I'm not sure what is the etiquette of discussing with coworkers if I am interviewing at other companies...

Several days ago, a few of us were standing around and the team lead made a joke that he hoped the upcoming appointment on my calendar wasn't a job interview. I laughed nervously, told them not to worry and changed the subject.

I'm not sure if I should have confirmed the thoughts that I was preparing for an interview: On one hand, I fear that if I let it be known I'm interviewing, it could mean that I will only be given tedious production support work because they are worried I might leave mid-project (tedious production support is actually where I am right now, as the main project I'm supposed to transition to might not need me as a programmer for a few more weeks still, and also because someone needs to do it). On the other hand, I know that two members of my 4-person team are contractors and they are leaving in June, and that if I go too, it could leave the remaining guy in a very tight spot. I feel that if I know there's a good chance I'll be leaving, they should know. If I were in their position (especially that of the other full-time guy), I know I'd want to know these things.

I admit I feel a little bad about being evasive about admitting if I am interviewing for other jobs elsewhere, but I'm not sure if it is accepted or appropriate to even discuss it, to the point of outright lying if it ever came down to a yes-or-no "are you interviewing?!" question.

  • 2
    I would not talk about your professional life in this detail with people at work. You interviewing for a position at another company is none of their business until you get an offer and accept said offer. Just do not lie about what your personal leave is for, saying "personal matters" is enough, leaves a better taste in their mouth when you leave.
    – Donald
    May 4, 2012 at 15:38

4 Answers 4


Turn the situation around.

While you would like to know if another member of the team is thinking of leaving, are they likely to tell you? The answer to that is probably no.

Also - would your employer give you any more than the legal minimum notice that they were firing your or making you redundant? Again the answer is almost certainly no.

The time to tell your boss and then your colleagues is the day you hand in your notice.

It sounds harsh, but there are far too many downsides (being sidelined on your project being the least of them) to do anything else.

  • I think that letting your boss know you are looking is not necessarily a bad thing. Though I was stay away from specifics or bragging(or talking which can sound like bragging to some) about having interviews. It can create an unpleasant work environment. May 2, 2012 at 21:52
  • 2
    @Chad - if he lets his boss know he is looking for a new position, it means he is unhappy with his current positon, which means he is likely to leave if the chance to leave is presented. I entirely disagree with you saying its not a bad thing. At the very least they will start looking for a possible replacement, and might replace him, before he finds a new position.
    – Donald
    May 4, 2012 at 15:39
  • 2
    @Ramhound It means that he is looking to advance his career. His manager is the perfect place to start that search. If you are in a low skill position you might have some risk of that but generally the expense of training a replacement and the potential for additional expenses precludes replacing you before there is an imminent need. I am not saying there is no risk but if I have a good relationship with my manager, I find the benefits outweigh the risks. May 4, 2012 at 17:02
  • 1
    @Chad, I disagree. Telling your boss you're interviewing elsewhere is an insult to your boss and your company. On the contrary you can tell them you think you're ready to advance within the company and ask about advancement opportunities, which gets pretty much the same message across but is more positive. If you're asking about advancement, chances are you're also looking for outside advancement opportunities, but you're not being so in-your-face about it. Aug 16, 2012 at 4:15
  • @SamuelNeff - I said NOT to talk about the interviews or any specifics. I agree it is better to let them know you are looking to advance in your career. And I said that your manager is the perfect place to start your search for your next position. I am not sure why you think we disagree. Aug 16, 2012 at 13:36

The best answer to the question "are you looking?" is "I'm always on the lookout for better opportunities - and I'm sure you are too."

  • 6
    +1, yes, and one thing that makes it easier to answer with that is to always keep your linkedIn and other professional network memberships active and up-to-date (not just when you're looking). Big/sudden changes in activity on these things can be interpreted as an intention to leave.
    – Angelo
    May 2, 2012 at 14:06
  • I dislike one line answers here as a rule... However you have found an exception. May 2, 2012 at 19:37

Don't waste your time concerning yourself with how others feel about your career decisions.

You have to put #1 First!

When it comes to career decisions and job relocation then you have to be self centered because I promise you that nobody will have any qualms about leaving you behind if they find something better that will further their career.

