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A former colleague was recently terminated from our division. He lost his mid-level development position due to several factors, all of which could be summed up to poor job performance, misuse of company resources, serial time theft, falling asleep and snoring loudly during important meetings, and general misconduct. Despite this, he was personable, and having both graduated from the same small college (30 years apart), we had some rapport, though I've always found him to be a little repugnant. Well, he's been reaching out to a few of our team members via e-mail asking for help with updating his resume. They must have all denied him, because he reached out to me via LinkedIn messenger asking the same. He specifically asked me to copy and paste the section of my resume for this employer. I have a few issues with this:

• I've been with our company for twice the amount of time as him, so that would make it seem like he worked on more things than he actually did

• We held different positions, so I can't articulate what he was responsible for

• Because of his poor performance (more detail below), I can't possibly do this for him because I'm the one who actually completed his tasks for him

• I am quite busy, and while copying & pasting from my resume would only take a few seconds, I just don't have the desire to do this

• This doesn't seem like an appropriate request

• I also just don't really like him or want anything to do with him

Some background and a few things that complicate this situation:

• He is an older African American man - there aren't many African Americans in our branch of IT

• I'm a double-minority in this field - African American, and a woman. I ordinarily wouldn't include this, but it's relevant in this situation because women tend to be socialized to avoid disappointing or upsetting people, and in my culture specifically, we are socialized to venerate the older generation. I'm no exception, and I am worried about coming across as disrespectful if I don't help him.

• Former colleague is close friends with the professor of a course I plan on taking in the next couple of weeks. I'm worried about what he might say to the professor that could potentially harm my performance or experience in his class.

• Former colleague is also completely inept. It was clear that his resume was fabricated from Day 1, because he was completely unable to handle even the simplest tasks. Most of his work was delegated to me, and because of that, he spent his time employed here asking me to perform tasks for him, which I'd do because I didn't want to appear rude.

I'm worried that helping him with this one task will open the floodgates and have him think he can always reach out to me for assistance... or even worse, ask for a recommendation. I cannot in good faith recommend him to do anything of importance, and want to close this door - respectfully.

My question: how do I respond to him? I do not want to help him, but do not want to be disrespectful or rude, despite the fact that I don't really like him.

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So.. it sounds like you have someone you neither trust nor respect, asking you to provide your experience so he can fabricate his resume. And you do not want to be any part of this but not appear disrespectful. Do I have this summed up correctly?

If so, let's start with the basics: you don't want to help. There are ways to say "no" and not be rude about it. My go-to answer is to say, "I'm sorry, but that's not possible." Notice I don't say no, and I don't offer explanations. All I say is that it's just not possible. All reasons do is give people reason to argue or try to convince why your reasons are wrong. Technically, this is correct: it's not possible because you won't do it. (But he doesn't need to know that.) "Why is it not possible?" "It just isn't; I'm sorry." This isn't dissent or talking back; you're informing of facts.

Now, if he wants help reviewing his resume for grammar, you can do that. You weren't his boss and have no idea what his job was. Especially since he was in a different position, you can't comment on what he did or review that. But you can help him look over his spelling and grammar. That's respectful and establishes a legitimate boundary. Especially since you two had 2 different jobs, providing him with your experience will just set him up to fail - again. That's disrespectful and only helps him get jobs he's not experienced in and unqualified for.

WRT the professor: Your professor is his friend, sure, but generally professors try to stay out of that fray. If you do the work properly and the prof singles you out, all it takes is a visit to the Dean's office and he's in a world of hurt - especially since you are a minority. I can't see any prof with any degree of intelligence taking on that risk. I've been in a position where people had opposing views of me. Both could not convince the other of the rightness of their position - they had their narrative and experience and that's what they based their view on. Until the prof sees proof, it's only stories. And what can your co-worker tell the prof? He dislikes you? Big deal. The prof doesn't know you - yet. Put your best forward, work hard, and learn. That's what educators look for (at least it was when I was teaching) and they have enough to do that they don't have time to go around disliking people they only hear about - unless it's politicians. But we won't go there.

As far as recommendations go: you weren't his boss. You didn't work the same position or have the same tasks. So there's really nothing to base a professional recommendation on. And if he asks you for a personal recommendation, go back to my original response: "I'm sorry, that's not possible." Here you can give reasons if you want: you weren't his boss and it's not appropriate to give out a recommendation since you can't speak to his performance or skills. Speaking from having led a technical team, a recommendation from someone else in a different department doesn't really carry a lot of weight anyway. I want people who saw him as a peer or his customer, not other person who knew his name.

  • With the professor, I was more thinking that he or she might fall for someone’s lies, so I would first talk to them to expose the lies, and I would hope that would fix the problem. – gnasher729 Jun 22 '18 at 13:01
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I think that the best thing to do here is exactly what people (like your coworkers) usually do in this type of situation.

Ignore him.

It seems like your coworkers have already taken this route.

Ignoring him gives you the advantage of feigning surprise if he mentions it if you ever meet him face to face that responding no does not afford.

