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Monday, April 14, 2008

Tattle Tales

I am the HR and Finance Manager of a small company, 15 employees. I have been at this job for 6 months and my previous employment focused more on finance so my HR experience is very limited. The issue that I am having is that I know one of my co-workers has been job-hunting and has recently gone on a third interview with one particular company. How do I know?...She told me. She and I are quite chummy and the atmosphere is the office is very informal and by the way, everyone in the office is hates our director. I'm not quite sure why she chose to disclose this information to me. This co-worker is the person responsible for planning and executing a big fund raising event that my company holds every year so if she gets offered this new job and accepts it, it will leave my company royally screwed being that the event is held at the end of May. She told me that she would try to wait it out until after the fund raiser if offered the new job, but if the new company could not wait 2 months for her to start, she would leave with short notice to our boss. Our boss will have a fit is this girls leaves before June at the earliest.

As HR Manger, am I responsible for telling my boss what my co-worker is up to or would this be considered confidential? I don't want this to later come back to bite me if she does leave.

This is where being the HR Manager at a small company really stinks--it's too easy to be friends with people you shouldn't be friends with.

First of all, that everyone hates your director should be irrelevant to your decision making process. He may be a jerk and you may be looking for a new job, but he's the boss and you all choose to work there.

Secondly, everyone is an at-will employee (presumably), so if she leaves, she leaves, and even small businesses need to be aware of the possibility of an employee leaving at any time, even when huge projects are going on. There is rarely a "good" time to leave.

So, none of this helps you. But, start thinking of this in a positive light--she cares enough about the business to let HR know when she is planning to leave. This is probably not her motivation, but it should help you to be nicer about it.

Let me ask you this question, what if this person was in a car accident and ended up in the hospital for a month? How would you manage? You would, you know, because everyone always does. Everyone would pitch in and work to get the job done.

So, here are my suggestions--which should be worth what you paid for them. (Thanks for the large check, by the way!)

1. Sit down with your friend and say, "I really appreciate you telling me about your plans. And I really appreciate that if you are offered this job, that you'll try to see this fund raiser through. But, we need to plan on how we'll act if you have to leave prior to that. Of course, you know I have to tell the director about your plans, because this will affect the whole company." (Please note, I did not suggest throwing more money at her to get her to stay--this only prolongs the inevitable. I'm not a big fan of counter offers, unless, of course, you are offering me more money.)

2. Work with her on how to best handle her responsibilities should she get the new job and leave. Who would take over what? Where are her current plans stored? Are they on a shared drive, or does she have it all in her head? What vendors have you used in the past and where are the old contracts?

3. Once you have a working plan in place for how you would handle an absence, then go to your boss and say, "Jane has been looking for a new job. I don't know if she'll get it, but if she does we'll need to be prepared to handle the fund raiser without her. Here's how we can do it."

4. The director may be irrational and angry that someone would dare leave. He may threaten to fire your friend immediately. Remember, your job is to do what is right for the business and the people. By having a plan already in place, you're going to be able to stop some of the hysteria that would surround a situation like this.

5. Hope for the best.

If you don't treat it like a problem, others will be less likely to think of it as a problem. Just make sure that you remain confident and rational throughout the process. Point out to your boss that your friend respected the business enough to give a good amount of advanced warning.

Aren't I little miss sunshine this morning? I think it's because I haven't filed my taxes yet and I'm doing everything I can to avoid them. Being happy and cheery is helping me to forget that I have a huge tax bill.


sailorman said...

"He may threaten to fire your friend immediately."

And if he does... well, that's a good time to point out that what this employee did is the best possible thing for the company. Actually, a better time to point that out would be right smack at the beginning of the company. "Our employees currently trust us and care for our company, and want to do the right thing even when they have decided to seek opportunities elsewhere. In that vein, you should know..."

After all, does he want every single future employee to give short notice? No? Then he'd better get on board with this one.

Unknown said...

I agree with Sailorman's comment.

I also think that if the employee does get the axe, then she will have at least learned the folly of sharing her job hunt with the company's *HR Manager*. A harsh way to learn it, true, but nonetheless it's a valuable lesosn.

Anonymous said...

EvilHR Lady - good advice, but I would take a slightly different approach. Since this manager has placed the HR person in a difficult situation, I would tell the manager that they should communicate their plans to the Director and if she won't, then the HR manager will. This is the key to monkey management. Do not let the monkey jump to the HR manager's shoulder if it can be avoided.

The manager knows that a problem will be created with her likely departure, she created this situation, and has put the HR Manager in a difficult position. Some will think expecting the manager to inform a difficult boss about her intentions is unrealistic (but it can be minimized with your suggested pre-planning), but she owes a responsibility to her employer where she receives her paycheck.

It is a longshot and the HR manager will likely have to be the messenger. Nonetheless, I'm always for having the employee own their problems and for coming up with suggested solutions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your feedback... Being inexperiences in HR, your opinion really does help. My co-worker has not officially been offered the new position yet and has not disclosed her plans of leaving to our boss yet and it has been one month since i have know what she is up to. I am definately going to have a conversation with our boss this week about the possibility of this co-worker leaving. I think there may be consequinces on my end of the staff not trusting or alienating me but i know that this is my job and i this is ultimately going to bite me in the behind if a solution is not addressed sooner than later.
Thanks for your feedback!
The Rat

Anonymous said...

Rat - good idea to go forward. You must look out for the good of the company (and yourself). You don't want the departing manager to say to the Director: "hey, I told the HR manager a month ago so at least I gave you some notice, indirect as it is." You'll then be holding the bag!