Q. I have worked for a law firm in a small town for 6 years now, and I’m ready for a change. I have been looking for a job for almost a year now and just came across one I’m really excited about, but the new attorney is very good friends with one of my current attorneys. New guy says he would love to hire me, but he is afraid of harming his friendship with my current boss. We agreed neither of us would tell anyone, but we don’t know how to handle this so that everyone is happy. My current boss is “all business”, and I don’t think he’ll be heartbroken or all that surprised that I want to leave, but how can I be sure that he won’t be mad at his friend? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
A. I., Asheville, NC
A. You’ll never be sure he won’t be mad at his friend, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing the right thing. The best route you and New Guy can go is to let Current Boss know what is going on. You’re fortunate that Current Boss is “all business” and is not likely to be upset with you or let the situation harm his relationship with New Guy. You should approach Current Boss ASAP and say something like: “Thanks for seeing me. As you know I’ve been here for six years. I have really enjoyed my time here and appreciate all you’ve done for me. Recently, I began keeping my eyes open for new opportunities, and one has turned up that whether it happens or not, you should know about. New Guy has an opening at his firm. I’m interested in it and wanted to be sure to tell you about it before you heard it from anyone else.” The key here is you want him to hear the news from you and not a third party source. If you just accept the offer from New Guy the cats out of the bag anyway, and you and he look like you were trying to hide something.
Your big mistake is agreeing not to tell anyone. It may have seemed like it was the best solution, but it really is a subterfuge. The problem with subterfuge—the white lie or anything else you care to call it—is getting caught is much worse than dealing with the situation in an honest way to begin with. Unfortunately, the time you really don’t want to get caught—the time the consequences will be very unpleasant—will be the time you will get caught. Best bet: Come clean right away so you can complete your work with Current Boss on a positive note, begin working for New Guy with a clean conscience, and give New Guy the best chance of maintaining his personal relationship with Current Boss.