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

Remember the letter about the job candidate’s husband who suspiciously photographed her interviewer ahead of their meeting? The first update was here, and here’s the latest:

This is not an update I had wanted to write, but I hope that by doing so, it might help others who observe or experience this.

Jane is no longer being considered for the position. I followed your advice and spoke with the senior executive about my interactions with Jane’s husband (Bob) and his hotel lobby photography. She initially reached the same conclusion that I, you, and most of the commentariat did. I offered some other possible reasons for his actions and demeanor that I had read in the comments (early dementia, general safety concerns in an unfamiliar city, etc.), and asked her not to let Bob’s bizarre behavior be the single disqualifier. Rather, I simply suggested that she keep it in the back of her mind so that if Bob should ever happen to pop up on her radar, she will have heard about him from me first. She agreed and thanked me.

Subsequent events have shown you gave me outstanding advice.

The short version is that during discussions regarding salary, benefits, relocation, etc., it became clear it was not Jane negotiating the package; it was Bob by proxy. In fact, I was told that during virtual meetings with HR and the senior executives, Jane was making remarks akin to: “you’ve offered Z, but my husband feels we (“we”, not “I”) should have Y and Z” and “my husband has told me that X% is the minimum that would be acceptable.”

I was also informed that had I not mentioned my experience, Jane’s remarks, taken by themselves, might have seemed strange, but probably would have been chalked up as an odd or quirky one-off (much in the same way I eventually came to view the lobby incident). Instead, they concluded that between my observations, and Bob’s ubiquitous presence in a process that should solely belong to Jane, it was reasonable to conclude that he would ultimately be an unwelcome disruptor, and very likely negatively impact more than just Jane once she was in the job. Consequently, Jane was informed that she was just too far afield in her compensatory expectations to warrant further consideration for the position. Naturally, this wasn’t necessarily the case, but it was the easiest out available.

There is no happy ending here for anyone. Yes, we probably dodged a bullet, but we also had to cut a good candidate for an important and still vacant position. Jane didn’t get the job, and what’s worse is that she really does appear to be in an abusive, controlling relationship. In spite of a lack of prior evidence of it, it’s clear now that Bob is, in fact, interfering with her career. That Jane would negotiate with a number of people and openly communicate her husband’s conditions for her employment suggests to me that she’s at a point where she feels her situation is completely normal. It’s just sickening, all of it. I fear you said it best in your response to my initial email: Poor Jane.

{ 488 comments… read them below }

  1. fort hiss*

    Such a depressing update, but one that unfortunately seemed to be coming. I am glad your company steered clear of this issue at the very least.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      It is sad! Hopefully it will help open her eyes to the fact that it isn’t normal. Or maybe she will read this post at some point.
      Bummer though.

      1. KateM*

        Considering the reason company gave *them*, she will at best conclude that asking for those packages wasn’t normal. More probably, though, she is concluding with the help of her husband that the OP’s company wasn’t normal and good thing she wasn’t hired. Maybe she even laments how it is so difficult to find a good place to work, but thankfully her husband keeps her away from crappy ones.
        Poor Jane.

        1. mreasy*

          I wish the company had mentioned that having a spouse so involved was unusual and gave them misgivings about her candidacy, with an eye toward helping Jane realize her situation.

          1. 2020storm*

            Maybe they couldn’t—would that possibly be construed as discrimination based on marriage status (even though the company is clearly not operating that way)

            1. goducks*

              A strong defense against a discrimination claim is to be able to show that others in the same protected class are not discriminated against. I’d be willing to bet that plenty of the people who work for OP’s company are married, and are married women. I’m willing to bet that OP’s company routinely hires married people, for all types of jobs, and can prove that marital status isn’t something that keeps them from hiring a candidate, simply based on the number of married staff they employ.

              Marital status is protected. Having an interfering spouse is not protected.

              1. Bleah*

                The problem is that even if you have an ironclad reason that the lawsuit is not true, you can still be sued. Many companies have adopted ways of avoiding saying things to candidates so that they don’t even appear like there is any chance of discrimination. In fact, I once went to a meeting led by a lawyer who emphasized that people should avoid even the possibility of language that might hint at potential discrimination.

                1. JM60*

                  This is a huge problems with America’s legal system. My father was a defendant in an obviously frivolous lawsuit. He eventually won when the judge granted a motion for summary judgement. However, the amount of money he spent on his lawyer was probably a lot more than he would’ve paid if he settled, which he refused to do on general principle partly because he could afford to keep paying the lawyer. The other person who was being sued ended up deciding to settle for $30,000, even though the lawsuit was so obviously frivolous.

                  The legal system is too slow, judges often lack the spine to shut down lawsuits, and there is little to no punishment against frivolous lawsuits.

                2. Anathema Device*

                  There are now some states that no longer allow so-called nuisance suits for this reason. Unfortunately, it’s not country-wide. John Oliver did a great segment on this, which ended with one of my favorite few minutes of television ever recorded.

              2. Nonprofit Lifer*

                I wonder if they’d try not to sue on marital status, but on religious grounds. If this was in the United States, it’s possible, maybe even likely, that Jane and Bob are part of a religious community that teaches that rigid gender roles are divinely mandated. I’m sure there’s some lawyer somewhere eager for a test case to force the courts to rule on the subject.

              3. Clisby*

                I don’t think marital status is protected under federal law, although it can be under state/local laws.

            2. Lance*

              I highly doubt it, considering you could reasonably put anyone in ‘Bob’s place (a friend, a family member, someone they met out in town) and the conclusion would be the same: this is weird and not worth dealing with.

            3. JSPA*

              No. And actually, we’ve been asked not to throw out “it might be construed as discrimination” in this default manner.

              That behavior from an unmarried partner, or a different family member, or for that matter, a random other Svengali would have been just as problematic. Being her husband makes it harder for her to get disentangled, but that part is HER worry.

              From the employer’s point of view, “husband” is merely an identifier. The problem has exactly zero to do with their marital status, and everything to do with “person A is controlling and interfering with every move of person B.”

          2. Working Hypothesis*

            I wish so for Jane’s sake, but I can see why the company didn’t want to do it. This is the kind of thing which could easily set off the husband to the point where the company found itself facing anything from harassment to a lawsuit. I can’t see any grounds on which Jane’s husband could *win* a lawsuit for declining to hire his wife because he was butting into the process, but even having to go through it to the point at which it was dismissed would be bad for the company, and it’s just possible he could find some form of discrimination claim that could squeak through. (We can know that the company would do the same thing if the wife of a male candidate did similar actions, but it can be difficult to prove. And yes, it’s the plaintiff who has to prove discrimination, not the defendant to prove its absence… but all it takes is one judge who sees the case differently from the way we do.)

            In general, I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying that openly to Jane if I were the hiring manager either.

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

              Even just having the lawsuit filed would be a PR nightmare. “XYZ Company sued for gender discrimination” is not a headline anyone would want for their company, especially in 2020, and most of the time court settlements or cases being dismissed don’t garner nearly as much media attention as the initial headline.

          3. designbot*

            I wondered about that too. I wish there was some way of getting this message across that wouldn’t leave the company open to potential volatility from Bob.

          4. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            The company took a “not my circus, not my monkeys” approach. I too wish someone could point out to Jane what a bad situation she is in and how she is digging a deeper hole. But she is an adult and there is no way to tell another near stranger that hey, we like you, are you sure you want to live like this?

          5. Blaine*

            Exactly. Lying to Jane about the reason for the rejection — telling her “it was the salary, not your intrusive husband” — helps absolutely no one. It tells Jane that women who negotiate over salary are pushy and punished, which is the opposite of what should be happening.

            1. Observer*

              They did not say “it’s not your husband”. And considering that Bob was apparently asking for a significant bump, it probably is not ENTIRELY untrue that the compensation package was a factor. And this could not be construed as “women who negotiate”, since Jane herself made it clear that it was BOB who was negotiating.

              So while I think it’s a shame that they didn’t tell her the whole truth, I would not call this lying.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                I think what this poster was getting at was, in Jane’s warped mind, she’ll see it as the company punishing her for negotiating even if she said it was her husband who thought “they” could get more. She was the one on the phone, she’s the woman, and I wouldn’t put it past Bob to reinforce that untruth to her to make her look like a victim.

                1. Observer*

                  Possibly. But when you are dealing with people who have a warped perception of reality, it’s hard to get your response just right. You can’t really tell how any specific response is going to be taken.

            2. NinaBee*

              It’s possibly dangerous to say it to someone in an abusive situation, no matter how good the intention is. We don’t know how Bob could use the information to turn it around on her, given abusers wouldn’t ever take any responsibility for their actions. Confronting an abuser publicly is not a good idea for the victim, it hardly ever goes well. She may likely know it wasn’t the salary but is trying to protect herself by playing along. Or she could be in one of those really strict religions where the husband is head of the house and controls everything.

              1. Salyan*

                Speaking from one of those religions, a husband being head of the home in a healthy home means that decisions are made together, but he would have final say. Such a couple might discuss the offer and make decisions together, but a healthy relationship with knowledge of business norms would leave the wife to negotiate herself (none of this ‘my husband says’ nonsense). And the photo taking nonsense is just weird. I just want to make it clear that this situation is unusually controlling and abnormal even for said groups.

        2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          My perverse mind imagines the following:
          Husband may mansplain to her that, “see, that’s what happens when you stand up for yourself. YOU dodged a bullet with this place. They would not even negotiate the offer. That is how women get treated in the business world. But don’t worry, YOU have ME to help you.”

        3. AKchic*

          Having had a controlling husband somewhat like that, he most certainly will use that as “proof” that his “help” keeps her from “bad” companies, and what would she do without him and his protective, guidance?

          Any kind of hint or outright explanation that her husband’s involvement in the hiring, negotiations, and the surveillance was inappropriate, out of sync, and in some cases, bizarre, will get her on the defensive and him potentially on the offensive (yes, offensive). In his personal narrative, he is protecting her from the wider world and she is the naïve little woman who *needs* his strong, manly protective self in all things.

          I feel for her, but she has to be the one to realize on her own that this isn’t healthy or right.

          1. Mama Bear*

            Jane may have other people in her life (or had, depending on Bob) tell her that he’s controlling, but until and unless she sees it for herself, the situation is unlikely to change. I hope that Jane does some thinking about how she got that far in the process and then didn’t make the cut but I also don’t think it was this company’s role to school Jane on her marriage.

          2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            He’s manipulating the interpretation of the situations he creates to perpetuate his control of her. But has she been married since she was 12 or was her dad like this? How can she not see?

            1. Short Time Lurker Komo*

              It may have started in a small way, and like a frog in a pot she hasn’t realized the water has been set to boiling over the years.

              Or maybe she is a member of a culture/religious group/etc that puts heavy emphasis on couples staying together, no matter what.

              Or maybe she feels she has more to lose if she leaves him for any number of reasons. He’s convinced her he can take the kids away from her if they divorce; he’s shown he’s explosive and dangerous and she doesn’t want to risk someone’s life; maybe she married later in life and is so very afraid of losing the ‘love of her life’, her ‘one and only chance’.

              Or yes, maybe she grew up with the expectation that this is what marriage is like.

              Sadly, only Jane knows why she stays.

              1. AKchic*

                All of these reasons, any of these reasons, none of these reasons.

                Abusive situations are so complex, and only Jane can say why she stays, but really, Jane may not actually know why she stays. She can only give the reasons she tells herself to justify it, to allow it.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      In a way, I wish Op’s company could have made a comment along the lines of “are we negotiating with you or bob?” It may have jarred something in jane’s brain.

    3. TRexx*

      So great to hear this update. A C-level exec deferring to anyone else (husband or not) for something as simple as an offer in the field they are supposed to be expertly-versed in is certainly strange/out of professional norms. However, the behavior on his part is less alarming than her reaction (or acceptance) of it, especially at her experience level.

      Your gut was right the first time, the confirmation probably feels nice though :) good luck

  2. OhNoYouDidn't*

    This makes me sad to read. I hope Jane’s eyes will be opened and she will be able to take steps to correct the situation in which she finds herself. And, I hope the OP is able to quickly find a good candidate.

    1. Spork*

      And yet, I don’t think an experience like this would be enough to open someone’s eyes to the toxicity of this situation.

      The excuse the company gave was that the salary requested was too high… But that wasn’t true, and Jane probably walked away unaware because of that. Could there have been a professional way to alert Jane as to the real reason behind the decision? Something like “we are concerned about the involvement of third parties in our negotiation process” or “the company would prefer working solely with you, and are concerned by the involvement of your husband in this process”? As I say those lines to myself, they sound awkward and intrusive, but there has to be a suitable way to warn someone that their domineering partner is interfering with their ability to land a job.

  3. mean green mother*

    Poor Jane, indeed. This is very troubling. I almost wish the company had told Jane the truth, though I’m not sure if that would open them up to liability? But it seems like it might serve as a wake-up call that her situation is not normal.

    1. ThePear8*

      Same, but I also understand the company feels it’s probably not their place to comment on her home life/situation…still, I hope maybe someone will be able to speak up, and help her realize that it’s not a normal situation.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I was thumbing through The Gift of Fear again earlier this week and am just remembering the parts about how in an abusive situation, people’s survival instincts are numbed and horrible things become completely normalized. God. Poor Jane.

      2. Kes*

        I mean, if they’re judging and rejecting her for a position on this basis, I think they should communicate that rather than lying about the reasons. It is their place when her work interactions are affected, which they were, and I think they could comment on that (Jane and her husband can have whatever relationship at home, but she needs to be able to stand and act independently at work without her husband’s interference). Really I think they’ve done Jane a disservice here by lying to her about why they aren’t hiring her; is she supposed to read their minds to know the real reason is her controlling husband’s interference?

        1. Blue Eagle*

          But is their responsibility to Jane (which could potentially open them to liability) or to their own organization and current employees?
          Your heart is in the right place, and if I was the OP, rather than expecting my company to say something, I would use a pay phone to call Jane’s cell and refer her to this AAM thread and let her come to her own realization.

        2. yala*

          I’m inclined to agree.

          While obviously the company can’t just tell her outright “Hey, your husband seems abusive” or anything like that, for both ethical and legal reasons, it doesn’t seem too far to at least say “You seem otherwise qualified but frankly your husband’s interference to this degree this early on is a red flag for us.” Or…I don’t know. Something. I don’t word good.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            I think its interesting that this development has been taken as ‘proof’ that this situation is unacceptable or abusive. While it is obviously quite cringey that she negotiated in terms of ‘we’, it is also exceedingly normal to have a conversation with your spouse about what kind of compensation you will accept at a new job. The existence of such a conversation is not, on its own, controlling. Its just a practicality of shared expenses.
            I get that there’s other context that gets our red flags waving. I obviously agree that a husband should not unilaterally decide what kind of compensation a wife can accept. But for all we know, he only provides his input (or acts like an amateur body guard) at her request. I can even see a universe in which some horrible career counselor told her blaming her negotiation requests on her husband would make her look less greedy. Not that those are the most likely explanations, but the fact is, we just don’t know for sure what the situation is.

            And I say all that, to say this….The company isn’t denying her the job because she’s in an abusive relationship (that may or may not have religious origins). The company is denying her the job because she seems to be painfully unaware of professional norms. The company can’t trust that she will keep sensitive information to herself, or be able to make tough decisions without consulting him, or otherwise act as an autonomous adult human. Which, if phrased that way, I don’t really think is a thing that could open a company to a discrimination lawsuit.

            1. Springella*

              But it’s not normal for a husband to almost secretly follow his wife to the job interview and take photos of the interviewers without their knowledge or consent (previous posts).

              It really is a curious situation because Jan us a serious expert in her filed with leadership qualities. She functions really well at home. But at home, there’s Bob.

              I strongly suspect she’s the only breadwinner. Bob seems to be too onsessed with following his wife around, interfering in her work matters and controlling her to be able to hold down a job.

              1. nonegiven*

                It might have worked out if he was more secretive about it. She could have worn a wire and had an ear piece and said I want more money instead of Bob wants me to have more money.

              2. Yorick*

                He didn’t secretly follow his wife to the interview. She brought him to the city and to the hotel lobby (sure, she might have had no choice if he followed, but she also might have told him to come with her – we don’t know).

            2. londonedit*

              It might be normal to discuss things like that privately with your partner, but it’s not normal to bring that into your actual negotiations with a new company.

            3. Yorick*

              I kind of agree. Sure, this might be an abusive situation. But it’s still also very possible that she’s just inappropriate with how much she allows her husband to be involved in her work stuff.

            4. yala*

              “the company is denying her the job because she seems to be painfully unaware of professional norms. The company can’t trust that she will keep sensitive information to herself, or be able to make tough decisions without consulting him, or otherwise act as an autonomous adult human.”

              Which is essentially what I’m saying. There’s no Official Proof that this is an abusive relationship. It’s certainly pinging ALL of my alarms, but that’s not a company’s place to say.

              But THOSE issues you mentioned are actually relevant to the company in a purely neutral way. It would be kind of them to at least let her know. If nothing else, in the future, she might know not to imply that her husband is calling the shots in a salary negotiation.

