Work-friend Obligation

Okay, so imagine you work in an office (I know it’s a stretch :slight_smile: ). Say you’re highly regarded there and you can get/do basically anything you want. You’re not a supervisor, just a grunt clerical worker. But you’re damn good at your job and everybody knows it.

Here’s the dilemma: if during a conversation with the actual supervisor you’re told something that will negatively effect the job responsibilities of a co-worker/friend are you obligated to tell the friend what you’ve been told?

I felt that it wasn’t my place to say anything. What do y’all think?

Trust your feelings, Luke, uh, RSSchen.

If you are not that person’s supervisor, it’s not your place to say anything. If you do tell him and it gets back to the supervisor who did say, it could look bad on you.

Ask yourself… would telling him change the inevitable or the outcome? Would it make things better?

If the answer is “No”, then the best you can do is be supportive once the news is announced and help them deal.

Saying anything pre-emptively or after the fact will only reflect poorely on you in one fashion or another.

If you were management then you couldn’t tell your friend. It sucks, but as a manager that’s what happens.

As a nonmanager, then you don’t have the same level of responsibity to the company. It depends on the circumstances. How bad is it? Would the person then want to quit, and would knowing help?

You were told something in confidence. It’s best not to break that confidence.

This type of situation sucks. Years ago I had a “special relationship” with one of the bosses in the small company where I worked. Said boss told me one of my co-workers (same level as me) was getting fired the next day because they were hiring someone with more experience. I didn’t warn her, but soon after I confessed that I had known the night before. After that all my co-workers HATED me. So, my advice is: don’t tell either before or after the fact.

Could the supervisor have told you, with the unspoken idea being that you quietly let your friend know? Depends on what they said and how, but they might’ve thought it a better way to influence your friend.

There were certainly times, in my previous job, when I was told that some change was coming in, or that such-and-such is being checked up on, and I’ve realised that my colleagues may get caught out. A little chat “word to the wise” and the suggestion “you may want to <whatever>” with a knowing glance could help prevent aggro. Maybe claim you overheard something?

I feel like I’m suggesting underhand tactics, which I am, but, well, not… oh I dunno. If you feel that your supervisor was telling you in confidence, or for your information, or didn’t intend to tell you but let it slip, then keep schtum. If they said “the company’s checking up on internet misuse” then you might want to suggest your friend spend less time on the SDMB :).

If it’s something that your co-worker has no power to influence any longer and assuming he/she will still be working there after the change, then I’d vote for giving the heads up. Especially if this will be completely out of left field, if only so the person could deal with the change in a graceful manner once it’s done formally.

But if you don’t approach them beforehand never, ever say anything afterwards.

I guess I would have to ask how close you are to the coworker friend. If your friend found out you had known and not told him/her, would it affect your relationship?

I’ve had a work-friend or two that I would have put my job on the line for, and many, many work-friends that I liked a lot, but not that much.

I agree with those who said, if you don’t tell beforehand, never let them know you knew. Of course, it’s always possible the supervisor will mention that he told you.

If you want to do right by your friend, stick up for them with the supervisor behind closed doors. Otherwise, don’t tell before or after the fact.

I’ve mentioned in other threads that I became known as someone who could be trusted to keep a secret. In a lot of offices that’s even more valuable than being damn good at what you do.

I think the reason why you were told is important. Did the boss guy tell you so that you could warn your friend, or so that you could argue on your friend’s behalf behind closed doors, or just because you needed to know the situation in advance for some reason not to do with your friend? Unless the boss is clueless he/she probably had one of those reasons in mind when telling you, if you are not sure which reason the boss had try and find out what the reason for their telling you was.

Most professional supervisors do not act this way. That’s a little manipulative and would put the employee in a bad spot. If there’s a problem with an employee, it’s the supervisor’s responsibility to handle it, not to gossip with an employee and hope it gets around to the right person.

I vote for keeping your mouth shut. If you tell, your supervisor will know you can’t be trusted with confidential information.

OTOH, I don’t think it was your supervisor’s place to tell you this info. Can we get more info on the context? Was it in the form of, “This is what we’re doing to improve efficiencies and spread around responsibilities” or was it, “Don’t say anything, but So and So is going to be looking for a new job.”

You are right. It’s not your place to say anything. Hell, they may decide tomorrow to keep everything as is, and if you tell your friend, you’ve caused problems for nothing. Let the supervisors handle it.

So here’s what actually happened. Supervisor tells me that the office is going to re-distribute responsibilities. I’m pretty easygoing, so I’ll happily do whatever it is they ask me to do, THAT’s why I’m highly regarded. Anyway, I’m told that my co-worker/friend “E” is going to lose a part of her responsibilities that include being an assistant to a rather prestigious Salesman. I used to work for Salesman, and didn’t find it to be prestigious, but, I digress. E gets lots of good personal self-esteem by working with Salesman. I saw Salesman, Supervisor & Bossman in office having discussion and assumed that they were discussing what had been told to me by Supervisor. They hadn’t. Oops.

I talk to Salesman and tell him what I’ve been told (again, on that wrong assumption that he already knew) and he tells me “geez, you just invited E’s kid to your kid’s b-day party, you have to tell her…don’t let her get blindsided”. I lamented about this suggestion for a few days and finally asked my Bossman for help. Having this stupid conversation with Salesman had made my life hell. I didn’t tell E, but told her there may be some rumors swirling and that they were not true.

Responsibilites never changed in the office. Supervisor was incorrect. E ended up thinking that I wanted her job and got very huffy with me. I don’t want her damn job…the stress was un-Ogly. Now, as a result of Salesman advising me to tell E of the changes that never materialized, E and I are no longer friends. I feel that Salesman owed me an apology for giving “WRONG” advice. I respected him and felt a real dilemma. I agonized over the stupid situation and ended up with everything royally screwed up.

Yesterday I said to Salesman “please help me forgive your WRONG advice and tell me that you’re sorry I got so upset”. He hedged, a lot. Finally I got him to say he WAS sorry I got so upset, but really doesn’t see what he did wrong. I told him that I wouldn’t want anyone to tell me if I were being fired, it would be humiliating to know that everyone else already knew…he thinks it would be his place to tell me. So, is Salesman friend or foe?

For the past week I’ve been really going out of my way to get things back to the way they were (chatting about weekends, kids, makeup, etc) and it’s not happening very quickly. I really hope she realizes that I consider(ed?) her a friend and certainly didn’t want to hurt her. I’m buying stupid little gifts and trying to be extra nice, I really hope she’s not snickering behind my back for being so stupid.

I think it’s extremely weird to ask someone to apologize for giving you bad advice. Advice is just that, advice. The salesman didn’t use his position over you in the company to make you do it, and he didn’t lie to you to manipulate you into doing it, he just told you what he thought you should do. The decision was in your hands.

He had no way of knowing that the changes wouldn’t actually happen, anyway, so things could have come out differently, and maybe you’d be thanking him for his excellent counsel. He had the same information about the situation as you did, and he told you what he thought you should do, and apparently at the time you thought it was the right thing to do, too! Otherwise, why did you do it?

I think you should take responsibility for your own decisions, learn what you can from the experience, and mend fences where you can.

FWIW, I think he gave you poor advice, but the blame lies entirely with you for acting on it. And as an aside, for some reason the phrase “Help me forgive you” sets off alarm bells in my mind. It screams manipulative headcase. Maybe it’s just me.

I think the correct term for myself would be “neurotic anal-retentive headcase” please! :slight_smile:

Hey, lady, I’m an astronomer, not a psychoanalyst. You want precision, you ask me about the location of the moons of Jupiter, m’kay? :wink:

By that rationale, I’d like you to apologize for not taking my advice (and also the advice of Ivylass, Caricci, Casey1505, QuickSilver and Mr. Blue Sky not to mention yourself ) for suggesting it was a bad idea to tell anyone.

You’re absolutely correct. I deeply apologize if my choice of action (which was actually umm, an email saying rumors may start…if said SM chose to share info I share with employee) upset any of you in the slightest. If offense was taken in the email that I sent, please do forgive. :cool: