a coworker left a mess in my office, brainteaser interview questions, and more

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

1. A coworker used our office and left a disgusting mess

My office mate, Kim, and I have a small shared office in our institution where office space is at premium. Over the last 10 years, we have acquired a small fridge and a Keurig and keep a well-stocked candy jar and healthy snacks. All of these are paid for by us, not our organization, and we have always been generous with our coworkers. Some regular visitors to the candy jar or Keurig put a $5 or a $20 bill in a little jar we keep tucked away, but this is the exception not the rule. To me, the extension of goodwill has reaped so many rewards that I consider it an expense worth making. Also, because we are in a prime location, we have been rather easygoing when our coworkers, many of whom have a 10-minute walk to their faraway offices if they need to make a quick call or a pit stop.

Kim and I both returned two days ago from time off. When Kim locked up for the evening on her last day, she emptied the trash, cleaned the office, and locked the door. Kim and I and my boss’s boss are (to our knowledge) the only people with a key. When we returned to work, it was apparent that someone had been working, and eating, in our office, specifically at my workstation. The trash was full of tossed food and wrappers, and there were food and crumbs on the floor and my desk. We were able to determine the culprit from papers left behind. When my boss’s boss stopped by to welcome us back, he mentioned this person by name as having been sitting at my desk. I casually asked if he had opened the office with his key and he said that he had not. We opted to not make an issue of it with him for many many reasons.

The person in question is not our supervisor and we work in an environment that is poorly managed and where morale is poor. In spite of that, Kim and I have always maintained a terrific work relationship and I want to respect her wishes. The dilemma is that Kim is more bothered by the intrusion and would like to say something to this person along the lines of “Please do not use our office without permission and it certainly wasn’t okay that you left a mess.” I want over it quickly and believe that trying to address it with our coworker will result in an overreaction on her part. Help!

Well, you’ve got a few separate issues here: the coworker using your office without permission, the mess left behind, and the question of who else has a key. In many offices, it wouldn’t be problematic for someone to use your office while you’re away. (In others, it would be, particularly if you work with confidential documents.) I’m going to assume that part isn’t a big deal in your environment since your boss’s boss wasn’t concerned. But it’s totally reasonable to say to the coworker, “Hey, there was quite a mess in our office when we returned. Bob mentioned that you were using it — do you know what happened?” It would also be reasonable to say, “We didn’t know anyone else had a key and are a little worried about access issues; how did you get in?”

2. Should I warn an organization that my friend would be a terrible hire?

I have a friend who I’ve known for many years who is interviewing at a nonprofit and I happen to know the people there in a social capacity: a few I’ve met at networking events, and one is a friend-of-a-friend who I’ve met with in a mentoring capacity (me being the mentor, she the mentee).

The thing is, my friend’s work history and outlook on work are horrible: she’s been fired, she gets bored quickly, she thinks she’s better than everyone she works with. On paper, though, she’s a good candidate. If she were to apply for a job at my company, I would not want to refer her. Since she’s applying for an organization where I know people, should I let them know about her work history and outlook, or is that unethical? No one at this organization knows that I know her and I’m sure they wouldn’t find out all these characteristics until it was too late.

It doesn’t sound like you know them well enough to justify it. If you knew them better, maybe. If I knew that a walking disaster was interviewing with, say, a former boss I was still close to, I’d speak up. But in this case, it doesn’t sound like you’re particularly close to anyone there. And really, if they do their due diligence before hiring (like checking references), this is stuff that should come out in that process. If they don’t, it’s really on them for not bothering to.

But you might suggest to your friend that she stay away from nonprofits, where she can actually do real harm to organizations with missions she might care about.

3. My cold, clammy hands aren’t suited for handshakes

I tend to have clammy hands (not too bad, to the point of drenched, but clearly cold and slightly damp). While that sounds gross, it will feel even more gross to interviewers or just about anyone! This must affect that impression of me somehow, a “Hi! …yeesh.”

I have tried wiping my hands with tissues before interviews, but the air conditioning worsens it, nor does wiping entirely remove the damp, cold feeling. I’m so embarrassed to shake people’s hands. Is it ever okay to reject a handshake or to give them a candid warning about it beforehand?

If you reject the handshake, you’d need to give an explanation or it will come across as rude. “I don’t want to shake your hand with my cold, clammy grip” is probably not a great thing to say, so the best you could fall back on is probably “getting over a cold, probably fine but don’t want to risk it.”

But really, I’d try to just do the handshake. Discreetly wipe them on your pants just beforehand, if you can. And if they’re clammy anyway, people are really unlikely to care, I promise.

4. Brainteaser interview questions

What do you think of the latest trend in interviews of asking bizarre questions like “How many street lamps are there in ?” or “How many buckets of sand will you need to fill this room to the brim?” etc. The idea is that interviewers don’t expect right answers – they just want to assess how you think and rationalize. Good idea or gimmicky? I personally dislike it because I can never think of a logical answer without thinking it sounds absolutely stupid.

That’s no new trend — Google has been asking those interview questions for years. They’d want you to think through the scenario out loud so that they could get a look at how you solved problems.

But they actually stopped asking them a couple of years ago after determining that the way candidates answered them wasn’t actually predictive of how strong an employee they’d be. They now rely more heavily on behavioral interview questions (“tell me about a time when…”), as every good interviewer should do.

5. What should I be doing during my notice period to leave my job in good shape?

I’m a low level employee leaving a marketing role in a nonprofit. My employer doesn’t cross-train anyone so my skill set isn’t replicated anywhere else in the company. I gave my two week notice and my manager seems really lost – he’s a new manager and he’s never had someone leave his team before. It’s been a few business days since I gave notice and my manager keeps coming by my desk saying “We need to talk about your transition plan, but I don’t have time right now.” (Just for the record, I’m not leaving at a particularly busy time for the organization – I get the feeling he’s in denial about this, which is a common way he copes with bad news.)

Aside from that, I still want to leave the role as prepped for my replacement as possible. I can’t seem to find any information online about what to do or prepare in the last two weeks of a job. I know to wrap up my projects as best I can and to leave a list of passwords – that’s all that I received from my predecessor when I started here – but that doesn’t feel like enough to me. What else do you recommend people to do during their final two weeks to prepare for their replacement and/or leave their departments in good standing?

Try to schedule a meeting with your boss. Reach out and say this: “Can we set up a time to meet to go over what you’d like me to complete before I leave and where my projects” stand?

Aside from that, you should leave as thorough documentation of how you do your job as time allows, lists of passwords and contacts, and notes on where projects stand.

But ultimately, if he’s in denial and doesn’t agree to that meeting, there’s only so much you can do — and that’s on him, not you.

{ 296 comments… read them below }

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Yeah, I don’t know if that was a joke or a first year law student. But no, not even close.

  1. Sherm

    #3: I bet 100 of my hard-earned duck points that cold, clammy hands are not going to sink a job interview. Interviewers are probably very used to shaking damp, nervous hands, anyway.

    1. Nina

      IA. I would just laugh it off and say something like “Sorry, poor blood circulation!” I wouldn’t make a big deal or draw attention to it, just focus on the interview.

    2. LAI

      I agree that cold, clammy hands are not going to sink a job interview. But as someone who has to shake a lot of hands on a daily basis, I would suggest that you do everything you can to make sure that your handshake is otherwise good – firm and solid, not too hard, the right length of time, etc. If your hand is already clammy, at least it doesn’t also have to be limp like a dead fish! Try practicing with people and ask them to give you feedback.

      1. JayDee

        Agreed. There is only so much you can do to control the temperature and sweat level of your hands. But there is MUCH you can do to control the firmness, length of time, etc. of the handshake. If you have a firm handshake with a sweaty or cold hand, I will notice that for about 2 seconds and move on. If you have weak, limp fish handshake with cold sweaty hand, I will remember that for long enough that it matters. Of course, the flip side is also true. A death grip or a two-handed, intense “politician” handshake is no good in general and can only be made worse with a clammy hand.

        1. Just Another Techie

          And on the flip side, even if your hands are warm, dry, and properly moisturized so they aren’t chapped or scratchy, if you try to crush my hand to prove your dominance (yes, that happened with an interview candidate! he actually left bruises!) or don’t offer any kind of grip at all, that will reflect quite poorly.

      2. Fight! Win!

        Agreed. The worse kind of handshake to get is a limp resting of the other person’s hand in yours. I don’t want to hold someone’s hand during a handshake, they should be shaking back! I wouldn’t think twice about coldness or clamminess. Your confidence is communicated by the firmness of your grip and eye contact. Practicing with friends or family is a great idea. As you meet new people in your day to day, modify your approach slightly and see how people respond. For example, for a couple weeks do the firm handshake with eye contact, the next few weeks excuse yourself from the handshake (“sorry just getting over a cold!”). See what you’re more comfortable with. You can communicate confidence in many ways, whatever the temperature of your hands may be. :)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          There are plenty of joint, bone, and neuromuscular problems that could cause someone to lose grip strength, so please try to judge people on effort and attitude rather than pounds per square inch of pressure. For some people, what we consider a firm grip is either impossible or agony, and they’re not all older people.

          I say this because, while someone resting their hand in mine would seem odd, that would be my first instinct, to guess that they might have a medical issue that causes them either to not be able to grip strongly or that causes pain if they do.

          1. Annamaison

            Damp, clammy, cold – nah- doesn’t bother me one bit and doesn’t even register. What I do find odd is some who just sort of “puts” their hand in mine and doesn’t actually do anything with it. I wonder to myself “Um. Are you expecting me to kiss it or something?” A tip off that there was a an injury, or joint issue in play would be completely understandable, and I would be respectful and sympathetic of that before a handshake.

            1. Spiky Plant

              But there are all kinds of reasons that a person might not want to disclose that they have an injury or disability at the kickoff of a job interview.

              1. Nashira

                Beginning and ending with being disabled = out of the running no matter what you do, a lot of places. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I landed my current position via just a phone interview, and wasn’t seen using a cane. All my in-person interviews, there was quite a lot of staring at my cane, even when it was collapsed or neatly in the corner.

        2. Meadowsweet

          Except for the handshake that tries to crush your hand!

          Seriously, the hand should be held firmly but with little pressure.

    3. TeapotCounsel

      #3 – just make sure your grip is firm and you look recipient in the eye. That’ll make up for any clamminess.

    4. Van Wilder

      Quack quack!

      While I agree, I also wonder if there are other solutions. Baby powder? Try talking to a dermatologist?

      1. Cruella DaBoss

        LOL….quack quack !!
        I notice a limp handshake much more than a clammy one. I read a suggestion in a book on public speaking about putting roll-on antiperspirant on ones hands about 10 minutes before encountering anyone one with which to shake hands.

      2. Beezus

        I don’t have a clamminess issue, but my hands are frequently cold. I stop for a hot drink on my way to an interview, giving me something warm to wrap my hands around. (I am also colder when I’m nervous, and feel more tense/on edge when I am cold, so the hot drink is more to soothe my nerves, but it does have the added benefit of making sure my hands are not chilly.)

        1. nona

          Me too. If I know someone’s coming, washing my hands with hot water first helps with any ~issues~ like OP described.

        2. RubyJackson

          I was thinking along the lines of hand warmers that you keep in your pockets. They come in single-use crushable packets and heat up by chemical reaction. That would address the cold hand issue. The anti-perspirant is a good solution for the clammy/wetness issue.

  2. Jerry Vandesic

    LW1: I guess I don’t see the problem if the food and wrappers were put in the trash. Where were they supposed to go?

    1. Artemesia

      I taught weekends and frequently entered a classroom where people had had a luncheon or partied and my hwastebaskets would be full of stinky food boxes and there would be crumbs and grease and general ickiness. We didn’t have janitorial service oriented to those of us who taught weekend long classes and needed pristine space and pleasant space. having your office littered with smelly food trash and crumbs and grease etc in your workspace is to be dealt with.

      I ‘t push back on why you desk was used. Why, and how did he get in. If there is a genuine need then the supervisor should allocate and give access and make sure the place is left in working condition. I had to check with people in the department where the classroom was to find out if events were planned and then request that all trash be hauled by 3 so the room was leftin order. I would come in myself then to set up the room for the 4 o’lock class. Over time I got those messing up the space and assuming it would be taken care of by janitors before Monday classes to see that it was causing problems for our classes and they got better at hauling trash out and leaving the room fairly clean so that my set up didn’t have to involve actually washing tables as it did at first.

    2. Nina

      The OP mentioned that there was food and crumbs on the desk as well. Also, there may not be a trash collector/janitor on the premises if Kim (or the OP) is emptying out the trash daily. So any food or wrappers in the trash will just sit there and start to smell or attract flies.

      I would be really upset if someone used my workstation and didn’t clean it up afterwards. Especially if there’s grease or something, which stains paper very easily.

        1. Jessa

          This is my issue. I’d be annoyed at the mess, furious even, but my main thrust would be “how the heck did someone get IN here?” The paranoid part of me does not like the idea that in a room where the keyholders are supposed to be known, someone else either has access to, or social engineered use of a key from someone. That is the start of larger security concerns. If you can get into my office, where else are you getting that you should not be. And on the face of it, if my office is lockable, and I’m allowed to lock it, and management should only hold the other key, that means I’m okay to leave things on my desk that I normally would not, if everyone had access. The access is a way bigger issue than the mess. Which should also be addressed – what if I was out for a week, I wouldn’t want to come back to bugs.

