Is honesty always the best policy?
I just got a new job! I'm really excited--by January, I should be in a position where my skills and abilities are utilized much more than they are right now. I've been biding my time, waiting for Jack Sparrow's proverbial opportune moment, and it finally came. I jumped on it, and I'm not looking back!
However, figuring out how to handle this situation was hard. I work at a university, and the new position is in a different department at the same school. I've enjoyed working where I am, but the more time I've spent here, the more I've felt underutilized and, more and more, unhappy. So, when I got a call from a former professor asking me if I was interested in applying for a position in her department, I was excited.
But what do I tell my boss? And my co-workers? And the people I know from work but don't work with directly? And the people I know who work in the department I'm moving to? And the people who have been waiting for a perfect position to open for me because they want me to work for them? When the process started, I felt like I walked around for a day or so, my mind buzzing with, "What in the world do I say?"
In the end, I chose a particular combination of transparency and discretion. I was open with my boss--he deserved to know, and he has been honorable and trustworthy enough in our interactions that it was safe. I knew he wasn't going to fire me for applying. I told a couple of my co-workers--one who needed to know before we moved on with a project, and one who I trust to keep his mouth shut. I didn't tell everyone else in my department until I knew I would be leaving because it wasn't necessary, I didn't feel like I needed to, and it didn't seem appropriate in our corporate culture. I told my friends from the department I was moving to, including another person interested in hiring me, though that was more a function of our personal relationships (friendships outside of work) than in a work context.
Why do I share all of this? Because it struck me today that I successfully navigated an often difficult issue, one that required disernment regarding our corporate culture, which individuals were trustworthy, and the different contexts in which I know my colleagues. Getting a new position isn't the only time these skils are necessary--they also come in handy when you're negotiating a raise, have made a big mistake, when you're having problems with a colleague, and a myriad of other situations. Here are three questions that helped me make some of these decisions.
1. How would you feel if you were in the position of the other person?
I decided not to tell my co-workers until I knew for sure about the job because I realized that I would feel awkward if they told me the same thing. I decided to tell my boss because I realized that I would want to know if I were in his position in this particular department.
2. Does your workplace have any spoken or unspoken rules about these things?
The rules, both spoken and unspoken, in my workplace are that we're pretty open about these things. To have not told anyone would have been seen and felt as sneaky or "under the table".
3. What do you want to do?
Seriously, what do you want? Does it matter to you that they might see you in a certain way, or that you might lose your job, or that someone might be extra-critical of you? Do you value your ironclad integrity more than anything else that might happen? These matter, sometimes more than anything else.
Good luck with the corporate navigational skills!
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