Dear Matt: I work for a small, close-knit company. My boss/owner always said if I start looking for a new job to let her know so they can prepare for me leaving. Well, I’m now looking, but I don’t feel it’s any of her business. Am I being disloyal?
Matt says: It’s typical that an employee would feel guilty about leaving or feel obligated to share that they’ve decided to look elsewhere for employment in a small company where there are good relationships with bosses and co-workers, says Arlene Vernon (arlenevernon.com), a Twin Cities-based human resource consultant, trainer and speaker. But even though your boss has told you to be open about leaving, she is actually trying to protecting herself and the organization and isn’t going to focus on your interests.
“Even though it could take you six months to find a job, your employer could consider your notification of an upcoming exit as a resignation and start replacing you before you’re ready to leave,” says Vernon.
An employer doesn’t want to be in limbo waiting on the employee’s timeline. They want to move toward the future — and now they know it’s without you. Even if they thought they’d give you time for a job search, they could bump into a great candidate, and suddenly you’ve been replaced before you are ready.
“While we admire and want employees with integrity and loyalty, informing an employer that you’re starting a job search may not benefit you,” says Vernon. “And since I’m assuming you need employment, I would recommend waiting to inform your boss once you have accepted another offer and have that offer in writing. Even though as an employer I’d want the notice, it’s not common practice and is an unreasonable expectation.”
To help your employer with the transition, you could offer to train your replacement on the weekend, or create a detailed procedural manual for your role. You can also make yourself available for phone calls as needed after you leave.
When the boss asks why you didn’t tell them earlier, you don’t have to tell them you considered that they may replace you before you’re ready. Just say you didn’t know how long the search would take and you wanted to make sure that they didn’t think you were not making your best effort during the search.
“It’s a tough position when you’re trying to be loyal to your current employer and do a great job even though your best career options are outside that organization,” says Vernon. “The important thing is to handle it all with grace and respect so that you’re not burning any bridges. You still want to leave on the best terms as possible and show that you’re leaving the job for a growth opportunity — not because you’re trying to hurt or discredit your current employer.”
Contact Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.