79

My friend casually mentioned that there is a another position at the company opened up and I'd be good for it. I thought it was a great idea and went straight to boss about it. He thought it was great timing, and literally the entire management got really excited, because apparently I'm saving them a big headache. Within two hours I knew that I had a new place in the company from Monday. But behold, such happiness does not last long.

Before I left home, my supervisor spoke with me about how she is really happy I'm the man for the job and all that jazz and then she casually mentioned how they are firing my friend on Monday and I'll have to take some of his responsibilities on top of what I'd do...I feel bad, I want to talk to my friend about it till Monday, since I know he had some prospects and wanted to quit anyway, so what's the big deal if he pretends he knows nothing for a day, or so I think, As far as I know such conversations are taboo at the workplace, what should I do?

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    It is not clear (at least for me) if you already work at the company and is just switching positions, or you are being hired for a completely new job, in a company which your friend happens to work for. Can you clarify that, please? – Pedro A Jul 3 '16 at 16:02
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    Just a question for a non-native speaker: After reading the answers below I really ask myself what exactly constitutes for a native the word "friend"? Is it someone who I drink coffee with at work ? (Something I normally call "acquaintance"). I thought the word was reserved for someone who shares with me mutual trust and that we together wants the best for the other part ? Or is this meaning now outdated and should be applied for everyone who pushes the "like" button on Facebook? – Thorsten S. Jul 4 '16 at 0:12
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    The friend will be let go on Monday, and you should show up for work at that same job/position on the same Monday? – user2338816 Jul 4 '16 at 0:31
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    is it a real and true statement that Friend will be fired? Or is it a test for you? Do let us know what happens in the end please. – Criggie Jul 4 '16 at 1:06
  • I think we need to know what end result you want. Do you want to keep your friend? Keep your job? Screw your friend? Screw your Boss? I think we can help a bit more if we know what it is you actually want. – Nick Young Jul 5 '16 at 15:47

12 Answers 12

75

I don't think anybody can go to work for a day and hide the fact they know with 100% certainty they are about to be fired.

The fact that management thought that they should tell you, a brand new employee, they are going to fire him on Monday; is a concern about how they run the company.

They even took a risk at hiring a friend as a replacement, and then immediately firing the current employee. They could lose both of you. Your resignation may not happen right away, but they have risked turning you into a short term employee.

If you don't tell your friend in advance you know the topic of "what did you know and when did you know it" will come up. If you tell him you will be risking your job, if management finds out.

The fact they put you into this situation by their actions and words, almost forces you into having to tell your friend. (I wonder if that was a part of their plan?)

I would tell my friend about the threat to their job, and then tell my friend that I would be immediately looking for a new job, and would be quitting as soon as a new job was found. I would have to take time to plan exactly what I was going to say and how I was going to deliver the information.

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    "The fact that management thought that they should tell you, a brand new employee..." I think the OP is already an employee at the company, it's just that a new position at that company came up. – T.J. Crowder Jul 3 '16 at 15:30
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    I would start looking because management showed that they have serious problems. I wouldn't want to stay. – mhoran_psprep Jul 3 '16 at 23:15
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    How did you reach the conclusion they knew the two were friends? – user34320 Jul 4 '16 at 6:39
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    -1. You are assuming a great deal and even if it all held true you're jumping at conclusions and giving horrible advice. It makes perfect sense to tell a candidate things that will have a real impact on the type of work he'll be doing. Whether the candidate is an internal transfer isn't relevant. Risking your job over talking to someone? Knowing this one workday in advance forces you to tell the person involved? And even if they botched the firing process (which they didn't), that's no grounds for someone to quit his job immediately. – Lilienthal Jul 4 '16 at 9:02
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    @user568458 This is part of the reason why questions like this are normally closed as off-topic. We don't have all the information and it's foolish to make a judgement on this particular scenario. – Lilienthal Jul 4 '16 at 11:17
56

I was once on the opposite end of a similar situation: another worker had resigned, and I suggested to an old mentor that he apply for the position. I was told cryptically at the time by the company that they liked him, but needed to find some concessions to meet his much higher wage demands. I wasn't overly surprised about a week later when I was told I was fired, and he would be taking over the work of both myself and the fellow that had resigned.

