I've recently received a cold message from a colleague's spouse, writing that they've heard my "name from <my colleague's name> over the meetings", asking for mentorship to help them (the spouse) finding a job in the same industry as the one we work in, and they also asked me to set a time and date for a session since I am "the one with a real job and responsibilities."

I mentor young graduates outside of my working time fairly regularly, and in general, I like helping others when I can, but in this particular situation, it seems more like a domestic problem, especially since I didn't get any heads-up from my colleague to expect their spouse messaging me, let alone asking for consent.

The last thing I want is to walk on eggshells, and unintentionally get in their relationship internal workings. How would you handle such situation?

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    the way you've phrased it, it sounds as if she's ordering you to do this, not asking you. that seems really weird to me. is that what you are trying to convey? Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 11:27
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    @RichardHunter - The message I've received conveys such, but I can tell that the author of the message was probably not in the best mood when writing it. That's one of the reasons I suspect of some sort of a domestic problem going on underneath.
    – Kinen
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 11:38
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    @JonCuster I wouldn't consider us close at all, and I almost never discuss any private or family matters with my coworkers, and I try to shy away from such conversations initiated by them. And, no, such thing was never brought up before.
    – Kinen
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 20:23
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    They may not have any marriage or personal issues between them as husband and wife. They may simply try to reach out to you to get your advice on the job market. Of course, it would be a good idea to check with your coworker first before talking to their spouse. Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 3:27
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    It is then interesting to contemplate how the spouse got your name and contact info (seems most likely direct from you coworker). I'm very surprised that you were not asked or forewarned about the contact, but perhaps there are cultural differences coming in to play.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 15, 2023 at 17:51

3 Answers 3


If you're willing to help your colleague's spouse, I'd respond to the message saying you would like to run this past your colleague first to see how they feel about this.

You could wait for a response to that message, if this person immediately retracts the question you can leave it be.

If you get no response or they agree with your plan, you can run it past your colleague. You could frame it in a positive way, like 'Hey, your spouse asked me for help in doing X. You know your spouse best, what would you say I could help your spouse with and can you give me any pointers in how you would go about this?'. That way you are 100% sure your colleague is aware of your contact with that person's spouse and you get confirmation that your colleague is on board (or not).

By leaving the initiative to the spouse and approaching this in a positive manner to your colleague you can take a somewhat passive stance in this at first to see where the answers from both people take you and take the next step accordingly.


Gather Information

Your concerns are reasonable, and in unusual situations like this it is best not to jump to any conclusion or make any rash decisions, but to gather information.

If you have a good relationship with your coworker you can ask them about their family. They might drop some subtle hints about their spouse driving them crazy asking for mentoring and not wanting to do it.

You can ask the spouse questions about what their goals are, their past experience, and/or why they want to get into this specific industry.

From there you can use that information to make a decision on how you wish to proceed.

In situations like this sometimes the answer of tread carefully is not enough and it is best to not tread at all. There will always be more people out there to mentor even if you politely say no in this one case. And even if this person was not a spouse to a coworker the cold message does strike me as the type of person I would want to mentor.


I would suggest to stay away from such cold messaging, esp. when it is in the workplace. We don't need to understand why your colleague's spouse messaged you. It could be just anything.

The only important point to consider is whether you are willing to mentor or not. You mentoring outside of workplace is entirely different from this. If you go ahead, you could be taken for granted that you are available for mentoring, always or anytime.

I know people who charge for such mentoring and when this is a free service, people are definitely going to come to you. Also, Don't underestimate the blame game that could happen later.

I also know of a case where a person was in your situation. He went ahead and mentored his boss' friend's wife who was on a career break for 15 years. He coached her very well. One day, boss replaced his job with her. She was recruited on a woman returnee program.

I'll say, tread carefully.

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