the person who had my job before me won’t go away

A reader writes:

How involved should a former employee be in current work? My predecessor, Gaius, had a terrible run in the director position, did a nightmarish job for 20 years, and finally retired two years ago. He neglected his duties, never finished projects, and left a disaster zone (literally, the fire marshall cited the area as a hazard). He emails me regularly with advice and on two occasions has sent very nasty emails to me. I have been nothing but polite and patient with him, although I’m feeling frustrated. My boss and I have talked to him about not interfering, emailed him, and tried to get him to go away. It will work for a few weeks, but Gaius always returns with more advice.

My immediate problem is that he left some boxes labeled for “Gaius to sort.” It has been over a year and he has made minimal progress on sorting. (I suspect most of it is junk–he was a hoarder who collected junk mail and printouts from the internet and called it “special collections.” It is taking up a lot of space. I could definitely deal with this stuff myself and quickly.) Now he wants to sit down and talk to me about my priorities and how I am organizing things. I have no interest in doing this. He’s not helpful in any way. My sense is predecessors should stay out of new people’s business; even a predecessor that was great at the job should only help if asked, and after almost two years should not be involved at all.

What else can I do? Am I wrong? I’m trying my hardest not to let this situation get to me emotionally though I’m not succeeding at the moment; a solution would be welcome but I’m not sure what to try next.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 131 comments… read them below }

  1. AbaxSC*

    I would not give him the opportunity to come in and sort through boxes. Give it all a quick glance, toss, and if he ever asks about it, tell him that the materials have already been sorted. If you let him come back in, he will never go away, and those boxes are never, ever going to be dealt with.

    1. Whatever*

      Agreed. Treat this like a breakup at this point. No contact. Tell him to stop contacting you once and then block his emails.

    2. Butter Makes Things Better*

      Me neither. Also, it’s been long enough that can’t OP just block Gaius’s emails so they don’t have to be seen? The grace period for transitioning to *former* employee has been way too long already.

    3. Artemesia*

      This. If there is a chance that there is something important there, you go through them quickly and toss everything except the occasional acorn. And ignore his emails — or wait a week then send back ‘thanks, I have it under control’ Don’t engage, absolutely don’t meet with him or talk to him on the phone and after a couple of ‘thanks I’ve got it under control’ messages, stop responding at all.

      When he uses the need to sort the boxes as an excuse to come in, it is ‘oh, we took care of that ages ago — we needed the space’

      Why is everyone allowing him to loom so large? If you had a boss insisting he be ‘made to feel helpful’ you’d have a problem; your boss has sense, so both of you need to just shut this guy out in a neutral polite way.

      1. Quickbeam*

        This is exactly what I did in a similar scenario. My predecessor retired but came back, left stuff….I’d even find her sitting at my desk. She had lunch in the company cafeteria for years afterwards. I put all her stuff in a box, gave her several chances to take it… the one year mark I threw it all out.

    4. SomebodyElse*

      Honestly after a year, it’s very unlikely anything in the boxes are needed.

      Yes there could be, but unless he was a director in HR, Finance, Acct, or other group that has regulatory requirements. Chances are it’s junk.

      One of my predecessors left filing cabinets full of papers. I held it for a year (maybe 2) and just pitched the lot of it. I casually glanced through a few things and it seems that he liked to print hard copies of inventory transactions (WHY?!)

      I never thought to myself… damn I should have saved all that stuff.

      I currently have a box sitting in my office that someone sent me when I took over a function that they cleaned out from their cabinet… yeah, it’s still sealed and never opened. I shoved it into a corner and I think it’s going on 5 years now. One of these days I’ll get around to shredding it.

      1. Artemesia*

        I left tons of research data — original copies of questionnaires, transcripts etc as well as analyses when I retired — we were required to keep some of this 5 years. I assume that long ago it hit a dumpster somewhere.

        Someone needs to quickly go through the boxes just in case something of value is there — but quickly. If you find Fergus’s stash of illicit love letters or porn — box that and send it to him and trash everything else. This is probably something that can be over and done with with an hour a day for a week. Then it is done and dusted.

    5. LCH*

      yes , you should sort the box (unless your boss insists otherwise). if there was anything personal of his in the box, you can mail it back to him.

      1. Marie*

        I agree. Block his emails. Sort or discard or the boxes without him or his input. Why this ongoing attempt to make him happy/ comfortable?

    6. KK*

      I agree as well. I’d send them by courier to his house. If you make a plan for him to come in & do the sorting, you’ll never get rid of him.
      And as far as him continuing to contact with advice or WHATEVER, I’d ignore it 100%. You don’t need his input anymore.

    7. Oranges*

      That was the only part about Alison’s advice that I disagreed with. Deal with the boxes yourself. They will become the undead boxes of Gaius. He will treasure them, treasure them I tell you, because it’s proof (to him) that he’s needed.

      1. selena81*

        Yeah, to him these boxes are his last tie to a job he can’t let go off: no way he’ll leave it at quietly going through them in a single afternoon.
        Only way to manage this dude are firm no’s and silence: he will see any polite engagement as proof that those silly kids /do/ need his advise after all.

    8. SunnySideUp*

      He’s been gone for 2 years. What could possibly be necessary or valuable in those boxes?

  2. Delta Delta*

    Boxes: Have the boxes delivered to his house.
    Emails: Ignore.
    Your Priorities: Perfectly organized to your own satisfaction.

    1. Taryn*

      Well, unless there’s sensitive stuff in their, or
      important records. I’d say he should sort through to take out any of the above, and then mail the rest

      1. Vicky Austin*

        OP doesn’t need to open the boxes and go through them. They can just tape the boxes (if they aren’t already taped up) and drop them off at Gaius’s house.
        Also, I love the name Gaius for a pseudonym. Is it supposed to be the male equivalent of Gaia, which means Earth in another language?

        1. Latin name*

          No, Gaius is a traditional Ancient Roman name. Gaia is an Ancient Greek goddess. The languages aren’t even closely related.

          1. Eukomos*

            Eh, they’re reasonably closely related. They’re both Indo-European and developed in close proximity to each other; Greek was spoken extensively in southern Italy during a lot of antiquity. That said, these two names aren’t related, there was originally another u in Gaius (Gauius) that got dropped. It comes from the word for joy, not the word for earth.

            1. Latin name*

              Oh yeah, there’s certainly been exchange over the years, I should have phrased it as they aren’t members of the same family– Romance versus Hellenic.

        2. Marthooh*

          I figured it was an Ides of March reference to Gaius Julius Caesar, who just would not go away and had to be dealt with firmly.

          1. Aquawoman*

            I thought so, too, and well suited for a terrible leader who only caused disasters and clearly thinks too highly of himself.

        3. Lonely Aussie*

          I thought Gaius from “Merlin”, old man whose held the same job for a really long time and who has in that time acquired a vast collection of seemingly random junk.

          1. Nic*

            Same! I’m imagining Richard Wilson in a grubby long-haired wig, wandering around the office muttering to himself about how LW has moved things(!) since he left. Someone who should have retired about ten years before the office actually forced him to.

      2. boop the first*

        That’s what gets me about this whole thing, if they’re boxes of sensitive records, a former employee should be no where near them! What on earth..

    2. CL Cox*

      On the off chance that there might be company papers or pertinent information in them, they should go through them before sending them to Gaius. He’s had plenty of time to go through them, he’s lost any claim to personal properth at this point. They are doing him a favor by sending them to him.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup, he’s had a year to come collect and sort thru these boxes. I’d just do it myself at this point and then when he tries to contact again about the boxes you can say, “oh we did those a while ago because we couldn’t keep using our storage space for them.”

        It’s been two years since he left and a year since you started – it’s fine I think to cut the chord. I would go thru the boxes just in case there are things that need to be kept from a regulatory standpoint. But Gaius doesn’t get to come back and do it – not at this point.

      2. Nic*

        Yup. Sort through the boxes. Anything personal can be reboxed and sent to Gaius’s home address; anything company-related stays and gets filed or binned as appropriate. But at this point, I wouldn’t trust Gaius to not keep stringing the job out.

    3. Clisby*

      No, do not have the boxes delivered to his house. At least, maybe I have the wrong take on this, but it sounds like this is (former) work-related stuff he wants to sort. If I’m right, he doesn’t need to have anything to do with it. LW (or someone) can go through it right now and keep anything that looks important. If this were his own personal stuff, why wouldn’t he have taken it with him when he left?

      1. Tink*

        If he couldn’t do the job when it WAS his job, why think he can do it now? Review and pitch the contents and automatically forward his emails to spam.

        1. selena81*

          ,,If he couldn’t do the job when it WAS his job, why think he can do it now?..

          This. If he was a hoarder on the job than the stress of semi-forced retirement won’t have made him any less of a hoarder (and hoarders tend to be terrible at sorting stuff in important-versus-nonimportant)

  3. kittymommy*

    I’m confused about the boxes, if they are his personal boxes filled with private documents – ship them to him. If not, go through them yourself. (And if they are a mix, still do option 2 just separate his crap out and send it to him.)

    Ignore the emails and/or set a block and junk filter for him.

    1. kms1025*

      sort the boxes yourself…send him anything you dint need for the business…block his email address

    2. Aquawoman*

      My read on this is that he left the boxes there with what he considers to be the Gaius Memorial Library, and wants to meet to discuss the priorities of how to sort and catalog the Gaius Memorial Library. This guy is basically the business equivalent of a stalker at this point. I think the Gift of Fear advice of zero contact applies at this point (to be clear, I don’t think he’s dangerous, just that he will not go away otherwise). While I understand being polite for a while, after (a) too many emails or (b) 3 months or (c) even ONE “nasty” email, I’d have set a rule to send his emails directly to the deleted folder. A year is ridiculous.

  4. RC Rascal*

    I’m wondering what’s in those boxes. I would take a look before handing them over. You can be surprised at what folks store at the office.

    When I was an intern I was directed to sort some boxes in an executive’s office. Turns out that was where he was keeping his porn.

      1. RC Rascal*

        On the off chance there is something illegal or confidential you need to know about it.

  5. SpringIsForPlanting!*

    I sincerely hope one of the tags on that (glorious) stock photo is “This Guy.”

    1. OrigCassandra*

      might need a swear or three between “This” and “Guy,” but otherwise, right on

  6. meggles*

    I dont understand… he retired, so he doesn’t work there anymore. Why are you even engaging, particularly with emails containing random advice?

    1. WorkerBee (Germany)*

      Seconding that. I was scratching my head as to way entertain him at all?? The only thing that would make sense if he was the owner bowing out of “active” work. But since this is not the case, sort the boxes yourself. In case if Personal items, send them to him. Be done with it. Voila

    2. Kes*

      Yeah, and I definitely wouldn’t reply thanking him for the input when you really want him to stop sending the emails. If anything, I would send one email explaining that while you appreciate that he wants to help, as he knows it’s a busy job and you have to make your own way now, so you will not be able to read or reply to his emails. Then ignore his emails, do not engage in any way and maybe even block him if he continues to send them.
      As far as the boxes, I’d be inclined to look through them, take what is relevant, and let him know that he can pick up the rest by x date, otherwise you will dispose of them

    3. selena81*

      i assume it’s just politeness: trying to NOT be the kind of company where people are told that their desk is already cleaned and to hand over their keycard please, but a company that lets people ease into retirement.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    I’m not the boss in my department but I work in actual special collections and the rule is that if he wants this stuff, he has by X date to come get it or it will be discarded (or shipped, if you’re feeling generous). Period. If he thinks it belongs in your organization’s “special collections”, then your organization owns the material and, well, he no longer works there and does not get to make that call, and y’all are free to dispose of it as you see fit. But get that opinion in writing in case he’s such a horse’s patoot that you need to document it later.

    (Do peek in the boxes first to ascertain that it really is junk, but then tell him it’s time to move it or lose it–you are not free storage space.)

    Then have your boss tell him in no uncertain terms that his job there is over and he’s going to move on.

      1. Mama Bear*

        Agreed on both. After this long, there is nothing high-priority there. My guess is that the guy has no motivation to sort in part because that keeps his fingers in his old desk and OP needs him to move on. His sorting time is over. If you think that there’s something of value to the company, either quickly sort it yourself or get an intern to file/sort and shred the rest.

  8. Kettricken Farseer*

    Go through the boxes yourself. He is likely leaving them there so he has a ‘reason’ for hanging on. Then let him know that he no longer needs to go through them, cutting him off from this tenuous link he still has to the job. Meet with your boss and both agree to send one last email telling him while your thankful for past advice, you no longer need his input. Then block him

  9. HRArwy*

    You’re being a lot nicer than I would be.

    In the past I’ve dealt with situations like this by telling the former employee that I will not be reading or responding to any additional communication and that it would be deleted without review.

    In this instance, I would go through the boxes and determined if there was anything that belong to the company or was company related and remove and then send the rest to him with a formal letter. If he continues, speak with your Legal Department and have a cease letter sent to him.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I am in complete agreement. All this is bananapants.

      HE NO LONGER WORKS THERE. It’s not like he even did a good job; why is the company still indulging him?!?!

      Your boss is going to have to cut this guy off completely. I’d send his emails to the spam folder or just block them. As for the boxes, unless they’re full of personal stuff, they are no longer his problem. If they are, ship them to him and be done with it. If not, sort them yourself and trash them.

      1. Threeve*

        Right–this guy did a terrible job, which means his assistance would be worthless even if it wasn’t also unwelcome!

    2. Salty*

      Barring other circumstances, like facing severe pressure and/or directives from higher-ups to continue to engage with Gaius, OP isn’t being nice, he/she’s being a doormat. If someone presented me with this set of circumstances, I wouldn’t write a letter from Legal, I would direct them and their supervisor to not engage with Gaius anymore and simply away any further correspondence from him.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        IIRC, in the original post the LW indicated in comments that he was emeritus faculty, which probably explains at least part of it. Emeritus faculty can still be quite involved and have a lot of clout even once they’ve “retired,” and expressly ignoring them could have political ramifications.

        1. selena81*

          afaik these things are tied together though: if he has just been sitting at home than he won’t have much power anymore, especially if everyone was happy to see him go, but if he has remained active with volunteering and such (always room for an old professor helping students with their assignments) than a lot of people will listen to him.

    3. 40 Years in the Hole*

      …and a copy of the lyrics to “Let It Go….”
      I wonder of the value/currency of any company docs/files in the boxes, after two years? Worth a quick look-see for proprietary stuff (ie would he be able to use anything for his own gain based on your company’s business?), then ship remainder to his house (get a proof of receipt signature) – call it a business expense. And “spam filter” his emails.

  10. LH Holdings*

    I wonder why Alison didn’t tell the LW to just block their emails. Responding in any way just feeds the beast and you want to avoid that. The boxes are a way to hold onto the workplace. After 2 years, go through yourself, mail him anything personal and dispose of the rest as you see fit.

    1. Name Required*

      I’m wondering if the former employee has any connection with donors, stakeholders, board members, etc. After 20 years with the org, I imagine they are deeply enmeshed with people who do matter. Now, if all of those people agree that Ex Employee is a PITA, feel free to disengage. But if a cursory response garners some good will that allows the current director to get their own objectives accomplished, then hey, it seems like a small investment.

  11. Heidi*

    Yikes. “How involved should a former employee be in current work?” That’s like asking how much your loathsome ex should be involved in planning your wedding to a different person. The answer being zero. The OP might be searching for a way to handle this without being mean, but Gaius probably sees this as the OP being easy to push around. Clean out the boxes, OP. Gaius can’t do anything to you – he doesn’t work there!

    1. Vicky Austin*

      I was thinking the same thing, that he’s like a stalker-ish ex-partner who can’t let go of the relationship and keeps calling his ex.

  12. JerryLarryTerryGarry*

    Wasn’t there an update on this? Was this a nonprofit situation where the board was really into her predecessor, or am I mixing up situations?

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I don’t know if this is that situation, but the only reason I could come up with for why this guy is being tolerated is that maybe it’s a small industry or a small community, and everybody knows that’s just crazy ole lovable Gaius, and OP doesn’t want to alienate his fans? That’s all I can come up with.

      1. Artemesia*

        Which is why you do the neutral brush off rather than cold turkey block. Don’t feed the beast by engaging just bland ‘thanks I’ve got it covered.’ And why you sort the boxes this week and discard everything that isn’t his personal stuff or important to the office’ Then all attempts to engage over the boxes are met with ‘oh we needed the space, those are long gone.’

    2. Nuts and Bolts*

      The OP responded in the comments of the original post. Gaius had emeritus status which was complicating things a bit.

  13. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Gaius is like the boyfriend you broke up with but acts like you’re still involved, hoping you’re too nice to be extremely direct with him. Maybe you can give him one last, ‘No, and I’m not responding from now on’ message, but after that I wouldn’t even acknowledge his ‘helpful’ emails. Each response tells him, ‘Aha, she’s still talking to me! She wouldn’t do that if she didn’t need me!’ Or other words to that effect. It won’t happen overnight, but he’ll eventually lose interest. It’s no fun for him if you don’t play along.

    Same goes for the boxes for ‘Gaius to Sort.’ Those boxes are unfinished business that (he thinks) anchors him to his former employer, and there is no reason for you to participate in this charade. You and/or your boss can sift through the boxes, taking out anything that looks personal to Gaius or irrelevant. Have it sent to him with a note saying, ‘This is for you, we handled the rest. The matter is closed, all the best, go away, and we’re not responding to you ever again,’ or words to that effect. If Gaius hasn’t missed anything in those boxes by now, he likely never will.

    1. Vicky Austin*

      It reminds me of the time that my friend’s ex kept giving him unsolicited advice on his new relationship. Totally inappropriate.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I had one of those, too, and yes. It’s inappropriate and creepy, and proved yet again your friend was right to break up with this person.

  14. hbc*

    For the box sorting and prioritizing, I’d be tempted to tell him that you legally can’t let him come in and do work for free, and there’s no room in the budget for a consultant. Just repeated “Sorry, I don’t want to run the risk.” For other stuff, I think the bland, delayed, unrewarding response is the way to go. “I’ll think about it, but I’ve got more pressing things on my plate at the moment. I’ll be in touch if I have questions.” And then never, ever follow up with questions.

    I do wonder what the potential fallout is if you just blocked his emails or kept them in a Nags From Gaius folder. Your boss doesn’t think you need to listen to him, so why is he getting a bit of attention?

    1. Artemesia*

      Emeritus faculty have ‘rights’ to be there indefinitely — they are lucky he doesn’t have an office. So yes — polite, neutral, but don’t feed the beast. And go through the box and pull office stuff out and ship him the rest.

  15. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    2 years? He retired 2 years ago?

    Block him, do not engage, give those boxes a quick skim and discard. (Boxes? What boxes?) The end.

    And be sure to thank your lucky stars that your boss has your back on this.

    1. boop the first*

      I feel like after two years, OP must have plenty of social currency to spend on just finishing up on the boxes, say nothing, and if it ever comes up (it wont) just say, “Yeah, it was becoming a problem, so I fixed it.”
      I think we all have these moments at work.

  16. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m laughing that he’s been gone for 2 years and still has it penciled in to go sort through a bunch of most likely worthless boxes.

    I recently had to clean out age old crap from a former employee and I sure found some treasures of “Who even prints this crap?”. Just go through it and sort it yourself. Then you can send him the boxes of junk if you feel like it but I wouldn’t even go that far.

    He’s a former employee, he doesn’t have any reason to be giving you advice that you’re not asking for. I’d ignore him and even go so far as to block him personally.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I sure found some treasures of “Who even prints this crap?”. Just go through it and sort it yourself.

      We let an employee go approximately three years ago. The day before she had emailed me a simple yes/no question. (Think “Did you remember to put the new cover sheet on the TPS report?”) I emailed her back that I had. When we cleaned out her office, we discovered that she had printed out my response not once, not twice, but three times. In a single afternoon. When she could have just asked me instead of emailing me, because our desks were only 12 feet apart.

      Some people just like to print, I guess.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yes, this was a person that the boss had known as an outlier for awhile and left when he came on board as the big-boss. So he was well aware of her habits. She used to print absolutely everything off and store it in binders for years to come. I found out some weird stuff about how different things were just 8 years ago. Sounds like nobody here knew what technology was or how it worked, lmao.

        1. starsaphire*

          I had a wackypants ex-friend who was like this, but with personal emails. She would print out ALL of our emails and put them in binders and highlight all the “contradictions” and save them as ammunition for later arguments. Total low-stakes stuff, too. It was exhausting, and we eventually had to break off all contact.

          I wonder why people feel the need to print this stuff out. Like, is someone going to publish them in 100 years, a la Letters from Groucho, but call it Internet Jokes Collected by Fergus?

          1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            In some way I could see this actually being quite interesting, if you’re into the history of technology. People don’t curate stuff in the same way anymore.

          2. whingedrinking*

            Where do these people find the time, still less the energy, for this kind of thing?

      2. Asenath*

        We had an admin who was extremely reluctant to make any decision on her own. For years, she was providing admin support to someone who didn’t want to be bothered with paperwork, and expected her to handle everything except absolute emergencies. So she printed out EVERYTHING and left it for his review, which never took place. She included ancient phone messages, brochures for conferences that had taken place years ago, advertising for services more or related to the function of the office, also outdated, and so on. At least once she left, she showed absolutely no interest in all those papers. I’d bet any money this guy’s boxes contain similarly irrelevant stuff, and a hard date in the near future for pickup or sorting, followed by OP sorting and discarding is all that is needed.

  17. Emmie*

    I would not allow him an opportunity to go through the boxes first. He has no current employment relationship with the organization. You, and your current staff are best suited to determine whether an item in these boxes are pertinent to your operations today. He cannot do that. I recommend you deal with these yourself.
    I agree with others. You are being very friendly to an over-aggressive person. I recommend either you, or your boss compose an email to him about his ongoing suggestions. You can be nice (thanking him for his service), but firm in his ongoing communications.

  18. Holy Moley*

    Could be he left the boxes there on purpose in order to have an anchor or reason to come back. Unless he worked on things of a sensitive nature, Id go through them and shred everything. I wouldn’t even extend the courtesy to pick things up unless there are personal documents in there because who knows when he will get them. Does he intend to go through the boxes at your place of work?

    The office I inherited six months ago was full of junk that was pointless. A nearby coworker who I know is a hoarder was upset that I was throwing things out but I told her its my job and my area. I think you have been more than kind but its time for everyone to move on.

    1. Annie Nymous*

      Yup! This! It’s a foot in the door, just like his recurring (unhelpful, unsolicited) emails.

  19. gsa*

    I would definitely short the box myself.

    If I decided to get rid of the contents of the box they would go in the shredder.

  20. WellRed*

    I think Gaius boxes are the office equivalent of “accidentally” leaving your scarf at an ex’s house. Stop letting him take up so much space, physical or mental.

    1. Vicky Austin*

      That reminds of the time I had recently started dating someone, and left his wallet in my room. My friends were all, “Ooh, he just wants an excuse to see you again!” But it turned out it really was an accident!

  21. Jedi Squirrel*

    Alison is being very diplomatic. My response after two years of this would be a simple “Eff off, Gaius.”

    Is is possible that Gaius just doesn’t have anything else to do? Can boss or grandboss suggest a local charity that could make use of his exceptional organizational and leadership skills? He really sounds like he is not handling retirement well.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        I hadn’t thought of it that way, lol.

        But it’s possible he was terrible at his job because this was the wrong job for him. And nobody knew how to let him go and he didn’t know (and still doesn’t know) how to move on.

        Sometimes personality quirks are situational, and you’ll only see them in Situation A, but never in Situation B. It could be that he could be a real asset to some other organization.

    1. Fikly*

      That would work if he had those skills. It doesn’t sound like he was handling working life well either.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      He certainly does probably need something to keep him busy. But nothing he’s in charge of! He can volunteer at a soup kitchen or something like that without causing much of a ruckus.

  22. Karo*

    I think this is all great advice if you need to maintain a good relationship with the man. If you don’t…I’d go the route of “We have it covered, thanks, also FYI the boxes will be outside the building on Wednesday and if you don’t get them we’re going to toss them,” and then block him.

    TBH, I’d genuinely be tempted to respond to his unsolicited advice with “Under your leadership, the department became a literal hazard. I’m good.”

    1. Vicky Austin*

      I like the idea of leaving them outside the building (or in the lobby) even better.

  23. Sunflower*

    If he or your company hasn’t missed/needed anything in those boxes in two years, give him a deadline to pick them up or else you’d throw them away.

    I would be pissed if a former employee orders me to sit down with him to discuss my job. That’s the boss’s job and none of his freakin business! His unsolicited advise is probably also outdated!

    Give him one more warning that he is not to interfere and block or delete future emails with his name.

    Since this is a letter from the “archives,” I hope the OP is still active on this board and give an update.

  24. From one who recently dumped files from 10 years ago*

    In the movie About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson, his character retired and left behind boxes and boxes of files for his successor. Jack’s character was walking by the office soon thereafter (don’t remember why though) and happened to look in the alley. There were his boxes by the dumpster, unopened.

  25. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Stop engaging him. Period. If he stops by, call security (or the cops of he’s trespassing). There’s no need to continue being polite.

  26. Bopper*

    Gaius no longer works for the company. Treat him as you would any other random person who had input from you. If you don’t want to block his email at this point, then make a filter that has his emails go into a special folder and then check that folder as you wish.

    These boxes and the contents belong to the company as they were at work. See if there is anything that looks like it has to do with work. See if that stuff looks like it needs to be archived. Pitch the rest.

    At this point I would send him one last email like:

    “Gaius: thanks you for all your work over the last 20 years. However, as you are no longer an employee, we kindly request that you stop contacting employees through emails or calls. We will be going through the boxes you noted and will return any personal items to you.”

  27. aepyornis*

    While I agree that the very occasional “thanks for your input” is all that is needed (and even generous here), I quite often find myself using this sentence, passed on by my father, when dealing with difficult members of the public (and occasionally board members) with strong opinions on things they have limited expertise in, or proper context for: “I take due note of your feedback on/disagreement with/opinion on/disappointment with the way we “. Much to my initial surprise, people tend to feel heard and do not pursue the matter further. And that includes people (ok, one person) who dedicated a full rage-filled blog post to a minor typo in a newsletter, in addition to an equally rage-filled email.

  28. JustLetItGoBro*

    Is there a way to set up an autoreply to a specific email address? If so, I’d be tempted to set up one that says “thanks for the input” while simultaneously filtering the email to the trash folder. If all he gets back is the exact same response every. single. time. he might get the hint. Either way, he’s no longer on your radar.

    1. OP*

      That would have a good idea! My strategy of only applying to some emails after delays got the job done as well.


    Unless your job requires maintaining certain records for legal/compliance reasons, just toss the boxes. If he didn’t do anything about them in 2 years, the last thing you need is him coming in going through them. If he asks, say it was taken care of.

  30. OP*

    OP here! Cool to see this posted again. I’m really happy to report that the situation improved dramatically. Because of his relationships with donors and other VIPs, I couldn’t ignore him. I did however begin stating a stock response of “Thanks, I’ll take that under consideration” that I sent to some of the emails –but a week after receiving them so he was trained not to expect a response. That more or less kept him happy, and time took care of the rest. All of Gaius’s personal stuff has been…removed. I had an intern go through some of it and we found so much personal mail. We shredded bank statements. I still get the occasional bizarre email from him to this day. He eventually learned to tell people to be in touch with me rather than answering questions himself.

  31. MissDisplaced*

    Personally, I would send Gaius a message to pick ip his boxes of Special Collections by X-Time or they will be thrown away. You will leave said boxes at the entrance until X-Day to get at his convenience.

    You are under no obligation to talk to him.
    My guess is Gaius will never come for his collection. Honestly, this is such a passive-aggressive controlling behavior. Homey don’t play that game.

  32. Angela*

    Agree with everything that above, and I’m not entirely clear why you wouldn’t just deflect, ignore and move on. Unless Gaius remains an important stakeholder even while retired and you want to keep him on side (eg if he speaks to the press). In which case, I would schedule some kind regular update/catchup call or meeting with him, and consider it the price of keeping him quiet. Doesn’t have to be you that does the actual call or meeting.

  33. Felix*

    I do not agree with any of the advice. Why would she have to reply to any of his emails? And…that nicely? He no longer works there!
    Second, look through the boxes then ship them to his house, why let him come to the office? He. No. Longer. Works. There!

  34. Maureen*

    This to me is so wildly inappropriate that your company is still letting him have items in the office and meddle into your business. I had an unfortunate situation where the person in my role before me was extremely disgruntled and was constantly sending emails and calling my boss asking about me and my abilities. My final straw was when she showed up to the property and demanded that I bad mouthed her to a client I had never spoken to. It was extremely aggressive and threatening and my company unfortunately took an “oh well that’s just how she is” attitude. I ended up leaving the company because I could no longer deal with her behavior or my company’s lack of concern. Don’t let this happen to you!

  35. Workfromhome*

    In this case even if he may have some connections somehow still at the organization the approach seems too soft.

    The boxes to me are easy. Gaius WAS the director. He’s not the director anymore the OP is. As the director the OP should sort the boxes. They do need to be opened by the Director in case there is anything sensitive. If after a cursory check there is nothing sensitive the OP can hand this task off to someone else. If there are any personal items of consequence have them shipped to Gaius. No need for him ever to set foot in the office.

    As for the emails its been 2 years. If it were only a few months then maybe one “thanks ive got this email” would be warranted but after two years no. Especially since Gaius has sent the OP nasty emails. There is no need to respond to someone (who for all intents and purposes has no connection to the Organization anymore they are not a client or supplier)
    Just to be safe I’d probably highlight these nasty emails to boss and say “I don’t see the benefit of engaging with this person. I’m not going to be replying to emails from this person anymore. Just giving you the heads up.” Then if Gaius decides to complain to your boss he’ll have the context and have to deal with it.
    No last emails. Its been two years so there is 0 chance that he’s providing anything useful. The OP doesn’t appear to have to have reached out to Gaius (hey where are the keys etc) in a long time. So while you may have to read the emails (at least enough to ensure that the content is not meaningful) you should be able to just delete it after reading the first couple lines knowing its advice you don’t want.

  36. boop the first*

    Wait, what? Why schedule him in to sort boxes? What are these boxes? If they’re personal property, send them away. If they’re not his property, sort them and forbid him from touching them because they don’t belong to him! I’m a little baffled, honestly. Is this a weird retirement thing? Do retirees have rights to permanent access to their workplace and its property? Is it a director thing? Why do regular workers have to forfeit their coded programs and sometimes, their personal-paid office supplies, but this guy gets to claim boxes of what… files? Records? Proprietary info? What’s in the box??

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