        3. designbot*

          Let’s play this out. They say, “Jane, between your husband’s suspicious behavior towards our staff, which we were previously willing to overlook, and his role in your salary negotiations, we’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with his interference in your work. We were very interested in hiring you based on your qualifications, references, and demeanor; we cannot say the same of him. We think it’s especially important for someone at your level to be comfortable operating with a high degree of independence, including negotiating for themselves. Based on this we don’t think it’s going to work out and we are rescinding our offer.”
          What does Jane do? Unless she’s heard this a bunch before, she probably isn’t going to make changes based on this. She’s probably going to go home and tell him how unfair it is, and he’s likely to only ramp it up by phoning you or showing up. Best case scenario, they think they’re being discriminated against and are thankful not to work for such awful people. But if that’s the case they might try to pursue legal action. I don’t think it’d get far, but it does seem like it only opens the company up to further involvement with Bob, which is exactly what they’re trying to shut down.
          If she DOES say she sees it and promises to keep him out of her work from here on out and she’s so excited about the role and would you please reconsider… what do you do? Hold firm on rescinding the offer, or give her a chance? What if you give her a chance and it all goes badly because even if she sees it Bob doesn’t? Again, only drags things out.
          I also wish she could hear this, but I guess I wish she could hear it under the table from a friend or mentor, and am not seeing a scenario where the result makes it make sense for the company to have taken on the burden of this issue.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            So agree with all this, sometimes saying nothing is best.

            I tried saying something to a friend whose husband is similar. I was told, “He loves me and this is what love looks like. He’s only doing it because he loves me and it makes me feel good.”

            I gave up after that.

            1. Amaranth*

              I have a family member being gaslighted and controlled and we’ve talked to her and she does see it, but says she’d rather go along with the behavior to keep her marriage. In the original post, the interviewee was looking on her husband’s behavior with total calm – that means its a long-established norm, and not likely something that will be changed by some stranger saying its inappropriate.

            2. yala*

              yeeeah, a friend of mine kind of gave us that statement. Granted, her husband’s not abusive, just…unpleasant to be around.

              The result is we don’t all tend to do things together anymore, since there’s really no way to have a Big Party but only invite her, but also, nobody wants to be around him and listen to him brag and be the Biggest Guy in the Room, or play board games with him and watch him get super competitive and vindictive if he loses. It’s a shame, but she’s happy with him, so there’s that?

          2. Paulina*

            If she promises to keep Bob out of things in future, who knows if she really will, or just hide it better until she’s more established in the job? You can’t hire on promises to act differently than previously demonstrated. Especially not for such a senior role, where hiring (and firing) is a very serious effort, and those hiring might very well have their own necks on the line for ignoring red flags in hiring Jane.

            I suppose they could have mentioned that Jane is not demonstrating sufficient independence for the job, but that type of feedback to an unsuccessful candidate seems unusual. It was to the company’s benefit that she didn’t try to hide Bob’s interference, even though it does mean she’s normalized it.

          3. Aggretsuko*

            If she’s in an abusive relationship, it’s highly likely her husband will find out all of this and lose his shit. It’s not worth it. Also, Jane probably won’t listen until she’s ready to listen, more or less. It’s an extremely bad idea to be honest with Jane on this topic, for your safety and hers. I think the OP’s work did the best they could.

          4. AKchic*

            Here’s what would have happened if an HR person had said that to me with my 1st ex-husband.

            He would have demanded to know what I was told. Being too scared to lie (because even when I told the truth and just didn’t tell ALL the truth, he swore I was lying. Lying by omission is still lying, and dammit, he had to know every single word; and most times, he was on the other line anyway to hear the whole thing and was just “testing” me to see if I would lie), I would tell him. He would make me recount word-for-word the entire conversation. He’d get angry. He’d explode. He’d make me repeat certain things as he contemplated. There’d be death threats. Threats of violence of what he’d like to do to the person who denied *him* (because I was not my own person, I was his property as his wife, an extension of Him, and to deny me was to deny him) and what he’d like to do to the denying person’s family in front of that person before ultimately doing more violence to the denying person.
            Then he’d hop online and rant and rave at others about the injustices done to him via me. I’d have to repeat different bits of minutiae again. Walk him through previous discussions. Be reminded of something else he’d thought of (oh, didn’t I remember that one incident a year ago with so-and-so – that *has* to be relevant! No, no it wasn’t, but in his mind, it somehow was connected). More ranting, more hyping.
            By morning, I’d find out that he’d emailed threatening letters to the person, the person’s manager, and left a horrible review online with death threats. Why? Because I wasn’t given a shift change, or was only given a 50 cent raise instead of a 75 cent raise, or passed over for a promotion that he decided I needed because he liked the hours so he could do things.

            I worked at an international company with a union at that time. My bosses understood the problems I was dealing with. I was so lucky they didn’t report me for his behaviors, and *helped* me as much as they could when I finally got enough courage to divorce him.

            But honestly? If I hadn’t already been working there? I would not expect any agency to put up with that BS during the interviewing process. During my divorce I lost out on a lot of opportunities because of his stalking and harassment and was lucky to get a job at a prison, and almost lost it because of his BS, too.

            This is not for a company to take on. This is something for a trusted friend/family member to help with, and most likely, they’ve already tried. She has to be ready to leave before she’ll leave.

            1. Caroline Bowman*

              This makes me go all cold inside. What a dreadful time to have lived through and you are very brave to have got out and got through it. I’m sure your company and their understanding was a big part of that, just that normality, the fact that you could earn a salary (even if he controlled your spending and life generally).

              But yes, you were already working there, you weren’t a new candidate hoping for a highly-salaried, big responsibility leadership role, and I could well imagine the poor woman in this scenario being massively hampered by her overbearing spouse.

          5. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            People think that legal action is the worst outcome if Bob decides the situation is unfair. Nope. Bob showing up the office is far worse.

            1. Raven*

              Bob showing up at the office with a weapon would be worse still. This is not the way you want your company to make the national news.

          6. But There is a Me in Team*

            Spot on. It’s a terrible situation, but not the company’s responsibility.

        4. NW Mossy*

          If you really want to stretch, “too far afield in her compensation expectations” could be read to include “Bob being this involved in discussions about compensation is an expectation we consider far afield.” It’s a take only doublespeakers would love, though.

          This is a really difficult moral question, though, because it’s one where it’s just not clear whether stating “Bob’s interference cost you this opportunity” to Jane is a net benefit to her. Her state of mind about her situation is unknown, and at least to me it’s equally plausible that she’s either erroneously seeing Bob’s behavior as normal or that she knows it’s abnormal but feels compelled to play along to protect herself.

          Basically, I’m not sure that an outsider’s opinion would tell Jane anything she doesn’t already know, and even if she is unaware, that it would serve as the catalyst for her to get herself into a better situation. Given how murky all this is, I don’t blame the OP’s company for standing aside rather than trying to force a solution through their pinhole view of this particular relationship.

        5. Alanna*

          Companies give vague reasons for rejecting people all the time, though, and this really feels like it’s not the hiring manager’s business to try to solve. I think a specific lie was a bad idea and would have gone with something like “We found another candidate who we think will be a better fit for the role,” which is, presumably, the truth, but most places don’t give that kind of specific feedback because it invites argument. And if that’s the case over something innocuous like “You didn’t have enough experience with Y” imagine how much worse it would be when the reason is “We found your husband’s behavior and your interactions with him really off-putting.”

          1. Anonapots*

            I think in a higher level position like this one, you can’t just be vague about it. I think the company hit the right balance with being specific about compensation without spelling it out.

          2. Kesnit*

            Except according to the OP, they don’t have another candidate and the position is still vacant. What is Jane to think if she’s told “we have a better fit” and then sees the job unfilled?

        6. Smithy*

          While I know there are numerous concerns for Jane about abuse, I think liability wise – I would actually be most concerned about a claim on religious discrimination. While I am not presenting Jane or her husband’s behavior as standard for any particularly faith – there are certainly more conservative interpretations in a number of relationships having the husband being a key decision maker in family decisions (i.e. taking a new job, benefits, salary) but not necessarily in at work decisions.

          Given both decisions, I completely understand why the company made it’s choice – but I think trying to let Jane know why she wasn’t selected really would be risky liability wise. But then also if Jane is being abused – I’m not entirely sure how helpful.

        7. Darsynia*

          I didn’t really get that it was lying as much as not explaining the complete picture which, let’s be real, most hiring companies probably don’t do anyway. You can think someone is both a bad fit for the atmosphere of the office they’d be working in AND think their salary expectations are too high. Is there a reason to say both when the former reason invites questions about exactly what constitutes a bad fit?

          Characterizing it as lying gives the impression of wrongdoing and I get no sense of that from the company’s decision. I’ve seen multiple letters from multiple angles of parental interference, and the general consensus is that employers won’t be happy to deal with that. Is it likely that those employers say ‘we’re not going to hire you because your parent is too overbearing?’ Or is it couched in terms like, ‘We decided to go in another direction’ (that direction being ‘away from your parent’) or ‘Your compensation expectations are a bit too high for us at this time’ (‘because your parent is making unreasonable demands’)?

          I mean, I get what you’re saying, I just think it’s imputing more negativity on a situation that is at it’s heart about a combination of unreasonable expectations in multiple areas, one of which being ‘too much spousal interference.’

      3. Cool and the Gang*

        Although, they could make it not about her homelife per se. They can say that having employees be photographed at a meeting is inappropriate for them and that the negotiations should come directly from her, etc. We do not normally have spouses so involved, etc. It’s what’s happening at work or in work related situations they are focusing on, not necessarily what goes on in her personal life.

        1. Zweisatz*

          The info she uses to negotiate could come from her next-door neighbor – as long as it’s the job candidate talking to them they don’t have a standing to tell her where to get her advice.

          Yeah we all know the husband isn’t simply advising, but this isn’t something that an employer can help with, not even a current one imo.

          They have more of a standing to talk about the photographing, but as there is no real chance of it making a positive impact in her relationship, but might open them up to some discussion, I understand why they went with the salary.

    2. Relentlessly Sorcratic*

      There’s also the very real possibility that the husband monitors Jane’s communications. Voicing the truth to help Jane could also, unfortunately, place her in jeopardy.

      1. serenity*

        And, perhaps, the company too. There would be no good outcome for engaging with Jane about this subject.

        1. Annony*

          I agree. They decided they didn’t want to hire Jane and they don’t actually owe her an explanation. The odds that she would argue with them over it are a lot higher than the odds that it would be a wakeup call for her.

      2. gf*

        Denying her the job could do the same thing. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Horrible situation.

    3. Ali G*

      We can only hope Jane will write it about her most recent job search experience so Alison and the rest of us can scream “RUN!”
      “We were at the salary negotiating phase and we had a great conversation where I told them my husband would only accept X. I thought they would extend me an offer, but instead they informed me I was no longer in consideration. What went wrong?”

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        “Hmm Jane I don’t know, that’s weird, but why don’t you click this link and read a similar story?”

    4. Archaeopteryx*

      I think it would be better if they had told her the real reason also. Maybe they could’ve mentioned the salary too, but theyd be well within their rights to say that they’re also not interested due to the strange and inappropriate communication from her and interference of Bob. Plus hearing the truth might help somehow.

      1. Artemesia*

        Might raise the potential for a religious discrimination lawsuit — what are the odds that this woman is not the member of a cult similar to the person we are about to install on the SC?

        1. JJ*

          I was JUST thinking this as well. I presume people like that are a tiny minority, but if she is in a “defer to the husband on all matters” sort of religion, it’s much safer for the company to avoid mentioning it. My money is on “he’s controlling/abusive” though, considering his theatrical performance of suspicion. That reads as more possessive/jealous to me.

          1. SongbirdT*

            It could also be both. Religious sects that seek to subordinate women attract men who are controlling and abusive. And the “church”, such that it is, does nothing to help women who are in these kinds of situations. It makes it really difficult to break free.

            1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

              Yes, I too was wondering if Jane and her husband are part of a religious organization that teaches complementarianism (women and men have separate roles…and we know by now that “separate but equal” IS separate but is NEVER equal!) If so, their relationship might not be abusive per se (although, if you’ve got a very large bottle of brain bleach on hand, Google “Christian Domestic Discipline” some time…) but it sounds as if it’s very much controlled by the husband. At any rate, it doesn’t sound as if Jane would be in a position to make serious decisions on her own, which alone would make it unfeasible for her to be in that position.

              How terribly sad for Jane for ever so many reasons, both personal and professional.

                1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                  Colleagues, I’m thinking NWS means the same thing as NSFW (not work safe/not safe for work). If that’s what Cool meant, I definitely agree! It’s creepy, imnsho.

                2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                  That previous comment was directed to Coalea, not Colleagues. Autocorrect went rogue on me. Sorry!

              1. Queer Earthling*

                Christian Domestic Discipline isn’t always a complementarianism thing, either. It’s basically BDSM wearing a Bible-shaped hat. The complementarian evangelicals I grew up with would not support that in the slightest.

            2. Chinook*

              As I look at my Women’s Church Groups annual donation to the local women’s shelter, our volunteers who help drive them to other locations (where abusive partner can’t find them) as well as the donated, I have to disagree with your evaluation of the situation.

              Heck, we have pamphlets at the back of the Church with information on how to get help in a DV situation (whether male/female/child/elderly) and the priest routinely talks confidentially with people, so it would be no issue for an abused woman to talk to him about getting out by telling said abusive spouse that she was just going to confession.

              1. Alexander Graham Yell*

                I think the poster above was referencing the kinds of sects that promote the Head of Household role as being only for men where women are to be helpmeets and never question the Head of Household because the family structure should resemble the church where women obey husbands like the church obeys God. (I know of a few friends who belonged to churches like this growing up, and when their mothers finally got brave enough to admit to the pastors that they were being abused, they were told that their role was to love and obey their husbands and to love their husband enough that he would repent of his sins and stop beating them. Safe to say they were not stalking DV resources in the bathrooms.) Not just…normal churches.

              2. livelaughandrun*

                Its interesting to me that you speak about your church and gloss over the fact that they are speaking of a specific religious sect that actively seeks to subordinate women such as the one the nominee being referenced belongs to. The didn’t say “The church” or “All churches” or even”Christianity” but “religious sects that seek to subordinate women”. What about that made you knee jerk defend and say not my church? Sincerely asking. Not being unkind here.

              3. Mimi Me*

                I am happy that your church helps women in such fantastic ways, but the reality is that your church is not representative of all churches. I mean, right now in the US, the woman who is being talked to take RBG’s vacant seat belongs to a church that specifically teaches that men are the head of the household and should be in charge solely because of their being male. I have several friends who “found” religion and as a result lost their independence. I’m not saying all religions are like this, but they’re out there far more regularly than not. FTR, I live in liberal Massachusetts and can walk to two such controlling churches from my home. (And I’m not in the boonies of the state, but in a proper city).

              4. Velawciraptor*

                Unfortunately, your personal experience is not universal. While your church doesn’t fall under this umbrella, there are churches that do: churches that counsel acceptance of abuse, churches that help cover up abuse, churches that shame victims, and churches that facilitate abuse.

                Some of the interactions here raise red flags for those of us who have experience with that unfortunate brand of church for a reason. Jane could be in considerable danger.

                Whatever the underlying rationale for Bob and Jane’s behavior, the outcome is disappointing for both OP and for Jane. Jane loses out on an important career opportunity and OP (and their company) lose out on a much needed and qualified candidate. But I think the company did the best they could without wandering into a legal minefield. Even though a lawsuit wouldn’t go far, even bogus lawsuits aren’t free to defend. They still take up time and money, even if you’re eventually vindicated.

              5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                Except that many churches have similar services and actively use them to terrorize victims further. They encourage you to speak about it with the elders and then you’re berated and asked why you caused the person to act the way they did, since they believe men [especially certain ones, that know the right person or who holds the right position in the community] would never do something awful unless they were revoked by someone.

                This also happens in a lot of church funded women’s shelters that don’t seek to actively protect women at all.

                I’m glad that yours is hopefully one of the places that doesn’t subscribe that this awful perpetration of abuse but they are out there. These “homes for women” are often just places where you’re abused further.

                1. Cool and the Gang*

                  A LOT of churches aren’t like this. Yes, it exists, but…yeah, not this at all.

              6. Marzipan Shepherdess*

                Yes, Chinook, that’s very much how a church SHOULD be – I’ve gone to a couple of churches like that, and they provided warm, safe, supportive communities that encouraged all their members to become wise, strong, and compassionate individuals. The members there would never have countenanced CDD, either!

                But I’m NOT talking about churches like that; I’m thinking of the kind that Jane might possibly belong to – religious communities that emphasize strict gender role divisions (and guess which gender is divinely appointed to be leaders?) Jane seems to be strictly controlled by her husband; whatever the cause (and it may NOT be religious in nature – we’ve no way of knowing), it’s now causing her to lose a professional opportunity and, if left unchecked, will very likely cause her to become increasingly isolated as well.

        2. Aquawoman*

          I think the odds of a cult vs garden-variety abusive/controlling relationship are low. I also don’t think that would be religious discrimination.

        3. Elizabeth I*

          Just to clear something up – she isn’t a member of a cult! There was a major article (in the New Yorker, I think?) that mixed up the organization she belongs to with another org that has a similar sounding name (and that one IS a cult, it sounds like!).

          The org she actually belongs to is “hard to join, easy to leave”, as it was recently described to me by someone with a good deal of firsthand knowledgeable about it, which is generally speaking the opposite of a cult.

          Not saying it’s an org I would personally join, but especially in this day and age, it’s important to base assessments on the actual facts, not erroneous reporting.

        4. Drag0nfly*

          No woman who is so supported by her husband that she makes it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States can reasonably be said to be “oppressed” by a misogynist cult.

          Jane could only dream of having such a husband, more’s the pity.

          I trust you’re not so misinformed that you actually think ACB belongs to a group that inspired the Handmaid’s Tale, right? You know even Margaret Atwood debunked that stupid, bigoted claim, right?

          Okay then.

          1. Ismonie*

            Powerful women, including judges, have had controlling or abusive partners. Her being a judge does not mean she is not being controlled. That said, I don’t know anything about her marriage and life with her husband.

          2. Ariaflame*

            Well she made it to the supreme court because she supports the right wing anti-rights attitudes that the current administration favours. Presumably her husband does too, so I guess he did help get her there.

    5. CBH*

      I was just thinking this too. I wonder if there is a way the company can reach out on a personal level and see if Jane needs help. Based on rereading OPs story I almost feel like Jane does not realize that her husband is controlling.

      From a business point of view I feel like the job would have been Jane&Husband accepting, not just Jane

      1. Not Australian*

        “I almost feel like Jane does not realize that her husband is controlling.”

        Having been in a relationship like this myself – mercifully a long time ago – I can testify that nobody from the outside can actually reach in and open a wife’s eyes to the fact that her husband is controlling and emotionally abusing her. (It isn’t always this way round, but that’s the most usual variation – and I’m sure it happens in same-sex couples too.) I won’t go into the reasons in detail, no doubt there’s loads about it online, but the only thing that works in these cases is for the wife or abused party to independently come to the conclusion that the relationship is an abnormal one and other alternatives are available.

        I totally understand and applaud people’s desire to help, but it really isn’t going to work this way; the best thing anyone can do for an abused partner in this situation is to be there for them when they need support, and never ever criticise their life choices. That’s not something a would-have-been employer can do; it’s a role for friends and family. IMHO the most constructive thing the OP could do in this case would be to make sure there’s domestic violence awareness information available in the workplace, and maybe donate to or raise money for a relevant charity; this may not benefit Jane directly, but sooner or later somewhere down the line there will be another ‘Jane’ who may be helped by it.

        Jane is part of larger problem, and contributing to a larger solution is OP’s best option here.

        1. Amykins*

          As someone who has also been in an abusive relationship, one of the things that helped me realize how toxic and unhealthy things were WAS people I trusted pointing this out (gently) to me. It didn’t happen immediately, and it also required a lot of effort on my part – people in relationships like this can’t be “saved” by an outsider in that way – but letting someone know that “hey, this is NOT normal and it’s very unfair to you” can make a difference.

          Agreed that this is more a task for family/friends, but if things are bad enough sometimes all of those people have been cut off. I’m not saying that a would-be employer is obligated in any way, but the human beings who work there could do Jane a service by at least alerting her to the fact that it’s very abnormal and played a role in their decision-making.

          1. Drag0nfly*

            I have been trying to get a good friend to understand that she can do better than the controlling, emotionally abusive loser she’s with. She’s not assertive, so I encourage her to stand up for herself as much as I can. It’s hard to watch, though, while she convinces herself that Loser is a great guy. I’m happy for all of you here who saw the light on your abusers. What I hope is that my friend joins your camp, sooner rather than later.

          2. NeonFireworks*

            I lost a friend to her husband cutting her off from her friends in 2015. I hope she’s alive and okay.

          3. Observer*

            OK. But would something coming from a prospective employer who didn’t hire you have made any sort of difference? I’m betting not – it’s a totally different relationship from “people you trust”.

    6. Evee*

      I agree it’s not the company’s place to say anything but I wish someone in the process would have made a comment like “What do YOU think/feel about this, Jane?” or “I’m sorry but we only discuss this/negotiate with potential employees” It’s fine to talk about salary expectations with your spouse but so out of sync to negotiate for your spouse, which is essentially what Bob was doing.

      It might have even been worth it for someone to just ask “Jane, Bob showed up to your interview, interrogated and photographed your interviewer. You also keep bringing up Bob’s opinion a lot during discussions/negotiations. I just want to be clear that we only work with employee’s and not their spouses. Will this be an issue while working here? I’m sure you understand, we can’t have Bob showing up to client meetings or negotiating with clients on your behalf” Harsh, maybe? Direct, yes. But it’s also the truth and may have raised a flag for her that this is WEIRD.

      1. juliebulie*

        I agree, the time to say something was in the moment. “Just to be clear, we want to hire only you. Your husband is not receiving an offer from us.

        It’s too bad, really.

          1. Aquawoman*

            I would think that getting messages that this is unusual would help a person realize that it is unusual. Abusers gaslight victims into believing all kinds of stuff and I think an occasional reality check could be helpful.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              From my experience, it is helpful. It’s a process but all the little pieces start to fit together and once it’s big enough, it can’t be overlooked any longer.
              It’s planting the seeds for awakening.

              1. Amykins*

                100% this. People planting those seeds for me was a big part of what helped me realize I needed to get out of my own abusive marriage.

                1. Frankie Bergstein*

                  There are two books (_Escape_, _Triumph_) by Carolyn Jessop that outline her leaving an abusive marriage (and group), and she mentions that unrelated outsiders pointing out that how she’s being treated is not okay was really important for her.

      2. Hills to Die on*

        I would have absolutely said something. I think it would have been doing her a kindness. She needs to hear this.

      3. designbot*

        Agree with this. The first time she said “My husband thinks…” they should’ve made it clear that they are negotiating with her. Then if/when it continues the action they took was probably the right one. But at least at that point she’s gotten one signal that can help her string together the narrative that This Is Not Normal.

        1. Anonapots*

          We have to remember that the person on the other end of the conversation may not have known what to do in a situation they’ve never faced. It’s not their fault they didn’t, in the moment, think of the exact right response to an incredibly unusual situation.

    7. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I feel troubled by not knowing what is the ethical way to behave in a situation like this. The idea of saying “we don’t hire women in abusive marriages” is repugnant to me on so many levels. But it is also entirely true that it is at best a disruption and at worst a very real danger to have a creepy-acting third-party and suspected spousal abuser intruding in a workplace. There is an obligation to the people who already work for you to hire the best person for the job and to protect their safety.

      We hear sometimes from people who suspect their employee is in an abusive situation – and there is always great advice here for how to help that person and keep everyone as safe as possible. But in those situations, the letter writer usually already has a relationship with the person – they are already coworkers. This is a situation where it’s about whether you should bring trouble in. I feel like “no, we shouldn’t” was the right answer here, but at the same time – poor Jane.

      1. serenity*

        I agree with you. It’s a tough moral quandary to be in, and wanting to try to help someone is a good impulse. And maybe that’s something you can do in a situation with someone you’re connected to (say, if you’re Jane’s manager). But as a company that interviewed her and declined to move on with her candidacy there’s just no path to having that conversation that makes sense.

      2. Tree*

        Yeah, I feel the same way. I don’t know what the statistics are like in the country the letter writer lives in, but in my country about 1 in 4 women reported abuse by a current or previous partner. That’s a lot of women. Should companies just not hire any of them?

        1. Not Australian*

          This sort of question is the reason for my suggestion that OP divert her very reasonable concern into providing proper domestic violence/abuse training for the team at her workplace. It’s important for people not only to recognise the obvious signs but to learn to identify the less obvious ones, and also to have a clear idea of how to respond.

          1. Tree*

            Yeah, I think you’re right and it’s a good idea. I can understand why the company felt it wasn’t in their best interests to move forward with Jane, I can understand why any individual company would turn down Jane, but I also know that having a job vs not having a job can make a really big difference for a woman — sure the husband might take the pay for himself but he might not, and a job means connections with other humans and a place to be that isn’t at home. But they have a duty to their other employees too and some of them probably need the same help Jane needs and they’ve already got a relationship with those ones.

            Domestic violence and other forms of violence against women are so prevalent that I really feel like its a workplace diversity issue — I recently saw a local IT company who had a diversity statement on their website in which they were congratulating themselves on having set a goal to have at least 40% women employed in the company by 2022, nothing about race or disability or LGBTI — so if you set yourself the low bar of trying to employ not only men but some women too, then a quarter of them will have experienced domestic abuse and half will have experienced some form of sexual assault (certainly with some overlap to the first group), it’s too big of a group to ignore.

            I don’t know what I’m arguing for exactly, it’s not like I’d want to be out about my personal traumas at work or attend nightmarish group therapy sessions in a cubicle or anything like that, and I don’t have a solution or want to say they should’ve hired this Jane in particular in spite of their reservations. It’s just that so many women have some scary person from their past or present attached to them that I think it’s discriminatory to exclude women as a class from the workplace entirely for something that is not their fault.

            I stared at statistics some more, and a woman of childbearing age is more likely to experience domestic violence in a year than she is to get pregnant in a year (1 in 20 women are pregnant at any given time, and in the US, 10 million men and women are physically abused by their romantic partners in any given year.) We protect women from workplace discrimination over pregnancy, which is usually undertaken voluntarily, because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s a necessary part of employing women. We should find a way to employ these women too.

    8. Ominous Adversary*

      It’s unlikely the company would face any liability for saying, we have concerns about your professionalism.

      Jane might face consequences at home, though.

    9. tamarack & fireweed*

      It is troubling to me that this kindness to give people the gift of the truth is so far out of employment norms. In this case, the candidate is gone and the company wouldn’t have had to deal with long-term fallout of a statement that could be harsh to accept. Saying, on request, something along the lines of “The factor that made us ultimately step away from your candidacy was the outsized role your husband has been taking throughout the process. This is not something we usually see at your seniority level. It didn’t make us optimistic for your fit into our organization,” might have done a lot more good than letting the candidate read the tea-leaves in the shards of the tea cup.

    10. TRexx*

      At this point, Jane was the one who confirmed the truth to the prospective company when she was unable to complete a simple task of negotiating an offer in her field of expertise.

  4. Southern Gentleman*

    There are still some people who believe the patriarchal family structure is the proper construct for a family. I have a general sense that this is often driven by their religious beliefs. The photo incident was really bizarre, though. I wonder if the applicant would benefit from knowing the truth about why she is no longer a candidate. Or, would that put the organization in a tricky position?
    This may, in fact, seem normal to her. The idea that she so openly discusses her husband’s input indicates that. And it may BE normal and not abusive for them. That, of course, doesn’t mean you want to enter into a professional relationship with them.
    How unfortunate for all concerned.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. I don’t want to delve into politics here, but as an illustration of how high people with those beliefs can climb (something people had questioned in the comments on the original post, I believe), the current nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court is heavily affiliated with a group that teaches that husbands are the heads of their households and their wives should submit to their authority.

          1. Quill*

            My brain has decided that 2020 is an elaborate hallucination brought on by some form of space bacteria.

            It’s the only thing that’s keeping me from screaming.

            1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

              I read something recently that there was a notice at the entrance to a rollercoaster in Japan that said something to the effect of “Even with masks, screaming spreads COVID. Please scream inside your heart.”

              Real or urban myth, “Please scream inside your heart” really resonates with me right now.

              1. Julia*

                It was Fujikyu Highland, I just looked it up. There are even some articles explaining how this made news overseas, probably due to the quirky translation.

                That said, I am definitely screaming internally a lot these days.

              2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                I feel like I’m “screaming inside my heart” almost continuously lately. Some days more than others. :-(

        1. EmbracesTrees*


          Yeah, I don’t know what to feel until I ask my husband either.

          Seriously, this is disturbing.

        2. Chinook*

          I find this line of thinking rather insulting. I know plenty of women – single, divorced or separated, or widowed, who are highly religious and believe the man is the head of household who would never think of needing a man for validation of their lives or emotions.

          If I don’t a boss to validate my emotions at work, why would I need my husband to do so at home?

          1. Double A.*

            But believing that the husband in the lead in all things means that his choices are paramount. He’s in charge. If you want to do something, and he doesn’t want you to, you don’t get to.

            I presume that high achieving women with this belief system get where they are because they wanted it, but also because their husband allowed it. If their husband said no, then they would not have been allowed to advance.

            I guess that’s different than not being allowed to feel anything without your husband’s approval, but only a little.

            1. Salyan*

              There’s something missing in our understanding of this view, thought, and that is that the correct interpretation is two-fold. Wives are told to obey their husbands, but men are told FIRST to love their wives as they would themselves. A healthy relationship will not end up in the kind of ‘straw man’ presumptions being presented above in this thread, because a man who is motivated by love and treating his wife as good as he would treat himself will not make unilateral demands of her. He will seek her input and desires as he would his own.

              Sure, there are unhealthy relationships where husbands use this Scripture as an excuse to be tyrannical, but then there are are unhealthy relationships in every belief system.

      1. Triplestep*

        Yes, and … it’s important to mention because people are already jumping to the conclusion that this is evidence of Jane’s abuse, or that Jane is not happy in this situation, and all kinds of comments that lament it would be great if Jane got help. At the moment I started typing this, there were only 20 comments here, and it’s already the prevailing sentiment.

        Well, Jane may not want help. Jane may be perfectly happy as is. I would not be, and I don’t want the Janes of the world weighing in on Supreme Court decisions, but Feminism is about choice, and letting ones husband make family decisions is a choice some women make quite willingly.

        It is a sad outcome because of the reasons the OP stated, and because someone didn’t get a job she was offered and presumably wanted. Is it sad because Jane is abused and controlled and a prisoner of her living situation? We do not know that. As much as I would not want Jane’s life, to assume she’s unhappy – to pity her – it is not the Feminist thing to do.

        1. yala*

          You might have a point, but if Jane is also applying and receiving consideration for the kind of jobs where you can actually negotiate a salary…she should at least be made aware of the fact that bringing her husband so heavily into the process is going to be a red flag for most employers.

          My mom’s church is a very “husband is the head of the household” type, and the men still don’t behave the way Bob did.

          1. kittymommy*

            Yeah, I work with a couple of people who are a part of churches like this (and for the record I myself am pretty religious) and while the ultimate “decider” is the husband I’ve never experienced the spouse interfere with work life. Heck, I don’t even think I know one of the husband’s name.

        2. Annony*

          I agree that we don’t have any evidence that Jane is being abused. I do think we have evidence that her husband is controlling and I do pity her for the fact that her husband’s behavior cost her this job.

        3. Smithy*

          This came to mind as well.

          I used to work in Jerusalem where you interacted with a range of religious practice within a religion as well as between religious. The man as the head of the household who would make decisions like who the family votes for, if the family votes, if women will work, what kind of jobs, etc. How that works in practice can really vary and can certainly include physical and emotional abuse. But based on the two interactions, as a hiring company – I’d be terrified of being hit with a religious discrimination suit.

          1. cmcinnyc*

            But you can’t sue for religious discrimination if the terms are “my wife serves me and I allow her to serve her company only in ways that suit ME.” A company would win that suit easily. The husband didn’t interview for the job, wasn’t offered the job, and the company is under no obligation to submit all their decisions to an outside party. It’s more than a stretch. A woman could easily follow her religion by asking her husband’s permission to take the job–but the company can’t be found to have an obligation to run everything by a non-employee for approval.

              1. Oxford Comma*

                If they are, then they shouldn’t be involving the OP in it by photographing him without his consent.

              2. Sleepingcatslie*

                Unless this woman explicitly wanted her husband to do these things, which I doubt is the case, it wouldn’t be a part of a functional and healthy BDSM relationship. My guess is he’s just abusive.

            1. Smithy*

              I don’t necessarily think that such a claim would win, but my take on legal guidance provided to most companies is to be as conservative as possible. Most companies would rather put themselves in a place where they can avoid as much of that as possible.

              By turning Jane down due to to a mismatch on compensation, should she/her family still go forward with a discrimination suit due to religion or sex, the company’s lawyer’s have a very easy response. Being put in a situation where one side can argue “she was not hired because during negotiation she mentioned having a husband who supported her thinking in major life decisions – this is a major part of our religion and would never impact daily decisions as was noted during her reference check, etc etc etc”. Not a lawyer, but my guess is simply that this was the lowest risk liability response. Which is was HR/lawyers will normally present to an organization as best practice.

        4. Xantar*

          It isn’t just that Jane brought her husband into the salary negotiations. As LW said, that would have merely seemed quirky in isolation. The problem is at a previous meeting, her husband also acted like a stalkerish creep. Given that context, what happened in the salary negotiations raised red flags.

        5. NeonFireworks*

          Sure it is. “Assume she wants it” is an argument in favor of accepting the status quo, not in favor of promoting women having agency. And a choice isn’t automatically feminist (in the sense of “pro-women-having-rights”) simply because a woman made it.

          1. Triplestep*

            The term “Feminism is about choice” does not refer to “making feminist choices”. It refers to women having choices. It’s term that actually came in response to a narrow view that had emerged of what it meant to be a feminist.

            For example, let’s say a woman decides she wants a life where her husband has final say in family decisions. You can see how it might be problematic if you, I, and other women who wouldn’t make this choice said “No, that decision does not look like something a woman would choose on her own. Use your agency to do things our way.”

        6. nom de plume*

          No. Feminism is not just about “choice,” and if a woman chooses to uphold the patriarchy and willingly submit to it, that most definitely does NOT make her a feminist. The idea that feminism is just about a woman’s right to choose is superficial, dumbed-down bullhockey.

          Feminism is about equal rights for men and women, at the most basic level. The scenario you describe is nothing like that.

          1. Triplestep*

            Look at my example above. I am not saying what you apparently think I am, and I am certainly not saying Jane is furthering feminist ideals.

            Women have the right to choose what works for their marriage and family and themselves. Feminism dictates that we recognize this. We don’t jump to the conclusion that their choices weren’t theirs, that no woman would want to live that way, or that they are being abused.

              1. Triplestep*

                If you’re in your twenties, I encourage you to read about the intersection of second and third wave feminism, and the work women my age (fifties) and my mother’s age (eighties) did to unify the movements. NOT acknowledging the different choices women make out of desire or necessity was a major cause of divisiveness in the movements of feminism. (Yes, movements. Plural. Feminism is not just one thing.)

                If you’re NOT in your twenties, well … there’s really no excuse for your not knowing some of this. Please educate yourself and don’t undo what we did.

