Volunteered Information Given In Confidence

Question to Ask the Workplace about information disclosed in confidence.

I just started at a job about 6 months ago. My relationship with my boss and my coworkers has been amazing. However, one of my coworkers has been unhappy in her position for a few months. She has expressed her unhappiness to the rest of us. She has even told her direct supervisor that she has considered looking for another job.

For a while after she expressed a desire to leave, things seemed to have gotten better. However, she shared with me that she was considering applying for another position at our company should it open up. Selfishly, I do not want her to do so. During a meeting with my boss, this subject came up and I told her that my coworker was considering another position. My boss informed me that she is going to share this information with her boss. I’m not sure how I should handle this now. Should I let my coworker know that my boss knows? Should I be apologizing to her?

Signed, What’s Right?

Dear What’s Right?:

You have a conscience. That’s good. However, you broke an interpersonal rule that almost no one follows. That rule is to not share information that is given you in confidence or with an assumed confidence. Also you acknowledge at least to yourself that you did this because you “Selfishly, I do not want her to do so.”

That too is good because you admit your motive for this was in your best interest and not in your coworkers. Should you apologize? You and your conscience will need to argue the answer to your question.What lesson will you learn from this? It might be to not say something about someone else, especially some bit of information that might not be in her/his best interest, you wouldn’t first say to that person.

That too is a rule that is hard to follow but it is the kind of rule we each hope others would apply when speaking about us. Appropriate and effective interpersonal communication on the job hinges on age-old ethical principles: of good character, good sense, and goodwill. Application of these criteria at work would eliminate much gossip, dirty politics, and ill will. Moreover they would impel us to what I call WEGO. By that I mean the kind of interpersonal relationships and workplace commitment that find self interest in goals that are mutually compatible and promising for the organization. My signature sentence sums this up: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Does this make sense to you? If you like, let me know.

William Gorden