The first time I was trusted with information about someone’s poor performance review, I came really close to warning her. I remember the relief when I heard that they had changed their minds and she was fine. I also remember the flood of “Holy Sh*t! I almost told her!” That would have been disastrous for everyone.
Over the years, I was told that so-and-so would be fired, that guy would be promoted and you-know-who would be demoted. I was told that she’d get a raise. I was told that the company was going to sink like the titanic. And I was told that he was sleeping with her and would be transferred as a result. None of these vague yet real examples happened.
One of my nicknames is The Vault because the information goes in and stays there. It doesn’t help anyone to share potentially upsetting gossip and here’s the main clincher – more often than not, the deep secret never comes to fruition.
If you feel guilty about knowing your boss’s intention to completely overhaul the department, keep in mind we never really know how it will play out. It’s amazing how things shift and move when change is afoot. It’s unpredictable and scary at times, and it’s not your responsibility to communicate for your boss.
On the other hand, if someone comes to you and states the gossip they’ve heard, it’s ok to acknowledge that you’ve heard it also and that you don’t know if it will come to fruition. It can be crazy-making when a boss pretends something is unreal; it makes it even scarier for the associate.
When someone confides in us, treat as confidential. If they then want to tell everyone, that’s their party. And if someone accuses you of withholding information, show them compassion and educate them; explain how unpredictable rumors really are. They’re scared and don’t know whom to trust. Show them that you are trustworthy by being trustworthy.