my boss wants me to tell her when I’m looking for a new job

A reader writes:

How should I handle my boss’s request that I keep her in the loop when I’m thinking of moving on to a new job? I work on a small team (three people: me, another colleague, and our supervisor) for a medium-sized nonprofit. Since our team is so small and because we work under very tight deadlines, when I first started the job two years ago, she said it would put the team in a difficult position if I just put in my two or three weeks’ notice and leave. The people who held the position before me let her know when they were looking for jobs elsewhere several months in advance of leaving, and apparently it worked out well for everybody. She didn’t start trying to oust them from their position before they were ready, or anything like that.

But I feel that this puts me in a difficult position. The three people who held the position before me all moved on to freelancing or temporary unemployment after they left. None of them had to navigate the weirdness of telling our supervisor that they were actually interviewing elsewhere – they just decided on a rough departure date, left, and started picking up gigs where they could.

Last year I’d thought about moving on to a new job, and I decided to comply with my supervisor’s request and told her I was looking elsewhere. She was very understanding and supportive, but when I told her the next week that I had landed an interview (as she’d requested), she said that it seemed really early for that, and told me that I’m a very strong candidate but that I need to think hard about whether the position would constitute a step forward in my career. I didn’t end up moving forward with the interview or with my job hunt, but the whole thing felt too intrusive.

Based on my conversations with people outside of the organization, it’s not common practice to request this of your employees. But I do need to stay on her good side – she really likes my work and since this was my first full-time, non-seasonal job out of college, I absolutely will need her for a reference in the future. On the other hand, I don’t want to go through the rigmarole of telling her every time I’m thinking of applying to something new and have her start questioning how long I plan on staying, updating her every time I have an interview, etc., and I certainly don’t want to plan an end date if I don’t already have something else lined up. The other complicating factor is that I started working remotely three months ago when my partner and I moved across the country for his work. It took some convincing for the other higher-ups at the organization to agree to this arrangement, and I suspect she’ll be peeved if I take off so soon after she went to bat for me in making the remote arrangement work.

I’m the type of person who always keeps my eye out for new opportunities, and I saw a position a few weeks ago that I was really excited about and ended up applying. Now I’ve been invited to interview, and I’m not sure if I should tell my supervisor or not.

Don’t tell her about the interview.

It is 100% not common practice to tell your boss when you’re looking for a new job.

There are some cases where it happens, but those are very much the exception, not the norm. In large part, that’s because it’s really common for people who do that to end up getting pushed out earlier than they’d wanted to leave. And when that happens, it’s not always some awful manager saying “now that we know you’re planning to leave, you’re too disloyal to stay, so your last day is next week.” It’s often more like, “Well, now that we know you’re leaving, we need to start looking for a replacement” … followed by, “We’ve found someone who can start in three weeks, so let’s plan your last day for then.” Or even just, “We need to nail down a timeline so we can plan the hiring process.”

And the other reason it’s not the norm to let your employer know you’re job searching is that it’s simply not their business.

But there are some organizations that really do handle this kind of announcement well, and don’t push people out earlier. Even then, though, it’s not typical to loop in your manager every time you have an interview. That’s way too much information — and in your case, it’s opening the door for your boss to offer commentary that you don’t want. You really, really don’t need to tell her about interviews you have, or rejections you get, or second interviews, or so forth.

Frankly, you should be fine giving her no additional information whatsoever. At whatever point you accept an offer and need to resign, if she questions why she didn’t have more notice, you can say, “This fell in my lap and it was too good to pass up” or “I didn’t realize how quickly they’d move” or “I didn’t want to talk with you until I felt reasonably confident it was going somewhere,” or whatever feels comfortable to you. You do not owe her a justification for why you didn’t keep in the loop on every step of your search; that’s not a reasonable thing for her to expect.

And yes, it’s a small team with tight deadlines, and it’ll be a strain to have your position vacant while they look for a replacement. That’s how this works! That’s just what happens when people leave, and employers survive. It’s part of the deal.

And really, would her way be that much better? If you told her about every interview, she still wouldn’t know when to pull the trigger on hiring until you actually accepted an offer — and if she started too soon and your search took longer than anticipated, she’d either lose her top candidates to other offers, or be pressuring/checking in with you an annoying amount, or be tempted to push you out. There’s very little there that’s to your advantage. The reason she thinks this has worked well in the past is because the people leaving were moving on to temp jobs or freelancing, where these timeline constraints weren’t in play. That’s not your situation.

Apply, interview, and keep it to yourself.

The part about leaving soon after she went to bat for you to work remotely is a different issue. Honestly, it’s not great to do that if there was clearly an assumption you’d be staying for a while. It sounds like she used up capital getting the remote arrangement approved for you, and it would be understandable if she was frustrated that you were job searching so quickly afterwards, absent some clear reason like that the remote arrangement wasn’t working well. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do it anyway, but be aware that that may indeed be legitimately frustrating to her and could sour her on you a bit. That’s not life-long grudge material, but I wouldn’t fault her for feeling a little burned by that.

{ 155 comments… read them below }

  1. Tea Earl Grey. Hot.

    It sounds to me like she wants to gaslight you out of leaving. Like she wants to convince you that you won’t be any good anywhere else. Definitely do NOT tell her.

    1. GreenDoor

      She basically did talk the OP out of the first interview “too soon”, “think hard about whether the position would constitute a step forward in your career.” She’ll try and talk you out of any future job. There is no need to tell her you’re looking, or that you want a day off to go on interviews, or anything remotely related to a job search. All you owe her is a reasonable amount of notice before your last day. REasonable being 2-3 weeks.

    2. Andlars

      Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic, usually long-term, designed to make someone question their own sanity. That doesn’t sound like what’s happening here. I agree that the boss sounds like she wants more influence than is normal or healthy, but it seems more like run-of-the-mill control issues to me, which can be pretty easily countered, as in Allison’s advice.

      1. Jamey

        Don’t know if I agree. Trying to convince someone that they’re wrong about social/business norms when they’re actually right sounds like gaslighting to me. It’s hard to tell for sure if that’s what was going on, but saying it was “too soon” to be interviewing is weird, and trying to convince her that a new job would hurt her career when it wouldn’t sounds like it could be gaslighting.

        1. Karen from Finance

          But there’s a difference between gaslighting and just plain lying/deceiving.

    3. Emily K

      Seriously, this part –

      “Since our team is so small and because we work under very tight deadlines, when I first started the job two years ago, she said it would put the team in a difficult position if I just put in my two or three weeks’ notice and leave.”

      – really got my hackles up. It is not OP’s problem that the company chooses to operate with the bare minimum staff and has no contingency plan for handling a vacancy besides expecting the rest of the staff to work themselves to death.

      Figure it will take an average of 8 weeks to replace you. If you give 2-3 weeks notice, that’s 5-6 weeks of vacancy. I’m guessing this means you don’t have any parental leave benefit and you’re small enough to not be covered by FMLA, either, because either of those would require the company to have a plan for getting through 6 weeks without someone. Yes, in one sense 6 weeks is a long time, but it’s also not that uncommon in terms of medical leave for an employee to be out that long occasional. The company should have a plan beyond asking employees to sacrifice and act against their own best interest.

      1. Kathlynn (Canada)

        This. So many retail businesses operate this way. It’s hell on the workers. But I’ve been trying to correct my thinking patterns around this. (having been raised not to say no, and do what people in authority wanted. And having this reinforced by bad bosses.) Like I’m having extensive/major dental surgery in a few weeks, and I’m not letting myself think about what happens if someone gets sick while I’m off for at least week, or if something happens during the surgery and I need more then a week off. Not my problem. Not my fault the manager (who is on mat leave) and assistants fought against a temp manager coming in to cover for my manager either.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          Good luck with the surgery….I say ask your dental surgeon a typical recovery time range and put in for the high end of the range. You can always give them a treat and come back “early” if YOU are ready. By which I I mean out of pain because you said the magic word “retail”…pain makes us irritable and forgetful, which is a bad combo for any job. Customer facing especially.

          1. Kathlynn

            I’m using vacation pay (I get 2w/year), so I’m only taking a week off, unless something serious happens (like a broken jaw) then I’ll try to get on one of a few longer term leave options. I really need that second week for Halloween time (got robbed that time last fall.)

