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I've been working for a company for a few years. Recently, I decided to look for a new job and found a position which requires me to wait for around 6 months to know if I am accepted or not. For some reason, my boss knows about it. After that, when there is an open position or promotion, he always assigns another member from my team instead of me. His reason is that if I am assigned and leave the company for a new job, it would be a waste of the chance for another member. I am wondering if this is discrimination, and if so, what I should do about it.

Note: I'm working in the UK.

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    If you are looking for a new job anyway, why do you care? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Apr 17 '13 at 11:41
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    Do you mean legally discriminated against? – jcmeloni Apr 17 '13 at 11:48
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    How did your boss find out about you leaving? Especially when it is 6 months out? This could actually have legal implications on whether or not he is discriminating. I.E. he is monitoring you without your knowledge, or he's doing it based upon completely unfounded information, which may or may not be true. If it's not and he has no proof your leaving... Then you could have a legal case against him. – Ryan Apr 17 '13 at 15:46
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    I can't really write an answer to this, but this is like expecting your wife to have sex with you after she discovers you've met with a divorce attorney. – Michael Brown Apr 17 '13 at 16:04
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    @MarkBannister: Jobs requiring high levels of security clearance can come with conditions like this. – Aesin Apr 17 '13 at 19:14

11 Answers 11

90

Although I doubt if this is discrimination in a legal sense, that question is most properly asked in a legal forum, or with an attorney, not here.

As far as discrimination in a professional sense - yes.

According to Wikipedia, discrimination is "treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit".

It is discrimination in that you are being treated differently than others in some situations. And rightly so, in my opinion. Since you disclosed that you are leaving, you are different - you are now in the category of "people who won't be around long". Once you have (directly or indirectly) made it known that you are planning to leave soon, why would you expect to be given promotions or choice assignments?

His reason is that if I am assigned and leave the company for a new job, it would be a waste of chance for another member.

As a manager, this makes complete sense to me. That's what I would do in a similar situation. And if I sensed that you were slacking off in your day-to-day work while awaiting your new job, I'd fire you. (I'm not saying that you are slacking off, just what I would do if you started acting less than professional.)

I invest a lot of time, energy, and political capital in my team. I wouldn't want to waste it on a "short-timer".

This is why it's important to never reveal that you are looking elsewhere until you actually give your formal notice.

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    I'm not slacking off in my job. And as mentioned, I'm waiting for a decision on another position, which means I may not have it and don't leave my company at all. – m4k0t0 Apr 17 '13 at 12:47
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    @m4k0t0: Upvoted. Joe describes this very accurately from the perspective of a manager. You have clearly stated your intent to leave (regardless of your ability to do so which was NOT a smart thing to do), so you can no longer be a part of the long term strategy of the group. This is likely to be a career ending move. Unless you have a very good rationale of why you want to stay (other then, "I cant' find another job") you are probably best off leaving at the first opportunity. – Hilmar Apr 17 '13 at 13:45
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    @Himlar actually in the OP it says he doesnt know how the boss found out so he did NOT clearly state his intent to leave – Rhys Apr 17 '13 at 14:39
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    Upvoted. m4k0t0 you are now a dead man walking in your current role. As far as your manager is concerned you will either leap out the door if the 6 month process completes (or worse completes early), or else if you stay it'll be because your preferred option has fallen though. Either way, your loyalty is as much gone as if you'd given your resignation in. If your plan A falls through, you'll need a plan B, I don't think you'll be able to stay (or at least life will be hell if you do) – The Wandering Dev Manager Apr 18 '13 at 10:08
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    Joe, we are a mutual admiration society. Come to think of it, on this one, when I have disclosed prematurely that I was leaving a company, it was because I wanted to be treated differently - I wanted to make sure that the boss didn't bank on me sticking around, because I liked and trusted him and wanted him to be able to do as much long term planning as possible. – bethlakshmi Feb 25 '14 at 4:21
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Wikipedia to the rescue: Discrimination is the prejudicial and/or distinguishing treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or category, "in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated."

If you want the legal case, see a lawyer, but I think you'll find that you're not in any sort of a legally protected group. People who are viewed as "flight risks" (i.e., likely to leave soon) are treated differently, for better or worse, in a number of circumstances, and I haven't ever heard of that being grounds for any sort of legal action.

You do have a need to go clear the air with your boss. There's no real way to change his mind or his attitude without a private conversation. He could be mad, hurt, or have heard rumors that aren't true. It's time to fix that.

In a 1 on 1 conversation, talk honestly about where you are in the job search, and your willingness to stay with the company if you feel it suits your career. Ask him about where he sees you going in the company and in what time frame. Also see what he sees as your skill deficits and what you'd need to rise to the next level in this company - that'll tell you a lot about whether to go or stay.

