In time, what I most dreaded happened: An employee sat down in my office and said, “Is the company talking about layoffs? I’m really worried. I can’t afford to lose my job.”
We had been talking about layoffs – and people like me, a department manager, had been told not to say a word about it.
I felt I had built a solid rapport with employees. I always gave candid feedback. I always answered their questions. But now I was stuck: How could I respond without breaking confidentiality… yet also without breaking the sense of trust I felt I had built?
Saying, “No, we haven’t,” would have been untrue. Saying, “That’s not something I’m in a position to discuss,” would have been like saying, “Yes.”
What did I do?
I mumbled something about challenging market conditions and poor financial results and how every business should constantly re-evaluate its operations.
And I vowed that if I was ever completely in charge, I would never put myself – and more importantly, the people who worked with me – in the same position.