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I declined a job offer last week for cultural fit reasons, over email, and this morning I received an email back from the hiring manager saying that he's very disappointed in me and he'll be calling my current employer to let them know I'm looking around. Should I try to get ahead of this and tell my manager, or call his bluff?

  • 8
    @rooty would you mind clarifying some things: (1) did you approach this company or did they approached you? (2) please mention your location – DarkCygnus Jun 25 at 18:26
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    Did you bad mouth your current employer? – Sandra K Jun 25 at 18:44
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    And how that call would go? "Yes, hello, we wanted to hire your employee but they said no so now we call to complain that he turned us down". Your manager would thinks it's a marketing stint for Baby Boss 3. – SZCZERZO KŁY Jun 26 at 7:52
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    Can you please tell your location? In some jurisdictions treating someone like this might be against the law. – spickermann Jun 26 at 13:40
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    You have this in writing? You may want to talk to a lawyer - this is arguably a form of blackmail. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Jun 26 at 21:57

12 Answers 12

-16

You should've told the hiring manager you will sue them if they do. For anyone with the smallest bit of remaining mental sanity, such a warning would've been enough to consider the possible consequences of their actions which ultimately gain them nothing at all, and to refrain from such a call as a result.

  • 98
    Don't threaten legal action unless you actually plan to take it, and don't plan to take it without consulting a lawyer. – Quentin Jun 26 at 15:00
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    What would be the legal case? – Barmar Jun 26 at 15:39
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    @Dmitry. I am only really familiar with the law in England and Wales, but in that jurisdiction the case would be thrown out of court - probably before track allocation - and the OP would be on the hook to pay the hiring manager's lawyers. This is REALLY bad advice. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jun 26 at 16:08
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    @donjuedo Threatening to call the current manager if he doesn't accept the offer seems like blackmail. Actually calling the manager isn't. – Barmar Jun 26 at 17:20
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    @donjuedo : It would be only blackmail if he demanded something from you in exchange for him not doing what he threatened to do. I'm not saying it's ethical, I'm only saying that it probably doesn't legally count as blackmail – Val Jun 26 at 20:05
246

Call his bluff. It would be extremely petty and inappropriate to do that. I cannot imagine doing it. One's life would have to be pretty small to do so.

Having said that, if he does call...so what? Just tell your boss you got approached by them but turned them down. At this point it's your word against their word, and you're the one staying at your job.

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    I think lying would not be appropriate. Speak truth without fear. Looking for a job while working is totally fine. He can then explain the reason why he is doing so. It is assumed that most employees can tender resignation any time that's why they have "notice period" and other precautionary measures. – Rohan Jun 25 at 18:05
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    @anal I disagree. Yes, you should look and find a new job before quitting, so you will be looking while you still have a job. However, that doesn't mean you want your boss to know you are considering leaving. Telling your boss you are looking before you are ready to leave just gives them the opportunity to replace you before you have a new job lined up. – David K Jun 25 at 18:09
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    @DavidK wouldn't that put OP in worse place if his lie was caught? – Rohan Jun 25 at 18:19
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    Plus, I guess, OP is way more credible than someone who calls to tattle out of spite. If employee loses credibility over something like that, it's probably a flag as well. How could anyone trust someone who wants to force unrelated person out of job as a revenge and no business whatsoever. – luk32 Jun 26 at 8:47
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    "I cannot imagine doing it. One's life would have to be pretty small to do so." That really doesn't stop people from doing it anyway. – Mast Jun 26 at 11:11
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As a manager, if someone called me and said "hey, rooty, who works for you, got offered a job at my company but they turned it down!" I would certainly not hold it against rooty. If anything, I would want to congratulate rooty for making what seems like an obvious good decision to not go work for a company managed by inappropriate and awkward leaders.

Knowing that an employee of mine was thinking about leaving would change nothing. If someone has a problem, either I can solve it, or I can't. This is an ongoing process of staying in the loop with employees and addressing issues as they've come up - either your manager is already doing this, or they aren't. Managers who respond to threats of losing people are generally not the kinds of people you'd want to work for long term anyways.

