my stalkerish ex-boyfriend is applying for a job at my company

A reader writes:

My ex-boyfriend, (I broke up with him 4-5 months ago) just informed me that he is interviewing for a job at my company (and a move back to our hometown, a smallish city). For some background, we are a medium-size company (~200 people) and the job he is applying for would be in the same office that I work in (about 30 people).

Our breakup wasn’t one of those super-nasty violent ones, but I clearly expressed my desire to end the relationship (repeatedly) and finally was able to make the break-up “stick.” He has persistently tried to get me back, ignoring my wishes to end the relationship, and called and texted me repeatedly, stuff like that. Mainly, it was just a nuisance, (nothing threatening) and it got so intrusive that I had to spell it out in bold capital letters “DO NOT CONTACT ME, do not call, do not text, do not email,” in bold letters (despite not having any real hatred for him). He contacts me less, but still a lot, and does not respect the boundaries I have tried to create.

Naturally, it bothers me that he is applying here, but at the same time I understand that people apply for jobs. He DOES know the director of one of the departments (who is above my boss) but he does not have any background in our line of business.

I am bothered by this, because we have a young, close-knit, but male-dominated company, I would see him daily, and to make matters worse, I sit at the front desk, like a receptionist (despite being an analyst). This is another issue, but I just dread the possibility of seeing him at work, him talking smack about me to coworkers, and overall being condescending toward me, or trying to get on my nerves if he can’t get what he wants (me).

What am I to do? How do I handle this situation professionally/appropriately? I would really like to avoid this situation if at all possible. Is it acceptable to be asked to be transferred or leave?

Has it occurred to you that this is no coincidence and he’s applying for a job at your company specifically in order to be around you? Because given his disregard for your clearly stated boundaries and his willingness to behave inappropriately, that’s almost certainly what’s happening here. So first, on a personal level before we get into how to handle this at work: Please read Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear — because this is someone who has continued to contact you after you explicitly told him to stop, so you need to be familiar with how to best enforce boundaries that he’s willfully ignoring. (For instance, do not respond to him at all, no matter how many times he contacts you, or he’ll just learn that the price of a response from you is 17 contacts, or whatever. There’s tons of advice about situations like this in the book, not all of which is intuitive, and it also has good advice on how to tell if a situation is changing from merely a nuisance to something more concerning.)

As for how to handle it at work … You need to tell whoever is handling the hiring for this position, and potentially HR and your own manager as well, that this is happening. And when you do, it’s essential that you make it clear that this is not about you feeling awkward about working with an ex. This is about an ex who has persistently tried to get you back, who ignored your wishes to end the relationship, and who has continued to contact you repeatedly despite your telling him clearly to stop. That is highly relevant here — because no employer who hears this context is going to invite this situation into their office. If they have even an ounce of sense, that will be the end of his application right there.

And that is fair. None of this “I understand that people apply for jobs” excuse-making that you have in your letter. What he has done here is not normal, it signals something very troubling about him, and it is 100% reasonable for you to want to keep him out of your work life. You should not be subjected to his intrusions at work, and any reasonable employer will want to protect you from that.

Please talk with someone in a position of authority in your office about this guy today.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 248 comments… read them below }

  1. -X-*

    Yeah, the truth about his lack of respect for boundaries should but the kibosh on his getting a job there. Which is good for the company and good for the OP.

    1. jmkenrick*

      Exactly. In fact, I would argue that if you stayed mum about it, and he was hired and this situation started unfolding, your company could be rightly upset that you didn’t call it to their attention beforehand.

      This lack of respect for people’s boundaries is definitely something a future boss would want to consider.

      1. jmkenrick*

        To add on, I find a good test to pretend this situation is happening to someone else. If your best friend/little sister/co-worker came to you and described this, you would be much less likely to brush it off.

        Try to treat your concern with the same legitimacy you would afford theirs.

  2. Mary Sue*

    I’d say this isn’t ‘stalker-ish’ but straight up stalking.

    (I echo the recommendation of The Gift of Fear. Good book. Everyone should read it.)

    1. SW*

      Thirding the recommendation of The Gift of Fear. I heard about it through AAM and bought the Kindle edition for a little bit cheaper than hard copy.

  3. Coelura*

    Please, please follow Allison’s advice – its excellent & this guy is a full-blown stalker whose behavior may very well get worse. Its time to stop assuming that he has positive intent and recognize that he does not have positive intent – at least not positive for you.

    1. Jessa*

      Also, please document, because he IS stalking and there are remedies for that but the more documentation you have the easier it is for you if you have to report it. Most stalking laws want to see a pattern.

      And yes to de Becker. And yes to Alison where she says “he is likely applying there because of you.”

      Please protect yourself and tell the company this.

  4. pidgeonpenelope*

    Yes, OP, follow Allison’s advice and do so ASAP! And, you might want to consider a no-contact order.

    1. TheSnarkyB*

      Don’t get a restraining order – read The Gift of Fear first, then decide. Restraining orders don’t really work the way they’re supposed to and they can often escalate a situation.

  5. Louis*

    The moment he started acting like a douchebag he lost his “people need a job” card…

    A clean breakup, heck 2-3 calls following the breakup because he was totaly in love.. sure I would give him a break. But now we are talking about continous calls for a periode of 4-5 months.

    He’s not playing nice so there is no expectation that you should play nice.

  6. CoffeeLover*

    I’m really seconding the stop talking to him bit. By responding at all you’re encouraging him. Even if your only response is to tell him to knock it off, he’s viewing this as encouragement to keep contacting you. It’s that whole idiotic mentality of “she’s saying no, but she obviously means yes because she keeps responding”. Honestly, I would suggest changing your number to cut him off (in fact I don’t know why you haven’t already done this).

    1. virago*

      Do stop talking to him. Don’t change your number. Follow Gavin de Becker’s advice, get an additional, unlisted number and let him vent to voicemail on your old number.

      A woman whose job sets her up for stalker encounters (she’s a TV anchor) followed this advice, and here’s her experience:

      I used to change my phone number constantly. The loonies always got the new number somehow. De Becker’s simple solution: don’t change your number. Finding the new number is part of the harasser’s game. Simply stop picking up that phone. Use an answering machine with a greeting recorded by a friendly female voice, not your own (for sensible reasons, which de Becker explains). The greeting should make it clear that the caller has reached your answering machine. Next, you get an additional, unlisted phone number. Problem solved. No, it doesn’t get the harasser off the streets . No, it doesn’t teach the harasser a lesson. Yes, it’s inconvenient for you and your friends to learn yet another new number, and it costs money for the extra line. But it accomplishes the main goal: the telephone terrorism stops.

      (Sorry, this is long, but yours is such a hot-button situation and this is so relevant that I felt compelled to post it.)

      1. CoffeeLover*

        I agree that changing your number doesn’t make sense if you’re dealing with multiple stalkers and if you’re getting new ones all the time. But OP just has one guy who won’t take a hint (although I agree that it could potentially turn into something more serious). I suggested the changed phone number only because OP seems to be having trouble ignoring this guy. The best thing to do is just not reply to him and let him fire up your phone til he gives up. However, if OP feels a compulsive need to reply to the guy I think a changed number will do the trick. Especially if the guy is outside of her social group since it will be difficult for him to get the new one. I also think having the extra expense might not be something OP is willing to do.

        I had a friend in a very very similar situation, and the changed number put an end to things. Of course, OP you should listen to your gut to gauge the seriousness of the situation and if this really is the right move for you.

        1. mas*

          Just echoing others here – stop responding. It feels awkward to forcibly ignore people at first, but he’s manipulating you to respond to him and you have to resist that.

          They always get the new number, so I wouldn’t bother changing it, but definitely send him to voicemail, immediately delete his messages without listening and see if you can block his texts. (Some phone companies can do this, but not all.)

          Also I would advise calling a domestic violence hotline to get some tips and advice.

          1. Jessa*

            The other option is to go to your phone company and at least have his main number(s) blocked.

        2. Nikki*

          It might not be that she has trouble ignoring him. She might not realizing that NOT ignoring him is the problem. The Gift of Fear explains why one *must* ignore all contact and not respond in anyway. A response (of any kind) encourages contact.

        3. W.W.A.*

          Do keep in mind that changing your phone number can be a massive inconvenience and hindrance to you living your life normally. That puts a lot of power in his hands. I understand that seeing his name pop up might be somewhat traumatizing but it will be even more traumatizing when you see his number appear on your new phone.

          1. Jessa*

            A lot of smart phones (iOS or Android at least) have apps you can use to block certain people yourself. I’m not familiar with iPhones, but I know that Android does have some pretty decent contact management stuff and from what I understand at free or less than $10 for the fanciest ones, it’s worth the investment if you have someone bothering you. No need to change the number, you just dump them directly to VM or text limbo.

            1. Rana*

              And even if she can’t block him, she can set his contact info to DO NOT PICK UP or IGNORE or JERKBAG or whatever, so that there’s reinforcement at the time of the call that she should not answer calls from him.

              1. KellyK*

                I *love* the idea of setting his contact name as JERKBAG–DON’T ANSWER or something like that. (One of my friends uses custom ringtones for everyone she knows…her ex-husband gets the theme from Psycho.)

        4. virago*

          The Stalking Resource Center says the same thing about changing your phone number:

          Stalking Safety Tips: Get a new, unlisted phone number. Leave the old number active and connected to an answering machine or voicemail. Have a friend, advocate, or law enforcement screen the calls, and save any messages from the stalker. These messages, particularly those that are explicitly abusive or threatening, can be critical evidence for law enforcement to build a stalking case against the offender.

          P.S. I totally agree with Mas on getting some advice from a domestic violence organization. They’ve likely seen a lot of situation’s like the OP’s — sadly — and are well-equipped to advise her on the relevant statutes, best practices, etc.

          (I’m sorry I mentioned the TV woman as an example because I think that’s a red herring.)

    2. Marmite*

      OP may not need to go as far as a new phone, if it’s a cell phone it likely has the option to block numbers. Do the same for e-mail and social media that the ex is attempting contact through.

      1. Katniss*

        Yup, there are lots of good call and text blocking tools out there. I use Mr. Number on my Android for a similar situation (an ex I do not want to contact me ever again) and it works like a charm. And it means I can set telemarketers and other annoyance calls to pick up and hang up every time they call.

    3. Legal Eagle*

      This is the most important advice. DO NOT RESPOND. It’s been three years since I broke up with my stalkerish ex. He still sends me messages. I still don’t respond. I know that if I did, it would start problems, even after all this time.

  7. Anony1234*

    And don’t water it down because he hasn’t been violent towards you. This is stalker activity with his issues of not obeying boundaries. He is applying not because he wants the job; he is applying in hopes of being near you. He’s being manipulative and controlling – even if it does not appear to be. Follow Alison’s advice.

  8. Lexy*

    Block his number. Filter his emails to a folder marked “DO NOT READ” (or whatever) block him on social media and DO NOT ENGAGE.

    Also, follow all of Alison’s advice. Tell someone (calmly, but honestly, and don’t minimize) today. Right now. Are you reading this? Get up and tell somebody. Please.

    1. Christina*

      I agree. Either block his number or change yours. I know that’s inconvenient and you shouldn’t have to be the one to change your info, but really- it’s better than continually having to deal with him contacting you. His applying for a job where you work is creepy and not ‘normal’.

    2. Ashley*

      On gmail, you can send messages from a particular email address straight to the trash bin. I had to do this with an ex, because for me, a folder labeled “Do Not Read” would just sit there and entice me and make me want to read it. Having them sent straight to trash means I don’t even know they came in. Just another option!

      1. Another Emily*

        However, since this guy is a stalker, I think it would be good to keep the emails and texts in a folder somewhere just in case she needs it. It’s good to compile evidence on this guy. Label the folder something boring if Do Not Read would tempt you.

        I’m not saying you will need this evidence but it’s good to save just in case. If you use Gmail or Outlook, the folder could be a subfolder of another one that you don’t maximize, then you wouldn’t see it.

      2. Elizabeth*

        The only reason the OP might not want to do that is that in a worst-case scenario where things escalate, the emails from the ex might be useful evidence for a restraining order. In Gmail, you can create a filter to do multiple things at once. For example, you could have it skip the inbox, label it as “Stalker,” and mark it as read (so that if you’re a person who uses unread messages as your to-do list, his don’t ever pop up). You can also choose what labels show up the list of labels to the left of your inbox, so you don’t need to be looking at a folder called “Do Not Read” or “Stalker.”

        1. Jamie*

          I agree with this – I wouldn’t be able to delete them unread if I was uneasy that there was crazy in there I should act upon or want as evidence.

          I’d keep them – and if it’s too touchy a subject right now have someone trusted read it (mom, sister, friend…someone you totally trust to not only have your back, but to not overreact) and that way you’ll be alerted if anything escalates…but you won’t be constantly picking off the scab.

        2. Natalie*

          And if you really need them to be “away”, you could always open a 2nd gmail account and have them autoforwarded and then deleted from your main account.