      2. BurnOutCandidate

        I relate to this comment. Small team and tight (read: hourly and daily) deadlines describes my situation very well. I’m taking some vacation days this month, my first consecutive days in eight years, and I’m having to fight panic attacks because of it. Management’s inability to staff and plan does not mean resigning myself to despair and death. I keep telling myself that. Something may go wrong when I’m gone, I may be berated by other managers on my return (as I was six months ago when I took a single day), but I need this.

      3. Elizabeth West

        Yeah, this is bullshit. Lack of preparation on the boss’s part does not constitute an emergency on the OP’s part.

      4. Decima Dewey

        It would be equally inconvenient if OP came down with mononucleosis, got kidnapped, won the lottery, or eloped. In each of these cases, the company would have to deal.

        Don’t tell her you have an interview. Not until you have an offer in hand.

  2. Crazy Cakes

    I agree that what the supervisor is requesting isn’t reasonable but as a new college grad in my first real job, I would also be really scared about damaging that reference. Are there any recommendations on how to navigate this, other than using the language Alison suggested for explaining the shorter notice?

    1. Simon

      The only reason your boss wants to know is to be able to hire and train a new employee into your position. Instead of keeping your boss in the loop in the interview stage, which Alison pointed out doesn’t help anybody with all the “maybe” answers, you would be more helpful by giving a longer notice period. If you really want to preserve the relationship after you accept an offer, ask if it is possible to provide your current employer maybe 3 or 4 weeks notice instead of the standard 2.

      1. Knork

        And after giving notice, make a point of leaving the most robust instructions and SOPs for your successor that you can.

        1. Samwise

          Start working on those instructions and SOPs now. Not because you’re burning to get out of there, but because it’s just good practice. You could get sick for a month and your colleagues or a temp hire will need to know what to do. You could win the lottery and quit tomorrow. And, writing those things out now will help you even if you don’t leave — it’s a good way to find inefficiencies and glitches.

          And of course, if you give two or three weeks notice and have those instructions and SOPs in great shape, that would be a point in your favor in a reference from a reasonable boss.

          1. PerMyLastEmail

            This. At work, we play by the “I got hit by a bus” rules. We build in redundancies where we can, make sure to share documents, project trackers, and network access where possible, and basically do what we can to make sure the office will keep functioning if one of us gets hit by a bus tomorrow. Your boss can never know with 100% certainty that any of her employees will show up for work tomorrow. Sounds like OP’s boss is trying to control that unpredictability. OP, consistently updating your SOPs and work instructions may help you make a cleaner exit when the time comes. Focus on that, rather than updating your boss on the details of your career plans.

            1. Mr. Shark

              I much prefer the “I won the lottery” rule–much less negative than getting hit by a bus! I completely agree that in nearly any position there should be SOP in place in order to make sure the company is functioning if someone has to move on to another opportunity or has to be gone for awhile due to a variety of circumstances.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood

                Alas I really have worked with 2 people who got hit by trucks…not anyone who won the lottery.(Permanent disability through no fault of their own…it sucked.)

              2. Zoe Karvoupsina

                I call it the ‘we got abducted by aliens’ after the time I referred to ‘if you won the lottery…’ and my colleague said that she’d come into work anyway. (She was…overly devoted)

          2. Elizabeth West

            Yep yep yep. I always do this–and I do it from Day One. Not only does it cover everything for the next person or anyone covering me, taking copious notes also helps me learn the job. I write my notes up into procedural documents and keep them updated.

        2. gladfe

          Yes, this kind of documentation may seem like a detail, but it’s really, really important! I have twice salvaged good references from bad managers this way. Those instructions will be there after you leave, so they’re the last impression you’ll get to make. It depends on the position whether this is possible, but if a year after you leave, “check OP’s instructions” is still a common way of answering a question, you’ll be remembered as someone with a mastery of the job.

      2. Emily K

        I want to counter this a little bit. If OP wants to give longer notice, that’s a generous thing to offer. But especially early in your career, especially working for small/resource-strapped employers, sometimes the gap between jobs is both the only opportunity you have for a long vacation and one of the times you’ll need/benefit from it most. Even (and perhaps especially) if it’s just a “staycation.”

        I gave one month’s notice before starting my current job because I was one of 4 employees and the only one who did any of the 3 or 4 jobs I did there, so I did stay long enough to hire my replacement and spend 3 days training her. Then I had a 5-day weekend before starting my new job. It flew by and I still felt half-exhausted from the previous job when I started my new one. It was probably 2 or 3 years before I was able to build up enough vacation time to be able to take a full 2 week vacation without completely draining my PTO.

        I have frequently looked back and wished I had given 2 weeks notice and taken 2 weeks to recharge in between jobs. My old employer could have found a way to get through 2 weeks without a marketing department or office manager. It was the dead of summer. Campaigns could have been paused and administrative tasks could have been done early or delayed or outsourced to a temp. It wouldn’t have been their ideal, but they wouldn’t have folded without me, and I could have really used a real vacation (which I never got in that job either because of limited PTO/heavy workload).

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      A reasonable manager isn’t going to give you a worse reference because you give a standard amount of notice, especially if you use the “it fell in my lap” language. An unreasonable manager is a crapshoot no matter what you do.

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        This manager doesn’t sound particularly reasonable to me, so I’d be a little concerned. But yes, there’s probably nothing you can do.

      2. Fergus

        Yea Allison you just got a letter last couple of weeks because the manager was given 2 weeks notice by his employee for a job after he gave a reference for part time work and thought he was lied to.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I mean, I’ve had letters about bosses who want to require liver donations too, but you don’t not undertake perfectly reasonable work actions because someone might try to claim one of your organs. You proceed in a reasonable and fair way and that’s all you can do.

      3. Smithy

        On the real world unreasonable manager bit – my first boss after grad school as true textbook unreliable. And by that I mean you could not rely on whether or not she’d give a reference at all. English wasn’t her first language and “it’s hard and I don’t want to” were genuine messages I received. She would also give absolutely glowing recommendations on occasion.

        If you know you’re in a truly worrisome situation in that regard – I just advocate for having someone else at that job who can speak for you. Maybe you had multiple managers, and one says good things even if not your longest or more recent manager. Maybe there’s someone you work closely with who has a more senior title. Just anyone so you can provide another name.

        When I worked for a small NGO, the ED was my only manager. However I worked very closely with the Director of Finance and while my role wouldn’t traditionally report that way – it’s seemed plausible. Not that I’ve ever lied when giving a reference but I haven’t always found it necessary to call out who is/isn’t a supervisor.

    3. MsM

      If you have to, you can always ask a different senior coworker who served as a mentor or can speak to your work on a reasonably knowledgeable level to serve as your primary reference for the position.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch

      If your only reference is someone who is unhinged enough to take this so personally they sink your reference, you’re not going to be able to keep that tiger in a cage.

      It’s best to assume that as long as you’re professional with your resignation and notice period, they will still give you a good reference. You will drive yourself insane and be in incredibly toxic situations being held hostage by your own fear if you let that penetrate your brain so deeply.

      Also I’ve never actually required a reference from a former manager, I can use references from coworkers or volunteer organizations. I won’t ever subscribe to a career that is going to judge me solely on the reference of managers who may or may not be decent humans with proper ethics.

    5. Bulbasaur

      I would suggest a blanket statement like “Well, I’m not really actively looking, but I do like to remain open to opportunities and check on what’s out there from time to time.” Then you set yourself up for using one of Alison’s lines in the event that you do find something.

  3. voyager1

    LW,
    AAM is right, telling your manager you are thinking about leaving is a really bad idea.

    However it sounds like your manager is on the level and isn’t trying to torpedo you ornpush you out. But I wouldn’t bring up specific interviews again.

    I tried doing what you did when I applied for a transfer when I was at a job right when a new manager came in. I was honest with her because I felt she deserved to know it didn’t have anything to do with her. About a month later she threw back in my face with some other things too. I assumed she was professional person without any real evidence. I now don’t just trust a manager is good/professional till I see evidence of that behavior.

    1. TootsNYC

      I don’t think it was very “on the level” to be so negative about the interview that the OP had lined up–to the point that the OP didn’t even go!

      1. Lance

        Yeah. Telling them to think about these things is practical advice on its face… but not paired with saying it’s ‘too soon’ for them to go elsewhere.

