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I've been working as a programmer at my current company for about a year and a half. Recently my boss asked me into his office and asked me if I wanted to be the champion of a new set of features that we're adding to our web app. It would involve plenty of research, which I've been pretty good at in the past. He's offering me this as a challenge, something hard but possibly rewarding.

The problem is, I am planning to leave the company in a few months. My boss doesn't know this, and I don't want to reveal that I'm planning to leave until everything is lined up.

How can I turn down this challenge without telling him that I plan to leave?

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Is there someone else you can suggest would be a better fit due to technical expertise or interest? –  Kik Jun 11 at 21:16
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would you enjoy this work, or be doing it only to earn a promotion or raise (which presumably you won't be around to receive?) Could the work itself, or the promotion or raise it might lead to, be good enough to cancel your plans to leave, or are they tied to something else such as moving away? –  Kate Gregory Jun 11 at 23:34
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@OP please go anon .. what if ur boss is here. –  user13107 Jun 12 at 1:51
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@user13107 Just because he posts under his actual name...with a profile link to his personal website of the same name... with detailed employment history... doesn't mean his boss will know it's him...or...will I? –  coburne Jun 12 at 14:39

3 Answers 3

up vote 43 down vote accepted

"it would be a bad work/life balance for me right now"

The extra challenge is certainly going to have a potential impact on your family life.

Also:

"My family is likely to be going through some changes in the next few months and I don't want it to cause an impact on something so important" (your boss asks - oh? what's up?) "I'd rather not talk about it yet - too much is up in the air right now for any reasonable guesses and I'd like to keep private about it."

This is not a lie. You and your family will be going through a job change in the next few months if everything works out. And you don't want to talk about it.

It could, however, be just as likely that you and your partner are growing the family, participating in a lawsuit or doing just about anything else - so it doesn't immediately signal "Job change!"

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Any reason why you shouldn't just do the research until such time as you give notice? A few months is a long time and you might have accomplished a lot by then before you pass the baton on to someone else. You shouldn't disclose anything about your plans to anyone at work until you are in a position to execute i.e. until you have that job offer in hand, you're taking up the job offer and the only thing you've got left to do is give notice. Because, until you have that job offer in hand, you've got exactly nothing.

Follow-up comment from @NeilSlater: If the OP is feeling slightly conflicted on thinking long-term with this, maybe he could relax about it if he decided part of being a "champion" was writing stuff down and/or presenting findings to rest of team. Such assignments are usually flexible and open-ended, and the OP would get a fair bit of control over what work was required

Over several weeks, maybe. Over several months, not so sure. The idea is not to do anything that breaks the routine and somehow telegraphs an intent to leave to the management before the notice is officially given.

Follow-up comment from @HLGEM I believe that you should do your job to the best of your ability whether you have decided to leave in a few months or not. That includes taking on any new challenges. You are being paid right now, you owe the work to the company paying you.

Hell, I could be working on a long term project and get iced by an ice cream truck tomorrow :) If we all pushed off on working on long term projects on the possibility that we could be departing this vale of tears at any minute, the world would grind to a halt :)

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First, decide whether you really want to turn the work down or not. It might be enjoyable or give you skills that will help you to land the new job. If it's already landed, it might make you better at that job. Assuming you've given that a good thought and really don't want it, the good news is that it doesn't matter how you turn it down. You could be intensely rude, and you wouldn't be fired for it, and what the heck, you're leaving anyway.

All that really matters is that you are polite. Do not give a reason: giving reasons only invite argument and questions. I suggest something like:

Thanks for the opportunity to take on [that challenge] and for giving me the option to decide about it. I've given it some thought, and at this time I think it's not right for me to take it on. I hope that doesn't cause a problem for you.

If your boss presses for details, tell the truth. Not "I'm leaving" but "I don't think I would enjoy doing it [all day, for so long, instead of what I do now]." If your boss says "but it would be a feather in your cap" you can say, "I know, and I gave it long thought before deciding. It's not right for me to take it on now." Do not offer more details or get drawn into an argument.

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