How do I tell someone to buzz off without being a jerk about it?

In my line of work I deal with lots of brokers from other companies, of which some are very good and some are very bad at what they do. Yesterday I got a call from a woman who is very, very bad at what she does. I speak to her probably 5 or 6 times a day to answer the same questions over and over. I tried to teach her to use our website and offered to walk her through accessing forms and paperwork online but she refused and constantly demanded that I track down things for her and email them to her repeatedly. She is pretty nice but she just seems so incompetent that I loathe picking up the phone when she calls.

The call yesterday was different though. Apparently the brokerage she worked for fired her and she wanted to send me her resume to pass on to my supervisor. Even after I told her what sites we use to post jobs she said she couldn’t navigate them and just wanted to send it to me, so I told her she could send it but I couldn’t promise that we had any open positions available for her. Unfortunately she has now determined that I am her only source of work now and calls me several times a day to check on her resume. I did hand her resume to my supervisor with the caveat that I didn’t think she could handle the work and that I was only passing it on because we had worked with her directly in the past so that I wouldn’t be lying when I told her I did pass it on.

Then today I got a call from her listing all of the people she has gotten emails from in the past with our company asking if they are still here and, if not, if their positions are now open. She just won’t quit calling me and she is making my life very difficult. I don’t want to be mean to her but I don’t want to lead her to think that there is work for her here either and she is seriously determined to harp on me until she gets an interview here.

Is there a nice way of telling her that I don’t think she would be a good fit here and I can’t in good conscience recommend her for a position and to please stop contacting me in hopes of getting a job with my company?

“I don’t think you would be a good fit here and I can’t in good conscience recommend you for a position here. Please stop contacting me in hopes of getting a job with my company. Have a nice day.”

How about that? :slight_smile:

ETA: Forgot to say, she would be driving me right out of my TREE! I have very little patience for people who refuse to learn things, and even less for people who pester me.

“I realize you are trying to be proactive in obtaining work, but I am not in a position to help you for various reasons. I have passed on your resume to the appropriate person and can’t help you any more than that. I am not going to provide you information regarding the status of anyone who works here or if they have vacated their positions as that is private company information.”

Good luck, she sounds awful

If you’re not into the whole “direct and honest” thing, since you’ve told her that your company uses on-line websites for posting jobs, you could tell her that you gave her resume to HR, but that they said they will only deal with people who use those channels. Of course, she may then call them and they’ll have to tell her to buzz off (which I’m sure they will in short notice even if they are usually happy to deal with direct applicants!), and will probably know that you fobbed this PITA off on them, but if you can sleep knowing that, so can I. :wink:

“I’m sorry, there’s nothing more I can do for you. You’ll have to pursue a job with a different company. Good luck.”

If pressed, “I’ve done all I can do. There’s nothing more I can do for you.”


“Janet. I think I have been very accommodating to you in the past, both with respect to your dealing with this company when you were employed by XYZ and in passing your resume along now that you’re looking for work. However, I don’t have time to do my job and assist you in your job search, [Please don’t interrupt me, Janet] so this is the end of my involvement in your job search. If you continue to call, I will make sure that hiring managers at this company are informed about your inability to abide by this very reasonable request and that I have serious misgivings about your professional judgment. We here at ABC have your resume, and if we think there is a position that is suitable for you, you’ll be the first to know. Do not call or email or contact me again.”

Yes, I think this is the way to go. Keep it simple, to avoid confusing her.

All I can add is to be emotionally prepared for crying, so that when she does it you won’t backpedal. I’ll bet she knows she’s incompetent, she is preying on your good nature.

There was a guy like this in The Gift of Fear who wouldn’t take no for an answer and his harassment escalated to a crazy level. This lady sounds like she’s really out of touch with reality. Tell her what Sleeps With Butterflies said:

Then tell her that any phone call has to go to HR from now on. Make it their problem. Don’t take any of her calls after that. If you do, she’ll never stop.

You should have drawn the line way before now. You have somehow conflated “being a jerk” with firmly telling her to stop. The answer to your question is “No”. You will have to develop enough backbone to tell her to stop. And, yes, per your notion of being direct = jerk, you will need to step out of your non-confrontational comfort zone and be a jerk.

She’s being the jerk. You would be justified if being a jerk is necessary to get her to stop. Simplest thing to do is start by saying “Look, I don’t want to be a jerk about this, but you have to stop…”. If that doesn’t work, you are absolutely justifed in being a however much of a jerk is required to get her to stop.

If being a jerk yourself seems seems impossible to do, trust me, you can handle it. Otherwise, eventually you’ll end up being a fool.

That all assumes the polite means of doing this, as others have posted above, have failed to work.

I agree very strongly with this, and I also commiserate because I often conflate saying ‘‘no’’ with being a jerk. I don’t think there’s any other way you can deal with this. She’s clearly not getting the message, so you have to step it up.

