You Can Say “No”

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I heard about this new law that was passed to prevent employers from asking for your social media passwords. After the laughter stopped, I realized that, maybe, this would be needed. Not because I need the government to help me manage my interactions with my employers and potential employers. And not because I think the government needs to be involved in other peoples interactions, not at this level. But because I don’t think people realize they have a word that they can use with employers. That word is ‘No.’

“We want you to sign this non-compete agreement that says you’ll never be a DBA for any other company after leaving ours.” Ha! No. And yes, I really had one of these. And yes, there actually are laws against it (I looked it up), but I didn’t need them. I figured out all on my own that I might not stay at that company forever and that, after leaving the company, I might actually want to ply my trade. By the way, this particular dot com is long dead.

“We require you to take a psychological test as a requirement for employment.” OK, I did this, because I was very interested in the output of the test, but I asked them, what if I said no. They said they’d hire me anyway. Why? Because they can’t make you do stuff you don’t want to. Oh, and the output said was I a psycho killer, but they hired me anyway for some reason.

And I’ve heard that some employers want your private email address password. Again, no.

Here’s the deal, what I do in public, out loud, at large, that is my employer’s concern. If I’m posting compromising photo’s of myself and I’m a company spokesman, of course my employer can, and probably will, get upset. But if I’m communicating with my significant other or children, friends, family, etc., in a private space, even one that is digital, that’s what we used to call nunya, as in Nun Ya Business. You just don’t get to go there. Sorry.

Look, I get it. It’s a cold, awful, horrible world out there, especially if you are not employed. I’ll never forget the 3 months (and thank the gods it was only 3 months) that I spent looking for work in the fall of 2001. And when I finally got a job, I took a massive pay cut. Why? Because making X was more than making ZERO, which is what I was making at the time. So yes, you may compromise yourself at times. But, understand, it’s you making the compromise. You get to make the choices. No one is holding a gun to your head. If someone asks you to do something ridiculous or insane, say ‘No.’


  • Grant, when I think about it, many cultures implement the inability to say ‘No’ in different forms. Take indian culture for example: saying ‘no’ is considered offensive, hence people are forced to say ‘yes’ to all questions. (For example, there is a big difference if you ask ‘Do you understand?’ and ‘Is there anything you don’t understand?’)
    Actually, now I realize that at one point I was offered a contract that stated that I could not be a DBA for any company in the same branch for years after I left the one offering the contract, but I didn’t give it too much thought at the time.
    And finally, I guess it is very specific to the location – here most companies require drug test (and yes, they do test for drugs, including alcohol). And people don’t say ‘no’. What’s the point.
    Otherwise, I know from non-official sources here that many companies use social network APIs to do background checks on employees, potential employees and even customers. Think about it. It is just silly to ask for your email or social network passwords, when they can simply use a API service to do everyhing much faster.


  • Steve Hall

    I once worked for a company that tried to introduce a contract that specified if the company relocated the office I worked in that I would relocate too, at my cost.
    Never signed it and looked for another job. If an employer assumes they have control over your private life it would probably lead to a bad working environment and certainly a bad home life. Keeping the balance is important.

  • Brandon Leach

    For me, just being asked for any of that would cause me to politely end the interview and walk out. It tells me immediately that the culture of the company is real bad. Its also a matter of trust and faith. I simply don’t want to work for a company that has so little faith in their employees that they want the intimate details of their private life.

  • Great subject. I was very happy to hear the Canadian Supreme Court decide we have a right to private life, even on Corp computers:
    Only with a warrant can an employer sieze the computer to scan for personal information that would be related to a criminal offence, otherwords, hands off.–supreme-court-of-canada-employees-have-privacy-rights-over-workplace-computers
    So indeed, you can say No, and the Supreme Court backs you up here.

  • Cody

    I sat a psych test for a job once where I was exactly what they were looking for (experience wise). But they didn’t like the result and withdrew the offer.

    I asked why and for the result and they refused. I followed it up with the manager and was willing to sign a disclaimer – I wasn’t going to sue them for it, not that it would even be possible, I was just curious because the test was an hour or two investment of my time.

    They still refused and I found that extremely insulting, I think we have better privacy laws since then that would have given me an avenue to force them to give it up, but at the time I just dropped it and resolved never to sit another one without a written guarantee to the results.

OK, fine, but what do you think?