job candidate’s wife keeps contacting me, even after I’ve told her to stop

A reader writes:

I have a candidate in our hiring process. Due to the industry (skilled trades) I work in, we require a number of safety tickets, orientations, supplemental training, and coordination of flights and camp prior to an employee starting. This candidate, we will call him Bob, seems to be a good fit for the position, but I am having difficulties communicating with him because his wife, Sue, is very involved to the point of interfering.

If I leave a voicemail for Bob, Sue will call me without Bob being present. If I am able to get Bob on the line, and he is with Sue, he will put the call on speaker phone with Sue. Sue is also the one responding to the emails I have sent requesting training certificates and confirming booking times.

She asks all the typical questions candidates themselves would ask ask: travel, accommodations, what the process is, what the deadlines are for the documents I need, where/when the supplemental training will happen.

Bob said she likes to “be involved.” I told him while I appreciate that, it makes it difficult to complete the onboarding process when she is as involved as she is and I need to have confidence that he can perform independently.

I have let Sue know that I cannot discuss Bob’s employment with her, but she continues to call and email. I have been making a point of calling Bob’s cellphone and not their shared houseline to ensure that I am speaking with Bob only, but they have a shared email.

It’s not uncommon for some of our tradespeople to have their spouses help them throughout the process. Sometimes they are out of town and have poor phone service or they are not very computer literate and need help with that aspect of it all. But I’ve never had a spouse this involved ever, and it’s fairly off-putting, to be honest.

I’m tempted to pull his offer and find another candidate, as this is proving to be much more work on my end managing both Sue and Bob and, to be frank, this is reflecting very poorly on Bob’s capabilities of being independent and competent. In your opinion, what is the best way to proceed?

In most hiring contexts, my response to this would be “nope, absolutely not, a spouse cannot be involved like this, and this is a huge red flag about Bob’s understanding of professional norms.

But you’re in a field where apparently spouses sometimes do get involved and it’s not considered weird. So we should make some allowances for that. But this sounds like it’s way beyond anything that would be considered normal in your field and, what’s more, it’s continued after you’ve told them both that it needs to stop.

If Bob had had cited computer literacy when you asked about it, I’d cut them both more slack, since this sounds like a job where computer literacy isn’t required.

But if this is happening just because Sue “likes to be involved”? After you’ve told them both it’s a problem? That’s alarming. Is she going to “like to be involved” after he’s hired too, when you talk to Bob about salary increases, project assignments, work travel, and so forth?

Of course, it’s possible that there’s a more reasonable explanation that Bob wasn’t comfortable sharing. For example, maybe it’s reading literacy, not just computer literacy … or a brain injury that has left him terrible with this kind of process but great at the kind of work you’re hiring him for … or who knows. But if there is an explanation like that, one of them should have explained it to you, particularly after you clearly told both of them that it needs to stop. The fact that they didn’t, even after you pushed back, is what worries me the most, because it says that they don’t see anything odd about what they’re doing, despite your explanations to the contrary … and that means that you can’t be confident that it won’t continue after Bob is hired.

That said, you do want to be open to the possibility that there’s more to this and they don’t realize that it would be better to explain it than to leave you in the dark.

I’d try saying this to Bob: “We’ve talked about how I need to deal with you directly about our hiring and onboarding process, but your wife has continued to call and email me. While it’s fine for candidates to get a bit of assistance with the process from a spouse, for the most part I need to be dealing with you and only you. I’m concerned that it’s continuing even after we’ve talked about it. Is there anything I need to understand about the situation and what’s driving her involvement?”

But if that doesn’t elicit anything that helps this make more sense, then I’d say: “Talking to two different people is additional work on our end, and we need to ensure we’re hiring someone who will be self-sufficient in the role. So I’m really only able to work with you going forward. Is that something that will work on your end?”

{ 351 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A note here about speculation for the reasons that might be behind this: Because it quickly becomes derailing, please limit speculation on facts not presented by the letter-writer to reasonable assumptions based on the information provided. If you’re speculating on facts or context not in the letter, please explain how it’s actionable for the letter-writer.

  2. Sloan Kittering*

    Oh jeez, this is the situation where it’s best to screen a number and just never answer her calls. Since you’ve already told her clearly that you’re not going to communicate with her further about her husband, I might put someone like this in my contacts list as “crazy person do not answer,” redirect emails to a folder specifically for them, etc. I find most success if I never reward this behavior – she never gets an answer to phone or email (because you are always redirecting to husband) maybe she stops? My sympathies.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This would absolutely be the way to go if they didn’t share an email address. This is so aggravating! In a way, I would get it if a spouse helped set up travel and confirmed appointments (I keep the family calendar, so while I wouldn’t do this for my partner, I could see it being efficient), but the other stuff? Nuh-uh.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, this is the really big issue. It’s not that Sue is involved with one or two (relatively minor) parts of the process because reasons. It’s that she’s acting like in hiring Bob, they are actually hiring the couple. That’s a very different thing.

        1. Mommy MD*

          Yes. I would not hire this Mommy’s boy. He needs to show he’s a grown up who can manage his own career.

        2. SAS*

          That’s what’s so strange to me too- that she is actively engaging as herself. My mum actually does write all my dads correspondence (including work-related letters and emails) due to his literacy but it is all in his words (via dictation) and signed with his name. Having to deal with this as an employer would do my head in!

    2. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      My guess is they share an email address ‘’. I have known people to share a social media account too, somehow circumventing Facebook’s name convention rules to be ‘BobandSue Smith’. It’s like getting married meant they were surgically attached to each other…

      1. many bells down*

        My spouse and I have a shared email, but it’s for things like household bills and notices from the high school – stuff we both need to have access to. Certainly never for our individual work.

        1. Snark*

          And given that it takes about 37 seconds to get a new Gmail account up and running, it’s a little weird for anyone to use a shared account for work communications.

          Also, yes, I freely admit that there are people for whom setting up a new gmail account is above their level of computer literacy. I will further freely admit that that would be a dealbreaker for me, all by itself.

          1. Steve*

            I have a family member who used to be sufficiently incompetent at email that he gave his password to a few trusted friends and they would let him know if there was anything important in his inbox.

            But then again he only dealt with work things by phone, and worked in an industry which was very specific and he was sought after, so the email quirk was a personal thing rather than a professional issue. Still, I do find it hilarious, given that I’m quite comfortable with computers and… I guess he just had the perfect amount of quirkiness that this solution seemed perfectly consistent with everything else.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              For a long time I had my dad’s email set up to forward to my account so I could let him know if there was anything he needed to take care of. He’s gotten the hang of it now though.

            2. I'm Not Phyllis*

              I do this for my grandmother who is 93. I still think it’s weird to go into her email though – it feels like reading someone’s diary or personal correspondence.

              1. Anonymosity*

                Think of it as being her personal assistant–if she were the CEO of Ninety-Three Plus Co., you’d be screening all her emails anyway.

          2. uranus wars*

            I don’t know. My stepdad has been a welder in a machine shop for 35 years. He’s never switched jobs but they don’t even get a company email. And he works for a huge international company. Now, were he to ever job search my mom would in no way, shape or form do any work for him and make he answer his own damn emails, but if you literally have no reason to email I think having a shared email is fine.

            What I do think is a deal breaker is the wife’s level of involvement in this entire scenario.

              1. Mommy MD*

                I said nothing about shared emails. Yes, this level of involvement would be a deal killer for me.

        2. Kat in VA*

          Same. But we both have gmail accounts with firstname.lastname and while we both have access to each other’s account for various reasons, I would never go into his account and blithely answer/handle an email unless he was out of pocket and specifically asked me to do so. And if so, I would do whatever needed handling under his name. Phone calls for him? Uh, no.

          I also handle all the travel and calendaring in the household (perils of being an exec assistant!), but if I were handling such things for the husband, I would do so discreetly and without his potential employer/employer knowing I was involved in any fashion whatsoever.

          This level of interference/management from Sue is…weird.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          My parents shared an email address for a long time – one they got from their ISP. When they each started job searching, I insisted on setting up individual gmail addresses with their names.

      2. Holly*

        There was a couple I knew (a Rabbi and his wife) and they would “share” a facebook but it would just be the husband’s name and photos, so when it was the wife communicating it would be very disorienting. A little too much, IMO, but to each their own.

        1. Nanani*

          My grandparents did something like this, mostly because one of them was far more computer-savvy than the other, and the less-computer-inclined one would probably never use an individual account but did go into the shared one to “like” family photos and such.

          But they were out of the workforce before internet accounts mattered in hiring.

          1. Holly*

            I totally think it makes sense especially for grandparents where one isn’t computer savvy (and can be cute). I find it a little icky when it’s a younger couple, especially in public facing roles like the couple I mentioned, and when its the man who is front and center and wife’s online persona is “erased” as such.

        2. Free now (and forever)*

          I have a former student, who grew up in my Conservative synagogue and eventually got very frum and became a Chabad rabbi. He and his wife have a Facebook page like that. That’s apparently the tact taken by the Ultra Orthodox who allow Facebook or the use of the Internet (as opposed to those who find the Internet and social media to be an anathema.)

        3. Cheesehead*

          I belong to a board where a guy comments on other’s posts from time to time, using his wife’s account. So the post might be from “Melinda Jones-Smith”, but then at the end of every post he types “–Jonathan Smith”. It annoys me. Because geez, dude, if you’re on FB that much to the point where you request access to a private group and then post on it semi-frequently, get your own FB account!

        4. Carol Pilbasian, The Notary*

          I have relatives who did the same thing, the wife just used the husband’s Facebook account – they didn’t combine names, just posted everything under his name. Which was fine, you never quite knew which one you were talking to, but whatever works for them! But then he passed away, and she continues to use his account exclusively. So it’s now very jarring to see my deceased relative commenting on my latest recipe post!

      3. Bilateralrope*

        My parents were sharing an email address for years, because the only option their ISP offered was to alias different addresses to the same email account. Then my Dad had a lot of fun trying to make filters to separate the emails for him and my mum into seperate folders in Outlook Express. Writing a filter that looked at the address an email was sent to was not an option.

        It only stopped when he changed ISPs to one that offered multiple, separate, email accounts. Even then, he would have stuck with aliases and his mess of filters if that was an option.

      4. AKchic*

        Shared social media accounts mean one of two things:

        Either they are older and still share an email account; or one of them cheated.

        1. TheBeetsMotel*

          Yep! That seems to be the case 99% of the time.

          With couples who really don’t “do” Facebook other than to occasionally keep up with pics of the grandkids, a shared account doesn’t seem weird, but if it’s anyone in their 20’s-40’s, the pattern is almost always as follows:

          1. Separate accounts
          2. One of the two starts posting a lot of “meaningful” memes about loyalty and trust and forgiveness
          3. “It’s Complicated”
          4. “CheaterAndCheatee Smith”

          1. JSPA*

            Eh, seen these too:
            Addictive and/or illegal behavior with an online component.
            A developing or newly-diagnosed incapacity leading to enveloping, protective behavior.
            Anxiety disorder or PTSD.
            Traveling / minimal email access.
            One spouse is being stalked (cyber or otherwise).
            domestic abuser / abused.
            Voluntary relinquishment of control / independence (remember the “call my boyfriend “master” thread?).
            Internet “addiction” self-treatment

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              I’m not sure why an anxiety disorder or PTSD would be a reason (and I HAVE an anxiety disorder).

        2. Lehigh*

          Third option for a newly-serious relationship and one of them has been cheated on in the past. Of course, in the cases I’ve seen I’m not THAT close to them so maybe there was some very-early-cheating I don’t know about.

        3. Engineer Girl*

          Define older. I know some folks in their 40s that share and have an incredible marriage. He does have a separate work account.

        4. Annie Moose*

          Another answer: one member in the relationship is disturbingly controlling.

          (which… doesn’t seem to be the case in LW’s candidate’s case, but still. I worry when I see this stuff, because I know people for whom it is a Very Bad Sign about boundaries and healthy relationships)

    3. Josie*

      This guy must have an awesome set of skills to put up with this. I would have ditched him already – what a train wreck! She will be nothing but trouble – she sounds like a nut. You will be sorry if you hire this guy.

      1. Alan Hope*

        My view exactly. If he’s not the Stephen Hawking of the industry, show him the door. He’s already ignoring a directive from a superior that really ought not to require explanation. Nothing is going to get better with this pair.

    4. Letter Writer*

      I have been screening her calls and not returning her voicemails. I also have not been responding to the emails that she is sending me with her own questions or ideas. I have found that is helping, especially as she is currently out of town so I know when I’m talking to Bob I am just talking to Bob.

      1. Zona the Great*

        Good for you. I’d also respond to any email she writes by saying, “Bob, I received a question from Sue about X. As I’ve mentioned, I cannot continue to discuss these things with her. Please call me at this number to discuss.” and then don’t entertain her if she calls.

      2. Mommy MD*

        Tell Bob directly he is the candidate and you need to hear directly from him. If he can’t do this, buh bye. You need to hire a grown up.

        1. TootsNYC*

          yeah< I wouldn't be asking "Is that something you can do going forward?"

          I'd be telling:

          "If I hear from Sue again, I'm going to stop the process and we won't hire you."
          Sure, I'd ask the "this is way too involved, much more so than any other candidate, and it's getting in the way. Is there something going on here that I should be aware of, that means I should be more patient with this?"

