A fellow manager-colleague is likely to quit his job in the next couple of months. He has mentioned this intention to a couple of people he works closely with.

We are cooperating on a very big project with a deadline, and I am almost certain his departure will compromise the project's outcome. With a fair amount of warning something might be done in terms of succession planning, if no warning is given then it is almost certain there will be big issues for the client and the employer as well. How would you handle this from an ethical and professional standpoint?

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    Carrying rumors is usually a very bad idea. Breaking confidence is worse. Shut up and start out of the way until this is official. – keshlam Jul 1 '16 at 23:52
  • This really isn't a duplicate of the one they linked to. This is specific to working on a long-term project and the other was more about someone you just work on a team with. I did vote to reopen. – blankip Jul 2 '16 at 7:11
  • You might consider discussing your concerns with your colleague -- and with nobody else. – Keith Thompson Jul 2 '16 at 22:57

It's not your job to project the future, especially for another person at your work.

Unless he has offer in hand and has turned in his resignation you do not know what could happen. Maybe he is looking to simply get a raise at current position. Maybe he is the type that is always looking but never leaving. People complain and so forth at their jobs, some of those people act on it right away and some don't.

And for personal reasons I wouldn't say anything because you are making yourself into a snitch/rat. If you said something about colleague X, and I am coworker Y - I am never divulging crap to you in the future. So figure that into your equation - is being behind on this project a bit worth losing trust at the workplace.

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    This doesn't answer the question at all but my company had a merger years ago and we had this guy who was telling management all the people that were looking for jobs and about to leave - he felt that people who had jobs lined up shouldn't be the ones that kept their jobs. Well most of the people he snitched on were let go. He was also let go, as they didn't want a snitch around as they thought it was bad for morale (exactly what management told me the following year). – blankip Jul 1 '16 at 16:35
  • Unless the manager is planning to do something illegal, it is never wise to disclose people's personal plans to someone who might be in a position to damage that plan. Not only would that make you look bad but also puts you in a bad position. Plus wouldn't it be silly to stand up in the middle of a meeting screaming, "Joe Manager is quitting!" – Dan Jul 1 '16 at 16:52
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    @Dan - Well it would be hilarious. Probably just easier to ask Joe what he is doing and maybe persuade him to tell people. – blankip Jul 1 '16 at 16:57

If he has not mentioned it to you specifically you should ignore it. Who knows what he told the other people and what state of mind he was in at the time. I cannot count how many times I have turned to a coworker over the years and said "I am so out of this place" without meaning it.

If he starts to behave in a way that is uncharacteristic and is endangering the project I would take him aside and ask how things are going, but I would never tell him that I heard gossip that he was leaving.


As the other answers have stated, I agree that you should not say anything about someone leaving unless it has become official and is no longer conjecture or sensitive information.

Part of your question also asked, "How do you deal with it as a professional?" I believe you can do other things to protect the team and project in the event the person does leave.

  • You can push for redundancy in that person's role by documenting his key processes or training a backup. It can be argued that some of those things are good practices anyway, regardless of the threat of a departure.
  • If it is in your power to do so and you believe the probability of a departure to be high, you can also adjust the tasking so that individual has fewer critical path items. If he leaves, your team has a bit less pain and is in better position to handle the transition. If he doesn't, you can adjust the work accordingly.

Snitches get stitches. He clearly told you in confidence as a courtesy so that you could personally prepare. He might not leave and if you say anything it will compromise his career. In the future you will need to work with other employees and they will know you compromised a person's career. If him leaving means it will impact the project then he is contributing. Your concerns for the project do not trump a mans career nor what he shared in confidence.

If he was withholding information to intentionally make a maximum negative impact and it slipped that he was DEFINITELY leaving then maybe. Sounds like he shared what he considered confidential information in good faith.

  • Hey -1 would u want to work with me or not? – paparazzo Jul 2 '16 at 4:51
  • Before snitching one should consider the consequences. There will be one guy who is after all still a co-worker who will hate your guts. And there will be a company that knows you cannot be trusted with confidential information. – gnasher729 Jul 2 '16 at 12:23

Do I tell that a colleague might be leaving work?

You've stated in your answer that your colleague's departure will impact your project negatively.

Which do you value more? Your project or your colleague?

It's a serious question, because if your project is more important to you than your relationship with your colleague, it's in your best interest to make sure that it runs smoothly.

On the other hand, you're likely to lose a friend if your colleague has changed his mind, or if your tattling on him results in his termination.

…and how?

I feel as though the majority of questions on the workplace can be answered with:

Have a frank discussion with the parties involved and determine the best course of action based on your situation.

How would you handle this from an ethical and professional standpoint?

I try to value people more than projects. I've had varying degrees of success with many projects, and I can say that I'd much rather have an unsuccessful project than lose a friend.

In your situation it sounds like your coworker approached you in confidence. If the same happened to me, I would approach the coworker privately to discuss how best to resolve the conflict. As for words, I might say something along the lines of:

Thanks [coworker] for letting me know that you'd planned on leaving. I appreciate the heads-up.

I'm a bit concerned about how your leaving the project is going to impact our success after you're gone, and I'd like to be able to have some sort of plan in place before you go so that we're not all struggling to get by without you.

Is there a way you can let [project manager/relevant superior] know that you're leaving so that we can put a plan in place?

Of course, maybe they can't talk to the boss because that might result in their early departure, so I would consider options such as setting up a private and informal plan, or having the entire project team spend some time increasing the bus factor so that your project isn't negatively impacted by any other team members leaving.

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