My Boss Caught Me Updating My Resume. Help!

Last Updated Dec 17, 2009 6:41 PM EST

Dear Stanley,

My boss recently saw me updating my resume at work. Obviously this is my fault; given the way my cubicle is set up, I should know that anyone who walks up behind me can see what I'm working on. However, I've been so frustrated at work lately that I felt I owed it to myself to update my resume and poke around for new opportunities. I tried to convince my boss that I was just capturing my experience at my current job, but he was obviously skeptical. He dropped the subject after that, but do you have any advice for me if it comes up again in conversation? Should I be worried?


Hiding in Plain Sight

Dear Hider,

Unfortunate, but not irreparable. So what, actually, if he saw you working on your resume? It's a little embarrassing, of course, but it's not like you're offering your resignation. You're just taking your situation into your own hands. That's a quality admired in any business situation.

Being discovered doing this at work, however, does pose certain problems. Why weren't you doing your job? Aren't you busy? Being un-busy in front of a boss is never a good idea. And now, somewhere in his mind, the idea that you might leave at some point is bouncing around and making ripples. That's not necessarily damaging. The boss may decide it's something he doesn't really like to think about. You may find yourself valued more highly. He may suddenly be a little more careful around you, a little more considerate. But the fact that he's not torturing you about it relentlessly at this point means something. He may be thinking, "Gee, Bob wants out of here. That's good to know next time we plan some headcount cuts." What's the body language? Cold or warm? Stiff or supple?

Cubicle farms are tough to handle. They masquerade as democratic institutions, but are actually a form of totalitarianism. There's no privacy. There's no sense of space that belongs to you except that which you carve out for yourself with plants, toys, three-ring binders, whatever you can. And when you want to do something important, like poke at your resume and think about your future, here's some tiny titan breathing down your neck. Personally, the day they take away my door is the day I go to work in a gas station.

In such an environment, assertions of individuality are very important. They are a means of expressing your humanity, and what little freedom you may still possess as a member of the hive. So don't sweat the incident too much. You have a right to live. But do continue your investigation of career alternatives. Worry a little bit less about your current overseer and start thinking about your next one. And when you do go, see if you can get yourself a work location that allows you a little more space in which to investigate the wonders of solitary cogitation and the pleasures of the electronic surf.