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June 7, 2010 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Has your manager ever told you, "as a developmental exercise" or otherwise, to search and apply for other jobs, internally and externally?

Having real trouble parsing this. Glowing, official/documented performance review literally last week with note about bright future in role... Check. Large, financially stable company and multi-year, on-schedule project... Check. Asked for and received assurance that directive is not related to imminent change to my job or my tenure therein... Check. But unwilling to take that at face value given the context.

I asked a number of questions meant to clarify and get more detail, including challenging on whether it was ethical to present myself as a candidate unless I truly was one, and also asking about cultural perception of someone who had been employed at the company for less than a year to engage in this behavior. Ultimately my manager dialed back the request to "informational interviews," and made many references to identifying my long-term interests and development planning. But the initial presentation of this concept was exactly as stated in the question and that just seems bizarre! Any HR/coaching types out there who have ever heard of this approach to development planning?
posted by clever sheep to Work & Money (14 answers total)
Run away as fast as you can.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:54 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Asked for and received assurance that directive is not related to imminent change to my job or my tenure therein... Check. But unwilling to take that at face value given the context.

No kidding. This guy knows something you don't, and he's probably not allowed to tell you. Take his advice ASAP.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:56 PM on June 7, 2010 [11 favorites]

your boss is worried that you don't have any forward reaching goals. those who work in a job just to have a job instead of being there as a career plan make the management types nervous. they worry that you'll figure out "what you really want to do" and up and leave them some day - or that you'll never really apply yourself because you're pleased as punch right where you are.

i've gotten the same sort of coaching in most of my tech support jobs.
posted by nadawi at 3:57 PM on June 7, 2010

You want to listen to Cool Papa Bell at this point.
posted by theredpen at 4:11 PM on June 7, 2010

Something is going on that threatens your job, and your boss knows that you're a fantastic employee -- but that this thing threatening your job cannot be stopped by you being a fantastic employee. He's giving you a huge red flag, waved in your face, to start looking and take advantage of your strong reviews etc. to find another place within the company. You should also start looking outside of the company. When all of this is said and done (ie the threat comes true), be sure to thank him/her for the heads-up.
posted by davejay at 4:31 PM on June 7, 2010 [7 favorites]

Your boss is trying to help you. My guess is that your department is being shut down but s/he's not allowed to tell you about it yet. Take the not-at-all-subtle hint and get your resume in order.

This is the sort of manager who's worth keeping in touch with. If you have the right sort of relationship you might ask him or her whether there are other departments you might want to focus on in particular for your "informational interviews," because it's likely they're shopping around just like you; if you work it right you can follow them.
posted by ook at 5:01 PM on June 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

From the other side of the desk: on two occasions, I've counseled direct reports to "exercise their interviewing skills" in situations where telling them that their positions were being eliminated or were at serious risk was not an option. I did it because I liked both of them personally, but my boss brought it up in my own review as a good example of longer term thinking. I'd suggest taking your boss at face value and starting to look for open opportunities in your company.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 5:09 PM on June 7, 2010

Although I do agree with the answers already posted, there is one other set of circumstances I can think of. I have given this same advice when employees were not happy with their salary level and/or the amount of their annual raises. But it was done in a very professional manner as I suggested they needed to "test the waters" to find out if their current salary was in line with their skill level. These were employees that I valued highly and sincerely wanted them to be successful and FEEL they were successful. Have you, by chance, had any recent conversations with your boss about this?
posted by raisingsand at 6:40 PM on June 7, 2010

I'll second on the other side of the equation and I was in a similar situation. I've had a handful of managers who truly valued me and tried to help me move up and it really was given in a similar context.

You really have to listen to your gut here. I'd suggest following his/her advice regardless.
posted by Octoparrot at 7:09 PM on June 7, 2010

Ack, clever sheep, so sorry. I can't imagine an intelligent/compassionate boss would say anything like that if they weren't hinting.
posted by emjaybee at 7:41 PM on June 7, 2010

Response by poster: More information, and thanks, everyone! I should note that I have not engaged in any salary negotiation or expressed any other source of dissatisfaction. I'm a recently hired, happy worker bee. Also, my role, the project I support, and the company implementing it are all acknowledged as inherently complex and requiring a steep learning curve. (That's freshly excerpted from my performance review, and noted as something that I'm progressing at beyond expectations.)

The manager a few levels up from mine -- senior enough to have plenty of visibility -- has gone on record that the need for our team's work outputs is on the rise for the foreseeable future. The project is not optional for our company. I simply don't see our project, our team or my role being killed. I'd say sure, plenty of risk that I would be judged as just not fitting the role, but with the ink hardly dry on my performance review, there was open season to state that and it wasn't said.

I've been thinking over last week's performance review -- a multi-hour conversation -- and coming up with pieces I said that could've inadvertently added up to a "I have no future plan" leitmotif. So while I am not discounting the canary-coalmine scenario, I'm wondering if I brought this on myself as a developmental puzzle. I honestly don't have a vision of "what I want to be when I grow up" as a corporate communicator. I'm happy so long as I have something to learn and a big fat challenge to chew on. And that's my current role, in spades; it seemingly offers an endless parade of learn-or-die as our project rolls out to area after area and evolves along the way.

And whatever the truth of the matter is, either way, I guess I'd best comply enthusiastically, holding kaffeeklatsches with all and sundry while stopping short of actual applications unless I truly intend to vie for a position. I will try to deal short term by writing out 100 times: "Freaking out is counterproductive."
posted by clever sheep at 7:45 PM on June 7, 2010

Has your manager ever told you, "as a developmental exercise" or otherwise, to search and apply for other jobs, internally and externally?

Sure. But the person recommending this was a really, really good, very proactive mentor who knew me quite well and was looking way ahead to my future, trying to point out that I will need to be able to advocate for myself and I'd better get some practice. (My position was never in question.)
posted by desuetude at 8:51 PM on June 7, 2010

I knew one product designer who, even when he got a new job, kept looking for other work. He told me that it was to see how relevant his skills (still) were. He didn't switch jobs for quite a while after that, so what he said was obviously true. YMMV.
posted by mbarryf at 5:18 AM on June 8, 2010

As line manager of a team of 5, I always encouraged my staff to apply for any openings, internal or external, that caught their attention and looked attractive. I assured them I in no way saw this as being unfaithful to the Team, and that it is A Good Thing to constantly be aware of possibilities of furthering your career, of honing your interviewing skills, and of being aware of the wide range of opportunities there is out there. I had some movement in the staffing, but it was infrequent, handled with respect for both the strictly contractual ground rules and the needs of the team in terms of finding suitable replacement, and conducted throughout in the most amicable atmosphere. They were happy to be making a step up, I was happy to have helped them, and this was never a contentious issue.
posted by aqsakal at 5:49 AM on June 8, 2010

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