my boss wants a timeline for me leaving and I haven’t even given notice

A reader writes:

In my recent one-one one with my boss, we discussed my career path. I am currently in a graduate program that is only vaguely related to my current role, because what I do now is not something I wish to do long-term. It’s a career path I fell into, and while I do a good job, I will never be great at it or enjoy what I do.

He asked me what kind of role I wanted to do, and I expressed that I quite hadn’t figured it out yet, but I was starting to identify a few areas I would like to explore. With his blessing, he suggested I contact our HR business partner to go over what internal paths there might be and any suggestions she had, which is about what I expected. It is a very large company that does encourage moving around to explore others areas of interest. What he said next, though, is what I am concerned about.

He asked that after I meet with her, we establish a timeline for me transitioning. I responded that I felt that was a bit premature, since even if I do meet with her, I have no idea if a position in an area of interest would be available or that I would be hired into that role. His response to that was that he “can’t keep investing in me indefinitely knowing I eventually I will leave and that he would need more than two weeks notice” since I have a large volume of work that is time critical on a weekly basis. I left the meeting saying that I would contact HR and let him know what was discussed. My performance is adequate, so it’s not an issue with me under-performing, more that involving me in long-term projects and training would be wasted resources.

I’m afraid now if I don’t find something sooner than later, they are just going to hire a replacement and let me go. And while I hope that eventually I will find something more suited to my interests and skill, I feel it is unrealistic to put a timeline on it at this stage. I understand him wanting to prepare as much as possible, but I find it concerning that he’s already asking for a timeline. I’ve only had two jobs post-college, this one for the past 16 months, and my prior one for eight years, so I am not sure if this is a usual request.

I am also looking outside my company, but again, there is no guarantee that I will find something soon. I guess I am feeling like I am being shoved out the door before I am ready. I have no intention of giving notice until I have accepted an offer, because at the end of the day I have bills to pay. How do I approach this when he asks for a timeline again?


I know from the employee side, this seems patently unfair. From the manager side, there are really are times where, after an employee expresses interest in leaving, it can make sense to say, “Okay, let’s nail down what a timeline for that would look like so that we can both plan.” (It particularly can make sense to say that when the employee isn’t performing at a high level — especially if the alternative would be going through all the work of a performance improvement plan and possibly letting them go.) But that shouldn’t be the default position; the default position should be open, honest conversation that doesn’t include forcing the person out early. (More on how managers should navigate this here.)

And I’m sure you didn’t go have that career discussion with him intending it to serve as some kind of unofficial notice.

So it might make sense to go back to your boss now and say this: “I’ve had some time to digest our conversation, and I want to make it clear that I have no plans to leave in the near future. While I appreciated your suggestion to talk to HR about longer-term prospects, I enjoy my work here and don’t have current plans to look for other roles.”

However, this gets a little trickier depending on exactly what you said to him in the earlier conversation. If you told him that you don’t enjoy the work, it’s not totally unreasonable for him to want to start making moves toward resolving the situation because he of course wants to have someone in your job who’s enthusiastic about the work.

So if you did tell him something like that, you need to be prepared for him to say something like, “Hey, I appreciate that, but given that you know this work isn’t for you long-term, I do need to get someone in here who’s excited about what we’re doing and committed to being here longer-term.”

If that happens, then you could try saying this: “I really didn’t intend to give you the impression that I wanted to move on right away. I’m committed to this work and I would hate to be pushed out just because we talked about very long-term career goals the other day. It was never my intention to start making plans to leave.”

Worst case scenario, if he doesn’t change his stance here, you could just call the question and say, “Are you telling me that you’re going to let me go if I’m still here after a certain number of months?” and/or “How long are you willing to let me stay in this job?” He might not be willing to go as far as actually letting you go and instead is just aiming for some kind of mutual agreement — and if you won’t do that, he may back off (and your company might have policies or practices that make that more likely — which is also something you could ask HR when you talk to them). Or he might just say he’s going to set a date. If it’s the latter, you can at least try to negotiate for a longer transition period.

But go back and talk to him and see if you can work this out.

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. Allypopx*

    My boss does this occasionally. A lot of positions in my department have traditionally had a pipeline, so he is constantly looking for who’s coming in next, and tends to decide he’s done with people before they’re necessarily done with him. I think it probably comes from getting burned before from losing specialized employees without adequate notice. I know he’s not looking to replace me right now because he’s putting a lot of effort into making me feel appreciated and compensated, but I also know it will probably be clear when that changes.

    And you know? That’s okay. It means if I can read the climate I’ll probably know exactly when it’s time for me to be moving on, and I’ll be able to comfortably look while employed for a bit. Bosses have different reasons for handling these things this way, and sometimes they can’t be convinced otherwise. Talk to him like Alison suggests, but also really listen to his response, and decide what your next move is going to be based on what his response really tells you (tone, body language, etc.)

  2. I Am The LW*

    As to how this topic came up. There’s been some communication breakdown with in our department and I was sharing with him some things from my graduate class on communication and conflict resolution techniques and we were working on a way to tactfully present this to the group as a training exercise.

    I casually mentioned this is something I enjoy doing and talking about, which then lead to the rest of the conversation.

    Thanks for answering my question. I have a meeting with our HR partner tomorrow, so hopefully from your advice and her response I’ll have a more clear direction.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      One way to handle this might be to say that your meeting with HR didn’t identify any immediate opportunities (assuming that is true), but that if anything came up in the future that you would keep your manager apprised and would strive to give at least a month’s notice.

      In the meantime, look hard for a new job (internal or external) — your manager is a jackass and you would be better off not working for him.

    2. Chriama*

      One thing I didn’t see Alison mention is the notice period. Your boss might be concerned about you only giving a couple weeks notice, so one thing you can bring into your follow up discussion is to reassure him that you’ll give as much notice as you can. Overall I get that you’re feeling kind of blindsided by it, and I think you can tell him that — no, this isn’t what you want to do forever but you’re committed to improving while you’re here, you don’t have any specific plans to move on, but once you have a timeline you’ll let him know and give him as much notice as possible when you do decide to accept an offer. And get confirmation from him on how long he’s willing to wait for you to figure things out.

      1. I Am The LW*

        Right, I don’t mind giving him a timeline, or giving more than two weeks, but asking for one right now kind of blindsided me, especially since to corporate policy is to let employees job shadow and explore other areas of interest. If a position opening seems imminent or on the horizon, then sure, let’s make a plan. But I think in that initial conversation it caught me off guard, because this was the very first time it came up. In my prior job I discussed career progression for over two years with my boss before I left, ultimately nothing internal opened up, but he never asked or even hinted that he wanted a timeline.

        Hopefully tomorrow will bring some more clarity.

  3. CMT*

    This seems to me like a pretty reasonable response from the boss, especially if this is the kind of position where you’d expect people to stay a while so you really would be investing a lot in them. It’s definitely worth a conversation to make sure you’re both on the same page in terms of timeline, but it might end up being the case that his timeline is shorter than yours.

    1. Green*

      I think it really depends on how he approached the initial conversation. If they’re asking for you to open and honestly work to set career goals, then they generally shouldn’t hold those conversations against you. On the other hand, employees need to be a bit circumspect in how to handle those conversations. Even at my company we regularly have (relatively) transparent conversations about what we’d like to be doing, and it still makes a lot of sense to express enthusiasm for the work you’re already doing while saying you’d like to gain additional experience in X or Y.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, I agree, I had plenty of frank conversations with my former manager about my career goals. It was well known to him that I was looking for a new position but there was never any talk of setting a timeline for me to leave. I think it’s all about the context and also what your work is like now – part of the reason my manager didn’t try to push me out after I said I was job searching was that I was doing good work, so there was no reason for him to force a dip in productivity on himself by booting me out and replacing me with someone less experienced. On the contrary, it was very helpful to have me there for a few months so I could cross-train my replacement and get her plenty of practice doing the job with me right there to answer questions.

    2. very anon*

      Yes, I agree. It is an unfortunate situation and I sympathize, but I also can’t find much outrage for a boss who plans a (fairly gentle) termination of an employee who acknowledges that she will “never be great” and who has made clear that she is not interested in the position. Since the boss doesn’t seem like he’s in a great rush, perhaps you could ask for a termination date at least a few months off plus the ability to job-hunt from the office, make phone calls, and take time off for interviews?

