my boss got fired and won’t leave me alone

A reader writes:

I have been at my job for about six months, and started during a time of major transition. I started just weeks before our new executive director started. The new director assessed the financials of our nonprofit social service organization and realized what a bad position we were in, and decided to make some major changes. This included eliminating the position of one of the long-time employees here, who also happened to be my direct manager. While it was definitely a decision for the financial well-being of the organization, it was clear that there were also some personal differences between my supervisor and the director that probably factored in.

The decision to let her go was a big shock to the rest of the organization, and my manager was absolutely blindsided. It was upsetting for everyone, but we accepted the change as growing pains and necessary for where the organization is headed, and we were told that the rest of our jobs were secure for the foreseeable future.

This is where it gets difficult. My former manager has not been able to let go. I really do feel for her, I know she has a compassionate heart for clients and that work was her life. I know this can’t be easy. However, I feel that I am in an awkward position ethically and personally. I want to keep in touch with her so that hopefully she will be a contact in the field, possible mentor, and future reference, especially since I am early on in my career. She is the one who hired me, after all.

But. She has stopped by the office (and we are not a come-and-go public office) multiple times since being let go to make the rounds and catch up with everyone. She invited me for lunch and did her best to get me to talk trash about the executive director, and I spent the whole hour trying to diplomatically dodge her inquiries.

I am wondering what the boundaries should look like between a former manager and the organization they no longer work for.

She has also decided to be a community advocate with some of our clients, which is fine if we have their consent, but I am worried that it will undermine the work I have done with clients, since she is now a go-between for them instead of them getting in touch with me directly. She will sometimes text me on weekends about clients (I don’t reply until the work week), and she emails me tips and work-related resources that I didn’t ask for. It makes me feel like she is still my supervisor, and undermines my sense of autonomy at work. I feel like when she was my manager, she wasn’t really around that much and rarely provided timely feedback or direction, so it’s strange and honestly frustrating for her to be so involved now.

I feel like I am being pulled to choose allegiance to her or our executive director. It just feels weird and unprofessional, and I don’t know how to set boundaries without offending her (since I can tell that she does take it personally if I don’t respond right away or dodge her questions), while still maintaining a positive relationship. I work for an agency that does work in a small, cultural community (which I am not a part of but she is), and I think that is also factoring in to this whole situation. Anyone outside of work that I have talked to about it has told me how weird they find the situation. What’s your take about what’s going on here? What advice would you give me for dealing with this and maintaining my sanity and professionalism? I need your help!

Yep, this is weird.

Sometimes people do have trouble letting go of an old job — and it’s more likely to happen when they haven’t yet started a new job, since there isn’t anything to take the old one’s place. It’s also easier for this to happen in nonprofits, where people often feel a strong sense of connection to the organization and the work feels like more than “just a job.”

In your former manager’s case, it sounds like she’s having trouble fully separating from her old job, and she might be relying on her old work connections for a sense of identity and purpose.

It’s fine for her to stay in touch with you and other colleagues, of course. But stopping by your office multiple times is pretty unusual, and even more so when there’s tension between her and your organization’s leadership. It was especially inappropriate for her to try to draw you into trashing the executive director — you work for the executive director, and it’s not fair of her to put you in that position. The fact that she’s your former boss adds an additional layer of “not cool” to this, because while she no longer has authority over you, she did have it very recently, and she should have known that would make her attempts to dig for dirt especially awkward for you.

Generally when someone leaves an employer, they should remove themselves from the inner workings of the organization and its internal politics. They no longer have standing or authority to be involved in those things, and can get pretty messy if they’re half-in, half-out or otherwise interfering in things that they’re no longer charged with working on.

Your former boss is clearly having trouble making that sort of clean break — whether it’s out of resentment over how she was treated, a longing to remain involved, a lack of something new to take the old job’s place, or something else.

But whatever’s causing it, that’s something she’ll need to deal with on her own; you shouldn’t let it become your problem.

