my coworker wants me to give him a fake reference

A reader writes:

I have a coworker who I hit it off with from day one, and we trust and help each other.

Last week, this coworker took me out to lunch and told me he was planning to start interviewing, because he found that he is being severely underpaid. I am in a similar situation, so I can empathize.

He wanted to know if he could use me as a reference and claim that I was his supervisor, and that he was making about $30k more than he is, believing that the new jobs would then offer him a higher rate. He promised to thank me and send an offer my way if he gets in somewhere.

I like and trust the guy, but something sounds a little weird. I feel bad that he is getting treated like this, and would like to help him if this is a legal and moral way to do it. I told him I would think about it. What are your thoughts?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 124 comments… read them below }

  1. Bridgette*

    Are you willing to risk your job to help him? As Alison points out, it can very easily blow up and if you get fired for lying/unethical behavior, how are you going to explain that in an interview?

  2. Sal*

    I totally agree with your advice, BUT I’m assuming that the OP would pretend their name was the manager’s name, not use their own name.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right, but that’s my point — a good reference checker will call the main switchboard and ask for “Joe Smith” or whatever they’ve been told the manager’s name is. They’ll then get transferred to the real Joe Smith, who’s not the OP.

      … Oh, I see what you’re picking up on — that sentence in the Inc. piece is unclear. I’ll see if I can fix it!

      1. Sal*

        Yup, still a bad idea. Also they could realize phone number / area code was wrong, or if they called back through the company and the manager had never talked to them, etc. etc. But the original sentence made it sound like they would say “hi this is (my real name), I am (friend’s manager)” which would make you a really bad liar…

        1. Where's the Le-Toose?*

          I’m convinced that 99.9% of the time, the friend and the OP will get caught.

          When I’m reference checking, I don’t just dial the number a candidate listed, primarily because it could be a personal cell phone and catching a reference driving a car, or on the bus, or on a 5-minute break from a conference or meeting, or in the middle of lunch, is not productive. I will do an Internet search for the company and see if there is a direct line for the supervisor or manager. If not, I will call the main number and ask for the supervisor or manager.

          There is no way this ends good for anyone. And OP, your friend always will be at risk of termination, no matter how good your friend’s performance evaluations are. I had a former client lie on his resume. He had a stellar 10-year performance record and, in a rare occurrence here in the U.S., had a written contract that he only could be fired for cause. When his boss found out he lied on the resume, he was fired on the spot. We took the issue to trial arguing that his performance history (which was impeccable), negated any for-cause firing for a decade’s old resume. The trial court found that lying on the resume was a sufficient cause and upheld the termination.

          1. Tina Belcher*

            You’re assuming that the people who are references are still accessible via the company, though. If a candidate is coming from an industry with high turnover in positions (like mine), this is not a helpful way of screening references, since they may be at a different company, location, or in a wildly different title than what makes sense for the skill set the person is interviewing with.

            1. Safetykats*

              That doesn’t mean that a valid reference check just relies on whoever says they are the person listed. I’ve been asked for references multiple times when I wasn’t even listed – in our industry it’s really common for the reference checkers to ask the primary references who else they might be able to talk to (who worked with the person when…) and to go 2 – 3 levels beyond the listed references. You should never assume that a decent reference check is only talking to the people you listed.

    2. designbot*

      oh god ,that’s just piling more lies on. It hadn’t occurred to me that they’d use a fake name.

  3. Eplawyer*

    Don’t do it. Your own integrity and reputation is at stake. Hold your friends close. Hold your integrity closer.

  4. Madeleine Matilda*

    I’m having a hard time believing that anyone would ask or consider doing this. But that said, you can still be a reference but simply as a colleague. When I interviewed for my current job they asked for 5 references including at least two supervisors and then three others of my choice – I ask three of my colleagues who had worked closely with me on a number of projects and who could speak to my work. If OP has worked closely with her colleague and feels she could speak well of his work, she could offer to be a reference, she just shouldn’t offer to pretend to be her friend’s supervisor.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I’ve had friends do this for me. I’ve also offered to do it for friends.
      Actually, there was a bit our local radio station did last year where they called a random business and asked the first person to answer the phone if he’d be a fake reference for them, and he actually accepted and tried his best.

      I’m not saying it’s a good idea, but it’s certainly something that happens.

      1. Another Steve G*

        I’ve also offered to do this for people, and I don’t think it’s that big a deal. However, I would never pretend to be a different individual within my company, pretend to work for a different company, or disclose anyone’s salary. That said, if a coworker I trust asked me to be Steve The Manager instead of Steve the Coworker as a reference, I would consider it under the right circumstances. Now that I think about it, I’d consider this more five years ago (earlier in my career) than I would now.

        FWIW, detailed reference checks aren’t very common in my industry. They are mostly done by recruiters from outside hiring organizations calling the numbers on the application and running down the list of questions.

    2. Jenny*

      I’ve considered it. I really have. I am at a mid-level point in my career where I have had numerous project management positions and I’ve managed interns and volunteers but I have not managed a full-time employee. I have had interviewers point-blank tell me “Well, we don’t want to hire you because you don’t have the right level of management experience.” – that “management experience” thing is a huge hurdle to overcome, especially for women. So man people don’t want to give you a management job unless you’ve managed someone but you can’t get to manage someone because you haven’t managed someone. It’s massively frustrating as the director-level jobs in my field are the ones that pay better. So again, I haven’t done it but I have thought so many times how much easier it would be if someone was like “Yes, she managed me” and I could cross that hurdle.

    3. Xarcady*

      Someone I know got caught stealing from his employer and fired. He then had to cover a three-year gap on his resume, as he felt he couldn’t include the job he was fired from.

      So he found a friend who was willing to act as a reference and he created a job/company to cover that three-year gap. He did get a job eventually, so it must have worked. (On the other hand, he was completely bewildered when I refused to date him after he regaled me with this story. )

      So I can believe that someone would ask for a fake reference with a fake salary.

      1. Ledgerman*

        I’m shocked that worked. In my last job search I had to provide W-2s for past employers they didn’t recognize as part of the background check.

        1. Xarcady*

          This was a while back, but I think the story involved the fake company closing at the death of its founder, and the “reference” now working for a completely new company. And it was over 20 years ago.

          I also suspect this guy chose to work for a company that would more or less fit his own personal moral compass, and such a company might not check things too closely, perhaps?

        2. Cobol*

          This is just an aside, but I’ve never had to give W2s (and frankly would be turned off, although I’d likely do it). What field are you in?

        3. Oxford Coma*

          Yeah, I’d tell them to pound sand. I’m not sharing that level of personal financial information. It’s bad enough when they ask for previous salaries.

    4. Kate*

      I absolutely believe it. I once overheard a colleague ask another colleague to lie to our boss about not doing his part of a project so the first colleague wouldn’t look bad for not doing his part of the same project. Some people have quite the gumption. I agree about offering a colleague reference instead, though part of me would be questioning if I even wanted to do that considering the colleague has now show a clear lack of ethics.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      For every crazy idea out there, someone is reading and thinking “Yeah…. So crazy it’s brilliant!”

    6. Augusta Sugarbean*

      I can’t believe someone would describe this as “something sounds a little weird.” At least be honest and describe it as “totally weird but is there some way I can get away with doing this?”

    7. CorporateQueer*

      I’ve listed coworkers as references before, with clear indication that they’re coworkers (there is generally a place where you can indicate this on an online form, for example.) It can look a little hinky if you don’t list a supervisor, but if your supervisor is absolutely terrible (as was my last boss), it can be a better solution than nothing.

    8. It's all Relatives*

      I have a SIL and BIL (married) who both, on separate occasions, asked my spouse and I to lie and say that they worked for us (we have a small business). We both balked. The in-laws do not even know what we do. Let alone answer questions about it. We had quite a few conversations explaining how this would not work. They could not understand. We are the bosses, we can do anything! *eye roll*
      I do not remember what the end result was, but we have never received any reference checks for them.

    9. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      It’s a common practice among people with little or no professional experience (like college students) applying for entry level jobs. Sadly it works.

  5. DCompliance*

    A friend of mine was asked to this for someone she considered to be a friend. She refused and that ended their friendship. Fortunately, she realized that a real friend would not ask you to do this.

  6. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

    You know this isn’t okay, so trust your gut. You may like and trust him, and he may like and trust you, but either he doesn’t respect you enough or isn’t thinking clearly enough to understand why asking you to do this is messed up. He might not understand your refusal and might push back, but it’s much better for you both if you hold firm and don’t let yourself be swayed by your sympathy for his situation.

  7. LouiseM*

    How can he possibly “send an offer your way” if the company he will be working for believes you were his supervisor? This makes no sense. Either you would be hired under false pretenses, for a job you’re not qualified for, or you would have to fess up and the jig would be up for both of you. He is lying out of desperation–and not just to this company. Run, don’t walk!

    1. Anony*

      I think they may have been talking about the OP impersonating the real supervisor. So she gives the reference as “Jane Smith” and he hires “Liz Johnson”.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      These plans always hinge on no one ever glancing twice at any trembling connection of the artifice. (Like, using the supervisor’s number they find on the company website, rather than the one given by the applicant.) Which happens often enough to yield a few success stories.

  8. Lynca*

    “He wanted to know if he could use me as a reference and claim that I was his supervisor, and that he was making about $30k more than he is, believing that the new jobs would then offer him a higher rate.”

    I think OP needs to ask themselves why this would ever work. Leaving out the fact it’s completely unethical and could threaten their job, part of the reason people leave is advancement in pay. It is completely normal to point out you were paid under market value at your last position and you are looking to be more in line with market value. There is no reason to lie or go through an elaborate charade to do this. No reasonable employer would be surprised by this from an applicant.

    1. JB*

      Right. This person, in addition to being dishonest, is stuck deep in the world of “companies pay based on salary history, not market value” (which may explain how they ended up underpaid in this job). Any company they’d want to work for (given that they’re looking because they’re underpaid) would give them the raise they merit, making this scheme unnecessary.

      1. JoJo*

        To be fair, most on-line applications demand your salary history, so I can understand why he’d think that.

      2. Mike C.*

        Sometimes you don’t aren’t in the position to work for or seek to work for a company that would give them the raise they merit.

        1. JB*

          Based on the letter text, though, this person is not interested in changing jobs to one that wouldn’t pay them market rate.

        2. Lynca*

          Even if the company wasn’t offering market rate, I’d certainly consider taken a job that was 15k more (assuming the 30k quoted would bring them to market rate) given the right circumstances. There’s always compromise with this. But no reasonable employer is going to be shocked you want something more in line with market rate. It’s up to the applicant to figure out what “more in line” means to them and what they would accept.

          Outright lying to try to get better pay is just going to end very badly.

  9. Amber Rose*

    There are too many ways this could backfire. It’s not worth the risk.

    You can offer to be a coworker reference, but be clear you won’t lie or misrepresent any information.

    1. Anony*

      I’m not sure if you would even want to be a coworker reference for someone who has told you he intends to blatantly lie.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Eh. I give people a pass for this kind of thing. We’ve seen enough otherwise reasonable individuals write in to AAM after doing something unwise out of desperation.

        If he doubles down on the lying thing though, that’s a strike.

        1. Anony*

          I would give it a pass if he said it was a bad idea and that he intended to tell the truth. Momentary lapse in judgement can be overlooked. But if he still intends to lie I would not want to vouch for him.

  10. Observer*

    OP, you need to rethink this relationship. I don’t know that this person actually is worthy of anyone’s trust. He’s exhibiting both REALLY bad judgement AND a serious lack of ethics.

    Normally, I would say “How do you know he won’t lie to you?” However, in this case, as others have already pointed out, he may already be lying to you.

    Don’t do it, and be very, very careful around this person.

    1. CanCan*

      That’s what I was about to add. How can you trust somebody who is prepared to tell such a serious lie and to ask somebody else to lie for him? It’s not like he’s lying about what he ate for lunch!

      1. Someone else*

        Yeah, the “I trust the guy” stood out to me in the letter. Like…dude just told you he intends to lie. Even if you trusted him before, there’s a bucketful of reasons not to trust him anymore.

