Change job, or stay in iffy situation?
March 1, 2009 11:37 AM   Subscribe

I like the job I have right now, but I have the gut feeling our company is hurting for business. We probably over hired last year, which is painful especially as a small business in this climate. The upside is that I was just offered a new job at different small business. Because I really enjoy almost everything about my current job, how do I go about asking my current employer how financially stable the company is without looking suspicious?

Current job details:
1. Love my city & work
2. Unsure about stability of the company (negative)
3. Get along will the owners & coworkers
4. Been there longer than most
5. Had a good review in December
6. Am one of many in the same role (negative)
7. Great hours (9-5)
8. Most coworkers have better resumes than I do for what it's worth

Potential new job:
1. In a new city not nearly as livable, but closer to family
2. I'm positive the company is growing
3. Hit it off with owner, culture seems ok
4. I'd be the only person in my role (big positive)
5. Hours are longer
6. I'd get a significant raise

Other details:
1. I've had my ears to the ground but have not heard anything, although I'm generally oblivious to subtleties.
2. Changing location will be costly.

Main question is still: how do I ask my current employer about the financial stability of the company without looking suspicious? Gentle feelers? Blunt honesty?

I can navigate the other details intellectually mostly on my own, but they're here for reference in case you feel like providing insight I may have overlooked.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total)
if your boss is a mature person who can deal with the truth, here is my suggestion. maybe just set aside 30 minutes to have a private conversation with your current boss. start by reminding explicitly about many things you like about the job so the boss is not insecure. then say that you received a job offer to live closer to your family and that you'd like to know if your boss would appreciate the chance to downsize the company in the economic environment without firing people.
posted by peter_meta_kbd at 11:50 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Were you actively looking for a job at this (or any other) other company, or did they call you out of the blue based on your reputation within the industry or an old resume on Monster or somesuch? I'll presume for this exercise that it's the latter -- if it's the former, then you've already made up your mind.

So if it is the latter, couch it in terms of looking for advice generally. "Boss, I got a call from some other company kinda out of the blue. Here are some of the pertinent details, the pros and cons. Frankly, one of the big question marks I have is that I'm a little worried about the state of our company, and here's why. ... I'm not asking for any insider information, but if you were me, what direction would you be leaning in?"
posted by Etrigan at 12:02 PM on March 1, 2009

A company that overhires can always cut back.

A better way of asking your question without raising alarms might be Can we afford all this staff in this market? Is there something I can do to help?

That comes across as less selfish, and might even lead into a conversation about an expanded role for you, with your advanced grasp of the big-picture.
posted by rokusan at 12:22 PM on March 1, 2009

It is not suspicious to worry about the finacial stability of the company you work for. Set up a meeting with the boss and just tell him your concerns. Its not that complicated and is completely understandable in today's environment.

You could even suggest that letting the rest of the company know where things stand will be a morale booster for everybody and, you know, maybe forestall people bolting due to their insecurity.
posted by trinity8-director at 12:44 PM on March 1, 2009

It's common for people to be recruited or to receive higher salary offers and use those to negotiate for raises. peter_meta_kbd's and Etrigan's answers sound good to me.
posted by salvia at 12:49 PM on March 1, 2009

I think you could ask your boss how the company is doing financially without having to bring up the new job at all. In an economy like this, pretty much anyone would have to be in denial to not be at least a bit concerned. "Obviously times are tough all over right now, and I know we hired a lot of people last year. Can you give me any sense of how the company is sitting, financially speaking? I'd just like to have an idea of how stable my job is." If the boss is honest enough to admit that there might be layoffs, and you really do think this other job might be a good opportunity for you, then you might be more honest about your situation. If not, take whatever info you can get and hope it helps you find more clarity on where you want to go.

On an entirely different note, being the only person in your role can be both good and bad. It's nice to feel irreplaceable and have the authority in your area of expertise within the company. But, it can also be nice to have similarly-qualified people to bounce ideas off of, or who can really understand your achievement if you do something especially cool. Just a thought.
posted by vytae at 12:50 PM on March 1, 2009

As an employer I'd appreciate such a conversation.

Your current employer may be unaware of the unsteady feeling in his company. Or he might need to trim, but doesn't want to because he likes everyone and is worried about what might happen to extra employees. If your current employer can't have a mature conversation about these things, you should be worried anyway.

BTW: this should be a private conversation.
posted by Classic Diner at 12:55 PM on March 1, 2009

A really good excuse to ask about your employer's financial situation, if they ask, is that you're thinking about buying a (new) house.
posted by kindall at 2:53 PM on March 1, 2009

With a job offer in hand, the fact of the matter is that you are in the driver's seat, and this is a rare accomplishment considering the general state of the economy - congratulations.

As an employer - I totally agree with Classic Diner's response in appreciating such a conversation - however, IANYE, so you need to be wary of any potentially manipulative response your current boss may lay on you in order to keep you.

If indeed that is the case and you are talked into staying, you run the risk of being a marked by a suspicious boss as someone that could call it quits at any time in the future, and you don't want that over your head.

Bottom line - make your own determinations about whether to stay or not, but, if you stay - don't let the current employer know you were considering a move.
posted by walleeguy at 3:59 PM on March 1, 2009

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