doing a coworker’s work after she returns from leave, presenting donations with fanfare, and more

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

1. My office presented donations to an injured employee’s parent with much fanfare

A few months back, an employee of my company was hit by a car on their way to work and was very seriously injured. They spent weeks in the hospital and are now going through extensive rehab. My department decided to raise some money for the employee for the holidays. Altogether a few hundred dollars were raised. I thought this was a nice gesture and was happy to chip in.

Our manager decided that we should have the employee’s parent come in to the department to receive our gift. I feel super uncomfortable with this. I feel like it makes the gift about us rather than about the employee and that it makes a big ceremony out of what is, in reality, very little money compared to what her treatment will cost. What would you have done as a manager? Am I wrong to feel uneasy about it all? Unfortunately, all’s been decided with this situation, but I was curious what your take was.

Yeah, that feels very self-congratulatory to me too. I suppose it depends on how it was done — after all, “Would you like to pick this up in person? Many of us here would love to hear how Jane is doing” is very different from “We want to present this to you with fanfare.” But from what it sounds like, I agree that it feels a little gross and tone-deaf.

2. I don’t want to keep doing my coworker’s work now that she’s back from maternity leave

I took over a client for a coworker while she was out on maternity leave. It was my understanding that this would be temporary, and as a secondary benefit it got someone else familiar with the client to provide her with backup for overflow work. The client, as well as the work that they do, is considered pretty low-level stuff from a technical standpoint, i.e., when I told a colleague what I was working on, they asked, “Who did you piss off?” I know not all work is glamorous, but that kind of sums up the perception of the work. The profits were not exactly where they should have been either, and I think they wanted to see if someone else could improve them. I worked hard to bring up the profits on these jobs and maintain good relations with the client (which I did successfully).

Now that my coworker is back, she does not want to take back any of the work, but she still wants to act as the client relationship manager (CRM) since she has the relationship and brought in the work originally. I feel like this is a demotion to have her delegating work to me. I have more years of experience and education and typically work on projects of a much larger scale than the ones this client brings in. She has also asked that I write all the proposals/contracts and schedule and project manage all of the work.

My supervisor is aware that I was not thrilled with this and has agreed that it will be revisited among the supervisors at the end of the year (waiting for this). It feels like my reward for hard work is to get more of the problem clients/work, and that my skills are actually shrinking instead of growing. The client is needy/demanding. This can negatively impact the attention I need to give my own clients and the time I have available to support my supervisor/ fellow team members (as well as negatively impact my work/life balance). This coworker has told me that she does not want to do small projects anymore, but I feel like if that is the sort of business she has brought in, then she should do it… why should it be mine to deal with? How can I successfully approach this with my supervisor? Do I just make a case for wanting to grow technically, or do I bring up (what I feel are) negative impacts that these clients have on my clients’ work?

“I know that you’re planning to discuss this with other managers soon, so I wanted to explain a bit more about my thinking. I was happy to help out with this while Jane was on leave, but I really want to be able to focus on larger projects and my own clients. If Jane no longer wants the client, I think they could be a good fit for someone with less experience, but I’d rather not continue work on it now that Jane has returned.”

Of course, if you’ve already said this, then you don’t need to say it again; in that case, it would make sense to wait for your manager to have the conversation she promised to do at the end of the year, and then see if it’s been resolved.

3. Prohibiting an employee from moving to another state

Can an employer legally tell an employee that they cannot move to another state because the organization is not registered in that state? This is a current employee who works remotely.

An employer can’t prevent someone from moving, but they can certainly say that they won’t continue to employ someone who moves to a different state. And this sometimes makes sense, because different states have different requirements for employers, including state-specific fees for worker comp insurance and other things with price tags attached — so in some cases, an employee’s move would carry a (not insignificant) price tag for the employer.

Also, generally labor practices are governed by the laws of the state where the employee works, even if the employer is based somewhere else. That means, for instance, that a Virginia employer might reasonably decide that they don’t want to deal with California’s labor laws (which are quite different from those of many other states), and thus decline to have employees based there.

4. References when you’ve been in the same job for 20 years

How would you handle the following situation regarding references? I’ll graduate soon with a MBA. My education will not help much at my current place of employment. Thus, after working there for more than 20 years, I’ve decided it’s time to look for a new job. I do not want my current employer to know I am job hunting, though. However, as far as workplace references are concerned, the only ones I can provide are the people that I currently work with (supervisors, former supervisors, and coworkers). How should I handle this at an interview? Is it inappropriate to not provide references and explain why I didn’t?

No, you’ll still need to provide references, but it’s certainly reasonable for them not to be your current manager. Can you get in touch with former managers who are no longer with your company and who you’d trust to be discreet? That’s what I’d be looking for if I were the reference-checker in this situation. Alternately, you can also offer up former coworkers who are in a position to speak to your work, but most reference-checkers will want to speak with people who managed you, so I’d try to get as close to that as you can.

5. My current manager and prospective manager talked without my permission

Is it common/legal for my current line manager to communicate with the manager of the company where I applied for a job before interview even has taken place? In this particular case, it turned out that they know each other from previous employment.

It’s perfectly legal for a prospective employer to contact references who aren’t on your official reference list, and it’s not uncommon for them to do so. The part that’s less common here is the fact that the person they reached out to was your current manager. Reasonable employers don’t do that, because they realize it could jeopardize the person’s current job. That was a pretty crappy thing of this manager to do without your permission.

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    #4, to add to Alison’s reference suggestions, does your type of work include major, ongoing client relationships? you could potentially use one of those to full in your list (but you really, really need a manager too). Also, consider if you might be able to use a current manager as a reference late in the process (if you are certain it won’t negatively impact you if you don’t get the job). I don’t know your situation, but after 20 years of loyalty, it’s possible your current manager would be willing to help you make your next career move.

  2. BRR*

    I believe number two’s title should read I don’t want to. Feel free to delete this comment and happy new year!!!

  3. Preston*

    I don’t think OP#1 has anything to feel uncomfortable about… really what is the alternative, showing up at the hospital or the persons house. Only thing I might add is doing a potluck or ordering out food for the parent and the injured person. But really I think the manager is in the right on this.

    1. Lori C*

      A nice letter, thinking of you, wishing you a swift recovery, we miss you=, we hope this helps, signed by all the co-workers with the check could easily be sent to the employee. There is no need to ask the parents to come by and pick up this check. How awkward for these poor people.

    2. Ruby*

      Alternatives: send them a cheque, make a bank transfer to an account they provide the details for, have one person drop by and deliver it quietly without making a fuss, or contact them to ask how they’d like it handled.

      Dragging this person into their injured child’s workplace to hand over the money in a self-congratulatory gesture is unnecessary and, as Alison said, tone-deaf. It puts the emphasis on entirely the wrong people in this story.

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        When I was injured last winter and recovering at home after hospital/surgery, one of our managers messaged me and asked if it was okay to drop by after work for a moment. (This wasn’t my manager, but someone who lives in my area.) They dropped off a gift basket and a card – signed by all my coworkers and stuffed with cash. Had they asked my spouse to come pick it up, it would not have happened. He wasn’t about to leave me alone to drive for two hours to my office.

        Friends who dropped off gifts of food for my family while I was in the hospital (here’s a lasagna to eat now, and here’s a frozen one for later) were also deeply appreciated. And ferry passes (trauma center is across the water from home and we did a lot of back and forth for a while) were a very thoughtful gift.

        Mostly I think it’s about putting yourself in their shoes and trying to do things to make a very difficult time easier for them. Coming to the office to pick up a donation … yeah, no.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yeah, this is the thing that gets me. The injured person in question spent weeks in the hospital and is now undergoing extensive rehab. I am sure the parent is handling a lot of that person’s life “stuff” already and to ask that they come into a workplace and collect a check is just adding one more thing to an already overwhelming to-do list most likely. Send it with a nice card and be done with it.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      There’s nothing wrong with showing up at the hospital, or with calling the person’s house and asking if someone can drop by and see the employee. While I think mailing a check and a card would be my preferred method, an in-person visit (by a limited number of people at a time) is a lovely gesture. However, I firmly believe that neither the patient nor his/her family should be inconvenienced in any way– which means they shouldn’t have to take time away from their recovery and lives to come pick up a gift.

