should I report my abusive former boss to her current employer?

A reader writes:

When I first started my career about a decade ago, I worked under a boss who was totally abusive in very subtle ways. She basically did everything to try to get me fired, including gossiping about me when I was within earshot nearly every evening. She once complained because I wanted my name on something I had created. As a young person in my first full-time job, this was incredibly damaging to me since, like many young people, I lacked confidence in my skills. I’m still dealing with it today.

Now, that office was a pretty toxic place in general. There was no HR to report her to. I just took the abuse. And it’s possible that her behavior was entirely in reaction to that office and an isolated event, but I’m pretty doubtful of that. She never apologized. If I confronted her, I’m sure she’d deny everything.

I’ve been googling her every six months since then, and she’s now about to manage others again. I can tell from a job I found posted online at her current company. My question is an ethical one: Do I contact her boss and let him/her know about this? Or do I let this one go? I’d love to know your take on this issue. I’d hate to see what happened to me happen to another human, but I get that my past boss might come after me again if she finds out. And she might. I also understand that me reporting her might not lead to anything changing/the manager might think I’m nuts, but I could rest easier knowing I said something.

Contacting a company you don’t work at to warn them about someone who was a bad manager to you a decade ago is going to come across very strangely. They’re unlikely to put any stock in it since they don’t know you and “abusive in subtle ways 10 years ago” doesn’t rise to the level of the kind of allegation they’d absolutely need to investigate before moving forward.

The bar for contacting someone’s employer about their behavior years ago is very, very high. Contacting them for something like “she was a bad manager” doesn’t really meet it and would be a weird enough choice that they’d likely dismiss you as someone with bad judgment (thus draining the complaint of much of its impact) and a vendetta.

To be clear, if you worked at the same company as your old boss now — or if she were applying for a job at the company where you work — that would be different. When you work somewhere, you have more standing to offer input on your experience working with someone. But in this case, you’d be contacting a company where you don’t work, and that’s got an exceptionally high bar attached to it — so high that very few situations meet it.

I don’t doubt that your old boss was a bad manager to you. (Although not putting your name on something you created isn’t inherently damning; lots of things created in companies don’t get bylines, or are even written for someone else’s byline — which I realize is not the point of your letter, but it sounds like you might be holding onto details that were upsetting at the time but which don’t warrant this response 10 years later.)

She may or may not still be a bad manager today; many people start out as bad managers and then get better over time. But regardless, there are bad managers everywhere; that fact sucks, and it’s also the reality of the work world. You can’t track them all down and warn all their future employers about them. Ideally those future employers would be doing more due diligence about who they’re hiring into management roles, but that’s not something you can make them do.

You’re 10 years past that job. It would be a kindness to yourself to let it be in your past.*

* Which includes stopping yourself from googling your old manager every six months since that’s just keeping her centered in your brain.

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{ 359 comments… read them below }

  1. Roscoe*

    I’d also like to add that googling her every 6 months, for 10 years!, to keep tabs on her is pretty unhealthy behavior. Let this go.

    You are letting this woman live in your head rent free for 10 years. You need to move on. Reporting her will likely do nothing, and my guess is that would frustrate you even more than you already are, and lead to an even more unhealthy obsession with this woman. Because you’ll feel that “I warned them and no one will listen”

    1. EPLawyer*

      Why you can’t get past this OP and want so badly to report her is because you keep focusing on it. the best thing you can do for YOURSELF is to stop giving this person head space. As long as they have space in your head, they still control you. Stop googling this person IMMEDIATELY.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        My True Confession: When I learned that my former Terrible Boss had been disbarred I downloaded and read with enjoyment all 100+ pages of the court ruling. But I got it out of my system. I had only heard about the disbarment through the grapevine, and I have no idea what he is doing now. (What does a disbarred attorney do afterwards? Heck if I know.)

        There are a lot of terrible people out there. Granting them real estate in your head is a mistake under nearly all circumstances. If there is no compelling reason you need to interact with them outside of your head, don’t interact with them inside either.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Oh well yeah. I would totally do that too. But its one thing to hear about something and then ONCE find out details. It’s another thing to actively google someone every 6 months or so for TEN years.

        2. Marillenbaum*

          That honestly sounds like a pretty healthy thing to do. It probably also paired well with your celebratory beverage of choice.

          1. fposte*

            And I think the OP might find it satisfying to make her own closure ritual. Write down how terrible this person is on paper and then burn that stuff to ashes while toasting your survival.

            1. Lady Meyneth*

              I can empathyze with OP, and she should know this advice is golden.

              I did this about an ex, who turned out to be a waste of air – he dumped me on my birthday because he wanted to have “new experiences” (like the new coworker he was already “experiencing”) and did it after dinner in my favorite restaurant leaving me with the full bill. I was extremely salty for a couple years and, like OP, would google him every few months until I figured out I was only hurting myself. So I did a burn box and it felt so. freaking. liberating.

              All that was almost 10 years ago. Now, I won’t say it didn’t give me a nice tingle when I heard what an utter disaster his life has become. I’m not that big a person. But I didn’t go looking for it, and after the tingle, went right back to not caring.

              He’s not in my head, and so that leaves me more bandwidth to be fully happy. OP, don’t let your former boss keep tying up your joy.

              1. HereKittyKitty*

                Can confirm this catharsis. My ex gave me a self-help book when he dumped me with some letter written inside. Idk what he was thinking but I burned that sucker in the bbq grill and danced around the flames with my friend that night.

        3. ForeignLawyer*

          Reading about someone’s disbarment after you heard about it through the grapevine is a whole other story. I have to admit that I think I’d probably read the case if I heard that *anybody* I knew had been disbarred — it’s just so rare and, well, extreme. (But yeah, I’m not over here biannually googling people I worked with a decade ago to find out if they’ve gotten in trouble.)

        4. Bagpuss*

          Oh, I would totally do that. And I admit that in the first couple of years after I left Terrible Job, I used to look at the disciplinary reports in our professional journal every time my copy arrived, in the hopes of seeing his name there . But not for 10 years!

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Shoot. I’d probably do a tipsy-to-drunk dramatic reading for the pets and, if he was up for it, the better half.

        5. SpaceySteph*

          Yeah I had a not even particularly terrible-to-me boss, just one that didn’t know jack about running her small (2 employee) business and had me do all kinds of personal errands for her and once my paycheck bounced (I was a high school student at the time so it was more a surprise than an emergency, my parents still covered my necessities)

          I definitely googled with glee when I heard the place closed down a couple years later. That’s definitely not the same as this OP’s obsession.

        6. Calliope*

          Back when we got the bar bulletin in hard copy, every lawyer I know pretty much flipped straight to the disciplinary actions section at the back, tbh.

          1. Still breathing*

            I listen to a podcast that almost always ends with a segment on the most outrageous disciplinary action against an attorney that week. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage but they do include judges lol.

        1. Rusty*

          It’s absolutely nowhere close to stalking. I agree that Googling her this often isn’t healthy, but can we stop diluting down actually important terms, please?

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            On the other hand, emailing her new company to accuse her of being abusive and unfit to manage others? That would be (“cyber-“)stalking-type behavior.

              1. Carol the happy elf*

                Absolutely, this is more like a wish to go stalking than it would resemble strong emotional health.

                OP, this is from a group who have BEEN THERE.
                Almost everyone over the age of thirteen has been in a spot where someone became a squatter in the attic of her/ his life.

                This person who wronged you has wronged others, too. But rallying the townsfolk to grab pitchforks and torches?

                That grants her the status of an evil, powerful stronghold. That feeds the hurt you’ve kept close, like a live coal in your hands. (Seriously mixed up metaphors here. Sorry.)

                I’ve had it, too. Mastectomy #1 and chemobaldness, and Husband 1.0 decided that he needed to be with “a complete woman”.

                I needed therapy to get over my new addiction to utter hatred, or my body wasn’t going to have strength to survive for my children. I still have flashes of it when they troop in like the Thenardiers to family events, but especially through this pandemic, I have reason to seek out help.
                Your doctor might think you’d even benefit from a sleeping pill or even a short-term course of antidepressants since this squatter has built a home-
                or rather, YOU have built her a home in your attic, and you have furnished it with years of your life!

                Make an “Eviction Ritual”.
                Burning a letter to her (I used it to light the bbq grill, and ate a meal over the ashes.)
                Do an act of service to those who need.
                Do an act of kindness to someone you might think doesn’t deserve.

                And say this a few times each time she gets back in your attic: (My grandmother used to say this about bad people)

                TIME WOUNDS ALL HEELS.

          2. Olive Hornby*

            Yes, this doesn’t strike me as all that different from googling an ex ten years later–it’s probably not the best, healthiest behavior, but in no sense does it rise to the level of stalking. Neither does contacting the boss’s current company, which would be like contacting the ex’s new partner after you see that they’re engaged–it would be deeply inappropriate, for sure, but not something that rises to a level of legal concern. (If OP went to the boss’s new office every day, or emailed all the potential direct reports, that would be more concerning, but there’s no indication in the letter that they’d go to those lengths.)

        2. KLelly*

          Come on. “Stalking” is a serious word and there is nothing in the letter that comes close to it. Imagine a person who has experienced stalking reading this comment. How diminishing.

          Unrelated, but let’s cool it was “gaslighting” and “toxic”, too. . .

          1. Worldwalker*

            I have. (to the point of moving across the country with no forwarding address, and taking 10 years to not have to sleep with a weapon) I don’t find this diminishing — just incorrect.

            What’s somewhat more concerning is not what the OP is doing now, but what it might develop into. The longer you obsess over something, the more likely you are to escalate your response to it. If the OP had just thrown the memory into a mental file of “bad bosses I used to have” (we all have one of those, right?) and maybe trotted it out on AAM some day, they wouldn’t be thinking about contacting this person’s current company ten years later. These things grow on you.

            OP, quit giving your ex headspace. That’s true if they’re your ex-spouse, ex-lover, or ex-boss. They’re out of your life now; leave them there.

        3. JSPA*

          No, really, it isn’t. The definitions of stalking vary from state to state, but “using publicly-available information to follow someone’s career” isn’t on any of them. There’s been no contacting of the person, no hacking of their private information, no in-person following. A one-time letter would of course be useless / counterproductive / weird, but it’s nowhere near a pattern of behavior.

          I’ve had people in my past who were damaging enough that, from time to time, I’d check that they were still where they used to live (i.e. far from me) or still employed where they used to work (i.e. not about to show up at my workplace). Not because I was interested in them, but because I was interested in avoiding them.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        One strategy that I’ve found useful when I find myself thinking of my former work bully is to immediately think of a lovely former ex-colleague instead. That way, inadvertently thinking about the ex-bully isn’t so awful.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          That’s beautiful. I needed those exact words today.

          Using my life energy to remember someone good is like a fountain. Using it on someone mean or cruel is like a drain. Both channel water, but only one gives beauty.

      3. Minocho*

        I had a bad boss (well, he was my boss’s boss, but still an abusive jerk) whose employ I left. He was the kind of guy that would complain about how much he paid us, and fire long term employees because he wanted to hire a personal friend. He would force particularly browbeaten employees to come over to his house and wash his car for him on their weekend. When I gave my notice, he tried to both tempt me to stay with promises of raises, and threaten that if I left I’d never work in Houston again – at the same time. I’m used to people assuming I’m a pushover because I’m laid back and female, so I just smiled, repeated my resignation information, got out, and forgot him as soon as possible.

        Over a decade later, my new job provided a discount for gym membership in the same building It’s a nice gym / club. I joined to try to efficiently work out during my work day.

        A couple of weeks in, I saw my old skip level boss. He had a disgusted look on his face as he saw an old employee a member of his club. This may be projection on my part, but I definitely felt he was dismayed that a former peon of his dared show their face at a swanky downtown gym.

        I got a little petty, I admit. I smiled broadly, and greeted him with effusive warmth. “Bob! How wonderful to see you again. It’s been so long, imagine meeting you here! Houston’s been so good to me, it looks like you’re doing well! How are you!” He grumbled something without even looking at me and left.

        What I’m trying to say, OP, is REALLY get revenge on this boss. Be your awesome self, and continue to succeed and be happy. The best revenge is a life well lived. But if you see them again, kill ’em with kindness!

        1. EPLawyer*

          Living well is the best revenge.

          You’d never work again in Houston. A city of a couple million people, you would never be able to find ANY single job? Talk about clueless.

    2. Fabulous*

      I was going to say the same thing. 10 years is a LONG time to have this toxic person taking up real estate in your life. Once you’re able to forget about this person and move on, such a weight will be lifted. They are not and should not be your burden to handle.

    3. Pony Puff*

      I came here to comment that! The thing that’s eating away at OP can’t really be her old boss – surely there are other things OP can do to heal the past, and none of it involves taking revenge on old boss.

    4. Anonymous for this*

      Easy to say, can be very hard to do. I regularly googled (and checked facebook, linkedin, twitter, professional listservs and sites, etc etc) the woman who had an affair with my spouse (and stalked our child) for several years, and only stopped when I saw she had divorced, lost custody of her child, and had a crappy new job. Gotta admit, it was satisfying. It was really really hard to stop before then.

      Therapy helps.

      1. Stevie*

        I guess my worry would be, what if nothing bad like that happened to her and she seemed to be highly successful and happy (on paper)?

        No judgement here – my ex-BF was like this with his former bullies. They seemed to be doing really well in life, though obviously you can’t tell if perception equals reality in a world of carefully curated digital profiles. Thinking that they were really successful, while he struggled to find employment, was devastating to his mental health.

        1. Reba*

          Yeah, I could understand that.

          I recently listened to an episode of the podcast Death, Sex, and Money* in which the guest described a exercise she set herself when she was really really angry about something someone had done to her, that could never be resolved with them. She drew a line, literally on paper, representing her anger about the situation, and from time to time she would go back to it and erase it bit by bit. It wasn’t allowed to go back up, and when it was all gone, she told herself, ok I’m done with anger. Simple but not easy! She knew she had to do it on her own, no outside signals were going to come.

          *It’s not really as salacious as it sounds! Just talking about important, hard topics.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I’m with you on this. Was it the therapy as much as the sense of justice that gave closure?
          I was bullied. I’ve been in therapy. My greatest gift to myself was blocking everyone who I didn’t want to ever see. I blocked people who were rude to me in high school.
          Do they even remember my name now?
          Probably not.
          Would they friend me?
          Probably not.
          Might they be friends of friends or come up as suggestions for friends,
          Probably not…(until now when FB has changed its algorithm and suggests every graduate from every school you attended.)
          So I don’t see their names.

          1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

            Sometimes, people change. A person who picked on me in high school (I guess it might be called bullying now, but it didn’t affect my post-high school life) made a point of apologizing to me at a reunion years later, and has been very kind on the rare occasions I’ve seen her since then. Some of those high school bullies may have been fighting their own demons at the time.

            1. Kal*

              That may be true, but no one has to forgive or be friends with people who hurt them. My childhood abuser abused me because he was dealing with the effects of his own childhood abuse, but I have absolutely no responsibility to him other than to treat him with basic human decency. He can exist over where he is, living his own life, and I can have him blocked on Facebook and live my own life completely separately from his. He might have changed – but I wouldn’t know because I’m living my own life and treating him no differently than any of the billions of other people I don’t know.

              Whether people change is rather irrelevant to it all. Its totally okay to block people on social media if you just don’t want to see them/what they post for whatever reason – its not some indictment on whether or not they are a good person.

        3. Fran Fine*

          I guess my worry would be, what if nothing bad like that happened to her and she seemed to be highly successful and happy (on paper)?

          This. People need to understand that the concept of karma as we know it doesn’t always happen and “bad” people don’t always get punished in the end. Waiting around, checking up on it, and actively rooting for it to happen is a waste of time and energy that could be better spent on healing yourself.

          1. Aquawoman*

            It’s easy, fast and cheap to just assume that someone who would behave that way could not possibly be a happy person.

          2. Batty Twerp*

            Yup. There’s even a trope called Karmic Houdini (for characters who escape getting “what’s coming to them”), and it’s nearly always coupled with a Downer, or at best Bittersweet Ending to a story.
            Because it’s unsatisfying to not have that closure and see “justice” served.

            [Mangled metaphor alert]

            But the movie’s over, the credits have rolled and there’s no stinger scene to show that, actually, they *did* get a nasty string of speeding tickets so there! So you end up with a choice (aided by therapy or otherwise):
            Leave a 2 star review on IMDb; be casually, but passively, interested in any news of a director’s cut that *could* change the ending, but ultimately just book tickets for the next Pixar musical event. (Hint – this is the healthy option).
            Obsessively write fan fiction with your preferred justice ending for the next so many years. Contribute on every forum that even vaguely mentions this character and their deeds. You’ve forgotten Pixar even *make* movies, much less seen one in a while. Maybe, eventually, someone will remind you that the movie was made a decade ago. The references are all dated. One of the actors may even have passed at the grand old age of 103, so you’re just never going to get that sequel you’ve been desperately needing to see.
            And it still niggles.

            It’s how our brains work, and sometimes it kinda sucks.

            1. Gumby*

              Ehn, as a reader, I wouldn’t necessarily discourage the fanfiction writing. Though that comes with a caveat of being a good writer and having at least a little creativity in how justice prevails. I have enjoyed many a fix-it story from writers who have definite points of view on certain characters. On occasion I read too many grudge-stories in a row (*cough*Dead Air*cough* not that I don’t mostly agree) and have to take a break from a fandom or something, but mostly – thank you writers!

              1. Batty Twerp*

                Heck, no, I’m a fanfic WRITER! I’m not discouraging it at all! I’ve also read some amazing stories and some that… beggar belief and fit very much into my mangled metaphor (I’m thinking of making that my new username…)

                Bad fanfic is also a cheap and lazy (and I’m writing on my phone so I don’t exactly have editing room here!) shortcut/stereotype for obsession over a certain fandom. It’s practically a trope in itself.
                And it’s common to write fanfic about our own lives. That’s practically the second use of the shower – after actually getting clean, it’s the place where we replay arguments and conversations, only this time we actually get to say the witty thing to our obnoxious coworker who steals people’s lunches, or have our mic drop moment with the boss who’s been making unreasonable demands on our time.

      2. MissGirl*

        Yes, but that was a far more deeper wound. This is a crappy boss from ten years ago. She’s never go to get satisfaction on this path.

      3. Wants Green Things*

        Therapy helps, but I think most people are willing to give you a little more leeway considering your child was at risk. That’s definitely harder to just move past.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I mean, I get it. My childhood abuser is on Facebook and has connections with some of my friends list. I don’t block her because I’d like to know exactly when she is no longer on this earthly plane. But unless and until that happens, I don’t really think about her. I’ve done the processing as best I can for now, so to dwell on it is a waste of my energy.

        OP is letting this bad ex-boss drain her energy. If she can’t let it go without help, then she needs to seek it out. There’s absolutely no shame in that. These things can be very hard to process alone.

      5. Carol the happy elf*

        Therapy where the universe takes your revenge crusade, so you can take a rest.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I went to school with a few kids who were not subtlely but actively, viciously, abusive to me and I don’t Google them. I’ve Googled them, collectively, maybe ten times in 30-odd years. I’m definitely not reaching out to their current employers.

      You have to figure out how to move on from this, LW. This has gone past the point of “this person was abusive” and is now in “I am using the idea of this person to abuse myself” territory.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        A counselor defined “grudge” to me as feeling someone has violated you in the past (violated norms, fairness, boundaries, etc), and now you are acting in a way that guarantees you will continue to feel violated. It really resonated.

        1. fposte*

          That’s a really great insight. I think this letter prompts a useful question: what are *good* ways to process the wrong somebody has done you?. And there are a few examples being mentioned in the comments. Maybe the OP will find those helpful.

          1. Worldwalker*

            I tend to look at it like this:

            My interaction with this person was awful. Well, they have to interact with themselves every single day. They have an awful person living inside their head. They are their own punishment.

            Does Martin Shkreli feel bad because he sees the world’s most punchable face in the mirror every morning? Who knows. But it doesn’t matter — it’s not about their reality, but *your* reality. You imagine what it would be like to have this awful person inside your head 24/7, and then it’s so much easier to get them out of *your* head.

          2. AndersonDarling*

            The best way I processed a wrong done to me, was to forgive myself for not acting perfectly when it happened.
            I festered over an abusive boss for a year after leaving. I had a new, good job and a pretty good life, but I couldn’t let the pain go. Then I forgave myself for not having infinite emotional wisdom to handle the situation better. I forgave myself for not knowing the perfect solution to make the abusive boss stop. I acknowledged that I did the best I could with the knowledge and experience I had at the time.
            That led me to refocus on myself, not on the bad guy and what happened to him.

            1. fposte*

              That’s a really interesting point. I bet for a lot of us that resentment is a way to deflect our feelings of guilt, shame, or inadequacy in not having triumphed in the situation.

            2. Olive Hornby*

              Yeah, as a very grudge-prone person, I’ve found compassion meditation helpful for this precisely because it involves extending lovingkindness to people like the OP’s former boss as well as to yourself (or former self)–it’s called a practice for a reason, because it’s super hard, but also genuinely good.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Damn right it’s hard. I struggle with it in my own practice.

                But yeah, if you keep dwelling on what happened, then your focus will always be on that. You may find yourself seeing slights that don’t actually exist because you’re looking at everything through that same filter. That can make adjusting to a good workplace difficult.

          3. Nicotena*

            I think it’s easiest to focus on how far you personally have come since the past harm when these intrusive thoughts come up. “When I had this bullying boss, I had no idea how to react and I would freeze up / cry etc. Now that I have more experience in the working world and more confidence in my performance I would – ” I don’t like the framing of being grateful they taught you something (hate that) but I emphasize how much I’ve learned since then / how much stronger I am now etc., which gives me a sense of agency and control. [This wouldn’t necessarily work with something like interpersonal violence, though; just lesser bullying/being a jerk]

        2. Hex Libris*

          I think the word grudge gets a bad rap. One person’s grudge holding is another person’s boundary setting. The key is to, as the song says, know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            It’s really not, though. There are a lot of people with whom I hold firm boundaries (or would if I ever encountered them again), but I don’t think about them on a regular basis, I’m not mad at them any more, etc. A grudge implies a level of emotional intensity that is beyond simply holding a boundary. A grudge is looking to be affronted again and again–a boundary is not.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              A grudge is looking to be affronted again and again.
              Agree with this observation, as the former grudge holder.

            2. Hex Libris*

              Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. That’s how you’re choosing to define it, which you’re certainly entitled to do, but that definition is not universal. People accuse others of grudge holding pretty freely and are often wrong to do so pejoratively.

          2. Archaeopteryx*

            Yes I think it’s OK to have a grudge, in the sense that you allow someone’s bad treatment of you to affect your opinion of their character and your decisions around interacting with them. But it’s not good to -nurse- a grudge, making them the star of your memories and keeping your anger fresh and sharp.

            Easier said than done, to avoid doing so, when they were truly heinous. I know this firsthand. But distinguishing the two is helpful. When people talk about just letting it go, that can feel like an injustice or like they’re saying to paper over the wrongs done to you. But you’re not! You’re just not grinding those furrows ever deeper in your psyche.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I think the point about nurturing your grudge is well-made.

              Quite often, when someone sets a boundary with someone they also have a simmering grudge against that person. But weeks pass, they think about the boundary-stomper less, and the initial feeling becomes something they don’t pull out and polish. (Downthread Kella has a really helpful post about the sort of mental gymnastics that can cause us to pull out something and dwell on it, even thought the dwelling is really unhelpful and even harmful.)

          3. Littorally*

            ‘One person’s grudge holding is another person’s boundary setting.’

            Yep. Anytime I hear someone claim that another person has a grudge against them, I find myself asking “okay, is it actually a grudge or is it that they aren’t willing to give you infinite chances to screw them over?”

            In this case, though, the OP really does need to find some way to make like Elsa and let it go.

            1. Not Using the Normal Sign in, just in case....*

              I’m having this issue with a current co-worker. The horrid stuff they’ve done over the past year means I’m finding it difficult to give them any benefit of the doubt for other things that on the face of it are fairly innocuous…. I feel like I may be holding a grudge, because I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. For my own sake I need to not dwell.

              (I’m not entirely convinced that they are being alturistic, and not just passively aggressive). It was badly handled at the time, (my mental health was being sacrified for the co-workers, it felt like) though my boss now has realised just how bad it was…. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not just me having issues with this co-worker and to use the legitimate tactic of ‘avoidance’ where possible.

              I also look at the cross-stich it inspired me to sew last year, and try to take it to heart

              ‘Just chuck it in the F-it Bucket and move on’ (its not censored on my cross-stitch!)

              For my own sake and my own sanity at least!

            2. tamarack and fireweed*

              Well, yes, but that’s different from looking at a third party and *their* boundaries and concluding, “meh, it’s just a grudge”.

              People who experience the sharp end of boundary-setting do indeed deflect responsibility by falsely relabeling the boundary-setter as a grudge-holder. That doesn’t illustrate “one person’s grudge is another person’s boundary”, though.

          4. HereKittyKitty*

            One of the most liberating things my therapist ever said to me is that I didn’t have to “let go” of my grudge towards my abusers. I could be as angry as I wanted, for as long as I wanted. I could hate them. I could be disgusted by them. That healing isn’t always a path towards acceptance, love, forgiveness and all that “feel good” stuff that doesn’t always work for everyone. It can in fact be staying angry about a person, situation or experience and knowing that anger is justified and important and not to be dismissed.

            But you also can’t let those feelings get in the way of your own life. You have to carefully manage your anger. I wrote about it back in more writerly days and described my grudges as small objects I hold in my palms and set upon a shelf in the corner of my mind. Occasionally I may glance at them, or take them off the shelf and dust them off, but then they go back on the shelf and continue gathering dust. They’re small reminders of the things I’ve experienced and learned or overcome and it’s okay to have them there. They just can’t be an elephant in your head. Let grudges be, but let them be small.

        3. I Herd the Cats*

          I love this. Grudge work and letting go of resentments. There’s a related saying in some sobriety circles: “resentment is the poison you drink every day, hoping someone else will die.” I did a lot of that work (letting go of resentments about things that were UNFAIR, my ex was so TERRIBLE) and I’m happy to say I can go months now without thinking of my terrible ex at all. And when I do, it’s: he’s on my path, I’m on mine, I have no idea where he is or what he’s doing, and that is great.

    6. The Smiling Pug*

      Honestly, this entire letter is wonderful, but the text included with the asterisk is one of the most important pieces of information. When I was bullied back in elementary, although I fantasize about them getting their just desserts every once-in-a-while, I don’t obsessively Google them or comb through their Facebook profiles.

    7. Reba*

      When someone who hurt me in the past pops into my head from time to time, I tell myself “well, fortunately I never have to see that person again, they are not part of my life” and that helps me to drop it and not ruminate on the person/bad experience.

      (Of course, doesn’t work so well when you *do* have to see the person again, but it sounds like in OP’s case she doesn’t overlap with this person anymore.)

      OP, it’s wonderful that you have achieved the growth to see that experience in a different light, and likely it informs how you act in the workplace now. I think the next chapter will be to let that experience fade, to think about and google about it way way less. I’m sure that you have had many other work experiences in the past ten years! Don’t let this one keep taking up a disproportionately large space in your mind/sense of your own story.

    8. CBB*

      It sounds like this abuser inflicted wounds that will never heal as long as she continues to invade her victim’s thoughts every 6 months.

      I sympathize with LW’s feeling that she needs to be stopped.

      1. miro*

        This seems like a really intense reading of the situation that erases some of OP’s agency here. However bad the boss was, OP is choosing to continue to google the boss–and can stop doing so. That probably won’t solve the problem completely, but it is a concrete step the OP can (and should) take, and I’m bothered by the very passive framing of OP as someone having their thoughts “invaded.”

        Also, the assertion that these wounds will “never heal” seems unnecessarily hopeless/harsh. Other people on this thread have recounted their similar experiences and the way therapy has helped them move on and heal. Does that mean this will necessarily be the case for OP? Of course not. But telling OP that they will always feel this way seems deeply unhelpful.

        1. Kate*

          Agreed. Former bad boss is doing nothing, and the LW is doing EVERYTHING here.

          And this may sound like nit picking, but the examples LW gives of “toxic” and “abusive” aren’t toxic or abusive. As Allison mentioned, not putting a junior person’s name on work product is fairly standard practice in multiple industries!

          LW is describing an obsession with their former boss, and the LW is repeatedly and regularly searching for information about them more than 10 years after they worked together and is now contemplating contacting boss’s employer.

      2. Worldwalker*

        How is she “invading” the OP’s thoughts?

        No action she takes, or doesn’t take, will affect the OP’s thoughts in any way. She could move to Guam and start a new career in pineapple farming (do they grow pineapples on Guam?), she could become a researcher and spend 6-month stints in Antarctica, she could become a nun and spend the rest of her life in a convent, and nothing would change for the OP. She’s not doing anything — the OP is. She was a jerk 10 years ago and they have had no contact since then.

        She can’t stop what she never started.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree with those saying that this is incredibly passive framing. The former boss is not actively doing something that causes her to invade the helpless OP’s thoughts.

    9. Mitford*

      Oh, I don’t know about that. I have one former boss I google regularly just to make sure I never, ever, ever end up anywhere near her.

      1. Windchime*

        I had one like this, too, and I looked at her Facebook every few months for several years. (She was too stupid to know how to restrict it). After a few years, I decided that I was not going to look any longer, mostly because I wanted to get over what she did to me. Anytime I came across a reminder in the form of a gift or a work paper, I discarded the item. I no longer look at her Facebook and I think that I am happier for deciding to stop looking. Does this mean I “forgive and forget”? Oh, hell no. But it does mean that her reign of treating me like shit is over.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          I think if you are still checking up in someone who did something crappy to you after they are no longer in your life, you’re just giving them way too much power over you and your thoughts. I have my former bully and the person who enabled her blocked on every social media site that I use and it has been so good for my mental health. I don’t care if they get evaporated by lava and I don’t care if they get an award for being the greatest person ever to do their job. Either way, I don’t have to hear about it and that’s just fine with me.

      2. PT*

        I had a terrible boss who, after I quit to get away from him, at significant cost to myself because I took a demotion to do so, my exit interview had a hand in his eventual firing. He then fell off the face of the Earth, as far as anyone in my network knew.

        But Google and LinkedIn knew where he went. Oh and it was a job that was SO MUCH WORSE than the one he had. He had a decent (if not great) salaried job with a very nice office when I worked for him: large wood desk, nice bookcase, microwave and fridge and watercooler. His new job is a frontline service sector one that’s notorious for low pay, bad hours, and being on the receiving end of violent Karen tirades.

        Considering how awful he was to so many people at my work, I think he is getting his just desserts, personally. He pushed so many good people out of their jobs, often for discriminatory reasons, it is poetic justice that he is now on the receiving end of bullying.

    10. MistOrMister*

      I find myself wondering why OP would be googling the former boss so often. I’v3 fallen down the rabbit hole and looked up all kinds of former coworkers on linkedin, but that’s really a once every few years kind of thing. Regularly checking up on someone like that, unless you’re keeping tabs on them because you’re concerned for your safety, is just so far over the top.

