Is my boss out of line or am I?
November 19, 2014 8:11 PM   Subscribe

My job has an externship program that frequently hires externs once their externship is complete and they have completed their degree. I have been mentoring an excellent externship who have out performed any other extern I have mentored. She is fantastic and I want her for our team but my department supervisor refuses to offer her an job. Complication inside.

We work in a smallish field. Extern currently works in the field but at another facility. My supervisor is friends with Extern's current boss. Extern works part time their in a subspecialty in our field that is different than the subspecialty I am mentoring extern in. Extern has expressed interest in working in my subspecialty exclusively. Extern's supervisor recently came to attend an event at our facility where she and my supervisor had an conversation in my work area regarding this class of externs. Extern's supervisor asked how Extern was doing and my supervisor said "she's great! One of the best we've had." Extern's supervisor than said "I know! Stinks for you that we already hired her. Too bad you can't have her." Then there was some awkward laughing. Previous to asking about Extern my supervisor and extern's supervisor had been discussing how difficult it has been to hire qualified candidates. My department is currently running on a skeleton crew. We are all working overtime shifts to make up for the two department members we recently loss.

Last week my co-worker asked Extern if she was going to apply for a job with our facility after her externship was complete and she said yes. Shortly after that conversation our supervisor came into our work area and Co-worker excitedly told her that Extern was going to apply for a job with us. My supervisor said "Well, we all like extern but I can't offer her a position because I am friends with Extern's boss and Extern's boss would be hate me."

I spoke with supervisor privately and reiterated that I really enjoyed extern and thought she would be an excellent addition to our department. I said that extern was willing to apply the slow-route (VS. the fast-track or internal route most former externs use) to get the job so my supervisor would be in a less awkward position. This route would involve being initially interviewed by a larger group of department supervisors that would vote on whether to offer a position to extern. Supervisor told me that even in that case she would be unable to vote in favor for hiring extern because of the personal and professional rift it would cause between her and extern's supervisor, and that she would recommend that the facility consider other candidates. A vote against an extern from the supervisor of the department she externes would not look food.

I think this is ridiculous. My department supervisor recently told us that we were "in crisis" mode and we would all have to make sacrifices until we on boarded new staff. "Crisis mode" means extra shifts, over time, and doing the work of two people every day.

I am going to recommend to Extern that she apply externally and that I will sing her praises to our other department supervisors.

Is my thinking that my boss is behaving badly in this situation out of line?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total)
These sound like typical work politics. It really isn't your business to intervene further.

You might however consider moving to a work environment that is not in crisis mode every day just for your own sanity.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:20 PM on November 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

Your boss is absolutely being an asshole and incredibly unprofessional.
posted by shoesietart at 8:27 PM on November 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

It sounds as if your boss has her loyalty confused between her personal friendship and the interests of the company by whom she is paid.
posted by 724A at 8:32 PM on November 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

This sounds like a great thing to address in a 360 Review, but I don't think you can take any further action without overstepping your bounds.
posted by brookeb at 8:42 PM on November 19, 2014

Your boss is in the wrong but there's not much you can do about it unfortunately.
posted by lunasol at 8:56 PM on November 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I agree with oceanjesse that there are work politics at play, and that you should stay out. Poaching someone from another company happens all the time, but if the partnership between the two organisations is valuable, I can see why your boss would want to steer clear.
posted by third word on a random page at 8:58 PM on November 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

The boss of my department is tight old friends with a woman who does a similar job at the school across town.

My specific work has poached....ohh...4 people from $OtherSchool in the past 8 years. My boss and $OtherSchoolBoss joke about it in a "it is better to laugh at the pain than not at all" way yet they are still friends.

Point is, good people don't let friendship interfere with good business sense to hire the best person for the job! I agree that this is crummy and wrong. But there is not much you can do, sadly, except write intern a great letter of rec so that when she moves on from either place, she has several glowing references.
posted by holyrood at 9:03 PM on November 19, 2014

Whoa. Your poor extern! She can't have the job she wants because these two assholes are friends??

As much as pains me to suggest, can your extern explain to her current boss that she prefers to work in subfield and get her OK to apply for the new position?

Otherwise, you should both go work for a new company. You're not slaves or indentured servants.

Unless you are and the politics are that fierce. You know better than me if pissing off these two asshats is career suicide or not.

I wish you both success and freedom.
posted by jbenben at 9:41 PM on November 19, 2014 [8 favorites]

Your boss is way out of line, and is in fact not doing their job and being quite the asshole.

But you can't do much about it.

I am going to recommend to Extern that she apply externally and that I will sing her praises to our other department supervisors.

This is the best you can do.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:25 PM on November 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do not encourage this person to go behind the back of the person who has already hired her to try to get a different job instead. It's clear that the two bosses are in close contact and they will both know how it came about and it may result in the loss of both possible jobs. You know there's a workplace politics thing happening here, why would you go out of your way to fuck it up for this person?

Existing relationships are valuable things and whether poaching someone else's employee should or shouldn't upset those relationships in your view, your boss apparently thinks it will. She values a high level relationship over a single new graduate hire, which is a valid decision even if you think the circumstances that force it are dumb.

If this student thinks she really, really, really wants to work in your department, she should probably talk to the supervisor that hired her about how that supervisor would feel if she also applied for a job in your department and base her decisions on the reaction she gets there. If they both feel involved in the choice, it's possible the two supervisors could come to an amicable conclusion about what to do, but if it's just a unilateral choice, especially one you're pushing, it's likely to go badly.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:30 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

You don't know what's going on behind the scenes. You only know what you've been told. Do not relay any of this to the extern and butt out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 AM on November 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

am going to recommend to Extern that she apply externally

How is this going to help them? Don't hurt their reputation in this field to satisfy an argument with your boss.
posted by spaltavian at 6:03 AM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

If your supervisor and your extern's supervisor are in different facilities in different companies, this looks quite a bit like an informal no poach agreement, with the net effect of suppressing wages. The DoJ has opinions about this sort of behavior. If you're all in the same firm, it's just a crappy situation though.

A quick test: do you think your boss would be okay with you sending a note to the extern stating that, despite the incredible performance in the externship, you will not make them an offer and why? I think the extern would benefit from having that knowledge, and if everything's on the up and up, stating why you won't make an offer wouldn't harm your firm.

And really, if these two supervisors are friends, then extern's supervisor should be willing to let this one candidate go to a department in 'crisis mode.' Sadly, the only way I see this working out is if the extern directly asks her supervisor for guidance in getting a job in your subspeciality. Employment is not a first-come-first-serve affair, unless you sign a contact, and this supervisor needs to be reminded of this.
posted by pwnguin at 9:37 AM on November 20, 2014

am going to recommend to Extern that she apply externally

This sounds like a terrible idea when you already know the outcome will be negative for all involved. I think your enthusiasm for what you perceive as justice here might have more to do with the "crisis mode" working conditions you are working under, and that it would be more productive to focus on what you can do to improve your own situation.
posted by kaspen at 11:00 AM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I actually don't think your boss is behaving badly. She's using her best judgment regarding what may be a key relationship in your field. You don't agree with her judgment, but there may also be things you don't know and that your boss isn't sharing with you. If the other boss really cared about the extern, she'd be helping her advance in her career even if that meant that she left the company, but not every manager can be that selfless. Sometimes you have to work with and around jerks and that may be what your boss is having to do.

I think the best thing you could do is suggest to your extern that she talk to her supervisor about her interest in the subspecialty that she's working with you in. She doesn't have to say she wants to apply for another job, but she could walk right up to that line and ask her supervisor for mentorship and support in exploring that as a career option. Her current boss might actually give the extern her blessing. Or maybe she won't.

Either way, you should do this without mentioning that your boss won't hire her because she's afraid that her current boss will get mad. There's no reason for you to poison the well in her current workplace.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 8:06 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

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