my reference stole a job from me, applying for a promotion after tardiness troubles, and more

It’s five short answers to five short questions. Here we go…

1. My reference applied for the job I wanted, after I told her about it

I have been using three references regularly for the past couple years in my job search. One in particular I have known the longest. I worked with her for 6 years, then off and on again after the company (Company A) downsized me and she called on me for temp work. She even called on me last year to help her present at a conference in our industry. I recently was contacted by Company B, which had my resume on file from a past application. Someone had resigned and my resume indicated I might be a good fit, and they asked me to interview. I was ecstatic. It was my dream job. They set up a Skype interview for the very next business day. I even knew many people at company B who had previously worked with me at my previous employer, Company A, where my reference still worked.

A couple days after the interview, I was meeting with my reference for hot drinks and gossip, and I filled her in on my lucky break and let her know I used her as a reference again. She agreed it was a perfect fit for me and seemed genuinely excited. I knew she was also looking to escape her job at Company A, but she had been pretty mum on her efforts to leave.

A week later, Company B emailed me that they had decided to pursue other “more closely qualified” candidates. I was shocked, to say the least. I had even had people on the inside pulling for me. Well, yesterday, my reference calls up and giddily tells me she finally left Company A and has a new job. She’s been hired by “that place [I] told [her] about.” She didn’t say they contacted her directly or that she went and applied on her own, but either way she was very excited and mentioned she’d have to give me her new contact information since I use her as a reference. I managed to mumble congratulations before hanging up, but now I don’t know how I feel about using her as a reference. She knew how desperate I was for work – my husband has been unemployed or underemployed for years and we already lost our housing twice. Should I keep using her?

Wow. What’s weirdest her isn’t just that she exploited what you told her for her own gain, but that she didn’t think there was anything odd about calling you up and announcing her new job without any acknowledgement that it was the job you were applying for yourself … which she appears to have learned about through you. It sounds like she made her giddy announcement to you without any sense at all of what was due to you — even if just an acknowledgement of the awkwardness.

So yeah, she’s a crappy friend. But is she a crappy reference too? Oddly, I’m not sure that she is — I mean, obviously you shouldn’t use her as a reference for any jobs you think she might like to apply to herself because she might decide to go after them herself, but aside from that, is she likely to give you a bad reference? I don’t think you can conclude from any of this that she is — although it would be reasonable not to use her simply because she’s a crappy person and untrustworthy.

2. I love and hate my part-time teaching job

I have a full-time job at a nonprofit which I generally like and I’m good at. It provides a decent living. A year ago, I was given the chance to teach part-time at a local university. I was thrilled at the opportunity, but I don’t really need the money. Teaching for me has been a roller-coaster ride. It has been both wonderful and awful. I am still learning the ins and outs of the teaching software, how to manage a class, and grading. I do have a master’s degree in education, but it didn’t really prepare me for the realities of teaching at the college level. I know my subject extremely well, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The compensation for teaching adds up to about 4% of my income but it takes a much larger chunk of my time and energy. I often use my lunch break or go to the library after work to work on my class. I have skipped going to the gym many times for this. I am constantly thinking of my class, and I am filled with anxiety more often than not about whether I am doing a good enough job. I lie awake at night thinking about it. It’s difficult managing my students and grading (I usually have more than 20 students). My department chair is kind and available as needed, but since I am only one adjunct teaching one class, and unable to be on campus during the workweek or really much at all due to my day job, I don’t get the experience of being around others who are doing the same type of work.

I am planning to cry “uncle” and quit, saying I can’t handle this on top of my regular job (and commitments to family, fitness, etc.) but part of me doesn’t want to give up the only work that makes me so deliriously happy (when I’m not freaking out). I don’t have a terminal degree, so it’s highly unlikely I can ever make this a full-time career. Unless I go back to school. And I’m nearly 50, which is somewhat of a factor. I would love to hear any thoughts or insights you might have.

In the starkest terms, it sounds like you need to figure out if the parts of teaching you love are worth the price that you’re paying for them (and that price seems to be time and anxiety). It might help you to talk to your chair or someone else who teaches to sort through this, but ultimately that’s the basic calculation you have to figure out: does the cost justify the benefit you receive? That’s easier said than done, of course, but it might help to look at it through that framework.

3. I don’t know if my manager remembers why I’m not part of our rotation for minor tasks

I work at a bank, and several months ago, a colleague and I received promotions with the same job title, which included the ability to provide final approval on loans. On paper, we both had equal signing authority in terms of individual loan amounts, but as I was more experienced, I was given the green light to approve certain types of more complex, higher risk loans that he could not. Since his risk exposure is significantly less than mine, and as I am the only person in the department able to approve these types of loans (which are more complex and time-consuming), the old supervisor and manager agreed to pull me out of the rotation for other small minor departmental tasks.

We’ve had a lot of change and turnover in management, and somewhere along the way, his internal restrictions were forgotten. He has been talking to new management as if he’s been engaging in the same complex and time-consuming files as me and is making me look terrible since I’m not engaged in any of the additional tasks that he and other team members in our department are required to do. What is the best way for me to handle this? Annual reviews are coming up, and I feel that because of this, I’m going to get the short end of the stick.

Why not touch base with your manager to make sure that it’s still the case that you should be out of the rotation for the more minor tasks? Just say something like, “Since we’ve had some changes since this decision was made, I want to make sure that you still want me to stay out of the rotation for X, Y, and Z. We’d originally pulled me out of that stuff since I was the only one able to do ___ and Jane thought my time should be spent there, but I want to check with you and make sure that you want me to continue that arrangement.”

(Also, keep in mind that it’s possible that your coworker’s internal restrictions weren’t forgotten, but deliberately changed.)

4. Applying for a promotion after being counseled for tardiness

A supervisor position just became available in my department and I want to apply for it, but I have been written up for my tardiness in the past. This all occurred between August and October; in October when I got counseled is when I stopped. I had no idea until then how many tardies I had. The unfortunate thing is that they think they were helping me by allowing me to accrue so many, but in reality, it hurt me.

However, since then I have been doing well. How do I honestly address this issue with the hiring manager? This is an internal position, and my current manager told me that the managers already knows about the tardiness, because they talk. I want to be straightforward and show that I have grown from this. Can you please help?

That was pretty recent, so I’m not sure that I’d apply for a promotion so soon after it — because it’s going to be hard to be convincing that it’s truly in the past. To a good hiring manager, the issue isn’t going to be just that you’re no longer being tardy; it’s going to be more about whatever was causing all that tardiness to begin with. They’ll wonder about your work ethic, reliability, and so forth. So you’re probably better off building up a great track record on those fronts for a sustained period of time — six months at a minimum — before advocating for a promotion.

5. I don’t want to list my manager as a reference

I relocated to a new city five months ago in order to be closer to my partner and I took the first job I was offered (literally moved on a Friday and started work that Monday). During that time, I have had three paychecks bounce, and am therefore actively seeking new employment. I have not informed my current supervisor, because when a colleague of mine told him she was looking due to the payroll problems, she was fired on the spot. If I decline to list my current supervisor as a reference on applications, explain why, and list a current coworker instead, is that going to be a kiss of death?

You shouldn’t list a reference from your current employer at all; that’s completely normal, since most people don’t want their current company to know that they’re looking. 99% of prospective employers will understand that and will be willing to only contact references from previous jobs.

{ 145 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Is OP #1 certain it’s the same position that her former manager was hired for? Is it possible she applied for something else and got it?

    1. Anonymous*

      I thought of that too when I was reading the letter. The reference sounds like she was senior to the OP (enough to hire her for temp work, for instance), and it’s hard to imagine them going for the same position.

      1. PEBCAK*

        What’s more, it sounds like a lot of people have gone from Company A to Company B…to me this would indicate that the reference probably knows a ton of people at Company B, and very likely would know about openings there before the OP mentioned them. If a move from A to B is pretty common, I’m really not sure we can attribute any shady behavior to the reference based on the facts presented in the OP.

      2. AnonK*

        I couldn’t tell if the reference was senior or not. And if she wasn’t senior, people can take this as a lesson of using a peer for a reference.

        When I hire someone, I put very little weight on a reference if that reference was not a former supervisor or manager. If not a direct supervisor, I really like to see references where the reference is senior to the candidate. I’ve had to call too many references who were giving their friend a glowing recommendation only to find out they work with someone in a very limited fashion and lack the big picture AND objectivity of what the candidate offers.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Interesting. I actually find references from peers to be very valuable *if* I can avoid the pitfalls you mention. I like to talk to anyone who is “one away” from the candidate — either they were a direct manager, a direct report, or a peer who is, say, in a different department but who worked directly with the candidate. Let’s say I am interviewing a copywriter — his old boss can tell me how good his work was and whether he’s reliable/dependable, but his peer in account management can also tell me things his boss might not be as aware of, like how well he presents himself in meetings, whether he has to be nagged by his account team to get grunt work done, etc.

          1. AnonK*

            I guess it’s all based on my experiences. I actually just did a reference check today, and it was very obvious that the reference was a “buddy”. I ask the reference about things that I really didn’t feel confident about after the interview. In this case, the candidate showed little enthusiasm compared to the phone interviews. He was a little underqualified but I loved his passion and the questions he had for me at the end of the phone interview. When I had a second interview and brought in other people to speak with him, I got one word answers, no eye contact, no questions, no signs that he had any interest in working here. I really wanted to figure out if it was nerves, or if he had engagement issues. So the questions I asked his reference were was he a self starter (answer: I don’t know, I sort of toss extra work his way if he is interested or is he is busy), how does he respond to feedback (answer: I don’t know), would you hire him for a role with a lot of freedom (answer: I never hired anyone before, but sure)….

            I’m left without having any better idea what I should do now with this candidate. If he had a reference who had more of a leadership or managerial perspective, I may have gotten some insight.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think that’s necessarily because it’s a peer reference, though; I think that’s just bad reference-giving–and, on your candidate’s part, bad reference selection, especially as it doesn’t seem to reflect any of the strengths you’re hoping for. So in that sense maybe it does give you some insight.

    2. Anonymous*

      That’s what I thought too. The OP writes that her reference told her “she has a new job. She’s been hired by “that place [I] told [her] about”. That does not necessarily mean that she got the same job the OP told her about. Maybe the OP is jumping to that conclusion because her own negotiations with Company B fell through at around the same time? I agree the timing is suspicious, but it might just be a coincidence.

    3. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*


      If I were hiring for a single position, I probably wouldn’t consider both a senior person and a junior person. Perhaps there were two positions, or OP’s skillset was not what was needed for this one. In any event, having someone else on the inside at this company could work out if they’re hiring for lower roles in the future.

      That said, the reference conveyed the news in a very peculiar way. Maybe she didn’t understand that she would be perceived as “taking” the OP’s job, or maybe she’s an inconsiderate sort who sees the ironic humor of the situation and not the pain it’s caused. Hard to say.

      1. Jamie*

        It may not be even just a question of junior or senior, but different roles.

        Devil’s advocate – as lead auditor I get called as a reference for a member of my audit team. We don’t have a separate QC department so I have everyone from engineers, to purchasing, to HR staff on that team. If in talking to a reference about a job they applied to in HR and I learn through conversation that they need an IT…

        It’s using the lead, sure, but it’s not taking someone’s job because it’s a completely different position.

        So yeah, it could happen…but I’d assume the OP wouldn’t be upset if this was the case so maybe it was the same position.

        I hope she chimes in with more info.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think we know if the reference was a manager or peer though. I was assuming peer, based on the wording in the letter. Hopefully the OP will comment here and clarify.

      1. OP here*

        I did leave out information in my original question to keep it short, but to fill in what everyone is asking about: My reference and I started with the same position at Company A. We were peers for many years, then I took a higher level job overseas with Company A while she got a promotion to a Director position at the home office. When I left Company A, my positions increased in responsibilities but never included “Director”. My last two positions outside Company A were the positions that eventually lead to a “Director” position which was what the job at Company B was. Additionally, I have direct experience working with Company B, since B and A used to have a partnership. My job with A overseas was actually representing B in my assigned countries! My reference had no experience with Company B’s products. I wasn’t fired or anything; the position overseas had a contracted end date and I knew that, but was banking on my bosses promises that they would have need for me at the home office when it was over. Unfortunately, the economic downturn had the company being sold and many positions cut right when my contract ended so they had nothing to offer me even though they wanted to.

        And I know it was the same job she got because it was the only job advertised by Company B at the time. I also feel 99% sure I heard of it before her because Company B’s HR person called me the same day she got the resignation letter from the person leaving. The job was not posted until three business days later on their website which was after my interview. Yes, we did know all the same people at Company B but none of them were ever closer to one of us than the other so I feel it isn’t likely one of them would have reached out to her and not me since they knew she was employed and I was not. People at Company B had in the past let me know when a position was available that I would be good for, unfortunately the posting was old by the time they knew I was in need of work.

        I fully admit she was a better fit for the position from an employers point of view – she was employed already, in a position with a similar title even if those of with more knowledge know her responsibilities were nothing like what she’ll be doing at Company B. I felt burned by her seeming lack of professional courtesy is all I guess. And she still hasn’t sent me her updated contact information so even if I wanted to use her as a reference again I won’t be able to.
        Sorry so long!

        1. OP here*

          A few more points- They may have got her name from me actually. I submitted my reference list when I had last applied to a job with Company B, so they could have seen her title was almost the same for the job being advertised, and since they knew Company A was where she worked and that it was going under may have figured she would want out. I don’t blame them if that’s the case.

          And to clarify I know 100% it was the same job, as we did have more of a conversation than I alluded to with me asking if she’ll be based in the NY office and commenting on the view from their building and on our ex-colleague that left the position she was getting. Sorry that wasn’t clear.

          Finally, I guess I was upset that she didn’t have some ancient feeling of obligation to turn down their interest and recommend me more, or at the very least admit how guilty she feels about it and say she’s sorry but she was desperate to get out of Company A or something. The giddiness in the call just really knocked me down.

          1. Jamie*

            So much for the benefit of the doubt some of us were hoping for, that it was a different position entirely.

            I can easily see why you’d be hurt. If they approached her and made an offer she just couldn’t refuse she should have told you about it without crowing…understanding it will be a sensitive issue.

          2. Anonymous*

            I’m the first anon in this thread who asked the original question about whether you were sure it was the same position. Thanks for the additional details.

            I agree that she could have been more considerate about how she told you she got the job and, perhaps, even given you a heads-up that she was applying, but I don’t really blame her for going after it herself. It doesn’t sound like she tried to undermine you with a bad reference, and having her there may better your chances of landing the next open spot. Good luck!

          3. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

            Well, that’s unpleasant.

            I still don’t think it was necessarily underhanded of her to pursue or take the job–you’re not intimate friends, she has her own best interests to look out for, and it wasn’t in any way assured that you would be the second choice–but the cavalier way she told you about it is appalling. My optimistic side makes me want to speculate that she might not have realized this was the very same job, but I know that’s not too likely.

            1. Marcy*

              I’m not as optimistic as you are. I had something similar happen to me. When a “friend” and I were about to graduate from grad school, I noticed she had started applying for the same jobs I did. I didn’t think a lot of it at first because we both were graduating and both looking for a job in the same field. One afternoon another friend mentioned a place to me that she thought I’d like. The first “friend” was sitting nearby and overheard. I didn’t apply to the other place because I wasn’t interested but one day the first “friend” came in and tossed a letter over to me and said “I made it through the first round with XYZ. Isn’t that the place you were interested in?” That told me all I needed to know. She later complained to the other friend that she didn’t understand why I never called or wanted to go do things with her anymore. Some people are just like that.

    5. RJ*

      Yes, and if the company reached out to the OP based on a past application, it’s quite possible they also reached out to the reference in the same way.

      1. Rosemary*

        RJ is right. That would hypothetically mean that she did not steal the job. Speculations do not help getting a job, though. Let’s move on.
        I’d be wise and smart now. The position is gone, too bad, but there will be others at this company, even better perhaps, for which you are an excellent fit. Ask her kindly, sincerely and firmly to help you out. She will, because she owes you one.
        And she knows it.

  2. AdjunctForNow*

    #2) I also teach at night, and hardly see my colleagues. My on-boarding process pretty much consisted of knowing someone who knew someone in the department, and they handed me a textbook and told me to have a nice life. The first couple quarters, I felt just like you. I was anxious not knowing if I was responding to situations well, I didn’t know if my class was too easy/too hard/too much work/whatever, and I cried the first time I read my teaching evaluations from students and was well below the department average. The bottom line was that, compared to every previous job I’ve ever had, from retail to corporate, I felt like there were no clear expectations of what I should be doing.

    But then I realized something…I’m an adjunct! Nobody cares!

    I’m being a overly flippant, here, but the bottom line is that they give me a huge amount of leeway to teach the class as I see fit, and if they didn’t think I was doing a good enough job, they wouldn’t keep hiring me every quarter. Of course, I want to be sure I’m doing right by my students and they are getting something out of the class, but how is that measured?

    When it comes to teaching evaluations, it’s well-known that students rate classes/instructors higher if:

    –The class is an elective vs. a requirement
    –The class is in-major vs. out-of-major
    –The instructor is white/male/old/tall
    –The class is small
    –The student has earned (or expects to earn) a high grade in the class

    I can’t control these things, other than the last one, by inflating grades. So instead of looking at the numbers, I ask student to fill out a short “how’s it going” evaluation about four weeks in. This tells me WAY more about what’s working and what isn’t (sample comment: I wish the slides were up on the course website at least two days in advance so I have time to print them out before class).

    1. Julie*

      That’s agreat idea! That way, you get the information you need to make improvements as you go along. I would bet that you get better evaluation scores because you polled the students partway through. People appreciate being listened to, especially when you’re giving them an opportunity to tell you what they need.

      1. AdjunctForNow*

        Yeah, I go over them in class the following week. For example:

        1) I typically post the slides a week in advance, so if you don’t see them, please drop me an email. I’m still getting used to the new blackboard upgrade.

        2) A lot of you thought the homeworks are too long. I’m going to scale back future assignments a bit, so I’ll give you three required problems and three more suggested problems if you want extra practice.

        And so on…

    2. Expat Teacher*

      I am responsible for hiring adjunct teachers and I agree with AdjunctForNow’s comments, especially about teaching evaluations. If you are still concerned, you could ask someone to sit in on your class and give you feedback.

      Have you considered making your course goals long term ones and making incremental improvements each semester, only enough to fit your time limits?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Very interesting post- very informative.
      I can kind of see four of the reasons for the high ratings but the one about white/male/old/tall- oh my. what a commentary on our society that this is a known/predictable pattern.

      1. AdjunctForNow*

        One study showed asked students to rate the course about 15 minutes in based on how they thought it was going to go. Unsurprisingly, their course-end evaluations showed no significant change.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Wow. ESP or self-fulfilling prophecy?

          Well. I guess I remember feeling like I was going through an assembly line and one of the things I did was categorize the professors/teachers.
          Some teachers were way over my head. Others did such a good job explaining they probably could have taught me automotive repair or something else that I find totally unmasterable.

          When I went back to college this got worse. I realized that if I had a prof I could not follow I needed to change classes early in the semester or my average would tank. The system rewards those who move quickly.

        2. Expat Teacher*

          I thought that the study asked students to base their ratings on a 3 second video – and they didn’t change their mind, either, proving that human beings can judge others very quickly and accurately or else human beings stick to their first impressions which are based on information you can gather within 3 seconds – maybe stereotypes?

    4. A Cita*

      Yes, I’ve done the early course review–asking students to fill out an anonymous, short form to make adjustments and improvements still early in the course. So great suggestion.

      And also like the long term goals solution. It’s true, you need to make just small improvements with each course. And some times a course goes great and the next time, the course has problems. It’s just how it goes and can be unpredictable.

    5. GL*

      I’m sorry, but students usually rate _higher_, not _lower_ on class evaluations than what the teacher usually deserves, because most of the them they just want to get them done. If you dismiss class evaluations, you’re doing yourself and your students a great disservice–really pay attention to areas you can improve if you get that feedback. Please. Doing one early in the semester is a nice tool so you can make changes before the withdrawal period ends.

      If teaching a class takes up too much time, how about tutoring? Students need more quality tutors–in a lot of cases, most tutoring comes from peers or online services.

      1. AdjunctForNow*

        It doesn’t matter if they rate higher or lower, if all I see is a comparison to a department average. If they rate me extra high, they rate everyone extra high. I teach a required introductory lecture-style course with about 50 students per section. I am rated against every class in the department, including things like a spring break class overseas. You know what? Students are NEVER going to like my class as much as they like their week in Barcelona.

        Sure, I read the comments and such, but there is just no reason to be stressed out about the numbers.

  3. Anon E Mouse*

    #3 – If your colleague has been talking to new management as if he’s been doing the same tasks as you, that is something you need to address with the new manager. Going forward, they may decide that things should change, but your new manager needs to know that he hasn’t had the same responsibilities as you have.

    So it sounds to me like his internal restrictions haven’t been forgotten – he’s talking to new managment as though they were never there to begin with, and new management isn’t hearing anything different.

    1. OP Here for #3*

      OP here for #3:

      I will definitely be bringing this to the attention of management, but would you or anyone have ideas as to how I should go about doing this? I don’t want to be throwing him under the bus for intentionally/unintentionally misleading our new management team as to his tasks. He’s a good friend and colleague who helps with a lot of my personal issues and I don’t want to jeopardize that relationship or have any tension between the two of us.

      I also don’t want to sound like someone who’s just complaining to management and/or making it sound like I’m “too busy” to be a team player and help out with minor tasks.

      At the same time though, I want to be sure I get this addressed ASAP given that annual reviews are coming up relatively soon.

  4. Julie*

    RE: #2

    …it sounds like you need to figure out if the parts of teaching you love are worth the price that you’re paying for them (and that price seems to be time and anxiety)

    I agree with Alison. I’ve had a few volunteer positions that ended up taking much more time than I was expecting, so I really got burned out. I didn’t feel like I could quit partway through, and I wanted to do a good job, so I worked like crazy, and even had to take some PTO to get things done. One of the volunteer activities (stage manager for a youth theatre program) WAS worth all of the work I had to put in, so I planned for the late nights and PTO every time I agreed to do it. But the other things weren’t worth all of the time and energy they required, so I didn’t do them more than once. It’s really something only you can decide. One idea, though – would you get as much enjoyment if you could be a guest lecturer in someone else’s class? Is that a possibility?

    1. A Cita*

      Hmmm…maybe it’s just the university I’m at, but to be a guest lecturer, you really need to be either someone experienced/prominent in your field (or the area of study in the class) or a current full time prof in another department offering a different point of view around the topic. Not sure how it would work to have an adjunct (or not even an adjunct any more if they quit this) come in as a guest lecturer.

  5. Kristie*

    I can relate to this post in many ways. I am a full-time teacher, it’s my third year and I’m struggling. I don’t know if the rewards of the profession are worth the anxiety and unhappiness this job can cause. Many days I am miserable.
    I have debated whether I should go back to school and/or explore a different career path, and I just can’t seem to push myself to take the risk. Too “comfortable” I suppose. And I’m only in my mid 20s!

    1. Expat Teacher*

      Hang in there! I don’t know what you’re struggling with, but I dreaded discussions with students who were doing poorly and thought the solution was for me to pass them anyway. This semester, I could finally do the broken record bit without getting upset, except being pleased when they stopped complaining and started working.

      Even at the college level, we aren’t just teaching a subject, we are teaching life lessons.

    2. Chinook*

      Kristen, I don think going back to school is not a way to find teaching more enjoyable. I honestly think that this is one of those jobs that you either enjoy or hate. More education can give you more pedagogical theory but it won’t help you refine your technique or find the style that clicks for you – that only comes from practice and feedback.

      If you are anxious and depressed about teaching after 3 years, I think you need to go with your gut and find another career path. Don’t look at it as a failure but something you could only learn about yourself by actually doing it.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – are you sure you’ve grown from it? Because this sentence: “The unfortunate thing is that they think they were helping me by allowing me to accrue so many, but in reality, it hurt me.” sounds a lot like you’re shifting the blame to them, not you.

    In general, when I’ve had to counsel or discipline an employee, I’d expect to see about 6 months of sustained improvement in their behavior before I’ll believe they’re trustworthy again.

    1. Jamie*

      Agreed – way too early. And not owning the responsibility is an issue.

      If I were having issues being late I would know it was a problem way before my boss would notice.

    2. Ellie H.*

      I did notice this, but there are some jobs where it doesn’t really matter exactly when you come in as long as the work gets done (I think that most jobs where you have set hours and are not exempt probably aren’t like this, but there are surely some that are). It seems like it could be the case that the LW really did get the impression that it didn’t make a huge difference whether he or she got in at 9:00 or 9:10 every morning. I can see how it would be a disservice not to clarify this NOT being okay before the point of an official warning.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        they may very well have said something, but she missed it. A lot of times a first verbal warning might be something like “oh, don’t forget work starts at 9” instead of “if you continue to be late, we’ll pursue disciplinary action.” In my experience, most people who think someone came completely out of the blue had missed several signs that it was coming.

      2. Jamie*

        I see what you’re saying, but the wording that she didn’t know how many “tardies” she had leads me to believe she knew tardies were a thing. If she were surprised that being late was even a thing, I’d think it would be worded differently to draw the distinction.

        More like an explanation of how she thought it was a flexible start time and was surprised X times were counted as late.

        At least that’s how I, someone with a flexible start time, would word it if I was suddenly written up for being “late.” My first response would be what the heck do you mean late – since when am I expected to be here by X:00?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, that would only be a surprise if the hours weren’t delineated at the very beginning.

          Off-topic, but I LOVE the snowman HK avatar. Poor cold little HK!

  7. AnonK*

    #4 – if you needed to be counseled to realize you accrued so many tardies, then still have an opinion that they shouldn’t have let it go on for so long, I’d question if you are truly ready for a supervisor role.

    For the most part, we don’t know when we are screwing up. We need coaching at times to inform us that we are using inappropriate tone in an email, talk too loudly at our desks, or other behavior that needs to be changed. But someone shouldn’t need to be informed that they are late! It sounds like you may not have realized how frequent that is, but I really wonder how can that be. If your start time is 9:00, and you are rolling in at 9:22, there is no grey area. You are tardy. How would you not realize you were late? It’s great that you are addressing it. But the fact that you feel they didn’t do you any favors shows by letting it go on so long concerns me.

