my abusive former boss is still contacting me to berate me, months after I left

A reader writes:

A few months ago, I finally left a job where my boss was abusive, thanks in great part to the advice you shared on your website. My new job is incredible, with just the most amazing and supportive manager and team. I was with my old job for a decade in various roles, and it was my first professional experience, including my internship experience from college.

In my old role, my boss’s abuse got so bad that in the last couple years, the stress of the job physically impacted me and severely impacted my health. Very few of my former coworkers know and understand how much I was abused by my boss and the impossible situations he put me in. (I’m talking about things like yelling, demeaning and insulting me and others for things well outside our control, being berated for not taking my job seriously if I wanted one weekend off after working 12+ hour days six days a week for three months), and much more.)

Looking back, there are a couple of others who were also abused by my boss and there were times that I enabled that abuse while trying to protect myself from it. It’s not an excuse, and I wish I knew better that it was wrong so I could have stood up for others and myself. With that being said, because of my position and tenure with the organization, I unfortunately suffered the worst of it for the longest period of time.

When I announced that I was leaving, my former boss was angry at me and blamed me for a stress-related sickness he got a day or two after I gave notice, and was out for my last two weeks. Before leaving, I tied up as many loose ends as I could and handed over all my files and account passwords.

Over the last couple months, I’ve heard very little from anyone at my former job, and I’ve started to heal and move forward. This week, my former boss reached out with a long, angry email blaming me for a formula error in a spreadsheet that messed up some projections by 15-20%. While I admit that I made the mistake, there should have been verification of the numbers before he made decisions based off of them close to six months after the projections were made. Regardless, after responding to his message confirming that there was an error in the calculation and identifying some places he could look at that may allow for adjustments to fill the gap (especially with major operational changes due to COVID!), he sent back a scathing email doing nothing but blame me for all of the future issues this would have.

I am trying so hard to not let this impact me, but my anxiety is flaring up in a way that it hasn’t since I left my old job. I’m working with my therapist on that, but I’m wondering if you could help me figure out how to respond and get the abuse to stop. I worry about burning a bridge, because this job was a formidable part of my work experience. I know that once I get further away from it, that will matter less, but I don’t want to burn the bridge for references for at least another few years. With that in mind, I don’t want to continue to be dragged down by this one horrible abuser. I just want to move forward.

Block him.

Is there any reason to think he’s going to give you a good reference anyway? He sounds horrible, and if he regularly berated you, there’s no reason to think he’ll provide a glowing reference that you need to protect. But even if he would give you a good reference, if the price is that you need to accept his abuse months after you left the job, and stay mired in his toxicity even though you’re long gone … it’s not worth the price.

Offer up other references from that job if you can. If a reference checker ever asks specifically about speaking to him, you can say, “He took it very badly when I resigned and has sent me angry emails since then, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable using him as a reference. But I’d be happy to put you in touch with others who worked with me in that job.”

If you happen to have copies of good performance reviews he gave you, sometimes it can be helpful to offer those as well (to help make it clear you’re not hiding something).

Some things for you to know:

* It is not reasonable for any employer to contact a former employee to berate them for a mistake. You don’t work there anymore! If they find a mistake you made, they need to deal with that on their own. It’s incredibly weird for your boss to think he can still send you a tirade about it. You don’t work for him anymore! He has zero standing to take you to task for anything.

* You did not owe him a reply to that message at all. You certainly didn’t owe him the help you provided. It would have been fine to either ignore him or respond with something like, “Since this is from six months ago, I’m no longer steeped in the details I’d need to dig into it — sorry I can’t help!” or “I’m not able to help dig into this because of my new job, but I wish the best to you and the team.”

* You are not obligated to respond to abusive messages from anyone, even a former boss.

Abusive work environments tend to warp the norms of the people who work in them, which makes people more likely to accept or excuse the abuse. It can be really hard to separate yourself from that once you leave. I think that’s playing out here, because your reaction to his email berating you wasn’t “what a loon to think he can still send me this kind of thing!” but rather a scramble to respond. There’s real liberation in seeing that you can just close the door on him entirely — block his emails, don’t respond to calls, and free yourself from caring about burning the bridge.

He burned the bridge with the way he treated you while he worked there, and certainly with this wildly inappropriate email now. All you have to do is seeing that it’s burning and calmly step out of the way.

{ 304 comments… read them below }

  1. Vina*

    He sounds like he’s got issues with anger, boundaries, and narcissism. People like this cannot have rational back-and-forth responses. They can’t.

    He’s not looking for your to fix this or for you to provide information for him on how to improve things. He wants you to be his emotional punching bag and sin eater. He wants you to HURT and feel guilty so he can feel justified and angry and “the victim” here. He wants to harm you for his own comfort.

    There’s no approach you can take on this except the one Allison suggested. None.

    I would also caution to document, document, document. Save the emails. If he tries to email you from someone else’s account or makes any threats, you may need proof to get him to stop.

    If he continues, you may have to respond directly to someone above him at the company and tell them he’s went over the line from reasonable follow-up to harassment. Tell them that if he doesn’t stop, you will be speaking to a lawyer. You don’t have to actually talk to one. But making noises about it will often tell you if people are serious about fixing an issue or if they are going to let things deteriorate.

    1. Vina*

      Oh, and I’m so sorry you have went through this.

      I hope it is over soon and you can heal.

      1. icky chu*

        Have you ever spoken to HR about him? Did you have an exit interview? I would forward his emails, both the one where you resigned and the current conversation to HR indicating these are inappropriate and at this point harrasment. He should be admonished by the company, if jot fired.

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP, you don’t need his reference. You are in a good job that you enjoy. They will be your references going forward. As for blocking your old boss, do it on all channel now: email (personal and business), phone, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Don’t just block on email, since these types of people will often look for other ways to shower you with their anger.

      1. Vina*

        I think “don’t block email” is probably good advice. What to do instead?

        She should create a “rule” to send his emails to a folder she never reads. Then she has evidence of his anger if she needs it, but she doesn’t have to see it. He thinks she’s receiving and reading.

        Most email programs make it easy to do this.

        If she’s worried about what he’s writing, she can ask someone else who has her back to read them and tell her there’s nothing she needs to respond to.

        1. Vina*

          PS this is advice that some attorneys give to Domestic Violence victims and victims of hate crimes. It allows you to preserve evidence without having the client deal with the trauma of reading the emails. It also allows the angry jerk to think they are getting through/getting what they want so they don’t escalate.

          Just food for thought, LW. You have to do what seems best.

          1. lost academic*

            At this point I think it would be fair and righteously vindictive to both automatically archive said emails and forward them to his superiors.

            1. Vina*

              That’s what I would be tempted to do. However, if they aren’t already seeing the type of man he is and doing something about it, I’m not sure “more evidence” will solve the issue.

            2. xina*

              While cc:ing a local law office. I have a friend who is a lawyer, and I have discovered that simply cc’ing the law office on emails can suddenly take care of a TON of issues.

              1. pancakes*

                I don’t think that’s a good idea at all. For starters, in a small town or city—or even a big one for that matter—the firm could have a lawyer/client relationship with the other side, in which case they’d be conflicted out of representing you, and you’d look very foolish at a moment when you’re trying hard not to. (By “conflicted out” I mean that a firm has to check for conflicts of interest before taking you on as a client; having ties to the other side would be a huge conflict). Pretending to have a lawyer/client relationship when you don’t in fact have a lawyer/client relationship is a dodgy thing to do and isn’t necessary to resolve a dispute or handle it well.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  Xina is not recommending copying to a random law firm. She says she copies to a friend’s law firm.

                2. pancakes*

                  Yes, I know. I still think it’s dodgy, unnecessary, and could backfire in a number of ways. Hollow or vague threats to involve a lawyer tend to be transparent to people who’ve had more experience with actual threats.

      2. Filosofickle*

        A man I rejected after a 3 dates sent me a series of irate emails about, shall we say, my character and women in general. I blocked him, so he created dummy email accounts to continue yelling at me. The email addresses were vaguely threatening, like 72ways, so show he’d keep doing it. He lost steam after a couple days, but it was unpleasant.

        Sending his emails to a black hole would have been better.

        1. Vina*

          Oh god, I’m so sorry.

          He seems like a prime candidate for the nice guys reddit.

          I really don’t understand how men can think being angry at women is going to make us want to date them. Or think it’s an appropriate response to rejection.

    3. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

      Sounds to me like OldBoss doesn’t just have issues. Sounds like he’s got the whole d*mn subscription.

      1. Vina*

        I’d laugh at the clever word-smithing, but it’s too depressing to contemplate that we still, in 2020, allow men like this to continue in positions of authority.

        1. Elizabeth Jennings*

          My boss two jobs ago was a woman and she was just as bad. It’s like once you get into a position of power at a company, you are immune.

        2. Needcoffee*

          Yes, women can be just as bad. I work in a predominantly female field. There was an incredible amount of toxic garbage that went on in one place. Yelling in people’s faces, cursing at people in front of the rest of the staff, blocking their way from leaving an office. Over a decade later they’re still playing stupid games, but it’s more subtle than this.

          I still see 2-3 of the worst offenders at professional events like conferences and other meetings. At this point, they’re just making themselves look bad. But it is uncomfortable and awkward for me, as I hate conflict, plus it revives the hurt of being the target of that.

          One made a snide remark on a video chat recently. I handled it with some humor and she made herself look stupid. She’s retiring, so I’m hoping she’ll find better things to do with her time.

          I will say, though, it confirms I was right to leave that toxic dumpster fire.

    4. 653-CXK*

      ^ Couldn’t have said this any better.

      I have had the good fortune of not having absolutely full-tilt abusive bosses – but this one not only needs to be blocked, your former company desperately needs to know that he’s still reaching out and abusing you, and you will consult a lawyer and/or get a restraining order if this contact continues.

      1. 653-CXK*

        Heh, Destroyer of Worlds, my “^” response was for Vina, but yours fits just as well!

        1. Vina*

          The question is whether it’s actionable harassment. That varies greatly.

          Many horrible, abusive behaviors have no remedy under the law.

          However, most companies would not want the PR nightmare and will shut this down.

          If there is something the boss really needs, it should come through someone who is calm, rational, and not a selfish jerk.

        2. JSPA*

          The US doesn’t have a law against harassment (per se) in work settings; many of the (few) harassment laws we do have are specific to romantic-relationship-based or gender-based abuse. Two blame-y / mean emails focusing on one’s professional skills are not going to rise to any legal standard of harassment; certainly not if OP chooses not to exercise the right to tell Boss never to make contact again.

          Honestly, this is about “how do I get to the point of not caring,” and the two part strategy is a) get confirmation that this is bad boss behavior (it is!) and work with a therapist to not care anymore (OP is doing that).

          Harassment would come into play if someone were calling at all hours of the night, driving by, making vague threats, sending porn subscriptions in your name to your neighbors, sending you halloween masks of a gore covered pig’s head plus live cockroaches (examples taken from the Ebay harassment trial, well worth the read).

    5. Letter Writer*

      “ He wants you to be his emotional punching bag and sin eater. He wants you to HURT and feel guilty so he can feel justified and angry and “the victim” here. He wants to harm you for his own comfort.”

      Vina, thank you. I have become such a fixer and a people pleaser, in part because of this job. You’re right that I can’t do anything to fix this, and the only thing his email could have tried to accomplish was to hurt me. It must sound so obvious to an outsider, but that’s honestly a break through for me. Thank you.

      1. Vina*

        I’m glad that I – and the community here – can help.

        I’ve worked with enough child abuse, DV, and sexual assault victims to know that a lot of behavior by abusers is about emotional hurt and power not whatever discrete thing the abuser claims it’s about.

        When someone’s behavior doesn’t seem rational, I try and shift perspective and see if there’s an emotional need or similar reason driving the behavior. Here, there’s no logical reason for what he’s done. So it has to be emotional and the most likely emotional reason is what I’ve stated. I can’t see anything other than desire to harm.

        People who have been hurt severely or are emotionally stunted or emotionally damaged often view the world through a lens that means they have a need to hurt people. I have no idea how can be fixed. Or even if hecan. I hope so, but I’m not a therapist. Nevertheless, it’s not your job to fix him. It’s his – with a professional.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Yes OP, don’t try to fix him. That could only be done by him cooperating and working with a therapist. Ignore him, he’s not your problem anymore!

      2. Vina*

        I wrote another reply that’s in the mod filter. I wanted to add that we all need outside, objective opinions on our situations sometimes. I know a lot of “Very Smart People ™” that can see all the issues in the world when it’s someone else, but can’t see the abuse and other bad behavior when they are involved.

        I know more than one abuse counselor who have themselves gotten into relationships where their partner “lobster-boiled” them to where they didn’t see the behavior as abuse, only dis function. These are people who are trained to help others avoid abuse or get out of it. But they still didn’t see it.

        Need the help of Allison and her commentariat isn’t weakness or inability. It’s the opposite. Most people don’t know when they can’t see clearly. The fact that you can speaks very loudly in your favor.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Thank you. I have always taken pride in my work and my independence, but I am so thankful to have a community of support behind me – even if I have never met any of you. I’m going to keep learning and trying to grow, and I am so thankful to have such a wonderful community of people with advice and grace to help me move forward.

      3. MassMatt*

        So sorry this happened to you, LW, and early in your career too. Continue working with your therapist, it sounds like the boss was truly awful and it’s natural to have your sense of normal warped by it.

        I wouldn’t worry too much about the reference, the place you’re working now sounds like it’d be a dood source for you moving forward, and you can always try using someone other than the boss for that job—a colleague or grandboss, maybe? In any case, the more time passes the less important that job will be on your resume.

        Good luck!

        1. Letter Writer*

          Very true. I guess I don’t need to preserve this relationship with this person to retain a good relationship with the organization or former colleagues. And even if my former relationships there are dead, I have already gotten out and into something much healthier.

      4. Altair*

        From one abuse survivor to another, please be gentle with yourself. Working for this boss was evidently an awful experience and it takes awhile to recover from this kind of thing. Don’t worry about how ‘obvious’ it might seem — the pattern is evident to those with the knowledge and wisdom to see it, such as Vina, but it’s much harder to see from inside.

        *hugs* from a small soft woman, if you would like.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Thank you, and thank you for the virtual hug. It’s so hard to talk about things like this, both from a preserve the relationship/protect the former company (even though I’m realizing I shouldn’t feel any emotional tie to protect what hurt me) and also while not wanting pity, or a bigger/public fight, or a reputation for being a whistleblower or for “causing trouble” which could impact my ability to continue to grow. It helps to know I’m not alone, even if it’s just through conversations on an anonymous blog.

    6. Important Moi*

      This letter is an excellent counter point to the argument to the don’t burn bridges no matter how badly you’re treated by a boss because you once worked for them, thus you are forever ever in their debt for the privilege.

      1. Vina*

        I’m not a fan of that as a blanket statement. It’s right up there with “but faaaaamillllly.”

        However, she didn’t burn the bridge. He did. Then blamed it on her.

        He’s the agent in all this. Not her.

        It’s all on him. All she’s done is decide not to take the abusive, inappropriate behavior any longer.

        She’s not burning a bridge, she’s liberating herself from an emotional cage of abuse.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yep. Also, often “burning the bridge” is a moot point because the awful boss/company already burned it. If someone is already going to give you a bad reference anyway, “don’t burn bridges” is just BS deference to this “be eternally grateful to your gracious Job Creators” mentality.

        1. Quill*

          Sometimes you didn’t start the fire but the person on the other end of the bridge is shooting it, and you, with flaming arrows.

    7. LKW*

      I completely agree with the sentiment that this man does not want a fix. He wants you to feel bad. He wants to put blame on anyone but himself.

      It is highly likely that he’s been using this calculation with no questions until someone higher up caught the mistake. He needs to share his humiliation.

      Block or otherwise ignore. Use your time at your new job wisely and use all of the tips for managing conversations about why you aren’t using your employer of 10 years as a reference that AAM has shared.

      1. Vina*

        LKW

        I think you are so right that he was humiliated b/c this mistake has cost him. So he’s trying to soothe his ego at her expense.

        That makes SO MUCH sense.

      2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        LW, think of it this way: if you were as monstrously incompetent as his invective claims, shouldn’t he be glad he never has to deal with you again and leave it at that?

        You were gone! He was free of his supposed ‘terrible’ employee. And instead of moving on and resolving to hire differently in the future – he sought you out again just so he could be cruel and mean all over. Which says, very firmly (to my mind), that he’s trying to find an outlet for his own misery because without one, he has to stew in his own awful juices.

        You are NOT the problem here LW. You can inbox rule him to the rings of the Inferno and go to your therapy appointments with a clean conscience.

          1. I am Jack's Something-or-Other*

            LW, have you heard of Brené Brown? She is a shame researcher and also talks about blame. She has a great Ted Talk, interviews and books – she’s worth a listen. On blame:

            “Here’s what we know from the research,” says Brown. “Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability. Blaming is a way that we discharge anger.”

            Ex-Boss tries to fault you for his mistakes because it makes him feel like he’s still in control. (Meanwhile he’s totally out of control.)

            1. Kuododi*

              I’ve used the idea of “helpful guilt vs useless guilt” many times when working with clients.

              “Helpful guilt” is the human conscience. It reminds us when we’ve done something inappropriate which had caused another person pain. Then the idea is to make amends in the same spirit as 12 step groups.

              “Useless guilt” is all the other stuff in the world. Primarily it’s found where people try to blame themselves for negative events where they bear no responsibility for the event itself or making people whole from their injuries. Typically the only purpose served by “useless guilt” is tension headaches and lower back pain.

              I hope this helps, I can’t promise total clarity after pm meds.

              1. Letter Writer*

                Wow, thank you. I’m going to have to look more into this (and Brené Brown that Jack’s Something or Other mentioned above). Finding ways to recognize if the guilt is productive or not might help me to reduce my guilt overall.

        1. Vina*

          Abuser Manual 101: treat the person you are with like the are not worthy of your time and that no one else would love them and that you are a saint for tolerating them. Then, when they leave, instead of letting them go (b/c they were horrible), you pursue them. In spite of the fact you though they were incompetent, fat, ugly, etc.

          1. Letter Writer*

            Looking back on the job, every time I was frustrated enough and started to try to leave, I would be lured back in with a promotion or some job perk, and things would get better for a few months. I think the only reason that didn’t happen this time was because I didn’t make it known that I was unhappy (though many others knew I was unhappy/mistreated and were doing what they could to help me survive or get out). But over the years, I was chewed out/yelled at/demeaned so many times that it’s worth looking back at the positive times as how he was just pulling me back into the cycle of abuse.

        2. Needcoffee*

          There was a supervisor in my department who would join in occasionally when one bully tormented people. So did another and a senior staff member.

          Long story short, I take the brunt of the bully’s ire for 2 years and then realize it’s never going to get better. I leave, give proper notice and leave the job. Before I do, I go through all of my pending things and leave a detailed list about what needs to be done, who they go to, etc. I sent this to the whole department and send a copy to myself. Left a print copy in a folder by the area where these things are placed to be claimed.

          I get a call the following week (started new job right away) and it’s that manager trying to chew me out for not leaving instructions. I mention the email and the print out and tell her what she needed to know. I also tell her I’ll forward her a copy of the email I sent (I sent a copy to my own personal email) so she’ll have it for future reference.

          More than a decade later, she and one of the other managers still try to get their digs in at professional events. It’s still stressful to go through, but I realize they are making themselves look foolish. I need to keep being professional and hold my head high.

    8. MissDisplaced*

      “If he continues, you may have to respond directly to someone above him at the company and tell them he’s went over the line from reasonable follow-up to harassment. ”

      My guess is this “boss” is the owner of the company. Generally, this type can no longer function within a normal organizational structure and so are attracted to being an entrepreneur and starting their own business.
      Mostly, they are totally unsuited for running it! They will blame everyone but themselves for the business failing. It’s what they want. And then they can feel vindicated and portray themselves as the victim of “all those bad employees.”

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes! My abusive employer was unemployable. He couldn’t find a job despite graduating from a prestigious uni. Then his wife set up a business and he wormed his way in, making himself useful and shouting down her business partners. He ended up ousting all of them and running the business into the ground. He sold it once he saw it could no longer pay for his expensive lifestyle, and the new boss promptly fired him after he’d negotiated a sweet deal for himself. He didn’t even tell me he was leaving, so I found out after the fact. I was walking on air all week, Schadenfreude can be sweet indeed.
        (He’s now a crappy real estate agent, which here in France is a job for the unemployable because it’s the one job where you can be paid only on commission with no fixed salary)

    9. Arts Akimbo*

      “If he continues, you may have to respond directly to someone above him at the company and tell them he’s went over the line from reasonable follow-up to harassment. Tell them that if he doesn’t stop, you will be speaking to a lawyer. ”

      Personally, I would do that now. Right now. Attach all the emails he has ever sent you, and CC his boss, HR, Legal, and the freakin’ CEO. This is utterly beyond the pale.

      Best wishes for a successful and peaceful present and future, OP!

  2. The Original K.*

    Yes. Block, block, block. Block him everywhere. A reference from him comes at a cost to your mental health, and your mental health is far, far more important. And if he’s berating you about a mistake you made six months ago, you can’t trust him to give you a good reference anyway, as Alison said. I see no upside to continuing to know this person. Excise him.

    1. Paulina*

      Yes. The only useful aspect of this tirade is it clearly indicates that a future reference from this ex-boss will be terrible and sabotaging. He’s telling you he will hold a massive grudge, believe him.

      1. Paulina*

        P.S. Congrats on the much better job and work environment. Please leave the toxicity in the past and move forward as you deserve to.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Thank you. I am realizing just how amazing my new job is. I had a call from a client in my new job expressing frustration over a new process that we’re requiring, and when my new (wonderful, amazing, supportive) boss heard about it, she was so grateful for how I handled the call but upset that I took any frustration over a process that is out of my control. I am SO lucky to be in a place that’s the exact opposite of my last job, which is making it that much more jarring when the old boss comes back into my life.

          1. juliebulie*

            He can’t come back again, because he’s dead now. Dead to you. You can disregard all future correspondence from him because it does not exist! Ghosts can’t send email! So those emails must be spam.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            LW, your job is normal, not amazing. What you went through before was not normal. Abusive is not normal.

      2. Letter Writer*

        You’re right. And I don’t know why that good reference feels so valuable… I’ve seen him give a really horrible reference. I don’t know why I am struggling to think he’ll do the same to me, but you are absolutely right. I can’t trust him. Thank you.

        1. MassMatt*

          OK this is valuable to know—You have seen him give someone a bad reference (presumably undeserved). He definitely Can’t be trusted to use as a reference, if possible use someone else you worked with at the old job instead, but it sounds as though you will have no trouble getting references from current job if and when it comes time to move on from there.

          1. Letter Writer*

            That’s true. I do have some amazing former coworkers who helped me get into my current role with strong references, and I think that when it’s time to move on, my current job will be sad but supportive. The poor letter of recommendation I saw was incredibly undeserved, and quite frankly, mean. The quality of the person’s work were not called into question, but instead, personal/non professional factors were attacked. Thank you for reminding me of all the options I have that are clearly superior.

            1. The Original K.*

              Yes! You have tangible proof that he won’t be fair. He’s of no use to you. Remove him from your life completely.

            2. Needcoffee*

              I went through leaving a very toxic work environment and they still get their digs in when they can, though not as blatantly as your former boss.

              It’s been over a decade. I’m still uncomfortable about it sometimes, but I try to remember the following and I’m sharing in case it helps:

              1. His/their actions make them look unprofessional, petty and undignified

              2. Hold your head high, you’re not the one who should be ashamed here

              3. You did the right thing get out of the toxic dumpster fire of a workplace.

          1. pancakes*

            Unless he repeats the same phrasing on various occasions that would out the letter writer as the source of the review. Much better to convey the nature of the problem without taking on needless risk.

            1. Letter Writer*

              Thank you. Yes, I worry about the risk on this one, and while I want to be a good citizen/share my experience, I can’t see what benefit this could have for me but there is a lot of risk. I don’t know if I even want to take the risk of posting on Glassdoor, just like I didn’t want to take the risk of an exit interview. There was no possible benefit to me, and only potential costs. It’s selfish, but I’m still trying to just survive… I don’t want to open new opportunities for abuse.

              1. pancakes*

                It’s not selfish to think carefully about your own safety, not at all. If it’s a medium- to large workplace where people come and go it would be hard to identify the source of a negative review, but if it’s smaller and/or there aren’t many people who leave it could put you at risk.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                yes, much better to move on, put it behind you, concentrate on the normal, nice job you have now.

        2. Artemesia*

          Alison’s right here. He will never give a good ref and so you need to say ‘after I gave notice, he was furious and didn’t speak to me my last two weeks, and then after that he sent me abusive emails blaming me for whatever went wrong at work 6 mos after I left. I cannot use him as a reference, but here are some people I worked there with who could speak to my work.’

    2. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

      I also am not sure how references tend to work in other industries (i work in media), but every time I’ve been asked for references it was at the final, final stages where they just wanted to make sure there wasn’t some big red flag they had missed. I’ve never been asked for specific references (beyond someone I worked with) and have listed team members, former supervisors, and people whose teams were on a dotted line to me.

      1. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

        which is to say: no one will probably even notice if you don’t list a specific boss as a reference.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          It sounds like this was the LW’s first (and only?) job out of college, so they may not really have any other former bosses to list, but in this case offering former coworkers or similar sounds absolutely justified!

          1. Letter Writer*

            Yes, this was my first post-college job, and while I had a couple of different roles during my time and I did move up, I always reported to the same boss. Knowing that I can continue to rely on former coworkers like I did to get my new job is very valuable, and I am so glad that I don’t need to protect the relationship with him.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Even if you did your best to protect your relationship with him, he still might give you a terrible (undeserved) reference. Protecting your sanity and taking decent care of yourself is the right priority.

  3. cosmicgorilla*

    “Abusive work environments tend to warp the norms of the people who work in them, which makes people more likely to accept or excuse the abuse.”

    Yes, so much this. You focus on everything you did wrong that might have caused the outburst. You forget that even if you did make mistakes, IT DOESN’T WARRANT THAT KIND OF REACTION.

    It’s kind of like an abusive relationship. Oh wait, it IS an abusive relationship.

    It’s also murder on the self-esteem. (Do I speak from experience? Yes, I do! That one boss did a number on me, but it also dramatically changed what I will and won’t put up with NOW.)

    I’m so proud of you for getting the heck out of dodge. Now, block, block, block. Do not respond. Do not engage.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP, this is not normal behavior. I’ve found mistakes that departed employees made. I have NEVER thought to contact those employees. They’re gone and it’s my problem to fix them. Not theirs.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Is it really? My mom made me think that if a former job contacts asking for help (occasionally!) and you can spend 10-15 minutes helping, then you should have some obligation to help out 1-2 times. If that isn’t the professional norm, then that is a huge weight off my shoulders.

        1. mark132*

          I think an occasional question within a reasonably short time period is fine, if they were a good employer to work for.

        2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          Nope. Your mom is wrong here. It’s your FORMER job- you have no obligation to help at all, especially if the person contacting you is a huge abusive jerk. Not your circus, not your monkeys anymore.

          I’m so sorry this happened to you. Block away, and be proud you escaped!

          1. Letter Writer*

            I love the phrase “not your monkeys, not your circus”. I’ve used it before but I need to remind myself that now that I left, these aren’t my monkeys anymore.

        3. Daffy Duck*

          Really. They do not have you on the payroll, so it is illegal for you to do work for them. That includes you fixing or finding solutions to things that are connected to when you work there.

          1. Dragon_Dreamer*

            The job that got rid of my after 10+ years tried that. They had current employees call and email me, asking how to fix specific problems. The irony was, if they’d checked the tech computer, they’d have found ALL the documentation I’d created! I helped a couple times, then made it clear that the resources were there and told them were to look. Not a single contact since.

        4. Pilcrow*

          Helping out a couple times after you’ve left, within reason, can be a professional norm* – for professional and reasonable people. Your boss is neither. Former abusers do not deserve that privilege.

          * The term “professional norm” gets bandied about quite a bit. People tend to forget that these are conventions, not rights or laws, largely aimed at preserving a reference. You can defy conventions as long as you are willing to endure the consequence (in this case, doing some extra work to get around a bad reference).

        5. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          Your mom is right but that is not this situation. To illustrate:

          Normal boss 1: “Hi, OP. I can’t remember in which folder you filed the old llama grooming updates. Please email me the address or give me a quick call to guide me to the right place.“

          Normal boss 2: “Sorry to bother you at your new job. A client mentioned a price quote you shared last month before you left. Can you let me know the details of the conversation?”

          That is not what your abusive boss did. There is no “ask” and no business purpose. He simply want to keep hurting you.

          1. HappySnoopy*

            This. The above is the “normal job” ask/response.

            It is NOT why did you make this error that your replacement, me, and whoever else didn’t catch and fix.

            NOT take blame for boss making decisions 6 months later based on these outdated #s.

            NOT help boss figure out ways to mitigate fix this now including taking into account you’ve not worked there in months and a global pandemic is skewing all decisions.

            And definitely NOT listen to unprofessional language from abusive boss.

            Glad you are away from there, Letter Writer.

        6. Heidi*

          So this depends on the situation. If you’d just left the job and there were easy questions that you could answer to help with the transition of your work to someone else, then it would be a kindness to help and could help maintain a friendly relationship with a former employer. However, there is no formal obligation to do so once you’re off payroll and certainly nothing as defined as 10-15 minutes 1-2 times. The scenario you’re describing is six months out, there’s nothing you could do about the problem, and you don’t have a friendly relationship with the employer to protect. The fact is, people leave jobs all the time. The impetus is on the employer to 1) know that and 2) plan for how to get the work done anyway.

          1. CG*

            Very much agree! When I moved to a different team in the same organization, *of course* I was fine with helping a couple of times or redirecting people to the correct resources for things I no longer handled. This is definitely not that!!

        7. Kes*

          In a normal job, if they reached out occasionally asking for help shortly after you left, it would be considerate to help briefly, though you would not be obligated. This is not a normal job. He is abusive and responding in any way will only result in more abuse, even if you’re trying to help, as you’ve unfortunately discovered. Besides which, the norm exists to preserve a good relationship, which you already don’t have, because he is abusive and is unlikely to give you a good reference in any case. That being the case, you should prioritize your health, block him entirely, and do not respond to any further contact from him. If you find it difficult to prioritize yourself, think of it this way: your new job wants you to be present and healthy and following healthy work practices, which you can do best by putting him in the past.

        8. Observer*

          That is a professional norm in many industries. But what your boss did is waaaay out of that league.

          If your former boss had contacted you and said “Hey, we just discovered that this miscalculation messed up our budget. Do you have any ideas of how we can make it up?” it would be reasonable to spend a FEW minutes thinking about it and sending a message with a couple of sources of revenue or cost savings that you can think of.

          BUT that only applies if your former ASKS, and does so in a reasonable manner. And all you can be expected to do is spend a few minutes.

          So, even if your ex-boss were not an abusive jerk, you already fulfilled any social / collegial expectations. Given how your boss approached it, even that was not a reasonable expectation.

          1. Lilyp*

            I agree that answering a few quick questions is a professional norn, but “any thoughts about our budget shortfall?” is already waaaay too open-ended and is not a “quick question” at all. It’s very clear that there was no actual question here. “Make time to answer a couple quick politely-worded questions” != “Make time to sit and be berated for a past mistake”. “What were you thinking” is not a real professional question that needs an answer or is appropriate to contact an ex-employee over (even if the situation *was* all your fault the way he wants it to be!)

            1. Observer*

              I mostly agree with you. My point is that “any thoughts” is something that could be OK – again assuming you don’t feel the need to spend more than a FEW minutes. But the minute it goes from there to “demand” or “berate”, NOPE. No way. Not even 30 seconds.

        9. parsley*

          If he’d emailed you in the first couple of weeks to ask where you’d saved something they couldn’t find then it would be nice of you to quickly respond to let them know, but for someone who is so awful to his employees to email you six months after you’ve left to scream at you over something that is no longer your business, I think we can safely say that he’s forfeited any niceness he might have felt entitled to. He can, quite frankly, do one.

        10. LunaLena*

          Your mom is right that it’s nice to help (occasionally!), but she is completely wrong that it’s an obligation, and there’s certainly no rules about it. It’s a professional courtesy, aka a favor, that you are doing them out of the kindness of your heart and therefore completely contingent on how much you feel like helping them out, not on what they demand. And it most certainly is not a requirement nor does it excuse rudeness and abuse, especially six months after the fact. I mean, six months! Half a year! So much can change in that time (remember how we all had the luxury of eating in a restaurant six months ago?)! Your knowledge of their projects is most likely obsolete after six months. Even if it was your error initially, after half a year, it’s their error now and presumably you are not the only person in the entire world who can fix it.

          Look at it this way: let’s say your new job was being a penguin snuggler in Antarctica or frog surveyor in the Amazon, or somewhere else totally unreachable. Would it be reasonable for them to expect you to come rushing back to civilization to help them out? Or should they just be grown-ups who are presumably capable of problem-solving and figure it out?

          In my very first job in my field, I had a great manager and mentor who took a job on the other side of the country after I’d been there for three months, leaving me in charge. I was his first assistant and he trained me on what he could, but since he didn’t have time to show me everything, he assured me I could call him any time, day or night, as much as I liked, so he could guide me through any problems. He came into the office the day he was leaving town so he could help out as much as he could. That was the last time I ever talked to him, because he died in a car accident that night. I literally could not ask him for help any more, and I was a 23-year-old rookie, suddenly thrust into a team lead position. No one else knew the job, he was the first and only person who had held that position. If the office manager and I were able to figure things out together and keep things running in those circumstances, even as emotions were running high in the office AND I had to cover and attend his funeral (the job was at a small regional daily newspaper, and he was a very beloved community member), surely your ex-boss can do the same.

          1. allathian*

            Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine the stress of dealing with this.

        11. Coder von Frankenstein*

          Let’s break this down a bit. Your mom isn’t a hundred percent wrong, but I think there is some key context that’s getting lost.

          First: A job is where you trade your work for your employer’s money. Once the job ends, you are never *obligated* to do work for them. If you asked them for $30, would they be obligated to hand you money? Of course not. Same thing.

          Now, that said, being willing to provide a *little* bit of help (usually in the form of providing quick answers to questions) once or twice after your departure is courteous and professional. It’s a way to preserve and strengthen your relationship with your ex-boss, which can pay off down the road. But professionalism and courtesy are a two-way street. This guy has forfeited any such consideration.

        12. Artemesia*

          A polite request for the passwords, or about a recent file you worked on should be responded to. 6 mos later? And abusive demands? No way you are ‘obligated’ to help out. Most of us as a matter of course are helpful once or twice after we leave; it is repeated reliance on someone no longer there or worse yet, abusive contacts, that should be shut down and ignored subsequently.

        13. Karlee*

          A former employer might reach out one or two times with questions to a former employee. But that generally happens within the first couple of weeks or month that they’re gone and it’s always with a hope for help, not an expectation that help will come. They know they’re asking for a favor.

          It’s NOT a professional norm to receive demands for help in the middle of mean-spirited finger-pointing reprimands six months after you left – or, hell, even one day after you left. You have absolutely no obligation to help your former employer so let that go. You might even think of it this way – by helping them you’re rewarding their bad behavior so really, in the interest of supporting all that is good and whole and reinforcing good behavior, you have an obligation to NOT help.

        14. Sara without an H*

          I disagree with your mom. Under normal circumstances (emphasis on “normal”), it would be a courtesy to answer a couple of routine questions within the first 1-2 weeks after you’ve left. (Routine as in: “Excuse me, but we can’t find the Bandersnatch Project files.”) But your circumstances aren’t normal, and your former employer has forfeited any right to professional courtesy.

        15. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          If there’s a loose end you didn’t manage to tie up, or if nobody knows where you put a particular file, sure, in the couple of weeks following your departure.
          Enough time has passed for any mistakes you made to have been dealt with. If they haven’t been , that’s on him. As your manager, he was responsible for your work being up to scratch. If you made mistakes all the time, he should have trained you better.
          Had you still been there, you’d have caught that mistake long before he did, right?

      2. JustaTech*

        I’ve had some things come up at work recently where my former coworkers didn’t leave a lot of documentation. I thought about contacting them, but even joking with my boss I said that we would have to offer FormerCoworker consultant rates of like $30/hour, and there was no way we would get approval for that.

        1. allathian*

          Agreed. In my org but in a different department, there was one guy who was in charge of customizing and implementing a new software system for our use. He didn’t document anything, or if he did, he destroyed the documentation when he left the org. I don’t know all the details because it wasn’t my department and I was on maternity leave when it happened, but from all accounts they were still clearing up the mess that guy caused several months afterwards.
          Here, the mandatory retirement age for public sector employees is 68 years. Some key players who are keen to continue working are hired as consultants at about double the rate they would have been paid as employees. The cost increase to the employer is much less, though, because of all the UI and associated costs the employer pays on behalf of the employee. Here the ratio is about 1.7, so if an employee makes 100K a year, the employer pays 170K (and with our progressive tax rates, the employee probably gets less than 50K…).

      3. Noodle kaboodle*

        I’ve left a variety of employers and I’ve only been contacted once and that was 4 days after I’d quit, for a password to a job specific cloud account with files that weren’t stored anywhere else. But I wasn’t yelled at, I got a polite email and since I was treated well working there I gave it to them.

      4. Needcoffee*

        This. A former employee made a mistake. It was a small one and out of character for her. None of us contacted her about it or even mentioned it to her. Other than that, she’s very competent and a pleasure to work with. I’ve given her good references both of the times she asked for them.

        I’ve inherited records that made no sense and couldn’t be pieced together coming into new jobs. My approach was to take a good attitude and work hard to get things in order. The managers usually appreciated it and mentioned during reviews how much they appreciated me getting things in order. That’s what most places do.

        1. Needcoffee*

          Meant to say, that is what most places do if there’s a problem or error. They don’t go hunting people down.

    2. Letter Writer*

      Thank you. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone, and that I’m not wrong in wanting to run far, far away as fast as I can. While I have friends in former coworkers, it’s okay to not want to go back there ever. I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had similar experiences, but it’s helpful to know that there is a future where I can learn from the experience and grow from it.

    3. Agatha_31*

      Mother. Fucking. PREACH.

      LW, I am silently toasting you from Canada. May you realize your true worth from the many times he tried to hide it from you. May you see the warning signs early from the many he gave you. May you hearken back to the wise words shared on this site- both by Alison and in the comments and be able to see the many paths open to you that aren’t labelled “suffer in silence”. May you learn that when a bad person doesn’t value you, the only thing they’re teaching you is how little value they bring to your beautiful, valuable life.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Thank you. It’s been an emotional 24 hours reading all the comments, cheering me on, and sharing their war stories too. I feel a release and an empowerment, and I am so incredibly grateful for the support. Your toast is simply beautiful. Thank you.

  4. BL*

    LW, I’m so sorry you went through this and I’m so glad you got out of that job! Everything Alison said is 100% right, and I hope you continue to move forward with good help and great future opportunities.
    Also, early nomination for worst boss of 2020?

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you. I’m going to follow Alison’s advice to the T and do everything I can to move forward. I have an amazing job now with incredible coworkers and management – I hope it only continues onward and upward from here.

      1. Mutt*

        Something you might find helpful is to read Captain Awkward. She and Alison have done collaborations, but CA’s site is not really a work blog, but instead a life blog. Like Alison, CA has fantastic advice *with scripts* that really help you to find the words to deal with manipulative abuse like this. Highly recommend you go over there and take a look. Good luck to you, and congrats for getting out of such an abusive place!

        1. Lilyp*

          Seconded! They really are spiritual cousins in talking about boundaries, communication, controlling what you can control, dealing with unreasonable people, etc. I think it could be really useful for you.

  5. ENFP in Texas*

    Do. Not. Respond. You have no obligation to respond, and there is nothing you could write that would appease him or diffuse the situation anyway. Block his email and close that chapter of your life.

    1. Irishgal*

      OP what did your therapist say about this contact? Did you tell them about it at the time? Did they encourage you to respond? If so I’m concerned that this therapist may not have the right skills/experience to help you with the after effects of all those years of abuse.

      If you only told them after the fact about this I hope they are helping you unpick your response and see that you had the right to ignore your previous abuser. If they are not, again they may not be the right therapist for your needs and one with a strong history of helping survivors of domestic abuse.

      I know it may be hard to equate what you went through with domestic abuse but you were in that abusive situation for 8+ hours a day for a decade. The brain is “plastic” and persistent abuse like that wires it to alter your thinking and beliefs; good therapy can help you recalibrate / rewire your thinking.

      1. Letter Writer*

        I haven’t been able to talk to my therapist much since COVID happened, but you’re right that I need to talk with her about it and pick apart my response. It feels silly saying this, but in the moment and when I emailed in, it felt like a professional issue – not necessarily a therapy issue. But I guess it is a therapy issue, and I should work with my therapist more about understanding boundaries and how I need to be treated. As hard as it is, I guess I never have really thought of myself as abused or a victim, I just had an abusive boss. I don’t know why I haven’t been able to make that connection, but it’s something I need to think about. Thank you.

        1. Kes*

          It’s not silly to think of it as a professional issue; it is to do with your work. However, such abuse can have lasting personal effects, which is why therapy is also a good idea.

        2. Observer*

          It is a professional issue. It is ALSO a personal issue. Your ex-boss is abusive and his abuse is affecting the whole you, not just the part the is at work. And it takes the whole you to recognize that you CAN cut this guy off, that it is PERFECTLY OK for you to refuse to have anything to do with him, and that WHAT HE DOES absolutely DOES NOT have to control what YOU CHOOSE to do.

        3. Budgie Buddy*

          I don’t think the therapist will necessarily want to pick apart the response itself, since as Allison said responding at all to an abusive ex-boss at all is the issue. But she may have some insights on how to address similar situations in the future. Good luck!

          1. Irishgal*

            A good therapist will help LW look at what drove them to feel they “had” to respond, whether there have been other situations /are other areas where they have difficulty identifying appropriate boundaries (which are our “personal electric fence”) and whether this is an area of emotional development that needs to be worked on.

        4. Irish gal*

          Glad to help. You might find Lynn Bancroft’s “why does he do that” book helpful. Although aimed at romantic relationships a lot of the information should be transferable to your situation. It may also help to read up on how DV affects the person being abused.

          You are a victim AND a survivor; you got yourself out and into a safe and healthy work environment. As Observer says although it was a professional not a domestic situation it still affected you as a whole person.

          1. Letter Writer*

            Thank you for the book recommendation – I’m adding it to my reading list! And I’ll start researching how DV impacts the victim. While I’ve been learning to be more comfortable calling the relationship abusive, I haven’t quite been able to label myself a victim or a survivor. I’m realizing that I might need to do that so I can truly heal. Thank you.

  6. Librarian1*

    I’m so sorry OP. That’s an awful situation and I’m glad you were able to leave. I agree with everything Allison said.

  7. Akcipitrokulo*

    Block.

    Block, know that it is right, justified and absolutely OK to do.

    Then leave it all behind and enjoy your non-toxic job.

  8. JohannaCabal*

    I agree with Alison and everyone else. Block him.

    But do keep the emails. Retaining them may help you later on.

    (Not a smart move for Abusive Boss to send something in writing….)

    1. JM in England*

      I concur.

      This illustrates that old saying about if you give someone enough rope, they will eventually hang themselves……

    2. Letter Writer*

      Funnily enough, I know his methods because I saw him use it in others. When he thinks someone wronged him, he will not only send a nasty email, but copy himself on it so he can save the message for documentation. I will certainly save it for myself just in case as well – as tempting as it is to just delete, you’re right that I don’t know if/how I might need this later on.

      1. 2 Cents*

        You can set up your email to autofile into a folder, so you don’t need to read/see it, but have it there for your records. Also, change his number (or any number he calls you from) to Do Not Answer. That way, you don’t have to deliberate in the moment. You’re not answering and you’re deleting any voicemails (or filing them somewhere not on your phone –> can make it into a audio recording to save, I think).

        I’m sorry you’re going through this. He has absolutely no claim on you or your time!

    3. Marthooh*

      Yep, save the whole thread to a folder you can tuck away somewhere and (probably) never think about again.

      And block that guy.

      1. Mamunia*

        I would name the folder something that would make me feel better about keeping it. Like “The Hole” (as in, the hole he’s digging himself).

        1. Letter Writer*

          Hahahaha that’s incredible. I might just do that. This is such a painful/heavy area for me, and finding a way to bring a little bit of humor into it is helpful. Thank you!

          1. Ginger Baker*

            I renamed the one TERRIBLE ex (that I call Mr. Secret Baby to literally everyone…for the reasons you might guess) to The Liar in my phone and it was great and liberating and helped me reset all my interactions with him in my own brain.

  9. Werd Nerd*

    Just want to say that Alison’s response is perfect. You owe him nothing. And that is not mean or unprofessional. It is just a fact. You do not work for him anymore. You are not on his payroll anymore. Block him from email and from your phone. Gavin DeBecker wrote a book called The Gift of Fear. I loved the book and read it years ago but the lessons and advice still stand out and apply to so many situations today. In this situation, ignoring is better than engaging. Ignore, ignore, ignore. Do. Not. Respond. Good luck and give us an update!

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you for the book recommendation! I will add that to my reading list for sure.

      1. Mutt*

        Another good one is Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bundtcroft. He has written it for the most common scenario he sees in the wild but is clear that it’s true for any gender or relationship. It might really help give you the tools to recognize this kind of thing in the future.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Thank you! I’ve added that to my reading list. I definitely want to do everything I can to prevent this from happening again.

      2. Observer*

        Just one thing – skip his chapter on abuse. He’s admitted that this was badly done (apparently the legacy of DV in his life…)

    2. Marshbilly, not Hillbilly*

      I also recommend DeBecker’s book. It won’t stop the abusive behavior, but it will help you see that his behavior is not your fault.

  10. EPLawyer*

    This is typical abusive behavior. Blame you for his own mistakes — he’s the boss he is ultimately responsible for the decisions made based on the projections. Unfortunately. you have learned how to deflect and minimize his anger by accepting blame. That is why you responded to the email trying to resolve the issue — in the hopes you would not be abused further. But 1) not your job anymore to fix HIS problems and 2) nothing every works with an abuser, they just move the goal posts. As this is learned behavior you have to unleard it too. Which takes time. That’s why you automatically defaulted to appeasement, you haven’t had time to unlearn it. The good news is you can BLOCK, BLOCK, BLOCK this guy. You don’t have to practice not trying to appease. You can cut all ties with him and move on with your life. He is your former boss, nothing more. You owe him NOTHING, not a second more of your time, not even to think about how to deal with him.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      While I agree the boss is an a s s and abusive, even if maybe not illegally so, I don’t know that this was the bosses mistake. Op admitted that they messed up on the calculations. Boss should be able to depend on work done by subordinates without having to check and redo the work themselves. If that is the case it defeats the purpose of hiring the OP. I say this as someone that often does work for my boss that they use to make decisions, and someone who has made mistakes. The boss was an a whole and they should not have emailed to berate OP, but they were not necessarily wrong for using the calculations that OP made.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        In the end, you don’t need to pin blame on anyone. Since it doesn’t fix the mistake to point it out to anyone, just fix the damn thing!

      2. Lora*

        Uh, yeah, actually you do. If it’s important to be exactly right, then yes, you definitely need a second pair of eyes looking at numbers. I’m saying this as the person whose calculations are STILL cross-checked by someone else after decades, because if I’m wrong the building blows up. Typically the cross-checking person just compares it to a similar calculation and makes sure they’re in the same ballpark, but yeah, we do check when it’s life or death, sort of thing. Similarly, your pharmacist normally cross-checks your doctor’s dosage calculations on drugs, no matter how long that doctor has been writing prescriptions.

        If you want to trust calculations that much, slap a wide margin of error on there and call it a day. But it’s much easier to just check.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, especially when a mistake is this big. It’s an easy to make mistake, but the impact is high. A second pair of eyes definitely is necessary.

      3. Altair*

        I have more than once taken over a job to find out that the previous person’s spreadsheets included incorrext numbers, they misfiled important items, etc. I didn’t get to call them and ask, much less call and berate them; the job was mine now and it was up to me to fix what had been previously broken.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I had a former boss who did this. She liked to think she was all badass about it too. Unfortunately she also hired someone she couldn’t fire, and it totally blew up in her face.

    There was a letter that an employee was supposed to send. It didn’t go out. Several months after this employee left, my boss found out about it and called him to ask him why, thinking she was going to nail him on something. (Yes, she thought this was a good idea.) His answer was awesome. “Yes, I drafted that letter. It was sitting in Employee You Can’t Fire’s inbox for months, including after I left. In fact, I’m sure it’s still there. I have to get back to law school now. Bye.” (He was right. That’s exactly where the letter was. The only reason he took her call is so he could say that to her and suffer no consequences.)

    My boss STILL tells that story except she never tells the ending of it. I’m pretty sure she’s still telling that story today!

    Uh that story doesn’t send the message you think it does!

    1. SMH*

      I had a boss/owner call me three months after I left. They were having issues and weren’t sure how to cover the department while they were going to be gone for two weeks on a cruise. Then she went silent and I waited. I guess she thought I would swoop in to cover. My exact response when she stated again the issue they were having was ‘And?’ She didn’t want to come out and ask me to cover but wanted me to fill oh so bad for them. She started sputtering after I said that and I told her I would let her go so she could deal with her issue. Never called me again.