          1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow

            I agree. I would be upset about the mess but the bigger picture is that in a situation where an office is locked, I would feel like I was intruding on someone’s personal space by gaining entrance to a locked office to use it while the office occupants were away. It doesn’t sound like this is a usual practice in your office. I would have said something.

    3. Al Lo

      A wastepaper basket full of food garbage is different than a kitchen garbage can full of food garbage, to me. In my office, I try to limit the food garbage to dry wrappers, and walk the Starbucks cups, takeout containers, etc. down the hall to the kitchen. If I have meetings in there where other people fill my garbage can with greasy or wet food garbage, I end up emptying it into the kitchen garbage. I don’t begrudge them that when I’m in the room — they’re just throwing away their stuff, and I can move it — but I really don’t want that sitting there for more than the day the meeting took place.

    4. LUCYVP

      I think it really depends on the office cleaning schedule.
      Last year my org cut back from 2x week janitorial service to 2x a month. Now, if there is anything even potentially stinky in my office trash I need to take it out myself. I used to not even think about it.

      1. Judy

        Our trash at our desks is emptied once a week. The trash in the kitchen is emptied daily. Anything but empty wrappers and maybe an orange peel gets walked down to the kitchen.

      2. Vicki

        Also, in companies with offices that lock, janitors may not have the key. When I had a locking office door, we were supposed to set the trash can outside the door at night if it needed to be emptied.

    5. nicolefromqueens

      I’m usually the last one out of my office each night. if I leave food in the wastepaper basket the room will reek of it the next morning, not 12 hours later. I’m not talking about anything unusually smelly, primarily pasta and sauce. I put my food trash in a separate bag and take it with me, usually to the covered food waste bin in the lunch room or outside trash.

    6. OP1

      The issue is what some of the other commenters have brought up. Our little trash can is emptied sporadically and the janitorial services will not enter our office if locked. So we came back to a stinky, greasy smell along with food and crumbs on the floor, at my desk, etc.

      1. Dynamic Beige

        I would talk to the guy if I were you. I would also find out who has access to your office and let him in to use it without clearing it with you. Because you spend your own money on things and food that is for the two of you to use or give away as you see fit. I learned a lot about other people by having a candy jar on my desk. It was interesting to see who would just come and grab a handful without even acknowledging me and who would ask repeatedly if they could have one and then say thank you.

        At OldJob, we had carpet and a cleaning crew that were not super-duper efficient. When times were slow, one of the things I would do was clean my office area and for that, I had to bring supplies from home like Windex, a vacuum cleaner. Once, I did a bad thing and left my vacuum there, in the back corner of my office, for several days, I forget why. Probably that at the end of the day I was too tired to lug it back to my car and then inertia took over. At any rate, one day I came into my office and it was gone. So I went looking for it. Turned out that one of the PAs had taken it to clean up some mess somewhere — and they had damaged it. The guy was young and new and as I stood there, the only thing he could say was “I thought it belonged to the company” and that, in his mind, justified taking it and using it without asking anyone who it belonged to and if it was OK. It never worked properly after that and I had to throw it out — he had used it to vacuum up screws and wood chips and other things that were meant for a ShopVac. At the time, I couldn’t afford to buy a new vacuum, so that was not good. Looking back, I probably should have petitioned for a replacement from the company but I didn’t feel that I would win that case.

        So, since you have your own personal fridge and coffee maker, I would suggest that once you find out who also has keys (it could be the lock is part of a master set and the janitor let your coworker in) you get your locks changed or find some way of enforcing your space. Otherwise, you might come back one morning and find that someone commandeered your Keurig to their office because they were pulling an all-nighter and thought it was OK because it was company property, there were no rules posted and you weren’t there to stop them.

        1. Lindrine

          Also – label your personal items. Does your IT or facilities team put id stickers on printers, etc? I worked at a place where they labeled all company property. You need to make sure that your name and contact info are on it. The back or side would be good. That way if there is any question about whose it is, ownership will be clear.

        2. Jamie

          Tbf it would never occur to me that a vaccuum in the work place could be privately owned. If I needed one and there was one in the office I would have used it without asking – as long as it wasn’t in a locked room or anything.

          And I will admit that when I was in my early 20’s I had to call the fire department because my vacuum was smoking; I had to learn from the nice fireman that you can’t vacuum whole paper towels. I won’t admit how old I was when I figured out you couldn’t vacuum screws and coins and stuff and that was why I kept breaking vacuums.

    7. NJ anon

      Food left in a wastepaper basket starts to smell. Also there were crumbs and such left on the desk. I would not be happy and would go talk to the person who used the desk. They should have left the office the way they found it.

    8. _#1 OP2 (Kim)

      What I am upset about is not the trash in the trash can. For me, it was more about the fact that this employee assumed it would be ok for her to use our office without asking first. I would not gain access to someone’s locked office without first asking their permission. I guess I at least expected this person to say “Hey, I hope you don’t mind but I used your office for xyz while you were gone” or something like that.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        I’m with Alison on this part of it (though I think it was rude of the coworker to leave crumbs and not put the food trash in a kitchen garbage can). Especially if meeting space is at a premium in your office, I think it’s reasonable to expect that the offices of people who are out on vacation or business trips will be used by other people.

        (The policies at my office, which is moving to a more open floor plan — ugh — clearly state that offices that are not occupied by their owners are up for grabs — that goes even if the person who sits there is out for only part of a day!)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Right, if someone’s computer crashes irretrievably or facilities needs to paint/repair an office, the displaced person might be told to work at any empty office.

          But I think we all agree that they should leave the workspace almost exactly as they found it. (Items being off by a millimeter or two is OK; things missing, put in or left out of drawers or cabinets, and leaving a mess are definitely not OK!)

          1. Lindrine

            Agreed. They should have apologized to the OP and cleaned up after themselves. Them acting like nothing happened, when the OP had locked the door and then came back to find a mess, was very rude.

        2. Allison

          I’ve definitely come back to my workspace on occasion to find evidence that it’d been used while I was away, or working from home. I’m not territorial, and I know that remote employees occasionally visit and need a place to work, so if someone is told they can use my desk for a day, that doesn’t bug me. What DOES bug me is when people mess with my stuff and rearrange the personal items on my desk. And I’m always mad when I come back to find my chair gone.

          TL;DR: if someone needs to use someone’s workspace, office, cubicle, chair, whatever, that’s generally fine, but be respectful of the person who usually works there and leave it how you found it.

          1. Elizabeth West

            Agreed. No one uses my desk (to my knowledge) while I’m gone. Just in case, I put a sign on my laptop so no one would close it and keep me from hacking in.
            *reading AAM on the slow-ass District line tube*

            1. BeenThere

              I always put a big note on my monitors that the computer is being used remotely. Our service desk team is really great and I always ping them when I’ll be working from home and using remote desktop to go to my work PC. Once someone borrowed the network cable from my work PC, all I saw was RDP stopped working, fortunately the service desk people rectified quickly as soon as I called them. Seriously if there is a huge sign on both monitors don’t unplug any cables

          2. Oryx

            I was gone on training for a week and when I came back the people who had covered my had not rearranged personal items, they rearranged the entire furniture layout. When I questioned them they said it just made more sense to them. Dude, you covered a single shift so how about you suck it up and deal with the arrangement that makes more sense to the person who works there all the time.

            1. mdv

              This happened to me once — gone for 2 days, someone who was soon departing had completely rebuilt the cubicle next to mine (for students) to be 1/3 larger, but left me, the full-time employee, with only 16 sq ft of space to move around. This was my original space, but I was really annoyed by it because they a) didn’t ask anyone’s permission, b) never even used it as described, and c) I had been asking to expand my cubicle for several years prior to that.

          3. Collarbone High

            I once came back from vacation to discover someone had used my desk for an afternoon and somehow managed to break my keyboard in half. Seriously, it was in two pieces. How does that even happen?! Worse, he didn’t make any effort to resolve it — he could have asked the admin to order a new one, and it would have been there when I got back. But no, I came back to the two sad halves piled on my desk. Not even a “sorry” post-it.

        3. JB (not in Houston)

          I think it depends on the office culture and expectations. If I came back from vacation and some random coworker had been using my desk, I’d be annoyed.

          1. AnonAnalyst

            I think this definitely shapes individual perceptions on this. In the last several offices I’ve worked in, it was common and expected to borrow someone else’s workspace if you needed it when they were out, so just using the office wouldn’t bother me. I tend to think of my office/workspace as the company’s space that I’m using to work, rather than as *my* space (if that makes sense), which I think makes me feel less like someone else is intruding if they use it while I’m out.

            The mess and trash would bother me, though. Part of the reason it’s been so accepted to share spaces in the offices I’ve worked in is because everyone has done their best to clean everything up and return it to the way it was when they’re done working there. I realize that my coworkers might not be able to get everything back exactly how I like it, but not even making an effort and leaving a mess for me to clean up before I could start working would irritate me.

          2. Judy

            At my past company, there was a lot of travel between offices, both nationally and internationally. It was expected that when you were out, someone would use your desk, you should clear it of papers, etc. There were not many extra cubicles or offices around (“hotel offices”), and once they were used, the spots where people were on vacation or travelling were used. There were a few different corporate approved laptops, but the ones in the US all used the same docking stations, so it was nice to have monitors to attach to.

            Of course, I’ve not worked in a place that had locking offices it’s been card or key access to a room of offices and cubicles.

        4. peanut butter kisses

          Years ago, I was at a job where we were EXPLICITLY told to never ever eat or drink at your desk. It was one of the rules that was enforced over and over again. Imagine how upsetting it was to see my desk area covered in crumbs and water rings on important paperwork each morning by the night shift. I usually let things slide but not for that. I wasn’t going to take the blame on it so I immediately told my supervisor about it each and every time it happened. After a month, it finally stopped and the person responsible tried to find ways to get back at me for getting them in trouble. JMO – they got themselves in trouble, not me.

      2. Michele

        I can understand that. One time when I was out of town, someone else used my office, which isn’t done here without permission. He apparently spent the better part of the week in there with the door closed. He wrote in my project tracking notebook and did who knows what else, then he never said anything about it to me. I was so bothered, that I couldn’t think of a polite way of confronting him about it. So I never said anything. The guy is no longer in our department, but I never liked him after that.

  3. Marina

    #2, if you really do consider this person a friend, please talk with them directly about the problems you see with their work history and ethic rather than talking to their prospective employer. I’m currently looking for work, and I’d be horrified to find out anyone I knew thought so poorly of me that they’d actually be thinking about going out of their way to tell prospective employers I’d be a bad hire. You could say something like, “You complain so much about work, do you really think this field is right for you?”

    I don’t know, there just seems like something really icky in going out of your way to make sure someone doesn’t get hired, unless there’s really something wrong with them besides them basically being a snob.

    1. MsM

      I think a history of leaving on short notice constitutes a serious problem – particularly at nonprofits, which are almost always short-staffed and don’t have a lot of time or resources to dedicate to training, and where turnover may disrupt or send a bad signal to relationships with funders. I am curious why her resume doesn’t flag that as an issue, though.

      1. Sunflower

        I was wondering also about that. OP says she looks great on paper but a resume filled with short stints would bring up a lot of questions and doubts without the OP getting in the middle

    2. Undercovers

      I spent a decade being a not-great employee. It’s hard enough to transition out of that and find a decent job (especially when my resume would indicate I should be in higher level positions than the ones I’m going for) and if I found out that a “friend” would be going out of their way to hamstring me… Wow. I don’t even know. I don’t know many people who would call themselves friends but go out of their way to hamper someone trying to make a living. Offer help or stay out of it completely if you think she’s so awful.

      1. Colette

        I think you can be friends with someone while still recognizing that they have flaws. I also think that in some cases, you may need to take action against your friend to protect someone more vulnerable. You shouldn’t try to wreck a friend’s chances because you’re mad or jealous, but if you legitimately believe they will harm someone based on their past behavior, it makes sense to speak up,

        1. illini02

          Yeah, I don’t know that I’d call a company “someone more vulnerable”. Even if this is a non profit (and I work for them). This isn’t like you someone you know is hiring your friend to babysit and you think they are horrible with kids. This is an organization that needs to do due dilligance.

          1. Colette

            So if an organization where you knew people was thinking of hiring your friend who was bad with kids to run their daycare, you think it would be fine to say nothing?

            1. LBK

              If I knew the hiring manager I’d say something. If I just had acquaintances with no direct connection to hiring for the role, no. If anything I’d talk to my friend and tell them they shouldn’t apply – that’s where my level of influence is the highest.

            2. illini02

              “Bad with kids” is a relative term. One that I’d be much more comfortable saying to someone about a one off watch my kids for date night than working for a daycare. I was a great teacher. I don’t know that I’d be a great babysitter though.

          2. LBK

            Agreed. I don’t see the organization as “vulnerable” here – presumably it’s run by adults who have good hiring practices. If they don’t, well, that speaks more to the organization’s issues than to the OP’s friend’s. If the friend is really as terrible as the OP says, I agree with Alison’s assessment that it’s kind of their own fault if they don’t manage to uncover it during the interview process.