        7. biobotb*

          Not every choice a woman makes is feminist just because a woman made that choice. Feminism is about more than choice, it’s about equality. A choice that actively undermines one’s equality is not a feminist choice.

          1. Triplestep*

            Who said she was making a feminist choice? I am suggesting she simply made a choice, and feminism acknowledges that women should be able to do that, even when they make a different choice than we would.

              1. Triplestep*

                If you want to stick to the interpretation of my remarks that I just told you was incorrect, there’s not much I can do about it.

                “You said feminism is about choice. If so, that makes any choice feminist.” For the record, I also disagree.

              2. KAG*

                This book is about math. Geometry is a type of math. Therefore, geometry is included in this book.

          2. Dream Jobbed*

            My feminism means I fight for the right for women to follow their religious beliefs, even if I don’t understand them or want their lifestyle. She is free to submit to her husband if she desire.

            The two things feminism does do in this situation: 1.) It means I am free not to follow her lifestyle and no man may (attempt to) make me do so. 2.) It allows her the freedom and resources to leave this lifestyle if she wishes to do so.

        8. allathian*

          Yes, but a woman who is happy in that sort of situation would not be one I would be willing to employ, in any capacity, except possibly a very menial one. Certainly not in a job where she would get to make decisions about other people’s employment or working conditions or where her employment would be subject to her husband’s whims and interference.

          Certainly, there are plenty of women who are or have been abused by a partner and who are working in anything but menial roles, but their abusers are at least smart enough to keep their abusive behavior at home and the women can work without interference.

      2. Susana*

        Alison, thanks for this. I think many of us want to be accepting of other people’s “politics,” but that’s not what this is. Sort of like – if you refuse to wear a mask and destroy a store display because of it, it’s not politics. It’s science (and vandalism). If you support white supremacists, it’s not politics – it’s values. And if job candidate or anyone else thinks female submission to a man – whether the root is religious or not – is acceptable to being to work, tat’s not politics or religion. It’s unprofessional. (and creepy).

        1. Triplestep*

          I don’t think anyone is saying it’s acceptable to bring to work when it will surely impact other people, but I think it’s worth noting that for some people its an acceptable way to live. Quite acceptable. (Not me! But I don’t get to decide for someone else.)

          1. Tex*

            But even if you accept it as as the way you want to live your life – there is still a professional way to do so. In a relationship with husband as head decision maker – it seems to me that the overarching decisions about whether a woman can work or not, the type of profession she enters, or the companies she applies to, would be a decision made by him. But for the nitty gritty of the daily job, including the interview process, she has to demonstrate capability and independent thinking. The fact that Jane and Bob allowed the nature of their relationship to dominate all their interactions with the company is unprofessional.

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Theologically, those sects are pretty crap too. Basically, women are kind of like dogs. They go to heaven because their husband will be most happy if he has his domestic animals with him in the afterlife, fawning over him and wagging their tails. Women can’t get to heaven on their own, however. The only path to get there is total, unstinting, joyful, perfect, absolute obedience to their lord and master. A wife who worries that her husband isn’t acting in a godly way and disobeys him has – oops – just gone to hell. Thinking wasn’t your job, female.

        Want to hear their views on consent? Those are real real fun.

        1. Well...*

          My FIL told me and my husband right before we got married that a marriage only functions if there’s “a leader and a follower” and tried to be not sexist by saying he didn’t care which was the leader.

          We joke about a lot when we make minor compromises. “You only want to eat dinner there because you really just need a leader” etc.

          Sadly, these views are pretty widespread. It’s not just small sects, it’s kind of part of the whole patriarchy thing.

      4. Detective Amy Santiago*

        That was my first thought when I read this. It’s very possible Jane is not being abused. In fact, I’d wager it’s less likely because of how open Bob is with his actions. Abusers are far more likely to keep their control hidden.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          Abusers are far more likely to keep their control hidden.

          You obviously haven’t met a lot of men that have been in control of their wives for many years. They are so used to it that it’s second nature to basically command them without shame in front of anyone. They would never physically abuse them in front of people, but being the arbiter of what their wife is allowed to do doesn’t register as something wrong to them so they see no reason to hide it.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            That’s not my experience. What I’ve seen is that abusers know very well when their behaviour crosses a line. They are charming in company and only start in on the abuse once the company has left. Alternatively, they will be part of a community/church where such abuse is institutionalised.

      5. Certified Llama Midwife*

        I will say, as a conservative Christian myself, if the idea of “submit to your husband” is really where Jane and her husband are coming from, they are wildly misapplying the idea. There are individuals who tend toward what Jane is doing…but that’s not what it means/ says. Even those of us who believe in that teaching think what Jane’s husband is doing is abusive/controlling/ wrong.

        1. Chinook*

          Yes! Yes! Yes! The people many commentators here are describing are not the ones I see within my own religion. Most couples work like a CFO and CEO. Both have power and knowledge but, when a decision needs to be made, the CFO defers to the CEO because they are the ones with final authority. But that doesn’t mean that CFO has been silent and/or ignored. Instead, they come out as a united front.

            1. Triplestep*

              You think it’s gross? Then don’t have this kind of partnership or marriage. You don’t get to decide what is “gross” for other people if it works for them.

              I wouldn’t want it, and lots of people wouldn’t want it. “Gross?”

              I really can’t believe some of the comments today. From a comment section that regularly lectures each other not to be “judgemental.”

              1. pancakes*

                Other people thinking it’s a gross relationship doesn’t somehow oblige them to not have that kind of relationship any longer, so I’m not sure what you mean by “decide” there. Their personal agency isn’t taken away or compromised by the existence of people who don’t like the idea.

              2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                Agreed. If Jane has made the choice to be in this relationship under those conditions, then we have no business judging her, even if it’s not something we’d want for ourselves.

                1. ONJ*

                  Huh? That’s like saying if someone chose to date a racist, we have no business judging her even if we wouldn’t want it.

                  Of course you can judge her for this choice. Just like you can judge anyone who chooses to do anything, whether in the name of religion or any other strange belief.

              3. Elizabeth*

                There’s a difference between someone choosing a partnership where their partner makes certain kinds of decisions for the family and someone adopting a worldview where women as a group should submit to men as a group.

                You’re damned right I judge the latter.

                But even if you’re more agnostic or tolerant toward it than I am, to act like those things are *the same* as each other is to really miss the point.

                1. Triplestep*

                  Never said they were the same; never even brought up “adopting a worldview where women as a group should submit to men as a group.” I was talking about Jane and raising the possibility that she chose her situation. It’s insulting to women to assume they need to be “saved” from their own choices. It is not a feminist way to think, period.

                  This is the typical stuff of the AAM comment section where people love to “award” each other with POVs just to argue against them. I was going to reiterate my point, but anyone who is still reading can do a search on my user name.

            2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              But fundamentally, at some point, someone is going to have to compromise and defer to the other person. It’s physically impossible for two people to be in a relationship with two different sets of needs and wants without someone giving in to the other.

              1. biobotb*

                And if it’s always one person being deferred to, and the other person always giving in, it’s unequal.

              2. Arctic*

                When my partner and I disagree sometimes I compromise sometimes she compromises. If I’m the CFO and I disagree with the CEO… I compromise. 100% of the time they get the final say.

          1. biobotb*

            And the CFO’s opinion and perspective is always given less consideration and respect than the CEOs. They’re united in ensuring that one person is always considered second-best.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          This is the problem — when people who are abusive/controlling/wrong find their way into structures that seem to support them.

      6. Yvette*

        I am paraphrasing, but I read a quote that went along the lines of “She has walked through every door RBG opened for women and proceeded to slam them shut behind her.” If this is too political my apologies and feel free to delete, but I just loved the phrasing and imagery.

      7. ShortT*

        A husband may be the head of the household. Read that again. Head of household. He may have authority over his immediate family, but not anyone else’s business practice.

        1. Triplestep*

          Yes, I don’t think anyone is saying that Jane should have been hired in this scenario. It’s simply being pointed out that the assumption she’s being abused – or that she hasn’t somehow signed on to this – may not be founded.

        2. TRexx*

          Thanks for highlighting the word household. How someone runs their individual personal household is their personal business. (Barring of course any sort of abuse etc, which is not ok). Separate from head of their “life” or “career” from how i am understanding it.

      8. Chinook*

        And the flip side of such teachings is that the husband is suppose to be a good leader who does not abuse his power, looks out for what is best for the entire family and is willing to put down his life to protect them (meaning wife and children, not multiple wives.) This involves being aware of the wants and needs of the spouse and providing for them. I know many couples like this where the husband actively requires input from their spouse even if he is the one who makes the final say.

        1. Triplestep*

          I became friendly with someone whose marriage operated this way in my last job, and she was very happy with how it worked. When she explained it to me, she kept using the term “A good Christian husband.” She’d say “A good Christian husband considers the family” or “A good Christian husband takes your needs and wants into account.” When I asked her “How do you know you can live with what he ultimately decides?” she said “That’s why you pick a good one!” She found it very freeing just to have her input and let him decide. I don’t think this is true for everyone in her position, and I don’t know that Jane’s husband is a “good” one (or Christian) but this friend had a very rough life prior to becoming Christian and marrying this man, and there’s no doubt she is much happier and healthier now.

          While I could not operate under this model, I told this story to my husband and now sometimes when I want him to just deal with a decision to take the weight off of me, I’ll ask him to be a Good Christian Husband. And we’re Jewish!

          1. Lizzo*

            As someone who has been married for a long time, is fiercely independent, and is also suffering from decision fatigue as of late, the idea of having a spouse who is trustworthy enough to make decisions that fully account for my opinions/feelings/wants/needs and is also good for the whole family sounds *very* appealing.

            There’s a wide variety of models for successful, loving long term relationships, but mutual respect and trust is at the heart of all of them.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The other half of this is husbands have to listen to their wives. All too often that part is skipped over.

        3. Kall*

          So what do you do if you disagree with your husband about something major? Not snarking, genuinely curious. This must still happen even if the husbands is taking wants and needs into account. Do you just…go along no matter what? Seems like there is all sorts of room there for exploitation of the non CEO partner.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            My understanding is that, ultimately, he has the final say-so, and the wife is expected to obey. Period, full stop. At least, that’s what was taught in the fundamentalist church I was raised in (and that’s just one of many reasons I left that church when I was in my early 20s).

      9. Oh my*

        the current nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court is heavily affiliated with a group that teaches that husbands are the heads of their households and their wives should submit to their authority.

        Not to delve into politics, but !!!!!!

        I’m a naturalized American READY TO VOTE ON THE FIRST DAY OF EARLY VOTING and I had no idea about this regarding the current nominee. My husband is going to make us wake up even earlier to go vote after I tell him that, because he couldn’t be more opposite to this idea of “husbands as the heads of their households”.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I like your husband, he sounds like mine. My husband likes to joke about being the head of our household because it’s so ludicrous, since I (a wife) handle all of our finances, contracts, absolutely everything official, and am usually the final word on big stuff because that works for our family.

      10. Cori*

        Please do not lump Christian believers like ACB with marriages where abuse is happening. There are millions of religious women in this country who are successful, career-minded, not homemakers, are not expected to be the main cook, cleaner, childminder etc. I am one of them.

        ACB is a judge for goodness sake! If we really thought she was part of that uber-religious group, do you honestly think she’d be a judge? Do you think her husband would be remotely supportive? And the media had to walk back the story that she was heavily affiliated with that group. Are you really willing to bash a Catholic? The current DNC presidential nominee is a Catholic, as are millions of Americans.

        1. Pretzelgirl*

          Yes please don’t. I am Christian woman, with a career, children and equal partnership with my husband. We make all decisions together as united front.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          There are reports that ACB is involved in a very fringe group that does not espouse typical Catholic beliefs. Every group has people with extreme views and shouldn’t reflect on the rest of the group. Nothing about Alison’s comment indicated that she was painting all Catholics or Christians with the same brush.

          1. President Porpoise*

            Actually, apparently, the group has membership from many denominations, not just catholics.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Oh, interesting. I haven’t had the emotional bandwidth to do much reading on it.

          2. Kotow*

            I mean in fairness, from more “neutral” sources I’ve read about it, the group teaches that the husband as the head of the household and promotes spiritual direction. “Head of household” is found all throughout Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox traditions (hardly “fringe” groups) though the terminology is often used differently. So while I absolutely understand why the concept would be offensive to a lot of people, it’s not fringe or particularly radical by any means. It started as a Catholic group, which of course, the Catholic Church won’t ordain women to the priesthood or diaconate or any roles like that, so “Husband as the Head” shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with those teachings. And spiritual direction is found all throughout Christianity. I’d say it’s a minority practice among Catholics in Western countries, but it’s very much a part of the tradition and is alive and well.
            In my experience from having been a theology student, Catholics in particular who have this line of thinking regarding gender roles generally do treat it much more equally than what’s being assumed here. The concept makes more (theological) sense if you hear it explained in that context (don’t worry, I won’t go there LOL). They would think of Bob’s behavior as being extremely inappropriate and *not* how he should be handling his role!

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          My point was that you see this in marriages where there’s not physical abuse. I find those beliefs very troubling, especially in a judge whose personal thinking will necessarily affect her rulings as they do any human’s, but they don’t always indicate physical abuse. Which is what the comment I was saying yes to was saying as well.

        4. Mr. Tyzik*

          Are you kidding? Part of the reason she’s so controversial is *because* she brings religion into her findings. You can be a part of the cult AND become a judge if your husband supports it and allows it.

          As far as bashing a Catholic – I’m sorry, but Catholics aren’t removed from religious extremism. See, abortion.

        5. Temperance*

          Um, yes, actually, she very well could be part of a fringe religious group as well as a judge. Because people who are in those groups are taught from childhood that they need to be soldiers for Christ, and infiltrate the public sphere.

          She’s taken a gross oath to submit to her husband. That’s literally all I need to know to be certain that she’s unqualified for office.

          1. Mr. Tyzik*

            “She’s taken a gross oath to submit to her husband. That’s literally all I need to know to be certain that she’s unqualified for office.”

            Hear, hear. It makes me seriously side-eye any decision she’s made regarding women’s rights. And any decision she *might* make in that space.

        6. Ismonie*

          My Uber-religious dominionist uncle wanted his oldest daughter to be a judge, so yes, some of them do.

      11. gf*

        I find that so interesting. How is the Supreme Court Nominee not higher than her husband in her household? She even still uses her last name next to his which indicates some type of feminism. Who is he exactly, some heavenly figure? Will he be dictating her choices at work as well? Oh man… we need help.

      12. TRexx*

        So people of certain beliefs related to their religion aren’t allowed to climb the same professional ladder as everyone else? Just trying to understand this comment in it’s full context.

        1. Fox*

          If obedience to your religion is more important to you than being an impartial judge of the law, then yes, those beliefs preclude should preclude a career in the justice system. In that case, you cannot fulfill an essential requirement of the job.

        2. pancakes*

          I’d like to understand how and why you make the leap from seeing something or someone criticized to wondering whether they “aren’t allowed.” Do you believe your political or cultural adversaries somehow have the power to compel unanimous agreement with their views? Criticism, even widespread criticism, doesn’t operate like a police force. It doesn’t prevent people from saying or doing what they’re being criticized for.

          1. TRexx*

            Was responding to the original comment on this thread… Like somehow those of certain religious (personal) beliefs cannot compartmentalize that on a personal level and be impartial on professional matters is absurd to me. We don’t all have to hold the same religious beliefs or philosophical practices to be a judge etc.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      I agree, despite other comments here I’m *still* not positive this is domestic abuse, to be honest – it certainly could be, but this could also be Jane’s perspective on an appropriate relationship either in a couple generally or in her role as a wife. Either way, the company is in the same situation though, as there’s no reason to think things would be different after Jane was hired.

      1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

        I agree. Physical abuse is a leap. If Jane were in my life I would have a sharp eye out for it, but the OP and company have seen nothing that would indicate Jane is any distress, let alone abused.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Abuse isn’t limited to the physical variety. If Jane’s husband is controlling and messes with her head, those are forms of abuse. It doesn’t have to leave a bruise.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

            Certainly. I am well aware of that.

            There is nothing reported observed that Jane is in distress and job interviewers are not in a position to continue to observe.

            1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

              Just because Jane doesn’t seem distressed doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. You making the assumption that there isn’t abuse is no different than the majority of us assuming there is abuse. If he is in fact abusing her, she may be at the point where it’s normal and she wouldn’t necessarily be showing signs of it.

              1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

                I’m not assuming there is no abuse. I am not assuming there is abuse. There is not information to assume either.

                This a job interview.

                Your point is well taken and should be applied to situations where someone can keep an eye to see what happens next. That isn’t this one.

      2. Triplestep*

        Agree. That Jane made no attempt to hide the fact that she and her husband were negotiating together tells us she does not find this abnormal. Abusers often try to hide their abuse, and their victims do as well. Yet the majority comments already demonstrate a belief that this is evidence of Jane’s abuse, or that Jane is not happy in this situation, or lament it would be great if Jane got help.

        Well, Jane may not want help. Jane may be perfectly happy as is. I would not be, and I don’t want the Janes of the world weighing in on Supreme Court decisions, but Feminism is about choice, and letting ones husband make family decisions is a choice some women make quite willingly.

        It is a sad outcome because of the reasons the LW stated, and because someone didn’t get a job she was offered and presumably wanted. Is it sad because Jane is abused and controlled and a prisoner of her living situation? We do not know that. As much as I would not want Jane’s life, to assume she’s unhappy – to pity her – it is not the Feminist thing to do.

        1. Triplestep*

          Sorry for the nearly duplicate comment as the one earlier. That one appeared “on delay” so I thought it failed, hit “back”, and edited to be a response here.

