Do you know a secret? What to do when you learn something you shouldn’t

By Tayo Leigh

 26 Oct 2015     Comments

Working with people every day means hearing things that you maybe shouldn’t. This can put you in a very difficult situation.

If it affects your team, your boss or the company then you may want to say something. But what if you put the person in jeopardy, or it leads to them losing their job? It can be hard to know what to do.

Read our advice to these SHORTLIST readers who wrote in about their workplace dilemmas. Hopefully it will help should you be placed in a similar situation.


I overheard a girl on our sales team telling a friend she was close to leaving, and would take her clients with her.

She thought it was funny as according to her the company hadn’t treated her well. I don’t know if she wanted people to hear, she was talking loud enough to, but now I don’t know what to do.

Our boss isn’t always there, and can be demanding when he is so maybe she has a point. But if she leaves and takes her clients then we’ll lose business and maybe our jobs.

Should I keep quiet, should I tell the boss? What do I do?


Our reply:

No one likes to tell tales, and so revealing you’ve listened in to someone’s phone call makes it seem like you are, but this is your job that’s at stake. If you want to stay (though it doesn’t sound like fun), then you need to keep those clients.

Start by talking to the girl in sales. Tell her she was talking loud enough for everyone to hear and that her actions may cost you a job you really need. If she says she doesn’t care, then you have to tell your boss, who will make sure she doesn’t take his clients.
It’s her fault for talking so loud!


I was accidentally included on an email I wasn’t meant to see.

It was from my boss to another manager about some people in the company being made redundant. The business hasn’t been going well recently, and so there’s been talk of redundancy, but in the email my boss said it was a chance to get rid of some people he didn’t like.

He called me right way to say don’t read the email, and so I pretended I hadn’t. What do I do now? If I say nothing then I’m guilty too, but if I do tell them, then he’ll probably make sure I go too. He’s quite high up and definitely has more power than I do.
Help me SHORTLIST, I don’t know what to do!


Our reply:

Firstly, thank you for getting in touch. Any issue involving redundancy is always difficult. There will of course be legal implications, but right now you have to think of yours, and your colleagues’ jobs.
Your first port of call has to be HR. It’s their job to manage these situations, and they know the law more than your boss.

If you just tell your colleagues then it will simply cause problems for everyone. If you go to his boss, they may well sweep it under the carpet, and if you say nothing, well then you may still go anyway.

It’s in no way right or fair for your boss to use his position to destroy others’ careers, and so you should definitely not keep quiet. He is in the wrong and should pay for his mistake – no one should try to end others’ careers because of personal differences.
Print off the email if you can, with proof there’s no way he can deny what he said, and go with a clear idea of what you expect HR to do. If they do nothing (very unlikely), then you have no choice but to tell the people involved.

If it gets that far then you may be better out of there completely. Working anywhere happy to employ people like that is not good for you.

Don’t let secrets in the workplace ruin your day, or worse. If you too have a dilemma, then please get in touch and we’ll see if we can help.

Lots of great candidates available for hire, search our database today!


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