Mixing business with pleasure
August 23, 2012 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Boss found out I'm applying to grad school- am I in trouble?

While working at my current job, which I love and where I want to stay for at least the next year, I have also started looking at grad school programs. This is not unusual for my position- this employer has gladly mentored previous people who held my job. It's understood that people eventually fly the coop. However, I feel that what I've done is bad.

Like many people in my office, I have one email for both personal and work stuff. And, having emailed numerous professors for grad programs, I received some responses.

TODAY, my boss was standing over my shoulder when I was checking my mail and he might have seen one. The subject line was "***our field**** application."

There is also a potential for a HUUUUUGE amount of semantic confusion here. It is bad enough if my boss knows that I'm applying for grad school.

However, the name of the discipline I'm applying for is close enough to the field I work in that it could just as well look like I applied for a different job.

What I'm looking for: feedback. On a scale of 1 to 10, if you are an employer, would you fire someone over this?

And is there anything, really, that I can do to talk to my boss? He's a nice boss, I've joined him for work dinners sometimes with our crew, but he's professional and busy busy busy. I also think his experience is somewhat marred by my great confusion when starting the job, and desperate search for a grad school to escape into. The thing is if I got into grad school, I would MISS this job!!! I don't want him to think I don't want my position or don't appreciate the wonderful experience that it has turned into.

Most people stay in my role for 2 years before going to grad school. I'm 10 months in applying for 1 year ahead.

Thanks in advance. Oof, I knew I should have just used the darn work email address!!!!
posted by kettleoffish to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have also started looking at grad school programs. This is not unusual for my position- this employer has gladly mentored previous people who held my job.

Most people stay in my role for 2 years before going to grad school. I'm 10 months in applying for 1 year ahead.

I don't understand then why you're worried about him finding out that you're applying? Can you explain?
posted by amro at 1:39 PM on August 23, 2012

I would let him know that you're considering grad school. Good bosses should generally consider that a positive sign in an employee (if maybe an inconvenient one). Only a complete asshole would fire someone over that, or looking for work. Some bosses are complete assholes, of course.
posted by feckless at 1:40 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you weren't planning to tell him anyway... you don't need to do anything. You're worrying about something that is either (1) nothing, or (2) something you have no control over.

if he saw the email and wants to fire you because he thinks you're applying for another job then you can explain to him that you're applying to grad school. If he still wants to fire you with that information, then there's nothing you could have done differently.

Don't worry about it.
posted by caek at 1:42 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can't help with this problem, but in the future: don't use a work email for personal stuff --- even if your boss DIDN'T see this particular email, most companies will clearly tell you that you should have NO expectation of privacy with a work computer or work cell phone, let alone with a work email.

Or in other words, to be SURE your boss can't see your private emails, never use your work computer, with ANY email address.
posted by easily confused at 1:46 PM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Doesn't sound that bad to me. It's a year away, and you're looking into something that it's understood you might do after about 2 years anyway. He's busy, and he probably didn't spend any time thinking about that email subject line, if he even saw it. Keep doing a kick ass job at your job, and keep appreciating it. If you get a chance to talk to him casually, you can bring up grad school and ask if he has any advice. Can't see him even thinking of firing you for this.

And learn this lesson - keep a firewall between your work and personal stuff. Don't let them mix. Always, even if it's innocuous, keep it as separate as you can, because it's a good habit to keep. Don't check personal email on your work computer either.
posted by mrs. taters at 1:49 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Act like nothing happened.

This is not a big deal.

They're not going to fire you for maybe applying to grad school.

But in the future be more careful about doing this stuff at work.
posted by k8t at 1:52 PM on August 23, 2012

I really can't imagine anyone firing you for this.
posted by mlle valentine at 2:04 PM on August 23, 2012

It sounds like the OP thinks that the boss may think that the OP is applying for a different job, using company resources, and not for applying to grad school.

