Should You Keep Your New Job Search Secret?


Are you thinking of changing jobs/careers?

Wondering whether to tell your boss you’re thinking of quitting?

At first glance I say no way, never tell your boss anything which could potentially come back to hurt you.


What Your Boss Hears When You Talk About Another Job

Here’s what could be going through your bosses mind when they hear you are thinking of moving on:

  • “Oh no, who’s going to finish the project?”
  • “How is this going to affect the teams’ success?”
  • “How am I going to find a replacement?”
  • “How long is it going to take me to train someone new?”
  • “Is there sensitive information this wandering employee might abuse?”
  • “Is this employee going to start stealing all of our business?”
  • “Sweet! This makes my mandatory staff reduction effort easy.”

Okay, hopefully not the last one.

However, those last few thoughts are the ones which could get you fired quickly. If your boss has any reason to fear your potential abuse of company resources or you might steal business, he would be jeopardizing the company by NOT letting you go as soon as possible.

The fear of being terminated is a good fear to have.

Since “looking for a new job” doesn’t necessarily mean “prepared to be without a paycheck for an extended period of time,” I suggest you keep your potential quitting to yourself.

It’s All Business

If you’re worried about burning a bridge or hurting someone’s feelings, it’s time to get over yourself.

No one cares.

Notice in my list above I didn’t include, “Was it because he didn’t like me?”

It’s not personal, it’s business.

There are no promises on either side of the agreement. They could let you go in a heartbeat. Checkout the facts on “at-will” employment.

You should feel the same way. You don’t owe the company anything but an honest day’s work.

Two weeks’ notice is also a nice courtesy. But you better be prepared to be escorted out of the office the moment you tell your boss you are looking for a different job—it could be over quickly.

This from user Johnny_93307 over at an answers forum:

“I got fired for looking for another job. My boss asked me if I was looking for another job and I told him yes. He just told me when I clock out, that’s all he needed me for. He thanked me for working for him and he told me that if I’m going to be looking for another job that he needs too save his a** and that’s all he told me.

Johnny learned the hard way. Don’t make the mistake of even hinting to your boss you might be looking for other work.


  1. Avoid telling co-workers
  2. Definitely don’t search for jobs on your company computer, and
  3. Let all recruiter calls go to voicemail

The only reason I would suggest telling your boss about your situation is if the new job was potentially at your same employer. It’s fine to have a conversation with your boss about “getting a diverse experience” within the company.

But, you should never signal an outside company is a possibility.

My Experience of Speaking Too Soon

When I quit my last job I made the mistake of telling my boss earlier than originally planned that I was going to be quitting.

I had it all planned out, I was going to tell my boss on Friday I was quitting and give my two weeks notice. This wasn’t any ordinary two days. The vesting of some company stock was on the line.

On the Wednesday before I was going to give notice my boss told me to book a flight for a three-week business trip overseas. Instead of booking the flight I went ahead and told my boss I was going to be quitting but I wanted him to honor my original two week notice which was going to start on Friday so I could get the stock options.

Long story short, they tried to take those two days from me and I had to plead to the CEO over a last minute email (literally just before being escorted out) to get my two days.

He sided with me and I got my two days.

The moral of the story is I could have avoided a headache by not telling my boss until Friday. I should have just booked my flight and then told him I was quitting on Friday. I could have then cancelled my flight and the company would have to eat the cancellation fee.

Bottom line: I say there is never a time when you should tell your boss you are looking for a new job. Never quit or tell anyone about your job hunting efforts until you have signed your offer letter with the next employer.

Consider Internal Moves

If you are on good terms with your employer, you may be able to open the door by suggesting a sideways or upward move within the company in attempt to gain new responsibilities. 

This could have two potential outcomes:

  1. It could show your employer you’re looking to learn new things, diversify your skills, and advance your career path
  2. It could show your employer you’re not fully satisfied with your current position, but you are open to exploring something else

In both cases, this conversation with your employer would help them understand down the road (even if it’s just a few weeks) you’re starting to look elsewhere, and not to feel blindsided by your decision.

