The Washington Post

@Work Advice: Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies

(Photograph by Deb Lindsey)

Reader: Several years ago, I was in a terrible job and networked with anyone who would help. A job came up in an agency where a guy I’d networked with for two years knew the hiring manager. I immediately asked if he could help me get an interview. He said he’d do what he could. Later, he told people he “wasn’t sure” about me, so he just “accidentally” let the application deadline pass. I heard this story from multiple people.

I now have a job working for congressional leadership. When sequestration hit his industry, this man immediately contacted me, asking for help. He clearly didn’t know I knew the truth and acted like we were the best of friends. I thought that was nervy; choosing not to help is fine, but don’t expect favors in return. I can’t help him. Does he deserve to know how I truly feel?

Karla: Translation: “Do I deserve the chance to smash this cold, congealed revenge pâté right into his lying face?”

You have here an opportunity most of us can see fulfilled only in teen flicks about geek-to-chic transformations and sadistic bullies getting bumped off. But while calling him out on his Janus act might be satisfying, I suggest you take the long view. If the next election reverses your fortunes, you might find you have a use for him — and he might be eager to help someone he sees as having connections.

So just let him know politely that it’s not in your power to help this time. Maybe ask how some of your mutual connections are doing — and imagine his face as he begins to wonder, but can never ask, what you may have heard from them. Tasty, tasty pâté.

Reader: I work at a small company that is shockingly mismanaged. The owner recently became more involved, trying to turn things around. This included asking each of us whether we were planning to quit. He asked me directly whether I was sending out résumés. I lied and said no because I was worried he would hire my replacement before I found new employment.

Now that I have found a better job and given notice, the owner is trying to make me feel guilty for misleading him. Was there a better way to handle this?

Karla: Certainly. Instead of subjecting workers to an inquisition, your
boss should have begged for your patience, heard your issues and communicated his plans to resolve them. And he should accept resignations as the inevitable cost of doing bad business.

Oh, were you asking whether there was an honest response to his grilling that wouldn’t have left you unemployed? Search me. In your iron shoes, I’d have done the same.

Karla L. Miller is ready to hear your work dramas and traumas. Send your questions to You can also find her on Twitter, @KarlaAtWork, or Facebook.

For stories, features such as Date Lab, Gene Weingarten and more, visit WP Magazine.

Follow the Magazine on Twitter.

Like us on Facebook.

E-mail us at

Karla L. Miller offers advice on surviving the ups and downs of the modern workplace. Miller, of South Riding, Va., was the winner of the 2011 @Work Advice Contest. E-mail your questions to Karla at



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.