Yesterday, my manager told me that my colleague would get fired. Then I asked my boss for the reason, and he gave an explanation. After we finished the conversation, I continued working. When I came back home, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

My boss didn't say (explicitly) that I couldn't tell him. Is it advisable to tell my colleague that he is getting fired?

  • Though I am not in a right position to tell the exact nature of the situation. But it is not good to tell your colleague about it.
    – Gotcha
    Apr 19, 2014 at 17:32
  • A fair amount of the time, people who are getting fired have a pretty good idea that they are getting fired e.g. they are at loggerheads with the management or they're finding themselves with less and less to do. If this is the context, you probably don't need to say anything. If you expect this to come as a surprise to your friend, I am tempted to let the management do their own dirty work and break the bad news themselves and deal with your friend's reaction by themselves. Apr 19, 2014 at 20:27
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    possible duplicate of I told a recent layoff victim that his job was safe. Now what?
    – Jim G.
    Jun 3, 2014 at 2:17
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    That is probably related but not a duplicate. That one deals with the fall out of telling someone this is asking about the prospect of asking someone. Jun 3, 2014 at 13:32

4 Answers 4


Is it advisable to tell my colleague that he is getting fired?

No, it is not advisable.

You know what your boss said, but you don't really know what will happen. It's odd that your boss would tell you this and it's hard to understand his motivation. I would be very wary.

It doesn't appear that your job is to inform people that they are fired, thus you should not say anything at all.

Just as telling someone they are "safe" from an impending layoff can backfire, so could telling someone that they are fired: I told a recent layoff victim that his job was safe. Now what?

Leave the firing notification to the person who actually owns that task.

  • 15
    And to add: what your boss did was not very wise. If person X gets fired, X should be the first to know, not his colleagues. This leads to all kinds of awkward situations, as your question shows.
    – user8036
    Apr 19, 2014 at 19:28
  • @JanDoggen yeah that was my first reaction as well. It was not advisable for the OP's boss to tell him! Apr 19, 2014 at 22:41
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    Also, there is the very human tendency of human beings to "shoot the messenger". Even though you had nothing to do with why this person was fired, by being, perhaps, the first person to tell him, you associate yourself with his being fired and any emotions that he feels about being fired may redirect themselves to you. Apr 21, 2014 at 16:10
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    And don't tell anyone else either. Your boss made an assumption that you would know without being directly told that this was confidential information. If you let the cat out of the bag in any way, you will be in trouble with your boss.
    – HLGEM
    Jun 3, 2014 at 13:13
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    Another thing to keep in mind, if you give them advanced warning, and they react poorly and steal or destroy company property on their way out, it's entirely possible that you could end up being held partially responsible. There is a reason a lot of companies have security escort people out of the building.
    – Chris G
    Sep 12, 2016 at 22:12

To echo the answers: it's absolutely not advisable. The more troubling question here is: why did your boss tell you about this? Typically any internal communication about an impending layoff is big no-no, at least in any reasonably sized US company with an at least half-way functional HR department. In some companies I've worked for this would be considered a fairly serious transgression.

So it's possible that your manager has some sort of non-obvious agenda in telling you this. It may be helpful to cautiously ping him on this. For example

"Hey Mr Boss. Thank you very much sharing this very important information with me. I assume that this is still confidential at the moment, so I'm not going to share this with anyone unless you tell me it's okay to do so. I was also wondering whether there are any specific things you'd like me to do differently or specific actions you expect from to help with the situation".

Something along these lines. It's basically a diplomatic way of saying "Why the heck did you tell me that and what do you want me to do with it?" It may be also helpful to keep detailed records on any conversation with your manager on this topic. If something fishy is going on, your records can help in demonstrating that you have acted transparently and with integrity.

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    I wouldn't even do this. I would just forget about it. The less you know the better. This way "what you know and when you knew it" will be very little.
    – Donald
    Apr 22, 2014 at 11:55
  • I would strongly advise against doing this. The boss either (a) made a serious error by talking to someone that shouldn't have known or (b) has some kind of hidden agenda (well, if (b), then it's technically both (a) and (b) I guess). You don't want to be complicit in (a) by bringing up the topic again yourself. If it's (b), you have even more reason to stay out of it. This advice is an example of "being 'helpful'" to your own detriment.
    – msouth
    Dec 2, 2019 at 17:29

No, it is not.

What you were told is not etched in stone, and it is not your responsibility.

Your boss told you that (most likely) so that you could ensure any critical information was secured before he fired your colleague. Nothing more.

  • 3
    Also, if he was worried that people would be upset about the firing, he might want to be proactive in addressing it. I recently had a boss come to me and say that a coworker had been let go. He explained his reasons and assured me (and the two other coworkers present) that nobody else was being let go and the project was not in jeopardy. It sounds as if your boss might have meant for you to be reassured when you found out about the firing, although I can't imagine why he would tell you about it before completing the process. Apr 21, 2014 at 16:16
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    There's a big difference between "has been fired" and "will be fired". Typically a co-worker will be taken out of his normal working environment to get the bad news - critical information is secured (eg. logins deactivated) while that is happening. Telling anyone this co-worker will be fired hugely increases the risk that he'll find out too early and be able to do retaliatory damage - and the fallout will hit you. Sep 13, 2016 at 8:10

One reason someone would tell you this is because you 'need to know', particularly if you have to be prepared to mop up something left by the now departed colleague. This could be backing up a server or changing locks on a door or securing a storage area - who knows. It might also be necessary for you to take over a customer relationship that the other party has, you might need to know this if the customer calls.

If your boss provided an explanation, it's quite possible you're being invited to drop a hint: for your colleague to clean up his/her act. Since you haven't indicated whether it was a performance issue or a resources issue (i.e., a layoff due to cutbacks) it's hard to tell why this is being done. Realistically, dropping hints to people that they're not performing is useless - it isn't likely to affect behavior, other than to, perhaps, give them an opportunity to mess something up on their way out.

If your boss was engaging in somewhat of a dirty trick, he might have you tell your co-worker that he's being fired in order to wreck his morale, triggering even more performance issues. This seems rather dangerous, and if this is what your boss was doing, he wouldn't answer your question in so many words.

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