What's your problem?

I work in a small technical department in an NHS hospital, and have enjoyed a reasonably good relationship with my boss. As part of the NHS reforms about 10 years ago, we had to re-apply for our jobs and I was approached and asked if I would like to apply for my boss's position.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I work in a small technical department in an NHS hospital, and have enjoyed a reasonably good relationship with my boss. As part of the NHS reforms about 10 years ago, we had to re-apply for our jobs and I was approached and asked if I would like to apply for my boss's position. I took a moral stance and declined the offer, as I knew my boss would be out of a job if I was successful.

My boss is now talking about retirement and I'd always promised myself that this would be when I would tell him what happened. But we haven't been getting on so well recently, and I don't want to tell him in case he thinks I'm trying to make him feel obliged to recommend me as his successor. Can you advise?

A: I can understand your sensitivities, but I feel that you may just be engaging in a little doublethink.

Ten years ago, you not only declined to apply for your boss's position but also kept that decision from him. That was strong-minded of you. Why, then, did you promise yourself that as soon as his retirement became a reality you'd disclose the truth?

It can only be because, entirely humanly, you wanted his retrospective gratitude. Tell him now and his suspicions will be justified.

So stay strong-minded. Stay schtum.

- Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of the Guardian Media Group; he is a non-executive director of WPP. Please address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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