I recently learned that one of my coworkers (who is also a very good friend) is being let go by our employer. My friend is a single mother of two and I really want to give her the heads up so that she can be prepared and make necessary accommodations, but because of the nature of my position with the company, I could lose my job for leaking confidential information. Aside from being concerned about my friend’s financial position, I am also scared about our relationship. Since the paperwork will come directly from my office, I fear my friend will be upset with me for not giving her the heads up. I am wondering how far I should go for friendship. – In a Bind
Dear In a Bind:
I can understand that you are in an awkward position and want to help a friend, but that might not be possible in this case. It used to be taught to keep work relationships and personal relationship totally separate to avoid situations like these. But I recognize that it is extremely hard to do, especially when many of us spend more time at work than we do at home with our families. We also share similar situations with our coworkers just by nature of the work environment. It is very easy to develop long lasting friendships and relationships with people you work closely with and see every day. It can become very difficult to separate and turn off those relationships.
However, you have an obligation to your employer to maintain professionalism, uphold your position, and follow through with your duties and responsibilities. If you tell your friend confidential information it could possibly jeopardize your own position with the company. And depending on the nature of the situation and the reason she is being let go, you could create a greater tornado! You have no way of determining how your friend will receive the information or how she will react. Emotions could cause her to have an outburst and tell your employer exactly how she found out the information. Additionally she could also tell other employees or people outside of the company who have relationships within the company. All of which could end very badly for you!
There are other ways you can try to be there and support your friend while she is seeking other employment without jeopardizing your own career and livelihood. A true friend will understand your position and not hold ill will toward you for upholding your job responsibilities. Although misery loves company, a TRUE friend would not want both of you to be without a job.
Author of the upcoming book Been There Done That: And Lived to Tell About It (due out Spring 2011), Tamara R. Allen is Your Advice Guru giving REAL advice from REAL experience. Email your questions to ask[email protected]. You can follow Tamara on twitter @tamararallen or check out her daily column and archives at www.tamararallen.com.