      Ordering food for the patient and family is a great idea! But send it to their home, where they need it, and not in the office, where it takes time out of the day that should be devoted to getting their lives back on track.

      1. LBK*

        On an unrelated sidenote, I just started watching The Wire and your username now a) makes sense and b) is totally hilarious.

    4. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I was out of the office for six weeks when my daughter’s appendix burst, with eight days spent in the hospital with her. The rest of the time, she was recuperating at home with me giving her strong antibiotics intravenously, as trained by a home care nurse. My coworkers took up a large collection, and one person at work brought it, along with a card from everyone, and that way of doing it was just right, to me.

      The other thing that really helped in the hospital was that a couple of people brought by snack baskets that lasted through our stay. There were apples, an apple corer/slicer tool, individually-packaged servings of peanut butter, granola bars, etc. — enough for us to eat ourselves and to offer visitors as well. That will be my hospital gift to other families from now on, because ewe appreciated it so much. Also, one couple of friends stopped by with fast food burgers for us a couple of things, and that was a nice change from the cafeteria hospital, too.

    5. gold digger*

      When a coworker was murdered, I set up a bank account where people could send money directly. I went to the coworker’s widow (who was in hiding, so it took a while) to get the information and signatures I needed for the account- to make her the person who owned the money. The last thing she needed was more hassle at such an awful time.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        See, that’s the way to do it, not to parade worried or bereft people through the workplace for the gratification of seeing the immediate acknowledgement of one’s generosity.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Wow, I am really sorry about your co-worker. Death in general is difficult, but homicides take on a whole new level of pain. So sorry for his wife. :(

    6. Elder Dog*

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but “when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before you” is a long-standing societal norm. Almost nobody likes to accept charity, and rubbing people’s noses in it is generally gauche, if not downright rude.

      1. Green*

        That’s not necessarily a long-standing societal norm; that’s a line from a Bible lots of people don’t believe in. One difference is that with 501c3s, there is often an intermediary looking out for the people being served’s interest (in privacy, not being made a spectacle of, etc.) that can either arrange an experience with someone who does not mind being an ambassador for the organization or the cause vs. putting an individual in an awkward situation among their peers. What is rude here isn’t the trumpeting of the alms, but the lack of consideration for the feelings of and potential embarrassment to the person they’re intending to help (and their family).

        There are different kinds of charitable work, and many non-profits and charities rely upon people sharing their experiences with the organization (or donations, see Facebook/Twitter) and spreading enthusiasm among their personal contacts. For a business with shareholders, there is arguably an obligation to perform charitable acts in a manner that also benefits the business/shareholders (reputation, community engagement, etc.), and it is not inappropriate to publicize it. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but people who “trumpet” before them their charitable work (i.e., talk about things that are meaningful to them) aren’t necessarily rude.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I don’t know about rude, that depends a lot on the details, but in Judaism it’s also considered more of a mitzvah (good deed) if you donate anonymously.

          1. Green*

            People should absolutely follow their own religious dictates or personal preferences around giving, but need not impose them on other people as a “standard.” I like hearing about the things my friends care about, and I learn about new organizations and issues that way. There’s also a social aspect to giving (people often like to honor someone, memorialize them, or have their own donation recognized while many prefer anonymous giving). And gifts often inspire other gifts. I don’t think there’s any kind of moral valence attached to how one donates unless you are doing some kind of harm (reputational, emotional, psychological, etc.) to the people or community your are intending to help.

            I’d certainly prefer people seek recognition on donor lists or sponsorships for charities from local businesses or prominent local professionals who depend on their community reputation (lawyers, doctors, dentists, real estate) than on more ads. The fact that a gift also serves some other personal, professional, or other need doesn’t negate its impact. :)

    7. AnotherAnonymous*

      It is one thing to offer charity. It is another to make a big production out of the fact that you’re giving charity, so that it looks like you’re some kind of hero for doing so.

      I left an organization I’d volunteered with for years, not long after they decided I needed charity (and after I expressly said I didn’t need or want it). It wasn’t just that they decided they knew better than I what I needed. It was when they decided that they would present the charity in front of room packed with hundreds of people, and then shove a microphone in my face so I could “thank” them.

