should I tell my tantrum-throwing coworker that she’s sabotaging herself?

A reader writes:

I work in a small team of half a dozen. Recently our lead left and another coworker stepped in to fill that lead position, which left her role open. We have one coworker, I’ll call her Jane, whose work is tangentially related to ours but she’s not in the same role but she does sit in our small office. She’s socially connected with us as well and gets invited to any sort of team function. Before our lead left, we shared a lead.

For a myriad of reasons that aren’t entirely related, Jane has decided that she wants to become an official part of our team and applied for the open position. In her mind, it should be a done deal. She sits with us and knows our jargon and already assists with a few of our tasks already so she’d just need training on the finer details of what we do. And I agree, she probably should get the position just based on that factor alone. The problem is that management is starting to turn cold on her. She has a pretty good reason to believe that upper management is trying to pigeonhole her in the position she’s in now and would be willing to let anyone else except her take the open position. I don’t blame Jane for thinking that because it would be convenient for them.

The issue is that I think Jane is sabotaging herself with the way she’s acting. She believes she is entitled to this position and that if it’s not presented to her on a silver platter, her self-fulfilling prophecy is coming true and management is trying to keep her out of the job.

They announced that they’ll be doing interviews for the job as multiple internal candidates have thrown their hat in the ring. When she found this out, she just about came unglued. Jane doesn’t think there should be interviews and she should just be offered the position outright and the fact that they are interviewing is a sign that her prophecy is coming true. Multiple people have tried to tell her that that’s not the case and that there are lots of reasons interviews need to be conducted. It would be unfair to all the candidates otherwise. Jane doesn’t buy it. Her logic is that our lead stepped into her position without an interview so this shouldn’t be different. She doesn’t see the difference between an internal middle management position and the position she wants. She basically accused our lead (who was on her side) of getting special treatment. I don’t think our lead took that well.

Today they had one of the other internal candidates shadow our position for an hour but did not warn Jane that they’d be bringing this candidate over. They don’t owe her that warning but it would have been a nice courtesy. So when he showed up to shadow, she assumed they were grooming him to take the position away from her. I don’t know that anything particularly dramatic happened, but I was working from home and Jane was texting me all her thoughts and was just livid about the whole situation. She ended up leaving early to go work from home because of it.

Jane is someone I’d consider a friend. We don’t hang out outside of work, but we do chat in the office and text regularly. I frankly don’t want to be involved, so I’ve said nothing so far. I’ve just listened to Jane rant and tried to steer her away from her conspiracies but she’s not having it. I don’t know if I should be really up-front with her that her behavior might be sabotaging herself and risk her turning her ire on me, or if I should just let it play out and see what happens.

Jane might have been right originally that she was being unfairly blocked from the open position … but her behavior since then is itself likely to be a reason she doesn’t get the job!

Moving positions is never a done deal unless you’re told it’s a done deal. It’s not unreasonable for an employer to hold interviews to see what different candidates would offer, and that’s doubly true when a bunch of those candidates are internal ones. At a minimum, Jane’s feeling that she’s entitled to the job says that she doesn’t understand some basic professional realities. Her (repeated?) tantrums about it say she’s likely to be a pain to work with. If they were willing to consider her at the start, I can’t blame them for not being willing to consider her now.

Which is too bad, because Jane might have had a legitimate grievance! If she has real reason to believe that she’s being blocked because she’s too valuable in her current job (and it sounds like you think she does), that’s unfair, and it’s the kind of nonsensical and short-sighted management move that drives people out of the company entirely. But any legitimate beef she had is overshadowed by how she’s behaved since.

To be clear, she’s allowed to be upset. The problem is throwing tantrums and acting in a way that even a friend considers “unglued.”

As for whether you should say something to her … you mentioned that you don’t want to risk her turning her ire on you. Do you have reason to believe that’s likely? Have you seen her do that to others who delivered a message she didn’t want to hear? If so, that negates any obligation you’d have to try to make her see reason. Ideally, as a friend you want to be able to talk honestly when you think it’s in someone’s best interests to hear you out … but people forfeit the right to expect that kind of helpful honesty when they shoot the messenger. (I’d argue that the closer the friendship, the more obligation you have to speak up anyway when you see someone harming themselves, but this sounds like more work-friends than friend-friends and those are different levels of intimacy.) You still might make a one-time attempt out of good will, but I’d plan to back off quickly if you don’t see signs she’s open to hearing you.

Ultimately, this isn’t yours to fix. (It is her manager’s to fix, though, and I wonder why that person is letting this all play out in such a messy and disruptive way.)

Read an update to this letter

{ 161 comments… read them below }

  1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

    Jane isn’t just sabotaging her chances for securing the position and her reputation in the company, she’s also sabotaging her own peace of mind. If she believes that management is screwing her over to keep her where she is, her best choices are to (1) rationally explain why that is a bad idea (assuming she ever gets such an opportunity), (2) accept it, or (3) find another job.

    Becoming the bitter person who works somewhere that she believes has screwed her will lead to a great amount of unhappiness.

    1. Smithy*

      She’s also potentially giving mentors and references a current sour impression that may add a negative lens to how they overall think of her and her performance.

      I will also say, as someone who’s done this themselves – sometimes when you’re angry and/or frustrated at a work environment situation, lashing out can begin as a method that you genuinely think is a way to fix the problem. But is more so a sign of being burnt out and ready to leave. Particularly if you’re a woman, it can be a really difficult kind of reputation to build back from and can sometimes be a bit of self sabotage as a way to push yourself out.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      100% why I left my last position. I have colleagues who went with path 2 (acceptance) and could handle it. Myself, I was definitely on the bitter train and finding another job was the only real fix.

      1. Young Business*

        I can relate to all of this! I burnt out, and then some. Leaving myself to stew and be constantly frustrated led me to commiserate with colleagues who were experiencing the same challenges. I felt validated and that I wasn’t alone, but I was honestly constantly dwelling on things and taking everything that happened as a slight. This routine of constant venting tanked my mental health even more because I felt like I had no agency in the situation. Not to say that never recognizing your emotions and acknowledging them is super helpful, just that dwelling on them can become problematic, especially at work.

        At the very least, I hope OP finds a way to keep their rapport with Jane while maybe setting some boundaries. It does get difficult and wears on you when someone is constantly venting and it’s not a mutual thing.

        1. Wonderer*

          And when you vsurround yourself with negative people like that it really does make it all worse. Even if you start the day in a good mood, someone will always come by and ruin it. If they think you’re a safe person for venting their problems, then you’ll never hear anything but angry opinions.

      2. Julia*

        I had a moment at a previous bad job where I was bitter enough that I accidentally said something negative at a big meeting. I made job hunting my top priority after that.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          A friend of a friend was a long term employee at what had been a pretty good job. However she’d worked for a long time directly with the executive director, who could be very particular, was a bit controlling and also loved the sound of their own voice. And though FoF had just agreed to work on a side project with the ED, organizing records in prep for an upcoming memoir, and had accepted ED’s offer to move into the small guest house on ED’s property – “it will be SO convenient!” FoF was really burnt out from years working at that foundation, and with that ED.

          At an all-organization meeting to introduce a new senior manager, the ED kicked off the meeting with a speech about how the organization had grown and evolved as background to why the new position was created and the new SM was the right person to bring in to fill it. As ED wrapped up this long speech, they made some transitional comment, like “and now I’m going to turn it over to SM to say a few words” and FoF said, out loud, NOT particularly under her breath, “Oh thank God!”