  4. Bad Candidate*

    Ugh I was in a similar position once. I hadn’t been in the role long, less than 6 months, and it was obvious that I was not a good fit for it for many reasons. Part of it was I had moved to a new city without a job and they were the first thing offered, and part was they straight up lied about job duties in the interview. Anyway, my boss has a meeting with me and says she can tell I’m unhappy and that this isn’t a good fit for either of us and am I looking for a new job. I was honest and said yes. She said OK no problem, these things happen, if I need time off for an interview just let her know, no worries. Now of course I shouldn’t have expected things to go on forever, I should have asked more questions. But I thought I’d find something else a lot faster. So after a few weeks she asked for my end date. I hadn’t found anything yet and told her I didn’t have one. She says to think it over and get back to her. Next day she asks again and I ask her what she think my end date should be. There was no way I was going to quit. I knew if I gave her an end date, she’d fight unemployment and I might end up with nothing. So a few days later she comes back to me with a day two weeks in the future. A Wednesday no less, which was odd. And that was my last day. That was the end of it. I had no where else to go, no job lined up. And you know on my way out she asked where I was going next. Like this was some happy occasion, me leaving, going on to bigger and better things. I said I didn’t know, I had nothing lined up. She seemed surprised. She still fought unemployment, but I eventually won. That job was terrible. Literally the worst job I’ve ever had for so many reasons and I’m glad I’m not there any more.

    Anyway, my point is, I agree with Alison, ask about timelines, I wish I had.

    1. WerkingIt*

      I did see your response as I was typing mine. I know I’ve read articles here and other places talking about how great an extended timeline could be or whatever. That’s all well and good, but not if the employer then fights someone’s rightful unemployment benefits.

      1. Bad Candidate*

        Right and it went from “Oh these things happen, it’s not a good fit, no big deal.” To telling unemployment that I was fired due to gross misconduct. Granted, I did get UI eventually, but it was a fight. I still flip them off every time I drive past one of their office. :) Mature, I know. I don’t care.

      1. Bad Candidate*

        They changed their story to me being fired for gross misconduct. Saying that I was refusing to do things. Yes, I refused to transfer urine from one bottle to another. Because I was an administrative assistant, not a lab tech, not a nurse, not a patient care tech. An office worker who was never trained in handling bodily fluids. And if you do fire someone for gross misconduct, you don’t give them two weeks notice before terminating them. Luckily the state saw right through that.

          1. Vicki*

            Ugh. I had one of those. They brought people into a room and said “Your job has been eliminated. Hand over your badge, leave by the back door, don’t come back.” And then they handed me (and, I suspect, everyone else) a letter with the “Voluntarily Quit” box checked.

            I went directly to a lawyer. It’s amazing what kind of turnaround you can get with a letter that says “On the advice of my lawyer, I am requesting…”. I was able to go to the UI people and say “the company promises it will not argue about UI.”

        1. Mike C.*

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure “other duties as required” doesn’t include handling bodily fluids. It’s a shame that the state couldn’t notify OSHA on your behalf.

    2. Geneva*

      The same thing happened to me! I wasn’t planning on leaving anytime soon, but one month later I got the boot with nothing lined up. To add insult to injury, my boss encouraged me to have a going away party. I didn’t feel like celebrating my impending unemployment (which lasted a full year btw), so I declined.

      1. Bad Candidate*

        I was also unemployed for a year! I ended up taking a call center job because UI ran out. And then I jumped ship from there to my current company. Moving to Omaha has not been good for me.

  5. Stellaaaaa*

    Sometimes businesses see enrollment in a grad program as an indication that you’re actively stepping away from your current position. I think your manager should have listened to what you were actually saying, but I can understand his interest in replacing you with a new employee who enjoys the work, isn’t in school for something else, and who hasn’t expressed an intention to leave (essentially) ASAP. I think you probably erred by being too candid and assuming your manager would protect your position even after telling him you don’t plan to stay there.

  6. Anonymous Educator*

    I get where your boss is coming from, but really he’s punishing you for being honest.

    I mean, it’s just as likely that you study something unrelated and want to move into a different area but stay in that job for two more years doing great work as it is that you claim to love the work you do and then leave in three weeks for something else.

    And him pressing you for a timeline just makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you get the sense you might get let go, the more likely you are to look for a job pre-emptively… and if you do, he may be getting the two weeks’ notice… now… or in the next two weeks.

    If he wants to have the benefit of getting more than two weeks’ notice, he needs to convince you he can be trusted not to terminate you before the end of your actual notice period (when you give it).

