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I recently discovered that an acquaintance of mine (Bob) might be applying for a position in the same group that I'm in. While I am on good terms with Bob, he is not very personable and I do not want to be working with him.

Here is the situation:

  • Bob already works in the same (large) company as me, in a different group on another floor. We occasionally chat on the company messaging program. We talk outside of work every once in a while.
  • I have been at the company for just over a year. Bob has been here about half a year longer. We are both inexperienced hires, and if he were to join my group, we would have the same title.
  • I don't know for certain if he will be applying for a spot on my team or another team, but I have strong reason to believe it would be mine. He has not applied (given his resume) yet, but probably will soon.
  • Being hired into my group would be a career shift for Bob. He studied a similar area, but wants to transition to the career path that I'm on.
  • While I think if interviewed, he might do well enough on technical portions, I don't think his technical skills are on par with a similar candidate who studied in my field. For this inexperienced position I don't think that will have a major impact. I don't think he would do well on soft skill portions of the interview.
  • I think that if hired, Bob would be tolerable to my other team members, but not liked by at least a couple of them (about 9-16 on the team, if you count a closely related team). I would probably be the person onboarding him.
  • I really like my job and my team, and I think Bob being put on my team would change that.

Is it appropriate to approach my boss (or someone else? HR?) and express my concerns? If so, how do I do it? And what if I find out for sure that he has applied for my team?


Some specific examples of Bobs disagreeableness:

  • Aggressively dismissing my advice to him because he thinks I am less competent in our mutual hobby. He generally does not respect people unless he views them as 'superior'.

  • Talking over people, or not following social cues when a conversation has shifted.

  • Charlie came up to me and said "So I got into an argument with Bob the other day..." I interjected "Let me give you a piece of advice-" and he immediately fired back "Don't get into an argument with Bob?" "Yep."

  • In general, he is arrogant, condescending, and difficult to talk to. Many others pick up on this very quickly, it is definitely not just me.

  • Do you work in the same office? Do you know for sure he will apply to a position on your team? – user70848 Feb 5 at 6:04
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Is it appropriate to approach my boss (or someone else? HR?) and express my concerns?

In short, no.

Unless you are in a position to approve or make recommendations for new team members, I would stay out of it, especially since Bob has not officially applied.

You may be entirely correct about Bob, but it is simply too risky to complain about a peer based on what appears to be a gut feeling.

The main reason you give for not recommending Bob is that he is "not personable," which is highly subjective. Your other criticisms don't seem to have basis in fact -- you don't point to any specific circumstances in which Bob failed or performed poorly.

There's no harm in providing unsolicited positive feedback, but unsolicited negative feedback can come back to hurt you.

Let's say, for example, you were to approach your boss and say everything you say here. And let's say your boss hires Bob anyway, and he's a great fit with the team. That could make you look petty, wrong, or otherwise not credible. Your boss may value your opinion less after that.

Then there's Bob -- if Bob finds out about your feedback it's likely he'd be blindsided and react negatively to you. Especially if your feedback cost Bob a new opportunity. Bob may then tell his story to others, and suddenly you have a poor reputation among a number of people you wouldn't have before.

Certainly if your boss asks you about Bob, you can give feedback, but even in that case, make sure any negative comments are grounded in objective fact as much as possible. You'll probably want to cast those as "reservations" or "concerns" rather than flat-out telling your boss not to hire Bob.

If Bob does end up on your team, make sure to keep careful record of your interactions -- after all, it's more appropriate for you to provide negative (albeit constructive) feedback when you're working with that person directly on a regular basis.

  • Updated the question with specific examples. His disagreeableness is something almost everyone picks up on. – kamahaya Feb 5 at 4:30
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    @kamahaya if almost everyone picks up on it, wouldn't his current boss know about it? Considering it's the same company, it seems likely your boss would ask his boss about him before accepting him onto the team? So the problem could solve itself that way. Hence, wait and see if it becomes an actual problem. – Gertsen Feb 5 at 7:41
  • @Gertsen as far as I know, his current work is done alone, and I'm sure he has the sense to be acceptably personable to his current boss. my main concern is that if he joins my team, he will not be able to see the line between our interactions outside of work (where we banter and poke) and inside work. he has said to me before "I want to be better than you to prove you don't need a degree to be successful". – kamahaya Feb 5 at 16:34
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    @kamahaya unfortunately, being a jackass is not always an employment disqualification. – mcknz Feb 6 at 3:02
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The answer is simple.

  • You never managed him,
  • you never worked with him in professional capacity ("We occasionally chat on the company messaging program. We talk outside of work every once in a while" is not "work") and
  • you are not in-charge of the hiring process.

Thus you never get to pass comments, let alone negative, before or during the allotment process.

You have no idea how he behaves / interacts with his "team" - it may significantly differ when working in a professional capacity and talking to someone outside the professional zone.

You have an idea of his behavior is a plus for you, keep an eye out for the allotment process and if Bob get selected for the position, do your part as you would have done for anyone else being appointed. In case the behavior is as you "expected" (i.e., not very professional), make careful note of the interaction and you can bring it up to the team superior / management , as necessary.

  • this would vary if he were an outside hire and this a small ish company however. Most small companies will hard pass on anyone current staff already has a negative impression on. – Magisch Feb 5 at 15:07
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It would be very brave to do so, and I mean brave in the exact same way a British MP means it when referring to another MP.

Not only would giving such an action be inappropriate, it would reflect far worse on you than on "bob".

If I were approached by someone talking down about another employee, I'd lose all respect for the person approaching me. I'd view that person as petty, unprofessional, manipulative, and untrustworthy.

In the business world, we have to get along with all types. You do not get to pick and choose who you get to deal with, and wanting to avoid someone because you find them less than personable demonstrates both a lack of professionalism and maturity.

If I were your manager, I'd simply tell you to deal with it, and I'd be very disappointed in you.

Learn to deal with Bob, he may surprise you, if not, you still have to get along.

  • I find the accusation of being "unprofessional and immature" rather harsh. I think it's perfectly reasonable to want to avoid someone who I suspect will be a poor fit in the team and have a negative impact on my (and possibly others) productivity at work. I am asking this question to find out if there's a way to act on that desire in a professional way. – kamahaya Feb 5 at 16:28
  • @kamahaya Short answer, No, reasons explained above. And yes, it was harsh because the consequences to you acting in such a fashion would be more than a few unkind words by a stranger on the internet. You could damage your career and look very bad in your boss's eyes. You have barely a year on the job and want to make a recommendation about another employee. There is no way to do this without making yourself look terrible. Please, for your own sake, don't do it. – Richard U Feb 5 at 16:33
  • @kamahaya my advice is often harsh to get people's attention when they are about to do something that would severely damage themselves. If someone is about to step into traffic, I'm not going to say "Excuse me, please watch your step". Same thing here. You're about to make a move that could hurt you badly. – Richard U Feb 5 at 16:39
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    @kamahaya Since you have not given your unsolicited negative opinion of Bob then how could Richard be accusing you of acting unprofessionally? You haven't yet carried out this action. It's good advice you've been given, keep these views to yourself, you'll come off worse if you air them.. – Old Nick Feb 5 at 17:00
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    @kamahaya and it does. you need to get over that attitude, or it will bleed through and people will notice. – Richard U Feb 5 at 17:20
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Approaching your boss with this concern when you only speculate about him being interested in joining your team is a social no-go.

However, in many companies the team is asked for an opinion on a new candidate to join them in the hope to keep team spirits high and have teams that like working with each other. If your company has such a process that would be the right moment to mention concerns about Bob being a bad fit for your team culture. You should however be careful in judging his professional behaviour based solely on your non-professional interactions. Many people can perfectly switch to acting differently when they are in their professional role.

If your company doesn't have such a process you could - independently of this concrete issue - try to establish such a process, e.g. by suggesting it to your manager.

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