People do this all the time as it allows the requester to save face and is not a hard rejection (despite still being a rejection)

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    Ignoring him keeps the door open for him to keep contacting me, as he might re-send the message until he gets a response. It also would force me to lie to him about not seeing his message in the event that I see him around town, which I wouldn't feel comfortable with, and which isn't possible since LinkedIn now displays the date and time users read messages. I do appreciate the simplicity, but this situation is a little more complicated. – D. A. Jun 21 '18 at 19:15
  • @D.A. It really isn't more complicated. Even if you have read it, you're still entitled to ignore it. This person has no right to demand anything of you. If you provide them with a reason for why you're not going to do as they ask, you're giving them room to argue. Even telling them that you're not going to do it leaves open the door for them to start asking "Why not?". – Cronax Jun 22 '18 at 7:48
  • @D.A. It would take a seriously socially inept person to keep resending a message more than once or twice. You mention that he is personable, which leads me to believe he will take the hint. As far as lying to him if you see him, instead of saying you did not see the message you could respond with "sorry", it seems like a small change of words, but perhaps would make you feel more comfortable with the siituation. – Joe S Jun 22 '18 at 11:42
  • You could even set up a filter so that you honestly don’t see any repeat messages containing his name. It might be a good step to safe guard your mental health, given the stress this has caused already. It’s easy to "lose" messages on LinkedIn, too. It sounds like if there’s any response, it will only generate more requests. – Pam Jun 24 '18 at 19:19
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Beyond the already mentioned "Just say no" I don't really see a good response.

You summarize this problem by stating that you definitely don't want to do anything to help him, even though he's asking for help from you directly, yet want to ensure that he continues to hold you in high regard. Your problem is that you don't want to burn the bridge you have with him and yet, don't want that bridge to begin with. Unfortunately you can't go back in time and set boundaries, so that bridge is there, whether you like it or not.

I see only a few options from this point:

  • The previously mentioned "ignore him" will force you to potentially lie blatantly to him on a repeated basis, but could allow you to save face. Simply stating that you didn't see his email and will check your "junk folder" is a response I've seen in some similar situations, which is the answer you will have to give every time you run into him. If he questions it, just move to "technical difficulties" and say you'll look again. I doubt you'll run into him a ton of times and a few "it might be in my junk folder" responses should provide him the hint he needs, yet still not completely burn that bridge.

  • Provide him a write-up, but not yours. As you stated, this will take time you don't want to devote to this effort, but any response will take time, might as well write something up and be done with it. Since you don't have a high regard for him, the write-up you provide could be badly written. He will probably not review it and if he does, there is no harm to you or your CV and allows you to save face. He might comment that the write-up you provided isn't good but this would also ensure he didn't request more info or CV reviews from you in the future. It would also serve a secondary benefit of forcing him to re-write it himself. Granted this method might mean that he won't hold you in the highest regard, I doubt it would completely burn the bridge you have with him enough to reach out to that professor. (Speculation here)

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If you feel it necessary to respond, the best policy might be to deliberately misunderstand what he's asking for. Respond with "I'd be happy to review your resume to see if it reads well" (which I think you would be happy to do). Then, when he keeps asking for you to fake a resume for him, you don't have to say no, you can just keep giving him variations of "sure, send over your resume, I'll look it over". If you keep politely on that message, I don't think you can be seen as "back-talking" him, you are "agreeing".

I've used the "deliberate misunderstanding" approach when dealing with a rather nasty upper management guy who was trying to put me in a bad position with his large team. It really can work if you think about what you are trying to get done and word it in such a way that trying to correct the misinterpretation will make the sender look bad.

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You could say:

No, I won't do that

Saying more is probably worse. You'd be explaining why, which would likely be rude. I do think this is preferable to outright ignoring or other passive and indirect forms of communication.

You may need to deal with followups. There are various ways of doing that. The easiest is saying you won't discuss further and then repetition as necessary.

So, how is this respectful? He is responsible for keeping his resume up to date. You know this - you added it as a comment to this answer! He needs to do his own work. (You know this, too!) With all due respect! How can this be? It would be disrespectful to enable him. You're respecting him by not helping him, here. You're treating him like the independent responsible adult he is. People rise to the level of expectation given to them. If people treat him like an independent responsible adult, he will more act like one over time.

By telling him no now you are shutting those floodgates. And you can continue to say no! And it's the right thing to do when it helps the other person.

  • I don't think this answer is applicable because the time it takes to copy paste a paragraph from your cv is negligible. – Joe S Jun 21 '18 at 18:44
  • @JoeS Oh, I saw OP list this as a reason so I assumed it was a valid reason; I assumed the resume wasn't already written/it wasn't a simple copy-paste issue – user16858 Jun 21 '18 at 18:52
  • Hm you may be right, I reread it and can see where you are coming from, I think it could be spelled out more clearly by the OP as to whether she has the paragraph written for herself or not. – Joe S Jun 21 '18 at 18:54
  • @JoeS In any case I edited my answer – user16858 Jun 21 '18 at 18:56
  • I suppose I could edit and clarify that, while I technically do have a few seconds to spare to copy/paste from my resume (which is always kept up to date, and he knows this) - I don't want to. If I can take the time to update my own resume, he should be able to do the same for himself, not pass the labor of doing so on to me – D. A. Jun 21 '18 at 19:00
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There’s a difference between helping with a resume, that is taking the correct and true facts and representing them in the best possible way, and fabricating a resume (in other words, lying).

Since he seems to ask you to support him by lying, an answer “no, you are asking me to fabricate a resume, and I’m not doing that “ is good enough. It is neither rude nor disrespectful to refuse to lie for someone. Quite the opposite, he should be ashamed of asking you.

PS Don’t do work that other people are paid for, unless your manager is aware of it and tells you to do it.

PS If you hear anything negative from that professor, you talk to him or her and clearly express that you refused to help that colleague create a fake resume. If he lied about you behind your back, it’s time to go nuclear on him.

PS Don’t worry about culture. Your grand grand mother wasn’t allowed on a bus. You are allowed to refuse being taken advantage of. And I bet I’m older than you, so do what I say :-)

PS Your reputation is at stake here. If I hired someone incompetent based on a resume that you wrote (and I would find out, I’m sure he would throw you under a bus), your reputation would be destroyed.

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