    11. The Original K.*

      Yeah, this was my first thought. Stop Googling her, OP. Release her from your mind. I don’t know what the majority of my former bosses or colleagues are up to unless we’re connected on LinkedIn & it comes across my feed. You don’t work for her anymore; you don’t need to spend another minute thinking about her.

    12. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Yeah, it would be in your own best interest to change your focus away from this awful manager. I totally get your curiosity about what she is doing now, etc. but your time and energy would be more beneficial by focusing on what you want in your career rather than a horrible boss from a previous job.

      Keeping your focus on her is kind of like that old saying “…it’s like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.” Don’t let this person spend one more minute in your head. You have better things to do than let her affect your life and career. Focus on what you want (not on what you don’t want) and move forward. Success is the best revenge.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Decades ago, I had a bad boss — I presume he’s dead now, but I’ve never looked — who would probably have been delighted to know that one of his ex-employee was still obsessing over him 10 years later. It would be a kind of power to him. (one of the many reasons he was a bad boss) He’d brag about it everywhere. “I had such an effect on Sansa….” My revenge is to never think about him unless it’s for a (hopefully) humorous anecdote — he’s the guy in the mynah bird story. He doesn’t deserve any more headspace than that.

    13. Sandman*

      I agree. I had a pretty horrific job experience a little over 15 years ago and I’m still dealing with the ramifications of that, too. I wish I would have gotten some good therapy around this years ago and haven’t quite managed that yet, but it would probably be a good thing for both of us.

      Some people are terrible, whether by choice or because they don’t understand how to be any other way. They can do a lot of harm, and don’t always experience the consequences of that. Choosing to remain engaged with that harm isn’t ever going to hurt her, though, only you.

      1. fposte*

        There’s that multi-sourced idea that resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.

        I get it–there can be something very satisfying and safe about resentment, especially when it’s become a habit. But if you can step back and see it as a choice, and that you also have the choice of letting it go and it doesn’t require forgiving or diminishing the wrong, that’s really powerful.

    14. JB*


      LW, you may want to discuss this with a mental health professional, if you haven’t already. Clearly this woman had a profound effect on you, and you say you’re still impacted now, a decade later.

      You are not going to get the closure you want by reporting her to her current employer. You are not going to get the closure you want by looking her up twice a year. That closure needs to happen inside you, you need to process how you internalized her treatment of you. A therapist can help guide you through that.

    15. Trombone*

      I have a scary, terrible boss in my past, and I google him every once in awhile so I know where he is. I want to make sure I never work in the same company/group as him. I keep hoping he’ll move out of town . . . He’s like a grizzly bear, I want to know where in the woods he is. I’ve actually considered anonymously emailing his new employer, telling her to watch out for signs of his bullying – people quitting, people asking to be transferred, low morale. I didn’t because I’m afraid someone he’ll figure it was me and come and get me somehow. So scared of him.

    16. Gail Davidson-Durst*

      A thousand times this! When I read, “I’ve been googling her every six months since then,” I was like, “The bees are living rent-free in your own head! Put this down and go in peace!”

    17. yala*

      Yeah, I’m a little concerned. I was in a VERY bad workplace before where I am now, and while I know where that manager is (because she’s now in upper management, and my friend still works for the same place), it’s never really occurred to me to check in and see how she’s doing. I have my handful of “Ok, so this one time…” stories that I’ll pull out for discussions of wacky bosses, but mostly everything that I hated about that job? It’s stuff I remember if it comes up, but almost like I read it as a list somewhere. Things to be wary of in the future, but not to dwell on.

      OP, I promise you, the best gift you can possibly give yourself is to stop caring about a bad work environment you no longer have to deal with.

    18. __ID__*

      I think we are not accounting for the psychological damage that a bully can do to someone’s self-esteem. (Been there, as a victim myself.) I think we should support the idea that different people handle trauma differently, so I want to caution all of us from urging OP to “get over it”. OP, I’ve been in your shoes and counseling really helped! It’s kind of you to try to prevent this Terrible Boss from causing more damage, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to reach out to her new company. Best of luck and take whatever steps you can to heal!

      1. Roscoe*

        I didn’t say “get over it”. I said her actions aren’t healthy.

        She can feel any way she wants, but when its googling every 6 months and wanting to reach out to a new employer, that is too far.

        If she wants to hold on to her grudge forever, that is her choice.

    19. Toolate*

      As others have observed, letting this kind of feeling go is easier said than done (even if you are absolutely aware that it MUST be done!). Does anyone have any practical tips for how to get over a grudge like the one described in the letter if you have constant reminders of your old boss or the old organization you used to work for everywhere? That’s the situation I find myself in.

      Because I am still working in the same industry in the same state, I have to follow news, and this organization (and she herself) are constantly popping up in the social media accounts I have to follow for professional reasons. This often triggers googling and intrusive thoughts. I would never do what the LW contemplated and act in any way on my thoughts, but this still takes up a lot of emotional and mental bandwidth (against my will!).

      1. Toolate*

        To add to this: Another issue is that my former organization (where this old boss works) is a major employer in my hometown. So even if I stopped following my industry news, news about this organization still comes up all the time in my personal newsfeed with my friends from home. Any advice to keep the scab from constantly reopening is welcome!

      2. Kella*

        When I’m in this kind of situation where I can’t seem to move past something that happened a long time ago partially because of current reminders, I try to think in really concrete terms what would happen if I was magically that situation again. Or I might think about why I wouldn’t be in that position in the first place. What’s different now? Do I have more resources, more experience, more options to escape? Am I better at setting boundaries or identifying toxic behaviors? Have I let go of the guilt around leaving something that isn’t serving me? Do I have other people on my side who will support me now if I find myself in trouble? I will often take a very specific situation from the traumatic time, and instead of infinitely replaying it, play it just once and imagine myself doing the different thing, and see it through til the end til it’s resolved.

        For example, I was in a very abusive situation when I was very poor and vulnerable and couldn’t escape til a lot of damage had been done. Now, if I get caught up in those memories, I’ll imagine myself being there, in his apartment. I’ll imagine that a friend has just texted me and said, “I’m waiting outside to pick you up. I’m going to take you to my place. You don’t have to pay any of the bills, you can stay here indefinitely. You don’t have to worry about anything. Will you come outside?” And then I imagine myself walking out of the apartment and getting in the car. It’s actually pretty emotional to do this and sometimes it takes some work to do it, even just in your head. But I find it really helps if you can identify the specific things you’re scared of and the specific reasons they aren’t happening now.

        1. HereKittyKitty*

          This is actually exactly what EMDR therapy is. You reprocess specific events in your life by imagining changing the outcome. There was a particularly difficult memory I had to process in EMDR that involved simply opening the car door and stepping out. Whenever I’m dealing with PTSD thoughts sometimes I think of car doors now and how, as an older, safer adult, I can open them and step out whereas in the past I felt like I could not.

          1. Kella*

            EMDR can include this kind of process, but EMDR is more defined by the physical reprocessing that’s prompted by stimulating alternating sides of the brain in quick succession, while reviewing the trauma. EMDR can also work if you just revisit the memory and don’t try to accomplish anything in particular, and let it take you where it goes.

            EMDR is incredibly effective for single incidents of PTSD. Like, people feel cured in 6 months kind of effective. It is also helpful with C-PTSD, aka, longer periods of time that included repeated traumas of varying sizes, but not as effective and can sometimes be pretty intense for C-PTSD survivors.

            1. HereKittyKitty*

              Yes I have C-PTSD and went through EMDR therapy, so I’m aware of all the steps, just didn’t want to write a huge thing. I had some memories that were just visiting and experiencing and the one memory I mentioned was “changing the outcome” based. Luckily it was effective for me and I’d encourage other to give it a try if they’re suffering.

    20. Koalafied*

      Some feedback I hope will be taken in a constructive spirit – I’ve never really liked the expression that you’re “letting someone live in your head rent-free,” if you’re actually trying to help someone move on. It feels kind of victim-blamey, and always feels to me more like an insult (“you’ve brought this all on yourself, so it serves you right!” or “haha, even after all this time you’re still the loser and she’s such a queen that she’s still pwning you without even trying!”) than an insight (“you seem not to realize it, but you actually have tools you could used here”).

      I certainly have seen the expression used intentionally to insult or mock (very frequently it’s supporters of one politician taunting people who oppose that politician – and yes, I’ve seen it wielded this way by people of all political persuasions), so I’d recommend that if youdon’t intend to be insulting, it’s better to say something that’s less criticizing what they’ve done thus far and more empowering them with what they could do differently going forward, like, “It’d be better if you could find a way to move past this, and stop dwelling on unpleasant memories, because you have the power to choose that,” or “What’s done is done – you can’t change the past, and living well is the best revenge.”

    21. Tech lady*

      I’ve had abusive bosses in the past that I also let live in my head rent free. I highly recommend going to therapy, but more specifically doing some EMDR sessions around this. It’s helped me immensely. Wishing you all the best OP

    22. TG*

      Agreed – I feel for LW because obviously this impacted her greatly but this woman has setup shop in her head for 10 years – LW don’t give her continued power over you!
      First therapy – get yourself into therapy and work through the issues you’re still having.
      Then think about what you’ve accomplished in the last 10 years personally and professionally. When you’re tempted to google this boss, stop!

  2. Chairman of the Bored*

    If I were an employer and somebody contacted me to complain about one of my employees who had managed them 10 years ago the bar for proving their claims would be very high.

    Unless they could provide me with ironclad evidence of serious abuse or bigotry etc I would 100% assume they were a crackpot.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      I would definitely ignore someone contacting the company to say “This person was a bad boss!” It’s a misguided move no matter what the time frame was.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The abusive work situation is going to need concrete details that a) anyone would find shocking, and consider disqualifying even a decade later, b) are investigable and provable. OP says this was all subtle and gossipy. And the concrete example she gives, as Alison notes, is something that would often be utterly unremarkable.

          OP, you frame this as perhaps being in response to overall toxic company culture–allow yourself to believe that it was that, and a change in venue and plowing through more time may have turned the boss into a quite different sort of manager.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            Honestly the examples of abuse the LW describes in her letter doesn’t sound like abuse to me.

            She gossiped about me while I was in earshot. She tried to get me fired. She didn’t let me put my name on a document I wrote.

            Perhaps a more thorough description would reveal ongoing systematic emotional abuse, but what the LW describes as instances of abuse sound like at worst bad management and maybe not even that.

            I say that to make the point that “she was an abuser” will not be backed up by the mild descriptions of possible bad management behavior.

        2. JB*

          This is exactly why many abusers like to turn around and accuse their victims.

          What would you even investigate, when it comes to allegations of emotional and social abuse in a working relationship from 10 years ago? Are you going to call up that old mutual employer and ask?

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Yes! LW this will not hurt your former boss in anyway. You’re an unreliable unknown. The time to complain about her actions was when she was your boss. And I understand why people can’t take action then, but this won’t hurt her. You’ll come across as oddly vindictive and angry. This could hurt you by burning a bridge with this company or the person you talk to because you’re actions would be extremely crackpot.

      You need to move on for yourself. Stop thinking about your old boss and checking up on her.

    3. oranges*

      Yeah, OP is way out of bounds here. (The answer was far too gentle.) OP has nothing to do with this new job, and she last knew her TEN years ago. It’s unhealthy to still be thinking about it her, and it’s crackpot creepy to actually plan to call her new employer about it.

  3. Mental Lentil*

    I know it’s hard, but you really have to let this go. Googling somebody on a regular basis that did you harm is not healthy for you.

    If you need therapy or counseling to get over this, there is no shame in that. Abusive relationships sometimes leave bruises that don’t surface for a long time.

    Trust me, once you get this behind you, you will feel much better. Sending good thoughts to you.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Came to suggest therapy. This is not healthy by any stretch of the imagination, OP.

      Be like Elsa and learn to Let It Go.

      1. singlemaltgirl*

        agreed. you know lw, many people can have trauma from toxic work environments. working through that trauma and re-building yourself can be difficult. many people don’t seek help for this type of thing but i would reiterate the therapy route. 10 years is a long time. you are obviously hurt and still carrying these things that have affected your confidence. definitely stop googling this person. but i get how it can be difficult to put them out of your mind. but seek a therapist that specializes in workplace bullying and trauma. it can be a really empowering thing to do for yourself.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      LW, you need to focus on you, not a boss from ten years ago. Please get help to get past that chapter in your life.

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

      Yes, it’s also worth exploring if this is trauma from more than just this one previous boss. I’m not discounting that it could have been a deeply traumatizing experience, but 10 years of googling this woman to keep tabs on her and holding on to a vendetta to get even with her over what was presented (gossiping and undercutting you) would maybe suggest that this woman has become an almost mythical stand-in for more.

      1. Ama*

        It does sound from the letter like the entire job environment was toxic –I do wonder if ex-boss has become an avatar for everything that was wrong with that employer because it is much easier to be mad at a person than a company, even though I think the company was probably most to blame for creating an environment where ex-boss felt comfortable behaving that way.

  4. Phony Genius*

    The asterisked text should be enlarged, since that is probably the most important piece of advice in this response.

    1. Roscoe*

      Ha, I didn’t even notice that text when I made my initial comment. But yes, it should probably be bolded

    2. Lanie*

      Yeah, I’m not sure why that aspect is being treated as a footnote. This is probably the most valuable step that the LW can take. It’s really critical that she try to stop doing this.

    3. Phony Genius*

      To those wondering what I am talking about, Alison seems to have gone ahead and enlarged it to the size of the rest of the response. (Thanks!)

  5. Nea*

    LW, I get it. I really do. I had an abusive boss over 10 years ago and still occasionally fantasize about her getting her comeuppance.

    But the healthy thing here is to move on. Belt out a few choruses of Let It Go, accept that your past, her behavior, and that other company are all out of your control and go out and do something wonderful for yourself.

    No matter what happens in the new job, that’s their problem. She can’t hurt YOU anymore.

    1. J.B.*

      I had an abusive boss and wonder if the stuff will ever hit the fan. But I spend my time being happy at my new job and glad to have gotten out!

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      In all seriousness I made a playlist to help with this when I left my Toxic Job. Process and let go.

      1. Nea*

        I am an Old and so my favorite let it go song is Styx’ On My Way:
        Oh, what a beautiful night
        Couldn’t get any clearer
        Yeah, what a wonderful sight
        My old life in the rear view mirror

        1. Jan*

          I left my hometown at 16 because I knew I didn’t want to stay somewhere so parochial and claustrophobic. The last line reminds me of when I visit. When I catch the train back to London, where I live now, I sit in a back-facing seat so I can see the town disappearing behind me!

    3. Heidi*

      I’m also imagining that the OP is playing out some sort of triumphant revenge fantasy in their head. These things just don’t happen that way.

      Now the OP did say that she’s willing to say her piece and let the chips fall where they may, even if the employer thinks she’s crazy. Okay, but what then? If the former boss moves onto another management job with a different employer, will the OP feel obligated to notify that boss too? Will it go on until the former boss retires?

      1. Amaranth*

        On the flip side of this, what if that old boss retaliates and calls OP’s new boss to make a complaint of harassment and bad mouths OP as an employee. I suppose OP could make the report anonymously, but that gives it even less weight.

    4. Green Goose*

      Me too, OP. Hugs, it’s hard. I agree with others that it’s best to let it go (but also know its easier said than done). My abusive ex-boss kept up their behaviour at subsequent jobs and actually ended up getting fired because the next Green Goose was much less willing to put up with that type of behaviour than I was. Let’s just hope that your old boss has changed her ways and that’s why she is still moving up, and if she has not changed her ways, the new company will likely figure it out and sort it out.

    5. Van Wilder*

      This post caused me to google my own abusive boss from 7 years ago. Unsatisfying results: she still exists and may or may not have learned the error of her ways (the internet did not specify.) I can attest that this was not a good use of my time and energy.

  6. Midwest*

    As someone who just happened to google her bad manager from 10 years ago earlier this morning, I needed to hear this.

  7. SadieDee*

    OP has some troubling behavior. It’s not normal to continue Googling a person every 6 months that they last heard from over a decade ago.

    Also, “tortious interference” is a thing.

      1. Boof*

        Not sure if normal or abnormal are easily quantifiable or useful terms here… healthy/helpful and unhealthy/unhelpful probably are though

      2. RagingADHD*

        After 10 years I’d think the normal thing would be to get just…bored with it.

        It’s normal to get bored with stale emotional patterns or habits that aren’t changing or providing any payoff. If there is still some kind of payoff after this long, that’s not healthy or normal.

      3. JB*

        After ten years?

        No, this is not normal behavior, by any definition. It is UNDERSTANDABLE behavior, but that is not the same as normal. If one of my friends told me they were doing this, I would be alarmed and very concerned for them.

      4. HS Teacher*

        I find nothing normal about stalking people who were in your life.
        I have an ex who keeps tabs on me. She and I broke up YEARS ago, and she still low-key stalks me. Yet, I have no interest in what’s going on in her life. Some people are just creepy.

    1. Delphine*

      If the LW was treated very poorly–if she was abused by her boss–and had no resolution for that trauma, then it’s not surprising that it continues to affect her today and that she’s had trouble moving on from it. It is not “troubling” or “abnormal,” it’s sadly all too normal and understandable. It’s just not positive behavior.

    2. serenity*

      That legal term has no relevance here. I think Alison has in the past asked that legalese not be thrown around unless commenters are practicing attorneys.

    3. Karl Havoc*

      If OP doesn’t lie, what she proposes is not going to be tortious interference. But “legal” ≠ “a good idea.”

  8. Meep*

    My former boss gave me PTSD (I was literally diagnosed by a psychiatrist) so I understand what you are going through. It took me a long time to wise up to her abuse because it was “subtle” and she tried to pit people against each other while forcing her to rely on you. I had no HR to turn to, either, and it all made me feel crazy. Unfortunately, I still work with her but I no longer work for her. Still, it is tempting to finally say something to her boss and make it so she cannot manage anyone else.

    My point is, I get it. I am living it. The me a year ago was contemplating running my car into a wall every day on my way home due to her abuse. I still get a panicky feeling at the thought of her hurting ANYONE else. And she will continue to hurt anyone else.

    Unfortunately, and fortunately, people like our former bosses are also obviously abusive while it is subtle to the abuse. I promise you, they have either figured it out or will figure it out. It is best to let that work itself out. There is a reason neither of you are at the same company, after all.

    Until then, the best thing you can do for yourself is see a pyscharist and get therapy to move past the abuse.

    1. Observer*

      There is a also a crucial difference between you and the OP – you are still working with your abuser. That creates a very different dynamic in terms of moving on. She’s there whether you search for her or not.

  9. House Tyrell*

    It’s really unhealthy to have spent the last decade googling your former boss on a regular basis and trying to contact her current/new employer. I would be alarmed to receive that message- not alarmed about the person I was working with but by the actions of a complete stranger who is clearly obsessive. It would be a kindness to yourself to let this go and stop internet stalking her. Some people may even feel compelled to tell your former boss that someone from 1o years ago is this involved in her life and if you’re in the same industry still word could get around about you in a bad way.

    Do not contact this employer and please do what you can to move on from this woman.

    1. Meep*

      Honestly, as someone who had an abusive boss that resulted in me developing PTSD, I don’t think checking up every six months is really a bad thing if you might end up working with them again. However, I definitely think OP needs therapy to move past this and come to terms with what happened. Chances are many people in industry already have that old’s boss number and this new company will figure it out soon enough.

      1. Czhorat*

        For a decade? I understand following them for a time while the pain of the situation is still fresh, but at some point you need to live for the present.

          1. fposte*

            Sure, but people are responding to the notion that it’s not a bad thing to check every six months. It is a bad thing.

            1. ecnaseener*

              I guess “live for the present” rubbed me the wrong way, since that’s specifically disrupted by PTSD.

              1. Float*

                It looks like “live for the present” is referring to the LW, not the commenter who mentioned their PTSD diagnosis.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          In my horrible, toxic, abusive boss’s case, you betcha I will double check that she doesn’t work anywhere I am considering taking a job for the rest of my career (I’m slightly older than her). We are in a relatively small field that has an even smaller cohort in our experience level (thanks to being from the smaller Gen X). The odds of us crossing paths and working in the same place are higher than for most, so I want to avoid coming into a place where she already is.

          1. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

            Sure, but there’s checking that somebody doesn’t work in a place where you’re considering taking a job, and then there’s googling someone every six months for a decade regardless of what your professional life looks like at that time. The former is reasonable. The latter… isn’t.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          An occasional check if you’re actively job searching is definitely not in the same ballpark as checking in every six months for 10 years. One is a reasonable precaution, the other is holding on in an unhealthy way that doesn’t do anything but make you dwell on a bad experience.

      2. Observer*

        Honestly, as someone who had an abusive boss that resulted in me developing PTSD, I don’t think checking up every six months is really a bad thing if you might end up working with them again.

        No. Periodically googling someone has nothing to do with whether you might wind up working with them again. I get that someone would want to protect themselves from that, but this has nothing to do with that.

        If it’s the PTSD talking, then therapy is the best bet not for ex-boss’ sake, but because having PTSD essentially run your life seems to be a painful way to live.

      3. Bagpuss*

        I think checking up if you are in the process of applying for jobs is reasonable, if you want to make sure that you don’t inadvertently wind up working with them, but less so to do it regularly just to keep tabs on them.

    2. Anonym*

      I recall receiving an anonymous external complaint about a new employee some years ago. My first thought was, “oh no, I hope she isn’t being stalked by an ex or something!” Not to compare OP to that in any way, but just perspective on how the message could be received. It’s just so devoid of context and any ability to verify, and unfortunately it may land in the same bucket as behavior from people much less well-intentioned that OP.

      OP, this one is not on you to solve. Consider yourself freed from any obligation!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s a very good point: The person at the company LW contacts might feel the right action is to tell the ex-manager exactly what was said and by whom.

  10. Bookworm*

    I agree–10 years is a long time and there’s a chance your boss has changed in the meantime. I am sympathetic to bad bosses living rent free in my head but this is something you should probably let go unless you have a tie to the organization. Hope you find some peace and closure.

    1. MistOrMister*

      One thing that jumped out at me is OP saying the boss never apologized and would deny everythiny if OP brought it up. I am not taking the bosses side, but it has been 10 years. People change a lot over time. To try to justify contacting their current employer because they are sure the boss is still horrible doesn’t really make sense.

    2. PollyQ*

      Yes, 10 years is a good chunk of a person’s life, and boss may have gotten wiser and mellower with age, she may have been going through a tough personal situation that has resolved, she may have gotten therapy herself. Sure, maybe she’s the same crappy person now as she was then, but it’s by no means guaranteed. Leave the past in the past.

  11. Jam Today*

    You have to figure out how to walk away from this. One of the bitterest pills for me to swallow — and I still struggle with this — is knowing that I will never get justice for abuse I took from three managers, in prior jobs. It has been very hard for me, because I still feel the effects of that abuse, but there is literally nothing I can do about it. No matter who I tell, what I say, nothing will happen and that is just a rotten part of life that I have to acknowledge. You don’t have to be happy about it, you don’t have to forgive, you don’t have to even really be at peace with it whatever that means — but you do need to walk away from it.

    One thing that has helped me is simply acknowledging it, and identifying how that abuse has made me the person that I am for better and for worse. It has impacted how I deal with colleagues — I expend a lot of energy being kind, being helpful, not being short with people even when they really test my limits — and what I refuse to tolerate. I am not going to go so far as to say it was a “growth” experience for me, because I would absolutely rather it never happened at all, but being able to identify how it changed me and informs my philosophy of the right way to live has helped me with acceptance and to put it behind me as much as I will ever be able to do.

    1. Windchime*

      This is how I try to look at it, too. I’m not going to say I’m glad it happened, because it was one of the most painful experiences of my life to be basically bullied out of my job. But I did learn some really important lessons on how to treat people and I do feel that I was a much better coworker at my next job. I learned that I don’t know what people are really going through so the default is to treat them with kindness, empathy, and a willingness to help. I think it has served me well and I ended up being a better person.

    2. BRR*

      The never getting justice part is such an important point. I was laid off from my last job which was incredibly toxic. I would love nothing more than people or the employer to see the consequences of being terrible….but it’s probably not going to happen. It really stinks but unfortunately people and employers get away without receiving any repercussions for their actions.

    3. HigherEdAdminista*

      I think this is an extremely insightful comment. Everyone saying that this isn’t healthy is correct, but I think if you haven’t had someone permanently alter your life with their behavior, it can be hard to understand the desire for there to be some kind of justice.

      When I was younger, I had a friend who was abusive to me. She hurt me in every way she could, and tried to destroy my relationships with other people too. Even after I finally got away from her, if she saw opportunities to hurt me, she took them gleefully. Eventually, we became entirely separated from each other’s lives and I grew a lot and am surrounded by much better people, but she messed me up for a long time. Her actions impacted the way I see myself and the way I interact with other people, which has had a negative effect on relationships in my life. I have had to do a lot of work to heal, in part because of her, and it changed the direction of my life.

      Meanwhile, she’s moved up in her chosen career, is married, owns property, and has a family –all things I would like for myself. It’s hard not to want justice. I’ve definitely fantasized about dropping some revelations that destroy her life, but… that just isn’t something that is a realistic want. But there is a pain to wanting justice and feeling like it is out of reach.

      What you say though is true… the justice is not letting this person destroy or control the rest of our lives. LW, that is what you need to work towards. In an ideal world, you would expose your boss and she would be resigned to the ash heap, but the reality is that is unlikely to happen and even if it did happen… it would be unlikely to free you from the feelings your experience inspired in you. You will find much more satisfaction and contentment in life if you learn to take your power back by not giving her so much mental space.

    4. thank-you*

      Thank you so much for sharing this, Jam Today.

      I really needed that; my own experience of this has come back up lately, and it is not pleasant. Your words really helped me.

      I wish you all the very best.

  12. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I might be in the minority on this but, you should only report:

    -sexual harassment/assault
    -physical assault/history of violence

    Being a bad manager is terrible, but that’s subjective. These behaviors above have very unique, devastating, legal consequences. For people who work with vulnerable populations, the bar is even higher.

    I see your point, but I don’t agree with it. And, yes, stop Googling.

    *I’ve done this.

    1. Meep*

      I disagree. I was verbally abused by my boss and developed PTSD. Anything unethical should be reported.

      1. Roscoe*

        I mean, verbally abused is a subjective term. Some people see blunt feedback as verbal abuse. That is why I don’t know that reporting it is good.

        1. JB*

          And some people think that the existence of the NAACP is racist. We can’t base our ethics on how unreasonable people might misinterpret them.

        2. mreasy*

          If there is yelling on a consistent basis and ad hominem attack, that’s when it goes toward abusive in my view. But without HR, there’s no recourse anyway.

      2. Ariaflame*

        While they’re your boss, sure. 10 years down the track to a company you don’t have anything to do with… They’re not going to listen.

        1. Fran Fine*

          This. It’s way too late to be reporting anything to a company you don’t work for about a woman you’ve had zero interaction with in 10 years. The OP needs to move on and seek counseling.

        1. laser99*

          I am 53 years old. I have diagnosed PTSD from my first job…which I left at age 23. Thirty years ago. There are some things you just never get over.

      3. Bagpuss*

        At the time, yes, absolutely. As part of an exit interview (if it is safe for you to report ) yes.
        In the event that the abusive boss or coworker is applying for a job with your current employer, yes.

        IF you are talking about reporting them to an organization you don’t work for, 10 years fter the event – I don’t think it’s really appropriate and I don’t think it is likely to be remotely effective.

      4. serenity*

        Agreeing with others that ten years down the line is just too little and too late. And also a little perplexed by all these terms being thrown around and conflated. A “bad boss” (unkind or inconsiderate or prone to gossip) is definitely a problem but not exactly the same as abuse (a term with visceral connotations) and not quite unethical.

        1. ecnaseener*

          I think some of the reason for confusion is that the LW said abusive but the examples they gave weren’t unambiguously abusive. Alison went with a generic “bad” rather than fixate on that point.

          Abuse composed of a bunch of small-on-their-own cruelties is not going to be taken seriously in a report 10 years later, vs egregiously abusive big things.

      5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Reported up the current chain of command while you work together or during an exit interview? Yes. Reported to a company you do not work at 10 years after you stopped working with the person? No.

      6. Pennilyn Lot*

        But reported to who, and ten years later? There are people who have harmed me in the past but I wouldn’t see it as justifiable to make it my life’s mission to stop them ever being employed ever again.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      I agree with this list. Anything else is just too subjective and might be a personality mismatch.

    3. Colette*

      And even in those cases, the bar for reporting it to an organization you don’t work at 10 years after it happened is pretty high.

        1. Colette*

          And even if she’s just the same, someone contacting her employer to report her for something relatively minor just doesn’t look reasonable.

        2. fposte*

          More pragmatically, the distance of time means a much higher bar for the current employer to consider a report actionable.

      1. RagingADHD*

        At the time or after? If someone embezzled or was a drug dealer or something, certainly that should be reported to the police at the time. It’s not going to do any good to make that type of accusation long after any proof is gone, and to an unrelated employer who can’t do diddly about investigating it.

        And certainly, if someone was investigated for, say, embezzlement and either cleared or punished, then smearing them to a future employer is just harassment.

        1. fposte*

          Unless they’re working in the financial sector, which really isn’t a “bygones be bygones” place when it comes to money crimes.

          I don’t think many would mean this to report *all* criminal activity (“OMG, ten years ago your bakery assistant was busted for underage drinking!”). There’s not likely a hard and fast rule as to what criminal activity would still be considered relevant, but let’s just call it “relevant criminal activity” and accept that no term is perfect.

          1. RagingADHD*

            People hiring in the financial sector have to do actual criminal background checks. That’s what criminal background checks are for.

            Random disgruntled ex-employees are not a reliable source.

            1. fposte*

              They won’t necessarily be immediately dismissed, though, when a report is serious. But that’s also talking about the employer’s POV–we’re talking about when we would make a report to that employer. If I know somebody committed financial malfeasance, I’m going to make a report to a prospective employer, and then I’m going to let it go–it’s up to them how seriously they take it.

              1. RagingADHD*

                So, again, are we talking about someone who was investigated, tried, and/or possibly convicted of financial malfeasance? Because that’s just stalking and harassment borne of bias against someone who has already paid their debt to society (or been exonerated).

                Or are we talking about a situation where you hypothetically knew about the crime, covered it up at the time, and then used it to try and ruin them years later? That’s even worse.

      2. no fun name*

        I had a former supervisor who stole money from mentally impaired clients. The organization let her leave without involving authorities, I’m assuming because they didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that there had allowed this to happen. I know that former co-workers have contacted her current employer to warn them about giving her fiduciary responsibility over vulnerable clients. Maybe nothing will happen, but maybe it will lead them to take a closer look at red flags in her history or, at least, monitor her more closely in her role.

    4. ecnaseener*

      Definitely a different bar for current activity vs 10 years later at a company you don’t work for.

    5. Software Dev*

      I mean, ten years later, what you should report is almost nothing. Even allegations of assault are kind of—what is an employer supposed to do with a random person who does not work for them emailing them to say they were assaulted ten years ago by one of their employees?

      1. TS*

        Agreed. I would say that after a decade, the only thing to MAYBE consider bringing up would be if they did something really, really egregious (that can be proved) that DIRECTLY effects their specific job- like, if someone got caught with CP who are somehow working at an elementary school or a rapist working in a women’s shelter with vulnerable women. Short of something THAT bad and THAT relevant, I am having a hard time thinking of what would make sense to report to some random company you’re not affiliated with.

