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Kate and Dale Job Advice
Should you rat out an employee job hunting?Should you rat out an employee job hunting?
Kate & Dale
    Dear Kate & Dale: Recently a member of our support staff quit. She had told other employees that she was looking for a new job, which I heard about secondhand. I was told by one of the partners of our firm that I should have told him about her. My question is: If I hear that a person is seeking new employment, what obligation do I have to pass on such information?– Mitchell
    KATE: Let's start with the big picture: Half of the clients who come to my job-search organization, The Five O'Clock Club, are employed and looking for a new job. Of those, about one in six end up staying with his or her current employer. People are ALLOWED to keep their options open. When my grandfather lived in Denmark 100 years ago, an employee was obligated to stay permanently with whoever hired him as a teenager – that's why he came to the United States.
    DALE: Which has become a place where looking for a new job is often a firing offense. That's why your stats are important: Looking doesn't necessarily mean leaving. The wise employer knows this. In my study of great bosses, I met one entrepreneur who would send his employees to talk to competitors; that way, if other companies were offering better deals, he would know BEFORE his best employees were lured away. So, Mitchell, if we are to assume the best about the partner – not a bad idea, given that the partners are the ones paying your salary – he felt he should have been warned so that he could have either intervened and saved the employee, or so he could start building a pool of possible replacements.
    KATE: As for an "obligation," I'd say that you have one only if the employee is doing something to undermine the current employer. It's crazy to "rat out" anyone who is simply looking for another job. The furthest I'd go is to say: "John doesn't seem all that happy. I've heard a few rumblings. You might want to talk to him." That assumes the best without setting off an assumption that the employee is on the way out.
    Dear Kate & Dale: I have 14 years of experience – supervision, fiscal management, etc. For the latter half of my career, HR duties have been a MAJOR part of my responsibilities. Now I want an HR career. What's the best way to make the move? – Marlo
    KATE: First of all, you might want to visit the HR Career Forum at, a site that specializes in helping HR professionals with their careers.
    DALE: However, the easiest transition would be to move into full-time HR with your current company, then look outside. If that's not an option, then you must make the move mentally anyway. If you are meeting people in the field and saying, "I want to move into your profession, Mr./Ms. HR Person," their eyes are likely to glaze over. Everyone thinks that they can do HR, and people in the field tend to get a tad resentful. So vanquish all talk of "moving into" HR; you're already there, and your resume must start with that premise.
    KATE: That "premise" is what I'd call the "pitch," and if the pitch is wrong, everything about your search is wrong. I had one client who'd tried for a year to get into HR, telling people he was an attorney wanting to get into human resources. Turns out his most recent job had been 90 percent human resources. Like you, Marlo, he was talking about moving in when he was ALREADY in. So he changed his pitch: an HR manager with a legal background. Within eight weeks of changing his positioning, he ended up in a job with a midsize company as head of HR, senior legal counsel and a board member. It was, for him, a dream job. And it started with the right premise/pitch, right at the top of his resume and the top of his thinking about himself.
    Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O'Clock Club, a national career counseling network ( Her newest book is "Mastering the Job Interview and Winning the Money Game (Thomson Delmar Learning). Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators' Lab. His latest book is "BETTER THAN PERFECT: How Gifted Bosses and Great Employees Lift the Performance of Those Around Them" (Career Press). Please write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or for e-mail.
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