should you tell your boss you’re looking for a new job?

A reader writes:

I have a good relationship with my boss and enjoy my current job and employer, but I’m about to interview for another job that is both a career step up and a shorter commute.

Do I tell my boss the real reason I’ll be requesting time off is to interview, as a courtesy to her? If I don’t tell her the real reason for the time off, what do I say? I won’t lie, and I suspect that being vague will tip her off anyhow.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 90 comments… read them below }

  1. TMA*

    My recommendation is to wait to tell your employer, even if you think your boss will be gracious and kind.

    I told my boss I was job hunting when I started my job search. Big mistake. He was kind and helpful BUT he asked me almost every time he saw me if I got a job yet so that he could post the job (in hindsight he could have posted the job earlier, but he was an idiot and forethought or organization was not his strong suit. And the organization was in flux, but mostly he was an idiot). Job hunting took much longer than I expected, six months in total, and it was annoying to have to constantly say, “No, I don’t have a new job yet.”

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Some organizations won’t allow you to post the job until the employee has given notice, so that may not be totally the fault of your boss. I’ve been in long-term situations where I was job searching and my boss knew, and it could have become awkward if

      a) my boss had been unreasonable/unsupportive of my development
      b) I hadn’t continued to do a good job while I was searching

      That said, I didn’t tell everyone I worked with, just my immediate supervisor.

    2. Roscoe*

      Yeah I don’t know that it makes him an idiot (at least not just based on this). Its just that he didn’t want to be left in a lurch of you giving 2 weeks notice, which isn’t usually enough time to hire a replacement.

  2. Stephanie (HR)*

    Coming from a place that both accepts long terminations, and has also accepted resignations immediately/early, it’s important to get a real feel from your boss as to your standing. While most are accommodated in long notice periods (which are very useful!) and even given extensions when their circumstances change because they were a valued and respected member of the team, some employees are invited to leave early because they are causing trouble. It can be hard to tell the difference from the outside. If you see this, pay attention to your relationship with your manager. It should be a good indicator.

  3. appletoapple*

    Always best to err on the side of caution and wait until you have accepted the offer to tell your employer.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Can I just offer a different point of view? Obviously, do whatever you’re most comfortable with, but I haven’t found it “[a]lways best to err on the side of caution.” I’m sure others have been burnt and let go early. If you think that’s a legitimate probable outcome, definitely err on the side of caution.

      There are distinct advantages to an employee if she feels comfortable letting her boss know she’s looking:

      1. If the boss is reasonable and isn’t going to retaliate, the boss will have a lot of heads-up and be able to prepare for the employee’s departure. The boss may even involve the employee in the replacement search.

      2. If the boss is reasonable and isn’t going to retaliate, you can use your current boss as a reference in addition to your past managers. In fact, your boss may even help you find another position or give you leads. I had one boss who knew I was looking and said “Just get to the reference-checking stage. Once they call me as a reference, you’ll definitely get the job!”

      1. Anon for this*

        I’m with Anonymous Educator here. I’m looking for a new job right now, and my boss not only knows it but has pointed out a couple of job postings they thought I might want to apply for. And this boss is my best reference, so I’m glad I can apply openly and use them as a reference.

        I’ve definitely worked at places where I wouldn’t tell anyone I was looking for a new job, but since I have a reasonable and supportive boss here, I knew I could tell them. (I know the saying is “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers” but in my current situation the opposite is true!)

        1. sunny-dee*

          It really, really really depends on your manager though. My company requires that we tell our manager if we apply for an internal transfer. I applied for one job, told my boss, but then it stalled because of project funding. The internal recruiter proposed a different job to me, and I decided to go forward with that, and told my manager in email.

          He didn’t respond to the email, canceled our one-on-ones for two weeks, avoided me on instant messaging, and (it turns out) dodged calls from the recruiter until he could put me on a PIP — for real, for not having faith in my manager to be a good manager. After I had gone through the interview cycles. Turns out, he had been tracking Job 1 through the recruiter and knew it was stalled, but when Job 2 came up, he was afraid I would leave and tried to block it. He then trashed me in my reference check — but, thankfully, I had literally of dozens of other people in the company, including two previous managers, who gave glowing references.

          Shocker — I wasn’t the only one leaving the department (I was the third in about 6 weeks), and several more are planning transfers. None of them are looping OldManager in (although several have reached out to me to learn about the process).

          Obviously, this is not normal. But if your manager sucks, just keep any job searching to yourself. The risk is really high if you don’t.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            It really, really really depends on your manager though.

            I don’t think anyone’s disputing that.

            1. Jerry Vandesic*

              And, unless you are certain on how your manager would react then it probably makes sense to err on the side of caution.

            2. Bwmn*

              I think why that’s always stressed so cautiously is that I think that really knowing those kinds of ins and outs of a manager can be difficult.

