update: how to discreetly job search when you have a nosy boss

This post, update: how to discreetly job search when you have a nosy boss , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Back in 2016, a letter-writer asked how to discreetly job search when you have a nosy boss. Here’s the update.

I finally have (a not very exciting, yet oddly long) update.

I finally, five years after writing my initial letter, got a new and very improved job. Weirdly, my takeaway from my letter (sorta forgetting I wrote it until you published it) and your reply was how terribly depressed I was. I’m smart enough that I knew every step you outlined; I was just looking for a magic bullet, which was not how I used to be. I didn’t recognize the “me” in that letter. But I trust that the questions I asked helped someone else out there.

So, it took me five years to find a new job. My update is mostly to expound that this site was immeasurably helpful in that time. I wasn’t a dedicated apply-every-day job seeker (bc, as noted in the first letter, the boss was good at getting employees just comfortable enough). I sometimes went months between application sprees. But I read AAM everyday and it helped me keep my head on straight.

Clearly there was low-level toxicity at the old job, and building up a wealth of AAM knowledge worked wonders both in helping me mentally remove myself from it and knowing how to avoid it in my next job.

I bought your book and, with the regular website input, kept my resume updated. During those intervening years I got interviews, each one felt better than the last, and some offers. Unfortunately the places that extended offers were dropping red flags as bad as, or worse, than my previous employer so I stuck with the devil I knew. (Again, things I would not have picked up on without AAM reading).

Finally this year all the pieces came together. And hilariously most of my concerns of the initial letter were moot by the time it happened. My old boss was training the new boss. It was clear that, while I did everything they asked, wanted, and a little more (if “more” happened to interest me any given day), I was beyond checked out. It was also clear that it was time for my position in the company to grow/change. While no conversations had occurred directly with me, I was getting a strong “how do we make this work” vibe given my abject apathy for the industry I was in. Because, for all the other faults of the company, they at least kept you on if you did the work. I actually was in a series of dental appointments when the interviews came through, and since it’s COVID times, the interviews were by video and easily scheduled to just come in late/leave early for “dentist appointments.” When I gave notice my boss(es) were happy for me (I think new boss had a tempering effect on old boss in that regard. Plus, I was solving a structural problem for them in the easiest way possible. My successor flew into my seat with lots of enthusiasm and ideas and is doing very well for them).

I wouldn’t be surprised if the new boss was an Ask a Manager reader, because some of the more toxic issues had been getting resolved in very AAM ways over the last couple of years.

The new job is in a very healthy company that is clearly clued into best business practices. I’m paid more for work that isn’t more challenging than my previous job, but is more fulfilling. They had a clear path of advancement they could explain in the interview process. They care about employee wellness, frequently and repeatedly encourage the use of alllll provided vacation, and have a much more generous health plan that includes mental health (which I am fully using).

(My one and only complaint being that this job can be fully remote, but upper management is mandating a couple days per week in office. On the flip side, this highlights how awesome my middle management grandboss is, who quite vocally advocates for us to get back to remote, and coaches us underlings on being advocates as well.)

To give a specific angle on how AAM helped me: I come from a blue-collar factory-employed family, among the first in my familial generation to go to college (and one of two to go beyond bachelors degrees). My upbringing also had shades of the toxicity I encountered in the working world (from my college jobs of fast food and retail, and later in nonprofits, to the job I was in when I wrote) so I didn’t know what was normal/healthy. It took a lot of reading here to name the problems I experienced from those jobs, and a few that I perpetuated having learned while growing up. AAM helped prepare me for the white collar world in a way that no one in my family could and has provided me with a vocabulary and labor-rights tool set I didn’t know existed.

Thanks so much Alison and happy holidays to you and the AAM commentariat!

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