A low-key but effective way to set boundaries with her is simply to make yourself less available. Say hello when she stops by the office, but be busy with work that you need to get back to fairly quickly. If she asks you to lunch again, tell her you’re swamped these days and lunch is hard to schedule but you hope she’s doing well. Continue ignoring those weekend texts until you’re back at work the following week — and even then, feel free to take your time in responding, if you can do that without it affecting real work needs. And when she emails you unsolicited work tips and resources, go right ahead and ignore those. If it feels too rude to ignore them altogether, respond to them only occasionally, and be breezily uninformative when you do. (“Thanks for this! Hope you’re doing well.”)

If she’s put off by this … well, it’s okay if she’s a little put off. You’re not doing anything rude or unprofessional here. You’re just doing your job, and she’s not your boss anymore, so it makes sense that the relationship will change.

That said, assuming you might want to use her as a reference in the future, you should continue being warm and cheerful when you do interact with her. But that means using a genial tone when you greet her, exchanging a few pleasantries, and then fairly quickly getting back to your work — not allowing her to violate your very reasonable and very normal boundaries.

And if you do get the sense that she’s undermining your work with clients or that she’s challenging your allegiance to your executive director, talk to your new boss about that. That’s not tattling or undermining your old manager; that’s looping your new manager into something relevant to your work. Your old manager may be on her way to becoming A Problem for your organization, and if that’s the case, they need to know about it — and should be able to give you guidance on how to navigate her attempts to draw you in. Having that conversation is likely to give you some peace of mind too, because it’s very likely that your organization will have your back in dealing with this — and it’ll help to know that you’re not stuck figuring this out on your own.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 84 comments… read them below }

  1. Lil Fidget*

    I’m not sure you should be counting on this boss as a future reference/mentor, OP. Could you use your current boss for that? As a reference at least, that would be more logical to me – and this woman sounds like she might not be a great mentor. That should help you draw a brighter line as to where your bread is buttered.

    1. Let's Talk About Splett*

      Maybe at her next job, but most people don’t want to tell their current manager they are job searching.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Assuming OP plans to stay at this organization a while longer, I’d probably just treat the exec director as my manager for all future job applications. When she’s applying for her next job, she lists the exec director (if it is necessary to list her current boss at all) with the usual “please do not contact my current manager” caveats. And then for the job after THAT, she continues to list the exec director as her manager from this job, so that future employers don’t have to know the let-go boss ever existed.

        (At least, if OP thinks the let-go boss will provide a bad reference, especially if OP starts enforcing boundaries and ex-boss unfairly associates OP with the negative feelings she has toward her firing)

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          When OP starts drawing necessary boundaries Old Boss might start thinking something like “oh you’re just like them against me…” or some such thing. Especially considering OB was blindsided by her firing. It’s scary how quick some people, rational seeming people, can start to think there’s some grand conspiracy against them when things don’t go as they wish.

      2. k.k*

        And OP is early in her career, she might not have a lot of other professional references to choose from.

    2. Eggman Robotnik*

      Yeah. The prior boss seems so far off from professional norms (and she was effectively fired, really) that I wouldn’t really think of her as a great mentor or a decent reference, really. Do what you need to do for your org, if you feel like you’re doing things to placate her because she’s going to get mad…. well… you may have to let her get mad.

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      Agreed. She may have hired you, but depending on how long you stay with this organization, her supervision for the first less-than-6-months of your job may not even be relevant by the time you move on.

    4. OP*

      This is a really good point, I hadn’t thought about the fact that she might not even be the best choose for future reference. I know she is well-respected and well-known in the field but my experience of her is at odds with that… I plan to be at this job for a while and will work on building other connections I could use as a reference.

      1. Aphrodite*

        I wouldn’t be able to trust her as a reference and certainly not as a mentor given her actions. Trying to get you to trash the new ED is not a good move. Whatever her feelings, she has the responsibility not to drag you into them. That is not something someone should do to anyone let alone someone who worked under her. It strikes me as very unethical and just plain rotten.

        Maybe when she has worked through her anger and has hopefully come out the other side you can ask about her mentoring you. But I wouldn’t do it now.

      2. AKchic*

        Sounds to me like you just want her as a reference because she *is* a well-known name, and not because of any real benefit she brings to you as far as mentorship, since she really isn’t mentoring you or helping you in any other way. She is merely a well-known name in the industry on your resume, and right now, your resume is collecting dust because you have no plans of leaving the company.

        Don’t worry about references right now. Work on establishing healthy boundaries with this woman and ensuring that your company considers you an asset (and they will become great references). Your reputation is what needs to be rock solid and built upon right now.

    5. selena81*

      It sounds to me like ‘bullet dodged’ on working under her.
      I understand that OP might feel ‘a special connection’ to the person that handed her her first job, and possibly some guilt that she gained a job when manager lost her own, but ex-manager doesn’t sound like a particularly good mentor (and not like someone who ‘is going places’ either: so i doubt how much weight her recommendation will even carry).

      Manager’s whole identity appears to be tied to the idea that she is ‘the advocate of her people’ (wether they want it or not!). Someone who digs conflict: either between her people and the authorities or between OP and new director, just so ex-manager can eventually step in as wise old mediator.
      At the end of the day that kind of people is not just irritatingly clingy but also likely to be corrupt (they justify themselves by saying ‘no-one loves group X as much as i’, allowing them to feel morally superior over all those non-loving people checking the books).

      OP sees ‘a desire to help people’, but what i get from the description is much closer to ‘a desire to control people’.

      As to her being part of the community: please believe me as someone who has had her share of social workers pass by my door: you are ALL sanctimonious obnoxious biatches that set rules for me that you yourself rarely follow, you are constantly stressing me out and then tut-tut-ing that i should relax already, and above all my life would be a whole lot better if i could simply have the money in my pocket that is now paid towards your salary.
      In short: don’t bother with all the ‘i am totally in your group’ nonsense. Experience experts are vastly overrated imo. I only care about color/age/gender insofar that it is even more annoying to have a 20-year old kid tell you how to raise a child then it is to get feedback from someone who at least has children of her own.

      Anyway, it is of course also possible that the whole situation is a temporary stres-reaction, and that ex-manager will re-invent herself in a few months.

    1. Aphrodite*

      It is. But that wasn’t Mary’s office. Does anyone know if it was for a preview perhaps?

      1. fposte*

        You mean it’s not right for the newsroom? Wow, your memory is good, and I think you’re right–there’s no entry through to the studio. It’s definitely early-season hair so it could have just been promo shoots that weren’t on the final set, too.

  2. strawberries and raspberries*

    Yeah, the “community advocate” part is really sketch-a-roo, even if she had left in the best of circumstances. The next manager above (if not the executive director) would need to know about that ASAP.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      +1 I found that way odd and potentially problematic as well… especially if she “has issues” with the new director and is comfortable trash-talking them with OP… who knows what she is saying to their clients?

    2. Eggman Robotnik*

      Yup. She’s triangulating, inserting herself into other people’s relationships. To bust that, I’d respond directly to clients when she texts you about them, and not loop her back in. If they want to include her in their decisions, that’s fine, but not your problem.

      OP may want to say something to these clients, like “it’s great that Old Boss wants to help you navigate this, but I need to communicate directly with you and you alone.” I think that as you build relationships with these people and show yourself to be working with them and helpful, they’ll stop seeking her out. But I’d want to discuss this with current boss, ASAP.

      And on that note, is OP sure they’re even seeking her out for advice? Is she approaching them using her org contacts and being unclear about her loss of position? That would be even worse.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This so much.

        This whole situation needs to be handled ASAP. Old Manager doesn’t work there any more–she should not be stopping by the office or doing anything with clients and LW should very definitely not be looping her in on anything. This is almost guaranteed to blow up in Organization’s face.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, this made the hair on the back of my neck stick up. Old Boss clearly has boundary issues, and as OP noted, she had really wrapped her identity and time around her work. That parts ok—not OP’s circus, not OP’s monkeys. But Old Boss trying to remain engaged as if she were still employed at the agency, and then taking on roles/positions where she’s still engaging with the agency when it’s not clear she has client consent is concerning. Old Boss needs to separate from the old job. She’s not at “change your locks!” levels, yet, but she’s close.

        In the meantime, Alison is totally on point. OP, reinforce your boundaries. Be politely distant, and don’t meet up with her for lunch or let her drop by your office (i.e., make yourself mysteriously unavailable). Don’t accept that she’s the client advocate if there’s no proof of consent on file. And consider flagging that she’s been unusually involved and dropping by the office with the higher ups—they’re not going to be pleased to find out she’s sharing confidential information or skulking about when she’s not supposed to.