Also - ask for and listen to any direct feedback in terms of your current performance on the job. It's not usual for bosses to have noticed that an employee is rarely around and on the phone/email a lot while they are doing a job hunt. That can impact negatively on your performance, whether you realize it or not, and it's perfectly valid reason for him to see you as someone who isn't dedicated.

You may not change his mind, but at least you'll be sure of where you stand. But if he's been misinformed about how quickly you are leaving, or how likely it is that you are going, this might clear up the misunderstanding.

I don't think it's wrong that you didn't tell him - most employees don't feel so comfortable giving the boss a direct heads up. But look at it from his way - he isn't going to be thrilled you're leaving, and he's not that interested in helping along the career of someone who isn't interested in sticking around.

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I'm also a manager in my company. The way we look at it is that people are assets that we invest in to get a return. That's business in general. In your position, you've set yourself up to be an asset who will produce a lower return than others. For your boss, this is guaranteed. You simply will not give back to the company as much as others because you won't stay long enough to do so. This means that decisions about which people to put effort into, whether money or incentives, will likely not benefit you b/c it will benefit the company less.

The trick is that you need to be careful when job hunting while working. Here's a few tips from Angela Rose to help you (or other readers) out.

"1. Don't do it on the company's time or with their resources." That's unethical and you will be in deep if caught.

"2. Schedule interviews around your current work hours."

"3. First rule is DONT TALK ABOUT JOB SEARCH." (emphasis added) I'll add that you shouldn't talk about it to anyone at the company or friends who are close with people at the company. It's called compartmentalization/need-to-know and it can prevent major issues.

"4. (paraphrased) Let's say you go to a potential employer. They ask if your current company knows you're job searching. If they don't, be honest. Also ask if they'll call your other references first so your company isn't alerted to the job search when a potential hire calls them for a reference. "

"5. (paraphrased) Never talk bad about your current employer. Your stated intent should be you're looking for a business that will better utilize your skills or help you achieve your goals." I'll add another dimension to that is interviewers might believe you will bad mouth their company after you leave it. Companies are quiet sensitive to image issues.

http://www.hcareers.com/us/resourcecenter/tabid/306/articleid/882/default.aspx

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    Where I am, it's not unusual to avoid giving your current employer as a reference, making it unneccessary to worry about the 2nd part of #4. – GreenMatt Apr 17 '13 at 17:11
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    I find it funny how 2 managers have posted and both have decided that they aren't interested in figuring out why the employee is considering a job change. NOTICE THAT I SAID CONSIDERING and not IS LEAVING. It makes me wonder about your management and people skills. It is far cheaper to retain a good employee versus replacing them. So your claim to be looking out for the company's interest is bogus at best since you are willing to cost the company tens of thousands of dollars to replace the person versus putting in a little bit of effort on your part in order to see about keeping the employee. – Dunk Apr 18 '13 at 23:23
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    The OP said they're actively looking for a new job, the boss knows, and the job hunter is treated differently. The stated purpose of the question is to establish whether this is legal or ethical discrimination. We've given specific answers and supporting points based on our job experience. This means the points you raise are entirely irrelevant and are better suited for a different discussion. I'll add that the OP deciding the other manager's post is the "accepted answer" supports our shared viewpoints. – Nick P Apr 19 '13 at 1:08
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In the US, legal discrimination is based on whether the unfair treatment is as a result of the mistreated being part of a protected class. These classes include race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. But "thinking of taking a new job" or even "has interviewed for a new job" is not a protected class. Thus it would not be legally considered discrimination in the US. I don't know employment laws in the UK and would suggest you ask a lawyer there but I would still doubt it would be considered discrimination in the eyes of the law.

That said, I would expect to be treated differently if I told or my boss found out I was waiting on an offer from a different party. I would be giving up my expectation of advancement or long-term (or high visibility) projects. There would be very understandable concerns that I would leave in the middle of a key project or will not do the work to the level that another employee that is NOT known to be looking to leave would. It's a matter of perceived long-term value and dedication.

How did your manager find out? There are quite a few ways, depending on who you applied to work for and what industry you are in. Smaller industries tend to have a very active rumor mill on who is looking for new jobs and where. Sometimes people will ask a friend or business acquaintance at a company when someone they are considering applies that works for that company, etc. It's not all nefarious spying or reading email - a lot of these word-of-mouth things happen somewhat organically. Nhere could even have been a request for references or for input on your work.

If you are on good terms with your manager, I'd actually consider talking to him/her about your plans and reassuring them that you will let them know the instant you hear any news but, in the meantime, you will give 100% to the tasks you are assigned. It may help clear the air but may or may not have an impact on the manager's future decisions or assignments.

