Not everyone in your workplace is your friend. And don’t you forget it.
Searching for a job is a stressful experience. It’s filled with high expectations, frustration and dashed hopes. Sometimes you’re bursting to confide in the people you work with because they’re your friends. Aren’t they?
Pam thought so.
Pam is a senior-level executive who made the wrong choice the last time around. What she thought would be an exciting and interesting job turned into her being little more than a bystander in events increasingly micro-managed by the Chief Executive. She tried to like the job; she tried to make something of her role as best she could, and she tried to play well with others who all seemed to have the CEO’s ear. After several months, Pam saw the futility of remaining and was ready to move on.
In no time, she was deep in negotiations with another company. Things were looking promising and Pam was thrilled. Chatting with her personal assistant one day, Pam decided to confide her good news. Her PA was trustworthy and sympathetic and was one of the few people with whom Pam had been able to bond during her short time working there.
Pam’s joy was short-lived as soon after, negotiations with the prospective new employer broke down. It wasn’t that the other company wasn’t eager, but Pam was now in possession of greater knowledge through her recent experiences. She knew what red flags to look for, and wasn’t going to be caught in the same situation twice! The parting was amiable and professional, and Pam wasn’t deterred. Her next job was right around the corner.
But something had changed. If Pam thought the CEO micro-managed her before, it was nothing to the interference she was experiencing now. It seemed the CEO was constantly sitting on her shoulder; reminding, criticising, reproaching. The political ‘yes men’ jostled for position seeing a weakness to leverage. At the end-of-week get-together with the Chief Executive Officer, weekly business was perfunctorily despatched before her boss leaned back in his chair, his manner decidedly cold.
“So, you’re leaving us?” he announced calmly.
A moment of panic engulfed Pam as her stomach flipped and she struggled for the right reply. “I, ah… no”, she replied carefully. “No, who told you that?” Pam felt uncomfortable, caught-out and at a loss for words. As she left the office soon after, her mind was reeling. By confiding to a colleague in a politically-charged environment, Pam now finds herself in a role that was bad enough to begin with, and is now obviously going to become increasingly intolerable. At the same time, she has no immediate job prospects. Does she risk making another career mistake by jumping at the next available job that presents itself? Or does she devote a good portion of each day proving her loyalty to her boss and colleagues who have clearly lost their faith and interest in her?
No matter how tempting it may be to confide in colleagues, remember to protect yourself first. Pam’s PA may not have been malicious when she passed on Pam’s secret to another work colleague; it doesn’t matter. The outcome doesn’t change. Pam is viewed with suspicion. She’s not one of the team. And, her prospects for being involved in any new or exciting initiatives are limited for the rest of her tenure.
Pam can’t wait to leave, and she has nowhere to go.
Prepare yourself. Protect yourself. Confiding in friends can be the worst thing you can do.