I don’t. There is a nice way to say everything. I don’t see why the OP asking this question or having been less direct in the past means that they think being direct is being a jerk.

The polite way to handle this is to not let any feelings into the conversation–other than possibly empathy, if you can handle it. “I’m sorry, but I’ve discussed this with my boss, and we don’t think you are a good fit for this company. I understand that you’ve lost your job, but we can’t help you. All I can do is recommend some websites. I think I mentioned them before. Would you like me to tell you about them again?”

And, if she cries, again you can empathize, but remain firm on your answer. “I know how hard it can be to lose your job, and how hard it is to find work. I’m really sorry. But the decision has been made. In the future, you can apply online, but I am not able to help you. I really do wish you luck in your job search.” Then, after than refuse any calls.

It’s perfectly okay to see the following as being a jerk: “Please stop calling me. I’ve told you a number of times that I can’t help you. I did everything I can do. Do not call this number again.” It may not be (depending on your tone), but the terseness can be offensive, and I see no reason to use it in this case.

And for those of you who think I am to ignorant to give advice about this, I will tell you that this comes not only from my psychologist, but is a variation of something I’ve had to say to someone and had said to me. I’ve also said the terse version and offended people, and had it said to me and felt offended. Sure, some people can take it, and sometimes it’s the only choice. But usually there is a way to be as polite as possible while being assertive.

Of course, weigh in whether your culture sees indirectness as being rude. I assume it doesn’t by the way the OP is talking, but culture is a factor. Like I’ve said before, you have to pay attention to your audience if you want to avoid causing offense. It may take longer, but, in my opinion, it’s nearly always worth it.

Oh god, I hadn’t even considered that. Thanks for the warning!
I appreciate all the advice. I don’t mind being direct, but I also know that this is a tight-knit industry and if she does find another job working in health insurance I will have to interact with her again in the future so I don’t want to have what was a frustrating but polite business relationship become something horrifying should she end up at another company we work with. It is important to be polite, but if I can do that and be direct at the same time that would be best. I think I am a little confused about it because I’m trying to respond like a reasonable person but my pregnancy hormones are making me all, “Shut up or I will punch you in the face until I am pretty sure you can’t operate a phone anymore!”

I think I am going to print some of these responses and tape them to my monitor so I can just read them to her over and over again.

Thing is, you can’t spend your life going out of the way to dance around possibly wording your every sentence in a way that someone might construe as mean or hurtful. You have to put your foot down somewhere, or else you will look like a doormat, especially to someone as persistantly clueless as the OP’s thorn-in-the-side. Sympathy just invites them to keep going and working on you in the hopes of wearing you down.

Of course there is a polite way of doing it, I’m not advocating “QUIT CALLING ME, YOU STUPID INCOMPETENT BEEOTCH!!!” You can, however, yell that in the privacy of your own head as often as you want :smiley:

The best way to handle this (I had a similar situation last summer when a former coworker applied for a job at my new office) is to keep it polite, brief, and never give an inch. Something like “I did give your resume to my supervisor, but it’s up to HR to make the hiring decisions so anymore you’ll have to talk to them. Sorry, can’t give you any personnel information, company policy. HR’s number is blah blah blah. Well, I’m really swamped today so I’ll have to go. Bye!”

When she calls back because she can’t take a hint, “Like I said, it’s out of my hands so you’ll have to talk to HR. I’ll connect you right now, just a sec.” Hit extension for HR, hang up phone. Repeat as needed.

When she emails because she can’t take a hint and didn’t get anywhere with HR, “It’s out of my hands now, but I have forwarded your email to HR. Please contact them at blahblah@blah.blah in future. Thanks!”

ETA the top paragraph was in response to BigT.

The time to draw the line was when she asked to submit her resume to you. You should have said no, you use the website for that. Can’t figure it out? You will never get a job here, because that’s the only resource that HR uses.

But you didn’t do that. So you can keep fielding calls from her and being polite, be justifiably impolite and stop taking her calls, or just stop taking her calls altogether. I tend to be passive-aggressive in situations like these, so I’d just stop taking the calls altogether.

“Look, I really don’t mean to be a jerk, but could you please buzz off for awhile?”

Hi XXXX. I need you to please stop calling me. You are a continual interruption to my workday. I originally took your resume’ and submitted it to my supervisor as a favor to you. I am currently not hiring anyone and I am not in HR. It is not part of my responsibilities to conduct searches or make hiring decisions for our entire company. I can appreciate your enthusiasm, but I have passed along your resume, and if my company is interested, someone will contact you. Your repeated telephone calls are becoming harrassment and I am asking you to please stop.

Use only email as correspondence and copy it all th HR, so they get the idea she’s a nutjob.

Be prepared for crying is a very good piece of advice.

If you do not answer your own phone, just stop taking her calls.