Keeping Others’ Secret
In a previous post, Larry asked you to test a game he and others were developing on the side. In the last post, you contemplated saying ‘no’ and, moreover, telling your boss Malcolm what was happening. Doing so wouldn’t turn out well for anyone. So maybe the best bet is to say ‘no’ but keep it secret from Malcolm.
You say no. Things go back to normal?
That’s what you’d expect, right? You’ve said no politely, you’ll get back to work and Larry will get back to his. And if Larry is a nice guy, that’s probably true. He’ll just move onto the next tester candidate.
But what if Larry is just the littlest bit paranoid? As he might be, since he knows he’s engaging in a fireable offence. A whole different scenario could play out.
What if Larry is paranoid?
Larry comes by your station the next morning.
|Larry:||Remember, what we talked about was just between us.|
|You:||Of course, you can trust me.|
|Larry:||You know, I don’t get you. You seem like a smart guy and yet you’re turning down a chance to get a leg up.|
|You:||I appreciate the offer…|
|Larry:||Afraid of a little hard work?|
|You:||Of course not.|
|You:||It’s just…it’s just…well, I’ve signed an employment contract—|
|Larry:||Like I didn’t?|
|Larry:||Oh, I get it, Mr. Holier Than Thou. (eyes narrow) Or are you playing a different game?|
|You:||What? What game? I’m not—|
|Larry:||Yeah, I bet. I’ll be watching you, guy.|
Well, that went well. But not atypical of what can happen. When initially you don’t fall in line, people like Larry assume you’re a bit stupid or chicken. But then, because you know the secret but have refused to be part of it, they start to view you with suspicion. They don’t believe your promises of silence because they judge your motives by their own (What’s this guy’s game? Is he gonna spill the beans?). They go from suspicion to active mistrust to actions that could hurt you or your career.
What to do with the secret?
It’s not easy, is it? And just to reiterate, if Larry is a decent, non-paranoid guy, none of this might happen. But if he isn’t—or just wants to protect the investment he’s made—even though keeping silent seems like the least confrontational option, there are still land mines. Is the answer to say ‘yes`? Next post.