using a famous athlete as a reference, boss showed up at friends’ barbecue, and more

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

1. My former student is now a famous athlete — should I use him as a reference?

I am a high school teacher. Several years ago when I was a newish teacher, I had a mentor type relationship with a student. He was a phenomenal young man and is now a professional athlete. The type of professional athlete that if I said his name most people would know him. We have remained in contact and I travel to support him, he spends time with my family, I spend time with his mother and siblings, etc. I have been advised by several people (including him) to use him as a reference when I apply for other teaching/education-related opportunities. I think the idea is that people will see his name/team and it will grab their attention. However, I feel a little hesitant about this. This young man is phenomenal. He has worked so hard to achieve his goals and I don’t want to seem like I’m riding his coattails or trying to co-opt his success. What do you think?

Would you ever use a student for a reference in other circumstances? If not, I wouldn’t use this one — it’ll be pretty transparent that you’re listing him solely for his fame. Our culture is so sports-obsessed that it might work with some people, but I’d still advise you not to — it’ll turn off others, and it risks commodifying your relationship with the student in a way that changes it. (To be clear, using someone as a reference doesn’t normally commodify the relationship; it’s specific to this particular set of facts.)

2. My boss showed up at my friend-group barbecue

I was recently in a somewhat uncomfortable situation that I think will reoccur and I’m not sure how to handle it. My partner and I socialize with a group of friends most weekends (same neighborhood, think BBQs and backyard fires with a few beers). Typically it’s the same few friends, but occasionally friends of friends are invited and welcomed. Imagine my surprise when a friend of one of the core group brought along a couple they just knew would fit right in — and it was my manager and their partner, also a manager at my organization. It made for a very uncomfortable night, and my partner and I left early.

I don’t care for my manager (both as a manager and as a person) and I don’t want to socialize with them. I especially don’t want to have a drink or two with them during my downtime where we all spend a few minutes telling complaining funny stories; mine almost always involve them! I have no right to tell anyone who they can invite or be friends with, but I can’t help feeling my manager should be obligated to bow out of these social invites in the future. I don’t want to be uncomfortable, lose time with my friends, OR socialize with my manager. I know I can’t have it all, but in a perfect world, shouldn’t the manager be the one to bite the bullet?

Since this is your core group of friends and your manager has much more tenuous connections to the group, yes — your boss should be the one to bow out if invited in the future. That doesn’t mean they will, of course — what should happen is not necessarily what will happen.

But there should be a pretty easy solution to this since these are your good friends: The person whose friend brought your manager should tell that friend, “You couldn’t have known in advance, but Alex is Jane’s boss so we’d rather not invite them in the future — it’s nothing personal, we just don’t want Jane to have to be in work mode on her downtime.”

Read updates to this letter here and here.

3. My company didn’t tell us who they laid off

What’s the logic in not sharing the names of the people who got laid off? I work for a small organization, 45 people, and I know at least the names of all my colleagues. We just got an all-staff email from the boss saying, “Sadly we’ve had to lay off a few people.” Are the names considered need-to-know only? I assumed my manager might promptly contact me to say “Bob was in that round of layoffs so here’s how that affects your work.” But am I just supposed to wait for the gossip mill to hear about everyone else? I can imagine being in a meeting next month and saying, “I’m not sure about that, let me ask Sarah” and hearing back “she was laid off weeks ago.”

Yeah, that is ridiculous and there is no logic to it. If you asked your company, they might say that they’re trying to respect people’s privacy (which makes no sense; whether or not Sarah is still available to handle X is necessary info for the rest of you) or that they think it tamps down on drama to be vague (also makes no sense; if anything, it causes more drama) or even possibly, with a small organization like this one, that they didn’t think of it in the stress of managing the layoffs themselves (also bad; it’s part of what they need to think about).

You could respond to your boss and say, “Can you let us know who was laid off and how to handle things we would have gone to them for previously, so that we’re not planning around people who are no longer here?”

4. My reference just got fired

I work in HR and I am in the final interview stages for an exciting new job! As part of the interview process, the HR director disclosed to me that they will be contacting my references within the next week. I sent some quick texts to my references just to give them a heads-up.

One of my references is a current coworker of mine, Mary. We both work in HR, but in different locations. Two days after I sent this text, my current boss let us know that she fired Mary for unprofessional conduct that morning. I don’t know the specifics, but apparently Mary had disclosed some sensitive information to people not in HR, including review remarks and pay information. I fully understand and support my boss’ decision to terminate her. However, now I’m stuck in a situation where I have this potential employer getting ready to call Mary for a reference any day now. I haven’t reached out to Mary since she was let go. I’m not even sure what to say to her. As for the potential employer, do I reach out to them to give them a heads up about Mary? I’m just worried about how it will make me look if they contact her and find out she is no longer with the company. Or do I just leave it alone? (I gave them Mary’s work contact info, not her personal info. And to make it worse, her emails are now being forwarded to my boss.)

Email the employer you’re interviewing with ASAP (like right now!) and say, “One of my references, Mary Stewpot, has just left our company. Please do not email her at the address I provided, since her email is now being forwarded to my current manager, who doesn’t know I’m interviewing. In place of Mary, please feel free to contact ___.” (Fill that in with a different reference to substitute for Mary.)

Or, instead of providing an alternate reference, in theory you could contact Mary and ask if it’s okay to provide her personal contact info instead. But I’d only do that if you’re fairly close; otherwise it feels a little off to reach out to a coworker who’s dealing with having just gotten fired and ask them to do something for you.

5. Low-performing new hire might be working a second job during her first job

I am a newer manager with a newer employee who has another job that I think she works at while on breaks, and I believe it’s causing distractions (and long lunch hours). She’s never actually told me about it but her cell phone voicemail is set for it. Do I bring up the other job when I am discussing her mediocre performance with her? My boss said not to but, like me, he’s weak on the discipline and not good about confrontation. Great guy, but does not address poor performance well with his direct reports either. I was pushed into my manager position and am uncomfortable with it, but the pay is good so I want to do a good job.

You can address the performance problems without getting into the second job at all. Lay out what you need her to do differently (shorter lunch hours, higher performance metrics, whatever the specifics are). After all, if there was no second job but everything else was the same, there would still be performance issues you’d need to tackle, right? So you can approach it that way.

That said, there’s no reason you can’t also say, “I need to be clear that you cannot do work for another job while you are on the clock with us, and that’s something we’d have zero tolerance for. Do you foresee any conflicts with that?” (If your boss has outright told you not to say that, you shouldn’t, but normally it would be fine to say.)

{ 303 comments… read them below }

  1. Heidi*

    I guess the one obvious exception for Letter 1 would be if the OP had coached the student in the sport in which he is now famous, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. If they were Steph Curry’s algebra teacher, it would be interesting, but not really professionally relevant. It might make a fun talking point if they’re interviewing with a sports fan.

    1. Roci*

      This is what I came to add. If you were the athlete’s math teacher or something irrelevant to sports, it would be clear that you’re only throwing out their name for clout/name recognition. Better to use a student excelling in the field you taught them! Otherwise the reference doesn’t say anything about your skills as a teacher.

      1. Bird*

        Would anyone look at it and not just… assume it’s someone with the same name? I can’t imaging seeing that name and my first assumption being “actual famous person” and not “normal person exhausted by people making jokes about their name”.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        That’s what I was thinking – being a former mentee would make this student a legitimate choice as a reference. The teacher evidently spent significant time working one-on-one with this student and has a strong relationship. It’s not like the teacher is just saying “I had Famous Person X as a student when he was a kid.”

        1. stk*

          That IS different, but I think part of AAM’s point is that that’s hard to describe in a reference situation. The bit that makes it clear that it isn’t just “this famous person was in my class!” is the details about the relationship, and you’re not going to have that when just listing a reference. So I think the risk of looking like you’re just making a huge song and dance about something that isn’t actually supporting your candidacy is high.

          (If there’s scope to put details like, “held weekly 1:1 coaching sessions for three years” or something, that’s potentially different, I’d guess. But I personally haven’t seen requests for references where that would be possible.)

          1. Forrest*

            And it would still only be relevant if coaching or mentoring was a significant skill in the work that the LW was applying for. Even if I was hiring you to do sport-related youth-work with young people, I’d put more weight on “manager who can evaluate my work over a significant period of time with a range of young people of varying degrees of talent” than “very talented young person who I had personal connection with.”

            1. Colette*

              And in sports-related work with youth it might actually hurt, because having a close relationship with your star player doesn’t make you a good coach to the rest of the team.

              1. Mugs*

                OP #1, you also want to be careful that if you drop the person’s name, the school will probably expect you to have that athlete show up to the school for events and fundraisers and such. Then it could be a situation of you not knowing if they hired you for you, or because you know someone famous.

                1. Nanani*

                  I wonder, if a person that famous is from the town where OP1 taught, wouldn’t fans of the sport be likely to wonder?
                  It could come organically in an interview with a fan of the sport who would recognize the name.

                2. Certaintroublemaker*

                  THIS was my first worry! 1) When you list a reference you have to give out that person’s phone number or email address. However many places you apply will then have Famous Person’s contact information—not great if any of them decide to abuse the privilege. 2) If you do get hired, the pressure is then on for personal introductions, donations, fundraiser appearances, etc.

              2. Hiring Mgr*

                I know this is unrelated to the overall point but “having a close relationship with your star player doesn’t make you a good coach to the rest of the team.” isn’t true at all

                1. Colette*


                  It’s be possible to spend a lot of time developing the skills 0f your star player and neglect those who are weaker, for example. You might also be a good coach to the rest of the time, but you can’t demonstrate that by pointing to your relationship with the star.

                2. Hiring Mgr*

                  I thought you were saying having a relationship with a star in an of itself hurts your ability to coach the others, rather than just having it be a possibility.

                  Of course it’s possible, in the same way a teacher having a star pupil could theoretically come at the expense of other students

                3. TardyTardis*

                  It can be a problem if a coach concentrates on the superstar and not on the rest of the team. When I was in gymnastics, we had someone on our school team who was 9th in the country. Our coach clearly spent much more time with her than she did anyone else. I was a walk-on and didn’t really expect much (and got it), but other team members weren’t especially happy at times themselves.

                  It’s the Harry Potter problem. Harry Potter gets special coaching (with a side of murder attempts) from the DADA teacher that year. How much time does that teacher spend with any other student?

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Yes, mentoring is different from, say, having a student in your class and gave them extra help with trigonometry. But using this sports figure as a reference for mentoring in a corporate setting would make the OP look and sound like she’s inflating something mildly interesting into something more than it really was, and force-fitting it into a professional context.

        2. kittymommy*

          I swear, I just read this as “being a former manatee” and started wondering how you know they’re from Florida???

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’m a programmer, but my Drafting teacher and one of my English and Spanish teachers had much more influence on how I turned out than some of the programming teachers did. You can even put the Economics teacher who was the difference between me finishing my degree and dropping out in that category.

        Instead of educational discipline, to me this comes more down to LW #1’s relationship with the athlete. Would the athlete respond “LW #1 was a huge positive influence on my life and taught me how to think and learn” or “Yea, I showed up and got my attendance C. What is LW #1 up to these days?”

        1. Elenna*

          From the letter LW says that they visit each other’s families, so it definitely sounds like their relationship is closer to the first one than the second one. My question would be whether the athlete would say “LW #1 was a great mentor, they taught me so much about [relevant thing]” versus “Yeah, LW #1 is a good friend”.

          If it’s the first one, and if the jobs LW is applying for explicitly involve mentoring, and if LW can mention somewhere in their references that it was a mentor-mentee thing and not just “I had Famous Athlete in my class”, then I think it’s worth it. YMMV.

        2. Artemesia*

          I think it will still come off as name dropping and weird and would be a negative if I were hiring — Do you think if she mentored Joe Schmuck whom no one had ever heard of and he had become a really successful car salesman as a result that she would be asking about including Joe as a reference? If the position were relevant to teaching and she were asked to include student references, he could certainly be one of the 3 she provided. But it is just too tortured to include him in any other hiring process I can think of.

          1. Artemesia*

            FWIW. I have had students who went on to be well known professional athletes as well as the children of well knowns national politicians. It would never cross my mind to draw on them for references.

          2. Willis*

            This. If the OP would otherwise include a successful, non-famous student they’d mentored, sure, use this athlete in that slot. But my guess is that that’s not the case, and this is more about the fame than about this person being a better reference than a supervisor or someone else who can speak more comprehensively about how OP is as an employee. If an application asked for professional and personal references, maybe it would be appropriate in one of the personal reference slots.

      3. Mockingjay*

        Mentoring may not necessarily be academic. It might be things like comportment, encouragement to apply for scholarships, tips on how to study better or track their homework (since high school athletics take students out of class and they miss stuff). While all of these things are wonderful, they don’t speak to the teacher’s overall credentials. This is one student out of hundreds over OP1’s career. I don’t see how a single former student can provide a formal recommendation regarding their teacher’s performance and skills.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        This, and present it that way. Based on the letter, the LW had a more than casual relationship with Famous Athlete. Mentoring students will presumably continue to be part of any new job, so offering a spectacularly successful mentoring relationship as a reference seems reasonable. Also, the decision makers will have in the back of their heads that if they hire this guy he will be able to get Famous Athlete to come to speak at the school. I think it is a net plus, assuming Famous Athlete will describe what a great influence LW was in his life.

      5. EPLawyer*

        But as a mentor, LW should consider the power dynamics. I know the fine young man said she could use him as a reference and they remain close, but LW, there are a LOT of people around him who just want to use him for his fame. You know this. That’s why you are uneasy about listing him as a reference. You don’t want to be another one of those people. You want to stay a mentor to him, not join the entourage.

        Also, if you list him and it gets you noticed, then through your own skills you get the job, guess what happens next? Anyone swayed enough by the name is going to be asking you questions about what he is up to now, can you score tickets for them, hey how about autographs, etc.? Protect your relationship with this man and don’t let OTHERS use him through you. Again, part of your uneasiness is you know this could happen.

        1. Carlie*

          Exactly. It’s a very kind and generous offer, but don’t do it. If the hiring committee isn’t impressed they will think you are pandering and trying to use him, and if they are impressed they will try to use you for access to him. It isn’t worth it. Be a good mentor model and a good friend and keep him a private part of your life.

        2. boo bot*

          “Protect your relationship with this man and don’t let OTHERS use him through you.”

          This. I think the fame aspect can make it feel like the former student is now the one in a position of power… but in relation to the letter writer, he’s not – he still sees the LW as a mentor.

          1. pope suburban*

            I think his family is probably also grateful- justifiably- and they are extending this offer the way friends do. It probably doesn’t feel very different to them than offering to help your friend move house, or volunteering as a beta reader for their novel. But it is different, in the broader professional context, and it’s okay to opt out of using him as a reference. Everyone here means well, there’s nothing inherently shady going on, but the right thing to do is to decline the offer.

        3. RecoveringSWO*

          That’s a great point. I think logistics are another one. You’re presumably not going to list the athlete’s personal number, so how many layers will the Employer have to go through to talk to the reference? Will scheduling be so hard that it will delay your process?

          1. Kelly L.*

            The numbers thing is what I thought of. I doubt he wants his personal number out there, and any publicly available number is going to get his agent or his team’s admin staff or something.

          2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            That’s the first thing I thought of as well, in regards to “using a famous person as a reference”. I expect there are HR etc policies about keeping info confidential and so on. But there are a lot of ‘loose lips’ and it only takes a persistent person who’s a fan of this guy / of his team and finds out…

      6. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah, but SO many factors go into making someone become a famous anything — unless the applicant had several examples of mentees going on to great success in their fields, I would worry that they weren’t being realistic in what this relationship demonstrates.

      7. Person from the Resume*

        Not unless they are applying for mentoring jobs. The mentoring/friendship of that scope is not what teachers are hired for. An individual HS student is not in a good position to give a reference for a teacher. There’s just so many variables that’s one reason HS students are not normally references for teachers. Summary of feedback from a class might have some weight, but usually the reference is a department director or principal i.e. someone managing the teacher’s work.

      8. Rayray*

        That’s what I thought too. It’s not common to maintain that close of relationship with a high school teacher so I’m of the opinion that their relationship is more significant. I’d get it if it was a teacher that had not seen or heard from the student in 20 years but they still maintain a relationship so I don’t see why this wouldn’t be a good reference.

    2. Lilo*

      It’s still a bit weird because a student, particularly a high school one, may not be in the best position to assess a teacher’s professional work. We all had a “fun teacher” who in hindsight may not have been that objectively great. Parent, maybe, if teacher was doing outside mentoring. But really, supervisor or fellow teacher is best.

      1. Allypopx*

        This is what I was thinking. I *have* written “here’s how they impacted my life” letters for former teachers in circumstances where positions were being considered for elimination or in one particular case where there was conservative backlash about having a gay teacher in a public school, but those were extenuating circumstances and I was speaking very specifically to their impacts on me from my personal perspective, not their professional qualifications. While nice to hear, I’m not sure that’s as relevant for a typical interview.

        1. Amaranth*

          One thing I’d want to be cautious about if I were LW is if they helped this young man through some difficult times, are those circumstances public knowledge? Because if the interviewer gets some juicy gossip about a celebrity there is no telling how that will be spread around.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        The student is a current adult, though. A current student is likely to say “Mr. X is cool because he lets us watch movies instead of making us sit through a boring lecture,” but most adults can see through that stuff when they look back on their former teachers.

        1. MK*

          Maybe, but it sounds as if the ex student is now a family friend. I doubt he is looking back critically on the OP’s skills.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            And this is another piece of the problem, actually — the relationship sounds close enough that he’s now a close family friend, which would make him more of a personal reference than a professional one.

      3. Rez123*

        I’m a scout leader and I’m about 13 years older than the scouts. They are all attending the high school I went to and they have some of the same teachers. It’s interesting to listen when they talk about the teachers, cause now as a 30something year old I have totally different view on what was a good teachers than they do (and I did when I was a teenager).

      4. Elenna*

        Yeah, I was also wondering if the reference would be “LW was a great mentor, they taught me so much about X, Y, and Z which helped me get a good start in life” or if it would be more like “Yeah, LW is cool, we’re friends now, they come to my family barbeques”. Because the first one is a lot more appropriate for an interview.

    3. rachel in nyc*

      I wonder if it would be different if former student had gone on to create an education based charity and either invoked OP or involved OP in some way.

      I imagine it would be such a unique situation that maybe it would be valuable information.

    4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      If if they had coached/mentored the athlete and it was relevant though, I question whether it would make sense to include them as a reference at all.

      Like… the famous people of the world presumably don’t have a whole lot of time to provide references for others, in my mind. And probably aren’t answering phone calls or emails they aren’t expecting (or at least, they aren’t doing that personally, and are delegating to assistants and the like).

      How useful would a reference who never has time to actually provide a reference really be?

    5. Emmie*

      How does this person help advance your candidacy? How does this person speak to skills you’d replicate in this particular job? Will you engage in this extraordinary mentee relationship in this job? Even if the athlete want famous, I am not sure you’d replicate this close relationship in your next job. If this is the kind of relationship you’d replicate, I assume you have other students who could also serve as references, and I’d draw on other students.
      I’d make only one exception: teachers in some programs, like independent study or distance education, often teach gifted athletes like olympians, high level chess players, and others. This athlete’s experience with you would be relevant then.

    6. Dr. Whatsit*

      So, this is to write in specific response to Allison’s line
      Would you ever use a student for a reference in other circumstances? If not, I wouldn’t use this one

      There are (not infrequent) cases in higher ed where I work where the packet really _is_ supposed to include references from students. I know LW#1 is at the high-school level so YMMV, but I remember being solicited to write a letter for a professor (after graduating) as part of his tenure review process, and I expect to need a couple at some point in the future as well.

      In Canada, successful training of students is important enough for grant and award applications that there is a specific release form that we’re encourage to give to leaving students (where signing it is optional) who we might want to use their name as alumni of the program, etc.

  2. Viki*

    Op 2,

    Please be aware that the friend who invited your manager, when you make the request may tell your manager about the request/why. It will be an awkward while, but if your manager is a decent manager– and I know you don’t care for your manager, but say nothing about their skills as a manager, nothing comes from it besides a bit of awkwardness.

    However, you will now need to be aware of work anecdotes, as your friend may pass it on to your manager. Not that you should every really be specific about work stories out of work, but you need to be more careful now. Your friend does not owe you confidentiality if you complain about your manager, while you know your manager is her friend.

    Your friend may also find that they prefer your manager’s company, that is something you should be aware of. That can happen, and if so, even though it might be very hard, a friend preferring friendship with their friend who is also your manager, over your friendship, is not something you can win/argue against. Just to prepare you for that option.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I rushed over here to say exactly that! Beware that your future funny stories may now have a conduit back to your boss.

    2. John Smith*

      A good point, but it may also be that one would look at the company someone else keeps and wonder whether you would want to be friends with that person. My manager is extremely toxic in many ways ( in and outside of work) and I wouldn’t want to be friends with anyone who found any of my manager’s attributes likeable.

      1. Roscoe*

        Everyone has different facets to them. Maybe your manager is really toxic. Maybe you just see them in that light.

        I’ve had managers I HATED working for, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t good friends to others.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For what it’s worth, it sounds like the friend who brought the manager is not one of the “core group” friends, but rather a friend of one person in the core group. So it doesn’t sound like that person will be constantly around.

      1. Letter Writer #2*

        LW here. The person who brought my manager as a guest is a friend of a friend of one of the core group. After catching up with the core group, it seems my manager’s lack of social skills were on display and I doubt that they’ll be back again.

        However, the point about not sharing work stories is well taken and candidly, one of the reasons the whole thing annoyed me. In my organization, people rotate among teams on an average of every two years. This manager just rotated into my team over the summer and since we’ve been working remotely since the start of the pandemic, this was our first in person experience since they joined our small team. Manager has a habit of talking down to and over the team, assuming their job knowledge is greater in our specific commodity than the team, discounting soft skills as pointless, etc.

        1. Allypopx*

          I’m really sorry you’re losing an outlet for work venting. We all need those.

        2. Smithy*

          I used to work in a very small “everything gets around” sector. In a similar context of “friends of friends of friends” there was a guy who was part of my sector and I just never quite trusted him regarding discretion. Essentially, he was not a person I felt comfortable knowing more detailed gossip or complaints about where I worked. Looking back years later, I don’t think he ever would have passed it on maliciously – but he was just not someone I wanted to trust that way.

          Ultimately it served me very well in how I would vent about work in less discrete venues like bars frequented by colleagues vs when I had something more specific I needed to get off my chest. I deeply resented this guy and having to do that at first, but longer term it’s certainly helped me.

          1. Artemesia*

            I think most people would be shocked at how unsafe this kind of venting can be even among friends. Your closest friend may be semi-discreet, but their friend may not be at all and owes you nothing. Or in a small group there is always that person with no sense who passes along juicy bits. I learned this the hard way when something someone said about me was shared with me; it was an offhand remark and not that big a deal (and not something I might not have said about someone else to get a laugh) BUT it was nevertheless hurtful and it didn’t help that the fact that it hurt my feelings was then passed back to the person who made the original remark, who then reached out to me. It was awkward all around, over what was a kind of throw away dis that should have just gotten a short laugh and been forgotten.

            Be very careful about comments about work outside of trusted family —

        3. IEanon*

          Do you work for my former boss? I only vented to three people: my partner; my best friend who was in the field, but lives in a another state; and a coworker who shared my complaints and was job searching like I was. It was hard to keep it bottled up when talking to others in my friend group, but the field is small, and I wanted to leave that role on good terms for that reason.

          I’m glad that it seems like this issue has pretty much resolved itself, but it is very annoying to lose a trusted venting group…

        4. TWW*

          It’s prudent to assume that anyone you work with is a friend of a friend of a friend–there are likely 10,000+ people who fit that description.

          With that in mind, when you vent about work, do it with a small number of close friends, not in a crowd that includes friends of friends.

    4. allathian*

      Yes, this is definitely a bit awkward.

      You really can’t dictate who adults can and can’t be friends with. If you invite people over, you’re definitely allowed to say that you don’t want them to bring any extra people with them, but then you have to apply the same rule across the board, not just to Alex and their partner. Can be a bit tough to implement in this situation, if people normally bring other guests.

      It would also be prudent to find another friend who isn’t a part of this group to share stories about your manager with, because they might well get passed on to them.

      Another option is to find a new job. I know it’s not easy, but it can’t hurt to try. You dislike your manager and it sounds like you really enjoy the moments when you can complain about them to your friends and don’t want to give that up. If you were on good terms with your manager and liked them as a person, you’d be able to make social small talk at a party without making it an issue. It sounds like your parties are civilized and people don’t get into fights or drink too much. If you had another job with another manager, running into your ex-manager at a party wouldn’t be such an issue, even if you don’t like them personally.

      I wouldn’t invite my manager to a party, but if I ran into her at someone else’s party, it wouldn’t be an issue for me and I doubt it’d be an issue for her.

      1. MangoTango*

        You do not need to apply the rule across the board. You can say not to bring John because he harasses the women / don’t bring Sally because she drinks all the wine and never chips in for costs / don’t bring Alex because they’re Sarah’s boss.

        Take a look at the Geek Social Fallacies.

        (Also, why would you get a new job because a friend of a friend once brought their boss to a party?!)

        1. Viki*

          But if you’re just neighbourhood friends, and if I know Alex from Book club or spin class, and I’m having a bbq, I’m going to invite who I want because Alex my friend, and my neighbour’s relationship is not mine to manage.

          And if they’re only as Alison said, casual friends, I wouldn’t appreciate being told who I can or cannot invite to my bbq.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think it’s the other way around — the LW has a core group of friends who regularly hang out (“typically it’s the same few friends”). Sometimes they invite other friends (“occasionally friends of friends are invited and welcomed”). One of those other friends (“a friend of one of the core group”) brought the manager. It’s very reasonable for the core group to tell their guest, “You’re welcome but please don’t bring LW’s boss.” Friend of Friend is a guest, not the one throwing the party.

        2. allathian*

          Maybe I left too much to be read between the lines, but if you dislikes their boss to the point that seeing them at a party when they’re the invited guest of another guest gets writing to an advice column, it seems to me that you’re pretty BEC with the manager. I’m not recommending looking for a new job for any other reason than getting away from the boss.

          After all, this is a perfectly ordinary neighborhood bbq where people usually behave themselves at least as well as they would at a company party.

          Given the fact that the friend who invited the manager to the party wasn’t part of the “core group” it’s entirely possible that the situation won’t come up again. If it does, the core group may well decide that the friend who brought Alex will no longer be invited, either.

          But yeah, if you let your friends know that Alex is your boss, the friend who invited them might well pass on anything you tell them.

          1. Junior Assistant Peon*

            This is what I was thinking. The boss is unlikely to see the OP doing a kegstand or something like that if it’s a bunch of middle-aged people having a neighborhood BBQ.

            I started my career at an old-school kind of company where we had sports teams, most people stayed until retirement, and being friends outside of work was common, so I find it kind of amusing how many people here seem terrified by the idea of running into a coworker in the supermarket or something like that.

            1. Letter Writer #2*

              LW here. My team is great, and one of them was a close friend before I rotated into the group – we socialize a lot. I’ve had a couple managers who I’ve really, really liked on a personal level and I still wouldn’t want this situation to arise (at least not on a regular basis).

              I love the work that I do, and the fact that every couple of years I get new challenges and opportunities for development. I really like my company as well. My fear was that since my manager wouldn’t have any sense of boundaries.

            2. Not playing your game anymore*

              This. I tend to see this as a “big city” kind of issue. In our small town (state really) you cross paths constantly. The boss might sing in your church choir, you bump into the mayor in the supermarket. It’s a little inhibiting, but when you’re on your way to lunch and the great, great, grandboss invites herself to join you, you just roll with the punches and take her to the cute local place rather than grab the big mac you’d been planning. So the boss shows up at a neighborhood bbq? Awkward, but just something you deal with. It happens. You just quit telling stories about what a bozo they are and yeah if you think this is likely to happen again, maybe drop a word in the ear of the person most likely to invite them as AAM suggests. “Can you give me a heads up if the Smootly’s are likely to join us? I see way more of them at work than I enjoy.”

              1. A*

                Agreed. I moved from a metropolitan city to a rural area and quickly learned that there is no safe space to vent aside from my closest local friends that are in unrelated industries, and even then only in the privacy of our homes. I work for the largest employer in the county, so it’s extremely common to run into colleagues and members of the leadership team.

                ….even more sad was when I briefly rejoined an online dating platform (right before pandemic, was put on indefinite pause) and realized 95% of the folks are my coworkers. Dating was already challenging enough, not looking forward to having to wade back into those waters in what amounts to a kiddy pool at best.

              2. Librarian1*

                And yet, if you live in a city, it’s reasonable to expect to not have to socialize with colleagues you don’t like.

            3. Spearmint*

              Seeing a coworker outside of work is very different than the prospect of your boss showing up to a social event. When your boss is around, you have to watch yourself and be “on” at some level, including not complaining about work or really frankly talking about work at all.

            4. Jennifer*

              I think it’s more about running into a coworker you can’t stand and vent about to friends. That makes it more awkward. But generally, I agree. Occasionally we will see people outside of work and it doesn’t have to be a huge deal unless we make it one. I just think this is a really awkward situation.

          2. Perfectly Particular*

            Boss/employee relationships can take on so many forms! I have had bosses that have physically helped me move, ones that I have partied with, and ones that I would just trip over myself with awkwardness if I ran into them in public. I don’t think that preferring not to socialize with your boss in your downtime, and particularly with your primary friend group is a sign that you shouldn’t be working for them. It can just be really hard to relax when someone who has power over your career is nearby.

            1. Lacey*

              Exactly! I like my boss a lot – but I don’t want to socialize with him outside of work functions.

            2. pancakes*

              Yes. Similarly, not wanting to hang out with them outside of work isn’t quite the same as being “terrified” of their presence.

          3. EPLawyer*

            “After all, this is a perfectly ordinary neighborhood bbq where people usually behave themselves at least as well as they would at a company party.”

            Not picking on you @Allathian. Just cracking up over some of the stories of antics at company parties. Remember the boss who got drunk then her boobs froze to a railing? And of course, “I will confront you by Wednesday” Boss.

              1. EPLawyer*

                Do a search in the box up in the right for boobs railing. It’s in the first result (you have to scroll down)

          4. Colette*

            My first post-univerity boss was a good manager- and I absolutely would not want him to show up at a gathering with my friends, because we didn’t have the same sense of humour at all – I’d say something jokey and he’d take it seriously; I’d say something serious and he’d think it would be a joke.

            1. FlyingAce*

              On the flip side, I had a boss who was most definitely not a good manager, but had similar tastes in music as my husband (we worked together at the time) – so we ended up hanging out together at a rock concert and had a fun time!

          5. Simply the best*

            That doesn’t sound like BEC at all, it sounds like a pretty normal “I don’t want to be around my boss at a social situation” function.

            Telling OP to get a new job is a pretty extreme reaction.

          6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Uhh, you don’t have to be BEC with a manager to not want to party with that manager on your downtime, when you want to be in “off work” mode. These parties are where OP unwinds, and how the heck can you unwind when you’re sitting next to your boss and another manager from your workplace?

            After all, this is a perfectly ordinary neighborhood bbq where people usually behave themselves at least as well as they would at a company party.

            Fair enough, but my guess is that few people on here would want to attend a company party every weekend.

            1. biobotb*

              Let alone have what you thought would be a no-work party suddenly and unexpectedly turn into a work party.

            2. MCMonkeybean*

              Seriously, I’m so confused at the number of people here who think it’s odd not to want to hang out with your boss on the weekends. And this isn’t running into them one time at a party, it sounds like the initial concern was over the possibility of the boss joining the group that hangs out every weekend. That would be a huge loss in your social life!

          7. basically gods*

            I keep my work persona and my fun persona extremely separate. I don’t feel comfortable discussing a *lot* of topics at work– even things like my incredibly mundane hobbies! If a boss showed up at a party where I had been planning on being my fun self, and hadn’t prepared for being work-appropriate self, I’d be miserable, and would probably have run for the hills.

          8. JelloStapler*

            No, I wouldn’t want a manager showing up to my safe space to relax and vent.

        3. Nanani*

          Was about to say this. Friend groups don’t have a constitution and a supreme court. It’s perfectly ok to trust A’s judgement about cool new people but not B’s, it’s ok to exclude C and D from certain types of events, and so on.
          You can absolutely prioritize your current friend’s comfort and fun over ~fairness~ to someone you don’t know well.

        4. Artemesia*

          This. If you are part of a social circle, you can certainly ask that a new person who is toxic or problematic not be invited back. You might not prevail, but there is no rule that ‘we have to welcome everyone equally’ to friendship. Social groups have every right to ‘discriminate’ on the basis of factors that matter to the group

          1. JelloStapler*

            Exactly, my core group of friends started inviting friends of friends… And it got too big with too much drama. Years ago, we went back to just the core group and girls nights are much better!

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        You definitely don’t have to apply the same rules to everyone all the time in a situation like this – it’s a BBQ, not a hiring committee.

        1. allathian*

          That’s true, especially given that the person who invited Alex isn’t a part of the “core group”. But it’s still possible that things may get passed on to Alex anyway, once the friend group knows that they’re the LW’s boss and if the friend who invited them attends the parties.

      3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        What no. If I invite people over to my house I can apply whatever rules I want to it. “I need you not to bring extra people over without my express and specific permission” is my hard and fast rule for everybody, but if I decide I trust one person enough to make them an exception, that’s my call because it’s my space. If Sally starts bringing extra folks uninvited because “well, Sam did!” then Sally will find herself removed from the guest list posthaste. And conversely, the list of specific people who are not allowed to come to my house (for a range of reasons) is .. well, it’s not LONG but there definitely is one. And one of the people on that list is my boss, because she’s my boss.

      4. Lacey*

        It’s not an office, its a friend group.

        If you really needed a rule to apply across the board it could be, “Don’t invite other people’s bosses” or “No one invite Jane’s boss”

        You certainly can’t tell them to not be friends with Jane’s boss, but it would be insane to not be able to ask someone to not bring another person to a social gathering.

      5. EmKay*

        I can’t dictate who others can be friends with, but I’ll be ding-danged if I’ll let just anyone into my home.

        And to a lesser extent, my presence.

      6. Jennifer*

        The same rules don’t need to be applied across the board. It’s just a neighborhood BBQ. Just tell the friends that you’d rather your boss not be invited in the future. You don’t have to shut down all extra guests. And they aren’t dictating who anyone can be friends with. Just who they can bring to this particular hangout.

      7. Observer*

        If you invite people over, you’re definitely allowed to say that you don’t want them to bring any extra people with them, but then you have to apply the same rule across the board, not just to Alex and their partner.

        Nope. Not at all. In any case, the “rule” here is “I don’t want my manager from my work to join the purely social meeting that I am hosting.” That’s going to be true no matter who brings the boss along. And, it’s a good rule for the OP, regardless of how much they (dis)like their manager.

        Now, obviously, the OP needs to be polite. And it would be wise to not say anything that they don’t want to get back to their manager. But they most definitely do NOT have to be open to being friends with / hosting their boss just because they are open to being friends with / hosting other friends of friends.

        1. Artemesia*

          I would phrase it something like ‘I love working for Fergus, he is a great boss, but I am totally uncomfortable socializing with my boss . . .

          Because whatever you say is very likely to get back to Fergus

      8. Flooffff*

        This is a bizarre take. You want to apply the guidelines of a kindergarten birthday party to a group of adults?

  3. John Smith*

    #3. This happens frequently in my place, except we don’t even get told that people have left (we draw comparisons to Orwell’s 1984 where people become un-persons).

    Pretty embarrassing when clients wants an explanation as to why on earth I would arrange a meeting with someone who doesn’t work with us any more (Sorry Mr Jones, I wasn’t informed that Mary had left. If you would like to find a competent organisation, please feel free to do so.).

    Amanda is spot on about the effects of such decisions… Who is doing task Y now that person X has left? And how are you supposed to know whether person X is still there to do the job?

    Totally bonkers, but it seems that’s in the job description for some managers nowadays…

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      This used to happen all the time at my toxic old job. We weren’t supposed to talk or mention at all about people who got fired. Often, we didn’t even know if they were fired or had quit – since if you were resigning they asked you not to tell anyone. We also suffered from them asking you to leave immediately if you put in two weeks notice, so of course people stopped putting in two weeks notice.

      The result was we whispered amongst ourselves about who had gotten fired and who was supposed to cover their job like it was a dirty secret, only to be discussed in hidden corners. There were also massive losses of important information and procedures because people just disappeared and we were supposed to work around them leaving so people just winged it – which kind of worked for awhile until we realized we had missed a hugely important thing Joe used to do before he was disappeared and someone needed to fix the last six months of the X report. It is breathtakingly bad management.

    2. RussianInTexas*

      This is how mu company operates. People just disappear. Once in a while I get an e-mail with “please copy Sally instead of Tran on your request”.
      And when a person leaves, voluntarily or not, their e-mail addresses stay on in perpetuity, and no one even put an automatic reply with “Amy is no longer here, please e-mail to ***** at *****”.
      I missed 2 months of orders and had to deal with many irate customers who were sending orders to my former co-worker, and no one thought of checking her e-mail. (I did not have the access myself).

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Did the company just… not notice that they weren’t receiving their usual volume of orders for 2 months?! (Do they not track this, or perhaps it was due to the pandemic times so it was just assumed to be related to that?)

    3. Ms. Anon*

      My org does this too–we’re lucky if a direct manager lets us know. I’ve only been specifically informed when it was someone on my team. But someone on the team adjacent, who we work with frequently? Not a word. It’s definitely a company-wide HR policy. I understand not getting into the details with a broad group, but I don’t understand why we can’t get an email that says “Jane Doe is no longer with the company. Please reach out to Mary Smith instead.” Or heck, I’ll figure out who to go to, just let me know Jane is gone!

    4. I just don't get it*

      This happened at the end of last year at my company. There was a staff reduction and then they offered voluntary retirement to others… and kept the names a secret for privacy reasons. I guess the idea was managers would inform us (mine was horrible, let go in February) and she told me nothing of course. With everyone working remotely it forced a lot of us to ask questions which looked like we wanted to gossip when we just wanted to know who to go to when we needed something! “I hear so and so”, “oh so and so was let go too”, “I think I know who all the people are now”… it was an unnecessary layer of drama around the holidays during the pandemic.

      I actually emailed someone who was laid off but I didn’t know for sure what her status was (they were allowed to work for a number of weeks and then use vacation time till the end of year) which was a whole other level of confusion and nonsense… she literally replied “I guess you didn’t hear, I was part of the reduction, so I’m really just here in name only for now, my duties were transferred” and then she didn’t tell me to who. It was beyond.

      Finally someone got through to the execs and at an employee webinar they shared the names on a slide. I think they finally understood that some people wanted to say goodbye to those that they had worked with a long time and maybe those folks didn’t want to broadcast they were leaving.

      In my current place of employment I have seen some of the most ridiculous decisions recently… I don’t know what is going on anymore. Is it us or the world or what…

    5. Rayray*

      I had a job once where my coworker was suddenly fired one day. They had allowed her to have a flexible schedule and take [unpaid] days off with no problem and then suddenly decided to fire her over it. We were the only two who did what we did. They waited a good few days into the next week to actually tell me. I had a feeling it’d happened anyway since she left suddenly one day and then her name was no longer in the program we used for our work.

      It’s bad communication and bad practice. You don’t have to go into details but freaking TELL people.

    6. The New Wanderer*

      At my company, I was asked whether I agreed to the managers sharing the fact that I was being laid off. I could have said no and then they would not have been allowed to tell anyone until after I left two months later (which could make for awkward project planning if I know I’m not going to be around but no one else knows). Some people have chosen that route and just quietly disappeared one day, but I can’t think of a case where a laid off person’s name was kept secret after they left.

      However, there have been a few people who got to the point where they essentially rage-quit and left that day, and sometimes it takes days or weeks after they’re gone before anyone is informed. In one case, a person working with me on a project did this and I was never told officially by management. I didn’t rely on that person much so it didn’t impact my work, but it was just such a weird misstep but otherwise good managers to act like nothing happened.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      It used to happen at my place for a while. A guy was fired and the way the rest of us found out was when our emails to the team started bouncing back with a “ is not a valid address” or something similar. Only time we were in fact informed that someone had left was when the person went to lunch, never came back, and left a note in their cube saying they were quitting. It was kind of hard to hide that one since we all sat together in the same area. Otherwise, we’d find out weeks after the fact. It was awkward and unproductive.

      1. FlyingAce*

        In my workplace, emails bounce back with “this mailbox is full”, which leaves us to wonder whether the recipient is out for the day (the mail server fills up real quick – I just leave my computer running at all times to avoid that), on a longer leave, moved to a different part of the company (some departments have addresses and some others have, or just plain left.

