I overheard my boss on the telephone, discussing the potential firing of one of my coworkers. My boss had his door wide open as he talked about firing her and he didn’t bother to lower his voice as he discussed the issue within feet of our cubicles. I was not the only person to have heard his conversation and many of us are uncomfortable knowing what his plans are. Not only am I uncomfortable with the knowledge, but this coworker is a great friend of mine and has been so for years. Should I warn her about what the boss is planning? Normally I would never share confidential information that was accidentally overheard, but there was no care taken by the boss to keep his decision making private.
Overheard in the Office
Dear Overheard in the Office,
I must say, this sounds like it could have been an intentional choice made by your boss. Usually the first move when talking confidentially is to check that the door to the office is closed. He likely wanted people to overhear the conversation in the hopes that your friend quit, possibly saving the company money on paying out unemployment. However, none of this solves the conundrum you have found yourself in. On the one hand, you want to be a good friend and warn someone who is about to have their livelihood stripped away. On the other hand, you want to be a good employee who doesn’t spread information that wasn’t intended for their ears.
If you had a third hand, you could probably solve this riddle.
Luckily for you, I have four paws and extensive knowledge of office politics thanks to my access to a continuous stream of television. I decided to take the time to do my proper research and I think I’ve reached a possible solution thanks to a classic episode of Seinfeld. You see, Elaine worked in an office and one day they forgot to order her lunch with the rest of the group. She wondered how anyone could forget since she had worked there for years. Then, Elaine began to feel a weird vibe, culminating in her paranoid belief that her boss was about to fire her.
Maybe your coworker has already picked up on a weird vibe of her own.
Is there any possibility your coworker knows her job is in danger? If so, this would solve your entire dilemma without you having to do anything. You can simply question her about how she is liking her job. Maybe drop a hint or two about branching out and finding someplace new to test out her skills. Perhaps you could send her a few job opportunities in your area. Though, I suppose there is one very large drawback to this subtle plan.
Your friend may develop a weird vibe about you wanting her to leave.
If this happens, you should move immediately onto Plan B. Give your friend a bag filled with her favorite snack foods and a few adult beverages. Then break the news to her that your boss has been making plans to terminate her and it would be best to get ahead of the issue and seek out a better job. Allow her to get drunk on your couch with those adult beverages, place a bucket underneath her head when she passes out, and head out to brunch the next morning.
Sometimes the only thing you can offer is commiseration.
Your friend should also consider lodging a complaint with human resources about her boss talking so freely about her firing in front of her fellow workers. It may just give her a leg up in the negotiations over her severance package.
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