    1. Pari*

      You’re looking at this from one side only. The boss would be failing in his duties if he didn’t act on this. And he’s simply asking for a timeline so he can plan how much if any he wants to invest. He’s not threatening to fire.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        The boss is pretending that this can always be guarded against. Looking for a notice period from an employee who has not given notice won’t protect you. All it will do is create a culture in which people lie to you about how much they’re going to stay, even when they are about to leave.

        1. Dan*

          The more I think about it, the more I’m more or less fine with people “lying” to you about how long they’re going to stay, and then drop a two-week notice on you unexpectedly.

          If an employee gives you a non-definite plan to transition out, there’s almost no way to handle that in a way that doesn’t come across as punitive to the employee. (I’m not talking about someone who gives you formal notice that their last day will be two or three months in the future, but am talking about vague “I’m exploring my options” kinds of things).

          Many companies won’t let the manager fill the position until notice has been turned in. But if you’ve made it clear you’re leaving in the next few months, I can’t give you long term stuff and have to reallocate it to other employees. The departing employee probably won’t get bonuses, raises, promotions or professional development spent on them. Basically, there’s a person on the pay roll that you can’t utilize as effectively as you would want. Then, this employee may *think* they’re departing in the near future, but things drag out and that employee is there for at least six more months.

          The more I think about it, unless the plans to leave are definite, dropping two weeks on the boss is the safest way to go, and really doesn’t hurt the company that much. (I’m sure there’s exceptions to the rule, but even then, for the median employee, the Company Will Manage Without Them).

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I think that letting bosses know that you might be leaving in the future starts all kinds of unnecessary drama, as some bosses just have to have a firm date! right away!
            OTH, it’s just good practice for bosses to have some idea of how they would replace each person on their staff. But this is nothing the boss has to share with any subordinate either.
            OP, I am sorry this happened to you, but it kind of confirms my own thoughts. Alison does have some solid steps you can use to see if you can remedy this. I wish you the best outcome. I hope you let us know how it went.

          2. Hillary*

            This was my manager’s opinion at a previous company – he flat out told me to not give him more than two weeks notice when I started grad school. We had backup plans that would deal with the turnover just like every other transition in the department.

            That said, I started training my backup a lot faster than would have otherwise happened when I moved from backup to primary on a business critical function while I was in school. Willful ignorance doesn’t mean you don’t see what’s going on.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        It’s just as easy to invest a ton of resources in an employee who quits the next month… who didn’t actually let you know she was going to quit or was unhappy in any way.

      3. Mike C.*

        It’s completely unreasonable for an employer to expect an employee to stick around for a significant (forever) amount of time without a contract.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, it is. But when someone makes it clear that they are planning to leave and hopefully in the near-ish future, managers aren’t required to pretend they don’t know that. You can have an open conversation with people about what it means on each side.

          1. Christine*

            The managers can go ahead and use this time to write out a job description for rehiring process, get all of the paperwork lined up ahead of time and the only thing left to fill out are the dates.

            If they start pushing this person out, making them give a firm date when they weren’t prepared to do so, future employees may choose to “not” give the standard 2 week notice. When I got laid off it took me about 15 months to find a permanent job. I was able to do some contract work off and on through this period that extended the unemployment time frame, since I didn’t receive it when I was working.

            If this is handled poorly, than they may find current employees giving notice a day or two before they quit.

      4. Vicki*

        Failing in his duties?
        You cannot leap from “there are a few areas I would like to explore” to “I’m leaving”.

        There is no timeline. When and if she has a timeline, she’ll let him know. As is the way with all employee-manager relationships.

      5. Troutwaxer*

        I think the answer to this problem is better communication, by which I mean the OP should give a very specific timeline which takes expected events into consideration; something along the lines of “I won’t finish my last graduate seminar for 18 months, after which I have to prepare for a comprehensive examination, and those preparations will take at least six months (or alternately, “I then have to do my thesis, which will take…”) then the comprehensive exam won’ t be fully graded for 90 days, so the earliest I expect to leave is December of 2018. If my expected departure date changes by more than 90 days in any direction, I will notify you immediately

        The use of words like “years” and “months” including specific dates and numbers is the key here.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          And judicious use of statements like “please note that I am not giving notice at this time.” might be helpful too!

