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Background- I'm an architect and very outgoing, but got tired of the same old same old with architecture firms. I picked up a new Architectural Sales job in brooklyn and I will be transfering over from Chicago to Brooklyn in 1 month. I'm extremely excited for the new position and I think I will excel at it because of my strong communication skills.

Hiring process- It was supposed to be a two part interview, one over the phone and one in person. Apparently I did extremely well over the phone so they hired me after the first phone interview without an in-person interview. I was a little hesitant because I think office atmosphere and meeting face to face are important in a job search. However, I thought it was a great opportunity so I accepted the job.

-Current issue I still work for a firm in Chicago and my new boss was in town for one day working on a project here. He suggested I should come for breakfast then over to the job site, but warned me that he was giving the architect some bad news, so things might get murky. That is all the information I was given. I agreed to meet him for breakfast and take time off my work schedule at my current job to finally meet my new boss. What I wasn't ready for when I went to breakfast was that the architect was there among other consultants. It immediately felt like a business meeting and I felt a little like I was cheating on my current employer, even though I am resigning soon for the new position. I wasn't aware of what the 'murky' situation was so after exchanges some pleasantries, I remained as an onlooker to the conversation since I had no training on the job and was absolutely out of the loop with the project. We headed over to the job site after breakfast, where I then excused myself after a short time to get back to work.

The next day, my new boss called me telling me he was really dissapointed in my performance and he didn't want me to "blend in with the wallpaper." Then his partner, who was also at the meeting asked if the size of the project intimidated me. I got the feeling he doesnt know that I didn't start yet since he knew nothing about me. To make matters a bit more complex, my new boss calls me a lot during the work day, with no regard for my current job.

I tried explaining that I wanted to take a backseat approach since I had no background on both the client or the project, unforunately he didn't seem too pleased with that response.

Is my new boss being unreasonable? Should I reiterate to him that I am still working in Chicago and can't always take his calls during work? I am still extremely excited for the job, and understand the importance of first impressions, but throwing me in a meeting with an angry client can't possibly be the best way to meet me the first time.

  • 39
    I think you should be very wary, I would love to know how he would feel about you taking calls helping out your old employer while on the clock for him. – Dustybin80 Oct 30 '15 at 14:51
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    For your reference, this is definitely a "red flag". As others have intimated, if this is how he is when you're NOT an employee yet, what's he going to be like when you ARE? – Joel Etherton Oct 30 '15 at 16:58
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    I know you haven't actually asked what to do, but IMO you should go with "I still work for X, and under my contract I cannot yet take any active role in your projects" rather than "I have no background in the project". The last thing you want is him giving you a background in the project and then expecting you to move from the backseat before you even start work ;-) – Steve Jessop Oct 30 '15 at 17:34
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    Run away. Your new boss stinks. – Tony Ennis Oct 31 '15 at 3:28
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    Yes, your [potentially] new boss is being more than unreasonable. The first red flag IMO is that they hired you over the PHONE on the first go! Not to discount your abilities or prowess, but are they desperate? Also, ask yourself; what is your excitement based upon? Is it what they've told you, or what you've seen for yourself. Based upon your question it must be the former, right? I think this man will be cracking the whip on you 24/7. I've worked for start-ups like that before and it's ugly. And you're going to RELOCATE for this!?! Stay away my friend! – Jongosi Nov 1 '15 at 20:47
220

My opinion is you should start getting less excited about this new job.