          Within a couple of weeks FoF was in need of a not only a new job, but also a new place to live. She probably should have left that organization months or years earlier when her frustration and burn out was building and she still could have gotten a good reference. Or at least not willingly signed up to spend even more time around the ED and making her housing and pay tied to one person.

    3. DisgruntledPelican*

      A former coworker of mine worked at my current organization for TWENTY YEARS, almost half of them bitter and angry at being screwed over (not over a promotion, but over a medical leave issue). She 100% had a reason to feel her feelings, but when I started working with her, we were two executive directors later so the people who screwed her over didn’t even work there anymore, but that bitterness just festered and made her completely incapable of doing her job well until she was finally unceremoniously fired.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        Yikes. I’m sorry for this person, they really should have looked into counseling and moved on for their own wellbeing. That kind of grudge sounds really unhealthy.

    4. Erie*

      To be fair, let she who has never complained pointlessly about something at work (instead of fixing or accepting it or leaving) throw the first stone.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        There’s a difference between complaining pointlessly about something at work, and being the chronic complainer who can’t get over a decision that’s been made and won’t be undone.

        At a certain point, it’s not healthy or productive either for the workplace *or the complainer* to keep gnawing and stewing and venting about the same thing, or letting it color their attitude for months or years. Sure, people do it, and sure, some managers let it happen and keep festering. But at a certain point, either let it go or move on to a different workplace.

    5. GythaOgden*

      Very, very well put.

      A new regional manager has just been appointed with a focus on professional development for the people at the bottom of the heap like me. I realised when she came in to see us that, despite the many, many inadequacies of our organisation and the Samuel Beckett-like absurdist nature of the job nowadays, it was in my interest to look engaged and interested. Previous managers had really only said ‘look up courses on the intranet if you’re interested’ if I wanted to advance. This lady was really positive about meeting me later on and discussing where I wanted to be, which is preferably closer to home and full-time, but our org is national so that might be more achievable than it used to be when we were run by a trust that only has offices in the county I work in rather than the county I live in. She doesn’t manage sites in that county, but she knows the person who does and could probably recommend me to them.

      When I realised that my frustration with the job was probably making me look a lot like Jane, however, I knew I had to quell that inside before I could meet the regional manager and project myself professionally. I couldn’t be boiling with rage, even inside myself, at all kinds of petty injustices; that would just leak out. It meant taking control not only of my outside projection but my internal feelings. However cruddy the situation is at the moment for me, it’s cruddy for everyone due to factors beyond our control. It helps that my managers are actually nice but ineffective, but this lady feels like she’s both nice AND effective.

      The most I can do is advocate for myself, and to do that I have to have my own mental state in order. Much as I understand how awful it is to feel marginalised and ignored at work, other people have other concerns and I am the one who has to take care of my own self before I start trying to demand others pay attention.

      And yeah, I feel Jane on people not wanting to promote her because they’d lose her. My colleague is at retirement age and she has a variant on this — she’s the ‘building mom’ (and the receptionist so kind of comes with the territory tbf) so to speak, and has been saying ‘just one more year’ for a while now, but others have persuaded her to stay. She’s now actively starting the ball rolling on her pension and so on, and others have finally realised that they might have to get two new receptionists as both of us are questioning whether it’s worth it to stay in this roles.

      It’s a complex thing, and it’s no-one’s fault in particular, and approaching it with a constructive demeanour means you’ll be taken a whole lot more seriously than if you act like Jane.

  2. KHB*

    If Jane is right that upper management is determined to block her from getting the open position, I’m not sure how she can be “sabotaging herself” by acting upset about it? If her chances are already zero, she can’t make them any less than that.

    Anyway, if you do consider her a friend and want to help her through this situation, I’d suggest helping her focus on what she can control: She can either accept the situation as it is (unfair treatment and all) and stay in her current role, or she can decide she’s done with it all and leave.

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Maybe someone else on the team might have something good for her in the future but seeing her act out makes them say…maybe not

        1. Loulou*

          This is a basic principle of professional networks…it’s beneficial to have a positive reputation among current colleagues for many reasons, including that you may one day encounter them in a context where they can hire or recommend you for something.

          1. ShanShan*

            It’s also a principle that we all get drummed repeatedly into our heads in every job because a culture that frowns on complaints and shows of negative emotion is very convenient for people in power.

            That might *be* what the culture is right now, but we don’t have to like it, or look down on people who decide they’re done with it.

            1. ShanShan*

              The fact is that Jane has good reason to believe she is being treated unfairly, and that she’s going to continue to be treated unfairly no matter what she does, and we’re acting like her *being angry about that* somehow makes the situation her fault, and is a bigger problem than her managers *actively sabotaging her career*.

              In any other situation but a workplace, the word for that would be victim-blaming.

              1. 1LFTW*

                Yes… AND, we life in an unjust world where those with less power are expected to perform victimhood in a certain way. Workers have less power than management, and when we have grievances – no matter how valid or egregious – we’re expected to remain calm, cool and professional. It sucks, and it’s not fair, but there it is.

                I’m speaking as someone who, over the summer, routinely walked into my workplace to find truly dangerous safety code violations due to Boss’s general weirdness at the time. After the millionth time, and the most blatant violation, I definitely lost my cool… and Boss criticized my tone. I kicked it up to Grandboss, who actually thought I was totally justified in losing my cool! AND put an end to what was happening. Nonetheless, Boss is still finding little ways to exact a price.

                It’s one thing for Jane to lose her cool, though, and another thing for to vent about it for weeks or months, to the point where it’s draining the energy of even her friends. At a certain point Jane needs to ask herself what she’s trying to accomplish, and whether venting is going to give her that outcome.

              2. Kella*

                You can be angry without throwing a tantrum. You can express frustration without asserting that your employer conducting interviews is a personal insult to you. You can be mad that your employer is looking for reasons to block you from changing positions without believing and telling others that you are more entitled to this position than anyone else is, and that another potential candidate is “taking it away from you.”

                As usual, emotions are not the problem here. The behavior she’s choosing to engage in that are a representation of her emotions is the problem.

              3. The Cake*

                LW here. I don’t think anyone is actively sabotaging Jane’s career. I think that Jane thinks that and I think that upper management has motive to keep Jane in her current position due to the fact that finding a replacement for that position would be hard due to a few factors. But motive also doesn’t equal intent. Maybe they do plan to do that. Maybe not. I couldn’t tell anyone either way what their plan is. All I can say is that if that’s not what management is doing, Jane walking around telling anyone that’ll listen that she thinks that’ll happen isn’t great. And if that is what they plan to do, she’s giving them reason to absolve themselves by saying that it was Jane’s attitude that made them go a different direction. Either way though, I don’t think Jane is doing herself any favors by wearing her emotions on her sleeve like she is. I don’t blame her for having these emotions but from my point of view, I think it would be better to keep a lid on them in public until a decision os made either way. And THEN if she is indeed jilted still to start asking the difficult questions.

                1. Forgot my name again*

                  I hope you can tell her this and she can take it on board. I suspect it’s too late and she won’t, but I think it’s generous of you to try.

                2. ABCYaBYE*

                  If you were looking for what to say to Jane, I’d use this exact response and send it to her. It is direct, but you’re coming at it from a place of understanding her emotions and the reason behind them!

                3. voyager1*

                  “I don’t think anyone is actively sabotaging Jane’s career….I think that upper management has motive to keep Jane in her current position due to the fact that finding a replacement for that position would be hard due to a few factors.”

                  That literally is sabotaging a career.

                4. Myrin*

                  @voyager, no, because it’s just something that OP (and Jane) thinks could be the case based on what Jane’s role looks like and nothing else. OP has observed that finding a replacement for Jane’s current position would be hard for numerous reasons. So she’s saying “Jane’s position would be hard to fill and I wouldn’t be surprised if upper management thought so as well” – nothing has actually happened to make her conclude Jane is actually being sabotaged.

    2. Sloanicota*

      It also sounds like the former team lead was formerly on her side and is now no longer, which could have made a difference.

    3. Loulou*

      I think damaging your reputation and standing among people who previously thought well of you counts as self sabotage, even if she was never going to get this particular position

      1. Smithy*

        The reason for her not being able to get his position can also come with degrees of bad faith.

        If the reason Jane won’t be considered for this position is because her skill set is deemed too difficult to replace – then very bad faith management would pigeon hole her in that role and title forever. Less bad faith, they realize the unique value of Jane’s skill set as well as her desire to advance and are going to work on how to achieve a growth path for her while keeping her within that field/on certain tasks. Now….depending on the nature of the industry “less bad faith” may still vary because their industry may be one where it’ll take them months if not years to create that path.

        Either way, none of this helps that.

        1. ShanShan*

          Doesn’t it, though? It might not help Jane’s personal career, but pushing back against managers who act in bad faith instead of just letting them go on doing it with smiles on our faces is, in the balance, making the world a better place.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            Not the way Jane is going about it.

            If you have a legitimate grievance, but react inappropriately (and throwing a hissy fit because they’re conducting interviews for an internal job you want is reacting inappropriately) and get a deserved reputation for being volatile and not understanding professional norms, everyone will assume that you’re the problem. The managers acting in bad faith will rest serenely in the belief that their attitudes were totally justified, coworkers and other management will see someone who is a source of unpleasant chaos and won’t be able to recommend you to their job network, and you’ve destroyed the possibility of a good reference. You’ve damaged your own career, and made the world a slightly worse place in the process.

            And really, from the OP’s letter, we don’t know if Jane is stagnating in her current role because management doesn’t want the hassle of finding someone to take over her current duties, or whether they’ve decided that she’s a bad candidate for promotion due to performance factors (Like being volatile and not understanding professional norms).

    4. MK*

      Sabotaging herself isn’t just about not getting this specific role. If the company is indeed determined not to give the job to Jane, her behaviour is pointless and immature and it’s only making her coworkers uncomfortable without accomplishing anything or affecting management in any way. And it might make the company want to get rid of her as soon as they can, her manager less willing to give her a good reference, etc.

      It’s also very likely that, while the company would prefer to keep Jane in her current position, they aren’t decided against it, possibly knowing she might leave anyway. In which case she is sabotaging herself directly.

    5. KN*

      In addition to the points others have made about overall career reputation, which I agree with… she might not be right!! She could in fact actually sabotage her chances of getting this job, because the assumption that “her chances are already zero” is something she suspects, not a fact. Leaping to the conclusion that she knows exactly what’s happening based on incomplete evidence is not the only thing she’s doing wrong in this situation, but it’s a pretty big one.

    6. Olive*

      The OP says “she has a pretty good reason to believe that upper management is trying to pigeonhole her in the position she’s in now”, but I wonder if this reason is something the OP has observed, or if she’s only been hearing it from Jane. It’s becoming clearer that Jane might not be the most reliable source.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I wondered this, too. I’ve known a lot of people who genuinely believed their bosses had it in for them when the problem was that they either didn’t have all the skills they needed to move up or–guess what?–their behavior was hurting their chances. So maybe management wants to pigeonhole Jane, but maybe Jane has pigeonholed herself.

      2. The Cake*

        LW here. My “pretty good reason” is based on the fact that Jane doesn’t have really anyone that can cover her current position even if she’s out on vacation or sick. It’s a position that would be hard to replace if she left it due to a couple factors (that I won’t list here lest I get too specific and identify myself to anyone familiar with the situation). So I can see why Jane would think that they plan to pigeonhole her. But I don’t have any insight that says that that is what’s happening. So maybe my wording was confusing. I would say management has the motive to do that but whether or not the intent is there is unclear. Hope that clarifies something.

        1. Here for the Insurance*

          But just because something would be difficult doesn’t automatically mean that they’d avoid it.

          I have a couple of positions in my unit that would be extremely hard to fill if the employees left. Despite that, I’d champion them getting promotions if they had the opportunity and I make sure they know that.

          I don’t think the question is whether it’d make their life easier to keep her where she is. It’s whether they can be trusted to do the right thing based on their prior actions.

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Been there, done that…since I was usually replaced by two or more people when I moved internally. Sometimes you really can be too good at your job and they don’t want to move you (though I have noticed that seems to happen to women, especially older ones, more than it does men). However, Jane has to realize that she really doesn’t have the right to express her feelings if they’re negative and she’s at a lower level professionally. That’s only allowed for those in a better position. She ought to start looking now.

    7. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think she is sabotaging herself in the extreme way she is acting. Having tantrams, deciding that she is the only one who should get the job and blaming a boss that was on her side for having an unfair advantage.

    8. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Well, she could become such a problem that she gets fired from her current role as well as not getting the new role.

    9. Jeebs*

      She’s only assuming her chances are zero. LW clearly disagrees, just understands why Jane thinks so.

    10. Irish Teacher*

      I think there are two potential issues. The first is that…she might not be right. It sounds like she has reason to be concerned but like it isn’t certain and losing herself any chance because they might block her doesn’t seem very wise to me.

      And even if she hasn’t any chance, well, it’s not just about this promotion. If she decides to apply elsewhere and leaves the company, she might need a reference in future and she’s less likely to get a good one if this is the impression she leaves the company with. And if she remains in the company, well, she has to work with these people and management has a say over a lot more than just whether or not you get promotions.

    11. fhqwhgads*

      I think the original issue may have been making her chances lower but not zero, but what she’s doing now brings said chances to zero. And it’s also possible she was wrong to begin with, and her chances were as good as several other candidates, and now she’s tanked herself. Impossible to know.

  3. Caramel and Cheddar*

    I know the LW asked about whether or not to give Jane a heads up about the behaviour, but this workplace also sounds like it needs some transparency about when and for what types of roles an actual hiring process happens and which ones don’t require a hiring process. Jane might throw a tantrum anyway, but at least you’d have clear guidelines to point to as to why she needs an interview and the new team lead didn’t.

    1. MK*

      No. You don’t need to create guidelines for something like that; in fact, that’s exactly the sort of decision that is best made on a case-by-case basis, and you don’t need to burden your company with overly rigid structures to prevent employees from throwing tantrums.

      1. Loulou*

        It might be my bias coming from a union environment, but I definitely think there should be clearly-laid-out policies and procedures about things like promotions and internal job postings! It’s about transparency and fairness, not mollifying one employee.

        1. turquoisecow*

          Agreed. Employees who are interested should know what it takes to move up in the company, whether that means the VP just likes you or there’s a formal interview process, or sometimes it’s one and sometimes it’s another.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, also probably biased working in education in Ireland, but I don’t see the need for procedures as being about preventing people from throwing tantrums so much as being about transparency. Yeah, you can over-do it sometimes; it is frustrating to apply for and be interviewed for jobs, knowing a fair few of them are “already gone” but I do think it should be clear do we always interview for this type of position or do we promote internally or is it a case of if the right candidate is available internally and interested, it is offered to them, but if not, then it is advertised either internally or externally.

          It makes it easier to know what you have to do to get a position, makes it more difficult for people in positions of authority to just do whatever get them the person they want, even if others are better qualified (I mean, they can usually still find ways of doing that, but if there is a transparent process, they at least have to justify their reasoning to some extent) and makes resentment less likely or at least, any resentment is less likely to be supported by coworkers.

