my coworker told HR I was interviewing and now they’re posting my job

A reader writes:

I need some perspective on this bananas situation.

I recently had a job interview. It went well. At my current job, I told one person. I shouldn’t have, but I felt like I owed it to her since she was such a big part of my training. Since our department is overseen by just the president of our company, and HR to back him up, she went to them and told them I had interviewed somewhere.

So yesterday, I got a chat message from our HR person, and when I asked my coworker if she knew what it was about, she asked me not to be mad and said I was too good to let leave, and she wanted to see if they would try and keep me.

Our HR person was very confrontational. She asked, “Why do you want to leave?” “Is a coworker upsettting you?” “Is this just about money?” “Are you going to give two weeks notice?” “Will you do an exit interview?” She then said that since I was due for a raise anyway, she could try and get me one. Last year my entire performance review consisted of me getting CC’d on an email saying, “Give her a dollar amount more an hour.” And nothing else. I told her that my lack of a true supervisor was causing issues as there was no one to go to, because the company president seemed too busy to ask about small issues that come up.

I left her office and she called me back 15 minutes later to ask for another meeting. She said they were going to give me a raise. She also questioned my need for a supervisor, asking what I needed from one and what the president was lacking. I told her communication was not very forthcoming. As an example, I cited the fact that we are near a quarry that will blast once a week or so and sends out warning emails in advance to nearby businesses. Our company sends them to all of the supervisors, but the information makes its way to us only because a friend in another department messages me to let me know after her supervisor tells her.

After this meeting, I went back to my desk, and packed up any of my personal belongings I didn’t want to be without. This company has a history of letting people go and never telling anyone. Or just telling you that you are fired when you show up one day. (I have seen this happen.)

The following week, I get another message from HR asking for another meeting. She said that the president had come up with a solution: I would just email him anytime I had an issue, and he would schedule a time for me. That will fix the supervisor problem. She said to make sure to let her know too, so she can make sure the meeting happens. She also asked if I knew anything about the job yet. I told her I would let her know once I knew anything. She asked how long it would be until I knew anything, I told her about a month. She said that was a long time to keep her waiting.

The following week (today), I scheduled some PTO time for the rest of the week for an unrelated reason and I get a chat message from HR: “Hey, I’m going to be out the rest of the week so I wanted to follow up with you today. I had walked over that way yesterday and noticed you had taken a lot of your personal items off your desk and then put PTO time in today. Did you get an update from the company you interviewed with?” I responded, “I have not heard anything. As I have said before, I will let you know when I do.” She replied, “Great. I will continue to follow up regardless as I told you due to the position we are in. Especially when we notice things such as you removing your personal items.”

Then I looked on the careers section of our website, and my job has been posted on there, where it wasn’t before.

I’m kinda flabbergasted by this whole thing. I will admit to overreacting by taking some of my personal items home, but this feels like they are making it a much bigger deal about it.

I need some perspective on this. Is this a case of bad management/ HR? Going forward, the one person I told about the interview won’t be getting any more information from me. I had one job interview and now it feel like I could come back Monday and just be fired.


Something is also very wrong with your HR person and possibly your company president, but your coworker decided you were too good to lose and took it upon herself to tell your employer that you’d been interviewing, without your permission? Not even that you’d been offered another job, but that you’d had an interview? A single interview?

When you work for a company with a history of firing people out of nowhere?

Your coworker put your job in jeopardy and she should be exiled to Ramen Island. (Except we decided Ramen Island is too good for awful people. I don’t know where we will send them — Rotten Cheese Cove?)

None of that helps you now though.

Your HR person is way out of line too, of course. You’ve had a single interview. You haven’t said you plan to leave. She’s in the wrong for posting your job without having a real conversation with you about your plans. She’s also not entitled to the constant updates that she seems to want.

Because she’s acting like she’s going to push you out over this, you’ve got to try to undo what your coworker did. One possibility is to go back to your HR person and say you’ve given it a lot of thought, you’re willing to try the solution the president came up with, you appreciate the raise, and you have no plans to leave. (Technically that’s true since you don’t have a job offer.) Say you’re alarmed that they’ve posted your job simply because you had an interview and now that you’ve talked through the issues that were on your mind, you want to give the changes they’ve made a chance, and you’d like to be able to do your job without worrying that you need to be looking for another position.

They forfeited the right to more transparency when they handled the situation this way. When your company — which holds more power than you do when it comes to your next paycheck — makes moves to push you out prematurely because you God forbid spoke with another employer, you do what you need to do to protect yourself.

And the reality is — you don’t have plans to leave for that other job. If it’s offered to you and you’re able to negotiate the terms you want, perhaps you will. But as of this moment, it hasn’t been offered to you and — as with any interview — you’ve got to proceed as if it won’t be.

If that changes a month from now, will it be awkward to turn around and say you changed your mind? A bit, but that’s okay. You can explain that you hadn’t expected an offer but they surprised you with one that was too good to refuse, you appreciate their efforts to try to keep you and hoped it would work out, blah blah.

But do what you can to protect yourself now.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 260 comments… read them below }

      1. Former Child*

        And I would always say in this situation, “It was just an interview! I was referred to them and went to hear what they had to say. That’s all it was.” Keep minimizing it and tell HR she’s blowing this way out of proportion.

        Then, leave if you feel like it.

  1. Dust Bunny*

    Letters like this make me want to send cards to my supervisor, HR, and our administrative people to thank them for being so not-bonkers.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Right? My workplace seems absolutely boring after reading letters like this!

      Also, I love that Ramen Island is officially a thing. Maybe instead of an exile, it could be a premium vacation spot for fabulous coworkers?

        1. Abogado Avocado*

          +1 Ramen Island sounds wonderful!

          Personally, I think this coworker and the HR person should be exiled to Microwaved Fish Island.

            1. Batty Twerp*

              Based on what I found in the kitchen this morning, I’m in favour of naming part of the peninsula Forgotten Sour Milk Beach.

    2. Kate*


      The director of my department just sent out a job listing for a director position similar to hers in another area of the country to everyone at my level, in case anyone was interested in applying. (Different organization, but they do the same thing we do.) It made me realize that I am so lucky that I have supervisors who truly want to see their people succeed, even if it means that they lose them.

      1. Former Child*

        I once told coworker at a non-profit that I had an interview, and she told the volunteer! The MAIN one we counted on the most! Even worse than telling employees. I couldn’t believe it.

    3. Clisby*

      I know. The worst boss/workplace I had during my 40+ years of working life was NOTHING compared to some of what I see here.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Same, even my worst teenaged awful jobs weren’t that bad.

        We’ve had occasional drama at my current job but it’s always been handled. We have nice benefits and we’re encouraged to use them. They don’t rush to fire people but when it’s clear that that’s what need to happen, they do it, including an executive director who completely dropped the ball.

  2. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, never tell your coworker anything that you don’t want the entire world finding out about. They are clearly not to be trusted.

    Also, yes, do what Alison says, but keep interviewing. Get out of there. You don’t need that kind of crap. If they don’t want to lose you, then maybe they should treat you better.

    1. Portia*

      Yeah OP, The way to protect yourself now is to interview, interview, interview. Look up what they owe you under state law, as well.

      They may terminate you, and you need to protect your income.

      1. Ooh La La*

        Trying to curry favor with the boss/president, I’m guessing? It already sounds like there are skewed relationship dynamics in OP’s company (OP feeling obligated to tell the coworker because she put a lot of time into training) that emphasize a toxic brand of “loyalty.”

      2. Allonge*

        Some people also seem to miss any inclination to think and so have no filter between ‘there is a potential problem’ and ‘I need to DO something’.

  3. Threeve*

    How about “actually, most people I know accept invitations to interview occasionally even when they have no intention of leaving their position any time soon; the idea is that it helps you to practice communication skills under pressure and it’s actually a great way to get new ideas for what you can do to improve in your current job.”

    ^Absolute BS. But it might be worth a try when it comes to paranoid people completely out of touch with professional norms.

    1. Anon for now*

      I have always accepted the occasional interview request, to make sure I don’t get too rusty, and to be sure that my current position is still competitive. I’m always open to leaving if the opportunity is amazing, but usually it’s a way to confirm that where I current am is still best.

      1. Clisby*

        Same with me. I’m retired now, but when I was working, I would interview occasionally just to see what was out there.

        I remember when our daughter was interviewing for college internships, my husband urged her to take any relevant interview opportunity, even if she wasn’t that interested. His advice: “You don’t want your first interview to be with the place you *really* want to work.”

    2. thethatcher*

      I don’t think that’s BS at all. Interviewing is a great way to keep your interview skills sharp, and to get a good gauge for what your worth is outside of the company. Knowing that you made it to final rounds of an interview, or were made an offer for a similar job with a different salary is good info to have. if the offered salary is less it’s good to know you’re being paid well at your current job. if the offered salary is higher, that’s information you can use as well.

      1. Carter*

        It’s not BS in general – it’s BS for this particular OP, who seems to have taken the interview because they are actually interested in leaving.

    3. BRR*

      This might work in other situations but I don’t think it will work for the LW because of the back and forth the LW and HR have had.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      I agree.

      The LW is in a shitty situation. Never trust the coworker with personal/private info again.

      IMO the LW did go wrong by not initially denying any intent to leave the company (Threeve’s BS line is good.) and not proclaiming her happiness. Knowing that the LW was shocked and caught unawares I totally understand why she responded the best she could. But knowing what we know now, the best response is “I have no plans to leave; I am happy here.”

      They’re setting themselves up to fire you when they’re ready instead of when you’re ready. This is not the time to get concessions from them on improvements or a raise. Just keep repeating the you’re happy and have no plans to leave and hope that stalls their plans.

    5. Smitten By Juneau*

      This is literally how I got my current job. I was getting ready to search in 5-6 months, if my current situation didn’t improve, and hadn’t interviewed for a while. A colleague gave someone my name when they called her to interview for a position she had applied for, but she had already accepted a new position, so she sent them to me. I took the invitation purely as practice, and here I am 26(!!!) years later.

    6. Free Meerkats*

      Though it’s not a thing now (thanks Congress), I also used interviews as a way to take tax deductible vacations (including Hawai’i one year). If the miscellaneous deductions come back after 2025, that’s something to keep in mind.

  4. HotSauce*

    What a terrible situation. Even if you don’t get the job you interviewed for like Alison said, I would continue to actively pursue something else. This place sounds like it’s being run by clowns.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      They’re running around slapping duct tape on problems, instead of managing proactively, investing in their staff, etc.

    2. EPLawyer*

      This letter highlights ALL the reasons that OP is looking to get out. Keep looking OP. I hope you find the right landing spot soon.

      1. not a doctor*

        IKR? The irony that they’re pushing her out by doing the very things she was already contemplating leaving over…

    3. Caboose*

      This place is being run by clowns and is also full of bees. And as cute as a bee in a clown costume sounds, bee-clowns are not known for their management abilities.

    4. Ellie*

      Yes – take Alison’s advice to preserve your job as much as you can, but start aggressively applying to other companies. If this job doesn’t come through, you are going to need another one. This company is absolutely going to hold this against you.

      And never talk to that coworker again – give her the same spiel you give to HR and demote her to a casual acquaintance. At the very least, she should have waited for you to get an offer, and then asked you if you minded if she spoke to HR to see if they can organise a counter-offer. What she did do was a massive betrayal.

  5. anonymouse*

    “Great. I will continue to follow up regardless as I told you due to the position we are in.”
    Great indeed. Not every overstepping martinet in the world announces, I am a selfish jackass who will ignore your boundaries (and those of society and industry…and kindergarten) and badger you for information that you don’t have.

    If only your coworker had done the same. Put up a big old sign, reading “I will sacrifice you to the powers above to make myself look like a valuable team player who is only concerned about the company.” But hey, live and learn.

    So bottom line, your department is so effed up, that your coworker sacrificed you for herself. Your president is allowing HR to renegotiate your salary every other day and make ridiculous promises like he will be at your disposal for questions. And if he isn’t this loon of an HR rep will “make sure it happens.”

    Your company is run by loons. Good luck.

    For fun, tell HR you are having a problem with a coworker who won’t respect boundaries. See what happens.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Regarding the coworker – I seem to recall a number of letters here with people asking if they should tell their boss that their coworker is interviewing/job hunting. I guess this is the other side. Generally I suspect the coworker’s thought process is “I’m going to have to cover their work too once they leave, so I’d better give my boss a heads up so they can post the job more quickly” and maybe that’s what happened here.

      If I were the LW I’d be real tempted to ask the coworker what their problem is, but I’m sure that’d go straight to HR too.

      1. anonymouse*

        Your reply made me realize this:
        Going to HR illustrates a significant point about supervision and leadership (its lack) in OP’s department. Coworker went to HR because they don’t have a supervisor to tell. Who IS running the department? There really is no direct supervisor or clear chain of command for this group?
        That’s ridiculous.
        I was not impressed with coworker spreading the news that OP is interviewing. I think it’s a jerk move. But the fact that she had to go to HR to find someone tell who could act on the information is messed up.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          This whole thing is a train wreck. Coworker’s response (regardless of reason), not actually having a reporting structure, HR’s response, all of it. Ugh.

        2. J*

          So I once worked at a place where this happened. I was part of a very high functioning team with a great supervisor. Our supervisor left, and the organization just….didn’t hire anyone. They restructured so that our team reported one level up, to a high-level exec who was not used to, and didn’t really have the time for, direct supervision of individual contributors. But like I said, we were a high functioning team. We kept working and producing, but there really was no one in that supervisor role. It only worked because all of us knew our jobs and didn’t really require a lot of direction.

          1. Tali*

            This is what is happening in my department now. I hear they’re planning to hire someone, but in the meantime it seems like there’s no oversight and broader direction–just a team of high-functioning people who are able to handle the day-to-day. It’s not a recipe for long-term success!

      2. Troutwaxer*

        I’d be really curious about the company’s retention rate for employees, because the first thing that went through my mind when I read your post was “Did coworker say to themselves, “Well, there goes another employee, better tell HR?””

        1. JRR*

          I was thinking the opposite.

          I was reminded of my similarly dysfunctional former workplace. In the several years I worked there, out of dozens of employees, only one person ever left for a better job. I think part of the reason the company became dysfunctional was because most of the employees were, for various reasons, unable or unwilling to find other jobs.

          When I resigned, I was surprised by how surprised they were. They knew I was underpaid, overworked and had been waiting for a long-promised promotion–yet I don’t think it ever occurred to them that I could or would be applying for other jobs.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Very good counterpoint. When the dysfunction is high it can be a shock when somebody takes an available off ramp – even if you know they are unhappy.

      3. Nope, not even then*

        Our department head is the most supportive you could imagine if someone says that they would like to leave- he’s been a reference for our current employees, he’s used his own network to help them out, and he bends over backwards to make things work out for them. AND EVEN THEN I would still advise any employee not to indicate they’re planning to leave before they’re ready. We had a situation very much like this, where an employee asked several current colleagues to be their reference for a new job, including their manager. It made it up to our department head, which I’m sure they thought was no big deal. Except they didn’t know that he’d been given a budget cut mandate, and if this person didn’t leave, he would have to let another employee go. So he pushed for updates constantly. I’m sure it drove the employee crazy, but they weren’t aware of this behind-the-scenes scramble to save another person’s job if she was leaving anyway. Since you never know what’s going on, you need to focus only on your own best interests.

      4. ecnaseener*

        Yes, I think sometimes the thought process goes no further than “I should share this helpful information” – if you haven’t witnessed it yourself and no one’s told you what can happen, the potential fallout might just not occur to you.

    2. MK*

      I broke out in an incredulous grin when that HR person said “that’s a long time to make _me_ wait” (emphasis mine). Like…my heart bleeds for you? I’m the one waiting to hear whether I’m getting an offer, so sorry it’s inconveniencing you to have to deal with a regular cost of business while doing your job?

      Just. Wow.

  6. AdAgencyChick*

    Well, if you needed validation that it was time to look for another job…there you go.

    I’m sorry, OP. Your coworker sucks. HR sucks. Management sucks. I hope you find something very soon!

      1. TWB*

        I hope if/when OP does leave, in the Exit interview they make specific mention of 1) co-worker blabbing news that wasn’t hers to share and b) the way HR handled this whole thing as the primary examples of why they’re out the door.

        I’m also jaded enough to want to directly tell coworker who blabbed “YOU’RE the primary reason I’m now leaving” on my last day there. I likely wouldn’t, because it can burn bridges, but it’s nice to think about LOL

    1. Pants*

      This thissity this this this.

      Also, your coworker is a noun with very explicit adjectives. I’d personally confront her using rather vague language that includes something about taking the interview as a network/feeler type thing, not that you were actively looking to leave Terrible Company, so thanks a lot for jeopardizing your job. “It was unprofessional, inappropriate to make a decision jeopardizing my position here based on your personal conjecture. I would like to move beyond this so that we can maintain our working relationship, which I have always valued.” That last part? Lie.

      And put hot sauce on her lunch.

  7. Putting the Fun in Dysfunctional*

    The only challenge with saying they have no plans to leave, is that HR is going to point blankly ask you if you had heard back from the other company, and in particular if you had been rejected. If you say yes, you were rejected, they may change their mind on your raise. If you say you turned down their offer, then it will be hard to later say you accept the position, unless of course you didn’t name the other company and you could tell them it is another offer? Just be prepared to answer follow up questions, as HR appears to be someone without any sense of boundaries.

      1. Hazel*

        I didn’t mean that to sound combative, in case it did. I’ve been fighting for my boundaries on several fronts recently, and it has made me cranky.

        1. WellRed*

          I kinda agree. Can OP just refuse to engage further in what’s become a bit of back and forth?

          1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

            I’ve found the phrase “We’ve already discussed this.” Usually said as I walk away works wonders.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            My partner can be pretty forgetful. Nowadays, when he repeats a question, I tell him “my answer hasn’t changed since last time you asked”. It could fit perfectly here.

      2. BRR*

        Yes. The LW needs to have their script ready to shut down HR. “I will continue to follow up regardless” gave me a ton of stress, I can only imagine the poor situation the LW is in. It’s already annoying when someone is constantly checking on your job hunt but this has to be one of the worst scenarios. It strongly reminds me of a nosey parent. The response is they get put on an information diet.

        1. mcl*

          UGH, me too. Especially since they are making it clear to the OP that she is being monitored closely (“we noticed you moved some of your stuff”). I would feel so uncomfortable.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            Yes, I cleaned off my desk because the company frequently fires people without warning, and I didn’t want to be caught out after our discussion yesterday. (I wouldn’t volunteer that one, but I’d be surprised if HR didn’t ask, “Then why did you clean off your desk?”)

            1. Harper the Other One*

              I would be so tempted to answer “given this companies record dismissing people with no warning, I thought it would be prudent as soon as you started questioning me.” But that’s the sort of thing you can only say when you have another job in hand.

              1. Chilipepper Attitude*

                IDK, I guess that HR would not be anymore upset about that than about anything else they have heard. I mean, I don’t think they would recognize themselves in the comment.

        2. anonymouse*

          Like a “friendly” neighbor relative: “when you are you going to [have kids/replace the car, windows, deck/buy a house]
          “Tee hee, you might as well tell me. I’m just going to keep asking! hee hee.”
          Oh, silly me. I misunderstood that you set my personal boundaries. In that case…

        3. Working Hypothesis*

          I would probably answer questions about the other job with, “Before they gave me an answer, I decided I wasn’t interested anymore. You and CEO have offered me a different set of conditions, and I want to focus on this job right now, not look around.” Hopefully, that will make them happy and still be manageable later with the “didn’t mean to but it fell into my lap and was too good to refuse” line that Alison recommends.

      3. Cat Tree*

        I agree. If they ask very specific questions, just lie. They’re not entitled to that info, and they forfeited their right to honesty by showing they won’t accept it if OP declines to answer. The only way forward is to give them whatever answer they want to hear and keep job searching.

      4. Your Local Password Resetter*

        Agreed, though if OP stonewalls them completely they may jump to their own conclusions. Going for a trickle of harmless information seems like the best approach.
        Maybe claiming that the company hasn’t responded yet, so you have no new information on that front. Plenty of companies ghost their candidates after all.

    1. NW Mossy*

      In circumstances like this, you lie your face off if you have to. As Alison notes in her response, this employer has forfeited any entitlement they had to honest answers by being so wildly unprofessional.

      Lather, rinse, repeat: “I don’t have any updates for you.”

      1. the Viking Diva*

        yes, THIS. Under the circumstances, you don’t owe them straight answers until your plans are made and you are ready to give notice.

      2. BRR*

        Exactly. I think a lot of people in the AAM community don’t like to lie in any circumstance, but I think it’s ok depending on the circumstance. When you’re being pushed out of your job, perfectly fine to lie. Having one interview is so incredibly far from accepting a job. I think it’s fine for the LW to say whatever lie they need to in order to get the president and HR person to calm down.

      3. Bibliothecarial*

        Yup. Another Alison script that would work here, if you are uncomfortable lying or don’t have a poker face, is, “I’ll let you know as soon as I have something to share!” Said cheerfully while walking away.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        It’s not actually a lie even. OP may have an update, but just hasn’t earmarked as information they need to give HR. They’ll be letting their family and close friends know, and anyone else can just wait for an official announcement.

    2. RC Rascal*

      All OP has to do in this situation is say that she has learned more about the other role, and thinks that staying in the current position is better for her career. If questioned more than that, be vague.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think it is one where OP can say something like “As I said, I have no plans to leave”

      (After all, if she later gets, and accepts an offer, then at the point she hands her notice in she she mostly be out of HRs way so they can only subject her to limited ongoing questioning, and even if they know it’s the same organization, she can always say “I changed my mind” )

      But I agree with everyone else that both the coworker who gossiped, and HR are out of line!

  8. Sylvan*

    I’m very sorry — you’re surrounded by unreasonable people! You probably know that. If you can, keep interviewing and find a new position.

    Someone I know went through something like this before finding a new job. If I could go back in time and tell her something after knowing how the whole thing turned out, it would be to find another job as soon as possible.

  9. christine*

    My jaw kept dropping further and further the more I read. Good god.

    Keep interviewing and tell no one. I think your instincts that this job is going to cut you loose are correct, and unfortunately, I’m not certain if Alison’s advice will help. You’ve already indicated that you’re dissatisfied with the job and looking to leave, and the HR rep seems like she won’t listen to much in the way of reason or logic. (You don’t need a supervisor????)

    Also, have you told your terrible, untrustworthy coworker what her actions have resulted in? She needs to know that by blabbing to HR she’s made your job extremely precarious and might be responsible for getting you fired. It won’t undo what she did but she needs to know that actions have major, life-changing consequences.

    “Please don’t be mad.” Christ on a cracker.

    1. Lizard*


      If you’re okay with burning bridges, leave a Glassdoor review too. Whoever they try to recruit deserves to know about the dumpster fire they’re about to step into.

    2. Elenna*

      “why do you need a supervisor” has this HR person… worked anywhere? ever?? is she secretly the Ghost of HR Past???

      1. anonymouse*

        You’re right. I’ll just keep doing my work and letting my coworker run to you with concerns about me and collecting raises and apparently direct access to the highest level leader in the company.

      2. JustaTech*

        Years ago my spouse worked at a startup where he reported directly to the CEO for several years (not hard when there are 7 people in the company). Then the company started expanding and a few director-level people were hired and my spouse started reporting to one of them instead of the CEO. “Aren’t you bummed?” I asked, assuming that it’s good to report directly to the top. “No, I’m thrilled!”
        He explained that he still wanted more guidance and time than the CEO had to give, and wanted to work with someone with more technical expertise than the CEO had.

        It was very enlightening.

        1. anonymouse*

          I got the feeling it would be more like your husband’s experience when HR rep added, “I’ll see that it happens.”
          1) you control the CEO’s schedule? or
          2) you can pressure the CEO to make time?
          That’s where I do not want to be.

    3. Sasha*

      This. I’d be forwarding the job ad to my coworker, with a note saying “thank you so much for getting me fired, I hope you’re feeling very pleased with yourself”.

      Because honestly, that bridge is burned and she deserves to feel more than a little awkward for what she’s done.

      And that is what she has done – you’ll be fired as soon as they recruit into your post.

  10. Health Insurance Nerd*

    Wow, this is truly bananas. I would take every shred of advice that Alison gave- you absolutely do not owe HR the degree of information or transparency that they are looking for, and I know it will be hard to roll back on this one, but I do think it can be done. Also, your co-worker stinks. As well intentioned and they may have been, they have done you real harm, and I hope that you remember going forward that you need to keep this person at arms length when it comes to any information not directly related to your professional interactions.

    Please, please send an update if you can!

  11. Daniel*

    At first I was hoping that this coworker may have been new and didn’t know the company’s history of pushing people out. That would have been bad enough, but then I re-read and realized this coworker has been there LONGER than the OP.

    I am furious at them on your behalf, OP. And this whole place sounds like a hot mess. Even if you don’t get pushed out I hope you continue interviewing and find some place else soon.

  12. Grits McGee*

    Sometimes even rotten cheese tastes ok; banish the coworker to Barefoot-Lego Island.

    1. J.B.*

      You could banish her to a special car on the Paris metro with everyone else eating Epois (Napoleon’s favorite stinky cheese, according to a Nova show it was banned from the metro)

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I saw a wheel of that on an episode of GBBO and have wanted to taste it ever since! Stinky cheese is so often the tastiest.

    2. Windchime*

      I was going to recommend Canned Green Beanland, but Barefoot-Lego Island sounds just as bad.

  13. Let me be dark and twisty*

    I think, at the end of the year, Alison now needs to have a poll about “craziest/worst HR.” In addition to the usual “Worst Boss of the Year” poll.

  14. Empress Matilda*

    This whole situation is bonkers. Apart from the way they’ve handled your hypothetical departure, I’m baffled by their solution to your problem of not having a supervisor. Email the president and HR when you have a problem, and they’ll make sure you get a meeting? Is that they only reason they think people need supervisors? It boggles the mind.

    Good luck, OP. I am sending you all the job hunting vibes in the world, to get you out of there asap!

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Also, how does that solve the issue with not being told about quarry blasting? (Still working on the exact metaphor, but this seems like an actual physical symbol of the workplace.)

      Am I the only one who thinks that instead of getting it from individual supervisors, the entire office should get an email from HR or whoever handles company-wide announcements telling them about actual exploding things happening nearby. This company sounds terrible, & the OP should follow Alison’s advice & try to get out as fast as possible.

      1. Mimi*

        No, nearby explosions definitely seem like a thing that should involve regular, company-wide announcements of some nature. I have known multiple supervisors who are behind enough on their email that they probably wouldn’t even see the notification until hours too late.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          This! When we were expecting protests outside our building, an email went out to everyone, warning them about it. (We were mainly WFH at the time, so there weren’t that many people around to even see the protest.)

      2. Your Local Password Resetter*

        Yeah, this doesn’t sound like something that requires the personal hand of a supervisor. Mass emails (and maybe some papers hanging somewhere) sound like a much more reliable way of spreading that information.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, that seems like it should be distributed more widely. What if the supervisor is out on PTO or something?

        At my company I think things like announcements of people leaving/joining/promotions go through supervisors to be passed on which makes sense in case the personnel changes affect you and your manager would want to talk about it more directly. But things like “the parking lot will be closed on Thursday due to parade traffic” or whatever would definitely just be sent to everyone in the whole company, and I would think the blasting should fall in that latter category for sure.

  15. Heidi*

    “Why would you need a supervisor?” seems an odd question for HR to ask. I get that a lot of jobs don’t need a lot of supervision, but if an employee says they need more supervision, it’s seems weird to challenge that the way the HR person did.

    1. WellRed*

      I think the HR is batshit here but OPs example of why it’s a problem wasn’t great as it was not work related.

      1. JB*

        Not work related?

        Not receiving communication – from the company – that everyone else in the company is receiving – certainly is work related.

      2. Your Local Password Resetter*

        It’s a direct communication from the higherups, that’s pretty work-related. And explosions in your neighbourhood is urgent enough that it’s a pretty good example IMO.

          1. Observer*

            So? It is of IMMEDIATE and SIGNIFICANT (highly significant) relevance to the OP as work. How is it remotely ok that this is not being directly communicated?

    2. Elenna*

      This! Like, nobody is saying OP needs 24/7 micromanagement, but they pretty clearly need a supervisor to do ordinary manager stuff like review performance, pass down assignments about what needs to be done that’s not routine day-to-day, pass down information like the quarry thing OP mentioned, etc…

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        “Ok OP, here’s our plan: if you can psychically intuit that the company president is failing to loop you in on a piece of information, send an email asking for a meeting and (because he will definitely blow you off about it) Crazy HR will hound him until he actually follows through.”

        That… solves none of the problem.

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Though it might get the HR person fired, which would solve at least one problem!

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          I’ve been in a similar situation. I was temporarily assigned to someone a layer above my usual manager. I got big-picture info, but nobody remembered to give me nitty gritty details that was shared with other people at my level. Luckily, my work friends kept me in the loop.

          I 100% don’t blame management for that situation, which was due to unusual circumstances, & I understand that I was just missing part of the stream of communication, but it was still somewhat frustrating.

          On the plus side, I had fewer meetings during that time, which was nice.

    3. LQ*

      This is such an absurd and weird question. Why do you need a supervisor? I mean it sounds like OP doesn’t actually report directly to the president of the company and that the company is large enough to have at least 1 hr person and at least 2 supervisors overseeing folks.

      It feels like an organization that heard that flat is good and lost it’s common sense.

      1. A Person*

        “I need a supervisor so someone will give me important information like (example: like that explosion), even when I don’t know to ask about it.”

  16. BRR*

    And this is why employees can’t be honest with employers. This will be the example sent to every LW and open thread poster when they ask if they should tell their employer they’re looking because they feel like they “owe” it to their employer/manager/coworker.

  17. Jessica*

    OP, can you buy some cheap (e.g. dollar store, rummage sale) “personal” items to clutter your work environment with in the meantime?

    Maybe HR person will buy the rest of this if you also can do some performative “I was just updating my space seeeeee”

  18. Bostonian*

    But do what you can to protect yourself now.

    This part is key, OP! It might feel insincere saying you don’t plan on leaving, but your employer has shown that they cannot be trusted, and you have to treat this situation as though that other offer will never materialize.

    1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      I’d be very tempted to play it off like I was just interviewing for a 2nd job/side gig and that coworker made it seem like something else. She threw LW under the bus. Let’s see how she enjoys it down there when HR things she just deliberately stirred the pot.

  19. RJ*

    OP, I am so very sorry you’re suffering through this. Your company as a whole has handled this very, very badly and in my opinion, you should continue your search and get out as soon as you can. HR in particular bungled this completely. And then there’s that co-worker. Ugh overall.

  20. JRR*

    In a story full of shocking facts, the fact that they posted your job once they realized your resignation was probably immanent is the least shocking.

  21. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    It’s too early for WTF Wednesday, but this would certainly qualify.

    Take every interview you can find. Flee in terror and never look back.

  22. Beth*

    When you’re planning your exit from a dysfunctional relationship, you do and say whatever the hell you need to do and say to keep yourself safe while you make and execute your plans. The other party has forfeited any considerations. It’s true in personal relationships and it applies in the workspace also.

    Your HR is an embarassment to all HR people everywhere (except for the ones who are beyond shame).

  23. Linda*

    To me it sounds like HR knows the lack of manager is an issue and they’re trying to cover their tracks by keeping you on. Obviously, you learned the hard way – keep ya mouth shut around these coworkers. Dang!

  24. Don*

    This is shitty and I’m sorry.

    My only concern about Allison’s advice with regards to telling them you’re not leaving is that an org this batshit could be a vindictive one. If that interview results in an offer and you take it I can imagine this place continuing their run of irrational behavior and taking it as a slight. Which maybe they’re gonna do no matter what, so if that’s the case maybe you just do whatever it takes to get through, week by week.

    1. Snow Globe*

      Yes, it could lead to the LW not being able to get a good reference from this place. But considering the LW doesn’t have an actual supervisor, who would provide a reference anyway?

    2. Sasha*

      My concern with telling them you aren’t leaving is that it will make no difference whatsoever to them and their plans to replace her, but might encourage OP to dial down her job search.

  25. Daisy-dog*

    Yes, this HR person is way, way over-the-top and not doing the right thing in your case. I’m just going to talk about one thing that is less of a red flag: “Or just telling you that you are fired when you show up one day.”

    Now, if they are telling people they are fired in front of other people, that is awful. However, I’m guessing that you just saw someone show up for the workday, go into HR’s office, and then have to leave right away. That is perfectly normal. Obviously, everyone else being able to see it isn’t great, but there really isn’t a great way to fire someone. The manager or HR should pack up the employee’s personal items – some do not want to let the employee do that because it can turn into a “scene”.

    (This situation would be related to performance issues that are not illegal, potentially dangerous, or involve sharing confidential information – those terminations usually happen right after the investigation is complete. These type of performance issues are usually not known to others.)

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I read that as they fire people completely out of the blue one day, with no warnings or conversations about how things are going. That may be a thing that happens regularly at some places, and may of course be preceded by conversations that the observing coworkers aren’t privy to, but with this HR? My money’s on arbitrary surprise firings.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        It does in fact happen at companies sometimes, though more usually to temporary workers than permanent, from what I have seen. Most companies at least make the manager put the person on a PIP.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I took it to mean that people came to work and their credentials didn’t work to log into the computer or their key card stopped working and that’s how they found out they were fired.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        This also does happen. It is usually done with an employee who is believed to suspect it is coming and there is a security concern. It will seem super random and cruel to someone on the outside.

  26. JustKnope*

    You absolutely do not owe this HR person a single shred of information about the other role or the status of the process. When you use the script Alison recommends, if the HR person tries to pry about this other role, don’t imply you will give them any information. “I am focused on my current role” and that’s it. Any information you give them about timelines, etc. is just ammo at this point. Protect yourself and honestly it’s time to put your job search in overdrive.

  27. Leaving*

    When she says she will follow up say ‘please don’t, I never said I was leaving and this is inappropriate. People leave. Most people will look at jobs throughout their career, it doesn’t mean they will leave’. However, they are trying hard to keep you – are there accommodations enough to keep you?

  28. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    “Please don’t be mad.” The refuge of boundary-stomping asshats who don’t want any consequences for their shitty behaviour.

    1. Elenna*

      “Please don’t be mad.”

      “Wait why are you mad now I asked you not to be mad??”

  29. Becky S.*

    Just for laughs, consider bringing in some new ‘personal items’ that you don’t mind leaving behind when you get a better job. ;-)

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      Buy a picture frame with the stock photo and claim it’s a part of your family.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        My ADHD brain initially read that as “a picture frame with a stock potato” and now I’m just envisioning framed pictures of potatoes all over LW’s desk.

              1. knitcrazybooknut*

                Of course, it was tough going for them when Mr. Potato Head’s arm fell off without any provocation.

                1. knitcrazybooknut*

                  @quill: Wasn’t it lucky when Mrs. Potato Head got that job for the cosmetic company? Those luscious lips did the work for her!

        1. quill*

          Even better: a mr. and mrs. potato head family photo.

          Starring spud, the baby, which is just a real fingerling potato wrapped in a paper towel.

        2. Amethystmoon*

          That would be a hilarious “I quit my job” post. Hey, you could even make the potatoes spell “I quit.”

    2. BadWolf*

      Now I’m envisioning the OP bringing some new trinkets on Mondays and taking different ones home on Fridays. And the HR person standing there afterhours trying to calculate if the OP has taken home too many personal things. “Ah-ha, the Garden Gnome is missing! But wait, that photo of a marching band is new. Hm, is this SpongeBob stress ball new?”

    3. nonegiven*

      This. Buy some new, cheap crap you don’t care about so it looks like you are staying.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Thrift stores are an excellent source of cheap clutter that you don’t have to become emotionally invested in keeping. (So are dollar stores, but the advantage of thrift stores is that it’s easier to get stuff that will look like things you’ve accumulated over time since they’ll be from different eras and manufacturers with different amounts of wear.)

        Feel free to leave it all behind when you get a new job, possibly by strategically hiding pieces of thrift store tackiness all over the office like an Easter egg hunt.

        1. quill*

          Printers with plastic labels melted into them that you have to unpick with spare lab forceps?

          1. Amethystmoon*

            Also where the coffee pot is out of coffee, there are no more filters or even paper towels, and you can’t find any coffee cans in the cabinets to open.

  30. ElleKay*

    #1 Your co-worker was WAY out of line
    but , #2, I’m not sure you’ve actually said to your manager/HR that “I had 1 preliminary interview, there’s no offer that’s been made, and I’m not *actively looking to leave.” (Add: ‘a friend in my network referred me to this one position but I’m not applying actively’ if you want (whether it’s true or not))

    It sounds a lot like you’ve let HR drive this narrative based on their own assumptions that your departure is imminent (in which case, why not have you leave sooner if you’re going anyway?) but if that’s not true then you should be sure to say so, clearly, and in both writing and in person (for documentation)

    1. Liz T*

      Agreed–it sounds like you’ve inadvertantly told HR, “I will leave if I get this job, I just haven’t heard yet.” You might have some ability to cool them way, way down.

    2. Mannheim Steamroller*

      HR’s assumption is, “The fact that you had an interview proves that you ARE actively planning to leave.”

  31. BenAdminGeek*

    Yuck. I hate when people feel comfortable violating your boundaries like this. I have stopped even telling my boss if my people are interviewing, after a negative response where basically my ex-boss treated this employee as if she’d already quit and passed her up for opportunities because she’d applied internally for another position. It was absolutely bonkers. She wasn’t even that great of an employee! I always view it as totally OK to interview elsewhere- if there’s an underlying concern I can try and fix that. But sometimes it’s just time for a change.

  32. Cafe au Lait*

    My aunt gave me wonderful advice years ago: interview elsewhere once a year. It keeps your interview and cover letter skills fresh. While I don’t do it once a year, more like every eighteen months, I have far more interviews than my coworkers. So, OP, you could’ve merely been staying on top of professional skills by interviewing at a different company.

  33. Age of the Geek, Baby*

    After reading “My boyfriend cheated on me with the intern and now management is asking me questions,” I am left to ask whether this the week of awful people in the workplace?
    OP, please update when you can. And for the love of all things holy, get out when you can. This situation is bananas.

    1. Simply the best*

      I don’t know why but the thing that is especially sticking with me is the co-workers reasoning for telling HR. That OP is “too good” and they wanted the company to counter offer and try to keep her. This thoughtless selfishness just enrages me. And all I would want to do is get a new job so I could coldy look this coworker in the eye and make sure she knew that it was her actions that guaranteed my leaving.

      1. Simply the best*

        I don’t know why this nested here instead of becoming its own separate comment thread.

  34. Mental Lentil*

    It’s May Day in Leningrad again, I see.

    OP, absolutely none of this is normal. I wish you the best of luck in finding a new position with a normal company.

  35. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Why does the LW need a supervisor? HERE’S WHY. I’m not excusing the co-worker, but I once got promoted because my boss figured out I was interviewing. She went to her boss and said they needed to promote me because I was looking, and they did and I stayed. As in, my manager handled the conversation and did all of the communication with HR and it worked out for everyone. I can see how the co-worker thought she was doing something good for the company and it just went haywire.

    But that was at a big company with a lot of structure. This company’s HR sounds like my last place, where “HR” fell under our operations director who had messed up boundaries and didn’t believe in structure.

  36. Mimmy*

    This is a good reminder to myself that it is not always wise to share your job search / career plans with coworkers.

    Though I do want to ask: What if you want to use one or two of them as references? I recently applied for two jobs and one of them asked for reference info up front so I selected two of my coworkers, both of who agreed (I was not selected for an interview with the job that asked for refs). Yet, this post has me second-guessing whether I should be using current coworkers. I am in school for an eventual career pivot, so maybe I won’t need to worry once I finish *shrug*

    1. BRR*

      I think you just have to make a judgement call on if you can trust those coworkers (note the LW only mentions they felt like they “owed” the coworker). I’m currently job hunting and was going to ask a coworker but this has me second guessing it as well since my coworker would be a great reference but often feels a need to overstep in the name of “being helpful.”

    2. Mimi*

      I think this is a lesson in being VERY careful who you tell, and possibly making the implicit “this is not public information and I am trusting you to not tell anyone, especially not management” explicit. (Although would that have helped in this instance? Who knows.) There are a handful of people from my last job who I would have considered asking to be references (I got laid off, so it didn’t come up), but they were all people I considered trustworthy, and possessed of discretion/the ability to keep a secret.

      If your judgement about people is often pretty good, and you don’t have other recent/solid references, I’d say probably stick with these people as references, but do be aware that there’s a risk.

      1. Batgirl*

        It’s so easy to make a mistake at work about who that trustworthy person is though. My direct supervisor had been a complete rock to me, training and supporting me and going to bat for me. She had no loyalties to the company and was trying to get out too; we commiserated about it all the time! So when a job application needed something from my current role, (and people from my previous role were kind of unreliable about being contactable) I thought she was a safe bet to ask to be a referee. I spoke informally and asked if she could keep it under her hat, ready to backtrack about my intentions if she said no. She said it was fine, but when she was sent a list of questions, she balked at a really standard query (Think, “how much of x does Batgirl do in her role”) and sent it to HR, and our grandboss’s right hand citing it was too intrusive into my privacy for her to handle and that it breached GDPR concerns! I was fuming, obviously, but was able to play it off as if I was being headhunted. To be honest her reasoning was so…deranged I didn’t even tell her off. It was as though I didn’t expect her to understand sense or manners at that point. The fact that she was my manager also made it wise to still an angry tongue.

  37. chewingle*

    A month is too long to keep HER waiting? If you don’t want the job you interviewed for, I’d just give HR the other HR dept’s number and let them hash it out together, because holy shit.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Everything about this is bizarre. They supposedly gave her the raise and whatever not-actually-fix-to-issues she asked for because they wanted to keep her. But HR’s badgering, and noticing the removal of stuff, and complaining about the timeline doesn’t sound like they want to keep her. They’re making it sound like it’s exactly one interview for exactly one job and she will or will not leave for exactly that, and they’re just waiting to find out? And the HR person is being so confrontational. It makes no sense at all.

  38. singlemaltgirl*

    i’m sorry for the lw. i really hate the thought of an employee feeling they needed to lie about their overall intentions to leave b/c of fear of being pushed out sooner than they intend. you’d hope you’d have a supportive manager to share this with so they could prepare but also encourage and help their employees succeed (even if that means that leaving is the next step in that process). but given the situation, i’m with alison – protect yourself and say what you need to say.

    the only caveat i would offer and it’s not clear from the lw – if there is the potential for any industry blowback, do try to keep on the good side (as much as you can) with this company. if it doesn’t matter, no harm no foul. but in some industries, word can travel and someone can blacklist you so doing all you can to maintain cordial relations (without killing your soul) may be in your best interests.

  39. Batgirl*

    OP, go full on two faced with your company; it’s the only way to deflect the attack. “Since I’ve had such great reassurance about my role and support here, I contacted the company I interviewed with and told them to take me out of the running. Is there anything else I can do to reassure you about my position on this?” Of course you should keep interviewing and if you get an offer describe it as “I was headhunted/it was an old application and they contacted me with such an ideal match for my skills and development, I just couldn’t refuse”. As for your coworker, I think you’re good to be as frosty to her as you please; “I am mad, because that was not just a faux pas, it’s my livelihood. I’m mad because you completely misrepresented me and endangered my job. The company think I’m disloyal and prone to leaving on a whim and I’ve had to straighten out a predictably false impression that you thoughtlessly made.”

      1. Batgirl*

        Yeah it’s tough because the coworker technically told the truth, but really, all bullshit aside, she’s publicly trashed her reputation with people destined to overreact and misunderstand. Not to mention that at the end of the day she was simply being a nosey parker and meddling in something that was none of her concern.

  40. Grace*

    Never ever ever ever ever EVER tell your coworkers you are doing any kind of job search unless you want everyone to know. Once the info leaves you, you lose any control over it, and even the most sane people do banana crackers things, because people make mistakes.

    Even if it’s unlikely to snowball to this extent, “unlikely” doesn’t mean you won’t kick yourself on the off chance that it does. Literally no company/coworker/etc. needs to know you *might* be leaving more than you need the peace and security of keeping your job situation from becoming a Schrodinger’s cat of will you/won’t you keep your job regardless of how your job search ultimately works out.

  41. quill*

    “If that changes a month from now, will it be awkward to turn around and say you changed your mind? A bit, but that’s okay. You can explain that you hadn’t expected an offer but they surprised you with one that was too good to refuse, you appreciate their efforts to try to keep you and hoped it would work out, blah blah.”

    Also: awkward is usually better, and shorter lasting, than absolutely bannanas. And your work situation is currently starting to resemble a boat full of bannanas, paddling directly towards ramen island.

  42. Essess*

    I would have been blunt when the HR person made a comment about my personal property. I would have told them that they made me feel that my job might be in jeopardy because of their overreaction to a normal interview that all employees do to keep in touch with the current job market and for discussing normal job concerns and that my items were removed because of their past actions against other employees without warning.

  43. JB*

    I’m just marvelling at the chutzpah of HR to complain that you’re ‘leaving her hanging’ for a month when she knows full well that you didn’t intend for her to know at this stage at all, and that that information was brought to her prematurely by a third party.

  44. animaniactoo*

    I would also make a point of saying WHY you took your personal stuff home.

    “Honestly, given everything that is going on, I have been scared that I will be fired and pushed out because you are aware that I went on a single interview. If that happened, I did not want to chance leaving behind something if I had to pack up my desk in a hurry. There really isn’t any other reason why I removed my personal items.”

    Make it clear to them that THEIR actions are causing precipitous actions on your end.

    1. AJR*

      Hmmmm, I’d be careful with raising this topic or anything that intimates your expectation of getting fired. At my last job, I constantly expected to get fired or be required to switch jobs, but I didn’t bring up this insecurity/my request to change divisions until I had lined up at least one backup option I could live with, in case the conversation went south.

