Someone I know well (let’s call him Bob) was recently “terminated” (his word) from his job. Bob is also friends with my supervisor since all of our children have grown up together both in school and on the sports field. Since I work at a large firm, Bob left me a voice mail yesterday to see if I know of any account manager positions at my company or elsewhere. My supervisor shared that Bob also left a message for him, but he is on the road traveling for a couple of weeks and choosing not to respond.
Here’s the challenge. Although Bob has the exact skill set and experience we look for, my supervisor and I agree that we would never hire him because of his personality. He has a temper, is abrasive, curt and overall a curmudgeon. Currently, I am in the process of hiring for a similar position and close to offering, but don’t want to say this because it’s a small town and word travels. Yet, this offer may not go through, will be posted and we will need to fill this position. Another challenge is my supervisor has hired a few friends in the past and Bob knows. Bob is determined to connect, and I have a feeling I’ll be the one to run into him prior to my supervisor’s return. What do you suggest I do?
– Avoiding Bob
Dear Avoiding Bob,
Bottom line, this is a tough situation with only two real choices:
1. Not tell the truth which protects you and your supervisor from what you believe will damage the relationship.
2. Keep it real without dumping too much truth on Bob and be a true friend.
The context of my answer is based on his asking you if you have any positions available.
“Bob, I want you to know that we currently are in negotiations with someone, but I’m not at liberty to say anything more, so please don’t ask.”
Let’s say Bob continues to push you to recommend or hire him for another job:
“Bob, I want to be a true friend and not mislead you in any way. Are you open to hearing some feedback that’s awkward for me to share?” (Most likely he’ll say yes.) “Although your experience and skills do lend themselves to our division, your communication style can come across as abrasive and sharp. I’ve also watched you lose your temper. We look for individuals who know how to communicate effectively even if things aren’t going well.” If Bob acts like he doesn’t know what you’re talking about, say… “May I share a couple of examples?” Be very fact specific and use words such as “I observed when X happened you said, y.”
This will not be easy, but the feedback you provide this guy might just be exactly what he needs to land a job. Follow up with, “Bob, I appreciate you hearing me out, and I hope this doesn’t get in the way of our friendship.”
For what it’s worth, it’s probably not the first time Bob has heard similar feedback.
Perhaps this time he’ll gain the awareness and desire to make positive change.