          Heh, maybe it’s worth saying twice given the number of people who are assuming there’s abuse in Jane’s home now.

        2. Ismonie*

          I pity people who don’t take agency or control over their lives based on their sex, even if it is what they think they want. People can be misled. I don’t think there is any way that this is healthy or good for Jane whether she likes it or not. Whether or not it is abuse would require more information, but the husband’s hostility to the interviewer and the wife quoting the husband doesn’t bode well. He wants her to signal he is in control, and she does. All the bees.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Right. I mean, sure – there could be coercion here, but I haven’t seen anything in any of the letters on this subject that would lead me to believe that’s the case.

            2. Ismonie*

              Yes. People make socially/psychologically constructed decisions, that they do not always realize are not true free choice.

              I will always pity any person who believes they are the inferior of any other person because of some immutable characteristic (race, sex, sexual orientation, skin color, etc.) It is not a good way to live even if the person believes it is the natural order or is based on free choice.

              Now if it is some form of playacting/role play, you do you, but that’s different than a fundamental belief of one’s own relative inferiority and lack of agency.

              See also, false consciousness.

      3. Quill*

        If it rises to financial abuse – interfering with the spouse’s ability to keep a source of income does count – then I’m not sure it’s necessarily going to change Allison’s advice or what OP has to do with the situation.

        The fact seems to be that OP would be fine with hiring Jane, but not hiring Jane with her husband’s negotiating and opinions riding shotgun.

    3. Crivens!*

      The patriarchal family structure as enacted here would still be abusive. People in that situation would still be being abused even if they just call it religious obedience.

      1. Nicotene*

        Serious question (which I hope is not a derail) – is it possible to be abused if the subject doesn’t feel they are being abused? Is it like some mental disorders in the DSMV that say, “only if they cause distress to the patient”?

        Surely the difference between BDSM (flogging, say) and physical abuse is that the subject agrees to the behavior, actively participates, and feels able to stop when they’ve had enough? If Jane chooses to have a submissive marriage or whatever (see “surrendered wife” and similar), can a third party determine it’s abusive if she does not agree?

        1. yala*

          I mean, I know as kids what me and my siblings dealt with was absolutely emotional abuse. My youngest brother especially probably did not see it as such because he was the baby, and at the time was a Good Boy Who Did What Mommy Wanted (and participated in church stuff).

          It still messed him up maybe the worst out of all of us?

          Like, I dunno. Maybe they’ve got a Master/submissive thing going, but even so, most folks don’t make that too obvious while trying to find a regular job.

        2. chaco*

          Yes, of course something can be abusive without the victim labelling it abuse. That’s the case for most ongoing abusive situations (romantic or otherwise).

          The difference between BDSM and physical abuse is consent. If consent isn’t given, is withdrawn, someone isn’t capable of giving it, someone has withheld information that another person needs in order to consent (e.g. active STDs), or it is coerced, then it’s abuse even if the victim thinks it was consensual. If someone new to the scene is groomed to think they have to go along with some particular BDSM act, that’s coercion even if they choose to go along with it.

          Is Jane choosing to be a submissive wife? If so, was she able to make that decision freely and is she aware of alternatives? Is she being pressured by religion/her husband/family members/community to accept this regardless of what she really wants? Is Jane aware that this level of involvement in her career isn’t normal? Is she aware of the ramifications (after all, she doesn’t know the real reason she lost this opportunity) and fully accepting of them because she wants Bob to be involved? We don’t know.

        3. Amykins*

          “is it possible to be abused if the subject doesn’t feel they are being abused?”

          Absolutely, yes. Many, many victims of abuse aren’t aware they’re being abused or won’t admit to themselves they’re being abused for a long time, if ever. I think that can happen with any kind of abuse but is probably particularly the case with emotional abuse, because it’s so easy to say “Well they aren’t hitting me so it’s not abuse”. This is exactly what I went through, by the way. I was in a relationship/marriage for 11 years and didn’t realize or admit it was abusive until after we had already split and were in the midst of separating.

          In other words, a person can think they are not being abused because they think a situation is normal, they’re repressing the damage, think they deserve it, or just don’t recognize the thing as abuse – but that doesn’t make the actions not abusive.

          That’s not to say that every agreed upon relationship dynamic with a power dynamic is abusive – but if that power dynamic isn’t something that the person with less power has the ability to change (whether that’s by re-negotiating the dynamic or truly feeling they can leave the relationship), I’d say that’s abusive regardless of what the individuals in the relationship think.

        4. Crivens!*

          Absolutely. I was in an abusive relationship without realizing it was abusive. It took me half a decade away from the relationship to realize it was abusive, even though it was VERY EXTREMELY ABUSIVE.

        5. Jaybeetee*

          Yes, it’s common in abusive relationships, especially non-violent ones, to not realize the dynamic is abusive. I spent several years in such a relationship myself, and it really wasn’t until the very end – or perhaps sometime later – that I fully realized and accepted it was abusive.

          That said, it was definitely not a *happy* relationship, and I was very much not a happy person much of the time in that relationship. Which is what I suspect us more what you’re asking about – can a relationship be abusive and hunky-dory at the same time? That answer is more nuanced depending on the specifics of the people and relationship, but generally… no.

          And that’s the broad-stroke difference between and abusive relationship versus a consensual power arrangement (such as religious submission or BDSM). Apart from the consent itself, a big tell is the fear/anxiety involved for the “submissive” partner. The walking-on-eggshells dynamic is a big tell. Abuse isn’t just about control, but about fear, shame, secrecy, and anxiety.

          Sidenote: This was a big complaint about the “50 Shades” series, which was abuse masquerading as a consensual BDSM relationship. Those things are different.

          Disclainer: I realize I’m speaking very generally here. Abusive relationships can have many different dynamics involved.

        6. GS*

          Yet another voice chiming in to agree that yes, you can be abused without knowing it’s abuse (warning for abuse description below)

          I was raised to be terrified of raising my voice in the presence of an adult, displaying emotions in the presence of an adult, or making eye contact with an adult who was having any sort of emotion. Until I was sixteen or so I thought that was normal for all children to feel. It was so liberating to learn that what I experienced was abuse, and that other ways of living were possible. If I had known earlier that it was abuse (and that abuse wasn’t just being hit!) I could have talked to someone at school and maybe had it stopped in some way, but I just didn’t know.

          Sometimes folks know they’re being abused and are trapped by feeling responsible for the abuser (My dad said to my brothers “if you move out on your own or go live with your mom I won’t have child support and I’ll starve to death” so my brothers stayed) but sometimes folks feel like they are a uniquely broken individual and that their abuser stays with them because no one else will so they’re grateful for the abuse, or sometimes they just have no other frame of reference.

        7. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          I guess you can say it’s down to this. With BDSM, there’s a safe word. With a reasonably-constituted relationship, there’s the option to say, “No.” “No, I don’t want to have sex right now, and I don’t consent.” “No, this no longer works for me, and we need to talk about what will work.” “No, we are getting a divorce.”

          People in certain sects will say – well, what’s it to you? The woman wants to be led. She agrees that she is a lesser creature. She doesn’t desire independence. She doesn’t want self determination. She consents to live this way…

          But when you dig a bit, consent is what they use to justify this setup to me and you – but consent doesn’t have much role in how their worldview. A worldview they want to impose on us.

          To put it in simple terms; they are out to take away the safe word. Make marital rape not a thing. Make divorce hard – or impossible – to get. Make birth control impossible to access or contingent on husband’s permission, as it was in the 1960s. Essentially, they are out to make marriage a trap. When you say “I do” – you will say “I do” to all kinds of things that you didn’t specify, didn’t know about, didn’t agree to, and can never back out of. And they will turn and say, “Well, she wanted it. She’s happy. She said I do. Consent was obtained.”

        8. valprehension*

          Abuse often persists literally because the victim is “ok” with it or doesn’t feel they are being abused. I spent *years* defending my parents as simply being “strict”, and my mom in turn spent years actively “protecting” (with various levels of success) my siblings and I from our dad, all while none of us even thought the word ‘abuse’.

          Just because I didn’t learn to see it as such until much later doesn’t mean it wasn’t abuse when it was happening. That’s literally how this shit works.

    4. Batgirl*

      Thing is, if you want your husband to be the head of the household, it’s a highly personal and private belief system that has no place in professional discussions. It’s the same league as ‘call him Master’, only with a little more ‘this is standard’ cultural arrogance; it’s not professionally appropriate to make your personal life stuff a company’s problem. I probably would have addressed it during negotiations, because I just don’t like the casual imposition of that stance on others. The thoughtlessness itself is what’s most alarming. Though it’s an anathema to me personally, I was surprised when I got to know of some women who would say that they nominally subscribe to this ‘head of the household’ idea, but they didn’t worry me in the same way Jane does (they seemed to interpret ‘he makes decisions’ as ‘he does more emotional labour choosing the contractor for the job I want done.’) They spoke for themselves in the first person, and ultimately got what they wanted. They also didn’t make their religious decisions other people’s problem. Jane on the contrary, sounds like his hand puppet and by assuming her stance is common enough to refer casually to, she’s revealing she sleepwalked into this situation. That she hasn’t thought.. hasn’t decided anything for herself.

      1. Chinook*

        Exactly. No one should be aware of the dynamics of how your household makes decisions. It is possible to have the husband as head of household without it being abusive or totalitarian. At the same time, this type arrangement also values what women do within the home and the women have the ability, and encouraged, to advocate for their needs and desires, just not in public. Many in this situation truly believe “happy wife means happy life.”

        At the same time, abuse is abuse. I can guarantee that the husband’s behaviour is controlling of others in different ways. His actions are not those of a religious man but a bully.

        1. Anonapots*

          But you’ve just laid bare the issue with the whole structure. “Within the home” because women only belong in the home. And the structure also does not value what they do in the home as equal to what men do outside the home, no matter how desperately they try to make it seem so. It’s only equally valued if the man can do it without loss of stature in the eyes of his peers.

        2. biobotb*

          If women can’t advocate for themselves in public, that is abusive and totalitarian. That’s straight-up scary.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Bingo. She could have taken his words as her own, “I would like x and y for reasons a, b and c.”
          That is not what she chose to do. She made sure to mention her husband.

          I’d like to know why she left her last job. I bet someone said, “Your husband does not work here.”

      2. Lizzo*

        Commenting here because “he does more emotional labor” is exactly how to sum up what I said in a comment above about wanting my husband to be in charge more often–thanks for articulating that so well!

        1. Batgirl*

          There was a great expression used for the opposite of emotional-labour guy on Captain Awkward which has stayed with me: “King Baby”. Such a great way to describe that person who is in charge in that he is highly demanding but who sees no need to do any actual work. I think we all know a King Baby, or just a plain old Baby, so I get it when women value leadership skills and a take charge attitude. Not enough to give up my own sense of leadership, but I get the appeal and want it myself.

      3. Batgirl*

        I understand the temptation, but it’s patronising and additionally damaging to victims to tell them how to live their life; they already have that. You could… say in the moment something like “I am not comfortable negotiating with a spouse, so are you OK to continue talking using your own requirements and knowledge of the field?” to highlight it as ‘Not OK’. Or, you can contact a DV helpline to say “How do I support an employee/friend”. Also, you can, to someone close, say “Its your life, but I don’t like the way your partner does x, and you have my help and support in whatever you want to do about that”
        But it has to be “I feel” comments, not “you do” comments.

    5. Not That Kind of Lawyer*

      This right here. It may not be an abusive relationship, but more patriarchal in nature. A good example of this type of relationship and the effects it can have is the comedian Mo’Nique. She and her husband have this sort of marriage to the point that she refers to her husband as “Daddy” during interviews. She is open about his role in “helping” her realize the deal offered to her by Netflix was “unfair” and “racist.” She ultimately lost the Netflix deal and a lot of respect within the entertainment industry. She – and her husband – did a very enlightening interview on The Breakfast Club where their dynamic was clear.

    6. lazy intellectual*

      Even in context of a situation where the wife submits to their husband’s decisions, his behavior during the interview was very odd. I grew up in a partriarchal culture where, even if the wife held a job, it was understood that her career held less priority than the husband’s. But it would not occur to these husbands to chaperone their wives to job interviews (!) and photograph the hiring manager (!!)

    7. MistOrMister*

      This was my thought as well. At least, from the salary negotiation part. I find the picture taking part very odd. But it could be that he does these sorts of things with her blessing. That being said, I think OP’s employer did the right thing by turning Jane down. It is one thing to negotiate after getting suggestions from your spouse, but the fact that she kept bringing him up made the situation too weird. I would also be concerned he would end up inserted into the job in an inappropriate way. It is certainly unfortunate. Hopefully Jane is not being abused and simply has a happy non-mainstream type marriage.

  5. Jean (just Jean)*

    Is it ever possible to call a DV hotline after meeting a candidate such as Jane? Or somehow to communicate to Jane “we would be glad to hire you if you can completely ditch your abusive, controlling husband”? I am moved by Jane’s plight but also understand the OP’s reluctance to expose the entire organization to this kind of spousal craziness. This goes double or triple (or X 1,000) if Jane & spouse are in the USA or anywhere else where firearms are easily obtained.
    Even a series of safe houses might not deter such an obsessively controlling spouse. What a terrible situation. I hope against hope that Jane can safely & permanently get away.

    Alison, feel free to delete my comment if it sheds more heat than light. I have no expertise in DV.

    1. Observer*

      Seriously? What exactly would you tell the hotline? And what could the hotline staff even consider doing?

    2. GS*

      You can call a DV hotline and say “I had this experience with someone I worry is being abused, how should I handle it?” in a situation where you’re unsure and they will often walk you through whether and how it’s appropriate to intervene. If you shouldn’t intervene, they’ll tell you. They can also help you figure out what to do if a similar situation comes up in future.

  6. Learning As I Go*

    Thanks for the update, OP. This is indeed very sad. I hope Jane finds the courage to escape this horrible situation.

  7. Sad Situation*

    I would be tempted to hired a PI or something and wait to see if she appeared physically beaten after she didn’t get the job (because of course it was her fault.) Then I would give the evidence to the police.

    1. MK*

      Apart from the fact that controlling partners are not necessarily physically violent, this would be genuinely creepy on its own.

      1. Ryn*

        “Oh hey this woman seems to be having her agency taken by her husband. Here’s an idea: this time *I’ll* take away her agency by secretly stalking her and going to the police without her knowledge, which has certainly never put DV victims in danger before!” /s

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      This is 100% not appropriate. It is not the business of the OP or their company to get involved in their private life.

    3. LizzE*

      She already has a husband at home violating her personal boundaries; she doesn’t need a potential employer — who opted out of hiring her — to do the same.

    4. chaco*

      Or maybe her theoretically abusive partner didn’t want her to get the job and his whole thing is pretending like he’s supporting her to garner appreciation from her/family/society. Jumping to him beating her specifically in a way that would be obvious to an outsider and somehow tying it to this exact job makes no sense.

    5. Pigeon*

      Aside from this being wildly inappropriate, I’m sure this scenario is a suggestion OP did not need to read.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      She’s a stranger…this is so outrageously over the top. You could also get people killed by being this over zealous and meddlesome in a possible DV situation if it is a violent one.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Adding if companies had to do this every time they suspected abuse, the company finances would tank.

      We just can’t rescue everyone. And we really can’t rescue people who don’t want to be rescued.

    8. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I understand the desire to get Jane out of the situation, which I think is where your comment comes from. But even if the police took just that (which is unlikely) and went to Jane saying “we’ve got pictures of you all bruised up, are you being abused” her answer is so, so, likely to be “of course not!” And if she *is* being abused, that encounter will likely just increase the abuse.

      As so many others have said, Jane has to choose *for herself* to leave. An outside party taking away her choice to leave isn’t respecting her anymore than Bob taking away her choice to leave.

  8. Job Carousel*

    Poor Jane indeed.

    OP mentioned in prior updates that Jane is very accomplished in her career and has been married to Bob for decades. One wonders if Bob also has a decades-long history of interfering with her career (and if issues have developed in Jane’s prior positions that the OP’s organization didn’t uncover in reference checks), or if this is a more recent development. One also wonders how successful Bob is in his own career.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I wonder if those previous employers who did not raise red flags, did not raise them because they were hoping to unload Bob more than Jane.

      1. Empress Matilda (formerly Matilda Jefferies)*

        Maybe. But I think it’s more likely that the previous companies just didn’t notice Bob’s behaviour – possibly because it hadn’t escalated to this point, or Jane was more discreet about hiding it?

        Even more likely, they were probably never asked. Reference checks were conducted before OP first wrote to Alison, so his company didn’t know about the problem, and therefore didn’t ask about it. If the questions were specifically about Jane’s work performance, it’s also unlikely that her former colleagues would have proactively said “oh yeah, and her husband is a little weird, but he doesn’t work here so we just ignore him.”

        I mean, I can see a world where it might come up, but by far the most likely scenario is a combination of both – Bob’s behaviour was less noticeable and therefore not a concern to the old company, and not at all on the radar of the new company. It doesn’t sound to me like there’s anything shady going on, other than Bob.

        I hope Jane is okay.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Reference checks were conducted before OP first wrote to Alison, so his company didn’t know about the problem, and therefore didn’t ask about it.

          OP said during his first follow up that a thorough reference check was conducted, and none of Jane’s references brought up Bob’s behavior as an issue (and he made it sound like they really pressed). So maybe they just didn’t ask the right questions.

      2. Phony Genius*

        Or maybe they are in a part of the country where this type of thing is not uncommon, so they weren’t as put off by it.

    2. MK*

      Frankly there are many possibilities. It seems unlikely to me that this has been going on for decades and no one noticed and it didn’t limit Jane’s career. Unless maybe if all Jane’s previous positions were with ultra-conservative organizations that thought this was with the range of normality for a traditional marriage? Or maybe this is a recent development in the sense that maybe they always had an unequal marriage, but Bob was more restrained in his domineering behaviour till now. It’s also possible he retired recently and is trying to live vicariously by managing his wife’s career.

      1. Annony*

        It’s also possible that this has always been going on but the noticeable incidents were spread out enough that a pattern was not established. His over involvement in the negotiation process would not have made this company withdraw the offer if it hadn’t been for the fact that the OP told them about their weird interaction with him.

        1. Kara S*

          Exactly. I kept thinking that her saying “we” when negotiating was weird but not necessarily a red flag but then I remember the original letter. Each instance was weird on its own but seeing them combined is what made this company say no. It’s completely possible that Bob did exhibit a pattern of controlling behaviour in her past jobs but a few instances spread out over several years is unlikely to raise concerns the way this did.

    3. Ali G*

      It was hard for me not to think Bob has a number in his head that means Jane is now the sole breadwinner and he never has to work again. It can’t be said enough: Poor Jane.

      1. Paulina*

        Since there’s a relocation needed, it’s not unreasonable for them as a couple to consider what sort of offer would be needed to make it worthwhile for them (since Bob would be letting Jane’s career determine where they moved to, and his prospects may not be so good there). But Jane acting like she’s negotiating what Bob says, plus the creepy photographing, is beyond that.

        It reminds me a bit of an attempted hire I know where at the last moment the candidate’s husband didn’t agree to move. I wondered then whether it was a “sure I support your career, we can relocate, but ultimately I’ll sabotage it” situation; in retrospect that situation likely wasn’t, but this one might be.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, if I were the OP, I would be *dying* to ask Jane’s references about their experience with Bob. I wouldn’t do it, but I’d WANT to.

    5. RC Rascal*

      My guess this is escalating behavior. It’s also possible something happened that triggered this in Bob. For example, maybe Jane was mugged and as a result became very overprotective of Jane. Or, maybe Bob got laid off a few years ago and now has nothing else to do but focus his energy on Jane’s career.

      1. Nicotene*

        Could also be age related mental illness manifesting in the husband, I suppose. Paranoia can by a symptom of a few, which I imagine could extend to controlling or possessive behavior.

        1. Dream Jobbed*

          You don’t think she would have noticed that and would be trying to deflect it, or at least embarrassed by it?

    6. Yvette*

      I also wonder if this is why she was available and looking for a position fairly far from home, “This candidate’s current job is in the same region, but by no means close to the one for which they are interviewing. “

    7. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      OP noted that had he not said anything to the executives making the decision, they would have just thought her comments to be odd and not held against her for the job. The same thing could have occurred in the past. If she was making comments referring to her husband making the decisions with her, they may have just brushed it off as weird but not a big deal. Pure speculation, but assuming Jane and Bob aren’t newlyweds, controlling behavior doesn’t generally pop up overnight in a longer relationship.

    8. soon to be former fed really*

      I find it hard to believe that this is the first time Jane’s career has been impacted by her husband’s overinvolvement, if he has been acting like this all along. I have a completely different theory other than possible DV or religion, and fully admit I am veering into fan fiction territory, something I usually hate.

      What if it is Jane who is in the early stages of dementia, not her husband? What if he took photos to remind her later who she interviewed with? What if she gets confused more easily now with processes like salary negotiations? Husband may know that the new employer would see these problems eventually, but wants life to continue as normally as possible for as long as possible. I can almost believe this scenario more than abuse, because behavior so far out of the norm would have had to affect Jane’s career at some time before now.

      Sadly, there is little that can be done in the event of abuse if the abused doesn’t want help, other than provide resources and information. Even that would be inappropriate for a prospective employer.

    9. Quill*

      I mean, at the risk of poking the current political climate with a stick, it is VERY possible that the ideology that has caused this dynamic has increased in Bob and Jane’s household within the last three to four years.

    10. Khatul Madame*

      Jane is totally Bob’s meal ticket. As in, “this is MY meal ticket!”
      I am puzzled by Jane’s leadership and professional qualities and her submission to her husband existing in the same personality. Also, people getting to this level usually have decent EQ that would prevent them from exposing the oddities of their family life at work, meaning Jane may be married to an abuser, but she would always present as self-assured as behooves a Senior Director, or whatever the title is. It just doesn’t add up for me.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Sometimes people doing strange things get passed around. Previous employers are so glad to unload a person that it becomes the main goal and other issues are secondary.

        I am thinking of a principal who went from job to job. Their resume was filled with short stays and sudden departures. There was a large geographical distance between jobs. Using the example I am aware of this makes sense. The principal began acting strangely. Gossip started. Then the behaviors got worse. And rumors were off the charts. Finally the principal spent their days locked in their own office. It ended up with all kinds of problems that become newspaper headlines. But none of the headlines seem to nail down the illegal behaviors of the principal. Other people lost their jobs in this chaos but they went down protecting the principal all the way.

        Jane could have been doing this right along and nothing was said by anyone.

  9. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

    I’m sorry that’s what it came down to, which sounds pretty disappointing for you and your company. You’re probably right that, after decades of marriage to Bob, she thinks this is all pretty normal.

    I had a coworker that had a very over-bearing husband whom she had been married to for decades as well. We’re a very small construction company, and he owned an excavation/site work company that did a lot of work for us on the front-end of projects. So the situation on our end was a little clouded by the fact that her husband was frequently in contact with our company for legitimate reasons. He had a tendency to stick his nose in where it didn’t belong, though. And her response was usually to sigh and just pretend it wasn’t happening.

    Through conversations over the years about life and family, it became very obvious that her husband thought himself to be an expert in a lot of things and that his opinion should be shared freely. He also was the king of their castle and had a tendency to steamroll his wife and their three daughters (who were in the early 20s at the time). I really felt bad for the women in that family…it didn’t seem like a healthy situation.

    I’m glad you all dodged that bullet. From personal experience, I can tell you it’s not very fun to feel like if you’re talking to your coworker that you’re also talking to her husband. You know he’s going to expect a report about what’s going on at work and that her decisions will be clouded by his opinions. That’s completely inappropriate, but she may not be able to see that. Good luck finding a better candidate, who’s both highly qualified and independent!

      1. Daffy Duck*

        Or she may not be happy but feel stuck for {reasons}.
        This can very well be the frog in the boiling pot scenario. After you have been married 30 years sometimes divorce seems like SO MUCH WORK (moving and getting things divided and all), plus divorced women usually take a huge cut in lifestyle, and if you put up with it this long is it really worth it to get divorced.

      2. DiplomaJill*

        i had to re read this several times before i understood you meant content=happy not content=the content of the page! She might be the former, but she is definitely the latter. LOL

  10. Dust Bunny*

    That . . . did not go where I expected. The first update sounded like it might just have been Bob’s actions sounding weirder in writing than they did in real life, but, nope, I guess not. Wow.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I had the same reaction – I felt a bit better about the first update, this one leads me to believe that OP’s initial concerns were well-founded.

    2. Susana*

      I went to hazardous environment emergency training before going to Iraq on assignment. One of the MI-5 agents teaching us had a great warning: Man is the only animal who second-guesses his own instincts. If you’re somewhere and the hair goes up on the back of your neck, don’t intellectualize it or rationalize it. GET OUT.

  11. Jessica Fletcher*

    Since she was so open about Bob’s involvement and didn’t seem shamed by it from the description, it’s also possible Jane is a willing participant. Apparently some religious groups subscribe to this “husband as sole decision maker” thing. For example, some TLC network families, and a certain court nominee.

    If Jane is being abused, that’s terrible and I hope she can get help. But that’s not the only possibility.

    1. FrenchCusser*

      As a religious person myself, my opinion is that religiously sanctioned abuse is still abuse.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I know a few women who openly acknowledge their husband as Head of the Household. The only things making the arrangement slightly less odious to me? First, the pair of them have agreed to the arrangement because, second, the husbands don’t treat their wives as voiceless servants. They ask for their wife’s input and opinions, and don’t (seem to) manipulate their wife into a decision that benefits the husband. One lady told me her husband ‘speaks for’ the family once the decision is made by the two of them. Another told me her husband did not want their children to go to private school, but abided by her wishes in the end.

      I’m sensitive to abusive households and domineering fathers/husbands, having been raised in and by one; so far, I’ve never seen or sensed anything abusive or even overbearing in these relationships. The arrangement wouldn’t work for me, but I guess it doesn’t have to. Even so, it feels so wrong to willingly hand over so much power, even in a loving and trusting marriage.

    3. Xantar*

      It’s one thing for Jane to bring her husband into salary negotiations. As LW said, that would be unusual but would most likely have been brushed off as a quirk.

      The red flag was when her husband came to a meeting that he wasn’t invited to and acted like a creep including taking pictures of LW without consent. I’m a man and even I found my shoulders rising up at the description.

      1. soon to be former fed really*

        Just nope to husband’s visible involvement in salary negotiations for a seasoned executive! Heck, it’s inappropriate for parents to be involved in their teenager’s jobs. Jane could have had her discussions, said she need time to think about it, and discussed it with her husband at home. I would have not considered her any further after the picture taking incident, sometimes we bend over too far to accept behavior that is clearly unacceptable. I’m not surprised at all by this update.

      2. Paulina*

        It wouldn’t be unusual for the prospective employee to consider their spouse’s input in salary negotiations, especially for a relocation. But expressing her requirements that way, rather than having her own understanding of their needs (potentially resulting from their family discussion) doesn’t give the impression of someone to hire for a leadership position. If she can’t run her own salary negotiations, how can she run the unit?

    4. Nita*

      But surely they’re still aware that the norm is, if you’re working outside the home, you’re the one dealing with your boss? It’s not odd to make big decisions together with your spouse. For people who subscribe to the “husband as head of the house” belief, it’s even normal to give the husband final say in the decision. But doesn’t all of this internal family decision-making happen in the background, without the husband officially sitting at the negotiating table as if Jane is not capable of speaking for herself at all? There’s something more going on here.

    5. Des*

      Alas, the husband did not show up with his resume and qualifications to be interviewed for this position at the company, but just assumed he’d get to make decisions.

  12. Solitary Daughter*

    You’ve handled this with a lot of compassion and generosity, LW. You’re a credit to your workplace.

  13. Damn it, Hardison!*

    I’m sorry it turned out like this, but I think it’s great that the LW informed others about her experience in a factual but non-judgmental way. That really camE back to help them. Poor Jane.

  14. Data Miner*

    I’d like to take a moment and commend the compassion and thoughtfulness of OP. This situation was handled very professionally and with a balanced consideration for both Jane and the company. I bet you’re a nice person to work for :-)

    1. Uranus Wars*

      I echo this comment. I think this is a hard and awkward situation and the OP is trying so hard to be thoughtful and compassionate but also serve his company and colleagues well.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. You’re a good person, OP, and a fine professional.

      Unfortunately the world of work allows us glimpses into people’s lives. And it’s clear the storyline is way off the mark.
      I always say that we are way more transparent to each other than we ever thought. Others can see right through us.
      We’d like to think we can hide our financial worries or whatever we have going on, but we are just not that good at it. And many of us are not successful in hiding.

  15. Watry*

    I feel so bad for everybody here. Jane, who may be a willing participant but is still being harmed, OP, who sounds very compassionate and likely feels awful, and the company/employees, who lose out on someone who could have been a great employee without Bob.

  16. Hiring Mgr*

    Is it unusual that in all the earlier interviews, the extensive background and reference checks that nothing like this has come up previously? It sounds like there’s literally no record of the husband interfering, so it seems strange that suddenly after decades this would pop up.

    Or maybe this is common, I don’t know. One question I do have is why not be upfront with Jane.. maybe she’d at least have an explanation ?

    1. fposte*

      I don’t know that an explanation matters, though, from the hiring standpoint; whyever he’s doing it, it’s a problem for the job.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I suppose you’re right.. I’m just thinking if I was talking with a candidate who I was about to make an offer too and they started talking about their spouse’s opinions on the job, salary, etc.. i would have to say something just because of how strange that would be.

        1. fposte*

          I think as a perceived one-off it’s slightly different; we were talking in the original thread, for instance, about the possibility that the OP could bring up Bob’s weirdness to Jane and make clear that this is a Bobless negotiation and workplace. I’m likelier to deal with overstepping parents (but have been lucky there), and I could definitely see saying something if parents suddenly popped up. But once it’s this clear that it’s a pattern and that it’s not a parent but a life partner, I wouldn’t expect much change.

    2. Yvette*

      Someone elsewhere in the replies suggested that maybe any references at old job were looking to get rid of the situation with Bob without firing her outright.

    3. Alanna*

      I think it’s definitely possible. As OP writes, if Jane had been making remarks about Bob’s views during the negotiation process without the picture-taking incident as prelude, they might have just been shrugged off as a weird quirk. Maybe Bob is most intrusive in the interview process and chills out once she’s in a job. Maybe her boss at her last job thought this was totally normal. Who knows!

  17. MsChanandlerBong*

    I feel awful for Jane. When I was in an (emotionally/psychologically) abusive relationship, one of the ways he would control me is by interfering with my work. For example, I did some freelance work, and a past client called to see if I could take on a new project. My ex told him I didn’t live there anymore, and that I had gone back to [home state] “to be a wh**e.” When I was working full-time, he would call constantly and generally just cause trouble. I feel terrible that such a capable person is losing opportunities because of Bob. I know how it feels, and it feels awful.

    1. Emmie*

      I am really proud of you for ending that relationship. Those kinds of relationships can be very damaging on your confidence, safety, and a host of other areas – as you know. I hope that if your someone who ever feels down on yourself, which is normal given the circumstances, that you remember how strong you are and how worth you are too.

  18. Now In the Job*

    What a sad update. Hopefully you will find a candidate who fills your position and doesn’t have all the *eek* going on.

    On an aside, what an excellent example of an inside view about why an applicant should never reference their spouse’s or a parent’s or any third party’s opinion during compensation negotiation. It’s absolutely one thing to say “I need to review with my family,” but something else to bring them into the negotiation as though they were sitting in the room.

  19. Three Flowers*

    I wish there was a way for someone (maybe OP, maybe not) to contact Jane “off the record” with an offer to meet privately for some advice–said advice being “it really isn’t normal to involve a spouse in your work or hiring, and while your expectations were beyond what we could offer, his intrusions were also worrisome. Would you like some resources on identifying boundaries a spouse should respect in your professional life?”

    These resources could also include TGOF or other stuff about how abuse manifests in workplace and career, but framing it as professional advice rather than “you’re being abused” seems like a better entry, especially if the issue is actually her own buy-in to a patriarchal religious group (for example–and I do agree with others that such groups are abusive). Then again, Jane isn’t a young and junior candidate for whom an offer of coaching might be more common.

    OP, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. It sounds like your company made a reasonable but difficult choice.

    1. Alanna*

      I understand that everyone wants to help Jane, but I really don’t think this would be appropriate. This goes way beyond the scope of a manager’s responsibility, let alone someone Jane met for an interview once.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Exactly. It’s completely inappropriate and boundary crossing – Jane has enough of that in her life already.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      This sounds like a huge overstep, even if the employer had hired her, and moreso since they didn’t. Neither OP, nor the commentariat here (AFAIK), nor AAM, nor presumably anyone at the company that didn’t hire Jane, is a relationship expert, nor in a position to give unsolicited advice on how Jane conducts her marriage. Not to mention that, as others gave mentioned… there are possibilities that exist here other than abuse.

    3. Emmie*

      I understand the desire to offer support, but it’s beyond OP’s expertise. This man also appears to monitor Jane’s movements and communications, which could create additional risk for Jane. The time to address that was in the moment. Yet, I understand why the OP and others stayed silent. The OP did the right thing by discussing it internally with others.

  20. Kamala'sGurl*

    That’s sort of depressing. OP, you made all the right moves, but it’s a shame that this was the outcome. Do you know if she was still employed in her previous role while interviewing with you?

  21. Jennifer*

    So sad. It is normal to discuss potential job offers and salary negotiations with your partner but that should not be brought up in actual discussions with potential employers. The fact that Jane seemed to think her actions were normal is just so scary and sad. Yes, you protected the safety of your employees for the most part, but yes, poor Jane. Maybe one day she’ll see the light but you can’t help people who don’t want it.

    1. sub*

      Yep. If I got a job offer, I would discuss it with my husband and we would decide together if it was right for us. But I would never bring him into the discussion with the employer. Craziness.

    2. Clorinda*

      The most you’d expect someone to say would be something like, I’m going to need a few days to talk this over with my spouse.
      Because it IS a family decision, ultimately. But the actual negotiation–that’s all in the hands of the candidate, not the spouse.

  22. 7.12*

    i am in my 20s and have only worked in junior roles so maybe this is totally inappropriate, but was there never an idea of saying anything about why she was truly rejected? not in like an intrusive “we are concerned for you” way. but maybe something like (i’m paraphrasing, obviously the language wouldn’t be this casual) “jane, we’re ultimately rejecting you because your expectations about salary are way too high, but to offer some other feedback, we were also really turned off by how you negotiated by telling us what your husband wanted.” like frame it as not a dealbreaker for the job, but frame it as feedback for future positions. idk. i’m just spitballing. i can’t believe that she’s had such a long and accomplished career (thinking back to the 1st update where op described the very very thorough background check/reference check) and she still thought it was appropriate to negotiate as “we.” did she do that in all her other jobs too and they just let it slide? idk. this situation sucks.

