What's your problem?

I have been unhappy at work for a while and let a number of recruitment consultants know that I was looking to move on. I got a call from one last night sounding me out about a position 'soon to be available'. It's a great job, and would be a step up for me, but there's a problem.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

From the job description, I'm fairly sure that the job's current occupant is someone I know. Not only did she give me my first break in business, I'm also sure she's not planning to leave her job. Should I tell her? I'd be furious if my job was being touted around, but I'm also worried about passing on information the consultant gave me in confidence.

A: I applaud your sensitivity. But if you examine the problem dispassionately, I think you'll find - perhaps surprisingly - that you are putting your own interests before those of your friend and mentor. And by that, I don't mean your work interests but your personal interests.

Understandably, you can't bear the thought of your friend finding out that you'd knowingly applied for her job. But turn it around. You say you're 'fairly sure' that it's her job that is up for offer. It might not be. And anyway, what could she do with any information you gave her? Confront her boss? Demand an explanation? All on the strength of an uncertain tip-off from you?

The only certainty is that she'd be massively unsettled - and I'm not even sure she'd be grateful to you. The messenger often gets blamed for the message. So it's not just a question of whether or not it's acceptable to pass on confidential information. The real question is: what's the best thing you can do for your friend?

You may still not agree, but for my money, the least worst thing you can do for her is keep absolutely quiet. And if it turns out that it is her job (which it may not be), and if you're the one who's finally offered it (which you may not be), then feign absolute ignorance. And that's for her sake, not yours.


- Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into. - Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office (Penguin, £6.99) was reissued last month.

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