      2. Temperance*

        That’s how favoritism happens and that’s how you get the situation Jane is in now. They’ve shown her that they can just magically promote some people without a formal process, so them not doing it for her is a slap in the face.

        1. Qwerty*

          Multiple people applied for the role Jane wants, we have no evidence that multiple people went for the team lead position. It’s not uncommon for team leads to have set up an hier apparent so there’s a smooth transition and to get a head start on training the future lead.

          If multiple internal candidates apply for the role, but it is a slap in the face to not automatically give it to them, are you proposing that they immediately transfer *all* of the internal candidates to that team? Where does the budget for the bigger team come from?

          1. Temperance*

            She’s arguably the most qualified. She’s already working with this team and does this work well.

            Your last point makes no sense. Where did I say that everyone deserves what they want?

            1. Jeebs*

              We have no idea if that makes her the most qualified.

              I’ve certainly worked with people in roles that I’d describe similarly to how LW described Jane’s current role. None of them would have been qualified to just step over into the role I was doing.

              1. Temperance*

                I was following the context of the letter, where the person who is not really behind Jane is saying that she’s qualified and putting her in the role makes sense.

                1. Lance*

                  Sure, but then we also have zero information about any of the other candidates to possibly say much to that point.

                2. DisgruntledPelican*

                  I take the OP at their word that they *think* Jane is the most qualified, but OP isn’t the one managing the role being filled and isn’t the one deciding what actually makes someone the most qualified. There could be all sorts of skills or expertise OP doesn’t realize management is looking for.

            2. Ann Ominous*

              She doesn’t appear to be the most qualified. Technical expertise and familiarity with the product and people is not the entirety of what makes you qualified.

              Being able to handle your own strong emotions with at least a minimum of professionalism is just as important as knowing how to do the technical aspects of the job.

              Or maybe even more important. You can generally learn technical stuff more easily than you can learn how to play well with others (things like emotional intelligence, self awareness, self control) when things aren’t going your way.

            3. GythaOgden*

              We don’t know she is. She’s OP’s friend, but the company heads who are interviewing others evidently want to throw it open to others, probably to see whether she really is the best person for the job or not. We’re asked to take LWs at their words, but we’re not asked to assume the LW is objectively correct or that their management doesn’t have another perspective on the situation.

          2. I'm just here for the cats!*

            I agree with you. Plus it sounds to me that the team lead was a lateral move and not a promotion. This happens all the time with Customer Service type of roles. A team lead leaves or they create another team with existing employees and they move a lead from Team A to Team B. They are doing similar things and it’s the same position just with new members.

    2. The Cake*

      LW here. Clarification: our current lead was the only applicant. Nobody wants that role because frankly we all saw how they ran our previous lead into the ground by stacking her plate way too high. But the previous lead picked her replacement and that’s pretty much how succession went. They posted the job internally for a bit and had no bites so our current lead got the role without muss or fuss.

    3. JelloStapler*

      From experience, clear guidelines are always nice. We recently had some hiring practices that seemed very inconsistent ourselves so have been asking for clear guidelines.

  4. Sloanicota*

    Having the inside candidate job-shadow for an hour is an interesting one. Cross training is important, but it seems a bit unfair to give one internal applicant a boost over others (not Jane, I mean – the other applicants) before the interview. If I was Jane I’d probably feel weird about it too, although she’s got a bad attitude.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      We don’t have a ton of insight into the process. Maybe the plan was to have all the finalists shadow and this was just the first one.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        That’s how I read it. This was the first one, and Jane imploded. It didn’t seem like it was an “only one” sitch, but an “only one so far”.

    2. Weekender*

      This was very common at my old job, but it was documented that you were doing this (usually in your goals) and it was usually more than just a couple hours. I did something like this for 6 months, part time, in another group. I had learned years earlier this is how you get hired for internally-posted jobs. This “trick” to get hired into another group was not advertised.
      Completely not fair because the interviewing was rigged. They already knew who they wanted because they go to do part-time work with them and had to throw in a few random interviewees to make it look fair.

    3. Lynn*

      I was recruiting for a position recently, and my agreement with my manager was that I would offer the same thing to all internal candidates (really generic, “let me know if you have Qs”) and then could accommodate any requests they made from that opening. This did result in more meetings with one candidate than the other, but they had the same initial opportunity to ask for time and information. This could have been a similar case.

    4. The Cake*

      LW here. It came out after I wrote this letter that the internal candidate who was shadowing hadn’t even applied yet. He was considering applying but wanted a little more insight on the day to day before he decided whether or not he was interested. Additionally, Jane has been very hands on with our team for awhile and has been trained on some of our easier tasks at her own request and is essentially “shadowing” us on a daily basis.

  5. insert pun here*

    I have worked with two people like this and I don’t believe there is anything that anyone could have done to get through to either of them. There is a point where this kind of mindset becomes a self-fulfilling downward spiral. It’s a shame because in both cases these folks were very, very good at the core function of their jobs, and in both cases they were being treated somewhat unfairly — but not nearly as unfairly as they believed they were.

    1. soontoberetired*

      So true. I have seen this happen, too. But I was also in this position once thru a company re-org where I was not placed correctly to begin with. I kept working, and they realized they made a mistake but insisted I interview for the position when originally no one who was put in the position was interviewed. I interviewed but somewhat under protest because I was the only one qualified for the damn job to begin with. And yes, they hired me because I was the only person qualified for it, it was that specific.

      I didn’t throw a tantrum though. I just pointed out how silly the whole thing was.

    2. Lola*

      Yep – I worked with a couple of people like this, some of whom I considered friends. There wasn’t really any getting through to them. One I socialized with outside of work, and to hear her tell our mutual non-work friends about the siutation was wild. Soooo different than what was actually happening, but I was unsure how to address it, so I said nothing. It definitely put a strain on our friendship.
      These people were convinced they not only deserved these roles, they were convinced the whole place would fall apart without them. Guess what, work called their bluff, they left, and we continued just as before.

  6. Temperance*

    I’ve been Jane before. You hit a point where being nice and polite and just taking their crap isn’t working, so why bother putting up a front? Yes, it’s unprofessional, but pigeonholing someone into lower-level work because they’re great at it is shitty.

    1. Observer*

      You hit a point where being nice and polite and just taking their crap isn’t working, so why bother putting up a front?

      Because it is STILL in your best interests. Alienating people who are not being unfair to you (eg the lead what was on her side till she threw accusations at them) is just a really bad idea. For in therms of moving up within the company, but also if you want to move on.

      Even in a fairly bad market it’s generally possible to move jobs if you are good at what you do. And we still have a strong job market. So, Jane would be better off looking for another job. And keeping the lead on her side would be to her benefit in that case, because the lead could be a good reference for her. But now? Not going to happen.

    2. lyngend (canada)*

      yeah, last job was all “if you take this position then it will look better for position x” and then when you applied for position x, they would say they couldn’t afford to lose you. and would only take resumes for people in my original position. And none of these came with a raise.
      I got a new job

    3. Dust Bunny*

      So why bother staying? If you think they’re not going to treat you fairly, take your skills and go elsewhere.

      Acting like a child about it just proves that they were right not to promote you.

      1. Temperance*

        Getting a new job is not always that easy. I can’t speak for Jane, but I was trying. I’m not a great interviewer, so I was stuck in a situation that I hated. I was clearly being taken advantage of – I was doing tasks for the sales team and some of my managers job – and had no way out. And those people weren’t going to give me support in leaving, because it hurt them.

        1. Colette*

          How does telling the person you are hoping will hire you that they got their job through special treatment solve that problem?

            1. Colette*

              What are you basing that on? In many places, the team lead is likely to be heavily involved in hiring a new member of the team.

              1. Temperance*

                The letter? The way that it’s written “management” seems to be this one entity separate from the team leads, and they make the decisions.

                1. The Cake*

                  LW here. We are unsure how much say in the hiring process our new lead will have. Ultimately if her opinion differs from that of our supervisor it will probably be cast aside for the supervisor’s opinion despite our supervisor not being super savvy about our day to day.

            2. Observer*

              Obviously the team lead is not the one making the decision. The OP explicitly says that the lead was on her side till she threw a tantrum. Obviously this is being driven by someone over the leads head.

              1. Colette*

                We don’t know that Jane wasn’t being considered, or that she wasn’t the frontrunner. She doesn’t think she was, but that doesn’t mean she was right.

                1. Graeme*

                  This is exactly my read. She was in the running, and was at least one decision maker (Team Lead)’s preferred choice. But because she decided other people being interviewed means she was out of the running and then vocally and unprofessionally complained about that “fact”, TL is no longer backing her.

                  The TL’s opinion may or may not have been decisive, but this response has thrown away that support now – so the LW is right to assess that Janes chances of getting the job are now lower than they were before she overreacted to the idea of other candidates being considered.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Yes, I’m aware of that, but that doesn’t change the fact that being hissy about it isn’t going to improve your situation. And if it’s so hard to find another job, why would you risk your current one by acting out?

          1. Temperance*

            Speaking to my own situation specifically, it was a very small office, and I wasn’t going to be treated well or fairly by being nice or cooperative, and I also knew that they weren’t going to fire me because they needed me. Was it great? No. But it also was my natural reaction to a horrible situation that I felt trapped in.

            1. Water Snake*

              Yeah, I was Jane, too. It was a choice, bc eff those guys. They didn’t fire me, but they did push me out, and I was on my way out, anyway. It wasn’t great, but it was a reaction to a horrible situation. It hasn’t come back to haunt me, so I guess I’m good.

        3. Observer*

          Getting a new job is not always that easy.

          No, it’s not. But this kind of behavior makes it harder. Because NOW when someone asks the lead or someone else about her, they are going to either say negative or neutral things, whereas before the Lead and possibly others would have said positive things about her.

    4. Colette*

      I understand being frustrated about it, but behaving the way Jane is will hurt her – not just for the people who could be mistreating her, but with everyone around her.

      If I were watching the situation, my thoughts would be:
      – Oh, Jane’s great, she should get the job
      – Weird that they’re interviewing other people, but I guess they have to do their due diligence.
      – Oh, this is bad.

      During the first two steps I’d still help Jane find something else with one of my connections. By step 3, that wouldn’t happen.

    5. Beth*

      You bother putting up a front because behaving unprofessionally (which includes being visibly bitter, overly negative, rude, combative, etc) is going to hurt you even beyond the current screwing-you-over that’s happening. Coworkers won’t want to refer someone who throws tantrums to open positions in their networks. Any future reference calls to this workplace might end up more negative than they otherwise would be. It sounds like Jane is souring some relationships with this behavior, too–which is a personal cost as well as a professional one. And it’s also just plain miserable to wallow in this much bitterness all the time!

      I’ve been Jane before too, but the solution to being pigeonholed like this is to get job hunting and get out. Acting like this just hurts her.

    6. KoiFeeder*

      Oh, I get it. Having to play nice with people who blatantly don’t respect you is exhausting, having to do work you hate is exhausting, and trying to find a new job while working a terrible one is exhausting. It’s not at all surprising that something’s going to give. It’s just important to keep that resentment focused at the people who are wronging you, and not lashing out at your allies and enemies indiscriminately, which is what Jane’s doing here.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      I do understand, but at best, I think she is jumping too soon by taking offence before she’s even been turned down for the position. For all she knows, she might still get it or they might have been seriously considering her until she started behaving like this.

      If they are doing that, then yeah, she has a justifiable grievance and they are treating her very badly, but it doesn’t seem like that’s even certain yet.

    8. MK*

      It’s not as you have only two options, either pretend everything is fine or start acting out. If Jane had just become disillusioned and disengaged from her work, performed her job adequately but no more and was cold to management, I wouldn’t blame her. But this behaviour is mostly affecting her coworkers, who aren’t to blame and can’t opt out from being around them. Taking your frustration out on everyone around you, including innocent bystanders, isn’t just unprofessional, it’s shitty.

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Exactly this. Nobody needs to be a sycophant to abusers, and there are professional ways to stand up for yourself that don’t make people who consider you a friend think you’ve come unglued. If you believe you can’t be fired, then use your capital to refuse unreasonable work demands – say it calmly and matter of factly in front of others. Ask questions at company halls that make leadership uncomfortable but are valid concerns for workers. Speak up when other employees are afraid to, armed with facts they can’t dismiss. Share information with other staff members about your salary and internal transfer processes and management’s biases – again matter of factly, without malice and without guilt, because it’s your legally protected right to discuss working conditions with your coworkers.

        The utmost professional way to resist an abusive workplace instead of simply accepting it, is to actually stand up to it and organize against it. Doing so is not any more a threat to one’s job security than the way this LW’s coworker is behaving, and would be considerably more helpful to herself and others.

  7. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    She may have already sabotaged her chances, which might have been excellent until she started complaining.

    I can understand some angst if a company attempts to pigeonhole you – but – it’s best to wait until it’s a fait accompli. And as Teddy Roosevelt once said “Speak softly and carry a big stick”…if you’re passed over and have some workplace mobility – then – find something, but give your management a reasonable path of escape. But do NOT hesitate to tell the reason you’re leaving.

    1. Temperance*

      Not sure I agree. I think fighting for what you want, and feel that you deserve, is a good thing. Making it clear that you’re angry about not getting what you feel like you deserve is also not a bad thing.

      I think hammering the point home repeatedly and throwing tantrums isn’t a good look, but it honestly doesn’t sound like Jane has done much of that besides her raising the point about someone else getting promoted without an interview.

      1. Boof*

        Usually asking politely but repeatedly is the professional way to push for something that you want but isn’t materializing (or leaving and finding it elsewhere, of course). Pretty rare for getting obviously angry to be an appropriate tool outside of unusually nefarious situations (like, possibly illegal / extremely morally reprehensible things where calmly and firmly pointing out the problem hasn’t worked- and again be on the way out)

      2. Helen of What*

        Uhh she accused the lead of the team she wants to join of getting special treatment, to their face. She’s torpedoing herself.
        You fight for what you want in this scenario by being the best candidate you can be. Pouting that anyone else is being interviewed AT ALL is not a way to win over a hiring manager. Especially as there was previously always a chance that being far and away the best candidate for the job could have outweighed the convenience of keeping her in her current role. (And if she didn’t get the job, for arbitrary reasons, making it clear she was being blocked by management? Then you can formally make a complaint or look for a job at another company, give an honest exit interview, and not burn bridges.) Jane is likely to burn a lot of bridges with this behavior.

        1. Temperance*

          I would have brought up that the other person was promoted without the process and ask why this is a different situation. Not to their face, but to the decision makers.

          1. Kella*

            It sounds like Jane has been informed about why the interviews are necessary and why this process is different from when the other person was promoted and she’s not listening. She is instead taking out her frustration on the person who was supporting her.

      3. St Paul Ite*

        Those aren’t bad things if the person(s) your doing it with/in front of are they people who actually have the power to make the decisions and/or correct the situation. Her coworkers aren’t those people.

