someone I recommended lied to me

A reader writes:

A colleague asked me to recommend her for a job with a company I used to work for. Based on my recommendation, she got the job. A few weeks later, she said she was quitting to go to grad school, and had only wanted the job because it paid more and she wanted to save up before she left. She knew she wouldn’t be staying when she took the job (and when she asked for my help).

I feel like she took advantage of me and compromised my relationship with my former employer. I work hard to maintain a good relationship with them, and I know they will not be happy I recommended someone who lied to them. She hasn’t told them she’s quitting yet and I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to say anything, but I’d appreciate any advice on how to maintain a good relationship with my former employers after this fiasco.

Oooooh. I am pissed off just reading this.

I would have a very sternly worded conversation with her, making it clear that you are Not Pleased that she was deceptive with you, used you inappropriately, and compromised your standing with the employer, and that because of this, you won’t be able to provide assistance to her in the future, ever.

Frankly, I might also tell her that she’s now put you in an untenable position by sharing this information with you but not the employer, and that she needs to tell them now, so that you’re not involved in her deception, which you never signed up for.

Once the employer does know, reach out to them and explain that you’re horrified, that you would never had recommended her had you realized what she was doing, and that you’re mortified that it might reflect on you. By acknowledging all of that, you become part of the group who was taken in by her, and it shouldn’t reflect poorly on you.

And come on people, if you plan to take jobs under false pretenses, leave your network out of it.

{ 59 comments… read them below }

  1. Josh S*

    “…I might also tell her that she’s now put you in an untenable position by sharing this information with you but not the employer, and that she needs to tell them now…”

    I would go one step further and specifically say, “You’ve put me in an untenable position. I am going to call Direct Supervisor on SpecificDay and tell them of your intent to leave the position. I strongly suggest that you inform them before I make my call.”

    While I would generally consider informing the employer a breach of etiquette, it’s really the only way to *not* be complicit in the deception. Giving the employee a chance to ‘come clean’ in advance of your call makes sense. And then you can always tell your contact at the employer that, “I was informed on Monday and gave Employee until today to inform you before I called. I hate to be the one to break this to you, and I’m simply floored that she would disregard her reputation in this manner, but she’s leaving shortly to go to grad school.”

    Giving the deadline and then telling the employer yourself gives them as much time as possible to begin the job search (again) and replace the employee with minimal disruption. It may go a long way toward maintaining YOUR relationship and reputation with the employer.

    She did take advantage of you. Don’t allow her to keep doing it by keeping her secret. Any fallout on the employee (getting fired, loss of reputation, etc) is her fault, as a consequence of her actions, and you bear no responsibility for it.

    (PS. Sorry this happened. That was a really really crappy thing for her to do to you.)

    1. Anonymous*

      I have to completely disagree with this. She’d essentially be turning in a resignation on someone else’s behalf, which is inappropriate regardless of the circumstances. She should wait for things to pan out and then reach out after the fact, just as AAM suggests.

      1. TC*

        Then watch her decide not to go to grad school, deny she had any intent to resign, and make you look like a liar. Not only have you hurt your rep with that company still, but you’re also opening yourself to a tortuous interference with employment lawsuit.

      2. Josh S*

        Hmmm…I see your point here. I assume that the OP has a relationship with Employer, and can explain the situation. Presumably, if a he-said/she-said situation arises, the OP’s existing relationship and desire to keep things strong (else why would he have reached out with the information?) will overwhelm the new hire’s largely unknown status.

        So perhaps the language has to be very carefully crafted. But I still think it’s a valid way to be ahead of the curve, help out the Employer, and give them appropriate heads up. Not as a “resignation by proxy” but as a heads up to keep an eye on this one–she’s flaky.

        1. AB*

          I agree with giving the person a deadline to tell her manager and going ahead and informing her employer.

          It’s just a matter of adjusting the wording to state FACTS:

          “I was told by Employee on Monday that she intends to leave the position soon, and gave Employee until today to inform you before I called. I’m simply floored that she would disregard her reputation in this manner, but she told me she’s leaving shortly to go to grad school, and since I recommended her for this job, I felt I had an obligation to tell you what I learned.”

          Then the direct supervisor could talk to the employee. If the employee changed her mind, she could explain the situation. If the employee attempted to deny having the conversation, the supervisor would see the red flag, since the OP was known in the employer company and would have no reason to lie about such a thing.

    2. Joe*

      I’d go one step further, even, and just call back the person you made the recommendation to. As AB noted before, you can just make a factual statement that “Person X just told me that she is planning on resigning soon to go to grad school. I’m so sorry for recommending her; she didn’t tell me this earlier, or I never would have done so.” Make the apology for your (unintentional) error, and let the undeserving wretch deal with the fallout herself. The OP has no obligation to protect this nitwit’s job, just to protect her own reputation.

  2. ITforMe*

    When someone looks for a job after grad school, even if it is in a different field*, a good hiring manager will ask for references from previous employers. This woman just burned bridges with not one, but TWO companies that could be contacted by future employers. DUMB.

    *Assuming she will ultimately return to a non-academic job

    1. Adam V*

      I’m not sure. Obviously she ruined her reference from her current employer, who she’s leaving so quickly. But she likely didn’t ruin anything from her own past employer – assuming she put in the proper amount of notice when switching jobs.

      Or are you saying she also ruined any potential reference from OP’s job? From my reading, OP’s at a different company now, one where the subject never worked.

      1. Adam V*

        Other people have pointed out that OP and Subject could have been coworkers at OP’s current position. Still, I don’t see a negative coming out of that reference – again, assuming she put in the proper amount of notice.

  3. Yup*

    In addition to AAM’s advice, you may want to mentally prepare your “Sorry, I’m not able to provide a reference for that applicant” speech. (In case s/he decides to list you as a reference in the future anyway, and you get a random call from a prospective employer.)

    1. EM*

      If she is dumb enough to list the OP as a reference, I think they should say exactly what happened. If the future-grad-student is dumb enough to list the OP as a reference after this and after the OP says that she is not a good reference, it’s her own fault. (hopefully that makes sense)

  4. Tough Love*

    I’d speak to the former company immediately, and as if she had already told them she was planning to leave; too bad for her if she hasn’t. They should terminate her on the spot.

    Together, we can eliminate Special Snowflake Disease.

  5. A Bug!*

    Oh, my gosh. What a nasty trick! In addition to AAM’s advice, I think I would mention this stunt discreetly to any other mutual colleagues* that you think she might hit up later. Not with the intent of smearing her, mind you, but to alert others to the risk of sticking their necks out to her.

    Obviously some discretion would need to be used in who you choose to tell and how, because it will harm your own reputation if you appear to be gossiping.

    (*Colleagues, not managers, mind you – leveraging contacts to get into a position is a bit different from the sort of reference a former manager gives, IMO.)

  6. Amy*

    I don’t think she should have told the OP of her plan and when she leaves, she shouldn’t announce “this was my plan all along…suckers!” But I can’t really fault her for doing this and I’m surprised at so many who could. Who hasn’t taken a job they didn’t really want because they needed the money? There are questions on here all the time about people moving on after 2 or 3 months at a job because it’s not what they expected/wanted/never intended to stay in the first place.

    Grad school is expensive; if she can defray the cost a little by taking a higher-paid job now, it makes sense to me. Would you all be so annoyed if she said she took the job just so the company would pay for grad school but she was intending to continue working until she’d received the degree?

    That said, she’s not doing herself any favors by announcing her plan. It makes her look bad enough; I don’t think the OP needs to tattle on her. She may not even be accepted to grad school or may end up liking her job and staying or working full-time/going to school part-time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The issue is what she did to the OP. The OP stuck her neck out for this person, and put her own reputation on the line. That’s what giving someone a recommendation is. If this person wanted to take a job under false pretenses (because that’s what this is), she should have left the OP out of it so that she didn’t risk someone else’s reputation along with her own. She basically borrowed the OP’s credibility to help herself, and then stomped on it.

      And she didn’t just hurt the OP — she also hurt people the OP might recommend in the future, because I’m sure the OP is going to be significantly more cautious in the future (and so might this company, about taking the OP’s recommendations, and that sucks).

      1. Amy*

        Oh, absolutely – she shouldn’t have involved the OP. I’m not arguing that. It’s totally disrespectful and inconsiderate of the OP’s reputation and relationship with the hiring company.

        My point was that this may not even be an issue for the OP if this woman’s plans change and that while completely rude to the OP, this is probably not the first time a situation like this has happened for the company. It sounds like the OP has a good relationship with this company; hopefully, they are reasonable toward the OP if/when this woman makes her plans known.

    2. Jamie*

      “There are questions on here all the time about people moving on after 2 or 3 months at a job because it’s not what they expected/wanted/never intended to stay in the first place.”

      I think there is a huge difference between deciding not to stay because it wasn’t what was expected (or a bad fit) and not intending to stay in the first place.

      The first is the cost of doing business. The second is something I understand may at times be a necessary evil (bills have to be paid) but it’s still disingenuous, at best.

      Turnover costs money. If the situation were reversed and a company was offering a position which they presented as a normal “permanent” position, but really had intended to let the person go after a month or two – once a project was complete – that would be unconscionable. It would be outrageous to deceive a candidate that way. It’s slightly less egregious as the it’s less personal when it’s the company that has to fill a position rather than a person facing unemployment, but it’s still false pretenses.

      I understand that people take less than optimal jobs all the time because they need the paycheck – but you shouldn’t do it on the back of someone else. Asking someone for a favor that will have negative repercussions for them is just rude.

      1. Amy*

        I understand that people take less than optimal jobs all the time because they need the paycheck – but you shouldn’t do it on the back of someone else. Asking someone for a favor that will have negative repercussions for them is just rude

        I totally agree with this; I didn’t mean to give the impression that her behavior toward the OP was justified.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Amy, if I’m getting this right, you’re arguing that she was totally in the wrong in her treatment of the OP, but that the actual ramifications of what she did might not be that bad (as far as the OP’s reputation)? It’s certainly possible that that’s the case — it’s just not a risk she was entitled to take with something that isn’t hers!

          1. Amy*

            1) She was wrong to involve the OP in her deceit
            2) I don’t necessarily think her deceit itself was wrong – a necessary evil, perhaps as we don’t know her finances/personal situation so maybe she needed the job to get to grad school. It’s not an ideal situation, but it happens.
            3) It may not even work out as bad as the OP fears

            Do I make more sense? I only posted my perspective because I thought the comments suggesting the OP get further involved by talking to her employer or this woman’s network were a little out of scope as we don’t know this woman’ s situation or what the actual ramifications will be for the OP.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think I’d argue that even if she needed the job to go to grad school, she wasn’t entitled to use the OP’s reputation/credibility under false pretenses; if that was the case, she should have kept the risk solely for herself. (Grad school isn’t the same as not being able to feed your kid, after all. It doesn’t really introduce moral haziness the way something more dire would.)

              But I do agree it’s possible it won’t work out as badly as the OP fears. I just think the OP should have been allowed to decide for herself if that was a risk she was interested in exposing herself to!

      2. KellyK*

        I think there is a huge difference between deciding not to stay because it wasn’t what was expected (or a bad fit) and not intending to stay in the first place.

        I definitely agree with this, especially because the person already *had* a job. They deliberately chose to look for another job knowing that they would only be there for a short time.

        I don’t think people are obligated to disclose every “what if” and “maybe” in their interview (like the question a long while back about the military spouse who downplayed the possibility of another move), but if you’re pretty sure you’ll only stay a couple months, it’s really inappropriate not to mention it.

        1. Jamie*

          “I don’t think people are obligated to disclose every “what if” and “maybe” in their interview (like the question a long while back about the military spouse who downplayed the possibility of another move), but if you’re pretty sure you’ll only stay a couple months, it’s really inappropriate not to mention it.”

          I totally agree with this, and the fact that she already had a job does lend another level of skeeviness to me.

          1. AMG*

            Exactly. It’s deceitful, takes money away from the company, and puts the other employees who were counting on a resource in a bad position.

            Even if the friend is ok with all of this, just look at the comments. Not only will the friend never have the OP to vouch for her again, neither will the people at the company, and whomever else heard about this.

