Would you tell your boss you were looking for a new job?

Should you tell your boss you're looking for a new jobLife’s biggest transitions, I’ve found, are usually conducted with an air of secrecy.

Take moving house, for example. You’ve got to find your next place to live, wait to go through the approval process, then give notice and line up the dates. Last time was relatively easy as we were crashing at my parents’ and could move immediately; the time before that we had to give notice, and balance this with getting a reference from the current landlord, who obviously didn’t know we were looking to leave. (I’m always paranoid that things can fall through at the last minute, and being homeless is my biggest fear. Like this, but without the happy ending.)

It’s a similarly delicate dance with changing jobs. Again, you never know how long it will take to find a job, and for all the processing to be done at the hiring end. Plus, that balancing of references is even more crucial here.

When I came across a blog post discussing whether you should inform your boss that you’re looking for a new job, I did a double take.

I’ve always had great bosses – but I have never had that kind of open relationship with them. Perhaps general chat in broad terms about career paths, ambitions, next steps … but I would never come right out and say I was actively looking elsewhere.

And yet, people do. I was recently chatting to someone who’s been in the same company for nearly 7 years. There were a few times, she said, when she was proactively interviewing elsewhere. Feeling stuck with nowhere to go, she’d voiced her frustrations to her boss – only nothing was happening. He was willing to act as a reference for external jobs, even. (In the end, she had leverage enough to get what she wanted, and accepted a counter offer to stay.)

Would you ever tell your boss you were job hunting outside your workplace?

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10 thoughts on “Would you tell your boss you were looking for a new job?

  • Reply Sweet Mama M January 27, 2015 at 08:05

    Hubby has; he’s currently looking for a new job in an industry that’s not that large anyway so word could potentially get back anyway. We felt it was better for him to be honest and eventually leave on good terms.

  • Reply Manda | musicalpoem January 27, 2015 at 08:54

    Ooh, this is an interesting one. I didn’t make a peep about job hunting elsewhere at my last job and ended up leaving, but mainly because there was no counter offer that could’ve made me stay (external circumstances, nothing to do with the company or my former position). However, when I gave my two week’s notice, my boss took it very poorly and was hurt that I didn’t let her know I was looking. The aforementioned external circumstances (and the fact that I had been searching for quite some time, actually) may have played a role in how poorly she took the news, but all of the counsel I received from advisors/mentors and former colleagues were to never let the boss know you were leaving until you had a signed offer in hand.

  • Reply Revanche January 27, 2015 at 09:04

    Not yet. I’ve not yet worked in a place where there was no career path I could follow or forge my own so there hasn’t been a situation where it was appropriate or would be well received.

  • Reply Amber January 27, 2015 at 11:03

    I am very casually job hunting right now and I would NEVER tell my boss. She would freak!! haha. I have had coworkers who were able to be really open about their job search though simply because they were in contract positions anyways, but in my FT permanent position I would not feel comfortable sharing that!

  • Reply Taylor Lee January 27, 2015 at 14:03

    Not in a million years. I’m actively interviewing right now and I’m pretty sure if I told my employer I was leaving they’d make my life a living nightmare. Probably fire me out of a “lack of company loyalty”.

  • Reply Genie January 27, 2015 at 14:32

    I’ve worked at the same company for almost 10 years. I’d never tell my boss or workmates I was looking for a new job because that would make things weird. I have applied for a handful of jobs in the last 9 years, but nothing ever came of it. If I had notified my boss I was looking years ago, that would have created unnecessary tension.

    Unfortunately, it’s very hard for me to get a reference that is not my current employer and to ask a past employer who is 10 year in the past seems redundant.

    In the past, I’ve asked clients that I have had long standing accounts with (first swearing them to secrecy), but I’m not sure if this is frowned upon by recruiters and potential employers.

  • Reply cantaloupe January 28, 2015 at 04:29

    I always find it frustrating that companies ask for references from your last employer. Like, duh, I’m still working for them, I can’t ask them!

    With that said, today my supervisor straight out asked if I was looking for a new job for next school year. She insisted that I had to tell her if I was, like it was a moral responsibility… which it’s not, lol. I’m a teacher on a two year contract, which will be up at the end of this year. Many teachers renew instead of finding a new school, but it’s also possible to get better paying jobs than my current one. So I hesitantly replied, “Well, yeah… I’m looking… just seeing if I can get more money, you know…”

    It was a highly awkward conversation, haha.

  • Reply Ciana January 28, 2015 at 19:50

    Hmm… it actually depends. I can’t say much as I’ll only be entering the workplace in a couple of years time, but if I feel like my heart is not into the job or if the work environment is leaving me dreadful instead of satisfied, then – maybe – I might tell the boss that I’ll like to look for a new job…

  • Reply Kayla @ Femme Frugality January 29, 2015 at 05:28

    I would never tell my boss that! I am looking at leaving my job this year to go full-time with freelancing, but I’d never say so until I give my official notice.

  • Reply Funny about Money February 1, 2015 at 14:55

    Not on your life!

    If I got a job offer, on the other hand, I would tell the boss and give her or him a chance to come back with a better offer. Sometimes if you don’t hate the job & don’t mind staying, you can negotiate better pay or better working conditions when you say, winsomely, that it breaks your little heart but don’t know how to turn down an offer you can’t refuse. 😉

    On second thought… At one point, I needed to get rid of an unsatisfactory employee in my office. Management was dragging its communal feet. This woman was driving everyone nuts, including me.

    I happened to be friendly with someone who had recently retired from the university but had maintained her contacts there. She was pretty influential — a mid-range mover & shaker, shall we say. She also talked.

    So, I said to her (disingenuously but deliberately) that if the crazy employee wasn’t gone by the end of the fiscal year (about four months hence), I was going to quit. I knew this remark would go upstairs, and so it did. Within a week, the boss was falling all over herself to help me shoehorn the lady out the door.

    You have to be careful, though. I don’t think I would have said that to my boss face-to-face. And also, I really was prepared to quit.

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