new employee faking her social media following, my manager tries to sell me products I don’t want, and more

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

1. My manager is trying to sell me multi-level marketing products

I am currently in my first position after graduate school. I have been in this position a little over a year, and was recently promoted. I really love what I do and the people I work with. I am a little nervous when news of my promotion comes out for one reason: MLMs (multi-level marketing programs).

A family member of my supervisor is involved in a side hustle for an MLM. I have bought things from this person in the past, partly because of the work connection. I’m not in love with the product and I find it kind of expensive while I am trying to pay off my student loans ASAP. Yes, I got a raise, but I’m still starting out and do not make as much as the rest of my office right now. What are some of the rules about MLMs in the workplace? I feel like I keep getting asked to buy things (while I’m at work) so this isn’t going away anytime soon. I know my supervisor wants to support her family, but they have also told me that both they and the family member have financial problems. I just don’t want to get sucked in.

The rules are up to individual workplaces, so you could consult your employee handbook to see if there are any prohibitions on solicitations at work. But speaking more generally, it’s rude to push coworkers to buy things, and it’s really problematic when it’s a manager who’s doing it, since there’s a power dynamic that can make people feel especially pressured or even obligated.

The thing is, though, unless your manager is a complete loon, you should be able to shut this down by just saying you’re not interested. (You might have to say it a few times though.) For example:
* “No, thank you.”
* “I tried the product but don’t want to buy it again.”
* “I’m watching my budget.”

If these responses invite push-back (which is obnoxious but happens), then just hold firm: “Nope, it’s not for me!”

It’s your boss, so you can say this cheerfully. But just keep repeating variations of this. And if she’s really pushy, it’s appropriate to say, “Hey, I really don’t want to buy these products but I feel awkward when you ask because you’re my boss. Can you take me off the list of the people you offer them to?”

2. Should I be wary about a new employee faking her social media following?

I work at a medium-sized, PR-friendly NGO in New York and six months ago we brought on a new intern. While she wasn’t hired specifically to do social media, it is part of the job, and when I looked her up on Twitter and Instagram I noted she had about 20,000 followers and figured she had a level of expertise she could bring to this increasingly digital company.

She is a quick learner and sociable, no complaints there. And her main duties involve writing and research, not regular social media posts (we have a division for that). After a few months, we hired her on as a junior employee with a generous salary.

However, in a digital strategy meeting (she wasn’t present) a colleague from the social media side noted that this employee’s followers were almost certainly fake, showing the relatively low level of engagement on her posts and explaining to me, a luddite, how followers are bought. This gave me pause. On the one hand I actually understand why someone would do this, to help them get ahead, and this new employee was correct – these fake followers did help her get hired! On the other hand, it made me reassess her integrity, and question a few other things she’s done that seemed ambitious but could also be interpreted as shady (e.g. going behind her manager’s back to ask someone else about a raise, title change, etc.). But again, for the most part I am very happy with her work! Should I even care about this? Is this the new normal?

I wouldn’t give it another thought. She may not even realize that a bunch of her followers are fake; there are a bunch of dummy accounts that follow tons of people in the hopes of collecting follow-backs (for what purpose, I have no idea). The fact that she has them doesn’t mean she purchased them. But even if she did, it doesn’t really matter since you’ve been happy with her work.

If you really cared about getting someone with experience amassing social media followers, that’s something you would have wanted to ask more detailed questions about in the interview. But it doesn’t sound like it was a big focus for you in screening (and rightly so, since social media isn’t a big part of her job). Given that, there’s no reason to get hung up on this now.

3. How do I make thinking like a manager second nature?

I am a relatively new manager. Is there a way to make “thinking like a manager” second nature? I have a hard time responding to situations appropriately – I don’t have knee jerk reactions or curse people out, it just takes me a little time to respond in a meaningful and productive way. If I know I have to talk with someone and I have time to consider what to say (and consult your column), it’s not too much of a problem. It’s more the unexpected situations or reactions from others that I struggle with.

To some extent, it will come in time. You don’t say how new you are to managing, but the first year of managing is usually one long string of mistakes for most people. And you’re not exactly an expert in year two either. It takes a while. Part of that is getting used to the change in role, which frankly is a really big one, and part of it is that the longer you manage, the more challenging management situations you’re exposed to … so the longer you do it, the better developed your instincts and judgment get. (Well, hopefully.)

Meanwhile, though, don’t put pressure on yourself to respond perfectly on the spot! Get comfortable with listening and saying, “Let me think about that and come back to you later today or tomorrow” or “That’s a good question and I’m not sure. Can I follow up with you later this week?” You can’t always do that, of course — sometimes managing well means saying something right in the moment — but much of the time, it’s okay to carve out some time to reflect before responding.

Also, be very deliberate about learning from each situation that comes up. If you feel like you didn’t handle something as well as you could have, think about how you want to handle it if it happens again. If you do mini-debriefings with yourself where you draw lessons learned from next time, you’ll be ahead of 80% of the managers out there.

4. Do I need to mention for my background check that I just got fired?

I had applied for a job quite some time ago while employed. It has taken many months (six to seven) and and now am finally going to receive an offer. I wasn’t applying anywhere else. This was a shot in a dark and my dream job. About 10 days ago, my current employer found out I had been applying for a different role and terminated me from the position. I, at the time, had no idea if the new job was even going to happen so I didn’t disclose the change. Now I have been notified I will be receiving a contingent offer based on a background, employment, and education verification. I am glad but still want to do the right thing and best thing. Do I: (1) receive the offer and before signing inform them of the employment status change and that I can start sooner if needed, or (2) say nothing and wait for the background check?

Personally i have never quite encountered a situation quite like this and was horrified at being fired in the first place as I am a performer and this was done in such an unprofessional way. But I don’t want to be unprofessional. What do I do?

That’s horrible, and your employer sucks. Assuming the new employer is going to be verifying your employment, I would let them know proactively. You can still wait for the formal offer, but at that point, when you’re discussing other details of the offer, mention this too. For example: “For the background check, I want to let you know that I’m no longer with ABC Teapots as of August 20. Unfortunately, they found out I was interviewing with you and let me go. The silver lining, I suppose, is that I can start earlier if you want me to, but the initial start date we discussed still works as well.”

{ 309 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    For #1, I’m confused. It sounds like the boss’s family member, who is not OP’s manager, is selling product. Is the boss also selling product? Or is the boss encouraging people to buy and looking the other way when the family member solicits? Or both? If it were the second (pressure but not selling), would it change the advice?

    1. Jan*

      I’m honestly wondering if this is my former boss. Her sister (and best friend) sold Jamberry, Scentsy and something else . . doTerra? I think? I don’t know but she was involved in a number of these things and my boss pushed it big time. I bought some jamberry nails to be polite once. But it was relentless and one year our Christmas gifts were all Scentsy items.

      1. Snark*

        I’m astonished more employers don’t have rules about soliciting colleagues and reports for MLM stuff. Having the person who evaluates you and has the power to harass or fire you also on your back to buy stuff from them is such an obvious and avoidable abuse of power.

        1. beanie beans*

          Not to mention having your manager complain about financial troubles when they probably make more that you do – what a punch to the gut. “Buy my crap with your money because I don’t have enough money which is admittedly more than your money…”

          Not that salaries always dictate your overall financial situation, but it doesn’t make for a good work environment.

          1. Specialk9*

            In my field, managers don’t necessarily make more than their people. We have teams of skilled techs/subject matter experts, and a project manager pulling it all together. If senior management can get a good PM for cheap, eg a young hungry go-getter, the PM can easily make half the salary of the people the PM manages. It’s just kinda how it works there.

            But someone pushing crap at work, especially the manager? A senior manager would get a call pretty quickly, and it would stop. (Unless it’s Girl Scout cookies – I mean, *thin mints*.)

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I think that’s one of those rules that normal people would never think would ever be necessary, like “Don’t park your car on top of other people” or “You may not attend client meetings wearing nothing but a gorilla mask”.

        3. Ego Chamber*

          “I’m astonished more employers don’t have rules about soliciting colleagues and reports for MLM stuff.”

          Oddly, I’ve never had any trouble with this at places that don’t have rules: people either don’t ask or they’re not hustling their side-hustle very hard and are pretty chill if they get turned down. At the places that do have rules, I’ve had multiple encounters with people who ignore those rules and get very very pushy with their sales tactics. My favorite example is a past manager who sold Jamberry and would give extra no-questions-asked breaks to anyone who wanted to look through her stock and/or give her some cash (this was a job where taking unscheduled breaks caused real issues with workflow). So if there are rules about it, I mostly just assume someone will inevitably ask me to buy something.

          1. Violet*

            My guess is that it’s because the places that do have rules have been having ongoing issues with the pushy people and are trying to stop them with the policies. Perhaps it’s a policy that is never made if there isn’t need?

  2. many bells down*

    #2 – My Tumblr gets followed by porn blogs, about one a week on average. I block them as soon as I see them, but if I didn’t I’d probably have a few hundred more followers than I do. Also one post I made about buying fabric led to half a dozen vaping blogs following me – still haven’t figured that one out. And the more followers you get, the more fake-follows you get because you’re a “popular” page.

    I guess it would depend on how long a particular account has been active – 20k in a year old account is probably deliberate. 20k after 5 years, possibly just bot account creep.

    1. Sylvan*

      I thought the same thing might account for part of it. My Instagram also gets followed by bots every now and then. I also thought of the high follower account being an artifact of a time when the website was more active, she was more engaged, or she was more involved with a particular scene. But 20K is a bit much!

    2. Caelyn*

      I have close to 40,000 followers on my Tumblr, but my engagement is pretty low. I’m sure there is a share of fake accounts, but really, I’ve had the account for 5-6 years now and was relatively popular in a certain Tumblr niche at one point. I built up a decent number and I’m still gaining new ones, but the majority of them have obviously abandoned their accounts long ago.

    3. Gen*

      Some keywords seem to attract way more bots, my tumblr gets four/five a week just from one post that included the word ‘wrestling’. I got to 4K in four or five months when getting rid of them all became overwhelming so honestly if she just had the wrong mix of keywords I wouldn’t be surprised by 20k. I logged into a twitter I’d forgotten about after two years of inactivity and found a few hundred new followers, all bots as far as I could tell

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Does anyone know what the incentive is for bot accounts to do that? Is it so they get a bunch of follow-backs and at some point can use the account for spam or sell it to someone?

      1. Meghan*

        I read somewhere, once upon a time, that having links to legitimate blogs boosts their relevancy in search engines. That was the explanation for porn blogs on tumblr, and also the reason why I block them.

        1. Myrin*

          I read that same article and found that it makes a lot of sense; however, IIRC, it also said that those “links” are only established if the pornblog actually interacts with you blog in some way (i. e. reblogs, likes, shares, whatever) and not by just following it. However, save for exactly one instant, all the pornblogs I get just follow me and then never interact with me again. I mean, I know block them as soon as they come up so they can’t interact with me anyway, but there was a time when I didn’t do that and they were still never to be seen again. I’ve never figures out what that is all about. (I mean, the most likely explanation is that I got it wrong and that the link is already established by the act of following but what do I know.)

          1. Violet Rose*

            Some blog templates show who follows you in the sidebar/footbar/what-have-you, which counts as a link, although I think this has fallen out of fashion

        2. Corvid*

          I’ve read the same thing. Plus, they appear more authentic if they follow lots of active, user-driven accounts and thus evade detection by algorithms searching for fake accounts a little bit longer.

        3. Alli525*

          I’ve also read this, and it was specific to Tumblr (not sure if the strategy is similar on Twitter, etc). It’s infuriating; I block them as soon as I get a notification that I’ve got a new follower.

      2. Geoffrey B*

        A lot of bot activity comes under “trying not to look like an obvious bot”. If twenty thousand accounts ONLY follow John Smith’s Twitter, or only tweet spam for one site, that can be flagged easily by automated tools. If they each follow some randomly selected bystanders, and tweet random non-commercial content in with the spam links, they have a better chance of skipping through.

      3. SophieChotek*

        Plus I think companies that sell “for $100 we’ll get your account 10,000 followers” sort of thing create all these different bot accounts, etc. to sell to new companies/brands, etc. that desperately want to get engagement for their new social media accounts. The thinking here might be: well if we pay $100 for 10,000 new followers, yeah, we will get a bunch of dummy accounts, but hopefully as our account/pages increase in popularity, it will appear in the feed of real accounts who might not otherwise have seen our page and then they will like our page/account and follow us (for real) and hopefully that will lead to (real) engagement and (real) fans/future customers.

      4. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        I’m pretty sure that at least some of these are hoping for the follow-backs so that they can sell the account to someone else. The buyer gets an account with a high number of followers (rather than having it gradually build it up) and then can change the name on the account and the focus to whatever they want.

        I’ve come across a couple of accounts that I currently “follow” that I know I never signed up to follow. I’m pretty sure that there was an original account that I chose to follow, but then at some point they sold the account and the new owner changed the focus completely.

      5. Manders*

        I know that on Facebook, spammy accounts will often like random pages so their behavior isn’t as obvious. Those accounts can then be paid to engage with certain posts and pages in a certain way–which can matter a lot on Facebook, since the algorithm that serves up what you see is influenced by how many people are engaging with a post.

        Video explaining it here:

        It’s also not that uncommon for people to use bots to follow loads of different people in the hope that they’ll follow back. I see that a lot on Twitter–when someone follows tens of thousands of people, you know they aren’t actually reading all those tweets.

      6. OP*

        Apparently the magic number for buying fake followers (I/e. someone who is not an ineternet celebrity) is usually 10 or 20k, with a very low follow number (so like 1000 or under) and then 50 or fewer likes on posts.

      7. Typhon Worker Bee*

        I’ve read that Facebook pages with a lot of followers, comments, likes, and shares can be quite valuable. That’s why you see things such as ridiculously easy quizzes, like “I bet you can’t name a country with an A in it!”; polls like “does pineapple belong on pizza? Hit like for yes and comment for no”; and other random posts designed to get people to interact with the content. Once they’ve built up their numbers they sell the page; the new owner changes the name and has a ready-made audience to spam with marketing pitches. I assume the same is true for Twitter and other sites too.

      8. Wintermute*

        from what I’ve been able to tell follow-backs is most of it, but I understand that “genuine engagement” is something the twitter abuse algorithm takes into account when marking spam accounts. They may have found some way to cause the spambot ban trigger to hold off a little while or require human intervention which lets them get more spam out. I’ve heard they also “age” spam accounts by registering them and letting them sit a while before they start blasting spam, for the same reason.

      9. Kayleigh Tanner*

        That’s my understanding of it. I’m a marketing manager (with social media marketing in my remit), and spam accounts are often created to harvest followers, usually through the spammy follow4follow method. Once the spam account reaches a certain number of followers, the owner can sell it to someone else. For instance, someone just starting a business may not want to start a social media account with 3 followers, so they’ll buy an account with a few thousand to start them off.

        This is never a good idea – I once worked for a company that had paid for thousands of followers before I joined, and there was absolutely nothing we could do to salvage the social media accounts!

        1. BRS*

          A lot of companies pay big $$ for #sponsored posts on Instagram based on how many followers people have. It’s clear that many of them are fake or bots, because their engagement is so low (maybe 30-40 comments), even with one million followers! I feel like it should be quality over quantity. I think people are becoming more aware of fake followers and Instagram is trying to crack down on them.

    5. Arya Snark*

      Ugh, my Instagram gets followed by porn/prostitution bots all the time, usually when I tag pictures of my dog. It’s annoying, especially since a lot of the profile pics are close ups…extreme close ups.

      1. arjumand*

        It’s the worst. I only really started using my Tumblr account fairly recently, so I had no idea the pornbot followers were even a thing until I got one, who managed to use a close up gif as their profile pic. Yeah.

        Also, it gets worse: the most recent one was when a pornbot liked a reblog I’d made – I did not know they could do that! Blocking the bot wasn’t enough, I had to delete my post too! I’m still angry when I think about it.

        1. OxfordComma*

          If you ever post NSFW content (which could be anything really) or use the tag NSFW, you’re almost guaranteed to get pornbots on tumblr. I only have about 700 followers and I block every pornbot I can, but I can see how that could get tedious.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          And here I am, shocked—shocked!—that anyone uses Tumblr for anything besides porn.

          They’re basically set up for that, since they don’t have any content rules against it, unlike every other social/microblogging platform I can think of.

      2. Bea*

        Thankfully Instagram is fast at deleting those accounts if you report them. I report as spam as soon as they follow and they’re deleted within 48hrs it seems.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s like an evil SAT test:

        Arya’s dog is to porn as buying fabric is to ______.
        a) vaping
        b) porn
        c) wrestling
        d) none of thse

      4. One of the Sarahs*

        I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of pornbots on my twitter in the last fortnight. It’s so annoying. Report! Block! but still, I wish it was automated by twitter, so I didn’t need to keep my profiles clean. Of course I could have a few thousand or two more followers, but I don’t want that kind!

    6. nonegiven*

      I get that on Twitter. I don’t have 20k even after 8 years, but I retweet something my son tweets from a developers summit and I get a couple of companies or other attendees following me. I mostly tweet about a particular show but I get new authors, and scifi bloggers that start following me. Some are political, bots and who knows. If they don’t bother me, I don’t really notice.

      1. AW*

        Yes! I will retweet something that isn’t my usual thing or mention something one time, get someone following me because of it, and I’m just like,

        “Prepare to be disappointed.”

        I put a list of topics I normally tweet about in my ‘about’ but apparently a lot of people don’t read that before choosing to follow someone.

        1. nnn*

          This. One time I used the phrase “There’s no accounting for taste”, and I got followed by half a dozen accounting spam bots. (Why is that even a thing? I have no idea)

        2. Marillenbaum*

          True! Mine explicitly says “Angry liberal feminist killjoy who would knit you something if you buy the nice yarn” and yet people are somehow still surprised by my content.

      2. JAM*

        For me, I have a username sort of similar to that of a Vegas DJ. They had the name I wanted, I went with a somewhat similar version but different enough, and then they changed their gimmick and dropped a portion of their name and I guess decided they could pretend they have my name without ever acknowledging me. So they make a youtube video, link to my twitter name, I get hundreds of followers and tags and mentions and I’m like “enjoy my restaurant visits, dog photos and my complaining about my neighbors”. I’ve had thousands of people add me and a new single dropped last month so I’m really popular. I need to think about how to leverage this fame one day. I’d sell the username if they wanted but no one has ever asked.

      3. BananaPants*

        I have a number of Twitter followers that are almost certainly bots. It happens most often when I retweet a popular story – I probably get 1 bot for every 2 legit followers. I can’t really do anything about it.

    7. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      I am really annoyed at the social media person who slammed this woman to her boss. The OP is a self described “luddite” so of course she’s going to take the word of a professional, and now look what has happened. The OP is seriously questioning the integrity of her employee for what is

      1) none of the social media person’s business
      2) guess, speculation, not fact at all
      and even
      3) so what if she did

      There are a zillion bots on social media + the programs that “tell you” how many bots are following an account produce a bunch of false positives.

      MYOB, social media person. OP, what Alison said. Think no more about it.

      1. Raina*

        I wondered about this too. The new employee isn’t working directly in social media. She’s working for an NGO. I mean, my first question wasn’t about the new employee but instead is this professional jealousy? On the other hand, OP says outright that the number of followers did play a role in her hiring — but why, if OP is a tech Luddite? And it’s unclear whether the new employee highlighted that as a key reason to consider her or whether the OP on her own checked out the social media.

        1. Alton*

          Actually, I can see why someone who’s not super familiar with social media would see 20k followers and find it impressive without thinking about it too heavily. Which isn’t a dig at the OP, but is a good reason to be cautious about holding this against the new employee.

      2. Amy*

        This was my first thought as well, why did this even come up? And if it was a general discussion about social media and fake followers why did this particular employee get dragged into it?

      3. Zip Zap*

        I’ll need to reread the letter, but was this the same person the intern talked to about the raise and title change? If not, what is their relationship in the organization? I’m getting a hint of weird office politics or social dynamics.

        That said, if there was a way to verify that the intern bought followers, it could be sketchy depending on the circumstances. Hard to say what’s going on in this story without more info.

      4. Artemesia*

        When I read this it reminded me of my elderly Mother who ended up with porn popping up on her computer which was upsetting to her. Her ‘knowledgeable’ neighbor told her that her children or grandchildren had to be accessing porn on her machine or it wouldn’t be happening. (We all lived at least 2000 miles away and so visited fairly rarely) She didn’t know and so assumed he must be right. I had to explain the internet and spam to her. (cuz yeah as an old lady myself, dialing up boobs was the main thing I wanted to do on a visit)

        The OP is taking this guy’s word for it when it sounds like he doesn’t necessarily have a clue.

      5. Annabelle*

        I had the same reaction. Unless the job posting specified that they wanted someone with a sizable following, I don’t see how it’s relevant.

        I have a childhood friend who bought about 10K followers on Instagram when we were in college. It had absolutely nothing to do with professional goals and everything to do with her desire to seem popular. Even if this employee did buy her followers, I highly doubt it was a scheme to get hired.

      6. Is it Friday Yet?*

        I can think of a situation that I’ve encountered dozens of times where the social media person would have brought this up to the OP. People seem to enjoy telling social media professionals how to do their jobs. It’s like, if they have a personal account, that makes them an expert. OP could have suggested that the social media person consult with Jane because she has 20,000+ followers, and social media person knows how to spot a fake.

        1. Formica Dinette*

          Amen to this. Social media is one of those fields that many people incorrectly assume requires no expertise.

        2. Long time lurker*

          1000000% this. I teach social and digital media management to college students. They know how to use the platforms, but they don’t know how to use them *in a business context* before they take my class.

          It’s like thinking that because you live in a house you know how to design, build and maintain a house.

    8. Colette*

      I’ve been on twitter since 2008 and I have 172 followers, so if she’s got that many followers on twitter, she did something to get them.

      (Tumblr is different – a blog following you shows up as a link from you to it, so the more blogs it follows the more legitimate it looks to search engines, as I understand it.)

      1. Bagpuss*

        But what she did may be ‘tweeted stuff that had keywords that attracted bots’ or ‘got retweeted by someone with a big twitter footprint or ‘was associated with something that got a lot of RTs’ or ‘used to be very active’ or even ‘has a twitter name which is similar to someone who did or does those things.

        I wouldn’t under estimate that kind of thing. My twitter follower numbers doubled overnight after Neil Gaiman RT’d me, and a lot of those were bots. (I block the bots when I notice them, but if you don’t , then I suspect it can then mean you look more ‘popular’ so get followed by more bots…

        And I do think that there is a ‘tipping point’ effect that more followers =more new followers including bots.

        But even if she bought followers for whatever reason, I don’t see that as an integrity issue unless your were explicit that that was part of your requirements for this post and she was explicitly pitching herself to you as someone who could get you 20,000 legitimate followers, which as you say social media is not part of her job, seems unlikely.

        I’d focus on any issues you have with her work and forget about her private twitter account entirely.

        1. Rookie Manager*

          A British comedian, Dave Gorman*, bought some twitter followers to wind up his friend who obsessively counting followers. Joke done he went back to the company and asked for them to be removed only to find out they couldn’t do it! Point is even if she did at one point buy followers it wasn’t necessarily part of a nefarious deception.

          *The show on which he told this story was ‘Modern life is goodish’ and IIRC the episode dealt a lot with social media and its foibles.

          1. Amy*

            I mean it could be as simple as she bought them (I don’t think it’s very expensive to buy the amount she has) because she felt insecure about having the least followers among her friends. She might have also been more active in the past and now isn’t as much. I know I rarely bother to unfollow people so I’m following people who made one tweet I liked 5 years ago and nothing much since.

          2. Apollo Warbucks*

            I love Dave Gorman have you seen his other shows, Are you Dave Gorman? and Googlewack adventure, both of them are hilarious.

            1. Rookie Manager*

              I love ‘Are you Dave Gorman”. One of my favourite tv shows ever. I have very fond memories watching it with my family through tears of laughter at the spreadsheets of mpdg (miles per Dave Gorman).

              If you ever get a chance to see him live he is hilarious and more than happy to sign books etc at the end.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                I loved the bit in are you Dave Gorman? Where he went to Israel to meet 5 Dave Gorman’s, but it was actually 1 Dave Gorman with 5 different phone lines, that did not help his mpdg at all!

                I’ve been lucky to see him live twice and once at a book reading.

                1. Rookie Manager*

                  When he met the father and son Dave Gormans that really helped though!

                  He really should write a book for trainers/presenters “powerpoint like Dave Gorman” as no one does it better.

      2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        eh, I got 1000 followers in a month recently because [reasons related to an urgent cause] had me connecting with [other people related to the cause]. It was some work but it wasn’t magic. There’s strategy to connect with people like minded or with similar interests. If I wanted to have 20k followers over a period of say 2 years, it’d be completely doable – with work and strategy.

        1. Colette*

          Sure, it’s entirely possible that she didn’t buy them but she has them because of who she engages with or because of how she engages – I just don’t believe it’ll happen without her doing anything, because there’s no benefit I’m aware of for bots to follow random people on twitter.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I mean, it probably won’t happen with her doing literally nothing, but if she uses Twitter to talk to people, retweets a moderate amount of stuff, and has say one semi-popular tweet, it could easily happen.

            1. Mirax*

              This happened to me and I just can’t be bothered to go through blocking the bots. Like, they don’t really interact with me, so I have no incentive to sit down and weed them out.

              1. BananaPants*

                Exactly. Blocking an account that follows but never interacts in any way is really low on my to-do list.

            2. Colette*

              Sure. And unless she bought followers and used them to as an example to promote her social media skills, I don’t see an issue.

    9. Emelle*

      On Instagram especially, if I find something interesting to follow, inevitably the next day I have 5-10 follow requests based off of that one account I followed. Like I find an account with cool teapots, I get a bunch of teapot accounts wanting to follow my boring account about my kids.

    10. Bunny*

      I had to explain to my boss, a Catholic family man, that his new followers on Twitters were porn peeps. Then I had to show him how to block them.


    11. Morning Glory*

      Yeah, age of the account is definitely something to look out for. If an account is a few years old, then addition to bots, there are also a lot of ‘ghost accounts’ where people made accounts, followed people, lost interest in twitter, and never logged in again. I had an account with about 6k followers a few years ago that were some bots but mainly real, with average engagement. I let it lapse two years then went back on and tweeted – zero engagement.

      I could definitely see a candidate for a job semi-related to social media try to revive an old account with some new tweets. She’d still have all of her old followers, but if they were ghost accounts, they would not engage with her content.

      Alternatively, there are sooo many #followback accounts, where the accounts are real, run by real people, but they all are following so many people to get more followers that they only see a small percentage of content from the accounts they follow. If the employee is doing this, it’s not the smartest social media strategy (because of low engagement), but it is also not dishonest.

    12. aebhel*

      Same. I have several hundred followers solely because of a single viral post I made about a year ago, and I rarely interact with more than a handful of them. And I don’t bother to block porn blogs, so that bumps my numbers up. The actual number of people I interact with (or who regularly interact with my posts) is maybe two dozen out of close to a thousand. This is a personal fandom account, and I’ve made less than zero effort to increase my follower count.

    13. Elizabeth West*

      I get some weird follows from time to time on Twitter–I have no idea why, since I only have about 400 followers at any given time. It’s not like I’m an influencer or anything. But they pop up and then go away just as fast–probably because I’m not an influencer, haha.

      1. Samata*

        Sometimes I get spells where the same person who will follow me 10 times a week. They are just trying to get me to follow them back. it would appear they follow a bunch, then unfollow, don’t keep track very well and then follow again. And again. And again…..

    14. Kathleen Adams*

      I don’t check my account very often, but after hearing about porn followers (eek!), I just logged on and my few followers are all perfectly unexceptional. ::whew::

      But thanks for the reminder, everyone!

    15. Trig*

      Was it cotton fabric? Cause ‘cotton’ is a vaping term, so could be a keyword those bots latch on to.

      1. many bells down*

        Hm, it was, but I don’t think I mentioned “cotton” in the post specifically. *goes to check*

        Nope, but several other posts say “cotton” and had no engagement. Weird.

    16. k.k*

      I barely post anything to instagram, (I solely have it for the purpose of looking at cute animal posts) and yet have a bunch of followers. I’m talking I post maybe twice a year, and have 100+ followers that I don’t know. So if she is active at all, I can totally see how this could end up happening for completely innocent reasons.

      1. No gifts*

        I post to instagram a couple times a month, and anytime I use a non-obscure hashtag* I end up with a few new random followers who might be real people, might be bots, I don’t know and don’t care. I use it to interact with maybe 20 IRL friends/family, and unless a random makes an offensive or spammy comment on my photo, I never bother to block them. This has resulted in a couple hundred followers I don’t know and never interact with, and it would probably be more if I used even one more hashtag per post on average.

        *my friends and I use a lot of full-sentence hashtags that no one else would ever use, for humourous effect, like #whyaretheresomanybikehelmetsonmycouchrightnow for instance. Anytime I use a more “normal” hashtag like #pie or #nameofcityIlivein I always get a couple random strangers following me. Hope they like pictures of my cats!

        1. LavaLamp*

          I’m followed by a bunch of random militia websites as I posted a picture in which I’m holding a firearm. It’s really obvious from the rest of my account that I’m not any sort of doomsday preper or anything like that.

    17. The OG Anonsie*

      I don’t think this is relevant to the employee for one reason: she’s not the one bringing it up to them. Both times her follower counts were noted (when they saw it initially and when they saw how many were fake) it was someone at the company looking into it on their own.

      If she was pitching this to them as a totally genuine thing and it could be seen that she’d just purchased 20k fake follows all at once, then yeah that would be off. But if she’s not using it in a pitch or anything, it really doesn’t matter if she bought them. It’s not really relevant to her job, so id this is how she’s trying to get some side hobby thing set up then who cares.

    18. Free Meerkats (formerly Gene)*

      What does it matter who follows you?

      I never pay any attention to who is following me, on any of my social networks. If it’s a pornbot, a fake celebrity, a real celebrity, or just Joe from the block, I don’t care. And I wouldn’t judge anyone based on their followers; maybe I’d side eye them if they followed a bunch of kitten jugglers.

    19. Tuesday*

      One time I posted a tweet complaining about the smell of my dog’s fish oil supplement and I got followed by a bunch of bots with cat avatars who mostly tweeted variations of “meow.” A bit of digging and I discovered that they were set up to do this for tweets containing the phrase “fish oil.”

      Usually bots are annoying, but this was cute.

  3. Mes*

    Ugh, MLMs. Everyone I know is always trying to sell me random garbage. I usually just say it’s not in my budget until they finally leave me alone.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Everyone left me alone years ago. Admittedly, “no thank you” works better when everyone knows you’re a divorced parent of two, one of them in college. No one even asks anymore. I also admit that, before I found myself in that situation, I’d said yes to more MLM offers than I should’ve, because I felt bad saying no. I encourage OP to embrace the no and not feel bad. All the answers given by Alison would work great. PS, I never used any of the stuff I’d bought, or at least, didn’t use it for long.

    2. aebhel*

      I posted a lengthy (and somewhat profane) rant about MLMs on Facebook after a few too many ‘invitations’, and now I don’t get them anymore. Thank God. I think I pissed off half of my cousins something awful, but it was so worth it.

      1. Clumsy Ninja*

        That’s awesome! I’ve taken to unfollowing any FB friends whose content becomes more than 50% MLM. Every so often, I’ll go back to see if that’s changed, but so far I haven’t refollowed anyone.

        1. Jesca*

          I like when they make a separate facebook page for their stuff. My sister (who is BTW a highly successful sales woman) sells these children books. I believe she started as a way to get more kids books, but she is uber competitive! Now she is reaching top seller. Luckily she has a separate facebook account for that and I can just ignore it!

      2. AnonMinion*

        I daydream about doing this all of the time. It is SO bad. Some people are so aggressive about the stuff they sell and no matter how many times I ask to be taken off of their list I still get solicited.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      My policy is that I only (but not always) buy stuff from kids. Girl Scout cookies, Boy Scout popcorn (because I used to have the cutest little kindergartners who would write you thank you notes), or the school fundraiser for the good frozen lasagna. And because it’s 1) a policy 2) that still gives me some occasions to say yes to things, I find people generally leave me alone.

      1. K.*

        Also it’s not constant – Girl Scout cookies are only sold at certain times of year. I happily buy Girl Scout cookies because they are delicious, and I was a Girl Scout so remember those days. And at least in my experience, because people actually like Girl Scout cookies, people aren’t that pushy. My coworker is basically like “it’s cookie season, I have some in my office” and people are like “Yay!”

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Plus, the scouts on top of the pyramid don’t have to keep recruiting new scouts so that they can get commission checks. :)

      2. MashaKasha*

        When my kids were younger, their elementary school used to put a ton of pressure on the parents to participate in the fundraisers. The year my youngest was in 1st grade, the school kept sending flyers home with him for a chocolate bar sale, promising the winning class a limo ride and free pizza! There are only so many flyers you can discreetly toss in the trash before your kid sees them, and starts harassing you for a chance to win the pizza. Also at some point the school weirdly declared the fundraiser mandatory for everyone. So I caved and spent $60 on a box of 30 bars. Their idea was that the parents pay upfront and then, if they sell enough to get their money back, great! If not, tough luck, should’ve ABC always been closing, and anyway, you get chocolate out of this. My saintly coworkers, to whom I’d apologized up and down a million times, bought half of my bars and my family ate the rest. My sons are in their 20s and I still hate that elementary school with a passion.

        What I am saying here is that you reminded me of that incident, and made me realize that I should probably consider buying things from coworkers for school fundraisers. I know firsthand what those poor people have to go through.

        1. Bea*

          Because the conversation turns to anyone soliciting sales from co-workers and acquaintances in that situation.

          I loath when anyone hocks their kids cookies or chocolate bars to me. If a kid asks, I’ll buy 99% of the time. If their mom asks me at the water cooler, no all the way.

          OP 1 has a boss trying to sell random things for another person, even if it’s MLM it’s still tacky and wrong.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Lasagna?!?! Now that’s something I’d buy from every friggin kid if I knew any that sold it.

      4. nonymous*

        My coworker supports her sister’s kids via some gift card program partnered with a local grocery store. Basically, the school pays 75% of face value for the grocery card, friends and family buy them for 100% face value and no one has to stretch their budget. So much better than the entertainment books or pizza coupons.

      5. Nicole*

        I used to buy popcorn from my cousins (who now are both Eagle Scouts and grown). My son is now a Cub Scout. His first year of selling popcorn was last year, and you better believe we hit up my cousins! ;-)

        As for co-workers, we have a shared table that I put an order form and table tent on for people to peruse. Other people do the same with GS cookies, MLM materials, etc. Heck, we even put out free stuff for others to have if we no longer need it (tea we decide we don’t like, gently used binders, magazines we are done with, etc.).

    4. SomeoneLikeAnon*

      I made a hard and fast rule – I don’t buy any of it.When someone asks, I say politely “I don’t buy xyz.”

      I don’t buy from friends. I don’t buy from co-workers. I don’t buy from anyone I know through any 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon, either.

    5. MD*

      I had an employee ask me if she could host a Pure Pleasure party in our office. She acted offended when I said it wasn’t appropriate. Not only do I not have time for MLM junk, there’s no way hosting a sex toy party at the office is appropriate in any way.

      1. MashaKasha*

        What a neat idea! A sex toy sales party, with coworkers, in the office! What can possibly go wrong? Sorry, my eyes are rolling so far back in my head it hurts, and I am trying not to giggle like a maniac. What was she thinking?

        1. Ego Chamber*

          She was probably thinking the same thing as a coworker of mine who went to a sex toy sales party one weekend, and then displayed the tube of nipple-sensitizing gel she’d bought on her desk at work. But don’t worry guys! It was totally fine! She used it as lip balm: 100% appropriate, right?!

          (Kids these days?)

      2. Life is Good*

        I know I’m late to this party, but a former coworker long ago called these sorts of parties “f*^kerware parties.” She was the most reserved person I have ever known.

    6. Happy Lurker*

      I have a couple of close family members who over the years have gotten involved in various MLMs. They rave about how great “MLM” is. I say ok, tell me more…and they quote me the full price. I was livid the first time. They knew I could not afford it. When I confronted them she said she had to make money on it and could not sell it to me for a discount even though I was her daughter. The second time, years later, when she asked me to buy again. I replied with a hearty laugh and said not if it’s full price.
      The whole thing is terrible, the companies want you to prey on everyone within reach. Workplace, family it’s all bad.

      1. MashaKasha*

        My parents’ first year in America, they befriended another immigrant couple their age (late 50s, early 60s), in their apartment building. The couple moved to another building, and invited my parents over “for a housewarming party”. My parents showed up with a gift(!!!) and it was an MLM party. My parents, who both worked minimum-wage jobs, felt obligated to buy something.

        What is it about MLM that makes people lose their minds and do things they wouldn’t otherwise?

        1. Happy Lurker*

          I did something very similar when I was about 18-19. Invited for a party and end up at a selling party. I have been wary of party invitations from acquaintances ever since.
          I had no money and was mortified I could not purchase anything.

      2. nonymous*

        I have a coworker who sells the current popular clothing MLM – they turned their basement into a “store” and brag about having over 1K pieces of inventory. Having said that, I think the value in these schemes is really in the social experience. It’s like “pay $25 for $15 worth of merchandise and I’ll pretend to be your friend”. There’s definitely value in the experience, but it’s not intrinsic to the merchandise and I think a lot of fans are in denial about that. Fascinating, and disconcerting at the same time.

        1. Specialk9*

          From a personal finance perspective, that story makes me feel ill. $1k of inventory, and you’re the mark, not your customers. And it’s never people who can afford it.

          1. Callie*

            and it’s inventory you don’t even get to choose. They send you whatever they feel like sending you.

      3. only acting normal*

        A relative hosted a sales party once for cookware (I think they only invited me to be polite, I was the youngest there by about 30 years). She told everyone not to eat before, because it included a demo where they cooked food with the products. Except they cooked something I’m allergic to. It was after an 10 hour work day for me: I was nearly passing out with hunger by the end.

        1. Violet*

          I no longer listen to anyone who suggests I won’t need to eat before an event. Too many times the food has been bad, late, or just not enough of it. I eat a light meal or a heavy snack before I go to a wedding, party, etc, just to hedge my bets!

  4. Amy*

    OP #2: I agree with Alison that the followers thing isn’t probably a reason for alarm; like Alison pointed out, there are tons of dummy accounts out there that do go around randomly following people, so I wouldn’t jump to assuming she bought the followers.

    But it sounds like you’re currently having potentially-broader concerns about her integrity than just that, maybe? If the rest is simply “I’m getting paranoid now that this one big concern made me question it,” then I wouldn’t worry too much. But if her ambitious/shady actions are enough to make you question her integrity in and of themselves, that’s a potential problem that you shouldn’t ignore.

    1. Sylvan*

      +1 to your second paragraph. She might or might not have bought followers, but there seem to be some other, possibly more important, issues.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      This. It seems like you’ve already judged your new employee based on another’s gossip. Yes, it’s gossip because it’s only someone’s guess as to what happened.
      Why don’t you just ask your employee about her followers instead of jumping to conclusions?

    3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I’d be more concerned about her going behind the manager’s back to angle for a raise and title change. There is no reasonable explanation for that.

      1. Juliecatharine*

        Of course there’s a reasonable explanation for going around a manager–she saw a way to get what she wanted and went for it. There are lots of horrible managers out there who don’t advocate for their employees. I’m not going to judge someone for advocating for themselves.

        1. Chocolate lover*

          A new employee who’s been hired less than 6 months ago? I’d consider that premature, and bad form to go around your boss. Unless she somehow brought in major business or saved the organization from a major crisis in that time.

        2. Colette*

          Generally you advocate for yourself to your manager – you don’t cut her out of the conversation. If one of my employees did this, I’d have concerns.

          1. Juliecatharine*

            Generally I agree but saying there’s no reasonable explanation is really a stretch. There’s very little information about what happened. Bottom line she got what she asked for–there’s probably a good reason for that.

        3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

          There is chain of command. Intern goes to grandboss to ask about a raise. Grandboss checks with boss and discovered boss is out of the loop. Not a good look for the intern. Even more important if the manager is horrible, you don’t want to give them ammo to use against you.

      2. Purplesaurus*

        Yes, I would be more concerned about this as well. However, I wouldn’t immediately assume “no reasonable explanation” considering this was briefly mentioned.

        (e.g. going behind her manager’s back to ask someone else about a raise, title change, etc.)

        This person started out as an intern, which possibly means inexperienced, and possibly indicates she didn’t realize who she should or shouldn’t ask. But I will take OP at her word that this kind of thing is part of a pattern, and I’d suggest she ask her employee about it directly.

      3. Dankar*

        OP says to ask about a raise/title change. Maybe she was looking on information about what to expect after she’d been there longer, but went to someone higher than her manager.

        That’s the only thing I could think of that would lead OP to think it’s odd or shady, rather than just a major red flag, and would still be a faux pas if she’d only been there for 6 months.

  5. pondering*

    #2- did she provide her Twitter and Instagram, or did you just look her up on your own? It seems odd to question her integrity if you found it without her telling you, but even if she provided it, what was she supposed to do? Assuming you didn’t ask specifically about that, I wouldn’t judge her for not disclosing it, since maybe she didn’t realize it’s relevant. And as others have said, who knows if she actually bought them.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      And if she did provide them, did she mention the number of followers as an achievement / selling point? If not I’d still let it go.

    2. AW*

      MTE, the letter really sounds like the employee didn’t actually mention their social media following at all and it was something the LW discovered on their own. It’s not an integrity issue unless she’s actually lying about something.

    3. Spooky*

      I wouldn’t judge her if she bought them, either. A huge social following is a requirement of a ton of jobs in the media/pr industry, which seems like such an asinine requirement for lower-level positions. Sounds like she knew what she had to do to get her foot in the door so she could prove herself to you, and she’s done that.

  6. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – Definately tell them! You want to control the story by letting them know about it first. Any employer willing to terminate an employee for looking may also lie about the reason for termination.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, and these sorts of things are pretty casual – I remember when I had mine there were a few questions about my previous employer because they operated under several different names (DBAs and all that) and they just asked for additional documentation and it wasn’t a big deal.

      Heck, even when my drug screen turned up meth (ADD meds), just just call you up, ask for your doctors info and everything is fine. They aren’t going to just fail you for no reason and not allow you to explain.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Some ADHD meds are stimulant medications. I use the oldest one around (Ritalin is actually the best one for me) and that’s the only of my meds that I can’t mail-order. I have to pick it up in person and show my ID. Happily I can still get 3 month’s worth at a time, like with the mail-ordered ones.

          (I used to even have to pick up the PAPER prescription in person and deliver it to the pharmacy myself. Thank all deities that finally changed. And I’m with Kaiser – when I was using regular pharmacies they inevitably wouldn’t have it in stock (because street drug value) and I’d have to come back for it the next week.)

          That said, I don’t know if ADHD meds show up in tests “as meth”, but I also don’t know how precise the drug screens are, or how precise people’s language is when they discuss it. To some folks, all stimulants are “meth”.

          1. SC*

            My husband takes Adderall. He has to have an in-person appointment with his doctor every 3 months. Phone appointments are not allowed, even if he is traveling. He can get paper prescriptions for 90 days’ worth of medication, but he can only fill a 30-day supply at the time, and he has to wait a certain number of days before refilling. He has to be the individual who takes the paper to the pharmacy and picks up the medication. The prescriptions expire in exactly 90 days, which means he has to keep up with it by counting days/doing math (so if he received a 90-day prescription today, November 25th would be too late because August and October both have 31 days, not 30). On top of all that, the medication is frequently out of stock at all of the pharmacies in the area.

            I know it’s not life-saving medication, but it’s essential for him to function as an adult, which is something that his boss and family all appreciate.

          2. Misc*

            Ugh yeah, it’s such a hassle. I have to get a new prescription every month, I’m only allowed a 30 day supply and it expires within 7 days (which is fine usually, I just pick it up at the pharmacy next to the gp, but it’s controlled so they often run out and I need to remember to go back within the 7 days to get the rest).

            It just feels extra ridiculous that adhd meds require good organisation and time awareness!

    2. PB*

      This is true. It’s not like you were terminated for doing anything wrong, OP. Alison’s script sounds perfect to me.

  7. namelesscommentator*

    OP#2 – Did the employee have other skills or qualifications? Did you like the content on her account (and the content she creates for you?)

    Unless you asked her how she grew such a large audience and lied in the answer she’s done nothing dishonest here at all – even if she DID buy followers.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I’ll add to this to say that buying followers has become a really common and highly suggested way to initially grow your account. And honestly, it makes a lot of sense. Posts with more likes and more followers get more exposure (get listed in searches) which leads to more “real” followers. While this strategy wouldn’t necessarily make sense for a business, it’s a good strategy for individual instagramers to build a real follower base in the long term. In a way it’s like paying to have your page listed first in a Google search. When Google first introduced paid listings, they didn’t call out that they were paid. They were told they had to and now you see the little “advertised” disclaimer. Maybe Instagram will do the same in the future.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        I wanted to call this out because a lot of commenters are pointing out that she may not have bought followers. My point is that buying followers isn’t as bad as it sounds, so it shouldn’t matter at all.

      2. Morning Glory*

        Yeah, I’ve seen this advice, too. It also means you are more likely to get followed back when you follow accounts, because the person is flattered that an account with 20k followers who is only following 1k people decided to follow them.
        I am personally not a fan and think it makes twitter a little worse for everyone real, but also don’t think it speaks to a huge issue about integrity – it’s more like a ‘fake it til you make it’ move.

    2. Is it Friday Yet?*

      FWIW I work in Marketing, and if I discover that a potential consultant or vendor has several fake followers, I won’t even respond to them because I don’t trust anything they’ll promise to do for my business.

      1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

        ‘Several’ is a typo, right? Because I probably only sit down and block the spambots that follow my twitter account every couple of months or so.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I hope so. What the hell? I’m pretty sure 100% of my followers on my (not active, zero tweets, following like 15 people) Twitter account are bots or otherwise not actually interested in my content (since I have zero content). And I have more than “several” followers.

          Now that I know it might cost me a job in the future, I suppose that might me incentive to block them, but that seems like a really shitty judgement to make about someone without even questioning it.

  8. Alia*

    I actually have a few thousand Instagram followers that I bought, and the reason I did it was because I wanted to test out the theory that accounts that already have followers will organically attract more people to follow. I had the service for a month or two and then canceled it, and since then the fake accounts have slowly been dropping off. So it’s possible that this employee may have bought some followers without any particularly shady motivation, just to see if it had an effect. (It didn’t, btw.)

  9. ML*

    I wouldn’t worry so much about the integrity of her buying followers or having dummy accounts. That’s surface-level stuff, and not uncommon. I’m just going to say this as someone who has fallen down some rabbit holes myself, I’d be worried about the obsessive/compulsive behavior that tends to go hand in hand with this stuff. Facebook likes, comments, instagram followers, Reddit upvotes…. whether these “followings” are bought or not, all of that stuff is just internet points that a lot of people rack up, sort of like currency that doesn’t buy anything. For some, this is a compulsive behavior often masked as something else.

  10. Kiwi*

    “the first year of managing is usually one long string of mistakes for most people”

    Thank you Alison for making me feel less crap about my first year of managing! OP#3, I definitely spent at least a year constantly coming up against situations where I had no idea what to do. You’re not alone and it gets much easier with time.

        1. Nicole*

          I would love to see a post about how people have made the jump into management. It is this big black box for me.

  11. Lindsay J*

    For #4 I’m sure it varies based on the industry and specific company, but at mine not disclosing and waiting for it to come up on the background check would absolutely get your offer pulled. It would be seen as dishonesty – that you were trying to hide or conceal the fact that you were fired – and they would assume it spoke to your integrity as a whole.

    If you disclosed you got fired, unless it was for gross misconduct like theft or punching someone, at the background check stage they wouldn’t really care. At that point they’ve already decided that they want you based on your resume, interviews, and references, and so being fired for an above-board (Or truly ridiculous, like in your case) wouldn’t change their opinion of you that much.

    Our background checks are mostly about ensuring you are below a certain government risk threshold, and a trustworthy person in general. They’re generally more concerned with large chunks of unaccounted for time, certain disqualifying crimes, and whether you were honest about what you put on your resume/application/background check packet than if you got fired due to poor job fit or a personality conflict. (Though a bunch of very short stays or a bunch of jobs that ended in “personality conflicts” would be a yellow flag and likely result in deeper probing.)

    In a company (or government agency?) where the hiring process was several months long, they will most likely be doing a thorough background check and almost certainly will find out you were fired.

    I wouldn’t even wait for the offer. I would notify them now.

    Why risk your dream job and the outcome of a long hiring process when telling the truth immediately has a much lower downside?

    Especially because your employer fired you for a terrible reason. No sensible HR person or hiring manager would hold your boss being a jerk against you.

    I’d respond to the message about the impending contingent offer and include something like, “I’d like to let you know about a change in my work status since we began the hiring process. I was fired from company X on MM/DD/YY.”

    (And it occurs to me that you might mean “wait until they’re about to start the background check” not “wait until the conclusion of the background check”. I’d still notify now. If you’ve already filled out a background check packet they’re not likely to tell you when they’re about to start, they’ll just run it once you accept the contingent offer. And if you haven’t, filling out the packet and slipping in there that you got fired without specifically notifying someone still comes off as shadier than just telling them directly.)

    1. Foreign Octopus*


      This and more. It’s 100% not your fault that your ex-boss couldn’t behave like an adult but I remember a situation happening when I was working at a recruiter where the candidate hadn’t disclosed the fact that he had left his job three months prior to interviewing with the client (why he didn’t tell us, I don’t know, it wouldn’t have mattered). He got offered the job (six figure salary) but when it came up in the background check, the offer was pulled because it raised questions about his integrity.

      Not that your integrity is at question considering the termination came during the interview process but it’s always best to get out in front of these things.

      Besides, your ex-boss was being ridiculous. Anyone with common sense will be able to see that.

      Let us know how it goes.

      1. AW*

        Wait, did they lie about their job history then? Saying they hadn’t disclosed it makes it sound like they didn’t volunteer that information but wouldn’t someone have asked directly during an interview? “Why are/did you leaving/leave your last job?” is a pretty standard question. Also, the dates on their resume should have given it away.

        1. JN*

          I interpreted the letter as saying that OP was employed at the time of applying for this dream job, and also still employed there at the time they interviewed (since the employer only just found at almost as the offer stage). So what was included in OP’s paperwork (resume) would have been accurate at the time it was filled out and the same for any questions at the interview (“I enjoy my current job, but working with you would be a dream and I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by without exploring it”). But it’s possible that this future employer didn’t ask that question at the interview–the place I interviewed at earlier this week didn’t ask me anything about why I was looking to leave my current job.

    2. RVA Cat*

      I think Allison’s advice to disclose is good. That said, it *shouldn’t* be considered an integrity issue when the OP signed the paperwork on date X and was terminated on later date Y. But if I were the OP, I would not want anything to give them pause.

    3. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

      I wouldn’t even wait for the offer. I would notify them now.

      This is what I was coming here to say. Don’t wait, because if they’re preparing “a contingent offer based on a background, employment, and education verification,” they could already be starting the verification. You don’t want to be the last to tell them that your employment status with your last employer has changed. It shouldn’t have any impact at all if you do tell them, but it definitely could if you waited and they found out before you said anything.

  12. Anon for discussion of my undewear*

    For the new manager – one thing that could help is to keep your own notes about the process (At home, not on a work device, so you can be completely honest). Write down things like what decision you made, your impressions of your reports, how you handled difficult issues, plus the reasons why you thought or did something, the things you wish you had done differently, and your views of how you think things will progress from there.

    Then, periodically, go back and review those notes. You can track how your views change, whether your predictions were accurate, and look for patterns, either positive or negative. It can help you figure out what you’re doing right, what you need to change, and whether you have unconscious biases that are coming out in how you deal with people.

  13. resident of the MLM Capitol of the World*

    with MLMs, careful about answering that you are watching your budget or can’t afford the product. that tends to make the vultures circle around looking to add you to their down line with promises of “financial freedom” or “earning fun money in your spare time” or even just “become a distributor so you can buy at wholesale”
    a solid, firm, free from excuses NO, repeated ad nauseum, is your best bet.

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Yeah, you don’t want them pitching anything to you. I usually run with, “Thanks for the offer, but I don’t need _______”. I have usually been pitched nutrition and weight loss stuff and I am a somewhat dedicated runner, so another go to for me is, “I can’t use that since it would interfere with my training plan”

        1. resident of the MLM Capitol of the World*

          Ding! Ding! Ding! Greater SLC area
          Corporate HQ for 20+ major MLMs are within 30 miles of my house, including doTerra, Young Living, Younique, Thrive, Usana, Xango, Stampin Up, Life Vantage etc etc etc
          Several of my neighbors are full time employees of MLMs (not distributors, HR people, IT people, operations director, call center manager etc.)

          1. MLM Hater*

            Ugh YES, also in the greater SLC area–and a very good friend’s brother -in-law is the owner/founder of one of them…

            Some of the products by these companies are actually not bad products! I have been known to buy some Mary Kay in the past and I have a few essential oils and once bought some Scentsy stuff that I liked for the period I used it. But I detest the sales and distribution model and will just outright refuse if someone makes a sales pitch.

            Actually–sales pitches in general make me ornery (even at brick and mortar retail stores). If I want something I will look for it or ask for it. If I need your help I will ask for it. Otherwise, just leave me alone.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Yes – I like the products for some of them. I’ve got a handful of essential oils from YL (which I got for witchy purposes rather than therapeutic ones but nobody else needs to know that) and a few Lipsense colors because they give me the all-day no-smudge formula I like but in shimmers and stuff instead of flat mattes like Beauty Bakerie’s. But I’m not joining to sell, and I’m not going to get roped into sitting through pitches for them either. I will buy my couple products here and there, other than that, leave me alone.

    2. BadPlanning*

      Yes! I would stick with a bland but vaguely smiley, “No, thank you.” If it’s a non consumable, you might try, “I have the pieces that I want, thanks.” (with consumables, that might open the window for “you could stock up, you don’t want to run out!”)

    3. Soon to be former fed*

      Yep, a simple “No, I’m not interested now and never will be” will suffice. Rinse and repeat.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I make them mad because I flat out say I don’t participate in pyramid schemes. Truly, there are very few products I even like well enough to buy this way and I’m not about to waste my time trying to sell them.

      1. Lora*

        Yes. This works. When it’s a very very good friend/close relative, I show them the math to determine how much money they personally really make from this gig, vs. minimum wage. And ask them, if this is such a great sales method / technique in general, then why aren’t cars and other things sold in this manner? If it’s a smallish company that doesn’t want overhead or whatever, they can set themselves up to sell online – either on their own, via Amazon, via Etsy, whatever.

        The one that really freaked me out was one of the skin cream things. A then-friend was selling it and passing around bottles for “samples” but then said she would give the same bottle to various people, asking them to return it after a week so she could give it to someone else – apparently they told all their sales people to do this. Have you not heard of MRSA lady?!? Chickenpox/shingles? How do I know this bottle hasn’t been in a house full of hepatitis patients or whatever?

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Ew, gross. I mean, I scoop product out of the tub like a goddamn garbage person and I don’t understand people who refuse to buy facial products that don’t have a pump (I also wash my hands before touching my face—I thought that was standard?), but sharing open products from house-to-house is below even my low bar for keeping products sanitary.

          That company needs to figure out how to package samples. Unless they do offer samples but discourage their sales people from buying them because sharing product is more cost-effective… and if that’s the case, I’m back to ew, gross.

    5. Art3mis*

      +1 to a simple NO with no excuses.

      The training for MLMs includes scripts for “overcoming objections” of all types, so reps are told to press you until they hear a “reason,” then overcome it.
      – If you don’t have the money, they’ll suggest you sign up as a rep and make money.
      – If you have everything you need from the company, they’ll mark you for follow-up when your product “runs out” … or decide that since you love the products so much, you should be selling them!
      – If you’re just so super busy that you don’t have time to even discuss organic nail wraps that let you absorb 18 servings of vegetables through your skin, it sure does seem like you need to take a break from your hectic schedule and host a superfood juice trunk show!

      You can say it kindly and cheerfully, as long as you say it simply. “No thank you.” But why? “I just don’t want to.” Any particular reason? “Nope, just don’t want to.” As Captain Awkward says, make it really boring to discuss with you.

      1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

        Honestly, if someone invents an organic nail wrap that lets me absorb 18 servings of vegetables, feel free to sign me up.

    6. Ama*

      This actually started as a legitimate excuse but back when I actually used to get products from a family friend that sold Avon (I liked their sunscreen) I would tell other Avon sellers who approached me that “I have an Avon rep already, thanks!” That worked surprisingly well, so sometimes if I run into a very very pushy MLM who doesn’t seem like they’ll take no for an answer I’ll just claim that I buy from my cousin (which is half true because I have a cousin who has tried pretty much every MLM out there so if I did want to buy that stuff I’d go to her).

  14. Buu*

    #2 it’s too late now but perhaps get the social media team involved in screening final stage candidates? if it is part of the job it’s a good idea to check just in case they spot something problematic you’d miss especially if you’re giving the intern social media access!

    1. Liane*

      What is this about? OP said she wasn’t hired to do social media and it didn’t become part of the intern’s duties later.

      1. jv*

        OP did use that knowledge to hire her though – she thought she’d bring expertise to an increasingly digital company.

        Also, OPs colleagues pointed this out for a reason. I’m assuming someone said something to the social team along the lines of “So and so has this many followers. Why don’t we have this many? What can you do to get us there? Maybe you need to speak to so and so.”

        1. Observer*

          So what? That still doesn’t make it sensible for the social media team to screen candidates for anything but social media positions. The OP needs to learn that “she has followers” has nothing to do with bringing digital media smarts into an organization. Also, that if you want people to drive digital transformation or just even an upgrade, you need to hire for that position, not expect someone is some random position to make it happen.

  15. Jenny*

    #2 – As someone whose work includes social media, buying followers is a real integrity issue, although less so if her accounts are just for personal use and she’s not making money off them or using her following to gain some other benefit. While commenters above have given lots of explanations/examples for why maybe she didn’t buy the followers, I’d go by what your social media experts who’ve actually seen her account say.

    That said, if she’s doing this on her personal accounts and she wasn’t hired for social media or asked about it in the interview (and didn’t sell herself on her following), I’d probably let it go.

    1. Mike C.*

      Look, until Twitter is willing to reveal how many of it’s accounts are bots, I don’t think we can blame individuals for benefiting from that situation.

    2. Observer*

      Nonsense. For one thing, I have to doubt the expertise of anyone who claims that low engagement = purchased accounts. Keep in mind that this was the entire basis for the claim, and it’s not a good basis at all.

      For another, purchased accounts are surely an integrity issue in some contexts. But in this case, we have no evidence of nefarious purpose or even any attempt to influence the hiring decision.

    3. Is it Friday Yet?*

      It baffles me how many people on this thread are unbothered by it. Also so many people saying NOT to listen to the person whose entire job is social media. I don’t have a medical degree, and I’m not a doctor, so I’m never going to say, “Don’t listen to your doctor.” But with social media, people feel like their own personal use qualifies them to negate a professional’s opinion. Make it stop.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “But with social media, people feel like their own personal use qualifies them to negate a professional’s opinion. Make it stop.”

        If this wasn’t so common in literally every industry/profession, I’d take your comment a lot more seriously. The average person definitely thinks they know everything there is to know about [any given subject, especially if that subject is something “anyone can do” looks simple from the outside, like social media or photography or management] because they read an article about it once, probably, or maybe they just heard about it from somebody, or they imagined it, whatever.

        Fwiw, I have family members who haven’t even graduated high school who tell me not to listen to doctors (unless it’s Dr Oz: obviously I should listen to him about whatever placebo du jour he’s hawking these days, even though the last 8 supplements didn’t work the way they were supposed to, this one definitely will because reasons sunk-cost fallacy)—this isn’t a shot at people who haven’t graduated high school being dumb, it’s a shot at people in general being dumb and overestimating their own understanding of something.

      2. Zillah*

        I don’t think that people are dismissing the social media person’s knowledge about social media in general, just her read on a situation that’s only tangentially related to that.

    4. Ego Chamber*

      “That said, if she’s doing this on her personal accounts and she wasn’t hired for social media or asked about it in the interview (and didn’t sell herself on her following), I’d probably let it go.”

      If your opinion is that OP should let it go if it was hypothetically exactly the situation in the letter, why did you bother qualifying it with the paragraph before?

  16. Data analyst*

    #2 I actually do some social media analysis for a living. It can be quite difficult to tell which accounts are fake vs. real. Also engagement rates tend to be very low across the board. I can think of multiple reasons that someone could have low engagement rate on Twitter.

    I don’t know how in depth of an analysis your coworker did of the young employee’s followers, but I don’t believe there is a clear, bright line to be drawn between “low engagement” and “purchased followers”, or even between “purchased followers” and “has a serious lack of integrity”.

    While you say that the number of followers was a factor in her being hired, was that just your assumption that the number of followers was meaningful, or did she actually bring that up herself as a selling point? If she presented her number of followers as evidence of her skill and she bought followers without disclosing that, that’s one thing. But if you just jumped to the conclusion that the follower count was important evidence of her skill then you shouldn’t hold it against her even if she did purchase followers.

    There could be multiple motivations even if someone does purchase followers. If the reason turns out to be vanity I would compare it to other things that people do for vanity, just as dying their hair, wearing shoes that make them look taller, having a toupee, or paying to have their poem published in a book.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Yeah. In addition, dyeing hair, wearing heels, or wearing wigs aren’t exactly signs of vanity either.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          But data analyst is pointing those things out as normal kinds of daily vanity. To-be-expected vanity. The non-judgmental, just actual meaning of the word vanity (as in, vanity is that I like my hair a light golden brown instead of the gray it has become, so I dye it. That is in fact vanity, even though it is not some terrible character flaw kind of vanity). No big deal. Likewise, buying followers could be motivated by that and not be a Big Terrible Issue.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        “Wait, self publishing shows one is vain?”

        Eh. They used to call the more slimy/scummy/salesy printers “vanity presses” so if you’re looking for the most blatant and obvious read, “vain” would probably be it. Usually it just means someone couldn’t/didn’t get picked up by a trad publisher, for whatever reason.

        Storytime. I know a guy who quit his job to work on a novel, and expected his pregnant wife to support him financially while he did that, without every discussing the idea with her. Then he blew he and his wife’s savings on paying to have the novel printed, and went on a road trip to promote his book. It didn’t end well. (Their marriage, I mean, I never read the book.)

        1. Specialk9*

          Hunh, my parents are self publishing their life story. It will be a neat thing for their kids and grandkids, and some of their friends. That’s about it.

          That said, I totally dye my hair for vanity. I found the perfect color, and often secretly admire it when I catch sight of it by surprise.

  17. Mary*

    #1 – one way of softening your refusal or changing the topic (but only if you want t0!) is to ask ABOUT the MLM and positioning yourself as a general supporter rather than a customer. So, “Oh, no thanks, it’s not for me – how’s it going though? Do you get many customers? Oh right, yeah, I guess times are tough – oh well, good luck! Hope it turns around soon!”

    Obviously, this is effectively emotional labour support rather than financial support, so I’m not suggesting that it’s completely cost-free. But if faking an interest comes relatively easily to you, it’s a good way to soften your no and it can work to reposition you as “general non-financial supporter” rather than “potential customer”.

    1. Letter Writer #1*

      Letter Writer #1
      That’s the thing though, I have done research on the company and it’s actually not that great. For example, they bill themselves as “empowerment for women” when in fact many women have gotten into debt because of the false promises of this company. That is also a major reason I don’t want to buy.

      1. Soon to be former fed*

        I am a rabid anti-MLMer. I have seen first hand the damage these schemes do to the financial and emotional health of those who can least afford it. Please don’t fake support for this mess.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Strong agree here. And I don’t humor MLM folks. A hard “no, I’m not interested, thanks, you should take me off your list of possible buyers/participants” is all I say. It’s perfectly polite, but clear and firm.

      3. Kate*

        I think this is true of a lot of MLM’s, not just one company. Your letter hit a nerve with me because I recently refused a friend FOUR times in less than 12 hours (she even went so far as to say, “But I’m so close to the Pandora bracelet”. You’re not even pushing your product at that point!). MLM consultants can be SO pushy, but I always just repeat the firm but polite, “That’s not really something I’d be interested in. Thanks.” Obviously, you want to stay polite because it’s your boss, but I think this is one of those times it’s important to remember, you’re not being rude by refusing. They are being rude if they continue to push.

      4. Aurion*

        I know a person who is into Usana, but I see a lot of pictures on her Facebook for trainings and conferences and stuff, often across the country or even further, and she always looks like she’s having a blast (Usana fam, I think she calls them). Given most people doing MLMs don’t actually make much off of them, I’d always wondered about those conferences.

      5. MLM Hater*

        Ugh yes!

        If anyone hasn’t seen it, go watch John Oliver’s MLM segment from either earlier this year or last year. (General warning for NSFW language…)

    2. oranges & lemons*

      My concern about this is that they might see it as an opening to try to rope you into selling the product too.

    3. beanie beans*

      If people involved in MLMs don’t mind bugging us all the time with trying to sell their products, the sellers should have no issues with their friends just being direct and saying “No, I’m not interested.”

      It baffles me that people buy things from pushy friends because they feel too bad to say no. You should never have to buy something you’re not interested in, period.

  18. Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: If it’s some kind of beauty product, it might be helpful to research ingredient lists and claim to be allergic to the fragrance or something else in there. I’ve been successful in saying, “I was actually interested in the products so I looked them up and it turns out I’m allergic to them.” Ingredient allergies are really common in skincare. It might not work but it sounds like you could use some new ways of pushing back on the sales pitches.

    OP2: She’s only an intern. I say “only” because she might have other goals involving social media (a youtube channel, a career in digital marketing, launching a business of her own) and she’d gain nothing by deleting or altering her accounts for the sake of a short-term internship. There’s nothing objectionable in the content of her twitter account; it’s just the number of followers that’s sketchy. OP admits to not being savvy about this stuff. I’d either let it go or talk with someone more knowledgeable before forming an opinion.

    I’ll disagree with Alison on one count: a non-celeb/non-internet personality who has over 20k followers absolutely knows that those followers are fake. There’s no way she didn’t actively do something to gain those followers.

    1. Daria Grace*

      Doing something to gain followers doesn’t nessisarily mean do something dishonest. They could have paid for legit Twitter ads, had a bunch of moderately viral posts or just diligently posted worthwhile things that people want to follow for a long time.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          But there is no indication that the intern/new employee ever talked about her followers or social media knowledge during the hiring process, or that that intern/new employee even know that the OP had looked at her page, noticed her followers, and cared about it at all.

          In other words, it reads a lot like OP made an assumption, never talked about that assumption to the applicant, and now is blaming the applicant for the assumption because it turned out to be wrong.

          If the intern claimed to have social media knowledge or if she pointed to her following in some way, then it’d be a big deal, so if that did actually happen, I am with OP that potentially purchased followers is concerning. But if intern/new employee didn’t mention it and had no idea that social media played any role in her hiring? It’s unreasonable to make an issue of it now.

    2. k8*

      “a non-celeb/non-internet personality who has over 20k followers absolutely knows that those followers are fake. There’s no way she didn’t actively do something to gain those followers.”

      she could very well be some kind of blogger/influencer, though, and have gotten those followers the normal way, though? 20k is not exactly a crazy amount of followers…….

      1. Zillah*

        Yeah, I have several friends with that many followers who are just outspoken activisty types – I wouldn’t call them internet personalities, but I also know they didn’t buy followers.

    3. Nanc*

      Meh, I have 200 or so Twitter followers and I’ve never sent a single tweet. I only have Twitter because I work for a writing agency and I write social media for our clients, so I follow them to see what the end product looks like. It’s really kind of amusing when I think about it.

      If her followers are fake, they’re fake. At the end of the day if she’s doing well in the position for which you hired her, that’s what would matter to me.

    4. Bea*

      If you’re really involved in a fandom, you can absolutely have an incredibly high amount of followers though. I don’t know anyone who has bought followers and are just bloggers, very basic bloggers because as we all know, everyone who wants to be a writer has one of those.

  19. Lulabelle*

    #1 Everyone and their mother seems to be a Juiceplus, younique rep. I tend to say to them ‘Sorry I already purchase from someone else’. Not true but it keeps them away lol. I don’t get it personally. I always was told that these things are like pyramid schemes and don’t make money.

    1. Soon to be former fed*

      Not only do 99% of those who enroll in these schemes not make money, they end up in substantial debt after paying all the required costs. And those who make a profit make a miniscule amount. The only people who make big money are those who create the scheme. They should be illegal because of how deceptive they are. I have done extensive research on MLMs and the more I learn, the more disgusted I get.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I keep linking to Some of the stories are just crushingly heartbreaking. It mostly focuses on Mary Kay, but looks at some of the others too, and helped my husband avoid one a couple years ago.

        1. Artemesia*

          My husband prosecuted several schemes (successfully) where people were pulled into bogus moneymaking plans at great expense on front end costs. What is so sad is that the victims of these schemes are almost always people with limited options for making money e.g. often disabled or isolated and they invest their last dime in something worthless. They are hard working people trying to make a living by working hard and to see them stripped of what little they have is heartbreaking.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            There but for the fact that I can’t afford the start-up costs go I. :(

            I’m not kidding. I was on so many conference calls (back when they used to advertise these things in the Help Wanted section of actual newspapers and recruit via phone call, which was very fancy and professional because long distance still cost money back then) where I was offered UNLIMITED POTENTIAL to make NEARLY ALL THE MONIES—and the only thing holding me back is I didn’t have $500 laying around that I could EASILY DOUBLE in NO TIME, don’t even worry about it.

      2. Vancouver Reader*

        When I was temping, one the I had to set for MLM convention. One attendees, you could tell she really wanted succeed selling, but it was so not her nature; she didn’t have the gregarious nature to make her a good sales person. I really wanted shake her and say, don’t do this to yourself!

  20. MicroManagered*

    OP3: Allison’s advice on this is just good LIFE advice. Getting comfortable with saying “I’ll get back to you” has changed my life, both professionally and personally. Sometimes I have to be direct in a way that’s a little uncomfortable (like when someone clearly wants an answer on THIS phone call and I have to say “That’s going to require some research that I’m not going to be able to complete during this call. I’ll get back to you.”). It gets easier to do with practice.

    1. The Queen of Cans & Jars*


      I think that there really isn’t anything wrong with taking some time to reflect to make sure you’re making the right decision if it’s a big decision. I’m in HR, so I’m dealing with unique situations a lot of the time, and it seems like people appreciate it when I say “let me think about it & get back to you,” because they know that I’m taking time to consider all the factors instead of just jumping to an answer.

    2. Chaordic One*

      You really do have to, at some point, actually get back the person and sometimes that is difficult. The phrase “I’ll get back to you” has a reputation for being code for “no.”

  21. Grasshopper*

    #1. Just say no, or say it is because they are your boss. If you give a reason (budget, didn’t like the item, etc) this will continue the conversation. Salespeople are trained on overcoming objections. It might feel rude, but MLMS count on these kind of techniques to sell.

    Just say no.

    1. K.*

      Yeah, don’t give excuses because they’ll just find ways to work around them. I used to work with a couple of people who sold Thirty-One products, which I’d never heard of before I worked there. They’d ask if I was interested in this or that, and I’d pleasantly say “No thanks.” If pressed, I’d continue to say no thanks – and just “no thanks,” verbatim, with no further explanation. It would come up again around specific products (there are some office products in the line so if I mentioned needing a new desktop calendar or something, they’d swoop in) but after a while they stopped asking.

    2. blackcat*


      No, coupled with a cheerful, “I tried it, and it’s not for me!”

      You might get a “Why?!” but just keep on like a broken record, “Oh, I don’t know, it just doesn’t work for me.”

  22. straws*

    I know MLMs get a lot of negative comments on this site, and many of them for good reason. I have a couple of coworkers who get sucked into the “parties” on a frequent basis, and I actually do like a couple of the companies. The others I want nothing to do with, but because I say yes to some, I’m a prime target for others. So I get this a lot. Our culture is frequently one where saying “no” is frowned upon, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Nothing. There’s no need to make up an excuse–they’ll either use it as a launching point for a counterargument or you’ll have to lie and potentially be caught later on. I just say I’m not interested in the product. Why? I’m not, it’s not for me, I don’t really know but I’ve tried it and it wasn’t my thing, I like what I have but I don’t need/have room for more, whatever is true and not giving the person fodder for an argument. As some other commenters pointed out, going with “it’s not in my budget” can be risky, since that opens the door for “oh well, just throw your own party and you’ll get it for free! then you’ll be hooked!” So if you decide to go that route, just have some shutdown responses for that.

    Given that it’s your boss & her family, it could get trickier, but there’s no harm in simply saying no every time as a starting point. If it turns out that she’s unreasonable, then you may have to get into more involved tactics, but I’ve found that politely turning down the purchase/party offers has been effective.

    1. Artemesia*

      I think it helps to have a flat policy. I NEVER go to sales parties. when asked, I say ‘Oh I never do sales parties.’ I don’t get asked to the next one. (and yes back in the day I went to a few — hated every minute and resented friends who would do you that way)

  23. Fronzel Neekburm*

    Letter 2 really bothers me. Basically it boils down to this: We interviewed someone, we loved them, and they proved themselves on every level. Even though it wasn’t part of the interview, I looked up extra information, and that information is great. Now, without talking to the employee, I have reason to suspect that additional information that doesn’t affect their job and isn’t really why they were hired – it was a bonus – may be false. I’ve spoken with everyone but the employee, who knows nothing about this and probably shouldn’t since again, it wasn’t why they were hired, and has nothing to do with their essential job duties. What do I do?

    This is why companies lose great employees. I think you should bring it up to your amazing employee so they can be aware of the toxic environment you’re fostering and find work elsewhere.

    1. krysb*

      This was my take on it, too. The thing is, if Twitter was a factor hiring because OP looked, not because it was part of the job parameters or something put forward by the employee as a selling point for the position, calling someone dishonest because of it seems ridiculous to me.

    2. Amber Rose*

      It’s that old cliche about what happens when you assume stuff. If something is important towards hiring a person, then that something needs to be brought up and discussed explicitly, not assumed.

  24. Hiring Mgr*

    I never realized you could buy Twitter followers..Just putting it out there that I’m availalbe to follow anyone for a reasonable fee. Will accept PayPal or if you’re in the Boston area can meet for a cash transaction.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Sadly, it doesn’t work that way, or I would do this also. But mostly paying for followers means you pay some programmer a fee and they have 20,000 bots follow you.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I can’t speak for Hiring Manager, but I’m even organic. And locally sourced, assuming you live in my area.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          I’m so handmade, I’ll *create* a Twitter account just so you can buy my followship. Followhood. Following.

          (Do I need to invoice someone for that payout?)

  25. CM*

    #1: I know it’s tough because this is your boss, but it’s really none of your concern what they and their family members choose to do. The fact that it’s their livelihood, their financial troubles, their commitment to the MLM business, etc…. none of that is your responsibility. Smile and repeat, “Thanks, but I’m not interested,” as if they’re genuinely asking you if you would like to exchange money for a product, and not to support them.

    #2: Why not ask her how she got so many Twitter followers? Even if she says openly, “Oh, I bought them to boost my social media presence!” you can have a conversation about that. I don’t think that’s necessarily shady. But if there are other things she’s doing that strike you as shady, pay attention to those and see if you detect a pattern.

  26. k8*

    op #2– maybe I’m reading too much into this, but in sounds like you’re taking this little too “personally” (for lack of a better word). if she did buy followers– and it is very easy and cheap to do so, as well as very common on Instagram– she didn’t buy them to impress *you*, she bought them to attract the attention of brands who will give her free stuff. her personal integrity might be questionable, but she likely wasn’t actively trying to dupe you or your company specifically.

    I’m just curious as to why this was brought up in a meeting? if social media isn’t even her job and her getting hired wasn’t contingent her following, why does her coworker care so much?

  27. Leslie*

    I really hope that hiring managers aren’t checking out my social media followings. My 117 Facebook friends and 32 Instagram followers paint a bleak picture.

  28. Rachel B*

    #2 – Working in social media, I agree with other commenters that it can be difficult to discern the percentage of fake followers, without access to their account’s credentials.

    I would also argue: Does it matter (Unless the employee was asked directly about how she grew the account)? I’ve worked with influencers, creatives, and musicians who have purchased followers. While I don’t recommend that practice, some of those accounts are managed well. They make creative videos, have good styling, engage appropriately with their followers, etc. If I’m hiring for a social media management role, I look at ‘work product’ (Meaning original content) over a metric that is easily inflated or deflated by the platforms themselves or third party solutions.

  29. M from NY*

    I believe you all are being too hard on OP#2. No one “accidently” gets 20,000 followers. It’s either by strategic work or purchasing and for a young person working at PR firm noticing that the followers were purchased certainly raises questions on what her skill set/background knowledge actually contains. Regular “unskilled” people certainly do purchase followers then attempt to fake their way through media jobs. To me it speaks to a lack of character. If OP isn’t in direct supervisory position just sit back and watch. When the new employee publicly implodes you will see everyone that excused all the red flags continue to wonder where it all went wrong. Trust your gut on this one.

    1. Amber Rose*

      There’s no reason for her to publicly implode. I mean, social media is a pretty small part of her job. It’s not a media job. She never claimed to try and get one, nor did she bring up her followers to anyone. She was an intern and she earned a full time position on the quality of her work. Where in there is a public implosion implied?

      You’re being awfully aggressive here, but you don’t seem to have read most of the letter?

    2. k8*

      “No one “accidently” gets 20,000 followers. ”

      But there’s no evidence that the employee isn’t a influencer/blogger in her spare time and got followers that way? Trust me, 20K followers isn’t some crazy, unattainable number of followers. And it’s actually pretty common to buy followers, especially in the influencer community. “Lack of character” is reach, imo.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa, that seems really extreme to me. There’s nothing here indicating any kind of public implosion is coming (!!) and if you mean a publicity problem about potentially purchased followers, literally no one in the public will care.

    4. music*

      I’ve been on twitter for about 7 years. I have just over 11k followers. Never bought any, probably a bunch are bots, and i’m actually just very good at my job, part of which involves being on Twitter.

      Which is to say: wow, chill.

    5. krysb*

      Um, what? Nothing in the letter suggests that the employee’s personal Twitter was put forward by the employee to get the job or that having a large Twitter following was necessary to get the job, just that LW looked at the Twitter and saw it as a positive for hiring for the job.

  30. Gee Gee*

    LW #1: My husband and I have a household rule that we do not engage in fundraisers or MLMs of any type at our jobs, and we freely tell people this. Even if we want the item (Girl Scout Cookies!!!) it’s the only way to be fair. We created this rule because husband is a teacher, and is also a bit of a pushover. He was giving five bucks here and five bucks there to Lion’s Club, Spanish Club, Honor Society, band uniforms….it went on and on until it became a serious financial problem for us.

    A universal rule is also helpful in that if we get pushback, we can blame it on the other spouse who isn’t there to be hassled about it. It’s hard to argue against the Golden Rule: “He won’t do this, because we agreed to it, so it’s only fair that I hold up my end.”

    1. Letter Writer #1*

      I like this a lot. I think I’m going to leave/unsubscribe from the group and if she asks why I’ll say that I have a new policy to not participate in MLMs in the office.

  31. Cait*

    #1 – I read this situation as a double boundary cross… first, introducing MLMs in the workplace (I know it’s ok in some places, I don’t think it’s appropriate personally) and second, trying a guilt trip saying they are having financial difficulties. It is such an uncomfortable, forced dynamic that a manager should never create.

    It’s not the OP’s business or responsibility that their boss and their family are having personal finance issues.

    OP – if I were you, I’d just say any of the lines Alison provided or a “No thanks, I’m all set!” and keep repeating with a smile.

    I do wonder how pushy the boss is being…if OP knows about financial difficulties then the guilt tripping must be pretty hard.

    1. Letter Writer #1*

      I absolutely agree about the boundary cross. I should also say that this had been a recurring issue for this person. This person has said that they shouldn’t be talking about it in office from the very beginning and has continued to do so.

  32. AW*

    LW #1 – The fact that you’ve bought their products before should actually make it easier to shut down. “I no longer want [product].” paired with non-specific follow ups like “It just wasn’t for me” for the inevitable “Why?” should work. It would be weird and pushy for them to argue that you actually want to use something that you’ve just said you don’t want to use. If they’re reasonable they’ll let it go.

    LW #2 – I’ve already said this in a reply but it’s not fair to view this as her tricking you if you never talked to her about her social media accounts and, I looked her up on Twitter and Instagram I noted she had about 20,000 followers and figured she had a level of expertise… makes it sound like you didn’t. If she’s not claiming she gained that following organically and didn’t use her social media usage to get the job then she didn’t lie about anything.

    If you don’t like that she went around you to discuss a promotion, you should talk to her about that. You can also ask her about her social media knowledge but it should be from a position of figuring out how much she can do, not a question of integrity.

    LW #3 – I don’t have anything to add except good luck!

    LW #4 – It’s safer if you disclose, especially since the reason you were fired only makes your previous employer look bad, not you.

  33. Lily Evans*

    For OP 2, there’s a website called Social Blade that can be helpful in determining if someone likely bought followers or is playing the follow/unfollow game (but that is more of an instagram thing than twitter I think). You go to that site and enter their handle and the platform you want to look at, if there are sudden large influxes of followers there’s a good chance they were bought, unless the employee had a post go viral or something. It’s also a fun site to play with when you get those random followers on instagram/twitter and want to see if they’re legitimate or just following a bunch of people for attention and unfollowing days later.

  34. Zip Zap*

    #2 – I think OP should talk to the intern privately and ask about this stuff. Ask in a neutral way. Get her side of the story before judging her. Then you can have a conversation about expectations for integrity, etc. She’s an intern. She’s learning.

    1. CM*

      But does buying followers, even if true, actually signal a lack of integrity? I think this is a question of community norms. She may think it’s not a big deal. She didn’t misrepresent anything to the company, and it doesn’t sound like they asked how she got so many followers. (And again, we don’t know whether she actually did buy them.)

      1. Zip Zap*

        It depends on the position and how she represented herself. If questions have been raised and she’s being talked about, I think it’s fair to have a conversation with her about it. Not to reprimand her. Just to discuss it. Obviously someone was concerned, so she needs to be given a chance to share her side of things.

        1. Purplesaurus*

          Questions and comments that have nothing to do with her role merit a discussion… why? It would be the same thing as if the social media employee found out that she cosplays, runs a D&D campaign every weekend, or goes to spin class 3 times a week. Why bother discussing that with anyone when there’s nothing wrong with it?

          The other issue OP pointed out about the raise/title, however, sure! Discuss that. That’s professionally relevant.

  35. Amber Rose*

    Sometimes I feel like AAM’s theme song should be the chorus from Let It Go on repeat. Maybe mix in the occasional bit from You Jerk for the really bad bosses.

    #4: Unfortunately, while it’s a jerk move, firing people for interviewing isn’t exactly rare. The new company isn’t going to find it suspicious or hold it against you. It’s totally fine to be up-front about it, and will avoid them speculating and coming to the wrong conclusions.

  36. LizB*

    “the first year of managing is usually one long string of mistakes for most people”

    Oh god am I relieved to see this. I’ve been a manager for about seven months, and while I’m proud of a lot of what I’ve done, I’ve definitely made some big mistakes along the way. I’ve learned from each of them and no mistake has happened twice so far, but there have been some seriously stressful moments. Glad to know I’m not alone in that!

  37. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, it’s best just to stay away from these things entirely. In 1989 I attended two Tom Vu seminars, yet I was never able to replicate his glorious lifestyle…

    1. SuperAnonNow*

      OMG, my first job out of college was working for Tom Vu. I lasted three months. Funny thing, one time he gave a big party at his house to impress high-paying clients. At the bar, in plain view, were bottles with some big-name booze labels. But underneath, in the cabinet, everything was from ABC Liquor.

  38. Observer*

    #2 People have made some good points about your intern turned employee.

    I have some questions that speak to the competence and integrity of your colleague. How did this topic come up? Did he really claim that low engagement = fake? I can tell you that ALL of my followers have low engagement, and I know who most of them are (there are not a lot, which is why I can know that.) And did he really jump to fake = purchased? Because that’s a huge leap. As others have pointed out, there are ways that a person could wind up being followed by a lot of bots.

  39. Erin*

    #4 – Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I believe it’s very unusual (and wrong) for an employer to fire you for job searching. If your new employer is halfway decent I think they’ll understand, and that this will reflect poorly on your former employer, not you. Erring on the side of transparency is probably the safe way to go.

    1. Naruto*

      I’m certain my current employer would fire me if they knew I was job searching. I think it’s uncommon, but I don’t really know. But I 100% agree that it makes them look bad, not you.

      The way this is most likely to backfire is if you say nothing, they see that your employment is no longer current during their check, and they don’t ask you to explain because they think they’ve caught you lying. Telling them in advance (Alison’s script is great) seems like the clear way to go.

    2. Bea*

      It’s not unheard of there are a lot of assholes out there who will do the “you can’t quit, you’re fired!!!!” thing :(

  40. Language lover*

    So many good points regarding Letter #2. But I keep seeing that getting to 20K followers would have to either involve buying them (others have pointed out good reasons why even this might not be an integrity issue) or have to involve work and strategy.

    I think it depends on how old the account is, how it was used in the past and maybe even if it used to be another handle. Because another way to get to 20K followers is obsession and/or fandom of something people are crazy about.

    She’s an intern so I’m guessing she’s young. Let’s say that she was a huge Bieber fan five years ago. (This may raise other questions for you but questions that are unrelated to work). Maybe her Twitter handle was @BieberFan1000. Maybe she posted all Bieber news. Maybe she made comments about it. Maybe she retweeted other Bieber fans and made sure to reply to everyone who tweeted her about Bieber. I could see how some average Jane could amass a lot of Twitter followers that way. I doubt she’d call it work. Or a strategy. There are just some topics that will generate interest by Twitter users of all age groups.

    And she may have, at one point, wanted to put that behind her so she scrubbed her tweets without scrubbing her followers.

  41. Ruthie*

    LW2, I’m a non-profit communications director and my career has focused on digital communications. I absolutely hate using social media in my personal life, and while my followers aren’t fake, I used a few strategies to build a largeish following even if we don’t engage with each other. Despite my utter disinterest in my personal profiles, I’m really good at my job. Those things just aren’t related. Strategic digital communications is so, so different from personal posting.

  42. ML*

    I already commented here, but I work in a place where we actually just hosted a large convention for an MLM company.

    Since we had to deal with a lot of registration questions and hotel bookings and whatnot, we had to interact with a lot of their consultants, by phone and /or email. Since we have to be engaging as part of our jobs, it should come as no surprise that some of them would say something like “Hey, thanks for helping me out. So do you know about our company?” Then proceed to try and sell us on the product. Some of them have asked if they can send us more information – and what are we going to do? Say no?

    I and a few other coworkers have started getting emails from these people. They look sort of like they copy and pasted from a template of some sort with things like “Good Afternoon ML, have you had a chance to take a look at my last email? Take a look at our testimonials! I think you’ll be very impressed, ML” or something of that nature.

    1. Observer*

      Most of the commenters were pretty much with you. There were a couple who very very vocal in the opposite. It may have felt like a lot because they really kept at it. (In fact, one of them commented on the follow up in which the LW described more of what happened (which would have scared any reasonable person, imo) and still insisted that she wouldn’t have been so scared and made such big deal about it, oh and even though she (officially) doesn’t blame the coworker, really she could have De-escalated the situation. Fortunately, I think that every person who responded disagreed with her completely.)

      The one you point was a very different situation – and I’m not sure which one I would find more frightening, to be honest.

    1. Bea*

      That’s not true.

      I don’t hashtag and get bots all the time. They search all popular terms.

      If you watch sports and are like “oh hey go team” they will find you because they’re searching that team.

  43. Jane Cornett*

    Thank you for answering my question (how to “think like a manager.” The idea of saying “let me get back to you” never even entered my mind. This is what is so great about you – you know exactly what to say, even if it is just to say “I’ll say it later.” I’ve been a manager a couple of years and am taking courses and reading a lot about managing. Your articles help a lot and the search engine really narrows down my searches.

  44. Marghe*

    #2 I work in social media advertising and we bought fake followers! It was not for our main accounts (we didn’t want to ruin them) but for examining/experimenting/article writing on consequences. I see how a person learning/testing may do that without much thinking. I wouldn’t do it on your main account though since in some social (not specifically twitter, more Facebook) you ruin your account and is long to recover.
    It is very cheap and knowing that it exists/how it works is part of the job in this field.

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