update: job candidate’s suspicious husband photographed me before her interview

Remember last week’s letter about the job candidate’s husband who suspiciously photographed her interviewer ahead of their meeting? Here’s an update from the letter-writer, along with more details about what happened.

Thank you for a well-reasoned response! And thank you everyone else for your insightful input as well. I admit that I left a lot of details and nuances out of my original post. I was trying to be brief, but maybe it was too brief. Let me provide a few more points that I probably should have included in my original submission and hopefully clear some things up for the good folks that commented:

1) My employer is huge and well-known. There were no questions about whether this was a shell game or set-up for Jane. Many different echelons were involved before we got to the day in question. At the same time, this position requires a very specific and specialized background and skill set. Candidates as qualified as Jane are extremely rare. That fact alone is why an appropriate way forward was difficult for me.

2) This was not an interview per se, more of a site visit. Yes, there were follow-up questions from all 3 of the virtual interviews she did, but it was as much for that purpose as it was to give her an opportunity to determine if we are as right for her as we feel she is for us. I conducted the first of those 3 interviews a couple of weeks prior to this. Had I not been impressed with Jane and her knowledge and experience, I would not have advanced her in the process for others to interview. I am not the final decision maker on her hiring. I have significant influence on the decision, but ultimately Jane would be a peer of mine.

3) On that note, although my employer is huge, there aren’t many of us in this role so we tend to be a tight-knit group, even if we are scattered across the country from one another. Meeting up in a hotel lobby is nothing culturally unusual for us. Also, this was a busy downtown area, and the hotel happened to be literally across the street from the first place we were going. The second place was a block away. It just made sense for me to go across the street so we could grab a coffee and walk and talk.

4) Jane had the itinerary a few days prior to coming. Maybe she shared it with Bob and maybe she didn’t, but who knows? Bob’s questions were more geared toward wanting to know exactly where each location was and how we’d be getting there.

5) I’ll elaborate a little more on the lobby interaction. The picture-taking was over in a matter of a few seconds. Yes, I was taken aback, but I was not paralyzed and made a conscious decision not to engage him on it because, in the end, it had nothing to do with my immediate business with Jane, or hers with me. I am certain that my eyes betrayed me when I realized what was happening (we were all wearing masks), because my look to her seemed to be what triggered her “explanation” of the behavior. Also, Bob was not aggressive. He was stand-offish and weird, but not in any way I felt was overtly threatening.

Finally, right after my response about walking and driving, Bob drew a breath to ask another question. I quickly, politely, but very firmly said, “We’ll be taking a fleet vehicle, no idea which,” and then in the same breath to her, “Ready?” Now, I have no idea if that was what he was going to ask about, but it was my way of saying: 1) “I see what you’re doing, and I don’t like it,” 2) “Your Q&A period is now over,” and (now that I’m overanalyzing my words/actions), since I did pointedly direct the last word only to her, maybe even 3) “You’re not coming, Bob.” I believe the messages were received exactly as intended because he did back off at that point and we left. So for commenters who were concerned I didn’t “shut Bob down,” I feel like I did, and it was important to me to do it in a way that didn’t make Jane uncomfortable. The fact that I was as subtle about it as I was and that he backed off so quickly suggests to me, Alison, that your observation about this being a “performance of suspicion” was likely spot on.

6) Finally, a note about Jane. She’s been married to Bob for decades. A very, very thorough reference check was conducted. We even spoke to some people she didn’t list. No red flags, not from anyone. All of us involved in vetting and interviewing Jane have come away with the impression that she is a strong and capable leader. This whole process has been as much focused on her running a complex operation and being able lead effectively as it was assessing her technical competencies.

Bottom line: Jane is right for the job and will be getting an offer. I will be taking your advice and will mention it to the senior executive, along with my continued support for Jane’s candidacy. I’ve got no idea what her true domestic situation is, but if you never hear from me again on this subject, it will be because she either declines, or because she is flourishing in her new job. Thanks again!

{ 149 comments… read them below }

  1. Now In the Job*

    This update is great, honestly. I hope this is one we don’t hear from again, because Jane flourishes and her spouse’s weirdness was just a blip of odd behavior.

      1. Secret Identity*

        Why aren’t you optimistic? I’m genuinely curious to know- the OP says that Jane has had a long and distinguished career and is well thought of by others she’s worked with. She’s proven herself to be a capable leader and having an odd spouse doesn’t seem to have held her back in other positions even though she’s been with him for decades. So, in all of that information, what gives you pause and causes you to think this isn’t going to work out?

