office romance drama, my contact ghosted my friend, and more

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

1. My coworker is thinking of resigning because she and a coworker broke up

My coworker Karen has gotten involved in an office romance with our coworker Bob and has been confiding in me as a friend. She asked that I not tell our manager (Rebecca) and while I did warn her that I wouldn’t lie about it if asked directly, I did say I wouldn’t tell otherwise, reasoning that it doesn’t affect our business.

Neither Karen nor Bob are a supervisor, and we’re in a relatively independent field so we don’t do many teamwork-y activities. We have a morning meeting together and then all go our separate ways, so we see each other then, at lunch, and around the building, but we mostly don’t have to interact if we don’t want to. There are also several other couples in the building, so the workplace norms allow it.

Well, Karen and Bob broke up, and now Karen is heartbroken and talking about quitting. NOW it impacts the business, and I’m stuck: I don’t know whether to tell Rebecca or not. Karen is, bluntly, not great at the job, so she would probably be leaving at some point anyway, and I am also not great but better than Karen and getting better still all the time, so I’ll probably stick around. I also do not want to betray Rebecca, who has earned my loyalty. But I also gave my word that I wouldn’t tell Rebecca about the relationship unless asked, and I know Karen thinks the quitting talk is also covered by that. How on earth do I extract myself from all this mess?

Say nothing. You have zero responsibility to bring this to Rebecca’s attention just because Karen is thinking of quitting. In fact, alerting your boss that a colleague is thinking of quitting would be a huge betrayal of the colleague (assuming there aren’t extenuating circumstances, like if you’re the person’s manager and need to talk to your own boss about contingency plans). If the break-up is causing actual issues for you or others at work — like if Bob and Karen are being hostile in front of others or refusing to work together when you need them to — that would be appropriate to take to Rebecca. But Karen being heartbroken and contemplating moving on? That’s 100% not in your purview to report.

So this is good news: you can and should do nothing!

2. My contact ghosted the person I referred to him

Someone who I worked for about eight years ago started their own company five years ago. We’ve stayed in polite professional contact over the years.

They recently posted a role, and I have a friend who would have been a perfect fit. I messaged my colleague on LinkedIn to ask if he was open to referrals. He replied enthusiastically, I made the intro, and the two had a good call. At the end of the call he encouraged her to apply online … and she never heard anything again, not even a form rejection, not even after she followed up.

Is there a way I can message him privately and say that I was surprised my friend didn’t even get an automated rejection? My friend doesn’t really want me to get involved and I’m not planning to advocate on her behalf, more to express my disappointment in his treatment of my referral.

This is a little sticky because your friend is entitled to say she doesn’t want you complaining on her behalf, especially if she might want to apply there again in the future. But at the same time, the relationship with this guy is yours and you’re entitled to express disappointment with how he handled a contact of yours. Can you tell your friend you feel you need to say something because of your relationship with him and because you need to hear his response in order to know whether to make referrals to him in the future, but you’ll be clear that the message isn’t coming from her?

Of course, make sure enough time has passed that he’s really ghosting her; I’d wait until it’s been at least two months since she applied.

3. Leaving a job because I won’t be able to advance for 20+ years

I’ve been working at my admin job for over three years. It’s a small company, and overall I can’t complain. I get along with most everyone, have low cost health insurance, and though I barely accumulate any days off, they are very flexible and have immediately approved my time off requests before. The pay is not the best, but it’s more than most companies are offering for the same title but a higher workload.

My issue is that there are zero advancement opportunities and the workload has been underwhelming, to say the least. I am left with nothing to do about 65% of the time. I dread going into work just to spend the majority of the day doing busywork. I already struggle with depression, and I find it getting aggravated during the periods when I’m not doing actual work. I also am not given the opportunity to learn and perform many of the tasks that a person with my title should know how to do because my boss is used to being the one who manages most of the typical admin duties. I have had interviews with other companies and have struggled to explain why I don’t know how to perform tasks that a person in my position would usually do.

The only way I could get promoted and be given a more steady flow of work is if my boss retires, but that won’t be for AT LEAST another 21 years. I have never been a particularly ambitious person, and I’m certainly not gunning for my boss’ job. However, I worry that I’ll be stuck at a job that feels like a permanent internship for a total of 24 years if I count the three I’ve already spent here.

Is it unreasonable for me to leave an overall decent job because I don’t want to wait over two decades for more responsibilities, advancement opportunities and tasks that are more in line with what my title suggests?

It’s not even the tiniest bit unreasonable. Start job searching. You want to advance and that’s not going to happen there for decades, and your job is aggravating your depression. Either of those on its own is an excellent reason to leave.

But also, you don’t need a “good enough” reason to leave; you get to leave for any reason or no reason. I mean, it’s true that you shouldn’t leave a job every year because eventually that will mess up your resume and make it harder to find good jobs, but that’s not your situation — you’ve been there three years, you’re fine. GO!

4. Did this interviewer just talk to me to get intel for her friend?

I’m hoping you might be able to provide at least a reason for this really odd interview.

I worked in schools for eight years, but I recently got my degree in film and media production. I was interviewing for an office manager position at a school, since getting a job in my field at this time has been near impossible. The hiring manager had me call her and we went through a 15-minute interview where she wouldn’t really tell me about the position too much. At the end, she says, “Oh, I have one more question for you. What are jobs like in the film industry right now? I have an older gentlemen friend who’s always wanted to have his script published. How can he get into the field? What are some of the things you’re finding?” I gave her a generic response and never heard from her again. Is this normal? What happened here?

Reading between the lines, it sounds like you’re wondering whether she only contacted you to get intel for her friend, rather than ever seriously considering you for the job. That’s possible. It’s also possible that it was a real interview and she just tacked on an unrelated question at the end. (But it’s a ridiculously naive question because “how can someone break into script-writing” is a far longer topic than you could do justice to during a short call about something else, there are loads of resources all over the internet that will give far better guidance than you could in this context, and it’s a little like asking “how can my friend win the lottery” — but so be it.) In any case, was it a typical ghosting (very common) or an extra rude and nefarious waste of your time just to get something for herself (much less common, but it happens)? There’s no real way to say, unfortunately, but either way you can just write it off as a bad interview/interviewer.

5. How far in advance can I start interviewing?

What is a reasonable timeframe between interviewing for a job, and actually starting work?

I have been in education for almost 20 years, first as an elementary school teacher and more recently as an instructional-technology teacher. I’ve loved my work so much and for so long, but in the last couple years I’ve reached a breaking point. I need to get out and do something else.

Previously, whenever I interviewed for a position, it was always understood that I would begin the following school year. It was fine to interview in March even though I wouldn’t be available to begin the new job until my current contract expired in June. That’s very typical for lots of education jobs. Very few teachers jump ship mid-year even if they interview the previous spring. However, now that I’m looking to leave education, how do I do this?

It doesn’t seem reasonable to apply for jobs now and then say, “Oh, but I couldn’t possibly start until mid-June at the absolute earliest.” But maybe it IS okay, and I’m overthinking? I don’t want to wait until it’s too late, but I also don’t want to jump the gun.

If it were November, I’d tell you to wait. But it’s March. Apply now! A lot of hiring moves really slowly — if you apply now, lots of jobs won’t even be doing interviews until late March or April and might not make an offer until May. Others will move more quickly, of course, but it’s fine to explain that you need to finish the school year and can’t start until mid-June. Plenty of jobs will be fine with waiting a couple of months for the right person. Some won’t be, but they’ll let you know that. (Generally, the more senior the job, the longer they’re willing to wait.) You’re not doing anything outrageous by applying now.

{ 192 comments… read them below }

  1. Marnix*

    OP 1: Not your problem. Repeat as needed. I’d stay as far away as possible from this drama. You don’t want to be seen as someone who’s taking sides or even has an opinion.
    Wish them both well (if only to yourself) and move along.

    1. Raboot*

      It’s not even drama at all imo. Some people dated and now one is considering quitting? Ok. Those are things that happen from time to time. I think OP has blown this a little out of proportion unless there’s details we’re missing.

      1. Maggie*

        My thoughts exactly. There’s no mess to extract themself from, because there is no mess, and even if someone considering quitting is considered a mess, OP isn’t involved. OP you can relax!

      2. Batgirl*

        I think the OP considers it grossly unprofessional to date coworkers unless you are prepared to be totally unaffected by it. That’s a fine standard for herself, but not one to impose on others. Karen probably appears unaffected to Rebecca and that’s good enough; even if it were not, it’s not OP’s problem to fix. It’s also not “affecting the business” that a so so employee may leave. If the business can’t move past something like that seamlessly, then something bigger is wrong with the business.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s an interesting window into how work friendships can differ from other friendships. The confider doesn’t realize the distinction until the outside drama threatens to affect things inside work, when suddenly “how can I support my good friend in their troubles” is not the only question the confidee cares about.

        (For practical advice: OP not your monkeys, not your problem, you don’t need to tell anyone anything.)

      4. anonymous73*

        Unless there’s more to it, Karen is considering quitting her job because because her office romance ended. And she’s involving OP in it. That’s drama to me.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The Karen keeps coming to me for advice/venting/sympathy is the issue in my book. I think the thing I would do here is just to tell Karen I can’t be her venting buddy about this because I also work with the both of them.

