signed by each person?

How can I not send the mail, and yet keep working in harmony during the acquisition process which could take month?

Could you just pretend you sent the email? How do you know for certain the 2 colleagues coming with you aren't doing the same?

  • 2
    Cultural difference spotted :) Here in France, the union rep is an elected amongst the employees. He is one of my colleagues. Dec 3, 2018 at 18:20
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    @Dan I would think lying to his current colleagues isn't the best approach. Dec 3, 2018 at 19:10
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    @Dan to each their own I guess, I would rather be honest and just tell them I don't want to send it. Dec 3, 2018 at 19:15
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    OP wants to "keep working in harmony", and lies would be found as soon as the union rep looks at his inbox. Lying is not a way to keep any kind of professional relationship.
    – Mołot
    Dec 3, 2018 at 23:45
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    The two other employees going to B will also know you are a liar. Some uninvolved people, perhaps a boss, will know you are a liar and while they might respect a "screw you I'm out for myself attitude" they could consider lying spineless and an indicator that down the road you might be saying "I totally sent that status report before the deadline. the mail must be slow I guess". This could easily have negative repurcussions for a few different reasons. Whatrever about lying being unethical and cowardly it is also very stupid in this case. Don't do it.
    – Eric Nolan
    Dec 4, 2018 at 9:56

So you'd like to not participate in what is essentially a union action, because the union action is against your short-term personal benefit.

So is every union action, however. A strike costs every striker significant money, but if unions stopped striking because of that, this would cost workers even more in the long term as wages stagnate.

This site is fairly US-centric, so people on here are not familiar with collective action and the politics around it. Breaking ranks with the union might make you stand out for a promotion, or it might make you stand out as an outsider with little backing from colleagues, so this is a decision of treating an uncertain short-term advantage against similarly uncertain long-term benefits of having union backing.

There is, however, no neutral option that will please everybody.

I personally would stick with the union, since that is less dependent on factors outside your control, because you are giving up the collective bargaining position of the union for a weaker individual one. While in a group of twelve, the absence of your signature will be noticed, it can be interpreted as dissent or disinterest (i.e. an indication that you are looking to move to another company, which would be a severely career limiting move).

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