              If you’re the only person your supervisor manages, then you may have never seen a situation of someone giving notice. Or, you can see a manager treat two people differently after they give notice based on the kind of relationship they have and therefore be uncertain what that would mean for yourself.

              Someone where I work recently gave their 2 weeks notice. She was a known as a difficult character with numerous HR complaints, but ultimately she did give notice on her own initiative. When giving notice, she was informed that was her last day. Whatever the gossip may circles, the reality was that everyone was left with knowing that was a real possibility. I may know I’m not an “HR problem” and I may think that I’m generally well liked – but I’d also hate to misread that….

          2. Vicki*

            I so want a new form of HR.

            – HR should be the employee advocate, not the managers’ CYA.
            – All annual reviews would include upward reviews of the manager.
            – If HR receives one (confidential) complaint for a manager, it goes in a file.
            – If HR receives 2 (confidential) complaints, they do interviews with all direct reports, the manager’s manager is informed, and the manager gets training.
            – Every time someone leaves a company, HR does an exit interview to probe if the manager had any responsibility in any way for the decision to leave.
            – If three employees complain or leave, the manager is put on a PIP.

            1. SevenSixOne*

              Just the exit interview would go a long way for me!

              I have only had ONE exit interview in ~15 years of working, and that one only covered my options for my retirement accounts and health insurance coverage– nothing about the job or why I was leaving!

            2. Ack ack*

              The “new” form of HR that advocates for employees is called a union!
              I like your suggestions for manager evaluations, especially if they are put on a pip if they can’t retain employees. Brilliant.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              HR isn’t supposed to be anyone’s CYA. It’s supposed to ensure the company is functioning effectively and legally. Obviously that plays out differently in different organizations. But yeah, if you want an employee advocate, you want a union.

              If three employees complain or leave, it could mean the manager is doing her job well, depending on who those employees are. Low performers often have complaints, and a good manager will get them to leave.

              Also, some employee feedback is really valuable. Other employee feedback shouldn’t carry any weight at all, because the person has bad judgment/isn’t positioned well to weigh in on the issue/dislikes the manager because the manager is holding them accountable/etc. This stuff isn’t black and white; you need to bring nuance and judgment to it.

              1. Stephanie*

                If three employees complain or leave, it could mean the manager is doing her job well, depending on who those employees are. Low performers often have complaints, and a good manager will get them to leave.

                There are also jobs that are kind of geared for employees to move up or out of. College hire management consulting or i-banking roles are basically geared for students to work for a couple of years and then go to business school.

              2. sunny-dee*

                It’s not supposed to be, but at my company, it functionally is. In my case, my manager lied to HR about the PIP, so they waived it to allow my transfer — but they only did that after I called, repeatedly, and forwarded emails to my manager and gave them the recruiter to contact to prove I’d actually be through the process and my manager had been aware of it. And, of course, nothing was done to my manager or director for my “PIP” or for speciously attacking the two women who transferred before me, by contacting their new managers to complain about their performance. I honestly believe the only reason HR helped me was because they truly believed I could sue. I get that HR can’t only, or even primarily, be a rep for employees, but it would be nice if we had somewhere to go. (I’m seeing my old team dismantle itself because of two atrocious managers, and it’s making me sad.)

            4. College Career Counselor*

              – HR should be the employee advocate, not the managers’ CYA.

              Historically, this would be the role of a union , no? But I take your point about wanting someone to assist when the boss/manager/organization is kicking down. Having been in that situation, it would have been nice to have someone in my corner.

              – All annual reviews would include upward reviews of the manager.
              – If HR receives one (confidential) complaint for a manager, it goes in a file.
              – If HR receives 2 (confidential) complaints, they do interviews with all direct reports, the manager’s manager is informed, and the manager gets training.

              Some places do 360 reviews (challenging). And I could still see two disgruntled employees making a manager’s life hell with frivolous complaints.

              – Every time someone leaves a company, HR does an exit interview to probe if the manager had any responsibility in any way for the decision to leave.

              I really like this idea in theory, but a lot of people are leery of burning a bridge or screwing up a reference.

              1. TootsNYC*

                yeah, they do an exit interview, and nobody wants their comments to go on record.

                That said, i have seen it work. Subtly and well done, but my employee’s exiting comments about the people of my head were subtly investigated, and when I corroborated much of what he said, in a careful conversation initiation by the HR person, I think that HR said something behind the scenes. Not that I was privy–but I saw the end result.

                So I think a *good* HR dept. will do that.

            5. VPM*

              Speaking as a manager currently trying to navigate non constructive behavior towards me from an employee, I’d revise your statement to “HR should be the employee advocate and manager advocate.”

              Completely agree with your second bullet on upward review, I love when I actually can get input from my team. Agree with the rest.

  4. Stranger than fiction*

    With the exception of my current boss, I’d never feel comfortable telling for all the reasons Alison mentions. I’ve seen such horrible vindictive things happen to friends and family unfortunately. My current manager, however, is an exception. She knows her department has no growth opportunities and the frustrations her team has due to upper management’s reluctance to make changes to the way things are structured. It’s nice to know if I decide to leave, for the first time I’d be able to say Yes to can we contact your current manager.

    1. Elizabeth*

      I tried to take this approach when I had a team of staff. I always worked under the assumption that my full-timers were looking for other work for reasons beyond either of our control, offering to look over their resumes if need be. For full-timers I’d mostly just nonchalantly look the other way if I knew they were at an interview; for my seasonal staff, I was upfront that if they needed to attend interviews so that they had employment lined up for when their contract ended, that was fine with me. They seemed appreciative of this approach, and it never negatively affected how our team worked.

  5. Elizabeth*

    I actually did tell my boss once that I was applying for another job elsewhere. She was someone who liked me very much and who would speak highly of my work, but who was a nightmare to work for. One of her few positive qualities was that she had always been clear about wanting to be supportive of my career moves, even if they took me away from the organization, so when a job popped up somewhere she knew I was super interested in as a patron of theirs, I told her I was applying and asked if I could use her as a reference (they asked for references upfront). I wasn’t looking to leave in that precise moment, but figured this was an opportunity to see if she’d stand by her word of supporting my career development (I had reason to believe she might not). She did, I got the job, and I’m infinitely happier than I ever was at that job.

  6. Granite*

    I’d add that if you get any follow up questions to the wording suggested by Alison, the next response is “I’d rather not discuss it.” Which is both absolutely true and unlikely to get pushback unless you’re dealing with someone truly obnoxious.

  7. Lily in NYC*

    I told my boss at my previous job when I started looking, and I will do the same with my current boss. Part of the reason is that my two best references both died suddenly last year and I want to use my current boss and her boss (he used to be my direct supervisor before he got promoted) as references. I know they will be appreciate of the extra time instead of just getting a two-week notice from me. And they are “normal” people, so there won’t be any negative fallout for me. My previous boss was appreciative when I told her as well. But I knew it would be ok and would keep my mouth zipped if I had even a slight inkling that it wouldn’t go over well.

  8. Anonymous Educator*

    I would definitely base it on how your employer has treated other employees who’ve let her know about job searching or who have given long notice periods. That’s the best indicator as to whether it’s safe or not.

    That said, I know this probably doesn’t apply to the OP, but if you work in private schools, particularly if you’re a teacher, it’s fairly common to let your head of school know pretty far in advance if you’re looking for a new job. I’ve let heads or department heads know sometimes as early as January or November of the previous year that I won’t be returning in the fall.

    A lot of this is not just company-dependent or boss-dependent but also industry-dependent.

    1. hbc*

      Yes, if there’s a natural hiring point in your year, they’d have to really hate you to upend the normal process.

  9. Ruth*

    My thought for OP is this–it sounds like this job you’re applying for is an especially exciting job for you. You didn’t say if you were broadly hunting. No matter how good the relationship, if your approach is just “I’ll apply when it’s a great fit for my next job because I’m not in a position where I HAVE to apply widely,” then I’d really advise against telling your boss. If you don’t get this one and it takes another 4 months for a job you want to get posted somewhere else, it could lead to long-term weirdness even with an otherwise good relationship.

    1. Gaara*

      Good point! There’s a big difference between “I’m leaving once I get a good offer” and “I don’t want to leave, but I will if a great opportunity appears.” I don’t see how the latter information even helps your boss.

  10. vivace*

    I have the problem where my boss, awhile back, requested (demanded, actually) that I “see him first” if I ever feel the need or desire to look elsewhere for a job. We had just lost a big contract and he was worried the company we lost to was going to poach me. I didn’t really promise to honor this request, but I knew better as a young 20 something than to flat out say no in the heat of his emotion. Since then I’ve witnessed several coworkers give notice, and he always takes it personally and acts like the person has committed treason for leaving the company, followed by off-hand comments on how so-and-so “screwed” them by leaving (even though everyone gave appropriate notice.) And one person gave notice but he cut his notice period short by a week, I think because he was so mad.

    I’m really at a loss to figure out how I could possibly leave on good terms. I feel like we have a very good working relationship, but I do not trust him on this. It’s clear to me his main interest is in retaining me, not what is best for my career.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Well, it’s not inappropriate for him to be self-interested here. -He- is not responsible for looking out for what’s best for your career. He’s not your dad, or your personal friend. It’s not really appropriate for you to expect him to.