        1. Safetykats*

          This. Someone whose solution to a reasonably straightforward problem – I need a new job and I’m currently underpaid – is to construct a web of lies involving asking coworkers to also lie – really can’t be trusted. Because his solution to other problems is undoubtedly to lie about them as well. And apparently he doesn’t see anything wrong with asking the OP to lie, so there is some seriously impaired understanding of ethical behavior here – apparently lying is fine in his world, or at least justifiable, if it gets you what you want. If you think he wouldn’t lie just as easily to you, you’re wrong about that.

  11. SallytooShort*

    I love when people write in about this stuff. You KNOW that Alison isn’t going to advise you to commit fraud.

    I think sometimes people just need to hear that.

  12. Kittymommy*

    Nope, nope, nope. This can only come back and bite you in the tushy. Even if you went to the extreme of using the actual supervisors name, what if they food a follow up and called the main line? Or sent an email through hr? Leaving out that it’s massively unethical (and truly they shouldn’t be asking you to do this in the first place), logistically it can turn bad very easily.

    1. zora*

      Sometimes they do. Sometimes it’s the HR office that verifies pay, but I’ve seen reference callers ask the supervisor to confirm the candidate’s pay.

    2. Jiya*

      They do, and it helps perpetuate pay discrepancies. That’s why some places forbid interviewers from asking about wage history.

  13. SallyF*

    Let’s not forget how this tactic went awry for George Costanza on Seinfeld, when he asked Jerry to answer his phone “Vandelay Industries” and pretend to give a job reference. Remember how Kramer answered the phone instead and said, “No, you’re way off! You’ve got the wrong number!”

    1. Valenonymous*

      Now I’m sniggering to myself at the image of George running out of the bathroom with his pants around his ankles. Yeah, there are a million ways this could go wrong,

  14. jk*

    Yikes. I would tell him that you’d love to give him a reference, as a PEER. A true and honest one because you’d hate for the potential employer to determine he lied and have him lose his job later on.

    Don’t do this. It’s not worth your reputation. The working world is small and people know people. This could hinder you professionally in the future.

  15. Yet Even Another Alison*

    Another thing to mention to your friend OP – let him know that just because an interviewer asks for your current salary does not mean you have to provide it. If your friend is significantly underpaid, mentioning this (and the amount) in an interview, particularly for women, can perpetuate the low salary. If your friend knows that he is underpaid for his experience and his abilities, then stating a number that is the market rate should raise no eyebrows with an interviewer. What he currently earns is not material to the prospective employer and is none of their business – that is between your friend and your mutual current employer.

    1. Yet Even Another Alison*

      I just read what I wrote again……Let me clarify, I stated-
      If your friend knows that he is underpaid for his experience and his abilities, then stating a number that is the market rate should raise no eyebrows with an interviewer…….
      I mean that if asked what he wants to be paid, that is how he should answer and deflect/refuse to answer questions about his current salary. I did not mean that I recommend that he lie and give a market rate for his current salary.
      Never lie to a prospective employer – your integrity is too important to your career and life.

  16. Nonprofit worker*

    I agree with Alison and PPs that this is not a good idea, mostly because it seems pretty likely that one or both of you will be caught. Since you are good friends with him, you can explain that you are willing to be a reference for him but not to lie about who you are or his role. It’s pretty normal for people to use references that are not their manager if they don’t want their manager to know that they are looking – so your friend can explain that in lieu of using his manager his reference is a colleague that he has worked with in (x capacity) for (y amount of time).

    If he is worried about getting a low salary due to his current low salary, maybe he can weave that into his reason for leaving. The company is unable to compete at market level in terms of salary and benefits.” But IIRC, Alison posted something recently about companies not being allowed to ask for previous salary.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A couple of places have passed laws that prevent asking for salary history (including most recently California), but most areas of the U.S. can still ask.

    2. Irene Adler*

      I agree with your thoughts on this.
      One thing though. I’ve lost out on jobs when I was asked what my current salary was (and I stupidly revealed this number). I know I’m under paid- that’s why I’m looking. But when they asked me my current salary ($55K) and then told me the hiring salary range ($80+K range), they felt that I was not capable of doing the job. The reasoning: if I was capable of doing the job, my current employer would be paying me $80+K.

      So I can understand why the co-worker would want someone to verify that he earns a higher salary range. But asking someone to lie, not acceptable.
      Yet another reason for job candidates to keep salary figures confidential and use expected salary for the job (based on research into the current market salaries).

  17. Office Girl*

    It’s worth noting also that asking a job candidate to share their current salary is now against the law in California–to protect employees in exactly this scenario, and ensure that companies are offering prospective hires what they’re worth/market rate and not just “current salary plus X”. It’s a shame this is not the law everywhere, as it would make this problem that both LW and her coworker have–worrying they won’t be fairly compensated in a new job since they’re underpaid now–a non-issue.

  18. Mike C.*

    Pretending to be a supervisor is of course a serious ethical problem, but I have a difficult time finding fault in trying to subvert the utterly asinine system of offering pay based on what you’ve made previously.

    1. Cordoba*

      I think the pay part falls under the “Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer” exemption.

      If an employer is asking about irrelevant salary history then they should not be surprised when most people fudge that answer.

      By doing this the employer is also inviting applicants to take the whole process less seriously.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      There is nothing good that comes from an employer trying to force a candidate to reveal either salary history or salary expectations.

      I’m hesitant to reveal my salary history because I was paid near the top of market value and beyond what a lot of smaller companies would be able to pay (or what I’d be willing to make at a better job/employer). It bit a former coworker too when she was almost excluded from consideration when she disclosed it because the company she was interviewing at couldn’t match her former salary.

      And, I just had to fill out an application that required my salary expectation by selecting one of about a dozen brackets starting at $30k and ending at $240k. It’s the worst sort of guessing game – did I go too high and risk getting rejected over it, did I go too low and risk getting low-balled or looking like I don’t know the value of the position? It’s an automated system, it shouldn’t even allow me to select salary brackets that are unreasonable for the salary budgeted for that specific job. So why not just provide the salary range for the specific job I’m applying to?

      1. SalaryExpectations*

        I have sympathy for both sides in this. I wish applicants would be honest about whether the offered salary would work for them. I work for a smallish company. We can’t pay what big businesses can. When I say “The salary band for this position is 60-65k, does it make sense to continue this conversation?” I mean it. If you continue talking to me, I am going to assume that band works for you. I am not trying to low ball you. When you come in for the interview and tell the hiring manager your minimum requirement is 75k…you wasted our time, made me look bad, and just got yourself put on our do not hire list. This has happened to my company numerous times so far this year. It is incredibly frustrating. I just wish candidates were honest after being told the salary band. I’m sure some of them think if they start high, they’ll lock in at the top of our band during negotiations, but they won’t. They would have a much better chance getting that 65k if they come in and say “I want 65k”.

        While I don’t ask candidates about their salary history, I can see why some people do. It’s easier to hear “I currently make 83k/yr” and say “We are in completely different ballparks, thank you for you time” than to just tell them our band and have them -falsely- think I am lowballing and that they can make that 65k cap into an 85k one.

        1. Sarah*

          I’m not a big fan of asking for salary history either, but I do wonder if there might be value in having the straightforward conversation of “This is going to be a 20k pay cut for you, are you really ok with that?”

          While in many cases the answer is probably no, I could see cases where the candidate realizes that is going to be the case and is perfectly all right with it (moving to a lower cost of living area from a higher cost of living area, willing to take a pay cut for better work-life balance, etc.). Having the employer decide they know better than the candidate what the candidate will accept seems equally as bad as having the candidate think they can game the system and move beyond the salary band.

        2. Cordoba*

          Twice in my career I have had employers swear up and down that their budgeted salary cap was set in stone and would not change under any circumstances; only to have them call me up later with an offer matching my original higher salary request.

          I assume they either weren’t able to find anybody willing to work within their limit or were not impressed with the candidates that they found there.