  7. Koko*

    If an employer wants more than two weeks’ notice when you quit, it should be in a contract along with a provision that they agree to give you the equivalent number of week’ notice or pay you the equivalent number of weeks in severance if they let you go.

    Notice is a two-way street. If you can give more than 2 weeks, that’s great, but if they really *need* it, they should be prepared to offer compensation accordingly.

    1. Not Karen*

      I agree. LastJob was upset with me when I “only” gave 2 weeks notice (actually 2.5), and while it was true that in the depths of the employee policy manual it said 4 weeks was expected, no one ever mentioned that, so I wouldn’t have thought to go looking for it.

  8. WerkingIt*

    I would make sure that the LW is very clear in her communication and documents everything and prints and saves any emails. She may want to move on after completing her degree, but may want to wait until she finds another job. She may not find that job within that timeline. If it is her boss’s intention to let her go, then she is entitled to unemployment benefits. Having just been through this myself, I would be VERY concerned about how having a timeline would affect her recieving benefits. Could it be considered her giving notice or resigning? If that is at all possible and it is her employer’s intention to terminate her employment at the end of that timeline then I would almost caution against it. Unless the employer is willing to agree that they will not try to fight her benefits (and if she trusts them to honor that), she may find herself at the end of that timeline without another job and no unemployment benefits.

  9. Not Karen*

    I’m irked by the statement that the boss “can’t keep investing in me indefinitely knowing I eventually I will leave.” Doesn’t this apply to ALL employees?? Does he expect the rest of his employees to stay there forever?

    1. CMT*

      There’s a big difference between an employee who definitely wants to leave the field and job as soon as she can, and employees who plan to stay long-term.

      1. Dan*

        I think the real dichotomy is between the former (knowing they’re trying to get out) and an employee who plans on staying for as long as the employment relationship is beneficial to the employee.

        I work at a company where people truly do retire– some folks have been here for 30 years. Do *I* want to stay for 30 years? Well, if things keep going the way they are, I’m not terribly motivated to leave. But that’s a far cry from “boss, I’m not leaving until I get the gold watch.” If I get a terrible manager, they cut our benefits, or something else that makes working here not to my liking, I’m gone.

        One of my co-workers has publicized a transition plan where she will leave the company by the end of next year. We’re not the kind of place to push people out, but you can bet all of the discretionary employee retention things won’t be extended to her. For one thing, why promote someone who you know is leaving at the expense of someone who will probably stay for five more years if you promote them?

    2. designbot*

      But try looking at it from an employer’s perspective–every job has a typical ramp-up time and a typical turnover rate. If it’s clear that LW is going to turn over in a shorter than usual time for this role and have minimal time between ramp-up and quitting, then it’s really in the boss’s best interest to skip ahead to the next person. Or conversely, if LW is already approaching the typical length of time people stay in this role it’s normal for him to be ready to figure out the next step and she’s misinterpreting that.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        The OP has been at the job for 16 months, and she’s not planning to leave any time soon, so presumably she’d be there for at least two years total.

        1. designbot*

          right, but is 2 years enough for the employer to get value out of her, or is it just long enough for them to be looking to move on already if this one’s not going to work out? At some positions 2 years is an expiration date, at others it’s more like a warming up period, and I have no clue where this one falls in that spectrum.

          1. I Am The LW*

            It’s one that I think they want to have people stay longer than two years,but haven’t been able to keep anyone for that long. I think the longest was 2.5 years and that was a while ago. The person who was in this role before myself, was there 5 months. When I interviewed I was told the position was open due to the department expanding. This was partially true I guess, the department was expanding, but that was not why this particular role was vacant. To be fair, my boss was just given his position two years ago, like literally told he was the manager now of the department. He had never worked in this department before, his role was in a department our current team supports. It’s his first management position. And while he’s a nice person, I don’t think he thought through what his job was, other than more money.

            I think there are two reasons they can’t find someone who’s satisfied long term. For one the position description is doing X, Y, and Z, with making X sound like a minor part of it, but really it’s only X.
            The second reason is that the qualifications for the job are a bachelor’s degree with 3-5 years experience in X, Y, or Z. It’s entry level X tasks. I think if they would post a more accurate job description and lower their education requirements, they might find someone who’d be satisfied longer term.

            1. Pari*

              That’s true but turnover isn’t necessarily bad if they’re functioning as a talent pipeline for other areas of the company.