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

          Not to speak for PollyQ, but I’m not optimistic that this same scenario isn’t going to play out with Jane’s other colleagues or clients in the future. OK, maybe it works out fine for Jane. What about everyone else who has to pass the Stalker Bob test before they can do their job?

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            I imagine that if that was an issue in the past, the reference check would have uncovered that issue – it didn’t.

            Sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar, folks.

            1. PollyQ*

              I just finished reading The Good Nurse, which was about a nurse who killed 300-400 of his patients over ~15 years. He did this while moving from job to job, and in one case, his previous employer did a little word-of-mouth warning to other local hospitals, but he always got rehired somewhere. As we’ve seen many times here, hiring employers don’t always do thorough (or any) reference checks, and former employers may be reluctant to tell the whole story for a variety of reasons.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Dear lord – most people are not murdering people, and the OP said the reference check was very thorough. Let’s take him at his word that he did his due diligence.

            2. D'Arcy*

              There’s numerous tragic examples showing that work-related reference checks are completely unreliable when it comes to domestic issues.

              1. LTL*

                But they’re a good way to suss out whether Bob will cause trouble for colleagues or clients in the future which is the concern Fergus points out. If a thorough reference check didn’t reveal past problems, then it’s likely that OP’s experience was a one-off.

                As far as abuse, we don’t have nearly information to say anything about it.

              2. Lavender Menace*

                A spouse who had a persistent history of doing this, such that multiple of Jane’s colleagues would have to worry about this, would likely have had it show up somewhere before.

                I think we need to boil this down to what it is: People were/are suggesting not hiring a woman because her spouse engaged in some weirdo (but, heretofore, not dangerous) behavior.

        2. PollyQ*

          Well, partly (largely?) because I’m a pessimist by nature. :-)

          But Bob’s behavior was so strange, and so boundary-crossing, that I’m skeptical that it won’t crop up again. Yes, Jane has a long history of being a good employee, and yes, Bob’s been around much of that time, apparently. But we don’t know if Bob has always been this level of odd, or if there have been disturbing issues with him in the past that people have been reluctant to share, out of a desire to protect Jane’s work reputation.

          His behavior rings an awful lot of abusive-relationship alarm bells with me, and unfortunately, the pattern there is that things are much more likely to get worse than to get better.

          But I do hope I’m wrong, and that in hindsight, it’ll turn out that he was just weird with an unknown man, but comfortable enough with known entities.

          1. Lilian*

            Agreed, it just sounds so weird. Maybe Bob just started on his weird stalker journey recently as well. I hope things work out great though.

        3. Snickerdoodle*

          It isn’t about her ability to the job, it’s about her creepy husband. Who does that? I don’t think it’s possible for something this bizarre and inappropriate to be a one-off. You don’t go from normal to THAT without something shady going on behind the scenes.

          OP, I hope you have fliers for DV helplines in the women’s restroom at your workplace.

      2. TardyTardis*

        Maybe her husband Bob is retired and bored. That sometime elicits behavior that looks like controlling, but isn’t.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      She’s highly qualified and from all the other stuff the OP says, I’m certain if she takes the job, she’ll be fine. Lots of people with dysfunctional relationships do fine.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        Sorry, but I’ll nitpick a bit. Can we not label it a dysfunctional relationship here? She’s been with this guy for decades, is apparently fine with his ways, and had a flourishing carreer in her chosen field. There doesn’t seem to be any flag of abuse here. So this is just how they developed their relationship, and while it’s not standard, it’s not dysfunctional either. Calling it so seems akin to saying a BSDM couple is deviant or dysfunctional just because they’re different.

        1. Hrodvitnir*

          To be fair, we don’t know either way, and the fact it hasn’t interfered with her career doesn’t preclude it being dysfunctional or abusive. So I think it’s reasonable to point out that even if it is it doesn’t mean it will directly affect her work.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          By the time you’re creeping out others at work, it’s fair to call it dysfunctional – even if they both participate in it. To use your BDSM example, this is moving into the territory of that woman who wanted everyone at work to refer to her dom as her “master” in conversation.

    2. DreddPirate*

      I don’t know if this possibility was mention in the comments on the original post, but maybe Jane had an issue with a stalker, and her husband is just being overly cautious.

      1. Susana*

        Then Jane should take precautions. If I had been the LW I wold have made it immediately clear I found is behavior purposely intimidating and a little creepy. I also would have said it was Jane who was the job candidate, and I would not be answering any questions from him.
        I have no doubt Jane is an excellent employee and maybe has worked around this. But even aside from any red flags it raises about how he treats *her*, it would have been unacceptable behavior towards me as an interviewer.

        1. Zona the Great*

          Agree with Polly that I’m not optimistic about Jane and Bob’s relationship. I don’t think Polly was commenting on Jane’s qualifications.

          1. Tamerlane*

            They’ve been married for decades. Just maybe, they know more about whether their relationship works than random strangers on the internet?

            1. PollyQ*

              Fair, but the situation as a whole isn’t just about what works in their relationship, it’s about how that relationship impacts the work.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Outside of making the OP momentarily uncomfortable, it apparently hasn’t impacted the work.

              1. Gymmie*

                Could be and that sucks, but if it hasn’t impacted her work or her coworkers safety, etc in any way (it sounds like the background check was more than usual given her unique skill set) then….that’s it.

            2. EH*

              I know people in very toxic relationships who have been married for decades (over 40 years in one case). Length of marriage is not at all a predictor of how happy the marriage is, in my experience.

        1. Anonapots*

          The point is the OP and therefore we, especially we, are coming up with a lot of very extreme explanations for something we have a snapshot of. The commentariat here tends to go from
          he gave me a weird look” to “he’s clearly a murderer” in no time flat.

          1. WellRed*

            It certainly did last week! You’d think no one in the history of work had ever met a new person offsite. Stranger danger! Also, if OP were an ax murderer, taking her masked picture seems unhelpful; )

            1. Things That Make You Go Hmm*

              I don’t know about you, but I have recognized, and been recognized by, any friends and acquaintances encountered while wearing masks. I’m pretty sure it would be easy to identify a murderer from a masked picture.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Yes, several of us suggested that Jane may have been threatened or even attacked and that this left Bob on permanent “high alert” to any possible danger to her. And yes, his behavior was unusual, but since he didn’t push it when it was made clear that he would NOT be coming along, hopefully it’s just an eccentricity of his.
        You’ll almost certainly be able to get a better sense of what’s going on once Jane is on board. She sounds like an excellent hire, you’ll be lucky to have her and (just in case this is the WORST case scenario) she’ll be lucky to be part of a company in which the staff is aware that abuse can take many forms – not all of them blackened eyes or broken noses. Win-win all around!

      1. DreddPirate*

        I’m not endorsing his behavior in amy way shape or form, I’m just positing a possible reason for his actions.

    3. Ladycrim*

      I wonder if he is greatly concerned about COVID, his photos were to confirm proper mask-wearing, and his questions were to suss out how many people Jane would be around. (In which case he should have been more explicit, but at least that would show this as an aberration rather than a pattern of years.)

      1. Nita*

        I was also wondering if this is a COVID thing, but from a different angle. Between the virus itself, and the rise in crime, some people’s anxiety may be going into overdrive. I get very antsy if my spouse is traveling around the city and I don’t know where exactly he is (this is completely not normal for me). I’ve offered to pile the entire family into the car to drive him to a late evening meeting (ultimately this didn’t happen only because the car was vandalized and ended up in the shop). I didn’t feel more “rational” until said car vandalism forced me back onto the transit system, which turned out to be not so different from before – just less crowded.

      2. soon 2be former fed*

        He could have passed his covid concerns on to his wife and let her handle it from there. OP feels a good selection has been made, and despite the oddness of the picture-taking incident, hiring this candidate is in the best interest of the company. It might be. But reference checks are not foolproof, it they were, many letters that show up here would not be written.

        I would have asked if spouse had ever done this before. I find it hard to believe that someone so oblivious to workplace norms just became that way. I would have had an honest discussion with the candidate about this. OP minimizes the picture-taking, but I still find it off-putting and bizarre.

      3. Allonge*

        But why photos though? He can visually confirm if interviewer is wearing a mask, just by being there. Looking at him, saying hi is not weird. Photography is weird.

        Also, I am sorry but if they are concerned about COVID, the fewer people they meet, the better. Unless it’s some weird pact of ‘I will take exactly the same risks as you, always’, he probably is better off walking around outside and not meeting new people even for a bit.