          I don’t think they were deliberately “lowballing” me as much as they had just misjudged their own need for my skill set and/or the actual market rate for it.

          Either way, my disregarding of their stated limits did not turn out to be a waste of anybody’s time. I would not hesitate to do it again.

        3. JS*

          I had the reverse happen to me. Was interviewed to for a Major Sports League and after first round of interviews recruiter asked my salary range. They said it was about 10k out of range but they had good benefits (like a VERY generous PTO and 100% paid medical) I said I would move forward on those conditions. Fast forward a phone call and a full day of 8 interviewers back to back, they ended up low balling me by 30k. Complete waste of time.

        4. Jennifer Thneed*

          Given how often people complain about the company not posting their salary range, and given that you *do* post that, it might be worth looking at why you’re getting this bad result.

          You say this has happened a lot *this year* (which is less than 2 months old). Was it happening previously? If not, what has changed? And what does “numerous times” mean to you? (We recently had an example of someone having 2 candidates turn down a job after flying out for interviews, and Alison pointed out that it’s not actually that many people.)

          Are your salaries on the low-ish side? I hear the economy is improving (although I completely disregard unemployment rates that are cited as evidence) and that might be a factor?

          Are the candidates all for the same manager, or the same part of your company? And what does “smallish” mean? Under 500 or under 5000?

  19. Hiring Mgr*

    Keep in mind this may be a ruse that your employer has concocted and enlisted your friend to help with, to test your integrity. I do this sort of thing with my staff all the time. As an example, I recently left a key to the office supply room out in the open, and got one of my team members who was in on the plan to pretend he was going to take some stuff. It’s amazing what people will do when they think nobody’s watching.


    1. Cordoba*

      That sounds bananas, and if I found out my employer were doing things like this I would quit at the earliest opportunity.

    2. Lady Phoenix*

      That is incredibly shitty. I hate “tests of loyalty” because it is often employed by abusive, insecure douchebags to gaslight and blackmail their victims into absolute compliance.

      If you trust your team, then TRUST them and don’t force them to put up with these stupid “shit” tests. That is a good way to scare off good employees that have no time for mind game bullshit.

      1. Reach out*

        This username is a poster who often likes to leave comments that are apparently intended to be amusing, but generally fail. I suspect another attempt at humour.

    3. Duffel of Doom*

      Is the ‘(s)’ at the end of your post there to signify sarcasm? Because that’s really the only thing that would make your comment okay.

      1. FD*

        Yes, it means sarcasm. Hiring Mgr was asked by some commenters to use an indicator as many people were missing the joke.

        And still are apparently.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Well, yeah, because *the entire internet* knows that the proper form is “/s”. (Which, hello, comes from programming, like so many of our internet usages.)

          (s) was kinda lame, true. I’d probably pull out all the stops and spell it out, like this: (sarcasm). It’s not like I have to ration my ink, after all.

    4. Observer*


      I suspect that you have fairly high turnover. I’m sure you think that your tactics are protecting you from that, but I would say the reverse. People with other options are NOT going to stick around for stuff like this. And given that you need to enlist other people, it’s going to get around. Which also means that eventually, people will get wise to your specific tactics and work around them. Honeypots don’t work all that well with insiders.

      1. zora*

        Could you write out (sarcasm) or (joke) or just put a winky face? It will work better if it’s a little more obvious.

      2. FD*

        I recognized it based on UN, but I would personally go /s instead of (s), which is more common, and put it on the end of the line instead of in a new line. I think a lot of people jumped over it because visually on a new line, it looks like a typo and not an intentional marker.

        (I realize that’s nitpicky and I’m not trying to be–I personally think your dry humor is funny. But I also spend a lot of time analyzing why small variations in communication work/don’t work in my free time, and that’s my off-the-cuff guess why people still missed it.)

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            FD: agree. In your example, the (s) looks kinda of like a signature.

            > I also spend a lot of time analyzing why small variations in communication work/don’t work

            This is *fascinating* to me. Mayby we can have a discussion about it in tomorrow’s open thread?

      3. This IS My Real Name, Darn It*

        This is going to come off very blunt, but it’s meant as constructive criticism to save everyone further irritation, not as a personal attack against you, Hiring Mgr.

        A lot of people use (s) to mean “smiles”–similar to *S.* And even if someone thought you meant “smiles,” that doesn’t automatically comes across as if you were making a joke…you could be smiling at your own perceived cleverness, for example. If you want to get the point across better, use /s or /sarcasm and stick it right at the end of your sarcastic statement, not on its own in a new line that’s easily missed.

        Or, y’know, don’t make these “jokes” at all in a forum where people write in because situations like your “jokes” happen in real life all the freaking time, and people write in and come here to vent because they’re NOT happy about it. Even the people here who get said “jokes” right away tend to not think they’re at all funny.

        One of the most important rules of comedy: know your audience. You kinda…don’t. Not only do widely-recognized Internet sarcasm indicators escape you, even when your jokes ARE revealed as jokes, people aren’t laughing. There are places for this kind of humor, but AAM reeeeeaaaaallllly doesn’t seem to be one. I think your relevant comments would go over much better on work blogs that are parody/satire or dry humor-based to begin with.

        1. This IS My Real Name, Darn It*

          That said, I’ll bet you have some really good actual comments to offer that are productive to the discussions on AAM! Just…not so much the jokes.

    5. Former Employee*

      Perhaps you should change your online name to “Firing Manager” (or just “Fired Mgr”). /s


  20. Lady Phoenix*

    Op, I think you wrote to Allison, knowing the right answer. I think deep down, you know something is smelling rotten in Denmark, and you wanted Allison to comment on the smell.

    And yup, something IS rotten in Denmark and that rotten something is your “friend”. You need to confront him about this:
    “Fergus, I will be happy to be your reference as your peer…. But I can’t lie to this conpany. It would be better for the both of us that you either take my honest reference or don’t take my reference at all, because I will not take the risk by lying.”

    Then guage his reaction, if he apologizes then he is a friend. But if he keeps pushing you to lie or attacks you for not wanting to lie, then you now realized this dude was not your friend.

    And let’s be honest. This dude is not “honest”. An honest person would not ask YOU to lie for them.

  21. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Ethics aside (just for the fun of it)
    Should I lie for my friend?
    No. Not because lying is wrong. Because the question is wrong.
    The question is not “how do I double my salary RIGHT NOW?”
    The question is, how to I progress to the next level of my career?
    Step 1: Don’t panic.
    Step 2: Make plan that is NOT stolen from a sitcom.*
    Step 3: Follow the plan.

  22. AdAgencyChick*

    Since this is an older post being revisited — Alison, did you ever get an update from this person? I hope she told her friend no, and I am curious as to how the friend reacted.

  23. Ten*

    Yeah, you should not only refuse to take part in this scheme, but distance yourself from this person starting right now. “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'”

  24. Decima Dewey*

    Okay, I’ve been in the workforce a long time, but it seems to me that 30K is a big number to exaggerate your salary by. So, OP, no no no no no, you should not do this.

  25. MeMeM*

    Two women did this at one of the companies I worked for. Both were fired. Not only that, but it was the gossip company wide – so “goodbye” to any references for either of them.

  26. Marthooh*

    It seems to me that the real question here is: “Damn, where can I get those stock-photo glasses?!?”

  27. Piano Girl*

    Related question – I was a reference for one of my former co-workers. When I got the call, I was informed that I had been listed as their supervisor (she didn’t get along with our supervisor at the time). I corrected them but didn’t go back to my former co-worker to ask her why. Should I have done something more? She ended up getting the job!

    1. Irene Adler*

      What more do you think you should have done?

      The error could have been the caller’s and not your former co-worker. He/she mistakenly said supervisor instead of co-worker. It happens. You set them straight. No harm, no foul.

  28. Ali*

    Peer references are acceptable, especially when a potential employer understands that your current supervisor can’t know you’re looking. Offer to serve as a peer reference based on your actual coworker relationship with this guy. They almost certainly won’t ask a peer about salary, but if they do you can say you don’t have access to that kind of information.

    If this guy doesn’t want you as a peer reference, then suggest he look elsewhere.

  29. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    After such a flagrant ethics breach as that, I wouldn’t be comfortable being a *peer* reference for him.

  30. MommyMD*

    Worst idea of the century. Also never immediately trust someone you don’t know VERY well. This guy has no ethics and if he feels things are not going his way could turn on you in an instance. Also hold it over your head if he leaves the company.

    I hope LW said an emphatic no.

  31. tangerineRose*

    Stop trusting this guy. He asked you to do something clearly unethical that could cost you your job. He’s OK with lying to prospective employees about reasonably big stuff. He doesn’t sound trustworthy to me.

  32. please*

    This may be harsh on the OP, but how is this even a question? The dude is asking the OP to blatantly lie. It’s not just “weird” – it’s unethical.

  33. Goya de la Mancha*

    Honestly, I can’t imagine one of my close friends ever asking this of me, knowing what it could do to their or my own reputation such harm.

  34. Anon please today*

    I can go one better. I was once told by a friend that he had listed me as a former supervisor (we were peers) after he had already applied somewhere. I told him I hoped they didn’t call me because I’d have to clarify that we were peers who only worked together for two months, almost ten years ago. (they didn’t call so that awkwardness was avoided)

  35. ChaoticGood*

    Places don’t really care about how much you make now. You don’t need to lie about it.

    Co-worker would only be asking for a reference if they knew they wouldn’t get a good one from their current supervisor. Is this only a question about salary negotiations? One really easy way around the salary question when interviewing that I’ve used is:

    “I’d need about [market rate] in order to make the move to a new company.”

    How much OP’s co-worker makes right now is a useless question, and a interviewer doesn’t really care anyway. This response deflects that and gets right to what they want to know: the baseline for working there. I feel like it’s a gentle, smooth way to get there, it frames it in “these are my needs”, which is something you get to talk about in an interview.

    It would be extremely weird for an interviewer to follow that up with “but that doesn’t answer my question”, because why would they care how much you make now? Do they have some rule where they *only* willing to offer anyone no more than $X more than they make now? If they did, that is a giant red flag.

    Market rate is a range of numbers, and you should have researched it by the time you’re even sniffing around (, any number of other sites by now). You can go low on the range if you’re desperate and severely underpaid, it’d still be a big raise. You can go high on this range if you’re great at your job, have great references or expertise, and you know you can demand it.

    But if a place really cares about how much you make *now*… you do Not want to Go To There.

  36. JS*

    I’ve done this before. My mom and step father own a consulting business, I have my birth father’s last name so its not obvious we are related or connected in anyway. It wasn’t a complete lie as I have done work for them before but I did not disclose that they were my parents and my position on the resume was greatly inflated as well as the length of time I was employed by them. They are business savvy and not typical “cheerleader” parents so it was believable.

    I also asked for a reference from my good friend who was a former co-worker. I didn’t have her lie about anything but she did ask me what did I want her to say and corroborate.

    Companies can hire and fire at a whim, you can have unreasonable managers or coworkers, etc. Get a job how you can get a job. As long as you can cover your tracks and know the industry you are applying in work it how you can.

  37. Blackwing Lair*

    Woooow I love how this co-worker wants to make the OP bear the full brunt of the lying. By that I mean, if he were determined to have his “references” tell employers that his salary is higher than it actually is, he could have just told the OP that his salary is [the desired number he wants OP to say]. How would OP know differently?

    Not saying that that deception is good either, but it seems even more icky to me that the co-worker wants OP to be just as deeply mired in the misdeed as he is, if OP agreed to the plan.

  38. Greg*

    This is way less dodgy than the OP’s situation, but I have a cousin whom I’m fairly close to who has been going through a rough career patch for the past few years. A couple years ago, he asked me to write him a LinkedIn recommendation (we work in somewhat similar fields but have never worked together in any professional capacity).

    I felt horrible, because I really wanted to help him out, but I wasn’t sure what I could say that wasn’t either a) untrue, since I had no insight on his professional accomplishments, or b) unhelpful, since “He’s my cousin and is a smart guy” isn’t going to do him much good.

    I ended up ignoring the request, and he never followed up.

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