        1. TootsNYC

          It’s completely unnecessary advice–what job hunter doesn’t think about those things automatically?
          And she hadn’t even been to the interview~

  4. Sloan Kittering

    I must be miss-reading the letter, but it sounds like you first told your supervisor you were thinking of moving on a year ago, and the shift to remote was three months ago. Doesn’t that mean she already had the information about you being ready to move on when she decided to go to bat for you? If so, it sounds like that was her choice.

    1. Emily K

      Plans change from year to year, though. I’ve been at my current job 6 years, and I’ve looked around every couple of years at what’s out there and even gone on a few interviews during those periods, but nothing has panned out that I felt was worth leaving my current job for, and I’m not currently actively looking.

      Boss might be seeing it as, “LW looked around last year, didn’t get any offers worth taking, and then when the time came that she needed to move for her spouse and there was a natural opportunity for her to quit and find work in her new city, she liked her job enough that she wanted to stay on remotely for a while instead of finding a new job.”

      In other words, without thinking that LW is never going to look for other jobs again, she still may well have interpreted the request to keep her job and work remotely as an indication that LW was now more interested in sticking around for a while than she was in leaving.

      1. cheluzal

        “Plans change from year to year, though.”
        You’ve made LW’s case. She was made remote, now her plans have changed (new job).

        1. Emily K

          Sure, but the fact that the request to work remotely was more recent than the last time she mentioned interviewing is the explanation Sloan Kittering was seeking for why the boss wouldn’t assume LW has been continuously looking to leave since that interview a year ago.

  5. your vegan coworker

    I think this is an area where for-profit vs non-profit matters. If you’re working for a non-profit, that’s presumably because you support the mission of the organization. If you’re working for a small non-profit, then leaving with only two weeks notice probably really will make it difficult for the organization to fulfill that mission. If the non-profit provides services to vulnerable populations or otherwise does work with a direct beneficial outcome, then you leaving with such short notice might actually hurt somebody who would otherwise have been helped by the organization. While you’ve got no ethical obligation to help a for-profit retain its usual level of profitability, you may have an ethical obligation to help a non-profit retain its usual level of efficacy, provided you can do so without hurting yourself. Sounds like the worst this boss will do is try to talk you out of leaving.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I want to push back on this, as someone who comes from nonprofits (although not tiny ones). Yes, having a vacancy isn’t ideal and can cause inconvenience. It’s also a completely normal part of doing business that you need to expect when you’re running any kind of organization with paid employees. The fact that it’s a nonprofit whose mission you support means you might agree to providing some support after you leave (very limited though — like coming in once to train someone or answer questions), but it doesn’t mean that you can’t just provide a standard amount of notice.

      1. AnonAMouse

        I totally agree with Alison on this. Working for a nonprofit doesnt mean that employees should prove their dedication to the cause via how much shit/shitty behavior they’re willing to put up with. This is a hugely toxic thinking that lets many nonprofits get away with patently unfair/borderline abusive behavior all in the name of the cause.

      2. Rainy days

        This is a relief to read, honestly. I applied to a retraining program and if accepted I’ll be giving my nonprofit one month notice. I was already feeling guilty about that amount of notice because it’s the norm here, like LW, to give several months of notice (the reason this is possible is that since we’re in education, many people get positions in the spring that don’t start until the academic year starts in September).

      3. Maeve

        THANK YOU. As someone who has worked for nonprofits most of my career, nope…I’ve given generous notice periods when I’ve been able to, and I’ve even met with my replacement after I left once to give him tips about an upcoming event…but it’s still a job and sometimes your next job wants you there in two weeks.

      4. NonprofitHRLady

        Nonprofit HR person here, and I agree with Alison. Mission dedication is great, but good staff *will* pursue opportunities to grow, and since few organizations are really able to recruit and hire as quickly as 2 weeks, it’s not all that common for cross training to happen. When it does, it’s great. When it doesn’t, you just do your best to make sure that the position institution manual is as up to date as possible, and train the new hire. Managers should know what their staff does and how to do it, or they’ll have issues….. not only with training new staff but also with evaluating existing staff. Really good managers will find ways to keep excellent staff invested, be it through training, promotional opportunities, more money, or whatever motivates the dedicated staff- and let them leave with dignity and joy when they do depart, so that they’ll go learn new things and come back later.

        Nonprofits are not cults, even if it sometimes feels that way, and the expectation that dedication to the mission outweighs your personal needs is how you end up with burnout. Just, no.

    2. CR

      And attitudes like this is why non-profit employees are often paid less, work unpaid overtime, and other baloney: because “you support the mission of the organization.” That doesn’t mean you don’t have rights as an employee.

      You aren’t obligated to give more notice just because you work for a non-profit. And believe me, your employer won’t give you extra notice if she wants to fire you.

      1. Exhausted Trope

        Yes yes yes! 1000 times yes! I work for a non-profit. Nothing will ever change unless employees refuse to put up with this treatment.

      2. I Took A Mint

        +1
        “you may have an ethical obligation to help a non-profit retain its usual level of efficacy”
        Absolutely not because you are not sworn to the mission as a vassal, you’re an employee of a business. Maybe that business turns its profits into piles of coins for Scrooge McDuck to swim in, maybe it turns into dolphin reading programs, but either way you’re an employee exchanging your time & skills for ca$h mone¥.

    3. Le Sigh

      I think this puts an unfair amount of guilt on the OP. People working in nonprofits already often find themselves getting guilted into working too many hours for too little pay because of the “mission.” Yes, the mission matters — but it’s necessary to look out for yourself, too.

      1. Stacey McGill

        +1.

        I’m in a nonprofit-type field, and I get it, boy do I. I’ve been the one filling in for someone’s departure, several times, and it sucks. But I also don’t believe it’s reasonable or fair to put this sort of burden on the departing employee.

        1. Le Sigh

          Same. I see this especially with less-experienced and/or junior-level staff. It’s so easy to find yourself feeling endless guilt and feel like you’re abandoning people, and that you must work 75 hour weeks for little pay.

          Look, you make trade-offs if you work in nonprofits. But that doesn’t excuse the manipulative BS I see people peddle to convince people to overwork themselves–or else they’re bad people. Despite what Elizabeth Holmes wanted us to believe, one person cannot save the world. It does no one any good if you run yourself into ground. I want employees who feel good about their work, even amid the realities and limitations of their work, and feel supported by their bosses.

          And frankly, supporting your staff is not only the moral thing to do, it ensures you can you better serve your mission — burned out, stressed employees, guilted employees, employees who can’t pay their bills while you overwork them, don’t get you better results. It gets you higher turnover.

          1. AnonAMouse

            THIS!! Even worse are the orgs that take gross advantage of young grads, capitalizing on their first job insecurity and need to not seem lazy. It’s not right no matter what kind of company does this. Nonprofits should practice what they preach or they end up the hypocrites.

            1. Le Sigh

              +1 to your last part. This stuff is a problem even in progressive spaces — spaces that should absolutely know better.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House

        I have a related question. I was at a nonprofit that had in their handbook that all full-time staff must give a one month’s notice period so they can replace you before you leave. Is that normal?

        1. Pop

          I think it depends on the job. If it’s a higher-level position, one month can be reasonable. My last job (entry-level) also mentioned that in the employee handbook, and I wasn’t able to make one month’s notice work, and no one was upset. But it was also a functioning workplace with a reasonable boss so YMMV.

        2. Cyrus

          No, it’s not.

          They can put whatever they want in their handbook. And if I worked at such a place and basically respected them but was looking to leave and got a job offer somewhere else, when I got the job offer, I’d ask if I could give a month’s notice rather than the usual two weeks. If they said that was no problem, I would indeed give a month’s notice. If said they they needed someone to start ASAP, I’d shrug, accept that, and plan to apologize to my soon-to-be-former employer.

          However, it is not normal for nonprofit employees to be required to give more notice when they’re leaving, and it’s not mandatory just because it appears in the handbook.

          1. Spreadsheets and Books

            This just happened to me. My (not nonprofit) employer has this in their handbook, too. I got an amazing offer from a fantastic company but my start date is a part of the offer with no wiggle room so I gave two weeks notice because that’s all the time I have.

            HR is pretty pissed at me (hypocritical IMO, because everyone who has left on this team before me has given two weeks but my notice happens to coincide with others leaving so they’ve decided to finally play by the book), but no one on my direct team minds. Bottom line, notice is a courtesy.

