the boss who fired me got hired at my new job — and she’s joking about how bad my work was

A reader writes:

About seven years ago, I worked for Company A. I met a lot of nice folks, and there is a lot of good to be said for the company. But the actual job function I was paid to do I hated, and it was in an industry I came to have a dim view of. As you can probably guess, I was not very good at this job. Throw in some unpleasant things going on in my personal life at the time, and the whole situation was very bad.

Eventually my boss had to fire me, and I deserved to be fired! My boss (Jane) handled the firing with all the dignity and sensitivity that I could have hoped for. No complaints there. I took some time after the firing to really think about my life, what I wanted, and what I wanted out of work. I made some changes, and one of those was to go to work for a nonprofit that advocates on an issue I care deeply about. I am MUCH better at this job, have received a couple promotions along the way, and feel like I have the respect of my colleagues. I am in a much better place compared to where I was with Company A.

Last month my nonprofit was onboarding some new hires, and I was surprised to see Jane among them. She wanted a change, and thus went from Company A to us. She had no idea I was working here. I work on the advocacy side, she works on the financial side, but our job titles are approximately equal. We spent a few pleasant minutes catching up. I was genuinely glad to see her.

Unfortunately, things have taken a turn. I have started hearing rumors that Jane has been regaling our colleagues with stories of what a screw-up I was back at Company A. While the stories are superficially true, they lack the context I described above and do not consider my good work since then, so I find these stories both embarrassing and unfair. I have asked Jane to stop doing this, but she feels I am overreacting as it is all meant in good fun.

But I am already seeing people become a lot more particular in their dealings with me. For example, I organize several public facing events with one of my colleagues. These events have always gone well, and he has been easy to work with; he tells me what he needs, I tell him what I need, then we do what needs to be done. Lately, he has been checking, and double checking, and triple checking that I understand what is required and my progress on meeting those requirements. That never happened before Jane. And when I called him out on it, he replied that my “track record” justified his attention. I replied that my track record with him was unblemished, and he sheepishly said, “Yeah, but I hear from Jane …”

I am appreciative of how Jane treated me back in the day, so I want to cut her all the slack I can. I do not believe she is being malicious. I think she just wants to integrate herself with her new colleagues and thinks telling funny stories is a way to do so. But she has badly misjudged the effect these stories have had. Do you have any thoughts on how I can get her to stop?

WTF Jane.

Since you know her and I don’t and you don’t think she’s being malicious, I’ll try to give her that benefit of the doubt too — but this is really messed up. She’s come into a place where you’ve established a reputation for yourself and is chipping away at it in the name of … what? Entertaining her new colleagues? That’s honestly really crappy.

It would be one thing if she’d made one or two comments without realizing they could have real effects for you at work, and then stopped when you pointed it out. But you talked to her about it and she blew you off. “It’s all in good fun” is BS once the person who’s the target of the “fun” asks you to stop.

If you believe Jane is genuinely a good person and is just badly misjudging how her stories are being received, it’s worth another conversation. This time, be very explicit about the ways her stories are harming you, so that it’s clear you’re not just bristling at some teasing but are seeing concrete effects on your work. For example, you could say: “I want to ask you again to stop joking around about my work at Company A. I understand you mean it in good fun, but it is not being taken that way. I have worked hard to establish a good reputation here, but since you started sharing these stories, people have started double- and tripling-checking my work and supervising my progress on projects much more closely. I’ve asked why, and at least one person told me it’s because of what he’s heard from you. So even though you mean this to be light-hearted, people are taking it seriously and it’s harming the reputation I’ve worked to build.”

You could also say, “I had some difficult things happening in my life when I was at Company A, and I was really struggling. It’s not something I want to see turned into entertaining stories for others. It was very serious for me.”

And/or you could say, “I was so grateful to you for how you handled the ending of my employment at Company A. I felt you really cared about preserving my dignity. I’m asking you to extend that same dignity to me now.”

If Jane refuses to back off after that, she’ll be demonstrating pretty clearly that she’s not the good person you thought she was — just a bully and a jerk. Who knows why — maybe there’s stuff going on in her life now that wasn’t affecting her when you worked together the first time; I tend to think jerks often are struggling with something or other. But if she doesn’t budge after you spell it out for her, let yourself see her for who she really is right now.

If that’s the case, your best bet is to address it directly with your other coworkers. For example, with that colleague who told you that Jane’s stories made him distrust you, you could say, “You have X years of experience working with me. Do those stories reflect what you know of me? I’m asking that you trust what I’ve shown you about how I operate, not stories from years ago.”

Or: “Yep, I screwed up in a job years ago. Different job, different work, different time. Can we go on what you’ve seen from years of working with me in this job?”

Ultimately, your work will be the strongest antidote to the stories Jane is telling, but you may need to explicitly connect those dots for some of your coworkers.

But man, I do not like Jane.

{ 397 comments… read them below }

  1. quill*

    Jane strikes me as the sort of person who has no discretion, at best. Something you may not have had the opportunity to see as her employee, if it’s that she’ll tell her peers anything to have information or attention.

    1. Neosmom*

      Someone hearing these stories and has “standing” needs to say this, “You have to have discretion when working in finance, Jane! “

    2. Anonariffic*

      Speaking of seeing things differently as an employee vs as a peer, I’m wondering if Jane was good at being compassionate toward her subordinate but now it’s rubbing her wrong that this underling she fired years ago is suddenly her equal at this new job. Maybe she feels threatened by OP’s advancement or feels like she herself should have moved higher up by now and is trying to reassert herself as the superior.