  2. CyndiLou Who*

    Thank you for the update; I’ve been thinking about your first letter! Please let us know what happens, and what she says when you ask her about it later.

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I somehow missed this entire post O_O

    But I’m grateful for the update! What a strange man this Bob fellow is. I’m glad for the update before reading the original letter to put this extra information out there!

    1. Engineer Woman*

      Not “simply” impressed but just flat-out impressed overall. Amazing writing and level-headedness in a bizarre situation. Kudos to the LW and thank you for sharing this update.

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      Eh, a few sentences seemed wonky to me? but I don’t think that’s an issue when writing into an advice column as long as it doesn’t create confusion. I more get the sense that this person uses more formal language in general for work and also wanted to show he was approaching the situation with as much tact as possible.

    3. emmelemm*

      I’m impressed with how deftly they seemed to be able to shut Bob down in the moment (anticipating his next question and heading it off).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I was wowed by how OP did not break stride and threw it down in a neutral place where there was no substantial reason for anyone to get upset. That is a pure work of art. Well done, OP.

  4. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Wow, I missed the first post, and yikes. Bob sounds…intense. But OP, I think the way you handled things was as good as it gets.

  5. Dr. Strangelove*

    I cannot imagine a more impressive and thoughtful response than the one you describe, LW. You handled this with equanimity and professionalism. Well done!

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      OP for President! I would trust an individual who can evaluate situations from so many different sides like this.

  6. NotMonkeyNotMyCircus*

    In the time of COVID…..I wonder if the husband’s response about whether she was walking or driving is based on concerns about the current COVID situation. My family members and I in an abundance of caution do not use taxi services right now because of enclosed space, if someone was in the car previously not wearing a mask and is positive for COVID it could stay in the vehicle for hours. So maybe he was there to try and offer to drive, and to try and determine what other COVID precautions were in place? For the first time ever, we are in a situation where each loved ones interaction with every single human being outside the house, can put the health of every one in the home in jeopardy. Doesnt’ explain the picture though.

    1. Bye Academia*

      With this extra detail, I thought the same thing. Covid is definitely leading people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t. Maybe the picture was a weird attempt at contact tracing? And his question about logistics was about the safety of the transit and the number of public places for potential further exposure?

      Hopefully Covid caution is all this is and it doesn’t come up.

      1. Annony*

        I thought the same thing. With the added information about how detailed their reference check has been and how far into the process they are, this seems more like an isolated incident of bad judgement than a concerning pattern of behavior. Lack of contact with other people and all the stress and worry may have screwed up his social calibration.

        1. KWu*

          Hard disagree. It’s Jane’s job to manage and advocate for her and her household’s safety since it’s her job interview. If Bob doesn’t trust Jane to adhere to the rules they’ve agreed upon for their household, that’s still something for him to sort out with Jane, not with a potential employer of hers.

        2. whingedrinking*

          It’s his concern, but not his job. If I have a coworker who refuses to mask up, it’s not WhingePartner’s prerogative to come to my work and tell said coworker to cover their freaking face. Rather, it’s my job to convey that message for WhingePartner’s benefit.

        3. Yorick*

          It’s reasonable for him to remind HER about these things, but not at all for him to try to work them out with her interviewer.

    2. hbc*

      Maybe the picture makes sense if he subscribes to the whole “Masks make it so people can be abducted and not identified!!!11!!” idea. Usually it’s from the perspective that the victim won’t be recognized, but it’s also true that a perp is less likely to be successfully identified. Now he has a record of a dude with a dark blue mask, khakis, and a dark green polo abducting her.

      It’s still profoundly dumb in terms of risk assessment, but it has an internal logic.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Dude’s been reading too much QAnon. Everyone is a sex trafficker waiting to grab someone off the streets.

        1. boo bot*

          Yeah, unfortunately I think “Dude’s been reading too much QAnon” would explain all of his behavior, including the fact that none of Jane’s references mentioned anything odd about Bob – there’s been a major surge in people reading too much QAnon since the beginning of the pandemic, so if it’s that, it could be a very recent development.

    3. Tuesday*

      Like you said though, it doesn’t explain the picture, and that was definitely the weirdest part of this interaction.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Jane’s not a child. She is a grown woman who is capable of making her own decisions around transportation and her health. She doesn’t need Bob asking these questions for her. If Bob has a problem with any decisions Jane chooses to make, he can take it up with her. In private. If Jane has an issue with the transportation, she can say so. She’s a professional with a ton of experience, apparently. I would be pretty surprised if she couldn’t ask if their destinations were walkable or not.