          But if it's, oh, a brain injury that means Bob can't communicate without Sue, then he can't do the job!

      3. Chinookwind*

        Have you asked Bob if he is okay with her being so involved? The answer should be more than “she likes to do it” and, instead, focus on whether he likes her doing it. It is slightly possible that this is the controlling behavior of an abusive spouse and he that he doesn’t realize that it normal or right.

        That being said, I have been the spouse having to deal with DH’s bills, benefits that pertain to me and other stuff in his name because he not easily contactable (right now he is in Nunavut and I think only I and his parents have his number there because the only cell provider is a local one) and this isn’t the first time we have had to deal with it. It is common for military spouses and those who work in the oilfield as well and, frankly, I have seen no spouse in a healthy relationship that involved with their spouse’s workplace (and that includes when said spouse actually lived in military housing). If the employee is able to talk to their employer by phone, than the spouse should not be involved.

        Lastly, do you have anything in place to help employees who lack literacy skills? I know that it is possible to do some jobs quite well without solid reading and writing knowledge but it does mean that, if you hire without those skills being a requirement, you need to ensure that they can have a way to fill out paperwork verbally.

      4. GlitsyGus*

        That’s a good start. I think doing that, plus laying it out the way Allison suggested is the best course of action. I would also recommend if he puts you on speaker just say, “please take me off speaker, Bob, I’m only calling to speak to you.”

        If she is still ignoring your unreturned voicemails and such when she gets back after you told Bob that this is it on that, then you can decide if his qualifications really outweigh dealing with this woman from here on out. Because you will be if you hire him.

  3. Overbooked*

    I’m so glad you mentioned possible literacy issues as something to consider. They’re more pervasive than we like to think.

    1. Snark*

      It’s worth factoring in, I guess, but I consider functional literacy to be such a fundamental qualification for professional employment it almost goes without saying, so…..does it change things much for OP?

      1. Jen*

        I have to agree. Even in trades, literacy can be a necessary skill (contracts, work orders, directions, communications from clients, etc). I can feel sorry for someone with those issues, but if they can’t do a necessary part of the job, it is a non starter.

      2. Blargh*

        It might. The hiring process (especially “flights” and “camp”) have me thinking this is some sort of remote trade work — logging, mining, etc. A lot of those jobs don’t necessarily require high literacy for certain roles.

        1. Jen*

          The phone calls though suggest this could be even more of a codependent problem than just a literacy issue. If Sue calls his clients or answers those kinds of calls, that is going to be a big big problem. Not to mention if she tries to handle stuff like salary or discipline issues for him. There are legal issues at play there too.

        2. Snark*

          If you’re dealing with someone who has to be self-sufficient in a remote field location for extended periods, I’d think this sort of thing would be even more of a dealbreaker, not less – having done remote field work with folks who were bad at logistics, it’s no party.

          1. Persimmons*

            This! Maybe Sue missed her calling as the wife of Insubordinate Moses from last Thursday’s letter.

        3. Antilles*

          True, but the problem is that it goes beyond just the literacy – putting the phone on speaker any time she is there and routing all communication through her is an issue even if the literacy in and of itself might not be.

          1. tacoTsunami*

            What about references? I feel like it might come up in a reference check if Sue was horribly invasive during a period of employment (as opposed to training/pre-employment). It might not be a direct mention, but it could be something a little more oblique, like “Bob is a great worker, but he sometimes needs assistance handling details”. At least then you’d know if this is standard behavior which needs to be addressed.

        4. Observer*

          I can’t imagine a scenario where *basic* literacy would not be a requirement in a remote location. There is just no way that someone can be given and retain any and all information that they might need. So there has to be some stuff in writing. And if you are remote / isolated, not being able to read that stuff is going to be a REALLY big problem, especially if it’s safety related.

          Baby sitting is not a job that generally requires a high level of education or literacy. But I learned that *basic* literacy is an absolute requirement. A family member recommended someone she knew as a babysitter, and I hired her. Very nice, reliable, responsible, good with kids, etc. One day FM called me to say “I dropped by your house and I saw Kid (toddler at the time) holding a bottle tylenol. BabySitter didn’t realize what it was. I didn’t know that she can’t read well enough to know what’s in a pill bottle. I explained what it was, but I thought you need to know.” Yes, I did. Alternate arrangements were made immediately.

      3. Nita*

        Yes, it sounds like the tradespeople do not need to be computer-literate, but they do need to be functionally literate, because how will they complete the safety training if they, for instance, have trouble reading safety signs, SDS sheets, or labels on wiring?

        1. Elemeno P.*

          Many people lacking literacy skills will memorize that sort of information. Safety information is often conveyed with symbols, colors, and numbers, which are all easier to read. That said, nuanced information does require functional literacy skills.

          1. ShanShan*

            Yeah, I understand that literacy is important in a lot of jobs, but if someone can’t get ANY job when they have literacy issues, how are they supposed to support themselves long enough to learn?

            If this is a literacy issue, it sounds like Bob has developed a fairly reliable workaround that will probably also get him through any necessary training etc. Obviously, he should be working on this, but it’s not like he can fix it overnight, and he still needs to pay his bills while he’s working on it.

            1. Snark*

              That is a problem for Bob. It is not a problem for OP. She can’t teach him to read, if in fact that’s the problem.

            2. JM60*

              “it sounds like Bob has developed a fairly reliable workaround”

              If illiteracy is causing the problem that the OP is facing, then it sounds like it’s not reliably working. It sounds like it’s reliably causing problems for the OP.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            It’s amazing how much people can retain and how long they can go before the problem reveals itself. I had a subordinate that seemed a little unsure of herself, I did not think anything further. It was probably over a year I noticed little things, like the boxes of X would be right in front of her and she could not find them. (We had a forest of boxes, the Xs were stacked next to the Ys and then there were piles of Zs and so on.) I thought, “That’s odd, but okay then…..”

            Then the company passed out memos. She was visibly shaken. The memo did not warrant that level of reaction. I talked to her about the memo and how it would impact her and she calmed down.

            Then one day it clicked for me. She made a BIG MISTAKE. HUGE. And she said, “No, I didn’t make a mistake, here’s my proof.” She gave me papers to back up what she was saying. The papers proved she indeed made the huge mistake.

            She knew the letters. And I think she recognized a few words here and there. But if she got upset all that learning vaporized, what little ability she had to read just went away when she became upset/frightened. So I talked to a friend of hers and asked her if she thought she could help. She said she would be GLAD to help. I don’t know what happened after that, I had gone over the line to do that much. I suspect something may have happened because the instances that I had been seeing right along faded.

            My gut says this guy is leaning on his wife for some kind of assistance, but I can only guess what this might be.
            OP, assume people are on their best behavior when they are trying to get job. So, if this is his best right now, the future is not looking bright here.

      4. Vin Packer*

        I think maybe you don’t have a good sense of what “functional literacy” actually looks like in practice.

        If literacy in all its forms is your absolute jam, you might not realize that business email correspondence and HR paperwork require a sort of nimbleness that is only relevant to a skilled-tradesperson during onboarding and then never again.

        Like, maybe the guy COULD write the email, but it would take him an hour where it takes his wife minutes; maybe he can read blueprints and job tickets just fine but the corporate jargon of HR paperwork is out of his depth.

        Skilled tradesmen are my people, and I know so many people of a certain generation who know exactly what to do when they get inside of a machine the size of a room that’s making a “funny noise,” almost as if by instinct, but type with two fingers and need a lot of time to process reading a paragraph.

        It’s causing a problem in this case, and the weird speakerphone stuff is a bit different, but I think Alison’s advice is absolutely perfect–both the holding firm on what the OP needs from this guy and the consideration of literacy, which the OP herself said is a thing in her field–and should be followed exactly.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          My dad is like this. He has dyslexia, but he is a brilliant engineer and can build just about anything (built himself a car when he was in the Peace Corps!). He actually can read just fine but cannot write, either in English nor his native tongue. So he relies on my mother to answer his emails for him. But he can manage his own day-to-day business and scheduling needs and the jobs he’s done (he’s mostly retired now) haven’t needed him to write anything ever. So it’s entirely possible that Bob is in this situation.

          However, my mother knows business conventions and any time Dad has asked her to deal with something business-related, she knows that he really needs to talk to the company itself and will make him do that and she will deal with anything else that he needs her to deal with. Sue obviously doesn’t know this – or chooses to ignore it. In any case, if Bob is really brilliant at what he does, maybe LW could tell him in no uncertain terms that if Sue bothers her in any way going forward, that is a dealbreaker and he will not get the job. Same goes for once he’s hired; Bob needs to know, firmly, that the company WILL NOT speak to Sue about ANYTHING and that if it starts to become a problem, he will be let go (maybe after three incidents or something like that, not immediately after the first one).

          But if Bob is just your run-of-the-mill candidate, I’d say tell him now that because of Sue, he is no longer being offered the position.

          I feel for you, LW. What a headache.

          1. irritable vowel*

            Yes, it seems like there’s a combination of things going on here – for example, Bob has literacy or info processing issues, but their relationship involves Sue “managing” him to an extent that is abnormal.

            1. Vin Packer*

              These are both good takes.

              “It is okay for a person to need their spouse to handle their email” and “Bob isn’t going to work out as a candidate” can both be true here at the same time.

          2. Anonymosity*

            This makes sense. I once wrote a hardship letter for Farm Boy Ex to get him out of jury duty–he could read and write, but that sort of thing was beyond him. He worked in shipping and receiving at the time and did just fine at work and even used the computer there, although he disliked them and didn’t use mine at all at home.* Regardless, for the kind of work he did, writing business-level correspondence of that nature wasn’t a skill he needed. I wrote the letter explaining the situation and he signed it.

            *I have no idea if he’s using one now; that was twenty years ago. But I was futzing about one night out of boredom and tried to look him up. He had no online presence that I could see, so I’m guessing not.

        2. JSPA*

          Lots of dyslexic people do amazing work, but can’t take notes or schedule effectively if they’re not in a situation where they feel free to record themselves. If you’re open to someone who has to use a reader / recorder app (or ask someone to make the note), be open about that. I did a brief stint of Laubach literacy with a dyslexic father and son. Both bright, personable. I’m sure they could be hired for any number of jobs, with the understanding that the would need to be some work-arounds for reading.)

      5. CanCan*

        Joint email is ok. Helping the spouse respond to emails is ok. However, the wife’s role should be limited to a “ghostwriter.” She can read Bob’s emails, tell him the content, consult with him re. how she could respond, sign her response as “Bob”, and tell Bob exactly what she wrote., – so that the employer feels they’re dealing with Bob, and so Bob remains 100% responsible for all communications.

        1. Yvette*

          Exactly. Most people with literacy issues or reading difficulties who have made it that far in life are usually very, very skilled at hiding it. They don’t want it to be obvious that someone is writing/reading their correspondence for them. And this would not account for the phone calls being on speaker, etc.

      6. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*


        One of my local trade schools have programs that require a grade 8 education for admission (heavy equipment operator, if I recall correctly), and others require grade 10.

        A person in a remote logging town operating a skidder can probably get by just fine without the skills to write business e-mails/letters/etc. It in no way precludes them from being excellent at their job.

        1. Videogame Lurker*

          When I went to high school (Class of 2012), I know there were a decent number of people in my classes who were at elementary grade level of reading levels. This may be more of a US phenomena for all I know, but from my work experience in elementary schools, students who are at or above their grade’s reading level are not as common as one may think. At least half are below grade reading level (the gap between grade reading level and grade is slowly being shortened, at my workplaces, but is still there).

          1. Christmas Carol*

            But if grade level is defined as the average reading level for that grade, wouldn’t half of the kids always be below grade level? That is, except in Lake Woebegon.

            1. jb*

              Grade level is a range. If you’re within x% of the expected average, you’re at grade level, regardless of how you compare to your actual peers.

            2. Kelly L.*

              I’ve always understood “grade level” to mean “the level at which you’re expected to read in that grade,” in terms of word difficulty and such, not the average of the actual students. You could theoretically have a class who could all read at grade level, or a class where no one could.

        2. Alan Hope*

          Fair enough, but it seems to me that the issue here is not Bob’s literacy, but his failure to disclose an issue which could affect his ability to do the job. That and the fact that he has actively ignored an instruction from HR regarding his conduct in a job he’s hoping to be hired for.

    2. Lynca*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it was that given the shared email. I even know people in my own community who gained literacy later in their lives.

    3. space alien*

      My first thought was that Bob is illiterate, also.

      We had an illiterate employee at one of my last jobs. His job was to man the customer service desk at a member-only facility, which included pretty significant reading (ex: not letting people in if they’d expired, processing new memberships, signing people up for add on programs, completing safety checklists.)

      He worked around being illiterate by being extra-grouchy if asked and saying he was “much too busy” to be doing all of these things, and also by being the only person who was willing to show up on time at an ungodly hour of the morning (4:30 am.) He basically got away with refusing to do 80% of his job, just by showing up every day.

