I discovered that an ex-colleague I worked with within a "toxic" team is now interviewing at the place I work now. What do I do ?

Context: So a year ago I joined company A as a contractor to join a team of 5 people, in which the work atmosphere was really toxic, basically everyone was disliking each other and trying to badmouth/blame every one else as soon as they could. For instance :

  • talking badly about other colleagues at lunch when they are not here
  • complaining to my actual employer that the work didn't go fast enough
  • complaining to my actual employer that I didn't do X even I was told to, while I actually was never told to
  • complaining to my actual employer that they had spent a week trying to fix some bug I caused, while they never told me about this during normal work (I was basically sitting next to them so I would probably have directly heard of it if I had broken everything)
  • telling me that if colleague X was being nice to me, he was actually not genuine because he was badly talking about me being my back

I jumped ship after 9 months because this was unbearable, just in time when they were trying to fire me for incompetence. Since then they went through 3 contractors that they fired for the same reason.

The good news is, my new job is very interesting and the work atmosphere is extremely good.

This week while arriving at work I bumped into an old colleague of my previous job who was waiting to be interviewed at my new company. We exchanged a few words, where basically he told me the company/team I used to worked for was falling apart, several people were fired and he was probably going to be next. He also told me that he wasn't one of the person who wanted to fire me (I know it's a lie) and invited me to lunch.

I have no part in the recruiting process and I'm not even supposed to be aware he is doing interviews, so I'm not sure how out of line I'd be to go ahead and talk to HR about how I don't like this guy and I think we shouldn't hire him.

On the other hand... I do not think that he would be a good long term employee for my employer, and that he could have a toxic effect on the atmosphere in the office.

How can I communicate this most effectively to the hiring team?

  • 1
    Hello and welcome to StackExchange Workplace. This sounds like a primarily opinion-based question to me, because whether you should notify someone about your ex-colleague rather then how do you go about this. We only answer questions that have answers. – jcmack Apr 14 '16 at 21:00
  • 3
    Do you just dislike the guy or do you have objective, factual reasons why he wouldn't excel at the role or would negatively impact the company? You sound like you have a huge axe to grind with this guy and to be honest the reasons you give seem to have more to do with your thin skin and paranoia than with this coworker's actions – Lilienthal Apr 14 '16 at 21:07
  • 2
    Notice your complaint about this ex-colleague as that he was badmouthing people. Now, you are contemplating badmouthing him to your HR. – Brandin Apr 14 '16 at 21:24
  • You say they were trying to fire you for incompetence. Be honest now: were you in over your head? Or were the natives doing the time-honored practice of blaming the contractor because he's not "family"? – Nolo Problemo Apr 15 '16 at 3:26

Should I prevent this guy from being hired at my new job?

This is not a good idea, bad mouthing anyone is a bad look and doesn't reflect well on you. The chap may not be hired anyway, but even if he is, he will come across as the toxic problem if he badmouths you.

You have seniority and get on well with your colleagues (hopefully) and have proved your worth. He is a new comer who has yet to make a positive impression. If he lets past animosities ruin his first impressions he's in trouble already. I have seen this more than once.

So my advice is stay out of it. Also people can be totally different in different environments, a lot depends on the general morale. Give the guy the benefit of the doubt.


So you have a few assumptions going on here:

  • He will get hired
  • He will work on the same team you do
  • The same thing that happened in your previous company will happen here (i.e., it'll go toxic and they'll try to fire you)

Unless all three of those things happen, you are wasting your time getting worked up over this person.

You mention your solution is to:

talk to HR about how I don't like this guy and I think we shouldn't hire him.

Your plan will not work. Here is why it will not work:

  1. HR isn't really in charge of hiring. The manager is. HR will (typically) run a background / credit check / drug test and nix a candidate who fails any of those. It is up to the manager to determine if the candidate can do the job and if they will be a good fit on the team.
  2. Your reason for not wanting to hire the person is invalid because it is YOUR problem.
  3. You have offered no solution to "the problem."

Instead consider doing this:

  • Save your divination for picking lottery numbers
  • Consider doing the best job you can, and build your reputation as a good worker in your current gig
  • Do what you can to improve your own skill set

Worrying about events that have not happened yet, and that are not guaranteed to happen, are a waste of time. Especially if you have no control over them.

  • Good answer, don't stress over things you can't change – Kilisi Apr 14 '16 at 21:34

I predict some down votes, but there is a difference between "bad-mouthing" someone and just stating the facts. If I knew who the hiring manager was, I would give him a heads up on this guy. If this is not someone you can trust, or someone whose work you would trust, or someone who you would want to work with, you should speak up. I have never found HR helpful in a situation like this; in my experience they only go by what's on a resume and leave all judgement calls like this to the hiring manager in order to avoid responsibility.

  • 1
    Not going to downvote you, but nothing the OP said implies the guys work is not up to scratch, it's all about the chap complaining about the OP in a previous team because of the OP's performance. How would you explain to the hiring manager? "Prior to me leaving my last job half a step ahead of getting fired for incompetence, this guy and others complained a lot about me because they thought I was making too many errors, so you shouldn't hire him." ? I can't see how that would be a positive thing for the OP, it might just bring their work under scrutiny and the chap might not get hired anyway. – Kilisi Apr 14 '16 at 23:22
  • @Kilisi: I read the OP a bit differently. I think he could go to the hiring manager and say, "This guy was part of a very toxic environment. Flinging blame all around, bad communication, real trust issues. Don't think he would fit in here." There's more to work than just how well you swing a hammer; there's team cohesiveness, too. I've been a contractor before, and the weak teams tend to blame all their own mistakes on the contractor because, hey, he's an outsider and not "family". Just my experience. – Nolo Problemo Apr 15 '16 at 3:23
  • 1
    I guess so, however the OP was part of the same very toxic environment, and he's doing some mudslinging right now..... just saying. – Kilisi Apr 15 '16 at 6:05

You both worked in a "toxic" work environment. Your new working environment isn't toxic anymore. There's a chance that his behaviour changes in a better environment. There's also a chance that if he repeated his behaviour, it wouldn't be accepted in the new place.

I'd recommend that you don't do anything about him being hired (it only makes you look bad if you try). On the other hand, if he tries to play the same games again, you now have a good reputation. For example, if he complains that he worked a week to fix a problem that you caused, you would very, very loudly tell everyone that he wasted one week of his time, because if he had told you about a problem that you just created, you would have fixed it in five minutes. He's now the new and unexperienced guy, you can make that kind of complaint blow up in his face.

On the other hand again, chances are he is glad to be out of that toxic environment and is going to behave. And there is of course a chance that he doesn't get the job, without you doing anything about it.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .