should I tell the employer who rejected me about their new hire’s unprofessionalism?

A reader writes:

Recently, I was a finalist for a marketing manager position at a prominent company within the arts industry. The job involved promoting two different areas of performance art that I am very passionate about, and one of which I perform myself. I didn’t do well in the second interview, and knew I likely hadn’t gotten the job. I accepted that and made my peace with it.

I was excited to see that the person who did get the job was also involved in and excited about the same performing arts community. Recently, she’s published some blog posts about that community on a local blog (NOT her employer blog) and her description mentions that she is the marketing manager for this company, so in essence she is representing them.

My concern is this: The articles are laughable — poorly researched, containing high praise for her friends and boyfriend as “Performers who Will Make it Big!” without disclosing these personal relationships. They are passed around the community and panned, and a satirical piece making fun of them was even published on a local news site. This is bad enough, but her response to genuine comments and criticism has been to imply that commenters are “jealous.” She even posted a “Why U Mad Bro?” meme as a response! This is all occurring while her company affiliation is clearly visible, which is what concerns me. I truly respect this company and feel this is hurting their credibility.

I want to tell the hiring manager, but feel it could only come across as sour grapes as I didn’t get the job. My other thought was telling an acquaintance who also works there about it, and perhaps he could mention it to her. I don’t think she should be fired or anything like that, just perhaps needs some direction and to remove the company affiliation from her byline if necessary.

What would you think if someone sent this information to you, as a manager?

I would question their motives. Even if I was interested in the information, which from your description I certainly would be.

There’s just no way you can do this without appearing to have inappropriate motives — jealousy, or sour grapes, or trying to convince them that they made the wrong hire. Or if nothing else, just appearing to have a lack of boundaries.

When you’re rejected for a job, you can’t email concerns about the person who did get the position without it looking like it’s about your rejection.

Besides, it’s not your place to alert them to this. You don’t have the standing or the responsibility.

The only thing that would trump those concerns would be if she were engaging in behavior so egregious that their need to know was obviously paramount — endangering children, say, or systematically selling off all their office equipment on Craigslist.

Since that’s not the case here, you can’t get involved without looking bad yourself. I’d just move on and let this go.

{ 48 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    Come on, OP, you REALLY think this is 100% altruistic?

    Concur with Alison – this isn’t your place at all. Don’t worry about it. If it’s as bad as you say, they’ll catch wind and deal with it.

    And I wouldn’t be party to any of the efforts to ridicule her. You’re going to come out of this looking really bad. I’d just not discuss it/her at all.

    1. COT*

      I feel for the OP and her desire for a company and art form she cares about to have a good reputation in the community. I think it’s entirely plausible to feel that way without being jealous that OP lost out on the job or wanting the job now. If OP is involved in this arts community, that alone is enough reason to care. This is a little different, perhaps, than losing out on a job at a random company whose work isn’t something you’d care about or be involved with beyond that specific job position.

      1. BCW*

        But if she never applied for the job and found out this person got it, would she feel the same need to contact them? Probably not. That alone shows that its probably not completely a selfless act.

        1. fposte*

          Exactly what I was thinking. And exactly what I would be thinking if I got an email about this from a rejected candidate.

        2. OP*

          Actually I would because I respect this company. But I accept that my motivations are fueled in some way by a bit of annoyance.

    2. A Bug!*

      It’s kind of interesting, because I would believe that the OP does believe she means well. But it can be really hard to identify a conflict of interest when you’re sitting in the middle of it, especially when you stand to benefit from it in some way.

      OP, I’d invite you to be completely honest with yourself, and ask yourself what effect your circumstances have on your interest in this situation. Unless you are a robot, chances are very good that your relationship to this matter is clouding your judgment.

      Would you, honestly, contact an employer completely unrelated to you, if you read a crappy letter to the editor by a person who identified as an employee? Would you, honestly, not see that as a little weird?

      1. anon for this*

        “Would you, honestly, contact an employer completely unrelated to you, if you read a crappy letter to the editor by a person who identified as an employee? Would you, honestly, not see that as a little weird?”

        I would if it was really racist or sexist or something. But not if I had a dog in the fight (like I had applied for and rejected the position the writer held).

