my boss tried to get my manicurist to tell her where I’m going after I leave this job

A reader writes:

My current principal and I both go to the same shop for manicures, since I was the one who introduced it to her as it’s near work.

This principal manages me at my current position (I’m a senior teacher), which I’ve recently resigned. She has really been fishing around to try and find out where I’m going next, even to the extent of asking me almost every other day. I’ve told her that I haven’t quite figured things out yet, but in reality I’m moving to work for another pre-school. I’m not comfortable disclosing this to her at present. Of course, if she finds out through other means, I have no control over it, but I prefer not to disclose the information now.

The reason I’m leaving is because while my principal can be a good friend, she can also be a crappy boss at times. She yells at us, and I’ve been driven nuts by her behavior to the point I just want out.

Earlier this afternoon, my manicurist gave me a call asking to talk to me. Apparently my principal went to her, asking her if she knew I was leaving. My principal also asked her to talk to me to find out where I was going. My manicurist told her that she had no idea as she knows I wasn’t comfortable sharing that information.

How do I deal with this? I don’t quite feel comfortable telling her that she’s the cause of me wanting to leave because she can be a good friend and she’s helped me in the past, but I’m also not comfortable that she’s trying to get my manicurist to try and get me to change my mind about leaving.

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked, “What on earth?! Do you have any theories on why she’s trying so hard to find out where you’re going?” The response:

The day after I emailed you, I heard from an ex-colleague who brought me an offer. Apparently there is another principal who is leaving, and she wants to hire me because of what I’ve been doing at my current place. The number of principals who know me personally and well enough to know what I’ve been doing is really small, so I’ve got my suspicions who it is.

My theory is that my current principal is trying to figure out if I’m jumping ship to the other principal. Of course, I’ve got nothing to justify it, and I don’t think I can straight out ask my principal about it.

Okay, at least that gives us something to hang this all on, not that that makes her behavior in any way okay.

Since she outed her weird actions by asking the manicurist to find out where you were going, one option is to just lay that out for her and say something like this: “Jane at the manicure place called me and said you’d asked her to ask me where I’m going next. I told you I didn’t have anything ready to share, and I’m pretty confused about why you’re going through so much effort to try to nail it down. What’s going on?”

If she tries to downplay it, you could say, “But you know, you’ve also been asking me several times a week, and having Jane try to find out seems really odd. Is there something particular that you’re wondering if I’m considering doing next? Or some other reason why you’re so interested in this?”

And then, depending on how the conversation goes, you could say, “Well, when I have something I’m ready to share with you, I will — but until then I’d really appreciate it if you’d let me manage this on my own. It’s pretty disconcerting to feel so pressured to share.”

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. Cath in Canada

      I’m a bit confused by the OP’s response to Alison’s question, too!

      The question also reminded me of the tanning and waxing place opposite my grad school lab. I never went in because I was a grad student and couldn’t afford it, but friends who went there said that the staff knew more lab gossip than anyone who actually worked with us!

      Reply
      1. anon for this one

        My mom’s dental hygienist is married to my grandboss. My mom sometimes knows things about my workplace that I don’t even know.

        Reply
        1. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)

          My graduate department had an unofficial departmental dentist. He knew EVERYTHING. You’d walk in and he’d be like “so how is Jared’s dissertation going? Did Emily finish that study? Everything work out OK with the TAing assignments?”

          I do not understand how he got all of this information out of people with their mouths full of dental equipment!

          Reply
          1. No Name Yet

            Ha, my graduate department also had an unofficial dentist! But we didn’t talk much about school during my visits, so now I want to know if he knew all the gossip…

            Reply
          2. sstabeler

            for similar reasons to how come hairdressers and barbers often know a fair amount of gossip- for hairdressers, they may as well make conversation while cutting your hair, as long as they can do it without screwing up the haircut. (I think my hairdresser knows more about me than my parents do, even though I live with them.) For dentists, quite a lot of an appointment doesn’t actually involve dental equipment in someone’s mouth, and if they make conversation, it can help you relax. (particularly since a friendly dentist is less likely to have patients scared of going to the dentist. A patient that isn’t scared makes it considerably easier to give them a checkup.)

            Reply
        2. Bryce

          A couple of examples of that came up in a show I watched last weekend (The Crown, people kept “being discreet” but telling family members who weren’t) and Dad pointed out that’s why he never told Mom or me anything of substance about his confidential-related work, even the benign stuff. The more you reinforce where the lines are drawn, the harder is is to let something slip by accident.

          Reply
      2. OP here

        Hello!

        AFAIK the other position is a teaching one. The offer came from a principal who’s leaving, presumably to go and do principal-y things there.

        Reply
    2. Green Goose

      I’m confused by this as well. Is the OP trying to become a principal at her new job? And is she worried that:
      1. Her current principal wants that position as well
      2. Her current principal will reach out to the new school and tell them not to hire the OP
      3. Her current principal is being nosy but has no intentional actions after knowing the news

      If it is 1 or 2 I understand why OP would be concerned

      Reply
      1. MillersSpring

        It sounds like the OP and her principal work at School A. OP has gotten a new job at School B.

        Then a former colleague who now works at School C tells the OP that they’re going to be hiring a new principal and wants to offer it to the OP. The OP’s principal at School A is interested in moving to School C, but the principal is wondering if the OP is also headed to School C or also in the running for the principal role at School C.

        I think.

        Reply
        1. Adam V

          I thought it was:

          OP and (co-)principal at school A. OP quits school A to work at school B. Other co-principal of school A also quits to work at school C, and wants to hire OP as a teacher at school C.

          Co-principal at school A freaks out that OP is actually leaving for school C for whatever reason.

          Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      OP, I’m so sorry, and I’m a little flummoxed. Your boss’s behavior is really weird and definitely beyond normal boundaries. Hopefully you can protect the manicurist while confronting your boss (if you want to confront her), but I think she’s getting away with being a nutjob in part because you’re not drawing a firm line with her. So try drawing that line, now, if you can.

      Reply
      1. AMG

        That’s my concern–that Principal will go back to Manicurist and say, ‘why did you tell OP I was asking?’ I wouldn’t want to see Manicurist’s client base or income take a hit because of Principal being angry. Manicurist did OP a favor and should be protected. I don’t think I would say anything to Principal for that reason.

        Reply
        1. Lana Kane

          Agreed. Manicurist did OP a solid. If the OP mentions it to Nutty Boss, it won’t go well for Manicurist.

          I think I’d wait for her to ask again and go straight to Allison’s last verbiage.

          Reply
          1. Old Admin

            OP, I agree, I would protect my sources!

            In fact, if you don’t give the manicurist away, she may remain a future source of information on Crazy Boss!

            Reply
  1. FiveWheels

    This post is timely for me, as I’m pondering moving on from a boss who sounds much like the OP’s and who will not, I suspect, react well. I’m interested to read the comments on this one!

    Reply
    1. lawyerkate

      Please remember that neither you nor the OP owes a boss an explanation. You both are permitted to manage your careers as you see fit.

      I once told a nosy boss I was leaving to spend more time with my pet (technically correct as my new position was a reduction in workload). She made a sour face, but she got the point.

      Reply
  2. Punonymous

    “I’m pretty confused about why you’re going through so much effort to try to *nail* it down”

    Lol.

    Reply
    1. Alex the Alchemist

      “I don’t have anything to report, so I hope you don’t mind if I clip this conversation short.”

      Reply
    2. Kathleen Adams

      “I mean, your questioning has gotten pretty pointed. I’m not going to gloss that over.”

      (hee hee!)

      Reply
  3. paul

    Man I feel bad for the poor manicurist in this. And I really would try to leave her out of any response to your boss; she already did you a solid.

    As for your boss, no words, that’s just weird

    Reply
    1. Aunt Margie at Work

      I’m going to upvote this, too. Don’t tell the principal the manicurist talked to you. Principal has been invasive enough on her own for you to respond. Manicurist did do you a solid, and she will be the one left behind with this loon who knows her number and where she works. She doesn’t deserve the inevitable annoyance of principal not getting her way and blaming Manicurist.

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh gosh, yes, you’re right. I had thought that the boss had been more open about asking the manicurist, but on re-reading, I see that that’s not the case. Yes, don’t throw the manicurist under the bus!

      Reply
    3. Turtle Candle

      Yeah, it really pisses me off when people do things like the boss did to service professionals. When someone’s livelihood relies on good relationships with their clients, or when someone is paid at least in part to be nice to you, it’s a serious asshole move to make inappropriate and boundary-violating requests of them. It puts them in a terrible position and takes advantage of the inherent power differential. (You hear about it especially with things like ‘please don’t hit on the waitress,’ but it comes up in broader contexts than that–as this proves.)

      Reply
      1. Antilles

        In a lot of service professions like this, there’s an unwritten code that You Do Not Talk About Other Clients. The absolute most you can do is a casual “oh hey Turtle, your friend Jenny was in here yesterday” or “how’s your friend Jenny doing?” if you already know they’re friends. You certainly shouldn’t be telling private information about one client to another. My hair salon actually has a Vegas-esque sign that directly says “Everything said in the salon stays here.”
        (Also, don’t hit on the ____ is just a whole different can of worms, which we probably should just leave alone, beyond the usual statement of “being paid to smile is not the same thing as romantic interest”.)

        Reply
  4. AnotherAlison

    I’m a little confused by this, since where I live, the preschool leaders are called directors rather than principals. I’m not sure if it’s really a “preschool” like I’m thinking (3-5 y.o.) or another type of school.

    If it is a preschool, I’m not completely shocked by her behavior. One of my son’s preschools was extremely unprofessionally run. They paid next to nothing, so the employees seemed to be a little different.

    (Another one of their preschools was awesome because it was a college town and there was an abundance of professionals willing to work there, but that was 1 for 3 that seemed well-run.)

    Reply
    1. AnotherAlison

      I should say I am assuming the OP is a very professional teacher in this scenario, of course, in spite of how the leadership at her school behaves. We had some good teachers too, who ended up leaving after a year because they could not deal with working for Ms. Roseanne.

      Reply
  5. animaniactoo

    Point: PLEASE DO NOT THROW THE MANICURIST UNDER THE BUS.

    Do not state that the manicurist made a point of making this call to you.

    Please go with something more like “Stella, our manicurist, said you seemed to be pretty interested in where I was going next.” – something that could be interpreted as the manicurist doing a poor job of digging for the info.

    I agree with the rest, asking why she’s so interested and pushing back on the desire to know more. And I think it could leave you an opening to say something along the lines of “Stella, stuff like this makes me really uncomfortable. In part, one of the reasons I’m leaving is because I’ve become uncomfortable with the lack of professional and personal boundaries between us. I’d like to keep you as a friend, so my goal is to get some distance in our professional relationship. I hope you understand.”

    Reply
    1. Morning Glory

      Agreed.
      Once the LW goes to her new job, it’s likely the manicurist will be seeing the Principal more often than the LW. It would be unkind to the manicurist to unintentionally ruin her relationship with the client who is staying around.

      Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        Even if LW was going to continue to see her, the principal is a client and it just sets the manicurist up to be either out a client and/or in the middle of drama which is a poor way to repay her effort to give the OP this head’s up.

        Reply
  6. TootsNYC

    I wouldn’t ask her why she’s trying to find this out; I think that implies that if she gives you a good enough answer, you’ll tell her.

    I wouldn’t mention the manicurist at all.

    I’d use the manicurist’s information as further evidence that I should make sure I don’t tell anyone what my plans are, and that I should button-up any other sources of information. Or, warn anyone else that we both know at all, to say, “I think my boss might try to pump you for info, so I’m warning you. I haven’t decided my plans, so you can just tell her that.”

    And the next time she asks, I’d say, “You know, I’ve told you that I’m still sorting things out, and I don’t actually want to talk about it. Please stop asking me–I’ll share the info when I have everything locked down, and when I’m ready to. Oh, and don’t run around asking other people to try to find out for you–that’s really unfair to them.”

    Reply
  7. Colorado

    You mention the principal was also a good friend. It seems like she’s taking you leaving personal and that’s why she wants to know where you’re going.

    Reply
  8. wearing too many hats

    Boss is clearly unhinged, but haven’t other answers about this kind of topic on AAM said that it is weird to NOT tell your employer where you are going when you give your notice – that it’s not required, but is the norm? It seems like OP being so insistent about not sharing, is provoking more questions and investigation into finding out the answer – as though there is a BIG SECRET or something.

    Reply
    1. I am not a lawyer but,

      In a professional relationship sure, but when the boss is crazy & you think they will sabotage your new job, no.

      Reply
      1. paul

        Yep. And the boss dragging their mutual manicurist into it like this is pretty much evidence the OP made the right call to me.

        Reply
        1. wearing too many hats

          great points – I agree! It seems like the ‘friendship’ may be part of the cause for the intensity too (just that it can feel more personal / messier).

          Reply
      2. Old Admin

        Yes, it’s a danger sign.
        Crazy boss may have her own agenda (not enough teachers, not enough henchmen, feelings of betrayal, who knows…) and try to badmouth the OP at the new job. I’ve seen it happen.

        Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      The OP didn’t tell her boss that she wouldn’t disclose it (which does seem chilly in most fields); she told her, “I haven’t quite figured things out yet.” That’s a perfectly fine thing to say. But even if she had said, “I will not share that with you,” the boss’s behavior is bizarre and totally out of line.

      Reply
      1. wearing too many hats

        Oh, I totally agree – clearly out of line behavior by the boss! I was thinking more about norms (which usually don’t apply to a crazy boss!) and also reflecting on the intensity coming from both the boss and the OP.

        Reply
    3. Antilles

      It depends how you say it. If you act weird and say “no, I can’t tell you”, then yes, it does seem weird and oddball (it’s a public school, not the NSA…why is this a state secret?). But just a simple “I haven’t quite decided yet” is a completely fair statement in all cases. Maybe you’re really trying to judge alternatives, maybe you’re considering a career change, maybe you just haven’t found something that fits, maybe the hiring process is just dragging on.
      That said, saying “I haven’t decided” leaves the door open for follow-up conversations, so if OP is going that route, one of the consequences is that you can/should expect to get asked again until you give a more firm response.

      Reply
  9. Jeanne

    Apparently your boss thinks your manicurist is your therapist. This isn’t Legally Blonde. I would probably not talk to my boss and let her stew. But a direct confrontation could bring you some satisfaction. I would probably say that she was being creepy and sort of stalking and I’d appreciate if she stopped.

    Reply
    1. Old Admin

      Exactly!
      Ease out the job, don’t discuss anything, don’t confront, don’t let on you know anything at all.

      Reply
  10. Not So NewReader

    It’s hard to know who is asking The Boss-Friend or The Boss-Boss.

    I think I would go with something like, “Boss, you ask me that question a lot. What’s up?”

    You can stick with you have not solidified your plans yet. So in the course of this “what’s up” conversation if she asks again say, “See, this exactly what I mean. You keep asking this question. I cannot tell you something that I, myself, do not know the answer to. That makes no sense. My question to you is why do you keep asking?”

    There. Now you have laid your groundwork. Any time after this if she asks again, you can just grin and say, “There you go again. Why do you keep asking?”

    Reply
  11. Critter

    I do wonder if OP has to do an exit interview of some sort. Maybe that scenario would be a good time to be honest with her about her managment style. (Or lack thereof ;) )

    Reply
  12. OP here

    I have absolutely no intention of throwing my manicurist under the bus. After she told me, I thanked her and told her that if my boss doesn’t ask again, don’t bring it up or anything. As for my boss, I’ve told her that I haven’t decided where I’m going (I’ve been telling her that from the start, it apparently requires repeating several times before she gets it, I don’t know), and after time number… I think 5, she hasn’t brought it up since.

    So I’m not going to bring it up unless she does, and if she does, well, I’ll repeat what I’ve been singing the whole time.

    Reply
      1. OP here

        I’ve got less than a week to go!

        Also I’ve found that working on a few of the projects I’m wrapping up before leaving helps in avoiding questions, because she doesn’t ask when she sees me neck deep in work.

        Reply
  13. Czhorat

    Late to the party on this, but an honest question: is this the hill on which you want to die?

    While I agree that the current principal is 100% out of line, but “where you will be working” is information she’ll likely find through the grapevine anyway. One never knows which old contacts one will need for a reference or encounter in a later position; if you can salvage the relationship by just giving in and telling her – even if a bit before you wanted to – then it’s probably to your best interest in the long run.

    If she thinks you might be jumping ship to another specific principal then you might even make her feel better about your leaving. As it stands while I agree that you should be able to keep this a secret I don’t really understand why you feel so strongly about it.

    Reply
  14. Editor

    This principal reminds me of a former neighbor, who shortly after we moved in, volunteered a bunch of information and also gossip about people in the neighborhood, then proceeded to grill us. It turned out that she got affronted if we didn’t come across with new information after she’d provided a gossip dump, so we got so we avoided listening so we could avoid the cross-examinations. But that’s very hard to do with people who are absolutely obsessed with knowing stuff that isn’t necessarily any of their business.

    The gossip-obsessed regard others’ personal information as some quid pro quo in a retail exchange that their “sources” never agreed to. They regard private information as an unpaid debt owed to them.

    Reply

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