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I'm currently working for company A, and am slowly but surely starting to look for a new job. At company A, I've been assigned to a big project that isn't going exactly well, one of the reasons being the team at the time decided to resign, all three at the same time. 3 months or so later, they were gone.

The three members of the "old" team have known each other for years, and worked together on projects for as much time. Having been recruited a few years later, I only know them by sight but never really interacted with any of them alone and outside work.

However, since I joined the team, let's just say that even though they do a really great job, they are hard to work with; sexist / questionable jokes, randomly yelling slurs, etc. They never insulted me or any other of the "new" team personally, only each other, but as a joke.

Before they left, everyday was clearly not enjoyable. I spoke about it to my manager who told them discreetly to calm them down, but after 2 days, it was the same as before. Once they were gone, it was as if I could breathe again, and work was finally enjoyable.

Fast forward a few hours ago, I was contacted by a recruiter for company B, who asked me if I knew John Doe, who was one of the "old" team, then told me that she helped recruiting him for company B, where I happen to have a job interview next Tuesday. After checking, all 3 of them work for company B.

Now I don't know what to do, the only thoughts about working with them again upset me, but the job they're proposing me is a huge leap forward for my career and knowledge. Also, there are about 30 other colleagues where I'll work, so maybe I can work for another project than theirs, but it sounds unlikely.

What are my possibilities, and should I speak about it on the interview or after?


Update :

The issue went way smoother than I ever hoped. The company that presented themselves as a web agency was the definition of what we call in France a "digital services company", a company that produces websites for big clients, and one of the reasons I'm willing to quit my current company.

Moreover, there are only a few (a lot less than I imagined) people that I would work with, and all of them work for projects mainly developed in another city. The interviewer assured me that there were lots of communication between teams, but it was just underwhelming. Anyway, I just sent an inMail stating that the job described was too different than expected, thanked them for their time and bid them farewell.

Thank you all again for your answers!

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  • 16
    I voted to close. We can´t make that decision for you.
    – Daniel
    Sep 3, 2020 at 15:41
  • 9
    I know you don't, I just need some external points of view, and now I need need to think on the answers I was given
    – Jaeger
    Sep 3, 2020 at 15:44
  • Size of company B and their organizational structure are going to matter here. If it is a smaller company where you are all shoved in to the same department, thats going to be just the same as it was. If it is a larger company there may be different sites, floors, groups, etc. that allow for minimal contact with them.
    – NDEthos
    Sep 3, 2020 at 22:03
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    Your title arbitrarily switches between "I" and "you". You should edit it to make that consistent.
    – V2Blast
    Sep 4, 2020 at 1:07

4 Answers 4

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Your possibilities are pretty simple actually.

Go on the interview. Get and accept the job.

If your focus is on your career, then dealing with individuals such as this is going to be part and parcel of advancement. Instead of looking at that as a problem or a stress marker, you can look at it as an opportunity to advance your soft skills to learn how to handle uncomfortable situations. You will certainly come up with these over time, and having this skill will help your career in the long run. This means embracing discomfort and being ok with trying new techniques in peer "management".

Go on the interview. Get and don't accept the job.

You can always go on the interview. You can find out if the position truly sounds like a career advancement once you get through it. It's possible there are other factors at this company that will have red flags for you. You don't know at this point, and it doesn't hurt to learn and find out. You can always turn down an offer.

Don't go on the interview.

You can always make the choice that your personal comfort and mental well-being are more important to you than learning how to work with individuals such as these. It's nothing to be afraid of. I have LinkedIn contacts who I connected with for the sole purpose of knowing where they were just so I would never be at risk of having to work with them again. It all comes down to what you really want out of your continuing career.

Under no circumstances should you mention this during an interview. It is completely unprofessional to bring up. The only thing you should talk about during an interview is what value you bring to the company and what value the company brings to you.

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    Additionaly, depending on your locale / the company culture, you may ask to meet the team you will be working with during the recruiting process. This way you can assess the degree of involvement you'd have with the 3 colleagues if you accepted the offer
    – Aserre
    Sep 4, 2020 at 7:39
  • OP certainly shouldn't bring up the motivation for this question in an interview but they absolutely can and probably should bring up the fact they worked closely with three of this company's employees. And that gives an opportunity to ask how the team is structured and judge how closely you'd work together as Aserre describes.
    – Lilienthal
    Sep 4, 2020 at 9:19
  • I up-voted this answer but want to add additional inisght: There are 30 other colleagues that you may potential work with. These three are new to this company. Do you believe all other 30 colleagues will feel comfortable with their behavior? They have no seniority at this new company. I would strongly encourage you to accept it and witness how others handle these individuals...great learning experience. And if it turns out all thirty are ok with them, perhaps time for yourself to get a thicker skin.
    – paulj
    Sep 4, 2020 at 12:41
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You were much happier in your workplace when these people left. I would imagine that you will be much less happy if you join a workplace where they work, and happiness in your workplace is one of the most important things to have. More important than a leap for your career.

I’d strongly recommend not to join that place. Whether you want to tell the company the reason, officially or only to the hiring manager, that is up to you.

