Author Topic: Honesty at Work and FIRE  (Read 6696 times)

wwweb

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Honesty at Work and FIRE
« on: February 04, 2016, 05:35:23 PM »
At work, I'm routinely asked questions about my future plans with the company. Here are some examples:

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Where do you see yourself in 6 months / 5 years?

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Project X is very important to the company. Can you commit to working hard for the next year to make it a success?

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Hi wwweb, you might have heard that <coworker's name> resigned yesterday. You're a valued member of the team and we wanted to know if you've been thinking about leaving - we'd do whatever we could to keep you here.

 Based on my finances and future plans, the honest answer to some of these questions is "I will no longer be working here". Personal integrity is extremely important to me, but I also feel that the truth is politically unacceptable in these situations. My current strategy is to give non-committal answers. I've been with my current employer since I graduated from college and have no idea how people navigate workplace transitions. Is telling my manager that I only plan to be with the company x months and accepting the possibility that I might be let go early the right thing to do? How have you handled similar questions leading up to FIRE or a career change?

The wisdom of this community always impresses me, so I'm curious to hear what you think.

MerryMcQ

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2016, 06:01:07 PM »
There are no guarantees in a workplace for employment and until you make the final decision to FIRE, you are going to do your best at work, right? In that case, non-committal but positive answers seem to work. If you are happy with how things are going, here are some generic phrases:

"I really enjoy our team and I'm excited to work on xyz with everyone. I promise to let you know if anything comes up that may make me less committed to our team."

"I appreciate you checking in with me. I'm pretty happy with how things are going right now."

"Project X is very interesting and I am excited to be a part of it. Of course I will do my best work while I'm a part of the team."

I wouldn't mention early retirement unless you have an extremely open type of a workplace. If there is something at work that is making you want to switch companies, then if they are honestly seeking your opinion on what they can change to make the workplace better, then you can give them feedback. People quit all the time for a variety of unforeseen reasons (medical, family, offer to become an astronaut, etc, etc), and it isn't unethical to change your mind about working somewhere, even in the middle of a project.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2016, 06:01:29 PM »
A workplace has no business asking you to reveal your future plans. Just like you could ask them  "Can you guarantee I will have a job for the next 1/2/5 years?" They can't, since they might decide to lay you off, or fire you or the business might move or go under or even move in another direction... and your job is always expendable. You are useful to them because you're there right now; they are useful to you because they provide you with a job. That is the extent of your relationship.

Circumstances change. Unless you're under contract, you owe them the same amount of loyalty as they give you - which is nothing really. If they wanted to fire you or lay you off, they could do so with no notice at all. This is not a friendship or other type of relationship where you need to consider their feelings.

As long as you are performing your job with honesty and integrity and to the best of your abilities, and give them sufficient notice when you do decide to leave, that is all you need to do and should be expected to do.

Even if you're 100% sure right now that you'll be quitting your job next year, or in two years, you can't know with certainty, so sharing speculation with your boss is pointless and could be damaging for your career path since they could mark you down as disloyal and pass you over for opportunities and raises. They will use whatever information you give them against you if it is in their best interests. Remember that.

But if you are truly stuck on being "honest" - you could say that you're not sure what the future holds (you really don't - you could get married/divorced, have lots of kids, a medical event, move across the country - all of which might effect your job situation in some way), but you are dedicated to doing your absolute best at your job. And that you would absolutely be open to discussing with them if you ever feel like you might want to change.




soupcxan

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2016, 06:04:14 PM »
These questions from your employer are ridiculous. If they want a guarantee they should give you a guaranteed contract. Employment is at will, that cuts both ways. We are all free agents.

MayDay

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2016, 06:12:38 PM »
I know a guy who was truly integral to the company.

They provided him with a huge bonus and a contract that garaunteed a job for a year in return for him promising to stay for a year. 

Unless your company is offering something like that, I wouldn't say a word.

CanuckExpat

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2016, 11:38:15 PM »
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we'd do whatever we could to keep you here.

Take them up on this offer at face value. Do you want more money, work on different projects, report to someone else, more flexibility, work from home or more vacation time? Ask, or tell them. When you are able to walk away, you have nothing to lose and usually everything to gain.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2016, 08:21:38 AM »
Sure, pay me my salary up-front for the next 5 years and I'll guarantee that I'll work here the next five years.

AlwaysLearningToSave

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2016, 09:19:33 AM »
Quote
we'd do whatever we could to keep you here.

