Is this professional suicide?

by 03 Mar 2014
As an HR practitioner, you’re privy to confidential information and bound with a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of your company – but what happens when you learn that your friend or partner’s role in the organisation is about to be made redundant?
Would you let them know in advance and breach your obligation to the company? Declare a conflict of interest ask to be taken off the case? Or simply stay silent and wait for the situation to unfold?
This was the position that Anne-Marie Orrock found herself in, when her previous in-house HR role left her facing this ethical dilemma.
“I was dating one of my line managers and I was on the executive team, so I was senior to him; not ideal, but when cupid’s bow strikes it can take you by surprise sometimes!” Orrack said.
“It became trickier when we were going through a downsizing exercise, as it started to become fairly clear that his role was being considered for redundancy.”
Orrock, now managing director of Corporate Canary HR Consulting, was privy to this information for an extended period – a total of six months.
“I found it extremely difficult because personally, of course I wanted to let him know what was coming his way, but it would have been professional suicide if I’d told him. I had to be very professional about it,” Orrock said.
At the 11th hour, her partner’s position was saved and he never knew the dilemma that Orrack had been in, as their relationship eventually ran its course.
“If he’d found out through other means, it would have created questions of loyalty and allegiance between us as a couple. But being in that position of leadership within HR means you’re privy to a lot of organisational and private employee information; my feeling was, if I told him and word got out, the perception by others in the organisation could have been, ‘Well what else is she sharing at home?’ – and rightly so.”
What would you do? Do you agree with Orrack that telling her partner would have amounted to professional suicide? Share your comments below.


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