      If this scenario were indeed the case, that would raise major red flags for me. I don’t need to hire someone who is always asking for permission to do certain everyday things.

      1. IrishMN*

        So much this. I have noticed a few people trying to justify his actions by saying maybe he had concerns about X or Y, but that still doesn’t change the fact that it was completely out of line and any concerns should have been raised by Jane. Her husband shouldn’t have been part of any interactions whatsoever.

          1. Yorick*

            If the reason isn’t to justify his behavior then it’s irrelevant, because it wouldn’t change the advice

            1. LTL*

              It’s not irrelevant because people were already making assumptions about Bob’s motives, his character, and the nature of Jane’s and Bob’s relationship. Perhaps there shouldn’t have been as much speculation as there was (of course the possibility of abuse was relevant to Alison’s answer but I think the rest of us may have taken that a bit farther then was needed) but regardless, the conversation was already happening.

        1. Gymmie*

          I have concerns about him (big concerns actually). But it doesn’t matter to the employer if it doesn’t affect Jane’s work.

      2. Sylvia*

        I agree with this, but maybe Jane just couldn’t convince Bob to back off. I used to date a guy who INSISTED on doing certain things for me that he felt was his responsibility. He was a nice guy, he just had a very strong sense of honor about how he should behave in relationships, so I wonder if Bob is the same way. If something did happen to make them cautious, maybe Bob feels like he is failing Jane if he doesn’t go out of his way to ensure her safety.

        (BTW, this isn’t meant to be a defense of Bob’s behavior because I think he was way out of line, but more just a possible explanation of his thought process).

      3. Anonapots*

        You should re-read the update then, because he addressed all this. Even Alison’s original response addressed it to some degree. She didn’t ask permission to do anything, so your concern wouldn’t be justified.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      Judging from social media, covid has also driven some people out of their minds. People are doing weird, out of character things. My own dad just sort of turned weird with age, but I could see covid isolation accelerating some mental health issues. Who knows? It’s a good sign that no references turned up anything weird about Bob, but it could be new behavior, too.

    6. BadWolf*

      Maybe COVID with a dash of “recent scary incident” that happened to someone (or them). Hoping it’s a weird blip and Jane is fine and the job works for everyone.

    7. Artemesia*

      A husband helicoptering his wife’s job search to this extent is such a red flag; who wants to bring this into an office? It doesn’t matter if he is ‘concerned’ about COVID or whatever. Her safety is for her to negotiate not have Daddy do it. Shudder.

    8. Workerbee*

      Then Bob could have used his words to indicate that this—or anything else—was driving his behavior, and not just summarily taken pictures without consent, etc.

    9. Esmeralda*

      Doesn’t explain the photographing, which is weird whatever Bob’s reason.

      And he could easily have said something about his reason if it was Covid related, because everyone would get that.

    10. soon 2be former fed*

      But why couldn’t the wife handle covid concerns herself, if there were any? She is not a child, but is a seasoned mature and accomplished professional executive. We want women to be held in the same regard that men are, yet her being infantilized as she was with the picture taking incident can someow be explained away? Nope, just nope. Nice fan fiction, but this covid stuff doesn’t hold water.

  7. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I think your response that made Bob back down was perfect. Thanks for the extra details – it makes me think less that he’s a potential abuser and more that he’s just insecure and maybe a little odd. I hope it all works out.

    1. Ashley*

      The extra details reminded me of the letter the other day of creepy guy playbook move. As an armchair quarterback I could give him the car thing was about COVID exposure as someone else suggested, but I can not explain the picture taking as anything but creepy.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Yes it’s a little on the creepy side, but the fact that he backed down immediately when OP challenged his actions makes me think Bob isn’t as big of a threat as was indicated by the initial letter.

  8. Jennifer*

    Hmmm…maybe they are just one of those weird couples that has a joint facebook account and goes everywhere together. The original letter did make it seem he was controlling and abusive, but perhaps there’s a less scary explanation. She could go on all his interviews too. If no red flags popped up on her reference check, like her husband showing up all the time and interrupting her work, that’s a very good sign.

  9. Malty*

    Talk about grace under pressure, sounds like you handled it perfectly OP. Thanks for the update and clarification and hope Jane accepts and all goes smoothly!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yikes, what a loose cannon moment!

      Picture taking can trigger so many emotions in people. So not much surprises me with them anymore.