  8. KatKatKatKatKat*

    Question for consideration of the LW:

    Do you even want Jane on your team after you have witnessed all of her behavior?

    1. Polly Hedron*

      LW shouldn’t want Jane on her team. Jane would drag LW further into Jane’s drama. LW should encourage Jane to leave the company.

  9. Important Moi*

    I agree with Jane. Management doesn’t want her to have the job.

    “The problem is that management is starting to turn cold on her. She has a pretty good reason to believe that upper management is trying to pigeonhole her in the position she’s in now and would be willing to let anyone else except her take the open position. I don’t blame Jane for thinking that because it would be convenient for them.”

    Further a “no interview lead stepping into position” precedent exists.

    It doesn’t seem like LW wants Jane to have the position either, so there’s nothing to say.

    Is LW uncomfortable that Jane is saying and doing things out loud as opposed to staying quiet?

    1. Samwise*

      I work in a place where for many years similar level positions were handed out without an interview, sometimes without the job being posted, and it generated an enormous amount of resentment.

      Change in leadership at the top, and now those positions are posted and everyone who wants it has to interview.

      Just because someone got the job before without an interview, doesn’t mean the company has to continue that practice forever and ever amen.

    2. ABCYaBYE*

      I don’t disagree related to “management trying to pigeonhole her” but do disagree with the “no interview lead stepping into position” as precedent. Different roles can call for different evaluation processes. Further, if word got out about the opening and there were internal candidates who expressed interest, perhaps the interview process WAS necessary in this case because it would have been more problematic had they just given the job to Jane.

    3. ABCYaBYE*

      I don’t disagree related to “management trying to pigeonhole her” but do disagree with the “no interview lead stepping into position” as precedent. Different roles can call for different evaluation processes. Further, if word got out about the opening and there were internal candidates who expressed interest, perhaps the interview process WAS necessary in this case because it would have been more problematic had they just given the job to Jane.

      I think there’s also a difference between speaking out and acting in ways that are unprofessional or out of sync with workplace norms.

    4. Colette*

      Maybe management wants to see what other options they have before giving Jane the job. They’re not obligated to hire someone without an interview because they’ve done it before.

      Andy maybe they do want to keep her in her current position – in which case, she should look elsewhere. But the way she’s behaving will hurt her chances of getting this position, and burn bridges that could lead to jobs elsewhere.

    5. KoiFeeder*

      I’m not sure those last two sentences are fair to the LW. There’s more options than “staying quiet” and “telling the team lead to her face that she got special treatment,” and it is uncomfortable to be around someone who’s constantly lashing out at others whether or not their grievance is righteous or not.

      1. Important Moi*

        What’s unfair?

        I just offered a possible interpretation of the words on the page as I saw them. Several other comments have suggested LW limit or say nothing to Jane.

    6. The Cake*

      LW here. Honestly I have mixed feelings about Jane getting the position. She is usually a decent composed individual but due to some other politics happening with her current position I think she might be pretty desperate to leave it and join our team. I’ve been hearing all her internal monologues and trying to talk her down to little success. I think Jane would definitely be the best fit for the team from a purely work based standpoint. And I think maybe she’s also going a little stir crazy out of desperation to get out of her current role. It doesn’t help that her current role is also not super busy so I think she has a lot of time on her hands to wring them and think way too deeply into every tiny thing. She’s generally a good person though.

  10. Lobsterman*

    It’s worth saying “have the courage of your convictions and either get a better job elsewhere or start organizing the union.” After that, just sit back and watch management prove Jane’s point and Jane prove management’s point, over and over, until LW finally gets a better offer elsewhere.

    1. Loulou*

      I love being a union member, but how exactly would organizing a union (unless I missed something, we don’t know that there’s not one) help this situation? I’ve seen plenty of union members not get internal jobs they’ve applied for. “Must be granted any transfer without an interview” is not part of any CBA I’ve seen…sort of the opposite!

  11. Sylvan*

    If you think she’ll listen, tell her that being vocally angry and disruptive at work won’t help her get anywhere. She needs to show that she can get along with people and handle things not going her way.

    If you don’t think she’ll listen, I’m sorry, but there might not be much that a friendly coworker like you can do. It’s hard to watch someone spiral.

  12. Beth*

    It doesn’t seem from the description that Jane is going to be receptive to the LWs advice so I don’t think I’d get involved.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I think there’s a good question to be asked about whether Jane is being pigeon-holed because of her skills or because of her (lack of) professionalism.

      It sounds to me like it is at least partly because she does not take being thwarted very professionally, in which case, she’s not likely to take constructive feedback about this situation very well.

      I would be careful about how much support I give her – the last thing the OP wants is for Jane to start claiming that “everyone” agrees that she is entitled to the role, using OP’s support as “proof” that she is being mistreated.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I think LW would get lashed out at if she said anything. Not worth it. Jane’s already been sunk and her behavior is only going to sink her more. I don’t think there’s recovering at this point.

    3. All Het Up About It*

      So – I get this, but my thought was by letting Jane bitch and moan and meltdown to her, is the LW already involved in some way? Often we think we aren’t supporting an individual’s stance, but silence can be interpreted as support. I’d caution the LW to think about what perception they are giving off to Jane by letting her through her tantrums at LW.

  13. Susana*

    Jane is sabotaging her chances of getting this job, it seems. But I bet she was never going to get it anyway, her “conspiracies” being true.
    Sorry to sound so negative myself, but I have seen this play out with colleagues’ careers and my own. I was in a role where I was doing well, won awards, etc. And I wanted to move into something else. Nope. Easier for them to keep me in the job where they knew they’d have someone good, and give the job I wanted to someone with less experience and ability.
    When I got another offer, they offered me more money and one of the positions I wanted. So I stayed. The they hired someone else to do my old job but.. he didn’t do it. They figured I would see the holes not being filled, and care enough about the organization too fill them. This convincing themselves that I *really* wanted to stay in the original role all along. Ashamed to say I did do that, since I felt it was bad for the organization to leave that role undone.
    I finally did leave – and again, they gave me song and dance of how much they wanted me to stay. This time I really left.
    Jane needs to change her behavior, absolutely. But she also needs to find another job. They won’t give her what she wants where she is now.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      However, don’t ignore your role in this by a) taking their bait counteroffer and b) staying because you felt sorry for them. You didn’t have to do either one of those things. If you’d take the other job they couldn’t have kept stringing you along.

      1. Robin*

        Where do you see Susana ignoring their role? Susana said they were ashamed about picking up the slack and going along with it. And then did better by finding a new role and refusing to listen to the organization’s second round of empty promises. Susana is not there anymore.

        Your comment is coming off as a bit accusatory and condescending because you are telling somebody to do something they already did.

  14. Joielle*

    Similar situation going on at my office right now where an upper-level position is about to open up and a person who’s clearly very unhappy in her current role is planning to apply. But she’s had SUCH a negative attitude the past few months that upper management really does not see her in a positive light right now. In our case, I don’t think it’s that she’s necessarily being pigeonholed, but she’s definitely been shooting herself in the foot with the relentless open negativity.

  15. Olive*

    Without the opportunity to interview, another internal candidate could legitimately feel that Jane got unfair favoritism simply because her desk happened to be in the same room as the open position and she’s had lots of opportunities to socialize with that team.

    I can’t speak to the fairness of the other employee becoming the team lead without an interview since we don’t know all the details, but even if that promotion was unfair, I believe that allowing multiple internal applicants to interview is usually the most fair option, and saying “something in the past wasn’t fair, so let’s not be fair now either” isn’t helpful.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I’m pretty sure my workplace *always* interviews internally. I cannot imagine anyone complaining about that.

