Sunday, March 23, 2008


My readers uniformly agreed that it is OK to withhold information about your search for a new job from your current employer. They were equally of a mind, however, in drawing the line at outright lying.

Bill Spitalnick of Newport Beach, Calif., argues that employees should take their lead from employers, who would not let them know if they were planning to replace them. Should the employee inform his superiors that he is seeking other employment?

"The response is a definite `no,"' Spitalnick writes.

"Only when asked directly should one provide the information," Neal White of Atlanta writes.

Lisa Marie Doig of Windsor, Ontario, doesn't believe that it's wrong to withhold information about having applied for another job, but would go no further.

"Lying is another matter," Doig writes. "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 until you lie about it."

"Lying always diminishes a person," adds Phil Clutts of Harrisburg, N.C., "even if nobody knows about it but the liar."

Check out other opinions at "I'm Not Going Anywhere," or post your own by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, 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...

In response to your article Sound off: Job hunting lies.

A similiar situation happened to me and I have heard it from others. When asked if I was looking for another job, I told the truth as you stated and was told, well since you are not comfortable working here any more you can leave now. So I didn't lie but my reward was no job at all.

Elizabeth Wellburn said...

Did anyone suggest that the answer to the employer should be something like "I don't think I have to answer that question." or, more flippantly "I'm always keeping my eyes open." Doesn't force you to lie but doesn't give a reason to fire you either.....

Madilyn B. Salt Lake, UT said...

When I read all the original comments from people who would never lie about searching for a new job, I thought "they've never been asked straight out. They have no idea what they're talking about."
While I've not had it happen to me, I have seen other people fired on the spot for admitting to job hunting.

In a situation like this, I agree with the previous poster that deflecting the question is the best option. "Are you nervous about loosing me? Can we take a minute to discuss my value to the company?" might even give you an unexplored option at your current employer.