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Mum's the word when you begin job hunting

M.G. MCINTYRE, PH.D. • Apr 27, 2007 at 9:15 AM

Q: I want to know if I should tell my boss that I'm looking for another job. My company's business is decreasing, our pay has been slashed, and recently one of my coworkers was laid off. I've always been able to talk openly with my manager, but lately his personality has changed. What should I do? -Cass

A: Honesty is commendable, but complete disclosure is often foolish. If the higher-ups learn you may be leaving, they will start considering how to get along without you. You then might find yourself at the top of the next layoff list.

Also, some managers unfairly view employee departures as personal betrayal. Should you change your mind and decide to stay, your boss might never forgive you. So keep your job search information to yourself. Politically intelligent people never tell anyone at work that they intend to leave until they have already secured a new position.

Q: I'm afraid that my new boss may have developed unrealistic expectations about my abilities. Let me explain why. I worked for three different managers in this company who all put very favorable comments in my personnel file. Then I was assigned to a new supervisor, "Ms. Jones."

Eighteen months later, Ms. Jones eliminated my job with no explanation and said I was being laid off. I immediately applied for two vacant positions and was hired by "Mr. Smith." After Ms. Jones heard about this, she said, "Mr. Smith will soon find out that you don't walk on water."

When I told the HR manager about this remark, she said that my previous managers' glowing appraisals create the impression that I can do anything and everything. I asked if these comments could be removed from my personnel file so as not to give people the wrong idea, but she said no.

Now I'm worried that Mr. Smith, my new boss, may be expecting too much of me. I don't want to disappoint him or lose another job. How can I lower expectations without seeming unprofessional? -JPK

A: Don't try to redefine your successful work history just because you couldn't please Ms. Jones. Your track record clearly indicates that her reaction was an anomaly, so forget about her and start preparing for the future.

To avoid disappointing your new manager, you need a clear understanding of his expectations. Ask Mr. Smith how he defines "success" in your job, then clarify the specific goals and objectives for your position. If you feel ill prepared for any aspect of this new role, figure out what you need to get through the learning curve. Agree with your boss on a development plan and meet with him regularly to assess your progress.

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