  16. Peter*

    Perhaps this goes without saying, but just in case… If I had a vacancy in my team and an internal candidate applied for it with enthusiasm and humility I would respond very well. If they acted like it was a done deal and they didn’t need to prove themselves I would not respond very well.

    And that’s before you even get to the tantrums.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Amen. I had a team lead position open somewhat unexpectedly, and I knew who I wanted to move into the position based on my team’s development plans, but our policy is that I had to post the job and interview qualified candidates. Right up until the end of the process she was on her absolute best “I want to put forth a good showing for this position” behavior, and I don’t think to this day that she knows she’s the only person I interviewed.

  17. Middle of HR*

    FWIW, I’ve pretty much been in Jane’s position as originally described years ago: worked closely with a related team, applied for a role when there was an opening with both my manager’s support and the support of the teams (and even spoke to the person who vacated the opening who said I’d be good at it), and was blocked for arbitrary reasons after a somewhat embarrassing interview process (that made me suspect the hiring manager was either biased or refusing to consider me seriously). They hired someone external, who I had to help train!

    But you know what? I just rolled my eyes and started planning different career moves, including applying externally. And in the next few months, there was a change in management, and I was offered a trial-by-fire type of role (which sucked but at least let me show I could handle the job I wanted). Four months after the management change, five months after I had been interviewed, I got that job I had applied for.

    If I’d pouted and made accusations about the team lead, there’s no way they would have hired me. And my teammates justifiably would’ve been relieved that I wasn’t going to be on their team.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      That occurred to me too, that even if somebody in senior management is blocking her, it may be only one or two people and that person may leave, but the way she is behaving will turn the rest of the management against her too.

      Congrats on getting the position you wanted, by the way (even if this is years after the event). It sounds much deserved.

  18. JSPA*

    “Jane, I don’t have inside information or a crystal ball. But whatever your original chances–your attitude has probably cut that number in half.

    If you’re convinced it was zero from the start, fine– act accordingly. But leave me out of the play-by-play, because I don’t like watching a friend self- sabotage.

    But if you want to salvage the chances you have left, sit on your mouth, and stop getting in your own way.”

    1. Anomie*

      Yes. This is good. But I’d leave out the word friend. Friends like this can get people in trouble at work. I’d advise OP to be way less involved personally.

  19. Important Moi*

    The comments have been interesting with a good number of opinions, so I think I can offer mine too.

    – Jane is not getting the job. Her behavior after her coming to that conclusion is just evidence to be used against her.

    – The idea the her current coworkers and management could be the key to Jane’s next opportunity is possible. It’s also possible they aren’t the key to Jane’s next opportunity. That’s likely too and seems to be being minimized here.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      How is it being minimized?
      Does the possibility that Jane’s coworkers might not help her find another opportunity mean that Jane should go ahead and throw tantrums?

      Even if there was zero chance that they could help her, there are far more productive ways for her to express her displeasure.

    2. Colette*

      They may or may not be the key to her next opportunity. Or the one after that, or the one after that. That’s the issue with burning your bridges – when someone says to a former coworker “oh, you worked with Jane, didn’t you”, they’re not going to recommend you.

      1. Colette*

        To clarify, Jane should behave like an adult because it’s the right thing to do. That means that yes, she can be upset, but sulking, “coming unglued” and hurling accusations at the team lead are off limits.

        But since she’s behaving badly, one of the effects she isn’t considering is what that does to her reputation with all of those who saw her throw tantrums at work.

    3. DisgruntledPelican*

      It’s not just about her next job, it’s about the one she has right now. I have two coworkers right now who are butting heads with our executive director for different reasons. One of those coworkers is still lovely to work with, still pleasant and collaborative, talks to me a bit about their issues, but for the most parts keep it between them and the ED. The other one gets annoyed at everything, complains about everything, sulks at his desk and is an all around pain in the ass. Which one do you think I’m going to be more patient with? More willing to go the extra mile for? More willing to go to bat for? More willing to overlook small issues and pick up the slack for?

      Jane is already seeing this. Her team lead was on her side, but then Jan ran her mouth and now that team lead’s not going to bat for her anymore.

  20. Petty Betty*

    I’m wondering if this isn’t the first time Jane has acted out like this, which is why management isn’t wanting to move her from her current position? I know it’s speculative and perhaps even commentariat fiction, but maybe she’s even on a PIP and can’t be moved unless there’s no other qualified person for the position? Oh well, not really worth speculating on overall.

    My bigger concern is the friend/venting issue. Jane is tantrumming and complaining to OP. At some point, she will assume OP’s silence is agreement with her, and will utter it out loud. “Well OP agrees with me!” could very well be a rock thrown into a hornet’s nest. Does that mean you need to be the one to give her that gut check back into reality? It depends on your own capital and whether you think you’d be safe enough to do so, even subtly. If in a group setting, could you say something small? Even a “hey, this is common hiring practice, I get being upset, but you’re working yourself up needlessly right now” or similar may be enough to short-circuit the fuss.

  21. RLC*

    I had a colleague “Jane” who constantly ranted to me about all the unfair treatment she received from every level of management and I did finally gently point out that her tantrums (including red-faced bawling at our supervisor and spouting obscenities at upper level managers!) were probably not helping her case and that perhaps a less confrontational approach might help? Her reply was that she wanted to let management know she was angry and to make them angry too. I told “Jane” that she was succeeding if that was indeed her goal. When “Jane” left our work unit life definitely calmed down.

    1. Sara without an H*

      “red-faced bawling at our supervisor and spouting obscenities at upper level managers”

      Ah, yes, that’s always the best way to manage up and build a professional network. [sarcasm off]

      Feelings are useful signals about what is going on in our environment. How we behave in response to those feelings is sometimes…less than useful.

  22. not nice, don't care*

    I have seen (from what I could tell, completely qualified & capable) people pigeonholed and repeatedly refused opportunities, to keep their skills in place and also to allow a favorite to have the opportunities, only to be laid off or shuffled to a diff department/division when times were tight because they only had skills/experience in their pigeonholed-role.
    If Jane wants to remain employed there, she should decide if staying in that role is acceptable and then accept it. Otherwise she should move on before souring everyone who might help her in job-seeking.

    1. Adrian*

      At a PastEmployer, I heard that Stephanie left the firm after being passed over for an upward transfer that by all appearances should have been hers on a platter. She would have been doing the same work, but moving from local office level to head office.

      The job went to Caroline, who had previously worked in the head office before transferring to another department. It sounded like she wanted to return to the head office, and the job Stephanie wanted was the first opening that came along.

  23. Anomie*

    I would tell her I don’t want to be involved in any hiring opinions and cut way down on the personal texting. This is why I separate true friendship from business.

  24. Tesuji*

    Jane is obviously behaving poorly and destroying her chances.

    But, honestly, it also sounds like she’s responding a little bit to the gaslighting of “no, no, your perception of reality is wrong, there’s lot of reasons they’d need to interview people; it just wouldn’t be fair to other candidates…”

    Her co-workers trying to justify what management is doing (despite not having any special knowledge of their own) and devil’s advocating her (despite no one asking them to take management’s side) feels a bit odd to me.

    I mean, I get maybe they’re just trying to calm her down, but the reality is: She may be right. Why are “multiple people” telling her she’s wrong based on f–k all? Whatever’s going on, the co-workers certainly don’t know, and trying to argue her out of her perception of reality seems like it’s just exacerbating things. Arguing that she’s wrong is just encouraging her to keep coming back with reasons why she’s right.

    This feels like the kind of situation where, if she’s not your friend, you just grey rock her and move on. If she is your friend, you tell her she may or may not be right, but the best way to maximize her chances (and build up longterm capital) is behaving professionally. Arguing with her isn’t helping anything.

    1. JSPA*

      As I read it, they’re not telling her that there’s no possibility that the fix is in.

      They’re telling her that interviewing multiple candidates is normal for that level position, in that company. That interviews and shadowing are normal, ditto. And that she can’t spend all her time (and all their time!) working to piece together corroboration of her conspiracy theory, out of fairly normal corporate interviewing behavior.

      Sure, compared to her illusion that the normal thing would be, “job handed to her on a platter,” the fact that they’re taking other candidates seriously is a bad sign. But it’s a sign that her original assumption was way off base!

      She’s looking at a whole alphabet of possibilities, and insisting that if it’s not A, it’s clearly Z. People are not telling her that Z doesn’t exist; they’re telling her that B through Y are also letters, and she’s refusing to hear it.

  25. Jasmine Clark*

    Jane seems to be one of those people who always complains that other people are being “rude” or “unfair” to them, and it never occurs to them that their own bad attitude is the reason people don’t like them. Nothing is ever their fault… it’s always everyone else who’s being soooo unfair!

    Jane probably has the skills to do this job, but doing well in a job isn’t just about having the skills. It’s about getting along well with others. Getting along well with others involves listening to people, being humble, and accepting the fact that you aren’t always right. Hopefully Jane will realize this soon.

  26. Anonymeese*

    I had a roommate who sounds a lot like Jane. I was very sympathetic to her concerns at first. It was harder to maintain that sympathy after I overheard her yelling and crying at her boss enough times. From what she told me, her boss seemed well-intentioned, if occasionally a little misguided—certainly not a mega-villain. By taking out her frustrations on him so vigorously, I think she burnt a lot of goodwill, and he became less and less willing to accommodate her. I wouldn’t want to work with someone who came in with such a chip on their shoulder either. The way you deal with issues at work (even very valid ones) really does affect your professional reputation.

  27. Calamity Janine*

    tbh, the most politic thing to do, LW, is to nod sympathetically and… encourage your coworker to look for greener fields elsewhere.

    you get to validate her issues, and give her sympathy for them, and keep that friendship. and also you don’t really have to try to go to bat for her in your workplace and spend that social capitol that you are hesitant to do.

    if she does have legit reasons why she’s being mistreated, then “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change” comes into effect. no amount of being upset will make the bosses not suck if they are indeed trying to suck the moon straight out of the sky when it comes to supporting her career. it’s instead time to find a new position where she gets the proper support.

    if she *doesn’t* have legit reasons, then… well, if her behavior is rising to the level where you describe it as self-sabotage, then she’s botched it by leaving that level of extreme bad impression. then it’s time to find a new position where she isn’t being managed by people who are going to define her by this one moment of bad behavior. because if that’s what’s stopping her career in its tracks, well, it’s unfair and it sucks but it’s also not something she can suddenly reverse.

    if it’s a combo wombo of both to various degrees in different areas, then really it’s all the reasons to GTFO hitting at once!

    so if you really value the friendship… well, you might wish to encourage her to throw her hat in other rings instead of just this one. either she’ll actually find the position she wants and succeed, or she might end up getting a reality check in terms of the competition, or she’ll simply decide that she just wants to complain but doesn’t actually want to put in the work to change circumstances.

    if it gets to that point, sometimes it just helps to lay it all out to a friend and explicitly ask them, “do you want me to help you come up with solutions, or are you just venting?” and if the answer is venting, then you can sincerely tell her, “listen, i appreciate that you find me a safe person to share difficult things with. but i just don’t think i can tell you anything more or do anything different for you, and this topic is really dragging me down. can we talk about other things?” and redirect as many times as needed.

    honestly, that last paragraph is probably where i’d *start*.

    it may be the reality check she needs to realize that she’s lashing out at others far more than she realized! (if she’s otherwise been a very sensible person, this is more likely. sometimes it’s worth telling a friend they’re acting out of character.) it may be what shows her to be completely off the rails, and it’ll blow up in your face, but then if she’s so obviously out of line after you try to be gracious about it… well, you can throw up your hands and retreat to a safe distance with a clear conscience. it may be that she’s willing to heed that boundary and you simply get yourself a nice respite from having to hear about this.

    but honestly not touching the entire thing with a twelve foot pole is also an incredibly valid solution and likely the best one.

  28. Pudding*

    I had a Jane. She was not my friend but we were coworkers. Her family was a Big Deal in the small local town we work in, and she thought that carried in to work (but a lot of the muckety mucks commuted in from a nearby metro area and were oblivious to that kind of local social structure.) She did rub elbows with the ones that lived here. She used to behave terribly at work and say things like, “I’m a Targaryen, and my daughter plays volleyball with The Hand’s daughter, and I am the only one who knows the recipe for wildfire, I can get away with that, what are they going to do, fire me?” And apparently the answer was that they would not fire her, but would pigeonhole her in a dead end job and minimize her impact to others. This of course was Very Unfair, and anyone who got ahead while she did not was the recipient of special treatment, blah blah. She sucked up to a related department, where people were unfamiliar with her antics, and applied for a job with them, that she ultimately did not get. We laid her off last year finally, after seven years of nonsense. We’ve pieced together the wildfire process without her.

    She was told, in very blunt terms, exactly what was holding her back, on more than one occasion, but ignored it entirely and continued to be sure that she was being treated unfairly. I only know this because I am now on our team’s management staff, and it was part of our layoff discussion. Whenever those conversations happened, they had zero affect on her behavior to her peers and I had no idea they happened based on my interactions with her. Ergo, it is entirely possible that your Jane has indeed been told that her behavior will hold her back if it doesn’t change, and she just may be ignoring it, that does happen sometimes when people really don’t want to accept what they’re told.

  29. Not All Hares Are Quick*

    #2 – Do you actually know who likes you least? Does any of us? It’s not necessarily the person we find it most difficult to get along with, and probably not even the person we like the least. “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”
    This is a really rubbish question, unless the aim was to provoke exactly that sort of discussion, but even then it’s pretty clumsy.

  30. Worker bee*

    We had a similar situation play out in my office recently. A manager, Lily, quit unexpectedly and had apparently told her part time assistant, Beth, that she would be getting the open job. (Beth’s job was intended to be around 10 hours being Lily’s assistant and the rest of the time doing an unrelated job.)

    I was involved in all this, as my position was the most closely related, so the intention was that I would take over most of the essential duties of Lily’s position and she was supposed to get me up to speed about deadlines, etc, but she ended up not working out her notice.

    Unfortunately at the time, none of us knew that Lily had promised Beth her job, so Beth was somewhat hostile to me in a meeting with had with HR about the plan. To Beth, I was basically taking over “her” job and became increasingly hostile toward me and others in the company over the next couple of weeks.

    A couple of days after we starting advertising for the job, Beth put in her notice, telling HR that she had been promised the job and they were being unfair to give me the “fun” tasks (which were never part of her assistant job) and advertising the job. Days later, it came out that she had basically decided that she didn’t like doing a certain part of her actual job, so she had taken it upon herself to delegate those tasks. She was called out on that and opted to not work out her notice.

    Beth completely shot herself in the foot, as my company looks very favorably on employees that offer to pitch in with these kinds of situations. Her getting the manager job wouldn’t have happened, as she simply didn’t have the skills, but they would have been open to talking with her to transition into a role she would be happier in.

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