Several red flags:

  • Lack of an on site interview
  • A murky breakfast that is really a meeting
  • A reprimand for your performance when you are not even working there yet
    You did not meet his expectations? - he did not define expectations
    It is not reasonable for him to have expectations before you start
  • The good news is they expect you to hit the ground running
    The bad news is they want you running before you hit the ground
  • So far your strong communication skills are not working with your new boss
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    I wish I could +5. This situation is a gigantic no-go, and I would strongly recommend OP to steer clear. – Sidney Oct 30 '15 at 16:01
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    Totally agree this is a no-go, but that's something OP needs to decide for himself (he would be crazy to take the job at this point, and if he does, he deserves what he gets). His original question was whether or not this is behavior that should be seen as reasonable from his future employer. – Kent A. Oct 30 '15 at 16:09
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    It's entirely possible his new boss thinks he is currently working for him. There may be a disconnect with the hiring manager and his new boss. Maybe they told him they hired and new guy and he starts at X but his boss understood it as he got a new employee. Whatever it is, your new boss clearly cannot understand what anyone is telling him as evident by angry clients, thinking you work for him, bringing people who has no idea about you, etc, etc Would you want to work for a boss like that? – Dan Oct 30 '15 at 16:55
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    Yeee "A reprimand for your performance when you are not even working there yet. You did not meet his expectations?" - Imagine what might happen when he does have any power over the employee. And a long distance move adds up to the total cost/risk evaluation. – luk32 Oct 30 '15 at 18:49
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    .... and the takeaway is that you should have insisted upon a face-to-face interview. Interviews are not just for the employer, but also for the potential employee. Perhaps you might have picked up on these issues had you been able to actually meet the people you'd be working with before agreeing to do so, perhaps not. But you threw away any chance of that when you signed. It sounds like you realised that at the time, even. – Lightness Races in Orbit Nov 1 '15 at 12:51
86

Yes, it is unreasonable to expect you to act like an employee when you are, in fact, not yet an employee. Based on your description of the situation, you acted in a completely reasonable way. Of course, not everybody might feel that way, as you can see.

What should you do? What does your gut tell you? What are the possible/probable consequences of declining their offer at this point? Yes, a bridge will be burned. Is that a bridge you would ever want to cross, knowing now what's on the other side?

Edit (moved my comment to answer): If I were in your position, I'd call the HR department of the future firm and inform them that you have had a change of mind, and you will not be accepting their offer, specifically due to the unethical behavior of the company leadership. Based on your description, that guy won't care about evenings, weekends, holidays, birthdays, or funerals.

36

Is my new boss being unreasonable? Or did I just screw up

Yes, your new boss is being unreasonable, and no you didn't screw up. You're still working for someone else, your new boss should not even be asking you to do anything yet let alone be taking you to anything

murky

I can't second guess your new bosses motivations, but I would find it very unusual and think seriously about taking the job. What he did was unprofessional even if you were working for him, when going to meetings people should be prepared for them first. If this is indicative of how your new job will go it could lead to the sort of stressful situations which are bad for your own reputation.

32

...warned me that he was giving the architect some bad news [...] throwing me in a meeting with an angry client

Who was the angry client? Was this meeting all about reprimanding (and possibly humiliating) the architect in front of others?

In other words, was it a power play?

Apparently I did extremely well over the phone so they hired me after the first phone interview without an in-person interview.

So they hired you after a single phone interview! What was the rush? Isn't your starting date one month from now?

Do you think that's a good strategy for a company to hire someone for an important position that quickly? Do they hire everyone like that? Their architect? Their consultants? Due diligence is for losers I suppose.

I'm extremely excited for the new position...

The bigger the carrot, the less likely the mark will see red flags. What were you promised? A huge salary? Huge 100 million dollar projects? Famous clients? A corner office with an awesome view?

Sometimes, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.

Then his partner, who was also at the meeting asked if the size of the project intimidated me. I got the feeling he doesnt know that I didn't start yet since he knew nothing about me.

Don't assume he's his partner yet. Since your boss created the illusion that you were already working for him in front of others, he may have created the illusion to you that he was already partner with that guy.

This is a ploy some scam artists use, they use false pretenses to bring multiple professional people together, then they use the social group as proof that they belong there and that they're the alpha dog.

The next day, my new boss called me telling me he was really dissapointed in my performance and he didn't want me to "blend in with the wallpaper." Then his partner, who was also at the meeting asked if the size of the project intimidated me.

Am I getting the sequence correct? Your future boss criticized you while his so-called "partner" was on the speaker phone with him as well. Is there a pattern here? Criticizing people in front of others may be the only tool this future boss has in his toolbox. Criticizing people is also a tool scam artists use. By dressing down people in front of others and making them submissive, a scam artist is preventing them from wanting to ask too many questions (otherwise, they'll be belittled even further).

Also, by dressing you down now, he's potentially establishing an excuse to use later down the line to renege on his original hiring decision and/or original promises to you.

Things that you should double-check:

  • Check the client list. Did they work for the people they claim they did? Did they exaggerate their relationship with anyone?
  • Check the resume or biography of this future boss. Use google and linkedin. Does this guy lie about his background? Does he exaggerate? Could you arrange to meet with any of his first degree contacts.
  • Do a background check on the company as well. Is there a law school or a law library near you. If so, you may be able to use LexisNexis to check.
  • Carefully check you offer letter, if any. Were all the promises made to you entered into that offer letter? Have they sent you a copy of the contract yet? Is this mostly a commission-only job? Are they paying you for moving expenses? Or are you the one taking the entire risk of moving to a new city should the job evaporate by the time you get there?
  • I think you meant 'solvency'. Other than that.... yeah, this all sounds like either people hsd no idea who the OP actually was or didn't care, neither of which in any way convinces me that the job is real. If still interested, pursue these steps beford you give notice. "This smell many day dead." – keshlam Nov 1 '15 at 3:03
  • "renege" is the word you're looking for before the double-check list. – blaughw Nov 2 '15 at 17:30
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    The constant calls while at his old job, and this stealth 'business meeting' while he was still working for the old job may be an attempt to drive a wedge between the OP and his current boss, so that by souring their relationship, it makes it harder for the OP to turn down the new "job". – LindaJeanne Nov 2 '15 at 20:46
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This guy knows no boundaries and will never learn them, once you work for him, it will be even worse because he can fire you anytime for whatever reason he likes.

Cancel your contract and bill him for the hours worked with the common fee for counseling, everything else would be crazy. Also set his number on silent or redirect to voicemail while you are at work. And maybe inform your current manager about the situation, just to be sure.

12

I was a little hesitant because I think office atmosphere and meeting face to face are important in a job search.

I think you should have went with your guts on this situation. It sounds rather unusual to me that they would hire someone after one phone call especially with the distant you're traveling. If I had to guess, I would think the place has a high turn over; this is based on what you're saying about how everything is moving quickly and how nobody really knows who you are.

If I was in your situation, I would decline the offer then I would keep looking elsewhere. I'm not sure if you already turned in your notice at your current workplace, but I would see to it that you get your job back and do it quickly before you lose that ability with the paperwork in the works.

I am still extremely excited for the job, and understand the importance of first impressions, but throwing me in a meeting with an angry client can't possibly be the best way to meet me the first time.

Part of working is getting paid. Your new boss is asking you to work now without regards to you not actually working for him. You have not even gone through the on-boarding process yet so you know nothing of HR policies, time sheet, election benefits, etc, etc.

It sounds to me like your new boss may not actually know you're working. He may think you're hired and is waiting to move so he figured he'd come to you since he has clients in your area.

Whatever it is I would first call the hiring manager and explain the situations and your questions. I, personally, would not take a job after a single phone interview.

7

Have you give your notice yet to your current firm?

Do you have a start date memorialized with the new firm?

Have you researched this firm in Brooklyn and learned anything about them or your new boss' reputation?

I'd send the new boss a note and explain that because you did not have a background on the project you felt it would be inappropriate to make uninformed suggestions which could have reflected poorly on you and the firm. But you are happy you got a chance to meet the boss in person and see how they work.

Regarding calling you - you just need to state that your start date is Nov. X and while you appreciate being in contact with your boss, you cannot take calls from him during work hours. Then, stop responding to his work-hour requests.

I'd seriously consider cutting the cord on this job but maybe see how he responds to these things before doing that.

