What's your problem?

I have left my old company and started to work for a rival food manufacturer. My old boss has always been a good friend, and we meet up socially. But he has started probing me about my new company.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I've told him that I can't talk about that, but he's become aggressive and I've heard from a friend that he has started a whispering campaign in the industry that I'm no good at my job. I'm terrified this will get to my new boss, but I don't want to pass on trade secrets. Is there a solution?

A: No really good friend would behave like this and still expect to be treated as a really good friend. By trying to get you to pass on information that could damage the company you currently work for, he's doing his best to trade on that friendship - and that's despicable.

You need to do two things, quickly and firmly. Tell your old boss that, much as you enjoy seeing him socially, any further meetings are strictly conditional on your steering absolutely clear of shop talk. Then tell your new boss what's happening and warn him that if your old boss starts to turn ugly, he could start spreading totally unfounded rumours about you. Do this soon, before any rumours have a chance to circulate. If you wait until that happens, you'll be hopelessly on the defensive and much less credible.

I find your old boss's behaviour so unfair and distasteful that I wish you'd chuck him altogether - but I suppose there must be something likeable about the man.

- 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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