      1. bluephone*

        welcome to nursing LOLSOB
        My mom is a retired nurse and every time a news story breaks about an “angel of death” RN–or even when she had coworkers who were clearly stealing meds and still somehow escaped termination–she’s like, “was that nurse volunteering for all overtime shifts, staying late, etc? Then that’s all the hospital cared about because god forbid they put out the money to hire another nurse or three to actually cover staffing.”
        TLDR–It’s normally kind of freeing to know that a large part of success is just showing up on time (or at all) but sometimes it leads to junk like this and your office’s situation, where clearly-horrible employees get to skate by forever, just because management can’t find anyone else to be a warm body.

    4. Aveline*

      My grandfather was a carpenter with a third-grade education. He was, for all intents and purposes, functionally illiterate. He couldn’t even read basic stories to me as a child. Our next door neighbor could write down dates and times, but could not go beyond that. Both of them came to my mother to do their banking, etc.

      Both of them could communicate on the phone, setup their own appointments, etc. They were capable of managing most aspects of their lives.

      Grandfather worked in fields, factories, and as a carpenter during his life. He was really quite capable of managing the day to day of taking orders from people and building furniture to spec.

      From personal experience with this, the literacy issue might explain the joint email. It would explain assistance with applications and procuring documents. It does not explain her answering and returning his calls.

      That’s an executive functioning issue, not a literacy issue. It could also be fear. If he’s not fully literate, he might have been severely punished for it in his past jobs and needs the wife as an emotional crutch.

      What OP needs to known is this:

      (1) Is this a meddling wife or does the candidate have an underlying issue?
      (2) If it’s a meddling wife, can she be made to stop? If it’s an underling issue, will it impact the job?
      (3) Is there anything the OP can do to assist the candidate in completing his process himself and cutting out the wife.

      OP needs to explain that the wife is overly-involved and it needs to stop. He or she needs to explain that they are willing to work with OP if there is some issue like literacy, brain damage, PTSD, etc.

      If OP shows empathy and the willingness to assist and then the candidate doesn’t take the helping hand, it doesn’t really matter why wife is involved.

    5. A tester, not a developer*

      A lot of the workarounds that a functionally illiterate person can come up with are pretty impressive. My mother dated a man who worked with fairly complex machinery. When they upgraded, he took tons of pictures of the new control panel and brought them home. My mother would read off the labels, and he essentially memorized where stuff was (“all the speed options are the blue buttons above the left lever”, etc.). I remember saying that since he was so good at memorizing, I was surprised he didn’t just memorize letters and then read. I got sent to my room for that – I wasn’t even trying to be a smarta$$…

      1. ElspethGC*

        There was a BBC article about an American man who went through university and was a teacher for 17 years – couldn’t read or write a full sentence. Searching “bbc news illiterate teacher” should bring it up. It was fascinating – he hadn’t told anyone until he got married, and even then his wife didn’t believe him. He taught things that didn’t require writing, like sports, or watched films in class, or he taught typing because he was good at copy-typing but couldn’t read what he was typing, and got the kids in his class to be ‘teacher’s aides’. Apparently it wasn’t until Barbara Bush started talking about adult literacy in TV that he realised he wasn’t the only one.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          One of my uncles is dyslexic, and didn’t learn to read until he was an adult, because he married a woman who had been trained in helping dyslexic people learn how to read. He went to school before dyslexia was widely recognized, so it wasn’t realized until his wife did and helped him.

          That said, he’s good with machinery – not sure what he’s doing now, but for a long time he had a business working on the big cranes they use at ports to unload ships.

      2. MM*

        I’m sure you were young at the time and hadn’t thought this through deeply, but just for the record, reading is not simply a memorization skill. It’s a cognitive process with a lot of other operations and faculties involved. The existence of dyslexia is an easy way to see that this is the case.

    6. NW Mossy*

      While the OP doesn’t address it, it’s also possible that Bob may have English as a second language. Particularly for those who learned a secondary language informally, verbal fluency can significantly outpace literacy in that same language.

      1. Posi*

        But could also mean that all of the technical jargon involved in the on-boarding process could be extra intimidating. And when you are talking about benefits and safety and all that it could make a huge difference to your family it makes sense to outsource those communications to someone else if you are less than confident in your ability to answer in the moment.

        Also another consideration, is this going to be an employee or a contract employee? (W-2 vs 1099) If this is a 1099 employee then it is my understanding that he could technically outsource any elements of the job so long as it is done. If this has been the case for him before or if he has been doing his own small business thing, he might handle the skilled labor part and his wife could handle the business part (from what I’ve seen this is super common.)

        Finally, while the post modern emphasis on strict individualism has moved marriage toward the two parties being seen largely as separate there is plenty of historical and legal room for them to be considered “one” (as in “the two shall become one”), that the group identity of the marriage can superseded the individual identity. They are one household, with one set of household finances etc.

        1. MM*

          My aunt and uncle are like this, though I’ve never gotten any indication that he has literacy or language issues. He does the fishing/logging/motorcycle repair, she runs the admin (and sells eggs, etc on the side). It seems to work well for them.

          I would suggest that atomized individualism is a thoroughly modern, rather than postmodern, concept, but getting into the weeds on that would be off-topic!

    7. strawberries and raspberries*

      I read a report a while ago about how widespread illiteracy is across many different sectors, and the different strategies people use to disguise it (anything from claiming they forgot their glasses to taking work home, where someone is usually helping them with it). Oftentimes these people will repeatedly turn down promotions or anything that would entail more responsibility and ultimately more reading. Even though it’s a fundamental qualification, it’s one of those things that carries so much stigma that you’re not likely to realize it’s an issue until you ask.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*


        I was a volunteer literacy for a while. And even though I was there to help and knew they were illiterate, the strategies and stigma were so ingrained that it was easy to see how it was invisible to others. (I have yet to find something as rewarding as watching someone’s face light up after reading a sentence on their own.)

        These people all held jobs. Had cell phones and email addresses so I could reach them. More than likely there was someone behind the scenes helping them. Now, I never had to deal with a spouse but that does sound like what’s happening here. Hopefully, she’ll calm down once he’s hired.

        1. Becky*

          I don’t want to derail too much here, but I’m interested in literacy programs and community literacy work. Would you mind bringing this up and talking about your experiences in the Friday thread?

    8. WS*

      Yes, I work in healthcare in a farming community and a good proportion of the men over 60 (and smaller but significant proportion of younger men) are functionally illiterate. This doesn’t stop them running multi-million dollar farm businesses with the occasional assistance of other family members. We always give clear verbal instructions as well as written for this reason. Whether this is an issue for OP is going to depend entirely on what is required of Bob when he’s actually working.

    9. media monkey*

      agree. my father in law only learned to read when my husband went to school (he would have been around 40). he can read now but that’s a lot of years when he couldn’t and as a crane driver then lorry driver, he got by. i think people in those circumstances develop amazing coping mechanisms and ways to avoid showing that they can’t read.

  4. Myrin*

    Oh my, I’m exhausted just reading this, especially since it sounds like this has been going on for a while.
    I’d give him once chance to give a reasonable explanation using Alison’s excellent script, but if nothing satisfactory comes of this (which I’m honestly assuming it won’t, but who knows), I’d pull the offer, especially since this is something you’re already considering anyway.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah, this.

      I can see saying “I’m out of town, so my spouse is going to send you copies of my x, y, and z certifications”, but this is over the top and it would give me serious concerns about Bob’s ability to perform his job independently.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Honestly, it sounds like time for an ultimatum. “Bob, if I hear directly from your wife again I’m going to pull your offer and bring in someone else. This cannot happen even one more time. You need to prove to me you can handle things like this on your own.” Then stick to that. I feel like he really needs to hear clearly and directly that this is not just a little problem, that he is going to loose the job offer because of it.

      1. EddieSherbert*


        I honestly think you need to draw a VERY obvious line here, and would go with a tougher approach like this. You may even find that he doesn’t want the job if his wife can’t be involved (or more accurately she doesn’t want him to take it…).

        1. Not So NewReader*

          That is what I am thinking, too. The guy AND his wife cannot follow instructions. I think I would be done here. This is way too much work and he is not even employed yet.

        2. MommyMD*

          Me too. Whatever is going on wife could have helped him quietly in the background. This guy is being led around like a little boy and that’s not a good trait in a grown up employee. He doesn’t get that it’s weird.

    3. Anon Accountant*

      Me too. I’m thinking she will get even more involved if he was hired. Plus become a complete nuisance.

      1. Agenda*

        I knew someone like this. It did get worse, to the point where if the employee was being sent to a project elsewhere (which was the norm for the job), his wife started calling his managers to try and get them to shorten his project so he’d get sent home before or for “special surprise dinners” she had planned for him well within the timeframe of his project. She even resorted to trying to bribe the managers with pastries and candy that had she couriered to their personal home address (how she obtained those is beyond me).

    4. Persimmons*

      Sue is only going to get worse after hiring is done and Bob is more entrenched in the role. I’d pull the offer and be done with it.

      1. wheeeee*

        YES – he is not able (or not willing, but either way…) to perform all the functions of the job on his own.

    5. Annon for this*

      I have a set of in law’s like Sue and Bob. Sue has cost Bob at least two jobs over the years. Bob has had 3 jobs in 30 years. All of the family’s fingers are crossed for this last job.

  5. Snark*

    My guess? This will continue to happen after Bob is hired. And it will be even more of a pain in the ass, because you’ll be communicating critical work information to Sue, who will relay it with varying degrees of accuracy to Bob, and blah blah blah. And it will drive you bonkers. It sounds like Bob has, for whatever reason, ceded a great deal of his decision-making and logistics for his and other jobs to Sue, and I share Alison’s concern at the end that he’s not capable of being self-sufficient. And that’s a dealbreaker in my book, whatever the reason for it might be!

    Personally, I think you’d be 100% on firm ground dropping Bob from consideration for this reason alone, here and now. If not that, I think skipping straight to the final script – we are only able to work with you going forward, is that workable – is also totally defensible.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Yes, I would bet (from reading enough AAM posts over the years) that Sue temporarily backs off just long enough for Bob to get the job, then goes back to what she was doing. I would just cut him loose because it’s going to be like this no matter what you say.

      1. Jen*

        I think you may be right sadly. This has already created a headache for LW. Probably best to just call it now. Those “soft” issues can end up being everything in an employment relationship. It just isn’t worth it.

    2. EmilyG*

      I hope OP can provide more detail about the job, because I was picturing this quite differently: that Bob would fly to the worksite/camp and be there on his own while Sue stayed at home. That doesn’t change what her behavior looks like now but it does change what it might look like going forward!

      1. Letter Writer*

        This is precisely what the job would be.

        Bob would fly to the remote job site for a 14/14 rotation (14 days on, 14 days off), where there are employer-provided camps in the town which includes 3 meals per day and a daily housekeeping service, to get to site the foreman would drive their crews to/from in company provided trucks.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          It sounds to me like Sue is less than thrilled about the remote nature of the work and is trying to micromanage his schedule, but won’t tell him outright he can’t take the job because he’s been out of work and she knows she really can’t do that.

        2. Lynn Marie*

          This is comparable to the kind of work I’ve been talking about. We always bent over backwards to communicate with spouses and accommodate requests for family time (like adjusting a flight to the next day so Bob could eat dinner at home the night before would have been considered a very reasonable request) because we knew the 14 on 14 off was tough on families and workers alike, because recruiting and hiring was an ongoing challenge and we wanted to treat our workers well to keep them coming back, and because that kind of thing means a lot to people and is just the right thing to do if you can.

  6. Khaleesi*

    If there are no mitigating factors, I would argue for the LW to be a bit more clear that their continued refusal to adhere to what has been requested (the wife not be so “involved”) will lead to the job offer being revoked.

    1. CatCat*

      Yes, totally agree with this. It should be express and clear that if the spouse continues this level of involvement, Bob will lose this job. The OP also needs to be clear what exactly is an allowable level of involvement. Because it sounds like there is a norm for spousal involvement in the industry. OP should be totally clear about his/her expectations and consequences.

      1. Yorick*

        OP says spouses sometimes have a little involvement, but at this point, I’d say Sue needs to have zero involvement.

        1. Lehigh*

          Yeah. If there’s no underlying cause that the OP feels makes this worthwhile, I would suggest removing the softening about some spousal involvement being okay. I doubt that Bob and Sue are in a position to accurately judge what a reasonable level of involvement would look like.

  7. Jen*

    I think it is ultimatum time. Bob and his wife need to know that if this doesn’t stop immediately, you pull his offer. Then stick to it. This will not stop on its own. Honestly, I am not sure this even deserves further consideration and you shouldn’t just yank his offer now, as you have expressed concern to both and they have not stopped. This is a demonstrated serious issue and would give me serious pause as to his abilities.

    1. Snickerdoodle*

      I agree. It’s already more trouble than it’s worth just during the hiring process; what on earth is it going to be like when he’s actually working there? I say withdraw the offer and find somebody else.

  8. Indefinite Contract Attorney*

    Usually Alison is a huge supporter and proponent of absolute clarity. I have some concerns that the script she provided isn’t as crystal clear in this case though–it really DOES need to clarify that, if Sue cannot stay out of the process, Bob’s candidacy is at stake. I don’t think that’s really quite clear enough from what you have here. So I would consider adding in a line to that effect…what it would say, I don’t know. But I think this language is still a little too indirect.

    1. Snark*

      And Sue….well, we’re getting this secondhand, but Sue seems like the type who’d ignore a singing telegram. Might not do indirect.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I agree. Give Bob one chance to either explain or correct and then pull the plug but make sure he knows that is the outcome.

    3. Holly*

      That was my first thought. They need to know what is at risk, maybe then they will either be more forthcoming or just cut it out.

    4. pcake*

      That was my first thought, also. The OP has already brought this up, and it appears that either only absolute clarity will work or that there is no way to get Sue out of the picture.

      I would as courteously as possible tell Bob – directly, not through Sue – that I and my company will only deal with the candidate directly, period. And wouldn’t be even slightly surprised if, after hiring Bob, Sue continues to make her presence felt almost like Bob is 4 years old and being dropped at pre-school.

  9. Mbarr*

    Removed. I keep comments here on-topic but you can email this to me directly or save it for Friday’s open thread.

  10. MS supervisor*

    You’re more generous than I. My final response would be ‘if we from Sue again, your candidacy/offer/job will be withdrawn. ‘

    1. MuseumChick*

      This is where I’m at after reading this. This is just to much work and to much risk of her acting life this if Bob does get hired.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Barring some major detail like traumatic brain injury, I’d pull the offer because you’re not just hiring Bob, but you’re hiring Sue too without your consent. Sue and Bob clearly communicated that they’re a package deal, and they don’t seem interesting in clarifying or changing that arrangement.

    I echo AAM’s concern here about Sue’s wanting to be involved. It’s telling that Bob didn’t clarify what precisely that meant. If you continue down this path, you should assume that every conversation you have with Bob you might as well be having with Sue, and you should anticipate you’ll hear her feedback just as much as you will his, if not more.

    Your concerns about Bob not being able to work independently are valid. I’ve posted here before about an intern I worked with and how her mother did everything for her. When my office was trying to coordinate a work schedule and start dates, her mother told us to stop contacting her daughter because her daughter was in the middle of finals and the mom was going to handle scheduling. There were many other examples like this, but, yes, this person simply could not handle basic internship duties without a lot of hand-holding.

    Trust me, keeping Bob on will not be worth it.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      That is not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. Dear lord. Part of being an adult in the working world is learning to juggle multiple priorities.

    2. Holly*

      That is just completely horrifying to me. I really don’t want to know what makes a parent go over the edge like that.

      1. Positive Reframer*

        Generally because they have placed a large share of their identity and self-esteem in their child(ren).

        1. Holly*

          Yikes all around. I feel like it has to be that PLUS some sort of deterioration of norms such that you don’t realize it’s actually harming your child.

          1. Rainy*

            I work with grad students and I’m starting to see it crop up in their parents. Luckily for me it has mainly been parents reaching out to me without their grad student child’s permission, but it’s hard to explain to people like that that they are just making their child seem incompetent.

  12. Persephone Mulberry*

    This sounds like a very typical “the wife is in charge of the details” relationship…taken to extremes. Wife knows where all the papers are, wife knows the family schedule, wife is going to be the one to remind him that it’s training day, etc. I know I used to do all that for my (now ex-)husband, except I stayed behind the scenes.

    1. Constanze*

      It sounds like someone with major control issues. I won’t ponder on whether it rises to the level of abuse, since it might just be your garden variety control freak and wimp, but this is seriously messed up and boundary-crossing.

      In any case, it doesn’t bode well for her involvement in her husband daily worklife since she deems it appropriate to handle his salary negotiations (!) and inboarding process (!!). And he seems as clueless as she is if he thinks this is normal : be prepared for more boundary-crossing, unusual and out-of-touch behaviour.

      1. April*

        Abuse was a thought of mine too. I can’t think of too many scenarios where her behavior (more importantly, the extent of her behavior) would be a product of a healthy relationship.

        In any case, LW should be very clear to Bob that Sue is the issue here, and that this behavior is putting his candidacy in jeopardy.

    2. Changing Careers*

      My gut is actually telling me that maybe Bob has a history of infidelity. A lot of common suggestions for couples choosing to stay together is that the other spouse have full access to everything the other is doing until trust is repaired. I could be wrong but the whole speaker phone thing raised a flag like Sue wants to know everything he’s saying to everyone. Even if this is what is happening here, it’s extreme.

      Have one very frank conversation with Bob that all communication needs to come from him or the offer will be pulled.

      1. sigh*

        I do all the behind the scenes stuff for my husband because he just has no ambition. Given his way he’d keep working a minimum wage job he was miserable at forever in the hopes that someone would recognize him and give him a raise. While we discuss applications, interview questions, etc. and things that he absolutely must do (and why) to progress with work and school I really make it a point to stay behind the scenes as much as possible. Generally only our closest friends and his family know that I handle all of that stuff for him.

      2. not so sweet*

        My gut wondered something similar. Perhaps there is something about remote jobsite/camp work that makes Sue anxious (whether rationally or irrationally) – not just infidelity but the potential for gambling, drug use, drinking, or work hazards – and she’s trying to manage her anxiety by overinvolvement. And maybe while he’s working remotely she’s in the habit of doing all family finances and management on his behalf.

        For whatever combination of reasons (which may well include Bob having limited literacy or ability with formal “paperwork” as well as Sue’s own skillset and both of their preferences), I’d bet they’ve developed this pattern through many employers and deployments, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other employers have found ways to go along with it to get a reliable experienced tradesperson.

        1. Observer*

          I’d be even less surprised to learn that other employers decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle, which is why he’s available. This is not a viable situation.

          1. Lynn Marie*

            He may be available because he only has to work a few months a year and can well afford to take time off between jobs. This is how it often works with certain kinds of highly skilled, well paid, remote site labor.

      3. Jennifer Juniper*

        Sue still should not be getting involved with Bob’s on-boarding to this extent, infidelity or no. If she can’t trust him enough to get a job, she can leave.

      4. Observer*

        I don’t really buy that. Even in that type of scenario, no one (reasonable) expects every conversation to be had only in the presence of the spouse, on speakerphone. And in any case, it’s one thing for Sue to *see* everything, it’s a totally different thing for Sue to actually get involved.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think that’s key, the staying behind the scenes. “Honey, where is my passport?” is a perfectly fine question. Even, “Honey, how do I scan a copy of my passport?” “Honey, do we have anything going on the week of the 5th? I need to go to training.” The whole, “My wife will send you a copy of my training certificate”? Nope. Gotta teach a man to fish.

      1. Sunny*

        I would say your right without a extenuating circumstances, which can be common in some industries, with someone who’s work require traveling and not always having access to documentation.

    4. A Non E. Mouse*

      Honestly, I’m getting a missionary or religious post vibe (but that could be my religious upbringing clouding things).

      In that case, most of these positions kind of are hiring a couple – while technically they are hiring the guy, the wife has unofficial duties and would likely be the on in charge of paperwork, plus there would be a LOT of leeway for boundary crossing.

    5. AnOh*

      Agreed. At a previous company, we had a staff member with an “involved” wife. It wasn’t to this level, but she would often call about health benefits and questions about pay statements. From the beginning, our staff member notified us he wasn’t great at that stuff so she handled everything. We were able to work it out so he still physically handled his information (insurance enrollment, pay statements, etc.) but he would authorize for me to speak with his wife if she/I had questions that he couldn’t answer.

  13. Bea*

    The shared email rings bells for control and jealousy more than illiteracy issues. I’m assuming you’re a woman, OP. The fact you’re calling/emailing him is setting off my spidey senses are tingling over why Sue “likes to be involved” on this routine onboarding procedure.

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      Eh, that’s sometimes the case, I’m not getting that from this letter. A lot of folks who are less computer literate, or even just tech averse, use email the same way they use a home phone or physical mailbox: as a way to reach the household, not the individual. In that way, it makes sense to share the email address. Also, it wasn’t so long ago you got an email address via your ISP, and it was only one per account.

      1. Bea*

        Note, yes I’m extra paranoid. I’ve been there and remain scarred by it.

        They came in as a couple. She said she was his translator. No need for that because my boss spoke his language but good try. She decided to fill out an application as well for an entry level position while he’s a skilled mechanic. So we ended up hiring them both. God, help me. We finally laid her off after a series of insane instances.

        My boss then mentioned that during private conversations the guy confirmed he wasn’t allowed to speak to me. And I’m just like “Do I come across as flirtatious?” “Never.” Then so many unsettling stories were told afterwards.

        I’ve had to deal with wives and the most they do is pick up checks and drop off paperwork.

        1. Kat in VA*

          Oh, no, no, no, no.

          You can’t tease us with vaguely worded “insane instances” and then not give us properly-anonymized examples of said insane instances!!

        2. Holly*

          This sounds so bonkers. Please share (if you can, no pressure), if not here, in Friday open thread.

      2. Constanze*

        use email the same way they use a home phone or physical mailbox: as a way to reach the household, not the individual
        People who do that misuse it and they shouldn’t do it in a work context. This is just completely outside normal professional norms and use of technology.

        1. tusky*

          I don’t think it’s actually that uncommon to have shared email addresses, for personal or professional reasons. And even if it is uncommon, it’s not necessarily a misuse–if it serves the desired purpose of the users, then it’s an appropriate use.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s a bit extreme. It’s a super common practice, particularly for folks with limited access to the internet or limited computer literacy. This practice also varies by geography, age, and cultural norms.

          Although it may seem uncommon or outside norms for white-collar workers, it’s really not outside normal professional norms and use of technology for a wide array of non-desk jobs.

        3. Lehigh*

          I don’t really see why. Sure, BobandSue@gmail is going to look weird, but if you address is Smithy789@gmail and the proper person responds, what’s the big deal?

          Note, I don’t do this. I’ve had email since long before I was married and it would be weird for both of us. I just think it’s fine if it works for the people involved.

        4. Observer*

          That’s true about norms, in white collar offices. But this is not a work account, and this is not white collar professional work. I haven’t met a skilled tradesman in the last few years that isn’t reasonably technology savvy (ie can use email, smart phone etc.) but they are NOT going to be looking at their personal email in the same way as someone who has a work email that they use just for work is going to see it. And I know some folks who have a work email, and a shared email for personal.

          As for “misusing” email, who decides what “correct and proper” use of email is? Who decided that an email address has to be personal and singular and can’t be a group address?

        5. JSPA*

          There are plenty of places in the USA, let alone elsewhere, that are still on dialup (or at best, satellite) internet, (and if there’s cell signal, either E or G, not 3G, let alone 4G or 5G service).

          We’re talking about hiring for physical work in remote locations. This is not the same population as an urban or suburban desk job, and there’s no reason the norms should be the same.

          Please let’s not make assumptions of what everyone can do, should do, or even, should aspire to do that are clearly not even possible for a pretty significant chunk of the population. We don’t assume people are rich. Let’s not assume they’re urban or suburban, either. (Though, for that matter, many rustbelt exurbs have no ISP.)

          1. Lynn Marie*

            Yes, I’m getting the feeling many here are oriented towards very urban, corporate, cubicle, white collar jobs and don’t really understand how the norms may differ.

            1. nonegiven*

              My husband does not email. He has a work email but doesn’t check it every day. He won’t open anything if he doesn’t know who it’s from. He works on a computer most days. He still types with 2 fingers but his work programs are a lot of mouse type activity. At home, he has a tablet. I set up a gmail address for him so he could have stuff off the play store. He won’t use my computer. He won’t check the email. He has some apps he uses for hobbies. He looks up stuff he wants on the internet, brings the tablet to me and asks me to order it. If someone wants his email address after he retires, he probably won’t know what it is. I have a that he might remember to give them.

      3. Observer*

        I am getting that vibe, big time. It was, in fact, my first thought.

        It’s not just that they share an account. It’s that she answers emails instead of him, she picks up the phone and won’t pass it on when OP identifies themselves, he always puts OP on speakerphone when Sue is around.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      In this case I don’t think the shared email rings for control, although we should of course always be mindful that that dynamic may be in play. It seems common these days for couples to have shared emails, and it’s also common for folks who grew up with limited internet access in their childhood or who struggle with computer literacy.

      I suspect this is a case where Sue effectively acts as her husband’s personal assistant/manager. I’ve seen this happen, sometimes, but often with folks who struggle with executive function because of a prior injury, or with folks who have prior histories of incarceration or drug use. For the latter, I’ve seen wives essentially manage their spouses in a manner similar to their children in order to minimize the number of decisions their spouses have to make in an effort to support their sobriety (or their lawful employment).

      1. Observer*

        I see what you are saying about executive function. But, to the extent that this rings for control, it’s not about the shared account which is common. It’s the level of involvement she has – and the fact that Bob keeps on putting conversations with OP on speaker. That’s just weird.

  14. Construction Safety*

    Well, I’m in the construction industry, and a lot could be happening on Bob’s end: working 7x12s, working remotely (believe it or not, there’s a lot of the US where there isn’t a decent cell signal, let alone internet availability for a 2 hour PSM/CSE/etc. series of courses); computer literacy (some of the on-line vendors are actually horrible for users with limited skills); literacy; avoidance; or a combo of any of the above.

    We occasionally get an involved spouse, not to this degree, but close.

    Call his references to find out his competency (and any other info. . .)

      1. CD*

        I think the LW should make it more clear where the line is. He obviously has dealt with spouses before basically acting as an admin assistant to the potential employee. He should say that his expectations are if Sue is to be involved, she can help plan travel and class dates but nothing else, and that all communication outside of those items should come through Bob. I agree with Construction Safety though. I’ve worked with many trades people who had issues with computer literacy, and other literacy, and language issues in my time in construction management. It’s really not uncommon. Also, if this is disability related, Bob may not want to say anything.

    1. Snark*

      If that were the case, I feel like the given reason would have been “Bob’s in Montana right now installing llama fences, so he asked me to get in touch regarding training dates so we can keep the process rolling,” not “I like to be involved.”

    2. Letter Writer*

      I am usually very lenient when a spouse gets involved due to the reasons you’ve listed, it’s a roadblock I run into all the time with the industry (energy) I am in as well. The reason I am so frustrated with Bob is that he’s at home in a city and has been between jobs for the past few months.

      I do agree that some of the required online courses are not user-friendly even for someone who is good with computers. In Bob’s case, he has already completed them prior.

      When I conducted reference checks on Bob they were glowing and he has experience doing specialized tasks that are regionally specific.

      1. Jen*

        It honestly sounds like you have a good idea of the normal line and this is beyond it. Any chance you could ask these references about this specific issue?

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        The reason I am so frustrated with Bob is that he’s at home in a city and has been between jobs for the past few months.

        Oh, wow. I was checking to see if anyone had pointed out that, due to his job, Bob might simply not be available during the day. But he really has no legit excuse for letting Sue run the show.

        1. nonymous*

          I’ve been friends with a few older home-maker wives over the years who have weathered a spouse’s unemployment period. It’s a scary place to be. Their entire family structure – both identity and functionality – is dependent on husband having a good job. In some families the dividing line between “husband handles earnings/wife does the shopping” is so strong they don’t have good communication skills to even talk about financial planning. Adding to all of that is that they really don’t have current job skill themselves or a good sense of norms, and losing an income source is generally stressful, and I can see an unhealthy reaction like Sue’s (my friend’s husband got a severance package + temp position that let them save more than they planned to before retirement and she still thought they were going to get foreclosed on in the next 30 days).

          If that’s the framework Bob & Sue are operating from, I recommend that LW say to Bob (not Sue) that part of testing him for the job is how he handles this preliminary stuff. Acknowledge that, yeah this is totally not how the normal work day goes and manly bro chatter, but if he wants the job he’s got to help LW check boxes for upper management by doing Things. Depending on the personalities/culture involved, replace helpful language with a posturing stare down. The key is to make clear to Bob that part of his job with the company is demonstrating he can do these tasks and if he passes on the tasks, he’s not doing the job. It may simply be that Bob only responds to a bit more aggressiveness than LW has displayed, while LW is coming from a place where that is rude behavior.

          If Bob still refuses, consider that he may perceive himself to be a rock star that gets to ignore stuff when he wants to do, as long as he arranges for coverage. Is that okay in the field? Any questions to references should be focused on this.

          1. nonymous*

            * he’s not capable of doing the job. Definitely challenge his competence unless there is evidence something else going on.

          2. Mad Baggins*

            “If that’s the framework Bob & Sue are operating from, I recommend that LW say to Bob (not Sue) that part of testing him for the job is how he handles this preliminary stuff.”
            I like this. It’s not adversarial and it makes the situation clear: this is what I need from you, and this is why it is important, and this is what will happen if I don’t get what I need.

      3. biobotb*

        Is it possible to get back in touch with the references and ask about how involved Sue was while he was working for them? I don’t know if that’s an appropriate question to ask them.

    3. Anon for this one*

      My husband is in the construction industry (third year electrical apprentice). On top of normal 10-hour days, exhaustion from the physical work, and being in school, he also has psychotic depression, anxiety, and we now suspect a few different personality disorders (dependent personality disorder being the primary suspect). Meanwhile, I’m in law school, putting in 10+ hours a day just to maintain my gpa, and applying to internships and jobs. Life is crazy right now.

      Even with all of this going on, he is the one who deals with his doctors, reaches out to his therapist, goes to work, etc. I give him a nudge here and there with things like, “This sounds like something you should talk about with your therapist.” or “Did you remember to send HR the sick note from your doctor?” I may even monitor his emails (by request only and only for limited periods of time) if he needs to hear back from someone about a car/doctor/job interview/etc. Never in a million years would I go to this level of involvement in helping him get a job – not even close. Perhaps we’re just the anomaly amongst the other construction families, but this level of involvement does not seem healthy or normal if the husband is actually trying to find a new job.

  15. The Doctor*

    The answer for a “helicopter spouse” is the same as for a “helicopter parent”:

    “Outside of emergencies, we communicate ONLY with employees and applicants themselves, NOT with spouses. Since you cannot communicate on your own, we must conclude that you cannot do the job on your own. Therefore, we can no longer consider you for this position.”

  16. Cordoba*

    I once worked with a very high-skilled and well-paid independent consultant whose husband actually *was* her secretary, personal assistant, and travel coordinator. Apparently they did the math and it worked out better for their total household income for him to quit his job and manage her logistics, because it allowed her to focus on the money-making side of her job. This was of course an official arrangement, and all the necessary confidentiality concerns etc had been addressed.

    Most people probably couldn’t swing this, but she was Just That Good that clients were willing to go along.

    I don’t think that’s what is happening here, though.

    It probably doesn’t matter why Sue is so involved with Bob’s application process. Maybe he’s computer illiterate. Maybe he’s regular illiterate. Unless the job truly requires no computer work or ability to engage with the written word ever, both of these things are a legitimate reason not to hire somebody.

    The fact that he (and she?!) are so oblivious to how terrible this looks and so willing to keep pushing on despite the LW telling them to knock it off would be enough to make me move along to the next candidate unless he is supernaturally gifted in a rare and valuable skill set.

    1. Sunny*

      Well, thats fine provided they can manage that and they don’t cause any issues for clients, but this is causing issues.

    2. Cece*

      I’m surprised that the advice does not include being VERY clear that if he does not start handling this on his own the job offer will be pulled. I feel like AAM is usually very aware how much trouble people have with being direct, and if I heard “I really need you to do this on your own” I wouldn’t hear “or your job offer will be pulled.”

      OP I would recommend using allison’s otherwise very nice script and adding “otherwise we will have to go with another candidate.”

      Best of luck!

      1. Cece*

        Oh boy! I think I figured out how/why comments go to the wrong place – I had clicked “reply” to this by accident and then kept scrolling. When I went to add a comment (I clicked the “add one” link at the top of the comments) it added it here instead of as a standalone – I guess because this was open!

      2. Lynn Marie*

        And best of luck finding the next candidate who has Bob’s skills, or keeping on trying to train someone in the field.

  17. Gandalf the Nude*

    The thing about her helping out with literacy issues or really any other skills deficit is it needs to happen behind the scenes for them. He needs help answering that email? Cool, help him out, even draft it up, but let it look like it came from him. Or coach him on what he needs to say in the phone call and let him have the conversation on his own. Or or or… but where and when the employer only interacts with the employee.

    My last job was in an industry where this was sometimes common–technicians who were great at the machine they serviced but not so computer literate. I only dealt with one wife who even approached Sue’s level of interference, and eventually I just went around her to the employee every time she reached out. The other guys would sometimes make mention of having to check with their wife “cuz she knows that stuff way better’n I do” but never involved them otherwise. The red flag is that Bob and Sue have continued after you’ve told them it needs to stop.

    1. AnonForThisOne*

      My husband is a skilled trademan, and he can barely read because of a learning disorder. Trying to figure out some of his benefits enrollment stuff almost brought him to tears. I help him a lot behind the scenes. But I would NEVER, NEVER, NEVER get on the phone with his boss. He tells people things like, “oh, I have to look this over” and then brings it home for me to decode.

      1. Vin Packer*

        Yeah, this is how most people I know deal with this issue. +1 to you guys for being a good team.

    2. Persimmons*

      Well said. The only time I got over-involved with my husband’s work situation was when he needed accommodations that his employer refused to support. LW sounds like s/he has been more than accommodating.

    3. Turtle Candle*

      Yes, this. It’s not quite the same thing, but there was a time when I had to help my husband write some emails due to an injury that kept him from typing… but what that meant was that I logged into his email account (with his permission, obvs) and he dictated to me, and it was signed as from him, and so on. Nobody on the other end would have even known someone else was doing the writing, except maybe those who know him really well because I didn’t have his characteristic typos.

    4. Scubacat*

      Yup. If a spouse is helping for a legitimate reason, it has to be behind the scenes. Or the employee needs to talk to their supervisor about why the extra involvement is necessary. A workplace can’t accommodate a disability if they don’t know about it.

      My Mom is an distant learning student, and her computer skills are subpar. Dad knows a lot about technology, so he helps her with things like attaching PDFs and signing up for online classes. The school doesn’t know that he exists. Getting help is fine, but the OP is seeing something far outside the norm.

  18. Foreign Octopus*

    The problem I see here (ignoring the ones that are currently happening) is what happens after Bob joins the team. How involved will Sue be then? This is something I think you need to consider and discuss with Bob because you won’t want Sue calling in sick for Bob (unless she absolutely has to) or calling in to complain about him being pulled up on something he hasn’t done at work.

    Just as there are red flags in the hiring process from the job seeker’s point of view, this is a red flag for you.

    1. Bea*

      Yeah. The first work issue to pop up, will she be calling in to “discuss” his performance issue or if his schedule changes etc.

  19. Kitty*

    If the genders were reversed, what would you be thinking? I read the post and immediately went to spousal isolation. And this will not stop without a significant even (i.e.: pulling offer on the line).

    1. Temperance*

      In all fairness, it’s far more common for dudes to expect/want their wives to be their personal secretary than it is for women to expect same from men.

      1. Observer*

        This doesn’t sound like he wants her to be his secretary, though. He says “she likes to be involved” and he puts OP on speakerphone.

        I don’t think this is a stretch at all.

    2. JSPA*

      Certainly does happen to men, as well as to women.

      But the job is remote, and she’s not going to be there. So, that’s not something a would-be isolator is likely to do, y’know? Unless the goal is primarily, “isolate from some problematic person, group of people, or other influence that won’t be available at the remote location.”

    3. Cordoba*

      I’d be thinking “this guy better get out of the way of me hiring this lady before I pull her offer, because their relationship is making my hiring process unnecessarily difficult.”

  20. Oilpress*

    He is not a good fit because you would have to hire and deal with his wife as well. Save yourself the aggravation and just move on to the next candidate. There have to be other options out there.

  21. The Pink Lady*

    I’m assuming that if you’ve got to this stage in the process, you’ve already spoken to his references and no red flags appeared. Would it be worth going back to them, or at least the most recent, in the light of this experience, and asking about this issue in particular? They might not have wanted to bring it up voluntarily, but I’ll bet you’d get some useful background if you ask directly.

  22. Crissy from HR*

    I also work in a field where I’m constantly recruiting skilled manufacturing and trades. The amount of spousal involvement in applications is mindblowing when compared to the work I’ve done with white collar and consultant positions. I try to be mindful of cultural and socioeconomic differences between the groups and to put a pin in my irritation. Emailing from a spouses email address? Weird, but not a deal killer. Spouse calling back for husband (I’ve never had a husband give a call back for a wife)? Boundary immediately drawn. 9 times out of 10 a clear “this is not acceptable, this is our expectation regarding communications” works. The other “overzealous” wives get ignored and call screened until kingdom come and their men get a more in depth conversation about acceptable professional communication.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Is this also the case when you’re hiring women in the same or similar roles? Do their husbands call and schedule their training sessions?

  23. Lynn Marie*

    It sounds like this is a highly skilled specialized job that involves travel and living on the road or away from home in remote areas for long periods of time. In my experience as a field admin for these kinds of projects, it’s very common for the stay at home spouse to be highly involved or taking total responsibility for the complex paper work and logistics required to keep the working spouse on the road and in the field. I don’t see the problem here.

    1. Snark*

      Given that he’s not in the field, and there’s been no good reason given for her continued involvement even after she was asked to stop getting involved, I think this is a problem. And frankly, I’m not sure I understand why one person can’t handle these kinds of logistics and paperwork.

    2. Lynn Marie*

      If you think of it as the employee having a personal assistant, maybe it makes more sense if this is unfamiliar. This kind of employee often makes big bucks for highly skilled work, requires a back up person to take care of the details, and it just makes sense for the at-home spouse to deal with most of it.

      1. Snark*

        I’ll take your word for it on your industry, but if this is the case with Bob, it sounds like they’re going about it really badly.

      2. Izzy*

        Right, but if this was normal in the OP’s industry why would she be writing to AAM about it? It’s obviously unusual enough that someone involved in hiring in that industry is being put off by it, so therefore on this occasion there is a problem. There’s also the fact that they have persisted in doing this after being asked to stop, which is a problem in and of itself.

      3. Working Mom Having It All*

        But wives aren’t personal assistants. Being a personal assistant is a job that people get paid for, by an employer. Women aren’t just de facto slaves for their husbands.

        To an extent I get that managing a household can be complicated, and for some people the traditional male breadwinner SAHM arrangement works best. In fact, in my family we have the opposite of that, where I’m working outside the home in a relatively demanding job, and my husband stays home with the baby (and largely also deals with domestic labor and running the household type duties). My husband does not negotiate my salary, fill out my benefits paperwork, or submit my timesheet. This stuff is 100% rooted in sexism, no sane person would expect a husband to do these things if the genders were reversed, and it is mostly allowed for in traditional blue collar fields out of hidebound and outdated tradition and not because it’s a rational thing to expect. And in those cases, waaaaayyyy too much labor falls on the shoulders of the wives.

    3. Bea*

      He’s not on the road. He’s in the same space as she is but using a speaker phone so she can be “involved”. Totally different scenarios.

      And training/onboarding means the person needs to personally confirm many things to avoid issues of “I never knew this was a thing” “it was in your orientation…” “yeah well my wife handled that, so….”

      Forwarding paperwork is fine enough, taking messages or answering standard questions to fill in blanks etc. This is extreme interference.

    4. NW Mossy*

      The location of the boundary might be different given the industry, but that doesn’t imply that there’s no boundary at all.

      Bob and Sue might very well have arranged their lives this way for good and principled reasons, but that doesn’t obligate the OP to accept the problems this arrangement is causing in her onboarding process. The OP’s obligation is to be clear about her expectations and give a little context for why they are what they are, and it sounds like she’s done that. Now, it’s on Bob and Sue to decide if they’re willing to modify their approach to preserve this job offer or not.

  24. HappySnoopy*

    To add to the speakerphone issue, if he does that, refuse to continue the call. Something like “Im sorry, but we treat this hr information as sensitive, and I cannot discuss it on a line with anyone other than the candidate/employee. I will call back/call me back when you may speak privately.”

  25. Technical_Kitty*

    From the letter it sounds like Bob is applying for a job at a remote site or sites, or that he will be a contractor for a company that goes to client sites often. It’s not unusual for a spouse to be very involved, especially if they think their partner may be taken advantage of in the process. That’s not a slam on OP or their company, but I’ve been a bystander in instances of people working in the same place, with the same job and responsibilities where one did not negotiate appropriately and came out considerably worse – this happened in both cases due to cultural issues and the company addressed it when it was brought to their attention.

    I know a lot of people here have suggested an ultimatum, but if OP thinks Bob is a good fit, maybe it’s better to just bear it out – tell Bob that Sue contacting HR directly is not okay but that he can certainly keep her informed or involved on his end.

    Also there could be computer or literacy issues that may explain Sue’s involvement.

    1. Elspeth*

      Nope. the spouse is overly-involved. Not normal in LW’s field. Spouse needs to butt out and according to LW, she hasn’t butted out even though LW has told them both that this level of involvement is not allowed.

      1. Technical_Kitty*

        Hhmmmm, Sue may just be a busy body or unduly involved in the process, but I’ve seen a lot of people in my industry depend on their spouses. Heck, there are instances of community leader or liaison involvement during hiring depending on where they are being hired from.

        OP should definitely be clear with them, explain the legalities involved and refuse further interaction with Sue, but just tossing a candidate during hiring seems like a nose/face/spite situation.

        1. Observer*

          Except that the OP states in the letter and in the comments that Sue’s behavior is out of the norm for this field.

  26. E*

    Are you answering the spouse’s questions or interacting with her when she calls? If so, stop immediately. Any call where Bob is not included should be receiving only one response. “I will only discuss this with Bob, please have him call me/reply himself.” Telling the spouse not to call is going nowhere, you need to establish and enforce this boundary to interact with Bob on these items.

    1. Elspeth*

      LW IS only speaking with Bob. She clarified further up thread that she is not answering the questions or emails from the wife.

  27. Letter Writer*

    Hi all!

    I just wanted to thank you for your thoughtful responses. I did not factor in literacy into a potential reason for Sues involvement. For those of you wondering at some sites, this would be a deal breaker however it is not for the specific site he is going to. The majority of the work that Bob would be doing is physical in nature and involves little to no reading. Some of the best tradespeople we have ever worked with didn’t complete high school or have very poor educational skills.

    Bob’s reviews were glowing. He was made out to be a hard worker and has a specialized set of skills that we rarely see prior to coming to the site, but desperately need. His specialized skill set may be one of the reasons I am choosing to overlook some of the red flags during the onboarding process. In my experience, the onboarding process is not always an ideal indicator of the skills the candidates possess, some of my works onboarding experiences are the best employees.

    I have stopped answering Sues phone calls and I am not responding to any emails she sends me. I will only call Bob’s cell phone and I have limited the number of emails I have been sending as Sue responds to them all with questions or “suggestions.”

    Sue is currently out of town on a personal trip so I have been able to communicate with Bob more effectively. I told him that while I appreciate Sue willingness to help, her involvement is becoming a hindrance and is raising questions about his abilities. I told him that moving forward I will not be communicating with Sue any further. He asked if I would send her an email with some dates for training and I said no and I was still able to get the training booked communicating solely with Bob. He seemed very frustrated but I haven’t had an email from Sue in 3 days which is a win in my books.

    1. Argh!*

      She sounds more like a mommy than a wife!

      Does he now have a work email? Is she using that email too? Letting someone else use an official email account could be prohibited in the fine print that everybody signs on the first day. That could give you some back-up.

    2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Sounds like you handled it well!

      And, from where I’m sitting, it does seem like this might be a literacy issue. (Also, Sue could be overzealous because they’re desperate for him to get a job so she’s GOING FULL STEAM AHEAD and that needs to be dialed back several hundred notches.)

          1. Lynn Marie*

            How do you know Bob is desperate for work? Most highly-skilled workers I know who do this kind of thing can pick and choose their jobs and often only have to work a few months a year when they feel like it. Bob may well make more in a month than you or I make in a year.

            1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

              I don’t know that he’s desperate. I’m merely offering it as a suggestion to possibly explain why his wife is overzealous. If that is the case, she may calm down once he has a job.

              Nobody here *knows* exactly what Bob and Sue are going through. All we can do is offer up suggestions from our own viewpoints.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am so curious about these “suggestions” she’s making. What kinds of “help” is she offering? Is it Bob specific (“Bob would work better with a 7-3 schedule”) or…?

      She sounds like a pain to deal with, to be frank.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Her suggestions ranged from “Why don’t we try this town/city for the training course” to trying to “suggest” a different start date and she pushed via email for some of his prehire required training to be done after his first shift because it would mean he wouldn’t be home for dinner the day before he flew out.

        1. JSPA*

          That’s…mildly odd but not deeply disruptive. Or rather, most of them are an easy, “thanks, no” or “sorry / too bad, not possible.”

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I have to disagree. I think those suggestions– especially about making sure Bob is home for dinner!– are massively inappropriate. They would be inappropriate coming from Bob, but they are more so because they come from Sue. This is not right and reflects very poorly on Bob.

            These questions asked appropriately:
            Bob: “Would it be possible to do the training in the Pittsburgh office as opposed to the Philadelphia office? If not, I understand, just considering travel time.”
            Bob: “Would it be possible to move the training to the following week? I have some personal commitments I’m trying to arrange. If not, of course I understand.”

            This guy doesn’t even work there yet. Absolutely, he is allowed to ask for flexibility. But HE must do the asking and not send his messenger, and he should ASK, not “suggest” in the way she apparently is suggesting. Sue is stepping way over the line here.

            I am about to become a very important part of my partner’s job search. Most places that will make him an offer will do their best to include me because he’s looking for tenure track (i.e., very long term) work and they want to make sure we’re both happy. But beyond things like, “Yes, that would be a great date to come out and visit, I look forward to meeting you,” I don’t get to communicate with prospective employers. And if I ever did jump in, I would certainly do my best to cover it up and make it seem that my partner is doing the talking.

          2. Letter Writer*

            I would like to hear your perspective on how it’s mildly odd as I found her requesting to delay his training for dinner entirely offputting.

            I may be projecting my personal views on to their relationship and I’m trying to look past that. I know they’re in their mid 60s and I am in my mid 20s so there’s definitely a culture gap.

            1. AKchic*

              This actually *does* help me a bit.

              I am only speculating here, so please forgive me; but being in their 60’s could mean medications that require somewhat rigid schedules. Some of those medications may need to be taken with meals. Perhaps Bob is on new medication, or had a recent health scare. (again, speculations)
              Yes, some of this is an age/culture gap. Some of this may be health/protected issues.

              Sue may be new to taking care of Bob’s health, which is why she is getting so involved. Bob may not want to tell a new employer about his health because he’s afraid it will affect his employability (which is actually a rational fear).

              I am not saying that what Sue is doing is right. Or that this is what is happening. Ultimately, Bob needs to be open and honest about things if this is the case; so you aren’t so frustrated and can work with the both of them (if you so choose).

              1. Benny*

                Bob has accepted a job in which he will be out of town for weeks at a time so a regimented medication schedule is not an acceptable excuse for Sue’s involvement. If this is the case he needs to be able to manage it entirely on his own.

            2. EddieSherbert*

              That half makes me laugh – simply because if it was the reverse there would likely be a few comments about “those darn entitled millennials, expecting work to be scheduled around their dinner plans.” ;)

              Regardless of if there is a legitimate reason or not, it is 100% inappropriate for Sue to be asking these things. If Bob needs to be home at X time for Y important reason, HE needs to tell you that. You’re handling it perfectly fine, OP.

              1. Usually a Lurker*

                Those darn entitled baby boomers expecting millennials to work around their dinner schedules!

                Baby boomer or not- expecting an employer to accommodate your dinner plans is ridiculous. Obviously this is independent of an approved accommodation due to a medical issue.

            3. LurkieLoo*

              The dinner part is slightly weird, but from a generation that had dinner on the table at 6:00pm on the dot each and every night (or whatever time).

              I work with several 60+ and with the men in particular, anything that is administrative related is handed off to the nearest female. Add in that he’s a physical type of tradesman and she sounds like a nosy neighbor kind of house-wife . . . I think they might live next door to my dad. ;) Wife will literally answer questions directed to husband when he is sitting right there in the same room. I could totally see her doing this and then being hurt “What, I’m just helping!” when called out.

              In their case, the husband is funny and articulate when by himself. I hope Bob is similar. It sounds like he’s got a very specific skill set you’re not quite willing to overlook.

        2. Argh!*

          Not being home for dinner on one day?

          Is Bob aware of all this? Obviously his wife seems to have no sense of how the work world works, and he needs to choose between educating his wife & reining her in, or seeking work that will have zero travel and a regular schedule.

          I can’t imagine firing someone because of his wife’s behavior, but I also can’t imagine a wife that interferes this much changing her behavior after the dust settles.

    4. NW Mossy*

      Glad to hear that things are on a better trajectory and Bob’s clear on your stance. Being willing to be direct goes a long way in addressing these kinds of interpersonal-friction problems when they’re small.

      It also gives you a good point of reference/lead-in if Sue starts engaging inappropriately once Bob’s an employee. A quick “hey, remember how when you were coming on board, Sue was overinvolved? I’m seeing it happen again, let’s fix this” from you (or Bob’s boss) is going to feel a lot more like a continuation of consistent expectations than an out-of-nowhere change.

    5. PiggyStardust*

      If Bob was frustrated, it sounds like he is encouraging her to deal with this stuff on his behalf. I wonder why?

      1. Izzy*

        Is it possible that he’s frustrated because he doesn’t fully appreciate why he’s being told he has to do these things himself? If some degree of spousal involvement is accepted in this industry and he’s been used to doing things this way for a while, he might not really understand that it’s gotten to an extreme level. This might apply if the LW has said stuff like “I can’t discuss this with Sue, I need to arrange these training details with you directly” without adding on an explanatory “because if I have to go through Sue every time I have to talk to you it’s a huge waste of my time and I have no idea if you actually know where and when you’re supposed to attend” (or, you know, a tactful version of that). I wouldn’t normally break it down like that as that’s a lot of hand-holding, but if his skills really are that valuable it might be worth it to keep him on board.

    6. Blue*

      It sounds like you’re handling a difficult situation well! But I’m curious about what you mean by, “He seemed very frustrated.” Frustrated that you were setting boundaries? That he had to take care of the details instead of letting Sue handle them? That seems potentially telling.

    7. PiggyStardust*

      I don’t see abuse in this letter, I’m getting an employee that can’t be bothered to deal with logistics. If he was indeed frustrated that LW wouldn’t send Sue the scheduling email, I think he’s dependent on Sue’s involvement.

      Maybe he had jobs in the past where he mixed up dates or got information wrong — he could have missed training dates or deadlines, i.e. “Hey Bob! The last day to sign up for benefits is March 31st!” and Bob forgot and then they don’t have health coverage. Or he didn’t bring important documents and Sue had to run around collecting things and and pay extra to overnight them to the job site. That’s not something an employer would necessarily know or remember — if Bob shows up with what he needed, it makes little difference whether he brought them in his suitcase or got them in the mail that morning.

      1. Nita*

        Agreed. And I can kind of see a reason for his frustration, because when you’re running around field jobs, it’s harder to coordinate things in so many ways. So while Sue does seem a little too involved, her involvement could be making Bob’s life easier. She’s basically his admin. Maybe they fell into this habit at his old jobs, and are still doing things this way even though he’s home at the moment.

