my boss told me to be friendlier to my ex-BFF, interviewer seemed uninterested in me from the start, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss told me to be friendlier to my ex-BFF

I work in a tiny company (three people, including me) that rents office space from a slightly larger small company (15-20 people). I sit on a four-person desk in an open plan office with three of the other company’s employees.

Recently, the other firm has hired someone I used to be very close friends with. She I had a really nasty friend break-up — she used to be very manipulative and controlling around me, and I was really badly bruised by the whole experience. She’s now sitting three feet away from me, every day.

When she was hired (before she arrived at the firm, but after I realized who she was), I told the managing director of the other firm about our previous relationship and explained that I would not be comfortable working in close proximity to her, but said that I could be polite and professional. She seemed to accept this, mentioned what a weird coincidence it was, and moved on.

Yesterday, my boss called me in to let me know that the other company’s managing director had told him that the new employee had mentioned that I was not being friendly enough, and that another employee had noted an “uncomfortable vibe.” The office is very informal, and people chat about their personal lives, which I have not been doing with my ex-friend.

I don’t know what to say to them. This all feels very unprofessional and embarrassing. This is my first a professional job in a relatively close-knit community, and I don’t want to give myself a reputation as difficult to work with. At the same time, I honestly don’t feel safe sharing personal details with this person, and obviously politeness isn’t good enough here. Can you help me?

You certainly don’t need to chat about your personal life with this person, and if that’s really what they’re telling you to do, that’s inappropriate and weird. But if it’s more that you’re noticeably freezing her out, it’s true that you can’t really do that at work. I’m thinking it might be the latter if it’s making bystanders feel uncomfortable. But I could also imagine a situation where everyone else is chatting with each other, you two are not, and that itself stands out as odd or chilly, and that’s really not something your employer should direct you to change.

It’s also remarkable that the ex-friend herself has complained that you’re not being friendly enough; unless you’re being rude or ostracizing her, she really doesn’t have grounds for that. (And this is made all the weirder since you don’t even work for the same firm!)

So either you really are being too openly frosty with her or both these companies are overstepping in their directions to you about how to socialize. I don’t know which it is — but I’d consider both possibilities.

If you reflect on it and are confident you’re being appropriate (not in the context of the friendship break-up — which can’t become your office’s problem — but in the eyes of an objective observer), then talk to your boss (not anyone at the other company) about the situation, explain you’ve reflected and you’re confident you’ve been professional, and you’re uncomfortable being told you need to have a closer social relationship with a someone who you have a troubled personal history with, but that you’ll of course continue being professional and polite.

Also, any chance your desk can be moved somewhere else so you’re not in such close proximity to her? That would probably ease a lot of the tension here.

2. My interviewer seemed uninterested in me from the start

I had a job interview a week ago, and it was clear right from the get-go that the interviewer seemed really disinterested and not really that responsive to my questions. She ended the interview after 15 minutes. Unsurprisingly, today I got a response that I wasn’t selected.

I’m not sure what I did wrong. It can’t be my qualifications, as she had to have wanted to meet with me for a reason, and I really think I answered everything well — she even said I “answered the questions really well” at the end when I asked if she wanted anything about me clarified (whatever that could mean). Yet she still seemed so bored by me and so eager to be done with it, right from the start. She said she was early in the interview process, so I feel like she can’t have gotten to meet with that many more candidates, if any.

What are the odds that her first or second candidate was so outstanding that she realized she would now have to drudge through a number of other interviews? What conclusion could she have come to so quickly before the interview to decide I wasn’t a good fit? If she knew she wouldn’t select me so early on, why even bother with an interview?

It could be anything! It could be that she already knows she wants to hire her friend … or she received terrible personal news that day and was rushing through your interview to go deal with it … or someone else selected you for the interview and she wouldn’t have but saw your resume too late in the process to cancel … or the day before the interview she realized she really needs to hire someone with llama wrangling experience, which you don’t have, and she felt it was too late to cancel … or she took an instant dislike to you because of your shoes … or you answered an early question in a way that was a deal-breaker, and she isn’t a skilled enough interviewer to either tell you that or handle the rest of the interview better … or something else that I’m not thinking of.

You can drive yourself out of your mind by trying to figure out this sort of thing without any real information to inform your thinking. It’s better to just figure it wasn’t meant to be for whatever reason, and move on.

3. My manager complained about me on Facebook

I’m not sure how to handle this situation. My boss posted a VERY negative Facebook status about me without putting my name in it.

I had requested PTO and was granted it. While I was on PTO, I ended up getting sick and I have a work slip for the two days I have off for being sick. She posted on Facebook that she wishes she could afford to go to the doctor when she doesn’t want to work. I went to see my doctor because I’m sick, not because I don’t want to work. Yes, I am seeking other employment because that is an extremely hostile work environment, but it’s not that I don’t want to work.

Any manager who vaguebooks their employees is a crappy, immature manager.

Personally, I’d address it head-on: “I saw your message on Facebook about wishing you could afford to go to the doctor when you don’t want to work. Given the timing, I’m concerned that’s about me. I went to the doctor because I was sick. Have I given you reason to doubt my honesty and integrity?”

4. Employee I fired asked me for a reference

I work at a university and have a handful of student employees. On the last day of the semester, I had to tell one of my students that we would not have a position for him next semester. When he asked why, I gave him specific examples of mistakes and performance issues that had occurred, all of which had also been addressed when they first happened as well. About 45 minutes after this discussion and him leaving the office, he emailed me asking if I would be a reference for him. I was pretty surprised by the email. While technically he wasn’t fired, we just chose to not renew his employment for the next year, I thought it was clear that this was due to poor performance. I’m not sure how to respond to his request to be a reference?

This sounds like a kid who isn’t clear on how employment and references work yet. Or he really missed the message you were delivering, but it sounds like you were pretty clear! I’d write back and spell it out: “I wouldn’t be able to provide a strong reference for you because of the work issues we discussed earlier today. A reference-checker will ask about your work and I’d need to share those concerns, which would harm your candidacy. You’d be better off going with other references.” (If you think he’ll take that as “well, she didn’t say no,” then be even more explicit: “You should not list me as a reference.”)

5. Can I leave my master’s degree off my resume?

I just moved from one to state to another state and I am looking for a job now. I have gone on 10 interviews in two months and have been told the same thing over and over, that I am “overqualified” for the job. Which I don’t understand, because it is my choice to work at any job I am interested in. I understand that I am overqualified, but obviously I am looking for work to pay my bills. They all say the same thing, that I will leave them high and dry when my true calling calls. I am not disputing that, but they are not guaranteed that the young ones they have working for them will stay either. So, my question is, can I leave my master’s degree out of my resume so that I can find work? Would I get in trouble if they find out that I have a master’s degree? Can I be terminated just for doing that? Is it legal for them to fire me if they find out of my omission?

Sure, you can leave your master’s degree off your resume. A resume isn’t required to be an exhaustive accounting of every educational or professional experience you’ve had; you can pick and choose what to include based on what you think will most strengthen your candidacy. (That said, you shouldn’t lie if you’re directly asked on an application what the highest degree you’ve obtained is.)

It’s very unlikely you’d be fired for having more education than you listed. (It would be legal, but it’s very unlikely. It’s also legal to fire you for not liking zebras or for having too many ugly shirts, but both of those are unlikely too.) You might get questions about why you left it off, to which you can reply that you decided not to pursue that field so it didn’t seem relevant.

{ 387 comments… read them below }

  1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    OP1 – If the falling out was as bad as you say, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ex-friend decided to preemptively be the first one to play the victim. I’ve had that kind of thing happen before: I’ve tried to be the professional one, but the other person complained first, and therefore the squeaky wheel etc etc.

    This isn’t great advice, but unless you’re willing to sink to her level by lying and playing dirty, you might need to look for a new job. Not that getting away from such a small business is a bad thing, to be honest.

    1. Hufflepuffin*

      I don’t think sinking to her level and playing dirty is anywhere on the list of possible solutions.

      1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

        But staying there while everyone else believes the ex-friend’s lies isn’t a tenable situation either.

          1. Fiberpunk*

            Ex-friend is already creating controversy by saying she’s not “friendly” enough, which isn’t something that’s required here, and is really odd for a new employee to be complaining about. Ex-friend isn’t going to let up.

            1. What's with Today, today?*

              OP “created” the controversy by pre-emptively going to the supervisor at the other company about this. I can’t imagine any scenario where that would have gone well. I think the OP really made a mistake in doing so and exacerbated the situation.

              1. Stormfeather*

                She made a mistake in… addressing a possible problem head-on, and re-assuring her supervisor that she would be professional and polite?

                That isn’t creating controversy. I mean, assuming she’s not flouncing in and being melodramatic about it, which it doesn’t sound like. That’s being professional, marking possible problems, but attempting to handle them in a professional manner.

                We don’t really have enough information here to make a certain call, but from what we do have, the appearance is that the OP is trying to be professional (although possibly failing a bit by being too icy, we don’t know), and the ex-BFF is either stirring the pot by going to the higher-ups, or maybe is rightfully trying to remedy a too-hostile workplace, if the OP is slipping more than she intends. But in neither case is the whole talking-to-the-manager pre-emptively thing an issue.

                1. Stormfeather*

                  Bah, nevermind, I somehow missed that it was the other company’s manager that she went to. Yeah, she should have talked to her own manager about it.

    2. Annette*

      Maybe. Or more likely – OP is human like the rest of us and not always that good at hiding what she’s thinking. And colleagues noticed an awkward vibe. Why assume anyone is playing dirty when maybe everyone is doing what they can in a crappy scenario.

      1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

        Because a key point mentioned is that the ex-friend ran to management to complain about OP, when it seems like OP hadn’t really done anything.

        1. MK*

          That’s debatable. I can easily picture a scenario where the OP is sure she is acting civilly and professionally, when in reality she is being borderline rude. And it’s not a given that the first one to complain gets an edge; in my work place complain ING about that would be weird and inappropriate.

          Where I think the OP did err is in going to the other company’s manager in the first place, in my opinion. She should have gone to her own boss, explain the situation, possibly even asking not to be seated close to the new person in the first place.

          1. valentine*

            Where I think the OP did err is in going to the other company’s manager
            Yes. This was odd to do, it’s odd OP1 even felt comfortable doing it, and, if the director told ex-friend, it gave ex-friend ammunition. I don’t even see what the goal was. I would expect a “Sucks to be you,” a dressing down for overstepping, and a report to and further trouble from my manager. Being moved now makes it look like OP1 is the problem.

            1. Emily K*

              I interpreted it that she’d gone to the other company’s manager to request not to be seated close to the ex-friend: “I told the managing director of the other firm about our previous relationship and explained that I would not be comfortable working in close proximity to her, but that I could be polite and professional.”

              It would make sense that if her company is subleasing 2 or 3 seats at shared multi-person desks, the other company is probably the ones deciding the seating arrangements – both in terms of which seats they’ve decided will be subleased and which will be retained for their own workers, and where their own workers sit.

              1. valentine*

                I would not be comfortable working in close proximity to her
                I read this as “You’ve created a problem for me and there’s nothing for it.” I would expect harassment or other violence as the threshold for changing a seating arrangement, regardless of ease. My own family wouldn’t want to do it. They would insist I shouldn’t have cared in the first place and that I should get over it now. I would expect the same from colleagues. Still, my own manager would be the point of contact, not someone who liked ex-friend enough to hire her and who is naturally aligned with her against me.

            2. ChimericalOne*

              I don’t think it’s at all odd when you’re talking about companies this small. Hierarchies are a little weird when it’s just 2 or 3 employees at your company, and it sounds like they’re super cheek by jowl with this other small company, so… OP probably thinks of Other Company’s managing director less as “Managing Director of X” and more as “Molly.” It would be *more* weird for the manager of the other small business (who doesn’t really have a hierarchical relationship with OP — she’s just employee-of-my-renter to her) to dress down the OP than it would be weird for OP to mention, “Uh, hey, so I actually have a tense history with this person you just hired — heads up. I’ll be polite & professional, but wanted to let you know it won’t be comfortable for me to work closely by her.” Especially if “Molly” has control over the seating arrangement, OP may have thought the result would simply be a little rearranging of chairs.

          2. Luna*

            I’m not sure if going to her own boss would have worked. It certainly could have told the boss that there could be issues coming up, but unless OP’s boss is the one determining the seating order (which I doubt, since OP says their firm rents space from the bigger one), I don’t think telling the boss would have helped much in that aspect.

          3. EPLawyer*

            Going to her manager probably made the manager think “Oh I can fix this so everyone can be friends again.” Because OP specifically asked not to be near her, but amazingly enough she is 3 feet away. Then Manager notices that they aren’t suddenly best buds, asks ex-friend if OP is being friends again. Ex says No. Manager checks around to see if anyone has observed any friendly overtures, gets a negative on that, so goes to OP’s boss.

            Now OP might not be as professional as she wants to be. But if a manipulative liar was sitting 3 feet from me, not sure how great I would be. It’s a weird set up to have people from two different companies so close together. It’s not going to change either. Time to job hunt.

            1. Aveline*

              This. I think the manager is trying to fix something that isn’t her business.

              Also, it’s really demeaning to LW to insist she be friendly with ex-BFF. One can insist she be polite and cordial.

              But “frosty” implies something else. It implies she must be friendly with ex-BFF.

              That’’s just so wrong. It’s overstepping. It’s disrespectful to LW. It’s manipulative.

              LW – If you get a whiff of that, you directly to your boss and let them know what’s going on and that, if it continues, you will have to look for another job.

              There is no requirement that you be friends with everyone you work with.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              If it’s about 20 people seated at 4 person desks, it’s likely not a big space.

            3. Kate R*

              Ooh, I didn’t really consider the manager being the instigator, but you might be right. Either way, there is a lot of weirdness happening. I do think it’s important for the OP to reflect on her own behavior to make sure she’s not being blatantly rude, but “uncomfortable vibe” doesn’t really scream that to me. I feel like this is the kind of situation I’d ask for more clarification about specific behaviors, again assuming OP is really just being frosty as opposed to blatantly rude. Since both the ex-BFF and the ex-BFF’s manager are aware of their shared personal history, it’s weird that they would press the issue if it was just a matter of OP not sharing the details of her personal life. Weird, but not surprising based on OP’s description of her ex-BFF.

              1. Triplestep*

                I actually thought it was the BFF’s manager who was the instigator. OP1 decided to go to her first rather than her own manager, so she (BFF’s manager) was primed for there to be drama with her new employee. I’m guessing that the two managers met and discussed the possibility of an interpersonal problem in the offie, and either both of them or just OP1’s manager decided to frame it to OP1 as “you’re not being nice enough.”

            4. MK*

              Well, no. To begin with the OP did not go to her manager, she went to her ex-friend’s manager, whi very likely didn’t care at all about their past drama; her own manager might not have done anything either, but she had more incentive, as the OP’s manager, to take some interest in the situation.

              Also, the OP did not ask not to be seated near her ex-friend. She said she wouldn’t be comfortable working in close proximity, which I took to mean “in the same office”.

              1. ChimericalOne*

                I imagine there’s far more conversation among four people seated at a four-person desk than there is between desks. OP saying that she’s not comfortable working “in close proximity” to ex-BFF sounds like, “Please don’t seat her at my desk” to me.

          4. Fiberpunk*

            Who cares if she’s borderline rude. Who cares if she’s cold. She needs to sit at a desk and do her work. She doesn’t even work for the same company as these people. If she leaves them alone, why do they have some right to demand she be cheery and outgoing to them?

            1. AJ*

              Exactly, which is why I think this is about the ex-BFF trying to get the OP in trouble, fired even (although it’s not the same company but the threat of ending the cosy shared office might).

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          You’re making a lot assumptions here. It could something as simple as OP does not have a poker face (I suffer from the same ailment) or others are seeing her not socializing with her ex-friend as being cold and distant, and perhaps rude. Which is BS, because as long as you’re civil to your colleagues (or in this case your shared office neighbors), you shouldn’t be forced to socialize (or be fake extra nice) whether you have a history with someone or not.

          1. MK*

            I am making no assumptions at all. I am saying that it’s not a given that the ex-friend is making up lies.

            1. Fiberpunk*

              It’s clear they’re creating controversy for no reason but to stir things up. What right do they have to demand she be cheery to them? All she has to do is be polite.

        3. Observer*

          Actually, you don’t know that the OP didn’t do anything. I’m not saying that the OP is lying, but it’s very easy to not realize what one’s own behavior looks like.

          And in this case, the OP actually DID do something that makes the ex-friend far more believable. She approached the manager of the other company and told her about the history and said she’s not going to be comfortable around ex-f. Even if she only flagged “We used to be close and had a falling out”, she’s made it clear that she DOES NOT LIKE New Person. And to people who don’t know either of them well, it’s going to look like she’s quite comfortable broadcasting it far and wide. If she said anything like what she wrote here, then everyone is certainly going to find it easy believe that she’s deliberately trying to ice out ex-f. Even if they don’t think it’s deliberate they ARE going to sense an awkward vibe, and blame it on her.

          1. ket*

            You say this all in such a way as to make it look so baaaaad! Yeah, OP doesn’t like ex-friend. Nothing wrong with that!

            OP should be civil, but there’s no requirement they be nice or chatty! Not being chatty is not equivalent to ‘icing someone out’, and even if OP is trying to ‘ice out’ ex-friend, what’s really wrong with that?

            1. Observer*

              I’m not saying that the OP is actually icing the new person out. It’s just that it’s quite possible that given everything that is going on people will see the OP as icing the new person out.

              It’s hard to know from here, but based completely on what the OP is telling us, and knowing how hard it can be to see just how one’s behavior can come off, it’s really possible that the OP has contributed to the perception.

          2. ChimericalOne*

            It seems extremely unlikely that OP said anything like what she wrote here. You don’t describe a situation to an advice columnist the same way you describe it in a professional, face-to-face setting. To an advice columnist, you need to be specific. In a professional setting, you tend to be vague. I’d imagine (unless the OP tells us otherwise) that she used evasive language, e.g., “I recognized a new employee of yours — Susan Johnson — and wanted to let you know that she and I have a little bit of a history. I can be polite and professional around her, but wanted to give you a heads up that I wouldn’t be comfortable working in close proximity with her.”

