I was just reading this ESPN article about the Athletic Director at Boston College saying that if his football coach interviewed for a new position, he would likely fire him.

Now there are many takes on this and what is really going on might not be accurately reported in the press.

So just wondering, if your boss came to you and asked if you were actively looking (and you were), how might you respond?


MsSunshine's picture

First, I always believe that there are no secrets and the boss would know from someone else - I'd rather have that discussion first.
Secondly, my conversation with my boss references previous discussions about what my goals were and why I thought this job could be a better fit/stretch me in a new direction/provide a change I needed, etc.

My company used to have a policy that you had to tell your boss before applying for an internal job. So, I have had to do this multiple times. (One time I didn't get the job and was in that position for about 4 more months until another job came along. Another time I decided I wasn't interested after the initial interview.) The key is that I had always had open, honest relationships with my bosses. So, we had already had discussions at points about what I liked/didn't like about my job, my career goals, etc. They were always stunned at first. But then we'd talk through it. By the end I always got a response that they wish me luck if this is something I decide I want and I am offered....but if I change my mind/don't get the job/later wanted to come back to the group I'd always be welcome.

I think there were several key things in the conversation. Foremost is the fact that I had always had previous conversations about my goals and what I was and wasn't getting in the current job. So, there was that basis that we had talked about needs I was looking to fulfill prior to this conversation. Secondly, I NEVER complained about a problem in the current job. Emphasize what you are going to ... not running from. Finally, I always talked about how I felt I was trying to grow in the current job and what I enjoyed about it...but explained why the new job could offer a little bit more.

Having said this....if I found myself in a position where I thought my boss would punish me for this, I'd probably be quickly and secretly looking for a new job as fast as I could....

HMac's picture

Great question, *.

And I don't want to repeat Ms. Sunshine's great response - so here's one other thought that may or may not be meaningful:

The more I though about the question, the more I think this is Litmus Test for the new economy. You know: how we all agree that there's no lifelong employment anymore, that employees work for 6, 8 or more companies, that there's a "Brand You", etc.

It seems to me that being open and honest with your boss (in the way Ms. Sunshine describes it) is in keeping with the new realities or employment and careers...Yes, there certainly are some circumstances where this might not be wise. But in the main, I'd ask myself if reluctance to be open about it might somehow be motivated by a hope that the new realities might NOT apply to me, and that I can somehow hope that by being really "loyal" the way employees used to be, then the company will act the way companies used to, and let me stay until I'm ready to leave.


stephenbooth_uk's picture

I suspect that any manager who did fire any direct who interviewed for another position, in particular in a specialist area, would quickly find their name synonymous with mud. Maybe they could get away with it a couple of times but once a pattern developed I suspect they'd have great difficulty attracting high quality candidates. Certainly I'd be wary of working for a similar boss.

Mobility is a fact of life these days. People move on for a variety of reasons: better pay/conditions, change of scene, more interesting job, following a partner &c. Punishing someone for interviewing for another job could be viewed as a symptom of insecurity or something similar.


ashdenver's picture

"I've been approached about other opportunities and every once in a while I've been known to take a meeting primarily to keep my skills sharp and my finger on the pulse of the industry."

Again, as others have said though, it would really depend on a number of factors:

1. The relationship between myself and the boss asking me.
2. How committed I really was to leaving.
3. Whether or not I was in a position to lose my job that instant (or shortly thereafter, because as the article points out, anything can happen).
4. What discussions had been previously held on the topic of my movement within the existing company.

I have a DR who has already expressed interest in moving outside of my division which is essentially saying "leaving the company" to pursue a position closer to her degree and field of interest. If I asked her "Are you interviewing" I don't believe she would have a problem telling me the truth because we have developed a relationship in which I've actively fostered her career goals, even if they take her out of this division's picture.

I'm in my 6th year with this company and I didn't think I'd make it past the first 6 mos. Over the years, I have interviewed outside the company at least a couple of times every calendar year. With each experience and foray into other companies, I was able to recognize what a sweet/cushy gig I had going right where I was. If I hadn't taken those interview opportunities, I certainly wouldn't be a manager here today, that's for sure!

But enough about me. Heh.

