Q: I recently applied for a position in another department without telling my boss. The job description sounded interesting but lacked important details, including work hours. I figured, however, that I could ask those questions during the interview.
A few days later, I was shocked when my boss informed me that "Phyllis," the manager of the other department, had called to inquire about my work history. Shortly thereafter, Phyllis got in touch with me to discuss the position. When I learned that the hours would not fit my schedule, I withdrew my application. Now I feel awkward around my boss because she knows I applied for another job. Although there is no policy on this, I believe Phyllis was completely out of line to contact my manager before speaking with me. Do I have a right to be angry with her?
A: Probably not. Telling your boss about an external job search is hardly ever a wise move, but internal job postings are an entirely different matter. In fact, many companies require that the manager be informed before an employee can interview in another department.
Even without such a policy, managers frequently pick up rumors about these applications through the grapevine. Because bosses can feel blindsided by surreptitious transfer attempts, employees generally fare better if they explain the situation upfront.
In this case, Phyllis apparently conducted a rather standard internal background check before scheduling interviews, not realizing that your manager had been kept in the dark. Since she neither violated a policy nor intended to do you harm, your anger would seem to be misplaced.
To avoid misunderstandings in the future, your human resources department should clearly define confidentiality expectations during the job posting process. Both managers and employees need to understand when and how this information can be shared.
McClatchy-Tribune columnist Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics."