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Re: Does your boss (or coworker) have a right to have a say in your career?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:25 pm
by Nate W.
Dear DX and Dave,

I am so happy for both of you that you have worked in such a utopian environment where everyone is polite, reasonable, and never holds a grudge out of jealousy. Most people don't work in that world and eventually will have to deal with a few jerks in the workplace during their career. Often these situations were no fault of their own and how they treated the individual. Your posts are both contradicting and express denial about the existence of workplace conflict. The one of the most cited reasons why people change jobs is because people can't get along with someone at work. However, if the workplace is this pleasant utopian, free of any conflict, why do businesses place so much emphasis on "fit", teams, and/or why would a supervisor then need to conduct backdoor references. In that environment, they would trust the candidate and only check the references he provides. DX, as an armchair organizational psychologist, I would think you would have a good appreciation of human nature. Conflicts and jealousy in a competitive workplace will always exist. The news is full of workplace conflicts that have gone badly; discrimination, fraud, scientific misconduct, etc. It is just human nature that some people will just never get along (personality differences) or a colleague might be jealousy over another person's accomplishments at workplace. Yes, DX, they can hold a grudge. I agree with you entirely about always treat everyone with respect and courtesy; however, there going to be times where people will just dislike you no matter what (or how nice you are)? Though rare, it often happens out of jealous for one's accomplishments. The question here is should this person who dislikes you for no good reason have a say in your career if contacted via a backdoor reference?

DX, I got a laugh out of your Dilbert HR euphemism "negative advocates." Hopefully, you see the contradiction here. The definition of an advocate is a person who positively and publically supports a person or cause. How can person who has a negative opinion of you act as your advocate? Most likely people who dislike you will not speak positively on your behalf but usually they will just say nothing at all, out of courtesy. However, there are some of these people who dislike you that will say something negative; just to hold a grudge. It is my position that you should have a right to protect your reputation in these cases. Back door references only enable and tempt people to say bad things about former colleagues who they might dislike you over trivial disagreements?

Take the example, your boss' boss fires your boss. You hardly know your supervisor's boss and he has never evaluated your work. After your boss leaves, you find out that your boss's boss barred all former employees of your former supervisor from any eligible position at your last employer. You ask your supervisor's boss why he did this and he tells that your guilty by association and that you should have known better than work for such an individual. This guy dislike you because you worked for a "jerk" and you don't entirely disagree with his assessment of your former boss's behavior. But this has nothing to do with you and your performance which has been quite good. Plus, the head supervisor will even acknowledge this to you; it is not about your performance. You are guilty in his mind by your association with your former PI. Now a back door reference contacts the head supervisor because he can't find the former supervisor, he will provide a bad reference just because he hates your former boss.

So what do you do? I feel the head supervisor is acting rudely and should stop. Further, I feel the right to protect my reputation, especially if he is saying something that is misleading or not correct.

It sounds like both of you support this method of collecting references.

We are probably going to have to disagree on this one. Please feel free to have the last word on this. Try to address the example I provided, DX.

Re: Does your boss (or coworker) have a right to have a say in your career?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:38 pm
by Dave Jensen
Nate, honestly the people who move ahead in an organization are generally solid with people who support them. Sure, there are the occasional jerk who gets the promotion because they stabbed someone in the back. And that guy is exactly who you are trying to discover when you do back door references. That's the person you don't want -- the person who's leaving little hand grenades behind them. They may have a set of good references, but you call anyone else in their organizations and you'll find that there are a whole bunch of people who just had "difficulty" with that individual.

I consider myself an excellent reference checker. We have a 100% guarantee attached to placements we make in my company, and it lasts for a full year. Yes, anytime a person leaves in that first year, I'm stuck replacing him or her. How many times has this been called into action? Just once. A person who was still a very solid, high quality individual proved to be not a fit for cultural reasons, and departed after just a few months. His references would never have said anything bad about him, but I should have pursued the "but would he fit this particular blah-blah kind of culture?" and I didn't go that direction.

So, you see that references are crucial in the process. If a person is contentious, and gets into arguments on every subject they discuss with others, they won't go very far without getting "caught" via some reference or another.


Re: Does your boss (or coworker) have a right to have a say in your career?

PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 3:59 pm
by Rich Lemert

If anyone is trying to force a "utopian view" in this discussion, I would say it was you.

You want a world where everyone adheres to your standards of honesty and interpersonal relationships, and where hiring managers will only contact those references that you provide - who will put all grievances aside and provide a fair and honest assessment of your abilities.

It's NOT going to happen, so why are you wasting so much time and energy worrying about it when you can put that effort into doing things YOU can control?

If you have applied to work for me, I'm am going to check your references. However, I know that these are people you've selected because you feel they will describe you in a positive manner, so I am going to tap into my own network where possible to confirm whether or not the feedback is accurate.

If there is a discrepancy, I'll consider broadening my search(depending on how strong a candidate I think you are) to see if there's a consensus view. I understand that there might be disagreements between you and your old boss, but multiple negative responses suggest a serious problem.

On the other side of the coin, if I'm looking for work I'll worry about the things I can control. I can influence the hiring manager by providing a list of my references and by identifying any potential 'issues', but I cannot control what he or she does with that information.

I can also influence my former employer and co-workers by striving to maintain a professional, positive relationship, but they're going to form their own opinion of me regardless of what I do. Some are going to dislike me no matter what I do. So what?

Wanting to change the world is an admirable goal - when their is a real inequity. Wanting to change things just to fit one's personal "moral code" is a different matter - especially when there are more effective ways of reaching the same point.

Re: Does your boss (or coworker) have a right to have a say in your career?

PostPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 7:08 am
by D.X.
Hi Nate,

Thoughout my posts, I've never denied work-place conflict. In fact i've emphasised it exists and is often a key subject of behavioral interviewing as part of an assessment of how you will work with others, inteface with Teams, and manage conflict as part of Routine Business conduct.

I have acknowledged politics and have noted politics as part of work life and dare I say personal life, if you have a wife then your worse enemy in life working to dystroy your life, maybe by poison or hired hit man, happens to share your bed (that's a joke).

I have never denied conflict in whatever what ever form exists in the work place, I have commented on how to manage and have emphasized caution on interpreting and acting on it's causes.

However, this does not mean that People may not have thier grudges.I don't deny human nature.

However, what it does mean is that successful People in the interest of Business conduct leave thier differences outside and work professionally to deliver on agreed Tasks. Those who are not able to do that at a peer Level find themselves in difficult positions. I have been in those positions where I have been the Antagonist to others. Though, i've learned and grew, and have learned, if your behavior is beyond reproach and professional, those negative advocates stand the most to lose - if they are working against you, its behind close doors and well, if that's the case, you have no control, other than to be beyond reproach, professional and working in the interet of the team and business.

Those who are Senior Managers and have conflict with you, well I would say its your Problem, not theirs as that reflects a breakdown in being able to adapt and meet leadership's expectations. It does not mean you can't tactifully challenge and get Feedback on your views.

I've have seen the worst of relationships, People who will not speak to each others personally (i've had them, still have them) come to a Meeting and professionaly engage to acheive a shared objective. I have not liked some people personally but as a professional I have to work with them. It is well accepted you don't have to like whom you work with but you MUST work with them, that is....until you find other Team or employer. That's your choice. You can control who you have as your friends...but Family and work-colleagues..well not choice there.

So to your question, should a Person who dislikes you have a say in your career is contacted via a back-door referenes?

Its a moot question. You have no control on if they are contacted and therefore you have no control on what they say. I said before it's a shoulda, woulda, coulda, question. Manage it by your interview Performance, objective references etc.

Regarding your comment on "negative advocates", its a term we use in the industry, you can have negative, neutral or positve advocacy, agaisnt, no-position, or for a cause, especially applied to customer opinion on product or Position. For example as you're familiar with Medical Affairs, we can call a KOL a positive or negative advocate and enter discussion on how we move them on the advocacy axis. So consider yourself informed here.

And regarding your senario of Boss's Boss being fired etc. etc., i've personally experienced it (!!). It goes to a personal behavior control issue, you can make attempts to modify perception with evidence and, perhaps at first trying to build a relationship which is what I did and well, C'est la vie. It didn't work out for me. I Held no grudge, I understood fully, the only behavior I can modify at the end of the day is MINE. So...i called it as a no go, and spent my energy finding another solution - so I found another Team! (see my previous Posts on the importance of internal Networking). Did lose? No. I gained.

So my other message to you Nate and rest of the Forum, remember at the end of the day, the only behavior you have full control your own. A key Mantra of "Change Management".

And i love the badge of organizational psychologist..anybody know how I can break in?


Re: Does your boss (or coworker) have a right to have a say in your career?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:28 am
by Nate W.
DX, As the armchair forum psychologist on staff, I thought you might enjoyed this hypothetical which encapsulates a workplace experience of mine.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) ... y_disorder ... 49f9c4ce08 ... orale-5045

Imagine the following:

1) You have worked for a supervisor with NPD for many years as a laboratory manager.

2) This supervisor sets unrealistic performance expectation(s) for you:

One first author JBC impact or higher publication per year.

3) Not even he has met this standard throughout the course of his career.

4) He lies about your performance evaluations when providing reference for outside opportunities.

5) When confronted with proof that his reference is inconsistent with the performance evaluations he has given you (over years), he gets upset and will not compromise.

6) He sends all your papers to only the high impact journals even after being rejected (i.e. CNS). While holding you to this absurd publication standard. He will ask you to make experimental changes and will send it back to the same journal. One paper was submitted to Nature twice within 10 months.

7) After you publish 3-4 papers, win a pre-doctoral travel award, and graduate, he still refuses to compromise on the reference. Please note, there is nothing but mostly praise in the performance evaluations and your coworkers have your back. You were promoted three times.

8) Finally, after he has loss his grant and is laying everyone off, you try to reach a compromise again by saying: X, can you just not say anything at all if someone calls?

His response is that I entitled to my opinion and I have to tell the truth?