        2. Rocket*

          How is OP involved? People tell me things all the time, doesn’t mean I’m involved in any of it. Her friend told her about her relationship, and is now telling her how she’s thinking of dealing with the breakup. That’s it. If OP doesn’t want to be Karen’s friend, that’s fine. Say that. If OP wants to be Karen’s friend, but doesn’t want to know hear about this kind of stuff, also fine. Say that. But she’s hardly involved in “drama.”

      5. Reality.Bites*

        What really stands out to me is that nothing that has happened is against any company policy, nor even informal norms for that workplace.

        It’s not an issue of whether or not LW should tell – there’s no possible justification for even telling the truth if asked. “You should ask them about that” is a fine answer to a question that’s been established as not a legitimate work question.

      6. MicroManagered*

        OP1 knows Karen is thinking of quitting her job. That’s it. I can name 3 coworkers right off the top of my head who’ve mentioned thoughts of quitting their jobs recently. I’d never disclose that unless it was something that fell within my duty to report. It doesn’t sound like Karen broke any company policy by dating her coworker, so I think this is a non-issue.

        1. Emotional Support Care’n*

          Exactly. Having knowledge that someone is considering the idea of leaving a company (for whatever reason) is not your (general your) business, and shouldn’t be gossiped about, just like Karen’s dating life.
          I had a co-irker who would tell our supervisor anytime she overhead anyone so much as jokingly offer me a job elsewhere. She did it with the full intention of trying to get me in trouble so she could either get my position (and pay), or at least elevate her own pay. I don’t blame her for wanting to be paid more. She was in a tough position and deserved better pay. We both did. Unfortunately we weren’t going to be paid better because the organization was a non-profit and that was the best they could do.
          She was very upset when she wasn’t told a single word of my resignation until it was officially announced.

      7. Rose*

        100%. Breakups are dramatic on an individual level for the people involved but “a coworker is thinking about leaving a job she’s not great at,” is a non-problem.

        It seems like maybe OP has gotten a little wrapped up in the idea that something big and meaningful is happening because it’s a breakup. Or because some people think it’s not worth risking a job for a relationship and then feel like something is wrong has happened if it goes south.

        1. Courageous cat*

          Honestly, I think she’s just kind of looking for drama where there is none. I don’t say that to be mean, but sometimes people lean that way without realizing it.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      The bit about the colleagues dating is frankly irrelevant to the real question, which is, “should I alert my boss that a coworker is thinking of leaving?” The answer to that is pretty much always no.

      The reason for their potential departure really doesn’t matter. People leave jobs regularly, and it’s their prerogative and normal and fine and not disloyal to do so. People stay at a job for a few years and then often move on, whether they were having a fling with a colleague or not. Any of your colleagues (or you) could be thinking of leaving at any time for any reason, or anyone might leave suddenly for some reason that you can’t predict. Stay out of it.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. The breakup as a reason for leaving is a red herring here.

        LW, I recommend that you stay out of it.

      2. Pikachu*

        OP shouldn’t tell the boss, but they don’t have to feel comfortable being privy to the knowledge. I think it would be entirely reasonable for OP to ask that the coworker stop sharing quitting plans with her until she actually quits.

        1. Loulou*

          Yeah, that’s what I’m seeing in the letter too. It seems like OP is feeling awkward about being involved in this situation (even though their involvement seems pretty tangential to us as outside observers). They can definitely tell their friend this puts them in a difficult situation and they’d rather not discuss her plans to quit, though I would also say it’s really normal for coworkers to confide in a work friend about that and OP may well encounter this situation again!

        2. MK*

          Frankly, I find it really inconsiderate when people tell secrets to people who have to interact with others affected by the secret but ignorant of it. I mean, don’t put others in the position of having to keep your secret for you.

          1. Loulou*

            I agree but don’t think this is necessarily one of those secrets, unless there’s some context we don’t know (like OP is involved in planning something that assumes their friend will still be working there in X time or something). I’ve seen it happen that someone tells trusted colleagues they’re job hunting, when of course they won’t tell the boss until they’ve accepted another offer.

      3. Clisby*

        Besides that, Karen might very well change her mind about quitting. She should be able to make that call without any kind of interference.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      So your colleague, who isn’t that great at her job anyway is thinking about quitting? And the current situation with her ex isn’t really affecting work anyway? Don’t say anything and let the situation play out. Unless there’s missing context here or things significantly change, the drama, at this point, is non-existent.

      1. MK*

        Yes, I don’t quite understand the OP’s dilemma here. If Karen was a crucial employee and her leaving meant significant upset for the business, I could see why the OP might feel they should tell their boss (although even then, I don’t think she should have done anything). But it sounds like Karen quitting won’t affect the business that much and it’s such a normal thing to happen.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Consider that people change their minds. They want to quit, investigate other jobs, and decide that it’s better to remain at current job for __ reasons. OP1 could do real damage to Karen by telling Boss she’s going to leave. What if in a few weeks the emotion fades and Karen decides to rededicate herself to her job? And even if she remains a so-so employee, why do you care?

        OP1, the world is full of people who do average work. That’s their managers’ business, not yours. Please stay out of it.

        1. Clisby*

          Yes, I posted something similar above. Karen might very well decide she doesn’t want to leave. Break-up boyfriend might decide he wants to leave. Just stay out of it. No need to drag management in.

    4. Bagpuss*

      It does sound as thought either OP1, or the workplace generally, or both, go in for drama.

      The wording – Karen being “heartbroken”, OP worrying about “betraying” Rebecca -is all way over the top for something that boils down to ‘one of my co-workers might be going to hand in their notice’

      It’s a storm in a teacup.

      OP, you don’t say anything to Rebecca because it’s none of your business. People change jobs, the reason Karen [might be] moving on is irrelevant.

      If you are worried that Rebecca will blame you for not alerting her then keep your head down and don’t admit to her that you knew in advance, but also be aware that if she were to be annoyed at you then that ‘s an unreasonable way for her to behave.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am sure Karen actually is heartbroken.

        But the thing about betraying Rebecca strikes me as stretching the definition of the word “loyalty”.

        OP, part of being a manager is having a plan to replace everyone on a moment’s notice. It’s Rebecca’s job to figure out what to do when someone gives notice. I don’t think you mean to say that Rebecca can’t do her job unless she has special tips and secret insights, but that is what you are going toward here. A person quitting a job is a normal thing. Rebecca as a manager, needs to handle this normal thing.

        And if Rebecca says anything to you, you can just say, “I didn’t really think she would quit so I saw no need for alarm.” If you have directed her not to tell you any more about quitting, you can add something like “In the end, I told her not to talk to me about it because it was a conversation for her and our boss.”

        I worked in retail for many years and it’s quite normal to hear people say they are going to quit. No one felt a need to go tell the boss. It’s just part of the boss’ job to replace that person.

      2. Well*

        I’m not sure anyone arguing in the comments section of an advice column about the lives of perfect strangers gets to accuse anyone else of going in for drama, unless it’s in a welcome to the club, pull up a chair, sort of way.

        1. Woof*

          I get what you’re saying but fwiw the drama here may be shiny sometimes but it’s the practical applications/ utility of the advice and principals that’s the real reason I read regularly- i don’t watch soaps or regularly go to any other advice columns right now

        2. Rocket*

          This seems like a really weird take. Inserting myself into someone else’s business and potentially jeopardizing their job doesn’t seem at all the same as scrolling through an advice column and occasionally making a comment about people who will never know I exist.

    5. EventPlannerGal*

      Yep, and I mean, what drama, even? Karen is sad following a breakup and is considering leaving her job that she isn’t terribly good at. That’s not a drama. To be honest, it actually sounds like OP is being a touch over-dramatic (Karen is heartbroken! Everything’s a mess! Rebecca has earned OP’s loyalty! Must she betray Karen’s confidences? Oh, the humanity!) about a situation that sounds like a 1/10 on the Office Drama Scale. Circus, monkeys, etc.

    6. Venus*

      I have been known to encourage mediocre or argumentative people to apply for outside positions because the sooner that they leave, the sooner that a better person can be hired. If I were OP1, I might be doing the same with Karen as she isn’t good at her job and is complaining.

    7. quill*

      A good phrase for this, echoed many times by the commentariat, is “not my circus, not my monkeys.”

  2. Observer*

    #1 is an interesting question in that it seems to me that it should be something that isn’t even a question, yet it comes up all the time. I think that we get a question about how / if to tell the boss about a coworker’s plans to quit. I wonder why thing comes up so often.

    1. Loulou*

      I think the fear is that the boss would somehow know OP knew and blame them for not saying anything sooner. This isn’t really a rational fear (or shouldn’t be, in a functional workplace) but I can understand the thinking.

      1. Yet another person*

        I put in my notice and one of the first questions my boss asked was if one of my colleagues knew I was planning to leave. I said no of course. This was not a functional workplace.

        I still would not share anything with the boss if I were OP. It doesn’t impact her work and it’s not hers to share. If she is asked directly by the boss she can say that.

        1. Velocipastor*

          When I gave my notice, the president of the company interrogated my entire team about whether or not they knew I was planning to leave. They did not. I still think OP1 should keep her knowledge to herself for a multitude of reasons but there are definitely managers out there who would go on the hunt for anyone who knew.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, it is interesting. This is also a reason why I don’t think it’s a good idea to be actual friends with your coworkers, because then it’s all too easy to get pulled in to this sort of drama, even when you’d rather stay out of it. I stick with friendly enough that we can talk about some non-work things, aware enough of what’s happening in each other’s private lives so that we can offer some support if it becomes necessary, but not so friendly I’d be devastated if the person left for another job.

      1. TechWorker*

        Tbh if you are actually friends with someone then them leaving for another job is not exactly a disaster because you just stay in touch without any concerns about being friends with a colleague. Though to be fair those friends either a) didn’t tell me they were leaving til they were handing in notice anyway or b) were on completely different teams.

      2. Forrest*

        It’s just — not a drama, though? I’ve known about friends interviewing elsewhere and planning to quit before– heck, I’ve checked their applications, wished them luck for the interview and then texted, “nooooooooo!!!!!! D: D: D: seriously, congratulations!! <3" when they've been offered the job. It would never occur to me that that was a reason to avoid a friendship!

        1. Forrest*

          (I mean, if the actual problem here is that OP doesn’t like Karen and doesn’t want to hear anything about Karen’s life and needs to tell her that, fair enough. But that’s a “my co-worker is an annoying oversharer, how do I set and enforce a boundary” problem, not a “don’t have friends at work” problem.)

        2. Smithy*

          This is the boat I’m in, but I suppose for people who find themselves more familiar with people at work than they want to be – this may be irksome?

          I do think that if you’re building either networks or friendships with people at work who you like or want to, and placing professional boundaries with those who you like less….this shouldn’t be as fraught. But also, this just is not information that has to be shared with the boss.

      3. Snow Globe*

        I’ve been friends with co-workers, but when I was thinking of leaving, I said nothing until I had spoken with my boss. Friends understood; it was a professional decision, and I wanted to let my boss know first. It is possible to be friends with co-workers and still have professional boundaries.

        1. Clisby*

          Years ago, I told my friend-coworkers I was leaving before I told my boss – but it was a different situation. I had gone back to college to get a computer science degree, with the intent of moving into that field. In the meantime, I was working as a night copy editor at the local newspaper to pay the bills. I had been completely up-front with the newspaper job about my plans, so once they knew I was graduating, they pretty much expected me to be putting in my notice before too long.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think that part of the situation is in each instance the turn over in help is not high. Above I was talking about retail work where the turn over is much higher and people have experienced losing a cohort before. People learn to just ignore it.
      I can see in a place with lower turn over people might wonder what to do.

    4. Lacey*

      It it a weird one, but I think it comes up from dysfunctional “we’re family” dynamics.
      She mentioned feeling loyal to her manager, which is kind of a weird concept as well.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think the first thing people in this position need to ask themselves is–what do they want/expect the boss to do with this information? Does OP want Rebecca to convince Karen to stay? Or does she want Rebecca to start preparing to replace her, which may result in Karen being pushed out before she is ready to go. Neither situation would likely go well and certainly would not result in *less* drama then just… doing nothing and letting Karen give her notice when she is ready.

    6. Nanani*

      I blame workplace sitcoms and other fiction where work is basically just high school and drama is more important to the script than getting any work done.
      Even when you -know- it’s not real, you absorb it anyway and drama just kinda feels important, whether it’s your colleague’s dating life or the ranking of who gets told what when by whom.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Yes, so true. And I feel OP1 is probably just newer to the workforce and hasn’t known a lot of people who have quit. Like OP3, they haven’t realized that it is totally normal to just leave jobs after a while for any reason. Possibly due to sitcoms/dramas where something always prevents everyone from leaving without it being an emotional season finale moment.

    7. Smithy*

      As a few people mentioned, I think there are a range of problematic manager responses to someone quitting that can include whether or not other coworkers were aware.

      Some managers really do take this kind of news and regular sharing/networking done by peers as significant intel that is a breach of loyalty if not shared. Now, whether this reaction is just one or two red flags in a largely fine place to work or part of a cargo plane red flag transport convoy is what the fall out means. Maybe a manager is overly concerned about this due to a genuine effort to make as many accommodations as possible to keep staff and feels like they’re not finding out what issues are leading staff to quit, has taken that concern too far, but ultimately it doesn’t impact how they view staff long term. And then there are managers who engage in far more retaliation and punitive behavior short and long term. And everything in between.

      But I actually think the fact that most of this lives in the “one or two” red flags space is why most people don’t necessarily recognize it as super problematic, especially when they’re newer to the workplace. The workplace and their manager may be alright overall or the issues are just slower to be visible. And the reason their manager wants to know is for good reasons! To address colleague issues or fill vacancies as fast as possible, and when other things are super bad – on the surface none of that seems terrible. Except that often colleague issues that lead to quitting can’t (or won’t) be fixed by their managers and filling vacancies fast may result in pushing someone out before they’re ready.

  3. Pikachu*

    1 – If you don’t want to hear the quitting talk, you’re going to have to tell her directly though. Maybe tell her that, as a friend, you think it’s a bad idea for anyone to start telling coworkers they are going to quit their jobs. Just because you won’t throw her under the bus doesn’t mean someone else won’t. And as a coworker, all the talk about quitting is putting you in the position of keeping yet another secret from your boss that you shouldn’t have to, and moving forward you just can’t hear about it anymore. You’ve cancelled your subscription to the Karen & Bob Show.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I agree. If Karen thinks that saying you won’t talk about her plans to leave with Rebecca unless she asks means that you’re willing to listen to her quitting talk, you should tell her now that you’ve heard enough.

      I’d also say that if you have a daily team meeting where both Bob and Karen are present, then they do need to interact quite a lot, even if they don’t collaborate closely.

      I have one coworker who has exactly the same job every day when we’re both working, but other than that, I don’t necessarily interact with my other teammates except during our weekly team meetings, especially now that we’re still mostly WFH.

    2. J.B.*

      Can I say how much I love your last sentence? That is a great answer to a lot of workplace drama :)

  4. zyx*

    OP 5: I was a classroom teacher for a decade and left education altogether in 2018. I interviewed in February and was clear when interviewing that I could not start until after my school year ended. Everywhere that I interviewed understood—I was interviewing at places that planned to grow, so they counted me against their June headcount.

    In case it’s useful, here’s the best advice I got about job searching as a teacher making a career change (into the tech sector): apply to companies that are ~20-50 people because they’re relatively stable but are still looking to hire smart generalists who are willing to wear lots of hats. Skills from teaching are highly transferrable! But as companies get bigger, they need to hire specialists, and I wasn’t one.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Former classroom teacher who left education several years ago here! My experience was similar, only I interviewed in October. They held the job for me until June. Seven months. Because I was the right candidate. It definitely happens.

      Also, the advice to apply with smaller orgs is *really* good. The org above was one with 11 in-office employees. My job title had “Special Projects” tacked onto the end of a normal job title because I did so many weird, one-off, unrelated things.

    2. Still Queer, Still Here*

      Ditto on this! I left the classroom at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, and started looking in earnest in February 2021. Did lots of interviews in the spring, but didn’t end up finding the right fit until June, and it took quite a while between when they said they wanted me to when I got an offer letter and salary numbers and all, so I didn’t start until the end of July, which worked out perfectly. Start looking now!

      1. RT*

        Sorry if this is off-topic, but bless you and all other teachers who made it to the end of that pandemic school year.

    3. Rose*

      I applied for my current job in mid December and started in April, which was ASAP.

      It took two weeks to get an email. Then I did a phone screen with a contract recruiter. The role was technical, and the recruiter had no experience in the field and no idea wtf they were talking about, and kept asking questions that were misusing jargon so badly they made no sense. Think: “Have you ever llamaed?” “I’m not sure what you mean… I have 5 years of llama grooming experience, if that helps.” “But have you llama personally?” “I… have five years of llama grooming experience from my time at Big Llama?” “Have you worked as a vet?” “Well, no. Just to confirm, I applied for the senior llama groomer role; are we talking about the same one?” “It’s the same thing.”

      He clearly tried to ding me and then the contact who had set me up with the interview called me very confused five days later for a mini-interview. Christmas happened. A week or two after that I spoke with the team. Heard back four days later. They asked me to speak with the VP. That took a week to schedule and went well. A week or so later they called to offer me the role and I had to go through negotiations with the same contractor (he was let go soon after). They took forever.

      It’s wild out here!

  5. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – when asked why you don’t have the skills that someone in your role would normally have, just be honest that this is one of the reasons why you are looking for a new position. The owner is extremely hands on and won’t let go of the administration details that should be part of your responsibilities. You are feeling under-utilized and blocked from developing new skills. You can do so much more than your current position allows and you’re looking for a role that will allow you to take on the full scope of responsibilities that you know you can deliver.

    Also, take initiative to learn the skills that you should have, but which you can’t get in your current position. Perhaps you can take a course or review the work that your manager does to see what they do and how they do it.

    1. Ariaflame*

      If only from a contingency plan perspective this is stuff you should be able to do if necessary if the boss is unavailable for whatever reason for a time.

      1. Chili pepper Attitude*

        I think contingency planning is a great reason for the boss to let you learn some of the skills you need to get another job. You can, as others said, just use your downtime to do classes on your own — linked in learning classes (likely free from your local library) or other online classes. Make a list of the skills that came up in job interviews and see what you can learn on your own.

        But you could also talk to your boss about developing your skills in a few specific areas in case she is on holiday, has a family emergency, etc. So you would not be taking on the duties, just learning enough to help in a pinch. It just so happens that that will help you move on.

        And I really like learned the hard way’s script to use in job interviews about why you are job hunting.

        Good luck!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, OP, you can say, “While my job title was X, my responsibilities were limited by management so I did not have do any A or B.”

      But you can get a leg up on this conversation by saying, that your current position limits your duties and you are ready to expand and take on more work. I would say that first so I have laid the ground work for anything that comes at me next.

    3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I also wonder if LW1 has talked to her boss about those duties? She could (and should!) talk him about letting her take on X or half of X or do the first pass at X. After that works out well, move to task Y.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      Though as a former admin, I am curious what skills are causing OP3 to be knocked out of the running. Because every company does admin work their own way (in my experience anyway), it would look really good to have a candidate who has been employed somewhere for 3 years and the only reason they want to leave is because they want to learn & do more.

      For instance, invoicing. Depending on the accounting software (or lack thereof), this process can vary wildly between organizations.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        When I was looking it was travel and calendar management. Good experience was required for the EA and mid-level admin positions I saw, and I never did much and what I had done was 20 years ago.
        One of the reasons I worked in the grocery deli was to get customer service experience and that really opened things up! I hope OP doesn’t have to do anything like that though.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          To clarify, it didn’t open up jobs that required a meeting or Calendar, but it did open up jobs with a customer service or reception component.

      2. LW #3*

        Thing like invoicing, booking travel arrangements, putting in orders, creating reports. These are all things I have never been able to do at my current job, but I find are typically experience requirements when I’m job hunting.

    5. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      And if you’re bored at work a lot of the time, is there an opportunity to pick up some skills via LinkedIn Learning or the like?

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Good suggestion. Another avenue I’m starting to pursue (I’m in a similar “not enough work” boat as OP3) is applying to short-term volunteer projects on Catchafire. The projects draw on my existing skills, but have opportunity for growing my skills since I’m applying them in new ways, trying new software/online platforms, etc.

    6. Thinking Aloud*

      Agree with this. If OP is idle 65% of the time, use that time to gain the skills OP doesn’t have but which are expected of a person in that role. Does current employer offer any educational assistance. OP has an opportunity here to expand their skill set given they are under worked. Even better if the employer will pay for classes.

      But even if they don’t offer educational assistance, if they allow OP to spend idle time on technical development, that is worth something. As OP adds technical skills, they can then market them internally to take on more responsibilities and thereby add experience to the skill training. All the while building up their oveall skill set so that when it is time to apply for a similar job they actually know what they are doing.

      I would quit looking at the current job as a dead end position. If OP can get technical training while at work (which BTW provides benefits) they are way ahead of others who work a full time job and have to take personal development classes on their own time.

    7. LW #3*

      Thank you! I have tried to explain it before in interviews, but I worry that all the interviewer will think is “she doesn’t have the experience we need” and write me off as a candidate. I’m always honest, though.

      And I’ve definitely tried to learn some of the skills I’d need and I’ve reviewed the work my manager does, but it’s a little difficult because since I’m not using the skills and I don’t get the chance to practice the work I’ve reviewed, I find I can easily forget what I’ve learned. I guess I just have to keep practicing until I can find a way out!

  6. John Smith*

    #3, is it possible for you to use the downtime for self learning at all? That would fill in the time, be work related and hopefully give you some skills or at least knowledge. But on saying that, have you actually discussed any of this with your boss? I mean, have you asked her if you could do some of these tasks for her?

    I know some people may think you have the dream job with nothing to do 65% of the time, but I know from experience how demoralising that can be when you want to actually do something. That’s when I taught myself some IT skills through online videos, it forums etc and was able to use that knowledge at work.

    I sincerely hope things work out for you.

    1. Allison K*

      Yes! Keep a list of the skills you’ve been asked about and start self-learning via YouTube or Lynda? And say to your boss, “I’d really like to learn to do (one skill at a time) to support you better, would you be able to point me in the right direction to start learning it?”

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        A lot of public libraries now offer access to Lynda (now LinkedIn Learning) for free with your library card. LIL is one of my favorite learning resources both for how much is available and also because they give you practice file downloads to work along with the videos, and I do better with hands-on learning. Highly recommend it!

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          My library doesn’t have LIL, but every library I’ve used has had some kind of online class system you can get free access to, complete with certification when you’ve finished the course. It’s a great way to get started!

        2. Gumby*

          My library dumped LinkedIn Learning when they started requiring individual user accounts on LinkedIn instead of just the library account. They decided they didn’t want to be in the business of swelling LinkedIn’s user base. I had already connected my library account with my LinkedIn (I think?) but I understood their stance even though I was disappointed to lose access.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Very much yes! One of the reasons I went into technical support in particular is because there’s very little actual downtime. My brain is….not okay and if left with nothing to do will invent all kinds of delusions.

      I’ve worked 2nd/3rd line support and now management (but still being a techie) and pretty much the only time I’ve had with no calls in the queue was between Xmas and new year.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I was going to suggest this as well! I had a job that had big swings in the workload and I had a hard time finding a new job because I didn’t have a degree. It was actually the perfect storm! I enrolled at an online university and used the employer’s tuition reimbursement program to pay for most of my degrees. I hung around for 2 years in a not-so-exciting job and earned my bachelors and my masters degree.
      It wasn’t easy to juggle the job and full time school, but I would never have been able to earn my degrees if I didn’t have a slow paced job.

    4. LW #3*

      I have tried to do some light self learning, but it’s tricky because all the activity on the company computer is monitored and it would look weird if I bring my own laptop or iPad and spend the majority of my time on there. But for example, I did some training with Excel and the accounting program my company uses and I learned a lot of functions that even my manager didn’t know about and have taught her. But I feel like my options are limited.

      And yes, most people think it’s an easy job, but it is so mentally draining to sit and do nothing! Even just trying to find busywork gives me anxiety.

      Thank you so much :)

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Does your company allow online learning in certain skills, subjects, or programs? You could find out what they allow and do that on their computers, right? You might have to get approval or something but it’s worth a try.

        1. LW #3*

          They do, but unfortunately only the technical support staff take this online training.

  7. GammaGirl1908*

    For LW3, you don’t have to stay at a job for any length of time, but it sounds like you can stay at this job until you’ve gotten what you want out of it, and then you can move on.

    That’s a normal thing to do; lots of people take jobs, stay for a few years, and then move on, regardless of whether there is or is not advancement potential at that particular job. Maybe they want to try a different company, maybe they have a dispute with colleagues or supervisors, maybe they want a different commute, or maybe they want to move to a different industry. Maybe they don’t have any real reason but just want to change. I know a lot of people who are always looking for their next job, and are always applying and sending out resumes and keeping their ear to the ground, and those people change jobs every couple of years, for no huge reason other than that they got an offer that they like; The advancement potential in their current job is not the determining factor.

    Accepting a job doesn’t mean that you must stay at that company until something officially goes wrong. It’s not expected that when you take a job, you have to stay there until you die, and that has nothing to do with whether you are still moving up at that company, or whether there isn’t anything really wrong. It’s not like you can’t leave if there is still more to do and still advancement in your position. It’s also not like you absolutely have to go if your position is pretty stagnant. There isn’t some elaborate set of unspoken rules about this, other than that leaving too many jobs too quickly doesn’t look that great.

    You don’t have to stay simply because you might advance; you can stay because you’re still learning, and then after a reasonable length of time, when you have decided that it’s time to go you can go. Your chances of advancement can be a separate conversation.

    It sounds like you think you should always err on the side of staying, but you should look out for yourself and your needs and desires first, and then worry about the business’s line of succession long after that.

    1. Tepid Walrus*

      Just came to say that I quit a great job with awesome coworkers, a really supportive company, espresso machine in the kitchen, short commute, encouraged learning & acquiring new skills on company time… because I couldn’t handle the downtime, I think largely due to my depression issues (I’ve sort of been diagnosed in the past but then treatment kind of goes nowhere, so I’m not convinced it’s the correct diagnosis and I’m not currently treating it). There was no way to avoid the downtime because one of the job duties was installing all the business software with all its unique settings on new machines, which means clicking something every, like, 3-20 seconds and staring down the load screen. I wonder if downtime on the job affects other people with depression this way? I’m much happier at my “lower skilled” job where I’m outside all day doing manual labor, pretty much always moving, and the very minimal downtime is a welcome physical rest. So – just that alone is a valid reason to quit and I bet you’ll be much happier somewhere you can stay busy!

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I don’t have depression, but I do have ADHD, and now I’m wondering if that’s why I struggle so much when I’ve got too much downtime at work. If I’ve got a list of tasks to do and can jump continuously from one to the next, I’m totally fine and productive. But if I’ve got one thing to do near the end of the week and nothing pressing until then, it’s so much easier for me to lose track of that thing and forget to do it.