I mentioned to my friend that I wouldn't be there on the following Monday when he started. He immediately called the company up and told them he wouldn't work for anyone with such poor loyalty to their workers.

Bottom line: your loyalty is to your friend, not the new company. Keep in mind however if they're going to fire him anyway and are looking for a replacement (be it you or someone else) then that is their decision, not yours or your friends. However, what you decide to do for the sake of your conscience/friendship is up to you, unless you were specifically told not to discuss the interview with anyone, or are under the impression that the interview itself was confidential.

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    Probably the most clear cut answer here. I agree. – AndreiROM Jul 4 '16 at 14:11
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    Totally agree. Particularly about the confidentiality. If they didn't say it was confidential, then it's not your problem that they shared information with you that they probably shouldn't have (unless they actually wanted you to be the one to wield the ax). – Auspex Jul 6 '16 at 11:53
  • I like this answer, but it is based on the assumption that the asker is not yet employed at this company. If it is, that does change both his loyalties may lie and the consequences that turning down this job may have. – Jasper Jul 6 '16 at 13:58
22

Yes. You tell your friend. Not clearly stated but if you are new at the company I am thinking that your friend played a part in getting you hired.

Do you want to be that kind of person?

Do you want others at your company to now think of you as the guy who backstabbed his own friend that hooked him up with a job? Do you think anyone should trust you after that? Do you want to work for a company so brash as to do that?

Talk to friend. If they want to blow the situation up... let him. That is his right. The times I have seen stuff like this fall down is when an employee is actually right and management has a vendetta or management has been complained about by the employee and they seek revenge.

If your friend wants to fight it, help him. If he wants to leave, you did your part.

20

I had a similar (sorta) experience that is rather funny. So forgive me as I tell you a story before the answer.

I worked as a consultant to a global organization that everyone will recognize. For that reason, I will not mention it. Within this organization, a consultant is not a contractor. Consultants are held with very high esteem and afforded all of the privileges the organization affords all upper management including having teams of employees below them.

We worked on a unique system that allowed communications and advanced tools for governments and our users where Kings, Presidents, Ambassadors, and anyone with the highest positions in country governments around the entire globe. This was a secure communication channel and handled very sensitive data. It comprised of systems and applications that required skill sets that normally one person would not have. Indeed, with only one person holding these skills world-wide and not within our group, we began training a new employee with these skills.

The only person with the skills identified worked on another system within the organization where he was very busy. He often worked late and his skills and work was outstanding.

His manager was replaced with someone without adequate skills to understand the system they were in charge of. It was the new managers assumption that the work required half of the hours currently expended and that the only person with the skill set ready to do the work, was indeed incompetent. Nothing was further from the truth. The new manager did not keep their opinion to themself and the one person with the skills began looking for another position with the belief that his days within the organization was limited. This, sadly, was a fact.

The new manager placed an ad in the Washington Post for the skill set required without giving out any identifying information as to the company which was the norm in those days. It ended up the one being fired applied for his own job. I told him what he had done to his embarrassment.

The person being fired was a friend of mine. My group often collaborated on technical solutions between the two systems prior to the arrival of the new manager.

And so I had an idea. [insert evil grin]

I hired my friend into my group secretly to begin immediately upon his termination. This was a no-brainer since we could use the help and my friend was absolutely the best technical expert in the matter. I also proposed to the new manager that we contract my group for the set number of hours, part-time, to service the other systems requirements. When the contract between the two groups was signed, the new manager fired my friend who simply walked over to his new desk across the street.

It gets worse.

We never specified how we were going to satisfy the new contract. [insert another evil grin] The employee to do the work was the same employee who had always done the work. You guessed it. While my friend changed desks, his work did not change, it was only part-time. The rest of the time he worked on our system. I am a stinker!

Why did I tell you this story?

Besides that it is funny, the new manager was rather poor. No question. But what was important was that I could trust telling my friend what was going on. Why? Because he knew that I had his back. He also knew that I would not betray him. I also knew he would not betray my trust. I could trust him completely. He epitomized the terms gentleman and professional.

If you can trust your friend absolutely not to betray your trust, then telling him could be an option. He could simply be a gentleman and go through what is often a painful experience with grace and honor. Telling him can also smooth the way to a friendship that lasts. My friend and I remained friends and eventually we both found other things to do. The trust we built lasted well beyond the experience through many years. Sometimes trust and honor are what is most important. If you have it, spend it. But spend it wisely.

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    Thanks for sharing this real-life story. Yes, it all depends on small details which we do not have. – Peter M. - stands for Monica Jul 5 '16 at 17:53
  • I can only guess IBM.. – akostadinov Jul 6 '16 at 13:43
  • @akostadinov ;-) No. More global governmental financing, governing, and relief. Sssshhhh. I already said too much! Cheers!! – closetnoc Jul 6 '16 at 13:47
12

You could give your friend a 'heads up', but this won't change anything, they'll still get fired, all you have done is given them a miserable weekend.

I can't see anything beneficial about doing so. But it could give you problems if he made a big thing about it on Monday and the employer gets upset that you're giving away information before you even start working there.

My advice is just take the job and keep quiet.

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    I think this downplays the benefits to the friend a bit. Having an extra weekend to start talking to friends at other companies, or get your finances in order, or just delay that big purchase you were going to make on Saturday could be a big difference. – Chris Hayes Jul 3 '16 at 20:25
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    It can give a person a miserable weekend but only if a person likes being miserable. Some people would use this as an advantage. For example he can prepare a resume and send it to a couple of recruiters. He might stop working on a work problem that he wanted to fix before Monday, might stop booking a week vacation thinking that he will be employed. Every action you take can give you a problem (and inactions as well). I am sure that your friend would become "less friendly" if he figures out that you knew about this and decided that it is not beneficial to tell him. – Salvador Dali Jul 3 '16 at 21:35
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    @SalvadorDali While it's easy to assume the person getting fired can be rational, the reality is the whole situation is very stressful and it's hard to maintain the level of reasoning you describe. – user34320 Jul 4 '16 at 6:36
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    @Lilienthal "I certainly wouldn't want to keep someone on who can't handle information professionally." You mean the supervisor who "casually mentioned how they are firing my friend"? – Daniel Beck Jul 4 '16 at 15:49
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    @DanielBeck More assumptions laid on assumptions. A) We don't know if their friendship is known. B) We don't know if the friend is actually in the dark about being fired. C) We don't know the conversation and how this was worded. D) You're assuming that the supervisor was unprofessional without knowing the full situation and while it can be perfectly reasonable to pass this on to the person who'll be taking on part of the work. – Lilienthal Jul 4 '16 at 16:05
7

she casually mentioned how they are firing my friend on Monday

I would not place any confidence in this information.

Anyone who would "casually mention" an important fact like this is a careless thinker and not likely to be trusted with the whole story. You cannot trust that she is officially privy to the company's plans for your friend.

She may have misinterpreted what she heard from other managers about your friend planning to leave. She may be a cargo cult Machiavellian trying to find out how discreet you are.

The actual truth may be that he will be fired on Monday, fired in a few weeks, or left to quit in his own time.

Until you have an official notification of your new duties, what your supervisor has told you is nothing more than gossip. You're going to feel enormously embarrassed if your friend has a miserable weekend and then the company decides to keep him. Wait for confirmation.

6

Don't tell him.

  • You were told that info in confidence. Conversations like that have implied confidentiality. Keep the info private.
  • It won't make any difference to what's going to happen. Let nature take its course.
  • Play dumb with your friend. The manager shouldn't have let slip who was being fired - you shouldn't propagate that error. Pretend for a day that you hadn't been told.
  • More likely, it will backfire. Your friend, being emotional at being fired, may well let slip that you told him, which will make management not trust you to keep confidential info confidential.
  • It if gets out that you told him, the manager who told you could get into trouble for leaking confidential info, and you could create an enemy in management, which will likely hold your career back. Your future with the company could even be put in jeopardy.
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    "Play dumb with your friend" there is clearly a lot of people standing in line to be your friend :-) – Salvador Dali Jul 3 '16 at 21:39
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    It is not really one day. OP found it on Friday, friend would be fired on Monday. So it is kind of 3 days. I know that for someone 3 days do not make a difference, but for someone it does. At least for me it will take a day to prepare my resume and maybe a day to find recruiters of the companies I would like to speak with. Also it depends on how much time do you have to find a job. If you have enough money and can afford 5 month looking for a job, then most probably 3 days do not matter. If you are on a visa and have to leave in 3 weeks if you will not find a job, then every hour matters. – Salvador Dali Jul 3 '16 at 23:06
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    It's funny. Some people think that this is some kind of moral dilemma here with subtle nuances.There's not. Be nice to your friends. Opportunities come and go but you can't buy friends. It's the classic mistake of distancing yourself from real people. I have heard so many old people tell me the same thing. They wish they would value love over work in the end because they feel like they wasted their life - this is where you'll end up, you don't need to be a psychic, just maybe reset your empathy :) – Ostmeistro Jul 4 '16 at 13:48
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    This is really the only answer I can agree with here. "You were told that info in confidence." It is your responsibility as an employee to protect the company and the trust your management team has placed in you by sharing confidential information. Any disclosure of that information, formally or informally, is grounds for termination under most employment agreements. – Cory Trese Jul 4 '16 at 17:57
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    I stay at a job for four years on average, but I've known most of my current friends for 20+ years, and I expect our grandchildren to play with each other. Something is only confidential if you agree that it is before hearing it. – RemcoGerlich Jul 5 '16 at 7:26
5

Ultimately this is a question only you can answer because only you know how important your friend is to you and how likely your friend is to react in certain ways depending on which action you take. (Skip to the last question section if you want a bit of bias and are okay with disregarding the sections featuring logical reasoning)


Your current situation could be viewed as a (much more complicated) variant of the prisoner's dilema, in which one assumes that the members of the company are unaware of the knowledge you have acquired.

If you decided to tell them, and if they were a decent person then they'd be able to use that knowledge to their advantage and keep your name out of it (equivalent to both prisoners cooperating, the only doubly beneficial course of action). But if you told them and they weren't such a nice person, they'd tell the boss that you told them and you probably wouldn't keep your job or your friend for very long afterwards (i.e. you cooperate, they defect).

If you chose not to tell them, then theoretically the main downside would be the guilt from the knowledge that you chose to keep that secret from them. If they never found out, then this would be a sort of 'neutral' case, or partially immoral.

However if they found out that you chose not to tell them, they could either forgive you based on the circumstances (i.e. you have defected, they have cooperated) or decide that you should have told them and decide not to be your friend anymore (i.e. double defection).


For the sake of completeness however, one must consider the case that the company is aware that you have this knowledge or could become aware.

Let's start with the most dystopian possibility. What if this were a test put in place by the company to test your loyalty before you even started? The correct answer to the 'test' would depend on the company's view and values. It could be that the company might view siding with your friend as a mark of loyalty, which they might commend, which would mean choosing to side with them could be seen as being easy to sway (i.e. you might easily change your job without hesitation). The opposite could also be possible, they might take siding with them to mean you really want the job and will stick with them and thus siding with your friend would mean you are siding 'against' the company. Either way, I should think most people would not want to work for a company that feels the need to test their employees' loyalty in such an unethical manner.