It’s somewhat of a half-step, and would allow you to be open and honest with your employer from the start.

This type of move could be especially important if you might need a job reference to gain a new position.

If you’re not on good terms, this still may not be a viable option for you.

Never Be Dishonest or Sneaky

No matter the route you go, definitely don’t take advantage of your employer or unnecessarily risk your current job while you’re still there.

This could lead to you getting an at-fault release, and risk you losing any possible good reference you may have previously earned.

Try to avoid:

  • “burning the clock” and not being productive
  • “stirring the pot” of office politics and try to get others on your side
  • “jumping ship” or “ghosting” your employer and just never coming back

In all of these scenarios, you become the bad guy, even if you’ve had years of quality work. You’re going to take everything positive you’ve earned over the years and turn it negative in just a matter of days or weeks.

Finish up your role, make the transition easy for your manager or replacement, and enjoy the new job.

What’s your take? Is there ever a good reason to tell your boss you are looking for a new job?

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  1. Once you have another offer in hand, telling you boss you are looking for another job is a great idea if have talked to your boss previously about how you would like to improve your current position but they have told you to “suck it up”.  If you are a valued employee, you may have some cards to play.  Most companies will not negotiate anything until they find out you’re leaving.  But, also be prepared to be escorted out.  It’s a silly game sometimes.

  2. Avatar FreedomJackson says:

    There are no benefits to showing your cards.  Would you tell your boss what plans you made for your wife?  Your boss is at work too. 

  3. Some companies have a rule that you have to inform them in advance if you are going to quit your job. So it’s not your choice, whether you should say or not, You have to follow rules.

  4. Avatar Money Life and More says:

      I don’t think you have to tell in advance. The cons far outweigh the pros in most cases and unless you have an employment agreement that specifies you must give a certain amount of notice I suggest you just use the typical two weeks and expect to be gone the day you give notice. When I gave notice at my last employer I think the only reason I got to stay for two weeks was because of all of the knowledge that only I had on a specific project that I had to transfer. Previous employees had always been told to leave immediately upon giving notice.

  5. No way! Unless you have a contract that restricts you in some way, you don’t have to reveal anything. And what if you are looking and it doesn’t pan out? You make yourself look bad. If you want to give a few weeks extra notice to be courteous, thats ok. Otherwise, don’t reveal anything about a job search until you are leaving.

  6. Avatar FrugalZeitgeist says:

    @MoneyMatters , @ptmoney:, I really think it depends on the relationship. I have told before and gained help in moving on smoothly.

  7. Avatar Ron Haynes says:

    In a right to work state, you can be fired for any reason at any time since employment is “at will” for both the employee and the employer. That said, bringing it up too soon is a recipe for disaster … or at least a long uncomfortable period.

    I told one boss that I was looking but we had a great relationship (and still do). My last boss refused to allow me to finish my two week notice but paid me for it so I can’t complain too much.

    In my experience it’s best to NOT mention anything until you’re fully ready. It allows you to manage your resignation rather than your boss.

  8. Yikes!  I don’t think I would mention it until I had an offer (or some other exciting plan) locked down.

  9. Avatar machildebrand says:

    I know a lot of people like Johnny who are trying to be civil in a ruthless business world. It’s sad to hear what can happen, but this was a good warning.

  10. Avatar Deirdre Kiely says:

    Good Lord no, never tell. You get blacklisted and then what if you can’t find another job, esp in this economy. Your boss is not your friend – they don’t have your best interests at heart.

  11. Avatar mini_utne says:

    @ptmoney I would bring it up only if you have an offer in hand that you are willing to accept. Could be trouble otherwise.

  12. It’s actually illegal here to fire somebody because they are looking for a new job. I don’t think you should ever tell your boss  – that would be silly – but lots of times, they find out accidently.

    1. Avatar Philip Taylor says:

       @addvodka Where do you live?

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