Am I Being Overly Territorial?
June 23, 2011 4:21 PM   Subscribe

I have a problem that's challenging on a logical and moral level.

An acquaintance of mind called yesterday to let me know that she had been invited to interview on Friday for a position at the restaurant where I currently work. In her application, she told them that she was a friend of mine—something that is not strictly true. We know each other, that’s true enough.

After hanging up, I immediately thought that if she gets the job, I’ll have to find a new one. I know this response sounds a bit ca-razy, so I’ll try to explain.

The woman, how about Wendy, is someone I’ve known for several years. For the past two, she's been dating a friend of mine, say, Devon, who has also been my roommate for the past year and a half. He and I were close before he moved in, but we’ve grown significantly less so between then and now. Part of that is due to Wendy: a constant, unavoidable presence in our apartment. She has her own place but “prefers” ours, which I understand, I do. Roommates have girlfriends and I don’t begrudge him that. But, with that in mind, she has very little sense of shared space. Honestly, it wouldn’t bother me so much if she treated me pleasantly. Most times we talk, it feels likes one-upmanship passing for conversation.

On two occasions, I have asked Devon if Wendy could spend a little less time in the apartment. I didn’t tell him how much she bothered me personally, I put it down to issues of space. Both times, he seemed initally receptive, but then things went back to the way they were before. So I started working more; coming home after midnight every day meant I didn’t have to hear her voice, which literally makes me want to flip tables over.

The thought of working closely with her is immensely frustrating. But there’s nothing appropriate I can do that could stop her from getting a job at the place where I work. She is perfectly qualified, and I think she’d fit in really well—just not with me.

The quit job/find new apartment solution is excellent in theory, except that I haven’t been able to find a good place that fits my budget, and I like my job.

Philosophically, I know I should learn to work around this. But another part of me takes it as some kind of threat. That sounds paranoid/grandiose/egocentric, but there have been so many occasions where she’s done or said things that seem directly competitive with me and it's just wearing on my soul at this point. I don’t like having toxic thoughts about anyone, and I don’t like how my strategy is always to escape.

Maybe I’m too proprietary, but that’s another issue altogether.

So I guess my question is really two. Is there anything (scrupulous) I can do to stop her from getting the job? And, am I being unreasonable bordering on insane about how this woman makes me feel?
posted by presqu'ile to Human Relations (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If they ask you if you're friends say you know her and that she's the girlfriend of your roommate. Don't say any more - that should tell them enough. And even if you like someone the thought of seeing them at work and in your home space...well, that's a lot of time to be seeing someone.

Also, you should try and get another place. If a place is made for 2, it becomes sometimes quite hard to fit a 3rd person in even in the best of circumstances.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:26 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're asked by management, you can say that you don't really think you could work well with her as you don't have a great relationship.

That's it. Let them make their decision and then you make yours.
posted by inturnaround at 4:29 PM on June 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

I think it's your responsibility to let your manager know, when you are asked, the situation. If she dropped your name in her application or interview I'm pretty sure you're going to be asked about her.

If it were me, I would relate to the hiring manager that you do not consider her a friend. I would relate this with an expression of mild pain. This is not unscrupulous, it is honest.
posted by artlung at 4:30 PM on June 23, 2011 [25 favorites]

Is there anything (scrupulous) I can do to stop her from getting the job?

Sure. When your employer asks whether this woman is, in fact, your friend, you can truthfully respond that she is not your friend and you don't know how she could possibly characterize it that way, given that she is at best an acquaintance who dates your roommate and with whom you have had numerous conflicts.

And, am I being unreasonable bordering on insane about how this woman makes me feel?

Not at all. A person's employment is their life. It is where you spend the vast majority of your time. And the time you spend not at work is spent, largely, at home. This woman has already made your home miserable and by threatening to encroach upon your work, she threatens to make every facet of your life miserable.
posted by The World Famous at 4:35 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's 100% OK to not want to work with someone you are essentially living with, and it's 200% OK if you don't actually like her. Do not hesitate to let the hiring manager know that you do not recommend her.

Additionally, I hate to sound mean, but geeze would you sack up? Draw really firm boundaries with your housemate: "I'm glad things are working out for you and Wendy but they are not working out for me. I did not sign up to live with three people. Two nights a week is fine for guests but any more than that and she needs to pay rent."
posted by DarlingBri at 4:40 PM on June 23, 2011 [28 favorites]

If it's possible, I think making one of those things budge (house/job) would be better than doing both or doing neither. You certainly can't ethically do anything to not allow her to get the job. I would suggest moving house simply because she would presumably be less irritating at work.