    8. LabRat*

      At OldJob, not only were we not told when people quit or were fired, we weren’t even told when they were HIRED. They’d just show up in meetings or at a desk in our cube farm and we’d have to introduce ourselves and awkwardly figure out who they were and what their role was. It was SO WEIRD.

      1. Just Another Admin*

        This is my current job. Sometimes we will know if someone is leaving if random person determines it will directly affect our workflow. Many times we are not told and have no idea we shouldn’t keep trying to send phone calls to Brian.

        Sometimes we find out a new person was hired when someone calls in and asks for them. If we are quick enough on the ball we look them up in the nationwide internal directory (if we can spell their name mostly correctly) and find out surprise they are on one of the teams we support. Other times we may spend weeks telling people Catherine doesn’t work here, only to find out when we received complaints from their manager that Katheryn for sure does work here.

        Right now we are supposed to have a new admin joining our team. No one knows when. Or knows her name. It may be June 1, (we have certain windows in which new people can start) but …no one has said anything. All I can think is I really hope someone has ordered her equipment. That’s one of my job responsibilities, but I have zero information with which to be able to do that.

    9. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      Same at my last job. This was at a large, publicly-traded company. We were a subsidiary, about 200 people, and the parent company would come in and lay people off and you would only be told if you were on their team. People would just disappear one day. I heard they wouldn’t even let you pack up your desk; HR would pack up what they determined to be your personal effects, and mail it to you.

    10. Rebecca1*

      I’ve mentioned before that in a former job, my immediate supervisor left and nobody told me for two or three weeks. We worked at different sites and my emails to her were going into a black hole.

  4. Duck You*

    “ If your boss has outright told you not to say that, you shouldn’t”

    Didn’t OP5 say they were told not to bring it up?

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      Told not to bring up the second job, but discussing the mediocre performance is fine.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not positive — it could have been “I think you could just focus on the work” or it could have been “do not mention the second job, period.” And I want the LW to know that normally you could mention that, even if her boss won’t allow it here.

      1. KHB*

        Given what OP said about her boss’s conflict avoidance, I imagine it was more along the lines of “nah, don’t worry about it.”

        But more generally, assuming that OP’s boss is a middle manager rather than the CEO, is it normal for middle managers to exercise this level of control over what their direct reports can say to their direct reports? I’m not in management myself, but this seems odd to me.

        1. Allypopx*

          In disciplinary situations or difficult conversations it’s very normal and often expected to check in with your boss to make sure you’re handling it correctly and following company protocols. Also grandbosses still have authority over their report’s reports, though how that plays out operationally and interpersonally varies. In this case though it’s helpful to frame it as the boss is managing their direct report and how they handle sensitive situations, not that their dictating conversation.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            It’s especially normal since OP is a new manager. I’m a newish manager and I’ve never had to have a serious disciplinary conversation – the first time it came up, I’d probably be turning to my own manager for a bit of advice or to talk it through first.

            1. Allypopx*

              Yep! And these things are hard from the management side. Even as not a new manager I’ve often run situations by my boss for sanity checks and advice.

          2. KHB*

            But the boss, himself, is an imperfect manager, so who’s to say that he’s the final authority on what’s “correct and following company protocols”? Ask him for advice, absolutely – but given what you know of his own human foibles, you need to be able to take that advice with the appropriate amount of salt, and overrule it if necessary.

            And I have to say, if my boss tried to tell me “do not talk to Camilla about her second job, period,” I’d be wondering if he had some kind of illicit interest in either Camilla’s second job or her continued success (and presence) in this one.

            1. Allypopx*

              I mean he’s your boss and he can tell you how you need to do your job, even if your job is managing other people. It’s not really different than him telling you how to do any other aspect of your job. You can choose to ignore him but then you risk the consequences of that.

              1. KHB*

                But what if he’s telling you to do something that actually goes against company policy? As I explain a bit in a comment downthread, I’m imagining a situation where the company has a policy that employees have to disclose all outside employment that might present a conflict of interest, and the boss is telling you to go against that. Does it still come down to “he’s your boss and he can tell you how you need to do your job”?

                1. Allypopx*

                  Yes it does, and like any other situation where your boss is telling you to do something against company policy you should bring it up with their boss or HR. It’s just really not different than any other job duty.

                2. KHB*

                  It sounds like we agree: OP should loop in HR (if there is an HR), rather than taking her boss as the final authority on how to handle this.

                3. PT*

                  Yes, because this was a huge problem we had at one of my previous jobs. Grandboss didn’t like conflict, and she felt that “conflict” meant “telling the employees anything that made them unhappy.”

                  So if Fergus showed up to his 1:00 llama-grooming shift 45 minutes late, and everyone had to scramble and upset their schedules cover his 1:00, 1:20 and 1:40 appointments, it was not OK for Boss to have a talk with him about it, because this would be “conflict” that might “upset Fergus” and “make him unhappy” and “everyone should just get along.”

                  Meanwhile Tangerina was supposed to go home at 1 but got stuck there late and Lucinda had to come in early and Boss got interrupted in the middle of payroll to scramble and deal with Fergus being missing and all three of them were seethingly angry at him, which for some reason did not count as “interpersonal conflict which was upsetting and unhappy.”

  5. Bilateralrope*

    #3 Why do so many employees think it’s a good idea to conceal when someone stops working for them from other employees ?

    I see no upside, plenty of problems (including a major security risk) and the secrecy is unreliable because the ex-coworker could share it.

    I once worked security at a place that had a standard “this persons employment ends on {date}” email they sent out. They used an identical template for everything from firings to someone getting transfered to a different location.

    1. Not Australian*

      Even worse are the ones we sometimes see on here where management pretends that the person is still employed by them and even continues to answer e-mails in the former employee’s name.

      1. hot priest*

        I remember the LW who had a manager pretending a fired (or resigned?) employee was still working there, but I don’t remember the manager writing emails in the former employee’s name! Was this the same LW or a different one?

    2. MK*

      Why does anyone ever avoid or postpone unpleasant tasks, when they know they will have to do it eventually? It’s human nature.

      1. Lance*

        But they’re management. Human nature aside, it’s still their jobs to keep things running smoothly… which includes letting people know when someone’s gone so work/messages don’t get lost in the void.

      2. Your Local Password Resetter*

        It still seems strange to make it official policy though.
        Most people realize that putting off unpleasant tasks isn’t actually good practice.

    3. Lacey*

      It’s bizarre! My employer doesn’t spell out exactly what happened, but they tell us if someone is leaving and you can read between the lines a bit. If Roger is leaving for an exciting new opportunity, he found another job. If his last day is X… fired.

    4. MusicWithRocksIn*

      From my experience someone at the very top decides it is bad to acknowledge that people were fired or quit (I suspect because they know these people were fired or quit due to bad management and are trying to deny it) and then all the other managers fall in line, because it is now the policy, and they don’t want to become one of the disappeared.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        But in the letter’s case, it’s about layoffs. The (bad) reason I usually see for not saying who was laid off, but just saying “we had to have some layoffs” is they’re trying to conceal how many people got laid off and not thinking through the rest. Yeah, there have been letters in the past where anyone leaving for any reason is concealed, which makes no sense either, but that doesn’t apply to this LW.

    5. BethDH*

      An org I worked for sent an email like the one in the OP, but it also included the line “individual managers will give you more details, including how to handle the transition” or something like that. Individual managers then met with their teams, told them the whole list, and discussed which of the layoffs had a connection to our team that needed to be covered.
      It only worked because the vague email told us when to expect the non-vague part. There was still gossiping, but it kept the confusion minimal.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I think that’s a much better and more realistic method, BethDH. I’ve been on teams that managed layoffs, both large and small, and know that the company grapevine is always active. Gossip and confusion can’t be completely stopped, like you said. But it can be slowed down with accurate, appropriate information.

        Publishing everyone’s name ‘in the interest of transparency’ like one employer did isn’t appropriate. Having smaller group sessions with the people on the team of the departing employee(s) is a much better way to discuss the impact to the team, and to their work. Even if the team saw it coming weeks ago, they need to absorb the news, deal with the impact, and then refocus on work. It’ll take time, and it’ll take relevant information. Their managers will need to step up on this.

      2. AnonInCanada*

        That would make sense if this were a multi-national company sending a company-wide email announcing the layoffs (after all, who would need to know who was being laid off in an office 5,000 km away, unless there’s a direct correlation between the two teams?) OP is in a small office setting. It makes no sense to me what purpose management would have in withholding those names, unless they’re a bunch of sadists, gleefully rubbing their hands watching the remaining employees’ lives more difficult in ways it shouldn’t need to be.

    6. Super Duper*

      It’s really bizarre. I worked at a similarly-sized organization to the LW’s, and HR would tell people not to share that they were leaving until their last day. Of course it didn’t work, because the departing person would tell a few close colleagues, and the gossip mill in that office was crazy so word spread around quickly. I don’t know what HR’s goal was, but it seemed silly and just fueled more gossip and drama.

  6. Cambridge Comma*

    OP#1, your former student was not an adult when you taught him and it’s been a long time. Presumably as an athlete, he won’t have the typical office experience. He may therefore not have much to actually say in a reference that would be relevant to the people recruiting you. I think your instinct is the right one.

    1. Anono-me*

      An excellent point. And your former student’s perspective in this may also be impacted by all the doors that do open for people in his life due to their association with ‘Famous Athlete’.

      You knew all along that using your famous former student as a reference wasn’t a good plan; that’s why you wrote. Trust your instincts on this. And now you have both confirmation and well articulated reasons from Alison Green.

  7. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

    People who hire teachers- do successful mentoring relationships add to candidacy?

    1. MK*

      I have no connection to the field, and in my opinion “one” mentoring relationship to an “exceptional” student shouldn’t count that much. If a teacher can show a track record of successfully mentoring students, that’s an accomplishment. What the OP describes sounds a lot more personal than that.

      Maybe I am projecting my own experiences from 25-30 years ago as a student, but teachers focusing on gifted students usually came at the detriment of the rest of the class, and I am not overenthused about these relationships (to be clear, I am not talking about giving special attention to someone who needs it). Even if the subject the teacher taught was the one the student excelled at, it still doesn’t necessarily speak to the teacher’s competence; one might do great teaching a gifted child, but how are they doing with the average ones?

    2. kanej*

      Not really. Most interviews would be focused on a teacher’s in-classroom relationship with students, their philosophy, what material they’ve had experience teaching, what they can contribute to the whole school etc. It would be odd for a teacher interviewing to redirect to relationships with students outside of the classroom (even mentoring ones) and I honestly would prefer strong references from a teacher’s peers and superiors (ie colleagues and school administrators, like principals or school heads). A good teacher knows that even when a student is a full grown adult, the relationship still maintains something of an unbalanced dynamic, and therefore a student (even a former one, now an adult) is never going to have as good an understanding of a teacher’s capabilities as a fellow teacher.

      I’d personally find it deeply odd for a teacher I was interviewing to have a former student as a reference, even a former student who excels in the field they teach. (This is slightly different at higher education/academia, where the student & teacher relationship is much more professional. But for high school and below, a former student as a reference would make me pause, and not in a good way.)

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        As a former grad student, I would never use the word “professional” to describe academia!

        1. kanej*

          ha, my intention was that it’s a more professional relationship than a middle school teacher has with a 13 year old but I can understand it doesn’t always feel that way!

      2. A Genuine Scientician*

        Yeah, this honestly *is* a little different in higher ed, where a senior faculty member looking to change institutions could quite reasonably point to something like “Of my first 10 grad students, 7 are now professors themselves, including at institutions X and Y. I still publish regularly with Jane Warblesworth, who is now tenured at Stanford” or something. In that context, former students who are now colleagues are actually more informative references than deans or department chairs, who most often can’t speak to the day-to-day work of the faculty member.

        But as a college prof, I can’t imagine listing any of my former undergrad students as references. Sure, Lucinda and Fergus did very well when I taught them and had positive things to say about me. Those are two students. What about the thousands of others?

        There are reasons most institutions that take teaching seriously put way more weight on observations and feedback from colleagues than they do from students. The fact that someone has taken a lot of classes doesn’t actually make them an expert on pedagogy. We know about a lot of biases that affect student perception of instructor quality (assumed sex, assumed race, assumed age, difficulty of course, year within program, etc). And worse than that, we have evidence that students rate certain teaching or study practices are very useful and others as not useful even when objective measures on the very same students show that which practices are useful are not the ones the students rate as such.

      3. Esmeralda*

        No, a reference from a student is not done for hiring in higher ed. When interviewing for a higher ed teaching position you could talk about your student evaluations, including comments students have written. But you wouldn’t submit a reference letter from a student, or list a student as a reference to be called.

        It’s very common for things like teaching awards.

    3. Teacher Trainer*

      I’m not in the USA, so maybe education culture differs on this over there, but in my experience absolutely not. I taught and mentored a student (many years ago) who went on to represent our country in the Olympics and won multiple gold medals, but there is no context in which that would be something I brought up in an application or interview setting. No one would put much weight on one student like that, regardless of their later fame and success. And my references would be from other professionals who can speak to my skills, training, experience and professional qualities. Not from the students themselves – that would be highly inappropriate!

    4. EmKay*

      I don’t hire teachers, I was a high school teacher in North America.

      The answer is no. I have never even heard of this being A Thing, except maybe for very intense sports.

    5. Alexis Rosay*

      No. I’ve hired many teachers and quite frankly it never occurred to me to ask about this.

      Successful mentoring relationships are usually very individual and can’t necessarily be replicated. Plus since they are time-intensive, someone who is already mentoring several previous students may have less bandwidth to take on more mentees for a while.

    6. Just Keep Swimming*

      If the candidate can quantify the success they had and identify the factors that lead to those results. “Increased graduation rate from X – Y % over 10 years, showed standardized score increase of Z%…etc” Individual students are not usually a valid data point. Famous ones are a novelty, and should not be mentioned for reasons already addressed in the thread.

    7. CowWhisperer*

      Yes and no.

      I’ve been on both sides of the table. Yes, most schools are looking for teachers who can mentor students successfully. There are plenty of students who need someone to give them some pointers about how to do better in school and make life easier. Not every student will gel with every teacher – but most teachers have a few kids who they are trying to help learn how to organize multiple subjects or think about future jobs or help actively manage a mental health issue. Personally, I worked with a few students struggling with severe social anxiety on being able to stay in class longer and regroup faster when they they had an attack. I also helped some very bright students who were not interested in white-collar jobs at all access training in trades that allowed them to earn money while training to fill needed infrastructure jobs. Most of them earned the same amount as I did as a teacher by their 2nd or 3rd year out of trade school. Finally, as a homebound tutor, I worked with teenage moms on bedrest during troubled pregnancies. I helped them keep up with school, provided a listening ear about the headaches of dealing with a complicated pregnancy and brainstormed solutions to problems in getting medical care (with the permission of the student of course.)

      What would fail miserably would putting the name of a now-famous student on my resume or cover letter. That would read as strangely unprofessional at best and at worst seem like the candidate was violating all sorts of confidentiality rules. “I was so-and-so’s teacher” is a great time-killer when waiting for a meeting to start.

    8. just a random teacher*

      I’ve never hired teachers, but I’ve applied and interviewed quite a few times before getting my current job.

      I can’t imagine using a student as a reference like this. Even if I had a student who went to college in my subject area and now worked in it professionally, that would be super weird since references are generally supervisors and, occasionally, fellow teachers. Most jobs asked me to submit 3 letters of reference as part of an application packet, and those would generally be from former principals and from teachers who you’d worked with.

      We’re not really encouraged to keep “personal” relationships with current or former students because they’re worried about abuse potential and power imbalances, so it’s somewhat frowned upon to even be in close contact with a former student. (I have very superficial “how’s [college class related to my subject] going?” type conversations with my former students, or offer vague congratulations when they tell me they’ve gotten a job/a marriage/a kid/a tattoo if we happen to run into each other, but I deliberately don’t get closely involved with their lives for at least 5 years after they’ve graduated, which is hard sometimes but part of what’s seen as appropriate boundaries.)

  8. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP3 – there may have been more context, but given what was in letter – is it possible that they are not keeping names secret, just didn’t want to put a list in with email?

    It might be worth assuming, absent any other signs, that of course email writer felt it was simply not the place for a list of names, and ask – has added bonus that if they are being cagey about it, the “of COURSE this is a normal thing to share…” attitude may make them realise.

    But without pushback on getting told, I’d go with not being a secret.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was working in healthcare last year and they had such a rapid layoff blitz that there wasn’t even a list of names. Each department had to make the decision on who to cut, and some higher-ups took the opportunity to cut some middle management. It all happened within a few days, so when the email went out, all it could say ways that if you are getting the email then you are still employed.

    2. Knope Knope Knope*

      Yeah, I was thinking this was a possibility. Not addressing it all would be jarring, and a list of names would be jarring. But it would be better if the email said something like “your manager will reach out to those of you whose work may be affected by the changes, and management is available for any questions you have” or something like that. I am guessing management probably spoke to people one-on-one since layoffs are a sensitive topic.

  9. Andy*

    L#2 To me, that actually sounds super personal. Issue is not just any boss randomly showing up, issue is this particular boss showing up because letter writer strongly dislikes that one boss. I do get the sentiment, I had bosses like that too.

    But it is unlikely boss will bow out, because boss likely dont know how much op hates him/her. And in case the boss is not hated, you dont mind them on party. At least I hope I am not only one who had good relationship with most bosses and would not mind to encounter them randomly.

    1. allathian*

      No, you’re not the only one. I wouldn’t invite my manager to a party, but if I met her at a random party given by someone else, it wouldn’t be a problem.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      I mean, I have a good relationship with my boss and my direct reports and I still wouldn’t want to socialize with them on a regular basis. It’s just too tiring to perform/filter myself on a work level when I’m off the clock.

      1. Koalafied*

        Agreed. It would depend on the kind of party for me. Like, if it’s 12 people sitting around a single long table in the backyard picking crabs and then retiring to sit in a big circle around a fire pit, that means a large percentage of the conversation is with the full group and a large percentage of smaller-group conversations are within earshot of the full group and anyone could potentially jump in at any time. It would be a real bummer to have to be Work Koalafied all night long because my boss was in earshot. And I do like my boss a great deal, as a boss. (We don’t have any kind of social relationship outside work.)

        OTOH, if it’s a big party that’s taking place across multiple rooms of a house, where people tend to break off into little groups of 3 and 4 people scattered around the house, I would be less put out. I would still have to be a little bit more on guard, but I would hope my boss would have the social awareness not to like, consistently keep joining my small group of people and not getting the hint when I exited to find a new small group shortly thereafter. Then I could spend most of the party far enough removed from my boss that as long as I don’t make a spectacle of myself (and I’m old enough the days of making a scene are long behind me). Because there’s still some pressure I wouldn’t want their attendance at parties I frequently to become a regular thing, but having it happen now and again would be manageable enough to let it go/not make a fuss over it with my friends.

    3. Metadata minion*

      I have a great relationship with my boss and really like them as a person, but I wouldn’t want to regularly socialize with them outside of work, in part *because* we have a really friendly relationship and I don’t want my brain to put them in the “friend” category instead of the “boss who is a super cool person” category. I think that would blur the personal/professional line too much.

      Seeing them once in a while at that sort of casual neighborhood BBQ would be fine, if mildly weird, but if it was going to be a regular thing I’d want to figure out how I could gently arrange for us not to be on the same invite list.

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      I think the LW is worried that the boss will end up being adopted into their neighborhood/friend social circle, which could mean that it’s not just one or two parties on occasion, but having their boss around All The Time. Which would be a lot, even if they were on more neutral terms with their boss.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That was my understanding – they are a neighborhood group that meets, it seems, on a weekly basis, and partying with one’s boss every weekend sounds like the opposite of a fun time to me.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      I am a boss and I think I have good relationships with my reports, and if I saw one of them at a party hosted by a friend of a friend, I would definitely mostly avoid them at the party (I mean, I’d say hello but hang out on the other side of the yard), and would not go to another party of that friend group. Because it would be so awkward, no matter how good our working relationship (emphasis on the WORKING)!

    6. Elenna*

      YMMV, but I’d feel awkward encountering my boss at a party even though we have a pretty good relationship, because there’s a level of polish/professionalism that I use at work, which I very much don’t want to do at a party. Of course my boss has enough common sense to understand me being less professional at a friendly bbq, but it’s still not a side of me that I particularly want my boss to see.

    7. Daisy-dog*

      It’s not because LW2 dislikes their boss or if the boss knows about it. LW2’s boss should know that part of the territory with being a manager is not being social with your subordinates. This can show favoritism (even though it is unlikely in this case) or lead to awkwardness at work. They should not accept any future invitations to hang out with that group *because they are a manager*.

    8. TWW*

      If my boss arrived at a BBQ where I happened to also be a guest, I would be mortified if he turned around and left because of me.

    9. meyer lemon*

      It sounds like this boss doesn’t have spectacular social graces and is kind of unpleasant to be around in general. But their work relationship gives the LW great cover to say that they’d rather not host the boss without making it too personal.

  10. 'Tis Me*

    4. There isn’t any chance Mary was fired for acting as LW’s referral and oversharing in their boss’s opinion, is there..?

    1. OP4*

      No, there’s no chance that happened. The other company had not reached out to her yet and there is no way my boss would have known I asked her to be referral. She was fired for sharing personal information about an employee to other employees. I have seen her term paperwork.

  11. ToodlesTeaTops*

    LW 2 – Yes, your boss should bow out. Many work places know that an upper management person should not be socializing regularly with their direct reports. Of course not all places follow that, but it’s not that wild to expect it. Since you socialize regularly with the group of friends, go to the friend who can speak to their friend about not inviting the boss again. A good friend will understand.

    I tend to have a wide variety of friends and have multiple of friend groups that I socialize it. I recognize that some friends don’t need to cross paths with other friends due too many differences. If I were told to not bring someone because of a personal history, I would be cool with that and ask my friend to apologize on my behalf.

    1. Juniper*

      Exactly. Someone I might get on with like a house on fire could be like oil and vinegar with someone else. Normally these are things that can be picked up on without even having to say anything, and then you naturally adjust. It’s not fun for others to be around a strained dynamic anyway.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. I have a really good friend, she’s a lot of fun to be with. The odd thing is, I have to turn down invitations to her parties because I’m the odd one out. I can’t stand her other friends. It seems to me that the only thing we have in common is that we’re friends with the pivot friend. One of them openly came on to my husband at a party, it started at 6 and she was so drunk she slurred her words and could barely walk in a straight line by 8. My husband handled it well, but it was awkward. Another of my friends’ friends kept making sexual remarks all the time, which probably gave the drunk the idea to flirt with my husband. I wasn’t offended in a moral sense but it got rather tiresome. When we were celebrating my friend’s daughter’s 7th birthday party, the son of another of my friends’ friends kept teasing my son. He only told me about it afterwards so we couldn’t intervene. The next year, the same thing happened and in the end my son stayed with the adults, babies, and toddlers who were too young to be in a room unsupervised. He seemed to play well with the babies and it was fun for us but the mom of the bully couldn’t believe her son would do such a thing. The following year my son refused to go, and I thought that he was right, 9-year-olds are old enough that they want to celebrate their birthdays with their own friends, not the kids of their parents’ friends. My friend and I are close enough that I could frankly ask her if the other friend was coming, and when she said yes, I declined the invitation.

        I also have a few friend groups that pretty much never cross paths. It helps that I’m in the core group of one and just a peripheral friend in the others. In the peripheral ones I’m only truly friends with one member of the core group, and I don’t make a point of keeping in touch with the others. I haven’t heard from most of them since December 2019 when my friend hosted a Christmas party for us.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      I wonder if the boss actually even made the connection before arriving – if they were just told the invite was to “Sam’s barbecue”, they may not have realised it meant Sam the employee until they turned up and came face to face, so there wasn’t an opportunity to bow out, but if the situation ever comes up again they now know whose barbecue it is and can do so.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Also it sounds like the friend possibly hadn’t made the connection that Alex their friend was Alex the OP’s manager at the time of issuing the invitation?

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Ugh, just realised it’s not clear from the letter who was actually hosting the barbecue that day – if it was someone else altogether hosting, and boss was told it was “Mary’s barbecue” they’d be even less likely to connect that “Sam the employee” would be present.

          1. Allypopx*

            From OPs followup comments I’m pretty sure the host didn’t have enough context or foreknowledge of guests to prevent or navigate this

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Agreed – my read is the question was asked in an “how do I head this off going forward” sense.

              In that case I think just a quick word to the friend of a friend should work.

  12. Juniper*

    I don’t get what the issue really is in letter 3. You say yourself that you just got an email about this, so I don’t understand why you immediately jump to the conclusion that they are purposely withholding names because they weren’t in the email. More information could perhaps have been forthcoming about the process going forward, but around such a sensitive subject like personnel issues they may have reasons that you aren’t privy to for doing it the way they did.

    1. TechWorker*

      It does seem that there is no ‘perfect’ way of doing this. You want to tell all the laid off people at the same time or as close together as possible. You want to let the rest of the company know there *were* layoffs & ideally be able to reassure them they are not part of it. Sending a company wide announcement with names early on seems like it also doesn’t give those who are laid off time to process it or any control over how they tell the people they work with. That doesn’t seem ideal either, so an announcement without names seems a plausible mid step?

      1. Juniper*

        That was my thought as well. Like you point out, the timing of each step really has to be really considered, and any hiccup along the way could derail a larger process. If it’s more than a couple people it’s nigh impossible to have everything streamlined enough to stick to a “perfect” plan.

    2. Mockingjay*

      My otherwise decent company does keep firings and unpleasant news under the rug. It’s annoying and sometimes dangerous. There was a teammate, Fred, who abruptly disappeared one day. It wasn’t until I asked where he was that I was told was that Fred had ‘left’ the company and Joe was assuming Fred’s duties. Turns out Fred was arrested for a sex crime on a work trip and promptly fired. It was the kind of thing that Company probably should have checked whether teammates were affected (although I don’t know how management would phrase it). Another example, our premises are located in a not-so-nice part of town and at one point there were frequent incidents of panhandlers and drug deals in our parking lot. Dealers were hanging out at the building overnight and began going after female employees who were arriving alone early in the morning to open the office. We found out by break room gossip. You’d think the company would announce that kind of thing and the safety precautions the company was taking (like, please don’t arrive before 8 am, local police are patrolling per VP’s request and cameras are being added). Nope.

    3. WellRed*

      In a company of only 45 people it’s odd not to say Percival, Persephone and Paul are no longer with the company. It’s odd because eventually people will realize they are gone since everyone likely knows each other. And the fact of them being laid off needn’t be treated like a state secret.

      1. Juniper*

        Yes, eventually people will realize. The LW said they were just emailed. There was nothing to indicate the company was treating this like a state secret.

  13. Tisiphone*

    #3 – That’s happened before at nearly every job that had layoffs. They treat it like some big secret, and among the remaining employees, the rumor mill starts churning away as we try to get an idea who’s still employed. It’s a massive distraction, not to mention some clients and upstream coworkers have their favorites to work with.

    A couple decades ago, I was an on-site IT contractor and got laid off. The contracting company I worked for gave me a generous notice, but I was told not to talk about it to anyone. I had to get permission tell my immediate supervisor about it, because seriously, he had to be informed at the very least and if I didn’t tell him, who would? It got awkward when on my last day I ran into a client in the hall who told me about a large job they just submitted, requesting me specifically to work on it.

    I did tell the client. They took me to lunch and told me to use them as a reference.

  14. rudster*

    Re. LW 5 – Perhaps the boss doesn’t want to say anything because they hope the side gig will take off and the poor performer will leave?
    And what does “Her cell phone voice mail is set up for it” mean? Is this a company phone or one she uses regularly uses for business? Otherwise it’s not really relevant. The performance is the real issue.
    Objectively, it’s not really possible to build up any side business without using company time at all – no (e.g. freelance) client is ever going to wait until the end of your business day to get a response, even if you can do the work off the clock – they are simply going to move on to the next supplier. So absolute prohibitions of this type can characterized as somewhere between unreasonable and “meant to broken as long as you’re discreet about it” – unless you are competing with your employer or the activity presents a clear conflict of interest. Is stealing a modest of time for your side gig really any different from using it take care of occasional non-business-related personal matters?

    1. Self Employed*

      blockquote/And what does “Her cell phone voice mail is set up for it” mean? Is this a company phone or one she uses regularly uses for business? Otherwise it’s not really relevant. The performance is the real issue./blockquote

      I think it means OP called her cell phone (presumably for work reasons) and the outgoing voicemail said “Thank you for calling LlamaStartup, please leave a message” instead of “This is Jane Doolittle, please leave a message.” That would be strong evidence that Jane really does have a side gig (LlamaStartup) vs. wild speculation that Jane is taking long lunches to work on a side gig.

      And it looks like Jane has passed the point of discreetly responding to clients on breaks with no effect on her workflow and availability to coworkers.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      “Her cell phone voice mail is set up for it”

      It means her cellphone voice mail is something along the lines of “Hello, this is Regina Warblesworth. I’m away from my phone right now. If you’re calling about Pink N’Fluffy Llama Accessories, just leave your order in the message and I’ll get back to you. Thanks!”

    3. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      “Is stealing a modest of time for your side gig really any different from using it take care of occasional non-business-related personal matters?”

      Key word is occasional. I do make personal calls to schedule appointments or similar tasks during a work day. But not every day. Sometimes not even every week. I try to do it during a quiet moment or during lunch time. And I know people where if their personal stuff took up too much time, they’ll make up the time.

      Working a side job or 2nd job at the same time as the main job, very possibly daily, during lunch and break time is not the same. A a.m. or p.m. break is still paid time, unless you actually punch out, so you’re still on the clock. Lunch time, 95% of the time, you are off the clock.

      If I learned that a 2nd job was eating into the work time that I was paying you for, either in terms of productivity, or extended breaks and lunch hours that I haven’t approved, I would not be happy as a employer or a manager.

      I had a coworker that had two (!!) side gigs and I long wondered if that what was made her so unproductive, to the point where I was picking up the slack.

    4. Deborah*

      When I was in my early 20s I worked as a receptionist in an office where my immediate predecessor had done so incredibly little that I could work 4 hours per day and still impress everyone’s socks off. She left 3 months back log behind and I was finished with it in a couple of weeks. After that, I often didn’t have enough to do. I was given more responsibilities as stuff came up but there was never enough to fill all my time (I always needed to be there to answer the phone and front desk though).

      I surfed the internet (back in the days of delphiforums). I talked on the phone for hours. I read magazines. I did homework. I created plans for bible studies. And I did mystery shopping, through my work email, IIRC. No one cared, because I needed to be there at the desk and I’d done everything they needed me to do.

      That situation is rare. Very few offices need a warm body but can’t keep the person busy all the time. The problem at that place was that I didn’t have the very specific skills and certifications that would have been required to do more. And even then, I gradually acquired more tasks and filled up more of my time with work as people figured out what they could give me.

  15. KHB*

    Q5: It’s not clear if your boss is the big boss for the whole company (e.g., it’s a small business) or if there are layers of management above him. If it’s the former, then what he says goes, and he can unilaterally set policy for how he wants to handle employees with conflicts of interest (and working a second job while on the clock for the first is definitely a conflict of interest). But if it’s the latter, that’s not necessarily the case.

    In fact, your company might already have a “conflict of interest” policy that overrides what your boss is telling you to do. If you have an employee handbook, it might be printed in there. If you have an HR department, they should be able to tell you about it.

    If I were in your shoes, I’d want to nip this in the bud as quickly and completely as possible. If you’re right about what this employee is doing while on the clock, and if you never tell her it’s not OK, she’s going to conclude that it’s OK, and she’s going to keep doing it. Beating around the bush about specific symptoms is going to leave you playing whack-a-mole with the root cause.

  16. Nine*

    USE HIM AS A REFERENCE. You were his mentor. It is a relationship the two of you cultivated to the point that you remain in contact and he spends time with your family to this day. HE EXPRESSLY ENCOURAGES YOU TO USE HIM AS A REFERENCE. I cannot imagine Alison advising anyone else who had mentored someone who became a tremendous success and wants you to use them as a reference to blow it off.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Typically a reference is someone that you reported to, not someone you mentored.
      Unless using someone you mentored as a reference is normal in this industry,it’s probably not a good idea.

      1. Reba*

        Moreover, teaching has its own norms and only the LW can find out what those are in their state or school system! There’s a risk of looking like you don’t know how things work.

        I could see a letter from the student being included in a dossier. Or quote from the former student’s remarks in a teaching philosophy statement or cover letter, definitely!

        But a student can’t really evaluate the teacher’s pedagogy, and the student’s perspective would be considered anecdotal at best.

        It’s nice that the athlete offers, but it seems transparent that everyone knows it’s about trading on his famous name, which, while I wouldn’t say it’s wrong to do, and may even work, seems not great to me.

        1. Alexis Rosay*

          Yes, that’s right. A teacher is evaluated on how they work with a classroom, not an individual student.

          I manage teachers, and when we run student feedback surveys, there is not only a normal amount of different in student opinions, there are some remarkable outliers. Often one student says they hate the exact trait that 95% of students are praising. 10% of students may criticize the teacher for being too easy, while another 10% will criticize them for being too difficult. Talking with only one student will not give you much insight.

    2. ratatatcat*

      It seems to me that the very fact that they still spend time with each other’s families is an indication that this is not really parallel to a purely professional colleague relationship, which is what references usually are. (There’s a discussion up-thread on whether mentoring is a usual part of a teachers’ evaluation and the few responses so far tend towards ‘no’)

    3. Juniper*

      As you point out, they spend time with each others’ families — even if we were to look past the relative merit of a teacher using a former student as a reference, that’s a whole added level of dynamics that make this even more fraught. References are generally supposed to be counted on to be objective in their evaluations; if I found out that a candidate had used someone as a reference that they had a close personal relationship to I would automatically question the usefulness of it.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I also think this is a more unusual situation where he’s become more like a PERSONAL reference now.
      And you can certainly use a personal reference when job hunting, but not in lieu of actual supervisors or managers. Or, this relationship is also a great story to tell as part of the interview process, though it’s still a tad unusual in that he remains such a close personal friend.

      IDK? I am of mixed opinion on this. I think it may depend on the place OP is applying perhaps? I can see this reference having more of an impact at private schools, colleges, tutoring type roles, or heading specific programs where you’re expected to have that *certain something extra.*

      1. Allypopx*

        “though it’s still a tad unusual in that he remains such a close personal friend.”

        Is it? I know a lot of people who keep in touch with former teachers. I do. Not personally to this extent, but if they had a mentor/mentee relationship that doesn’t strike me as odd.

    5. EmKay*

      No ma’am. The teacher-student relationship cannot be compared to the employer-employee relationship. The power dynamics are vastly different.

      Fellow teachers, this is a bad idea. Please don’t do this.

    6. MK*

      People have great and close relationships with lots of people who aren’t appropriate references. Some also know very successful people who are also not appropriate references because their success isn’t relevant to the mentoring.

      If the OP had mentored a junior teacher who is now, say, the Minister of Education and is implementing brilliant innovations, yes, that’s a useful reference. A student who went on to become a famous athlete isn’t.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        The only way I could see this being possible is if the teacher in question had later worked with or under said former student now athlete because the athlete runs some event in his hometown. One now retired but formerly famous athlete who went to my crosstown rival school came back every summer and ran a month long skills camp that also included academic skills too (and he hired teachers from both schools to teach the academic side). In this circumstance I could see using the athlete as a reference.

        1. MK*

          Sure, but that makes the former student also a former boss, and it’s completely normal to have former managers as references. This is one scenario where the celebrity aspect might be a plus, assuming it is a respected celebrity.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Right – which is why I brought it up – the famous person in this case was also the boss. And if the camp or program is known and has a good reputation the fact that the famous person running the camp picked you could make a very good reference.

            In a situation where it’s a more one on one mentoring situation, I don’t know that I would use the reference. But I think the offer from the former student says a lot about how highly they think of the former teacher.

    7. Jj*

      I don’t fault the teacher at all for asking this question, but I have been working in education related jobs for 15 years never once have I ever heard of someone using a student or mentee as a reference. I’ve almost never heard of a teacher using their *own* mentor as a reference, if the mentorship primarily occurred outside of the workplace. I’ve exclusively heard of teacher’s using people who worked alongside them, either superiors or colleagues, as references.

    8. twocents*

      There’s also the chance the recruiter isn’t into sports, so will have no idea who Athlete is, and it’ll just seem like a really random reference. Like really, if you have to include a former mentee, don’t you at least have a recent one?

      1. MissCoco*

        I also think there’s a chance the recruiter would recognize the name, but after realizing this was a mentee, be put off by the potential that the athlete is listed as a name drop.

        To me, it feels extra borderline because professional sports (at least the developmental years) are often exploitative, and without a clear reason that this reference makes excellent sense and supports the overall resume, I would wonder if the LW is trying to take advantage of their former students fame

    9. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

      For L#1, networking and connections are more important then the number of years you worked or what type of skills or certificates you’ve acquired throughout one’s career. Skills are secondary. Having really good references can help a lot more if you are trying to get a different job. Especially in this day and age were you have hundreds and hundreds of applicants in which you are competing against. If your student has expressed he is fine with you using him as a reference then you should go for it. That would give an employer an example of how your mentoring possibly shaped some aspects of the student.

    10. CowWhisperer*

      Using him as a reference is a horrible idea.

      First, most high school teachers by the end of their careers have a handful of successful students who have reached national fame. My dad at the end of a 30 year career had one professional athlete and several actors. It’s nice that this teacher and this athlete are close – but that’s not particularly unusual.

      Second, most high school teachers have a few students who they continue to mentor as the student moves into adulthood. This is not unusual by a long shot – and some will become close to the student’s family as well. It’s nice that this teacher mentored this athlete, but not particularly unusual.

      Third, no one uses former students as references. That’s because a student can’t really answer a whole lot of questions about how well the teacher did their job across the board. How well did this teacher do to challenge advanced students? How was their classroom management? How well did they do with students who needed support? How much of the extra school level work that needed to be done did the teacher take on? Did they work well with support staff and different departments? How good were they at handling IEPs and 504 accommodations? (All of these questions have similar questions for coaching jobs; not every kid on the team is destined for greatness – but they all need a coach.)

      Finally, education is a professional job where recommendations from known persons in the system mean more than outsiders. For very new teachers, their student teacher recommendation means a lot and most jobs will ask references who saw them in teacher-like positions (tutoring, camp counselor etc.). This is because the natural assumption is that teachers know what good teaching looks like – and decidedly know what bad teaching looks like. Dumping a famous athlete in as a reference when that person has no professional teaching experience themselves is going to look exceptionally unprofessional – and that’s bad.

  17. Roscoe*

    #2 I’m just not sure if I agree with. Essentially, while they are your “core” group of friends, your boss is now also friends with another couple in this group. You are basically telling them to choose who to invite where because you can’t be civil for a couple of hours. I think that can work sometimes, but I also think that means OP may end up losing out on some invitations as well. Especially if this is like a rotating host situation. When I’ve had people who request I not invite someone else (an ex, a friend they’ve fallen out with, etc) unless there is something VERY serious like abuse, it makes that person look worse to me. If I’m hosting a get together, I feel like you can be an adult and deal and be civil, or you don’t have to come, but you aren’t going to dictate my guest list. Also, just because you are in the core group, doesn’t mean they definitely like you more. I definitely have people in my group of friends that I’m not that close with, but they are close with others and we hang out. So just make sure this is a hill you are willing to die on and don’t mind missing out yourself on some invitations.

    My advice would be to just be civil and not make a big deal about it. I am NOT one to defend managers, but I do think managers deserve to have a social life as well. And if they make friends randomly with someone who is friends with a subordinate, they don’t have to always decline invitations, nor do your friends have to not invite them places.

    1. Jennifer*

      I do agree that sometimes people can get silly with these kinds of requests. Like seriously, you can’t be in the same room with the girl that stole your favorite pencil in 2nd grade? Let it go. But I do think in the OP’s case she doesn’t want to just be cordial. She wants to let loose, have a few drinks and relax without worrying that her boss is judging her. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request.

    2. Zzzzzzz*

      But would asking core friend to not invite the manager be so beyond the pale that the OP would “look worse” to you? I get that some complaint like ‘she was mean to me once, don’t invite her’ would maybe make you question someone’s judgment, but “hey, I can’t relax because my manager is here, would you mind not inviting them?” doesn’t seem unreasonable. If you dislike the OP based on such a request, nicely worded, that seems extreme. OP shouldn’t stomp her feet and demand no invites to anyone she dislikes. But a reasonable request, stated nicely, shouldn’t be a reason to think worse of a person. (Also manager was a friend of another friend of a core group person, so it’s not as direct. “Don’t invite your BFF to your party” isn’t the same as, “hey Jane, my core friend, would you mind asking *your* friend Carrie not to invite *her* friend Sam to the BBQ next time?”)

      1. Andy*

        To me, I would assume that you are either childish or that boss wronged seriously on the job. Or being phrased nicely does not make that much difference, except I won’t think you are also rude.

        I would be unwilling to exclude friend because you can’t be in same room as any boss. Again, I would give you benefit of doubt that he wronged you, harassed you or something like that.

