Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Unstable sister trying to get a job at my workplace: My sister, who works in my industry, has had a lot of trouble with employment over the recent years. She has been diagnosed as bipolar but refuses to get treatment, as she is highly paranoid and distrustful of doctors. She has been fired from all of the positions she has had for the past three or four years for conflict between employees or directly insulting her superiors.
After struggling to find a job for several months, she told me that she applied for a job at my company, specifically within my office, which is midsize. It is not that I fear conflict between the two of us, but I fear that her behavior with other co-workers will reflect poorly upon me.
Any guidance on navigating this sticky situation? Should I assume the HR department will weed her out in the screening process, or do I need to take matters into my own hands? I feel that if I was honest with her about not wanting her to work at my company, she would blow up at me and proceed to try to get the job anyway.
A: If your sister’s job history is as sketchy and full of unexplained gaps as you say it is, I think the odds of her getting called in for an interview are slim to none. You didn’t recommend her as a candidate, so unless your workplace is unusually judgmental, I can’t imagine how her behavior could reflect badly on you, unless at some point during the interview process you were asked to give a reference and you lied or otherwise covered for her.
If you feel absolutely compelled to, you can certainly speak to your boss about your sister’s application and explain that you can’t give her a good reference given her history of directly insulting her superiors, but you don’t need to bring up her mental health when her job history speaks for itself. You’re not obligated to explain to your sister why you don’t think she should work at your company; there are numerous bureaucratic levels in place during the hiring process for exactly this reason. The likeliest outcome is that nothing will come of it.
Q. Reaching out or staying mum: My friend A and I were very close in childhood. We haven't lived in the same place in a long time and naturally drifted apart over the years, but we reconnected at a family event and have stayed in better touch since, making an effort to visit with one another when we happen to be in each other’s cities. Her mom and my mom are very close, and I know through that grapevine that she is currently going through a divorce. Etiquette-wise I’m not sure if I should reach out or not. We’re not especially close right now but obviously have a long history. I want to be there if she needs anything but also don’t want to contribute any stress during a difficult time. What say you?
A: It would not, I think, add to your friend’s stress levels if you contacted her and acknowledged reality. Her divorce is not a secret. You’ve recently reconnected and you’re interested in staying close, so go ahead and call her and ask if you can take her out to lunch next time you’re in town. If she doesn’t want to discuss the details of her divorce, don’t press but certainly let her know you’re available if she wants to talk. That is what friends do, so don’t worry you’re intruding or causing additional stress unless she gives you reason to think so.