If they ask your relationship, she's your roommate's SO.
posted by mleigh at 4:40 PM on June 23, 2011

It's none of your business to go anywhere near a manager airing your petty grievances about a potential co-worker.

You're required to be civil to your co-workers, nothing more. If you can't be at least civil to people in your workplace that you don't really like then you have a hard road ahead of you. It's a personality clash which you are blowing out of proportion, for whatever reason.
posted by fire&wings at 4:42 PM on June 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

If your manager asks you about her, say that you know her, but you are not friends. That's about all you can do. Anything else isn't really fair to her, and would also make you look like an ass.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:52 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a big believer in going with 'gut feelings' on things like this (they are usually there for a reason). If you really think this woman is competing with you in some way, there's probably something to that. Without knowing you or other details it's hard to know if you are (possibly unintentionally or subconsciously) doing anything to encourage or aggravate this behavior, but it does seem at least potentially hostile and/or passive aggressive that she's more or less living (rent/utilities-cost free?) in your apartment and now trying to gain employment at your current job. Is it possible also that she sees you as a threat or competition with her guy?

As for the apartment side, I agree with DarlingBri that it's time to assert yourself a bit more with boundaries about how often the girlfriend stays over, etc. Three is definitely a crowd. As for the job, I would not say anything unless directly asked, and then I would suggest being tactfully truthful about it (No, we are not friends, she dates my roommate probably says all you need to say. You could also say, "I have no idea how she would be for this position" which, in the strictest I-can't-predict-the-future sense, is true.)
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:53 PM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Is there anything (scrupulous) I can do to stop her from getting the job?
Don't go out of your way to take her out of consideration. If asked by your manager, be honest but professional. Do not offer up your opinion un-bidden.

And, am I being unreasonable bordering on insane about how this woman makes me feel?
No. There's no rule in life that says you have to like or get along with everyone. Some people rub you the wrong way. Maybe you rub some people the wrong way too. That's just how it is; it's not insane at all.
posted by contessa at 4:56 PM on June 23, 2011

I would not hesitate to sink her application.

She broke two rules in my book, first I would never apply for a position without asking the person I knew who worked there what they thought about it. Infringing my social presence on other people's work without asking is rude. This only really applies to smaller corporations in larger municipalities where other options are abundant.

Second; she used you as a reference without asking. Not only did she use you as a reference without asking, she biased her application on the basis of your reputation. Think of it this way, if she does a poor job, YOUR reputation will be damaged.

I would be proactive in the sinking of her application, I would go to my manager and tell them that "I enjoyed Wendy as a person but I feel like her personality and approach to work would not be a good fit for the company" Be polite, vague and guilt free.
posted by Felex at 4:57 PM on June 23, 2011 [38 favorites]

Sometimes in life, you have to look out for yourself. This is one of those times. You don't control whether she gets employed; you have influence. Using it to save your own job is okay. Just do some other kind things to improve the kindness quantity in the world. Took me along time to realize it was okay to be on my own team, but worth learning.
posted by theora55 at 5:07 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would say the following:
(a) she is not a friend, she is my roommate's girlfriend.
(b) I have no idea what she is like in a working context.
(c) If you want to hire her, I would quit. Which is the truth, and they'd find that out the hard way if you didn't tell and she got hired and you quit. Now, I hear the restaurant business is kind of insane and thus your bosses might not give a shit about that, but a normal-ish business would probably rather keep a stable employee than lose him to hire someone else unknown.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:10 PM on June 23, 2011 [15 favorites]

I was going to make a similar point to Felex. If you see this person often, and she did not mention that she was applying for a job and using you as a reference- then it's a little strange. I don't see anything wrong with following most of the advice that you have been given, and letting your manager know in a polite way that you are not recommending her for the job, if asked.
posted by catrae at 5:11 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am mostly echoing, but sometimes its good to see some confirmation. It has always been my experience that in this situations an initial investment of honesty yields a better situation in the long run. While it may be daunting/intimidating to speak honestly to your employer about how you feel about Wendy working with you, it is the truth and it is your responsibility to bring it forward. Work is a huge part of people's lives and a negative workplace can have far reaching consequences and your quality of life. Advocate for yourself! Perhaps by doing it in the profesional setting, it will move your towards bringing that self care energy into your home situation, which sounds like it needs some openness and attention as well.
posted by Jibuzaemon at 5:16 PM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Did she use you as a reference, as in she put your name in the "References" field on her application? Or is there a field on the application that asks if the applicant knows anyone who is employed there? If it's the former and you're approached by management, by all means be honest as to your relationship with her. If it's the latter, you're making a big deal out of literally nothing.

I can totally sympathize with not liking someone and not wanting them in your home all the time, but it's a dick move to sabotage a person's chances of getting a job because you don't like them. If there's "nothing appropriate" that you can do to prevent her from getting the job, then that answers your question. You can either suck it up and deal, or you can be extremely unprofessional and risk your own reputation and possibly your job by interfering.

As for the situation at home -- you were not honest with your roommate about your reasons for not wanting his girlfriend around. You need to be honest with him. It's not fair to him to lie and tell him it's simply a space issue that makes you upset, because that does not give him the chance to address the issue that is actually bothering you.
posted by palomar at 5:31 PM on June 23, 2011

If your employer asks about her, be truthful: she is your roommate's girlfriend, not your friend, and she did not ask you if you would be willing to vouch for her at work. You say she's qualified and would fit in well there, so please don't lie about that (but no need to mention it, either). Hopefully (for you) her misstep in using your name in her application without clearing it with you will be enough to lose her the job; but it will still be based on her own actions and merits, not your bad-mouthing.

But also, it sounds like Devon moved in with YOU, not the other way around. You are not the one who needs to move. Either use DarlingBri's suggestion of requesting extra rent if Wendy is around more than two nights a week, or--more directly--ask them to move out. It will be awkward as hell to do, but worth it! Your home is your home. (And then if Wendy does end up getting hired on at your work, you can deal with that as a separate issue.)
posted by equivocator at 5:43 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of alarm bells ringing around here: the number one being that your life is more and more being squished out by this person (she is literally taking over your territory).

Long term you're going to have to move out of the apartment or buy your roommate out. Wendy is bad news all over. There are huge red flags here:

1. Staying over at your apartment all the time without asking if it's ok with you.
2. Using your name on an application without asking you.
3. Applying where YOU work!

If she doesn't get the job she'll suspect you're involved (hence why she told you now that she used you as a reference, not as a friendly discussion, but as a warning if anything should go wrong). In one sense then, she's basically already brought things to a conflict level. Either she gets the job and you'll have to lump it or move on. Or, she doesn't get the job and will be grumpy over in your apartment. This is bad news on every level.

Take action; try and protect your job and then get a new apartment pronto. Hopefully you live in a big enough town that she can find someone else to compete against to define her worth in life. Everything about your gut saying that Wendy's a concern is pure truth. I would limit your contact with her to a minimum from here on in. Sheesh, this is not going to be a fun few months for you.
posted by fantasticninety at 5:56 PM on June 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would be proactive about this, too.

Something like, "Hey Boss, I heard Wendy applied. I wanted to let you know, I see her a lot outside of work because she is dating my roommate, Devon. I'm not feeling comfortable that I may have to work with her, as well as see her outside of work all the time. What do you think?"

This is not underhanded or wrong at all to me. It's totally honest and you're looking out for yourself.
posted by amodelcitizen at 5:58 PM on June 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

But there’s nothing appropriate I can do that could stop her from getting a job at the place where I work.

There is something appropriate, "Hey Boss I see Wendy applied for a job here. Don't hire her; she's dating my roommate and she's a nightmare who is driving me slowly insane. She is not my friend, and I definitely don't recommend her for this job."

If you trust your boss and vice versa I see absolutely nothing wrong with this; it's merely an extension of don't shit where you eat. It's not like you work somewhere with a hundred employees. Small teams need to be tight to be good.
posted by smoke at 6:21 PM on June 23, 2011 [8 favorites]

The chemistry of the team in a restaurant is Key. The ethical thing is to tell the boss - proactively - that you heard she'd applied. Tell them that you find her abrasive and don't think she would fit well with team - which is entirely true, because you are a member of the team. Add that you know that it's their decision to make, but that seeing as your name had been dropped by her on the application, you needed to correct the record. If you have any cred with the boss, they will listen carefully.

You don't need to get into the fact that she drives you crazy, or the details. Just say she's not a good fit.
posted by ldthomps at 6:27 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it's fine to be honest with the hiring manager. You really aren't friends with her and while she's perfectly qualified, you really don't want to live and work with someone. And then walk away. Whether your manager cares or not is up to them. It's perfectly fine to be a little territorial within reason and she didn't ask to drop your name in the application, which should pretty much automatically kill her chances in my book.
posted by whoaali at 6:34 PM on June 23, 2011

The key question is whether you really are determined to quit if she is hired. If so, then you have nothing to lose by bringing it up pro-actively to hopefully avoid that outcome. If you don't really feel that way, examine why not and maybe that will guide you to a better answer. Maybe you can get scheduled on opposite shifts so that you are never in the apartment or at work at the same time...
posted by meinvt at 6:46 PM on June 23, 2011

If I were a restaurant manager and I were about to interview someone who was totally qualified for the position and felt like a good fit, and a current employee came to me saying, "Please don't hire this person, she's my roommate's girlfriend and she's a total nightmare and I can't stand her, if you hire her I will quit" it would give me pause... about the current employee, and why they're not able to leave their personal problems at the door, and why they feel their personal feelings should take precedence over hiring a qualified candidate who would fit in well with everyone else on the team.

Sometimes we have to work with people we don't like. If Wendy gets hired and you actually do quit and move out of your apartment, what will you do when you get a new roommate and you don't like HIS girlfriend? Or you don't like someone at your next job? Will you let that make you move again, find another new job?
posted by palomar at 7:22 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

In her application, she told them that she was a friend of mine—something that is not strictly true. [...] But there’s nothing appropriate I can do that could stop her from getting a job at the place where I work.

There is one thing you can do that is fully appropriate and responsible: approach the person responsible for hiring and clearly, civilly explain the situation. Not the situation in your apartment and home life, but the situation at work: that an applicant has notified you after the fact that she used your name on her application, but that she did so without consulting you and you are not comfortable giving her a recommendation.

Keep this conversation neutral in tone. You're not complaining about her, because your complaints are strictly personal and (arguably) not relevant to the workplace. You might say "[Wendy Lastname] tells me she applied for the job. Did she list me as a reference?"

[Yes, she did.] "Oh, I wish she'd asked me before she used me as a reference. I know her a bit --- she's dating my roommate --- but I really don't know her well enough to give her a reference. I just wanted to clarify that with you." The hiring manager now knows that, at best, Wendy didn't think to okay her references in advance; s/he also knows that you aren't vouching for Wendy as an applicant.

[No, she didn't, but she mentioned that you're friends.] "Oh, I see. I wouldn't say we're friends. I know her a bit --- she's dating my roommate --- but I really don't know her well enough to give her a reference. I'm glad you cleared that up for me." The hiring manager now knows that you're not volunteering to give Wendy a reference, that for whatever reason you're not enthusiastic about her coming to work there, and that maybe Wendy is stretching the truth a bit or maybe that she's just more enthusiastic about your friendship than you are about hers. Either way, that's useful information.

And in your shoes, I wouldn't feel at all bad about clarifying this with the person in charge of hiring. If someone is explicitly mentioning you on their application, they are trying to use you as a reference, whether or not you're listed under "references." That is, Wendy clearly thought that knowing you would be advantageous to her, but she didn't think to ask you if that was the case.

Now, this won't necessarily keep her from getting hired, nor should it... but back when I was hiring for small businesses, if one of my trusted employees said this to me about a potential hire, it would have diminished the applicant's appeal.
posted by Elsa at 7:24 PM on June 23, 2011 [13 favorites]

You are not being overly territorial.

I have no Idea why Wendy is all up in your business, but there she is.

Yes tell the relevant party Wendy used your name without permission. Absolutely!!

Yes start drawing boundaries at home. I like DarlingBri's script.
posted by jbenben at 7:37 PM on June 23, 2011

following up on my suggestion: if "I really don't know her well enough to give her a reference" doesn't accurately describe your feeling, how about "I'm not comfortable giving her a reference"? In fact, I'd say that is a slightly stronger remark --- but still absolutely truthful, accurate, and appropriate.
posted by Elsa at 7:39 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're crazy or overly territorial. I do think you made this harder for yourself by ignoring the main problem until you're at the table-flipping stage, though. You've got a third unpaying roommate who makes you uncomfortable in your own home. No wonder you don't want her as a co-worker!

As much as it sucks, you need to sit down with Devon and have a long overdue honest conversation with him to clarify house rules. Decide what you can live with, then set up those boundaries for common areas and overnight guests and stick to them... while looking for another place to live. Because right now Devon & Wendy get the house to themselves while you work past midnight to pay half the rent for three people. Why would they want to give that up without a fight?

As far as work goes, Wendy put your name down as a reference without discussing it with you - behavior I find unscrupulous - so I don't think you're obligated to do her any favors. If asked, let your manager know that you're only acquainted through your roommate and you've never worked together so you can't speak to her professional skills. Express surprise that she named you as a reference and let them read between the lines.

As a fellow conflict-avoider, trust me. No matter how awkward the situation, ignoring it only makes it worse. Good luck, and I hope this ends peacefully for you soon.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:52 PM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone! This is all a great help.
posted by presqu'ile at 10:03 PM on June 23, 2011

When I worked at a restaurant about 15-20% of my coworkers put my teeth on edge. Is she really so much worse than everyone else?
posted by salvia at 10:34 PM on June 23, 2011

Nthing you should be proactive.

Nothing is more important in a work place then FIT. I would not make this personal - that makes you look vindictive and may raise questions about you. I would instead focus on two things:

1. She put your name down as a reference, and you cannot give her a positive reference (start with this - let them probe for more info - but gist should be you have seen her in a personal context and while you think she could physically do the work, she has poor boundaries and causes conflict around her)

2. You have severe hesitations about her and believe her to be a very poor FIT for the workplace. Emphasize that in a personal context she is very difficult and hard to get along with.

These are huge red flags and excellent reasons for the hiring manager to pick someone else.
posted by zia at 10:56 PM on June 23, 2011

Also, i would go one further and say that you also have an moral obligation to your workplace (much bigger obligation than not standing in the way of someone you dislike) to bring to the attention of the hiring manager key information that helps them hire good people. The business' success is in some way your success, and you (and the team) should work to promote a good workplace environment so you can be productive. Bringing someone into the team who has poor boundaries and causes conflict will not increase workplace productivity.
posted by zia at 10:59 PM on June 23, 2011

Uck. She sounds very much like One Of Those People. Sometimes you run across one of those people and the next thing you know, for reasons impenetrable, they seem to be taking over your life. They are everywhere you are – all. the. time.; your interests and hobbies are suddenly their interests and hobbies, your favorite things are their favorite things... they'll even act like they are intimately close to your family/oldest friends/dog/cat/mailman... as if they were their very own. It's bizarre and scary, profoundly unsettling and claustrophobic.

After a couple of exposures myself, I learned to put the kibosh on this sort of thing right out of the gate. If she is One Of Those People, I would be seeing that she did not ending up working with me, however I needed to do that.
posted by taz at 12:48 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I totally disagree with the idea that you ethically have no choice but to put up with this. I was fixing to say what Elsa said, but then, as it turned out... Elsa said it. So I'll say it again, in my own words:

She used your name to apply for a job. It doesn't matter if she put your name in the "References" section or not. She has made you a de facto reference for herself, without your permission. By doing this, she has misrepresented your position and you not only have a right to correct it, you have a duty, because if you let it go you will be implicated in the hiring of someone you don't think is a suitable hire.

Do not say "she's a nightmare" or anything like that. Take the emotion out of it entirely. Be very minimal and factual.

Say: "My roommate's GF, Wendy, has told me that she has used my name in an application for a job here. Just to be clear, she didn't do so with my permission." That is all you have to say.

I also disagree with the sentiment "we all have to work with people we don't like". There's people we don't like, and then there's boundary-crossers and troublemakers. Even if you believe that it's totally unsuspicious for Wendy to take a job at your workplace on top of becoming semi-resident in your home, it's highly unlikely that your restaurant is the only place on Earth that she could possibly find employment.

I suppose Wendy could be anticipating your objection and be planning to use it to accuse you of zomg sabotaging her livelihood it was her it was her! Make her go away Devon! All I can say is, if that happens, it's probably worth it. But get ready for that.
posted by tel3path at 1:33 AM on June 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Agree with much that's been said about having a word with the hiring manager. With regards to Devon and his girlfriend staying over, it's probably time to have a serious chat about why he can't respect your boundaries about not having his girlfriend over all the time. Tell him you can't afford to subsidize another person and you don't want a third roomate. If this continues and they need to spend that much time together, they should probably start looking for their own place. Then follow through.

Seriously, you need to stand up for yourself and take your life back. No one else will do it for you and if you don't push back, people will just think you're ok with it and walk all over you.
posted by Jubey at 2:09 AM on June 24, 2011

Sorry, I just realized you didn't ask for help with the room mate situation, just the work one.
posted by Jubey at 2:27 AM on June 24, 2011

Sink her application. This is your livelihood! It's tough enough to work with all the nuts you don't have a choice to NOT work with. This woman gave you the perfect opportunity by informing you that she applied. Make sure your boss knows that you do not want her to join the team. Don't lie about her, but make it clear that you will not be excited to work with her. Don't say that you'll quit if she gets hired, though, that just sounds immature and catty.

Good luck.
posted by tk at 7:47 AM on June 24, 2011

She probably thinks you guys get along well since she put your name on the application. Something to think about
posted by mikesrex at 9:18 PM on June 25, 2011

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