    3. Librarian1*

      It’s not a core group friend who is friends with boss, it’s a friend of one of the core group. So boss is a friend of a friend in this situation. It’s perfectly fine to make sure boss isn’t invited to future events.

  18. I'm just here for the cats*

    I’ve had a job that didn’t let us know who got laid off. There was a big chunk of people and the only one I knew that got laid off was my direct supervisor. It sick d b cause we had to contact other people in other departments occasionally and we were emailing people months later to find out they they were no longer there because of the lay off. And there was high level people in the layoff

  19. NinaBee*

    #1 would the reference be directly to his number/email, which could risk his privacy if it was shared somehow? Or if not, would the reference checkers be able to get through his managers/gatekeepers within a reasonable timeframe, given his high status and assuming many wanting his time? Seems either scenario could be problematic.

  20. Ferret*

    If I had mentored Shaq or something, hell yeah I’d milk it for all it’s worth (if he were willing).

    Is it the morally correct thing to do? Perhaps not. Should a perfect hiring manager care about it? No! But we live in an imperfect world that is obsessed by celebrity. I have no doubt this would increase OP’s perceived value to many employers. In a world that is so competitive, where it’s not always possible to stand out on merit alone, we need to do everything we can to give ourselves a leg up.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah, but you also run the opposite risk – that it’s a turn-off. The world is obsessive about celebrity for sure, but not always in a way that will lead to desired results.

      In an interview context, you probably don’t want the most memorable thing about you to be a connection to a celebrity. This might vary a lot given the context, of course, but especially if you’re interviewing with people who don’t particularly feel invested in sports, I feel like it could be more of a distraction than anything else.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        There’s a non-zero chance that your potential employer would say “Geez, I can’t believe she thinks we’d hire her just because she’s friends with Shaq. That’s so distasteful.”

        1. MK*

          Plus, you might happen on someone who despises the obsession with celebrity and/and or sports, especially the more popular sports.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            Exactly. I still remember reading an interview with N’Sync where they talked about getting turned away from some club because the promoter wanted to make a point of how the club was too cool for boy bands.

        2. Ferret*

          Well, it’s not really about being friends, but mentoring someone.

          Mentoring someone who is really successful is pretty impressive.

          Yes, there are risks, but I think the possible benefits outweigh them.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I understand mentoring is different from friendship, but saying “you should hire me as a teacher because I mentored Shaq” could easily be interpreted by “hire me because I have this cool friend” to someone who is so inclined. I do not, at all, suspect this is what the LW is thinking. But some people will.

          2. A*

            No necessarily though. If the mentoring was directly relevant to the topics they are being hired for, than maybe – but I don’t agree that it’s inherently impressive because the mentee went on to be successful. I would be nervous that this would be interpreted as me trying to claim their success as my own, which is not the case. Might have been a small piece of it depending on the circumstances, but that’s it.

    2. MK*

      I really doubt it would increase the OP’s chances the the extend you believe. And if it does, it will likely come with strings attached: few employers are so celebrity obsessed that they would be content to know they hired a worker with a connection to celebrity and not try to milk it in turn and ask favours or something.

    3. Artemesia*

      Someone who used Shag as a reference when I was hiring would probably not find themselves a finalist because I would question their judgment and their competence if they thought this was a useful reference. (and yeah Shag is great — so is Seinfield and so is Colbert — but I wouldn’t want to see a ref from them either unless I was hiring a comedian)

  21. BRR*

    LW1 one other, but relatively minor, thing to consider is I used to work for a well known employer (think like Google, Harvard, Mayo Clinic) and even though I did not work in that employer’s well known subject area (think like I did accounting at Google), i have a strong feeling I was brought into some interviews only so they could ask me about that employer.

    But the first question to answer is, do teachers use students as a reference?

  22. Jennifer*

    LW2 I’m curious why you just didn’t tell your friends who those people were and that you’d rather they weren’t invited in the future. It’s the simplest solution for everyone and it’s an easy explanation for the friend if the manager asks why they weren’t invited again.

    I had a similar situation where a close friend of mine had a history with another friend I was unaware of. When she told me, I made sure they weren’t in the same room together going forward. I’m still friends with both.

    1. Allypopx*

      I think that can feel awkward. There’s also the risk of it getting back to the boss that the OP asked them not to be invited in the future, which could get super awkward.

      1. Jennifer*

        Based on the response above it looks like they won’t be getting invited back anyway since they were a bit rude. But I don’t see why it would be awkward to casually mention that to a good friend. If the boss did ask about, she could just say the OP felt awkward socializing with her since they work together.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I think it’s that LW’s CoreFriend had a party and invited AdjacentFriend, AdjacentFriend brought along LW’s boss. So the need it for LW to tell CoreFriend to tell AdjacentFriend not to invited LW’s boss. There’s an extra layer in between you’re missing.

    3. A*

      I have the same question, and based on some of the comments I’m seeing I’m guessing it largely comes down to the definition of ‘friends’ and the dynamics that go along with it. For me, the only people I consider friends are close friends, and across all of my social groups we have fully transparent / filter and judgement free relationships. If I wouldn’t feel comfortable speaking to them about this, I wouldn’t consider them to be a friend.

      I can’t imagine any scenario in my social groups where this would be an issue. Would be resolved in a very quick 5 minute convo, and I doubt I’d even need to mention I was uncomfortable – once they were aware of the connection they’d most likely nip it in the bud on their own.

      Some of the comments up thread seem to be approaching this in a very formal, almost court-of-law kind of way. I can’t imagine approaching one of my friends about this and them responding “BUT IT’S BY HOUSE, MAH RIGHTS!!!!”. Like…. what kind of friendship dynamics do these people have going on? I assume it’s people referring to friendly acquaintances as friends?

      Blowing my mind!

  23. CatPerson*

    LW1, unless you’re planning to claim credit for the athlete’s accomplishments that directly ensured from your mentor relationship, don’t use him as a reference. Based on your letter this does not seem to be the case and the young man did these things on his own.

  24. foolofgrace*

    #5: I always thought you were off the clock for your unpaid lunch hour. I can understand not using the employer’s equipment for a second job, but what if they went out to their car for their lunch hour and did whatever there? Breaks not so much because they’re short and usually paid. I often go out to my car at lunch and read, but I could be knitting baby blankets for sale at a craft fair. Okay, that last bit’s a stretch, I get it. Also I am assuming that it’s an unpaid lunch hour, which is the only kind I’ve ever gotten.

    1. Allypopx*

      I think the issue isn’t how she uses her lunch hour, it’s that she’s taking more time for lunch than she’s allocated.

      Also FWIW, in a lot of salary positions you’ll get some variations on the payment aspect. My last job I had an unpaid 30 minute break but they encouraged us to take an hour for lunch, for instance. Some jobs are also pretty flexible about what “a lunch hour” means ie: occasional long lunches are fine, you can run errands or go to the gym or whatever, while other jobs might have a paid lunch where you’re expected to at least be on site or reachable, depending on your duties. That’s not super relevant to the question, just for the context of different setups.

    2. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      Plenty of companies have a policy that you can’t “moonlight” without written permission.

  25. Anononon*

    It’s interesting the handful of comments here that are strangely biased against the teacher. Like, not just, “this could look bad to some interviewers” but comments implying she could just be the “cool” teacher that, looking back, clearly wasn’t or implying that because she had a close relationship with one student, her efforts with the other students must have suffered.

    It kinda reminds me of the nanny post where people’s subconscious bias against those who can hire live-in staff really reared its head.

    1. Colette*

      It’s possible that she was a great teacher for all of her students – we don’t know. But mentoring a student who became well known is not a sign that she was – at best it’s neutral.

      1. Jj*

        But Anononon isn’t wondering why more people don’t think she is a good teacher. She is wondering why, based on no data, people are assuming she’s a bad teacher. As you said, she’s at best neutral. She’s also (currently) at worst neutral. She asked a question, about somethings he hasn’t yet done, and we really don’t know anything about her at all good or bad. So Anononon’s point is relevant. *why* are people making assumptions either way? in either direction it would show a bias.

        1. Colette*

          She is, at a minimum, considering using someone as a reference who she was in a position of power over, then developed a personal friendship with. Those aren’t really signs of a good teacher, no matter who the student ends up being.

          1. Jj*

            This attitude really seems smug and unhelpfully shaming to me.

            She asked a question – about somethings he was leaning against doing – but had been encouraged heavily by others to do. She was unsure what was moral and correct so she came to a place that specializes in giving advice to people who don’t know what to do. Alison will call a moral shot as she sees it, when appropriate. It is reasonable to expect to get moral advice from Alison.

            I just have no patience for this kind of attitude. It’s honestly pretty shitty because judgement for people who ask for advice is *exactly* the kind of the thing that causes people to do things without asking for advice. Is that what you would prefer? That if she is receiving really conflicting advice on what to do in a moral situation she take a blind shot in the dark, or would you rather she reach out to someone who specializes in advising people who are confused about the best course of workplace action?

            Asking before doing *was* the right thing to do. We have no idea if she is a good teacher or not in general, but this tells us literally nothing about the quality of her teaching. It’s not “not a good” sign of anything.

            1. Colette*

              I totally agree that asking is a good thing.

              But generally, teachers shouldn’t have personal relationships with their students – in fact, that can be a sign of abuse. I’m not saying she was abusing him – but I’m saying that, as someone who volunteers with teenagers, that’s not likely to be a plus towards hiring her, and is in fact a sign of potential trouble. You cannot be friends with someone you are in a position of power over, no matter how great they are.

              I assume that the OP was perfectly appropriate and that she may be a great teacher – but this reference would be a red flag if I were considering hiring her, because there are too many blurred boundaries.

          2. Letter Writer 1*

            Wow. Thank you for passing judgement on my morals. I had a completely professional mentor relationship with this student and many others. I wrote this letter because my feelings were to not use this student as reference. I just wanted other opinions because so many people in my personal life told me I should.

              1. Letter Writer 1*

                Damn it. I can’t even keep up. I don’t even know who I meant to reply to so sorry all.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I agree with you. If anything, the poster seems skeptical of using this person as a reference but she’s gut-checking because she’s been urged by others.

      That said, I think we can see the reaction in the comments section as useful data: connections with celebrities bring up questions for people (is it true? could I meet this person? is she a ‘hanger-on’?) that may not be helpful to OP in her search.

      1. Anononon*

        Yeah, it definitely shows the potential pitfalls. I wouldn’t do it for the reasons Alison listed, but there are also concerns of even more extreme viewpoints.

        (However, I’ve learned to take a lot of the “general consensus” here with a grain of salt. I’m not saying the biased view in this case that I’ve brought up is the majority view, but I do think the commentariat tends to skew differently from the majority population, such as more skeptical/jaded or more introverted.)

    3. TechWriter*

      I think people aren’t questioning *her* teaching skills, just giving examples of why a potential hiring committee might not consider a former student to be a particularly compelling reference for *any* teacher. They’re saying that students don’t have a clear-eyed view *in general* of their teachers, not necessarily that this specific student has rose-colour glasses on about this particular teacher.

  26. Workfromhome*

    #3 is far too common and ridiculous at every place it happens. My old Toxic job was(and still is) notorious for this. We used to joke that the only way to tell when someone left the company was if their email bounced back (and even then it wasn’t fool proof)

  27. Batty Old Teacher*

    LW1: Please don’t use this young man as a reference. When hiring teachers, we (dept chairs) look at references from previous principals, instructional coaches, department heads…but not students.

    Also, on a more personal note, I made a similar mistake when I was not a Batty Old Teacher but a Young Fired Up Teacher. You see, I taught one of the big names in Big Tech back when he was but a high school student. I was quite young and one of the very first “computer” teachers in our district and he had a passion for it. (“Computer” in quotes only because that was what I was called, despite the courses having actual, normal names…)
    Anywho, his relationship and mine sounds what you describe with your athlete–a friendship that extends across the years, to the present, one of mutual respect and familial friendship.

    Years ago, I was in the process of changing districts due to a move. After the interview, and the job offer, I was being given a tour of the building by the principal. During the course of the conversation, I casually mentioned that I had taught this person and my new principal asked, “Can you ask him for a donation?”

    I was taken aback. I had never exploited my friendship for monetary gain; I had never asked him for a donation of any sort ever. And, while financing a high school computer lab would probably be the catering budget for one of the C-Suite lunches for him, it just wasn’t something I would ask. I told the principal I wasn’t comfortable doing that but my former student was always willing to be a guest speaker or entertain a few students for an interview. My prinicpal muttered something about money being more important.

    Now, my former student was good on his word about being a guest speaker (in those early days of video conferencing, or even just calling into the room on speaker phone) and even entertaining a few kids’ requests for an interview for a career project. He even sent me some “goodies” (pens, pencils, etc) with his company’s logo to distribute to kids.

    But, because of that relationship, ever fundraiser that the school ever had, I would have someone come to my room and ask me to call him. I refused every time. Now, would my former student have helped? I’m sure he would’ve, but to me, it felt exploitative.

    So, please don’t put your famous student down as a reference. Don’t ask for donations, or financial assistance for the school, either. If he wants to help, ask him to mentor a student who needs it.

    1. EmKay*

      Thank you for illustrating my feelings on the subject much better than I could, this morning.

  28. RussianInTexas*

    LW3: My company does this. It does it even worse, people just disappear. Whatever happened to Priah? Why my e-mails to her are answered by Sally?
    For people who got fired, laydoff, quit. They are just gone.

    1. Construction Safety*

      Yep, here, too. They even hid it from our biggest client. Of course, we were involved in litigation with them & the PTB felt it would weaken our postition.

  29. Message in a Bottle*

    #1 – The only thing that threw me off about this was, “I travel to support him.” I honestly don’t know what that means. It doesn’t really change the advice, unless this guy was a junior coach for this student. Which I don’t think he is.

    #5 – How can you do another job on a lunch break? And what’s a long lunch? 90 minutes? Two hours? Unless she has an Etsy shop or something, it’s hard for me to imagine getting even part-time work done in two hours a day.

    1. Reba*

      I took it simply as sports fans “support” their teams — by attending their games, wearing their merch, etc.

      1. Message in a Bottle*

        It’s difficult to know. I didn’t know if the teacher was still actively supporting the student as a mentor. Still doesn’t mean he can use student as a reference, but would constitute quite a long-term relationship. And if he’s traveling–like getting on a plane–to go to the student’s games, that is quite a close relationship.

        If I were famous and someone was really close to me, sure, I’d try and help ’em out. As an adult, I know how to keep boundaries. And some people are priceless and I’d help as I’d see fit. What could I really say, also? He was a great teacher and without him I wouldn’t have my high school diploma? Which actually sounds pretty good!

        Don’t know if that would sway anyone confirming a reference. But if it that comment were among other colleagues and managers singing his praises–who knows? People can be odd about these things. Like things that shouldn’t sway actually do. My point is as the student I wouldn’t mind if I offered. People I don’t know are asking me for stuff all the time. This I offered to do.

        1. Letter Writer 1*

          Yes. I travel to his games when I can. I will
          Be taking my kids to visit him and his family over their fall break this year. Our relationship didn’t expand to this level of familiarity until the last few years.

    2. sofar*

      My industry hires lot of people who freelance on the side (and it’s fine as long as they’re not freelancing for competitors). I did it for a while myself until I was promoted into a position where I was making enough to drop the freelance work. And, while I did it, I often did take the time during lunch to check my freelance email on my phone, respond to a few contacts, etc.

      We did have one employee who was very clearly working on freelance projects on the clock. I regularly saw her freelancer email and open in-progress Google Docs when she shared her screen. I think she was more accustomed to having an independent, flexible “it doesn’t matter when you work as long as it gets done” environment at a previous employer. I had to be very clear that, here, she needed to be able to jump on quick-deadline items, turn work around the same day, be available for unplanned synchs and brainstorms, and make edits/changes in real time as we neared deadlines. A one-hour-ish lunch was totally fine. Not checking email/Slack for a few hours at a time was not. To her credit, she adjusted.

  30. Jammy*

    #5 – This doesn’t change the advice to only focus on performance, but I have known people who just… don’t think to change their voicemail message. Ever. Some who don’t set it up at all, but others who will set it and then forget about it for years. I get why the total of all these concerns added up makes it seem like she’s working a side gig, but is it possible she’s just a poor performer in this role who never changed her recorded greeting from a previous job? If she’s new at your company and that was her job before this one (I’ve definitely worked what could be called a side gig as my main source of income when I was unemployed and job searching), could be a leftover detail she hasn’t remembered.

  31. Hiring Mgr*

    #3 is slightly confusing – does OP mean the company didn’t identify the laid off people in a company wide email announcing they layoffs? Because that’s very common.

    Now if OP means that even after that she couldn’t get info about who was let go especially if that affects her work, then yes that’s peculiar.

    1. Richard*

      I was confused on the same point. It would be gross if the company-wide email said “The following people have been laid off: ” though managers should be following hot on the heels of a generic email with communication to their teams about what’s changing for them.

  32. Salad Daisy*

    #5 we had a low performing employee who we discovered was working a second job, remotely, while on the clock, from his cubicle in our office. He’s gone now.

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    For #1 I could see using the athlete as a reference if it was one of a few, and the others were the more traditional type of refs. Not knowing how references for teachers work, I’d assume typically you would have the principal or other senior teachers, etc..

    I’d also say this is a “know your audience” thing. If the town or school has a heavy sports culture, this could tip the scales in your favor

  34. Gouda*

    LW #1 — Just from the standpoint of the professional norms of education, it would be extremely weird to include a former student as a reference. It miiiigiht be okay to include a quote from the student embedded in your cover letter or portfolio, but even there identifying them by name would be considered pretty odd.

  35. Jj*

    I don’t at all fault OP 1 for asking this question. But I am curious – has any educator reading this ever heard of someone using their student for a reference, in any context? I am only ask other educators. I have never heard of this happening – ever – at all. I haven’t even heard of teacher’s using their own mentors or teachers as references, unless they specifically had a relationship with them in college, grad school, or the workplace.

    1. McScrambles*

      I work in academia, not k-12, but I saw it mentioned above that a professor might use a former grad-student or mentee as a reference. I cannot imagine a circumstance in which I would find this appropriate. Academic hiring is a bit different from k-12, but I’m trying to imagine a scenario in which a potential new-hire thought that it would be appropriate to use a famous former-student as a reference, and just… no. For so many reasons. Mentioning that you are Oprah’s former 3rd grade teacher during an interview? Sure! Interesting and a fun anecdote, using Oprah as a reference if you never worked for her or with her as an official client or partner? Nope. Same goes with any celebrity.

    2. Aaron*

      I’d be really reluctant to do it. My regulatory body’s guidelines (British Columbia) forbid ‘exploiting students for material or personal advantage’. In a lot of ways the relationship is (and should be) one way. Norms might be different elsewhere but the idea feels pretty gross.
      This doesn’t feel like a problem with OP 1, it sounds more like there’s a wider problem with clarifying professional standards.

  36. Ms. Anon*

    A little off topic but…breach of confidentiality is the A#1 reason HR people get fired. People rarely get fired from my org, but the exception is HR. They get fired fairly often! Gossip mill always reveals a confidentiality breach. It’s the ONE THING you have to do to keep your job in HR–why on earth do people blab? The company lawyers also have to keep their mouths shut about various topics and they’re not always out the door for blabbing, so this isn’t an impossibly high bar. I, and I assume my collegues too, have access to information that cannot be shared, and we don’t. Outside of HR, the firings I know of were people on PIPs (who had the issues spelled out) and in two cases financial shenanigans. All the breach-of-confidentiality firings were from HR.

  37. bopper*

    I wouldn’t use him as a reference but if you had a questions on ‘Tell me about a time…” and a story about him would be appropriate you could use that organically.

    1. DKMA*

      I was going to write something similar. I’m not sure you should name drop him even in this scenario, but you could use this as very specific story about you actions, and how you think it helped the man, and how he’s turned out great and how you found it a very satisfying part of your role.

      1. Amaranth*

        I like the idea of keeping it anonymous and if they ask if LW can divulge who it is at the end, make sure to mention ‘sure, I have his permission.’

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Thirded from me. With so many places now going with interview formats where the questions want examples of what you’ve done in the answers an anonymous story about the mentorship with this former student.

      Honestly I think that’s a better way to approach this situation.

  38. awesome3*

    #2 I think Alison’s script might be a little forward for some people to receive. In an ideal world the boss would stop coming to the events, in a secondary ideal situation you could use that script, but I think that the script could get awkward. You will need to show restraint on your boss stories now, either way.

  39. awesome3*

    #1 I wouldn’t use the student as a job reference, but if you were up for an award an needed someone to present it, or something like that, that could be really cool. It might be better to save that offer for something more out of the box that it might be suited for, than a standard reference for a job application. But I could see that being a nice addition for something like teacher of the year (even though the former student doesn’t have insight on your teaching this year, maybe not the best example).

  40. I Want to Break Free*

    #3 My company ALWAYS does this — even when we were around 30, and more so now that we are 8X that. A work-friend of mine and I had to compare who we knew was let go to establish a full list during the last layoffs. It is *asinine*, but par for the course around our communication. They also don’t let people leaving the company tell anyone beyond management until their *last day*. I worked with someone who was trying to get a project done in short order all of the sudden and it wasn’t until I got they “I’m moving on” email on their last day that I understood why.

    I have no idea why they do this.

  41. Database Developer Dude*

    #5 – This is what I’ve been dealing with for the past year, except it’s a colleague I have no control over…but his work affects mine. The straw that broke the camel’s back is that he did get a new job, worked it while working this job, and then quit this job, leaving us hanging to try to find out what the status is with several software development projects….

  42. Silicon Valley Girl*

    #3 & layoffs – every company I’ve been at, very large to small, does *not* announce names of people who were laid off in any way. I thought it might be some kind of regulation, but since Allison didn’t mention it, I guess it’s just a weird practice! Sometimes individuals will let coworkers know they’re going on their way out (either in person or by email), but more often it’s the kind of thing you find out through the rumor mill. Which is really annoying in the “Bob was in that round of layoffs so here’s how that affects your work” matter.

  43. Van Wilder*

    #3 – if anyone’s company handles communication around layoffs well, could you please let us know what they do?

    I work for a large company so I get not wanting to send a company-wide (or even region-wide) email with the names, but otherwise, the only way we find out is through rumors, or when their email bounces back.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It makes sense not to send out a list of people who were laid off, but it *doesn’t* make sense that they don’t tell us “Jane is now in charge of X.”

  44. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – you should NOT use your former student as a reference. They would not qualify as a professional reference – not unless you were specifically asked to provide a student as a reference (which is really unlikely at the high school level). You might ask their parent to be a reference, but again, only if a parent or personal reference is requested.

    However, if you were asked in an interview about how you mentored or helped a student succeed, your former student might be a good example of how you helped (esp. if your help meant the student got a good education/grounding in your subject, and wasn’t just allowed to get a passing C), and you could mention that you continue to be in contact as a friend and mentor as they progress their sports career. Basically, only use them as an example if you made a real difference in their life, and make sure it doesn’t look like you’re taking credit for their sports success. (Otherwise, you might do better to mention your underperforming students who faced serious obstacles to success, and how you helped them overcome those difficulties to get into college.)

  45. yala*

    #3 reminds me of a story my friend’s stepfather was telling us about long long ago, when his engineering company was bought by a much larger one, and they were told only a few of them would be kept on.

    The way they did it was:

    Everyone came in to work that day, went into their offices, and closed the door.

    Then they waited.

    If you got a phone call, you could stay.

    And that might be one of the most needlessly evil things I have ever heard.

    1. Colette*

      I’ve been through layoffs like that, except it was the opposite – if you got a phone call, you were gone. It was devastating for both the people who were laid off and those who stayed. Except the guy who wanted to get laid off quickly so he could go to a job interview, I think he was OK.

  46. Dagny*

    OP1 – listing him as a reference is the wrong way to go. In a cover letter, say that you have longstanding relationships with several of your students; you enjoy helping them in ways that translate over to other fields; some of them have gone on to great success, and it is genuinely joyful to see them succeed and to have been a small part of that person’s story. Then if you are asked about it in an interview, you first say that this student asked to be used as a reference; tell the story of mentorship without using his name; talk about the BBQs; and at the end, say, “That student is Gronk.”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think that’s a better approach than an actual reference as well.

        I think that the fact that the student was/is offering to be a reference shows how highly they think of the OP. It seems like they do want to help – but the world of academia is just a really weird and different world. Also, personal references really aren’t as much of a thing as they used to be.

  47. PookieLou*

    #3 happened at one of my old jobs! They didn’t even announce layoffs until the next day, even though almost everyone was affected (and they eliminated an entire department)! It was done to “preserve the dignity” of the people getting laid off, but making them the center of office gossip in order to function doesn’t seem dignified to me. I still feel gross when I think about the HR rep approaching me in the morning, asking where Florinda’s desk was, and I cheerfully answered, “Oh, it’s right over there!” and went about my business completely unaware that she was about to be let go. One of the layoffs had just started 3 weeks previous. It took me most of the morning to find out through the grapevine that one of my frequent collaborators was gone, and I’d have to adjust. It was my first “grown-up” office job, so it took me some experience and the power of hindsight to realize how crappy that was.

  48. OyHiOh*

    RE #1 – Would you consider using this former student as a reference if all details remained the same, except that they went on to be an editor at the Washington Post, an industrial scientist part of a team working on mRNA vaccines, received any of the Nobel awards, got a MacArthur Genius award, etc? It’s hard for me to personally be impressed by a student/teacher mentoring relationship that happened to develop into long term familial friendship with a household name famous athlete and given what I’ve seen of public schools with my children, I kind of wonder if using this former student as a reference might give the wrong impression entirely.

    I would also ask you to think about how you look at your students, and the culture you foster in your classrooms if this mentoring relationship is or becomes a part of your professional identity: Relying on the narrative of “I mentored this person who became a fantastically successful athlete” sends a message that you pick out a certain kind of student (athletic, sports driven) to foster and may not be a welcoming, inclusive teacher to all your students. The general US culture is frustratingly sports-forward and it would be nice if, once in awhile, students could encounter teachers who do not focus on success in sports.

    See, as a teen, I was picked out by teachers for high school level summer leadership programs multiple years and every year, I’d get to the program and wonder why I’d been selected and how on earth do I fit here because the “leadership” that was demonstrated by keynote speakers and workshop presenters were so sports-and-corporate-culture forward that I could not see myself in the room (my parents were part of the 70’s back-to-the-land movement and I was a music/theater nerd).

  49. Baron*

    LW#1 – that’s so cool, seeing a student have that kind of success. You should be very proud.

    Last year, I lost out on a job, and when I asked for feedback, they explained that it was neck-and-neck between me and the other candidate, but the other candidate had a reference from (Extremely Famous Person). They were clearly very starstruck, as I’m sure some people would be, but I’ve been baffled ever since – what does knowing a famous person have to do with anything?

    In your case, it’s a bit different because you mentored the student and it sounds like you were very close with him. I would say that if it’s a situation where you would ordinarily use a student as a reference, like a 360, he’d be someone to use. But if they’re looking for past supervisors, it might look odd to use a student.

  50. Letter Writer 1*

    Hi! I am Letter Write 1! Most of you have voiced what I worried about. I have never used a student as a reference before. I was just checking because so many people told me I should I started to doubt myself. As I stated in the letter, I would never want to try and take credit for his success.

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