18 Dec 2014

Is honesty the best policy?

Just a short post.  I was chatting to a candidate last week who was in a bit of a conundrum.  They wanted to be honest with their boss and tell them that they were looking for a new job.  Is this a good idea? they asked.

Erm...the short answer is no. It's not.

Obviously it's a tricky one.  The candidate worked in a small agency environment and she got on well with the boss.  She felt that she would be letting him and the agency down by leaving them and wanted to give them time to find someone new.

I've said before that when you are looking for a new job, it is important to look after number one.  It's also important not to shoot yourself in the foot.  It's always much easier finding a new job whilst you are in the secure position of having a job (and earning a salary).  By making your boss aware of your plans, at this point, they'll start to look after number one too - themselves.  Ultimately they will want to ensure they have client continuity and there will not be any impact on client service levels.  Even if you think that you and your boss are best buddies with lots of mutual respect, everything would shift if you give them this heads up.

Whilst in an ideal world, the conversation would be nice and mature, with your boss agreeing that you can keep your job until you find a new one.  In this ideal world, you'd leave and there would be a lovely period of overlap with the new person so that you could dance off up the career ladder and your boss would be happy to have the new replacement all inducted before you'd gone.

I've never known that happen.  I've seen bosses throw tantrums, ask people to leave straightaway (not ideal, you're now vulnerable and whilst you might be paid until the end of the month, it can take a long time to get a new job and the freelance market in the North isn't great.  I've seen candidates treated horribly whilst they continue to work in the same environment - but not part of the team - you're not one of them now.

This strategy has occasionally worked where couples are relocating from London to the regions and candidates know they are moving city.  I think the difference is that the client knows that the candidate is moving for geographical reasons and they're not off to a competitor or just to earn more money.  I'd still be very nervous though.  It can take up to 6 months to find a new role, longer if for the higher salary bands and whilst it depends on your financial circumstances, the worst case is your boss asking for your resignation and  you finding yourself out of work because they found your replacement really quickly and then didn't actually need you.

The other occurrence that I see is where there are long notice periods, candidates are now handing in their notice and gambling that they are going to find a new job in that timescale.  Again, this is risky although it is a calculated one.  Mostly, clients would prefer not to wait 3 months for a new starter....so if it's a choice between someone available in a month versus 3 months, you might lose out.  Several candidates had found themselves second choice for this reason and therefore handed in their notice with no job to go to.

I'm not advocating dishonesty with your boss, I don't see it like that.  It's commercial. People do move jobs - it's a fact of life and companies understand that people want to progress their careers.  If you want to tell your boss you're on the lookout, take a really long look at what your motives really are - is there a subconsious hope that they'll suddenly pay you more & beg you not to go?  I guess really, each to their own but I say you're not obligated to tell them and unless you have a start date lined up for your new role, don't even mention your plans until you are ready to resign!