my employer heard I was interviewing and confronted me

A reader writes:

I was approached by HR and my new supervisor last week during my lunch hour. She acknowledged that I have been doing excellent work for the last year and a half. HR explained to me that she received word that I went on an interview with another company and for that reason they have decided to post my position to eventually hire someone else. I was floored that they found out, but I did not deny the fact that I did indeed interview with another company. During the application process with this company, I did in fact request that my current employer NOT be contacted, but now that is all hindsight. What is even more troubling is that the company had no plans to hire me anyway, nor did I really consider leaving just yet.

HR also added other irksome statements to me saying that I “broke their trust,” “I failed to let them know I was unhappy,” “you’re calling off sick to interview,” and “I am requesting a two-week notice.” I defended my position by stating that I was actually quite happy with my role and that I haven’t made plans to go anywhere. I also defended my time off by stating that what I do on my days off is my business. When I call off sick – which is rare, it is because I am actually sick. The truth is that I used a vacation day to interview and it was approved in advance.

This conversation really got out of hand as they were both grilling me on specifics like “so what made you go to an interview?,” “did you use time off to go?,” and “how did the interview go?” Again, I reiterated my point: I do not have plans on leaving anywhere or anytime soon. I understand your concern but I will not be questioned on the specifics of my time off from here. If you post my position, I will consider this a direct threat and will make plans to leave.” I also asked was this the only single reason why they are considering posting my position – no answer. With that being said, they stated that they will let me know their final decision next week. I am pissed.

I understand that I work for an at-will employer, but this situation is clearly large assumption by them and they are reacting rather preemptively. I requested to speak to the CEO (who gave the directive). He told me that he will talk with me later. What’s your take on this? How would you handle this and come out a winner?

Ouch. This might not be salvageable, actually — that conversation sounds way too adversarial.

This is an area where your interests as an employee and their interests as your employer are in direct conflict. It’s (often) in your best interests to be able to look for another job without your employer knowing about it, but it’s in their best interests not to be blindsided when you leave and to be able to hire a replacement before you do.

Smart employers handle this by making it safe for employees to give generous notice periods. They create an environment where employees can speak up when they’re starting to think about moving on, because they know that they won’t be badgered or pushed out early — and as a result, those employers often get months of notice, which allows them to structure the hiring of the replacement so that the new person starts with a week or two of overlap with the exiting person, which both helps with training and eliminates the vacancy period they’d otherwise have. But more typically, employers don’t do that and so instead end up with just the standard few weeks of notice, which leaves them scrambling to cover the vacancy and rushing to hire. And that creates a situation where their interests and yours are at odds: You want to keep your job search secret, because you’ll be penalized for it, and they want to know about it in order to keep their business running as smoothy as possible.

Anyway, back to you. Your company didn’t handle this well — but, well, neither did you.

Let’s tackle them first: Accusing you of breaking their trust is over the top, and the whole interrogation was silly. They could have sat you down and said, “here’s what we heard, and we want to talk to you about what’s going on. Is there anything that’s driving you to search that we can address? And if not but you are thinking about leaving, we need to start planning for that.” Or they could have not mentioned what they heard at all, but still looked at ways to retain you (if you’re someone they care about retaining, which you may or may not be) and/or started planning for the possibility of you leaving sometime soon. (The last part isn’t necessarily great for you, but it’s certainly their prerogative to do and sometimes necessary.)

But you missed an opportunity to smooth things over. Saying things like “what I do on my days off is my business” and “if you post my position, I will consider this a direct threat” didn’t help the situation. That’s an adversarial posture, and while you may have been perfectly right on principle, you lost on politics. A response more likely to get an outcome in your favor would have been something like: “You know, I did interview. It fell in my lap and I figured there was nothing wrong with hearing them out. But I’m very happy working here, which I told them, and I’m not planning to leave.” (And I’d couple this with an understanding of why they might be concerned that you’re job searching after only a year and a half in the position.)

Once you’re at the point that you’re saying things to your manager like “if you do X, I will consider a direct threat,” the war has pretty much been lost.

Again, they were out of line. Not in bringing it up with you at all, and not in wanting to begin searching for your replacement if you’re about to leave, but in the way they talked to you about it. But your stance escalated things rather than defusing the situation.

As for what to do now, well, you can’t go back in time. You could initiate another conversation where you try to backtrack a bit — perhaps saying something like, “I was taken aback the other day and reacted more strongly than I should have. The reality is that I’m not actively searching and I’m very happy here and have no plans to leave.” However, I’d only say that if it’s basically true. If you say this and then leave in the next few months, it won’t reflect well on you (and will harm the relationship, possibly even burning the bridge somewhat — or at least charring it).

However this goes, though, I’m not sure your tenure there looks great. It’s going to depend a lot on the feel of your next conversations, so if you do want to stay there, I think your best bet is to be fairly conciliatory (whether or not you feel you should have to).

Some related posts:
what to do when you overhear an employee job-searching
can a prospective employer tip off my boss that I’m job-searching?
how much notice should you give when you resign?

{ 292 comments… read them below }

  1. GrumpyBoss*

    Wow, what an oil and water situation. I hope it works out, OP.

    I’ll never understand when an employer gets in my face about leaving a job – it just happened to me at the job I left last summer. The whole interrogation of, “why didn’t you let us know”. I always want to say that the reason is because people leave managers, not companies, but that’s career suicide, so why on earth would I say that? Everyone is different, but if I’m talking to a company to the point of having an interview, I have already resigned myself to feeling like I need to move on from my current employer. At that point, why continue?


    As a manager, I always feel blindsided when someone resigns without ever showing signs of displeasure. Yes, I realize that is in direct conflict to what I typed above. In some cases, I’m thinking, “good, they don’t want to be here, then I rather fill that position with someone who does want to be here”. In other cases, especially when the employee is very strong, I feel upset that they didn’t at least give me an opportunity to address what is wrong.

    So I see both sides of this clearly. It’s a delicate balance looking for a new job while staying under the radar of your employer finding out. This is a clear cut case of why people feel they need to be sneaky while interviewing. I think it is fair to say that your current job will no longer be a healthy environment even if you do smooth it over. Hopefully you find something that is a better fit, and soon!

    1. Who are you??*

      I like that comment “people leave managers, not companies”. It’s the truth for sure!!!

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I think the reason most employees “don’t show signs of displeasure,” is because they feel it will brand them a troublemaker, complainer or worse open up reasons for management to get rid of them. It’s always a risk to put yourself out there and speak up-even at a “good” company! And sometimes they already know the higher salary or advancement is impossible and there really is nothing to say.

      Plus, it can be awkward to stick around for weeks on end when you’ve given your notice. You’ll find out quicky that you haven’t got much to do as you won’t be included on new projects.

    3. anonyone*

      Sometimes people leave because they want something new, or to have a better commute, or for family reasons. It’s not always something that could be fixed if told to the employer.

      1. Fee*

        Yeah I was going to say this.

        Also sometimes it is not something the manager can feasibly change. When I left OldJob I was asked by boss’ boss if there was anything he could do to make me stay. The truthful answer would have have been ‘You could change the toxic company culture by clearing out the entire senior management team. Including yourself.’ Not really gonna happen!

      1. Leaver*

        Well, I’m planning to leave the company, not manager, because even after 3 years of valid proof, I have not had a single raise. Now my salary is severely lagging behind the general level, and it’s time to fix it.

        My manager is quite nice and friendly, though.

    4. TootsNYC*

      “As a manager, I always feel blindsided when someone resigns without ever showing signs of displeasure.”

      I never do. I always assume that the people who work for me are open to other jobs. And I assume that they’ll leave sometime. Eventually. If only for variety’s sake! Let alone things like: • it may be the only way to move up or get more authority or autonomy; • it may be the only way to get a big jump in pay (by making a big jump in responsibility) • they may want a different commute, different benefits.
      Sure, they might be leaving because they don’t like working for me (I don’t completely buy the idea that people ONLY leave their job because of their manager; sometimes they want to move up). But they’re allowed to do so.
      I don’t own them!

      It’s ridiculous in the extreme to be upset that someone is looking for a new job.

      And as Alison points out–the more sane the manager and employer are, the more likely they are to get a longer notice period, as well as more thorough and proactive assistance with the transition. If my subordinate leaves, and I’m treating them well, the subordinate may actually do some of the recruiting for me, or do a majorly good job documenting procedures, etc.

  2. KarenT*

    Alison, what would you recommend employers do when they learn an employee is interviewing elsewhere? Ignore it? Ask the employee directly?
    This happened to me once (as a manager) and honestly, I looked the other way. I’ve never been sure if that was the right thing to do.

    1. bee*

      Yes, look other way- you don’t own employee. Or think about how you would like to be treated?

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Now I have Lesley Gore singing “You Don’t Own Me” stuck in my head…

        If I were job-hunting and my boss got wind of it, I think I would feel awkward if she approached me about it – but if it were in a spirit of “We appreciate what you do here; is there a way that we could give you the things you want in a job that are making you look elsewhere?” then it could wind up being a good conversation.

        Fortunately I’m in a career (teaching) where long notice periods are common and accepted – teachers will usually let their employer know in the spring that they won’t be returning in the fall, but except in cases of gross misconduct, medical emergency, or the like, you always work through the end of the school year.

    2. CAA*

      I’m facing this right now and also stewing over how/if to address it. I have an employee who’s been here 1.5 years. This is his second job out of college, with his first having been only 1 year, so he’s fairly junior. The reasons I suspect he’s interviewing are: he’s been doing a lot of “work at home” days due to last minute appointments; he has several new LinkedIn connections who are recruiters; there’s been some recent turnover in the group he works with (one person reported to me, two others did not). The company is financially stable though, and we’re not at risk of having layoffs.

      He’s doing good work, but not at the superstar level. If I did lose him he’s replaceable in a timeframe where the business wouldn’t be disrupted too much. We talk about his career goals in our one-on-ones and I’ve been giving him opportunities to stretch, and he’s doing fine, but he’s not ready to be promoted. He’s getting paid appropriately for his current experience level and skillset (which is not to say he couldn’t get more $ elsewhere). So, what do I say to him if I do have this conversation?

      1. PEBCAK*

        It doesn’t sound like you care enough to have the conversation :-)

        If you don’t want to keep him, though, you can still have a conversation in which you try to find out what he’s up to and make it safe for him to give additional notice.

        1. Jazzy Red*


          CAA, you had me until you said “If I did lose him he’s replaceable in a timeframe where the business wouldn’t be disrupted too much.” That says just how much you don’t care who fills that role. You’re not going to attract any superstars with that.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        He doesn’t sound like someone you’re going to be too upset to lose, so I don’t know that there’s any need to bring it up. I wouldn’t really want to put a lot of energy into this one, from the sounds of it — I mean, he’s junior, not a superstar, you’re not going to be too upset to lose him, and he’s already looking after 18 months. That combination, to me, is one where you can just let it play out.

      3. Celeste*

        Well, if you’re going to job-hop, youth is the time to do it before you are all encumbered.

        If he goes, you might be able to get a superstar. But I’d still want to hear his rationale to make sure there isn’t something going on that you should know about. I wouldn’t want to say I’d been looking at his LinkedIn list, but I might go there with all of the turnover lately and let him know he’s valued by you (if that’s true). He may be having a reaction to the turnover, thinking the others were bailing for a reason, or maybe he’s been in contact with them and thinks the grass is greener somewhere else. You could let him know you want to hear from him if he isn’t happy, but clearly you can’t force him to say he’s interviewing. I’m not sure if you want to go there with the work from home and last-minute appointments, unless you just want to ask if everything is okay since this is a departure from his normal scheduling.

        1. BRR*

          I feel with some organizations turnover breeds turnover. My last job was like that. Nobody wanted to stay because there was such high turnover.

          1. Celeste*

            Turnover is a compelling force; it reminds me of how jumpy couples get when there has been a divorce in their circle of friends. Both situations change the dynamic of what it’s like going forward.

            I think that on a job, upward mobility counts for a lot. Where I’ve been, it’s hard for people to get a promotion so they leave to accomplish that.

          2. Bea W*

            It seems like that does happen, but in a lot of cases i think it’s less purely turnover breeding turnover than it is disgruntled employees and fluctuations in the market that allow a bunch of people to get out around the same time. I’ve also witnessed the phenomenum of unhappy downtrodden folks in a toxic environment being inspired by a couple people who said enough is enough and successfully manage to find something better. There are also a few people in any group whose leaving is like a red flag or some signal that it’s time to move on to greener pastures. “Wow Wakeen is leaving?! Hmmm…”

            1. De Minimis*

              At my workplace, people get “retirement fever.” One person retires and then there seems to be a wave of them.

          3. Jazzy Red*

            Young people used to work at my company to get experience, then leave to get more money. I couldn’t really blame them.

        2. Koko*

          I agree with this, but in this instance (where you don’t particularly care to retain a junior/average employee) I’d wait until his exit interview to probe for the reasons that he left instead of alerting him that I was aware of his job search and asking to know the reasons up front.

