You're frustrated at work. You want more money, more responsibility, a job with more of a future. You've been looking for a few weeks and now you wonder: Should I tell the boss what I'm up to?
Well, maybe. Honesty can be the best policy. But it's not always the smartest one. So says Ian Siegel. He's the co-founder and CEO of ZipRecruiter, the job and employee onboarding site.
A half million companies have used ZipRecruiter so Ian knows from data and experience what makes sense. There's 4 questions you should ask yourself before spilling the beans to your boss.
1. What is your relationship with your boss? "Ask yourself, is this person a mentor to you? If so, 100 percent step forward, "Ian says. "The most precious advantage or opportunity you can get someplace is when somebody senior in the organization decides to focus on you and out an investment in you. If you find that, you should treasure it." A job is a job but a career, Ian says, is made on the impact you have on the people around you. Still, Ian admits this sort of relationship is rare-he estimates it occurs less than five percent of the time.
2. What is your company culture? "There are a lot of companies that run in a revenue-focused, mercenary fashion," Ian explains. "And if that is your company culture, then I would discourage you from stepping forward and letting them know that you plan to leave." However, if your company culture is more nurturing, "I would advise you to step forward," Ian notes. He says people are fundamentally good and they will want what's best for you. He points out that startups are like families when they begin. But as they get bigger-especially in that range between ten and 100 employees-the difference can be dramatic. "Company culture changes as companies grow," Ian says. "Smaller companies are more likely to be responsive and respectful." (Watch Radiate's video guide on how to create a culture for your startup and other tips).
3. What are the potential consequences? "If you are making a pro and con list on whether to disclose that you're going to leave, you will find yourself with a relatively short pro list and a lengthy con list, "Ian says. "The moment you say you are going to leave but have not actually left, there are many negative potential consequences for you." The most immediate consequence is that your employer will start right away trying to replace you. "You have started a clock ticking as soon as you make this disclosure," Ian says. And the boss has his finger on the stopwatch-not you. There's an emotional component to this, too. "When you say you want to leave, it brings up a lot of emotions for your manager and members of your leadership team," Ian says. "Who knows what their perception is? Maybe they've been investing in you, grooming you. And for you to rebuff that effort? It's going to feel personal."
4. What does your gut say? "We are actually pretty good at predicting consequences," Ian says. "Normally, our gut reaction tells us what the right answer is. And then we go through a process of rationalization. " He says consider what your immediate reaction was the first time you considered telling your boss you were going to leave. "If you thought, `This is going to be okay, my mentor has my back,' great. Go tell him. But if you were filled with anxiety...trust your gut."
So if you do decide to tell the boss you're leaving, how do you do it? Ian says he's been through this a number of times. "Walking in and declaring your intent to leave is a terrible way to start a conversation," he says. "The right thing to to do is to say, 'I would like to talk about the work I am doing at this company and figure out how I can make a bigger contribution. That's the kind of conversation where only good things can come from it." Even if you end up leaving the company.