awful boss wants to connect on LinkedIn

A reader writes:

It’s a long story, but my recent boss had every single attribute of a “bad boss,” including lying, cheating and stealing, on top of being grossly incompetent. To make things worse, his boss didn’t have the guts to fire him, so he was demoted from being the Site Manger to working on the floor, making for an uncomfortable situation for all.

He, of course, doesn’t think any of it is his fault and has taken to asking for letters of recommendation. First he asked for one from his boss, which she asked me to write for her, then he asked for one from a co-worker (who was instrumental in getting him demoted). Finally, he has discovered LinkedIn and has requested to connect. I have ignored his request but I know he’ll ask about it on Monday.

I should also mention that I wrote his resume and cover letter for him in an attempt to help him out the door. I should have said no then, except I couldn’t say I didn’t have the time. He was my boss, I’m the admin, and he actually got approval from his boss to allow me to work on his resume during work.

Now we are thinking about addressing this with HR, asking for some type of cease and desist, because not only is he asking for references, he’s also misrepresenting himself on LinkedIn: he still has Site Manager as his title. Not a mistake, he created his profile yesterday, he was demoted 1 month ago. Interested to hear your take on all this.

A cease and desist order, really? That’s overkill.

If you don’t want to connect to him on LinkedIn, don’t. If he asks you about it, say, “Oh, I never really use it. I think I have an inbox full of invitations to deal with at some point.” If he pushes, say, “I really don’t use it.” Or be vague: “I’ll try to remember to look when I go home.”

Or you could just connect with him. A connection isn’t an endorsement.

As for him using his old title, it’s really not your problem. Stop dwelling on it! It has zero impact on you. If anyone should address it, it’s his manager, but that’s unlikely to happen because his manager has already shown himself to be a wimp, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Now, the fact that you write that “we” are thinking about taking this to HR, and that you would even mention the possibility of a cease and desist order over something like this, tells me that you’re probably getting caught up in rehashing all this drama with others there, which is notorious for making people lose perspective on things. And you have lost perspective. Stop paying attention to all this. Do your job. If someone asks you to write their resume and cover letter and you don’t want to, say, “Oh, I’m the last person you want doing that” or “I don’t feel right writing someone else’s cover letter for them.” Then go back to your job.

But here’s the more important point:  How he handles LinkedIn is the smallest problem you guys are facing. The big one is that you have someone still working there who is known to have lied and stolen (!). And not only is he still working there, but his boss is apparently giving him a recommendation. There’s a serious management problem going on over there. And I know that you’re not in a position to do anything about that, but if you want something to gnash your teeth over, it should be that, not your boss’ LinkedIn request.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 40 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Wait, wasn’t there recently a discussion about someone using a title they were not entitled to on LinkedIn, and everyone agreed how bad that was? (I only remember because I think LinkedIn is a little silly and my reaction was pretty much who cares what someone says on there….)

    Am I dreaming all this? :)

  2. bingo dauber*

    Since the former boss sounds like the completely oblivious type (asking the coworker who got him demoted for a letter of reference? seriously?), this could have been a great opportunity to compose a resume/cover letter that damned him with faint praise. There are a couple of people I’ve worked for who I would have loved to have had an opportunity like this–but then, it’s not for nothing that a former co-worker refers to me as Karl Rove.

  3. Joey*

    This makes me think of those managers who give glowing references as a tactic to get rid of a crappy employee.

    1. Brian*

      When Peters learned that he was being fired, he went to see the head of human resources. “Since I’ve been with the firm for so long,” he said, “I think I deserve at least a letter of recommendation.”

      The human resources director agreed and said he’d have the letter the next day.

      The following morning, Peters found the letter on his desk. It read, “Jonathan Peters worked for our company for eleven years. When he left us, we were very satisfied.”

  4. Phyr*

    The OP could also say “I’m sorry, the site don’t work for me. I’m waiting for linkedin to get back to me on it.”

    I think the OP is right in not wanting to connect with this guy on linkedin. He sounds like the time that would not only ask her but the other coworkers that she might be connected to for recommendations. I would try to stay away from this.

  5. Anonymous*

    I’d keep him off the LinkedIn page. Try not be associated with him as much as possible.

    1. Lentil*

      I wouldn’t want to associate with any of them.. They all sound like a sneaky bunch of little girls.

      1. Anonymous*

        It’s not so much about whether they are “like a sneaky bunch of little girls” but rather if he pulls this stunt again somewhere else, it may come back to bite the OP if s/he decides to go elsewhere.

  6. Anonymous*

    I agree with the excuses AAM had mentioned. Or you could always connect with him and then delete him.

  7. OP*

    I was kind of joking about the cease and desist letter, but not so much about getting HR involved. Yes, he’s that oblivious. The stalling, the “I’m really busy” and the “I really think you should write your own cover letter” didn’t work, only made him more persistent. Yeah, maybe were dwelling on it too much, but it’s kind of hard to avoid. And yes, the whole situation is rediculous, so we’re finding humor in the situation. I wrote a letter extolling his excellent attendance and consistency, nothing specific about his actual job duties.

    I’ve ignored the linked in request, I really don’t want to open that can of worms, and I don’t really care what he has on there just annoyed with the fact that he is deliberately misrepresenting himself, but I already know that he lies. I. Have. To. Let. It. Go. … I will.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      OP, you also need to find a better place to work. Bad ethics *will* rub off on you. You know the old saying: If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas. The management in your company is beyond terrible. No matter how much you like your job, no matter how good your paycheck is, no matter how tough it is to find another job, you need get out of there. Don’t let yourself get dragged down (already you’re right in the middle of the drama there).

      Good Luck!

    2. Anonymous*

      Why in the world would you write a letter of recommendation for him? That’s what you get for fueling the fire

    3. Anonymous*

      I’m already seeing things getting “rubbed off” onto the OP. S/he was just somewhat joking about the cease and desist letter. Now who’s making excuses and such?!

    4. fposte*

      He may be that oblivious, but you’re that circuitous. You haven’t told him no–in fact, you’ve granted his requests. Of course he’s still asking. Now you’re talking about involving other people just to avoid your having to simply say no. Stop ducking it, and consider this an opportunity to learn a useful skill.

      It doesn’t have to be a flat “Hell, no,” and Alison gives some great brush-off examples. A polite “I won’t be able to get to that” or “I’m afraid you’ll have to ask someone else” followed by a change of subject/leaving of the room/whatever is a really valuable skill. You can also say no to talking about the issue any more: “I’m sorry, I’m not prepared to discuss this further, and we both need to get back to work.” Then, if he doesn’t let you do your work, *that’s* the time to think about involving managers and HR.

      1. Dawn*

        I’d never be able to be polite with someone hounding me. The first time someone asks, I’ll be polite. Second time, OK. Third time? “No, I’m not doing it. Stop asking.” That’s what I’d say. But that’s my nature. Plus, you just have to do that with some people.

        1. fposte*

          I’m just figuring that somebody with difficulty saying no at all is going to find a politer response easier. But for the love of vertebrae, say it somehow.

    5. Natalie*

      “The stalling, the ‘I’m really busy’ and the ‘I really think you should write your own cover letter’ didn’t work, only made him more persistent.”

      Um, of course it didn’t work – you never actually said no. You have to treat this person like someone who won’t quit asking you on a date: when you say “I can’t because of reason [x]”, all they hear is “whenever [x] is resolved I have another chance”. Similarly, when you tell this guy “I can’t because I’m too busy”, he hears “when she is less busy, she wants to help me”.

      You need to learn how to give a polite, business appropriate, but still firm “no”. I think AAM’s suggested “not comfortable with that” is a good one. And if he persists, then you need to use the Miss Manners line: “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.” Repeat as necessary.

    6. Dawn Bugni*

      You teach people how to treat you. If he’s not taking “no” for an answer, then you’ve taught him, by your actions and past responses, he can “bully” you into a yes.

      @Fposte and @Dawn (further down) offer excellent insights into this. They’re right, this is a great opportunity for you to develop new coping and people management skills. Life’s too short to get caught up in all this childish drama.

      Swimming in a toxic pool (and this work environment is toxic) is not good for you. Period.

      1. Dawn*

        I completely agree, although there are those few that, not matter how direct or firm you are, they are just totally oblivious. I work with such a person. There have been times when I’ve had to be so firm it bordered on rude, because the person just didn’t get it and wouldn’t stop hounding me.

        1. Anonymous*

          That’s true. I have a former coworker like that. She thought she could get what she wanted by hounding others and did that to the point where she was fired for her behavior. Some people just don’t “get it”.

  8. What the?*

    I love your advice to the OP re: not using linkedin or “try to remember-do it later thing” Nice save!

  9. Interviewer*

    I may be a little passive-aggressive here, but someone already suggested what I would do – connect to him, wait about a week (or whenever he leaves) and delete him.

    You say you worked on his resume and cover letter, and that he’s mispresenting his title on LinkedIn. Is he using the right title on his resume? Maybe you could point out that you got his invitation to connect but that the “old” title is on there, and if he’s job searching, potential employers are bound to look him up and notice the discrepancy. Because, you know, you’re just trying to be helpful. In the end, you’re calling him on his BS without telling him it’s BS. No mention of when he created the LinkedIn profile, etc.

  10. Christina*

    At the risk of incurring the wrath of my colleagues at the Career One-Stop in your town, you may want to suggest that he take his job search out of his current office, and over to the professionals. He could take an afternoon off from work, get some great advice, maybe take a resume or cover letter workshop, and with any luck, hear some pretty straight-shooting stuff about doing a solid, honest job search — and all for free! (If he came in to MY office, I’d give him the what-for in my firm-yet-friendly, get-over-yourself kinda way. It’s a skill I’ve been honing!)

    And personally, I wouldn’t lie about reasons for not connecting on LinkedIn. Either link, or don’t. And if he attempts to use you as a connection, that’s fine, but in doing so, he might be opening himself up for that third party to ask you what he’s like. I’m not sure that would be in his best interests … [evil chuckle].

  11. OP*

    You guys are so right, esp Dawn. I haven’t been direct enough, I do need to get a backbone. And believe me, the job search (mine) is active and ongoing (on my own time of course.) you all are very insightful. Thank you!

  12. Hehe*

    The idea of helping a bad person get out of your hair reminded me of what I did a few weeks ago. A co-worker that I’m not a big fan of (to put it lightly) was interviewing for another division within our bureau and she was nervous about it. I told her about AAM’s “Magic Question” ( and she loved it. After the interview she told me that the interview panel was incredibly impressed by it. Less than a week later she was offered the job! Now she’s out of my hair and I look like the good “guy” for helping her. :D

      1. Hehe*

        Consider me chastised. ;) In my defense she’s not an awful person, just a bit lazy, and it doesn’t help that our personalities don’t mesh whatsoever. She had also been in this area for 6 years and this was the first time she had tried to get another position at all, so I figured she wanted something new.

      2. No no*

        Did you realize your advice would contribute to the dumbing down of the workforce?

  13. Anonymous*

    I actually don’t connect with people on linkedin unless I have done work with them and found them to be trustworthy. I don’t want my name associated with anyone I wouldn’t hire. Linkedin isn’t facebook!

  14. Jeff*

    Stall connecting with him on LinkedIn as long as possible. Hopefully he’ll be out the door soon and you won’t have to worry about it. Social media can be great for connecting with others until somebody you don’t want to connect to shows up in your inbox.

  15. Anonymous*

    I can be polite with anybody, but when I finally have had my fill of them, and they just don’t get the message, I ask, in a calm tone, “Just what is ther about your brain that fails to comprehend the meaning of the simple, two-letter word N-O?” After that, they usually don’t bother me with their inanities any further.

  16. Honor*

    Don’t lie, even if it makes life easier. Saying you haven’t had time to get to it or that you don’t use Linked In much are lies. Don’t let this guy make you compromise your standards.

    I am not some glib person who can figure out at a moment’s notice what wording is just tricky enough to solve the situation and not be a lie so this advice, I know is tough. I believe you will feel better about yourself and build a better reputation if your refuse to lie.

    The advice to lie is not good.

  17. Anonymous*

    Spine! This is what is needed! The boss who demoted instead of firing – get a spine! Worried about the jerk asking you to connect on LinkedIn – get a spine! This person needs to know you would never connect with someone as dishonest and untrustworthy as they are and that you really have no interested in being associated with them.

  18. M*

    First of all, IGNORE and archive the invitation.
    Should you accept it, his demands will likely only increase over time, and then he will ask you to introduce him to X, Y, Z…Etc., etc., from your network. It will never end!!

    Secondly, as a general precaution, choose the option of hiding your connections, so that he will not know who else is in your network (just in case he asks this to one of your own existing contacts). Your own contacts will not know about the rest of your connections either.

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