Is this a workplace red flag and if so what could I even do about it?
August 2, 2017 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Thanks to a friend connecting me with her network, I am about to get a job offer. The new supervisor did something a bit strange that is giving me cold feet. Meanwhile I'm being courted by someone else in the company. Help.

The new would-be supervisor contacted my current boss before my current boss knew I was thinking of leaving the company, in spite of my request to not have them contacted until after an offer was made. This resulted in a very awkward conversation with my current boss. I am concerned about what this could mean for promise-keeping and other matters if I accept the employment offer. The new supervisor did mention that several of my references we're unreachable but still chose to violate my request for the order of operations and that concerns me.

There is also someone reaching out with a role that I might like even better, who knows i am in the running for role A, and has stated we can promptly set an interview for role B.

I am concerned about political fallout from rejecting an offer for role A which is likely forthcoming as I was recommended by this person's supervisor for the job. So I feel like if an offer is made I need to accept, but the way he handled my current employment is leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Advice? Suggestions? What's the protocol in a situation like this? Thanks so much.
posted by crunchy potato to Work & Money (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's a flag on the workplace necessarily but it is most definitely a flag on the supervisor. I wouldn't want to work for this person! This is an enormous violation of privacy and protocol and you don't even work for them yet. You think they're going to be more respectful when they ARE your boss? I'm guessing not.

I have worked with people who would ask around for informal references in their own network, people they trusted to be quiet about it, and I understood that, although I didn't like it. But to reach out to your current boss behind your back... eesh.

That said, what's done is done and I think this person may have burned your bridge at your current place, unfortunately. So take that into consideration. I'd be hoping that role B is a good fit.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:44 AM on August 2, 2017 [21 favorites]

The nice lady over at AskAManager has said that it's a reasonable request that your prospective employer not contact your current employer, so there's that.

Speaking for myself, if an interviewer did that to me after I had asked him/her not to, I'd tell him/her very frankly how unacceptable that was. Then I would probably walk away from the hire process, unless I felt the response from the offending manager in some way gave me a reason to believe the lapse was forgivable.

The hiring process is a two-way street - never forget that this is your chance to ensure you're getting the employer you need and deserve, not just the other way around.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 10:50 AM on August 2, 2017 [19 favorites]

Not to threadsit but just for context. The position was created based on my interest, coded a certain way with me in mind to fill the role, per the supervisor's supervisor. I also do not want to burn bridges with my friend that put me in touch with the supervisor. Aside from those two factors I would be withdrawing my application based on my perception of a violation of trust. The supervisor reached out to me to get in touch, but still called current supervisor before we spoke and told me that the current boss was surprised that he was calling. No kidding.

So I'm mostly wondering if I can stretch the process for role B to become a consideration without too much political fallout under the circumstances.
posted by crunchy potato at 10:58 AM on August 2, 2017

Last year, I interviewed for a job. I interviewed with five people: three would-be peers, my would-be boss, and my would-be boss's boss. Everyone was lovely but my would-be boss's boss really, really rubbed me wrong. I was eager to move on in my career, though, so I took the job.

Within a month, I knew that I had messed up. Boss's boss was just as awful as I had feared (one of my peers was regularly to be found crying in the bathroom after a meeting with him). I left that job after six months and am very self-conscious of that little blip on my resume.

Moral of the story: When people tell you who they are, believe them. People - interviewee and interviewer - are on their best behavior during the hiring process. If red flags are already going up (and yes, this is a Big Red Flag) then you can only imagine what working for this person would be like.

Personally, I would not accept Role A and would cross my fingers hard that either Role B works out or that your relationship with your current boss hasn't been irreparably damaged. If you feel that you need to choose between Roles A and B, I think it's reasonable to ask for extra time to consider Offer A while you work through Hiring Process B. Tell Hiring Manager B that you're extremely interested but need to make a choice by [date].
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:15 AM on August 2, 2017 [19 favorites]

I will say that I had almost precisely just this scenario happen to me. Went to interview for a job, and when I got back to my office that afternoon, an hour or two later, there was a voice mail from my would-be boss to my now-boss saying I had applied and asking about a reference. I had not given permission for anyone to call my boss, much less the same day as the interview. I was amazingly pissed, and my boss actually knows I'm looking for a new job! (Odd situation, too off topic to get into). I was pissed, and for that reason, turned down the job, which they ultimately offered me. I later heard through the grapevine that I had dodged a bullet, as the would-be boss was not someone I wanted to be working for.

So yeah, I think that's a big red flag. That's just plain unprofessional and evinces a cavalier attitude toward someone's livelihood; I can only imagine what the guy would be like once you're actually working for him.
posted by holborne at 11:15 AM on August 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

What are you thinking of in terms of political fallout? I can see where you'd have to smooth things over with your friend (not that you did anything wrong but I can see why they would want an explanation), but beyond that, I don't see how this is going to cause you 'political fallout.' The fact that this company created a role with you in mind doesn't mean you're OBLIGATED to fill it, nor does it mean that they won't be able to find someone else sooner or later.

Yes, Role B absolutely can be a consideration for you - and if it were me I would definitely try my best to make Role B happen.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:19 AM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Re: political fallout. The division supervisor went to bat for me to help me find a position with the company and this is the one that congealed. I don't want to create bad blood by not accepting it.
posted by crunchy potato at 11:25 AM on August 2, 2017

I agree that you don't want to be working for someone who so easily decides that your requests (and livelihood) are secondary to his own convenience. I would consider it, as fingersandtoes said, a red flag regarding the specific supervisor, but not necessarily the company.

With that in mind, I would absolutely pursue the role B angle. It's the position you would prefer anyway, and it gets you away from the red flagged supervisor. I wouldn't worry too much about the political fallout because the only person whose likely to to be really annoyed is the role A supervisor (who you don't want to work with anyway), and role B supervisor is likely to take the brunt of it anyway (and she is in a better position than you are to know what that fallout might be).

Best of all, if you follow-up regarding role B while politely withdrawing your application to role A, you get a very good chance to see how these sorts of things play out within the company. If it causes visible fallout that looks like it would haunt you in the new position, you can withdraw your application to role B as well, and feel secure that the problems are company-wide and that you dodged a bullet.
posted by 256 at 11:30 AM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

I agree it's a red flag. Nthing that you are seeing people on the best possible behavior that you will ever see from them.

If you end up turning down the job, I would think (hard) about an appropriate way to let the division supervisor know why you turned down the job. It's a delicate situation, but any reasonable person will understand that this is a breach of trust for someone who is trying to figure out if they want to work for the company. If I had someone working for me who did this stuff in a way that soured potential new hires on the company, I'd want to know.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:34 AM on August 2, 2017

This is a red flag as far as the supervisor goes. Now you know this is someone you cannot trust and you will need to manage what you divulge to this supervisor accordingly. I don't think it should necessarily wave you off a job you otherwise want, but you will know going in to be careful about what you tell the supervisor and you will never want to share anything with the supervisor you wouldn't be comfortable having shared beyond the supervisor.

That said, you could ask for more money and give yourself to not receive an offer if you want. But there's no guarantee that you will get Role B. And now, unfortunately, your current employer knows you want to leave so, if there are any layoffs or downsizing, you'll be first to go. Any reason you're leaving your current job? You could talk to your boss about, saying the reason you were looking was higher pay/new responsibilities/etc and if your current job can offer some of that, you will stop looking and stay.

If I were in your position, I would probably drag things out with Role A as much as possible and see what happens with Role B. If I don't get Role B, I'd probably accept Role A. If it turns out to not be a good fit and you move on sooner than you planned, it's not the end of the world. Sometimes jobs don't work out how you had hoped -- it won't stop anyone from hiring you.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:34 AM on August 2, 2017

You can negotiate the offer on Role A. Tell them that you would like a change in supervisor, and would like to report directly to supervisor's supervisor. Sounds like that person did you a solid in creating a role for you, and might be willing to do you another solid by changing supervisor.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:05 PM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Absolutely a red flag, and I would not want to work for that person, even just because I'd harbor resentment towards them for what they did.

Pursue Role B, and if you do have an interview with HR, I think you can confidentially and honestly say that you are very grateful for the company's efforts in creating Role A for you and recognizing your potential for contribution, but that you were a bit surprised that your request for confidentially throughout the interview process was not honored by the hiring manager for Role A.

Not wanting your current employer to know that you're looking for a job is a common request with heavy implications for the candidate. In fact, I make sure to tell any recruiter that I will work with them only if they promise to do keep my candidacy confidential, and any references that the potential new employer contacts do not include my current boss until at least the first round of interviews is complete. It is an ethical violation, and if you were to get terminated from your current job based on fallout from this violation, it is potential litigation. Tell HR, but don't make a big deal out of it. They will understand.
posted by Everydayville at 12:27 PM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

So I feel like if an offer is made I need to accept

This is almost never true in life and can be in direct conflict with you taking care of your own interests. Trust your gut. People write questions here every week explaining how they are in a toxic work situation and are stressed and can't leave yet due to financial circumstances - would you choose this for yourself over maybe annoying your friend a bit?
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:23 PM on August 2, 2017 [13 favorites]

You don't owe anyone anything.

Do you want to work for someone who violated your trust in the earliest days of meeting you, to a degree that could cost you your job?

Whether or not you take the job the senior supervisor or HR department of this company needs to be made aware that this occurred.
posted by French Fry at 1:49 PM on August 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

I have no smooth poltical way to handle this, but no, you can not work for boss A.

YES! Pursue role B!!
posted by jbenben at 2:06 PM on August 2, 2017

You can totally tell your friend that you were really excited about this and extremely grateful for their help but that you were shocked by what Supervisor A did and it made you realize that your values just weren't aligned and that it wouldn't be a good boss/report relationship.

I wouldn't have any conversation about it with anyone until option B gels though.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:16 PM on August 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you are offered role B, and it is indeed a better fit for you, then take it.

If the role A people aren't complete and total assholes, they'll understand. And if they don't, you wouldn't want to work for them anyway.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:38 PM on August 2, 2017

Think about the conversation where you asked them not to talk to your current boss before they made you an offer. How strongly did you request this? How strongly did they agree? If they said "Oh, absolutely, I can see how important that is, of course there's no reason we'd call your boss unless we had made you a job offer and you said it was ok," then they are very much going back on their word and/or are willing to promise things they have no intention of delivering and that's a big red flag against the specific supervisor. If they gave you a businessesque answer like "Oh, our HR policy is a reference check before the offer, but I'll put a note on your file" that means they're disorganized (lost the post-it note) and/or bureaucratic (HR can't not follow policy), and it's a smaller but broader red flag. Or maybe they gave a vague non-answer like "that ought to be possible" that could be interpreted as agreement, but they didn't actually promise anything. Or maybe it was unclear, as "we don't call references for anyone we're not making an offer to" becomes "well, we were going to make you an offer, so we called them". Is that a red flag? Kind of, or maybe it's just a lesson in how you're going to need to interact with them and how carefully you need to listen to what they say and don't say.
posted by aimedwander at 3:06 PM on August 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

I agree with everyone above that's recommended not to take the job. If you can't trust your boss before you even accepted a job I'd hate to think how that person treats actual employees.

That said, they appear, unless I'm reading your post wrong, to have given you the perfect out if you want to drop job A, pursue job B, and leave minimal fallout in your wake.

Your friend did you a favor, but the person they referred you to violated your trust. Any good friend should understand why that's unacceptable, and completely understand your reason for walking away from that potential job.

As for the person, tell them you feel what they did was unacceptable after you specifically asked them not to, and leave it at that. You know you're in the right, and if they have a problem with you after that, that's their problem. They made their bed.
posted by AllTheQuestions at 3:55 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Take into consideration the points made by aimedwander. And then...contacting your current employer is extremely unprofessional, unless you have specifically told them it's ok to do so. Unprofessional in any form or fashion, period, and so much so that you have an instant out for Position A if you want it. IF you want out. Just avoid the drama, and state very politely and firmly...

"Supervisor contacted my current employer when I explicitly asked him not to. I don't feel comfortable reporting to him at this point."

And then let the chips fall where they may. If nothing else, Supervisor has learned a good lesson in professional etiquette. But, it's not really clear that you do want out? Are you angling for an offer for Job A while keeping a possible Job B in the running? If that's the case, I don't think it's possible to juggle both offers, one a solid offer that you might not want and one a possibility that may or may not pan out. So you need to decide exactly what you want here and then move forward in a positive manner.
posted by raisingsand at 5:52 PM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

The division supervisor went to bat for me to help me find a position with the company and this is the one that congealed.

I would circle back to them once you get an offer. "Gary called me today to make an offer on that position we discussed. Thank you so very much, Sal, for everything you've done to make this possible. I greatly appreciate it. And that's why I wanted to talk to you now." And then ease your way into expressing serious concerns about this supervisor, and / or letting them know that you've also been offered Role B.
posted by salvia at 9:00 PM on August 2, 2017

As the situation progresses, keep in mind that Role A's Supervisor does work in the same company as you would in Role B. Even if the firm is huge, I advise you to never mention Role A's Supervisor's idiocy in calling your current employer to anyone there. It's not worth it.
posted by Kalatraz at 1:39 AM on August 3, 2017

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