update: coworker won’t stop badmouthing my soon-to-be new boss

Remember the letter-writer who was getting ready to leave for a new job and one of her current coworkers wouldn’t stop badmouthing her soon-to-be-new boss? (#5 at the link) Here’s the update.

I’ve just finished my first week at the new job. So it’s still very early to tell, but here’s what I’ve learned.

* The person who was previously in the team I’m now in (let’s call him Larry Ex-Employee) who was badmouthing the boss (let’s call him John New-Boss) and job (so, just to keep track, Larry Ex-Employee is the romantic partner of the person I managed at my former job… let’s call her Cindy Ex-Teammate) very clearly did not get along with the boss. I’ve had this confirmed by people who I now work with, who were there at the time. But they don’t put the blame fully on John New-Boss. In fact they also mention that Larry Ex-Employee was hard to deal with too. In fact, when Larry left, he expressed concern to his teammates that maybe he shouldn’t be leaving, maybe it was too soon, etc. According to my new teammates, when they told Larry that they had found someone new (me), he reacted with what they believed was jealousy and perhaps insecurity.

* John New-Boss, who Larry badmouthed, is a unique person, but either he’s not as bad as Larry said, or he’s learned their lesson. In our first week, John and I have had several conversations about personality types, and management styles, and while John admits that he can be blunt or insensitive at times, he expressed the realisation to me that he is aware of it, and welcomes me to let him know if this is the case in any given moment.

* For my own part, I started to read up on resources to help deal with difficult people in the workplace. I realised that most of my anxiety around this situation was based on memories of conflicts that had happened in the past, and my own lack of confidence in dealing with conflicts. So it prompted me to put time and work into that.

* One last piece of the puzzle: why did Cindy Ex-Teammate, who I managed in my previous job, take such relish in repeating the warnings of Larry was giving them? Well, apparently Larry had told his old workmates (my new workmates) that when Cindy had found out I was leaving and would no longer be her manager, she got somewhat emotional and a little resentful that I was leaving. Which may explain why she started to undermine my expectations of the new job.

{ 13 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon*

    This was the most confusing/unclear update ever. Can the sender edit it to make it more comprehensible?

    1. Ruffingit*

      It is confusing, but here’s a breakdown that perhaps will be more helpful:

      OP currently works at Company A. She used to work at Company B.

      When she was at Company B, she managed Cindy. Cindy’s boyfriend is Larry.

      OP took Larry’s job at Company A when Larry decided to leave. While the OP was wrapping things up at Company B, Cindy (who is Larry’s girlfriend) was telling the OP all the bad things Larry was saying about Company A and the boss at Company A.

      Now that OP is at Company A, she has found that Larry and her current boss, John, had a contentious relationship likely due to personality conflicts and also because John has said he can be a bit blunt and insensitive. But, John has said the OP should tell him when he’s being that way.

      As to why Cindy was passing on the “evils” of Company A to the OP, it appears Cindy, who the OP managed at Company B, was upset because she likes the OP and was mad she was leaving.

      Hope that helps. You do need a bit of a flowchart for this one.

  2. Not So NewReader*

    It sounds to me like there are two gossips, Larry and Cindy who happen to be bf/gf. It seems that Cindy thinks everything Larry says is gospel, not taking into account there are other sides to any story.
    Unfortunately for OP, Cindy worked at OldJob and Larry worked at OPs NewJob. Cindy did her best to upset the OP at her OldJob and when OP went to new job THERE was Larry. (What an awesome couple! No, not really.)

    OP, wisely reserved judgement about her NewBoss. She decided to wait and see for herself. NewBoss has turned out to be fairly reasonable so far.

    I hope I am getting this right… I am glad this all settled down for you, OP. It’s amazing how destructive one negative person can be. And, yep, we have to go on our own and build our own relationships with people. We can’t trust the grapevine to be reliable, we have to find out first hand. It sounds like you are on a good track with reading and getting yourself forearmed. And you have laid a solid working foundation with the NewBoss, too.
    Stick to the agreement of letting him know when he is being insensitive or too blunt. Make sure you articulate WHY you feel that way. And be prepared for some (not often) situations where only bluntness can handle the issue.
    Congrats on your new job.

  3. OP*

    Apologies for the unclear update. Wrote it on the fly and tried to make it as best as I could – a bit tough when there are 4 players involved in 2 different companies. But thank you for the helpful comments.

    1. Jessa*

      Glad it is working out better for you now though. And it stinks that Cindy basically tried to screw you up for new job by loading all that negativity on you.

    2. AB*

      For what it’s worth, I think you did a great job considering your proximity to the facts, which always create the “curse of knowledge” effect (what’s obvious to you may not be obvious to others).

      The use of meaningful names (“Larry Ex-Employee”) definitely helped make the story easier to understand. I loved Ruffingit’s breakdown, but I could understand as easily the update reading your description.

    3. One of the Annes*

      You were crystal clear. I had no problems understanding your update. Maybe the people who did hadn’t read the original letter?

  4. AB*

    Another lesson from this story is that unless there is a clear pattern of the same happening with other people, a difficult relationship between a manager and her boss isn’t an indication that the next manager will have the same experience with the same boss.

    Many times I’ve been warned by the person I was replacing that I’d have to deal with a difficult manager or stakeholder, only to realize that I had no problem whatsoever establishing a health relationship with the badmouthed person.

  5. AMG*

    I have had those experiences too. “Flossie can be so combative and difficult to work with”. Actually, while Flossie has a strong personality, she is open, approachable, and a type A person who takes a great deal of pride in her work. She also simply says what she thinks without sugar coating. And when she deals with else someone like that (me), she is thoughtful, hungry to learn, and very kind and easy to work with. We get a lot accomplished and work through problems efficiently.

    Context is everything.

  6. PB*

    Good update. +1 to sitting down with New Boss and establishing some personality ‘quirks’. In my current position which I started back in April I had a similar conversation. New Boss is working out great, but people (including himself) had warned me that he could be blunt and sometimes upset people due to that. So far I have not been affected by it.

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