By: Brook Ellis
Dear Black Girl With A Job,
A little bit of background: Some new positions have recently opened up at my job and our executive team has been huddled in conference rooms for the past few weeks going over the transition. Following one of the meetings, someone on that team dropped a post-it note with some very revealing details on it -- namely that one of my colleagues, Keisha* (*Not her real name, obviously) will be getting a new boss.
Here's my dilemma: Keisha is my work buddy and we chat all the time, on the job and sometimes outside of it. When the position above her opened up, we were both excited and she eagerly applied, ready to take the next step in her career (and honestly, she totally deserves it.) But based on that note, it doesn't look like she got the promotion.
Should I tell her what I saw before they officially announce it? I know she'll be crushed, but part of me feels like she has a right to know. Plus if she brings it up in conversation, I doubt I'll be good at faking like I don't know.
What should I do?
The Girl Who Knows Too Much
Dear The Girl Who Knows Too Much,
TELL HER. What’s her number, ‘cause I’m going to tell Keisha if you don’t. If this was top secret information they shouldn’t have written it on a post-it that was then summarily dropped on the ground.
Did you hear about the time that during a press conference on Venezuelan sanctions National Security Advisor John Bolton held a notepad with the words “5000 troops to Columbia” written on it, facing out, for the whole world to see? You probably have because every news source present went ahead and reported it.
Is it your job to keep the secrets of decision makers who are careless with information? In a word, no. However, under different circumstance my answer would change, but we’ll get to that later.
That being said I would be very clear with Keisha on how you came about this information and stress that it is unverified. “5000 troops to Columbia” does not mean that there are currently or definitely will be 5000 US troops in Columbia. We can assume we understand the meaning, but can’t claim with any certainty that we do.
Maybe I’m just messy but even if Keisha wasn’t my friend I’d still tell her. I probably would have returned the post-it to whoever abandoned it as well and let them know I saw what I saw.
I believe wholeheartedly in the free flow of information and transparency in the workplace. Withholding information and promoting an environment where employees are afraid to share information with each other is one of the ways corporate America keeps us wedged under its thumb.
I do have to issue a disclaimer. It is not always appropriate to spill the tea.
At a former job, paperwork for a business deal with my company and another major company was mysteriously and mistakenly left on my desk. Current me would tell younger me to take the documents to HR. However, at the time I didn’t know that was a viable solution. Instead, I shredded the papers and never spoke a word of the information I learned from them. Still haven’t, even though at this point it’s public knowledge.
Proprietary information should NEVER be shared, not matter how you come across it. If you work at a publicly traded company, for the government, or a place that handles sensitive information you need to be especially careful.
If the post-it had said “5,000 layoffs” I would tell you to return it to its owner and immediately go to HR to sort out how to deal with the fact that you’ve gained this knowledge.
However, in the situation you’ve outlined, in my personal, non-binding opinion, you are in the clear to tell Keisha you THINK she’s getting a new boss.
Black Girl With A Job