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    This. Plus, the three went to company B together, that is a red flag. One of them on their own might be easier to work with in a new job, but they went as a clique, they will almost certainly take their cliquey behaviours with them (and it seems they are welcome to do so). You will not grow effectively in a workplace where you are unhappy - and that undermines the reason for going. Sep 3, 2020 at 19:48
  • Whether happiness in a workplace is more important than a leap in your career is highly subjective, not an absolute as this answer suggests. Many people would take the complete opposite view, particularly if they feel they can move on from that particular workplace after a year or so. Life decisions often involve making sacrifices in order to eventually get to where you want. Sep 4, 2020 at 9:28
  • Just to point out; there is no guarantee the three of them are working together, and their behaviour at a new might not be accepted. It might not be accurate to conclude the situation will still be bad (or as bad as it was), but obviously there is a risk that happening.
    – mattumotu
    Sep 4, 2020 at 11:12
  • @JonBentley Career advancement or salary is in the end a tool to buy you happiness.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 6, 2020 at 9:49
  • @gnasher729 Agreed, but you presented them as mutually exclusive (2nd and 3rd sentences). Sep 7, 2020 at 8:33
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This is a personal choice: you cannot stand them and there is a high probability to interact with them, in the future, one of them can be your lead, so it up to you to evaluate risks vs rewards and pick a decision.

I do not see any benefit to disclose anything to the recruiter that you do not know the relation between him and your 3 ex-coworker because:

  1. The important thing is they never cross the line by insulting you.
  2. They were joking between them, I personally felt it was more a culture difference between you and them else they would had some complains, the boss or the HR people would be on them.
  3. If you are in the recruiting process at their current employer, there is a high chance those 3 peoples spoke positively about you.
  4. You are not in a strong position: there are hired while you are a candidate, there are 3 and you are yourself, you do not know the persons and how they are related, so it is hard to predict how it will roll out.

The relation between the recruiter and your 3 co-workers is probably more strong than yours because of 3 months length, he recruit 3 of them and positive because they probably deliver well from their past history.

World is small and depending of your position at your current employer, it can reflect bad on you if you disclose something negative that the recruiter share to your 3 ex-coworkers and your 3 ex-coworkers may share to their ex-coworkers, aka your current co-workers.

If you join the company, you know at minimum there is 3 peoples with this culture and you may discover more. Even if you are not in their team, you may have to interact with them weekly, meet them at lunch, team building activities, etc.

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You should not take this interview. You know John is working there, and there is a chance you may have to be around him. The issue with John is not that he does anything directly to you, but about his demeanour towards others, around you. It is likely you will at some point be in earshot of John at some point during your tenure at this company (assuming the company is small-mid sized and not a giant), and that would make you uncomfortable.

My suggestion is, you know you are happy at your current company. Those 3 people are not there, and so far as I understand, there is nobody there currently who makes you feel the way those 3 made you feel at your current company. In certain cultures (perhaps including your own; without a location tag it's hard to tell), it is acceptable to "rib" your friends by lightly insulting them about something or making inappropriate jokes about them once in a while, and that helps to build camaraderie. If you feel like you might be offended by hearing one person "rib" another person, then my advice is to stay in a place where you know (or at least have reason to believe) that that won't occur.

Here's one of the golden rules: It is much easier to change yourself than it is to change everyone else. If you have a problem with the way a large group of people are acting (or a small group, but you're the only one noticing the problem and everyone else is OK with it), then it's you who has the problem, not them, and you are the one who has to make adjustments, not them.

I would not even take the interview at this company, because you know you will not accept the offer so long as John is there. Don't waste your time doing the interview, and don't waste the company's time and the interviewer's time by scheduling you to go in. If you later think that perhaps you are willing to make an honest go at being around John (and it really has to be an honest consideration, you can't just pretend), then you can consider that a a later date, but it seems like you are not ready for that right now.

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  • "It is much easier to change yourself..." [citation needed] Sep 3, 2020 at 20:57
  • @CaptainEmacs Citation (since you asked :-) : "Where would there be leather enough to cover the entire world? With just the leather of my sandals, it is as if the whole world were covered. Likewise, I am unable to restrain external phenomena, but I shall restrain my own mind. What need is there to restrain anything else? Shantideva, 6thC. Sep 4, 2020 at 12:53
  • @BrianDrummond "Fortior est qui cupiditates suas, quam qui hostes subjicit." (Publius Syrus); "I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self." (Aristotle) I do not buy the "much easier" part. I would agree to a formulation saying "better". Sep 4, 2020 at 16:15
  • @CaptainEmacs Changing the behaviour of people who you don not have direct authority or power over is very difficult. "What's in it for me and why do I care" is a major driver; "if there's nothing in it for me to change my behaviour except to make you feel better, then you can go screw yourself, I'll do what I want" is a major driver for the majority of people (even if they don't want to admit it).
    – Ertai87
    Sep 4, 2020 at 18:43
  • @Ertai87 I am not saying you should do it. I am just saying that your bolded sentence of "it's easier to change oneself" is massively off. You can cajole, convince, manipulate, threaten, bully, nag, ask, request others to do things (again, I am not suggesting you do the negative variants of this), and, you may be successful; but it is very hard to make yourself do things differently. That being said, I fully agree that you should care to control yourself and refrain from having others bend to your will. I only disagree with the "much easier" part. Sep 4, 2020 at 21:24

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