    1. The Clerk*

      The OP may very well work in an environment where it’s not a big deal if people come in a few minutes late, or where it seemed like that at one time. She might have noticed after working there a while that some of her coworkers were habitually wandering in a bit late, and then the next time she had something happen like, I don’t know, wanting to pop into the pharmacy for ibuprofen on the way to work, she figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. I could see being irritated if after watching it go on with others and then having them not say anything the first couple times she did it, suddenly they decide to bring it up.

      I’m assuming, of course, that it happened something like 5 times and not 17.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Then it’s poor judgement. Assuming that it’s ok to come in late without having that conversation with a boss shows she doesn’t really understand her work environment and takes advantage of opportunities to not meet basic requirements of the job.

        My team – I don’t really care if you’re in past your scheduled work time as long as you put in your full 8-hour day and get everything done. But you have to know your environment.

        1. Jamie*

          Right – for me and many I work with there is no “late” because we have flexibility on start times – but the product needs to be there.

          Know your environment needs to be stitched on a sampler.

          There is also the concern that she thinks it’s the managers job to tell her when she’s “in trouble” and that kind of mindset can lead to a micromanaging supervisor. I prefer to manage with the assumption most people will police their own behavior like adults and deal with the rare occasions when something becomes an issue…rather than have people assume I’m monitoring their behavior all the time and if I’m not saying anything it’s because I approve.

          I.e. – I can monitor your web usage whenever I want to, but I never want to. If your work is good and there are no issues with productivity (and you don’t get any questionable malware) I will never check your logs.

          If you aren’t getting stuff done, needing OT because of your workload but every time I pass your desk you’re on Facebook or whatever…that’s part of the time management conversation. Not everyone wants to micromanage others and not everyone can work that way.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I think what people also don’t get is that your manager likely notices everything you think you’re getting away with. We just usually choose not to say anything for whatever reason. I know who’s on the internet all day, and who comes in late. Just because I haven’t said anything doesn’t mean I don’t notice – it just means I haven’t decided to make it an issue because your performance is otherwise just fine.

            1. Felicia*

              +1! I’ve worked in environments where the start tiem was flexible, and times where it wasn’t. If you’re told your hours are 9-5, and you come in at 9:45 every day and notice everyone else has already been there for 45 minutes you should realize you’re late and that’s not ok (this really happened somewhere I worked). This person got spoken to about it after she’d done it for about 6 weeks straight, but really when it’s that sort of situation you should realize that’s not ok. She’d make excuses for her lateness every day too…ok sometimes shit happens, but it doesn’t happen that much every day so you should leave earlier.

        2. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

          I don’t think it necessarily speaks to her judgment that she overestimated the office’s tolerance for tardiness; for all we know, she was one of several people written up when management decided to crack down. But it does probably mean that she’s not quite ready for a supervisory role at this organization.

      2. Judy*

        Or for that matter, she may have been told by coworkers that it was ok, but it was tolerated in them by the manager, but the manager didn’t like it.

        I was assigned a “trainer” at my second job who was supposed to show me the company specific ropes. How to access and run programs and processes to get my work done. How to get the POs cut. He showed me, and some of the processes at the time required handing paper to a person in our procurement group. A week later when I did my first solo PO there, the procurement clerk took me to task because I didn’t do it right. “Yes, I know you did it how he did, but we need it done x way.” Why she didn’t tell both of us when he took me over, introduced me and handed her the first PO, I’ll never know.

        1. Jamie*

          This drives me crazy! When new people are trained improperly and no one tells them until they are on their own…but heaven forbid someone ask the “trainer” to follow procedures.

          That’s the kind of stuff internal audits (when done properly) flush out. Unfortunately not every company does them.

        2. Becky B*

          That has never made sense to me. Lazy management, maybe? Ugh.

          This reminded me of when something similar happened to me. I had moved to a new department in my company; my boss assigned an incumbent woman to train me on all the processes I’d be doing (the job was split in two, and the other person doing it had left).

          There was some overlap, but one of her edicts was, “I don’t do [this particular process], but when we see Y notification in the system, we don’t worry about it,” in our database. Our database was one of the most heavily patched systems I’d ever seen, so I…didn’t worry about it.

          Until it turned out that yes, we did need to worry about it, and not worrying about it was costing the company money.

          My boss brought me in to his office with the head of another department who this particular thing affected, and wanted to know how I could have let this happen. I said, quite simply, that this is how I was trained. Boss: “But she doesn’t do that process, why would you listen to her?”

          I was too young to say, though I thought it very strongly, that hey, YOU were the one who had her train me on everything. So that wasn’t a very comfortable meeting, though it did turn out to be a relatively easy thing to fix.

          I do wonder how nobody had noticed this lapse when the other person had been doing it!

          Nowadays I might be a bit more prone, if still careful, to speak up, but I still remember that lowering brow and “I’m going to blame somebody” feeling in the room.

      3. RJ*

        Our hourly time-keeping is done in 15 minute increments, so everything from 7:53 to 8:07 am “counts” as 8 o’clock. Depending on the manager involved, the time from 8:01 to 8:07 may be considered late or may be considered on time. It’s confusing that this “grace period” is considered differently by different managers, so I can see a situation where someone might not be aware that their manager thinks they’re regularly late if they’re clocking in at 8:02.

    2. Jamie*

      For the most part, we don’t know when we are screwing up. We need coaching at times to inform us that we are using inappropriate tone in an email, talk too loudly at our desks, or other behavior that needs to be changed.

      Really? I think the number of people who need to be counseled for this kind of thing are the anomaly – ime most people don’t need coaching about professional tone, etc.

      1. Just a Reader*

        I think the number of people who need it as part of a skill set is surprising. Some places it doesn’t matter/they let it slide, but I’ve come across a lot of people who either aren’t self-aware enough to change this, or don’t care to.

      2. AnonK*

        Probably depends on your industry. I work in IT, where social skills are often stunted. For the most part, people don’t mean to be unprofessional. They just don’t realize they are doing it. You often have to point it out to them, and are genuinely surprised that they are percieved to be rude or a jerk.

        Case and point: I just had to reprimand a software engineer a week ago. Somehow he got pulled into a customer support call (not his normal task) and was brisk. The customer was asking for software to do XYZ, which it cannot do. Instead of the engineer explaining this to the customer and explaining that he could make a request for the feature in a future release, he decided to lecture the customer on why they aren’t so bright for even wanting to do XYZ. For those of you who haven’t worked with IT guys, your jaw may be dropping right now. Who would speak to a customer this way? However, it’s par for the course for some of these guys. He certainly didn’t mean to be rude – he honestly felt that he was helping the customer. I hated reprimanding him because it was like clubbing a baby seal. But now he at least understands that if he finds himself in these situations, the way you would debate internally isn’t appropriate for an external audience. I won’t be as charitable if it happens again.

        1. Jamie*

          Yeah, those IT people can be so difficult! :)

          I think we get a bad rap (and yep, I’m IT) because I think we do, by and large, have better social skills than we get credit for.

          Granted, in your example he was a jerk, but there are jerks everywhere. I like tech people because I think we tend to be direct and to the point – work communication is very data based (get it – based on data but also a play on database. Seriously, who says IT people aren’t hi-larious!)

          Now, I think I’m pleasant and a total delight to deal with – but I wouldn’t last a day in customer service.

    3. Tinker*

      Incidentally, I think there’s a good lesson here in how to phrase things — regardless of the details of how it actually went down, there are a lot of people out there who are very sensitive to statements regarding other people’s involvement in one’s screwup. It’s perceived as blame-shifting.

      Therefore, it’s best to not mention what other people did or didn’t do if at all possible — for instance, “I didn’t understand the policy for quite some time, but once I was informed I corrected the problem.” If the person you’re talking to is the sort to hear it, they’ll fill in that you weren’t told but are taking responsibility anyway; if they aren’t, they at least are less likely to read you as being an Irresponsible Youth Of Today.

      I also tend to think that thinking in that attribution style to oneself makes one feel a) more powerful, as a person whose domain includes more things and also b) more magnanimous, hence more powerful, because you are taking on yourself the failings of the lesser people around you. Yes, this is contradictory, but whatever works.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        “I didn’t understand the policy for quite some time, but once I was informed I corrected the problem.”

        Yes to this! I’ve certainly seen how unclear policies and uneven enforcement can create confusion about the acceptability of tardiness. And even if that’s the case, it’s a better strategy to take some responsibility.