DX, please take note of this response because it pretty much sums up his selfish ways. He lacks empathy for anyone other than himself. Agree?

9) He turns a blind eye to a coworker who is fabricating data. Essentially, he enabled this behavior in this employee by placing so much pressure on people to publish only in high impact journals. He didn't care about correcting the problem when confronted with the problem. It probably contributed to him losing his grant.

10) In an effort to resolve these problem, you find out that several key faculty including the department head hate your former boss and find his behavior annoying and unprofessional. Sadly, they will not help you because they are so disgusted with his narcissistic and selfish demeanor.

I attribute this whole mess to the NPD of a supervisor and it is a good learning experience about human nature in the workplace.


How would you handle a supervisor with NPD?

How would you handle this situation and negotiate a good reference that is consistent with your job performance evaluations given your boss' NPD?

Given this situation, would you feel that your trust has been betrayed by your supervisor?

What happens when you don't confront a supervisor with NPD (or a bully)?

What do most psychologists say is the only real solution in dealing with a narcissist?

Do really want a guy like this talking with prospective employers (back door or front door)? He is too worry about helping himself, not you. In his NPD mind, a good reference means I lost an employee helping my career and if they don't work for me anymore, it means I lost control over them and I can't no longer control their career for my own purposes.

DX, I am talking about a true NPD (~5% of the population).

Re: Does your boss (or coworker) have a right to have a say in your career?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 1:28 pm
by Susan H.
Hi Nate, we do not even know if what you say is "true" - there are always (at least) 2 sides to such a story. However, I agree with you that it happens that bosses (re)act in an unreasonable and unfair way - that's life.

Re: Does your boss (or coworker) have a right to have a say in your career?

PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:11 am
by Nate W.
Susan H. wrote:Hi Nate, we do not even know if what you say is "true" - there are always (at least) 2 sides to such a story. However, I agree with you that it happens that bosses (re)act in an unreasonable and unfair way - that's life.

Susan, Thanks for the reply. It is all true. I have no reason to be dishonest. Most of the items listed are factual for which one has documentation, like performance evaluations. Thus, it is not a matter of opinion for many items.

You are forgetting a key point. The supervisor has NPD. So are there really two sides to the story? What view point really matters given the NPD? Think about it.

I would have put in his point of view or any other factor that might have influenced him to behave this way. DX says that you are only in control of your own emotions and how you react. A supervisor with NPD will control and manipulate your behaviors and eventually will provoke a reactions. Silence will only annoy the NPD supervisor and enable his unprofessional behavior, destroying your self-confidence and that of the team. So how do you deal with a NPD supervisor?

PS: This is not an easy problem to deal with. I lived it and I don't have a good answer.

Of note, most reasonable managers would agree to a compromise or agree at least to say nothing at all. If you can't agree to say nothing at all and one accomplished a lot for that supervisor, the problem is with the supervisor and his demeanor.

So, I am dumbfounded as to why this supervisor would behave this way and why the inconsistency between the performance evaluations he wrote and what he is saying. (and there is documentation of what he is saying in references).

Re: Does your boss (or coworker) have a right to have a say in your career?

PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:53 am
by Rich Lemert

I don't know why you insist on continuing to beat this horse into the ground - and then some.

It doesn't matter why your nemesis behaves the way he does. All you can do is react to what he does. You can try to influence him if you want (which apparently you've attempted), but at some point you're going to need to recognize that your efforts are not having - and cannot have - any impact.

You can try to get others involved (Dept. Chairs, Deans, and the like), and you've apparently done this. Again, though, you can only request their assistance. You cannot dictate their actions. Once again, you've got to know when to cut your losses. (Keep in mind also that they will likely have to live with the guy well after you're gone from the scene.)

You ask in this thread "does your boss have a right to have a say in your career?" I would argue that at the moment you've literally handed over all control to this guy. You are so wrapped up in (apparently) getting revenge on this guy for what he's done/doing to you - or at least trying to get sympathy for your plight - that you are ignoring the actions YOU can take to improve YOUR situation.

To put it more bluntly - quit using this guy as an excuse for any setbacks you're experiencing in your career. Figure out what YOU need to do to be successful - starting from right now. If the guy throws up a potential roadblock, than figure out how to address that roadblock. And just to be clear, let me emphasize that you need to focus on how you will mitigate any specific actions. Leave him out of the question - he's a dead end.

Re: Does your boss (or coworker) have a right to have a say in your career?

PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 2:12 pm
by Dave Jensen
Great post Rich. I think this one has run its course at this point. When you start seeing incredibly long and emotional posts, as a forum moderator, you know its time to move on.


Re: Does your boss (or coworker) have a right to have a say in your career?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 3:26 pm
by D.X.
Hi Dave,

Agreed - beating a dead horse here - I can only help others to a certain extent and well these cases represent the minority and area of challenge is trying to modify or educate one who is entrenched in certain thoughts which have become self limiting. C'est la vie.

Nate I will not respond to your last thread it is of no value. This thread for all what I believe I have tried to give my best insights based on my experience and development I think has run its course. There is nothing else here for me to share that is of value.