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In difficult HR quandary, where should my loyalties lie?

by on
in The HR Specialist Forum

"I'm the HR Director for our company. A good friend and co-worker has informed me in confidence that she is planning on resigning pending a job offer she says she'll likely receive. I like my job, I like my boss and don't want to keep this information from him. Where should my loyalty lie? With my friend? With the company?" — C in CA


It's not a matter of loyalty. Your friend told you something in confidence. It is not the type of information that MUST be shared (such as a revelation of harassment that would require an investigation). There is no real harm to the organization in not sharing this information. (I assume she would provide 2 weeks notice like most employees.) I think you should hold this information in confidence.

Whether the person is your friend or not, the information was told to you "in confidence" and therefore needs to stay "in confidence". ANY confidential information told to HR must stay confidential. IMHO.

You're in a hard spot. However, I would keep in mind that this co-worker divulged this information to you because you are friends. If you were not friends, she would not have mentioned it. While this is a fine line to walk, I think you should wait. I would not tell my boss until after your friend receives the offer. Think about what would happen if you do mention it, and then nothing happens - this could put your friend in a tough spot. While I understand loyalty to the company, and wanting to keep your boss in the loop, your friend probably wants to keep this quiet until she has a firm offer. As HR you have the hard job of keeping business and personal separate. I judge whether or not to mention things to my boss based on several criteria. Any time something is highly relevant and action needs to be taken, mention it. When it's something mostly gossip based and may be groundless, no action need be taken, etc., I watch the waters so to speak.

I absolutely agree with the first poster. The information about your friends job offer came to you as her FRIEND, not as her HR Director. There comes a point where you need to learn how to separate work conversations from personal ones. The ramifications could be huge - and in my opinion, not worth it. Keep this one to yourself. You said it yourself - it was told to you "in confidence" and that is where it should remain.

There is nothing to tell. Your friend told you something with a big "IF" in it. IF they get an offer they are PLANNING to resign. If "ifs" and "ands" were pots and pans the whole world would be a kitchen. PLANNING and doing are not the same thing and a job offer is not a job offer until it is offered. Quit worrying until you have something to tell.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

GHughes October 29, 2008 at 2:47 pm

Did she come to your office for a sit down and tell you, or did this take place over lunch, etc? I get the impression she was telling you as a friend – and you said yourself it was in confidence. Confidence that you would keep it to yourself? If she wanted your boss to know she could have told him. I would think long and hard before I dilvulged something like that to my boss, just because “I like my job, like my boss”. It wouldn’t take long for the word to get around the office not to tell you anything because you would run and tell your boss. I wouldn’t jeopardize my friendship for something that was told to me in confidence and in the long run her changing jobs is not going to harm the company. People change jobs everyday. Think of the position you would put your friend in if you told your boss and she did not get the job. It could make for a very difficult working relationship all around.


ASmith October 28, 2008 at 5:35 pm

She has not disclosed any illegal or even unethical behavior, just something that should be kept confidential from HR at this point. It would be easier not to make friends at work that are close enough to exchange confidences with and/or to work with friends, but it’s too late for that.

Would your friend feed your dog if you were out of town? Would your job come over and do the same?


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