Tell my employer that my coworker is leaving?

Tell my employer that a coworker is leaving?
Dear Joan:
In the past month or so, I saw your site and found some the articles helpful and good food for thought.
Do you have any articles related to the following situation?
Recently one of my coworkers (in another functional group) confided in me that he has decided to look for opportunities elsewhere, which will leave us with a gap upon his likely departure. 
Others realize that we have a good relationship and will likely expect that I will have known that he was looking.  At times, I have considered trying to do what is right for the company by communicating that we may be at risk of losing him but I also don't want to jeopardize our relationship, based on what he has confided to me.  Any suggestions?
In my opinion, you have only one course of action: keep the confidence.
While I understand your loyalty to the company and you fear that there will be some scrambling to fill the gap, tattling on his job hunting desire could backfire in ways that could make your life miserable.
Here are some scenarios:
You tell someone that he is thinking of leaving and then he doesn’t find a job. He hears that you have tipped someone off and you have an outraged former ally who will likely let people know what you have done to him. So what have you gained? His boss will probably treat him differently (sometimes managers fire employees they discover are job hunting—believe it or not). 
He will probably be considered a short-timer, at the very least—meaning his chances of getting meaningful projects will be reduced and some of his work may even be given to someone else. Certainly, the company would start looking for his replacement…and what if he decides he doesn’t want to leave, or can’t find anything he wants? You would have lost a friend and ally, not to mention the rest of your peers.
Do you think your peers would support what you did to him? You can be sure they won’t be telling you anything confidential in the future. They would likely distance themselves from you. In private circles you would be called a snitch.
But what if he never finds out and the company does find a replacement quickly? Do you think they will look at your disclosure with thanks? Maybe, but don’t be too sure. They may mixed feelings about the fact that you betrayed what a friend and colleague told you in confidence…not a mark in your favor in the trust and collegiality categories. Believe me, many executives are aware of their peers bail out plans—and they are smart enough to keep their mouths shut. They know the next one to look may be themselves.
So, regarding your fear that the company will be angry that you didn’t tell anyone he was looking? Forget it. He may have kept that to himself—there is no proof he told you. And even if he did, your response can be, “He said he might look for something else and he asked me to keep it confidential and I honored that promise.”
The bottom line is that the company will survive without him. People will step up to fill the void—they always do, and the company will go on.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
About Joan Lloyd
Joan Lloyd & Associates provide
FREE subscription to receive Joan's article by email

Email Joan to submit your question for consideration for publication, request permission to reprint an article for distribution, or for information about carrying Joan Lloyd's weekly column in your publication, or on your Internet or Intranet site. Visit to search an archive of more than 1700 of Joan's articles.
© Joan Lloyd & Associates, Inc.