      4. Observer*

        Well, why would you have the conversation? It doesn’t sound like you are ready to make any real changes to keep this guy, because you don’t think he’s worth more than you are already giving him.

        I think I would just start keeping my eye out on my network and if something interesting shows up, then have that conversation. Otherwise, it sounds like you can afford to wait till he makes his move.

        1. Celeste*

          I wonder if he thinks it’s part of a manager’s job to try to pre-empt turnover. Personally, I think it depends on the position. Entry-level spots usually do have high turnover.

      5. Betsy*

        I read a useful distinction on this at some point, and I wish I remembered the source so I could reference it. It talked about good turnover and bad turnover.

        Good turnover is when the below-average employees find their way out to look for greener pastures elsewhere: the people who are chronic complainers, or who want to coast, or who have unrealistic expectations about promotion and salary. When you get good turnover, you replace a bad employee with either another bad employee (zero net effect) or a good employee (good net effect).

        Bad turnover is when above-average employees leave because the company isn’t supporting them or they feel unappreciated or you aren’t giving them what they’re worth. Bad turnover replaces a bad good employee with another good one (zero net effect) or a bad one (bad net effect).

        Insufficient good turnover will lead to bad turnover. You don’t want to discourage all turnover indiscriminately.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            If the new employee is even marginally better than the old one, it could be zero net effect or positive net effect. Mainly, though, the point that turnover is often good, not bad, if it means replacing someone with a higher performer, too often gets lost.

            1. Dan*

              Well sure, but the person I responded to said “replacing a bad employee with a bad employee has zero net effect” and calls that good turnover(?). Well no, you spent a bunch of money in recruiting and training training costs in the process. I hardly call that zero net effect.

              Same with replacing a good employee with another good employee. (And also, did you have to pay more in the process? We’ve all heard stories where internal raises suck, but the company will pay an external candidate 20% more. Is that good turnover?) There’s certainly recruiting and training costs involved, so it’s not obvious to me that there’s zero net effect.

              1. Betsy*

                I wasn’t suggesting that replacing bad with bad is a good turnover. I was saying that replacing a bad employee leaves you with at worst another bad employee and at best a good employee, so the aggregate effect over several rounds of this is good, even if sometimes the new hire doesn’t work out, either.

                In contrast, when you’re losing good people, even if you replace them with mostly good people, a few duds will lead to a bad net effect.

                In other words, if your hiring process leads you to hire employees who are a 7/10 on average, losing the 9s is going to hurt you in the long run and losing the 5s is going to help you in the long run.

                I admittedly didn’t describe it very well.

              2. Mpls*

                Either way the person is leaving and you have to train whoever comes in to replace them. It was a comparison of types of turnover, not a comparison between keeping a new person and hiring. So, the costs associated with hiring a new person are moot in this case.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Agree so much. I am often a little baffled when people are shocked! shocked! that someone is looking to leave. Especially if it’s an entry- or mid-level employee, that person is unlikely to be at that exact same desk, doing that exact same work, for the rest of their life. Is that what employers expect? People evolve, and their job needs evolve with them. In my experience (primarily white collar, government, consulting, and nonprofit which, obviously is not the whole world), everyone’s going to leave EVENTUALLY, even if the company and positions are wonderful.

        2. nyxalinth*

          Call centers have a lot of bad turnover. You’re in the middle taking crap from both ends (management and customers), the pay usually isn’t much above minimum wage, and then on top of it, a horde of people will quit, putting more stress on those who stay, leading to more quitting. Its why so many call centers run their ads every couple of weeks, or even every week.

      6. De Minimis*

        I think you’re handling it well. You are doing what is reasonable to keep him, but junior staff sometimes leave and that’s just part of it. I don’t know that there’s a need for anything more than what you’re doing—you’re already discussing his goals and giving him reasonable opportunities–and you seem pretty well prepared in case he does go.

      7. OhNo*

        I’ve never been a manager, so I can’t answer offer that perspective. As a recent college grad who has been in the employee’s situation, however, I can give three suggestions for when you do talk to him:

        1. Be clear that you think he is job searching. Don’t try to hint at it or beat around the bush without ever saying it. Just say, “Hey, it looks to me like you are searching for a new job. Are you?”. Try to make it clear that you aren’t going to pre-emptively fire him or punish him in any way if he is job hunting (unless that’s not true). He may deny it, that’s fine. Either way just say, “Well, if/when you ever do decide to leave, I hope you will give me as much notice as you can so we can plan for the changeover.”

        2. Ask if there’s anything you can do to make him happier in his current position, and be honest with him about whether you can really accommodate the requests or not. It might just be that he wants a new coffee pot, or another two days of vacation a year, or something.

        3. If he admits to job searching (or even if he doesn’t, if you have a fairly pleasant relationship), be honest about how it looks to employers to have a recent grad who only spent a year in one job and a year and a half in another. If he leaves this soon from the position with you, it will start to look like a pattern. Again, if you have a fairly close/pleasant relationship, you could even suggest a minimum tenure at your company and detail possible raises/promotions for that time (e.g.: “In this business, companies like to see a tenure of at least five years per company, so that would be another 3 or 4 years here. If you decide to stay that long, we may promote you to X position if your work quality justifies it. Here’s how you can get that promotion. Also, we can consider giving you a raise of X% in another year/18 months. Here’s how you can make sure to earn that raise.”)

        These are just suggestions based on what I wish people had told me, some of which I have, thankfully, since learned here on AAM. :)

        1. TootsNYC*

          I would never put an employee in the position of having to answer the question “are you looking for another job?”

          I would say, “I notice you’re taking a lot of time off, and if it’s that you’re job hunting, I just wanted to say, I value you as an employee and would hate to lose you. If there’s something I can do to make you happy at this job, I hope you would let me know. Think about it, and come talk to me if that’s the case.”

      8. Joey*

        Not all turnover is bad. It sounds as though you’re doing everything right. Sometimes you just can’t justify giving employees what they want. And that’s okay.

        I would just want to understand why he’s leaving. Not that I would necessarily change anything. I’d just want to make sure it was something I wasn’t willing to change. At that point you just have to understand that you aren’t in a position to give him what he wants. And thats okay, no stewing necessary.

      9. Camellia*

        “Recent” turnover in his group, three people have left, and he may be looking to leave also.

        I think I would be concerned about what may be causing the turnover and try to address that, rather than trying to figure out if I stand to lose one more person. And in addition to what may be prompting the recent turnover, has his work changed because of it? Increased workload? Difficulty in completing work because the knowledge base has walked out the door?

      10. Ed*

        That’s interesting you mention his new LinkedIn contacts. I always wondered whether managers notice those things. I add recruiters all the time and often think about that new connection showing up in my manager’s list of updates.

        1. YALM*

          Some managers do, and some don’t.

          We have a VP who does and then makes a point of commenting to people about their updates and new contacts and asking them if they’re job hunting. By design, it has a chilling effect. At least said VP is direct about it so you know it’s going to happen.

          I notice but don’t dwell on what my employees do on LinkedIn, and my peer managers are equally hands-off with their employees.

          1. MissDisplaced*

            OMG! That’s disturbing! I would feel like my privacy has been invaded to be grilled about my LinkedIn contacts.

            1. Neeta*

              Assuming that you are a contact with the VP, on Linkedin, and have not disabled updates… it’s unreasonable to feel like your privacy is being violated. After all, the VP must be “bombarded” with these updates, so I can understand why he’d feel threatened. Incidentally, that’s why I disabled updates on my account.

              1. YALM*

                In this case, the VP is an ass who chooses to be insulted if someone resigns and threatens never to let that person work here again.

                Also, turning off activity broadcasts limits the usefulness of a networking tool.

                This is simply anecdotal evidence that some managers can be trusted to be professional about things like LinkedIn updates, and some will act like children.

                1. Neeta*

                  I’m not saying that the VP is right in the way he is acting, but when you are broadcasting the people you’re adding to anyone and everyone you should be prepared for this type of backlash.

      11. Sunflower*

        I would only address him and just talk about his general happiness at work. Some people are saying to be direct and say ‘I know you’re job searching’. I would not do that because if the employee ever came from a bad environment where a phrase like that would send them running for the hills then they might, well run for the hills. It doesn’t sound like you care too much so a conversation really isn’t necessary.

        But if you’re in a situation where you do care, I’d still recommend to not flat out say it. Unless you have proof that he has gone on a job interview, it can sound intrusive or like you’re monitoring them. I think it’s possible to get your questions answered without having to even bring up the possibility of him job searching.

        In either situation, it’s possible there’s nothing you can do. In my first job out of college, I was in the wrong industry. I looked at tons of different possibilities with the company and I wouldn’t have been happy with any of it. At my current job, my company is way too small and I need something bigger with my advancement available. Just know where to spend your energy trying to retain people and where you should let it go.

      12. CAA*

        Thank you all for the great perspectives. To address several at once …

        It’s true that I won’t be too upset if he does leave. I like him very much on a personal level, and so do his co-workers, but I learned long ago not to take other people’s career decisions personally. I work very hard

        My main concern is whether the turnover around him is pushing him into making a move and whether his leaving might push others whom I do value more. While I don’t think turnover is always a bad thing, or that I should necessarily work to prevent it, I also don’t want it to snowball out of control. The turnover is for a variety of reasons. Across the company, we’ve had a few people moving out of the area; one person who was chronically unhappy because we’re not a Fortune 100 company like the one he came from; one person who wanted to come back part-time after paternity leave and we were unable to accommodate that; one person who had skills we don’t need that were worth a lot of money to someone else; etc. There’s nothing consistent. It’s touched several teams during the past two months and his has been affected more than most.

        His LinkedIn contacts just show up on my feed as “xxx has added new contacts”, and I can see they’re recruiters. I never initiate a connection with people who report to me, so he is definitely the one who connected with me.

        We do have another one-on-one next week, so I think I’ll just be reassuring and ask if he has any concerns himself or has heard of any concerns floating around the department.

        1. CAA*

          Sorry, lost the end of that first paragraph. I work very hard to make sure that we have enough cross-training so that we have several people who can pick up others’ work for a while if they do leave so it doesn’t all fall too heavily on one.

      13. Neeta*

        Though I realize that this is only part of the reason, I’m wondering if adding recruiters is such a bad things.

        See, I always add recruiters on Linkedin (i.e. I accept their contact request), even though more often than not I end up refusing most of their offers.

        The way I see it is like this: in my first job, I basically though the sun was shining out of every… part of the company, and ended up working 12-hour-days only to be told that I don’t dedicate myself to the company. Granted, some of my colleagues worked 13-hour-days…

        I know it’s unfair to judge every company, by the specter of the first, but I’ve been burned once so I’d rather keep my options open. That is not to say that I don’t like my current company, or that I’m actively looking. It just means that if I HAD to suddenly look, I like to have a pool of Linkedin connections who could possibly help me out.

        Or, is this mentality considered rude?

        1. Jen RO*

          I also add all recruiters, mainly because I am curious and want to know what’s going on in my (very small) field. I am not looking to leave, but I also don’t plan on staying in this (or any) company forever. If I get an interview request from a recruiter, I make a mental note that [Company X] has a [my department].

      14. VictoriaHR*

        Recruiting and hiring takes a big bite out of departmental budgets. If he’s doing good work and you can see him advancing in the company, he’s worth keeping. I’d have a touch-base meeting with him to see how he’s feeling about his job and if there’s anything he wants to discuss, and mention how you value him, maybe point out some things he can work on in order to advance to X, Y, or Z positions in # amount of time. I wouldn’t mention your suspicions though. After that it’s up to him.

    3. GrumpyBoss*

      I’m at a point in my career now where I just look the other way. If it is someone I really want to keep, I won’t bring up that I know they are looking, but ask them if they are happy, are there things they would like to change, etc. Give them every opportunity to bring issues forward so we can try to repair them. I will also ping my HR department to see if we have a process in place to address people who are a high flight risk – this has varied from company to company for me.

      If it is someone who I think is just an average member of my staff, I don’t even bring it up anymore. I’m sure some will question the wisdom on this, but I find that it has created more drama this way. I’ve unfortunately had the employee who craves the extra attention he gets if he knows he is a flight risk. I’m going through it now, actually. I have someone I’d consider a “B-“, maybe a “B” player on a good day. He will take a bit of work to become an “A”, but he has it in him. I had to reprimand him for making a mistake last week – not for the first, or even second time, but the third time where I’ve had to tell him not to do something. After 3 times, I have to be a little more firm in my approach. How he reacted? He went to LinkedIn and started connecting with every recruiter/headhunter in the area. So I let him. If that’s how he handles adversity, better I find out now before I invest more time in trying to develop him further. He’s now dropping hints to his coworkers that he may think about looking. I am only planning on saying anything to him if he becomes disruptive about it.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Me too.

        It’s just not that big a deal. People leave for the reasons they leave. Sometimes they have babies and want to take some time off the work force. Sometimes they re-locate because of a partner job move or to be closer to family. Sometimes they get another job.

        It’s also not that easy to get another job. Sometimes looking for another job underscores that things are better than you thought where you are.