      1. London Lass*

        “I told her I would let her go so she could deal with her issue.” Beautiful.

  12. Red Tape Producer*

    LW, I totally get the fear over burning the bridge! It feels like without a glowing reference from every work place you’ve ever worked, you’re waving a massive red flag to potential employers. I literally gave myself the worst case of heart burn (at 27!) stressing about how to keep a good reference from a manager that was emotionally abusive. By the time I needed references again, I had lots of other options and no one seemed to notice at all that I didn’t provide a reference from that one role. You’d be surprised how easy it is to accumulate new, better references when you’re a good worker.

    Like Allison said, block him. It’s totally fine to burn a bridge if it’s a bridge leading to a hell hole.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      The longer it is since leaving a Toxic Ex-Job, the more true this becomes, too.

      It is a glorious feeling to know that since I’ve been in my present job for nearly nine years, under three different department chairs (this is academia, it’s the closest I have to a boss), I will pretty much never have to reach out to a boss at Toxic Ex-Job for a reference.

      Glad you got out, OP. BLOCK THAT EVIL CREEP.

    2. Batty Twerp*

      Toxic Boss didn’t just burn the bridge, he napalmed it and salted the earth where the foundations once stood.

      And again – *he* did that. Not you. The man is a moron.

      Please take care of yourself and keep working with your therapist. Do not allow this [strong expletive likely to be blocked] to have any more of your headspace. He doesn’t deserve it.

    3. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      LW, ignore that abusive jerk. May the light from burning that bridge light your career path forward into amazing places. You’re free and you owe him nothing.

    4. Letter Writer*

      You and I are birds of a feather. I’m about the same age and have had major heartburn, anxiety and some very serious health issues over this job. My doctor had been very concerned that the old job was literally killing me. Thank you for sharing your story and letting me know that I’m not alone, and it does get better.

  13. Akcipitrokulo*

    Oh – and remember to feel good and proud for having got out and seeing him for what he is!

  14. Assistant Manager*

    I’d be so tempted to respond with “I don’t work there anymore. lol”

    I don’t know if that’s the route I’d go, but mannnnn, it would be so tempting!

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      Yeah I would’ve responded with, “Boy, that sounds like a you problem. Good luck with it.” *click*

  15. Amethystmoon*

    Definitely block him, and I would also not use him as a reference going forward. If you use Outlook, you should just be able to mark his e-mail as junk and block sender. You can also set up a rule to send all e-mails from him to trash and mark them as read, if he starts using other e-mail addresses.

    1. Teapot Tía*

      He probably won’t escalate the harassment, but it might be better to send his emails to a sub folder (using the filter/rule/whatever your email program calls it) just in case. Have the filter mark them read, never look at the folder – but if you ever need proof of harassment, they’ll be there.

      Block every other potential contact, though, especially the ones you use most often. Phone, social media, etc.

  16. Mama Bear*

    I would not respond further. I would keep copies of those emails just as a cover your butt to prove that he was abusive if it comes up again (I have a friend whose ex has become a stalker and has had to report them). You’ve left that job and he had no business contacting you. I agree to focus any future references on literally anyone else. You owe him nothing. If he contacts you again or shows up at your office or something, treat him like any member of the public who is harassing you. Again, you owe him nothing. Don’t let any worry or threat about a reference keep you dealing with him.

  17. Anonymous because reasons*

    I had an abusive boss.
    He abused me for years in private, and my colleagues didn’t believe me because they didn’t see it happen.
    I got ill!
    I eventually moved to another post – and then I saw what having a good boss and a supportive team can do for one’s self-esteem and physical and mental health.
    It took me a while to believe that my current work situation was what the norm should be.

    I heard through the grapevine that several people made complaints about that abusive boss and his manager did nothing about it. Eventually he left in a huff because he couldn’t get what he wanted in work, and everyone has been the better for it since.

    Alison’s right – block him. Work with your therapist to not give him a second thought.
    Breathe, you’re safe now.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you. I was physically sick too – my body was literally breaking down. I’m so afraid that my new wonderful job is a unicorn, and my last job is closer to normal. I think I am in an exceptional place, but that I’m closer to normal here than I was before. Thank you for sharing your experience and letting me know I am not alone.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I have worked for 30 years now, interacting with higher level executives regularly, so a pool of maybe 40 different team leads / managers / execs. I have seen:
        2 with a temper problem
        2 manipulative jerks
        And a whole lot of fairly nice people with varying degrees of competence.

        Unscientific poll, 10% of managers are this kind of suck. I sincerely hope you have hit your limit on them, but just in case, remember Alison’s advice on interviewing and that you are checking whether they’re someone you want to work for as much as they are checking whether they want to hire you.

        I’m glad you’re out of there, LW, and good luck with healing. Block that jerk! He deserves it.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          I agree! LW, you might indeed be in a magical unicorn job, or you might be in a more average-range good job but the contrast is making it seem covered in shiny glitter. There’s a *huge* range of not-great-bosses of which only a tiny fraction are actively abusive. If you end up in a less unicorn-y job next, it might just be one where your boss is annoyingly micromange-y or the administration keeps changing plans every 6 months or something like that. Things like that are frustrating, and depending on your personality and tolerances for different kinds of annoyance might even be dealbreakers, but they’re still full of basically decent people who are just moderately bad at some aspect of their job.

      2. SarahKay*

        LW, I honestly don’t think your new job is a unicorn. I’ve been in my current job for 15 years now, and had six different managers over that time. All of them have supported my professionally, trusted me to do my job, and generally been awesome. Before that I worked in retail and even there I only had one bad manager, out of about eight over the years. And even that bad manager was merely lazy and incompetent, as opposed to an abusive monster.
        Please, have the confidence to believe (or, perhaps to truly realise as time goes on) that your previous experience was incredibly bad luck, not that your current experience is incredibly good luck.

      3. Coder von Frankenstein*

        I can’t say how much of a unicorn your new job is, but I can tell you that your last job is not even remotely normal. Mediocre managers are common, but abusive horrorshows are rare. Your ex-boss is a unicorn, an evil unicorn with a horn dripping poison.

  18. Cinderella Sparklepants*

    I’d just like to acknowledge that this may be easier said than done. Abusive people like this (in my experience) tend to take over so many aspects of your life so that cutting them out entirely seems like it could damage every part of your life, not just your past work. But Alison is absolutely right, he’s the one that burned this bridge, not you. Cutting him out entirely may be hard at first, but it sounds like it will absolutely be worth it in the end. I hope you can manage to block him in all areas of your life and move on at what sounds like a great new job. Very best of luck to you.

  19. KatieHR*

    Coming from someone who worked in a very toxic environment for 3 years before I finally quit, I do understand where you are coming from. My old manager tried to reach out to me several times after I left and with the guidance of my new boss, I was able to stand up to her and not respond to her emails or text messages. I would not reply anymore and you owe him nothing. If they find mistakes oh well, you don’t work there anymore. Take a deep breath and move on.

  20. Jaybeetee*

    You understand the other side of the magic that is blocking someone?

    It changes you too. Your boss can’t abuse you anymore, and with that simple action, you become a person who doesn’t tolerate abuse.

    I wish I could say it means it will never happen to you again. What it does mean though, is you’ve become the sort of person who will nope out if someone tries to act that way with you. Your abusive boss goes from this terrifying presence to “lol blocked”.

    He gets a lot less scary, and you become a lot more formidable.

      1. juliebulie*

        Better yet, create a rule that autoreplies “lol blockin u” and sends it to the trash (or the Evidence folder).

      2. Anononon*

        I know this is a joke and not serious advice for the OP, but it’s a really, really bad idea. People like OP’s boss, they need to get the last word. If you deny them that, it’s so much more likely that they’ll continue escalating until they can get it. Let them scream into the void.

        1. Letter Writer*

          Thank you. While this made me giggle and would feel so satisfying in the moment, the thought of actually doing it makes my stomach tie up in knots. Especially with COVID making it harder to go out in public and the likelihood that I would run into him out in the wild basically at zero, I am so afraid of what the reaction would be.

          1. knitcrazybooknut*

            It’ll take time. I’ve been in these situations, and your fear level will eventually subside. Treat yourself with kindness and give yourself grace. It’s hard. It’s painful. But you can slowly adjust to your new normal, and learn from this experience what red flags you may have not seen or ignored, and you will end up in a much better place.

            Eventually, his reaction will not matter. Your reaction will be the important one.

            Another way to think of it: What would you tell your best friend to do if someone walked up and started screaming at them?

            Make a plan based on that. I had this very fear for a long time, but figured out, step by step, what I would do. It made me feel much more secure and in charge.

            Take care of yourself.

  21. AdAgencyChick*

    Send him a #byefelicia gif and THEN block him.

    Just kidding. Don’t actually do that. But feel free to imagine doing so if that would be fun.

  22. Chris*

    “* You are not obligated to respond to abusive messages from anyone, even a former boss.”

    I wouldn’t limit that statement to *former* bosses.

  23. Gazebo Slayer*

    “there were times I enabled that abuse while trying to protect myself from it. It’s not an excuse”

    No. His abuse is not your fault. You are not complicit in his abuse because you didn’t “stand up for yourself” or because you did whatever you could to protect yourself. It is all on him, not you, and I’m sorry that you dealt with this asshole for so long.

    1. starsaphire*

      This, and it’s so important. SO important.

      If you were hiding under the bed and Dad slapped your brother instead, that is not your fault.

      If you were sheltering in the supply closet and the active shooter wounded someone else instead, that is not your fault.

      Same thing applies here. If you avoided his wrath and he took it out on someone else, that is still his fault, because he’s an abusive ass. Please take some of that guilt and pour it down the drain.

      I am so sorry this happened to you, OP. I hope you find healing and peace.

      1. Letter Writer*

        Thank you. Honestly, this made me cry. As awful as the abuse was for me, now that I am out, I have been feeling so guilty, and even more with this recent situation, about how I didn’t protect my colleagues. I always thought I would be the one to stand up to bullies, and as a kid, I was, but it’s horrible to know that I didn’t when I was an adult. I think I will still struggle with the guilt for a long time, but thank you for giving me permission to grant myself some grace.

        1. Observer*

          Please grant yourself a LOT of grace. Unless you actually abused others in the name of your boss, ALL of this is on him. You ARE not at fault that you could not defend others while you were also being abused.

        2. ENFP in Texas*

          If you stood up to bullies on the playground as a kid, just know that is NOT the same as standing up to an abusive boss.

          Kids on the playground are your peer group. They are not in a position of authority over you, so you are on equal footing.

          Your boss IS in a position of authority, which makes standing up to him a very different situation. It would be more akin to you standing up to a bullying teacher in school.

          Do not beat yourself up over it.

          Also, realize that it is no longer your circus and he is no longer one of your monkeys. He does not have any power to impact your life, except for the power YOU give him by worrying about him. He’s not worth wasting that energy on. Put him behind you.
          Go forward and live your best life!!

        3. Jaybeetee*

          Don’t be too hard on yourself – you’re not some bystander ignoring the abuse, you were one of the victims of it. You had very little power to change anything about that situation, apart from just absorbing more of it yourself. That’s not heroism, that’s martyrdom, and it’s not a comment on your character or courage or anything else.

  24. C in the Hood*

    Totally agree to block on email, phone, social media (if need be). OP: YOU have the power here, not him!

  25. Q without U*

    If your boss wasn’t *the* boss, you should consider forwarding these emails to someone further up in the chain with a note that his treatment was the reason you left, and they’re going to continue to lose good people if they let him continue to treat people like this. And also that you will not be reading or responding to any further emails from him, so if they need to reach you for legitimate reasons, someone else should contact you.

    You know your old organization, and whether this might go over well or have any impact at all, but I personally would feel better for having done something about it.

  26. Dennis Feinstein*

    Agree with all of the above re blocking your abusive ex boss, but I also wanted to point out something about the spreadsheet “mistake”: “While I admit that I made the mistake…”
    No. Your boss made the mistake.
    Remember, you were so stressed from working ridiculous hours AND being abused that you became physically ill! Any errors that may have occurred because you were tired, sick and stressed are on him, not you. Let him reap what he’s sown and don’t have any further communication with him – unless it’s a “cease & desist” letter from your lawyer.

    1. Sara without an H*

      My first thought was that Bad Boss actually made the error, but preferred to blame OP rather than admit it.

    2. Mr. Obstinate*

      This does not get pointed out enough. It’s a neat trick to dump an impossible workload on someone and then blame them for the work being low-quality. But if you created the need for them to work hastily and on little sleep, then you were the cause of the errors, not them. If they had adopted a sustainable pace and double-checked their work throughout, then you would have been upset that it was taking so long. You can’t have it both ways.

    3. MonteCristo*

      Aside from all that, who in their right mind take a 6 month old spreadsheet and uses it without checking all the links and calculations?

    4. London Lass*

      That was my first thought as well. Speaking as a manager who deals with a lot of spreadsheets:

      1) Everyone makes mistakes 2) Stressed-out, tired people make more mistakes 3) It’s your boss’s job to know that even perfect employees (and he himself) will make the odd mistake, and to put measures in place to deal that inevitable fact. Preferably that means catching them before they get anywhere. Sometimes it means dealing with the consequences gracefully.

      He failed, not you. On multiple levels. Do not take ownership of that failure and let him off the hook.

  27. CanuckGal*

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, OP. I had a similar, albeit less intense, experience where I stayed at the first company I worked with for over 8 years. It shaped a lot of what I considered normal in the workplace and now that I’m 3 years out of the company, I can now look back with objectivity and understand where boundaries were completely missing, where my perceptions were warped, and how I contributed to that culture.

    When your former boss reaches out, it must feel like his hand is coming out of your screen and yanking you back into time when you were under this thumb. But you’re not anymore – YOU ESCAPED! You should be very proud that you did. I won’t give much advice, but I wanted to say that time was a big help to me. Every day, you are a bit further from that horrible, garbage fire of a person. Kudos to you.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you ❤️ It did yank me back in time and bring me back to a place I was miserable. I have felt so free and hate how I’ve felt since being dragged back there. I know time will be the biggest thing towards truly moving forward, but I am glad to know there is light at the end of the tunnel and it will become easier and easier to move forward.

  28. Ping*

    I’d suggest OP look up “hoovering”. It’s a technique used to suck the target back in. The perp will create a situation, contact the target, then try to regain control of the target. It doesn’t necessarily have to be physical control. Emotional control is just fine.
    Just when you’ve thought you’ve escaped, they will Hoover again. It’s cyclical.
    Block him. Hang up on him.
    He’s trying to control you through any means possible. Again.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Oh.

      Huh.

      This explains a lot about some “invitations to collaborate” I got from the big boss at Toxic Ex-Job a year or so after I finally escaped that hellpit. Thank you for the education. (And for the record, I politely declined the invitations.)

    2. Letter Writer*

      Huh. I haven’t heard of that before, but it seems like something that he would do. Thank you for the warning in advance; it will help me be more prepared if he does reach out again (but I am going to block him on social media and the phone for sure).

    3. Batgirl*

      Yeah, he’s a blowhard who obviously doesn’t care that much about a work error from an ex employee.
      What he cares about is losing an abuse victim he put a lot of work into grooming. He also probably does have a stress response to her leaving because she knows just what type of person he is and where all the bodies are buried. I doubt his ego can stand her being out of his control.
      OP you need to simultaneously be protective and dismissive. Dismissive because he’s not saying anything true and he’s just hoping you’ll buy into how important he says he still is. Protective because if there’s any chink in your armour he’ll try again and again to gain access and it’s just not good for you. Block him like he’s radiation.
      My boss who was like this was untouchable for years before he was unceremoniously sacked recently; but there’s nothing they can do once youve left.

      1. Letter Writer*

        That’s true. I do know where all the bodies are buried, and have the proof to back up a whole lot of them. Thank you for the advice on how to protect myself from getting sucked back in. I’ll work on being both dismissive and protective.

    4. Bowserkitty*

      Wow, this is what my ex did a lot of after I cut him out of my life. I didn’t give into the bait until a month before I left the country because that seemed okay. Never knew there was a word for it. Thank you.

  29. Goldenrod*

    I love Alison’s response. It’s spot on! As someone who has also dealt with abusive bosses, I know how hard it can be to stand up for yourself (and others) in that situation. I tried to support/stand up for my colleagues, yet you also have to treat very carefully, lest you attract the abuse to yourself.

    Bottom line: you just have to leave. And you did! Good for you!! That is the most important thing. You don’t ever, ever have to talk to this person again or let him abuse you. You’re free!

  30. thelettermegan*

    Block this doofus-jerk and never let them darken your doorstep again. If he finds you again, get a restraining order.

  31. mourning mammoths*

    This could have been written by me. I’ll tell you the update: to get back at me for making that small calculation error in a spreadsheet that he found nearly a year after I resigned, he cooked up a reason to try to sue me to recall salary for hours not worked. When I blocked his absurd, threatening, fishing for a hook emails, he then came to my office to blackmail me. Luckily the thing he tried to blackmail me with was BS and my current company had my back. In a bid to get him to leave me alone, my current company paid off the amount he claimed I owed. He then tried to say I also owed a late fee. To my knowledge that was never paid. The whole ordeal ended only because the director of my current company threatened my former boss. I never found out the dirt she had over him, but it must have been gold because old boss never whispered a peep to me again. (And continued to harass, threaten, and blackmail others, including the person who replaced him after he left his job as a director because he had stayed the maximum contract length).

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      By paying him, they empowered him.

      They should have hired an attorney instead :(

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Your current company paid him? Why? I don’t understand this unless there was a threat of a non compete or something with a competitor.

      1. mourning mammoths*

        One reason is there is history between the two companies and my current one wanted to shame him for coming after me for so little money. From what I heard from colleagues working at the old organization at the time this went down, it worked.

        The other reason was, the person who decided to pay this amount (this was decided without my input and out of my hands) assumed it was only about the money and the payment would make him go away. I told them later that no, it was never about the money it was about having power over me and he will never stop trying to get that power. It’s the reason why I didn’t want to engage in his attempts to reopen the books and claim salary back from me because if I legitimize that at any point then where does it end?

        A final point about my options: due to the legal status of the old boss, I didn’t have legal recourse.

  32. Grbtw*

    I’ve been abused in the workplace as well, I have to say this. If this was any other situation, neighbors, romantic partners, aquaintences, this behavior would be met with criminal charges, restraining orders and lawsuits. I don’t understand, with myself as well, why we would continue to show up in a place where we are berated, and then quietly private pay for therapy to fix us. I know there are so many factors such as paychecks and health insurance to consider, but isn’t the fact that these situations keep happening with no legal reperocussions to the (in every other situation criminal) abuser? Maybe this is just where I’m at right now, but I’m sick of these people preying on individuals who in many cases are already survivors. Workplace PTSD is becoming the norm and it’s completely avoidable.

    1. Dasein9*

      You are right. It’s because nobody, ultimately, checks the power of employers. Sure, we have laws and regulatory bodies, but most of us can’t afford to sue or find redress other ways. Employers know that very well.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        YES. Also, many politicians deliberately underfund and hobble regulatory bodies as much as they can.

        It’s obvious the system of requiring employees to report or sue employers themselves doesn’t work. There need to be audits and proactive enforcement.

        It’s also obvious that the current penalties for labor law violations are nowhere near harsh enough. If your “punishment” is a fine that costs less than obeying the law would have, that’s not a punishment. If it’s a fine that’s not enough to hurt your business, it’s not enough. Severe corporate wrongdoing should have ruinous results.

        (One of the many things I’m proud of my state for: here in Massachusetts, nonpayment of wages is a felony. People have gone to prison for wage theft.)

        1. Grbtw*

          That’s awesome that Massachusetts has that protection. Probably because instead of viewing the issue through a business lense, their viewing it as it is, unpaid labor = slavery and slavery = serious crime.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Well, I spoke with an employment attorney about that once. She said that aside from protected groups and discrimination, it is not illegal for them to be an asshole.
      Kind of burst my bubble,
      So you have to get them on things that are illegal, such as payroll fraud, misclassification of overtime and the like.

  33. Dezzi*

    OP: Nothing you say or do to your boss will make him stop doing this, because YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. There is nothing you can say to an abusive person that will make them stop being abusive towards you. Nothing. There is no perfect logical argument that will convince him to stop being a jerk, no magic words that will make him understand. Which, on the one hand, sucks.

    On the other hand, it’s also freeing. None of the weight of this is on you. You don’t need to try and help him, make his job easier, or show him the error of his ways. If hearing this from an internet stranger helps: I completely and totally absolve you of any responsibility towards this jack*ss.

    Abusers LOVE to make you think it’s your fault they’re doing awful things. Don’t fall for that lie. A mistake you made six months ago is not your problem any more! He’s just looking for an excuse to contact you and be a jerk! Abusers can’t stand it when they lose control over/contact with their targets; he’s hoping he can rope you back in.

    One final point: working 12+ hours a day, six days a week, for three months is ridiculous. That kind of environment *guarantees* errors will be made on a pretty regular basis. Chances are, he was completely aware of that & it was completely intentional. Abusers will set up scenarios where it’s impossible for you to win, and you get punished no matter what.

    So: congrats on getting out of there!! Set up a filter that sends all his emails to a folder you don’t have to see, don’t respond to any attempts he makes to contact you (remember: if you answer the sixth email, it doesn’t matter what your reply says–all you’ve taught him is that it takes six emails to get a response, so next time he’ll just start out emailing you six times), and enjoy your freedom :)

    1. Ray Gillette*

      Your last point, so much. I’m completely fried after a single 12-hour day yesterday (it was warranted due to a genuine emergency). Six days a week, for three months? I’d barely be able to string together a coherent sentence.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, sleep deprivation is a common abuse tool, often the first one they pull out to make all the rest easier.

    3. Batgirl*

      Yes – this is why there was nothing OP could have done for other employees too. He was never going to respond with “Oh you’re right, I was just waiting for someone with the courage to tackle me”. She took the only possible stand by quitting.

  34. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I understand that ‘oh man, I HAVE to respond! It’s my fault after all!’ feeling. It’s very real and hellishly panic inducing.

    In my case it was 5 months ago, when I received an email from the former CEO of my last place blaming me, in detail, for why he’s now facing a prison sentence and his girlfriend has left him…

    ..and yes, I did give evidence to the prosecution at his trial (major financial fraud) so maybe without what I said he’d be ok? I dunno. He was an absolute nightmare to work for, first and only job where I’ve actually feared for my life.

    It can feel like a really big step to block someone, it certainly panicked me all over again, but I noticed a few hours after that…I felt pretty good about it. I blocked him on email, on phone, on a few other media and I realised that from now on…I wasn’t going to have to hear from him ever again. I couldn’t believe it at first, kept thinking ‘but what if I did do xyz wrong and he really does need to speak to me?’ but that faded away a lot faster than I thought!

    In conclusion: life is too short to carry the weight of someone else’s assholery on your shoulders. Block them. It feels GOOD!

    1. Observer*

      Oh, you mean your evidence is the problem? Not his behavior?

      When you look at it that way, it becomes obvious just how ridiculous. Just like all the people who are sorry because they were caught, not because they actually did something wrong. And in both cases, these are people who will never take responsibility.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Yeah, his ‘opinion’ was/is that I was making up false information. Funnily enough the forensic accountants I dealt with did not agree with his take on things. Those guys were amazing though: skilled, very quick wit and brilliant at calming me down when I was going through some of the highly dangerous moments that happened at the firm. My respect for accountants and lawyers shot way up during all that :)

    2. Altair*

      You gave evidence on what he did, what he chose to do. He was the one who did it.

      I know you know this but I also know from the similar situations in my life that it helps to hear it. :) And your last line made me cheer aloud!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Thanks mate :)

        If there’s one takeaway from the whole thing it’s that I know now I can live through press-hounding-you. levels of corporate cruelty. And I know how to handle the press as well ;)

    3. Grbtw*

      In your situation, I probably would have forwarded all communication to the person who had you testify without responding back. More evidence for them, and might actually influence the kind of deal they’re willing to offer him.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I forwarded it onto the barrister, forgot to mention that! I just hope no interviewer is going to ask for a reference for that place…because I really don’t want to try and invent a reasonable answer that doesn’t involve the more colourful parts of my vocabulary.

    4. Gazebo Slayer*

      Wow, what a POS.

      Is his trial and sentencing over? If not, I wonder if this constitutes witness intimidation. (Not a lawyer, so I don’t know.)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Yeah, trial is over. Thank the goddess. Giving evidence in the freaking high court in London is not something I ever want to do again.

        (His crimes are *that* severe. We’re talking millions going ‘missing’.)

    5. Dragon_Dreamer*

      I received such an email when my local branch of the company I worked for closed. I’d started there, then moved to a branch closer to my school to escape an abusive management team. This despite the fact that I hadn’t worked for that branch for SIX YEARS, and had been “fired” by the second branch the year before. (BS reason, boiled down to my being full time non-management, and thus making too much money. Despite being number 2 in sales in the USA for the ENTIRE COMPANY. What shot them in the foot was despite them claiming it was due to customer complaints, they told me I was re-hireable at lower pay, lower hours, total loss of seniority, new branch that was struggling, and the promise I would NEVER be management or full time.)

      The email blamed me for the local branch closing, how my leaving the company had driven the entire DISTRICT into ruins, and how I was a selfish b**** for not accepting Corporate’s “generous” offer to rehire me. I later received a second email, blaming me specifically for the second branch being threatened with closing as well. Both emails were anonymous, but I have a pretty good idea who wrote them. Both were saved to my “ew” folder for reported spam/icky comments/gross emails. Printouts formed kindling for a bonfire, as a catharsis. You don’t owe your old boss or your old company ANYTHING.

    6. Batgirl*

      “he’s now facing a prison sentence and his girlfriend has left him”

      I got to this point and thought ‘If Keymaster of Gozer actually engineered that outcome because their boss was just a bit overbearing, then I bow in awe and wish to become an apprentice of your ways’.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Let’s just say I’ve read a lot of the BOFH ;)

        (Bastard Operator From Hell. Basically a comedy of a completely psychotic IT sysadmin.)

  35. Helen*

    Because you were there for so long and it was your first professional experience it might give you a skewed view on what is normal / acceptable ie normalize abuse. I would refrain from respinding and even block emails / cell so this bully doesn’t have access to you.

  36. Ray Gillette*

    LW (and anyone else for whom this sounds familiar), look up Issendai’s Sick Systems. While they are written from the perspective of children who are estranged from abusive parents, a lot of the dynamic can also apply to the boss/employee relationship. Your ex-boss’s bad behavior is not your fault.

  37. SaraHS*

    I had a similar experience when I left a job I loved after a new and horrible boss took over. At one point she cut my job from full time to part time — meaning I lost my health insurance — with one week of notice. Several months after I quit she left a voicemail that started with the phrase: “I need you to…” I deleted it without listening to the rest of it. Then she had my replacement, who had been a friend of mine, send me a letter telling me what she “needed” from me. It wasn’t unreasonable but I didn’t feel a need to help her out so I didn’t respond. She had at least one other former co-worker attempt to contact me as well; the last straw was when she threatened me via a mutual acquaintance, telling him that she might have to send a lawyer after me. A lawyer friend helped me out by editing a letter I drafted telling her to leave me alone and stop talking about me; I sent copies to her and to the Board of the non-profit we worked for. Thankfully, that worked.

    1. Dragon_Dreamer*

      I worked at a hotel for a few months. A couple weeks into my employment, they changed management, and the manager who hired me left for a Bed and Breakfast nearby. The new manager was a “good friend” of the owner, with VERY firm ideas about the roles of women. I had been hired as Night Auditor and Tech Support. After he took over, the only tech support I got to perform was showing him out to play Pinball on his Vista laptop. (This was back when Vista was brand new.) We ran out of tourist brochures, training materials disappeared, tickets to a local theme park started disappearing, and then money did as well. *I* created new info packets about local attractions, *I* created new training materials, *I* came up with a system to protect the tickets, and I carefully documented every single discrepancy. Based on the fact that I regularly got $20-$50 tips from guests (which we were allowed to take, since we did housekeeping and bellhop duties after hours), I like to think I did a good job.

      Within a couple weeks, he’d found excuses to give all the men raises, and to either drive away or fire every single woman, EXCEPT for me, and the one who was pregnant and kept snuggling up to him. (I have no idea if the kid was his.) Things went downhill quickly. One employee, who had been a friend, became irate when I chose not to sleep with him (the friend), and literally SCREAMED at me in the lobby while the manager looked on. I was then written up for being “disruptive” and “insubordinate.” The (ex)-friend and I were peers, and the guy literally called me a “Psycho B****” in font of guests!

      The final straw came on day 88 of my 90 day probation period. I was ordered to create a poster for an event. As soon as he received it, he called my HOUSE to fire me over the phone. (BIG no-no where I live.)

      He then took advantage of the fact that I am related to multiple local shop owners, or grew up with their kids. As part of my packet creating duties, I’d reached out to several shop owners, with management encouragement, to discuss creating packages for guests. Things like, book the room at this slightly more expensive price, have complimentary handmade chocolates waiting for you. At the normal room price, receive coupons at check-in for these local shops. Obviously, when I was fired, I let these places know immediately. It’s a good thing I did, because within a week he was calling them and DEMANDING free goods and services from them, saying that I’d promised they’d do so. Thankfully, they all saw through him, and it didn’t damage my reputation.

      I filed for unemployment, the rest of the women banded together and sued the owners for discrimination. I actually got more money out of it than they did. (I got $35/week for about a year.) He tried to fight the unemployment, saying that I hadn’t been there for 90 days. Apparently, he upset the judge enough somehow with comments that weren’t repeated, that she granted me unemployment and shut down any further attempts at appeals.

      A couple months after that, the hotel actually *lost* the brand name that they’d been operating under for over a decade. It’s changed hands a few times since, but is now stable and renovated. Never heard what happened to the jerk after that, but I wish him nothing but the worst.

  38. Sara without an H*

    Oh, OP, you owe this glass bowl absolutely nothing. Nothing, nichts, rien de tout. Set up a rule to mark any future messages as read and route them to a Evil Boss folder.

    You said you felt you had to protect this reference for a few years. Why would you think Evil Boss would give you a good reference, anyway? He would probably gleefully trash you to all and sundry. Instead, concentrate on building up your reputation and skills at your current employer. Try to build up a network of people who can vouch for your work if asked to do so. And the longer you’re away from Toxic Hellhole, Inc., the less a reference from Evil Boss will matter.

    I’m going back and forth in my own mind about whether you should brief your current manager, as in “I’ve got this under control, but I thought you should know about it.” Personally, if someone on my team was being harassed this way, I’d want to know. But that may just be me, and a lot depends on your current manager and your relationship. If Evil Boss continues to harass you, though, you might want to give your manager or HR team a heads-up.

  39. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    This person is an abuser. And he’s even worse than most because he is a stalker-abuser. He tracked you down over a frigging spreadsheet error. This speaks volumes about how unhinged he is.

    You are a victim.

    This is so outrageous I’m shaking a bit reading about it.

    I’ll put it this way. Every time I come into a job, I find mistakes from the previous person. Some have been pretty huge. I can tell you that at no time did someone contact the former person in that position, not even to ask “what’s up with this?” let alone to berate them.

    This person isn’t right. I would honestly forward it to HR and let them deal with their employee that’s risen to the level of harassing former employees. You don’t need to worry about this scorching the earth, this nonsensical person has already done that for you, just lob fire balls back at him at this rate.

  40. Valegro*

    I worked for a boss like that. Actually my last two bosses thanks to my industry rewarding martyrs and it mostly being small businesses run by people with zero business knowledge. Last Boss told everyone that I quit because I wanted to work part time. I guess 40 hours a week is PT when you regularly work 70+ at all hours of the day and night and it’s never enough. He tried to call and text a few times after I left and I ignored the calls (no VMs left) and gave 1-2 word responses to the fishing texts. Before I left that job I was having panic attacks and crying regularly. And it wasn’t even as bad as the one before that where my boss would get physically violent with objects and do blatantly illegal things. It did eventually die off and I route all his calls to VM anyway. If he treated me like your ex boss he would be completely blocked via phone and email.

  41. JQWADDLE*

    OP – I’m so sorry you went through that. Please know you didn’t enable anything. When a person is in an abusive situation, usually they are in survival move. When you are in survival mode, there is no game planning, just living day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute and trying to survive.

    The advice Alison gave is spot on. I wish you well and hope you find healing from this terrible situation soon!

  42. theelephantintheroom*

    Just keep telling yourself he is not your problem anymore (in fact, if I had received that email, I think, “Not my problem ‍♀️“ would have been my response). Block and move on!

  43. LKW*

    The decision to help or not is yours if someone asks. If someone demands or is otherwise rude, aggressive or any other negative behavior, you are allowed to say “AMF*” and block.

    Whether you choose to reach out to someone is based on your relationship with them and what you’re asking. In my experience, if they’ve left a project – I may ask for info. If they’ve left the company, I won’t reach out.

    *Adios Mother Bleepity Bleep

  44. Psammead*

    I have an awful past boss who I’ve cut ties with. Whenever I need a reference for that post I give a specific HR contact instead (they helped deal with the fact that I couldn’t cope with interacting with him any more, after I forwarded them a bunch of emails he sent which showed how awful he was, and agreed to be my contact at the uni because I don’t trust him not to write something horrific). Please block him. You don’t have to put up with this treatment

  45. arcya*

    I would like to add that should your abusive former boss email you from a different address, or has one of your former co-workers email you: do not reply. Don’t scramble to respond! Block the new address, or file it away for your memoir, or have a dramatic reading with your new coworkers. But don’t reply. Also if someone calls your phone: if it’s the boss, don’t answer. If you get tricked into answering, you don’t need their permission to hang up. Just hang up. You can make a bunch of static noises before you do, if you want to maintain the pretext that you were disconnected.

    I had a real bad boss for a while, and it sucked, and now FIVE YEARS LATER I still get emails or attempts at contact about something I worked on. It’s just an excuse. Forget that person’s name, have a party in your heart

    Comedy bonus response: “new email who dis”

  46. Sabine the Very Mean*

    Honestly, I think I would either respond with, “eat my shorts, Jabroni” or “Oh! You’re right! You know what, I’m 99.9% certain that every single formula in that spreadsheet is dangerously wrong. You’d be wise to audit the entire data in high detail.”

  47. Bob*

    OP, read the Wikipedia article about Stockholm syndrome and Google it and read more.
    Figure out in some detail how it relates to your situation then explore with your counselor what you can do to escape it. Don’t worry too much about any official advice, think about developing personal understanding of it and advice for yourself.
    As mentioned by many send letters straight to a hidden folder so you don’t have to see them.
    If there are other problems consider seeking out an employment lawyer. Do not be afraid to do this if you feel it necessary or just because you feel like it. Even consider doing it with this current letter. I suspect you can find some that will have a free initial consult.

    1. Bob*

      Oh and if you ever run into them outside work use a recording app on your phone to record anything said. Assuming this is legal in your location, in many locations its legal as long as one side consents (thats you).

  48. Emma*

    I am so sorry you had to deal with this.
    I totally agree with Alison and others who say this person is being ridiculous and that you should block him. You don’t owe him anything, you cannot fix anything for him, and you need to protect yourself from the stress his is causing you, which you do not deserve.
    For what it’s worth, it sounds to me like your ex-boss has been sloppy, is looking around for someone to blame and has settled on you (possibly because as someone outside the organisation you don’t now have enough information to fully realise how badly he may have messed this up). It may be worth trying to think about the situation from the perspective of your ex-boss’s boss – if someone came to me having made his error in the projections, and tried to blame it on someone who left the company 6 months ago because there was a formula error in a spreadsheet she had prepared before she left, I would be incredibly unimpressed. You ex-boss’s failure to verify his data was his fault. Also, 15-20% is a fairly large error in a projection – obviously we don’t have the context, but it sounds like the type of error that someone who was paying attention would spot and query when they look at the numbers they are producing. Apparently your ex-boss did not bother to do that. He was sloppy, his sloppiness had consequences. This is not your circus.

  49. Matilda Jefferies*

    He burned the bridge with the way he treated you … All you have to do is see that it’s burning and calmly step out of the way.

    That is such great advice, not just to this OP but to so many others. Best of luck to you, OP – I hope you can get him out of your inbox, and out of your brain, very soon.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you for highlighting this for me. I’ve been so overwhelmed by the support from everyone here, and I know I’ll need to come back and re-read many of these responses and advice again. This is such a powerful statement and I need to learn from it. Thank you.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        You’re safe now. It takes a long time, sometimes much longer than many expect to get over the trauma of being abused.

  50. Red Wheelbarrow*

    LW, it sounds as if your abusive boss used your dedication and sense of responsibility against you. Bravo to you for making your way out of that awful situation and into a better one! It sounds as if you’re working hard on your healing process despite this (very upsetting) interruption.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Thank you. I am – I really want to heal, and be healthy both physically and mentally. You are right that I have a strong sense of responsibility, and want to see things through, and I hate that it was/is being used against me.

      1. It's mce w*

        If he continues to bother old, consider sending a cease and desist letter. It should have him back off.

  51. Merci Dee*

    I wonder . . . should the OP bring up the harassing emails with their current boss?

    While I agree that the OP should not respond further to any harassing emails that the old boss sends, he may escalate and up his game when no further response is forthcoming. I would not at all be surprised if the old boss tried to get in touch with OP’s new boss and get the OP fired from a great new job. Giving new boss a heads-up about the two abusive emails that have been received would give new boss some context in case old boss makes contact.

    I would love to say that it doesn’t happen, but I am personally aware of a couple of situations where workers announced they were resigning for a new position, and vindictive bosses called ahead to the new employers and trashed the departing employees to the point where their new job offers were withdrawn.

    1. Observer*

      This is a different situation though. The OP’s work knows her already, and that makes a HUGE difference.

      It’s also worth noting that if the OP is at all accurate about the ex-boss, it will be clear to the new boss.

      1. Letter Writer*

        That’s true. I’ve made it through my 90-day review with flying colors, and have received lots of praise/compliments for my work in my new job. My next formal review is at the end of the fiscal year, but I think I have had the opportunity to prove myself in the new role, so it will be harder for him to severely damage my reputation at my new job.

  52. I Need That Pen*

    One of the most satisfying things I did on an exit interview was produce three really upsetting emails the boss I was fleeing from sent me. I told HR that I didn’t want said boss to be used as a reference and that if it took me until I was 90 to get a job without it so be it. They (HR) then said they would happily be the reference and do the whole very bland “she’d be eligible for rehire” speech, and fortunately that was actually good enough. This was also a company that cared about their reputation for recruitment (pre-Glassdoor days). Said boss could never find out why they were dragging their heels on backfilling my position, and when they told her a couple months later to leave she had her answer.

    I often say it was the worst and best job I ever had because now I know what I will not tolerate and can recognize behaviors in the workplace much better. It did some self esteem damage at the time, sure, but experience, knowledge, maturity came into play and I decided I liked a nice stable me rather than a wreck who stayed in bed all weekend and could barely open the door to my apartment to go to that job. If that boss had ever emailed me I too would keep it for documentation. Nice he put it in writing. Does he not know words in the air were never there? So sorry this happened OP. Keep moving forward.

  53. Archaeopteryx*

    Pretend he’s Jareth the Goblin King and repeat after me… “YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME!” You should not be responding to him at all. Much like the abusive ex-bf/gf who demands that you rehash every aspect of your relationship to their satisfaction before they’ll ‘allow’ you to move on (spoiler: they will never be satisfied), you should in no way be answering to your ex-boss about your ex-job. Enjoy being dust in the wind to him, and congratulations on getting out!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Except I rather would like the idea of Jareth the Goblin King having :-) all kinds ;-) of power over me ;-) ;-)

  54. Karyn*

    I was on the receiving end of this kind of post-job abuse, too. I cut my two weeks’ notice short by a week because my boss became unstable and after going to the doctor, my blood pressure was through the roof and my doctor advised I leave immediately. I quit via email and then got not one but three abusive emails afterward, blaming me for everything wrong in the office and telling me how I should be grateful for all the kindness she showed me while I was there. She went on to say that I was being unprofessional by not allowing the other assistant to contact me with questions about how things worked. She also said karma would get me in the future.

    It was disturbing, but not unexpected. My response was no response – I saved the emails in case something ever came of it, but I didn’t bother replying to her directly, because nothing I ever said would make a damn bit of difference. I figure it this way: if she thinks that is appropriate behavior, I’m not the one karma is going to come for, and on top of that, it just gives her a reputation in our industry (if she does it to one person, I guarantee she’s doing it to many others).

    I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this nonsense, but Alison is right: block him and move forward with your awesome new life and career.

  55. Noname*

    Fed up with those psycho bosses. My abusive ex-boss even called me every minute in a day even at night for months after I quit. I think she had so much time. I blocked her and then she used another number to be able to call. Finally, I had to turn on airplane mode on my phone for months. Nightmare

    1. Karyn*

      At that point I’d have either changed my number (not fair to you of course) or put Robokiller on my phone and then let all her phone calls get the silent treatment. Or, you know, started answering and literally screaming into the phone before she could say anything. :X

      1. Noname*

        Yes , at that time, I did use another number on another phone, and informed my family and close friends about that. But at the time I suffered severely from depression because of that job, so I can’t even scream at them. It’s terrible to even “smell” their toxicity via the phone. Thank you for your reply buddy :*

        1. Karyn*

          <3 I'm sorry you had to live with that kind of depression. Nobody's job should follow them home like that, literally or figuratively.

  56. Whole Man Disposal*

    THIS IS DISPATCH

    VAN ON FIRE 58 EN ROUTE TO COLLECT ONE (1) “MEGA-AS[]SH[]OLE *FORMER* BOSS WHO IS UNAWARE OF IMPENDING EXECUTABLE BLOCK FUNCTIONS” AND DISPENSE ONE (1) “GIANT BLOCK BUTTON” AND WILL TO USE IT

    ETA 27 MINUTES

  57. It's mce w*

    OP, if you need to, see about getting a cease and desist letter served to your old boss. This is harassment; you have proof. But block him first.

  58. Facts*

    > This week, my former boss reached out with a long, angry email blaming me for a formula error in a spreadsheet that messed up some projections by 15-20%.

    If the calculations were spotless would they company send you a check? Many employers are so entitled. F U pay me.

  59. Umiel12*

    I wish that you had written him back to say, “Since I no longer work there, before I read and respond to this email we will need to negotiate my hourly contractor fee.”

  60. MissDisplaced*

    “He sent back a scathing email doing nothing but blame me for all of the future issues this would have.”

    Is your former boss Donald Trump? Seriously! The only blame he has is all ON HIMSELF.
    You are not to blame if he can’t run his own business properly. Block this A-Hat, don’t return his calls or emails.

    An abuser and blamer bully-boss who refuses to take any responsibility for the running of their own business will never give you a good reference anyway–no matter how much you bend over backward for them. I had this boss once, so I know. Cut all ties with him and his company and don’t look back. You don’t need that kind of berating and abuse, nor are you required to respond as you no longer work there. Quit enabling him to act like a spoiled toddler having a tantrum.

    I hope you can put this behind you. Working for this type can really mess up your professional norms. I still struggle with that sometimes and it’s been over five years ago now.

  61. Bookworm*

    I’m sorry Horrible Boss is putting you through that. Agree with Alison’s recommendations. Try to find other references if possible and don’t respond. There’s absolutely no reason to believe he’d give you a good recommendation when it comes down to it.

    I had a somewhat similar situation (it was a one-time event and I worked almost entirely remotely for a project-based job). I just didn’t respond and he never followed-up/got the hint. Never put down the job on my resume, never used him as a reference, don’t think I even have his contact information, either.

    I’m sorry you had that experience and I wish you the best in moving forward. It’s definitely him, not you.

  62. specialist*

    Congratulations for getting out.
    I rather like the suggestions to have these emails go to a folder. You don’t read them but you have them in case the boss escalates the harassment.
    Also, one email clearly telling the loser to never contact you again would be helpful. Should the loser continue to harass you, you can show that you clearly told them to go away.

    1. JM in England*

      As others have already said, document, document, document! Then document some more…

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Unless you want to read them much later and have a good chuckle. Sometimes these types can end up sounding downright ridiculous in retrospect.

  63. Essess*

    If the boss is not the owner, then you should be forwarding his vicious emails to the HR office and let them know that he is opening the company up to harassment liabilities.

  64. Quill*

    OP, your boss is like my worst boss on steroids. Save his number but label it DO NOT ANSWER, and send his emails directly to the spambox. You don’t owe him any work or any information or any consideration now that you’re out, and also, seriously, locate a therapist.

  65. TeapotNinja*

    If you, contrary to Alison’s advice, feel like responding, the appropriate way to respond to work related communications from former places of employment that treated you badly is to say something along the lines of:

    “Hi Fergus, thank you for reaching out. I would love to help you, but being that I no longer work for Teapots Inc, I should inform you that my consulting fee for Teapot design work is $1,000 / hr, paid in advance for a minimum of 8 hours. Let me know when the check is on its way. Best, Sansa.”

    Adjust numbers accordingly to be appropriate for specific circumstances.

  66. Green Goose*

    I’m so sorry OP. Your letter really struck me because I escaped an abusive boss about three years ago and I could really relate to your experience and empathize. I agree with Alison’s comments about how norms can get warped when you are in that type of situation. It took me about 18 months before I was able to tell a higher up about what was happening because I was in a weird psychological environment where I was convinced that if I said anything that either no one would believe me or they would side with him and get rid of me for speaking up. Now that I’ve been out of the situation for a couple of years and have had two nicer and supportive bosses since I truly understand how not normal my situation was and that I’ll never put up with that again.

    I think your ex-boss is conning you into thinking he still has power over you, so you still need to put up with the abuse to keep on “good terms”. The worry about burning bridges is part of a mind game. Like Alison said, he would have never given you a good review even if you did everything “right” and it’s not your problem anymore. I think it would be fine to forward his emails to the old HR or his manager (depending on your comfort level) or just ignore them.

    You also currently have a much nice boss/job that you could use as a reference and you can always use a colleague/other department head/HR from your former company but definitely don’t use ex-boss. You don’t want to give someone like that any ammunition to think they still have power over you.

    And people like your ex-boss tend to get their comeuppance in one way or another. I found out through the grapevine that my ex-boss has been unable to hold onto a job for more than about 10 months since he left our company due to similar behaviour and his newer companies not putting up with it.

    Take some time to heal, it gets better! And don’t even read any of his future emails.

  67. AllieJ.0516*

    Go with Alison’s advice, it’s solid and professional.

    If it were me, though, my instinct would be to say something like, “See? This right here? This is why I quit. I hope you’re not abusing others the way you abused me for xx# of years now that I’m not there to be your punching bag. Do not contact me again, ever, for any reason.”

  68. No regrets*

    I had a boss exactly like this. I only lasted 3 years ( I can’t believe you made it 10!). My new job was actually with a client of my old job. About 4 months after I left, I similarly received a scathing email and voicemail. I didn’t respond and instead forwarded them to my current boss (our company still is a client of old company). Needless to say, after it got to my grand boss, we are no longer clients.

  69. RowanUK*

    I lasted 3 years at my first job after graduating. The first 1.5 years were fine. Then I switched teams after being made various promises my higher management.

    My new manager turned out to be a gaslighter and very manipulative. She seemed like a nice person. She would randomly give you ‘treats’ or let you go home early. But if you did something that displeased her in any way she would give you the silent treatment. Once we got more people on our team, and one of them had performance issues, she decided that rather than – you know – manage her – she would use me to monitor her as part of “preparing me for a promotion”. By that point, I was so overworked and stressed through office politics that I didn’t know what good management was.

    She also wrote me up for not smiling.

    That was all over 13 years ago, but it took me a long time to train myself out of the behaviours I picked up there (like saying sorry for basically everything).

    Your old manager is a manipulator and a user. And I’d bet he’s upset that he doesn’t get to shape your life anymore. He wants to know that he can still have an effect on you, so blocking or ignoring sounds like the best solution.

    I’m so happy you’re in a supportive place now!

  70. Lizzo*

    LW: I am so thankful that you got out and are in a much better situation. I’m glad you’re making efforts to heal. This kind of experience is traumatic, and there is a lot of cultural pressure to think, “Well, it’s not that bad…it’s just work, and it’s just words.” It’s still trauma. It still hurts, and it still does damage.

    Your ex-boss is a steaming, putrid, miserable, abusive pile of garbage, with some weeks-old fecal matter thrown in for good measure. You owe them nothing. NOTHING. Say it out loud: “I owe them NOTHING.” Repeat, repeat, repeat.

    You are important and valuable and talented. You deserve respect. And especially now, you probably have limited energy and emotional bandwidth to deal with “life”. Do not invest another moment in this relationship. Auto-forward the emails to a folder where you can keep them out of sight (but still accessible in case proof of this awful behavior is needed in the future). Spend all of that energy on YOU and your priorities and what makes you feel empowered and happy and advances your healing process.

    I have been in your shoes, and over time the framing that has helped me is, “Wow, I feel sorry for this person who is so miserable in their own life that they cannot behave like a kind, decent human being…but their misery is not my responsibility to manage or solve.” Recognize the misery for what it is (remember: you are NOT the source of the misery!), and then let it go. That’s going to take practice, but this is an excellent skill to cultivate, because if you are a compassionate and conscientious person, this is probably not the last time you’re going to find yourself in a situation like this.

    Also, can confirm: it’s wonderfully freeing once you get to the “zero f*cks given” stage of this growth process. ;-) Hang in there!

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