      3. Lil Fidget*

        This is something OP could very easily take to somebody higher up in the org, and ask them how she should proceed. Given that it involves their ex-boss I would call this Above My Paygrade and not even feel a little bad.

        1. Artemesia*

          So this. I doubt these clients are asking her to be their advocate; she is coopting them and probably implying that the best way for them to get service from the organization is through her. She may even imply she is with the organization. This is a disaster waiting to happen if she is approaching clients (and actually how could it be otherwise — clients are not going to seek out a fired manager and beg her to be their advocate). The Executive director needs to know about this yesterday and how to handle it needs to be kicked upstairs to the ED or other appropriate management.

          And the OP needs to respond directly to clients and ask them to contact her directly; don’t let the former boss insert herself into the mix and essentially reassert herself as your boss.

      4. AKchic*

        That was one of my thoughts too.
        If she is an advocate for these clients – where is the money coming from? Because yes, some clients do have advocates, paid for by grant monies, but I find it very suspect that all of the sudden all of these clients have an advocate now, but seemingly only for LW’s caseload.

        I think it is time to discuss it with upper management, because this doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    3. Kate*

      That struck me too. I understand the OP saying that’s fine with client consent, since some people do find it easier to have someone else advocating on their behalf, but I’d be concerned that clients may not know they do not have to go through the “community advocate”. Considering that she used to work for the organization, clients may still view her as essentially representing the organization and think she is a necessary go-between when in fact she is not. It’s especially concerning given her dislike of the ED and propensity for trying to get the OP to trash talk the ED. I’d have real concerns about what she is relaying to clients.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I wonder if the clients even know she’s no longer a representative of the organization, or if she’s presented herself to them as though she’s either still an employee or an approved volunteer.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        I think that the OP really needs to loop in her ED. The whole situation raises red flags left and right.

    4. OP*

      Thanks everyone for validating what I felt!! In the past week or two it seems to have died down a bit, maybe she is getting the hint. She recently reached out to ask about accessing certain resources (but was completely unclear whether it was for her or a client, which is a no-no and ethically sooooo not okay if it was for her) and I sent an email politely and warmly shutting it down. I also found out that some of my other coworkers are equally as uncomfortable and that this hasn’t just been happening to me!! I am not sure what her role of advocate entails anymore, but I haven’t heard from her about clients in a while so I’m hopeful.

      1. AKchic*

        When she reaches out, is it via personal email or through a new company email? Does she have an official signature line?

        I would be extremely hesitant to allow her to work as an advocate without working for an accredited company to supervise her. Actually, I wouldn’t let her do it at all. She wouldn’t know the client roster without *your* company’s intel, which she got from working there, so unless she is working somewhere else and has a client list from another agency, she is contacting clients based on memory and depending on what your company does, she is violating some major laws.

      2. Mom MD*

        Be polite but not too warm about inappropriate requests. She no longer works there, period. She needs to move on and sounds a bit off balance. Don’t let her drag you into anything.

  3. Minnie*

    OP, this woman is crossing so many boundaries. I was once in a similar situation, and quickly realized that I had to cut ties. Her behavior is toxic, and you should be able to do your job without her presumptuous interference. I would definitely loop your new boss in on this so that your loyalty is not questioned, and also for direction on how to deal with her.

  4. Let's Talk About Splett*

    Maybe you can look to management regarding the visits? A lot of places don’t want employees who were let go coming back, let alone multiple times.

    Also, not that you were going to, but I definitely wouldn’t participate in the trash-talking. Obviously it’s not a good idea for plenty of reasons (it’s unkind) but you don’t know if she is the type to repeat what you said, or worse, repeat what you said and elaborate.

    1. Gyratory Circus*

      The visits really send up red flags for me, too. Every place I’ve ever worked -from a grocery store in college, through a huge corporation – would allow someone who was let go to visit like that, much less multiple times.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yep, it’s a security issue. I’m sure the new ExDir wouldn’t be happy to know a past fired employee is repeatedly coming into the office and what, poking around? In my office, because of workplace violence issues, this would be a big old nope nope.

    2. OP*

      I ended up having to go to the ED as I felt really uncomfortable with one of her visits. I didn’t trash anybody but I just wanted to make her aware. The visit came and went and I basically handled it how Alison suggested, friendly and warm then back to work, but still… so awkward. The ED basically said she can be treated like any client/ non-staff member but that she can’t make the rounds and interrupt everyone… of course she still did but that’s not my fault.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Well done, OP! And now that you’ve told the ED, you’re in solid “not my circus” territory. This sounds stressful, but you’re managing an awkward situation really well.

  5. Glomarization, Esq.*

    I’m concerned about a risk of breach of confidentiality for the organization’s clients, and also for the organization’s business information. Someone who’s no longer an employee is no longer an employee, and they shouldn’t be walking around the office, where they could see information relating to clients, the organization’s finances, or other organizational matters that shouldn’t make its way outside of the building.

    If she hadn’t left the organization in the way she did, I’d suggest that she transition into a formal volunteer type of role — and then further, if the organization doesn’t already do this, I’d suggest that they have volunteers sign NDA-type paperwork. (I’ve drawn these up for organizations where the volunteers may see, for example, client income data, or SSNs, or whatever.)

    1. LQ*

      Yeah the “go-between” for clients should be REALLY concerning. I’d bring that to the ED right away. The difference between an advocate usually and an advocate that the organization fired is huge.

    2. OP*

      I’m being very careful with confidentiality and let her know I would need full consent from any client she worked with. Haven’t gotten any consent so it makes things easier lol.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        It’s not just client information that she shouldn’t be around, though. She shouldn’t be seeing papers, she shouldn’t be hearing rumors or news that hasn’t been made public, all kinds of stuff.

        Example: A couple of years ago, a volunteer with an org I used to work with learned that the org had not been selected for a grant. They mentioned it to someone, who mentioned it to someone, who mentioned it to someone else … and later that week we actually got a phone call from the funder wanting to know why their decision process was being blabbed around the industry, and wondering why we should ever again be invited to apply for one of their grants.

        Your ED needs to shut these visits down, like yesterday.

    1. Rusty*

      Somehow in my office we have developed this into somewhat of a culture. It all started with one person, which set the standard. Now we have 2-3 former employees (some on better terms than others) than come into the office on a semi-regular basis. Very awkward indeed…. I think it is justified by staying in touch with friends, which further muddies the water between coworker/friend.

      1. HS Teacher*

        I’ve been fired twice in my life. I never had a desire to visit either place, although I did remain friends with some of my former coworkers. It makes more sense to set up a lunch and then catch up off-site. I have no desire to go back to one of the places that fired me, and the other one is now out of business.

    2. drove my chevy to the levee*

      Her behavior is bizarre, but she wasn’t fired for misconduct that I can see. Her position was eliminated.

  6. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    This is not normal. It is not typical. It is not healthy or productive for your career or your personal life.
    She is exploiting how you are:
    – new to the work force.
    – vested in the organization and want to be open to people offering help.

    Yes, she was your manager, but if she really cared about the organization, she would volunteer through normal channels. She would donate money if she could. She would continue and strengthen relationships with decision makers in the organization.
    She would not find the newest team member and hard press her into the loyal opposition.
    Take three days to reply to emails and texts. Be civil when she comes in, but no meetings, one on one lunches or coffees.

    1. OP*

      Thank you!!! Honestly I couldn’t tell how much of my frustration was justified but basically every single person who has provided feedback has stated how inappropriate this is. She tried to get everyone in the office to go for lunch and repeatedly suggested going for coffee but I basically just didn’t respond to those parts of her messages and kept the correspondence succinct but kind.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Well done, you. Excellent navigation down Crazy Lake. Stay the course!

  7. Mom MD*

    You can find other references. This person is interfering with your job and I would not go to lunch with her or engage in a personal relationship. I can’t understand why she’s allowed in the office and find it very strange she thinks this is ok. If she shows up I’d head off somewhere and avoid her. She’s not normal and a fired employee is not a good reference anyway.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      And if she uses some information that she got from the LW and it negatively impacts the organization, then LW will be out of a job, too.

    2. OP*

      Yeah you’re right, I tend to be introverted and not good at networking so I try to hold on to any reference I can, but she really hasn’t made that possible.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        She’s done you a favor by showing you how you should not act, and challenging your better judgment. Hopefully your list of things you’ve learned from bad bosses will be shorter than Alison’s, but you definitely have on started.
        I can’t find a link to it, but you should check it out.

