what should I say if my boss asks if I’m job searching?

A reader writes:

I work in a large department in a nonprofit with a fairly high turnover rate. Morale has been notably low since my supervisor was hired (her management style leaves a lot to be desired). Shortly after she was hired, one team member quit and the other gave his notice this week. This makes me the most senior person on my team. I think they may ask me point-blank if I am job hunting (I am). What would be the best way to handle a boss asking this question?

I answer this question — and four others — 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.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Employees are telling me they’re leaving early, rather than asking
  • My boss won’t let me hang out socially with a client
  • Should we send job rejections by postal mail or email?
  • Can I ask an employee to show me the offer letter he claims he received?

{ 161 comments… read them below }

  1. Persephone Mulberry*

    Oof, I have been #1! My boss pulled me aside and asked me if I was job hunting because she saw a tab on my browser that said “interview” (I was reading AAM!). I said of course not (even though I was) and explained that what she saw was a general workplace advice blog that I follow.

    She was pretty miffed (literally said, “but you told me you weren’t looking!”) when I gave my notice a few months later and yep, I told her it was an opportunity that had come up since we spoke…even though it wasn’t.

    1. Jane*

      I can see my boss reacting the same way if this happened, but I’d still say no for sure! I can see why someone would feel blindsided but that’s the way it goes, no upside to telling them before you give notice. Any reasonable boss will get over it quickly, wish you well and serve as a reference if needed in the future.

      1. INTP*

        I can see some of my more unreasonable bosses getting annoyed about this, but to me this is a question that you can’t expect an honest answer to. It’s like asking someone if they’re pregnant. People have legitimate, sensitive reasons for timing their reveal of this information and if you put them on the spot by asking you’re basically forcing them to change their timeline or lie.

    2. Jane*

      #1 – It’s a bad question to ask an employee given the power dynamic. With the possibility of income being cut off if they push you out early being on the line, its just not a fair position to put the employee in. A different approach that might get useful information is to check in periodically on how your high performers are feeling about how things are going as presumably they are the ones you are most worried about keeping around and that are hardest to replace. If you have open dialogue about concerns that can help with a range of issues that might push someone to leave. Ultimately, sometimes there is nothing that can be fixed (e.g., employee is moving and the company doesn’t have an office there so there’s nothing to do – sure, the information would be helpful to give the employer a head start on recruitment but a smart employer knows that someone could leave at any moment and has thought about a backup plan and how they will manage while they are in process of finding someone new for the position).

    3. Karyn*

      I had a boss actually email me after I left (I gave 3 weeks notice but left after a week because she was getting more and more unstable) at my home email address to tell me how “dishonest” and “hurtful” I had been to her by “lying” to her about job hunting when she had asked me if I was. It was the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me, work-wise.

      I did not respond to that, nor any of the three other emails I got from her.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        The only response that would have been worth sending:

        “And this is exactly why I didn’t tell you.”

    4. Kore*

      I sometimes wonder about that with looking at AAM – it could look like I’m job hunting when I just really like some of the absurd stories on here!

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      This subthread is fascinating to me. What is management’s reasoning on asking the question–what honest response do they imagine they can get?

      I can see asking employees in private for some honest feedback re broad workplace issues. (“How is the new supervisor working out?” “Any issues come up with the new coverage requirements?”)

      But offering an honest opportunity to say “I despise you, new manager, so like everyone else I’m looking elsewhere” or “What with the terrible morale for well-understood reasons, yes I’m looking elsewhere”? This only works if your employee is incredibly dumb about the likelihood of negative payback or an inch from rage quitting.

      1. Joe*

        I have never asked an employee if they were looking, but I can imagine scenarios where I might. I’ve always been very honest with the people on my team that I would appreciate knowing if they were looking for a new job, because it might be possible to address some of the things that would be motivating them to look. (I also encourage them to talk to me about problems long before anything gets to the point where they might leave.) In the past, some people have told me when they started looking, and I’ve even been a reference for some of them when they found new jobs. Some people have chosen not to tell me, including one person who ended up leaving because she was worried about a potential problem that I could have told her absolutely 100% was not going to happen in our case. I understand why some people might choose not to, but I try to foster an atmosphere of trust and respect to make it more likely that people will discuss it with me.

  2. Garrett*

    For #2, my boss is great and has told us if we need to come in 2 hours late or leave 2 hours early, it’s fine as long as we let him know. To him, that’s not worth dealing with ETO because there are days we stay late or come in early and it all evens out in the end. And usually, we will work through lunch or something to make up some time but luckily he is not a clockwatching micromanager and that has helped keep us loyal during some rough times.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      This has made me so glad I have flexible hours. Some of my work is at a fixed time and I can’t just leave my shift but otherwise so long as I’m there 10-4 and work my hours overall I can space it how I want.

    2. R.A.*

      My boss is the same way, and I really appreciate it. He basically told us “as long as the amount of time you work averages out to 8 hours a day, how you manage that time is up to you”. Sometimes I like to sleep in or work out in the mornings and show up 30 minutes late, while my coworker likes to start his weekends 30 minutes early. Our boss never bats an eye when we do this, as we both regularly work through lunch or stay late into the evening most days. It’s truly a relief not to be upheld to a rigorous time clock and something that I value greatly.

      That said, if it were anything more than 30 minutes I would definitely ask for a permission. Leaving 2 hours ahead of time with little notice would be strange if it happened regularly, but then again if they are getting their work done and don’t need coverage then I don’t see how it should matter.

      1. designbot*

        Overall agreed, though the other wrinkle in that is what level of employee they are. A mid or senior-level employee who is project based can work out their own time. A junior employee who is more task-based doesn’t always have the long view on what comes next and next and next after their current task is done so can misjudge this sort of situation.

    3. Julie Noted*

      Spot on – that sort of flexibility on the part of a manager more than pays off in terms of morale and loyalty. I work in an industry where flexibility is commonplace, and it’s one of the biggest perks I have. It would take a HUGE pay rise for me to be willing to give it up.

      Recently I put in an application for part-day leave because I was flying interstate for a wedding on a Friday evening, and didn’t want to have to rush to the airport from the office. My boss rejected the request in the system and told me to just leave whenever I wanted without debiting my leave credits, because he assumed I’d worked extra hours on my current project so it all washes out. The night before we both had to hang around until 10pm in case we were required to appear at a hearing, and at around 7:30 he turned to me and said “don’t bother coming in tomorrow; just take the whole day”. Nice!

      Even better, on a day to day basis I come in later than most because I’m not a morning person, while one of my staff comes in early because it suits him and his wife to commute together; another of my staff works from home one day a week so he can walk his kids to and from school. I’ve previously had staff working a fulltime load over 4 days so that they can have a weekday off to run errands, potter around the garden, and cook a mid-week roast! Has no negative impact on the team whatsoever. If flexibility is at all possible, encouraging it is the way to go.