  45. Former HR Staffer*

    my desk wasnt hoarders messy, but stacks of files had grown because i hadn’t had the time to purge them. around the same time, i also decided to declutter a bit and only leave a handful of personal tchotchkes and everyone freaked out thinking i was about to bounce.

    they wanted us to tidy up and we did, then they accused me of trying to leave. cant win sometimes.

  46. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Okay, my brains are currently being cooked by the UK temperature (no air con, insulated houses and no breeze…got actual heat exhaustion) but this is just evil on their part. I’m including the coworker, the HR, the entire company minus the OP here.

    It’s just…what on earth did they expect you to do? Beg them to let you stay because they…nope, I literally have nothing here. Total blue screen logic fail unaddressed memory error.

    1. Batgirl*

      The little people are supposed to quail in the presence of greatness! That’s the whole plan!

  47. Typing All The Time*

    Should you confront your co-worker? I’m sorry they burned you.

    I made a similar mistake. Now I only tell people outside of my immediate work realm.

  48. Girasol*

    Holy cats. If I were in your shoes I would have taken my personal stuff home too. That doesn’t seem a bit like over-reacting. A company that fires people so suddenly that it’s known for separating decent people from their personal belongings has a big red flag even without the whole rest of this awful incident.

  49. 653-CXK*

    Let’s review a few things here…

    – Your coworker tramples your boundaries, breaches confidentiality and tries to virtue-signal this away under “please don’t be mad.”
    – Your HR representative is vindictive, petty and not above throwing you under the bus.
    – Your company fires people at a whim, without a reason and without warning.

    You don’t need this bullshit, OP. Since they already have your position up (and you’ve moved your stuff), don’t give them the satisfaction of firing you – if you have the financial resources, resign immediately. Get this toxic and vicious company as far away from your rear-view mirror as humanly possible.

    1. Typing All The Time*

      And document everything that’s happened. If they fire you, make sure to have a case for unemployment filing.

    2. Mannheim Steamroller*

      Make sure to cite this episode as your specific reason for leaving. (“I was actually planning to stay here, but you made such a stink over my accepting an interview that my work environment has become toxic* and I feel pressured to leave.”)

      * The word “hostile” has a specific legal definition in the context of work, so “toxic” would probably be better.

    3. 653-CXK*

      +1 for Typing all the Time and Mannheim Steamroller for adding documenting everything and the reason why you’re leaving. Thanks!

      One other thing – Glassdoor the snot out of this company after you leave. Warn potential interviewees away from this hive of gaslighting, cowardice, and vindictiveness.

    4. Jackalope*

      The problem with resigning is that the OP is likely to lose unemployment if she does that. Whereas if she waits to be let go from the company, and they have to tell unemployment that they let her go because she interviewed somewhere else and they were afraid she’d get a new job, that’s more likely to work out in her favor. (To that end, OP might want to keep careful notes of these conversations, including date and time, so that if they try to use an excuse for why they fired her, she has at least some evidence that there was another motivation.)

      1. 653-CXK*

        True. I should have added that option in the original post.

        If the OP bides their time enough, the burden of proof of firing her will fall on the toxic company, so long as OP keeps track of everything. Given the propensity of being toxic jerks, however, I could see them firing her and then blocking her UI.

        If she has the financial resources and pay her bills without UI, then she has the advantage of quitting on the spot, otherwise, she should wait, be fired, apply for UI, and let this company try to weasel out of UI, especially when she has the documentation.

  50. agnes*

    Wow. Just wow. I sure hope you get that other job. You don’t need to spend another moment longer than necessary in that environment.

  51. I'm just here for the cats*

    I took it that people show up and their credentials won’t allow them to log into the computer, or that their key card doesn’t work anymore.

  52. Exhausted Trope*

    OY with that blabbing coworker! I’m po’d with her on your behalf. This is why I never tell coworkers information about my job search.
    I’m sorry, OP. I hope you get an offer soon.

  53. Coder von Frankenstein*

    All I can say is–I really, really hope the interview leads to a job offer and you can walk away from this with smoke and ashes billowing around you, strobe lights flashing and Metallica playing, while behind you the stench of the poop barbecue rises to the heavens.

  54. Amethystmoon*

    As someone who has been working since she was a teenager, I learned early on never, ever to trust anyone at work with the news that you are interviewing for another job. Other people will only disappoint you, and many managers will just post your job and boot you out. Keep any information related to job searching close to your chest. If you have coworkers or friends of coworkers on your social media account, do not post any hints of it there either. Even if you think you make it private, they might still see it anyway. Write in a paper diary maybe, and tell your immediate family maybe, but keep the information at home.

  55. Sparkles McFadden*

    I love Ask a Manager for so many reasons, but the most selfish reason is that any crazy thing that has happened to me has also happened to someone else. It’s not that I want crazy things to happen to other people, but that I try to convince myself that I overreacted or caused the crazy things to happen. Now I know that there’s just a whole pile of crazy out there, everywhere.

    Yes LW, use Alison’s script to talk to your crazy HR person. Stop speaking to your coworker beyond pleasantries. Look for a job like your sanity depends on it, because it just might.

  56. Bee Eye Ill*

    Get out of there as fast as you can, and as soon as you get another offer, bail. Don’t even bother with the two week’s notice with the way they are treating you.

  57. Wisteria*

    Because she’s acting like she’s going to push you out over this

    The HR person got OP a raise and access to the president to discuss issues. That is not pushing OP out! That is working to retain OP! HR might have a certain demeanor that makes it seem as though she is not sympathetic, but when you examine the actions she has taken, it is clear that she is trying to retain OP. HR’s questioning may have appeared confrontational to OP, but that might an interpretation that is not in alignment with HR’s intention. Those questions get at pretty standard sources of unhappiness. Then HR acted on the answer’s OP gave, which is great!

    OP, I wonder if you should look at this with a different mindset. Let go of the interpretation that you are placing on HR’s questioning and examine the outcomes. Those were good outcomes! Try switching to a collaborative mindset and view interactions with HR from that standpoint. See whether that helps you address the issues you have with the workplace and gain outcomes that you want. If you get an offer and decide to take it, that’s great! But if you don’t get an offer, take this opportunity to engage with HR and the president to make this workplace a better place to be for you.

    1. Goopins*

      They’ve already listed her job to hire a replacement. I don’t think that is a “misread” of the situation. They are actively seeking people to take her job. Further, it should not take an employee looking for another job to motivate a business to pay them better and provide effective leadership, which in this case is a promise of one-on-one meetings with an executive who previously didn’t even send emails, so what are the chances of that suddenly panning out?

      1. Wisteria*

        You are right. OP should burn the place down and salt the earth on her way out, too.

        Or, she could take a collaborative approach, have the conversation with HR that Alison suggests, and schedule a meeting with the president.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Take a collaborative approach with those who’ve shown they’re not going to collaborate? That’s kind of like a lamb offering themselves up for the slaughter, don’t you think?

  58. Goopins*

    Tell HR that the real reason you want to leave is actually the coworker after all. Let her sweat.

  59. Usagi*

    At OldJob I had an employee who would report ANY sign of someone planning on leaving, no matter how silly (e.g., “they took a longer lunch” OBVIOUSLY equals “they’re interviewing for another job”) to HR. He was a terrible employee that I couldn’t fire (HR was stonewalling me, despite years of documented terribleness, they were scared to do anything since he had several disabilities, and was the only employee of his ethnicity in our company), so I think this was his way of currying favor with HR? Eventually HR told me to tell him to stop. Which was stupid, because I didn’t even know it was happening until they told me.

    I’m glad I don’t work there anymore. I miss my team but the company was broken.