    1. But the bagpipes didn't say no*

      Absolutely agree – OP unless you seriously fear for your or her safety (in which case please call a DV crisis hotline for further advice?) please communicate to Jane about your concerns in a private and kind fashion

      1. pcake*

        One never knows whether someone is or is going to get violent. What’s the first thing the neighbors always say about serial killers or domestic abusers? They were so quiet and seemed so nice.

        So you could kindly tell Jane your reason for not hiring her, and it might turn out that her husband monitors all her phone calls – not that unexpected for a guy who doesn’t think it’s weird enough to take pics of a potential co-worker to at least be sneaky. And what might happen to her if he hears your concerns?

        1. But the bagpipes didn't say no*

          One never knows anything for sure but one has to move forward in the face of uncertainty every day. I drive but wear a seatbelt but could still get killed by a drunk driver or a deer, who knows. And people can be quite good at sensing danger, if perhaps not knowing exactly what to do about it. I don’t think “but I can’t be 100% certain it won’t cause a problem” is a good reason to never under any circumstances tell someone you are worried about what you are seeing of their relationship. Though it is important to state these concerns privately to the person directly, and not in front of the partner or where the partner might intercept them.

    2. Fiona*

      Totally agree. I think it does her a disservice not to be upfront about this. It has nothing to do with her personal relationship with her husband, it has to do with professional norms. How can they trust her judgment overall if she sadly can’t see what’s “off” about this?

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I thought like you when I was in my 20s, too. I’d give applicants a helpful, “Oh I’m sorry, due to labor laws, our location can only hire candidates who are 18 or older! You can try the Anytown location, the Smithville location, or the Warbleworthton location, they all have open positions for minors!” and the result was that I would get angry emails or cursed at over the phone by a parent about how I absolutely HAD to give her fifteen year old a job. One time someone threatened to report me to the government when I told them we didn’t participate in a specific sponsored visa program.

      People are *nuts.*

  23. Emily*

    I don’t understand being comfortable with writing to AAM in this situation – where the candidate, her husband, anyone who significantly involved in the hiring, and potentially her current employer/others would recognize this extremely specific case – but not actually talking to her about it. If you think there are potentially difficult issues which could come up by having that conversation, they’re not going to *not* come up if she sees this or someone sends it to her. Which isn’t incredibly unlikely.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      But the OP wrote to AAM for advice about what to do in a workplace situation. It was for their work, not for the candidates situation. The OP is now just giving an update on the workplace situation.
      Many of us in the commentariat feel bad for the candidate, and perhaps the candidate is fine with her relationship – – but that is not what the OP has written to AAM about.

      1. 7.12*

        i don’t understand this comment – by virtue of writing in about his work situation, he publicized a lot of very specific information about jane and her spouse. i bet op isn’t the first interviewer/stranger that bob has weirdly photographed upon meeting them. if i knew a guy who had done that just once, i would think of him immediately upon reading this letter. someone who knows jane and bob irl would easily be able to recognize them in these letters. and like i said in my own reply to emily, that puts jane in danger.

        also, even if this isn’t what op wrote to AAM about specifically, were we just supposed to ignore the weird DV-ish stuff? imo it’s good to point these things out when you see them. what if another person read this letter, thought everything was normal, and then saw all the comments saying this is abusive, and started reconsidering. we need to call this stuff out because abuse and control withers in the sunlight.

      2. Emily*

        OP said, *Naturally, this wasn’t necessarily the case, but it was the easiest out available.* As in, “we weren’t comfortable telling the candidate the truth.” And then OP…wrote to a highly-read website to tell *us* what actually happened. In a way that has a ton of identifying details such that there is at least a handful of people who would recognize this, including the candidate and her husband, but also potentially some people close to them. Which runs a not-inconsiderable risk that instead of finding this out privately, the candidate finds out extremely publicly, and whatever blowback OP’s workplace was trying to avoid, it winds up being much worse than if someone had a brief, discreet phone call with the applicant, because here is a whole written description of exactly what happened.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      Do we know all the details are accurate? Apart from obviously changing their names, I don’t think it’s uncommon for letter-writers to tweak other details to preserve anonymity.

      1. Emily*

        The initial letter included details which are extremely atypical and which, if they weren’t accurate, would totally change the meaning of the question.

        1. 7.12*

          yes, the photographing thing in particular is very specific. i’m failing to come up with an example that’s an equally weird behavior that would also walk the line between “possibly controlling and bad but is maybe a harmless quirk” in the same way.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Adding, Alison probably went over this with OP before the letter went public. It is not farfetched to imagine other strange and identifying behaviors. A fake example would get the same point across.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Sadly, I don’t think it’s nearly unusual enough to be identifying. It’s also very likely the LW changed or obscured certain details whilst keeping the core situation and question intact.

      People can recognise themselves in anonymous online things and be totally wrong; equally, they can read about themselves and not recognise the situation at all.

    4. Kara S*

      I was hoping that given the situation, OP had changed enough details to mask the original situation (for example, maybe they didn’t meet in a hotel, maybe the interviewer was a woman, minor things that don’t overly change the advice but do make identifying more difficult). If not, you’re right that this could potentially put Jane at an even greater risk given this blog’s popularity.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP sounds sharp enough and in tune enough to have taken steps to protect everyone’s identity in the story.

    5. Van Wilder*

      If she happens to see the blog, maybe it will make her think. Or maybe not. Either way, I don’t see what the company has to gain by talking to her about it. If she’s truly in an abusive relationship, she’s unlikely to be pulled out of it by a stranger. It would just open the door for debate. I guess I don’t see what this comment is driving at? If she sees this post, she sees this post.

      1. Emily*

        I don’t think *the company* had anything to gain from talking to her about it, I think *Jane* had something to gain from being told the truth about how she was coming across. “We lied to you because we didn’t think it was in our best interests to tell you, but then we told the internet in a way that’s clearly about you and that potentially a bunch of people you know will recognize you in” is not kind. And if the company had concerns about her knowing the truth about what happened for whatever reason — well, she now knows a lot more about what happened than she would have from a brief conversation about it.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t see why it’s so confusing.

      Approaching someone who may be an abuse victim and getting involved in their personal crisis is a whole lot different than discussing a peculiar situation you ran into during a job interview/hiring process.

      Rarely do people interject themselves into a strangers life. Whereas frequently we discuss in what we deem a safe space like AAM about the strange stranger we just dealt with in a professional or casual way.

      Do you make it your business to actively discuss things with strangers that have nothing to do with you? I highly doubt it.

      Let’s all just avoid writing on the internet and to advice blogs because you know, we might be “found out” and it’ll be forwarded to the person it’s about. You’re welcome to not read these blogs if you’re so concerned about all the humans who are being harmed by them. Come on now.

      1. Emily*

        Saying “we had concerns about your husband’s involvement in your job interviewing process” to someone you’ve interviewed is not “getting involved in her personal crisis.” This is someone there’s been a meaningful interaction with and where it’s perfectly socially appropriate to pass that along. Or you can choose not to, you can lie to someone because you just really don’t want to get involved. I understand that perspective. But the combination of deciding to avoid some awkwardness that could really help someone out, and then tell their story in a very recognizable way, is not a very kind thing to do. I don’t think this applies generally to most advice, and particularly not most *workplace* advice.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          But saying that to someone who either (a) has Bob listening on the other line or (b) will be relaying word-for-word what was said when the company rescinded the offer is 100% getting involved in her personal crisis.

    7. AKchic*

      Eh, I don’t know. There are more women in the workforce with abusive partners who actually involve themselves in the hiring process than one might imagine.

    8. Percysowner*

      Look AAM is a GREAT site. I read every article every day. That said, I had never heard of it until 2 years ago, when my daughter mentioned it. So, yes, it’s possible that the people involved might read the article and realize that they are the subject of the post, it is also possible that they aren’t reading AAM and will never find out about it. As for the chance that someone would send it to them, I think that Jane may not even mention that her husband photographed the LW and didn’t discuss her salary negotiations with anyone other than her husband.

      People write to AAM to get help dealing with problems. If they have to worry that the subject of those problems will find out about the letter, that would restrict who writes in and a lot of people wouldn’t get help. The LW thought the husband’s actions were odd, but not necessarily abusive. The second update was more reassuring that his actions were innocent. This update indicates that they found his actions to be unnerving enough that they didn’t hire Jane. I don’t think they have necessarily endangered Jane and I don’t have any issue with the follow ups. If the husband is abusive, he will find other reasons to continue to be abusive. If he is controlling without being abusive, he will continue to act that way. The LW had a legitimate question on the actions of the husband during the interview. That’s what this column is for.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, me too. I know it takes all sorts, but I simply can’t imagine that a woman who hadn’t been brainwashed or gaslit would be happy in that sort of relationship.

  24. Pam*

    Reminds me of the letter several years ago from the woman whose husband quit for her, and she was annoyed that her work wouldn’t accept it.

  25. iliketoknit*

    Don’t know if it’s just me, but I could write off the husband’s appearance in salary negotiations much more easily than photographing the interviewer. No, Bob doesn’t have a seat in the negotiating room, but if Jane is a true believer in the “the man is the head of the household” vein, and truly believes that the husband is responsible for dealing with money etc., and *wants* Bob to be happy with the outcome of the salary negotiations, then it’s weird and not a relationship I want to be in at all, but I wouldn’t leap to active abuse. (I don’t agree with that kind of relationship/view of marriage, and I don’t want someone who subscribes to it to tell me what I should be doing, but I’m not going to tell someone they can’t organize their own life that way.) It’s still a red flag for the company in terms of dealing with Bob via Jane, but not, to me, necessarily indicative of her unhappiness, especially since she’s clearly worked for years and been successful and made herself a desirable candidate.

    But Bob showing up for the interview, taking the photos of the interviewer, and demanding all the details about where she would be going makes everything look so so so much worse. To me, that tips the situation much more from “maybe that’s just how Jane and her husband work” to “maybe Jane is being controlled and brainwashed.” Scary. Poor Jane.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think that sometimes people don’t want to criticise a potential employer so they sort of deflect that criticism somehow. Maybe a friend who works nearby finds the commute challenging for 8am (instead of “I want to flex 7-4”) and maybe the spouse thinks the offer is a little low (instead of “lol try another $10k”). And in cases of relocation or antisocial hours you might genuinely need to talk it through with your family before accepting.

      But that’s why LW’s headsup was considered useful. It changed the perspective from “probably bashful” to “unusually controlled by spouse”.

    2. fposte*

      I think it could be not abusive and still more husbandly involvement than a workplace is willing to tolerate.

    3. Xantar*

      This is why I think all the other commenters saying, “It could be just a religious thing” are off base. A woman can believe the man is the head of household without bringing him along to business meetings and letting him act like a creep. It was the totality of the situation that lost her the job, not the salary negotiations alone.

    4. Van Wilder*

      Maybe if this were a low-level position, I could write it off as Jane lacking knowledge about the business world and being bad at negotiating. But as an executive, she might as well have said “my mom told me not to ask for less than 10%.” I actually think that it’s as big of a red flag as the photography.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        That’s were I’m at. I’m a firm believer that the work relationship starts with the first phone screen and people tell you about how they’ll interact as an employee/colleague during the interview process.

        This is for a C level leadership position. You want to negotiate salary, fine. But own that. The “my husband/mom/dogsitter thinks this should pay X” is weirdly passive and deflecting responsibility.

        You want to make sure your husband has your itinerary for safety reasons or even just to make him happy. Fine. But *you* handle that and keep him out of the work relationship.

        The weird level of spousal involvement raises questions about her judgement.
        * Is she going to run work decisions by her husband?
        * Will she keep confidential information confidential?
        * In general will she set boundaries appropriately with work relationships?

        It would be one thing if she acknowledged her husband’s behavior, indicated that she knew it was a problem, and showed in some way that she was going to handle it. But based on the information presented I would have serious concerns about her willingness or ability to set boundaries with her husband. In a position that absolutely calls for the ability to set boundaries.

  26. But the bagpipes didn't say no*

    Uhg. I wonder if there’s any utility in telling jane directly “it’s really not normal to have your husband involved in your career like this and became a serious hinderance in us going forward with you as a candidate when it was clearly a pattern”? It sounds like you didn’t address it with Jane directly and I don’t know that there’s any reason not to. Maybe it will help her realize what’s going on is not ok. (most likely not but, sometimes I do see abuse survivors say it was that person who told them what was going on was not normal and not ok is what spurred them to get out)

  27. Not A Manager*

    What about “Jane, we’re hiring only one person for this role, not several. You’ve had another person involved in your initial interview and now in your negotiations with us. If we offer you this role, we need you to be able to interface with us individually and not involve other people in your work experience. That includes hours, meeting times and interactions with colleagues as well as the substance of your job. Are you able to commit to that?”

    1. Not A Manager*

      I should add, this is in response to the threads above regarding whether Jane should have been given the full reason for them not hiring her. I don’t think that she would agree to this condition, but it’s a way of signaling to her how abnormal her situation is. And also, who knows, maybe she would have a reasonable response that would allow them to move forward.

    2. Steveo*

      This is so far down the rabbit hole that I’m not even sure she would register what you were talking about unless you directly said that it was her husband that was the issue.

    3. pancakes*

      The poor judgment she displayed in bringing him to her interview and involving him in the salary negotiation process wouldn’t evaporate if she did commit to that, though, and it would remain to be seen whether she was or wasn’t accurately representing her ability to get out from under his thumb (and interest in doing so!) by making a commitment to an interviewer. I would have less rather than more trust in someone who agreed to change their whole life around just because an interviewer asked them to.

    4. Paulina*

      That might be appropriate if they had already hired Jane and were considering whether to let her go. But if there’s another reasonable candidate, or a good likelihood of finding one, it seems irresponsible to hire a unit head based on them promising not to continue to do things that seem natural to them.

  28. CW*

    The real upsetting thing about all this is that Jane’s husband also interfered with her career at YOUR company. In short, he won and got what he wanted and you didn’t hire her. This played right into his game.

    To be clear, this wasn’t your fault. Jane deserved the position and under normal circumstances, you would have hired her already. Too bad her husband had to get in between and ruin everything.

    1. WellRed*

      We don’t know that the husband got what he wanted. I assume he wanted her to get the job. She didn’t. So in that sense, he lost.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      She’s had other jobs before and presumably he’s done the same antics there as well, so he probably didn’t expect it to turn out with a rejection! So I wouldn’t assume this is what he wanted.

      He could have easily just told her “You can’t go to that job interview.” and been done with it.

  29. Lizy*

    There’s been a lot of comments that this may not be domestic abuse and may simply be that Jane believes her husband is the ultimate decision-maker/head-of-household/whatever. Obviously, without knowing more, we simply don’t know.

    But, as a very conservative woman (in terms of religion and head-of-household stuff, not in terms of misogyny and … crap), I wanted to put in my 2 cents. I would NEVER DREAM of accepting a job and/or pay without talking to my husband. In fact, I’ve turned down a job I initially accepted because of his concerns. (It turned out to be the right decision, but that’s neither here nor there.) However – I would also NEVER dream of mentioning my husband in salary or job negotiations. Because although he’s the head of my household and the ultimate decision-maker in my house, he’s not the one at the job. He’s not the one they’re hiring, and he’s not the one that has the experience on not-his resume.

    It may or may not be “poor Jane” in that she may or may not want this type of relationship with her husband, but it’s definitely “poor Jane” in that she doesn’t adjust her language when talking with others and miss out on opportunities like this.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I should hope any spouses or life partners would discuss job changes and salaries with each other! How could you function as a team if you weren’t communicating about such things?

      But of course, as you point out, there’s a huge difference between what you discuss with your partner at home and what you discuss at work, or in job negotiations. That’s just good boundaries.

    2. Not A Manager*

      I know a number of people who structure their household decision-making in various ways. And most people will DISCUSS the conditions of their new job with a partner, even if the partner isn’t the ultimate decision-maker.

      I agree that how you reach your own personal decisions is up to you, including if you ask your spouse or you consult a soothsayer. And I agree that so long as you convey your decisions to your employer in your own voice, it’s not relevant to them how you reached those decisions. The fact that Jane chose to reveal the source of her negotiation concerns shows poor judgment, whether the source was her husband or her soothsayer.

      But the fact that it’s her husband behind it (and not, say, the daily horoscope) AND that she thinks tipping her hand is fine AND that he showed up to photograph her interviewer does warrant a “poor Jane” as far as I’m concerned. That sounds a lot more like abuse than it sounds like HOH.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        As the years rolled by, we went with who ever had the stronger back ground in an area would be the one making the decisions. I picked out the pets, plants and furniture. He picked out the technology stuff and the repair people. I had the final say in anything involving a color choice as he hated picking colors. He had final say when something outlived its usefulness because I tend to push things beyond their life expectancy. Over the years we evolved into simply saying, “That area is YOUR strength, you should decide for us.” This works when both people actually make workable decisions. Decisions do not have to be absolutely perfect, but they do have to be workable.

    3. Xantar*

      I should also hope that you would never dream of having your husband tag along to meetings and photograph everybody you talk to! That was the real red flag. The way she went about salary negotiations was simply what sealed her fate.

      1. Lizy*

        Oh no kidding. This was just in regards to Jane commenting about her husband. Throw in going with her to the site visit and TAKING PICTURES (barf) and no.

        If it was an out-of-town thing my husband might tag alone but there would be NO way he’d meet with the interviewer. Just… no.

    4. Ash*

      Also important: do you believe “husband is head of household” is right for *your family*, or do you believe it should be that way/it would be better if it would be that way for *all families?*

      1. Lizy*

        It doesn’t really matter because I’m not going to bring it to work regardless, but since you asked, I definitely think the world would be a better place if the husband was the head of household for all families. But that’s assuming it’s a heterosexual non-plural relationship, and that he’s not an abuser, and so many other “buts”.

