Mark and Mike,

I am currently a supervisor in a large company.

I am interested in looking for a new postion within my organization.

I am torn whether I should tell my boss:

1. If I do extend him this ethical courtesy, and word gets back to him I am looking for new a opportunity, he will not be surprised.
But by telling him, I am concern he may hold this against me for future promotions, raises, bonuses, etc. if I did not move on.

2. If I do not tell him I am looking at other job options, then he finds out, he also could hold this against me if I do not move on.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

pneuhardt's picture

Throwing in my $.02 worth:

It depends. Don't you hate that answer?

I have known bosses that would consider it an insult if you wanted to move out of their department. They might indeed hold it against you. However, those bosses are fe and far between in my experience.

The best boss I ever worked for had constant problems with HR in every company he ever went to. The reason was turnover in his department was considered above average. And every time he was challenged with this, he asked HR to go back and look to see how many people left the company at the same time they left his department and examine whether those that transferred out moved to higher positions or just moved to be moving.

The results? His rate of directs leaving the company was below company average, and most of those internal transfers moved to higher positions. This guy was a manager factory and his former directs were some of the most effective managers in the company.

How did he do it? Well, I've never met either Mike or Mark, but I suspect working for either of them would be a lot like working for this guy. My old boss could have been a poster-child for Manager Tools.

Evaluate your boss and your relationship with him. Most will understand if you are looking for a better opportunity for yourself. A few will be insulted, and a few will actively help you to find that opportunuity. No matter what, the odds are with you.

bichon75's picture

Obviously your approach depends on your relationship, but I would likely tell the boss about your plans. Once 1 other person knows your secret, it is no longer a secret. Your interest in other departments will come back to your boss as soon as someone likes you enough to learn more about your performance.

If you choose to share your plans, you could come at it as if you are seeking his/her advice and coaching, rather than conveying a decision you've already made. I've done this before and people are generally happy to be trusted and brought in the tent. It's a risk and one that only you can evaluate, but one that I think can be managed effectively.

Good luck!

yardbird's picture

As bichon75 said it all depends on your relationship with your boss. Every decision in life is a risk based decision so you have to weigh up the pros and cons. In your question you've only outlined two options - which both have a negative feel to the consequences. What are the potentially positive outcomes if you tell your boss? Do these outweigh the negatives?

I had a similar career choice experience about 10 years ago. As a young engineer in a technical consulting firm, I could see that it was time to move on. I had a good relationship with my boss - someone who was really helpful in my career (and by that I mean I had the feeling that he would give me advice that put my own career as a priority above the company line). I let him know that I was looking around and received support. Since that time I've had a number of bosses with different attitudes, priorities etc... if I'd been in the same position with one of these bosses, I don't think I would have shared my thinking.

Having said all that, you're talking about an internal positions within the company. Again it depends on the relationships with your boss, but also with your prospective boss. How far removed from your current boss would you be in a new internal position? If in a new position you are going to have to continue having a relationship with your current boss, my gut feel is let him/her know. There is some potential upside in this case if you let them know, if you don't let them know there is only downside. Also check your own company rules. I know in my company it's frowned upon to poach people from other areas without the knowledge of the current boss. i.e. if one of my directs was looking to move to another internal position I would expect either (a) they will come and tell me, or (b) the prospective boss would give me a quick call and let me know that a move was on the cards before it happened.

Sorry no simple answers from me...

Hope this helps


bda72's picture

I agree with bichon75, there's no such thing as a secret. If you think there's even a possibility that your boss will get wind of your job hunt I would let him know in advance. Or maybe you could apply for it and only tell your boss if you make it to the interview stage.

Just a few weeks ago our business manager lobbied against her secretary for a better position (and at least a $20K raise!) and won just because she made such a stink about it. Her secretary was devastated and now resents her boss for holding her back. The business manager heard it from an another administrator in my department who heard it from our secretary. Everybody loves gossip.

The poster didn't clearly say whether this is a lateral move just to get away from his boss\department or if he's looking to move up. If your boss finds out you're looking for an identical position, but in a different department, you might have more reason to be concerned. Any good boss wouldn't be offended if you were going after a promotion.

I hope it goes well for you, but my philosophy has always been "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst". I would personally tell my boss, but I have a great relationship with him and I know he would support me and even give me a reference if I asked.

Good Luck.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Great posts, folks.

Horstman's 6th Law: There are no secrets.

That said, I sure would like to know more about your boss and your company and what you want to do and why you need to move on.

As a simple rule, if you're moving because of your boss, don't tell her. If it's something else, DO tell her.

But it probably isn't that simple, so... would you share with us some more data? Thanks.


jobmover's picture

Thanks all for your posts.
More info:

I work for a multi-billion $ company at one of it's smaller subsidiaries (60 persons) for the last 6 years.

I am a supervisor, and have been considering my career path at this smaller office.

I have spoken to my manager and his boss the VP.
Both have said to me at this smaller facility, upward mobility in limited.
My skills and potential are not fully utilized in my role, and my hands-on day-to-day responsilibites are becoming very mundane and unchallenging.

For the first time, I am considering another job, either internally or elsewhere, not for the immediate salary adjustment, but rather for the professional growth and challenge.

My initial question of discussing this change with my boss, is not with my immediate manager, who I have a good relationship with, but rather the VP who I have occasional interaction, and unfortunately can not predict his response.

A second point is, I have tired focusing in my area of expertise, r&d for widgets for the last 10 years, and would like the opportunity of moving into the business side of the widget (i.e. marketing/product development).
Without the formal MBA degree, I wonder if this is an unrealistic direction.
I have supervised for 3 years now.
So 2 questions:

1. Tell my bosses's boss about looking for a new postion?

2. Realistic to move laterally or upward in to a related field without formal business background?

In my field my peers and upper management do not seem to have similar aspirations. I really am at a loss for an educated and experienced opinion.

Thank you all for your advice.