      I agree that he’s not being realistic–just as he is looking out for HIS own best interests. So are other people. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

      I don’t know how you leave on good terms with him, since he’s so unreasonable. Maybe you can gush about how sad you are, how you just -had- to take the more money/better commute/better opportunity. Gush about how great he was as a boss, how you’d love to come back, how unfortunately it’s so expected that people move around so that it’s unwise to stay where you are.

      Bullshit him, basically–flattery. It might work.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Hmm, I don’t agree with your first paragraph – I think it’s inappropriate for a boss to make that demand of employees.
        But I really like your idea about flattering the guy when it’s time to give notice.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I didn’t say that I think the boss was appropriate to make that demand (“come to me first”)–not at all. But I also think that anything vivace said in response is completely non-binding.

          I was saying that this sentence is not an appropriate objection: “It’s clear to me his main interest is in retaining me, not what is best for my career.”

          Of course the boss is going to look out for his self-interest. This boss is being a massive jerk about it, but he has no obligation to have an interest in what’s best for his subordinates’ careers.

          1. vivace*

            Oh I agree, I don’t necessarily fault him for wanting to retain me, but this “arrangement” he thinks we have is completely one sided in his interest only. I can’t see this conversation being anything other him attempting to talk me out of it with empty promises and “reminding” me of how I great I have it now and how lucky I am to have a job. If it’s a matter of giving him/the company an opportunity to give a counter offer, or having extended time to find a replacement, then that could all presumably wait until I had an offer. I just think the real reason is I work at Hotel California.

      2. Bwmn*

        I disagree with the premise of the first paragraph because I don’t necessarily see this kind of behavior actually serving his best interest.

        Believing that employees A,B,C, and D are awesome to keep on the team as long as possible makes complete sense – however, in most lines of work, it’s also illogical to think that employees A,B,C, and D are going to stay forever. Therefore by creating a context where you just beg/guilt people to stay and then treat those leaving poorly – all it does is make existing employees feel awkward and poorly about leaving. And in that same context, possibly not refer or encourage colleagues or coworkers to apply for the vacancy.

        I think that there are lots of really A-OK managers or situations where you still shouldn’t tell you’re thinking about leaving. But this kind of aggressive response to people leaving reminds me of abstinence only education. All it does is keep people around marginally longer but then when they do leave, they’re less likely to do so in a thoughtful manner.

        1. TootsNYC*

          well, he *believes* that’s his best interest. And we each get to determine what that is. (what it is we believe is in our best interests)

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      “… And one person gave notice but he cut his notice period short by a week, I think because he was so mad.”

      As a result he taught his employees that if they want to resign, then they should resign with zero notice. If you end up leaving, you might want to keep this in mind.

  11. Tsalmoth*

    I had an employee with whom I had a great relationship be very upfront once she’d gotten engaged to her long-distance SO that she’d be looking for a job and eventually moving even if her search wasn’t working. As a result, I had nine months of knowing she was eventually going to leave, and a solid eight-weeks notice before she left. Made the stress of losing and eventually replacing her much, much less painful (including bringing in a contract worker who could overlap with her for a couple of weeks and pick up knowledge).

    That said, it really requires both a great relationship, and the right kind of workplace.

  12. TootsNYC*

    I’m the sort of boss that doesn’t take it personally when people quit; that has said to myself, mentally, “ooh, that would be a nice move up for my subordinate!” I’ve even thought, “Hmmm, I bet he’s

    I would totally serve as a reference for a current subordinate.

    And I don’t really want to know that you’re looking. I’m afraid it would affect whether I gave you new assignments, how I filtered your late arrival, etc. And if it took you a long time, it would be awkward.

    So, I say no, don’t tell your boss. If you’ve got a sensible boss like me, you don’t really have to lie; just be vague. I may suspect, but I’ll think, “hope she gets it; wait and see.”

    *IF* someone who worked for me got so close to an offer that they were asked to provide references, and they wanted me to be a reference, and asked, all would be well.
    I could give the reference, and then if they didn’t give notice, I could say, “Sorry that didn’t work out,” and then proceed as though we both thought it was a one-off opportunity.

    I want that plausible deniability.

    I would like to be a

  13. Slippy*

    I would not let them know even if you have a good relationship with your boss. I got burned by this previously when I also had a good relationship with my supervisor. Unfortunately my supervisor was not very discreet and that lead to word getting out that I was looking and there was blow-back. If you want to do a favor for your supervisor then give a longer notice period, but don’t tell them you are looking if at all possible; since you shoulder all the risk and get very little in return.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      Great point. Expanding on the point (above) “It really, really really depends on your manager” should probably be “It really, really really depends on your manager and anyone your manager might tell.”

      While you might be confident in your manager and how they would react, you also need to factor in the rest of the organization to determine if you want to take a risk with an early notification.

  14. shep*

    My last supervisor was a disaster in the workplace for a myriad of reasons (disorganized, chronically late to client consultations, a compulsive liar, etc.), which put me in MANY uncomfortable situations with both clients and other staff, but was also always very nice to me. She often said she never wanted me to leave, but knew I wanted more and that if she could, she’d get out too. She knew I was looking and was really pleased when I found a new position. Despite her qualities as a manager, she’s always provided me with a stellar reference, and I’m grateful to her for that.

  15. Brett*

    I see a lot of comments about managers relative to this decision, but don’t overlook culture.

    My last boss was perfectly supportive of me looking for a position. But the organization culture was not. Even though my manager tried to shield me from repercussions, just rumors that I was job seeking was enough for others in the organization to cut me out of projects as if I was gone already.
    Since it was definitely a culture where employees were expected to stay there for their entire career until retirement (my first boss there earned his 50 year pin!), I was treated by some as a short-timer and even somewhat of a traitor for choosing to leave after only 8 years.

    If I had to consider my manager alone, the decision to inform him was easy. The culture though was one of the worst for this.

    1. TXan in MN*

      Yes, exactly. Your own manager is just one factor of many. Even people that you consider friends at work may start pulling away once they realize you are on your way out.

      1. TootsNYC*

        They can find out other ways. Recruiters or hiring managers at other companies let stuff slip sometimes.

        I had a situation in which a colleague was at an interview, and while he was in the waiting room, I called about the same job and the receptionist answered. She called the Hiring Manager (whose name my colleague recognized, of course, since he was interviewing w/ him) and said, “TootsNYC called about that job, do you want to speak to her?”

        He recognized my name. If he had been unscrupulous, he could have make sure my boss found out about it.

  16. TXan in MN*

    I’ve tried it both ways. Once, I gave quite a bit of upfront notice (about 3 months) and, while my manager was disappointed I was leaving, was not upset with me and very understanding. Unfortunately, the powers above her demanded that I provide an exact leave date months in advance. I did not yet have another job lined up, though I was interviewing, and so I wound up having about a 1 month employment gap. I would have fared better had I just kept my mouth shut and given the normal two weeks notice. So, the one caveat I have for anybody considering this, even with the most understanding of managers, is that people above them may not be so understanding. That said, I agree that one could look at the general history of how the situation has been handled within the organization.

    At my last job, I did not trust my manager to not retaliate after years of listening to her talk about others that had left the company. So, I gave her notice as soon as I had an offer letter (about 2.5 weeks out). As predicted, she was furious. Called me disingenuous, disloyal, and a liar. Said that I should have started talking to her months in advance if I was considering leaving and she would have helped me (yeah, right). OK, this paragraph is just me venting.

    Altogether, I think I would strongly lean against giving more than 2 weeks notice. Of course, the right circumstances might arise where a person could do this and it would work out well for everyone. I’m merely suggesting that those circumstances are probably quite rare and giving early notice is probably not going to go well for most people, most of the time.

  17. phedre*

    It really depends on the boss. At my last job, my boss knew that they were way underpaying me (he tried so hard to get me more money) and that there wasn’t any room for growth. So he encouraged me to start looking, gave me advice on my resume, sent me job postings, and gave me a stellar reference. He’s still a mentor to me today, years after I’ve left that job!

    But there are definitely places where they would really not take it well. So gauge what you know about your boss, your relationship, and what happens when other people leave. Reasonable people will understand that people move on. Unfortunately, as this website shows, many people aren’t reasonable.

  18. Stephanie*

    I’d err on the side of caution, even if there is regular turnover and departing employees are treated well. I’m probably resigning later this summer to head back to school and plan to give standard two weeks’ notice. My company/department definitely has a culture of lifers and resigning employees can be seen as disloyal.

  19. DD* won’t let me read the article and their registration is totally broken (can’t register using Facebook or Google), not great.

  20. Ama*

    I told two bosses I was looking (although it was actually the same job search). The first boss I told because it was a very small department (we were the only two full time employees), and he had told me earlier that week that a long promised promotion would not be forthcoming for what I was told were budgetary reasons — I told him I was looking not out of spite, but because I thought we had the kind of honest relationship where I could explain that this was my only option if I couldn’t grow here. He seemed disappointed but understood. Two months later he was fired for long-term embezzlement of company funds. (I now suspect that he may have found a convenient excuse to kibosh my promotion because it would have given me oversight of our department budget.)

    I was rolled into another department in our division so I also told that boss upfront that I was looking when I moved in, mostly because I didn’t realize at the time that it would take me another year and half to actually find a new job. I really wish I had *not* told her that, because she used that knowledge to interpret any mistake I made as intentionally having an “attitude” because I wasn’t planning to stay. I think we were both relieved when I was finally able to move on.

    I have not told a boss I was looking since, even though I’ve had pretty good relationships with subsequent bosses. I realize my experiences were not typical (particularly the first one), but it really brought home to me that no matter how good you think your relationship with your boss is, there is no predicting human behavior in that situation.