            Giving someone a vague heads up, without going into the details, is pretty much the opposite of broadcasting drama far & wide. If someone came to me & said the above, I’d take it seriously and consider it to be circumspect. (As opposed to if someone came to me and started going on & on about how horrible my new employee is, which is what you seem to be suggesting she did, but which we have no evidence of.)

    3. JayNay*

      this is such a tough situation, I feel for OP1.
      I thought it was very odd that the ex-friend complained at her company that someone from the other company wasn’t being friendly enough to her. OP wrote “she used to be very manipulative and controlling around me”, and frankly, that kind of behaviour seems to fit right in. as in “you’re not being nice enough to meeeeeeee” when really the situation is “we’d be best off avoiding each other as much as possible and being professionally brief otherwise”.
      OP, your boundaries are perfectly fine. Keep restating them – as in “I will act professionally around this person but will not be friendly with her, I have my reasons for that, now kindly stop pressuring me about this.” (Alison’s script is much better to say out loud but maybe this helps to say in your head).
      Working so close to someone you have such a strained relationship with might not be tenable long term, and I really feel for you on that. Again, you are fine not to want that, you’re not being “difficult”. Seems like others around you are making this way weirder than you are by not respecting your boundaries. Not everyone in an office needs to be besties. Although if that’s the vibe where you work, it will be difficult to stray from the pack.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Yes, this is my red flag. They aren’t from the same company, so honestly, outside of basic roommate etiquette, their relationship should mean exactly zero. They don’t need to be friendly, they don’t need to collaborate, they don’t need to work together.

        If I were OP’s manager I’d switch her desk to a different area. There’s exactly zero reason for someone else’s employee’s BS to be damaging the productivity of one of mine. I’d probably also have Words with that other manager about staying in his own lane.

      2. Okay, Great!*

        I think I plus one’d another as well, my screen jumped and I didn’t catch it.

      3. Observer*

        Except for 2 things.

        The first is that the OP was the one who went to the other company first, making it their business to start with.

        The second is more speculative, but it’s worth it for the OP to talk to someone who can observer her and see if she’s REALLY being as “polite and professional” as she thinks she is. This type of setup is a classic case where people are highly likely not to see what their own behavior actually looks like.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Absolutely not on the second part. Asking people if she’s “polite and professional” will make the people she asks scrutinize her. It’ll also feed the negative narrative. It’ll become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

          1. Observer*

            I didn’t suggest she ask “people” but someone she trusts. She’s already insured that people are looking at her, although that wasn’t her intention. At this point, getting honest feedback from a neutral and trustworthy person is her best way of figuring out how much is her behavior.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              Dude, go re-read what you posted. You made no mention of trustworthiness. Even if you had, it’s still a bad idea for the reasons I pointed out.

      4. boo bot*

        JayNay, this is what I was thinking – the OP describes her as having been manipulative and controlling, so it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch that she would continue to behave in the same way!

        There’s an additional reason this stands out to me as a red flag: the ex-friend isn’t walking in out of a vacuum with no memory of the past; it’s not like she’s coming in to a new job and there’s a random person who’s cold to her for no reason. She KNOWS that the OP ended their friendship, and so even if there is a visible chilliness, she knows why! A rational response would be to try to minimize the impact on her working life, and either reciprocate the polite detachment, or reach out to the OP and try to smooth things over between them.

        I feel like going to the boss and saying, “OP isn’t friendly enough to me” is a really strange response, frankly, unless the OP is literally refusing to acknowledge her very existence, or muttering hexes under her breath every time they’re alone, or something else that she probably would have thought to mention in her letter.

      5. Jadelyn*

        Yep – that’s where my spidey sense kicked in, too. A manipulative, controlling ex-friend *actively chose* to go and complain to the manager that OP “isn’t being friendly enough” to them? That falls right in line with an existing pattern of manipulative and controlling behavior. I’m on Team Ex-Friend Is Stirring The Pot Deliberately Here.

        1. tangerineRose*

          “I’m on Team Ex-Friend Is Stirring The Pot Deliberately Here.” yeah, me too.

    4. Mookie*

      Beyond complaining to her own boss, I don’t know how the former friend is behaving towards the LW and neither do you, but “frosty” sort of implies the LW is letting the friend’s attempts at making smalltalk with her (in front of her own colleagues, and without acknowledging that they’re already previously acquainted) wither and die. So far, so normal—people are allowed to prompt conversation and people are allowed to decline and these hints should be respected—but if the friend is being pesky and aggressive about forcing a regular conversation with the LW or behaving campily towards bystanders when rebuffed, I’d say it’s the friend who needs to adjust her behavior and I should’ve thought her own boss, armed with the LW’s early heads-up, would not engage in immediately enabling the friend or in reporting this to the LW’s boss (which I think is a weird first step, unless friend and friend’s boss have been trying to stage-manage these rapprochements and now feel the need to escalate to that step).

      I’m also a little baffled about “witnesses.” Did they go the boss of their own accord or were asked to corroborate? Why is it paramount that people who share an office but don’t work together need to be socially micro-managed like this? I find it bizarre to police adults in this context.

      1. Kettles*

        It depends; I’ve been asked about my opinion of the office atmosphere before and responded honestly that I was uncomfortable because a colleague was continually aggressive -mostly with other people. I don’t know if it’s rising to that level but if OP and / or her former friend are sniping, that can be incredibly uncomfortable and disruptive to be around.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is what I’m picturing. Chilly sniping in the midst of perplexed but increasingly uncomfortable co-workers.

          OP, most of the office probably cares little about who’s right and only wants things to go back to feeling normal.

      2. Michael*

        I am routinely informed of little conflicts and microaggressions from my crew, possibly because I put a very high priority on tamping down these personal conflicts at work and the very close proximity we work in means that one simmering resentment can make everyone miserable.

        I have certainly been victim to manipulation because of this, for example when an employee broke up with another her ex and his buddy suddenly started presenting a lot of Hostile Workplace issues with her. I also experienced one employee who was famous for his belligerence, open cursing, and insubordination go to HR to complain that I was creating a Hostime Work Environment for him. He did this the week after the brand new GM had just hired a new HR person. Suddenly I had to defend my attitude against a guy who had a stack of write-ups for hostile behavior.

        I think the OP and her boss is being manipulated by the new kid. It reads of a pre-emptive strike. The only thing she can do is stick to her guns and refuse to be manipulated into having a relationship with her ex-friend beyond being polite and cordial.

        1. Busy*

          Yeah, I agree. I have seen this play out way too many times at the multiple disfunctional places I have worked. The OP’s friend is new, knows the situation is awkward and why, and knows that the OP doesn’t want anything to do with her – yet she goes and tells that OP is not being “friendly” enough. It yells a little absurdist. She is likely pre-empting; but the good news is that with most manipulative liars, they find lots of other ways to create drama very quickly. People will catch on soon.

          OP could hedge her bets, stay, and watch this all crash down (which could take months) – or they could ask to be moved. I would hope they would allow that, because why force these two together anyway? That’s just dumb.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          That’s what I came here to say. OP1 stopped being friends because of ‘manipulative behavior’. It’s still going on.

          OP1, ask for your desk to move. Be polite to ex-friend (nod and hello if you get in proximity) but quietly signal to your manager and hers that’s all that’s needed: “Of course I’ll be polite! We’re in an office! But I don’t really need to interact with her more than that.”

          If they continue to push, ask why anyone cares if you’re warm to anyone or not, in an innocent, truly puzzled tone.

          Because there’s some serious gendered expectations behind that, and maybe pushing them to think about it instead of just going with social assumptions will help.

          1. Aveline*

            “Serious gendered expectations”

            Ding! I doubt that 60 year old men would be told to play nice and be friendly in the way this LW has been addressed.

          2. Hufflepuffin*

            Why do people keep suggesting a desk move? They work in a really small space, that’s not going to make one iota of difference.

            1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

              It may not change it much, but personally it would be easier if it was 10 feet instead of three feet for me. At least then you have a bit more bubble which could also help with the uncomfortable undertone that somebody else was reporting.

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I would imagine that there’s more of an expectation of conversation between the four people who share a desk than there would be for people sitting two desk-pods away from each other. If LW and her ex friend are currently at the same shared desk, that would create more of an expectation of interaction. Moving LW to a seat at a different desk grouping would mean they could be nodding acquaintances without the forced interaction of spending the entire workday at the same shared desk.

    5. Snuck*

      The whole thing has a potential for immature unprofessional behaviour.

      Sit down, read this blog through and through… and work out how you’ll rise above it.

      Don’t want to say good morning to her when you see her first thing, but generally say it to others? The breezily say a cheery “Good Morning” to the entire room as you walk through it… now it’s not for her, its for all.
      Don’t want to ask how her weekend went? Don’t… if it looks like you’ll get trapped by people into a conversation do the whole “I’m sorry, got to grab something off the printer” or “Oh gosh! IS that the time? Got to run” etc… and dodge general conversations.

      If she’s running to her boss, and you the OP are… when the boss isn’t yours… no no no…. you talk to your boss, she talks to hers… and assume she’s still rather entangled in whatever the drama was before… plan accordingly… if she’s not… then she wouldn’t be complaining – she’d have the insight to think “well, it went bad before, distance is best now”… Sit back, look at your interactions with her, near her, with others, with others without her around… and look for what went wrong (not what went right)… and think about it. You don’t have to be her friend… loads of advice on this blog about how to deal with annoying co workers… read those and put some distance in. And then… never ever find yourself in a situation with her that you can be dobbed on… if she’s a sociopathic type… don’t give her ammunition… politely do your work, breeze past her, get coffee AFTER she has so you aren’t in the same square metres as her… and let her nature sell her personality to her peers without you. Do not engage… rise above it all.

    6. Bee*

      Personally, I can’t really imagine going to a superior because an office mate I don’t actually work with isn’t being friendly enough to me, unless they’re actively harassing me or something. Even if we had no difficult personal history, some people just don’t feel like being very sociable at work, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable pushing their boundaries.
      On the other hand, it’s possible the OP might be at some level trying to ‘punish’ her ex-friend by being chilly, which can make other people uncomfortable. But even then I’d just try to move past it. I don’t know, seems like reasonable people can disagree here.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, I can’t picture making the complaint “Arya, who works on the other team, just isn’t friendly enough to me.” Though I can certainly picture coworkers saying to the boss “Umm… do Arya and Sansa have history? Because there is a very weird snipey tension between them that is making it difficult for everyone.”

        1. MJ*

          The OP and ex-BFF aren’t even coworkers. Separate companies, just the same office space.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, I think ex-friend is just doing more manipulation here.

        I think a reasonable office would be all, “What do you expect me to do about it?”

    7. OhGee*

      I don’t really know what my solution to this problem would be, but I agree that it comes as no surprise that a manipulative, controlling ex-friend would try to pin the chilly feeling in her new office on LW. The others LW works with probably aren’t ever going to understand it, either. I’m not sure this is sustainable.

      1. TSG*

        This was all my first line of thought as well. Granted, there’s nothing concrete in OP’s letter that proves it, but my first thought reading this is “Ex-friend knows that OP doesn’t want to talk to them and is trying to force them to interact.” Perhaps OP is being chillier than they realize, that’s certainly possible. But it’s also possible that they’re being perfectly professional and ex-friend is trying to get them worked up about seeming too cold so it forces them to engage again as a power move.

    8. Mel*

      I’ve had that happen too, although not in a work setting. I found that being incredibly sweet to the person an effective way to keep people from believing their nonsense.

      I know that might not feel like a satisfying solution, but the protective barrier it provides is very satisfying.

      1. TootsNYC*

        This is sort of interesting as a tactic.

        So you be almost aggressively sweet and friendly, but you never actually get into anything real.

        So you say first, “How was your weekend? Did you like the movie? Wasn’t the weather nice?”
        If it’s YOU asking questions, you control the topic. Ask for the same incredibly superficial info all the time, and the moment they ask a question back, say, “Oh, things are fine, excuse me, I’ve been chatting long enough–gotta get to work,” and then switch off and tackle some work task. Or go to the bathroom.

        1. ket*

          Yes, this might be effective. Or when questions are asked of you, be really good at practicing the politician move of answering a totally different question with one key word in common.

          You might need to practice your verbal self-defense in other ways, too; with some of my manipulative ex-friends, they’d bring up embarrassing private details in public as jokes. I still don’t know how to deal with it really.

          Like if ex-friend starts with, “Oh, I went to the Ren Fair this weekend — you know how you used to go there and make out with that guy behind the costume shop? You and he really….” what do you say? “What a strange thing to bring up at work!” is about all I can think of, and then leave. What would the aggressively sweet & friendly thing to say be?

          1. JunieB*

            I usually go with, “Oh, I don’t recall that,” coupled with a cordially confused expression, then an immediate subject change.

    9. Lepidoptera*

      Agreed. My first thought was that ex-friend was just continuing the previous manipulation by whining “She’s being mean to me” to the boss. This behavior doesn’t surprise me at all.

      I’d be looking for a new job to get away from this person. It’s true that you can follow paragraphs of advice about how to “take the high road” and all that rot. But the truth is, you’re always going to have to be on your guard at this place, and constantly being forced to be the better person while she plays these BS games is going to eat away at you eventually. Cut bait and GTFO.

      Besides that, I’d keep an eye on this ex-friend. Following you to one job could be a coincidence, but I’d carefully avoid mentioning where I’m headed next, and also lay low on social media.

      1. Mockingbird 2*

        All of this!!! There are definitely some people from my past that I would quit over. Could I be “friendly”? Yes but not worth my effort. Totally agree with your point about the friend possibly following OP to the job. Again, I wouldn’t put that above certain people from my past. Friendships can get abusive just like romantic relationships.

      2. Clever Alias*

        This sounds so paranoid and crazy — but in my experience, it rings true. People don’t understand how manipulative some “friends” can be until they find themselves in such a relationship. It took me 10 full years to realize it wasn’t me with my “ex-friend” — she was just nuts. I cut all ties (painful as it might have been) with anyone associated with her and ran. Much happier. Life is too short.

        Didn’t have to do it in my career, though. That’s whole new level, OP, and I don’t have advice there. Just – if you examine it from every angle and its not you (and you SHOULD examine it it from every angle to ensure its not), its okay to trust that.

      3. K. Janeway*

        Totally agree. I had a situation years ago where I was in IT, and there was a nasty computer virus going around. I had a ton of computers to rebuild and reinstall under deadline. One entitled person decided to go to her manager and complain that I wasn’t being friendly to her because I did not get out from underneath a desk where I was laying on my back hooking cables up. She thought I should drop that, get out from under the desk, get up and smile and greet her when she walked into the room – which was *someone else’s office.* And her manager called me in and gave me a “talking to” about proper office etiquette. She was not my manager, only a client – I was subcontracted to them by another department. It was a sign of a much larger, deep-rooted dysfunction in that office. Major boundary-stomping went on daily. In retrospect I should have left right then, but I stayed, and it only got worse.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Yup! I worked at a nonprofit community group that was like this, you had to be welcoming at all times. Even if you were in the middle of manually tabulating payroll for 20 people, you had to be alert to other people’s presence, and acknowledge it immediately in a friendly manner.

          The winner was when my staff caught a guy fondling himself in front of a group of kids, and got nailed for “making him feel unwelcome.” You are unwelcome, you are actively engaging in a sex offense! FFS.

        2. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

          Not to derail too much here, but I had a friend and former coworker who did IT and the telephone component, and he was dispatched one night (many years ago now) to the Oval Office at a late hour while its occupant was in the residence for the night, to fix a problem. Naturally, the man came back to the Oval to retrieve something and my friend was in the same position as you, under the desk, but even the President of the United States didn’t require him to stand and greet. Instead, POTUS apologized for getting in the way…

          Some people feel entitled and make their workplaces unhappy and dysfunctional; most of the rest of us, from peons to top banana, are baffled by the attitude!

      4. Workerbee*

        This was my first thought, too. Someone that manipulative and controlling, and who has had success being manipulative and controlling, could well be actively trying to undermine the OP and carve out her own little empire. This can be hard for people to understand who actually do have something worthwhile in their lives, but those types…ugh.

    10. Carhenge*

      This phrase, “she used to be very manipulative and controlling around me” says it all. This is not new behavior. OP, since you have grown past her little games, she is trying to re-establish control. Talk to your boss, and get your desk moved. Continue to not engage more than necessary. If you’re particularly friendly with one of the other people in the office, you could consider asking if they’ve noticed a problem, but you could be feeding into the drama, so know your environment. And you may have to start job searching. Good luck.

    11. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I’m surprised Alison didn’t discuss possibility 3. Speculation: manipulative ex BFF is still manipulative. Either she heard from her boss that OP said they knew each other previously (or something more loaded, like “had a history” or even, “she doesn’t want to sit near you now, but there’s nothing I can do, so I hope you two can get along).
      It’s not paranoid if the person you think is hurting has proven they are willing to hurt you.
      Hell, talk to your boss and shake your head knowingly, and say, “I thought this might happen. I’ll be sure she knows that she is welcome and included. I know the drill.”
      And then live your life. If she keeps saying that you are being rude to her when you are actually being nothing to her, then it’ll come out.

      1. ket*

        I think this is the best answer. “I thought this might happen. I’ll be sure she knows that she is welcome and included. I know the drill,” is perfect.

    12. Triplestep*

      OP1, I do agree that it would be worth your while to self-evaluate and see if you could be coming across as frosty rather than professional, but unfortunately I think you lost control of this the minute you went to the Managing Director of the other firm to discuss it. Your workplace is casual so perhaps you felt comfortable doing this, but you are not in her reporting chain and honestly, you two don’t have an official relationship. You are an employee of her tenant. Now you’ll never really know who is the source of the opinion that you’re not being “nice” enough because there are too many people involved.

      You can’t go back and change this, but I think unfortunately it means you now need to do extra work to prove to everyone that you’re behaving professionally because people are now on the look out for drama.

    13. Jessica Fletcher*

      OP 1, I agree. If this person was manipulative and controlling, and if she didn’t like that you broke off the friendship, she could be making false complaints to harass you. I think you should ask if there were any specific instances that were cited of you being unfriendly. If she didn’t have any specific details, it’s ridiculous that her boss passed along her complaint, and that he took it seriously.

  2. Grand Mouse*

    #3 is an example of damned if you do, damned if you don’t- in many jobs if you ask for sick days you have to prove it with a doctor’s note, losing the cost of the missed days (if no PTO) and the dr. appointment. It is insulting and expensive. But now you are still not believed even with a doctor note? And she is making it seem like you have some sort of “privilege” for it? Oof.

    1. JulieCanCan*

      I’m kind of confused about OP 3’s situation. Did OP miss days beyond what they had taken off as PTO? Say, they took Monday-Friday off as PTO then got sick and went to doctor the following Monday and OP 3 was out sick the Monday and Tuesday after their week of PTO, and turned in the slip for Monday and Turning they were sick for the 2 sick days?

      Or was OP 3 sick for 2 of the days they were on vacation and tried turning those into sick days rather than using PTO since they got sick? Because I don’t think that’s a thing; if you happen to get sick while on vacation, they’re still vacation days. I’ve been in the working world for 25+ years and have gotten sick during several of my vacations, a couple times I’ve been sick my entire vacation, but they were still vacation days. You don’t get to change the qualifications after the fact. Otherwise anyone having a crappy vacation could simply decide “eh, this vacation wasn’t up to snuff. I was a bit ill for most of it. RE-DO!”

      I know this isn’t even part of the issue but I don’t quite understand what is going on or why boss was annoyed or what boss thought the problem was. Or what the doctor’s note was for if they were sick while on vacation.

      Sorry, I’m a bit on the slow side at times.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I read it as OP having got sick when she was due to return to work.
        That said, where I am, if you get sick when you are on vacation time you can absolutely call in sick and the time can be counted as sickness not holiday – you can’t do it after the event, you would have to follow your employers sick policy for the day or day you were ill.

        1. JulieCanCan*

          That makes sense – I originally read it (sort of) as two of the vacation days being switched to “sick time” which would be odd and not anything normal.

          Either way the boss sounds atrocious.

      2. ThePinkLady*

        This is probably region dependent, but where I work (UK, government-adjacent org) what you describe is exactly how it works – our annual leave is just that, for time off, and if we get sick during it, we get a doctor’s note to prove sickness and thus be paid sick pay for those days, and then get the leave time back to use for vacation another time. It’s to do with the fact that our sick pay system involves a statutory element here. So if the OP is in the UK, what you’re describing could be exactly the case – it would certainly be the same for me.

      3. JayNay*

        hey, don’t demean yourself like that ;) I think you’re right with scenario two, at least that’s how I’m reading it. OP took off let’s say 5 days, was sick for two of them and got a doctor’s note to cover that time. My understanding is that means she saves those two days of vacation time because she was sick then (that’s the way it works where I’m from in Europe).
        Now we can agree or disagree about whether that makes sense, but OP’s question was specifically about the passive-agressive Facebook status her manager posted. And woah that was not cool. I think the manager will be quite surprised if OP brings this up directly.

        1. JulieCanCan*

          Yeah, in the US that would be laughable. OP is probably in another region if that’s the situation.

          And despite location the boss is obviously in the wrong. I hope OP: 1) took a screenshot of the Facebook status from the boss 2) escalates this

          1. Ra94*

            I doubt the OP is in the UK or a different European country, since the boss implies she can’t afford to see a doctor.

          2. Jadelyn*

            That’s an awfully broad statement to make – unless your experience of US workplaces is literally universal and you know for sure every single workplace would respond the same way to this situation.

            Because my workplace uses split vacation/sick buckets instead of combined PTO, and I could see someone switching a couple of days from their vacation to sick if they were sick during vacation time. It depends on the circumstances, and I’m not sure I’d claim it’s a common thing to have happen, but I strongly disagree that it’s inherently “laughable” for any workplace anywhere across the entire US.

            1. I was young once*

              I have also switch vacation to sick if I have ended up being sick or something instead. Sick time is for when you are sick even if you’d already planned to be out for another reason.

          3. AMPG*

            Not laughable – I’ve done it when working for a company that had separate sick and vacation leave buckets, and have approved it for my direct reports. Our sick leave was more generous than our vacation allotment, so why burn vacation days when you could prove you were sick?

      4. Amerdale*

        It depends, where OP 3 is located.
        In Germany for example it’s organized as you describe it in your second paragraph. If you get sick while on vacation and get a doctor’s note confirming it (that’s normal here anyway, at least for sickness lasting longer than 1 or 2 days), you get your vacation days back and can use them later.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I said farther down, that it’s never occurred to me to do this. I wonder how it would go over!

      5. Sorrel*

        In the EU it’s the law that if you get sick during vacation you can get it changed to a sick day. (or rather, it’s legal, but most people find it too much of a faff) They are different things and vacation time is for vacation.

        But I’ve always thought that was a weird concept.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Oh it’s worth it – if I’m too ill to work then I’m too ill to enjoy my holiday – getting the time back to use on another day is definitely worth it!

          1. MsSolo*

            It’s also important to calculating sick leave over the year – most businesses will pay you your full wage a certain number of days, a partial wage for more, and then you’re on statutory sick. Not claiming sick leave when you should can throw those figures out, and depending on how long you’re on holiday for & how much sick pay you’re entitled to, could be seen as manipulating the system (and because it relates to a statutory element, and tax and so on, a business could get in trouble for letting you take holiday instead of sick).

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              And if you’ve seen a doc and been signed off – they *really* can’t count it as holiday or they’d be in breach of a lot of regulations.

      6. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        My union workplace does it that way: you can get vacation days changed to sick days (with a doctor’s note) and recoup the vacation days. That was a new concept for me. I’ve never had to take advantage of it.

        If OPs company policy allows her to do that, then it’s fine for them to do so.

        Her boss’s complaint is weird and out of line. (And a very good reason why NOT to have coworkers as friends on Facebook!). If we take the posting literally, she can’t afford to go to the doctor. Yet, I would assume that as a manager, she would have a higher salary than her staff. What we’re missing is context: Are there are a lot of ppl calling in sick of late? Is there a general perception of staff using policies to the absolute limit, to the point of looking like abuse but it’s not because it’s still within the policy, leading to frustration? Is this manager new? Young? Overcharged with work? Were they having a bad day?

        But it doesn’t matter: Facebook is not the venue for this kind of gripe. Your best friend with over a cup of coffee in a noisy shop is the right venue for this kind of gripe.

      7. Yorick*

        I’m in the US and I’ve worked several places where you can change your vacation days to sick days if you get sick during your vacation.

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, I’m in the US too and that’s how it is at my current job. No doctor’s note necessary (although I imagine the boss could ask for one if they suspected someone was lying).

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            Same with me. It happened one day I was on a one day scheduled vacation and I had woken sick as heck. I slept till midday and then called my boss and asked if I could switch it and, oh, by the way, expect a voicemail tomorrow morning two.
            And get this, she said, “that sucks. feel better.” Because my boss isn’t a petty jackass who thinks that everyone is living better than she is and is not out there screwing her over by using benefits offered by the company.

          1. Batman*

            Same. But I’ve also only ever worked in places where all paid time off is combined into a PTO bucket, so there’s no reason it would have come up.

          2. Mr. Shark*

            Yeah, that’s a new one to me. Even when I had separate sick and PTO days, if I was on vacation and got sick, tough luck, it was already counted as vacation/PTO.
            If it’s the first situation, in which a person took PTO, and then ended up extended it by sick days, well that’s something else. I’ve had to do that, just happened this year. Started feeling sick the day I was ending my vacation, and ended up taking two days off of sick leave (well, we don’t really have sick leave, we just take the time off) when I should’ve been coming back to work. There was nothing to do about it…I felt awful.

      8. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Would OP be located in Europe, if her boss can’t afford to go to the doctor?

        It is entirely possible that her company is in the US and has a policy similar to the EU’s law, though, especially if they’re multinational and trying to level the playing field between branches.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Good point! Unless she means can’t afford time off to go to doc… but seems unlikely.

          In any event, it’s way, way out of line to put on facebook.

      9. Observer*

        It doesn’t matter which it is, in this context. The boss is clearly saying that the OP paid to have the doctor give her a phony note in order to gain 2 paid days off. How those 2 days off are allocated isn’t really the issue.

        It’s a nasty accusation, and should really get the boss a slap down from their HR – it’s not just accusing their employee, but a medical practice as well (and they might not take it too well.)

        1. TootsNYC*


          That’s why I like Alison’s, “Have I given you reason to doubt my honesty and integrity?”

          It’s going to be hard for boss to say, “yes, actually,” and it points a line right at the problem here.

      10. TootsNYC*

        Or was OP 3 sick for 2 of the days they were on vacation and tried turning those into sick days rather than using PTO since they got sick? Because I don’t think that’s a thing; if you happen to get sick while on vacation, they’re still vacation days.

        This is what I came to say. I’ve never been able to convert vacation days to sick days. It never occurred to me, either as a boss or as a worker.

        When I’m sick, I just figure I’m sick from whatever it was in my life. My work will give me time off, and my life might as well (I might skip the chores or the fun and sleep).

        (Only slightly related–I had a roommate who didn’t pay her share of the rent to me on time, and when I said I needed the money now, could she write a check, said, “I’m on vacation [stay-cation].” I said, “You’re on vacation from work, not from your life. And you’re essentially insisting that I loan you money. Write the check.”

    2. Asenath*

      I’m wondering if this is another Europe/North America difference. If I get sick while on vacation (admittedly, it’s always been very minor, like a cold), I just think “tough luck” – I’d have to double-check our contract (we do have one), but I don’t think types of leave can be switched like that. But clearly, that’s not the case in every country.

      Mind you, the manager should not have made nasty comments about the employee behind her back, on Facebook or anywhere else. If she’d suspected the employee had mis-used sick leave, she should have dealt with it directly.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        I might have done something like this at my current job if I got sick and had to cancel the vacation. Then again, I’m unionized at my current job, and it’s awesome.

  3. Hufflepuffin*

    #1 You mentioned talking to the director of the other company – but not talking to your own boss before they came to you. Talk to them now. Explain that you have a difficult history with this person and are uncomfortable – that while you will be cordial to them it’s not possible to be overly friendly.

    I’m surprised Alison didn’t mention this. Sometimes it’s ok to mention that you have a history with someone.

      1. MK*

        Frankly, I think the OP should have gone to her own manager in the first place. It’s natural that the other company ‘s manager is biased towards her own employee. And it’s not clear to me that the OP’s boss knows the context even know, or if she thinks the new employee is a total stranger the OP took a dislike to.

        1. Jamies*

          That’s what I’m wondering too. Without the added context, being polite but not super friendly can be read as rude/hostile in an environment where super friendly is the norm. Particularly if OP participates in that aspect of the culture with other people since IME people tend to view things in terms of comparison as opposed to in absolutes.

          1. Mookie*

            Were they colleagues, I could see why this matters logistically. Since they’re not, they literally work for different people, prioritizing this or pretending morale and productivity are on the line because the LW doesn’t want to interact with a deskmate—not bullying her, threatening her, gossiping about her, sabotaging her work—just screams bad management to me. I would not regard a new hire favorably if they came to me with this, unless the former friend is totally mischaracterizing what’s going on. Make Her Perform Niceness to Me On Command is not within my purview or whatever. Stop engaging with her if she doesn’t seem receptive.

            1. Jamies*

              While it’s plausible thr 3 people in OP’s company may not have bad morale because of this the fact remains OP’s company is sharing the other company’s office space so it’s not bad management to want their employees to get along relatively well with the other company’s employees and not be a source of general discontent/tension.

              1. It's mce*

                Having been in a scenario where I had to work with someone who badmouthed me to everyone, and I still had to assist her with aspects of her department, it gets very tiring to have to be nice to someone who isn’t you.

                1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

                  Freudian slip. By Friday I’m sick of anyone who isn’t me, and half the time I think I can kick rocks, too. Damn hungry and tired self, make your own damn dinner. Oh wait…

        2. TootsNYC*

          I agree. I think that was really indicative of the OP’s inexperience in the working world. Learning curve!

          But now, yes, work with your own manager, and say, “Listen, I have my reasons. I’m perfectly prepared to be civil, but I’m not comfortable with being pressure to be friendly. There’s a difference.
          “Would you move my desk, so that there are simply fewer opportunities for interactions between us?”

          And job hunt–if only to broaden your work-world experience.

    1. Creme Horns*

      This, complaining in general about an old BFF and add to that complaining to the company that hired her and not to your own boss really set this up as an issue. I get that you had a an issue with an old friend but complaining to their company about them it looks petty on OP’s part. I can’t see any way where someone that doesn’t work for me tells me my new hire is their old BFF and they had “a really nasty friend break-up — she used to be very manipulative and controlling around me” where I don’t think the person telling me is not emotionally intelligent enough to work in a adult workforce and someone I need to keep an eye on because they are going to be an issue. I’m sorry I know this sounds harsh but complaining about BFF’s in the adult workforce doesn’t really work out where you ever look good.

      1. Lepidoptera*

        Nah. Alison has answered multiple letters that discuss how to make clear that a new hire is someone you’ve had difficulties with in the past, and getting in front of it is often a good choice.

        1. EOA*

          Yes. But in your own company.
          The wrinkle here is that this isn’t the OP’s company and they aren’t under any obligation to do anything for her.

          I think it was mistake and quite frankly an overstep to go to the other manager. But since she can’t go back in time to fix that, I think she needs to have an honest conversation with her manager to explain the situation. And perhaps not be so overtly cold.

          1. JunieB*

            I feel that the level of formality around the office is relevant. If the other manager is somebody that OP already chats with casually, I don’t consider it that huge of an overstep to mention history with the new hire.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Hard disagree. She wasn’t “complaining” to ex-friend’s manager, she was providing a heads up and assuring manager that OP could be professional about it. The issue here is the ex-friend complaining about OP that she wasn’t treating her properly. Sounds like ex-friend is a drama queen and trying to stir up trouble.

        1. EOA*

          There can be more than one issue – and we can’t really give advice to the former friend. The former friend may be in the wrong for complaining but at the end of the day, the former friend actually probably handled it correctly. She went through the appropriate channels – her own manager – to address a problem she perceives.

          The OP may be totally right about the friend but that doesn’t mean that she was correct in the way she handled it. And regardless, there is nothing she can do about the former friend being manipulative. In fact, the more she thinks she can somehow control the former friend’s behavior, the less likely she is to resolve the situation.

          I am not sure what people expect will happen by reiterating that the former friend is manipulative, a drama queen, etc. All of those things may be true, but the OP can’t do anything to change that behavior. All she can do is try to manage a challenging situation. By insisting that she was totally in the right, and the former friend is totally in the wrong, I fear people are giving her bad advice because they are validating a series of choices that have led to this point.

          OP should talk to her manager about the situation, and why she wants to remain civil but not friendly with former friend. And then she should try to be civil without seeming unfriendly. That’s the best she can do right now.

    1. Agnodike*

      It’s a pretty widespread term, so you don’t have to worry you’re stealing it, just using something from the common cultural lexicon. :)

    2. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

      Vaguebook complaints are whiny ploys for attention. Too many of them and I will unfollow the person.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        Seriously! They are so exhausting when they are clearly attempts to get people to both pay attention and pry out whatever is bothering the vaguebooker. It’s exhausting.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I recently backed out of a friendship with someone who does this all the time, in every way, in person as well as online. If I let her, she would have drawn me into taking care of her like a child.

        1. People like shiny things*

          Have you watched What We Do In The Shadows on FX? The emotional vampire stuff (especially in work situations) is really exceptional.

  4. Engineer Girl*


    It’s also remarkable that the ex-friend herself has complained that you’re not being friendly enough;

    This doesn’t sound remarkable at all, considering she has a history of manipulation (which usually includes lying). I’d say she’s still doing it and this is the first attempt to control. Again. This is how passive aggressive manipulators operate. They’re always the victim you know.

    The OPs manager also should check in with the other employee to see if it is true that there’s an uncomfortable vibe.

    I do think it’s important to let your manager know that the reason for the falling out was due to severe integrity issues on her part. (That’s how I would frame it). But let her know you are doing everything to be professional. Also let her know that you expect specific issues to be addressed if there are any. You WANT to be the best employee. Hand waving complaints aren’t actionable.

    On your part, pretend your ex friend is a slug. Treat her like that, with no emotion. Slugs are not worth your attention or your energy. Don’t give her any, even if negative.

    I suggest you also look up low contact techniques for narcissists and other personality disorders. Lots of scripts for keeping things private.

    1. Annette*

      I disagree that slug treatment is the way to go. LW needs to be cordial and professional. Excessive frostiness may = the reason for this situation in the first place.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I’ve never been frosty to a slug. They usually are worth no emotion whatsoever.

        1. Kc89*

          Slugs make me go “EWWWW AHHHHHH” which might not go over well with the co worker haha

          1. Amethyst*

            SAME! Slugs are disgusting to me, so I don’t know that the OP would like to respond to her ex-friend’s presence that way in a work environment. Although that’d be entertaining for a bit. ;)

        2. Mookie*

          Yep. Blandness and generalities. Greet her if she’s in a group arriving; farewell her group when they depart. Don’t make chit-chat fruitful for her and, once you’ve put in an appearance for the sake of civility and at a designated time or convenient interlude excuse yourself from group discussions where she’s a prominent player. Navigate like you’re at a party where avoiding deep interaction with a particular guest is first on the menu, steer yourself where you want to go, and effect a mellow beatitude while doing so.

    2. Troutwaxer*

      I have a couple other questions about this. First, why did the manager seat “manipulative old friend” next to the OP? Is the manager less than brilliant? Surely there was a better way of handling the situation. Second, did “manipulative old friend” deliberately get a job where the OP works? There seems to be a lot of thoughtless behavior/craziness here (not on the OP’s part) which probably needs to be addressed.

      1. Jamies*

        Well OP’s manager likely has no control over where the other company sits their employees and the ex-BFF’s manager probably wasn’t thinking about OP and just put the ex where it was most convenient. It’s also possible that was just the only place to put her. Could be wrong but 2 companies totalling less than a couple dozen employees doesn’t scream lots of office space to me.

      2. MK*

        Eh, in a company of 15 people, maybe it was the only available space. Or maybe the new employee needed to be seated next to someone who was already sitting next to the OP for training or work reasons.