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    @SandraK we don't know if rooty spoke bad of their current company, so I think that what you say is tangential and perhaps stretching it too far... – DarkCygnus Jun 25 at 18:45
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    @SandraK - not incomplete answer. Who cares? My answer applies to that as well. If I was rooty's boss, and someone called me and said, "rooty has been talking about how terrible you are to work for!" I would ignore them. I try to maintain an ongiong, improvement-based relationship with my employees. I'm already working with them to identify and solve problems. If I'm so far off base that they don't like me at all, then so be it, they can continue their search and move on. – dwizum Jun 25 at 18:47
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    And on the other hand, if your boss is the kind of person who would actually react negatively to this sort of feedback, then good riddance - who wants to work for a boss that places more trust in a random phone call than in his relationship with his own employees? – dwizum Jun 25 at 18:48
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    @SandraK but what if Rooty did not speak badly about his current employer, but the other manager just says he did? If you were Rooty's manager, who would you believe? – Solar Mike Jun 25 at 19:26
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    @Josef my point exactly... – Solar Mike Jun 26 at 7:15
96

A friend once relayed a story of threats that resulted in him simply replying, “If that’s what you think you should do, then that’s what you should do.” I believe it applies here as well. It tends to make the other party realize his actions are not terribly concerning to you.

I’d focus more on your view of the work environment and your relationship with your boss. I’d suggest letting it lie until you hear from your boss. It is perfectly reasonable for someone to test the waters from time to time. If your manager deserves to be considered a true leader, he has interest in his people and doesn’t take a slave owner’s view of his team. It may even make him consider ways to keep you happy where you are. Just remember very few managers want to hire replacements. He’s unlikely to sink a lot of time trying to do so over retaining you.

Also, prepare your response. Be honest. Maybe focus on the fact that you turned down the offer. In your own phrasing, perhaps this might work: “Yes, I test the waters occasionally. This demonstrates that our company came out on top and serves to reinforce that I’m where I should be.”

To the threats, that manager has now emailed you proof and you plausibly could do more damage to him and his company than he’ll do to you. Beyond professional networking and company review sites, you have the option of forwarding his email onto his HR department and could probably find higher ups on LinkedIn if you truly wanted to get vindictive. That sort of escalation does come with other considerations of how he might retaliate, but I wouldn’t say you are wrong for doing so. And I wouldn’t threaten him back. I’d either choose to pursue that path or not.

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    That is such a classy response. Consider me impressed. – goblin Jun 26 at 12:01
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    "I wouldn’t threaten him back. I’d either choose to pursue that path or not." --> Chooses as desired - hiring manager has more to lose than you – chux - Reinstate Monica Jun 26 at 12:43
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    Yep. We each make decisions about how to live our lives every day and we must be prepared for the consequences of those decisions. Choose wisely. – CramerTV Jun 26 at 17:57
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I would suggest that the correct course of action is to escalate this to a higher authority at the hiring firm. The action this "hiring manager" is taking is very unprofessional and in some jurisdictions may be grounds for you to sue. You came to them in confidence to explore a job opportunity and attempting to blackmail you is actual extortion which is a crime if he does it for gain. Escalating it to a more sensible and professional leader in the hiring organisation will probably result in an apology to you and castigation for the hiring manager. Perhaps their HR department may be a good place to start.

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    go higher than HR – Old_Fossil Jun 26 at 7:01
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    This course of action is not without risks since it makes it more likely the company will contact your manager out of ire..... but I would totally do this. Do unto them as they threatened to do unto you. – P. Hopkinson Jun 26 at 12:24
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    This assumes the higher-ups are not corrupt, which is not necessarily a safe assumption; it sometimes starts at the top. If this is the case, then doing so is kicking the hornet's nest. – bob Jun 26 at 21:49
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No matter the course of action taken that you've decided to take, you should consider posting a review on Glassdoor of your experience interviewing with this company

A consideration for doing so should be whether this could be traced back to you and whether the company would likely 'get revenge'. They may potentially have a lot of influence in your industry, particular if it is tight-knit like academia

22

Depending on your jurisdiction, this may be extortion. I would consult with a lawyer, you may be able to file criminal charges against the hiring manager or sue for damages if he causes you to be fired from your current company.

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    @GeorgeM Some workplaces are that malicious. In other cases, if the company knows you're looking to leave then they're going to start looking for your replacement. If they find your replacement sooner than you find a new job you could still find yourself pushed out before you're ready. – BSMP Jun 26 at 6:38
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    Even if the OP was not in danger of being fired (everywhere is different about this) the intent was clear - to cause trouble. This would be interpreted as a malicious act, although a court might not seen any way to assign damages to it - a court must be able to quantify damage in some way. – StephenG Jun 26 at 9:29
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    @StephenG if OP is subsequently let go, the damage is clear. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 26 at 11:56
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    OK... the armchair lawyers need to settle down. Extortion requires an attempt to acquire something from the victim and there's no mention of this. Defamation would require a false statement; in most (if not all) jurisdictions, the truth is an absolute defense against defamation. Simply saying that you're going to call someone's boss to tell them about something you actually did is neither extortion nor defamation and you'd be wasting a lot of time, money and effort if you decided to pursue this course of action. – Dancrumb Jun 26 at 16:25
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    While what you describe would indeed be extortion, it's not what the OP described. The OP said: "the hiring manager [said] that he's very disappointed in me and he'll be calling my current employer to let them know I'm looking around." There's nothing there about attempting to force the OP to work for them, just a pretty petty hiring manager taking a swipe. – Dancrumb Jun 26 at 18:19
3