      I cannot begin to explain how humiliating this experience was. When I expressed anger (later and in private) most of them turned on me for being “selfish.” I cried for a week, and to this day I still get upset and angry.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It’s times like this I wish we could give names- because these people would be off my list forever. They are only in it to glorify themselves, not to actually make a difference in people’s lives.
        I think I would have been crying, I am impressed that you were able to say anything into the mic. just. wow.

        It does make me think about people I have seen on the news, etc that are crying when they receive a gift. We just don’t know what the rest of the story is.

      2. Ruffingit*

        If you don’t want to share details, I totally understand, but why on earth did they think you needed charity and why would they shove it on you after you expressly said no? I don’t get this. People suck. I’m sorry that happened to you.

        1. AnotherAnonymous*

          I’m partially disabled. I’m able to walk a bit, but quite slowly and not very far. A few times a year I’d need to help out the organization at a big event so to make it easier I’d rent a wheelchair for a few days. People in the organization started asking why I didn’t own one. I would explain (it felt like over and over!) that it just wasn’t the right time (ex. house is not handicapped accessible), and that the only time I needed the chair was at big events where there was a lot of walking around, so I really didn’t want to deal with owning one just yet. (Note, also, for long term use, mobility devices like wheelchairs typically need to be fit to the user.)

          As for why they would shove it on me… This wasn’t the first time, it was just the worst. Once my computer had to be repaired; during that time someone kept trying to force me to take one of their hand-me-down computers. Two of them once got into my car, declared it a mess, and proceeded to “clean” it by throwing out everything not nailed down while I begged them to stop. (And then I had to go get my belongings out of the trash.) There were other little cases of them insisting on doing things for me that I could do myself, thank you. Looking back now, I should have seen it coming.

    8. OP #1*

      The other option was to send it to the employee’s supervisor to get to them. Also, none of us actually know the injured employee personally.

      After the whole thing, our supervisor went and announced our donation to all the other managers and higher-ups at a meeting.

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: The HR, sales, and other departments routinely infuriate the tax person at my company by telling employees that they can go ahead and move to another state and work remotely without running that by her first. Not only do employment and workers comp laws vary from state to state, but income tax laws do too. In some states, having even 1 employee working there remotely — even from home — creates nexus. It means that the company is considered to have a location there, and therefore all sales in that state are subject to that state’s income taxes. That can create HUGE tax liabilities. And if that happens without the appropriate registrations and tax filings being done, penalties and interest can also attach if the state performs an audit.

    Just a couple weeks ago, I was talking with the tax person and she was absolutely livid because she’d had a meeting with HR recently to specifically talk about the employee relocation issue. She explained the implications of letting people move to states where the company is not already registered, they came up with a formal policy, and all the rest of it. And then, just by chance, she found out that another manager had again told an employee to go ahead and relocate to another state.

    1. Raine*


      The worker creates nexus in that state for the company, which can cost exponentially more in taxes than what one employee is worth to the company. Not taxes related to the employment of the employee, but on the corporation’s sales. This is why Amazon a few years ago started shutting down its affiliate programs in states where people online would provide links to Amazon and get a commission for the sales made through those portals. I mean those weren’t even full-time employees for the company.

      So yeah, while the company might not be able to keep an employee from moving, the company certainly can take and often will take steps to ensure it doesn’t have nexus with the state, whether than means firing one individual or an entire contingent of workers.

      1. Raine*

        (I’m confusing nexus for income tax purposes and nexus for sales tax collection purposes, but an employee in the state could create one or both for the company.)

          1. baseballfan*

            Nexus is basically having enough presence in a state that a company is taxed there. Having employees located in a state is one of the major tests.

    2. SystemsLady*

      Oof, my boss just kind of said yes to me splitting time approximately in half between the home state and the state where my husband is stationed and I don’t think he’s talked this over with HR. Now I’m a little worried.

      I believe I am/the company is covered by the MSRAA (husband lived in the home state long enough to establish residency, keeping a residence in the home/work state throughout, moving only to live with him, will move back to the home state when he is deployed from the base), but that’s also a fairly recent law and I highly doubt our single HR employee will have ever had to deal with it. I think the fact that I’m spending slightly less than half of each year in the base state might also exempt me, but I’m unsure of its laws on that.