        I find your assessment of the manager wildly exaggerated. If a worker of a company who shares space from my company came and told me that she and my new employee used to be friends, that there is bad blood between them, but that she will keep things professional, frankly I think the crazy reaction on my part would have been to immediately rearrange my workers seating arrangements, so that these two adults would not be seated close to each other (which, in an office so small, is a bit moot anyway).

        Also, the scenario of the friend basically stalking the OP at her workplace is something out of a film or book. I mean, maybe it isn’t totally impossible, but it would take a seriously disturbed person to get a job so that they can harass an ex-friend. The impression I got was that this ex-friend was a garden-variety manipulative jerk, not a stalker.

        1. JunieB*

          For what it’s worth, after I cut ties with a manipulative friend of mine, she applied for a job at my company—and when she was rejected, she started interviewing with other companies in our building.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          I have known more than one person who was dramatic/manipulative/crazy enough to do this.
          I worked at a place where a creepy, pathetic file clerk had eyes for me. He transferred into my department at the same time my good manager retired.
          His attempts to get my attention made me uncomfortable and when I asked for help, the chauvinist man who replaced my manager fired me. :(

      3. MommyMD*

        Because outside personal issues shouldn’t guide the workplace? Because two employees are expected to be civil to each other? I’m thinking OP is coming across much more frosty than she sees herself and others are picking up on it.

    3. Asenath*

      Slugs maliciously ate my favourite plants, back when I had a garden, so I do not think they are awesome! As for OP – I think she has to deal with this with her manager, and, although it’s too late to do anything about it now, probably shouldn’t have gone to the other manager at all. It sounds like its developed into a very sticky social situation now, and all she can really do is ensure her behaviour really is calm and professional.

      1. JaneB*

        As a botanist-by-first-degree, I think slugs are annoying – and as a person, I find them deeply icky (but don’t mind spiders). However, I think that picking my coworker off an object I wanted, carrying them at arm’s length, and pitching them over the wall into the carpark would not be a good look…

    4. OhGee*

      This, exactly. I’ve been friends with this kind of person and nothing about LW’s report surprises me.

    5. Aveline*

      Either ex-BFF is looking to bait LW or LW is being frosty. In either case, the grey-rock method should work.
      The grey rock method of dealing with narcissistic abusers often also works with non-abusive manipulative jerks. The idea is to make yourself uninteresting by giving completely neutral, but socially acceptable answers. Make yourself above reproach, but also uninteresting.

      LW – google 180 rule + grey rock

      If ex-BFF is looking for a reaction and doesn’t get one, she will eventually move on. If she doesn’t move on after a few months, LS needs to get a new job b/c then she’s in the realm of stalker/dangerous behavior.

      If she goes grey-rock and boss/ex-BFF’s boss accuse her of being frosty, she can say in honesty that she’s polite and courteous, but under no obligation to be friends with someone who shares a workspace.

      *Sigh* I have to wonder if this were two older men in the same situation if there would ever be an accusation of frosty. I suspect that LW is young and female. Therefore, she’s expected to play nice and conform to people’s expectations of how she is supposed to be.

      1. sunny-dee*

        My guess, though, is that it is the friend who is complaining and therefore creating the perception of frostiness / tension. So it’s less about sex and more about behavior.

        1. sarah*

          gender may not be the reason the friend complained, but it could be the reason OP’s manager is taking the complaint so seriously.

          1. Aveline*

            Thank you. Gender didn’t create the situation. But it is why LW is being told to be “nice” and why external forces (i.e., the managers) may be trying to fix it.

            Men aren’t expected to be nice in the workplace. They are expected merely to not be rude.

            Young women are tone policed. WOC are tone policed to death.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          Yes, and ex-friend either has unrealistic expectations of being friends again, or is trying to create a situation where she’s the good guy and OP is the bad guy.

  5. Viki*

    OP1 Make sure you are professional and you aren’t showing that you’re treating her different. That doesn’t mean you have to be friendly, but if she asks the group in the morning how your weekend is, answer. If she says goodbye, answer.

    Extend the niceties because then there is nothing that the your manger, her manager-anyone can point to and say “OP is ignoring me. OP is rude to me. OP is taking our personal issues into our shared workspace.”

    You work adjacent to each other, in a shared space. You can’t give her ammunition because then there is something to look at.

    Check in with a coworker that you trust to be honest to make sure you are as professional and friendly as you think you are. How you act in your head vs how other people see it are different things.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I’d only answer with generics though.
      “How was your weekend”,
      “Fine thank you” and then go get coffee.

      “Are you upset with me?”
      “Why do you think that?”
      “You’re not being my frieeeennd!”
      “Um, we’re coworkers” go to bathroom.

      1. Aveline*

        Exactly. Go neutral/gray rock.

        Don’t say anything negative, but also don’t give her anything to latch onto.

    2. Anonymous 5*

      I’d be tempted to chat with my supervisor (okay, depending on the relationship I had with them; let’s assume it’s good enough here for this) and ask for more specifics on what they wanted to see me do differently. I’d hope that that would make for a bit more clarity on how much of the problem really lies with the OP and how much is the ex-friend blowing smoke. To whatever extent the complaints are legit, OP then has some better tools to make sure she’s staying above board; to whatever extent the complaints aren’t legit, OP’s supervisor hopefully can recognize that and back off.

      1. Psyche*

        I agree. I think that would be a good thing to tack onto Alison’s script. Essentially saying, “I believe I have been polite and professional. Can you give me examples of what behavior is concerning you?” This also puts the onus not the manager(s) to pick out the specific unacceptable behavior. If it is just an “uncomfortable vibe” it really isn’t fair to put that on the OP. If the OP is deliberately ignoring the former friend when she is talking to her or pointedly saying hello to everyone else, then that is something that can and should be changed.

        1. singularity*

          I really like this response. Not being “friendly” enough is so generic a criticism. Friendly in what way? What exactly are the expectations? What are the boundaries between ‘friendly’ and ‘friends?’ People interpret behaviors in so many different ways that it’s almost a pointless critique. OP, definitely use this with your boss, and also Alison’s advice, especially when she says to tell your boss that, “you’re uncomfortable being told you need to have a closer social relationship with someone who you have a troubled personal history.”

    3. TootsNYC*

      Check in with a coworker that you trust to be honest to make sure you are as professional and friendly as you think you are. How you act in your head vs how other people see it are different things.

      If there were a colleague at MY company that I thought was sensible, I might ask them to help me with they, partly by giving me feedback, and partly by being a buffer.

      And I’d develop a script that isn’t dramatic: “We used to be close, but we’re not anymore, and I’d like to keep some distance. So I won’t be all that chummy–there’s no ill will, but I don’t want to be friends anymore.”

    4. JSPA*

      OP #1:

      First, while it’s probably a bad idea to explain that you’re ex-BFF’s with a bad history, you can certainly let one or two people know that you’re not asking “getting to know you” questions because you “ran in the same friend group,” and “that stuff is all played out.” That, frankly, is probably what’s missing; they don’t know you know each other, and it’s weird that you’re not holding up your part of the “getting to know you” process. Apologize for creating dead air space.

      Next, go above and beyond in filling that dead air–but with things that you really don’t care about at all. Manipulators dig for the good stuff. She may be your first, but she won’t be the last. Learning to be highly personable without being at all personal is an essential skill! This is a relatively low-stakes chance to hone your “killing with kindness” moves.

      She’s digging for relationship stuff? Ask for her advice on adopting a puppy (assuming you have no dog, and no intention to get one). Breeds, shedding–just chat with animation. You can always discover a mild allergy in two or three weeks, if she starts pestering you about it. She fishes for family info? Ask for her opinions on tulips vs. daffodils, as a gift for your cousin. She wants to discuss personal interactions? Assuming you don’t watch GOT, or at least, don’t have an emotional identification with the characters: how did she expect it to end? Is she bummed? What shows is she enjoying these days?

      You get the idea–anything so low-stakes as to be completely emotion-free, go all-in on including her.

      Frankly, if you’ve regularly been sharing substantive personal stuff at work…you NEED this. And if anyone calls you on it, just say you’ve been reading Dale Carnegie, and are experimenting on adapting his old fashioned advice to the modern office. Aaaaand…Solicit their input: how’s it working? Did they notice? What sorts of safe, cheery subjects do they like to talk about, when they’re making an effort to be equally nice and outgoing with everyone?

  6. mark132*

    @LW2, I worked in a company where Hiring Managers were required to interview at least 4 people for every open position being hired. Which in practice meant that many of the people being interviewed were never going to be seriously considered, they were simply checkmarks on a piece of paper. It infuriated me, especially since I asked them to interview my brother for an open position and I found out later his interview was a checkmark. I would have been ok with it had that been communicated to me and my brother beforehand. Understanding this was an opportunity for practice with a small chance of hiring if it went unusually well.

    1. Anne (with an “e”)*

      Ditto. I also worked for a company where the hiring manager was required to interview at least four candidates for each position. Such. An. Infuriating. Waste. Of. Numerous. People’s. Time.

      I remember being a member of a hiring panel that continued to interview candidates for about two weeks after we had effectively decided who we were going to hire. I was very low in the hierarchy, and did not not feel that I had any standing to stop what they were doing which was a complete and utter farce. However, we all (approximately 15-20) of us continued to take valuable time out of our incredibly busy schedules to interview people who were also taking valuable time (some even coming from out of state) to be interviewed. The entire process made me physically ill.

    2. LeahS*

      Yes, and interviewing candidates as a formality is very common in certain sectors. My roommate, a teacher, has been offered a position at the school she’s been a substitute at for the past year and they still have to interview other candidates as a formality.

      1. just a random teacher*

        In teaching, I have been cold-called to come in and interview for jobs I did not apply for so that their interview pool would be larger. This has happened more than once.

        To be fair, I did actually get my current job as a result of such a cold-call. (Well, technically, as the result of another school principal deciding to join in the interviews for the position that cold-called me because they also had an opening and were having trouble filling it.)

        The teaching job market is so weird. There were years when I couldn’t get a job despite putting in tons of effort and applying everywhere, and then there was the “got job I didn’t apply for while on cold-called interview for other job I didn’t apply for” incident, so I’ve concluded that job hunting strategies in my field aren’t really a thing.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I think I’ve read/been told that governments and government-type/adjacent companies have these rules – some are even laws – to interview a minimum number of applicants to avoid managers hiring for the wrong reasons such as nepotism, racism, chauvinism.
        Apparently before these laws/rules were made, hiring was done more for political reasons than qualifications.

    3. 1234*

      Responses like this make me wonder how many interviews I’ve been on in the past that were someone’s “check marks.”

      1. Massmatt*

        We probably all have at some point, but the interviewers were at least better at pretending to take the interview seriously.

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, I wonder how common this is? I’m not bothered by being interviewed when there is a strong internal candidate, but there is at least a small chance they’ll be really impressed by me. But making someone take time off work to come in when they have absolutely no chance of getting the job is so disrespectful!

      3. mark132*

        if you’ve interview more than just a few times, almost certainly. I’ve read some job ads that might as well say “your name has to be Sally E. Jones, who works on the 3rd floor’.

    4. RecoveringSWO*

      Time waster interviews are bad, but…you were asking for nepotism in the office. If you made a big stink, it probably didn’t reflect well on you.

    5. Kendra*

      While it can feel really crappy to be on that side of things, I kind of get this policy from the side of the people doing the hiring. We have three part-time positions that were pretty much a revolving door for a few years, and at least part of the problem was that they were incredibly hard to hire for (they only pay minimum wage, it’s a much harder job than it sounds like on paper, and it’s next to impossible to move up within the organization; not many people will stick around for that if something better comes along). I’ve lost count of the number of people we thought would be great for those positions who ended up flaking out after two weeks, or who accepted another offer before we could contact them, or for whatever other reason just didn’t work out.

      Having interviewed additional candidates meant that we could go back and contact our second choice person if we wanted to, and extend them an offer without having to do the entire process over again. Plus, at least twice that I can think of, we were so wowed in the interview by an unexpected candidate that they actually ended up being our first choice. The hiring process is so full of unknowns, it only makes sense to give yourself some extra options. Never assume that anything is written in stone!

      (Also, I don’t think I’d _ever_ tell a candidate I was interviewing that they were unlikely to be hired, even if I was 100% positive I knew who I wanted for the position already; that sounds like a great way to guarantee that they can’t possibly give you their best in the interview, and it completely defeats the purpose of having a competitive hiring process. Plus, and most importantly, I CAN’T actually know that – life happens, and if the person I thought I wanted to hire gets hit by a bus, but I sabotaged all of my other candidates’ interviews, I’m now in a really crappy position.)

  7. jm*

    writer #2, i still occasionally wonder what happened with the agencies who interviewed me then ghosted three years ago. this is despite having found a job i love in a convenient location with people i care about. the human brain is so annoying like that.

    1. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

      Feel you on that.
      This interviewer sounds frustrating, but at least she didn’t give you false hope. It’s annoying and demoralizing when an interviewer is all friendly and bubbly but then can’t even be bothered to send a rejection email.
      Good luck with your search.

    2. Dana B.S.*

      Yep, job-hunting has the ability to really affect your mood/self-worth. But it shouldn’t!!! I have worked with people who just flat out hate interviewing. My former boss would keep interviews to about 5-10 minutes. Another supervisor who had a department with really high turnover couldn’t stand to talk to strangers for more than 15 minutes. More to the LW’s situation, there are dozens of other situations that could have affected the interviewer’s demeanor that have nothing to do with you.

    3. Michaela Westen*

      In the 90’s I had a few experiences with employment agencies who interviewed me, said they would send me on interviews, then ghosted.
      I wondered about that for years. If they didn’t want to send me on interviews, why waste time interviewing me? Do they do this to everyone? Then how do they stay in business? I never found out.
      Back then with newspaper ads, it was obvious which ones were the agencies. They’d have no company name, only a phone number, and the ad said the job was wonderful and everything anyone could want. I soon learned to avoid them.
      I still remember the woman who interviewed me (smoking in her office – blech!) and said she would set up an interview. I called a few days later and she wouldn’t take my call.
      Twice in the next few months I came home to messages from her saying “call me right away, I have a job for you! Hurry!”
      And when I called she wouldn’t take my call.
      She’s lucky I’m not a violent person.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Whatever her excuse was, she was a sadist.
          A non-sadist would have said “call me by ____ time if you get this message”, or called one and waited for a response.
          A non-sadist would have taken my call and said, “I’m sorry, I already filled the position”. Or had the receptionist give me the message.
          A non-sadist would have had some respect and compassion for her fellow humans.
          She used this setup to jerk us around when it wasn’t necessary.

  8. Kc89*

    for #3 did you end up taking two sick days in addition to the PTO you already had booked off?

    Or is it that you wanted two of your PTO days turned into sick days?

    1. MK*

      My feel was that it was an extension to the vacation and the manager suspects it was a fake illness to extend the vacation.

        1. Fish Microwaver*

          Or it might be that LW became ill while taking vacation days. It does happen you know.

  9. allecto's sister*

    OP #5 – my concerns with ‘overqualified’ candidates have always been that the work would bore them to tears quite quickly. Is there anything you can tweak on your resume or do in interviews to reassure potential employers that you’ll be interested and content in these roles? The other reason to not take an ‘overqualified’ applicant is that they cost too much – either they will expect a higher salary or, in some fields, salary bands relate to qualifications and you have to pay the highly-qualified candidates a higher rate. If you are in one of those fields, leaving your Masters’ off and then being paid the incorrect rate (or blowing a project’s budget when they have to pay you a higher rate than they had expected) could lead to all sorts of complications.

    1. Loubelou*

      I would say the same, though I would add that if a cover letter clearly states why the applicant is interested in the role despite being overqualified then I would be less nervous. I’d suggest taking the bull by the horns and addressing this potential concern in the cover letter, explaining why you are likely to stay in the job, what you will learn there, why you’re excited about it, etc.

      1. Mary*

        Yes, this is always my response to questions about over-qualification. Employers are generally much less focussed on your specific qualifications than the story you tell about them. If it’s clear to employers that this job isn’t “your true calling”, that’s the problem, not your degree. You need to tell a compelling story about why THIS job is right for you, beyond “I need to pay my bills”.

        You can address this in a number of ways. You could definitely want to pursue Your True Calling in the longterm, then look for jobs which are looking for a 1-2 year commitment in the first instance and talk about the skills you’ll gain there which will support your longterm move into Your True Calling. You could be still considering Your True Calling but open to making a longterm career in Right Now Field if it works out well. You could maintain a technical interest in Your True Calling (and you still read the journals), but realistically it would involve a level of job insecurity / a cross-country move / a low salary and you’re not willing to make that sacrifice. Whatever story you tell about Your True Calling, it needs to be short and simple and you need to move quickly onto Right Now Job and what is intrinsically interesting and motivating about that.

        I think what you’re missing is that “we think you’ll just leave” isn’t just about longterm commitment, but also about your interim commitment to the Right Now Job whilst you are there. Employers want to to know that a job has an intrinsic interest for you beyond “I want to pay the bills”, something that’s going to motivate you to learn and work at the role. That doesn’t mean that every interview has to be, “I’m going to give it 110%!”, but if you’ve got five candidates who want to pay the bills and one who seems genuinely interested in the mechanics of teapot design, the latter is immediately more interesting.

        1. Mary*

          >>You could definitely want to pursue Your True Calling in the longterm, then look for jobs which are looking for a 1-2 year commitment in the first instance and talk about the skills you’ll gain there which will support your longterm move into Your True Calling.

          ugh, inadequately edited sentence!

        2. Psyche*

          Exactly. They want to know “Why won’t you leave in three months?” Less qualified candidates are assumed to have fewer options and the training and experience they get at this job would presumably help them eventually find a better job. They are unlikely to leave for the first year or two because they are gaining skills (and a resume line) which they need. If the OP is seen as already having the ability to get the better job, there is nothing keeping them there. They are not gaining necessary skills and don’t necessarily need the resume line. The OP needs to convince the employer that they are getting something out of this position other than a paycheck for the next few months.

      2. Washi*

        Right! The OP seems resentful of the implication that she’ll leave soon after for something better, but acknowledges that she would leave for something better, which is exactly what employers are afraid of. And the “young ones” might have exactly the same problem if they were applying to jobs in a clearly different field from the one they trained in. Their only advantage is that employers will probably assume they have lower salary expectations (if they are less experienced and don’t have a master’s.) Which again, seems like a fair assumption to me, so it’s on the OP to show in the cover letter why she’s a good match and excited about the job.

