When your work situation goes south, job hunting undercover may be the best way to avoid conflict while you look for something better. Unfortunately, your manager could still find out you're planning to leave before you actually announce it. Try these smart tactics to protect your interests if your boss confronts you about job hunting.
Keep Quiet About Your Search
It's best to keep quiet about your job hunt. Career decisions are a private matter, and you aren't obligated to talk about a job search as long as you conduct it during personal time. Don't use company computers or Wi-Fi to look for jobs, and resist the temptation to skimp on your current work. When you deliver great work right up to the last day, managers are less likely to suspect you're leaving.
Probe for More Information
Whether you plan to be upfront or not, it's wise to get more information about your manager's concerns first, says career coach Lisa Quast, a former hiring manager. She recommends responding with the question, "Why do you ask?" Based on your manager's answer and body language, you can decide when it's better to stay quiet or turn the discussion to your advantage.
If you're fleeing a toxic boss or bad environment, total denial is usually the smartest course of action. But if you like your employer and simply want a raise or promotion, consider being honest about your goals. Try explaining why you don't feel challenged and want opportunities for growth, says Quast. A supportive boss who doesn't want to lose you may recognize the long-term benefits of fostering your advancement.
Deal With Information Leaks
Finding the source of your manager's suspicions is another good reason to dig for details. Maybe, you keep leaving early for mystery doctor's appointments, or your boss notices you darting off to interviews during every lunch break. Keep in mind, many managers are well connected and could hear about your job search from people at companies where you interviewed.
When a co-worker is responsible for spilling the beans, you learn the hard way that job hunting is a topic you shouldn't discuss at work. Sometimes, the information leak happens by accident, but it's also possible for an unhappy co-worker to share the news on purpose to make life difficult for you. Whatever the case, learn from your mistakes, and be cautious of where you discuss job hunting in the future.
Take the Relationship Into Account
In the long run, you should choose how to make your exit on a case-by-case basis. A manager who's infinitely kind and encouraging is likely to respect your desire to move on. On the other hand, a toxic boss could create a hostile environment or end your employment right away. Consider the dynamics of your relationship and how your boss treated employees who left in the past. Maintaining good relationships with past managers can help you form new connections and get referrals in the future.
Job hunting on the sly while you're employed gives you control over how and when to shift to a new role. However, you should prepare for a possible confrontation with your boss to ensure you have a calm, well-thought-out response ready to go.
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