The Reckoner!

Should I Tell Him He's Going To Be Fired?

My life has turned into a sitcom, or maybe an hour long drama.

I work in a small department at my company. My boss, P, and I have been friends for years. She was at my level when I was hired and was recently promoted to lead our team. I am the next most senior person in our group.

S came on board a couple of years ago. He's a good worker and fits in well, but he's also the newest addition to our team. 

P has been told she has to let S go. She's really upset about it, so she told me. It's just an issue of downsizing and last one in, first one out. She is planning on telling him next week after HR puts together a severence package. She didn't tell me not to tell S, but I'm pretty sure she thinks it's understood it was said in confidence since I am her subordinate and S's equal. 

I think S senses something's going on. He said something to me about how he's been checking job boards "just in case" and he keeps bringing up downsizing and expressing concern he'd be on the chopping block. It seems like he knows, but I know he doesn't know for sure.  It just seems cruel to keep him dangling when he should be getting a jump on a tough job market.

Should I tell him if he brings up his worries to me again?

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Reckoning Comments!

Your friend really shouldn't have told you that, both because it puts you in an awkward position and also because that's the sort of news that really should go only through the chain of command.

I think you should keep mum about it.  A week or two is not going to make-or-break a job hunt (especially if there's severance coming), and you're exposing yourself to some major liability if something dramatic goes wrong.  If you tell S he's going to be laid off two weeks ahead of time, that's two weeks he has to fume about it while still having full access to all of the resources in the company.  I'm sure it's extremely unlikely that S will flip his lid and do something drastic, but if he does, you are in some serious trouble of your own.

You're also putting him at risk, where if anything dramatic and accidental happens and it's discovered he knew he was being fired, things can get beyond awkward.

As it is, just dodge around it if it ever comes up with him, and get a jump on planning your goodbye party.  It may make you feel better to tell him, but I doubt it will make him feel better, and the downsides outweigh the good.

I was placed in a similiar - though much shorter timeline involved - situation at the small startup I worked for at the turn-of-the-century (always wanted to use that in a sentence for real).

Our CEO tapped mine and another co-workers shoulder to invite us into his office shortly before 10am.  He informed us that there was going to be a large (~40 people, nearly 1/2 the company) layoff  TODAY.  He was quick to tell us that we were not part of it.  He then proceeded to tell us who was part of the layoff.

I seriously felt like throwing up when I got back to my desk.  Abt 1 1/2 hrs later the President walked the floor invited folks into a large conference room where they would receive the bad news - today would be their last day.  

I did not say anything to anyone - thankfully I only had maybe 2 or 3 hours to mull it over.

I still believe this is the best approach, though ultimately I would have preferred not to have known.

The Reckoner!