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Home | Got a Minute | Casual workforce | No. 107 – A friend at work betrayed my secret. How do I confront them?

No. 107 – A friend at work betrayed my secret. How do I confront them?

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17 May 2023

I have been diagnosed with cancer and recently confided this news with a colleague, who is also a friend. I explicitly told them not to tell other people at work as this news was fresh, and I needed time to comprehend. My friend said they knew people in a similar situation at work and felt it would be best for me if I told other colleagues who could then offer support. I declined this suggestion as I don’t like to mix my personal and work life. I did not want a barrage of (even well-intended) people contacting me. Several days after I told my friend, another manager at work called me to offer a catch-up as they had heard I needed support. I feel betrayed by my friend/colleague. How would you confront this person and manage the situation?

You have been sorely let down by your friend, and you do not need to talk about your personal circumstances at work until you are ready. While they may have thought they were being helpful, they did not respect you or your needs at all. They prioritised themselves – thinking they know what is best for you – above you and what you know you need right now.

I would speak with your friend and make clear you are disappointed they betrayed your trust on this matter. I would let them know that while they may have thought they were being helpful, they ignored what you expressly stated you need and have now added to what is already a difficult time. Regarding the manager who has approached you to meet, I would thank them for their concern and let them know this is not something you are comfortable discussing with work colleagues. You can let them know it is important for you to have your privacy respected, and you would prefer to rely on the support you have outside work. Do take care and all the very best through this challenging time.

I have been teaching yoga for over a decade at different studios. One of the studios I work for has converted all staff to casual employees. My question is whether our wages go up yearly at the end of every financial year, just by being casual? I am aware that the health and fitness industry isn’t well-regulated. Could you please help me shed some light on the situation?

The increasing casualisation of labour in Australia is an issue that impacts many industries, and it seems, also yours. While there are some benefits to being a casual, including being able to work for different studios, there are also downsides such as lack of secure work, and the provision of sick leave and annual leave. You can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free advice to understand your rights as a casual and whether you are covered by the Fitness Industry Award and if so, whether the studio is paying you at least the minimum amount payable under that Award.

If you are not covered by the Award, there is no automatic entitlement to an annual review of your hourly rate. However, a decent employer will want to retain their talented staff, including casuals, and remain competitive in the marketplace. If you have not had your rates reviewed in some time it could be worth a conversation with them, particularly if you can gather data on how your wages compare to other studios you work for that shows them lagging behind the rest of the market.

Since returning to Australia after 14 years overseas I found a job just before COVID. I’m now looking for another job, but I am not sure who I can put as my referees; this is the only job I’ve had since coming back, and I don’t necessarily want my boss to know I’m looking for other work. My last job is now more than five years ago and in a different field. How do I go about listing referees?

Most people find themselves in the situation you have described when they are looking for a new job and want to avoid alerting their current employer they are thinking of leaving. One way to address this when you first submit your CV is to write “Numerous references can be provided on request.” This shows you can provide referees when needed, and you can explain to the recruiter you don’t want your referees contacted until the final stage of the process. It is also fine to provide references from your last employer, even if it was in another country, and in another field, five years ago. The fact you have been with your current employer for an extended period is a good thing, and not a negative, so potential employers will understand.

Send your questions about work, careers and leadership to Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.

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