      1. AnonICan't*

        Seriously, where do such jobs with amazing bosses exist? I have never worked at such a place. Please do tell me where I can send my resume!

  3. Anon Anon*

    For #2, I would really be asking myself if asking permission was really needed? Do you need to know so that you can find staff coverage? Does it cause problems for others if people are gone and you don’t find out at the last minute?

    I know I ask my boss for time off because I know that it rubs him the wrong way if I tell him I plan on taking time off. However, I tell my direct reports to just update the shared calendar for early/late arrivals and then let me know in advance when they plan on taking time off. I trust them to manage their own time. And unless work isn’t being completed or the leaving early/arriving late thing is a chronic issue then I’m not worried. However, I also don’t need to worry about covering shifts for people, etc.

  4. Mike C.*

    Regarding OP5:

    If you’re willing to pay more salary to someone you don’t want to lose even though it means you would be paying more qualified employees less than the new salary, it means you’re underpaying them all.

    Please take Alison’s advice, but apply it to your whole team.

    1. HR in the city*

      Agreed to a degree. It’s possible that people are being paid what the job market where they are supports. Sometimes not if you have a really crappy job market where everyone underpays everyone so you need to really fight to get any type of a decent wage. I also think that this situation does require looking at the whole team and the value each employee brings. Just because you pay someone more doesn’t mean that their value to the team suddenly increases. I also hate it when employees use a job offer to get more money. In my experience not all jobs are created equal even if the title is the same so its really hard for an employer to compare pay scales. It’s possible the job the offer is for requires the employee to do more technical work or more certifications or more travel. It’s hard to tell so all you can do is look at what all of the team makes and decide how to pay employees based on work product and in this case experience and certifications.

      1. Jesmlet*

        I have to disagree a bit here. People are paid what they’re worth to the employer. If one person is paid more, it’s because they’re more valuable, or because they’ve demanded a raise they deserve, and because the other person hasn’t asked, you’re taking advantage and saving money by not giving an equally deserving employee the same raise.

        Of course not all jobs are created equal but the reason people use offers to leverage more money is because for the most part, they want the salary of the other company and are willing to leave if their current employer won’t come close. This should not be done unless you’re really willing to leave, but it’s not wrong that employees do this. It’s a ‘give me a reason to stay’ move and I don’t really have a problem with it.

        1. Aveline*

          “People are paid what they’re worth to the employer. ”

          That’s woefully naive. Really. Truly. Stunningly Naive.

          People are paid what the employer can get away with paying them, not what they are worth.

          Have you ever been in a C-suite when salaries and bonuses are being discussed? It’s not about worth, it’s about what the top brass think they can get away with. I have heard this many, many times: “Bob is more valuable than Fergus, but if we don’t pay Fergus X, he will leave. Bob will accept X – $5K per year.”

          This is why I’m in favor of those countries that force companies to say “For Chocolate Teapot Engineer Level 1, here are the requirements and here is the salary.” Done. No negotiation. No room for unequal pay based on gender, race, age, etc. It’s only based on whether or not you meet the requirements.

          1. Jesmlet*

            That’s the difference between me saying ‘what they’re worth’ and ‘what they’re worth to their employer’ though. What they’re worth in the perspective of the employer is what they can get away with paying them, or at least that’s how I meant it. I think this is semantics though, what you said is essentially what I meant.

    2. Wo Fat*

      I have been at #1.
      How about he asks if you are looking for another position after, unbeknownst to you, a prospective new boss calls him for a reference check? Yeah, he could play that one on you.

  5. Mike*

    #2. I hate this mentality of “working hours”. Unless your a shift worker, line operator, food service, etc. as long as you’re getting your work done, leaving early, arriving a little late, etc should not be an issue.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      Agree with this. The massive flexibility is one of the reasons I love my job.

      And there are enough nights when I’m on calls or email, weekends with travel, etc. that I would not appreciate being nickel and dimed on time out of the office.

      Thankfully the mentality here is that as long as you get it done, we don’t care when or where you do it.

    2. Purest Green*

      Yeah, among three salary (exempt) positions I’ve held, two were horribly time-centric for roles that did not require it. My current position still isn’t as flexible as I’d like, but it’s much better than the other two that would nickle and dime me over 30 minutes.

      1. Justme*

        I got nickel and dimed over 5 minutes at my last job. Yes, that was one of the reasons I transferred.

        1. Dizzy Steinway*

          I quit a job after I worked overtime on a Sunday (in a job that was not meant to involve weekends) and then got chewed out for being five minutes late the next day. A lot more was wrong but that was the last straw.

    3. Jesmlet*

      I was salaried and had to clock in through a very dysfunctional system that was a contributor to why I eventually left. If you’re a stickler for the rules, please make sure the rules make sense to begin with. Unnecessary restrictions and rules are for me a big part of my happiness/unhappiness at work. Rules should have reasons and if they don’t, they should be changed.

    4. Katie ElderBerry*

      I manage 7 clerks and they need to be in on time every day to take calls and handle time sensitive emails. I wish I could give them some flexibility but it just doesn’t work in this situation.

      1. Jesmlet*

        How time sensitive are the emails and calls? If I called someplace at 8am and had to leave a message, I wouldn’t be all that pissed off as long as someone called me back that day. For all I know, they’re on another call, but I guess that depends on what type of company it is. If half of them are on time and half are 30 minutes late, is that a big issue?

    5. BRR*

      All of this. I especially take issue if an employer treats exempt as 40+ hours. A little give and take goes a long way for employee moral.

      1. Antilles*

        I can speak from OldJob that if your employer isn’t holding you firmly to 40+ hours, this sort of firm boundary on time shatters morale. One, it smacks of hypocrisy. Two, it removes any incentive for employees to show up early since you clearly aren’t respecting their time. And three, it really ticks people off if/when their “early departure” is to accommodate something that wouldn’t even be an issue if you were working standard hours (e.g., many banks are now open till 6:00 on at least one day a week; if you worked the normal hours, they wouldn’t even need to ask).

      2. Amber T*

        Yep. If my company expects me to answer emails after hours, work the (not so) occasional 10-12 hour day, come in on some weekends, I should be able to expect to occasionally “clock out” at 4, or go to the doctor mid afternoon. Give and take.

  6. Anon16*

    For #2, why are some bosses weird about that? I have a boss too who likes to be asked for permission to leave early even if it’s 15-20 minutes and I work in a 9-5 salaried position. My previous boss before him was very, very relaxed about this sort of thing (and allowed flex time if you worked overtime), and it’s been an adjustment. Earlier on, I had worked a lot of overtime and I asked the boss if I could have flex time on a Friday if the workload was light enough. He told me I needed to ask permission beforehand, but wasn’t that asking for permission? I find this attitude to be patronizing, as if your employees are children who can’t manage their own time.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I think some managers try to control petty things in order to avoid dealing with more difficult things. (Not necessarily what OP#2 is doing–I think OP#2 might just be still getting her head around where to set the boundaries.)