        1. Ampersand*

          I also have ADHD and don’t function well in jobs with lots of downtime. I need the pressure of (actual, not self-imposed) deadlines to really get things done and variety in my day to day workload. I’m overworked in my current job—not ideal—but it’s preferable to the jobs I’ve had where I was done with my work two hours into my workday. If I don’t feel productive at work I start to question why I’m there. I can see how too much free time at work might be harder for those of us with ADHD, just given how our brains function.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Ooooh, I feel this. Childhood Dx as “ADD”, and while I don’t enjoy being overworked, I start flaking off if I’m underworked. Right now I’m waiting for more work, and reading AAM. I don’t feel right with nothing to do.

      2. LW #3*

        Thank you for sharing your story! I’m glad you’re so much happier now.

        I have been hesitant to leave because the jobs I’ve been offered would be considered a “downgrade” in terms of pay and benefits, but I do wonder if I still might’ve been happier there. I feel like the lack of work to occupy my mind is what leads to my depression worsening. On the rare busy days with little downtime, I am always in a great mood!

    2. MissMeghan*

      Yes. There is absolutely no shame in not wanting something other people think is desirable. If you think you should want a job with downtime because you can fill it however you wish, the comments here should hopefully show LW3 that lots of people have trouble with this as well.

      If a job is draining on your mental health and happiness long-term, you don’t have to stay.

    3. LW #3*

      Thank you so much! I’ve been job searching and have been offered jobs but have not accepted them due to lower pay (currently trying to save for a house) and/or lack of a health plan or a much more expensive health plan.

      Other than that, I have been hesitant to leave because the company has been very good to me, and it’s a secure job where I know I won’t just get fired or laid off out of nowhere. Since my biggest complain is the lack of work, I was unsure if that was reason enough to pick up and leave a job that I otherwise enjoy.

  8. Al who is that Al*

    Try doing a course while at work. I had a boring lab job, so did an Open University (I’m in the UK) MSc at the same time. The Essay writing etc took place at night, but all the notes, research etc. was done during the day while waiting for stuff to happen. You also look busy all the time but you are doing something worthwhile instead and you feel valued.
    Lately, during Lockdown, I have also composed quizzes and game scenarios while at work – some of the quizzes were later used for the company itself for “morale” purposes

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Seconded. I’ve done the same, though just one-off courses rather than a degree program.

      1. Kim*

        I agree with all the suggestions to teach yourself some additional skills so you can move on to a new job. I have been in your position before – do not wait until the senior person retires because the company could decide to eliminate the position or even hire from the outside because they perceive (rightly or wrongly ) that you don’t have the knowledge for the job. Many good employees are underutilized , it’s shameful and bad management . I will you all the best in your job search ! Go get em !

        1. LW #3*

          Thank you and everyone else for your comments and suggestions. The senior person is this case has been at the company for practically my whole life (I’m 24) and is CRUCIAL. So in this case, I very much doubt that her position will be eliminated.

          The thing is, she has made it quite clear that she plans to retire with the company and that the most natural thing would be for me to take over her position, since the only other person that does have some knowledge of how to do our work is actually being groomed to become CEO when the current CEO retires. The issue is that she’s not even close to retirement age, so I would be left waiting for that day to come for a cool 20+ years…

            1. LW #3*

              Oh, I don’t disagree with you. But although I’m not counting on still being in the company in 20+ years, it is family owned and they are incredibly possessive of it. And for as long as the company is running, they cannot function without boss’ position.

  9. Elsa*

    #4 — Based on experience in a similar field, I’d guess that if the interviewer’s motive was ulterior, she was hoping not for information but an “in”. She wanted LW to say “Oh, I can introduce your friend to Big Agent” or somesuch.

    1. BritChickaaa*

      Yes, absolutely. The question as phrased makes no sense. He has a script that he wants to get “published” (surely “produced”??), but then is asking about jobs – does he mean jobs as a staff writer, unrelated to his actual script? Is this “older” man really looking to start an entirely new career as a staff writer, because that’s a very youth dominated area.

      I work in film. The amount of people who don’t want to have a career in film but have written one screenplay (often just a first draft) or worse have “a great idea for a film!!” and think if they can just get the right ear, someone will make their idea into a film and they’ll make pots of money, is insane.

      If this guy had the slightest interest in a writing career he would have done the work to find this very basic stuff out for himself.

      1. Nanani*

        It’s possible scriptwriter friend does know these things but LW’s interviewer doesn’t and thinks they can network on behalf of their friend or something.

        In any case, probably best to write this off as weird things that happen sometimes.

    2. Sloanicote*

      I wouldn’t spare this another thought, OP. I don’t really think this person held a whole interview just for this (and if she did, that’s very whacky of her) but also people just get a bit weird around creative stuff. I’m a novelist and people I barely know pitch me “great ideas they’ve had” or want me to write family members’ biographies (? that’s not what I write) or hint that I should introduce family members to my agent. It just comes from a lack of understanding of the business and the “dream” element.

      1. Ama*

        Yes — I work for a medical research nonprofit and a doctor we sometimes work with once contacted us wondering if we could help one of his patients get connected with a musical theater producer to talk about a musical the patient had written. He assumed because we were in NYC and at the time had an office located on the street Broadway we must know theater people, I guess. I just told him politely we didn’t actually know any theater producers instead of explaining that Broadway was a long street in Manhattan and most of the buildings on it didn’t have much to do with the theater district.

    3. NoviceManagerGuy*

      The funny thing is, if OP4 had an “in” would she be applying to office manager jobs?

  10. Chriama*

    #1 – you mention wanting to be loyal to Rebecca, but why do you think that includes preemptively warning her about Karen’s departure? Is it an instinctive impulse to keeping a secret from someone you care about? I’m not going to chastise you for that impulse, but I would like to encourage you to think through the potential consequences of your actions.

    In general, it’s not considered good form to out your coworkers who plan to leave to their bosses. Their timeline for leaving and the company’s timeline for replacing them may not align, and I think the potential harm to someone losing their livelihood is much higher than the potential harm to a business being understaffed for a while. Much better to let the coworker announce their news when they’re good and ready.

    1. SarahKay*

      OP1, I understand the impulse to be loyal to a manager, especially if she’s a good one, but try considering it from the other direction.

      However much she might wish to be loyal to you, if Rebecca were told you were going to be laid off in three months’ time, but that you weren’t to be told until a month before, she wouldn’t (or, at least, shouldn’t if she’s actually a good manager) tell you before the company told her to. As a manager she has a responsibility to the company to keep certain things confidential, regardless of her personal preferences.

      Maybe, given that, you can frame it to yourself that you also have a duty – this time to your co-worker – to keep certain things confidential? As Chriama points out, the risk of Karen losing her livelihood is much higher than any benefit to the company by you sharing this information.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Managers with any experience already know that when couples break up the potential for one or both to leave increases. I don’t think OP has to explain something that is actually kind of obvious.

      1. anonymous73*

        OP says Karen asked them not to alert Rebecca that she and Bob were dating. Not saying she hadn’t figured it out, but it’s possible that she doesn’t even know that they were dating and therefore have broken up. Regardless, not telling you manager about someone else’s personal life has nothing to do with keeping secrets or being disloyal to them. Unless you’re management, or it’s affecting your ability to get your work done*, it’s not your business to spread personal details of others…period.

        *and if it is, you focus on the work aspect, not speculate or bring light to the possible cause

    3. Antilles*

      I think the potential harm to someone losing their livelihood is much higher than the potential harm to a business being understaffed for a while.
      I agree. Especially since OP describes Karen as a mediocre employee and the phrasing of “she’d probably leave at some point” almost sounds like you think she’s subpar enough to be let go. Hard to imagine losing an average employee is going to completely shatter the business. If we were talking about the most stellar salesman who’d take your four biggest clients, then you could make an argument for it*, but not here.
      *Even if it was a critical employee, I’d still vote (a) not your problem and (b) management should have plans in place to not let a single departure torpedo the business…but I’d at least hear an argument.

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Yes, and *talking* about leaving in the heat of a moment (even over weeks or months) is a bit different from planning to leave/taking steps to leave. This finding another job plan may never progress past the “I need to get out of here” stage into applications and interviews.

      1. MissMeghan*

        Completely!! Anything short of Karen having a new job in place and saying she’s going to bail on Friday is not a plan to quit. It’s her talking through the options for what she can do with her life.

  11. I should really pick a name*

    You should ask yourself what “Rebecca has earned my loyalty” actually means to you. That’s a vague and loaded statement.
    Rebecca is your manager. She gives you work, you do it, she gives you feedback. If she’s a good manager, you might put more effort into your work.

    1. WellRed*

      Yeah. It’s outside the question but how many “not great at their job” people work at this company? And maybe if they put more effort into those jobs, they’d have less time for this nonsense.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, it sounds like LW1 might be caught up in a weird company culture that over-emphasizes loyalty.

      A good manager earns your respect. Maybe she also earns your loyalty in some limited sense, like if you overheard someone bad-mouthing her perhaps you feel obligated to defend her. But I don’t think a manager can earn enough loyalty to outweigh your own integrity and make you obligated to reveal damaging information you promised to keep secret.

    3. J.B.*

      Also, the letter writer thinks she’s bad but getting better and the other person is bad. Rebecca is the common factor here, and there is a potential that she’s not good at hiring or that she’s not good at training. The letter writer seems to be blaming herself for something that may not be entirely on her.

  12. MrsMotz*

    #LW2: I wouldn’t discount the possibility that even though you from an outside perspective just reading the job description consider your friend “the perfect fit”, the hiring manager could very well have had a different opinion. I would definitely not go contacting your ex-coworker demanding to know why they didn’t hire your friend and why they ghosted them. You could bring it up at some point more like “Hey, did my friend ever contact you about that job, how did you get on, were they as good a fit as I thought they would be, how far are you into the hiring process for that role” or something like that. Maybe also ask if they appreciate getting referrals like that or if they prefer people just applying independently, and if the conversation heads that way, how their hiring process usually pans out and their policy on giving feedback to applicants during and after the role is filled.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The issue isn’t that the friend wasn’t hired.
      The issue is that they didn’t even send a rejection (and this is after they actually had a call).

      Companies should get back to all applicants (though a lot of them don’t). This becomes even more true with a referral because by treating the applicant poorly, the company is potentially harming their relationship with the person making the referral, which could mean they don’t get any more referrals.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Companies *should* get back to job candidates, but it is very common that they don’t. I actually don’t know what would be the point of the LW in contacting the hiring manager here. It sounds like it isn’t someone they are close to anymore (they’ve stayed in “polite, professional contact” after working together 8 years ago), and it was the LW that contacted the hiring manager after seeing the job posting, the contact didn’t reach out to the LW looking for referrals. I’d just leave it.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I think you’re reading things into the letter that simply aren’t there. LW is only complaining about the ghosting, not that their friend wasn’t hired. It’s totally reasonable for them to say “hey, when I go out on a limb and introduce people to you I need to know you’ll give them the courtesy of a response”

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Yes, this 100%! Why should I tap my network for qualified candidates if you’re not going to treat them with the bare minimum of respect? It might even damage my relationship with someone if I recommend them for a job and then the company treats them poorly.

        1. LW 2*

          That was more my thing – it’s totally fine that my friend wasn’t the right fit, but an automated rejection email in my opinion is the bare minimum for a warm referral.

    3. Observer*

      I would definitely not go contacting your ex-coworker demanding to know why they didn’t hire your friend and why they ghosted them.

      As others have noted, the issue is not why the friend was not hired, but why they were ghosted. I think it’s totally legitimate for the OP to want to know why that happened.

      Hey, did my friend ever contact you about that job, how did you get on, were they as good a fit as I thought they would be, how far are you into the hiring process for that role” or something like that.

      No, don’t be passive aggressive and don’t obscure the information you are looking for. The OP’s primary question is why the friend was ghosted, because that’s going to inform their thinking about ever sending another person their way. The other stuff is not relevant unless the OP has another person in mind for that position. Also, the OP knows that the friend applied and had a least one interview. Pretending like they don’t know this is not a good look.

    4. LW 2*

      Hey folks,
      LW2 here. Some additional details:
      – he posted the role on LinkedIn, which is (to me) a request for referrals/applicants
      – I asked if he wanted referrals, and he replied enthusiastically (he knows my background and knows that I have context on his work, and would be a reasonable judge of fit for the role)
      – I connected the two of them via email, and the colleague (let’s call him Alex) replied to my friend saying (let’s call her Amy) “Hey Amy, it sounds like you’re doing great work. I’d love to talk about open roles at my company.”
      – they had an intro call that went well and he encouraged her to submit a formal application
      – his company is about 20 people, some of whom worked with us at the old company

      1. AnonAnon*

        I would suggest just letting it go. You sound like a good and supportive friend to Amy. However unfortunately we don’t have control over what people do or don’t do. We can only manage our own expectations and control our actions.
        I mean, you can certainly contact Alex to convey your surprise and disappointment, but….I have to ask: what do you expect to happen after that? What outcomes are you really looking for? Is it to seek closure for you, closure for Amy? It just sounds like you’re setting yourself up for more unmet expectations. There’s a chance that Alex might come to his senses and say “oh gosh LW2 you’re so right, I should have send a note to Amy. Thanks for the reminder.” There’s also a good chance that Alex would feel annoyed and pressured by your message. He might see it as meddling and overstepping.

        Perhaps the only thing you can realistically control here is to make a mental note to never send Alex any referrals in the future.

        1. LW 2*

          I see your point; for me it’s not really about Amy – I think Alex was unprofessional towards me (and if I didn’t have a good relationship with Amy, Alex could have made me look quite bad).

          1. AnonAnon*

            Yes, I also see your point about Alex being unprofessional, and the repercussions of his behavior.
            Addressing an industry colleague’s (former supervisor?) lack of professionalism is a pretty high-stakes situation. Attempting to give this kind of feedback through email/text would almost certainly not go over well.

            If you do make the decision to address it with him, it needs to be a conversation in real time, face to face. Again, even before you speak with him, it would be important to think through what outcomes do you hope to get out of the conversation, and I have no idea what that might be. Is it an apology? it is his acknowledgement that he put your reputation and relationship with Amy at risk? Is it a promise to change his behavior from then on? No matter what the desired outcomes may be, coming at it from a stance of superiority (“You’re unprofessional! I would never do what you did”) would also make the situation even worse. You probably need to approach it from a stance of curiosity, “more ask, less tell.” I’ll also add (and I hope I don’t come across as rude!) you might also want to consider: Having this type of difficult feedback conversation is a whole skill set – do you feel you are well prepared to navigate this with Alex? Personally, I find the works of Douglas Stone, Sheila Heen (Thanks for the Feedback, Difficult Conversations) to be my Bible to help navigate these high stakes conversations.

            So I dunno – from an outsider’s perspective, this is a tough call whether it would be worth it to talk to Alex. If you can navigate it well – it would be worth it. But if you don’t feel confident or it’s worth all that work – then perhaps you can let this one go.

            1. LW 2*

              This is very helpful! I have managed about 15 people in my career and in my field “managing up” is required. I definitely would plan for the conversation in advance.

    5. LW 2*

      One thing I want to mention here is that – Alex and I worked together at another company 8 years ago. When the company sunset our division, Alex bought it from them and has built it into a flourishing business. To that end, I have a pretty intimate understanding of the role.

      I also asked him specifically if he was interested in a referral, which he received enthusiastically. I have hired a lot of teams in my careers, and I’ve never seen a situation in which referrals weren’t appreciated (unless there was an internal hire expected). I am well aware they had a call because I was on the email thread where it was scheduled. It would be pretty disingenuous to play dumb.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        LW2 – I’m glad you chimed in because one question I had was whether there was an actual position to apply for, or whether it was more of a “info interview/let’s see where this takes us” kind of meeting.

        I’m flip flopping a bit about whether to contact Alex or not. In this moment, I’m saying yes. A quick note to say “Hey, Alex, cleaning out my email and I was wondering what came of this. Was I on the right track in referring Amy?”

        Then see where the response takes it. He might suddenly realize he never closed the loop with Amy and send her a note full of apology. He might have had a heck of a couple of months and not been able to fill the position in the midst of the chaos. Or any number of other scenarios that he might still recover from by reaching out to Amy or giving a reasonable explanation about what happened.

        Maybe you never give him another referral. Maybe you do.

    6. Firm Believer*

      I agree – I was a bit surprised at the advice. Is it rude? Absolutely. But the hiring process is a devil right now and things just fall through. It doesn’t make it right but it’s not good form to be reprimanding someone over it especially if the woman might be still under consideration.

      1. LW 2*

        She’s definitely not still under consideration. The posting has been removed, and I checked my email – I intro’d them in October.

  13. Popinki*

    OP#1, another problem is that if Karen decides not to quit after all after you’ve told Rebecca she’s going to, that’s going to create a whole nother round of Drama and you’ll be smack in the middle of that one. It will also sour your relationship with both Karen (who will claim she was just venting and didn’t really mean it) and Rebecca (who won’t be happy with you spreading gossip).

    Never feed the Drama Llama :D

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This is a good point. Right now, none of the drama is OP1’s fault, they’re just an observer with a front row seat. But OP, if you do tell Rebecca that Karen has talked about wanting to quit and more drama occurs because of that, that drama *will* be your fault. Don’t give your coworkers or your boss reason to connect your name with workplace drama.

  14. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1: “I also do not want to betray Rebecca, who has earned my loyalty. But I also gave my word that I wouldn’t tell Rebecca”

    I think Alison’s advice is great and answers the question, but I also just want to say that I find it a little bit of a red flag when people describe their workplace interactions with this sort of language. You haven’t pledged your allegiance to your liege-lord or whatever, you are a person with a job. So is Karen, and she can leave that job whenever she likes. Thinking about this in terms of loyalty and betrayal and breaking your word etc etc kind of makes it sound like you’re approaching a pretty pedestrian work issue like it’s Game of Thrones. There’s really no need to frame work interactions like this and if anything it probably adds to the drama!

  15. La Donna*

    #3 – completely agree with AMA’s advice. I’d also like to add a comment on advancement. A lot of the time advancing in a company means applying for different roles within the same department or a different one. For example, being an admin, then applying to an open role in finance, marketing, or contracts that’s a step up, and continuing to do that.

    I’m sure there are a lot of companies that do offer promotions within the same role to add work and challenge you, but in my experience you must apply for different roles to get that promotion. It’s really on you to make that happen for yourself, and hopefully your manager would support that and help you get there if that’s your goal.

    1. LW #3*

      Thank you very much, I do agree with you! But my company is very small (less than 25 employees total, including management). And the only other positions would be things I have zero experience with like technical support and sales representatives. They definitely always hire externally for those roles.

  16. Raw Cookie Dough*

    OP4, the ‘older gentleman friend’ is her. The interviewer. She used those adjectives to throw you off, but it’s definitely her.

    1. Heidi*

      I was wondering if that was the case. But I guess it doesn’t matter who it actually is if the answer is the same. It’s weird that she’s asking the OP, though; just because the OP studied film in school doesn’t mean that they would know how to get a screenplay made into a movie.

  17. ecnaseener*

    I haven’t seen this explicitly stated, so LW1: In no way, shape, or form is it a “betrayal” of Rebecca to keep this to yourself. Unless you neglected to mention that part of your job description is to spy on your team, you have no obligation to tell her about something that MIGHT happen, which she will find out about if it happens, and which isn’t an especially big surprise.

    If she’s as good a manager as you say, she knows people move on from jobs and she knows what to do when it happens. This is not a crisis you need to save her from.

    If she’s given you reason to think she’ll be mad….maybe she’s not a good manager and you should consider moving on as well. Idk if this emphasis on loyalty comes from her or from other sources, but if it’s from her it’s pretty manipulative.

  18. Dust Bunny*

    OP1 . . . the thing is, the romance part is irrelevant. She could be thinking about leaving for literally any reason ever and the situation would essentially be the same. People leave jobs. Rebecca presumably knows that and if your workplace is at all functional they’ll be able to deal.

  19. anonymous73*

    #2 I’m sure this will be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t consider this ghosting. Based on what we know, your friend had a conversation (not an interview!) about a job with the owner of a company. The owner then encouraged her to apply for the job and she did. Unless he made her a promise (like “submit your application and someone will contact you for an interview”), I don’t consider this ghosting. Assuming he’s not a 1 man company, someone else handles hiring. Maybe he sent a message to them and gave them a heads up, maybe he didn’t. But unless OP knows the inner workings of his company, you can’t assume the worst. You can make the choice to no longer give him referrals, but your friend asked you not to say anything to him. Please listen to your friend.

    1. Colette*

      I think that once you have had an individual conversation with someone, you owe them a response.

      1. anonymous73*

        And I think that’s an unrealistic expectation for ALL circumstances. Everything is not black and white. Context matters.

        I have a 5-10 chat with a recruiter about my submitted application. They say they will pass my information to the hiring manager and if they’re interested they will contact me. I don’t expect a call unless they’re interested in interviewing me because that’s exactly the expectation they’ve given to me.

        1. Colette*

          If, in the first meeting, you are directly told that you will only be contacted if they want to interview you, it’s OK. But otherwise, they should let you know either way.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          A recruiter is different from a personal referral from an industry colleague. You don’t expect contact from a recruiter because that’s not an ongoing relationship that needs to be maintained. But in the LW’s situation, this is a person they’ve had a professional relationship with for many years.

          I’m in an industry where a lot of people know one another and there’s a lot of overlap in friend groups and colleague connections. When a colleague refers someone to me for a potential job, I treat that referred person as an extension of my colleague. Part of maintaining my professional relationships includes treating the people they connect me to with professional courtesy.

          1. LW 2*

            I agree 100% – I think this is what I was expecting. I’m not sold on chatting with him, but glad to hear I’m not crazy that this was a faux pas on his part.

    2. Khatul Madame*

      The last sentence is pretty much it. The friend asked not to raise this, and so LW2 shouldn’t.
      If the LW2’s relationship with the prospective employer were a family tie, friendship, or close, frequent working contacts, there may have been a context where LW could casually ask whether the other person is even interested in referrals, since that last one fizzled out. But the letter says they are in “polite professional contact”, which maybe amounts to shaking hands at conferences, “liking” the other’s LinkedIn updates and not much else.

  20. Egmont Apostrophe*

    “Well, for starters scripts don’t get published, they get produced.”

  21. Slow Gin Lizz*

    OP3, please feel no guilt whatsoever at looking for a new job, and go find one! I had a job like yours where there wasn’t enough to keep me busy and it was absolutely soul-sucking. I was one of the few who was almost (ALMOST) glad when the pandemic hit because when they sent us all home I was able to do other things at home instead of just sitting in front of a computer pretending I was working. I got a new job where I am quite busy and my quality of life improved by a factor of millions overnight. I hope you can do the same. Best of luck and please keep us posted!

    1. LW #3*

      Thank you very much! It is very soul-sucking, but I’m glad you’re at a better place now!

  22. Rusty Shackelford*

    #5, if you’re looking for jobs in an education or education-adjacent field, or any other field that tends to hire former teachers, you’ll find they have lots of experience hiring people who can’t start until the end of their teaching contracts.

    1. Sara without an H*

      True. And the hiring process usually takes longer than a lot of job seekers anticipate. Starting a search in March for a start date in June or July isn’t unrealistic at all.

      OP#5, please check out the AAM archives for a lot of good stuff on resumes, cover letters, and search strategy and start looking for your next position. Good luck to you!

  23. Purple Cat*

    LW1 – Not your business. It really doesn’t matter WHY Karen is leaving and it would be terrible if you shared those thoughts with your manager.
    LW2 – There’s a middle ground that it seems you’re not considering. You don’t have to reach out to your contact and berate him for ghosting your friend. You can just reach out “Friend hasn’t heard back about the position, do you have any feedback I can share?” Hopefully they’ll get the hint that they ghosted your friend, if not, you can follow-up again at a reasonable time and press for feedback and then highlight the frustration with lack of communication.

    1. Colette*

      I’d advise against that – it’s out of line for the OP to offer to be in the middle between a hiring manager and an applicant at a company she doesn’t work for.

    2. Nanani*

      Maybe ask “how did it go” rather than about feedback. It might not get an answer, but if there’s a genuine “oops I forgot” in there it can’t hurt. Just be willing and ready to drop it if you get a non-committal answer or a topic change.

    3. LW 2*

      In the letter I said “reach out to express my disappointment” not “berate him for ghosting” . . .

  24. Velocipastor*

    LW2- I think you could broach the topic with your former coworker without bringing up what the referee told you. You could reach out on your own and ask how their conversation went. It’s possible they meant to get back to her and forgot or the timeline has changed and you asking might jog their memory and make them realize they never followed up.

  25. Jo April*

    LW#5: I am currently applying and interviewing for a number of jobs and won’t be able to start until August or preferably September, and everyone has been totally understanding. The hiring process takes forever.

    1. LW#5*

      Alison’s response, and the comments here, have made me feel a whole lot better about applying! :)

  26. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW3 – I’m curious how clear you have been with your boss about this issue. Does s/he know that you want to take on some of these tasks? Have you been clear that the current distribution of work is stalling your professional development? Alison has mentioned a few times often when a boss says they’ve been clear with an employee about a problem, when she asks them what they actually said, the boss was not clear at all. So I wonder if that’s the case here in the other direction. How confident are you that your boss knows you’re unhappy and dissatisfied? If the answer is “not super confident,” what do you think would happen if you raised this? A reasonable boss wouldn’t freak out if an employee asked for more work to do, though of course there is no guarantee that you’ll get what you want. But s/he can’t make things better if s/he doesn’t know there’s a problem. Obviously, ignore all of this if you’ve had direct conversations about it and gotten nowhere.

    To be clear, though, you absolutely do not have to do any of that. If you’ve decided that you want to move on, that is 100% your right; you don’t need to justify it to me or anyone else. You are the boss of your own life.

    One thing that has kept me from losing my mind during times I don’t have much to do at work is enrolling in online courses. There have been some good ones on Learning and on EdX. Where I live, I can access for free through my library.

    1. LW #3*

      I was clear about how I had nothing to do in the beginning, but I also saw how she had to scramble to find work for me and it interrupted her own work, so I stopped going to her when I had nothing to do. I started creating my own work and teaching myself some of the tasks that she did so that I could show her I was capable of doing more.

      It did work, and she has been open to me doing a few extra tasks, but she still tends to do most of the things herself (I guess old habits die hard). I admit I have not had a direct conversation about it with her because in the past, when I would offer to take on more work and expressed an interest in more responsibilites, I would get politely shut down and it really ate away at my motivation and self-confidence.

      Thank you very much for your advice and your reply, I appreciate everything everyone has said!

      1. feral faerie*

        I saw you mention further up thread that you’ve been offered jobs but have turned them down due to lower pay or more expensive insurance. What I am about to say all depends on your boss’s personality and most importantly how much you think she values you (to put it more crudely, if you get the sense that she thinks you’d be hard to replace or if she thinks you’re completely replaceable). If you have enough reason to believe that she does think you’re not replaceable, like she has expressed to you how you’re the most reliable admin she’s had or that she sees you staying there a long time, you could say point blank that you would like the opportunity to take on more responsibilities among the admin work like doing invoices. If you feel secure in your job and that she’d only let you go over something major, the worse that could happen is she says no or brushes you off again. I realize that there’s some risk in doing this but it could pay off. The key thing is that if she does say that she will give you more responsibilities, try to get her to commit to a timeline. A lot of bosses out there will say that they’ll give you more projects or responsibilities and then don’t follow their word, but making it clear that this is important to you is a step in the right direction.