        I’d love for everything to be the way I think it should, but that’s not reality, and I’m not blind or close-minded enough to the world to think I should force everyone to bend to what I think they should be. It doesn’t work and it’s not reality and it’s really just mean, so… *shrugs*

          1. Curious*

            Not Lizy, but I have similar beliefs to her. Do you mind explaining the sexism in this belief? I’m having trouble figuring out what you mean. Thanks!

            1. Ash*

              Believing that in a healthy non-abusive heterosexual relationship, a man should be “head of the household” (even with all the qualifications Lizy gave) is sexist because it implies that a man’s opinion and decision at the end of the day is the one that matters. It is unequal, plain and simple. Women who believe in this may rationalize by saying, “Well it doesn’t mean my opinion doesn’t matter, I of course give input and am valued etc. etc.” But what is is about a man that makes him the one who gets the final, ultimate say? What gives men the qualities or qualifications to do this? If anything, most of the world’s problems throughout history were due to poor decision-making on the part of men with power, not women. There is no evidence that men are better decision-makers than women or are better able to guide a family than a woman is. So believing that the world would be a better place if men were heads of household demonstrates that you believe that women are unequal to men because they are somehow less qualified than men. And that is pure sexism, even if it is internalized.

            2. Idril Celebrindal*

              As someone who grew up in a context like this, the default assumptions underpinning this belief system goes something like this:
              1. Someone has to be in charge because if everyone is equal then no one is responsible for decisions and it will all be anarchy.
              2. Men are stronger/more assertive/built for leadership so they are natural for this role.
              3. *Obviously * it would never do to make the woman the one in charge, because then the man would feel like their voice is less important.
              4. Women are naturally better at being in a supporting role and *obviously * the man would make sure their voice is heard even though he gets to decide when her voice does and does not matter.
              5. It would be absurd for the woman to think that this arrangement means her voice doesn’t matter as much, because it’s just the way things should be.
              6. Therefore, the man should be in charge because he can’t be expected to submit and really that’s the way that women are happiest.

              No, not everyone actively thinks this way, and yes, some marriages work perfectly well with this framework, my parents being really good examples of it done well. However, if you dig into the philosophy and assumptions behind this view of the world, I would challenge you to try to find any argument for it that doesn’t rely heavily on some or all of these points.

            3. Perpal*

              Because believing someone should/shouldn’t do things based on their gender alone is sort of the definition of sexism.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        The problem is they believe the husband should actively participate in the wife’s job. And that is not how jobs work.

  30. Pennalynn Lott*

    I am so grateful that the OP, OP’s company, and the commentariat here think that Jane’s husband’s behaviors are unusual and a cause for alarm/caution.

    I was raised in the late 60s/early 70’s with an abusive step-father. My mom’s pastors, friends, and casual people at, say, PTA meetings all asked her what she was doing that was causing Step Dad to beat her and her children. No one thought it was unusual. Even when the beatings were so bad that the police were called to our apartment (because of the noise, not because Step Dad shouldn’t be punching my mom), the police said there was nothing they could do because Mom and Step Dad were married. As in, married women were their husband’s property to do with as he pleased.

    I am beyond grateful that this is no longer the societal norm.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Unless someone literally held a gun to his head or similar, no one made your step-dad behave like an abhorrent person except your step-dad. What an awful thing, that people felt like it was normal and acceptable to let people be abused because it was easier than taking some social responsibility to prevent that.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is one of the things that I can point to and say our society has improved. We still have a long way to go. But I remember that time period very well. I remember my friends saying hairbrushes hurt less than belts. Wide belts hurt less than narrow belts. And so on.

        As a kid I was very much aware that there was no where to go with that information. No one to tell who would do anything.

        The parents hid the bruises very well. But there were not enough clothes to cover thumb-sucking and other odd behaviors these kids had.

        I was “lucky” my parents did not hit. But my nails were bitten down to the quick, a now recognized habit for girls who have mommy problems. No matter how many times people told me to stop biting my nails, I never did. Once I moved out of the house, I forgot to bite my nails. The habit just ended.

        PL, so very sorry.

  31. RagingADHD*

    I really wish you had not given “asking for too much” as the reason.

    If you weren’t going to be forthright about her husband’s interference being a problem, almost any other excuse would be better than this.

    Telling an abuse victim they are not worth it, and their expectations are too high is…really not good at all.

    Especially since you stated it was not true.

    1. Delphine*

      OP doesn’t say it wasn’t true, just that it wasn’t the core reason she was no longer being considered. People are told every day that their salary expectations are too high. It’s not an unreasonable explanation if they weren’t comfortable telling her that her interfering husband was the cause.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Obviously we are reading the phrase, “Naturally, this wasn’t necessarily the case,” differently.

    2. Kara S*

      I don’t think saying “your salary expectations are out of line with this role” and “you are not worth the money you’re asking” are the same thing. The first one is based on standards across an industry and the second is saying “we would pay someone this, but specifically not you”.

      But also given that it doesn’t seem OP passed along this information (it sounds like it was a different person who communicated this with Jane?) it’s hard to say how the wording came across.

  32. Kara S*

    This is so sad. I was hoping that the instance was a one off. It may help her if you were able to reach out when she responds to the rejection and mention something about her husband’s involvement placing her lower in consideration. A few commenters above offered suggestions that would work really well. I am not experienced in DV situations so maybe doing this over writing where he can access it isn’t a great idea but it seems worth your time to at least say something.

    1. Kara S*

      Also for those who are saying this may not be DV — you are totally right. This could be a relationship where Jane is happy to be overly differential to her husband. But either way I think it is worth giving her a single line that says the way she communicated her expectations is giving the company hesitation. If this is an abusive situation, it may help her see the light, and if it is not it at least gives her advice on how to communicate in the future. Though it is extremely odd someone who is highly senior in the industry would need such advice.

      1. Observer*

        It IS odd that someone this senior would not get it. So odd, in fact, that there is no reason to think that a single line that flags it is going to really change anything.

        The bottom line is that the OP’s company just doesn’t have the knowledge or standing to do much much but make the best decision for the company and its staff.

  33. TimeTravlR*

    I feel bad for Jane and ever thankful for a partner who responds with “what do you want?” when I ask him advice on changing jobs, etc.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I wouldn’t really phrase it like this…

      It makes it sound like you don’t get to choose your partner. You didn’t luck out with a partner who respects your choices.

      1. Firecat*

        Really??? It’s ok to be thankful for and about a great spouse.

        Sometimes we really contort to see sexism/lack of self worth/A Problem TM
        on this site. It gets old.

      2. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

        Being thankful for something or someone doesn’t imply that you lucked into it. I’m thankful for plenty of things I chose.

      3. Paulina*

        Unless we’re prepared to blame those with less respectful partners for making bad choices, which I am not, we should accept that some aspects are not fully under our control.

  34. HeyPony*

    Maybe on another day this wouldn’t make me so angry but today it really is. I live in an area with a sizable population of a religion that encourages early marriage and early (and mostly exclusively) motherhood for women. I’ve seen so many smart, energetic, promising girls hit 15-16 years old and then the programming kicks in and 10 years later you see a tired, frazzled and either depressed or angry mother of 5 children under 6 who feels guilty and like a failure as a woman because she’s supposedly living God’s Best Life For Her and yet she’s miserable and disappointing her family. While the men rise in interesting professions because of a cultural emphasis on education and networking. And now this woman has managed to become an asset to her industry, with marketable (sought after!) skills, and even she’s stuck in some weird reality where because of her gender she can’t even go to a GD job interview and practice her trade without her GD husband in front of her telling her what to do.

    Sorry, on another day maybe this wouldn’t hit me so hard but obviously today is not that day.

    1. pancakes*

      It isn’t her gender that’s interfering with her job interviews and career prospects, it’s her husband.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        Her husband wouldn’t behave that way toward her if she wasn’t a woman. Her husband is the problem, we all agree, but her gender is highly relevant.

    2. far away in the west*

      Heh, I think I am a member of that same religion. I hear a lot of horror stories like that from other women in the religion, especially from feminist religious online groups that I belong to. Fortunately for me, my parents never pushed early marriage or motherhood — in fact, having seen too many women left adrift by divorce (which… for a religion that doesn’t believe in it, they sure did know a lot of people who were divorced), they encouraged me to have my own career and never be solely dependent on a man. (My parents’ version of “the man is the head of house” is, “Mom gets to make all the unimportant decisions, while Dad gets to make all the important decisions… Dad’s still waiting for an important decision to show up, though.”)

      My parents were pretty atypical at the time, but at least where I live (where the population of this religion is not small but not large either) people seem to be more relaxed and accepting of different ways to organize families and careers than in some other areas.

  35. Absurda*

    The thing that gets me is it sounds like she’s being considered for a fairly senior/leadership role and the constant deference/reference to what her husband wants or thinks would really make me question her ability to effectively lead and advocate her team.

    The thing is, she didn’t have to indicate that the idea or request was coming from Bob at all. She could have just said “I want” even if it was coming from Bob behind the scenes. That she didn’t means to me she either:

    a) she’s deferring to his expertise. If she’s senior level she should have expertise in her own right and this undermines her credibility and authority.
    b) she doesn’t agree with the request so she doesn’t want to own it. Which is not leadership material.

    How can tell her team what to do or advocate for the tools/pay they should have if she can’t even advocate for herself but has to defer to what others think?

    I feel for Jane, if this is a job she wanted, but, really, you shouldn’t have to tell someone with a long established career looking for a senior position that their SO shouldn’t be that involved any more than you’d expect to have to say it about their parents or kids.

    I think the OPs company made the right decision here even if it does suck for them and the OP.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I certainly wouldn’t want to hire a manager or senior exec who I feel will be asking their husband for input over every decision they make. Creates huge bottlenecks in processes quite aside from anything else.

      1. TootsNYC*

        people can ask anyone they want for input on their decisions.
        The biggest problem is that she brought him into the conversation, which is what I’d fear she would do for work decisions, and that’s going to be too intrusive for everyone else.
        And, why wouldn’t I hire Bob, if I was going to trust his judgment?

        It’s sort of like the First Lady–of course the president will pay attention to what she says in private. But people don’t like it when she becomes a visible part of the governing process. They didn’t vote for her.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I think this nails the appropriate reason for not hiring Jane, while leaving aside all speculation about the state of her marriage, which is really not the company’s business (and which really would tread a bit to close to gender discrimination, if her marriage was cited as the reason for not hiring her).

      The fact is that having a third party – whether spouse, friend, parent, professor, or child – so involved in your interviewing and salary negotiations that their presence is overt and it is clear that they are the decision-maker… well, that’s not appropriate or normal in our business context.

      The only exception to that is when the family has to relocate – in that case, it’s appropriate to ensure that the spouse and family of the candidate are in agreement, because they are directly affected by the relocation, and if they are unhappy, the new hire may quit.

      1. Absurda*

        I agree about the relocation and relocation package (if there is one) related negotiations. There it would be appropriate to to say “we” in some contexts like “we’ll need 3 bedroom accommodation in the new city” or mentioning the husband such as, “Bob owns a horse that will need to be transported”. Stuff like that. But not “Bob says we need 3 bedrooms” or “my husband wants you to pay to relocate his horse.”

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        This is exactly it. My husband and I are on an equal footing in our marriage. When making big decisions that can affect both of us, we discuss them together and figure out the best course of action. But if I were going into a job interview and talking about salary, even if he and I had agreed together on, say, nothing less than $75K/year, I wouldn’t say, “my husband and I think the lowest I can go is $75K.” I’d say, “the lowest I’d be able to accept for this position is $75K.” And even if her husband is the one insisting and calling the shots (which I find repugnant), she should know enough about professional norms by this point in her career to express it as coming from HER, not from him.

  36. Veracity*

    Are you sure that wasn’t Jane’s way of signalling for help? By all accounts, it sounds like her opportunities to be in a room without her husband are limited.

    1. Anonymous*

      From complete strangers? And do you think her husband was in the room with her all the time at her previous job?

  37. An*

    If the OP had raised the issue with Jane (how odd and unprofessional her husband had acted at the interview) and asked her how he might interfere with her job, everyone would have been better off. You would have flagged the behavior as problematic in a work context (maybe Jane doesn’t know) and put Jane on the spot to assure you that it would be fixed going forward (which needed to happen, if she wanted the job).

    I don’t see where anyone was served by this weird evasion to Jane and to the job. You know what you saw and how it made you feel. It was outside of normal conduct enough to impact Jane’s prospects. In not addressing it head on with the person who had the most to gain and lose, she now has gained nothing from losing out on a job and knows nothing about why it happened. Who is served by these elaborate machinations?

    1. Kevin Sours*

      Given the level of the position under consideration her inability to figure that out on her own raises questions about her qualifications.

  38. Laura H.*

    Poor Jane indeed. But I’m sad for you too OP. Giving somebody a chance after something like that isn’t a light matter. You seem to have a charitable disposition, and I really hope that this doesn’t change that too much.

    It also takes a lot to commit your apprehension about the initial incident to email and send it into an advice column. So I have high respect for you on both of those things.

    So consider me “in your corner” as much as an Internet stranger can be and also hoping you find the person for that position.

  39. Nikkole*

    Why does everyone assume Jane is being abused? some couples have this kind of dynamic and she may accept/like Bob being heavy handed in her career.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I’ve seen similar situations, where a male candidate will put an excessive amount of emphasis on his wife’s involvement in the offer process, but combined with the weird stalkerish behaviour of the husband in the initial phases of this situation (ie. the photographing the interviewer, etc. etc.), it’s pretty clear there is something “off” about the entire situation.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Emphasizing the spouse’s input at the offer stage can also be a way of asking for time to consider, without seeming unenthusiastic. It’s a different dynamic.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Because she is a senior candidate, not a new graduate, so she should be familiar with the fact that none of this is normal behavior in interviews or in negotiations. If she was operating within accepted business norms, and able to assert normal relational boundaries, Bob could be as involved/heavy-handed as they both like *at home*, and nobody would be the wiser.

      The fact that she’s allowing it to leak out into the interview process means her thinking or perceptions are off-kilter about this. Either she’s normalizing an abnormal situation (a hallmark of abuse), or she is not empowered in the relationship to keep Bob’s behavior and comments from intruding on the process. She can’t tell him to butt out, in other words.

      The alternative explanation would be that she’s really stupid and doesn’t realize this is sabotaging her chances. Which doesn’t make sense, given LW’s descriptions of her as an excellent candidate in other respects.

      1. Pennyworth*

        Being in an abusive relationship can really warp your understanding of what is normal or acceptable. I hope Jane finds a job with an employer who will not allow Bob to be involved.

        1. It's me*

          I don’t think it’s on the employer to ensure that Bob isn’t involved, it’s ultimately on Jane

    3. WellRed*

      I think because the dynamic went beyond “man of the house” to husband following wife to interview and taking photos. I dislike all of it, but that took it too too far for me.

  40. irene adler*

    Simply my ignorance here, but I’d be pressing her for her thoughts.

    If I’d heard the “my husband has told me that X% is the minimum that would be acceptable. We should have x and y” statement from Jane, I’d probably ask, “But what do YOU think should be the right level of compensation? We’re not hiring the both of you.”
    And that would land me in a world of trouble I’m sure.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The same thought crossed my mind also.

      My second thought was, “Why do I have to explain this? Why isn’t this obvious? What else is going on here?”

  41. gf*

    Sad update. I actually really wish you could have told Jane that you wanted to negotiate with her and hire HER, not her husband and that is why you did not hire her. I kind of feel like the way you ended things with her opens her up for more abuse… not your problem of course but a missed opportunity!

  42. Nita*

    How awful. I feel sick reading this. Poor Jane. I guess her situation at home is worse than it sounded initially – I hope she is OK.

  43. Water Dragon*

    I am so happy they didn’t hire Jane for this position. This outcome should come as a surprise to no one! Except the lot of you who were saying to give her a chance. You gotta make the right business decision, people. After that photo incident, you MUST assume that the weird behavior is only going to get weirder, and more intrusive. If she’s having some sort of problem with her husband — sad as it is! — you just don’t invite that stuff into your place of business. On purpose.

    Weirder and more intrusive is EXACTLY what happened. I’m glad this business was wise enough to see these problems before they started and made the right choice. They were a little wishy washy on the reason why they didn’t extend an offer — but that’s also a good way to head off problems with this timebomb situation.

    You can be compassionate but still not make others’ problems your own. Don’t set yourself on fire to keep yourself warm. Hiring this lady would’ve been an inferno.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, I agree. Even if it’s a situation where she’s consented to her husband being the head of the household (a concept so foreign to my nature that it makes me feel shivery all over with disgust just writing it down), it’s still unreasonable to expect any employer to cater to it. Even if he makes all decisions at home, she needs to be able to show that she can make decisions at work without his input, otherwise she’s unemployable.

  44. DiplomaJill*

    I’m trying to imagine the description for the made for TV movie based on this scenario.

    “In this late-in-life coming of age tale, mid-career, mid-level manager Jane discovers she’s the pity of the internet after her failed job application is discussed on a popular workplace advice blog. Jane sets out to prove them wrong and….”

    So is the final line:

    …and tragedy ensues.”

    Or can we turn this into a comedy?

    “…and hilarity ensues.”

  45. Shawn*

    I’m not sure this constitutes domestic violence or oppression if she is aligned with it in her own beliefs. For me it is extremely sad, but if this woman is happy with it osnt that her choice.

    Agree it was a red flag for the organization and glad they caught it sooner rather than later.

    I gueas what’s right for person A’s personal life insn’t necessarily right for person B full stop. Also wondering how this fits with bringing your whole self to work.

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