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    A friend of mine and I were discussing fired employees recently. I used to work in a restaurant, and I was always amazed when employees, who got fired, would come back and eat or socialize.

    Like, why?

    1. Kheldarson*

      Retail level is a bit different. Usually those are younger adults, so their school buddies are there. It’s not professional (and probably related to why they got fired) but visiting friends at work is a thing.

      This scenario is weird because this isn’t a friend visiting a friend, this is a boss trying to be a boss after getting fired.

      1. Emi.*

        It’s also less weird because restaurants are places the general public is *supposed* to come into.

    2. Bea*

      Coming back to eat is no biggie. Lots of folks also spend their offtime at work in the service industry I’ve learned. My brother refuses to do so, heck he won’t even go back in a friend’s restaurant when he’s worked there and left on good terms. “It tastes like work” is his go to line but everyone else he knows doesn’t seem to feel like that at all and lurk around frequently.

    3. Lindsay J*

      I can’t see how it would be weird for them to come back and eat, unless they left in a really bad way.

      Like, if they cursed out someone they’re going to see there on the floor, that’s one thing. But if they were fired for being bad at their jobs, why shouldn’t they come back to eat there as paying customers?

      I went back to the grocery store that I quit by stopping showing up (they hired me as a cashier, then had me bag, then had me be the janitor. When they changed my schedule without telling me, and then expected me to repair the public toilet in the same week, I decided this was their way of telling me I wasn’t wanted) to shop. It was the closest grocery store to my dorm at the time. I avoided it for like a month or so, but I wasn’t going to avoid going there forever because I had a crappy time working there.

      1. OP*

        Im the same way, I never go back anywhere I quit. Just make a clean exit…. if the connection to people was genuine your relationship should naturally carry on beyond.

  9. Observer*

    There are so many red flags here- enough that it seems like the new ED made the right call, even without the financial issues.

    Please make it completely crystal clear to any client that is working through her that they do NOT have to do so if they choose not to. And that if they started with her, but wish to stop working with her, they ABSOLUTELY can do so. Also, make sure that you have their consent in writing. Perhaps even have them renew that on a regular basis. Not often enough to look like harassment, but often enough that you make sure that they remember that this is a choice that they get to make and re-assess.

    And be very, very careful of what you say. Also, of anything that she could interpret as you agreeing with her trash talking. That could be far more damaging to your career than her getting angry at you.

    Lots of luck with this one. It’s though.

  10. Bea*

    I don’t even want to go back to places I quit let alone was fired from. I keep thinking I’ll visit my old bosses when I’m in town and always end up skipping that and I love those guys. I sent them gifts when I left and I’ll invite them to my wedding one day because that was my promise upon leaving (lol). Coming in and still “advocating” for clients woah that person deserved to be fired and the big bosses need to be aware she’s lurking around still.

    I know being early in a career is terrifying when you think about references but you can’t trust this woman to have your back if she’s so shady. Work on your relationships with your co-workers and whoever your supervisor is now, those are references those will be valuable! A psychopath who embezzled from my old boss hired me for my first job ever, I quickly transitioned to working under the other manager and she taught me everything I needed to move upwards in my career. This lady is bad news bears and needs to be cut out.

  11. MLB*

    In addition to what Alison said, it’s not your job to make sure she doesn’t take your lack of response or your setting boundaries personally or get upset about it. As long as you are civil, you can’t control her emotions. She is crossing many lines and it’s your job to set boundaries. You also need to speak to the director and fill them in on the situation. It’s not tattling, it’s CYA and what the old manager is doing is questionable and could be an issue down the line.

  12. Bea*

    This reminds me of The Weasel who got fired from our Packaging Provider Rep and turned around to find a way to “keep his clients” by some kind of weird dealing. Basically he opened a new company and worked as a third party rep, I fired that idiot as soon as my boss was moved to a facility to be cared for his declining health.

    I wonder if the clients know she’s been fired and no longer truly represents them. Or the sick stories she shared with them about the current director because The Weasel told me how the company just fired him out of nowhere and he’s the best rep ever so why they be so cruel etc. I was young and exhausted with a terminally ill boss who was resistant to change. It felt good to tell him to get out and stay out when the time came.

