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Career challenge: What if the boss finds out you’re job-hunting?


Looking for a new job can be a delicate task for individuals when they’re still working for an existing employer. 

Not only do people have to navigate their availability to interview for fox he new position during business hours — they may also come across as ambivalent about or less than 100% committed to their current role, human resources professionals indicate.

Those who are casting their eyes about for a new position on company time need to remember that their actions and changes may catch the eye of the current leadership.

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If a supervisor does discover someone is hunting for a new career opportunity, things may get dicey — but there are smart, professional ways to handle the situation. 

Woman speaks to man at interview desk

Experts advise that people remain straightforward and honest with a boss if the supervisor finds out about job-hunting activities. (iStock / iStock)

Here are practical tips for those navigating a challenging but common employment situation.

Be honest with the boss

If you are approached by a supervisor about the issue before there’s been a resolution, your response should be straightforward, honest and professional. 

“Employees who are discovered to be looking for a new job should, first and foremost, tell the truth,” New York-based Erin Lau, director of service operations for human resources company Insperity, told FOX Business about the issue. 

Remember that job offers may be rescinded — making it worth the time and effort to keep the relationship with your current employer positive.

Lau noted that a simple comment such as, “Yes, I am open to new opportunities,” may satisfy some employers. 

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Others may follow up by asking what’s behind the motivation to look for other work. Still other managers may not be surprised at all, based on an individual’s history, record or performance.

Either way, a person — no matter his or her current position or where the person hopes to land — should remain professional at all times.

Try scheduling a chat with the manager

If the boss learns you’re looking for a new job before you’ve mentioned it, it may be uncomfortable — and different people will react differently.

Assure a manager you’ll provide advanced notice if and when you get an offer — giving the person enough time to look for a replacement. 

“I strongly recommend staying professional, as negative emotions on both sides can burn bridges, ruining long-standing employer-employee relationships,” said Anjela Mangrum, president of Mangrum Career Solutions, a recruiting firm in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Woman sits at interview desk

Stay professional if your boss finds out you’re job-hunting to avoid burning bridges and ruining professional relationships, say experts. (iStock / iStock)

Mangrum says that a sound approach is to ask for a sit-down to clear the air. 

“Calmly tell them you would like to schedule a meeting to explain why you’re applying for other jobs and see how they react,” she said. 

“Their reaction can provide further insight into whether your current job is worth staying at,” she continued. 

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“A good employer will show genuine concern and may even present a counteroffer, or ask for feedback on any improvements you need [in] your work day to get you to stay,” she said.

That, of course, assumes the worker has been making a positive impact on the organization. 

As a good employee, you can offer to assist with finding your replacement.

Depending on the situation and the outcome of these discussions, you may get reassurance that moving on is the right choice at this time. 

Reassure the boss you’re still focused on your job

Even so, Be sure to assure the boss you will do your best not to inconvenience your department or your company’s workflow. 

Additionally, as a good employee, you can offer to assist with finding your replacement.

Two men talk during interview

“Knowing that you’ll take extra steps for a smooth transition before you leave can ease anxiety, especially if you’re a crucial team member,” said one career professional to FOX Business. (iStock / iStock)

“I’ve seen professionals be as courteous as offering to find their own replacements and even mentor them for a couple of weeks before moving on to another job,” said Mangrum. 

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While that would be a best-case scenario and not feasible for every employee in every situation, she does suggest that people at least reassure the boss they won’t leave until any ongoing projects are completed. That type of offer will almost always be appreciated.

Managers will need enough time to look for a suitable replacement.

Alternatively, workers can assure a manager that they’ll provide advanced notice if and when they do get an offer — giving the managers enough time to look for a suitable replacement.

“Knowing that you’ll take extra steps for a smooth transition before you leave for good can ease [the manager’s] anxiety, especially if you’re a crucial team member,” she added.

Share the reasons you want to move on

The motivation or reasons for job-hunting is something that a boss may ask about.

Two work colleagues are having a happy discussion in an office setting

If you can articulate your career needs to your boss, there may be a chance the company can find money for professional development or create a progression plan that satisfies both sides. (iStock / iStock)

Sarah Doody, an employment expert in Salt Lake City, Utah, and founder of the Career Strategy Lab, provides some reasons that may be worth sharing with a boss about the need for a job change.

You want to advance your career. Perhaps your goals are to be a manager. Or maybe you want to learn new skills that you aren’t currently learning at your job. 

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“Get specific about what advancing your career might mean to you,” suggested Doody. 

If you can articulate this to your boss, there may be a chance the company can find money for professional development or create a progression plan that leads to your goals while also contributing to the company’s goals, she said.

You need to earn more. The reality is the cost of living is rising. It’s a valid concern to share with your boss. 

“Life circumstances impact how much money we need all the time,” said Doody. “Maybe you’re gearing up to buy a house or you have dependents — or you just want to have more disposable income. Being honest about your desire for a higher salary might just result in your boss giving you a raise. But your boss won’t know this,” she added, unless you say something about it.

Woman shakes hands at job interview

Calmly tell them your boss would like to schedule a meeting with them to explain why you’re applying for other jobs, advised one employment professional.  (iStock / iStock)

You want a life change. It is appropriate to tell your boss, Doody said, if you’re seeking a new job for more flexibility of location, environment or schedule. 

“Perhaps you got a taste of remote work during the pandemic and you can’t imagine going back to an office, or maybe your partner has a new job that requires you to move or secure a remote role,” she said. 

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Be careful not to burn bridges. While you have every right to seek new opportunities, Lau says to remember that job searches can take months and that job offers may even be rescinded.

That alone makes it well worth the time and effort for a departing employee to keep the relationship with a current manager positive and professional.

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“Few employers are thrilled to learn of an impending resignation,” Lau said. 

“In an era of job hopping, most managers recognize that few professionals remain at the same company for the duration of their careers — and even satisfied workers may apply to other roles,” said Lau.



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