              As a manager its a whole lot easier to accept turnover and put a positive spin on it when folks stay within the organization. Otherwise the manager would just prefer to rip the band aid off and get it over with so they can move on.

    3. Jeanne*

      I agree. You never know when an employee will leave. Any employee, no matter the investment, could quit tomorrow. I don’t think he’s looking to promote her. I understand about her going to school but in that case the appropriate talk is about possibly giving boss a longer notice period.

  10. Beer Thirty*

    This is why it’s better to lie to your boss sometimes. Or at least don’t tell the whole truth. It’s too bad that employees can’t be honest with their managers when they realize that the job isn’t a good fit.

    1. Dan*

      What does that honesty entail? How long is the employee “entitled” to keep the position when they realize the job isn’t a good fit?

      I mean, if an employee comes to me saying they know the job isn’t a good fit, I’m expecting that to be the prelude to a discussion about transitioning out. Drifting away from the OP’s specific case (she says her performance isn’t an issue, I’m certainly willing to believe her), most of the time, an acknowledgement about fit comes because the employee knows they have performance problems and are trying to head off a firing.

      If you’re trying to avoid a firing, I’m expecting you to move out sooner rather than later.

      1. Beer Thirty*

        I would never tell my boss that the job was a bad fit. There’s nothing for me to gain (and a whole lot to lose) by saying that. I’d just start looking for a new job, and turn in my notice when/if I found one.

        1. KK*

          I agree. I was previously in a job that I knew wasn’t a great fit but never told my boss I was planning to leave. Not wanting to end up in the same situation again, I really took my time searching for a position that would be a good, long-term fit. Add to that life events coming up not making every moment an ideal time to leave, I ended up working for years while keeping an eye out for something else. I can’t imagine that would have gone very well had my boss known.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          I think you really have to take it boss by boss and workplace by workplace. I’ve had a few sneaky searches, but almost all of mine have been aboveboard, and if you think you can trust your boss (based on past behavior or the general climate of the workplace), there are things to be gained.

          You may not think the gains are worth the risk, but the gains do exist. 1) No need to sneak around. 2) Current manager can be your reference. 3) Current manager can actually help you find a job.

          This, of course, assumes you have a good relationship with your manager (which you may not, which may be why you’re looking in the first place), so it won’t fit every situation, but I’ve found those to be distinct advantages to letting my boss know I’m looking when I am.

          1. designbot*

            +1. I understand on an advice board, I would certainly never advise somebody else to tell their boss they’re looking, but I have done so myself with good results. The key was a close relationship with my boss, he knew that even if my heart wasn’t into the subject of what I was doing there I was always dedicated to doing a good job as a matter of principle, and knowing that he had a very good attitude about people moving on. He’d openly said in the past that he didn’t get bent out of shape over it because that just meant he had better connections in more companies, so he wanted everyone to move on to the best place we could when the time came, so that his network would get better and better. That’s a boss I knew that I could tell that I needed to find something else and could ask for a reference from.

        3. Pari*

          There is something definitely to gain by having this conversation if you trust your manager. Good managers will bend over backwards to help facilitate your departure. They will accommodate time off for interviews even w/little notice, they will happily speak to your strengths as a job reference while you’re still employed, and most of the time they will allow you to leave on good terms with less than standard notice.

  11. Dan*

    Something similar happened to my mom. She was at a job she wasn’t particularly thrilled about, and went and got some certificate through a skills program. She got some interested from an employer who told her that a job offer was coming. So, she tells her current boss that she’ll be leaving and will put in her notice once the offer is formalized.

    Guess what? That “job offer” dragged on… and on… and on… for a couple of months. Finally, mom’s boss had a frank discussion about transition plans, because boss wanted to replace mom. And you know what? Job offer never materialized, because that company went out of business.

    Yes, sometimes you have to lie or be selective about the truths that you are telling. Some places won’t let the boss post a req until they know the position will be open, and as we all know, until we submit our resignations, we haven’t quit yet. So I can sympathize with bosses on this one, because it can be an impossible situation.

    TL;DR: The employee has nothing to gain by even hinting at the boss that they might leave.

  12. KatieKate*

    I ran into something similar with my most recent review from Old Job. I managed to lie, though both manager had trouble coming up with goals for me. Thankfully I learned about an internal positional and managed to switch before I ran into trouble!

