You may have met the type – an incredibly controlling and antagonistic “leader” who is driving people to leave the organization.  In an attempt to keep employees in line, the executive announced that she was now “keeping track” of her employees online, to know who might be looking for a job.

First:  yikes.  Second:  Is that even possible?

Yes, sort of.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are so unlucky as to work for a similarly controlling manager.  (Thankfully, it’s rare to find someone who goes to such lengths to control and intimidate employees.)

1) If you used a recruiting agency to find your current job, you should not reach out to that same recruiting agency that placed you.  It’s possible your manager may be talking to the agency about other openings, and may have asked the agency to keep him/her informed if a current employee reaches out. That agency holds a stronger relationship with the manager (who paid them) than they do with you, and are likely to spill the beans on you.

2) If you use LinkedIn (and you should), don’t connect to new recruiters on LinkedIn.  If your boss is linked to you and sees a new recruiter connection for you, even if it’s innocent, that may be a potential flag.  You can still be connected to recruiters via email and phone (and follow them on Twitter) without linking to them.

3) Also, for LinkedIn, make sure your privacy settings are at the highest level.  Don’t broadcast your activity; don’t notify your network of changes to your profile, etc.

4) If you do choose to subscribe to a LinkedIn premium service (which can be a sign you’re doing a job search), there’s a way to hide the “premium” badge on your account:

For most people, these first four steps, above, should be plenty to keep you “under the radar”, digitally-speaking.

However, if you have an extreme boss like the one mentioned above, and we really, really, hope you don’t, then you may need to lay off any LinkedIn changes at all.  It’s possible that your boss may be able to bypass the LinkedIn privacy settings just by tracking your public LinkedIn page:

There’s also a recruiting tool called Bullhorn Radar that tracks possible job seekers; it monitors “people in your network” for signs of job search activity such as several new connections, changes to your profile, etc.  If your company has access to that tool, it’s possible that an HR person or manager may be able to see that you’re starting to do a job search.

Well, then.  If you have a controlling (and tech-savvy) boss, how can you do a job search using LinkedIn without getting “caught”?

1) Use LinkedIn as a publishing platform.  Post presentations,  videos, or other things you’ve done at your current job that are appropriate for marketing your current employer.  (This mostly works if you’re in a client-facing role like sales or marketing.)

2) Curate (find and post) good content related to your current employer and job responsibilities, but not every day.  LinkedIn is a good tool for professional development and learning… right???  You’re just contributing to the learning!  (And raising your profile while you’re at it.)

3) Use the search function, frequently.  You can search and track companies, jobs, recruiters, and thought leaders in your industry.  You can always use LinkedIn’s private messaging service or research someone’s email address if you need to reach out, instead of connecting or following a person or company.

Here’s hoping you’re never in the position to worry that your boss is watching your search, but if you are… may your job search be speedy and, above all, stealthy.