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I share a house with my former co-worker.

My boss expects me to know where he is currently employed.

How can I tell my boss that I don't want to reveal where my former co-worker is currently employed?

Update: The boss has contacted him, but he doesn't want to answer.

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    Your boss is a bad person. They know that your roommate does not want them to know where he works, and still they ask you to break the trust he places in you, knowing it will upset both of you somehow. – njzk2 Oct 11 '16 at 17:05
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    This is just weird. Where you work is not something people normally keep a secret. I think there is relevant information that is missing, e.g. stalker situation or non-compete issue. – Kevin Oct 11 '16 at 17:22
  • @Kevin It may not be something one usually keeps a secret, but it still is PII. At least in some jurisdictions it is mandatory to collect PII only from the P that is Ied. Basically asking for information about a third party is asking to break the law. – I'm with Monica Oct 12 '16 at 5:50
  • "That's not my story to tell" is how my sister answer such things. – Tony Ennis Oct 12 '16 at 11:43
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Generally you'd phrase your response something like this:

Oh, it's really not for me to say; you'll have to ask him.

That's not really my information to share; you should ask him.

Sorry, I wouldn't feel comfortable sharing that with you without his knowledge.

I prefer not to share personal information at work that I've learned from [meeting / knowing] people outside the office.

In your case, since your boss has already asked the coworker and you know he doesn't want to tell him, you can use something stronger and more final:

I've been asked not to share that information with anyone here.

Or even a simple but direct:

I'm sorry, but he asked me not to tell [anyone / you] about his new employer and I'd rather not get involved in this situation.

That last phrase, "I don't want to get involved", is one you'll probably be using several times in the near future. Just don't engage in a discussion about this. The fact that you know someone outside work doesn't mean that you have to share anything you've learned about them at work.

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"Sorry boss; he doesn't want me to tell you. You'll have to ask him yourself."

Simple as that; just tell the truth.

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    Honesty is almost always the best policy. – WorkerDrone Oct 11 '16 at 11:40
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    @Thomas, you're being honest by saying that up front. Nobody can expect you to break your trust with someone to answer a question like this; so if your friend doesn't want you to say, it's perfectly honest to say "I can't say". – user17163 Oct 11 '16 at 13:27
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    @Thomas that isn't how the answer phrased it. The answer says the friend does not want Lewis to tell his boss, your phrasing says Lewis does not want to tell his boss. – DavidTheWin Oct 11 '16 at 13:37
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    +1 even if your friend didn't explicitly "ban" you from saying it to your boss, you can answer this way: "I don't think I should share this information with you, so please, ask him directly." – yo' Oct 11 '16 at 14:09
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    None of the answers are addressing the potential fallout from denying this information to the boss, no matter if it's the proper thing to do. There's no reason to assume this boss will be reasonable and OP needs advice on what to do if this comes back to bite him. – user30031 Oct 11 '16 at 15:18
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If your boss has already contacted your former colleague and received the "I don't want to tell you", then you can (and should) just relay the same message to your boss.

Which means either

I'm sorry, but he doesn't want to share that.

Or

I'm sorry, but he didn't share it with me either.

Depending on whether you know. You shouldn't share information that you know the other person doesn't want to have spread. It will be a breach of trust to your roommate.

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  • But don't lie to your boss; be honest that you are not supposed to tell, if you know the info he wants. Lies have this bad habit of biting back later. – Mindwin Oct 11 '16 at 13:02
  • @Mindwin Depending on the boss though they may take it personally if you tell them you know but won't share the information. – Tim B Oct 12 '16 at 9:27
  • @TimB Indeed; and that says a lot about the boss. Sometimes it is worth knowing ; breaking the illusion – Mindwin Oct 13 '16 at 8:39
  • @Mindwin Sure, but unfortunately not everyone is in the position of being able to walk away from/be fired by a bad boss. I could, maybe you could, but we don't know if the person reading this answer can afford to do so. – Tim B Oct 13 '16 at 8:49
  • @TimB A person that is walking a tightrope at work would have a hard time implementing ethical advice from random strangers on the interrnet. – Mindwin Oct 13 '16 at 9:02
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You have to word it as such that it's none of your Boss' business to inform them on what you're ex-colleague is doing. It's none of their concern and you shouldn't offer up someone's information without consent from said person.

Just imagine it as being a cold call asking about your friend's job, would you answer that? I would always put someone's privacy ahead of a nosey person.

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  • Even to your boss? What is noesy anyway? – Lewis Oct 11 '16 at 8:23
  • Yep, if it's not to do with work directly, they don't need to know. I've updated the question with the definition of nosey (And spelt it correctly) – Draken Oct 11 '16 at 8:24
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    @Lewis. My preferred dictionary search is onelook, which gives a bunch of definitions. – TRiG Oct 11 '16 at 16:32
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    The phrase "none of your business" is rather confrontational. Even if you don't use those words to your boss, thinking about it in those terms before even having the conversation is likely to make things go less smoothly. – David Richerby Oct 12 '16 at 8:57
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    @Draken But the phrasing sets the tone. By phrasing your answer as "none of your business", you're encouraging a hostile tone. If you want to encourage a diplomatic tone, use diplomatic phrasing. – David Richerby Oct 12 '16 at 9:41

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