        3. pleaset

          It’s not normal to be in the handbook, but at my organization they’d like people to let them know as soon as the person has accepted the offer, whenever it is. And we’ve have people tell us between 2 weeks and several months out with no problems. They’re not forced out earlier, and the earlier they tell the better the transition is.

          We just had an admin give three weeks notice. We have a senior person who gave four or five months notice a couple months ago and another senior person give (I think) three weeks notice, though their boss may have known a week or two earlier.

        4. Seeking Second Childhood

          In the handbook, I’ll see if it’s possible.
          In a written contract? I’ll see what the penalties are and discuss with a potential new employer.
          We had someone comment here* that she was in a conotract-employment country and her new employer paid the penalty fee for her.
          * (no clue when because I’m reading archives)

        5. Zoe Karvoupsina

          The place I just left had a four week notice period in my contract but that is in the UK, where four weeks is standard at my level (and people at a few levels higher were on three months). It’s intended to allow time for a handover. It also relies on a culture where you’re not going to get screwed for giving in your notice

          1. Bagpuss

            Yes, I am in the UK and the difference is that it is absolutely normal to have an e mployment contract and a fixed notice requiremen, so you know when interviewing what it is. In my experience, although wha tis normal varies a bit, it tends to be fairly standard across specifc industries, so the new employer normally knows to expect it.

            For instance, I am a lawyer. 3 months is the normal notice period for lawyers (can be 6 for the most senior) so when we recruit, we know that that is, in most cases, going to be how long any new employee is going to give their former employer, and you plan for that.

            For support staff (admin , reception, etc) 1 month is normal.

            And of course that still means that as an employer you don’t get your exisiting employee training the replacement, because everyone has similar notice periods so there is generally a gap between old employee leaving and new one starting, but it does mean that there is time for an orderly handover and for preparing proper hand over notes etc.

            Overlap is only ever going to happen if the person coming in has a shorter notice period than the one leaving. It happened to me once, but that was because the employyer I was leaving was incompetent in many ways and had never issued a contract or even an employee manual or anything that specified a ntice period, so I only had to give the Statutory notice (although I was young and nice, and gave then a month rather than the 2 weeks I was legally obliged to give!)

    4. soupcold57

      A non-profit doesn’t mean anything other than , well, they don’t make profit for shareholders.

    5. Pop

      Being a nonprofit doesn’t exempt an organization from functioning as a healthy business! Statements like this are really harmful to nonprofit employees. We presumably got into this work because we are passionate about the mission, and often it’s part of why we keep showing up every day – but “the mission” shouldn’t be used to guilt people into working for lower pay, unreasonable hours, bad conditions, etc – and it often is.

    6. MsM

      If the nonprofit is stretched so thin that an employee’s departure will leave individuals without necessary services, that’s a management problem OP can’t solve.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch

      This only works for me if you’re high up in the organization and then it works for both for-profit and non-profit.

      It puts too much strain on people to feel personally obligated to ride or die with a mission statement, which unless you founded it, you cannot expect the same dedication from regular citizens who need to live their lives and take care of themselves.

      This isn’t like joining the nunnery, you can’t just expect everyone who takes a job to pledge a life of poverty and stick with it no matter what, no take backs.

    8. WellRed

      All businesses have a mission, they may just not be as altruistic as those of nonprofits. And all small businesses would have a burden they’d have to manage when someone leaves. This isn’t specific to non profit.

    9. pleaset

      ” If you’re working for a small non-profit, then leaving with only two weeks notice probably really will make it difficult for the organization to fulfill that mission. ”

      This would be true if you had a specialized position in a small business too. I don’t think it’s nonprofit vs for-profit, but the smallness of the organization and level of specialization in the role that matter.

    10. Yorick

      Quitting your non-profit job doesn’t mean you hate vulnerable populations or that they won’t get help. If the organization doesn’t staff adequately or manage well, THAT is the reason that the organization may end up failing the population it is supposed to serve.

      1. TootsNYC

        and if staffing is that crucial to the population a nonprofit serves, then the managers of that nonprofit are being tremendously negligent if they are not always building a contingency plan (experienced retirees that might come back for a couple of weeks; a clear pipeline to eager candidates, etc.).

        I have just run an ordinary department at a for-profit business, and I have always been acting as though one of my people might quit and give 2 weeks’ notice at any time. I’m ready. I don’t have job offer out, but I know how to get applicants rapidly, I have fill-in staff on a list in my drawer, etc.

    11. Observer

      If you’re working for a non-profit, that’s presumably because you support the mission of the organization.

      Not necessarily so. In many cases, yes. But you know, a lot of people work for organizations they don’t support. I’m not talking about working for an organization that you are against – like a meat eater wouldn’t have any business working for PETA. But, not actively supporting? All. The. Time.

      1. Emily K

        I’ve actually always aimed to work for an organization whose mission I can agree with but is not one of my top 2 or 3 causes. I have seen the toll it takes on my friends who work for their top cause, and they care too much to leave work at work. Their rate of burnout is extremely high and on average their mental health tends to be somewhere just north of awful.

    12. Magenta Sky

      The lesson there is that small non-profits are more likely to not be very competent at hiring. Which I suspect is true. Which will make people who are really good at what they do leery of working for small non-profits, which makes it even harder for them to hire.

      There is nothing about having to replace someone on two weeks notice that isn’t equally true of having to replace someone who died in a car crash, or of a heart attack, or had to take time off for a family emergency. If you’re not prepared for emergencies beyond the employee’s control, that’s not the employee’s problem.

    13. Sunny

      I’ve worked for two non-profits whose mission I had some interest in but it wasn’t an overwhelming passion. And they were so political and top-heavy, and treated everyone at the bottom like minions, that I felt nothing but relief when I gave 2 weeks’ notice at each.

      Sometimes a non-profit is just a job. I did good work for them, but that’s all.

    14. Emily K

      Career nonprofit worker here and nope, nope, nope. Nonprofit employees are far too often expected to put up with sub-standard working conditions, below-market pay and benefits, and unreasonable hours “for the good of the mission.” They’re also very commonly young adults just starting out in their career and don’t know what’s normal or how to advocate for themselves.

      The exploitation of young people in the nonprofit world is one of the industry’s biggest problems and has serious negative implications in terms of being able to keep anyone with any amount of experience on staff. Having so many organizations and so many departments within organizations run by people with little to no experience because experienced people won’t accept the working conditions and is big problem for nonprofits and the communities they serve, and the solution is not to lay guilt on the exploited workers. The whole industry needs significant labor reform.

      (A related issue is that far too many people start their own pet nonprofit that replicates exactly what other nonprofits are doing, or could have easily just been a new program within a larger organization and benefit from economies of scale, and all those duplicative efforts dilutes funding and contributes to sub-standard pay and benefits. Total charitable giving in this country has always been 2% of GDP, going back decades. There is a fixed pool of money and the more small nonprofits that get started unnecessarily, the thinner the funding gets spread.)

    15. Bagpuss

      I disagree strongly with the statement that someone working for a non-profit has an ethical obligation to , in effect, make up for lack of proper contingency planning by the organisation, particualrly if doing so is potentially to your own disadvantage.

      I would also see anyone who tried to use that argument in a work context (e.g. a amnanger or co-worker to the person giving notice) as behaving wildly inappropriately – emotionally blackmailing your staff or colleagues is not acceptable, even if you belive you are doing it for the greater good.

      A non-profit may have a mission to help specifc vulnerable groups, but they also have an ethical obligation to their own employes and that includes treating them fiarly and with respect.

  6. Ladylike

    OP, it really, really bothers me that your boss discouraged you from an opportunity. She is 100% wrong that getting an interview soon after you start looking is bad in any way. That’s a great thing! Since she has proven that she can’t remain neutral and is trying to control/persuade you, you should keep your entire job search a secret and give the standard 2 weeks’ notice. That is absolutely what I would do. Heck, I don’t even put in my notice until I’ve completed all the contingencies (drug screen, background check) for the new gig, even though I know I will absolutely pass. When it comes to my livelihood, I take zero chances on someone/something throwing a wrench into my plans.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management

      Yes, this. You and your boss have divergent interests. The last time you did well (interview on the first shot is fantastic!), she immediately advocated an approach that was 100% favorable to here needs. This time, stay quiet and look out for your best interests.

    2. Falling Diphthong

      Yeah, I’m having a hard time figuring out what “oh no, it’s too soon for anyone to offer you an interview!” means.

      It’s just not the case that the only reason for a week from application to interview is that the new company is a toxic culture full of bees and if they don’t move fast the interviewers will have quit, too.

    3. TootsNYC

      not to mention that even if the job isn’t a good fit, or won’t necessarily be a step up (for one thing, you don’t know until AFTER the interview), going on an interview is good practice!

      She doesn’t realize that what she wants is problematic even for her. She doesn’t know how to act. She should have said, “Oh, thanks for letting me know. I hope it goes well.”

    4. MsM

      Yep. I had a boss who was supportive enough of my development that I felt comfortable keeping her in the loop about my job search plans – but she was excited for me when I got interviews, wanted to know if there were particular skills she should highlight when people called her for references, and so on. This “oh, you can tell us when you’re thinking about moving on…but are you sure about this opportunity?” dance OP’s getting is worrisome.

    5. Willis

      Maybe OP should just use her boss’ logic when she quits. “I did tell you I was looking for a job. Remember, I got that one interview and you told me it was too early in the job search process to go? Well, it’s been a year now so I figured that was long enough to begin taking interviews.”

      But seriously, it just sounds like the boss would crap on whatever opportunities the OP got, so I wouldn’t tell her anymore about it. Also, regarding the efforts she made for you to be working remotely, presumably that benefits her as well. Otherwise she would have been out of a team member she seems to want to keep. It’s not like it was all her doing you some great favor.

    6. Bulbasaur

      Yes, that bothered me as well. Your boss is not a disinterested party in this process.

      It all feels a lot to me like an exercise of leverage. There are all kinds of things that employers would prefer not to do (like train a replacement on short notice) but are nonetheless obliged to do anyway due to general standards of professional conduct. Employers, even well meaning ones, push at the boundaries of these all the time, particularly in situations where employees are vulnerable, have limited ability to push back, and/or might be suffering from information asymmetry (recent grads are a classic case, as they don’t yet have enough experience to know what’s professionally acceptable and what isn’t).

  7. Dysana

    I think I got quite lucky with my last workplace.

    I spoke to them about my career goals regularly and we realised about two years ago that they were diverging from what I’d be able to do at the company. We tried a few things to make it viable to stay but there came a point where we realised it wasn’t going to work long term. I started looking and they were aware of that and supportive. They knew I wouldn’t jump ship at a moment’s notice, and I prepared materials that I wished I’d had coming into that role.

    After about 18 months I landed an amazing job that aligns with my career goals and said farewell to them. I also genuinely hope to return there once I’ve gained more experience in other areas.

    1. Aud

      I’m in a somewhat similar boat, in that my boss has known for about 3 years that I’ll be leaving sometime this summer or fall. My partner has been in law school and when he’s done we’re moving several states away, so it isn’t a secret I’ve been able to keep. I’m very nervous of overstaying my welcome, because I don’t plan to leave until I have something lined up but I don’t know how long that might take but she’s very insistent that she’ll keep me as long as she can, which is comforting. Still makes me nervous as heck, but that could be the job search in general.

  8. Sara without an H

    OP, This is really two separate issues, and the first one is the easy one.

    1. Do not tell her you’re looking. Your manager may not try to push you out, but it’s obvious from the example you cite that she’ll try to talk you out of leaving.

    2. The second part is trickier. She probably drew down her political capital to get you permission to work remotely, and she’ll have grounds for unhappiness if you pull out immediately after that. You may not burn the bridge completely, but there’s real danger that you’ll put some dents in it.

    You say that you’re always looking for new opportunities. Opportunities for what? Have you thought about how you want your career to progress in the next 3-5 years, and would the opportunity you’re interested in fit logically into that plan? Or are you bored? (Early career jobs can be pretty dull.) Please give some serious thought to what you want your next job to do for you in terms of career progression, if you haven’t already. My own second professional position was a gross blunder, and I kicked myself for years for accepting it.

    It might be worth your while to stay with your current arrangement longer, just to build a solid, provable track record for successful remote work. Based on previous AAM letters, some managers have trouble with the concept and a solid record of success here might be to your benefit later.

    1. WellRed

      I agree. It doesn’t sound like there’s any thought or ideas for progressing on your work path (A year ago, you mentioned an interview, she talked you out of it, you moved cross country and work remotely, but you are still thinking of moving on). It all seems very…passive. Do you actually like the job? Is it in line with your goals? Do you have goals? (It’s OK if you don’t, but it’s something to start thinking about).

  9. Justme, The OG

    My boss also thinks that employees should tell their supervisors when they’re looking for a new job. I really like my boss, but nope.

    1. irene adler

      Exactly.
      I have to wonder: what’s in it for the employee to do this?

      IS the employee going to get a “better” reference from this manager if they abide by the manager’s request?

      IS the employee going to get a bad reference from this manager simply because they gave the standard 2 weeks notice?
      I think sometimes there’s too much stock placed in job references.

      1. Janet Snakehole

        Only tangentially related, but I’d love if someone could elaborate a little more on the potential reference side of this. I’m in my first “big girl” job so I still have no idea how stuff like this is supposed to work.

        I always thought a former supervisor should be a job reference if at all possible. How does that work if, in most situations, you can’t tell said former supervisor you’re job hunting? Do you only use supervisors from two or more jobs ago as references? Should you toss out the whole idea of supervisors as references? I feel kind of dense, but I just don’t see how OP could loop her supervisor into the fact that she needs a reference without telling her she’s job-hunting, and I don’t know how you could job-hunt without asking to make sure that this person would be a reference.

        1. TootsNYC

          you can tell your FORMER supervisor.
          It’s unwise to tell your CURRENT supervisor. Reasonable interviewers will not ask to contact your current supervisor.

          And once you start at the new job, that supervisor becomes a FORMER supervisor.

        2. irene adler

          One usually does not use the current supervisor as a reference. That would be a major ‘heads-up’ that you were job hunting. It very well could result in being ushered out of your current job to allow them to bring in your replacement- especially if you aren’t out of there in a short time.

          Who to use as a reference:
          Concentrate on supervisors from prior jobs. They are not in the position of being able to relieve you of your job should they learn you are job hunting.
          Might consider using a co-worker from current job (or prior job). But only if you know they will be discrete (not “tattle” to your current supervisor) and will yield a good reference for you.

          Interesting take on this: There was a column a few days ago about an employee who asked current supervisor to give a reference for a weekend job employee had applied for. Supervisor agreed and did just that.
          Only, employee then gave notice. The job turned out to be a regular job. Supervisor not pleased about this.

          1. Arctic

            This advice just isn’t possible for many people. For instance, this was the OP’s first job in her field out of college. She needs her supervisor.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood

              First “real” job out of college there’s still your summer/semester jobs and any internships.
              Some people ask other employees from their current employer–a great option if you have it is someone senior to you who left for another job. Like OP’s freelancing former co-workers.

      2. NYWeasel

        I work for a company where it’s actually more common to tell your manager than it is to keep it hidden. It works bc as managers, we don’t punish people for being interested in other opportunities—we are encouraged to help them explore them. And as employees, we know that (most) of the managers don’t take it as a personal affront if you want to go elsewhere.

        I’ve been thinking about this letter in relation to my team, as I’ve told all of them to feel free to tell me if they are applying elsewhere. I’m not looking for daily updates from them like “I got three responses today”, just keeping me up to speed on if they think there’s anything real percolating. I’ve told them that I want to foster a team that they *want* to stay on, but that I know people need to move on for all sorts of reasons, and that I’d rather work with them to create a smooth transition for both of us than be trying to hold onto them so tight that they feel they can’t leave without hiding their search.

        And lest I sound pollyannish, this environment is very much dependent on the managers. My current boss knows I was applying to a different team about 3 years ago, and is quite aware that it was because I was frustrated about not getting a promotion I deserved. She doesn’t hold that against me, and is definitely one of my biggest supporters. But there are still a good number of petty managers that don’t make it easy for their reports to be honest to them.