    8. Cait*

      I find it concerning (from a candidacy perspective), that you were clear with him and he pushed again for you to send Sue an email. He is demonstrating that he either
      A. Doesn’t follow directions or
      B. Thinks he knows better/can get his way when he wants something.

      Both would make me question is abilities to be a team player.

      1. steve*

        +42 this

        Especially if they have a joint email account, just ask for a copy of all the dates in an email and Sue has the information!

    9. JSPA*

      If they share an email address, then asking for the dates to be sent “to her,” would also be sending the dates to him. If you’re not emailing him the dates because it’s also her email…you may be pushing a bit too hard. It is pretty normal for someone to ask for confirmation by email. (I’d wonder about an employer who wouldn’t send me an email to confirm dates, “as per our conversation.”) The fact that he doesn’t just email you and cc her, saying “confirming our dates, as per conversation” adds credence to the “can’t do it himself” possibility. In which case, it’s actually…kind of good to know that Sue will cover those things for him, as needed. (Otherwise, they’d be falling through the cracks, or you’d be paying someone to help him.)

      This is a shot in the dark, but …are you 100% sure that the emails “from Sue” are from Sue? That is, do they say, “Hi, Sue here, I have some questions about the job you’re offering Bob…” or is there an automated “Sue” signature at the bottom?

      I have a decade’s worth of emails from a woman that are always “signed” by her husband. They apparently can’t figure out how to turn the automated signature function off and on. So it’s her email address, his signature, and you have to know their personal style, to figure out which one of them is actually writing.

      1. Letter Writer*

        I completely see where you’re coming from. I did say he is more than welcome to discuss the dates and times with Sue, however I would not be forwarding them directly to her for her consideration. I also told him that I would send an email with the dates and times for him to review and respond via email or phone which days are best for him.

        When she does respond to emails she signs them “from Sue for Bob.”

        1. Cait*

          Just wanted to say thanks for jumping in the comments section! It’s always so nice to hear from letter writers and get clarification.

          1. Letter Writer*

            No problem! I enjoy hearing everyone’s different perspectives on the situation. I find it’s easier to get their perspective when it’s not based around speculation.

    10. steve*

      “He asked if I would send her an email with some dates for training and I said no and I was still able to get the training booked communicating solely with Bob. He seemed very frustrated…”

      That leads me to think that Bob continues to not ‘get it’. Bob could just say “could you please email me the training dates” and as it is a shared email address, problem solved.

    11. Oilpress*

      Your last paragraph tells me that this problem is not solved. Bob clearly wants his wife to handle the communication. Her out of town status is most likely temporary, and then you’ll be back to fighting against their wishes.

      1. nonegiven*

        He wants this in an email she can print out for him and she is the one that checks the email address and answers it because he doesn’t email.

        My husband has me do every personal thing, computer related, for him, down to Facebook messaging his nephew to answer a text he didn’t know how to open on his dumb phone. He uses a computer for hours most days at work.

    12. Maggie*

      LW, this might not be a popular opinion around here, but I say suck it up through onboarding and trust your references. Congratulations on your new hire! My husband has some serious talent at dying skills. He is only in his early 40s, but he does not have voicemail and he does not check email. He works for many very, very rich, very demanding people. But at the end of the day, they listen to him, because he knows how to keep their rare, Italianate plaster ceilings from collapsing onto their heads, and they don’t, and that’s the end of the story. Rare skills are rare skills. You can always fire him later.

  28. Blue Cupcake*

    The OP has acknowledged it’s not uncommon that spouses can get involved but this is beyond the usual.
    I say drop him. Even if the OP gives one more warning, Bob might agree to cut Sue off, but what happens once he’s hired? Sue is sure to be back.
    I bet there are other qualified people in need of a job and I’m sure the OP can find one (not two).

    1. Blue Cupcake*

      I saw the OP’s post after I posted. It’s tougher to drop him since he has skills that are rare.

  29. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    There’s also the issue that Sue could be impersonating Bob in email responses…

  30. Lontra Canadensis*

    My husband is on the road driving a semi 5-6 days a week, so I end up somewhat involved with his work life, but I try to treat it as I’m a paid assistant and stay professional, and try for invisible. He’s very computer/tech literate (previous career), as well as generally literate.

    When he needed truck parking at a local yard, I went to the office and I set it up while he was mumble states away. I occasionally scan paperwork and e-mail it to him to do whatever with (and keep any text in my e-mail fairly vanilla so he can just forward the whole thing if he chooses). I didn’t call his manager when I was in the ER waiting to find out when I’d have surgery (gall bladder, he got home that afternoon, surgery was the next day), but I would have if I hadn’t been able to contact my husband.

  31. anonymouse*

    If Bob is working at a remote site, and if there is a problem or crisis, does he call his wife for help? Particularly if cellphone service is spotty.

    Bob does not come across as a self-starter. LW, if she hires him, is going to have to make sure Bob has a partner, who can handle the problem and deal with Bob’s wife.

    1. Jen*

      Letter Writer specified above that Bob is in between jobs and at home. So there really is no excuse here.

    2. Grumpy*

      This is my work environment and so, so many of my coworkers.
      This situation can be normal but Bob and Sue aren’t. No way.
      The red flags are that the wife doesn’t get that her behaviour is strange and keeps doing it after she’s been asked to stop, and that the husband doesn’t say that she handles his business and plans and then refers everything over to her, he just says she likes to be involved (so deal with it because he has given up).
      Could be anything, maybe bob won’t pass the pee test and sue is aggressively trying to cope. But, yeah, do his future colleagues a favour and don’t subject them to sue.

  32. eLearning_eVangelical*

    Based on the information above, I have concerns for Bob’s welfare. If the roles were reversed (i.e. female candidate with intrusive male partner), I think readers would be much more likely to assume emotional or physical abuse. This is especially apparent in Bob’s reluctance to speak about the issues with his wife and the downplaying of her involvement.

    Given this perspective, I’m not entirely sure how to proceed with the hiring process, but it would provide more insight into Bob’s circumstances.

    1. Snark*

      There are so many reasons this dynamic could arise that seizing on this one feels like advice column fanfic. We need to work with the facts we’ve got, not the scenarios we assume on the basis of gedankenexperiments and the worst possible interpretation.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m adding this note to the top but will put it here too: Because it quickly becomes derailing, please limit speculation on facts not presented by the letter-writer to reasonable assumptions based on the information provided. If you’re speculating on facts or context not in the letter, please explain how it’s actionable for the letter-writer.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think it’s a stretch. But, I do agree that it’s not actionable because what the OP needs to do (and apparently has done) stays that same.

        In fact, I think that’s true for almost every scenario that people have mentioned. The only exception is the issue of basic literacy, because that could be something that makes a difference in basic ability to do the job, even if Sue dials it back.

  33. Trek*

    I would double check references and ask if wife was involved and to what extent. Maybe she caused problems before maybe not but I would want to know.

  34. Jennifer Juniper*

    Anyone else think Sue is abusing Bob? At the very least, she sounds way too controlling. If the genders were reversed, Alison may be talking to the LW about domestic violence referrals.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, I wouldn’t be. It would be a major overstep for an interviewer to talk to a job candidate about domestic violence referrals, regardless of gender, unless there were some really unusual circumstances.

      There are lots of explanations for what’s going on with Bob and Sue. A lot of them have been discussed above. Abuse is of course possible, but it’s not the sense I get from this letter, and there’s nothing that would make that more than speculation.

      1. PiggyStardust*

        There isn’t really an abuse vibe here.

        I also think previous references aren’t going to help. If Bob showed up and was a kick-ass basketweaver or whatever, that’s what the supervisor will remember.

        It sounds like Bob has a prized skill set and will show up at the worksite and be awesome at what he does. It’s the logistics in getting him to that point that are problematic. Maybe he has a history of forgetting things or screwing stuff up that impacts his wife, like forgetting dates to enroll in benefits, missing documents, or mixing up training dates — if Sue has to take time off to drive Bob to the airport but Bob gets the date of his flight wrong, or Bob forgets something that he needs and doesn’t remember until he gets there Sue needs to mail it, etc. All of that causes problems for Sue, but doesn’t change his ability to be great in the field.

    2. Snark*

      Yeah, but the gender’s AREN’T reversed.

      I think I need to take a break here, because the speculation is running off the rails.

      1. Courageous cat*

        Yeah, Occam’s razor is just not strong in the comments these days anymore and it gets pretty frustrating to read.

        As my aunt once told me: rare things happen rarely. Yes, some of these options are more “uncommon” than “rare”, but the logic applies all the same. Let’s stop working on the least unlikely assumptions.

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      I actually guessed the opposite, that Bob has done something so awful within the bounds of their marriage/family that Sue feels like she needs to do this in order to have some control over her life. For example that he has ghosted new jobs during the onboarding process, not disclosed to her what his salary is and how/when he gets paid, gambled away all their money, cheated with the HR gal at his previous job, been fired due to burning bridges with employers, etc.

      1. PiggyStardust*


        I don’t think it was an issue with fidelity, or else she wouldn’t be thrilled with him going to remote worksites for weeks at a time. I feel like it’s very likely that he mislead her about pay, or lost other contracts due to disorganization or missed deadlines.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          I would doubt fidelity as well, but it seems odd that she wants to be involved in all communications with HR but presumably not otherwise. (My guess is that this is something like an offshore oil rig where virtually everyone on the job site for any length of time is likely to be male, or trucking, where you’re on the move and are unlikely to be entangled in workplace relationships.)

          But, yeah, same basically.

  35. Lynn Marie*

    In the industry I’m talking about, the skills are highly prized enough that hiring managers were more than willing to engage with potential employees however the potential employees wanted to engage, not a question of if it’s weird or unprofessional, which I understand if you’re used to hiring someone to work 9 to 5 and sit in a cubicle, it would be considered so. It’s a particular kind of work world where the employee actually has the upper hand in negotiations and sets the terms of engagement – not something we’re used to these days! I think the decision this letter writer needs to make is how badly do you need these skills and what boundaries are you personally comfortable with to be able to work with them. Framing the wife’s involvement as unprofessional or weird is neither applicable nor helpful here.

    1. Lynn Marie*

      Just one more thing and I’ll let it go. I’d compare not wanting to engage with the wife to not wanting to engage with an exec asst. Sometimes you need to talk to the principal, sometimes the exec asst can handle it, and it varies with the particular exec and exec asst.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        But wives aren’t executive assistants. That’s a humiliating thing to even say.

        Also… in the skilled trades, I don’t think most workers get executive assistants. So at the end of the day suggesting that this is the same as dealing with someone’s assistant is basically saying that, no matter what a man’s status is, his wife is expected to be his unpaid secretary.

        Also also, I AM an executive assistant, and short of scheduling calls with HR, I do absolutely nothing when it comes to personnel issues and my boss. And I sure as HELL wouldn’t be involved in my boss getting a job elsewhere.

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          Yes – wives are not executive assistants … she shouldn’t be involved in this process at all as far as I’m concerned, though if it is normalized in this particular industry it should still have stopped when they were asked the first time.

          I’m an EA as well, and I once had a boss who referred to his wife as his “home executive assistant”, but I digress …

        2. JSPA*

          If two people agree that one is going to act as exec assistant for the other–regardless of the gender(s) involved–how does that either reflect on all partnerships, all partners of a specific gender, or affect you or me in any way? Honestly, it doesn’t. If a boss assumes the wife should be doing the job, that’s a work problem. If a husband assumes a wife should expect to be his admin, that’s a relationship problem. But if a husband and a wife both want the wife to handle specific admin-like tasks within a relationship–or the other way around, for that matter–that’s their business.

          Boss is trying to hire someone they really need, for a schedule that’s potentially as much of a PITA for the wife as for Bob.

          Boss was right to not respond to questions from wife, when those were posed as questions from wife. But if Bob says, “please email details so wife also has,” that’s…not a ridiculous ask.

          And if Bob says, “wife has these questions, can you answer them for us,” that’s a fair request. He’s made it pretty clear that he wants wife in on the process. That doesn’t give her the right to autonomously pose questions and demand answers. But it does make it a bit rude to cut her out entirely.

          1. Student*


            If Bob’s wife wants info on Bob’s job, that’s fine! However, it is solidly and entirely on BOB to manage that communication.

            The employer shouldn’t have to manage that, or cc the email, or talk directly with the wife at any point if they don’t want to. Bob can talk about his job with whomever he pleases; Bob cannot reasonably ask the company to essentially negotiate parts of his job offer with a third party.

          2. Elspeth*

            Nope – absolutely not rude at all! Bob’s wife has no right to butt into the hiring process.

          3. Turtle Candle*

            I mean, I could maybe see this if Sue had specifically and primarily introduced herself as Bob’s EA.

            But the leap from “Sue, Bob’s wife, is getting all up in this” to “Sue, Bob’s wife, is his EA” feels like a big one. And I’ve worked with and for family companies where that would be totally legit… but the person presents themselves in business correspondence foremost as the person’s EA (or VP, or accountant, or PR person, or head of marketing, or whatever–but not as “Bob’s wife,” “Bob’s son,” or “Bob’s niece;” I found those things out incidentally), in that case. Not as their wife. And I feel like if that had been the case, the LW would probably have said so.

        3. Nita*

          Nothing wrong with being the executive assistant for your spouse on occasion! My husband and I trade off doing this for each other. I have the flex hours and it’s easier for me to make personal calls during business hours, so I handle the stuff that requires lots of phone calls, and school meetings that aren’t after hours. He has the people skills, so he makes all the arrangements that involve meeting new people and “networking” about stuff in our personal lives. And we totally take calls for each other from family members – it’s funny, but I’ve become the go-to person for his aunt (who freaks out and calls multiple times if she can’t reach someone right away), and he’s taken on dealing with my parents (I’m… not great at that, and he’s in the same industry as my mom so they talk shop a lot). A team is a team, and sometimes this just makes sense.

    2. Snark*

      But, unless Bob is unreachable and physically unavailable – not operative here – it IS unprofessional and weird, and reflects on him in a way that calls his self-sufficiency into question.

      1. nonegiven*

        He’s not unreachable, AFAWK, she tells him what was emailed from the job but she isn’t answering “Bob wants to know xyz?,” she’s answering “What about xyz? – Sue”

        I totally get this. My husband does not computer at home. He has a work email, two computers, 3 monitors, a work shop, and an F350 truck at work. He does not computer at home. He is in the same age range as Bob.

  36. Hiring Mgr*

    I wonder if this could be a “Psycho” or “Sybil” multiple personality scenario where it’s actually just one person (Bob), but at various times he takes on the personality of “Sue”. In this case, it makes complete sense that Sue would be inolved in Bob’s career choices (since Bob and Sue are in reality the same person so the questions that Sue asks are relevant for Bob)

    You’ve never actually seen Sue in person, correct? Just something to keep in mind when evaluating the possibilities.. /s

  37. Working Mom Having It All*

    This has escalated to such an extreme that it clearly goes beyond this as the sole issue in question, but the whole time I was reading this the words EMOTIONAL LABOR and MENTAL LOAD kept repeating themselves in my mind.

  38. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I’d give him one more shot using the script Alison provided … but if the interference didn’t stop I would be quick to pull Bob’s candidacy after that. Whether or not the couple thinks it’s normal, and have done this with previous jobs, once you tell them firmly that you need to communicate with Bob directly and not Sue and that you need her contact to stop (I know, you’ve done this already) … if it continues it really means that Bob can’t follow instructions. Also that you’ll have to deal with this for the duration of his employment.

  39. Cece*

    I’m surprised that the advice does not include being VERY clear that if he does not start handling this on his own the job offer will be pulled. I feel like AAM is usually very aware how much trouble people have with being direct, and if I heard “I really need you to do this on your own” I wouldn’t hear “or your job offer will be pulled.”

    OP I would recommend using allison’s otherwise very nice script and adding “otherwise we will have to go with another candidate.”

    Best of luck!

  40. Turtle Candle*

    A lot of the why-it-might-be (abuse, illiteracy, brain injury, cognitive impairment, etc.) seems to me to be… beside the point? If an accommodation for communication beyond the norm for the industry is needed (and it sounds like this is, if not as far beyond the norm as it would be in most jobs, still beyond the norm), the candidate needs to bring it up in some way; the LW doesn’t need to play what-if games and respond as if they were true. And if there’s concern that candidate’s wife will continue to do this, then the LW needs to consider whether this is tenable regardless of the reason.

    I’m concerned because in my experience these “but maybe he’s being abused/illiterate/has a disability/is underprivileged in some other way” things tend to tie people like the LW in knots without giving them anything actionable to do about them. Really at this point the ball has to be in the candidate’s court; if this kind of thing isn’t workable for the LW long-term, the candidate needs to either express something that needs to be accommodated or knock it off. Or if it is tenable and they could be hired with things continuing like this, then… it still doesn’t really matter?

    That sounds cold, I know, but I’m afraid that these things have a tendency to cause decision paralysis (“I want to ask my candidate/employee to do X entirely reasonable thing, but now people have suggested that perhaps they are disabled/have PTSD/have a really sad life, so I guess now I can’t? Or if I do, I have to do it so gently and considerately that they may not get the message?”) in a way that’s unhelpful.

    1. Blue Cupcake*

      It’s not cold. I feel the same way and it’s frustrating to keep reading “Maybe….” “What if…..” Sometimes there are nothing hidden and it’s just what you see at face value.
      We are not mind readers and companies don’t have time to play guessing games. If there *is* an issue or help *is* needed, they need to speak up. They don’t need the whole world to know but at least to the people in charge.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Plus, the what-if games often lead to outright contradictory advice. If the person needs an accommodation for some literacy or cognitive issue, then the solution might be to allow more assistance from their wife. If the person is being abused, then the opposite would presumably be useful–stop giving the wife more access. If the person has neither of those issues but just finds this easier but the job market is such that you need to accept that, then do nothing. A big blob of what-ifs are not only not actionable, they are often the very opposite of actionable.

  41. MsChanandlerBong*

    If you didn’t mention that it’s a job in the skilled trades, I’d think you were trying to hire my father-in-law. His wife is involved in everything he does, and it drives all of us crazy. In six years, we haven’t had one phone call with him where she’s not listening on speaker and squawking in the background. If we want to talk to him privately, we have to drive to his workplace (he owns the company, so we’re not disrupting anybody), make sure she’s not working on-site that day, and then talk to him before she shows up. It is highly annoying.

    OP, have you explicitly told his wife that she is hurting her husband’s chances of finding employment?

  42. ever-changing username*

    We’re in a rural region where both farmers and tradespeople do tend to function as economic entities as couples or families rather than individuals. It can be awkward for them, too, to fit into the individualized norm of being hired an individual. That’s all well and good when you’re working with an independent contractor whose spouse does the scheduling or buying from a farmer whose tech-savvy teenager does the invoicing, but it does get tricky when we’re talking about an employee. Still, I would agree with Allison, and maybe even go further in the direction of flexibility, provided that he is truly capable of the tasks associated with the job. We have an employee whose common-law spouse applied for him and to whom he prefers we give any logistical or financial information we would usually give him directly. (E.g., he’d never had paid PTO before, so we explained how it aggregates to her and then she explained it to him.) I think she has a high school diploma while he does not; I know that she manages their finances. It’s not my business to know whether he is innumerate or struggles with literacy. He’s competent at the things we need him to do, and being willing to be flexible about what would usually be a firm boundary means that he has a decent job and we have an able employee.

    1. JSPA*

      Thank you. There are a lot of ways to “do life” competently, and we should not be creating more artificial barriers and presuming more “shoulds” than are actually necessary.

      1. Elspeth*

        It’s not creating an artificial barrier in asking the prospective employee to answer questions himself! There’s nothing wrong with having a spouse help with emails, sending certificates/resumes – however, the LW is clear that although she allows this to some extent, she needs the candidate to actually listen to and respond to those things. Wife is completely over-involved at this point.

    1. Oilpress*

      Fully agree. Bob seems adamant that his wife is part of the deal as his personal assistant. The follow up from the letter writer just confirmed that.

  43. Student*

    The way I would think about this problem is: Bob may be the best candidate, but he comes with a pretty big downside that you’re having trouble with. If you can’t get Sue’s involvement under control within two discussions (and it sounds like you’ve already had at least discussion 1 of 2), I would think very hard about whether Bob’s all that far ahead of your next candidate (or an average candidate, if you don’t have someone else to directly compare him to right now).

    If Bob is head and shoulders above the next best candidate, and that makes a big production difference, then maybe this is the quirk you suffer through for that level of achievement. If Bob is only a little better than his peers, or if Bob being better than his peers is not actually a big productivity driver in your industry, then just move on to the next candidate.

    In my industry, we don’t usually see somebody who is so much better than peers that it is worth putting up with a lot of crap to get marginally better results.

    1. TootsNYC*

      If you can’t get Sue’s involvement under control within two discussions

      Or, perhaps if you can’t reconcile yourself to Bob and Sue’s dynamic…

  44. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    I wonder if Bob said ‘just send my wife an Email’ is because he doesn’t use the computer and the situation has morphed into her being overly involved in all aspects of his job search.
    There’s computer illiteracy and there’s just having no interest/refusing to deal with computers. That said, this (her refusing to back off) is crazy town territory.

    Maybe you would be doing him a service to outright tell him that his wife’s overinvolvement could be what has hindered his ability to get a job for, lo, theses many months. Considering his age (in the real world it is a factor) and maybe he needs this wake up call.

    Then it’s on him to figure out how to have her micromanage his work life without it being obvious that she is doing so.

    1. Lynn Marie*

      You are making an assumption that Bob hasn’t been working because he’s unable to find a job. Highly-skilled, well-paid manual trade workers at remote sights make very good money. If he’s been at it for years, he probably can pick and choose jobs and may well purposely take several month off a year.

  45. Angeldrac*

    Some really interesting responses, here. I do wonder, if the gender roles were reversed and it was Bob trying to do all the communicating and organizing for Sue, who would be the job applicant, if our attitudes and responses would be quite different. Is it worth applying some of those alternative attitudes and responses to this scenario?

    1. Kylie*

      In my previous job I had a few situations where professional women from another culture would have their husbands call me up to deal with their licensing applications. It was a tricky line to walk because, while respecting how they wanted to run their marriages, a. the husbands couldn’t answer the detailed questions about their wives’ experience, and b. there was no point in pretending that ‘husband as intermediary’ would work in a professional setting in this country. So there were a few slightly uncomfortable ‘Yes I know, but would you please put your wife on now?’ conversations.

  46. Nacho*

    Exactly how clear have you been with this guy? Is he aware that his wife’s constant calling is worrying and annoying you enough that his job offer is on the line? Or are you just telling him you don’t like it and accepting his excuses about how she likes to “be involved” without offering any kind of pushback other than that you don’t like it?

    I feel like he deserves at least one face to face conversation where he’s plainly told that this is a serious problem, and not something he can just push aside as a quirk of his SO’s.

  47. Not So NewReader*

    My husband worked long hours. So when his new-boss-to-be called, I was here alone with the phone. (No email in those days.) I remember feeling soooo awkward, I did not belong in that conversation with the potential employer. I did not want it to go to the answering machine but at the same time, I was not the one applying for this job. I kept the conversation super short. I made sure the boss-to-be knew he would get a call back. I said I knew my husband would be happy to hear he called and we arranged for a window of time where my husband could call. In the end I was glad I answered because both the boss and my husband needed to have the situation handled by an actual person. Letting the message on a machine just was not going to cut the mustard.
    I did not speak to any boss type person at that company for years after that one call. This level of involvement seems so odd to me. My husband would come home and we discussed plenty of different things but in the end it was his call and his responsibility.
    My husband did get the job. He was thrilled.

  48. Estraven*

    I don’t have a joint email with my OH, but I do tend to write letters on his behalf (because he has a chronic illness that makes it difficult for him to process stuff…after half an hour of ‘so this is what you want me to say?’ he’s done. I also do a lot of stuff for OH and Aged Parent, because they are both hard of hearing and cannot cope with phone calls, especially when the people they are talking to have quite strong accents.
    On the face of it, Sue is over-involved, but I would support Alison’s advice to further probe what is going on with Bob and Sue.

  49. Charles*

    If Bob is hired and he makes it through orientation, you are stuck with him. And with Sue. If you have another candidate, cut Bob and Sue loose.

  50. Girl friday*

    My cell phone doesn’t have voicemail, so for a while I had someone fielding calls for me and then I would promptly return them. I had the experience where someone was frantically calling them with the same message multiple times. It can go both ways. But I chose someone extremely professional to field my calls. It sounds to me like someone has a rogue secretary! I never considered before how often administrative assistants don’t do this….

  51. SamanthasOpinions*

    I have read many comments here, however I got a picture in mind that Bob might not speak and write fluent in English.
    That he speaks Spanish and prefers that his wife handles the emails, that he does not know all his rights and laws and his wife is asking on his behalf regarding benefits, pension plan 401k, medical, etc.
    It is very commom in latin society for the couple to interact as 1 person, however usually disguise by “I will think about it” it means “I will talk to my spouse and get back to you”.
    The part about speaker phone is probably his lack of English understanding with the lady wanting to know it all.
    Just accept them as is!
    For your own needs look at her as beign his assistant that you cannot speak directly to him without talking to her.

  52. Angel*

    My husband just had a very complicated onboarding process including multiple interviews (phone, skype, in person). You know how many times I contacted his future boss to grill him on the particulars?


    My husband is a grown man who can navigate his own career without my assistance. I did however, give him a list of questions I would like answered so he could be sure to ask them himself.

    While I feel sorry for Bob, this may just be a life lesson he needs to learn. Pull the plug unless you want to be dealing with BobnSue forevermore.

  53. PsychDoc*

    OP should to keep in mind that they can’t fix something that Bob doesn’t mention. If he does have something going on and chooses not to disclose, then it’s Bob’s loss. I know it can be embarrassing to admit you have something going on (a literacy problem of some kind, a learning disability, etc), but if Bob shares the problem, then he can discuss the coping strategies he already employs and work with OP to determine how to incorporate those strategies into the job, if possible, or decide that this job isn’t a good fit (which is perfectly acceptable). But, Bob can’t force his coping skills on the job without explanation.

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