Is a Colleague Job Searching at Work? Elaine Varelas Weighs In

Elaine Varelas offers advice on what to do when you notice a colleague job searching while at work.

Ask the Job Doc.
Ask the Job Doc. –Boston.com

Q: I recently walked up to a colleague’s office to ask her a question (door open, computer screen visible from the door), and I noticed her browsing job postings on LinkedIn. Later, a few copies of her resume printed out immediately after my own print job, so I saw them before she could pick them up. Should I say something to someone? Is there any chance I’ve misunderstood what’s going on?

A: The only person you should say something to is your colleague, and the most important part of that message is that she needs to be more careful. There’s no need to say anything to anyone else in the organization. If someone is looking for a job, then that’s their prerogative, their responsibility, and their risk—she’s lucky it was a peer, and not her manager, who saw her computer screen and resume printouts. The only message that you need to give her is “Be more careful.” And you don’t need to understand anything else.

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Many people look for a job while they are at work, and this is a message to them: Unless you and your boss have reached an agreement, proceed with caution. You are being paid to do a job, so your work should take precedent over any job search-related activities while you’re on company time. Don’t print out resumes at the office during work hours, unless the printer is in your direct space and you don’t share it with anyone—even then, you’re still using company property. If the organization wanted to, they could see what sites you are visiting and for how long and anything else that you are working on. Most organizations don’t take that kind of “Big Brother” approach, but it’s important for people at every level to understand that the company could if they wanted to. Keep to work-related activities when you’re on the clock.

In any work environment, you’re likely to see people doing things that you would never choose to do at the office. Unless an activity is illegal, unethical, or harmful to a colleague, it’s sometimes best to just walk away from it and leave it unnoticed and without comment. In this case, once you’ve delivered the message of caution, you’ve done your part and it doesn’t need to be addressed again.

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Perhaps some of your concern comes from the anticipated impact this person’s leaving could have on the company. Maybe a big project would be put in jeopardy or a key client relationship adversely affected by their departure. If this is the case, you should still only go to your colleague and not anyone else in management. Simply ask something like, “Have you thought about telling Sam, especially since this could negatively impact the team’s progress on X?” This is as far as you need to go; anything more is up to your coworker.

It’s also worth remembering that just because someone is updating a resume or looking at LinkedIn postings, it doesn’t mean they are leaving tomorrow. It could mean they’re having a bad week and are doing some daydreaming. They could just be keeping their LinkedIn profile up to date to help with their networking efforts—though that should really be an after work hours activity.

Once you suggest to your colleague that she should be more careful about her potential job search efforts at the office, just move along. Don’t tell any other colleagues, drop hints, or otherwise inadvertently spread any gossip. Focus on yourself and your work, not someone else’s job search.

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September 25, 2017 | 8:42 AM