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I recently was given a very generous offer from a well known company (Company A) that I was thrilled to get. At the same time, I was interviewing with job B, which was taking some time, even after mentioning other interviews, since people were out of office. I got an offer from job B, but it was a third less of Company A. When I spoke to the recruiter, I mentioned my other offer and that I would like a more comparable salary. I offered (she didn't push) to prove that I had the salary I was asking for from Company A. Then, I did probably the most stupid thing I have ever done. I took a page from my marked confidental offer letter from company A and forwarded it to company b as proof-I didn't want them to think I was lying to try to bilk them for more money.

Now, I am completely terrified I will lose both offers and, perhaps, I deserve to. Company A will find out and rescind my offer for not trusting me (which, I suppose, they shouldn't) and Company B might realize I'm a total fool. I did this in good faith-I really loved both teams/companies and I didn't want to reject Company B because of the lower salary or make it seem like I was lying for more money but I really overthought it. I'm scared company B will email someone at company A and I will lose both offers. Please help.

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    Why will Company B consider you now? You have shown that you cannot be trusted by showing clearly confidential material. – Solar Mike May 25 at 5:06
  • I completely agree-ironically, I thought that showing it was the only way I could be trusted for asking for that much more money, but obviously I really overthought this. I never meant to betray Company A. – LizKat May 25 at 14:52
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    Do you have a compelling reason to work form company B, given that they offered a substantially lower sum? I'd be inclined to take the offer from company A as they seem to value you more highly. – P. Hopkinson May 25 at 14:53
  • I actually really want company A at this point. I really like both people (very kind teams, good recruiters, though company A requires a lot of travel). Now, I'm afraid after showing the piece of the offer letter to B, if I turn them down, they'll, like, send it to company A. For reference, one company is a consulting firm and one is a bank. – LizKat May 25 at 14:54
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    @LizKat: It's much more likely that they have installed a document template on their HR computers that adds "Confidential" markings on all documents by default, because it's better to accidentally leave one on a document (like your offer) where it doesn't belong, then to leave one off a document that needs it. – Ben Voigt May 25 at 21:26
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I didn't notice the confidental part as it was in very small wording on the last page of the document and I only sent the first page to confirm what I said about salary was true. I then went through all four pages, just to review it, and saw it

You had no binding obligation to keep the offer confidential.

  • You never reached an agreement with Company A to keep it confidential.
  • They never offered you consideration for keeping it confidential.

You had no ethical obligation to keep the offer confidential.

  • They never informed you that they wanted it kept confidential.
  • This is not the type of information that an ordinary person with your skills would recognize as a trade secret and treat as such even if not marked.

WRT to fine print on the last page, that is not notice to you. At best it is a reminder to their own HR staff not to share it with anyone except the recipient.

You have done nothing wrong. Company B will surely not see you as having done anything wrong, since the page you shared didn't carry any markings. And Company A has no one to blame but themselves, for not discussing confidentiality and gaining your assent.

In fact, if Company A had asked you to keep it confidential you would have had every right to push back. Offer letters are meant to be shared, that's why they are in writing on company letterhead. For example, renting an apartment requires proof of income, which the offer letter satisfies.

  • Take the job you want and don't look back. It's not like you shared an enormously valuable trade secret. Companies have plenty of ways of finding out what other companies pay their workers. Seriously. – O. Jones May 25 at 17:56
  • @JoeStrazzere: Fine print is what you use for things you'd rather the recipient not notice. Confidentiality markings belong on cover pages, in large bold letters, and then probably repeated in a header or footer on every page so it can't be accidentally removed. – Ben Voigt May 25 at 21:11
  • No, I agree that it was confidential for whatever reason and that it was stupid of me to send it to a competitor, but I didn't want the company to think I was lying to try to get more money. Now, I'm afraid the Company B recruiter who has it will easily be able to reach out to Company A. That said, I really didn't notice the confidential wording until I reread the whole thing. – LizKat May 25 at 21:17
  • @LizKat: They can't just create an obligation for you to maintain confidentiality. That's something you need to agree to. That agreement does not exist. Given its placement, you don't even know whether it was intended to apply to the single paragraph only or the entire last page. Common practice would never put it on the last page if it were intended to apply to the entire document, so you should not beat yourself up over that possibility. And no matter what the intent, because you did not know or agree, your default rights as recipient of the document apply. – Ben Voigt May 25 at 21:23
  • But, if you were a recruiter and you got a letter like that from an applicant and you, say, wanted the applicant, couldn't you just contact the company the offer was from so that company rescinds the offer? I suppose this is a second more insidious reason to never share information that I didn't think of at the time. – LizKat May 25 at 21:27
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Then, I did probably the most stupid thing I have ever done. I took a page from my marked confidental offer letter from company A and forwarded it to company b as proof-I didn't want them to think I was lying to try to bilk them for more money.

Now, I am completely terrified I will lose both offers and, perhaps, I deserve to. Company A will find out and rescind my offer for not trusting me (which, I suppose, they shouldn't) and Company B might realize I'm a total fool. I did this in good faith-I really loved both teams/companies and I didn't want to reject Company B because of the lower salary or make it seem like I was lying for more money but I really overthought it. I'm scared company B will email someone at company A and I will lose both offers. Please help.

Yes, sharing items marked "Confidential" was a big mistake as you now seem to realize. But it's not clear what the end result will be.

To be honest, if I were the hiring manager in Company B, I wouldn't hire you. I would never hire someone that I couldn't trust. I would have to assume that you would feel free to share my confidential information as well.

But it seems unlikely that they would tell Company A about this. I know I wouldn't.

At this point, there's nothing you could do about it anyway. Be prepared to admit your mistake if confronted by Company B. Perhaps if you appear sorry enough and if you appear to have learned from the incident, they won't hold it against you.

  • To be honest, I'm ok with losing Company B. I'm just scared, if they do try to match and I say no, the world is pretty small and they might contact company A. Again, horribly, I thought I was doing the right thing by sharing it but, obviously not. – LizKat May 25 at 15:02
  • For reference the recruiter from company B just emailed me and said she would discuss with the team on Tuesday, which is now freaking me out even more. I feel like maybe withdrawing from both companies. – LizKat May 25 at 21:19
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    @LizKat: That's exactly what she would say if the salary adjustment you are asking for is beyond her authority and she needs to find out the maximum company B is willing to offer you. Don't worry about it. The page you sent doesn't even have the "confidential" marking, and job offers are usually not confidential, so the only way they would even suspect is if some other previous person applying to both company A and B had shared the entire offer packet including the last page. And they still wouldn't know if your offer packet ended with the same fine print. – Ben Voigt May 25 at 21:34
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    @LizKat, please don't withdrawal from both opportunities just because of a trivial mistake during salary negotiation. NO ACTUAL harm was done to company A. – teego1967 May 26 at 10:15
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We cannot predict the future, but it seems unlikely that someone from the one company would go out of their way to inform the other that you've violated their trust. In the future, don't ever do anything like this again and take it as a learning experience. There's nothing you can really do about this now, so I strongly recommend that you simply continue with your job search until you've accepted a formal written offer and passed any and all conditions upon it if they apply (such as a background or reference check).

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Yes. It was a confidential offer but you shared it without consent. You will now need to inform company A everything you have done (it was confidential between you and A). You should also CC your email to the recruiter to A.

  • Where is the requirement that they confess? – Glen Pierce May 25 at 13:31
  • @GlenPierce OP signed a confidential agreement, but it was leaked. Don't you think there is a need for confession? Skipping confession can lead to legal issues. – SmallChess May 25 at 13:34
  • @GlenPierce Your answer is not right. OP has moral and legal implication with a leaked confidential document. We need to be professional, and I hope you understand that. – SmallChess May 25 at 13:38
  • Confessing seems like it's more likely to cause legal issues. – Glen Pierce May 25 at 13:51
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    I am not advocating for dishonesty, but pragmatism. With the fait accompli I see no reason to substantially increase the legal jeopardy just to clear one's conscience. – Glen Pierce May 25 at 13:57

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