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Just caught up with a friend and wanted to get more takes on this.

Friend (Bob) - high level position at his company (director level more or less). Was hired into current group with the promise of taking over. The VP over his group was set to retire. She told him she would start going over the VP role and hand over things to him...

Well 1 year later he has been doing 2-3 jobs at once, the VP has delayed retirement, hasn't hired anyone to help out in other areas (down 3-4 staff), and the VP is considered blatantly rude/not-a-people-person to almost all staff.

To make matters worse there is a new executive VP over the whole division. This person already recognizes Bob is a key person but Bob is not their person and they want to make a big splash. They have already announced a "global recruitment" for the position and yea Bob will get his obligatory interview but no way is he getting the job.

So Bob applies for a higher level director job in another group in company. More than qualified and group sent him through interviews and called him back yesterday...

But says hey we need to reach out to your boss before we go forward with hiring you.

What? Yes I have seen almost everything but a position that high and Bob doesn't even get a $$ amount or really anything other than Bob knows that the group wants them working for them.

Bob has been tasked with reaching out to his boss before they call her. The boss will flip her lid as she probably doesn't care about Bob or his long-term position with the group but like I said Bob has been doing 2-3 other roles they haven't hired for - and Bob is so good they really will have to hire 2 more people on top of replacing him. She's going to look bad and she's got a TON more work on her schedule if he leaves.

That being said... Should Bob reach out to current boss before getting a formal offer? Is it normal at a company that this would happen?

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    It is pretty normal, especially the higher up you are on the food chain. The company doesn't want its executives sabotaging each other by head hunting key personnel. If your friend is indispensable where he's at, at a minimum everyone involved is going to have to figure out how he can transition over to the new position without tanking the work being done in his old group. In some companies, I've seen high level sort-of-lateral moves take 6 months.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 19 at 19:42
  • @ColleenV - I get everything that you have said. However it seems that Bob has now lost some of his bargaining chips. They wanted him. He could have had $XX but if current boss pushes back the group may not work with him as much to meet his demands. I have been a part of high level moves and we at least breached a general range. This is the first time I have heard zero mention of salary while wanting to speak to current boss.
    – blankip
    Mar 19 at 21:28
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    @blankip It's not unusual at all. Why would the company care about Bob's bargaining chips? If anything, that's a good thing for the company. Mar 20 at 0:39
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    Even if it's normal (Personally, I don't know if it is), he should refuse to go forward without having a detailed offer first. And he should make it clear that they're getting ahead of themselves because he hasn't decided if their offer is good enough for him yet. With that said, personally, I wouldn't go ahead with the introduction, unless I knew my relationship with my boss was rock solid. Surely, he can find some other employer who doesn't ask this. My own boss became the CEO of a medium-sized company. If he had asked his own boss for permission to move, it would never have happened. Mar 20 at 6:10
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    @StephanBranczyk - my exact thoughts - I have gone through this process a few times... with bosses I liked and didn't and either way it is really awkward without an offer. Well... they didn't offer me enough so you guys are good enough for now!
    – blankip
    Mar 20 at 6:30
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Yes, it's not only normal, but Bob should have let his boss know prior that he was looking for other positions within the organization. It's very typical and considered a sign of executive maturity to inform your leader.

In a lot of companies (including ours), the direct manager gets an email already letting them know that the employee has applied for another position. When the other manager comes to me for feedback, I respond "this candidate did not inform me that he was looking. Take it to mean what you think it means," essentially calling into question this employee's executive maturity.

Finally, for a lot of organizations, especially above entry level individual contributors and entry level managers, hiring from within generally, it's often expected that there is a recommendation from the direct manager before we get to extending offers/negotiating salary.

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  • It's probably worthwhile to note that at the upper levels of an organisation, you rarely are actively looking for internal transfer opportunities. Sometimes openings occur which prompts potential candidates to evaluate where they are at. You are right that it would be polite to let your manager know you are applying for the role though. Mar 20 at 3:49
  • True, and OP says he applied for the job, not that he was asked to apply for it.
    – Austin759
    Mar 20 at 3:51
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    This is it. Early in my career (1st move) I had my ass handed to me by my (old) boss, chewed up and spat out over the phone, after I had applied for an internal (upwards) position and was hired. HR effed up as well and he was basically let known by the secretary at my new position findin that I already had an employee number... Not Very Happy About That. And to be fair, it is an insult. It took a while but relations normalized, and I learned some important points about How Not To Do It. Mar 21 at 18:43
  • @StianYttervik - you and two upvoters on your comment have failed to really read the question. Bob could not go to his boss due to their struggling relationship and the boss is a mean person in general - pretty much a given she would have schemed to deter him... and she did even after... Your comment has nothing to do with the question and is just a blip about how you would deal with internal transfers in another situation... yours.
    – blankip
    Mar 26 at 16:52
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    @blankip doesn't change the fact that it is the expected thing to do... And will cause friction if avoided. Mar 26 at 23:47
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Yes, especially for higher level positions

As you point out, this generally puts the job seeker in a bad position where they essentially have to tell their boss they are job searching and ask for a reference even if the boss will flip out.

Bob's boss might flip-out, but if the company will reach out to her anyway, it's probably better she get the heads up. Even if he withdraws his candidacy, she might hear about Bob's job hunt through her network.

The best course of action is for Bob to have a 1:1 meeting with her and explain he's near the end of a job search and the new company will contact her. It's surprisingly common for high-level leadership positions that your new division/company will talk to your current boss. Hopefully she's been in the situation before and will not react super badly.

EDIT

As for the why - the most common reason I've heard is your new boss wants someone at their level whom you have worked with recently to give a recommendation.

The new company/division wants to see that you're successful in your current role and get along with your manager well. Of course, people who are successful and like their manager don't generally go job hunting. On the flip side, most job hunters either don't like their manager or aren't successful in their job - sometimes for reasons outside their control.

Fortunately, there are companies that don't have to talk to your current boss. The good news is usually you can be upfront your boss doesn't know your looking.

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  • Yea I have been in upper level management positions for years. I have seen this play out in maybe 1 in 20 scenarios... not saying it happens. Not normal.
    – blankip
    Mar 20 at 7:39
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Bob has not shown much wisdom here.

There is an old saying "Don't be irreplaceable, if you cannot be replaced, you will not be promoted."

Yes, this is normal, it is standard, and Bob's position is weak at best, untenable at worst. If Bob is doing the work of three people, and another division poaches him from his current boss, they will look bad for having undercut another department.

He's made two critical mistakes within the company

  • He did the work of 3 people without getting recognition or compensation.
  • He circumvented the hierarchy of the organization.

Instead of reaching out to his boss, Bob should be polishing his resume. He's done at this organization, he just doesn't know it yet.

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