Take them up on this offer at face value. Do you want more money, work on different projects, report to someone else, more flexibility, work from home or more vacation time? Ask, or tell them. When you are able to walk away, you have nothing to lose and usually everything to gain.


I know a guy who was truly integral to the company.

They provided him with a huge bonus and a contract that garaunteed a job for a year in return for him promising to stay for a year. 

Unless your company is offering something like that, I wouldn't say a word.

Bingo.  Its hard for us on the forum to know whether they are sincere about the "we'd do anything to keep you" comment or whether it was a substance-less nicety said at a time when they were simply trying to gauge whether they are going to have to deal with replacing two people at the same time. 

If you are close enough to FIRE you could consider asking for a big payoff in exchange for your commitment to continue working for a set period of time (i.e. for one more year or until Project X is completed).  But you had better be pretty comfortable with your financial position and pretty confident in your assessment of your own value to the company before asking for this because it requires you to tip your hand and reveal that you are not necessarily in it for the long haul.  If you make that move and your assessment of your own value is incorrect, then you may well have started the process of ushering yourself out the door and there is no way of knowing how fast that process will be.  Once the company knows it cannot necessarily count on you being there for the long haul, there is a good chance they will start to hedge their bets by making sure that you are only in "replaceable" roles.  Only you can make the call as to whether it is worthwhile to try. 

StetsTerhune

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2016, 10:03:05 AM »
A friend of mine at work announced he was retiring as of Jan 1st in August. In private, he told me that he was actually hoping to retire April 1st, but knew that the Jan 1st date worked badly for the project he was on and they'd offer him a bonus to "convince him" to stay the extra 3 months. Don't know exactly what they offered him, but as far as he's concerned the plan worked perfectly.

Lis

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2016, 10:17:27 AM »
I'm going to play devil's advocate here and disagree with a lot of the sentiment here. I think the answer depends on a few things: your FIRE timeline, the reason your company is asking, and the culture of the company.

The first two go hand in hand. Is your FIRE date 10 years from now, and they're asking what you're doing in five years? It's a fluff question that deserves a fluff answer. Your FIRE dates in a year and they're asking you what you're doing in six months because they're starting a massive project? I'd be honest. Could they fire you? Sure. Would they? Maybe, but probably not.

You would know better than strangers on the internet what your company culture is (including your manager's or upper management's attitude). There are certainly companies that would fire you at the mere mention of leaving, and in that case, I'd keep quiet. But I think the general attitude of this website's view of workplaces is very cynical, not always deservedly so. It's easy to imagine a big, evil corporation where everyone's a mindless drone, and you're the hero of your own story by leaving. But people leave jobs all the time for new opportunities, relocation, retirement. Retention everywhere would be abysmal if every person who even thought of leaving their job was fired.

Your team, the people you report to or report to you, who work alongside you, is compromised of real people. You do important work for someone - if you didn't, you wouldn't have a job. Transitions happen all the time, and if your employer is a good one, you should help them out by being up front.

(If they're not a good employer, then screw it.)

FINate

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2016, 10:28:40 AM »
At work, I'm routinely asked questions about my future plans with the company. Here are some examples:

Quote
Where do you see yourself in 6 months / 5 years?

Quote
Project X is very important to the company. Can you commit to working hard for the next year to make it a success?

Quote
Hi wwweb, you might have heard that <coworker's name> resigned yesterday. You're a valued member of the team and we wanted to know if you've been thinking about leaving - we'd do whatever we could to keep you here.

 Based on my finances and future plans, the honest answer to some of these questions is "I will no longer be working here". Personal integrity is extremely important to me, but I also feel that the truth is politically unacceptable in these situations. My current strategy is to give non-committal answers. I've been with my current employer since I graduated from college and have no idea how people navigate workplace transitions. Is telling my manager that I only plan to be with the company x months and accepting the possibility that I might be let go early the right thing to do? How have you handled similar questions leading up to FIRE or a career change?

The wisdom of this community always impresses me, so I'm curious to hear what you think.

First question is stupid. No employment at will company is ever, *EVER* going to be loyal to you as an employee for 5 years. Can you imagine asking your employer if they plan on keeping you and your job around for the next 5 years? They would laugh at you and probably flag you as a trouble causer and/or as overly paranoid. IMO, since the premise of the question is fundamentally wrong I would have no qualms about proving a BS response ("I see myself right here, cheerily working for you boss!"). BTW - the same applies to interview questions such as "what is your biggest weakness" - pure BS.

The other two questions, if taken together, are intriguing. Depending on the employer, your boss, your boss's boss, and the specific situation/context, they may be signaling that they are willing to pay you a bonus to stick around until the end of the project. If you are planning on leaving anyway, it could possibly be a way to walk away with a bit more cash. These situations are tricky to discern, so be extra careful. Again, a lot depends on the personalities involved, and it makes sense to look at past cases. Do they fire people at the first hint of disloyalty, or do they treat people like free agents and wheel and deal?

If they punish disloyalty I would feel no guilt about lying, think of it as "pleading the fifth" since they are asking you an unfair question.

BrickByBrick

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2016, 01:35:57 PM »
I can understand the dilemma, I recently went through an interview process with another company and they asked the same "where do you see yourself 5/10 years from now in your career" line of questioning.  I personally find those questions pretty moronic.  I like to think I'm an honest person, but the honest answer would have been "I don't know, whatever I can handle that gets me closer to my goal of FI, even if that requires pretty constant job-hopping."  Since that would not go over well I instead have to come up with BS about seeing myself in a _____ position, working in the _____ field/industry in a _____-style environment, hopefully at (their company).  It's not actually a lie, since it may end up being true (how should I know?), but I tend to keep answers to those questions pretty generic.

I would however, take them up on the implied offer of a raise.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2016, 01:38:32 PM by BrickByBrick »

Jakerado

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2016, 08:56:04 PM »
If we're being generous to the employer, the "Where do you see yourself" questions are to gauge where you want to be in your career. Most of the time the assumption is that you want to build a career, and the natural followup question is "and how can I help get you there?" You don't need to take the question literally.

 Maybe you want to be leading a team? Maybe you want to be working on some critical-to-the-business project, or maybe you just want to keep doing what you're doing. While I'd phrase the last one differently, all of those are valid answers. Answer the intent of the question, don't get hung up on the "in 5 years" part.


For the 2nd two, other people have answered it better than I could.

Zamboni

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2016, 09:18:08 PM »
It's very possible that your manager could simply be insecure, especially if there is a pattern of these questions being asked over and over. The only proper response for an insecure boss is a positive one that causes him or her to go away feeling temporarily better about things.

Larabeth

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2016, 12:14:35 AM »
I would come up with some sort of compliment for the company/vague positive statement when you are asked these questions.  Find ways to open the door for new opportunities/advancement using their questions as a way to open the door.

"Where do you see yourself in x amount of time?"
"I'm open to discuss any opportunities you have available.  Currently I'm really enjoying _____!"

"Project X is very important to the company. Can you commit to working hard for the next year to make it a success?"
"I plan on working hard as long as I am here to make any and all projects we work on a success!"

"You're a valued member of the team and we wanted to know if you've been thinking about leaving - we'd do whatever we could to keep you here."
"Oh, that's good to hear!  What kind of incentives do you have in mind?"  Or something like that.

Villanelle

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2016, 12:23:31 AM »
Where do you see yourself in X years?

I really enjoy aspects X, Y, and Z of my job, and I'm hoping that in the future I can start doing more of A and B, and perhaps even grow into more of a supervisor (or some relevant next step).   

That's is true statement.  It doesn't address their specific timeline, but it's honest.   Likewise things like afirming that you work hard and you believe you give your full effort for every project you are assigned.  If they ask something specific about whether you are thinking of leaving, in those shoes I might say something like, "I'm very happy here at Acme Widget and when I think of my future, I mostly imagine myself working here until I retire, whenever that may be, assuming the compensation and opportunities here remain strong."  Again, true (from the sounds of it).  If you are considering leaving (not for FIRE, but for another job), there is some risk involved, but it might be a great time to say, "I really love it here and would love to stay here long term, but I know there are other jobs out there that pay more.  I don't want to leave, but is there any chance of renegotiating salary or benefits (or ask for something specific like working from home for one day, a 4/10, or whatever)?  Something like that would definitely make it easier to ignore those outside opportunities that I keep hearing about."  Again, there is risk in that, so you have to decide if the gamble is worth it.  If not then just ignoring the question part and telling them that you are happy they are pleased with you, and telling them you are pleased with your current situation will probably be sufficient.



wwweb

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #16 on: February 06, 2016, 08:52:06 PM »
Wow! I didn't expect to get so many good responses in two days. Just to clear up some confusion, I think I'm able to answer these questions pretty well - I just feel a little conflicted after doing so. Here are my paraphrased answers

Response #1: I could imagine myself working on <new technology area> and doing a bit less in <old technology area>. As long as I'm doing technical work, I'd like to keep my technical skills up to date

Response #2: Project X sounds very interesting; I'd be trilled to work on it. I'm currently committed heavily to project Y, but if you can get <other manager> to share some of my time I'd be happy to help.