Reply to the hiring manager, thanking him for improving your negotiating position with your current boss. It may not be strictly true, but if you don't seem intimidated, he'll likely assume it isn't the threat he thinks it is.

If he does tell your boss and your boss raises it with you, just let your boss know you are always looking to keep your options open. Your boss is unlikely to try to get rid of you just because you are job hunting and might look for ways to keep you from leaving since it may be easier to retain you than replace you. Even if it's not that hard to replace you, it's still more hassle to hire and train a new employee before you've actually left -- unless your boss was already looking to get rid of you.

  • Exactly. Nothing wrong with "checking the market" from time to time. – vikingsteve Jun 27 at 8:40
3

My response would be as follows:

"If you contact my employer, I will no longer have any reason whatsoever not to make your unprofessional email public. Govern yourself accordingly."

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    Isn't disclosing a personal e-mail with the intention to damage someone's reputation unethical and in some cases illegal? – Dmitry Grigoryev Jun 27 at 6:24
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    Likely that depends on the jurisdiction. And on whether said e-mail is a threat. – WGroleau Jun 27 at 6:50
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    In case it would be illegal... There is nothing stopping you from telling other people that there is a guy at this company who does this. So you don't need to show the actual email to anyone. Just communicate that such a thing went down. It would seriously damage this company's reputation among potential future employees. Then if you are challenged on it, THEN you can bring the e-mail up. – mathreadler Jun 27 at 7:13
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    @DmitryGrigoryev Possibly, and worth calling that out for sure. However... kinda worth it. Might be fun to do even if they don't follow through... You could always omit your personal information and distribute the email (complete with theirs). All sorts of reasons why not, but it'd feel good. – Brent Hackers Jun 27 at 7:50
  • @DmitryGrigoryev It's not always unethical. This is one of the cases where it's definitely not unethical. As for it being illegal, I can't imagine what law you think it would violate. First, this email is not personal, it's commercial. Second, it's a response to someone who is threatening to make the commercial exchange public that responds by saying that the exchange being made public will harm both parties. – David Schwartz Jun 27 at 15:48
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As an attorney I once consulted regarding a threatened legal matter told me, "I can't do anything for you UNTIL <* other party *> HAS ACTUALLY DONE SOMETHING. My advice is to go home, be polite to <* other party *>, and carry on as if nothing is going on BECAUSE IT ISN'T. When <* other party *> has done something, come see me". (emphasis mine) Best legal advice I ever got. IANAL, but if this clown of a prospective employer contacts your current employer, then you may have grounds for legal action - and if your current employer terminates your employment for this reason you may have further grounds for action. But until something happens act as if nothing has happened because it hasn't.

-1

Since no one discussed that what if hiring manager just phones and tell his current manager that this guy is looking for a new job ?

But I guess if you are open to new opportunities or if your CV is on a job board, there are still some chances for your employer to find out that anyway...

Be prepared if your manager asks you, "Are you looking for a new job ?"

If they cared enough, they will rectify the issues because of which you are leaving, if not, you gonna leave anyway, i guess, would you care much ?

-2

@JohnSpiegel offers a fantastic answer. I would want to make it clear that the threat didn't concern me, so I like it a lot and I definitely think it's the right thing to do, and close to the best possible answer to this question. Better than mine!

It really depends what your priorities are however.

Personally, being a bit of a hot-head, when someone tries to manipulate me unscrupulously I don't think I'd ever be fully satisfied by sending a neutral response, even if it worked. So I'd go with "I assume that your email was written in haste, and possibly distress, so I'm willing to let it go. But by all means prove me wrong. We'll see who ends up in need of a new job." ...maybe with more swear words. And if at all possible, I'd CC the highest ranking person in their organisation that I could acquire an email for. Satisfying. Which is by no means right because, as people have said in comments, there are risks associated with rattling cages, poking bears and kicking hornets nests, but I'd be willing to gamble in exchange for the warm feeling I'd get inside from pushing back at someone nasty with no morals.

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