      2. LQ

        But if you spent a decade being a not great employee and someone didn’t want to help you in the middle of that. Say year 4. You are going to be a not great employee for 6 more years. If someone helps you in the middle of that they will not only not be able to help you again because they’ve burned their ability to refer someone good, but they won’t be able to help others either. Because who would believe that friend’s referral? And would you have been willing to listen if someone had tried to say, “Hey, this whole leaving jobs every few months thing, it isn’t good for your career.”

        1. Undercovers

          With all due respect, I’m not sure what you’re saying here despite reading it a few times. In my case I had some personal growth to do; it had nothing to do with someone helping me. And I don’t consider it help if someone took an active role in me not being able to pay my rent who wasn’t an actual employer at any point. A reference would have the right to it. A friend can even come personally to you and inquire. But to bypass and go to a potential employer? Psh. No.

      3. _ism_

        Don’t the OP and “friend” have a mentoring relationship? Why on earth would the OP consider going anywhere besides her friend to talk about this first?

        1. _ism_

          My bad, I misread the original post. She has a mentoring relationship with someone at the nonprofit that is hiring, not with her bad worker friend.

    3. Humus on Mini Toast

      I agree that one should not directly go running to the prospective employer without first talking to their friend first. The friend may not even realize how their behavior is hindering them. If the person really is a friend, you should take time to tell them your concerns about their behavior and why it looks bad to potential employers. If the friend decides to ignore or play down what you say, and continues to behave in the same manner, speaking to the potential employer about it would be okay in my opinion.

    4. Not Today Satan

      Yeah, what a “friend” the LW is. She hasn’t even worked with her friend, so what insight does she have that the employer can’t glean from the resume/interview–that her friend complains about work? If an acquaintance, unsolicited, came to me and “warned” me about a prospective employer like this I’d be pretty turned off. I’d also wonder why she seems to think I don’t notice short tenures, ask good questions, or check references.

      1. neverjaunty

        I’d be pretty pissed if I hired somebody who turned out to be a good employee, and social acquaintance later said to me “Oh yeah, she’s a friend of mine and she has a history of being an awful employee. I didn’t want to ruin her chances of a job by saying anything though.”

        That said, there is a difference between giving an unfavorable reference when asked, or being honest if asked socially, and proactively going and calling this place.

        1. Not Today Satan

          Would you really expect a social acquaintance to call you and warn you about her friend, unsolicited? It’s not like she’s offering to be a positive reference (or even that the employer is reaching out to her).

          Again, if she’s a bad worker, which she very well may be, your standard hiring due diligence should uncover that. It’s hard enough for excellent workers to get jobs these days.

        2. LBK

          This is assuming the OP actually knows the specific manager that’s hiring for this position, and it doesn’t sound like she does. That would completely change the situation for me (although I’d still think that in that case if the manager knew the OP well enough to care about her opinion, she’d be proactively reaching out anyway).

        3. BridgetG

          Then you should probably work on your screening process so you don’t have to worry about that.

      2. Sunflower

        I totally agree. I have lots of friends who have job hopped or gotten bored easily. I have no idea how hard they work at their job and would feel completely not qualified to speak about their skills or competency as an employee.

      3. Spiky Plant

        Eh, there are plenty of ways to get insight into how a person works. Beyond just complaining in generic ways about their job, they could be telling stories. I’m sure we all have friends who are trying to tell you about their “outrageous” boss or their horrible co-workers, but when you hear the story you immediately start thinking “Wow, that boss is totally reasonable, and my friend was waaaay off base with what they did next.” That type of stuff tells you a LOT about a person that would be useful for an interviewer to know (and which might come out in reference checks, but might not).

        1. Sunflower

          I take everything my friends say about work with a grain of salt- and that goes both ways. There have been many times I’ve said to my friends ‘wow my boss is soo annoying’ or I’ve called a coworker an idiot. Usually, it’s over really simple mistakes that I myself would make and I’m just expressing frustration. I would be really shocked(and admittedly hurt) if one of my friends ran with that to a company.

  4. Parcae

    I’ve shaken some cold, clammy hands in my day. And they’ve made me think… nothing. Absolutely nothing about the person they belong to. Hand shaking is such a brief, normal part of day-to-day life that it barely merits a thought. Refusing to shake, though, is noticeably weird enough that I’d avoid it unless I thought I was going to spread contagion across the office.

    1. Mabel

      I feel the same way. I have shaken clammy hands before, and I never gave it a second thought. People sweat, and most people don’t even think about it. What I do notice is a limp handshake or the kind where you barely get a grip on the tips of the person’s fingers. Why do people do that? (I know my mom does it because that’s how “ladies” used to be taught to shake hands, but my mom is 82, so let’s hope younger women never learned this nonsense.) It gives me the willies.

      1. Artemesia

        People with arthritis do that to avoid the macho handshake or the bully’s handshake; have you sore joints crushed a few times and you learn to not pout yourself in someone’s power to do so — and some people enjoy hurting other people in a handshake. I wish we would abandon the handshake altogether as it is a major vector for transmitting cold, flu and stomach bug germs and some of those aren’t even deterred with hand gel.

        1. AnonAnalyst

          Ugh, yes, the macho handshake. Why do people do this? I’m not really built for great handshakes (small hands with circulation and joint problems), but I’m always mystified when someone grabs my hand and attempts to crush the life out of it. Especially when their hands are considerably bigger, like my entire hand fits in their hand. Am I supposed to try to match their awesome hand strength to prove my value?

          I think often people overshoot and just don’t think about it but I’d rather have the limp handshake any day of the week.

          To OP 3: seriously, don’t worry about this. I’ve interviewed a fair number of people and I can’t even remember what most of their handshakes were like (I also recently recommended a candidate who used the hand crusher handshake recently for a job, so, for me at least, it doesn’t seem to be much of a factor when I’m evaluating someone’s candidacy!)

          1. Just Another Techie

            This has happened to me a number of times when I’ve worked career fairs. It sucks. I’ve gotten in the habit of jerking my hand back, loudly exclaiming “Ow! That hurts!” and then pointedly handing the candidate his (it’s always guys) resume back. Because eff that. I don’t want to work with someone who plays stupid macho dominance games.

            1. AnonAnalyst

              I may have to start doing this. I usually just assume that it’s unintentional and they don’t know how it’s being received, but it does get old. Particularly, like I mentioned, in those situations where my entire hand almost fits into the other person’s hand. Seriously, people should be able to think through that using all their hand strength isn’t the way to go then.

            1. Stone Satellite

              Why does it have to be anything? Why can’t it just be, “Hello, so nice to meet you.” I don’t even remember the last time I shook someone’s hand … it’s just not a thing that happens in my life.

                1. Judy

                  And then someone from the US travels to Europe, and everyone shakes hands with everyone in the office every day, in my experience in Poland and Italy. They walk in to the office and make rounds to everyone greeting them and shaking hands.

              1. SouthernBelle

                I personally hate shaking hands, but I’ll do it when I need to. The one time I really took a stance opposing it was with my last “boss” who insisted on shaking my hand every day. And this was a man who would be hacking up lungs and sneezing all the time, and very rarely went to wash his hands afterward. After I got sick (maybe related, maybe not), I stopped shaking his hand. Plus, why do I have to shake your hand every day that I see you?

            2. Morgan

              And the head movement with bowing makes it much easier to break eye contact. One of the things that makes me uncomfortable with handshakes is that right, shake shake…now I’m making eye contact and holding your hand, do I break off first or? Bowing is great in that you make eye contact, bow and break it, and then unless it’s a really big deep bow, pop back up and gesture complete.
              Bowing is *great*
              (I still accidentally do it sometimes, 18 months+ since the end of the year I spent working in Japan – it just feels much more natural than handshakes ever have)

    2. LBK

      Same – I’m sure I’ve shaken cold, clammy hands and I can’t even think of who they were at this point. It’s not something that sticks with you.

    3. Michele

      I don’t put any stock in the handshake, but I know some men who consider it to be very important. They see it as a feat of strength (I suspect they really just wish they could whip their bits out) that somehow translates into whether or not the person will be good at a desk job.

  5. Snoskred

    #1 – I think Kim is right to want to speak up on this and if it were me, I would be backing her up 100%.

    I would also like to know if the food wrappers left behind were from *your* food. If so, I personally would consider that to be stealing and quite a serious issue. :(

    1. Ani

      I took it that the food was the OP’S and Kim’s, and that this is another reason Kim finds the whole thing particularly egregious. And I would agree with her.

      1. OP1

        I appreciate your perspective and want to have Kim’s back, too. The food and wrappers were not “stolen” food; it was just the evidence that not only had some person or people used our office without permission but had also been messy and inconsiderate to leave a stinky mess in the trash and crumbs, etc at my desk.

        1. Snoskred

          Well that makes it slightly better. :)

          Even so it is still an intrusion into a place someone did not have a key for and had no right to be in, so I think speaking up is warranted, and the person would be very lucky that this issue did not go to higher management.

          1. Brownie Queen

            I would also be asking why they didn’t sit at their own desk. I would be pretty pissed if someone used my desk while I was out for no good reason and left a mess and I would definitely be saying something.

          2. Jamie

            Well, they had a key and someone let them in. And the bosses boss knew about and was fine with it, so it’s not like they snuck in.

            The mess is rude – food stink takes a while to dissipate and he should have taken out the garbage. And cleaned the crumbs. But unless he broke in and was working rogue he had every right to be there.

            1. Cath in Canada

              yeah, I’d agree with this. The office belongs to the company, not to its usual residents.

              If you have confidential documents or any other business-based reason for why other people shouldn’t be in there, then yes, do mention that aspect of the “intrusion” to whoever you decide to talk to.

              If not, focus on the crumbs and mess. That’s out of line in any office. The people who use the boardroom before our weekly team meeting sometimes have food at their meeting, and often leave crumbs all over the table. It’s definitely something that gets noticed, and that affects people’s opinions about that group.

        2. Graciosa

          After eliminating stealing as an issue, the other two possible areas of complete are the mess (which is very rude) and using the office without permission. Whether or not the last is an offense depends very much on office culture.

          In ours, this is quite common. I have used other people’s offices (including those of people I’ve never met), and had mine used while I was out. The protocol is that you should leave it in the same or better condition than you found it, and make sure *not* to change the settings on the desk chair.

          Someone changing the settings on the desk chair would develop a reputation. You are expected to borrow one from a conference room to adjust if needed to avoid this.

          1. Snoskred

            Don’t forget though, their office is locked and the one other person who has a key said they did not let that person in there. :)

            So how did this person get into a locked office?

            Plus, the mess issue. I can understand using someone else’s desk if there is a good reason as long as they clean up after themselves, and after years of hot desking I am probably one of the least territorial people on the planet, but even when hot desking I leave my workspace clean and tidy when I am done, regardless of how it was when I arrived there.

            1. Graciosa

              That’s one reason why the culture question is so important.

              In companies where using other offices is common, someone with a key (facilities or a forgotten admin, for example) will have no hesitation in opening the office. In my case, the admin physically closest to my office has the key even though she is from a completely different function and has nothing else to do with me other than sitting outside my door.

              In an office where sharing is not part of the culture, a request for the key would presumably be met with suspicious questions or refusal.

              1. Graciosa

                I should probably add that even in my company where using empty offices is common enough that getting the key to a vacant one is no problem, getting a key to a locked drawer is an entirely different matter. Unlocking a locked drawer or file cabinet is both forbidden and impossible (because these keys are not duplicated or shared).

            2. Cordelia Naismith

              That would worry me the most. The mess is inconsiderate and annoying — but how did this person get into the locked office? That’s a mystery I would want to solve.

    2. OP1

      Using another’s office is outside of our institutional norms because we work with sensitive data. The other person with our office key consistently crosses boundaries and is not an honest person. He is someone who consistently takes food, borrows items, etc without replenishing. He is also untrustworthy and would have no hesitation to lie if he thought we would be *mad* at him. (Anytime I have addressed a workplace issue, he accuses me of being “mad” at him, not liking him, causing trouble, etc).
      Since I posed the question, Kim and I have concluded that he likely did open the office for his own purposes and left it open allowing others to use the space.

        1. Brownie Queen

          “Using another’s office is outside of our institutional norms because we work with sensitive data. ”
          You still need the answer to the question as to why this person thought it would be ok to use your office while you were gone when they have their own desk.

      1. Michelle

        I would bet that he was the one who opened it. Anyone who claims you are mad at them when you try to talk about a work issue and doesn’t bother to drop a buck or two in the jar when he gets food or coffee, will usually lie to try to avoid conflict. Ugh.

        We have cubes in my office and all full-time people have assigned cubes/computers/phone extensions, so if I came back from being off and someone had used my desk, left food wrappers in the wastebasket and crumbs on my desk, I’d be angry. We have 2 “free cubicles” that anyone can use if they need work space. We are a nonprofit as well.

        I think you need to find out if the 3rd keyholder was the one who let in the worker and you need to let the worker know that leaving a mess is NOT ok.

      2. Ultraviolet

        I understand you had reasons for not pursuing the issue of this guy probably having a key to your office when you were talking to your boss’s boss. But I wanted to throw in that from an outside perspective, it really sounds like you have standing to tell your boss (or their boss, or someone) that you have reason to believe that someone’s got an unnecessary key to your office that you weren’t previously aware of. If the security of the sensitive data is your responsibility, I could even imagine that you could end up in trouble for knowing this and not addressing it.

      3. Jamie

        Using another’s office is outside of our institutional norms because we work with sensitive data.

        This being the case it’s not even about him. It would then me your responsibility to inform your manager that there are clearly more keys floating around than you thought. Does the bosses boss who had no issue with this know you work with this sensitive data? Or does the person in question have the same clearance so it’s a non-issue?

        Kind of confused why you didn’t want to say anything if this is a data issue – once you know access isn’t as restricted as you’d thought by not reporting it you’re part of the security gap.

      4. Snoskred

        OP1 and Kim – I think your food party should be over. :( At a minimum, if this were me, I would be putting in a lockbox to which only the two of you have a key and that is where your food is kept. If you want to provide food to others, the new rule is people pay for your food if they want it.

        Create a price list which is exactly what it costs you to buy the food, and if anyone questions that, have receipts on hand that you can give them which shows how much it costs you to buy the food, And if anyone asks why, you should simply say that you are no longer in a financial position to keep providing food to people for free.

        It seems clear that while some people do put in some funds, there is a general expectation that this food is there and available for people who do not put in funds ever.

        I’ve been the extra-generous person who provides food at my own cost to others who would not give people as much as one chip if they had a spare one. While it seems lovely to other people to be that generous person, I can tell you from experience, when the fit hits the shan, those people who were so happy to eat your free food are nowhere to be seen, will not back you up or support you, and in fact are likely to take the opposite side from you even if you are in the right.

        Clearly providing the food has put you in a precarious position where someone thinks they can open your office and take whatever they want, and leave without locking it.

        As you do work with sensitive information, you truly cannot *afford* to be placed in that position. It could cost you your jobs. I also agree that you should change the lock to your office and not give out the key to the person who presently has one.

  6. M

    LW#5 You know better than your new manager what your job entails. You stated what was given to you when you started wasn’t enough so make a “what you need to know to succeed” manual and keep a copy for yourself. Write everything down. It can be as simple as outlining frequently asked questions you had when you started “what to do if xyz” with the corresponding answer. Think of situations you dealt with both when you started and those you address on a typical day.

    You don’t have to wait for manager to tell you to do this. Write it up send him draft and ask if there’s any additional questions/processes that he liked to be included. Don’t wait for last day to do this. Offer to be available to answer question by phone if new hire is not done before your last day. Good luck at new job.

    1. JessB

      This is a great idea! I am a temp, and I’ve had some long placements, so what I tend to do is write up how I do the procedures I use most often, and the answers to the questions I had when I first started.
      Even making a note of who looks after what around the office, so other people know who to go to about certain things can be really helpful.

      1. Chinook

        “I am a temp, and I’ve had some long placements, so what I tend to do is write up how I do the procedures I use most often, and the answers to the questions I had when I first started.”

        My best temp jobs are when this type of information was readily available. If it wasn’t, I would work on creating it. A good handbook will cut down on issues for the new person, especially if it covers once a year events as well as regular procedures. When I left a job where I was the Office Manager and had a week to train my replacement, I left such a book. Awesome Boss wanted my phone number so he could call me if there were issues. I gave it to him but said he would never need it because of the notes I left. I didn’t talk to him again until I touched base to let him know I was using him as a reference.

        1. ThursdaysGeek

          Always, when I am new, I start writing down useful information, things I wish were available to know but I had to figure out the hard way. Someone else will be new, and having that to share (and for them to update as they see holes I missed) makes it easier on them.

          As I work on processes, as soon as I see they are repeatable, I start writing down the steps. If I make a mistake, I add a note so that I check that next time and don’t make the mistake again.

          Then, when it is time to leave, I already have some documentation on everything I do. That helps too, in case my leaving is unexpected and sudden (the hit by a bus issue).

        2. Letter Writer #5

          Ooohhh, good call on leaving notes about annual events! I’ll add that to my list. We have a lot of annual events that have a steep learning curve.

    2. Lefty

      I love this idea! As someone who recently transitioned with NO information left from the previous position holder, this would have been a great resource.
      To build on this idea, it could also be useful to have a “who to call for _____” section. (ie- Lavinia handles mailing. Stuart handles purchasing. Wakeen is the administrative guru who handles timecards and leave scheduling.)

    3. Graciosa

      I loved most of this, and leaving a good manual is a great idea.

      My only caveat is that I would avoid offering to make myself available for questions later (which is odd, because I have actually done it successfully). I’ve now heard of a few too many instances where this kindness is abused, and you just don’t know whether your successor is likely to do this or not.

      Unfortunately, you do know that your boss avoids dealing with anything he doesn’t like until he has to, which sounds like a recipe for panicked calls demanding instant answers long after this would be reasonable. I would help him avoid this temptation by not making the offer.

      Do this without guilt. You told him your last day, and you’re entitled to stop working for the company after that.

      1. M

        I try not to assume the worst. It hurts nothing to be available for a phone call. The new worker would appreciate it and depending on job clients/vendors would benefit. If the offer is abused just don’t answer the phone.

      2. Letter Writer #5

        I offered to be available for occasional calls for a few weeks after I leave, but my manager decided that meant I will continue working on the weekend for him until he hires a replacement over the summer. I had to tell him that would NOT happen – I can’t jeopardize my new job over my old job’s poor boundaries. So I’ve had to scale back and say I can only take occasional text messages about file locations. We’ll see if that helps.

        My manager has a history of panicking and calling over and over – one time, he called 11 times in a row plus 3 emails in 15 minutes on a Saturday morning, over a flier design that wasn’t even an emergency. I’m planning to put his number in as a “straight to voicemail” number when I change jobs so I can get back to him when it’s convenient for me instead of continuing to be at his beck and call.

    4. LBK

      Yes, I agree – document everything. If there are existing documents, make sure they’re up to date or rewrite them with info you’ve learned over the course of your time. That’s probably all your manager will expect you to do anyway except maybe cross train a replacement, and you can always tell a coworker “Hey Jane, can I grab you for a half hour at some point just to show you [insert critical job function that must be transitioned immediately]”?

    5. Elizabeth West

      This. It’s especially helpful when the last person leaves before they hire someone. A former receptionist left directives for me and I was so grateful.

    6. the_scientist

      I recently transitioned out of a job where I started with zero documentation, no formal orientation, and my boss was also in denial about my leaving. And it was a small organization. Because I’d been planning to leave for months, I used slow periods to create a manual. I started by documenting the key tasks that I did on a daily basis as well as providing background on the key projects I worked on (light background, trusting that the remaining staff members would orient my replacement to the project eventually). For me, I really wanted to focus on procedural stuff- how to process invoices, how to do Visa reconciliations, how to navigate the bureaucracy around travel bookings and expense approvals, who to contact for different issues/questions etc. I also wanted to use this manual as kind of a warning/real talk to my replacement; like “I know the job description said this, but here’s what you’ll ACTUALLY be doing day-to-day”.

    7. Oryx

      Yup, I did this before I left my last job. The person before me left no documentation, forms, directives, etc. and I didn’t want to do that to my replacement.

    8. TCO

      I wrote a really kick-ass guide when I left one of my former jobs. It included procedures, locations of key information (folder structure, database, etc.). and notes about key people to know (the job worked with external partners a lot). I also contacted those people myself to let them know about the transition and to encourage them to reach out to my replacement when they were in place. I tried to point my replacement to all of the right resources (printed, in-person, websites, etc).

      I also tried to work ahead–could I fill out the monthly calendar in advance? Was the website as up-to-date as it could be? Could I get all of the data entry finished and my files organized? I tried to get everything prepared for the gap between me and the new person.

      In addition, I helped circulate the job posting and answer questions for contacts of mine (it was a close-knit field) who might be interested in the job. I was leaving a great organization and great team, so I wanted to do what I could to help them fill the position quickly with a strong candidate.

      Lastly, I also trained my boss and a couple of other people to take over the most crucial tasks while the position was vacant. I made sure my boss knew where I had left documentation, passwords, etc. so they could easily reference them and hand them off to the new person. I also left my contact information easily available as I was happy to answer questions while the new person got up to speed.

      I know my boss really appreciated all of the work I put in during my exit. It made her an even stronger reference for me because how you leave makes a lasting impression.

      1. Letter Writer #5

        Thanks. Per your comments, I have found a few coworkers who are willing to be cross-trained on my tasks for the interim. I just hope they won’t have to take the tasks permanently, which I’ve seen happen before. :(

        I’m also leaving both hard copies and digital copies of password lists and documentation so it can’t get lost.

        I wrote a job description and offered to post it and help look at applications but no luck yet.

    9. Letter Writer #5

      Thanks, M! I have been doing that yesterday and today, so I appreciate the advice. I’ve been taking screenshots and putting together manuals. The difficult part is trying to help them prep for the interim period between me and the replacement. A few coworkers have volunteered to be cross-trained, so I’m going to do that, I guess without involving my manager too much.

      My manager is in serious denial mode. He announced to the whole department yesterday that I’m actually not leaving but I’m staying another month. I don’t know why he’d do that – I’m definitely not staying and he never asked me to, anyway – so then I had to dispute the announcement and he called me a traitor. This has been a huge headache.

  7. FiveByFive

    #3 – I used to have sweaty palms all. the. time. For some reason it dramatically stopped around my early 20s or so. I know how it feels. The worst part is, you assume that the other person infers from it that you are incredibly nervous.

    But don’t worry about it at all. Being mostly on the other side of these handshakes now, it makes absolutely no impression on me if someone’s handshake is clammy, and I think most people are the same way.

    If the other person doesn’t react during the handshake, leave it alone. If you think they did notice or if they comment about it, then just lightheartedly say “heh, I know, clammy handshake!” like it’s just a little quirk, and let it go. Shouldn’t be a problem.

    1. Michele

      I hadn’t thought about it, but it was the same with me. In my teens and 20s, my hands sweat like crazy, especially if I was nervous. Now they only sweat when I work out.

  8. HR Bloviate

    #3- I’m involved in a lot of hiring and a clammy hand is a non-factor.
    No need to sweat it further.

  9. RiffRaff

    #3 There was a letter to Ann Landers years and years ago about this exact issue, sweaty clammy palms and the LW was embarrassed to shake hands. She recommended a prescription product called Drysol. I had a similar problem, only with my armpits instead of my hands – and I’m female, so I spent so much time agonizing over it and trying to hide it. I went to my doctor and got a prescription, and it worked like A CHARM. I only had to apply it twice and I haven’t had the problem since. That was 22 years ago. Many people have this problem, it’s an actual medical condition called hyperhidrosis. Drysol is a miracle product! Changed my life.

  10. neverjaunty

    OP #4 – even Google has admitted that those kind of questions “serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.” So if you get one of those questions in an interview, you probably should assume the interviewer either doesn’t know what they’re doing and really believes these questions will help, or they’re just kind of a jerk.

    (Interesting that the article also mentions that Google has moved away from its infamous insistence on grade point averages and SAT scores. My guess is that it no longer served its purpose as a thin veener for age discrimination, er, “culture fit”.)

    1. College Career Counselor

      Those brainteaser/guesstimate questions can also come up in management consulting interviews (along with more market/product-based scenarios). The point is not to get the “right” answer, but to see what kinds of assumptions the interviewee makes, what kinds of data she might refer to (or where it might come from) and also see if the person has any facility with on-the-fly calculation. When I talk about this type of thing with students, I ask them “how many square feet of pizza is consumed in the U.S. annually?” and then work through the assumptions (how large is the average pizza, how often do people across the U.S. eat pizza, how many people are there in the U.S.), where might you find some of that data (e.g. census reports), and then calculate the square inches of pizza, then convert to square feet.

      The hard part is getting students to let go of “I must have the right answer/do the calculation perfectly” mentality.

      1. SevenSixOne

        So why isn’t it phrased more like “This role would require you to collect lots of information from many sources and condense it into a single data point. Tell me how you’d figure out how many square feet of pizza is consumed in the US annually.”?

        Then the candidate knows the the interviewer wants to know about their thought process… instead of thinking the interviewer is a lunatic who expects them to know the answer to some ridiculously specific trivia question.

        1. E

          For consulting at least, all interviewees know this is coming – it’s a major part of the interview process, so no one is going to be surprised/think that the interviewer’s a lunatic.

              1. neverjaunty

                But as the linked article said, it doesn’t really work that way or show that the person has qualities useful in an employee.

        2. LBK

          I think CCC’s coming at it from the perspective of trying to coach students on how to answer those questions if they come up; even if they’re stupid, they still get used, so the students need to be prepared to respond. CCC isn’t the one asking the questions in actual interviews.

  11. Jay

    re OP with sweaty hands – have you thought about Botox? An ex colleague with the same issue swears by it

      1. Lisa

        There is also a medicated cream you can get too. My roommate in college sweated a lot, and used special deodorant which she also said worked on her hands too.

