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Calling it Quits

As a manager, it’s easy to fantasize about an idealized world where you build trust and rapport with your staff that leads to open and honest communication about their on-the-job frustrations and career ambitions (whether that means staying with your company or not). And, as much as I’d like those I manage to feel comfortable enough to share that kind of information with me, I have to admit I am a hypocrite.

When you work for a crazy boss, the thought of letting them know you’re actively seeking another job is pretty much the furthest thing from your mind. In fact, you probably spend most of your time trying to figure out how to manage and cope with their craziness through a combination of avoidance and commiserating with coworkers.

And then there are the great bosses—the managers who look out for you and promote your professional development. They’re the tricky ones because, no matter how much they want to see you succeed, in a lot of ways when you’re looking at an opportunity with another department or company, it feels like a break up. And with break ups come emotions. On one hand, they’re happy that you’re happy. But, on the other, they’re now left to come up with a plan for finding your replacement (never something most managers I know look forward to) and covering your duties.

But it’s not just managers hoping their employees will confide in them about their career plans…I’ve also been on the other side of the coin when I felt I had developed a great rapport and working relationship with a former boss yet I didn’t even have the slightest clue that this person was about to leave the team for another position. In reality, I realize people, especially managers, have to keep these things close to the vest—yet, for some reason, I still find myself living in this idealized world where employees would have open and honest conversations with their managers and vice versa.

So, in the end, as much as I’ve always hoped my team would feel comfortable enough to come to me before making the decision to leave the organization, in reality that’s something I’ve struggled with myself regardless of whether I was working for a great boss or a not-so-great boss. Regardless, I’ll continue to strive to create a work environment that fosters open communication about pursuing other job opportunities.

How about you? Do you expect your staff to tell you they’re looking?

Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (