a former employee is on a public vendetta against me

A reader writes:

I have worked 5 years for an international nonprofit as a regional coordinator for a certain region of developing countries where I oversee local consultants hired to implement our projects with our beneficiaries. These consultants are on year-long renewable contracts (and in the past have tended to be treated more like employees, but we are now handling it more like normal consultancy contracts). I was young when I was promoted to the position (26) after having been one of those consultants myself for one year. When I came into the position, it was originally on interim during my previous boss’s 9-month sick leave. I was managing remotely in three countries with three consultants: two with whom I managed to build great relationships, they worked great, no complaint, and a third who was always very difficult to work with. He resented me having been promoted to “oversee” him and kept referring to me as interim even after it was clear my former boss wasn’t coming back and I got officially the position. He had done very bad work before, but my previous boss thought he could improve and liked him as a person. His work never improved. With my immediate manager, we spoke to him many times, making reports on how he needed to improve his work, and put him on “probation” at least twice. He’d temporarily improve, then get bad again (no reports, bad attitude, not meeting timelines, etc). Eventually, at the end of 2011, with the approval of my manager, I decided that we would not renew his contract, as it was expiring. I was new into the “management” world and tried to get as much mentoring and training as I could, but this was a very intense way to “learn on the job.”

He has since been on a personal vendetta against me. He has been sending mass emails to all our stakeholders, beneficiaries, partners, all the board of our organisation, etc. saying how badly I have done my job, how awful I am, etc. Within my organization, nobody doubts my actions and they all stand by me and highly value my work (I have since had one more promotion). My managers recognize in his vendetta the sad side of a disgruntled ex-worker. Both my manager and higher managers have responded to him very professionally and have followed up (without copying in all the stakeholders of course), but he keeps on attacking, every three or four weeks over the past six months, with roughly 80 people in copy. He has taken his crusade to many of the people we work with who have never met me, and many partners he copies on emails are potential places where I might want to work one day. I have gotten feedback from some of them that they do not take it seriously at all (his ramblings do seem slightly paranoid or schizophrenic), but I am drained emotionally by this. Letting him go was one of my first difficult management decisions, and although I do not regret it for the better of our organization, I wish I had not opened that Pandora’s box. I have learned from it and would handle future layoffs differently, but in the immediate situation I am at a loss. My manager seems pretty overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do either.

Legally, we can’t do much; he lives in another country, and my organization would not take on an international court case (if that even exists). This is a strange complex situation, But in general terms, how would you deal with ex-employees / workers who have been fired for bad behaviour/ poor performance when they start harassing the company or their ex-manager?

This is going to sound counterintuitive, but do nothing. Ignore it.

The way this guy is acting is so counter to how normal, rational people act that anyone who receives his missives isn’t going to take them seriously. (Frankly, cc’ing 80 people is enough to ruin his credibility, and that’s before we even get to the content of the emails.) And the fact that his letters are rambling and seem to come from someone unstable — believe me, people are not taking these seriously. Imagine, after all, if you were on the receiving end of these letters about someone else. Would you think, “Wow, Jane sounds like she really treated him horribly; she must be a bad person,” or would you think, “This guy has some serious problems and he’s annoying me”? You’d think the latter.

So I can promise you that no one is putting stock in these letters. You are, of course, because they’re about you, and it’s horrible to feel that someone out there dislikes you so much and is sharing it with the world. And you’re questioning how you handled the ending of his contract, and you’re feeling that he’s exposing you as having done wrong in some way. But he’s not.

I don’t know the details of how you handled the end of his contract, but certainly the decision to do it sounds more than justified. And if you were awkward in how you handled it because it was your first time doing something like that — well, welcome to the club. Most managers are awkward in the early stages of learning how to do that. It’s not ideal, but it’s reality. And 99.9% (more, really) of their employees don’t react like this guy is. The issue here is him. It’s not about your actions.

You had the bad luck of having an unhinged person on your staff. And people hearing from him see that.

