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When Transferring In-House, Don't Blind-Side Your Boss

Switching jobs without alienating your current supervisor can be dicey even if you remain under the same corporate roof. Communicating in the right way at the right time is key.

Career experts recommend various precautions to prevent your boss or others from discovering you're looking elsewhere. But if you think an internal job move requires less care in how (and at least equally important, when) it's communicated, here's a cautionary tale.

A person who'd been offered a favorable transfer almost ended on the street because he mis-handled the politics of communicating with his current boss about the move.

An administrator in a mid-sized investment bank, he was invited to jump to a similar role in another department. While formally a lateral transfer, it was really a de facto promotion because it placed him in a larger and more profitable business unit. The invitation came from the new unit's head.

Seen as Disloyal

His mistake was leaving it to the executive who approached him to broach the matter with his current department head, rather than doing so himself. After his boss learned from the other department head that his subordinate had been offered a position there, he responded angrily: "Oh, so you don't want to work for me any more!"

For awhile, it seemed the internal move might be blocked - which would leave him working under a boss who now saw him as disloyal. Fortunately, he (perhaps aided by the new boss) was able to smooth things over and make the move.

The incident illustrates "one of the top workplace relationship issues - miscommuncation," says Karen Bowser, a New York-based organizational and talent management consultant and career coach. "Also it seems the to-be-former boss took it personally. I've encountered that difficulty in my own professional life." Even for professionals who move to another job within the same company, "retaliation or being side-lined because the manager figures you'll be leaving soon can be a problem," Bowser cautions.

The moral: Before pursuing a transfer, think carefully about how to best keep your boss in the loop.

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AUTHORJon Jacobs Insider Comment
  • Jo
    Joshua Norman
    5 May 2010

    I once had a manager say to me that he passed me over for a more desirable role within our department because I had applied to other (more desirable) business lines and functions within the company. He then left the company 6 months later for a lateral move with a competitor.

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