Lead with the Truth

I’m currently applying for a position within my company. I’m not confident I will be the final candidate so I don’t want to make it known to those I work closely with that I have applied. But I have had some co-workers ask, “Did you apply?” What is the best way to answer this question with tact? I could be honest and say, “Yes.” But there is a big rumor mill in my place of employment and some backstabbing so I really don’t want it to be known at this time. Any suggestions would be helpful. Thank you!

M. E., Richmond, Virginia

You could lie and say, “No.” But inevitably you will get caught, the most obvious time being when you get the job you supposedly didn’t apply for. Having to deal with the fallout and recovering from the lie would be more difficult, I think, than dealing with co-workers if you tell them the truth.

You could brush them off with a question like, “What job?” or you could feign indecision: “I’m considering it.” But again, with your application already submitted, these answers look lame in the face of reality.

Sometimes we over-think and over-worry a situation when the answer is right there in front of us. Fact: you’ve applied. And fact: your co-workers are going to hear about it somehow. So grab the bull by the horns and say, “Yes, I did apply. I may not get it, but if I don’t apply, then I’m sure not to get it. So I threw my hat in the ring.”


I think the “but” in your question is the real issue because you’re worried that the rumor mill or some backstabbing may occur as a result of your applying. Yet, being honest has the best chance of countering any rumors or backstabbing. Once rumors start it is very difficult to stop them so nipping them in the bud is to your advantage. Your best chance to do that is to lead with the truth: you applied for the job.

Backstabbing is just as insidious. However, by putting your candidacy out in the open, any attempt by a coworker to sabotage your application will be more obvious. You can’t cry “foul” if you’re claiming you’re not in the game. Again, being open and honest is your best defense.

Whether you get the job or not, applying is good practice. It shows your boss or supervisor that you want to take on more responsibility and that you intend to grow in the company. It puts coworkers on notice that you’re serious about your work. Good luck. I hope you get it.

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