the friend who I recommended for a job in my office is secretly job-searching after just a few months

A reader writes:

Long story short, we had an opening in the small office I work at (there’s only four of us) back in May. I approached a close friend of mine who was unhappy with his job, and who I knew had been looking for a new position for 2+ years. I explained the position, the office, and answered any questions he had, being as forthcoming and blunt as possible about it all. He said he was interested in the job, even knowing he would be taking a small pay cut to come here. My boss then interviewed him and decided to hire him.

Soon after starting, my friend’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, and my boss permitted him to take several days (probably like 8 or 9) in his first few weeks to be with her in the hospital, and has continued to let him take time off with very short notice to take her to the hospital or doctor as needed. Also, he was allowed to take a 3-day vacation last week with a few months’ notice, during our second busiest time of the year to go to an out-of-state wedding for his girlfriend’s cousin, leaving the rest of us to pick up the slack.

In addition to the time he missed caring for his mother, he also took a “sick day” to go to an interview with another potential employer during his third week here, but hasn’t done so to my knowledge since then.

My friend has told me several times that he misses working in a larger organization with more people. He has not been all that quick to pick up on tasks that are his responsibility (despite my showing him several times how to do them over the last five months, whereas I feel like I figured out that stuff after being shown once). Earlier today, he told me that he was going to go to two job interviews tomorrow and will be calling in sick tomorrow morning. I didn’t say anything in response, but let him finish and then quickly broke off the conversation and went into my office to work.

My boss has expressed to me subtly that she hasn’t been all that impressed with his attention to detail and work ethic, and while she allows him to take time off, I think she does so less than wholeheartedly. Despite this, she did give him a pay bump after his three-month performance review, which is normal for everyone she’s ever hired. However, last week, we were given bonuses, and his was significantly lower than mine (I’ve only been here a year, about 7 months longer than him). I think that the bonuses, his comparable income from his previous job, and his being unhappy about the size of the office and the type of work we do are what is leading him to look for other work.

I’m tempted to go to my boss tomorrow and let her know that my friend is interviewing. I feel like I put my neck out there to recommend him for the job, and between his less-than-stellar performance, missing a ton of time, and now looking to leave, he’s going to leave us at a time where we won’t have time to train someone properly before we being our busiest time of the year (we’re a tax prep office, so January-April is crazy).

On the one hand, my friend told me this in confidence, and would probably be pretty pissed if he ever found out I told my boss this, especially if it led to him being fired prior to actually getting an offer. On the other hand, I feel like even if he doesn’t take one of these jobs, he may leave right in the middle of our busiest time and put the rest of us in a lurch.

I know that I probably should just keep my mouth shut and let things fall where they will. However, I feel like his leaving reflects poorly on my judgement, especially if I know that he’s out looking for a job while he’s “sick.” In addition, I really like and respect my boss, and I feel like she should know if he’s unhappy enough to leave after only five months.

Well, he’s putting you in a really crappy position. Actually, he’s put you in a crappy position twice — first by continuing to interview only three weeks after starting the job that you personally recruited and recommended him for and now, several months later, by telling you that he’s continuing to interview. You stuck your neck out for him and vouched for him, and now your professional reputation is to some degree wrapped up in his.

To be clear, that doesn’t mean that if he implodes, your name will be mud … but it does mean that you’re going to have less credibility in any future hiring recommendations you make, and that your boss might question your judgment a bit. So there’s a real cost to you, and he either doesn’t realize that or doesn’t care.

Anyway, if I were your manager, I’d definitely want to know this was going on so that I wasn’t blindsided by it. But that doesn’t mean that you should tell her. The question is really about your loyalty to your friend versus your loyalty to your manager.

Most people understandably come down on the friend side of this equation … but it certainly gets more challenging when the friend in question has been so cavalier with your professional standing and with a workplace that you sound like you care about. It would be different if he’d come to you and said something like, “I feel like I’m in a real bind here. I’m realizing that this job isn’t for me, and I think I need to start looking. I realize that you went out on a limb to recommend me, and I really appreciate that. I wish it were working out, but I want to be realistic that it’s not.” You’d probably be pretty sympathetic to that — but that’s not how he’s handling it. He’s basically doing the exact opposite of that: not acknowledging how this will impact you at all.

That said, I don’t think you should break his confidence by telling your manager what he told you. He was presumably talking to you as a friend, not a coworker, and would be rightfully angry if you told your manager (which could indeed result in her letting him go sooner than he’s ready to leave).

However, you could certainly talk to him about the position he’s putting you in. I’d say something like this: “You’re putting me in a difficult position here. I used my own standing with (manager) to vouch for you and helped you get hired. That doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to stay for life, but you were job searching when you’d only been here a few weeks. I don’t know if you thought about how that would have reflected on me if you’d left so soon, but I can tell you that it wouldn’t be great. Now you’re interviewing again, and putting me in a position where I know that you’re getting ready to leave right before our busiest time of the year. I feel really uncomfortable knowing this, and I’m concerned about the impact all of it is going to have on my standing with (manager).”

Depending on how much you want to drive the point home, you might add, “I went out on a limb for you, and you don’t seem to recognize that.”

That will at least clue him in to the position he’s putting you in. But beyond that … well, I don’t know that there’s a lot you can do. You could tell him that you think he should talk with your manager about his doubts that the role is the right fit, but it would be pretty understandable if he chooses not to do that, since it could result in him potentially getting pushed out and left with no income. Or yes, you could give your boss a discreet heads-up, but I think you’d want to be prepared for that to be a friendship-ender if you choose to do it.

Ultimately, it’s a lesson in why it’s really, really risky to recommend friends for jobs when you’ve never worked with them (and sometimes even if you have). But that doesn’t help you now, obviously. This is just a crappy situation with no great answer.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 183 comments… read them below }

  1. AMG*

    Well…I wouldn’t really care about retaining a friendship with someone who has acted like this. I think I’d come down on the side of the manager and protecting the office by saying something. It just doesn’t sound like this is a very good friend and isn’t someone I’d be particularly interested in investing in. You could always tell him that if he doesn’t say something, you will so that he at least has the opportunity. In any case, I wouldn’t expect this person to step up and let the manager know what’s going on without being pushed into it.

    1. Cat*

      This seems harsh to me. I don’t really know or care whether most of my friends are good at their jobs or well versed in business etiquette. I don’t recommend them for jobs without knowing that but I don’t think it infects them in every sphere of their life. Some people just don’t have a good sense of how to behave at work. It’s bad for them, obviously, but it doesn’t make them bad people.

      1. AMG*

        I’m not saying Friend is a bad person, and perhaps it’s a little harsh. I just feel like he has no business jeopardizing OP’s reputation at work. Knowing that OP referred him, Friend should be extra diligent at work to make a positive impression.

        When I was referred by a former coworker/mentor to my current job, the first thing I told him when I got hired was that I wouldn’t let him down. I just think Friend should do the same.

        1. INTP*

          Yeah, I agree. When you take a position working with a friend, you don’t get to expect the friend to begin putting your friendship above their career. Either have the courtesy not to put the friend in that position by not confiding about your job search or dissatisfaction with your compensation and bonus, or don’t complain when your friend chooses their own career well-being over yours.

          I don’t think what OP’s friend is doing makes him a bad person, necessarily. To me it’s just a good illustration of why it’s best to avoid mixing friendship and work. I’d take a job I knew wasn’t a long-term fit to be able to escape a terrible work environment, and I’d ask for a lot of time off if my mom were diagnosed with cancer, and I’d keep looking if I weren’t doing great at a job. But I do think what he’s doing conveys that he’s prioritizing his own career, finances, personal life, etc over OP’s professional interests and this makes it 100% fair for OP to do the same.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Agree, friend is probably not a bad person in general but definitely naive about the implications here. Op should speak up to him about it, it’s valuable life lesson. Perhaps he can agree to stay til the 1 year mark and step up his game a bit in the meantime. He seems to have a cavalier attitude about jobs and thinks they’re disposable once something shinier comes along.

      2. Amber Rose*

        But this isn’t just not knowing how to behave at work. This is about taking the goodwill of a friend and stomping all over it like so much garbage. That’s an exceptionally shitty thing to do.

        1. Cat*

          Dude, maybe – but from the info we’ve been given, (a) his mother is dying; (b) he isn’t a great employee; and (c) he’s looking for a new job very soon; and (d) nobody at this job likes him or is going to be heartbroken that he has left. For all we know, the boss has hinted to him that he should find something else.

          (b)-(c) don’t bode well on him as a worker, but as a human being? Who really knows. Lots of people suck as workers but that doesn’t mean they’re treating you, personally, like garbage.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I’m inclined to agree there. And while the manager is probably giving this time off in the assumption the employee will stay, it was also a managerial prerogative to say no (I think I’d have refused permission for the girlfriend’s cousin wedding, for instance).

            1. NJ Anon*

              I also have a problem with the raise after 3 months because that is what is usually done. I mean, why? If his performance is not up to par, why give a raise? My boss did something similar. She has a staff person she “wishes would leave.” But let this same person talk her into a raise AND let her use up a bunch of vacation time (like 3-4 weeks at once) so she wouldn’t lose it even though the person has been here long enough to know the policy. If you don’t want them here, FIRE them. I just don’t get it.

              1. AdAgencyChick*

                I get why the manager might not just fire him — organizational policies may make it hard to do that.

                I do not get at all why this person was given a raise and a bonus, no matter how small. Any increase in salary says “we’re satisfied with your work product.”

                1. Koko*

                  At a 4-person office there probably isn’t much red tape stopping her from firing him. It is possible, though, that she is concerned about the cost of their unemployment insurance payments. With only 4 people on staff and if she’s never fired someone before, a single firing could double or triple the cost of their unemployment insurance.

                2. OP*

                  What Koko says above me is correct. I’ve talked to my boss in the past about if she’s ever fired someone and she’s told me that she really tries to be careful about hiring because she of the unemployment insurance costs. This is part of the reason I am worried about replacing my friend should he quit right before or during the busy season.

          2. LBK*

            But this isn’t just a case of assuming he’s a bad person because he’s a bad employee. These are all things that directly impact the OP. You really think you could still be friends with someone outside of work who was the bane of your existence while you’re there? I know I certainly haven’t been able to; I used to really like a guy in my office until I started working directly with him and it ruined our relationship because he was an awful coworker.

            1. Cat*

              I have successfully been able to compartmentalize. I wouldn’t say anyone should but I also don’t see the need to tell the OP that she shouldn’t and should DMTFA (as someone said below). She’s capable of deciding whether she likes the guy still or not and it’s not that related to her work problem.

              1. LBK*

                But what he’s doing to her isn’t completely a work problem. This isn’t him messing up a project she works on and the OP being able to forget about that while they’re outside of work. This is him seriously messing with her life. Even if you compartmentalize, there’s aspects of this that fall into the social/personal realm.

                1. Cat*

                  “Seriously messing with her life” strikes me as overstating it. He’s possibly affected her credibility at work, but probably in a specific area and maybe not even there (since we don’t know how the OP caveated her recommendation or how her boss took it).

                2. LBK*

                  Okay, so that’s probably an overstatement. However, it will probably have some level of repercussions for her, and I wouldn’t really be keen on maintaining a friendship with someone who’s negatively impacting me, whether it’s at work, at home, socially or however. I don’t think it’s bad enough that she needs to cut him out of her life or anything, but I don’t agree that it’s reasonable that the friendship should remain untarnished. That’s an important factor in the work vs friendship decision – am I going to want to be friends with this person after this situation is resolved anyway? If not, is it worth maybe pissing off my manager by not saying anything in order to maintain a friendship with someone who’s been kind of shitty to me lately?

            2. fposte*

              Well, I think I can agree with Cat about him not being the deliberate manipulator he feels like but also say that as a friend the stress of this situation would make me need to put this friendship on the back burner for a while, or permanently. That doesn’t have to mean the guy was deliberately problematic–just that I had too much wrapped up in this for me to see him without the baggage.

              1. LBK*

                Oh, I don’t think he’s being deliberately problematic either. I don’t think he’s being a bad employee *at* her, and that’s not even the part that bothers me. It’s that he traded on their friendship and the OP’s reputation to get the job and now he’s repaying her by leaving and making her look bad – that’s just being a bad friend, period. You don’t get to benefit from knowing me, potentially trash an important aspect of my life (my work reputation) and then continue to get to be friends with me.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m finding Cat’s points pretty persuasive, though, in that I think his actions may feel to the OP like repaying/betraying when they’re more about timing. So think about this as “Unfortunately, I recommended a friend for a job just as his mother was diagnosed with incapacitating cancer; this meant I ended up in a awkward position because he couldn’t give it his all and I knew too much about his not being happy.” That’s different from “The friend I recommended is taking advantage of my employer by taking a ton of time off and job-hunting as a short-timer,” and I think it might be truer.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The thing that bugs me most is that he was still interviewing a few weeks after starting, and that it sounds like he was pretty cavalier about it when telling the OP.

                3. fposte*

                  Unless the letter’s been hanging around for a while, it’s close to six months since he started and he only just began interviewing. So he’s certainly a short-timer there, but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad faith situation.

                  And I think that’s the OP’s real concern–that it feels like bad faith on her friend’s part. But I think Cat is making some really valid points about why it’s bad to put the OP in the picture, but the actual actions aren’t meretricious.

                4. OP*

                  OP here…

                  Wanted to clarify about the interviewing a few weeks after starting (or at least what I was told about it). The interview at the time was for a position my friend applied for before being given an offer. He got the call his first day in the office for an interview. He took it because they were possibly going to pay him a lot more money.

                  When he told me about it, he seemed pretty hesitant to even go, because he knew it would be incredibly bad to leave after only being there a few weeks in. The job offer never materialized after the interview.

                  At the time I believed what he was telling me, but in light of him having two interviews today, I’m now not so sure whether or not he’s been job searching this whole time or not if this job is resume filler until something better materialized.

                5. TootsNYC*

                  It would bother me most that he was being a crappy employee.

                  If he was doing good work, but still hankering for more money or a better fit, it wouldn’t damage my credibility so much. I know that as a boss, this would be something I’d blame on the employee leaving, not the friend who recommended him.

                  But as an employee AND as a boss–for him to come in and essentially cost us -more- time because I have to keep training him, or bugging him to pick up the tasks without being told…That’s what would hurt the credibility of the person who recommended him.

                6. LBK*

                  “Unfortunately, I recommended a friend for a job just as his mother was diagnosed with incapacitating cancer; this meant I ended up in a awkward position because he couldn’t give it his all and I knew too much about his not being happy.”

                  What complicates this for me is his lack of acknowledgment of the situation. It’s one thing to have a set of bad circumstances converge; it’s another thing to hold conversations about it without even recognizing how it’s affecting the person you’re talking to. I’d be able to forgive a lot of this if he’d added something as simple as “I feel really bad about this because I know you put your reputation on the line for me, but…” to the beginning of telling the OP he was job hunting.

                7. fposte*

                  @LBK–totally agree. I’d forgive him a lot more for taking the job lightly if he didn’t seem to be taking our friendship lightly.

                8. Sas*

                  I am not sure that I could agree that the person is ” potentially trash an important aspect of my life (my work reputation) and then continue to get to be friends with me.” This person has gone through a LOT. Should this person owe the OP more as a friend? Yeah. But how and how quickly you “would” react to a challenging time in your life and how someone else would, not necessarily the same.
                  I went through a very difficult time in my life, during college. I ended up flunking out of that semester. My “friends” “understood”, but then demanded I return to my best a few days or so later. No. No. You hurt people sometimes when you are going through something. But, if the OP gets judged harshly by someone else for this, however it goes down, that’s the ridiculous part, I think.

                  Sure, your recommendation holds more clout than a friend who doesn’t work at the same company as FRIEND. But, if a manager doesn’t take calls from a relative saying so and so deserves this job, and they want to own the decision based on a number of reasons, then they should own it regardless. Your recommendation or reference should be based on what you know of the person then or when you worked with them. It should not be about what might happen or how the person would handle said things. That is truly out of expectations. References are important, but they shouldn’t be the only thing. Not every situation teaches you something, OP. FRIEND seems young? Could be figuring things out. I am.

          3. Ad Astra*

            I’m with Cat on this one. The friend’s behavior is certainly bad enough that I wouldn’t want to work with the guy, but for me it’s not serious enough that I wouldn’t want to be friends with him. The only way this guy would be able to recognize the uncomfortable situation he’s putting his friend in is if he’s got the professionalism to understand the value of a referral.

            That makes it entirely possible that he’s just clueless. Or, given the cancer situation and his unimpressive performance, he might just be desperate.

            I hope the OP explains to him what a bad position he’s putting her in, and I don’t think it would be out of line to ask (or suggest, I guess) he wait until after tax season to find a new job.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Yes exactly. I wonder if the Op was paid for referring him? If so that makes it worse. Also, I find it odd that he went on that early interview just as his mom was diagnosed, knowing he’d need to take the time off for her treatments and stuff. I also hopes he appreciates the time off this employer gave him for that.

            2. Natalie*

              Yeah, the only thing I see that he definitely did wrong is be cavalier about telling the OP he was job searching. Otherwise, it sounds like he got the job, realized it was a bad fit, and started looking right away, which is something that gets advised here as perfectly acceptable. And everything else he’s doing, particularly using sick time for interviews, is normal job searching behavior.

              I don’t know what I’m missing that people think is so egregious. If he realized he was a bad fit and in over his head from the get go, what else was he supposed to do?

                1. Natalie*

                  Right, I mentioned that but maybe not clearly enough. I guess to me that doesn’t equate to “this person sucks so much that you shouldn’t want to be friends with them.”