  10. Need to think of a name

    I’ve just told my boss that I’m leaving at the end of June as I’m planning to take a year off and do some travelling. He argued that I need to give more notice but I did check with HR. I’m uk based and only need to give a month but given the situation I decided to give more. He hasn’t worked out the implications yet and his boss who I get on well with is expecting issues on choosing a replacement. I’m just ready to get the popcorn and soda out to watch it all blow up they never cope when I do two weeks holiday let alone leave.

    1. TCPA

      Hey, I did the same thing! Gave three months’ notice as I’m moving and then also traveling for about a year. In a small office, it seemed like the right thing to do. I think my boss and team really appreciated the advanced notice, and it’s allowed me to wrap up projects, take time transitioning them, and help in the search for a new employee. @Need to think of a name – hope you enjoy your travels!!

      OP – is it possible your manager doesn’t actually need to know about specific interviews, but really is just trying to ask for more than two weeks’ notice? That’s how your letter read to me. If there’s any way to give more notice once you have a job offer (and you want to do that to help the non-profit out, not because you are obligated) then maybe you could do that, without having to bring it up every time you plan to interview. Personally, I was happy going that route of more notice, in my situation! Made me feel a bit better about leaving. Best of luck to you :)

  11. The Man, Becky Lynch

    If you do decide to keep her in the loop [which we all pretty much agree you shouldn’t be doing but if you do], stop letting her influence you in anyway. Let advice roll off your back because seriously ef “oh but you should only leave if it’s a step up” and “oh are you sure, it’s so soon…” nonsense. She is not your mom. She is not your mom. She is not your mom!!!!

  12. Ann Furthermore

    The only time I’ve ever told my boss that I was looking/interviewing was at my last job. The company was acquired, and we were all given layoff dates. For a number of reasons I decided not to stick around until the bitter end, and I started looking immediately. I needed a couple days off to fly to the East Coast for an interview, and it felt like I was overstepping because I’d just taken 3 days off the week before. So I told my boss, “Normally I wouldn’t tell you this, but given everything that’s going on I’ll just go ahead and tell you that I’ve got a job interview in Pittsburgh.” Then when I got back, he said, “Normally I wouldn’t ask you this, but given everything that’s going on I’ll go ahead and ask how your interview went?” Heh. But no, don’t say anything to your boss.

    I do agree with Alison that quitting so soon after your boss went out on a limb to get you approved to work remotely would be burning a bridge. My husband owns his own business, and a few times he has really gone out of his way to help people who worked for him, and ended up getting burned. One guy injured himself and couldn’t work for several months, and my husband kept him on the payroll anyway so he could stay on the company insurance insurance and wouldn’t lose his house. The guy came back part-time for a week or 2, and then up and quit. Last year he hired my nephew, who was in a really bad spot and needed a job, and my nephew half-a$$ed it, and took an unscheduled day off every couple of weeks (among other things), and just generally effed up. In both of those instances he felt like he’d been taken advantage of and screwed over.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      RE: Small business giving extra assistance to employees. I know your husband has been burned here and probably is now not as quick to help but please don’t let these two bad instances sour you towards everyone in the world. I have seen bosses go out of their way to help and it’s out of the kindness of their hearts, they don’t become bitter or refuse to help the next guy because you never know how the next guy is going to react.

      I’ve seen owners taken advantage of like the nephew specifically. That kind of thing needs to be squashed by firing someone as soon as they show you they are just taking advantage of your relationship status etc. Just remember to keep expectations in check and leashes only as long as you feel comfortable with.

      We have been bitten a couple times being relaxed on rules but it’s helped a whole lot more people than have hurt us in return. It’s better to keep an open heart and not let someone poison the well the first time.

      We’ve paid for time off when there’s an injury because it saves us in workers comp bills, having workers comp pay it out is a lot more expensive. So he didn’t get burned there, he saved his rates than having time-loss add up. He would have paid either way!

      1. Ann Furthermore

        He is in general a good boss, in that he doesn’t nickel and dime the people who work for him, even though they’re hourly. A couple weeks ago we had a huge blizzard, and he ended up closing down by about 10:30 in the morning. He sent everyone home, but paid them for the whole day. And about every 3 weeks they clean up the shop (it’s a machine shop, so it gets pretty dirty from the machine oil and other stuff) and they knock off early, but he pays them their full 8 hours. If someone needs to take a couple hours for a doctor’s appointment or other personal thing, he doesn’t dock their pay. In 2008/2009 when the economy went into a spiral, he called everyone together to let them know that they were all (including him) going to 32 hours per week. That way everyone could keep their job and get paid a little less, rather than someone getting laid off. Everyone was happy with that arrangement.

        So he’s extremely fair and reasonable about that kind of thing where a lot of bosses/companies in that field aren’t. In return, he’s very hard-nosed about a couple things. You show up on time or early every day, and you work your tail off while you’re there. If you screw something up, you speak up right away and learn from your mistakes and don’t do it again.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          I’m glad to hear this! I come from the machine shop background and have seen bosses like him, they create great businesses. There are always people willing to try to take advantage of the boss, assuming he’s making millions off their labor, when that’s so rarely the case at that size but you just weed them out and keep the crew that will devote their lives to really working their butts off for the company.

          I’ve seen those who are bit a couple times by their kindness shrivel up and start being untrusting of everyone, it only hurts their business in the end. As a small business owner you have to know how much to give and how much to pull the reigns when things go sideways.

    2. IL JimP

      I just wanted to respond to your last paragraph. The guy that injured himself, maybe he came back and realized he couldn’t do the job the same way or thought of himself differently after the injury. You have no idea what was going through his head at the time (nor should you expect him to be totally honest even if you asked). So I wouldn’t take that as being taken advantage of, I would try to reframe it as I did the best I could for this person to keep a good employee but ultimately it didn’t work out.

      To the nephew, I would just say never hire family it almost always ends up bad. I’ve never seen a good result, although I’m sure they’re out there.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        I’ve only ever seen family work out. Only because my former bosses expect their relatives to do their jobs and will fire them if they don’t! You just cannot let them bring the “we’re family!” past the hiring day.

      2. Ann Furthermore

        That was not the case here. The circumstances under which the guy quit made it pretty clear that he’d been milking the free paycheck for as long as he could. If he’d been honest, my husband would have tried to work something out with him and not just cut him loose without a second thought. Just a crappy situation all the way around.

        My husband’s little brother has been working for him for a long time, so there are family situations that work out. I was mortified by how my nephew behaved. It was even more baffling since he’d told me several times over the years how much he likes and admires my husband.

        1. Ann Furthermore

          And the kicker was that it wasn’t even a work-related injury. It happened while he was drunk at a party or something.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch

            OH! OH. That. Frigging guy. Nevermind about him, I just assumed it was work related because of course I would *face palm*

  13. Oof

    I think there is a difference in letting your boss know you are looking for a new job, and letting them know the details of said search. I like as much notice as possible from my staff, since it affects me pretty directly, and in all but a few circumstances, I’ve received that, and it’s worked out great! I was able to pass on some referrals that way, and on one occasion, give some advice on the red flags they were seeing. (I also recommend this site) While I couldn’t hire anyone early for training or anything like that, I could make plans with a bit of a “bigger picture” mindset – particularly with our crunch times and my schedule. It made a huge difference, for me and my staff.

    But it works differently everywhere, and sometimes it benefits, sometimes it doesn’t, on both parts.

    1. Lucy

      I think this is good advice.

      She asked you to tell her when you were thinking of moving on; you’ve done that, so her planning can take that into account. She relinquished her right to the courtesy of any additional information when she made unwanted remarks about the last details you offered.

  14. Rusty Shackelford

    Since you’re remote, you don’t even have to tell her when you get a new job! Just give her multiple-months’ notice she requested and start being “sick” or “on vacation” or “suddenly a lot less productive than usual.”

    (No, just kidding. Do not do this.)

  15. Some Big Nerd

    When we had our first departure from my team–someone who got fed up with the deep south and wanted to live in NYC–I sat my employees down and told them that my first goal was their happiness, and if that wasn’t here I would understand but would love the chance to address any unhappiness if possible before a resignation. Since then, I’ve made sure that my behaviors as a manager reinforce that message: you’re people before workers, and my goal is your happiness. As a result, one of my employees let me know 6 weeks in advance of accepting an offer that they were looking. It gave me time to try to amend my behavior to salvage that relationship–I couldn’t due to their dissatisfaction stemming from traits endemic to the company, far outside of my control–and to begin succession planning.