  21. Roscoe*

    I would never do it unless the job has a set “normal” ending period. Teaching for example. I had no problem telling my employers like 6 months in advance that I wouldn’t be coming back. But that gave them enough time to start interviewing, and they appreciated it. But even in my job now where I have a great relationship, I wouldn’t tell them. Mainly because you have no idea how long it will take you to get a new job. You may think that looking now you’ll have something by July, but there is no guarantee. They may start interviewing people, then have to let you go or something sooner than you’d like

    1. Anxa*

      When we got our schedule forms, I let my boss know I am looking. I work part time and my partners contract is up soon. Our hours are capped under 25. If I can’t find a second job or a full time job, I may have to quit as I won’t be able to afford to live here.

      I figure that the school doesn’t really want people like me* working for them anyway.

      *neither a student or someone with a spouse with a good income, but someone who is looking for a job to really commit to and in turn be supported by

      I had a long, long gap in employment… Followed by 2 short stints. I need my boss as a reference, full stop

  22. Chriama*

    What you do as a manager if your employee has a shorter time frame that’s not very well defined yet. I imagine if your employee tells you 8 months in advance you have a lot of time to plan, get them involved in the hiring process, and cross-train with existing employees. But if you know your employee is looking for a new job but you don’t know how long the search will take, what can you do? If you can’t afford to have 2 people in the role indefinitely then you risk waiting too late to hire and having a gap with no one in the role.

    1. TootsNYC*

      You wait until they give notice.

      But you unofficially recruit in the meantime. You keep an eye out for who’s promotable, you mention to colleagues that you think you’re going to be hiring pretty soon, etc.

      However….these are things you should always be doing anyway.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Oh, you also get some focus going on documentation of your subordinates’ duties, etc.

        Also something you should aways be doing anyway.

  23. Cyberspace Dreamer*

    Workplace Culture and relationship with direct manager are important factors.

    At OLDJOB we had several interesting incidents. Several years ago, a programmer was given a house by a relative. This dwelling was too far from this OLDJOB so he let them know he was moving to that house and getting a job their so the transfer was smooth and took a few months. That was very nice.

    More recently, a guy in our IT department openly asked for time off for a job interview which many found to be foolish. His situation was unique in that our division head was giving our department head A LOT of heat and we knew she was trying to force him out. So the guy was not sanctioned because it was better to help people get out at that point. So he went to his interview got the job and his two weeks notice was honored. Plenty of time to do hand offs etc. He even got a going away party.

    A few months later our department head was gone with our division head controlling the department, another manager turned in her two weeks notice and was shown the door the same day. The tide had turned and I was next.

    After successfully developing a respectful rapport with all of my managers during my entire professional career, I was not able to do so with the new department head and knew I was in danger of losing my job. This manager actually successfully removed me from the department and I have credible evidence that she was trying to fire me. Anyway I was technically reporting to a project manager and put in a request for time off for my interview. I am not sure how legal it was but members of the project team had to fill out a special form asking for details that I am sure are probably borderline illegal to get a day off. It took several day to get approval and I was going to the interview ANYWAY and would have told them I would be in the office late. I was let go the day I turned in my notice, as I expected. But their decision to not honor my notice left a knowledge gap to took a very long time to fill. And I did not get a party either. Did not need one. :-)

    After that everyone expected to be fired when they turned in their notice. But evidently the brass was trying to dispel the perception by holding a job for one employee who turned in notice and try to reclaim another employee who was resigning. Both still left, partially because they lost trust after the way we were treated.

  24. Murphy*

    When I’m looking for a new job I don’t have much choice but to tell my boss before the offer stage. Government reference checks must include your current boss so there’s no way around it. It really, really sucks.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Yikes, I did not know this! May I ask if you mean Federal Govt positions (in the US)?

      1. Murphy*

        No. Not federal and not US. No idea if this is standard elsewhere. But it can be a pain here (I once was job hunting and my direct boss had only worked with me for 6 weeks and even then HR wanted to talk to her despite the fact that she could barely pick me out of a line-up. It was frustrating.)

      2. Murphy*

        However, I will say that in most circumstances my bosses have been great about knowing I’m job hunting. Only once did my boss act like a jerk which just cemented my decision to leave.

        And my staff have always been able to come to me about job hunting. I want my staff to move onto bigger and better things. And I want them to feel comfortable enough with me that they can tell me that and that I can help them.

  25. Persephone Mulberry*

    At my previous job, I basically streamlined myself right out of full-time hours, and I was up front with my boss that I felt I was being overpaid for the work I had available to me (but underpaid relative to what I was capable of), and she was fully supportive of my job search.

    My current job, my manager asked me point blank if I was job searching (she saw AAM open in a browser tab, and the post title might have had “interview” in it) and I point blank told her no. And then two weeks later I gave my two weeks’ notice.

