154

I previously worked under "Mr Jones", who was a terrible team leader/manager - no shielding from stakeholders, no support with issues, promised the world to stakeholders and the team but never delivered and the entire team ended up leaving.

Enter my new job, where my new manager is resigning and they are interviewing replacements.

Mr Jones just had his interview here for that role and word is they're keen on him.

Would it be unethical for me to voice my opinion of him to the hiring director?

I know part of my disapproval is on a personal basis (promising me a comparable salary to my colleagues for 18 months but never actually signing it off is big grudge) but I'm genuinely concerned after seeing how people work in this business that he'd cause a lot of stuff to collapse (projects and teams included) as I've seen in the last company. Also, it might be reactionary and childish, but I'd immediately resign if he was my manager again.

  • 69
    How long have you been in the new job? That might be relevant to how much your opinion is valued in hiring decisions. – Dukeling Dec 7 '17 at 16:10
  • 16
    @JoeStrazzere - maybe OP mentions to hiring manager that OP worked for candidate manager. Not fair to weigh whether OP's input was asked for if hiring manager doesn't know that OP worked under the candidate. – PoloHoleSet Dec 7 '17 at 16:20
  • 9
    Not been asked yet although a colleague has said she recommended to the hiring manager he ask me about him as I used to work under him. I've only been here ~8 months so I'm not sure how much clout my opinion has yet. All the below answers have been great by the way, cant decide which to mark as an answer! – NotADog Dec 7 '17 at 16:20
  • 110
    Also, it might be reactionary and childish, but I'd immediately resign if he was my manager again. Should you share your opinion about something that's going to cause you to "immediately" resign? I would say... "Yes". – WernerCD Dec 7 '17 at 17:36
  • 10
    @NotADog Please let us know what the outcome of this is later. Thanks! – JohnEye Dec 7 '17 at 23:03
255

You have first-hand, relevant experience with how he manages teams. You'd be negligent as a team-player and employee if you did not offer that input, as long as it is objective and non-personal. This is why companies try to cajole frank references from people who have worked with prospective candidates - they feel this information is valuable, when they can get it.

If he's not competent as a group leader/manager, then bringing him on board is not going to help your organization or your team. Stating, while later standing in the ashes of your once fine team "Yeah, I knew this was coming..... I used to work under him" will probably get you burned at the stake, figuratively.

Don't offer any ultimatums ("I'd quit if you hire him as my boss,"), because that would seem personal. Pointing out that there was a mass exodus from your previous team under his supervision, and stating that you'd be afraid of that happening if he was brought in, is a legitimate point, though.

FYI - the second half of your opening paragraph struck me as an objective, relevant analysis of the overall aptitude of that manager, and seemed entirely non-personal. If you tell the hiring manager that, specifically, it should be clearly useful feedback.

  • 29
    If you really need to not work under him, a simple 'I have a personal history with him as regards my former company, and might not be a good fit in that team and wouldn't want to be the source of trouble, so please consider my position with regards to that as well" might be in order. Though I would wait with that to see if they hire him. No use jumping on that grenade unless you have to. – SliderBlackrose Dec 7 '17 at 16:11
  • 29
    @SliderBlackrose - I'd offer input right away. Hard, and much more expensive, for a company to unwind a hiring after they bring someone on board, and the powers that be would probably be irritated for not hearing the information when it was needed - while weighing factors to make that decision. Anyway, we can agree to disagree about which grenade might be worse. Probably only OP can really assess that. – PoloHoleSet Dec 7 '17 at 16:16
  • 16
    I think I didn't word that quite right. I mean to wait to tell them you would like to change positions if he's brought in, not wait to tell them of any concerns at all. I am 100% with you in regards to the points you made on telling them the negatives of hiring the former manager, and 100% agree with your FYI as well. – SliderBlackrose Dec 7 '17 at 16:20
  • @SliderBlackrose - ah, I misinterpreted that. Thanks for clarifying. – PoloHoleSet Dec 7 '17 at 16:22
  • 2
    Do not put your thoughts in writing or email. Instead, go to somebody you trust, privately, with the door closed, and say "I worked with this guy in the past, and I seriously suggest you do not hire him. In my experience he is a bad fit for this team" Then answer any questions about why, but don't blurt out a lot of stuff. – O. Jones Dec 9 '17 at 14:02
112

If you have legitimate concerns about his performance, speak up. If the entire team effectively quit because he ran the projects into the ground, that's something these people will find quite interesting.

Don't disparage his character, etc. Simply stick to the facts.

They may listen to you, or they may not. But at least you'll know who you're dealing with, and whether you should start looking for a new job.

  • 80
    Don't disparage his character, etc. Simply stick to the facts. -- This – Mister Positive Dec 7 '17 at 15:54
  • 3
    Also, him looking for a new job could be a warning flag for the company; his antics with the previous company may have caused a shutdown or serious profit loss. As long as you stick to the facts like Andrei suggests, you could be preventing a serious liability from coming on board. – Anoplexian Dec 7 '17 at 16:25
  • 3
    If your superiors are sensitive to nuance, just sticking to public/verifiable facts without mentioning anything personally positive should be a giant sign (as long as they know that you worked directly with him). – user3067860 Dec 7 '17 at 23:59
  • I'm not sure where the line is between "disparaging his character" and simply stating the facts -- if he repeatedly made wildly out-of-scope promises to shareholders and team members and consistently failed to deliver, how should that be phrased to not be "disparaging his character"? – Nic Hartley Dec 8 '17 at 20:00
  • 3
    @QPaysTaxes The facts may not present him in a good light, but they can be backed with examples. e.g. "he promised stakeholders that our team could complete the Foobar Project in 2 weeks before discussing the scope of the project with the team. It took 2 months, as the team estimated, causing X business impact and Y negative response from the team." Or "six members of his team quit in four months; one told me he left was because Mr. Jones did such and such." That's much more actionable and concrete than broad generalizations about character. – Zach Lipton Dec 8 '17 at 22:05
10

Let it be known you've worked with the person before in the same role and you're wiling to give feedback. If they don't want it, I wouldn't volunteer any information.

If you have a discussion, first find out why they like this person for this job. Many people want to do things the right way, but are often put into situations where they're not allowed. They are leaving the past job after-all, so something is wrong. Determine if the structure of this company will allow this manager to address these problems.

My guess is, this current company isn't asking for your input which could be more of a problem for your team than this new manager. You may want a manager to push-back and fight for the team, but the company does not and will make the manger's life very difficult if he tries. Sure we'd all like the manager to do it anyway, but may not have a choice.

  • 2
    The current company may not be asking for feedback merely because they don't know that you have some useful feedback to provide in this situation. If they don't know you've worked with him before, and there will be many other people working for him, it wouldn't surprise me if they didn't ask you about him. – Curt J. Sampson Dec 9 '17 at 18:28
  • @CurtJ.Sampson - That's why I think the OP should volunteer the fact he has worked with this person. If they don't ask any questions after that or aren't interested in any feedback, don't offer any. – user8365 Dec 12 '17 at 22:16
6

Here are the possible outcomes:

  1. You don't provide the feedback, and Mr Jones is hired
  2. You don't provide the feedback, and Mr Jones isn't hired (apparently, not going to happen)
  3. You provide the feedback, and Mr Jones is hired
  4. You provide the feedback, and Mr Jones isn't hired

The scenario you specifically want to avoid is #3. If that happens, there's a chance that Mr Jones learns about your negative feedback while being your manager.

Therefore, you should share your opinion with as few people as possible (ideally, the person which makes the decision), and make sure that your feedback will be actually acted upon.

One way of doing this is to mention to HR that you have worked with Mr Jones, without volunteering any further information. If they don't ask your opinion, the decision to hire Mr Jones is probably already taken and by badmouthing him now you will only harm yourself.

If HR asks you for feedback, find out what kind of doubts they have, and prove/disprove those doubts, preferably with facts.

  • 1
    The OP wants to avoid 1 and 3. As he is resigning if the manages is hired, I don't think he cares whether the manager learns about his feedback or not. – ypercubeᵀᴹ Dec 10 '17 at 14:44
  • @ypercubeᵀᴹ So I understand. But if the manager is hired after all, letting him learn about the negative feedback is the worst. – Dmitry Grigoryev Dec 11 '17 at 7:42
5

Managers are employees too. They are (or should be) evaluated on their skills as managers. The people who have this information are the people who report to them. Good senior leadership will evaluate managers in part by asking individual contributors to review the manager.

You have first-hand, relevant information about the (poor) quality of a potential hire's past work. You not only can, but should and are in some ways ethically required to speak up.

If you fail to do so you do your company a disservice (they don't get the benefit of your relevant knowledge when making a hiring decision). You do yourself a disservice and everyone who would be reporting to this person.

Also, a final note: making promises and not being able to or willing to follow through is not a personal issue, it's a professional one.

3

Would it be unethical for me to voice my opinion of him to the hiring director?

Usually it is not a good idea to badmouth former/current colleagues, you never know when one of them will end up being your manager.

You can see that expressing your opinion here can have some possible outcomes: they can either listen to you and reconsider, or not, and they can also hire him or not regardless of the other aspect.

It is understandable that you have your doubts on this one, but you don't know if Mr Jones has changed his managerial style in this time. Chances are he realized his mistakes from before and learned.

You also don't know if him being hired will mean to throw away all the good practices the company has; I doubt it, but if this happens they will surely notice the drop in performance.

Still, seems you already have strong opinions on him due to negative experiences on last jobs, so you could probably consider looking for jobs in case he actually landed this one. That or try to think if you are willing to try and give him the chance to work with him once more.

If, after thinking all this, you still fear he can damage this team then I also suggest you raise your concerns in a polite and professional way. Don't phrase it like you hold something against him, just state that you have not had positive experience with him before and that it could be wise to double check his capabilities before deciding.

  • The gap since working under him is definitely a cause to doubt my opinion, he might have massively improved, although from my communications with colleagues at the old place, they say he's not had a team under him since ours collapsed. – NotADog Dec 7 '17 at 16:22
  • @NotADog not having a team does not mean he has not improved. One improves with introspection and saying "why did my last team I managed failed?...". Those things take time, so if we imagine he did happened to go straight to a new after that failure chances are he would have done the same at first. So yea, consider if you want to give this guy a chance, bust still would be wise to politely express your concerns. – DarkCygnus Dec 7 '17 at 16:26
  • 7
    @DarkCygnus "one improves with introspection" ... In my experience, (1) introspection is pretty much a lost art, (2) the type of person who gravitates to management is less likely (than average) to consider whether they might have contributed to any failures. But maybe I just have a skewed perspective from working in the US. – David Dec 7 '17 at 16:43
  • 12
    "you don't know if Mr Jones has changed his managerial style in this time" The OP should share the facts that they are aware of. It is up to the OP's superiors to interpret those facts, and to decide for themselves how much weight to give to such considerations as "Mr. Jones may have changed". – Acccumulation Dec 7 '17 at 18:46
  • 1
    +1 for acknowledging there are two sides to every story. For all we know he was destined for failure in the previous position because he inherited an underfunded, hopeless trainwreck of a project-- or his management style was a poor fit for that particular culture (I've had a lot of culture conflict with ex-military bosses in the private sector myself). In management there are a lot of factors at play that underlings are not qualified to assess. The most the OP can safely divulge would be the high turnover rate and letting the panel interrogate him about the reasons why. – Ivan Dec 11 '17 at 20:38
3

Perhaps approach it from a different perspective?

As opposed to openly bad mouthing him and/or his character, speak to both his strengths and weaknesses. It's possible to make your new employers aware of his skillset, and whether or not he'd be the right fit for the company.

For example, from the brief description alone;

"He's focused on motivation and is incredibly ambitious; but eventually, when promises remained unfulfilled, he was unable to keep the team in cohesion... which ultimately led former colleagues to look for new opportunities."

If they're truly interested in your opinion, they will ask you to elaborate. Tell them the entire team left, but don't lay the blame directly at his feet (it may not have been everyone's reason to move on). Explain the projects failings, and his role in it's management truthfully, without exaggeration. If they're only asking you out of lip-service, and aren't really interested in your opinion; you still haven't said anything untrue.

3

One other consideration before you provide feedback.

If you are the ONLY former colleague from "Company A" at "Company B", this can be readily discovered (LinkedIn?) and the manager has a good first interview followed by a bad second interview with a lot of pointed questions about staff turnover and non-delivery at Company A there is every chance that your old manager will guess that you are behind it and blame you for his failure to get the job.

He may therefore retaliate in the future if the opportunity presents itself. If he's quick witted enough to figure this out during the second interview and is as good at stakeholder management as you say he is then there's a chance that he could divert blame onto you and make it harder for you to progress in the company.

That might sound paranoid but I have seen this sort of thing done.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.