          4. INTP*

            Yeah. He’s reacting reasonably in a tough situation – the friendship involved just makes it more complicated.

            I don’t think he’s being an awful person here. If my mother were dying, I would spend as much time as possible with her regardless of who or what that affected, and I’d look for a new job if I weren’t happy with my new one and they weren’t happy with me. There aren’t many friends (if any) I’d prioritize above employment and spending time with my dying loved ones. But I also think his behavior makes it fair for the OP to prioritize her own interests above the friendship in return, and inform her manager if she thinks not doing so could affect her reputation. ESPECIALLY since it wasn’t really necessary for him to share his dissatisfaction or continued job search with her. Working with a friend creates conflicts that wouldn’t occur in a normal friendship, where being a “good friend” requires sacrifices that aren’t really considered standard in friendship, and this is one of those situations.

            1. OP*

              I don’t have any issue with my friend spending as much time as needed with his mom. He only sees her once a week though (besides the days when he needs to take her to the doctor when his brother’s wife cannot drive her), so its not like he’s going all the time to visit her.

              As far as being liked here, the other coworker and I treat him as kindly and respectfully as we treat each other, and my boss doesn’t say anything to him that would cause me to think that she dislikes him or is treating him horribly. If there was a longer gap, I’d say maybe the discrepancy in the bonuses is a problem, but it had only been four days since that had happened, and its incredibly unlikely he would have two job interviews four days after applying for a job, considering he’d been applying for years at his previous job and only had a small handful of interviews.

      3. steve g*

        They didn’t say it makes them bad people. They said their performance at work would impact their decision to be friends with said person, which is totally fair, because work is one of the main avenues people express their abilities and reliability.

      4. Liz in a Library*

        I don’t think it’s all that harsh. The issue is how the friend has behaved to the OP, regardless of the friend’s understanding of professional norms. He should understand that his friend went above and beyond to help him, and he paid back that help by leaving her in the lurch and making her look bad to her boss. I wouldn’t want to preserve a friendship like that either.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree. Someone messes with my job that provides food on my table and a roof over my head that is baseline stuff and I am not going to be happy. There are just some things you do not mess with. Like OP, I would feel conflicted about the friendship vs the job. In this situation, the guy 1) took massive time off, 2) is not doing a great job and now 3) is looking for new work. If it were just one of those things, I would find a path through it. I might find a path through two of those things. But with all three, I agree I’d have to land in favor of my job. I would tell my friend though, that x, y and z are of concern to me. He needs to be aware that I must tell the boss what is going on and I would prefer he do it himself.
          Then I’d go to the boss and tell her that I should not have referred my friend, I understand that this means I lose some credibility so I am backing away from referring anyone, just to prevent any similar situation again. (I actually had to do this once. The boss agreed that he was no longer interested in my referrals and I told him that I understood why. What was good here, was the boss did not question my judgement in other areas. We were able to move on. To this day, I am overly cautious about referring anyone.)

    2. The IT Manager*

      I tend to agree simply because there’s nothing in the letter besides the description “close friend” that makes this guy sound like good friend. And he certainly sounds like a terrible co-worker not bothered that he’s putting the LW’s reputation on the line. But I suppose it is possible all his wonderful qualities as a good friend were not mentioned being irrelevant to the question.

      OTOH if he really is a close friends, LW shouldn’t tell the boss. The LW should appeal to his friendship and ask close friend to tell the boss himself or at least stay past next April to get them through the busy period. It would less terrible if he leaves after the busy period than during it both for the LW’s reputation and his own workload during their busy period.

    3. KS*

      If I were in this position, I don’t think I would be able to separate the friends work behavior with the friendship. I would probably always feel some sort of resentment towards my friend. I usually can’t get over things like this easily. The friend is kind of screwing over OP and taking advantage of the situation. The last thing I would be doing at a new job that was kind enough to accommodate my sudden family emergency, would be taking sick days for job interviews and long weekends during the busy season.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think that the work stuff leaches into the friendship stuff. Especially if we were just visiting and Friend started making comments about our work place. I would have difficulty keeping my mouth shut. If I had not said anything to my friend, I might spill out some stuff suddenly, in such an instance. That is why I would figure on having a talk with him rather than letting the issues fester and come out in stereo at the worst time possible.

    4. Bwmn*

      I’m inclined to disagree about this.

      In my first job after grad school, I had some friends in various stages of looking for jobs. Through my job, I knew another organization was looking to hire someone and connected my friend to my mentor (he worked with me, but also volunteered for this other organization). She did the interview process and started waffling about whether or not the job would be the right fit for her and wasn’t professional about how she let the organization know she was no longer interested in the position. At the time it was awkward for me with my mentor and I was definitely far more cautious about friends I connected after that.

      However, that moment ultimately did not hurt my reputation with mentor as an employee AND my friend has continued to work in the same field as me and we continue to support each other as friends and professional peers. At the time it made me feel naive and that my reputation was damaged – but long term it was entirely possible to maintain both relationships.

      Sure the OP’s situation is more involved as he’s working for the organization and may leave soon, but I’m not sure I’d totally trash the friend under the presumption that even the manager will be the ultimate long term contact. The manager may leave while the OP stays and ends up never even relying on that manager for a reference. Whereas if the friend works in the same field, they may be a source for job leads and advice longer term. In no way does this remind me of an earlier letter where someone was expecting a friend to lie as a reference.

    5. OhNo*

      I tend to agree, but I think it makes a very big difference whether or not the friend realizes the effect this is having on the OP. It’s certainly possible that with his mother having cancer and everything else that’s going on, he just never sat down and thought about the effect that this behavior would have on the OP.

      So my first response would be to talk to him and deliberately point out (not hint, not imply, but state outright) what he’s doing and why it’s a crappy thing to do to a friend. If he agrees, then they can talk about what would be best for both of them going forward, to preserve the OP’s reputation but also make sure that he can get out of the job if he really needs/wants to.

      If he didn’t agree, or didn’t think it was a big deal, or if he gave any implication that the OP should be okay with ruining their professional rep because they’re friends? Then I would absolutely drop him from my social group. As Cat pointed out, he may be totally fine and fun to be around outside of work… but I just would never be able to get over how cavalier he is being with other people’s jobs and lives, and I would never really be able to trust him again because I would know that he will always put himself first.

    6. Kelly*

      I’m with you on this. The so-called “friend” isn’t being a friend at all so why should OP care about preserving it? I would go along with what Allison said to tell him but I would add that if he didn’t tell the manager I would. If the OP didn’t care for her manager or her company I might be inclined to say keep your mouth shut but she has to work here after he’s burned the bridge, she shouldn’t be forced to jump in the fire with him.

  2. Kyrielle*

    I think it depends on the friendship and how you feel about it, too. Talking to the friend would still be my first step, for sure … but whether I then betrayed his confidence if he didn’t would depend on the friendship.

    One of my oldest and dearest friends, the wonderful person who gives me advice *and* comfort when I’m wailing about something, we’re always there for each other? I’d say nothing to the manager.

    A college “friend” who was fun to hang out with, seemed nice and focused, and did well in classwork, but who has been spending less time with me / we have fairly little other than possibly our careers in common? I’d be pretty tempted to tell the manager. I’m not sure if I would – it’s a hard decision even there – and partly it would depend on whether there were mutual friends who might take sides (ugh), and partly on whether I could see continuing the friendship.

    I’d still never recommend them for another job either way, obviously. And in the case where it was a friend good enough that I wasn’t telling the manager, especially the first case, I would gently but explicitly tell them that, so they’d know I wouldn’t be a great reference for them either.

  3. LBK*

    I settle firmly on the side of maintaining your relationship with your manager on this one. Your “friend” hasn’t done anything to show he cares about his relationship with you since he got hired – he’s been a bad employee and coworker and now he’s going to potentially tank your professional relationship all for his own sake. That’s not to say he’s not allowed to make his own career decisions, but it would be nice to at least acknowledge that he understands how this impacts and reflects on you.

    I think I’d have a frank conversation with your friend about how his actions have impacted you and that if he doesn’t tell your manager he’s planning to leave, you will. You can say you understand he’s just doing what’s right for his career and himself as a professional, but that you also need to do the same and that means being able to prepare for his departure ASAP.

    At this point I don’t think you have any obligation to continue trying to be a good friend to someone who doesn’t seem interested in being a good friend to you.

    1. Bwmn*

      Speaking strictly from a self-interested professional perspective – I’m not entirely sure I would completely hang the friend out. The OP and friend work in the same industry, and while now the friend is putting the OP in a tight spot – the friend isn’t doing anything illegal or putting the company excessively at risk for bad publicity/reputation damage. He’s being mediocre.

      Two, three, ten years from now – the OP’s current manager may have fallen off the map, changed industries, become a stay at home parent, etc. Whereas the friend may still be in the industry, potentially in a position to hire or influence hiring decisions, etc. I think that while the current situation isn’t awesome for the OP, I would not out the friend to management or do anything to hurt that relationship. Maybe not recommend the friend again for another job, but the presumption that all loyalty should be to management in this situation I think is short sighted.

