Should I list my boss as a reference for an internal position?
June 13, 2011 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Should I list my current boss as a reference in an application for an internal position? Worried that applying for this job will seem a little traitorous since our office is short staffed right now.

So I work for a large organization in an office of (usually) five people. I like my job well enough and am content enough that I don't feel the need to look anywhere else for a while. I do feel as if I've grown professionally in this job. I've had some tensions with my boss and coworkers once in a while, but generally things have been going well and we've been working together without any problems lately.

The thing is, a position just opened up in another office that I really want to apply for. It would be a step up for me, what I think is a reasonable amount of promotion given the work that I've done so far. While I feel as if I'm good to stay at my current position for another year or so before I get really antsy and want to move up, if I got this other job, I would want to stick around for a while. And I do really like the organization that I work at.

So I've filled out the application and am almost ready to send it in, but I'm trying to decide what to do about references and about that question if it asks if it's okay to contact my current employer. I think my current employer would give me a good enough reference. However, our office is a bit short staffed right now because one of us went on leave for about the next four months and my boss himself is about to take off for another position. So basically if I got this position, I would be leaving behind two people in the office to do all the work (and there is generally a lot of work). For this reason, I feel kind of guilty in general about wanting to apply for this job, and I am unsure whether to list my boss as a reference and whether to request that they not contact him.
posted by Rinoia to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Never ever put someone down as a reference without first asking them. So in this case, my recommendation would be to first talk to your boss about this other position, and ask him for advice/a recommendation.
posted by echo0720 at 6:30 PM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

echo0720 nailed it.
If it helps, if this was an internal posting, the company expects people to apply internally. Dealing with the implications of your move is management's problem, not yours. You wouldn't be applying unless there was some reason the other job looked more appealing.
posted by TravellingDen at 6:42 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

if you're applying internally, give your boss a heads up. if they seriously consider you for the job, the very first thing they're going to do is call your current boss. you don't want that call to be a surprise. it will look cowardly and passive aggressive and reflect poorly on you.
posted by nadawi at 6:46 PM on June 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to out myself as this poster, who asked the exact same question.

To finish off the story: I finally told my boss over e-mail on the day I got the interview call/Friday and on Monday he surprise tendered his resignation and never spoke to me about it (indeed, he avoided talking to me whatsoever except for the part where I ran into him as he was leaving for the last time. I really figured out over those last 2 weeks that he did not like me.). And I ended up not getting the job anyway. So basically my angst was all for nothing except to be able to repost this thread to you. Hope it helps.

As far as I could tell from my experience, if your boss himself is going to quit, he's not going to give a shit what you do because you're no longer his problem. If you are on good enough terms with him to ask him for a reference, it's up to you, but you shouldn't put him down without asking first. But if you've ever had "tensions" with him, he doesn't sound like the world's most enthusiastic reference that you could get to me.

And it isn't your problem to worry about staffing if you get the job or not. People abandon their jobs or get abandoned by their jobs all the time any more. If you were applying for a job in the same office the way that I did, I can tell you that uh....that apparently WILL affect things in the hiring process. (MeMail me if you want more details.) But I don't think(?) you are, so you may not need to worry about this if you end up in an another office where the two don't overlap.

The "don't contact my boss" is more of a "my boss will treat me like utter shit if he finds out I'm applying elsewhere" measure. If he is moving on himself, it might not be an issue. If you don't want him to know you are trying to leave, though, say no to the contact and use someone else as a reference.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:15 PM on June 13, 2011

Generally, if you're applying for an internal position, it's going to come back to your boss sooner or later and one way or another. It's going to sound a whole lot better coming from you early than if he hears about some other way. I can't imagine that you would get very far in the hiring process before they wanted to talk to your current boss anyway. There's really no choice about contacting your "current employer" when your current employer is the same as the company you're applying to.

I'd probably start by talking to your boss about the opportunity and why you think it's a good step up for you. You can say that you realize it's a bit of an unusual situation since he's leaving, but you wanted to get his advice and thoughts. If he seems reasonably supportive, ask if you can formally list him on a reference, but know that he'll likely be contacted one way or another. If you really don't want them to contact him, you could wait to apply after he's gone, if the timing works. If you think he'd be a positive reference, maybe try to proactively secure a letter of recommendation or a chat between your boss and the hiring manager to ensure that the message is passed on before he leaves.

If leaving the office short-staffed is such a concern, it could help to say that you're happy to work out whatever arrangement the new office and the old office decides would be best for the company so that you can help the old office with the transition, training new people, etc... As TravellingDen says, it then becomes the company's problem to sort out the implications of the move.

Do you know what they are planning on doing with your office after your boss leaves? Is your boss's boss going to take over or are they going to hire a new boss or close the office or what? That information might weigh into your decisions here in a fairly substantial way. Good luck!
posted by zachlipton at 11:19 PM on June 13, 2011

Thanks for all the advice, everyone (and I'm surprised I didn't see your older post, jen, I did do the requisite search before posting). I think I'll try telling my boss that I'm going to apply, that does sound like a prudent thing to do. Of course it doesn't help that he's out of the country for the next week and the job listing expires on Friday, but I'll send him an email or something anyway.

Zach - the office will just be short staffed for a while after my boss leaves but I think things will pick back up. We've actually been expanding recently (in fact, I was re-orged into this office just a few months ago, and the way things are looking, if I got this other job, I might leave the office only to be re-orged back into it in a few months).

Anyway, I'll let you all know if it works out.
posted by Rinoia at 5:54 AM on June 14, 2011

I have no idea whether this is typical or not, but my company requires internal applicants to have their current manager sign off on the application. I would definitely expect that your current boss would find out pretty quickly that you've applied, whether or not you want him to. For what it's worth, if it's a better opportunity and he's at all supportive, you'd hope he'd help with your application rather than throwing up roadblocks.
posted by solipsism at 6:48 PM on June 14, 2011

Told the boss and he says go ahead with the reference. Now to see if I get an interview . . .
posted by Rinoia at 1:10 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I doubt anyone is still following this, but I got the interview! Woohoo!
posted by Rinoia at 6:54 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

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