On that note even if that other team member did decide to stay behind for your benefit, why would you want them too?

If you truly care about the well being of your team-mates then you wouldn't want them to pass up a great opportunity or willingly stay in a job that makes them miserable if they had an out. A good friend would encourage that.

I understand the emotional turmoil because I have been there, believe me! Almost my entire career was taking a job that I thought was an interesting greenfield or near-greenfield project only to find out that I am not needed on that project or they essentially lied to me and decided to use me as a "firefighter" for their flaming flagship software product of dread. Either that or you end up working in a revolving door company that treats their employees like garbage, causing a brain drain, which causes management to further insist on treating the employees who remain even more like garbage.

Been there, that is not software development mind you that is really needing a systems analyst with some programming skills. You obviously do not want your career to move in that direction so you found something that falls more in line with your long term career objectives.

I think you know what you have to do...

To answer whether it is appropriate to even discuss this yet then I have found that it is Absolutely a BAD idea to discuss this around peers!

Do not talk about your intentions to leave with coworkers until it is OFFICIAL!

For no other reason than in what way do you benefit by notifying them of this? In what way do they benefit from knowing this? If they would dread the idea you are probably giving them undue worry and grief so that is one potential negative.

The other negative is that any one of them could let it slip, people are notoriously bad at keeping secrets. This can hurt you if your manager gets wind of this.

I have even had a company try to swindle me out of paying my unused vacation days because they got wind that my team was aware that I was leaving before I submitted my notice of resignation. I had to get a lawyer involved to write a threatening letter for them to finally pony up the cash.

The absolute professional thing to do here is keep it to yourself until it is official and you have accepted an employment offer.


I think the advice to keep it quiet needs to be balanced with your relationship with your management and your coworkers, the state of the business and your power to change it, and your position and the level of trust responsibility it entails.

I have had situations where I deemed it unwise to tell my bosses I was leaving, although almost always certain highly trusted coworkers knew I was looking. Reasons for keeping quiet:

  • Fear of reprisal - that you'll end up on dead-end work that is neither interesting, nor career-developing.
  • Fear of escalated termination - if the company is going through a down-size, you don't necessarily want your name bumped up the list of people to lay off.
  • General awkwardness - if your gut says every conversation with your manager will then be loaded, then you may want to skip the awkwardness if it will serve no purpose.

Recently, however, I've been working as a manager - a position that always comes with a certain degree of trust on behalf of the company, and which carries the burden of being part of the solution to company-wide problems that independant contributors do not necessarily have. In this position, when I felt my career had been reduced to a slow simnmer due to current market conditions - I went to a direct manager and several peers to see if my impression was correct. They confirmed it - the market was very bad, and it was unlikely that there would be many opportunities to challenge myself in the next 5 years. I told them I'd be looking, I didn't want to leave them, but I did want to keep my career going. They actually applauded the decision.

Why did I do it? Because in this particular circumstance, I knew I carried the trust of my management - I was in a key position where if I left without considering the impact, the project could seriously suffer. I had a lot of faith in my management, and I valued their opinion on the market conditions, and I knew that I was a top performer, and I knew that they were supportive of me growing my career.

In that particular situation, I felt telling at least some of my management team (I didn't send out a news bulletin! It was very private) was the most ethical thing I could do. Since I wanted the opportunity to return again, should an opportunity arise, I took the risk of sharing the information.

Mileage varies radically here - there's no one size fits all solution, and it varies as much from team to team as it does from industry to industry.

  • I understand that in your situation, sharing this information worked because of the relationship you had with the other people you worked with. I was in a situation like that several years ago, though I felt that was the exception rather than the norm. I am not there now - I have only been on this team for a few months and don't know them very well, though they all seem like nice people. My manager is relatively new to the company (him: less than a year, me: several years) and none of my more-trusted coworkers work here anymore. May 4, 2012 at 17:33
  • Fair enough - I just wanted to offer another opinion besides "no never do that" - and point out that it's a balance of trust, a job role and the particular situation. May 4, 2012 at 20:32
  • It's a good point. Unfortunately, I rarely find myself in the situation where the level of trust is high enough to discuss it openly. May 4, 2012 at 20:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .