we have to be interviewed by a psychologist to get promoted

A reader writes:

I am a senior manager in a division of a global corporation. Each of the divisions is actually a company that was acquired by the corporation. As long as the division continues to make a profit, they are pretty much allowed to operate as if they are still a stand-alone organization.

Some months ago, the head of our division retired and was replaced by one of the senior VPs. He’s not a particularly good executive, but the rest of senior management is fairly strong, so I wasn’t expecting this to be a big negative or have much impact on my future.

However, he has decreed that anyone being promoted to director must go through an interview with a psychologist. To add to the situation, the psychologist is either a personal friend of his or his own therapist. The details are sketchy, but there is definitely a relationship of some sort.

As I am in line to be promoted to director in the next 6-8 months and have received pretty solid assurances that this will happen, I am concerned. I have talked to three colleagues who have gone through the interview, and apparently the psychologist tries to discover a weakness and then use it to bear down on the candidate.

One colleague is a veteran and he was grilled on how it felt to kill fellow human beings. Another person, who was adopted, was automatically assumed to have feelings of abandonment and resentment. For the third colleague, apparently the psychologist couldn’t find any obvious chinks, so he accused her of being dishonest about her childhood and covering up some sort of abuse. Each of these people ended up being promoted, but they all said that it was a rather harrowing experience.

I do not want to do this. I believe that this requirement isn’t good business practice, but I’m also wondering if it is exposing our division to some sort of legal action. I haven’t discussed this with my manager yet as I’m not sure how to approach the issue. What do you think/advise?

It could indeed cause legal problems for the company, depending on exactly what’s being asked.

If the psychologist’s assessment ends up screening out people with mental disabilities (ones that wouldn’t prevent them from doing the job with or without reasonable accommodations), that’s likely to run afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). And if this qualifies as a medical test (which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines as “a procedure or test that seeks information about an individual’s physical or mental impairments or health”), that’s a problem because the ADA says that employers can only require medical exams after a job offer has been made. And once someone is on the job, employers usually can only require “fitness for duty” medical exams.

So yeah, there are some potential legal issues here.

But totally aside from that, it’s a ridiculous practice that’s highly likely to piss people off. It’s problematic enough to give candidates and employees unscientifically-supported personality tests to decide whether they’re leaders or followers or perfectionists or empaths or only motivated by donuts or so forth. But grilling someone on how it felt to kill in the military? Probing into someone’s feelings about their adoption? Accusing someone of covering up abuse? These all go way beyond the more typical annoying-but-not-outrageous uses of psychological testing at work and are far over the line into Not Okay At Work.

I feel like I’m recommending this a lot lately, but this is something where you’ll have the best luck pushing back if you do it as part of a group. Ideally the people who have already been subjected to this psychological interview and people like you who think it may come up for them in the future should speak up as a group and advocate for a stop to this. Point out that it could cause legal issues, point out that it’s invasive, and point out that there’s no clear connection to job-required skills.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 355 comments… read them below }

  1. Lama glama (Snark)*

    I’d stonewall the shit out of the psychologist if I were subjected to this. Just feed him the blandest, least specific possible answers.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I’d turn it around. “I don’t find that statement very appropriate. You’re coming across as very hostile, why do you suppose that is?”

      But in all honesty, the better route is to get familiar with the law and then go in as a group and say firmly, “This is probably illegal and definitely terrible. It needs to stop.”

      1. Hey Nonnie*

        In addition to legal issues and questionable utility for business use, the psychologist is flagrantly terrible at their job. Making stuff up so they can accuse someone of having childhood trauma?! WT actual F?

        1. Julia*

          I know, right? I feel like this “therapist” needs to be reported to the board, if there is such a thing. Are they even a real therapist with credentials?

      2. The Disapproving Brit*

        I’d take the direct approach. “So what is the purpose of this session? You’re a medical professional who is being paid by my employer so I need to know what happens with the results of this session before we go any further.”

        If they claim it’s confidential, then its pointless. If they’re sharing details of the session with your boss, it’s illegal. I don’t see a middle ground.

    2. NP*

      “Oh, I’ve already explored this territory with my therapist and am in good shape there.”
      “This is veering into disclosure of private medical information, which is not required for me to do unless I’m requesting an accommodation. And I’m not requesting an accommodation.”
      Yeah, stonewalling and vagueness would be the best this person could hope for.

        1. Here we go again*

          Lots of people have therapists…. It’s not necessarily for a specific medical condition. It can just be a way to work through stress or a short-term problem.

          1. 5 Leaf Clover*

            That’s certainly true, but we can’t count on someone who thinks this is a good hiring tactic to know it.

          2. k.k*

            I’m usually the first to sing the praises of therapy for anyone, but it this case I’d be wary. When the one person had nothing juicy to pick at they tried to make up an abuse issue. This doesn’t sound like a reputable therapist, so I wouldn’t want to give them anything to work with.

              1. k.k*

                I didn’t word that right, not at all suggesting that this person is providing therapy. I mean that I wouldn’t let them know that I had been in therapy ever. I normally think it’s fine to talk about openly, but this person has proven that they will pick at any perceived (or made up) flaw.

            1. Karen D*

              That would actually have me contacting the sanctioning body through which that therapist is credentialed, to be honest. It’s highly inappropriate behavior and probably violates professional standards.

              It can be tricky figuring out who to complain to, but the OP could start with an advocacy group ( such as, in the United States, the National Alliance for Mental Illness) to figure out who the therapist is licensed by. Or heck, just ask the therapist directly – “Who do I contact to register a formal complaint against you?” (OK, probably not really, but it would be fun to see how many colors the therapist turned upon being asked that question).

              1. Bess*

                Agreed–this is pretty alarming (if you consider the therapist might be doing this with standard clients) and worth reporting.

                1. John B Public*

                  Yeah this sounds unethical and worth reporting to whatever sanctioning body oversees their profession.

                  Would not be surprised to see prior issues in this persons history.

              2. mrs__peel*

                I would absolutely encourage the others to file official complaints!

                Assuming that this person actually has any real credentials, the behavior that was described definitely sounds abusive and harmful enough that they should lose their license.

              3. Yomi*

                I’m also concerned about if this therapist is licensed, because sharing anything that’s said within the session would be at the least unethical wouldn’t it? I mean, I know it’s part of a workplace situation, but it seems to me that it would still be at least partially protected. If there’s even the slightest bit of evidence that the contents of these interviews are being given to the manager, that seems like grounds for a complaint to whoever licenses the counselor/therapist.

                IF they are licensed, and I would actually wager money they are not.

              4. Maolin*

                As satisfying as this approach to The Psychological Inquisition would almost certainly be, it’s unlikely the OP would secure the promotion this way.

                It sounds like this is a large corporation, so I wonder what HR thinks about these psych interviews? That might be the most effective way to handle it, especially if any of the now-directors reported on their experience. Being diagnosed as having repressed childhood trauma is sure to raise HR’s hackles.

            2. stk*

              This was absolutely my thought too: what kind of reputable therapist would go anywhere NEAR this? My guess is that if they’re not just a random friend of the boss. they’re unlicensed and maybe describe their work as ‘holistic’ or something to get around any local legal requirements for therapists.

              1. Reverend(ish)*

                Urgh, half the time they use he term holistic wrong too….depending on what creeds they are claiming, the American counseling association might be able to help if they are licensed professional counselor or claiming to be. For psychiatrist google the constant info for the state licensing and medical boards. If it is a rogue pastoral counselor, the American association of pastoral counseling can help. That’s assuming you are US based..

          1. Julia*

            Yes, but that could still lead some people to think you have “issues” for needing a therapist.

      1. Lama glama (Snark)*

        I like the “I already explored this territory with my therapist” is good, but it discloses too much.

        “I’m sorry, but given that any discussion we have isn’t confidential, I’m not comfortable discussing my childhood/military service experiences/adoption experience/llama trauma with you.” *bland smile*

        “I’m sorry, but we’d need to establish a confidential professional relationship for me to feel that this is a safe enough space to discuss that with you.” *bland smile*

        1. Lama glama (Snark)*

          “Given that you have a professional relationship with my employer, I’m concerned that I do not have a confidential professional relationship with you, and also that this situation represents a multiple relationship as defined by the APA Ethics Code.”

          * bland smile, take out microphone, drop it*

          1. kittymommy*

            This is much more polite than my “given that you’re an unethical ass who’s probably violating hippa a thousand times over, you can eff off”.

            1. Lama glama (Snark)*

              Oh, that’s what this script says, it just does so between the lines. And that’s why I love it so.

          2. Megstermegs*

            De-lurking (and commenting for the first time ever, I think) to say this may be the best comment EVARRR.

        2. Winifred*

          To paraphrase Buddha: Mouth open, first mistake.

          Short of complaining as a group, armed with law, I’d sit silently.

          The “therapist” will draw her/his own conclusions whatever you say anyway, most likely.

        3. Anonicat*

          Llama trauma…now you’ve put that idea in my head, I’d be so tempted to talk about the trauma from the time a moose bit my sister. (They kann be pretti nasti, you know.)

      2. always in email jail*

        May an even-vaguer “This line of discussion seems more appropriate for an individual to have with their private provider rather” which doesn’t really disclose if you have one or not?

    3. GiantPanda*

      Start with questions. Ask the psychologist about her credentials, the results she will get (more than yes/no?), confidentiality, ethics, …
      Then start stonewalling.

          1. Lama glama (Snark)*

            I can’t claim credit. My wife is a psychologist. She’s livid and erupting in random profanity.

              1. Lama glama (Snark)*

                She’s the one who tipped me off to Standard 3.05, but she can’t directly contribute except by texting me.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, this was my first thought – what credible psychologist would ever agree to participate in this for any job short of, like, becoming a spy and training someone to withstand psychological torture? I have to imagine this is grounds for losing your certification.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          If it’s going to be lawyers eventually, it’s most efficient to get them involved as early as possible.

          “Look, dude, you can either talk to my attorney now, or you can talk to him at your deposition, but *are* going to be talking to him.”

          The trick is to not be bluffing. Never, ever bluff about your intention to sue someone.

    4. Judge Crater*

      I wouldn’t go to the manager. As this is a large corporation, and I get the feeling it’s a multinational, I would talk to HR and inquire about whether this is allowed under their corporate HR guidelines.

      FWIW many years I have had to take a drug test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) test, and be interviewed by a psychologist for a job. But it was for working in a nuclear power plant, where safety concerns went beyond what you would find in a normal workplace.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I was just thinking, there are a rare few professions where an extensive psychological evaluation is allowed but those are usually to enter the field, not to get promoted. Airline pilot, law enforcement…

    5. Specialk9*

      You don’t fix this problem inside the division. You have to go to the corporate overlords, who will be very aware of the issues and the enormous financial liability in this situation. Contact corporate HR, or send an email to the CEO. (The CEO won’t see it, likely; if not the admin, they almost always have a high level customer service team – but that admin and that team have clout.)

      Make the email super succinct:

      “I have a concern about serious legal liability to the company.
      *X division is seriously violating HIPAA, APA ethics code, and creating a hostile work environment.
      *X Division requires an involuntary therapy session with a hostile psychologist in order to become Director, per (exec).
      *This psychologist appears to be the therapist or friend of (exec).
      *The psychologist divulges information from the therapy session with management, which violates APA and HIPAA.
      *The therapist forced a military veteran candidate to discuss killing people.
      *The therapist invented an accusation of a candidate having been a victim of child abuse.

      I am sure that Megacorp was unaware of the grave violations and legal liabilities.”

    6. bohtie*

      Exactly this, and definitely NOT what Amber Rose says below. (Nothing against you, Amber, but I’m having a very visceral reaction to this letter!) I’ve been through “interviews” like this one before (what the OP is describing sounds very similar to the interrogation interview techniques used when applying for intelligence-type jobs) and the more you engage or interact with the interviewer, the worse it gets. Often, if they don’t get a reaction out of you, they’ll just keep you in the room until you confess to SOMETHING, whatever it is – relying on the natural tendency to want to avoid awkward silences, for example. The best thing you can do is be bland and not use any more words than you have to. You might be in there for a long time, but it minimizes the damage.

  2. Murphy*

    Well this sounds terrible.

    Is this person actually a licensed psychologist? I don’t think it would change the advice at all, though there could be some legal implications.

    1. Kate*

      Is this person actually a licensed psychologist?

      Literally my first thought. Asking people how they feel about killing fellow human beings? Assuming abandonment issues or abuse? This seems very off to me. These are really serious issues, and admittedly, I’ve never been in therapy so maybe I’m off-base, but I thought starting therapy was a way of saying, “I’m ready to confront these issues.” Having a psychologist come into your place of business and force you into it seems like it could do more harm than good. Licensed psychologists have professional and ethical standards (as someone mentioned below), so I’m really wondering if this person is licensed. Also, what about patient-doctor confidentiality? This whole situation sounds shady as hell to me.

      1. Here we go again*

        I thought this too… It seems like any legit, licensed person would not agree to this.

        If they are licensed, can they be reported to some governing authority?

        1. blackcat*

          “It seems like any legit, licensed person would not agree to this.”

          There are some really unethical/incompetent psychologists out there. I totally agree that this person is a quack, but they may be a licensed quack.

          1. Anon anon anon*


            I’m guessing they’re licensed but choosing to behave unethically.

            There are a number of organizations that oversee licensing depending on what kind of degree you have. They all hold practitioners to high standards. There are a lot of rules to prevent abuse.

            However, most therapy sessions are a face to face verbal conversation with no one else present and no form of documentation except for the therapist’s notes. And the clients are often at a vulnerable point in life and/or dealing with mental health issues. So there’s a lot of room for people to get away with unethical stuff.

            This could be someone who has gotten away with a lot and has had their confidence built up through that. They think they can do whatever they want without facing any kind of consequences. Time for a wake up call!

        2. k.k*

          I second looking into reporting them. This doesn’t sound like a competent and ethical mental health professional. A person like that can do real harm to someone that has mental health issues. It might not impact this situation, but for the sake of others that deal with this therapist, I’d at least look into what their credentials where and if there is anyone to report them to.

          1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

            +1000 – “a person like this can do real harm”. So much this. There are a lot of good therapists/psychologists/psychiatrists out there, but unethical ones like this person (it is clear from the letter they are violating at least one or two very basic ethical boundaries, if not many more) can do harm to either other external patients/clients or to other employees who see this person in their promotion process.

            Imagine if one of these employees is struggling with some sort of mental health issue and their interaction with this person is their first interaction with a mental health professional? They may choose not to seek help if they believe this person is representative of mental health care providers in general.

            Please try to ban together and push back against this AND report this person to any sort of licensing or practicing board if at all possible.

            1. No Green No Haze*

              Thank you for “wringer.” Every time I see someone write “through the ringer” I die a little bit inside.

              1. Anon.*

                Seconded! I’ve stopped correcting stuff like this, but deep inside I’m still judging fairly harshly.

          2. anon for this*

            Seconding this. You can can also call the state licensing board and give them a hypothetical if you’re not sure you want to report it or if you’re worried about blowback. They can give you some guidance on what to do.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Also, what about patient-doctor confidentiality? This whole situation sounds shady as hell to me.

        This is an excellent point! What is the psychologist doing with the information they uncover during these ‘interviews’?

      3. AnonToday*

        I have friends who are counselors and work for licensed psychologists/psychiatrists, and some of them can be bat-crap crazy just like the rest of us. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that they’re legit just based on this questioning.

        1. Gabriela*

          Yep! I’m an LPC and can second that. It used to shock me to hear stories like this, but therapists are people too, which means that some are really bad at their jobs.

      4. Beatrice*

        Yeah, the therapist I saw a couple of years ago chose NOT to delve into some painful historical issues that were flagged on my intake form, because they were probably unrelated to the issue I was seeing her for, I felt like I was dealing with them well, and I wasn’t able to commit to scheduling enough sessions to drag them out of the closet and adequately address them. I can’t imagine unpacking that stuff for a one-time interview without any continuing care to make sure I got it packed back up okay. Anyone who encouraged me to do that would be quickly dismissed as someone without my best interests in mind.

        1. blackcat*

          Yeah, a therapist who does this is no good, but I do think it’s entirely possible that one would do it.

          (And there are therapists who will! I once wanted to talk about how to cope with PTSD symptoms during a stressful time–I wasn’t looking for a long term fix, but rather immediate coping strategies to help me function in the very short term. Bad therapist proceeded to insist about talking about my relationship with my mother, dismiss my PTSD-causing assault as “a boy being a boy” and then PHYSICALLY BLOCK ME FROM LEAVING THE ROOM when I decided I had had enough of his bullshit. Asshat was fully licensed, and employed by a university counseling center.)

            1. blackcat*

              Even at the time, I was mostly just angry. Sure, my normal-meter was a bit broken then, but I definitely recognized that the therapist had crossed a major line by physically intimidating and touching me. Making someone feel safe and in control is responding to trauma 101. (And props to the receptionist for bursting into the room when I asked, loudly, “Why are you touching me? Am I not allowed to leave?”)

              But he taught me something very valuable: be skeptical of therapists. After that experience, no story of incompetent/crazy/boundary crossing therapists surprises me.

              1. Saucy Minx*

                Whoa. whoa, whoa!!!! Touching you, Blackcat??! Preventing you from leaving??! Man, I want to smite this jerk.

                You were so brave to boom out your pertinent questions, & a gold medal to the receptionist for coming to the rescue. I fear that was probably not the first time the receptionist intervened, & I hope the receptionist reported this boundary-breaking nincompoop.

              2. Specialk9*

                That makes me feel ill. For one person brave enough and well versed enough in boundaries before therapy, there were likely 50 who just caved. Ugh.

          1. Kyrielle*

            What is it about university counseling centers? I went in because I was _very_ stressed by a class and it was affecting my coping and mood.

            I ended up having her claiming my parents were ‘abusive’ because they didn’t give me a sibling. Yes, having an only child is abusive, per that person.

            …wow, how helpful. Good thing: I was better-off than I thought I was, and just getting through the end of the class sorted me out. Because no way was she doing anything helpful, and no way was I seeing her again.

            1. straws*

              Seriously. They’re a crapshoot. I saw someone at a university counseling center who insisted that I was depressed (I was not) and that the “cure” was to 1) admit I’m gay (which I’m also not) and 2) make sure to think about happy things when I feel sad (her suggestions: puppies & rainbows). I immediately requested a new therapist. Thankfully the next one properly diagnosed me (agoraphobia) and treated me for the following 7 years. So there are good therapists there, but boy can the bad ones be awful!

            2. Cedrus Libani*

              University counseling centers are the worst. I don’t know where they find these people.

              At my undergrad, they’d also been charged from on-high with reducing the suicide rate on campus. Not reducing suicides, mind you, just making sure you did it somewhere else. Some idiot fellow freshman hadn’t got the memo, and went in to ask about study skills classes. They badgered him about whether he was suicidal, he got annoyed, and made a smart-mouthed remark to the effect of “of course I am, that’s why I want to improve my study skills”. He got involuntarily committed to the local asylum, the school took out a restraining order while he was in there, and AFAIK they never let him return. A couple years later, I found myself too exhausted to get out of bed…was pretty sure it wasn’t in my head, but wasn’t about to risk explaining it to these people. So I limped through to graduation, and eventually got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

              To be fair, the services at my graduate school are much better. It can be done! So long as it’s being done by people who actually value healthcare. (The school is only for healthcare and adjacent fields, which helps.)

              1. TheOperaGhost*

                I’d be curious to compare university counseling centers at colleges that have a medical school attached v. colleges that don’t. I’m sure there are good and bad counselors at each, but are there any overarching trends regarding the quality of care?

                1. anon for this*

                  Honestly, the general trend I’ve seen is that it’s more of a crapshoot at standalone counseling centers, but you’re also likely to get better care there. When the counseling center is integrated into the medical healthcare facility or there’s a medical school attached, the medical model takes over pretty quickly. The good news is that there’s more oversight, but the bad news is that they expect counselors to see too many people in a day, cure them within three sessions, and churn people in and out as quickly as the physicians do. Most medical providers don’t really understand mental health at all, and trying to shoehorn mental health into a medical health model doesn’t work very well.

                2. Optimistic Prime*

                  I wouldn’t think there’s any sort of connection, since the medical school and the counseling center/services are rarely affiliated with each other. I used to work in student services and part of my job was referring students to the college counseling center at a prominent university with with a big medical center complex. The counselors at the counseling center are much more likely to be clinical/counseling psychologists (PhDs and PsyDs) or mental health counselors/licensed practical counselors (with MAs and M.Eds) or licensed clinical social workers (mostly MSWs, some with DSWs or PhDs in social work). Some counseling centers have one or two psychiatrists on staff, but they tend to refer out for psychiatric services.

                  The professors at medical schools are usually far too busy or prominent to do counseling work at the college counseling center.

              2. strawberries and raspberries*

                Speaking of kickbacks, I feel like a lot of university counseling centers probably have some kind of deal going on with local treatment facilities. This happened at my college- anyone who reported anything more than mild anxiety was immediately sent for inpatient treatment at this one hospital with absolutely no notice. I knew of so many people who would go in to talk about something specific and they’d find themselves involuntarily committed to the hospital for a week because the counselor decided they were delusional, or wrote that they presented a suicide risk (when they didn’t). Of course, it was never substantiated, but it just seemed like it would be a really bad look to commit so many students unless you were directly benefitting from it in some way.

                1. Optimistic Prime*

                  Well…in my limited experience in student services, I don’t think it’s kickbacks so much as it is level of training and resources. College counselors are not really equipped to do long-term mental health treatment services. Not that they’re not capable of it, but the ratio of counselors to students is usually small enough that if all of the counselors were doing long-term therapy with students they would quickly be unable to help all of the students who fall under their care. The counseling services at colleges (for better or worse) are really designed for short-term stabilization of students and/or lower-risk, lower-intensity kinds of issues.

                  As for the involuntary commitment…sigh. In my experience (from working in student services at once of these places that had a very clear mental health issue on campus that they were, in my opinion addressing inadequately), universities – especially the top ones that have a reputation for stressful course loads and high-strung students – are terrified of the barest hint of a student death on campus, because student deaths bring parental questions, dropped enrollments and fewer applications in the next year or two. So they do some things that skirt around HIPAA a bit, and they sometimes tend to react very strongly to students’ mental health issues if they trend towards suicidal ideation. I often got the distinct and uncomfortable feeling that this was much more for PR management than student safety, though. I had to interrupt students who were about to confide in me to tell them that I was not a confidential resource; in fact, I was mandated by state law to report any student who expressed suicidal ideation to my immediate supervisor. There were also signs up everywhere in the residence halls telling the students who were mandated reporters and who weren’t. I sometimes wonder how many students didn’t feel comfortable telling me their feelings because they knew I wasn’t (and I know some of them outright told me).

                  It’s unfortunate too because the kids aren’t dumb and on some occasions it would actually prevent the students from helping their friends and roommates because they’d seen someone else involuntarily committed or forced to take a medical leave for a semester.

              3. Not Australian*

                My friend’s sister was really struggling with her work at uni, but nobody could find anything physically wrong with her – just that whenever she sat down to work in her room she got ill. They tried to talk her into believing it was psychological and maybe she was being too ambitious (you can imagine the conversation, I’m sure), but when she went home, or elsewhere, she was fine, and she could work … just not in her room. She’d almost been talked into throwing away her whole university career – and thus her intended future plans – on the basis that she was too fragile to cope, before the real culprit was diagnosed; it was a leaking gas-pipe under her desk.

                1. Starbuck*

                  I’m reminded of the idiom “if all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.”

            3. Amber T*

              Jesus Christ – fellow only child here, and not having a sibling is definitely NOT abusive… what a quack.

              My university counseling center was actually amazing, and my counselor (a licensed psychiatrist… I’m not sure if college counselors have different standards?) got me through some really tough times. My work with her is honestly a turning point in my life, which is why I sing the praises of *good* therapy.

            4. Tin Cormorant*

              Ugh. I went to one of those once because I was afraid that I had inherited my mother’s bipolar disorder and wanted help dealing with it. His attempts to convince me “you’ve been so depressed for so long that you just got used to it” and actually beg me (he actually said at one point “I’m begging you”) to start taking these depression meds he prescribed for me convinced me more than anything else that I am absolutely NOT bipolar OR depressed and haven’t ever been. I walked out and never went back, crumpling up his prescription paper and throwing it in the trash as I went.

              I’d like to think this was his strategy in convincing me I’m fine because I feel far better about my mental health than I ever did before I saw him, but I’m pretty sure he was just terrible at his job.

            5. Tertia*

              Many years ago I talked a friend with suicidal ideation into visiting our university counseling center, and attended the session with him. The counselor tried for ten minutes to get him to affirm that he was not suicidal. When that failed, she demanded that he sign a waiver releasing the university of any liability if he harmed/killed himself.

              1. Brisvegan*

                WT actual F!

                My kid has been suicidal. Someone like this asshat could have tipped her mood from down to suicidal enough to make an attempt. This is terrible.

          2. Whimsy and Forest Fires*

            Wow, your university-counseling-center therapist was even worse than mine was. Mine told me that by telling any of my friends that I was depressed or asking them to spend time with me, I was proving that I was a terrible person and a terrible friend, because a real friend wouldn’t want to interfere with their studies by making them worry about me or “waste their time” with me. Because “you’re a terrible person, and you should distance yourself from the people who care about you because you’re clearly just a burden on them” is definitely a GREAT thing to tell someone who’s seriously depressed. Thankfully, I was so stunned by how obviously insanely terrible that attempt at “therapy” was that it just made me angry instead of making me take it to heart, but I shudder to think of what that idiot might do to someone who was similarly depressed but less able to filter out stupid comments from staggeringly bad therapists.

            (Also thankfully, my current therapist is very good and kind and helpful, and when I recounted that story years later, her jaw dropped, she struggled to find words for a minute, and then when she did find them, they were something along the lines of, “Pardon my French, but WHAT THE [BLEEPING BLEEP]?!”)

          3. copy run start*

            Wow. I never had an issue at my university’s counseling center or seeing the grad students (been doing it for years.) They have saved my life numerous times over. Most of those I saw were students at my school’s school of psychology and being supervised by faculty and staff members. The private practice therapists I’ve seen have been not so great though.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      If I’m recalling correctly I think that in general most licensing agencies require/recommend a few degrees of separation in a professional counseling relationship. Using his personal therapist for work would I think cross the ongoing secondary relationship boundary, but with the other questions this therapist is asking make me question his motives and professionalism in the first place.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Yep. Doing this work for his own therapy client is a serious, reportable ethical violation.

      2. INTP*

        Even if he’s not the manager’s therapist, it seems like a conflict of interest to me because he’s working for the company but dealing with sensitive information with the candidates. He can’t act in good faith as both a counselor for the candidates and a consultant for the company he advises based on the information he learns as counselor. I’m not a psychologist or a lawyer but it seems like telling people they have been abused would be outside the purview of what a consulting psychologist reporting to a company would be allowed to do.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          I’m a research psychologist and not a clinician, but at the very least this seems like it violates HIPAA and laws around client/provider confidentiality.

      3. Where's the Le-Toose?*

        This psychologist is probably getting around any ethical rules and licensing issues by making it clear that the applicant is sitting down for an employment interview with someone who just happens to be a psychologist rather than having a pseudo therapy session with the applicant. In other words, the psychologist is using their skills for evil, but since it isn’t a real session with a patient, the ethical rules don’t apply.

        I’m an attorney, and if an employer hired me to review background checks, for example, and meet with job applicants, I could cross-examine job applicants on their backgrounds, but I’m not practicing law. I’m doing a task that non-attorneys can perform. As long as I make sure the applicant is aware he or she isn’t my client, I wouldn’t get disbarred.

        It’s scummy as hell, but it is probably fine.

        1. Someone*

          But I assume you ask things that you have a business of knowing?
          I’m pretty sure that employers aren’t allowed to pry for mental health issues to see if a person should be promoted (or for any other reason other than accommodating them when the employee ASKED for that!), also, the kind of questions asked here are VERY likely to make any issue far, FAR worse than it was before.
          I’m certain a good lawyer can make a case out of that.

    1. Winifred*

      I object to the use of the “B” in that acronym … let’s say Resting WHAT? Face. RWF.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    This is such absolute bullshit that I’m having a hard time finding appropriate words. OP, this could absolutely get the company into trouble. Subjecting the veteran to grilling about his military experience could also open them up to discrimination claims, depending on where you operate and how you’re funded. This is an absolutely bankrupt approach to management and promotion, and it’s completely inappropriate—it’s not like this is the FBI/CIA and this is a psychologist trained in an occupationally-tailored/narrow field to conduct these interviews. And they might have a relationship? Depending on how much the psychologist is being compensated, I would bet money that hiring him violates internal rules about bidding out work. I would love to see the job description for this guy’s role.

    Is there someone above the Senior VP? Does corporate’s HR have the authority/training/expertise to step in? I support the group approach to pushing back.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I wondered about whether this was known to or sanctioned by the organisation.

      Do you have any kind of employee handbook (to see whether there is any formal guidance about processes for promotion)
      Might it be possible to raise it with HR (ideally as a group, but if necessary by yourself) yo say that you were surprised to learn of the new requirement and were concerned that it could lay the organisation open to legal issues. If the people who have already been through it are willing to speak up then they can raise concerns about being asked medical questions, about what is being done with the confidential information they were asked to disclosed etc.

      I presume that those who have already met with the psychologist would be in a stronger position to make a complaint to her licensing body.

      Unless your org is very dysfunctional it may well be that the rest of the senior management team know nothing about this requirement and will be horrified when they find out.

      Do you know anyone in the other division you could speak to to ask whether this requirement is being implemented elsewhere or whether it is just a personal whim of your boss?

      1. A Rose by any other Name*

        As a Veteran, I would be incensed for someone to try to infer that my military service in any way meant I harmed a person. Not all jobs in the military require a weapon and even the ones that do does not mean that harm would befoul a human being because of the sheer chance to carry. Security Forces, aka cops, would be a good example. Would the psychologist ask a former cop the same thing?!

        1. Kelsi*

          In this case, I kind of think they might ask a former cop the same thing, given the other wildly inappropriate things they’ve said/asked. It’s still super not okay!

      2. a Gen X manager*

        The fact that it is a massive parent company is particularly problematic because if there were a successful lawsuit or settlement, the punitive damages could be staggering.

    2. SoCalHR*

      Having a workers’ compensation background, I could also see where a badgering psychologist like this could re-aggravate past wounds (i.e. military PTSD or anything for that matter) and then the person be so distraught that they have basis to file a Workers’ Compensation claim. It probably would block them from the promotion, but cause the company a decent amount of hassle and cost. If the line of questioning isn’t directly related to the job duties then its inappropriate to as about and could cause greater harm than good. And if the evaluation was totally legit for the job at had and the psychologist inadvertently dipped into a personal issue that needed to be addressed, then they should encourage the person to explore than with a personal provider.

  4. Kate the Teapots Project Manager*

    The only time I’ve ever heard of this outside this situation is for the CIA, and obviously in that case how you respond to psychological techniques is part of the job.

      1. Anonymoose*

        And they would only grill you about particular cases, not pre-employment drill downs until you crack. Jeebus. This ‘psychologist’ needs to get his license ripped.

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Any reputable psychologist would never engage in such practices as they have ethical and professional standards to adhere to. When you push back, you should point this out.

    Plus the 1980s and 1990s were filled with people who were pushed to have false memories of abuse. So many lives were ruined over this crap, and those victims are just now starting to get compensation, although they will never be whole. I thought we’d learned our lesson over the Satanic daycares, but I guess not!

    Someone somewhere needs to put a stop to this garbage. This is a dangerous practice even though it apparently has no bearing on the outcome.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      That’s an excellent point? Who is this person? Are they licensed in some way? Is contacting the state board for their professional association an option?

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I assumed the person wasn’t licensed, but if he is, yes, he should be reported to the licensing agency.

    2. MuseumChick*

      Very good point. I have to wonder if this “psychologist” has an actual license to practice.

      1. Anon anon anon*

        Yeah, it does seem like it would violate the standards for how psychologists are supposed to practice. It’s a very regulated field. I think there’s a rule about patients having to consent to treatment. These people aren’t really consenting if it’s required for advancement at their workplace.

        1. London Calling*

          I was wondering about the consent. It’s all well and good if you have chosen to address your abandonment issues or whatever with a therapist that you have decided to work with, but if it’s a requirement for promotion and you don’t know who this person is AND they are reputed to have a relationship with the VP who has set this up sounds iffy as all hell to me.

          1. Anon anon anon*

            It would at least be an extreme form of coersion. As other commenters have pointed out, this isn’t something like the CIA or maybe certain specialized parts of the military where they would have very specific reasons for doing this kind of thing and the whole process would be tightly regulated and documented. It seems more like someone pursuing their own “fascinating new ideas” about how to run an organization.

        2. INTP*

          He definitely wouldn’t be allowed to call it “treatment” because you can’t in good faith act in the best interest of both the people you are treating and the company you are advising based on information learned in treatment. He would have to be calling this some sort of evaluation conducted as a consultant for a company. But I do think that there may be a big ethical violation in getting into such sensitive, triggering territory as military traumas when you aren’t in the course of treating someone, and especially in providing a professional opinion like “You have been abused” when you aren’t treating the person.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            Also, calling it treatment would put this firmly into the illegal/unethical side of things, since if it’s bona fide treatment then he’s definitely bound by HIPAA and couldn’t actually disclose any of this information to the employer. He still may be bound by HIPAA anyway, but at least by characterizing this as an employment interview he is in a little more of a grey area legally.

    3. Alton*

      Yes, that was my first thought. This sounds very unprofessional and unethical, and I can’t imagine any of the licensed therapists I know agreeing to do informal psychological evaluations of a friend’s employees, let alone exploiting those people’s (perceived) weaknesses.

    4. kittymommy*

      This like a thousand times. The idea any reputable, licensed therapist would participate in this nonsense is astounding. And I can’t imagineHQ would be at all happy with it either, as the potential liability would be huge.

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      If they are a psychologist, the chances are good they are members of the APA. They should definitely be accredited by a state agency. Most states have this available to check by online database. (In my last job, I had to verify a lot of psychologists’ licenses.)

    6. LBK*

      Plus the 1980s and 1990s were filled with people who were pushed to have false memories of abuse.

      Wait, what!? Did I miss some big scandal in the psychology world?

        1. nonnie*

          Hope this isnt too derail-y but here is one link that I know of on this topic!


      1. Anon anon anon*

        Some psychologists claimed they could use hypnosis to help people recover suppressed memories. The truth is that memories of traumatic events can indeed be suppressed, but hypnosis is not a reliable way to help people recover them because it also makes people highly suggestible – able to believe things that aren’t true without questioning anything. That’s the exact logic behind using it to help people quit smoking (“You do not smoke.” “Ok, I don’t smoke!”).

        That’s my lay person’s explanation. I am not a mental health professional.

        1. Anonymoose*

          Well…they also say you can hypnotize someone to their ‘past lives’, so….yeah. It’s all a load of creative bullshit storytelling by someone who is basically incapacitated.

      2. AMPG*

        Yeah, it was a whole thing, and there are now best practices about talking about past abuse so as not to inadvertently influence the creation of false memories (which is surprisingly easy to do).

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          Google “lost in the mall” experiment! Its really interesting – it was an experiment done to show how easy it is to implant memories of being lost in a mall as a child.

      3. INTP*

        Yes. It’s extremely easy to push someone to have a false memory about pretty much anything, without even intending to – such as by asking leading questions (“Was the man you saw robbing the store wearing a red T-shirt?”). It used to be widely believed that it was common to undergo years of abuse but have no idea because you had repressed the memory – this isn’t something that never happens at all, but it is not typical, and much rarer than pop psychology would have you believe. So when people had symptoms that were consistent with victims of abuse, many psychologists would assume that these patients had been abused in the past (even though most of these symptoms are also consistent with mood or personality disorders that all frequently exist with no past trauma at all). As part of therapy, they would try to help patients recover the memories of abuse to work through them, but what they wound up actually doing was lead the patients to construct false memories of being abused. Of course it’s harder to implant a false memory of years of abuse than of a red t-shirt, but this would take place over months or years of therapy.

        Arrests were made and families were destroyed based on these “memories” recovered during the therapy process. The psychologists involved weren’t acting maliciously, but non-evidence-based practice led to some very crappy consequences.

      4. Willow*

        Look up “Michelle Remembers”, a book by a super unethical psychologist who convinced his patient she’d been abused my Satanists (and later married her).

        1. Basically Useless*

          Just don’t try reading it because it’s incredibly poorly written.

          Anyhow, how has no one complained about this majorly before this?
          I think I’d probably sit there blankly and just parrot back the questions.

  6. Future Homesteader*

    Just reading this makes me feel something between revulsion, nausea, and a serious case of rage. Is there any chance that what the psychologist is doing could be considered unethical by APA standards? I’m assuming it would depend on a number of factors, but this just really feels like it might cross an ethical line, even if it’s not a bright legal one.

    1. paul*

      It sounds like it’d break the rule against multiple relationships-if he does have a relationship with the VP–and I’d seriously question the nature of consent here. I’m linking the APA rules so I know this’ll take a while a to show but they’re worth a read.


      I’d be inclined to try to get this to blow back on the therapist and the VP both.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, as noted below, there absolutely is organizational psychology, but this doesn’t sound like an organizational psychologist; it sounds like somebody hamfistedly bringing personal psychology into an organization.

    2. NLMC*

      I have no idea, but I would think so, especially if he’s sharing any info that was talked about, right? Is he saying, yes this person is fit for duty or is he sharing specific instances? Either way it’s still completely inappropriate.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      It is almost definitely a violation of APA standards if the supposed psychologist reveals anything from their interview to the new division head without the consent of their patient. And by interviewing them, even once, they may have formed a clinician-patient relationship, which makes things much more complicated. If the psychologist’s questioning was not in the best interest of the interviewees’ mental health, that could also be grounds for sanctions.

      1. paul*

        There’s a lot of potential issues; my comment with a link to their guidelines is awaiting moderation but there’s an issue of multiple relationships, there’s the consent and confidentiality issues, there’s the fact that this isn’t anything like an assessment or treatment…

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I actually think this is how I would approach it. I’d make a list of questions about the nature and purpose of the interview, how the VP believes this will be beneficial in assessing my candidacy for the director position, exactly with whom the interviewer has a relationship with and how that affects confidentiality, to what degree and in what format the report on my interview would be shared (and with whom), compliance with specific APA standards (which would require some homework), and any other questions I could think of that drove at the fact that this was bounding up against the edge of the ADA and the profession’s ethical code. If asked why I needed t his information, I might also drop that my lawyer had some questions about the process, given how incredibly unusual it is, and I’d agreed to get the information she/he requested.

  7. K.*

    I’m in therapy on my own but there’s no way I’d submit to this. This psychologist sounds like a quack, first of all; it’s unethical that he’s a friend of the boss … just, WTF? This is bonkers. Band together and push back against this – I guarantee you’ll find allies.

    Good grief.

  8. Erin*

    Can you try talking to someone in charge of the profession in general? This does not sound very ethical.

  9. 42*

    “CANDIDATE IS COMBATIVE” in big ugly scrawl goes straight into their Permanent Record.

    A question just popped into my mind: Who pays the psychologist for their time? Did he get the division or corporation to foot the bill for his services? How high up the chain does this go? Do they do this in other divisions?

    1. 42*

      Wow, this was supposed to be nested under Amber Rose’s comment up above: (“I’d turn it around. “I don’t find that statement very appropriate. You’re coming across as very hostile, why do you suppose that is?”) It hopped down here, so here’s some context.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I am fairly certain somewhere in my employment record, someone wrote “NAM! does not play nicely with others.” on one of my reviews. My position is comparable to director-level (without a psych exam!), so your permanent record doesn’t always pose a problem for you. However, if someone wrote that in my employment file, I’d feel obligated to let Big Corporate HR know what was going on.

    3. Amber T*

      This definitely sounds like VP got his buddy a job somehow… would make even more sense if the therapist isn’t licensed. “I took one psych class in college and seen a whole bunch of movies – this therapist thing is easy!” – probably what’s going on in that guy’s head.

  10. London Calling*

    *To add to the situation, the psychologist is either a personal friend of his or his own therapist. The details are sketchy, but there is definitely a relationship of some sort*

    If true, isn’t this unethical? and if it is, does the psychologist is a member of a professional body who might be interested? from the reports of the people who have been interviewed, it sounds like a few boundaries are being overstepped. Is this person actually a psychologist at all?

    1. MoreNowAgain*

      I would think so! I don’t have a background in this at all, but I can’t imagine this not being frowned upon (at the very least). Yeesh!

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I immediately thought that the psychologist and the executive have some kind of kickback arrangement. The executive requires a psychological exam, the doctor charges the company an outrageous fee, and the executive gets a kickback as a “referral fee.”

      1. annejumps*

        I thought the same, plus I assumed the psychologist was getting blackmail material for the exec.

  11. MuseumChick*

    Wow. Do you know if the people above him know he is doing this? You say the rest of senior management is pretty good so I would think they would have stopped this if they had known.

    If pushing back as a group doesn’t work I would start looking for a new job and state explicitly in your exit interview that this was a major factor in your decision to leave.

  12. Nan*

    This reminds me of the psychologist from Miracle on 34th Street. Most def not an up and up doc and trying to get his own predetermined results.

    And yeah, I’m in Christmas mode in October.

    1. Agatha_31*

      Me too! CHRISTMAAAAAAAAAS! (This is partly my music teacher’s fault – he set me off even earlier than usual this year by pulling out a christmas carol for me to learn two weeks ago.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Stawwwwwwp you guys it’s not even Halloween yet! Let me enjoy my pumpkins, candy, and zombies first!

        Seriously, when I skated, we would already start rehearsing programs for the Christmas show at this time. It was insane to hear “Suzy Snowflake” at the rink and then going to buy Halloween candy.

        1. Julia*

          When I was in choir, we’d start rehearsing for our big Christmas concert right after the summer holidays, so sometimes in August.
          Then again, German stores start selling gingerbread and Christmas cookies etc. in September (when Japan starts selling Halloween stuff(. Clearly we take Christmas very seriously.

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      I was going to say– does he work for Macy’s? Is the guy’s name Sawyer? Do the candidates claim to be a mythological embodiment of the spirit of Christmas?

  13. Sylvan*

    A workplace in which someone manages to make this happen is a workplace I would RUN OUT OF SCREAMING. It’s time to go, OP.

    1. Jeanne*

      I agree. It may not be worth pushing back. Get a new job ASAP. Word of this has spread and it continues. They are horrible people.

  14. Free Meerkats*

    While not really motivated by doughnuts, throw some apple fritters in there and I might be interested; they count as fruit, right?

    This is total crap, I’m thinking that this might be something to approach the shrink’s licensing board about.

  15. Meh*

    *GASP* How did you know doughnuts were my primary motivator? But in all seriousness, I’d be dollars to doughnuts (hah!) that this executive is just “hiring” this guy to pay him with company money to do useless garbage. Definitely push back.

  16. edj3*

    Are you sure this psychologist is a clinical psychologist and not a social psychologist or an industrial/organizational psychologist?

    My MS is in I/O psych and that field is squarely in hiring, promoting and developing employees (among other very much workplace-focused topics.

    Worth checking out.

    1. 5 Leaf Clover*

      But if that’s the case, why would he be asking about feelings of abandonment, military trauma, and childhood abuse?

          1. mrs__peel*

            I’m thinking he doesn’t actually have a “field” or any real medical credentials, but he certainly sounds like a crappy person!

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        Exactly- and even if they were an organizational psychologist, how is it beneficial to approach candidates for promotion in such an adversarial way? I think most treatment modalities are trending towards strengths-based and solution-focused, regardless of whether it’s individual-, family- or workplace-oriented.

    2. stephistication1*

      But why would they be deeply probing into personal attributes? Childhood abuse as an example is not workplace focused and not something an I/O should be concerned about.

    3. JustaTech*

      That seems like a very logical (and non-horrible) explanation, except that this person was introduced as (or is widely believed to be) the new VP’s personal therapist. And that wouldn’t make sense if the therapist were an I/O psychologist.

      Clearly there is a correct, above-board way to have a psychiatrist or psychologist interview candidates for promotion. OP’s situation is clearly not that.

      (And thanks for teaching us about the concept of I/O psych! I’ll have to look that up, it sounds really cool.)

  17. LSP*

    @Alison – When you recommend pushing back as a group, how would you suggest gathering the group together? In a place like OP describes, I would be uncomfortable using email to discuss. Should you pull people aside one-by-one and work to convince them to join you?

    1. NW Mossy*

      I’d start working my network for some coffee talk – other managers I’m close to, mentors at the company, current/former bosses, etc. Initially, I’d just be looking to get their read on things – have they heard about this, what do they think, how does this work in their area, and so on. From there, you can start to see who might be an ally and say something like “I really think we need to push back on this as a group – would you be willing to be part of that?”

      I definitely wouldn’t use email for this, not because of the paper trail but simply because it’s tough to get a read on emotional reactions over that method. Face-to-face would be my pick here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope! I could have sworn I wrote a whole thing about it in a comment (not in a post itself). But since I can’t find it:

          It’s basically just talking to people: “Hey, have you heard about this psychological interview thing? It feels really off to me, and I’m wondering what you think.” … “Yeah, I have serious concerns about how invasive it as, as well as the legal issues, blah blah blah. What do you think about several of us talking to HR about it and pointing this out? I think they’d take it seriously if several of us raised these concerns.”

    2. Anon for this one.*

      I’m a union organizer, and I would definitely encourage the OP to refrain from putting any of this in writing at this point. Early stages of organizing (which is basically what they’d be doing, organizing their colleagues to collective action) are best done in private one-on-one conversations, ideally in a place where the person you’re approaching feels like they can have the conversation without someone else overhearing. If that means an office with the door closed if that won’t raise eyebrows, great. If not, try to catch them in a parking lot at the end of the day, on their way to a lunch break, etc. Ask a lot of questions to feel them out before jumping in with an action plan. (You obviously don’t want to have someone close to the boss in question to alert him of what you’re doing before you’re ready to make a move.)

      1. Jeanne*

        Yes. Talking, nothing in writing. In case there is legal action, you don’t want the wrong thing in writing.

  18. CatCat*

    This is beyond absurd and awful. I’d be looking for a new employer. If you’re ready for a higher level step in your career, it doesn’t have to be somewhere that subjects people to this kind of nonsense.

    Sure, push back as a group here if you can. Perhaps even apply, but decline to do the psychological interrogation because it is invasive and unrelated to the job (maybe this means you’re taken out of the running, but maybe it means people irritated at the prospect of losing a top candidate stop this nonsense.)

    But start now for pursuing alternative opportunities. You have no way to know whether this will stop so you might as well have feelers out there.

    1. Dinosaur*

      Cosigned. This is not okay and I can only imagine what other outrageous policies and procedures the VP will think of next. I’d be looking for another job.

  19. Detective Amy Santiago*

    This might possibly be the most horrifying letter I’ve ever read on AAM and that’s saying something.

    In addition to Alison’s wonderful advice, is there anyone else in senior management that you could discuss your concerns with?

  20. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    My husband’s former company did something like this, although the actual conversation was a lot more benign. I don’t remember exactly what he told me about it, but it definitely involved a series of personality/strengths tests, and a role-playing exercise. My husband’s experience was positive; he thought it was a valuable session even if he hadn’t gotten the job. (He interned with the company while doing his MBA, and this was the final step before getting a permanent offer.)

    The role-playing was interesting: He was told that he was the CEO of a company and was leaving for vacation the next day and would be out of touch for a week, given a (fake) email account with a bunch of (fake) unread messages in it, and asked to respond them and decide what to do. Every possible crisis was raining down on this company — they had a strike at a plant, the CFO had been accused of sexual harassment, there was a hostile takeover in the works, the General Counsel had resigned unexpectedly, etc. etc.

    1. Amber Rose*

      “Welp, this company is FUBAR’d. Time to make it a permanent vacation!”

      Just kidding. I actually think that exercise sounds really interesting.

    2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      Was cancelling or postponing the vacation an option? Just curious? I would not normally recommend or push for that in the real world, but I think realistically, if I were the CEO and the company were falling apart that is how I’d handle it.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I know, right? That’s what I said to him when he was describing to me… like, obviously you have to cancel the vacation (or at least make yourself available).

      2. paul*

        Yeah. i’m usually on the “it”s my vacation, sod off” train of thought but with all that mess, plus being the CEO…I’m not sure what else I’d do?

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Yeah… having never been the CEO of a Fortune 500 company I’m making a guess here, but I’m pretty sure that one of the tradeoffs you make (for your millions and millions of dollars) is less flexibility with vacation. :)

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Having the general counsel handle a lot of it seemed like a good option — until they took the general counsel out of play.

    3. Someone*

      This honestly sounds like a very creative and very effective way of assessing someone’s problem solving abilities. Everything revolved around problems you might encounter at work – no rummaging in peoples past and asking invasive questions.

      This is a great example of workplace-related psychological assessment done correctly. Brilliant.

  21. Not Tom, just Petty*

    This ties back to the comment by 42. Who is paying this guy? If he has a personal relationship with the boss (no if in my mind) is this even through the company? This is too sketchy. Besides being illegal, unethical and only benefiting the boss who gets the details on all his staff.

    Please follow up with this!

    1. 42*

      Yeah, and I’m still very hung up on this very point. This doesn’t sound like it’s company-wide standard of practice, and more like this VP has gone rogue.

      OP, please find out:
      – Who is paying for this?
      – Who OK’d it?
      – Does this only happen in your division?

      If it’s going to affect one division, it should be company-wide or not at all. I’m going to hedge a bet that if this was happening company-wide, the outcry would be deafening.

  22. AndersonDarling*

    The only time I could see an evaluation being part of a promotion process is if there was previous legal action and the company is trying to protect themselves by saying they screened for fraudulent personalities or execs who are prone to sexual harassment. But it doesn’t sound like the psychologist is probing into any of these tendencies.

  23. Granny K*

    I’d question the ethics of this psychologist, professional and otherwise. Check with a medical board and see if you can report him/her. Usually when talking to a counselor, the conversation is deemed confidential, so I’m wondering how this psychologist justifies this whole process.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      THIS! Absolutely, do whatever you can to get this person’s license pulled, this is awful! Your 3 colleagues should each report this person- even if they report anonymously or something I bet 3 reports of the same serious problem behavior would shake something loose. And they’re now all Directors, right, so they have pretty good job security.

  24. Safetykats*

    Everyone who actually submits to one of these interviews should be recording it. Just go in and set your phone down on the table, and politely say “I’m sure you don’t mind if I record this for my own records.” My guess is that the interview will go very differently from that point on.

  25. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I wouldn’t say I’m only motivated by donuts.

    I could also be motivated by crullers.

    And probably eclairs, too. :-9

    1. Amber Rose*

      I’ve been known to be motivated by the occasional cupcake or chocolate chip muffin as well.

    2. JulieBulie*

      Why does no one ever offer Fritos? Am I the only person who can be persuaded with corn chips?

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oooh, Flaming Hot Fritos would definitely persuade me! The only better chip IMO is Utz Smokin’ Sweet BBQ kettle chips.

    3. a Gen X manager*

      I am just dying from reading that part of Alison’s response! “… or only motivated by donuts…” omg. I do not need to give my staff a test to know that they are motivated by food!!

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I, too, am motivated by pastries, however, I also acknowledge that my unhealthy snacking habits have the potential to not comply with the company’s mandatory wellness program am willing to be primarily motivated by large sums of cash as well. Large-denomination bills folded into origami pastries would be ideal, though.

    5. Agent Diane*

      I had a year when I was mostly motivated by cheesecake. I genuinely blame the Golden Girls.

      1. Carpe Librarium*

        I always wanted to see The Golden Girls and Jessica Fletcher sit down for an in-character, mockumentary-style gossip session about their behind-the-scenes hijinks.

      2. Carpe Librarium*

        I always wanted to see The Golden Girls and Jessica Fletcher sit down for an in-character, mockumentary-style gossip session about behind-the-scenes hijinks on their shows.

  26. Lora*

    Yeah, this is…not cool. I would definitely be giving the psychologist the Spanish Inquisition: In what states are you certified to practice? Where did you receive your degree(s)? What were your previous positions, where else have you practiced? What methods do you use, are they evidence-based, can you provide citations for me to review? What is your relationship to the management exactly? Have you ever been called before the licensing board to testify? Have you ever been accused of malpractice or ethics violations? How many times and where, and what were the circumstances? etc etc.

    I guess my other question would be, are the other senior VPs aware of this going on? It’s been my experience that when real ding-dongs have to justify their idiocy to peers, it doesn’t go awesomely for them and sometimes peer pressure will get them to abandon their worse ideas.

  27. nonymous*

    It’s hard to tell from OP’s letter just how established the company is in the US. Since OP has some seniority, would it be possible to quietly inquire with legal or HR (even if it goes across division boundaries) that is familiar with US laws and alert to the legal issues that way?

    I could see how a very clueless person may think that a shrink is the best person to evaluate how a potential employee responds under extreme pressure (as are likely to occur with tight deadlines and heated negotiations), but I think it is incredibly tone-deaf (and speaks to the mental health providers’ poor judgement) to take a personal experience such as adoption or vet status and use that as the stressor. When would someone’s vet or adoption status be used in such a heavy-handed manner during routine business functions? What would be more practical would be to stage a mock negotiation and see how the candidate performs when the odds are stacked against them (videotaped review could be a good training activity for the existing staff as well).

    Perhaps OP can present “negotiation games” as an option, with support from legal/hr regarding the risk of the current method? I wonder if the clueless exec even knows that the shrink is applying psychological stress instead of workplace stress? Is it a case of ignoramus leading the blind?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I would hope that the executives have observed the individual enough to know how they respond to pressure. This psychological interrogation is really showing that the execs are lazy and don’t care what their staff interact until it’s time for a promotion into the executive suites.

  28. Schnookums Von Fancypants*

    At any point did the “psychologist” ask questions about a tortoise on its back in the desert? Was a Voight-Kampf machine involved?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’m tempted, but I think I’ll wait until objective friends have seen it and go by what they say. I don’t like to read reviews beforehand because even if they don’t spoil, I sometimes figure out stuff from them.

  29. Anna*

    I’m currently working in a country where psych exams are a very common part of the job application process. I had to do one to move from a fixed to indefinite contract, and I found the whole process very weird (ex. drawing a picture of someone in the rain, Rorschach tests), but luckily my particular organization/department does not take the test seriously. What you’re describing sounds much more invasive and truly ridiculous.

    1. hbc*

      You can google what that rain picture is supposed to say about you. It looks completely asinine to me. Maybe I didn’t draw an umbrella because I “have no protective mechanisms and resources to cope with difficult situations,” or maybe I didn’t draw it because I drew someone playing sports in the rain, or maybe I didn’t draw it because I suck at drawing and stopped as soon as I did the minimum required: person, rain.

      1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        Ugh, I just did that. I pictured in my mind how I would draw it first, and apparently putting the person in the center of the page means you’re really competitive.

        I am actually competition-avoidant. I would draw the person in the middle of the page because…I have no reason to put them on the side? Because I draw like a kid? I dunno. But it’s not about competition, that’s for darn sure.

          1. Artemesia*

            I lived for decades in Seattle; it doesn’t rain; it drizzles. Most people have trench/rain coats as just their normal coat and most people don’t use an umbrella much. It is wet all the time but rarely pours.

        1. Julia*

          I would put the person the middle of the paper because that’s what they teach you in art class. I would be livid if I was being punished for drawing a balanced picture like I was taught to do.

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        Oh lordt, it’s got a guide like it’s some sort of universal scientific test? “Asinine” doesn’t even begin to cover that.

  30. Mazzy*

    This is nuts. I wish my job had some sort of vetting process, such as group interviews or some sort of review, for when somebody gets promoted to a higher level. I feel like it now someone just give somebody a new job title and suddenly there at a higher level. There is no process or even rewriting of job descriptions or anything so it feels just like a new title on paper. That being said, A psychological clearance would not be the sort of vetting process I would want!

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I worked at a company that required a full day of personality testing to be hired into a managerial position. I heard that many people “failed” the tests and positions were left open for a long time while they screened more and more candidates. But the actual staff of managers were monsters! Terrible human beings! It made me wonder what the heck they were screening for.

      1. paul*

        Personality test are largely worthless in evaluating how effective someone will be as an employee or manager.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yes. I Myers-Briggs out as a borderline-antisocial introvert that lacks empathy to a Vulcan level, but my employees seem to like me quite a bit as does upper management that keeps promoting me. Having seen my 180 reviews, exit interview feedback, etc. (all anonymous), I’m tough but fair and not afraid to go to bat for my folks or answer their questions about nearly anything. I’m not warm and fuzzy, but people seem to think I genuinely care about their professional well-being (which I do).

            1. Mary*

              It’s also only supposed to be used for personal development, and not at all for hiring or promotional decisions.

      2. Jessab*

        Isn’t that outrageous, they require all this personality stuff and all it does is give them horrible management and they don’t actually stop doing it? I’d wanna know what they were screening for too.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          Maybe it’s some crazy elaborate social experiment – trying to find better screening methods for effective managers by first finding out how to screen for the absolute worst boss then working backwards from there.

          I’m 100% joking btw.

  31. ArtK*

    I’d report that psychologist to their professional association. The type of questioning described is horrible. I can’t imagine that it is at all ethical.

    1. Lama glama (Snark)*

      It is very specifically not; I quoted the relevant section of the APA Ethics Code above.

    2. Mike C.*

      Yeah, aren’t there state level medical or licensing boards that the OP can report this person to?

  32. Claire*

    This reminds me very much of something my sister (an employment attorney) once said to me when I asked her about something at my workplace: “It could be legal, but I wouldn’t want to defend it in court.”

  33. ThursdaysGeek*

    In addition to the APA Ethics Code that others are referencing, does a psychologist fall under HIPAA rules? In other words, even if you DID say something, he would be forbidden from telling that VP anything. Right?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Yes, the candidate would have to give written consent to share the results. In my state, anyone who has a license from the Board of Healing Arts cannot repeat anything said during a session. They can talk to other professionals on the “healthcare team” but these are doctors or healthcare practitioners, not some guy at work that wants some gossip.
      Even if you have an idle chat with your massage therapist during a massage, nothing can be repeated.

      1. JB*

        Presumably the company would make said written consent a requirement for promotion (I strongly doubt that’s allowable, but they would).

      2. Former Hoosier*

        Actually massage therapists are in a grey area when it comes to HIPAA. There are certain circumstances where a massage therapists would be considered a healthcare provider but it is not automatic.

        1. Julia*

          A company-paid massage therapist sounds like it would actually be a perk, though. Or maybe not:

          “Sorry, VP, but I don’t think we can promote Fergus. His shoulders are way too stiff to be good manager material”

    2. Nanc*


      It’s a bit of a gray area but I would say that if the interviewee does not give permission to share the details of the session and the psychologist shares anyway the company is opening a can of legal worms. I can’t believe this practice hasn’t been shut down by corporate legal.

      Full disclosure: not a psychiatrist, not a lawyer, merely a writer who has written a ton of healthcare stuff over the past 10 years, Googler extraordinaire of official government information and really annoyed on behalf of OP AAM reader!

    3. paul*

      Yes, they do, but I’m not sure if they’d be considered to have a patient relationship with the person (this sort of thing has literally never come up at work for me and I’m flummoxed).

      1. Jessab*

        How can they not, they’re asking psych questions and responding to them, if this is not a patient relationship, then what’s the definition of one?

        1. paul*

          They’re not seeking treatment and he’s not offering treatment, at least from how I’ve read the letter. I’m just not sure if that’s enough to make it not applicable…I’ve got a good working knowledge for HIPPA as it relates to us, but this is novel for me.

            1. Natalie*

              Yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all evaluations are treatment. All dogs are mammals, not all mammals are dogs, etc.

        2. Southernbelle*

          If they are performing an evaluation for business purposes (like the nuclear-power-plant commenter above) they are engaging in a professional relationship with the company, not the employee. But this is definitely not the right way to do that kind of evaluation…..

  34. Annalee*

    I’m a clinical psychology doctoral student, and there are so many ways that this is wrong.

    First of all, if this person is a licensed psychologist, this behavior should definitely be reported to the state’s licensing board. There are a variety of ethical concerns, but patient-doctor confidentiality and consent to treatment jump out at me (you can’t force someone to talk to a psychologist unless it’s a forensic setting).

    Second, the title “psychologist” is a protected term in most states, usually reserved for licensed clinicians (so, not even other psychological scientists can call themselves psychologists). It may sound like a technicality, but if this person is calling themselves a psychologist and isn’t one, there can be legal action against them.

  35. Thebe*

    Perhaps you can treat this as you would one of those interview questions like “name your biggest weakness”: Think up something like “I’ve had fear of spiders/heights/the color yellow since summer camp/tree-climbing injury/bee attack and am still struggling …”

    The psychologist feels like he’s dug up something juicy, while you don’t have to discuss anything that’s really upsetting.

  36. Licensed Psychologist*

    Thought I’d chime in here. Many of the commenters are correct that this is likely a breach of the APA code of ethics. However, licenses are granted by individual states, so the state licensing board is the group that would (and I would argue *should*) be notified that this is occurring. In most states that would lead to an investigation (if the board felt it was warranted). If this is an Industrial Organizational Psychologist, they do not have to be licensed so there would be no licensing board (although still sketchy practices). Additionally, breaking the APA code of ethics does not necessarily make psychologists liable in a civil sense (obligatory not a lawyer comment here). Only if you break state law is it a legal issue or run afoul of state ethical codes is it a licensing board issue.

    In addition to the excellent advice Alison has given about how to manage this in a work context, I would urge the OP to report this to the state licensing board. As noted in comments above, there are many mental health professionals who engage in dubious or unethical practices that are allowed to continue because no one reports them. The licensing board of the state is there to protect the general public – not the psychologists- so please use them!

    1. Optimistic Prime*

      YES yes yes! State licensing board if they are a clinical psychologist (or a mental health counselor or social worker with any kind of licensing).

  37. Thebe*

    Even better if he has to drag it out of you:
    – I don’t like lemons
    – why don’t you like lemons
    – the color
    – what about the color
    – the bright color … aaagh! The pain! …

  38. Elizabeth H.*

    Something that wasn’t clear to me is if the invasive-psychologist-having VP is the letter writer’s manager, or if the letter writer has a different manager who isn’t the VP – when he said “I haven’t brought this up with my manager” it wasn’t clear to me.

    If it were me, I think I would consider letting my manager know I planned to do so, and then notifying HR or someone in the division who was higher than the VP or has similar leverage, but is rational (? someone in central corporation? someone else at the executive level?), that this is inappropriate and legally concerning. It just seems so inappropriate to me. Being asked to disclose private medical/health information, especially in a setting where it does not seem confidential, to a medical professional not of your choosing, as a condition of interviewing for an internal promotion, is beyond the pale to me. Like what if they wanted you to get an STD test as a condition of interviewing, by someone they brought in for the day, or to test your blood for your blood type? It seems analogous to me, even though it’s easy to think about mental health history as different from other health history because on the face of it it could be “just talking”/answering questions which is more normal, but the type of interview you have with a licensed psychologist is collecting your health information.

  39. AKchic*

    No. No no no no no no NOOOOOOOO!

    Your boss might be a senior VP, but you need to go over his head, or around him to HR. There are so many issues here that I cannot even begin to cover them all. How dare any competent, professional clinician agree to this. And therein lies the issue – no competent, professional clinician DID agree to this. A shady, underhanded, unprofessional half-assed wannabe clinician did. The lack of boundaries, the lack of ethics, the lack of separation, the intrusion and poking at trauma haphazardly (really – asking a combat vet such questions without establishing any kind of professional trust and without ensuring follow-up care?!), the accusations when someone DIDN’T have any identifiable ACEs, it’s almost as if you’re dealing with a research student or a clinician who was barred from practice and really wants to continue in the field and will do anything to keep practicing or worse – a pop-psychologist who has no real training but likes feeling superior and found an opportunity to exploit.

    It’s worth checking into to see if the rest of the company (not just your little satellite) is actually AWARE of this new practice, and actually backs it in it’s entirety.
    I would also be curious to know the clinicians credentials.

    Then – if/when it’s your turn to sit on the “therapist’s” couch – stonewall. Your personal life is yours. You aren’t paying this person to treat you, therefore s/he is not entitled to your personal history, your personal thoughts, or anything of that nature.

    1. Mike C.*

      The lack of awareness is a a strong possibility. Much like the “extra guac” guy, this really feels like someone trying to “be creative”.

      1. Lama glama (Snark)*

        He’s the new VP! He’s got the gumption to make his mark on this organization. Don’t doubt his moxie!

        1. Artemesia*

          This. I can describe half a dozen ‘new initiatives’ that soaked up time and resources in organizations I worked in that were either designed to help the manager get his thesis done, or were seen by newguy as the ticket to fame and promotion. They were all worthless.

  40. Drew*

    I’d be VERY tempted to show up, sit there, and say NOTHING except “I find this process inappropriate and unethical, and I will be reporting everything you ask me to our HR department and your licensing board. Now, if you want me to sit here for the full hour and keep repeating this, I’m happy to get paid to waste your time. Otherwise, I have work to do and I’m sure your time could also be better spent with your actual patients.”

    But I think an even better idea is to push back hard before the time comes.

    1. Natalie*

      I see where you’re getting that, but I think a Scientologist boss would definitely *not* call this person a psychologist as the religion is very anti-psychology as a matter of doctrine. They would call them an evaluator or auditor or some specific Scientology acronym.

      1. Aeth*

        Unless they’re deliberately using non-Scientology terms to try and hide the fact that it’s Scientology based, on the basis that a) it would freak people out and b) may not meet with the approval of the parent company.

        Having said that, I don’t get the feeling Scientologists are generally reticent about their belief system. But I did get a strong feeling about it too.

    2. Anons*

      Huh… I could get that from the weird, boundary crossing interrogations at work (I get that based on my own past experience working at a Scientologist-dominated company), but it would never be a psychologist.

      Though that also raises another potential legal pitfall for the company for potential candidates. What if a candidate is turned down for an interview because they have a religious objection to meeting with a psychologist?

          1. fposte*

            Right, and we don’t know the company, the job, or the details of the religious claim, so we can’t say.

            1. Anons*

              Oh, I guess I misunderstood the letter and thought the interview with the psychologist was unrelated to the job skills required.

              1. fposte*

                It doesn’t sound promising, that’s for sure, but there’s really not enough to say for sure.

  41. DaddySocialWorker*

    Another tack to take on this, not sure if it’s been suggested previously. Is that this is potentially an ethical violation by the psychologist. The psychologist is engaging in some sort of dual relationship with the VP. Also, the manner of asking questions appears to be incredibly problematic. Is the psychologist engaging in appropriate informed consent? I would absolutely report to the licensing board. Hell, I’d google this psychologist and inform his employer as well if the psychologist is part of a practice or agency.

  42. MB13*

    I am going to add you should report this psychologist to her board. Her behaviors were highly unprofessional, her line of questioning hostile and inappropriate, and has left her visitors emotionally distraught. This is not how a psychologist should operate and her medical board would be right to open an investigation of her.

  43. I had tilapia for lunch.*

    Clearly, this evaluation is harrassment. Please talk to HR about your concerns and explain what you’ve heard. I would also look into this clincian’s background for any violations or even if his license was taken away.

    1. House of Cats*

      How is this harassment? I agree it’s awful and unethical, for all the reasons others have stated, but I don’t see any harassment.

  44. C in the Hood*

    What blows my mind is that no one else in OP’s company seems to be questioning this. I mean, at least 3 people have been subjected to this already.

  45. Buffy Summers*

    What about HR? Couldn’t they step in and put a stop to this practice since it could very easily develop into a legal issue for the company?

    Also – what about Dr./Patient confidentiality? Or HIPAA? I don’t pretend to understand how all that works, but if I talk to a psychiatrist or a psychologist, wouldn’t that be covered? How can the psychologist share the state of your mental health with your employer without getting in a heap of trouble themselves??

    Good grief, that’s crazy!

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      In situations where it’s actually warranted, you generally sign a release authorizing them to disclose the information.

    2. AKchic*

      Depending on what is discussed, CFR 42 Part 2 could come into play if any substance use issues are discussed, and THOSE laws are more stringent than HIPAA.

  46. Cafe au Lait*

    Here’s an option, OP, if the group method doesn’t get off the ground.

    Call HR, and ask if you should use the department shortcode to pay for the therapist’s session, or if you need to pay yourself and be reimbursed later. That’s a completely normal and fair question to ask. Hopefully the HR representative or manager will go “WWWWWHHHHHHAAAAAA?” and get the ball rolling from there.

    1. ST*

      That is so passively-aggressive brilliant that I almost wish that my teapot company would institute this policy just so that I could use it.

      It sounds so completely like something that I would write.

  47. EmilyG*

    Am I the only one being reminded of the episode of “The Office” where Michael tries to do grief counseling, and when he insists that the staff tell him about their experiences of death, they recount movies like “The Lion King”?

    While it would be satisfying to stonewall the psychologist or tell them made-up stories, that doesn’t solve the root problem, so I think Alison’s idea of pushing back as a group and then reporting the psychologist to their professional organization.

    1. LadyKelvin*

      Oh this is actually brilliant. Just start describing a well known story – “Well, my uncle killed my father then married my mother and tried to have me killed. My father’s ghost appeared to me and told me about it. Now I’m on a vendetta to kill my uncle in revenge.”
      Just keep going until he/she figures out what is happening.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        Now I’m thinking about the beginning of The Guild where they’re trying to get everyone to actually share their real lives. Tink talks about trying to follow her dream at a fashion magazine for a minute before Zaboo says yeah that… That’s the plot to Ugly Betty…

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        When I was a teenager my father was really pressuring me about taking over the family business when I was old enough. But I just wanted to travel. When my grandmother died, I discovered that a long time ago, terrible laws were enacted that affected the growth ability of my family’s company and threatened to destroy it. So, without my parents’ knowledge, I tracked down a retired advocate and he helped me get the laws overturned. After securing the future of the company, I convinced my father to expand the business so I could travel more often and still take over when the time came. The retired advocate joins me occasionally.

      3. Forgotmename*

        On reading the letter my mind immediately went to Murdoch’s acting ‘crazy’ in the A-Team to get those hunting the others to leave him alone. If I was in this situation, I’d have a hard time not channelling Murdoch, and would start up about ammonia (including standing on furniture, because the ammonia is on the floor’), the uncle who sold it, and Billy and Thunder, my invisible horse and dog. Then get into talking about Hannibal, Face and B.A etc…. also the Range Rider being my secret identity.
        Then when I was reported to the VP as ‘nuts’ I’d ask what about being the only person out of all the grandkids who’d climb my grandparents apple tree to help them harvest the apples was ‘nuts’. If the person isn’t recording the talk, then I’d mess with them with talking about all the ‘normal’ anecdotes I supposedly shared…
        But I hardly slept last night and have had too much cola today to keep functioning, so this is not a recommendation. Fun as it sounds to me, but cola hyped and feeling ‘evil’…
        I’d follow Alison’s recommendations.

      4. AKchic*

        My mother died in a fire in my nursery, my dad taught us to be hunters. It’s just me and my brother, out on the road, saving people, hunting things; the family business.

        1. Brisvegan*

          And you talk to angels and demons and personally speak face to face with god and once you turned into a car and …. :D

  48. Statler von Waldor*

    As someone who has been in therapy on and off for over twenty years now, this horrifies me on so many levels. In Canada I found six different laws it was breaking in my province alone with less than five minutes on google, including privacy laws, human right laws, and employee protection laws.

    Since I had a meeting with the company lawyer this morning about something unrelated, after we wrapped up I put this situation forward as a hypothetical. He insisted at first that “No one would be that dumb.” When I showed him the letter on my phone, his jaw actually dropped and he was shaking his head while he read it. He wouldn’t go into specifics unless I was willing to make it billable time (the crafty bastard) but he did claim that this case was so straight-forward that he would be comfortable taking this case on contingency.

    1. Statler von Waldorf*

      As an update to myself, I just had to text the link to this letter to the lawyer, as his colleague didn’t believe it either. Apparently, I am now converting a local law office to AAM readers.

  49. Temperance*

    I would just lie to this therapist and gray rock him until he shut up. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it basically means being as boring as possible to get an inappropriate person to shut up and back off.) I’m wondering what degree he has, and whether he has a professional license. A quick call to the licensing board might put the kibosh on this crap.

    I have an abusive background, and I don’t tell people at work. It has less than nothing to do with my fitness as an employee or human being.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m a terrible person and would be tempted to do the opposite – make up incredibly outlandish stories.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        That makes two of us. Would suddenly getting Tourette’s syndrome be too much over the top?

      2. Narise*

        I’m a mean person at times so my reaction was to research the therapist in detail and talk all about them. Their experience, their repressed memories, their families. Make them very uncomfortable and I would take notes while we talked and then send a summary of my deductions to coworkers.

    2. AKchic*

      I hear you. I have a lot of ACEs and traumatic history in my adult life as well. I don’t discuss that in my work life because it does not apply to my job. Even when I worked in the behavioral health industry – I understood healthy boundaries and did not discuss my personal life with clients or co-workers.

      My past experiences =/= fitness for duty.

  50. Lily*

    Just ask the psychologist back: “Why do you think this is a good idea?” “Why do you participate in this?” and probably also “How do you feel about participating in this interviews?” :D

  51. Student*

    If you go through this farce, then assume that anything you say to the guy is going straight to your boss.

    I’d wager that the boss is giving this guy lines of questioning or marching orders, and the guy is reporting back. He wants manipulation points on people, weaknesses. He wants to know if he has anything to fear. He wants to feel like he has something on you. This is more how a mob or gang operates than how a normal company operates.

    Be very wary. In a situation like this, if you go through with it, I strongly recommend you make up a fake weakness that’s not too extreme to offer up. Then, if the boss tries to use it against you down the line, you’ll know exactly what is happening, and you won’t respond to it like if he had a real emotional hook in you.

  52. Doctor What*

    I have a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counceling, although I am not practicing in the field right now. I do not believe this to be ethical on the part of the “psychologist”, especially if the boss is a friend. The governing body for mental health professionals is the American Psychological Association (APA) [if you’re in the US]. I would have this looked into.

  53. Interviewer*

    I would contact HR immediately. Give details you’ve heard about the sessions (especially the medical questions), and ask if that testing is required by the company to receive the promotion. Ask if the company is paying the therapist for the session, because it can create ethical issues for the therapist. Ask if the notes from the session go in the personnel files, especially if they contain medical details. And if they are being filed, find out if you can make a formal request for an accommodation for any medical history given to your employer. You also need to make it clear that by reporting your boss’s practice, if there are any consequences to him, you are seriously worried about retaliation for future work assignments and possible promotions. Please use *all* of these words.

    If at all possible, please try to get to a manager with this report. You need someone who will immediately recoil in horror, and have enough pull to pick up the phone and alert others above your boss that this is NOT OKAY.

    If you have an HR Director worth a dang, you will never hear of this practice again. Unless you work for the CIA or MI6, I bet your boss is using a slush fund of training dollars to operate off the company radar with this testing – probably because it was utterly fascinating for him and he wants everyone to love it as much as he does.

    It’s not worth your time to try to play games or come up with things to trip up the therapist. I think you need to try to pull the plug on the entire process long before you wind up sitting in that office.

    I’d love an update to this story. Good luck!

  54. Anon anon anon*

    As a side note, I don’t think putting people in artificially stressful situations to see how they handle stress accomplishes anything good. I’m talking about things like grilling someone about a traumatic experience in their life, not things like the example someone gave of having to answer emails as an exercise. People respond differently “in real life” than when they know they’re being evaluated. Or when it’s some sort of artificial setting. So the results don’t mean anything. It ends up just being hurtful and a waste of time.

  55. Forgotmename*

    On reading the letter my mind immediately went to Murdoch’s acting ‘crazy’ in the A-Team to get those hunting the others to leave him alone. If I was in this situation, I’d have a hard time not channelling Murdoch, and would start up about ammonia (including climbing on stuff, since its on the floor), the uncle who sold it, and Billy and Thunder, my invisible dog and horse. Then get into talking about Hannibal, Face and B.A etc…. also the Range Rider being my secret identity, who owns Thunder. I can’t recall the sock puppet’s name, darn it…
    Then when I was reported to the VP as ‘nuts’ I’d ask what about being the only person out of all the grandkids who’d climb my grandparents apple tree to help them harvest the apples was ‘nuts’. If the person isn’t recording the talk, then I’d mess with them with talking about all the ‘normal’ anecdotes I supposedly shared…
    But I hardly slept last night and have had too much cola today to keep functioning, so this is not a recommendation. Fun as it sounds to me, but cola hyped and feeling ‘evil’…
    I’d follow Alison’s recommendations. Good luck OP!

    1. Anon anon anon*

      Omg, Murdoch was my favorite. I love the A Team. My brother and I used to binge watch it on summer break when we were kids.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      Definitely made me think this has to be a TV show… someone is disguising as a “psychologist” to hide from foreign spies… or launder money… or they’re pretending to be a psychic but actually just very observant… just wait for the laugh track… here it comes…

  56. Kimberly*

    I like Allison’s advice – but would check with a lawyer to find out what laws in the LW specific jurisdiction might be being broken (not just Labor but medical privacy). I think those abused by the psychologist should file complaints with the proper licensing board.

    I once led a mini-rebellion against the personality test thing. It was a multiday teacher workshop. The presenter and district wanted us to go on a retreat but a bunch of people objected. (In my case due to medical issues I don’t do locked in X location activities). So they did a workshop in the district for those who could not travel. They handed out one of those personality test things and I wrote refused on it. The presenter threw a fit. I asked his qualifications to engage in mental health care and he told me he was a football coach. I told him if the district had questions of my mental health they could give my doctor a list of 5 fully qualified and licensed mental health professionals and we would select one from that list to examine me. His next rant was the person who designed the program was a psychiatrist. My response was But he is not licensed to practice in the state of Texas ( the company was based out of Waco) – I had two different medical people check on that after I could find no evidence of him being licensed in Texas. End result – people kept joining my boycott of the ‘tests’ and what could only be described as group therapy sessions until on Wednesday, he threatened to have the district people come down to Deal. With. Us. – but Hurricane Ike shut the whole thing down and the district decided we got credit for all 5 days.

    Seriously – we were told we needed to drink the kool-aid and join the program. My response was reminded everyone where that phrase came from.

  57. Lauren R*

    This is horrifying and I’m sorry you’re in this position. I haven’t read through the comments so it’s possible someone has already mentioned this but if you end up going through with this requirement, tell your boss you’re going to make an appointment with a different psychiatrist. If they have a problem with that, ask them why and hold your ground – if the psychiatrist the company has selected is truly qualified and abiding by all the laws any other psychiatrist would, it should not matter that you elect to go to a different doctor with the same qualifications. Ask them to write a letter “clearing” you for work and hopefully that will be the end of it. Hopefully a decent psychiatrist, when told why you are there and what your company has been doing, will have no problem just gathering some basic info, giving you the note you need, and allowing you to leave without any “drilling” into your past. Wow, this whole thing is just ridiculous and I hope that more reasonable people at your company will put a stop to it.

  58. Narise*

    I think you need to push back but also inform the corporate office what is happening. Include in all conversations and emails that if employees share this with others and post it on Glassdoor the company may struggle to attract employees. The point should be that it’s illegal, invasive, and will become public… Very public.

  59. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    If the psychologist is a personal friend or worse, the personal therapist of the manager is that not a conflict of interest?

    1. ethicalshrink*

      Totally a conflict of interest, and also a dual role relationship if the psychologist is the manager’s therapist, which is not ethical.

  60. ethicalshrink*

    Ummm, as someone who actually is a psychologist, this is BULLSHIT and majorly unethical! You should report this psychologist to the state board, because they can’t do this and should lose their license. Totally wrong!

  61. Public Healther*

    I get the impression that this has been addressed in the comments, but I just want to say that I’m a social worker (I have a MSW and an MPH) and this psychologist is a quack. I mean, I know social workers and psychologists have different frameworks, but this is unethical.

    1. Public Healther*

      hahaha. Sorry. As soon as this was posted, I read the comment directly above it – clearly this has been addressed! Thanks ethicalshrink (and likely many others)…

  62. Annie Bennett*

    OP here. Thanks for all of your comments, suggestions and questions.

    This is a US corporation, with a presence in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The interview requirement to be promoted to Director is only in our division. As I mentioned, when corporate acquires a company, as long as the company (now division) continues to make a profit, they are pretty much left to their own devices. I am going to follow and work on the suggestion of enlisting others to oppose this with me. If we don’t have success, we could raise this to corporate HR. Although personally, I would rather not have to do that.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Thank you for updating us. This is such a disturbing situation. If you and your colleagues can’t get your boss to change his mind, perhaps reporting the ‘psychologist’ to the state board would mean you won’t have to go to HR? If there’s a fuss about them losing their licence/not being a real psychologist, that might be embarrassing enough to stop the practice. Good luck, I hope it all works out.

  63. Chilladelphia215*

    I know someone whose workplace requested that new hires participate in “voluntary psychological testing.” They were told that it won’t count against them, but will give them “self-knowledge” that can assist with their career development. It wasn’t just something like personality types, but went into childhood history. What about situations like this? The employer is not requiring psychological testing, but I’m concerned new hires may participate to comply with this request.

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