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My team consists of three people from my company: me, my co-developer and my project manager. My co-developer and I are from one department and my PM from another inside my company. The department responsible for the project is my PM's department.

The project consists in developing a product for another company, where we all physically go everyday.

Today my boss from my department came and told my co-developer and myself roughly the following:

We don't work well with your PM's department, so your contract-end notice will be given at the end of the month to your PM. After that, you'll have one month to perform knowledge transfer and you're relocated to another client.

You may not speak of this before the official notice with anyone except between you and with me. This means you may not speak of this with your PM or client until that date.

The various things in my mind now are:

  • The one-month notice is from the moment my PM is made aware until our departure. This means both finding a replacement team and train them.
  • Our project is currently in maintenance mode, though as I write this, my client's clients are asking for substantial improvements, which are in the process of being approved. There are currently negotiations to increase our team.
  • The project has documentation, but we have an estimated 6 person-months of backlog of documentation that needs to be written down.
  • There are still urgent issues that we're working on.

My real issues are the following:

I feel responsible now that I'm in the "secret of the gods", but I want to help my PM for the time being by telling him to speed up the negotiations and start hiring people sooner. I also want to tell him to put us on documentation tasks instead of the baby-steps improvements we're currently working on.

What exactly are my options in going that way?

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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings No: I don't care about the project enough to switch employer about it, plus the client doesn't hire developers, plus there exist non-competing clauses between the various companies the client uses as providers (my country being small and the various consulting companies knowing each other). – Someone Apr 12 '17 at 21:47
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    Aren't we someone other than your colleagues and your boss? – OldBunny2800 Apr 12 '17 at 22:31
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    @OldBunny2800 Well, I'm Someone and you're someone, so technically I'm only speaking to myself, right? :) – Someone Apr 13 '17 at 7:26
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings Read well: my PM and me are from the same company. In the eyes of the client, there is no department. I think this plan will damage my company's image. – Someone Apr 13 '17 at 15:22
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    Your boss has clearly told you not to speak anything to the PM, so why are you "looking for options" going that way? – Masked Man Apr 15 '17 at 9:17
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Here's the secret: Stop working above your role.

You're a developer. The assignment of resources and negotiations outside your department is NOT your role. It is your manager's, and he is executing it.

Your manager is doing things very well, from what I can see. He's preparing you for what's happening soon. Your job is to be ready.

First and foremost, keep quiet. Secondly, keep quiet. After that, prepare for handoff. Get that documentation up to date as much as possible, and prioritize appropriately.

Next, continue to do your work as though things were going to continue, particularly in interfacing with other teams. Your manager may reach a new arrangement with this department that makes the calculus change to the point that he will continue with them. Don't be the person who sours that communication.

Finally, if/when the day comes that the manager's plan is executed. Expect very "hot-headed" phone calls and emails from the other department's PM. DO NOT ENGAGE THEM. Refer all communications to your manager. It's not your role to respond to that communication.

From where I sit, you're in a good position. Your manager is preparing you for what's coming and not exposing you to any potential fallout. When this is all over, you should thank them for performing their role so well.

This is not a "Lie by omission." You do your work as assigned until you are no longer assigned. Your manager is doing you the courtesy of letting you know your assignment will likely change, soon. Until it actually does, you do your work as assigned. This may be the first time you've had to deal with inter-departmental confidentiality, but I'll guarantee you that the other department knows things they haven't shared with your team, as well.

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    Finally, if/when the day comes that the manager's plan is executed.. - I think this is the key. It's not official until it happens, so you don't want to do anything to jeopardize it not happening. – Greg Burghardt Apr 14 '17 at 20:23
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    QED: The PM is not your boss, not telling "not your boss" something, isn't your problem. Your boss will tell "not your boss" when he/she is ready. – Ramhound Apr 15 '17 at 1:30
  • I agree with the advice to the OP but I don't agree with "Your manager is doing things very well". He is f***ing the PM from the same company, which is likely to damage customer relations. If this the way things are done at the company I would look for alternatives. – Jens Schauder Apr 15 '17 at 11:38
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    @JensSchauder: You are making unwarranted assumptions there. If I knew that the PM is a not very stable person who will fly in a rage when he is told, and endanger the currently running project, then it may be essential not to tell him. He may be told when the current project is safely finished. – gnasher729 Apr 15 '17 at 13:09
  • Keep quiet is good advice, and I'd go a little further and point out that any hint your PM gets that Something Is Up will only make things worse for them and for you. – Caleb Apr 15 '17 at 17:47
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How do I tell my PM the priorities must change now?

You don't. That's not your role.

Boss: "You may not speak of this before the official notice with anyone except between you and with me. This means you may not speak of this with your PM or client until that date."

This seems like a clear directive from your boss. I see no room for misinterpretation here. Remember who is in charge and who is not.

If you have a good enough relationship with your boss, you can discuss why you think this isn't a good idea. But ultimately, it's not your decision to make. If you cannot change the directive, you'll need to follow it.

I feel responsible now that I'm in the "secret of the gods", but I want to help my PM for the time being by telling him to speed up the negociations and start hiring people sooner. I also want to tell him to put us on documentation tasks instead of the babysteps improvements we're currently working on.

What exactly are my options in going that way?

Your options are to listen to your boss and do what you are told, or do something else and put your job in jeopardy.

Do the best with what you are given, and keep quiet until you are permitted to "speak of this" if you value your job.

Be prepared to hit the ground running for the 1-month knowledge transfer which will start in a few weeks. Document whatever time permits. Work on issues as they are presented. Clear your decks as best you can.

Clearly, it's up to your manager to decide what you will do. Listen carefully and carry it out to the best of your abilities.

14

You feel bad because you are being asked to lie (by omission) to someone you are working with. That's a natural feeling, it's only human. Unfortunately though needing to keep information you know quiet is quite common in business so it's a skill you will need to aquire.

Telling anyone by "back channels" is a really bad idea so your only options basically are either telling your boss that you aren't comfortable (in which case they will most likely avoid telling you things in future), working out how to live with it, or quitting. The latter seems like an over-reaction. :)

For all you know your boss is right now working out the best way to reallocate resources to allow the project to work successfully but fix whatever it is that is causing them to make the change. You interfering could jeopardize that process by causing a stink before he has finished his proposal, and at the same time will place you into the firing line.

On the other hand though this could well be an inter-departmental politics situation happening way above your head. Sticking your nose in could be unhealthy. If it is a power struggle between two people playing office politics you really don't want to get involved. Getting dragged into that sort of nonsense very rarely ends well for anyone.

The thing to ask yourself is whether you are being asked to do anything unethical. Personally I'd say that this request isn't great, really departments in one company should be "on the same side". Keeping confidential information confidential though is part of any job with any level of seniority at all, no matter how closed the loop is on that confidential information. And that's all you have been asked to do.

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    @BoundaryImposition Really? Lying is being deceitful/false. Knowing that someone believes X to be true when it is not and deliberately allowing them to continue to believe it is being deceitful/false. While you are not actively being untruthful you are being deceitful. Hence the term "lying by omission". – Tim B Apr 13 '17 at 11:48
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    @BoundaryImposition It's difficult to prove that omission is deliberate so would be hard to get caught by perjury rules in that case. We're not in a court of law though. We're in the real world. A real world where lies by omission exist and the term exists to describe them. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lie#Lying_by_omission – Tim B Apr 13 '17 at 12:00
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    A lie is an intent to deceive someone. Sometimes you do that by saying something that's false. Sometimes you do that by leaving out something that's true. It's still a deception and while it isn't a "lie" it's a "lie by omission". That's why there is a different word/phrase for it. – Tim B Apr 13 '17 at 12:03
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    @BoundaryImposition You're deep into semantics territory there. The intent of a lie is to deceive. If something else achieves that deception by a means other than telling a falsehood then a lie is a reasonable analogy to make. The person is lying (i.e. deceiving) but by leaving something out rather than putting something in. This seems like a reasonable phrase to describe that to me - I mean everyone who hears it knows exactly what it means. I've no idea why you are so bent out of shape over it either? – Tim B Apr 13 '17 at 12:34
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    @BoundaryImposition Merriam Webster defines lying as "to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive" (so far so good, clearly that doesn't qualify), as well as "to create a false or misleading impression", with an example "Statistics sometimes lie". That second definition covers "lie by omission" just fine. – Voo Apr 13 '17 at 13:52
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You certainly should not communicate this, in any way, to the PM, nor change your working habits with the PM in any fashion. That's not your job, and your manager explicitly told you not to.

The only thing I would recommend doing is if you feel that your boss does not have some information that could be useful - such as the likelihood of your role changing from support to development - you could let them know that information. But not in a manner that suggests you think they should take some specific action: just as an FYI. It's not your role to navigate this apparently tricky political situation; the only thing you can do is provide enough information to your manager that they can adjust their plans if they decide they need to.

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If you feel bad about it, and if you have a decent manager, then you can tell your manager that you think the PM should be told.

A good manager who trusts you may give you reasons why things are done this way. The reasons may be incomplete. For example you might be told "I would fear that the current project might be endangered if I tell the PM now". You would then know that you should definitely not tell the PM.

Or you might be told "this is none of your business, but I definitely don't want the PM to know about this now". You could draw your conclusions from an answer like that, but telling the PM would be the wrong conclusion (that is a conclusion that is not in your interest).

If let's say your PM is making plans in a month that you know will go wrong, you might again tell your manager. "PM is planning X, and I know this is not going to work, because I won't be with the team anymore". Or worse "PM is making promises to the client that I know he won't be able to keep, because I won't be with the team anymore.". That would be important information for your manager. His or her decision how to proceed from there.

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