I have a good friend who works in a different department of my company. We started off in the same role, but over the years have moved into totally different positions — mine a bit senior to hers. We have drinks and lunch regularly, and do our fair share of gossip. I’ve heard recently — and the volume of the rumor is getting stronger — that her department is going to have some major cuts made in the coming quarter. From what I can tell after our last get-together, she has no idea. As a corporate person, I feel like I should put a sock in it. But as a friend to a person with a pretty tight budget, I feel like a jerk not giving her even a hint. I don’t want to risk it coming back to me, though. What do you think I should do?
I think you should keep your trap shut. It’s not like the CEO sat you down and told you that they’re laying people off. You said it yourself: it’s a rumor.
The reason I floundered so brilliantly at a professional career that required going to an office is that I often forgot the real reason I was going to said office: to work. I got stuff done, but at three times the volume and half the pace. I had more fun talking to people and listening to what they had to say about our colleagues than I did with my actual job. (Helpful tip: if you don’t want just a cubicle, you can get a real office with a door by having a voice like a foghorn and a laugh like a dolphin who just sucked helium. It worked for me!)
Being the office gossip isn’t a good role, but being completely oblivious to what’s going on around you is just as bad. Your friend is in a position where people don’t tell her things, and she doesn’t have anyone to ask. Since you’re in a slightly senior position, what you’re hearing might not have trickled down quite yet…but you’re not the person who should be doing the trickling. Imagine the scenario if you told her, and she asked someone about it. She’d go talk to someone else, and say, “Judy said our department is going to be cut in half.” Uh-oh, Judy. Now you seem like you can’t be trusted.
If you had to choose between yourself having a job and your friend having a job, I hope you’d choose yourself. What you can do is have a general talk with her about your industry and how crappily it’s faring as a whole, and mention that you’ve been saving a little in case you were to unexpectedly lose your job. (p.s. If your company is making cuts, you should be!)