  • Actually, illegal discrimination is based on whether the unfair treatment is as a result of the mistreated being part of a protected class :-). But actually, it's enough to be thought to be part of a protected class. For example, if a man is fired for being gay, it's illegal discrimination, whether he is actually gay or not. – gnasher729 Aug 12 '17 at 18:48
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I'm pretty sure this isn't discrimination, though I don't think it's good management from your boss.

When I find out that someone on my team is looking for another role I always try to find out why they want to leave, and whether there is anything I can do about it.

For instance if lack of opportunities for progression was what they're looking for that may well lead to me giving them more chances, not fewer. I'd want to give them a good reason to stay.

Good managers always do their utmost to keep good staff.

Or to put it another way: fixing what's driving staff away is nearly always cheaper and easier than replacing them.

However, if nothing I could do would make them stay then it's a different story: they'd still be treated with respect and as a valuable member of the team, but they would be bottom of the queue for training or progression opportunities. It's only fair to those who are staying and why waste limited resources on battles I cannot win?

  • I too was surprised by the number of people saying it's "good management". I'd agree with you that it's a terrible example of managing people. It shows lack of communication, and a sure way to ensure that person does take up a role elsewhere. – Martin Apr 18 '13 at 12:24
  • Maybe the the manager will be happy that the OP is leaving. Or he might have invested a lot in him and is now disappointed that he has decided to leave. – david strachan Apr 18 '13 at 15:54
  • I think it's bad management to wait until an employee considers leaving to ask what you could do better. After two years, you should know who is unhappy and why. I agree you may not be able to do anything about it (pay increase, spouse relocation, latest and greatest technology, etc.). – user8365 Apr 18 '13 at 16:55
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    +1-Thank you for being the only one stating what should be a manager's first thought when they find out this kind of information. Why are they considering leaving? Maybe the manager can rectify any concerns and save the company a lot of money trying to find a replacement. Maybe the manager can't stop the person from leaving but the manager may find out something they should have done/recognized but didn't. Dare I say it, but the manager should at a minimum be thinking this for no other reason than the manager might learn something to improve their management skills. – Dunk Apr 18 '13 at 23:31
  • @JeffO agreed. Ideally you want a really good idea of everyone's flight risk and their reasons for leaving (or staying) all the time. – Keith Apr 19 '13 at 6:32
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I'm looking at this from a moral rather than legal perspective, however I don't see why it would be any more discrimination than not hiring someone who is less intelligent than another applicant. Hiring and management decisions have to be made based on how well someone can do the job and the impact to the company. If it is known that someone is planning to leave, then any additional training that was given to that person for a new job would be a waste of resources. Intention to leave is a factor in your ability to do the job and drastically effects the risk the company is taking in giving you a position they need filled.

2

No. That's just practical best-for-self/company interests he's looking out for there. People are correct in asserting that how he knows doesn't make him a jerk for holding you back with the information he has. I do however, think that you would be in the right to ask your boss how he knows since him knowing has in fact screwed your career prospects at that company.

Failing that, I would call the people you applied with and ask them how they think he knows. This is important information to have because if the idiots called your CURRENT EMPLOYER for a background check for a job it takes them 6 months to make a decision on, that's a level of incompetence and callousness that typically requires organization-wide saturation of buffoonery to be made possible. So let me guess. It's a government gig, right?

Are you sure you want it?

Either way, I don't see how your boss is ethically wrong here. I don't see that you've done anything horribly wrong either. If the prospect is the reason your boss knows, they are definitely in the wrong but are probably completely unaccountable for their actions which is why they would do such an obnoxious thing in the first place.

I think the only thing you can really do here is appeal to his sense of fair play and point out that responding to interest doesn't necessarily mean that you have one foot out the door and that you're actually kind of alarmed/turned off that they were dumb enough to call your current company as a part of their evaluation process (if that is in fact how he knows about it). Furthermore, I'd also point out that anybody spending 6 months on the process, is putting 6 months worth of whatever it is they call effort into finding a reason not to hire you. You'll be lucky if they don't lose your contact info in that amount of time. Even if you really wanted the job which you definitely decided you didn't when they told you it was going to take that long to decide (that doesn't have to be true for you to say it), your odds of getting hired there would be very low.

Still assuming that it's their fault, and that you're as pissed at them as I would be, I would call them and politely ask them to call your current employer back and explain to your boss that you've actually asked that they not consider you for the job because you weren't actually that interested in the first place and the thing where they did a background check at your current place of employment made you doubly certain of that.

Regardless, he'll probably wait 6 months before considering you for anything just to be sure. You need to suck it up and play the hand you've been dealt and wait, or find a better job where they just look for qualified people and then put as few obstacles between them and hiring a candidate as soon as they think they've found a good one. I highly recommend one of those employers. You can tell a lot about how completely bat!@#$-insane a culture is going to be by the sorts of things they put prospective employees through.

