Sunday, February 17, 2008


Recently a member of a job-search committee told me that he had been disappointed to learn that a finalist for a high-level position in his organization had lied to his current employer when asked if he was a finalist for the new job.

It's often the case, however, that people looking for new jobs would prefer that their current employers not know about it. To protect your current standing, is it wrong not to tell your employer that you're a finalist for a high-level position somewhere else? Is it wrong, if asked the question directly, to say that you're not, even though you really are?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


Anonymous said...

I think it’s perfectly OK not to voluntarily inform your employer that you are a finalist for a position in another organization. Lying when asked directly, however, is not only wrong; it could backfire on the applicant, either at his current place of employment or the hoped-for new one. Leveling with one’s current employer could lead to a conversation that addresses any issues that might be a source of job dissatisfaction or could generate greater appreciation for one’s worth in the mind of the current employer. Lying always diminishes a person, even if nobody knows about it but the liar.

Phil Clutts
Harrisburg, NC

Anonymous said...

All that has to be looked at to quickly resolve this situation is the following scenario: The higher ups at any given large corporation are contemplating "letting" Sam Jones go for not living up to their expectations when Mr. Jones was hired. They are secretly interviewing people to replace him and when the right person is found, Sam will be given the following pitch; Mr. Jones, we have no choice but to let you go. Was Sam given any prior notice that his position is in jeopardy, of course not. In answer to the original question of whether or not Sam should inform his superiors that he is seeking other employment, the response is a definite NO.


Anonymous said...

In an age when employers are prone to fire and lay off individuals with little, if any notice, it seems appropriate that, likewise, individuals fail to disclose external career prospects until they receive such offers. Doing so, they avoid repercussions with their existing employers. As long as the individual is not using his or her existing employer’s resources to secure such opportunities, there is no need to disclose information until submission of a two-week’s notice is required.

Patrick Bouvier Fitzgerald Burris
Charlotte, NC

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, it isn’t wrong to with-hold the information that you have applied for another job from your employer; however, lying is another matter. If your employer asks you point-blank if you applied for another job or are one of the finalists for a position, you should tell the truth. You’ve done nothing wrong by applying for another job, and you continue to be in the right up and until you lie about it. Everyone has the right to seek employment. Lying is never right, and a person will never be further ahead for having lied, no matter what the alternative may be.

Lisa Marie Doig
Windsor, On.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Phil and Lisa. Lying is never appropriate. It falls under that rule that always prevails "There is no right way to do a wrong thing." It is acceptable not to volunteer your activity when looking or interviewing for another job. Only when asked directly should one provide the information. Neal C White Atlanta, GA

Anonymous said...

I agree that lying is not appropriate. Personal integrity will carry one furthest. I also believe information does not need to be volunteered;if asked,the person should be discreetly honest. This also gives the current employer a chance to realize the value of this employee and perhaps discuss reasons that caused the employee to look in the first place. I work in a business that is very demanding, and I occassionally look; perhaps I need to change my focus and/or "check out the competition". I think this is healthy and if my goals are not being met at my current position, it is my right to seek my goals elsewhere. I also take the chance my current employer will find out. Just because I am in "the running" doesn't mean I will accept the offer, nor does it mean I will be chosen. Be honest if asked, but don't volunteer.
Ms. MC, Wisconsin