I applied for a job and they told my current employer, who should pay for the office candy, and more

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

1. I applied for a job and they told my current employer about it

I’m currently employed but am exploring the possibility of moving to a different part of the country and have recently been putting out applications. As it turns out, a resume I sent to one company made it into the hands of someone who used to work with my current boss. Without speaking to me at all, this person contacted my boss to ask about me. My resume clearly states that I am currently employed (and where), and I state that references are available upon request. Today my boss called me in to let me know this woman contacted him, and that he hoped I wouldn’t leave.

I am furious. I cannot believe this woman had the audacity to respond to my application by contacting my current employer, and not me. Thankfully my boss has been good about it so far, but it obviously could have gone the other way, and who knows what’s being discussed behind closed doors. My boss mentioned the company where this woman works, and I noticed she had recently looked at my LinkedIn profile. To top it off, as of now she hasn’t contacted me for an interview. If she did, I’m not sure I’d want to go due to the blatant unprofessionalism displayed thus far, but if I did decide to go, I’m not sure how I should react. Should I bring it up? If in the end she doesn’t contact me for an interview, what on earth was she trying to do by contacting my boss??

Perhaps my reaction is a bit extreme as things are still raw, but at this point I feel a bit violated, like she’s gone and tattled on me.

Your reaction isn’t at all unwarranted; what she did was a huge violation of the code of conduct that governs how this works. It’s generally understood that of course you don’t contact a job candidate’s current employer without permission, and that you could be jeopardizing the person’s job if you do. What she did was horrible.

I think you’d be justified in contacting her and saying something like, “My manager informed me that you reached out to him and told him that I applied for a job with you. I assumed my application would be kept confidential and that you wouldn’t alert my current employer, since obviously that could jeopardize my employment. Can you help me understand what happened here?”

If nothing else, you might consider posting what happened on GlassDoor so that other potential applicants understand the risk they’d be taking.

2. My coworker gives me work on pieces of paper towels

I work in for a international food corporation, where I an an associate engineering planner. One of the three engineers I work with seems to think that he does not need to make an effort in his work communication with me, and gives me work to be done written on scraps of paper or even paper towels. Or when he gives me instructions on paper, one can barely make out what the information is or what needs to be done. Also, he wants everything immediately, and runs and tells my manager that I am not working with him. I’m at my wit’s end with this guy. Please advise.

Well, if you could pretty easily get the information you need from those scraps, I’d say to try to roll with it as a battle not necessarily worth fighting. I think you’re seeing it as a sign of lack of respect, but you could choose to instead see it as just a weird quirk of this guy’s and not about you.

However, if you can’t read what he’s written, then of course that’s a problem — and that’s where I’d focus. When that happens, be straightforward: “Fergus, I can’t make out what you’ve written here. Can you talk me through it or type it up?” If that doesn’t work and you continue to get illegible scribbles, then you should either hold firm on not accepting work that way (if you’re senior enough to take that stand) or go to your manager and ask how she wants you to navigate it: “Fergus regularly gives me work written on scrap paper or even paper towels, which I could work with except that I often can’t make out what he’s written. I’ve asked him to talk to me in person or type it into an email, but it hasn’t stopped. What’s the best way for me to approach this?”

Same thing with him wanting everything immediately and complaining to your manager — tell her what’s going on and ask how she wants you to handle it. (Plus, if she does think that you should be more responsive to him, this conversation will bring that out, and the two of you can get better aligned.)

3. How can I avoid throwing former management under the bus?

I joined an established nonprofit as CEO about 18 months ago. The former director was accomplished in many areas, giving the agency the appearance of success and stability (programs successful, but not so fiscally). After starting, I learned that the agency was not engaged in fundraising, and its methods for raising unrestricted income were no longer viable. We do receive grants, but they are reimbursement-based, and we are responsible for about a significant portion of our overall budget. I also learned that the finance staff were only marginally knowledgeable about nonprofit finances, and that the board was only marginally knowledgeable about the state of the agency’s financial affairs. Very little infrastructure was in place for an agency with almost a $2M budget.

Long story short, I am in the process of rebuilding our board of directors and our finance team while starting a fundraising program from scratch. The transition year while I have been learning how deep the problems are has been particularly awful. We are now in the process of turning around this huge ship, but it is not easy.

We have a truly great team. They are aware that we are in a financial bind right now and morale is low. Most of our employees are committed to our mission and are working to help us pull through. However, they are having a hard time reconciling how rosy things looked two years ago with where we are right now. Likewise, some of the board understands why we are where we are, but we have lost many others.

Do you have any ideas how to frame our situation without throwing the former management and board under the bus? We are having to explain and negotiate late payments while building confidence with potential funders. While in hindsight I would change some of my decisions, the reality is that I came into a situation that was very, very unhealthy to begin with.

I’d err on the side of transparency. I get that you don’t want to trash-talk the former management, and you don’t need to — but you should objectively and factually explain the situation. The basic formula is, “Here’s the situation we were in, here’s how we got there, and here’s how we’re moving out of it.” If you stick to the facts and don’t insert judgments (either in tone or in substance), people will get the information they need and can draw their own conclusions, without feeling like you’re trashing anyone or trying to bias them. It’s the difference between “the board wasn’t paying attention” and “the board didn’t realize that X was happening,” or between “the finance team was a mess” and “the finance team was great at processing donations but unfortunately didn’t realize we needed to do X and Y.”

It will also help to put the biggest emphasis on the “here’s how we’re moving forward and regaining stability” part.

If you try to dance around it, it’s much more likely to come across as if you’re being shady or hiding something. Plus, people are going to draw conclusions about what happened whether you tell them or not, and it’s much better for them to have accurate information when they do that.

4. Should coworkers pay for the candy they eat from a candy dish?

If you bring in candy to work for your coworkers on your own accord and wallet, should you expect them to chip in for it and put a money jar next to the candy dish?

Not unless you make it clear that that’s what the arrangement is. If you put out a candy dish, people will assume it’s okay for them to take some. Only a rude person would eat huge amounts of it without offering to buy the next batch, but people will assume they’re not expected to chip in for small amounts. If you want them to, a sign or a money jar will make that clear.

5. Do I need to reply to recruiter emails?

I happen to work in an industry that has a small talent pool, but is growing at a rapid pace. I get recruitment emails about once a week for various new positions at other organizations. I’m happy in my current role and don’t have any intention of leaving in the near future. I may be looking in a couple of years, so it is nice to see what else is out there in the industry.

Most of these recruiters are very nice and send personalized emails, and often follow up if they do not hear back from me. I’m polite and often send a quick note back saying that I’m happy where I am. Should I answer each email? Is it OK to just not respond? I’m happy to follow etiquette and politely decline, but it is happening enough that some weeks I just don’t have the time to answer.

It’s fine to just not reply; they are very, very used to it. They send tons of these messages every week, and loads of people don’t reply. That said, if a recruiter seems particularly skilled or connected, it can be worth replying just to build a relationship for the future.

{ 328 comments… read them below }

  1. Milton Waddams*

    #1: Was there any fine print mentioning this might happen? One of the new fads in HR is requiring a reference from your current employer, because it drastically cuts down on the number of applications (as it excludes both the unemployed and the skittish), making the intake process a lot easier. (Caught me by surprise, too.)

    1. Artemesia*

      Even if this were true, it is unconscionable to do it before the candidate is being asked to interview.

    2. Not the Droid you Are Looking For*

      One of the new fads in HR is requiring a reference from your current employer, because it drastically cuts down on the number of applications (as it excludes both the unemployed and the skittish)

      What?! Thankfully this hasn’t rolled over to my industry. This is horrible. I have former bosses that I had a great relationship with, but they were not the kind of people where I could comfortably say, “hey, I’m dipping my toes in the water. Is that cool with you?”

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Yeah, I’m thinking this is industry specific because this did not happen to me in my last job search, and that was only four months ago.

        1. Luthux*

          I job hunted this past fall, and the HR director for one position, after completing multiple interviews and a regular round of reference checking, asked for a reference from my then-current employer as a final step. I politely declined and explained that my then employer did not know that I was job hunting and I did not want to put my job at risk or put unnecessary strain on my relationship with my then employer. The HR director said it was a sign that they were taking me very seriously and wondered if I could give them a similar sign. I shared that the multiple interviews I had completed and the interview process up until that point should have showed them my intent towards the position. I got off the phone call second guessing myself and thinking I had blown it with this position – but the HR director called me back an hour later and made me an excellent job offer that I ultimately accepted.

          For what it’s worth, I work in philanthropy.

      2. Murphy*

        Yeah, it’s really common in government (mandatory with my government, in fact) but I wouldn’t expect other organizations would have the same requirements. If you have a good relationship with your boss it’s not a big deal, but yes, it can make leaving a toxic environment much harder (although because it’s government it’s unlikely to put your job at risk – and not at all likely if you’re one of the majority who are unionized).

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          I think it’s common in academia also (which does often overlap with government). However, due to the way the academic world works, it’s not going to put your position at risk. (And it’s hard not to notice if someone’s out of town for a few days’ worth of interviews.)

        2. MommaTRex*

          I work in government, and I haven’t heard of this at all. Within the same government, maybe, because it’s pretty much hard to hide that you are applying within the agency. But from someone outside, NO WAY.

        3. Brett*

          In last job with government, it was mandatory if your current employer was government, but not if that employer was private. In some cases with state licensed positions, your current employer had to release you to be hired by new government employer.

      3. HRJeanne*

        This is not a trend that I’m aware of. It should not be a trend. We don’t usually include current employers in background checks, in case the offer falls through for another reason. What this OP experienced is appalling.

      4. BethRA*

        Blackbaud requires it of most of their applicants – at least the ones who work for customers – to avoid looking like their poaching talent.

        1. Audiophile*

          I’m not sure how that avoids a supposed impropriety. Obviously, candidates from competing companies can apply for a job with Blackbaud. If I knew that my employer frowned upon me going to a competitor (and said competitor knew the same) I’d imagine both sides would tread carefully.

    3. Rick*

      I don’t know if it’s a trend or not, but also excludes applicants who think it’s none of your damn business until you demonstrate that you’re seriously considering hiring them.

      I realize that I can do this because I’m well off in regards to finances, skill set, and area (software engineer in the 2nd or 3rd biggest metro for it in the USA), but when I see something unreasonable like that I tell the HR or hiring manager I’m no longer interested. The only time I didn’t was when I was applying to a mid-sized company where I knew a guy who reported directly to the CEO who was willing and able to grease the wheels for me.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I have been asked to provide proof of employment, which was a letter stating “Chocolate Teapot has worked for Teapots R Us as a Senior Spout Attacher from March 2005 – November 2015”. I think some companies run background checks to confirm there is actually a Teapots R Us.

        1. Rick*

          When stated like that, I’m not sure what the issue is… do they want this along with your initial application? That’s really sketchy.

          If they trust applicants THAT little at the very start of the process, then they’re setting a really bad tone for the relationship even before serious employment considerations are made by either party, and that’s just bad business.

          My employer uses a third party employment verification system (used it for things like rental applications in the past), but a lot of people probably don’t have an option like that. If they’re asking for verification very early on, then they have massive trust issues and are weeding out everyone who isn’t very confident or very desperate — there are certainly good candidates in those pools but they’re not very smart ways to cut down your applicant pool IMO.

        2. Mike C.*

          This can easily be accomplished with a copy of a pay stub or W-2 with the pay blacked out.

      2. Anxa*

        I struggle with this a lot.

        I had been under or unemployed for 6 years. I was applying to some jobs judiciously, but I also couldn’t really turn any opportunities down. Do you know how many sheets of paper have my SSN on them floating in some broom-closet-turned-office or other offices without careful control of that kind of information? I cringe over how many times my references had to fill out pages of surveys before I was even called into interview. In fact, went through periods of suspending my job search since I didn’t want to put that kind of burden on my references. It wasn’t until I came to this site did I realize that this wasn’t a very common thing (but I’m in an area with a depressed economy and only a handful of employers for jobs that match my qualifications).

        I am really hoping some of the work I’m doing now pays off. I don’t think it will give me any in-demand skills, but at least I know I’m in a position where I shouldn’t feel entitled or ungracious or demanding for waiting a bit of a two-way interview process.

    4. neverjaunty*

      That makes zero sense, unless by “skittish” you mean “anyone who doesn’t want to get fired”. The only people who would be fine with giving a reference from their current employer are those whose employers know they’re leaving – which would be people facing planned layoffs and those who gave notice with no firm job offer on sight.

      1. Hornswoggler*

        Excluding currently unemployed people makes no sense either – they could be unemployed for a whole range of perfectly respectable reasons, and be brilliant and available! That sounds to me like needless, bootless prejudice.

        1. Allison*

          Don’t get me started. I work in recruiting, and one of the recruiters I work with will want me to target companies who’ve been laying people off, BUT she’s said she doesn’t actually want to talk to anyone who’s been laid off because they’re not strong enough; they always cut the weak ones, she says, and we want people who made it through the last round but are afraid they’ll be next. Also, I was going through applications and she said to reject anyone who’d applied more than two weeks earlier, because if they’re still job hunting they’re probably not good enough.

          I get that she used to be an agency recruiter and she puts a lot of pressure on herself to only put through high quality candidates, but she can be ridiculous sometimes.

          1. Sans*

            No, I’ve seen lots of layoffs and many, many times , very good people are let go. Because the decision was made to eliminate the position because they restructured the dept. It’s not personal, and in fact, it is often a really stupid decision because they people making the decision have no idea what the real impact will be of losing those people.

            A recruiter should know this. If she really thinks only the weak are laid off, she’s not qualified to do her job.

            Also, it’s pretty funny that she wants those who survived the last round of layoffs but are afraid they will be next. What happens if, while looking for another position, the next round happens – and they are laid off? Are they suddenly weak and no longer a desirable candidate?

            1. Kyrielle*

              Yes, this. The other thing I’ve seen during layoffs in engineering is restructuring to eliminate the more senior (and thus more highly paid) positions. That’s…always interesting when you’re left on the team afterward, because it usually leaves a gaping hole in the skill set. But by golly it saves a few thousand extra.

              1. Allison*

                I’m sure they eventually hire someone with those skills, they just go for the least experienced person possible so they only have to pay a fraction of the former person’s salary.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  Nah, the other team members had learned parts of them from him and could bring themselves up to speed. On the job training, without the training. (Software engineering, so we all had approximately the same skillset from the POV of the bean counters. But some people knew the product and certain technologies in it better.)

            2. neverjaunty*

              Yes, this. This recruiter isn’t just ridiculous, she’s incompetent, since she’s basing boring decisions on nonsense.

            3. Dan*

              The other thing is, you can get laid off people a little cheaper. My bar for leaving my company is high, maybe too high. But if I have no job, my bar is much lower.

              The last time I was laid off, I threw out some really lowball numbers to not price myself out of the market. I had multiple offers, so I didn’t end up having to deal with fallout of too low of a number.

              I mean, I might have told Company A that I’d work for $75k, but if Company B offers me $90k, I’m certainly within my right to turn down Company A’s offer and tell them outright that it’s too low.

          2. LQ*

            But you can find high quality candidates by…reading resumes and cover letters and checking references. It is like doing all those things in place of actually good screening.

            1. Allison*

              She doesn’t like to waste her time by talking to people who present themselves well on paper but turn out to be inadequate, so she tries to read between the lines.

                1. Allison*

                  No, when she’s really pressed for time and the hiring manager is breathing down her neck, she gets frustrated when she realized she spent 20 minutes of her precious time screening a candidate who looked okay on paper but was all wrong for the job. This is also when she starts asking me to administrative tasks for her, because every second counts for her. I understand that she gets really swamped sometimes, but she turns into a nightmare when she’s stressed out.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Let me guess, when you point out to her how stupid her reasoning is, she gets annoyed and doesn’t want to hear it?

                1. Allison*

                  I wouldn’t dare, she has a lot more experience than I do and it seems disrespectful to correct her way of thinking.

                2. CMT*

                  Allison, just because somebody has more experience than you doesn’t mean they’re right. And you can certainly raise concerns in a respectful manner.

                3. Allison*

                  CMT, that won’t stop her from thinking she’s right and getting mad at me for antagonizing her.

          3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            I can attest – that when someone is laid off – quite often due to other circumstances, the least capable are NOT ALWAYS the ones who are let go.

            There are other issues – sometimes someone will have an illness or other circumstance that prevents a layoff. And someone else goes in her/his place.

            Sometimes an employee will have a “no layoff” agreement in writing, executed in happier times, but it’s still in the file for a rainy day.

            Sometimes a little factor like affirmative action quotas hit and tie a manager’s hands.

            Sometimes the boss’ pets stay and the others go. “Yes, Fred did all the work – I know that, you know that, but, Sally is the big boss’ niece, I’m not going to get in that situation. Bring in Fred, let’s tell him he’s gone.”

            Sometimes a company will have a LIFO policy = “last in, first out”…

            Sometimes someone is about to reach a milestone (vesting in 401K or pension, for example) and a layoff might foster a lawsuit.

            It’s rather foolish to cast aside a potential employee over his/her layoff status. Then again, who ever gave recruiters a blanket approval, that what they do is the right thing, all of the time?

          4. Wendy Darling*

            I got laid off because my entire team was eliminated and there weren’t any suitable openings at the company in my state. They offered to relocate me to another state but I declined. My boss teared up in the meeting where I signed my severance paperwork. When my shiny new job was checking my references and asked the people I’d worked with there if I was eligible for re-hire they basically told them that if they had a position open up they were coming to get me.

            I had one recruiter straight up say “Why didn’t you just move to a different job at MegaCorp? You were laid off in December, why don’t you have a job yet?” It was February. I had perfectly good reasons. But basically because I didn’t have a job there was CLEARLY something wrong with me. It was a pretty miserable conversation, really — I felt like she made things incredibly adversarial when they didn’t need to be at all.

          5. Nico m*

            Shes an idiot.

            A well-run company will be downsizing by rational criteria specific to their individual needs, and the order out the door should not be meaningful to outsiders.

            A badly run company will be downsizing according to tea leaves, astrology, or whatever dumb thinkiness landed them in the shit in the first place. And hence the order out the door will be irrelevant.

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I used to work for someone who said she only hired people who had a current job, because it was an indicator they were a good worker/high performer.

          1. addlady*

            But, what if they’re right? I’m hoping they’re not, but this is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night, because I am currently jobless.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*


              You will find a lot of “weird” out there when you’re out of work and looking for a job. And yes, even though the management books scoff at this, there is a definite stigma to being out of work for more than a few weeks.

            2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              She was a brilliant woman, and I was glad to work for her, but in this case, she was *completely* wrong.

              Smart, talented, good people end up unemployed for a variety of reasons. I’ve seen people who were high-performers be the first to go in a layoff, I had an amazing coworker get fired because her boss was threatened by her talent, I hired someone who had taken the leap of moving without a job because her husband was offered an incredible position at a local university.

              That attitude made a little/slightly more sense pre-recession when it felt like there were more jobs than employees, but it beyond ridiculous these days.

      2. Rob Lowe can't read*

        Or those who have a good enough relationship with their current employer that they can be upfront about job hunting, which was my situation a year ago…but your point that few job seekers will be in that position stands!

      3. Murphy*

        The only people who would be fine with giving a reference from their current employer are those whose employers know they’re leaving – which would be people facing planned layoffs and those who gave notice with no firm job offer on sight.

        Or people who have a good relationship with their boss and can tell them upfront they’re thinking about moving on. I’ve always told my bosses about jobs before I have an offer (some at different stages), but for the most part as soon as I’m applying I’ve told my bosses. But I’ve been lucky.

      4. CMT*

        Or people with a good relationship with their employers, which I realize is probably a smaller number. But it is possible. Everyone at my workplace knows that I’m going to leave sooner or later because I need to relocate. It’s not a secret here and nobody treats me any differently.

    5. Engineer Girl*

      If HR is making this a fad then they are pretty stupid. There are plenty of high performers that are intelligent enough to never take that kind of risk. Do you really want to cull your talent pool that way? Do you really believe that there are so many high performers looking for jobs that you can do that?

    6. OP*

      I’m the original poster for #1. There was definitely no fine print as there was no specific ad I was applying to. I just sent my application in cold. Surprisingly though, they did just contact me for an interview this morning. I have yet to respond, however.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I’d be wary about entertaining this if I were you. In fact, the only way I’d go if this happened to me is if I thought boss would retaliate against me for daring to look for new opportunities, or if I desperately needed the money. If neither of those two things were true, I’d pass and let the hiring manager know it was due to her lack of discretion.

        1. Anna*

          Or you could split the difference. Call and let them know you’re interested in doing the interview, but tell them what happened and let them know you’d like some reassurances this isn’t normal and that it won’t be broadcast all over that you interviewed with them.

      2. Cube Ninja*

        Heck, I’d even go a step further than Doriana has suggested. Unless this is a position you’re *really* interested in and the hiring manager *really* demonstrates that this one bad apple isn’t indicative of the company culture, I would flat out withdraw the application on the basis of their action. Whether it’s immediate or not, this company has altered your relationship with your current employer through no fault of your own.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Huh. This seems like a huge overreaction to me. I of course agree that this was a massive violation, but I don’t know that I would draw any conclusions about what the manager or company overall would be like to work for.

          Lots of managers are bad at hiring. Most of them never receive any training in how to do it – even the nuts and bolts that seem obvious (like this). Sure, it could reflect a stunning lack of empathy or common sense, but it could also just be a busy manager who reached out to someone she knows without thinking it through. It’s a data point, for sure, but (for me) it’s not the whole decision.

          1. newlyhr*

            I am constantly harping on our hiring managers to let HR handle the process but we seem to have a few who go on out there and do stuff like this which often winds up backfiring on them. Don’t take it as indicative of the entire company.

          2. Navy Vet*

            Lots of managers may be bad at hiring, but those same managers have presumable been in the work force for a decent amount of time and have also interviewed for other positions whilst working for another employer.

            I am also going to make the assumption these managers have interviewed for and accepted job offers without their current employers knowledge they are shopping around. (And also with the same common understanding that the current employer will not be notified)

            I just find it hard to believe somebody in a management role does not understand that contacting the current employer an be seriously damaging to the applicant.

            I know if the beans had been spilt on my job search to my last boss I would have been fired. Because that’s how my previous company would react to employees moving on to another role. (They took it very personally) And any gap in my pay at the time would have caused serious repercussions for me.

            So, in my opinion this woman made an oversight (whether malicious or not) that could have cost the OP her job. In fact, she didn’t give the same courtesy to the OP that I’m sure she used herself in past job applications.

          3. Mabel*

            OP may want to see how her interview goes and how they respond to her asking them what happened. I don’t know how I’d feel about this if it were me, but I have a friend who had the same situation (although it happened after the 1st or 2nd interview). He expressed his disappointment and displeasure, and they said that it was a mistake and that they were very sorry. He ended up taking the job.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I don’t consider that to be a surprise.

        I think the only reason this woman would call her contact in another company is if you were already on a shortlist.

    7. Apollo Warbucks*

      I can’t imagine this being wide spread, my assumption is the person only called because they knew the OPs manager still unacceptable and but not something they do all the time or to every candidate.

      1. Sara*


        It’s not cool what happened, but it’s a small world, and I can at least see how that happened. If it was just a random reach out, I would call it out. In this case, I’m not sure I’d do that because, it might get back to the boss, again.

      2. AndersonDarling*

        I’ve seen this scenario. A hiring manager gets a stack of resumes and says, “Hey, this candidate looks really good on paper, and I know someone at Acme Inc. where he works. I’ll give my contact a call and see if he can shed some light on the candidate.”
        It turned out that the contact was the candidate’s boss. The hiring manager had no idea when she made the call and she got in a lot of hot water with our HR.

      3. OP*

        I agree. I believe the only reason why my current employer was contacted was because this one person knew him. I don’t believe it was malicious, but I also can’t fathom what was going through this woman’s mind at the time.

        1. TootsNYC*

          She may have thought that this contact of hers was a good guy, and that he wouldn’t go tell your boss that you were looking.

          Instead she accidentally got your very boss–and he is being a good guy by letting your know, by telling you he values you, and by not holding this job search against you.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I’m torn on what I’d do if someone called me and asked me about one of my direct reports, in this way.

            I think I’d probably not say anything to that person. Mostly because right now, if they leave, I can easily replace them.

            But also because it will be awkward for them, and I wouldn’t want it to be awkward for them. I prefer plausible deniability.

            I suppose if I really, really didn’t want to lose them, I might let them know I knew, and say, “I’m hoping you don’t leave, and when that job decision is done, and if you don’t get that job, let’s sit down and talk about what is prompting you to look, and see if we can get you some of that here at this job.”

            But since I already do some of that–I give my people as much advancement as I can without giving away my own job; I’m reasonable about time off; I express appreciations; etc.–I figure if they’re looking, there’s probably nothing I can do to keep them.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              This is good stuff. And the OP said she was thinking of moving, so it’s probably less about current job dissatisfaction than about wanting to live somewhere else. I could totally understand that and I would appreciate a boss who did also.

        2. Bend & Snap*

          OP, at minimum, I hope you’ll respond to the interview request and explain what happened.

          1. OP*

            I did. I explained what happened, and they responded by saying applications are kept confidential and that HR is the only department communicating with applicants (applicants though, not the applicant’s current employer!). The person who contacted my boss is not in HR, they work in the department I would be working in, so it’s possible they were not aware of the violation. I’m still miffed about the whole situation, but I don’t want to burn any bridges in an already small industry. Needless to say, should I have several successful interviews, this company is now low on my list of preferred employers.

        3. newlyhr*

          the fact that you are participating in this discussion forum probably puts you in the top 5% of people who understand management, HR, and other issues like this. We have PhD’s working here who are oblivious to the basics when it comes to dealing with people, appropriate HR practices, and management skills.

          HR is a skilled profession that unfortunately a lot of people think they have ‘natural abilities’ to do. I had a CEO once tell me that he did not understand why he had to offer such a high salary to an HR person he wanted to hire because “My god, how hard can it be? You’re just dealing with people!”

          It is entirely possible that this hiring person is a decent person who made a bad choice. If you want to work there, then do the interview and see what you think. You can always say no later.

    8. Mike C.*

      The absolute cynic I me says this is being done to make you more likely to take the job offer, since you’re likely persona non grata with your current employer.

      That’s the only reason I can think of. There are lots of terrible things said about HR departments, but I just have a hard time believing they could be this stupid about a candidate’s career.

      1. Rick*

        Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity? Unless the asker’s so supremely qualified (and in which case that’s seriously great!) for the position that NewJob already knows they want asker even before the interview, that makes little sense.

        Either way it’s really, really bad and it should tank NewJob’s reputation in asker’s eyes.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I agree, and I think there’s an extra wrinkle in here– the OP wants to move to a different part of the country. So while I think the person at New Company did something stupid, I could see her thinking, “Oh, OP wants to move out here! It’s probably a done deal. I should call my former colleague and ask about her.” Still not cool, mind you.

            1. my two cents*

              that’s a really good point – the cross-country move may have put it in their head that the current boss was already in the know, since a long distance move tends to take a bit of planning and coordination.

            2. neverjaunty*

              But BEFORE the interview? Assuming that it’s a “done deal” that the candidate is moving? No, I have to agree with Mike to a point; this wasn’t kindly thoughtlessness. I suspect the interviewer simply didn’t give a crap about the repercussions to the OP.

          2. Person of Interest*

            That’s what I thought when I first read the letter. This probably wasn’t an intentional mean act, just a thoughtless one. Likely the hiring manager thought “oh, I know the guy at OldCompany, I should ask him about her” without thinking it all the way through from your perspective. At this point you should probably just use the idea of possibly relocating to smooth things out with your current boss. I think it’s understood that a relocation could take a long time and may not happen at all so maybe your boss will be less likely to write you off as definitely leaving at this point.

          3. Mike C.*

            No, no f*cking way can this be a simple “act of stupidity”. This is thoughtlessness on the scale of negligence or worse. You never, ever, ever tell someone’s current employer that they are looking elsewhere because half the time they will be fired on the spot and half of the remainder they’ll managed out of their job anyway. Anyone who’s job it is to manage people, like say someone in Human Resources knows this.

            This is akin to a doctor publishing the medical results of patients online for all to see, or a pilot flying halfway around the world without checking for fuel. Maybe it’s not done on purpose, but it’s so terrible that it rises above simple stupidity.

            Also, this whole “Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity” is in itself short-sighted. There are tons of people who do petty and spiteful things simply because they can. Lots of those folks have jobs.

            1. my two cents*

              A few comments up, AvonLady pointed out that this would be a cross-country move. It’s entirely possible that they (incorrectly) assumed the current boss was in the know. Doesn’t make it okay, but it does explain the misstep.

              1. C*

                Makes no difference, sorry! It’s a huge no-no, in any profession and under any circumstance, to contact a candidate’s current employer. And BEFORE even interviewing them?!?

              2. Meg Murry*

                Yes, especially if OP had used the advice often given to people that are relocating to write it as a done deal (I will be moving to XYZ area in June 2016), I could see the new company assuming OP has already told her boss that she is going.

              3. Mike C.*

                It still violates norms relating to never ever speaking to the current employer without express permission, not to mention the fact that the OP hadn’t even received an interview yet.

                1. Mike C.*

                  You really believe that it’s not an established norm? Every manager that has an opinion on what to do about employees who are looking elsewhere and try to hire currently employed people must understand the need for confidentiality.

                  I would be at “how could the boyfriend not point out that his vacation was already approved” levels of shock if this wasn’t actually the case.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  It is a norm to assume that if somebody has a job, and is looking for another job, their current manager doesn’t know unless they say something otherwise.

                  I doubt this was deliberate sabotage. I also doubt it was merely thoughtless, in the sense of “it never occurred to her”. Most likely she just didn’t care; she wanted information, and how that impacted OP was irrelevant to her.

                3. fposte*

                  That was probably too terse. I don’t know that it’s established enough as a norm to override people’s habit of talking to people they know. When I’ve been involved in hiring, in a small and incestuous population, people immediately lean toward talking to their network about the candidate, because the hiring committee always knows somebody who would know the candidate. It was a pleasant surprise the one time a committee chair noted that the applicant’s current boss wasn’t listed as a reference and that that probably meant her job didn’t know she was looking–but that’s also an indication that it wasn’t a default assumption not to talk to the applicant’s supervisors without that kind of clue.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Mike, I’ve absolutely had to point out to otherwise good, kind people that no, they can’t call their contact at organization X to ask about candidate Y because Y is still employed there. People without a ton of experience in hiring don’t always think this through.

                  No disagrees that this isn’t okay, but I really urge you not to dig your heels in and insist that it can’t be an simple act of ignorance/thoughtlessness. It really is the most likely explanation.

                5. A Cita*

                  Though to be fair, fposte, don’t you work in academia? That’s an area where it’s nigh impossible to keep a job search confidential, unless you’re searching outside of academia.

                  There are definitely industries like academia and government where this is common, and even expected. But in most other industries? I definitely err on the side of believing it’s a norm.

                6. fposte*

                  @A Cita–yes, indeed, and that’s a big part of it (and we count, right?). But I also think people don’t always get taught how to hire outside of academia either.

                7. A Cita*

                  @fposte: you know what? You’re right. We DO count! Let’s get t-shirts: We are not the exception that proves the rule!

                  If that won’t fly, then: Academia hiring norms: features, not bugs!


                8. Mike C.*

                  I’ll split the difference and call it “gross negligence”.

                  Yeah, ok, there can be cases where damage wasn’t intended but at the same time this is something that should be expected to be known and followed by anyone with some level of experience and the potential damage is rather significant. I suspect that neverjaunty’s idea is closest to the truth.

              4. Rusty Shackelford*

                I would be at “how could the boyfriend not point out that his vacation was already approved” levels of shock if this wasn’t actually the case.

                Can anyone fill me in on this story? Cause it sounds like something I need to experience.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Anyone who’s job it is to manage people, like say someone in Human Resources knows this.

              Well obviously not, since the person here did call OP’s employer, and we get letters here where the HR folks are complete idiots. So maybe it should be “anyone whose job it is to manage people, like say someone in Human Resources with professional and up-to-date standards knows this.”

              Or “someone who bothered to read AAM.” :)

            3. Sigrid*

              I will say, prior to discovering AAM I had no idea it was not done to contact current employers. I worked in academia, where it was normal, and then I left academia, and no one gave me a “here is how the private working world is different from academia” handbook. Fortunately, I discovered AAM before I made too many blunders, because there were lots of things I didn’t know were “not done”. (Now I’m in medical school, and am back to not operating in the normal world.)

              My point is, what is “commonly known” in any area is not guaranteed to be known by everyone. “Common sense” and “industry norms” don’t come in a handbook, they’re learned by osmosis, and it often takes a while for people to absorb these things. It’s perfectly possible to explain most errors in accepted behavior, even egregious ones, as ignorance rather than malice. That’s not to say every error is ignorance, of course, just that you can’t ever say “everyone knows this, therefore it was OBVIOUSLY malicious”, because no matter what you’re talking about, not everyone will know it.

              1. Bibliovore*

                “When I’ve been involved in hiring, in a small and incestuous population, people immediately lean toward talking to their network about the candidate, because the hiring committee always knows somebody who would know the candidate.”
                As someone in academia, I was actually shocked that NOT contacting someone you know (not an acquaintance but someone you know) who supervises an applicant for an academic position was considered an offensive action.
                There are no secrets in academia when it comes to faculty positions. When a plum one becomes open it is a VERY small world.

      2. Mookie*

        Blackmailing an applicant in this economy (come with me if you want to live work for us or you’ll get fired lol)? Well, they’d have to be pretty shortsighted.

      3. Chocolate lover*

        A few years ago, a friend was offered a position at an organization that partnered with her current employer and manager. They asked her at the interview if current manager knew, and she told them she was keeping it confidential. Within an hour of receiving (but not accepting yet), the boss of the new unit called the current manager and told her. The current manager threw a first-class tantrum. And not discreetly, either.

        My friend was probably going to take the new job anyway, too many advantages not to, but that confirmed it. She would have had a target on her back if she stayed. She wasn’t at all happy about the new company telling her current boss, but the new job has turned out really well for her, thankfully.

          1. chocolate lover*

            I don’t agree with it, but as others have mentioned, the new boss felt a sense of professional obligation to one of his professional collaborators, so it seems more carelessness as opposed to malice. He also wasn’t her immediate boss. I can’t say I would have been comfortable with it, but she was planning to accept it anyway, and decided to move forward. I know some people say the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know, but in this case, if you’re going to deal with a jerk, may as well get paid a LOT more for it, with more other benefits as well.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Oh, I’m not criticizing your friend for taking the new job. Just that it is wise to keep in mind when a new employer is 1) clueless and 2) will happily throw you under the bus.

    9. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Two things – one, there is an expectation of confidentiality on both sides, when you apply for a position.

      Another – yes, on this one above – there are some people who feel it’s their duty to rat out someone who’s applying for a position. Also – even with confidentiality – you still get a young cub manager who feels he should call his buddies at the old firm and blow the whistle.

      Once they get into the interview/hiring stage – they WILL ask – people who knew you at other places “is he/she OK? Any problems?” without your knowledge.

      But one of those “fads” keeps a lot of good people applying. You’re likely to get applicants from those who don’t give a hoot about what their current employer thinks.

      1. Mike C.*

        Another – yes, on this one above – there are some people who feel it’s their duty to rat out someone who’s applying for a position. Also – even with confidentiality – you still get a young cub manager who feels he should call his buddies at the old firm and blow the whistle.

        Who in the heck are these people!?

        1. NK*

          My old boss did this. I was applying to full-time grad programs, not another job, but still. I needed my old boss to write recommendation letters, and because I knew he was personal friends with my current boss, I explained to him that I hadn’t told current boss I was applying and why (I had only applied to extremely competitive programs, and so if I didn’t get in I wasn’t going back to school at all). Sure enough, old boss told current boss anyway. I was pissed when I found out; luckily it was after I got into a program so I didn’t care as much at that point. But needless to say, that old boss is not on my trusted reference list.

    10. Erin*

      I recently accepted a job offer and they told me at my second interview they’d need to speak to my employers.

      When I sent the thank you email, I said something like, “I wasn’t clear if you were calling current employers of all your final candidates, or just to rubber stamp the absolute final candidate. If you could please give me a heads up before you call my employers, so I can let them know first, I’d really appreciate that.”

      So yeah, I get the feeling it was just for me, the absolute final candidate, and it was after they already offered me the job – it was “contingent” on them speaking to my bosses. They absolutely let me know before they did so.

    11. JessaB*

      It also excludes good people who work for bosses that say “you’re looking, you’re fired.” There are plenty of legit reasons why people do not want their bosses contacted and I’d say a majority of them are either bad bosses or unknown bosses (ie I have no references as to whether this boss is reasonable or horrible about this so I’m going to err on the side of protecting my current job.)

  2. Noah*

    #1 – I would be pissed! I’m blunt enough that I would definitely contact them, ask what happened, and tell them it is highly unusual to contact current employers before speaking with the applicant.

    1. Bookworm*

      Yes. Honestly, I would be very, very tempted to leave a Glassdoor review calling them out.

      Certainly if they reached out I would express my displeasure.

      What a crummy thing to do to someone.

      1. AnotherTeacher*

        Even if the person only did this because she knows your boss, it’s not cool. I hope LR#1 does leave something on Glassdoor to warn others of this behavior.

      2. Onomatopoeia*

        +1 for the Glassdoor review. As a fellow job seeker, who can’t afford for my current employer to know I’m looking, this information would be crucial!

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    #4: There’s a big basket of candy outside someone’s cubicle in my office, and everyone takes turns contributing to it. If I’m not eating any, or just having some here and there, I don’t donate, but if I’m raiding it more often then I’ll grab a bag or 2 at the grocery store and add it to the supply.

    1. Graciosa*

      I think the contributing to stocking it approach is a good one, and it avoids an exchange of cash. I have a candy dish in my office, and have never expected anyone to contribute to either stocking it or funding it. One person left cash once (which I returned with appreciation for the thought) which struck me as rather odd at the time.

      I wonder if this is different at different levels? I would feel differently about a community candy dish, or one that is primarily stocked by an administrative assistant or receptionist who is not getting reimbursed for the expense.

      On the other hand, I can’t imagine slipping some cash into the candy dish in my Senior VP’s office!

      That may have contributed to my odd feelings about being offered reimbursement for my candy dish – it felt like it was lowering my stature.

      Most (not all, but most) of the people who meet with me in my office are either peers or subordinates. I’m likely to meet with my superiors in their offices (where I freely partake of their candy).

      I may be overthinking this –


    2. nofelix*

      I’m struggling to see how the question arises. Is candy that important or expensive to worry about? If people aren’t reimbursing and that’s a hardship then stop giving them candy. It’s an office, not a fairground. They are capable of getting through day without candy or buying their own.

      1. fposte*

        Though often it’s the one bad apple problem, where most people take a candy or two from the dish but somebody parks and then stuffs his or her pockets.

      2. Karowen*

        I don’t think it’s so far-fetched. Think about it like any other consumable when you’re living with roommates. Like a case of soda – my hypothetical roommates can have some, but if they’re drinking all of it, or even 2 cans every single time, it starts to add up. On Roommate A’s end, it just doesn’t necessarily make sense to buy and open a case of soda when you know B has some that you can have. The right thing to do is to take turns or to reimburse, but when it’s a can or two here or there, A may not realize that it’s becoming a burden on B.

        So, yeah, it can get frustrating enough that you want to ask about protocol.

        1. Aella*

          And even when you’re taking turns, it’s still good to check in and go “Hey, this still feeling okay and equal?” occasionally.

          (Had that conversation over the weekend. It felt like I’d leveled up in adulthood.)

        2. Liza*

          But with a candy bowl in an office, usually the whole point is for others to take some. (I speak as someone with a candy bowl.) If I didn’t want people taking candy I wouldn’t buy it.

          I have a candy bowl because I learned from a former boss that it’s a good way to learn about IT issues that people aren’t putting in tickets for. If someone stops by to grab candy, they may stop to chat, and then they’re likely to mention “oh, my computer has started doing X”.

          1. Karowen*

            I genuinely think it depends on how much who is getting. If someone drops by irregularly and gets a piece when they drop by, that’s one thing. But if I’m in that person’s office every day getting a piece or two, then it’s my responsibility to help replenish occasionally.

            1. Formica Dinette*

              Yep. I dip into a coworker’s candy dish daily. Since that’s far more than just the occasional piece, I contribute a bag or two every month and often specifically buy candy they’ve mentioned they like.

          2. Bibliovore*

            I am a big “candy bowl” person. People stop by our office who we never would see otherwise. Its a nice treat for our student staff and visitors. That said- when there were people struggling with food issues- we put the candy jar away for awhile and put out granola bars and clementines. When we had a run of the coughing crud- Halls vitamin C drops. That said- as the manager and the one has the highest salary in the department. Snacks are on me.

            (would someone please finish off the easter eggs?)

      3. Former Retail Manager*

        Yes, candy can be that expensive. It really depends what you put in the candy dish….starlight mints that are a $1 a bag (lame) or fun size chocolate candy bars? I just reupped my candy stash for my desk last night and spent $30 on fun size chocolate bars which will probably last a month. A couple of people do contribute and offset most of the cost and I’m willing to bear the remaining cost because it has resulted in expanding my interoffice network in a position where each employee is pretty isolated and has no need to speak to anyone other than their manager to get their job done, although those contacts are certainly helpful in certain situations.

        As others mention, there is one person who eats the majority of the candy and this person never contributes despite my humorous public shaming on a regular basis. Oh well, I just write it off. If it really is a financial imposition to someone, I’d just stop refilling the jar and call it a day.

      4. INTP*

        I could most easily see it becoming an issue in the context of other dissatisfactions with the office, like if you’re annoyed that you have to pay $.50 for coffee and contribute to the water cooler but people are taking your candy. A “the candy isn’t really the problem” scenario.

        Otherwise, I don’t see how it’s an issue, unless the employer officially or unofficially requires certain people to provide candy (in which case the employer should reimburse). That’s just how offices work ime, some people choose to use their money to provide treats for everyone and some people don’t, and if a lack of reciprocation is going to bother you, then you shouldn’t contribute. People eat the candy and donuts at work because they are there – most of it is not food that people would choose to buy for themselves.

      5. Megs*

        Sometimes people can be pretty snippy about it if they’re used to having candy available and then it’s taken away. I worked in an office for a year and a half where the person before me had always had a candy jar. I don’t eat candy or feel like buying it for other people, so I didn’t, but I definitely got some side eye and considered reinstating the damn thing just to stop the sad-puppy comments.

    3. Artemesia*

      People who take from the candy jar AT ALL should from time to time replenish it. If the office budget isn’t paying for it then it is a communal thing and the person who started it should not be stuck paying for it. I had one in my office for clients and colleagues would occasionally come into my office and dip in — but those who did this often, would bring in a bag of candy from time to time to replenish it. I think this sort of thing is much more graceful and friendly than putting quarters in a jar.

    4. LQ*

      I have a tin of candy at my desk and sometimes people will buy a bag when they are out and I stash it away or refill. This happens most often when it has been empty for a while (which is usually just me forgetting to get candy when I’m out). If I just stock it with less desirable things people don’t eat as much. (Basically without chocolate it can sit there for well over a month.) If I don’t want to pay for more I just don’t add any more. I did once have someone stick a few dollars into the tin while I was away from my desk, but that was the only cash contribution. I think personally I’d prefer people donate candy if they feel obliged to donate.

      I don’t expect anyone to donate, I use it as a social engineering tool and so it significantly benefits me in that way. If I didn’t want the cost I would just leave the tin empty. I’m confident no one would actually crab at me about it.

    5. hermit crab*

      The social aspects of communal candy dishes are pretty interesting. If anyone wants a good laugh, google “The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards: covert observational study” (from one of the British Medical Journal’s Christmas humor issues).

  4. Not the Droid you Are Looking For*

    #4 I have a standard “Thank you so much for thinking of me…blah, blah, happy at my current…will let you know should anything change” response saved in my email that I copy and paste into recruiter emails. If it’s especially personalized I may tailor my response. Or if I know someone looking, I’ll let the recruiter know I have forwarded it to a well-matched colleague.

    It’s kind of a PITA, but when I knew I wanted to go back on the market this group of recruiters was a perfect way to put feelers out.

    1. Lydia*

      +1 Exactly what I was going to say. If you set up a simple response as a”quick part” in MS Outlook, canned response in Gmail, or equivalent in your email program it should only take a minute or less to respond and you now have that connection should it be of interest in the future. I love quick parts, it is perfect for situations like this.

    2. Noah*

      I do the same thing. Both Outlook and Gmail have the ability to create templates or canned responses. I use them for all sorts of routine things, but a few clicks and its out of the way.

      I like receiving recruiter emails, and I found a job once that way.

      1. OP5*

        Great advice! I’ll definitely do that, and pass on the advice. Several of my colleagues get them as well. I like getting the emails, and may be in need of a visa-sponsored role in a few years (currently working via my spouse’s visa status in the UK). Those roles a a bit more difficult to find, so keeping a good relationship might be really helpful.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I may need to try this, but generally when I’ve followed up with recruiters, even to ask for more details about the position in which they think I might be interested, I usually get nothing but deafening silence. (And maybe crickets.)

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        That’s been my experience as well. If they’re from a recruiting agency and not a private company, a lot of them won’t even mention the company until I speak with them on the phone. I’ve also been contacted by some who, after I speak with them, tell me that I don’t have the experience they’re looking for or that I’m too experienced, which makes me think they just send out a lot of blanket recruiting pitches without looking too heavily at qualifications or LinkedIn profiles.

    4. CM*

      My standard recruiter reply is “Thanks for the email! I’m not planning to make a move in the near future, but I’m open to hearing about new opportunities so please keep me on your list.” (I’m a lawyer and I find that most legal recruiters are very helpful; it sounds like other commenters below have felt harassed by recruiters, so you may rather stick to the “thanks, not looking” script.)

  5. Bookworm*

    #3 Yes, yes, yes. Err on the side of transparency. I know it feels kind of shitty to talk frankly about mistakes that other (probably well-intentioned) people have made, but you’re not making them the scapegoat for problems…and your staff deserves to know the truth. The unfortunate fact is you’re not throwing them under the bus, they’ve thrown themselves there. You’re just being honest about that.

    When talking about it:
    – be forthright, clam and dispassionate
    – give the benefit of the doubt wherever possible
    – understand that the staff, although in a low morale point, probably has seen signs along the way; once you lay it out for them they might put together puzzle pieces they didn’t even realize they had.

    Sounds like you have a tough road ahead of you. Best of luck!

    1. Hornswoggler*

      Good luck #3. They are lucky to have you to sort them out. I have recently seen a couple of arts non-profits go under because their financial understanding and governance were very poor. (One of them owes me a lot of cash, but that’s another story – or perhaps it isn’t. Bad governance and lousy financial planning gets you a bad reputation.)

    2. Person of Interest*

      Yes to all of this. I inherited a similar situation as a board chair and as a bonus, I had to keep the ED who had screwed a lot of this up. But, I kept everything future-focused and professional, we got the ED some key professional development that helped turn things around. With funders and external people we focused messaging on the changes we had made to improve things and our projected timeline and milestones for turnaround, not how the problems came to be. The supporters who have been doing this a while get it. It’s not uncommon for small nonprofits to go through ups and downs for various reasons.

    3. Ama*

      Yeah as someone who works for a small nonprofit that was on the downslope of a similar transition when I was hired (seriously, your org sounds like where mine was about 6-8 years ago), I really appreciate that our COO and financial officers have been really honest with us rank and file employees about where we stand financially and why certain changes are taking place. I think one of the things that works here is that when we are discussing finances/structural changes the emphasis is put on how the new changes will strengthen us going forward rather than how the old way was hurting us (i.e. “our new fundraising mechanism will allow us to bring in greater unrestricted revenues to cover more of our operating costs” or “this change brings us more in line with the standard way of calculating revenues for nonprofits”). Certainly your employees/board will be able to do the math in their heads and realize that how things were done in the past were not standard/incorrect, but it’s a little more focused on how things are improving going forward.

      Good luck!

  6. Bookworm*

    #2: Uh, the paper towel thing would annoy me as well. It might be petty, but that method of delivery seems…unprofessional? a little disrespectful?

    I can’t articulate quite *why* I feel that way, but that was my gut reaction. Maybe because it’s so different from the industry norms I’m used to, but it would sour me to that engineer as well.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is the paper towel combined with running to the boss with tattles that nails it for me. The OP needs to be proactively managing upward on this (Is that enough old buzzwords for one sentence?) Asking for advise on how to deal is good advise. And not being able to read directions is the appropriate way to return the material with tasks incomplete.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, tattle tales get moved to the bottom of the priority list.

        I’ve had this happen before, and my manager didn’t care about this particular person or their incessant whining. I didn’t sugar coat what was going on either. So long as I finished what they expected me to finish, I could do as I saw fit.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I suppose it wouldn’t be professional to respond with memos written on toilet paper…..

    3. Engineer Girl*

      Using non standard methods to communicate increases the probability that there will be miscommunication. Little scraps of paper increases the probability that they’ll be lost. In both cases the engineer is making it harder for the planner to do the job. They are increasing the workload as the planner has to transfer the information to a standard format. The engineer is pushing their work (documenting the issue) on to the planner. That’s why it is a problem.
      I’d collect examples of the scraps and take it to my manager to see for herself what’s going on. I’d also let my manager see why it may take longer to respond as the information has to be organized before you can act on it.

      1. Mookie*

        Right. There’s less accountability about what was actually communicated and when. TP doesn’t file easily. Throw it on your desk today and tomorrow you’ll toss it (thinking it was trash) without a second thought.

        1. ZenJen*

          ITA–I deal with PhDs every day who are scarily unorganized. it’s NOT too much to ask someone to either email the info or send me a picture of their coffee-stained hard copy notes. I don’t want to touch someone’s unprofessional mess, and YES I’ve dealt with info on napkins. I’ve had to set up a fillable PDF form that they can either fill out and email back to me, or print out and handwrite on. It’s definitely about making sure I get ALL the info I need from someone, in order to do the job effectively and efficiently.

          1. Ama*

            Yup, when I was in academic administration I did everything I could to make the expense report process as clear as possible, including a very simple form, and I still had people try to hand me a pile of receipts with scraps of notebook paper clipped to them to explain what they were.

            I also agree with the others here that say to show your manager exactly what Fergus is handing you if you haven’t already. Early on in my last academia job, I once spent two weeks trying to reconcile a huge advance where the reimbursement form had been filled out with an enormous amount of errors; when my then-boss realized how much work it was taking, she had a word with the faculty head, who made it clear to the faculty that going forward, if they did not hand in receipts with a correctly filled out reimbursement form, I would be returning the form to them until they corrected it.

      2. Doriana Gray*

        I’d collect examples of the scraps and take it to my manager to see for herself what’s going on. I’d also let my manager see why it may take longer to respond as the information has to be organized before you can act on it.

        Good idea. And if the manager is worth her salt, she’ll tell the engineer to stop wasting time and write out his directives on actual paper.

      3. Rubyrose*

        I have a vision of getting a scan of the “instructions” and anywhere these are needed, inserting the image into documents or onto emails, the first one going to my manager. I bet this get stopped quick.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, this was my stopgap technique – I work in a lab, and at past jobs technicians would give me their results written on paper towels, post-it notes, wooden stir sticks (tongue depressors), etc fairly often. When they tried to hand them off to me I would say “I’m going to lose this random piece of paper, either go write it on the formula file or go email that to me”. It was basically an issue of re-training where I was saying “nope, not going to accept that scrap of paper from you as your results”.

          If it was the kind of situation where they were doing me a favor (hey, can you measure the XYZ when you swing through that lab to do something else more important so I don’t have to go there myself) and left me the post-it on my desk I would immediately either go add the data to the electronic file, email it to myself or if it was more than a line or two (or I needed the CYA of the data in Bob’s handwriting) I’d go throw it on the copier next to me and scan it to myself – because at least email is searchable.

      4. MashaKasha*

        This was the first thing that came to my mind. Even if OP collects the scraps, what’s to stop this engineer from running to the boss and complaining that he’d given OP a VERY important assignment and she didn’t address it? And then it’s his word against OP’s. “But I clearly remember giving her the paper towel with instructions, are you calling me a liar?”

    4. Nerfherder*

      Why? Because it’s unprofessional. The person is an engineer, so he/she should have some common sense. I disagree with Alison’s advise to “try to roll with it as a battle not necessarily worth fighting.”

    5. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I come from a long line of engineers and then I married one; and one defining trait is their need to diagram explanations– or anything, really– on a napkin. It baffles those who are not familiar with it, but it’s more about the method than the medium. but it should be the engineer’s job to take those notes to the computer before they get passed on. It’s one thing to use the napkin next to you to explain a math concept to your daughter and another to use one in business communication.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        My old boss used to give me some of the most important system diagrams and development specifications on the back of a fag packet or napkin and on one occasion a beer mat. I used to pin them to the notice board next to my desk, until the head of the department made me re-do them in Visio. Apparently it made the legal compliance reporting work I was doing look “Mickey Mouse”.

        1. Granite*

          I know this particular term for cigarettes means nothing across the pond, but please try to avoid it when interacting with folks in the US. Thanks.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            Really, know exactly what I meant so can not have been confused or thought I was making a homophobic slur. It is obvious from the the comment that I used it in an appropriate context.

            1. NotASalesperson*

              I was actually unfamiliar with your usage of the word and appreciated Granite posting that it has a different meaning in the UK vernacular. Due to its usage in the US, there isn’t really an appropriate context here, so that’s where Granite is likely coming from with their objection.

              I don’t really have an opinion either way, but I have to admit it was kind of jarring due to my lack of experience seeing the word in non-derogatory contexts.

            2. M-C*

              Totally agree with Apollo, every American is familiar with the transcontinental variations in meaning of ‘fag’. Let’s not try to appear even more ignorant than we are perceived to be.. especially with people who’re often less homophobic in practice.

              1. NotASalesperson*

                “every American is familiar with the transcontinental variations in meaning of ‘fag’”

                Actually, no, not all of us are, and not being aware of this particular one doesn’t make us ignorant, it just means we have experience in different vernaculars. Filipino-English has a few variations that are unusual for native speakers from the US and UK, but you’re not ignorant for not knowing what those are if you haven’t had significant verbal contact with populations that speak that vernacular; the same goes for some of us and English as it is spoken in the UK.

          2. Tinker*

            On the global Internet, these variations in usage are relatively commonly encountered. It’s also fairly easy to figure out that a packet large enough to contain even a small queer person would not be casually pinned to a notice board, that in fact it does not make sense to put queer people in packets of any size, and that the item appears in a list of other things that are clearly common sources of innocuous paper scraps, so there should be sufficient contextual cues to indicate that something is up other than the use of an anti-gay slur. It’s in questionably good taste to tell people not to use their regional dialect on a forum that is open to people from all countries, and in any case we endeavor not to nitpick people’s word usage here.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This makes me think of the Spinal Tap thing where they drew the Stonehenge stage piece on a napkin and when it came down at the concert, it was about a foot tall.

      2. nofelix*

        My guess is the reason they do this is because they want to get the idea down quickly, so they grab the nearest thing to hand. My solution with my boss is to always make sure he has proper paper and pens in any meeting, otherwise I will definitely be getting a drawing done in eye-liner on a receipt. I keep an eye on his desk supplies and top them up for the same reason.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I’m finding this educational and baffling. As an engineer, I absolutely have been known to jot a user interface on a random scrap of paper. I’ve watched elaborate systems be laid out on a whiteboard.

          But…then I put it into the computer or at least photograph the whiteboard and store that. (The software architect I knew who was prone to white boards wrote really neatly; I could actually use those as reference quite easily. He was also prone to running out of space and erasing the early part of the topic so he could draw the last part of the topic, assuming we were flawlessly memorizing it. I took pictures *religiously* because my memory is not photo-perfect for three double-size whiteboards worth of diagrams. For some odd reason.)

          1. neverjaunty*

            I suspect it’s an ego issue. I am so brilliant and original that I not my amazing ideas down on whatever is handy! It is the job of lesser minds to handle such things as “filing” and “keeping track”!

            1. LCL*

              I don’t think it’s ego. I think it’s an engineer’s way of throwing a little scrap of chaos into their life. Everyone needs a little bit, even engineers. A way that worked for me to counter this is to insist that everything be on a standard size (copy machine/printer size) piece of paper. Then they will first raid the recycle bin, so you will get tattered coffee stained dirty scraps, but of standard size so they are easy to work with. That fulfills their secret longing for disorder and your need to make their plan work. (partnered with an engineer for 20some years and still together)
              If someone is absolutely making a point (like that one guy who used the smallest size post it notes made for a request, just to see what I would do) take the scrap and copy it. Staple the original to it if you have to keep originals.

              1. Kyrielle*

                Enh, I don’t think it’s a desire to inject chaos, at least not for everyone.

                For me it’s the fact that my mind has just latched onto the idea of how to do something, and if I don’t get it down right then, I may lose it before I can. (If anything, it’s a defense *against* chaos.) It’s really annoying knowing that you *had* the solution and forgot it, but it easily happens, especially if you get interrupted for other things on your way back to your desk/the nearest source of “proper” paper.

                The fact that I’m not a jerk is why I then take those notes and transcribe them. Well, that and the fact that sometimes my own notes don’t make much sense to me later, and the idea *was* to avoid losing the insight.

                1. Windchime*

                  I am not an engineer, but I am in STEM. I tend to do a lot of scribbling and note-taking on the backs of other papers, scraps, stickies, etc. The act of writing it down is important, and then that somehow gets “bound” (in my mind and memory) with the size and shape of the paper. So I will take a note, and when I need it again I can picture that I wrote it diagonally on the back of a paper that had the lower left corner torn off. I can re-write it more nicely or put it into my one-note document, but in my mind it lives on the back of that scrap of paper.

                  I don’t give those to people as official documentation, though. That’s just weird.

                2. Anxa*

                  I’m kind of with windchime.

                  I have gotten many a day’s work on a paper towel, and I’ve used more paper towels than post its or papers.

                  In a lab, you’re already moving around a lot. You often don’t have a ‘desk’ or an area to keep your papers. There’s also contamination issues to think about.

                  I think it’s perfectly normal to write and share notes or instructions on scraps or towels. I would, though, eventually type it up, rewrite it somewhere, or otherwise reformat it if it were ever to become an SOP or end up belonging in a LNB.

                3. Shell*

                  As a past STEM, I agree with all this. I’ve often had pages of notes scribbled on whatever was handy, and yeah, some of those pages leave much to be desired. But I don’t give it to people in that state. I might be able to read my train of thought on (coffee/lab/unidentifiable substance) stained dogeared pages, but I don’t expect others to. That’s why they’re my notes. I present it to other people re-typed or done in more organized fashion.

                  I really don’t care if you’re an engineer, astrophysicist, or whatever brilliant genius trope one can think of. You don’t leave scrap notes for other to decipher, because someone will misunderstand something and then we all get to pass the blame around of whose fault it is for not being able to read stained napkin notes.

              2. neverjaunty*

                And then they’re injecting a little scrap of chaos into other people’s lives. That’s the problem, and it’s also something caused by ego. Putting something down on a paper towel is one thing. Handing it off to other people to deal with because it makes one feel daring and disorderly is self-centered BS.

                (Also, could somebody please explain to me why y’all don’t carry around pocket-sized scribble books, note pads or NoteBoards to write on?)

                1. Shell*

                  I can’t speak for the other STEM, but usually because scribbling on the sash of my fume hood with a Sharpie is much easier than carrying around a notebook (and diagrammed what was going on in said fume hood at the time). My inspiration really only happened at or between my fume hood and my bench space, which are like a foot apart.

                2. Anxa*

                  You are already carrying around so much stuff during some bench tasks, from bench to bench, all day. Sometimes you will have 30 seconds of wait time, or 15, or 90. You may have enough time to write something down, but you won’t have enough time to get up and leave your work unattended. I think it’s less of a time issue, though, and more of having one less thing to carry around. Paper towels are every where and rarely a few feet away.

                  Brown paper towels are also nice because they come in trifolds, and can easily fold into a notebook later on.

                  FWIW, I would never file anything or pass along information that way that is meant to be documented. But if someone has been writing on their napkins and then brings it over to me as instructions, I’m not focusing on the material type…I’m focusing on trying to pay attention to the accompanying oral instructions and information. Rarely is the medium the problem; sometimes I need to have schematic conventions explained for me.

          2. Judy*

            I’ve done system spec documents that appendix n contains the photos of the whiteboards from our workshop, just in case someone says I’ve tried to revise something that they had described. (The diagrams are translated into visio graphics and text in the document.)

            Eng1: Who said the widget would be blinking?
            Me: Well, it looks like your handwriting on the whiteboard photo.

      3. Meg Murry*

        Not just napkins. I came up working in labs with lots of bottles of solvent around (acetone or stronger), so I often think things through by grabbing a Sharpie and diagramming on the steel bench top, then either taking a picture of the final or going and getting a notepad re-writing the final info. My brain just works in flow charts and diagrams more so than straight words. I also have the bad habit of “oh yeah, Jane needs this info. I better write it on a napkin now so I can get it to her, because if I go back to my desk for a piece of paper I’ll get waylaid 4 times and by the time I pick up the notepad I’ll forget what it was for.” However, I at least generally have the courtesy of taking my napkin scribbles back to my desk and then emailing them or re-writing neatly, not dropping off chicken scratch napkins on people’s desks.

        For the OP, if you can’t break him of the habit (or are too junior to have a say), would large post-its at least be better? I stopped getting so many things written on napkins and scraps after we put out a bunch of post-it note dispensers and a couple of clipboards with notepads (attached to the wall with string, and a pen attached so they don’t wander off) scattered around the lab and plant where people often need to record something but don’t have paper on them. Post-its aren’t ideal, but they are better than paper towels.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Aieeee! Acetone is horrible stuff! Maybe get a Noteboard or something to scribble on so you don’t have to mess with solvent?

          1. Meg Murry*

            Because the stuff we are working with and spilling all over the benches only comes off with acetone or stronger solvents. The amount solvent I use to clean my scribbles is miniscule compared to the amount I use to clean in general. Note this is a lab with lots of ventilation and proper gloves and PPE, which makes huge difference.

            And regarding the clipboard/notepads – I have at least 4, but they are never in the same part of the lab I am currently in, they are always scattered around wherever I last thought I was going to take notes ( and then forgot them ). Or I have one but I can’t used it because I just spilled water or solvent on it.

            I envy fellow STEM types who can manage to keep at lab notebook in their work area and record directly in it as you go – I spill and splash way too much and destroyed lots of my original data trying to use a notebook directly at my bench.

    6. Melissa*

      I am baffled by this because all the engineer is doing is making his/her life harder. I don’t understand why people don’t send any work requests that CYA. I want back up for myself and the person I am making the request of. I had a manager that did “drive bys”. My cubemates and I would try to write down what she said when she would swing by with an assignment for me. One of them came up with the plan for me to email what we caught to her after the first time I missed something and missed a deadline.

      1. Jack the treacle eater*

        The British civil service do this, or certainly used to, and it’s a useful thing to do to ensure everyone is aligned. ‘Drive by’ discussions are followed by a memo ‘We spoke. The situation is X. We agreed Y’.

        The point about writing things down on envelopes, fag packets, napkins, whatever is that you’re discussing something or having an idea there and then, and the discussion or idea is more important than the medium, as Yetanotherjennifer says. Some of the most famous designs in the world have been sketched out on fag packets and napkins.

        However, the reason engineers learn to draw is to be able to communicate their ideas to others. Designs might start out on fag packets, but they shouldn’t stay that way for long.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I wonder if it’s the opposite – the engineer is behind their timeline on the ask, and so by not committing it to email, they don’t have to say exactly when it was handed off.

        I hope it’s just an annoying eccentricity, but deliberate obfuscation of timelines is marginally possible (although if that were the only goal, handwritten on decent full-sized paper would be more likely, actually).

    7. Lily in NYC*

      I’d be so tempted to tell him that I’ve started using his “work notes” as toilet paper.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I’d be really tempted to take the paper towel, thank him, sneeze into it and blow my nose in it, and then ask why he came by.

    8. INTP*

      I do think it’s unprofessional, but as far as engineers go, it’s actually a pretty harmless quirk imo. Many of them just have a different view of work priorities than the rest of us, like not “wasting” time retyping work just to follow the social convention of not giving paper towels to your coworkers instead of files. Assuming I just needed the information on the sketch, I’d just scan the paper towels into PDFs with my phone and move on.

      The tattling to the OP’s boss is a different issue. It’s definitely a problem if someone is making you look bad to your boss for not dropping everything to prioritize their work. More clearly communicating when you will get to their work and why it is not top priority might work, or this might just be his strategy to get his work done faster and nothing you do will stop it. In that case I would just explain the situation to your boss – you’re prioritizing according to [criteria], but Fergus seems to take issue when his projects aren’t number one no matter what else is going on, and you just wanted to let her know the situation and the reason for all the complaints.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Many of them believe that ‘work priorities’ don’t apply to them because they’re too brilliant and important to bother with such things. I assure you it’s not unique to engineers.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        As an engineer, I have no patience for engineers and others who make excuses for “how we are”- ignoring workplace norms because they’re “not a priority”, being rude/disrespectful to coworkers because “we’re antisocial people and that’s just how it is”, etc… if someone is smart enough to get through engineering school, they can write something on a full size piece of paper, especially when asked nicely by their coworker. It is not difficult for a grown adult to conform to really, really simple tasks like writing something down in a way that their coworker can read it. Engineers do not get a special pass on being assholes.

        1. Nerfherder*

          I’m an engineer too, and it pisses me off too when people make excuses for simply being inconsiderate and rude. And I work in a building with about 150 other engineers, and I can assure you, NOBODY here will even think of giving someone information on a scrap of paper or a napkin.

          I think people have seen too many movies, so they think all engineers are like that.

    9. addlady*

      I would bet my money there’s something in his attitude as well, that clearly conveys “I see you as my servant, now do as I say” and this is just a straw that broke the camel’s back.

  7. Rick*

    #5 – I send something along the lines of “Hi X, thanks for the interest, but I’m not [looking for a new job right now/interested in Y subfield/etc.]. Best of luck in your search for a great candidate!” It’s pleasant enough, impossible to misconstrue and very low effort.

    I don’t know your specific industry, but I am a software engineer in a major metro for tech, so I get tons of recruiter contacts too. Some can be really pushy and call you up to try and convince you to change your mind or mine you for contacts, but that’s a rare case (we just get a lot of recruiter contacts). At that I give them a firmer “no” or hang up and add them to my little mental file of recruiters not to work with in the future.

    1. OP5*

      They aren’t super pushy, and some reference emails we’ve exchanged in the past, ‘Back in October you said you weren’t looking…’ Often they follow up at least once to the original inquiry. It’s enough that I feel like I should respond since they are always very polite.

      1. Kyrielle*

        The “I will reach out to you if/when that changes” language mentioned above may help stave off some of those, but the pushiest will do it anyway. The thing is, their second reach-out may be a form or at least formulaic letter – whereas you’re having to deal with each of theirs as a one-off, they may be sending similar ones to multiple people. (And it’s their job; it’s not your job to respond to them.)

    2. Kyrielle*

      I had one who tried to hard sell me after I said no…tried to hard sell me on a job in a different metro area than my current location (and not within a commute-range drive), that used a technology I’d never worked with before, in a sub-domain that I hadn’t worked in before. I suppose I could have been eagerly looking to move and switch fields (and in fact, when I changed jobs I did switch technologies and subdomains, though not to that one), but…argh.

      Then again, that’s better than the friend I had who got a call on a *Sunday* from a recruiter. He replied that he had just accepted another job, thank you very much, and the recruiter asked if he had started yet or might be willing to rescind his acceptance. I don’t even!

  8. Bruce H.*

    #4 The same people who take a disproportionate amount of candy out of the bowl will also take money out of the jar.

    1. ΜΚ*

      Well, no. A bowl of candy on a desk is commonly meant as an open invitation to help yourself; yes, common courtesy demands that you don’t empty the bowl and maybe reciprocate (with money or restocking), but people who take advantage of this don’t see themselves as stealing. A jar for collecting money is very much not an invitation to help yourself to the cash; no one would regard it as anything other than theft.

      1. Sarahnova*

        …Until they really needed cash, and then they’ll “borrow” cash from the jar, which they’ll totally put back… next week. After all, it’s sitting right there, so the person doesn’t really need it, right?

        My experience is that very few people who take things that don’t belong to them see themselves as “stealing”. I think it’s too much to say that people who help themselves to all the candy will also help themselves to cash, but I do think there is an overlap in the Venn diagram of “people who never help to restock the candy dish” and “people who might purloin cash left lying around”.

        1. Chocolate lover*

          I don’t really see that as the same thing. A candy dish put out for co-worker/guest consumption doesn’t fall into the category of “things that don’t belong to them” since presumably that’s why it was put out to begin with. But candy put in a publicly accessible place isn’t the same thing as money, I help myself to co-worker candy because I have permission to do so (and occasionally restock it). I would absolutely NOT take money from someone else, even if the money were sitting right next to the candy.

          1. Sarahnova*

            Oh, of course. I’m not saying that people taking candy from the dish and people taking money are even remotely the same thing. But I think the idea that someone might help themselves to money in a public money jar isn’t that farfetched, and I seriously doubt that person would think of it as ‘theft’. Putting out a money jar is definitely a very bad way of getting reimbursed for candy, if that’s your objectives.

            Just this week my office has had to cancel our ‘office pantry’ snack supply service, because the honesty box is always, always short, and not by pennies. Technically the people taking snacks and not paying for them are stealing – or for all I know, someone is pilfering the honesty box. But there are plenty of thieves around in most organisations, and I think many of them would take cash they didn’t see as belonging to a person, without thinking of themselves as ‘stealing’.

          2. Sarahnova*

            And I think Bruce’s point was that a person entitled enough to eat all the candy without at least offering to restock it might be a person entitled enough to ‘borrow’ money left out in open view, not that taking candy from a candy dish and taking money from a money jar were equivalent.

        2. Undine*

          There’s an overlap in the Venn diagram between “people who never help restock the candy dish” and “people who would never purloin cash left lying around” (me, because I wouldn’t think of it, and a lot of people with Asperger’s, for example). And an overlap in the Venn diagram between “people who help restock the candy dish” and “people who might purloin cash left lying around”. Because people.

    2. Artemesia*

      Nah. I will empty your chocolates bowl but I won’t steal your money. And I do it ‘only one piece’ at a time. So I make a point of buying a new bag of chocolates from time to time to refill the bowl. If your bowl and money jar are in a more public place e.g. not just colleagues but where random strangers, students etc have easy access then all bets are off though. I don’t think most people who work together would steal each other’s money.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I used to sell school-fundraiser chocolate by leaving the box on my desk w/ an envelope for the money. My office was next to the employee kitchen, so pretty high visibility, even to people at the office for events in the public space ALSO next to the employee kitchen.

        On nights when I knew about events, I took most of the money out. But oddly enough, no one ever stole anything. I always ended up with about $10 more than I had chocolate bars (some people put in more money “because it’s for kids”).

        1. Bibliovore*

          oh, I used to do that all the time in my old job. I usually threw in a 5 or 10 for the kids in the band but I really really really don’t want your fundraising chocolate bars.

    3. Roscoe*

      Yeah, thats quite the jump. I wouldn’t think twice about taking candy out of a jar that is for the office. But I would never steal money (or anyone’s lunch for that matter)

    4. M-C*

      Putting out a candy dish is an invitation for people to help themselves. If you don’t want that, keep the candy in your desk drawer. But asking people to pay for what should be a nice gesture will erase all meaning from it, so just stop the practice entirely.

    5. Ultraviolet*

      I think this could easily happen too. If people see the money as communal, then there’s a pretty good chance some people will dip into it occasionally when they need change for parking or the vending machine or whatever. And these are probably the same people who see the candy as communal (as opposed to a gift from one person to everyone) and therefore don’t think twice about taking as much as they want.

  9. Lizzieb*

    I can’t imagine wanting reimbursement for my candy dish. If I didn’t want people to eat it, I wouldn’t have it. To me, it’s like inviting people to a party and charging them for drinks.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      My Southern mother rolled over in her grave when I read the post. :-) It would be height of tacky to put a money jar next to food you are freely (not so freely?) offering to people.

      You can guess how I was raised to think of cash bars at social events with invited guests.

      Give people candy or don’t give people candy, but don’t set up a candy business at your desk.

      1. K.*

        My born and bred NYC grandmother did the same thing. I’ve never kept candy on my desk but I’ve had many colleagues who did, and none of them required reimbursement. If they did, I’d be like ” … Um, oh. OK,” kick in a couple of bucks, and then not take any more candy because now I know there are strings attached.

        If it’s becoming a hardship financially, I get that – but I think the solution is to cut off the candy, not to start charging people for it.

        1. Artemesia*

          So different from ‘hosting a party’. If someone is providing a convenience for an entire office, it is a bit much to expect them to do it unilaterally and forever without others bringing in more candy.

          1. I've read that study!*

            That someone would want to be reimbursed for a candy dish they were offering in the first place is news to me and if I saw it, I’d think the person was out of touch. This seems to be one of those situations where one person thinks that candy absolutely must be provided in an office so they start the dish, but everyone else sees candy in the dish as a gift. In this instance, if the person offering the candy feels put upon, they should probably just stop providing candy.

        2. UK Lucy*

          The US abhorrence of the cash bar at weddings is so weird to me. I’ve never been to a wedding that didn’t have a cash bar. It would be beyond weird to me for the bride and groom (or their families) to pick up the tab for that on top of everything else.

          Amazing how etitquette can vary.

          1. Aella*

            Yep. Bride and groom pay for the first round of drinks, or drinks with dinner, but if you want to get snookered, you’re paying for that yourself.

          2. Snow*

            That made me blink too -(I’m also UK) so think that might a cultural thing. I’m from the North East where there is a big drinking culture – I think most of my friends could have invited about 5 people to their weddings if they were picking up the bar tab.

            1. Karowen*

              But then look at how we treat the wedding parties differently – weddings in the US, the parties get a small gift and hair/make-up if the bride is requiring it. From my understanding, wedding parties in the UK have everything paid for. It’s just a matter of where you’re allocating your money.

            2. doreen*

              About the cash bar thing – even though I’m from a part of the US where cash bars are abhorred, it’s fine to limit the drinks to beer and wine ( and I’ve even been to one or two alcohol-free weddings.) The issue is the cash part – it’s seen as similar to having a photo booth where the guests paid if they wanted a photo. It also doesn’t generally involve picking up a tab- most weddings are at venues where there is a set price per person for either beer/wine or an open bar.

      2. Noah*

        I was baffled the first time I encountered a cash bar at a wedding. It just was not done where I was brought up. I still really dislike the idea of inviting people to an event and then expecting them to pay for a portion of it.

        For a candy dish, decide how much you want to budget each month and spend that. When the dish is empty put it in a desk drawer. If you feel that people are eating all of your candy, then put the bag in your desk drawer and keep it just for yourself.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      I can see how it’s frustrating if the sweets are disappearing faster than the person likes, but I agree with you – an open dish of sweets is an invitation, if a person wants sweets for themself, keep them in a drawer, or somewhere on the desk that doesn’t scream “eat me!”

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes, the one other way to limit expenses but still offer candy…keep the dish in a desk drawer, and pull it out to offer coworkers when they are socializing with you at your desk. It’s not a great solution, but it’s the only acceptable middle ground I can find between leaving the dish out there, which seems to be an issue for the OP, and never offering candy.

        1. LQ*

          Leaving the candy dish empty now and then works as a great middle ground for me. People take when they want and it is there and I fill it at the level I’m ok with. No one complains about the empty jar and sometimes people refill it.

    3. Sarahnova*

      Yeah, isn’t the point of having a candy dish… to give people candy? Emphasis on “give”?

      If you’re spending more than you care to on it, I think the obvious solution is to stop doing it.

      1. Sunshine*

        Yeah, it’s just that easy. I have one that I put out occasionally, but when I don’t want to fill it in just put it away.

    4. Legalchef*

      This. I have a candy bowl on my desk and though I have a few people in the past who have offered to give me money I always say no. There have been a few times where someone will bring a couple bags of candy and say “I noticed the bowl was low so I picked up some candy” which is always nice and appreciated but never expected.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Yes, I have a coworker who provides a candy bowl. He won’t accept money, and even tried to turn me down when I brought in a bag to refill. He’s just a nice guy who likes providing that perk to people.

    5. neverjaunty*

      A candy bowl at work is really not like a private social event you host in your home.

      1. Kate M*

        But they’re the same in that…you don’t have to do it. If you can’t afford to throw a party without charging people, don’t. If you can’t afford to offer candy without charging people, don’t. It’s one thing if everyone in the office was saying, “hey, it would be nice to have a bowl of candy by reception/in the common area. How about everyone chip in?” But if you have it on your desk for people to take, that’s offering something to others. People will probably take it if it’s there, but don’t really care if it’s not. They’re not really asking for it, but will take it if offered. So if you don’t want to offer it to other people, just buy yourself candy and keep it in your drawer.

        1. neverjaunty*

          They’re not the same in that if you threw a regular social event, and you had a couple of guests who took the opportunity to raid your pantry and help themselves to your wine, you’d be able to disinvite them. You can’t fire co-workers for treating your candy bowl like a pig trough, and you can’t really put up a sign that says “Free candy for everyone except Fergus.” (And yes, as others have commented, there are indeed people who will ask for the candy bowl, or who will make requests and complaints about what kind of candy is in it.)

          This is really one of those situations where having a candy bowl works if people are decent, and doesn’t if they’re jerks; the ‘please contribute’ thing is a misguided attempt to still have the candy bowl in a situation where there are jerks abusing the privilege. Can’t be done, sadly.

  10. AdAgencyChick*

    #1, I’m sorry that happened to you. It’s a really crappy thing for a prospective employer to do, but I’m not sure what you can do to guard against it — from personal experience, if a person at the company is close to your boss, she’ll rat you out even though she probably damn well knows what a crappy thing that is to do to someone, because she cares about your boss and doesn’t care about you.

    It sucks, and I’m sorry it happened to you. If it’s any consolation, when it happened to me I kept my job long enough to finally find a new one. It sounds like your boss doesn’t want to lose you and you’ll be okay as well, though you’ll have to work doubly hard to keep your interviews on the DL now.

  11. Alanna*

    #5 – I always reply to recruiter emails and pass along someone else’s name. Then I let that person know I did it. You never know who might want a change, your acquaintance is flattered you thought of them, and the recruiter remembers you as helpful and well-connected.

    1. OP5*

      Thanks! I’ve done that once or twice, but I can’t always because most of my professional network is out of my current country of residence. Most of my professional contacts would need visa sponsorship, which isn’t always available.

    2. Judy*

      Don’t pass along someone else’s name. Just tell the recruiter that you’ll pass their information along if you hear of anyone interested. Then forward the contact information to whomever you think might want it.

  12. Confused*

    Please do a Glassdoor review.
    It’s always helpful to have a heads up about this type of thing prior to applying.

  13. Carrie in Scotland*

    #1 – I wonder if the boss reached out to your boss because they know each other/have worked together and wanted to discuss your application with your current boss and maybe they knew your boss wouldn’t fire you immediately for looking for a another job, or another equally horrible thing.

    I wouldn’t see it as being similar to “tattling” and if you’re still interested in the job, go to the interview!

    As someone else said above, don’t immediately think of malice when it could be stupidity – or even using a contact, in this case.

    1. newreader*

      I wondered the same thing about the prospective employer personally knowing the current boss. I’ve been on both sides of situations where information was sought about a candidate due to a personal/business connection. That doesn’t make it right in all cases, particularly when the current employer is involved. People should have the ability to inform their current employer about job hunting in their own way and time, not be outed by a company they have applied to.

  14. Cass*

    Eek, I was in the same situation as OP #1. Current boss happened to be friends with old boss and asked what she knew about me when I applied. It turned out OK, but it didn’t start the relationship off on the right foot.

  15. Katie the Fed*

    “Only a rude person would eat huge amounts of it without offering to buy the next batch”

    This happens ALL THE TIME where I work.

    1. Lucky Charm*

      Yes it does. I posted about this same thing below, but yeah – people have totally done this at places I’ve worked. The best part is that they don’t even feel bad about it usually.

    2. F.*

      When I was a receptionist, I kept a self-funded candy dish on my counter. One engineer would stand there and eat piece after piece after piece, grab a few more for his desk and never offered to help replenish it. I finally gave up and put the dish away, since I was spending a ridiculous amount of money for my puny salary. The same engineer always carefully stacks his lunch garbage jenga-style on the very top of the kitchen trash can so he doesn’t have to take out the trash bag, but so it prevents anyone else from putting their trash in the can. Yes, jerks are everywhere.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      It happened at Exjob too, and when my supervisor tried to remove the bowl, people bitched. So she started putting the candy bags on the break room shopping list. :)

  16. always anon*

    I would definitely side-eye anyone who put out a candy dish and then expected anyone who ate from it to contribute money or candy. I’ve always been under the impression that people put out candy dishes as a nice gesture for their coworkers or because they want people to stop and chat when they take a piece.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people feeling like they need to contribute money or candy, but a note or money jar would seem….tacky? Off-putting? It’s sort of like asking for a stick of gum from a coworker and then being hounded for money or a piece of gum in return.

    1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

      I was more than happy to bring candy in my previous job. I was recognized for that and I was more than happy to do it. But I did it because I wasn’t the only one, sometimes people would bring treats, sometimes people would even cook lunches for everyone (African cuisine, my friends, is totally delicious) and that was my way of contributing.

      If I was the only one, however, I would appreciate some kind of participation. I don’t know how long I’d go without mentioning it, but either I’d say something or just stop altogether. I don’t need a gold star for bringing candy but it’s annoying doing something without anything in return (even if the return is just a “thank you” , mind you) .

      1. always anon*

        I don’t know, expecting recognition, participation, or compensation for doing something nice still seems petty. I can understand wanting a thanks, but I don’t see the need for additional participation if you’re (and using the general “you” here) the only one doing something like having a candy dish. If you’re the only one with a candy dish and you don’t want people using it without contributing something, it should just be a private candy stash.

    2. Not Karen*

      Agreed. Or like the person who gives gifts only because they expect to receive something in return.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I don’t think it warrants a side-eye and depends more on the company culture. Where I work now, people bring in food to share all the time (no one chips in). But at my previous job, there was only one candy jar and people chipped in via the honor system. The dude who kept the jar was nice enough to keep it filled for us but it wasn’t his responsibility to keep paying for it – mainly because we all wanted “good” chocolate, which became expensive because we worked long hours and stress-ate and emptied that jar 3 times a week.

      1. always anon*

        I guess I just don’t like the idea that people would bring in food or put out candy with the expectation that anyone who partakes has to contribute back in some way. If no one asks you to bring in food, then no one should be obligated to bring in food just to make it even. It’s a nice gesture that then becomes super awkward and charged.

        It’s one thing for someone to want to reciprocate and add money or candy in return. But asking them to do it after you’ve provided them a treat without being asked to? That seems weird to me.

  17. AnotherTeacher*

    LR#3: Alison’s advice is perfect. The non-profit where I volunteer has had a number of issues. For one specific issue, there was a lot of suspicion and speculation that would have been avoided if the CEO had just provided volunteers, the board, collaborating agencies, etc. with more information.

  18. Xarcady*

    About the candy dish. I used to fill the office candy dish, which everyone took from freely, because a) we had no vending machines and b) were in an isolated office park with the nearest food about 20 minutes away. The owners of the company paid for the candy, because they appreciated having it available.

    However, keeping the darned thing full was almost a second job. I was making special trips to the supermarket weekly, just to get more candy to fill up the bowl. And people complained constantly about the contents–not enough chocolate, not their favorite flavor of Starburst, etc. And I just got fed up with the extra work and the complaints.

    My suggestions: have a small amount of the “good” stuff, usually chocolate. Fill up the rest of the dish with hard candy and Starbursts and Tootsie Rolls, and other small, wrapped candy. People will complain about the chocolate disappearing early in the day, but. tough. If they are really hungry or really need the sugar boost, they’ll find something to take from what’s left. Or you can do what I did, and inform them that you are perfectly willing to let them take over the candy dish duties.

    This greatly cuts down on the amount of candy taken, and the expense of filling the candy bowl. Chocolate is expensive, and people will take 2-3 pieces at a time. Hard candy is cheaper, and most people will take just one piece at a time.

    Of course, when your boss is working all weekend and raids your desk for the stash of chocolate, and he’s paying for it, there’s not much you can do.

    1. the gold digger*

      I was at a trade show and instead of booth babes (I am glad that practice appears to be dying), vendors had candy.
      Most of them had peppermints, which did not entice me.

      The only places I was interested in had German chocolates – coincidentally, it was the German companies that had the Good Chocolate.

    2. Ama*

      I was responsible for filling the candy dish at my old job (thankfully department funded, I just had to order the stock and fill it as it was close to my desk). I stopped filling it on Friday afternoons after I realized it was *always* completely empty Monday mornings no matter how many pieces were in the dish when I left. Apparently some of the employees who came in on the weekends would literally fill their pockets from the candy dish and go up to their offices. When I stopped filling it Friday afternoons our candy consumption was cut by at least a third.

      People complained about the candy selection sometimes, and I’d tell them I ordered whatever I could get in bulk from our office supply vendor, but I’d be happy to reimburse them if they wanted to bring in something better (a few people did occasionally, usually around holidays).

    3. Nicole*

      It always astounds me how people will complain about something that’s free. If you don’t like that kind of candy, go buy your own. The employers are trying to do something nice and people should show some appreciation for that. My employer often has free suckers in the conference room. I don’t care for suckers but I certainly would never complain about it!

  19. Boo*

    #2 – I used to get this from a colleague! He would give me things to type which he’d scribbled on the backs of envelopes and things. I didn’t and don’t think it was a respect thing, it was just a Nigel thing. The main issue I had was I couldn’t read his writing, so I took it to my manager who went back to Nigel and said it wasn’t worth company time to have members of staff sitting around trying to decipher his writing, so either write legibly on notepaper or do it himself.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Bring in some refills! You can probably get a great deal on Easter leftovers.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        All the Easter candy near me was gone the day after. Post-holiday candy never lasts more than a day or two.

          1. Navy Vet*

            I once had a part time job at a large box store…they leave the candy out as clearance for a pre-determined amount of time. (Usually a week or 2)

            Anything that doesn’t sell will be donated so they can write it off for taxes….

  20. Roscoe*

    #1 That sucks, but I always see that as a possibility, albeit small. Even moreseo if you are in a very tight nit community. When I was working as a teacher at a charter school in my city, I’m fairly certain that when I was interviewing at other charter schools it got back to my current boss. He never said anything to me, but I’m fairly certain he at least had an idea.

    #2 As Alison said, the not being able to read it is the problem here, not the paper towels. I mean, I write stuff on scraps of paper all the time. ITs not disrespect, its what I happen to have within arms reach at the time. Think about it this way, if he wrote it on a paper towel or a post it of the same size, is there really a difference there? Don’t take it so personally when its probably just a convenience thing on his part.

    #4 No. Just no. If you bring in a candy dish, expecting money for it just seems petty. If you don’t want people taking your candy, leave it in your desk and eat if yourself. Think about if someone brought in cookies or donuts, then expected everyone to chip in after the fact. It makes you look bad.

    1. Gene*

      But if you’re the type who just grabs the closest paper to jot down the thoughts of the moment, why don’t you carry a small notepad? My phone’s notepad has replaced the paper brain I used to carry around. I still have a small tablet on the closest corner of my desk for those thoughts; I have a stack of dated tablets going back over 10 years from that corner.

    2. esra*

      Convenience on his part… and extra work for OP. Anyone handing crappily scrawled notes on torn pieces of paper gets serious side eye from me.

  21. shep*

    #2 – I feel your pain!

    I had a supervisor who would write important and/or privacy-sensitive information on sticky notes.

    Like, client credit card information. Also less sensitive but still integral information like staff and client schedules, often written from [poor] memory and invariably leading to huge snafus in our daily operations.

    She would also lose said sticky notes for days or weeks but insist she gave them to me. When she actually DID give them to me, while she had beautiful handwriting, her spelling was horrible (client names botched, etc.), information was often flat-out wrong, and she’d follow up on particular stickies with a verbal note that, “Also, don’t forget to add this to it.”

    If this is the level of disruption your coworker’s makeshift notes is causing, then I’d respectfully disagree with Allison that you should let it go; if it interferes with your work actively and consistently, like my boss and her sticky notes, and he INSISTS on continuing to pass information along to you this way, I’d say as others have recommended: Document these confusing notes, then go to someone who has the authority to get him to change.

    1. shep*


      Apologies! I work with two Allisons and my fingers are trained to type the double L.

  22. Temperance*

    Re #2 – it would take him less effort to shoot you an email than it would for him to write on scraps of paper. I think it’s time to talk to your boss about him, and depending on the situation, his boss about his disrespect.

  23. Jo*

    #4 what was your intention when you started providing the candy? I started doing it a while ago because it was around the holiday season and it seem to make people happy, and then when supplies started getting low another co-worker refilled it out of their own accord, and it’s sort of been a voluntary thing since.

    If it was meant to just be a bit of fun then bringing money into the subject can make things a bit awkward (and no longer fun).

  24. Lil*

    Ugh, stories like #1 make me so paranoid! I think my current manager would be surprised but not vindictive if that happened, but my previous manager would’ve blown a fuse (he’s certainly done so in the past when similar things have happened).

  25. Allison*

    On the recruiter end, we’d rather get a “thanks for thinking of me, but _____” than nothing at all. It’s an assurance that we actually got your attention. I don’t push back unless I think someone turned down an opportunity because they didn’t understand the job I was describing. Sometimes the response gives us an idea of whether we should reach out later when a similar job opens up, what kinds of jobs we should be contacting them about, or whether they’re actually not interested in working with us ever.

    On the candidate end, I usually type out a quick response, either telling them I’m not interested in that job but I’m interested in something else, or I’m not interested in moving, or whatever it is. If they push back or ask for references, I just ignore them. One recruiter had the gall to pitch me his firm’s services after I said I didn’t want to work there. It was like “well if you must stay there, can you at least hire us to do your job for you?” Like, no?

    1. Zahra*

      Thanks for confirming that my tack is the right one!

      For recruiters who obviously haven’t read my profile and send me offers about openings requiring way more or way less experience than I do have, I won’t respond. I mean, if you didn’t take a few seconds to browse my profile, why should I put in any time to respond to you?

      For those who actually seem to have done their homework, I’ll send a “Sorry, not looking for a job now/before X/etc. If I see anyone who’s looking, I’ll pass on your name. (Or, I’ll make sure to contact you if I am looking for a job)”

    2. SH*

      LinkedIn gives the option of an auto response. I’m sure that’s annoying on the recruiter end but it feels better on my end than simply ignoring their requests.

  26. Eliza Jane*

    I used to send little notes to recruiters letting them know I wasn’t interested, but the number of them who have taken that as an invitation to hard-sell me has made me stop doing it.

    “Thanks for reaching out, but I’m happy where I am and not looking to make a change. Best of luck finding someone!” leads to, “Can I tell you more about the position, so you know if you can recommend anyone else?” and then, when I don’t respond to that, “Would a 5-minute phone conversation be okay, to talk about things?” and then eventually “Hey, I haven’t heard from you in a while; let’s talk!” mails.

    The feeling of being professionally harassed by some of the bad apples has me just ignoring all mails if I’m not willing to consider the job.

    1. Faith*

      That is exactly why I stopped responding to those emails. A polite “Thank you, but I am currently not looking to make a change” is an automatic guarantee that I will be put on their permanent mailing/call list.

      1. Rick*

        Yeah, that unfortunately happens it seems. Since I’m a software engineer living and working in NYC, I’m added whether or not I reply.

        Or at least it seems that way. If I don’t, I get a reply a few days/weeks later asking why there’s none, or something like “We spoke a few weeks ago, and you were really excited about a job I have at a top start-up, but I didn’t hear anything back? Is everything okay?” Then I look at my old emails and see nothing like that. I realize I make it sound really annoying, but it’s just a weird little fact of life.

        The whole thing is weird to me. But I’m not a big people person so I wouldn’t be a good recruiter. Whatever.

  27. Lucky Charm*

    #4 – At my first job (when I was making very, very little money btw), I would buy candy for my personal candy dish on a weekly basis. The dish was in my office so people would have to actually step foot into my office to grab a piece of candy. At first, I liked it because it helped me to meet new people in my office and I’m pretty social anyway. I would buy fun candy (like ring pops for example) and people really enjoyed seeing what the “candy of the week” was.

    But then it got to the point where people would swoop in, grab a huge handful of candy, and not even bother to say thanks – all without breaking a stride. I would have a full candy dish, go to the bathroom or get coffee, and come back and the entire dish would be emptied.

    So I stopped buying candy. People would come by with sad puppy dog eyes and ask about the candy. I just said it was getting expensive and if they wanted to chip in, I would be happy to go buy it every week. After about a week, I never heard another word about it.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I stopped doing it because 1) I would get complaints when people didn’t like the candy or I was out and 2) I don’t like the optics of women as the feeders 0f the office.

      1. Erin*


        This is mentioned in Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois Frankel. Don’t be the feeder of the office. :)

      2. all aboard the anon train*

        That’s why I never bring in baked goods, even though I love baking. I have a coworker who bakes for everyone’s birthdays. She’s incredibly smart and knowledgeable about the projects she works on, but people only know her as the woman who brings in food and ask her weekly if she’s made anything.

      3. Turtle Candle*

        Oooh, it wasn’t widespread enough to make me stop (it was just one person, and the rest of the office was fine), but I did have someone who started to whine when I brought Jolly Ranchers in. I brought them because I liked a hard candy in the afternoon when my blood sugar started to drop, and Jolly Ranchers were my favorite hard candy. (Once in a while I switched it up with Werther’s Originals.) They were mostly for me, but I left the bowl out and had no problem when people stopped by and grabbed on; I even didn’t mind if someone wanted to sort through to find their favorite flavor. (Sometimes it worked out well if their favorite was my least favorite….)

        But I had one coworker who would come over and pout that she didn’t like hard candy, and couldn’t I get some chocolates or caramels, and on and on. I like chocolates and caramels too, but given that I was buying all the candies for the bowl, I didn’t feel like accommodating someone else’s preferences (and also my experience was that people would grab one or two hard candies, but a handful of chocolates). Finally I said, “Oh, if you like them so much, you could be the chocolate bowl person!”

        More pouting, but she did stop asking.

    2. vivace*

      We have a consultant who is the WORST at hoarding the free food/candy/snacks. If someone were to bring in a container of cookies, a normal person would take 1 or 2 and go back to their desk, maybe return later for more. But offer this guy a cookie, he dumps half the container into his bag! So now whenever he shows up at the office, we run to hide the snacks.

  28. Erin*

    #1 – That happened to me once. Thank you for posing your question. I’ve heard of GlassDoor but am not that familiar with it, but n I will take Alison’s advice to you, now that I know of a way to warn others.

    But yeah. that happened to me and it sucks. Your reaction is not extreme. You were screwed, and I’m sorry that happened to you.

  29. GiantPanda*

    #4 Maybe put up a small sign “Feel free to add your favorites.”
    I think you could do this without seeming rude or tacky, and it should reduce complaints (if there are any) that there is not enough good stuff.

    1. Kyrielle*

      This. Also, if it’s getting too expensive or annoying, let it run out until you feel like dealing with it again – or someone else brings some in.

      Depending on your role, it’s also possible they think it’s being paid for by the company. That happened to our receptionist *mumblety* years ago and once everyone knew she was buying it out of her money, people started contributing candy.

      That office could go through a pound of chocolate in a day or two. Kind of horrifying in retrospect. (But, to second another point elsewhere in the comments – the butterscotch hard candies lasted so long she threw the last of them out.)

  30. Allison*

    #4, if you bring in candy, expect that people are going to eat it, some are going to take their fair share, and everyone is going to assume it’s free. If you resent people taking candy out of your dish without contributing anything in return, then don’t bother doing it at all.

    if your coworker has a candy dish with a money jar next to it, I’d recommend just not taking any candy if you think you’ll be expected to put in money.

    at my first job, we had a trick-or-treat pumpkin that was always full of candy – at least, it was supposed to be – on our cluster of desks for everyone to eat from and contribute to. I ended up supplying a lot of the candy myself, and people kept saying they’ll contribute too and never did. I considered stopping, since I didn’t want to be the sole provider, but I was also eating most of myself so I figured it wasn’t too awful that I was also buying most of it.

  31. Yetanotherjennifer*

    I wonder what would happen if OP #4 were to just keep less candy in the dish. Do people take less candy from a half empty dish vs a full dish? There are a lot of new studies on people’s behavior when it comes to food and how it’s consumed based on how it’s presented. If I worked in an office I’d be inclined to experiment with dish size and fullness to see what conditions made the candy disappear slower.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      YES! They totally do take less candy….at least in my own anecdotal experience and I’ve been at this a while. Once my jars are at less than half it’s as if the candy is “damaged goods” and instead of taking 2 or 3 fun size bars they make take only 1 or none at all if they’re not super enthused about what I have. One you’re down to the bottom 1/4 that stuff can hang around forever.

      1. StarHopper*

        Banana Laffy Taffy is my favorite. (I also love banana runts.) If you send me your banana candy, I’ll give you all the orange and grape ones!

      2. Kyrielle*

        But it will get picked up and have the jokes read off it. Out loud. Repeatedly. Make sure you’re up for that part. :)

      3. MaggiePi*

        I will gleefully eat all your banana laffy taffy. I LOVE it! And pretty much all banana flavored candy.
        Now that you got me thinking about it I may need to go buy some…

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Fill it with hard candy, and it appears it will never be eaten. Of course, the few people who would take candy know that all I have is old, hard candy. Still, I’m not going to get more until this is gone!

  32. DatSci*

    #1 The way to guard against this sort of thing is to “confidential-ize” your current employer on your resume. It’s a not uncommon way to protect your interests from exactly this happening. Instead of writing “Wakeen’s Teapots, New York, NY” as your current company, just change it to “”Company Confidential, New York, NY”. Then, if a prospective employer contacts you for a phone screen or to set up an interview, you can mention that your job search is confidential and make sure they’re aligned with that before revealing the name of your current employer. It’s really no big deal, I have done this myself and see it on resumes of job seekers All The Time.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      That may vary by industry. In my narrow industry (private schools), that would never fly. “Confidential School, Philadelphia, PA”? Nope. What school do you work at?

      1. DatSci*

        And when they ask you this…you tell them. Once they have agreed to keep your application confidential.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, wouldn’t fly with me either. I’ve seen a couple of candidates do it and it just comes across as out of touch with norms. Maybe there’s an industry where it’s common though.

        1. DatSci*

          That’s interesting, would it be possible to elaborate on why that would come across as out of touch with norms? I’m thinking that those norms probably pertain to non-profits or something else very specific. I’ve seen it across every industry I’ve ever worked in and various recruiters I’m in contact with across various private sector industries all agree this isn’t super common (as in every resume includes it), but common enough that at least 10% or so do.
          Are you saying you wouldn’t call an otherwise strong candidate that did this? I have to admit I’d have missed out on quite a few of my best staff if I took that approach, so I am interested in the reasoning.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’ve only seen it a handful of times and in each case it was a candidate who wasn’t strong enough anyway — so to some extent I probably associate it with “things weaker candidates do.” But yes, I’d love to hear from other people if this would fly or not in their fields.

            1. neverjaunty*

              It absolutely would not fly in my field (law) – not only because it’s against the industry norm, but because it’s pointless. In ten seconds I can look a candidate up on the State Bar website. And even outside of the legal field, most people have some kind of internet presence.

              Putting ‘Confidential Employer’ on the resume suggests to me either someone who doesn’t understand how modern information-gathering works, or somebody who is trying to play games – “Want to know more? Contact me and find out!” How about, no.

            2. Infrequent Flyer*

              When I worked for a recruiting firm for a niche industry (quantitative work is as specific as I feel comfortable saying), we did something like this occasionally – we’d anonymize the resume for a “first look.” This was usually performed in the context of our firm competing with other firms for a contract, or for very high level folks. My experience has been that it’s far less common coming directly from the candidate.

  33. Ann O'Nemity*

    If #4 is at the point that they’re thinking about asking for $ donations for refilling the candy dish, it’s probably time to stop offering the candy.

    In all my previous jobs, I had a candy dish on my desk. Never had a huge problem. Then I started my current job, and found that numerous employees would stop by just to take candy and leave. My boss was the worst, taking handfuls. Offering the candy began to get really expensive. So I started keeping the dish in the drawer, and offering it to guests. But a few employees and my boss started coming in and asking for candy, and raiding my drawers when I wasn’t in the office. The fiends started taking other things like granola bars that I never intended to share. Finally I said F- it and stopped sharing altogether. Wasn’t worth the aggravation.

    1. Gingervitis*

      Yes! I was refilling my candy dish weekly, and it was getting cost prohibitive. I finally had to stop. When I did, I heard a coworker complaining to several other people outside of my office about it being empty, as he had been relying on it everyday as his lunch. That bowl has been empty ever since.

  34. Mean Something*

    Re candy bowls: I’m going in late to work this morning and was free to read the many suggested AAM posts on candy dishes! What a rabbit hole to go down. I love this site.

  35. Turanga Leela*

    OP #2, I’d be tempted to show Fergus the movie This Is Spinal Tap, and particularly the sequence with the Stonehenge set piece.

  36. sara*

    #4: I think this sort of thing is soooo dependent on office culture. In my current job, I sometimes have candy around that I will offer to people who stop by my office (usually because I have it left over from an event and don’t want to eat all the leftovers myself). I pay for this myself, and I would be sort of weirded out if someone offered me money (certainly I would not accept it!). With the population I work with (mostly students), I would definitely not ask them for money.

    But, in another office, I could totally see a little money jar/note being appropriate — I’m thinking of that letter from a while back where the receptionist’s boss required her to keep a candy dish filled, but did not reimburse! In that situation I would totally think a money jar is appropriate.

    As a general rule, I would say try to feel out the culture in your own office — what would be totally fine/appropriate in one office might be perceived as strange in another office, so maybe ask a few coworkers you’re friendly with what they think. And if this letter is asking about a coworker’s behavior (I’m not clear on that point), try to be generous if someone else has asked for funds or replacement candy — it may be the case that there is a situation you’re not aware of, like a crazy boss requiring them to refill the dish or just coworkers being dickheads about the situation. If you don’t want to pay/contribute, simply don’t take candy rather than making a big deal of it.

  37. MommaTRex*

    OP #4 – This is one of the few times I disagree with Alison’s advice about putting out a sign. If someone at my work did this, we would think they were very strange and had weird social norms. And I work with a lot of quirky people who are very accepting of others’ quirks. But a sign asking for money for candy you are offering? No. If it’s come to that, just don’t refill the bowl next time. No one will think that is weird.

  38. NP Impact (OP #3)*

    Alison and others with comments, Thanks so much for your insight and support. As a coincidence I had a meeting today with a partner that we owe several payments. I let them know that we were committed to getting current and the steps we were planning (and have already been taking) to raise more unrestricted funds. They were interested in hearing why we were where we are, so I shared in very simple terms what had happened. I do think by being straight forward and then focusing on our steps to resolve the problem, I was able to have the conversation without looking like I was playing a blame game.

    Thanks again!

  39. Never again*

    Just found out a recruiter informed my employer I was looking!

    GUESS what recruiting industry; I will NEVER use a recruiter again!!!

    Moving on…

Comments are closed.