    3. Emma*

      I agree. Some part of the OP would revel in revealing this behavior. I’m not entirely sure that it’s unprofessional, either, because it’s not in her professional role that she’s writing frivolously and we don’t know the limitations imposed on her by the company regarding her extracurricular writings. Let the company deal with this itself, if it’s something so egregious – it’s a big girl and can handle it.

      OP, pretend this letter to AaM is your “concerned letter” to the company. Let it go.

  2. Anonymous*

    I would assume that they know already or are bound to find out. A good PR/marketing manager (someone in a higher position than hers) would be in the right for consistently making sure the organization’s name is being used in a positive manner by its employees online and would like to know what is being said around the internet as it relates to the company’s name. Time will tell, but I’m sure this will work itself out w/o your involvement.

    1. COT*

      It sounds like this person IS the marketing manager, though. Sure, she has a boss, but that boss may be trusting this person to handle the PR professionally and may not be keeping a close eye on things.

      I don’t think that OP can get involved directly without looking bad, and I do agree that the higher-ups will eventually get wind of this employee’s poor behavior… but it might take longer than anticipated. Clearly, the employee’s writing is already a widespread laughingstock that the company doesn’t appear to be addressing from an outsider’s view.

      1. Chinook*

        “Clearly, the employee’s writing is already a widespread laughingstock that the company doesn’t appear to be addressing from an outsider’s view.”

        I think the fact that the company isn’t addressing it means they may not be aware of it because the new employee is the one who is suppose to be monitoring their good name (sort of like the other letter where the person people complain about in an exit interview is the one entering the answers into the system). There is an inherent conflict of interest there that TPTB wouldn’t be aware of.

        Is it possible for the OP to talk to an interested 3rd party (interested in the good of the field and the company but not affected by her state of employment) about her concerns and have them bring it forward if they think she has a point? If it is obvious to her then it should be obvious to others. But, if the OP does this, then she needs to drop it all together and not hound the 3rd party or the company if they don’t appear to be doing anything.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Agreed. I’d discuss with a third party and ask them to bring it forward. There’s also the anonymous note option too. Regardless of the OP’s motives, I would want to know if someone was putting my company name on things like this. So let them know, but do it in a way that keeps your name out of it so they’re thinking more about the message and not the messenger.

  3. Anonymous*

    I agree with Allison. And for all you know, the hiring manager already knows about it. Anyone inside with a Google alert set up for the company is going to come across this in short order.

  4. MM*

    Can’t you just send an anonymous email linking to the blog and any particularly unprofessional posts? If you really are doing it simply because you respect the company (and not underlying sour grapes), they don’t need to know who you are.

    1. fposte*

      But then you’ve become someone who was driven by sour grapes to send an unsigned note to somebody’s employer. That’s not something most of us want to be.

      1. A Bug!*

        That’s why it has to be anonymous. Then nobody knows you’re the kind of person you don’t want people to think you are.

    2. some1*

      I think an anonymous email about this is going to be about a half-step above “Rejected Candidate” on the Credibility Scale, though. If I got it, I’d spend more time wondering why someone refused to say who they are than what they are trying to tell me. And I’d have to assume it’s someone who’s more about sabotaging the employee (rejected candidate, ex-boyfriend, ex-friend, etc) than helping the org.

      1. Bea W*

        I’d say a step below in credibility. I would assume an anonymous source has a less than pure agenda, otherwise they wouldn’t have felt the need to hide.

  5. OP*

    Thanks! I had already decided not to send anything pretty much, because there’s no way that makes me not look crazy. And I’m not crazy – it’s just annoying, but if it continues she will presumably be caught out.

    It’s not a small community – it’s in fact a rather large community and this is a very prominent part of it. If x were y, this would be the equivalent of the New York City Ballet in the US dance community.

    1. Lora*

      Oh, well, in that case I think you can count on a board of directors type or major donor having a Quiet Word with her manager as soon as they get a less than excellent piece of marketing in their inbox. And their word will be MUCH more important than yours.

      1. Anonymous*

        +1 to this. If this is really as much of a Big Deal then someone with Big Money will care and speak up and it will change.

  6. Brett*

    How involved is the hiring company in performance art as compared to art in general?

    It is possible that an incident like this might prompt them to decide to eliminate performance art from fields they are involved in. I have seen this happen many times in academia. A professor in a small field behaves unethically, and rather than try to correct the professor or perhaps bring in new blood, the school or research center simply eliminates that field completely from their umbrella.

    So, depending on the organization, you might be doing far more harm than good by bringing this directly to their attention. Are you sure you do not know anyone who can personally contact the marketing manager and make her aware of the lack of professionalism and ethics involved in these postings?

    1. OP*

      Sorry updating – they wouldn’t eliminate performance art because it’s the only thing they do, and they’re very successful at it and make a lot of money at it.

      1. Brett*

        That’s exactly what I was wondering. If performance art is the only thing they do, then it is not a risk. If performance art was a small part of a much larger portfolio of art projects, then there would be the risk of them going, “This is not worth it for us anymore”, and abandoning the area.

  7. Shayna*

    If all of her behavior really is as unprofessional and crazy as you say, I wouldn’t worry about it getting back to her new boss even without your help. When you want to snitch, just sit there and feel smug in the knowledge that she’s going to get busted and say your own proverbial “told you so” to yourself.

  8. Anon*

    Okay for the sake of enlightening me – Why isn’t it okay to have sour grapes? I understand not wanting to be childish. I understand not undermining the hiring decisions of a company.

    But deep down – when you see someone who got a job over you, who then acts super unprofessional, I think it it’s okay to feel like a bad hiring decision was made.

    I think sending any kind of anonymous email would be a bad idea because it could be followed back to the letter writer or assumed to be sent by the letter writer – and again, that calls into question the abilities of the hiring manager. Which is not okay. You don’t know why they made the decision they made. But, I think sour grapes are okay. And if I had a friend in the company, I’d have a very hard time not casually mentioning the behavior I’ve seen.

    Now… if everyone tells me that the above is not okay (which I have a feeling you will): If it makes the OP feel any better, I’ve found that professionalism and karma tend to come back to bite people. Think of the dozens of people who’ve seen this unprofessional behavior – if it was indeed that bad, do you think any of them would hire this person 5 years down the road when she’s looking for a job?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, first, you really don’t know if they made a bad hiring decision. You can’t be as familiar with the nuances of what they need as they are, or know how you stacked up to other candidates.

      Second, sour grapes stem from a feeling that you didn’t get something you deserved. But you never really “deserve” a particular job, particularly as an outside candidate, and it’s really bad for your emotional health and peace of mind to feel bitter or sour about it.

      1. OP*

        Thanks. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I deserved the job. I didn’t do well in the interview, as mentioned, and I think they wanted someone with more experience in a certain area. I also would actually think they would be LESS likely to hire me if I contacted them than if I didn’t and she got fired on her own.

    2. fposte*

      I think it’s another “job-hunting is like dating” thing. It’s fine to have a quick sulk and cackle with your friends, but if you can’t let it go or if you take it out of the private friend circle, it suggests a lack of perspective.

    3. BCW*

      I think having those feelings is fine, for the most part assuming it doesn’t consume you. However acting in a spiteful way based on those things is almost never ok

      1. KarenT*

        This. I fully agree– it’s okay to feel it, even talk about it with friends/family, but it’s always a bad idea to act on it. Just way too likely to backfire.

    4. Bea W*

      Feelings are what they are. It’s not necessarily wrong to have them. I’d say it’s natural and normal to feel all sorts of negative crappy things after being rejected. It’s how you handle them and act on them, that can become problematic.

  9. Anonicorn*

    systematically selling off all their office equipment on Craigslist

    Do I sense a Dexter reference here? Or maybe I’m grasping at straws.

  10. Veronica*

    I would just email a link to the blog anonymously to the company. That way they are aware of the situation and it doesn’t reflect badly on you.

  11. glennisw*

    They’ll find out soon enough, if she does it enough and if people in the community are passing it around. No need for the OP to get involved.

  12. Lily*

    I’m awfully late, but I’m going to ask anyway. I don’t understand a lot of the comments saying that OP should only act if her motives are selfless. That’s actually the reason I find it hard to take action as a manager; I want to be sure that my motives are pure! So, what’s the difference?

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