        1. LW #3*

          I have attempted to broach the subject of more responsibility before, but I’ve been turned down each time. Any time I think about bringing it up again, I choose not to because I don’t want to keep getting shut down.

          What you say about the bosses not following their word really rings true: She did express to me once that she was hoping to fully train me and get me up to speed on the entire accounting system that we use so that I could do things like make invoices and put in purchase orders…but she told me that she planned to do that in the summer of 2021, and yet it never happened.

          I realize that the best thing would be to just let go of my fear and talk to her about it again, so I will try that before I really commit to switching jobs. Thank you kindly :)

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Sounds like you’ve taken some really good steps to try to improve this situation. I’m sorry that it hasn’t been successful and that it’s left you feeling even worse. That sucks. The silver lining is that this issue is not going to be new for your boss. The thing I sense might be missing is that she doesn’t understand that this is a big problem for you. So if you do have a next conversation, I’d suggest making it clear that this is serious, that you *need* this to be happy and engaged in your work. I hope she hears you.

            As a side question, I wonder if there’s any benefit in trying to turn this into a part-time job to cover the amount of work actually required. This could allow you to take on other work or training during those hours you’re currently sitting around doing nothing. Obviously, I have no idea if this is feasible in your position or if there are big downsides. Just something to think about.

  27. Laney Boggs*

    Man, I could have written #3!!! I’m always bored and the only options available are to rotate around the building to other departments. And it doesn’t help to be doing it in a global panorama, when work is all you have sometimes because your social life has been destroyed.

    Nothing but sympathy LW 3!!

    1. LW #3*

      Thank you for your sympathy! At least I know I’m not alone. And you’re absolutely right about the lack of social life.

  28. LW 2*

    Hi all,

    LW 2 here. I was thinking I would say something like, “Hey Alex, I recently asked Amy about her job search and I learned (though she was reluctant to tell me) that she never heard back from . Of course I’m not intending to pry, I was just surprised to hear that she hadn’t heard back. Hope all is okay!” A gentle indication of my displeasure at his handling of the situation, basically.

    1. La Donna*

      How long has it been since your friend applied?

      Does your contact at the company even having hiring power over this position, would they be working with your friend? If it’s an entirely different department, I doubt “Alex” has much affluence over hiring decisions, he probably doesn’t even know what’s going on.

      I think your message is a bit curt, tbh.

      1. Hit my head Glass Ceiling*

        Agree. Once I pass along a candidate to the hiring manager or HR, I don’t hear anything until I see an welcome announcement.

        1. LW 2*

          It’s a 20 person company though. Alex would have absolutely done a final interview with Amy before she was hired.

          1. La Donna*

            Okay my thoughts on this have changed! I do think the message is still a bit blunt, you really don’t know what happened. Maybe the job posting got taken down, they hired internally, no one was ever hired, etc.

            I think it would be wise just to ask, see if she was selected for an interview, then based on his answer you could mention your distaste in his lack of communication :P

    2. TransmascJourno*

      In all honestly, I think this is a situation better left alone. It seems unfair to your friend, who has expressed reluctance in having you interfere here. And while I definitely believe that Alex could believe it when you say that you’re not intending to pry, it’s also very possible he could come off believing otherwise — as I see it, asking about it in the first place IS technically prying, unfortunately.

    3. Observer*

      I do think that you have standing to raise it. And the way you’re framing it seems reasonable. It’s good that you are making it clear that you are asking for yourself, NOT Amy.

      1. LW 2*

        I think that is the tricky part for me. I have to make it clear that I am asking because ghosting my referral indicates to me a lack of respect for our relationship.

        Alex had a few opportunities to engage less warmly or reject the referral all together – when I DMed him to ask if he wanted referrals, he said it was fantastic to hear from me and he would love to chat with my friend (he could have just said “Sure tell her to apply at this link”). I intro’d them over email, and he told her it sounded like she was doing “great work” and gave her his link to schedule a call. He told her to submit an app to get her into their ATS and she did, and got an automated response saying her application had been received. She followed up (once or maybe even twice, I can’t recall now) and she never got a response to her email.

        1. Purple Cat*

          Did Alex and your friend ever actually talk? It doesn’t seem like it based on this.
          It’s hard to say it rises to the level of true ghosting if there was never any true engagement from the company. For me, it’s not ghosting unless there’s been multiple interviews, or a clear indication you’re one of the finalists and then… nothing. This is just ignoring a candidate. Which still isn’t great, but you’re expecting a personal response from the founder of a company for someone that made it nowhere through the hiring process – no phone screen, no first round, no nothing.

          1. TransmascJourno*

            LW2 — with the additional information you’ve shared here, I’m more inclined to think you should let this go. As PurpleCat put it, “you’re expecting a personal response from the founder of a company for someone that made it nowhere through the hiring process” — but a response like this at all is a rare exception, not the rule. (This is coming from someone who has referred friends or colleagues in the past to current or former employers within my industry.) It’s hard to understand why you see this as an affront, or as something directly disrespectful toward you; while you might have referred Amy, your involvement in the hiring process ended there. Was Alex’s lack of follow-through with Amy not a great look? Sure, but as AAM has reiterated a lot on this site, it’s unfortunately common. It’s also not intentionally directed at you.

            That being said, if Alex ever asks again for a referral, you can decline — and maybe you can tell him that his prior communications (or lack thereof) with Amy didn’t sit well with you as the reason. But even so — and I mean this kindly and gently — your expectations here might be slightly off.

          2. LW 2*

            They did have a phone screen, and I said specifically an “automated response” would have been sufficient.

  29. Galadriel's Garden*

    OP #2, I really feel you on this one. I was in a similar position as an admin at two different companies – the first there was *no* room to grow short of becoming the office manager in ??? number of years (which was by no means guaranteed), and while I liked my coworkers the pay and work were uninspiring at best and I spent the bulk of my day bored out of my mind. The second company it took literally years and years – like six or more – to get a promotion between to more advanced admin tiers, with little to no negotiating room on pay, though the work itself was engaging enough at least. I would absolutely agree with Alison to start looking elsewhere – admin work is one of those things that’s largely “industry agnostic,” so you can hopefully afford to be picky depending on your area and find somewhere that really gels with what you’re looking for. My goal was ultimately to move out of admin work, so I found a company with a lot of room for advancement and a track record of promoting from within. Even if that’s not what you’re looking for, it helps to find a company that’s both flexible in its work/life balance, as well as the sorts of work you’re able to do. Good luck!!

      1. LW #3*

        Thank you! I love my admin work, but I do also hope to move away from it in the future, and although I love my current job, there is just no room for growth and it’s killing me to think I have to wait so long for it. I otherwise hate to leave it, but I will take everyone’s advice and continue job searching until I hopefully find something with better room for growth and more learning opportunities.

        I am happy to know you were able to find a company that gives you more chances for career growth!

      2. LW #3*

        Thank you! I love my admin work, but I do also hope to move away from it in the future, and although I love my current job, there is just no room for growth and it’s killing me to think I have to wait so long for it. I otherwise hate to leave it, but I will take everyone’s advice and continue job searching until I hopefully find something with better room for growth and more learning opportunities.

        I am happy to know you were able to find a company that gives you more chances for career growth!

  30. The Lexus Lawyer*

    OP2 – it doesn’t sound like you’re particularly close to this person you say is just a casual professional connection.

    If anything, this reflects poorly on them. Don’t overreact and allow the situation to reflect poorly on you.

    I would honestly just avoid sending references to this person in the future.

  31. Classroom 2 Boardroom*

    LW5, are you unable to get out of your teaching contract? Or you just wouldn’t *want* to leave before the end of the year? I did this a few years ago and was able to leave mid-year, though perhaps that was due to my particular union’s contract terms.
    Regardless, applying now for June jobs is definitely a reasonable timeframe and you should be ok!

    1. LW#5*

      I probably could get out of my contract, but I’d hate to leave my team in the lurch, so I really don’t *want* to leave before the end of the year.
      Thank you for your comment about your experience! I appreciate it! :)

  32. LW1*

    Thanks to everybody for their comments! As some of you guessed, I am newer to this environment (office-professional; I worked mostly restaurant jobs before), and when Karen told me she was thinking of quitting, I panicked a bit. I knew there was *a* Right Answer, though, and I figured Alison would see it right away, which of course she did. Her answer, and y’all’s thoughtful comments, helped me see that the “drama” was a red herring (and a storm in a teapot, probably). The real question was, “should I tell my boss my coworker is thinking of quitting?” and once it’s put like that, it becomes very easy to see the right course!

    This has also helped me see that I need to be much clearer about my boundaries with Karen. She’s a nice person who has been going through some nasty (non-Bob) stuff lately, so I’ve wanted to support her, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of sending me into panic mode and certainly not if I’m uncomfortable keeping secrets for her (which I am, which may have been why I went for the red herring in the first place).

    All things considered, I’m very glad I wrote in, and thank you all for the help!!

Comments are closed.