  8. Not So NewReader*

    OP1: This person is not your friend. If this happened to me, I would later reflect on how this is a presence of mind problem. Like you, I would have just back out of the conversation as quickly as possible. I would be so stunned I would lack the presence of mind to say something/anything. Now I have a second problem- I did not stand up or be proactive for ME.
    My next step is to figure out what I would say to a similar situation in the future. Nothing wrong with saying “Oh, that sounds like the job I applied for…” Opening up the topic is just as hard as silently worrying about it. Yeah, Monday morning quarterbacking to plan this out- but the best I can do is resolve not to let this go unchecked again.
    Going forward you could call your friend as others have suggested and just say “Remember that job I applied for? I did not get it and I am not sure what happened here.” OR you could just decide to move away from this person entirely. I guess I would base my decision on how badly I wanted to salvage the relationship. Some people are worth the effort and others, uh, not so much.

    1. Anonymous*

      I agree. Our OP needs closure, and a part of that closure is to find out for certain that her reference got the job she was after. The reference could have gotten an entirely different position, making it a total coincidence. Or she could be a backstabbing with a hidden agenda. Now either the OP can confront the former reference head on or do a little investigating to find out the title of her reference’s new position.

      The reference in either scenario was not honest, and at the very least, the OP should tread lightly around her from here on out.

      1. OP here*

        Not So New and Anon, thanks for you advice. I do know it was the same job as I was too stunned during the call to end it quickly and felt obligated to politely keep the conversation going. I do feel I need closure but it’s not likely to happen since I think it would only come with her acknowledging what she did in some way instead of acting like nothing happened. Sigh.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Then probably best to just cut your losses and move on. No need to keep her as a reference.

          FWIW, Alison has said many times there is no such thing as a dream job. So maybe there is some really bad horrid thing that Backstabber will hate about the job, thus making karma very happy. :)

          1. K Too*

            OP #1, Sorry about your situation. I think many others would feel the same as you if it happened to them, regardless of whether or not they know for sure they will be offered a gig. When you are financially strapped in this economic depression, it’s easy to take situations like this personal.

            I don’t think I would be so trusting of this reference. The acting “giddy” part is what gets me, but perhaps this is how she acts in awkward situations. However, it sounds like she had no qualms being open with you about the offer.

            You seem to have a great rapport with the people at Company B and maybe luck will be on your side when another new position opens up. The next time around, keep your job leads to yourself.

            In the meantime, try not to let this incident bring you down too much. It’s okay to be angry, grieve about it, move on and take a hiatus from this reference.

            Best of luck to you and do send an update!

  9. Not So NewReader*

    OP 2. This may or may not be something relevant to you. I think it is important to be careful of jobs that come with an emotional rollercoaster. The thing to watch out for is the very high-highs and the very low- lows. This is not good for so many reasons, the biggest one is your own health.
    Do you anticipate the highs and the lows leveling out in time? Or is there no end in sight?
    Other than there are days where you love the job, what is your goal/purpose in having this job? You said you do not need the income so this means you can really think this through with great objectivity. (The answer has nothing to do with the health of your wallet.)
    How long do you expect it to be to get through the learning curve? One of my current bosses was told it takes three years to go through the curve on her new job. That’s a long curve. But she has chosen to stick with it. She has another year of learning curve- sigh.
    For me, the question would be am I willing to go through the emotional ups and downs for X time frame in order to have this work?
    If you could somehow find more support for yourself how much of a difference would that make? It could be that having a several people to talk things over with would take away that rollercoaster effect. Working in isolation rarely goes well.

  10. Chinook*

    OP #2, you should realize that teaching is one of those things that gets easier with time and experience and what you are feeling is normal for all teachers. When prepping for something you haven’t taught beforen it is usually 1-2 hours of prep for every hour of teaching (and that is how corporate trainers bill their time). Marking is something that also takes time until you get a feel for your marking rubrics (which cuts down on the time you spend second guessing marks but not on the actual marking). But, if you have caught the teaching bug, nothing can beat the high of seeing the light of understanding click on in someone’s eyes.

    Definitely find a mentor to talk to about your concerns and take time to watch another successful teacher teach and manage a class.

    Lastly, DO NOT leave this position until the class is finished unless you are in danger. Not only is it the kiss of professional death, but it will hurt your students as well.

    1. NorthEastAdjunch*

      Chinook, thanks, just to clarify (as OP#2), I have no intention of leaving mid-class. I have committed to next semester. I am only thinking of not teaching again in the fall if asked. Would never do that to students or my reputation!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        If you really hate it, perhaps there is something that you do like about it that could translate to something else. Workshops, seminars, or something that isn’t quite so intensive. I can’t imagine doing that while you’re working a full-time job elsewhere! My adjunct instructors at Second College were either retired or so far along in their careers (most of them, especially in criminology, were in the field) that they either had assistance or time to put lessons together. My favorite instructor never trained as a teacher; he was retired city PD and IA.

        My point is, figure out what it is about teaching that you like and see if you can do it in a less stressful way, if you decide not to go back. Good luck!

        1. Chinook*

          I agree, there are other ways to teach than in a classroom. If you think that this career is not for you even after everything everyone has recommended her, definitely look at what you like about teaching and where else you can find it. Tutoring and corporate training are just two ideas.

          That being said, it should get easier with time. When I started as a school teacher, the joke was that the first year was a “sleeping bag year” because you spent so much time working it would be more efficient to just have a sleeping bag u serious your desk.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, my spouse taught as an adjunt for a year or two, and at first, there is a LOT of time spent in making the curriculum. He knew it would become easier with time, as he figured out more what he was doing and was able to build on work he had done before.

  11. Anonymous*

    I’m kind of surprised that no one has mentioned this but the Dream Job conversation has been had here many times. There are problems with every job, and if you continue to think of this as your dream job you’ll be more frustrated with what happened.

    Also, it wasn’t your job. Until you start the job it’s not your job. You’d had one skype interview. You don’t know if they’d already reached out to your reference. I think it’s pretty uncommon for jobs to have only one person (especially externally) in a hiring process.

    I agree that if your reference got this particular job then she handled it poorly. But holding onto the thought that it was your dream job is only going to make it harder for you to move forward in your search.

    1. OP here*

      I know it’s not the only job I could be happy with, but even the person leaving the position wrote me she was happy they had contacted me and gave me lots of encouragement. Another ex-coworker there was excited to hear I was up for the job and was giving me pointers on negotiating salary so I was over-encouraged. The team I would be working with at Company B had people I had worked with overseas with Company A so I thought they must excited to be getting someone that wouldn’t need to learn the product from bottom up (my response way above, I mention A and B had a partnership and I represented B in my overseas position with A). Just let myself fall too hard for it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah. I know exactly what you mean about falling too hard. ugh.

        I love Alison’s advice about applying for a job and then forget about it. That is so valuable to me for this very reason.

        If you are not going to go back in on that conversation with her then do something to help yourself in other ways. One possibility could be just distancing yourself from this person for a bit. Not so much in anger/sadness but more about trust issues.
        You need to be around trustworthy people and for whatever reason this woman is in a gray area. I am sorry this happened to you. It sucks.

  12. Crystal*

    I’ll admit I was playing an alternate script in my head while reading this….

    It was awkward when she asked me to be a reference for the latest opening at Company B because I had been interviewing for the same job. I didn’t know how to tell her. Especially because she was chosen for layoff at Company A rather than me due to a weaker skill set, so I’m pretty sure I would be the stronger candidate. I guess I won’t say anything until Company B hires someone.

    1. Liz in a library*

      This exact thing happened with me and a former supervisor. It is incredibly awkward, there is not really a good way to handle it that makes everyone feel fantastic, and I completely believe this is one plausible explanation.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I was thinking the same thing… until I read the following part: “my reference calls up and giddily tells me she finally left Company A and has a new job. She’s been hired by ‘that place [I] told [her] about.'”

      I’m guessing that conversation would have gone differently if (1) the reference had already applied to the same position before talking to OP, or (2) applied to a different position at Company B after talking to OP.

    3. FiveNine*

      I didn’t have exactly the alternate script you have above, but the OP’s presentation of events did send my mind in a different direction (and made me a little nervous) for two reasons, one of which you touch on here: (1) The OP was chosen for downsizing from Company A.

      Then there’s reason (2): Company B emailed OP to say “they had decided to pursue other ‘more closely qualified’ candidates,” which “shocked” OP.

      I don’t think this was ever a slam-dunk for OP, or that OP was even a finalist for the position, really.

  13. Ruffingit*

    #4: The unfortunate thing is that they think they were helping me by allowing me to accrue so many, but in reality, it hurt me.

    Actually, the unfortunate thing is that you allowed YOURSELF to accrue so many tardies. In reality, it did indeed hurt you, but it was of your own doing.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Credit card companies will give anyone a huge line of credit and that can seem helpful at first.

      Not everything is as good as it seems. I did this once. I missed a lot of work because of at home stuff. When I finally got called into the office all I could do was say “yep. You’re right. I need to do better and I will.” It took a while for me to live that episode down as a one-off. And I had been at the job for a while.