The best way to resolve this is for the OP to go to the boss and say something to the effect of, "so, you may have seen that I am applying to grad school. I wanted to let you know that I will be sure to give the company plenty of notice before I start school."

posted by dfriedman at 2:10 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your boss hasn't brought the subject up with you (and I doubt they will unless you force the issue):

Say nothing - this is the type of thing to be completely reactive to.

The boss likely saw nothing, or it looks like garbage spam or who knows what.

I'm a boss, would I fire someone over this? NO WAY.

Would I be more worried about someone freaking out and being paranoid and having a weird conversation with me? Yes, since it makes me wonder about the rest of their judgement.

Don't worry about it, since nothing happened.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:17 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a boss. My wonderful assistant is probably leaving me next year to go to grad school. We're totally open about it. I'm in complete support of her and I'm going to make the most out of the time I have left with her, treat her really well so she knows how much I appreciate her, and then hope she trains her successor to be as accountable and professional as she has been.

I guess it depends on your boss.
posted by dchrssyr at 2:50 PM on August 23, 2012

If your management fires you, without even asking about the email to give you a chance to respond, then your management just proved that they aren't worth working for.

No reasonable person would even mention the email, none the less fire you over it.

That said, consider this a lesson to keep your work and personal lives separate.
posted by saeculorum at 3:23 PM on August 23, 2012

I can't imagine firing anyone over this. Even if I thought you were applying to other jobs, I wouldn't just unilaterally fire you (unless I had already been planning to replace you, and perhaps not even then) without talking to you about it.

I'm really confused that you are reacting this way, or why you are keeping it a secret that you are applying to grad school when this is apparently typical of your workplace. Maybe there is something missing in your question that would shed light on this.
posted by sm1tten at 4:10 PM on August 23, 2012

Of course I would not fire you for applying to grad school. I'd offer to write you a recommendation.

Applying to grad school can mean a lot of things with regard to your job: part-time continuing the job, just starting to look, full-time and quitting. Assuming your boss isn't a tool, your boss will be happy for you. You're not an indentured servant. Staff members - even super-awesome, highly-valued staff members - move onward with their careers. Staff development is a good thing for all involved. If you can cultivate a reputation as a boss who develops staff, then everyone will want to work on your team. Being a talent magnet is gold.

(As a reference point - When I told my boss I was accepted to a PhD program he spent about 10 minutes asking me how I was going to balance work and school. He has never been less than 100% in my corner about me going to school. If you're boss is a good boss, he'll have the same response.)
posted by 26.2 at 4:47 PM on August 23, 2012

On a tangent, since I think others have answered the main question, is your sole email a work account or gmail, yahoo, etc. account? If it is a work account, you should open a separate email for your personal/non-work professional correspondence. Personally I have an official work email, a personal email and a professional email (for work-related listservs and professional orgs).
posted by amapolaroja at 5:30 PM on August 23, 2012

Thank you all for putting this in perspective for me. I thought this was such a HUGE faux pas, I was like shaking in my boots. This one of those things for me like learning that you can mail a letter from your own mailbox that just never would have occurred to me.

Do people really ask their employers for grad school letters? Unbelievable!

Thank you again!!!!!
posted by kettleoffish at 7:18 PM on August 23, 2012

Do people really ask their employers for grad school letters? Unbelievable!
Oh hells yes. Good reasons to do so include:
- you have been out of school for a while, so your employer has a clear idea of your recent work record
- you have changed fields, or want to do so in grad school. This may also apply to having learned some substantial new skill which will be used for your grad research (programming, statistics, GIS...)
- your school record is lackluster in some way, but you have turned the ship around and are really really ready to be awesome now.
- you went to a school or were the type of student where you didn't get close relationships with academic advisors. say, no undergrad research opportunities and a 100-person graduating class in your department.

Among others... And as you can see in the above comments, not all bosses will dismiss your ambitions out of hand. Your career development can come back to be good for them, as well.
posted by whatzit at 3:37 AM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

« Older Movies where the bad guy was right?   |   Slow-paced, no-death video games? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.