  60. AJR*

    This sparks powerful deja vu. I had an experience like the no-supervisor thing too, and am so relieved that someone else has struggled with this too. My last job I reported to someone who was essentially the head of a thousand-person organization; she probably had about twenty direct reports, and in turn the rest of the organization reported to those direct reports. I had essentially no teammates, and she was my only supervisor; she theoretically verbally committed to meeting with me once a week, but of course was not able to keep that promise, so weeks would go by without my seeing her. My boss was my only source of information for all work-related stuff, including things that that impacted the organization as a whole, but similar to the quarry-blasting example by LW, she usually didn’t share out what she knew with me, either because she forgot or because she was hoarding information out of misplaced defensiveness and self-preservation. Similar to LW, I had to construct an elaborate back-channel operation in other divisions to try to get a (limited) sense of what was going on.

    Also similar to LW, I cleared my desk out of all personal items after I kept getting my office moved multiple times a year (unlike LW, no one really noticed when I did that). I also had some peculiar HR interactions. The lack of supervision or any real connection to the organization was bitterly disappointing – I really believed in the mission of the org and wanted to make it work – but also made it easy to conduct a job search when the time came. After all, who would notice if I took a lunch break to interview, or had my browser open to LinkedIn? As of last year, am now in a better job, for higher pay, with a real supervisor who is far more available and willing to share information. I wish I had learned how to spot that kind of situation before it arises, but it makes me feel better that I wasn’t alone in going through this.

    1. AJR*

      Another parallel to LW’s situation: at my old organization, people were constantly getting terminated or suddenly “quitting” as well. Obviously, it was not really explained what kind of conduct was grounds for these types of terminations, given the information-hoarding tendencies and lack of a published termination policy. So I assumed that they might do the same to me and conducted myself under that assumption. I never broached the subject of trying to improve things in my position/transfer to another division until I had at least one backup option more-or-less lined up; by the time I left the org I had three possible options lined up just in case.

    2. Meep*

      I cleaned out my desk when I suspected I was going to get fired. Not for the quality of my work, but because I was buying a house of all things (my petty 60-year-old coworker didn’t like a 25-year-old having things she didn’t and decided to try and get me fired. Really). I think it is a reasonable reaction when someone is out to get you for such petty reasons to want to protect your things.

      1. AJR*

        Yes… I learned my lesson when one of my office moves was announced to me when by suddenly changing the locks and revoking my passcode, so that I no longer had access to my old office. I wound up having to leave all my stuff there and move to a different office. So… lesson learned! Best not to keep any belongings you would care to lose at work!

        Also, as someone below said, the act of cleaning out your personal belongings from your office and backing up the files you don’t want to lose is a nice proactive step to take when you might otherwise feel powerless and on the verge of a firing.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I did this too before I actually got fired (I sensed it was coming because I was struggling in the job after major changes). I took down my posters, and when someone asked, I said I was redecorating and wanted to hang them at home.

        But the day it happened, I calmly and firmly refused to leave until I packed the rest of my things and they had to wait. No way was I going to leave anything.

  61. Matted Tatted*

    This is why you share NOTHING with a coworker that you don’t want getting out. It’s honestly a lot less stressful if you stick to this bc you don’t have to worry about them spilling the beans & being ousted early! And yes, I got burned on this exact thing. I WAS leaving regardless, they just didn’t know bc the office was so toxic & unstable, I knew they’d cut me right away (which they did). Only time I’ve been fired via text message LOL oh, I’ve got stories!!

  62. V. Anon*

    I would be so very tempted, the next time HR came nosing around for “updates” to confide that Co-Worker had told you she was looking so you felt it was OK to tell her you had had one exploratory interview. So tempted.

    “Don’t be mad.”

    1. Blahvocado*

      Hah, that was my immediate thought as well. Plus, if HR has another target, they’ll have less time to hound OP.

  63. whatchamacallit*

    You’re nicer than I am because as soon as the HR person asked me if another coworker was a problem I would’ve thrown the one that can’t keep her mouth shut under the bus immediately.

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

    Posting the job ‘vacancy’ seems to me a kind of passive aggressive tit-for-tat most likely, more than am actual attempt to push out OP. The thinking would presumably be something like “OP is leaving us hanging about whether she’s going to leave us without a Teapot Analyst – we’re going to leave her hanging about whether she still has a job as a Teapot Analyst here!”

    In fact posting the and could be an attempt to ‘poke’ OP into speaking more openly as they see it – or to beg to keep her job!

    I don’t condone what the coworker/trainer did, but as a possible explanation for her actions I think it’s possible that OPs departure would leave them scrambling and coworker did genuinely have concerns about the impact of that. If there’s no supervisor then does the coworker/trainer have to act as the ‘de facto’ supervisor for some things, such as covering in the way a manager would?

  65. Meep*

    We have a manager exactly like this HR lady to the point they could very well be sisters. Does she speak with a southern accent and is blonde? All joking aside, if LW wasn’t going to leave, they will certainly leave now. We had an employee who came back as a contractor and our manager pushed and pushed and pushed to get a full-time commitment from him without addressing any of his concerns. Guess who left on “short notice” (two months) and never looked back?

    She also is a massive gaslighter and is the last person I will tell when I leave. Heck, I am just going to let her figure it out.

  66. Isabel Archer*

    Just wanted to weigh in on the taking home all of one’s personal belongings. I’ve done this twice, both in jobs where I desperately wanted to quit but couldn’t do it at the time. It’s actually very liberating, for 2 reasons.

    First, the physical sense of escape this provides is very real. You’d pack up all your stuff and take it home if you really did quit, right? I called it “quitting in spirit.” Things immediately start to feel temporary after that, and therefore more bearable.

    Second, you have the peace of mind that if you are in fact fired, you won’t have to stand at your cubicle with everyone watching, trying to absorb what just happened while also putting all your stuff in a cardboard box and being escorted to the door. I was fired from one of these jobs just as the OP describes, on a Monday morning at 10:15. I just handed them the company cell phone, grabbed my purse, and was gone.

  67. Database Developer Dude*


    While I’ve not been let go from my employer, I have been pushed out of my current project. This is my fault, 100% because I told the wrong people I was unhappy and wanted to roll off the project. Now I’m on the bench without a new project in sight, and could, if I’m on the bench too long, get laid off.


  68. BurnOutCandidate*

    Now I’m wondering if this is my company — we have a nearby quarry (it’s along the interstate less than a mile away, you can see it from the lunchroom) that blasts and shakes the building. My office is on the opposite side of the building, so it feels like a tractor trailer truck passing when it happens. I know there are emails that go out about it — a manager in my department mentioned them to me once — but I’ve never received one, so it’s always a surprise! :)

  69. Anonymous Today*

    This place sounds completely bat bleep crazy, from the coworker on up and most especially HR.

    I suspect that the OP will realize the depths of this only after they’ve been working a a normal company for awhile.

  70. World's Most Common Initials*

    I had a similar thing happen years ago in my first “real” job out of school. I did have a supervisor, but worked remotely from her because I floated to different offices for coverage. I was chatting with a coworker at lunch during one assignment and mentioned that my boyfriend had moved out of state for school and we had been discussing me moving to join him. Nothing concrete, just plans without a firm date. I got a call from my boss a couple of days later, outraged that I was quitting without telling her.

    I explained what the actual discussion has been and that I had not concrete plans to move yet. Then I gave two weeks notice and told her I had no desire to work for an organization where one idle conversation led to gossip and confrontation. It all ended up working out and I did move to join my now-husband.

  71. Non non*

    Here’s an idea to help you sell Alison’s comment to HR: Bring in a few “personal” items (can you buy a couple of cheap things at the dollar store?) you wouldn’t mind losing to make it appear you are staying.

  72. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    I agree with Alison’s advice, but also, I REALLY hope you get the job, because you need to get out of this toxic dump company! I mean, these people have zero professional boundaries! And they clearly also do not understand how to run a business and manage staff. This is so very not normal and I hope you get out of there asap!

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