  13. LisaD*

    I’m curious if LW is a top performer in her current role? Has her feedback from boss and peers indicated she’s a star, but she just happens not to want to do this forever? Or is she a medium-to-not-great performer and her boss is hoping to make her transition into a role where she CAN be a star as soft as possible?

    1. MK*

      She says she is good but will never be great and that her performance is adequate. To me that means a pretty average worker.

  14. M from NY*

    I think you are assuming the worse unnecessarily. If your current organization has opportunities and pathways that allows for transfers why assume the worse regarding a timeline? See what your HR person says but your boss, may very well already know about some possible moves you could be interested in which would adjust his plans (i.e. option 1 requires you to get certified first so that would take 6 months vs option 2 which is an immediate opportunity you could move into in 6 weeks). It wouldn’t be appropriate for boss to push you either way but simply asking if you have a plan shouldn’t make you panic yet. Somehow I think you’re worried about time in your position but if you’re with same organization the long term affect to your career will not matter much. Unless he proves otherwise, nothing you’ve said disputes your boss willingness to being an ally as you decide your next career move. I’ve had terrible bosses but I’d never share those stories based on what you’ve shared. Change is scary but address what you’re really afraid of so you can press forward confidently.

  15. Mx*

    Oof. I had this happen. I was very close with my boss, told him everything, everything (Note: never, ever do this). Which of course, when I was feeling like a new colleague was basically excluding me and everything I liked from the team, he decided he liked the new colleague better and so I could either take it or leave it, besides, I was interested in another role, I should just take that, now, now! (And the 20% pay cut!) I kind of feel like in most situations, there isn’t really any way back from that point, unfortunately. Because leaving feels like the only option.

    (Boss flounced 2 weeks later for a title. Half the team left 1 week after that. It was a mess, but they put someone much more of a leader in charge, or so I’ve heard!)

  16. JKP*

    The problem with a company’s reluctance to invest in employees who aren’t planning to stay long term is that the company still doesn’t know for sure when any of the other employees will leave either.

    The last corporate job I had wanted to promote me, which would have entailed outside company paid training and passing licensing exams. I was honest and told them I would love the opportunity, but was planning to leave to start my own business (different field) within 18-24 months. They decided not to invest the time and money in training me (which I completely understood). And I did leave somewhere in that window I had estimated.

    BUT in hindsight, the company would have spent a lot less money if they had put me in that position for my remaining time at the company, because the position turned over 3 times while I was still working there (outside hires who did the training, took the exams, worked for a few months, and then left for other companies).

    1. CMT*

      But this isn’t a problem. Sure, there’s a risk an employee will leave sooner than you thought and there’s also a risk your employee will get hit by a bus and you’ll need to hire again. But it’s a smaller probability than somebody who tells you that they don’t want to stay in the job. I get that it sucks to be pushed out, but I just can’t fault employers for doing that when they know a person wants to leave anyway. Not to mention, an employee who doesn’t want to stay in their job isn’t likely producing the best work. (And I know this because I have been that employee before.)

  17. TootsNYC*

    “Boss and HR: If you push me out right now, you will hire someone else who will need training to get up to speed. And when they do quit, they will give you the standard 2 weeks of notice, which will leave you in the lurch in a big way.
    “I, on the other hand, already know what I’m doing, so you have the advantage of all the training you’ve already given me. And I also know how important a long notice period is, and I will give you 4 weeks of notice. Plus I will be continuously documenting all the things the new person would need.
    “Therefore it is in your best interest to continue to employ me. I don’t have specific plans to leave, and I’m doing a solid job here. Plus, boss and I can be open about the importance of documenting and creating training materials, which will be a huge benefit to boss and to the company.”

  18. Bob*

    My landlord had this conversation with me once about my long-term home ownership goals. I said I was checking out the housing market but had no firm plans. The next day I got home from work and he had two pieces of paper – a new year-long lease and an eviction notice and told me to sign one. He already had someone lined up for my apartment. I took the eviction notice, moved into my parents’ house and into my own newly purchased home about 90 days later.

    You could say he did me a favor in a sense by pushing me towards my ultimate goal of home ownership but it was still a lame thing to do. Either way, I learned a valuable lesson that day that I also apply to jobs. It never pays to tip your hand when you’re leaving. I’m now the guy that everyone says “I didn’t even know he was looking”.

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