    2. Jan Levinson*

      My boss is like this, too. Our office is open from 7:30-4:30. Occasionally on Fridays when it’s not busy, I’ll ask to leave around 4:15. I’m usually met with a “well…I guess that’ll be okay”, even when she knows there’s absolutely nothing for me to do. Meanwhile, she skips out for several hours a week. I think it’s a power thing for her.

    3. chicken_flavored_deodorant*

      It’s probably easier for the boss to measure inputs (time) than outputs (results). I’d expect to see this sort of behavior come from bosses that have a weak understanding of what the underlings do.

  7. TootsNYC*

    One of the big transitions of adulthood is realizing that it’s actually OK to lie.
    Just flat out lie.

    And if someone ever says, “You told me you weren’t looking,” feel free to say, “Did you actually expect an honest answer to that question?” (implication: grow up!)

    And the other lesson? Don’t ask questions that people can’t answer honestly. Just don’t ask them.
    Another lesson: Make the statement that you want to make*—say, “I value you and would hate to lose you” instead of saying “Are you looking?” And if that statement isn’t true? Then don’t say anything.

    *Also: “would you like to go to the movies Saturday?” instead of “what are you doing Saturday?” Which actually reminds me–you can use the exact same tactic.
    When someone asks “what are you doing Saturday?” I always say, “Why do you ask?”
    So if your boss says, “Are you job hunting?” reply with “Why do you ask?” (not “what makes you say that”)

    1. TootsNYC*

      Alison wrote: “They’re not entitled to candid answers to this question unless they set the stage to show you candor is safe.”

      I would say that even then, they’re not -entitled- to a candid answer.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. If the shoe were on the other foot, I would have zero faith that a majority of employers would be candid with the employee about things that may affect them.

      2. INTP*

        Yeah, I honestly am not sure if candor about this can ever be really safe in the workplace, and I certainly don’t think that you can expect an employee to trust that it is. After all, the boss has an ethical obligation to the employer too and there’s a lot of potential for conflict of interest there. Maybe you can commit to not going out of your way to penalize employees for looking but can you really promise not to consider that information if you have to decide who to lay off, promote, or give a new long-term project? It’s just best to keep mum about it until you know for sure that you’re leaving, even if you trust your boss.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’ve seen it here with cases a whole lot like the one below, with the boss using his personal money to give bonuses–Boss thinks company should give subordinate more money and a promotion, higher ups say no repeatedly, boss is honest with employee that if they want more then they need to look elsewhere and Boss would be delighted to act as a glowing reference.

          But that candor-safe place is a small small division of the larger company. It would be weird for the entire office to operate on “hey, it sucks here, so let us know anything we can do to help you move on.”

        2. Kj*

          For some jobs it is obvious when someone will start looking-at my job, once you get to a certain level there is no room to advance and one can earn about 2x the money elsewhere. When people reach that level, they almost all leave, so it is pretty safe to tell your boss you are looking at that level. We also have eager intern we groom to take positions once staff leave. It works well, because we all know the system sucks and is broken and the company can’t keep experienced workers for long. No one begrudges you leaving and everyone is happy to be able to hire the best of the interns.

    2. Mike C.*

      And if someone ever says, “You told me you weren’t looking,” feel free to say, “Did you actually expect an honest answer to that question?”

      I’m with you here 100%.

      1. Dzhymm, BfD*

        Indeed, this is the flip side of asking the employer “Are we going to have any layoffs”. Even if they’re planning to lay off half the company they’ll always answer that with “We have no plans for any staff reductions at this time” (and if they come out with such a statement unprompted, you can be guaranteed there’ll be layoffs in the next couple weeks)

    3. RVA Cat*

      “Are you job hunting?” is the professional equivalent of “Does this make me look fat?”

      There. Is. No. Right. Answer.

      1. Mike C.*

        I dunno, my wife has no problem with me answering with something like, “the cut of that dress doesn’t flatter you”. It addresses the issue the person asking is concerned about without getting into other issues.

        1. Elizabeth*

          My mom’s version of this is, “it’s not doing you any favors.” Never minded that!

    4. MicroManagered*

      Toots, I like the cut of your jib. This is dead-on:

      “Did you actually expect an honest answer to that question?” (implication: grow up!)

    5. SusanIvanova*

      “A lie isn’t a lie if it’s in answer to a question the questioner has no right to ask. ” – Archie Goodwin (Rex Stout)

      Though I did work one place that had nosedived so quickly into dysfunctionality that my awesome manager would’ve answered that “No” with “Why not?” – though he wouldn’t have asked it that way, he’d simply announced he’d help with anyone’s resume who needed it.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I love Archie Goodwin! I would leave my husband for him. (But my marriage is safe, bcs I’m not Archie’s type.)

        Actually, your boss did it right. Your boss said the thing he wanted to actually say, instead of fishing for an opening.

    6. Jesmlet*

      “Did you actually expect an honest answer to that question?”

      I agree with this in theory, but this could probably be put a little more tactfully in the spirit of preserving relationships…

      1. TootsNYC*

        Maybe, “It’s not the sort of question one can answer honestly if the answer is yes.”

        1. Jesmlet*

          Yeah definitely more appropriate… not gonna lie though, if I had the balls, I’d probably say something even more extreme like, “If you think I’m dumb enough to answer that question honestly, then clearly I made the right choice in leaving”

    7. hbc*

      I have a whole set of questions that I answer (usually with a smile) with “I never answer that question on principle.” If there’s a situation where I might need to hedge, demure, outright lie, or can be embarrassed*, then I try to avoid answering it in all situations. So it could be my first day as a 7-figure-earning professional kitten snuggler, and I will not tell you whether or not I’m job searching.

      *The one that comes up most often that I hate is “Are you planning on having [more] kids?” If I say no and then get pregnant, now you’re thinking my birth control failed and talking about my oopsy baby and whatnot, and if I say yes, then I’ve got you tapping your foot and/or figuring out my fertility problems. Nothankyou.

    8. Emi.*

      What? No. One of the big transitions of adulthood is realizing that you can’t just lie to get out of your problems. Evasive mental reservations, fine. Flat-out lies? No way.

      1. Artemesia*

        Huh? Flat out lies seem entirely appropriate here — either the baby question OR the are you looking for work question. It isn’t the OP’s problem; it is the boss’s overreaching. they don’t get an answer to questions they didn’t asks. And if they challenge later, the response is ‘I never answer questions that shouldn’t be asked.’ Flat out lies? Way.

      2. TootsNYC*

        We are taught as children that lies are always wrong.

        Adults figure out when lies are necessary. And when they are counterproductive.