    That said, my own manager’s behavior doesn’t fill me with trust. I suspect any indication that I were looking would be met with a swift, involuntary exit. So, when I leave, he won’t get the same preparation time or the opportunity to correct the behaviors and conditions that would drive me out.

    In 20 years, my career has been filled with far more managers who meet the latter description than the former. I wouldn’t share.

  16. Meißner Porcellain Teapot

    I agree with Alison that it’s really none of your boss’s business and that you can absolutely leave any time you want, but as someone who works in a field where work is scheduled around individual projects with distinct and important deadlines and “critical project phases”, one recommendation I can give for maintaining a good relationship is trying to schedule your absence/leaving around those times if you can. For example, I usually talk to the project managers of my company before I apply for annual leave to ask when my current project is expected to end/if there are things coming up that they absolutely need me for within the time frame I have in mind, so that I can try not to book my travel for the busiest times.

    What I would do in your place, is to keep looking, but if you get an offer, ask if you can start on date x, with x being “after whatever critical deadline you’ll be headed for within the next 2-3 weeks”. If your new job accepts, then you can tell your boss “Jane, I have received an amazing job offer that I decided to accept. My last day will be X-3, so I’ll still be here to finish all the work and meet all the deadlines on project X.”

    1. TootsNYC

      I had a colleague who did that–asked to start in 4 weeks instead of 3 (2 weeks’ notice plus 1 week off between jobs, which is a frequent request in my field, especially bcs lots of people get no vacay the first year at a new place). When the new company fussed a little bit, he pointed out, “This is a huge deadline at my old job–wouldn’t you want me to give you the same loyalty, if the situation were reversed?”

      They allowed as how he had a point, and they waited.
      He may have given up the traditional

  17. Annieruok

    I have always encouraged the people who work for me to feel free and open to talk to me about how they are feeling about their jobs and if they were looking or considering other opportunities. But I certainly wouldn’t expect them to tell me when they were interviewing. It’s more in the context of a general career discussion. I don’t think in the majority of cases I’d want to know that level of specificity about it. But if someone is feeling restless I’d like to know. I may be able to create more opportunities for them. Or if I can’t, I will be honest about that and help them move on.

    For example, when a great manager who worked for me was really ready to move up and I knew I had no opportunities in my organization we were able to speak really openly about it. So when the position under her opened up and we were hiring to fill it, since I knew she was looking I encouraged her to focus the search on candidates she felt would be ready to move up soon and could be a candidate for her job if she moved on rather than hiring someone a bit greener which is the direction we’d gone previously with that role. And when she found the perfect opening about 6 months later I gave her a glowing recommendation, the person she hired moved into her role and we’ve worked together on several projects since she left. I’m now hoping to hire her back within the next couple of years. There’s a position she would be great for and the person currently holding it is looking to retire soon. It can be a win-win for everyone.

    That said, I’ve definitely worked for people who I would never have trusted enough to talk to about this stuff. I would absolutely trust my current boss and would be honest with him if I were feeling restless. But my last boss? No freaking way. She would have sabotaged me for sure.

    For me, I can see needing to maybe fight an instinct not to invest in someone’s growth if you know they really want to make a move. But at the same time, if someone’s amazing and I know they’re feeling restless I might fight that much harder for a good opportunity for them to try to encourage them to stick around. It could go both ways.

  18. Valegro

    My last boss was furious when I gave my notice and said I should have told her so she could have helped me find a new job! No way in hell considering her response to my notice was saying I stabbed her in the back and telling me it was the wrong time of year to quit (any time would have been bad for her and we were well past the busy season).
    That boss also had a bad history of being awful to anyone who quit. There was no way I was telling her about my job search, especially since it was 2 years long.

  19. LilyP

    Also remember that the company has choices about how they staff your team. If they’re choosing to go with “just enough staff to get the work done when everyone is there” they’re also *choosing* to take on the risk that if something unexpected happens (someone leaves with a normal notice period, sudden illness, etc) they’ll be short-staffed and might have to push off some projects or miss some deadlines or face some other consequence. This might be the right choice for them. But if the consequences of being understaffed are so truly dire, they need to make different staffing choices or be prepared to compensate with temps or consultants.

  20. Amethystmoon

    What you can do is try and schedule your interviews for after 4 PM (some organizations will be fine with this) or even during your lunch break. This way, you don’t have ask for as much PTO and have to come up with an excuse for the PTO. Also if your organization is business casual, as mine is, what many people do is wear a pair of slacks/top while they’re at their desk and keep their interview blazer in their car. Or just change at the end of the day in the bathroom.

    That being said, many organizations do have a policy that if you’re looking internally, your boss does have to be notified. However, that shouldn’t be the case if you are looking externally.

  21. Lily Rowan

    Here’s a reason not to tell a good, supportive boss you’re looking: it’s stressful for them! In my first permanent job after college, I decided to relocate, but couldn’t afford to do it without a job in the new location. So I started applying for things. Which meant taking days off work to get there and interview. Which I felt awkward about, so I told my boss what was happening. Eventually, after months of not getting the jobs I was interviewing for, I decided to just set a date to move, and told my boss THAT. She was so relieved! It was worse for her waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  22. Astrea

    How does this work with using a boss as a reference? I’ve read somewhere (here, maybe?) that I should notify people when I’ve given them as a reference. I recently applied for a job that required reference contact information upfront, at an emplyer that requires references to include the applicant’s current supervisor if there is one. Luckily, my job and volunteering bosses know that I’m seeking work to replace or supplement my very part-time job, so I had no qualms about giving their info and then giving them each a heads-up when I landed an interview. But it sounds like that would often be a risky move.

    1. TootsNYC

      those people who require “current supervisors” are jerks.
      I don’t know how you handle it–if there’s a way to day “do not contact,” or if you could leave them off and still be in the running.

      1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived

        If I wanted to talk to a potential hire’s current boss I’d only do it if I was offering her a job as long as the current boss doesn’t raise any red flags with her reference.

      2. Astrea

        Yeah, I don’t know how most applicants handle that. It’s s very in-demand employer and can afford to be picky, but rejecting everyone who refused to give their current boss as a reference would eliminate many great candidates who don’t want to imperil their jobs while job-hunting. They do say that reference checks (and background checks, where applicable) are the final steps before making a hiring decision.

        I have reason to think I’m relatively likely to get this job, and likely to hear from them soon. It’s one I mostly want, but not ideal in a number of ways, and very part-time. But there’s also a very long-shot dream job I want to apply for. How bad would it be for me to start that application process now, making for the possibility that I might get Job 1 and soon leave it for Job 2? I wouldn’t tell the Job 1 boss, but…

    2. Seeking Second Childhood

      I’m lucky enough to have had this job through a manager change, so for me I’d be volunteering my recently retired one.

  23. The Captain

    Allison (or any other commenter)-
    Does the advice to not telling your boos also apply if you are doing internal job postings within the same company? Even in large companies, people know people so it may get back to your boss anyway that you are applying/interviewing for other positions. Would that be a bad look if you didn’t mention anything to your boss and she found out from someone else?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Nope, totally different situation. A lot of companies will require you to tell your manager if you’re applying internally, or will notify them at some point in the process.

    2. JM in England

      In many of my previous workplaces, applications for internal posts had to be made via your line manager, thus my boss would have known from the get-go…..

    3. Southern Yankee

      Good internal managers want to help your development and understand you will benefit by diverse experience and become more valuable to the company. They may also be able to give you some insight related to that team or potential new manager (i.e. she’s very data driven, so make sure you have some good numbers to pull out in your interview!).

      Bad internal managers are going to find out anyway when the hiring manager calls to ask their opinion of you. And now current boss is really pissed that you didn’t tell them. So you didn’t accomplish anything by keeping it to yourself except making current manager angry. Of course, current manager should never try to prevent you from seeking an internal opportunity, and if bad manager does, pursue it anyway and let hiring manager and HR know so they can help you navigate out of bad managers influence. If HR or hiring manager won’t, run, run, run from the swarming bees.

      On the other side, HR has given me a heads up when an employee was really hurting themselves on applying for internal jobs (think jobs three or more levels up requiring advanced degree/certification/experience the employee didn’t have). In that case, if I had known my employee was ready for a new challenge, I could have helped in suggesting appropriate jobs rather than ones that gave multiple departments the impression he was clueless about what he was qualified to do.