            If you aren’t going to behave with integrity, then at least consider the impact it’s going to have on your career later.

      3. Anonymous*

        If the situation were reversed and a company was offering a position which they presented as a normal “permanent” position, but really had intended to let the person go after a month or two – once a project was complete – that would be unconscionable.

        A company I had interviewed with was hiring during a time when they working on the following year’s budget. While I didn’t get a job, someone else did, only to be laid off just a couple of months after taking the job (along with several other positions). You cannot tell me they didn’t know this was a possibility, if not inevitable, when they were hiring. While I’m glad I dodged a bullet, I was still upset that I was interviewing for a job that wouldn’t last beyond x amount of time.

    3. Alisha*

      f the situation were reversed and a company was offering a position which they presented as a normal “permanent” position, but really had intended to let the person go after a month or two – once a project was complete – that would be unconscionable. It would be outrageous to deceive a candidate that way. It’s slightly less egregious as the it’s less personal when it’s the company that has to fill a position rather than a person facing unemployment, but it’s still false pretenses.

      I think it depends upon whether the one-month bill of goods was sold to someone who accepted the job off of UI or to someone who accepted the job by leaving a secure previous job. In the former case, it might be disappointing, but the employee is no worse off than s/he was before: back on UI they go. In the latter case, the employee is left with a gap in work history that begins a month before it actually should, and which may be misinterpreted by hiring personnel who refer to resumes first to gauge candidates as “fired for cause” or “low performer, laid off.”

      1. Alisha*

        (Well, on second thought, the person on UI long-term may face the same issue…it depends on a number of factors, including how well they write their cover letter, etc. so it’s crappy all around.)

    4. EngineerGirl*

      This attitude bothers me. You should never accept a job with the intention of leaving. Sure, you can make a mistake, and that becomes obvious to both you and your manager. That’s when you sit down and have a discussion about how to handle leaving. Both you and your manager are relieved that its out on the table (and the manager gets to save face).

      In this case, she took the job knowing she was going to leave in a few months. There is no way to justify this. No way. There was intent to deceive, which goes back to a character issue. The new company lucked out that she’s leaving, becuase this ethics issue would have come out some other way if she stayed.

      Some may say that companies do this all the time, so its OK to do it right back. They fail to realise that SOME companies do this, but others absolutely don’t. The ones that don’t attract better employees.

      Personally, I never accept an assignment unless I know I can give at least 2 years to it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        “You should never accept a job with the intention of leaving.”

        This is exactly why I didn’t accept one I was offered recently. The pay was dependent on budget and there hadn’t been raises in four to five years, there was a mandatory retirement deduction I didn’t know about until the interview, and the pay would have left me with a deficit at the end of every month. It really burned because I liked the interviews VERY much, and I know I would have loved working for /with them. :'( But I could not in good conscience take the job when I knew I would have to keep looking.

        I was totally honest with them and they were very appreciative. One said they had someone do that exact thing to them–took the job and then left–and it sucked. Hopefully they will remember that if something better opens up and I’m still available. I didn’t want to burn that bridge completely down.

  7. Cruella DaBoss*

    I’ve been burned by a similar situation. Really makes you not want to give any recommendations.

  8. Jennifer O*

    Just reading this makes me angry too. I can’t believe how selfish some people can be. Again, as Alison said, it has more to do with what she did to the OP than simply taking a job to earn more money.

    I think Alison and others are being generous by allowing the OP to break the news. The former colleague has already demonstrated complete disrespect for the OP and at this point deserves no respect in return.

    If I were the OP, I would contact the company right away. After all, the OP needs to do whatever she can to salvage her own reputation and the damage caused by this former colleague.

  9. Anana*

    This also happened to me 2 months ago with a twist. I recommended somebody who I knew needed a job so badly. She happened to mention this opportunity to a mutual friend who was also job hunting. This mutual friend started pestering me about recommending her for interview for the same position. I finally caved in and sent her cv. They were both called for the interview, Mutual Friend got the job and reported to work. She resigned on the third day citing that the salary was not enough. This is despite signing the offer letter weeks in advance. She didn’t tell, I just received a chilly Skype message from my contact at the hiring company telling me she has to write a company wide email saying that the new hire had resigned. When I called her to ask her about it, she was very blasé about it and told me that she ‘realized it wouldn’t fit her budget’. Needless to say, she’s on my blacklist.

