Q: Recently, I was approached on LinkedIn by a recruiter for a role. I was sort of passive in my job search but thought it sounded interesting. After a good phone screen, I had a phone interview with the hiring manager and came in to meet the team. As far as I could gauge, all of the conversations went really well.
A few days later, I found out that the hiring manager contacted my current manager in order to — I assume — ask about me. My manager and I are not well suited, which is one of the reasons I have decided to look elsewhere.
Not surprisingly, the employer I was interviewing with has decided to pursue other candidates. I am livid. I feel totally betrayed by this organization that invited me in. Do I have any recourse? This feels totally unethical and has put me in a really awkward position in my current job. — Chicago
A: Professional industries, especially small ones, are insular and incestuous and more gossipy than a middle-school bathroom. You have learned that in your industry, as in mine, you cannot apply for a job without assuming everyone you work with and everyone you have ever worked with will know instantly. (My last boss spoke to the three references I gave her, plus at least a dozen more people, before I was hired.)
This sucks! A hiring manager should never contact your current boss without your permission, and you have no obligation to tell anyone you’re looking before you have an offer. It’s unfair, and like so many unfair things about work, you can’t do a damn thing about it. So use it to your advantage: Good managers live in fear of their best people leaving, and it can be helpful for them to get occasional “reminders” that other people see you as a catch.
I wonder if the bigger part of your justifiable anger isn’t actually about the hiring manager, but the assumption that your current boss trashed you and the fear that it could happen again. It’s tempting to stage a coup d’état, but since paychecks are useful for paying rent and buying stuff, take a stab at resetting your relationship. Tell her the truth: The new organization approached you, you had a few conversations and then they contacted her before you were ready. Explain why you were interested in the job and what it offered that you feel is lacking in your current one. Maybe a heart-to-heart turns things around, or maybe the memory of you taking the high road makes your boss reconsider next time she considers sabotaging you.
Whatever you do, though, don’t tell her you assume that’s what happened, both because you may be wrong and because confronting her is just going to make the next informal review even more negative. If the relationship doesn’t improve, start looking for other jobs less passively, being tactfully honest with hiring managers about your mismatch with your current boss and proactively volunteering the names of several other people who will rave about you. If only universally liked people could ever get hired, we’d all be screwed.
You are not the snack czar
Q: My workplace provides a variety of free snacks. These usually include bananas, and there is no problem with taking one or three of them to eat at one’s desk. Recently, the bananas provided were quite brown, which makes them not very fun to eat, but very perfect to turn into banana bread. My first thought was to take a bunch home, turn them into a loaf, and bring it back the next day to share with my colleagues.
Is this stealing from my workplace? If we had each eaten one of the bananas at work there would be no problem, so is there a problem if they each eat one banana’s worth of my banana bread? — New York City
A: The taste, texture or smell of bananas of any ripeness level disgusts me, and that’s before we get to that unmistakable muffled clacking sound one’s teeth make while chewing them. Banana bread, on the other hand, is a perfect treat, ideally toasted with a bit of melted butter. This should make me the perfect advocate for your cause.
And yet: Some people like to slice bananas into their Cheerios, some have celiac disease, some have unreasonably strong feelings about whether banana bread should have walnuts (it should) and some have voluntarily given up carbs even though they are one of life’s few remaining joys. I even know maniacs who seek out the browner bananas, presumably because the most extreme version of that muffled clacking has some sort of ASMR quality for them. Food preferences are mysterious!
Proportional distribution of bananas is not the issue here. You are asking for permission to make an executive decision about the snack options of all of your colleagues, which I cannot grant. If your office is small enough that the loaf or two of banana bread you propose baking would feed them all, an all-staff email or Slack message would be a good way to gauge support. Otherwise, ask the office manager or whoever oversees the whole banana situation what they recommend. If everyone is more excited about your bread than squishy fruit, you can smuggle the bananas home guilt-free. If most but not all are on board, leave some blackening bananas behind. And don’t forget the stick of butter — salted, please.
The only person who’s ever felt guilty about joining the Peace Corps
Q: I’m four months into my new job and two months away from joining the Peace Corps. Let me clarify: I applied for the Peace Corps before I took this job, but didn’t get their offer until after I started. So here I am now — excited about my future, but crushingly anxious and guilty about what I have to tell my boss and countless other employees. Do you have any advice on how I should bring up this discussion? Am I right to feel like I have wronged and let down my employer and coworkers? Should I tell my boss sooner than later — but then come to work for the next two months feeling awkward and guilty everyone knows? — New York
A: As discussed above, money is useful for paying rent and buying stuff, so I’m going to need you to stop thinking you wronged anybody by getting a job when you needed a job. Life happens and people sometimes quit more quickly than is ideal, so you have my blessing to gracefully resign without explaining the entire timeline. Give as much notice as possible and offer to help with the transition, then stop beating yourself up and save your energy for the Peace Corps.
Work Friend is a cheeky New York Times advice column to help with careers, money and the sometimes grim, sometimes hilarious maze that is the contemporary office, from a rotating cast of advice-givers. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.