        Doesn’t bother me when it comes to our attention somebody is looking. We just make sure we have redundancies in place and see what happens next.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If they’re someone you care about retaining, I’d start by thinking about why they might be looking and then seeing if there are things you can do to address those things, with or without a direct conversation about it.

      Depending on the relationship, I don’t see anything wrong with having a conversation about what you learned too — as long as you’re not doing it in a punitive way. The tone needs to be “here’s what I heard, I really want to keep you here, is there anything we can do to achieve that?” And yes, this can be uncomfortable for the employee (especially if the answer is no), but there’s no entitlement to have your employer pretend not to have information that they actually have.

      1. KarenT*

        Thank you! It was an employee I was fairly indifferent about (I’d only been managing the team about 3 months, so I didn’t know her very well).

      2. tt*

        The conversation would have been a lot more open had this been the approach. unfortunately it was a interrogation and i felt like some suspect.

    5. Blue Anne*

      There’s actually a link to a related post included on the bottom which addresses a situation like that. :)

    6. Juli G.*

      I think (HR prospective here) that it depends on if you have a future planned for the employee. When we do, the manager usually let’s them know that we see you doing XYZ in this time frame and that’s why we’ve done ABC to prepare you.

      Then it’s up to them.

      If there’s no specific future but they are solid, I may advise the manager to find out why they are interviewing or schedule that meeting myself. Whether we retain them or not, it’s valuable feedback.

      I would not give an consequences.

      It’s not about “owning” someone. It’s about selling them what I can offer them.

      I think my last point is that in my company, sometimes the exit of an employee is a success, even a solid performer because we may not have anymore growth opportunities for them. That’s how we approach development.

    7. AVP*

      Look the other way, but also get your ducks in a row – revisit the job description, think about what you would need to hire and train a replacement if you have time. If there’s someone in your network that you feel like you’d want to interview for the job, feel them out very informally.

      1. TootsNYC*

        This is what I do–if someone who works for me seems to be making a lot of appointments, stepping away for phone calls, I just mentally get ready in case something changes.

        I look at resumés, think about freelancers I might want to pull full time. revisit the job description, start creating documentation for their job (or encourage/require them to do so) and initiate any cross-training that hasn’t happened.

        In my own personal situation, I am probably doing all I can to keep them anyway–I can’t pay them more, give them more duties or autonomy…our set-up is really pretty static, and I’ve given them all the autonomy I can get away with, already. I try always to make them feel valued. If they want to leave, the thing that’s pushing them is probably something I can’t change anyway.

        Also in my own spot, it really doesn’t cost that much money to get a new person–I do most of the recruiting anyway, not HR. I suppose there are costs to the paperwork, but, eh.

  3. Betsy*

    Ouch. I agree that neither side covered themselves in glory here, but OP, I would say that I think your reaction was totally understandable. Sure, it wasn’t the kind of response we’d like to have with days to think it over and weigh the consequences, but you didn’t have that.

    Honestly, I think the structure of their accusations means it was a more-or-less deliberate attempt to bully you and put you off balance. They may not have been calling it that in their heads, but on some level, they wanted to make you feel guilty.

    With all respect to Alison, I would absolutely not say the “I’m very happy working here, which I told them, and I’m not planning to leave,” because my reading of this situation is as an attempt to make you feel guilty and grateful to the company for “allowing” you to keep your job. It’s like the ugly “negging” techniques used by PUA communities. They were put off balance by you starting to use your power in the employer-employee dynamic, and are trying to get the ball back in their court.

    Now, I add the caveat that I have spent most of my work life in highly dysfunctional offices, so my opinion may be colored by that. But I would be really wary of backing down and recommitting to them.

    1. PEBCAK*

      The fact that they approached the OP on their LUNCH HOUR tells me there is very little the OP could have done to make this a smooth conversation.

      1. Neeta*

        What does it have to do with the lunch hour?
        They could just as well have approached the OP during regular office hours without giving him/her any time to prepare.

        1. Annie O*

          It’s especially inconsiderate to use the employee’s lunch time for this conversation.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      See, here’s the possible other side of this, from the manager:

      “I work hard to create an environment where employees can talk to me when they’re dissatisfied, and I’ve had many employees have candid conversations with me when they’re thinking about moving on. I was shocked to find out that Jane was interviewing after only 18 months in her position. This is a job where our training is just starting to pay off at that point. When I talked to her about it, I told her I wished she had let me know that she was unhappy. She told me that what she does on her days off is her business. I was pretty taken aback by her response. I let her know that if she’s planning to leave, I’ll need to post her position and I hope she’ll give me two weeks notice. She said she was taking that as a threat (!). At this point, I was a little frustrated, and since she wasn’t willing to say whether or not she’s close to leaving, I asked how her interview went, because I was trying to get a sense of how likely we were to need to fill her position soon.

      I also noted that I was disappointed that she’d called in sick to go on an interview, since that had left us short-staffed last week. She explained that she actually used a pre-scheduled vacation day for the interview, so I guess I was wrong about the timing.”

      I mean, that’s no model of skillful management, but it’s something I could envision happening that has a very different feel than bullying.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        And by the way, I don’t think it’s highly likely that the conversation went down this way. I just bristle when people assume there’s no way that it could have had a different feel than the one they’re leaping to.

        1. Xay*

          I would agree with you – but the manager brought HR with them. I think it is hard to have a friendly and concerned feel when you bring the HR rep as well.

          1. jasmine*

            I agree with Xay. Bringing HR along was definitely a hostile and intimidating thing for the manager to do. It sends out vibes of imminent termination.

      2. LV*

        I interpreted “HR explained to me that she received word that I went on an interview with another company and for that reason they have decided to post my position to eventually hire someone else” as the OP’s employer deciding to pre-emptively fire and replace the OP, which is pretty close to bullying and is definitely unnecessary in this scenario. Did you (and other readers) have a different take on that?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that reading is at odds with them saying they expect two weeks notice — they wouldn’t say that if they were outright firing her. They still might be planning to push her out, of course.

          In any case, though, I don’t think this is bullying. Employers are allowed to decide they want to push someone out or fire them, and it’s not bullying to do so.

          1. Mike C.*

            I disagree.

            The employee isn’t doing anything wrong, unethical, illegal, creepy, etc by looking for work. The only leverage an employee has in the employer-employee relationship is the ability to move jobs, and pushing people out who are even rumored to be looking elsewhere is a significant abuse of that relationship.

            If an employer wants to lock down an employee, then write a contract.

            1. LBK*

              Eh…I think it depends on a number of factors. In some cases I can see it just not being healthy for the business to leave someone who’s job searching in a role indefinitely. For example, if it’s a niche job that will be difficult to fill and the business will suffer as long as the role is vacant, I could see the employer being justified in getting that person out ASAP and trying to control the timing of replacing them as much as possible. It’s being proactive about minimizing impact to the business vs. leaving all the control in the hands of the employee who could up and leave at any moment.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I can promise that it will go right around the work place – don’t let management know you are even thinking about a job because you will be pushed out the door.

              They approached her on her lunch break? Two of them, one of her. And this is a new boss. I bet other people witnessed or overheard that convo. So this conversation took place in a common area, not in an office behind closed doors. I’d be embarrassed from being grilled in front of others.

              While I agree that OP was very assertive, I don’t think asking the same question five different ways is a conversation. That was an interrogation. It seems to me that OP told them she was not seriously interested in the other job and that fell on deaf ears.

              I am not sure I could have handled it more skillfully myself. And if I did try to dial everything down, I would probably come away from the conversation feeling beaten and stuck.

              I can understand Alison’s points and I think they are good ones. But to me, a company that treats people like this probably is not worth my time. From the way these two went at OP, I don’t think there was any answer OP could have given that would have satisfied them. It was over before the conversation started.

            3. Kiwi*

              I agree.

              The age of serfdom is supposed to be over. You can’t find out that I’m exercising my freedom of movement and then have a tantrum and threaten to withhold my turnip ration.

          2. KarenT*

            And even if they decided to fire her (not what I would do, but actually not crazy in this situation) it’s still not bullying. The OP was job interviewing on company time and didn’t handle it well when asked about it. Firing might be over the top, but I really don’t see how that is bullying.

            1. Former Usher*

              The letter writer “used a vacation day to interview and it was approved in advance,” so it was not on company time.

            2. Xay*

              Is it company time when the employee uses preapproved vacation time? And if so, is there any ethical way to schedule an interview during the day when most employers want to hold interviews?

            3. Windchime*

              How was she interviewing on company time? My interpretation is that she was on PTO for the time she was interviewing.

          3. tt*

            I would rather them out right fire me than “push” me out. I can accept and appreciate an at-will firing that’s direct. However, nudging or pushing lets me linger around here longer than I need to. I’ve seen methods used to “push’ employees out – and it’s totally aggravating.

            I am more bothered by the fact that I had to answer to HR – not my supervisor alone, and her tone was a formal matter of fact one, in which I felt that the decision was already made. I did in fact assure them that I only had one interview and I did not plan on leaving as i was quite comfortable in my current position. That should’ve been the end of the conversation. Instead i got more accusations, especially with the sick time thing, then i got defensive and stated that what i do on my time off is my business. I mean, hey, i admitted I went on an interview – what more do you want?

            If they want to get rid of me because I’m a flight risk, so be it. I wish I would’ve took that interview more seriously. What can I say?- I’m an opportunist.

            1. fposte*

              And that’s a great example of why what they did was stupid. Now you really are a flight risk.

            2. EngineerGirl*

              The false accusations from HR really bother me. Saying you took sick when you took vacation. And accusing you of disloyalty for looking? They are trying to gaslight you.
              If you ever had any question that you worked for a dysfunctional company, it’s gone now.

            3. MissDisplaced*

              I agree. Saying “they posted your position” is essentially firing you without actually firing you (yet). And woe to the poor job seeker who interviews for it too!

          4. IJK*

            In the context of the employee being ambushed at lunch with accusations of using sick time for interviews – I read, ““I am requesting a two-week notice.””, as the employer asking/demanding that 2 weeks notice be given immediately.

            I did not read that request as, “Please give us 2 weeks notice if/when you actually do decide to leave”.

        2. Angora*

          I had the same impression from the letter writer. The letter writer’s employer found out, and wants to push the employee out if they are searching. Sometimes a job description comes out that you feel stupid not interviewing for even if you are happy in your current position. Especially if more money is in the offering, more responsibilties, and sometimes you can be a rock star in a current job, but you have grown so much in said position. The only way to change responsibilities is to leave.

          As an employee that is job searching, I find it extremely frustrating to think that my current boss would find out I’m searching because she’s passive aggressive. She would take it as an insult and could turn around and fire me because I am in the probational period. I’m the 4th person in the position in two years; they will never keep anyone because of her tendancies to over control, etc.

          1. Angora*

            Forgot to mention … the letter writer. I do not know if others got the same impression, but it sounds like the employer wants to push her out. Either the company is full of horse’s rumps … or they are not happy with the individual’s performance and wants to use the job search as a tool to push them out. Sometimes an individual can be extremeley good at their job; but are difficult and unpleasant to work with.

            I got the impression that her managers are bullies and do not know how to manage; or they see an opportunity to get rid of her.

            1. Celeste*

              The only issue is, almost no one sees him or herself as difficult and unpleasant to work with.

            2. tt*

              I hope my coworkers don’t see me as unpleasant. I never had any complaints on performance or behavior at all. well maybe email tone that one time, but they deserved it.
              They would be really silly to push me out. seeing as though they don’t have a replacement. but right about now, anything could happen. i have my box packed just in case. i’ll still get unemployment – there hasn’t been any misconduct.

              1. bob*

                I hope it doesn’t come to it but don’t forget to back up and email yourself any personal contacts or data on your computer.

        3. Sunflower*

          I still don’t fully understand work place bullying but the only thing that might point to bullying is HR saying OP broke their trust. I think everything else is a matter of interpretation as I could see the conversation going down a little closer to what Allison posted above. They won’t be receiving manager of the year awards anytime soon but jumping to bullying is a stretch

          1. EngineerGirl*

            How about falsely accusing the OP of fraud? They stated the OP took a sick day to interview (which technically would be fraud) The OP actually took a vacation day.
            False accusations are one of the hallmarks of bullying.

              1. EngineerGirl*

                Fraud is pretty serious. It’s really up to the HR person and manager to double check the facts before making any statements like this.
                If this were the only thing that happened I would say it is a mistake. Especially if they worded it in a question. But it wasn’t. There were accusations of being disloyal, threats of posting the OPs job, etc. In context of the other incidents this appears that they are looking for cause to fire the person.
                The HR person is way, way, way, way out of line.

        4. Rachel - HR*

          Yes, but that’s from the OP’s perspective. That may not be what actually happened. Not calling the OP a liar, just that her perception maybe skewed.

        5. Mike B.*

          That’s also how I read it. In that context the OP’s response is a lot more understandable; she’d just learned that her casual job search had cost her her job security. I don’t think I’d have kept my cool any better.

      3. BOMA*

        The OP stated that she used a vacation day, which was approved in advance though, so she didn’t use a sick day and leave the office in the lurch. And it really isn’t the employer’s business to know “how the interview went”. That combined with the fact that they brought it up to her, unplanned, during her lunch hour (what?!), suggests a far more adversarial conversation from HR’s end.

        I don’t think that either side handled this well, but if this is how HR approaches unhappy employees, then I can’t blame the OP for feeling attacked either.

      4. Betsy*

        I agree that it’s possible that both sides of the issue could have prevented the case in the way you just described it, given some wiggle room around the facts on both sides due to differing perspectives.

        However, I think two things you left out of this “supervisor” letter are really important to the bullying aspect I noticed: the fact that they approached the OP during lunch instead of setting up a meeting, and the fact that the supervisor brought in an HR person to talk with her, making it 2-on-1.

        I mean, I’m on-board with the whole idea of “never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” (or incompetence), but even if it wasn’t deliberately designed to put the OP off guard, I would suggest that the inclusion of the HR person was designed to give her a supporter — something the OP did not have, and which put the supervisor 3 points up: 1 because they’re the superior, 1 because they were warned/prepared and the OP wasn’t, and 1 because they were 2-against-1.

        The first of those points was unavoidable. The other two weren’t, and the third in particular reads as deliberate.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, “lunch hour” means different things in different workplaces. It could mean she was sitting at her desk reading an article on her computer, not that she was in a cafeteria obviously taking a break.

          1. Kiwi*

            It doesn’t matter where she is and what she’s doing. If it’s not a scheduled meeting and in the privacy of a meeting room, it’s an ambush and it’s highly inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour.

            Professional = scheduled meeting with subject, with clearly explained agenda and opportunity for subject to review and address accusations, prepare their defence and to bring along a support person;
            Unprofessional = bowl up to subject unexpectedly and in public view and emotionally level accusations. No opportunity for review and defence. 2 vs 1. Bonus points if you angrily insist that subject gives their notice on the spot.

              1. Kiwi*

                I agree, however competent managers do not hold unscheduled, impromptu and public disciplinary meetings.

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t think we have any indication this is public. And I would disagree with you about competent managers not holding unscheduled meetings. I talk to people when something has come up; I don’t have them put it on a calendar to wait for with dread. I do ask if this is a good time for them to talk (and if they’re an exempt employee, lunch could definitely count as a good time, since they’re not off the clock), and if it’s something more complicated that they’d need to prepare for, I ask if they’d be available later to talk about X. There are some cases where I’d make it more formal–like if this was about a cumulative problem or a followup to a discussion about one–but in general, I assume that my staff and I are free to talk to one another on an ongoing basis.

                  I think there’s some culture clash here because of the policies that different countries’ labor laws make standard, but for me your system would overcodify communication with my staff and make feedback into a bigger thing than it has to be. Obviously I wouldn’t berate or threaten the OP, but if I found out one of my staff was interviewing elsewhere, I would indeed talk to them about what was going on, and I wouldn’t feel the need to make it a scheduled meeting in a meeting room.

    3. tt*

      i agree. i was more angered than enlightened. at least have your facts straight if you are going to threaten my job.

  4. Katie the Fed*

    OP, what is it you actually want? I’m really not clear on what your desired outcome is.

    Do you want to keep working for your employer?
    Do you want to leave and work somewhere else?

    Have you given that any thought?

    Because I feel like you want things that really aren’t in your control, like for them to apologize and/or grovel and beg you to stay? Or to leave and make them regret having this discussion with you?

    What’s most important to you here? Having them assuage your moral outrage, keeping your job, or finding a new job?

    I would figure that out and proceed accordingly. If you want to stay, then apologize for the way you handled the discussion, and maybe explain why you were looking. If you want to leave, focus your energy there. But you really do need to drop the combative tone – it’s not going to help you get anything you want.

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, I’m confused by the circumstances as well – if you’re happy in this position and not considering leaving, why did you interview for this other company?

      Honestly, a supervisor confronting me like this – with HR involved, nonetheless, which is just plain weird since a supervisor shouldn’t need backup to have a conversation with their employee – would be a giant red flag. I’d be glad I had another opportunity and I would definitely be taking it now. A supervisor being upset about someone leaving is understandable, but grilling them like this is unacceptable.

      1. PizzaSquared*

        I agree that “what do you want” is the key question here. However, I have taken interviews when I was happy and not considering leaving. It’s good to know what’s out there. No job lasts forever. And sometimes it helps you get a perspective on how good or bad your situation is. I don’t make a habit of doing an in-depth job search while I’m happily employed, but if a friend comes to me with an interesting opportunity, or I see a really unique opening that would fit me, I’m open to looking into it.

        1. LBK*

          I totally get that, I just didn’t get the sense that was the situation for the OP. I would expect something like “I was casually browsing to see if there was anything and a perfect role happened to be posted” or “Someone saw my old resume up on my LinkedIn and recruited me” but the lack of context made it sound like the OP did actively seek out the interview. Maybe I’m wrong.

      2. AB*

        I’ve been contacted by recruiters and headhunters out of the blue before. Even if I’m happy in my current position, if the job sounds intriguing, I would probably meet with them to see what they have to say. You never what might come of it even if you’re perfectly content with your current situation. I’ve also had friends and family send the occasional job post my way, and even if I’m not seriously job hunting, I might apply. It never hurts to keep one’s options open.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Yes, exactly. I had one recently that my husband sent my way, I interviewed, was offered it, was incredibly tempted, but in the end didn’t take it because it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing. Sometimes things just fall in your lap.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I agree. Some say it’s good practice to interview once a year, regardless. It helps me measure my value in the market and keep my interviewing skills fresh, without really taking any time away from my current job — it’s not a time-consuming search, it’s just being opportunistic when an interesting recruiter calls.

      3. GrumpyBoss*

        I’m trying to think of what kind of HR department would support this kind of confrontation, let alone think it is a good idea!

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          It is a bit strange to have HR involved. I have actually had HR people tell me that they suggest that people interview at least once per year, to get a sense of what is happening in the marketplace.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          New manager probably got HR involved because the manager was not sure how to proceed.
          I would have just asked someone to talk me through how the company wanted me to handle such a situation, then went alone.

    2. tt*

      I actually want to stay because this company. I applied for the other job on a fluke. when the interview call came i said “eh’ why not? if I was offered a position, I would honestly stay here unless I was making a huge amount of extra money (like $10K or more). I just started this job 1.5 years ago. I don’t want to be known as a job hopper. i do of course want more for myself as i am not “done” with my career yet. But I’m settled for the meantime. i do have some sense of loyalty to this company, maybe i may want to rethink that. i think everything may have changed for the worst as the cat’s outta the bag now.

      As for the “grovel and beg” suggestion, wouldn’t we all love that – but no. I just want to be left alone. Let me do the work that I’ve always done. if you don’t like my performance – get rid of me. I’m not going to apologize, i did nothing wrong. If they attempt to recruit a candidate for my position, I will aggressively look for another job. This position is mine because they hired me to do it. if they want someone else for whatever reason, fire me first; then post my position. To recruit while I am still here is humiliating and demeaning. i can’t wait around for them to have options.

      I disagree about being combative. i call it self preservation.

      1. fposte*

        But the combative tone doesn’t preserve anything for you at all; it makes it harder. It’s the actions you take that matter, and I think deciding that you are not prepared to leave your job merely because of this is a reasonable action to take–what tone you take around that will have a lot to do with how things play out if you stay there longer.

        I get that when people are this adversarial it’s tough to avoid responding in kind, but it doesn’t give you any advantage to do so. It also tends to make the people you’re talking to feel justified, which I suspect is the opposite of the effect you’re looking for.

        1. C*

          Coming to this very late, but these responses got my goat. The employer (and HR rep) handled things very badly here – and in doing so, put an employee on the spot. Drop the “combative tone” accusations. They’re not really necessary, and not fair to this employee’s situation (despite her less-than-ideal reaction).

      2. Katie the Fed*

        OK, if you really want to stay – why don’t you tell them that? I’m not really clear if you made that obvious to them.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think they handled it REALLY badly. But if you want to stay, I’d try to sit down with them, with calmer heads, and say that you were caught off guard and had just wanted to see what else was out there but you’re not unhappy and you’re not looking to leave.

        Of course if you DO leave in the near term that could be bad :/

  5. Snarkus Ariellius*

    I’m sure there’s a huge gap between the employers who think they have a “safe environment” and their employees who think otherwise.  What employer would ever admit they didn’t have a safe environment?  

    I guess I’m slightly jaded after having been on the receiving end of one too many “You can be honest with me/This is confidential, I promise” boss conversations and then suffered negative repercussions from those conversations.

    1. Laura2*

      Yep. Honestly, I’d probably never tell a boss the truth about not being happy, even if I thought that boss was sympathetic and wanted to work with me to make a smooth transition, because I assume that my manager’s primary responsibility is to the company and they might feel it’s their duty to tell someone that I’m looking. In that case, the decision could end up out of their hands.

      1. Lamington*

        same here. In my former company we gad to notify our current boss of any internal job interviews. I found out layer on that i had been offered a promotion in a different department but my boss blocked it because he didn’t want to loose me. Eventually i was able to move to another role but not as good as the one i lost. On the mean time, my former boss was a jerk to me.

        1. bob*

          And your boss was a jerk to block your promotion and professional development.

          That’s pretty unforgiveable to me.

        2. MM*

          True horses rump. To me, my role as a supervisor is to give my people the best tools to develop in their current role, and support them when they feel it’s time to go.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The way you know whether you’ve created a reasonably safe environment is by how employees react to it. If there’s a long track record of employees giving you generous notice periods and telling you when they’re thinking about looking, that’s pretty good evidence that you have in fact succeeded at it.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      Or HR conversations…in a past job I went to HR for some tips on working with a colleague who had a much different working style than I did. Innocuous/advice based, no issues, no finger pointing–just an effectiveness conversation. HR elevated to my boss as a HUGE PROBLEM and it got blown out of proportion to the point that my colleague was embarrassed and offended, and it strained our working relationship.

      Sometimes you just can’t trust your employer.

      1. Brett*

        I asked a question about a salary survey (that HR had been sending us glowing reminders about for 8 months) and got back a snotty “Go through your supervisors” note that was cc’d to my boss and three layers of bosses above him. That definitely taught me never to ask HR a question like that again.

      2. kd*

        Had almost the exact thing happen to me in my current position. I wanted assistance/advice for a working style issue and it turned into a huge mess with the same outcome. HR backed away and left me holding the bag.

        I learned to NEVER involve this company’s HR again. No trust there what so ever.
        So I google and problem solve that way. That is how I found AAM.

      3. MM*

        That is why I like employee assistance programs. I was supervising this monster of a manipulator years ago. It was terrible, she played my boss and I off each other and he never did figure it out.

        I had so much anger dealing with it; which made my response to some of it not the best. So I made arrangements through the employee assistance program for stress management counseling. That way HR knew I was get counseling for stress management but I was going to in order to learn how to respond in the situation. I was between a rock and a hard place. I had to learn that I had no control over her, but I had control how I responded. It is one of the most difficult situations to be in, to hate dealing with someone so much. I forced myself to be nice and pleasant even when I felt like I could jump across my desk and knock her up side the head. When I was out on FMLA she called me up and told me to take a pain killer and get my butt back in. But when I returned from FMLA and I tried to file a grievance, it was 30 days past the date of the evident; past the deadline and my hands were tired. I didn’t do it than because I was terrified she would quit and it would be horrible mess; but she only got worse. She had gotten by with a biggy, and pushed the envelope every chance she got. It played a huge role in my leaving.

        I learned to be nice to her face when I was seething, actually she was extremely uncomfortable around me the last six months I was there. She was able to read people in order to manipulate us like she did; she must have picked up on my anger …. or my being so nice made her feel extremely guilty for her behavior. I enjoyed making her squirm. I am so not that person I become working with her; didn’t like what I was becoming just to tolerate managing her.

    4. Kelly*

      At LastRetailJob, corporate had a policy where you could have a chat with a member of the store management team (including HR) or call a hotline if you had any questions or concerns about your job. I didn’t trust the store management team to follow through with my concerns without any repercussions to myself or that the hotline would be truly confidential. One person came back from a work related accident and I didn’t think she should be back in the department I worked in because of the more physical nature of the work. Also, her absence created a better team atmosphere because tasks were getting done the way my supervisor wanted them done the first time rather than the co-worker doing them her way and myself or someone else having to redo the work. I thought that there would be a chance that the supervisor would have the coworker reassigned to another area that was less physically intensive. She came back to the area and acted as if nothing had changed in her absence.

      The store management team was your typical retail management – more attuned to who got along better with management and valuing seniority rather than people who were good with customers and were good workers. They made some very questionable hiring and personnel decisions, including promoting someone who was very much not a team player to a supervisor role simply because she had more seniority than the person who had better people skills with both colleagues and customers. The person who was passed over left even after the HR woman pleaded with her to stay. She simply felt under-appreciated and couldn’t stand her colleague who was now her supervisor.

