how can I convince my husband I can’t accept a job offer on his behalf?

A reader posted the following yesterday in the comments section on a post from February:

My husband was offered a job position where I work. We got into a huge argument today because I wouldn’t do him a favor and call my boss to say he accepts the position. I was telling him how unprofessional and how bad that looks. My husband has not been consistently working since 2002! I just want validation that I made the right call.

I posted my own comment there in response:

Wow. Uh, yeah, you made the right call. You should each handle your own relationship with your employer independently of the other. That’s crazy.

And she then followed up with:

Thank you for validation! He is away this weekend volunteering at a tournament where he can play and stay for free. So we left the weekend on a sour note. Anyway, when he gets home, how should I follow up with him (what would you say)? I feel like my right advice might come out the wrong way! Ugh! He ended the argument with, “fine, I don’t want the job!” He loves to go to the extreme when we disagree.

I kind of want to yell at your husband and wish I could call him. This is just totally, utterly insane.

Frankly, I’m worried about the two of you working at the same company if he doesn’t understand why this is wildly inappropriate. Is this really going to be the only time this kind of issue comes up? (I’m also wondering why he doesn’t want to accept his own job offer — accepting a job offer isn’t exactly difficult work. To say nothing of whatever’s up with him refusing to respect your professional boundaries, even if he disagrees with them.)

In any case, here are the two main points you should make to him:

  • The manager is hiring your husband, not you (despite the fact that you do work there too). The particular relationship in question is one that he’s entering into with your husband, not with you, and by having you call to discuss a business arrangement that doesn’t involve you, he is signaling that he doesn’t understand that. If I were the manager, this would raise all kinds of questions about what else he won’t understand about professional boundaries — is he going to involve you in salary negotiations, or interpersonal disputes? Is he going to ask you to tell his boss when he can’t meet a deadline?
  • Accepting a job offer isn’t just a matter of checking a “yes” box. There’s discussion to be be had. When I make a job offer to someone and they accept it, I want to talk to them — them personally, not an emissary! I want to welcome them to the team, tell them how excited I am to have them. And I want to talk about logistics — start date, maybe even initial projects. With them, not their spouse.

So that’s for your husband. But now I have two points for you too:

  • Making this phone call will make you look bad too. You’ll appear to condone it and think it’s appropriate, and the manager will start worrying that neither of you understand that you each have separate, independent relationships with the employer. Don’t jeopardize your professional reputation.
  • When two spouses (or two significant others) work at the same company, you have to really make a point of drawing appropriate boundaries. You guys should be talking about what strategies you’ll use to handle the potentially strange dynamics of both working at the same place, but I’m going to guess that he has zero appreciation of the need for that, as he seems to think you’re both just attending the same neighborhood picnic or something. You’re going to need to do what you can to get on the same page about this.

Do others want to weigh in with points I’m missing? I’m so worked up over this one that I’m sure I’ve missed something else important.

{ 34 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Your advice is, as usual, spot on. That said, the husband – in so many ways – is why lots of us husbands get a bad rep. That's just nuts.

  2. Anonymous*

    Honestly, it sounds like this guy doesn't really want to go back to work and is fixating on this really weird request to start a fight and get out of it.

    Maybe he doesn't want to work at that specific company, doesn't want to work with his wife, or just doesn't want to work at all, but I'd bet that is what's really behind this.

  3. GeekChic*

    This is going to be harsh – but the answer is right in her statement: "My husband has not been consistently working since 2002!"

    Hmmm… wonder why that is? Maybe because he has lots of "excuses" not to? The economy hasn't been terrible that long!

  4. Anonymous*

    Using GeekChic's answer as a foundation, I think there's more to the situation, on the husband's behalf, than what we and perhaps the wife knows.

    If she couldn't get him to move in the last 8 years, what makes her think she can get him to move on this? I'm sorry Mrs., but I have been through a time where I couldn't get my guy to move either.

    AAM is correct as are you in your argument with your husband.

  5. Anonymous*

    That is completely insane! He sounds immature and unwilling to work. A spotty job history for that length of time indicates to me that he simply isn't interested in building a career. He's looking for excuses to remain a bench warmer. I would advise that she consider marriage counseling!

  6. clobbered*

    Since the husband is clearly not open to taking advice from his wife, I suggest not offering any. Just Say No. Keep saying no to any request that violates professional boundaries. "No, I won't be doing that, I don't think it is appropriate".

    If the husband wants to cut his nose to spite his face and turn down the job, at this stage I would see it as a blessing.

    FWIW, a good guideline is "would you ask a random coworker to do this?". For example, if you walked out of the building with your timesheet in your pocket, and you just saw a coworker on his way in, you might say "Drop this off on Joe's desk on your way in, will ya? I forgot".

    You wouldn't exactly say "Tell Joe I accept the transfer to the new department, will ya"?

    I don't see this situation ending well….

  7. Kez*

    Geez, that is so inappropriate of the husband!!!! He sounds like if he works with her, he'll jeopardise his wife's own position. I think that perhaps she should let him go find work elsewhere. It could save not only her professional reputation but their marriage by the sounds of it!!!! I can't see a way that things will work if he's not mature enough to understand how important it is for him to act like a professional adult. Most people would be horrified at the thought of having their spouse accept their job for them because it wouldn't look good!
    Maybe there are some underlying issues – perhaps she talked him into applying for the job when he's not ready. Perhaps he's scared.

  8. Mike*

    Regardless of how inappropriate the request was, I find it just as inappropriate to use this short e-mail to diagnose problems with the husband himself.

    It's ridiculous to draw such conclusions such as "he doesn't really want to work" or "he wanted to start a fight" or that "there is something deeper". For all we know, he just wanted her to do what he thought was a simple favor and didn't understand what the fuss was all about.

    Councilors don't diagnose people over the internet and with good reason. It's easy for regular readers of this blog to understand why this is such a terrible idea, but guess what? There are plenty of people out there that don't know these things. In fact, I'm sure that such ignorance is a reason why the blog is here in the first place!

    Rather than spending energy dumping on this person that none of us know, we should be using the time to educate instead.

  9. uresslit*

    Mike, seems that you have your own set of issues. Just my bit of online counseling.

  10. Ask a Manager*

    Hey, now! I think Mike actually makes a valid point! It's at least worth considering — he's right that it's pretty easy to jump to judgment online.

  11. Anonymous*

    I'm Anonymous at 6:11

    After reading the comments after mine, I do have to agree that psychoanalyzing the guy without having any psychological degrees or knowing the guy is not right. But it's human nature to set judgement. However, when we advise people we do know, we sometimes only get a part of the story and have to pass advice on that. Although the OP isn't a friend in this case, she asked for advice, and AAM and the rest of us write what we can based on what the OP told us. And in what she told us, she includes some facts for a reason, including his previous 8 year work history. If she answers here, she might include more information or clarify what she has already given.

    I've written from experience because while reading the original post, I couldn't help but get flashbacks that indicated red flags. It made me think that her husband is stalling for some reason, and it might be more than just not wanting to work (and that's not ridiculous to mention a possibility). I don't agree with the one comment where he might have been asking her a favor; it just seems like too much common sense to not know to let someone else do a job search step for you. AAM has gone over this several times in several different types of incidents.

    However, I hope the husband won't be upset if he finds this blog with his wife's email to AAM on here. He might have a reason for asking her to accept the offer or she might be making a mountain out of a molehill.

    As for uresslit, please don't troll AAM's blog in order to put down others.

  12. Batman*

    Maybe I'm missing something, but why didn't the company just call(or email) the husband directly to offer him the position?Maybe the boss told the wife to ask her husband if he wants to accept the position.If that's the case, it's not such a big deal if the wife calls for the husband since the boss relayed the offer to the husband via the wife.

  13. Batman*

    Ah, ok. I wasn't sure how the offer was extended to the husband.Great blog by the way.

  14. TheLabRat*

    I'm with Mike, leave the armchair diagnoses to the people who post at television without pity. They've elevated it to a nasty for of art and no one else will ever compare.

    I'm also with the person who said, "just keep saying no." My impression from the letter was that he's pushed more than once on this point. SO just keep pushing back.

  15. Anonymous*

    It's true that we don't know the full story, but based just on what we do know (spotty job history for many years, inappropriate request to wife followed by anger, a weekend away to "volunteer" at a "tournament") I think some counseling is in order for the husband. It does seem that he would benefit from this.

  16. catiebug*

    My husband I both work at the same company — a large member-driven non-profit organization (156K+ members, +/-100 staff at HQ). I have been there since March 2006 and he will be there one year next month. We are in totally different departments; the only place our org chart merges is at the CEO.

    We drive in together, we drive home together — but he works upstairs (IT) and I work downstairs (Editorial). The only way we see each other is if we actually make an effort to do so.

    Now when the CFO's assistant called him to schedule the interview, I answered the phone (we were both surprised to be talking with each other!). I told her that he would call her back with time preferences, etc. In other words, this was not my "job" to do this for him. He handled everything for this position on his own. He was offered the job on his own merits, not because his wife worked at the same company (disclosure: His boss is married to one of my co-workers in my department. We also have a couple of other married couples employed where I work).

    It's been a year and it works because we work to make it doable. There is that "line of separation" between the two of us at work AND our work life vs home life. That said, because my husband is an expert on some of the things I am not, I do call him up occasionally to ask him questions, but these are related to the work I am doing, not extraneous stuff, such as asking how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop.

    If this couple in question can't get past the wife accepting a job offer on her husband's behalf, one (or both) of them will not be employed much longer at their company.

  17. fposte*

    On the employer end, I think I might not consider a position accepted if I didn't get an acceptance from the applicant; I'd say that I still needed Bob to deal with us directly for things to move forward. How am I to know if the actual candidate even knows about this?

    Unfortunately, I'd also (in this case, wrongly) think that the spouse/parent/whatever was problematically overinvolved, because it wouldn't occur to me that anybody would balk at tendering their own acceptance. That's pretty unusual.

  18. preadje*

    "how can I convince my husband I can't accept a job offer on his behalf?"

    Shouldn't the title tell you more than enough? Both of them need to grow up a bit. No armchair counseling here, just calling it as I see it.

  19. Charles*

    I'm with Mike on this one – a lot of jumping to judgement about the husband!

    Hmm? I wonder how much of it is really just disguised male-bashing?

    Of course, this is assuming that the letter is real and not someone trying to punk AAM.

  20. Charles*

    P.S. Just an FYI to add to my above comment. I have not had "consistent" work since 2002 either.

    I've done a lot of contract assignments, grad school, and other stuff as well. Does this make me a "doesn't want to work" kind of guy?

    Have any of you not seen the state of the economy lately? Or are you all into drinking the Obama kool-aid about how they have "saved" millions of jobs?

    All this judgement makes me wonder just how ignorant those who hire are about those of us looking for fulltime, permanent work. jeez!

  21. Anonymous*

    How does commenting about the husbands unwillingness to work involve any more speculation than commenting about why he doesn't want to accept the job offer personally? Honestly, both issues involve a lot of leaps on everyone's part so I don't think it is inappropriate. And the author obviously included this information because she thought it was relevant.

  22. Anonymous*

    To Charles:

    The OP doesn't explain what the time spread of "on-again, off-again" work is, and she doesn't fill in the gap to say what he does in his free time when he isn't working. I don't see how comparing yourself to him without knowing this is relevant.

    I have to laugh at you making it into a "male bashing" situation in regards to previous comments. Why do people, like yourself, have to resort to a low like that in conversations? Can we not get past types of issues? It's comments like this that shows the world has many obstacles to get past issues like gender and race.

    As for the economy, the economy hasn't been bad since 2002; it's been a recession since 2008. Six year difference there so you can't blame the economy there. Furthermore, it's not like he can't get a job. The company has offered it to him. While there is 9%+ of people unemployed, he's one of the lucky ones to be offered a job, and he can't pick up the phone himself to accept it. So as far as saying the people on here don't understand the economy is unnecessary here – a job offer is on the table. And if he doesn't take it, someone else will, and he'll be back in that 9%+ group.

  23. preadje*

    Male bashing? I'm a male myself, so if that's what it's called, so be it.

    Let's see, the guy has been working on and off since 2002. He gets a job offer but wants the wife to accept it for him rather than making a bee-line for the phone to call in an accept the offer?

    Maybe he's so excited about the job offer that he's speechless and can't make the call. Yeah, I bet that's it.

  24. Rebecca*

    AAM's advice on how to handle the situation is correct. Here's where the armchair psychologists' ire is coming from, I think:

    He ended the argument with, "fine, I don't want the job!" He loves to go to the extreme when we disagree.

    First sentence there indicates that the husband is so petulant that he'd rather discard household income and spite/guilt his wife than not get his way. If that's not childish, nothing is.

    Second one indicates that this is a regular occurrence, not just a one-time misunderstanding. Regular occurrence = habit that may not ever break.

    Of course, this is only the OP's side of the story, but that's always the case in an advice column.

  25. Rebecca*

    Oh, and come off it with the "male-bashing" accusations. The situation would be just as bad and weird (and the responses just as judgmental) if the question had been "how can I convince my wife…?"

  26. Anonymous*

    I have a second part time retail job I've worked at for 3 years. Last year when my husband was doing his (unpaid) student teaching, I mentioned something about him needing a part time job just to have at least some money coming in on his side. The managers asked me if he'd want to work in the stockroom after school, but after I asked him, that was the end of my involvement. He called them, set up interviews, accepted the job, and he's actually still there. We pretty much never cross paths, because he works a couple of nights during the week and I work Saturdays. I've said from the beginning that whatever comes up, deal with each of us separately. Not to imply that either of us has a lot of issues to deal with, but I don't want to hear it if he makes a mistake or vice versa. The most it crosses over is when he brings my schedule home for me. It has to be separate.

  27. Anonymous*

    As someone who recently became involved in the hiring process, I'd defintely have an issue with a wife accepting an offer on behalf of the husband (or vice versa). It would get me to thinking that maybe the candidate isn't the right choice afterall. If he/she can't call me directly to accept the offer, perhaps he/she has issues with dealing with other people, lacks confidence, or is just plain lazy.

  28. Anonymous*

    This is all about blame – the husband doesn't want to work, and he wants it to be his wife's fault that he doesn't. So he makes this ridiculous demand for her to accept the job for him, and makes that contingent on his accepting the job at all "Fine! I won't take it…" So now when she complains he doesn't have a job he can say, "I would have, if YOU would have done ONE simple thing I asked of you!" Viola, he's continuing his extended vacation, but it's not his fault.

  29. Anonymous*

    If everything is up to the OP, how in the world is the OP going to run interference? And is there some unknown reason the spouse can't find work on their own? Or are we dealing with spouse/parent control issues?

    Me? I get the vibe your spouse doesn't want to work for the same employer. At same time, if the spouse has an issue working for any employer, the OP has bigger problems to sort out. Including, possibly taking a break and allowing the other to grow.

  30. imene*

    de puis tres longtemps je suis en desaccord avec mon mari que j’aime beaucoup et tout ça acause du travail
    j’ai tres envie de travailler j’en ai besoin je ne supporte pas de rester sans rien faire apres de longues années d’etude fatiguantes…
    et lui…il ne veu pas me comprendre et je ne sais pas quoi faire
    aidez moi svp

  31. Elaine*

    I see both sides of this one.

    “Not consistently worked since 2002.” This is not unusual in the Rust Belt. Starting in the early 90’s, jobs disappeared at an alarming rate, throwing thousands of people out of work. I lost my job (after 23 years) in 1992, and I had short term jobs and temp assignments, plus some unemployment, until 2005. One of the toughest periods of my life. It might not be that the husband is lazy and refuses to work (although that’s what I think it is).

    In any case, his wife should not RSVP for him, except for social engagements.

  32. Dianamh*

    Any updates from the OP? I’d love to know if he took the job or any subsequent job offer.

Comments are closed.