        Don’t get me wrong–I’m not advocating lying all the time.
        But there are times when it truly is the right thing to do.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’ve got another example, very sad–child dies. Some het up parents of schoolmates are convinced that they DESERVE a full explanation with Q&A, in case this death is something contagious. People who did know the cause (cancer) lied rather than open up any “I know, but I won’t tell you” conversational face-offs.

          Again, not everything in life about which you’re curious is something to which you deserve an honest answer.

      3. Honeybee*

        Nah, sometimes you do have to flat out lie. If you are looking for a job, there’s no evasive mental reservation that’s going to work there – you have to say “no.” Otherwise the answer becomes yes in your manager’s mind.

    9. designbot*

      I like responding with “Why do you ask?” If the answer is about you (you’ve been having a lot of appointments/taking private calls lately) then you can explain or commit to being more present. If the answer is about them (we’ve been losing a lot of people, I know we’re going through a tough time with the team right now, but…) then that’s an opportunity for you to speak up and say if there’s anything making it hard for you to stay right now like salary, your manager, etc.

      1. RR*

        Agreed. When I’ve been asked this in the past (when I was, in fact, actively looking), I cheerfully answered “Not at the moment; why, should I be?” And, this was true, at that moment. I was speaking with the boss, ergo, not engaged in job hunt activities that very second….

  8. Augusta Sugarbean*

    #3 “I am not happy he feels this way and want to confront the situation.” Maybe try approaching it from a less-frustrated angle. Which is easier said than done, I recognize. Try to think of it as allaying his concerns rather than “confronting” which seems like more of an adversarial position. (Disregard if I’m reading your letter the wrong way.)

  9. Bad Candidate*

    #1 – I was once honest with a boss who asked this and said I was. At first she was very understanding and said I could take time off to interview, no big deal. But a month later I was let go and didn’t have anything lined up yet. Lesson learned!

    1. paul*

      Could have already been in the works and that’s why she was accommodating. I’ve seen that happen before when agencies knew they were going to have to cut staff for various reasons (performance, funding, whatever).

      1. Bad Candidate*

        Kind of, yes. There was someone else in the same role in a different clinic than me. Someone had screwed up and lost the contract that clinic operated on, so she was going to lose her job. She had been with the company a lot longer than me though, and she ended up moving into my job even before I left.

      2. TootsNYC*

        very possible

        If I were a boss who knew that your job was being eliminated, but I was not able to actually tell you this, I might ask if you were job hunting, and then been openly (to you) supportive of your efforts to take time off. By asking, I’d have plausible deniability in terms of not having actually TOLD you about the layoff. But I’d also feel better about having been able to help you.

        I had a boss who turned down my very reasonable vacation request. I’d told her I was going to try using the days up, or to do something “administrative” at home, and she said, “No, we need you here.” Which really, really puzzled me, bcs I had deliberately picked a quiet time (and I was sidelined anyway), even though it was somewhat short notice, only a week away. About three days after my vacation would have started, I got laid off, and the lightbulb went off. She was trying to preserve the vacation payout for me, but she couldn’t say, “You’re about to get laid off, so don’t take the vacation days.”

        1. Honeybee*

          Well…that sounds really nice in theory, but the thing is I’d have no way of knowing that my manager is doing something nice for me in the time, so I still don’t know if I’d be able to answer truthfully. And if I said “no” and she said “Well, you should!” then I’m going to know something’s about to happen.

          I think the best way to go about this is for managers to be open and supportive from day one and make it easy for employees to come talk to them about moving on. At least at the moment, I feel like if I started to get bored at my job I could talk to my manager and they’d try to fix it – and if I knew I wanted to leave for sure, I could at least put out feelers and I know I’d have support moving on. But that’s because I’ve also seen my team’s leadership be very supportive of people who went onto other roles voluntarily in the past.

  10. Anna Bananna*

    #1 I think lying is awful, and it is an active act against the company. This is not ‘professional’ or ‘safe’, it is lying. I would not like to be lied to.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      Um what? A job seeker is supposed to risk their job and out themselves as looking because someone asked a question they shouldn’t have? And not doing that is an “active act against the company?”

      Please help me get my head around this. Where are you coming from with someone putting a company they’re planning to leave ahead of their own well being?

    2. Kheldarson*

      And employees don’t like being in a Catch-22. If you answer truthfully, how soon until you’re let go anyway? If you lie, how would your boss find out until the day you left?

      Learned my lesson in retail. Got a new job, did the so-called polite thing of letting work know ahead of time. They pulled me off the schedule. I walked out that day. Employers don’t care too much anymore. You have to protect yourself.

      1. k*

        I’ve just heard of an acquaintance that gave their two week notice and was told to leave that day. And this was an office job at a respected company, that usually treats their employees well. Just goes to show you can never be too safe. Imagine if they had told early that they had been looking or interviewing!

        1. Bend & Snap*

          This was standard at my last job. If you were going somewhere else in the same industry, you were asked to leave immediately upon giving notice.

        2. Honeybee*

          My company does this, too. And it’s generally a company that treats people well, but when you announce you’re about to leave they suddenly go cold.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you ask a question you’re not entitled to know the answer to, you’re not entitled to an honest response.

      Plus, come on — think of how companies handle layoffs; even when people ask directly if their job is in danger of being eliminated, they’re generally not told yes until the company is ready for them to know.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I did that once – for reasons too long to explain here, I knew I was on the layoff list. So I went to my boss and asked if I was going to be laid off, and he declined to answer. I told him I was taking that as a yes, and I would be wrapping up projects and making sure things were in order. He didn’t respond. When it came, it was a day later than I expected, but I was ready. I left things in good shape – just like I would have done if he’d been willing to answer me.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I still remember the time CBS Publications was being shopped around, and the rumors had hit the press. Some of the ad sales people directly asked the CEO, “Are we for sale?” and the CEO said no.

        Then they sold the division to Gruhner & Jahr. At the big meeting where it was announced, one of those ad sales people stood up and complained angrily about being lied to.

        I was sitting there thinking, “Wait, what? You asked him that, and expected to get the truth?”
        The CEO of the division said, “We couldn’t tell you, by contract w/ the company we were in negotiations with. We had a fiduciary responsibility to them to deliver a company that was in good financial shape, and to the CBS shareholders to get as much money in the sale as possible. If we’d been open with ANYbody about it, we would easily have lost advertisers, etc., during the negotiation phase, because of the uncertainty, which would have damaged the value of the property for sale, screwing over everybody.”

        He didn’t say, “Never ask that sort of question of anybody ever again.” But I would have.

        1. TootsNYC*

          What about the “wrong” of violating the promise to the purchasing company? A promise sincere enough that it had a legal agreement behind it?

          And frankly, it was wrong of this person to have asked the CEO that question.

          Just as it’s wrong of a boss to ask you if you’re job hunting.