    5. Algae*

      I really feel it was having HR there that ramped this up a notch. A one-on-one with the boss would have been one thing, but it could have been an opportunity to make it about career plans and goals.

      HR, though, brought an outsider into the conversation with the additional feeling of “ganging up”. There’s no real way to make it a safe conversation after that point.

      1. fposte*

        Since the OP said this was at the directive of the CEO, I wonder if this attitude is top-down there.

    6. Lisa*

      Me too, my boss was really upset that I would consider leaving. I had just watched another person tell him how they were not happy with the unorganized team and then told that person to give their notice and another person was fired after daring to respond to her sit-down with “well, the team is so unorganized with no clear management structure, whose job is it to manage me? who am I supposed to go to?” rather than just taking the criticism her director wasn’t looped in, but another person – director level was. So I expected to be pushed out the door for being negative, which is what happens at that place. So I left without telling him months in advance, which is what he wanted me to do. Years earlier a guy did the same thing, and the boss turned it into well its a mutual decision since he was unhappy. After 3 people let go for expressing ‘negativity’ plus 3 more that gave notice and were shown the door before there notice was up, I wasn’t taking a chance telling him I was leaving without being prepared with other stuff lined up.

  6. Sunflower*

    Ouch to all of this. I guess this depends how your feelings on your company have changed. I can’t imagine you still feel the same way about working there as you did earlier so my guess is your job search is probably going to continue and will become less passive. For me, as soon as HR said anything to me about ‘breaking trust’ that is HUGE red flag- it would put a bad taste in my mouth right from the start. Honestly, given the way the whole thing went down, even if you told them you were happy and wanted to stay settled, I’m not sure they would believe you anyway. I think you’re best off amping up your job search and letting them decide how to handle your position on their own.

  7. Anon Accountant*

    I think at this point I’d be job searching as much as possible. Maybe my work experience has jaded me somewhat regarding situations like this but I can see the remainder of the OP’s tenure there being very unpleasant.

  8. bee*

    OP did nothing wrong unless being human is a crime. How do you react properly when blindsided by outlandish behavior? You don’t.

    OP you may be able to stay on till you choose to leave if you kiss their ass. I say this b/c you seem to be in a role they are hard-pressed to fill. Of course, you want/need to leave asap. Look relentlessly for work and call in when you need to, till they fire you. Do not quit if you need unemployment.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      “How do you react properly when blindsided by outlandish behavior?”

      You take a deep breath, remind yourself that you’re not really in a strong negotiating position, and try to take the emotion out of the situation. You react pleasantly, diplomatically and respectfully.

      Most of us do this every day of our lives. It’s how we keep from throwing tantrums when other people get on our nerves.

      1. bee*

        Really? You are accused of being a traitor every day? Wow- i never want to be a fed employee.

        1. Blue Anne*

          I don’t see anything suggesting that they called the OP a traitor outright. That would cross the line into just downright rude.

          But even then, yes, most people do take a deep breath and behave diplomatically when faced with rudeness, especially in the workplace. Nothing is achieved by being brought down to their level.

          1. De Minimis*

            I agree, you have to do that, for your own sake…you don’t want to say or do anything that increases the likelihood of them letting you go when you don’t have anything else lined up.

            It’s also just being professional even when faced with unprofessional behavior.

          2. MaggietheCat*

            I think a lot of people take a deep breath when they’re upset at work and think about their families and those that depend on their income when the urge to react unprofessionally strikes.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          I missed the part where OP was accused of being a traitor.

          Bottom line is a basic kindergarten lesson – two wrong don’t make a right. They were definitely out of line, but unless you’re in a position of strength in this discussion, then throwing down really isn’t going to get you anywhere. Sure, you CAN. But what does it actually accomplish? Clearly it accomplishes very little.

          1. bee*

            The point: they were blindsided. The posters on here have the benefit of hindsight. I’d be the most professional sob if I could plan out my responses in advance. Given the way they were accused, I stand by my position. The employer accused her“broke their trust.”

            1. LBK*

              I understand where you’re coming from, that the natural reaction to being blindsided is aggression and that the response aren’t always the most tactful. However, there’s a big gap between “not tactful” and “extremely aggressive/adversarial,” and the OP ended up with the latter.

              I’m not saying I would’ve been extremely eloquent and given a perfect answer, but regardless of the circumstances it should be clear that saying 1) my time off is my business, not theirs and 2) posting my position would be taken as a threat are bad ideas. I’ve had some heated conversations before and I’ve never crossed that kind of line.

            2. Sunflower*

              I can see how ‘my time off is my business’ is the knee-jerk reaction and I could see myself spitting that out in the conversation but once you bring the word threat (which is a scary word no matter the context) it definitely changes things.

            3. fposte*

              Yes, the employer did something bad. But think of this as being in traffic–the fact that somebody cut you off and flipped you the bird doesn’t mean you chase them or tailgate them.

              1. Sean*

                But tailgating someone is dangerous behavior; it puts the other person at risk.

                I don’t see how what OP did was wrong. This is not a case of two wrongs don’t make a right, to me, at all.

                Fact is, her time off *is*her business. It’s also a fact that saying that to one’s employer is unwise and will almost certainly have negative repercussions for her. That doesn’t make it wrong. That makes it foolish.

            4. Purr purr purr*

              I’m with you on this Bee. I was once blind-sided by a boss. I had a colleague who was a pathological liar and she went to my boss and told him that during a recent work trip, I had got so drunk that I gave the client a lap dance and then passed out (and alcohol was forbidden while on work trips). Needless to say, that was false. When my boss told me off for it, I didn’t react well at all. With hindsight, I could have prepared a more appropriate reply, but instead I was so surprised that I burst into tears as he questioned my professional performance and, even worse, I was so upset that I didn’t defend myself from the accusations.

              So for HR personnel, like it or not, if an employee wants to interview during their time off then that’s their own business and they don’t even owe a company a chance to ‘put things right’ (assuming something is wrong). Maybe the OP didn’t respond properly but when you’re shocked by something, which you would be when confronted during lunch, you might not always think of the most diplomatic response. Their approach immediately put the OP on the backfoot and could have handled it better.

          2. Adam*

            Agreed. We’ve all had fantasies we’re in one of those dramatic movie moments where we are overcome with glorious righteousness and assert ourselves unequivocally while simultaneously putting a toad of a boss in their place, followed by leaving the office at a cheery pace while throwing our name badges in the air and running into the embrace of a gorgeous human being who’s holding a bottle of champagne in one hand and a puppy on a leash in the other, and all passers-bye stop to applaud and cheer as we kiss passionately in the street…Or maybe that’s just me.

            But point being, it just never really works out that way. You do what you can to keep things even keel long enough for you to get out of their and avoid pissing your boss off enough to poison your name in the professional network after you’re gone.

            Then go eat a pizza or something.

            1. LJL*

              You have just given me the visual for my next terrible-horrible-no good-very bad day. Thank you! :-)

            2. Jax*

              “Then go eat a pizza or something.”

              Ummm…are you spying on me? LOL

              I don’t know how I would react if a boss came and confronted me about my Indeed job searches–but this post has inspired me to knock it off until I’m really ready to move on. A causual, meh-maybe-there-is-something-better-out-there attitude won’t get me very far. Either commit or get out.

      2. Jeff A.*

        I feel like even when you come into an adversarial situation expecting a confrontation (e.g., any negotiation), it’s often hard to be level-headed and take the emotion out of your response. Nevermind being blind-sided.

        I do agree that the take a breath/silently count to 10/etc advice is a good take away for anyone who encounters this in the future.

      3. Jaded in IT*

        I agree but I really think the whole situation was setting up the OP to have the reaction they did so the company could get them out the door faster.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          I think you may be onto something there. What else is to be gained by saying “we’re reposting the position” unless it was the most passive aggressive termination ever.

        2. Laura2*

          Yep. At the very least it was set up to put the OP on the spot and make it hard to have a civilized discussion.

      4. Sean*

        To be fair, I’m guessing that OP also does this every day of her life.

        While it was a poor move *politically* on her part, I really don’t see how her response was childish or even inappropriate. It’s a normal expectation to be able to use an advanced scheduled vacation day to go on an interview without being at risk of losing one’s current job, and that expectation was violated in a huge way.

        If it had been me, I don’t know that I would have been able to respond at all. I would have been appalled at my employer’s behavior.

    2. Malissa*

      Reacting properly when blindsided by outlandish behavior is a skill that can be learned. After 7 years of government service, I got used to being yelled at by people who were outlandish.
      I don’t know how many time I got yelled at because some one’s road wasn’t plowed 5 minutes after the snow stopped falling. Or having to explain to people that the sign at the end of the that says, “no county maintenance,” means they aren’t likely to ever see a plow.
      People are often not rational beings. Being able to deal with it and diffuse a situation is a handy skill to learn.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I had a therapist tell me that when you are confronted by co-workers/managers/jerks, you can just leave the room.
        I used to be berated constantly from OldBoss and I understood that I just had to take it until it was done. Honestly, it never occurred to me that I could just excuse myself from a situation that I didn’t know how to handle.

      2. Mallory*

        “Reacting properly when blindsided by outlandish behavior is a skill that can be learned.”

        Yes — it’s called poise, and it really can be learned. You can just listen quietly to the other person (with raised eyebrows and an internal WTF??) and formulate a calm, deliberate response while you’re listening to them. In the absence of a calm, deliberate response, you can delay by asking questions to attempt to understand them better. There are all kinds of non-escalatory responses.

        One just has to be determined, in advance, to remain self-possessed and professional in all work situations. Developing the internal wherewithal comes more easily once one believes that it is, in fact, possible to remain poised even when the situation is difficult.

  9. Annie O*

    What were HR and the supervisor trying to get out of that conversation with that kind of approach? Were they hoping the LW would grovel and beg to stay in the position? Or were they hoping to drive the LW out sooner? If the LW wasn’t seriously looking before, they should be now.

    1. Jeff A.*

      The employer’s approach here makes no sense. I could easily see this escalating quickly into the employee quitting or getting fired right then and there, on the spot. Crazy.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, really. I seriously question whether OP could have said anything to change this situation.

  10. Celeste*

    I guess you can hope that they will decide not to post your job, but it’s going to be really weird for you there for the forseeable future. Even the next time you put in for a vacation day, it’s going to be weird.

    From their perspective, it’s really hard to take knowing you went on an interview with “I have no plans to leave”. I understand that you were hedging because you didn’t get the job and don’t want to give notice just for going on an interview, but I guarantee that they’re thinking that you are on your way out. The whole thing was poorly handled, because they acted snubbed instead of asking if you had a problem there that was fixable. But, it’s their prerogative I guess. Maybe you would be better off someplace else.

    I wonder if “new supervisor” has anything to do with your unhappiness? I take it this is not the person who hired you, and is sort of a dealbreaker on the job?

    I’m sorry for the stress of this, but would love to hear your update. I’m wishing you all the best.

  11. bee*

    I cannot fathom ever giving any employer the idea I want to leave until I am out the door in three weeks or less. Never. I have left on good terms and it was awkward, I can’t imagine months of being dead wood in the employer’s eyes.

    1. CTO*

      My last boss knew I was looking for several months before I actually found something new and gave three weeks’ official notice. She had earned my trust, and she made it very clear to her team that they could trust her when they were ready to move on–and then she practiced what she preached. Nothing about it was awkward nor was I “dead wood” while I was looking. They were very happy with my work and were happy to have me continue doing an excellent job as long as possible.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve had people give 9-10 months of notice before — because they’d seen with their own eyes that it was safe to do so, by watching how other people giving generous notice periods were handled. It absolutely does happen, and it’s a matter of knowing your employer.

      1. Dan*

        I had a blue collar job where everybody was always talking about moving on. Our boss was pretty cool, so when I decided to leave for grad school, I gave her three months notice and didn’t regret it. She told me that a month or so out, just give her “formal” written notice so she can go to corporate and petition for my replacement.

      2. Mints*

        I’m just curious, for the ten month notices, were they for long-planned things like babies and grad school, or also for “I want a more senior position that doesn’t exist here”? The latter seems more awkward

        1. LBK*

          Not necessarily. If you’re a good manager you’re probably aware of the growth opportunities available in your company. If you’re realistic about what someone wants vs. what your company offers, it shouldn’t be surprising or awkward when someone wants to leave for that reason.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Both! It doesn’t have to be awkward at all, if the manager is genuinely grateful for the heads-up and is basically sane and logical.

        3. Anonymous Educator*

          It could be other stuff, too:

          1. My father is getting sicker, and I want to move closer to him next year.

          2. My wife is finishing up her Ph.D., and it’s not definite we’d be moving for next fall but highly likely (unless she can get a position in the area).

    3. Sunflower*

      I think this really depends. I think it’s a lot easier to give notice when you have the exact date. Or if you’re going to grad school or having a baby or making a big move. Your employer and you are both aware of when you’re leaving and are on the same timeline. When you’re kind of aimlessly job searching it’s much harder since everything is really up to chance. It could take 1 month, it could take 9. And who knows when your employer will decide to start looking for a replacement. And how long can both of you stay on? This probably also has to do with my experience in toxic work environment and my job searches have always taken longer than expected so I don’t see myself risking it- at least at my job now

    4. Shana*

      I gave notice on two different occasions to the same boss at the same company and they were opposite ends of this spectrum. The first time, I gave him 8 months notice as I knew I was planning to move out of state. The second time, two weeks, as I had a job fall into place. He questioned why I didn’t give more notice on the second time. Honestly, I wasn’t looking, it was a recruiter find via linked in, and when I interviewed for the job it was a reach position. I didn’t want to burn any bridges since I thought the role was a long shot and had I not gotten it I would not have been continuing to look. I got the job, and its worked out very well, but that was a much tougher circumstance to leave under.

  12. Jeff A.*

    Ugh. This is every job searcher’s nightmare. Sorry, OP. I probably would have reacted the same way – I’m much better handling my emotions when I have mentally rehearsed the scenario, but to be caught completely off guard like this….ouch.

  13. Anonalicious*

    I’d say from the way the employer handled things, especially bringing HR along and treating it as an interrogation, is a huge red flag. I suspect there are probably quite a few reasons the OP was looking for a job elsewhere and should continue to do so.

  14. Jane*

    What a mess. The employer completely mishandled this (although if the prospective employer told the current employer about the interview, then they’re equally to blame – it’s pretty much standard practice that you don’t do that for obvious reasons and it boggles my mind that any prospective employer would do this, even though I have heard some government employers routinely do this, I think it’s ridiculous to put someone’s job in jeaopardy when you haven’t even decided whether you want to hire them). I don’t think employers are entitled to more than the standard two weeks notice. They are no more loyal to their employees than their employees are to them in an at-will situation. I think it’s unwise to inform an employer that you are unhappy or looking even if they are the most reasonable employer in the world. That said, I work at a job where two weeks notice is customary and more than adequate. Perhaps I’d feel differently if I had a position that required much more time to transition out of.

    I think the only solution now is for the OP to get out of there, and fast. Continuing to job hunt seems like the only viable solution, and now, unfortunately, there is added time pressure.

    1. Jeanne*

      I’m wondering if the new employer really did contact the old employer. It could easily have been a more casual conversation. The person at the front desk who checked in the OP for the interview knows an HR employee at the old employer. They had a casual conversation. Hey, guess what, I met someone from your company. It’s not strictly ethical but these conversations probably happen all the time.

      Now I have no idea how it escalated to the confrontation. Deciding to start a confrontation was an overreaction.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, it doesn’t sound like the OP knows how they found out. It could be lots of things other than the new company telling the current company.

        1. tt*

          I’m assuming that the new company told because they are the only ones that knew. i wish i could be heated at the news leaking, but i guess it’s all a risk you take. i think i crapped out big time.

          1. Brett*

            Sounds like it came down from the CEO somehow…
            CEOs get to be CEOs by being well connected. Entirely possible your CEO has a connection who is an executive at the other company who saw your resume.

  15. Name*

    Wow. Bonus “terrible employer” points for saying they want two weeks notice and not just outright firing. What would say in the future when asked why you left, “my boss told me to but was too chicken to fire me”? Everything about that conversation is awful. Sorry you’re in this situation, OP.

  16. MR*

    Wow, this is terrible.

    I clearly get the OP, in being blindsided by this conversation.

    I don’t have much to add to the conversation, beyond what has been said above, but I promise that the OP’s colleagues are watching this with interest – at least the good ones. When the time comes for them to look at other opportunities (and I say when, because if management is going crazy about this, what else do they go crazy over?), they are definitely going to go into super double secret mode on their job search efforts.

    At this point, all I can offer the OP is to get into full scale job search mode. Your career at this particular company is going to last as long as it takes for them to find your replacement. Good luck!

    1. Suzanne*

      Yes people are watching. At one of my former employers, a couple of people offered a two week notice before resigning but were told immediately to get their personal items and go. So, the next few people who quit waited until the director was gone and left a letter of resignation in his mailbox, usually on a Friday.

  17. Mimmy*

    Ouch indeed. Honestly, I think both sides didn’t handle this in the best way, but in the heat of the moment, I can see why the OP reacted the way they did. Yes, it is best to take a breath and count to 10, but it’s hard to do when you are unexpectedly confronted like that.

    I think going back to your manager and explaining your reaction is a good idea. Some may disagree with me, but I believe in at least trying to keep the bridge from completely burning down.

    That said, I personally would amp up the job search because I’d feel really weird being there after all of that.

  18. Joey*

    So this is similar to marriage or any intimate relationship. You can focus on being right or you can focus on the keeping good relations with your employer . If your goal is to be right, you can be, but it will probably compromise your relationship with your employer. Or you can focus on maintaining (or at least the illusion of) a good relationship with them. Take your pick.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      To that I add, which ever goal you chose have good, solid reasons for choosing that goal.

  19. 'calla*

    Wow, this manager and HR person a both a bit tightly wound. I know job hunting and expectations have changed a lot in recent years, but is it passe now to take a job interview just out of interest to see what’s out there? Or to “practice”?

  20. Dan*

    A little over a year ago, I had a “perfect” opportunity fall into my lap. My previous employer was at the beginning of a shaky downhill spiral, so I jumped on it.

    After I got back, I let it slip to my boss that I went and flirted with so-and-so. My boss asked why. I said, “obvious reasons.” He told me I’ve got nothing to worry about — they’d have to cut pretty deep to get to me. I told him that I kinda figured that, but if there was a situation where A and B were not fully staffed, that I didn’t like my odds.

    7 months later, A and B were not fully staffed, and I found myself with a pink slip. I do believe that my old boss was playing straight with me, but when you’re low level management, you don’t have all the info.

  21. Suzanne*

    This happened to me once. I was working part-time but wanted full-time. So, I applied for a full-time job job at an organization in a nearby town, not knowing that the director of that organization & the director of my organization were god friends. When my director found out, she called me AT HOME (as I recall, I was chopping onions at the time) to ask me what the heck I was doing. I explained I needed a full time job. She then told me that of course they were going to move me to full time and how did I not know that (possibly because it was never mentioned to me. Hmmm, never was good at mind reading).
    Anyway, it worked out and I stayed where I was with a bigger paycheck. The daughter of a friend of mine was not so lucky. Her boss discovered she had applied somewhere else and was fired on the spot.

    1. AVP*

      I don’t understand that thinking at all (from your friend’s daughter’s employer). Even if you don’t want to deal with an employee who is looking around, how does it make your life or job better to suddenly lose a person? Seems like you’re raising the level of inconvenience, not lowering it.

  22. Rebecca*

    I went for a walk during lunch, and thought about this.

    Basically, your employer can fire you or lay you off on a moment’s notice. They can tell you when to take your vacation time, or not, and that you can’t carry it over if you don’t take it all, even if they don’t approve it. They can impose all sorts of bizarre policies and rules, and as a worker, you have to suck it up. If you complain, you get “if you don’t like it here, I can have 100 resumes on my desk by the end of the day from people who would kill to have a job with benefits”.

    But – if you, as a worker, don’t want to suck it up, and you try to find a new job, all of a sudden you’re disloyal and untrustworthy. A two week notice, which is tons more notice than employer normally gives an employee, isn’t good enough.

    From my perspective as an hourly worker in an at will employment environment, I think this stinks.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, wait. A better parallel would be if you found out that your employer had posted your job and was interviewing people for it. Wouldn’t you ask them about it and seriously consider job searching?

      1. Michele*

        I am in that position right now Allison and I am quietly freaking out. I found my job description sitting on the printer this morning. So not a good feeling. I am not sure what I am going to say. I reached out to a few recruiters this morning but wow not what I thought I would walk into the day after my birthday. I know they want a younger vibe in the office and have felt like the red headed step child for some time.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Are you sure it’s for recruiting, and not just updating their files or something like that? I can think of lots of times I printed job descriptions that weren’t because I was hiring for that job.

          1. Michele*

            Fingers crossed you are right. It will be easy for me to find out if it is posted anywhere. I will just keep my eyes open!

            1. Marcy*

              I wouldn’t worry about it. At this time of year I am required to update my staffs’ position descriptions and I also have to look at them if I am considering promoting one of them so it may not be a bad thing at all. I would just assume it is nothing.

    2. Jeanne*


      You are so right. It totally stinks. You are supposed to be loyal, to give 110%. In return, you get told you’re lucky to have a job and you better suck it up when your boss treats you badly. I wish we had a better system.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m curious what you’d propose instead.

        It’s also worth pointing out that if you’re good at what you do, you have options, which is your power in the equation.

        1. Suzanne*

          Ten years ago, I would have agreed with that statement, AAM, but not now. There are simply more people looking for work than there are jobs, so even if everyone were a superstar employee, some still would not have jobs. A firing on your record in this struggling economy, even if it is completely unjustified and especially if you are older, can be the kiss of workplace death. Being good at what you do might help, but often still gives you few options.

          1. Dan*

            It depends on the field. TBH, compensation is a supply/demand thing. In some fields, such as social work and teaching, there’s a line out the door with qualified people willing to do the work for little pay.

            In other fields, such as mine, good folk get jobs. During my last search, after a layoff, I had three in-person interviews and two offers. Even my lower offer was almost 15% better than my previous job, and the offer I accepted was almost 25% better. A friend of mine had five interviews and five offers.

            I do mathematics, data analytics, and software development for a living. I don’t think it’s terribly difficult, but in social situations, I get plenty of “wow that’s hard.” And that perception drives away candidates which lowers labor supply, and therefore increases my compensation.

          2. TaterB*

            This x 1,000,000

            Conversations like the one surrounding this topic always get me a little hot under the collar. Anyone who has ever struggled with long-term unemployment or even graduating from college in the last 10 years might not be able to relate to the “you have options” camp.

          3. fposte*

            And overall, the unemployment rate isn’t currently that far from what it was in 2004–it’s under a percentage point’s difference.

            I think the intervening recession has affected attitudes on both sides, so that people feel different about hiring than they did in 2004 regardless of the numbers; it’s also difficult to know how many employed people are what we’d call underemployed (as opposed to the BLS definition). Those, I think, are more significant current factors than the applicants-per-opening ratio.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Genuine question: Does that take into account how they changed the way they do the calculation? When did that change occur– last year? Not remembering.

              I live in an area that is depressed most of the time. So 2004 wasn’t that great. Then it got worse. The opportunities here to earn a living wage are shabby. It does not help that the county decided a living wage is around $9 per hour. I guess that is based on an 80 hour work week.

              1. fposte*

                I can’t remember the exact changes, unfortunately. It’s also true that it doesn’t count underemployment (in our use of the term) and giver-uppers, but I think people feel there’s a difference without regard to stats of what’s actually happening–that’s what I’m getting at. We’re locked into this “doomed graduate job-seekers” narrative that doesn’t at this point seem to be as different from ten years ago as we’re making out. The lowest recorded unemployment rate for recent grads was 41 percent–the *lowest*. It was never a cakewalk.

                As I said, I think some things are different now, one of the biggest being loan amounts. And yes, plenty of people are unemployed, but then even a low-percentage unemployment rate leaves a ton of people unemployed, and it doesn’t make it their fault.

            2. Hummingbird*

              But you can’t really compare 2004 to 2014 unemployment rate. You have to take into consideration that there are people who are “underemployed.” Then there are people who have given up. What is the real unemployment rate then?

              1. alfie*

                Yes. People who are no longer looking, no longer getting unemployment, or who never received unemployment don’t show up in those numbers.

        2. Dan*

          Yup. I was laid off from my previous employer for what was described to me as “a business decision” that “wasn’t performance related.” The funny thing is, I went to a competitor and got a 25% raise — without having that existing job as any sort of leverage.

        3. Rebecca*

          My manager’s response to my concerns — no cost of living or merit increases, no performance evaluations for 4 years now, increasing health insurance costs that have reduced my take home pay to 2008 levels, all while having increasing amounts of work piled on with no end in site — was to tell me that no one gets raises, we’re not getting evaluations, and if I didn’t like it, she could easily have 100 resumes on her desk by end of business.

          I am 51 years old, in a terrible job market, with mostly service level, slightly more than minimum wage jobs available.

          So yes, I am looking, and fearful that if I get an interview, the prospective new employer will contact HR, who will tell my manager, who will scream at me in an angry tirade, like she did 2 years ago when I managed to get an interview and she found out.

          I guess I would suggest that even though I’m the worker bee at the bottom of the food chain, as a human being I deserve a little bit of respect.

          1. LBK*

            That sounds like a horrid manager, not a good representation of the working world as a whole. Even if all of those things are true – that raises aren’t being given out and that the workload is going to continue to increase without additional hiring – there’s much better ways to couch it than “Suck it up or I’ll easily replace you”.

            The performance evaluation thing is odd to me, though – you shouldn’t have to wait for an annual evaluation to get feedback. Yes, it’s often tied to having your salary looked at as well, but an annual review should be a summary of feedback you’ve already received. You should never be finding out new information at it. Why are you concerned about not having one?