  14. Mary Jo*

    #2 New adventures have a learning curve, so the math that Alison mentions I think is sometimes skewed in the early days (even years) of a new job. You are very excited about what you are doing and learning, and that is a really important component here. You are getting paid for the teaching part, and you are getting an incredibly valuable education for yourself for free. I would say to stick with it for a while. It may be something that grows easier with time or it may be a stepping stone toward something else. I started a new job a year and a half ago, and I am still putting in 50+ hours a week, and I am still scared by some parts of it, and some days I still feel like a fraud. But I love the work and I learn things every single day.

    Feedback from others is hard to get, because there are so many factors that interfere with the process – one you don’t mention is the authority imbalance between students and teachers (same for employees and surpervisors). You do have to learn to find places where you are making a difference and feel proud of them even though sometimes there is not any corresponding feedback.

  15. fposte*

    #2–I’m another academic, and I’m in a program that uses a lot of adjuncts. The first time out is definitely the hardest, both in the learning curve on the infrastructure and the fact that you’re creating prep from scratch each time. I’m not clear on your actual schedule, though, and I’m wondering if there’s a middle ground where you teach one semester a year (if you can pull off a summer semester, a lot of programs really appreciate adjunct help then) rather than teaching every semester, as it sounds like you might be currently signed up for.

  16. AB Normal*

    #1: “She knew how desperate I was for work – my husband has been unemployed or underemployed for years and we already lost our housing twice. Should I keep using her?”

    This part alone shows the reference is at least very, very self-centered, regardless of the position she got being the same as the one the OP applied for, or a different job. Even if the company reached out to the person, and it’s a different position, a compassionate person would call and inquire first about the OP’s job search, before moving on to explain how she ended up hired for the same or another position at the same company.

    I’d try hard to think of someone else to use as a reference in the future, because even if the person is providing a good reference (which at this point I’m not so sure about), I’d worry that the interviewer calling for a reference would dislike something in the tone of voice or demeanor of the reference provider, because she just showed she lacks any sort of empathy with the way she called to brag about her new job.

    1. Anonymous*

      We don’t know that she didn’t. For all we know the conversation could have been 2 hours of the reference listening to the OP and commiserating and 45 seconds, of oh by the way I have a new job squee I’ll get you the information so you can keep using me as a reference. I don’t know why the reference who wants a new job isn’t allowed to get one or be happy until the OP is.

      If it was a different job, or if the company reached out to the reference as well I don’t understand the problem.

      Well I do, the OP felt entitled to this job and was hurt when someone else got it. But the OP was not entitled to that job.

      1. Anonymous*

        “We don’t know that she didn’t. For all we know the conversation could have been 2 hours of the reference listening to the OP and commiserating and 45 seconds, of oh by the way I have a new job”

        I was going from what the OP wrote here: “Well, yesterday, my reference calls up and giddily tells me she finally left Company A and has a new job. ”

        Doesn’t sound like it went like you describe.

  17. ChristineSW*

    Reading #1 reminded me why it is not the wisest idea to share specifics of your job search with peers from the same employer or field as you. I was burned by that one and definitely learned my lesson.

    1. Nodumbunny*

      Yes, I was very badly burned by this last year. I wasn’t using this “friend” as a reference, but I was networking/conferring with him and he totally threw me under the bus. I don’t know how you tell, though, which professional peers are safe to network and confer with, and which aren’t. Go by your gut, I guess. In my case, I completely cut this peer off and we are no longer friends or even professional allies (our field is very political and is, unfortunately, divided into different “camps” of allies). I’m very professional in my dealings with him, but I will never, ever trust him again.

      1. anon-2*

        There are many people in my professional world that I wouldn’t trust at all.

        Some years ago I had a supervisor say “he doesn’t like you, he doesn’t trust you”, referring to a higher-up.

        I retorted “HA! I never trusted HIM, either! So what else is new?”

        1. AnonK*

          One of the most disturbing things I’ve seen that caused me to trust nobody – I had a boss who, simply put, was toxic. A horrible person to be around. I had a coworker who butterd heads with him and tried to point out when the boss was being abrasive (a very ineffective tactic if you’ve ever worked with someone like this). The relationship deteriorated and ended in a closed door argument that ended in my coworker resigning. Bad boss took it as a slap in the face that he didn’t get to fire him.

          A couple months later, I’m in the boss’s office for a one on one, which usually consisted of 30 minutes of him pontificating about how great he was and how the rest of us were pond scum. But on this day, he decided to give me a live demo of his true insanity. He was on LinkedIn and reviewing the connections of my recently resigned coworker. He found a mutual acquaintance and called him on speaker phone so I could hear. He proceeded to bash the former coworker to the acquaintance to the point where the acquaintance finally said, “wow, I was trying to get him a job, but no way will I help him now”. This was entirely unprovoked and completely INSANE.

          After that display, I removed at least 75% of my LinkedIn contacts. I don’t want to risk someone doing that to me! I do not trust ANYONE these days. If I wouldn’t trust you with my kids or my dog, you are not on my list for a reference. Or even a LinkedIn connection.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            He did this IN FRONT OF YOU? Like “let me show you how powerful I am!”?

            Talk about abuse of power.

            What a nut.

            May time be kind to you.

          2. Ruffingit*

            Holy shit! That is horrendous. What a sicko. I can only hope that karma hits him hard and that you get to watch. Do you happen to know whatever happened to that boss?

            1. AnonK*

              He got fired in October! I had long since moved on but was keeping tabs on him. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer…..

              I’ve never really danced for joy for someone else’s misfortune, but I think most would excuse me this one. He is an a-hole.

  18. LD*

    O.P. 1, Sounds like lots of good advice about putting the experience with your reference into perspective and not letting it cloud your job search. Do you have any interest in the job at Company A that your reference is vacating? If so, that might be an option for you to pursue if you can get past your reference’s poor handling of the previous situation and you think she’s still be a good reference for you. Good luck in your continued job search.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    I just had a thought on #1 – if the reference is vacating a job at Company A, might she be able to put in a good word for the OP to get hired into the position she’s vacating?

    1. OP here*

      LD and Katie, she did laugh at the end and say “there might be an opening now at Company A haha!” But I had already told her I won’t go back to that company. They have fallen too far, and know how miserable everyone is who is still there. I knew Company A when it was strong and held 30% of the global market in our industry, but since then I have seen it plummet through the floor; the agents we worked with (our clients) try not to work with Company A if at all possible, going to competitors whenever they can. I’ll go back again for temp work but not for a real position.

  20. CK*

    #1 – It’s also entirely likely that the reference that “stole” the job had already been applying at company B, and wasn’t sure how to mention it during their meeting. I’m surprised AAM didn’t pick up on this possibility.

    There are several things in the story that make this the more likely happening from what I see: (1) – there are a lot of people that move between the two companies, and it’s very likely the reference knows a lot of the same people at company B. (2) – the hiring announcement for the reference came only a week later – this seems like a VERY short timeframe for the reference to have applied after their meeting, got called for and scheduled an interview, received an offer, and accepted the job. It’s FAR more likely that this person had already been going through the interview system at the time.

    This person doesn’t sound like a ‘crappy’ friend at all, just one that didn’t feel comfortable sharing that they were going through an interview process at the same company B, especially since they were still employed at company A at the time.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I agree. I was very surprised that Alison did not go this route in her answer trying to have the LW see an alternate POV where the reference did not “steal” her potential job and talk the LW down from her seeming crazy position.

      Assuming that reference was hired in place of LW, that does no immediately mean that LW was the 2nd best applicant after reference.

      I admit the giddy call is a tiny bit damning (mostly not being considerate of LW’s desperate need for a job), but maybe reference figures that being on the inside in Company B can help LW get hired at Company B.

      It just seems to me that LW’s desperation is making her bitter when the situation does not call for it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, that’s definitely the second piece of this — the job was never the OP’s, despite the reference, and she erred in feeling so strongly that it was likely to be hers. I didn’t get into that because it was a short-answer post but probably should have.

    2. GeekChic*

      I’d still find the reference to be a crappy person in this instance. If your scenario is the truth, why is it too difficult for the reference to have mentioned that she was interested in / had already applied for the job when the OP talked about the Skype interview?

      I get that it could be a touch awkward, but please. All that needed to have been said at that point is: “That does look like a great fit for you and I hope you get it. I’m also happy to be a reference for you. You should know, though, that I’ve also applied for that position – so I understand if you would rather use someone else as a reference.” At least the OP wouldn’t feel deceived at that point. The giddy call afterword is just gross.

      1. OP #1 here*

        GeekChic – YES! I know she didn’t apply before me, but still if she had just said it sounded like something she may be interested in, and was honest about it, I would be disappointed sure, but I wouldn’t hold it against her. She could have said she didn’t feel right acting as my reference for this one even. At least I wouldn’t have been so shocked when I was turned down if I knew she was going for it. In fact, I would have instantly figured they’d choose her and spend that week looking for the next job instead of hoping and wishing about this one. Then when she called to say she got it I would not be surprised or hurt and could get over it faster. Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20.