      3. Manager in CA*

        Finally a chance to quote Lynyrd Skynyrd!!!
        “Don’t ask me no questions, And I won’t tell you no lies”

    4. AnonEMoose*

      If you don’t want to be lied to…it’s best to not ask questions to which an honest answer could represent a significant risk to the person you’re asking. No, it doesn’t feel good to know you were lied to. But it feels even less good to be put in a position of “I need to keep this job for awhile to keep myself/my family afloat, and saying ‘yes’ – even though it’s the truth – is likely to get me pushed out the door with no backup plan.”

      I also don’t see it as an “active act against the company,” at least not in this specific situation. As long as the employee maintains their standard of work, and tries to leave things in good shape for the next person, they have, in my opinion, fulfilled their obligation to the company.

      If the company isn’t willing to make it safe for people to be candid, they shouldn’t be surprised or upset when people aren’t candid – and even if they do make it safe, not everyone is going to trust that, most likely due to unfortunate past experiences. Is it fair? No. Is it human? Yes.

    5. A.*

      I used to feel the same way, and then I was flat out lied to by management about the reason I didn’t get a promotion. Now I do not feel the need to say “yes” to these liars if confronted with the question of whether I am looking for another job.

      In my view the answer can still be a truthful “no” because at this particular moment in time, while I am being asked this invasive question, I am not actively looking.

    6. INTP*

      If you don’t want to be lied to, don’t ask your employees questions that require them to choose between lying or risking their livelihoods. There are certain types of information that you are not entitled to from someone and if you flat-out ask them, you can’t expect an honest answer (because a non-answer WOULD be an answer, no one says “I don’t feel comfortable answering that” when they aren’t looking).

    7. Jane*

      There are many instances in which lying is indeed awful (probably most lies are terrible) but there are situations like this where it is necessary. I’m having a hard time with the idea that an employee should risk their livelihood by disclosing hat they are job hunting. Even the best managers might struggle with this because they could reasonably want to get a head start on finding a replacement and push the existing employee out even if they think the employee is great.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Or heck, they might normally be fine with it, but when management tells them layoffs are necessary and they have to cut two team members? You can bet the one they know is job-hunting will be on the list. It is even completely reasonable from their point of view – it is better for the company. But that person might _not_ have been cut without the boss knowing that, and if their job hunt is going nowhere fast, in the absence of that information leading to their layoff they might have stayed employed there for months or even years.

    8. Mike C.*

      And the employee would not like to be fired for simply working for a vindictive employer. What matters more here, your personal feelings or their ability to afford food, shelter and medical care?

    9. KellyK*

      Then don’t ask if people are looking. If you ask questions to which there’s no safe answer, and which aren’t really any of your business, expect to be lied to.

    10. paul*

      Companies have no right to expect more honesty or transparency than they give their employees.

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      This is like asking “Do you ever fantasize about my being carried off by winged monkeys, never to bother you again?”

    12. Anatole*

      I agree that I would not like being lied to. But if (in response to being asked if you were job hunting) you asked “Should I be?,” you can bet that your boss will have no problem lying to you when answering that question.

    13. BananaPants*

      If you don’t want to be lied to, don’t put employees in that position by asking a question where an honest answer could endanger their livelihood. If they honestly answer yes, they have zero reason to trust that their manager/employer won’t turn around and cut them loose prematurely.

    14. sstabeler*

      the thing is, it ISN’T “an active act against the company”- this isn’t an employee trying to ensure thye leave the company high and dry, this is the employee taking reasonable steps to safeguard their current job while they search for a new one.

      Ultimately, there’s just too much risk from answering honestly- particularly since most companies that won’t abuse the information won’t ask in the first place.

  11. La Revancha del Tango*

    #2, as someone on the other side (the employee side) I find it very frustrating when bosses are strict on time like that. Things come up and sometimes people like to leave early if their work is done and its a beautiful day outside or they have an event to go to. As long as your employee is a good employee I would let absolutely let it slide.

  12. fond_of_jam*

    Re: job-hunting. I am a teacher, and this is the time of year when admin, co-workers, and parents start to ask, “So, are you coming back next year?”
    I am actively job-hunting, but my current response is a chipper, “That’s the plan!” Because right now, in lieu of a better offer, it is the plan. Will people feel misled if I wind up leaving? Possibly. But I’d rather manage those feelings than have to deal with people’s reactions to knowing I want to leave months in advance.

    1. blondie*

      I think your wording and delivery are perfect! And I may be morally bankrupt, but I could easily justify that wording because staying at that school could be Plan B, Plan C, etc. And if anyone asked after the fact, I would say something like, oh, I have enjoyed my time at current school, but next school is so much closer to my house, has a cool academy program, whatever.

  13. Midge*

    For #4, I would find it extremely strange if a job I had applied to online sent me a letter rejecting me. It usually makes sense to respond to correspondence in the same platform you received it. (You probably wouldn’t respond to an email with a phone call unless there was a good reason for it, like urgency or wanting to discuss a sensitive topic.) And I think you should apply that principle to online applications. In fact the extra effort of sending a letter would make me feel like someone was going out of their way to reject me! And it doesn’t seem like that is how you are trying to make applicants feel.

    1. Jane*

      I’ve had this happen before (applied online then received a form rejection letter via snail mail). I don’t think it’s uncommon, at least not for law firms.

  14. MrsJ*

    For #3, in the financial services industry there are some regulatory reasons for not socializing with clients. This varies based on the role and the services the company provides, but in many cases it’s easier to not mix business with pleasure at all. However, if that’s the case, the boss should explain the reasoning.

  15. INTP*

    For question #2, if the employees ask regularly and have never been told “no,” they might just think it’s not something that they need to ask about.

    It reminds me of letters AAM has published from bosses that were frustrated with employees for asking too frequently about things they didn’t need permission for. It’s not always obvious what needs to be asked and what doesn’t when it isn’t spelled out. It might feel awkward to tell your employees to ask permission to leave early, but it’s a lot more awkward if miscommunications are allowed to continue until there’s a real issue. I think you can handle it without a big scene, just make it about your employees’ benefits as much as your own – “While I’m normally fine with people leaving early as long as there aren’t any conflicts, occasionally there might be conflicts, so I’d prefer if you check with me before making plans that require you to be out during your normal work hours. I would hate for you to miss out on plans because there was a time-sensitive work thing that afternoon.” (That wording actually feels a bit off to me, but hopefully the gist is clear.)

    The exception is doctor’s appointments. People have to go to their doctor’s appointments, they have to make the appointments when they actually have a receptionist on the line and don’t have time to check with you first, and scheduling them during a time of day when it’s almost always okay for people to be out of the office and they only have to leave 30 minutes early IS the most responsible thing they can do in that case.