      3. Sparrow*

        Totally agree. I was recently part of a search where there was concern that one of the top applicants was overqualified and that this position would be a step backwards. If she’d explicitly addressed it in her cover letter, I think there would’ve been fewer reservations about her. She was invited to interview and did well, but that doubt was already sown for some people.

    2. Luna*

      I’m one of the people considered ‘overqualified’ for the jobs I applied for, which tended to be lower level ones. But I was in one of the catch-22 situations. I didn’t have the experience to apply for the higher level jobs, but people tended to not hire someone (even for the lower level jobs) without having experience to begin with.
      And with no way of getting experience, you cannot advance and aim for a job you are ‘exactly-right-level’ qualified for.

      Though I think the higher salary expectation thing can be avoided, if salary expectations get calmly discussed during the interview process.

    3. Competent Commenter*

      I had people who were overqualified apply for a writing position I was advertising, and what kept them out if the running was that they didn’t explain how they were qualified for the position. I was looking for a writer who could manage social media and write simple website articles and got a few applicants who had directed marketing high up at household name companies. That’s great, but there was no indication that they had writing skills or had actually done hands-on social media management. The cover letters weren’t tailored to the position. It was like they thought if they just showed up they’d naturally just get the job. If they’d explained why they wanted a job that was probably going to pay a quarter of their last position,l’s salary, how that fit in with what they wanted to be doing at this point in their lives, and also demonstrated that they could do the job itself, I would certainly have considered them. But they didn’t. They were probably very surprised they didn’t even get contacted. But then, if they really were good at marketing and communications, the field they were working in, they would’ve known better than to approach it the way they did. The applicants who were the top candidates all had less than five years of experience, but they all knew how to tailor their materials and persuade me that they were the right person for the job.

      1. Forrest*

        I had exactly that experience when we recruited for my maternity cover. It’s great that you have 30+ years of academic teaching experience and a PhD in human physiology, but this is a position running management and leadership training for doctors, so, um, can you do that?

      2. Psyche*

        I knew a professor who wanted to become a staff scientist. When she first applied, they didn’t even interview her because they didn’t think she could seriously want that job. She rewrote her cover letter to explain how her personal commitments made her want regular hours and got the job. She stayed in that position until retirement. I think the main problem is that if you are overqualified, hiring managers assume you are settling and in general you don’t want to hire someone who only wants the job because they can’t get the job they really want.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          In my head, I have written my cover letter for the working-normal-hours job I’m planning to get once I no longer need the Golden Handcuffs job. Yes, I have decades of management experience; no, I have no interest in doing it any more. Give me a job I can do, do well, and go home, and I’m happy!

      3. MK*

        Overqualified, to me, means qualified at higher level in the same field, not in something unrelated or even similar-but-not-quite-the-same. A doctor or a lawyer who has never worked as a secretary is not overqualified for a secretarial job, they are completely unqualified.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          This is true, but it wasn’t clear to me from the letter whether he masters is in thing-related-to-jobs-applied-for or a totally unrelated thing. If it’s related but not usually necessary for these specific roles, then leaving it off might help, which makes sense and puts this in “overqualified” territory. If the masters is in a totally different field, then it’s not so much that she’s overqualified for these jobs, just that she’s clearly applying for things outside her specialty, which still does beg the question why? So she either should be leaving off the masters if it’s irrelevant to avoid the questions or if it is relevant, get out in front of the logical why in the cover letter or otherwise early on in the process.

  10. Massmatt*

    #2 It’s natural to obsess over these things but try to let it go. It could be any of the things Alison said, or maybe the interviewer is just terrible at interviewing.

    It’s stupid that so many places don’t have any real process or training for how to interview candidates and hire. At many places it’s viewed as a chore. Then they wonder why they have so many bad and mediocre employees.

  11. Don't get salty*

    What’s with these managers venting all this vitriol about perfectly acceptable employee actions. If an employee gets sick, and there is sick time available, either approve it or don’t approve it. But Facebook, what does that ever accomplish?

    I remember, a time ago, calling in sick and having my manager (at the time) pull a really manipulative question & answer game on me, asking me if I had ever called in at my previous job (and asking me what I was told when I revealed that I did), as though it would change my mind about being sick (?!).

    Maybe these people just don’t realize how easy it is to make others lose respect for them.

    1. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Because there’s a point where it feels like it’s getting out of hand. If a company is generous with leave, it might feel like there’s no one around because staff take full advantage of it. If you have older staff or those with a lot of seniority, they may start getting entitled, expecting just to be able to say, I’m taking this leave and assume it will be approved rather than waiting for the manager to make sure staffing levels are acceptable and then approve it (that happened to me last year and to another department, leaving both stupidly understaffed and scrambling).

      So, a manager might get frustrated. Facebook is still the wrong way to deal with it though.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        So what are employers supposed to do? Not get sick? Bring a barf bag? It’s not “entitled” to be ill, it’s human.

        1. ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          There’s nothing to be done (esp. if people are truly ill), but the frustration is still there.

          1. Observer*

            If you really have a problem, then you (or your upper management) is not managing properly.

            Making veiled accusations against people and passive aggressive “it must be nice” comments TOTALLY undercut the credibility of any complaint you might make.

          2. Working Mom Having It All*

            If the company gives x number of sick days, and the employee is sick x or >x days, then everything should be fine.

            If the company can’t afford to give as many sick days as it does, they should re-calibrate. If there’s a state law or something (like qualified people not wanting a job that offers no PTO no matter what) getting in the way of the company offering what actually works, they may want to revisit their staffing situation or their business plan in general.

            Either way, how is it ever the sick employee’s fault?

            1. Lana Kane*

              It’s not that it’s the sick employee’s fault. It’s that there’s lots of people in management who aren’t cut out for management. They’re immature, or they have no capacity to think about things in a nuanced way, or they throw tantrums whenever someone being out threatens to affect their productivity or even just throw a wrench in their day. As a supervisor there have been times when someone has called out sick and I’ve groaned internally because of what that means for the work, but I immediately check myself because, as I always tell staff, your sick days are part of your compensation package and you should take them if you need them. Letting it get to me, like the OP’s manager, would mean I wasn’t cut out for any kind of leadership.

      2. Lance*

        ‘expecting just to be able to say, I’m taking this leave and assume it will be approved rather than waiting for the manager to make sure staffing levels are acceptable and then approve it’

        For PTO for the purposes of vacation/general time off, I don’t wholly disagree… but in OP’s and Don’t get salty’s cases, we’re talking about sick leave. If I have to wait to be approved for sick leave because of staffing levels or whatnot, I’m not exactly going to be happy about it. Sure, I understand that it can be an inconvenience, but I’m calling in sick because I’m sick. The end fact is, I’m not coming in, and I don’t think it’s ‘entitled’ to expect that to be respected.

        1. JunieB*

          My husband was recently given a verbal warning for taking an unapproved sick day. All three of us were violently ill, and he and I were taking turns feeding the baby electrolyte solution, cleaning spit up and changing diapers in between rushes to the restroom ourselves. The idea that he should need “approval” for that nightmare is ridiculous.

          1. Anon for this*

            We (exempt, flex hours) are now required to request a sick day/WFH if sick and contagious, and the manager is required to reply to our request with a written approval. “I have food poisoning and am spewing all kinds of fluids out of both ends, may I take a sick day today?” – “Approved.” (of course it will be approved, because what other options are there? “no, I need you to come in and spew your fluids in the office”?)

            This is a new development that went into effect a year or two ago, after our new leadership decided to really step it up with tracking our time etc. We used to just email (or call when too sick to log in) and say “I’m sick and cannot make it in today” and our manager was reprimanded for that, and told that we had to be asking permission instead of stating the fact. It makes no sense whatsoever.

          2. Kendra*

            Are you in the US? Because if so, his employer may be violating FMLA. They may be able to keep him from taking _paid_ leave, depending on the circumstances and policies involved, but they can’t legally prevent him from taking the day off as unpaid leave for his own illness or the illness of an immediate family member.

      3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Sorry but unless one employee is taking advantage of the sick time or leave policy, then you address it with that employee. You don’t treat all of your employees like that one person. Treat your employees like adults, and they’ll have more respect for you, work harder and won’t call out just because they don’t feel like coming in that day.

    2. DaisyGrrl*

      Your old manager was a loon. What the heck was your manager expecting you to say?! When I’ve called in sick, the response has generally been “okay, I hope you feel better soon.”

  12. Mazarin*

    OP # 5 I hired an admin assistant- I was deliberately looking for someone older, with experience rather than education. I found out a year later that the person I hired had a psychology degree! Obviously, it worked out well. My hire interviewed well for the job- and I was impressed that they were able to keep their mouth shut about the degree. (I am very happy they have a degree- but what I was interviewing for was someone who would come to work every day, and not try to tell everyone they were the smartest person in the room. The fact that they did not feel necessary to tell me even in an interview situation, shows they were/are able to have some humility about it.)
    Resumes should highlight your relevant experience- If the Master’s degree is not relevant, leave it off!

    1. Jamies*

      So if your admin had mentioned her degree it would’ve been a mark against her and indicative of a lack of humility?

      1. Mookie*

        Right. Having a degree makes you an insecure ass? You’d think their experience with the administrative assistant they’re taking about would’ve literally put paid to such a weird expectation.

        1. Close Bracket*

          No, not necessarily. When A implies B, it doesn’t always follow that Not A implies Not B.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m confused by this, mostly because almost all professional positions I know of prefer/require a college degree. It doesn’t matter what it’s in, it’s just kind of considered par for the course. (I don’t necessarily agree with that practice, but that’s a different story.) Do you/does your company expect that anyone with a bachelor’s or associates degree thinks they’re the “smartest person in the room”? That’s a lot of people to rule out for a job.

      1. LadyofLasers*

        I’m assuming Mazarin meant a graduate degree of some flavor? That would make more sense to me.

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, I feel like I’ve generally seen the opposite -places that want admins with lots of experience and a college degree, but only pay peanuts. Maybe it was a master’s or PhD, not a bachelor’s?

      3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I’ve seen admin jobs have either/or qualifications. “High school degree plus six years’ experience OR bachelor’s degree and one year’s experience.” So there’s room for the hiring manager to use discretion in which qualification they’d prefer for the role.

      4. IrisEyes*

        I could imagine undegreed individuals being preferred for a few reasons. 1. It isn’t necessary for the job 2. they want to benefit the company by not needlessly restricting the field of candidates 3. it is in an office in a trade field and having a degree would possibly cause friction 4. it is a niche field where being second generation brings more value than a degree 5. insecurity on the part of the owner/manager

        1. Michaela Westen*

          6. Understanding a degree does not guarantee competence or anything else.

        2. Mazarin*

          Yes, it was a combination of 1. (It was not necessary) and 3. ( Manufacturing business and having a degree would possibly cause friction). In fact, a previous employee in a similar position caused problems by boasting in a performance review about how they were better than their co workers, because they had a degree. The ex-employee did not realise the performance review was being led by someone who had not graduated high school :)
          Mind you, I think number 6. below ” Understanding a degree does not guarantee competence or anything else” is very pertinent. We needed someone who could do the job. Our hire demonstrated they could do the job. They analysed the job ad and position description and decided the degree did not contribute, so they left it out of their resume and interview. This intelligence and ability to grasp what is relevant to a task has made them an exceptional hire.

      5. Mazarin*

        AvonLady Barksdale- You are correct, we very much do not agree with that practice. We deliberately hire for people who are able to do the job. Part of the job is interacting with a diverse workforce. No, our company does not expect ” that anyone with a bachelor’s or associates degree thinks they’re the “smartest person in the room”? ”
        We HAVE had multiple experiences of people who spent a lot of time Telling Us About Their Degree thinking they are the “smartest person in the room”
        The significance was that our hire did not Tell Us All About Their Degree. This is what the OP was asking about, and I was giving one example of a Hire we made where the applicant had left that information off their resume.

    3. anon4this*

      So, if you switch fields, you should have nothing on your resume because it’s not relevant? That seems…odd.

      I spent several years in a PhD program that I didn’t finish (I left with a Masters) before going “back to school” in a different field. I have that Masters on there not because I want to “tell everyone I’m the smartest in the room” (clearly I am not, or I’d have been able to finish the PhD!), but to show that I was doing *something* for all those years rather than nothing. As I hold more jobs in my new field, the “stuff I did as a PhD student” sections of my resume will shrink and eventually disappear, but I have to get the first one somehow, right?

      1. Mazarin*

        Sure, in your situation you need to explain what you were doing. Once you have done a bit more, its very easy to just…not mention something, and only highlight relevant experience.

  13. Nursey Nurse*

    OP #3 — unfriend your manager! This is a good example of why adding supervisors and colleagues on social media can be problematic. Not only do you risk forgetting to filter and having coworkers learn things from your posts that you don’t want them to know, but you also risk seeing posts like this and feeling crappy about them. There’s really no good reason to have your boss as a FB friend.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Even if they aren’t friends, OP still could have seen the status if it’s set to public (or friends of friends).

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          Not really, there’s lots of reasons it could show up in her news feed, especially if they have mutual friwnds who interact with the post.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Yup, if I’m friends with Susie, and Susie comments or reacts to the post, it might show up in my news feed as “Susie commented on this post.” This is how I occasionally see what my ex is up to. I do not love this feature.

    2. singularity*

      Or if it would seem ‘weird’ or ‘petty’ to unfriend the manager, just unfollow them. You won’t see any of the managers posts in your feed. But definitely document as people have suggested!

    3. Kendra*

      “Don’t friend your boss on Facebook” should be to protect the privacy of the employees, though, not to keep them from knowing that their supervisor is publicly saying inappropriate things about them. If anything, I’d say they have a right to know that.

  14. Flash Bristow*

    OP5 – I’ve had that happen too. A lot. And it is sooooo frustrating! I can explain that I’m just looking for a simple job, local to home, something where I just tick over… but no, they’re sure that I’m going to get a high level job of my dreams within a few minutes of starting. Argh!

    My suggestion is temping: short term roles don’t care about your background so much, just whether you’re able to do the work in front of you right now. And once you’ve done a few temp roles you’ll have an “in” at various companies and might get offered something longer term.

    Good luck. It’s so disheartening to be in that position, but keep on going, you’ll get there.

  15. Asenath*

    LW 2 – I had the same thing happen, although there were two interviewers and not one. I had hopes for that job, too, but right from the beginning of the interview, I had the feeling that they were going through the motions and had no real interest in me. And I didn’t get the job. I concluded that they had someone else – an internal candidate or perhaps someone external who interviewed before me and really impressed them – and were, in fact, just going through the motions. Maybe they went ahead with all the interviews the had scheduled because of their interview policies (that is, interviewing a set number of external candidates) or on the off chance some even more impressive person applied. I just moved on to my next applications.

    1. Buttercup*

      I had an interview like that too – I walked in, she asked how I was, I made a safe joke about the subway, and got utterly no reaction. She did not make a single facial expression the entire time, just a blank wall of nothing. I left and laughed about it on my way home, and figured she either decided on sight that she wasn’t going to hire me or that she had something personal going on that she just couldn’t get past.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      Same but the bored interviewer was the hiring manager and the other person, who was very engaging and interested, really had no irons in the hiring fire and was just there to assess suitability since they had been in a very similar role a few years prior (HM and other guy were equals over 2 different segments of the same division – think teapots and teacups all rolled up under the Tea division).
      A friend had sent me the posting so I called her up after and asked what what up with the HM? She was in shock because not 2 days before the interview she was grilling my friend about me and seemed very excited about my background and qualifications. Come to find out she had a minor surgery several days prior and was on a LOT of pain meds but even in a follow up phone call with her things seemed off and I withdrew from the process.

    3. Radio Girl*

      I took an entire day off from work from my job at an ad agency to interview for a marketing job at a fairly new performing arts center. I got the same feeling during the interview: They weren’t interested in me.

      When I returned to work the next day, I learned that there was a ringer for the job who actually called the agency while I was interviewing for the job she’d already been promised.

      About 6-7 years later, I had the chance to meet the woman who got the job and listen to a presentation she made. I was really impressed and think she was the better choice.

      But I really resented the waste of my time!

    4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I’ve been on the opposite end of this, I was the internal candidate, and my job was posted to convert it from a 35 hour a week job to a 40 hour a week job. They had to accept resumes and even interview, for my position!

      1. paperpusher*

        I once got a co-op job through my university’s co-op program. They posted the job through the program, I applied and interviewed through it, etc. Then HR called me and said that they couldn’t process my hiring paperwork unless I applied through their system, so they were going to post the job for the evening. I had to tell them I was on my way out of town but I would do it first thing the next morning.

        The next morning I had an email begging me to apply already because they’d already received eight applications. Should have given me an idea about the job market in that field, actually…

      2. Asenath*

        Actually, I did that to0 – I interviewed for a job I already had, but because of the rules it had to be advertised internally first, and if they couldn’t fill it internally, then externally. I never did find out how many (if any) other internal candidates they had. Anyone in the same general area (that is, with related experience) would have known that the incumbent was interviewing (and probably would get it) and anyone from outside that group could have found out easily enough. That process was to convert the job from temporary to permanent, and I was ridiculously nervous, even with the assurances that was routine. If they hadn’t known my work already, I might not have gotten the job!

      3. Powercycle*

        I’ve also been on the opposite side of this. Went through the entire internal process (application, tests, interviews) to get a temporary promotion filling in for someone who deserted their post. Two years later when the position was officially vacant, I had to apply AGAIN! Despite doing excellent work, their was no guarantee I’d even get to keep my job. (The stress got to me, my boss noted I didn’t do as well on the test as two years earlier!) This was after the tech crash of the early 2000’s so there were plenty of qualified people competing for few tech jobs.

  16. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – I feel you! Reminds me of how I feel about a co-worker…. it’s a difficult situation.

    I can see where being “technically” polite could come across as being rude and contributing to the issue. There is also the factor that, to other person’s boss, fairly or otherwise, you’ve already flagged yourself as being a potenential issue/drama source. So when the other person complained to them, they’d already been primed – by your actions before they were hired – to believe that you were the issue.

