I work as a software engineer in an engineering company. Over the years colleagues came and went, and a few of the people I know well have left too. I am generally a curious person so when I heard that they are "pursuing a different opportunity", I asked the person (in person) where they were going next. Two out of three times this question seems to have shocked/stunned the person a bit, because they would pause and eventually reply.

Are you not supposed to ask this question? I don't see why it would be a secret because I'd find out on LinkedIn in a week or two anyways. Since I know it's not health reasons, I felt it was fair to ask. Again, I knew these people well (e.g. we talk about families, plans, vacations, etc together).

  • It may depend where you are (so if you could add a country that would help) but in my experience (in the UK) it is fine...almost expected perhaps, to discuss where you're going. Mar 27, 2019 at 16:22
  • @LioElbammalf, I'm in Canada. I have now tagged the post.
    – Catsunami
    Mar 27, 2019 at 16:23
  • 4
    If you want to be safe, you can always "ask" in a way that doesn't require an answer , e.g. "I hope you're going somewhere good after this." That way it is up up to them whether to answer; many people will probably take the hint and tell you all about their new job, but they could just as easily say "thanks" and move on.
    – John Wu
    Mar 27, 2019 at 16:30
  • Was the pause the only indication that they were shocked or stunned or did their facial expression also indicate shock?
    – BSMP
    Mar 27, 2019 at 16:39
  • 2
    Downvoter, please explain why you think this is a bad question.
    – Catsunami
    Mar 27, 2019 at 19:53

5 Answers 5


Asking where they are going next is usually fine. However, it may depend on the context of the departure, company culture, and country. It may also depend on the way you phrase the question and how much you assume.

If your assumption that they are going somewhere else to work is correct, asking "Where are you off to work next?" is fine. If your assumption is incorret (e.g. they are actually being laid off or taking sick leave), then their shock is justified. When you cannot make a safe assumption about what is next for them, ask a question that is more general and diplomatic.


It's not necessarily in bad taste, but many people are reluctant to say where they're going. If I want to ask I always ask as such:

"Can I ask where you're going?"


If you're friends with a person, and ask in a way that is congratulatory, there is nothing wrong with it. It's what friends do. Show interest and genuine happiness for a person that is bettering their situation.

There are 2 people leaving my company at the end of the week. I congratulated both on what I presume to be a good move and inquired in a nice way where they were going. Both guys told me. It's no secret.

On the other hand, I once told a boss that I would not tell him where I was going. I didn't put it past him to call ahead and badmouth me. He was that petty.


Are you not supposed to ask this question?

Every time I have ever left a company, I was asked where I was going next. The question makes complete sense and is perfectly appropriate.

If the leaving worker doesn't want to answer, they can always decline.


Is it in bad taste to ask a quitting coworker where they are going next?

To me, this ultimately is a personal preference of the coworker's. I think that it's only natural for people to be curious, but I sometimes find it distasteful if they're only asking to satisfy their curiosity and not out genuine interest for my well fare.

I see this "Where are you going to work next" question near the same level as:

  • Hearing your loved one is sick and asking what condition they have.
  • Hearing your loved one passed and asking how they died.

When asked out of genuine concern, I don't mind it, but generally I prefer to let people offer that information.

In the case of "Where are you going to work next?" I would express my congratulations on the new job and my thanks for the work they put in with the company. I will typically ask what the new role is and if the work's different from what they do now. At this point, if they feel comfortable enough they may offer up where they're going to next.

  • 1
    People normally keep the condition of their loved one's private, but openly advertise where they work either on LinkedIn or Facebook or other public networks. I'd say that's two very different things to ask about.
    – nvoigt
    Mar 27, 2019 at 17:17
  • @nvoigt Not everyone advertises where they work on social media. I don't have Facebook for instance and many of my coworkers don't use LinkedIn at all. My point is with many people that ask these questions, they're satisfying their own curiosity and not out any genuine interest in me and I don't like that.
    – jcmack
    Mar 27, 2019 at 17:31

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