How to write a "thanks but no thanks" email in a tense situation
July 29, 2015 10:17 AM   Subscribe

A long time family friend has offered to put in a good word for me at his place of employment. Sweet! The problem: he and my mom were dating. More complications after the fold.

My dad died ~10 years ago and my mom only just started dating again in the past couple years. She broke up with this family friend (we've known him for 20+ years, went on family vacations with him and his family, my dad got him a job many years ago too, etc.) when she discovered that he was dragging his feet about his divorce. She moved on and is dating someone new. Since he found out, he has been very aggressive and threatening in his middle-of-the-night calls and texts to the point where my mom is thinking of filing a police report. I only just found out about all this today.

Another detail is that his dad passed away about a month ago which may be another factor in his erratic behaviour.

He has already done some groundwork such as asking for a presentation in the department I'm interested in, emailing the person in charge of hiring about me, and editing my cover letter. This job is in an aspect of my field that I have never been interested in and therefore do not have as many of the qualifications for it as other candidates would. I'm sure that if i applied - which I haven't yet - without an internal reference I wouldn't get anywhere.

He wrote this to me in one of his emails:

"I know there are some idiosyncratic ideas and behaviors inherent in your mother...I say that as a preface to acknowledging some of the challenges I know you also face in dealing with her as a person and parent.

I think you’ll get an offer for interview. Let me know, and I’ll bear the expense of your airfare, transportation and lodging; and if you’d prefer, we can keep it on the lowdown so that you don’t have to cope with any familial distractions if that be your preference. I just offer that as an option and it incurs no obligation for repayment on our part. You are a family friend, your dad helped me, and I owe due consideration to his oldest, as a friend and parent."

This is obviously out of the question but I'm just illustrating some of his thinking. I have no idea why he would think that I'd need to basically sneak down to do the interview. My mom has been through some seriously rough times (my sister passed away about four years after my dad) and has come out the other side stronger, more generous and open-hearted than before. I'm deeply irritated he would make such assumptions about our relationship. That alone made me want to cut ties with him.

Am I right in not wanting a favour from him? I've written in the past about my employment problems and knowing someone seems to be so important these days. If I am, how do I word a response so as not to escalate anything at home with my mom?
posted by rollingdoughnut to Human Relations (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"I really appreciate the offer, but would like to avoid any conflict of interest and be considered solely on my merit for any jobs I choose to apply for."

I'd avoid all future contact with him too, but retain copies of any times he contacts you if your mom needs supportive evidence for her police report.
posted by Twicketface at 10:23 AM on July 29, 2015 [13 favorites]

Uh, no, I don't think you should accept a favor from a man who is harassing your mother and has sent you what is frankly a very unhinged-sounding note that insinuates all kinds of unpleasant things about her.

Sometimes shit happens and you can't go after the job you're interested in. Your mom is thinking about filing a police report against this man, does this seem like a reasonable time to ask him to put a good word in for you about a job?
posted by cakelite at 10:28 AM on July 29, 2015 [17 favorites]

He's overstepping his bounds. He's got it in his head that he needs to be a father figure to you. No, no, no.
posted by desuetude at 10:36 AM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

This sounds beyond sketchy. This guy is going to pay for your airfare and hotel accommodations to try to get you hired at his company? And he has been harassing your mom? Oh dear, this guy has no boundaries, is a user and is a creep.

Sadly, I think you need to set your sights on a different company. Regardless of whether you want this man's help or not, I just think working with this guy seems like a really bad idea. Even if it's a big company and you won't see him much, he has already put in the effort to get you hired, so you will be connected to him and in his mind, you will "owe" him. There's no way you can get hired and have him not be involved. Look for a job somewhere else.

As for what you say to him? "Thanks for the offer to help. I've decided to pursue another job opportunity and I am no longer interested in Company X. Take care." Then go no-contact.

>> knowing someone seems to be so important these days.

Knowing someone who isn't an abusive asshole who uses people is useful. Getting a "favor" from this guy creates more problems than it does solutions. I would honestly just look elsewhere and cut ties with this man. It sounds like he is trying to ingratiate himself to you just to get back at your mom, which is gross.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:44 AM on July 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

Keep it short.

"You've done so much already! I don't think I'd have gotten my foot in the door without you, and I want you to know I truly appreciate what you've done.

At this point I think I've got to stand up as an independent professional and get the rest of the way under my own power!

But thanks so much for your offer!"
posted by zennie at 10:45 AM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thisis just one more way for him to reach out/goad/upset/get a reaction from your mother. He'd love it if she was forced to deal with him because of you, or if he managed to get you to sneak past your mom. Bleh.
And yes, tell him it's kind of him to make this effort but you want to do this on your own, you're sure he'll understand. Then don't answer any further emails, or take a looooong time to respond.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:46 AM on July 29, 2015 [17 favorites]

And if he persists, "Please trust me, I've got it from here." And then stop responding.
posted by zennie at 10:47 AM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

He is blackmailing you. This is disastrous and you've got to back out now to protect your reputation and job eligibility.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:48 AM on July 29, 2015 [9 favorites]

I mean I get his impulse, karmic-ly returning a favor from your father, or the paternal sense toward the child of a long time family friend.

But he's clearly not compartmentalizing at all and that makes this whole situation slippery.

Am I right in not wanting a favour from him?

You don't need to be right or wrong. You can just not want it.
posted by French Fry at 10:48 AM on July 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

This guy has no business inferring that your mother is crazy. This is typical abuser/stalker behavior.

Often, abusers/stalkers will write to family members and co-workers to express concern for a woman's mental health. If they can get other people on board, pretty soon she will lose the support of her friends and family, and possibly lose her job. Then she will (in his mind) see the error of her ways and have to return to him so he can "rescue" her and abuse her again.

Read Phase 2 about stalking here. You are being used and manipulated in the worst kind of way. I would stay far away from this guy and yes, save all future emails just in case.

How good would his referral be if he later gets arrested for stalking or breaking a protection order?

He is also testing the waters to see if you will go along with his assessment of your mother. Divide and conquer.

I would write back and say, "I find your remarks about my mother highly inappropriate. Please do not contact her again. No thanks for the job assistance. I can take it from here. You need to move on." No sorry's or thanks to soften the blow. Let this a-hole know he's being called on his behavior. If someone talked about my Mom like that, as well as harassed and threatened her? I'd be all, like, "hey, I heard you threatened my Mom. If that makes her crazy, maybe you'd better look in the mirror, bub." But that's just me, I have a big mouth when it comes to things like that. You probably want to say something about your priorities changing and thanks but you're going to pass on his offer. If he persists, then you can tell him off.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:35 AM on July 29, 2015 [24 favorites]

I would have serious second thoughts about how valuable this guy's opinion is at his workplace if this is behavior that he thinks is appropriate.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:49 AM on July 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

His comments about your mom make my blood boil, and his offer to pay for everything is creepy as hell.

I think telling him off is going to escalate things and encourage further engagement on his part, and that is the last thing you want. Just say, "I have decided to pursue other opportunities. Best wishes, rollingdoughnut" If you want to pad this out with some thanks for his legwork in order to avoid a concern-trolling "I sense some reservations" response, then please feel free to do so.

You are not obligated to educate this man about his weirdness. Just disengage as cleanly as you can.
posted by delight at 12:05 PM on July 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Am I right in not wanting a favour from him?
I don't know any of the parties involved but I felt actual disgust when I read his note. I think you are right, for so many reasons.

I'd bet my life he's not doing this altruistically in memory of your father; what a bullshit manipulative thing to say. He wants you indebted to him, he wants to pull a fast one on your mom, he literally wants to take the daughter of the woman he's harassing an airplane trip away from her, in secret. And he insults your mother while offering you this "favor."

No job is worth this. "I think you’ll get an offer for interview" does not actually sound like he's got that much sway anyhow.

I actually think "Thanks, but no thanks" is sufficient because you do not want to be negotiating with this person. If that feels too abrupt for you, you could sweeten by saying "Dear X, thanks much for all you've done but it turns out I will be pursuing X opportunity instead." Then might I suggest never ever contacting him again, no matter how he responds?
posted by kapers at 12:06 PM on July 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Oh gosh, yuck! I'm sorry you're having to deal with this right now. I totally agree that it's not a favor you'd want to take him up on.

Can you just ignore his message? If you've been corresponding with him about your job search, then I see why you'd reply; if it's out of the blue, then I'd just ignore it.
posted by smorgasbord at 12:12 PM on July 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think it might not have been clear from my post above, so: I would strongly advise avoiding this company altogether. Not worth the chance of bumping into him.
posted by delight at 12:18 PM on July 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

After reading smorgasbord's comment I am thinking, yeah, what's the downside of ignoring him forevermore?

It's not as though you will be applying to his company, so he won't be able to sabotage your career.

I feel like pretty much any response from you will probably fuel his nasty creepy harassing behavior, of your mother and of you. It may even legitimize in his mind what a "good guy" he is if you are polite to him.

Sorry this is happening. There are better jobs out there for you.
posted by kapers at 12:19 PM on July 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Not only is this creepy and stalker-y, but if you are female, it's even worse: that'd make it as if he's using you as a stand-in for your mother, and will transfer his "attentions" to the younger version of the woman he's been stalking.

You are 100% right not to want any favors from this dude, he's creepy as fuck.
posted by easily confused at 12:28 PM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Eight words: "Do not contact me or my mother again," and sock away the "idiosyncratic behaviors in your mother" atrocity and any other or forthcoming communications from him in case your mom goes ahead with the police report. Don't even mention to him anything about his supposed efforts to give you "career help," since you and he both know they're spurious. How appalling.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:49 PM on July 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

I do want to say, his email is very creepy in that he calls your mother crazy and then uses that as his basis for suggesting you let him whisk you away in secret on his dime. I think you realize this, which is why I didn't harp on it, but he is trying to interfere in your relationship with your mother. I don't know if his end goal is to get you to turn on your mom, to get you to convince your mom to give him a second chance, or something else, but his motives are very clearly related to his stalking of your mom. He crossed so many boundaries in that email to you, it's amazing. It's also just kind of written like a crazy person -- who talks the way he talks? Gave the the willies.

I answered your question about how to say "thanks but no thanks," but think I agree with another poster that ignoring him entirely is a good option. I realize that when you were letting him help you with this job, you didn't know he was harassing your mom. Now that you do know, it may be best to just cut ties, no explanation needed. If you think he will freak out, then just use a basic "thanks but no thanks" script and never contact him again or respond to him again. You asked this question for a reason -- you know in your gut this guy is a creep, but you are worried about shooting yourself in the foot on a potential job. Unfortunately, no job is better than this situation. I do think you should look elsewhere for work and accept that this company is no longer a good place to work because this creep without boundaries will be able to shift his revenge from your mom to you, if he wishes.

I don't think telling him off is the answer. Yes, this guy sucks and it'd be great if he knew it, but he surely sees himself as a victim and a nice guy and he won't get it. All it will probably do is escalate things. Good luck!
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:47 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sorry, but I think you have to not take this job opportunity at all. Not letting him sugar daddy you through the interview is not enough.

If you get hired there, he will always act like it was because of him, and it might actually be true. It's clear he is a big wheel there and that will always be over your head. You cannot go into a situation where the guy who is harassing your mom has a handle on your career. That's a really, really bad idea.

Find a different job. Yes it is rough out there, but the cost of this "friend" is too high.

As far as the reply goes, I would wait a few days--your head will be clearer--and then a brief reply "thanks for your efforts, but I've decided not to pursue this opportunity after all" and no further replies whatever he says next (of course there will be a next).

I would tell your mom exactly what happened here, too. Maybe he's telling her interesting things about you? In any case the two of you need to be aware of what he's getting up to with the other one.
posted by mattu at 2:05 PM on July 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Wow, that is one creepy note. While generally speaking it's good to network and explore opportunities in one's chosen field, this is not one of those situations. To be honest I wouldn't even answer it, because even a simple "thanks but no thanks" is only engaging with him further.
posted by stowaway at 2:24 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

> Am I right in not wanting a favour from him?

My opinion is that he's trying to get to your mom through you. So yes, you're right: you don't want a favor from this guy.

I would personally not get in-his-face about not wanting his help (ie, "do not contact me again!") and go with something bland like "Thank you for your kind offer, but I've decided to pursue other interests".
posted by doctor tough love at 4:44 PM on July 29, 2015

I kind of think you should withdraw your application from his company altogether. But if you don't want to do that (he wouldn't be your supervisor, at least, right?), you do need to respond.

I would say, essentially, I've applied for a job and this is a professional endeavor. Your comments about my mother are not professional and I ask that you do not make further comments about my family. I appreciate the fact that you put in a good word for me, and your other offers are generous, but I can't accept any favors and want to be judged on my own qualifications, thanks.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:17 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

He is absolutely trying to use you to get to your mother. Disagree with advice to say bland/politic things or nothing, and strongly 2nd Marie Mon Dieu and Don Pepino - tell him no, and why, once, then document if he continues.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:13 PM on July 29, 2015

I would not seek confrontation or drama with him; it will feed his drama. I would totally suggest your Mom call the police, and even more, call the nearest family violence program to get advice on dealing with him. He's creepy and potentially dangerous.
posted by theora55 at 7:43 PM on July 29, 2015

I agree with everyone who thinks you're going to need to give this opportunity a miss. I am not so sure about the advice to tell him to leave your mom alone, not for your safety but for hers - he's already unstable, aggressive and threatening towards her, and I don't think anything that you say that he might read as antagonizing, however justified, is safe for her. This has nothing to do with what's right or what you're entitled to say - it's just that he's not a reasonable or safe person, and he is already angry, so it might be best to handle him very gently, as you would an explosive device.

I would thank him for all his help and say that on reflection, it isn't a good time for you to apply for this position (without talking about your mother). Extend your condolences on the death of his father, if you haven't already, and close the note. And then avoid the hell out of him.

Then encourage your mom to file that police report.
posted by gingerest at 12:18 AM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

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