    I know you can’t fix that now! but it might help to see the context in which the other manager is viewing this.

    So, given that, if she says “hello! how was your weekend?” and you answer “Fine, thank you.” in a cold tone and then turn to do something else – tbh, that is rude anyway, although you *could* stretch it to being polite because you used the words thank you – but in context, it looks even worse. Ditto replying to everything with a cold demeanour.

    I know it’s not easy – and may feel a bit “why should I?!?!?” … but, without giving any perosnal details, I think it would benefit your professional reputation to deal with her on a base-line of professional polite friendliness. Instead of a cold “Fine, thanks?” and turning away, a detatched smile and “fine thanks. Yours?” and then after a sentence or two “sounds nice.” and turning back to work.

    It might help to consider how you would treat an unpleasant client of your company with whom you had to make small talk occasionally. You don’t like them. You don’t need to like them. But you don’t *TELL* them you don’t like them!

    Of course, you may already be doing the polite smile and small talk with unpleasant client approach and they are just being weird!

    But have been there. And did (not my finest hour) do the “technically polite” thing. Even addressed internal emails “Dear (name)” and signed them “yours sincerely”. I was *that* unhappy with her.

    But… it’s part of the job, any job, to take personal animosity out of oiling the tracks small talk. So I try to avoid being in same place, but will give a polite smile and a minute’s small talk when addressed. Doesn’t mean I’m ever going to give details about myself.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, there’s a difference between “fine, thanks” and something like “Great! Glad we finally got some nice weather”, even though there is nothing personal in either of them.

    2. Yorick*

      I think “Fine, thanks” sounds fine if delivered with a nice tone. It’s certainly not something for your manager to get upset about.

      1. fposte*

        Though some of this is regional/cultural, and there might be an issue of noticeable differentiation between the OP’s treatment of her ex-friend and other workers in the space. It’s not something we’ll be able to know for sure from here.

        I’m not sure of the reporting structure in the OP’s teeny company, but she really needs to loop in her manager or manager-equivalent here.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        It very much depends on tone – and saying it in a blatant “i do not like you and do not wish to speak to you” tone isn’t polite. And it could make others uncomfortable.

        It is a tough one – like I said, I have disliked someone for more than a little while myself! – but you can’t let that severe dislike be obviously noticeable to outsiders in a work environment.

    3. Michaela Westen*

      I would have a lot of trouble with this, and feel put upon if I had to fake friendliness toward someone who has hurt me in the past and is trying to again.
      I would need this person and my colleagues to make do with politeness and no more. If that wasn’t enough, I would have to leave.
      IMHO it’s very toxic to expect people to pretend they’re ok when they’re not. It causes more damage to all parties and makes things worse.
      OP if you do leave, don’t mention where you’re going to your ex-friend or anyone who might tell her. Just in case she’s a stalker.

  17. Luna*

    “I don’t know what to say to them.”
    Boss, I have a very personal and unpleasant past with Jane. We will never be bosom friends again, but that does not mean I cannot work with her. She will be given the same polite and decent interaction I have with all other employees; we will be work buddies, but not buddy buddies.

    OP#3 — This is why I don’t do the whole Facebook thing, and especially wouldn’t have any possibility to see the posts of my cowokers/boss. (And neither would they see mine) Yes, it’s considered unprofessional to complain about this sort of thing (especially where work-related people can see it), but this could be her venting in her own free time. You really shouldn’t let job consequences occur when doing something in your free time. (Unless you called out sick at work and then posted all over your social media site of how you totally faked, and post your party pictures all over the place…)

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I may have read OP1 wrong – but I had impression that she did not want to be “work buddies”. Which can be tough.

      1. Asenath*

        She doesn’t want to be a work buddy, and it sounds like she’s in the kind of an office where chatting about one’s personal life is the norm. So it’s going to be noticed if she’s chatting about personal things with everyone except one person. What I don’t really understand is why, if these are two different employers sharing a space OP went to the one who was not her employer initially, and why that person is complaining to her boss about things that don’t really affect the work of the other company. About all OP can do now is respond to her own employer, after ensuring she really is being polite and professional, and asking for specific actions of hers that have been identified as a problem. Coldness and “vibes” aren’t solid enough criticisms to act on, and there can’t be anything happening affecting workflow since they have different employers.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          OP sits at a four person desk with three employees of the other office. So if before the vibe was that OP was very friendly and chatty with the three employees, but now that the new employee is here OP is not a acting the same that could cause problems for the other two employees who are not ex-bff. If the other two employees have noticed it and there is a frosty vibe between the two that can be uncomfortable.

          I had a similar situation recently a new employee was hired and a current employee did not like that person for a mix of reasons some warranted some not. The old employee did not do a good job of hiding his dislike for the new person ( I don’t even know if he tried) I don’t think they were ever actually unprofessional, but they were just non-communicative except for business need. I’m sure the new employee knew they were not liked by the other employee but they were still friendly/warm with the old employee. As a third party it did make being around them uncomfortable at times. I think our boss may have said something about it because after a certain point the old employee tried to be friendlier with the new employee. The old and new employee haven’t become BFF’s but they can exchange casual chitchat while we wait for meetings to start and such, it has lightened the mood in the office significantly.

      2. Doctor Schmoctor*

        And they don’t have to be work buddies. They just have to be civil. They don’t even work for the same company.

        I don’t like everybody I work with, but we get over it, and get the job done. We don’t have to be friends. People are weird

        1. Asenath*

          Weird, yes. Everyone works with people they don’t like and wouldn’t socialize with outside work – getting a complaint that you’re not “friendly” enough and producing bad “vibes” is just weird. So, actually, is going to another business (even if they’re in the same place) and telling them that their new employee is an ex-friend. Really, all that’s needed is calm courtesy and (if they had the same employer) efficient completion of any joint tasks. And ask for specific examples of any complaints.

      3. Luna*

        I meant ‘work buddies’ in the sense that, yes, they will do the ‘polite, but meaningless small talk’ stuff. Like “Good morning”, “goodbye”, “How was your weekend?” “It was fine, thanks.”, etc. A kind, but ultimately distant relationship you keep with coworkers you do not consider as actual friends; not the type of person you’d hang out with in your free time.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          *nods* yeah, I assumed that was what you meant :)

          I got impression OP was unwilling to do that much unfortunately.

  18. Delta Delta*

    OP1 – I’m sorry, but this would drive me to look for another job. The open concept office, the fact of being forced into daily contact with the former friend, the being told to play nice. That’s all enough to drive someone away. OP gave a heads up and is now being told she is in the wrong and is being encouraged to fake-nice at this person. I’m all for examining one’s own behavior to ensure it is appropriate, and I’m all for not being flat-out rude. But I also suspect this is going to turn very toxic very quickly, and will have larger impacts than just not saying good morning.

    I know this is a little extreme, and I know it’s not in line with others’ thoughts. I was in a similar very toxic job that wrought a lot of havoc on me because I tried too hard to keep the peace with a manipulator.

  19. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    OP1 If you can’ t move desks, kill her with kindness. Say good morning Ex-bff specifically to her in front of witnesses. Ask her one neutral question in the morning and one in the afternoon again in front of witnesses. People will see that you are friendly but professional. Her responses are on her but you will have proof your interactions are normal and she is the one bringing in the high school drama.

  20. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #1 I’m confused. You don’t even work for the same company, so I don’t see how it’s anybody’s business if you’re “not friendly enough.” As long as you’re not interfering with their ability to do their work.

    Or am I missing something?

    1. Creamer with my coffee*

      She made it the other companies business when she told them she has an issue with the old BFF, so they are likely now watching both looking for something. I would guess there wouldn’t be an issue if OP hadn’t told the Other company’s boss they had an issue with the new hire.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        I think that is very much contributing to it. OP approached a manager of a different company to try to affect their hiring decisions – yeah, that manager’s antennae are going to be out for any issues that may arise from it.

    2. Kettles*

      Ever shared an office with two people who hate each other and aren’t shy about expressing it? It’s miserable.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I shared an office with people who hated me and did not speak to me. It’s doable and nobody cared in my office that we weren’t all warm and chatty. Miserable for me, but they were clearly fine.

        I find it odd that the ex-friend is so insistent on having public friendly conversation. Seems more manipulate-y. What a snake in the grass.

        1. Kettles*

          I’m more talking about other people who hate each other though, and are cold and rude to one another on an ongoing basis. I actually find it easier to deal with people who hate me personally. I can handle that, ignore it or do something about it.

          I’d disagree – I think ex-friend is trying to be professional, but when you’re feeling that level of hostility toward someone, any action can seem cruel / manipulative.

  21. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I can’t imagine applying to a job where my CURRENT friend works (without her suggesting it)– let alone a job with someone who has stopped socializing with me.
    I have to wonder what OP’s exfriend told the hiring manager & manager who put them next to each other!

    1. Natalie*

      They don’t work for the same company, there are two companies sharing the office space.

  22. hbc*

    OP5: “They all say the same thing, that I will leave them high and dry when my true calling calls. I am not disputing that….”

    You have to dispute that, to an extent. Most managers aren’t looking for someone who wants to stay in the same role without growth for ten years, but they want to be pretty sure that the person isn’t just looking for a paycheck until their better job comes through in 1-6 months. You need to convince them that this is the job for you for the next couple of years.

    Sometimes this is basically lying, but realistically, there are certain things that both sides have to spin during the hiring process. You don’t tell me that your spouse is up for a promotion that would require a move, I don’t tell you that I’m hiring you because I’m going to have to fire one of your new coworkers soon.

    1. Dagny*

      The problem is that the job-seeker is actually looking for his/her true calling, and will actually leave the job if that comes along. It’s one thing to convince people that you actually are willing to work your way up, or can be an asset in a role in which you are ‘overqualified’ for; it’s entirely another to hang around until something better comes along.

      The solution is to find the temp agencies that do substantive work and apply with them. They are happy to have ‘overqualified’ people to send to their clients, and the employee can job-hunt for his/her dream job at leisure.

      1. hbc*

        I think there’s a spectrum of acceptability here. I think it’s pretty reasonable to say, “This is the job I want, I can be happy doing this” if you’re pretty sure your Calling won’t come calling for another year or two, whether it’s based on average time to land a job in that field or them wanting more experience or something. You shouldn’t do it if you’ve got some promising interviews scheduled, but I don’t think you’re obligated to 1-3 years of temping just to avoid the low probability of leaving an employer a little too soon.

      2. Working Mom Having It All*

        Yeah, the answer here has to be, bare minimum, that you’re prepared to lie your ass off.

        But the better answer is not to apply to jobs you are hoping to leave within the year. And especially, not to get annoyed when the jobs you’re hoping to drop immediately don’t want someone who is definitely planning to drop them.

  23. Ms. Cellophane*

    I don’t know, OP1. If this was an emotionally controlling and manipulative ex-boyfriend or ex-husband who sought out a job at your place of employment, I feel like the advice would be different. Just because the relationship was platonic doesn’t make any less alarming for you. I would go back to your manager and say that you have worked there for x years, are not known for being dramatic, and that you would appreciate being given the benefit of the doubt when you say this person makes you uncomfortable and concerned for yourself, and say that you will be professional, but cool, with her. Be careful around her. Don’t let her know anything real about your life.

    1. Mockingbird 2*

      This. I have an ex-friend from early high school who still stalks me. I don’t know the details of what happened to the LW but platonic relationships can be just as abusive/problematic.

      1. valentine*

        say that you will be professional, but cool, with her
        This isn’t on offer. The lease must be in play, somehow, or the manager could’ve vouched for OP1 and either shared that or said nothing. Instead, he’s playing telephone and behaving as though he reports to the director. It’s weird, as is the fact the four-person company doesn’t sit together at a four-person desk.

  24. SigneL*

    Re: #4: I had an employee that I had to fire FOR CAUSE. A few weeks later, someone called me for a reference for said fired employee! A reference!

      1. SigneL*

        I told him that “John” had billed us for many hours that he didn’t work. It was the truth, and I could prove it.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Prudie last week had a letter writer who fired an employee for stealing (his mom paid back the money so they didn’t press charges) and he used them as a reference. Many commenters had similar experiences of ex-employees with massive amounts of gumption who listed the firing manager as a reference.

      1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

        I remember that one. My thought the whole time was to tell “mommy” who was the one complaining to OP, “going forward I will be telling All reference checkers that he was fired and is not eligible for rehire in any capacity with our company.”
        Didn’t mention anything about the stealing, but did convey that the experience with this employee was poor and you wouldn’t ever hire them again. That also gave an opening for the other company to ask follow ups that you could answer or not based on your read at the time. Less there for “mommy” to grab on and be upset about (but I had the feeling that that mommy would be upset if less than the royal red carpet was rolled out for her child).

    2. Yorick*

      A student who failed my class asked for a letter of recommendation for an internship.

    3. Liane*

      I think a lot of jobseekers do this because they believe that it Really Is Illegal to say anything negative &/or give out any info other than employment dates and job title.

    4. Super Dee Duper Anon*

      The ex-employee might not have actually listed you. The reference checker might have just

      1. Super Dee Duper Anon*

        Gah – accidentally hit submit. Tried to say – the reference checker might have seen that you managed ex-employee on LinkedIn or something. Or the ex-employee might have had to put your name down (as manager) when filling out the work history section, but didn’t actually list you in the references section. Or the company might require that they be put in touch with a candidate’s most recent manager (might be industry dependent, but I’ve experienced this several times).

        This is exactly why I had a convo with a manager that I knew would not be giving me a positive reference. I explained that I understood she would not be able to give me a positive reference and that I would not be listing her unless required, so I asked if she could please keep that in mind if she does happen to be contacted.

  25. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #3 Ignore it. Maybe it was about you, maybe it wasn’t. Assume it was just your boss being frustrated with work, and it has nothing to do with you.

    1. Karen from Finance*

      Hard agree. The manager’s post has plausible deniability, bringing it up will only create drama.

      1. Lance*

        More than that, the OP’s already on their way out. As I see it, there’s no point enmeshing themselves in anything regarding their current office any further than they absolutely have to.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      If we agree to disagree on the acceptableness of vaguebooking, if she’s frustrated that someone got sick and then went to the doctor, like that’s some unreasonable step she would never commit, maybe it’s something to tell her cat rather than the FB world in screenshottable writing? If you’re going to vaguebook, people will judge you for the logic or pettyness of those public complaints.

      1. fposte*

        DS didn’t say it was acceptable or unacceptable, though; she just advised ignoring it.

  26. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I try to coach folks in this situation to avoid apologizing for their generous portions of skills, education, and experience, and replace that impulse with really smart, prepared questions that engage the interviewers in discussing the challenges on their 1st 30 days list.
    Like a car salesman that doesn’t do the hard sell, but just accidentally takes you for a test drive in the upgrade.

    If you choose not to include a degree on your resume, that’s ok, but don’t do it out of fear.

  27. LadyofLasers*

    Op1: I’m sorry this sounds like varsity level emotional labor. It sounds like this former friend is not entirely trustworthy, she’s either manipulative or very emotionally immature. Try to do you’re best to not add to the dynamic, but don’t beat yourself up for not getting tone right. At the very least, see if the seating arrangement can change. I imagine it would be easier to deal with her if she’s not right in your face all the time.

  28. CupcakeCounter*

    Not shocked that ex-friend complained. Its a control thing based on what you have said about their personality and treatment of you. Even if they don’t necessarily want to be your friend anymore, they want you to want to be their friend and since you don’t they seek to punish.
    Frosty seems fine for someone like this but as long as you aren’t rude or cruel, I don’t see why an employer cares that their employee doesn’t interact with the employee of another company even if they do share the same space. I doubt they have any projects they have to work on together so its really just office chit-chat that is impacted. As for the other employees commenting on an uncomfortable vibe my guess is that ex-friend was trying to draw OP in somehow and made a comment along the lines of “I don’t understand why OP won’t talk to me” with no background (which is actually probably a good thing since ex-friend sounds like someone who would put all the blame on OP and gets lots of sympathy).
    Yes look for another job and you really should have told you manager in addition (or instead of ) the other company’s manager so they had some context.

  29. LaDeeDa*

    #3 I would just ignore it. We all vent, we all get annoyed, and she didn’t call you out by name. If she hasn’t said anything to you at work or acted like she didn’t believe you- just leave it alone.

    *** DO NOT be FB friends with coworkers, your boss, or your employees!!! It causes nothing but drama and misunderstandings. ***

  30. Lora*

    OP4, just tell the ex-employee flatly that you are unable to provide a positive reference, sorry.

    Had an employee who actually sabotaged other employees’ work in an effort to demonstrate that he should be promoted – like, he figured if there was one slot open as project lead, if he deleted other people’s report drafts, they’d have to promote him into lead status. For whatever reason it didn’t dawn on him that the client would be angry as heck if report drafts were deleted at ALL, and angry client = nobody on that site would get promoted regardless; everyone on site would know exactly what happened as soon as the audit trail was brought up; we were actually competing for the work with another contracting firm, who would be given the work if he screwed up and then nobody would get promoted, we’d all get fired or transferred to other projects; if all the options sucked, management would simply hire externally or transfer someone from another site to the site lead.

    Dude was fresh out of college, said multiple times that he hated this industry and wanted to get into software engineering instead, so I have no idea why he wanted to be promoted in the first place. He’d had other major discipline issues before but he was the VP’s Golden Boy, so I wasn’t allowed to fire him right off the bat. The end result was that we all got booted from the site and the client hired the competing firm. That was the day I decided I was tired of consulting, when I had to console the other employees that yeah, it’s not right that Kay allowed Ash to fk us all over, but that’s how it is.

    Dude had the nerve to ask me multiple times for a reference and tried to friend me on LinkedIn. Some people are just entitled bastards, is what it is. Just give them a flat “No, I will not be able to provide a reference for you” and block them. If anyone asks informally about them, saying “Ash applied to our position and I was wondering if you could tell me what he’s like to work with?” keep it short and to the point: I wouldn’t hire him back. No, not even for a lower level role or a different role.

    1. Massmatt*

      I can see just refusing to provide a reference but in this situation I would be tempted not to say anything to the saboteur, take the reference check calls, and tell them the whole ugly truth!

      1. Michaela Westen*

        You have to be careful with that though. There have been situations where employees sued for giving a bad reference.
        I don’t know the details, but I think there are laws in some places now where a company can’t say anything bad about an ex-employee.

  31. LaDeeDa*

    #1 – the whole dynamic is weird- I wouldn’t have said anything to anyone about my relationship with that person, especially since you don’t actually work together, you just share space. I am inclined to believe that if other people are noticing something then you are shutting her out or being cold or in some other way being unprofessional. If people are standing around talking and she comes over, you cheerfully say “well, I better get back to it!” and excuse yourself. If she rolls her eyes, sighs, and then complains to people about you not liking her– let her. In that scenario, it reflects badly on her, not you. If she wants to create drama and bad mouth you- let her, again you don’t work for the same company. You do not have to have a working relationship with her.

  32. Angelinha*

    OP4 says “I had to tell one of my students that we would not have a position for him next semester.” This might not be the exact language she used, but if it was, that might be part of the confusion. I could see a student hearing “we won’t have a position for you” and thinking “well, that’s out of my control – they don’t have an opening” without connecting the dots and realizing it’s because of the poor performance. I think a better, more straightforward opening would be “We’re choosing not to hire you next semester because of these performance issues.”

    And re: OP1, I cannot imagine sharing a four-person desk with three of my own coworkers, never mind someone else’s!

    1. Lindsay gee*

      It’s possible OPs language wasn’t clear, but I worked in a similar environment where we hired student workers seasonally through a government program. At least at our location, it was made very clear to students at the beginning that if they did well, they would be offered a position the next summer. It was a pretty sought after position, so it was pretty common for students to stay throughout university/high school.
      If their program worked similarly to mine, I don’t see how the student could misunderstand not being asked back.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        A lot of people are willfully ignorant and refuse to hear negative feedback when phrased in an ambiguous way.

    2. OP4*

      I’m OP4. That’s a great point about the language, and I could definitely see it being interpreted how you mentioned. I did word it differently in person and made it as clear as I could that we were choosing not to rehire him in the fall due to issues x,y,z.

  33. Emi.*

    Dear Alison,

    My new coworker comes to work every day wearing an ugly shirt. At first I thought he just had one or two, but it’s looking like all of his shirts are ugly. Just seeing them makes me feel physically ill, and we have an open office so there’s nowhere I can go to escape. This is creating a hostile work environment for me. How should I bring it up to HR?

    1. Lepidoptera*

      I know this is a joke, but I actually have worked with someone who owned a shirt that made me physically ill to look at it. It was a very small plaid that was intentionally wavy/distorted at different points in the pattern, just like optical illusion puzzles. I spent a meeting staring at the wall like a weirdo, because looking at him made me so nauseated.

  34. Delta Delta*

    OP5 – I think sometimes there’s a danger of employers thinking an applicant is trying to wiggle into a position that doesn’t exist by applying for one for which they’re overqualified. For example, I am a lawyer. During the most recent recession, we lost an admin assistant and had to hire a replacement. We got lots of applications from out of work lawyers, looking to get any sort of job, and then trying to wiggle into an unadvertised lawyer position.

  35. Jaybeetee*

    LW4: Believe it or not, I did come across employment advice suggesting asking for a reference even if you were getting fired. I think the mindset is that the employer can at least confirm dates, even if they, uh, “don’t want” to say anything else about you. And it can also be a matter of reading the situation – if you were let go because it just wasn’t gelling, but they knew you were trying and working hard/had some positive things going on, some places might still be willing to help you out in finding the next gig.

    The One and Only Time I got fired, I had just read that advice, and actually did ask my manager for reference info – which surprised her, but I indicated that it would just be to confirm dates if needed, and she agreed to that. But in the end, I didn’t have the nerve to actually pass her info in any application process I did after that!

    1. Artemesia*

      I think the advice is generally to discuss the kind of reference they can give and ask them if they would be willing to only confirm employment dates. Sometimes you fire someone whom you think well of but they are just not up to the job; being gentle with reference calls is how you might behave whereas with the guy who sabotaged the reports so that the whole team got fired — yeah, I am going to love giving that frank reference.

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      Also… the student in that situation didn’t get fired. They didn’t get asked back for the next year. Which, yeah, those of us who have been doing this for years know is a soft firing, and that usually if that happens you don’t use them as a reference. But this person is a student who is used to being in school. Where these unspoken rules not only aren’t in force, they also are somewhat the opposite of how it actually works. (Like if you got a C in someone’s class because you didn’t perform up to expectations, that wouldn’t bar you from taking another class with that same professor the next term, for example. Though hopefully you would learn your lesson and work harder next time. In work, there often is no “next time”.)

  36. boop the first*

    1. I get that they’re in the same room, but I don’t understand why an employee gets to demand affection from another company’s employee. This awkward situation should have been nipped at the point where the managing director received the “complaint”. But not only did the director pass the gossip on to the other company, but OP’s boss decided to pass the gossip on to the involved employee??
    Not everything needs to continue along the grapevine, especially since the boss has already gotten context for the tension. They shouldn’t have any questions about it. They’re just passing along drama to create more drama and tension.
    (I’m having flashbacks to restaurant work where one server would always get “how much longer” questions from guests, and instead of just pacifying the guest, she would actually disturb the staff with the pointless questions, delaying further. Not every message needs to be delivered, guys!)

    1. Artemesia*

      The OP started it by talking about it to the other company’s supervisor. Without that I am betting nothing ever would have been said.

  37. SarahTheEntwife*

    #2 – I would guess there’s an internal candidate they’re planning to promote/transfer into the position but they’re required to interview at least N candidates. It wastes everyone’s time to interview people you’re not actually planning to give a fair chance, but it’s not unusual :-/

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      We used to have a policy where I work where anyone who was at risk of layoff automatically got first priority for any internal job vacancies. There was this one time where a department was advertising a vacancy, and had a person in mind who they wanted to appoint, but there were two people from my department who were at risk of layoff and who had applied, and therefore had to be interviewed first.

      It happened that literally the day before the interview, circumstances changed and both coworkers had found out they were no longer at risk (we had been waiting for ages for confirmation of what funding was going to be available for our department but the decision kept getting pushed back, and in the meantime one coworker and I had managed to get internal transfers and were therefore no longer in competition with those coworkers for the roles that were going to be available). While the interviews went ahead anyway, the hiring manager had made it really clear she didn’t want to appoint either coworker, and apparently the only genuine smile on her face had been when she was told that things had changed and they were no longer at risk!

  38. LaurenB*

    “What are the odds that her first or second candidate was so outstanding that she realized she would now have to drudge through a number of other interviews?”

    Certainly this is a rhetorical question (what is Alison going to say, the odds are 30%?). But it’s also worth thinking through that just because a previous candidate was outstanding doesn’t mean that future interviews are just drudgery, because there’s no guarantee that a previous candidate is going to take the position if offered. If a previous candidate is outstanding, that may also mean that they are under consideration by a number of different firms, so it’s an odd conclusion to think that “because I [employer] talked to this previous outstanding candidate, the game is over.” The game isn’t over til there is a job offer / job acceptance in hand.

    “What conclusion could she have come to so quickly before the interview to decide I wasn’t a good fit?”

    Again, it doesn’t make any sense to conclude that she concluded before the interview you weren’t a good fit. Maybe she just didn’t get the vibe she wanted from you. That happens.

    I’m also glad Alison corrected the incorrect use of the word “disinterested.” “Uninterested” IS a word, and it’s the proper word to use when one is bored or indifferent. “Disinterested” means impartial, as in a judge should be disinterested in the outcome of a case.

  39. MommyMD*

    Did you happen to bring up your past connection to her in any negative way to the office? If so that could have backfired. It’s obviously an uncomfortable situation for everyone. The only solution may be for you to get a new job.

  40. Database Developer Dude*

    It doesn’t matter how compelling your cover letter is. If an employer looks at your resume with a Master’s degree on it, and thinks you’re overqualified, you’re not going to go far. Leave it off if it’s not relevant. I have a buddy who was unemployed for a year with a PhD. He left it off his resume, and within 3 months was working again. That was years ago, and he’s still with the same firm, and has received two promotions since then.

    Of course, Karma is a fickle b****. He’s going for another promotion, the position requires the very PhD that he has, so once he finally discloses it, and the date he got it…. well, Lucy might have some splainin to do…. but I would think his job performance should outweigh that.

    1. Holly*

      I feel like Allison’s advice solves that issue – explain that you didn’t think it was relevant for the job you wanted, and now it is.

    2. Washi*

      I don’t see why it should be an issue to say “oh, I actually have a PhD in X.” Unless your friend has been telling everyone he specifically doesn’t have a PhD, there’s no issue of integrity or anything. Like if he is an amazing water polo player and a position opened up where that would be a plus, no one would be like “you didn’t put it on your resume when you applied so now it counts against you.”

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I really want to know. I’m speaking because in my group of eight, I’m the only one who went to college. Most people in my division of 60 don’t know. It had nothing to do with my job. It’s come up organically in the last twenty years that I have a bachelors and a masters. It got an, “oh, I didn’t know that” maybe an eyebrow raise and a few, “cool can you help me with…”
          So I do think people will not be scandalized/feel played when he brings it up in a relevant situation.

          1. valentine*

            It sounds like you just can’t win. Disclose because it’s true and get rejected. Don’t mention it until you need to and you’re a suspicious character.

  41. Not Today Satan*

    Re: LW5. I graduated college in 2008, got a master’s degree in 2012, and while in grad school had internships. Last year, I took my graduation date off my college degree, removed the master’s degree, and kept the internships (which were in the same city as my undergrad college)–so essentially, it made me look 27 rather than 32. I’m not exaggerating when I say I got at least three times as many responses to my resume with those changes.

    I’m not sure if this is the case with you, but the stigma against “overqualified” older millennials with “an interesting mix of experience!” (it’s called the Great Recession) is real.

    1. Close Bracket*

      I’m not sure if this is the case with you, but the stigma against “overqualified” older candidates with “an interesting mix of experience!” (it’s called the Great Recession) is real.


  42. Checkert*

    OP2, for my first govt job I had to sit at a panel interview. I was able to strike up easy conversations around the answers and build rapport with all of the panel members…except one. He never reacted, asked blunt, slightly off topic questions, and just barely nodded to signify he even heard me. He was the one who ended up hiring me!! As it turns out, he is VERY careful to not give anything away during interviews as that’s just his personal style. Super off putting being the person on the receiving end, but clearly it didn’t mean he wasn’t interested!

    1. Interview Style*

      OMG some people really do give off the “I really dislike you” vibe. I’ve been in a similar situation as you. They weren’t as bad as the guy you mentioned though, they at least asked questions and told me about the job. But damn, did I walk out of the interview going “They hate me so much…let me keep applying to other jobs.”

      Like you, I ended up with the offer.

    2. Michaela Westen*

      I did trade work when I was young and got used to being around men like that. I would not have seen it as a personal thing.
      I like men (and others) who are blunt and honest better than people who fake friendliness or interest. I’ll take blunt honesty any day. As long as it’s not an excuse for inappropriate criticism or cruelty.

  43. rageismycaffeine*

    I have been vaguebooked about by a (recently ex-) manager before. We had serious, serious clashes, and it was ultimately decided that it was best to move me out from under her – which actually made sense for the role. It was a Teapot Purchasing Assistant position that had been moved under the Teapot Technology Supervisor well before I was in the role, and now was an opportune time to move it back under the Teapot Purchasing Director.

    She went to Facebook and posted something like “If I’d known nine months ago what I know now, I never would have made that decision” – nine months ago being when I was hired. Everyone I worked with who was friends with her knew who she was talking about, and the next morning I was greeted with a lot of “I can’t believe she said that about you!” There was another vaguebooking incident afterwards.

    She and my new manager both reported to the same person. My new manager brought it up to my grandboss, who said it would be “taken care of” and then never said another word about it to anyone.

    I never got an apology. It’s been ten years and I’m still mad about that.

    Vaguebooking about work sucks.

  44. EducationSucks*

    Is it really that bad to lie on applications about the highest degree you’ve obtained? I have a masters degree, and every time I start job hunting I’ll leave it on my resume and answer the highest degree obtained question truthfully for the first few months, but none of the jobs I apply to ever express interest until I start pretending I don’t have it. I did a bunch of internships while in school, but all the entry level jobs required more or different experience than what I had so I wasn’t able to get a job in the field I studied (and it’s too late to apply to any jobs in that field now since it’s been several years since I graduated).

    It doesn’t seem fair to be punished for a mistake I made when I was younger and stupid. The time and money I put into the degree seems like punishment enough. It’s not like I did something illegal or hurt someone.

    1. Holly*

      I actually think that’s the opposite of what Allison is saying! There’s no requirement to put on an advanced degree that isn’t relevant to the position you’re applying for, as long as you don’t lie on any formal questionnaire.

      1. EducationSucks*

        I do lie on the questionnaires now. I don’t feel good about lying, but if I put that I got a master’s degree it’s basically an automatic rejection for being overqualified.

    2. fposte*

      Leaving it off your resume isn’t lying. Leaving it out when you’re explicitly asked to list all education you’ve received or saying “Bachelor’s” when asked what your highest degree is is lying. How much trouble you’re likely to get in for that would depend–some places will never know, some places won’t care, and some places will fire for lying on an application form.

      1. EducationSucks*

        I lie on the applications that ask for the highest degree obtained. My masters degree isn’t something I would naturally talk about since I’m embarrassed about it, so I’d think the only way they could find out I have it is if they googled my name with the right keywords (my name was listed on a graduation list on the school website a few years ago, though it doesn’t come up in the first 10 pages of google results I checked just now). Or I guess one of my references might mention it. Would it be weird to tell my references not to mention my degree? (Two of my references are from when I was doing internships related to the degree.)

        1. JSPA*

          Hm. If it’s at all close to true, I suspect you might get away with it by saying, “I didn’t complete my PhD. I heard they eventually awarded me a consolation MA (or MS) after I left, but I’ve never thought of it as a degree I earned.” Ditto if it’s from a degree mill or uncredited school, or school that lost accreditation (though I suppose your references would not be your references, if that were the case?) But if so: “That’s not actually from a real school. I was young, and had no idea that the program was a degree in name only. I didn’t want to list it as though it were a meaningful degree from a respectable institution.”

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This was even worse during the recession because they really avoided people with even a BA with their nonsensical “well you’re just using us while you look to get something better, so noooooooope.” way of thinking. So I feel greatly for you having to “hide” your education like that, it guts me knowing how hard it is to achieve a degree, being told that if you don’t get a degree, you’ll be worthless and doomed…only to have them slap you with a “LOL good job being over educated, no you cannot work here.”

      Alison is saying that it’s okay to omit the information and saying that “yeah if they wanted to, they could fire you for leaving it out but that’s unlikely to happen” as a “just in case” note because it’s known that you can be fired for “falsifying” or “lying” on a resume. HOWEVER! Most of us also tailor a resume for the job we want and leave off things like that part time grocery clerking job and McDonald’s job in our teens, etc.

      Believe me, as someone who doesn’t have the education at all, it wasn’t easy for me to get started either. I had some lawyer straight up say that I couldn’t be his admin because “I should be in school”, nevermind my goal at the time was to work to go to school but whatever, man.

      1. EducationSucks*

        I hate that not having an education is a big deal now. I don’t feel like college really did anything to better prepare me for the work world–it was basically high school, except much more expensive and I had more choice in the classes I took. Someone without a degree could very well be just as good or better than someone with a degree.

        I guess if I lied about my highest degree obtained, and my employer found out and fired me, that probably says more about the employer than me? Like, if I’ve been a good worker and I’ve been there for a year or whatever, why should my degrees matter?

        1. fposte*

          I’d be inclined to agree. I’m not usually a big fan of lying but I also think you’d have to be at a pretty rigid employer for them to get butthurt over this. This isn’t a case where you’re claiming something you don’t have, and you’re not omitting anything that puts the company in a bad light.

          The references question is thornier, though; I think it’s dependent on the people involved and the specifics of the program and situation. Just make sure it doesn’t sound like you’re asking them to lie–I would in fact reassure them that of course if they’re directly asked you wouldn’t expect them to lie, you just don’t want to distract people with a master’s that isn’t relevant to your goal.

          1. EducationSucks*

            Oh, that’s a good point! I don’t expect them to lie if directly asked, but I don’t want them to casually say, “EducationSucks did this internship while pursing her master’s degree in x” when they could easily say, “EducationSucks was very interested in x work when they did the internship” instead.

            Could I ask them:

            Hi Reference! I’m a finalist for X job so you might be getting a reference call soon. I’ve been omitting my master’s degree on my resume and job applications so as to not appear overqualified since it’s not required for or relevant to the jobs I’m applying to. If possible, could you try to not mention my master’s degree unless directly asked about it in some way so the employer doesn’t get confused?

            1. fposte*

              That sounds like good phrasing. It’d still be a little bit situation/person dependent. For instance, I’m assuming these were external/private sector positions rather than with the school itself, and that they weren’t the kind of positions that would have a lot invested in the specific degree? For example, it would be offputtingly weird to ask a librarian who supervised a library practicum when you’re getting a library degree to avoid mentioning the library degree, but if you had been Corporate IT Intern/Flunky, the supervisor probably isn’t hugely invested in your Communications masters.

              1. EducationSucks*

                They were internships at nonprofits totally unrelated to the school, but I got course credit for one in undergrad, and credit for the other one in grad school. I don’t want to mention the specific degree, but yes, it was basically like doing a library internship while getting a library degree (the purpose of the nonprofits was directly related to the degree). The internships were unpaid and didn’t lead to a paid position with the organization, and my supervisors weren’t super involved (they basically just gave me work and I did it on my own without much direction), so there wasn’t a big investment in that sense if that matters.

                Honestly, I’d rather not use them as references to begin with since I only worked there for a short time and there can’t be much they can say about me, but two of my other references have died, so I’m kind of stuck.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I think there are certainly areas that need that kind of in depth training but they need to be things that lives depend on, like doctors, lawyers and engineers because I don’t like the idea of someone without really heavy duty training/schooling operating on me, practicing law or building airplanes ;)

          But yeah, I self taught myself business and accounting. I’ve dealt with people with degrees who want to talk to me about it and their eyes just start growing as I run circles around them and their degrees. It’s not because I’m some kind of magic creature, it’s because I’m just obsessed with math [I requested summer math homework from my teachers in school to keep sharp], organization and business sense is oddly natural in my experience. Which makes me valuable for those wonderful humans who are FANTASTIC at their craft [providing services or products] and cannot fathom how a business runs outside of “Well I make these adorable things and I like selling them…what do you mean I need to pay taxes on payroll?! What do you mean “regulations” and who is “OSHA”?!” [I had this conversation recently, I’m not just paying it up for this comment.]. Whereas I am happily over here with a check list and a “I can fill in these forms because it’s all basic AF to me, whereas it kills other people’s souls to plug numbers into sheets all day”.

          I struggle. I could go to school at this rate and blow open the rest of those doors but at the same time, I didn’t like school after elementary school. I had a lot of headbutting with teachers because after awhile, their education gets old and not irrelevant but very…dusty.

          1. EducationSucks*

            I see what you mean about degrees being important for specific things (doctors, lawyers, engineers). I think I’m just used to thinking of degrees as being useless since my specific degrees turn out to be useless. They were supposed to make me more skilled at A, B and C, but I was already skilled in those things or they were things that came naturally to me, so it just meant school was really easy for me. And now the jobs I apply to are basically “can you use a computer and do data entry?” so a degree is not helpful in any way.

            School is such a big time and money investment. I don’t blame you for not wanting to deal with it even though it would open doors for your career. :/

        3. Dana B.S.*

          LW5 –

          I give you my advice with complete empathy – I was in your position myself last year. I was in a toxic culture that was burning me out quick and I wanted out asap. I applied for anything and everything that I thought would keep me at about the same pay rate. However, I did a terrible job at selling myself in those roles. The stars aligned and I got a job related to my Master’s degree just in time though. But I have had your same thoughts.

          Now with hindsight and also as an HR professional – recruiting is f-ing hard. Outsiders think that it’s just as simple as “hire the right person for the job.” But that really difficult to gauge. Especially if you’re just looking at “bill-paying” jobs. Depending on your location, there are going to be a lot of candidates that are suitable. They say you’re rejected because you’re overqualified, but it’s not like they’re all hiring just anyone who can put a sentence together. They are finding someone who has demonstrated experience in the role or at the very least someone who can speak to their desire to do *this exact job*. Are you going into the interview with confidence about that position? Are you researching the company and asking insightful questions? Can you frame your situational questions to demonstrate the soft skills that they need? Yes, I have skipped over resumes for entry-level jobs with candidates that have too much education because I felt they just didn’t read the job description. However, you’re getting to talk to someone in person, so I think you can work on how you sell why you want this job.

          Lastly, to the point about getting fired for leaving this out. I could see this happening in a certain situation. Are you going to immediately start job-searching again for a role within your degree area after you start paying your bills? If so, a manager may feel that you misled them if you do accept a job. While they aren’t always paid as such, some of these “bill-paying” jobs require a lot of training and are crucial to operations. If they discover that you’re looking for a new opportunity after only a few weeks, they may decide to stop investing in you. There may have been a second choice candidate that was basically as good as you (as I said, it’s hard to choose sometimes) that they want to start with instead. This is less likely to happen if you wait a few months or a year to start finding a new role.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            This would be great advice if it wasn’t for the fact it skips over a very real issue. A lot of retail and food service jobs also reject over-educated individuals all the time and yes, they often do hire just about everyone.

            And sure it’s a real possibility to get fired regardless of omitting your degree if you’re caught looking for other work.

            1. Dana B.S.*

              True – for some reason, I wasn’t thinking about retail & food service roles when I wrote this. I was just thinking of the assistant roles & customer service or anything else entry level. But I would argue that retail is not “bill-paying” in most cities and it was easy for me to forget.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        “being told that if you don’t get a degree, you’ll be worthless and doomed…only to have them slap you with a “LOL good job being over educated, no you cannot work here.””
        Yes, don’t get me started! I’ve published essays on this. It’s such a scam, colleges promising fabulous careers and then after people have nearly killed themselves getting degrees, it doesn’t help. It’s all about the colleges taking your money.
        I first noticed it in the mid-2000’s, employers decided to use degrees as a screening tool for jobs that don’t need them, colleges rushed to cash in, and so it spirals.
        Becky, don’t waste your time and money on a degree unless you know for sure it will pay off. It sounds like you’re doing great without it, and I’m sure you have better things to do with your time and money.

      1. EducationSucks*

        Yes. My only relevant experience was the internships I did over five years ago. Entry level jobs require a couple years of *professional* experience, so my old internships really don’t count. The jobs that don’t require much experience often say that graduates need not apply.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Well, that’s a shame. It seems like there should be a way to apply that experience somehow, even if it’s not in the exact field the masters is in.

  45. workerbee2*

    #2 – About 10 years ago, I had an interview with two interviewers in succession (not in the room at the same time). The first (the PI of the research project) went fine, but the second (coordinator of the study, who would be actually doing day-to-day supervision)… it was like she took an immediate dislike to me. I don’t know what I did or said, or if she just didn’t like my face, but it was really apparent that she didn’t care for me right from the get-go. I came home from that interview sure that I wouldn’t be selected (the only time I’ve had that feeling to this day). Inexplicably, I was offered that job. I took it because I was fresh out of grad school and needed a job. She ended up making my life miserable for the entire year and a half that I worked there – not giving feedback in the moment and then blindsiding me with it during the formal review (you can’t get what you want from an employee if they don’t know they’re doing something wrong!), putting me on what turned out to be a fake PIP because it was never turned in to/vetted by HR, basically treating me with disdain while insisting it wasn’t personal (I never accused her of that, she volunteered it, which makes me think she knew it was, in fact, personal). I was basically the team’s whipping boy/punching bag – everything that went wrong was twisted into somehow being my fault, even when it could not logically be my fault.

    So, LW, don’t be too disappointed. It’s probably not you, and you may have even dodged a bullet.

    Prologue: I left because the study was winding down and they didn’t need the full staff anymore. It was logical for them to get rid of me first, considering that the other research assistant’s experience was more applicable to the study while mine was more general, and also that they hated me. I found a new internal position right away (toxic old job actually delayed my transfer as long as they could), have been with that department ever since, and have received 3 promotions in that time. Things did not magically get better at toxic old job when I left, so I’m pretty sure it was eventually discovered that I wasn’t 100% of the problem.

    1. EducationSucks*

      I had a similar situation years ago. The first interviewer seemed very interested in my answers to their questions and was very friendly, but when I went to another room to interview with someone else, they seemed annoyed that I was taking up their time and were absolutely disinterested in my answers. I didn’t feel good about the job after that. I never heard from them again, but I would have been disinclined to accept an offer if they’d made one.

      Sorry you didn’t dodge that bullet. ):

    2. Artemesia*

      I had a boss like this once who was so nasty to me even in meetings that someone said after one of these ‘You must remind him of his ex-wife or something.’ He was notorious for reading me the riot act about how stupid I was and how ridiculous my suggestion was — and then adopting and implementing that suggestion two weeks later. Luckily I had a lot of allies in the organization and a lot of points built up so I was pretty secure and outlasted him, but it was miserable at the time partly for being so completely inexplicable to me based on my contributions.

  46. Existentialista*

    OP#5, I spent a long time during a recent job search wondering if I should leave off my PhD, because I was getting similar “overqualified” comments. In the end, I decided that anyone who hired me were going to get someone with a PhD, and that should be who they want, so I left it on, and eventually I found a great position with a like-minded boss who valued the full range of experience I was bringing.

  47. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Re: Manager Sub-Facebooking about you. Good grief, she’s absurd. I would just roll my eyes at her and use it as your fuel to keep that job search going, there’s nothing you can do about these kind of people, the ones who are so self absorbed that they think you’re using the doctor as an ‘excuse’ for taking time off work. I’d rather do just about anything than go to the doctor and have them tell me things are wrong with me or even get the “Yeah, just a virus probably, fluids and rest byeeeeee.” Nobody wants to be sick, W.T.F.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      This. She is showing herself to be a petty, horrible little person. If the people above her approve of this behavior, and the work environment sort of nurtures is, get out. If everyone knows she’s a jackass, well, get out, but don’t even think about her.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It reminds me of the people who always act like everything that isn’t “work” is a vacation of some sort. I bet she thinks stay at home mom’s only watch soaps and eat bon-bons and that when you’ve got a funeral to go to “wow I wish my relative would die so that I could stay home form work! Funerals and doctors waaaaaaay better than wooooooork.” *snorts*

        One of my bosses was notorious for being OTT in terms of the time he came to work despite the fact he had a horse stomp his foot…crushing it. I was all “Dude. Doctor?” “NO! NEVA!” and then when people would call in sick after that “I CAME TO WORK WITH A CRUSHED FOOT!” “Yeah and look at you wobbling around over there. You are hilariously bad [seriously love him to death because he was so much hot air and it was all just pointed at me [EA] and our foreman [who was like me, just all “DUDE, DOCTOR THO?”].”

  48. Favorite Tree and Why*

    2 – It really could be anything! I’ve interviewed many many people in the last few years. Sometimes I have a raging headache and I am working really hard just to be able to come across as polite. Sometimes I am early in the process for a position but have been sitting in on other’s interviews and honestly am a little bored with doing the same thing over and over, even though it doesn’t reflect on how I feel about someone. Sometimes I have RBF. Sometimes I don’t need more than 15 minutes to make a decision for the next round, good or bad. We’re human – sometimes we don’t act as friendly and forthcoming as we mean to. Also, we’ve often not invited good candidates to a second interview not because they did anything wrong, but because we had a ton of good candidates and just had to narrow it down. I know that stinks, but it’s just part of it. For all you know, you may have made a good impression that will help you if another position opens up in the future. So, while it’s good to reflect on how things went, what you could improve on, and whether it would be the right job for you, part of that reflection should be an understanding that there are a million things outside of your control that will only drive you crazy to focus on. Concentrate on doing your best on the things that you DO have control over: being prepared, having good materials, showing up on time looking professional, etc.

  49. nnn*

    I’m very curious how the manager in #3 would react if LW simply clicked “Like” on the post and took no other action.

    (However, this is probably bad advice and I’m not actively recommending this approach.)

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      If they have left and don’t need a reference… it is a thought… but you’re probably right.

    2. Michaela Westen*

      The manager would have to pretend it’s ok or not notice, because they didn’t mention OP by name. :D

  50. President Porpoise*

    For #1, I think you’ve already messed this up badly enough that you need to back down and be at least a little friendly or quit. You stirred up unnecessary drama when you went to the other boss, and you are perpetuating that drama – even if it’s not intentional – by being politely cool towards this employee. She may not work for your company, but I bet it’s affecting your dynamic with the other people sitting at your desk and making things generally awkward and uncomfortable. There’s an inverse correlation between drama and professionalism, so minimize the drama to the extent you’re able so that you can continue to be professional even if that means you have to leave. Don’t let yourself get a reputation for this sort of thing.

  51. Observer*

    #1 – I sympathize with you but I also think you haven’t handled it in a way that will serve you well.

    Do find out from your manager what people are seeing / what specific behavior they are seeing that’s an issue. And, if you can, talk to someone who can tell you honestly if you are being as professional and appropriate as you think. Because, to be honest, I don’t think you are the best judge of that.

    One thing to keep in mind is that you can be be collegial, polite and even friendish without giving her any real information about your life. Ex_BF asks about your weekend? Comment about the weather over the weekend. She asks about plans for the next weekend? “I hope the weather / pet cooperates!” She asks about a family member “Thanks for asking!” and find something you need to do NOW (take that call, see someone passing by, an email you’ve been waiting for just came in, whatever.)

  52. Yvette*

    #1 Sounds very familiar. Alison always lets us know when a letter is “revisited” so I know this is not that, but was there a similar one I am thinking of? I checked the “YOU MAY ALSO LIKE” suggestions and it is not one of those. Am I just imagining things?

  53. BTDT*

    Please be careful of former friend. Agree with preemptively discussing with your boss. I work in a field overrun with manipulative, abusive women/girls and have learned the hard way that type of behavior is an opening salvo to get you fired. Unless you are an excellent politician and can force her out I would watch your back and really work hard on relationships with coworkers and management and start looking for a new position with another company.

  54. ECHM*

    #1 reminded me of the April article “Do I need to work with the woman my father had an affair with?” I put a link but it has apparently gone to moderation and not sure when it will be checked.

    1. ECHM*

      (This was in reply to Yvonne’s question … hopefully the link will nest there :) )

        1. Yvette*

          That was fine thank you. I think that was it, it was the advice that seemed familiar. Thanks!!

  55. BurnOutCandidate*

    OP4: I ran into a situation once where an applicant put down the manager who had fired him from a previous job as a personal reference, but left that job off his application entirely. I discovered this when doing the reference checks. We’ll call her (previous manager) Mags.

    Me: I understand you know Skippy McDippy. He listed you as a reference on his application.

    Mags: I can only confirm dates of employment.

    Me: What dates of employment? Am I calling a business? I have you listed here on Skippy’s application as a personal reference.

    Mags: Personal reference? Who do you think I am?

    Me: I was guessing a family friend. Skippy listed some volunteer work on his application, and of course he reached Life Scount in the Boy Scouts, but he seemed nice enough in the interview.

    Mags: No, he worked for me at [National Gas Station Chain], and I was his manager.

    Me: Oh.

    Mags: Look, I’m not supposed to tell you this. Like I said, I can only confirm dates of employment, but I fired him because he didn’t show up to work for two weeks.

    Me: Well, that’s interesting, because I have no dates of employment in front of me for you to confirm.

    Skippy McDippy wasn’t hired.

    1. Observer*

      As a comedy skit, this is gold. In real life? You have to wonder what does on in some people’s heads.

  56. Flyleaf*

    Never connect with your boss on Facebook. Unless your boss is also your spouse, but even then it can be risky.

  57. TeapotNinja*

    OP1: I don’t understand why this is an issue. You work for different companies, there’s no requirement to have any kind of interaction, IMHO. Just as long as you are not openly hostile, why would anyone care? Very odd.

  58. YourEthicsConfuseMe*

    1 – The problem with a lot of employers is that they only care about the person who has a problem, not the one who’s causing the problems. If it’s not overt they don’t care.

    If Sarah does mean thing to Lola, and Lola doesn’t like Sarah anymore, then Lola is the problem. Why? Because Sarah can continue being “nice” to Lola, since she’s not the one hurt or angry, but Lola now has a very hard time being polite.

    Sarah tried to make small talk and Lola was short with her, making others uncomfortable. Lola is a problem. Mean thing Sarah did was outside of work and the only person at work it affected is Lola, so again, Lola is the problem.

    This is exacerbated by the fact that Lola’s company needs Sarah’s company for something. Sarah’s manager does not need Lola for anything, so why would he make life for his employee more difficult? Lola could leave for all he cares, because it’s not his problem to replace her.

    So Lola HAS to be nice to Sarah even if she doesn’t want to, because Sarah is master manipulator and knows that Lola has to be more than just polite or she will seem like the problem. Sarah has no problem being fake nice because that’s what manipulators do, and because she was the hurter, not the hurtee.

    1. Whitetrash*

      I’ve seen this play out at old job. Newbie coworker remains professional and courteous to the rockstar bully coworker who was assigned to train them. Others who witnessed the rockstar bully’s behavior are uncomfortable and voice their concerns to the manager. RB assumes newbie reported them, is pissed, and continues with the behavior (when there are no witnesses). One day, Newbie had enough of RBs Toxic BS and snapped, completely out of character for Newbie. In the aftermath, can you guess who management supported?

  59. 653-CXK*

    OP#2: On an interview I went on last October, I had an interview with a company that seemed kinda bland and distant, until one of the other supervisors was annoyed enough to say, “Did you even bother to read the description of the job?” in not so many words. Needless to say (and in my honest opinion, thankfully) I didn’t get the job – it was a temp-t0-perm.

    Fast forward to January. Same company, different part, only this time the people who I would be working with came in. Let’s just say it got frostier than outside that day. I didn’t get that job either…but one of the interviewers gave me tips on how to improve my resume. I used those tips to get the job I have today :-)

    OP#3: I quit Facebook last Thursday, but when I did have it, I never friended my supervisor or my manager. Just don’t do it.

  60. JSPA*

    OP5 (or rather, those reading along with a similar issue, but different location):

    In some countries, some jobs are reserved for people who don’t have more advanced degrees. Notably where higher ed is free, places in educational programs are limited based on the expected demand for different specialties, and the social safety net is strong (meaning that people don’t need to take “desperation jobs,”) it’s considered against the public interest to educate someone for a skilled profession, then have them take an unskilled job. Pretty much none of that applies in the USA. For better or worse, you’re pretty much a free agent– and you can curate your resume as you see fit (barring lies).

    Sure, they may fire you if they find out you left out oodles of information; they might decide there must be some ulterior motive. (Maybe you’re writing an expose of their rendering plant, or planning to film the daily operations, or they suspect you’re a union organizer, and want to get rid of you before they know for sure, which might make you harder to fire.) But for now, focus on getting the job, and doing it well.

  61. Bowserkitty*

    (It would be legal, but it’s very unlikely. It’s also legal to fire you for not liking zebras or for having too many ugly shirts, but both of those are unlikely too.)

    Wait, WHAT!?!?!? Those would be legal? On what grounds? (I am fascinated by this thought somehow!)

    1. Samwise*

      Only if you’ve arranged for FMLA already (done the paperwork requesting and had the request approved). FMLA is not something that kicks in automatically. “I have to stay home and take care of my barfing baby while I am also barring” isn’t necessarily covered unless say baby has an illness or condition that a doctor will certify requires the employee’s care AND the employee has made the request for FMLA officially AND the request has been approved. In the request, the kinds of care and time away from work also have to be specified (every morning, for instance, or intermittently as needed). And then you still had to work out the details with your boss: how far in advance can you give notice? How are you giving notice? How will you make up the work? Etc etc.

      This is why, after my child was much much better after many years (yay experimental drugs!) I kept up with the FMLA requests for several years, just in case. Better to have it in place and not need it, than to need it and not have it in place.

      1. Samwise*

        Ugh, sorry, nesting fail! This was supposed to be a response to KEndra way up near the top of the comments!

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