          1. Kat*

            I would also suggest a new separate number as well.

            Set up and transfer old number to Google voice. Set it up to a new separate email account as well. It provides voicemail and transcribes calls… so you have a record of sorts for any proof that is needed.
            I set up my old home number that way. I didn’t want to use it anymore, but some of the family wouldn’t use my cell number. I didn’t want to lose my home number I had for years either. I just see that they call and call them back. I find it easy to use for filtering calls. It has a lot of useful options as well.

            1. Shinyobjects*

              Google Voice is excellent advice. It’s free to sign up for, and you can save or email his text and voice messages (for example, to the police). Or, you can label his number as Spam (in which case it will go straight to voicemail) or block it (and then he will get a fake “number not in service” announcement and will not be able to leave a message)

      3. Jessa*

        You do not want to send them to the trash folder.

        You want to send them to a folder that you do not read but DO keep. Because if you ever do decide to go to a no-contact or restraining order, you will probably want to hand that file of emails to your advocate. You do not actually want that potential evidence trail to be deleted (some junk/trash folders are set to delete after a certain amount of time.)

  9. mel*

    If he was just looking for a job and this was all a coincidence, he wouldn’t be applying to jobs that aren’t even in the city he’s currently living in!

    Moving to a different city, applying to a job he isn’t qualified for and just happens to be the one you work at. Yeaaaahhhh, no. I don’t buy this coincidence at all.

    I really don’t like the sound of this… even if he doesn’t get a job in your office, is he still going to move next door to you?

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Agree. OP, please, PLEASE do what Alison suggests, and maybe your local police department has some advice too.

      1. Michelle*

        This may vary depending where you live, but in my experience of dealing with a similarly unhinged ex boyfriend (no threats of violence to me but would call/text incessantly threatening to kill himself, show up wherever I was “by accident,” call my parents/friends/family saying he just wanted to “stay close” with them, etc etc) the police can’t do much if there are no threats of violence. However what they told me was to keep a record of ALL the correspondence and also that they would make a note of my calling, so that if I called again because the situation had escalated they would have a prior record of my contact with them and would take it very seriously.

        OP I’m so sorry for what you are going through!

    2. -X-*

      I know this will sound like I’m defending a stalker – I’m not. But it’s his hometown. Even if he’s not there now, we can’t begrudge people for trying to move to their hometown.

      The calls, texts, applying for a job at the same place as the former girlfriend – all bad.

      1. EnnVeeEl*

        No, we can’t, but if he just wanted to move back to his hometown, he would do so and still be able to leave her alone. Not call her or contact her at all, when she told him to buzz off, not even to “let her know.” She told him she wanted nothing to do with him. How many different ways can someone say that and someone not get it?

        There is nefarious intent with all of it – the move, the job application, continuing to contact her.

        1. -X-*

          I can’t understand why you seem to be objecting to what I said (the word “but” in your first sentence) since I said pretty much the same thing.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        “Even if he’s not there now, we can’t begrudge people for trying to move to their hometown.”

        YES, WE CAN! He’s a stalker who won’t leave his victim alone.

        You sound like you’re trying to confuse the issue by taking ONE thing that, by itself, is normal and OK, but when taken in context is scary and definitely not OK. Do not defend this guy. He doesn’t deserve it.

  10. Anonimal*

    We just had a security briefing on Friday and the guys echod everything Allison said. Tell HR. Don’t talk to him again. Yes, this counts as stalker behavior. Read the book.

  11. julia*

    This guy is bad news. Tell HR and tell your manager and tell the police. Get a restraining order against him. You have done nothing wrong and you do not need to feel “weak” or “selfish” or worry that you’ll hurt his feelings. GO TO THE POLICE. This is abuse and it needs to stop TODAY.

    1. mas*

      Actually please contact a domestic violence hotline first before going to the police. They are professionals who can advise you on the best course of action for your particular situation. The sad truth is that the police are often unable to do much, restraining orders are very hard to actually get, and some stalkers react more violently when confronted with the police, whereas others back down. I don’t know which one this guy is, so it is best to bring in a professional and learn tips on how to protect yourself before taking that step.

      1. -X-*

        Go to the police? Get a restraining order? Call a domestic violence tline?


        The OP doesn’t sound scared, just annoyed, and all these comments seem to want to escalate it. She should keep those ideas in mind, but escalating now seems inappropriate.

        First step, besides informing HR about this person’s flaws: cut off communications with the guy. If that doesn’t work, considering escalating.

        1. Natalie*

          You have a point re: the police and a TRO, but calling a domestic violence hotline isn’t escalating anything in my opinion. I’ve answered the phone at a DV hotline and I can assure you the hotline counselors are not going to push the OP into doing anything. One can call a DV hotline just to vent to someone who understands. One can call a DV hotline because they are considering different options and want to talk about it to someone familiar with stalking. If the OP feels it would be helpful, a DV hotline is a good option.

          1. eating worms*

            I’ve worked on them too (in NZ) and I can confirm what Natalie says – no DV helpline worth its salt is going to tell you what to do – they just know the dynamics of this stuff and can give good advice. It is less escalatory than calling the fuzz and is another way to lodge your concern, as they can keep your case on file if you want so there’s a record.

        2. FiveNine*

          This is borderline blaming the victim. She’s make it explicitly clear that she wants nothing to do with him and he repeatedly violates every socially acceptable boundary. How far, exactly, is it appropriate for him to go before she dare do such a thing to him like, you know, escalating the matter?

        3. MrsKDD*

          She’s already tried to cut communications with him. She shouldn’t have to say no ten times. What, she didn’t mean it when she told him to stop contacting her the first few times?

        4. Jen in RO*

          I thought I was the only one thinking people in the comments are overreacting… thanks, X.

          Tell the company: yes.
          Get a restraining order: no. (Or, well, I guess she can try, and the police can explain to her why the guy’s behavior doesn’t warrant that?)

          1. Natalie*

            Restraining orders are actually issued by a judge. Whether or not the ex’s behavior would meet the bar depends on the state OP lives in and possibly the interpretation of whichever judge she ended up in front of. There is pretty wide variation state to state.

        5. Katniss*

          Someone who continually ignores stated boundaries is someone exhibiting dangerous or at least borderline dangerous behavior. The OP would have every right to be worried or frightened.

        6. Charlotte*

          I had an ex who “just annoyed” me. I kicked him out back in June. Now the police can’t find him to serve him the restraining order. Do it now well you can still find him.

        7. Sarah*

          I agree with X sort of… Yes, taking action may seeeem a bit preemptive at this point, however, I’m sure that the concern is coming from the fact that the ex is acting out. He’s obviously got a control issue, its not insane to say that he may also have an anger issue if he doesn’t get his way. From my experience they OFTEN go hand in hand. And you never really know how someone will behave. The OP definitely needs to take this more seriously. Its probably not scary because she knows him, but from an outsiders perspective this is scary behavior, which could escalate. OP needs to talk to her employers first, and then I think calling a hotline would be a good idea. Tell them what is happening and see how serious they think it is. If he does anything else, such as, randomly showing up at her work to see someone, but only talks to her.. go to the police. There are just too many crazy people out there these days. Its like everyday, the harmless person next door turns out to be depraved and really frightening. I don’t think we live in a world anymore where its ok to assume the best in people.

        8. TheSnarkyB*

          -X- I think what you’re not understanding here is that a lot of the commenters here do recognize that OP isn’t scared – and some of us have enough experience to see that maybe she should be. OP seems to be apologizing (explicitly and implicitly) for the situation, trying to make it smaller than it is, and not recognizing how quickly and dangerously this can escalate, given how far the Ex has already been willing to go. Particularly as a woman, when one’s boundaries are violated so blatantly and carelessly, you have to know how to stop things early and escalate your safety faster than they escalate the threat. Calling a hotline is absolutely a good idea in this case, and it should have been done already.

        9. NCL*

          I would argue that HE escalated it. He went from incessant contact to trying to be in her direct physical vicinity and invading her working/social life. It’s an intimidation tactic. The strategy goes like this: if he got the job and she didn’t quit, he’d be able to control her by seeing her daily against her will; if he got it, and she DID quit, then he’s still controlling her by making her life so uncomfortable that she quit. Basically, his actions are saying, “How dare you ignore me? I’ll MAKE you respond to me.”

          It may be incessant contact and headgames now, but that’s often just the first step before it escalates to violence. Here are some important stats about that:

          – Intimate partner stalkers are more likely than other types of stalkers to physically approach the victim and to use a weapon; they are also more likely to reoffend.

          – 20 percent of cases involve the use of weapons to threaten or harm the victim.


          – 76 percent of intimate partner femicide (homicide of women) victims were stalked by their intimate partner in the year prior to the femicide.

          – An analysis of 13 published studies of 1,155 stalking cases found that 38.7% of the victims experienced violence connected to the stalking.


          So, the comments here aren’t overreacting. The OP should be scared, and needs to take action immediately. I definitely support the suggestion that she call the DV hotline, just to get some information and perspective on the issue. At least talking to the police wouldn’t be out of bounds either, so they have a history of her contacting them. And start documenting this behavior if she hasn’t already. This has gone on for MONTHS, as it is.

  12. LouG*

    DO NOT feel bad about speaking up against this guy getting a job OP, seriously. You sound like a really nice person, and I know I have a tendency to feel bad for people when there is no reason to. This is not okay, he is in the wrong here and you are in the right. Speak up now! Good luck!

  13. Chaucer*

    …wow. Just…wow. I am disgusted and frustrated that there are people like this out in the world.

    Yes, please inform somebody of what’s going on with this individual. If your supervisor doesn’t believe you or you feel he is dismissing it as a serious issue, if you’re comfortable show him the texts he has been sending you (assuming you saved them.)

  14. Mike C.*

    I just hope your management has a heart and a brain to understand your situation and take you seriously. Just know that your fears are valid and justified and the rest of us support you in your right to feel and be safe where ever you go.

    Best of luck, and if you can let us know how it goes!

  15. E*

    You don’t have to have “real hatred” for someone in order to set and enforce boundaries. You had feelings for him once, you may still feel sympathetic/sorry for him, but none of that is more important than your safety and comfort. You’ll be doing yourself – and your company – an enormous favor by preventing them from hiring someone who doesn’t understand what “no” means.

  16. Bess*

    +100000000000000000 for reading The Gift of Fear. EVERYONE should read that book, not just women who have had/are having trouble with persistent men.

    Good luck. I’ll be sending good thoughts your way.

  17. The Other Dawn*

    “He DOES know the director of one of the departments (who is above my boss) but he does not have any background in our line of business.”

    To me, this is a dead giveaway that he’s only applying in order to stalk the OP. Aside from the numerous other giveaways, that is.

    1. HumbleOnion*

      Agreed. And the fact that he knows a director should have zero bearing on the company’s reaction to this. Don’t let him intimidate you with that.

  18. E.R*

    Had an ex just like that years ago, it’s no joke. You don’t want this person working with you and for your safety and sanity, tell someone at the company you are comfortable talking to and ensure this person does not end up working there. And (I mean this nicely and I’m sympathetic to your situation), stop making excuses for him. This is not appropriate behaviour for an adult.

  19. Anonymous*

    And another thing about protecting yourself…make a record of all his previous and current and any future attempts to contact you. You will need this information when you go to the police. You might be thinking, “Police? But he hasn’t threatened me!” But yes, he has. It is threatening to move to the town where you live. It is threatening to apply for a job at the company where you work. It is threatening for him to keep contacting you when you have repeatedly told him you are not interested and that he needs to stop. His continued contact to you is threatening. TELL YOUR FAMILY. TELL YOUR BOSS. TELL HR. The fact that everyone here who has commented on your situation has indicated that his behavior is not normal should be a wake up call that you need to get support and you need to tell people. Please let us know when you have contacted your manager and your HR to tell them about this ex and his behavior.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree that she should follow Alison’s advice and say something and if the company is wise they won’t hire him. Absolutely – he’s not respecting boundaries and there are consequences to that.

      And I’m not defending his actions – when you act creepy you can’t be surprised if people will be scared of you. But without knowing the context of the contact it’s a leap to say he’s threatening her.

      There is a difference between being an obnoxious tool and someone who is a danger to others. You can Venn diagram the two as they sometimes intersect, but not always. Again, not saying he’s not completely out of line…he is…I’m just saying we don’t have enough info to make a definitive leap to threatening.

      And no he doesn’t have a right to contact her, or get hired at her place of business…but it’s not threatening to move back to his own home town. It isn’t as if he’s following her across the country – which would be huge red flags – but people move back home all the time.

      1. JamieG*

        He might not be intentionally threatening her, but he is showing a downright refusal to respect her boundaries which is pretty scary.

      2. fposte*

        I think we have no way of knowing–hell, *he* may not know–whether it’s stalking, pragmatism, or a mix that’s driving his move back. But I don’t think it really matters–I think she should tell her management regardless and not get sucked into the “why.”

      3. -X-*

        “There is a difference between being an obnoxious tool and someone who is a danger to others. You can Venn diagram the two as they sometimes intersect, but not always.”


          1. fposte*

            Whether you like the diagram or not, the point about human behavior is legitimate, no?

        1. Jessa*

          IN a way does it matter? He may actually be the nicest guy in the world and not even a tiny threat to anyone.

          SO WHAT. His actions have been repeatedly rebuffed by the OP. At this point even if he has no intention of ever harming her physically he IS harming her mentally whether he intends to or not.

          Intent isn’t magic and his intent stops where it hurts someone else. He has been TOLD, people who are able to function within normal societal rules understand that “leave me alone,” means “leave me alone.” For whatever reason he does not understand this, the OP needs to be protected from that. The OPs peace of mind outweighs his right to contact the OP.

      4. Amanda*

        His behavior is unwarrented either way, but I’m curious as to how serious the relationship was and how long they were together. I would find it more disturbing if it were a brief relationship than if it were a 5 year+ relationship where they shared every part of their lives.

      5. ArtsNerd*

        I was stalked by an ex who was firmly in the “jerk, but no danger” category. It was incredibly disruptive, and I did end up missing a few days of work due to sleep deprivation (constant late-night calls) or just to calm down from being angry. I agree with others that the OP’s ex isn’t *necessarily* abusive or a physical danger to her. Non-threatening stalking is still disruptive enough to affect your professional life.

        And yes, even if this is the case, I STILL recommend The Gift Of Fear and Alison’s advice.

      6. Marina*

        He’s told her he’s applying to her job… which she said would cause her to quit or ask to be transferred. That is DEFINITELY a threat. No, it’s not intended as a threat, but she’s experiencing it as a threat.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I am no Psychiatrist, but the following-to-a-job thing sounds quite menacing.

  20. Bryce*

    The Gift of Fear also has a chapter on dealing with problem employees, particularly when it comes to hiring, discipline and firing.

  21. Eva*

    The people who are advising the OP to change her phone number have clearly not read The Gift of Fear. As Alison says, the book contains non-obvious advice, including that a victim should not change her phone number:

    When a woman is stalked by a person she dated … people who learn about her situation … will also doubtless give her the conventional wisdom on stalking, which should be called conventional unwisdom. It will include (as if it is some creative plan): Change your phone number. In fact, our office does not recommend this strategy, because as any victim will tell you, the stalker always manages to get the new number. A better plan is for the woman to get a second phone line, give the new number to the people she wants to hear from, and leave the old number with an answering machine or voice mail so that the stalker is not even aware she has another number.

      1. Ash*

        Actually it depends on the state. Many states are making it easier to procure PPOs (which had sadly led to people filing them as a nuisance, but it makes it easier for actual victims to get them), so the OP could always look into it. A lot of the time you just have to provide a sworn statement and have the person served. I hope that people reading your reply don’t get a PPO now or in the future because someone said that it was too much work.

        1. mas*

          Yes, but, the most dangerous times for an abused woman is when she leaves her abuser, and when the abuser is served with a restraining order/arrested/contacted by the police. It is really important to have a safety plan for yourself before police contact the offender, because some offenders become the most dangerous at that very moment. A restraining order is a piece of paper that may help you in future legal issues, but it cannot protect you. Plenty of woman have been found dead with restraining orders in their purses.

          1. Natalie*

            In particular, if you get a restraining order you have to tell the person being restrained where you live and work, which is information some DV victims are safer keeping secret.

        2. Sarah*

          I keep seeing restraining order and I only know one person in my life who has had an actual restraining order taken out on them (and it was a female). In my first year of college I moved out of town as did all my friends. One of my best friends moved to a southern town about 4 hours from me and I saw her less 4 times a year, but we talked a lot. She lived near one of my good male friends, whom I had known since elementary and she knew from high school. Well, my female friend started telling me these stories about how her and my male friend were getting closer etc. And then one day she confides in me that they’re about to begin a relationship and he’s in love with her. Wow, I think, I did not see that happening and so I called my male friend later on since the behavior my female friend was describing was suspiciously unlike him. Turns out pretty much none of what my female friend had said was factual and she had been harrassing the guy… So, I call my female friend back, and she is just flabberghasted, where am I coming up with this and why am I spreading lies!… Later, my male friend takes a restraining order out on my female friend and about 2 years later after seeking mental help she recognizes she had a mental break. She never got violent, but she had become completely dissosociated with reality. This was my BEST FRIEND who had never had a problem before. Who knows what she would have done? Whole situations were occurring in her head that did not ever actually happen. Its all very scary and is one reason why people don’t listen when you tell them to leave you alone. Its that they actually don’t hear you and don’t understand you and there’s no way for you to be sure if they’re dangerous or not.

    1. Eva*

      Like the advice not to change the phone number, The Gift of Fear explains why getting a restraining order can backfire on the victim by enraging a stalker.

      OP and others in similar situations, please read The Gift of Fear! Gavin de Becker’s advice on how to deal with a stalker is the equivalent of Alison’s advice on how to deal with work stuff.

      1. some1*

        I used to work in the court system, and have a lot of friends who still do as attorneys, court clerks, and law enforcement. When a guy friend of mine was being stalked by a girl he had dated (constant texting, calling, showing up at his work and home), I went to them for advice. Most of them recommended that he NOT get a restraining order because in her messed-up mind, she would love to go to court and contest since it would be an opportunity for her to see my friend again.

        1. EnnVeeEl*

          Did she eventually stop? I just don’t understand this type of behavior/thinking. I can see being overly persistent, but this is not persistence. This is harrassment. Even after being told to go away.

          1. some1*

            She did, after many months of getting no response. And I knew her from about 10 years prior from when she dated another guy friend of mine. She was clingy then with that guy, but I never would have guessed she would have become a stalker, she seemed mostly normal when I knew her before.

            1. EnnVeeEl*

              Very strange. Maybe this behavior gets worse with age? Would love to pick a psychologist’s brain to find out.

              Maybe the clingy stuff was just the start. Sad.

              1. some1*

                “Maybe the clingy stuff was just the start.”

                That’s what I think, too. When I originally knew her we were all in high school, so her behavior didn’t even seem like that big of a red flag because I probably had my own share of clingy moments back then, too, but I like to think I grew up and realized my relationships would be happier (and so would I) if I wasn’t relying on my BF for my entire emotional well-being and social life.

            2. Long Time Admin*

              I had a friend in high school who was a really nice girl. Very personable, bright, good student, very sweet. 10 years after graduation, she became psychotic, had delusions, and murdered her boyfriend’s new wife (stabbed her 92 times). I still have trouble believing this really happened. She seemed more normal than me in high school, and I’ve never even hit anyone.

              1. Panda Rice*

                10 years after high school graduation would have put her in the 25-35 age range, which I’ve read is the classic span for psychotic breaks. What a tragedy for everyone concerned.

              2. Jamie*

                Reminds me of the Betty Broderick case. From all accounts normal until her husband left her for another woman. The decline started and after some months (years?) she completely snapped and killed them.

                So tragic.

  22. EnnVeeEl*

    I’m disgusted by this guy’s behavior. Follow AAM’s advice. I would also tell someone at the office. I too hope they are understanding and don’t just brush this off.

    I’m going to order The Gift of Fear from Amazon because it has been recommended so many times on this blog.

    I’ve only had some brief incidents with stalker behavior in the past. When I absolutely refused to engage the person, they would back off. The minute I got smart or would pick up and hang up the phone, etc., is when it escalated. Eventually I got hip to not engaging and he went away. Loser.

    These incidents happened about 15 years ago. He sent me a FB request not too long ago. I clicked ignore. He sent another one. Not one thing had changed about his personality or behavior patterns.

  23. Anonymous*

    I’m not going to put my normal screen name, because I know that I will get blasted on here for this, but I actually somewhat disagree with most of the comments. It is very possible he is doing this because he wants to stay in your life, which I fully agree is stalker-ish. Its also possible that he is doing what many people do and try to work our connections into a job in a tough economy. She has said its both of their hometowns, so maybe he has a valid reason aside from her for wanting to move home (sick parent, low on money, whatever). So if this is like the best company in this small town to work for, is it really that odd that he’d apply someplace where he knows a director?

    Also, and this isn’t a dig on the OP, but we really only have one side of the story here. I’ve learned that the behavior that some people say is overbearing when they broke up is the same behavior that people find romantic in the initial courtship. So maybe he thinks he has a real chance of winning her back. Maybe she responded well to this in the past. Who knows. Breakups are weird like that. While my behavior toward my most recent ex hasn’t been called stalkerish if you asked both us about it, you’d probably get very different opinions on how things went down. Now understand, this guy could really be the creepiest guy ever, but its hard for someone’s ex to be the most objective person ever, so I have to wonder if thats valid reason to deny someone employment.

    If he really isn’t qualified for the job, he probably won’t even get an interview, let alone get the job. Therefore I don’t think telling all of these people about his behavior that you find questionable is right. If he were to progress though in the hiring process, I could see you bringing up that you know him to HR or something, and if they ask your opinion, you can give it.

    1. Ash*

      Uh no, sorry. Just because the OP liked something say two years ago, doesn’t mean that they don’t have to continue liking it. So for instance if the OP loved it when the ex called and called and called after a fight or something while they were dating, that fact is nullified by her act of specifically (and repeatedly) saying not to contact her at all. “Oh but you used to like it” is not a valid excuse of any kind. Not that I want to turn this into a sexual assault discussion, but that would be akin to saying that because someone consented at the beginning of the date that if they said no at any point after, it was too bad because they already said yes to some sort of physical contact. It’s a terrible excuse and shame on you for trying to minimize the OP’s situation and legitimize the ex’s behavior.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m not legitimizing anything, what I’m saying is we don’t know both sides of the story, just her perception of the situation. Sometimes when you are newly removed from something, it takes a while to see it as it really occurred without your feelings clouding things. Again, when people break up, they tend to see things and paint a picture that makes the other party out to be the bad guy (or girl).

        Also I always also people deserve the chance to defend themselves. So yes, I think if the company wanted to hire him, they would have the right to question him on this behavior, but to take an ex of someone as an objective person, I just don’t know. If they smelled something fishy after that, then by all means, its their right not to hire him.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          We don’t know the other side of any of the situations people write in about. Why is this one somehow different, and we’re supposed to assume that a fairly factual account of being contacted multiple times after saying “stop” is somehow wrong?

          What exactly seems open to interpretation about “I asked him to stop and he won’t”?

          1. Anonymous*

            Yes, we always only know one side, but I stand by my opinion, and its just that an opinion, so its fine if its in the minority, that when there are romantic relationships involved, people don’t always see them objectively. So I do think that makes it a slight bit different than a situation that is only work related.

            1. W.W.A.*

              I would hope that, in going to HR or whoever at her office, she will give a factual accounting of the situation. I understand the anonymous poster’s points. I mean, for all we know the OP is making this all up. But that’s not for us to figure out. We have to assume good faith, and assume she wouldn’t go to HR and tell them a bunch of stories.

            2. FiveNine*

              This isn’t a romantic relationship and hasn’t been for half a year. The flagrant flashing-red warning signs about the person’s behavior toward the employee should be obvious.

            3. Mimi*

              I’m curious: if you stand by your opinion, why not use your “regular” screen name?

            4. Jessa*

              How is it not objective. OP said stop, he did not stop. There’s no objectivity in that. If you tell someone not to contact you and they DO, they’re objectively WRONG.

        2. fposte*

          But that’s the company’s call. It’s up to them whether they want to question him about it or not, and nobody’s said they can’t. It sounds you want the OP to make sure they don’t get to make that call by not talking to them about the issue in the first place. That’s both bad for the OP *and* for the hiring process, and if I were hiring, I’d be pretty displeased to discover somebody had this experience with a candidate and withheld it from me.

          1. Jamie*

            Absolutely – because if this breaks bad it’s an HR nightmare.

            Even leaving the emotion aside, if you had info on a potential candidate that could be detrimental to the company in that HR will have to clean up the mess I think most of us would agree it’s a professional obligation to give HR a heads up. Someone you know to have stolen, harass others, someone with a history of disobeying IT policy…whatever…if you know for a fact someone could be sticky you’d say something and let them do what they will.

            Even more applicable when it’s personal.

            1. Jenni*

              It’s HR’s worst nightmare. I once had a bright, capable young woman working for me. She didn’t turn up for work one morning, and we were all panicked because that just wasn’t like her. Another employee came in late and explained that she’d just come back from driving my employee and her children to a safe house. The employee’s husband kept turning up and bugging us to tell him where she was, to the point that we had a cop stationed in our parking lot and some of us had police escorts for a few days. It was very scary, and we didn’t know nearly as much about stalker behavior then as we do now. I still think of her and hope she’s okay.

    2. Jane Doe*

      There are lots of things that are nice when people are dating that aren’t so nice once you’ve broken up, and most sane, rational people realize that there are certain things you can no longer do. I’d think it was nice if someone I was dating texted me to say hello in the morning or dropped by my house with food/alcohol/just to hang out. That same behavior would be weird and creepy if we’d broken up and I’d said “Do not ever contact me again.”