Response #3: Thank you. I'm happy with my job, but would be happier with a more relaxed travel schedule - if you can avoid scheduling back-to-back travel assignments for a while I'd appreciate it.

Answering the questions isn't much of a problem. However, I'm a little bothered by the following contrast:
If a friend started discussing plans for 3-4 years from now that involved living in the same city as me. I would feel compelled to gently remind them that I might not still be on this side of the country 3 years from now.

I get that my company isn't my friend. I could be let go tomorrow for legitimate business reasons, and I would understand. With that said, my company is made up of real people who are trying the best they can to make plans for their futures. Unlike many folks here, I don't dislike my job or my coworkers. I only want to FIRE because I love lazy days walking in the woods and watching the sun set in the mountains so much more than I will ever love working. My managers are nice people, and it feels weird not to extend them the same courtesy I extend to my friends.  I'm probably a bit naive (I'm very young), but it just feels odd.

Larabeth

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2016, 09:14:03 PM »
I get that my company isn't my friend. I could be let go tomorrow for legitimate business reasons, and I would understand. With that said, my company is made up of real people who are trying the best they can to make plans for their futures. Unlike many folks here, I don't dislike my job or my coworkers. I only want to FIRE because I love lazy days walking in the woods and watching the sun set in the mountains so much more than I will ever love working. My managers are nice people, and it feels weird not to extend them the same courtesy I extend to my friends.  I'm probably a bit naive (I'm very young), but it just feels odd.

I think this is an appropriate viewpoint.  I try to be pleasant with coworkers/management.  Just because they're not friends doesn't mean they're not human.  They deserve a certain level of respect just because they are human.  There seems to be more and more problems with (general, not this forum) people dehumanizing bosses/others and that makes it harder and harder to have pleasant interactions. 

FINate

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2016, 09:43:56 PM »
I'm having trouble reconciling the bolded portions of these two quotes:

Based on my finances and future plans, the honest answer to some of these questions is "I will no longer be working here". Personal integrity is extremely important to me, but I also feel that the truth is politically unacceptable in these situations. My current strategy is to give non-committal answers. I've been with my current employer since I graduated from college and have no idea how people navigate workplace transitions. Is telling my manager that I only plan to be with the company x months and accepting the possibility that I might be let go early the right thing to do? How have you handled similar questions leading up to FIRE or a career change?

I get that my company isn't my friend. I could be let go tomorrow for legitimate business reasons, and I would understand. With that said, my company is made up of real people who are trying the best they can to make plans for their futures. Unlike many folks here, I don't dislike my job or my coworkers. I only want to FIRE because I love lazy days walking in the woods and watching the sun set in the mountains so much more than I will ever love working. My managers are nice people, and it feels weird not to extend them the same courtesy I extend to my friends.  I'm probably a bit naive (I'm very young), but it just feels odd.

A friend would not dump you because your timeline does not meet their expectations. I get that they need to plan for the future and they need to know if you can commit for a certain amount of time. IMO 12 months or less is reasonable. However, there needs to be fairness in this negotiation. Your plans should also count for something to them. Are they going to compensate you for extending your timeline for them, or perhaps allow you to work from home, or some other accommodation.

To me this comes down to an issue of reciprocity. If in your best judgement you believe they will work in good faith to find a mutually beneficial solution, then by all means, be clear about your plans and negotiate. However, if you are genuinely worried that they will let you go then you should not reveal your plans until you give notice. 

Villanelle

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #19 on: February 07, 2016, 12:06:47 AM »
They are trying to make plans as best they can, and so are you.  Frankly, you have no absolute idea what will happen or when you will leave.  Perhaps you can console yourself with the knowledge that assuming the relationship stays generally positive, you can give them a ton of notice for your departure.  Plan on letting them know 2-3 month on advance, or more, though do so knowing you are somewhat at a risk of them telling you to leave almost immediately.  But that's a way you can fulfill what you feel is an obligation to them.  That gives them time to plan, hire, train, and redistribute tasks as necessary.

It's admirable, IMO, that you feel this loyalty to them.  But I think there are other ways to be loyal and to extend that courtesy you feel you owe them.  Lots of advance notice is probably the number one way to do that. 

WerKater

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #20 on: February 07, 2016, 01:22:20 AM »
I get that my company isn't my friend. I could be let go tomorrow for legitimate business reasons, and I would understand. With that said, my company is made up of real people who are trying the best they can to make plans for their futures. Unlike many folks here, I don't dislike my job or my coworkers. I only want to FIRE because I love lazy days walking in the woods and watching the sun set in the mountains so much more than I will ever love working. My managers are nice people, and it feels weird not to extend them the same courtesy I extend to my friends.  I'm probably a bit naive (I'm very young), but it just feels odd.
I'm similar to you in that I like my managers and coworkers and I think they are very decent people. We had some issues last year that could have led to layoffs and they seemed to be very open about it and informed everyone well in advance. In the end, only a few people left/were laid off (it seemed to me that greements were reached).
This event has made me much more likely to be honest and open to my employer about my FIRE plans once the time comes (it's not relvant yet since I ill still need some more years). In your shoes, I would try to judge how your employer will treat you in such a case. And try to reciprocate that.

chasesfish

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #21 on: February 07, 2016, 05:48:12 AM »
I don't think these are really fair questions, the manager seems insecure.

However, if you want to give a honest answer, tell them "I don't plan on working anywhere else, this is the place for me".  That's completely accurate until the day comes that you don't plan on working.

frompa

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #22 on: February 07, 2016, 04:25:17 PM »
A workplace has no business asking you to reveal your future plans. Just like you could ask them  "Can you guarantee I will have a job for the next 1/2/5 years?" They can't, since they might decide to lay you off, or fire you or the business might move or go under or even move in another direction... and your job is always expendable. You are useful to them because you're there right now; they are useful to you because they provide you with a job. That is the extent of your relationship.

Circumstances change. Unless you're under contract, you owe them the same amount of loyalty as they give you - which is nothing really. If they wanted to fire you or lay you off, they could do so with no notice at all. This is not a friendship or other type of relationship where you need to consider their feelings.

As long as you are performing your job with honesty and integrity and to the best of your abilities, and give them sufficient notice when you do decide to leave, that is all you need to do and should be expected to do.

Even if you're 100% sure right now that you'll be quitting your job next year, or in two years, you can't know with certainty, so sharing speculation with your boss is pointless and could be damaging for your career path since they could mark you down as disloyal and pass you over for opportunities and raises. They will use whatever information you give them against you if it is in their best interests. Remember that.

But if you are truly stuck on being "honest" - you could say that you're not sure what the future holds (you really don't - you could get married/divorced, have lots of kids, a medical event, move across the country - all of which might effect your job situation in some way), but you are dedicated to doing your absolute best at your job. And that you would absolutely be open to discussing with them if you ever feel like you might want to change.

++++ I could not have said this better.

ulrichw

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #23 on: February 07, 2016, 04:45:39 PM »
I don't think these are really fair questions, the manager seems insecure.

However, if you want to give a honest answer, tell them "I don't plan on working anywhere else, this is the place for me".  That's completely accurate until the day comes that you don't plan on working.

I came out of this with a *completely* different interpretation.

These sound a lot like "feeler" questions to me. I believe that OP's manager feels OP has great potential, and through circumstances is in need of finding out good candidates to "invest" in.

OP: I feel you're being offered an opportunity for (possibly rapid) career advancement within the company. If you don't want to take this, just continue to give the non-committal answers - that's an answer in itself. If you do want to take this, then express interest and see what conversations that opens up with your manager.

You definitely don't want to treat the company like your friend, however. If you have intentions of leaving, there's no reason to announce it years in advance - give as much short-term (i.e., weeks) notice as you feel is reasonable, but stay non-committal for now.

Disclaimer: I'm in management

Dicey

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Re: Honesty at Work and FIRE
« Reply #24 on: February 07, 2016, 07:10:36 PM »
Lots of good answers here. Different viewpoint:  It seems plausible that they like you and don't want you to go somewhere else. Since you have no plans to go to a competitor, you should answer their questions with their concerns and your future in mind. Phrase your responses in a way that will accelerate your FIRE timeline. Win-win.