        1. Anonymous*

          “In fact, I would have instantly figured they’d choose her and spend that week looking for the next job instead of hoping and wishing about this one.”

          It doesn’t matter – you don’t have a job until the offer is in hand. Look through the archives, Alison does a good job covering that. There is no way to “know” that you would have had that job, no matter how good you felt.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The reason I think it’s less likely that the reference was already applying there is because of how she handled the call later on — calling with a giddy announcement and no acknowledgement that the OP had also applied for that job doesn’t read to me like someone who would have stayed silent about it in the initial conversation. Someone who felt awkward raising it in the first conversation doesn’t seem likely to me to then make that giddy phone call later.

    4. ChristineSW*

      Very possible. That happened to me a few years ago; I’d asked my supervisor of a temp job to be a reference for me for a particular job. It turned out that she too was applying for this position, and wasn’t sure how to address it as well as whether she should pull her application. I could tell she sincerely felt bad about the situation.

      Neither of us got the job, btw.

  21. A Cita*

    OP 2:

    I haven’t read the comments yet, so this may have been mentioned already, but I just want to say, if you love it, give it time. Teaching at the university level gets a lot easier after you do it. You’ve only been doing it for a year (so 2 semesters, I assume, so 2 classes). There’s a lot of work on the front end, which you’re experiencing now. But after you get your core curriculum down and grading technique efficient (grading will always be a drag, but after time, you get into a groove with it), it will be much easier. Once that’s done, you’ll only be tweaking (to include more current literature/etc, your pedagogy, etc). So if you love it, I’d say give it a little more time because it does get significantly easier and less time consuming.

  22. Woodward*

    #2 – I was a cashier and had a love/hate relationship with my job. I finally realized the money side of it was very stressful for me (I struggle to count money and make small talk at the same time), but I LOVED the people aspect. So I became a receptionist/personal assistant to work with people and then realized that the detail oriented part was stressful for me (I can keep track of my own details but was having nightmares about losing track of my employer’s details), but I LOVED the industry and the people. So I became a company trainer and I love it! Someone else handles the money side and the details side; I just have to show up and talk to people about a topic I truly enjoy and help them learn the information. It was a journey getting here, but I hope my example shows that you CAN do the parts you love without the super stressful aspects that aren’t a good fit. Good luck!

  23. Chris*

    It even reminds me a bit of this other AAM post from a while ago from the perspective of the ‘other person’, which is conveniently linked above in the “you may also like” posts:

    One person ended up bitter when only one got hired, though in that case one of the main differences was they both shared they were interviewing at the same place.

    OP 1, please come down from the ledge and have a talk with your reference friend about your concerns. You may find your perspective on this whole thing changed, and at the very least gain some clarity on the situation.

  24. Ethyl*

    OP 2 –just wanted to throw out there that if you decide you really can’t keep teaching, that is TOTALLY OK. I think a lot of times we force ourselves to do things that we hate because we “should” or it’s a “good experience” or “looks good on my resume” or WHATever, but if it’s harming you then it’s really truly ok to walk away. Only you can decide where that line is, but don’t force yourself to do something that is bad for you because of some vague “shoulds.”

    1. Another teacher*


      OP2, I know exactly how you feel. I also adjunct and love teaching; but, it fills me with anxiety at times, and the pay is atrociously low for the amount of work .

      “I don’t have a terminal degree, so it’s highly unlikely I can ever make this a full-time career.”
      Even if you go back to school, a FT teaching position is extremely unlikely. Look at the Chronicle of Higher Education (article and forums) and Adjunct Project to understand how bad the situation is. Only you can decide if the cons outweigh the pros, but do NOT base your decision on thinking that a FT job will happen if you put in your time as an adjunct and/or get a terminal degree.

      I adjunct because I don’t have a full-time job. (I have a PT admin job.) If I did have a FT job, it is unlikely I would continue teaching. I might – might… – keep teaching one my classes because I love it, students love it, and I have the materials set to go (easy peasy). Otherwise, adjuncting is a time suck with very few rewards.

      If you love it, keep at it. You’ll get better. Don’t let it disrupt the rest of your life, though. Also, as suggested, at any time you like, give your students “How are we doing?” evaluations. I get a lot of good ideas this way.

      Check in with the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “In the classroom” forum for more ideas about the issues you mentioned. Like AAM, it’s a good place for expert and peer advice.

  25. OP #1 here*

    For those of you thinking I should not have considered it “my job” in the first place, I’ll just say that I only considered it a sure thing because so many people at Company B were telling me it was. Until my reference became an option I’m sure. If she hadn’t been an option, I felt confident my luck would finally turn and I’d be the best candidate. I know it hurt me that I was unemployed, that I am overweight, and that my titles never included “Director” like the available position. But I knew the person leaving the position had less experience than I when she started there. I also knew that my experience matched skill for skill what they asked for and what I knew I would be doing there (which was confirmed during the interview). My reference came on board with currently employed-status, model-looks, the “Director” title under her belt. But she had not done this work. She had done something similar years before (when we both had the same job, so I but a check in that box too), but her “Director” job removed her from the type of work this position called for, and she had not worked with Company Bs product, while I had. This is why I feel I had it in the bag until she became an option. Yes I do feel burned, but looking for work for years, while finding nothing but soul-crushing drudgery whether in the right industry or not, for minimum wage in between unemployment checks, and trying to support a spouse who had had it harder for longer will make one take this sort of thing more seriously than some people I guess. I am glad she has a good job now and is out of Company A. She deserves it. I just wish she had done it a little differently and that I didn’t have to get that call the day before Christmas.

    1. OP #1 here*

      Yikes, that sounds like a pity-party. Sorry folks – don’t want pity, just want to clear up the situation.

      1. Mary Jo*

        OP#1 Probably a little bit of a pity party is warranted – you are up against a lot! Your original question, though, was about whether to continue using this friend as a reference, and as you have been job-searching for some time, I wonder whether her recommendations on your behalf might not be as good as you think they are. Obviously, if she did indeed get the job you applied for, she must not have been that enthusiastic an advocate for you.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think that last statement is true, though. The OP has outlined reasons why the reference’s experience exceeds her own, and hiring managers don’t simply go on reference enthusiasm–in fact, I’d be wary of a candidate in this situation who seemed to be withholding in her recommendation and would actually give more respect to a candidate who was able to enthusiastically recommend a competitor.

          1. OP #1 here*

            Thanks all for the advice and comments. I think even though I had been putting her forward as one of my references, I had only once gotten far enough that a company called my references and that was the last full time job I had which ended this past Spring. Since then I have not gotten to that point with any potential employers so I believe she has not been giving me a bad reference. But it still rubs me the wrong way that she thinks I’d still want to use her as a reference when we both know what happened (makes me think of the end of Working Girl… LOL!)

            1. OP #1 here*

              And I’ve had mixed responses from friends and family. Some say I should never speak to her again but some say they do the same thing to me if they had the chance and I should keep using her. I feel like I’m losing a strong reference because we did work together so long and she has seen me grow from the bottom and felt confident enough in me to ask for my help presenting at an industry conference. And that time she called me about the temp job she was technically my superior so it also looks good that she can speak to my abilities as a peer and as a supervisor. So I think I may keep her as a back up reference if she ever sends me her new contact info that is.

              1. fposte*

                I think it’s kosher to keep her and kosher to put somebody else–it’s up to you. I think the “you should do the same thing to her” advice is seriously bad, though, and if you think you’d be tempted to do that then you should let the ties drift.

                You could also honestly tell her, preferably a little while from now when things aren’t so raw, that you wish she’d handled this differently–that you completely understand why she took the job and you don’t hold it against her, but you wish she’d acknowledged that you didn’t get something you really wanted and needed. My guess is that she flubbed this out of embarrassment and guilt, and while that’s by no means a justification, you might feel better knowing you’ve provided her with a model for how people *can* communicate clearly and kindly about awkward professional situations.

                1. OP #1 here*

                  Oh, no one said I should do the same to her. Actually it was my jerk of a husband, currently underemployed, who said he would have done the same thing to me if he was in the position to get a full time job out of it with a good paycheck.

                  But yes, I think your advice is really good about letting things settle and then maybe contact her to just let her know how I felt in a non-confrontational way. Thank you!

              2. Judy*

                I guess I would say that anyone should “do the same thing to me if they had the chance”, in the part about taking the job if it is right for them. There is no reason to think badly of her for taking the job. I think she had a misstep in how she communicated it to you. Everyone should be making decisions based on what is best for them, and not counting things like “if I resign, it will just make it harder for those I leave behind” or “if I take this job someone else won’t get it, and they might need it more than me.” That doesn’t mean that you didn’t deserve some gentleness in communication from her based on your relationship.

              3. Ruffingit*

                Have you thought about talking with her directly and telling her how you feel? Seems that might clear the air a bit and make you feel better.