    1. HR in the city*

      I work in an office where time off requests have never been denied but my boss still prefers to be asked. Mostly she wants to make sure the office is staffed. We don’t need a lot of staff and can usually get by with two people. I think that your point about checking in to make sure there isn’t anything pressing is spot on. There might be a project that they might end up needing an employees help on even though the employee doesn’t know it yet so it’s to me a little bit of a respect thing to at least check in and make sure that leaving early is fine. I also think that dr. appointments you usually always know about a head of time. It there isn’t one already it might be a good idea to get a shared calendar where everyone can put dr. appointments etc so then they all kind of know who is where. We have a calendar in my office and it work great.

      1. paul*

        Yep. And goodness knows I don’t think it’s unreasonable so long as they’re not tyrants about it. Hey, core hours are X-X, run it by me if you’re not going to be here to make sure it’s OK isn’t big deal to me.

        Now, if they always say no, despite working you over 40….that becomes a big deal.

    2. caryatis*

      But, unless it’s an emergency, you make doctor’s appointments in advance, and if the boss says it’s not a good time, you cancel and reschedule. Of course, the real source of the problem here is doctor’s offices and banks that keep ridiculous 8-5 hours. It’s insane that they still don’t feel the need to be open evenings and weekends in a world in which almost all of us work.

      1. The Rat-Catcher*

        I think that would work if boss was willing to lay out all available times from the get-go. Otherwise this could turn into a real headache after a couple of rounds.
        Agree about the hours. I always thought if I were single and had medical ambitions, I would open up some sort of evening clinic.

      2. INTP*

        This might vary based on area and doctor shortages. I’m used to not having much selection at all in terms of doctor’s appointments made less than 2-3 months in advance, so appointments for things that aren’t emergencies but you still want handled sooner rather than later because you don’t feel well aren’t feasible to schedule around work. If there’s a massive conflict then it’s okay for the boss to ask if the appointment can be changed but generally I don’t see doctor appointments as requiring permission the way that you might be expected to ask permission to leave early for a social thing, an errand that can be done at any time during business hours, etc.

      3. sstabeler*

        It might be a clinic with only a couple of doctors, though, in which case they might not actually be able to. it’s less forgivable for banks, where they can hire extra staff if necessary,

    3. The Rat-Catcher*

      The first sentence of this was definitely true for me. After literally never being told “no” to a request for time off for two years, and not being in a customer-facing or coverage-type role, I thought that maybe this process was more notification than requesting. But I still do include language to make it clear that I understand that it is a request. I’ll say, “I’m planning on taking off X day; if that doesn’t work, please let me know.”

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      The specific example of the doctor’s appt (in the letter) seemed an odd line to draw, because doctor’s offices so commonly are open 9-5.

      1. zora*

        Yeah, the OP asked if it was reasonable to ask them to use their lunch breaks or scheduled outside of work hours if possible. Well, you can ask, but in my case I would have to tell you that’s not possible, pretty much ever. I have had to have lots of doctor’s appts and lab appts lately, and I’d have to schedule months in advance to get a lunch time appt, and they only offer appointments from 8:00 – 4:30pm, so I have to either come in late or leave early.

        I’m feeling grateful that my boss has been totally understanding of my medical stuff recently and has been totally fine with me leaving a little early when I need to for yet another blood draw….

        1. zora*

          Oh, and I always have told my boss at least 2 days before when I had to leave, usually even more notice than that. So, that part is definitely reasonable for the OP to ask for, and to enforce in the future. Giving more than same day’s notice is pretty normal in the workplace, just so that the boss has some idea of their staffing for the week.

          1. Observer*

            Well, that’s really the problem with the letter. The OP does have a reasonable issue. But instead off addressing it, she’s going with adding another unnecessary layer of restriction to show she’s not a pushover. That’s really bad management.

      2. INTP*

        Yeah, that’s basically saying “Don’t go to the doctor.” Most doctor’s appointments last much longer than a lunch hour with delays, and if lunchtime or evening appointments are even available, they’re the first to be taken up and might require months of waiting. It’s fair to ask for a heads up as soon as an appointment is made or ask people (assuming they aren’t exempt employees already working regular overtime) to come in early or take a short lunch or use sick time, but you can’t say “Don’t go to the doctor during work hours.”

        1. sstabeler*

          I think it depends on the actual policy. If it’s “if you have a choice, then schedule the appointment for lunchtime/evening” is reasonable. (As long as you aren’t penalized if it does run over) However “never schedule a doctor’s appointment during work hours” is not.

  16. Scarlott*

    At my job it must have been an issue in the past, because now we need to swipe in and out, yes, even for a professional job as an engineer. If we take a lunch off the premises, we swipe out and back in. Obviously the downside is that we feel a bit treated like children. But the upside is that we’re paid for every minute of overtime worked.

    1. sstabeler*

      Is it swipe in to get in the building, or the equivalent of clocking in? if it’s swipe inot the building, that’s often a security measure, ensuring you know how many people are in the building in case it needs evacuating or both. That they combine it with a time clock does seem logical, though if you get overtime.

  17. HR in the city*

    #2 There have been lots of comments about micromanaging and managers just need to let good employees manage their own time but I didn’t take it this way. I have seen this type of situation go horribly wrong- employee claimed working at home (which was usually not allowed but she was just coming from maternity leave so an exception was made) but was actually in another state (Found out from Facebook)- and it can go really good. I think that as a manager you need to set expectations and I read that in this case the manager said hey give me two days heads up and that wasn’t happening. It probably doesn’t work if the employee has to get to the bank before the end of the day but approach is probably the issue here. This seems like a pretty reasonable request. I would think it was out of line if they wanted two weeks notice if you had to run to the bank before the end of the day. I also think that many times mangers also have to manage expectations from their managers or others. In my current office we have to have the office open & someone here all the time which was prompted by someone upstairs (this is how we refer to upper management in my office because they are on the second floor of our building) making a comment about us being closed during the work day. We aren’t ever closed and are actually open more than the upstairs but it’s all about perception. Someone made a comment and so my boss asked us to make some changes (stagger lunches) so that we aren’t closed and someone is here. It was a small change but no one has commented that we are closed again.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I don’t understand. Surely “working from home” is a loose term for working remotely? Was she in another state not working, or what was the issue?

      1. BRR*

        If an employee is working in another state the company has to be registered to do business in that state and comply with local employment law.

        1. ArtK*

          IANAL, but I don’t think you’re correct. If they *reside* in the other state, then the company has to comply with those state laws, but if the employee is there on a temporary basis (say, going home on maternity leave), I can’t see that as a requirement. Otherwise, my employer would have to comply with the laws in every state in the US since I could be sent to work in any one for a short time.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Yeah, that’s exactly what threw me. We have multiple people on business trips every day, and if we had to abide by those states’ employment laws and income taxes, it would be a huge nightmare. I never declare income in another state or have been informed that I’m subject to different employment laws when I’m traveling for work, so I don’t think that is correct.

