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Is my boss giving me a hint to leave? Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Workopolis.com Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit www.CareerActivist.com.

Question: I walked into my boss's office a few days ago to ask her about a project I'm working on. She was on the phone and asked me to sit and wait for a bit. As I sat there, I noticed something weird. On her desk, all by itself and facing my way, was a job ad she had cut out from the newspaper. It was for the same type of job that me and a few other people here at my company already have. This got me wondering if she was maybe hinting at something. So I asked her if this meant she wants us to apply. She said no. But when I went back to see her today for something else, the job ad was still there. What gives?

Chris N, Timmins, Ontario
Dear Chris,

You're right Chris, that is kind of weird. I mean, I could understand if your boss was checking out the competition and left this ad on her desk in a pile of other stuff. But to have it there all by itself, deliberately facing your way so you could read it when sitting across from her...and letting it stay there like that for days, that's plain strange.

Is she trying to tell you, or one of those colleagues of yours who hold the same type of position at your company, that she's hoping you will leave? Or is she simply inattentive, having left the ad there unintentionally?

It's a stretch to believe that what she's doing is accidental. After all, you did point the ad out to your boss. if she wanted to hide it away somewhere, she'd have done so by now.

This leaves me to think that your initial instincts were right: she's likely announcing she either wants one of you to leave, or else she's playing with your minds to make each of you a bit paranoid. After all, nothing gets you to put your nose to the grindstone like a litte jab of fear now and again.

A pretty clever move on her part, by the way. Signalling to you she wouldn't be heartbroken if one of you leaves. Which makes each of you to feel just insecure enough to buckle down and prove how loyal and irreplaceable you are. So she gets a productivity boost from her team without saying a word.

As for you, Chris, my advice is to play her game for now. Buckle down and work a bit harder if you need to. Keep your nose clean (well, except for all that dust flying off the grindstone). Show your loyalty whenever you can. Eventually this ploy of hers will fade into the background and things should get back to normal.

Mind you, if your boss repeatedly pulls these types of stunts, your morale might start to sink. If so, it might make sense at that point to have a private chat with her and let her know you're here to stay. Then you could gently mention the effect her actions are having on you. Hopefully she'll tell you directly that she really does value you. If not, you might just want to consider applying the next time she puts a job ad on her desk.

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