Q: I’m unhappy at work and am getting ready to look for a change. I confided in a team member so that she could be prepared for additional responsibilities. Unfortunately, she accidentally let it slip. How do I manage the effect of this; I’m still working on my resume and don’t have anything else lined up yet. — Laine, 40, VP, customer operations
A: Oops. There’s a lesson here about keeping your cards close to your chest until you are ready to play them.
While it’s too late for you on that, you can manage this situation.
First, make sure your relationship with your team member is OK. She is likely mortified at her indiscretion. Accidents happen, though, so it’s best to let her know that you are not blaming her.
You may be frustrated or angry with her, but asking someone to keep a secret puts a burden on them. Focus on moving from annoyance to compassion for her situation.
Consider, too, why you told her. If you don’t even have a resume yet, your reasoning about “additional responsibilities” seems thin. Perhaps you were looking for emotional support, which isn’t really fair. Or at some subconscious level, you may have been hoping the cat would be let out of the bag, forcing you into action. Again, not fair to her.
Assess the consequences of this disclosure, thinking about who is now aware and their level of interest in news about your plan.
If she slipped to your boss, this could be a bigger deal than if she told a lunch buddy from a different team.
Let’s assume it is your boss. Will news about your dissatisfaction be a surprise? If so, the lack of communication between you is its own problem, and this disclosure could present an opportunity for them to address your concerns if they are so inclined.
If you have been transparent about your concerns, this shouldn’t have come as a shock. You could try positioning your actions as succession-planning to ensure team stability whenever the time would come for a change.
Realistically, this could affect how you are perceived at the company. You may be seen as a lame duck with less influence and authority because of the clear signal that you are on your way out.
It should also amp up the urgency you bring to your job search.
Create a work plan with milestones and concrete steps you will follow to achieve them. Set appointments with yourself to get the work done. Be realistic about the time that’ll be needed to find a job at a similar level.
Get support from a professional, whether it’s a coach, community program, or other resource. They can help you clarify your hopes for a next step. In addition, you can build in some accountability to help you stay on track.
It’s a bit of a trope, but set yourself up to choose what you are going toward rather than just running away. That will help you avoid repeating this situation in the future.