        2. paul*

          I’m in Texas and have worked remotely from NM in a pinch. I don’t see an issue and neither did HR.

          Now, that said…there’s a gap between “Hey I need to WFH for two days” while you’re actually on vacation somewhere and the SHTF at work while you’re gone (they basically gave me back the PTO day).

      2. The Rat-Catcher*

        Some companies do require verification of your “home office” space before they will allow you to work from there, so you’re only approved to work from that location. I’ve actually seen those requirements on a lot of work-from-home jobs.

    2. Mike*

      Firstly, your example is different. Leaving work early is different from working from home.

      Secondly, was the employee working from home (in another state) actually getting work done? If so, does it matter she wasnt actually in her home?

    3. Jesmlet*

      I think it’s really a matter of what’s necessary. Does that manager need that person to be there the last 30 minutes of the day because there are things to be done? Will someplace lose business if everyone takes a lunch break at the same time? Will it be the end of the world if someone leaves a message and you get back to them the following day instead of that evening? The answers really vary depending on the type of job and company but if the answers are ‘no’ then why does the manager need to know or be asked a day in advance? If it’s just an acknowledgment of their authority then that’s silly. If all the work gets done on time and well, rules should be relaxed more to promote a better working environment.

    4. BRR*

      Yeah I don’t necessarily agree with managers should let good employees manage their time. I think a good first step is for the manager to define what is and isn’t ok. For example, I can come in a little late or leave a little early when I want but check when taking time off (mostly a formality for me but just in case). I also agree with managing expectations for their own managers. My last manager would easily let us be flexible with our time but her managers were very against it.

    5. ArtK*

      The “working from home” but not actually working was addressed in Alison’s response. It’s the whole “getting the job done on time” bit. Plus, as others asked was “in another state” equal to “not doing the job”?

  18. R.A.*

    Op #2- I once worked a full-time job that should have been part-time based on the amount of work they gave me. I asked if I could have a more flex schedule since I was getting all of my work done well within the allotted time for my wok day, and my boss said no, my butt must be at my desk all day. I later found out this was due to no good reason other than he was a bad manager with control issues. It lead to a lot of procrastination, needlessly drawing projects out, far too much time spent on Facebook (boy, do I wish I had known about AAM during that time), and general misery on my part. My current boss is a lot more flexible about time (of course now I have enough work to actually fill a full-time schedule) and it has become something I value tremendously.

  19. AnitaJ*

    So, I’m actually interested in #2 for a couple of reasons. I became a manager late last year and I’m now navigating the ropes of supervising and trying to do my best to be a good one. Our firm’s culture is very flexible with time off, coming in late/leaving early, etc. But our positions are somewhat customer-facing (and hourly), so we do need at least one person to be able to cover your job when you’re out, even if nobody needs anything when you’re gone.

    I’ve always, always *asked* my supervisor for time off; I’ve never told her. In my eyes, we need to collaborate and make sure that my work will be covered when I’m away, however that happens. But I do need to give her the information in case she knows something I don’t, and she needs me that day. That’s how I see it.

    When I began supervising my current employee, we had this conversation up front, in which I explained that I always ask, never tell, and would like her to do the same with me. Now, she’s slipped back towards telling and not asking. Part of me would like to remind her to ask, but the other part of me sees it as nitpicking. We’re not doing open-heart puppy surgery. None of our work is critical or life-saving. But I guess I feel it comes down to respect, maybe? Also, we used to be peers and now I’m her boss, which means I want to enforce those boundaries. But also, not be a jerk. Frustrating!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you don’t have a real work-related need for her to ask you, I’d urge you to let this go. I’d argue that it is a respect issue, but the other way around — in that you should respect her enough to trust that she’s able to manage her own workload and time. If that’s not the case, you definitely need to address it, but if it is, give her the maximum autonomy you can.

    2. Erin*

      It’s admittedly tougher when it’s a situation where someone needs to be covering for someone else. I dealt with this at my last job. However, my team members and I worked really well together, and were able to figure out coverage before asking/telling our boss one of us had an appointment. There may have been a rare instance when I had a doctor’s appointment and two other people were on vacation at the same time and it was tougher to get coverage, but usually it wasn’t a big deal.

      So I’d advise you to focus on building a good rapport between your employees, where they easily help each other out if someone needs to be out. They should be able to figure out coverage before coming to you.

    3. BRR*

      This wouldn’t be the hill I would die on (and I’m someone who has always asked for time off even after my manager basically laughed and told me to just take off whenever). If you aren’t having any issues with her otherwise, it feels like a way of trying to reminder her who is in charge.

      It sounds like you might need to remind her that there are possible coverage needs.

    4. hbc*

      If you think she’s forgotten that you might say no, then remind her. Otherwise, just say no when you need to say no.

      That goes whether she says, “Can I have Friday off please?” or “I’m taking Friday off.” Say “Sorry, no, we need full coverage that day” or whatever the reason is. Correcting her sentence structure just to “enforce boundaries” is a way to *lose* respect. Exercising your power where it matters is what will actually get you respect.

    5. GrandBargain*

      At the same time, I’d expect the manager to continue to exercise discretion over whether to approve (disapprove) this time off. If someone wants to use the telling approach (which doesn’t really bother me at all) rather than asking or scheduling in advance, that’s fine. In many jobs, 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there, and an hour or two from time to time aren’t going to make a lot of difference.

      But, just because the employee has notified the manager does not mean the time off is approved. No matter how it is communicated (as a question or as a statement), it is still a request from the employee to the manager. The manager needs to be able to go back to the employee and, with valid work-related reason, say the employee cannot take that time off. And, the shorter the notice given by the employee, the more willing they have to be to hear ‘no’ at the last minute.

    6. Honeybee*

      I tell my manager when I’m planning to take the time off. But as my manager, she always has the option to say “Actually, we have X during that time/I need you to be here for Y, so is it possible for you to move that?” She’s never actually done that, but I’ve always fully expected that if she had a problem she’d just say so. (I also let her know about my plans for time off at least a month in advance, and usually before I book any nonrefundable travel.

      So if your employee is telling you and that time doesn’t work for you, just tell her.

      It’s not a respect thing. We’re two adults having a conversation about time off.

  20. HR Clueless*

    Re: #5

    I’m confused on how this would work. If someone did ask to see an offer letter, is there really a way to verify its authenticity? Are they able to call the company in question and ask if the offer is valid? Is this information that someone has a right to know?

    1. ArtK*

      Other than the offering company and the employee, no, this isn’t anything that anybody else has a right to know.

    2. Arduino*

      I was surprised Allison did not cover this. Apart from being hard to verify its also oddly hostile to go all “supposedly” about this.

      Also if you don’t trust this employee to provide truthful answers why do you want to pay more to retain?

  21. Erin*

    A couple of thoughts for #2:

    I think it’s common to tell, rather than ask, if you can leave early. Otherwise they might feel too much like they’re children asking for permission, and that’s really not the case. They are adults who can manage their own time.

