Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.
By Alison Green / Ask a Manager
November 11, 2015

Q: How can I find out if my prospective new boss, who was arrested for domestic violence, has a violent temper? I have an interview tomorrow, and as part of my preparation, I researched both the organization (local government) and the hiring manager. On the first page of Yahoo search results under the hiring manager’s name, I found an arrest record from October 2012 for domestic battery.

After reading other results to determine that the arrested person was the correct Jane Doe, I dug deeper and found that county arrest records show that she was released the next day. Public records also show that 10 months later, she was granted a divorce from her husband.

I feel like this is relevant to the job, because I do not want to work for someone who has a violent temper. My current boss may be clueless, but at least he is not easily angered. How would be the best way to determine in the interview whether this was an unfortunate one-off incident, or whether her anger will be a regular presence in the workplace?

A: I don’t know that you can.

I mean, you can and should ask questions about her management style and how she handles it when there’s a problem, and you can and should ask similar questions about her of other people you’d be working with, as you might do when vetting any other job and any other manager.

But a single arrest for domestic violence, followed by a release the next day, followed by a divorce 10 months later … well, maybe she has a violent temper, but maybe she was trying to get away from a spouse who was the abusive one, or maybe it was a misunderstanding and that’s why you saw an arrest but not a conviction, or all kinds of other possibilities that we can’t know from here. (And I did think about whether I’d say the same thing if she were a man rather than a woman, and if it was a single arrest in an otherwise clean record, I would.)

The bigger question might be whether people’s behavior in their marriage is likely to show up in the workplace. Sometimes it does, but much of the time it doesn’t. Lots of people (sadly) scream at family members (or worse) but have never raised their voice at work. Lots of people (sadly) treat their family members terribly but have warm or at least cordial relationships at work. I just don’t know that you can extrapolate from one setting to the other.

Also, you’ve probably worked with many people who are engaging in really problematic behavior in their relationships or in other parts of their private lives, and you didn’t know about it because they conducted themselves appropriately at work.

I certainly don’t mean to dismiss domestic violence or to say that how people conduct themselves outside of work should be irrelevant to those who work closely with them … but there’s just too much unknown here.

Ultimately, I’d say that you should do your due diligence on how this prospective manager conducts herself in her professional life, as you should with any prospective new manager, and go from there.

Q: We were told to tickle each other aggressively at a team-building event. I’m leaving my current workplace for a lot of reasons related to culture fit and disorganization, but I wanted to tell you about this misstep in hopes you’ll get a laugh out of it!

We had a team-building event recently, which was boring but otherwise unremarkable until it came time to take the group photo. At this point, either the teambuilding leader or someone from our own leadership yelled “tickle each other AGGRESSIVELY!” instead of cheese! For a moment, everything stopped while everyone (presumably) thought, “wait, what?!” and then I got tickled. Probably by the COO, who was directly behind me. I flail wildly when tickled because I hate it, so I ended up yelling “not okay” and trying not to hit anyone by accident until it stopped.

This is a mandatory fun culture, but you bet I’m bringing this up in my exit interview!

A: What?! Not only tickle each other (inappropriate and boundary-violating), but tickle each other aggressively? What the actual F?

Some people seriously don’t stop to think that there are different rules of behavior for work versus social situations, and this is one of them. (And really, even in social situations, tickling should be an opt-in activity, shouldn’t it?) (Furthermore, what percentage of people actually enjoy being tickled, even by those closest to them? I’m guessing it’s under 10%.) (Okay, I am going to move on from this, lest I explode in an incredible combustion of parentheses and horror.)

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.

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