    6. Carol the happy elf*

      Or criminal convictions. OP doesn’t have the standing to accuse Old Manager of bad behavior to the extent that a new employer would have to sit up and care.

  13. TS*

    I had a really horrible, horrible boss, but much more recently than you. It was REALLY hard for me to let her go after she left our company- I was still friends with her on all of the normal social media channels, and I was in this really toxic cycle of constantly stalking her while also getting really upset/uncomfortable whenever her name popped up and I wasn’t expecting it. It wasn’t healthy, just like googling someone every 6 months for 10 years isn’t healthy. Don’t let her live in your head rent-free, OP!

    I ended up blocking my old boss on everything, including LinkedIn, and also blocked her phone number (after she sent me a super condescending text after my company, the one she had left and I was still at, folded due to Covid- I basically blandly told her I didn’t think it made sense to be in each other’s lives and then blocked her number, so I have no idea if she responded). At first, having blocked her everywhere was as challenging as it was relieving- I was still thinking of her often, and would go to weird lengths to still stalk her occasionally- using my spouse’s social media where she wasn’t blocked, or through a mutual friend. But eventually, I stopped thinking about her every day…then I stopped thinking about her every week…now, I’d say she might pass through my brain every couple of months, and it’s so freeing for her to just…not be relevant in my life.

    Let yourself be free, OP.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      I had a very similar experience when I finally blocked an on-again/off-again guy from my past. I didn’t immediately stop thinking about him or let go of my anger, but with time it really was Out of Sight, Out of Mind.

  14. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Oh boy, I understand you. Truly I do. There’s a manager of mine from …errr…close to 9 years ago who to this day I’ll refer to as the Boss From Hell. He was ableist, fatphobic (I once had ‘lose weight’ on a review, my disability isn’t caused by being fat btw), racist, sexist, homophobic, treated all staff who weren’t his favourites (any white straight guy who went to rugby with him) as absolute dirt.

    I still keep in touch with a few people there and he’s never got any better, if anything he’s got worse.

    But. I cannot do anything about it. I’d really LIKE to see him booted into Cthulhu’s slimy mouth but that’s beyond my power. What I do do when I start thinking of how bad he was is boot up the PC, imagine he’s a bad guy and have a few games of Mass Effect where I can vent my feelings with setting stuff on fire (in game of course).

    I honestly sympathise.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        It was worded as ‘you’d take less time off for your health problems if you weren’t obese. You can change this with some effort, resulting in less time off and more work being done’

        I think when HR backed him up by giving me diet information that was when I knew I had to leave.

        1. Zona the Great*

          Sweet Mary Mother of Little Chubby Jesus….I value you so much on this site, Keymaster. I’m sorry to hear you went through that.

        2. pope suburban*

          I think this is the first time I’ve wanted to nominate the Worst Boss of the Year from a comment rather than a letter. And that jackass can take all of HR with him, while we’re at it. I’m so sorry you ended up in a nest of monsters like that.

        3. Reba*

          Right, just get less disabled, it’s about being a team player!!!!11!1! Workers shouldn’t really have bodies anyway, they’re just cogs earning money for us!!

          That’s so horrible, fatphobia is a trip and a half.

        4. Observer*

          I think when HR backed him up by giving me diet information that was when I knew I had to leave.

          I’m taking lunch and nearly choked when I read this. Just. . .

          1. Bug*

            “I think when HR backed him up by giving me diet information that was when I knew I had to leave.”

            THis makes me beyond angry. I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Keymaster.

        5. Casper Lives*

          My mouth literally dropped open reading this. Literally. Open.

          If my boss did this, I’d cry.

        6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          How you didn’t go full Milton Waddams and burn the place to the ground I don’t know. You are a better person than me because I would be in prison on arson charges

    1. Watry*

      I do something similar for bad customers with button-mashy hack-and-slashers. It is wildly cathartic, isn’t it?

  15. NYC Taxi*

    There must be something in the air – yesterday I randomly googled a bad boss I had over 15 years ago – The difference between me and OP is that I used her behavior as a primer on what not to do as a manager and it’s helped me be an effective and good boss. OP please do yourself a kindness and stop googling them.

  16. Essentially Cheesy*

    Dear LW, I think you need some counseling to get past this. Time to let go and move forward ….. <3

    1. Essentially Cheesy*

      And I totally get it – I have a former coworker that was toxic and was walked out. They are very intelligent and qualified but dysfunctional in many ways, personal and professional. I have to admit I do look them up on LinkedIn and see their career progression .. or rather regression (and have Emotions about that) .. and I know that I need to let it go too. So I understand what a challenge that can be.

  17. Czhorat*

    I’m with the crowd here – no matter how bad they were, following them for a decade is not normal or healthy. (I’m not even sure how the every six month thing works. Do you google her when the clocks change and it’s time to check your smoke detector batteries? Set a calendar alert? New Years and Memorial Day?)

    There’s the story of the two monks who happen upon an upper-class woman looking to cross a dirty puddle of water. The older monk lifts her up and carries her across so as not to let her skirts get damp. She’s cruel and dismissive to them. They walk on in silence for miles, before the younger monk asks “why did you let her disrepect you that way? You should have stood up for yourself”

    The older monk answers “I set her down miles ago. Why are you still carrying her?”

    You’ve been carrying this woman for a decade. It’s quite likely that she remembers you barely, if at all. Unless it was something deeply, deeply harmful (thinking the level of arson, major embezzlement, sexual assault) and there’s proof – you have no standing. Even if it WAS something horrific, it’s a decade ago. She might have grown and changed.

    Or perhaps not. Perhaps she’ll make someone else miserable. If so, you can’t save them. Set her down, and move on.

    1. mreasy*

      I for sure once or twice a year will google my old boss from 15+ years ago as I’m very curious what’s become of her (she essentially can’t be found online). I don’t think that’s a problem unless you keep holding onto resentment. I am a nosy busybody!!!

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        There’s also a story about a young boy and his grandfather, and two starving wolves. One represented love, and the other represented hate, and they were fighting. The boy asks his grandfather which wolf would win, and the grandfather replies, “The one that I choose to feed.”

  18. Meghan*

    Imagine getting all that energy you spend worrying about your old boss go. This was 10 years ago, OP. And while I don’t doubt she was a terrible boss, calling her new employer 10 years after the fact will make you look crazy pants. People change, and if she didn’t, she’ll get what’s coming to her, just not from you.

  19. AnonInCanada*

    What Alison said: you will come across as either 1> vindictive or 2> eccentric if you tattled about her to this new company. If this old boss of yours hasn’t changed her ways from when she managed you, her new company will figure it out and deal with it.

  20. Observer*

    OP, you are googling your boss every 6 months?! You’ve been doing this for 10 year?! Why on earth would you do that. You don’t have an ethical problem here, you have an emotional problem here.

    You have information that there is no reason for you to have had about her current employment. You don’t actually know much about her management style. Even if your judgement about her being abusive then is correct (which I have to wonder about – more on that), that doesn’t mean much in this context. There is simply no ethical obligation to stir the pot. I would argue that IF there is an ethical obligation it is to keep your nose out of someone else’s business since you know nothing about her current situation.

    Given your obsessive tracking of your former boss and very broad apparent definition of abuse, I also have to wonder just how terrible her behavior actually was. Obviously you believe that she was terrible, but based on what you say, I have to question your judgement.

    Now, I realize I could be wrong. Or it could be that you are putting your focus on the wrong spot – the former boss rather than the work place. In any case, I really think that working with a therapist or someone like that could be very helpful to you. Because, as I said, the way you have been following you ex-boss is not a good thing. Never mind her – even assuming I’m wrong and you are right, it is STILL an unhealthy thing for YOU. The best thing you could do for yourself is to move on and truly leave this person behind.

    1. miro*

      I agree with this and also want to say: OP, I realize that reading people question the idea that this rises to the level of abuse may initially feel really sucky or like people are diminishing your bad experience. But in the long run it may give you some peace to realize that your old boss wasn’t even that notable/original/spectacular in her shittyness, but rather just a normally bad/mediocre boss.

    2. Jaybeetee*

      Ehhh questioning whether someone was “really” abusive tends to not be very helpful – and can be particularly harmful around those who have experienced emotional abuse, which can be subtle and difficult to describe. Having someone else invalidate what you know to be the reality of your situation – even if you struggle to put it into words – can really, really hurt.

      Whether the ex-boss’ behaviour was “bad enough” isn’t really relevant here. OP was clearly affected by whatever did happen.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, the OP was affected. And it surely hurts to have their experience questioned. But their reaction at this point is just not healthy FOR THEM. It’s important for them to realize and perhaps get some help.

        They also realize that if they do what they want to do, they will NOT get the response that they are hoping for.

      2. miro*

        > “Whether the ex-boss’ behaviour was “bad enough” isn’t really relevant here.”

        OP’s question was about whether they could/should report the boss’ behavior to the new employer, so the severity/nature of that behavior seems pretty relevant. I take your point that questioning this stuff can be, if nothing else, harmful for others who read it, and at the same time I do think that they question of how bad something was makes a huge difference when it comes to deciding whether to report it 10 years later.

        1. miro*

          *the question

          (also, I hope this doesn’t seem like a pile-on–I think Observer and I were typing our responses at the same time)

          1. Jaybeetee*

            Oh totally – I wrote that a little too quickly and didn’t make that point clear.

            Whether ex-boss’ behaviour was “bad enough” to warrant contacting her current employer a decade later is very relevant (and Alison and the rest of us seem to agree the described behaviour doesn’t rise to that level).

            What I was more referring to there was the “But was it *really* abuse” type of discussion. I don’t really see that as being particularly helpful for OP, regardless of what happened between her an ex-boss. Abuse is an important word, but can also be a red herring. OP seemed to have a miserable experience with this person either way, and in aggregate, discussions like that tend to hurt more people than they help (I.e. actual abuse victims who are already questioning themselves).

            I absolutely agree that OP should work on getting past it and no longer tracking what this person’s doing.

            1. miro*

              Yeah, I guess there are a few different matters that are being discussed in the comments: contacting the employer (consensus seems to be “don’t”), googling the old boss (ditto), and how to think about or describe the experience with the old boss (much more varied views, and a messy/tough/delicate issue, to be sure).

            2. Kate*

              I see several sides of this, as someone who has survived an abusive relationship.

              On one hand LW would benefit from therapy: their thoughts are shaping their behavior in negative ways, and they are hurting themselves by continuously googling this person and now thinking about getting themselves involved with her employer.

              On the other hand, it actually does really bother me when someone describes a boss not putting their name on a project as “abusive” or “traumatic” or “toxic.” Because it dilutes the term. It is not abusive to not put a junior employee’s name on company work product; it is typical. It isn’t toxic, it isn’t traumatic. It’s just work. Yes there are a lot of horrible bosses. Horrible doesn’t equal abusive.

  21. Palliser*

    I had a similar experience with an awful manager exactly 10 years ago. She managed to get me fired after 5 years of sucessful productivity under other managers. It was awful. However, the truth is that I never would have left my prior company without a big push, and I’ve flourished far beyond what I would have been able to accomplish there. Because I’m human I also google her every once in a while and last I checked she was working for one of my clients (though not in an area that touches mine). She’s not entirely out of my head, but it’s much, much better than it was. Time and experience will fade the acute trauma if you give it a chance. That being said, don’t get upset at yourself for being upset. If I had the chance to get back at my old manager in some risk-free way, I probably would. Not everyone is down with forgiveness for all things, and in my opinion as long as it doesn’t consume you, that’s fine too.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it’s possible to not forgive and yet not obsess. Where the person doesn’t cross your thoughts most weeks, and you only google them if it’s the sense “Before I apply for this job, let’s make sure Ex-Nightmore isn’t on the staff.” If you walked into a client meeting and found them there, you would be on guard based on old patterns, but before you actually had to see them again you were not giving them head space.

      When this works well, people sometimes have the blessed experience of realizing they had totally forgotten this person. I remember one woman introduced herself to the ex-husband she hadn’t seen in many years, not even recognizing him now.

  22. Joan Clayton*

    Agree with everyone here, LW. Do not contact this employer to “warn them” about a person you haven’t had contact with, in 10 years. Doing this will cast you in a bad light. Try to let this go, and move on.

  23. Stitch*

    There’s almost no way sending this letter won’t make you look vindictive.

    15ish years ago I worked for a woman who was clearly addicted to drugs and acted erratically and terribly as a result. She was an awful boss.

    But you know what? I hope she got sober and got her life together. That was a long time ago.

  24. TootsNYC*

    deally those future employers would be doing more due diligence about who they’re hiring into management roles

    One of my former bosses was applying for a department-head role at Scholastic. They required references from former subordinates, and she called to ask me to be one.
    I was able to tell them about how she handled several things, including calling me on something I was doing wrong; telling me she liked my idea but couldn’t implement it; handling a round of layoffs; creating opportunities for me to grow in my job. She got the job.

    I thought that was the smartest thing I’ve ever heard, to require references from people someone had managed before.

    1. JB*

      Wow, what a great practice. I’m going to think about incorporating this into our recruitment process at my organization (at least for some roles). Thanks!

  25. anonymous73*

    That last line with the asterisk in smaller print should be bolded and made much much bigger. OP, having an obsession with a person from your past that treated you badly is very very unhealthy and you really need to find a way to let it go. I would consider therapy ASAP.

  26. Mktg123*

    Some people are just bad people. Don’t let this bad manager dictate your career! Please stop googling her. You clearly are still gainfully employed and haven’t mentioned issues with other managers, so chances are you are doing JUST FINE. Let her live her miserable existence without you checking in.

  27. The Smiling Pug*

    OP, bad bosses are all over the place unfortunately. But, you have control over who you choose to think about let into your life, and right now, this lady has been living rent-free in a penthouse apartment in your brain. I second everyone who recommended therapy, and also finding some other way to release that urge to look her up. Walking, making dinner, watching a favorite TV show/movie, taking a nap, etc.

  28. Niniel*

    OP, I get it. I am almost 5 years out from a toxic job and I still get angry at what I put up with. I still want to call them out on everything, and I will not be sad if their business ever goes under because, well, that means that people won’t have to put up with their B.S. anymore.

    BUT….yeah keeping up with that manager is not healthy, AT ALL. Let it go, and focus on the good things you have.

  29. Lizabeth*

    The thing about karma is “it will ALWAYS circle back around” and while being witness to karma happening to awful people is a bonus, I find comfort in KNOWING it will happen eventually and in proportion to the action.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t think this is particularly true of life–assuming we are not counting “will next be reincarnated as a fly”–and the conviction that it should work like this is perfectly suited to drive the obsessive checking.

      “No longer my monkeys, no longer my circus” is a better mindset.

    2. Lemons*

      So if you encounter someone who’s currently experiencing hardship, do you assume it’s justified based on whatever they must have done?
      This glib, pop-culture misapplication of ‘karma’ is profoundly unpleasant when you look at it’s necessary counterbalance.

  30. twocents*

    I’ve been googling her every six months since then

    I deleted my initial reaction, but I still think the thought needs to be said: This is very unhealthy behavior, and if you can’t stop obsessing over decades-old wrongs, please consider contacting your current employer’s EAP and get in contact with a therapist.

  31. not your typical admin*

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I know that had to be a very painful time in your life. One of the best pieces of advice I every got is that by holding on to situations from the past, you’re allowing that person to continue to hurt you and have a hold on you. You continuing to think about it and give them mental space isn’t affecting them at all, only you. The best thing you can do for yourself is to let it go, acknowledge it as a lesson learned, and focus on the future.

  32. learnedthehardway*

    Another vote for letting this go and moving on. I completely believe you that it was just as awful an experience as you say, but no good will come out of you getting yourself involved here. The company is not going to take the word of a random, unsolicited contact that their 10-years prior manager is a horrible person. They are invested in the hire, have the person’s references (which must have been good enough to get them hired), and have done their assessment. The decision has been made. There is no point in lodging a complaint, and even contacting their employees to warn them is going to be perceived as extremely strange and stalkerish.

    What you need to do is to focus on yourself and your own healing. If you are looking them up every 6 months and if this still negatively affects you, 10 years on, then you are not over what they did to you. Focus on dealing with that, so that you can recover.

    My first real job out of school – my manager was psychologically abusive, and HIGHLY effective at it. It took me two years to understand what was happening, and I only did so because I was getting help and therapy, etc., because I thought there was something wrong with me. As it turned out, the person was a master of psychological manipulation, gaslighting, verbally abusive, you name it. I had some elements of PTSD coming out of that job, and it took me a couple years (and good working environments) to recover from it. For years, I couldn’t pass the building where I’d worked and I was very concerned that I would run into the person on the street. I had to do a lot of self-work to understand what had happened, how I (who had a pretty good self-image, confidence, etc.) could end up in that situation, and I had to work hard on rebuilding my shattered confidence and self-respect.

    Having done that self-work and reflection, I did recover, and I build a set of tools and strategies that have served me well. I have recognized and fired (much to their surprise) an abusive client. I can recognize the patterns of behaviour that warn of a potentially abusive person, and I can make decisions about who I will work with and under what conditions. The person who hurt me no longer occupies space in my head, and I have to make an effort to even remember their name.

    I hope you get to the same place.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This, especially the definition of “well.”

      Regardless of how average to terrible the boss was, not dwelling on her in little circles of cringing memory of hurt is the right move.

  33. KC*

    OP, I feel your pain here. I have suffered several abusive bosses (I am an EA so it’s VERY hit or miss in this type of position) and one in particular still really haunts me. I’m the type of person who kind of obsesses over any sort of injustice (both on an interpersonal level and on a macro scale), so it’s been very difficult for me to let this one go because I know that I was wronged, and I wish that my former boss understood and felt bad about they way they acted.

    I, too, have done some angry googling to check up on that person/the company I worked for. Sometimes I find information that is vindicating (i.e., dozens of negative glassdoor reviews, some of which mention this person directly), but sometimes all it does is upset me further (i.e., they are retiring with accolades from local press outlets and will receive an award for their leadership – lol).

    Personally, I don’t want to continue to live with this anger! Letting go is a process, and it takes a lot of self-control and patience. Some days, it is very difficult. I still seethe when I think about some of the things my old boss said to me. Ultimately, it’s best for me to learn to accept what happened, and accept that my former boss might just be a pure, unadulterated a**hole who didn’t care about how much she harmed me, instead of letting it fester in my mind.

    I wish you all the best in recovering from what sounds like a traumatizing experience. I am right there with you, going through the process. You deserve better and you deserve peace!

    1. Observer*

      Ultimately, it’s best for me to learn to accept what happened, and accept that my former boss might just be a pure, unadulterated a**hole who didn’t care about how much she harmed me, instead of letting it fester in my mind.

      This is probably the most useful piece of advice for the OP.

  34. Amethystmoon*

    It’s entirely possible your former manager has changed as a person. Lots of people change in 10 years and regret things they have done in the past. The former manager may also have been through training classes in her current job. Not all companies give managers training, which they really should. Especially at a smaller company with no HR, I can see where they might not have given a new manager training.

    I agree with Allison that you should focus on your current job and situation. Live in the present. It’s tough sometimes, but it’s often less stressful.

    1. Ali*

      This. It’s possible she hasn’t learned anything and is still the same person. But 10 years is a long time, and it’s also possible she’s grown as a person/manager since then. Which is something that may be hard/impossible to tell from just searching her name online.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I didn’t get real management training until I’d be at it for several years, and I got downright terrible advice from our HR department when I was first promoted. I do not believe that I was verbally abusive or behaved the way OP’s manager did, but I definitely made mistakes and I know from exit interview feedback that things I would not have figured were a big deal had a bigger impact on others. I have learned a lot through training and great mentors, and I think I’m much better at the job now. I’d hate to have someone try to sabotage a job based on decade+-old performance rather than present day.

    3. Soup of the Day*

      Totally. I don’t disagree that working for this person was probably a nightmare, but it also sounds like the type of mean girl behavior that someone could plausibly grow out of eventually and be horrified about looking back.

  35. StressedButOkay*

    LW, as someone was nursing a grudge against a former colleague from nearly a decade ago, I agree – letting it go is going to be the best thing for you. I stopped myself about a year ago from looking up this person once a year, realizing it was doing nothing but bringing up bad memories and sending me into a grumble. I had to take efforts to remove them from my mental space and I’m in a much better place now.

  36. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Oh OP, I am so sorry and my heart goes out to you. This seems like it’s been a huge weight on you for a long time.

    I hope some of the framing Alison and the commenters gave is helpful. After holding on for ten years these things may be very big in your mind, even the things that weren’t big (which isn’t to say there weren’t big things, but they’re not in the examples you gave). This is something you need to work through on your own, and you need to let go of this boss and this job.

    Early experiences can absolutely shape or damage us, but they don’t define us. You’re giving this person far too much power to define how you experience life ten years later. I hope you can work through this.

  37. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    OP, googling this ass every six months…you are stuck in the past. You are trying to change the past, change who you were at that time.
    I’m sorry, but you can’t.
    I try to think of meeting people like this as an accident.
    How much was my fault? Did I look both ways? Did I wait for the light? Yes, yes, and yes. I did my best.
    But I still got hit by a car.
    I don’t have to forgive the driver. I have to make peace with the fact that it happened, that it changed who I was and probably always will be a part of me. But just a part.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the part about wanting to change who OP was at the time is insightful. Upthread, someone talked about forgiving oneself for not, back then, managing the problem in some hypothetical much better way.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Oh, I have to find that one. Big fan of that. You have to forgive yourself; you did the best you could.

  38. HW*

    OP googled her for YEARS. I think perhaps OP needs to let this go. I understand being belittled and having your confidence shattered at your first job can have massive repercussions. But you’re not going to move past it if you keep hanging onto her.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes. My toxic boss was in the 2nd job I had after I graduated, and the first after I finished my postgrad/vocational training, and it had huge repercussions which still occasionally pop up, even nearly 20 years later, partly because it totally under mined my self-confidence. (and, partly due to inexperience and that loss of confidence, and partly due to the economy and job market in my field at that time, I stayed way longer than I should have )
      But these days, when I think of him, I remind myself that I have a successful career, I am respected by my colleagues and peers in my profession, and he is still probably pissing off everyone who has to live or work with him!

  39. Full Time Fabulous*

    While I think there have been some good comments and advice, I think that LW should really consider WHY he/she has been holding on to the hurt inflicted from this former boss for so long. What happened or what emotions made this experience something that causes LW to want to Google the Bad Boss every 6 months for 10 years and to consider contacting Bad Boss’ employer? 10 years is a long time so I’m really wondering if it is a specific action(s) or the way LW felt that is causing LW to hold on to this hurt. Maybe a feeling of powerlessness? I wish LW good luck with the journey towards fulfillment and moving forward in a positive way from this experience.

    1. fposte*

      I’m wondering if she’s been feeling that the intervening decade was poisoned by that early experience.

      1. Jam Today*

        This is an excellent observation. Abusive situations can really derail people, mentally and physically. Mine (a one-two punch with two bosses in a row that harassed me) turned me into essentially a recluse for about a year and gave me some trust issues that persist to this day, among other things. That’s measurable, material harm that’s taken me a long time to get past.

    2. Delphine*

      Generally, I think it’s harder to let things go when the only person affected by the abuse was…you. The abuser has continued their life without any ill effects, but you haven’t. In a way, the anger, the resentment, the constantly reminding yourself is the only justice you get. It’s the only proof you have that something was done to you by another person and that it was not okay. It turns into a form of self-soothing.

      I feel for you, LW! It’s hard.

      1. JB*

        What do you mean, ‘when the only person affected by the abuse was you’? As opposed to what other kind of abuse?

        I suppose with an abusive boss there are cases where they might abuse an entire department, but like…it is not healthy to need justice as an outcome of abuse, because that may or may not happen. It’s not healthy to emotionally rely on resentment or anger. If that were a normal and understandable response to abuse a decade plus later, then anyone who’s ever been abused by a parent, spouse, friend, or boss would be a perpetually angry and unhappy person.

        In my experience as a victim of abuse and in knowing/being close to other former victims of (other) abusers, the only people still holding on like this a decade later are people who have not found out how to heal, people who would really benefit from therapy.

  40. Aspergirl*

    OP—I’m sorry about your abusive manager. I had one of my own about 4 years back and I still carry a lot from it. But also unless he were applying at my current workplace it’s really not my business. If a friend at another org (small industry) who knew I worked there asked about him because he was interviewing with them, I’d absolutely tell them. But it’s not your responsibility or mine to haunt their lives just because they hurt us (barring more extreme levels).

  41. Person from the Resume*

    I had an old boss about 16 years ago whom I did not get along with. He was very much concerned about image and appearances thus covered things up. I’m extremely straightforward and rules following. But I made a big mistake one time and his punishment (and it was a punishment rather a teaching how not to make a similar mistake again) definitely had an element of humiliation in it. Ultimately the lackluster performance reports I received during that period probably tanked my career.

    And you know what? Basically I don’t think of that guy at all anymore. He doesn’t take up real estate in my brain. Forget him. I’ve moved on and had a great career. And you know, while I guess I could dig up his name, I can’t even remember his name now.

    LW probably needs some therapy to move on forget this terrible old boss. This is the epitome of the not forgiving hurts the angry person much more than the person that they’re not forgiving. Not the LW has to forgive, but she should forget for her own sake in order to make her life a lot better

  42. Anya Last Nerve*

    I’d like to echo the sentiments of others suggesting OP speak with an objective third party about this. Close to 20 years ago, I managed a woman who would probably make similar claims about me – except they weren’t true. Whenever she saw me talking with anyone, she thought it was about her, and she would not believe me that I was not discussing her. When an internal stakeholder called me very upset about an error she made in a report, and I asked her to re-run the report to send to him, she told me I was too quick to point out her mistakes. Other than constantly advising her that she was doing the best job ever (she wasn’t, she was okay at best), she thought I could do nothing right by her and I’m sure she would tell people to this day how awful I was.

    1. Varda*

      Oh yeh, can relate to that particularly in my current role. Asking some people to do their jobs properly/any negative feedback is seem as unreasonable and unsupportive by them.

      No reason to think this is the case for OP, but it does show why raising it at the managers company 10yrs on is unlikely to achieve anything, the new company have no way to verify the claims or know if OP is genuine.

  43. kiki*

    Oh man, I feel for LW and understand feeling like you want to prevent what happened to from happening to anyone else, but at this point in time there’s nothing the LW can really do that will be taken seriously. 10 years is a really long time – it’s time to let any feelings of responsibility for this person go. I think sometimes when we hold onto a grudge for a long time, we’re actually holding onto blame we have for our past selves for not handling things differently. It can feel like the grudge is us holding another person accountable or that our goal is something useful, like protecting others, but a lot of the time it’s really just keeping negative energy we have towards ourselves alive.

  44. the cat's ass*

    Spot-on advice. I too had one of those bosses. A genuinely terrible, narcissistic person. I also worked with a great bunch of folks and watched as she decimated a great team. I jumped before i was pushed to a much better situation. That was 20 years ago, and I’m still friends with a few of those lovely folks. We will sometimes get together and wonder what happened to former horrible boss, but not for long. Let her become a memory. She deserves absolutely NONE of your headspace.

  45. Ali*

    As someone working for a company that was recently contacted by an individual we’d never heard of regarding wrongs from ~10 years ago, I can say it’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to get this company to take you seriously. There’s absolutely no way to prove what happened because no one at the company nor anyone it has a relationship with can vouch for the authenticity of the claims.

    If the company itself hasn’t seen any issues with your former boss and did their due diligence in interviewing/reference-checking, it’s extremely unlikely anything will come from contacting them. And if the complaint isn’t run up the flagpole because it’s dismissed by whoever’s processing these sorts of calls/emails, there may never even be a moment of, “Oh, someone notified us of this person’s behavior; we should’ve listened,” if something does happen in the future.

    (And all of that combined will make you feel worse if you continue to Google this person regularly for another 10 years.)

  46. Keyboard Jockey*

    > she’s now about to manage others again. I can tell from a job I found posted online at her current company.

    I’m extremely skeptical that one can tell without a shadow of a doubt that someone who managed them ten years ago is about to be a manager again from a job posting. It’s not even obvious that the OP has ever worked at the company that the old boss is at now. Job postings can be read to imply all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. Even if the old manager had done something clearly abusive, I would be cautious about acting on information that requires so much personal interpretation, as opposed to, say, the old manager updating her LinkedIn profile or the job sending out an announcement.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I figured the job posting said “Reports to [bad boss’s job title]” and bad boss is the only one with that title at the company.

      1. Ali*

        Which is also interesting because it seems to indicate LW is not just searching this woman’s name and that’s it. She’s digging further into these companies/etc, even though presumably LW would never apply to a position working at the same company as the former manager. Not to say I don’t see the temptation in this situation LW describes, but it’s also telling of how much of her time LW is allowing this old manager to control.

        1. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

          I’m so glad someone else clocked the fact that OP seems to be actively researching this woman, not just googling her, skimming the results, and moving on. Which is even MORE worrying! OP, really, you gotta let this go.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Late but yes, this is a really concerning amount of thought and research to be putting into this. This is clearly not just idle googling.

          I really feel like this is kind of a Sliding Doors/Trousers of Time situation for the OP. She’s already on a kind of worrying path as far as this person is concerned. Right now she’s been given an opportunity to hear all these responses and hopefully really think about the way she’s been feeling and acting, and hopefully she’ll choose to turn back. Or, if she chooses to ignore all the advice here and contact this company, she might end up going down that path to some pretty dark places.

  47. bluephone*

    “* Which includes stopping yourself from googling your old manager every six months since that’s just keeping her centered in your brain.”

    Take it from me, LW, who still sometimes thinks about the bad managers (plural) I had over 10 years ago as well: nothing good comes from letting these jabronis live rent free in your head, especially for a whole decade. No more googling, for pete’s sake, please. Make an actual effort to stop thinking about this job/boss. You did your time, you’re out, move on.

  48. Lacey*

    Oh OP, you have to let this go. For your own sanity. Let it go.

    I have had some nasty people in my life and when they left, I made a rule that I could not google them, could not search for them on Facebook, could not respond to any emails they sent. And that was HARD at first. But, since I couldn’t find out more about them, I thought about them less and less. And now, I only think about them when I read something like this. And there’s no anger or pain left in it.

    You will feel so much better if you can let this go.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I wrote up above that once you are able to put this behind you, you will feel much better. Thank you for backing that up with your very real experience. It does feel so much better to be able to get on with your life.

  49. K in Boston*

    Did this make anyone else wonder what their “bad” boss/coworker from years ago was up to, or was it just me…?

  50. Hex Libris*

    LW, my sympathies. But old boss isn’t the issue here — your inability to move past her wrongdoings is, because it’s clearly hurting you and keeping your wounds from healing. I hope you’re able to take up the suggestions of therapy. You may find it was a very small person who’s been casting this large shadow over your life.

  51. Notmynormalname*

    OP, I had a very, very scaring experience on my first internship – my boss was a horrible human being and everyone in the office knew how she was treating me and they all did NOTHING. I even got acknowledgment from one of the higher ups years later that she knew – that acknowledgment was unprompted and not expected.

    It took me years to recover, and I thought I was 100% over it. I have worked at the same very large organization now for over 10 years (worked other places for about 5 years after graduation). She is still here, still in the same department. I thought I was over it until I had to interact with that department for something – not even her, and they wanted me to walk over to their building. I could not do it. I made them send it to me in interoffice mail. I could not even interact with the department. Oh and that senior person who acknowledged the wrong – she the head of the department now so I get it.

    Therapy helps. Deciding to keep boundaries and have nothing to do with this individual or department (which 99.99% of the time, I don’t need to interact with) is crucial.

  52. Jaybeetee*

    LW, I am someone who has ex-bullies, toxic ex-bosses, an ex-friend or two and toxic exes in general (yes, I was a magnet for crappiness for a long time, for a few different reasons).

    For your own good, you gotta stop.

    You might think of stopping tracking her as “letting her win” somehow, but quite the contrary. You deserve, for yourself, a life free of all this.

    I have put a lot of effort into *not* letting crummy people from my past shape my present life – at least, as much is feasible. Of course these people and experiences affected me and in some ways shaped who I am today. But… I don’t want them to “win”. I don’t want those awful people sitting in my head after I already got them out of my life. I don’t want to grant them the victory of ruining my life or making me live in the trauma, and I want to go on and be happy and fulfilled – which, really, is the best possible “vengeance”.

    Your ex-boss is going to continue her career. Maybe she’s outgrown the bad behaviour. Maybe some people genuinely don’t see it as a big deal. But she’s always going to be out there. Don’t you deserve the satisfaction of knowing she didn’t actually bring you down?

  53. Pterodactylate*

    OP, it might be helpful to consider your goal here. Is it to make sure that she doesn’t manage anyone again? Is it so she acknowledges/validates the harm she caused you? If the former, that isn’t within your purview/power based on the info in the letter. And it’s been ten years and she’s out of that toxic company culture; there’s every chance she’s grown and changed as a person and boss. For the latter, do you think she’d actually apologize if you did reach out to her or the company (obvs don’t do that)? It doesn’t seem like it would be beneficial to contact her or the company and if you’re working in the same industry I would worry about how it might affect people’s professional opinion of you if you went to her employer about being a terrible boss at another company a decade ago.

  54. Berry K*

    Being hired to, or being told up front you’re going to be a ghost writer is one thing, and a legit thing some places do. “Please write a post for the CEO’s blog” is ok. However, working hard on something, and THEN being told it will be under another name, is NOT OK. Not getting your name on a patent you helped invent is, I think, actually illegal, at least in the USA.

    1. fposte*

      It’s not so much that it’s illegal as it renders a patent invalid, but that’s a very different situation than work-for-hire writing. However, I agree that the boss should have set clear expectations, especially considering this was the OP’s first job, about how credit worked in that workplace.

    2. Observer*

      Nothing illegal at all. If someone develops something on the job, it’s quite possible that the patent will belong to the employer.

      And lets be real – the likelihood that the OP developed something on their own that is patent-able in their first job out of school is not all that high.

    3. feral fairy*

      Eh, it really depends on the context and industry. If OP was a journalist and their manager stole their work and put their name on it, that would be one thing. The quote from the letter is “She once complained because I wanted my name on something I had created”. It doesn’t say anything about the boss putting her name on the LW’s work instead.
      A lot of content created by for-profit companies and even non-profits doesn’t credit a specific individual. When you go to a website for companies or organizations, the website is going to feature a lot of copy written by specific people that will have no credit, no matter how hard the writer worked on it. For example, a lot of organizations that have been around for a bit will have a detailed ‘History’ section and will not mention the name(s) of whoever wrote it. It wouldn’t be completely bizarre for someone’s name to be attached, but it is not the convention. I’m just using this as an example because there isn’t enough info in the letter to know what the LW specifically created.

      It sounds like the manager might have handled it poorly by chastising & embarrassing the LW about their request. LW was brand new to the workforce and maybe didn’t realize the conventions around that kind of project (or again, maybe it was the norm to be credited but that’s not clear from the letter). The manager could have just acknowledged that LW worked hard on the project and explained that typically the author’s name will not be attached to the finished product but the LW should definitely include it in their personal portfolio.

  55. JBI*

    I had an awful grandboss… smug, obtuse, self-centred, widely viewed as a complete creep. We were in consulting and for internal projects he was viewed as a “a difficult client.”. Which is code for an oblivious, ride, moron
    He was the only person I disliked. After I got laid off, I blocked him on social media (I found to my chagrin LinkedIn said “they won’t see you blocked them”, and I was like “Hey, what if I *want* him to know?”

    Beyond occasionally looking at the obituary pages in the hope of finding he died in a profoundly embarrassing manner…. my wife said “Look, he’s got a family, and my thought was ‘They’re better off without him.'”
    But I’m over it. Mainly.

  56. Sara without an H*

    OP, by now I hope Alison and the commentariat have convinced you that you really need to let this go. Your abusive boss has become a troll infesting your brain. Do not — NOT — continue to feed her.

    Remember, leaving well is always the best revenge. Go on and concentrate on building a happy, successful life.

  57. Interview Coming Up*

    When I think back to an old boss who was terrible, I am not just thinking about how terrible this person was.

    I’m thinking of how ashamed I am that I let myself stay in that situation for years. I’m sad that I didn’t listen to myself and figure out how to move on before my job brought me to tears.

    I’m sad that I knew my parents were wrong by happily telling me to be grateful for a stable job “with such great benefits” even when they knew I hated my job. It cost me years, and stalled my career progression.

    So there might be more to work through aside from just mentally moving on.

  58. Ash*

    As with the term gaslighting, emotional abuse means something specific, and should not be used for disagreements or just feeling like someone dislikes you. I am assuming the OP listed the worst examples of the manager’s behavior, and these do not rise to the level of abuse.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Can we just not? We weren’t there. Alison asks us to take letter writers at their word.

      Check your privilege.

  59. CaviaPorcellus*

    I think everyone else hit the main buts, but OP – do you have anyone else that you spend this much attention on? Any other former bosses or exes that you Google 2x/yr?

    Because either way you DO need to let this go and it IS unhealthy. But if this is a one-off grudge, that’s not quite the same as if this is a pattern of yours, where anyone who has wronged you is on your Arya-esque list of names forever.

  60. Anonymous for This*

    This letter and response was so timely for me, thanks to AAM and all the commenters for your thoughtful responses.

    I got sexually assaulted by a member of staff when I was a service user, about 6 years ago. I reported it via all possible channels and made sure everyone I knew at that organisation heard my story, and then moved on as best I could (they did not get fired, wrist slapping only; it was he-said-she-said.)

    Recently, I was in a bad place mentally and googled them for the first time in many years, and found they’d recently moved on to another organisation. I was considering writing to their new boss to let them know there was a prior complaint.

    But I think from reading this, I have concluded that it’s not my responsibility, and probably won’t help. If either past or present organisation did their due diligence, it will be flagged in their references. It was on law enforcement records. There’s nothing else to do, it’s not my responsibility; I didn’t cause this, and it’s not my job to fix it. I want to go back to being ‘meh’ about it all again.

    1. Observer*

      Oh, wow! This is rough.

      I can see why you want to report it. But, I think you are right. This is not on you. I doubt it’s going to help you or any prospective victims. Which is infuriating, but better to act on reality that make yourself (even more) miserable about something you have no control over.

  61. lyonite*

    On the one hand, I absolutely agree with letting this go, and not thinking about the bad boss any more than you can help.

    On the other hand, this did get me to google my old thesis advisor, to find out that he hasn’t published anything since 2012, and has a 2.5 on RateMyProfessor, so I guess I shouldn’t talk.

  62. Pigeon*

    OP, my first office job also included an abusive manager and totally dysfunctional workplace. It’s been four years since I left and I also still struggle with it–it took me years to be mentally able to leave because of how low he brought me. The manager has since died and even that did not bring me closure.

    It’s a process. It’s a long process. But it started moving faster when I found a way to stop dwelling on it. Doesn’t mean I don’t ever think about it. Doesn’t mean I didn’t do a lot of therapy about it. I still cry sometimes when I hear songs I strongly associate with that time, I still notice when I run up against something I’m still unlearning, and that anger and regret and wasted time washes over me again.

    But the days I don’t think about it are the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself, and those happen a lot now. It is possible to move on, and the work is so worth it. I hope you find peace.

    1. Observer*

      The manager has since died and even that did not bring me closure.

      I think that this is an important point. The search for closure is a search with no real conclusion.

      But the days I don’t think about it are the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself, and those happen a lot now. It is possible to move on, and the work is so worth it. I hope you find peace.

      OP, take this seriously.

  63. Kella*

    OP, a few thoughts from someone who’s done a fair amount of research on the effects of abuse and trauma. I don’t know if any of this applies to you, so take whatever resonates and leave the rest:

    A key aspect of abuse is that abusers make you responsible for *their* actions. If they mess up, you made them do it. If they hurt you, you made them do it. If the weather is wrong, you should’ve predicted that and solved all potential problems pre-emptively, etc. These are impossible expectations and that’s the point. It is never possible for you to succeed in their eyes because they intentionally choose metrics to evaluate you with that you will fail every time so they can continue to criticize and punish you and keep you doing what they want.

    An interesting side effect of this is sometimes, years after the abuse is over, you can still feel responsible for them and their actions. It is possible that part of your drive to alert this company isn’t just to prevent further harm but from the old belief that you are responsible for the harm your ex-manager would do to you, and perhaps others. You aren’t responsible for that. Ethically, it would make sense to warn a friend or coworker if they were going to be directly working with this manager, but even then, you wouldn’t be able to make the decision for them to not work with your ex-manager, and if they decided to work for them, you wouldn’t be able to prevent that harm from happening. It may help to recognize that preventing your ex-manager from ever harming other people is still an impossible expectation that you’re now holding yourself to. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do the impossible.

    Secondly, when your brain registers something as traumatic, what’s usually happening is you are getting stuck partway in a stress cycle, and as a result, your brain continues to believe that this thing that happened 10 years ago is still happening right now. Brian scans show that trauma victims who listen to an account of their trauma, have brain activity identical to what their brain would look like if the trauma were newly occurring that moment.

    I wonder if your googling habit is related to this. It feels like it’s still happening so you need to check up on what’s going on with your ex-manager. Also, 10 years is a long time. Many abusers never change but some do. It is possible your ex-manager does not use the same tactics that they used on you 10 years ago. But, trauma-brain says the exact same thing is still happening right now. That may not be the case and you have no way of knowing because you aren’t in their life anymore.

    The good news is, you’re not in their life anymore! They are no longer harming you! Yes, the wounds from that original harm haven’t fully healed. But now that the harm is not being renewed, you are free to feel it, move through it, and move on from it.

  64. OP*

    OP here. Thought I’d chime in.

    First off, I always rested easier knowing that my boss wasn’t (at least according to the company’s directory) managing anybody. I wouldn’t want her to hurt someone the way she hurt me. I have never ever made any attempt to contact her and will not be doing that since’s it’s only going to cause me more harm. I do feel a sick feeling in my stomach knowing that she’ll be managing others. It’s like knowing your abusive parent has started another family. The abuse will, in all likelihood, continue with different people. But this is ultimately not my problem. There’s been such a reckoning culturally with abuse in these past few years, and I felt like maybe I should speak up. But in all likelihood, nothing would change. And I’m just going to come across as unhinged, which I’m not. A lot of abuse does go unpunished, and that’s what’s happened here. Sad things.

    A few notes since many of the assumptions people make are almost always wrong:
    This “mean girl” was in her mid-to-late 40s, and way too old to be engaging in that kind of behavior. At least she should have been.
    Abuse is complex. Unless you have any type of personal experience being forced to deal with an abusive person (parent, relative, teacher, boss, etc.), this is not something you’re going to understand and really shouldn’t chime in with “just get over it” since you don’t understand this. It’s not that easy or simple. Thank you to the people who were more understanding about this in the comments. This blog has helped me so much in my career. Thank you all!

    1. Collate*

      Thank you for sharing additional info, OP. It sounds like what this boss did was more serious than what was conveyed in the original letter. I’m sorry that you had to go through this experience.

    2. Czhorat*

      Thanks for chiming in – especially after a response and comment section that was on the harsher side.

      When Allison and many of us here (myself included) say to move on, that needn’t mean “just get over it” and wasn’t at all meant to negate the very real pain you suffered. It’s more a long view that there’s a time for keeping up the fight and a time to move onward. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, doesn’t mean you might not need help, but from where I stand you have little to gain from watching this person’s career from afar.

      I know that it’s easier said than done to let go, and I totally agree that there’s a cosmic sense of injustice in the pain not being returned to the abuser. This just isn’t doing you any good, and it isn’t likely to help anyone else.

    3. CBB*

      Thank you. I’m surprised at how dismissive some people have been of your story. We should believe survivors when they talk about what happened to them.

      The emotional and verbal abuse that you survived is no less serious than physical abuse. I applaud your efforts to protect others.

    4. CaviaPorcellus*

      Hi OP – thank you for reading and commenting today!
      Some people have been overly harsh, and I’m sorry about that. But I do want to highlight this:
      “this is not something you’re going to understand and really shouldn’t chime in with “just get over it” since you don’t understand this.”

      My comment was not verbatim “just get over it”, but I did say “Because either way you DO need to let this go and it IS unhealthy”, which can feel like the same thing! But I want to clarify, I am an abuse survivor – from a parent, former romantic partners, and bosses – and I am not saying it is easy. But after a decade of refreshing this woman’s memory in your brain, you do need to move on. This might require therapy, or coaching, or a strong support network, but it is possible.

      A few years ago, in a moment of weakness, I found out that my abusive ex was married. And, more alarmingly, had a daughter. It devastated me for days, thinking about the harm he would inflict on both his wife and daughter, knowing what he did to me. But reaching out to his wife would not have done any good. I don’t know her, we’ve never even met in passing, and she lives with him, not me.

      And hey, who knows? Maybe late-30s Ex is a much different man than mid-20s Ex. I’m certainly not the same person I was when we were together. Ultimately, he’s now a stranger to me, so his life is not something that’s for me to pry into or try to manage.

      It’s the same with your ex-boss. She was mid-to-late 40s and nasty a decade ago. Who knows? Mid-to-late 50s boss facing retirement in about 10 years might be a whole different person. She’s a stranger to you. You’re a stranger to her. That, at a certain point, needs to be enough.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        OP, I think a lot of the “You need to get over this” advice came from people who did experience abuse, recognize their pain in yours, and know what it is like to dwell and dwell in little circles, and how ultimately not-helpful-to-themselves the dwelling was.

        Today they can maintain a firm boundary to not interact with the abusive person, while otherwise not thinking about them. But it took time and effort to get there, often, and sometimes a therapist.

    5. Observer*

      really shouldn’t chime in with “just get over it” since you don’t understand this. It’s not that easy or simple.

      It seems to me that most people who were saying that you should move on know better than “just do it, it’s so easy”. Of course it’s hard. But it’s really the best thing you can do for yourself.

      To take an analogous situation. Sometimes people have medical conditions that are strongly affected by their diet. Telling them to significantly change their diet makes sense. Sure, it’s hard! (BTDT) But it’s still the best thing that the person can do for themselves. I AM going to get intensely annoyed by the people who say things like “what’s the big deal.” But others who point out that this is something that the person NEEDS to do are not wrong or even unsympathetic in most cases.

    6. OP*

      OP again. I don’t particularly feel like my life has been arrested in any way because of this. I’m actually doing really well in my career, and I’m happy. I don’t think of my abusive boss constantly.

      One more time, unless you yourself have experienced abuse, you can’t just say “get over it.” I love how someone commented, “I get how this would be shattering, but get over it.” Because you clearly don’t get it if you say things like that.

      1. miro*

        OP, you’ve mentioned this phrase repeatedly and I’m wondering if you’re paraphrasing because when I did a search-in-page for “get over it” it only returns your comments and those of people saying that people *shouldn’t* say that to you. Supposing that is a paraphrase, it makes me think that something is being lost in communication since the vast majority of comments I’ve read haven’t assumed that you can just snap your fingers and get over it.

        I’m also wondering if people are thinking of this concept in different ways–as in, there’s a difference between telling someone they need to stop *actions* (like googling your old boss so much) and telling someone they need to stop *feeling/thinking* a certain way (much more problematic). I think most of the comments are focusing on the former but I’m wondering if it feels inappropriate/offensive to you if you are interpreting it more as the latter?

        1. miro*

          Ope, one more thing. You wrote “One more time, unless you yourself have experienced abuse, you can’t just say ‘get over it.'” and “you clearly don’t get it if you say things like that.”

          Some of the people I’ve seen pushing back on some of the language in your letter are people who are uncomfortable with it precisely *because* they have experienced abuse and don’t feel that the actions you describe in the letter (which I totally get may not encompass the experience properly, but people only have what you’ve written here to go off of) look/sound like abuse to them. Now, I think it’s important for everyone to remember that abuse can look very different in different situations and be hard to articulate (and that that doesn’t mean it isn’t real). But again, we only have your letter to go off of, and putting the name to having your name left off of a project feels a bit odd for many abuse survivors (including myself).

          This doesn”t mean you’re wrong, but maybe it explains why some people (including plenty who do “get it” regarding abuse) are having these reactions to your letter.

        2. Heidi*

          I agree. It’s an oversimplification to conflate phrases like “let go,” “move on,” and “stop googling,” with “get over it.” They can be very different in what they communicate.

      2. Isabelle*

        No one is saying “just get over it.” I really think you’re being unfair by framing the commenters’ overwhelmingly sympathetic feedback like that.

      3. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

        OP thank you for commenting – I’m sure it’s not easy to read comments and it’s a brave thing to do.

        As an abuse survivor myself I know what it can do is make people both very perceptive to the masks and manipulation of people who engage in all levels of abuse but also at the same time it reopens deep wounds and a deep sense of injustice. This is hard often people have no experience of what abuse does to someone – it’s a violation to core of ones being and often makes someone carry a burden of responsibility for the abuser in some way – as another commenter above mentioned.

        I’m glad you don’t feel responsibility to contact anymore and it sounds like your original wish to warn people was coming from a kind and genuine place but definitely this is not your burden to shoulder and please don’t carry any guilt around this.

        I probably have a different view to others in that this person may well have not changed but it’s extremely unlikely you will have been the only person in the course of this person’s work or personal life to have been on the end of this type of behaviour and eventually they will experience consequences to this – although you may never actually know.

        I’m in the middle of this type of situation in my own workplace – it’s extremely subtle, has plausible deniability and is done remotely so no witnesses yay. My journey with it is slightly different in that it forced me to acknowledge my own truth with, my own value and now Im at the point where I can happily mentally and in work politese jargon tell them to f*ck off. I also know they have been kicked out of the houseshare. It wasnt this knowledge that was an epiphany it was going deeper with acknowledging my own value and story.

        Best of luck OP

      4. HereKittyKitty*

        OP I am an abuse survivor. One ex completed the whole domestic violence wheel chart BUT hit me. The other ex, right after the first, emotionally abused me and legit gaslighted me. It’s horrible. It’s awful. I have PTSD. It might also be related to my ADHD diagnosis. I have medication and spent countless dollars on therapy. Being a victim of abuse is financially draining, which is an aspect hardly anyone speaks about. I’m going to repeat something I discussed above because I think it’ll help.

        One of the most freeing things my therapist ever told me is that I didn’t have to forgive my abusers. I didn’t have to extend kindness. That the path towards healing isn’t always paved with “letting go” in the feel-good sense that Pinterest serves up and I’m not broken for being angry at them. In fact, she said I could be as angry as I wanted, for as long as I wanted. That I have a right to feel and be angry at these people because they harmed me. But I absolutely can’t cannot let the flame grow larger than what fits in my palm. That I must be able to put it away and allow it to gather dust. That I must have guardrails that keep me from digging too deep into my trauma (on my own) because that way lies nightmares, PTSD episodes and depression.

        When you say you search for this person with a fairly regular cadence, it makes me worry your flame may be larger than your palm. You absolutely don’t have to let go of this. You also don’t need to get over it. But you do need to process this with a professional because even a simple Google search can refresh a wound and it’s good to have strategies in place to protect yourself from that hurt. Best of luck to you.

    7. Carol*

      The thing is, you are looking for your manager to get punished for the abuse she did to you 10 years ago. Since you don’t know if she is currently abusive to anyone in her workplace, you’d be seeking to punish her not for her actions now, but for actions at a different place, under different circumstances, to different people. That desire is understandable but doesn’t seem healthy or realistic.

      There are suggestions here that you’re not just googling her–you’re tracking her in company directories, keeping tabs on her titles, and you are also…tracking job listings at her company, and extrapolating about her promotions? That’s what I understand from the letter. If so, this level of attention to her seems really unhealthy.

      I’ve worked in incredibly toxic environments rife with bullying behavior and I grew up in an abusive family, had an abusive relationship as well. Those kinds of things mark you for life, in small and big ways. One thing I had to learn after encountering these environments/these people was to identify when I was seeking closure for something or trying to change the past by fixating on things well after the events. That process can’t be rushed, but it does need to happen. The truth is, you can’t change what happened, and you are not in control of this person.

    8. OP*

      OP here. Overall, these comments have been (mostly) helpful. Thank you for commenting. I honestly didn’t think it would generate this much interest. I realize now that I was feeling way too responsible about all of this. There are times when I wish someone had warned me about others, but that’s not actually my responsibility. I hadn’t seen this issue addressed before, and I’m glad I did. I actually wish I had written in sooner since it would have released me from all of this. Thanks guys! I hope this helps someone else out too! I struggled with this for a while. It’s hard to let go of hurtful memories.

  65. Chauncy Gardener*

    Late to this, but a great quote is “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a different past.” And remember that living well is always the best revenge!

    1. Observer*

      Eh, I don’t think the OP needs to worry about forgiveness. I mean, if they WANT to, that’s fine. But I can’t see any benefit to them of going down the road of trying to forgive or wrestling with some “need” to forgive.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Agreed. You can accept “this person was awful to me, she got away with it, I never have to see her again, I’m never going to know if she feels bad about it, I’m never going to get retribution or justice” without forgiveness.

  66. NeuroDarlin’*

    Righteous anger is hard to let go of. I’m so sorry you had to go through that but it sounds like you’re committed to not repeating that offense towards anyone else and THAT is how the the world becomes a better place. Right now you’re letting her live rent-free in your psyche and quite frankly she doesn’t deserve the view. Talking to a counselor (maybe through your EAP) might help you process and move forward. Or, you can write the letter and send it to a bestie who will commiserate with you over junk food. Thank you for not perpetuating the cycle of abuse!

  67. Feral Fairy*

    I worked for a nonprofit as my first job out of college and the ED was awful. She’d scream at us, berate us, and engage in unethical behavior and potentially fraud. I completely understand the urge to get what seems like justice. It feels unfair that people who treat others like garbage continue to be successful and seem to face no consequences.

    That being said, you have to consider the risks of reporting her and the actual likelihood that it’ll amount to any action. 10 years is a long time, and it doesn’t seem like you would be sharing something concrete enough to compel the new employer to act after so much time has passed. I am not saying that I doubt what happened or the impact of it on you, but I think that the new employer would probably have a hard time justifying firing a new hire because someone says the hired treated them badly ten years ago.

    I think that reaching out to her employer would be a recipe for disappointment. The best thing you can probably do in this situation is work on healing from this experience. Now if your job was considering hiring her down the line or someone reached out to you directly to ask about former boss’ behavior, you definitely have the grounds to say something. A lot can change in 10 years- maybe there were consequences you don’t know about in her personal or work life, or maybe she realized she needed to treat people better and she changed. Regardless, her life is out of your hands.

    1. Feral Fairy*

      I don’t think I was very clear but what I meant by “recipe for disappointment”.I think reaching out to her new employer with an email or letter detailing the ways she harmed you would be a painful exercise, and the high potential of the employer responding dismissively or not responding at all would make things worse.

      If writing this letter to them would help you feel better regardless of the outcome, then maybe it would be worthwhile to you or bring some closure. I had a 5th grade math teacher who humiliated me in front of my class and mocked me many times because I was (and am) neurodivergent. The trauma of being bullied by a teacher continued to impact my self esteem for years to come. During college there was a period of time when I started to think about this teacher and it made me so angry. I wanted to write her a letter telling her that her actions affected me years later. I wanted her to read it, feel guilty, and then apologize to me. I talked to a therapist about it and they said “I understand why you want to do this, but what if she ignores the letter? Or she refuses to apologize and acts defensive? Will you still be glad that you did it?” I realized I would feel even worse. I just think these might be useful questions for this situation too.

    2. CaviaPorcellus*

      The fact that this former manager apparently was not managing anyone for a significant stretch of time (per OP, relaying results of previous Google searches) points to someone realizing that she was not fit to be a manager. That may have been her, reflecting on her own behavior, or it may have been higher ups calling her to the carpet for her behavior. Regardless, she stepped down from management for awhile, and now feels ready to step back up. There is zero way of knowing if she’s right or wrong about that, and even less way of OP finding out.

  68. Kimberly*

    I get this – I had a terrible boss several years ago who still lives rent free in my head and did so much damage to me that I’m honestly still working out in therapy. BUT I agree with Alison 100%. This isn’t your place, would come off really weird, and you just have to let it go and move on. (Again, as someone who has been through a similar experience, I know letting it go and moving on are difficult, but at least you can let it go enough to not bring other people into it).

  69. Public Sector Manager*

    I was in a similar situation early in my legal career. My first boss right out of law school was terrible–he would yell, if I lost a motion he would throw me under the bus with the client even if he wrote the brief, he took away my parking because I dared to take the two paralegals out to lunch on my own dime (we were gone for 55 minutes during the lunch hour when the office was closed), he fired a paralegal not before but after the paralegal went to rehab because he could “never trust a drunk” (his words), and he illegally converted me from a W-2 employee to an independent contractor.

    I fixated on him for 3 years after I left until I got a great job in local government and then everything went away. It was the lack of stable employment because of working for him that caused me to fixate on how terrible he was as a boss and a person.

    As people noted above, living well is the best revenge.

  70. Been There Before*

    I totally understand the desire. I experienced a hostile, abusive, and harassing work environment. It does not take long for it to affect and change you. I wish at the time you had been in an environment where you were empowered to stop the conduct. At this point, you can’t change the past and frankly employers would likely not be receptive to your claims about the person. And the person could even try to accuse you of slander. Instead, I think–if you’re not already doing so–you should consider meeting with a therapist to really help you process what happened to you and work on how to move out of that painful, powerless place. It is not easy to just “get over it” but you have to find a healthy way to work through and beyond it. You can’t control what happens to this past supervisor, but you can take some steps to further your healing in the future. Good luck to you.

  71. Mama Sarah*

    The next time, OP, you want to goggle your old boss, try this –
    Take a deep breath. Look at your keyboard or phone and shout, scream, growl, whisper, or declare “you have no power over me! I stand in my own authority. I set you free and I set me free.” Feel it. Feel all the drama, the pain, the whatever is holding you back. Keep saying each sentence til you feel ready to stop and then move on to the next one. You’ll know when you’re done. Then drink some good water and go outside or do something fun. ❤️

  72. thank-you*

    OP, I can completely relate to your story: I had awful managers at all of my first three jobs, and another awful one at my job before my current one.

    This was quite literally PTSD-inducing, and the fact that those managers are mostly between 12 and 7 years behind me now doesn’t mean that they still don’t sometimes still pop up (especially if a prospective job is being insistent on wanting to speak to at least one of them for a reference check for some baffling reason). I certainly have done an occasional Google or LinkedIn search on them, just as I have for a former friend who hurt me very badly (and damaged a number of my other relationships out of spite).

    But, as hard as it is, it’s not healthy to hold on to these injustices. It eats away at us, and lets these awful people live in our heads, rent-free. Karma does have a way of coming back on people, at least some of the time, and all we can do is learn from the damage these horrible people leave in their wake, and to try and grow from it.

    I would definitely recommend seeking some counselling on this, too, OP. It has helped me.

  73. Dennis Feinstein*

    ‘She may or may not still be a bad manager today; many people start out as bad managers and then get better over time.”
    Exactly. LW you don’t know this person. You KNEW this person.
    Your ex-boss is frozen in time in your mind. You haven’t allowed for the possibility that, over the past decade, she has learned or changed or grown or matured. You mention that you were a young person when you worked under her. Maybe she was young too? Have YOU changed or matured or learned anything over the past 10 years? Probably. Maybe she has too!
    I was thrust into a management role when I was in my early thirties and I was not a very good manager for many reasons. I wasn’t abusive, as you say your boss was, but I certainly could have been better.
    But that was 20 years ago. I don’t wish to or plan to manage anyone again but, if I had to, I think I’d be a much better manager because I’ve matured a great deal since then (and also because I discovered Alison’s wonderful website!)
    Please give your old boss the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’s changed. Maybe she hasn’t. Maybe this new job will be a chance for her to turn over a new leaf. You just don’t know, so leave her alone. And, as other commenters have suggested, STOP. GOOGLING. HER.

  74. Kittie*

    Maybe I’m lucky. I could’ve been in the same place as OP. I left a job I hated all 15 years of (but stayed at out of fear that it was the best I would ever get) with nothing else lined up and moved out of state at age 39. The place still traumatizes me to this day. I worry my new gig will one day turn into the old place. I have a morbid curiosity about what it’s like now (a place that routinely made SOMETHING out of NOTHING five years ago must be MUCH worse now, during a global pandemic!). I could’ve googled them all regularly to keep tabs…I could’ve and still could get in contact with people from there and ask…I have their numbers…I could’ve left a scathing review somewhere…yet…I didn’t. I COULDN’T. I STILL can’t. I have many, MANY stories I could tell…but I don’t…because that would require sitting there and thinking about them and getting upset all over again. Ugh. Ick. No. Just no. It’s bad enough dealing with all the things that place taught me about American Business that I would give anything to unlearn. That will stay with me for the rest of my life. I remember crying tears of joy as I drove off that lot for the last time. The ordeal was OVER, with a capital O-V-E-R. Off to…whatever comes next.
    Maybe I’m lucky. Maybe I’m a coward. Maybe my situation is just as unhealthy as OP, but in a different way. (To be fair, the ungodly-awful job wasn’t the only thing going wrong in my life at the time, nor the worst, just the one I had to deal with every day.) I don’t know. All I know is I don’t go to bed at night hoping I won’t wake up tomorrow anymore.
    I don’t know whether I should hope this happens for you or not, OP. That you can somehow magically let go just like that. I do definitely hope you are able to let go, though. You’ll be in a much better place once you do. Much love.

  75. Kittie*

    One more thing…
    OP, sorry if I came off as just one more person telling you let go. I now see that you have. I didn’t see the previous exchange of comments. But I wanted to share my story with everyone anyway. There may be someone in an identical situation reading right now. Abuse goes on…and on..and ON.
    I’m happy for you OP. I’m happy for all of us. Much love.

  76. Recruited Recruiter*

    I also have a terrible ExBoss. I no longer let ExBoss or ExEmployer live rent free in my head – The full extent is extending the free block on her cell number every time it expires, cause I am not going to let Terrible ExBoss impact my wallet. It’s really not hard to renew a block on a number.

    Get to a point of peace about your former Terrible Boss. There’s that common saying that “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” You’re only harming yourself.

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