      So on internal moves, possible upside by sharing, and downside can’t really be avoided anyway.

  24. Magenta Sky

    Reverse the situation. If she wants advance notice when you’re thinking of leaving, will she give you advance notice on anything that might affect you continue to work there, like financial difficulties, or restructuring, or the CEO’s nephew needing a job he can’t land legitimately? If the answer is no, then she’s trying to take advantage of you.

    And if she can’t handle you leaving on two or three week’s notice, somebody in that company is incompetent.

  25. Small but Fierce

    Any insight on what is an appropriate length of time to leave (and not burn a bridge) after your manager used capital to get you to work remote? I’ve been remote for six months, but between the COL and isolation, I doubt I’ll make it another six.

    1. Willis

      Honestly, I think you’re probably good to start looking. It may be a few months before you find something new anyway. Money and isolation are two pretty significant factors, and not ones that are likely to change with time. A decent manager should see that. Plus even if you held out for a few more months, it just kicks the problem a little further down the road, for you and your manager.

  26. pookie's mom

    I’ve had a number of direct reports who have shared with me over the years that they were ready to move on months before they did. It was great to know because I could cross-train, make sure I was up to speed on specific projects, offer resume and cover letter advice so they could really use the experience they had working for me to get where they wanted to go, etc. But I have always as a manager wanted to manage good folks up and/or out. And wouldn’t ever push them to leave before they were ready (well, one person…).

  27. Clementine

    Will the OP’s boss think that OP owes her a huge debt of gratitude for the remote situation? It’s quite likely this was to the organization’s benefit to keep OP when she moved, and quite likely that they have her at a good price that they would not be able to duplicate with a new employee. I know this boss might see the situation differently, but I don’t think organizing remote work is a huge favor.

  28. Rocky McRockface

    Does this advice still apply when you’re a company’s only employee? I’ve been in my current role (my first real professional job) for just over a year and I’m SO unhappy – the work just isn’t a good fit for my skill set and I’ve received very little training/guidance from my manager on how to improve. Being the only employee is really isolating and it’s especially hard knowing my boss is disappointed in my work. She’s said in the past she wants me to give her a heads up when I’m thinking about leaving but I have no idea whether or not I should tell her or keep quiet for all the reasons Allison gave.

      1. Rocky McRockface

        Thanks for replying, having outside opinions helps so much. Logically I know that’s what I should do, I just feel bad knowing I’m going to be leaving her in a tough spot whenever I do move on. I suppose that’s on her for having only one employee though.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      Did you hear the podcasts about feedback? There was one that focused on requesting more feedback…maybe you could improve your current place while you look.

      1. Rocky McRockface

        When I’ve gotten feedback it’s been in the form of “you need to do x better” (or on bad days, “you suck at x”), but when I’ve asked for guidance on how go about improving at X she’s told me she doesn’t have time to hold my hand. I feel like leaving is my best bet at this point.

  29. Batgirl

    Why am I leaving so soon boss?
    “Oh yes, this job offer came out of the blue and it all happened so fast!
    “I am so glad that I highlighted to you a year ago that I was thinking of progression so that you knew to expect this!” *big cheesy blissful grin*
    Because, she should be expecting it, with everyone, all the time unless she’s got indentured servants
    Now while people going on to non traditional jobs can be a bit more flexible, and that’s nice – in your field there’s a standard notice period which is as long as a new boss can wait.
    She knows that. She’s just trying her hand.
    References are nice but they are useless if you’re not allowed to leave and thus use them some day. She is hoping you won’t see that and will shrug if you call her bluff. I bet by the time you come to use her she’ll be busy working someone else over.

  30. Database Developer Dude

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! If I ever found it necessary to leave, and a boss told me I needed to tell them when I *started* looking, I would not be able to stop my self from laughing uproariously. If it gets bad enough to want to leave, that means the bosses aren’t listening anyway…they just want to know who the “disloyal” people are so they can harass them and haze them. Uh, no.

  31. Blarg

    I know I’m lucky. But reading these comments — I feel even more fortunate. I’m mid-career in state government, but because of the size of my state, I’m at the top of my career track here, unless I want to move into supervising, which I don’t. Because my specialty area is niche, it’s always been open that I’d leave after a few years. I’ve gotten so much encouragement and support from various levels of leadership — introductions to leaders in our field, offers for recommendations, etc. I’ll be leaving this summer and being able to plan far in advance openly, have weekly transition meetings with my bosses, etc — even without an official date or a replacement — is reassuring to everyone, including me, that there will be continuity. My work is mission critical to saving lives. Being able to be open and honest makes this so much better for everyone.

  32. NonprofitHRLady

    The advice of ‘don’t tell your boss’ is not universally true. I think it depends a great deal on who that boss is, what your relationship is, and what you’ve seen from prior experience. I’ve worked in situations where telling my boss would be a disaster, and so I didn’t. I’ve also worked in situations where I’ve given notice that I’m searching, discussed positions I’m interested in with the supervisor, helped hire and train my replacement, and it’s been lovely and smooth. I’ve also been lucky enough to be able to give ample notice (a month or more) once I accepted a position, but that’s likely due to the more senior nature of my roles. In each of these instances where my boss knew, I’ve used a current supervisor as a reference and it’s been really appreciated by my future boss that I’m so transparent.

    With my direct reports I keep an open door and encourage them to grow as much as they can here before taking the next leap (we’re too small to have a lot of ability to climb the ladder- the money is finite). In several cases I’ve helped them spiff up their resume/cover letters, prepped them for interviews, served as a reference, and generally been able to guide them through salary negotiation and still serve as a resource for them to this day when they need it. In the one case where I did try to dissuade my direct report from taking on a position, it was due to the wackiness of the interview and reference process- something smelled fishy to me and I thought they could do better. I was right, and that job was a disaster for them that ended very badly, and they were more prepared to screen for bad environments in the future. I say all this not to toot my own horn (though I’m pretty proud of the open atmosphere my team has) but to offer another counterpoint, even if it’s the exception rather than the rule.

    Building a trusting and open relationship with your boss, when both parties want to do so and it’s truly healthy, may result in a life long mentor for your career- but it’s not possible in all situations.

  33. AnonyMouse

    As someone who’s job search was outed to their boss without giving the person who did the outing consent to do so, I would 100% not give your boss updates on interviews, applications, etc. My boss ended up “tricking” me into thinking he’d be supportive, constantly asked about how things were going, etc. Now all of a sudden decisions are being made about my position with my “potential departure” in mind, exactly as Allison described. Moving forward I’ve decided I’m going to stop telling my boss about anything unless I’m at the finalist stage (sadly, I’m in an industry that expects your current supervisor to provide a reference :/)

  34. Lindrine

    As a manager, I would like to know if a report of mine is looking for a raise or change in working environment situation ( work from home, etc) instead of not being comfortable asking me and looking for a new job instead, however I understand if someone decides they want to do what they see is best for them and look and not tell me. I don’t expect my team to tell me if they are job hunting. I would like to know if they are so unhappy for whatever reason that another job sounds better.

  35. C

    I had a colleague in my team leave quite suddenly once, and my boss admitted that she was disappointed that my colleague had not told her that she was applying for other jobs, and that if she had known she would have tried to get her a raise or a promotion in the organisation (which I know would have been my colleague’s preferred option – she loved her job and was leaving solely because she needed more money). We were also a very tight and supportive team and my boss would have been very happy to support her in applying/prepping for an interview outside the organisation, and I think she was a bit hurt that my colleague did not go to her for help, she saw herself as a bit of a mentor to us all. This boss subsequently left, but this remained part of my team’s culture – when I started looking for a new job I was very open about it with my new manager, and when I got an interview I actually told my manager before I even told my partner or anyone else! Similarly, my direct report has come to me for career advice and I have helped him with interview practice.

    This is to say that of course you don’t owe your boss anything and you should not tell them you are looking if you don’t want to share that information – but don’t assume something bad is going to happen if you do. The OP’s situation seems different as the manager has actively discouraged her from applying in the past, but I see a lot of people in the comments saying this is an unreasonable request on the manager’s part, and I just don’t think it is? You don’t have to tell them, but there is no harm in them asking if they are not using that information against you in any way. And if you can give people more time to prepare for your potential resignation, and there is no fear of repercussions, why wouldn’t you?

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