  13. NW Mossy*

    Oof, OP, that’s rough.

    Definitely stay very measured about what you choose to say to your former boss – it’s good for you, and good for your employer as well. To the extent that your former boss considers/pursues legal action against your employer for the firing (or anything else, really – sometimes fired people get sparked to be litigious about a lot of stuff they might otherwise have left alone), you don’t want to be drawn into that any further than is strictly necessary.

  14. OP*

    Thank you Alison, I trust your advice a lot and it was so validating to read your response. It seems to have died down a bit (after literally 3 months)…. I am still on guard but basically handled it the way you advised, just being polite but distant and vague, and trying not to give her an inch lest she take a mile. In this line of work we need to be attuned to our empathy and I think that’s what has made it difficult for me to nip this in the bud. But after other coworkers shared that they have been experiencing similar from her and are very uncomfortable as well, I am more than resolved to further loosen, if not cut, the ties. Thanks everyone for the comments and validation as well. Glad I am not alone!!!

    1. animaniactoo*

      If you weren’t already at this point, I would have suggested that when she calls you ask her how the job hunt is going and whether she’s gotten any good hits or leads.

      As a very strong message of: “I’m expecting you to be focused on your future not here.”

      But if it’s dying down, and you feel ready to cut ties, I would go with that. If it starts back up, you might want to have it in your pocket as a redirect when she starts trying to ask about clients or anything to do with the org.

    2. Sunshine Brite*

      If she’s in a licensed position like a social worker, she could be committing boundary violations and creating dual relationships. If that’s the case then inquiring about contacting her board would also be appropriate.

    3. Short & Dumpy*

      I wasn’t clear if the new ED is a member of the same cultural community as your old boss but not you.

      I just want to throw out that *IF* the community is a tribal nation, and the new ED is not a member of at least some tribal community, this is likely to play very, very badly in the community and it may very well be that your clients will only trust your former boss to communicate with them. I would recommend watching for signs of this. The organization may have far more work to do then anyone realizes to rebuild trust…often tribal members won’t even hint to outsiders just how little trust there is.

      This wouldn’t change how you interact with your ex-boss, but it would change but it would affect the amount of work you and your organization are going to have to do to on the relationships with your clients even if they don’t actually show any change in their opinion to your face.

      Obviously, if this is a different cultural group this isn’t likely to apply. And there is a huge difference from tribal nation to tribal nation on how they react to things like this. I’ve done a fair bit of both formal and informal tribal consultation in my job, and firing a member of the community just to save money out of the blue would be something most of them would hold against us for years and years.

  15. Where's My Coffee?*

    This person is one bad day away from being a bunny boiler. Cut ties and get a new reference.

    1. Not Who I Think I Am*

      “This person is one bad day away from being a bunny boiler.”

      Stealing this line.

      1. Some pedant*

        I wouldn’t – it doesn’t really make sense here. Bunny boiler is usually used to describe a woman who goes crazy after a break up. Apart from being a pretty sexist term (plays into the “My ex-gf was crazy” trope), it doesn’t make sense in a work context or in any context where someone has a bad day because the catalyst (a break up) is already built into the definition. Maybe “one bad break up” would work.

        But then, it’s still sexist.

      2. Where's My Coffee?*

        It’s also super insulting to people who *can only eat rabbit* and their rich stew-based and non-crazy heritage. I’m checking my privilege right now–I shall eat nothing but braised lapin for the next week.

  16. Cat owner*

    Red flag: When someone literally does something that David Brent did in The Office

  17. Charles*

    Is she really a friend, or just someone you used to – USED TO – work with? She is sucking you into things you don’t need or want to be involved in. Ultimately, your own job is at risk. Cut her off.

    When people leave my place of employment, they might come back and say hello to people they worked with for ten or twenty or more years. They might do this once or twice in the five years following their separation. I’m talking about people who left voluntarily on good terms – they retired, took a new job elsewhere, moved to California or whatever. People who were fired do not come back around. They won’t get past security if they have no business there anyway.

    This person is toxic.

    If your office is a place where anybody can come and go without being challenged, your director needs to tell her it’s time to move on. They might want o initiate some basic security protocols also.

Comments are closed.