my ex-boss is using my firing as content for her company social media pages

A reader writes:

My former boss is using my firing as content for her social media pages, including recording herself singing songs about it.

The background: I worked for my boss for five years and now see the MOUNTAIN of red flags I ignored because I was desperate to break into the field — behavior like not getting me the training I needed, demanding I be on call 24/7 and drastically underpaying me, constantly hiring consultants that gave horrible advice and then getting upset with my performance when I had to scramble to fix the damage the contractors had done. I knew something was up when she hired someone else last year and promoted them to be my manager after about two weeks on the job (that’s a different story). It was a small business in a very big but niche market. I’m now well known in this field due to working for her for so long.

She fired me out of the blue last month citing multiple confusing and wacko reasons; everything from my personal life being a “mess” (I’m undergoing medical treatment for a rare disorder that I was only recently diagnosed with but I never missed work for it and didn’t even use the business health insurance) to an error a contractor made three years ago, to not capitalizing a letter in an email, to my inability to fix a software glitch that I had no control over. While I see now the mountain, nay, planet full of red flags that popped up over the course of our relationship, I’m still struggling with having been fired from a situation that was so unhealthy and beating myself up for staying so long.

I don’t follow her or the business or my coworkers on social media, but since I’ve been fired she’s been making Tik Toks, Instagram reels, Facebook videos, and other pieces of content about “letting toxic people go,” and lip-synching to a popular pop song that uses the words “sociopath” with captions about doing the right thing for your business and firing the “dead weight toxic employees.” I’m the only person let go from the business, so yes, she is talking about me. People who knew I worked for her brought this to my attention now that I’m trying to start my own company. Did I mention we’re adults with families and responsibilities, not teenagers?

All of my hirable experience and expertise is related to working for this person and I don’t know how to feel or move forward. I’m obviously not going to respond or lurk on her social media pages, and I’ve asked the friends we have in common to stop telling me and not get involved. I do need some things from her social media as portfolio examples for potential clients, so I can’t help but see some of it and it opens the wounds again.

How do I move forward freelancing and starting over professionally while knowing I’m getting partially dragged through the professional mud? She owns the business so she can behave any way she wants.

What’s she’s doing is so over-the-top odd and unprofessional that it’s going to reflect terribly on her and not at all on you. She is lip-synching to pop songs and singing about firing people! This is not normal behavior, it makes her look ridiculous and unhinged, and if anything, it’s likely to hurt her business. Would you do business with someone you saw doing this — would you think they were likely to treat you and your projects professionally and with sound judgment, and that they would be pleasant to work with? Or would you recoil and run far away? Most people would recoil and run.

Frankly, a lot of people who see this won’t necessarily even connect it with you. They might know you worked there but they won’t know she fired you. And especially assuming that they see you as a level-headed, reasonable person, they’re not going to immediately assume, “Oh, this must be about Jane Mulberry, of course!” They’re going to think, “WTF is this and why is it here?”

But even if people do realize it’s about you, it’s going to make them horrified for you — because you’re clearly being targeted by someone out of her gourd. To the extent that this makes people feel anything in your direction, it’ll be sympathy. No one is going to watch these Tik Toks or Facebook videos and think, “Oh, this is valuable information about Jane Mulberry, I’d better not work with her. These lip-synched lyrics indicate she’s a sociopath!” They’re going to think, “What the hell did I just see and what is wrong with ExBoss?”

Seriously, what your boss is doing is highly likely to destroy her reputation with any reasonable person. Let her destroy it. It’s never fun for someone else’s drama to splash on you, but it’s so clearly about her and not you.

Don’t give it another thought other than as a story you will enjoy telling in a few years when the sting is gone.

{ 299 comments… read them below }

  1. starsaphire*

    I just… wow.

    No advice, just hugs.

    I’m so glad you’re out of there, OP. As bad as this situation is, I hope you have a chance to rest and heal, and slough off some of that toxicity.

    1. starsaphire*

      By “bad” I mean “unpleasant,” btw, not “bad for your career.” Alison’s right – no one is going to give this loon the benefit of any doubt.

    2. NYC Taxi*

      This is all a reflection on your boss and not you. Alison is so right – she’s destroying her reputation and business with the odd behavior.

      As a person who has had to fire people over the course of my career I have never taken any glee in it and would certainly never post passive aggressive nonsense on social media about it.

      So glad you are rid of that toxicity. All the very best luck to you.

      1. Artemesia*

        The thing is, if at professional meetings and your name came up she just sighed until someone asked and then said ‘oh I hate to criticize, but she was a nightmare to work with.’ or if she just gave lukewarm references or in other subtle ways torpedoed you professionally she might do some damage. But songs on tiktok are going to be seen as about her and she probably inoculates against damage she might do. I might even refer someone to her tiktok to ‘explain’ why you left.

        1. traffic_spiral*

          Seriously, going all Taylor Swift on your former employees doesn’t put *them* in a bad light.

      2. ThePear8*

        Exactly. One of my business professors told our class about when he first had to fire someone – he felt horrible about it, and his boss told him “If you ever don’t feel bad about firing someone, you’re not fit for management”

      3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Also, if anyone does think she is reasonable in this behavior and that it is a reason not to work with you, that is actually a plus and a great bullet dodge! Anyone who sees this and thinks anything other than, “wow, this chick is nuts! I bet her ex-employee is thrilled to be out of there!” – that is not someone you want to get mixed up with either. If it has any effect, it will help repel the worst head cases out of your orbit!

        1. TardyTardis*

          And you will look like a hero for having worked for her so long and not saying much about her. She’s destroying herself just fine, and you’re doing exactly the right thing by merely Wincing and then ignoring it.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is just….bonkers on a whole other level. That ex boss is going to absolutely torpedo her professional reputation and probably not ever admit that she was the one who did it.

      On the bright side, I can guarantee there’s at least one or more people who’ve seen those videos, and know her, and are going ‘holy heck I’m never working for her/giving her my business’ and probably pointing and laughing at her.

      Save thineself OP, which you sound like you’ve done by leaving. If someone wants to make themselves look like a complete bellend on the internet in ‘retaliation’ then just let them. I confidently predict that in a few years you’ll be enjoying a more stable environment and also looking back and laughing about how she destroyed her business.

      Living well IS sometimes the best revenge. All my best wishes mate.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        +1000 to all of the above. I think you need to be kind to yourself and understand that you’ve been terribly impacted by HER toxicity. Please try to make time to review all of Alison’s great advice on how to get over toxic work environments.
        Nobody, but NOBODY, is going to look at those videos and think anything but that she’s a toxic lunatic and to pity anyone who had to work for her

  2. Justin*

    Sometimes I feel like “toxic” and “sociopath” becoming common, mundane lexicon allows nonsense like this to occur.

    It’s real unpleasant, I’m sure, but she’s making herself look ridiculous.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Just keep your head up, let your hard work speak for itself – and the reputation destroying former manager will implode all on their own.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      If I were searching for someone in her field and came across this trainwreck I would take a hard pass. Most people want professional business contacts, not a circus. There’s using social media to grow your business and then there is this.
      Actually, if anyone asks you why you were fired, you could always direct them to her site and explain that you didn’t see eye to eye.

    3. Fran Fine*

      Sometimes I feel like “toxic” and “sociopath” becoming common, mundane lexicon allows nonsense like this to occur.

      Yes! Especially “sociopath” – that’s a legit mental health disorder that has to be diagnosed by a professional. Everyone you don’t like/get along with or are assholes are not sociopaths, folks. I really wish people would stop using it.

      1. Justin*

        It’s not even actually in the DSM officially, so it’s just bad pop pscyhology. But right, being a jerk is not a disorder.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I am more forgiving about the lay use of the term narcissistic, but even that is getting overused to the point that people say it about anyone they find remotely annoying. Also, neither sociopathic personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder are still recognized as individual diagnoses in the DSM5 – they are both rolled up with a couple other sub-diagnoses into antisocial personality disorder. But people seem to forget that these are subset of one of the most serious mental health diagnoses is the DSM5 and they are not common disorders. Toxic is a better word for it all, as it is not associated with real mental health diagnoses and has to do more with the impact the person is having on you than on that person’s “craziness.”

        So when I see the terms sociopath and psychopath (and to a lesser degree, narcissistic, because it has been misused so long that I think people genuinely are not thinking about it as a diagnosis) thrown about in this way, I admit that I am a lot less likely to take the person misusing those terms seriously.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Correction, they did remove Narcissistic Personality Disorder from the DSM 5 as a separate diagnosis briefly, but brought it back. My bad! Does not change my point, but I do not want to spread misinformation!

        2. Kit*

          Both sociopathic and psychopathic personality disorders are included in the ICD-10’s Dissocial Personality Disorder classification, however – I agree that the terms are often misused, but the DSM is not the be-all and end-all of psychiatric diagnosis or terminology.

    4. JI*

      I once had to put my foot down about not hiring someone who kept lying during interviews… my colleagues were excusing it by saying “well, at least he admitted it.”. I was astounded that they seemed to think he wouldn’t lie to us when he was in the job, which requires us to be very candid. I’

      I was a fairly senior individual contributor (was top 5% ranked by revenue brought in), so I basically said “It’s him or me”, which expended some capital. Ultimately, I got my way. (I found out afterwards that was basically the reason they didn’t hire him)

      Afterwards, I talked to my shrink about it, outlining the meetings I had with the guy, and worrying I had overreacted.
      He started laughing and then when I asked him why, he said “No, I shouldn’t be diagnosing someone I’ve never met, but it sounds like he was exhibiting very standard sociopathic behavior”

    5. Generic Name*

      When I saw that former boss was using those words to describe the OP, my first thought was, “wow, projection”. As in, the former boss sounds like a toxic sociopath and is projecting her own negative qualities onto the OP, which can happen with disordered people.

      1. NinaBee*

        I thought that too, it’s usually the way with people like that, they deflect and project onto others a lot

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I said out loud, “man, takes one to know one…” I mean, I know sociopath is a real diagnosis and whatever, but wow… if I’m not allowed to use that word, I don’t know what else to call the LW’s ex boss.

    6. CheezeWhizzard*

      It’s not unusual for people who behave badly to co-opt words used to describe their own behaviour. I don’t think describing this boss as “toxic” would be an exaggeration, do you?

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          That’s the point. Liars accuse honest people of lying, thieves accuse people of stealing, Toxic Boss is accusing OP of being toxic.

  3. Princess Deviant*

    Sorry you had to deal with this monstrosity! It’s definitely on her and not you.
    And try not to beat yourself up for staying! Sometimes you can’t see what’s right under your nose because you’re just trying to survive in a difficult situation.
    Be kind to yourself.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This – it can be hard to notice how crazy things are when you are in the middle of it all just trying to keep your head above water.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        Oh yes, when you are there for some reason you can’t see the big picture only single incidents, then you get out and you start to realize that all those incidents add up.
        I was also unexpectedly fired from a toxic place a few years ago, best thing that has ever happened to my marriage, mental health and parenting and didn’t hurt my career at all. I too didn’t really have any references beyond the place that fired me. I was able to explain to hiring managers exactly what happened and all 4 that I explained to had the same reaction. They all said WTF! How did you last three years in that place.
        The thing that really told me this was a good thing, despite being the sole income for my family and being stressed out from being fired I got the best nights sleep I had had in three years that night.

        1. Mandycake*

          I knew my job was toxic. I was not provided the tools or manpower I requested to do the job yet was faulted for not being able to do it, the grandboss call my work “shit” and in 7 months I had 3 different managers. I should have run away but I had to support myself and, knowing that the outcome was inevitable, waited to be fired so I could get unemployment. I slept like a baby when I was let go.

        2. Dancing Otter*

          My blood pressure went down twenty points.
          Better yet, my next job was a 60% increase, not counting bonuses. After a year, I was making almost double and not being told to “smile more.”

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Because you were smiling spontaneously every time you got a bonus or pay rise !

      2. EmKay*

        It’s impossible to observe a system impartially when we are part of that system. Well, for humans anyway, lol.

    2. Your Local Password Resetter*

      Definitely! We see it happen with a lot of LW’s in terrible workplaces. Your sense of normalcy gets warped until you can’t see most of the awfulness anymore.

  4. TallTeapot*

    I will also give an alternative to Alison’s advice–if the people who you would want to hire you are the types of people who would base their hiring decisions based on these wacky Tik Tok videos and lip-synchs–do YOU want to work for them, LR?? Nooooo!!! Don’t let the warped sense of reality you gained working for this person for so long influence who you work with in the future!

    1. Mononoke Hime*

      +1. Anyone who takes that kind of social media content seriously is not someone you want to work with. You are already well known and respected in the industry (or people would not have brought the videos to your attention). The videos, even though they are painful reminders of your bad experience, cannot harm you in any way.

      1. staceyizme*

        I have to wonder about the type of industry in play here. Something that relies heavily on social media promotion and that is a large, but niche industry. Personal wellness, naturopathic practitioner, execu-nanny…? In any case, it’s banana-crackers with Nutella, a mountain of whipped cream and a whole jar of maraschino cherries on top. A dysfunctional dessert of epic proportions… (that may someday be served back to the Old Boss in the form of reduced business or support for legal proceedings…).

  5. New Job So Much Better*

    Just wow. Agree with everyone here, don’t lose any more sleep over this.

    1. henrietta*

      I kinda hope my boss will make bonkers tiktoks about me when I’m gone. It would be a bit of a badge, tbh!

  6. CollegeSupervisor*

    Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion I might know who this toxic ExBoss is… A certain professional skill course I enrolled in awhile back is owned by someone who started posting increasingly unhinged content in this type of vein to the point where I stopped following them. If there are two such people in the world that would be extremely unfortunate.

    1. Knope Knope Knope*

      This kind of reminds me of what happened with Deciem a few years back. While it is a terribly sad story, it’s also a good example of how a founder/owner’s social media behavior can have truly disastrous impacts on their business just as Alison says.

      1. Bucky Barnes*

        I hadn’t heard of Deciem so I googled it. Really sad. Link to NYT article to follow.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        It got to the point where skincare consumers who are generally pro-indie-brand were basically begging their minority shareholder, Estee Lauder, to try to do something. (I see they’re poised to buy out the rest of the company over the next three years.)

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Adding also that there were also a lot of diehard fans who stuck to the ‘clearly unhinged guy can do no wrong’/’notice me please’ hard line – not to mention that many people like this will hard-curate their comments to remove any dissent – and so judging by comments may not be an accurate picture.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      There are way more than 2 such people posting unhinged content in this vein so I wouldn’t bother drawing any conclusions.

      Even if the boss was posting herself lip-syncing positive songs about how much she loves people on Tik Tok, Instagram reels, and Facebook videos, that’s…odd for a professional and owner of a business, IMO.

      1. AskJeeves*

        Yes, I would imagine there are plenty of people out there who would do something like this, and they are so convinced of their own rightness that they assume the audience is on their side and this is making them look like a righteous avenger or something. I am unfortunately connected to someone like this, and they told outright lies with a straight face, right in front of me, in order to make themselves look like the victim/hero and me the villain. It’s really awful and painful, but all you can do is hope that the people hearing these rants will see through the lies.

        1. staceyizme*

          Social Media is such a weird echo chamber. For many, it’s a fun house mirror and they only see what they want to see, no matter how “off” the image is, proportionally.

        2. Coffee time!*

          So true! in one way just wow and glad you are out of there. Silver lining is that she is proving to the world who the problem is without you having to get into it. Worse is when they lie to others etc but don’t leave written proof so if you have to bring it up then it becomes a whole big thing and drawn out.

      2. Cooper*

        At a small enough level of business, having the owner post videos on social media is a vital part of their strategy! It can be a problem because the brand gets fully tied up in that person, and if that person turns out to be terrible (see: multiple cosmetics brands), it’ll tank the brand, but for small businesses, those videos are really important for getting their name out there.

    3. Pants*

      I’d be interested in the comments they’re getting on these crazy posts. I’m petty and would probably respond with something like, “Wow, this is mature. This is TOTALLY going to grow your business.”

    4. Anon this time*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there are two such people in the world.

      People sometimes become “unhinged,” and business owners are not immune. I personally know someone who temporarily was like OP’s ex-boss due to a mix of mental health issues, personal issues and prescription drugs. Fortunately they weren’t anyone’s boss at the time.

      1. Generic Name*

        Yeah, I know someone who went “unhinged” too. Sadly, there are lots and lots of people with mental health issues/personality disorders who never get treatment because they have a paranoid style of thinking and/or externalize responsibility (it’s always someone else’s fault), etc.

        1. Anonosaurus*

          And because they are unable to access treatment (either through finances or availability).

          1. OhNo*

            Or personal choice, unfortunately. I had an old friend like that, where they acknowledged that their behavior was having negative impact, that they had the ability and finances to get help, but they just… didn’t want to. So they didn’t.

            One can only hope that people like this LW’s boss (and my old friend) get the help they need someday. But for now, it’s very much a case of “not my circus, not my monkeys”.

        2. Boof*

          mental health disorders and jackassery are different things*
          *I suppose personality disorders can seem to walk the line but they aren’t really a mental health problem the way, say, schizophrenia or bipolar are, they’re personality disorders or basically a way of describing a pattern of dysfunction

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        And a business owner is unfortunately often the type of person who won’t listen to advice on mental health (the narcissist streak they often have means that they are incapable of judging themselves to be ill).

      1. Midwest Teacher*

        There is a reason LWs change details and names. It typically would do more harm than good for letter writers to expose their work places when writing in to Alison.

  7. LTL*

    When I first got out of an abusive situation, sharing everything about it was my first inclination. Still kind of is. But it’s bizarre to see that kind of thing when it comes to firing. She’s the one with the upper hand in the power dynamic.

    It’s one thing if someone learns “firing people is hard but sometimes you have to do it” but she’s being so over the top that any level-headed person wouldn’t trust her judgement. She’s put up a big “I’m the toxic one” sign.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I think the difference there is that you weren’t the source of the toxic situation and the boss here is. This would be like your ex posting videos about abusing you.

      1. LTL*

        Sure but I think it’s different when you’re dealing with a romantic relationship vs a relationship with an inherent power imbalance.

        If my ex posted videos about toxicity, anyone who sees them may very well believe that he was the one being abused. The optics are different when it’s a boss talking about someone they fired.

      2. azvlr*

        When I first read your response, I was worried that yes, the stuff the former boss was posting would paint OP in a bad light.
        But then I remembered that when I left, my abusive ex painted himself as the victim to everyone he knew. It sucked at first, but eventually he used all of his friends and family up. I now have a close relationship with one of his family members, and all of our mutual friends don’t talk to him.

        1. OhNo*

          That was my first thought, too! What if the ex-boss escalates from petty BS to something that might actually be damaging to the LW’s reputation? If their current posts aren’t having the effect they want, it wouldn’t be unusual for someone like this to escalate their claims to get sympathy or people to be on their side.

          But even if that happens, I think it’ll be in the short term. The friends of people who act like that will eventually figure out that they’re full of shi…take mushrooms, and given the way this ex-boss behaving, I don’t think that will take long to deduce. It sucks, but chances are any negative fallout from this will be very, very temporary.

    2. Artemesia*

      Two of the people I fired over the years were terrible, incompetent, in one case unethical — but I still felt bad about it. I would not have given them good references but I would never have crowed about it either. Anyone in a position of authority who sees bragging about firing people is going to cringe.

  8. Some People Need Mirrors*

    Isn’t weird how the people who talk about “cutting out toxic people” are often the most toxic people?

    Anyway, as far as how to avoid the pain of seeing this craziness while also getting what you need for your portfolio, do you have a friend/partner/sibling that you could give a list to? Like “hey Mary, you know how weird this all is for me and I can’t take any more scrolling through this nonsense; can you download the Mariachi flyers and the Llama Grooming video off of her website and send them to me? I’m putting together my portfolio.”

    1. Lilo*

      Yes! I have some people in my life that I’ve distanced myself from because of their behavior. Would I ever post on social media about this? Heck no.

    2. many bells down*

      It’s like the people who loudly proclaim they “hate drama” are always the ones causing the most drama.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          In this context, “drama” means “people are upset with me,” probably for good reason!

        1. traffic_spiral*

          Because, as Raylan Givens once said, ‘If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.’

          More specifically, non-“toxic” people have certain attributes, like:

          1.) the ability to spot bad behavior and the inclination to avoid the people doing it, as opposed to associating with crappy people because they have something you want (money, popularity, booze, weed), or because you like it when they’re crappy to other people, and think it won’t be turned on you.

          2.) the ability to interact with people properly, meaning they don’t unnecessarily escalate disputes, they address problems as they arise, and also set up boundaries – instead of either passive-aggressively simmering in anger and then taking it out by badmouthing them behind their backs, or starting a huge fight over unimportant things.

