So my boss and a coworker saw an email notification on my computer regarding a phone interview for another job. While I closed the notification really fast, I am fairly certain they saw. I do not have any immediate plans of leaving the company, but I was approached by a recruiter and figured why not try interviewing.

I am not sure if this will create tension between me and my boss and coworker. So far he has not brought it up and neither has my coworker. I was wondering if there are thoughts on what to do? Should I confront them directly about it? Should I not bring it up unless asked? What would be the proper thing to do?

EDIT: Thank you all for the responses. To clarify to people who are saying, "How do you know they actually saw it?" It was very awkward because I was giving a presentation and therefore sharing my screen with everyone in the meeting room. A majority of the people there were looking the other way because they were discussing some of the points brought up in my presentation. The two people, my boss and coworker, were looking at the screen and did have a slight reaction in their faces.

It's been a few weeks since this has happened though and I have not brought it up and neither has anyone else. It doesn't seem like anything has changed so I appreciate the advice guys.

  • 13
    Next time, kick the initial message to a personal email account that you don't access from a work computer/location to avoid any responses arriving at awkward times. Jun 17, 2015 at 2:53
  • @DanNeely yup I did that. I also made it so my notifier will not show the message subject line -- it will simply say New Email.
    – Kevin Xu
    Jun 17, 2015 at 3:01
  • 5
    So, the notifier just showed a subject line for 1,2 seconds and you're assuming your coworkers glanced at that popup box on your screen and therefore know everything about it's contents that you do? I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't give it a second's thought. In any case, you should behave as if they didn't see it.
    – Brandin
    Jun 17, 2015 at 4:58
  • I'm assuming they were both literally staring at your screen at the time of the notification (if, e.g. you were showing them something on your computer), otherwise it would be a bit of a stretch to think they saw it. Jun 17, 2015 at 17:58
  • Why do this private notification show up on your work computer? Nov 25, 2021 at 20:16

4 Answers 4


I was wondering if there are thoughts on what to do? Should I confront them directly about it? Should I not bring it up unless asked? What would be the proper thing to do?

For now, do nothing.

You aren't sure if anyone actually noticed. And even if they did notice, you aren't sure if it matters much.

If you are asked about it, be honest. Saying "I do not have any immediate plans for leaving the company, but I was approached by a recruiter and figured why not try interviewing." is a reasonable answer.

Employers know that people look elsewhere all the time, and that most of those "looks" don't turn into action. This incident might make you uncomfortable for a little while, but it will fade quickly.

(And try to be a bit more careful in the future. Try to keep interview notifications off of your work computer - use your home computer and email address instead.)

  • 1
    Thank you for the advice. It has definitely helped out a lot :)
    – Kevin Xu
    Jul 13, 2015 at 6:46

I think you are really in an awkward position and by thinking and talking more about it will get worsen. Honestly speaking your next action depends upon the reaction of your manager and coworker seconds after reading that popup. If they got distracted and shocked chances are they saw it and if they behaved normally even after that be assured they didn't even notice the subject line.

I would suggest informally discussing with your colleague did he/she saw your mail or not ? If he/she missed it chances are your boss also missed it and there is no point stretching it further.

If your colleague saw your mail chances are your manager also read it and at this point you need to think whether you really want to stay in this company or if you get a 'good' offer from that another company you would like to leave. In first case you can 'casually' discuss with your manager how you are getting too many mails/calls everyday for job opportunities and how well you are rejecting them by showing how much you love this place. In later case you don't need to worry about it.

At last don't feel guilty of trying a telephonic interview in another company, you are not the only one looking for better career options.

  • I strongly disagree (with the end of your first sentence, not mot of the general sentiment). It could get worse, but that'd mean it's already bad. Don't let things sit, and address it. That's what professionals do.
    – haylem
    Jun 17, 2015 at 10:01
  • 1
    Having a discussion with the co-worker would depend on the OP's relationship with that co-worker. If the OP feels the co-worker can be trusted to keep things confidential, then a "Did you see this? Did the boss see it?" discussion would be okay. However, if the OP doesn't know theco-worker very well - or worse - doesn't trust them, then such a conversation would be ill-advised.
    – GreenMatt
    Jun 17, 2015 at 17:17
  • People vary greatly in how observant they are, so I don't really see the benefit of discussing it with the coworker (not to mention that they can play dumb, because it's not exactly a comfortable topic). OP seems to have gotten the gist of it before closing it, so it's not unlikely that someone looking at their screen at that time did too. Also, the notification probably implied OP having at least agreed to an interview, thus telling the boss about rejecting other opportunities is unlikely to improve things, not to mention that simply mentioning other opportunities can have a negative effect. Jun 17, 2015 at 17:36

Everyone is looking for better career and opportunity than current so you have not did any mistake here. One thing you should take care do not check personal mails at workplace and if you check then it should not be visible to anyone.

Now second thing is you just observe behavior of your boss and a coworker till 1-2 week and notice that if any change in behavior with you than normal. I don't think they will have any issue by notice your mail. Everything will be there as it is.

You should not go to boss/coworker and tell about more detail for this stuff/Mail.


The 1st Rule of Damage Control...

The first rule of damage control is to get stuff out in the open first, yourself, and on your terms. Talk to your boss.

Or you can hope it didn't see the notification. Or that he saw it and might be bitter about it (bad) or that he might think "hey I don't want to lose that guy, what do I do now?" (good). But being in the dark is not so great, so I'd rather address it and make sure where people stand.

Clear the Air

If you think your boss saw it, have a 1-on-1 meeting with him, tell him "look, you may have seen that I had a phone interview with a recruiter and I want to clear the air."

Tell him what you just said: you have no plans and don't intend on leaving, but you've been contacted and it was a potentially interesting position and there's no harm in keeping an eye out.

End it at that, as anything else about the future is speculation.

If he/she asks, make sure to clarify that you will give plenty of time in your notice and will do your best ot ensure a transition, and also that you will give them the chance to offer a competitive option.

Congratulations: You Just Got Leverage!!

Keep in mind that interviewing for other companies can also be a positive thing, in terms of negotiations.

Be Nice!

Of course, interviewing somewhere else shows your heart might not be 100% in it anymore, so that's the point you need to stress: that you have fun at your job, that you like the job and the people, but that life is what it is and it doesn't mean there aren't any other jobs for you out there. It might also come across as you trying to force their hand into promoting you or raising your salary. Which is kind of true, even if non-intentional. They'll let it go (if you don't do that every year, of course).

What Next?

Grossly over-simplified, but...

  • Best scenario: You get a nice bargaining chip.

  • Worst case scenario: they get offended, find some weird cause to fire you or put you on the sidelines and make your life miserable (sorry, there's a bad scenario indeed... but it's not that likely, really).

Good luck, either way.

  • I think it's pretty likely that you'll not get as good projects, promotions, raises and/or bonuses if they know you're looking for another job. Being open about it might also make them think that either you're very sure you don't want to work there any more (but you don't want to lose your job before you get another by admitting that you do actually intend on leaving) or you've got another job essentially secured (although maybe it's not immediately available). Jun 17, 2015 at 17:48
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    I don't agree that "clearing the air" is a good idea. There's a good chance the boss didn't actually see the message. There's also a good chance that the boss did see it, but hasn't mentioned it because he's decided, correctly, that it's not really any of his business. Jun 18, 2015 at 3:27
  • I'm not the type of person to try and "get leverage" because I might be applying somewhere else. I rather earn my raises than demand them. In my mind, if I did that, it would simply affect my relationship with the team. If I didn't care about my relationship with them, I wouldn't be asking this question.
    – Kevin Xu
    Jul 13, 2015 at 6:47
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    @8bit for the record, generally speaking you will never get a raise that you haven't earned. Business doesn't work that way, they will pay you what they believe you're worth to them and not a dollar more. If you get a raise by leveraging something like this it means you were worth it.
    – Nick Coad
    Jul 13, 2015 at 6:51

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