    1. Dan*

      Just to be clear, there’s a difference between “recommending” somebody for a job, and passing along a resume.

      I have no problems passing along resumes — I’ll do resume calls from my alma mater(s) on occasion. If a friend of a friend needs a job, I’ll forward the resume. Heck, I got my current job because I met of my current co-workers at a conference. But, when these kinds of events happen, I’ll forward the resume with a comment along the lines, of “I don’t know this person well (or at all), but a conversation or two indicated they’re worth pursuing further.”

      I’ve yet to actually recommend a person for a job here, but if that happens, I’d pass along the resume with a very clear recommendation.

      1. Anana*

        You are right. Maybe from my post it wasn’t clear about the recommendation bit. The employer is a place i used to work and the HR occasionally reaches out to me to assist her in filling a position. So when i send a cv to her, it is with a recommendation that this person will fir the position you are looking for. In this particular instance, when i sent the Mutual Friend CV, it was with a note along the lines of: if the other person i sent doesn’t work out, then this one would be a good fit as well. The 2 were the only people interviewed for the job.

    2. Rana*

      Wow. So she managed to screw over her friend, you, and the company all in one fell swoop. She deserves to be on that blacklist!

  10. Charles*

    Well, hopefully, this situation isn’t as bad as the OP thinks it is. I’m not saying it is good at all, mind you, just maybe not as bad. (Perhaps just wishful thnking on my part?)

    It really does suck that the colleague broke the news to the OP; she really didn’t have the right to include her in this deceit.

    However, a lot now really depends on how the colleague ends things. When the OP has that stern conversation with her colleague she should emphasize that the colleague needs to “make it right” by somehow or other clearing the OP’s reputation. Let the employer know that she had no knowledge of her plans to leave so soon.

    As for the deceit, I wouldn’t do it. But, then I know a lot of people would because companies cheat employees all the time. In my book, two wrongs don’t make a right; But, I can certainly understand how some folks can think this way as it is tempting.

  11. AJ*

    Am I the only one who thought that the OP should have picked up on some subtle red flag that this person was up to something?

    I’m thinking it would be weird for a CURRENT colleague that I didn’t know well to come to me and ask for a recommendation for another job. Unless you are work BFFs, who tells someone else you are looking at other jobs? If you are work BFFs, it seems she should know the colleague was at least giving a cursory look at grad schools. Otherwise, the person was very sneaky, and it seems the OP might have been able to notice that before.

    1. moe*

      I don’t see any red flags OP should have picked up on. I mean, there’s a risk to putting these feelers out when you’re currently employed, but it’s one a lot of people take because contacts do matter a lot.

      I also don’t see it as unusual that OP didn’t know about the school plans. It’s not that hard to keep something like that quiet from a circle of people.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ooooh, this is reminding of a time that I went to bat to get someone a promotion that was going to be a stretch for her but that I thought she could grow into in time. She then left for grad school less than a year later, and had clearly known she was applying at the time I was going to bat for her. I’m pretty sure that’s the only time I ever reacted less-than-nicely to someone resigning. And I was indeed less than nice.

    2. fposte*

      It’s pretty common in my field–it wouldn’t be a red flag at all. And there are plenty of people whose work I’d know well enough to recommend whose personal plans I’m not privy to. So no, I don’t think the OP has to have blown it on this one.

  12. Malissa*

    This is actually making me feel better about not jumping on an opportunity to take a similar position to the one I’m in now. It would have been more money, but still with-in the same organization. When I leave I really want to get away from this whole sector I’m in.

  13. anon*

    The girl who held my position before me pulled a similar trick. She had been working on the east coast and wanted to move back home (to the midwest), but couldn’t afford it. She had a colleague who knew my boss, so she had her colleague recommend her for a position. She got the position, moved back to the midwest with relocation money provided by the company, worked for 2 weeks and then disappeared. Literally. She went home “sick” one day at lunch and never called or came in again. The company was worried about her and called repeatedly with no answer. They then got out the emergency contact form and called the girl’s mother, who said she was at work. When told that she wasn’t at work and hadn’t been for weeks, the mother said “oh, yea, she’s sick today.”

    Turns out she had just wanted the relocation money so that she could move back home and live with her boyfriend. The joke’s on her, though, because she hasn’t managed to find another job in her field. Last I heard, she was working at a fast food joint.

    Anyway, there are horribly rude and deceptive people out there…

    1. Tai*

      My last company offered relocation, but if you left the job before 2 years, you had to pay a portion of it back. I think that makes lots of sense considering this situation. Yikes.

      1. Rob*

        Clawback provisions are a must in this type of situation (and many other situations – but that is far off topic here).

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Seems to me that this could be something the company could sue her for. She obtained that money under false pretenses. I’m not sue-happy, nor am I a lawyer, but I might want to talk to one if I were the employer. Relocations aren’t cheap.

  14. Steph*

    What is going on with the part of the story in which the higher salary at the new job only for a few weeks allows her to save up enough for grad school? That’s not logical to me, or else it isn’t the whole story or the whole truth.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s that the new job could cover the cost of grad school. I think that with the time remaining before she started, she wanted to bring in more money and the new job paid more.

  15. EM*

    It just occurred to me that I had a six-month gap between undergrad and grad school. I graduated in December (transferred schools, so I had an extra semester), and funding for grad school began in the fall semester, so I had to wait. It never occurred to me to find a job for that short time. I just volunteered a lot and visited family. Of course, I was married and my husband had a “real” job, so we were eating Hamburger Helper instead of Ramen, even if I didn’t have a salary. :)

    1. TheSnarkyB*

      Yeah, I think if it didn’t occur to you to take a job, you’re in a different financial situation than the A-hole described by the OP. You also say that “funding for grad school began in the fall.” Unless you mean that that’s when your loans kicked in, you had some funding for grad school, so you shouldered a financial burden less than that of someone completely on loans.
      Also, school (and a lot of financial burdens) are a lot easier when married. Just sayin’
      (point of reference: I’m starting grad school soon, on loans alone, and single, and unemployed. Not a great position, but the best of the options.)

  16. Liz*

    1) I think AAM nailed the situation – but at this poibt it doesn’t seem at all appropriate for the OP to try to get someone fired.

    2) Why does this person have two permanent jobs when greeat candidates can’t get hired? Could we all just admit that the currebt approved system of hiring only people who already have jobs doing exactly that job is pretty flawed?

    1. EngineerGirl*

      “it doesn’t seem at all appropriate for the OP to try to get someone fired”

      I wouldn’t say that the OP is trying to get them fired. The colleagues own bad actions are responsible for that. It is called “consequences”. I too would give an ultimatim – Tell them that I’d be calling the manager on X date about it, and if they haven’t discussed with the manager by then, well, that is how it is. No one has the right to involve others in fraud.

  17. Anonymous*

    Involving the OP and also the fact that she already had a job and she probably was only at this new job for a month or so does IMO make it deceitful. But how long is the minimum you should stay with an organization before moving on? I am job searching and want to go to graduate school in Fall 2013. It’s too late to apply for the 2012 school year and I really can’t spend an entire year unemployed, both for financial reasons and because that’s too big a gap to explain on my resume. I’ve been focusing on limited-term jobs, but with the economy as bad as it is, I have to take what I can get. I’m not married so no second income, I am being supported by my parents but I doubt they’ll let me stay with them jobless for a full year. What should I do?

    1. Keith*

      My friend was in a horrible job situation at the start of the year and he badly needed to leave that situation. I recommended him for a job and he got it. I knew he had applied to Law School, but he wouldn’t hear back if he got in or not until April.

      Should I have not recommended him for the job because he might leave for Grad School? No. He might not have got in and he needed a good job. There was no deception on anyone’s part here and he just started law school last week. The job he had for 6 months appreciated that he gave them two weeks notice and asked him to stay on part time.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In many jobs, leaving after six months for something like grad school (i.e., not because the job was the wrong fit, and for something you clearly knew about in advance) is a bridge burner. If that wasn’t the case in this job, great — but in many it is.

Comments are closed.