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I've been unsatisfied in my current role and am in the process of updating my resume to start the job search again. My boss knows I've been stressed and may be able to read between the lines. I want to be honest with my boss about my job satisfaction and career development, I but I don't want to jeopardise my career development at this company.

When is it appropriate to tell your boss you are looking for other jobs to minimize any negative impact to your current employment?

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    Not a duplicate, but these answers are related and should help: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/9484 – jmac Nov 8 '13 at 5:17
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    Hey user, I've heavily edited your question to get you better answers (it was a bit afoul of some of the guidelines in our help center). I think this should help focus your question a bit but still get you useful answers. If you think I've left something important out, please feel free to edit. – jmac Nov 8 '13 at 5:22
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    @jmac That was a pretty severe and unnecessary edit IMO. – user10911 Nov 8 '13 at 5:22
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    As stated, it was against the guidelines in our help center, specifically not to ask questions when there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.” Asking 'is it generally better?' doesn't meet that guideline (I would have voted to put it on hold as 'primarily opinion-based'). It is your question, and you should edit as you would like. I am not trying to be rude, just trying to create a better question through an aggressive edit – jmac Nov 8 '13 at 5:39
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Leaving aside the question of whether it's appropriate, telling your manager that you are looking for a new job doesn't accomplish anything.

For the foreseeable future, you should assume that you will continue to have the job that you have. With that in mind, you should continue to work with your manager about why you aren't happy in your role. Job satisfaction and career development are both valid concerns to bring to your manager, and to continue to discuss with your manager over time. Attempting solutions to those problems might make your current job more palatable in the short-term, and at worst it gives you an example of how you dealt with a difficult situation when interviewing in the future.

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The general, short, easy answer is - Tell your boss you are looking when you have a new job and are handing in your resignation letter.

The reason is as others have said - there's not much that your boss can do to change that. The thing to talk about with your boss is your current issues, in specific, productive, changeable detail. That's something he can change. If he cares, and if he agrees with the need for change, he'll help to make the changes possible. If he doesn't agree or doesn't care, then he can't really be so surprised when you leave.

The general thought is - keep it positive and productive. Don't hand your boss a problem and hope he can fix it - give some thought as to what would make you happy in this company, and what changes could occur to make that happen. If the answer is "I will never be happy, there is nothing that can be changed" - then just go look for a new job. Even so - there is nothing your boss can do, as he can't change the company if you hate it this much.

The Exception

I have actually violated this general guideline once - and I stand by it. Having kept in touch with the people involved, I can say honestly that it only did good things for my career.

Here's the deal - the one time I would advocate telling your boss early is if you are in a situation where:

  • You've hit the final case - there's no reason you would stay. The problems are not fixable.
  • You have a very good relationship with your boss, and a lot of trust in the boss' ethics and loyalty to his people.
  • Your boss is in a position where the knowledge that you are leaving could influence some critical decision making that is important to the work and the team.
  • You feel reasonably sure that a new job isn't all that far away.

It's a real balance, to be sure, because your boss knows more about the business than you do, more about the team than you do, and more about what the strategy will be than you do. And you don't really know if you will get a new job offer tomorrow, next week or next year. Having so little information at your disposal puts you in a pretty weak position.

But I did exactly this at a time where I knew that my skill set was rare, hard to replace, hard to grow and the lack of having me around made certain elements of future work planning particularly difficult or different. The boss was in a tight spot, and in knowing he probably wouldn't have me around in another fiscal quarter could influence him to select certain other senior people for the team so the total project would survive.

I had already turned down one job offer, and had several others stewing, so I knew that my departure was likely.

I told him, he wasn't surprised, and we still have a great relationship - 2 years later we still touch base and keep in contact and I count that as an overall career win. In the long view, having good working relationships with competent and trustworthy people will open doors, so once and a while, the risk is worth it - just make it an educated risk.

  • +1 for maintaining a good working relationship even after you leave. This is exactly why beeing professional when quitting is sooo damn important, even if for some reason you're very pissed off. – Radu Murzea Aug 15 '14 at 12:06
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If you tell your boss you're looking, then your boss should

  • immediately stop considering you as a candidate for future projects
  • immediately stop looking for training opportunities
  • immediately start looking for your replacement

By announcing that you're looking for a new position you're saying the current situation is not repairable.

It is unreasonable for your boss to attempt to repair an unrepairable situation.

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I've been unsatisfied in my current role and am in the process of updating my resume to start the job search again. My boss knows I've been stressed and may be able to read between the lines. I want to be honest with my boss about my job satisfaction and career development, I but I don't want to jeopardise my career development at this company.

You should be talking with your boss on a regular basis. And among the topics should be your job satisfaction and career development.

Avoid generalities, like "I've been stressed", or "I'm not satisfied", or "I want career development". Instead, try to think about what is behind each of these.

Your boss may not even know how you are feeling, or may not know the extent of those feelings. You may be wrong in your assumption that he can read between the lines. We bosses often have to deal with many issues and many people. Sometimes what is obvious to you (because you are closest to it, and feeling it personally), may not be obvious to others.

You boss may not be able to change your situation, but if you don't speak up, he/she almost certainly cannot help.

When is it appropriate to tell your boss you are looking for other jobs to minimize any negative impact to your current employment?

If you really want to minimize the potential negative impact in your current employment, do not tell your boss you are looking for another job. Even if asked, don't reveal the truth.

  • 'Even if asked, don't reveal the truth.' - What if you do end up leaving? - Doesn't that leave a bad taste? (And a bad reputation for being dishonest?) – user10911 Nov 18 '13 at 10:07
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It is NEVER appropriate to tell him you are "Looking." That comes off as a threat.

Look for other jobs, make sure you have contact information that doesn't use any resources at all from your current position (including their Internet connection), and give notice when you've accepted a new position.

You may change your mind, especially if your boss is "clued in" that you're unhappy, not that you're looking. If they improve your conditions and you decide to stay, you'll have accomplished nothing but sewing seeds of distrust by telling him you are "Looking."

Your career is YOUR career, not your boss's.

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    OTOH, garments made from the seeds of distrust are all the rage this season. – Amy Blankenship Nov 9 '13 at 15:44

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