          If you can pull off 1 and 2 you’ll actually have *way* fewer “toxic” interactions. Then you follow it up with 3.) a dis-inclination to go blabbing your grudges to all and sundry, and a non-“toxic” person probably is never going to be vagueposting about “emotional vampires” on facebook. The only people doing that tend to seek out toxic people and cultivate toxic situations.

          … and now I’ve got Britney stuck in my head.

        2. hbc*

          Because a lot of relational traits are pretty relative. If you’re selfish, there are tons of people who refuse to give you what you (in your mind) deserve, so you see selfish people everywhere. If you’re stubborn, there are tons of people who (in your mind) don’t compromise enough, so you see stubborn people everywhere. If you’re arrogant, there are tons of people who (in your mind) think too highly of their skills and opinions, and you see arrogant people everywhere.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yes, likewise if you’re a liar, you tend to suspect others of doing the same, and you’ll lash out accusations any time you find your back to the wall, whereas if you’re honest, you’ll only accuse someone of lying when you have proof.

      1. pope suburban*

        Few things activate my spidey senses faster and more completely than someone who “hates drama.” Like, yes, don’t most people? And yet those of us who don’t feel the need to mention that seem to…not have any drama! I don’t think I’ve ever met someone for whom “I hate drama” wasn’t a warning label, now that I think about it.

        1. Le Sigh*

          +1. See also “All of my friends are guys/I don’t really get along with women/I find guys chiller and not full of drama.”

          1. Bess*

            YEP. I’ve known a handful of women who explicitly said the “don’t get along with other women” line and each of them was, unfortunately, a special blend of incredibly self-centered/conflict-seeking/ultra-competitive. I’m not always good at picking up on red flags but that’s one that usually lands with me.

            (like…really? half the population, you just…don’t get along with? because reasons?)

            1. pope suburban*

              Oh yes, that one too. I try really hard to be patient with that one at least at first, because often it’s a pretty terrible result of being raised in a society that just…doesn’t like or value women and girls. I was encouraged to be that way when I was a little girl myself, and I’m eternally grateful to my peers for being so great and many of my teachers/friends’ parents for being such good role models that it never stuck. So it’s easy for me to read it as this person admitting that they have been told they shouldn’t like big parts of themself, and to try to bring them around. That’s usually a workable approach, but I certainly have met people who made that a personal brand- that they would use to hurt and divide others. In those cases, I noped out as fast as possible, because no good would come of sticking around.

      2. Bess*

        Similarly, I have a coworker who likes to proclaim how non-competitive she is…like she announces it from time to time. She is one of the most competitive coworkers I have ever had!

        1. Coffee time!*

          Yes usually if someone says stuff like that ..well telling. But the more your actions show you are a nice and reasonable person then just highlights their actions more. Really depends on how they value their image.
          Sometimes you aren’t toxic but have to deal with toxic people/relatives because of other reasons. So you need to vent even if it isn’t naming names cus just to let out some of the crazy making energy. On the plus side after dealing with one for a few can see the signals clear and just block on social media, grey rock , just be civil if at work etc. Now others may think you overreact by nipping it in the bud but then if you haven’t lived it well….

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          People with positive traits are mostly humble about it. A truly non-competitive person would say “I try not to be non-competitive”.
          Things like integrity are best demonstrated, there’s literally no point blowing your own trumpet.

    3. Nanani*

      LW, I don’t see anyone else mentioning this, but “didn’t even use the company health insurance” is NOT something to be proud of. I’m sure you had reasons, perhaps exboss would have gotten too much information on your treatment or something, but just in case the toxicity has also warped your thinking in this respect, this is a reminder.
      Your health insurance arrangements through work are there to be used and they are not an extra favour.
      Your next employer would probably be horrified if that were to be brought up as a positive (and it’s a red flag otherwise).

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think the OP was saying this to show how great they are, but to indicate that their medical bills would not even be expected to have any effect on the costs of the business providing insurance.

      2. hellohello*

        My first assumption was that LW was on a spouse/family member’s insurance rather than her own employer’s insurance.

        1. Mockingjay*

          That’s what I thought. I use my husband’s insurance because his is cheaper and more comprehensive than my company’s offerings.

      3. quill*

        Yes, though reasons to not use the company health insurance can also include “better coverage elsewhere” which I do hope OP has given the treatment for a rare disorder. In such a small company the insurance was probably pretty bad anyway – when I did a couple years at a dysfunctonal startup I stayed on my parents insurance because my boss had chosen an insurer that would have required me to switch doctors to ones practicing in another state.

      4. Emilia Bedelia*

        I don’t think OP is saying that as a positive, just pointing out that there’s no reason that the boss would have had an issue with the treatment.
        Obviously no reasonable person would have an issue with someone using their healthcare benefits, but for a small business with only a few employees, it’s plausible that a boss may (unfairly) see an expensive treatment as coming out of their own pocket. Not a kind or reasonable reaction of course, but certainly possible. OP is just pointing out that this isn’t even a possible explanation for the boss’s behavior.

      5. Mental Lentil*

        perhaps exboss would have gotten too much information on your treatment or something

        Assuming LW is in the US, this is the sort of thing that HIPAA is supposed to prevent.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Except for insurance purposes, so cost of healthcare of that employee would be known to the boss.

      6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Possibility from my experience – the insurance plan thru my spouse’s job is better than mine. I’m on their plan instead. Sometimes not using the work insurance is that simple – through other resources you have other better options.

      7. Anon this time*

        It’s possible this was a type of treatment that wouldn’t be covered by normal health insurance, or that OP’s rare disorder is not widely recognized by the medical establishment.

    4. Generic Name*

      Thiiiiis. I have absolutely noped out of relationships with romantic partners and friends because of toxic behavior, but I have not once posted about it on social media. I’m even going through a multi-year custody battle with my ex, and I’ve never said a word about it on Facebook. Privately to friends and family, sure, but absolutely not publicly.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      1) Offense is the best defense, as they say!
      2) Exactly. My social media is for cat photos nature photos. This also ensures that, when I post something serious once in a blue moon, it’s taken seriously. (I usually use my 1-2 times/year to make political statements and such, though. Not to slander people I used to work with! geez)

      1. Cathie from Canada*

        What this really means is to deflect blame too -“I don’t like drama but that other person was just SO awful that I HAD to DEFEND myself!”

  9. commenter*

    Save the videos now, for posterity, before she comes to her senses and deletes them.
    You never know when you might need evidence of her prior lunacy.

    1. llama drama*

      I don’t think this makes sense. LW doesn’t need to prove anyone else is a lunatic, they just need to show that they (LW) are a sound and reliable person. What would be the purpose of what you’re saying?

      1. LKW*

        I can think of one example – these tiktoks are not going to win ex-boss new clients. They are going to see this and run away in the other direction. But crazy is crazy so ex-boss might blame LW for ruining her reputation and taking away her clients. Having a copy of the videos would show that ex-boss shot herself in the foot, LW didn’t shoot ex-boss in the back.

        1. quill*

          It comes off a little creepy if you proactively show these to people who have suspicions about you. LW can keep the evidence, but don’t be eager to show it to anyone… it sounds like the professional network’s memory of this debacle can be relied upon to remember the truth for a few years, after which LW will hopefully be in a position that it doesn’t matter, by virtue of having built a reputation in the business that outlasts and eclipses Ex-Boss.

          1. Mannheim Steamroller*

            I think that’s the idea. Save them in a secure location just in case they’re needed later as evidence.

        2. Mannheim Steamroller*

          I can hear it now…

          “No fair! She’s stealing my clients and ruining my reputation by staying sane and professional while I implode! Wa-a-a-a-a-h!”

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Honestly, I’d want to keep them for two reasons.

          1. Proof that they actually existed so no one could gaslight me about it later
          2. To laugh at in the future because seriously this chick is bananas

          1. Freya*

            … This chick is bananas! B A N A N A S!

            (I now have Gwen Stefani on repeat in my head, which is much better than the radio in the office today )

        4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          I sort of agree. I wouldn’t show them to any clients or coworkers etc., but to keep a document of her behavior in case SHE decides to sue in civil court for damage to her business/reputation.

    2. Pants*

      Hard agree with this. You never know. I’ve also found that documenting lunacy gives me a little peace of mind. It makes me feel like I have a tiny bit of control where I don’t really have much, if any. Should anything happen, I’ve got documentation. Should it not, oh well.

      Screenshots and downloading stuff is very useful in today’s age of social media.

    3. CG*

      I thought this too, just in case Ex Boss decides to move from social media ridiculousness to something that might cause substantive harm to OP’s new business. Can’t hurt to save the evidence?

    4. Astor*

      But don’t save them yourself! If you have a trustworthy friend, ask them to save them on your behalf and to check back on those webpages regularly without giving you any updates other than a confirmation every specified period of time that they’re still checking. Keep this out of your own mind as much as you can!

      I’m so sorry, OP! I’m agreeing with other commenters that the over-the-top way she’s approaching this is actually better for you / worse for her than if she was just making the occasional snide/subtle comment, but that this also sounds particularly hard to deal with.

  10. Kes*

    I mean, ironically your ex-boss does have one good piece of advice, about letting toxic people go. She sounds incredibly toxic and you should absolutely let her go from your mind (also ironically, for all her talking about letting you go, she still seems to be devoting a lot of thought and effort to you).
    Beyond that, as Alison and others have said, her ridiculous behaviour is much more likely to reflect badly on her than on you. If anything people will just be concerned for you on seeing how nuts she is, to make sure you’re okay and to feel bad that you had to deal with her.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I agree. I suspect that if people have seen her behaviour then if they see you worked for her, but don’t now, their reaction is more likely to be “I can completely understand why any sane employee would have moved on” not “clearly you are a bad employee who I should avoid hiring”

      It’s very unpleasant for you at present but it probably does to some extent insulate you from the impact if she choses not to give you a reference of to give a bad reference, or if you chose not to include her as a reference

    2. Ginger ale for all*

      The situation reminds me of an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares with Amy’s Baking Company. I think everyone who watched that episode saw who the lunatics were in the restaurant. The loons had no idea of how badly they were behaving.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        Exactly, they thought it was all just fine and dandy and they were poor innocent victims of mean people. Whereas the rest of us were nervously eyeing that set of knives on the wall and wondering if they’d take spontaneous flight.

    3. SM*

      I see people saying that the ADA may not apply but pretty sure retaliation based on a disability (in this case- medical treatment for a rare disorder that I was only recently diagnosed with)always applies? I really think there may a legal case here

  11. HomerJaySimpson*

    I’m sorry, she fired OP for undergoing medical treatment? Isn’t that illegal? I would personally be in the process of burning the boss’s life to the ground, but I admit that I’m maybe more vengeful than is entirely healthy.

    1. Alict*

      As someone who was legally fired for a cancer diagnosis, worker protections in the US range from arbitrary to nonexistent. If this was a small company (under 15 people), as it seems like it may have been, even the measly terms of the ADA don’t apply.

      1. quill*

        Yeah, OP probably wouldn’t be able to afford a resolution (in terms of time, courtroom costs, this manager making tiktoks accusing OP of bringing a baseless lawsuit…) but it sounds like treatment coverage was not tied to this job, so OP probably can afford to make like Kelly Clarkson and Walk Away.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          If one were openly slandered, he/she has cause for a suit. Lawyers? Some will take on a contingency case for a percentage of the take.

          1. pancakes*

            It’s very, very difficult to meet the conditions for slander in the US and lawyers are well aware of that.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              If there’s a social media video, and a few co-workers’ willing to be honest, it ain’t so hard.

              1. pancakes*

                Your comments don’t reflect a good working knowledge of the elements of a successful slander case. It’s not a coincidence that the handful of commenters saying they’re certain there’s a good case here aren’t lawyers.

          2. Marthooh*

            Unless ex-boss’s slander has caused actual damage to the OP, there is no case (assuming this is in the US).

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I was once fired in the UK for having ‘too much time off now and the future for medical reasons’. At that time and because I’d not been there more than 2 years it was legal for them to do it.

        (I’d just had my spine fractured in an accident. 25 years later I’m still suffering)

      3. Artemesia*

        a serious illness is hell on insurance premiums in a small business. My husband’s small law firm had two staff with serious problems — one AA with MS and one with a child with cancer — their premiums became outrageous — pushing 30K a family. They did of course not fire their employees for getting sick but it is a pretty common thing to do.

        Another example of how ridiculous it is to tie health coverage to employment.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          YES!!! to your last sentence. Hopefully something that will end in my lifetime.

        2. rachel in nyc*

          i worked at a 2 person firm in NYC, they were able to get insurance specifically for small firms thru the city bar assoc I think.

          made a huge difference in cost. the bar is able to get a much better deal than a single small firm. and the insurance was actually pretty good.

        3. Mandycake*

          My job was in employee benefits administration and I worked on insurance renewals and claim resolutions, etc. for my employer. My spouse worked for a smallish law firm with platinum-plated and diamond encrusted health insurance. After my spouse’s advanced cancer diagnosis, there were many weeks spent in a big city medical school hospital before dying. The amount charged by the hospital was so high (several hundred thousand dollars), it greatly upset me when I learned of it. The insurance company discount contract with the hospital knocked off a third of the bill but it was still a very large number. Because the plan had a zero dollar copay, I was responsible only for about $400 of charges not covered under the plan.
          The hit to my spouse’s employer’s health plan was significant since they were in part experienced rated. (Spouse had been involved in plan negotiations and had asked my professional advice on some matters.) A couple of years later, I learned that they no longer had such a generous plan and that the employee costs were much higher. I knew from my work that my spouse’s medical claims had to have been the chief factor in the changes.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Businesses can still try to prove that any ADA accommodations necessary would cause undue hardship to the business or severely limit the employee’s ability to do the job.

    3. Generic Name*

      Maybe, but why would OP want to further have to deal with this unbalanced person? It’s best to separate yourself as much as you can from someone who acts like this.

      1. zaracat*

        Absolutely. If you keep engaging with this sort of person in any way, no matter how justified it might seem, you risk getting hurt even more. Best to just quietly walk away.

      2. Christof*

        The many comments urging legal proceedings against the drama llama are a good reminder that the interests of people reading a story for entertainment do not necessarily align with those of the story’s subject.

    4. Pam Poovey*

      I briefly worked for a very well-known crafting store in NYC, and a couple of years after they fired me (IMO, for being fat, though obviously they didn’t SAY that) I met someone else who had been fired from there for “scheduling issues.” The issues? He needed time off for skin cancer treatment. But he couldn’t actually prove that, so there was nothing that could be done.

  12. 2cents*

    I hate all of this – from the initial red flags to the “””reasons””” for firing OP, to the absolutely out-of-touch social media mayhem.

    At least the ex-boss is SO unhinged that she’s going to single-handedly implode her career and OP will just brush off the ashes and keep moving.

    1. Barbthebookworm*

      Is there a way you can print/ take a picture or save your portfolio without having to go through your ex bosses dumpster fire of a social media? I would do that so a last final save ( preferably with a glass of wine or some chocolate if that’s your thing) get a representative top 10 or whatever makes sense of your work ? And move on and best wishes OP!

  13. Exhausted Trope*

    Let her destroy her reputation (and then you swoop in and grab her clients). I know this sounds petty but I’m just so furious for you, OP!
    Good thoughts coming your way for lots of great clients. Hang in there.

    1. rEVOLution*

      Not petty. Sound advice. I did the same in a similar situation and now have a solid business. No betrayal of fiduciary trust needed.

  14. Catslave*

    I am very sorry OP, it must suck for your former boss to act like this. Askamanager is right though, if I was in the same field as you and saw that I’d think the only nice thing your boss did was fire whichever employee she’s talking about. In general people who do attention seeking stuff like this aren’t going to be reliable when telling about what happened. If you both have a story out there I’d be a lot more people would believe you.

  15. The department formerly known as sales*

    So, I agree with Allison that this doesn’t reflect on you. But I want to mention that this kind of behavior sometimes escalates if you seem successful and unbothered by it. Particularly if she eventually perceives herself as losing clients to you, she could get even more specific in her abuse. I had a person in my life who started calling all our mutual contacts to tell them how I had “lost it” because I wouldn’t engage with her. It can’t hurt to have an “I valued the work I did for Ex Boss and had hoped we could part on good terms- I’m sorry that didn’t happen, and I hope you don’t feel that I expect you to be involved in the situation as it stands” type script in your head, just in case.

    1. cubone*

      +1, such a good comment. I know narcissist/sociopath are a little overused lately, but there’s a reason “grey-rocking” is the go-to advice for dealing with people with these types of behaviors. They need a source to refuel from and being unbothered/ignoring it is like giving them an empty well to drink from. But it can absolutely escalate and having a good statement like this on hand is incredible.

      Sort of related: a new coworker worked at a former organization I’d heard mixed things about and brought up her previous role by saying: “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to end my time there in the way I might’ve liked to, but I know how important the work they do is.” I thought it was a really honest, but not salacious way to say this and I was super impressed.

    2. Artemesia*

      And another reason to copy all this stuff and keep it stowed away. I knew a law student whose ex literally contacted every law firm in town claiming he was abusive etc etc to destroy his employment chances. This woman was seriously deranged but if your first awareness of Joe Bloke, esq. is a letter from her, would you hire him?

    3. However, comma...*

      Yes, exactly. Those of us who are sane can’t comprehend the way the “minds” of unhinged people work, and the kind of damage they can try to do. Unfortunately, it’s best to protect ourselves by keeping evidence in case they escalate. Grab the videos and other idiocy, archive it, forget about it as much as possible, and hope you never need it.

  16. The Babiest Babyface*

    So it kind of sounds like getting fired here might have been……….. good 4 u ;^)

    Genuinely I’m glad you’re out of that situation, LW!

    1. Chainsaw Bear*

      BRB dying. Also, as much as I love this artist and album, the song just adds to the level of unhingedness. If I saw a presumably middle-aged individual lipsyncing along to a song by a 17 year old that’s about a breakup and making it about work issues, that would just escalate it to another level of bizarre.

    2. Olivia Rodrigo*

      I’m sure the evil boss will get deja vu when this happens to her again! When you’re toxic you usually end up making all your relationships toxic. It’s a sad cycle I’m glad OP has gotten away from and I hope that boss can recover from.

        1. LKW*

          Oof that was supposed to be “glassbowl” – if eveyrone you meet is a “glassbowl” then you might be the “glassbowl”.

  17. Detective Amy Santiago*

    No one is going to watch these Tik Toks or Facebook videos and think, “Oh, this is valuable information about Jane Mulberry, I’d better not work with her.

    And if they do, they are doing you a favor because you don’t want to get stuck working with someone like that again.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      And if OP isn’t specifically named in any of it (unless I read it wrong, that was my impression) someone who doesn’t know the backstory and happened across it wouldn’t necessarily connect it with OP anyway, they’d probably just think Old Boss was a loon. It really reflects worse on Old Boss.

  18. Ace in the Hole*

    Just want to support what Allison says about how anyone reasonable will see this as a reflection on your ex-boss, not on you.

    If I saw something like this I would go out of my way to avoid doing business with HER, and not spare a single thought towards the identity of the video’s target. Even if the person she fired was a horrible terrible person…. posting this kind of garbage is so immature, mean, and unprofessional that there’s no excuse for doing it. I would not trust ex-Boss’s judgment on anything after seeing what she’s saying.

    1. MistOrMister*

      I had a friend who jumped into being with a guy super quickly, then found out he was a scuzzball. I’m not sure the relationship, as it was, lasted even a month total. She wrote a blog post about how horrible he was (ok fine, if you want to vent, whatever) and then when a few of us were at her place, insisted that we all post comments on the blog then and there, saying how horrible the guy was. Yeah, he’d done her wrong, but all I could think was how the situation was making her look like a complete nutter. OPs boss reminds me of this.

      I have rarely (if ever!!) seen one of these public bashings where the basher didn’t come off as unhinged, and I agree that any reasonable person seeing these videos and realizing they’re about OP would not for one scond think OP is any sort of problem. Frankly, if I was a client of OP’s old boss, I would be glad to see those videos as I would I then know I needed to run, not walk, and find myself another person/company to work with.

  19. LKW*

    I can not agree more with Alison’s response. Firing people is a part of work-life. It happens. Sometimes it’s for egregious reasons and sometimes it’s just “bad fit” reasons. But making tik-toks and dancing and singing about firing someone is. not. normal. If I was considering working with someone who did this, I would seriously think twice about whether or not their skill set was so amazing and could not possibly be delivered by anyone else because I would not want to work with that kind of crazy. And it sounds like while it’s a niche market, it’s not devoid of options.

    She’s probably making repeated posts because she’s getting views. And if I had to guess the nature of those views it’d be “Look at this crazy on display” or “Did you see what boss put on tiktok today – she really is losing her marbles.” It’s like watching a train wreck.

    I’d be flabbergasted if she actually wins new business because of this.

    1. AnyaT*

      Yep. If I saw this I would never, ever work with this person.
      I would however share the videos with my colleagues as comic breaktime fodder.

    2. Jebidiah was a bullfrog*

      It really depends on the kind of business she’s in. I had a former best friend of over 20 years who ended our friendship and behaved in a very similar way as this boss, and did even worse things to me and is still stalking me 3 and a half years later, and somehow all of our mutual friends and most of my FAMILY believe SHE is the victim and immediately took her side and still refuse to speak to me today. No matter what crazy or scary thing she does she has all of their support and I’m the bad guy even though I moved on with my life and have ignored pretty much all of it. I’m talking about over 150 friends and family have taken her side. So people are not always reasonable. Some of these former friends felt it was safer to stay on the side of crazy and others simply felt she was the victim, no matter what evidence I had to the contrary or how bizarre and evil her behavior has been. (Setting my former apartment on fire while me and my family slept, making adds in my name with my email and number for anonymous s*x hookups, trying to run me over, and many more). She cost me a job, she had CPS investigating me, animal control, building inspectors for the city…. Honestly if I were OP I would be very concerned about this smear campaign and it could very well escalate.

      1. Zzzzzzz*

        I am so, so sorry this has happened to you. I’m really impressed with your equanimity and I hope you get peace and the best revenge–a great life–going forward.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        That’s awful! Please tell me you had a police report filed about this person!

  20. CatPerson*

    All good stuff from Alison, but shouldn’t she consult with a lawyer about being fired for a medical reason?

    1. Anon in IL*

      I agree about the legal advice. People are bringing this social media content to the OP’s attention. Could this be defamation, slander, tortious interference? I am not an attorney but you better believe I would consult one if this were happening to me.

      1. Nope*

        Yes. If what is being posted is coming back to the OP with negative consequences, it is libel.

        I’m disappointed that the advice does not include a recommendation for legal counsel.

        1. BRR*

          I would guess it’s because there is such a low chance this would negatively impact the LW professionally (and I am making an assumption as a long time reader that Alison better than most at just having a chuckle at these things). It’s also a headache for most people to find an attorney and the former boss is likely to move on eventually. Bringing in a lawyer would only escalate this when again, it’s pretty unlikely this will negatively impact the LW.

          All that being said, I do think contacting an attorney is well within the reasonable actions for LW to take if they want.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Libel suits are hugely expensive and time-consuming (and difficult to win, from what I understand) and I don’t believe it’s the best course of action here. No reason she can’t consult one if she wants to though.

      2. mf*

        Agree with this. Save these videos and consult a lawyer. Lots of lawyers will do the initial consultation for free.

        Even if you don’t think you want to pursue a legal case right now, can hurt to find out what would be involved. This woman sounds like the type who could escalate her bullying and abuse, so it might be good to be prepared.

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      Eh, not really. First, the toxic boss telling OP that their life is a “mess” is a pretty nebulous statement. Also, assuming OP is in the US, there are a lot of states with at-will employment, so it is frequently difficult to prove discrimination. We’d need to know more about what toxic boss said.

    3. Observer*

      It’s highly unlikely to be illegal in the States, based on what the OP says.

      On the other hand I could possibly see a slander / libel issue, depending on what she says. Although since she’s not explicitly mentioning the OP’s name, that might not fly either.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        She was fired partly (apparently?) because she had a medical issue she was getting treatment for, but in the US, unless it falls under FMLA or ADA, I believe firing an at-will employee for a medical issue is legal. Shitty, but legal.

        It would most likely be a libel issue (since it’s published) if the employer calls out employee by name or some other way to recognize her, especially if this ends up damaging the employee’s career. IANAL, but I would advise LW to get some legal counsel. There are some free services out there than can tell her if she potentially has a case.

    4. Fiona*

      In any other circumstance, maybe. In this circumstance, for OP’s mental health: NO. The cost of continued involvement with this awful person is WAY higher than any monetary or legal payment she could receive. Truly. The best thing she can do for herself and her future is never interact with this boss again.

    5. High Score!*

      Yes, absolutely this is libel (or is it slander?) Either way, it’s illegal. While I would not engage, I would consult a lawyer.
      If I saw these things on social media, she would not get my business but neither would you. I’d want to be as far away from both of you as possible bc I’ve been around long enough to see many many times that both parties are toxic. Not saying you are but she is making you look like you are. Just saying that if I’m a customer and I have a choice between you, her and others who are not involved at all, I’m going to spend my money on someone who is not gathering a lot of social media attention. Do don’t be her victim and sure for damages if the lawyer you consult suggests it.

    6. Generic Name*

      To what end? To spend thousands upon thousands of dollars in legal fees and months—years of her life to still be in contact this toxic ex-boss? What would a win look like? Getting her old job back?!? Even if a ruling was in her favor, it’s unlikely that any monetary damages would be more than what she would spend on legal fees.

      What most people don’t realize about the civil court system is that it is up to the inured party to collect the money awarded to them. The judge just issues a ruling that says “Sue must pay Jane $X” and if Sue never pays Jane, it’s up to Jane to figure out a way to collect the money, and sometimes there’s just no way to do it. Either because Sue doesn’t have $X to pay, or Sue is great at working/evading the system. Unless you’re talking millions and your lawyer has agreed to work on contingency, it’s just not worth it. And sometimes it’s not worth it even then.

      1. Autumnheart*

        Not to mention the potential for the “Streisand Effect” to continue to haunt OP way longer than if she left it alone.

        If this ex-boss is going to sink herself through crazy behavior on social media, that will happen without OP’s intervention. But chances are that the issue will blow over a lot more quickly if OP doesn’t engage. It offends my sense of justice in the world that this ex-boss will “get away” with being such a @#%! but without a slam-dunk means of redress, it would only hurt OP further to throw more time and money at this situation. Sucks though.

    7. Sal*

      I am not OP’s lawyer but I am a lawyer and I would absolutely consult a lawyer here. Not necessarily about the retal/firing but DEFINITELY about the defamation. I think it’s worth talking through with a professional the pros and cons of a cease and desist.

  21. Olivia Rodrigo*

    I would absolutely ignore it and only vent to trusted family. She’ll either get over it or look like she’s being ‘sour’ and obsessive, which isn’t good for her reputation.

    Break up songs are for break ups, not business.

      1. Olivia Rodrigo*

        Stream ‘sour’!! All hits no skips baby

        For real though OP, that “sociopath” comment is a TikTok trend, don’t take it personally. Lipsynching is a big part of TikTok and people often exaggerate just to make a viral video and get those likes and views. This will pass.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      It’s also such an odd choice because that whole album is from the POV of the dumped, which would equate more to the fired person than to the one who did the firing. But I don’t know anything about TikTok trends so *shrug* I guess…

  22. quill*

    This is a steaming pile of unprofessional copralites and the good news is that this chick is about to get ratio’d by twitter (or tiktok? If they do that?) for being a lying, drama manufacturing liar. Go out and get your new job, don’t provide her as a reference, and realize that by your next job search she will probably no longer be in business.

  23. MissFinance*

    If LW was fired in part because of their health, would they have any grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit? Maybe it’s not something LW intends to pursue, but the fact that LW’s personal life was brought up in the firing decision is just weird.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Someone put this up above, but if it’s a small company, which it sounds like it is, then ADA doesn’t apply for under 50 (?) People.

      Also, it would be extremely hard to point at that being the reason, unless boss wrote specifically the medical issue was the reason. But if it’s just “your life is a mess” without actually stating the medical issues, there wouldn’t be any proof.

  24. I'm just here for the cats*

    The only thing I would add to this is you might want to have a friend screen those social media posts to make sure she doesn’t name you specifically. I can imagine if you start to be successful and/or she starts to lose business (because of her craziness) that she might escalate and call you out. So yes keep away from those oats as much as you can for your own mental health, but if you have a friend who wants to watch the crazy boss maybe have them contact you if your name comes up.

  25. Admin Amber*

    I suspect this post will have an update in the future where the OP tells us the boss was fired or went out of business. This boss sounds just awful and I hope he or she receives all the karma they deserve.

    1. AY*

      Yes, OP, I would like an update on this one. In six months, I suspect that the boss will not have fared so well. Good luck!

    2. RagingADHD*

      I suspect the boss may have a personal breakdown coming on a scale that makes any desire for professional karma seem petty.

      People who are healthy and fully in charge of themselves don’t act this way. This kind of behavior usually shows up when a person is 3/4 of the way to rehab or jail, if they’re lucky, or the morgue if they’re not.

  26. school of hard knowcs*

    So just because, what are the production values of her “presentations”, is her singing good?, does she accompany herself or hire a band?, Any dancing, artwork? So confused by how anyone decides to do this and decides it is shareable?

  27. cubone*

    I want to say how sorry I am this is happening to you. As bizarre as it is, I watched the exact same thing happen at my former workplace (I’ve commented occasionally on other posts about the “fake Brene Brown” in my former office, lol). This person had a personal (!) business instagram and constantly used workplace happenings as fodder for content. It was probably vague enough that she knew she could say it wasn’t about that office argument or recent firing, but it was abundantly clear to our team that we could learn more from her posts than meetings about the status of a project, or who was on the outs.

    I found it REALLY hard, much harder than I expected, to let this go (both while I worked there and after leaving). It just feels so wrong and like it shouldn’t be allowed, but there’s almost no way to address it. It brought up a lot of intense anger for a long time that I didn’t know I was capable of, tbh. Every now and then I have a moment of clarity though and feel just unbelievably sad for this person because …. what an insecure life, really. Think of all the time they’re spending on this playground bullying instead of, you know, living their life!

    It sounds like you can’t really just block or ignore the page entirely for work reasons, but do you have anyone close you can trust to get the content you need from it? Or come up with some other way to host/access the content for your portfolio? I really can’t stress that cutting yourself off from having to view/engage with this is really important for your sanity.

    As for moving forward with your freelance, all the advice here is right. Cut this stuff off if it comes up and when you feel the anger/fury/trauma/old wounds opening up, try to reframe it in your head as odd /uncomfortable/disconnected from you. Hopefully that makes sense, but it’s really a mindset shift from “this person is misrepresenting MY behavior” to “this person is acting bizarrely”. If people in your industry know both of you, they will 100% pick up on who is the one acting professional, focused, and works hard, and who is spending a lot of time and energy on rehashing past offences. Actions speak louder.

  28. Kay*

    Well, the first part of the lyrics is, “Good for you, you’re doing great out there without me,” which is exactly your situation! You’re away from this weird, awful person, and it’ll only get better for you.

  29. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP, you may not really get this right now, but you won. Congratulations. Your boss is no longer going to be able to blame her problems on you.

    You are living rent-free in her head, and every minute she spends doing this ridiculous crap is a minute she’s not working on her business.

    As Alison said, nobody who looks at this is going to think that it’s useful information. They are, rightly, going to interpret this as your ex-boss being irrational and unbusinesslike.

    1. Naomi*

      Yeah, about the “living rent-free in her head”… over and above the unprofessionalism of making song videos about a firing at all, and the punching-down quality of “ha, I really showed her” gloating about someone she had all the power over, making REPEATED posts makes her look weirdly obsessive about it. Like, when I read the headline, I was thinking “how much content could you even get out of having fired someone once?” People seeing it are going to wonder why she’s still so hung up on someone she fired a month ago, and the longer it goes on the worse she looks (and the more tired everyone else will get of hearing about it).

  30. BarnacleGirl*

    Hugs for you OP for dealing with this for so long. Your old boss is showing the world all of her nutty, batsh*t crazy glory. Let her do so uninterrupted. Nobody with brains will think you were the peoblem after seeing or hearing about this.

    I’d pretend to be sympathetic the next time someone brings her up “I hadn’t realised how bad it was. I hope she gets help soon” because of course something is wrong with her and you’re kind enough to be concerned for her mental health.

  31. Student Affairs Sally*

    Is this her PERSONAL social media, or the business’s? Either way it’s banana crackers, but if its the business I GUARANTEE that she is alienating potential customers/clients.

  32. Alex Beamish*

    I got fired from a really bizarre workplace (with loads of help and support from Alison!), and I’m glad to say I heard from many people who realized that I was not the problem, the ex-workplace was (along with some specific people there).
    I was allowed to return to the office the day after my termination (yes — they specifically arranged that for me, and specifically told me my pass would be left enabled). A team-mate of mine was there, immediately shook my hand, and told me this firing was a disaster. The team lead, who’d helped organize my termination, left a month later. The team-mate announced he was leaving the month after that, and the CEO called him directly, trying to persuade him to stay. Didn’t work.
    Also — I wrote a piece of code as part of my PIP at that employer, and absolutely nailed it — delivered it one day past the twelve week deadline. it passed all the tests, and the project stakeholder was very happy. My team-mate said they were still using it, and it was really solid.
    Oh — just remembered another one — I reconnected with an ex-colleague of mine from the job after that, and we got to talking about writing PHP (a computer language, different from the one I know), and I told him how proud I was of writing a particular piece of code at that job. He replied that it works really, really well, they’re still using it. So even though I was laid off from there as well, my reputation appears to be OK.
    If you have a good reputation, you’ll be fine, no matter how wacko your ex-boss or ex-company is. :)

    1. Generic Name*

      Bonus points if you “anonymize” her name in a really obvious way, like Michael Scott = Michael Scarn. ;)

  33. animaniactoo*

    I admit. Evil Me™ thinks it would be an awesome idea to write a social media post about not realizing how toxic an environment is until you’re out of it. With a link to something like the youtube video of Linkin Park’s One Step Closer.

    BUT. In the world of reality where paychecks are a thing you need… omg would that be a bad idea. Write it in 3 or 4 years. And only do it once. In the meantime, distancing yourself and in no way exhibiting yourself as crazy met crazy is definitely the path to take here.

    1. Wants Green Things*

      This is why I keep my very few social media accounts under completely different pseudonyms and never use actual personal info. Cause then, if I want to get snarky about work, it’s gonna be really, really hard to connect to me.

  34. BRR*

    First, I think you’ll be fine professional. You say you’re well known due to her working for her so I’m going to guess she’s well known. What’s her reputation outside of these videos? I imagine it’s not great. You say you’re being partially dragged through the professional mud but think of it as the National Enquirer dragging you through the mud.

    The worst case scenario that could reasonably happen (and it’s really not even that bad!) is future clients and employers would not immediately dismiss her content. And the worst case isn’t that likely. And that’s if they even know it’s about you. I think it will be easy to calm any concerns, if they even exist, with a brief response/statement on being fired and providing some other references.

    And really, I would never take the word of business owner who rants on social media about letting go a toxic employee. That’s not how professionals talk about sometimes needing to fire people.

  35. Heidi*

    It kind of sounds like this is another example of bizarre and inappropriate behavior that the OP has been conditioned to believe is normal. It’s really not. Letting go of the toxic people in your life is painful; most people will not gleefully spam all their social media about it. If the OP just waits it out, ex-boss will get tired of this crusade and it will die down. It will also show that firing the OP did not get rid of the toxicity in the workplace, and ex-boss will need to find someone else to blame.

  36. Jennifer Strange*

    OP if I saw what your boss had posted I would be side-eyeing her HARD. Trust me, she’s the one looking foolish in this situation. Hopefully once you’re settled in a much better (and healthier) job you’ll really be able to see how ridiculous she really looks (and maybe even laugh).

  37. Megs*

    Alison talks often about how toxic work environments can really warp your norms and I definitely think that’s what happened to you. Her outsized tyrant role in your life has you viewing her influence as much bigger than it us. Because Alison is right: this reflects incredibly badly on her, and her alone. BUT massive credit to you in that, whatever negative affect she had on you, it didn’t touch your ethics. I think not responding and asking that no one respond on your behalf is such a gracious response.

  38. It’s just a name*

    I had a crazy colleague. She started badmouthing me to others and refused to speak to me. I told another colleague who was trying to recruit me for a project that I didn’t want to work on any project that crazy lady was on. He later called me to tell me that he now fully understood as she has done a complete 180 on him and was now badmouthing him as well.

  39. learnedthehardway*

    OP – I am so sorry that you had this work experience, and that your ex-manager is continuing to hurt you.

    On the very plus side, she does absolutely come across as exceedingly unprofessional to the point of being unhinged, and THAT is a huge benefit to you, regardless of what she says about your performance. Sane managers WILL understand that you worked for someone who was wackadoodle.

    I had a first professional role working for someone who is best described as wildly eccentric and emotionally abusive. It took quite a while to recover from the experience – what helped was doing some temping in a few different organizations, where I got to see what different management structures were like, what NORMAL managers behaved like, and where I could focus on some routine work while healing emotionally and mentally. It also gave me income and time to do a real job search and find a good organization to hire me, so I didn’t take the first thing that came along and wind up in another bad situation.

    In a later role, I was fired by a manager who was known for empire building – getting rid of existing staff to build teams who were loyal only to her. I found this out in an interview with someone who kindly did the interview with me solely to tell me this information. People in an industry / functional discipline get to KNOW who the wackadoodle people are, and there are good people out there who will understand, who have been there, and who won’t hold your ex-manager against you.

    My suggestion is that you do something similar to what I did – freelancing might seem attractive right now, but you’re early in your career, and would benefit from working for a professional organization (either perm or on contracts) where you can learn best practices and have good management. That will benefit your personal growth, your functional expertise in your field, help you build your network, and will enable you to start off with more credibility as a freelancer, if you decide to do that in future.

  40. So sleepy*

    Yeah, if someone showed me this about the previous employer of someone I was considering for a position, my first thought would be “no wonder they left!!” and if it somehow became clear that the videos were ABOUT that person, I’d be impressed that you stuck it out and probably want to see you succeed (whether it’s a fit in the role in considering them for or otherwise).

    The only thing I’d be really concerned about OP, is that it’s possible that you’ve been learning really messed up things for the past 5 years and may have to spend some time re-learning what a normal workplace is like and making sure that the way you do certain things isn’t completely insane (not a critique of you in ANY way, just a note that any employer who wouldn’t immediately fire your former manager for this probably tolerates some pretty messed stuff and treats it as normal). You come across as very calm and level-headed (I would be losing. my. mind. if this happened to me) so I’m sure you’ll adapt to actual normalcy pretty well, but it’s something to keep in mind during the transition period.

  41. JohannaCabal*

    At least you’re out of there, LW.

    If this persists and you suspect an impact on your business/job hunt, I would look into legal options, including a cease and desist letter.

  42. RagingADHD*

    Word to the wise: if a potential business contact brings it up directly or indirectly, stay 100% neutral, professional, calm, and positive.

    “I have no idea what that’s all about. I’m just looking forward to building my business, so lets talk about (business topic).”

    If anyone tries to engage you in gossip about her, take the high road and shut it down. “I don’t want to gossip or speculate. I’m very happy about the way things are going for me, and I hope the best for her, too.”

    Keep smiling. In reality, whatever psychodrama she’s performing has nothing to do with you, so respond to any hints, gossip, or questions accordingly: You don’t have a clue what’s going on, and it’s no concern of yours.

    Side bonus: if the industry is as gossipy as I suspect it might be, staunchly ignoring her shenanigans will be the worst torment/frustration you could possibly inflict.

  43. Esmeralda*

    IANAL, but… maybe consult a lawyer.
    Right now she’s not using your name. But she might at some point. You want to be ready for that.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      IANAL either but if OP is identifiable – even to her former co-workers – even if her name isn’t specifically used – she’s got a beef AND a viable tort. It’s called “defamation of character” and “slander”.

      What usually happens in such cases is the corporation will fire the slanderer and disavow any involvement, but still pay a sealed settlement.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I don’t think there is any corporate governance here. Sounds like exboss is the sole owner.

        It is unlikely that litigation or the threat of litigation would have a positive outcome, since they would immediately become fodder for more attention-seeking videos.

        If the exboss cared about normal consequences, she wouldn’t be doing this in the first place.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Ex-boss is culpable. So is the company, if they allow it to happen.

  44. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Hire a lawyer. If the firee (you) can be identified, there are a lot of contingency lawyers who’ll take this on.

  45. Kiki*

    Emphasizing Alison’s point that few people will judge you for what your boss is doing! In fact, if I saw someone behaving like your boss is, I would assume their employee actually quit and they’re sloppily trying to “change the narrative” or something. You know your industry and boss’s reputation best, but I would guess that most people are aware that she’s a nightmare to work with and would not hold this against you and your new business.

    1. High Score!*

      That is not necessarily true. She should consult a lawyer. Be professional of course, but get a cease and desist. It is hurting her business. If I’m the customer, I’m giving my business to someone as far away from that as possible, bc why risk money on what could be a toxic situation? If I don’t know OP or toxic boss, from the outside this looks like they could both be toxic and I wouldn’t want to risk my finances getting involved.
      I feel for you, OP, so I’m being honest. I hope you get a lawyer and have a successful business.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        This makes sense only if the ex-manager is specifically naming the OP. Otherwise, it’s just going to call attention to the situation and make it clear that the OP is the person the ex-manager is drama-llama-ing about.

        The OP is far better off to ignore and grey-rock the ex-manager, otherwise. As much as the OP may feel exposed for all the world to see, VERY FEW people will ever realize the posts exist, much less that they are about the OP, unless they go digging. And they won’t know to dig, if they don’t know there is something to dig for.

        1. TootsNYC*

          the OP doesn’t have to be specifically named. Or even identifiable to the whole world. As long as ANYONE can recognize who is being talked about–but especially if it is inside the defame-ee’s actual circle, because that’s where your reputation matters–it’s actionable.

          Whether it’s a wise strategic action is a different thing question.

          1. SnappinTerrapin*

            You hit the nail on the head.

            Consulting a lawyer can help her make a prudent decision, in her own best interest.

            This is probably an actionable tort, but defamation is a disfavored claim that is hard to prevail on, and can be counterproductive by essentially republishing the defamation in litigation.

            LW should make the decisions that best meet her own long term interests.

    2. Aron*

      The videos should be a pretty big clue that this boss is not okay, but I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that everyone already knows what the boss is like in the workplace. That’s a leap. I’ve worked with at least two workplace abusers who were/are widely well respected in local circles despite terrible workplace abuse, hostility, and unstable behavior. For one of them, indirect colleagues STILL don’t believe what a nightmare this person is; the behavior takes a while to come out and it’s only directed at direct reports, who have little power and usually leave, and are then trashed by the abuser, who has convinced everyone what a great, passionate, supportive person they are. It’s classic abuser behavior. The videos in this instance speak for themselves, though, and my question would be how much of the local industry is viewing these videos vs relying on non-social-media information about a colleague.

  46. MissDisplaced*

    “Most people would recoil and run.” Yes, I really hope this is the case. But in some industries it’s the DRAMA that people crave and gossip about. I suppose she is assuming this is the case. I really hope for your sake it wasn’t one of *those* industries and people DO see HER as being rather pathetic. Honestly, if she was this bad, it’s probably already known she is this bad! Know that this comes from a place of fear–she is worried you will take some of her business away (rightly so!) and this is how business works.

    I think you’re best off not addressing it. If people ask or bring it to your attention, you can always say something like how unprofessional it is to air this kind of thing on social media. “Yes, poor Miranda, always the drama queen seeking attention and holding a grudge isn’t she?
    If it does get worse, to the point of naming you personally, or begins targeted bullying or sabotage of your business, I would seek out legal representation. Good luck with your new business!

  47. 30 Years in the Biz*

    Wonderful advice from Alison and great supporting comments from the AAM community. As an avenging daydream today, I’m picturing you making your own TikTok to the tune of “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. With lyrics something like this:
    “At first I was amazed, just stupefied,
    Wondering about that crazy TikTok that you fantasized
    But then I spent so many nights thinking about those red flags all along
    And I grew strong
    And I’m succeeding on my own……..”

  48. DoubleE*

    Think of it this way: every post you see is one more reason to be grateful this whack job is not your boss anymore.

  49. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Sometimes I feel guilty for being mentally ill and having a job but then I see stuff like this and can say ‘well, at least I’ve never gone THAT bad!’.

    (Rambling paranoid theories to family is about my worst)

    Definitely try to ignore this as much as possible – she’s on a path to destruction. However, I would practise a few ‘I’ve got NO idea what her problem is – don’t ask me!’ kinda speeches for if she escalates her shenanigans when she doesn’t get attention from you and other people start asking.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      The trouble with psychological terms entering the common lexicon is that people with mental illness get lumped in with people who are just plain angry and mean.

      …and the “Huh…what?” approach is definitely the best way to respond if anyone asks about “your side of what happened.”

      1. quill*

        Yup, every time I open the news I have to tell someone “being an a-hole is a choice, not a medical condition.”

  50. S*

    It is very, very effective to respond to the drama of others with an air of mild bewilderment. So: “Hm, yeah, I’m not sure why she’s posting that, to be honest. We parted ways back in March.” When someone points out that she’s talking about you, respond with a helpless smile and, “Yeah, it’s been a little weird since I left. I hope everything is okay with her.” Possibly the most damaging thing that could come from your exboss’s behavior would be for those who know both of you to assume you’re both drama llamas with questionable business judgment, so do your best to respond as if she were a lovely person who recently had a catastrophic life experience and is a little off the rails from it, and you are a decent human who isn’t going to gossip about it.

    1. TootsNYC*

      “well, as you know there are two sides to every story, but I always get suspicious when one of those sides seems overly dramatic.”

    2. boom*

      I think this is excellent advice. I feel deeply for the OP and am sorry to say that I don’t think the craziness of the boss will protect the them. People tend to recoil from both parties — there seems to be a tendency to assume that there must be *something* wrong with the employee for their boss to react in such extreme ways. My partner went through something like this and, while the crazy boss did seriously damage his own career, he seriously damaged my partner’s as well. Other employees had been similarly damaged in the past and had sought legal restitution, to no avail and to general contempt, so we were not tempted to go that route. It is so hard to find any way to respond that doesn’t add to the problem. S’s advice strikes me as a good approach for the OP to distance herself both professionally and psychologically.

    3. bomm*

      I think this is excellent advice. I feel deeply for the OP and am sorry to say that I don’t think the craziness of the boss will protect the them. People tend to recoil from both parties — there seems to be a tendency to assume that there must be *something* wrong with the employee for their boss to react in such extreme ways. My partner went through something like this and, while the crazy boss did seriously damage his own career, he seriously damaged my partner’s as well. Other employees had been similarly damaged in the past and had sought legal restitution, to no avail and to general contempt, so we were not tempted to go that route. It is so hard to find any way to respond that doesn’t add to the problem. S’s advice strikes me as a good approach for the OP to distance herself both professionally and psychologically.

  51. Sparkles McFadden*

    One of the major difficulties (and there are so many!) about working for/with highly unprofessional (and unbalanced) people is that you always feel so alone. This is because other unprofessional people in the workplace pile on whoever happens to be the particular target at any given time. The professional people are just being, well, professional and doing their work. They don’t spend time talking about everyone else or yelling in the hallways or making insane videos.

    When you are in the thick of the craziness, you think everyone else agrees with your wacky attacker and, consequently, everyone thinks you are an incompetent, horrible person. The reality is vastly different. The reality is that everyone knows the crazy person is crazy as they get daily proof of this fact. I doubt anyone would hold this insanity against you. It’s likely they’d think “How did you work with this person for so long?”

    Work on getting references from non-crazy people, do some networking with people you like, and ease back into things that way. Best of luck!

  52. Invisible Fish*

    My schedule is packed enough I have to juggle important things in my life; WHO has times for things like this? HOW?

  53. OhMy*

    Oh my, I find it extremely distasteful to be happy about firing someone, even if they were the worst person in the world. This isn’t personal life, this is how people pay their rent and eat. Even if the boss doing the firing was in the right, I would still assume I wasn’t getting the whole story, because that’s just heartless.

    Just figured another outside perspective could help you, OP. Good luck! It’ll be okay.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I mean, there was once a man my ex-boss fired where everyone in the office was happy about the firing. But he was dangerous. He yelled at coworkers, threatened to stalk them where they lived, etc. People were afraid to come into work while that guy was there. He’s the only one where I can say everyone was truly relieved to see him go. Some of his victims would’ve probably been forced to quit with nothing lined up if he’d stayed. So I can see being happy about it in theory. Certainly a very rare case, though.

      1. TootsNYC*

        But I bet they didn’t gloat in front of the entire world. (wouldn’t have felt safe, it sounds like, but even if that wasn’t a factor, I bet they wouldn’t run around making TikTok videos about it)

      2. SnappinTerrapin*

        Relieved is different from gloating.

        Firing someone is a pretty serious situation, and deserves to be taken seriously. Especially when it is the right thing to do.

      3. OhMy*

        I suppose I really meant what the others said (and wasn’t thinking that extreme!), that there’s a difference between happy/relieved and gloating on social media.

    2. Pam Poovey*

      Yeah, a decent boss (or just decent human in general) would at least feel a little bad/conflicted even if the firing was 100% justified.

  54. Anon for This*

    A close friend did leave a toxic boss to start his own business, and the boss did steal his potential clients. He did it by telling clients that Friend had relocated to the opposite end of the country. Friend had no plans of moving, and wondered where his clients had disappeared off to. Friend’s business improved dramatically after he ran into one of the potential clients at a shopping mall and the client was “Great to see you, how long are you visiting for? How’s life in (a state across the country)?” and my friend was “wait, what?”

    So, in this case, the boss tried a technique that actually sounded like it would work, and for a while, it did, but even there, the situation did eventually remedy itself. OP’s boss went straight into “don’t believe a word I say, I’m talking out of my butt” territory. Hopefully this will mean a good outcome for OP.

  55. Pam Poovey*

    Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

    Hopefully she tanks herself completely and you can swoop in and scoop up some clients. The ol’ swoop ‘n’ scoop.

  56. Magenta Sky*

    There will undoubtedly be a handful of people out there who take her crazy seriously. Do you *really* want to have anything to do with them?

  57. Phoebe*

    This is truly bizarre!
    Clearly ex boss has some major issues. To me it sounds like ex boss is projecting her own flaws onto OP, and demonstrating to the whole world what an unprofessional nightmare she (ex boss) is.
    OP, don’t sweat it. This will not reflect badly on you. If I came accross your ex boss’ posts, I would take a note of to never work with/applying for a job with this company. Your ex boss is only hurting herself with her antics.

  58. Cooper*

    The idea of an ADULT HUMAN PERSON lip-syncing to a song written by an 18-year-old about an 18-year-old type of dramatic breakup is so hilarious to me, especially in the context of *firing* someone. (It’s a good song, just extremely teenagery in the same way that early Taylor Swift was. This is probably on account of being written by an actual teenager.)

    This boss is a pile of red flags wearing a trench coat, and I don’t think the userbase of Tiktok is going to judge *you* for it. But if it *really* bothers you, there’s few things Tiktok loves more than a bit of drama/callout posts, so giving the boss a smackdown is always within the realm of possibility. (I don’t think this would be a good or mature idea, but considering how terrible and immature this boss is, there’s only a matter of time before *somebody* spills the beans.)

  59. I'm A Little Teapot*

    I deal with this type of thing from one individual, though it’s not work related for me. Frankly, people either already know your ex-boss has issues, they quickly come to the conclusion that ex-boss has issues, or (in a minority) they think you’re awful. For the ones who think you’re awful, they most likely have issues of their own. Which, again, other people probably already know.

    Just be a professional and try not to let this bug you.

  60. Ashley*

    Oh yikes. This sounds exactly like my job from 5 years ago (right down to hiring someone new and placing her above me). Ugh. It hurts for awhile, especially when you’ve been there a long time. But I promise you, it gets better over time and soon you won’t feel any hurt just relief that you’re out of there! My personal consolation has been watching the business slowly crumble after I left and I don’t know how much longer it’s going to stay afloat. I hope you find peace going forward and your next job treats you with dignity and respect!

  61. Carol*

    When someone does stuff like this in a professional context, most people get vibes about it and realize something’s up. I haven’t seen anything quite this weird but, for an odd example, got a very long, weird email from an indie/Etsy shop owner once about being booted off Etsy and lots of vague language about unfairness and misunderstandings and outrage and stuff. Weird enough in its own right, but since I’d had problems getting my orders from that shop filled and they generally seemed unreliable, I actually concluded Etsy was probably right on, and that email did a lot more damage than if that shop had not said anything and just kept up with their alternate platform shop. I never shopped from them again (sad, their products were truly great) because the email made me feel icky.

    What you’re describing is so egregious and so far beyond this that I would imagine she’s doing huge amounts of damage to her reputation currently. Hard for me to imagine any small business doing this where I wouldn’t nope out of any association with them immediately.

    It would actually probably be worse if she were subtly badmouthing you–it’s just so blatant and obvious, it’s sort of the best of the worst scenario. Way worse when this brand of unbalanced is secretive and relies on telling lots of people different things and sowing mistrust. That can damage your reputation so much faster and because you never know what’s being said to whom, you essentially can’t defend yourself.

    It’s obvious she is seeking to continue this conflict with you as part of whatever twisted story she’s living in. As much as you can in the same field, just truly try to give her no attention of any kind, which will just feed the conflict in her mind and strengthen whatever weird stuff she’s getting out of this. Soon enough there will be some other “toxic person,” sad to say.

    Honestly, if this business is run by her I’d wonder if it will be failing sometime soon…this all seems very disconnected from reality in a creepy way and I just wonder how successful a business can be in this scenario.

  62. DH*

    i’m surprised no one has suggested visiting a lawyer and asking about defamation of character.

  63. Anon Mouse*

    Hi OP! The head of Pinup Couture, Laura Byrnes, did this sort of thing to fellow designer Micheline Pitt, I’m sure it will come up if you do some googling. Guess who has a shiny new business making high quality well designed clothes and took a good chunk of the customers for this very niche area of fashion with her? You CAN succeed and you can rise above this. 100% Anon because Laura has google alerts on, but I’m a regular here.

    1. RGB*

      Yep – that was a wild ride to watch on social media. Suffice to say I sold all my PUG clothing as a result.

  64. Michelle Smith*

    YIKES. What a nightmare this woman sounds like. You are so much better off without her. I wish all the best for your business and for you personally.

  65. Van Wilder*

    100% agree. If I saw this, I would be so grateful that this woman let me know that she’s a nightmare before I ever had the chance to work with her. It must be hard to see when you’re in the middle of it, but it would be so very obvious to any new person coming upon this content.

    That doesn’t mean it’s easy for you to dismiss. This would keep me up at night if I were you. But Alison is completely right that this is only going to make her look bad.

    Good luck!

  66. RGB*

    Wow OP did we work for the same person?! (Sadly no just another terrible business owner by the sounds of it)

    I have an ex manager who has made my quitting her business her redemption story. Four years after the fact she is still doing podcasts and interviews referencing her terrible employee that she trusted too much and who almost drove her business into the ground – and that’s meant to be me.

    I am now also a business owner and it really messes with me when another new article or podcast comes out featuring this story but at the end of the day I try to take solace in the fact that the people who matter know what the deal is – although an extra weird part to my story is she tries to refer clients to me on a semi regular basis. I think it’s a weird way to exert control over me – through creating this narrative about me and then also trying to drip feed me work.

    People are wild.

  67. JustMe*

    A political figure I used to volunteer for once told me “Don’t stand in the way of gravity.” She was faced with a political opponent who was so off-the-wall in his tactics that it was very difficult to not call him out publicly. But my candidate realized that this reflected more on her opponent than it did on her and kept to the high ground. All we had to do was to sit back and watch the voters call him out for us, and he came in a very distant third. I agree with Allison that your toxic ex-boss is doing herself way more damage than she could ever do to you.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh, this is great. Love “Don’t stand in the way of gravity.”

  68. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    Throughout the letter i kept thinking are you the one who kept the business afloat?
    If you were then its going to sink like a lead balloon. And it will serve her right.

    Whether it does or it doesn’t the best revenge is the rest of your life best lived. Consider some counselling to deal with the toxicity you put up with, it rears up in unpredictable ways.

  69. Jeff*

    Honestly, an employee stuck in a toxic job situation can be stuck for any number of reasons and have to weigh between just taking the plunge and getting out, whatever the immediate consequences are vs. the long-term problems with staying.

    An employer dealing with an employee they have severe problems with on the other hand? To the point that they believe them to be toxic? They have *so many* options! And so many things that they could have done in the first place to keep things from escalating to the point of toxicity!

    Like, if the employee is a problem, it’s well within the capabilities, dare I even say, the responsibilities, of the command chain to act on that and try to train the employee to be better and fix those problems while they’re still an employee.

    And if those problems are unresolvable, well, then, the employer has all the power to simply… end the employer-employee relationship unilaterally. Like… *snap fingers* and it’s done. There’s no reason to build up years’ worth of resentment from an employer’s end of things. Like, yeah, there may be unpleasantness of having to replace an employee and may some financial penalties of instantly severing a contract without fully-justifiable cause or whatnot, but *still* – It’s far easier for an employer to do that all *BY FAR*.

    So to be so childish about a former employee that you fired that you’re doing silly social media clowning about it, instead of acting like a professional? It really exposes what a clueless buffoon you’d have to be to let things reach that point and not acknowledge your own faults.

    If it were something specific, actionable, and justifiable, then your former boss would actually be saying those things and have every right to – But she’s not. Because she’s petty and foolish – But anyone who takes any time to think about the actual logistics involved would realize that she had all the power in the relationship and could have corrected any problems she theoretically had at any point. As Alison has said, all this clownery she’s doing is drawing attention to how much of a clown she has been, is, and continues to be.

  70. zaracat*

    I’d like to weigh in with some thoughts about taking legal action. This applies to some extent to *any* sort of formal complaint system.

    It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of achieving “justice”, and yes, sometimes it is worth fighting for things on principle. But mostly, you need to take a cold hard look at: (1) what outcome you hope to achieve; (2) what are the chances of your chosen course of action achieving that outcome (taking into account what you know already about the system and your relative power within it); (3) what will it cost – financially, emotionally, opportunity cost etc; and (4) is that cost worth it? Often the best long term strategy is to walk away and make success for yourself (or find healing, or both) elsewhere.

    Walking away is often the safest strategy as well. Point (5) to consider is: will my action escalate the situation or make things worse? Totally different situation to LW’s, in that ex-boss sounds crazy but not really dangerous, but I look back on a complaint I once made that went nowhere and realise I was actually really, really lucky. With the benefit of several years’ hindsight, it occurred to me that if the person I complained about had gotten kicked out of the organisation as I wanted he would likely have escalated his behaviour, possibly to the point of violence. That did not cross my mind at the time, despite already suspecting him of vandalising my car, because my fear was completely overcome by a sense of outrage.

    Choose your battles wisely.

  71. Nicole*

    OP if you’re starting your own business you don’t need her as a reference, so why not flip the narrative? If it comes up, tell people that you actually quit because of how toxic she is and let them believe she’s acting out and unhinged, which is true. If it comes down to your word verses hers, I think most people are going to believe the person who isn’t being so petty as to make tiktok videos about it.

  72. yala*

    So wait, am I getting this right that one of the reasons the boss cited for this was because of the OP’s medical condition and getting treatment for same?



    That sounds like a legal nightmare.

  73. Chelsea*

    This boss is clearly a completely unhinged psycho, but I almost wonder if there’s more to the story. For someone to act so outrageously, you’d think there would have to be other details, right?

  74. SEM*

    I thought I commented this before and can’t seem to find it now but the comments about this company being potentially ineligible for the ADA doesn’t mean it’s fine for them to do this. Termination based on protected characteristics (in this case, the medical condition may be a disability) is illegal. No matter how big your company is.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, that law kicks in at 15 employees. The ADA, which is the law that prohibits discrimination based on disabilities, doesn’t apply at companies smaller than that.

  75. Chris*

    I am happy for OP that she got out of there and glad to hear she’s trying to build her own company! That’s awesome.

  76. Tomalak*

    I now wonder how many times, when I have seen a vaguely worded post on Facebook by someone talking about how they cut a toxic person out of their lives or whatever – along with endless Likes and “You go, girl!!” messages below – the real story is something like this!

  77. CB212*

    I will say, lip-syncing scraps of songs is a huge amount of TikTok’s content; that is a totally normal thing to do there. And the “like a dam’ sociopath” clip is just a really popular trend right now. I usually see it with material like “My roommate finished the cereal and didn’t replace it” or “my boyfriend wears socks with sandals” (and the sociopath line is the punchline) although it’s also definitely out there with some clips about actual parental trauma. But well over 90% of the videos I’ve seen with that trend, it’s not a serious use of the word.

    I’m definitely not on professional-lady tiktok and don’t know how I’d read this if I came across it, but I can’t imagine it’s really making waves in any professional community or reflecting badly on LW’s reputation, and is probably best relegated to the dustbin in LW’s mind.

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