Managers, I think, need to be more open-minded and communicative with their DRs about what's truly the best fit for them and the team/org in general. And from the employee perspective, I know there can be sour grapes in play (along with some magical thinking that "If I walked out of here, this place would fall apart") but I think it would be great to leave on a high note - your last day should be your best day - so the company will really miss the person once they're gone. Having that open, honest discussion can really go a long ways in keeping bridges in-tact and garnering stellar references.

jhack's picture

"Oh, My! Should I be?!"

HMac's picture


...and don't forget to tip your waitress.

Thank you.

Osqhollu's picture

That's none of your boss' business. Do he tell you if he's interviewing elsewhere?

If he asks, that's because he want to act on that information. I don't really see how the outcome could be good to you.

I would elude, and lie if needed. Don't get into troubles.

davidperez248's picture

The college coaching situation referenced involves contract employment and there are different factors (contract money, recruiting relationships) to consider. Either way, I think this move will have an impact on future hires wanting to work for the program.

Managers should avoid asking this question. What positive action can they take with the information?

Jeff Stern's picture
Licensee Badge

The reality is that not many managers are MT managers. If they were they would be have one on ones and discussions similar to mssunshine's. If you work under a manager who would ask that question and he/she has not been nurturing your growth, I suspect that the motive is not altruistic. If you answer yes, the race is on and your time is limited as this type manager will be looking to replace or rif you. I would not advocate lying, but learning to dodge the question and have a response would be beneficial. jhack's response might work! Would love to hear what Mark has to say on this.

asteriskrntt1's picture

Thanks to everyone for their comments.

The coach did go on the interview and was recently reported as fired. Very odd.

jhbchina's picture


I remember reading about a similar post this past summer, you can go here to read more.

General Career Discussions

Tell No One PT 2 - The Boss Knows.

It discusses another angle to consider before answering this question.

scoobyslippers's picture

Is it possible that offering this information to your boss could even strengthen your position in your current role with regards to your existing terms...

jhack's picture

Telling your boss that you're interviewing is unwise and unnecessary.

A good boss won't be intimidated, and good managers don't make counteroffers.

If you tell your boss that you'll leave for an extra, what, 5K, then your boss knows that you only care about the money, and that someday you'll move on. You can pretty much forget about being given any further management responsibility. If you're a good performer, in an individual contributor role, (and depending on your manager's temperament), you might continue to be welcome. But when the next leadership role opens up, you won't be considered.

That's not "strengthening your current role..."


Cadu's picture

The reason why people try to find other positions is because they want a better whatever (salary, workplace, workmates). If you are happy with your job - and everything included - you have no reason to look for another job. And, if you decide you should give your carreer another try, then your boss should know it - then he will have the chance to try and persuade you to stay, by understanding what's wrong in your point of view - and may be wrong for other emplyees as well - and solving things out. At least that's how the company I work for works. My boss always tries to understand us and, if possible, do what is needed to keep us - training, benefits, salary, and so on. She believes it's better to maintain someone in the company involved in the process than hiring someone new who's gonna learn everything from zero. Money lost!

RobRedmond's picture

Is it possible that offering this information to your boss could even strengthen your position in your current role with regards to your existing terms...

It is highly likely that you will set yourself on fire if you do that.

-Rob Redmond

stephenbooth_uk's picture

I can only think of one situation where telling your boss that you're interviewing could 'strengthen your position'. That's where you're changing job due to something independent of your current job/company/boss. Something like "My wife just landed her dream job with her dream company, but it's in [city on the other side of the country]. The kids and I will be moving out there with her in about 6 months. I love working here but it's too good an opportunity for her to pass up and it's not practical for us to keep two homes. I'm looking for a job close to where we're going to be living." If you've got a really great boss (and you're one of their good/top performers) with any luck they'll express regret that you're leaving and look into their network to see if there's anyone in that area who might be interested in you. That's a pretty strong position, presuming their network is strong.

If there's a problem with your current situation then really it should have come up before you started interviewing for other jobs. I'm not saying your boss should be psychic. Issues and concerns are the sort of things that you should probably be raising in O3s and similar meetings well before they get to the level of causing you to leave. Using threats of leaving as the first step in raising an issue will probably lead to one of two situations. Either you'll get a firm handshake and escort from the premises or your boss will fix the immediate problem and then tell everyone what a drama queen you are for over reacting and how they are disappointed that you can't handle a simple issue without threatening to leave.