What's your problem?

I'd appreciate your advice on a confusing matter. I work for an ad agency in central London. A new chief executive started a month back, and because we both cycle to work, he's become quite friendly with me, asking me questions about others in the company and about projects we've got on. He seems like a nice enough guy, but we're all aware that he was brought into the business to ring the changes, including reducing the headcount.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

With this in mind, I don't know if he's become my confidant because he genuinely likes me, because he's trying to find the lie of the land or if he's testing me in some way. It makes me feel uncomfortable, because my loyalties are divided between him as my boss, and my colleagues (and friends). What would you do in my position?

A: You should give him the benefit of the doubt. As a new CEO, with a demanding brief and some unfamiliar senior colleagues, he probably finds talking to you extremely helpful. By helping him you'll be helping your friends and colleagues as well. I very much doubt if he's testing you.

If he seems to be fishing for your opinion of individual colleagues, whether junior or senior, you should tactfully but firmly decline to play. If he's truly a decent guy, he'll understand your reticence and think well of you for it.

Only if he starts putting on the pressure should you seriously begin to doubt his motives - at which point you might need to find a different way to get to work.


Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Leadership lessons from Jürgen Klopp

The Liverpool manager exemplifies ‘the long win’, based not on results but on clarity of...

How to get a grip on stress

Once a zebra escapes the lion's jaws, it goes back to grazing peacefully. There's a...

A leadership thought: Treat your colleagues like customers

One minute briefing: Create a platform where others can see their success, says AVEVA CEO...

The ignominious death of Gordon Gekko

Profit at all costs is a defunct philosophy, and purpose a corporate superpower, argues this...

Gender bias is kept alive by those who think it is dead

Research: Greater representation of women does not automatically lead to equal treatment.

What I learned leading a Syrian bank through a civil war

Louai Al Roumani was CFO of Syria's largest private retail bank when the conflict broke...