      1. Kelly*

        I’m not sure a less than mediocre employee with zero loyalty to friends or companies that he knows has extremely crazy busy seasons is a threat to anyone’s job in the future. If he does ever get to a point where he’s made a change and doing good work he will most likely also look back and know that he was being a jerk and not hold it against the OP.

        1. Amy UK*

          Maybe when he doesn’t the stress of a dying mother hanging over him, that “mediocre employee with zero loyalty” might work a bit better. Not liking his behaviour here is one thing, but to call him a jerk in his circumstances is incredibly out of order.

  4. spek*

    You don’t owe him anything. You hooked him up with a good deal when he was looking for a change and got him a job at a place that looks like a great place to work – they are great about time off and give bonuses to very new employees! He already sounds like a friend you can do without – he is taking advantage of you and your employer and he can’t be bothered to care how his actions reflect on you. If you really like your manager and your job, I would approach your manager discreetly. A good job that treats you well and one that you enjoy are harder to find than friends who use you and don’t care.

    1. 42*

      You’re friend is taking deliberate advantage of someone who has been very generous with him, and that sucks.

      1. Allison*

        It’s possible he’s young and no one ever really explained this stuff to him. We tell young people that networking and personal contacts are the best way to get a job, but we often fail to tell them that someone who does help you get a job is doing you a favor, and you really need to show them gratitude and the job seriously, because if they don’t like you, their reputation suffers in turn.

  5. Fifi Ocrburg*

    In a small office, if word gets out that you broke your friend’s confidences, no one will trust you again. Why can’t the LW’s boss figure out what’s going on–perhaps, by having a conversation with the employee?

    1. AVP*

      I don’t know about this. It might not bode well for future friend-coworkers telling her things about their lives in confidence, but having to make a tough decision like this and choosing a manager over a friend wouldn’t alter my business-trust in a coworker.

    2. LBK*

      That doesn’t really make sense – the dichotomy here is friendship vs. business, and I’d have to imagine choosing business would actually make you look better to your coworkers, not worse. Social trust and professional trust don’t scale together because the factors and stakes are so different.

      1. Natalie*

        But the confidence in question is a professional one – that is, the fact that the friend is looking for another job. Maybe it’s just my circles, but revealing that would be a pretty big breach of the norm.

        1. LBK*

          Hmm, I guess that’s true – I was looking at it as “do you do what your friend would want or what your manager would want?” but realistically I don’t think I’d say anything about any coworker if they told me they were planning to leave, whether I was friends with them or not.

    3. Laurel Gray*

      If anything, I would think that in a small office/business you may be able to get away with having shotty performance. OP’s friend hasn’t been there long enough. If he leaves, he may not even need a reference from the owner. And who knows, he may get a good one if the owner is determined to have him gone with no guilt on her conscience.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I agree that people would figure out OP broke a friend’s confidence, but I think the reason why is self-explanatory. The friend was going to mess over the company and he had JUST started working there. I think wise coworkers will see it for what it is: rock and a hard place. OP is just owning the parts of the story that are hers to own. She recommended a guy that did not work out. If she says nothing to the boss about this, she will look just as foolish as he does. OP has to follow up with the boss at some point, her standing with the boss/company is at stake here.

  6. Lily in NYC*

    This is a good reminder to all of us – don’t recommend a friend for a job solely because the friend is unhappy and looking. Only recommend someone if you are quite sure they would excel in the role. I will never recommend anyone again unless I have actually worked with the person before.

    1. Artemesia*

      I got caught in this once — didn’t realize how spotty the person’s work history was until I had agreed to put in a good word and get them an interview; never again.

      Unless I have worked with someone, I didn’t recruit them and if asked about a friend or acquaintance made it clear that I didn’t know them in a work context.

    2. SherryD*

      Yes, I learned this lesson the hard way! My friend performed well in the role I recommended her for at my company, but had a spotty attendance record that others remarked upon (lots and lots of vacation and sick time used in the first 9 months or so).

      In the future, I would only say to my manager, “My friend Bob applied for a job here. I think he’s a great guy, but I only know him socially, and I can’t for him professionally.”

  7. Episkey*

    Definitely a sucky situation. I think it would depend upon how vested you are in continuing this friendship. If you are at the “bitch eating crackers” stage and don’t care about staying friends with him in the future, I might advocate giving the heads-up to your boss. However, if he is a good enough friend that you would either want to stay friends with him or it would make your life awkward & uncomfortable if you were not on good terms (I’m thinking of a larger “friend group” here where it would be difficult to avoid him in the future) then unfortunately I don’t think you can say anything to your boss — but for sure have a chat with him either way.

  8. HM in Atlanta*

    It comes down to: do you want to maintain the friendship? How much are you willing to give up to maintain the friendship? How much will his leaving so quickly, at the busiest time of year, after not performing well impact your standing with your employer? The answer to those questions will let you know if you want to talk to your boss or not.

  9. Carrie in Scotland*

    While your friend hasn’t behaved amazingly, according to your letter he not only started a new job (at your workplace) but has also had to deal with his mum being diagnosed with cancer, and I assume her treatment. You also mention he has gone to support her, all of which combined is pretty heavy stuff.

    As someone who lost her mum at 23 (which probably colours my opinion somewhat) due to cancer – and a friend of mine lost his recently too – do you think that perhaps you ought to cut him some slack re: the days off he has taken? If his mum had died, do you really think he wished to spend more time at work or with his mum?

    1. fposte*

      I think that’s a reason why it might not have occurred to the friend to talk to the OP; I don’t think it’s enough to make what the friend is doing not a problem, though.

      1. neverjaunty*

        It absolutely is a problem, but the OP’s letter kind of buries the lede on it. I was really surprised that she kind of breezed by the ‘oh, yeah, and his mom is dying of cancer’ and zipped right into BEC territory.

        Which doesn’t mean that the OP should be happy about the impact on her work, or that this dude needs slack in all ways (the wedding thing, come on), and it may very well mean that OP decided the two of them are not such good friends that she wants to help him carry the weight of a serious personal crisis when it impacts her professional life. But the letter came across as pretty obtuse on that point. Mom dying of cancer, whatevs, bro, I did you a favor!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          She did say it did not bother her that he was interviewing for another job three weeks into this new job. OP seems to be looking at the big picture.
          I can’t picture myself job hunting while taking care of a dying parent. There is no way I would be sharp enough for an interview. I think that OP thinks something is up with the dying parent story. It could be that his mom is sick but the doctors could be saying she has a year or more. Maybe OP forgot to mention that part. Or maybe OP thinks that he has been job hunting right along and sick mom is a cover story. I don’t think that OP is lacking compassion.

    2. IT Kat*

      Maybe I missed something in the letter, but OP seems more concerned about the fact he’s taking sick days off to interview than the fact he took time off because his mom had cancer.

      I read it as just adding the other mention to show how kind the employer was being, and having the ‘friend’ take advantage of that, when most employers wouldn’t have been that accommodating.

    3. dancer*

      I don’t think the issue is the days off he’s taken to take care of his mother. I think the OP is upset about a combination of things: taking additional sick days to interview and the time off to attend the wedding, as well as doing so while he is still new to the job.

      1. Cat*

        So the wedding thing also seems weird to me. He’s only been working there a few months and asked “a few months in advance” for the time off. That’s precisely what we advise people to do on this forum and, also, was quite possibly before his mother was diagnosed or before he knew how much time he had to take off. (Note: we also advise people to take sick time to interview when they have to.)

        I get being at “bitch eating crackers” stage with a slacker co-worker – been there, done that, and have made plenty of comments that spring from that aggravation on this blog. But . . . objectively, this guy isn’t a good fit and needs to go, and the OP needs to not recommend him again, I’m just not feeling like all of this criticism is fair.

        1. dancer*

          As I said below, I got my current job through a friend’s referral, and while I obviously wanted to do a good job for my own sake, there was the addition impetus so that I don’t reflect badly on him. I think that’s what people are reacting to… OP did his friend a favour and in return the friend is being kind of a crappy employee.

        2. OP*

          He told my boss around June or so that he would like the time off. He was aware of his mother’s cancer at the time, and all of the time he had been taking off for that purpose.

          I had no problem with him taking the trip, and I was perfectly happy to work some overtime and work a little harder to get through the deadline. Then he told me about the interviews, and I started thinking through all the accommodations he’s been given and its just not sitting right with me.

      2. LBK*

        Yeah, and frankly it’s kind of gross to use the flexibility you’ve been given because your mother is sick to hunt for jobs.

        1. fposte*

          Is that what he’s doing, though, or is that just part of the fear? I mean, as I said below I think that’s going to be a question people will ask, but even in the OP’s unhappy and informed summary the only day he’s taken for job applications has been taken as a personal sick day.