    So, YMMV.

  26. MoinMoin*

    Even if I knew my boss would react positively, I probably wouldn’t loop her in until I was at least at a reference stage. Job searches can be so drawn out and it seems like the potential for stress and uncertainty (Should she put you on that project? Send you to that training? Consider you for the title change/salary bump when there’s only room in the budget for one person in the department to receive it?) would outweigh the benefits of talking about it too early. Especially if she can’t start her own job search process until you have a set date anyway, and may not be able to plan much otherwise because that would require telling other possibly less accommodating people (HR, her boss).
    The only good things that would come out of a best case scenario telling your boss early would be a) her helping you as a reference or with job leads, or b) you two coming up with a really good plan on the shape in which you’ll leave your position. And I think both of those could be covered in a much broader, vague conversation during a normal 1×1: “I’m thinking about my own career plans in the next year or two and I know I want to focus on x and y which would probably entail moving up/out/whatever. Do you have any thoughts/advice? What can I do to put ensure this position is in as good of shape as possible if I did move on/want time to focus on other things?”

    My own current experience- I’m pretty new to my company (almost a year) and the position (5 months) and my husband may be offered a promotion out of state soon. It’s not a given he would take it, but it’s a possibility. I’ve decided that I would stay behind to sell the house, at which point I have friends/family with whom I can stay, and I’m willing to stay here through the remainder of this year, assuming I’m not offered a position in the new location earlier than that. When I was promoted it was understood I’d want to move up within a few years and a big focus would be getting this position in much better shape than the predecessor left it. And as I deal with accounting, I would want to at least give them the option to have me through a lot of year end stuff. I’ve wrestled with talking about the possibility now, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much to be gained, so I’ve decided I’d wait until he’s accepted an offer and I would be ready to go if they were to say, “thanks, but we’d really rather replace you now and have a chance at someone longer term being in the position and quasi-trained before year end.”
    Good luck, OP, whatever you decide!

  27. AFT123*

    I kind of lean towards looking out for myself more – there is really no benefit to you to tell your boss in advance of having an offer/putting your notice in. Yes, with the right relationship, you gain goodwill, but I’d argue that if you already had that relationship and just put in a regular notice, you’d leave with the same well wishes either way. So, why risk it?

    1. Lily in NYC*

      For me, I did it because it was more convenient for me, not for my boss. I didn’t want to have to make up reasons to take time off for interviews (some of which involved out-of-state travel). And I wanted to use her as a reference.

      1. AFT123*

        I can understand that. Making things up for taking time off is just the worst. Especially these days where it seems like there are 5+ interviews to make time for.

  28. Hndrsn22*

    Question: I recently interviewed for a new job that would be a step up in every way (responsibilities, better pay, full time hours and full benefits- none of which I currently have). I wasn’t actively looking for a new job but the new position seemed too perfect for me, I had to give it a shot. Anyway, my current job is a very small company of which I am the manager. We are a close knit group of employees and I generally feel appreciated and enjoy the work I do. I was moved along to phase 2 for the interviewing process, and now am just waiting to see if they liked what I submitted enough to be called in for a 2nd interview. So far I haven’t said anything to my current employer, and I actually feel very guilty, because I know that if I left they would be blind sided and left in a difficult situation. I am wondering if I do get a 2nd interview, should I give a heads up? If I don’t get that job I don’t intend to look for another, so my inclination is to not say anything unless an offer comes up…. any input?

    1. AFT123*

      My two cents: Make sure if you decide to tell them, you think about the intent and how you will respond to possible outcomes. What if they take it poorly and things get bad for you and you don’t end up getting the other position? What if they offer to give you a pay raise and ask you to provide a number that would make you stay? What if they seem supportive, then the position falls through – will you feel less valued because they weren’t more disappointed to hear you were thinking of leaving?

      What is the benefit if telling them? Goodwill? Do you feel as though you wold not have the same level of goodwill if you were to wait and give them notice when you had your new job secured?

      Personally I would not tell them, but it’s totally up to you.

      1. Hndrsn22*

        Yea, I’ve thought about all these things as well. I don’t really know what good could come out of it since I know my current company just can’t come close to offering what the potential company does. I think I just have self imposed guilt about potentially leaving them in a tough spot. But I also think that mentioning it and not getting the offer could just be extra stress for my boss, for really no reason. And I have to keep reminding myself that people leave jobs all the time, and I’m not wrong for putting my own well being over the well being of someone else’s company.
        Thanks for the feedback!

  29. Jennifer*

    What if your job is on thin ice? If you’re at risk for layoffs or are on a PIP?

