I didn’t get a job because I was a bully in high school

A reader writes:

I’ve been trying to break into a niche industry (30-40 jobs in a city with a population of 3 million) for a while now. I’m in my late 20s, and though it took me some time to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I have finished my degree and completed two internships. I’m working part-time in a related field and freelancing while searching for a full-time job in the niche industry. I’m willing to move for the right job, but I’d rather stay close to home — so I was stoked last summer when I got an interview for one of the very few entry-level jobs available in my city! I ultimately didn’t get it, but the interview went well enough they encouraged me to apply the next time they had an opening.

Then an acquaintance who works at the company called me up and asked if I wanted to get coffee. I figured she’d offer me tips on how to do better next time. Instead, she told me to give up on ever being hired there — turns out, a girl I had gone to high school with is a real rock star at this company, and she threatened to resign when it looked like I was about to be offered a job. (I hadn’t realized it was her because her married name is different.) I’ll be honest — I wasn’t a very nice person back then, and I probably was pretty awful to this girl. I looked my former classmate up, and her resume really is incredible. She graduated from college early and has awards people who’ve worked in our industry twice as long haven’t won. Her public-facing work is top-notch. I’m guessing she’s the kind of employee a manager wants to keep around.

My acquaintance’s prediction appears to be true: I didn’t get an interview for a new position at the company that would’ve been an even better fit than the one I’d interviewed for. When I asked why, I was told a staffer had raised some concerns and the company would not be moving forward with my candidacy. I’m heartbroken. I worked so hard for so long to get the training required for this type of work, and I don’t think I deserve to be blacklisted for something I said when I was 17. I have my former classmate’s work email. Should I beg for forgiveness?

This is tricky.

On one hand, I don’t think there’s anything to lose by apologizing. And if you were pretty awful to her, it sounds like it would be the right thing to do.

On the other hand, it’s going to look motivated by your desire to get a job there, and risks coming across as more self-interested than genuine.

Because of that, I think you should do it only if you can frame it as a genuine apology, unconnected to your job prospects there. If you can explain that the situation made you reflect on your behavior to her in high school and realize that you owe her an apology — and if you can honestly say that you don’t expect this to change anything about your job prospects there but just genuinely wanted to apologize — then maybe.

However, if you then apply for jobs there again anytime in the next year or two, it’s likely to look like it wasn’t that genuine.

So … I would say to send that type of apology because it’s the right thing to do but also to write this company off for at least a while.

Now, is that fair that you’d be blacklisted for something you did at 17? I think it depends on exactly how bad your treatment of her was — there are some things that would be bad enough that you shouldn’t expect it to be written off even a decade later. And there are other things where holding a professional grudge after someone expressed sincere regret would be an overreaction.

But this might not be about a grudge. She might genuinely feel that she can’t comfortably work with you. It might not have to do with forgiving or not forgiving you, and she might be well aware that you’re a different person now — and yet might still feel that seeing her high school tormenter every day isn’t something she’d want to stick around for. If that’s how she feels, that’s legitimate — and it’s understandable that her employer wouldn’t want to lose a stellar employee for someone who’s an unknown quantity.

Ultimately, it’s not so much about whether it’s fair (it might be, it might not be), but about what is and how you respond to that. I think sending a genuine apology and then moving on from this company is your best move here, as frustrating as I’m sure that is.

{ 1,407 comments… read them below }

  1. Arpai

    If I found out my high school bully applied for a job at my company, I absolutely would threaten to resign if he were to be hired. That guy made my life miserable from second grade through 12th grade, sexually harrassed me, physically hurt me and generally made me wish I was dead. If I saw him about to be hit by a train, I’d turn my head the other way. I’m sure if you asked him today, he’d think what he did wasn’t that bad. Because he is a monster.

    1. AMG

      And I’m sure he’d say he wasn’t that bad and that you were overreacting if you blocked him from working at the same employer. People don’t seem to understand how they affect others.

      1. JulesCase

        OP, the fact that you needed to look up your former classmate to see who it was you bullied in this case makes me wonder just how many former classmates you bullied in total.

        I know teens can be mean, thoughtless, and just plain stupid and that should be considered when holding a grudge (I suppose), however bullying can lead kids to depression, anxiety, drug use, and at worst, suicide. I was never bullied in school, however I had a friend who was bullied relentlessly and it made me despise any person who felt the need to bully at all; it truly ruins a persons life during some of the most difficult years of being alive in general. This might sound bad but karma can be a b*tch and the way you feel now is probably 1/100th as horrible as you made that girl feel back in school. Just sayin’.

        1. Laura

          Huh? OP only says that she didn’t realize it was the girl from high school because the former classmate had changed her name – nothing about needing to “look her up.”

          1. Gen

            When OP said she “probably was pretty awful” to the person, it suggested she doesn’t fully remember what she did to her I read it to mean she remembers her as someone from school but not the extent of it. This seems to happen with some bullies, what seems like inconsequential childhood stuff to them lingers with their victims for years. I got a Facebook message from someone once who was excited to reconnect with me. He remembered me as a supportive friend and spoke fondly of the times we spent together- meanwhile I remember him as the bully I had nightmares about until my 20s.

            I don’t think OP should apologise unless they can actually remember the details because “I was probably pretty mean to you” is going to sound like CYA even if they do wait a year or two to reapply. Personally there are few circumstances where I would work directly with one of my bullies and I have moved departments to get away from them in the past.

            1. Just Another HR Pro

              So I actually had this happen to me when I was waiting tables one summer while in college. One of the girls in a group of bullies came in and sat down in my section, and I refused to serve her. So another server took care of her. At the end of the meal, she said something to my coworker about how she didn’t really remember me too well, but does remember that she was really awful to me in school. She was – terrible to me. Physically and emotionally. And while I have moved on to be quite successful (not unlike the target in the OP’s letter), she has not been. My guess is that she still doesn’t know how to treat people.

              As an adult now, I realize there were probably not great things going on in her home life (I assume), or that she felt so bad about herself for whatever reason that she had to lift herself up by making others feel bad. But that doesn’t absolve her of her prior poor treatment.

              So OP – while those of us who were bulled have to live with the scars of the way we were treated as children (and trust me – even with therapy, they never go away), I guess this is your consequence. If you want me to feel bad for you, sorry. And apologizing now would be moot, since you are only doing it for personal gain. The best you can do is raise your kids to be kind and stop the cycle.

              1. seejay

                I totally get that some kids are coming from terrible home lives and are lashing out because of it. Problem is that they’re usually lashing out at other kids that are *also* coming from terrible home lives too and something’s going to crack.

                One of the kids on the bus that attacked my sister and I announced to everyone that our mom was a “drunk” because she’d been spotted at an AA meeting. We were still really delicate and sensitive to this because my mom was about a year sober at the time and we were still trying to grasp the whole drug and alcohol addiction thing that we’d grown up in, which is pretty heavy crap for a 7 year old. When I got home in tears and told my mom about it, I found out that this boy had found out about mom being at AA because *his dad* was at the meeting and told his kid about our mom. So this kid’s dad, who actually wasn’t sober at the time and *was* a drunk, went home and broke someone else’s anonymity, and this kid used it as ammunition to attack us even though our mom wasn’t a drunk since she was sober.. but his dad was a practicing alcoholic at the time. It was clear that he was the one with a pretty messed up home life and he was lashing out because of it, but even knowing this didn’t make it any easier for us to handle his verbal attacks (because we were told, in no uncertain terms, that we were *not* to attack back with “well YOUR dad is the drunk because HE was at the meeting too!” Essentially we had to just suck it up and take it.)

                A lot of the times victims aren’t allowed or able to fight back, bullies know how to pick their targets. They’re coming from backgrounds just as broken as the bully’s and don’t have the venom or stamina to stand up to them.

                1. MadGrad

                  Ugh, that’s awful and I have nothing useful to say but I’m so sorry. The “don’t fight back in the logical way or you’ll be just as bad” can hurt just as badly as any pain nasty people can inflict.

                2. Ruffingit

                  On the not fighting back thing, I love this quote:

                  “Don’t fight hate with hate” is an example of subtle gaslighting, where our legitimate hurt & anger at the injustices we suffer is being equated to the bigotry & abuse of our oppressors. Being angry doesn’t mean you are being hateful, it means you love yourself enough to get upset at your own mistreatment.”

              2. turquoises

                Idk, I think an apology would be appropriate if it includes something along the lines of “I totally respect your desire to not work with me, and I will not reapply as long as you’re still working here.” (I don’t think a 1-2 year wait is enough.) It removes personal gain from the equation, and affirms the boundary that Rockstar drew for her health/sanity.

            2. OP

              Here’s what happened: I’d known this girl since elementary school and had mutual friends in common in middle schools. We started hanging out a lot our sophomore year because my family moved in across the street. She started to call me her best friend, even though I didn’t consider her mine. She also liked a boy in our friend group that I started dating. That made it really awkward, so I decided I didn’t want to be friends with her anymore. It wasn’t my intention to cut her out of the friend group, but that’s what happened. My understanding is she ended up feeling very isolated and alone for the rest of high school. I realize now I could’ve handled it better.

              The last I heard was she was working two states away, and remembering her from back then, she always said she wanted to get the hell out of our city. So it didn’t occur to me that the Lauren Johnson I saw on the staff page could be the Lauren Pumpernickel I knew in high school.

              1. Anonymoose

                Hmm, ya, that does just sort of sound like normal high school drama – unless your circle of friends were incredibly antagonistic to her ‘in your name’. Which doesn’t make it fair for you to take the brunt of it, but that’s why most folks don’t ever want to go back to their high school years. It’s a bitch.

                I hope you’re able to find a new place to work, but I personally would invite her to coffee and just hash it out since it seems to have scarred her pretty badly regardless. Maybe it’ll give her some closure and then you two can easily work in the same industry, who knows.

              2. TL -

                Ooof, that sounds like a bad mix of events and teenage awkwardness that probably just hit her at the right time/spot to really make an impression.

                It doesn’t sound like you were actively bullying her (though I bet she remembers every interaction with you as being quite different than you do) but I don’t think there’s a lot you can do – you can apologize if you’d like; if it’s genuine and specific and you can do it through a non-work channel, I certainly think it’s appropriate.

              3. Observer

                Please stop and think about what you wrote here, and in your letter. You pushed someone out of your social circle because she liked the guy you were dating and you brush that off as “something I said”? Does that even make sense? I’m not calling you a monster, but what you did WAS pretty awful. You’re dismissing it that way makes it even worse.

                Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s the very, very rare person who has never done something wrong. What separates the obnoxious young person from the decent adult is not just changed behavior but the understanding that the old behavior really bad and not to be repeated, rather than the attitude of “eh that’s water under the bridge and not my problem.”

                1. Anonymoose

                  I think you’re overreacting for someone who wasn’t involved in the situation at all. In fact, we could say that the ‘victim’ was just a manipulative shrew, but that doesn’t make it correct. Just as you shouldn’t assume OP was horribly guilty of certain travesty. This is basic high school politics, in which one new friend was not chosen – by a bunch of other people, I might add – to continue with the circle. It sucks, and it happens EVERY DAY, even in adult friendship circles. Dear lord.

                2. Sylvia

                  I’m reading this pretty differently. OP ended a friendship and then the girl left the friend group, feeling alienated from it.

                3. Mary Dempster

                  In highschool if someone liked the guy you were dating and the worst you did was stop talking to her, you are pretty much an angel. Observer is overreacting HARD.

                4. Middle school was aweful

                  Thank you Observer!! As someone who was bullied: I read ‘you like a guy, then all of a sudden not only do you not get the guy, but the girl who gets him also takes all your friends and you’re left all alone.’ And at that terrible age?? I’m literally getting flashbacks. Oh man, i get that it seems unfair, but that a lot of memories the OP’s probably dealing with. The lady who bullied me tried to fb friend request me about a year back, I bellied laughed and (internally) wished her the worst.

                5. AMG

                  Haha not at my school! You got your ass best for that! A guy almost raped me after giving me drugs and when his off-and-on girlfriend found out about it, she was looking for me for weeks. This chick had put someone in the hospital before.

                  Another girl I knew ripped he Rex boyfriend’s new gurlfriend’s hair out while punching her repeatedly.

                  Your experiences aren’t the same as mine, so don’t assume anyone is overreacting.

                6. fposte

                  But, for a variant on a question asked elsewhere, what if the behavior wasn’t really bad and it still scars the recipient? What if you were shy and anxious and finally mustered up the urge to ask out the beautiful girl you liked, being shoved forward by your friend, and she cut you dead without even answering? That would be pretty hard to forgive, but that’s Mary Dempster’s story below from the other side. Was it really bad of her to think this was yet another gotcha and to move away from it?

                7. AMG

                  Oops–OP actually puts more detail into focus on this toward the end of the thread. It was definitely bullying.

                8. Bryce

                  Well, some of these stories put my getting chased halfway across town and egged into perspective.

                9. Observer

                  Look, kfox is not a monster. But, what she describes is definitely “mean girl” behavior, and I would most definitely call it bullying – there is more detail down below.

                  At 17 she wasn’t a child and WAS old enough to know that what she was doing was pushing this other girl out of the social circle. And it most definitely was not a thing she said.

                  And, if “only” pushing someone out of your socials circle for the crimes of being socially awkward, getting too high grades and liking your boyfriend makes you one of the “good ones”, then I’m glad that I never went to a public HS.

              4. Mike B.

                This…doesn’t really sound like bullying. It was unkind of you, sure, and it clearly made her unhappy for some years, but you were a child.

                The answer is essentially the same–there’s nothing much you can do about her feelings when you directly shaped them, even in innocence–but the talk about bullying isn’t really salient in light of this, and some people are being quite a bit more stern than is called for.

                1. Zombii

                  >>This…doesn’t really sound like bullying.

                  Seriously. What the hell. I am seriously side-eyeing that headline right now (although I’m guessing/hoping Alison didn’t have this context because.. wow).

                  This isn’t bullying, this is just some shit that happens when people don’t know how to deal with potentially awkward situations. If OP was actively vicious, that’s a different thing, but fwiw I know grown adults that still hold a grudge against people who “stole him from me in high school when you knew I liked him!“—grown adults who have families and lives and should be over the drama of who went out with who 10 or 20 years ago.

                  I mean, it sucks that Past Friend is blocking OP from a job she’s qualified for, but I don’t know if I’d want to work with someone who has that maturity level. I’d still apologize, because it’s kind to acknowledge that your actions caused someone else pain, and there’s some chance you’ll end up talking about how stupid everyone was in high school and reconcile and it would be good for Past Friend to be able to move beyond this, but I think you may have dodged a bullet here, OP.

                2. Zombii

                  Note: I was the alienated depressive kid in high school who didn’t have a lot of friends. It isn’t bullying to not want to spend time with someone, even though it does definitely mess you up when the other kids don’t want to play with you (because you’re “weird”).

                  There’s a good chance OP’s Past Friend has or is working through the underlying issues and/or has distanced herself from her past and doesn’t want the OP there to be a reminder of one of the shittier times in her life.

                  This doesn’t change anything for the OP, just that’s where I’d be on that side of it.

                3. Annonymouse

                  Maybe not but the sentence “It wasn’t my intention to cut her out of the friend group but it happened anyway.”

                  Is pretty telling.

                  When you’re a teenager your friends are everything to you. To have a crush on someone that’s dating someone else and have that someone else make you a social piraiah at the time when friends mean the most to you would suck.

                  It creates scars and hurt and I am not surprised that the rockstar isn’t a bit afraid of it happening again or at least not willing to work with the person who removed their support system in high school.

                4. AMG

                  Again, everyone is assuming that the OP hasn’t forgotten any details. This page is full of examples of people who forgot how awful they were to others. It doesn’t seem uncommon.

                5. Katie the Fed

                  There’s a very, very good chance OP doesn’t remember a lot of the details. I know we don’t generally doubt an OPs version of events, but studies consistently show that high school bullies really don’t remember the awful things they did – it leaves far more of an impression o their victims.

              5. AMG

                I had a new friend whose boyfriend (Her first real boyfriend) broke up with her after dating from ages 14-16. He asked me out and I accepted. Since it was Sophomore year, we had been to different Junior High Schools (7-9th grade), I didn’t know they had even been dating. Her friends treated me horribly by spreading rumors, threatening me, making fun of me, all in the name of defending her. I was so hurt and confused. She knew it was all happening. We smoothed it over via Facebook a few years ago but one of her friends is STILL rude to me and I have literally never said one word to that friend.

                1. Mary Dempster

                  This reminds me of when I was told I “ruined someone’s life for years.”

                  I was walking down the hallway in middle school, very VERY shy, and some guy was pushing his friend towards me, and he asked me out. I was 100% sure it was a dare, that he was joking, and being mean to ME, so I walked on without saying a word, feeling mortified. Turned out he really was trying to ask me out and I “ruined his life for years” and he had no confidence with women.

                  Some things are NOT bullying and are NOT anyone’s fault. This is one of them.

                2. AMG

                  Actually, My point is that OP should not assume that her friends weren’t being mean to Rock Star, especially when we are talking about high school relationships.

                  And until you have your own entourage of bullies making fun of nearly every moment of your day, I don’t think you can say it isn’t bullying.
                  Your example is wildly different from what I’m talking about.

                3. ArtsNerd

                  Yikes. Mary, I hope you didn’t take that “ruined his life” to heart. (I’m still learning to stop taking responsibility for men’s inability to handle rejection myself….)

              6. chicken_flavored_deodorant

                “It wasn’t my intention to cut her out of the friend group, but that’s what happened.”

                This is a convenient use of the passive voice to gloss over any personal responsibility for events in which you participated.

                Given that the cruelties inflicted upon Lauren Johnson *just happened*, what is there to apologize for? Why was an apology even considered as an option? Would you apologize for a similar unintentional event, like rain on Lauren’s wedding day or a black fly in her chardonnay?

              7. MuseumChick

                Extremely late to the game here but I wanted to add:

                I see two possibilities here, either 1) What you say is 100% accurate and this person is way over-reacting holding a grudge. 2) You were way worse than you remember. Either one is equally possible and I think it would be good to take some time to consider #2.

                No doubt this person would recall the events very differently than you do.

              8. Lee

                Just to let you know…what you did is not bullying. I say this as someone whose been on both sides.
                I’d ignore some of the commentators to this, some people can’t help but project their bad experiences unto this. The world is so much bigger than the mean guy from high school, or the ice queen who froze me out of a group. Perhaps her treatment in high school led her to want to become a “rock star” in her career, whereas general acceptance would’ve committed her to life of mediocrity, who knows?
                I wouldn’t apologize for your actions or feel guilty. She’s married and apparently has a great career. The fact that she can’t let go of decade old high school memories says much more about the kind of person she’s turned into, and I would wash my hands of this person.
                Also…kudos to you for being more concerned with her raw feelings, rather than the fact she’s intentionally ruining your career prospects and potentially bad mouthing you within a niche network.

                1. Jesmlet

                  All we have here is OP’s obviously biased perspective. This girl lost all her friends because of OP, regardless of the intent. To a 16 year old girl, having no friends for 2 years in high school must be pretty devastating. And that’s all just based on OP’s version where she admits she said something and was ‘not nice’ and ‘probably pretty awful’ to this girl. If OP is going to get anywhere with this, she has to look at things from this person’s perspective too, so we should do the same.

                  To OP, I agree with Alison. Apologizing with no ulterior motives is probably your best move here, both for yourself and for the other person. It may or may not help your career but it’s the right thing to do. Even if you think her feelings and actions are unjustified, you can be the bigger person and own up to your part of it. I would strongly recommend putting this company out of your mind though. It’s probably highly unlikely you’d ever get another chance there.

            3. Clewgarnet

              I bumped into somebody from school a few years back. She was thrilled to see me, and happily babbled on about all the happy times she remembered from when we were ‘friends’.

              I was frozen, and all I could think about was how she’d laughed at me for attempting suicide and, “not even succeeding.”

              A lot of bullies really don’t understand just how horrific their behaviour was, and how the effects stick with their victims.

              I would absolutely use all the power I have at my company to stop this woman being hired, and would resign if she was.

              1. Anonymoose

                “I was frozen, and all I could think about was how she’d laughed at me for attempting suicide and, “not even succeeding.””

                Now THAT is bullying. (and I am so so sorry, she was awful! And I am personally glad that you ‘failed’. :) )

            4. Robin B

              Reminds me of that episode of “The Big Bang Theory” where Leonard’s high school tormentor wants to see him. The bully doesn’t have a clue that they were not all just “having a good time” by stuffing Leonard in his locker, etc.

            5. chicken_flavored_deodorant

              I fully agree. The OP purports to have no recollection of what was done or how bad it was. Given that, there really is no point in apologizing. How can you apologize if you don’t know what you did?

              OP doesn’t seem sorry to have done the deed; OP is sorry he/she got caught.

              1. Jesmlet

                You can still apologize for the impact of the behavior without specifically remembering what was said or done. If OP is not sorry as you believe, then the apology will come across hollow and it won’t be worth the time. But if OP was a bully and now no longer behaves that way, then it will be to everyone’s benefit to try and apologize as sincerely as possible, expecting nothing in return.

          2. JulesCase

            My mistake- I interpreted that as OP needing to look up the former classmate in the yearbook or online to see who the person from the past was.

            knowing more now about the situation that occurred, OP’s description and her victim’s reaction at the present time don’t seem to allign; something is off. OP described something that happens practically daily and middle school and high school with groups of friends. The rockstar’s reaction – to threaten resignation if OP were to be hired – suggests that one of them remembers the situation VERY differently from what actually went down.

        2. TL -

          I don’t have strong memories of a lot of high school because I was dealing with some pretty awful stuff at home. I don’t think I bullied anyone (I try to be nice) but if someone told me I had bullied them, my reaction would probably be along these lines – oh, okay; I don’t remember very well but it fits in with the pattern.
          Doesn’t mean I was bullying a plethora of people, just that I wasn’t really thinking about what was happening at school.
          That being said, I do vividly remember the one fight I got in and the one time I accidentally slammed my friend’s fingers in the car door, so it really depends on what the bullying looked like.

          1. Anonymoose

            I still get chills when I think about the bully I beat up in retaliation for trying to bully me and my best friend. If I saw her today? I’d want to scratch her eyes out still. It’s like a predator instinct, and I don’t know why. This is TWENTY years later. Jeebus.

            1. TL -

              Oh, the girl and I made up – it was not a big fight, we mostly shoved each other into a fence. We were over it the next day or so and continued to talk until we graduated.

              The friend whose fingers I slammed in the car I still feel super bad about – it hurt really badly (nothing was broken, thank god) and it was a complete accident, but it was carelessness on my part.

            2. TL -

              Not sure if this is a duplicate but –
              Oh, the girl and I made up – it was not a big fight, we mostly shoved each other into a fence. We were over it the next day or so and continued to talk until we graduated.

              The friend whose fingers I slammed in the car I still feel super bad about – it hurt really badly (nothing was broken, thank god) and it was a complete accident, but it was carelessness on my part.

        3. beetrootqueen

          actually from what i read and my own experiences bullies not recognising their victims is super common. they don’t realise how much they are messing with the other people and when confronted with it often don’t remember their victims. my bully didn’t recognise me and it really shook me up afterwards that they had impacted me so badly but they couldn’t even remember my name

          1. Michael Carmichael

            Yes to this. My bully and I caught up at our 30 year high school reunion – she was overjoyed to see me because her only memories were misty happy recollections of our childhood together despite the truly awful things she did to me.

            I did not bring up the bullying because I knew (1) she had a rotten home life, not that that excuses it, and (2) I saw no reason to continue to see myself as a victim. So we moved on. We won’t be besties, but definitely seeing her and hearing how wonderful she thought our friendship was helped me forgive.

          2. many bells down

            Yeah one of mine recently tried to chat with me on a Facebook post of a mutual friend. She didn’t remember me at all, then she looked at my pictures and said “Oh yeah we did hang out.”

            We never hung out. She harassed me incessantly. She remembers none of it.

          3. Marcy marketer

            Yeah, I agree that OP might not think she “said anything bad” or “encouraged” the friend group to cut out this friend, but that just speaks to me about how bullies don’t realize they are bullying.

            In high school there were a group of girls who made me feel very bad about myself, called me names, made comments about my looks, and always said it in a way that I had to laugh along to. One time a teacher called the ring leader out, and she said “Marcy and I are just joking together. She thinks it’s funny, don’t you Marcy?” And I just had to nod even though I felt horrible inside. This, all because a guy she liked asked me out once. The guy asked me out freshman year and this continued until we graduated.

            I would never in 100 years work with one of these girls. I’d never even go to a reunion because I’d have to see them. But I very much doubt if they remembered this the same way. I bet they didn’t even think it was “bullying,” just typical high school stuff. And maybe it was. But I still don’t want to work with them!

            1. Marcy marketer

              Yeah and just to add to what Seejay said below, it’s not because I hold a grudge or think they’re bad people; it’s because I don’t want the memories stirred up and I’m worried about a power imbalance. I just don’t think we’d be able to have a good working relationship with that history. I actually do remember instances in high school where I in turn made someone feel bad, and took out my insecurities on them, and I feel awful about it, still, and try to be a better person now. So I’m not piling on you, OP, to say you’re “bad” but just to be aware that your behavior in high school is going to affect this person strongly.

          4. Icecreamroll

            It makes me wonder how many of the people who can remember being bullied, may have forgotten or even not realized that they were bullies? Studies have shown that often bullies are bullied, and that bullying is done to those perceived as being similar/equal in stature to the bully. Almost everyone has a story of being bullied; fewer remember times they mistreated others.

        4. detached anon

          OP, the fact that you needed to look up your former classmate to see who it was…

          I understood the OP to mean that she didn’t know this person was a former classmate because her surname had changed & the OP looked up this person’s professional credentials. Many would do the same.

          1. SenatorMeathooks

            Yeah, and I had a graduating class of over 700- in high school with over 3000- so I’m not going to remember everybody.

        5. Katie the Fed

          I’m weighing in super, super late, but –

          Studies have consistently shown that bullies rarely remember bullying people in high school. At best it’s a vague “oh I wasn’t that nice” but it leaves FAR more of an impression on the people who were bullied.

          1. fposte

            Sure, but I don’t think that’s a tell, because it would also be a fair summary of a lot of teenagers. There were some people who managed to be really nice on a fairly consistent basis, but they were not the majority; most of us managed it sometimes and not so much at other times, and some people rarely seemed to manage it at all.

          2. DrAtos

            Absolutely. I remember a SINGLE comment a girl in my high school class made to me that caused a other girls of her “clique” to laugh about. It was a grammatical error I made while making a statement. Of course she and her friends would not remember any of this, but it caused me much embarrassment because I was the poor kid from an immigrant family. I was already self conscious because of my socioeconomic status, and her comment hurt my confidence. A lot of things that the perpetrator considers to be minor or insignificant can cause an impressionable teen to want to curl up and die or go into hiding for the remainder of high school. So it is very likely that what OP considers to be forgivable will haunt OP for the rest of her life even if she is a superstar with a husband now. It appears from all of these comments that high school can either be one of the best or the worst period of a person’s life.

      2. many bells down

        At our 20-year reunion, one of my friends confronted 4 of the people who’d bullied her. 3 apologized, citing various personal issues that had made them lash out at the time. The fourth one said … “Whatever, I don’t remember any of that and anyway it was a long time ago get over it.”

        I didn’t know the names of any of the people she talked to, but I was able to guess who #4 was. Yeah, that sticks with you.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Number 4 frosts me. The correct response is something along the lines of, “I am not clearly remembering all that went on, but I am profoundly sorry for the hurt I have caused you….’

          To me #4 looks like not much has changed.

    2. Nonanon

      Arpai, I went through a lot of bullying as a kid with many resulting years of therapy. As much as I try to forgive and let it go, your comment pretty much sums up exactly my thoughts on those people.

      LW, it sounds like you wouldn’t have given your bullying a second thought if it wasn’t affecting your ability to get what you want. This, to me, sounds like you STILL don’t see your actions as an issue and I don’t blame the employee for never wanting to deal with you again (let alone on a regular basis).

      1. seejay

        yep, I can agree with this. :/ As a target of bullies from most of my grade school and some of my highschool life (I say some, because I managed to figure out how to *avoid* it for the most part, not because the bullies stopped), the victims carry the damage around far longer than many realize. While the bullies move on and probably don’t give their targets a second thought as their lives moved on, victims are stuck with the scars and resulting trauma, sometimes having it manifest in ways they don’t even realize.

        I’ve forgiven some of mine… some that asked, some that didn’t. Some don’t realize they’ve ever had an impact, some have. But you never forget the damage they’ve done, and many of them I wouldn’t let within 50 feet of me ever again. It’s not because of a grudge, but because I don’t want those memories stirred up.

        1. Julia

          This. It would also make me feel terrible to have to work with them because
          a) a part of me feels like they don’t deserve to be successful at work, at least not in my vicinity
          b) I’d have to pretend things were okay if I didn’t want to out myself as a victim (and risk being ridiculed at work for a “childish grudge”
          c) I’d always be anxious about the bully starting to bully again and bringing my co-workers into this or my boss
          d) I don’t need to be triggered with memories of past me just when I made a professional reputation for myself at work.

      2. Amber T

        Yes. I have forgiven my bullies to the extent that I’ve moved on, I’m living a great adult life despite the bullying as a kid, and I don’t think about it or them often. But it would be different if I had to face them every day. OP, whether or not you have truly changed, there’s a good chance that person will always remember you and view you as “the bully,” especially if you’re only trying to make amends for a job.

      3. Just Another Techie

        Yes agreed. I was an unpopular kid in high school and picked on, to varying degrees of severity, by a whole lot of my peers in high school. Some of them, if they ended up working with me now, I’d roll my eyes but put on a professional face and roll with it. Others, I absolutely would threaten to quit over.

        LW, this woman (she’s not a “girl” anymore, she’s an adult woman) has a great job. She’s won awards at her company. She has the respect and very likely also the admiration of her peers and her management. Even if she is a rock star in the field who could get hired anywhere, picking up sticks and starting over in a new employer is hard work with a lot of risk (what if the new employer has some kind of horrifying work culture that isn’t apparent at interview time? or just has That One Guy Who Always Farts In Meetings?) Believe me, no one would threaten to throw away a known good job over something minor. However you view your interactions with her, she sees them as a Very Big Deal, the kind she’d be willing to upend her entire life to avoid dealing with.

        1. bess marvin

          +1 completely agree.
          Former middle- and high-school bullies have friended me on facebook, sending casual messages. I assume they have forgotten the extent of their behaviour. I wouldn’t want to hang out with them, but I’m not sure I’d quit my job over their hiring.

          If your former bully is willing to QUIT HER ROCKSTAR JOB rather than work in the same company with you, you might consider trying a little harder to remember your interactions with her before you pen any apologies? I’d expect the old “If I somehow offended you…” probably won’t cut the mustard.

          1. Erin

            You’d probably piss her off more now that she knows you applied to where she works and are only apologizing to get on her good side. It will totally come across as disingenuous. Leave her alone, let her enjoy her success.
            If I were her I’d use the opportunity of you apologizing to tell you off.

        2. Katie the Fed

          There’s also just a weirdness to having high school find you in your current adult job. I was socially awkward and rather picked-on in high school. A few years ago I rounded a corner at a government office and found myself face to face with someone from high school. She was so pleasant and nice, and had never been mean to me i high school, but I just wanted to curl up and die. WORLDS COLLIDING. It was like the threat of being outed as the socially awkward, nerdy friendless person I used to be would come back :(

          1. Julia

            I would totally have the same reaction. I mean, I’d also hope that I could show (off) my super professional persona then, but probably, I’m just be an anxious mess.

          2. Bryce

            I live next to my old college campus, they have a great relationship with the neighborhood and some nice places to walk even if you’re not an alum, but it takes a lot of willpower to set foot on there. Things got pretty dark at the time, and being there beings all the old mentality flooding back. It’s an understandable reaction.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I agree. I don’t mean to be harsh because I think it’s valuable and important that OP wrote this letter and understands that they were “not a nice person.” (Jessie notes this downthread, too, and I agree with her that this framing is pretty dismissive).

        That said, OP, I’m worried you’re minimizing what happened. The references to being “not a nice person” and then saying you were “probably pretty awful” to that employee but that you shouldn’t be “blacklisted” for something you did when you were 17 comes across as not fully acknowledging or understanding that you made someone so miserable that they would rather leave their (successful) job than work in the same company as you. And it also shows that although OP has forgotten all “awful” things they did to this person, they didn’t think much of it at the time or after. Meanwhile, the employee still carries the experience with her, years later.

        Like Alison, I think declining to hire OP depends on how terrible OP’s prior conduct was. Did you TP her locker? Ok, maybe not that bad. Did you harass her verbally or physically, ostracize her, or otherwise treat her cruelly? Then I’m 100% ok with blacklisting you. As everyone else has noted, I would have serious misgivings about working anywhere with someone who had bullied me or with someone who I had seen bully others, especially if I thought that that person was now making apologies for to benefit their own selfishness (i.e., trying to get a coveted job instead of actually regretting/atoning for what they did).

        I think this is a good opportunity for introspection and on whether it makes sense to make amends, not only to this woman, but also to anyone you may have harmed/impacted in high school. Not because you want a job down the road, but because it’s the right thing to do to be a decent human.

        1. Blaine

          Perfect comment. I’d take this as a staggering lesson of your effect on others in your youth and work to make amends to anyone you may have bullied. I hope the change of bullying behavior was due to deep introspection and working to change. But your language suggests possibly not in which I suggest check-in with your current behavior towards others. What you believe you may have grown out of could just be existing in another form.

          This is a karmic present wrapped in a bow essentially.

        2. NW Mossy

          I’d add that the OP also has to be comfortable with the fact that in some situations, amends are not possible. Lack of specific memory of the harm done is a major barrier; the severity (either objective or experienced by the victim) of the harm done is another.