          1. LBK*

            I didn’t read it as him specifically saying that he’s going to see his mother on days when he’s actually going to interviews – I agree with your reading that he’s separately saying he’s out sick himself on those days. I was referring more to the general flexibility the manager seems to have given him, such that it probably mentally wraps into “just another day Bob is out of the office” in the manager’s head (unless this is an office that’s pretty flexible about absences in general).

        2. OP*

          I think my friend would not feel right using his mother as an excuse for interviewing. While its still possible, he’s taken more time for interviews than I know about, I’d like to think the best of him for as long as possible :-P.

      3. Abby*

        That’s how I read into it. His boss was understandably accommodating about the cancer diagnosis, and the issue really lies in his taking additional time off to interview around, especially so shortly after starting his new job.

        As a total aside: I’m really glad AAM didn’t really address the extensive time-off needed to care for a cancer patient. As someone who has lost a parent to cancer, it really does become a full-time job, not to mention the anxiety and stress associated with the diagnosis.

    4. EarlGrey*

      this is a great point – if he weren’t effectively sabotaging OP’s reputation by looking for new work right away, the time off and flakiness would be understandable, right? in either a friend or a co-worker going through such rough stuff? I agree with Alison’s advice that OP should say something to Friend, but leaving the time off out of the conversation (and OP’s mindset about the problem) feels like the right thing to do. Keep the focus on the thing he’s doing wrong and should know better than to do.

  10. Vin Packer*

    Not surprised that the first comments are basically the friend version of DTMFA, but just want to throw it out there that it’s okay if the OP doesn’t want to go all scorched-earth on the guy–sounds like he’s had a tough couple of years, and maybe isn’t really sure what he wants. Which isn’t the OP’s problem, but is a thing one tends to empathize with in one’s friends, who have presumably made one laugh, brought a much-needed cup of coffee, listened to one vent about this or that, etc.

    I do think a stronger call to action for the friend might be appropriate though, if you wanted to add to Alison’s words, “what would you do if you were me?” or even just “if you value our friendship, I hope that you will go talk to (boss lady) and tell her what’s going on, and handle yourself in a way that won’t make me look bad.” If he doubles down on the not-stellar behavior, then stronger measures may be warranted.

    1. LBK*

      As one of the DTMFA commenters, I don’t think she needs to cut him out of her life or anything. I just think she should make a business decision and then let the chips fall where they may with the friendship. He probably won’t be too keen on being friends with her afterwards anyway, but I don’t think she needs to proactively shun him.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I think some of the comments here are exaggerating the potential damage to OP’s reputation. No, it doesn’t reflect well on OP that the friend she recommended isn’t doing great and might leave soon, but I don’t think it will destroy her career. Perhaps other commenters have worked in offices or fields where this would be a huge, huge problem, but in my experience it’s not that big of a deal.

      1. fposte*

        I would agree with this; I think the co-worker is understandably tense, but that the situation feels bigger to her than it really is.

        1. dancer*

          I agree people might be overstating the effect on OPs reputation, but I still think what the friend is doing is really shitty. I got my current job through a friend’s referral, and while I obviously wanted to do a good job for my own sake, there was the addition impetus so that I don’t reflect badly on him.

          1. fposte*

            In his behavior at work, or in giving her information that makes it tough for her? I think mostly he’s been really thoughtless in how he’s handled what he’s doing, but I don’t think what he’s doing (in the work performance) is inherently shitty.

            1. fposte*

              Okay, the third-week interview tips the balance a little for me. This looks like more somebody marking time until he gets a job he likes better.

              1. dancer*

                I think it’s a combination. Telling OP that’s he’s job-searching while appearing to not be invested in the job OP helped him get doesn’t sit right with me. I’d hope if I went to bat for someone like that, they’d put in a decent effort to succeed.

                1. Stranger than fiction*

                  And odd that he’s job searching while his mom is so sick. If it were me I’d need to put it on the back burner while dealing with something like that but I guess everyone is different

              2. Natalie*

                Isn’t just as possible that he realized from the get-go that this was a bad fit and/or he was in over his head? He probably should have let his friend know but I don’t know that the scenario itself makes him a bad employee.

                1. fposte*

                  It may not matter much in the overall situation, but if I know I might be leaving soon and I know I’m getting people bending over backward to let you have time off, I can’t imagine taking a day off for a non-immediate family wedding.

                2. Natalie*

                  @ fposte, sure, I wouldn’t either. Although I’ve been recently reminded that some people have different set points there – my future MIL wanted us to plan our wedding date two not-close relative’s events, neither of whom are invited. I have an aunt like that, too.

                  (Side note, my autocorrect decided your screen name was actually “Goodyear”.)

            2. LBK*

              It comes back to the lack of acknowledgment for me. For him to approach the conversation as “Ugh, this place sucks, it’s so small, I got a crappy bonus, I need to get out of here” vs “I’m thankful for your help but this isn’t the right fit, so I’m trying to leave because it will be better for everyone if I work somewhere else” shows a wild disregard for the OP’s feelings, which he presumably should care about as her friend.

              When we’re talking about personal relationships, being thoughtless about the emotional impact of your actions is a big deal because friends are supposed to be your emotional support system.

      2. Ultraviolet*

        I agree. And considering that this guy’s mother became seriously ill just after he started working there, the boss may realize she’s not seeing him at his best. That could mitigate the impact his behavior has on the boss’s opinion of OP’s judgment.

      3. Bwmn*

        I strongly agree with this.

        I think when we’re still new in the work place this kind of professional reputation and all of that feels very tenuous – after all there may not be many people who can speak of your work ethic/reputation. But as someone who went through a version of this….it never mattered even a year or two after (i.e. people started asking me to refer folks again) and my professional relationship with my friend is now equally as important as the one I have with that former manager/mentor. If I were in a situation where I needed a job immediately – I know that both of them would help. And my friend would likely be in a better position to help.

    3. EarlGrey*

      also, interviewing =/= giving notice tomorrow. OP, Friend, and Manager might be working together for months or years to come, so while a firm conversation is totally appropriate, going straight to Manager at this point may create drama and mistrust where OP really doesn’t need it. Give him a heads up that his behavior is icky, encourage him to discuss his performance and job satisfaction with the boss, keep an eye on him going forward, absolutely. But I’d be careful not to let a whole lot of resentment build up and spill over at once.

  11. Spooky*

    Ordinarily, I’d side with the close friend, but there’s another factor here: how fast is the hiring process in your field? If you and your manager start collecting resumes now, would you be able to have a new hire in the role by January (or early on during the busy season?) If you can, I think I’d let the manager know.

    It comes down to having someone new present for most or all of the busy season, vs. having someone you know will be willing to leave you in the lurch, causing your office to not only pick up the slack, but also take on the additional work of searching for a new hire during the time of year when most people in your field are the most likely to already be working. You might be able to save your whole office a whole season of headaches if you head it off now.

    Alternatively, if the process is fast, you could talk to your friend now and mentally give him one month to improve. If he doesn’t, then I think you can safely discount his friendship and take action.

    1. NonPro Pro*

      Right. I’d forget about what the OP feels like they “owe” their friend or their manager, or their reputation as the person who brought this guy into your company. On the latter front, it seems like that ship has already sailed if the boss is remarking to the OP that she’s disappointed in this guy’s work. Does “outing” this guy help the circumstances for the firm in any way in terms of getting the work done? Or does it not really matter if the boss finds out from him when he tenders his resignation because you’re going to get a replacement on board quickly enough anyway?

    2. OP*

      I have a feeling it will take two or three months to replace him (that’s how long from the person before me quitting and them hiring me), and that’s on top of training them for all they’d be responsible for which takes a bit of time because of how my boss likes things done and handled.

      My concern is because I don’t want to be in the middle of February and have him leave, which would make things really difficult for the three of us left.

    3. Natalie*

      “Alternatively, if the process is fast, you could talk to your friend now and mentally give him one month to improve.”

      I’m not a big fan of this approach. Just tell him the deadline rather than hold him to something you haven’t communicated.

  12. Wait, Is There Another Point Here*

    I think OP should first tell her friend that she is uncomfortable with the information he is disclosing to her about calling in sick to go on job interviews and to ask him to stop sharing work related information.
    Then I think that OP should stay clear of the situation from this point on.

    Things that crossed my mind when I read the letter and the response:
    The boss made the decision to hire. We don’t know how much of that decision was based on his interview and what influence the OP’s referral may have played. Only the manager know this. Is the OP feeling more responsibility than she should?
    The boss also provided a pay increase even though his performance was substandard in his first three months. Why?
    The boss also paid a bonus to an employee that has only been there for 5 months and has a substandard performance. Why?
    Getting the pay increase and a bonus sends a pretty odd message in this situation.
    How much of the employees work related problems are a result of the stress of having a parent with cancer?
    Could be a contributing factor to his attitude and his performance quality. And no, this is a possible reason but not an excuse.
    That the manager rewards the poor performance and doesn’t appear to be having constructive discussions with the employee (based on the information provided) suggests that the manager isn’t exactly doing her job well either.

    I think this should now be entirely between the boss and the reluctant employee. I think the OP will be better served by letting her friend know she no longer wants to be informed of work related information from him and to let the manager decide what to do.

    Whew, so much iThinking today. Time to take a break :)

    1. Dot Warner*

      Those are very good points. Yes, the friend is behaving badly, but the manager isn’t exactly doing much to discourage the bad behavior – if anything, (s)he’s encouraging it!

    2. Development professional*

      This is exactly what I came here to say. It might be obvious to OP that he’s crossing boundaries in the amount of time he’s taking off, but the manager has not been clear with him at all about that. Giving him a raise after three months even though you were unimpressed with his work is a sure-fire way to lead a sub-standard employee to believe he’s doing a bang up job.

  13. PrettyNicola*

    Allison mentioned that OP’s friend probably told her about the job interviews as a friend, not a coworker, but I think this friend went about it in a way that really blurs their professional and personal lives, by telling her he was calling in “sick” the next day while they were both *at work*.

    I’d be furious if a coworker told me they were planning something like this, even if we are close friends. I’m not sure that I would tell the boss about this if I were in the OP’s shoes, but I’d definitely tell my friend that if they were job searching, I didn’t want to discuss it with them, because of the position it would put me in.

  14. Amber Rose*

    I’m a little surprised OP hasn’t said anything already. If this was my friend who told me they were ditching work for interviews I would have chewed them out on the spot. What a toolbag.

    1. Cat*

      Really? I’ve had co-workers tell me in confidence that they were interviewing before and I don’t know what choice they had other than to ditch work for it; what else are you going to do?

      1. fposte*

        You’re making good points. In general, “what else should he do?” is a legitimate question throughout. I would say “Stop putting your friend in a bad position” would be the main thing, but that wouldn’t change his wanting to be with his mother or need interviewing time.

        I think a really unfortunate possibility is that the manager is going to wonder, after he goes, if all the times he was out for his mother were really for his mother.

        1. Cat*

          That’s true, and I think he’s shot any chance of a good reference with this company – showing up, not paying attention to detail, and then skeddadling after a few months will do that. Especially when the company has gone out of its way to be flexible when you had a family emergency.

          But, I guess, it happens – sometimes someone starts a job and it’s a disaster and they do blow their reference; it’s unfortunate for them but not necessarily the end of the world for the person or the company. And sometimes people even deliberately decide it’s worth it to take Job X or because they’re triaging their life and job performance is the thing that suffers in this particular situation. There are limited conclusions you can draw about the person as a whole from that beyond the fact that you probably don’t want to hire them right now, if ever.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, I think the most-unkind thing the friend did was *tell* the OP that he had two interviews and was going to call in “sick”. Most of the rest is understandable, given the situation.

          It is going to affect OP’s reputation, and probably willingness to reocmmend others, in the future.

          Getting out if it’s a bad fit makes sense – even though it’s going to be hard on the business, and even though the business really went above and beyond for this guy because of his situation. However, telling the OP? Talk about putting them in a rough spot.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, this is making me think that I need to lay down rules with any co-worker friends about secrets from managers in future.

      2. Amber Rose*

        A random coworker is not the same thing as a friend, especially a friend OP went out of their way to get hired on at a company that OP presumably likes, and who has behaved crappily the entire short time they’ve been employed.

        What choice does friend have? Not being an asshole by half assing this job he was practically handed on a platter. Not involving OP in his assholery. That’s the choice he has.

        Also what I did: “hey, I’ll be late Thursday, I have an appointment at 9.” Dude even has a plausible source of possible appointments. At least then there’s forewarning for the others.

        1. Amy*

          I think it’s far more acceptable to be “sick” to interview than to imply that you’ll be at an appointment with your sick mother.

      3. LBK*

        I think friend-turned-coworker is a unique situation that can’t be equated with how you’d treat a regular coworker, though. You have an emotional avenue to access that you don’t have with a coworker. It would be really inappropriate to say “Are you really doing this to me?” to a coworker, but not so much to a friend who ostensibly has an interest in your well-being and happiness.

  15. Snowglobe*

    One thing to consider is what you know about the manager. Based on the way she worked with him to allow days off to care for his mother, and her generous bonus policy for new employees, she seems like the kind of boss who is unlikely to fire someone just because they are looking for another job. However, since she has already indicated that she isn’t all that impressed with him, it’s possible that she is already thinking about firing him. I’m guessing if she knows he is looking for another job, she may be relieved; and she may be willing to let him continue working while she searches for a replacement, and that might actually prevent him from being fired for poor performance. However, if she is able to hire a replacement faster than he can find another job, he may be out of luck.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      While I too gathered that the boss seems to be reasonable, I still don’t think giving her a heads up is in OP’s best interests. What would be most beneficial is for boss to talk to this employee directly about performance. OP is picking up on subtle hints from her boss about employee’s work. Sure, she can pull employee to the side and give him a heads up but it is up to boss (and owner?) to directly approach employee with any concerns or criticisms she has of his work. There is some avoidance in there from boss and I feel the OP is stuck in the middle.

  16. Katie the Fed*

    what’s interesting is that you have a potential convergence of goals here: he wants to leave and the manager doesn’t sound like she’s too happy with him. Can you encourage one of them to talk to the other about that. Like “hey friend, maybe you should talk to the boss about working out a timeline for you to leave so you can leave on good terms and not damage my reputation as someone who recommended you” or “hey boss, have you talked to him about your concerns? I’ve gotten the impression that he doesn’t really feel it’s a great fit either – maybe you can work something out”

    This guy sounds like a bit of a butthead.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Is he always a butthead, though? Or did his mother’s illness hit him hard and he is operating as a *current* butthead?

      When my mother had cancer (and after her death, because it was terminal), I was a stressed mess – and I wasn’t having to provide care / get her to appointments, my father was doing that. I was lucky enough to be in a job I’d been in for years and wasn’t then looking to leave, and these people knew me, which means they knew what was out of character for me and cut me some slack.

      Anyway. Dealing with cancer/illness in a parent is sucky, and friend may be a butthead now, but may normally be okay and may eventually get back to okay some day. Doesn’t make his present actions less annoying, tho.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        True – all valid points. But I can’t help but think about him interviewing right after he got there, and the lying about it (which I get is normal but it’s a little shady when people have bent over backwards to accomodate his family situation). But people do handle stress differently.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Agreed. I wonder if that was an interview for “The” position he “really wanted” but their timeline was wrong, but he’d already given his resume months before. Even so, it’s still pretty sucky. It’s definitely a butthead move, one among several. I just don’t know how much of it is because his brain wasn’t working or it didn’t occur to him to turn down the interview or…who knows.

          It’s also possible this is his norm, at work. If OP has a sense that’s the case, it can be factored into any decision-making. I just can’t be sure from this remove, and I hate to judge.

          (There’s a probate lawyer out there somewhere who probably thinks I’m a horrible person or a hot mess. Well, not after this many years; I doubt he remembers me after this long. But he probably did thing I was. I _was_, that day. And a couple months around it.)

          1. OP*

            The interview would have been for a job that would have been more money, but definitely not a “dream job” he had been waiting years for.

        2. EarlGrey*

          Interviewing sounds like the worst possible way to handle stress! “Man, this is awful, better add some more stress and see if that helps.”

          Actually, I wonder if the interviewing is a result of feeling like he might lose the current job soon. Still crummy behavior to OP and it doesn’t change the validity of the advice, but possible that his intentions are more about worry than unhappiness with the job. (OP probably has a good sense of which one it is, though, since she actually talked to the guy!)

          1. OP*

            My friend is in no danger of losing his job. My boss would much rather fix the issues he’s having than to fire him, because we’ve already put a lot of time training him.

      2. LEY*

        The original letter mentioned something about him making less money than he used to. Maybe with all the medical bills he is desperate to find a job that pays more, and that’s why he’s looking right away?

        The OP is being put in a crappy position, but I think in this kind of circumstance it is better to err on the side of compassion. I would have that talk with the friend but not tell the manager he’s looking.

        1. OP*

          Me and my friend talk a lot about financial situations we’re dealing with at whatever moment we’re in. He has never mentioned to me that his mother’s medical bills are going to bankrupt him, so I don’t think this has anything to do with money (although, he’s not going to turn down more!), and it has everything to do with him wanting a more social environment. He came from a place with 20+ people and we only have 4 people here with the rare visitor to the office.

  17. Ad Astra*

    Am I the only person who almost always falls on the side of NOT telling someone’s manager that they’re looking for a new job? I just honestly can’t think of a situation where I’d be willing to do that, but it sounds like I’m in the minority.

    1. Cat*

      Yeah, I’m sure there are situations where I’d feel otherwise, but I’ve never been conflicted about it to date.

    2. EmmAreEmm*

      The only job I’ve told my manager I was looking was one where the company was bought out and after the transition was over my job transformed from challenging interesting work to something very basic. He was actually referring me to places.

    3. Laurel Gray*

      I too am one of them. I can’t see a reason in this scenario for the OP to tell her boss. I normally can not see a reason for someone to tell the boss. But maybe it is because I am a huge believer in confidentiality while job searching (or as much as possible, anyway).

    4. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, I would never. I’ve never actively tried to get anyone fired, and I’ve worked with some doozies.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I’m with you. I just wouldn’t. It seems to be on the other side of a really important line between good and evil. Not to get all dramatic about it, but actually, that’s how I feel.

      I do think the OP can say things like: if the boss mentions the friend’s work, “Yeah, he doesn’t seem as engaged as I had expected him to be. What would we do if he -did- leave?”

    6. Bwmn*


      If any organization is constructed in such a fragile state that it can’t survive staffing disruption (leaving for new work, tragic injury/illness, a mediocre hire) – then that says more about the organization than the employee.

    7. Natalie*

      No, I can’t see myself doing. I *guess* there might be a situation where it’s appropriate but I can’t think of anything.

    8. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I’d do it to get rid of someone actively abusive (someone who screams at coworkers, bullies people, sexually harasses people, etc.) – but not for any other reason I can think of. (Of course, an organization that tolerates abuse but considers interviewing for another job to be a firing offense is a horrible one anyway.)

  18. Cucumberzucchini*

    Why can’t the OP split the difference by telling her friend that he’s putting her in an awkward spot and tell her manager she’s feeling a bit embarrassed that the friend she recommended for the job hasn’t been doing a stellar job? Explain that she takes referring people seriously and wanted her manager to know she’s aware it hasn’t gone well. That way her manager knows she’s self-aware but doesn’t address the fact her friend is looking betraying his confidence.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I do like this idea to make sure the boss knows that the OP isn’t on-board with the guy’s job skills/performance.

      Protect your own credibility. You don’t have to trash him, but if it comes up, express surprise and frustration at the outcome.

    2. MK*

      Yes. Also the OP could convey to her boss that her friend is aware his hiring didn’t turn out to be a great fit.

      1. TootsNYC*

        No–don’t speak for the friend. That’s confusing the borders and lines. The OP needs to speak only for herself.

        Once she starts saying, “he thinks,” she’s in his camp again instead of the business’s. And it’s really unfair to everyone.

  19. WriterLady*

    I have mixed feelings on this one, although I’d probably lean on the side of not telling my manager. BUT I’d probably tell my coworker to NOT tell me about plans of going on interviews because than I’d feel obligated to let my manager know – and I’d let them know about it. But heck I had a coworker tell me once they were looking around for a new job and I didn’t say anything (granted, this didn’t surprise me at all as my department is notorious for high turnover and I also didn’t recommend them for a job).

  20. Jules*

    Friends don’t put their friends in bad spots. I would be up front and say, “Look, I know we are buddies but I put myself out there to get you in. If you are not happy and are looking outside, that is fine but while you are still getting paycheck from this org, you need to put on your big boy’s pants and get to work.”

  21. Oh no not again*

    I feel bad for the OP’s friend–cancer ain’t easy to deal with. Me? I’d let it go and chalk it up to a lesson learned. After the friend left the job permanently, I might apologize to my manager… saying that I’m sorry it didn’t work out. I would not tell the manager what my friend was doing–that falls under none of my business (now, if it was stealing or something similar, that should be brought to management’s attention).

  22. The Whitewalker Formerly Known as Jon Snow*

    OP — I feel for you! Is there a way you can can approach your boss about the ‘friend’s’ performance, without specifically saying you know he is job searching, and nudging her toward the idea of letting him go? I wonder if the boss is keeping him around/giving more chances out of deference to you? I suggest going to the boss to discuss his performance and saying something like “When I recommended him I thought he could do x but I see now he might never develop that skill. What are your thoughts about his work and whether or not he is really a good fit for the company in the long term? I appreciate that you interviewed him based on my recommendation but I certainly wouldn’t expect you to keep him on if he can’t perform the role.”

    Good luck!

    1. TootsNYC*

      That’s way more than I think is appropriate. As a manager, I’d consider this over the line. Don’t start coaching me about who I fire, for heaven’s sake!

      I’d be OK with the establishment of the OP’s non-approval of his job performance, etc., but I don’t want my subordinates to come hinting that I should fire someone.

      And if this manager is a bit of a wimp (which it sounds like), and sees herself as a nice person (which it sounds like), she’s not going to enjoy hearing those sorts of hints.

    2. OP*

      I specifically told my boss that I had never worked with my friend prior to this, and I couldn’t vouch for his performance and work, but that I thought at least on a personality level he would be a good fit, and that I know he was looking for work that was more closely aligned with what he wanted long term.

      I know for a fact that she would not keep someone on out of deference to one of her employees if she felt they were really bad at the work. I think that she feels that he could improve given the time to figure things out and doesn’t really want to fire someone unless she feels its bad enough to merit that. Whether she’s right or not, I don’t know, but I told her before even interviewing my friend that I would not be upset at the slightest if it didn’t work out and she needed to fire him.

      1. Office-anon*

        Then I’m thinking there isn’t an issue as far as your reputation is concerned, if you gave your boss those caveats when you made your rec. That’s more of a friendly heads-up than a solid recommendation. If you’d like to minimize any blowback your friend leaving the job will have, just make sure to talk to your boss and make sure you realize it wasn’t a great match, remind them you said you never worked with them, and say you’ll only recommend people you’ve worked with in the future.

      2. neverjaunty*

        So, it doesn’t actually reflect poorly on your judgment after all? Frankly, OP, it sounds like you’re super pissed at this guy and you want to inform your boss to get back at him for his crappy work behavior – but on some level you realize that’s not very nice, so you’re instead framing it as “oh, I have to do this or he’ll drag me down with him”.

        If you’re over this dude and well into BEC territory with him, that’s okay! But acknowledge that, don’t give in to the impulse to be petty, and let the friendship drop if you would prefer.

        1. OP*

          If my original letter to Alison was interpreted as “I’m going to be permanently ruined because of this”, that’s not at all how I intended it to sound. While I am concerned that any future people I may try to bring on may be disregarded because of my friend’s behavior, I am more concerned about what’s going to happen to the office if he decides to leave at the worst possible time (and he’s given me no indication that he would take that into account). We only have four people here, someone up and quitting means a lot more work for the others here (mostly me and my non-boss coworker) until someone else gets hired. Tax season is crazy enough without adding more work.

          I’m not “super pissed” at my friend, although I don’t quite understand why he’s doing what he’s doing, and I am a little irritated. That doesn’t mean that I want to screw him over and get him fired (something I doubt my boss will do, even if she does know he’s job searching). If he wants to go, I’d prefer he left ASAP so we can get to work at trying to find someone new (a process that will likely take my boss at least a few months to do) before the season begins.

          1. neverjaunty*

            If you don’t understand why he’s doing this, and he’s your friend, that’s the cue to take him aside (out for coffee, lunch on a weekend, whatever) and ask him. Tell him what you’re saying here, in a hey-Wakeen-what’s-up-with-that? kind of way. Let him know you know he’s job hunting, and you’re concerned what impact that’s going to have on the office. It literally may never have occurred to him how his behavior is affecting you and the company, and particularly given that he’s dealing with his mom’s health issues, he may have developed tunnel vision on that.

          2. Office-anon*

            This gives a bit more clarification, but it’s still confusing why telling your manager he’s job hunting would be an option. I can see telling your friend he should tell your manager, but it seems like such a leap from “he’s not pissing me off that much with this, but it’s not great that he’s doing this after I put in a word for him” and “should I tell my manager he’s job hunting and risk him getting let go?” Even if you think your manger wouldn’t fire him, it’s still a risk. It’s your friend’s call on that kind of decision. And from your manger’s perspective, there’s a risk that any employee wouldn’t be available or leave during tax season, so I’m hoping they’d have plans even without a heads up.

          3. fposte*

            I think “Is it okay for an employee to leave during the office’s busy season?” is a question in its own right, and I think mostly the answer would be “Yes.” If you can arrange to transition after the rush time is gone, that’s obviously preferable, but I don’t think you’re morally required to stick it out. Yes, sucks for the other employees, but I still think that’s a pretty important right to preserve.

            That being said, I think one thing you might be able to do on the friend line of communication is to say “Bob, we’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a longer notice time if you’re leaving during the busy season; the business has never penalized anybody during their notice time [presuming that’s true], and it would mean a lot to the rest of us if we didn’t have to do the work of four with three.”

  23. TootsNYC*

    well, if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s trashed your credibility, I’d say:

    Get ready for the time when he quits by having someone ready to step in. Start subtly recruiting someone decent now.

    But you could also say, if your boss mentions something about him, “Yeah, he doesn’t seem to be as engaged as I’d expected him to be. What would we do if he quit at a bad time?”

    Then you haven’t told her you know exactly what he’s doing–but you’ve brought up the idea of needing to replace him in a hurry.