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow. That is wildly out of touch with the reality of these situations for many people. (And if you think you’ll be “blasted” by a reasonable and smart group of people, it’s worth thinking about why.) Anyway, I’ll let others address that part of this, but as for this:

      bringing up that you know him to HR or something, and if they ask your opinion, you can give it.

      If I were the employer, hired this guy because the OP didn’t speak up, and then discovered after the fact that she knew he was applying but didn’t proactively warn me about the situation, I would be horrified and question her judgment. Employers don’t want to invite these situations into their worlds — they’d want to hear it from her first. Let’s say they hire him because she doesn’t speak up and then they have a harassment situation on their hands, or she gets a restraining order later on and they have to figure out how to manage a situation where one employee has a restraining order against the other — they are not going to be happy that she didn’t just tell them what was going on beforehand and save everyone (the guy included) an enormous amount of difficulty.

      1. EnnVeeEl*

        I’m calling a troll a troll here. We have all read way too many news stories that ended in tragedy that started out just like this, and it escalated until people got hurt – the person being stalked, sometimes a new love interest or just an innocent bystander, or even the stalker.

        I also think we all also know someone personally affected by this type of behavior – a friend, a relative or maybe we went through it ourselves. Dismiss nothing. And ignore people who tell you to do so.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yeah, call it a troll because its a dissenting opinion. I’ve actually posted a lot to the board, and never been called that before. Which is the answer the question below about why change my screenname. If someone has a different opinion, instead of just saying, I disagree and here is why, they resort to name calling.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Actually, you have more credibility and are less likely to provoke name-calling if you don’t change your screen name. People are more likely to assume it’s trolling if you’re anonymous.

          2. Nikki*

            I can’t figure out why you think she’s making up the fact the she told him to stop contacting her and he didn’t.

            If she said not to contact her anymore, then contacting her, even to “network” is out of bounds…

          3. Fire BAD!*

            Exactly. And I’ve posted here before only to have this group of smart people pile on in a way that I felt was unjustified. Nobody’s called me a troll, but once I admitted to doing something foolish in a particular situation and got all kinds of comments that made me feel quite stupid, and also like I was being judged WAY too harshly for something pretty minor. It’s why I quit commenting here, or even visiting very often. I used to be here every day, multiple times. Now it’s maybe once a week. And I haven’t commented in over a month, I’m pretty sure.

            Many of the posts and comments here are extremely valuable and on-target. But many of them are also judgmental and perfectionistic. I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to feel like an Internet punching bag for changing their usual screen name. Sometimes this blog is a community. Other times, it’s more like a mob that’s feeling a little pitchforky. AAM, maybe that’s something worth thinking about too.

            Going off to lurk again now. Or maybe to not ever visit again.

            1. Sarah*

              This is silly… you didn’t offer the OP any valuable advice, mostly just discredited her and are now making this about you. Sorry FIRE BAD, I would rather read about the OP and hear other’s advice. That’s what I use this blog for, good advice and suggestions. You’re bringing waves of negativity in with you and maybe that’s why no one liked your previous comments. And now you’re going off to “lurk”… are people supposed to feel bad now??

            2. Original Dan*


              Especially when it comes to topics that bring up recommendations to read The Gift of Fear.

              1. Grace*

                Me three; I’ve felt this way before too. But it’s like a family…and we squabble a bit and then it passes.

          4. Rana*

            You’re not trolling because it’s a dissenting opinion. You’re trolling because you’re posting an opinion knowing that it’s likely to produce indignant responses – indeed, you made a point of framing it in that way, rather than just as something you were saying – and by hiding your identity, again reinforcing the idea that you’re saying this to be provocative rather than to contribute to the conversation.

            This is an excellent example of why pausing before posting is a good idea: do you really think you’re contributing something useful here, or is this more in the way of flame bait?

            Your comment reads as more of the latter.

            1. fposte*

              Eh–I’m with Joey. I think calling troll ends up being a way to be dismissive rather than engage with a comment, and I think there’s usually more value in engaging with the comment on its substance regardless of the intent. (And I don’t see any trolly intent in this case anyway–I see awareness of a minority opinion, which was an accurate take, and I’d hate to think we feel that because it’s a minority opinion it’s trolly just to air it.)

              1. A Bug!*

                I don’t think it’s helpful to call “troll” except in the most blatant of cases, which this is not. (“MRA troll” particularly unhelpful and inflammatory.)

                I also don’t think it’s helpful to preface a comment with “I’m going to get torn to shreds for sharing this opinion” because it puts words in the mouths of other commenters and harms the discourse.

                If you anticipate disagreement with your comment, then you can put a little thought into anticipating why, and then you can craft your comment to actually address the substance of such disagreement. But that weird martyr thing that some people do when they believe they’ve got a minority position is just a huge turnoff and makes me less likely to believe you’re actually after a real conversation on the topic.

                1. fposte*

                  I definitely agree that the framing doesn’t help (I don’t even like the fairly common “Am I the only one who…?” comment preface that’s net-ubiquitous).

                2. Rana*

                  Agreed. That gets at what I was thinking better than I put it. I wasn’t thinking the poster was a troll so much as their comment was “trollish” – that is, it had certain qualities of the sort that can – and do – lead to flamewars.

                  I think it’s wrong to call “troll” simply to discredit a different viewpoint, but that it’s absolutely correct to point out behaviors that are problematic and have things in common with trolling.

    4. Joey*

      What’s the big deal with changing your screen name when you disagree? Civilly debating solutions is how people learn and is probably why lots of people follow this blog.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, there’s really no reason to do that unless you really have to be anonymous about something (talking about a past boss where you don’t want it linked to identifying information about yourself, for instance); otherwise, in a case like this, it comes across as not really being willing to stand up for your opinion but wanting to say it anyway.

        1. Jamie*

          I’ve done it on occasion when it was something I didn’t want found in a Cntrl F Jamie thing. Not that I care if you guys know – since I don’t change my weird style of too many dashes and ellipsis…as if anyone cared.

          Plausible deniability IRL if the situation is too specific or too fresh.

          I posters who tend to me more open book would avail themselves when the topic is a little too sensitive.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Exactly — in a situation like that it makes sense. Not when you just want to say something that you think others will disagree with.

    5. Natalie*

      Unless you’re suggesting the OP is outright lying, I’m not sure how knowing “his side of the story” is going to change anything. I can’t think of any legitimate reason to contact someone repeatedly after they have explicitly told you not to.

      1. W.W.A.*

        I actually think that’s kind of what she is suggesting but without wanting to come out and say it. Sometimes people DO make up details or portray stories inaccurately, especially in emotionally fraught situations like break-ups. But like I said before, we can’t try to figure that out ourselves, we have to assume the poster is posting in good faith.

    6. Nancie*

      While my behavior toward my most recent ex hasn’t been called stalkerish if you asked both us about it, you’d probably get very different opinions on how things went down.

      I don’t even know how to read this, except that I keep tripping over it wondering “why would anyone (who isn’t a stalker) feel the need to say this?”

      1. A Bug!*

        Yeah. Here’s the thing. Like it or not, how a behavior is received by its target is a huge factor in whether or not the behavior is okay. Some people have a big problem with that idea, and think they’re being told that they need to be psychic in order to avoid being creepy or stalkerish.

        “This behavior would look stalkerish to someone, but if you’d asked both of us you’d learn otherwise” makes that situation completely irrelevant to the OP’s. Why? Because the communication was mutually-acceptable. With the OP, we don’t even have to ask the other person to find out that the communication in question wasn’t mutually-acceptable. The OP sent a clear message – “Stop contacting me” – that the other person disregarded.

        You’re right in that letters to AAM are filtered through the writer. There’s no way around that. But the letter to AAM is written in a clear, rational, and specific manner. There are no red flags here that it’s the writer who’s secretly in the wrong, so there is no reason to do anything but take it at face value.

        I do think that maybe some readers are extrapolating a bit. But there’s nothing wrong with AAM’s advice and the general tone of the advice here, that it’s appropriate for the OP to talk to HR about the situation and let them assess it for themselves. The overreaction of a handful of people doesn’t require an underreaction to balance it out!

    7. EngineerGirl*

      You are demonstrating flawed thinking with the data. You are accepting some data points while excluding their relationship to other data points. You can’t do that, as information must be evaluated in the whole.

      Yes, he may want to move home. Yes, the OPs work may be the best employer in town. BUT – the stalker doesn’t have to let the OP know about it. That data point takes it out of “normal” and into stalking – especially since she shea has given him very clear NO CONTACT instructions.

      1. Rayner*

        If his contact is the director, why come DOWN the ladder to the OP who you broke up with in a less than amicable manner?

        I would think that would be the thing you LEAST want to be doing because they could interrupt the process by sharing info on you.

        Ignoring the rest of the context – which is all perfectly legitimate – that bit makes no sense in the terms of ‘dissenter’s argument.

        That’s my *eyebrow raise*

    8. Laura L*

      “I’ve learned that the behavior that some people say is overbearing when they broke up is the same behavior that people find romantic in the initial courtship”

      Yes, this is a major problem with romantic comedies (and our gender roles in general). All that shit that guys do in romantic comedies and people think it’s sweet? It’s totally stalkerish and has all sorts of red flags over it.

    9. The Snarky B*

      Why do people announce when they’re “going anonymous”? (Serious question)

      1. Flynn*

        In case nobody notices (or writes them off as a random comment from some non-important anonymous person).

      2. Jamie*

        Good question, never thought about it. Personally, it’s because the only reason I’m doing it is to keep it from pulling up if you did a search for me…either because so many people crawl the web looking for my words of wisdom or I’m kinda paranoid (hint – it’s the latter!)

        And maybe it’s helpful in that it’s kind of shorthand to indicate not being new to the community so the message isn’t based on ignorance or not understanding the norms.

        By far the vast majority of people who post as Anonymous have interesting and really good contributions to the discussion. But there are always some every now and again who are just sniffing around looking for controversy and alerting people to being a regular poster hiding behind KISS make-up is a way to differentiate yourself from those immediately.

        The thing about Anonymous as a name in and of itself is you don’t know if it’s 5 people or 50…and it makes each comment a stand alone opinion rather than as part of a greater discussion or threading through other discussions. You can remain anonymous (small a) but still use a consistent screen name and I never understood why more people don’t do that.

        The post I’m responding to – The Snarky B. Pretty darn anonymous. It would be very hard to track you down IRL from this as I doubt very much that it’s what is on file with your SSN (if so, then you have very interesting parents!) But I see the name and immediately think regular poster who has a track record of being insightful and funny…which comes from not one thing but from reading on different threads.

        So in a way there’s a weird anonymous reputation attached to these anonymous screen-names. If Rana or fposte made a comment that I thought on first read was ridiculous, lacking logic, or sexist I would read it again because in my head the benefit of the doubt is so strong as to make me assume I interpreted it incorrectly as opposed to either of them dropping their usual reasoned and cogent ways of thinking and going squirrley.

        I hate singling anyone out because there are a ton of really smart posters on here aside from the 3 I named…but my point is 0nline communities are kind of like a masquerade ball in days of yore. Some of us are basically walking around dressed as ourselves – with maybe a hand held domino mask as a nod to the custom. Some are in full regalia and you may not know who is in the Marie Antoinette costume, but you know you like her. Or that if you have a question about how to use a math major you search for Mike C dressed as Richard the Lionhearted…but the plain “Anonymous” are the people all dressed exactly alike and you know some are smart, witty, and awesome…but every once in a while one of them wants to push you in the pool.

        tl:dr – seriously…when I’m stressed I ramble. Sorry!

          1. Rana*

            Agreed! It’s a really good one.

            On my own blog (poor blog, so long neglected) my policy was to encourage stable user names; I don’t care if they’re “real” so long as they’re consistent. :)

        1. khilde*

          Love love love this comment. You’re exactly correct.

          I can understand the desire for regulars to go anonymous, but what you said about having an established reputation actually helps you when you have a minority opinion is spot on.

          Like a while back on the post about working with the political candidate, I thought “what the hell, I’ll out myself as a conservative and hope that my thoughtful and non-divisive comments will stand alone and I won’t get painted with a brush” even though it feels like my political leanings are forever in the minority everywhere I go!! (but really, I’m not trying to start that discussion here). Basically, I’m reinforcing what you said, Jamie, that I decided to do that because I hoped I had built up a positive reputation here and wouldn’t be lambasted based solely on that. I think authenticity adds to a richer context of comments in this community.

        2. Anonymus*

          If someone’s dedicated enough, they can track down a pseudoanonymous username. It’s surprising how little information it takes to uniquely identify a person. I used to use a pseudoanonymous username (not here, I found this blog long after I had to abandon it), but over time, piece by piece in snippets of comments left on various websites over the course of several years, there was enough information to uniquely identify me, even though I never used my real name, never said where I lived. And now I don’t have a name anymore.

          You get a feel for people when you interact with them online over a period of time. Maybe someone calls themselves fieldmouse (name pulled out of thin air), but you get to know them as a person through the things they choose to say about their life. If you see someone around often enough, you can guess who wrote a comment even without the name (on blogging systems where the names show up at the bottom of the comments instead of the top). And the people who know you in real life can do it too. They know that you spilled the punch at that wedding as a kid (example made up out of nowhere), so they search online for stories about that, in case you ever recount that story. And then they have your username and can read everything else you wrote.

          That one anecdote wouldn’t be unique, but combine it with other stories and you get a unique person.

          At least with anonymous there’s some safety in numbers.

    10. Grace*

      @Anonymous at 1:10 p.m.

      I think any employer in their right mind would be concerned with liability issues with this guy if he got hired: sexual harassment claims (if he continues to bother OP as he’s been doing), negligent hiring, negligent retention, negligent supervision. Stalking is against federal and state laws and only takes two incidences.

    11. Lindsay J*

      If he was just moving back into town for valid reasons, and applying for this job (that he has no background in) for valid reasons, he would not have told the OP about it.

      Most towns are big enough that OP and her ex could live comfortably in the same town without crossing each other’s paths. She has expressed that she does not want to see him or contact him, so he has no reason to tell her that he is moving back to town. If he was doing it for valid reasons he could just do it, not tell her about it, and live a normal life.

      The same thing with applying for the job. Sure, it makes sense that he might want to work his connections. However, even if it is their “dream job”, many people will avoid applying at a place where an ex (or their current partner, or an old coworker they didn’t particularly care for, or their high school bully, or their best friend) is working because they don’t want to create an uncomfortable situation for themselves. Applying to a position in the larger 200 person company where he knows a director and has some experience or background in the position is not necessarily a red flag – specifically applying to the OPs 30 person department where he would be in close contact with her every day and then telling her about it (again, when she has expressed that she does not want contact from him) is a red flag.

      He is doing these things and telling her about them because he wants to provoke a reaction from her. Whether it’s that he wants to prove to her that he loves her and win her back, or that it’s that he wants to make her feel uncomfortable and threatened for daring to remove him from her life is not really relevant. She has expressed that she does not want to hear from him but he continues contacting her. Now stepping into her space and notifying her that he is doing so is clearly upping the ante – he’s trying to make it so that she can’t just ignore his emails/calls/him.

      Whether he thinks he has a chance of winning her back is irrelevant. Whether she responded well to this in the past is irrelevant. He is violating her direct request by continuing to contact her when she has asked him not to. Now he is attempting to insert himself into her life where he is not wanted. He is not behaving rationally here and trying to justify it is really problematic.

    12. BCW*

      I’m the anonymous from above. Now you have my screen name. So to address many things that have been posted.

      First, as to why I changed my screen name. I have been all but called a sexist on here quite a few times when I don’t share the opinion when it has to do with a male/female issue. As someone mentioned, if the book “The Gift of Fear” is mentioned, then it seems any dissenting opinions are even more scrutinized. I understand that I can’t fully empathize with women, but as a minority myself (black man), I do have some understanding. Yes, I would be more cautious and aware of my surroundings in a more historically racist small town in the south than I am in Chicago, however I don’t always assume the worst when it comes to dealing with white people. Often times on here, it seems women assume the worst when it comes to guys, their intentions, and what they have the potential to do. The argument that “you never know what may happen” tends to apply, and I don’t think its really fair so yes, many times I will defend men in general. It doesn’t at all make me sexist to bring up another point of view, although as I’ve stated, I’ve been all but called that on this board before.

      As to this question. My thought is that there is a difference between annoying behavior and dangerous behavior. While I wouldn’t do what this guy is doing, based on what I read, I wouldn’t call it dangerous, just annoying. She even says “mainly it was just a nuisance”. As referenced in the previous paragraph, I get that you never know where things can lead. But if nothing dangerous has happened and this person is an annoying ex, I’m not sure that its a reason to deny him employment at the best employer in his hometown. As I said, there are 2 sides to every story. 2 people can give a “factual” account of the same thing and it could differ wildly. Happens all the time in court cases (or see the movie My Cousin Vinny). So in no way am I saying she is lying, but the 2 of the parties involved could very well see the same situation differently.

      Now I fully admit, I kind of didn’t realize the first time I read it that he went out of his way to let her know that he was applying for that job, I thought she just found out he applied. So I can see how that could be bad. I could also see it as it being better to give a heads up, than if he just walked in for an interview one day. That would probably have been worse.

      To me a big part of this would be how the “heads up” is given to HR. If she just says something to the effect of “we dated, things didn’t end well, there were some lingering issues” type thing, I think thats ok. If she says “He is a dangerous stalker” thats a bit different. My big concern is that it seems like there are multiple offices to this company. Maybe they wouldn’t put him in her office, but could find a role in another office that suits him where they wouldn’t come into contact. The “he’s a dangerous stalker” route basically removes that possibility.


      1. Natalie*

        “I don’t always assume the worst when it comes to dealing with white people. Often times on here, it seems women assume the worst when it comes to guys, their intentions, and what they have the potential to do. The argument that “you never know what may happen” tends to apply, and I don’t think its really fair so yes, many times I will defend men in general.”

        No one here is talking about men in general. We are discussing one man, who has demonstrated *through his behavior* that he is not a person the OP can trust.

        1. BCW*

          I don’t see anything in the letter that shows he is anything more than an annoyance. BUT, I have seen many commenters assume that his behavior MAY escalate because of things that other men have done in the past

          1. Natalie*

            From the OP:

            “I clearly expressed my desire to end the relationship (repeatedly) and finally was able to make the break-up ‘stick.’ He has persistently tried to get me back, ignoring my wishes to end the relationship, and called and texted me repeatedly, stuff like that. […] It got so intrusive that I had to spell it out in bold capital letters ‘DO NOT CONTACT ME, do not call, do not text, do not email,’ in bold letters (despite not having any real hatred for him). He contacts me less, but still a lot, and does not respect the boundaries I have tried to create.”

            People who are suggesting that this may escalate aren’t suggesting it because the Ex is a man and other men have done bad things. They are pointing to a pattern of behavior and suggesting that the pattern is troubling. There is a gendered component *for the OP* because women are socialized to ignore this sort of behavior, not be firm, dismiss their own concerns, minimize the situation when they talk about it to other people, and so on. But if anyone in this comment section has said anything along the lines of “men in general act like this, so you should be careful because your ex is a man” I must have missed it.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think the issue here is this: Dissent is fine. Differing opinions are fine. But in a case like this, it is odd to assume that you know better than the most-impacted group (women, in this case) how they should interpret behavior or how they should act in a situation that you, by virtue of your demographic group group (i.e., non-women), simply don’t experience with the same frequency or in the same way. When you have multiple members of a demographic group that you don’t belong to and which is far more heavily impacted by the potential issues in play* responding in a certain way, it’s odd and not especially credible to come in and tell them that they’re wrong and you know better. You’re coming from different experiences, and you really need to factor that into your thinking and your responses. So far, there’s not much recognition of that reflected here, and I think that’s what many people are reacting to.

        * By “potential issues in play,” I mean frightening behavior from the opposite sex. That is not in any way to imply that men cannot be the victim of frightening behavior from women, but rather that the numbers make it very clear that women are far more impacted by it.

        1. BCW*

          Thats the thing, I never said I knew better than anyone else. I said I have a different way that you can look at this situation. I would never say the way someone feels is “wrong”, I may say that they may be taking an action in a different way than was intended, but I fully believe anyone is entitled to any feelings they may have. I just think sometimes its important to look at the other side of a situation, thats all. Its why I talk to my female friends about relationships. I think its important to not just feel a certain way, but to understand an opposing point of view.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sure, but in this case you were minimizing the OP’s concerns (“we don’t know the other side,” “maybe she responded well to this in the past,” etc.) in a way that’s pretty minimizing to every other woman on here who understands exactly why this situation is alarming.

          2. Jessa*

            There is not an opposing view here. Period. Full stop. And I think that’s where people are complaining about what you’ve said. A person was told to stop doing x. They continue to do x. They escallate doing X. This is a common chain of events for women.

            The fact that you are Black does not change anything. You are still a man. And have privilege because of that. Just as I have no right to tell you how to react or feel about a significant other that calls you racial names, I am a woman and I am not black.

            No man has a right to tell a woman how to react to something that historically can get her KILLED. It would be crazy of me to tell you that you were overreacting or misinterpreting signs that might lead you to believe a woman who uses racist language where you could hear her could be a crazy racist of the might pull a gun on you type. A man can’t say that to a woman either.

      3. Anonymous*

        You said: “Yes, I would be more cautious and aware of my surroundings in a more historically racist small town in the south than I am in Chicago, however I don’t always assume the worst when it comes to dealing with white people.”

        As someone from a historically racist small city, I don’t want to minimize your feelings of caution, and would hope you would quickly realize I was one of the white people you could assume the best about. This is just something I have to live with: people assume I’m racist and all kinds of other things because I’m a middle-aged white woman with Southern manners and accent.

        It must suck to be a ‘nice’ man and know that every woman must “use caution” just as you do w/whites sometimes, and assess the threat level from almost every man she meets. But we just have to. The statistics bear us out. The Gift of Fear is needed. There are enough dangerous men out to warrant using the ‘gift.’

        And in a situation like the OP’s, the statistics offered in the posts above, and the predictable pattern of how stalkers behave and how escalate, warrants letting someone know.

        I hate it that our lives have to be this way. All good people do. We should all work on raising better men and women who know how to communicate around love and power issues. It starts with people like us on this board talking about issues like why do you always feel like a sexist when the gift of fear comes up? That’s a legitimate place to start.

        Part of the reason people come on strong encouraging posters like the OP is that their behavior tells us something, too. As women, we are socialized to be polite, to forgive, to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly men, who after all, are still ‘better’ than you in society’s eyes, and above all, to believe in the power of love. Tender feelings towards a former lover, combined with all the other BS, can blind women to real threats. They have to be shaken out of the ‘dream’ sometimes by others who help them say no and draw boundaries.

        This OP made some statements that, to you, sounded like maybe the guy wasn’t that bad, and there was maybe some miscommunication going on. To many others, her statements sound like, oh no, she’s excusing him, minimizing, all the classic things women do (no slagging on the OP, almost all women do these things sometimes).

        I also agree with others that, if you’ve never been stalked, by a man or a woman, you don’t understand how disturbing it is to be contacted repeatedly after you have asked someone to never contact you again. It doesn’t sound like a big deal: ‘maybe he was trying to give her a heads-up so she won’t be surprised if he came in for an interview.’ Yes, if there weren’t a history of repeated contacts after being asked ‘don’t ever contact me.’

        1. Shinyobjects*

          There aren’t enough “+1” and “likes” in the world to convey my love for this response.

          1. khilde*

            Yeah, anonymous Southern lady. Come up with a screen name so we know who you are. This was a fantastic response :)

            1. Anonymous*

              I’ll think about it, and if I do, my screen name will be “Anonymous Southern Lady.” Thank you, BCW and Shinyobjects for your kind words. Ask a Manager is right that we all need to work harder to understand diverse experiences and points of view and to work to eliminate our own blind spots.

        2. BCW*

          Thanks for seeing my response, understanding my point of view, and calmly responding with your response, unlike the person below who feels I need to read a book to determine how dangerous women might find me.

          I respect your opinion, and you are right, civilized people need to be able to have a conversation without essentially questioning someone’s character.

          1. Jessa*

            It is kind of the same reason I would never tell you how to react in a racist town when you’re being followed by a couple of people who read dangerous to you because of your experiences.

            Now I might be able to sympathise because I am also a member of a minority that tends to be attacked and run out of town, but I’m not black and I do not have that social experience of BEING a black person.

            I would rightfully expect you to look at me and go, you may be minority but you look like a white woman and probably get given white privilege by people who don’t know so you have no clue whatsoever. If you dress differently they can’t tell. I can’t get away from this ever.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh, come on. Cimorene’s response below was an excellent explanation of the issue here, and encouraging you to read a book to better understand how you might be inadvertently coming across to some women is not an insult.

            I’m super interested in reading stuff about how my own elements of privilege (race, socioeconomic class, etc.) potentially lead me to inadvertently come across differently than I intend to people in other demographic groups, and I think being open to learning about that is part of being a person with genuinely good intentions toward others. It’s not an insult.

            1. BCW*

              I don’t think most people would take being told to read this book about dangerous men, and see where you fall on that scale, wouldn’t be taken badly. If that part were left out, ok. In fact, until that last sentence, I agreed. But if I were to say to a woman “I read this book about why women act crazy in relationships. There is a graph to determine how crazy guys think you are. You should see where you land”, I don’t think most women would take that very well either.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t know, I’d be totally intrigued if someone said to me, “I read this book about white privilege. There is a graph to determine how much you exercise your privilege in ways that impact others. You should see where you land.” I’d be all over reading that. (And actually, even more interested if the person was implying I had a problem that I might not be aware of.)

              2. fposte*

                I didn’t read it quite as harshly as that, but even then I don’t think that’s a reason to dismiss the underlying point.

                My impression also, BCW, is that you’re generally somebody who favors a more move-on-with-stuff approach and who generally steers away from talking to management about issues (my apologies if I’ve misread you). Which is a perfectly fine way for somebody to be, but I think that’s a personality trait rather than an ethical call, and it’s not fair to judge people according to how much they can be like that too.

                I thought about you even before you said this was you, because I’ve admired your willingness to bring your views up even when they’re likely to be disagreed with, and you generally stay remarkably cool even when that happens; as a result, we sometimes get discussions that go deeper than they might in a group of people who all agree. But I think the disagreement here is significant too, and I think it would be really cool if you did at least have a look at, say, Schroedinger’s Rapist (it’s just a blog post, so it’s really short) just to get an idea of what’s behind people’s thoughts. It’s not perfect, and neither is The Gift of Fear, but they’re both really illustrative of stuff that can be hard to convey to people who’ve had different experiences and that have also given people insight into their own experience, sometimes unexpectedly. And I’m with Alison in thinking that’s a worthwhile achievement no matter whose experience we’re talking about.

                1. BCW*

                  I went and read the schrodingers rapist blog. I won’t say I agree with all of it, but I do have a better understanding of certain things.

                2. Lils*

                  Thank you for referencing Schrodinger’s Rapist…somehow I’d missed that, and it’s great.

      4. CJ*

        @BCW – “The argument that “you never know what may happen” tends to apply…” is because:

        1) women *often* have to think that way

        2) are not psychic and *cannot* scientifically predict whether chatty guy on the train is a rapist who is intentionally ignoring boundaries or is just socially clueless and doesn’t recognize boundaries, and

        3) do NOT have any kind of responsibility to that guy to find out which one he is. If a man is ignoring my boundaries, I have the right to say “stop,” I have the right to leave the situation, and I have zero responsibility to him to unhurt his feelings or help him navigate my boundaries.

        Please read this:

        and this:

        and this:

        Those are just some helpful jumping off readings for understanding why a lot of women will not just assume the ex is a nuisance. She said “STOP” and drew a big neon line, and he crossed it. She owes him squat and she has every right to defend herself how she sees fit.

        1. Cimorene*

          I was just coming to recommend Schrodinger’s Rapist! Such an excellent essay. Sure, “it’s not fair” to assume that any given man is dangerous to women, but I’m willing to be a little unfair to men in order to ensure my safety. Considering the breathtaking number of incidents of violence against women in the US every single day, it makes sense for women to prioritize their safety above the relative fairness to men of that priority. In other words, it’s ok for women to prioritize their personal safety over the imagined need to be fair to men.

          The other thing is that this guy has proved himself to be dangerous. You know how you can tell if someone is potentially dangerous? If you say “No” and they treat your “no” as negotiable. You know how you can tell if someone is actually dangerous? If you say “No” and they treat your “no” as negligible, or as “yes.” This guy is treating her No as a Yes–that’s what he’s doing when he keeps contacting her again and again after she told him not to.

          You do realize that plenty of women like the OP don’t actually treat the men who stalk them as if they’re dangerous, and a shocking number of those women end up dead or assaulted, right? Like, literally, this is a real thing that happens. And whenever women are attacked by the exes who’ve been stalking them, everyone (who is terrible) wants to know why she didn’t cut off contact, why she didn’t do something sooner, why she didn’t listen to the warning signs. And the reason for this is that many, many people prioritize the right of dangerous men to be treated “fairly” over the right of women to be safe. The right of a man who has demonstrated that he will not listen to a woman’s requests to leave her alone, who treats her “No” like a “yes,” does not actually trump her right to be safe.

          I’m sure that now you’re thinking, “But she is safe! We have no proof that he’s actually violent!” What, may I ask, do you require for “proof” that he’s violent? I think it might be something like, “When he does something violent, that’s when we can consider him dangerous.” Well, first of all, I guess that means you don’t consider ignoring a woman’s “no” to be a violent act? Do you, too, treat women’s negations as affirmations? When a woman tells you “no,” do you treat it as negotiable, or negligible? (If you do, then I think maybe you need to consider why you’ve been called a misogynist several times on this board whenever violence against women comes up.)

          Second of all, safety is a condition of possibility. If you are in a threatening situation, you’re not “safe” right up until the moment you’re physically compromised. If I’m in front of a firing squad, I’m not safe while they’re loading their guns and only unsafe when they’ve actually shot me. If I live in Syria, and half the buildings on my street have been bombed, I’m not “Safe” just because my building is still erect. And I’m not less safe when my building does get bombed–the level of safety, the possibility that I’ll be hurt, hasn’t actually changed. It’s like when Nate Silver was predicting that there was a 98% likelihood that Obama would be elected, and he said “Even if Obama doesn’t win the election, there was still a 98% chance that he would , and a 2% chance that he wouldn’t. The fact that the 2% came true doesn’t change the fact that it was still only a 2% chance.”

          If this woman is 50% likely to be hurt by this guy, and she isn’t hurt, there’s still a 50% chance that she will be. At what point does the possibility that he’s actually dangerous make it reasonable for her to say something to HR? If he’s 50% likely to try to kill her, 60%, 30%? And sure, you may think it sounds nuts to say he might try to kill her, but that’s probably because you haven’t read a lot of statistics about the number of women who’ve been killed by current or former intimate partners. You’ve probably not done much research on the likelihood that someone who shows stalking tendencies ends up being violent. Because thing is, when a dude ignores a woman’s “No,” he immediately stops being a random, normal, benign dude, and is immediately shunted into the category of men who ignore women, who dismiss women’s right to feel safe, who think that “Fairness” to them trumps a woman’s right to be left alone. And that group is automatically a more dangerous group than the random men group. And the longer that refusal to acknowledge her right to be left alone, the greater the likelihood that this dude is dangerous. Months? MONTHS of ignoring her “No”? That is statistically correlated with increasingly violent behavior. Now he’s planning to move to this city to be with her, and is applying to a job for which he has no background, so he can work at her office with 28 other people? That has catapulted him to the top of the list of “men who are statistically likely to try to kill their ex-girlfriends.”

          You should read The Gift of Fear. And pay attention to the way he describes dangerous behavior, and consider where you are located in the graph of “men’s likelihood to be dangerous to women.”

        2. Jessa*

          Thank you for Schroedinger, I was in the process of tracking down my links when you did it for me.

      5. khilde*

        BCW – dude, I’m glad you came back with your regular name. And I’m just going to reply before I read the other comments so I’m not persuaded by a new idea.

        You’re right – you do have some opinions on topics like this one that definitely do not fall in with the majority (but neither do I! I just don’t know how to convey my differing opinions sometimes). But I do find that refreshing about you. And see? by you coming back and telling us who you are (I remembered that you were the black man; former school teacher, right?) this gives me more context to your anonymous comments. I can see why you went anon, though I still agree with Jamie’s assessment that it doesn’t behoove the regulars to do so in a situation like this.

        At any rate, I actually like your perspective on these topics. I am a young white woman that has apparently lived under a very happy, safe, cozy rock my entire life in a place where most of us look the same and believe the same stuff. Cause half the crap people talk about on here makes my jaw drop in terms of “Oh my gosh, this happens to a lot of people!!!! I had no idea!” And I think because I have not apparently experienced a harsh side of life when it comes to male/female interaction I can more easily relate to how you process these situations. Sometimes I think, “really? That seems a bit of an overreaction.” Then again, I have learned a TON from other women on here that has made me much wiser and more aware of what I don’t know.

        I’m blabbering on this a day late if you will even see this. But just wanted to tell you that even though you do get nailed for your perspective on some of these issues, I welcome ALL perspectives and hope you stick around.

  24. Becs*

    THANK YOU for mentioning GIFT OF FEAR. That book validated everything I did to get out of an abusive relationship (that escalated after the constant unwanted contact). Your gut is telling you something and you need to listen. He’s taking a pretty big step with this and you need to understand that he’s doing this on purpose. Please tell HR. If it doesn’t stop after this situation, also consider getting a court-ordered “no contact order.” It was the only thing that got through to my ex and will bring you a lot of sanity in the end.

  25. Savvy Working Gal*

    I just finished reading “Gift of Fear.” Alison’s advice is spot on. Read the book, then do everything Alison and the commenters above advise. Your ex-boyfriend shows all the signs of the dangerous person Gavin writes about in his book.

  26. Ag*

    OP, I had a boyfriend who did the same things you’re describing when we broke up… calling 40+ times, showing up at my house randomly, looking for my car around town. It was miserable and scary – I can’t even imagine how I would have felt if he applied for a job at my work! Definitely talk to someone about this situation, it’s completely warranted.

  27. W.W.A.*

    I agree with most of the advice being offered here but I must play devil’s advocate for a moment. People are using the phrases “abuser” and “abusive relationship” a little bit too freely. All we know about this situation is what little information the writer has offered. It’s fair to assume this guy crossed the line because the writer claims she had to forcefully tell him “STOP CONTACTING ME.” And yes, it’s disturbing that he has popped up again in her life and is trying to get a job in her workplace.

    But those of you suggesting that she go get a restraining order or who are referring to this as a domestic violence situation are lacking some perspective, and not necessarily setting her up to succeed in getting past this bad relationship.

    1. FiveNine*

      There is clearly a divide on the board where some posters are treating this like a “romantic relationship gone wrong, let’s not interfere, it’s not serious” scenario instead of seeing it as repeated beyond-social-norms aggressive behavior by a third party toward an employee.

      1. fposte*

        I’m reading responses as much more complexly arrayed than that. My personal take is that the OP is the expert here, and she’s asked for work advice, not handling-the-guy advice, and it’s the opposite of empowering to insist that her life fits a narrative we generate.

      2. E*

        I don’t think that’s what W.W.A.’s comment was about, though – the ex’s behavior is clearly Not Okay and OP’s first priority needs to be taking the steps to protect herself and stop the behavior. Labeling it “an abusive relationship/domestic violence” – while that may in fact be the case – could make the OP more likely to rationalize or minimize this guy’s behavior, especially since she already seems hesitant to use the word “stalker” (“stalkerish”).

          1. E*

            Ahh, got it – thanks for clarifying. I still got the sense that the OP was rationalizing some of the ex’s behaviors and I was concerned that her first response wasn’t “he can’t work here” but “maybe I should quit/transfer.” There’s been lots of good advice here, so I hope the OP lets us/you know what happens.

    2. Jen in RO*

      I think Alison’s advice was spot on and the commenters are exaggerating. We basically don’t know anything about the OP’s ex and we’re assuming. Just because you (general you) know someone who acted like this and *was* an abuser doesn’t mean the ex is one – and if I knew someone who acted like this and *wasn’t* an abuser it wouldn’t mean that the ex *isn’t* one.

      Alison’s advice was about the workplace and it’s legitimate, but I think a lot of people are going overboard with the assumptions.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t know if they are exaggerating as much as when a situation can be dangerous or not (and IMO we don’t have enough information to know whether he’s a danger to her or not) people err on the side of caution and assume psycho.

        IMO we don’t have enough information to make that call – but if it were my daughter I too would be erring on the side of caution.

        Based on the little information we have from the OP we cannot emphatically state that his intentions are to harm her and he’s absolutely dangerous. Neither can we know that he isn’t…which is why Alison’s advice was perfect. Tell work because they should have this information.

        I think it comes down to the fact that because some people who act like this end up harming people all people who act like this will be treated as if they are dangerous.

        So the lesson here I think is don’t act like a stalker unless you’re willing for people to light the torches.

        1. Jen in RO*

          Well-put as usual, Jamie :)

          (But it’s really sad that we live in a world where past experience leads us to assume psycho rather than odd dude.)

          1. KellyK*

            I don’t think it’s really “erring on the side of psycho” so much as it is that ignoring boundaries is in itself a huge red flag. Not taking “no” for an answer about the relationship, then continuing to contact her, then applying to work at her office–those are all bad behavior, even if they never escalate into anything more serious.

            It’s not proof that he’s violent, or that the relationship was abusive, but it’s rude and controlling behavior all by itself, and it’s an indication that worse behavior may well be likely. (There’s a saying, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”)

            1. Jane Doe*

              Exactly. You don’t necessarily need to answer “why” certain behavior is rude, controlling, inappropriate or creepy to think it is, and to not want to associate with people who display that kind of behavior. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a sign of anything in particular, including that the person might escalate their behavior, to think it’s not okay.

            2. Lindsay J*

              +1. Even if the behavior does not escalate into the realm of physical harm, what he is doing is already not okay.

              She should not have to deal with receiving texts and emails and calls from somebody she has told in no uncertain terms that she does not want to hear from.

              Him telling her that he moving back home and telling her that he is applying to her place of employment is clearly trying to provoke a reaction from her – whether that reaction is “oh my god he cares for me so much to do that I must take him back” or “oh my god I should never have dumped him he might hurt me” I can’t really be sure. However, either way is directly manipulating her.

              And she should not have to worry about seeing him at work every day. Dealing with stalker calls and texts, seeing them every day at work (or worrying about when and where they will pop up next and what they are going to do) takes a toll on a person’s mental state and definitely affects you even if it never moves past those behaviors.

          2. Sarah*

            It is sad. But its reality. There was a little 15 year old girl in Pensacola a few years ago who called her little ex bf over and her new bf and her chopped him into little pieces in the bathtub and then lit the remains on fire outside… People are nuts…

            1. nyxalinth*

              I’m not sure what’s scarier: that she did this, or that New BF thought it was acceptable behavior from someone he’s romantically involved with!

          3. Elizabeth*

            But it’s really sad that we live in a world where past experience leads us to assume psycho rather than odd dude

            Except that’s not what anyone is saying.

            There are established social norms & boundaries. If you break up with someone, whether a romantic relationship or a friendship, and they ask you not to contact them, you don’t make contact. It’s rude to do so more than “I need to get stuff back to you, how do you want to arrange it.”

            The individual in this case has already repeatedly breached this social boundary. He has proven that he doesn’t care about rudeness or social boundaries. His insistence that he be allowed to force contact on an unwilling participant is more important to him than the wishes of that person.

            It is not much of a leap to suggest that other social boundaries won’t be a hindrance to him, including the capacity for violence.

            1. Jen in RO*

              “It is not much of a leap to suggest that other social boundaries won’t be a hindrance to him, including the capacity for violence.”

              We’ll just agree to disagree then – I think it *is* much of a leap to assume that.

              1. TychaBrahe*

                Even if it never gets to violence, what about her right to work without wondering what he’s going to do or say? What about her right to do her job without being forced to spend time with him and wondering if he’s taking it the wrong way?

                This type of behavior happens to thousands of people after the end of a relationship, and even if it doesn’t end in violence for the vast majority of them, why should they have to be stressed for 8+ hours of the day by continually being in contact with someone they wish to avoid?

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t think there is a right to work without wondering what someone will do or say, though, and I doubt a company is going to make decisions as if there were.

    3. Cimorene*

      Even after she forcefully told him “STOP CONTACTING ME,” he continued to contact her. He ignored her forceful commands to leave her alone. How many times does a man have to ignore a woman’s commands to leave her alone before we can agree that he’s dangerous?

    4. Jessa*

      When someone says “stop,” and the other person by actions and words says “NO,” that is prima facie abusive behaviour. Period. Full stop. In spades, and doubled. There is no definition of abuse that excludes this behaviour. She said NO, clearly and unequivocally. He ignored her. It is abusive. We need to stop minimalising this.

      There are degrees of behaviour but abusive is a bright line. Once you’re over it, it doesn’t matter whether it’s words, or beating someone up. You’re OVER the line. It doesn’t matter how MUCH abusive someone thinks it is.

      This kind of value judgement on abuse is part of why people like the OP need validation that what they’re feeling is real and could be dangerous. Because well “it’s just words whatever.” NO never.

      1. KaseyMack*


        There are all kinds of abuse, not just physical or sexual assault. Emotional abuse is still abuse; and I for darned-sure personally consider contacting someone repeatedly for several months after they have emphatically asked/told you to stop emotionally abusive.

  28. some1*

    Even if you want to give the LW’s ex-BF the benefit of the doubt here and say he “just wants her back”, anyone who is old enough to work &/or date people knows that dating a co-worker is not a good idea for many reasons.* So even if this guy has any reason (real or made up in his head) to think he and the LW will get back together would NOT try to get a job at her company if he understands *professional* customs and boundaries, imo.

    *Yes, it still happens, and yes it can even work out, but most people don’t apply for a job hoping to find a relationship with one of their co-workers.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, but if the OP is accurately describing his behavior, then he doesn’t appear to understand social boundaries. Why would we then expect him to understand professional boundaries?

  29. discountchica*

    Unacceptable behavior. OP needs to stop all contact; no matter how hard. Even saying “don’t contact me” is engaging. She needs to let her boss/HR know what’s going on and document, document, document. Here’s my theory: what SANE person looking for a job would look for a job at the same place where somebody has told them TO STOPING CONTACTING THEM. They wouldn’t. There’s your answer. I wouldn’t worry about being “mean” or hurting this dude’s chances of getting a job. He has already shown he no qualms about your wishes. That’s not somebody who cares or who is in love or “just being nice”. Being nice respecting the other person’s wishes.

    1. Lindsay J*

      I agree. Most people will avoid applying for jobs at places where an ex works, or a former coworker they didn’t like, or a roommate they didn’t like, or where their current partner or best friend works – even if it otherwise a good job for them. They don’t want to deal with that uncomfortable situation every day at work.

      This guy has no background in the line of work that the OP does, and is not only applying to the 200 person company where she works, but to her specific 30 person office. He is doing this (and telling OP about it) specifically to provoke some sort of reaction from her.

      Even if he does still care about or love her (and many abusive or stalking partners do genuinely care about and love their victim) the way he is behaving is not innocent, nice, or okay.

  30. Tiff*

    That guy is dangerous. One of my closest girlfriends had a boyfriend who exhibited the same kind of behavior. Constantly contacting her, not respecting her boundaries, pretending to not even understand what a boundary was. She was exhasperated and annoyed but also a tad flattered.

    He knocked on her door one night, and when she opened it he pushed his way in and raped her. She didn’t press charges but did get a protective order. The day the order expired he showed up at her door.

    If you feel you are in danger, please get some help. Blocking this guy’s candidacy is not going to protect you from him.

  31. Anon*

    I defend people accused of domestic violence in criminal court. I’m also a lady who’s read The Gift of Fear. Get the book and talk to your boss. Now.

  32. Nancy Gale*

    I’m really glad we’re having this discussion, even if it has become a bit heated. It’s good information for everyone to have, because anyone can wind up in a stalker situation.

  33. CEMgr*

    The behavior described by the OP appears to be stalking as defined under the California Domestic Violence Protection Act, and depending on the OP’s showing in front of a judge, could readily result in a restraining order being issued. It bothers me quite a lot to see people downplaying the risk, as if women (or men) need to just get used to this type of behavior and accept it.

    The OP is well within her rights to ask for and seek advice from a domestic violence hotline, or apply for a protective order, even if someone feels (or could somehow prove) the risk of actual physical harm is only 0.01% or even identically zero, with certainty. State law does vary, and in California, harassing behavior that causes psychological harm, such as the OP has reported, can definitely be grounds for an ex parte order of protection lasting up to 5 years. Calif. Family Code 6200 et seq.

    If folks feel that law is too protective, and the ex-boyfriend should be allowed more freedom of action, then talk to your legislative representatives who passed the law, rather than disparaging someone who takes advantage of the law for its intended purpose.

    1. Jen in RO*

      I don’t see any disparaging… all I see is a person who asked a question about work and got a bunch of answers about her personal life.

      1. Marmite*

        ^ This. I think I would find this whole thread a little overwhelming if I were the OP. Hopefully, she is able to sift through the advice and take what applies in the context of her situation, which only she knows all the details of, without being overwhelmed by what doesn’t.

        I think Alison’s advice of what to do regarding the actual question is spot on, HR need to know, tell them in a factual manner without minimizing what’s happened. Beyond that, most of the advice in the comments is hit or miss because there isn’t enough context to know whether it applies to this person.

      2. Cimorene*

        If someone asks for work advice, and people read the description of the situation and understand that it’s professionally and personally dangerous, I think they have an ethical obligation to point it out. If someone wrote a letter saying, “I’m Chocolate Teapot Assemblyman #3, which makes me responsible for adding a gram of powdered lead to every single teapot we make, and eating one out of every five teapots we make to make sure the lead has been dissolved properly in the melted chocolate. The fellow who brings me my leaden supplies asked me to be a reference in his job search, but I’m not sure if I would recommend him for the position, what should I do?” I would hope that we might all point out that adding a gram of lead to every chocolate teapot is a terrible, terrible, dangerous thing to do, and that eating 20% of the company’s inventory when there’s that much lead in the chocolate is very dangerous.

    2. Joey*

      Its kind of hard to argue a point and use Cali as your reference point. Things are so different in so many ways you might as well be an island country in the middle of nowhere.

      1. Chinook*

        Completely off topic, but how is it that California can have such different laws from the rest of country? In Canada, we know that Quebec is special partly due to the fact that their legal system is based on a completely different legal system (I think it is Napolenic vs. Common Law like the rest of N. America) (the rest of the difference can be chalked up to different societal/cultural backgroun & expectations).

        Is it that California just elects different types of people who create legislatin with different goals or is it a different type of legal system at play?

        1. Jamie*

          It’s not a different legal system – just that our legal system at the state level allows for huge variances between states.

          I would imagine that a lot of it has to do with the constituency and the politicians they elect.

          Personally I think it’s the awesome weather. When we’re just trying to get through the winter and shovel our driveways they have time to fine tune labor laws. :)

        2. W.W.A.*

          California is so much larger than the second largest state that they know any laws they pass will end up having a national impact. If California says food has to be labeled a certain way, there’s a really good chance companies will just change their labels across the board (for example). California is also just an especially liberal/progressive/activist place in general.

          The second largest state, Texas, is similar. They have lots of very different laws and policies that can affect the national level. There’s a great essay in Texas Monthly right now about how the US’s “No Child Left Behind” policy was basically adapted from the policies of Texas.

          1. Marmite*

            Wait, I thought Texas was the largest state (behind Alaska, but obviously that’s often discounted for being so far away from all the other states)?

          2. Jessa*

            On the other hand vis Texas and No Child Left Behind, one must also take into consideration that the president in question (Bush,) was previously governor of Texas. And that the Bushes are politically to Texas what the Kennedys used to be to Massachusetts.

        3. Legal Eagle*

          Federalism. In the United States, some laws are under the control of the federal government and apply to all the states. Many categories of laws are entirely done by the states, and therefore vary. For example, most contract, family, and criminal law is state law, not federal law. The federal constitution applies to everyone, but each state has its own constitution as well.

          The states are not obligated to be the same, though they often are. With a particular legal issue, 30 states may decide one way, 15 another way, and 5 a third way.

          California tends to be very different than other states, and often decides a legal issue that other states have not even addressed yet. That difference is not because California is legally special, it just likes to be on the forefront of making laws.

        4. fposte*

          Massachusetts actually ends up quite an outlier in a lot of labor laws as well; it’s just that it doesn’t affect so many people and doesn’t fit the folklore quite as well. In general, state laws do tend to correlate with the culture of that state: more industrialized/liberal states tend to have more protections than poorer southern states or more individualistic western states, for instance, and local industry lobbies can feature heavily in shaping legislation as well.

        5. Editor*

          Louisiana, like Quebec, has a legal system based on French law instead of English common law. But federal laws and the laws the state has passed since being founded can also affect the way a particular legal matter is interpreted in the state.

          Different states in the U.S. have different geographies and environments that attract different personalities, and state laws reflect those idiosyncrasies.

        6. Risa*

          In the United States, each state has a legislative body that makes up laws unique to the state. They cannot override Federal Law – i.e. if it’s illegal to do something by Federal law, the state can’t make it legal. But they can make laws stricter, and often do, especially in California. When it comes to employee laws in particular and criminal law as well, California often makes laws that are far more restrictive than Federal law. For example, California has more protected classes at the state level than we do at the Federal level.

    3. W.W.A.*

      Could you cite something please? I don’t see anything in his behavior that would result in a restraining order unless his texts/emails are really harassing and threatening (and perhaps they are but the OP didn’t specify).

      1. Grace*

        Here’s from the U.S. Department of Justice website regarding stalking:
        “Stalking is a dangerous crime that affects an estimated 6.6 million women and men each year. Stalking—generally defined as a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear—is a crime under the laws of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories, and the federal government. As many as 1 in 4 women and 1 in 13 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point during their lifetime and most often the stalker is someone the victim knows—an acquaintance, a relative, or a current or former intimate partner. Stalking is unpredictable and dangerous. No two stalking situations are alike. There are no guarantees that what works for one person will work for another, yet victims can take steps to increase their safety.”
        [there’s more…]
        and also from the US Department of Justice:
        “Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
        Stalking can include:
        *Repeated, unwanted, intrusive, and frightening communications from the perpetrator by phone, mail, and/or email.
        *Repeatedly leaving or sending victim unwanted items, presents, or flowers.
        *Following or laying in wait for the victim at places such as home, school, work, or recreation place.
        *Making direct or indirect threats to harm the victim, the victim’s children, relatives, friends, or pets.
        *Damaging or threatening to damage the victim’s property.
        *Harassing victim through the internet.
        *Posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
        *Obtaining personal information about the victim by accessing public records, using internet search services, hiring private investigators, going through the victim’s garbage, following the victim, contacting victim’s friends, family work, or neighbors, etc.
        Source: Stalking Resource Center, National Center for Victims of Crime

        1. Grace*

          It depends on the jurisdiction where OP lives, but many people can obtain a restraining order against someone for this kind of conduct (including wanted texts). In many states (mine is California), employers can also file a restraining order against a person to protect an employee(s) in the workplace. Employers are required by law (including OSHA) to maintain a safe work environment. In California,
          this is also found in Labor Code Section 6400.

          [this is from the California courts’ website]:
          “For an employer to get an order under this law there must be reasonable proof that:
          The employee has suffered unlawful violence (like assault, battery, or stalking) or a credible threat of violence;
          The unlawful violence or the threat of violence can reasonably be construed to be carried out or to have been carried out at the workplace;
          The conduct is not allowable as part of a legitimate labor dispute; and
          The person accused is not engaged in constitutionally protected activity.
          “Credible threat of violence” means intentionally saying something or acting in a way that would make a reasonable person afraid for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family. A “credible threat of violence” includes following or stalking someone, or making harassing calls or sending harassing messages by phone, mail, or e-mail, over a period of time (even if it is a short time).

  34. Anonymous*

    Allison is 100% right. This is absolutely a ploy to be near you because you said that “he has no background in your line of business.” Why would he want to move back to your smallish city AND apply to the same company, on top of applying to the SAME department you work for? Unless he has very similar experience or transferrable skills in the line you’re talking about, then there’s virtually no other reason for him to be applying except to be near you.

    Definitely tell your manager and HR about this as soon as you possibly can. The fact that he’s moving back to his hometown just for the job means that this situation will escalate.

    Please stay safe and nip it in the bud now.

  35. Anonymoose*

    I was stalked – not by an ex-boyfriend, but a man who’d raped me several years prior. He followed me, came to my home late at night, appeared outside my work, wound up next to me at red lights, etc. He also put a 30lb rock through the windshield of my car. The police were very sympathetic and went above and beyond to make me feel safer to the extent possible; however, within the confines of the law, they were ultimately unable to be of much help. I wound up moving to a new time zone to get away from him. I think new stalking laws have gone into effect since then (this was the early ’90s) and you may find more support from law enforcement today should it become warranted.

    It was, needless to say, a terrifying time in my life – I hope, OP, that you’re not experiencing anything like this. Nevertheless, I’m sure this unwanted contact and attempts to be nearer to you are unsettling at least.

    The Gift of Fear is an excellent book and required reading for women, IMO. I gave it to my daughter. Also, the rule someone mentioned about viewing the context of what is happening to you through the lens of “if this were happening to my friend/sister/mother/child, how would I feel about it?” is a good one. My situation was far more black-and-white than yours and I can understand why you may be questioning his intent & your reactions. As Gavin deBecker will soon teach you: if your gut is trying to tell you something, listen.

    Definitely talk to HR about this situation. Definitely get the book. Definitely document EVERYTHING that your ex does. Definitely clue someone (or a few someones) into what is going on with you so there are people who know the score. Definitely listen to your intuition — and definitely don’t hesitate to take steps to keep yourself safe should you feel it has become necessary.

    I hope this matter with the ex has more to do with him just crossing a few lines because he’s having a hard time of letting go and less to do with him being unbalanced or unsafe. I also hope that it gently resolves itself soon. Please send AAM a follow-up so we’ll know how you’re doing.

    1. Isabel*

      I was stalked as well. About ten years ago I broke up with my Marine boyfriend because he became abusive and tried to rape me. He followed me, called me upwards of ten times a day, and tried to intimidate me into going back to him. About six months after the break-up he tried to get a job at the same company I worked at. It was an awkward conversation but I told HR about what happened and provided them with documentation (police reports and pictures documenting the abuse). HR was very kind to me and assured me that they would never hire him.
      OP, I don’t know if you are a dog person but getting a dog made me feel much safer. Ghost, my 180 lb mastiff, is a great guard dog and even though he hasn’t contacted me in about a year Ghost makes me feel much safer.
      Please trust your gut. If you feel in danger or that something is off about a situation you are probably right. Please let us know how you are doing.

    2. Grace*

      So sorry to hear about the horrific violence you were subjected to. I’m glad you are safe. You can also see if your state has an Address Confidentiality Program and enroll in it, if necessary.

  36. nyxalinth*

    I’d also recommend visiting Captain Awkward’s blog. Lots of stuff there about dealing with this sort of thing, and she also recommends reading The Gift of Fear. she currently isn’t taking questions due to a huge backlog, but her site would be helpful with the more personal aspects of this issue :

    Warning: it’s a time sink.

    1. Rana*

      +1 Captain Awkward is amazing, and her commenters usually have useful suggestions too. Highly recommend.

  37. Marie*

    Another vote for taking Alison’s advice. Good luck to you, OP, and please come back with an update!

  38. Sara M*

    I am convinced that following Gavin de Becker’s advice prevented a terrible crime against me several years ago. Please do read the book, and talk to HR immediately. They will want to know. Good luck.

  39. Anon*

    I believe The Gift Of Fear had this in there, and I know AAM has stated this somewhere, but females are conditioned to be ‘nice’. If they’re not nice, then they’re a (fill in the blank). You don’t want to be mean or rude or confrontational or stop someone from earning a living…but HE’S the one forcing you to be what you’d normally consider ‘rude’.

    You have put up with quite a bit from this guy and should not feel bad about taking steps to protect yourself. Take a step back and look at what your life will be if he gets hired and starts showing up every day. I mean, he already won’t leave you alone, and you already expressed how awful it would be to work with him… now just actually ENVISION it, every day, every week, every month, every year.

    You need to put a stop to this. Do exactly what AAM says – it’s not ‘rude’ to block a stalker (and yes, that is what this guy is) from harrassing you. It’s protection. “But he’s not THAT bad, I don’t really need protection from him.” Well…then you’re THAT girl, the one who goes into the creepy house in the woods all alone and the whole audience is screaming “NOOOOO” but she says “oh I bet that noise was just the house settling…” This is not the house settling. This is bad stuff. You need to take care of yourself and don’t feel bad about it.

    Go to the hiring manager, your boss, and HR – and then tell your friends and family. Do it now. And I agree, keep his emails/texts/voice mails (bc you’re not answering him) for documentation, should it escalate.

  40. V*

    Ditto on telling HR and your manager (and reading The Gift of Fear).

    One thing I did want to add… OP says her industry is male-dominated. If there is a woman in a position of authority, I would start there. Unfortunately, some guys don’t get it, and I think having a female advocate on OP’s side would really help.

  41. Elizabeth West*

    Good call, Alison, recommending the de Becker book. Once you read it, you will never again worry about hurting someone’s feelings, etc. in a situation like this. It’s a real wake-up call, but it is also empowering.

    Please, OP, let us know what is happening. I’m concerned.

  42. CAndy*

    I took the recommendation about The Gift of Fear and am about 3/4 of the way through it. Really enjoyed the first half, realised why a woman I offer to help at the roadside might be in fear of her life, so if I offer the help again it will be through the passenger side window of my car and I will drive off quickly if she’s ok and phone police if I think she might not be.

    The second half is a bit security guy gone bonkers mad… I don’t know if this is a culture thing, the UK or at least Scotland certainly isn’t as scary as that for anyone.

    1. Anne*

      I disagree. I can understand why you would say that, but yes, Scotland is as scary as that for some people. I live in Edinburgh, and I’ve had a run-in with a masturbating man trying to grab me in the park, I’ve taken a glass bottle to the face, I’ve had groups of lads snatch at me as I pass and loudly ask whether I “fancy a gangbang”… I can say, at least, that the Lothian & Borders police are absolutely fantastic!

      Now I can deadlift almost twice my bodyweight, and throw my 85kg husband over my shoulder, and I’m not as scared any more. But I felt safer being out at night when I lived in NYC.

  43. Anon*

    I would agree with Alison’s advice to talk to someone at your company ASAP, but also wanted share my experience.

    We dealt with a little sister’s stalker a few years ago. Personally until things really escalate to violence it seems like they are more a PITA that won’t go away.

    In retrospect, this is mostly due to the fact that for us he slowly upped the anti and it was hard gauge that there was a serious problem- you become very acclimated to the issue. You get used to checking caller id, having someone else check messages… taking different routes, extra turns… staying on busy roads, never going anywhere alone. After months of this being your daily life it’s hard to sit around and say WTF, this is messed up because by then it’s normal.

    Even if you don’t know if it got to this level, applying to a job at your company and telling you (especially if he needs to relocate!) is a pretty clear message from him to you telling you he is watching you, and wants to keep a closer eye. My sister’s stalker always made sure we saw him- so the fact that your ex is deliberately telling you he is applying to a job where you work makes me really really concerned.

    I have a friend who’s stalker tracked down her cell phone 8 years later and called ‘just to chat’. You might think it’s over, but they don’t.

    From personal experience I would also stop by your local police precinct and ask to speak with an officer. This is free and just a good precaution. You aren’t pressing charges, and if there is a threat they can let you know what they can do, and what you need to do.

    Best of luck!

    1. Sarah*

      The police may also be able to run his name through the system and do a quick background check. This could be beneficial and possibly enlightening.. maybe he’s in the system.. maybe he’s had restraining orders taken out on him before. We don’t know how long they had been dating, but if it wasn’t that long, she may not know his whole past.

    2. CEMgr*

      All 50 U.S. states have laws against stalking. Each law is different, but California in NOT an extreme example, contrary to what has been implied above. Stalking laws nationwide typically apply criminal and civil penalties to a repeated course of conduct that threatens “only” continued communications that are emotionally distressing. Actual violence, or explicit threats of actual violence, are already covered under long-established criminal law against assault and battery. Anti-stalking laws bring something new: prohibition of and penalties against conduct that manages to skirt the line on the criminal assault code and yet can be very damaging to victims. It’s not unusual, when evil people figure out how to work their harm while skirting the law as then-encoded, that laws need to be modified and extended to criminalize the conduct that decent people see is intolerable and worthy of state prohibition.

      Every state’s law is different and contains careful delineations of terms and definitions. None is capable of being fully described in a sentence or two. I would request that anyone commenting on the validity of these laws, read and refer to a specific law rather than their idea of that law. State laws are all available at the link below.

  44. Anonymous*

    I know I’m late to the post but I just wanted to be one person who weighed in to say something besides a lot of people are stalked, or someone I knew was stalked, or even someone stalked me. Because this is real and it does escalate and it does happen to real people.

    A childhood friend of mine ignored behavior like this from her (then future) boyfriend; her parents and friends ignored what should have been troubling behavior too. When the behavior got worse, she didn’t tell her family because she didn’t want them to think poorly of him. She told a few close friends who didn’t think it was right but didn’t think it was dangerous. During this time they would argue and break up but get back together.

    Finally, he crossed a line and she decided she needed to really end it. They were out with friends and she left with one of them and stayed the night at her house. Despite earlier warning signs, despite her friends telling her they would help her, she opted to believe him when he said he wouldn’t be home and she went to get her stuff. She did this even though he’d lied to her before. She did this even though he had failed to respect her wishes and her space before. She did this even though she broke up with him because his behavior scared her.

    She went to go get her stuff. He killed her.

    We say “No means no” but we act like it only means no in extreme situations. The definition isn’t mutable; it always means no. Even if what you’re saying is “No, I don’t want to be friends” or “No, I don’t want to keep in touch” or “No, I don’t want you there when I come to get my stuff.” When you say “no,” they need to hear “no.” If you make excuses for someone in your life because you care about them, because you know they’re going through something, because you don’t want others to think badly of them, you are letting them change your definition of “no.”

    In general, my advice is to trust your gut if you have a bad feeling but think you may be overreacting. If you don’t think you can do that, ask someone who doesn’t know the person what they think about the situation. And that’s the step you took and I applaud you for it.

    Maybe not all of the advice here is relevant. Maybe this is a heartbroken kid who needs to be schooled in the art of boundaries. If so, then this can be his classroom. In the end, that will be a service to him. But no matter what, you don’t owe him politeness, the benefit of the doubt, or even that schooling. Your duty is to yourself and there is no one for whom you should compromise your safety and wellbeing to avoid making uncomfortable or inconveniencing.

    Not everything is a warning sign but if you see behavior that in other situations, people look back and wish they had heeded, don’t take any chances.

  45. Anon*

    I’m very curious if there is an update from the OP on this situation. As a person who actually got stuck working at the same company with my stalkerish ex-boyfriend, I echo everyone’s thoughts about bringing this to the attention of HR and/or the hiring manager ASAP. Luckily, my ex was let go (for unrelated reasons), but the time he was there was awful. The worst part was every time he would see me with a male coworker (in a meeting, in the break-room, walking down the hall, etc.) he would get jealous and come to my desk to tell me how hard it was to see me with another guy.

    Also, as hard as it is, you have to completely end contact with this guy. I loved one of the recommendations to name him “JERKBAG” in your phone. I always thought if I was just terse in my replies, or even replied with “I don’t want to talk to you,” that he would leave me alone. But the only thing that actually worked for me was ignoring him completely.

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