So I would ignore it, and keep reminding yourself that other people are too. It will go away in time, I promise.

{ 72 comments… read them below }

  1. AMG*

    Wow! Crazy!

    I would bet that many people have already blocked him, and many others haven’t only because of the morbid curiosity of what goofy stuff he will do next. Having the unfortunate experience in this area, I can tell you a couple of things:
    1. Alison is spot-on. Don’t give it energy, lest you give the impression that there is an element of truth to it.
    2. Don’t engage the mentally unstable. It never goes well.
    3. Water seeks its own level. Let him sink and let yourself rise.

  2. some1*

    Don’t get into a pissing contest with a skunk. In other words, he’s already proven that he’s bitter, vengeful, and unprofessional at best. He completely overreacted to being let go. That means anything you do in response to these emails will only escalate the situation, make him more angry, and cause him to try to do something else to get back at you.

    And Allison is 100% right that his emails say way more about him than you. I think of people on Facebook who badmouth their boss, significant other, sibling or friend. No matter what the offender has actually done to the poster, I always feel like it reflect worse on the poster for taking their grievance public like that.

    1. Michelle*

      A big “yes!!!” to your last point. In the same way you don’t want to be friends with someone who aggressively badmouths their friends or date someone who has nothing good to say about anyone they’ve dated, why would you want to hire someone who is just burning professional bridges left and right with hostile, erratic emails? He is basically broadcasting to a network “If you hire me then someday I’ll be sending these emails about you.”

  3. Anon*

    I agree. If I got these emails, I would think the person was crazy and needed to let go. I would think that whoever canned him was justified in doing it. And I wouldn’t allow a number of these types of emails to go into my Inbox. I would have moved the very first email to the Blocked Sender folder.

    I know it’s hard, but AAM is right – ignore him. No one is thinking badly of you in this situation – in fact, they are probably feeling bad for you and glad you were able to get rid of this guy.

    If the people that went on these types of rampages understood that no one is ever going to side with them acting like this, maybe they would stop.

      1. Jamie*

        This. Seriously, OP, this says absolutely nothing about you and everything about him.

        I’m glad he isn’t local to you, or I’d caution you regarding safety concerns – but honestly, even if you were the most evil, vile, horrible person on the planet who tormented kittens and passed legislation to outlaw puppies in your off time no one would believe it because the messenger has no credibility.

        That said, it totally sucks because I would be embarrassed, too – it’s just human nature. I’m actually surprised this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        Just another voice chiming in to say that it’s hard to laugh about it when the bad-mouthing is about you, but ignore — and laugh if you can. The recipients of these emails are probably laughing too, because this person is so clueless as not to realize that sending an email like that sends a far stronger message about the person sending it than about the subject of the message.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’d just laugh. Those emails may make you seem like the most evil, Machiavellian mastermind/all-around bad person ever. Even if it’s bad, you have to laugh at the absurdity of it. I’d wonder how I could take over the world if I were that brilliant!

  4. Rob Bird*

    I agree. It’s like my children; you can only scold/correct/punish so much but at some point, you just have to ignore their behavior. Sometimes they do things just because they know it will get a reaction, an I would be willing to bet that is what is going on here.

    He is damaging himself more then anything.

  5. Lisa*

    It seems like the only recourse the company has to forbid any current employees from giving this person a reference or even admitting that he worked there. He is hurting their company, and the company should refuse to give details beyond, ‘he work here from x to x date, and his contract was terminated / not renewed’ for reasons that cannot be discussed. Hell they can deny he ever worked there, or ‘he work here from x to x date, but we prefer to forget he ever worked here due to his 22 strongly worded emails to the 80 member BOD since he was not renewed’.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I wouldn’t recommend lying. That said, in another country it may be legal to refuse to confirm dates of employment.

    1. -X-*

      “even admitting that he worked there”

      So someone asks you “Was he a consultant with your organization?” and you say what exactly???

      Do you refuse to admit reality? That looks rather petty. Pretend you have a blanket policy against confirming dates of employment? What?

    2. Heather*

      Putting aside the what-can-you-say-as-a-reference issue, I think Alison’s point was that he’s not hurting their company, he’s hurting himself, so there’s no need for them to take action at all.

  6. Coelura*

    From a slightly different perspective – you are getting your name in front of a lot of people that you might want to work for or with in the future (per your own note). When you do interview with them in the future, be prepared to discuss this situation. What you felt you could have done differently in communicating that you weren’t renewing the contract & how you handled the deranged response of the contractor. This situation can definitely end up being a positive for you in the long term. Future interviewers and coworkers are now aware that you are willing to deal with poor performers and have experience in dealing with very bad fallout. This is a good story for you. Its just very hard to live through!

    1. fposte*

      Yes, this is a natural for “How did you handle a difficult situation?”

      But seriously, I’ve been the recipient of some of these emails. It’s like getting an email from a crazy YouTube commenter. Your immediate thought is “I’d have fired you faster than they did.”

  7. Runon*

    Another vote for the ignore it. And honestly, for you, the more crazy emails he sends the better. If I got one email I’d raise and eyebrow and maybe poke at it and let it sit in my head as he may have a point. At 3 emails I’d say, this dude is weird and dismiss any legit point he may have had. Once it hit 5 or so I’d start sharing with my friends, “look what weird crazy dude sent me.” Beyond that I’d start to feel sorry for him and think that he has serious mental issues. If they were really regular I’d just set up an auto trash and if I thought anything of the person who was the target it would be sympathy.

    It clearly isn’t about you. And everyone who sees something like this will get it. Just think of each additional email as a note that you made the right choice and that others will see it that way. Or better yet, set up a rule for your email, mark as read and delete.

  8. Anon*

    Yes, ignore, don’t engage him. I would say to keep the emails. Don’t trash them. Kind of a just in case the emails transition from crazy to threatening. My mom had an employee that, after much angst, managed to get retired out but continued to send bizarro emails for YEARS. This employee didn’t do her job, had a horrible attitude, treated students as trash and in general was a waste of space. But due to being there forever and other reasons, previous bosses never let her go. My mom still says that letting her stay as long as she did was the worst managerial mistake she ever made. She still gets emails and they are still crazy but they just file them away.

    Also, my old boss was wearing one of our logo’d shirts while out running errands and ended up giving her card to what she thought was a potential student. Turns out she was probably schizophrenic based on what she told me. That’s when the emails started and kept going. Then the mail and then the threatening of my boss and the president. Which brought out the FBI. I’m not even kidding.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Holy moly. I used to work at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and we had a lot of volunteers and also had celebrities willing to do media for us or help in other ways. Our contact info was very public.

      One day our president told me that a crazy person was stalking him and somehow got his home number and was calling him in the middle of the night asking how she could help. We had one of our caseworkers call her to see if she was a threat (all former cops or FBI) and it turned out to be Winona Ryder! Our president had no clue that she was famous. And I guess she would call while under the influence and slurred her words and generally acted out of it. It was funny. She did end up doing press for us when Polly Klaas went missing in CA many years ago so it worked out well in the end.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      That’s one reason saving the emails is a good idea. It will really help the prosecution. I hope the OP’s managers are doing this.

  9. Frances*

    I’ve actually been a random person cc’d on a disgruntled person’s emails. At one of my previous jobs I worked for a department that provided teaching development resources at a university and people occasionally assumed we were some kind of complaint office for “bad” teaching. There was a particular grad student who would send a mass email every six months or so about whichever professor had dared to give him a poor grade, and we’d get included along with pretty much everyone in the university’s senior leadership. Allison and the other commenters are right in that when you get one of these and it has absolutely nothing to do with you, you just roll your eyes, feel sorry for the person the diatribe is aimed at, and then delete the message.

  10. Happens*

    An employee who reached a mutual agreement to quit starting forwarding nasty emails to senior managers about the manager he had been reporting to. On and on, I was one of the cc’d on them and increasingly he sounded very strange. His goal appeared to be to blame the manager for his failure in the role and to convince those of us receiving the messages to act against the manager. We all had one group discussion, in 5 seconds all agreed to simply delete each email and voice mail and ignore them. It took 5 months before he stopped sending the messages, but not at any point did anyone think it was a legitimate complaint-ever. He did try to take his campaign outside the company as well but he found no traction there either. Reasonable people recognize irrational behaviour when they see it.

    1. anon-2*

      There is almost no such thing as “a mutual agreement to quit”.

      It’s usually “quit, or get fired.”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Meh, I counted a sucky job I had as that. The conversation started as “We are going to let you go,” but for me it was “Yeah, I was just coming over here to quit.” Officially, no, but in your mind it’s applicable. :)

        (P.S.–said job was too short to go on my resume. Only a law enforcement job would ever find out about it.)

  11. mel*

    I wholeheartedly agree with this! It’s funny how many people have such little faith in a person’s ability to recognize crazy.

    If some random person sent me an unsolicited (and probably unaddressed) email to me about some crazy tirade aimed at someone I don’t know, it would go in the junk folder the first time. The second time, blocked. I would be surprised if anyone is even aware the emails are still being sent anymore!

  12. Dana*

    +1 to all the comments above.
    I’d also like to commend you for doing the right thing by letting him go, that’s an incredibly difficult decision to make and even harder to execute. Nobody wants to take the trash out but it needs to be done, it’s just to bad your former boss didn’t do it. The good news is that you’ve likely experienced the worst response to a managerial decision you’ve made, so moving forward every other one will feel like a breeze in compariason.

  13. mel*

    I would also want to avoid automatically labelling this person as being schitzophrenic or some other unfortunate stereotype. No need to paint a bad picture of people with mental illness when this person was probably just raised without proper discipline and a serious case of entitlement.

    1. Anon*

      Right. I would bet my paycheck there is nothing medically or mentally wrong with this person. He/she is just a jerk.

    2. Anonymous*

      Oh come on, some of us were also raised with serious cases of entitlement and turned out OK. Don’t paint us all with a bad brush!

    3. fposte*

      More significantly, because nobody is actually capable of accurately diagnosing somebody over the internet from a secondhand report, and most of us aren’t licensed and capable to do it in person, either.

      1. Anonymous*

        Sorry if my using the word “schizophrenic” in my email to Alison was misplaced, would not normally label anyone with mental illness and I’m otherwise very sensitive to the issue.

        1. fposte*

          Sorry–I wasn’t aiming that at you, and it wasn’t out of any particular sensitivity. There’s just a tendency for armchair diagnoses to breed and then compete in such discussions, when we can’t really make them and a lot of the time they’re just a distraction since they don’t matter anyway to what a poster should do in the situation.

          1. LJL*

            That’s why I prefer the nondiagnostic “batcrap crazy.” Thank you, Big Bang Theory.

  14. saro*

    I work in international development and have gotten similar emails in the past. I immediately make a note of who sends the emails and make sure to never ever hire them for anything. The person he complains about? I don’t remember any of their names or details.

    This will sound cynical but I think that international development has more of these egotistical, prone to hysteria people than other fields.

    1. Anon*

      As someone in the field, I have noticed this too. I wonder if it’s because they’re flung into situations where they’re ascribed an almost God-like authority by both locals in other nations and by people in the West who glorify their work especially because of the celebrities involved (don’t get me started). Or, maybe they’ve already had the ego and they know they feed off it.

      Either way, I’ve noticed a tendency to either develop a huge messiah complex or to behave badly because no one will call them out on it.

