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Spread news of coworker leaving company

Dear Office-Politics,

I participated for the first time in a employee review session and I repeated a remark made to me that one of our colleagues had told me in a casual conversation that he might want to leave the company to work elsewhere. This colleague is not under my direct supervison. When my boss heard my comment, he flew off the handle and said we should fire our colleague immediately. He demanded that the other supervisor explain why this was not spotted earlier.

I tried to remedy the situation by saying it was a casual conversation and it was not a concrete plan. My boss refused to accept it and everyone ended up looking bad, me and the other supervisor. Was I out of line or was my boss over reacting? How can I set things right again?

Am I out of line?

arnie herz

Dear Am I out of line?

As an employee you have an obligation to act in the company’s best interests. On the other hand, depending on your role, you may need to afford your co-workers an open ear so they can share things with you confidentially as a means to helping them sort through issues that impeded their effectiveness. It is not clear from your letter the quality of threat posed to the business from the colleague’s possible departure. Also, not clear whether or not the colleague was speaking to you in a confidential nature.

It is always good to examine your motives when reporting (or not reporting) others when their actions may adversely impact the company. Anticipating the reaction is also valuable. Highly effective people create a habit of aggressively questioning their actions in advance. This ensures you proceed consciously. For example, you could ask yourself, “what do I hope to accomplish by reporting (or not reporting)? What reactions can I expect? How will I deal with the reaction? Does the information pose a threat to the company? How much of a threat? Was the person expecting confidentiality on my part? What action would cause the greatest overall benefit for my colleague, the company and me?” After you go through this process, let me know what conclusions you come to in regard to the question you pose — “Was I out of line or was my boss over reacting?”

The answer to your question “How can I set things right again?”, will follow once you sort out the other question. You can only set right what you did wrong. At this point, it is not clear if you did anything wrong other than not thinking it through thoroughly.

As I conclude this letter, I am going to go out on a limb here. I wonder whether your predicament points perhaps a slightly distorted way in which you (and many others) go about trying to be liked. It seems that your statement in the review may have been aimed at currying favor with the boss by letting him know that you have the companies’ best interests in mind. Then, when it back fired, you shifted your energy into trying to figure out how to make yourself more likeable. If this is true for you or one of the readers of this response, it is a dangerous strategy.

There are no coincidences. I received your email as I am midway through Tim Sander’s best selling book, The Likeability Factor . I recommend you pick up a copy. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.

Arnie Herz

Arnie Herz, is a lawyer, mediator, speaker, author and consultant nationally recognized for his practical and inspired approach to conflict resolution and client counseling. Visit his blog at LegalSanity.com

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