Shut Down Job Searches During Work Hours

Julie Shenkman
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As an HR executive, you expect your firm's employees will find other jobs eventually. You also realize there's a right way and a wrong way to perform a job search. The number one rule is not to look for a job during work hours.

You want employees to have the freedom to find other work, but doing so on company time and with company computers is not cool. When someone's on the clock, there's no need to waste productivity on a job search at the office. The employee still needs to get a good reference for the next phase of his professional life. Consider this step-by-step scenario when managers and supervisors address the issue of someone searching for another job at the office.

Call Someone Out

Tell managers to confront the job search head on by calling someone out. However, this is not a time for public shaming. Have the supervisor pull the person aside and say, "OK, I know you're looking for another job." The most important thing is to communicate with the employee in this situation so there are no more surprises, upsets or hurt feelings.

Ask Questions

Ask the person why he feels the need to find another job. Then determine what you can do to keep the person employed with your company, if anything. Maybe you can find some underlying cause for the dissatisfaction that led to a job search in the first place. Perhaps the employee's workload is too great or the pay is too little. There's always room for negotiations.

Set Boundaries

Supervisors must be firm about the rules without threatening. A great boss says, "I'll support you as you find another position." However, that also means looking for other work must occur on the employee's own time instead of during work hours. If the manager catches the employee looking for a job on the clock again, that can be grounds for immediate termination without the good reference.

Competition in the labor market means there are plenty of opportunities for advancement, and landing that dream job takes a lot of time when someone wants to make an upward move to another firm. An employee's quality of work shouldn't suffer in the middle of looking for another position, which creates another ground rule for any "lame duck" period. A good reference is only as good as a quality performance until the final day on the job.

Start Your Search

One positive aspect of discovering someone's job search at the office is that HR then has time to prepare for the person leaving. Update the job description, connect to people in your network who might know someone who's interested and find out what salary range you should set before the person leaves. The best-case scenario includes finding out the person's last day as soon as possible so you can post the vacancy expediently.

When a manager catches someone performing a job search on company time, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Although the employee may catch HR by surprise, hopefully you can give the worker a good reference at his new position.

Photo courtesy of Travis Isaacs at


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