  15. Ash*

    This might seem like a really stupid question but… Why haven’t you all blocked his e-mail address yet? Do it company wide via whatever spam filter you use. There’s no reason any of you should still be receiving these if you have a halfway-competent IT staff. It also boggles the mind why none of you on your own have blocked the guy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      One reason not to block is so that you know if the next message says “I’m coming by your office tomorrow to talk about this in person.”

      1. Ash*

        I still don’t think it’s worth it when you’re talking at least 80 e-mails every few weeks that people have to deal with. That’s obnoxious and the guy keeps doing it because he knows he has an audience. If they expected violence from him or something, fine, channel his e-mails to a specific folder and let them sit as evidence. Otherwise block him.

        1. Jessa*

          I would still recommend the channel to a box method simply because you don’t know if in the future he will escallate, and evidence is a good thing. You don’t even have to read them, just store them. Just because he is overseas NOW, doesn’t mean he always will be. Also if your building has security they need to be informed to not let him in if he DOES show up.

  16. tbl js*

    My brother once gave me advice that I’ll pass along.

    Don’t engage the crazy person. It’s a polite translation of a common phrase. But you can’t reason with, explain logic, or deal rationally with someone acting unreasonably, illogically, or irrationally. It’s a waste of time, energy, and resources.

    I agree, printout and keep the emails in a file. But do not respond.

    1. Blue Dog*

      This is absolutely spot on. If you engage him, you will stoke the fire. Eventually, this whack job will move on to someone else.

      If anyone internally asks about it — which I doubt they will given his conduct — just say, “Well, if we weren’t sure before whether we made the right decision to renew his contract, we certainly are now.” ‘Nuff said.

  17. Natalie*

    I’m fond of the colorful saying about mud-wrestling with pigs – you both get dirty and only the pig has fun.

    It’s not remotely on the same scale as your situation, but I have actually been on the receiving end of a crazy person email campaign. I used to be a very active editor/admin of a user-generated encyclopedia (yes, that one) and one day I just happened to cross paths with one of the sites more prolific trolls. I blocked their newest account and briefly engaged with them, not knowing how balls-out crazy they were.So they started sending me periodic rants and monitoring my communications on the site to (rather pathetically) attempt to scare me by mentioning bits of personal information.

    A few years after the harassment started, I was interviewed for an article about said encyclopedia which identified my name, college, and username. Said crazy person emailed my college’s dean of students an off-the-wall rant about me. I don’t have the email anymore, but I think the main claim was that I was a violent anti-semite. (This person’s trolling wasn’t remotely related to Judaism, so I assume they just picked something widely loathed.)

    My lovely dean of students forwarded me the email to inquire about it solely because she wanted to check in with me on my personal safety. She could tell just from the tone that the person writing was the concern, not me.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Someone I went on two dates with years ago has sent me harassing emails for years. Semi-threatening, sometimes, and always sent from an anonymizer so the IP address can’t be seen, but it’s clear that it’s him. Once he threatened to start sending emails to my then-coworkers.

      Some sick people seem to develop obsessions, and all you can do is ignore it, unfortunately. It’s lovely.

      1. Paula*

        I had a bad falling with girls from college, 7 years afterwards my dad turned on my college computer to salvage for parts and it auto signed in my old IM name. My dad immediately starting getting death threats from these idiots that were saying some nasty stuff, do they just wait for me to sign on?? I was suicidal then due to a break up, and their response was to get me kicked off campus, kicked out of 3 clubs, try to expel me based on my danger to them due to my mental illness, and send me death threats via IM whenever I signed on. Apparently, being suicidal meant that I am a danger to society and would cause a massive violent scene unless I was immediately expelled. I got a lawyer who was the ex – state dept of education guy, who ripped the school a new one for trying to expel me with only 2 classes left before graduation. In what world does killing the only good thing that I was about to accomplish make a suicidal person not want to die?? I see them around sometimes, and they yell obscenities at all at fairgrounds. Yup – mid 30’s now, nice huh?

        1. Job seeker*

          I feel so bad for you. Where do you find this kind of people? I have been lucky I have never encountered anyone threatening me or making me afraid of them. You say you are in your mid 30’s that is so hard to imagine anyone this age behaving like this. Please ignore these people. Remove yourself from any place they could possible try to contact you. These people definitely have issues that a normal person would run from.

          1. Paula*

            I have no friends from college because of this. Even the ones that were nice, were still their friends so I had to save myself and break off all communication. It destroyed me for so long, thinking I deserved to die and that was what everyone wanted anyway. Even the school psychologist told the school that I was not a danger to anyone and I gave him permission to speak to my therapist at the time. The school over-ruled the school shrink and I got expelled. The lawyer was my saving grace, everyone was against me and my mom just wanted me to get away from them all and said I should just let them expel me. Expel meant no transferring, and being on the hook for 100k with no degree. The lawyer told me I wasn’t crazy, and to keep going, and that even a shitty catholic school couldnt do this to me.

        2. Anon*

          I’d ignore them. I know some crazy people from college…And 16 years later, they are doing the same type of stuff. All I can do is shake my head. Oh and they didn’t graduate either. All their energy spent on being jerks resulted in…nothing. Because it didn’t hurt or affect me one bit.

          1. Paula*

            Cause it was a catholic college they turned me (an upset dumped girl) into this whole ordeal about saving the student body from having to be in the same dorm room, classroom, cafeteria as me. My depressing presence was causing chaos and turmoil on moral level that was disruptive to the college and I was to be removed at all costs. yeah still mad about it.

      2. fposte*

        Why is it that it always seems to be people with a ton of time on their hands? Or is it just that busy people are too booked up to act on their obsessions?

        (Thinking of the forged Usenet posts in my name wherein “I” confessed to various crimes.)

        1. Anon*

          I agree. Where do they find the time for this type of mischief? How can you hold down a job, have normal relationships and friendships, heck, pay rent on time, focusing this much time and energy harassing people? If I had that kind of time and energy I could run the world. Ha!

        2. EngineerGirl*

          I pointed that out to someone one time. That you can use your time acheiving or harassing (but not both). Another reason not to engage. You don’t want them to suck up your acheivement time.

  18. Anonymous*

    I’m the one who wrote the email to Alison. Her response and the comments have helped me make peace with what I had already decided to do. As some feedback, the people in cc to the emails might have blocked him already, internally we haven’t mainly because we need to keep track of what he might be sending to our partners. His main demand is for me to be fired. Initially we had all the best intentions to give good referrals of him (or at least decent) and honestly thought he might just be a better fit elsewhere. Now if we were to be contacted about him I’d probably just confirm that he did work with us, but would struggle not to actually warn them. He’s found different ways to use his tactics; riling up some of our beneficiaries on his side, writing from different addresses and under different names (the name of his new consultancy firm, some made up association, etc). I have actually found that now that I am actually hiring people (doing interviews this week), it has helped me developed a radar for “crazy” and makes me feel a responsibility towards whoever might handle the people under me in the future if I leave. The hardest part is always when I think it’s finally over after a month of silence only to receive a new email at some random hour of the night. He actually wrote on New Year’s eve so I get the sense that he’s obsessed by this. Thanks all for your reassurance!

    1. Natalie*

      As far the emails you are still receiving, does he always send them from the same email address or same few email addresses? If so, I would consider setting up automatic handling so they are plopped into some folder you can check weekly or whatever.

    2. jennie*

      Since you say your manager and others have responded to him, I’d try to put a stop to that too if you can. Any response can just add fuel to the fire. No response at all will calm the situation down faster.

    3. fposte*

      I don’t think you have to struggle not to warn them–it’s perfectly fine to share the facts here, and he’s sure not worried about keeping them private. Just keep it factual and non-gossipy, which seems pretty much your style anyway.

    4. Rana*

      I second the recommendation to set up your email system to dump his emails into a folder where you don’t have to see them unless you wish to. Treat them like personalized spam; maybe check the folder every six months or so to make sure nothing important got in there by accident, then delete (or send to archive if you want the paper trail). No need to open or read any of them.

    5. Anonymous*

      There has been a lot of discussion about blocking the emails, but I want to put in a plug for re-routing. I once had a similar situation in which an individual was flooding our organization with emails.

      IT was able to arrange that any email sent by this individual that hit our servers came only to me, regardless of where it was directed. This may not help with email to other organizations (donors, for example) but it does reduce the irritation factor within the organization.

      You could decide whether you want to be the designated recipient, or ask your boss to take this role to reduce your stress level. In my case, it was part of my job to deal with this, but I don’t think that’s the case here.

      Good luck with this. As a final note of encouragement, I will add that the individual in my situation did eventually stop – probably because he wasn’t getting the reaction he wanted.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        We did this at OldJob with harassing calls that were coming in for my coworker. Our boss just said “Transfer him to me,” and that’s what I did. I guess he got sick of getting her and hanging up, because he stopped after a while.

    6. Artemesia*

      I know how horrible this is as something similar happened to me when I was on an appeals committee that dealt with an issue at a University. University students, especially grad students, contain a disproportionate number of people with serious mental problems — I have always suspected families warehouse their difficult members in masters degree programs where they can toddle along for years if well financed. I have seen half a dozen pretty scary people behave much like your tormentor.

      The one who targeted me dummied up an official looking alumni newsletter that was broadcast to everyone in the administration and to every college related mailing list he could get his hands on. He trashed me in the same vicious way you are being trashed. Even though you know sensible people will ignore it, it is hard not to let it make you pretty anxious.

      The thing is as AAM and others have noted everyone receiving these figures out quickly that the decision was a wise one.

  19. RB*

    A big YES to ignoring.

    I had that same situation happen to me several years ago, from a former boss of all people. She was toxic, psychotic and she became enraged when I and her VP quit. She was fairly influential in the community, mainly because of her wealth. She sent emails and made phone calls to many, many people that were full of lies with the intention of making our lives a living hell.

    Well, it worked….for a time. We had documentation that would have allowed us to make a strong legal case for defamation, which isn’t easy. We were ready to fight it. Then a very wise person, who I thought was her friend advised me to do nothing. I was aghast! He said that it would take time, but stay professional, don’t bad mouth her and it will pay off.

    Truer words were never spoken. I took that advice and let it go. Today, she has no standing in the community because of those actions. I kept my head down, did strong work and rose in my career. Time has passed and I’m in a much better position because I didn’t get in the mud with her. It hurt her far more than it did me.

    You do the same. It will require patience and strong will, but in the long run it will pay off.

  20. Luluinlala*

    Alison’s advice is spot-on. My company had to fire someone almost two years ago, now. He was a sales manager that didn’t bring in any new accounts, flaked on important projects, showed up to work intoxicated more than once, and just generally came off as a bit unstable. (Honestly, it bothered everyone that it took the company as long as it did to fire him). Since he was let go, he has launched social media attacks against us on Twitter and Facebook and various other sites that are public. No, it’s not a personal attack against one person, which I can imagine is very unsettling, but that he did it against the company in a very public way was a challenge in how to respond to him. In short, we didn’t. We ignored him. (I say “we” but since I actually the manage the social media here, it actually fell to my responsibility, and I can tell you that it very much felt like a personal attack when I was the one seeing his Tweets at 10 PM at night and on weekends while the rest of my company was blissfully ignorant. Anyway, it was clear to most people – in my company and otherwise – that he was unstable and his rants were that of a crazy person and not someone who had been so injustly wronged by a terrible company. He’s calmed down, now, though who knows if it will stay that way. The point is, he was really just looking for a reaction, and as long as we didn’t give him one, it didn’t escalate. I will say that I’ve kept detailed records – screen shots, etc – of all of his posts, and my company did send them to a psychologist to diagnose, just in case he turned out to be violent or prove a threat to anyone in our office. So I would recommend keeping detailed records if you aren’t already, but it sounds like you and the rest of your office have it under control. Your ex-employee will probably find a new target/outlet eventually, and until then, good luck!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Lucky the internet has a very good nose for this kind of thing anymore–most online denizens have learned to recognize it in reviews, etc. It does get old hearing the same rant for so long, though.

  21. Nev*

    If this consultant works no longer for the organization, may be someone could just block his professional email (I’m assuming he has one) or may be there is a technical way to limit his ability to email 80 people at once. I agree with all advice given so far, but if I were one of the 80 people I’d be very annoyed by this pointless correspondence and would report him as spam.

  22. SJB*

    OP, just want to echo how absolutely right this advice is. I was in a very similar situation in my first managerial post. I had to fire an employee on the spot, as he was caught – let me be diplomatic – behaving in a sexually inappropriate way in the office. Needless to say this was extremely unpleasant and so was the aftermath.
    He started emailing me, my bosses, clients we worked with, and our vendors; the emails were incredibly foul and, in retrospect, pretty inventive in his theories about why I’d fired him. I was devastated and also worried about the consequences to me, until one of my colleagues sat me down. She told me that crazy behaviour in the office usually means crazy behaviour OUT of it, and that all he was doing was confirming how absolutely right I was to show him the door.
    It was hard to ‘just’ ignore it but I’m glad I did; years later I was hired by someone who had received his diatribes, and she told me that the class I had shown in the aftermath (which wasn’t much more than not engaging him and resisting the urge to badmouth in return) was a big part of the reason she hired me.

  23. girlreading*

    Completely agree with Alison. Halfway through your email I was already thinking “I’d think this guy was crazy, take nothing he said seriously and block his emails”. Also, do the people he’s emailing know he’s a former employee? If so, then they definitely put no stock in his word.

    I am curious how he got everyone’s emails. Would he have had all of them on his personal email account prior to leaving or did he have access to his work email after being fired? If so, I’d prevent that in the future.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      I once worked for a large company that had a “master” email address for each division of the company– an email sent to “NorthDivision@largecompany.com” would be sent to everyone in that area. It’s possible this guy knew a similar “master” address. It’s also possible everyone’s email address followed a “First.Lastname@largecompany.com” format, and he just sent it to everyone at the company whose name he knew or could find.

  24. Elizabeth West*

    Gavin de Becker addresses a similar situation in The Gift of Fear, and gives the same advice. There is nothing you can do to stop him except not feed the troll (basically). Like most trolls, he will eventually give up. I would recommend reading the workplace chapter, and maybe passing it along to your managers if you think they would be amenable to it, unless they are following a similar protocol.

    No one is taking this guy seriously. He is hanging himself with his own rope. Should anything come back from this on future job hunts, I would think you can say something like, “My managers dealt with that person.” It seems that they would give you a good reference in any case, and if asked about it, they will know what to say.

    The best rule for people like this, be they stalkers, ex-coworkers, etc., is DO NOT ENGAGE. Doing so will just make it worse. I seriously do not think you have anything to worry about professionally, and any employer who took this guy seriously isn’t someone you would want to work for anyway.

  25. Charlotte*

    This exact same thing happened to me earlier this year – it was someone I refused to interview for a job, and he actually started Googling me, calling up people I know (but he had never met) and telling them how awful I am.

    In my case, the person lives in the United States, and I did call the police, but there was nothing they could do – no threats were made against me, and an attorney friend I consulted said (much as the commenters here note) that it isn’t slander unless your reputation is being harmed, i.e. unless people BELIEVE the guy. But it was still very violating.

    I agree with all the others: Try to ignore it and move on with your life, but do notify (U.S.) authorities IMMEDIATELY if the person physically threatens you or says he is coming to your home or place of work.

Comments are closed.