Now assume the case where you have told your friend and your company finds out after the fact that you knew. They would have no evidence to prove that you were the leak, but they would certainly hold you in suspicion for quite some time.


I hope this has provided some insight into the possibilities in a way that makes your decision easier. As I said at the start however, you are more qualified than a group of strangers on the internet to make the correct choice and the correct choice will certainly depend on the nature of your relationship with your friend and on your friend's personality. In abstract however, it can be seen that the most beneficial outcome is to tell your friend and for your friend to keep quiet about who gave him the tip off, please bear that in mind most of all.

3

It's loyalty to your friend vs loyalty to the company. If you tell your friend, you give him the means to at least try to throw you under the bus in a (probably futile) attempt to save himself. Is he a close enough friend that you trust there's no way for him to do that?

If yes, you can tell him, if no, don't.

  • 2
    it gives him the means to throw you under the bus: Or it gives him a day to implement the oft-joked about subroutine to shift pennies into a savings account for each transaction the company does... You know how hackers are – WernerCD Jul 3 '16 at 17:30
3

What about this supervisor casually mentioning a termination and to a friend no less? Maybe, you should be reporting her for her incredible breach of security. Does she not know that you are a friend? That you might blab... That your friend might do damage to the company out of spite. I am not saying he would but before each termination I was kept totally in the dark and my access diminished. That is just good technique from management.

Is this a weird test of your loyalty? What will they ask you for in the future to prove it? And what is this assuming more responsibilities... How much more? Are you going to be doing the work of two guys? Something similar happened to me and my decision was simple, if you want me to knife anyone in the back then fill up a big manila envelope with lots of cash. Flowery talk and compliments ain't going to get it done.

Good luck man and God help you to make the right choice for you.

2

It's not at all obvious from your OP that there is any connection between these events.

First, you don't give any reasons why your appointment to a new job has any connection with your friend being fired.

Second, you (not your friend) went to your management to apply for the new job, and got it. The fact that you learned about it from your friend, and not in some other way, seems irrelevant.

Third, if the management has already decided to fire your friend, they will clearly have to find somebody to carry out his duties. Since you are starting a new position yourself, it doesn't seem unreasonable that management should warn you that you might not be doing exactly what you expected, on the first day of your new job.

As you progress to higher levels in any company, you will inevitably get access to information that is not, and should not be, "public knowledge," and you will be expected to keep what you know to yourself. Neither you nor your friend can gain anything if you tell him in advance. If management have decided (whatever their reasons) that Monday is the right time to tell him the bad news, you don't have any authority to "leak" the news earlier.

2

Your supervisor has made a mistake and put you in a terrible position. If it were me, I would've called them on the mistake as soon as it was made.

Wait, what? You're firing Bob? Why would you tell me that? Bob's my friend. We hang out. I can't just pretend like I don't know he's going to be fired.

At that point, it would be up to the supervisor to come up with a solution. That solution might not be acceptable to you, in which case HR could be brought into things, or it might work just fine.

This would likely lead to one of three outcomes:

  • They tell your friend he's getting fired, so you don't have to.
  • They give you permission to tell your friend.
  • They explicitly tell you not to tell your friend, and what would happen if you did.

Depending on the company, the first two are not that likely. You would still have to decide what to do with the third, but it would still be helpful. If you told him, you would know the possible consequences, and could tell him what they were, to encourage him not to throw you under the bus. If you decided not to tell him, you would have a better explanation of why not.

  • I agree this is how it should be handled, but it's a bit late for that now :-( (Though I rather suspect that #1 is the right answer in most companies -- at this point explicitly telling him not to tell his friend is practically a guarantee of not having either employee). – Auspex Jul 6 '16 at 12:37
  • @Auspex It may not be too late. I'm not super clear on the timeline here. If it was just yesterday, one could always go back and talk to the supervisor later. – DCShannon Jul 6 '16 at 19:44

protected by Jane S Jul 4 '16 at 4:45

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