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Should you tell your boss that you're looking for a new job?

By Emily Gee | 24 June 2019


When you’re ready to make the next move in your career, navigating the existing relationship with your boss can be a minefield. Should you tell them about your plans to look for a job elsewhere, or keep it on the downlow until you receive a job offer? These are the questions we have all asked ourselves at some point, and the answers are certainly not as straightforward as we would like them to be.

However, the general advice on this topic is to wait until you have a job offer before you inform your boss of your decision. This is because there are many variables to consider that can’t be accounted for, such as how long it will actually take you to find a job, or how workplace politics play out… so keeping your cards close to your chest may make the most sense. Here are some considerations to keep in mind before you let your boss know that you are looking for a new job:

Considerations to keep in mind when telling your boss you’re job hunting

  1. It could take you a while to find a new job.
  2. Company confidentiality is a concern.
  3. You might change your mind.
  4. You’re risking your discretion.
  5. If word gets out, it could affect team morale.

1. It could take you a while to find a new job.

One of the main reasons you might want to keep mum about your intentions to leave is that finding a job takes time. On average, it takes 82 days (that’s almost 3 months!) to secure an offer from an employer, and even then, you may want to negotiate the terms of your contract or you may decide that the role isn’t the right fit for you. All of these factors can come into play, which can make the job search go on for longer. 

2. Company confidentiality is a concern.

confidentiality concept

Most organisations have confidentiality agreements in place, and when you inform your boss of your desire to leave, you risk being frozen out of the company, or be told to leave before you’re ready. Not all companies do this, but it does happen, especially where intellectual property is concerned.

3. You might change your mind.

It’s not uncommon for managers to try to convince employees to stay. Whether it’s through an offer of a promotion, more flexible working arrangements or other incentives—you may not be prepared for the idea that you may change your mind. Thus, if you do decide to stay, you’re risking being labelled the person who “almost quit”, which may cause your employer to question where your loyalties lie in the future.

4. You’re risking your discretion.

man looking at watch

If you’re going to be leaving early or arriving late to work to attend job interviews, you’re putting your reputation at risk. With one foot out the door, your boss might get the impression that you are not serious about your job, which could affect them giving you a positive reference.

Discretion at work is sometimes just as important, if not more so, than total honesty. If the politics of your workplace do not value honesty above all else, you may not benefit from revealing your intention to leave early on in your job search.

5. If word gets out, it could affect team morale.

Even passing comments about looking for a new job or feeling unhappy in your role can affect team morale and productivity. Your colleagues may be taken aback or even jealous of your plans, while your boss may question your commitment or be concerned about the message you are sending.

Your intention to quit is a sensitive subject area that, once out in the open, can cause a ripple effect with consequences that aren’t always foreseeable.

Here’s how to maintain honesty and take the best approach to discussing your future plans with your boss:

What approach should you take when discussing your future plans with your boss?

  1. Keep communication channels open.
  2. Always tell your boss first. 

1. Keep communication channels open.

It is unwise to keep your boss completely in the dark about your career goals, both present and future-oriented. Many managers simply wish to support and encourage their team to strive for achievement beyond their existing role. By communicating regularly and honestly with your boss you will always be on the same page and nothing will ever come as a surprise.

Of course, this really depends on whether you have the kind of relationship that is based on support, trust and mutual understanding. If you fear retribution for being honest with your boss, then perhaps waiting for the right time (such as when you have a job offer) is the most sensible option for you.

2. Always tell your boss first.

asian woman boss talking with colleague

Having close friendships with your colleagues likely means that you want to tell them everything first. However, out of respect it is better to let your boss be the first to know. After all, they will likely be the person most directly affected by your absence and will also be in charge of finding your replacement. Additionally, if your boss finds out you are looking for work through someone else, it could spell disaster.

Ultimately, it is better to have a signed offer in hand that you plan to pursue before sharing news with your supervisors.

Are you in the process of looking for a new job?

If you’re ready to move on to a new job, Upskilled offers a range of courses to help you get the right training and qualifications for the role of your dreams. Need to chat to an expert? Our experienced education consultants are always available to help you decide your next move, so call them on 1300 009 924 to plan your next career move.
 
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