    My boss knows because my last review was so bad (i.e. “We hate how you do X and even though you’re good at everything else, X is all we care about and it’s been 3 years of you sucking at it. If you don’t make drastic miraculous improvement in a year, we’re gonna start the process”) that literally all I could do was say that I’d do my best to find another job before they had to can me. I actually had a job interview lined up at the time that she would have found out about, so….Anyway, she’s been aware of most of my interviews because they were in the same office or a related one. Though at this point, she’s finally arranged for me to get transferred out of X in the fall, so we’ll see how my review goes.

  30. OOF*

    As a manager, I think the answer to this question is: “Has your boss/leadership earned it?” Have they been honest, respectful, upfront, and demonstrated how they deal with conflict and sensitive issues in a manner that has earned your trust in a very vulnerable situation?

    Has your boss had open conversations about career growth that acknowledge the different ways that can happen? Has your boss demonstrated strong ethics? Etc.

    And for the love of all that is holy – please know that if the job you’re applying for is internal, there are 95% odds your boss will find out quickly. Please let your boss find out from you.

    1. Cyberspace Dreamer*

      Exactly!! Trust and culture are critical to the process.

      Interestingly at OLD JOB one executive would not fire her employees but customarily put those who fell out of her graces in situations that encouraged them to go job hunting. She removed one high level manager from a project he was in charge of and had him doing work a summer intern could be assigned.

  31. greenbeans*

    I did this once and it turned out well, but there were a lot of factors that went into it going well. I had decided to change careers which required me going to night school for one year. I told my boss about going back to school because I needed to adjust my work schedule a little, and of course he wanted to know what I was studying (out of curiosity). I figured it was pretty obvious that I was shooting for a career change, and so I just told him that.

    The other factors were my length of time at that employer (10 years, all working for the same boss) and my relationship with the boss (close and good). He supported me fully which was such a relief. I didn’t have to make up “appointments” when I went on interviews, and I could ask for his advice.

    Because he supported me and helped me, I did some after-hours work for him for about a month after I quit to help with the transition.

  32. Long Time Reader First Time poster*

    I worked for a very good manager at my last company. My colleague (also reported to my boss) learned that her husband had an awesome job opportunity on the opposite coast, due to start in several months. She told our boss right away that she’d be moving and therefore was looking for a new job. Well, he offered her the opportunity to work remotely for as long as she wanted to while she was getting settled in in a new city. She’s still working for him today.

  33. Stacy M*

    I wish I could tell my boss I’m looking, but he has explicitly told me he doesn’t want to know ahead of time because it impacts how he works with people. Which sucks, because he’s very worried about me leaving and has made comments about the possibility which leaves me feeling awkward. I think he’s planning on it anyway as he has the new person with a minimal caseload, but I wish I could be open….

  34. SMT*

    I just started a training program at work, and in my first meeting with my assigned mentor today was asked point blank what my plans were after completing the program. I was a little more honest than I had meant to be, and admitted that while I have told everyone that I intend to work towards a management role in my division, that I honestly don’t know exactly what I want to do ultimately.

    She checked to make sure that the managers I interviewed with for the program didn’t know that, and then encouraged me to be honest with my current manager , but added something about how it was all up to me. So hopefully I can trust her to not say anything. I’m thinking that maybe mid-way through the program, I could maybe float the idea that I might be more interested in pursuing a different divison to my manager. But this seat in this training program was really hard to come by, and I’m probably going to burn bridges no matter what if I leave the division, even if I stay with the company (and I’m also looking at job listings outside of my company).

  35. A Person*

    I’m struggling with this right now. I’m committed to leaving and doing a lot of interviewing.

    I’ve managed to keep things under wraps, but I’m out of vacation due to some partial days I’ve already taken + a LONG planned international trip at the end of the month (only 12 days so not going to affect my search too much I hope.)

    I have a 4 hour interview to schedule, plus another company that has everyone come in to work for them (paid) for 3 days. I’m happy to take the time unpaid, but feel really uncomfortable trying to explain why I need it.

    Plus my “lead” us a new manager so I really don’t have a good read on how he will react.

  36. NicoleK*

    I’ve had mediocre bosses, average bosses, and a few good bosses. I never told any of them that I was looking for a new job. Once people know that you are looking, they treat you different. If I needed to relocate to a different state due to spouse’s job or ill family member, then I might tell my boss that I am looking for a new job.

  37. Miranda H*

    I have been working at my current job for 4 months now and have really enjoyed my time with the company. Unfortunately, my father recently had a heart attack and I feel with his declining health I need to be closer to him. I don’t plan on moving until mid-April, but I have been actively looking for jobs and a new home. I am wondering if I should tell my boss that I am looking and am hoping to relocate, or just wait until it’s closer to a two weeks notice time period. I really don’t want to leave them without someone to fill my position, but I’m worried if I inform them I am looking for another job, they may terminate my employment because I work in an at-will state. I want to help in the transitionary period as much as I can, but I’d hate to be left without a job. What should I do?

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