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I have recently joined a new job. My new boss along with my old boss planned to file a bid for a project with an industry partner. That is a collaboration between my old boss and new boss was about to happen. I established link between my new boss and old boss. The meetings were going fine, but recently, my old boss told us that he got invitation from another industry partner to file bid for the same project and he (due to some administrative reasons) would like to go with the another consortium.

Well, now my new boss requested me to confidentially find the industry partner of the new consortium. So I contacted my old boss (I have very good terms with my old boss). He said the information is confidential, nonetheless, he shared the info with me and told me to not disclose it.

So now I am in a fix. I have two options.

Option-A: Shall I tell my new boss the information which I got from my old boss.

Option-B: Or I told my new boss that old boss told me its a confidential information and he is not able to share it.

  • Would you prefer your new boss to think of you as 'loyal' or 'trustworthy'? – Robin Bennett May 13 at 8:20
  • I am not sure why my new boss asked me to find the information confidentially. To check my loyalty and trustworthiness ? – Newbie May 13 at 8:58
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    @newbie - because he knew he was putting you in a difficult situation and didn't want you complaining to anyone else. It's not a test, but it does demonstrate that your new boss is not entirely ethical. – Robin Bennett May 13 at 10:40
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    @RobinBennett There is nothing unethical about what the new boss did. He doesn't have a moral obligation to the old boss. He has an obligation to the owners of the business. For all he knew, the old boss may have volunteered that information freely. – Gregory Currie May 13 at 11:58
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    Did you tell your old boss you were asking because you were asked by your new boss? I'm guessing you did not, and your old boss does not want you to tell your new boss (hence the "it's confidential")? – Erik May 13 at 12:01
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Well, your old boss has painted you into a bit of a corner by giving you information that you have no right to know.

This is really an ethical question, but if I was you, I'd go back to your new boss and say:

"I told old boss that we would like to know who he decided to go with, but he said that information was confidential.".

Hopefully that's enough to satisfy your new boss. If not, an outright lie of "he refused to tell me" will have to do.

EDIT:

You added a comment indicating that your new boss simply wants to know if there is any chance of being able to change your old boss's mind.

With that considered, an alternative course of action is to go back to your old boss and ask him what it would take to put your company back in contention.

You have to keep in mind that it is usually beneficial to have multiple companies vying for a contract as it puts your old boss in a stronger bargaining position.

If he says to you: "Look Newbie, there are just too many aspects. You guys are very far behind the pack. You have no chance" then you can go back to your new boss and say: "I asked him personally what it would take, and he said we have no chance." then your boss has his answer.

He may instead go: "Look, we have a lot of potential vendors. Issue A, B and C really put you out of contention. If you can really come up with a plan to address those, we can take another look.". You then can go back to your boss, and he can figure out if it's worth it.

At the very least, you may be able to get some feedback that makes you more competitive in the future.

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  • No No No :) My new boss "does not want to change the mind of old boss". New boss simply wants to know if the industry partner of old boss is stronger than the industry partner of new boss, if yes, then new boss will not bid for the project and focus on other projects. – Newbie May 13 at 20:38
  • @Newbie You said that the old boss "would like to go with the another consortium". – Gregory Currie May 14 at 0:03
  • Yes but old boss has already made up his mind to with a new consortium. New boss does not want to change it. Just want to know who is the industry partner of old boss. Anyways we want to have good relationship with the old boss because many new project s are coming up and we can team up in future. – Newbie May 16 at 23:34
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Option-A: Shall I tell my new boss the information which I got from my old boss.

You're in a difficult situation, but you were tasked with finding the information for your new boss.

If your old boss didn't want it known he shouldn't have told you. Telling you and then saying not to disclose it is not an NDA unless you agreed beforehand on that condition. In which case you wasted everyones time including yours and you'll have to say that to your boss.

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  • So the old boss said me "its kind of confidential, but he is telling me as friend. Please do not forward this email to anyone." – Newbie May 13 at 14:16

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