    1. Mpls

      Sweating was actually the reason Botox was invented, though I think the focus was initial underarm sweat. The idea was to paralyze the muscles operating the sweat glands to.

      #randomfacts

  12. Gene

    For LW 3, it seems less about what the interviewer will actually think than what the LW assumes she’ll be thinking. That confidence hit will come across in the interview.

    A few things to try: just before you expect to go in for the interview, excuse yourself to the restroom and run the hottest water you can stand on your hand. Then dry really well and grab an extra paper towel, hold it, and put your hand in your jacket pocket (of course you’ll need to be wearing something eh this type of pocket). Keep it there until you shake hands.

    If that doesn’t do it, go to a store like REI and get some hand warmers. Activate it before you enter the building and hold it in your pocket with a paper towel to absorb any sweat.

  13. Marzipan

    #3, a bit of anti-perspirant on your palm prior to interviews works wonders. (Obviously, nothing too strongly perfumed; applied far enough in advance that it isn’t wet/sticky itself; and maybe do a dry run, as it were, to check you’re happy).

    1. Sunflower

      I use dry shampoo on mine- it’s essentially baby powder in an aerosol can. I have a little travel bottle i keep in my purse.

  14. Saurs

    No. 3: if you’re a long-time reader here, no doubt you’ve come across tales of odd or bad or unreasonable interviewers, who because of their oddness, badness, or unreasonableness would probably make terrible, finicky, and unpredictable managers or co-workers. The same deal applies here. It’s a bit nerve-wracking and stomach-churning wanting to make a uniformly good impression but not being able to control weird, ephemeral, not-very-important things like clammy hands. If you happen to meet the kind of odd or bad or unreasonable person who might hold that against you — and the odds are against that — you wouldn’t want to work for them, anyway. If you wear long sleeves / are in a climate where long sleeves are comfortable, maybe slip a handkerchief up your sleeve to slip up casually and dab both hands with before a handshake is eminent. I kind of think the act of tucking it back in the sleeve always looks cool and sophisticated. (Then again, I used to unthinkingly do this with snot rags, and probably put a lot of people off. On the bright side: clammy hands are far more desirable than snotty ones. Buck up!)

    1. Saurs

      *maybe slip a handkerchief up your sleeve to pull out casually and dab both hands with before a handshake is imminent*

    2. Dynamic Beige

      I can kind of see having a handkerchief in your purse or pocket and wipe your hands down before meeting someone, even using something like Purel first and using the handkerchief to wipe up… but pulling it from out of your sleeve? And then you stuff it up the sleeve again afterwards? Unless you’re a professional magician, I can’t see that working. And if someone did pull a handkerchief out of their sleeve, I’d be worried they would try to pull a quarter out of my ear next or ask me to pick a card. Might make for a memorable interviewing experience but… nope.

        1. Alma

          In the Olden Days I was taught to place my ironed, folded, impeccably clean hankie up my sleeve – it was much more unusual for women’s garments to have pockets in them at that time.

  15. Grey

    #2: I’d seriously question my mentor’s credibility if she stayed silent while I hired her slacker friend.

    1. Undercovers

      Even slackers have rent to pay. And it’s none of the friend’s business. I mean that literally – it’s not her organization, it’s not her business.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        I’m not sure I see the point you are making, that slackers are entitled to some form of charity or should get a job just because they have living expenses to pay? Peoples behaviour and attitude follows them around and there is nothing wrong with people feeling the consequences of the actions.

        Personally I wouldn’t get involved but I can see why someone might want to speak up especially where a non profit is involved.

        1. neverjaunty

          Yeah, I don’t follow this reasoning at all. Does that mean that one should never, ever give a bad reference that might tank someone’s chances of getting a job, because after all they have rent to pay?

      2. Graciosa

        I’m very much in Apollo’s camp on this one. Where is it written that people should not suffer any consequences for their behavior? This kind of thinking seems to indicate that no matter how bad an employee the slacker would be, they should still be allowed to inflict harm on any company that doesn’t employ someone already in the know.

        I admit that I probably wouldn’t volunteer the information unless I had a solid relationship with a contact at the non-profit (gratuitous warnings from a relative stranger are less likely to be believed) but I would certainly share it if I knew someone well enough to have them pay attention. If the choice is between protecting an innocent party from harm and protecting a guilty one from suffering any consequences, I choose the former.

        If the slacker wants to be confident of their ability to pay the rent, maybe they should stop slacking off at work instead of relying on no one finding out.

      3. Colette

        People who aren’t slackers have bills to pay, too. Why should an organization hire a slacker instead of someone who will do a great job?

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            But why is that cold? It’s the reality of hiring; giving the job to this person who’s likely to be a bad employee means that you’re not giving it to someone who’s great and might be in dire financial straits, for all we know.

            Ultimately, you can’t make hiring decisions based on anyone’s personal circumstances; you have to hire the person most likely to do a good job, and it’s reasonable to take all the data you can get in figuring that out.

            1. BridgetG

              Well, it does seem cold if one person gets to make or break that decision and we’re not clear how they came by that information. Has LW#2 worked with their friend or are they judging them from the outside? A lot of people like to complain about work and brag about slacking off as some passive-aggressive way to “stick it to the man” and show how they just don’t let their cubicle farm jobs grind on them but is that actually what the friend is doing? Maybe she was a completely average employee when all is said and done – who knows?

              Also, not telling the “friend” just makes it seem cowardly and underhanded. If they really are your friend, you should tell them what you did and why.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                But there’s always one person who gets to make the decision: the hiring manager, taking into account data from all kinds of sources and deciding for themselves how to weigh/assess that data.

                1. Hiring Mgr

                  Something doesn’t add up in OP #2… She’s been fired and has a horrible outlook but is so good on paper? So how does she explain the firing? And by the way, plenty of people get fired and are then superstars. Maybe her outlook on work was related to the horrible job she just lost.

                  And there’s no way the org would know that the OP and candidate know each other? The long time friends are not connected on LI or some other way?

                  Good god just mind your business–no reason imo to willingly sabotage your friend. Tell her how great the org is and if she gets the role she really needs to step up, and then help her do that if you can. This is supposedly a long time friend of yours.

    2. LBK

      I don’t think the OP mentors the person that’s doing the hiring for the position. It doesn’t sound like she has enough connection to the actual hiring manager to be making that kind of contact, she just knows a few people at the organization as a whole. To me, that doesn’t form any kind of obligation towards them, nor does it provide the OP enough credibility with the organization for them to take heed of her warning.

      1. jmkenrick

        Yeah. And frankly, I don’t work with most of my friends and can’t really comment much on their work ethic, much like I can’t comment on my coworker’s abilities to be good parents or spouses.

  16. thisisit

    #2 – this one got me thinking of a situation at my old job:
    a manager (Cersei) and her direct report (Margaery) had a falling out. it was huge, and drama-filled, and not handled well by either party. Margaery is someone who could be described as thinking she’s better than everyone else (because she’s very good at her job and super smart), which results in her sometimes balking at doing jobs she thinks are beneath her. Cersei is somewhat insecure about her position (and also difficult to work with) and was constantly giving Margaery things to do that were indeed below the level of her position. it was a volatile situation.
    Cersei is well-respected in her field and after firing Margaery, essentially bad-mouthed her as lazy and arrogant to everyone, resulting in Margaery moving to another city to work in another field. anyone calling Cersei for reference would have gotten the impression that Margaery was the worst person in the world, but the one time I had to work with Margaery, I found her pleasant and easy enough to work with, though I’m not sure if I would do so in the long-term.

    But on the face of it, Margaery looks like someone who is lazy, has been fired, thinks she’s better than everyone else, and also has issues with being told what to do. But she’s a brilliant strategic/lateral thinker, at least in the big picture (sadly, she needs some upmanaging in terms of editing her work, because she’s not a details person). So I’m just wondering if OP’s friend has any redeeming qualities or extenuating circumstances that nuance her bad characteristics, or is just a terrible worker (because I have one of those friends too and when asked if I would work with her, I gave an unequivocal no).

    But either way, I wouldn’t give the opinion unsolicited, just because you aren’t close enough to do so. But if asked, I think absolutely give your thoughts, and be as specific as possible (ie, don’t say she’s lazy, give examples of how she failed to complete assignments, etc).

    1. Bekx

      I am amazed that you managed to summarize Game of Thrones AND your co-worker situation in one paragraph!

    2. LBK

      Did you choose those names because the relationship of the characters fits oddly well with the real story, or is that just a coincidence?

      1. thisisit

        haha, no I picked the names on purpose! This all went down before the TV show, but I had read the books at that point. Maybe I’d made the comparison even back then! Ha.

  17. The IT Manager

    Hmmm … LW#2 just has to decide what’s more important to her – decide what is he lessor of two evils for her. It’s entirely subjective.

    #1 – Friendship (this is also the passive response where she can just not act)

    #2 – success of the non-profit where she know people socially and mentored someone. This is the active response and is more likely to have negative repercussions (although if slacker friend is hired at non-profit, implodes and talks about her friendship with LW it could have a bit of blow back with her networking relationships)

    IMO there’s nothing wrong with LW deciding that she wants to protect a non-profit in her field (since these people are professional / social contacts) by warning them of a bad hire. It would be different if she didn’t know anyone at the non-profit and was just attempting to sabotage her friend at every where she’s looking.

    But this is a gray area, and anyone who says that only one option is right or morally superior is projecting their own biases on this situation.

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      I agree so much with this.

      It’s a tough call to make as to what the right thing to do is, and I think the intent of giving a reference matters a lot

    2. LBK

      Does the OP actually know the hiring manager, though? I don’t think she does based on her description of her connection to the organization, and I’d find it really weird if a stranger said “Hi, I know Jane and Stephanie at your organization and I mentor Kimmy, and you shouldn’t hire Buffy”. Unless the candidate shouldn’t be hired because she burned down the gym at her last job or something, it doesn’t sound like she’s done anything so horrible that I’d take heed of a warning from someone I’d never met before, even if they knew people I worked with. It would seem really out of left field.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        You wouldn’t do that though — you’d talk to the person you did know, and then they’d presumably mention it to the hiring manager, who could decide what to do from there (like a more diligent reference check).

        1. LBK

          Is that likely to give better results, honestly? Then it becomes a game of telephone. It would rely on the hiring manager trusting the opinion of the person you know, and that person trusting your opinion to begin with. If I as the middle party got this kind of information, I’d only pass it with a serious grain of salt caveat. At that point I’m not sure what the point is.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I actually see that kind of thing happen all the time — “I heard y’all were talking to X. I worked with her at Y. Let me know if you want to talk about her.” Or “My friend knows Jane and said Y.” You don’t take the word of someone you don’t know well as gospel, but it’s a flag to explore more.

            1. LBK

              Interesting. I wouldn’t think that would be given that much weight beyond what you would normally expect to do throughout a hiring process anyway, ie contact old managers for references.

    3. illini02

      I think, as LBK mentioned, it depends on WHO the OP knows there. From the letter it doesn’t sound like she knows the hiring manager or even the president, just random people there. So even if she were to go to the people she does know, it becomes a game of telephone. Jane (who doesn’t work here) told Billy in accounting who told the hiring manager XYZ about the candidate. If you don’t see the problem there, you should. If OP did call the hiring manager, well at that point the hiring manager is getting unsolicited advice about a candidate from a stranger, which is still weird.

      1. Colette

        If the OP felt she needed to take action, I’d say she should contact the people she knows and let them know she’s willing to talk to the hiring manager if the hiring manager is interested.

        1. Sunflower

          This would be so oddly overly aggressive I would seriously consider if OP had a vengeance against this candidate and wouldn’t believe anything she said.

      2. LBK

        Not to mention it’s unsolicited advice from a stranger who’s never even actually worked with this person. There’s too many levels of distance here for this to make sense – it’s going to make the OP come off as a loon, even if she’s making a completely valid and genuine effort. As the hiring manager I don’t think I’d be likely to take the advice into consideration except maybe to do thorough reference checks (but that’s assuming the hiring manager kind of sucks and wouldn’t be doing them anyway).

        1. Colette

          I don’t think the OP should expect the hiring manager to take her word for it (if she decides she needs to say something) – I think her goal should be to explain her concerns so the hiring manager could dig deeper in the interviews or reference checks.

          1. LBK

            That’s working from the assumption that the hiring manager is a bad one, which I guess is a valid concern but that seems like a bigger issue for the organization. Being lazy, getting fired and having a superiority complex aren’t dark secrets – they should come out relatively easily in any half-way decent interview.

    4. Dynamic Beige

      I think that if she was currently mentoring the hiring manager at the other organisation, which doesn’t seem to be the case, then she could point out things on résumés the hiring manager brought up as “what do you think might cause someone to job hop for X years? Do you think that their other credentials merit them coming in for an interview or being interviewed first on the telephone and why? What about this person, how do you think they compare, to the first one (the person you don’t know is my friend and I know stuff about that I can’t really tell you)?”

      If the job-hopping friend has put the LW on her résumé as a reference and LW is contacted by someone, then the LW is going to have to think long and hard about what to say. And how to have that conversation with her friend about ceasing to use her for a reference.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        But mentoring doesn’t require you to lead the person to their own answers; it’s totally okay (and often good) to say “here’s what I see going on and here’s what my advice would be.”

        1. Dynamic Beige

          I guess, never having had a mentor (or been one), I’ve never really thought about what the difference is between mentoring and teaching before. Because you’re right, no one would offer up information unless being asked, and there would be a question there or something the mentee would be unsure of in order to bring it up on more of a peer to peer relationship… I guess?

  18. B

    #1 – Yes, I would confront them especially if they knew garbage is not taken out over the time they used your space.

    #2 – Personally I say it is absolutely none of your business. The company should do their due diligence of checking references and looking further. However, if you do plan to go forward with this plan of yours to tell a company you do not work for and have no vested interest in (having friends their does not count, I am talking about being on the board, consulting, etc.) be very prepared to lose this friend as well as the possibility of others. Also, realize that your contacts might thank you but also wonder how much they should tell you for fear you one day may use it against them as well.

    1. B

      Rereading – confront is too strong of a word. I would “mention” it to them but also find out about the key situation and how they got in so you know for the future in case documents are left out.

  19. Not Today Satan

    Many people seem to agree that the alleged slacker is a terrible worker and I’m wondering: why? As I commented above, the LW hasn’t even worked with her. The friends sins are that she’s “been fired” (she doesn’t say multiple times so I’m guessing it happened once), “gets bored quickly” (are we sure she doesn’t just compare about a boring day at work to her friend? I’d wager most workers aren’t completely in love with and stimulated by their jobs), and “thinks she’s better than her coworkers” (if true, NAGL. But again, how do we know she’s not just venting about annoying coworkers to her friend)?

    If she’s a bad worker the employer will find this out during reference checks.

    1. nona

      People here tend to believe the OP. I’m assuming that (because I’m not assuming OP is lying or making things up) OP’s friend has told OP about what she has done.

      1. Not Today Satan

        I’m not assuming she’s lying either. I just think that a friend who hasn’t worked with someone isn’t the best judge of whether or not she’s a good worker. So I wouldn’t really care what a friend says. If the friend has a glowing reference I’d feel the same way–I wouldn’t hire the friend without checking actual professional references.

        1. JB (not in Houston)

          Eh, I have friends who I know enough about to know that I wouldn’t want to hire them. I can be friends with someone who is kind and supportive and has stuff in common with me but who is late to everything, doesn’t finish projects and quits things when she gets bored, can’t make decisions, doesn’t get professional norms. But I wouldn’t want to hire that person. It’s rare that that kind of behavior stays in the personal life and never drifts into work behavior. Plus, all of my friends talk about work some, so you get a feel for how they interact with people at their job, how long they stay at jobs, etc.

          1. LBK

            It’s rare that that kind of behavior stays in the personal life and never drifts into work behavior.

            Completely disagree. For one thing, the stakes are a lot higher at work – I certainly care a lot more about finishing work projects vs. finishing cleaning up my room, because I can’t get fired for the latter. I also tend to expend all my organizational energy and motivation at work, so that translates to laziness in my personal life sometimes.

            1. Mike C.

              I’m with LBK here. For one thing, I don’t dare start racking up duck club points until after I’m off company property.

              1. LBK

                HA! I hope this new meme lives on in the AAM lexicon forever, alongside Wakeen and Hannukah balls.

                1. Dynamic Beige

                  Wakeen’s Duck Club, rack up enough points and win some Hannukah balls! (Or, use your Hannukah balls to rack up points!)

            2. JB (not in Houston)

              I see what you’re saying, and I agree that not every habit outside of work also comes up at work. I’m way more organized at work than I am at home because I work too much to have time to keep my home pristine. I dress like a slob at home, and I talk to my friends in a way I don’t talk to my coworkers. I’m not talking about that kind of thing. And my friends have seen me in a variety of situations and circumstances and see what parts of me change depending on the situation and those parts that don’t.

              But some traits definitely seem to translate to some degree. Your experience may be very different. But I’ve never known anyone who was consistently late for every social engagement who wasn’t also frequently late to work. I’ve never known anyone who gets bored and quits every new thing they pick up (especially if they aren’t quickly good at ai) who also didn’t give up on anything difficult in other areas of their lives, including at work. I’ve never known anyone who had difficulty making any kind of decision in their personal life (can’t pick a movie, can’t pick what to eat for dinner, can’t pick what clothes to buy) who had an easy time making decisions at work (and as someone who has trouble making decisions, I see this in me personally). People who think it’s ok to be invasive about the personal lives of everyone they meet socially tend to be that way with coworkers, too.

              Yes, things have to balance out, so I wouldn’t assume that somebody who lets something slide at home would be like that at work. But consistent patterns of behavior in every area of their personal life, patterns that show up even when they have the ability to do something different (like running late because they’re trying to corral small children vs. people who are always always always late), I think you’re going to see some of that translate to work to some degree. Circumstances may cause people to do things differently than they otherwise would, but when people have habits that are consistent across all circumstances in their personal lives, that says something about them, and it’s going to creep in at work.

              This comment was way longer than it probably needed to be–and now everyone here knows one of my traits is that I am not good at being concise. And that is true at work and in my personal life. :)

              1. illini02

                I’m going to somewhat disagree here. For example, I have a great friend that I worked with at one point. He is ALWAYS late for social gatherings. Never once did he show up late for work. There are many people like that. They prioritize being on time because that can affect their livelihood, whereas for social gatherings they don’t prioritize it. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely hate that habit. However, I don’t think because one has one trait in social situations that its necessarily like that professionally.

              2. LBK

                I’m actually that person you describe – punctual at work, late in personal life; decisive at work, indecisive in personal life; I love learning new things as well as occasionally zoning out for some mindless processing at work, while I prefer to stick to the favorite activities I know I enjoy in my personal life.

                I really think it all comes down to how you view work, which to me is that it’s extremely high stakes and those stakes are based on my reputation. I’m much less concerned about my reputation in my personal life; not that I don’t care what people think about me, but I’m less worried about having a reputation as a late person when it comes to parties or dinners because friends tend to get over it easier than managers.

              3. Helen of What

                I have to admit, your examples of bad behavior hits close to home. But a lot of people really do act differently at work than with friends. I’m almost ALWAYS late to social functions because it doesn’t actually matter if I’m on time (and I usually don’t know where I’m going exactly, and get lost). Unless it’s something like a movie where they can’t really start without me. At work, I’m punctual. At dinner, I’m indecisive. At work, I quickly work out which option works best. I’m not sure about the getting bored one, which is totally true in my personal life but hasn’t come up at work yet. (I’m more likely to get bored by easy tasks at work.)

                But regardless of my personal flaws, I think the OP should mind her own, here. It doesn’t directly affect her, and would reflect poorly on her in the eyes of those at the hiring org. If I heard someone’s friend called/wrote in to give a negative reference, I would think there was some personal conflict and that they were purposely trying to sabotage a friend’s career.

              4. Jamie

                But I’ve never known anyone who was consistently late for every social engagement who wasn’t also frequently late to work.

                Raising hand! I don’t need a therapist to tell me I do this because I hate those engagements so I avoid getting ready until the very last second and waste a lot of time bitching about going.

                This is one area you really can’t draw the correlation because I absolutely know people who struggle with being late for work and don’t have that issue for personal stuff. Everyone’s reasoning may be different but being consistently late in one area doesn’t mean it will be universal.

            3. Jamie

              This – I’m with LBK. I am constantly late in my personal life, completely tense and anxious with people I don’t know, and a lot less organized than I am at work. I’m rarely late professionally, I confident and assured when meeting new people, and am ridiculously organized.

              Also, tbh, I’m sure people who know me casually would think I’m far crankier and more cynical than I am because anecdotes and one liners about reasonable and intelligent end users aren’t amusing. Ditto the people who know me casually at work would certainly be surprised to know how often I put on puppet shows to entertain my cats, or baby talk when I rub the pups tummies.

          2. Sadsack

            Right, but do you go out of your way to track down potential employers where your friend is applying to tell them not to hire her?

            1. JB (not in Houston)

              ? Was that in response to my comment? Because I didn’t say that, and my comment wasn’t in response to someone saying they would.

        2. nona

          Maybe. I think that you can get an idea of how a friend works if you went to school with them, volunteered together, organized something together, etc.

          I was in leadership in some student organizations in college. I definitely have some opinions on other group leaders. I wouldn’t say anything to a hiring manager I knew if they applied for jobs, but if they asked me to be a reference, I couldn’t do it.

    2. illini02

      I agree. I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve complained about jobs and boredom to my friends. Hell, I may have said that my co-workers are idiots before (Which could come off as me thinking I’m better than them. While I have never gotten fired, we don’t even know the reason for that. How I may talk about work when I’m out socially and how I perform in the office can be very different things, which is why the OPs opinions don’t carry much weight (at least from what she has written here)

    3. LBK

      I agree, actually. A friend is most likely to only hear about the worst parts of a job. My friends probably think I’m bored and that I think I’m superior to everyone at my office too since I only complain about the boring parts and I only talk about the stupid people I don’t like working with. Being fired is definitely bad but I’m hesitant to say it’s immediately damning without any context or reason stated.

    4. neverjaunty

      Because as AAM has said in the past, generally we don’t assume that letter writers are lying. It seemed pretty obvious that the OP was giving examples of behavior that was a result of their friend’s being a bad worker, not saying ‘and because of these three things I have concluded she is a bad employee’.

      1. LBK

        As Not Today Satan said above, I’m fine with taking the OP at her word that the coworker says she gets bored or thinks she’s better than people, but there’s no way she has enough information to conclude that the friend would be a bad employee because she hasn’t worked with her. You just can’t know from the outside well enough to be making reference calls about it.

        1. neverjaunty

          I don’t think you always have to work with a friend to know they’re a bad employee. If a friend of mine who works in a restaurant routinely tells stories about how he dropped food on the floor and served it anyway, or stole liquor from the bar, or rants about how unfair it is that they’re expected to show up on time, I’d feel pretty confident in thinking that person is a bad employee even if we’ve never worked together.

          1. LBK

            Those are serious and specific offenses, though – if she had a history of stealing from the company, I’d be more on board with bringing that up to the hiring manager. But being bored by work (who isn’t sometimes?) and thinking you’re better than your coworkers (who doesn’t sometimes?) doesn’t even come close to the level that I think there’s any obligation to report them.

            1. Dynamic Beige

              Or how does that “thinks she’s better/smarter than others” manifest? I’d bet everyone has had at least one time where they’ve thought they were the one-eyed person in the land of the blind at each job they’ve ever had — including the letter writer. Bosses/managers make policies or enforce policies that are stupid/ineffective/short-sighted/whatever that they either have to go along with ’cause it comes from above or think up themselves with no actual conception of how something works. If this friend has some kind of entitlement “I should be running this place, I could do a better job with one hand tied behind my back — so what if I graduated last week?” thing going on or a need to tear others down to make herself feel better or she’s venting like everyone does about their work or she is genuinely a super-genius who is frustrated because she’s in the wrong field and trying to force something to prove some point… there are a lot of reasons. She’s going to have to live with the results and it’s not up to the LW or anyone to hire someone they think is going to be a bad employee and that may be what has to happen to get this friend to get real about her behaviour. Who knows?

        2. Lindsay J

          I have enough information about my friend to know that she’s a bad employee, despite never working with her.

          In high school, she quit several jobs after one day, or halfway through the first day – not even enough time to figure out whether you like the job or hate the job. And that kind of behavior has continued through her adult life. Her most recent job she left she sent a dramatic “f-you” email when quitting. She rarely stays at jobs for more than a year. And every single job she has ever had becomes “toxic” in her mind once she decides she wants to leave or after she leaves. I’m willing to believe that one or two jobs have been toxic environments, but not every job she has had in her adult life. Toxic in her mind seems to translate to “they tell me ‘no’ sometimes.”

          Plus, after listening to her rant about so many conflicts she’s encountered in the workplace, where even though she’s the one presenting all the information about the conflict to me I can tell that she’s likely the one in the wrong, I can conclude that she is difficult to work with on a daily basis.

          I absolutely would never recommend her for a job with a company I work for, and if she applied I would absolutely tell the hiring manager what I know about her. I wouldn’t contact a random company she was applying to out of the blue, though. A company where I know several people would be a gray area.

      2. Ultraviolet

        Asking the OP, “Do you think that X could be happening? X seems consistent with your observations and also my experience in apparently similar situations” is in no way an accusation of lying. There are more and less aggressive ways of asking it, and I think it’s important to make it clear that you’re not demanding the OP prove that their interpretation of events is better than yours. But I don’t think these questions are inherently rude or in violation of the “take OP at their word” policy.

  20. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    Not to defend the perp in OP 1, but I am such-a-slob, and I’m not aware of the messes I am leaving unless I am really concentrating on my immediate world. I literally don’t see mess.

    Because I am aware I am such-a-slob, I’m hyper vigilant to not leave messes should I ever borrow somebody else’s space. (I’m so nervous, I rarely borrow a space unless I absolutely have to.)

    My point: find the guy and tell ’em. Expect an apology and a promise not to do it again. It may not be ill intent, but cluelessness. There was some point in my life it was driven home to me that this is Not Okay.

    1. Sarah Nicole

      But I think the part they may be more concerned with is that someone entered their locked office without permission and proceeded to do anything in there, whether it be make a mess or even just stand around. I would feel uncomfortable if I had been away for a few days and came back to find that someone was using my locked office at all. The mess is just more on top of that to me. And really, I’m not sure if that’s an excuse for most people. If I were a guest in someone else’s office even by permission, I would clean up after myself.

  21. illini02

    After reading a lot of these responses for #2, I really have to wonder do any of you have a line, or do you think its your job to inform any potential employer about any past perceived wrongdoing. I remember a last week people even were saying if the applicant knows someone who has done bad things then potential employees deserve to know. I mean, this isn’t like calling the cops on a drunk driver where you can say you are looking out for the public good. This is going out of your way to prevent someone from getting a job. And in this case its coming from someone who hasn’t even worked with this person. I guess none of you have things in your past that you think should be left there. It would be a shame for those of you agreeing with this poster if some random person went to the next job you were applying for and spilled your dirty laundry

    1. Colette

      There’s a difference between sharing irrelevant information and information relevant to how that candidate would perform on the job. There’s also a difference between calling up random strangers to rant about people you know and sharing specific information with someone you do know.

      There’s no code that requires you to put the desire of a poor candidate to get a job above the wants or needs of other people or organizations you respect or admire, particularly if keeping quiet will negatively affect your reputation.

      1. illini02

        “There’s also a difference between calling up random strangers to rant about people you know and sharing specific information with someone you do know”

        This is EXACTLY what the OP would be doing, since they don’t know the hiring manager, or at least from what we see here.

        1. Dynamic Beige

          A few months back, there was a letter about someone who found out that a person that used to volunteer for their organisation was being considered for a volunteer position at another organisation. The problem was, the Volunteer had been removed for inappropriate contact with a child they were volunteering with and this new position was also to volunteer with children. I can’t remember specifically if the LW had been asked for a reference or something, or had just found out about it organically. What the Volunteer did never resulted in criminal charges and, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, nothing serious had happened. The LW was wondering whether or not they should call up the other place and explain to them why they shouldn’t consider this Volunteer. The LW had never worked with the Volunteer and I don’t think knew anything about them other than this bad thing that happened. The LW also didn’t know the people at the other organisation. In that case, since there were children involved, many people here said that cluing in the organisation about what had happened and why the Volunteer was no longer associated with them was the right thing to do as this incident would not come up on a background check if the new organisation opted to do one, which they might not have, thinking the LW’s organisation would have done one. So there’s that.

          If the LW’s friend had done something criminal, LW might want to speak up but otherwise “she a bad employee, she thinks she’s smarter than everyone else” just seems like jealous schoolkid tattling.

      2. LBK

        But the OP doesn’t have any relevant information about how the candidate will perform at the job. She’s never worked with her. She also doesn’t know the person making the hiring decision, as far as we know from the letter.

        Let me put it this way – if you had a friend you’d never worked with but who told you they’d gotten good reviews from their managers and been really successful with some big projects, would you be comfortable recommending them for the job? Would you call up a hiring manager you didn’t know directly to give that recommendation?

        I think we’re reading the OP’s connection to this organization at completely different levels. I’m friends with a few people that all work for the same company, but I’d never dream of calling up someone I’d never met there to tell them about a hiring decision.

        1. Colette

          I think it depends on the specifics. If I had a friend who had won numerous awards, I’d be comfortable recommending them to someone I know and offering to speak to the hiring manager. Similarity, if the OP has personal knowledge of her friend that she believes may be missed during the hiring process (because, for example, she knows her friend has let jobs off her resume), I think it’s ok for her to reach out to her contacts.

          1. illini02

            But would you do this unsolicited? If I knew some random person in accounting at a company, and my friend was applying for a job there in marketing, I’d feel very weird saying “Hey Joe, so my friend Ben is applying at your company, in a completely different role than you. From what they have told me, they have gotten great reviews, but I’ve never ACTUALLY worked with them. If you would like to put the hiring manager in touch with me, I’d be happy to recommend them and be a reference”. That sounds absurd, because all you are going by is what they told you, and you are doing this completely unsolicited. This is the same thing.

          2. LBK

            This all comes from the assumption that the hiring manager is too incompetent to do their own research; either awards or firings should come up during any moderately competent manager’s hiring process. I just don’t see the added value when your opinion as a stranger carries no more weight to the hiring manager than Googling the candidate’s name would.

            I would only do this if I knew the friend had historical been successful at sweeping something really major under the rug, like somehow getting away with hiding the fact that she’d stolen from her employer. I think there’s maybe an argument to be made that even if the hiring manager is totally incompetent, you have an obligation to the organization’s mission as a non-profit to try to help sway their decision making process…but I think that’s so far out of the OP’s scope as someone who has minor ties to the organization at best. If they suck at hiring to the point that it’s damaging the success of their mission, you aren’t going to help them survive by trying to influence this one hiring decision.

        2. fposte

          I run more to this side. I think there’s a formula to an unsolicited comment on an applicant–you either have to be really close to the person who’s hiring, really close to the work that’s being done, or really sure of something criminally serious and relevant (it doesn’t go for positives because you can be pretty sure that Nobel Prize winners will have that on their CVs). This is a mild association with the prospective employee, no experience working with the candidate, and nothing criminally serious, so I’d say pass.

          And if I hired somebody who didn’t work out later and found out I knew someone who knew them, I can’t imagine holding it against the friend–everybody we hire has friends, and we’re a small town so we often know them, and we almost never hear from them, because that would be weird. If the issue is that she’s been fired and she’s a runner, I should be able to find that out just fine on my own.

          1. fposte

            In the second “really close,” I mean “really close to the work of the candidate”–I don’t think that was clear.

            1. jmkenrick

              I agree with you 100%. I don’t think that OP should say anything, but not because it would be jealous or tattle-tailing, or because slackers deserve jobs too, but because it doesn’t sound like she really knows the situation well enough to offer any useful insights.

              I can’t see where it’s been brought up, but I would even wonder if going out of her way to warn the organization about a friend she suspects is a slacker could actually make her look bad. (Sort of in the same vein as if someone assures you that their relative or friend or spouse will be a “perfect fit” even if they’re not familiar with your org and have never worked with this person. It makes you wonder about their judgement.)

          2. LBK

            Yeah, I agree that it’s odd that people are worried about the OP’s reputation if she doesn’t bring this up. Bad hiring decisions get made all the time, I’m sure none of those hiring managers holds it against random strangers that knew the employee that didn’t rush in to warn them about it.

          3. Jamie

            That’s excellent criteria – I wouldn’t say anything in this case either. And anyone who would think less of me because I didn’t voluntarily opine on someone with whom I’ve never worked …I can’t see caring about that.

        3. Lindsay J

          I wouldn’t call up the hiring manager and directly give the reccomendation.

          However, if I did know people at the org, and I knew my friend was applying, I would mention to the people at the org that I do know that “hey, I know my friend Wakeen is applying for the open Chocolate Tea Coordinator position at your company. She’s really great! She’s amazing at her job and absolutley lives and breathes chocolate teapots.”

          There might be an employee referral program that my friend could offer to submit Wakeen through that could benefit both of them. Or my friend might be someone who speaks to the hiring manager on a casual basis or in the process of the hiring manager’s work and be in a position to put in a good word for Wakeen if it got brought up in conversation. Or they might just say, “Okay,” and leave it at that, but at least I would feel like I tried.

          I wouldn’t offer to be put in touch with the hiring manager because the hiring manager doesn’t know me and my word wouldn’t have any more sway than anyone else that they called in the reference checking process or any other random person off the street. Hopefully my word would have more sway with my friends at the org, who presumably know me to be sane and responsible etc. And hopefully their words might have sway with the hiring manager for the same reasons – that they’re a known, sane, responsible quantity.

    2. BridgetG

      I kind of wonder if it isn’t a management vs. workers divide we see on some of these questions.

      So the friend in #2 has been fired – that seems the one that could potentially be damning as the rest is the poor friend thinking she can trust #2 and blow off some steam about work in confidence. What was the friend fired for? How long ago? How old was the friend? What kind of job was it? And more importantly – who hasn’t been fired? I was fired once after two weeks from a telemarketing gig because I was “a nice person” but couldn’t meet quotas. Fair enough. We live in the Land of the Right to Work, Home of the Underpaid. Odds are, at some point you will get fired from a job for reasons that may or may not be bullshit.

      And on that note, it’s kind of funny seeing these hyper-judgmental comments about other people’s work ethics being posted when it’s between 9-5 on a weekday. I’m just sayin’.

      1. Fact & Fiction

        Regarding the last comment: not everyone is in the U.S., not everyone works M-F 9-5, and even those who do get breaks. :)

  22. icy clammy fingers

    Whenever someone tries to shake my hand, I just tell them that I’m coming down with a cold. I have terrible circulation so my hands are always icy, purple, and sweating (a sexy combination), so literally every time I shake hands, the person gets grossed out and then starts giving me medical advice. Awkward.

  23. De Minimis

    Thanks for the advice on #5, I’m in the same situation, about to move out of a role where there won’t really be anyone to fully take over the responsibilities. They have trouble handling things when I go on vacation for a week.

    I’m putting together documentation now and organizing things. You can at least work to prepare for the transition even if your manager won’t.

  24. Dasha

    #5 please, please, please leave usernames and passwords. It is a hassle for a new employee, who is trying to learn a new role to try and reset everything or contact site admins.

  25. Retail Lifer

    #5 Take all of the advice on the comment thread started by M. My company has high turnover and no real training in place, and we don’t cross-train. I walked into a job with next to no info, and so has my co-worker. At least my co-worker’s predecessor left her with some how-to documents, checklists, people to call, etc. in a binder. Also, is it possible to cross-train someone else in just the most essential parts of your job? I don’t know how realistic that is given the timeframe and the fact that everyone else has their own jobs to do, but it could help keep things functional until a replacement is found.

    Hopefully your boss will figure out how to handle things after you leave, but that’s not your problem if he doesn’t. You’ve done the right thing by working out your two weeks and trying to ease the transition, but like Alison said, it’s on him now.

  26. Lisa

    #4 – When I get these questions, I want to immediately end the interview. Because it is clearly a gimmick vs. to see how I respond. I’d rather be asked to do a presentation to showcase my actual thought process than talking about jelly beans on a 747.

    I’ve been doing this work for 11 years and my industry is thriving and in demand, I don’t need to jump through hoops during interviews and I have turned down interviews when the recruiter preps me that they will ask these types of questions. Employers are doing themselves a disservice by asking these questions. The people that are in demand are turned off by these questions, and it often makes them choose not to move forward to additional conversations because it tells us a lot about the hiring manager that would choose to put value into a question that is not related to the actual work or what success looks like.

    1. steve g

      I would welcome such questions!!!!

      The “trend” I’m seeing with the twelve companies I’ve interviewed with so far is no preparation. As in, they come to the table with no questions, or if they do, they are just a few generic ones.

      Nothing is worse than an interview ending and you feeling like you could have had a much deeper conversation, but the interviewer wasn’t asking any probing questions or ones pertaining to the job, or heaven forbid, about your resume. Big points on my resume are upselling, template building in excel, and working on huge market penalty cases. Interviewers don’t ask about those items though!

      At least if I got a brain teaser, I’d have a chance to prove that I’m smart in a context that the interviewer understands. This would be especially helpful during first round HR phone screens. I’ve spoken with a few very young, almost entry level HR reps who don’t seem to get what is hard/easy or learnable vs not about mid-level business jobs. Again, any way to empirically show intelligence/wit/ability to think on my feet with them? I’m all for it

        1. steve g

          I know, but that can be hard as well when the hr person doesn’t know much about the job and the interviewer doesn’t ask much or starts with “any questions?”. At some point I need them to offer up some conversation or questions to get the thing rolling

    2. Ditto

      I’m with you, Lisa. Yes, it is voluntarily self-selecting out of a job. But, I have little patience for jellybean trivia. In that way, it’s an indicator that we might not see eye-to-eye in our overall approach.

    3. AnonAnalyst

      This. I’m at a level in my career where you can ask me behavioral interview questions or give me a scenario similar to the work you’d actually want me to do and ask how I would approach it and get answers that will give you much more insight into how I work. I can (and have) turned down interviews where I knew in advance this was part of their process. When it’s been sprung on me unexpectedly, I have not been a happy camper and have seriously reconsidered my interest in the position (in fact, I have actually withdrawn from some hiring processes where this happened because I quite frankly was no longer interested in working for companies that think this is a valuable assessment technique).

  27. Amber Rose

    I hate brain teasers. Because I’m a smart ass. If i’m asked why manhole covers are round, my first thought is because manholes are round.

    Oh, I know the right answers. But gimmicky crap questions don’t inspire me to be thoughtful and creative, they annoy me and my stubborn side starts digging in heels.

    1. steve g

      But since you are witty you could just put it too good use and come up with an answer that makes you look wittier

      Like with manholes…you could say they are round because the square ones used more metal, which wasted material, raised costs, and made them heavier to transport. Also, I’ve noticed square manhole covers for coned here, so maybe this is part of a code where workers know square is a utility hole, and circle is for sewer.

      I just came up with those on my own, I swear!

      1. nona

        Round ones can’t fall through the opening they sit in. :)

        Had a teacher ask this when I was 14 – I said the corners of a square one could hurt someone if the cover fell.

        1. steve g

          But the coned square covers here in nyc look to be over an inch bigger on the rims that the hole – no way for them to ever fall in either. I hope no one got that wrong for pointing that out!

          Though the safety with angled edges is a good answer too :-).

          1. Annie

            They could fall in, if you stood the square cover on one edge and placed it diagonally on its corresponding hole.

            1. fposte

              I think what Steve is saying is that the flange or lip is so large that the width/length of the cover is still greater than the hypotenuse of the hole.

              Still seems less efficient than just making them round, but maybe there’s equipment that has to go through it or something.

              1. Gene

                As someone who deals with manhole covers on a weekly basis, I’ll throw my two cents in here.

                Manhole covers are round so they can’t fall down their own hole.

                I’ve sent multiple rectangular catch basin grates down the hole, it doesn’t take much of a tilt at the wrong angle. They are a royal pain in the butt to get back, especially if the hole is over a couple of feet deep, even worse if there are feet of water in there. For a square cover to not be able to fall through its hole, it would need to be the square root of 2 larger than the side dimension of the hole. So, for a 2 foot square hole, the cover would have to be 2′ 10″ on a side.

                I’d almost bet money the ConEd covers are actually vault doors and are hinged on one side.

        2. Stone Satellite

          When first asked this, I guessed it was because manhole covers are heavy (are they? I’ve never tried to lift one) so it would be easier to move them by rolling them on edge. Was not an interview question, though.

          1. Gene

            26 inch cast iron manhole covers (usual size around here) typically run 100-150 pounds. That’s why we don’t actually lift them, we pry until they are canted in the ring, then slide them off. Aluminum ones run about 40-60 pounds.

            We had a temp one time (the stories of ‘E’ – for a later Open Thread) who had never dealt with manhole covers. I showed him the proper technique for the iron ones. Later that week we went someplace that had an aluminum one, he practically fell over when I stuck one finger in the pickhole and just lifted it out. :-)

      2. Sadsack

        I am pretty sure getting hit in the head with a manhole cover would be really, really painful, regardless of the cover’s shape.

  28. Joey

    #1. So here’s the deal. You expect privacy because access is limited to what you think are 3 keys. But what you’re forgetting is its not your space. It’s the employers space and if they want to let someone else work there while you’re gone you’re going to have to accept that. That said I think telling a co worker to stay out of “your” office isnt a good idea, especially when your boss doesn’t see an issue with it.

    But, it is a dick move for someone to leave a mess that you have to deal with. So I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say “hey Bob, if you need to use my office when I’m gone that’s cool, but please do me a favor and clean up. You left crumbs everywhere and my office smelled like a greasy diner when I came in.”

    1. LBK

      It’s not clear how Bob got access to the office or who decided he could use the space, though, which is concerning. If a manager said “Sure, you can use Jane’s space today,” then I completely agree that it’s up to the business to decide who they want to let access/use what areas. I read it as Bob being a peer to the OP, not a superior.

      1. LBK

        Oh, and I also think it depends what the office space situation is usually like. Yes, your employer can dictate who uses “your” space and how, but if you’re in an office where it’s really atypical for anyone to work in someone else’s usual space (my office, for example), it’s not unreasonable to be at least a little miffed to find out someone was in “your” space without any mention of it to you, even if you don’t really have any claim to it. My desk has my pictures, my water bottle, my coffee mug, my trinkets, etc. – I don’t own the space, no, but it’s still personal to me to an extent.

        1. JB (not in Houston)

          Yes, exactly. In my office, everyone has their own space. Most people have personalized theirs with their own stuff. It would be very odd and boundary-crossing to work in someone else’s space. If I came back to work and found that someone had worked in my office, left greasy trash in the trash can, and left crumbs everywhere, I’d be pretty annoyed. Yes, it’s really the employer’s space and not mine, but there is a reasonable expectation, derived from the usual custom of the office, that people will stay out of your assigned space. But then clearly not everyone works in that kind of office.

  29. YandO

    re: Clammy Hands

    I am so relieved to see that I am not the only person with that problem. I hate it. It makes me so uncomfortable.

    Wiping my hands does not help, but fanning them does. I hold one hand steady and then use the other hand to fan my palm. This is not a permnant solution or a long-lasting one, but it works right before you need to shake hands and can be done discreetly.

  30. DPA

    #3 – I understand that when you have a condition it’s easy to be embarrassed about it, but I think you’re making a bigger deal about the handshake than it is. I’ve been shaking hands on a daily basis for 30 years and the only ones that stand out to me as bad handshakes are the ones who weren’t firm, and gave me the “lip fish” shake. I’ve shaken cold hands, wet hands, hot hands, etc and it’s not a big deal, so don’t stress yourself out about it. Keep your mind on the interview and what you plan to say and don’t get distracted by something that’s not a big deal at all!

  31. Marilyn

    #2 (Regina George, is that you?) – Rule of thumb in friendships and in life: If you catch yourself thinking seriously about whether you should throw your friend under the bus, it’s time to evaluate whether you actually care about or value this person as a friend. Think about this BEFORE you fire off an anonymous letter seeking validation and head pats for doing something that could be fatal to someone’s career and negatively impact them for years to come. The organization is probably equipped to recover from a bad hire, but your “friend” will have a much more difficult time recovering from a reputation-destroying move. The fact that you seem more concerned about your duty to an organization (one that isn’t your employer) than your friend is something worth examining.

  32. Name

    Wow. With “friends” like #2 who needs enemies. You need to remove yourself from this person’s life. You are not beneficial to them if going behind her back is honestly what you do to your friends. Awful!

    1. Beezus

      Well, there are friends, and there are friends. I have actual friends, and then I have people in my life like my husband’s high school best friend Rich. They were dear friends many many years ago, and Mr. Beezus is sentimental and gives people too much leeway, so they’re still in touch and I can’t really avoid socializing with Rich occasionally, but he’s a grade-A jerkwad and has some of the same workplace issues the OP described, and I would have the same dilemma as the OP. Rich really isn’t my friend in the strictest sense of the word, and I try to avoid using the word “friend” in situations like that, but it is a succinct way to describe someone I know more than just casually in a social capacity.

      1. illini02

        I don’t even get why this would be a dilemma. Its more like malice. You would be going out of your way to screw with Rich’s chance of getting a job. You weren’t asked, you just for whatever reason feel obligated to do things to him because you don’t like him.

        Also, while I’m not married, so I can’t speak as an authority. I think the fact that you would consider sabatoging your husbands friend is a jerk move. I get that you don’t like him, but he is someone important in your husbands life. If nothing else, that should trump your perceived obligation to an organization you have nothing to do with. What if he did that to you?

        1. Beezus

          I am saying I would consider sharing pertinent factual information about one person I know, with other people I know, to protect a cause I care about. Having a problematic work history is on Rich, not on me, and I am assuming that I have at least a casual social relationship with the fictional people on the other side too, so I have obligations on both ends. It’s not about screwing Rich over because I don’t like him, it’s about deciding that which obligation trumps the other, and I’m saying that there are circumstances where Rich would lose. It’s a tough question.

          (My husband can see people’s flaws and he knows my opinion of Rich. I’m pretty accommodating when it comes to friends I don’t care for – I will gamely socialize and stay on good terms, and I tolerate a lot of things for his sake that I wouldn’t tolerate otherwise. He backs me up when I do draw a line, and he would agree that he’s got the better end of the deal when it comes to friends/family diplomacy and baggage.)

  33. Elder Dog

    #1: Your boss’ boss stopped by and said he saw someone in your office because he was trying to cover up the fact he let them in, either accidentally or on purpose. Since you didn’t make a fuss, it’s OK for him to do that again.
    Let me repeat that. Since you didn’t make a fuss, it’s OK for him to do that again.

    Talk to your boss, and tell him you’re concerned about your sensitive work data, and that you’ll be blamed if it’s stolen or otherwise made public, and also (but secondarily) concerned about your personal property that you pay for yourself being taken or broken. Ask him to help you ensure the integrity of your workspace so the data you are responsible for isn’t compromised. That’s his job.

    You can even ask your boss’ boss to help you ensure the integrity of your workspace to protect the sensitive data, but I wouldn’t expect much from that quarter.

    Certainly whoever was in your office should be asked how she got in, and why she thought it was OK to use your office even if she found it unlocked and why she didn’t clean up after herself. But your boss needs to make sure she understands moving herself into someone else’s office when there is sensitive information in it means she will be held responsible if anything happens to that data.

    Maybe you can get a new lock that has a button you can set so it automatically locks when the door is closed, so your boss’ boss can’t forget to lock it behind him if he goes in when you’re not there.

    1. fposte

      But it’s okay for him to do it again whether the OP made a fuss or not. He has more authority over that space than she does.

  34. OP1

    I appreciate so many for weighing-in on our issue. Kim and I have been reading through and you have given us some additional perspective. To clarify a few things: there is no option for us to get the lock changed (think: enormous bureaucratic organization) and we do have the lock set to automatically lock the door when it is closed.
    It is also not an option for us to escalate this issue. There was no actual or potential data breach because we follow our organization’s protocol, our office door could be left wide-open allowing anyone to use it and we would not be risking data. In an organization with very serious issues, this would be perceived as a ridiculously petty one to take up the chain.
    The crux of the dilemma as I saw it was a that a boundary was definitely crossed by using our office without permission and insult was added to injury by the mess that was left but my inclination was to let it go. My reasons to let it go are because our work culture sucks and because the offender is sensitive and moody. I wondered whether our open and friendly attitude inadvertantly caused this person to feel that it was OK to use our office without asking.
    Kim wanted to address this with the offender right away which I now believe was the correct thing to do. And I feel bad that my hesitation influenced Kim’s right to speak up–even if it was only for herself. Regardless of how the offender would have reacted, we should have expressed a simple statement similar to what many of you have suggested: while it may have been ok to use our space if it was unlocked by big-boss, it was not ok to leave a stinky mess.
    Kim and I also decided that we will continue to be open, share, be friendly, etc. I think that is just our nature and it would be too difficult to stop just because the occasional person takes advantage.

    1. jmkenrick

      Thanks for the follow-up. For the record, I really admire that while there are flaws in your work, you choose to focus your efforts on the parts of the job that you have control over rather than dwell on the negative.

  35. JHS

    Lawyer here. Two words for OP #2: tortious interference. I’m surprised no one has mentioned that you can actually be sued for interfering with someone getting a job. Additionally, depending on how accurate the information OP has on her “friend” (if you can really be a friend who wants to sabotage their friend’s career), OP could also be liable for defamation.

    On a non-lawyer, personal level, I strongly believe OP should stay out of it if she hasn’t worked with her “friend” or supervised her.

    1. JB (not in Houston)

      Tortious interference laws must be different in your state than mine, because this fact situation wouldn’t get you there where I live.

  36. I'm a Little Teapot

    OP #2: There are (at least) three reasons why this is a terrible idea.

    1. Have you even worked with your friend? If not, how are you so sure she’s a terrible hire? Just because she blows off steam in private about being bored and being annoyed with the dumb things her coworkers do doesn’t mean she’s a lousy employee. And lots of people have been fired. Doesn’t mean they’re worthless people who should never get a job anywhere else. People make mistakes, jobs are bad fits, people are unable to do their jobs for medical or mental health reasons, or people are immature and grow out of it or screw-ups whose firing is a wake-up call. Or people are fired for stupid reasons, and the real problem is the boss, the coworkers, or the organization. I’ve seen plenty of talk here and elsewhere about how it’s bad that people with criminal records can’t get jobs and leads to homelessness and recidivism and such; do you really think people who’ve been fired should be unable to get another job? And have you thought about what the consequences of that would be?

    2. If word gets back to your “friend” about this, she’s unlikely to remain your friend afterward. If someone I considered a friend used things I’d told her in a private social setting to deliberately sabotage my ability to earn a living, I would almost certainly cut off contact immediately and permanently and never forgive her. Furthermore, I’d warn any mutual acquaintances about what a backstabber she was. B’s comment above – “Also, realize that your contacts might thank you but also wonder how much they should tell you for fear you one day may use it against them as well” is also worth considering. As is illini02’s comment about how maybe we shouldn’t be so sure our own pasts are so spotless that no one could ever use them against us.

    3. You’re probably going to come across as malicious, a busybody, or a loon to the folks at the nonprofit. Imagine an AAM letter from a hiring manager: “An acquaintance contacted me to tell me I shouldn’t hire her longtime friend she’s never worked with because her friend gets bored easily, thinks she’s smarter than her coworkers, and was once fired from a job. Should I pay attention?” It’s rather like that ex-employee from a while back who was on a public vendetta against a former employer; it’ll reflect badly on you more than on her.

  37. Karen

    RE HANDSHAKE: Put a bandage on your hand and say you burned it or have poison ivy.
    RE JOB CANDIDATE: Worry about your own job. Leave her alone.

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