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What if your boss catches you job hunting?

Caught job huntingLook around your office. Five of your ten teammates are not happy at work, with a sixth one slowly getting there. According to a report published by The Conference Board, about 52% employees, in the US, say that they are not satisfied with their jobs. And the primary reason was cited as the lack of job security.

Before you start rejoicing in your I told you so moment, let us be clear that this is not an article to quantify your gut feeling by giving you multiple pages of data you already suspected. No but seriously, you already knew that people are terrified of losing their jobs.

It’s probably why they are willing to accept any and all of their boss’s demands – some reasonable enough to only cause a few bucks in weekly therapy while others scary enough to make you believe that there is a little doll somewhere with pins sticking out of its body. And it looks an awful lot like you!

We are going to talk about moving on from one twilight zone to another. It is quite possible that if the pins in your look-alike doll keep ruining every day, at work, you will most likely be tempted to take a chance with another job and yet another boss.

But what if your current nemesis, your boss, catches you two timing office work with your job search? What if he finds you penning How do I leave thee? Let me count the ways during your one-on-one?

To put it simply, what if your boss catches you looking for another job?

There are two ways you can go about this situation, really.

First. You lie.

Absolutely not recommended and let us already declare all the disclaimers there could be. We are not responsible for the consequences of your toddlerish behavior when you get caught with your hands in the cookie jar. Lying is a temporary solution. Always is. If your boss asks you whether you are looking to move out of your current job, feigning disbelief is only going to buy you a few days of relief, in the best case.

Really? Me looking for another job? Nooooooo!

Your boss wasn’t born yesterday. He probably has enough data to support his statement already and just testing your honesty about the situation. It wouldn’t be surprising if one of these scenarios has worked against you.

  • If you are seriously the unluckiest dude on this planet, it is quite possible that the new boss, you interviewed with, is the beer-buddy of this one.
  • It is possible that the coworker you confided in has blabbered out your intentions to outshine you as the employee of the month – that useless distinction which does nothing to make you a happier person.
  • It is quite likely that your updated LinkedIn profile pinged everyone in your connection, including your boss. And he may have witnessed your new status – actively looking for a job.
  • He may have been contacted by the new employers ‘coz you foolishly listed his name on contact for reference without letting him know.

It could be either of these or one of the million other ways best kept secrets are spilled. So, word of the wise is – stay away from lying. No one is that good at acting. Even our actors aren’t that good at acting!

Worst of it all is that, either then or perhaps a few days later, when you actually leave, you will be thereafter known as le liar. Leaving behind such a lousy impression will only ruin your chances of ever getting him to do you any favors – writing your recommendation letter or one day even helping you to network with people who can do wonders with your career. You may just become an office pariah! Wouldn’t that be a bummer?

We should then totally move to option number two.


If your boss asks you whether you have been looking for another job, look at him in the eyes and nod yes. Don’t look apologetic but for sure proceed to give an explanation. Now here is where you can get creative. Oh wait! Did we say “honesty”? It’s actually more of honestish rather than honesty.

Now that you have already accepted your job hunting efforts, you may be able to turn the situation around to get him to understand or even sympathize with your ways. Here are some “explanations”.

What to say when your boss finds out you are job hunting

  • You can say that it is something you do by habit. Keeping track of what’s relevant in the current industry. You don’t do it in your office hours and just happen to have a folder on your desktop as a backup.
  • Even better would be to say that it’s just a fall back in case the yearly review doesn’t go as well as you expected. It will make you look less like a back stabber and more like a really practical guy who saves up for a rainy day.
  • If you have been caught having interviewed with another company, probably a rival, just tell your boss that you wanted to find out what would be typically expected of an employee with your background. Just to help you in your career growth, here.
  • Finally, if you are pretty sure about your decision, just tell him the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Tell him that you honestly don’t think that this position is helping you in your career development. Tell him that maybe it is time you look at other options that can help you move on but you are still devoted to your current job as long as you are here. This bit is a cushion to soften the blow you just dealt your boss.

Truth hurts but beats the loss of respect, and connections, you may face if and when you actually resign and move out. Chances are, your boss will gripe over this for two days and possibly even come back to you with a better deal for you to reconsider leaving your current job. Whether you accept the counter offer, or not, is best explored in this article – Should you accept a counter offer from your current employer?

Even the worst case scenario, of getting reprimanded or even fired, only leaves you more desperate to find your new job – a road you were already on. Albeit now with the urgency of a guy trying to get away from a raging bull!

It is no doubt a difficult situation to be in, but so is looking for a job, period. It comes with the risks, the caveats, the scandals, the misunderstandings, the drama and any of those emotions that have kept our Tv shows going, with sponsors too!

What you can do, however, is, be cautious to minimize said risks and the possibility of an unpleasant and awkward confrontation. So here are some risk-reducers that you should absolutely follow if you are looking for a job while being employed in one, without wanting your boss to join the party.

How not to let your boss know about your job search

  • Always use your personal computer, tablet, android, iPhone or any one of those 50 different telecommunication gadgets out there. Needless to point out the dangers of using your work computer after the above discourse.
  • Never give out your work email id or work phone number to the potential employers. It would be akin to wearing meaty deodorant to visit a lion’s lair! Distance yourself from your current company as much as possible when providing your contact to the new office. Use your personal email, your current boss is unaware of, and a cell phone contact your boss has not saved as a favorite.
  • Don’t job search during office hours. If you really want to use your lunch hour constructively towards your new job, carry your tablet or your smarty-pants phone. They say there are even apps to apply for jobs these days. Use that and switch to Candy Crush when you see the boss man approaching. Oh! Who are you kidding? Of course you have Candy Crush on your phone!
  • Don’t release your current work references openly on your resume. For that matter use only reputed job websites that have the capability of being discreet with your current employer information. Try reading this Privacy Policy from
  • The best way to apply would be to go to the respective company careers page to apply directly to them, thus leaving any possible middle meddling muddling job search application aside. If you really have to go through them, understand their privacy policies well beforehand.
  • Don’t tell your coworkers. And whatever you do, don’t get on Facebook and reveal your job search activities online. You may get a few likes but you will most definitely get called into your boss’s office the next day. Just stick to forwarding inspirational quotes and cat gifs during your job hunt period.

Let’s get smart about this. However badly you may want to move on to your next position you certainly don’t want to goof up your chances with the current one. It is like what they say,

A hundred in your hand is better than a two thousand rupee note under the mattress! (#demonetization)


Watch this video to learn how you can become an entrepreneur at a young age

Rakhi Acharyya
About Rakhi Acharyya
Rakhi is a freelance writer, a Physics PhD from Michigan State University, an ex-teacher and a former employee of Corporate America. Follow her on Twitter.

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