CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I think I may be in big trouble and I don't know what to do. Last week, I accidentally let something slip to a journalist who covers our company. He asked me a question that I did not quite understand, and I thought he knew more than he actually did about a big announcement we have coming up. When I answered the question, it became clear that we were on different tracks. I tried to back pedal as best I could without letting him know that I had slipped up.

Q: I think I may be in big trouble and I don't know what to do. Last week, I accidentally let something slip to a journalist who covers our company. He asked me a question that I did not quite understand, and I thought he knew more than he actually did about a big announcement we have coming up. When I answered the question, it became clear that we were on different tracks. I tried to back pedal as best I could without letting him know that I had slipped up.

He did not seem to catch on that I had given anything away, but I can't be absolutely sure - some of these reporters are great actors. If the news breaks before the company is ready, I will be in a lot of trouble.

Should I confront him and beg him not to use the information, or just hope that he didn't pick up on my error? And should I tell my CEO that the reporter might have the story?

Ms. T, Cleveland

A: First, you have a responsibility to alert your CEO to the possibility that this story could come out. Be frank with your management team about what happened - it will not help you to be evasive about the problem.

Dealing with the reporter is a far trickier proposition. He may not have realized that you were giving something away. But it is really unsafe for you to assume that.

As I see it you have two choices. One is you can offer the reporter an exclusive on the news when it is ready for release. That way you can be reasonably sure that he will not break it before you are ready.

Your second option is to just sweat it out. It is extremely unlikely that the reporter would write an article based entirely on your slip-up - he would almost certainly come back to you for a comment from your CEO.

Prepare for this contingency and no one will be surprised.

Q: The PR firm I work for has been going through some tough times. We have had a couple of rounds of layoffs. We have all gotten used to working with fewer hands, and have really tried to maintain a great standard of excellence for our clients.

The problem is that the senior managers of the agency do not seem to respect the effort we have all made to keep things running. If anything, we get more grief than ever, and our resources have been cut so much it is amazing that we can even function.

For example, we are constantly running out of office supplies because the management has become stingy about ordering them. But if we run out to get supplies from a local retailer, we are criticized for adding the cost to our expenses. Our clippings service has been switched to a cheaper but less effective supplier, and sometimes we miss stories about our clients, which makes us look bad. All this penny pinching is just ruining our morale. Am I being too sensitive? What can we do to make management see the light?

Mr. A, Salt Lake City, UT

A: Your concern is just. I fear many firms may risk damaging staff morale with thoughtless penny pinching. Not that you shouldn't be prepared to sacrifice, but one would hope that senior management would put some effort and thought into cutbacks to avoid situations like the ones you describe.

My advice is to raise your concerns with your direct manager. Outline your problems in the context of client service issues. If you demonstrate how poor processes are taking time away from client service, your bosses will soon pay attention.

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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