          It doesn’t mean that one can’t apologize for one’s own benefit, but apologies are more likely to result in either a negative or null response more than they are a positive one, generally speaking.

        3. OP

          I’ve been trying to chime in here, but I’m not seeing my replies. Not sure if they’re getting eaten by the moderation system. The situation was basically this was a girl I’d known all through elementary/middle school and we got close sophomore year when my family moved into the house across the street from her family. We started to spend a lot of time together, and she began to refer to me as her best friend, but I wasn’t hers. I started dating a guy she liked and stopped hanging out with her. I kind of took the friend group with me, and my understanding now is that she ended up feeling very alone for the rest of high school. I realize now, 12 years later, I absolutely could’ve handled it better, but I’d never ended a friendship before.

          1. Marillenbaum

            Okay, when you phrase it like that, it does sound as though the title of this piece overstates the case somewhat. At the same time, I can understand (from having been on the outs socially in high school and beyond) how devastating it can be, and how even if something might not seem “that bad”, can still hurt enough to make working with that person a non-starter.
            OP, I would probably give up on applying to this company; from what you’ve said, it sounds like a non-starter. If you apologize, it should be with the knowledge that it won’t change things at this company. It sucks, but it just is how it is for now, and setting your sights (and your search) elsewhere seems like the wisest move.

              1. Annonymouse

                I would.

                She turned someone into a social outcast because they had a crush on her guy.

                Whether OP meant to or not they caused a lot of damage and I’m sure there was a bit of “pick me or her” going on or at least no effort to include her in things that OP wasn’t involved in.

                That’s not something to be taken lightly.

              2. -Anonymous For This Post-

                I would 100% want to know the details of how OP “stopped hanging out with her” before I’d be willing to say if I saw it as bullying or not.

                When I was in the 9th grade I had a friend who I had been close to since 7th grade abruptly drop our friendship. When I called to invite her to come hang out because I missed her and didn’t realize that our friendship had been ended she told me that, and I quote, “That’s never going to happen again. You’re so fat that it’s embarrassing all of us to be seen with you.” Because she was the leader of our group of friends everyone else fell in line and I spent from December to the following October friendless, scared, and depressed. (It’s also worth noting that at the age of 14 I was probably tipping the scales at a whopping 150 lb.)

                I’m not nearly as successful as Rock Star is (and I heartily salute her!) but if that girl showed up in my life I wold 100% freak out and not want anything to do with her. If I were in a position to block her being hired and working in a position where I would have to interact with her I would do so in a heartbeat. And I’m also 100% sure that she could and probably would describe our friendship “breakup” in terms as neutral as the OP is using.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Just FYI, the title of the post is from the OP’s email to me, so that was her characterization (not me inadvertently making it sound worse than she intended it to sound!).

              1. Zombii

                Didn’t see this before I commented above, thanks for clarifying.

                I’m kind of horrified by how this was framed though: I know “A High School Classmate Got Me Blacklisted From My Dream Job” isn’t as pithy and won’t bring in the page views like anything that mentions bullying, but I wonder how the comments would have played out if the phasing was less click-bait-y. :(

                (You’re not click-bait-y Alison and I love your site but I hate polarizing terms being applied to every damn thing to shut down conversations that are uncomfortable.)

          2. Wendy Darling

            I’d be really interested to hear her version of those events, because that doesn’t sound like something so crushing that someone would quit their job to avoid you. I suspect the two of you have drastically different perspectives on what happened.

            1. Observer

              I’m sure that the victim DOES have a vastly different view. There are two things that make me say this. Firstly, it’s quite possible to stop hanging so much with a person and not wind up cutting that person out of the entire friend group. So, you have to wonder just what really happened there. Secondly, even in this description this is STILL a lot more that a comment or two (ie “something she said”) and the fact that she was only 17 at the time isn’t really a “get out of jail free” card.

              That tells me that the OP’s perspective on this is probably a whole lot rosier than the other person’s and probably rosier than an outside observer might conclude as well.

              1. Holy Carp

                I have to admit that I’m confused at the OP writing in the original letter “I wasn’t a very nice person back then, and I probably was pretty awful to this girl” and following it up with “I started dating a guy she liked and stopped hanging out with her. I kind of took the friend group with me, and my understanding now is that she ended up feeling very alone for the rest of high school.”
                The first says she was likely engaging in bullying behavior and the latter is mere high school drama.
                It can’t be both, and if there is truth to the first statement, then OP shouldn’t apologize at all until she has worked that out otherwise the apology is going to be very insincere. As I stated much further down, this could be a time where some honest self-reflection is in order.

                1. fposte

                  Or it could be valid self-reflection that she was an unpleasant kid to some people and could have been nicer to this maybe lonely and anxious girl across the street, and that today she’d have extricated herself from the situation in a way that wasn’t so hard on her former friend. If she’d phrased things the other way around I don’t think we’d have struggled with it; we’d just say that she might be being too hard on herself. I think commenters sometimes have a hard time imagining a letter writer being too hard on themselves.

                2. DrAtos

                  The truth is probably found somewhere between those two statements. At first I thought, well, this doesn’t seem like bullying. But alienating someone, making her feel like nothing, turning an entire group of friends against her, and saying bad things about her to said friends and others is a form of bullying. High school drama can cause a person to commit suicide or seek years of therapy. Feeling alone and knowing that others think you are a freak and are talking about you behind your back could even make an adult feel depressed and inadequate. There is no other time that a person wants to fit in more than in middle school and high school.

            2. KTZee

              Seconding this. There is a woman out there in the world somewhere who would might tell a very similar “side of the story” about what she did to me in 7th grade… but my experience of those events involved being ostracized and bullied horribly by every friend I had (never having been especially popular to begin with) and a ongoing anxiety and self-doubt about every friendship I’ve had since then, even now that I’m in my 30s.

              1. ElizaT

                Oh my goodness KTZee , this is exactly me. 7th grade, ostracized by the whole class and bullied by every friend and now ongoing anxiety and self doubt even now that I’m 30. Whenever I see the main bully out and about or her profile pops up as a suggested friend on social media my blood runs cold and all the feelings of being small and worthless come rushing back. From what I’ve seen I am pretty certain she’s grown in to a much kinder and positive person and I even think we share a lot of the same values, but I would never be able to work with her – it’s not about personal vendetta, I just would feel way too vulnerable in that environment.

          3. Ask a Manager Post author

            Someone recently asked me if I’ve ever gotten info from a letter-writer in the comments that changes my stance on the letter. This is one of those cases. This sounds more like relatively common high school friendship dynamics than bullying, and I can see more clearly why this feels unfair to you.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              To Wendy Darling’s point above, I do think it’s worth considering what her perspective might be and that there are probably details you’re forgetting (some of which might be worse than you’re remembering). But this is different than what I’d been thinking originally.

              1. AMG

                Right. If there are that many people in the world who abuse another person and don’t even remember it, much less recall being friends with their target, it really makes me wonder what happened that the OP may have forgotten. Especially with the Rock Star drawing such a hard line.

                1. Karen D

                  I dunno. I have been on both sides of this dynamic. I’ve had the friendcrush and been slapped down, and I’ve BEEN the friendcrush and wondered what I could possibly do without hurting the person who wanted something I didn’t want to give. My memory of the latter situation is that I tried really hard to be kind. I wonder how the other girl remembers it.

                  There’s a possible alternative explanation for Rockstar’s behavior – that she doesn’t want to acknowledge her own culpability in trying to force OP into a friendship she didn’t feel and needs to remember OP as the villain. Often that scenario produces more strongly negative feelings, because she doesn’t want to confront the reality of who OP is and who she always was, and in so doing unravel her own persecution story.

                  I’m not saying it’s likely, just possible.

                2. AMG

                  Fair enough–I think we are on the same page where there seems to be a gap in how both people are remembering that same event, and it’s very unclear as to what the reason is.

              2. AGirlCalledFriday

                I’m not so sure. I’m a teacher, and I’ve seen this sort of thing before. Usually what happens is that the girls gang up on the one girl they’ve decided to stop being friends with for whatever reason, and they talk about her, spread rumors, ignore her, and otherwise make her life pretty terrible. I’ve never, ever seen a case where one girl decides not to be friends, the other girls agree, but there’s no bullying. To take the friend group away is actually a form of bullying and it creates a very ‘us vs her dynamic which leads to more bullying. I can absolutely believe this woman blames you for a miserable time in high school.

                I think, whether or not she means to, the OP is minimizing the situation.

                1. Not So NewReader

                  I’m with you on this one so far. Maybe something down thread will change my thinking…

                2. Janey

                  I don’t think people who haven’t experienced or seen this happen understand how it really goes. It starts with ‘I’m not her friend anymore’. Which really means, you can choose her or me, for everything. No one wants to be cut out, so they have to ‘prove’ they’re siding with bully. So then it’s laughing as she passes in the hall, sneering and turning away in the cafeteria. Making fun of her clothes, snickering if she drops a pencil, etc. Nobody wants that to fall on them, so making a new friend is almost always out. And knowing every single day is another horrible, painful, endurance test until you can finally get out of there for good. Then they say ‘we didn’t even say anything to her, how’s that bullying?’

                3. ArtsNerd

                  I hope when you see this happen, you try to give the kids resources on navigating such difficult social circumstances as “I don’t want to keep hanging out with you.”

                  I’ve been ditched as a friend, and I’ve done the ditching. Mostly, my sisters ditched me as a play companion while my parents kept reinforcing the idea that conflict or difficult discussions of any kind are bad.

                  Understanding how to say “I’m not into this” or would have, quite literally, changed my life.

                4. shep

                  Similarly to ArtsNerd, I’ve been both ditched and done the ditching. My friend circle was relatively drama-free (and we were all very proud, certified nerds), so there was just a kind of phasing out that happened.

                  And letters. I had at least two girls write me letters about how much I had “changed” from one year to the next (separate years, btw, so I don’t think there was one cataclysmic event aside from puberty and its subsequent trajectory that was at playu).

                  One girl was someone I had been trying to distance myself from for years, so it was a relief. The other seemed to come out of nowhere and stung pretty badly. (I have a suspicion it might’ve been over a boy that she’d, in our admittedly ridiculous high school way, had “given me permission” to date.) As an extension of that, one of our mutual friends also phased me out. I wasn’t as close to her, but I found out when we all started college that she’d said something along the lines of, “Yeah, Shep’s just not the type of person I want to be friends with,” and also made minor fun of me behind my back when we’d had classes together in high school.

                  Made me feel retrospectively like an idiot, because I’d occasionally ask if she wanted to get together on campus or go for coffee or something. I didn’t realize all the while she was holding me in contempt… :/

                  I think I could’ve handled all of it better–the ditching and being ditched. BUT. My core group of friends never changed. If that had been taken away from me, that definitely would’ve been very difficult. There’s nothing worse than feeling alone in high school.

                5. New hiring manager

                  THIS. In 8th grade, my friend group decided, in one day, that they didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. I’m sure, looking back, all they remember is that we stopped being friends that year. What I vividly remember, however, are lunches spent crying, alone; them telling everyone I had horse hair and not to touch me; and them convincing half our grade that I wasn’t to be befriended. So I’m hesitant to just write this off as no big deal.

              3. Wendy Darling

                Even if the LW isn’t forgetting anything, I can imagine circumstances where from where the LW was sitting it looks as they described, but from the bully-ee’s (can that be a word?) perspective it looked something like “LW stole my boyfriend and then made my entire friend circle turn against me. Because of what LW said about me I was a pariah for the entire rest of high school.”

                To the LW it sounds like this was not a big deal at the time, but to the person on the receiving end it may have been a huge, defining experience — it sure sounds like it was since they’d rather quit their job than have to see the LW every day! I’m not saying the LW is trying to mislead or is wrong at all, but people can have VASTLY different experiences of the same events.

                1. Jen S. 2.0

                  Agree. I’m sure OP sort of knew it wasn’t fun for ex-friend, but…she ended up with a bunch of friends *and a boyfriend,* so she really didn’t have time to worry about it, and quickly and conveniently forgot all about how she got to the top of the heap.

                  Ex-Friend did not forget how that went down. At all.

                  (This reminds me of the old “yadda yadda yadda” from Seinfeld. People gloss over a LOT with one vague sentence. “I started dating this dude she liked, yadda yadda yadda, and then we weren’t really friends.” Um…what happened there?)

                2. Jen S. 2.0

                  …and, Ex-Friend had to watch OP be Miss Social Butterfly with all of Ex-Friend’s former friends and her crush. Both at school and from across the street. Ouch.

              4. CB212

                I think the characterization of the situation in some of OP’s subsequent posts (as Kfox) put it in a more familiar context of one girl being deliberately frozen out of the social group, to a point where at the end of high school she doesn’t have a graduation party because none of her former friends would come. And since OP seems to have been the driver of that isolation, I think ‘bullying’ is a pretty fair label. OP claims to have been unaware of how successful she was in excluding the girl, but also admits she knew she had gotten everyone to hang out with her and not with Rockstar, and that indeed nobody would have gone to Rockstar’s graduation party, so there’s some dissembling at play here.

            2. Natalie

              Do you have any additional advice? It seems more unfair to me, but still not actually changeable, but I wonder if there’s a manager perspective I’m missing.

              1. Annonymouse

                The only advice would be “try to change person you bullied mind to want to work with you”

                Which isn’t going to happen.

                It sounds like OP wouldn’t have thought about this person or their actions or reflected on it if it wasn’t an inconvenience for them.

                The best you can do is apologise sincerely for your past exact actions and then let this company go.

                You’re not getting hired while she works there and it sounds like she has no reason to leave.

          4. turquoises

            That’s sad that things went so pear-shaped, but I think the best apology you can give her would be to respect the boundary that she’s set.

            So if you want to send her a message, I think it would be best to include something along the lines of “I totally respect your desire to not work with me, and I will not reapply.” It takes personal gain out of the equation, and proactively assures her that she won’t have to worry about you testing the boundary, trying to get a foot in the door, etc.

          5. Long Time Consultant, First Time Commenter

            OP I don’t understand how everyone is agreeing with you that what you did was normal high school drama. To this girl, you upended her whole high school life- her crush, her friends, and you lived across the street from her. It may not have been intentionally cruel on your part but I’m not surprised she doesn’t want or trust bringing you back into her circle at work – she’s prbly afraid you’ll swoop in and “steal” everyone again.

            1. fposte

              Because both of those things can be true. It can be normal high school drama and still be devastating.

              I don’t know what the OP actually said and did and what the other girl felt, of course, and I definitely think there’s the possibility that she was pretty mean–but there’s also the possibility that she wasn’t. It’s funny that so much of Captain Awkward is about your absolute right to detach yourself from people you no longer wish in your life, and that’s generally perceived as the kinder, gentler site compared to this one, while today we seem to be coming down hard on the OP for not staying friends with somebody. So are we saying in high school that doesn’t apply and you have to stay friends with people? What did other people do if somebody wanted to hang out with them and they didn’t want to–did they go anyway, and do they think that’s what everybody should do? What ways did people rebuff friendships that would be acceptable?

              1. Katie the Fed

                I don’t think many of us have the social skills in junior high/high school to end a friendship without drama. Even our best efforts may blow up in our faces.

                OP may have been gentle about it and the woman may have had poor coping skills. There’s really no way to know for sure, as you’ve pointed out.

                1. fposte

                  It’s made wonder if I’m somebody’s bully in memory, since my friends group changed and I didn’t always hang with people who wanted to hang with me. I think we all tend to remember the rejections we got better than the rejections we gave.

              2. Paul

                Yep. I am a little shocked tbh. I’m also weirded out by people acting like not hanging out with someone is equivalent to sabatoging a job search.

              3. Junior Dev

                This is bugging me too. I had a stalker in high school who I’m sure is still telling people I ruined his life by rejecting him. It doesn’t sound like the exact same situation, but I’m unsettled by how some people here seem convinced that ending a friendship is bullying.

                1. Annonymouse

                  You chose not to hang out with one person.

                  You didn’t take all their friends away and force them to be a social outcast.

                  I’ve ended friendships but not sabotaged their relationships with mural friends.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  Uh, your experience is not anywhere near comparable. There’s no indication that Rock Star was stalking OP or engaging in some other kind of criminal behavior. You’re saying someone in your life who terrorized you is analogous to someone who lost the person they thought was their “best friend” along with their entire friend group. That doesn’t wash. Avoiding your stalker is in no way the same as ending a friendship, which, depending on how it was ended, can absolutely be a form of bullying.

              4. Not That Simple.

                A teacher up thread explained that she’s never seen this stop at just ending a friendship.

                She was saying that every single time she’s seen it happen, one girl is evicted by the group bully, the other girls go along with it, and the girl essentially stays isolated for the rest of the year / time at school, because no-one wants to go against the bully.

              5. LJL

                Precisely. I was reflecting on what happened to me in high school: bullying, ostracism, typical high school girl stuff. The events aren’t so bad when they are told baldy on their own, but the effect and the vindictiveness behind it still leave scars.

                One of my major social bullies is now a vet in my town. Although it was typical high school girl BS, I will NOT take my pets to her. Silly, maybe. But it still stings and I can’t trust her.

          6. nonegiven

            You took the friend group with you. That pretty much is admitting you were the leader of the ‘mean girls’ and left this girl without friends by cutting her out. Anything anyone of your group did or said that wasn’t nice, even looking away when she walked into a room, is on you in her mind.

          7. ..Kat..

            I think you are still minimizing your behavior. You first refer to what you did as something you said. Right. If it was really so minimal, this other woman would not be threatening to quit over it.

        4. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

          I think it’s worth noting that OP says, “I don’t think I deserve to be blacklisted for something I said when I was 17” and also mentions “I’m in my late 20s” but says, “She graduated from college early and has awards people who’ve worked in our industry twice as long haven’t won.”

          It’s been ten years since the bullying happened. Rock star classmate went from a miserable high school experience where she was bullied to a college that clearly understood her and supported her enough for her to graduate early. Classmate is thriving, winning awards in an industry that isn’t used to recognizing young talent. Classmate rose above the actions of the OP who bullied and put her down. She survived, and unless OP has made amends that don’t benefit her, there’s nothing she can do that will change Classmate’s opinion. It would be worthwhile to offer an apology and acknowledge that while it may seem self-serving to apologize, you do mean it genuinely.

          I think OP also needs to consider that if this industry is small, it’s possible that this company’s blacklist could extend. If Classmate is on a national board, there may be repercussions on other levels.

          1. SleepyMel

            what if OP got the job after all…this Rockstar could make their life miserable. At the very least it would be awkward. OP should move on and chalk the loss up to baddish karma, learn from this and find a different opportunity.

      5. Lily in NYC

        Yeah, that’s what’s bugging me – the apology needs to be sincere and not just a way to get an interview. Even if it is sincere, I don’t think the employee will see it that way. I know I wouldn’t.

        1. 42

          Exactly. I wonder if the OP has ever given the person she bullied even one single thought since HS. Or had any moments of introspection in the years since HS.

          As someone upthread perfectly said: OP, move on from this company. And if you ever have children of your own, raise them to be good people…that’ll be the best penance for your past behavior.

        2. Oscar Madisoy

          “Even if it is sincere, I don’t think the employee will see it that way. I know I wouldn’t.”

          Exactly. If I was the rockstar in this situation and the OP came to me with an apology, my reply would be: “I don’t believe you. Why did you want until now to apologize? If you were truly remorseful, you would have gotten in touch with me earlier, when you didn’t have anything to gain from it.”

          1. Annonymouse

            Yeah, the only way to spin it as sincere is “Until now I had no idea how badly my actions had hurt you. I had thought it was regular high school drama but I can now see it was so much more for you and I am truly sorry.”

            Also add you respect her feelings and won’t reapply there to round it out.

            1. SleepyMel

              What’s funny is how convinced many high schoolers are that they will not be affected by the consequences of their behavior after school ends. So often the “nerds” rise up to become captains of their industry. Many of the socially awkward types I went to school with are now working for companies like Microsoft and Google- making major money while the socially dominant types are still scratching their heads about what happened, or posting on the internet about whether they should beg forgiveness. The moral of the story here is that you treat people decently on the way UP , on the way DOWN and every which way in between. Not just for the value of being a good person- that is just career survival advice.

            2. dappertea

              I’m not sure if I agree with this. I understand the sentiment behind it, but without the bullied party having more context, this could read like it’s still putting the onus on the bullied party in maybe an “I didn’t think twice about it, but clearly you’re still obsessed with it, and I’m sorry about that kind of way” (this is obviously an extreme and cold version, but it illustrates how the other party might still be offended/unwilling to forgive because it could come off as dispersion of blame for their situation now). I think she would have to also address that she’s sorry about the lack of thought she had given the situation in general without making it about how the other girl has held onto for so long.

      6. Artemesia

        This. It isn’t unfair that a bully can’t get what he wants. It is the magnificent karma of the Universe that is sadly so little in evidence. People can block the hiring of an ex just because he is an ex, which is a lot less ‘fair’ than this, but it isn’t always about fairness. Businesses have the right to preserve the comfort of their high performing employees over choosing someone they can’t work with. The OP should hope that he doesn’t have former victims scattered throughout the industry he hopes to prosper in.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Even as adults the way we treat people can come back and haunt us decades later. And that is a fact of life. I remember being 17, I thought I was all grown up. So did most of my peers, they thought they were pretty much grown up. OP, she remembers you as an “almost adult”, just like herself at that time. She has no reason to believe you have changed. She does know that she has worked like heck to get where she is and she had to overcome a lot to do it.
          She has finally found a place and a group who accept her. Let her have that. You had your turn at that and now you have to go find your own group of new people, just like she did.

          The irony is not lost on that it was okay for her to have to find all new friends ten years ago, but now that you want into her group, it’s different somehow.

          Sometimes the best way to get people’s forgiveness is to just leave them alone.

      7. Sami

        Not defending the OP’s actions in HS but I rarely think of people I’m not actually friends with. I was never bullied and definitely wasn’t a bully but if the two aren’t friends (obviously) why would the OP be thinking about this woman? Especially since the woman has a different name.

        1. Amber T

          That’s just it. Bullies can forget who they victimized, but those that were bullied don’t forget who bullied them.

          1. blackcat

            It’s possible.

            Apparently, a guy in high school tried to ruin my life. He reached out to apologize when we were 22ish. I had ZERO memory of what he recounted, though I had filed him away as an “asshole I never want to see again.” I checked with friends. They remember him being an asshole–as did I–and they confirmed some of what he recounted. But my friends and I thought that he was just kind of a ass to a lot of people, and we ignored him. Though he had thought he had particularly targeted me, I didn’t feel that way.

            I suppose he was an ineffectual bully. But he was a bully.

        2. sunny-dee

          And (in defense of the name thing), this woman could have a common first name. If I knew a Jennifer Smith in high school and then met a Jennifer Adams 10 years later, there’s no way I would connect the two without some other identifying trait.

        3. Annonymouse

          But OP states in a comment above that this person regarded OP as their best friend then OP cut them out of their friend group when OP started dating a guy they both liked.

          So there are those optics to consider.

      8. sam

        I was bullied by a teacher in elementary school. I’m 43 years old now, and I still have nightmares about her. As well as elaborate revenge fantasies.

        I mean, she’s probably dead, and almost certainly retired, but I still fantasize about walking into her classroom, knocking everything off of her desk, and forcing her to clean it up in front of her entire classroom.

        This is something she used to do to me because my desk wasn’t perfectly neat. I ran into an old classmate years later, and apparently she did this to lots of kids, which I honestly didn’t remember – I just remembered the abject humiliation of having to sit on the floor in the middle of class and have to pick up all of my books and papers – it’s funny how memories work.

        (This was just one of many things she would do)

          1. Detective Rosa Diaz

            Omg I had a teacher do this to me too! She was a nun and she did it to lots of people. Woman of God ….

        1. anon for this

          One of my primary school teachers used to get my school bag, empty the contents on my desk, go through it and comment on it in front of the whole class. Almost every day. I also have nightmares and revenge fantasies.

        2. many bells down

          Oh gosh I had a teacher in 5-6 grades that would also dump the entire contents of my desk on the floor and then yell at me to clean it up. I’m a pile-filer, my desk was always full of papers but I knew where everything was.

        3. Dust Bunny

          Dude, I think I had this woman! Shamed me for being disorganized. In first grade. I was Asperger’s (undiagnosed; this was the early 1980s) and depressed.

    3. Michele

      Ugh. The sexual harassment that I endured in junior high because of my breasts. I have to be honest, when I heard that the guy was in a horrible motorcycle accident, I felt like it was karma.

      1. Wendy Darling

        My elementary-middle school bully’s mom and my mom are friends and keep in touch. Which is how I hear about things like my bully being sued into a smoking crater for stealing from her job. I feel quite smug about her misfortunes. (Especially since she wasn’t a bully because she had home issues or low self-esteem — she was a bully because her parents literally taught her she was better than other people. How’s THAT point of view going for ya?)

    4. Elizabeth West

      My bullying wasn’t this bad, thankfully, though it was pretty awful. But it would depend on who it was–there are some people I went to school with who grew up and are perfectly nice now, and some I don’t ever want to see again. I wouldn’t mind working with the former but probably not the latter.

      And the fellow student who raped me in college? No f*cking way.

      1. Elizabeth West

        On the other hand, I was also mean to another little girl–I turned around and did the same thing to her that other kids did to me. That’s no excuse, and if you’re reading this, Dana, I’m sorry. I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t want to work with me either, even though we haven’t seen each other in over thirty years.

        1. KimmieSue

          Elizabeth – Thanks for sharing. I’m sorry that you had those experiences. I hope Dana reads this!

    5. Bad Candidate

      Yeah I tend to agree. There was one gal who maybe wasn’t as bad as your bully, but she was horribly mean to her. She commented on a mutual friend’s Facebook status the other day and it made my skin crawl. I would not want to work with her at all. And TBH I don’t think I’d believe her if she ever apologized.

      1. Wendy Darling

        If my bully apologized that would be nice but I still never want to see her stupid face ever again as long as I live. I’m not really upset about it, I don’t normally think about her unless my mom tells me something about her or the subject of bullying comes up. But there’s really not an apology that can cover over a decade of systematic mistreatment. I could be glad she was sorry but the best thing she can do for me is never come to my attention as long as either of us lives.

        1. Not So NewReader

          I got a written apology from my bully. I said, “Yep, okay, forgiven. Now if you really mean that stay out of my life for the rest of our days.” It’s been decades and she has. Very wise of her, I’d say. She got that part right.

          Look at it this way, OP. Someone runs a red light and center punches your vehicle. You end up with broken bones and a wrecked car. Time passes you get another car. More time passes and your bones heal. But maybe they don’t line up straight like they should. You decide not to have cosmetic surgery to fix the misalignment.
          While you forgive the person for hitting you, you remember that accident every time you look at your misaligned self in the mirror. And you remember again on rainy days when those formerly broken bones still ache.

          While it is possible for our bodies or our minds to reweave/reknit, there is still some residual damage that we will carry for the rest of our lives.

          1. Julia

            This. You’ll become wary of red lights, of other drivers… And if you ever saw that person on the street again, you’d probably have a panic attack.

            1. Batshua

              Or a car that looks like the one that hit you. Or a person who looks like the one whose car hit you. Or the intersection where you got hit, or one similarly arranged…

    6. Green Goose

      Yeah, there are two people from my high school that were particularly cruel to me and I have actually had nightmares that they were hired at my job. As an adult, I am not easily intimidated by others and get along with most people I meet but I have been reduced to a ball of nerves when I’ve seen either of them since graduation or even if they randomly come up in conversation.
      Even though its been a long time, I felt traumatized by them and I could see it impacting my work if they started at my company and I would definitely have brought it up to a hiring manager.

    7. Tracey Campion

      OP thinks she doesn’t deserve to be blacklisted for “something she said when she was 17”. I seriously doubt it was one thing she said – bullies rarely strike just once. This is the way it goes. Your actions have consequences. It may feel unfair to the OP; I’ll bet it felt painfully unfair to those she tormented in her youth. They did nothing to deserve her abuse; but she did do something to deserve the treatment she’s getting now.

  2. Bookworm

    I can think of one person from high school who I would be unwilling to work with every day. However, that would change if they expressed to me what felt like a sincere apology and with an understanding of how their behavior was hurtful.

    OP, if you go that route, I would suggest running your apology by few people before sending (preferably someone who’s willing to be hard on you, not someone who always defaults to your side). Also, remember apologies are stronger if they make no excuses or defenses for the behavior.

    1. VroomVroom

      Yea, per my comment below – I had a group of mean girls in high school. If they apologized now as adults, I’d be glad they’re not still a sh*tty person, but I wouldn’t want to work with them still.

    2. Cambridge Comma

      I’d make a big distinction between those who were bullies at 12–13 and those who were bullies at 17, though. 17 is so close to adulthood that it would seem reasonable to believe that that is the person’s character rather than just a phase.

      1. VroomVroom

        Yea – TBH I was kind of a mean girl to a girl in my class in middle school. But, she was really in my face about how I was a ‘prep’ and had ‘money’ and all this stuff (maybe I dressed like that but I didn’t have money. I was just a shy goody-two-shoes). I remember I wrote her a note one day that I was anonymous in and told her that she was a know it all and everyone wanted her to be quiet all the time.

        I happen to know she was super poor, one of 10 kids and her dad was never home/a drunk. I shouldn’t have done that, but it also didn’t happen in a vacuum – she goaded me into it (and honestly I felt kind of upward bullied). I don’t think she ever knew it was me, but I still feel like it was a bad thing to do.

        I also in elementary school was besties with another little girl, and then when we went to middle school I we drifted apart. I suppose I was kind of rude to her at times, but never outright mean… but I still felt like crap about it because the friends I drifted towards were considered ‘cool’ vs. hers were not (see my other comments… even ‘cool’ kids get bullied and have mean girls… per my other comments). I sent her an email a few years ago when she facebook friended me and apologized and she was totally like… I don’t even remember you being mean and you don’t have anything to apologize for.
        BUTT – I think I’m sensitive to things like that because I was also bullied by some mean girls in middle and high school.

        1. Bookworm

          Oh, I had a group of girlfriends in the sixth grade and we all alternated being mean to each other for about a year. In a way, I think it was sort of practice for interpersonal conflict. But it faded by high school…And every one of those girls turned out to be a kind adult.

          I agree that I’d have more skepticism about a 17-year-old’s actions.

          1. Anon today...and tomorrow

            I’m the mom of a sixth grade girl and fifth grade boy…them being bullied or being bullies themselves is one of my biggest fears right now. This past weekend my daughter had her first ever slumber party and I would only let her invite 3 girls. She didn’t invite one of her usual crew, which surprised me. Apparently the girl has started to be a bit mean and nasty. I was proud of my daughter for two reasons. The first was that she didn’t want to expose her other friends to that behavior and the second was – the girl who wasn’t invited found out about the party and called my daughter. She asked why she wasn’t invited and my daughter told her “I love you but lately you’ve been mean to me and to a lot of other people in front of me. I think for right now, until you can stop being so mean, we have to hang out in smaller groups.” The girl actually was shocked that she was coming off as mean. She asked for an example, which my daughter provided. The girl thought she’d been funny, not mean and was honestly shocked that it didn’t translate as funny. She said she would pay more attention to that. It was a fairly grown up conversation between two 12 year olds.

            1. EddieSherbert

              That is super impressive. I don’t think I could of had that mature a conversation at 12 (from either your daughter or her friend’s shoes!).

              1. Anon today...and tomorrow

                I know! They blow my mind with how adult they sound at times. Then they start going on and on about Steven Universe and they seem like 12 year olds again. :)

                1. Wendy Darling

                  That’s one emotionally intelligent 12 year old.

                  Also I am a grown adult and I love Steven Universe. Maybe your kid and I should hang. She could probably teach me a few things about being cool to people.

                2. Astor

                  That is totally a conversation I can see them having on Steven Universe, though :) That show is just full of emotional awareness.

            2. OhNo

              Wow, that’s amazing from a twelve-year-old. I know people who couldn’t even have that conversation now, at three times her age! I hope you were able to tell her how great it was that she was able to do that. Hopefully a little positive reinforcement now means she’ll carry the habit into adulthood.

            3. TL -

              Middle school age (and on to high school) is when kids are learning wit and empathy and they tend to learn them at different rates.

              1. Jo

                Yes, this exactly.

                I first became friends with someone in middle school who eventually ended up being one of my best and longest friendships. However, when we first started hanging out in the same friend group in middle school I pretty much hated her.

                She came across as incredibly mean, even though she never really meant to be. She just had a quick tongue and wicked sense of humour and no restraint (the wit developed much quicker than the empathy) and I was shy and sensitive and thin-skinned and insecure.

                But eventually it all caught up with each other and we were extremely close by the end of high school. And now she’s a social worker with empathy in spades.

            4. PollyQ

              When people talk about prodigies, they usually mean music or sports, but your daughter is a human relationships prodigy, and I am BLOWN AWAY by her ability to analyze a situation and then to communicate it.

            5. Not So NewReader

              Nice job there, Anon, your daughter can come up with this stuff because you have provided her the foundation to work from. Very impressive person, your daughter.

            6. Julia

              You give me hope for my future children and also humanity’s future in general. You must be a great mother, and your daughter sounds wonderful.

        2. Lily in NYC

          I think you should stop feeling guilty – everything you describe sounds like typical middle school drama and not bullying.

            1. Lily in NYC

              I have no idea what you are referring to. I still don’t see where VroomVroom did anything to feel guilty over.

        3. Veronica Sawyer

          “even ‘cool’ kids get bullied and have mean girls”

          This is so true. I was part of the cool, popular clique in junior high and high school and I hated my friends. They were horrible people, but I knew if I *wasn’t* friends with them, they’d make my life worse than they did as ‘friends.’ I always compare my high school experience to Heathers. They were the Heathers, I was Veronica, but thankfully no one died.

          After graduation, I left my small town and never talked to any of them again. I was a b*tch in high school, but I also hated it there.

      2. Kimberly

        I wouldn’t. When I heard the man, who as a boy had bullied me in K-5, was serving over 20 years in prison, I was over the moon. At the sane time, I was heartbroken that he had beaten and raped other women. If someone had taken us seriously when we told what he was threatening to do and trying to do to us in elementary school, maybe they could have been saved that pain. The phrase boys will be boys and suggestion well she should stop annoying him still make me see red. It took my parents threatening at Title IX lawsuit using some of the scariest and most powerful lawyers in Houston to get the harassment to stop.

        1. AMG

          I would want to send copies of his court documents to every person who didn’t listen to you. >:(

        2. Julia

          That’s awful. :(
          Now I wonder what happened to the guy who harassed me in high school and flunked out. I was grateful at the time because I was rid of him, but he probably had some real problems and I hope he didn’t do the same things your bully did.

    3. ByLetters

      Seconding having someone else read the apology — as well as, after you write it, waiting a day before you send it. There are things you write in the heat of “the moment” that you’ll reflect later as not being appropriate to bring up in certain settings.

    4. Michele

      That is a good point about having someone else review it (maybe the friend who tipped her off). Any apology that is “I am sorry you were…” instead of “I am sorry that I…” is worthless.

    5. all aboard the anon train

      Seconding this, since in my experience, apologies like this often tend to be about the abuser/bully and not the victim. I’m always torn on apologies that come a long time after whatever event happened because they usually come when a bully or abuser is going through a program or wants something (whether it’s a job or forgiveness), and I don’t like that it makes it about the abuser/bully’s feelings and motivations instead of the person they harmed.

      OP should also be aware that the woman she bullied might not accept her apology and might not want to hear it, and that’s okay.

      1. Edith

        Yeah, there is just no way this will ever come off as a sincere apology. If you’re only sorry about something two decades later when not being sorry means you can’t get the job you want, well then you’re not actually sorry at all. And that’s before considering all the indications in the OP that this isn’t sincere.

        OP: Apologize if you sincerely feel what you did was wrong and if you actually and sincerely regret it. If you think you weren’t that bad or it’s unfair to be held accountable for your actions you’re not actually sorry at all.

        Nobody wants an “I’m sorry” that’s directly preceded by “Johnny, tell Susie you’re sorry.”

      2. Rainy, PI

        A guy who cheated on me sent me an email apology a year or two after I dumped him.

        It was two and a half screens long and said, I shit you not “I’m really sorry for the bad timing”. Not for cheating on me, but for the *timing* of cheating on me. I have no idea what prompted him to apologize. I didn’t respond. Receiving the email actually dredged up a lot of feelings that I didn’t need dredged up, and made me sad and hurt all over again, until I had an acquaintance who is a slam poet perform his apology for me.

        Now whenever I think of the “apology” I laugh.

        But I still hope he trips and falls into a woodchipper.

        1. Edith

          That’s amazing.

          I got a random apology email from an acquaintance who lived on my floor in college. She had kind of stolen a boyfriend from me in that he ghosted on me when they started dating, but that was all on him and had happened months prior to the apology email. Then I realized it was Yom Kippur and she was atoning.

          Rachel from Henderson House, if you’re reading this, we’re good. He was the jerk.

          1. Property Manager

            I notice that a lot of people here think that the apology can’t be sincere because the OP only thought to apologize for her own gain, more or less. And an example above, “Then I realized it was Yom Kippur and she was atoning.” So no apology can ever be sincere if there was something that triggered it? It has to just be a thought that comes out of the blue?

            Sometimes things need to happen to you to get you thinking … It doesn’t make the OP a horrible monster because she didn’t realize how negatively her past actions affected someone else until now. People are dynamic and ever changing and it’s perfectly acceptable for this situation to be the OP’s wake up call and her apology can be 100% sincere.

            Also mentioned somewhere upthread — it might bother the Rock Star to get the apology? Well she’s already bothered by knowing that OP applied and interviewed. The apology may go a long way in letting RS know that OP respects her now, which in my book, is huge.

            1. Edith

              You’ve taken the worst possible interpretation of my words and run with them. I never said nor do I believe her apology was insincere. Not because it was Yom Kippur or for any other reason. All that did was explain the timing of what had seemed like an out-of-the-blue apology.

            2. all aboard the anon train

              There’s a difference between an event or experience triggering a genuine apology and an event or experience causing someone to apologize because they want forgiveness or to gain something. Just as there’s a difference between someone telling you that you were a jerk and you should apologize and someone coming to that realization on their own.

              OP’s in a difficult situation because she had someone point out her behavior and apologizing now may come off as trying to gain forgiveness so she can get an interview, regardless of how genuine her apology may be.

              As to your last point, it might, but it’s also a different situation to know someone who caused you pain is applying to your company and actually having them reach out to you after years of no contact. It might also make it even worse. If the girl who was my friend in high school and then abandoned me and made physical threats against me when I confided I might be interested in girls suddenly decided to apologize and say she respected me, it wouldn’t go a long way. I’d just dredge up the memories of how she threatened to beat me until I was “taught a lesson”. She may have changed since then, but the scars from that – no matter how genuine someone’s apology – don’t go away.

          2. Rachel the Hendu

            My name is Rachel, I lived in Henderson House for two years, and I did kind of steal a boy from a housemate in college (I hadn’t realized he was ghosting her when we started dating)…but I never actually sent an apology email to the girl in question, so this isn’t me. But you’re right, he was a jerk.

            1. Edith

              Oh my goodness I almost called her Rachel from Hendu but thought that would seem too odd to outsiders. I don’t suppose Wombats and Maroons mean anything to you, do they?

              1. Rachel from Hendu

                They do indeed! I lived there from 2004-2006. I am now sisters-in-law with a fellow Hendu who I met on her first day (she set me up with her brother post-college).

                1. Edith

                  Yes! I was there 2003-2005. This is so crazy! And you’re right– I dug out the message you sent me at Yom Kippur and it had nothing to do with the guy, but about some awkwardness or rudeness between us. I wonder why my memory decided to twist it into being about him. I’m happy to hear you’re doing well, and for what it’s worth good memories of us going to the Chicago Diner and the Latke-Hamantash Symposium together are what I remember most about you.

        2. Rabbit

          I once had an ex-friend send me a Step Nine email (Sex Addicts Anonymous) where he told me that he was sorry he’d sexually harassed me, but he hoped I was open to “constructive advice” because he’d thought a lot about it and had concluded that I should avoid wearing shirts that show cleavage.

          Needless to say, I was not open to “constructive advice”. (I do sincerely hope that he is successful in his ongoing search for self-awareness and improvement but I also kind of hope he gets testicular gangrene.)

            1. Rabbit

              I think it was more that he seriously wasn’t ready to do step 9 than the program considering that kind of move okay ;)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Talk about not understanding the purpose of amends.

  3. Jaguar

    One other perspective to approach this from, OP, is that if you’re truly regretful of your past behaviour, regardless of your job prospects at this company, offering a sincere apology would also be offering closure (or, at least, an opportunity at closure) for someone that is obviously still bothered by how you treated them. You would potentially be lifting a significant burden from them and possibly yourself as well. This is all regardless of your career.

    1. Ramona Flowers

      Hmm. Or it might be closure for the OP but an unwelcome intrusion for the recipient.

      1. LBK

        Agreed. Closure is moving on with my life and never having to think about that person again. It’s not that person showing up at my doorstep and trying to apologize a decade too late.

        1. AD

          I agree. As well-intentioned as the OP may be, if I were the employee in this case any effort to reach out would inevitably seem self-serving to me. I think Alison’s advice to move on is likely best.

        2. Amber T

          I think OP should apologize, for closure and because it’s the right thing to do (assuming OP truly is sorry for how he/she behaved). But, the victim can choose to do whatever they want with said apology. They can accept it and hopefully help give them closure (college coworker apologizing to me for two years of awfulness was actually a wonderful thing… she explained where she had been coming from and her insecurities, but also knew it was not a good reason for how she treated me, and apologized. We haven’t spoken since graduation but my overall memory of her is neutral/positive, instead of horribly negative like it would have been). They can also completely ignore it and throw it out the window. Or, they can push back – “you say you’re sorry for A, but you don’t realize how B affected me.”

          1. Bookworm

            I agree with you. Also, if propose people default to not apologizing because it might be upsetting to the victim, we’re letting a lot of people off the hook. There’s certainly a camp of people who would love to receive apologies. That said, people have the right to stop an apology in its tracks if they don’t want to hear it. A forced apology is no apology at all.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I agree, especially because OP has already done the equivalent of showing up on this woman’s doorstep by applying to work at the same company. So this isn’t a situation where the blast from the past is completely out of thin air… but even if it were, in general I think it’s better for people to apologize when they’ve done something horrible, even if it’s a late apology. What one ought not do is expect the person to accept your apology or be ok with you.

          3. Jen S. 2.0

            And I’m not so sure OP is apologetic for her behavior and how awful it made Ex-Friend feel. OP is apologetic that her past behavior is costing her a much-wanted and hard-to-get job for which OP has worked hard, and OP doesn’t think her past behavior, which she dimly recalls, should be a dealbreaker.

      2. Jaguar

        Might be! Who knows? A sincere apology e-mail is pretty low impact as these things go, the person can still choose to ignore it, and I think “don’t apologize when you’ve done something wrong because the person might find an apology unpleasant” is particularly good advice at all.

        I don’t think the OP should write something for the OP’s closure. I’m saying that OP should consider any overture to the person OP harmed in the past in terms of helping that person and not in terms of the OP’s benefit.

          1. LBK

            I think an apology is probably still in order because it’s the right thing to do, but don’t do it in the name of providing closure.

            1. Jaguar

              Well, maybe closure is the wrong word. I don’t really like the concept and may not fully understand it. I just mean it in the sense of trying to undo any harm OP did.

              1. AD

                But that’s not what’s going on here. All due respect to OP, but I *really* think it wouldn’t have occurred to her to reach out to or apologize to this woman if this job in a really niche industry wasn’t the main factor. She’s not trying to *undo the harm* she caused – she wants a job in this small industry.

                1. Jaguar

                  Sure. Only OP can answer those questions and I don’t want to build speculating on OP’s motives into what I’m saying. We’re only offering advice here.

                2. LJL

                  Exactly. The timing of the apology would make it appear disingenuous if I were to receive it. It’s still a good idea, but be sure to make it sincere and unrelated to the job.

                3. Mephyle

                  That’s one way to look at it, (that it wouldn’t have occurred to her to reach out or apologize if the job thing hadn’t happened) but 0n the other hand, if the job thing hadn’t happened, she would never have known that the other woman felt bullied. So the job thing set the chain in motion, but it doesn’t mean that she can’t apologize for pure motives.

              2. Seuuze

                Closure is often over-rated and not always something that can and should happen. Sometimes you just have to move on and have “no contact” with a person you feel has wronged you of is toxic. Sorry Jaguar, harm is harm and can’t really be undone. And since we know every person is different, those who are bullied react very differently from one another based on their emotional makeup, experiences, home life, etc. Abuse is abuse.

                I would worry a great deal about the woman’s reaction to an apology if it wasn’t properly worded and extremely sincere. I think it should be a very thoughtful hand written note, sent throught the mail. The OP can possibly move to a different city for work since this career path is the one he has chosen.

                1. Jaguar

                  harm is harm and can’t really be undone

                  Yeah, so this is not only provably wrong but also shockingly bleak.

                2. LBK

                  I don’t necessarily disagree with Seuuze. Harm can be processed and you can learn ways to not let it affect you but that’s usually an internal process the victim has to go through, not something the person who harmed you can really do anything about. Apologies are nice but I don’t think they’re instrumental in healing, as evidenced by the fact that just receiving an apology isn’t usually enough to immediately heal the wound.

                3. Jaguar

                  Well, there’s a number of people here that have already said that receiving apologies later on helped them let go of the pain they had received, so that alone is enough to prove that harm can’t be undone (unless you want to accuse them of lying or being delusional).

                4. Jadelyn

                  @Jaguar, letting go of old wounds doesn’t undo them. It doesn’t undo having carried that burden and that hurt for years, even if you’ve finally been given a chance to set it down and not carry it anymore. “Healing” doesn’t equal “undoing”.

                5. Jaguar

                  Well, we’re quibbling over words now. I’m responding to Seuuze who seems to be saying that there’s no way an apology could help the situation for the person OP wronged or for anyone else in similar situations. Whatever distinction you want to make healing and undoing isn’t obviously relevant to me.

                6. Annonymouse

                  let me tell you a story we tell the kids I work with:

                  There’s s a young boy, around 10, and he has a horrible temper. He’ll often throw things and say mean things when he’s angry.

                  One day his father tells him “every time you lose your temper I want you to go hammer a nail into the back fence.”

                  And he does. Sometimes he hits his thumb and has to hammer an extra nail in. At the end of the first week there are 40 nails in the fence. After the second there are 60.

                  Dad tells him “now every time you hold your temper you can remove a nail from the fence”

                  After many months the boy finally removes all the nails and tells his father.

                  His father takes him down to the fence and asks him if it looks the same.

                  “No, there are marks from the nails I put in.”

                  The father tells him it’s the same with his words and actions.

                  “Even if you make it right afterwards, there will still be a mark where you hurt that person that will never truly go away. It might get smaller or less noticeable in time but it is and was there.

        1. Observer

          On the other hand, apologizing because it might give the victim closure is ALSO bad advice.

          The only good reason to apologize is because you recognize that what you did was wrong (generic you). If you do NOT believe that, your attempt at “closure” is *at best* meaningless.

      3. PlainJane

        Speaking only for myself here. I was bullied for years by someone I went to school with. She found me on MySpace about 20 years later and wrote me a lovely note of apology. I had long since moved on emotionally, but I really appreciated her courage and decency in apologizing. It definitely wasn’t intrusive for me. Certainly others may feel differently.

        1. Charlie

          Unforced and unprompted comes from a different place than “Hey, so, you nuked my chances at getting a job where you work, so I wanted to apologize for whatever it is I might have done that made you feel that way.”

          1. Amber T

            This! Receiving a real, sincere apology is a great thing. But I think the OP will have a difficult time making a sincere (and being taken as sincere) apology in this particular case.

            1. Erin

              +1 it’s not like they saw each other at the gas station by chance and he apologized. He found out through a mutual aquaintance that she won’t work with him. And now he wants to write an apology afterwards to help change her mind. I think it’s a bad idea to write the letter. Apologize much later and if you ever see her in person by chance use that to make amends. Now it will look bad and maybe mark his chances in the future if he resubmits his application.

          2. Jaguar

            I mean, the person can be cynical about OP’s motives (and maybe even rightly so), but so what? Maybe they won’t be. Write the apology anyway.

            1. Jaguar

              That said, OP, if you do, be really honest about your intentions here. If you really are apologizing to help your career prospects instead of because you harmed someone, don’t send the apology.

            2. Charlie

              Like I said elsewhere: it’s entirely possible that the apology would cause more hurt and anger than if the OP just let it be.

        2. BioBot

          I think this is a slightly different case, though. Your bully remembered what she did and knew, unprompted, what degree of effect she’d had on you. She came to regret her actions all on her own. The LW doesn’t seem to remember specifics, they just suspect they were probably awful to her because apparently they weren’t very kind to lots of people. They also only seem to be sorry because now it’s coming back to hurt them. I think it would be hard to draft a truly sincere letter of apology if the LW can’t even remember what they did or to whom they did it.

        3. Anon Librarian

          If my bully sent me a note of apology, even if it was unprompted, I would probably burn it.

      4. Purest Green

        I agree. Just because OP has her work email doesn’t mean (s)he should use it, especially considering this wouldn’t be a professional correspondence.

        1. Amber T

          Oomph yeah I didn’t catch that it was a work email. I’d avoid the work email altogether and opt for LinkedIn if that’s an option.

      5. Connie-Lynne

        This. I’ve had a number of people over the years reach out to me to apologize for treating me shabbily, and I never know what to do or say when I get these apologies. I mean, I’m glad for them that they have finally done some introspection, but to me it always kind of feels like it’s about them needing to feel forgiven than about wanting me to have closure (which I achieved long ago in all these cases).

        1. Annie Moose

          Do you think it would help if someone explicitly said something like “don’t feel obligated to respond, I just wanted you to know how sorry I am”? You know, explicitly telling the recipient that they don’t expect to be forgiven or whatever.

      6. Turtle Candle

        I’m afraid that that’s how it would be for me. Most of the time, I don’t think about the people who harassed and bullied me in middle school. What I want more than anything is to be able to go on not thinking about them at all.

        And even more so because there’s a strong social expectation that you’ll say something, oh, healing and closure-ing if you get this call, you’ll give them forgiveness or absolution or something. If the apology is made, it has to be with the knowledge that a response of “I’m still angry with you, and I still will not work with you” is a completely legitimate response, and not a sign of meanness of being “small of spirit” or whatever all else.

    2. Advice Column Junkie

      I’ve gotten emails from people who apologized for being awful to me when I was an awkward little genderqueer mostly-lesbian in middle and high school, and let me tell you: it didn’t do shit to give me closure. I already had closure. What they wanted out of me was yet more emotional labor, as if I hadn’t done enough already on their account, to forgive them and reassure them that they could still consider themselves okay people. It was an imposition of burden, not a relief.

      1. sb

        I mean, there’s a way to apologize where you don’t expect anything in return and understand that you aren’t looking for emotional labor from the person you’re apologizing to. (I trust you when you say that’s not what happened to you. Just saying it’s a thing.)

      2. Mike B.

        When you put it that way, it sounds like there’s no altruism in the world at all–people act merely to feel the pleasure of having done good, or to relieve the pain of having done harm, and other people are just pawns in their heads.

        Which is a valid philosophy, I guess, but kind of a depressing point of view. I prefer to take things of this nature at face value and would accept those apologies.

      3. anon druggie

        In my 12-step program, we frequently tell people what we did wrong, why we are sorry, and ask what we can do to make it right. Then stop talking and listen. Trying to set it right for the other person is to avoid doing the amends with unclean intentions. There are other steps to relieve ourselves of the burdens of who we became and try to become a better person.

        I’m sorry that happened to you.

        1. ArtsNerd

          I hear that, Advice Column Junkie. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’m waffling on an unsolicited apology for the same reason, even if sincere and divorced from OP’s interest in the job. It takes a certain mastery of phrasing to apologize without tying it to an implied request for validation or forgiveness. It is possible, though. I hope OP can keep this in mind as they make their decision.

          anon druggie, unfortunately in my ex’s interpretation of that step, my not wanting to talk to him about his wrongdoings just escalated back into the same angry harassment I think he was trying to apologize for. Took another year or so for the phone calls to stop :/

  4. AnotherAlison

    Oof, I think Alison’s advice is spot on.

    You need to give up on this company for now. I had a high school bully, and it wasn’t even that bad of a situation, and I would never want to work with her. I actually know she’s a changed person, as she has publicly found God, but that doesn’t change how I feel. Keep the past in the past & give yourself a fresh start, too.

    1. Another Lawyer

      Yeah, that’s basically how I feel about mine. They were mean, it wasn’t fun, I don’t have good opinions of them, and I don’t want to see them at work.

    2. Queen of the File

      Same here. It took me ages to find a place where I felt like I was seen as confident and successful and not like the loser I was seen as in high school. To have to see myself through my high school bully’s eyes at work–even if they’d grown up–would totally ruin how I feel at my job. I would also be terrified that they would tell all my coworkers about the humiliating things I went through. No thank you.

    3. Banana Sandwich

      Agreed! I had a bully in middle school and she actually did end up coming to me and apologizing. But, once someone makes you feel like dying would be better option than showing your face in school – your pretty much done forever. I forgave her but….I really never want to see her face ever again.

  5. Anonymous Educator

    I know this isn’t what the OP asked about, but if I were the acquaintance, I wouldn’t have asked the OP out for coffee. I wouldn’t have said anything. What’s the point? The OP isn’t going to get a job at that company any time soon. Now the OP just feels extra douchey for stuff from long ago… with no practical actionable item. As far as I can tell from the letter, the acquaintance isn’t relaying a message that the former classmate would like an apology. For all we know, the former classmate may never want to hear from the OP again, apology or not.

    1. paul

      Their practical action item is to stop wasting time and energy applying at that particular company.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        That’s not what happened:
        My acquaintance’s prediction appears to be true: I didn’t get an interview for a new position at the company that would’ve been an even better fit than the one I’d interviewed for.

          1. Anonymous Educator

            Fair enough. I still probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to do that. People applying multiple times for positions at the same company is the exception and not the norm.

            1. OP

              I left my desk for a couple hours and of course that’s when the letter goes up! I’m going to try to jump in here.

              In this industry, it’s actually really, really common to apply for several jobs before you are hired. I made it to the final round in an earlier hiring pool and was encouraged to apply again when this most recent job was posted. That’s why I was so surprised to not get even an interview.

              1. Really anon teacher

                So here is the thing. I’ve read your clarification response. I am a teacher. You were a bully . You isolated someone. Your friend group (clique) turned your backs on her. I can imagine there were looks and non verbal communication that emphasized how “out” she was. You were a mean girl.
                My recommendation is to read more about the harm this behavior causes and find a way to make true amends . A novel that may instill some understanding is The Takedown by Corrie Wang.

                1. ArtsNerd

                  I hope when you see this happen, you try to give the kids resources on navigating such difficult social circumstances as “I don’t want to keep hanging out with you.”

                  I’ve been ditched as a friend, and I’ve done the ditching. Mostly, my sisters ditched me as a play companion while my parents kept reinforcing the idea that conflict or difficult discussions of any kind are bad.

                  Understanding how to say “I’m not into this” would have, quite literally, changed my life.

                2. Bibliovore

                  May I recommend Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons? She discusses strategies for parents and teachers to recognize and intervene in these situations.

    2. Roscoe

      So they know why they aren’t getting a job there anytime soon. If I was in a small field with only so many jobs, I’d want to know that my chances of getting one at a certain company was non existent so I don’t waste my time

    3. Stellaaaaa

      Nah, the acquaintance was being kind and offering OP information that she/he needed to make their next career move. OP isn’t mad about the coffee chat so I don’t think we should be either.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        I don’t doubt it came from good intentions, and I’m not mad about it. I’m just saying I wouldn’t do that, and I don’t see what the actionable item from it is.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

          Sometimes you don’t get an actionable item. Sometimes you just have to live with what you own.

        2. Sadsack

          Well, it made OP recollect his actions and admit to himself and us that he treated someone very badly and should probably apologize. That is actionable.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

            Nope. An apology now, having been rejected for two jobs, will just look terrible. If there’s an action item here, it’s “broaden the job search and do some soul-searching while you’re at it.”

            1. esra

              I still think it depends on the apology. If you acknowledge that it shouldn’t have taken the job rejections to make it happen, but that you still wanted to apologize anyway… I don’t know. I’d be open to that. If it never comes to anything, so be it, but at least you tried to make it right.

              1. Ashley

                I politely disagree.

                OP is sorry because it is effecting him negatively. His past actions haven’t bothered him enough to make things right until now. Now it is too little, too late.

                1. esra

                  Judging from the reactions here, it might just be best to move on. I’m the type who would want a (genuine) apology with no expectation of action, but opinion is clearly mixed.

            2. Sadsack

              I might agree with you on that. I think it depends on how sincere the apology is. A generic quick one would be worthless. But a heartfelt one that maybe includes examples of things that OP now can recognize and admit were terrible might be better accepted. OP should give up on trying to get into this employer anyway.

              1. Advice Column Junkie

                Having been contacted by former bullies, honestly, I personally just don’t give a shit about their closure. I already did enough emotional labor on your account, and I’m not doing any more.

                1. Emi.

                  I think it depends. I wasn’t bullied in highschool, but I had an emotionally abusive gaslighting “friend” in college, and if she ever showed up with a genuine apology, it would help give me closure by validating that I was actually justified in being hurt by her.

            3. Observer

              That can be hugely important piece of information, especially if you have to think about moving to a different city.

          2. Robin B

            And maybe OP will reach out to others from their past and make amends….. who knows it might pay off for some future job application.

        3. Student

          The actionable item is to move on and look for job prospects elsewhere. It sounds like the OP would need to either change location or change job fields – the coffee acquaintance is letting OP know it’s time to pick one of those options, because OP is currently banging her head against a closed door.

          1. Tuxedo Cat

            That’s how I saw it. At one point, I was applying for a lot of jobs at an institution that basically hires its alums. It took me awhile to figure it out. I would’ve preferred having someone tell me that than have me waste my time applying for the jobs and feeling bad that I wasn’t getting selected.

    4. SarahTheEntwife

      Especially in such a niche market, while it would be incredibly awkward to find out, I’d appreciate knowing if there was that sort of personal-level conflict going on instead of it being something about my qualifications or cover letter or whatever.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Yes. The realistic option is to apply other places, because you aren’t getting hired here.

        Same if the problem were that, say, a Valued Employee didn’t want to work with you, the person who stole their college sweetie. Or who knew you as a total goof-up at a previous job. You don’t get another chance to make a first impression, and the company probably doesn’t care to experiment with leopards and spot-changing by hiring you over Valued Employee’s “I will quit” objections.

    5. MK

      I read the timeline differently: The OP interviewed once, didn’t get the job, but was invited to reapply, which presumably means the old schoolfellow hadn’t heard that the OP was asking for a job in her company (otherwise the OP wouldn’t have been asked to reapply). Then a new opening comes up, the OP applies again, the schoolfellow learns of it and declares she will leave if the OP is hired. Then the OP’s friend finds out the OP has been essentially blacklisted from the company and tells her.

      In any case, the “actionable item” from the friend’s perspective is to save the OP time and energy; that the OP might have chosen not to heed the wanring doesn’t make it pointless.

    6. Jessesgirl72

      Am I the only one now wondering if the acquaintance wasn’t sent to the OP by the Rock Star, as a kind of “Nyah, Nyah! Look at me now!”

      I am a mature professional, and I try my best to be a good person.

      However, I would get a certain amount of satisfaction if I had the power to keep my high school bully out of my company- and if she’s that much of a rock star, possibly the entire industry. And I’d probably want her to know why…

      I don’t think I’d ever actually do something like that (other than make sure I never had to work with her) but I’d certainly fantasize about it!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        It’s possible, but my strong suspicion is that the acquaintance was just trying to do OP a favor by encouraging them to stop wasting time applying. But if the acquaintance went as an emissary of the Rock Star, that’s pretty crap behavior on the part of the acquaintance and the Rock Star.

        I’m with Beyonce—always stay gracious; best revenge is your paper.

      2. sunny-dee

        I didn’t get that, only because the person is a friend of the OP. A friend (or friendly acquaintance) wouldn’t usually be interested in rubbing someone’s nose in the dirt (and if the victim wanted to do it, then they probably wouldn’t want to do it vicariously).

      3. Hey Karma, Over here.

        This is purely my personal opinion based on my own experience with this situation:

        I think rock star employee may be quite annoyed/embarrassed to find out that someone went to bully and shared the fact that her current successful self is still concerned about being affected by this person. I think rock star employee would prefer to feel nothing about high school bully over joy at karma.
        Karma gets you some balance, but bully is still winning if he/she’s living rent free in my head.

      4. Erin

        I got similar satisfaction, I used to be fat, goth with glasses and braces. I lost weight and got lasic eye surgery. One of my bullies didn’t recognize me and actually hit on me, he thought I was someone else named Megan. I told him that he was a real jerk in middle school, left it at that and that no he’s not invited to my barbecue.

    7. Holy Carp

      Here’s another way of looking at it…The OP only really reflected being an awful person when it directly affected her and hadn’t seemed to have given it a thought otherwise. So maybe she’s truly a changed person who is wonderful now, or perhaps she exhibits behavior that, while not as overtly obvious, can still be hurtful. I have seen personally that mean girls and bullies often turn into mean woman.
      Now, I’m not making that claim about the OP, but I am saying that being aware of this situation could give her the opportunity for some real self-reflection and realizing that she doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

      1. Mike B.

        A few people have posted variations on this. I’m not sure how harsh an indictment it is of her that she hasn’t, until recently, reflected at length on the poor way she ended a friendship when she was in high school. At the time it happened she wasn’t mature enough to handle it better, and a whole lot of things have happened in her life since then.

    8. BioBot

      I think the “actionable item” is to stop wasting their time with this particular company, because there’s nothing they can do, professionally speaking, that will get them a job there. They can’t get more experience, write a better cover letter, interview better, etc.

  6. paul

    So, I was bullied in high school. Some of them I’d be OK working with, some of them I wouldn’t. But fair or not, you don’t really have any power to force them to hire you. And if the worst of them contacted me now, I sure as hell wouldn’t be anything but skeeved out and slightly nervous (keep in mind, I’ve got physical scars from some of it).

    So even that could backfire. It sucks for you now, yes, but them’s the breaks sometimes. I’d look at jobs in different companies and cities; maybe ask your acquaintance to let you know if the rock star moves on so you could start applying for jobs there again?

    1. Lala

      I would be absolutely freaked/terrified if my high school bully found my email address and contacted me for anything, even an apology. I’d block the shit out of an email like that.

      And not to bash the OP, but seriously, this is the sort of revenge people being bullied fantasize about getting later in life…OP, your chickens have come home to roost. At least someone was nice enough to let you know not to waste your time on that company anymore.

    2. michelenyc

      I wasn’t necessarily bullied but if I had been I would not want to receive an e-mail apology at work.

  7. KHB

    If all you can say is that you were “probably pretty awful to this girl,” it doesn’t sound like you’re even clear on what specifically you did to cause her to be upset with you. That doesn’t bode well for issuing an apology that she’s likely to accept – it’s likely to come across as “I don’t know what I did, but I’m sorry you were offended by it – now I demand that you forgive me.”

    Are you in touch with anyone else from high school who can give you a reality check on how your behavior looked from her point of view?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I like that idea. I have two friends who are like vaults where they store vivid memories of everything I did in high school, and they are always able to fill me in on details I’d forgotten (this is both good and bad).

      1. Stranger than fiction

        I have a friend like that too. I’m amazed how much she remembers. Ironically, she was nice to me in like fourth and fifth grade, mean to me in sixth seventh and eighth (teased me about my clothes and lack of makeup), then suddenly nice to me again in high school. We reconnected several years ago and we’ve never mentioned those “mean years”. I’m much more confident now and have a “f’em if they don’t like my clothes or whatever” attitude now and she’s clearly matured as well.

      2. Artemesia

        Memory is interesting. I met an old high school classmate many years ago who went on and on about how close we were in high school. I remember her as a vague acquaintance. Then I looked at some pictures of key events — me getting an award, our graduation party etc etc and there she is hovering near me in these pictures. So SHE felt close to me even though I thought of her as a sort of third tier acquaintance/friend during that time.

        1. Charlie

          This is how it worked with a girl I was friends with. She thought of us as dating. I thought we were friends. But then I thought back to all the times we went for pizza or hung out at each others’ house and so on, and I was like, huh. Maybe we were.

        2. Gen

          Yeah I was that girl for about five years- I thought there were six of us all best friends, turned out to be a four and a two. The other four hated us tagging on all the time but didn’t know how to get rid of us and we were oblivious

        3. OP

          It is very much this situation. I moved into the house across the street from this girl’s family, we spent the summer hanging out, but we weren’t really school friends when classes started in the fall. I tried to put some distance between us, but then I started dating a guy this girl liked and it just got too weird. Most of our mutual friends stopped hanging out with her after that. I found out several years later (around the time we graduated from college) that she felt very alone and isolated and blamed me. I don’t know if what I did was bullying, but that’s the language she apparently used with her coworker, so I am trying to respect the fact that she felt bullied by me even though that was not my intention.

          1. OhNo

            That’s a good way to approach it. Especially in situations like this, where it clearly stuck with her for a long time and to a significant degree, impact is more important than intent.

            It sucks, especially when you feel like you’ve been badly misinterpreted, but sometimes all you can do is back away and give the person their space.

          2. Rainy, PI

            You took all her friends away because you felt awkward when you started dating a guy you knew she liked…so…

              1. CB212

                In comments further down the page, OP describes how she made it clear that she wanted Rockstar dropped from the social group, and that by graduation she had effectively ensured Rockstar had no friends.

                1. Roscoe

                  Even if she made it clear she didn’t want to hang out with her anymore, it was the other people who made the choice to do so. If she had no friends, you can’t blame OP for that

                2. Charlie

                  Yes, actually, you can. Since you self-admit that you’re pretty clueless about bullying, I suggest you take the opportunity to learn and reflect here, not continue to assert about a topic you’re not that informed about.

              2. AMG

                No, she went out of her way to bully rockstar. She’s liable for that. Which is the point, Roscoe.

            1. Roscoe

              You can’t really take friends away. They aren’t toys. If they want to leave, that’s their choice. Now she could say “I’m not hanging out with this person anymore”, and if those girls choose to stay with OP, then thats on them

              1. AMG

                She can choose to treat rockstar unkindly, whichever she did. The other kids played a part too, but that doesn’t absolve OP from her role.

                1. CB212

                  Agreed. OP describes herself as wanting to get everyone to hang out with her and not with Rockstar. Setting up that kind of me-or-her choice leading to the shunning of one girl is a really common dynamic in teen girl groups and is (rightly, I think) seen as bullying.

              2. -Anonymous For This Post-

                You’ve never been an adolescent girl, have you? This is incredibly common in junior high and high school, and yes, it’s bullying. It happened to me and there’s several teachers commenting to say that they see it happen frequently.

                1. LJL

                  exactly. Some evidence suggests that it may be harder to recover from than from the physical kind of bullying. It is incredibly common in adolescent girls. It’s happened to me as well.

              3. Annonymouse

                Actually in high school you can.

                In high school the social group your in is a social currency.

