my employee lied about a reference

A reader writes:

I wanted to run a scenario by you that happened to a friend of mine the other day. He told me that one of his direct reports had asked him for a reference for a part-time weekend gig to make some extra money. He said that this staff member was a high performer – in fact, he views him as being one of the best – and so therefore he didn’t have any qualms about giving him a reference.

Fast forward to a few weeks later and this same employee is tendering his resignation and it turns out that it is a full-time job. And my friend learned that he was lied to, that staff member lied to him about it being a weekend job. My friend feels betrayed and he feels shame, he is saying that they’re now losing one of the best staff members. And he has a mind to call back the woman in HR of the other job that he gave a reference to and tell her what happened.

What do you think he should do? Should he call her, or should he just bite the bullet and take the loss? I’d love to hear what you say about it.

I answer this question — and four others — on the final episode of the Ask a Manager podcast today. Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • People I hire keep leaving for grad school
  • How do I get out of sympathy hugs?
  • I get second and third interviews but no job offers (read an update here)
  • Our meals aren’t reimbursed when we travel for work

At the end of this episode, I also talk about why I decided to end the show (spoiler alert: workload and a desire not to burn out).

If you’re sad to be losing the show: You might like the audiobook version of the Ask a Manager book, which is nearly seven hours of similar audio content. (That’s like 14 more episodes!)

This episode is 31 minutes long, and you can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, the iHeartRadio app, or wherever else you get your podcasts (or here’s the direct RSS feed). Or you can listen above.

Or, if you prefer, here’s the transcript.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 368 comments… read them below }

  1. Seespotbitejane*

    Disappoint! But I do frequently wonder how you manage to churn out the volume of content you do, so understandable.

  2. Boba tea*

    I’ll listen to this as soon as i have time todsy but i’m sad it’s ending :( i listen to all of your podcasts in a few weeks and they really help when i have to drive 3 hours to visit my family! My boyfriend will look for a job soon and he is fascinated with the salary negotiation episode so hopefully he’ll apply it soon lol but i also want to thank you for sparking my interested in podcast! I’ve never listened to them before but i really like it since i dont have enough time to read, music bores me out after a while and the contents are pretty diverse. If anyone can recommend interesting podcast on Spotify please do!

    1. Rainy days*

      So many good ones out there! I’d recommend Reply All for funny and fascinating takes on internet culture and In The Dark for amazing true crime.

    2. Commercial Property Manager*

      This is such a subjective question, but here’s my short list (and Alison, please let us know if we should take this ‘offline’ to the OT thread – I can see this getting long).
      I like podcasts that make me go “hmm”. These are all in that genre. They mostly explore nonfiction, interesting variety topics: This American Life, Heavyweight, Invisibilia, Hidden Brain, Radiolab, Reply All, Serial.
      And if you’re looking for something specifically work-related, Safe For Work Podcast is great (in fact, I think AAM first recommended them to me).

  3. Amber Rose*

    The last episode, wth?!?!
    Just kidding. You gotta do what’s best for you and your health. Thanks for doing it for as long as you did. :)

  4. Junior Dev*

    Sad to hear you’re stopping but I think it’s great you are taking care of yourself! If nothing else it’s a good example for the rest of us.

  5. nsrtesla*

    I am so sorry to hear that your show is ending, but I’m also glad that in a way you are taking the advice you often give to your readers! There is no need to burnout doing something you love.

    I will immediately download all of the past podcasts and ensure my app does not delete them! I find value from even the very first episodes!

    1. Bowserkitty*

      Same!!! It has been in my queue (I’m odd about my podcast series patterns and how I listen) so I am going to download them all ASAP.

  6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m glad you’ve realised your limitations and did what’s best for your health! That’s a good example for anyone here who may feel overly stressed and stretched thin at work, you can and should look out for yourself.

  7. hello*

    Sad to see the show go, but I think it’s awesome that you are following your own advice and setting a good example for others of work-life balance. Thanks for all the previous episodes! Maybe we will see you as a guest on another podcast in the future. Until then, I hope all the podcast listeners come here to enjoy the blog with all of us.

  8. Traffic_Spiral*

    So… if I’m understanding correctly, the employee said that he was applying for a new “on the side” job and it turned out it was actually a full time job, and the employee is leaving. Welp, guess you should have done more to make that employee stay, then.

    If you call the new place, you’re going to sound like a sour grapes old dragon pissed that one of your minions managed to escape your lair. I’d let it go.

    1. Zephy*

      I dunno, I think asking your boss for a reference on a false pretense at least merits a closer look at the employee’s judgment. It’s possible that the position Employee had applied for was originally a part time weekend gig, and the new job offered Employee a full time position after the fact (immediately after the fact, seems like), but it’s far more likely that Employee lied from the start about what the job was.

      1. Lusara*

        I agree. I agree with Alison about why people hide that they are job hunting and so on, but outright lying to your boss to get a reference is extremely unethical, IMO, and if I was the new employer, I would want to know about it.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          If your boss has to be lied to in order to make them tell the truth about your qualifications, that’s on the boss, not the employee.

          1. Lusara*

            But did he have to be tricked into doing it? We don’t know. We do know, base on what we’ve been told, that the employee told a very big lie.

            1. Susie Q*

              Not really. The employee lied about the employment status of the job. Nothing else was a lie.

        2. Susie Q*

          It’s highly unethical to think that the boss would provide a different reference on the fact that the job would be a part-time job versus a full-time job.

    2. selena81*

      The letter sounded to me like ‘i am paying my star employee a pittance and thus was happy to see him take on a sidejob (so he won’t ask me for a raise), but now for some unfathomable reason he jumped ship altogether, what gives??’

      If your employee is so afraid you’ll wrongfully badmouth him that he feels the need for deception just to get you to speak the truth then the problem is almost certainly with you.
      My opinion is that if LW was a halfway decent manager the situation would be puzzling to them (‘i would have given a good reference anyway, why lie?’ i thought we had a good connection, why did he not tell me he was unhappy with his job?), instead of what sounds an awful lot like ‘so what do you think, do i still have a shot at sabotaging this new job..?’

  9. Elizabeth Proctor*

    For LW1, what’s not mentioned is that even if friend calls the other company, he’s going to lose this employee anyway. Whether that’s in two weeks or two months (maybe even tomorrow), he’s definitely going to leave.

  10. Murphy*

    I thought it was really shitty of the employee in the first question to lie in order to get a reference out of the manager. I don’t think there’s any point in calling the new company about it either, but it was a really crappy thing to do.

    1. Observer*

      On the other hand, the manager’s reaction proves that the employee had what to be afraid of.

      1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

        I had the same thought. This is a good employee who wanted to find a better job. Maybe he’s new to the workforce and doesn’t have other references. Either way, his manager’s reaction proves that the employee is right to jump ship and has nothing to gain by being honest with his manager about wanting to leave.

        Your reaction to this story changes when you shift perspective and no longer take the side of the manager.

        1. irene adler*

          Actually, I’m thinking I might use this method myself (long story behind this; not worried about burning my bridges).

          One time, during an interview, I was asked for the name and contact info for my current boss. I demurred.

          Instead, I offered up several references- prior bosses, current and prior co-workers. Nope. He wanted to speak to my current boss. I didn’t give him the contact information as I figured I’d be out of a job as soon as my boss learned I was job hunting. What a risk this interviewer was asking me to take.

          (No, it didn’t occur to me to ask for a job offer conditional upon speaking to my current boss. Young and naïve.)

          Didn’t get the job.

          1. Kiona*

            A similar thing happened to me.

            The interviewer (who was the CEO) asked to speak to my current boss, citing a hiring tactic he read about in a book. Apparently, if my current boss had good things to say about me and was “sad” to let me go, he would hire me. But if my current boss wasn’t “sad” to let me go, he’d see it as a problem and he wouldn’t hire me. So I’d be outing to my current boss that I was job-hunting and still not be guaranteed a job. It was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard.

            Needless to say I sent an email to withdraw my application the next day,

            1. AFPM*

              You dodged a bullet there! Why do people write such nonsense like this in books?! I would definitely question the CEO’s judgement too.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, if the manager’s reaction is to try and keep the employee at the job by getting the other offer rescinded (“I only said he was great when I thought he wasn’t leaving–if he might quit on me, then he’s a terrible worker”)–not more money or the other normal things you offer to tempt your top employees to stay with you–those top employees are going to sprint sooner rather than later.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I have, as a joke, said to someone calling for a reference for current employees (freelancers applying for a full-time job), “I’m going to lie and tell you that she’s awful so you won’t hire her away from me–because what will I do if I lose her?” Once when the mood of the phone call was right, I even said: “She’s unreliable–she’s never on time, she’s never willing to do extra work, she doesn’t have any initiative. And she never makes really good, smart catches, and she doesn’t work well with other people, and she’s really unpleasant to be around, and if you hire her away from me so that she gets a reliable job with benefits and job growth, I will never forgive you.”

          They laughed and hired her.

          I am actually the kind of boss that a full-time employee could ask to give a reference; I’m not sure if my people know that, but I hope they could guess.

          I’ve also had a boss who recommended me for a job she thought I’d love, and that would be good for me, even though she also made it clear she didn’t want to lose me.

          This guy needs to be more like that.

          People leave jobs–they just do. A smart manager is always ready for that.

      3. Tigger*

        Exactly. I had a boss like this and after he called a person moving on a coward for doing so, no one used him for a reference.

      4. Jamie*

        I agree. I get being pissed about the lie if he thought they had good rapport, but the reference should have been the same regardless.

        Taking it so personally makes me wonder if the employee wasn’t lying becusse he felt he needed to protect himself and get an honest reference.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, I think if I were in this position, I would be frustrated that the employee hadn’t been honest, and I might have even asked if I had done something to give the impression that if he had been honest, I would push him out or something.

          But I think the employee’s actions are understandable, and hopefully once the manager cools down, they will see that too.

          1. Sandy*

            Exactly! I think the best thing for the employer to do in this situation is to consider whether they gave the employee reason to be anxious. Maybe it’s not got anything to do with them; maybe the employee has been burned in the past. Either way, there’s nothing they can do at this point and calling the new company says nothing good about their relationship to their employees. Really? You’re going to try to burn his new job AND your reputation at the same time?

          2. Jamie*

            Tbh I wouldn’t be frustrated and would understand why he lied. Unless you are working with someone with whom you have seen a solid track record of being supportive when people are thinking of leaving I’d err on the side of saying nothing until giving notice, lying if I had to.

            As Alison noted below, this isn’t “that kind of lie.”

            I recently changed jobs and when I had to come in for a final interview I didn’t tell them that’s why I needed the day … I called in sick. And I hate lying so it bothered me quite a bit, but not as bothered as I’d have been if I’d decided to stay where I was and was now being side eyed by my employer for considering leaving.

            I am curious about the wording from the OP – that his friend felt shame at his employee lying. I find that interesting as it’s such an unusual response, to my way of thinking.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this.

        I have a good manager whom I could trust, but I’ve had managers before who either forced me out or would have if they had found out, and I couldn’t afford to lose the pay (which was partly why I was leaving . . . ).

      6. Namelesscommentator*

        No. The employee’s actions gave more information about how they operate that changed the reference.

        It was a crappy and manipulative move that speaks pretty clearly to the employee’s character. Tbh, I’d be glad they were leaving after this.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Wow, no. I wrote this below and I’ll repeat it here:

          This isn’t that different from lying when your manager asks if you’re job searching and you’re not ready to say you are, or saying you have a dentist appointment when you need to go to a job interview. If the system forces you to use a cover story or else you will jeopardize your livelihood, that is the fault of the system, not the person trying to survive in it.

          1. Jane*

            The system did not force this guy to use his current boss as a reference though. He could have done what the rest of us do and use former managers and coworkers instead.

            1. Observer*

              That’s where you are almost certainly wrong. Most people don’t use their current manager if they are worried and can help it. But many employers insist on it (which is a garbage move) and in other situations there really isn’t anyone else.

              1. Jane*

                Actually, its very common for employers to be understanding about not using your current employer as a reference and its pretty standard job search advice that Alison has written about before.

                1. Kwazy Kupcake*

                  Actually, many employers insist on it. This is highly dependent on industry culture. When I moved into the public sector, I explained that I was worried about my boss knowing I was looking elsewhere. The hiring manager said he understood… and then turned around and contacted my employer anyway, because that’s just what they do for everyone and he didn’t even really think about it in that way. Luckily he spoke to an assistant manager who I thought of as a safe person, but it could have ended really poorly for me.

                  Basically, there are a nonzero amount of workplaces who want to speak with the current employer (some for more legitimate reasons than others) so you can’t just throw up your hands and say “well, this shouldn’t ever happen.”

                2. where did today go*

                  I had an old boss who refused to hire anyone without talking to their current boss first. That this could get the candidate fired either never occurred to her or never bothered her.

                3. Cathy Gale*

                  Yes, you’re right – and you’re also wrong. It really depends on where you’re applying. I have had both experiences, and also the experience of noting that my current boss should not be contacted about the search, and then the company I’m applying at does it anyway.

        2. Mrs. H. Kenway*

          But we don’t even know for sure that the employee lied–at least, that’s not clear from the letter printed here. It could be that the employee applied for a part-time side gig and was offered a full time job instead.

          And given the manager’s reaction, it’s not crazy to think she wouldn’t have agreed to be a reference if she’d known. To immediately go to “What a LIAR!” and to be so angry that you want to screw up the employee’s new position and hopefully get them fired before they start, instead of just saying, “Hey, Employee, I thought you said this was a part-time job. What happened?” is a pretty ridiculous reaction. If the employee was good enough to warrant a good reference, then this one situation is not a reason to destroy her future, especially when–again–we don’t even know for sure that it was a LIE.

          1. Rectilinear Propagation*

            Such a good point! There have been several letters from people saying the job they were applying for changed in some way or even that they were offered a position other than the one they applied for.

            It could even be that they wanted to start them off as part-time and changed it to full-time on the strength of the reference given.

          2. Midwest writer*

            Yeah, I was thinking this, too. I was in a situation last year where I was asked to give a head’s up if I was unhappy (we’d had some big changes) and I said I would. Then someone approached me with a job offer and before I knew it, I had accepted it. (Not quite the same, but close, I think.) My boss was shocked and I think a bit hurt that I took a job after saying I’d give a warning … but I wasn’t unhappy and wasn’t looking and then something cool (and better paying) came along. Weirder things have happened.

      7. Kaybee*

        I also don’t know just what the manager expects to accomplish by calling the person he gave the reference to. A lot of folks here have made comparisons to lying about what you’re doing when you take time off to interview. Can you imagine if, after having received a positive reference, the supervisor calls you back to say, “I learned that Mr. Tibbles was actually interviewing with you when he said he was going to a dentist appointment; I now would like to change my reference to indicate he’s a LIAR and UNETHICAL. Just thought you should know.”

        It’s pretty much the same thing to call them up and say, “I gave Mr. Tibbles a stellar reference when I thought he was applying to a part-time job. Now that I know he will be leaving the company for a full-time job, I’d like to amend my reference to let you know he’s a LIAR.” I mean, there are very few ways to say this without the person on the other end of the phone thinking anything other than, “What a loon. I see why Mr. Tibbles wanted to get out of there.”

    2. Psyche*

      It is also pretty short sighted. He is never going to be able to use this reference again.

      1. Observer*

        Well, it’s pretty obvious that he wouldn’t be able to use this reference ever again ANYWAY. Manager’s response is so nasty, vindictive and useless that there is no reason to believe that he’d give a good reference later on anyway.

          1. Cat Fan*

            Yeah, useless maybe, but I’m not sure where nasty and vindictive are coming from. May or may not be interested in this information about the employee, but probably not considering this may have been the only way for the employee to handle it with the old employer.

              1. a1*

                Does he want to torpedo the new job or give the employer a heads up that this employee is not as trust-worthy as he thought? Or even just to give them more info. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, I just didn’t take it as a “well he screwed me so I’m going to screw him move”.

                1. Artemesia*

                  THAT would be nasty and vindictive. He didn’t tell the LW because he didn’t trust him to not undermine him. The LW has told us that his first thought is to undermine him. The employee called it spot on.

                2. a1*

                  I just don’t agree all motivations to do this would be nasty and vindictive. Intent matters here. Sure, it could be a “screw him”, but it also could be a “Yikes. I hope that company doesn’t have issues that I could forewarned them about.”

                3. MissGirl*

                  Accept he was an ideal, high performing employee. This doesn’t negate that. Managers can’t always be trusted to be told an employee is considering another offer.

                4. Mrs. H. Kenway*

                  I took it that way, especially since there’s no mention of, “I called the employee in and asked him what was up, because I thought it was a side gig, and he flat-out told me he lied to me to get me to say what he wanted.”

                  I haven’t listened to the podcast, so it’s possible there’s info in there that isn’t in the letter, but to immediately jump to “Employee lied! What scum!” and not, “What happened? Did employee think it was part time but it’s not? Did employee apply for part time but they offered full time instead?” makes the manager in this case sound like rather a nasty piece of work. When something happens like this with people we trust, decent people assume good intent and ask what happened, instead of jumping immediately to the worst possible scenario and deciding to ruin someone’s life because of it.

                5. Mookie*

                  Except there weren’t any “issues” he wanted, out of the goodness of his heart, he felt like sharing until the employee made him mad and he felt like taking revenge. Did you read the letter or listen to the podcast? The employer has no objections with the employee’s work; he wants to rescind a truthful and glowing reference so that the employee can’t work at the job they want. He wants to want them this employee may want a reference in the future? May give notice and leave eventually? The horror! He’s going to make himself look a fool if he tries this on.

                6. myswtghst*

                  I’ll be honest – I’m having a really hard time seeing “good intentions” as anything other than a smokescreen for someone who wants to make that call but still feel good about themselves. What new information could they possibly be giving the new company that would be at all useful? What issues are they going to “warn” them about that they wouldn’t have mentioned previously?

                  The candidate did something super common (wasn’t 100% truthful about his job search because he was concerned about risking his livelihood), and unless there were previous integrity issues that weren’t mentioned in letter, this is one instance of barely questionable behavior in a larger pattern of being a great employee. It’s disingenuous to say “oh, I’m just looking out for *new company*” when, at best, you’re making yourself look like a vindictive jerk, and at worst, you’re risking someone else’s livelihood.

              2. ContentWrangler*

                Haven’t listened yet but I agree, trying to torpedo the new job would be vindictive.

                Being lied to isn’t a great feeling. The LW’s friend can feel privately peeved about that and it can change their personal opinion of the employee. But the positive work reference was accurate and the LW’s friend should really think about what he wants calling HR to accomplish – does he want that new job offer rescinded? I doubt the employee would just go back to their old job like nothing happened. Does he really want to be the reason why someone is unemployed?

                Don’t give in to the worse side of yourself. Don’t cause turmoil in someone else’s life for revenge.

              3. Nathan Jones*

                That’s not what they said, though. They just said they wanted to call and inform the HR person. Given that they probably gave this person a glowing review and have now found out they’re a liar and manipulator, they want to give a heads-up that they do not stand by their initial reference. That doesn’t mean they want torpedo anything, necessarily, they may simply want to set the record straight and preserve their own reputation.

                You seem determined to read some very nasty motives into the OP’s friend’s feelings (which are not actions) while white-knighting for an employee who lied, cheated and manipulated their manager into giving them a reference under false pretences. That’s.. interesting.

                1. Former Church Lady, now a Fed*

                  “Given that they probably gave this person a glowing review and have now found out they’re a liar and manipulator, they want to give a heads-up that they do not stand by their initial reference.”

                  You seem determined to paint the job hunter/employee as a villainous, lying, nasty, bad person who deserves to be unemployed. Why?

                2. Sandy*

                  Real question; do you always tell your current boss when you’re job searching? If no, what would you do if they asked you about it? Would you tell them, yes, I’m planning on leaving this job, even if you might be let go? Alison very correctly points out elsewhere that the system is at fault here, not the employee.

                3. Mookie*

                  Calling them and saying this is not going to “preserve” his “reputation,” because needing a reference and moving on are normal business practices, even of otherwise flawless performers. All he’ll be doing is reinforcing why the employee left and making himself look out of touch and vengeful. No normal employer will go to weird lengths like this to retain someone who is determined to leave; that will be the only “reputation” he’s cultivating if he calls HR to do a take-backsie.

                4. Mookie*

                  Also, if he cares about his reputation, I doubt his own HR and upper management would look kindly upon him trying to rescind an honest and flattering reference, particularly if it was given to a peer organization. I would not want someone who regards job-seeking elsewhere as “lies” and “manipulation” representing me or supervising my staff, who would be at the mercy of someone so mercurial and out of touch.

                5. myswtghst*

                  I mean, I’m not judging OP’s friend for feeling what he’s feeling – it’s totally understandable that he’s working through some emotions, and in the heat of the moment, it’s not surprising he’s tempted to lash out. However, I am gonna side-eye the fact that he seems to be looking for justification to act on those feelings, and I would definitely call it vindictive if he did.

                  This is a situation that would benefit from less emotional investment, so I think branding the employee as “a liar and manipulator” is unhelpful and melodramatic. It’s possible to recognize that his lie wasn’t ideal, while still acknowledging the many reasons why it might have seemed necessary, and it would behoove the manager to think about how to keep this from happening again in the future, rather than “getting justice”.

                6. Falling Diphthong*

                  I agree with mys on feeling the feels. If OP wanted to take the boss out to a bar and have a bar and talk about how employees are awful and you can’t trust ’em, it’s an okay hour of blowing off steam. Actions are different. So is not moving past the initial sense of betrayal and hurt.

                  Like a gay couple can break up and one guy’s brothers takes him out to a bar and they talk about how guys suck and are awful, even though they are all guys–it’s an understood way to help your friend process the first shock of a breakup. If you keep trying to get your brothers to come back to the bar and trod around the bitterness circle over and over and over for weeks or months, though, they tell you to get a grip and pull out of it and everyone gets dumped–yes, even like this–and stop whining and ovary up already.

                7. Traffic_Spiral*

                  ” an employee who lied, cheated and manipulated their manager into giving them a reference under false pretences…”

                  Yes, the employee lied because he believed (rightly so, it turns out) that the only way the boss would give an honest review was if the boss didn’t know he was leaving. If someone has to lie to get you to do an ordinary decent thing, that really reflects more on you than them.

                  I mean, how exactly is the conversation going to go?

                  Boss: “Hey, you know that recommendation I gave? Well, I only gave it because I thought he was part time.”

                  Them: “So… you lied to us about the employee?”

                  Boss: “No, it was the truth.”

                  Them: “So… you’re calling us to say you *would* have lied had you known he was trying to leave you?”

                  Boss: “No… I’m… maybe… look, I’m angry he’s leaving, ok? I only gave that reference because I didn’t think it’d mean he’d leave, and now I’m upset that he’s got a better job.”

                  Them: “Yeah, with a boss like you, why would he ever want to leave?”

                8. Cathy Gale*

                  I will add onto the Lady-now-a-Fed comment – why aren’t you considering that the employee might have told the truth? If you are a solid to great part-time contractor you sometimes get offered full-time work. You are determined to read a negative motive onto the employee. Perhaps neither person is horrible. That happens sometimes.

                9. Susie Q*

                  The fact that you can not understand why the employee would lie about this makes me hope that you are not a manager because if you are, I’m guessing your employees don’t trust you.

          2. Observer*

            You really consider that feeling “hugely betrayed” and taking the time and effort to call the employer to torpedo the new job (and let’s be honest that is the ONLY reason he would be taking the effort to make this call) is really just a “natural WTF”?

            Note that the boss was willing to give the reference specifically because it was a side gig. That should tell all you need to know about the reaction.

          3. Sandy*

            There’s nothing wrong with being hurt that your employee felt they had to lie. I would feel that way, but critically, I would feel that way because I have zero problems with employees moving on. I’m not going to let them go if they disclose their job search or refuse to give them a good reference. Completely disregarding their previous experience with this employee in favor of trying to spoil their new position is not a good look.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I point out on the show that it’s generally not safe for people to be completely honest with their managers when they’re job searching. We have tons of letters here from people whose managers found out that they were job searching, confronted them about it, and then pushed them out earlier than they had planned to leave. That’s a huge danger for people – and as a manager, you’ve got to accept that people won’t always feel comfortable or safe letting you know when they’re thinking about leaving.

      The employee did what he did because he didn’t feel safe potentially putting his job on the line. That is understandable and not a huge betrayal.

      1. Murphy*

        I get that, and I don’t disagree. I think most people lie by omission when they’re job searching by just not letting their employer know, but it just seems gross to me to actively lie about it. It’s pretty normal not to have your current supervisor as a reference. I’ve been in positions (and am sort of in one now) where it’s hard to find appropriate professional references, but I’d never lie to my supervisor to get them to give one.

        1. Roscoe*

          But I guess my question is, what does it matter? The reference would’ve been the same regardless. So if the lied by omission or blatantly lied about the position, I don’t really see much difference

          1. Lusara*

            But now the manager has more information about the employee, specifically that he lied to the manager. If I’m the manager, my concern is that I gave this guy a glowing reference and now I have concerns about how trustworthy he is. So if he does something similar to his new boss, it will reflect badly on me because I gave him such a great reference.

            1. Jamie G*

              I don’t see a huge difference in morals between lying about this by omission and lying directly. It’s like, if he had called out for an interview, would “I need to take a sick day” be okay but “I’m sick and not coming in” be reason for concern?

        2. Former Church Lady, now a Fed*

          I couldn’t get my current job without the new employer talking to my current supervisor. Fortunately, it all worked out. But it is very scary for the employee when that happens.

          1. learnedthehardway*

            Unless you had no other management references at all (and even if you didn’t), I would give a really strong side-eye to an employer that insisted on talking to a current manager, before they had put an offer in writing. Most of the people I recruit – I tell them NOT to ask for a current manager reference. If the hiring company wants one, I advise them to wait until the past manager references are complete, and then put out an offer contingent on the final, current employer reference. That at least mitigates the risk to the employee.

        3. Delphine*

          I think a reasonable manager would understand the realities of why an employee might lie in this situation.

        4. Kiki*

          People often find themselves in situations where your current manager is your only or most compelling reference. Lying in that way is ill-advised, but the employee’s current and future job were both on the line. I think the supervisor should see this as a signal that at least one employee (and a high-performer, at that) thinks the supervisor would handle finding out they are job hunting ( a thing most employees will do at some point) extremely poorly.

      2. Hayley*

        Do you have more info that wasn’t in the podcast that backs up your assertions here about the employee’s motivations? It seems like you’ve fixed on one reason for his actions as the only possibility, but I didn’t hear anything that supported that assumption. Was there further communication with the OP that didn’t make it into the recording?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope, that’s the full call. I’m basing the assumption on 12 years of reading mail here and going with horses not zebras when I hear hooves :)

          Editing this to add — it’s hard to think of what the other explanations could be. I doubt he set out deliberately to deceive his manager for kicks.

          1. Rectilinear Propagation*

            …and going with horses not zebras when I hear hooves…

            That is very good. Can I steal that? (I’d actually tell people where I first heard it if I get a chance to use it in conversation.)

            1. Cathy Gale*

              It’s still very common to this day in medicine. Along with the assumption that first year students think they have all the diseases.

        2. myswtghst*

          Out of curiosity, what might the employee’s other potential motivations be? I’m not trying to be argumentative; I just legitimately cannot think of anything potentially nefarious or damning of his character to the point of warranting a change in the reference.

          Applying Occam’s razor leads me to either: 1 – The employee was concerned they might face repercussions if their boss found out they were job-searching, but they needed the reference; or 2 – The employee really did apply for a part time job, but was offered a full time job instead, and decided to accept it.

        3. Mookie*

          The motivation = get a new job and secure an honest reference. Are you maligning that? Are we expected to think he’s greedy?

          Feel free to explain how that harms the caller’s friend or justifies lying about the employee now that they’re leaving and maybe tell us why leaving with notice needs any further explanation or warrants a penalty of any kind.

          These people aren’t dating. This is work, a matter of food and shelter for you and yours. Not everyone can afford to go without even a single paycheck. It boggles my mind what we think the Boss is entitled to do in service of his ego or weirdly sensitive feelings (the friend says he feels “shame”). This person’s desire to now ensure this employee loses a job offer is, in itself, vindication that the employee could see which way the wind was blowing.

        4. Observer*

          Actually, in addition to what Alison says, there is a strong indicator in the original. The message says that the manager was OK with doing this because it was a side gig and wouldn’t affect his work. The implication was clearly that they would NOT have provided the reference if they thought that the employee might leave.

          Given how common this kind of thinking is, it’s not even horses vs zebras. It’s horses vs unicorns.

      3. Zennish*

        I’ve never understood this mentality among managers. Assuming that your employees never job hunt is like assuming your teenager never dates. It isn’t true, and hasn’t been since the 1950’s.

        1. CastIrony*

          Ha! That’s funny because though I’ve never dated in my entire life, I have job hunted. I have only told mine the one time I “quit” for three months. I also didn’t tell them I was getting a second job (I was planning to quit my current job again, but the only person who hired me was a very part-time retail store). The only people that knew I was job hunting were my references.

        2. myswtghst*

          Love this analogy. I feel like there are some weird mentalities at work in the US especially, where companies (and by extension, managers) either expect a degree of loyalty their employees could never expect in return, or fall into the trap of “like family” and take it as a personal affront when an employee decides to leave.

      4. Maria Lopez*

        Looking for another job is not a betrayal, and even telling your manager you need a reference for a part-time side gig isn’t a betrayal. But using that lie to get a glowing reference for another full time job so you can leave IS a manipulation, and I think that is really what hurt and humiliated the OP’s friend, being played for a fool. It is not a small thing in my estimation, despite what many responders here feel.
        That said, I wouldn’t bother with calling the new job to let them know this. That employee would no longer be my concern. Of course, hopefully he would have the good sense to not put me down as a reference for anything else.

        1. Susie Q*

          The manager needs to put his ego aside and understand why the employee lied. I’m a manager and would understand 100%. Occasionally I can’t tell my employees the whole truth and I expect the same from them. This is a business relationship not a dating or friendship relationship.

    4. MissGirl*

      I was in a similar position to the employee. I worked the same job for ten years with the same managers, making references tricky especially since this was my first professional job out of college.

      I made the decision to change careers and industries by going to grad school, which required letters of recommendations from managers. I led my manager to believe grad school would be part time.

      My justification was that I didn’t know for sure my plans until I had an acceptance letter in hand so I didn’t want to destroy my current job. When I was accepted, I told them I decided to go full time because the school offered scholarships.

      They handled it gracefully and I gave them ample notice to transition my role.

      1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

        That’s kind of different though because it’s not that unusual for people who think they’re going back to school just part-time decide they want to fully invest in it and go full-time. I’d be surprised if your manager was totally shocked that you changed your mind. We can argue whether or not the employee was justified, but I can’t imagine ANYONE expecting that their employee who claimed to be applying for just a part-time job to turn around and admit it was full-time (or however it was eventually revealed).

        You also weren’t positive what your plans were, so you weren’t acting in bad faith and you admit you gave ample notice, which was a effort on your part to do the best you could for them.

        1. MissGirl*

          I was positive I wasn’t going part time. I let them think I would. It was a matter of getting accepted. This employee wasn’t positive he would accept the job until he had an offer, which may have been contingent on references. Sometimes you’re between a rock and a hard place.

          1. Mrs. H. Kenway*

            Exactly. Why burn a bridge when you don’t know if you’ll need to keep crossing that river? The employee’s private goals and plans aren’t the manager’s business, really, especially when it comes to job hunting.

          2. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

            My bad! When I read this:

            “My justification was that I didn’t know for sure my plans until I had an acceptance letter in hand so I didn’t want to destroy my current job.”

            …I misinterpreted as you didn’t know about whether you’d go part- or full-time. Sorry about that!

            However, I actually think the employee not being positive about taking the new job until he had an offer and STILL lying to his current manager to get the reference is an even worse situation. Assuming he’d stay with the previous job if he didn’t get the new one (which he might’ve had to depending on his circumstances), I can’t imagine working every day with a boss he knowingly lied to and worrying constantly about him finding out. If I were the old boss and did find out, I wouldn’t penalize him for it or try to do anything to sabotage him, but I’d be pretty miffed.

              1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

                It’s ok for employers to lie because that’s the natural order of things. It’s when those pesky employees start to act like they’re more than a cog in the wheel that real problems occur!

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        They handled it gracefully because that’s the normal reaction to someone changing their gears at any given time.

        I’ve gone from “I’m leaving…okay I’ll stay part time for X time to I gotta go, I’m dying inside.” with my long time employer years ago. She’s still my best reference and loves me for all I did prior to a bumpy AF exit…she’s a good person and knows I am too. She’s not suddenly questioning everything she saw and advocated for me all those years because of a cruddy couple moments.

      3. Alina*

        Oh I straight up didn’t tell anyone I was applying to grad school until I got in. What if I hadn’t gotten in anywhere? It’s a long process, what if I just changed my mind? What if I didn’t get enough scholarship money? All of those questions made it not worth it to chance my current job on.

    5. WatchOutForThatTree*

      As to whether this is a huge betrayal or not, I believe it is.

      If the situation was different, if an employee was perhaps responding to a question about whether he is happy in the new job, or is looking elsewhere, or whatever… and the employee said he’s happy and not looking (when he really is looking)… that’s not a betrayal. In that situation, that’s the employee recognizing that the manager is asking for information he is not really entitled to and that answering honestly does create a risk for the employee.

      This situation is different. This is the employee dishonestly manipulating and taking advantage of the manager to get something that he (the employee) was not entitled to AND that wouldn’t have been given except for the lie… a reference that would help him get a better job elsewhere.

      I still agree with the advice AAM gives, but this was definitely in the ‘huge betrayal’ category for me.

      1. Observer*

        You mean to say that it’s ok for an employer to lie about an employee to keep them from moving to a new job? Or that it’s ok for them to just be a jerk and refuse to give an HONEST referral? The former is almost certainly illegal. The later is almost certainly legal, but I’d never want to do business with someone who is such a terrible boss that the only way he can keep people is by making it hard for them to get a new job by being a jerk.

      2. Genny*

        So in your opinion a stellar, high performing employee isn’t entitled to a positive reference from their current employer? Because that’s what you’re saying. You’re saying if the employer had known the employee was looking for a new FT job, he wouldn’t have given him a good reference (or any reference). That’s a really crappy thing to do and a sure-fire way to ensure your stellar, high performing employee eventually quits. You don’t own your employees and providing references is baked into the social contract of the United States’ at-will employment system.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That is … wildly unfair and bizarre. In many cases, people cannot get references from their current job without jeopardizing their employment. This is no different than a manager being outraged at an employer for saying they were going to the dentist when they were really at a job interview. It’s the reaction of a bad manager who good employees will not want to work for.

        1. Just wondering*

          Is it ok for the employer to be outraged if the person lies when the employer has been very clear that they support the professional development of their employees including leaving the job?

          (E.g. if it’s someone who, like in another letter, gives their employees job postings that may be of interest to them, etc.)

          Just curious what you think.

          1. Genny*

            I still think feeling outraged in that scenario would be an overreaction. I might think it was a bit weird that the employee still felt like they had to lie, but I’d pretty quickly chalk it up to them having previously had bad experiences with changing jobs and move on with finding a replacement. It still wouldn’t occur to me to contact the new employer.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Nope. Because as a manager you’ve got to understand the larger context you’re working in, which is that employees do frequently get penalized for honesty in this situation (to the point of losing their job over it) and you can’t be outraged that they weren’t willing to risk their mortgage payment on the hope that you wouldn’t be part of that very common pattern. Yes, it’s frustrating when people don’t believe it when you show them that it’s safe for them to be honest — but it’s also very understandable.

            This is people’s livelihood. It’s their ability to pay for housing and food. Of course they’re cautious.

            1. Just wondering*

              Thank you for clarifying, Alison. And thanks for the podcast for as long as you had it! As a podcaster myself (who is “between seasons”…) I know how much work and energy it can take! And you definitely deserve some rest.

              People who are interested in staying updated on your column via podcast may want to check out Han and Matt Know It All. In addition to the episode (episodes?) you were on, they discuss one of your articles almost every episode!

            2. Just wondering*

              I am curious to know more your input about the limits of when it is ok to do certain behaviors based on common patterns. But maybe that’s something I need to think through into a more specific question and submit it :)

              1. SOCK ME UP MONKEY*

                Its called Risk Assessment and Risk Management.

                People will evaluate risks and take different risk avoidance strategies depending on their own situation. Individuals who fail to seek risk inherent, evaluate the risk as minimal, or view the perceived ‘benefit’ as outweighing the potential risk, will view the risk-adverse behaviors as others as out of line, unreasonable, paranoid, malicious, or a number of other honestly untoward opinions, such as the surprising number of commenters who think the Employee in this Scenario was Out Of Line.

                If I am a one-job, no-other-references individual who needs a reference to move onto another job, I will evaluate the risks differently from other individuals who have a longer, more diverse work history with more accomplishments. If I am the employee of a vindictive, toxic manager who has shown a history of poor reaction to individuals trying to leave, I will evaluate the risks differently from those who have never had such a manager; Even if I no longer have that manager, if I have had toxic managers in the past, I will view other managers through that ‘lens’ of experience and possibilities and may make the conscious decision to play it safe, to minimize risks to myself.

                Similarly, if I am the single breadwinner of a family of 4 with a mortgage, two car loans, and medical bills on the horizon, I will approach a situation differently than a two-person, both working, no-debt, savings-established household.

                What you’re asking honestly is to evaluate what moral or ethical behaviors (lying vs not) are acceptable based on common patterns – Common patterns which are pervasive throughout the USA, which cannot always be ruled out as practice with a certain manager or company, and which cannot be ruled out by outside viewers with no insight to the whole of the situation. Common patterns which can and will impact an individual’s ability to live, to feed themselves and their children, to house themselves and their children, to afford healthcare for themselves and their children, to get a future job to fund all of the above, and more; These are not common patterns to be taken lightly, and when these common patterns take place *there are no laws, rules or regulations within the USA that protect the employee or provide them recompense.* At-will employment means if the employer finds out the employee is searching for a job, they can legally and without punishment;
                1) Give false and/or negative reference to future employers (You may argue this is slander; Good luck getting it persecuted successfully or any compensation for the employee)
                2) Make the employee’s work life (40+ waking hours of every week) difficult, including mental/emotional belittlement, injury & harrassment (Shouting, name calling[non-racial or minority related], screaming, cussing, – none of these are technically illegal for an employer to perform to an employee)
                3) Fire the employee, effective immediately, with no need for severance, warning, or anything else.
                4) Demote the employee, lower their pay, and otherwise keep them on but severely lessened (Larger companies do this to avoid having to pay severance for those ‘entitled’ to it, or to avoid trouble with their HR or internal oversight)
                5) Begin piling up ‘evidence’, much fabricated or incorrect, in order to terminate employee in future. Placing job-seekers on PIPs, official write ups, warnings, etc is prevalent- Including for things they didn’t actually do wrong and may argue, or things no one else gets written up for [Having their phone out occasionally, for example]

                Retaliation for job-seeking (or seeking to leave for school) is a very real threat to a lot of people who live paycheck to paycheck, with not enough savings (which most Americans don’t have to begin with) to continue living comfortably for any period of unemployment. It is extremely common and by accusing the employee of being immoral, wrong, untrustworthy, or otherwise a poor person not deserving of a reference, you are indicative of the problem – That a vast number of people do not understand what it is like to have your livelihood under threat, and that the protections offered to employees are so so very little that in the blink of an eye even after years of hard work, your life can be torn apart just because you wanted to leave a place of employment for a better opportunity.

                Far too many companies pay lip service to caring about employees but don’t. Far too many managers pay lip service to caring about reports but don’t. Far too many managers and companies value their own convenience and success over the livelihood of employees – Leading to the sad situation described by Allison, where it is a common pattern to see employees retaliated against or pushed out for intending to leave a position at some point in the future, no matter what that timeline is. Thus the average employee has to evaluate the risks inherent in their situation. Sometimes you need to lie about the reason to get a reference, if you have no other options for reference available and need to get a new job (because of toxicity, harassment, moving, needing a higher wage, or just not wanting to stay with the same company forever). Sometimes you need to keep your manager in the dark about leaving. (Because even though the move to a new state is in 6 months, you can’t go without a paycheck for any of that time, and telling them now risks being pushed out early.)

                It is sad, but that is the reality of the situation. The “limits” you are asking about are a complex philosophical debate that has no actual “right” answer. Is it morally ethical to lie? Is it ok to steal bread to feed your family? Is it ok to pretend to be happy in a job so you don’t get fired and lose your paycheck and sustenance??

                Tl;dr: it is way too complex a situation to answer in an internet blog

            3. Rain is Liquid Stupid*

              I let my boss know that my husband had accepted a job out of state. We had a house to sell and lots of other issues so I was not ready to give notice but she ended up posting my position (just to be proactive, she said) and then hiring someone to replace me and terminating me within 3 months. Allison is so right – lesson learned!

          3. Emily K*

            As a manager I try to reserve my outrage for harassment, discrimination, bullying, and gross negligence.

          4. Audiophile*

            I was honest with my last manager. Initially she was supportive, but very quickly wanted me to tell the Big Boss about my job search, which I just wasn’t willing to do. And then kept bringing it up and trying to give me ultimatiums because she was worried about when I might leave.

            I would never be honest again with a manager after that situation. You just don’t know if your manager is going to be supportive and remain supportive, or if they’re going to panic about your resignation inconveniencing them and try to push you out earlier.

          5. myswtghst*

            I’d say it’s fair for the employer to be disappointed, but I think outrage might be a bit much. It’s taking a normal part of doing business much more personally than is warranted, in my opinion.

            Realistically, if I believe I’ve been clear with my employee(s) that I support their growth and development, here or at another company, and they don’t come to me when they do decide to explore moving on, I should be looking at myself. Have I said or done anything that contradicts that, or would lead people to believe otherwise? Can I ask the departing employee to share a little about why they held back, and be clear I’m asking because I want to improve?

            As SOCK ME UP MONKEY described, for the employee it’s about risk assessment and risk management, which usually considers both the likelihood and potential impact of the risk. If I believe I have a reasonable boss, the likelihood of repercussions is probably pretty low, but if they do happen, it’s possible the impact will be severe – like, losing my income and being unable to pay my bills severe. So I think managers have to be willing to take a step back and realize that it isn’t a personal slight where your employee believes you’re vindictive, but a calculation that they can’t afford to take the risk that you might be.

        2. Jane*

          I think there’s a big difference between this and saying you have a dentist appointment instead of an interview. The dentist appointment lie doesn’t take anything away from the boss or company (assuming he either takes PTO or unpaid time off). In this case, the guy asked his boss to put time and effort into helping him get a new job under false pretenses.

            1. Jane*

              Reference calls usually last at least 20 minutes. And good references will prepare ahead of time.

              1. Observer*

                Some do and some don’t. But even the 20 minutes is a joke.

                And it shouldn’t have made a difference anyway. Any employer who will refuse to give a reference in order to keep their employees stuck with them has earned being treated as untrustworthy – because they ARE untrustworthy.

        3. Jane*

          People use the dentist appointment lie because they usually don’t have any other choice. This guy had a choice in who he uses as a reference and instead of choosing former managers like the rest of us, he chose to get his current manager involved in his job search by lying to him. I’m really surprised that you’re defending this.

          1. Observer*

            You actually have no way to know if he had that choice or not.

            You seem weirdly invested in justifying awful boss behavior. Why?

          2. myswtghst*

            “This guy had a choice in who he uses as a reference ”

            Do we know that he did, though? What if this is his only relevant experience? What if the new job specifically insisted on talking to his current manager?

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Some employers insist on a reference from the current employer, even if you push back. Or some wouldn’t normally but do when it’s the only job in field X, or so forth.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Nope. But I don’t think it matters. Either he didn’t push back because he didn’t realize he could, or he did push back and it didn’t work. It doesn’t change the crux of it, which is that I strongly disagree with your statement that “This guy had a choice in who he uses as a reference and instead of choosing former managers like the rest of us.”

                1. Jane*

                  I’ve been recruiting for 30 year for dozens of employers all over the country and I’ve only ever come across 1 employer who insisted on getting references from a current employer and even they relented after I talked some sense into them. I don’t think its as universal as you think it is. Also, I think its unwise that, by defending this guy, you are implicitly recommending that your readers lie to get references. That’s very dangerous advice.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It’s a thing that happens. My mail is full of that. (You may see less of it because maybe it’s less common at companies that use external recruiters, who knows. What I do know is that I hear about it from letter writers regularly.) But no, I haven’t said it’s universal (!). I said it happens and it’s not rare.

                  I have zero problem with someone using a cover story to allow them to job search without being fired from their current job, as long as they’re not harming their employer in the process.

                3. Aya*

                  Jane I guess if you haven’t seen a thing happen, it must not happen…even though you have other people here talking about it happening to them or people they know.

                4. a1*

                  On the flip side, just because it’s a thing that (sometimes) happens, doesn’t mean it happened here. It’s a huge assumption, imo. And that assumptions is based on 3rd hand knowledge – LW to friend to former employee.

              2. Cathy Gale*

                Jane, what industry do you work in? Clearly you work with professionals, but what type?
                It might be that your industry is different than others.

        4. learnedthehardway*

          All that said, I wouldn’t advise a candidate of mine to lie to their current manager (if they were using them as a reference) about the nature of the job they were being offered. Besides the ethics issues (which I agree are pretty minor – the employee is entitled to an honest reference, full stop, and sometimes can’t get one due to manager pettiness), there are practical considerations:
          1. It’s entirely possible that the person doing the reference check could outline the nature of the new role to the manager. I frequently do this in order to get a really good understanding of whether the person will be a good fit, particularly in roles in which soft-skills are critically important to success.
          2. If the current manager finds out (as this one did), it torpedoes that person as a future reference.
          3. There may be reputational issues with other management at the old company, who could have been references. As there probably will be in this situation.

      4. Alice*

        An accurate reference describing his performance in that job, uncolored by the current manager’s wish to keep the employee forever, is “something that the employee was not entitled to”?

      5. Lilyinthepond*

        If the manager would not have given an honest and excellent reference if they knew the employee was planning to leave then they neither deserved nor could be trusted with the truth.

      6. Rectilinear Propagation*

        If the manager would withhold a reference (or worse, give a bad reference) in order to keep an employee from moving on, that makes them a pretty vindictive manager.

        You can’t hinder someone’s career and then be surprised when they ‘betray’ you.

        1. Maria Lopez*

          That is not what was said at all. There was no talk of withholding a reference or keeping an employee from moving on. Only the employee lying to get a reference. We have no idea if the friend would have withheld a reference or even retaliated against the employee for job searching.

      7. WatchOutForThatTree*

        I do believe it’s the manager’s (current or past) prerogative to choose to either provide or not provide a reference and there is nothing that automatically entitles an employee to that reference. It just depends so much on the individuals involved and the circumstances.

        Having said that and having reflected on the question probably more than I should… In almost all circumstances I personally would give an honest and positive (if positive is what’s called for as in this case) reference. There may be some situations (though the only one I can come up with is if it’s a big company’s policy not to) in which I would not give a reference at all. Unequivocally, there are no circumstances would I give a dishonest or false or incomplete reference. Being lied to to make sure I chose door #1 would permanently factor into my perception about an individual (though I’d almost certainly keep that to myself and not feel I had to share it with anyone).

        But, all that’s just me. In general, the interviewer’s bad practice or the employee’s desire for a reference from the current employer doesn’t override the manager’s prerogative… unfair as that may be.

        1. Nico M*

          At the very least, a company owes its departing employees the same sort of reference it expects it’s candidates to provide.

      8. Traffic_Spiral*

        “This is the employee dishonestly manipulating and taking advantage of the manager to get something that he (the employee) was not entitled to”

        What isn’t he entitled to – the truth? The employee isn’t entitled to the manager telling the truth about his performance, if telling the truth could possibly inconvenience the manager in some way? Not sure I follow your logic there.

      9. Susie Q*

        I think the fact that the manager would change his reference based on whether or not the job was part-time or full-time is huge betrayal.

        No employee owes the company any loyalty because the company most certainly isn’t loyal to the employee. It’s unacceptable to treat employees so poorly and to be completely unaware of the stressful situations employees face when trying to change jobs.

    6. Mazzy*

      I’d feel used if I were the boss, but at the same time, the person is in the pay range that the manager didn’t question why they’re looking for weekend work. So my guess is they weren’t particularly high level or well paid. That’s what puts me more on the employees side.

      1. DaffyDuck*

        Yes, this! If you expect your employee will need a second job to live on why are you upset when they take a higher-paying job? He should stay living hand-to-mouth forever because you are a “nice guy”?

  11. Not So Little My*

    Thank you for giving us the podcast, and cheers to you for realizing what was best for your well-being and acting on it.

  12. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    #2: Check your roll. What if this guy is planning to go to grad school WHILE still working for you?

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I wondered the same thing. I know several people who are working and going to grad school at the same time.

    1. PB*

      I thought of this, too. Also, you can take the GRE in advance of applying to grad school. Maybe he’s planning to take the GRE early so that, when he is ready to apply to grad school, that piece has already been taken care of.

      1. BookishMiss*

        Yes. I took the GRE twice, on purpose because I knew I’d tank the math on the first try, so my first test date was far in advance of any applications or start dates. And then I worked all through grad school. Night classes ftw!

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Exactly. I didn’t know anyone in grad school that *didn’t* have at least a part time job and most of them worked full time.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      For some jobs, that would be a problem. A subset of my staff needs to be available for unscheduled OT, if a client or court deadline demands it, and not being able to stay late would be a problem. People who are in grad school (or have firm evening commitments that would lock them into a schedule that precludes on-demand OT) would not work for at least three of my teams.

      I also tend to attract people interested in law or graduate school, so handle it much like Alison suggested – we proactively address it in interviews and state our preference for those willing to meet the minimum time commitment that makes training worthwhile. (I am of the mind that a job needs to be a fit on BOTH sides and always try to give a warts and all view of what we do here.)

  13. Sabrina*

    I’ll miss hearing your voice and sensible advice weekly, thank you for doing it for so long! The audio book really is excellent for anyone considering picking it up, can’t recommend it enough.

  14. LGC*

    So I’ll join the crowd and say…even though ending the podcast is totally right for you, I’m so sad it’s coming to an end! This was one of my favorite pods to listen to on the way to work (and often at work) – my Wednesday train rides just got a little less educational and a little more boring.

    Thanks for the past year of content – it was awesome.

  15. PMP*

    I had a similar situation to #1 where a student leader I worked with at my University employer asked for a recommendation to transfer to another local University…he cited changing his major as the main reason for transferring. Fast forward a couple weeks I heard through the grapevine he was academically dismissed for cheating. I was so mad and embarrassed because I was lied to. I confronted him about it and used it as a teachable moment (he could have been honest, spoken about learning from his mistakes, and I could have reflected some of that in the letter) and considered calling the other University’s admissions department, but decided against it…I figured if he was going to continue that type of behavior it would catch up with him there eventually, if he learned from the whole experience, then, well, I do believe in second chances.

    1. anon today and tomorrow*

      I don’t actually think these situations are comparable. The student should not have lied about cheating, and he clearly lied to cover up bad behavior. It’s understandable you’re upset because this was a major thing for a student to lie about!

      But the OP in #1 did nothing wrong by lying about the job since a lot of employers are vindictive when it comes to their employees job searching. He wasn’t lying to cover up a scandal or crime, he was telling a white lie to get a better job, most likely because he knew his boss wouldn’t take it well if he had been truthful.

    2. Artemesia*

      Not slightly the same thing. The LW’s employee is an excellent employee; the LW’s first thought is to mess up his life — because he ‘lied’ — I don’t think so, I think it is because he left. I would assume this LW would have given a week reference to keep him if he had no lied; all evidence we have suggests this kind of petty behavior since his first thought is to try to hurt the man’s new job position.

        1. RandomU...*

          I think the commentariat is a little worked up today. FWIW I thought your story fit in nicely to the topic of the letter.

        2. your favorite person*

          I think it’s because it’s clear most commenters haven’t listened to the podcast.

          1. Maria Lopez*

            I think you are correct. They seem to have projected all sorts of things onto the manager that aren’t there.

        3. Jersey's mom*

          I agree, your experience is completely valid to the topic at hand.

          The difference is that the employee referred to by the LW did not lie about his character or performance, and in your case, the employee did lie (about being dismissed for cheating).

          And that make a very big difference in how the employer should respond. I think you took the right action in talking to the student- if you didn’t have the evidence in hand to show he cheated, yeah, not much you can show to the other University.

        4. TypityTypeType*

          It seems comparable to me — you had a chance to burn the student and didn’t do it, just as the LW’s friend has a chance to burn the ex-employee and shouldn’t do it. I’m glad you decided against it; as you say, maybe the student learned from the experience and changed his ways.

    3. Genny*

      I actually think this is one of the few cases where calling the new employer might be justified. The student leader did something wrong, but because you didn’t know, your reference was based on incomplete data. Cheating in academia is a pretty big deal, so I’d be inclined to shoot the new employer a quick message updating my reference. I’d consider doing the same thing if immediately after the employee left I learned they’d been embezzling or if the employee was destructive on their way out. Those are things the new employer might care to know. I sincerely doubt most hiring managers are going to be too concerned about what LW’s employee did.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I agree with this. There is a HUGE difference between cheating and fibbing about a reference to avoid a bad reaction from your boss. In this case, I would probably withdraw my recommendation rather than update it, but I’d be happy to share the reason if the other university wanted to know. I would be surprised if there wasn’t a note on the academic record about a dismissal for cheating.

    4. Susie Q*

      This isn’t even remarkably close to the same thing. How can you even pretend they are in the same category?

  16. WellRed*

    Totally agree with Alison’s advice, re: travel expense, including to just focus on the meals. But I would be irritated to have my company think I should pay for something it provides for free at the office like coffee or (required) water.

    1. Drew*

      I assumed this was coffee as in Starbucks or Peets, not the questionable in-room coffee or a cuppa with your morning repast.

      1. WellRed*

        I still the company should cover it, just like food. (I am going on a trip soon and know for a fact the hotel doesn’t provide coffee.)

        1. just a random teacher*

          …what kind of hotel doesn’t provide coffee? I mean, I know some of them provide it for free all day long in the lobby (La Quinta, Best Western) and some you’re stuck making it in the room yourself two teeny cups at a time and have to talk the cleaning staff into extra packets (every conference hotel I’ve ever stayed at), but I can’t think of the last time I stayed someplace that didn’t have some sort of coffee available.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            At least one I’ve stayed at in Las Vegas provided K-cups in the room as part of the overpriced mini-bar and no free coffee packet options. Or you could go downstairs to the Starbucks or the hotel restaurant and purchase coffee there. I’ve definitely encountered the “everything costs” business model typical of higher end hotels (the ones that also charge for daily Wi-Fi access), vs the affordable chains that provide free breakfasts and internet.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              In Las Vegas, literally everything is designed to get you out of your room and into the casino.

          2. WellRed*

            Ha! Yes, it’s Vegas (luxor). Not coincidentally, there’s multiple Starbucks in the lobby.

  17. Drew*

    I’d much rather have Alison end the podcast on her terms than have its end forced on her by health problems or other issues. The episodes we’ve received have been such a gift of useful advice and practical content – and I do mean “gift,” because none of us is paying a dime for them.

    Thank you for the podcast and the site and the books and all that you do, Alison. Enjoy your crumbs of time that have just freed up.

    1. Alison Green Fan*

      100% agree with everything Drew said! I feel lucky every day for the privilege of reading Alison’s brilliant, balanced, and above all PRACTICAL advice. I also appreciate that even when she disapproves of some or all of the actions or attitudes of letter writers, she is always compassionate and focused on helping them, not shaming them. Ime, shaming people rarely leads to them rethinking their original views; in fact, it often results in the exact opposite. So THANK YOU, Alison, for all you do for those who write to you and those of us who read you.

    2. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      +1. I can’t think of anything witty or cute to say… I just appreciate, so much, ALL you do. And yes, modeling healthy behavior is also appreciated because some of us have no example.
      Thank you, Allison.

  18. Observer*

    #1 – The fact that your friend feels betrayed by this and actually wants to get this person’s job offer revoked proves that the employee had a good reason to worry.

    Yes, it was a lie and I would be unhappy about it too. But if the manager has any integrity, the fact of it being for a full time replacement job vs a part time side gig should not have made any difference whatsoever in what the manager said. So, absolutely no harm was done to the manager.

    1. Res Admin*

      I would argue that the manager should consider it a potential problem averted. Doesn’t matter what kind of manager the OP is: If the employee would lie about one thing, what else have they lied about? Is this employee really that stellar? What have they covered up? Bottom line, I wouldn’t want to have to worry about what else he has been lying about–could be nothing, could be something important.

      1. your favorite person*

        I often worry about this exact situation. I have worked at the same place, with the same boss, since finishing grad school. I haven’t had any other recent managers and all other work experience is from college. What should someone like me, or that employee, do for a hiring manager who insists on talking to a current or former manager? I haven’t spoken to my old managers in years.

        1. Pommette!*

          Good luck! I’m in the same boat, and it’s terrifying.

          My current manager is the only really appropriate reference that I can provide. No one else can speak to the kind of work I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, and want to continue doing. Telling her that I was looking for work would definitely have a direct impact on my job and on our professional relationship. And she is a very reasonable person who knows that this is a risk in our industry, and would respect and support my decision.

          I can’t imagine how scary the situation would be for someone whose manager was vindictive, and understand why an otherwise honest person in that situation would resort to lies!

        1. Res Admin*

          I understand your point and it really isn’t a POV I had thought of.

          Having said that, I’m still a little iffy on the lying bit–but that might be a personal issue. I am a lousy liar so I avoid it. I’ve told my then boss that I would be away for an meeting or an appointment–neither of which were a lie. In a similar situation when I had to have a reference from my current supervisor, I just told supervisor I was applying for a position and needed a reference even though I knew it wouldn’t be convenient (very judgmental and definitely one to hold a grudge). And I didn’t even end up getting the position. There is no way I could have kept up a lie about something like that though.

          1. Observer*

            I’m not a good liar and I also just do not like lying. But I cannot bring myself to condemn someone in this position. The employee absolutely did NOT do any harm to the employer – all the the employer did was spend a few minutes on the phone telling the truth. I can’t see how that’s considered evil.

      2. Observer*

        I think that this is a bit of an over-reaction. While I don’t think this highlights the employee’s integrity, I don’t think it proves much.

        The employee wasn’t covering up a mistake, nor were they trying to get the boss to do something unethical or problematic in any way. They were just trying to make sure that their boss was going to NOT do something unethical and problematic. It’s hard for me to read that as a significant issue of trustworthiness.

      3. Mrs. H. Kenway*

        We don’t even know for sure–based on the letter alone–that he lied.

        It’s entirely possible he went in to apply for a side job and was offered a full-time position.

        And yeah, this is NOT that kind of lie, at all. Employees are not obligated to tell their managers they’re job searching; as others have said, “I have a dentist appointment” is often used when someone is actually going to an interview. Is that something that also makes you declare an employee to be a sneaky, untrustworthy liar you’re better off without?

        1. Parenthetically*

          Exactly this! I kept thinking, shoot, you’ve really gone for the nuclear option here given that you don’t actually know that this guy APPLIED for a full-time position!

      4. Delphine*

        No, come on. The employer was asked to provide a reference–technically it doesn’t matter what kind of job it was for. The employee’s lie doesn’t affect the manager, all it does is potentially protect the employee. I’d say it’s like telling your boss you’ve got a cold when you really need a mental health day–the lie protects you from unnecessary and unwarranted reactions to the truth. The fact is your boss isn’t owed the precise details of your illness. And I don’t think an employer is necessarily owed the precise details of the type of job you’re taking when they provide a reference.

    2. Bostonian*

      I don’t think there’s any evidence that the friend asks about calling in order to torpedo the employee’s new job (also, notice they ASK if that’s an option, they don’t say, “this is what I want to do”). I think the friend honestly believes that the employee did something wrong and feels an obligation to report it to the hiring manager as a heads up. You can debate the quality of that line of thinking, but I don’t see obvious evidence of malicious intent.

  19. Kita*

    I have a follow up question related to travel reimbursement. I work remotely, but several times a year travel cross-country to our main office. Most nights while I’m in town, I’ll have dinner with some of my locally based coworkers.

    It’s uncomfortable to me that we’re all employees, and we’re all eating at a restaurant, but I’m the only one getting reimbursed by the company since I’m the only one who is travelling. Does anyone else deal with this? Is it rude to get my travel meals reimbursed when my coworkers at the same meal don’t?

    1. RPCV*

      No. I don’t really think about it when remote employees are in town or whose paying with what credit card, let alone resent it. I don’t have to be away from home/family/pets for the business trip, dealing with the hassles of air travel, hotels, etc. etc. so I can’t really hold a grudge that you’re getting your dinner paid for.

      I don’t travel for business often, and like it fine when I do, but when people come to us I would expect the company to pay for everything for that trip.

    2. Ali G*

      Are you sure they aren’t expensing their meals too? When I go out to dinner with staff in from out of town, I consider that a “work meeting” (I wouldn’t be eating out if they weren’t visiting and I Am eating with co-workers) and expense it. Or alternatively you could pay for their meals and expense them all :)

      1. RPCV*

        This wouldn’t really fly at my company. Often when we have the remote folks in town there will be a group dinner that will be on the company dime, but people wouldn’t expense them individually. It would all go on the most senior person’s corporate card and they would expense for the group.

        If we haven’t been informed the dinner is on the company dime, the expectation is that it’s self-funded (but also optional–nobody is required to attend dinners or happy hours, whether funded by the company or not, and nobody really cares if you don’t come).

        1. Kita*

          RPCV – you’re describing my situation exactly. There are some meals where it’s clearly a Company Thing (and the company pays for directly), but those are easy to figure out. Your comment about what’d you’d expect as the local employee is very helpful!

    3. RandomU...*

      I think you need to check with your boss on expectations. I can only speak to my company, but in you situation if it was considered a ‘team or work dinner’ or related, then all employees would be covered. (The traveler or highest ranking person would pick up the tab and expense it).

    4. TootsNYC*

      they don’t get reimbursed as a business meal? At most of the places I’ve worked, we probably would.

      But otherwise, I don’t think you need to. If I were the in-town employee, I’d only go to dinner if I could afford it. And I have some money set aside for things like “socializing with colleagues.”

      Just don’t pressure anyone into picking an expensive place.

      1. Kita*

        To clarify – some meals are very clearly business meals (e.g. team dinner paid by the boss). My confusion comes from what are definitely social meals – it just happens that the friends I am eating with are coworkers.

    5. Antilles*

      Presuming these dinners are pretty casual and not really work-related, it’s similar to a situation of you meeting up with an old friend from college or a relative who happens to live in town: The company pays for the meal of the remote employee (you) since you’re traveling, but you wouldn’t really expect them to pay for the meal of another attendee.

    6. doreen*

      I don’t think it’s rude- and for those who are talking about reimbursement as a team or work dinner, that depends. If my employer for some reason wants local staff and staff who traveled in from other offices to have dinner together, they’ll find a way to pay for it without local staff expensing it.

      But that’s not what typically happens to me. What usually happens is that I will get sent to Albany for three days. And I will arrange to have dinner with/hang out with some work friends who are based in Albany. We aren’t doing any work at the dinner, we aren’t even talking about actual work, they probably aren’t at the event/meeting/training I’m there for and it’s totally voluntary both for me and for them. I fully expect my employer to pay for my dinner when I travel to Albany and for my coworker’s dinner when she travels to NYC – but I don’t expect them to pay for my dinner in NYC with my Albany co-worker anymore than they would pay for my dinner in NYC with a local co-worker.

  20. Xtina*

    Hi Allison! Will you be ending the online blog too, or just the podcasts? Sad either way…

      1. BookishMiss*

        Which is incredible, and already a ton of much-appreciated work! I’m joining the chorus of commenters who are glad you’re taking care of yourself proactively.

  21. Chelsea*

    The first one is a really good question, and I really like Allison’s answer. My first reaction was “wow, he lied and he shouldn’t have done that” but Allison is right, the system makes you do that. Should the employee have pushed back against the new job and said there was no way to a get a reference at his current job?

  22. PB*

    I’ll miss the podcast, but I admire your effort to cut back on your workload. This has been a valuable reminder for me as I strive for better work-life balance.

  23. IEL*

    Alison – So very sorry to hear this is the last podcast, I was a new listener but found it both entertaining and informative. I will definitely consider the audio book. :)

    LW1 – The manager shouldn’t feel ashamed at all, they took the employee’s statement at face value and gave a honest reference. Calling the other company’s HR to sabotage the (ex)employee would be something to be ashamed of. He’s losing the employee anyway. Alison’s advice is spot on, think of how the other employees are going to react if you sabotage someone’s job prospects because they’re quitting.
    And maybe also think about why the employee is looking for another job, as the manager’s reaction is so petty (basically just wanting to get “revenge” as nothing good for him or his company will come of the employee losing the job offer, at best you might retain a worker who still wants to leave and is now actively pissed at you) it might be a part of a larger pattern of dysfunctional managing.

  24. WatchOutForThatTree*

    I am sorry your friend is feeling shame. Though it’s perhaps a natural reaction to being taken advantage of in such an underhanded way, he did absolutely nothing wrong. He kindly and generously responded to a request from one of his best employees. That speaks well of him.

    It’s also commendable that he wants to let the employee’s new employer know that they may not want to thoroughly trust this person. There have been many other letters asking “should I let the X’s new employer know about Y?” and it seems the answers/comments are pretty evenly divided between yes/no/it depends. But, Allison’s podcast points out that there may be problems with making that call. My main concern would be that it may actually be the new employer who put the employee in an impossible position (ie, they already know what they’re doing and should have to live with those consequences). It may say more about the culture at the other company than about the ex-employee’s ethics.

    Better to let it go.

    But, your friend might also consider how to talk about this episode with his other employees. They’ve certainly been told something… the question is what have they been told and by whom? When the one employee left, how did he present it to the others? Do they know the reference was provided? Do they know it was given as a result of a lie? Your friend can be open about his disappointment and embarrassment about being betrayed and feeling gullible. Reaffirm his commitment to the team and to his own beliefs about maturity and trust. Use the opportunity to reassure and manage the people he still has on the team.

    1. Alice*

      If the friend thinks that telling the remaining employees “I could have called Tim’s new manager and tried to torpedo the offer, but I didn’t!” — do you think he’s going to look magnanimous to them? No, they’re going to think he’s a control freak who can’t be trusted with info about their plans to move on. Which is accurate.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think he CAN say, “I gave the reference because Tim told me it was a part-time job. I found out it was a full-time job, and that he lied to me. That tells me something about his ethics. If I’m asked for a reference for him in a year or two, I’ll have to factor that in.
        “If you’re ever in a position that you’re applying for a new job and they insist on speaking to your current manager, you should…..”

        What would that be?

    2. Fleur*

      I’m sorry but I don’t see how their reaction is commendable at all. “Should I call their new workplace to torpedo their job offer?” is incredibly vindictive. And lying about looking for a new job is one of the few acceptable lies in our workplace in my opinion. People who actually tell their managers the truth are far outnumbered by people who have doctor’s appointments and vacations while they interview.

      Look at the managers reaction here. The employee clearly would have been denied a reference, given a lackluster one, or even been fired if he’d been honest. Otherwise why would the manager want to rescind their reference?

      1. WatchOutForThatTree*

        I agree ‘commendable’ is a bit strong… I was struggling for a word and should probably come up with a better one.

        Lying about looking for a new job is totally fine… no problem with that. But, that’s not the same as lying to intentionally trick the manager into doing something he otherwise wouldn’t do. That’s sneaky and not in a good way.

        You say “the employee clearly would have been denied a reference….” In the first place, it’s not so clear. A good manager, sensitive to his employees’ career goals and the opportunities available at his current organization, might coach a high performing employee that his career might be best served by looking elsewhere for his next career step. Not every manager would do that, but some would. But, secondly, so what? No manager is obligated to give one of his best employees a reference so that he can leave the company.

        1. Alice*

          “Lying to intentionally trick the manager into doing something he otherwise wouldn’t do” — who has to be “tricked” into giving an accurate reference?

          Are you suggesting that the manager would have given a negative, inaccurate reference had he known the employee’s true goal?

          I think we can see why the employee lied to the manager.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Yes, exactly. If the manager would not have given an honest reference about what a great employee this person has been if he knew the real reason for the reference. . . that says a lot about the manager, and why the employee couldn’t be honest (and probably at least part of why the employee wants to leave). And the same goes if the manager would have refused to give any reference at all, honest or otherwise. If you are so invested in trapping your good employees into their current jobs that you refuse to honestly discuss their job performance with a prospective employer, that mindset is going to seep into other areas of how you treat your employees, and they are going to find a way to leave.

          2. WatchOutForThatTree*

            No. The manager could have said “I’m not comfortable giving a reference to a current employee looking for a job elsewhere” and declined to give the reference at all. You might not like that, but it’s the manager’s prerogative to decide whether or not to provide a reference under those circumstances. If the manager determined he was comfortable giving a reference, it would have been the same reference.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                What about those of us that are forbidden (by HR policy) from providing references, period? All reference requests are supposed to go to HR, who will do title and dates and, with the employee’s/former employee’s permission, salary confirmation.

                I actually have no problem with providing references for people, but HR says no (which I found out by giving a former employee a glowing reference and getting reprimanded for it).

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  Thats a lot different from outright refusing in order to sabotage someone’s career.

                2. Rectilinear Propagation*

                  That’s a different situation. It isn’t crappy to not give a reference if you actually aren’t allowed to and everyone’s treated the same. (The problem was your employer not making the policy clear to everyone.)

    3. Artemesia*

      Seriously? This is IMHO as wrong headed an interpretation of this event as possible and the suggestion to present to the other employees that they are a petty grievance holder is guaranteed to backfire. The employee was prudent especially in light of the petty response of the LW’s ‘friend.’ To tell the rest of the employees that his instinct was to behave like a complete jerk and try to damage the employee who left’s career is a good way to have resumes being updated by the end of the day. Being circumspect when job searching is basic survival instinct not a violation of trust.

      1. myswtghst*

        “Being circumspect when job searching is basic survival instinct not a violation of trust.”

        This x1000. If an employee is making so little that adding on a part time gig seems totally reasonable, they likely can’t afford to be out of work entirely. While the likelihood of that happening may be low, the impact if it does is really high, so I can see it being a risk the employee decides not to take.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Only tell his team about it if he’s willing to say “No need to ever lie to me if you’re searching for a new position, I’ll happily give a reference for you.”

      The rest of his team probably understands their colleague’s lie because they would consider the same if put in a bad situation.

      Man, I’m forever grateful to never accept the idea of working somewhere who would demand a current manager’s reference and also that I know my current manager is not to be frightened to let him know long term looking or fear of being escorted out etc. What a terrible spot to find yourself in.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        The manager’s reaction shows pretty clearly that the employee’s judgement was spot on.

      2. myswtghst*

        And only do that if he can really commit to doing it for every employee. If the manager/org says “be honest and we’ll support you”, but your employees see you push someone out the door once you know they’re looking, they’ll focus on what you do (rather than what you said).

        1. zaracat*

          Exactly. A manager who knows that an employee is looking may start off with good intentions and absolutely want to do right by the employee, but if they’re put on the spot and have to choose between the the benefit of the company and that of an individual eg if they are contacted out of the blue by someone who’d be a perfect replacement, there’s going to be pressure to choose the company. Managers may be the nicest people ever but still not have the same priorities as their reports.

    5. SurprisedCanuk*

      “My main concern would be that it may actually be the new employer who put the employee in an impossible position (ie, they already know what they’re doing and should have to live with those consequences).” I don not understand this. How is it the new employer’s fault?

      1. WatchOutForThatTree*

        It’s a big if. I’m definitely speculating beyond what’s actually in the letter. For me, the main clue that New Company HR is implicated is that NCHR actually did the reference check interview with the current manager and throughout misrepresented the position as a part time weekend gig.

        It is possible (as a number have speculated) that the interview was actually for a PTWG that later turned into a full-time offer. My reading of the letter is that LW states clearly that’s not what happened, but if it did go down that way my whole perspective would change.

    6. Susie Q*

      It’s not commendable at all. It shows a complete disconnect from the reality of job searching. It shows someone who is unable to set aside personal feelings of being betrayed and trying to harm the reputation of a “stellar” employee because the employee felt the need to protect himself and his livelihood. A company and a manager at that company routinely doesn’t share information (technically lying by omission) with employees and still expects employees to completely trust them. That is absolutely 100% bullshit.

      And the manager is an idiot if he brings this situation up with his other employees. Had this happened to me, I would never mention a single word of it to anyone except maybe my spouse. I hope my employees feel they can trust me and I would give an honest review but I would completely understand why an employee would feel the need to lie like this. And if you can’t do that, you’re not a good manager.

  25. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Does he think by maybe blowing up the job offer the Fibbing Employee is leaving for will mean FE stays?? He shouldn’t bad lied but he’s still going to leave with or without the blessing of his now salty manager. Is it really worth ruining a person’s life in the end? He took desperate means to leave his job, that should be something you seek to avoid as a manager…Even when my best employees have left I’ve told them their needs and desires are far more important in the long run than the hole they’ve left to fill in their departure. I would never take their white lies so personal. It’s the same reason that we suddenly have so much dental work required while secretly interviewing elsewhere.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      + WRT the dental work. We knew it was just a matter of time until Husband just couldn’t take it anymore at one particular job. We both got alllll our dental needs taken care of, using our entire yearly allotments…each, in about a two month period.

  26. Trout 'Waver*

    Thanks for experimenting with the new format! I really loved it even if it wound up not working out for you. Thanks for the great content!

  27. DaffyDuck*

    Manager – so if you knew he was looking for another full-time job you would have lied and torpedoed his chances? If you really think this would be a good idea your management style is exactly why a good employee is leaving. If you are just ticked he didn’t tell you he was looking around, perhaps you need to build more trust with your employees (vindicative behaviour will not help this).

  28. YetEvenAnotherAlison*

    The manager should just let it go. Calling the HR person back to update them with this negative information about the employee reflects poorly on the manager, not the employee. The manager, I believe, will look spiteful – not a good look. And, any HR person would understand why the employee did not tell his/her manager the truth in this situation – too much probablity to get shown the door early (as others have clearly stated). I have to think that this employee, again as others have stated, was very junior and had no other individuals that he/she felt could serve as a reference for them. The employee has to know that they have burned this manager as a future reference, possibly forever. Could it be that the new employer pushed the employee hard to speak to his current manager and the employee felt they had not choice? Certainly most employers would understand that a prospect would not want to use their current manager as a reference for a new position and pushing back against doing this is reasonable. Perhaps the lesson here is, at any given time, to have several people that can serve as your work reference outside of your current manager and practice the care and feeding of these references?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      She says in the podcast that some prospective employers push for references from current managers, so, yes, it’s entirely possible that the leaving employee couldn’t avoid it without losing the job.

    2. Bostonian*

      Yeah, the friend doesn’t have anything to gain by calling. The only thing the friend can do now is reflect as to why such a good performer would want to leave.

  29. HarperC*

    I am sad about the end of the podcast, but I completely understand. As long as the blog is still here, I will survive! I have to say, though, that you have a great voice for podcasting! Those of us who do not are jealous. ;)

  30. Emi.*

    If you’re getting multiple interviews and never getting hired, I would worry about your references.

    1. BadWolf*

      Or maybe there’s something weird coming up on an online search or social media? I guess I’m not sure if there’s a consistent stage employer’s might be doing those searches — I feel like that might not be 10/10 happening in similar stages.

      I’m glad Alison brought up checking with some of the past interviewers — as I was pondering that during the answer.

      This is hard to do — but I might try to approach the next couple interviews as assuming you probably won’t make it. Not in an gloomy way, but in a “Hey, I’m going to practice some new things and ask some questions I might not normally ask because I’m probably not getting this anyway.”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      References, background check or my sick gut feeling is wondering if there’s a personal reason (bias) involved that has been impossible to really prove.

      I had an old acquaintance who never got perm jobs after a bunch of temp to hire type placements. Knowing how horrible people can be in our hometown, given her decent work and solid otherwise skills it was because she’s not what is deemed “good looking” enough. She was always the last few in each group because her skills boosted her up but it was fit/she has a rather awkward demeanor as well.

      I hate going there but having seen it,I can’t rule it out.

      1. Alina*

        I’m afraid I have a bit of an awkward demeanor as well. I’m fine in casual/collegial/”talking-shop” conversations but formal interviews . . not as much. So it depends on the place and how the interview goes.

  31. RandomU...*

    Ever have one of those days where you feel like you’re perpetually on the other side of the coin?

    I’m really confused about the reaction to the manager with the reference. In any other situation, a blatant lie by an employee would call into question their ethics without question. I’m not seeing how this is any different. I see the line everyone is drawing to the fact that people aren’t usually open with their current boss when they are job hunting. But most people don’t actively engage their current boss in the process! This employee manipulated the manager into giving a reference under false pretenses. I find that pretty bad.

    If the employee was found to be ethically challenged in any other situation I’d say that’s fair game for a reference to be upfront about.

    All that being said, I don’t think the manager should contact the company. I’d chalk this up to letting universe get even in the end. As a lot of people have found out in this world, strange things can happen things have a way of working out.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t that different from lying when your manager asks if you’re job searching and you’re not ready to say you are, or saying you have a dentist appointment when you need to go to a job interview. If the system forces you to use a cover story or else you will jeopardize your livelihood, that is the fault of the system, not the person trying to survive in it.

      1. RandomU...*

        This is where I’m getting stuck. Telling a boss you have a dentist appt to get time off for an interview is one thing. Asking your boss to give you a ride to the interview while pretending it’s a dentist appointment is totally different.

        Asking the boss for reference under false pretenses is asking them to actively participate in the job search.

        As I said below, every job seeker out there is in this same position and has been since the dawn of interviews. Yet they manage to find references without having to resort to deception.

        Here’s a thought exercise. Would the manager be vindictive if they found out during the reference call that this was for a full time position and called the employee out as a liar? Or would you expect them to keep quiet with the knowledge?

        If the question came from the other side of the issue…
        “I’m not sure what to think, I just got off the phone with a reference for a good candidate and found out that he lied to current manager. I thought it was weird that he gave me his current manager as a reference, because that’s unusual. During the discussion it came out that the candidate had asked the manager to be a reference for his part time job. This has never been a part time job, I think he lied to his boss to get him to be a reference. He’s an otherwise good candidate that we want to hire, but I don’t know if I can trust that he won’t lie to me”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Managers have a professional obligation to provide references. It’s part of the job. It’s reasonable to expect them to do it.

          If I were on the hypothetical reference call you describe, I’d assume the person said it was PT so they wouldn’t jeopardize their current job. I might ask about it, but if that’s what it was, I’d get why.

          As I said below, every job seeker out there is in this same position and has been since the dawn of interviews. Yet they manage to find references without having to resort to deception.

          Most employers don’t insist on talking to your current job for this very reason. But it sounds like this one did.

          1. RandomU...*

            I agree managers should provide references, but not for their current employees. That’s just too much to ask anyone!

            I can usually tell when employees are looking/interviewing and I’ll look the other way with the time off for dentist appointments and sick days, I’ll wish them well in their future and take them to lunch on their last day, but I am not going to actively help an employee get a new job outside of my company.

            It’s also worth noting that most companies don’t allow managers to be references in the first place, which again is why people typically don’t ask their current boss to be one.

            1. RandomU...*

              Replying to myself to say this in a general fashion…

              I always appreciate the differing views here, even when I don’t agree it helps me to see the different sides to things and understand viewpoints. It’s fascinating sometimes to sit back and observe different POVs. Especially those times when it’s the complete opposite of my own!

              1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

                If it’s any consolation, I’m on the other side of the coin with you. It was dumb of OP’s friend to say he wanted to call the new employer (and he definitely shouldn’t), but I don’t think a PRIVATE COMMENT he made is that indicative of how he treated ex-employee and whether ex-employee was right to think that OP’s friend wouldn’t have still given him a good reference. “Betrayal” is too for sure, but I think being surprised and a little annoyed that an employee would lie like that is totally reasonable. For all we know, maybe OP talked to their friend the next day and he realized how dumb he sounded. I don’t know, I get that the current job-hunting climate is extremely unfair to job-seekers, but the lying makes me feel icky regardless.

                1. Delphine*

                  Not the current job-hunting climate. Petty and vindictive employers are a tale as old as time. The fact that this employer now feels personally betrayed and would even consider trying to damage the employee’s prospect tells us a lot.

                2. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

                  I respectively disagree that it tells us A LOT about it without any other evidence of what their working relationship was like. It was a stupid comment to make and reflects badly on him, but that alone doesn’t convince me that this employer wouldn’t have given the employee a good reference had he known it was full-time the whole time.

                  Yes, we have seen countless stories of bad bosses, but they’re coming from employees who have seen these bosses’ actions for themselves, which is different from one bad private comment made to a friend in a moment of anger (which you can argue is unjustified).

              2. Jersey''s mom*

                (Just trying to work through this)

                Employee asked manager for a reference. Either new job requested it, or employee thought he needed a reference from existing job (maybe he was a job hopper, may not have previous relevant jobs, whatever, and thought it was necessary to get a reference from the boss).

                Employee apparently felt that boss would not provide a good reference if boss knew this was for a full time job. So employee lied about the part time part of the job.

                Based on the question from boss in the letter, it seems like boss may have given a different reference (and likely not such a glowing reference) if boss knew the truth. So employee appears to have made a correct judgement call in determing how boss would react and what the reference would be like.

                And it appears that boss is short tempered enough to seriously consider calling new job – knowing this might cause employee to be fired and completely out of work.

                I’d assume that boss would not rehire this “high performing” “one of the best” (former) employees. So why would boss call the new job except for a vindictive reason?

                I’m also going to assume that employee was dissatisfied (pay, work conditions, issues with team or with boss.. ). Whether this issue was discussed with boss, whether boss knew about it, and could or could not do something about it….we don’t know.

                It seems like the employee wanted out and correctly assessed that this boss would provide a less than accurate reference had he been completely truthful.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I encourage you to rethink that! Good managers know their people will leave, and will help them do it when they can (assuming the person has put in a reasonable amount of time and is a good employee). Not only is that the right thing to do, but it’s good management because that’s part of how you build a happy, loyal staff. And you don’t want people working for you who are itching to leave. What you’re describing is how bad managers operate, and you don’t want to be part of that.

              Who do you want to work for — the manager you heard takes it as a betrayal when people leave and won’t help them into their next role when it’s time, or the manager who cares about people’s professional development and is happy with them when they’re ready to take on something new?

              1. RandomU...*

                I promise I don’t keep employees in the dark and hope they never leave to better themselves!

                I make an effort to at least once a year to say in some related context that I always encourage my employees to do what is best for themselves and their careers, and that while I hope that is with our company, it holds true if it’s with someone else.

                I actively help those who want to advance in our company do so. And yes, I’ve agreed to be a reference to employees who have resigned and moved on to other companies (shhhh don’t tell anyone because my company is one of those who doesn’t want managers to give references… although I haven’t looked at that policy in awhile it might have changed).

                I will always encourage employees, but I draw the line at actively helping them get a job at a different company when they are currently working for me ;)

                1. Traffic_Spiral*

                  Well then, you’re basically forcing your employees to lie to you, and you really have no one but yourself to blame.

                2. Susie Q*

                  Then you’re a bad manager who is disconnected from the realities of the job market.

                  You aren’t loyal to your employees. You know for a fact that you would fire or lay someone off if your management demanded it. Therefore your employees aren’t required to be loyal to you.

                3. Tinybutfierce*

                  All you’re accomplishing with this line of thinking is confirming that the employee was right to not be honest with their current manager and that your own employees will be right when they choose not to disclose their job searching to you.

              2. Cathy Gale*

                RandomU, please consider what wonderful advice she is giving you. Clearly you have been a manager for a long time at the same company, and not considered what your obligation is to the employee instead of the other way around.

                As the Teacher posted, you do not *own* your employee. They are agreeing to trade their labor and time for a salary as long as the situation is mutually beneficial to both parties. In return for that hard work, the very least they can expect beyond the salary is that you provide a truthful picture of their work ethic and contributions to the company’s success, to other, future employers.

                The fact that your company and you both believe that references are an optional part of doing business and maintaining a great staff, says so much about the philosophical and moral framework of the company. First, it sounds like it isn’t a very small business or a very young one, and that it assumes it can keep some of these employees for life. That then leads me to believe that it is an older business where some people could legitimately spend most or all of their career there, and that it has somehow been buffeted from market forces. If this is true I can only encourage you to read through the archives and understand the experiences of many readers who are in retail, for instance, and how crazy their lives have been.

                Your company seems to believe that all the loyalty should lie on the employee and not on the manager or company, and that support for their professional development is contingent on their staying with your company, only.

                You sound like you want to support your employees, legitimately. But in this day and age, when most workers need to work for many employers throughout their lives, you are not supporting their professional development by seeing the reference as optional.

                Consider this: giving a true reference to others, regardless of where they are headed, is part of the cost of doing business and becoming a place where talented people want to work.

              1. SurprisedCanuk*

                I disagree with RandomU… a good manager should provide an honest reference if asked. I think any company that doesn’t let managers provide a reference is garbage. The best manager I ever had provided me with a great reference. I think refusing to provide a reference to a current employee makes you a bad manager.

                1. RandomU...*

                  Eh… it’s usually a risk management thing. Companies have been sued for giving bad references and been sued for giving good ones. I don’t think it’s overall indicative of company culture.

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  When given the choice between losing my job and providing a reference for a current employee, I’ll take the keeping my job and being a “bad manager”. Like most people, I’ve got a mortgage and kids to feed, and it’s not a hill I can currently afford to die on.

                  I gave my best employee a glowing reference when he relocated to a different state several years ago, and there is a reprimand in my file to show for it, too – so I’ve already been “warned” on the subject.

                  And, yes, it is entirely a risk management thing.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  NotAnotherManager!, that’s not typical. Of course if you would get fired for giving a reference, you explain that. But there’s nothing to indicate that was the case here.

                4. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I understand that this was not a component of the original letter; I was responding the the proposition that all managers who refuse references are bad managers. I’m not nominating myself for a #1 Manager mug, but I don’t think I’ve slid into “bad” yet. :)

                  It’s actually not unusual in my space (willing to call my industry weird and atypical, though), and most people I know use managers who’ve also moved on as references. The way many get around it is to go straight to attorneys rather than management for references – attorneys are more willing to overlook HR directives and less likely to get more than a slap on the wrist for it. (And, if people don’t figure this out on their own, the message will get to them.)

                  I also manage a group of about 50% entry-level people, and they do move on faster than many other folks do. We consider it a good run if they’re here for 18-24 months – but I don’t begrudge them leaving and we have actually networked people into jobs in the past, when there was an opportunity to do so. When they’re going to leave, they’re going to leave, you know? And, if they were good, give them a boost in whatever way you can – sometimes they come back if the grass wasn’t greener.

            3. Alice*

              Plenty of companies allow managers to be references, and plenty of people ask their current boss to be one (as long as they are confident that their boss, in Alison’s words below, “cares about people’s professional development and is happy with them when they’re ready to take on something new.”

              Do you warn early career folks to whom you offer their first job (that is, people without many professional references, who will probably be depending on a reference from you when they move on in a few years) about this policy of yours?

            4. Choux*

              Telling your employer you have a dentist appointment to get the time off approved to be able to go on the interview isn’t actively involving your employer in your job search?

            5. pleaset*

              ” That’s just too much to ask anyone! ”

              I’d have no problem doing it, assuming the person did good work for a year or more. Where I work we’re happy if employees move on in a good way. Also sad, but it’s part of life so we support people who have supported us with good work.

        2. pleaset*

          “I don’t know if I can trust that he won’t lie to me”

          Your employees may lie to you if you refuse to provide them with references for their good work.

        3. Rectilinear Propagation*

          I thought it was weird that he gave me his current manager as a reference, because that’s unusual.

          Why would you insist a candidate provide their current manager as a reference and then be surprised when they actually do it? Is it supposed to be some sort of trick?

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I with you, RandonU.

      Job seeker actively constructed and told a lie to his current manager. The About to Be Old Manager shouldn’t call up the new company to sabotage his old employee, but the employee shouldn’t have done it. If you can’t TRUST your current manager to be a reference (and many people can’t), the solution is not to lie to him proving yourself to be untrustworthy.

      I think the LW who is a friend should tell About to Be Old Manager to let it go and have the guy work out his notice, but he can considered this if he is asked to be a reference for the old employee in the future.

      1. Observer*

        Actually, we don’t know that he actively lied.

        But, assuming that he did, if his new employer was insisting on talking to his current manager (it’s a shockingly common situation) what do you suggest he do? Stick with a jerk of a boss because the boss will lie about him if he knows the about the job?

  32. Hiring Mgr*

    On the reference, yes it’s a lie, but to me it’s on par with telling your boss you have a dr’s appt when in fact you’re interviewing. The reality is most people can’t or don’t tell their bosses they’re looking for a new job

  33. whistle*

    At lot of this has been said by others above and by Alison, but I think the reason this lie is not that bad is because the entire system us set up to force people into these types of lies. New job wants current job reference (or any reference if current job is the only job employee has had!). If employee tells current job the truth, they risk getting fired (or treated badly, etc.) at current job. If employee says they can’t get reference from current job, they don’t get new job. How is anyone supposed to switch jobs in this kind of system without a little flexibility in regard to ethical gray areas?

    I basically see this stealing bread to eat as compared to stealing lipstick. They’re both stealing, but I don’t see the first example as “wrong”.

    1. RandomU...*

      And yet people manage around this every day. The ONLY way I give the employee a pass in this situation, is if they in good faith applied to a part time job that turned into a full time offer (I have seen this happen before).

      Otherwise, nope, I think the employee manipulated the manager for their own gain.

      1. WatchOutForThatTree*

        Agree about part time jobs that turn full time. Maybe a full time slot opened up or maybe someone does such great work that new employer creates a new position. But, I had to go back and re-read the letter to see that’s probably not what happened here.

      2. your favorite person*

        What would you suggest an employee do if they had to get a current manager’s reference, but didn’t want to risk their manager pushing them out?

        1. RandomU...*

          I’d side eye a company that mandated a current manager as a reference. It’s standard practice to not ask for one in the first place. Many managers are not allowed by their companies to give direct references. I would wonder why the prospective company is operating outside the norms and what other boundary issues they had.

          After that, I’d explain that I wasn’t able to give them my current manager’s information as they are not aware I’m job searching and offer up alternatives. If they refused the alternatives I’d walk away.

            1. your favorite person*

              I asked this specifically because while I haven’t been in this position (yet) my closest friend had to do this for a city government job to escape her toxic employer. It was a total sh*t show, with her current boss threatening to call the city with his ‘connections’ and tank her (which he had done to others who left). The city nearly revoking the offer because she so desperately didn’t want to have to have them talk to each other. The city job is miles and miles better for her, but they had one very dumb hiring policy that they couldn’t work around.

                1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

                  Serious question: given your response in this letter (which I completely agree with and is very reasonable), how would you have responded had this employee emailed you, describing going through with this specific plan?

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m 100% fine with people using cover stories if they’re concerned their manager will penalize them for job searching, so I would have said that if they absolutely needed a reference from their current employer (after having tried pushing back on the new job) and didn’t trust them to handle it well, this is an okay way to do it, but be thoughtful about their framing afterward if they took the offer because it was going to be clear what happened.

                3. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

                  Okay, I can be a lot more on-board with it as an absolute last resort if pushing back doesn’t work (though that’s still lousy of the employer) and the current boss is that awful. I’ve been extremely fortunate and haven’t needed to provide references to either full-time job I’ve ever had and my livelihood has never been at stake. It was hard for me to see that as a possible issue with this employee since he was obviously currently employed, but I’m guessing he needed this new job badly enough that he went for it or felt that he needed to and I’m trying not to assume the worst of intentions.

                  And absolutely, definitely need to consider the possible aftermath. Again, I get the possible necessity of doing this, though I don’t think it’d be unreasonable for Old Boss to be taken aback by it. (But sabotage the offer? Hard no.)

          1. aposiopetic*

            I think it’s really important to bear in mind here the the employee was in a position wherein looking for weekend work to help pay the bills seemed totally reasonable to their manager–that strongly suggests an economic situation that makes walking away a much more complex option (especially if the employee also didn’t have a lot of other work history to offer up).

            What seems really unreasonable to me here is the culture and system in place, where companies can and sometimes do demand current employer references but at the same time so many companies bar giving references at all, and so many managers are groomed to think that any employee looking to leave is traitorous, or at minimum owed no professional courtesy and help. The company/manager/employee relationship absolutely should not be so adversarial and possessive, but unfortunately it very often is, and it’s really not principally on employees to change that, since they have the least institutional power in that dynamic.

      3. Observer*

        Actually, people do NOT “manage around this all the time”. Or rather, they often do so by lying. A lot of otherwise good workplaces have some really stupid hiring policies.

  34. Not A Manager*

    Unless the manager is shady, I don’t see how he was harmed by the lie. He was willing to give a great reference for a great employee to get a part-time job, but when he found out that he was going lose out – by losing one of his best staff members – now he’s angry.

    If that means that he WOULDN’T have given the same great reference if he’d known the full facts, that’s really crappy and totally justifies the employee lying. Otherwise the poor guy might be an indentured servant to this boss for the rest of his life. (I know that generally there are ways around the “current boss” reference, but as we’ve seen, not always.)

    On the other hand, if the boss totally WOULD have given that same great reference if he’d known all the facts, then no harm no foul. Sure, it sucks to learn that your employee isn’t the trusting friend you thought he was, but that’s hardly Benedict Arnold territory.

    1. Anon today*


      My boss and grand boss have made significant changes to our division. Some are the “silly season” type of changes to protocols, not a huge deal, merely time consuming and annoying.

      However, a few a pretty work-altering. For example, I’m now expected to train employees by answering any questions they may contact me about. I’m not allow to contact them, proactively provide materials or mentor in any way.

      I have pushed back on this by explaining what I can offer and have been told in writing that this is how it will be.

      So, I’m a year or two from retirement. I feel no need to tell my boss that I plan to retire on my exact retirement date. If I said that, I’d be fired for sure. And yet, I’m also sure that when I retire, it will (to them) come completely from left field.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Sure, it sucks to learn that your employee isn’t the trusting friend you thought he was,

      Or, it sucks to learn that you haven’t made it possible for your employees to trust you.

      That would be my own reaction, if I were that manager. I’d feel bummed that somehow I’d failed to lead them to believe that they COULD come to me to say, “I’ve applied for another job, but they are requiring me to give them your name as a reference,” and receive a good reference, good wishes, and then mild commiseration if they didn’t get it after all. But no retaliation or weird look.

      If my people didn’t believe that about me, then I have failed to communicate my standards and mores accurately.

      1. where did today go*

        Or, it sucks to learn that you haven’t made it possible for your employees to trust you.

        +1 You’re gonna lose employees either way. If you get lied to, it’s because you’ve sown that with the atmosphere.

  35. Tigger*

    I am not understanding the reaction over #LW 1. The manager being upset and wanted to call the new company shows that the employee was right to be totally not honest. And we don’t know all the facts. Maybe the employee applied for a weekend job and the company was so impressed with him they put him in the running for a full-time role.

    1. Mrs. H. Kenway*

      Exactly what I thought/said! There’s not even evidence (that we know of) that the employee deliberately lied, and the manager wants to ruin his new job over it? Without even talking to him first to find out what happened? That’s not a good manager, that’s a vindictive and selfish person.

      SO GLAD I’m not the only one who thought of that!

      1. Tigger*

        Even if they did lie the first rule of job searching while employed is to not let your employer know you are looking!

        1. Mrs. H. Kenway*

          Yep! I do not understand at all the idea that the employee should have said it was a full-time job (if it was and he knew it) and is a liar now, especially from people here who are usually really vocal about/supportive of keeping job hunts private. I actually suspect that if you asked them, “Should I tell my manager I’m looking for work and ask him to be a reference?” they would say no, but for some reason this situation “feels” different to them? I dunno.

          It’s clear this manager wouldn’t have given a good reference if she’d known, so IMO IF the employee lied, he was kind of stuck and had no choice (assuming they HAD to use her as a reference). And it was the smallest of small lies, I mean, e could have claimed it was a volunteer opportu But again, the immediate assumption that he LIED in order to “manipulate,” as opposed to just being wrong or having something change is…not an assumption a good manager immediately makes about a good employee (frankly, IMO it’s not an assumption good people immediately make about other people).

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Right? Almost like the manager is…projecting. Assuming the employee “LIED” because that’s what *he* would do.

    2. BadWolf*

      I was thinking the same, maybe it started as a part time job at the reference request and then morphed into a full time job — either because the company suddenly realized they needed a different position or they thought employee was awesome enough that they wanted them to be a regular full time employee.

      Sure, there’s probably some grey area.

  36. TooTiredToThink*

    LW2/Grad students issue – I know you mentioned that there was nothing you could do about salary – but while I was listening I was wondering – what about a longevity bonus – like if you anticipate most people being in the job for 2 years; that you provide, I don’t know – $2000 bonus – on their 2 year anniversary? Is that something that is feasible? That way; they have a slight incentive to stick around a little bit longer – and hey; its money for grad school.

    Or what about (full/partial) tuition reimbursement? Do you offer that? They continue working for you while going to night/online school; have a contract/commitment that they have to work for you an additional 2 years (the places I’ve been usually require 2 years; most I’ve seen is 3) or else they have to pay it back.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Oh so glad you mentioned online. I hope OP knows that there are a lot of grad programs that are completely online now. Way easier than back in the dark ages when I went to full time work all day then had to go to grad school at night

  37. BadWolf*

    On the hugging front, since the news of the illness spread fast the first time, maybe the listener could feed the rumor mill new information. Casually chat up your chattiest coworker, “It’s been nice that people have been so supportive about Illness at the beginning, but I think things are going in a good direction and I’m getting a little tired of always talking about it at work, you know? I’ve got family, friends and it would be great if work were an oasis away from Illness.” Maybe pause for wistful sigh. “Oh hey, did you get the memo on the Llama grooming stats?”

  38. WatchOutForThatTree*

    Re: Manager giving references

    It also seems off to me that the manager didn’t pick up any clues during the reference call that things were not as initially described. It seems that the manager actually gave quite a detailed and honest assessment of the employee’s strengths. I just wonder whether the nature of the questions asked, the description of the position’s responsibilities, and the new company’s business areas shouldn’t have tipped the manager that this is not about a Part Time Weekend Gig.

    Takeaway #1: get better at checking references. Both with the employee and with the reference checker be really clear about the nature of the new company and the new position. Be very clear about the types of information the reference checker will be looking for.

    Takeaway #2: if your highest performing employee says he wants to get a part-time weekend gig, it’s probably a good idea to have an in-depth conversation with the employee to probe exactly why. How does he feel about the pay, the work, the advancement, the recognition. Will the work spill over from the weekend gig into the regular job? And, lots of other questions.

  39. TootsNYC*

    So this employee had a full-time job that paid him such that he needed to get a weekend job for extra money?

    yeah, they were going to lose him anyway.

    1. Tigger*

      I mean I have a full-time job (which pays me double of my old job) and I had to get a weekend job over the holidays because I moved and needed extra cash because it’s the holidays and I didn’t want to hemorrhage money. A few of my friends have side hustles so they can go on vacation or pay for the wedding they want. Sometimes life happens…

    2. TooTiredToThink*

      Not necessarily. I have a full time job; that pays quite well, and have several side hustles because rent is stinking expensive and I have a few other non-standard expenses that if I want to do anything fun – like see a movie; I have to earn that money separately. Full time job pays for the very basics and that’s all.

    3. Elsajeni*

      Eh, maybe, but I don’t think “person wants more money than they currently make” necessarily implies that their current job is underpaying them. (And especially in this case, where the “side gig” explanation turns out to have been a cover anyway — sure, it’s not impossible that he actually was desperate for extra money, but I don’t see why we’d assume that “I need to make some extra money” is definitely true when it turns out that “it’s a weekend gig” definitely wasn’t.)

      1. aposiopetic*

        It for sure might not be true! But manager apparently thought it was reasonable to think it’s true, and that definitely tells you something.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m a workaholic who has had multiple jobs at once and it was just to build my vault of gold coin to swim in ;)

      But I am well aware of staff salaries and it would ping on my radar quietly as a “they won’t stay here long” sort of thing.

      I still laugh that I had an employment verification sent to my company when moving and the person who got the email and forwarded it ran to me assuming it was job related. That’s a false alarm for sure.

      Really we all just need to assume nobody is here forever and may get a job offer any time.

    5. WellRed*

      I worked a weekend job for 5 years. Sure, the $ was part if it but I was also a bit bored.

  40. Scout Finch*

    #1 – Is it possible that it was truly a part time position until the employee got to working there and realized “Wow – this is so much better than my FT job!” or that the new PT boss had a FT position open up & wanted new employee to take that because he was so impressed? #1 did note that employee was a good performer.

    I am not an advocate of lying, but it looks like the first FT boss could have possibly given different references if he knew employee was looking for a FT job. If a boss does that, he should not be surprised if his employees lie to him.

    Boss should NOT take this personally (trying to torpedo employee’s career?!?! WTF? – even THINKING this just proves that the employee was spot on in moving on). If Boss wants to keep good employees, he should pay them well and give them support in their daily duties.

    1. The Tin Man*

      I get that there is a chance that the part time position became full time but if I were the employee in that case I would be apologetic to the manager because I would know that it looks like I lied about the job the reference was for.

      For your second paragraph it’s not that the boss would have given a bad reference if they knew this was for a full-time job – it’s that it’s a case where someone would very rarely use their current manager as a reference for a new job anyway. It looks like this employee lied to their manager to find a way around this instead of just finding a different reference.

      Your last paragraph is ridiculous to say that this manager is a bad boss and doesn’t pay well or support their employees because they are annoyed that it seems like they were lied to. Any boss would be annoyed at that.

      If I hired someone and I found out they lied to someone to get a reference I would want to know that. Depending on the circumstances I might not fire them but I would be less trusting of what they say to me.

      1. The Tin Man*

        I’ve read some other replies and my feelings have softened somewhat. In the perfect world there would have been a conversation like (stealing the language from above)

        “Hey, Employee, I thought you said this was a part-time job. What happened?”

        “It was a great full time opportunity and I don’t have a lot of references right now. I apologize for not being honest about that but I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t get the job and you knew I was job hunting”

        “I’m sorry that you felt you couldn’t be upfront about it, but I totally understand why. I hope the new job goes great and I will still be happy to give a reference in the future!’

        1. WatchOutForThatTree*

          Like it! Though my conversation would have ended, “…. I hope the new job goes great.”

        2. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

          Same here. I would hope and pray to never be in a situation where I’d need to use a cover story like this, but I can understand it occurring as an absolute last resort.

          And I love that scenario and wish it would’ve happened! It would’ve been perfectly reasonable for the boss to inquire about what happened with the job after finding out and short of the employee going “I lied! It was always full-time, so sucks for you!”, I wouldn’t want to immediately jump to nefarious conclusions.

      2. Susie Q*

        I wouldn’t be. But I’m an understanding person. I understand why employees feel the need to lie when searching for other employment. Only bad managers get upset because they have unrealistic expectations of the realities of the job market.

  41. The Tin Man*

    I am sad that the podcast is ending but I would be a lot sadder if Alison lost her mind from burn out. So, here’s to Alison channeling her energy to even better things!

    1. CastIrony*

      I second this and all similar emotions! By the way, this was (and is) the only podcast I listen(ed) to!

  42. YetEvenAnotherAlison*

    Yet again Ms. Green is helping us all by serving as an example of letting all know that it is important to avoid burnout and to be good to yourself professionally. The blog has been a source of knowledge when you find yourself in the midst of some crazy professionally situations and you need to get your center back. Great blog!!!! Love it. Sad about podcast but we will take Ms. Green anyway we can get her!

  43. Former Expat*

    Based on the thread with 70 replies and counting above I guess I am not the only one who had some thoughts about LW1… I guess what I think makes it a bit different that the white lie of “I’ve got some dentist appointments coming up” is that the manager in question actually got on the phone with someone believing the white lie. Maybe he feels foolish and the emotional response to that is driving his thoughts? It is one thing to be on the receiving end of a white lie, and it is another to take action (e.g. recommending an employee) based on that. I would have unpleasant feelings about that too.

    Having said that, I do agree that the system of white lies is where we are in job searching. That is not going to be dismantled any time soon. Calling the new boss would be vindictive and out of proportion to feeling like a dupe.

  44. Engineer Girl*

    Hey Alison – you don’t need my endorsement for taking a break but I’m 100% behind you! It’s really hard to get back on track once the burnout happens. It’s like an injury that keeps getting reinjured even when you do normal stuff. Many times you’ll have to back off and cut out some of the normal stuff just to get the injury healed up.
    I’ve found that taking at least 2 weeks away (physically) is healing. I spend the extra money to go on a tour where everything is already planned out (no need to think on my part, just show up!). If the trip is disconnected from the internet then so much the better!
    Maybe do some reruns with a trusted person moderating?
    But I hope you get refreshed quickly!

  45. No Longer New Commenter*

    I, along with your many other readers and listeners, will miss your podcast while understanding your sensible decision to prioritize your health and well-being and avoid burnout. I’ll continue to stop by for the excellent content here which I’m grateful you plan to continue to provide.

  46. Dust Bunny*

    Doesn’t Letter 1 still basically boil down to, people leave jobs, it’s normal, and you [managers] shouldn’t take it so personally?

    Hell, yes, I lied to Old Job when I was interviewing for Current Job, because my bosses at Old Job would have found a way to punish me if they had known.

    1. Anon this time*

      Yeah – you HAVE to lie when job hunting. I lie about sick days to be able to go to job interviews.

      1. Tisiphone*

        Hah! At one particular previous job, the euphemism fro job interview was “dentist appointment”.

  47. Madame Secretary*

    I wouldn’t be vindictive about it, but I would let the departing employee know he will never get a good reference from me again. He burned a bridge. (If in fact, he did lie and manipulate. If he truly went in for a part time position and was later offered a full time position, then that can’t be helped.)

    1. Alice*

      Even if it were the case that he applied for a part time position, “it can’t be helped” and you’d still never give him a good reference? I mean, that could be helped by you simply asking him, “I thought it was a part time job — what happened?”

    2. where did today go*

      I suspect this employee was never going to get a good reference once he’d actually left. Either he lies to get a good one now, or he never ever gets a good one.

  48. dumblewald*

    #1’s reason for lying is very understandable, but I wonder why he didn’t just refuse to give up a reference? Usually employers understand that you can’t give your current boss as a reference.

    Side note: I always notice it’s the best employees who are afraid of their managers’ reactions when they leave. One of my coworkers awhile back lied and said he was moving to another state to move in with is girlfriend, when in fact he left for a competitor.

  49. where did today go*

    1: I’m really concerned about this boss’s reaction to this being to sabotage the ex-employee. That sounds like a red flag for a lot of other things, I wonder if there’s good reason for the employee to lie to the boss beyond the usual societal aspects of risking employment.

    2: I’m being flip, but also not: hire people who have already finished grad school, or are in grad school and want to work part time. Yes, you’d have to pay more for someone with a masters. Yes, you’d only get that other person part-time until they graduate. But it will solve that one immediate problem.

    Otherwise, CAN you go to part time with your existing person? At my office, we had someone go to part time while she did her masters and it worked fine, and she’s stayed on even after she’s finished. (This wasn’t a tuition reimbursement program.)

  50. boop the first*

    1. Interesting approach. I too, am uncertain how references will go in the future (to be fair, I don’t think I’ve had any job that asked for references except for one retail job) because I heard my boss lie to clients that his best worker was on sick leave, instead of the truth which was he was accidentally fired.

    (he was on sick leave, but immediately replaced and then ignored when he tried to return to work)

    Boss kept this lie up for MONTHS. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the reason why a few BIG clients don’t call in anymore. If someone can use a lie like that so save their own face, then I would never trust him to be an honest reference while I’m still employed there. If only, because his planning is so bad that if I was hit by a truck this morning, he would have no one who knows how to make half of his products. My sudden departure would be hilariously devastating. I’m on employee’s side in this story.

    1. Scout Finch*

      OOOF! Accidentally fired? What a mess!

      It sux when a supervisor cannot be trusted.

      I was lucky – my super at my previous job offered to serve as a reference if I decided to move on. After a year of looking, I found a new job and gave 4 weeks’ notice. Ours is a smaller industry and we still will see each other at events. We exchange tips on jobs and other industry news. I trust that super. She always acted with integrity. I guess I was lucky.

  51. Person of Interest*

    Re: the meals reimbursement the LW should go to her boss with info on the federal per diem rate for the city they are traveling to, in order to avoid the manager getting hung up on how much any particular person spent the last time. I can see this nitpicky manager pushing back and saying you should have had cheaper meals. (Remember the guacamole letter?!) The per diem rate is a good way to establish what is reasonable for wherever you are going.

  52. DML*

    I, too, am disappointed to hear that the podcast is ending. I learned a lot, enjoyed it, and was happy to share it with others.

  53. Grouchy 2 cents*

    Honestly for question 2: Pay your employees more. I know you say you have no control over it, but if you frame it as an issue with upper management they might go for it. Also think about changing your hiring requirements. I suspect there are plenty of people who are smart and willing to stick around longer but can’t make it through your hiring processes which are clearly geared towards people taking a year or 2 off before grad school.

    Also, no one owes their employer any kind of loyalty. At all. As we all know, most companies in the US (I’d say all but I’m open to the slim possibility that one or two aren’t this way) treat their workers like crap, pay them worse and cut benefits at the drop of a hat. They don’t do anything to deserve any consideration. There is literally no reason not to agree to whatever any employer asks/suggests during the interview process. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re going to quit in a year to travel around the world or go to grad school or move to Timbuktu. You can’t predict the future.

  54. Jarissa*

    Is anybody else getting a message at the beginning that this podcast is brought to us by Autism Speaks?

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Yes. :(

      Super gross organisation. For anyone who is unaware: Autism Speaks does not advocate for people with autism, they advocate for eugenics.

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