Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Reader Advice: Do You Volunteer Plans For a Year Out During a Job Interview?

Got the following email today from a reader (edited for content and length):
I had a part-time administrative job with no benefits for about 4 months. Two months ago, I got engaged and told everyone at work that I would very likely have to move when my fiancé graduated in about a year. At this point my plans were essentially public knowledge.

A month later my department created a full-time, full-benefit administrative position that I was highly qualified for. While not management level, it was better than the part-time position I had, and I was the best qualified in the department for the post.

I applied for the position and got it. During the interview, my boss never asked me about my plans to stay with the company, so I never brought it up. We discussed my interest in the job, my experience with the work, and some things we had in common.

After I got the job, a co-worker started asking me if I told my boss about my plans to move, and has been pressuring me to go back and warn my boss that I might not be there in a year. This co-worker is a good friend, and I honestly think she's been making this suggestion with my best interest at heart. She didn't apply for my job herself, and had told me she thought I was the best candidate. The problem is that she allows other people to talk to her and those people were trying to make a political issue where there was no need. If anything, her pressure was an attempt to diffuse gossip and back biting.

Was I under any obligation to bring this subject up? Does it really benefit anybody if I do so now?
You have two issues: one ethical, the other political. On the ethical side, you are okay since you were under no obligation to volunteer the fact that you might move for the following reasons:
"Maybe", "Perhaps", "Likely" - You state that it is very likely that I would have to move. This is not definite, and plans always change. I see no reason to put your career on hold and not take a job you are suited for since something "might" happen later on. (The company "might" shut down)

Time Frame - A year? If it were four weeks, then, yeah, sure, tell him during the interview. But a year is forever in business time. Can ANYONE in your company guarantee they will be there in a year? It's more likely that the company will change the department by then (laying you off, changing managers, etc.)

Being a Manager Means You Have To Manage - Your manager knew when he was interviewing you that you aren't going to spend 40 years in this position and then retire. Turnover is a fact of life and every time a manager puts someone in the position, there is the risk the person might leave for professional or personal reasons. It's part of the job, and he'll deal with you eventually leaving, no matter when it is.

Level Not High Enough - CEO position? VP position? I can see where someone in these positions might bring up potential plans a year from now, but at this non-managerial position you are talking about I don't see this as important. In addition, there is no "training period" before being up to speed in this position, so it's not like there is a huge corporate investment in the position before it's proficient (in which case, the interviewer would definitely have asked you about long-term plans).

At Will Employment - You don't give the company any guarantee that you will be there in a year, and the company doesn't guarantee you will have your job in a year. It's a two-way street, and unless this company can give you its employment picture for 12 months out (no way), I see nothing "unethical" about taking this particular job promotion with the possibility that you "might not" be around in 12 months.
So ethically, you are okay.

The second problem, the political one, is a little more difficult, but I don't think the problem is that your co-workers have a problem with the possibility of you leaving. The problem is that no matter who gets promoted, there are people who are always upset. If they didn't know you might leave in a year, they would find another reason, trust me (other favorites are "not here long enough", "not ready for promotion", and "he got the job because he's friends with the manager"). Inter-office rivalry and envy are going to exist and you are not going to change their minds.

There is also the possibility that one of these co-workers might let it "slip" to your manager that you got engaged and might be moving. You have to decide how you want to handle this situation: let him come to you and ask about it, or go to him and let him know.

I would really have to understand your relationship with your manager and any plans to stay in this particular industry, but based on the information I have, my advice is to do nothing. If he does approach you, let him know that you simply don't know what your plans are and for the time being you are staying here, but if your plans change, he will be the first to know. Of course if/when you do make a definite decision about leaving you have to decide when to let him know, but that's a question for another time.

In the mean time talk to your friend/co-worker and outline the reasons you are not going to talk to your boss - the basic one being that you really don't know what is going to happen a year out. You can't prevent her from talking to others in the group, but if she knows that your plans really aren't definite, it might help defuse the situation.

Anyone else have additional or contrary advice?

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