            1. Brett*

              I always find it amusing when someone responds to complaints on short staffing with “we can replace you whenever we want”.
              Really? Then why didn’t you replace the last person who quit….

            2. Rebecca*

              True – not representative of the entire working world, but those of us who have to deal with it as her direct reports, it is our whole world.

              This is why I love reading this blog! It reminds me there is a normal, sane world out there. I’ve even used tips discussed here when I approach her and ask her to handle things. Sometimes I make notes on a post it, and just tell her word for word :)

              I love the “this is what happened, and what can we do next time to accomplish this outcome instead?” It’s not a yes or no answer.

              I’m confident I will be able to use the tips here to escape, as well!

          2. Not So NewReader*

            This to me is abuse of power. Just because a person can say things like and get away with it does does not make it right or make it ethical.

            Meanwhile health care costs go up because everyone has stomach ulcers and heart problems.

            No. There’s no correlation going on there. /snark.

        4. Esra*

          Enacting more employee rights could be a start. It’s working well up here in Canadaland.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No, it’s really not. (Assuming you’re responding to “great people have options.”) There are plenty of people here who will tell you that they do indeed have options.

        5. James M*

          How about this: senior employees (the ones who have been there for X+ years) have, by majority vote, retroactive veto power over any and all decisions by their management, or can even put a manager/executive on a PIP. One morning a week, time is reserved specifically for employees to meet and discuss workplace issues and take votes.

          The goal is to increase accountability for the big decision makers. If OP’s Boss and HR wingman thought they might be called out on their behavior, the entire situation might never have happened.

          1. Jeanne*

            That would be a beautiful dream to have managers actually held accountable. Mine never were. And I do mean never for my time as a scientist. I know that makes it a bad company. But I wasn’t able to easily find other jobs.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That sound nice in theory*, but in practice I’d run far away from a company that operated that way. Employees able to override or fire their managers and all issues decided by vote? That’s not workable in practice.

            * to some people, I guess — not to all!

            1. James M*

              Guess I shouldn’t have tried to summarize a thesis on employee empowerment in just two sentences. The core idea is to increase accountability for managers. I hope that idea doesn’t make anyone run for the hills.

              As a job seeker, I would more favorably consider a company that welcomes employee review of their management decisions. I would never accept a job at a company where “suck it up or GTFO” is the standing rule. I’m going to make the wild assumption that many “employees with options” share this sentiment.

              1. Yogi Josephina*

                I work for a company that allows this. Once a year we’re given a survey where we get to rate and give feedback on all of our managers and our general manager as well, and it’s taken rather seriously. We’re one of the few companies that does this.

                I have seen seriously incompetent managers demoted and/or fired due to the results. If response by the staff is overwhelmingly, egregiously negative, serious coaching is implemented – the manager is essentially put on a PIP. If he or she doesn’t step up, they’re demoted or let go.

                It’s not a perfect system, but I appreciate having the ability to say what I think. It’s also done so that the entire thing is anonymous. No one knows what you said about them. They just get the general feedback overall.

                1. James M*

                  I’ll wager that’s a major selling point for attracting and retaining top talent throughout the hierarchy.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That kind of 360 review process is actually fairly common. Holding managers accountable for the overall feedback they receive in that process is slightly less common, but still definitely happens at good organizations.

                3. Yogi Josephina*

                  That, and the Cookie Butter. :)

                  It definitely happens that the occasional manager is not held accountable; you can’t eradicate favoritism and politics everywhere. But I’d say the good majority are. It definitely is one of the many reasons why I like my company. It has its flaws, but overall it’s one of the better employers out there.

        6. Jeanne*

          I don’t have a proposal. That’s why I said “wish.” I’m afraid that I have become a confirmed cynic and believe things will only continue to go downhill in our treatment of workers. With the high unemployment rate, the uncertainties in health insurance, the rising cost of living, etc. the companies will continue to have the power. Without really special skills, the worker doesn’t have much bargaining power.

          I’m sorry. I know you try to stay more positive on this site but I understand how Rebecca feels.

          1. Suzanne*

            Jeanne, I agree. People with special skills have more leverage, but the reality is that those skills change constantly, so it’s often anybody’s guess what the next hot skill will be. If everybody was able to grab on to those special skills, they wouldn’t be special any more.

            I don’t think things will change for a while. Employers, I believe, like it this way. Hire less people, pile on the work, and know that if you make it clear that you frown on them looking elsewhere, they may be too afraid to do so. Scared workers do what they are told and don’t complain…at least to your face.

        7. Not So NewReader*

          I am not clear on the question here.
          I think that a boss can think of other things to say than “you are lucky to have a job and you have to suck up how I treat you.”
          I think that is a bad boss, with little to no management skills.

          A company can make it clear to their managers that this attitude is not acceptable.

        8. smilingswan*

          But very few people are irreplaceable. The rest of us are just interchangeable cogs in the machine. It’s much harder to find a new job than to find a new employee, especially now.

        9. Von Bomb*

          In Australia we don’t have this “at will” thing you do. I have a contract that states how they have to deal with termination of my employment, and I’ve always felt employers were bound to me just as much as I to them. Similar notice periods, or they pay me out the notice instead. I don’t have an awesome grasp of course of US law but my understanding is that it’s different there…

  23. Natalie*

    For whatever it’s worth, it sounds like they asked you to quit. Personally, unless things get *very* bad or you have an awful lot of savings, I wouldn’t. Even if you are terminated at some point in the near future, you will mostly likely qualify for unemployment unless you’ve been terminated for some kind of gross misconduct. If you quit, you’re out in the cold with no job and no safety net (however holey that net may be).

  24. Variation*

    I have a hard time negotiating the idea that a company deserves more loyalty than I owe myself, and I take this encounter with the HR person as something representative of the culture there. While the OP is a little fresh to be looking for work, taking time off to interview isn’t a crime, especially against the company. I understand how it can be a shock, but, y’know, people move on all the time.

    I guess I have trouble understanding that emotional link to an employer: if the op’s contributions are so easily written off, why does the HR rep feel like this couldn’t happen to them? When does corporate loyalty override personal liberty?

  25. Ed*

    I’ve learned the hard way that it is never a good idea to get into a battle with your employer. Even when it feels like you won, you probably lost and just don’t know it yet. If my employer approached me like this, I wouldn’t flat out lie because I don’t know where they got the information but I would certainly spin it to make it look like the company was aggressively pursuing me so I took an interview.

    I realize this doesn’t seem fair to employers but when I quit a job, my manager never sees it coming. I consider it a failure on my part if she even suspects I’m looking before I give my notice. I wasn’t quite as hardcore about this until I got laid off twice during the recession.

  26. A.*

    I’ve never understood a manager or employer becoming upset at the idea of an employee looking to move on to another opportunity. I understand if the employee has only been in the position for a short period of time, but if he or she has been with the company for an appropriate amount of time, why become upset about it? Moving on to other opportunities is a part of life.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is counter-intuitive but it can work. My uncle managed a department for a fairly well-known company. He told his people that they were great workers and probably could get a job elsewhere if they tried.
      The result was my uncle kept his help. He had very low turn over.
      One went so far as to say “Yeah, I could get a job at X company and I know it for a fact. But I am happy here and I will stay right here. I like working here.”

      This will not work all the time, nor in every work place, clearly. But freedom to leave gives employees cause to stop and think about what they would be leaving behind.
      My uncle’s work was tough and sometimes dangerous. Yet people stayed.

  27. Sabrina*

    Realistically, who gives “months” notice when leaving a job? Maybe some industries like teaching. But most companies want you to start within a few weeks, not sometime after Halloween. I’ve seen this mentioned before and it’s always made me wonder.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      People who don’t already have another job lined up but know that they’re going to start looking soon, or that they’re going to grad school, or moving, or wanting to change careers, or looking for a promotion they can’t get where they are.

      1. Brett*

        What’s the benefit of doing that for the employee, as opposed to giving even 4 weeks notice?

        Even in a safe environment, that still sounds extremely risky to give such long notice. It also seems to send a signal to the employer of “I will leave and there is nothing you can do about it” (which would be the case for most of the scenarios you mentioned).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          All sorts of things: help with networking, being able to bounce your thinking off someone in your field who you respect, not having to lie and say you’ll be able to take on that project in 6 months when you know you can’t, and the more abstract but pretty significant mental health benefits of working in an open environment where you can be honest with your boss and know that it will be received with gratitude, even if inconvenient.

          1. Brett*

            That makes sense!

            Working in a position where I don’t have any supervisors or co-workers in my field, I tend to forgot that your employer can be a source of networking and mentoring :/

    2. Sheep*

      In Norway almost all places require at least 1 month, and most places require 2 months. Similarly, when you get a job, the start date is often 3 months down the line..

    3. Who are you??*

      I did! I knew I’d be moving and gave my former company as much notice as I could. (4 months!) The result? Great references, the ability to train my replacement, the opportunity to finish out the projects that I’d taken ownership on, and knowing that if I wanted to go back I left on extraordinarily good terms and they’d welcome my return.

    4. Kiwi*

      Absolutely correct. Giving and sort of notice with no fixed job contract is unrealistic and actually downright reckless and irresponsible to oneself and one’s own family. The only situation in which it would be “safe” would be where an individual is independently wealthy and therefore has no concerns as to where their next rent/mortgage, kids’ food/medication etc payments are coming from.

      Reasonable, responsible people don’t quit a job and hope something else comes along. Particularly those with dependants. Nice idea for the employer, but impractical.

      1. Laura*

        It depends on your employer and on how strong your position is with them also. I would have no problem giving this kind of notice if I knew I would be leaving – but I’m the senior-most engineer on my team, and I have a _lot_ of specialty knowledge in my head. Every day of extra time would be precious for knowledge dissemination.

        I work on cross-training others as much as possible anyway, because what if I got sick? (Or want to take a vacation longer than a week without being called on my cell?) But there’s only so much time for that and still getting my job done – priorities would shift if I were leaving.

        I can’t imagine they’d let me go even one day early in that case – they’d want the knowledge in my head and every bit of work I could get done around the edges. And my bosses are great guys, and my upper management seem to be, based on the few direct interactions, and my indirect impressions. I like to think they’d be reasonable to anyone who was leaving, anyway.

        (I’m not aware of anyone who gave notice and didn’t work out the period of their notice, but most of those were 2-3 weeks notice.)

  28. Brett*

    I have not seen this brought up yet, but I find it bizarre that the CEO issued the order for HR and the OP’s supervisor to do this.

    This sounds very much like the CEO is the one who found out, and then decided to get directly involved in the management of an employee several steps below them. If the CEO is involved like this, does that mean the CEO decided to take the OP’s interviewing personally, and possibly took it out on HR?

    Just thinking from that perspective, maybe HR and the new supervisor had already taken a reprimand from the CEO, and that reprimand carried over to their meeting with the OP. (And that could explain why they took the bizarre step of finding OP at lunch instead of scheduling a meeting during some other part of the day.)

    1. YALM*

      I noticed that, too. Why should HR even have been party to this conversation? Unless there was some concern that OP, in leaving, was getting ready to sue the company, HR presence isn’t necessary when a manager asks if an employee might be looking elsewhere.

      There’s too little info about the CEO to draw much of a conclusion, but that part seems hinkey; as in, maybe the CEO takes departures (or the possibility of departures) personally rather than professionally, and that is raising blood pressures in management and HR ranks?

      1. tt*

        That’s exactly what happened. Which i why I want to speak directly to the source. I was told he didn’t have time for me. i emailed him immediately and he told me he’ll talk to me later. he first tried to ignore me, but i persisted that we should talk about this.

        1. Sean*

          This may be an over-reaction on my part. If an employer had this conversation with me *in this way*, I don’t think I’d be willing to get over it. That may not be reasonable, so take this with a grain of salt.

          I’d ride it out, continue to do my job as best I could for my reputation’s sake, and begin an intensive job search. If they asked me why I wanted to take vacation days, I’d dissemble or be vague. As soon as I had a signed job offer, I’d give them two weeks’ written notice to the effect of “I have decided to pursue other opportunities”, and never look back.

          I say this as someone who usually gives a month’s notice when leaving a job. These guys? No. They get the minimum necessary for professional decorum and that’s it.

          I’d also make a pact with myself to not let them get under my skin for one single second more. Life is too short.

        2. Jim's Testing Services*

          I find it interesting that he ‘didn’t have time’ for you when you wanted to find out why he was meddling in your future, yet he had the time to do that, and then sic your supervisor (+ HR for backup) on you.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have seen this one. Two CEOs are competitors in business and frienemies in life. One CEO says “hah! I got your new guy, Dave. Now you’re down one! One point for me!”
      The second CEO goes back to work and hits tirade mode, because CEO #1 bested him in this round.

  29. Claire*

    Yeah, I’m sorry but I don’t feel bad for the company at all. You have to look out for yourself.

  30. Tiff*

    Wow – they were a shame to do this. AMA was right in that OP didn’t handle it perfectly, but that was a really bad move on the company’s part.

    Am I the only one who would feel paranoid if my boss (even casually) approached me about my “secret” job search? I feel like there is a courtesy “don’t ask, don’t tell, give notice” policy that has ruled at some of my other jobs. At one job, a bitter co-worker flat out told my boss that I was on a job interview that day and the boss asked me what was going on. But she was VERY gracious about the whole thing. She told me that I was smart, educated and talented, and that she knew the job wouldn’t be my last stop. Besides being wildly flattered, I was super grateful that she was that understanding. I gave them as much notice as possible, and was able to help hire my replacement.

    1. LBK*

      A good manager will probably approach a good employee about it because they’ll be genuinely interested in seeing if they can retain that person. This only works in a situation where if the answer is no, I’m leaving no matter what, the manager just uses that to prepare the department to take the loss. They don’t use that answer to make the employee’s life miserable.

  31. CLM*

    I’m going to weigh in on this to say that of the two parties involved, management is more wrong. Why? Because they had time to plan their response, and they, after thinking about it, chose to ambush the OP at lunch time 2 to 1, and make a bunch of accusations. The OP didn’t have the benefit of planning out their answers, and just had to respond on the fly.

    OP, you did fine. Not everyone can come up with a perfect answer when they are caught totally off-guard. I think what Alison says are good things to keep in mind if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, but don’t beat yourself up for not magically divining those words in the heat of the moment.

    I hope things work out for you.

  32. Gene*

    At a previous job we had decided to leave the area we lived because FirstWife hated earthquakes and the cost of living was out of sight high (in ’87 we grossed ~$80k and were on the list for subsidized housing). I interviewed at and shortly after took a Christmas vacation. When I got back I was in the computer room doing backups when my supervisor leaned on the open door and said, “So, (city in Oregon, huh)?” After I lifted my jaw off the floor we had a discussion about me leaving, because I was the only one there who did that particular job that was mandated by Federal law. Since she had attended university there, we talked about where to live and things to do.

    She found out because they called her for a reference without letting me know; I was unavailable on vacation and this was when cell phones were the size of lunchboxes. They offered me the job and I decided not to take it. Later, when I did end up leaving, I was comfortable giving her about 6 weeks’ notice and helped hire my replacement.

  33. Joolsey woolsey*

    Who are these employers who are contacting candidates current employers for references before the candidate has accepted the job? I would’ve thought it would just be common sense that you wait for permission from the candidate first.

    1. De Minimis*

      I am curious to know that too….was that how the employer found out in this case, or did something else happen?

      I’ve applied for another position with my agency and am somewhat concerned about something like this happening.

    2. Brett*

      I don’t think this one was a reference check though… since the company did not even make an offer.

      1. De Minimis*

        It depends, I know of cases [both for me personally and people I know] where people did call references but did not offer the job, so it very well could have happened that way. Although it’s also true that something else could have happened.

    3. Jeanne*

      I don’t think it was a formal check. I think an employee at one place knew an employee at the other place and they had a casual conversation. The employee where OP interviewed didn’t think twice about the conversation and what it meant.

    4. Sharm*

      I worry about this all the time, since I live in a small place where everyone knows everyone. I worry someone will mention something offhand, and then it will turn ugly for everyone.

  34. Ruffingit*

    I honestly see no other solution here than to pack up and leave ASAP. Keep the job for as long as you can since you likely need the income, but given this reaction, you know now just how crazy the people you are working for are. Move on as soon as that is possible.

  35. thenoiseinspace*

    Like most people, I don’t know that I’d have handled this any better on the spot, so I think it might be wise for us to come up with some stock answers in case any of us find ourselves in this scenario.

    Mine would be: “My friend’s company requires that a minimum number of candidates are interviewed for each job posting before the hiring process can proceed. They didn’t have enough, so I offered to interview with them so they could move forward. It wasn’t a job I was seriously considering.” (This is a requirement that my last position had, so it really does happen.)

    Does anyone else have suggested responses that would neutralize the situation?

    1. J-nonymous*

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to lie about circumstances behind an interview, particularly in this instance when it sounds like someone in the OP’s company has access to hiring information from the other company.

      1. Fee*

        Yeah although that sounds plausible, in reality if there is already an exchange of information going on between the two companies that had led to this situation then this is a pretty easy lie to be caught out on, which would make you look much worse.

        A stock answer would need to include the jobseeker’s motivations in a way that no one can factually contradict, e.g. “I was approached and decided to get some interview practice, which could be useful for applying for opportunities here (current job).”

        1. Fee*

          And if HR says “but there are no opportunities coming up for you here” that’s when you raise eyebrows, say “Good to know…” and stare off into the middle distance :)

    2. Some other possible lines*

      Most of these assume you won’t take the other job if it’s offered. It’s stickier otherwise.

      “One of my friends sent me the posting, and I agreed to check it out. I didn’t really expect an interview, but I was curious / wanted to practice my interview skills, so I accepted the interview. Now that I’ve interviewed, I know how good I have it here.”

      (The beauty of that last line is that it can be absolutely true no matter how fast you want to run for the hills…. But you do have to be able to say it with a straight face.)

      If it would be a stretch position for you (only): “I saw what looked like a fascinating position, though a bit of a stretch. I wanted to see what that would look like, but I don’t think it’s a good fit.”

      “I keep an eye on the job market as a hobby / for my own interest / just in case, and this position seemed interesting. I took the interview out of curiosity / in the interests of learning a little more about the industry / on a whim. I had already decided not to continue in the process after the interview, however.”

      And add, as needed and appropriate, “I’m definitely not looking in general; this just fell into my lap and I was curious about it.” “I’m happy where I am.” (Optionally adding: “…even more so, after seeing what the other options are.”)

      But if you’re going to take the other job if it’s offered, using any of these is a little time bomb waiting to go off and kill your good reference if you actually do jump ship to that job. (Or, depending on how earnest you were, to _any_ job in the short term.)

  36. soitgoes*

    I’ve had similar things happen to me. Usually it’s because the company owner has a “this business is my baby” attitude and doesn’t understand why his $10-an-hour employees consider it little more than just another job. It might also be a result of the lack of career prospects that millennials/recent grads feel they have. Outside of specialized industries, very few people in their 20s and early 30s have any real sense of having a career that progresses. We move from job to job, and it really doesn’t help when companies preach about loyalty and aren’t paying us enough money to live on.

    This might not be what’s actually going on here, but I felt the need to weigh in on the comments about “what’s good for your career.” That’s not something that a lot of young-ish adults have the luxury of considering.

    1. Variation*

      I really want to second your last paragraph- the concerns about the OP’s career choices are misguided, at best. Clearly, this employer is a bad place to work, and I can’t blame this person for taking a chance to look around.

  37. AnyoneButMe*

    Honestly if I was confronted like this on my lunch hour, I would have gotten up and walked away as this is MY time and I am not on the clock, literally.

  38. J-nonymous*

    Alison – I’ve seen other posts where you’ve said that managers who react badly to resignations give up the privilege of getting more than the minimum (2 weeks). What, besides yelling and firing, constitutes a ‘bad reaction’ in your opinion? (From my perspective, I tend to find panicky reactions also very negative, if not of the same ilk as yelling/intimidating people.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yelling, extreme guilt trips, hostility, rudeness. I’ll give a pass on a VERY short-lived initial period of frustration (without yelling), as long as it ends within 5-10 minutes, once the person has had a chance to get over initial surprise and come to their senses.

    2. Anon 1100*

      Employers who do this to me give up the privilege of *any* notice, especially if I’ve just started working there. In cases where I’m interrogated like this, I just walk off the property with no intention of returning.

      Those on top of you in the hierarchy are able to take away the money with which you feed yourself and your children in addition to putting your health and well-being in great danger. Subordinates have little recourse. It’s time that they stand up for themselves and resign without notice in circumstances that call for it. Believe me, managers that harm their subordinates deserve much, much worse. When managers begin to realize that people will simply walk off the job when threatened, harassed, or intimated, they will put at end to these appalling practices.

      1. LeeGee44*

        I do not agree in walking off a job unless you feel threatened, etc. I had one job that I gave notice; and worked 3 days of my notice and didn’t return but it was a horrible place. I didn’t have anything lined up and had no income for four months after that. I had to live with a relative and walk away from my apartment.

        She was terrible … my supervisor would corner you in your cubicle and block your way out; scream and shake her finger in your face. Follow you around the office screaming at the back of your head. what broke my back was when her and a co-worker were in the office; screaming and throwing things at each other. One of my co-workers shoved her out of the way and walked out of the office .. she disappeared for about 15 minutes and came back. She got written up for the shove; supervisor did not for cornering her. I was asked to document everyone’s behaviors’ by the big boss. I was tracking poor behavior of the supervisor and two admin’s … they needed to get rid of all three of them.

        When I told the bigger boss; I was told not to call the police … to document what is taking place; call them and let them (walk up two flights of stairs) come to the office and evaluate the situation. They would decide if the police were required. Hence they could kill each other before the big boss shows. I kept expecting to see on the evening news that someone shot or stabbed her. I heard from the grape vice that one admin left; the other threatened a lawsuit and is still there; the manager was asked to step down; but still works there.

        But they had my document trail to address their behaviors’ but it took them a year to get rid of two of them.

  39. tt*

    2 days no answer on what this outcome will be. i requested a meeting last week about this. i regret ever working here.

  40. Vicki*

    While I agree that the OP could have responded better.. in the ‘heat f the moment” (i.s. when confronted by an adversarial shock), many of us are not able to calmly respond in a politically correct manner.

    That and… well, sometimes you learn important things abut the people you work with.

    Dear OP:
    You need to up your job search. Your supervisor, the CEO, and the HR person at your current company are not sane. Get out now before it gets worse.

  41. LeeGee44*


    Keep looking at your company’s HR job posting site. You may find your job description on it. After their unprofessional conduct I wouldn’t be surprised at anything they do.

    Also do as the others’ suggest. Start your job search now. do you have any idea of how you current employer found out? Be sure to block your bosses from your facebook page & linkedin profile … I wouldn’t trust them to not reach out to any new contacts you make via social network’s and trash you as a payback. Your responsibility is to your self in this situation. And if you get a job …. do not give your two week notice… they sound like type to can you when they see it. If I were you I would tell future employer ; when you get your offer that you need to give two weeks notice. If you want 2 – 3 days off between jobs …. I would gradually clean out the items you want to keep in office; be sure to copy your outlook (email) address book so that you keep your professional contacts within the organization. do it now; do not wait. Than I would give notice the morning of that last day you wish to work. Be sure to send an e-mail copy of your resignation letter to HR & CC yourself with return receipt required; so that you have the formal last date on record in case you are owed in vacation time, etc. Expect them to turn around; follow you back to your office and watch you pack up. Doubt they’ll let you work out your last day; they sound too vindictive.

    But clean out your personal stuff … but leave a few items in your cubicle and/or office that you can afford to lose (or make copies of photos you have) in your space so they are unaware that you are out the door. After that confrontation … they will be looking to see if you are leaving. do not do any of your job search or personal stuff on your work computer. They can turn around; look for an excuse (say you pulled up your bank account on work PC) … to say you are doing personal web searching, etc at work … turn around and fire you for cause so that they do not have to pay unemployment.

    I wonder if they have someone they want to hire (a relative of said boss) and are waiting for someone to quit; or an excuse to get rid of someone … they saw an opportunity when they found out about your job search to push the envelope to free the position up. You never know someone’s hidden agenda’s’ but when they cornered you; he reeks of hidden agenda (or true horse butts).

  42. VictoriaHR*

    I’m in a very similar position. A coworker and I were working on a project together and I mentioned that I was unhappy and looking for another job. She went to HR and they wrote me up for not having a positive attitude, and the HR person said that I was “unethical” for talking about job searching while at work (I disagree). Obviously there would never be a job position under her after that, and that’s the area I wanted to move to, so I decided I’ll be moving on soon.

  43. Diane Peer*

    I am going through a similar situation. Pretty much exactly the same. But instead they fired me the next work day even though I told them I was not going to leave. Is this illegal? Or right? Should I take lawful actions?

  44. Kara*

    I am a principal at a small, private school, and my frustration lies in the fact that more and more teachers are signing their contracts and then breaking them late in the summer when something better suddenly pops up, completely leaving me – and more importantly our students – in the lurch. Currently, I have a teacher who is actively applying for other positions. She did not tell me of course, but other teachers did, and she was honest in saying she was uncertain as to whether or not she was returning. I think we have a good relationship, and I have been very supportive of her over the last 3 years she has been at my school. In fact, I totally understand that she needs to make more money (city versus suburb) so I truly don’t want to penalize her, but at the same time I feel like my hands are tied and I need to protect myself. Her position will be very difficult to fill, and I am afraid she is going to sign her contract and then just keep applying elsewhere in the hopes something more lucrative becomes available this summer. If she goes ahead and signs her contract, am I stuck? What options do I have if she is still applying and interviewing elsewhere? Is it only a breach of contract if she actually accepts another position? Any advice?

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