Six months? I stop taking people seriously when they ask for my urine and that only takes like a minute until they point out they didn't want it right here and now.

  • +1-For pointing out that considering and exploring is not the same thing as IS LEAVING. Also, for pointing out that it doesn't make sense that his boss found out because the new company called his current employer. Government or not, they know the problems this would cause. Plus 6 months? Maybe UK is different, but in the US they have to hire you before a background check (of the kind 6 months would take) could be done. They are only allowed to be done on employees of approved contractors. If you aren't hired, you aren't an employee. – Dunk Apr 18 '13 at 23:40
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I don't know if it necessarily counts as discrimination as availability would definitely have to be considered when allocating positions. I would like to add that disclosure is probably a better course of action in the sense that it gives both parties the best chance to manage the situation. I say this because managers never want to know about things in the last minute, and the worker doesn't want the insecurity of ending up with either options available to them. The fact that a manager is still willing to keep you on if you don't get the job offer would be very reassuring in the sense that I am valued in the company, and the fact that I would tell my manager that I want to move on gives them the confidence that I am communicating things to them, so there is a very high level of transparency and no 'games' being played here. Not sure why there should be down votes on the previous response as it is an equally valid solution.

0

Trivially speaking, it's discrimination, in the same way that deciding not to hire people who have the appropriate qualifications is discrimination and not wanting to date mean people is discrimination.

Of course, not all discrimination is wrong or illegal; only discrimination based on certain categories (gender, race, age, sexual orientation) are proscribed.

It seems to me that a documented desire to leave the company would not be a protected category.

So, if you want a basis to complain about how you're being "discriminated" against, you can have it. But don't expect anyone else to do anything to address it.

-1

well your boss knows that if you got the promotion you'll get the experience and leave the job, your boss will not do it because he is aware of this thing. so, that's yhe reason you are not getting promoted just keep your fingers crossed.

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Discrimination is a legal question that is based on you where you live, and is out of scope for a discussion here.

What you should do, is talk to your boss. Tell him you are actively looking to increase your responsibilities and position. You would like to achieve this at your current place of employment, but you are looking outside the company as well.

Explain that once you are offered and accept a new position you will decline any offers that may follow.

You should have had this conversation before your boss found out through other channels. Now your boss feels like you are sneaking around behind his back, and you don't trust him.

Because he found from a source other then you about your job seeking, you have damaged your professional relationship and his trust of you. If you really want to stay, you will need to repair that relationship.

Edit I find it interesting that the top answer ratings so far suggest that full disclosure is the less optimal option. Maybe it is partially dependent on the pool of potential employees to positions in an area. But in my experience, everyone moves around. In my work experience, all the jobs in my skill set are either in the same company or for a competitor of the company. It is generally easy to look around the office, and find someone who has worked at anyone of the other options in the area. When you get to the new office, you are likely to find someone that used to work where your just left. In there is real strong possibility that either someone in your chain of command is going to move to your new office, or you may be moving back to your old office in an elevated position, where others have moved up also. The impression you leave today is likely to impact your future, companies don't move but the people who run them do. Unless you are changing professions and locations, full discloser is best.

Additionally if you are a valuable employee, when that offer does come in, while your are deciding if you should take it; tell your boss about the offer, if you are as valuable as you and the new company believe you might find, there are more reasons to move up where you are then move to the new company.

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    My be I'm wrong, but I find it's normal for employee, especially young one, to look for a new job after few years of working. It's not because I'm not satisfied with my current one, but I just want to explore and see other opportunities out there. – m4k0t0 Apr 17 '13 at 12:46
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    "You should have had this conversation before your boss found out through other channels." That seems like bad advice. Even if you are upfront with your boss, it is going to affect the relationship. – Jim Clay Apr 17 '13 at 13:35
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    @m4k0t0 Yes, it is normal for a young employee to search the waters eventually. however, that does not change anything. Your boss's actions are 100% justified, after all you're leaving. He needs to be planning for the future, whe you're not there. – acolyte Apr 17 '13 at 13:45
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    @ Jim Clay If you have an interest in improving yourself and your position, and you have a good working relationship and with your manager, they are also a resource for making that improvement. If you are exploring new positions in the same organization they will hear about it, so including them is a good networking choice. Even if you are looking outside, it is unlikely they do not have contacts outside. Part of networking is including all your resources. – James Jenkins Apr 17 '13 at 13:47
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    +1 - Your manager should not be your opponent in your career advancement. If they are then you choose your last position poorly or you are your own problem. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 17 '13 at 17:58

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