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I've been working a corporate tech job for three years, my first job out of college. Due to a couple reasons (refusal to swap out outdated technology, shift in company values) I've been itching to leave.

A teammate of mine who was employed there for 8 years recently quit for the same reasons I listed. The day after my teammate left, my manager told me that what my teammate did (providing a two weeks notice of resignation all of a sudden) was uncommon. My manager said that with his previous jobs, he always discussed his intent to leave with his bosses when he started looking for new employment, well before giving his two weeks notice. He said this was common, and I wouldn't know because this was my first job. He requested I tell him if I start looking for a new job.

This seemed really odd to me. Is it true that it's a common practice to tell your manager if you're beginning a new job search? Does the answer change depending on if you want to negotiate vs. if you're going to resign no matter what?

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    please state what country you are in. It may differ greatly based on country. – Mindwin Jul 9 '17 at 5:55
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    Trust has to be earned, not demanded. Also, even if your manager doesn't react badly to you searching for a job, you never know how the others he tells might react to your wish to leave. Note that once you tell others, you'll be left out of meetings, your coworkers may stop taking you seriously, your duties get downgraded to shitty tasks, you may be forced to train your own replacement, you may be asked to document "everything", and you may even be fired prematurely. When you're ready to leave, just give 2-weeks and tell him that the other company wanted you to start earlier than anticipated. – Stephan Branczyk Jul 9 '17 at 9:30
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    Also, if your manager refuses to follow best practices when paying employees, or swapping out outdated technology, he shouldn't be surprised if his employees provide him with the minimum amount of notice required by law. Not that you should tell him that, it's best to just give him a bs excuse when you're ready to go. – Stephan Branczyk Jul 9 '17 at 9:44
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    It's not common at all, at least not in the US. I wouldn't trust any manager trying to take advantage of someone's inexperience by treating them as a "low hanging fruit". – code_dredd Jul 9 '17 at 12:00
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    "refusal to swap out outdated technology" Some advice; learn to be OK with that. Unless there are strong, compelling reasons (e.g., it can only run on WinXP which is a huge security issue), its costly to always update to the new thing. There has to be more benefit than cost, and rewriting what already exists just b/c its old can't be the only reason. – Andy Jul 9 '17 at 16:41

11 Answers 11

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Tell me, did he say why he wanted advance notice, or how much notice he wanted? I'm guessing not.

It absolutely is not common to notify your employer when you begin looking for a job.

Job hunts can easily take months (plenty of places have hiring processes that can take that long). Particularly, job-seeking where you already have a stable job, one you'd like to move out of but also aren't desperate to escape immediately, can take any length of time at all. For one thing, you're limited to what you can schedule around your work hours. For another, you're likely to be much pickier about what opportunities you pursue and accept, because you can afford to be patient and selective.

It would be madness to tell your company "Listen, I'm looking to leave" when you have no idea at all how long you're looking at. It means the company stops trusting you and starts working around you; and it means you could be fired and lose your fallback position.

And really, think of all the other ways this just makes no sense at all. Let's say I'm perfectly happy at my job, but then I hear about a really fantastic opportunity somewhere else. I set up an interview. What, I should tell my boss? Of course not -- if I don't get the job, I'm staying right here for the forseeable future. I'm not going to mess that up.

(This, by the way, is a great way to depart smoothly, when the time comes. "I wasn't actively looking, but then I got this really intriguing offer, and I decided to go check it out.")

It is nice to be considerate, to the degree that you can.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to want longer notice, which you can soothe without shooting yourself in the foot. Being considerate of your current workplace will help you leave a good, friendly, professional impression -- and also, it's the nice thing to do, within reason.

I'd point to two things:

Maximize notice. If you get an offer and your new employer wants you to start in a month, then hey, you can give your boss a month's notice. Better for him. If you get an offer and the start date is flexible, then give yourself time to finish up pressing projects, document stuff, and/or train a replacement (maybe even tell your boss at this point, and ask how much time he wants you for).

This does depend on your new employer's flexibility (you don't want to risk the offer, or a bad impression, so ask "lightly"), and on how much you trust your current boss (not to fire you right away; not to take advantage and keep you on for longer than you want).

Don't wait until you leave to make your issues known. A big problem a lot of companies have is, employees and employers don't really communicate. Employees don't like complaining to their boss (it makes them look bad, or incapable, or unhappy), and also can avoid asking for benefits and raises. The result can be that an employee leaving can really catch them by surprise -- "I never saw it coming!", "I thought everything was OK!", "Why didn't you give me a chance to fix things before it was too late?".

You don't have to leave them flat-footed. It's to their benefit and yours for you to communicate issues to them. Not as "fix this or I'm leaving" (although that's an option, when you need it). But as "Listen, it'd be a real improvement if you fixed this," or, "Listen, I've been here X years, and I'm expecting a raise," or whatever else. Be constructive in criticism, and firm when advancing your own benefits.

This can be a real help against "well why didn't you tell me you were looking for a job." You don't need to tell them whether they've reached a breaking point; that's your call and you keep your own counsel. But it is helpful to tell them what your issues are, what your expectations are; it gives them a chance to at least be in the running to keep you, and feels less like a betrayal if/when you do leave.

All this, of course, is also why it's so important for employers to establish trust and rapport with their employees, and actively encourage openness and criticism. If you discourage employees from bringing you their issues, or give the impression that it won't help, or they'll be branded troublemakers or "not team players," well, don't be surprised if the first you hear about their issues is when they hand in their notice.

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    You may not even be in a job hunt. You may see one particular job advertised that sounds really good, and try to get that job, while being happy to stay with your old job if it doesn't work out. – gnasher729 Jul 10 '17 at 8:04
  • Keep in mind there will be situations where someone leaving shouldn't catch an employer by surprise and/or feel like a betrayal, but it does to the employer anyway. It's not always your fault as an employee. Many employers will ask for feedback but not actually listen to or take action on it, and a smart employee will carefully judge the results of his feedback and not push things too hard if that's only going to upset one or both sides. – Curt J. Sampson Mar 13 '18 at 10:56
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Is it true that it's a common practice to tell your manager if you're beginning a new job search?

It's not at all common in my experience.

I've only notified my boss once. That was a situation where I had worked with him for a long time, I knew that it wouldn't be held against me, and I knew that I wouldn't be surprising him.

In general, wait until you have your new job, then give your notice and work out the appropriate notice period. In my part of the US, two week's notice is standard; anything else would be unusual.

It's pretty easy to see how notifying your manager that you are starting a job search would help him. But I don't see how this would help you. And I see how this could turn very bad for you. It makes me wonder if your manager is taking advantage of you.

Does the answer change depending on if you want to negotiate vs. if you're going to resign no matter what?

I suppose. But it's not at all clear what you have available to negotiate. Things like "refusal to swap out outdated technology" and "shift in company values" are exceedingly unlikely to be negotiable.

If they threw a small increase in salary at you, those reasons would still remain.

I wouldn't plan on getting an offer to stay.

  • Notifying your manager means you can ask him for reference before any contract is signed. So there is a benefit, although it would be rare that it outweights the drawback. – Taemyr Jul 10 '17 at 7:36
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    @Taemyr : It's a dubious benefit, since your manager might have incentive -- out of self-interest or vindictiveness -- to give you a poor reference. – Ziv Jul 10 '17 at 8:02
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    From a UK perspective, I've only ever told one boss I was looking to leave, and that was a courtesy as it was to move a significant distance to be with my then girlfriend. I did it as a an opener to a discussion of the ability of me to work from home for them when I moved, which wasn't something they were able to do at the time (because I would have needed a large raise for the cost of living difference). I've never mentioned to any other boss or colleague when I was job hunting other times. – gabe3886 Jul 10 '17 at 11:42
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Assuming USA (due to the 2 weeks notice): It's not common to inform the company ahead of giving notice, and it's not recommended. Your manager is badly misleading you.

The problem with informing the company early is that they might just fire you on the spot. Or give you two weeks notice when you just started your job search. There are no benefits for you in informing the company earlier. The recommended method for the USA: Find a new job, sign the contract, give notice. After all, the employer is not likely to warn you two months ahead before laying off people.

In Europe, notice periods are usually a lot longer. You might have to give two months notice, for example, and so does the employer (usually the notice periods are the same for both). That will achieve exactly what your boss wants, without the personal risk for you.

To clarify: In Europe, the rule is just the same: Find a new job, sign the contract, give notice. The only difference is that the notice period is usually a lot longer. For companies, this has the big advantage that they can prepare for you leaving (as your boss wants), and the disadvantage that they may have to wait longer for the replacement to start.

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    But in Europe hiring processes take more time too. The recommended method here is the same as the USA with the only difference of the notice period being longer by contract / law. – eballes Jul 9 '17 at 7:00
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    exactly what @eballes says : it's 3 months here in France, which suits the long recruiting processes(slowed down by the 3-month period, when you hire someone from another firm). The process is axactly the same : find an exit door, sign a new contract, leave your notice the next day, and switch 3 months later. Warning signs are dangerous for everybody. – gazzz0x2z Jul 10 '17 at 7:30
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    @eballes why is the hiring process in Europe so much longer than the US? – Abdul Jul 10 '17 at 11:56
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    I told my recruiter in confidence that I was moving out of state and had to quit the job he placed for me, timeline was about a month. I was let go the next morning. 2 weeks, all they get, never more, often less. "Your boss hates you, and if he does not his boss certainly does" (paraphrased from 4hour work week) – Marc Jul 10 '17 at 20:02
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    @Abdul Actually, the hiring process up to the point an offer is extended is not necessarily a lot longer (although it can be in some places), I have seen decisions made very quickly. But employers know about the long notice periods and for anything but the most routine jobs, they will expect a few months to pass between the moment the decision is made and your starting date. – Relaxed Jul 11 '17 at 8:39
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I wouldn't say it's common, but I wouldn't say it's uncommon either. During my 40 year career, from clerking at 7-11s to leading software development teams, I've given anywhere from a month's to a year's notice. This has been based on my appraisal of my relationship with my managers, my value to the company, and how well I've been treated by the employer. It definitely has the potential to end badly, but it can also be a significant favor to an honest and decent manager, who could really use a head start in finding a replacement for a key employee. You have to decide on how much you trust your ability to "read" your managers, and the company as a whole.

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    I've certainly seen "higher-ups" giving large notice periods before finding new work, but never lower-level employees. If the OP wants to help out their manager without opening themselves up to abuse, they should offer a longer notice period after securing new work (e.g. on my last switch I worked 6 weeks' notice instead of 4). If the new job is any good they will be happy to wait a little longer, and the worst the manager can do is leave them with a short unpaid holiday. – Dave Jul 9 '17 at 8:52
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    @Dave, to be sure it's an informed gamble, but it's never worked against me. I may just have been very lucky. Your (and everyone else's) milage may vary. – Charles E. Grant Jul 9 '17 at 10:05
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    Giving a lot of notice is completely different to giving notice of intent to leave. – jwg Jul 9 '17 at 22:11
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    A year's notice? I didn't know there are companies which require a year's notice period. Was your next company ready to wait for one year? – Rolen Koh Jul 10 '17 at 5:04
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    @CharlesE.Grant: giving notice means you tell them to quit by date X. Informing about intent to leave means "I'd like to leave but don't have anything lined up yet, so please, please don't fire me before then". – Jonas Jul 10 '17 at 7:07
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This is looking like an attempt to avoid the consequences of bad management.

Telling management that you are looking for work somewhere else may sound like perfect Golden Rule behavior, but the company will not see it that way. If they are already thinking of laying people off, guess who's going to be first? And if you're not yet successful when they decide to cut you, they've already got something to ease whatever pangs of conscience they're having.

Your manager is playing you for a noob. You now have another reason to bail.

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I did this once when I was young and naive. I thought it's better to play it fair and give the employer time to prepare. Boy, have I been wrong. In my case, the boss was a mean-spirited, weak person who immediately punished me for my "disloyalty" whenever he could. I had ample time to regret my attempt at being honest and fair.

Only give early notice if you can trust your boss and expect him to act decently. Sadly, this can be said only of a minority of bosses. Another reason could be if you might come back at a later time because things don't work out in the next job. But the way you present the situation tells me that you should stick to the notice period you are required to. I expect that you have raised your concerns about outdated equipment before, so any desire to leave should not come unexpected. It is the job of your boss to keep the department running; he's being paid to cope with that.

You are right with your feeling: It would be odd to request ample advance warning. All you are expected to do is to raise your voice about deficits which affect your performance. The boss should then come to his own conclusions easily and a later notice of termination should not surprise him. And no, placing a desire to leave into negotiations is also bad practice and smells of blackmail. This option is always there but not mentioned - both parties know it exists.

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One more way to look at this: Notice periods work both ways. So unless your company usually talks to employees about intent to fire ("We're looking into firing you, but aren't quite sure yet about the date, because we haven't lined up a replacement"), you should not feel obligated to talk to them about your intent to leave.

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    Actually, I would expect to get a first written warning, and then a Performance Improvement Plan, before being fired. If they are making people redundant, I would expect a six- to nine-month statutory consultation period before the redundancies happen. ... but I have never given more than contractual notice. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jul 10 '17 at 8:52
  • @MartinBonner: Similarly, you will let them know that you are not satisfied with the current job and that you expect things to change. Even in Germany, the consultation periods are really giving extended notice, not announcing intent. Indeed, whenever there is e.g. a merger/acquisition, there will be communications that they'll retain all talent, until they're announcing the cuts. – Jonas Jul 10 '17 at 9:52
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    @MartinBonner, in the US they fire you (no requirement for a PIP in at will states where there is no need to prove bad performance) and escort you out the door (some places don't even let you pack your stuff, but mail it to you later) or they do a layoff and often still escort you out the door that day. Usually you are not allowed on your computer once you have been told and It is turning off your network access while they talk to you. – HLGEM Jul 11 '17 at 20:44
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    @HLGEM : Yes, I feel sorry for those of you working in the US. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jul 12 '17 at 5:56
  • @MartinBonner, on the other hand I don;t have to work for three months after I have given notice which is incomprehensible to me. Why on earth would a company want to keep a disgruntled employee for that amount of time? I see no advantage to either side in long notice periods. There is no job that can't be turned over in 2 weeks. – HLGEM Jul 12 '17 at 14:07
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In general no, is it not common at all to let your manager know in advance - basically because there are too many risks involved and almost no upsides, as most of the other answers are stating.

Just to give my two cents, I did discuss the matter with my managers in advance in the two times I have resigned so far. However, in both cases I did so while knowing that my manager (and the whole team!) was also planning to leave or had already resigned.

To me, the upsides of doing so was that it became much easier to schedule and attend to interviews, and when everything became "official" it was easier to communicate with senior management (as I still had support from my direct line managers).

You need to evaluate your situation and be very careful if you finally decide to discuss the matter - after all, in some cases it may be positive to discuss it. If you are not sure, do not say anything until you already have a signed contract for your new job.

  • This. Sometimes it is safe when you are sure of your manager. And then you also have time to train your replacement and get good references. And often is it not safe and you want to have a signed contract before. – Hennes Jul 10 '17 at 21:57
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This seemed really odd to me. Is it true that it's a common practice to tell your manager if you're beginning a new job search?

As a Manager in the tech industry I can say it depends heavily on your relationship with your direct Manager. I will often have times where individuals will reach out to me letting me know that they would like a letter of recommendation, or letting me know that they applied to a certain position and I might get a call but that is completely up to them if they want to share that information. At the end of the day, as a Manager, I know that if my team members are really interested in another job, then I want them to be happy and grow and that might not always be with the company that we are currently at. It does not change anything in my eyes if an employee gives me a two week notice they are leaving or whether they are starting to look for a job. It should not make a difference to your Manager.

Does the answer change depending on if you want to negotiate vs. if you're going to resign no matter what? The answer does not change for either of these. They may ask you to stay and offer to negotiate but that is not often from what I have seen. If you are going to resign regardless, it still depends on how good your relationship with your Manager is as to whether you want to tell them you are looking or not.

Hope this helps, let me know if you have any questions!

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Does the answer change depending on if you want to negotiate vs. if you're going to resign no matter what?

No. If you've already clearly stated your concerns and suggested changes on multiple occasions and aren't getting anywhere with that, once you've hit the point where you have to haul out the nuclear option of, "something needs to change or I will leave," you've almost invariably gone beyond the point where this job work out well for you. If they were open to change they'd have started changing already. If they think they're open to change but they're not, hitting a crisis point where you are ready to leave will almost never result in a long-term change in their views. They may compromise in the short term to keep you from leaving immediately, but without the long-term change in viewpoint they will at best slide back leaving you where you were before or at worst use the time they've gained to find a replacement for you and part with you at their convenience rather than yours.

This doesn't affect your responsibility to ensure as smooth a departure as possible. You should make sure that what you do is running smoothly, well documented and tested as appropriate, and that someone is cross-trained on it to at least the "he can take care of it in an emergency" level. (You should be doing this from the start, anyway, so as to keep the team's bus factor risk low.) That said, if the organization is putting barriers to doing this in your way, just do the best you can; the rest is their responsibility.

You'll also want to think about in advance how much notice you'll reasonably need to give over and above the minimum mandated by your contract, if any. Work out what you need to hand over before you leave and how you can do it. If you have already developed an exit plan that leaves your employer in a reasonable state, you'll be able to resist any panicked demands for more time than that.

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A simple analogy is that employment in a lot of ways is not unlike a romantic relationship, and would you really tell your current partner that you're thinking about leaving them?

If there are issues with your current situation and you want to fix them, that's a separate discussion, but going elsewhere is really a personal decision you need to make before letting your employer know. Even the most seemingly understanding companies can suddenly treat you badly when they know you're on the way out and you really need to be sure of your situation before making it official.

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