                Also, the fact that your own husband said he’d steal a job out from under you is concerning, but that’s a whole other topic.

                1. fposte*

                  I also think it muddies the issue a little, or at least reveals that it’s a little muddier than we’re admitting :-). Ostensibly the issue isn’t that the reference took the job but the fact she ducked admitting that she knew the OP had also been a candidate. So how is the husband a jerk for saying he’d have taken the job in that situation as well? Wouldn’t most people have taken the job rather than turning down a position that was a really good fit because they liked one of the other candidates (who might not even be hired as a result, for that matter)?

                  And I think the answer is that most people would, but also most people would feel kind of wounded if they’d been on the losing end, and that they would still feel wounded if the person had been more open with them about the situation, even if rationally they know nobody stole anything from them. So much as we’re talking very rationally about “it’s the way the reference didn’t admit to it” as the problem, I think there’s also still a fair bit of hurt about somebody else getting a job you wanted; it doesn’t have to be rational to hurt.

                2. Ruffingit*

                  The thing is, I wouldn’t take a job out from under someone like this. I suppose most people would, but I wouldn’t especially not in a situation like this where I already had a job and I knew the person looking well enough to be a reference AND I knew what dire straits they were in financially. I could not in good conscious do that to them. But that’s me. I’m not saying everyone has to feel that way, but that’s where I’m at.

                3. fposte*

                  See, I don’t think it is “taking a job out from under”–I think that’s the narrative because the reference was secretive. If she’d said “Wow, I’ll recommend you, of course, but I’m really interested in that as well–may the best candidate win” right from the start, would you feel the same way? It seems to me that’s a cosmetic difference, because the actual job application and hire runs the same way.

                  And every time you get a job offer, you’re beating out somebody who needs that job very badly, guaranteed. Is that okay? Is it okay even if you know them and know that they needed the job badly? Is it okay even if you recommended them?

                  I guess to me it’s more like “boyfriend-stealing,” in that the term is false because you didn’t own the thing/person in the first place. As long as there was no deliberate sabotage or other behavior, I think it’s okay if the guy or the job wants you, even if somebody else really wants him or it.

                4. Ruffingit*

                  If someone else told me of a job they were applying for, no I would not also apply there. Something about that feels wrong to me. If it doesn’t to others, more power to you. It’s just not something I would do.

    2. Anonymous*

      No matter what you are feeling right now, it still was not your job for the taking.

      It was unkind of your friends in Company B to lead you to believe it was. My SO went through something similar once, where his contacts in a company practically guaranteed him a job that he did not end up getting. It is super-painful. However, that was not your reference’s fault. That was the fault of people at Company B leading you on improperly. By all means, give them some feedback when you cool down to tell them how unhelpful that was, so they keep their big mouths shut the next time a friend applies. There are lots of reasons that people spout off like this, all well-meaning, but also all stupid and counter-productive.

      If your reference didn’t get this job, it might’ve still gone to someone else. Or it might’ve been unfilled. Or it might’ve gone to you. Or a hundred other possibilities. Alison has a lot of advice about moving on immediately after you apply/interview somewhere. Please read it. You need it. It’s natural to do what you are doing, but so very counterproductive.

  26. OP #2*

    Thank you all so much for the excellent and thoughtful comments. I feel much, much, much better.

  27. Limon*

    Teaching adjunct is hard, and the money is very low. If you see it as a stepping stone or if it fits into your life plans than keep doing it. But very easily the odds can tip into where you are working way too many hours for very little pay.

    Also, sometimes there is a big difference in how adjuncts are treated and residential staff (or full time professors). People might not realize they are doing it, but they can be very dismissive because you are ‘just an adjunct.’ Sort of like being a substitute at a high school.

    You just really have to love it and see a purpose for it, otherwise it can become very demoralizing and frustrating, as you point out. Some people do it for many years hoping to be hired full time but that is a carrot that it dangled to keep good staff interested and working. It very rarely works out that way, and you just need to protect yourself as best you can and be careful.

  28. Nichole*

    Hey OP 2- I also adjunct, and I have a few tips to “work smarter, not harder.” (I haven’t read all of the comments, so I apologize for any duplicates.) I teach the same course every semester, and fall was my third. In semesters 1 and 2, I kept everything. This semester, I made it my mission to digitize it. I typed it all out and kept my chapter notes and written instructions for in-class activites in both a binder and a digital folder. Since I had them written longhand before, I just had to tweak anything I still had that I liked. I did it week to week so I didn’t have to spend hours typing up my notes, and now I have it all ready to go for future sections. My students also liked having access to my notes in Blackboard, which was new for me this semester. With all of my old notes and activities in hand, it cut my prep time each week in half. Grading is a struggle for me too-try out different strategies in your gradebook to see what’s best for you. I have a colleague who swears by entering the assignments week to week, but after trying that this semester, I think I’m going back to setting up all of the assignments in my grade book before the class starts. Finally, as someone else mentioned, don’t feel like you have to keep adjuncting as a resume builder if it’s more loss than gain. You’ve gotten some teaching experience, move on if you aren’t getting anything out of it.

    1. Judy*

      Oh, and a blackboard tip from my sister-in-law, we were discussing her job over the break. Always keep your own grade book (excel or paper) because at least her school’s implementation of blackboard can hiccup and loose some grades or even everything, and also sometimes the calculations can get squirrelly.

  29. EvilQueenRegina*

    #1: Back in 2007, I had a situation where it was my recruiter, rather than my reference, ended up getting the job I’d applied for.

    I’d been temping with my former team for several months through Agency A while reorganisation went on and they decided what to do with the position, and when it was advertised I applied for it. Keeping in mind the possibility of not getting the job, when a different recruiter from the one I was temping through sent me information on positions I decided to try for some of those. I was open with my recruiter from Agency B about the fact that I planned to apply for the position where I was currently temping but was keeping my options open.

    After the interviews, my manager informed me that I’d narrowly lost out to another candidate, but I didn’t know who at the time. It was a few weeks later, when someone asked our manager the name of the new person, that I found out that the job had gone to the recruiter from Agency B, who had decided to get out of recruiting.

    I didn’t make a big thing about it at the time since for all I knew, the recruiter could have made the decision to apply for that job before we ever spoke about it and I would never know for sure either way. I chose not to ask. But at the same time, it was possible that she got the idea from speaking to me, and I did feel a little weird about the fact that, since she had my CV on her system, she had that inside knowledge on me.

    In the end, I let it drop. Another coworker in that team was rushed to hospital with a heart attack and I ended up being extended to cover his sick leave, and during this time another position came up within the team and I got that one. I thought at the time that the other coworker’s illness taught me that life was just too short for holding on to grudges and I let it go. The former recruiter and I never really became close friends, but to be honest we didn’t have that much in common so I don’t think we would have even under different circumstances. (We hadn’t built up much of a recruiter/candidate relationship either since my last dealings with that agency had been over a year earlier and with her predecessor.) We were able to cowork amicably, and that was what mattered.

    It does sound like your person handled it badly in the way she communicated it to you.

    1. OP #1 here*

      Yeah, if I were to encounter her in the future I will be professional and friendly as always, but the more I think about it I think she may just be an awkward person, going by what I know of her over the years. Hmm.

  30. Anonymous*

    #1: Another thought – was she giddy because she was trying to gloat over you, or was she relieved at getting out of Company A? It sounds as though she might have been in a bad place herself (you mentioned you’d never go back there), and in that case I feel a little more sympathetic towards her. It’s only natural to be disappointed, but perhaps she just wasn’t thinking about how her happiness would be perceived by you.

    1. OP #1 here*

      Yes, this is something I’ve been wondering. I’ve worked with her when she was under stress and seen her in the presentation at the conference. In tough question situations she had trouble conveying her meaning to the room and seemed to become more and more nervous as she realized no one understood what she was saying, so I do think nervousness is her tell in awkward situations now. So it could be that it came out as giddiness and she just couldn’t think straight from nerves to realize how she sounded. Sigh. This is kinda what kept me on the phone politely continuing a conversation I really didn’t want to be having.

  31. Mena*

    #4: I had not idea until then how many tardies I had.

    Really? You know if you are late for work or on time. This sounds like you are blaming your employer for not telling you you were late – are you a victim here?

    And yes, way to soon to think you’re going to get promoted on the heels of this foolishness. You need to concentrate on your work ethic and reliability to signal that you are ready for advancement.

  32. Working Girl*

    #1 I would never use this reference again. Obviously she is untrustworthy, took advantage of the information you gave her and used it for her own advantage and then rubbed it in your face. Not a nice person. Sure she could have applied on her own but if she did, she should have told you she also applied for the job when you talked to her about the job. Seems like there may be problems in that company anyway – imagine calling a reference and then that reference convinces the employer they are a better fit for the job and the employer hires them – odd string of events that she likely will continue since she thought nothing wrong with her actions.

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