      Have you ever run into the MSRRA? I think I’ll try to find some time to talk to HR before this begins.

      1. Jalinth*

        The MSRRA only applies to you personally. Your company will have an employee in two states.
        I’ll echo Ann above about the taxes. It can be a disaster.

  5. Treena Kravm*

    #3- It’s funny, when I got a job in CA, my husband sort of announced our move there, and didn’t even think to ask permission from his remote job. Obviously, they could have said no, but there were only 4 employees at the time and I think they valued him too much to say anything other than a joke or two about the difficulty.

    At one of their conferences, one of his (gay) co-workers mentioned off-hand that he wanted to live in San Francisco because he couldn’t find any dates in his conservative state. Their office manager laughed and said that was fine. Apparently, now that my husband paved the way, it would be easy to set up another person in CA; it came out that it was a HUGE headache that we weren’t aware of at the time.

    1. sunny-dee*

      That happened to my brother when he moved from Montana back to our home state of Oklahoma — it was a huge problem for his boss, but it’s a small company and they were willing to do it.

      When I was a freelancer, my largest client offered me a job — and called me back the next day to say that I couldn’t actually live in Oklahoma any more and be an employee. I ended up moving to Texas, because my employer couldn’t (because of the legal costs associated with all of the filings) hire me in Oklahoma, Kansas, or a handful of other states. I was also told that I couldn’t move to Massachusetts, New York, or California without permission *and* without waiting until the next fiscal year — they had employees in those states, but the pay and benefits difference was so great between CA-MA-NY and Texas that it would mess with the department budget.

    2. Revanche*

      Yeah I didn’t realize what a headache it was either until we had to hire someone who would primarily be remote and our company couldn’t hire any FTE in another state. But I guess once one person’s set up, adding more to that situation isn’t as much an issue.

      1. Treena Kravm*

        For some companies, the extra cost of having remote employees all over the place is still cheaper than housing them in an office. It works best when a company is in that sweet spot size of being large (profitable) enough to absorb the extra costs but also small enough that upgrading an office to accommodate 1-2 people wouldn’t make as much sense as paying the fees to keep them remote.

  6. Bend & Snap*

    #2 focus on how coming off the project will help the business–positives and negatives. you can take on more profitsble work if you come off vs. being bogged down in the minutae of a small, demanding account if you don’t.

    I just got rid of a huge project this way–it was a stinker that was killing my bandwidth for more important work. I proposed a new service model, illustrated the project impact on my work/output and was ultimately successful.
    Basically look at this as a way to help your company optimize resources, not telling your employer you don’t want to do that particular work anymore. Although you can say that.

    I basically said “this project should take 20% of my time and it’s taking 80, which hinders my ability to effectively perform x and y parts of my job. I also just don’t enjoy it–so I’m now spending 80% of my time on work I actively dislike and did not sign up for. I propose moving to X model to free up my bandwidth for (profitable work) and ensure this account is serviced correctly.”

    1. OP#2*

      Thanks that is a helpful suggestion. I did say what Alison said in September but I worry we have gotten to the end of the year and that people will forget what I asked. Or that they’ve decided and not told me… Or mentioning it again will come off as immature and whiny. A big part of what happens as we’ll is I go over my hours frequently and it’s really frustrating. I’m supposed to be at 75% and I’m more like full time. My kids even ask me why I’m late all the time now.

      1. just laura*

        Ugh that stinks. September was a while ago– I would have the convo again to keep it on their radar.

      2. Chuchundra*

        I just don’t get how this is something that requires a supervisors meeting.

        Jane went went away on maternity leave. You covered for her while she was away. Then when she comes back she doesn’t want to do that work anymore. How is this not just solved by the boss telling her to suck it up and do it? How is it okay for her to say she doesn’t want to do part of her job but it’s not OK for you to say you don’t want to do her job?

        What would happen if you went into your supervisor’s office on Monday and said something along the lines of, “I just don’t have time to do Jane’s work anymore. Jane’s the CRM. It’s her client. Tell her to do it or give the client to someone else. “?

        Things like this happen because you’re being passive, she’s being assertive and your supervisor is taking the path of least resistance.

        1. OP#2*

          Chuchundra- Yes, she is probably being more aggressive than I am and it makes a lot of sense to go back and say I thought the deal was ‘x’ why has it changed? My supervisor is pretty passive as well so that is likely part of the problem. I should get more aggressive about this because it has been 3 months plus the 3 or 4 months before that and I’m getting worn down by this needy client. When she came back I did ask ‘ok when is barb taking this over?’ And the answer was ‘it’s decided you’ll continue and we will assess later’ ugh. Now I see how my passive supervisor was totally not backing me on this

      3. neverjaunty*

        OP, it sounds like you have two separate though related problems:

        1) Jane wants you to keep doing the grunt work on her project while she does just enough to get the credit for it. As Chuchundra says, this should be pretty simple: You covered for Jane while she was out, so now that she’s back, the status quo returns, and she takes it back completely. “Should be”, because…

        2) It sounds like your management may also be part of the problem. You’re getting 75% pay and benefits but being pushed into 100% hours, right? And now they’re letting you stay on Jane’s project because you’re making them more money than she did. Plus, you brought this up in September and nothing has happened. Likely nothing is going to happen unless you push.

        I’d seriously think about looking around for a better company, but hand the project back to Jane first.

      4. AdAgencyChick*

        I think you have something to bring up with your supervisor then. I’m not clear on whether you mean “this client is supposed to take up 75% of a full-time job, and the other 25% goes to my other clients” or “I am supposed to work only 75% of a full-timer’s hours.” But either way, I think you can go to your supervisor and say, “Working on Jane’s client’s business is taking away from my being able to support clients X and Y. What can I give back to Jane right now so that I can focus on clients X and Y, since I’m their CRM?” or “I’ve found myself working well over a full-timer’s hours supporting Jane’s client, and I can’t continue to do this. What can I give back to Jane right now so that we can go back to the job as I’m supposed to be doing it?”

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          I just realized I wasn’t clear in my comment — that whether the situation is the first (Jane’s client is supposed to eat 75% of a full-timer’s hours; you work full-time on her project *plus* you work on your own, leading to your working a lot of overtime), or it is that you’re supposed to be working less than full-time but aren’t, you can draw a line in the sand that you will work the amount of time you’re supposed to work, and work with your supervisor to figure out which projects and clients you can work on in that amount of time. In that way it’s less about a person (Jane) and more about time and work constraints — this is the kind of issue it’s your boss’s problem to solve!

          1. OP#2*

            AdAgencyChick – I am supposed to be a part time employee, but I do get paid for the extra hours I work. My issue is I don’t want to be consistently working close to full time right now. (I do at least get health benefits as of today thanks to the ACA 30 hour rule)

            sort of separate but related to this client issue is that I consistently get overbooked and told ‘sorry we are short staffed do the best you can’ and I make myself miserable trying to meet multiple deadlines in the same week. I plan to bring this up at my review and try to address it better this year/ stick to my hours. I really hope we get a few new hires too!

      5. Sarahnova*

        With a manager as passive as yours, an option may be to present them with a ‘fait accompli’ solution. Do you have a more junior colleague for whom this client would be a good stretch? Could you approach that colleague and/or her manager and float the idea of her taking on the client? This would allow you to go to your manager and say, “Jane’s client is not a productive use of my time, but it occurred to me it would be a great development experience for Priscilla. I’ve discussed it with her and she’s keen, so she’ll take over managing the client from Jan 15” or whatever.

  7. Min*

    I read #5 the other way around, that her current manager was the one to reach out to the hiring manager. Obviously I could have read it wrong, but I’m curious about what your thoughts would be in that case.

      1. TheLazyB*

        So did I, but how would the current manager have known the OP was applying if the other manager hadn’t mentioned it first. Or the OP, but I think the question would have been phrased differently if that was the case.