                They’re the people you sit with at lunch and in classes so you don’t have to fend for yourself.

                By OP excluding one person and making people pick sides (even if they didn’t ask it naturally happens) she tossed rock star to the wolves.

                And the way it works is once someone picks the couple over the single they all do unless other girl is sufficiently rich /has other currency that makes her more valuable.

                Being a good person or smart = squat. She’d need to be a sports teams star player or consistent lead in all the school plays or head cheerleader to have enough popularity currency to deal with this.

              4. Marisol

                It sounds like the OP had more of an active role in kicking her out of the group that, but the others had agency and for that matter, so did Rockstar herself. The OP isn’t totally absolved in my opinion, but I think you have a point.

              5. Tempest

                This is a really tone deaf impression of high school. A popular mean girl absolutely can make it clear that their friendship will be removed from all the lesser members of ‘her herd’ and due to high school’s dumb politics equaling loss of popularity with death, if Kfox was the leader of the popular squad and then made the squad clear on the fact that anyone who didn’t drop rockstar would similarly be shunned, she really did take away all the friends from this girl due to the herd mentality school kids have. There have been many teen movies made about this and they all hit pretty close to home, just most of them have a cheesy Disney ending that most real life victims don’t get to experience.

              1. Annonymouse

                In high school it’s a hierarchy.

                If King Joffre is excluding someone you go along with it to secure your position even if you like the Starks or Tyrion better. It’s all about survival.

                You go with the other person and you’re buying a one way ticket to exclusion ville.

              2. seejay

                Getting ostracized by a social group is a one-way ticket to being on the receiving end of bullying. You want a social group in order to fit in and protect yourself. Larger groups are less likely to be picked on, and even if they are, at least you have *some* protection or a feeling of safety. Bullies go after loners or small groups.

                You don’t want to be the one person left behind with the ostracized person when the ring leader decides to walk away. And the ring leader usually has something that everyone else desires or wants to be or admires.

                There’s a select few kids that get enough of an “I don’t give a squat” attitude or have the self-esteem to stand up for themselves. Sometimes they’re the ring leaders or sometimes they’re the nice kids that don’t care about being in a social group and they like everyone and everyone likes them. I recall a few people in my highschool like that, but they’re rare. Most kids and teens don’t have the tools to be able to figure that stuff out yet, they’re still trying to figure themselves out and trying fit in. I wouldn’t tell a young kid or preteen to be themselves and be unique unless they had a serious case of “screw you, I like it, I’m doing what I want and I don’t give a fig what you think”. If they have even a smattering of self-doubt, they need to figure out how to blend in and fit in with everyone and then figure out how to be a unique individual when they have the ability to withstand the mocking.

                Most people want to belong to a group and kids/teens are no different, at least until they figure out how to navigate social norms and can flip the bird to it and walk their own way.

                1. Rey

                  I think I was one of those kids who didn’t care what other people thought and was nice to everybody and pretty well liked by everybody. (A friend in high school, casually mentioned to me that she thought that if I ran for class president I would likely win, because everyone knew me and liked me–it was a really weird moment, because for all I was liked, I wasn’t popular.)

                  But that came from a very specific place–I grew up with a LOT of medical problems and was in and out of the hospital most of my childhood with one surgery or another. I developed a very independent and self-confident personality partially as a reaction against the constant physical invasion. It wasn’t an act (or posturing of any sort)–it was a way of coping. I learned early on that whatever state my body was in, I was still me, and I knew who I was. That self-knowledge blunted most of the bullying and pressure to conform. I did what I wanted and liked what I liked and I didn’t care or give any thought to what nearly anyone else thought.

                  But it has also made it difficult for me to empathize with those who are more prone to following along for the sake of being liked or not ostracized. It is a mindset that often makes me far more judgmental than I should be.

              3. Hrovitnir

                I’m going to reply here but there are a lot of subthreads and I’m not sure if it’s the best one. I must say I object to the idea that choosing not to be friends with someone any more is inherently bullying. I think insisting that everyone be included always can be easily abused by bullies and it also teaches people they are not entitled to choose their relationships.

                However, in light of the OP’s comments below about actively wanting her friend group not to spend time with her ex-friend and “maybe” saying some mean things about her… it certainly sounds more like active ostracisation (is that a word?), and I most certainly class that as in the realm of bullying.

                WRT the letter itself I lean toward not apologising unless and until there is no underlying motive, and also accepting that maybe the consequences of your behaviour are that you’re going to have to look at finding a job elsewhere. I agree with people that the comments about it not being fair for this to be held against you belie your statements about trying to be respectful of your ex-friend’s viewpoint – I’m pretty sure you are trying to be respectful, but it’s worth examining.

                I don’t think you (OP) need to take on board everyone’s pain on this thread, but the way you present your letter does make me think you need to at the very least work on understanding bullying and social ostracism as having far reaching consequences for those on the receiving end.

                1. Annonymouse

                  Again there is a difference between drifting apart from someone or spending more time with other people in your group and what OP did which is to take away all friends and be a part of the mean comments that followed.

              4. Charlie

                Ket, did you somehow skip from age 8 to age 20? Of course the friends all went in one direction.

          3. Clewgarnet

            I was in a similar situation to this woman. Unless she’s a far nicer person than me (which is, I admit, very possible), you’re never getting hired anywhere that she has any influence.

            She remembers you as the best friend who dumped her over a boy, and then shoved her out of her friend group, leaving her socially isolated at a very, very vulnerable age. I appreciate that’s not how you remember it, and you didn’t realise how badly you were affecting her, but that’s how she remembers it, and those are the scars she carries.

            In these circumstances, I wouldn’t want to hear from my bully, and any apology would come across as self-serving and insincere. Cross this company off your list of possibles and move on.

            1. blackcat

              Yeah. It’s also possible that the boy in question did something awful to her, too, and OP reminds her of the entire thing.

              1. Charisma

                I actually suspect as much as well, but have been avoiding bringing it up since they are presumably long gone.

          4. Charisma

            I’ve seen you repeat this in a few spots and I get it. It IS totally justified to think you may be mean to someone, especially as a youth, without overtly wanting to be, or because of not knowing how to properly deal with a situation. But if you really want to solve this situation. It would really help you, and the Rock Star employee, to seek out a genuine third-party perspective of someone else who was actually there during your time in Middle and High School. Dig deep and find out both sides of the story and maybe even what else it was that happened to her that she may blame you for. Something tells me that there is more going on than you realize or wish to see. You have made a great first step. But if you really want to make this eventually go away (as a possibility, not a certainty) you need to dig deep and look at this from a wider lens then yourself.

            1. curiouserann

              Admitting that you didn’t have the insight or social skills for the situation is perhaps a major part of the story. You can be sorry for the hurt caused by your choices, whatever the intentions. And if the OP and the Rockstar are miles apart on their memories of what happened, perhaps a legitimate approach, if the Rockstar is willing to engage, IS for the OP to ask her what her experience of that time was. If OP doesn’t know, she should start with “here’s what I know about my shortcomings and here’s what I regret– did this impact you how I think it did”?

        4. Anon Librarian

          +1

          I work now in the same area I grew up in, after leaving for a while. The classmates still in the area, when I bump into them, seem to remember me as being a chill, pleasant person to be around. Meanwhile all I remember of high school is being utterly miserable and moving myself out of my assigned homeroom to avoid my bully.

    2. BethRA

      It certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard of a bully having made someone’s life hell, but having only a vague memory of events later on.

      1. Arpai

        Someone who used to harass me daily on the school bus once messaged me on Facebook to ask, “Was I mean to you on the bus? If so, I’m sorry.” I figured she was in AA and at that atonement step. I did not respond.

        1. Bee

          Conversely, someone I know apologized to me a couple years ago for the way he’d treated me in high school – but my every memory of him was perfectly innocuous, so it just made me wonder what he’d done or said behind my back. I appreciated the thought, and it hasn’t soured my opinion of him, but it was a really unnerving message to get.

          1. michelenyc

            That happened to me at my 20 year reunion and I pretty much had the same reaction. Yeah, you were jerk but I didn’t care then and I certainly do not care now.

          2. Blue Anne

            I had that experience too. A guy from high school got in touch to say he didn’t like who he’d been back then and he remembered being particularly mean to me and he was really sorry. I didn’t remember anything about him other than he was one of the “cool” kids and actually seemed like one of the nicer ones. Now I wonder if he was saying nice things to my face and being a jerk when I couldn’t hear him.

            1. sunny-dee

              Meh. Or there could be one or two things that he said / did that stick out as mean to him and you didn’t notice. I have a couple of people where I said something unintentionally cruel, and years later, it still bothers me, though it didn’t seem to affect our relationship at the time. If I could take it back, I would, but I’m not certain they’d remember.

            2. AMG

              Alternatively, there was a kid, Fergus, who died in a car accident in high school. I was on FB with his best friend talking about how I felt bad that I hadn’t really ever been nice to him. Bestie was there as a witness, and said that I was fine, and that the few incidents were minor and on par with being young kids versus truly bullying Fergus.

        2. Anna

          Or maybe she just realized after a bit of maturity that things she thought might have been “funny” were actually “shitty” and wanted to apologize.

          1. Queen of the File

            Watching that episode of 30 Rock has made me paranoid about how I came across in high school…

      2. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        From the people who have sent me friend requests on facebook, I’d say most high school bullies are completely clueless as to the impact they had. They made life hell for years and now what to “keep in touch”? No thanks.

        1. BananaPants

          No kidding. I want to respond, “You made my life hellish for years and mocked me endlessly – and now you want to ‘catch up’? Yeah, no.”

          I did accept friend requests from a couple of them; they’re in a group with only occasional visibility to my posts. Yes, there’s schadenfreude at play – I’m not going to miss out on watching the Jerry Springer-worthy trainwrecks that these women inexplicably put on full display on social media!

          1. Blue Anne

            I had great schadenfreude with one of mine. This girl had, in the very first days of social media, posted pictures mocking me for a physical disfigurement. Two years ago she got in touch to apologize and asked how I was.

            “Oh, really good, I’m in Scotland now, I got my degree, I’m married, lost a lot of weight, lots of friends out here, working at a big accounting firm, just got back from vacation to Germany, things are great. How are you?”
            “Oh, I just got out of rehab.”

            1. Cath in Canada

              I ran into a couple of my main bullies once, when I was back in my home town for a visit a few years after leaving high school. I was bullied pretty mercilessly for being a swot (UK word for the kid with the good grades – basically I was a blend of Hermione Granger & Lisa Simpson), so it was very gratifying when one of the less horrible ones asked what I was doing now and I said “I’m about to get my PhD in cancer research, and I’ve lined up a postdoctoral position at a cancer research centre in Canada”. The friends they were with (who I didn’t know) were all “ooooOOOOOOoooooh!”, and the bullies looked pretty sour.

              I could probably work with all but one of them now – the ringleader. She’s the one who sent me a friend request on Facebook and then expressed total surprise and disbelief when I reminded her about the years of smushing my lunch into my face, throwing my bag into the boys’ bathrooms, and general shunning. It’s actually quite gratifying to hear that this kind of memory discrepancy is a common experience…

        2. NotTheSecretary

          I was not really “bullied” per se, I’ve always had very thick skin and a general attitude of GFY to anyone who didn’t like me but there were definite Mean Girls in my class who made a point of not speaking to me. In my experience, any time one of them friends me on Facebook it’s just so they can “grow their business” of hawking MLM crap to vague acquaintances.

      3. AnotherAlison

        Another bully – John from Spanish III – ended up having kids go to the same small home daycare as my son about 10 years after HS graduation. At first, I didn’t recognize him because he was a good 50 lbs heavier and had a shaved head, but one day he asked me if I graduated with him and told me who he was. In the moment, I just reacted and said, “Oh yeah, you were a real jerk to me.” He was all, “Oh, I was? I don’t remember that.” I definitely got a little satisfaction out of the fact that my life was going better than his.

      4. FormerLW

        On the flip side, I’m one of those people with a memory like a vault. I remember high school like it was yesterday. A girl (woman) I went to high school with cut me dead when I ran into her in our hometown recently. I remember her as an acquaintance with whom I had (and still have) mutual friends. I told a close friend of mine about the incident. The friend is still close with someone who keeps in touch with this woman. Apparently, she believes I talked about her behind her back and was her enemy throughout high school. Not true. Not true at all. She was barely on my radar, and not in a “you’re beneath me” way.

      5. K.

        This isn’t a bullying situation, but I had a close friend in middle and high school who was a year older than I am. He and I always kind of had crushes on each other but never did anything about it. We stayed friends after he graduated and when I was looking at colleges, I visited him because I was interested in his school (ended up applying and getting in but chose to go elsewhere). The first night I was there, we had dinner with his friends and he described me as the one from middle school who got away, and I was like “Huh?!” He told this story of how I’d rejected him at a dance in middle school. I said “That never happened, you got together with another girl that night and broke my little 13-year-old heart.” He swore up and down that he only got together with her after I rejected him, which I maintain to this day never happened. His friends were turning their heads like they were watching tennis as we argued over this – we remember things completely differently and both of us were 100% rock-solid in our positions.

      6. oranges & lemons

        I feel like it’s probably a bit of a defense mechanism on the bully’s part–they minimize their own actions and push them to the back of their minds, and over time actually do forget about it (I’m just speculating here, as I’ve only been the victim in these situations). I think it’s a rare person who actually chooses to dwell on the awful things they’ve done to another person.

    3. Emac

      I agree, I think some acknowledgement of exactly how the OP was awful to this girl is important for a sincere apology. Just by the OPs description, it doesn’t sound like it was a minor one time incident, but much more serious and ongoing. I think I would want some assurance that the OP understood why the bullying was wrong & hurtful – otherwise it feels like the apology will just end up a generic (and insincere) “Yeah, I know I was an a**hole in high school, probably to you among others, sorry about that!”

      1. Aveline

        Also, if someone is a serial bully…

        Chun-Li: My father saved his village at the cost of his own life. You had him shot as you ran away. A hero at a thousand paces.
        M. Bison: I’m sorry. I don’t remember any of it.
        Chun-Li: You don’t remember?!
        M. Bison: For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.
        — Street Fighter (1994 film)

    4. k

      This is a really good point. Considering she is willing to risk her job over the thought of working with you after all these years, it was probably worse for her than you remember.

    5. Parenthetically

      Came here to say exactly this, and that quoted part is just what was rubbing me the wrong way. It’s great advice to seek out a third party who could offer some more insight.

      OP, you need to back off on apologizing until you do a little reflection about the sort of behavior that would motivate someone to threaten to leave what sounds like an amazing job ten years after the incidents took place. You don’t sound at all like you have a sense of the seriousness of it. My guess is that, from the victim’s perspective, it was more than “pretty awful.”

      1. Juliecatharine

        Exactly this. I think OP needs some serious reflection. If this were me I would be horrified that my actions hurt someone to the degree that they would issue a no-hire ultimatum ten years later. Unless this woman is a major weirdo (which OP doesn’t claim) we’re not talking about a one-off or some relatively innocuous teasing. Actions have consequences and hopefully this will be an opportunity for growth.

    6. Bow Ties Are Cool

      I think it could be done. Something along the lines of “I know I was a terrible person back then, and I am deeply sorry that I was awful to you. I want to assure you that I am no longer applying for openings at Company X. I wish you all the best and, once again, I apologize for my past behavior.”

      Honestly, if one of my bullies wanted to apologize to me, I wouldn’t want them rehashing every detail anyway. A broad acknowledgement that their behavior was unacceptable would be preferable.

      1. KHB

        The operative sentence there is “I am no longer applying for openings at Company X.” With that in there, the OP has a lot of leeway. Without it, it’s a whole ‘nother story.

    7. Meg Murry

      I agree 100% that it’s worth asking someone from high school – preferably someone who wasn’t BFFs with either of you back in the day that might have a skewed perspective.

      It’s also possible that what’s she’s remembering isn’t so much you specifically being awful to her but rather you being a Mean Girl or Jerk-y Bro, or the kind of person who would make comment about people’s weight, appearance, race, or make fun of the smart kids or the special ed kids or the kids who were not athletic, misogynistic comments, etc – and that would be doubly bad if she is working in an industry that is trying to shed that kind of reputation (I’m thinking of startups and Tech Bros specifically, I’m sure there are other examples). In that case, apologizing to just her probably wouldn’t help very much – if she remembers you as a jerk/bully/Mean Girl, your apology to her (and only her, not other people from high school as well) is just going to come off as you trying to suck up to her because of the job. Especially if it’s a case like you were kind of mean to her but absolutely terrible to her best friend or something.

      Unless you have specific memories of bullying her (and only her), I don’t think an email apology is going to help anything. I think instead OP should probably look at this as a “what goes around comes around” situation, and work on continuing to become a better person than they were in high school. It’s possible that someday OP may cross paths with this person (or other people they went to high school with, it sounds like they live near where they grew up?) and may have the chance to say “look, I was a jerk in high school and now I realize it and I’m sorry and I hope we can go forward now that we’re all adults.”

      But in the short term, if there are very few jobs in your area OP, you probably need to expand your search area.

  8. Taylor Swift

    LW, if you do apologize, make it a sincere one and don’t do it just because you think it might help you get a job.

  9. VroomVroom

    There was a group of girls who were total mean girls to me in high school. Most of them were just tertiary and weren’t actually mean themselves, but two or three of them were actively AWFUL.

    If any of those ringleaders were to apply for a job at my company and I got wind of it, I would absolutely not want to work with them and I would make sure that the hiring manager knows. At my company now, it’s quite large and if they were in national headquarters my comments probably wouldn’t matter, but if they applied for a job here in our smaller office, hands down I know my opinion would mean they wouldn’t be hired. I’m good at my job and keeping me would be much more important to our office than a potential new employee (who you never know if they’ll be good or not).

    I don’t really care if they sent me an apology email. If they did, sure, I’d be glad they’re not still a sh*tty person, but that doesn’t mean I want to work closely with them.

    1. VroomVroom

      As a follow up – I actually DID end up working with a mean girl (from middle school, not high school) at an internship in college. We were both interns together – meaning neither of us was there first to threaten to quit.

      It was TEN YEARS after we’d been in middle school together. But she was STILL a mean girl. She was always trying to sabotage me at the internship, when it WAS NOT a competition. It was awful and I ended up quitting early because I just hated going. And I am NOT A QUITTER but one of the entry-level employees at the company was besties with said mean girl from college (a year ahead of us, so already graduated) and allowed mean girl to be actively mean to me while at work.

      1. AMG

        Unbelievable. One of my greatest disappointments in growing up is not taxes or realizing you can’t eat all the junk food you want. It was the realization that very few people every really outgrow high school behavior.

        1. VroomVroom

          Eh, I think a lot of people do. I know I certainly did (my husband and I are from the same town and we joke that it’s a good thing we never met before college because we wouldn’t have liked each other at all).

          I just think that there are certain people who felt like they were on top of the world in middle/high school, and haven’t seen any reason to change their ways. If something worked for them, why would they stop doing it?

          Anyway, I often think about this girl and my whole family refers to her as ‘buttface herlastname.’ She recently had a daughter, about a month before I am due, and I’m just terrified that if I ever move back to that city – which I would like to because my family and my husband’s family live there – that her freaking DAUGHTER will be a mean girl to my DAUGHTER. Or, buttface will be a mean-mom to me in the PTA or whatever… ugh.

          1. TootsNYC

            or worse–her daughter and yours will be fast friends, and you’ll have Buttface in your life for a long time.

            1. VroomVroom

              Oh god! Now I’m going to have nightmares about that.

              Would it be bad if I brainwash my daughter from a young age to think daughter-of-buttface is also a buttface?

              1. Misclassified

                If that happened, and you moved back, then your daughter might be a mean girl to her daughter. And that may be the worst of all the options.

                1. VroomVroom

                  AS a caveat, I hate buttface because she was a buttface to me as an adult – we were 22 years old! If all she’d been was a buttface in middle school I’d probably not care. In fact, I gave her the benefit of the doubt at that internship – and was very nice and friendly to her in the first few weeks. Turns out, she was actively stabbing me in the back the whole time! Urgh.

                2. TootsNYC

                  actually, yes–having your kid be the bully is a really horrible spot to be in. It happened to me–fortunately the other kid’s mom brought it to the day camp’s attention, and then to ours, so we were able to deal with it.

              2. VroomVroom

                To clarify – this is just wishful thinking. I would never actually brainwash my kid for that. It’s just along the lines of the ‘revenge fantasies’ someone references below, in my head :-P

            1. VroomVroom

              Hilariously, she’s also uber religious (and I’m not to the degree she is was never a bible thumper like she was). It’s always funny to me how people like that are often so hypocritical.
              Don’t get me wrong I’ve known quite a few uber religous women throughout my life who are the kindest, sweetest, most selfless people you’ll ever meet. But then there are some women who do it ‘just for show’ and definitely do not practice what they preach … or they judge anyone who isn’t quite as tee-totaler as they are and are cruel to them.

          2. Chaordic One

            There was a letter to “Dear Prudence” about 5 years ago from a(n) (allegedly) former mean girl who ran into her former victim at the private school where she was sending her sons. She (like the OP) conveniently claimed (to Prudence) not to remember everything she had done to the victim but did give her a tepid apology.

            She wrote to Prudence because she said that her victim had ganged up with the other mothers at the school and that now her own children were being bullied. To be honest it sounded more like the mean girl’s children were being shunned and not invited to sleepovers at the other childrens’ houses. I didn’t used to think that this was a form of bullying, but after thinking about the old Dear Prudence letter and reading the other comments here, I have reconsidered that and have come to think that being shunned and left out is also a form of bullying.

            In that letter, which had a different, but related problem, Prudence told the allegedly former mean girl that she had to talk about things with the principal at the school because it was affecting the woman’s children, but that’s not the OP’s problem in her letter to Allison, fortunately.

        2. Anon today...and tomorrow

          My biggest disappointment is that all of those revenge fantasies I had in high school – that I’d be looking so hot and the mean girls would be so fat and nasty and the boys would be bald and gross – never came true.

          It’s interesting how those 7 years (grade 6 through 12) leave such an indelible mark on your life. It’s been 25 years since my graduation and it can all come rushing back in a moment. I had one of the nastiest mean girls friend request me on Facebook in the last month. Apparently they’re searching for people to attend the reunion. I sent her a message and told her, in no uncertain terms, that I would not be attending this or any other high school reunion and that I would not be accepting any friend requests from former classmates. Then I blocked her. :) It made me feel good to take that stand for myself.

          1. Arpai

            There are days I think about attending a reunion and then I come to my senses and remember that anyone I want in my life from that time is already in it.

            I got a Facebook message about the 20-year-reunion and it was going to be a chili dinner hosted by the athletic boosters in the gym. People were posting about how all they’d be talking about were their kids. I quickly noped right out of that because the whole things sounds like a nightmare to me.

            1. Michele

              I don’t understand high school reunions. They might have made sense 30 or 40 years ago. Now there are so many ways to keep in touch with people that I care about, and I don’t see the point of visiting with people that I don’t care about.

              1. Ann Furthermore

                I get together for a reunion weekend with some friends every year, where we spend a few days acting like we’re still teenagers, get all caught up in nostalgia, and then spend the next week posting different versions of “I love you guys!” all over Facebook. I look forward to it all year. It keeps me in touch with the “me” that I was before becoming a middle-aged IT nerd/wife and mom in the suburbs.

                Granted, my high school experience was not typical at all. I went to a small boarding school in a tiny little mountain town in California, and something about that place bonded all of us for life, and we’re like family. No matter how long it’s been since we’ve all seen each other, we always pick up right where we left off and it’s like no time has passed at all. Maybe living together, without our parents around, had something to do with it. There really were no cliques. Sure, there were groups of people who were friends, but not in the traditional sense of having the jocks, the stoners, the nerds, and so on.

                1. VroomVroom

                  This sounds similar to how I am with my summer camp friends. I went to camp for 6 weeks every summer with the same core group of girls every year (each year there were a few new ones, so the group grew) and we all still keep in touch and try to get together as much as possible.

              2. Cath in Canada

                They’re not really a thing in the UK, so for the longest time my knowledge of high school reunions came 100% from things like Grosse Point Blank & Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. Then I went to my husband’s 20 year reunion with him and it was so. very. weird. You could really obviously see who all the cliques were. His high school friend also has an English wife – a professor of psychology no less – who grabbed my arm about three minutes in and said “Cath, this is f*&^ing weird, please don’t leave my side”!

                1. Kathleen Adams

                  Hmmm. I’m not sure about “cliques.” Groups of friends, sure – I mean, I definitely spent more time with my high school buds. Why wouldn’t I, and why wouldn’t everybody else? But the word “clique” has a connotation that I’m not sure is deserved, at least not at the reunions I went to. It seemed to me that although most of us hung out most of the time with the people we had been closest too, people also made an effort to circulate and talk to other people in the room as well.

                  But yes, of course getting together with people you once saw multiple times every day and who then pretty much disappeared from your life for 20 years or so is weird. But that’s not to say it’s a bad thing. :-)

                2. Cath in Canada

                  “people also made an effort to circulate and talk to other people in the room as well” – not at this one. Little clusters of people sticking together all night long. My husband provided some sotto voce commentary – “that group over there were all in the football team, this group were all the rich kids” etc. I didn’t talk to anyone who I didn’t already know in the three hours we were there; my husband talked very briefly to some people he ran into at the bar or the snack table, but then everyone went straight back to their little groups.

                  It might be a Vancouver thing – it’s generally very difficult to become friends with people who grew up here, because they already have their friends they’ve known their whole lives and aren’t super interested in making new ones. If you do manage to break into a group (e.g. by marrying in, like I did) then people are really nice and friendly, but the initial barriers are very high and all the newcomers tend to hang out together. There are exceptions, obviously, but I’ve never had a harder time making new friends when arriving in a new city as I did when I first moved here!

                3. GH in SOCal

                  (Replying to Cath in Canada but ran out of “nesting.)

                  That’s interesting to hear, I lived in Vancouver for 5 years and at the time I thought I had moved there for good. It took me a year to make friends other than the three people I knew when I landed. It was tough, not gonna lie. But I didn’t notice a difference between locals and other transplants — in fact, now that I think about it, the group of friends I finally did make include locals and immigrants.

                  But I met 90% of them through work so that might be relevant to my case. (Short term jobs, so the friendships could flourish once we were no longer colleagues.)

            2. Kathleen Adams

              I’ve been to several of my class reunions. They’re fun, so long as your expectations are…limited. It’s kind of nice to find out that most people did indeed grow up to be pretty decent people, including some about whom I had some doubts back when I was young.

              And it’s nice to lay some ghosts, too. Really.

          2. Rosamond

            In high school, I also used to relish the idea of going to my 20th reunion and seeing all the popular kids who would now be fat, bald, whatever. I went to that reunion a few years ago and, uh, it was really fun! And everyone was really nice! And they all looked great! And seemed really happy! A pleasant evening was had by all. And then I realized I might have been kind of a jerk in high school.

            1. Kathleen Adams

              No, no – probably not. It’s just that the world looks a lot different for most 38-year-olds than it does for most 18-year-olds.

          3. sam

            I found out years later, when I ran into an old HS classmate at bar review class while I was home for a week (I normally studied in another city) that a girl in high school who was a bully to a LOT of people had a really shitty customer-facing job. We (about-to-be-lawyers with good jobs lined up) concocted some elaborate fantasies about “running into her” and being awful.

            Of course we never did it – because we’re not actually that awful. But it was fun to fantasize for a few minutes.

            And I didn’t go to my high school reunion either. Both because I had no desire to see most of those people, and also because the planners managed to arrange for it to be both super expensive and inconveniently located NEITHER in our hometown (suburb north of NYC) or in NYC. It was randomly in the middle of New Jersey. Because of course.

            1. sam

              Oh, and also – none of this is meant as a dig at a particular class of jobs – just that the fact that we could have, in theory, bullied her back because of the nature of her job led to some schadenfreude-y thoughts.

              But here’s the real kicker – that was almost 20 years ago. I’ve since found out (thanks to getting random emails about my HS reunion that I did not attend!) that she became a teacher. I can actually only hope that she became a kinder person since HS.

          4. Humble Schoolmarm

            I went to my 10 year reunion and ran into two of the girls in my “Mean Girl” group. They weren’t the ringleaders, more bystanders than bully, but they were part of a group that made sure I knew that I didn’t have any good qualities or anything about me that wasn’t weird. So, we start making small talk and they ask what I do and I tell them. “Oh, Myname,” they say “you must be a wonderful teacher! You were always so smart and nice and patient in school!” That would have been so nice to hear…well… anytime when we were actually at school together.

            Bringing it back to you, OP. Your “probably pretty awful” was her months (years?) of tears and anger and feeling worthless. She’s made good with her life and risen to the point of having say over who gets hired and she doesn’t deserve to have to go anywhere near that mental space again. I get that you’ve grown and matured, but these are the consequences for hurting someone badly who did nothing (I assume) to deserve it.

        3. Kathleen Adams

          Having been to a few class reunions in my time, I can say with confidence that most people actually do grow up. I’d say by, say, the 15-year reunion, most of my classmates had turned into normal, functioning adults, and most of them were at least fairly nice – nice enough that I was happy to see them again at the 25th reunion. There are some *notable* exceptions, of course. :-)

          I mean, if this one guy tried to come to work here, I’d blackball him in a second. What a weasel he was, and if another classmate who was his first wife can be relied on, and I think she can, he stayed a weasel well into adulthood, too.

          1. Artemesia

            I think this is often true. I have never attended class reunions but went to a planning session for one when I was in town as my chance to see some folks. One of the guys there was someone who I thought was a real jerk; he didn’t have that high an impression of me either. We laughed about how much different we and the world looked to our grownup selves. But the class Azzhat — the son of a prominent attorney and now an attorney himself — still a douchebag. It was actually pretty hilarious; how lame do you have to be to still be trying to play high school dominance games?

            1. VroomVroom

              I know that’s just it! Like… why does it matter?

              Though I certainly work with one guy who I’m pretty sure was probably very attractive when he was younger (he’s still attractive, just in his 50s now) and seems to know it. He is super full of himself, pompous, and thinks he’s WAY smarter and more important than he is. Definition of a mansplainer, too! So I mean, people don’t grow out of that high school stuff – you just didn’t know them in high school to know if they were like that then.

          2. many bells down

            At my 20-year, at least 5 of the guys who were the “bro jock” type in high school got really drunk and took their shirts off on the dance floor. Some people never change.

        4. Former Retail Manager

          I am inclined to agree with you wholeheartedly. While the behavior may change to enable the person to come across as more of an adult, I believe that, at our core, most of us don’t change substantially barring a major life event of some sort, and even then not always. Everyone I’ve encountered since high school that I didn’t care for is still pretty much the same in a way that is significant enough to make me not care to associate with them. My favorite is when people who were d***s to me back then, act chummy now, as if nothing ever happened. Puhleeeaaassseee!

          1. Hrovitnir

            Yep. A guy my partner went to school with was a terrible bully – not to him, but to a lot of kids. He met him again briefly some time in their 40s and his friend from high school was all “he’s changed!” To which my partner snorted and said “no he hasn’t, he’s just better at hiding it.”

            Depending on the circumstances I think people can grow out of it. But people who are bullies because they enjoy abusing power are unlikely to IMO.

        5. blackcat

          I agree with you: few people grow out of *high school* behavior. I have kept in touch with a couple of my former students. They are basically the same people as they were when they were 18 now that they are 22-25 years old.

          But oh, man, some of they ARE NOT THE SAME AT ALL as their 14 year old selves.

          The pattern I see is that generally, people grow out of the worst of their behavior by senior year of high school, maybe a year or two after. If they don’t, they are assholes for life.

          Since the OPs incident happened late in high school (rather than early or in middle school), I understand why that woman doesn’t want to work with the OP.

  10. Robbenmel

    If your apology is genuine, I would say go ahead and do it. Even if you’re not likely to end up working for this company, you are likely to end up working with or around this person as you progress in your career, especially as the industry is so small. An apology now could make a huge difference later.

    And even if it doesn’t affect your career, it’s just the right thing to do, which could make a difference in your own heart and mind.

  11. Roscoe

    So I’ll be the first one to say, I was never bullied. I had some general teasing that happens among boys, but nothing that I would look back on and say it was a horrible experience.

    That said, I really have to wonder what was done and if she is being a bit dramatic here. I agree there are certain things that could rise to the level of “I can’t be in the room with that person again”, and other stuff that is just stupid teenage stuff. Judging people based on who they were in high school is kind of ridiculous, as most people change somewhat from when they are a teen. I’m sure there are things that she did as a teenager that she would rather not have brought up. I say this as a former teacher, most teens do bad stuff that they’d rather forget. So to threaten to quit seems a bit much to me. I understand a manager wanting to retain good staff. But I have to wonder where the line is for where mistakes far in the past will follow you around forever, as well as how much a manager should let someone dictate this. Honestly, I don’t know that an apology would even do any good here.

    I say if you want to apologize because you feel what you did was that bad, go for it. But you are probably not getting a job there unless she leaves. That sucks though. Good luck

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      We don’t know the details here, but some bullying is really bad — like physical assault bad or sexual harassment bad or severe humiliation bad. Kids kill themselves over some bullying. There’s a really wide range, and while sure, it’s possible that the person is reacting surprisingly strongly to something that wasn’t that severe, it’s also possible that it was pretty hellish. We don’t know.

      1. VroomVroom

        My bullying wasn’t particularly bad – no assault physical or sexual, no public ridicule. Just, those girls were total. effing. bitches. One of the ringleaders of the group of mean girls in high school for me was invited to a date function at my college (she didn’t go to my college) and didn’t know anyone. It’d been a few years and so I figured I’d give her the benefit of the doubt, be nice, and introduce her to my friends. I mean, I was at the date function too and very good friends with her date!
        Anyway, she was still a total. effing. bitch. to me that night. Like, seriously?

        1. I used to be Murphy

          I still remember the feeling of complete loneliness and hopelessness when I was cut-off from my friends in grade 6. How they made fun of me. Came to my house when I was home alone and yelled and threw rock at the house saying they wanted to beat me up. Called me Miss Piggy. Snickered behind my back. That was 27 years ago. I have no idea if those girls grew up. I don’t even remember some of their names. But I remember what they did.

          1. Michele

            Are we the same person? Because I had very similar experiences. It was made worse because teachers and parents put so much pressure on me to make friends. I wanted nothing more than to have friends, and it was treated like it was my fault.

            1. Lurkness Monster

              6th grade is such a terrible time to be a girl. My best friend dumped me for the cool girls – who had made fun of her endlessly the year before because she had impetigo & the steroids to treat it made her puffy. That would have been bad enough, but then she turned on me with the rest of them. My braces, glasses, & fuzzy hair were all great fodder for them. That was a long, terrible year. They backed off some in jr high and high school, but I still had a visceral reaction when I found out the ringleader transferred to my small college our sophomore year. Noped the heck out of our 10 year reunion because of the cost & because she was on the planning committee. The 20th will be coming up soon-ish and I still wouldn’t want to make small talk with her. The worst part: I bet if you asked her she wouldn’t even remember a fraction of the awful crap she said and did to me.

          2. happy cat

            ugh. Same thing. My BFF from grade 3 on, not only dumped me in grade six (new bigger school) she made fun of me in order to get in the good books of the cool kids. Weirdly, she would talk to me if no one was around. At the time, it hurt, but I wasn’t that mad. I ‘knew’ I was a loser and didn’t blame her.
            Later in life, I held her more accountable.
            She actually apologized on her own, and in our late 20s early 30s we became friends again..
            and, yah, it started up again.
            I was too fat.
            My job was too lame.
            My clothes sucked.. and on and on.
            then…..Her live in boyfriend made a pass at me, and I struggled if I should tell her. We all lived in the same housing co op in a small town.. in the end I realized I had to tell her, and she blamed me, for TELLING her, and stayed with him.
            She is still with him, nearly 20 years later.
            Anyway, not sure where I was going with this, apart from I was incredibly lonely in school, had 0 friends after that, it got so bad I could not even use the bathroom at school.. all so she could have cool friends.

      2. KHB

        Another thing for my fellow oldsters (I’m 39) to keep in mind is that bullying in the age of the internet has the potential to be so much worse. I had some classmates make my life pretty miserable in middle school, but at the end of the school day, I was away from them. When summer vacation rolled around, I was away from them for three whole months. But when you’re living life in public via facebook and twitter and whatever the social medium du jour is, the bullies can find a way to stay with you always.

        1. Adlib

          Yes, this. I cannot even imagine trying to grow up amidst all the social media these days. Wow. Also, kids have found some pretty extreme ways to be terrible there that I don’t think we ever considered when we were young.

        2. Easter

          Ditto to this. I look back on high school and have no bad memories, no bullies, but sometimes I wonder how that is possible (chubby, braces, band – say what?)! I’d like to think that it was my rockstar confidence but I’m sure that a big part of it was that I graduated before Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc. How kids these days manage, I’ll never know.

        3. AnonEMoose

          Oh, so much this! Grades 6-9 were absolute HELL for me, between the mean girls and the boys who harassed me because I was an “early bloomer” and a nerd. But at least home was a safe space. If I hadn’t been able to get away from it for at least part of every day, I seriously do not know if I would be here to write this.

        4. sam

          Oh this – I like facebook now, but I tell everyone that I thank god every day that facebook and the like didn’t exist when I was a kid. At least when I got home at the end of an awful day, it was a refuge from some of the awfulness that went on.

          My parents actually moved when I was in the sixth grade, and I’m extremely confident that they changed school districts specifically because I was having such a hard time in the school I was in. Things definitely got better in my new school – I was never popular, and I still got bullied by the class bully, but she picked on everyone. In elementary school, I was singled out and got picked on by everyone (I don’t know if it was because I was a nerd, or just weird, or what. I mean, at one point kids were making fun of my clothes every day – so my mom went out and specifically bought me the same trendy sneakers that EVERYONE else wore – but somehow I still got made fun of because I didn’t wear them “right”).

        5. mreasy

          I’m 37 and was bullied to the level of emotional abuse from kindergarten thru middle school, with the sexual harassment/assault added in 7/8 grade. I am an exec and extremely self assured and I would NEVER be able to work around someone who tortured me in my youth. Maybe that’s part of the reason I moved across the country…

        6. Kfox (OP)

          We are just old enough that Facebook wasn’t a thing until our freshman year of college. We had Xanga, though. I know Rock Star was the target of a very mean post. I didn’t write it (and Rock Star would’ve known who did), but it’s the kind of thing looking back on I wish I’d sat at my dad’s computer and typed, “Not cool.”

      3. Turtle Candle

        Yes, thank you. Intellectually, I would like to say “of course people can change.” Emotionally….

        I was bullied by a group of about a dozen people at my middle school. The abuse varied in intensity (from sexual assault down to ‘just’ harassment like stealing my belongings and spreading rumors that I was a slut and telling me that I should kill myself and remove myself from the gene pool so there would be fewer ugly babies), but it was unremitting and unrelenting. Every day. For a year. Once my parents finally found me an alternate school, I was very close to suicide myself. It cause me permanent emotional damage that I have to deal with to this day.

        I suspect that some of the people in the group probably still wouldn’t have any idea what they’d done, because part of the problem of bullying is that it’s cumulative. Okay, the guy who groped me and the girl who spat on me and put a razor blade in my locker with a ‘please do everyone a favor’ note probably could at least recognize that their actions were extreme, if they have any shred of empathy. But the rest of them? They were ‘just messing around’ with my belongings, they were ‘just razzing you,’ come on, can’t you take a joke? And yeah, if the context had been friendly, or even if it hadn’t been continual and perpetuated by multiple people, maybe I could have taken a joke. But it was continuous and unending, and it turned every school day into a gauntlet.

        I do not think I would be capable even now of working with any of them. This was over twenty years ago. I still couldn’t. I would quit rather than have to look at them across a table every day. I do not wish them ill in a general sense. I do not want them to be unemployable forever. But I would absolutely leave my workplace if I had to deal with them regularly. Absolutely.

      4. detached anon

        Yeesh. I’ve read the OP’s comments in the first thread, although my device can’t easily search Names for me to easily find other posts.

        So with that disclaimer, I’m going by OP’s mention that the incident was from excluding Rockstar from her group when they were neighbours & the situation emanates from that.

        I guess my question is this: With OP’s comments & from the context in her letter (“…I wasn’t a very nice person back then, and I probably was pretty awful to this girl”), are we all assuming bullying because of the title of this post?
        Alison, was there more to the letter that made you think “bullying”?

        All that said, it’s good to have discussions on issues like bullying. And OP, I do think you might have done worse than the memory you have now. I don’t mean this as unkind, as others have said many former bullies have little recollection as to how bad they really were & years after the fact one really wouldn’t block an application based only on not being allowed in a certain group.

        If you ever decide to apologise to Rockstar, please be certain that it’s genuine & with no ulterior motive. Also be prepared that she might not ever be able to accept it.

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      I don’t think you’re in a position to second-guess, here, and I think you’re minimizing the effect that even social ostracism and bullying can have. If you haven’t been bullied, this strikes me as a good opportunity to end fewer sentences with “.” and more with “?”

    3. AMG

      Hey Roscoe, if it never happened to you then you really don’t know what you’re talking about. It which case you should probably refrain from providing an opinion.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I’m okay with people providing opinions here on things they have no firsthand experience with, and I don’t want that shut down (although I think it’s wise for people to acknowledge when they’re doing that). It’s fine to tell someone they’re speaking without the benefit of experience though.

          1. Marisol

            Well if he was a teacher of teenage kids, it does sound like he has some frame of reference for what he’s talking about.

            1. Lilo

              Although we all had teachers who ignored bullying or in some cases, egged it on. Man, that one English teacher of mine was awful and did not belong in the classroom.

              1. Elizabeth West

                I had a TEACHER who bullied me. Before we were in her class (primary school), the kids really didn’t pick on me that much. She made it okay, and it continued until we graduated.

                1. TL -

                  Yeah, I think this is the biggest problem – it’s so easy to set a norm for kids and most of them don’t have the ability to recognize that it’s not normal or realize that they can set a new normal. They just go along with what the normal is (so one kid gets picked on by everybody or they just ignore the person being picked on or it’s okay to tease someone a bit because everyone does but they don’t realize that a couple of the kids take it way too far, so their teasing isn’t little but actually culmulative…)

              2. Relly

                Yeah. They tell kids now to tell a teacher. I tried that. The teachers didn’t give a rat’s ass.

              3. Oranges

                Dude, one time a classmate in 11th grade told all the “fags to stay in the closet or else”. Teacher did jack shit. I could go on for a good long while but that was the worst. Also I am LGBT

              1. Marisol

                I didn’t say it was the same as personal experience. I said he probably has some insight. If you read the OP’s additional comments, you may see that what she describes is, in fact, normal teenage high school drama, rather than the kind of extreme bullying others are positing. So Roscoe was on to something.

            2. Observer

              Actually, that makes it worse. Teachers who think that ostracizing a kid (which is pretty much what the OP describes) is just fairly routine HS stuff, no big deal and with no lasting impact are a real part of the problem.

              Now, the way many High Schools work, there is no a lot most teachers can do. But at least realize that this stuff IS a big deal!

        1. Aveline

          It’s also relevant whether or not the victim was “fragile” as minor bullying of someone fragile can be worse than major bullying of someone who is emotionally 100%, popular, and w. Support network

          Imagine bullying a rapd victim. Even minor acts can leave major damage

    4. Arpai

      If you’ve never been bullied, I don’t think you can say this person was overreacting in this situation. My bully instructed his friends to hit me over the head with textbooks. That’s just one example of the stuff he did.

      1. Bibliovore

        I was horribly bullied in high school. So badly that I graduated in three years because I was sure I wouldn’t make it to four. My body, my clothes, my economic status were all fair game to obnoxious boys and mean girls. Hallways between classes were an obstacle course of physical (shoving, tripping, slamming into lockers) and emotional abuse (name calling, mean girl observations “where did you get that hat? I just LOVE it. So retro. The thrift store?” I was the kid that a cool boy asked to a dance and then all of his friends laughed when I said yes because couldn’t I tell he was just “kidding” why would anyone ask out a loser like me.

        I wouldn’t say scarred for life but I certainly wouldn’t want to work with any of them. I am pretty sure I would be pissed off if someone labeled my high school recollections as “dramatic” minimizing the daily trauma that I experienced.

        1. AnonMarketer

          “I was the kid that a cool boy asked to a dance and then all of his friends laughed when I said yes because couldn’t I tell he was just “kidding” why would anyone ask out a loser like me.”

          Oh god, I was bullied RELENTLESSLY as a kid all the way until I finished freshman year of college. That one sentence brought all sorts of bad memories back. Yikes.

          1. Oryx

            Oh god. I remember sitting in the lunch room and one of the quasi cool kids (not top tier, but maybe a tier above me) came up to our table and asked me out to prom in front of my friends. I just sat there, blushing furiously, and said no because I just had a bad feeling I was being set up.

            Looking back, he might have been sincerely asking but I’d been bullied all through middle and high-school, I didn’t want to risk the option that he was just kidding.

        2. Arpai

          Someone threw an opened milk carton at me one day in the lunchroom. That honestly was probably one of the most humiliating things ever.

          I will also never forget the first day I got on the bus to go to my new school district in second grade. I was six years old and a fifth grader took one look at me and called me a “fat, white-haired slob”. I was bewildered.

          1. Oryx

            I think my most humiliating was getting barked at. As in, a dog. I had just gotten off the bus in middle school and dropped something and as I went to pick it up another girl in my class just barked at me. WTF

            1. Not So NewReader

              OMG. That continued on into my 20s. I can remember walking down a street past a bar. It was daytime but the bar was busy. There were some guys at the table next to the window. I walked by and they all started barking.

              If I had known then what I know now…..

        3. Lilo

          I really wasn’t that badly bullied but I still have a small scar on my face from where a girl scratched my face up on the bus. So i guess I am quite literally scarred. Now she was 8 at the time so I don’t blame her now, but if she had been 17, you bet I would side-eye her in the future.

      2. many bells down

        Spit in my hair. Gum in my hair. Knocked down, had my shoes stolen and thrown onto a nearby roof. Knocked off my bike resulting in a broken arm. Shoved into lockers.

        That’s just the bigger stuff. There’s still the death by a thousand cuts of the constant verbal harassment.

    5. Nonnie

      No. It is absolutely not being dramatic. Being bullied is not the same as having one bad experience here and there. Bullying is, by definition, long term targeting for various forms of harassment and/or abuse. And if this person is willing to say “This person bullied me in high school and I don’t want to work with them,” you should believe that person.

    6. Princess Carolyn

      We just don’t know enough about what happened to speculate about whether this classmate’s reaction is reasonable, so let’s not. What we do know is that she’s a super star and that gives her some significant capital in that organization. Few managers are willing to let a star employee walk to take a chance on an entry-level candidate, especially if the concern about the candidate is that he might be a jerk.

      Stuff like this happens all the time, but it’s not always expressly related to childhood bullying. It could be a general dislike, something a candidate did to make a really bad impression, even just an unsavory reputation. Sometimes that’s fair and sometimes it’s not, but your chances are never going to be great at a company where an important person doesn’t like you.

      1. Natalie

        Yep, at the end of the day we don’t know what happened, the LW and Rockstar Employee might not even know what happened (human memory is not infallible) but none of it matters. Rockstar Employee doesn’t want LW there, so LW is going to have to live with that.

      2. Michele

        You are right that things like this happen all of the time for various reasons. We rejected on candidate because he a couple of our employees had him as a professor and said that he was really bad about playing favorites. That made us concerned that he wouldn’t be able to work with everyone. Another candidate was rejected because he was my former boss and I let my current boss know that he had almost been fired for sexual harassment.

      3. MicroManagered

        Absolutely. I blocked an applicant because I used to work with her in my last job and she was a bully there. She started a rumor that I was sleeping with Grandboss. (Zero truth to that story.) I told Currentboss I would begin interviewing immediately if she was hired. Her resume went in the figurative trash.

    7. LBK

      You’re still being heavily shaped as a person when you’re a teenager. Things that might be easy to get over when you’re an adult or that seem minor from an adult perspective can have a serious long-term effect on you when you’re that impressionable. 10 years later high school is still by far the most difficult, stressful period of my life – it’s really not an easy time for a lot of people and comes with bad memories that would be hard to just get over if the person who was the centerpiece of them was sitting at a desk next to you every day.

      You know how if you drink too much of a certain alcohol and it makes you sick you don’t really want to drink that kind of alcohol anymore? It’s like that. I don’t have a grudge against Bacardi Razz; I don’t hate its existence. But I don’t want to drink it because I relate it with a bad experience that I don’t really want to relive.

      1. Chaordic One

        This is an apt comment. Many years ago I had a bit too much tequila and to this day I cannot stand it. Just the smell makes me nauseous. Thinking about certain bullies from my past gives me a similar feeling.

    8. MK

      Roscoe, the manager did not let anyone dictate anything. She learned that if she hired the OP, another employee would leave and she made a decision. Your comment, as well as the OP’s “is this fair” question, seems to imply that the manager did this to punish the OP’s bullying behavior, but that’s not really the case. It doesn’t actually matter if this person has legitimate concerns about working with the OP or she is overreacting to behavior that wasn’t that bad objectively; she has a right to decide that she doesn’t want to work with the OP ever.

      Also, another factor is how closely they would work together. I can see myself issueing a veto against working with someone who wasn’t abusive, just a jerk, if it meant we would sit opposite eachother all day long.

    9. (different) Rebecca

      In high school eggs were thrown at me in class. A hairbrush was aggressively lodged in my hair at lunch. Projectiles were thrown at me as I rode my bike to work after school. I was shoved, tripped, isolated, ostracized, and humiliated at every turn, and every time I tried to either fight back or report it, I was the one who got in trouble. As a current teacher, I make sure to let my students know that such behavior is not allowed, period, and if they’re subject to it then I have their back. The people who passed it off as not too bad or just teenage stuff were the reason I ended up with severe trust issues on top of the trauma of being bullied in the first place. Please reexamine your stance on this, because such a cavalier attitude can cause unexpected damage.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Totally agree. What letter writer here is talking about is not ordinary teenage drama.

    10. Falling Diphthong

      People change between, say, their 30s and 50s. It doesn’t mean that the actions of their 30s go into some sort of non-actionable vault the instant they turn 40.

    11. TootsNYC

      Some points:
      This woman (the victim) is REALLY GOOD at her job–therefore, smart and probably w/ good social skills‚ and good judgment, presumably.
      This woman **threatened to resign**–she didn’t just say, “ooh, I used to know them, not a good hire.”
      Threatening to resign can make you look really unprofessional; it’s an extreme reaction, and it can make you come across as vengeful or overreacting. Managers don’t like to feel pushed around by their staff–not even their stars. It’s really risky.
      She did it anyway.

      I think that means she was affected pretty strongly by whatever our OP did.

      I agree with you–our OP is not getting a job there. And maybe not even after the OP leaves. And maybe not elsewhere, actually.
      Because people are going to remember this former classmate’s reaction, and they’re probably going to give it some creedence for the exact same reason I did. And they’re going to move around inside this niche industry.

      I think our OP’s best bet is to do some really, really serious re-evaluating of “how terrible?” was what they did, and get to a point where they can apologize quite sincerely.

      1. Parenthetically

        Yep, all of this. Threatening to resign when you’re a high performer with a great job is SUCH a nuclear option, and that’s why I’m loath to chalk this up to “normal” high school teasing. You just do not throw away a position in which you are at the top of your game and highly respected in your field over something minor or even something more serious that happened a decade ago. Her playing this card is itself a huge red flag about OP’s behavior.

        1. Anonymous Educator

          Threatening to resign is a pretty major deal, especially if you don’t have another job lined up. I mean, given how stellar she is in her field, it probably wouldn’t be long before she found another job, but it’s still a big deal to quit without anything immediately lined up. I would take it seriously that this is the hill she wanted to die on.

          1. Michele

            Especially since there aren’t many other jobs in her field in the area. That is a big risk to take.

        2. New hiring manager

          This is what stood out to me. If she was willing to take such a risky stance when she had so much to lose, it was likely more than simple, passing HS unkindness. If all these years later, she’s willing to throw away such a good thing (where she’s repeatedly proven herself), then the OP’s actions obviously made a major, lasting impression.

      2. KHB

        To add to your list of excellent points: The former classmate has a track record with her manager and coworkers. If the problem were that she’s too much of a drama queen, she’d be introducing drama over other things too, not just this (and would likely be much less valued as an employee because of it). The fact that they took her threat seriously suggests that it’s not her usual behavior, which suggests that out of all things that annoy/upset/terrify her, whatever the OP did in high school is very near the top of the list.

      3. Just Another Techie

        threatening to resign if such-and-such happens is, in fact, usually such a red flag that typically managers reply with “don’t let the door hitcha on your way out.” The fact that they didn’t, that they chose in favor of their employee, doesn’t just speak to her reputation with her bosses. It shouts it from the rooftops. Her managers obviously have faith in her judgment and credibility.

        1. Lady Andthetramp

          I feel like the OP changed her tune about this. What was “threatened to resign” in the letter turned into “she politely replied that is she had to see me every day she would have to move on.” down thread.

          1. Kfox (OP)

            When I wrote to Alison, that was what I had been told – “Rock Star threatened to quit if you were offered a job.” I actually asked my acquaintance to see if she could get me more information, and she came back with this tidbit – that it had been more of a polite, “I will move on” versus “I quit!” – after our first conversation and after I’d written to AAM, but before Alison responded.

            1. Tempest

              They’re kind of the same thing though. They both say ‘I will not work with Kfox and will be gone from your company.’ If she’s the superstar you describe her as here, she’ll be snapped up by another company and she’ll be gone quickly either way. The not extreme version of this would have been letting them hire you and then quietly leaving without saying why. The fact she told her bosses to their face if they hire you they will be losing her to somewhere you are not means that working with you is a massive deal breaker for her. Telling your bosses you’ll leave over a new hire is standing on your hill prepared to die there as they might have said ‘Bye Felicia’. There is no softening of her feelings for the change of language, just the I won’t put myself in a position of not having an income over it but I will be gone from the vicinity of Kfox as soon as a new job allows.

    12. TBoT

      One of the things that’s most frustrating about bullying is how often adults children turn to for help dismiss their fears and needs by calling them over-dramatic or saying things like “boys will be boys” and “teenagers are cruel.”

      Aside from that, there’s a well-documented, established societal pattern of women’s fears and concerns being downplayed and dismissed. Doctors take women’s pain less seriously. Employers take women’s reports of harassment less seriously. Women often have to coordinate with one another in meetings to support each others’ statements so they will be taken seriously. So it’s frustrating to see here in the comments a jump to “probably being over dramatic” in the face of no detail about what happened.

      1. Parenthetically

        Thanks for saying this in such a diplomatic way. I couldn’t make my frustrations about that particular facet of this come out in coherent words.

      2. Anon today...and tomorrow

        THANK YOU! This sums up exactly what I wished I could say but emotion kept me from being as articulate!

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I really appreciate this comment (the others are also great). It does a fantastic job of reframing what bothered me about Roscoe’s suggestion that the employee is somehow oversensitive or overdramatic.

      4. Carolyn

        Waaaaaaaaaaay off topic, but you REALLY made me think when you wrote:

        Women often have to coordinate with one another in meetings to support each others’ statements so they will be taken seriously.

        I work in a male dominated field and in my office of 8, there are only 2 females … and until 6 months ago, I was the only female at my branch office! We occasionally make sample prints for customers and sometimes the images the techs use push the bounds of good taste. If anything, my shock-meter is calibrated waaaaaaaaay too low, so if I am giving something side-eye, a normal person would likely be quite offended.

        The other day, there was a sample print of a woman wearing stockings, skimpy panties, and covering her huge tracts of land with only strategically held fruit. How subtle … eyeroll. We use A LOT of fashion photography to print samples because skin tones and vivid colors and draped cloth can really show off what our machines can do … but there are plenty of images which have all of those features that don’t also look just a tad too risque for a Victoria’s Secret catalog.

        I brought it up in a meeting on Monday morning – I didn’t hesitate or feel funny or make apologies for being sensitive – it was in bad taste and I spoke up. I said that some of the images used for samples were outside the bounds of good taste and that we needed to be careful with the impressions we make with samples – if the person holding the purse strings can’t get past the shock of a bikini lady draped over a Corvette, how are they ever going to notice the quality of the print and decide to buy our machines? My boss backed me up (“For real guys?! Come ON!”), the guys smiled sheepishly and nodded agreement. And then my female coworker spoke up and said “Carolyn is not the only one who feels this way – I agree with her.”

        It felt a bit weird to me at the time – it’s always nice to be backed up, but it felt unnecessary? Heavy handed? I couldn’t put my finger on it … but it had some sense of it not being enough that I alone felt that way? I didn’t make anything of it (smiled at her and nodded emphatic agreement), but your words brought it into focus for me. At this branch, I am VERY used to being taken seriously and listened to – I am regularly asked to give opinions and come up with ideas. (And it is AWESOME!!!! I love my company, my job, my boss and my coworkers!!!! I wish I could hire away every last one of you with nightmare jobs!!!!) Upon reflection, I am 99.9999999% sure that she was knee-jerk backing me up because she had seen too many women get shot down without someone to back them up. It wasn’t necessary in that room on that day … but it had been necessary way too many times before.

        Really looking forward to her internalizing that here she will be taken seriously, treated with respect and valued! But until then, I am going to make a point of backing her up – if that is how she shows support to me, chances are she will feel supported if I do the same!

        (And I will admit … many years ago, the first time I saw a questionable image come off a printer (it was a clever play on the phrase “coin slot” featuring both a slot machine and a woman bending over … again, subtle …) I pointed it out to my boss and let him handle it with the techs. So I am not saying it didn’t take me some time getting used to my voice being enough on its own, too …)

        1. Chaordic One

          You are so right about this, Carolyn, and about the need to actively support other women when you’re in a situation like this. Kudos for the good example you gave, too! Sometimes, you might have to have a little talk with the other women who will be in the meeting to coordinate and plan something like this, and sometimes your “allies” might let you down.

          I feel positively “Machiavellian,” but I’ve been guilty of setting things up like this. My experience has been that I’ve had good luck when involving other women and LGBT people, but mixed results when involving minority men. Of course, you do this with the understanding that you have to speak up and give your allies the time to make their points and to then support them afterwards.

      5. Not So NewReader

        Thank you for this.

        In OP’s letter we have a woman who is VERY secure in her job, she’s not just good at it, she is GREAT. She spoke up, the company listened and now OP is out a perspective job. This is how it should go when women are respected.

      6. nonegiven

        “Just ignore them.”

        “Don’t let it bother you.”

        Then the ever popular:
        “What did you do to make them want to do that to you?”

    13. PlainJane

      I was bullied from 4th grade till about sophomore year of high school–and some of it was really bad, like sexual harassment and physical violence. And I still generally agree with you. I’m pretty forgiving of what people did back then, because a lot of them had crappy home situations and were acting out and because, as you say, most teenagers do bad stuff–and also because I don’t want to carry around a load of anger and hurt 30 years after the fact. Some people are assholes forever, but many grow out of it and become decent human beings. I’m happy to see that happen and happy to forgive them for who they used to be.

      All that said, everyone processes their pain differently, and people who couldn’t stand to work with their former tormentors aren’t wrong to feel the way they do.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I have a friend who describes himself as a recovering AH. I said is there a 12 step for that? He said, “No. It’s a 31 step and you have to create the steps yourself.” I told him this sounded really painful. It looks pretty painful to me.

        I know he still struggles, even though, he has indeed become a far better person. Because he was busy doing stupid things he missed a lot of life lessons that other people were learning. Even now he finds things insulting that are not insulting. And there are times he has problems that get big because he has never learned what people are doing to fix that problem when it occurs.

        We talk about this sometimes. And he says that it is his punishment for being such an AH in the first half of his life.
        While I don’t agree with it, I can see why people continue being AHs for the rest of their lives, the learning curve to convert is very steep and requires some very painful inner self inspection.

    14. Anon today...and tomorrow

      I was bullied every day from April of 1985 to June of 1992. Every day. It’s been 25 years since graduation and I still have nightmares – three to six a month. I wouldn’t care if my bullies apologized. I wouldn’t work with them. I have a cousin who became best friends with one of my bullies about 8 years after high school. I won’t attend anything that side of my family hosts because this woman is always invited. I’ve been asked what I’ve gone through and to some it sounds mild, to others it sounds horrible. To me, it was the worst time of my life. And the thing that made it the worst was that there were all of these adults who saw it going on (my own mother included!) and they all suggested that I was being dramatic, that it was regular teenage stuff, that boys were being boys, that girls were being girls, that I needed to get thicker skin, that this would make me stronger. No. I needed for it to stop. It didn’t. I was in therapy for many years. I had two (two!!!!) failed suicide attempts before the people closest to me realized it wasn’t teenage stuff, that bullying is a problem that doesn’t end when the bully goes away. My self esteem took a hit that it’s still recovering from all these years later, so yeah…if one of my bullies were offered a position here at work, I’d quit and it wouldn’t be because I was being dramatic. It would be because my mental health could not survive even being around them.

      1. Michele

        I am so sorry that you went through that. I wish that parents and teachers would stop blowing off behavior that would land an adult in prison as just “kids being kids”.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

        I’m so sorry. You didn’t deserve any of that. It was wrong and the adults should have protected you. Sending you lots of supportive energy.

      3. AMG

        I hear you. I would tell my mom what the other kids said about me and she thought it was hilarious and would burst out laughing in my face. Forgiven but not ever forgotten.

      4. Not So NewReader

        I am so sorry.

        Sometimes I think that the adults who blow it off as drama are just as much bullies as the ones doing the blatant bullying. I think these adults cause just as much harm as the bullies do.

        I hope you find many peaceful people to share your life/days with.

    15. seejay

      My sister and I spent 5 years harassed by a family of kids (6 of them across three families) that spent the entire ride harassing us on the way home. They called us names, made fun of our mom when they found out she was in AA (when we were still struggling to understand her alcoholism recovery and addiction), threw school supplies at us (including getting me in the eye), and made our lives hell. This was when my sister was also lashing out in anger at me because of the problems in my parents’ marriage. This was between age 7 to 12.

      During this time, for one year, I had a teacher that would scream at me if I didn’t pay attention in his class or do things “his way”. I went from a straight A, above average, gifted student to struggling.

      Between age 7 to 15, I dealt with a range of people that bullied me by either pulling my hair, making fun of my clothes because my family was poor and struggling, making fun of the toys I had, making fun of the things I liked to draw, poking fun at my weight or my height, making fun of being smart, being bad at sports, I was ostracized from groups, my taste in music was mocked because it wasn’t what everyone else listened to. When I just wanted to fit in, no one would let me. It was a blow to my self-esteem when I didn’t know how to deal with it. When I tried to tell my mom about it, her answer was “pray for them” instead of giving me tools to actually handle it, so instead I withdrew. I got into angry music, I became suicidal, I lashed out and I engaged in destructive behaviour. Why? Because no one listened to me. Bullying wasn’t taken seriously, it was “kids are being kids, he just likes you, just ignore them, they’ll go away”. If I tried to fight back or lash out, I got hurt worse because I was smaller. Words do hurt when people know what to say that gets under your armour.

      So yes… bullying can leave serious mental and emotional scars that last a lifetime. I still struggle with some of the crap that I dealt with back then. Some of it I’ve managed to shake off, but occasionally it crops up. I had to deal with a workplace bully for the past few years, and for the most part I could ignore it, but once in a blue moon, she’d say or do something and all the emotions and feelings from when I was 10 would hit me like a brick and I’d just be filled with uncontrollable shame… usually followed by almost unrestrained anger. So no, it’s not over-reacting to say “no, I will not work with my highschool bully, it’s them or me.”

      1. Arpai

        “He just likes you” are the worst words ever uttered by any adult to a child ever. I endured so much abuse from my bully because I had a crush on him and my parents told me he was “teasing” me because he liked me. So I took whatever he dished out thinking that somewhere deep down inside, he had a crush on me too.

        Spoiler alert: He did not.

        1. seejay

          There was one boy in my grade 7/8 years that picked on a lot of girls. Some he liked, some he didn’t, but his bullying came across the exact same way: sexually harassing us. Some of us spoke up, some didn’t. I knew at aged 11/12 that being groped by a guy I hated and who disliked me wasn’t right but there were adults that were just passing it off as “he just likes the girls in his class”.

          Excuse me what da fak?

        2. Nolan

          Followed closely by, “they’re just picking on you because they’re jealous of you.”

          Nope, that’s not why they did it. And sure, I realized that was bs almost immediately, but all that lead to was me internalizing every mean thing ever said to me. In my mid 30s and deep down, I still believe every word of it.

          1. AMG

            Yeah, the boys that bullied me did NOT like me. They hated me unequivocally. When someone hurts my kids I am absolutely not making light of it.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

        I’m sorry that happened. None of it was acceptable. What you describe is quite familiar to me. Hope that today is a good day for you.

      3. Not So NewReader

        I am so very sorry.

        Thank you for posting this, you have made a very clear and very strong point.

    16. The RO-Cat

      One thing worth saying – maybe – is that, as it happens in many human-to-human interactions, the intensity of a behaviour on the other is determined partly by the behavior itself and partly by its perception on the receiving side. Some kids get heavily bullied and get out (relatively) okay from the experience, others get (what others might call) mildly bullied and attempt suicide. There’s a whole range of reactions from the bullied and, perhaps excepting the most extreme ones, *any* reaction is normal and natural. We – you, me, others non-involved – can have an opinion, but I don’t think we it is our place to attempt to judge, classify or otherwise assess other’s reactions by our own standards. Not because it’s verboten, but because it’s a futile endeavour (plus, you risk coming across as lacking empathy – not a really useful image to project, if I might say so). So, as extreme as ex-classmate’s reaction might appear to you, it is totally legit *in her experience*. And that, in and of itself, would be enough for me – were I the OP – to apologize sincerely, move on and let life bring a repair of the relationship if it ever decides to do that.

    17. Aphrodite

      Bullying takes various forms but at its foundation lies intentional cruelty. I was never physically assaulted but I was battered horribly emotionally–even now, many decades later, I cannot think of all of it from other students and even from some teachers in both grammar and high school without tears and even sobs because my home life was also dysfunctional: alcoholism ruled there and I had no one at any time to talk to nor anyone to defend me nor any time or place I could get away from it. Despite years of therapy the pain is still very much there, though certainly lessened and to some degree healed. I am a good person who has survived that. But discounting the pain this person is in to the point of refusing to work with the OP does not surprise me at all. In her position, there are a number of people I’d refuse to work with as well to the point of leaving a job I loved.

    18. Just Another Techie

      I’m sure there are things that she did as a teenager that she would rather not have brought up. I say this as a former teacher, most teens do bad stuff that they’d rather forget.

      This attitude from my high school teachers, just shrugging off bullying like it’s NBD, is why I was hospitalized twice for suicide attempts in high school. For your students’ sakes, please please try to educate yourself about the reality of bullying.

      1. Roscoe

        My point in saying that isn’t to dismiss what he may have done. But to say that a lot of people do things when they are teenagers that they wouldn’t want brought up years later in the workplace. I definitely did. I’m sure MANY people on this thread did. When I saw bullying, I definitely dealt with it. But that doesn’t mean that I think what you do when your brain is still developing should haunt you professionaly forever

        1. Observer

          At 17, a person is old enough to know better for most of the things they do. Sure, there are some things that someone that age simply doesn’t have the background, knowledge or capacity to make appropriate decisions for. But the whole “brain is still developing” bit is a fairly bogus excuse.

        2. Gadfly

          Unfortunately it also shouldn’t be dismissed as inconsequential either. And since we have no way in our society to both let it go and acknowledge its impact, sometimes the victims don’t get supported and sometimes the perpetrators are branded. It isn’t fair that what you do when you are stupid follows you, but neither are any of the other options.

        3. Not So NewReader

          Maybe you are right. Who am I to judge.

          But it’s a disservice to the OP to tell her that it shouldn’t matter, as many people will remember a bully 50–60 years later. In other words, for the rest of their lives. And that is reality. So maybe they shouldn’t do that, but they will anyway.

        4. Annonymouse

          There’s a world of difference between a 12 year old deciding they don’t want to be your friend and a 17 year old.

          When your 17 in high school the cliques ate established and it isn’t easy to make new friends or join a new social group.

          This isn’t a case of OP deciding to spend more time hanging out with Tammy and Tina in their wider friend group and not Rock Star. This is OP causing complete social isolation which is a predictable consequence of what they did.

        5. Tempest

          If you’re a teacher you come across like you have a very naive view of what bullying is and does. I’d suggest some professional development to make sure you’re not inadvertently making some kid’s life a lot worse than it has to be by minimizing what’s being done to them or what they’re going through. If you didn’t live it, please go out and educate yourself so you know the truth of people who did live it.

          Stop gaslighting the people who did live it and know better than you the effects.

    19. LizM

      Without knowing what OP did to this woman, it’s not fair to say she’s being over dramatic.

      Luckily, I was never a target personally, but I can think of a boy in high school who targeted several friends. Knowing what I know now, I can confidently say they were sexually assaulted. At the time it was dismissed as “boys will be boys.” It took one friend years of counseling to be able to have a normal relationship with a man based on what this bully did to her.

      I absolutely would not work with that person. Looking back, I’m disgusted he wasn’t arrested for what he did, at 17 he was old enough to know better.

    20. Artemesia

      The kind of bullying someone remembers a decade later is likely to have been torments that were continuous. It doesn’t have to rise to the level of physical assault to make life painful day after day after day.

      1. Natalie

        I don’t think that’s necessarily accurate; it’s certainly not universal. I dwell on specific events because of how my anxiety manifests itself, not necessarily because those events were especially traumatic or continuous. I don’t think we can say that someone’s memory cycle is proof positive of anything, given how malleable human memory is.

      2. Not So NewReader

        Agreed. The problem comes in where bullies don’t know who will be the life-long walking wounded and who will not be impacted by their meanness.

        Sure the adult, grown up bully-turned-nice-person wants it all to go away. But that is not how these situations work in every instance.

    21. Bullied

      When I was a high school freshman I was sexually assaulted at my (ex) friend’s birthday party. She and all her other friends locked me in the room with the boy who assaulted me and yelled encouragement at him through the door while they laughed and made fun of me for screaming.

      If any of those women now tried to get a job at my place of employment, I would offer a quitting ultimatum. Full stop, I will not be in a room with anyone who aided in my assault. I don’t care how bad they may feel about it now.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

        Oh my God. Some people are pure evil. I am sorry and hope that you are having a good life now.

      2. Not So NewReader

        Women still have a lot to learn.

        There are no words, my heart aches reading this.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        My jaw dropped and tears welled up—I am so so so sorry. I don’t know what to say, because this level of evil is incomprehensible to me.

    22. Lily in NYC

      My neighbor was bullied by a kid named Jeff putting firecrackers up his butt and setting them off. He was in the hospital for a week. I don’t think he would be overreacting if he said he never wanted to work with Jeff.

    23. Annonymouse

      There is a reason solitary confinement is used as a punishment.

      The OP took away this persons friend group in high school and as a former teacher you would know to a teenager that their friends are everything to them.

      You would know that friend groups or cliques are incredibly important and once outed from one it is damn near impossible to get into another one.

      You become an outcast that no one from any social group will go near.

      Your only hope for normalcy becomes college or transferring to another school.

      So considering that Rock Star didn’t transfer and had to ride out high school with no friends mainly because of OP (who also mentions not being nice to them on top of complete social isolation) I can see them not wanting to have anything to do with OP and that is not unreasonable.

  12. chocolate lover

    I agree with Alison’s advice to apologize because it’s the right thing to do (you admitted you weren’t very nice to her), and then move on from this company for the moment. As someone who’s been bullied in school, even though it’s been a while, I wouldn’t want to work with any of my bullies. I don’t wish them ill – but I wouldn’t want to work with them or see them on a regular basis, either.

    It sounds like you’ve matured quite a bit and recognize some of your past flaws, which is great. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like this is the right time for you and this company.

    1. Falling Diphthong

      I remember a moving anecdote from someone who went to a high school reunion and wound up having a long conversation with a really lovely woman who sadly mentioned that their first child had died as a toddler. She eventually found out the woman was married to her high school tormenter. So apparently over the intervening years he had become someone who could attract a really warm, loving partner, and who had suffered a torment she would never have wished on anyone.

      People can change. But knowing that in the abstract doesn’t mean people want to sign up to spend every day with a former tormenter because, hey, maybe now they’re a nice person. Maybe they’re not. You can wish them no active disaster and still not want to relive high school with them every day–part of the benefit of being an adult is having choices about what job you take and the conditions under which you will stay or go.

    2. Anon for this

      I am not sure the OP has — her last sentence says it all — I don’t “deserve” this. Well the other student didn’t deserve what you did to her and it had to be bad that she doesn’t want to be in the same room as you.

      1. TL -

        OP explained what happened upthread and it honestly sounds more like unfortunately timed, badly handled teenage awkwardness than anything else.
        She can’t change what happened but she doesn’t sound like a horrible person who should never be let out in public either.

        1. Observer

          No, she’s not a monster. But cutting someone out of your social circle and essentially taking her friend group away (as described by the OP) is a pretty awful thing to do to someone whose only crime was liking the guy the OP was dating.

          Given that it happened at 17 I’m not as ready to give it a pass as for a younger kid. On the other hand, that’s young enough that I really could see someone 10 years down really having grown past it. But when the OP can dismiss it with “I was 17” and characterize it as “something I said”, that says that the OP probably still has some growing and changing to do.

          1. TL -

            It sounds like they had a pretty awkward friendship and the other girl thought it was more than it was.
            The OP probably was pretty bad, but in a normal, teenage, I learned from it kind of way.

            1. Observer

              Well, it’s not clear to me that the OP really has learned, but I could be wrong about that.

              In any case I think it goes beyond “normal teenage drama”. Also, that it doesn’t really matter. Though she didn’t destroy the girl, she did do something genuinely problematic. And Rockstar doesn’t need to be a drama lama to not want to work with her.

          2. SenatorMeathooks

            At 17, I can’t expect an individual to have perfect social graces, either. I’m not saying what happened was right, but I am saying what happened seems like standard teenage politics, or a social situation poorly handled out of immaturity and ignorance.

            1. Annonymouse

              There a difference between wanting to spend more time with other people in your network /group instead of Rockstar and actively taking away their friends at an age/stage where you can’t make new friends.

              The former is social awkwardness and mishandling a situation the later (which happened) is an act of cruelty and bullying.

        2. AMG

          If you read toward the end, OP has recently posted a clarification that definitely qualifies a single bullying. Still not a monster, but definitely justifies rockstar IMO.

        3. Not So NewReader

          I don’t think anyone here is saying OP can’t go out in public.

          I do think that people are expressing surprise that OP thinks this should all just go away.

  13. bullied

    OP, you write as if you don’t remember or know what you did to your classmate in HS, but if it was bad enough that she remembers and holds a grudge, then certainly something must have happened. Please don’t bother your former classmate; write this company off as a lesson learned and just move on.

    1. Roscoe

      I think this is so interesting, because it seems that there is basically an even split on those who would get closure from an apology years later, and those who say they would hate if that happened. Makes it hard for people to know what to do.

      1. fposte

        I wouldn’t *mind* getting an apology from somebody who was mean to me in high school (though really for me junior high was where the mean action was), but it wouldn’t change my view on whether or not they should get a job at my company, especially if the apology was connected to their continued application.

        And assuming the OP is being literal when he says “17,” this isn’t that long ago. I’m a lot more removed from high school than that.

        1. VroomVroom

          If it was a big company and I didn’t have to work closely with them… then whatever (and also, my opinion on it probably wouldn’t affect the hiring manager that much… and shouldn’t… if I worked hours away from where this person would work).
          BUT if the person was going to work in a small office with me and I’d have to have daily interactions with them… hell no. Even with an apology. Sure, I’m glad you got that off your chest and you aren’t a piece of sh*t human anymore, but I don’t want to see/interact with you on a daily basis (like I had to in high school).

      2. Falling Diphthong

        It’s in the nature of apologies–they are not magical rote incantations by which all past wrongs are wiped from a slate, never again to influence anything. If they were, they wouldn’t have much weight.

      3. Recovering Adjunct

        I’ve gotten them and I’m very cynical about them. Generally, I see it as the person wanting me to do emotional labor for them and help them feel better about themselves and the choices they’ve made.

        1. bullied

          This is really where I’m coming from too when I say don’t bother the classmate. If it were me, I wouldn’t want the apology. I’d rather be left alone.

        2. Kelly L.

          I got one. I was glad the guy felt bad about it, but didn’t feel any desire to resume contact. I’m sure it’s still sitting unanswered, somewhere in my FB messages. I’m not still mad, but there’s nothing to interest me in being buddies with him either.

          1. seejay

            I got one from a person who turned on me in court. He was supposed to be my witness in a trial but wound up retracting his statement when he got up on the stand. Between him and my other witness also doing the same, I lost the court case when the judge ruled in favour of the defendant.

            What I found out afterwards was that the other witness had turned on me (for personal reasons) and both he and the defendant put pressure on the one guy (who was cousins with the defendant as well) to retract and band together with them so I’d lose, instead of telling the truth. It wasn’t hard to sway him over, even though he knew it was lying on the stand, because he was a hot mess: drug addicted, torn loyalties, easily manipulated. Unlike the other two on the stand, who looked smug and gleeful while they were telling their lies, he looked confused and torn.

            He contacted me some years later through FB. I saw that he was clean, was in a steady relationship with kids, had gone to college, was a paramedic and was helping people. He didn’t outright cite that specific incident, but he apologized for anything he had done to me in the years past and that he had tried to make up for it by doing something with his life and being a better person because what he had done had haunted him so much. It actually genuinely felt like a sincere apology and I was glad to see that he had *done* something with himself instead of being a footnote in history. I told him that I accepted his apology and I was happy to see how he’d grown, but I had also closed that door completely and wanted nothing to do with any of that particular incident and I wished him well. He never contacted me again.

            I’ve genuinely forgiven him, I’m glad he’s moved on and I *was* glad to see a heartfelt apology from him, but yes, I definitely would never ever want to be in contact with him again ever despite all that. I don’t want any sort of reminder of that event.

              1. seejay

                I’m assuming you mean afterwards, after the court case was over and he felt bad for what happened? Doubtful. This was youth court (the defendant and I were both 17 at the time) and the judge had given a ruling of not guilty. This also all occurred back in 1992 and by the time he reached out to me to apologize, it was 2004, so a lot of time had passed. There’s probably really no point in ever dredging it back up.

                As far as I can tell, everyone involved in the whole fiasco (the defendant, other witness, and majority of the supporters) wound up staying in my home town while I left (very very far away). There’s many reasons why I don’t go back to visit and that’s one of them.

        3. Turtle Candle

          “wanting me to do emotional labor for them” is generally how I feel about those apologies, although I could imagine an apology that actually worked for me. It’s just have to be something other than a pro forma Facebook message or similar, you know? But yeah, mostly it feels like they feel bad about having been assholes and once again want to use me to make them feel better about themselves.

          It would go triple if I knew they wanted something concrete out of me (such as rescinding my ‘if he gets hired, I walk’ statement).

        4. Advice Column Junkie

          This is exactly how I feel. No, sorry, I’m not going to spend a moment of my life making you feel better about being a towering asshole to a vulnerable person. You get to work that out all by your lonesome, and never contact me ever again.

      4. Other Becky

        It depends on the nature of the offense and the form of the apology. Somebody who was consistently mean to me in middle school apologized when we both had the same summer job in college. He didn’t try to make friends, just apologized and treated me like any of our other co-workers. That was kind of nice, and I appreciated it.

        On the other extreme, an abusive ex-boyfriend who had, among other things, harassed me with CONSTANT (literally) phone calls called me one day, maybe five years after we’d broken up, to apologize. This was pre-cell phones and I had moved to another city. I said, “Please never contact me again,” and hung up. I was shaky for days. My guess is that he’d joined a 12-step program and had a really lousy sponsor. I would much prefer that he had never contacted me, and I can’t help feeling like he made that apology for the sake of his own feelings, not mine.

        So what should the OP do? I don’t know. It depends on what they did and how they did it. I definitely wouldn’t advise apologizing right away; I certainly wouldn’t believe the apology was sincere if it were directed to me under these circumstances.

    2. Ty

      I have to agree. LW doesn’t sound as if they honestly care what they did. If I were the classmate, I’d never accept an apology now. Whatever it was, it sounds like it caused bad problems for the classmate.

      I hope the LW actually reflects on this instead of just looking at it like it’s not a big deal.

    3. NoMoreMrFixit

      Given that their memories of the OP led to a never hire decision the best thing to do is leave them alone and do not contact them. An apology is likely going to go over poorly. I was bullied badly back in school. And I did tell a manager that hiring a former bully would result in me quitting on the spot. Stay away from this person. Someone threatening to quit does not want to hear from you at all.

  14. Anonymous Educator

    I think to appear (and not just be) sincere, you want to apologize after you’ve already secured a job at another company.

      1. Kowalski! Options!

        And, depending on how big the industry is where you live, make sure that your behavior is impeccable from the moment you start that job at that other company, and that your professional reputation precedes you more than your behavior in high school does from here on in. Because if any of my high school bullies starting inching their way into my field (even if they were Saint Potspout and Pope Teabag of my professional field), I’d make sure that the word that they should not be considered for hiring.

        1. TootsNYC

          important!

          And remember that this is a niche industry, and people move around–so everyone at the old classmate’s company knows about you to some degree.

          So you need to manage your reputation very carefully.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          I’m really struggling to understand this perspective.

          I was bullied, albeit not as seriously as some of the folks who are sharing their stories on this thread. But that was a long time ago (twice as long for me as for the OP; I’m in my late 30s), and I wouldn’t hesitate to work with any of my former tormentors at this point. I’m not who I was when I was in high school, thank god, and I assume that they are not either.

          But that’s not actually what I’m questioning — I understand that position, even though I don’t share it. If an employee is uncomfortable working with someone else and their boss backs them up, more power to both of them: to the employee for knowing their boundaries and protecting themselves, and to the employer for creating the environment a valued employee needs to succeed.

          But taking a step further and trying to blacklist someone from an entire field of work? I don’t understand that. It goes beyond protecting yourself personally to, I don’t know, actively trying to damage someone else’s life.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yeah, I agree with that. Say you won’t work with her, sure, but trying to blacklist her from a whole field is too much, unless there’s much more to this that we don’t know.

            1. Kowalski! Options!

              It would have to depend on what the field is and how much people talk (which isn’t unthinkable in an industry of 30-40 practitioners in one area). The bullied person in question might decide that discretion is the better part of valor and not say anything, but I’ve worked in some industries (like broadcast media and the performing arts) where, if the word gets out that you’re persona non grata, you’d best be looking elsewhere.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

                Sure. Reputation gets around. But your initial comment suggested that you would actively work to prevent their working in your field, and I hope you’ll reconsider that.

                1. Kowalski! Options!

                  Let me put it this way: I wouldn’t actively block them if they happened to be in the same field as I was. If they expected to get any help entering the organization I work for, they’d be disappointed and, probably, deflected.

            2. Artemesia

              I agree but revenge is a dish best savored cold and I can imagine someone whose life was made a misery wanting to wreak vengeance.

              If this were a sexual harasser for example on your first job, it would be easy to sympathize with wanting to see him blackballed from the industry if you could manage it.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

                Yes, I would have more sympathy for that situation — because the harassment occurred in adulthood (and in the workplace).

            3. JB

              Depending on the size of the field, there may not be a middle option. Word will get around that Sansa threatened to quit if her company hired Cersei–that’s some pretty fantastic gossip there–and anyone who heard that and respected Sansa would likely take that into account when reviewing Cersei’s application at their company, even if Sansa didn’t say a word to them.

            4. Kfox (OP)

              This is part of why I wrote to you. Rock Star is very well connected in our niche industry. I saw on Twitter just this morning she’d won another prestigious award. She’s in the running for an elected position with a national professional organization. I’m a little afraid that she might be able to prevent me from getting a job not just in our city, but in our industry — if she wanted to. I have no evidence one way or another.

              1. Kowalski! Options!

                Oof. Well, she *might* – or she might not. This is where really kicking butt at your job and building social capital with people in your industry could help, so that you become known for the great work that you do.

              2. Lilo

                Well, nothing indicates she would go that far. Best thing for you is to move on and try to make your own reputation in the field. And if you find yourself asked about Rockstar, you be as polite and nice as possible because otherwise, you would just confirm any rumor about you. I would say this to anyone trying to break into a niche field: niche fields are tough. Have a back up plan.

              3. DrAtos

                That is very unfortunate for you. I doubt that she would go so far as to ruin your career even if you end up working with another company. If you remain in the same state and she is the rock star she appears to be, it could be inevitable that you will run into her at some point whether it is at a meeting, this professional organization, or at a conference. After reading the details of what really happened between the two of you, I’m now on the fence about whether you should send her an apology at this time. Your only choice is to move on and attempt to find a job with another company. Perhaps when the opportunity presents itself and you see her at one of these professional events, congratulate her on her success and find a time when you can apologize to her for what happened in high school, either via email or in a face to face conversation. If that opportunity never happens, then leave the past behind and hope that she doesn’t have any further influence on your career.

              4. Amy

                Has she given any sign of trying to do that? If not, I’d cross that bridge when and if you come to it. I don’t think you can really do anything differently regardless; if she is trying to blacklist you, it sounds like there isn’t much you could do to stop her, and if she’s not, then there’s no problem. Either way, your next step is to apply to companies where you won’t be interacting with her on a daily basis and see what happens.

            5. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

              I think it’s also relevant that an acquaintance pulled OP aside to warn her before this latest rejection. That shows that the acquaintance had some knowledge of the situation, so if the acquaintance is not in hiring or in the Classmate’s office, there shouldn’t be a reason for this info to have spread unless it’s really getting around in a gossipy way. That gossipy way is how OP’s reputation can get damaged. The Classmate may even be innocent in it – she may have simply told her manager or the hiring manager about OP, and that person escalated or shared it. Gossip is a relentless monster and some people love feeding it. Those people who are aware of the situation at this company may move on to other companies and remember this if OP’s app comes across.

              1. Kfox (OP)

                It’s my understanding that they were going to bring me in for an interview for the second position. One of the women I’d interviewed with before remembered me making a comment about growing up in the area and going to X high school and made a comment about Rock Star. “Oh! I’m about to set up an interview with Kfox. She’s about your age, right?” Rock Star apparently said politely she would not work with me because I was a bully in high school, which was then reiterated to the hiring committee.

                My acquaintance was not on the hiring committee, but she would’ve worked closely with the position.

                1. Recovering Adjunct

                  I’m raising my eyebrows a bit at the acquaintance who took you out to coffee to tell you all of this. I don’t really understand why she would do that if you two aren’t close friends.

          2. PlainJane

            I agree wholeheartedly. I was bullied pretty severely, but I don’t hold grudges (for my own benefit; I’m no selfless saint). Others have every right to feel differently, but if you’re still angry enough after a decade or more that you want to blacklist someone, that’s a bit extreme.

        3. Ann O'Nemity

          Eye for an eye? Or because victims of bullying are more likely to become bullies themselves?

          1. Kowalski! Options!

            Not really “eye for an eye”, so much as it — as others have pointed out — bullies don’t always grow out of the behaviour you can only go on the behavior that you’ve seen in the past, and I’d be more likely to favor an experienced candidate who I don’t have a history with, rather than a relative newcomer to the field with whom I have had less-than-optimal interactions with in the past. Interpersonal skills form a significant part of workplace know-how, and if my past interpersonal reactions with a person are enough to give me flashbacks….
            This isn’t limited to people from high school; I’d be the same way with some bullying bosses I’ve had in the past, too.

            1. Kowalski! Options!

              (Apologies for the grammatical lapses in the above response. In spite of the intervening decades and years of therapy, the emotions are still raw.)

          2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

            What about “this is a person about whom I have such strong feelings I couldn’t work effectively with them.”

    1. Falling Diphthong

      I agree with this. If she encounters you as a professional who is safely removed a few steps over at a different company, you have some shot at slowly establishing a new adult dynamic that would mean you could someday see each other more frequently and it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker for her.

      And the after timeline–that removes the ‘sorry if you were somehow hurt, so please let me spend my days with you once again’ aspect of apologizing while trying to break into the field.

      1. RVA Cat

        This. After you get a job elsewhere, I would also advise the OP to take advantage of a EAP, etc. to explore their past behavior in therapy. While it may seem like you’re having issues from 10 years ago held against you, I’m wondering if you’ve simply moved on to the more adult versions of the same bullying attitudes (gaslighting vs. overt ridicule, for example).

    2. SarahTheEntwife

      +1, especially since it sounds like this is a small enough industry that they might end up bumping into each other in professional settings anyway.

    3. Em too

      Would it help to apologies and also say that you will be looking elsewhere for a job. And, of course, do so

    4. Thinking Outside the Boss

      Definitely this!

      Any other form of apology will just seem like the OP wants a job.

      Great advice!!

    5. jules

      I’d say either this, or make it very clear in your apology that you understand why she wouldn’t want to work with you and that you’ll respect her wishes and not apply again.

  15. AMG

    You know, I’ve seen a few high school bullies who don’t appear to have changed a single bit from school. Speaking as the only 9-year-old (that I knew of) at my school who wanted to commit suicide because of the daily unrelenting torment, I can see why she’s blocking you. If it was anything like what I remember from school, it equated to emotional abuse and psychological torture.

    Some people grow up, some don’t, and in your case you just have to consider what the effect of your behavior had to make someone do this. Is it really unfair? You weren’t the person bullied so it’s probably hard for you to say what’s fair and what isn’t.

    I don’t know you, but I don’t see you really reflecting on that much in this post. I’d start there, regardless of where you job search and then you’ll know what you need to say in your apology when you’re truly sorry.

    1. anon for this

      I agree. I started feeling suicidal when I was seven because of the bullying (and yes, it was emotional abuse and psychological torture). I’ve been in therapy for nearly twenty years and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to cope with the psychological scars that have been left on me. I’ve let go of the hatred as best I can, but there’s no way I could deal with my bullies on a daily basis in any context, let alone professionally.
      I would never deliberately hurt anyone, not even those who’ve hurt me so much, but I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to help them, and I wouldn’t allow them to benefit at my psychological cost. I don’t care how much they’ve changed. They’re still the people who’ve caused me damage that will last the rest of my life. I don’t care that they were children. I don’t even care that they had no idea of the consequences they might inflict. The damage is still done.
      If you were one of my bullies and I were blocking you working in your industry, I would say that of the two of us, you were the lucky one. I’d love to be able to relocate or work in a less than ideal industry and shed the trauma, mental illness, and everything else that haunts me.

      1. AMG

        I’m so sorry you are still hurting. Sometimes I look back on it all and I get angry too. It changes the way you look at yourself and constantly having to reframe can get tiring. Good for you for fighting through this. You deserve to be free of it. I think you are lovely, whoever you are. <3

    2. Cass

      Well said. I started to comment but couldn’t bring myself to finish it because I’m having trouble getting past my belief that the only reason OP has considered apologizing is because he’s dealing with the inconvenience of not being able to get a job with this particular employer. I think OP could benefit from putting the job stuff aside and reflect on what he may (or may not have) done to make someone have that kind of reaction to him.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I think people who have not been bullied (or not been bullied severely) don’t understand the PTSD and panic that stems from seeing a former bully. It can literally feel like you’re going to die (again).

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience, AMG. I’m deeply and truly sorry that you went through this, but you’re emphasizing a really important dynamic that OP needs to understand in order to move forward from this.

    4. Relly

      This thread is both very hard and very healing for me. When I tell people I was suicidal before I even understood the idea — sitting up at night trying to find any way at all not to have to get up the next morning and go back to school, working through plans and giving up hope and wishing there was a way out — they think I’m exaggerating. I was eight. It was thirty years ago. I can still feel that clawing panic.

  16. iseeshiny

    What a nicely balanced response. My personal opinion is that while it sucks to still be reaping the consequences of your actions years down the line, it happens to a lot of people and it’s just something you have to deal with. I am remembering my middle school bully when I say this, and while I doubt she ever thinks of me, fifteen-twenty years later I still can clearly remember what she put me through and I would want absolutely nothing to do with her today even with an apology. I treated some people pretty poorly as an older teen, too, and I completely accept that if I ran into them now they wouldn’t want me working with them either. Sometimes we burn bridges before we know they’re there or that we’ll want to cross them someday, and that’s just how it is.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      Agreed. I was the victim of some mean-girl type crap when I was in middle school. My family was living in the Middle East at the time, and the usual SOP was that my dad would get 2 weeks of vacation a year, plus another month of leave, when we would come back to the US and see family, my parents would tend to things they needed to do in person, and so on.

      Twice while away, this horrible, awful girl who was part of the “in” group swooped in and stole my best friend, and when I got back, neither of them wanted to have anything to do with me because they didn’t want to be drummed out of the group of cool kids. She was an awful, horrible person who was just mean to me in general and because she was the ringleader, others followed her lead.

      About 5 years ago, I was going to the UK for work, and my mom mentioned that one of these girls — who had been enticed into the cool kids crowd — was living in London, and she suggested looking her up so we could have dinner. I tracked her down on Facebook and was about to send a friend request, when who should I notice in her friend list but the boss bitch herself? I not only didn’t send the friend request, I blocked the mean girl, because even though she lives in another state, I do not want my existence to re-register on her radar, now or ever. I will admit that I checked out her page, and she’s married with at least one daughter, who I’m sure she’s raising to be just as awful as she was. When I blocked her, I thought to myself, “Geez, Ann, it’s been 35 years. Can’t you just let it go?” And then thought, “Nope, I can’t.” And I’m fine with that.

      I can’t imagine having to work with that wretched, awful person, and what she did to me pales in comparison to what others here have said they went through.

      1. Lilo

        Yeah I had this girl my senior year of college lie to and manipulate my best friend into not speaking to me. (Best friend got over it and admitted her role in this and apologized but it was a miserable 3 months). She also tied to coerce my friend into some shady stuff, and friend probably had far worse than I did. When said manipulator tried to friend me on social media you bet I blocked her.

        1. Lilo

          Sorry it was high school, not college. I did experience some mean girl clique type stuff in my sorority, but not kept high school.

  17. Jessie the First (or second)

    OP, I really recommend that if you decide to apologize, you do not make any attempt to minimize your high school behavior. I get the “minimizing” vibe all through your letter here to AAM: you weren’t that nice, probably pretty awful, shouldn’t be blacklisted for something you said when you were 17. That first one and the last one are pretty trivializing. Is the problem really just something you said? Was the problem really that maybe you just weren’t nice? 10 years later and your classmate refuses to work with you – it was probably lots and lots and lots worse, right?

    If you can’t bring yourself to really acknowledge how you treated this person, and how terrible it was (I’m assuming it was way worse than your few sentences here because of the rest of the content of your letter and that you don’t really deny that there may be some cause for this) then an apology will backfire.

    As Allison says, though, an apology just to try to get a job will also likely backfire. I’d set my sights on other companies if I were you.

    1. AMG

      I think that minimizing is what’s really bothering me about this letter. OP, you lost the right to decide how bad this was a long time ago and you never had the right to decide how this person should feel about you.

        1. Anna

          It’s not minimizing it as it’s the accepted language EVERYONE, even educators, use. Don’t jump on the OP for using the word that’s used by everyone.

          1. RVA Cat

            I didn’t mean to jump on the OP. Yes, it is the accepted term, sorry for any confusion – my point was about how we minimize it as a society.

    2. Stop That Goat

      Definitely seems more concerned with her blacklist than facing the harm that she inflicted.

      1. Jen in Oregon

        This. The OP doesn’t even acknowledge that it was bullying, assuming the OP didn’t write the headline:

        “I’ll be honest — I wasn’t a very nice person back then, and I probably was pretty awful to this girl.”

        and

        “I don’t think I deserve to be blacklisted for something I said when I was 17”

        These are the only references the OP makes to his/her own behavior.

        An apology at this point would possibly/probably make things worse because it would be seen as a self-serving, manipulative ploy. I agree that if/when an apology is offered, it should come after a lot of soul searching AND after another job has been secured by the OP.

    3. Isben Takes Tea

      Also, OP, you say you’re in your late 20s, and that this something happened when you were 17. That’s less than 10 years. That’s not a lot of time.

      Also, you’re not being “punished” in the sense that this person is actively seeking retribution; from what your acquaintance said, she was setting boundaries to protect herself. It really, really sucks that it means you’re not being considered at this company, but it’s the same principle that would get you an inside track if a current employee really wanted to work with you because you were super nice to them in high school.

      1. Taylor Swift

        Yeah, it’s really not a punishment. It’s a consequence of the LW’s past actions.

        1. Izacus

          Punishment is by definition a consequence of someone’s actions. And it fits the description.

      2. detached anon

        Also, you’re not being “punished”… she was setting boundaries to protect herself.

        This. So very much this!

    4. Fake Eleanor

      It’s possible both that 1) what the OP did was inarguably horrible behavior, but that 2) the OP doesn’t really remember the details.

      The OP certainly could be minimizing, which is not great, but she could also be genuinely unsure of what specific behaviors or patterns she did. Which is tricky, because that’ll look a lot like minimizing. Her victim thought it was hell, but for the OP, it was just high school.

      All that said, I think the suggestions to get some feedback from other classmates and then genuinely apologize once her career is established elsewhere are good ones.

      1. paul

        Hell, I’ll even allow a third option: that it wasn’t even really that awful and the rock star is being a bit dramatic; that isn’t where I’m leaning (but of course I’m biased myself)… but it is still a possibility and we don’t have enough data to know for sure.

        It also just doesn’t change what options OP has going forward.

    5. dawnsnameishers

      Thanks, I’ve been waiting for someone to point out how minimizing the OP was. Nothing in the letter struck me as truly owning the damage done; I felt through the entire letter that the OP saw themself as the victim.

    6. Roscoe

      IN fairness, this is a blog about employment, not about therapy. So the OP is writing to find out about how to handle their job situation. I feel like its fair to focus on that aspect.

      1. KR

        Yeah, same. Sometimes I feel like conversations like this edge on picking apart the OPs word choice. They didn’t bully us – they shouldn’t​ have to worry about if they sound appropriately apologetic in their letter for us.

      2. Annonymouse

        it is but you can do it while acknowledging you played a big part in it.

        Had OP said “someone I treated badly and hurt doesn’t want to work with me, how do I make this right and show them I’ve changed? Or “I want to apologise – because I feel bad about what I did and I want to preserve my good work reputation.”

        I’d be more on board.

        The fact op is coming across as “the “terrible” (minimising the issue) thing I did to someone has come back to bite me in the ass, I don’t like it, it isn’t fair, help me get a job at awesome place”

        Makes many of us less sympathetic.

        And you can bet it would be terrible if someone tells their bosses (no matter how politely and professionally) if you hire OP I’m leaving.

        OP seems to only care about what’s in it for them and really seems not to get it if they are still pushing to get hired at a company where the person they bullied has made it clear it isn’t going to happen.

  18. Jeanne

    How awful. I feel for you and I feel for her. I think you should send a handwritten, sincere apology. That’s the adult, moral thing to do. But then, unfortunately, you have to let it go. I don’t know how bad you really were. I recently went to the funeral of a bullied girl who killed herself. Your victim could be mentally quite scarred. Apologize with real compassion and humility.

  19. Falling Diphthong

    The reason the first seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer resonate so deeply is that they are set in high school, when one has no choice about sticking it out. Yeah, your high school is on the literal hell’s mouth, the swim team are being turned into fish people, but if you can’t convince your parents to move elsewhere you put your head down and attempt to tough it out–and if you’re 15 or 16, then “Well just another 3 years!” is not a chirpy bit of reassurance. It’s a deadline you cling to with your fingernails, trying to hold out until you reach the age when you can make your own choices about where to live.

    OP, as successful as she is now, it sounds like she is not ready to relive high school. You might have put those days behind you, but it sounds like she can’t. (Having been bullied in high school–you know how people can be mature 30 year olds until Thanksgiving, when they revert to 12 as their siblings revert to 10 and 14? Just because you logically want to shed that time doesn’t mean your psyche cooperates when you dive chin deep into reminders of your old role.) I really think you need to look at other companies and write off hers for now.

  20. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

    “I worked so hard for so long to get the training required for this type of work, and I don’t think I deserve to be blacklisted for something I said when I was 17.”

    So…I wasn’t bullied, much. I didn’t make it rewarding to push me around physically, and I was too ready with a torrent of verbal assaults to make it much fun to insult me. I mostly got ostracized. But I do have a perspective on bullies, OP, that I think you need to hear.

