Is It Ever OK to Tell the Boss You're Looking for a New Job?

Business executives discussing in an office corridor

By Anne Holub

The employee/boss relationship is a tricky thing to nail down. You might think that everything's friendly, but things could change on a dime once you announce that you've got one foot out the door. What should you do to keep that friendly vibe going (and ensure you get a good recommendation in the end)? Think about it, before you blab to your boss that you're outtie-5000.

Does Your Job Have an End Date?

Some jobs have an expiration date, whether it's explicit or not. You might have a contract or temporary gig that has a definite "last day" already circled in red on the calendar. Or, unfortunately, maybe you found out you're getting laid off.

Even if you're just a regular employee, though, do you feel like your job isn't going anywhere? Maybe it's just that your organization has no more upward mobility available for you, and it's natural that at this point in your career you'd better be moving on up somewhere. There could be possible places in your organization that would make a great next step for you (just not maybe in your department). Think about your career goals and where you might be able to see yourself going next.

What Type of Relationship Are You in (With Your Boss)?

Are you buddies? Or do you keep things professional (or even a little acrimonious)? If things are casual, and based on trust, says career coach Steve Monte at Fast Company, you might be totally cool talking to them about looking for a new gig.

"...those who are fortunate to have an open, supportive relationship with their manager, mentioning that you're considering new options has its upsides," he writes. "It can help you identify your greatest strengths as a professional, gain some insight into your future prospects at your current company, and open the door for a great recommendation from your boss."

But, he cautions, you don't want to just blurt it out. Even the chilliest boss might take your sudden jump the wrong way. Talk to your boss about your performance and how they see your future at the company. Where do they see you next? Make sure to ask them for their support ... if someone else comes courting you.

Could You Be Sweet-Talked Into Staying?

You should always keep in mind that that "new job" might be somewhere in your same company. After all, you've hopefully been building up goodwill at your current gig, and companies often promote from within where they know the employees and they've already learned the ins and outs of the corporation.

Originally published