      1. Graciosa*

        I also think we should not discount the importance of the established relationship between the two managers. I would be perfectly comfortable reaching out to a few – a very few – individual managers I know at other companies, based on our existing relationship and what I know of both their character and management style (specifically, that the employee would not suffer in any way as a result of the discussion). If I wasn’t sure whether to pull someone in for an interview, for example, asking what the current manager thinks could make sense.

        I do want to stress that this is not my normal practice and it would certainly be an exception – but it could be an understandable one that could work to the employee’s benefit under the right circumstances. There aren’t many people I would trust with this kind of phone call, but there are a few.

        Of course, without more detail it’s hard to know if that’s what happened here – it could be a more typical nightmare scenario instead.

        1. Lamb*

          Even if you are right that those few people would keep it to themselves and behave appropriately toward the job hunter, you can’t guarantee that no one else at that end will find out; someone might be outside their office door at the wrong time (more so if they have a cubicle or are in an open plan office) and overhear enough to guess that *something* is up with the job hunter, which in a gossipy office could be even worse for the job hunter than if it were known that the job hunter was hoping to find a higher opportunity. Plus there are the businesses where they do indeed monitor their calls.

  8. soitgoes*

    OP4: Would you be able to list your school advisor as a reference? I got my MA in English and there’s a lot more fluidity with stuff like that in the humanities, but I don’t think references have to always be from prior jobs. In the past, I’ve listed my one friend who happens to have a really impressive job, my mom’s professor friend, and my thesis advisor. You can list someone as a reference even if they’ve never actually worked with you.

    1. TheLazyB*

      “You can list someone as a reference even if they’ve never actually worked with you.”
      I’m pretty sure this is 100% wrong. My understanding (from my time in the workforce and from reading this site) is that they have to have worked with you, and in 95% of cases they need to have *managed* you. Of your examples I think the last might be OK (and I might do something similar myself in my upcoming job search, as I’m hoping to change job area entirely and my academic tutor can speak to my understanding of and enthusiasm for the area – I hope, haven’t asked her yet!) but the other two would be entirely inappropriate.

      I am in the UK but think this is true of both the UK and the US.

      1. TheLazyB*

        I’ve just reread this and I think the “100%” was a bit much, sorry if I came across a bit overly critical there.

      2. soitgoes*

        I’ve had job applications that requested that your references not be past coworkers or managers, since those people were already accessible via your resume.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          It sounds like they we’re specifically asking for personal references. That is uncommon in the US. Even if those are requested, you still need professional references. It sounds like OP is pretty far into his career, and at that point a lack of professional references will be suspect. More variation is tolerated for recent grads.

          1. Marcy*

            We require three personal references on the application. I have no idea why and don’t see a need for those unless HR needs it for the background and credit checks. When I am hiring I never call those people. I call the former managers that are listed within the job description sections of the application.

    2. The IT Manager*

      If you’re being asked for professional references (versus personal ones), you should not list a friend or your mom’s friend. You should only list people who have worked with you so that they can speak to your work performance. There’s a preference for people who managed you, but co-workers and customers (when you work closely and directly with them) might be an option.

      In this case, I do think a thesis adviser can constitutes a professional reference for a recent grad assuming the job you’re apply for is in the same field.

  9. NJ anon*

    I recently left a job that I was at for 11 years. I used peers (a fellow longtime director), our auditor (I’m in finance) and the sole proprietor of the tech company we used that I had worked closely with. At first it was hard to think of references but go outside the box and you should be able to find some.

    1. sunny-dee*

      I could see something like your situation being a situation for myself. I have a new manager now, but for my first 8 years at my company, I had virtually no communication with my manager. Like, once a year, at the most. I worked very closely with product managers and project managers; it would be more honest and more accurate to list them as my references than my inaccessible former manager.

  10. Brett*

    #3 I think there should be some split here between _living_ in another state and _working_ in another state. There have been a lot of legal challenges lately to residency requirements, and those challenges are wining. So, it is possible that firing an employee for moving to another state could be a wrongful termination; but that is a separate issue from requiring the employee to work in a specific state.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      An employer can’t require you to live somewhere, but they can limit where you work. Many remote employees think that it does not matter where they work, but according to the IRS and the DOL it does! So moving wouldn’t really be the problem. It may seem like semantics, but the issue is where you “work”.

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