    That being said. It does sound like they’re starting to take advantage of you a little bit. You ask for ONE day’s notice, and they can’t abide by that? That’s crazy. I think asking for a week or two – barring certain exceptions – would be completely reasonable.

    Also, a doctor’s appointment is one thing, but going to the bank is another. That can be done during lunch time, or on a weekend, as most banks have Saturday morning hours. When you talk to your employees about this I might mention something like this, that those sort of “appointments” need to be worked in during lunch and weekends.

    For me personally when I need time off, my wording depends on how urgent/flexible the appointment is. Sometimes I have doctors appointments where I cannot move them; there is no flexibility. In that case, I would say something like, “I need to leave at 3pm for a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday the 12th.” If that’s not the case, I say something like, “I have an appointment at 3pm on Wednesday the 12th, but it can be rescheduled if need be, so let me know if you think there’s a conflict.” But in neither case do I really ask for permission.

    If I have something going on where appointments will come up on short notice, I’ve let my bosses know that ahead of time. Like when I desperately needed to find a daycare, I let my boss know I might be checking them out on short notice because of the quickness with which infant spots were filling up. It was just something I needed to take care of immediately.

    I mention these things because if they were giving you decent advanced notice, or at least communicating that they’re in a situation where frequent appointments might coming up at the last minute, that would be one thing, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.

    So I agree you need to speak up and reign them in a little bit, but I wouldn’t get too caught up on the wording of asking you versus telling you.

    1. Observer*

      I think asking for a week or two – barring certain exceptions – would be completely reasonable.

      I’m going to totally disagree with you on that. A week is totally stretching it in most cases. More than that is petty and comes off as trying to “show who’s boss.” That doesn’t increase ones authority, to say the least.

      but going to the bank is another. That can be done during lunch time, or on a weekend, as most banks have Saturday morning hours.

      Again, I have to disagree with you. If lunch hours are short, getting to the bank is often not viable during that short time, even if you just skip lunch. And, besides the fact that many people can’t get to the bank on Saturday for a whole host of reasons, it’s simply not the case that most banks have Saturday morning hours.

      In general, it’s a pretty bad idea to tell people what their reality is. You can ASK if their bank has a branch near their home that’s open on Saturday or Sunday. But you canNOT *tell* them that there is. You simply don’t know that’s the case. The same with almost any other appointment they might have.

  22. LizB*

    #4: A few years ago I applied for a job where although the application process had been done digitally, they used snail mail to tell interviewees whether they had been rejected or were being offered a position. It was very weird, especially since they didn’t let us know that this one step was going to be snail mail. The rejection letter was a very short form letter, too, so it’s not even like they were personalizing feedback for each of us. Please use email.

  23. Hannah*

    In my office, I ask permission for vacation time off, but not for sick time off, which for me includes things like doctor’s appointments.

    I think it is because that it is understood that these kinds of appointments are necessary and not always able to be scheduled outside of working hours. Because I’m paid hourly, I do have to use my sick time to attend these if I do not otherwise make up the hours that day, but I am entitled to that sick time and I don’t feel I should have to ask permission to use it.

    I do notify my colleagues, including my boss, by saying, “I’ll be in late tomorrow because I have a dentist appointment,” or something like that. That is not out of the ordinary at all.

    Vacation is a different story though, and even though my boss has NEVER denied me a vacation request, it is still expected that vacation time needs permission granted.

  24. Anonymous Educator*

    In addition to situations in which a manager has proven she can be trusted with a candid answer with regard to job searching, education also has a bit of an expectation (especially in independent schools in the U.S.) that you will generally let your department head or academic dean or head of school know if you’re seriously looking or won’t be returning in the fall. I’ve never seen a teacher pushed out for just looking (unless the teacher was subpar and the school was looking for an excuse to get rid of that person anyway), and a school will only hurt itself by pushing teachers out mid-year (again, unless the teacher has committed a felony).

    I’ve been working primarily in education, both teaching and non-teaching positions, and I have almost always let my boss know if and when I’m looking for a job.

  25. AL*

    I would not confess to job searching, but not because of the fear of termination. I’m more concerned about missing out on a promotion opportunity, should one arise before I find it elsewhere. No matter how important an employee is, I don’t believe many managers would react with a promotion when someone wants to walk.

  26. Naruto*

    The tricky part about #3 is that if the boss just doesn’t want the OP to have social relationships with the clients, that doesn’t resolve how to handle this one that now already exists.

    “Hey new friend, we can’t hang out anymore socially because you’re my boss’s client” could actually lead to the client leaving.

  27. Observer*

    #2 On employees leaving early:

    Yes, you are being extremely unreasonable. Even if you really need the notice you want, address THAT issue. Don’t get sulky and punish them by taking away their flexibility. That’s honestly what it sounds like, even though I’m sure that’s not what you meant.

    The way to assert your authority *appropriately* is to address issues directly, not be punitive or flex your “muscles” with extraneous rules that don’t really have a significant benefit to your work.

  28. Artemesia*

    #5 ia interesting. If you have to ask to see the letter than you don’t trust the employee and they are already not the best employee so trying to use the leverage to get paid more than your better employees. I can’t see this one ending well with any choice. Pay up and you undermine better employees; demand a letter and you undermine your confidence in the employee. I’d be inclined to let him take the offer and re-evaluated how everyone is being compensated.

    Don’t great a culture where the only way you are rewarded is with blackmail or whatever this kind of situation would be called.

  29. Purple Jello*

    Them: “Are you looking for a new job?”
    Me: – shocked stare – “Should I be?”

  30. Greg*

    #5: Even for a superstar employee, I’d think long and hard about matching an offer. I can’t remember where I read this, but I think the long-term retention rate for employees in this situation is not good. That is to say, if an employee was unhappy enough with their current situation to consider other jobs and actually get to the offer stage, chances are they will probably leave pretty soon regardless, if not right now then shortly afterward.

    On top of that, the mere act of matching a competing offer can be viewed as a kind of insult; the employee may think (reasonably, in many cases), “Why did they not think I was worth this amount until someone else offered it to me?”

    Finally, it sends the wrong kind of message to other employees (and don’t delude yourself into thinking you can keep this information secret; people will find out.) The message is that the way to get a raise is not by working hard and producing results, but rather by getting another offer to gain leverage. If, as you suspect, the employee made up a phantom offer, that may be a warning sign to your organization that you are approaching salary the wrong way and creating incentives to lie.

    1. Jady*

      I’ve always heard that it’s a bad idea for the employee, because the management will give you more but then end up firing/laying you off.

      From my perspective (as someone who’s been considering this), it’s simply because I know factually I could get paid more elsewhere, but there are a lot of things I like at my current job.

      If I weren’t happy there and did get another better offer… why wouldn’t I just take it?

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