Should I Tell My Boss I’m Job Hunting?

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Dear Liz,

I know you say it’s a bad idea to tell your boss you’re job hunting, but I think my situation is different. I like my boss a lot. I like my job.

I have to quit my job because it’s too far away from my daughter’s day care. I have to find something closer. If I try to conduct my job search in stealth mode it’s going to really mess up my relationship with my boss “Debra.” It would create a wall between us.

We get along great and I trust her. If I tell Debra I’m job hunting maybe she’ll be flexible when I have a job interview, or when I need to meet with a recruiter.

I want to tell Debra I’m looking for a job closer to the daycare facility. What’s the worst thing that could happen if I tell her?

Thanks Liz,

Sunni

Dear Sunni,

If you have the kind of relationship with Debra that gives you confidence she would support your job search project and give you time to find a new job without pressure, then by all means bring Debra into your planning.

However, unless Debra is already aware that you were planning to change jobs and unless you’ve heard her say “Let me know when you need to leave here, and I’ll help you” then I would be wary.

The worst thing that could happen is that Debra could dismiss you once she knows you are job hunting. She could say “I’ll give you six weeks to find a new job, and if you don’t find one it’s too bad, you’ll be laid off. I’ll start looking for your replacement.”

By bringing Debra into your job search planning you are asking her to do something very difficult to do.

You are asking her to give up control. When you are job-hunting outside her kingdom she is not calling the shots. She has to wait around for you to make your move. That is a very negative experience for many managers. They can’t deal with the uncertainty.

Here’s how a fearful manager might look at a current employee’s job search:

“My job is stressful right now! My employee Sunni job hunting, and it’s so irritating. I mean Sunni is great and everything but now that she’s decided to leave, I have to work around her. She has interviews. Her mind is elsewhere. She gets texts from recruiters while she’s at work and her face lights up. That’s great for her – I’m thrilled. But really, how am I supposed to feel? I have a department to run. I’m not going to wait around forever for Sunni to find a new job. She’s really getting on my nerves.”

Once somebody becomes a manager, they expect to make all the staffing decisions for their department. They don’t always love the idea that you’re conducting a job search on your own schedule. They may want to regain control by telling you what the terms of your departure will be.

Many people who felt they had warm, trusting and even personal-friend-type relationships with their boss have been disappointed to see how their manager’s attitude changed once they said “I’m leaving.”

Of course it would be easier to job hunt with Debra on your side. That would be the greatest thing and I hope it comes to pass. However, there is a reason I tell job seekers “Don’t tell your boss or your coworkers that you’re looking.” People change in a heartbeat under stress.

Bosses can take out their stress in unfortunate ways. It’s nice to know you are needed and even loved at work but when you decide to move on, that love can turn to animosity very fast.

Some bosses take the view “You’re leaving? Well then, you’re dead to me!” A boss in that state can make your life miserable. You are job hunting. That’s stressful. You have a young child at home. That’s stressful too, as wonderful as little pumpkins are. You don’t need any more stress than you already have.

If telling Debra about your plans will lower your stress, do it. If it will create a new source of stress for you — and new pressure to find another job — then keep quiet. Take time making your decision. Once the cat is out of the bag, it won’t go back in.

All the best to you,

Liz

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