A Co-worker Friend Might Be Laid Off

Question:

In a private board meeting, I learned that my best friend is about to be laid off. My friend is in the process of buying a new house. How should I handle this situation?

Signed,

Worried For Her


Answer:

Dear Worried For Her:

This is an ethical question we have addressed another time from another employee who was in the know of a termination of a friend. In that case the employee, who sent the question, knew her friend was about to be fired and was about to go in debt for a new car. If she disclosed that the boss was interviewing someone to replace this friend, the friend might quit early and it could get back to her boss that she was betraying a confidence. In a similar way, you are facing the same problem–your friend is in the process of buying a new house and is about to be laid off. What do you think you should do? From the little you say, I assume that what you learned what revealed in confidence.

If you hint to your friend, “maybe you should check with your boss to learn how stable is your job before you sign the papers of a new house”, surely your friend will suspect you know something she does not. And when the friend confronts the boss, undoubtedly he will suspect that what you learned at the board meeting had been disclosed–in Washington D.C. terms “had been leaked without the boss’s permission.”

Have you spoken with the boss, or whomever will be the bearer of bad news to your friend, to apprise her/him that this co-worker is in the process of buying a house, probably under the assumption that her job is secure? Once you put this ball in that individual’s hands, you have opened the door to the ethical dilemma you feel–wanting to help your friend and expecting the friend once she gets the bad news to confront you, “Did you know anything about this and if so why didn’t you warn me???” And because you know that friends do not lie to one another, you cannot say, “No, I had heard nothing.” The boss then should make her/his wishes known about what is ethically permissible for you to do or not do. Putting your self in other’s shoes, both a friend’s and your organization’s, is WEGO mindedness.

There may other ways to work through this should I or shouldn’t I say something. If so , please let us know.

William Gorden