can I turn down a networking request?

A reader writes:

I am three months into a great job at a huge organization in my field. A friend and former manager who helped me get the job (my first out of college) just reached out to me with a friend of hers who is trying to set up informational interviews for when she’s in the city. Having just gone through 100 information interviews, of course I’m happy to meet with her and be on the other side of the table. However, they both asked if I would set up informational interviews for her with some higher-ups in my organization. I felt really uncomfortable about this request, as I have never met this person and I am still brand new to this organization and developing my own relationships within it.

Am I rude for saying no? It just seemed like such a strange request.

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • An anonymous caller said my coworker is dealing drugs
  • How much can I push back on a freelance client?
  • How can I get over my bitterness at being laid off?
  • Does an employer really mean it if they “strongly urge” me to apply again?

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Faith

    I don’t understand how reporting a hotline call would be viewed as “snitching” (and I HATE this term in a work context). I mean, OP says “someone called me on the hotline”, which I take to mean it is literally OP’s job to answer the hotline and take anonymous complaints. How is doing your job considered “snitching”?

    Reply
    1. Holly

      Yes, without being too unfriendly to OP, who had the sense to ask about the situation, I do think that could be a really toxic attitude to have if you’re monitoring a hotline.

      Reply
      1. AKchic

        If it’s a city bus line, not really. It could be as simple as “hey, I lost my hat on route 5 today, could someone please check the lost and found and call me back?”

        Reply
          1. MK

            I think what AKchic meant was that the purpose of this specific hotline might not be to complain about workers,which would make the OP’s attitude, though still wrong,less of an issue.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              Still. A hotline is always going to be used that way occasionally, and reporting complaints about staff is always part of the job, unless it’s explicitly stated that it’s not part of the job. In this case, there is an additional issue – the called said they are going to the Sheriff about this. The idea that you would NOT tell your boss is disastrous.

              Reply
    2. Thor

      Based on the fact she’s asking that question, I’m pretty sure their hotline isn’t for anonymous complains about employees, or at least it isn’t usually.

      Reply
    3. Indie

      God, I hate the word and I’m an educator because it’s so often misused. Even high school kids need to know the difference between snitching and sitting on a time bomb. Snitching = raising something petty you could resolve yourself. Cover up = sitting on something that needs to be investigated by a big picture person. I think drug dealing allegations qualifies for ‘not petty’.

      Reply
      1. Danish

        Right, that was my thought. You don’t want to be a snitch by… reporting that potentially something illegal and harmful is happening? It’s not like you’re telling your boss that Judy slips in 5 minutes late every day.

        Reply
  2. pleaset

    For the person feeling bitter, it’s also useful to accept that as a natural feeling. That doesn’t mean acting on it – rather recognizing it’s normal, and then being able to deal with it or displace it as best you can.

    Reply
    1. Paul

      I felt bitter about my layoff until I had made enough progress post layoff to say “that job was a valuable stepping stone regardless of how it ended.” They had required me to live far from home for six months upfront & laid me off not long after I got home when they realized that a remote employee wasn’t their cup of tea, after all. So there was a lot of resentment to go around

      Reply
  3. LarsTheRealGirl

    OP 5 – you may not have to go through the entire process again in 6 months either; they may skip things like the testing, phone screens, etc, and just do additional (probably abridged) interviews, unless parts of the management team change.

    The reason they’re asking you to apply again is because you may not be interested in 6 months so they may not want to reach out to everyone who could have been a good fit. (People may have gotten new jobs, not be searching again, not be interested again, etc.)

    Reply
  4. AKchic

    You’re not “snitching”. You are reporting a serious issue up the chain. You are making sure your supervisor isn’t blindsided when law enforcement starts investigating. When media starts showing up. When people start talking. This gives management time to consult their attorney(s) to figure out what liability they have, and what they can do to protect the company and other employees (like you, who heard the report first).

    This anonymous report could be legitimate. It could also be someone just trying to mess with the employee (oh, the joys of “revenge” and power plays). This is up to someone decidedly Not You to figure out and deal with. You are merely a messenger. Then, you pretend like you heard nothing. You did not take that call. You know nothing about any call whatsoever. It’s none of your business unless management, the company’s attorney, law enforcement or a court order asks you about it.
    (however, do keep written notes at home, safe somewhere, just in case)

    Reply
    1. Mongrel

      I’ve always considered that the people who are imposing the social rules about what’s considered tattling\snitching are often the people who need to be reported.
      Yes, I was bullied at school and it’s just another form of bullying.

      There are exceptions, Indies post up there clarifies nicely, so it’s worth taking a step back and ask “Would not reporting this benefit this person\persons’ friend\company”. If the answer is “Yes” then it’s probably not tattling

      Reply
  5. Grapey

    #1 It’s transparent that they’re just using you to get to the higher ups.

    As a ‘higher up’ in my own organization, I’d really question the judgement of a new hire that asked me to meet with a friend of a friend that they’ve never even met.

    The only caveat I’d consider is if particular ‘higher ups’ in your org are big into mentoring or outreach efforts, in which case they might be interested in these sorts of informational interviews.

    Reply
    1. MK

      I think it also makes a difference what exactly is meant by “higher-up”. If it’s someone with much more seniority who the OP doesn’t know personally or only has a nodding aquaintance with, then absolutely not. If it’s the OP’s own manager or a member of the same team that they work with everyday, personally I would just ask them directly how they want me to handle such networking requests. They might tell you that they are too busy or that they love giving informational interviews or that they would be willing to do them in certain cases and what those cases are or that they loath them with the passion and never do them or that they only give them at the request of people who have worked with/know well the person asking the interview, etc.. This gives you a graceful way to decline: “I am sorry, Renjie only gives informational interviews in August of each leap year”.

      Reply
      1. KTB

        I agree with MK here. I wouldn’t automatically assume that it’s such an outrageous request. I went from working at a small consultancy to a household name global corporation recently, and there’s definitely been a learning curve in corporate leadership structures. If you’ve never worked in a huge organization before, you may not even realize what the distance is between junior and senior staff, and what the communication protocols look like. For example, a former colleague reached out to me with a similar request: helping connect her to a VP in another department so he could meet with her company’s CEO. I have a direct line to his staff, but not to him, so I wasn’t able to help.

        Given the company that I now work for, my LinkedIn has exploded lately with requests/asks/invitations from total strangers. I’m learning very quickly to filter/ignore.

        Reply
    2. Falling Diphthong

      All the power dynamics are off here.

      Junior people don’t have the pull to ask senior people to take meetings with random strangers. Not unless there’s enough history between junior and senior person that the latter absolutely trusts that this rare request must be for excellent reason (like they have found the perfect llama groomer, and you’re hiring for that)–the actual scenario lacks both that long history on the current employer side AND OP knowing anything useful about the other person.

      Reply
    3. Lavender Menace

      Even then – I know some of the higher ups in my org, but those relationships were formed through careful networking and lots of hard work. I would not jeopardize them by introducing a friend of a friend that I didn’t even know, even to higher-ups that I knew were into mentoring or outreach. I’d save that social capital for someone I personally knew and believed in professionally.

      Reply
  6. Greg NY

    #4: You can’t be bitter at being laid off if you weren’t slighted in any way. If the project you were working on was deemphasized, if the funding for that project evaporated, or if budgetary constraints dictated something had to be cut, there isn’t much you (or even management) could do to prevent your layoff. In a non-profit, there usually isn’t any slack in the budget to keep you there and re-assign you to another project. You were simply the victim of bad luck and that’s the mindset you need to have.

    You might be more justified to have bitterness if you were the one laid off and someone else on the same project was kept, or if the decision to lay you off was based on subjective rather than objective factors. In a situation like this, it helps to ask yourself “if I was the manager, would I make the same decision”. In this case, I think you’d arrive at the conclusion that you would.

    The one thing I fault your organization on is trying to spin your departure. They should be matter of fact about it and not try to sugar coat it. That, however, is all about spin. It doesn’t change the underlying facts of why you’re being let go and what your emotional take on it should be.

    Reply
    1. CaitlinM

      You absolutely can be bitter about that. I take umbrage at peoples’ attempts to tell others how they can or should feel. Feelings require no justification. However, how one acts on his or her feelings is important and can be the subject of advice/discussion/judgment.

      Reply
    2. NotAnotherManager!

      I think that #4 is fully justified in feeling bitter – getting laid off under any circumstance is difficult, and, even when you can fully understand the rationale and why it happened, it still creates stress and uncertainty. I think this feeling is totally normal and is just something OP #4 will need to work through. It will get better with time.

      My partner has been laid off twice, with the second being very shortly after the birth of one of our children. It was not their fault, but it was still upsetting – the organization took a LIFO approach, and they were last hired, which meant other people with lesser performance were kept on. Fortunately, they had such a great reputation within the organization, a higher-up recommended my partner for another job, and they’ve been there nearly 10 years. I sometimes joke I want to seen Lay Off Co. a thank you note because of how much better things are for us, but it took time for the sting to wear off.

      OP #4, I wish you the best in your jobs search and hope you find something that you like even better. Don’t get down on yourself, layoffs happen to many people who’ve done nothing but perform well.

      Reply
      1. wem

        I was laid off after 22 years at a company. I had just had surgery for a rotator cuff injury, and I was still on disability when I was informed I was being let go as soon as I came back off of short term disability. It was a crap move, and I stayed on short term disability til I was fully healed before I came back and they let me go. Still pissed off about the way it went down.

        Reply
    3. MLB

      As others have said, it IS okay to be bitter, regardless of the details. What’s not okay is to act on that bitterness. I’ve been laid off twice and yes it sucks, especially when they give you a heads up and you still have to work there. But you’re only hurting yourself more if you allow your feelings to get in the way of the work you’re doing, or the business relationships you’ve maintained.

      Reply
  7. A person

    Regarding the anonymous caller, I was put in that position once when I was young and I’m so glad I took it to my boss! Turns out the “anonymous” caller was a domestic abuser trying to get an employee fired (and thus more dependent on him). Management was aware of the situation and was supportive of the employee.

    Your situation actually could be about a drug dealer, but management is in a better position to, well, manage the situation.

    Reply
  8. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

    For the freelancer — Are these articles that have already been published somewhere? They might be trying to get you to do updates rather than proof revisions. I’m a graphic designer and once upon a time worked freelance. Sometimes clients that could come back the next year and want updates done on say a flyer that was already printed — things like new dates or new phone numbers — and think that those are the same as proof revisions. Nope, it’s a new “repeat with changes” job request.

    If your articles haven’t been published yet, this is the time to look carefully at your contract to see how many proof revisions are covered by your fees. Hopefully you have some language to that effect in there. And look through any old correspondence to see if your old contact ever signed off on the proof as “finished” even if the business decided not to publish your work.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      Interesting thought on updates.

      However, usually payment indicates that the work has been submitted, revised, and accepted. Most freelancers might agree to throw in some late minor revisions, usually of actual missing content like providing a missing caption. If freelancers have been turning in stuff that’s actually not okay–say there are supposed to be exercises, with answers, and there are not–that’s on the management to sort out with the people in-house who have been okaying the work as complete when it isn’t. They can’t expect the freelancers to redo everything for free. Either the freelancer is incompetent and they need them off this project, along with the manager who okayed it all, or the instructions have been vague or wrong and the freelancer has no obligation to rewrite everything to the new revised company vision.

      Reply
    2. Specialk9

      I just find #3 to be so frustrating. It’s one of those things that women especially do – devaluing their own work and not getting payment before working. Why on earth would you submit work that you think you won’t be paid for? Seriously, don’t do that – this isn’t a charity this is work. It’s eminently reasonable to expect payment for work.

      Reply
    3. Sketchee

      I’m also a graphic designer and find that there is a subset of clients who want anything for free. Whether it’s their negotiation tactic, entitlement, or just lack of understanding

      We have to set the prices for our work. Just as any store or business says what they’re work costs. Client’s don’t know and we’re expert

      The amount you pushback depends on how much you need this type of client. Get used to saying in a positive and non apologetic tone: “Great, before we start this is going to cost X.” And let them have whatever response they have.

      Early on when you’re building a client base, you might have a little more leeway. But as you get bigger and better clients, it’s okay to let go of the ones that are less profitable. It’s hard to do when we’re used to being accomodating. But it’s a business and the best and more profitable clients tend to understand.

      Reply
  9. Quickbeam

    Re: bitterness over being laid off.
    I lost my dream “forever” job after 10 years and national/international awards. I was a stand alone, one employee department and they just eliminated me as a budget cut. It was extraordinarily painful and I had not realized how much of my self worth was tied up in this job. Clients continued to call me at home for years, seeking the service that was no longer offered.

    Now I am 8 years into a new job from which I will retire. I’m not longer mad…more wistful about the work. I’ve never allowed a job to consume me like that again. It’s super hard to let go of the anger and the bitterness but I kept friends and references from the old department. Maintaining those ties/references was critical to my moving on and getting new opportunities. I recommend that.

    Reply
  10. Elenia

    Hi, totally not on topic at all, but how do I donate some money to you, Allison? I looked at your mugs and stuff but honestly I just want to throw some money your way.
    I literally read your blog every day. I’m pretty sure I got my current job (director at a decent sized nonprofit) because of the cover letter and the interview tips you provide. And I now have an employee problem and I check your blog for advice on how to respond to her all the time.
    Do you take donations? Did I miss the link somewhere? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That’s so kind of you! Thank you so much. Since I’m not set up for donations, the best way to do it is to buy one of my books. Buying my ebook gets money straight to me, which is nice, but buying my “real” book scores points with my publisher, which is probably even better. So either one of those!

      Reply
      1. Scout Finch

        Elenia – take it from me. The ebook and the real book are both worth the $ – and then some.

        I bought no fewer than 5 copies of the real book – gave 4 to friends. My friend who works at a museum says she reads it every morning. One sits in my bookcase here at work. Gave my old boss one. Still may buy more as I run across people who may benefit from one.

        I bought the ebook a few years ago. I think it helped me get my new job.

        Reply
        1. Lavender Menace

          Agreed. How to Get a Job literally helped me get a job. I bought it when I was first job-hunting for my first post-graduate school job; it was tremendously helpful, and I am still in that job 3 years later (and loving it).

          Reply
  11. e271828

    LW#3, in addition to what “Pay no attention…” says above (you get paid for redoing jobs that have been completed and paid), if the client does not have a house style manual and the rewrites are about things that would be covered there, you could ask this new (second new in a few months) person to supply one.

    Beyond reviewing your own copies of the contract, is there a steady contact/project manager still there you can talk to about these redo requests, above the new hires who seem to be trying to look busy at your expense? It seems possible that these new staffers need training about when it is appropriate to ask for more work and what it will cost the company to do that. “Make them better” is not an instruction that can be carried out without (1) pay and (2) very specific written standards about what the client wants.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  12. NotAnotherManager!

    OP #5, if you’ve been strongly encourage to apply again, my guess would be that you and the successful candidate were great candidates and they had some edge, no matter how small. I had that situation a few years ago where either candidate was an amazing fit for the position and one had a certification that pushed them over the edge. In any other year, the runner up would have gotten the job. (And did when a second position came open due to increased work – we were able to call them, offer an abbreviated interview schedule, use their paperwork on file, and hire them.)

    Reply
  13. WantonSeedStitch

    If I “strongly urged” someone to apply for another position in the future, it would probably mean that when I rejected them for the first job, I was thinking, “Gosh, Sansa and Arya are both such amazing candidates, I wish I could hire both of them now! Since that second position hasn’t been approved for posting yet, though, I have to just go with Sansa because she was a *little* stronger. But I really want to make sure I get another shot at Arya when that other position opens.”

    Reply
    1. SusanIvanova

      A former coworker interviewed with my new team. They turned him down but told him to apply to another team. He was all upset about being turned down and not at all sure about the other team, but what none of us could say was that he’d be a great match for a project so secret that even telling him he’d be a great match would give it away.

      After much strong urging he went on the interview and got the job.

      Reply
  14. Linzava

    #2,

    Something to keep in mind, sometimes customers lie when they’re angry at an employee for enforcing boundaries on the job or when they dislike the person. When I was young, a customer lied to my manager saying I said sexually explicit things in front of her and her child, I was actually being harassed by the customer in front of her and didn’t know what to say to him so I quietly smiled and got rid of him without saying anything. I also knew some friends who were angry at someone, pretended to be customers and got him fired. Recently, I had someone call my office about a vendor and lied about their being arrested(vendor’s office was nextdoor) and demanding to know what I would do about it. They threatened to do the same to us when we refused to fire the vendor.

    I agree, you need to push this up the chain, but with a major grain of salt. If the driver was dealing drugs, they will call the police. If they aren’t, this person was trying to ruin the drivers day or employment anonymously.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      Well, the OP shouldn’t report that “CW was dealing drugs”, because the OP doesn’t know that. What the OP should report is “Someone who didn’t leave their name called and said that CW was dealing drugs and that they were going to call the Sheriff’s office tomorrow.” Because even if the caller was lying through their teeth, the manager needs to know. Not because CW needs to be fired, but because whatever the reason the caller is calling, the org has a problem on their hands that has the potential to blow up.

      Reply
    2. Peter

      The place of employment is relevant too. I bus commute and my SIL drives a bus. 98% of riders are just going someplace. The other 2% generate a wealth of “you wouldn’t believe what happened at work today” stories. I wouldn’t be surprised if a repeat offender was finally banned and this is their “payback”.

      Which is all the more reason to tell management.

      Reply
  15. JM

    To LW #3 the freelancer. My guess is the persons asking for this are trying to show their value to the company. My place of work is very big on reviewing as in reviewers will make changes such as “To Whom It May Concern” should be “Dear Sir/Madam” which really makes no difference at all. I suggest you follow the advice of checking your contract about re-do’s. And I would definitely charge for them if it is not in the contract. 35 articles is a lot especially if they were already approved as in you have been paid for them. Do not set yourself up to be an underpaid victim.

    Reply
  16. Thany

    For OP#3,
    I agree with what everyone said about charging them for rewrites, but I have another thought. With all the firing that seems to be happening at this company, do you want to continue to retain them as a client? Do you have enough work without them? With the quick firing of two employees and vague guidelines on rewrites, I would have concerns for the company. If you follow Alison’s advice but they continue to insist that you do it for free, I think you would have your answer.

    Reply

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