    But the thing you need to understand is that you own all the things you said to people, back when you were taking out being 17 on others. You own it as much as the mouth that formed the words, the face that scowled, the eyes that glared. That’s on you, those are marks on your soul, and marks you left on others. You may feel that you’re a nicer person than you were back then, and you may not fully understand how what you said to this person cut deeper than a knife. You may feel that you’re owed forgiveness, or at least a chance to explain yourself. And some people you cut might be inclined to forgive, but time does not heal all wounds and forgive all sins. And even a decade later, even though your moral compass wasn’t yet fully calibrated, even though you probably had storms in your own life that left you lashing out…you still own what you did. And sometimes, the chickens come home to roost. This is how social consequences work.

    I will tell you, though, that frantically apologizing now that the bill needs paid is not a good look. It’s hard to sound genuine and heartfelt when you’re trying to rebuild a burnt bridge you didn’t even understand was out.

    1. paul

      I like the Clint Eastwood line: “Deserves got nothing to do with it.”
      Granting OP benefit of the doubt and assuming they’re nicer and well adjusted now, that really may not matter.

      There were 4 kids in particular in HS that were awful to me, and I don’t care if they’re saints now, I’m not working with them. When I heard–during college so maybe 2-3 years after leaving HS–that one got killed in a wreck, I felt relief and a little joy. That’s not rational, and it isn’t pretty, but yeah, when people hurt you badly enough you just don’t always care, about what they are now. You just remember what they were then and don’t want to have a thing to do with them.

      1. Relly

        My mom told me that one of my bullies died in an accident. She said it was a tragedy, for anyone to die so young. I told her that I felt nothing. She was horrified.

        1. Kowalski! Options!

          True (if horrifying) story: One of my high school bullies was killed by someone he had bullied as an adult (in an unfortunate incident that involved hunting, guns, booze and verbal abuse). It was like a weight had lifted off my shoulders.
          I just hope the OP takes the time to read these responses to gain greater insight into how much harm is caused by bullying.

          1. RVA Cat

            I imagine there are many less extreme versions of this, where instead of dying the bully goes to prison.

          2. Michele

            I understand. As I posted above, when one of the boys who sexually harassed me in junior high had a bad motorcycle accident, I felt like he deserved it.

        2. AMG

          I understand this. A girl I knew made fun of a mentally challenged girl–viciously, but in such a way that the target didn’t understand what was happening. Bully ended up getting suspended for 3 days and cried foul.
          Fast forward to now, and she has a daughter who has severe developmental disabilities and will never be independent. Bully seems like an okay adult today, but I can’t help wonder if she ever thinks about the irony of what she did to that little girl in junior high school. Sad all the way around.

          1. KG, Ph.D.

            “They all felt something, but I felt nothing! …except the feeling that this bullsh*t was absurd.”

      2. Megan M.

        OP, I think you’re going to have to move on from this company, and I wouldn’t try to apologize to this girl. I think it will definitely come across as self-serving and insincere, especially since you don’t seem to particularly remember how you treated her. Your acquaintance did you a favor by letting you know you were wasting your time applying, and why. There’s nothing more you can do except focus on companies you have a chance at getting hired at.

      3. Cleopatra Jones

        Yep, that’s how I feel about my HS bully. I still carry the scar above my eyebrow where she punched me (while wearing a ring to specifically inflict damage) when I stepped off of the bus.

        I’m sad that she’s suffering from brain cancer because she’s still very young but a big part of me feels like it’s sweet karmic justice for the hell that she inflicted on me in HS. To this day, I still have no idea why I had the target on my back.

      4. VroomVroom

        There was one guy who was particularly mean to me (not in the group of mean-girls, but friends with them). His parents were friends with my parents though… it was a weird dynamic.

        Anyway, he died from alcohol poisoning sophomore year of college. I went to the funeral with my mom, but I remember when she told me thinking, “huh, good riddance.” I still feel like a jerk for that reaction but… he was a budding alcoholic, and a total asshole to anyone who he didn’t think being nice/sucking up to would benefit his social station.

        1. only acting normal

          Ugh. Weird family friends dynamic sucks.
          My mother used to give me regular updates on my bully’s happy adult life (well into my 30’s) because mum was friends and neighbours with the girl’s mother. After asking her to stop nicely many times, eventually we had a massive row (where I reminded her of the time the bully tried to get me expelled with her mother’s help) and she said she didn’t know it was that bad – a fair bit of “girls will be girls” / “she’s just jealous of you” was in play. But at least the updates stopped.

    2. GertietheDino

      If my school bully wanted a job where I work, I’d have to meet them, review their qualifications against my memories and make a sound decision. But most likely, she ain’t getting that job.

      1. BananaPants

        Yup. That’s where I am. I wasn’t bullied physically and I did have friends – I was simply ostracized and had horrid things said about me by the popular people. Constantly. For all of middle and high school.

        If one of those popular people came seeking an entry level job in my organization, I’d be civil and interview them – but they almost certainly won’t be getting the job in the end. I don’t wish bad things to happen to any of them, but I also don’t want to have to see them every day or have to work with people who made my life so unpleasant for 7 years straight.

    3. EternalAdmin

      Well said. OP screenshot this and begin to understand how your behavior, anywhere, affects others.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      This is so excellently and precisely written—thank you for sharing it, TNMBOIS.

    5. specialist

      This is a very well-written post. Alison is the expert here. I don’t pretend to be in a position to counter her advice.

      However, I can say that there are some people from my past who I would block from employment for life. Few, but some. I am not someone who is an easy target for bullies.

      As an employer, if I were in this situation I would blacklist you. It wouldn’t matter to me if the top performing employee left. The fact that someone I respected refused to work with you would be enough of a red flag that I wouldn’t ever hire you. I think you would be better off to just forget that company.

      I agree with the other posters. Your letter is more about how this affects you. The apology can backfire in a big way. I suspect that you would benefit from some time with someone who could help you get a better handle on that part of your life. It may help you prepare a more acceptable apology and to come to terms with the actions that put you in this situation.

    6. Handy nickname

      TNMBOIS, I wish we could be friends in real life. This was beautifully put. Thank you.

  21. Another person

    Do you even remember what you did to her in high school? In my experience the victims of bullying always remember what caused the scars but the bullies rarely do. It’s great she overcame whatever it was and is a huge success today. It doesn’t always turn out that way for young people who are bullied in school.

    At any rate, if you apologize, don’t do it because you think it will change your job prospects, do it because it’s the right thing to do.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      I was just thinking about that this morning, when I had a very sharp memory of a popular girl making fun of me in front of my entire Spanish class. This morning I thought to myself that she probably doesn’t remember a bit of it, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

      Can’t say I’d be interested in hiring her if her resume ever landed on my desk.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Same here. A classmate of mine organized a campaign of religious-based harassment against me that lasted for the last two years of high school. I really don’t care that it was over a decade ago — if someone handed me this guy’s resume, I wouldn’t even look twice at it, and if I found out he might be hired into my office, I would go blazing to my manager.

      2. Temperance

        Yep. I’ll never forget when the class ahole looked at me, after the teacher told me I had to join ahole’s project group, and saying, as loudly as possible, that I wasn’t welcome to join her and it was disgusting and pathetic that I thought I could.

        I’m endlessly terrified that the monster who terrorized all the poor, less attractive girls in our grade is somehow a kindergarten teacher, because her family is well-connected, which enabled her sheer bitchitude. I was so happy when she didn’t make captain of our cheerleading squad.

        1. LawBee

          I see one of our school’s “mean girls” around town now and then. Every time, I fondly remember when she peed her pants in ninth grade, right in front of Popular JV Quarterback. It was a glorious moment.

        2. Mononymous

          The worst bully from my school years is now a licensed COUNSELOR. Who apparently serves families and children. *facepalm*

          A quick google search just turned up that he also got a DUI with a child in the car last year, so there’s that. Ugh.

      3. Megan M.

        Totally. There was a guy at my high school that said some really hurtful things about me to half the class (they were having a group discussion and he didn’t realize I could hear every word he was saying.) I ran into him a year or two after that and it was clear that he had no idea who I was. It just made me even more angry. I heard he passed away several years ago, and I wasn’t sad in the least.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It’s also true for people who witness the bullying. I remember, very vividly, the way that people treated a classmate of mine in elementary school. She was a Jehovah’s Witness, and in retrospect, I suspect she was being neglected and physically abused. Those memories are seared in my mind, and I wasn’t even the target. If any of those classmates applied for jobs, now, I would absolutely be evaluating them for whether they were still that insensitive and cruel.

      1. Elizabeth West

        You know, this is a very good point. Bullying can be very distressing to those who witness it also. At OldExjob, BullyBoss was absolutely horrible to a coworker and we couldn’t really make him stop. Coworker didn’t do anything either, because he needed the job. I hated watching this every day.

        Of course I didn’t let him bully me, but that didn’t make it any less awful. In school, watching, you always wonder if you’re going to be next.

  22. Stop That Goat

    Eh, I think an apology would be self-serving. You sound more concerned with the fact that are blacklisted instead of remorseful for any psychological/physical damage that you inflicted on her. Apologizing is the right thing to do but I don’t see how she’s going to see it as anything other than you trying to get your foot in the door.

    I don’t know about her but that wouldn’t be near enough for me to want to work with/around my bullies. Consequences suck sometimes.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      If on the heels of me telling my boss that I’d quit if they hired the bully, they tried to apologize with an email sent to my work address…..I’d probably erupt like a solar flare. Right thing or not, heartfelt or not, the optics are so terrible.

      1. Stop That Goat

        Exactly! Trying to reach out in this situation is going to dredge up all sorts of feelings. The OP is going to see right through it.

        1. I used to be Murphy

          And reinforce a view point (accurate or not) that the OP still only cares about themselves. It would fuel the fire in me, not drench it.

      2. Kyrielle

        I would be furious and wondering who told them (and I might even ask my boss if they did, but I don’t know if I’d have the guts). I’d feel…stalked? Hounded, maybe.

        (Granted I am lucky enough not to have a bully that was bad enough that I’d refuse to work with him or her – now. Much closer to when it happened, some of them I would have.)

        1. Not So NewReader

          Or show the letter to the boss and say, “See, I told you there was a huge problem with this person.”

      3. the_scientist

        Indeed. I think it’s also playing into a common social trope, which is that we’ve twisted the concept of “forgiveness” so that it also means “absolution.” And with that, the social expectation that forgiving someone means pretending that nothing bad every happened.

        That’s……not really how it works. Forgiveness is more like not letting someone live rent-free in your head anymore, but it doesn’t mean that you have to be willing to pretend you like them, or anything. Even if the Rock Star accepts the OP’s apology (unlikely, and I agree the optics are terrible), the Rock Star is under no obligation to change her opinion about the OP.

        1. Lilo

          I don’t think you even have to be the victim to say “Nope. No absolution for you.” One of my cousins committed a horrible, horrible crime against his girlfriend. He’ll be out of prison in a few years. I honestly don’t care if his girlfriend forgives him, I will not spend time with him anymore.

  23. Catherine from Canada

    I would like to add that I’m not sure _how_ you can even make that apology.
    If you send an e-mail to her work address, it will look like you’re just doing it to get the job.
    On the other hand, if you somehow find her Facebook, or LinkedIn, or personal e-mail, it’ll look stalkerish.
    Coincidentally “bump into her”? Even worse.
    Asking for a face to face, outside of work hours, each of you with a second _might_ work, if you sound truly contrite and sincere.
    But if Ken J from grade school and high school were ever to try to apologize to me, I’d turn around and walk away (kicking myself for not having the nerve to punch him in the face, while simultaenously congratulating myself for my self control).

  24. bunniferous

    Okay, a decade has gone by. You said you were PROBABLY awful to this girl.

    You have more soulsearching to do.

    I hope you have changed. But know barring certain circumstances (like finding God or otherwise having an epiphany) that people generally are who they are.

    If you do reach out to your former victim, do not do it via her work email. And write off that company. Even if she were to change her mind, the well is poisoned for you there at least for now.
    (I was a former bullied student. I am now FB friends with one of my former tormentors, and I have had at least one other tormentor apologize sincerely to me. I know people can and do change, but you need to understand how deep this stuff affects those of us on the receiving end of that kind of pain.)

  25. Christian Troy

    I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t reach out and I wouldn’t continue to apply for jobs at this company.

    I had a girl who was not nice to me in middle school approach me about two years ago at the grocery store and I refused to respond. I’m not saying my response was right or fair or whatever, but as an adult, I realized I had control over who I communicated with and I didn’t need to pretend to be cordial to people who weren’t nice to me. If this woman has already threatened to quit over you getting an offer, I’d say it doesn’t look great that things could change.

    1. Dienna Howard

      …as an adult, I realized I had control over who I communicated with and I didn’t need to pretend to be cordial to people who weren’t nice to me.

      Yes. That is one of the greatest things about being an adult.

    1. AnotherAlison

      Right? I don’t want to be mean to the OP, but this is seriously every nerd’s dream. Karma in full force.

      1. Ramona Flowers

        No, sorry, you don’t speak for all of us.

        I tried to kill myself at 16 because I was being abused at home and at school. I would not personally welcome or relish this situation. My ideal situation is that former bullies stay away and out of my life. This to me is not a dream but an imperfect situation where there is no perfect solution. I would not be happy about it. YMMV.

      2. Temperance

        I was not ashamed at all that I cheered when I found out that the girl who relentlessly bullied me in 6th grade has a shit job and never left our hometown. She made fun of me for being a nerd and weird, well, this weird nerd worked hard at school to GTFO of Scranton.

        1. Whippers.

          I’m sorry but I hate comments like this.

          People who weren’t bullies also work shit jobs. It’s not a comeuppance for something someone did when they were younger.

          1. Temperance

            I realize that having a shit job is not a penance for bullying, but honestly, after what she did to me, and how much she teased me for working hard at school and being a nerd, it feels like a deserved comeuppance. I know it’s not PC or kind of me to enjoy her suffering, but she made me afraid to go to school and hate school. I used to get sick to my stomach every morning and would be unable to sleep at night because of her.

            So yeah, I realize it probably makes me not super kind to enjoy the fact that her life isn’t grand, but meh. She should have considered how I felt when she was snapping my bra, walking on the backs of my shoes, and following me around screaming.

            1. Another person

              I get it, my bully was much the same. She and her minions regularly tormented me for being a nerd and getting good grades; I had to go home with stomach pains some days. The school’s response to the time she got caught throwing gum in my hair during the one class we had together was to make us share a locker the following year. It didn’t get better, but I got out.

              Five years after high school, I was out of college, all dressed up from my professional job, grabbing a quick bite at the Taco Bell by the mall, and guess who had to take my order? She looked me up and down frantically looking for something to say, and settled on my empty ring finger, saying with a sneer, “You aren’t married yet?”

              I responded simply by placing my order of chicken soft tacos and a Dr Pepper.

              Maybe it is kind of mean, but I think it’s okay to gloat a little when your bully specifically targets you for being a high achiever.

            2. Lilo

              My husband was bullied in high school for the exact things that got him out of his boondocks town, so I totally understand. The uncool science fair and math competitons that he got bullied for got him admittance and scholarships to college.

              1. Temperance

                Yep. We didn’t have those (really rural area), but I was always reading and answering questions in class, which was apparently sooooo uncool.

          2. Anonymous Educator

            I don’t think Temperance is saying “If you work a shit job, you deserve it.” I read the comment as more “There is a sense of satisfaction in sometimes seeing someone suffer who made me suffer and to knowing that I worked hard and my hard worked paid off, even if hard work does not always pay off.”

            1. MegaMoose, Esq

              At least in my experience, when someone is gleeful about something bad happening to someone else (i.e. a low-paying job or getting fat or ending up in rehab, to pick a few examples from elsewhere in this thread), it’s because they place an inherent moral judgment on all people who have that experience or are in that class. After all, you’re only happy because they’re being *punished* right? It’s inconsistent to say on the one hand, “f-that a-hole, I’m happy she works at McDonald’s like she deserves” and on the other hand “there’s nothing wrong with working at McDonald’s – they’re just hardworking people trying to make a living like the rest of us.”

              1. MegaMoose, Esq

                I think the second half of my first sentence wasn’t quite what I meant to say. Ah well. I struggled with saying anything at all because this comment section is making me deeply depressed for a number of reasons. I’m gonna go reread the post on pending litigation and eat a cookie and hope that my present weight and employment issues aren’t punishment for any past or future transgressions.

                1. Purest Green

                  Hah! I appreciate the humor here. FWIW I get what you’re saying and I agree… but I also understand the satisfaction of knowing that someone who wronged you isn’t doing conventionally well in life. There’s a smugness to that for sure.

              2. paul

                I don’t agree with that statement. There’s plenty of things that we recognize are deeply unpleasant without being inherently karmic punishments for everyone going through them.

                I’m not always a good person, and if I see that someone that caused me a lot of misery is experiencing some themselves, I might experience schadenfreude. That doesn’t imply in any fashion that I think experiencing bad things is inherently a moral judgement against people that experience them.

                I know dying in a car wreck probably sucks; I was mildly glad when a former bully of mine did. That doesn’t mean I think that everyone killed by a distracted or drunk driver deserved it.

              3. Temperance

                I really disagree. I grew up in the social class where it was pretty much expected that I would end up in a McJob or at a factory. Those jobs aren’t fun, or stimulating, and I think it’s silly to pretend otherwise.

                I take some enjoyment out of the fact that Missy, who harangued me on a near-daily basis when we were kids for being smart and working hard at school, chose not to do those things and is now working a crappy job at a local pizza place where we grew up. Not because I think being poor or in a minimum wage job are the worst things in the world, but because I worked hard to avoid a boring, unpleasant job with low pay and was bullied for doing just that.

                1. Gadfly

                  However, having my life or major portions of it or significant factors in it wished on others as a punishment for their sins seems a lot like you are cheering on those who have hurt me and are willing to overlook the harm done me, and justify the abuse done to me, so that those who hurt you get hurt.

                  It is like cheering on prison rape.

                2. Temperance

                  I’m truly sorry if my comments on this have caused you any pain, but I do take issue with you comparing me taking joy in Missy having a McJob with me taking joy in Missy getting raped.

                3. Annonymouse

                  all they’re saying is it feels good to be successful when your bully is not especially when you were bullied about things that helped build your success.

              4. tigerStripes

                There’s nothing wrong with working at McDonald’s except that it’s hard work, and the hours are usually fairly irregular, and some of the customers treat people who work there badly, and the pay is terrible.

        2. Lora

          If the mine fire swallows up Scranton, I won’t cry.

          [From PA, left for grad school and never looked back. I derive great joy from this fact alone. Whatever else happens, I NEVER have to live in Pennsyltucky again, EVER.]

          1. Temperance

            I sometimes fantasize a big sinkhole sucking in everyone except for my sister and her kids. I’m only mildly ashamed. I live outside of Philly now, and it’s so much better of an area.

            1. Relly

              I’m in the Pittsburgh burbs, and I’m ok with a big sinkhole devouring most of the T-region if we keep our respective sisters and their families out of the wreckage.

          2. Just Another Techie

            I often fantasize about the river that runs through the town I grew up in catching on fire again, and devouring the whole town. And hey, with the expected rollbacks to EPA regulations it might actually happen!

      3. AMG

        I’m okay with it. FWIW, Another Alison. Karma is exactly what I think is going on here. And the Nerd part isn’t exactly a new saying–for a a reason.

        1. Bookworm

          Just guessing here, but maybe George is suggesting the phase kind of implies that ‘bosses’ were nerds while those on the lower rungs of the ladder must have been bullies. Or at least not nerds.

          When in fact, that’s probably demonstrably untrue. Plenty of nerdy people who aren’t bosses for whatever reason and visa-versa.

          1. Whippers.

            100%
            I’m probably being over sensitive but I feel like comments about nerds coming into the kingdom of god and bullies failing to make anything of themselves are just so….high school ironically enough.

            Life is not that simple. People’s trajectory’s are not that straightforward. And many bullies were bullies in High school and continue to be bullies through their working life; and are often very successful because of that.

            In fact, the bullies who don’t make anything of themselves were probably very damaged themselves. And idon’tthink that’s anything to be celebrated

            1. sb

              Eh, a lot of people have shitty home lives and don’t turn into certifiable bullies. That’s still on the bully. I get what y’all are saying about the classism, but I think you can simultaneously hold the idea in your head that there’s nothing wrong with working at McDonald’s and that the bully who made your life hell and thought they were the best at everything is at a job they probably hate. (It’s about the person, not the job. It’s fine to work at a low-paying job! Few people I know were ever actually happy with those jobs while they did them.)

              1. Kj

                Yep. I was bullied in middle school by a girl who bragged about what high school she was going to, how cool it was, how she was going to be a sportsball star there and how I was a nerd who was boring. I was very pleased when I heard through the grapevine that she lasted less than a semester at that school.

            2. Carolyn

              “In fact, the bullies who don’t make anything of themselves were probably very damaged themselves. And idon’tthink that’s anything to be celebrated”

              This. This right here.

            3. TL -

              Yup. I also hate the identifying of “nerd” to mean “persecuted person because I’m really smart [and that intelligence lets me appreciate things you can’t possibly understand.]” It is quite possible that the bullied girl was not nerdy. At all. And being a nerd does not automatically mean you were bullied (many of my friends self-identify as nerds; the only one who was bullied does not.)

              Bullying kids often (but not always) target kids who are different. Sometimes that difference is the kid who is doing quite well academically. Sometimes it’s the kid who is visibly poor or who eats the “weird” food or who obviously doesn’t like what the bully likes, for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s just because they brought up one different thing and got a reaction that made them feel better, so they look for other things. Being a nerd, however you define it, does not automatically set you up for success or bullying.

              Also, you should be kind to people because they have intrinsic value as a human being, not because they might sign your paycheck one day.

          2. nonegiven

            Plenty of nerdy people have been picked on just for being nerdy.

            Guess what, you don’t have to be the boss nerd to be asked to conduct a technical interview with an applicant to evaluate strengths and weaknesses in subjects mentioned in a resume and send a report to the boss.

    2. Alex the Alchemist

      I guess, but I wish more people would understand “be nice to nerds because they’re human beings too and you should just generally not be jerks to people”

      1. LizM

        This. I get this sentiment, but at the same time… it doesn’t seem that different from OP apologizing so he’ll get the job.

  26. AnonForThisOne

    As someone who was bullied growing up, I enjoyed reading this letter. Move on, OP, move on.

  27. Ramona Flowers

    OP, I was bullied at school. I think everyone deserves a second chance but you do need to know that people can be very seriously traumatised by things that happen when they are 17. If you apologise, it needs to be for the sake of putting it right, not to sort out your career chances. Apologising for you is not the right thing to do.

  28. Stellaaaaa

    I wasn’t even bullied in high school but I still would steer my boss away from any former classmates if I had that kind of input and if we had other equally good candidates. People don’t have to be actively bullying you to give you the sense that they’re deliberately excluding you for being working class and coming from a “bad” family. I’m not undoing years of therapy and self-improvement just to give Jimmy X a chance. It’s not about holding a grudge, because I don’t. It’s about not wanting to go back down that road. The company’s star employee might not want to see a daily reminder of a bad time in her life and she’s in a position to have some control over that.

    1. Kowalski! Options!

      Exactly. The flip side of “forgive and forget” can often be “lesson learned” and “when you close a door on the past, make sure you Gorilla Glue, nail and barricade that sucker SHUT.”
      (I may have made that last bit up.)

    2. Not So NewReader

      I have done this as an adult with people who were bullies and MAJOR gossips at previous jobs. I don’t even have to think twice about it, I just spill the beans.

    3. Chaordic One

      When you are hiring for any position there are so many other things to consider. The OP might really not be the best qualified (as well as probably not a good fit).

    4. anon for this one

      so much this. found out my ex husband’s mistress who is no longer with him had applied for a position at my company. it didn’t go further but i have no desire to work with her. not out of pettiness because neither of us are no longer with him (although fwiw she still doesn’t have a problem with her being with a married man because i was a “bad wife”), but because she is part of a very bad time in my life.

    1. Jaguar

      So, this letter got me thinking through scenarios and how I would approach them. In school, I was both bully and victim of bullying and some of both stay with me. I wouldn’t know how I would feel about working with someone that bullied me – probably not great – and I feel wretched about the people I was mean to up to particularly severe incidents of sleepless nights thinking about my lousy behaviour in the past. However, importantly, there are also people that bullied me that I carry no baggage with any more and there are people I was a jerk to that are fine with me today. The point of that being, OP (presumably) didn’t know that the person they hurt are still hurt by what OP did, but now they do. Those are different situations. If I knew the people I had harmed were still upset by it, I would try to fix that. But (and there’s selfishness and cowardice baked into this as well), if I don’t know that, I’m not sure I would: I could be vastly overstating my actions in the importance of their lives, and so an apology could be more about me than it is about them, which I’m not sure how comfortable I am with.

    2. AMG

      That’s the nut of the issue. Maybe not what the OP wrote about, but it’s the real question she should be asking regardless.

    3. Aveline

      Also, why is he/she apoplogizing? For the victim’s sake or their own?

      And are they willing to make amends?

    4. LBK

      While I get what you’re saying, I don’t know that this being the thing that causes her to apologize is any worse than randomly see her name pop up on Facebook or hearing it from a mutual friend. Most people don’t spend a lot of time reminiscing about the people you’ve hurt, and they don’t maintain a list of people they’ve wronged to sporadically apologize to so that it seems more genuine and not spurred on by something that made you remember that person.

      It’s a little sketchier since there’s something concrete at stake for the OP, but I don’t know if she should be completely discouraged from making the apology; I still think it’s the right thing to do and I think it’s okay to do it because she happened to be reminded of the person in question and reflect on what she’d done as a result.

      1. AD

        Except….that’s not really the situation here. OP wasn’t randomly reflecting on high school experiences or coming across this woman’s name by chance on Facebook. As many others have said on this page, at greater length and more eloquently, there’s some evidence from OP’s letter that she is minimizing or unaware of the impact of the bullying she did while in high school….and that this wouldn’t have been on her radar *at all* if she wasn’t losing employment opportunities because of it.
        That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t make the effort to apologize. But there’s some room for us to say “Is this apology authentic, or is it motivated by self-interest?” From the letter, I could go either way.

        1. LBK

          My point was just that when people do apologize for things years later, it’s typically because their name came up somehow, not because they suddenly felt remorseful for it. So asking the question “Would you be thinking of apologizing now if this hadn’t happened?” is a little disingenuous, because that’s usually what makes someone offer a delayed apology – something random that brings the person back to mind. They usually aren’t on your radar at all for any reason until something makes you remember them.

          I get that there’s the quid pro quo element of it at play which makes the genuineness of the apology questionable, I’m just saying that apologizing years later because something gave her cause to remember what she’d done to the OP isn’t inherently wrong. That’s how most apologies like this happen.

      2. The Other Dawn

        I’m not in any way saying she shouldn’t apologize. I’m just saying that this seems more like she’s doing it for the sake of being able to find a job locally, rather than because she truly feels remorseful. And if it’s just for the sake of job searching, then she probably shouldn’t. But, we don’t really know how she feels. All we know is what she wrote in the letter, which appears to me that it really wasn’t on her radar at all until now.

        1. AD

          Exactly. The only reference to this in OP’s letter is “Should I beg for forgiveness?”

          Is that coming from a desire to give a good-faith apology and reflect on harm caused? Or is it to overcome this obstacle for future employment opportunities?

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Very much agreed. OP’s phrasing makes the apology sound transactional, not like it’s an expression of actual remorse (or even shows an understanding of what OP is apologizing for).

          So I think TOD’s question is a really superb way for OP to clarify their own intentions/emotions around the situation. Perhaps OP should ask, “If I saw her in a grocery store instead of in this context, would I have felt moved to apologize?”

      3. Sualah

        Most people don’t spend a lot of time reminiscing about the people you’ve hurt, and they don’t maintain a list of people they’ve wronged to sporadically apologize to so that it seems more genuine and not spurred on by something that made you remember that person.

        Yes, so much this.

    5. Roscoe

      Well, they likely didn’t know that they are still mad about it 10 years later. As many have pointed out, a lot of bullies don’t even remember what they did, although it may be something completely scarring for the victim. Its not exactly fair to condemn them for that.

        1. Roscoe

          I’m not saying it makes them free from it. But I think the tone of the questions “would you even apologize if it wasn’t for the job” is kind of implying its not sincere, which we don’t know. So my point was if they didn’t know that someone is still pissed about something 10 years later, why would they think to apologize

          1. Oryx

            So let’s reframe it slightly and take the job out of it:

            Let’s say OP is out with Mutual Classmate. The run into the Rock Star. Maybe she gives OP the cold shoulder. Maybe she immediately leaves the restaurant or store they are all in. Mutual Classmate later says, “Rock Star says you bullied her in high-school.”

            No job on the line, not working in the same industry, nothing like that. Chances are OP won’t ever see Rock Star ever again.

            Does the OP reach out and apologize?

  29. Elemeno P.

    I try not to hold grudges, but I haven’t forgotten the few people who truly, deeply hurt me in life, whether or not they apologized. I don’t dwell on them much, but if I did find out they’d applied to my company and I had the ability, I would definitely block them, too. Given this woman’s reaction, it must have been pretty bad. I don’t think this company is going to have you unless she leaves.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I definitely would not assume that! They know that they can’t hire her as long as one of their current star employees is there, but it doesn’t sound like a situation where they’d put her on a permanent “no” list.

  30. De Minimis

    I wasn’t a bully, but I think it’s a good practice to work someplace other than where you grew up/went to school for this type of reason. You don’t want stuff from high school [or even earlier] to haunt you years later.

    1. paul

      Agreed. I’m very glad I’m in a different state than where I grew up, partly for this reason.

    2. PlainJane

      Excellent point–and one I’m reminded of every time I go back to my hometown to visit friends from high school. I’m so happy I can leave the drama (which is still going on!) behind.

  31. Dolphn Girl

    I agree with the above replies that the LW does not have a clue. That being mean at 17 should not come back to her after she has “worked so hard”. Get used to it. Life is not fair and if it was, your schoolmate would not feel the need to blackball you at her company. Actions have consequences and yours are coming a little later than you ever expected. The fact that you think it is so trivial makes me believe you have not changed at all and any apology from you is and will appear to be fake.

  32. Dust Bunny

    This is what a lot of bullies don’t understand: What to them was some immature behavior for a couple of years in middle or high school to me was ostracism from a school I had to attend every day, by people I could not avoid until I graduated, and a long-term effect on my self-esteem. It’s a blip in time to you but a permanent change in who I am. Sure, there’s therapy–I’m sure it’s totally fair that I should pay to repair the damage that you inflicted.

    So pardon me if I don’t have any tears to shed for the fact that you might have to settle for less than your dream niche job.

    1. Aveline

      Yes. OP doesn’t convey sympathy for the trauma he or she may have caused.

      It’s all about his or her job prospects.

      So either they aren’t sincere in feeling bad or they aren’t good at conveying it.

      1. Anon Accountant

        Thank you. I was struggling to find words for my thoughts but this is it perfectly.

        And if I ever get the chance to prevent those that bullied me when I was in high school and junior high from working with me, you bet I would! I have no desire to see or have contact with any of them again.

    2. Charlie

      This is pretty much what the Not Mad Scientist said above, and I agree with both of you. Sometimes, being 17, or not realizing how vicious a comment was, or lashing out because your parents were getting a divorce, or whatever….just doesn’t change that you did what you did and you can’t undo it.

      And yeah, as someone who got bullied a lot, not getting one’s dream niche job at a given company seems like a pretty small bill to pay.

    3. Princess Carolyn

      I wish more children and teens could read this explanation of the damage bullying can do. A shocking number of bullies don’t even mean any real harm and really do see it as just entertainment.

      1. Charlie

        I also think more people have pathological deficits in empathy and ethics than are captured by formal psychiatric diagnoses of personality disorders. Sociopathy is a spectrum, and there’s a lot of people who aren’t diagnosable with narcissism who nonetheless find it almost impossible to extend empathy and consideration to people outside their self-identified groups or tribes.

        1. RVA Cat

          Plus I wonder if there are some occupations that people like A) seek out, and B) make their tendencies worse. Middle management, police work and politics come to mind.

          1. Stanton von Waldorf

            From my personal experience, it is also extremely common in gang or criminal situations. It’s easier to harm someone else if you convince yourself first that the person to be harmed doesn’t deserve empathy.

          2. Charlie

            I think there probably are, but I also know people in traditionally empathetic fields whose empathy is strictly limited to people they identify with.

    4. Falling Diphthong

      Re the part in bold–yes, high school (or younger) victims of bullying don’t have the option to say “Then I’m quitting McGovern HS and going to South Central.” As adults, they can do exactly that. And Rock Star is doing it–exercising adult choices she didn’t have as a trapped child.

  33. BTW

    People change. If it was a situation like the first person who commented, I would understand that. My husband was a terror when he was a teenager but he truly is a completely different man now. I know, because I’ve known him since I was 13 and have dated him since I was 16 (I’m now 29) He was “that guy” when we first got together but he grew up and matured. People still assume he’s the same person and he’s not. Not by a long shot. He has grown into such a wonderful man that I would hate his past coming up to bite him and him losing opportunities because he was a (excuse me) little shit-head back-in-the-day.

    All the people who bullied me in elementary & high school are such different people now that it wouldn’t even phase me. I think in order to give some good advice, we might need to know exactly what the OP did to this person.

    1. Arpai

      If you hurt a person badly enough, it doesn’t matter what you grow up to be. As someone above said, sometimes you burn bridges before you even realize you want to cross them, and that’s life.

    2. Dienna Howard

      I think in order to give some good advice, we might need to know exactly what the OP did to this person.

      I disagree that we need to know the specifics. And while I realize that people change, I don’t get the impression that the letter writer is willing to change. S/he had no remorse or regret about what s/he did until this came to light.

      1. Matilda Jefferies

        Agreed, and the OP is kind of like Schrodinger’s Bully in this case. She might have changed, or she might not, and her former classmate has no way of knowing which it is until they’re already working together. Which is a pretty big risk to take – if the former classmate genuinely doesn’t know if she would be able to work with OP, she’s putting her job on the line to find out.

        We don’t have to know the specifics to trust that the OP’s former classmate is sincere when she says she doesn’t want to work with OP. It doesn’t have to be a situation where we, personally, would make the same decision, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that the former classmate has made the best decision for herself.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I love the phrase “Schrodinger’s Bully.” It’s such a perfect analogy.

      2. Anna

        As has been said in other comments, the person who did the bullying often doesn’t understand the impact of their actions. I’m willing to give the OP the benefit of the doubt in that this situation brought their past behavior into focus for them. We don’t always have the luxury of realizing our transgressions on our own. Sometimes someone has to actually tell us we were awful.

        I did experience some bullying in elementary school. I remember it and it did impact me; however, I’m going to assume that most people outgrow that kind of shitty power play behavior because I haven’t really seen much to suggest otherwise.

    3. LawBee

      “I think in order to give some good advice, we might need to know exactly what the OP did to this person.”

      We don’t. We know it was bad enough that approx ten years later, she’s still angry about it. That tells us all we need to know – it was that bad FOR HER. We don’t need to decide how angry she has a right to be. That’s her decision.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        Thank you. It never fails to infuriate when people second-guess others’ authentic and deeply felt emotions and experiences.

        1. Jessica

          I also think that it bears distinguishing the point that it doesn’t matter if the bullying arbitrarily met some universal metric of “bad”. What matters is that the classmate remembered the OP in such a profoundly negative way that it’s affecting OP’s professional reputation 10 years later. If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that what you did yesterday can affect you well into the future. There are tons of kids who thought that this joint, or that petty vandalism, or that shoplifting charge, was nbd coming-of-age crap, only to find that it means they don’t get into the Air Force, or can’t work in finance because they have a record for theft, or lost their scholarship and now can’t afford to finish college, or whatever. Yep, that happens. That’s a thing. OP is lucky that this only handicaps them in this one city–they could move and cultivate their own professional reputation so that if this comes up again, it might not have this result. That’s about all OP can do at this stage.

          1. Stanton von Waldorf

            TLDR – The toes you step on today may be connected to the ass you are kissing tomorrow.

            1. sam

              slightly more fun story – to lighten the mood a bit. I dated a guy my freshman year of college for a few months (he was a sophmore). No bullying involved. But he pretty much ghosted on me after a few months. Turned out that in addition to disappearing from my life, he actually transferred schools (!).

              Do you know how I found this out?

              Because my second year of law school, in a completely different city, I walked into the first year orientation, where I was serving as an orientation counselor, and take a wild guess as to who is a member of the first year class!? Yep, my ghost-ex. He and I both look at each other and he just gets this…ohhhh shit look on his face. Also, whereas in college, he was the wise sophomore to my naive freshman, now I was the “knows everyone at the school and can make his life miserable second-year” :)

              We ended up becoming decent friends after that, and still keep in touch, but he specifically uses this story as his “don’t be an asshole to people, because you REALLY never know when you’re going to run into them again” lesson.

    4. Temperance

      Eh, I don’t see the need to really give your past bully the benefit of the doubt. I think that your husband should reap the consequences of his actions if his past victims aren’t comfortable with him. I don’t think he should be punished forever by outside parties, but it’s a reasonable reaction from a person who was bullied not to want to hang out or work with the person who terrorized them.

      It’s very likely that OP’s view of her actions is not the same view that her victim has. That’s just how this type of thing works. Most people who do monstrous things don’t see themselves as monstrous, but that they were just joking around or whatever.

      1. Recovering Adjunct

        I think this also highlights the truth about how a job is not a prize to be won. Healthy companies think a lot about how their people will work together as a team.

    5. Charlie

      And here’s the thing: your husband has worked to improve himself, and that’s really great. I’m not being sarcastic, it’s the highest and best purpose one can apply themselves to.

      But….

      It’s a nice redemptive arc, but it doesn’t erase anything. There are people he hurt, I’d bet, who are still hurt. He did what he did, and there are still consequences for what you do, even if you do differently after the fact. People improve, but they’re still who they always were.

    6. Anne (with an "e")

      I get the impression that the OP doesn’t remember what s/he did to the OP. The OP seems to believe he/she must have said something when s/he was seventeen. Either that, or the OP is being purposely vague.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Has your husband apologized to all of the people he terrorized or mistreated when he was in “little shithead” mode?

    8. Blue eagle

      Totally disagree. We do not have the “right” to judge the bullied person’s response to the bully. Regardless of whether you or I think she overreacted is irrelevant. Looking at the situation “objectively” doesn’t matter – all that matters is that the “rock star” does not want the bully to be working there. The “rock star” moved on, it’s time for the bully to move on.

  34. Princess Carolyn

    I can think of one person from high school that I just absolutely would not work with under any circumstances. Fortunately, her awfulness continued well into college and she’s burned enough bridges that I’m not too worried about it coming up.

  35. HisGirlFriday

    I am solidly on the side of, ‘Don’t bother sending anything.’

    You have no idea if your former classmate wants to hear from you, and TBH, no matter how you frame this, sending an apology to her WORK e-mail screams, ‘I know you’re the reason I got blacklisted and I’m really sorry but I was 17 and dumb and didn’t mean it and look how hard I worked and all the training I got.

    I don’t mean to be harsh, OP, you may genuinely have changed, but your letter to me reads as really minimizing: ‘I’ll be honest — I wasn’t a very nice person back then, and I probably was pretty awful to this girl.’

    You can’t even name something you did, just ‘I probably was pretty awful,’ yet whatever you did has resonated with her so deeply that 10 +/- years later, she still doesn’t want to be in the same room with you, let alone work with you.

    You also wrote, ‘I looked my former classmate up, and her resume really is incredible. She graduated from college early and has awards people who’ve worked in our industry twice as long haven’t won. Her public-facing work is top-notch. I’m guessing she’s the kind of employee a manager wants to keep around.’

    If her resume is as incredible as you say it is, then yeah, management is going to do whatever they can (within reason) to keep her happy, and not hiring someone is a pretty easy thing to do.

    I don’t see any way that you send that e-mail that it ends well for you, but I see a lot of ways you send that e-mail and things get worse.

    I think you have to write this company off.

    But please, don’t contact her. I was bullied pretty severely in middle and high school, and I have less than zero desire to see those people now, or talk to them, or hear from them. I am very successful now at what I do, and I have (no bragging) the kind of connections people want to leverage. I’m not interested in using my reputation to help someone who made my life miserable, no matter how much they say they’ve changed.

    1. a girl has no name

      In the OP’s defense, she might know exactly what she did to bully her but didn’t want to include that in the letter either to be brief or because she is embarrassed. So I don’t know if we can say that she is minimizing what she did.

      I do agree with you that she needs to write the company off. I don’t blame the former classmate. I didn’t really even have many bad experiences with former classmates, but who wants a constant reminder of high school? High school was rough for a lot of people, and it is really nice to be able to move on and become the adult you want to be and leave it behind.

      1. HisGirlFriday

        I think we can. The OP could have written, ‘I was legitimately awful to her in high school, and I know it,’ but what she did write was, ‘I probably was pretty awful.’

        The OP could have owned her actions without specifics, but didn’t. I think calling it minimizing is reasonable.

  36. LBK

    Oof. You’re really impressionable when you’re a teenager. Part of the time I spent in therapy in my 20s was dedicated to processing things that happened in high school; it can be a lot worse than simply holding a grudge. It’s not so much that I would still hold it against them, because I’d hope they had grown up to be better people. It would just be a constant reminder of painful memories that I would definitely not want to be reliving at work.

    I think at most, you say that hearing her name come up again made you recall all of the terrible things you’d done to her, and you wanted to take the opportunity to apologize. And then you say nothing else, and you thank your lucky stars if she decides to be magnanimous and put in a good word for you. But I really think you need to consider this a lost cause.

    Yeah, it sucks that something you did when you were 17 could impact your life forever – but consider that something that happened to her when she was 17 (whatever you did to her) could also be impacting her life forever.

    1. Matilda Jefferies

      Yeah, it sucks that something you did when you were 17 could impact your life forever – but consider that something that happened to her when she was 17 (whatever you did to her) could also be impacting her life forever.

      Yes.

      1. SenatorMeathooks

        You’re right! It clearly is affecting her years later. I don’t know how she has the energy for it.

    2. Manders

      This comment is great. High school may only be 4 years long, but it’s a crucial stage of development and traumatic things that happen during those years can have an outsized impact in shaping someone’s life.

      It’s also the last stage in most people’s lives in which they cannot avoid a bully by switching classes or changing where they live. It’s a time in your life when you’re mature enough to know you need to get away from a bad situation, but not yet old enough to switch classes or move on your own. So I see why the bullied employee in this situation would be especially reluctant to end up in another situation where the bully’s constantly around and avoiding them would be difficult.

      1. LBK

        Yeah, this is a great point – once you’re out in your adult life, you have more agency to make the decisions you need to make to get out of a bad situation. You get to choose your circumstances much more than you do when you’re young.

    3. Purest Green

      Your last sentence is something I hadn’t thought about, and it’s a really great point. As someone who was not straight up bullied, I was having a hard time truly understanding the comments today and thinking, OK, but when does OP stop paying for what (s)he did at 17?

      But, yeah, you put that into perspective.

      1. BioBot

        They stop paying for it when they apply to a company where their victim doesn’t work. Is that some sort of burden or something? They’re not owed a job by the current company.

        1. SenatorMeathooks

          Based on the OP’s side of the story in other comments​, I can see where Purest Green is coming from.

          1. Annonymouse

            OP will have paid for it when they realise how terrible they treated the other person and how badly they hurt them and want to apologise because it’s the right thing for them not because they want something from them or absolution.

            From their comments it seems as though OP has a long way to go.

        2. Nanobot

          Pretty sure PG was not actually making the “when does it end argument,” but agreeing with LBK and saying his statements help pit things in perspective.

  37. Aveline

    I think the OP has a larger issue here that’s being missed. If the HS victim of OPs bullying is such a rock star in such a small market, his chances of having this career are likely tanked.

    I have a friend (we will call her Amy) who was assaulted by a guy we will call Fergus in college. Amy is a rockstar in an industry where there are only about 40-50 people in a town of a million. Fergus will never get a job in that industry in Amy’s town. Why? Because even competitors talk about the potential new hires and prospects over cocktails at the bar or lunch at the professional networking group.

    The likelihood of OP getting a job at a competitor are not good. Even if he “squeeked in,” I’m sure this will come up at some point.

    Fair or not, OP needs to reconsider his career path or his residence. Io

    1. Lora

      This. I am also in an industry and in an area where everyone knows everyone else and we all do informal background checks over coffee/beer when we’re thinking of hiring someone?

      I remember the girl who used to slam my head into my locker until I bled on a daily basis, and it’s been 30 years. I remember the girl across the street who used to punch me and hit me with sticks after school, before my mom got home, and rubbed my swimsuit in poison ivy one summer. I remember the kid up the street who used to put rocks inside of snowballs and soak them with water to make ice balls and bury me up to my waist in snow and then throw the rock/ice-balls at me and when his mother would come out to check on us, he would chirp, “we’re having a snowball fight!”

      I moved far far far away from those people for very good reasons. I don’t care if they grew up and found Jesus, I want nothing to do with any of them. I don’t care if they’re sorry or whatever. Stay the heck away from me.

      Even as an adult: there have been instances where I was mistreated by workplace bullies – and it gives me great joy that they have indeed been blacklisted from the industry (I wasn’t the only person who they mistreated, obviously).

    2. MuseumChick

      This is a really good point. I’m in a pretty small field and word travels very fast about people. There is one person in my field who I know desperately wants a job at a specific museum but it will never happen. Word about her reputation reached the people there long ago.

      OP, this industry might be a wash for you. If she has a stellar reputation, knows people in this industry really well, word about you will spread. I can see you not only being blacklisted from the company she works for but also others in the industry in a, when they see your resume they will think: “I heard Jane treated to quite Teapots Inc if this Sarah Smith got hired at her company. I want to maintain a good relationship with Jane and Teapots Inc. Better not take a chance.” kind of way.

  38. detached anon

    Alison, would you please consider to put up an open-thread page where we can comment on our work & personal bullying stories? I think there are a lot of them & it could be a helpful resource as an outlet & for reforming bullies to understand their impact. Also I’d like anyone who has bullied to give their perspective.

    In particular it would help these comments not to get bogged down with stories so we can focus on the OP, who seems to genuinely want advice.

    1. Temperance

      I don’t know that your suggestion would be really related to the mission of the site, and there are plenty of other spaces on the web for that. The OP wants advice, which we’re giving to her.

    2. detached anon

      Yes, probably it is against the mission of AAM.
      I’ll look up outside sites & I retract the suggestion. :)

    3. Madame X

      You could wait until Friday/Saturday this week when Alison puts up the Open Thread post.

  39. Lurking, mostly

    OP, I won’t pile on here. I think the best option for you is to either give up on this career, or, as you said, pursue it in another location. Revisit this in a few years, and if you wish, send her a sincere apology, with nothing to gain for yourself. Or, just move on. You won’t get this job you desire, that’s clear.

  40. SheLooksFamiliar

    I once interviewed for a job with a gentleman who, after the initial small talk, sighed and said, ‘You look exactly like my ex-wife.’ Things went downhill from there, even though he said my experience was exactly what he was looking for, etc. and so on. I didn’t think I’d hear back from him, and I didn’t.

    OP, some personal things are just too hard to ignore in the workplace. We’re only human, and our life experiences walk into the office with us whether or not we know it. I imagine this rock star employee may be a little surprised herself by the vivid emotions and memories your name evoked, and simply can’t leave those memories – and her feelings you created at the time – outside the office.

    I’m not sure from your letter if you are sorry for what happened because it’s biting you in the butt now, or because you’re really sorry for what you did. You said you ‘probably’ were awful, which doesn’t sound like a true acknowledgment of your bullying behavior as a teenager. 17 year olds know how to treat people decently, right? Before you do anything, I think you need to come to grips with your behavior, and your responsibility for what your actions did to someone.

    I think AAM is right. IF you choose to contact her, do it because you can offer a sincere apology for your past behavior. Do not try to resurrect your candidacy with this company, just do the right thing. If you can’t apologize, drop the idea of contacting her; your outreach will look like a ploy, which only makes things worse.

  41. TootsNYC

    I don’t think I deserve to be blacklisted for something I said when I was 17.

    ooh, OP, I don’t think you get it. And for your own sake, I hope you reflect on this.

    Your mistreatment of her was bad enough that she was willing to pay a cost at her job by openly opposing your candidacy. It’s not an risk-free thing to do—requesting that someone be blackballed. The risk would be low if she’d said, “Hmmm, I knew him in high school; he wasn’t very reliable,” and that might carry enough weight. But that’s not the report–the report is that she said, “It’s him or me.”

    Even if they love her–that’s a risky thing for her to have done. It makes her look unflexible and unforgiving, and maybe even unprofessional. Like, “who else is she going to take a dislike to, and think she gets to call the shots?” You get maybe ONE card like that, and it can still backfire. But she played it.

    And I worry that your “I don’t deserve” is an indicator that you aren’t really seeing the power of what you did, that the effects of it lasted this long.

    I did have one of my tormenters approach me at a class reunion and apologize, spontaneously, for “how we treated you.” It was nice to hear, though awkward in the moment.

    1. HisGirlFriday

      ‘Even if they love her–that’s a risky thing for her to have done. It makes her look unflexible and unforgiving, and maybe even unprofessional. Like, “who else is she going to take a dislike to, and think she gets to call the shots?” You get maybe ONE card like that, and it can still backfire. But she played it.’

      ^^^^^THIS is a really good point. The ‘her or me’ card is the nuclear option. It’s a card you get to play one time at a job, and even then, it’s not guaranteed. It’s also unusual for someone in her late 20s to have enough clout to play that card effectively, which means she really is a super-star and her company really wants to keep her and keep her happy.

      I second the other posters who’ve said you definitely have to look outside your town for your chance to break into this industry.

      Find another job, elsewhere, and then if you happen to meet her at networking events, MAYBE you can try to make amends.

    2. Charlie

      Oh, man, I didn’t even think through this angle, but you’re absolutely right. That’s the big red button, hidden under glass, and both your heart and your brain need to turn the key at the same time to activate it. OP, if you need to understand how bad this person feels about whatever it is you couldn’t even be bothered to remember, this is your yardstick.

    3. LBK

      Hmm…I don’t know if it’s really all that dramatic, honestly. When you’re the rockstar you do kind of get to call the shots. And we also don’t know that it was levied as an ultimatum like that. It could just as easily have been “I have a personal history with Jane that would make me really uncomfortable working with her,” and that was enough to dissuade the company from pursuing the OP since she’s got so much pull.

      1. AMG

        I think the point that she felt the need to expend political capital on it still applies though.

        1. TL -

          Maybe? People’s memories of high school are often colored by all the emotions, hormones, ect… of high school. Which doesn’t mean that bullying doesn’t happen or it’s not that awful (see many stories here), but you can have a knee-jerk reaction to a high school peer that you would never have to someone you only knew as an adult, even if they engaged in similar behavior.
          Like – if someone poured a slushie on me as an adult, I feel like I would just be confused and concerned and probably (eventually) very amused, regardless of intention. My entire reaction would come down to an incredulous “who does that?” and then, if it was intentional, reporting to the proper authories. I’d be mad, but eventually it would be one of those great party stories. But in high school, I would probably be embarrassed and humiliated and crying and it would have a much greater effect, emotionally.

      2. Charlie

        I still feel like pulling the “if you hire her, I’m quitting” card entails burning some political capital. Maybe she’s got that to spare, but that’s pretty heavy.

        1. LBK

          Eh. High performers having a say in hiring isn’t particularly unusual to begin with (I actually participate in the interview process so I have a say in every hire, not just people I know). I really don’t think it would cost her much, if anything. And again, I think people are imagining it as if she stormed into her manager’s office and screamed “The day Jane steps foot in this office is the day I quit!” I suspect the actual conversation was a lot more demure and professional that people are making it sound.

          Maybe if the OP were applying for another department she’d have to cash in some capital with the manager of that team since she wouldn’t really have a standing to voice her opinion there, or if the OP also came with a particularly stellar reputation and recommendation behind her. But a person you have zero investment in being kiboshed by your star employee? Totally normal and just part of respecting the opinion of a trusted worker, and frankly respecting input from any of your employees about a potential hire is pretty normal, smart business practice (unless it’s the opinion of someone who doesn’t have such a great standing).

            1. TL -

              Yup, I’m not high-level but if someone applied that I sincerely couldn’t work with, they wouldn’t be hired and I don’t think I would be burning capital – my opinion is just trusted.

          1. Charlie

            That’s fair. I was going off OP’s characterization of “she threatened to resign when it looked like I was about to be offered a job,” but she also got that second or thirdhand, and it could easily have been a lot less dramatic.

            1. LBK

              Fair enough. Even if she did literally threaten to resign, something like “I know it might sound ridiculous but I want to be really clear how serious this is for me: I wouldn’t be able to work here anymore if Jane got hired” wouldn’t be all that dramatic to me.

              Remember that this is an astonishingly good employee; at some point, you ascend beyond stacking up political capital and just gain a permanent level of authority.

          2. Turtle Candle

            You know, I went back and forth on this, but I think you’re right. I have a strong suspicion that if I objected majorly to a candidate, I could go to my boss and say, in a calm and straightforward way, “I have a history with X, and I’m confident that I’d be unable to work with them.” I wouldn’t have to throw a fit and go “IT’S HER OR ME!” or whatever. And while it would probably cost me some social capital… I doubt it would cost me much. Because I don’t pull these kind of things often, and I’m a known quantity and known not to otherwise be overly dramatic.

          3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            This is a good point.

            Back in my college-job food-service days, I managed to kibosh the hiring of someone who would have been in charge of me. He wasn’t someone I had a past with; I just met him while he was being shown around the place by the owner, and when she asked me my opinion after he left, I told her that something about him made me extremely uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t want to be alone in the store with him. (Totally true; it was a real “Gift of Fear” moment.)

            Her answer was “Oh, well, I don’t need a shift manager that badly. I’ll give him a pass.”

            1. LBK

              Exactly – unless they’re dying to hire the person for some special reason, it usually doesn’t take much for a current employee’s word to be the deciding factor. You’re naturally more invested in a current employee than a prospective one, so the candidate would have to be unbelievably impressive in order to have more weight than an employee’s opinion, to a point that’s really hard to accomplish just through the short period of a hiring process.

      3. AD

        When you’re the rockstar you do kind of get to call the shots.

        Depends on industry, rank, seniority, a host of other things we don’t know about. All “rockstars” are not created equal, and opportunities to weigh in on or make decisions about hiring vary wildly by what organization you’re in. From what it sounds like, this is a niche industry, but assuming that high-performers get to shoot down prospective hires all the time is simply not true.

        1. LBK

          But if that’s the case it also applies to TootsNYC’s original comment. We have pretty much no information about how big of a deal it would be for the employee to make a request like this. But just based on the fact that it seems that qualified employees are rare and she has an unbelievably stellar reputation, I’d think her employer would be pretty much falling over themselves to do whatever they needed to keep her.

          1. AD

            The point that Toots was making is that it likely took some workplace capital to make a request like that which draws a line in the sand, however it was phrased. And I think that’s a valid point.
            You’re speaking to your own experiences, but that doesn’t apply to all. And my reference was to exactly what you said: “gets to call the shots”. Um, no that’s not universal.

            1. LBK

              I mean, they don’t literally run the department, but good managers want to keep their good employees happy, and part of that is taking their opinions into consideration when you make big decisions like hiring. That’s a pretty standard tenet of management.

      4. Easter

        My thoughts exactly. We don’t actually know that rockstar employee said “ohmygod, I hate that person, I will QUIT before they work here” or if it was more along the lines of what you said – that she was uncomfortable working with LW and the employer took it from there.

      5. Not So NewReader

        What I see as drama here is the assumption OP has been blacklisted. So far, OP, the only concrete evidence you have is that applying to this one particular company is not going to work out for you.

        I am not seeing anything here that indicates you can’t get work at other companies.

        I knew of a teacher who got blacklisted and he could not get a job in his county or any of the surrounding counties. Now that is some serious blacklisting.

        OP, stick with things that are facts. Two plus two does not equal five.

        My suggestion is to deliberately put a space cushion between yourself and her at all times. I am willing to bet that she will grant that you have the right to earn a living. She just does not want you in her space. So give her space.

    4. Temperance

      Just chiming in: it may not have been an intense personal cost. I shot down someone for a committee position because I don’t like working with her (she’s rude, annoying, and flaky, and just wants this for her resume, and will make my work life suck). I was happy to honestly weigh on her candidacy because it impacts me greatly.

  42. Fronzel Neekburm

    Hey, Op…

    I was bullied in High School. A lot of people have pointed this out, but I want to re-iterate your point that you were “probably awful” to this girl. If you can’t identify how, then you were a lot worse than you thought. You have to realize that at a time when we are all vulnerable and still forming, you chose to to take it out on someone else. You didn’t spend nights wondering “is today going to be good? Will OP make today miserable for me?” or hoping above hope, if it was some significant event, that they didn’t ruin it. Will they ruin the school play? Will they dislocate my knee so I miss out on an opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted to do? And you have to say “i was probably awful” and cast off your memories? That’s really harsh.

    However (and please read this entire thing)…

    I don’t think you should be blacklisted for this. If I were judged by everything I did at 17, my life would be pretty miserable today, too.

    You should apologize, as others have said, because it is good for your soul and because you should grow as a human. Whether you were just a bully in high school to lash out, your actions DID affect someone else. And I’ve no doubt you’ve changed, if you have the compassion to even write a letter asking for advice.

    Now, for my first job, I did end up working with a bully. (Not the one who dislocated my knee two weeks before my big moment.) I had been working at a job for a while, and while i wasn’t management my opinion was considered on a lot of decisions, and they asked me if I should hire this person. I said yes because they were otherwise qualified, and i explained behind the scenes why I was concerned. Turns out when they hired this person, they let them know that it was because of my endorsement, and I suddenly had an apology and someone who backed me up even in the smallest problem.

    Look, what you did back in high school sucked. I hope you do get to apologize, even if nothing comes of it. But I hope you do get actual forgiveness.

    1. RebeccaNoraBunch

      This is a really compassionate comment. And I’m sorry for what happened to you in high school – no one should have to go through that.

  43. Relly

    I have worked hard in therapy to understand that my bullies weren’t monsters, that they were just broken people lashing out for reasons of their own.

    I don’t hate them any more.

    I also don’t want to have to see them ever again. If I could bundle them up and move them to another country, to have fabulous lives there and never see me again, I’d do it.

    There’s a reason I don’t live where I grew up.

    1. Epiphyta

      *fistbump of solidarity*

      One of the Mean Girls from my high school just e-mailed me with a chirpy note about the upcoming reunion; I haven’t attended one in 35 years, and live on the other side of the continent from where I grew up. There are three people I’m close to from those years, and guess what? They don’t live there, either!

      Electronic round file, with a filter to send anything else straight there.

    2. J.B.

      I was bullied by a few girls. One had pretty horrible stuff happening in her life and the ringleader of the others is by all accounts a decent person now. I have no desire to hang out with them again. I bullied and hit kids where I had the power over them, and am dealing with verbal abuse from my child towards others now (when she gets very hurt and lashes out.)

      It is so, so difficult and so hard to figure everything out. There’s a reason Lord of the Flies was written, you know? I think that kids really aren’t able to behave well without guidance. And of course there’s no handbook for the adults to use.

      1. cbackson

        Yeah, bullying is a toxic stew of so many things – bullies are very often themselves victims of bullying (at home or at school); the social dynamics of the tween and teen years are also incredibly complicated (ever-shifting in-groups and out-groups, a strong tendency to sort of herdlike behaviors) and friendships are super-intense as young people begin to pull away from their parents. I was badly bullied in late elementary and middle school; I developed an eating disorder as a result and was in treatment for years.

        I wouldn’t have any problem interacting with those who bullied me now – I went to a lot of therapy, so it’s behind me, and in retrospect I can see that the girl who was the worst of my tormentors was subject to incredibly cruel treatment (both physically and emotionally) by her parents. But not everyone is able to move past it; some people bears those physical and emotional scars for life. And some people are largely past it, but wouldn’t want a constant reminder of those bad experiences. Ultimately, you have to respect what the victim wants, so long as it’s in the range of normal, reasonable reactions, and not wanting to work with someone who bullied you is within that range.

        Frankly, I feel really sad now for the girl who bullied me. At least I could go home to parents who loved me and when middle school ended, I started over elsewhere. Yes, years of anorexia affected me in many ways (including health problems that have lingered to this day), but I don’t know how you ever heal from having parents like hers.

    3. LBK

      Yeah, one thing I really came to believe in the process of going through therapy is that pretty much every one of someone’s behaviors is explainable, which does give me empathy for people who do bad things. But that doesn’t mean I want to be around them.

    4. Emma

      The conventional view is that bullies are “maladapted,” troubled people, lashing out because they had been abused or harassed themselves or at least had dysfunctional home lives.

      But researchers have found that bullies are the least likely to be depressed, have the highest self-esteem and the greatest social status.

      There is plenty of research on the topic. Google Tony Volk from Brock university, the Vancouver study, the Norwegian bully study, Jennifer Wong’s work just to mention some.

  44. LawBee

    We live in a time when children are killing themselves over bullying. It is serious, and I applaud this woman for refusing to work with you.

    You say you were awful, but then downplay it as “something I said when I was 17” which makes me think that you just don’t get it.

    1. Gadfly

      We always have lived in such times, we’re just better at recognizing it as a factor now.

  45. Princess Carolyn

    OP, I think you should really consider relocating if you’re serious about breaking into this niche field. Obviously I don’t know all the details about your personal life that might make that particularly easy or difficult, but give it some thought. You could get some valuable experience in another market while you wait to see if your apology can eventually smooth things over with this classmate.

  46. Jessesgirl72

    OP, in order to sound sincere, you need to really be sincere.

    I can understand your disappointment, but the “It’s not fair!” part of your letter (not the mention the ” I probably was pretty awful to this girl.”) makes me wonder about the depth of your remorse. But maybe that is just the form factor- written is hard.

    However, because of that, I also am doubtful you’ll do much better with your former bully target.

    Sometimes things just don’t work out how we want. I’d suggest looking for work in a different location.

    1. Queen of the File

      I wonder how the OP’s conversation with the acquaintance went, rather than what we’re reading in the letter (which reads a bit dismissively but is also supposed to be focused on the OP and her work situation so I can see how that might happen).

      If the coffee conversation was along the lines of “can you even believe that person, blacklisting me, this is so crappy for me,” rather than, “I had no idea I said something so terrible to a person that they won’t work with me this many years later, I feel terrible” then the apology is not ready for delivery yet.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Bingo.

        Adding: I have been a lot happier since I stopped looking for life to be fair. Life is about the fairness we GIVE, not the fairness we GET.

  47. Hermione

    People have already commented about the minimizing language in this letter, so I won’t, OP. I’ll believe you at your word when you say that you’re a different person than you were at 17 – many of us are.

    I hope you do decide to attempt to apologize to this woman, only for the reason that she deserves an apology. I also hope that you decide to attempt to apologize to others you hurt back then, as well, despite the fact that they may not have any power over you whatsoever in the way this woman does. Be specific with the ways you hurt them, and apologize without reservation. Make amends where possible, attempt to offer it to those who deserve it, and then move forward with the conviction of being kind first.

    And please don’t apply to this place for a number of years after your apology (or attempt, as it may be). There are other ways of forging your career – go find them.

  48. Heatherb

    In high school I had several people that were bullies to me. 20+ years later one girl reached out via Facebook to apologize and seemed very genuine. Granted this wasn’t a situation of working with each other but I appreciated that she would make the effort. People change. I know not everyone does, but I’m definitely a different person than I was 20 or even 10 years ago. I wouldn’t apologize because you want to get the job but because it’s right thing to do.

  49. DCGirl

    Look at it from this perspective. At my Bad Old Job, there was one guy who was a terrible bully. I don’t think he turned into a bully the day that he was hired by that company. I think we were seeing behavior that has been working for him for years (in a dysfunctional way). When behavior gets the results that you want, it’s likely to be repeated. So, for me, he became the landmine that I encountered when I was hired. This is the guy who greeted me, on my first day, with, “I’ve seen 23 people come and go in your position, and I know that you’re not going to last,” then did his best to make that come true. If he ever applied to work at my job, I would totally threaten to quit rather than ever have to work with him again. Not even if he a religious conversion, years of intensive counseling, and medication to deal with his psychopathic tendencies.

    It’s really hard to ever feel that you can trust someone who has treated you badly. This woman learned from the get-go that you were someone who can’t be trusted. It’s good that you’ve changed and that you can acknowledge that ways that you have hurt others in the past, but part of being adult is having to deal with the consequences of your actions.

  50. RebeccaNoraBunch

    As someone who was bullied all throughout her teenage years, I echo the other formerly bullied folks who say it’s probably best to just move on. Definitely don’t apologize if you don’t even remember what you did (!). That’s far from genuine and it’s entirely self-serving.

    In my late 20s, a woman who had bullied me throughout junior high & high school contacted me on Facebook and apologized for her actions. I never replied. It was sweet comeuppance to realize that I did not have to engage with her ever again if I didn’t want to, which I absolutely don’t. The bullying she and her cohorts eked out on me throughout my teen years was severe to the point of triggering a lifelong struggle with lack of self-esteem, depression, and self-harm. If she or any one of them applied at my company, you can be sure I would be doing the exact same thing as your former classmate. No one deserves to have to see and interact with her bully every day as an adult.

    I also have no sympathy. What goes around comes around, as they say.

    1. Falling Diphthong

      My high school’s reunion committee tracked me down for the 20th (my parents moved when I was in college, so I had no links to the town and hadn’t been back), and after my “…. Huh. Uh hmm. Um” response, someone (whom I honestly didn’t remember) called and offered a sincere-sounding apology, that people changed and she knew I was bullied a lot and wanted me to know that people changed and weren’t those people anymore at 37. And I agreed. And I respect her for doing it.

      I didn’t go to the reunion, though. Even if it had consisted of people I barely remembered two decades later apologizing to me–that does not appeal as the way to spend a weekend.

  51. Dienna Howard

    I’m glad to hear that the woman’s co-workers supported her and didn’t dismiss her concerns about having a former bully potentially join the team. Too many times the concerns of those who are bullied/have been bullied are dismissed. Glad to hear that someone listened and cared.

    1. BritCred

      There is also the issue that the employer doesn’t know that OP has changed at all. Yes, they might have but without further proof all they know is what is on their CV and that another staff member has raised serious concerns about working with her for bullying in the past, even if that was at school.

      Frankly all they need is someone who is at least as proficient as OP and doesn’t have that reputation and the decision is made easily to not interview OP. They may not care about the past but take that as an indication of the possibilities and risks for the future.

      Sucks, but its true. Your past does stay with you…

  52. J-me

    OP, you’re reaping what you sowed. Whether you think you deserve this boomerang or not, it is reality. Maybe just move on, and count it as a hard life lesson.

  53. That Would Be a Good Band Name

    I’ve had a few of the girls that bully me reach out as adults. Not to apologize, but friendly words when they saw me out in public or a friend request on facebook and I’m pretty sure my face conveyed the “why the f*ck are you talking to me” that I was thinking. I do not want to see people that made my life hell for all of junior high and high school.

    However, I have worked at the same employer with two of them (the joys of a small town) and it was…fine. We didn’t really have to talk to each other for our jobs, so that helped. But I just hated having to see them everyday. It was a constant reminder of a time that I didn’t ever want to think about again.

    1. Jessesgirl72

      Yep. I am sure I’ve had the same expression on my face.

      Too bad they can’t see it when they send me friend requests on social media.