    I’d also want to sort of demonstrate to my boss that *I* didn’t think his lack of willingness to actually learn his tasks, etc., was acceptable; I’d want my boss to see me distance myself from him.

  24. Ultraviolet*

    This depends on just how close a friend he is–I’m basing my opinion on a “very close” interpretation.

    I would explain the problem he’s creating for me as Alison describes. Then I think I’d ask him to consider staying through tax season in large part for my sake. I’d also point out that the boss has been really generous with the time off for a newish employee and if he starts a new job now he might have a harder time with that.

    And I’d tell him to stop telling me when he has an interview! I’d always suspect it when he called out sick anyway, though.

  25. Office-anon*

    1) I doubt that this will have much impact on her reputation to the point that it is career-destroying. Even if it has, the damage is already done due to the friend’s performance, him leaving will be more of a relief than anything.

    2) A friend that would throw me under the bus and endanger my income due to possible reputation damage (that isn’t major), while I’m dealing with a mom with cancer, would no longer be my friend. Yeah, come talk to me and tell me I’m being crummy and letting you down, give me a warning if you want. But telling our manger I’m job hunting would be poison, and I would make sure other friends in our circle knew so they would know not to trust them either. Having a manger that doesn’t trust your recommendations for open positions vs. not being able to pay rent and bills, and financially help family while they have cancer? That doesn’t balance out at all, there’s no need to escalate the situation without a discussion, at least.

    I just had someone do something like this to me. The person thought that I had done something that may have hurt his reputation with building management (and it didn’t at all, but he thought it did), and then actively badmouthed me to them and said he didn’t know me, etc. Needless to say, I don’t talk to this person anymore, because I know I can’t trust them to talk to me when there’s an issue, and that they’d be willing to needlessly hurt me for their own gain.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Re #2, sort of? It’s not really about the paycheck. I mean, if a co-worker loses his job because he was stealing company property or blatantly harassing subordinates, I hope none of us would scold an OP who took that to management because ‘oh, he has bills to pay’.

      But if you have a friend who’s doing stuff that is creating problems for you like this, the friend thing to do is to TELL THEM. Going straight to the boss sends a message: our friendship is dead, because I’m not willing to talk to you directly as I would to a friend.

      1. Office-anon*

        I agree, that point was more to say that it’s a disproportionate consequence compared to the harm done. I’d have a different response if the friend had stolen something, etc. But based on the details we have (including using sick time for interviews, since that’s pretty standard), it seems more appropriate to talk to the friend and communicate the issue.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      #2 all the way. If someone threw me under the bus like that while I was in such an awful personal situation (parent with cancer), I’d cut that person out of my life and make sure all mutual acquaintances knew why.

      (Also consider: what kind of dirt does this friend know about you? I’d be tempted to retaliate by letting OP’s boss know about OP’s controversial pseudonymous blog, youthful indiscretions, or whatever, and while I wouldn’t actually do it, some people might.)

  26. Laurel Gray*

    Much of the observations that people are making in the comments (very valid ones) are on the “AAM curve”. I believe that regular reading and/or contribution on this site creates better managers, workers and coworkers. I know it may seem like a stretch but I bet if OP’s friend was a regular AAM reader he would be more self conscious about his work quality. Those are subjects discussed here regularly so this wouldn’t even be a letter. And while I sympathize dearly with him for what he is dealing with in his personal life, business is still business. I really think someone has to have direct conversations with him about his foolery. He wants to get back into a larger organization, which is fine, but he would probably be on a PIP or leading up to one with behavior like this.

    1. TootsNYC*

      That’s a good point–I might make that point to my friend:
      “I know you want a larger organization–but do you realize that Manager has been able to be very generous with you? She gave you all that time off when your mom was sick; sure you’d get FMLA at most companies, but it might not be paid, and there’d be a heck of a lot more paperwork. And she let you take that vacation weekend. She gave you a bonus and a raise. So there are advantages to smaller companies.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Actually, my comment about FMLA got me thinking…
        At first I was thinking, “The Manager giving him time off is really just FMLA”–but the law clearly states you have to have worked for your employer for 12 months AND have worked 1,250 hours (156 8-hour days) prior to the start of the leave. So that is generous!

        He’s been treated pretty well; it wouldn’t be the worst thing to repay that by staying through the busy season.

        BUT…the manager definitely gave him a smaller bonus. She’s trying to hint that he should leave. And he wants to. So I don’t think the OP should interfere. Just let things work out.

        Manage your own reputation by creating a little distance at work, and making it clear that his work is not up to YOUR standards. And pretend you never knew he was interviewing.

        1. OP*

          I think the smaller bonus was less about trying to push him out and more about recognizing how much more work the other coworker and I did compared to him. If he had been given as much as me, I think I’d be feeling a little upset about doing all the extra work for not much recognition.

        2. Laurel Gray*

          I think FMLA wouldn’t even qualify for a company size of 4 people (I could be wrong) so the boss is definitely being generous.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              That’s a good point – he could get a job at a bigger company with better pay, but the price may be sacrificing a really generous policy for taking sick days to care for a parent. I suspect he’s thinking of what he wants, but ignoring the benefits of what he already has.

  27. nicolefromqueens*

    If I was responsible for at least some of my mother’s care, I wouldn’t be out of state for a few days for my boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding. Especially if I already had missed time at work.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, that one’s weird to me too. Even if the plan was made before Mom got sick, you cancel and let girlfriend go on alone.

    2. Office-anon*

      I think OP mentioned above that he sees his mom once a week. It doesn’t look like he’s a caretaker for her (or at least not full time). Otherwise, it’d still be possible that he made arrangements for her care for that weekend.

      1. nicolefromqueens*

        He is driving her to appointments. IMO if he can call out of a new job for his mother’s care or errands, he can cancel or shorten his attendance at an out of town wedding.

        If I were the boss, I’d tell him his vacation was recinded, given his attendance and performance when he is at work. His response dictates where his head is at.

        1. Office-anon*

          And who says he does that on the weekend? I’m pretty sure a lot of people in the comments have this negative opinion of the friend for work, but are extending it to him ditching his mom to go to a wedding. Caretakers/family members of people who are seriously ill can still have lives and make arrangements for a weekend trip. No need to extend him having poor job performance to thinking that he’d neglect his mother and not make arrangements for her care.

          Sorry, but this is a sore point, and this kind of attitude contributes to a lot of pressure and caretaker burnout.

  28. Macedon*

    I feel as if the AAM approach is a bit guilt-trippy. The friend behaved in ill faith (unless the workplace is so tremendously terrible as to warrant a job search asap, which I doubt by OP’s letter), but two wrongs don’t make a right. I think the other thing worth bearing in mind is that he is only interviewing and had done so for over two years prior to his role: he is either very picky or not necessaeily competitive. Combined with how long recruitment generally takes these days and with the upcoming holiday slowdown, it seems unlikely he will be handing in notice by Jan. So, personally, I wouldn’t tell the manager.

    Having said that, you don’t owe your friend support, even of the tacit kind (which is what you are supplying by not telling him his mentioning his interviews makes you uncomfortable). Tell him straight up that he is putting you in a position of conflicting interests and that, while you umderstand he is pursuing the means he deems best fit to resolve his situation, you prefer not to hear about it.

  29. Stranger than fiction*

    Alison, just curious, what does it mean when there’s no Reply button after a comment? I see it occasionally but upthread here there’s a whole section without it

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The comments only nest 8 levels deep. After that, it stops giving the option to nest replies. (Each nested reply indents a bit more than the last, and after 8 indents, it starts getting hard to read.)

  30. Mabel*

    I’d really be interested in hearing about the conversation that the OP has with her/his friend about this.

  31. John Cosmo*

    I don’t get why this is even a problem. O.K. you recommended a friend for a job and it isn’t working out. Your boss is unhappy with your friend and your friend is unhappy with the job and is looking for another, one that he will hopefully be better suited to. Your friend’s leaving sounds like a win/win.

    Sure, you’re disappointed with your friend and he’s made you look bad, but keep your mouth shut and let him go. The sooner he finds another job, the sooner your boss can find a more suitable replacement for your friend. You might even volunteer to give him a glowing reference to help push him into the arms of another employer. (Does your company have any rivals?)

  32. Techfool*

    I agree with JC. Yes, it’s inconvenient but we’re all allowed to look for other jobs.
    I guess the question is, would you like it if your co- worker told boss you were looking?

  33. Christine*

    The OP’s friend is dealing with a seriously ill parent which might be influencing his performance. Couldn’t the friend tell him point blank about his performance and the image he’s giving your employer. That he needs to clean up his act or he might find himself pushed out before he has something lined up.

    I would keep your mouth shut about his job searching, because this might back fire on you with both parties. Because wouldn’t hate to out him to your boss, than have him turn over a new leaf, start performing as he should, and decide to stay for a year or two. It could take him six months to a year to get a new position.

    I would go to your boss and inform her that you feel bad about the recommendation and how it’s played out.

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