      I’ve had people take pictures to just mock me before, those are super fun. *hard sigh* Or the people who will take a picture of you if they think you’re “lurking” in your own GD neighborhood or sitting in your car at the store too long.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        For real! I was out walking in my neighborhood one day and took a few pictures of a particularly pretty cloud formation, when this guy in a pickup truck pulled over and yelled “PUT THAT F***IN’ CAMERA DOWN!” Then took off.

        Like, wth dude? People are nuts.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I hear stories like this all time in our local neighborhood FB group. They’re like the “Don’t park in front of my house” people, they think they own everything and make all the rules.

          I get kind of jealous of people who just take pictures in public, like obviously taking selfies. I’m too used to nosy people who will make a thing about it. So I’m always hyper aware of who’s around. I’m the world’s most jittery “tourist”, no don’t take a picture of that, it’s going to get us spoken to by a tyrannical weirdo!

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I knew someone who took photos of women eating in the company cafeteria. Apparently I was the only one weirded out.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        I’m guessing their photos were being uploaded to some body-shaming site. So women aren’t allowed to eat in public?

    3. soon 2be former fed*

      But Bob doesn’t work for the OPs company, neither did his wife at that point. Kind of reaching here.

    4. Perpal*

      NGL as a teen/youngish 20 something I would probably have run around taking random photos of people I think look interesting; because I wanted to draw comics and wanted to capture cool “background” people (I wouldn’t have tried to make up a main character out of a stranger; just wanted to add flavor to street scenes etc).
      I kind of realized I was probably being creepy when I was staring at the hair of someone who [was a different ethnic group than me] thinking how I’d try to draw it as I walked by, then I saw they turned to someone net to them with a look and a comment that I realized I was being a creepy staring person D:
      And at the time I didn’t have the wherewithall to apologize, since I was like *walking to destination* *stare while walking* *notice odd look back* *processing* *processing* *processing* *Arrive at destination* *1 week later oh crap I was being rude*

  10. NeitherHereNorThere*

    LW appears to have no difficulty expressing himself. Bob was doing, I have no doubt at all, exactly what LW thought he was doing.

  11. cat on my foot*

    I’m so happy for Jane and LW’s company. The comments on the original post were…something.

    1. Never been to Nunavut*

      Yeah, no kidding.

      Both letters bothered me enough that I was previously debating whether or not I wanted to privately write to Alison (because what I have to say would take up an impolite amount of space here, amongst other reasons), but, in the end could not piece together quite what I wanted to say.

      Now it is old news. Oh, well next time.

  12. CatPerson*

    It seems as though you handled everything absolutely perfectly and with great poise. I wasn’t ready to jump on the “she’s being abused” bandwagon, though his behavior certainly was weird.

  13. ellen*

    so, OP had no issues with Jane’s behavior (which for such a seemingly capable person, still seems strange), no issues with their response towards Bob, no concerns whatsoever & Jane is being offered the position.

    Why did they even write in in the first place?

    1. KayDeeAye*

      The OP says why in his very first sentence: “I had a strange experience yesterday, and I think I need some perspective.” Makes perfect sense to me!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Just because someone doesn’t take the advice given, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t ask for it. They weren’t giving up their own independent thought, by asking for someone else’s perspective of the situation they found themselves in.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Because he wanted a check on whether the behavior could be considered a red flag or just a weird occurrence, as part of a diligent hiring process.

      Diligence doesn’t apply to just bad outcomes; it can confirm that yes, an odd moment happened, but all other factors (experience, interviews, references, etc.) point to an outstanding candidate. 95% favorable factors, 5% weird. And the weird was her spouse, not her, so I’d drop the percentage to 2 or 3.

      All of us can see the same person differently; that’s why it’s important to have multiple perspectives in interviews and hiring processes. It’s good to ask questions, of the candidate and of yourself.

    4. JSPA*

      They were deciding whether the situation had to be flagged up or not. They stated the criteria as

      a) whether or not this was strange enough to be concerning

      b) if so, whether or not it should independently be held against Jane, in the context of there not having been any sign of problems with an extensive reference check and

      c) whether it therefore should or should not be flagged up as a formal finding to the people making the decisions.

      The answer to a) was, “yes,” but both Alison and much of the commentariat said that if a deep dive into references failed to show any problems, it was problematic to hold family member behavior against a candidate.

      So OP and their company did an extra-deep dive, and found nothing. OP did not flag up the husband’s oddness. The company, not OP, made the hiring decision.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Actually, OP said he was going to flag the interaction with the hiring manager like Alison and others suggested on the initial letter. So he did in fact take some of the advice, not all.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      A function of time could be a factor here. If I see strange behavior x, I might find it concerning. Maybe I am concerned enough that one instance of this behavior makes me seek out others to talk it over with. However, as time goes on and I see nothing else is amiss, my concern will diminish usually.

      I had a situation where Wife would go to work and eventually during the workday Husband always managed to turn up at the workplace. Additionally, there were times where Husband was seen driving by repeatedly without stopping. (So it’s not like he had an emergency and had to rush into talk with Wife. ) Wife also did freelance work. I am not sure if Wife ever really figured it out but she lost some of her jobs because the customer saw Husband driving by repeatedly each time she worked.

      In talking with Wife, she saw no problem and said it made her feel loved. Employers and customers were a little freaked out by it. And it cost her jobs. [Okay at this point, *I* am worried.]

      In comparing these two stories, I’d have to say that time has shown this behavior of the husband in OP’s story to be a one-off. There doesn’t seem to be any other occurrences. Here’s the kicker to me, in my story people were willing to talk about Weird Husband. They had specific stories of things that they noticed. And they mentioned these behaviors without too much prodding, because Husband’s repeated behaviors made a huge and very negative impression.

      I have seen a lot of people use overly cautious behavior since Covid hit. And that caution isn’t just about health, it seems to seep into everything. It sounds to me like she went home and told her husband, “If you EVER do that again……”. And that was the end of that.

  14. Chickaletta*

    This is one of those stories where I would really, really love to hear the other parties perspective.

    1. Kiki*

      Yeah! It would be really satisfying to find out why the husband was taking photos. It would be very funny to find out he’s just extremely into scrapbooking and capturing moments or something like that.

  15. Fourth and Inches*

    LW, thank you for the extra details! And, honestly, I would love to have an update to this even if Jane is flourishing. Sometimes those updates can be just as interesting as the ones where things go poorly.

  16. duckduck*

    I’m not old but I am old enough to have learned sometimes people just do weird stuff. I am sure I do some stuff that is weird to other people. Sometimes people do weird stuff and it just doesn’t mean anything in particular. We’re all unique individuals.

    Do I find the behaviour worrisome? Yep. But sometimes it is innocent and people are just weird.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      That’s what I said on the initial letter. Some people are just strange – they don’t have to be abusers or potential murderers.

  17. JSPA*

    I thought of another situation that might be relevant, as I’d seen it play out in family & friends group not once but twice: early onset dementia can manifest in ways that include anxiety and checking-up behavior. I’ve seen it be a reason to bring spouse along (if they get panicked when alone for longer periods) and also to excuse a certain level of “not normal but within parameters for the circumstance” behaviors. In one case, onset was ~age 50, in the other, early 60’s. One progressed with fast decline and death, the other slow decline and institutionalization. Heartbreaking in both cases, but a) not abusive and b) it did not stop the partner from performing at a high professional level (albeit with a period of extra moments of crisis when the wandering phase started, and before adequate safety and monitoring controls were in place).

    1. Sarah*

      I was wondering the exact thing! If it was a relatively new development it would explain why there isn’t a whiff of it in Jane’s references. And if she’s still trying to adjust to a new upsetting reality it would explain why, despite being highly professional, she did not take steps to avoid the situation.

  18. tazdevil*

    Having had experience working with victims of domestic violence, the whole situations smells like week old fish. I still don’t like it. I pray that the update that the OP give us in a couple of months does not involve a “workplace incident” where the husband kills the wife and takes down a couple of her colleagues…..

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The majority of DV doesn’t end in actual homicidal acts. Most homicides are due to DV but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a huge wide spectrum of abuse and weird controlling behaviors that do not make it an act of absolute wreckage.

      I’m sorry that you have been hurt and are of course suffering from the PTSD that comes with that. However it’s important to remember that in reality, that is a very extreme response and that kind of alarmist behavior is why people don’t take DV as seriously as they should.

    2. Anonapots*

      Wow. Really? You went from weird photo thing to potential workplace killing? Experience can attune us to many things others might not see, but it can also make us see things that aren’t there.

    3. beanie gee*

      That is such a huge leap. We all, of course, hope that that doesn’t happen, but if you’re suggesting OP shouldn’t hire Jane because of this risk, I think that’s a huge stretch.

  19. beanie gee*

    I think this is a great update. I think OP is aware of the potential risk Bob presents – that he might overstep into some work boundaries – but it seems like OP has done their research and feels ok that he won’t interfere with Jane’s work. I’m optimistically hopeful! Also, OP seems prepared to handle the situation if issues DO come up.

    I’m really glad to hear the OP is making an offer to Jane. The comments on the original post suggesting people shouldn’t hire someone with such a controlling/abusive husband were troubling, especially considering we didn’t really have the full picture.

  20. RagingADHD*

    Married for decades? I wonder if Bob is recently retired or furloughed and just bored out of his ever-loving mind. The old trope about recently-retired guys following their wives around annoying them to death is a trope for a reason.

    If they’ve recently had this kind of major life change, maybe neither of them are quite prepared to deal with Bob having so much free time on his hands.

  21. Jennifer Juniper*

    I’m glad about the update! Maybe it’s a cultural or religious thing that requires Bob to act like that?

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      It’s really okay to judge people’s actions! You don’t often want to let those judgements influence your behavior, true. But to explain away someone’s off-putting behavior by saying “maybe they’re not from around here” is unfair to your own judgement and that of others. The Letter Writer didn’t mention any obvious ethnic differences, so it’s extremely fair to assume that everyone involved is a white American.

      This is just too much like people who try to explain away creepy guys’ behavior by saying that maybe they’re on the spectrum — it’s terribly unfair to people who ARE on the spectrum, plus it’s a way to tell women to not trust their judgement of creepy guys. “I’m just joking” people are never joking. “He didn’t mean it that way” people always meant it that way. They just both hoped/assumed that you wouldn’t call them out. Maybe read some of the responses people have had to the concept of “Schrödinger’s Rapist”?

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        I apologize for harming you with my comment, Jennifer Thneed. Thank you for taking the time and having the courage to call me out. I understand I have hurt you by serving as an apologist for bad behavior. I realize I was being racist and xenophobic in my original comment.

  22. Jay*

    This had me remembering something that happened to me when I was a kid, maybe in the late 80’s some time, I don’t remember.
    I had a school project due. It required some particular reference materials that were unavailable in my town for various reasons, although normally they would be. My teachers did not really care enough to provide exceptions, extensions, or new topics just because the needed material did not in fact exist. The nearest place they were available was the library in the large city we lived near. I asked to be driven there (only about 15-20 min, even with traffic) and my mother lost her mind. She started yelling and screaming at me about how we would all be killed if we ever went there. That the “roving gangs” would shoot us all.
    Well, turns out it was an election year, and various ultra right wing candidates were saturating every available publication they could get into with the message that the left had abandoned our cities to chaos and violence. They didn’t usually come right out and SAY “Vote for ME or the Black people will KILL YOU ALLLLL!!!!!!!!” but there was little room for doubt that that is exactly what they were saying. These damn things were showing up everywhere, from leaflets left in mailboxes and under doors to “op-ed” pieces in the “Opinion” section of the newspaper to any newspaper or magazine that wasn’t paying close enough attention to content. There were even cases where people took all the regular newspapers out of newspaper vending machines and replaced them with nearly identical (in terms of format and name) fakes filled with ultra right wing, often very, very racist, articles.
    It took me a lot of years to figure out what happened to make my normally rock solid, mild mannered mother into a crazy person for a couple of weeks, but I eventually did the research (I was a gigantic nerd as a kid, and even then knew I was going to be a scientist when I grew up).
    My parents would have both acted like Bob that year. Their entire list of “trusted” news sources were suddenly telling them, over and over again, that their lives were in immediate danger, even the moderate and left leaning ones (because of the fraud and inattention to articles, plus chaos sells papers).
    I see the same thing going on on a national level this year. Protests inflated and twisted into “rampaging, murderous black gangs killing all the white people” or some slightly less on the nose equivalent showing up everywhere.
    If Bob has been consuming lots of hard right media, he may very well actually believe that the city you were in was on the “growing list” (not real) of cities that have been “abandoned to armies of violent looters, rioters, and criminals”. Hell, you see that crap all over the place, even on the slightly softer right news.
    This year sucks.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Get out the vote, everyone! If you can’t get time off of work to vote, request an absentee ballot.

      Also, fact checking sites like Snopes are your friends.

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