2

Everyone is crying that the sky is falling - but in the case where you really think this is still a great opportunity and worth the risk, I'd like to offer some follow-up advice in the case where you are still considering taking the risk.

You've expressed your reasons and logic for how you acted very clearly and understandably in your question. Your first step should be to address your new boss with those concerns that you raised.

  • Communication - remind your new boss of your current obligations, and ask him only to phone you if (1. it is urgent) or (2. never again until hired) - Otherwise, ask him to send an email (he has your email right?) and you can get back to him as soon as you are able.

  • They were concerned that the "out-going person with strong communication skills" was not speaking during a business meeting/discussion. However, you were anticipating only a breakfast outing, regardless of the "news" he and his architect would be discussing. You had no background information to make well-informed opinions on the matters being discussed. Also, you are not working for them yet. As such, you thought it was a good opportunity just to observe, familiarize yourself with some of the discussion going on, and take mental notes for when you are hired. If more was expected of you, it should have been discussed before-hand. Which leads to...

If you regret not having an in-person interview, you could ask to meet him in-person to make up for it, you could talk about the job, company culture, expectations, and meet some of the team. A lot of those things that usually happen in the in-person interview seem to have been accidentally skipped, even if the interview itself was skipped on purpose.

Seeing how your new boss reacts after doing the above may be a pleasant surprise, or it may confirm what all the other answers are advising. The number 1 issue in everything going on so far is mismanaged communication and expectations - further communication may clear things up or it may just help prove how inadequate your new boss is. You won't know unless you try.

-9

Baptism of fire!

It sounds like you hooked a big opportunity, but it may be just that: an opportunity not a job.

The way business works at the top is YOU MAKE MONEY. That means getting people to write checks to you with lots of zeroes. Doing this is not a 9-to-5 job. You may used to just showing up having somebody tell you what to do, writing a few change orders, then going home. That is not how things are done at the top. At the top, you MAKE things happen, and if you do not, you are eliminated rapidly.

In architecture, in particular, everything is about hooking big clients and keeping them happy. That means you need to be DYNAMIC and ENGAGING. Sounds like you failed in the first test. This guy didn't hire you to sit around writing change orders. He already has low-paid gumps to do that. He wants you to make money.

You need to decide what you want to be: a partner who is working his ass off to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to make Mr. Buffet happy, or a 9-to-fiver who goes home to his family everyday at 4:30pm on the dot and watches sitcoms.

It is possible your new boss grossly misjudged you, or just was optimistic, hoping you would some genius Steve Jobs-type visionary. Either way you need to judge yourself: what is my personality? Then match that to what role you assuming at your company.

---------------------- Additional info

Just a comment about the specific situation that is the subject of the post...

It was absolutely a mistake to go to a work meeting while you were still employed at your current company. Until your desk is cleaned out, you are an employee of the company and work only for that company. Going to a work meeting for some other company was a serious error.

If you are wanting to be a partner, the days are ended where you get told what to do by someone else or blame someone else. So, blaming your new boss, oh he should not have asked me to that meeting. No! That is YOUR mistake. Clients and other partners will do crazy ass things all the time. As a partner your job is to FIX those things, not blame others for them. You should have told your new boss you cannot attend the meeting because you are still working for company XYZ.

If a client or your boss tries to do something wrong or stupid, you need to figure out how to work it right, not go along with it. In the mailroom, standing up to somebody is called "insubordination" and you get fired for it. In the boardroom, it is called "backbone", and you bet your career on it and being right.

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    You can't be baptized before you are born. It was improper of the boss to ask for the OP's participation in the meeting, and not to brief him as to expectations, and to berate him for any action taken prior to starting work. There is no evidence in the question about 'at the top' or 'low-paid gumps' etc etc etc. – user207421 Nov 2 '15 at 0:45
  • I will address that. – Socrates Nov 2 '15 at 0:49
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    The impression I get is that the new boss wants the OP to think the situation is as this post describes, but that it is not in fact anything of the sort. The new boss is not an honest person. – LindaJeanne Nov 2 '15 at 20:50

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