      1. Jay Gobbo*

        Good guess, it’s definitely a possible explanation. It’s odd that someone seemingly compassionate would double down and say “it’s all in good fun” instead of stopping the behavior. Seems likely that it would be coming from a place of insecurity in one form or another.

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        This totally.

        Someone feels a bit threatened. She’s fine when it’s being compassionate to a perceived underdog, but now OP is not an underdog and in fact has much more experience and credibility than Jane does, on account of her time with the company. Jane doesn’t like this and needs to be told, immediately, to stop.

      3. Rose*

        This was my exact thought! I’ve had to fire people and I did my very best to be compassionate, but I also see them in a specific light. If I got to a new job and they were at the same level as me, making the same salary as me, I admit I would likely feel slightly… incredulous maybe? Upon first hearing it at least.

        A normal/kind/secure person would be happy OP had found the thing she’s good at. My guess is Jane is insecure and her career isn’t where she hoped it would be at this point. It seems like she’s tearing OP down to feel big, quite possibly totally subconsciously. I’m ragey on OPs behalf.

        1. Meep*

          For me, it would depend on the circumstance. How crappy of a person they were on top of being a crappy employee. If they learned from their mistakes or continued their same behavior. How they treated me after.

          Of course, I would never voice it as it also speaks to my professionalism. But I might seeth a little if I found out the guy who tried to get me fired and used my own office to do it was on the same level as me at a new company because I know he hasn’t changed. It sounds like OP learned from their mistakes though.

      4. AKchic*

        This was my line of thinking, too. She is having personal issues with having OP being on the same level as her, so she is doing what she can to put herself on a higher level, even if it’s superficially.
        It’s really juvenile, and not a good career move, especially since people in finance have to be discreet, but the real person Jane is hurting is herself, and eventually, everyone will figure that out

      5. ecnaseener*

        Possibly she’s even questioning why OP did so poorly under her management – “If OP had so much potential, why couldn’t I coach them up better? Was I a bad manager? No, it’s OP that was bad and I’m going to repeat that out loud until I believe it!”

        1. Leela*

          That’s a really good point. Many managers are unfortunately extremely poorly trained and poorly supported once they get moved into management and one thing I saw over and over working in HR was insecure managers who didn’t know how to manage, sometimes because they were bad for the role but always at least because companies do things like set you up with a “mentor” (an extremely busy higher manager who really doesn’t have time for you, that might meet with you once a month or something for quick questions that they can fire off answers to and then get back to their jobs but never get the context/shadowing that would be necessary for this to be valuable to the new manager)

      6. The Rules are Made Up*

        I agree. It seems like she deliberately wants to undermine OP. Because “all in good fun” is an odd thing to say about something you said about someone behind their back that they only found out about from others. It’s like “friends” who always happen to tell embarrassing stories about you in front of other people/potential crushes etc. They want to embarrass you and make themselves look cool. That’s the whole reason.

      7. GlitsyGus*

        I agree this is very much a possibility. Jane may not even realize she has those feelings and it’s coming out in, “oh, I’ll just tell this funny story.” That doesn’t make it OK obviously, but I think we’ve all done something and then realized later that our intentions weren’t as innocent as we thought they were. The big question now is Will Jane realize it and apologize and knock it off?

        OP, I really do hope Jane pulls her head out of her derriere.

      8. Social Commentator*

        This. It’s what I came to say. Strikes me as very much intentional undermining s as someone perceived as a threat. She may be a good supervisor and a terrible peer.

      9. Betteauroan*

        I think there is a good chance that’s exactly what’s going on. She is gunning for the OP and wants to keep OP in her place. This constant rehashing of the past is proof that Jane is threatened by her and wants to make OP out to be irresponsible and unreliable.

      10. Koalafied*

        I’m actually less convinced this is what’s going on given that they work in totally different departments. While technically I know that other departments’ positions are all on the same 8-grade scale that my department uses, it’s not really a direct comparison. Some departments hire people from more competitive fields; being a level 5 attorney is not necessarily comparable to being a level 5 database analyst or a level 5 HR rep in terms of how competitive the role was, how well it pays, or how much experience people in the role typically have. It’s also very common that a level 4 project manager in one department would be expected to show more deference to the chain of command with a level 5 or 6 senior staff in their own department, but when working on cross-functional projects they have authority over level 5 or 6 SMEs from other departments.

        Anything’s possible, but it seems less like that a Finance Manager is going to feel threatened that their former Junior Finance Associate is now an Advocacy Manager, because the advocacy career ladder is completely different from the finance career ladder.

        1. Koalafied*

          (Which is not to say that I think she’s innocent in all this! She’s definitely being callous and a bully – it just may not be specifically because she’s threatened by LW being at a peer level to her.)

        2. Nelliebelle1197*

          Possibly. But in my nonprofit, the finance manager is definitely below those who do the mission oriented work in terms of credibility.

      11. Observer*

        Maybe she feels threatened by OP’s advancement or feels like she herself should have moved higher up by now and is trying to reassert herself as the superior.

        Could be. Definitely not in the “good person” category of attitude.

      12. Whimsical Gadfly*

        I was thinking it’s this or she’s afraid (reasonably or not) that OP has stories they could share about Jane she doesn’t want known and wants to cast OP’s credibility in doubt first.

    3. Nicotena*

      My guess, Jane is feeling uncomfortable that she’s now at the same level as OP, someone she used to supervise and even fire. She’s doing this to make herself feel better and less insecure. Some people can be better when they’re in a position of authority than they are in real life.

    4. Momma Bear*

      I agree.

      I would go back to the other coworker and reiterate that your work with him now has been great, yes? So why is he leery of your work now? That was an old job doing something else and this is different. He also doesn’t have the context behind her stories from SEVEN years ago.

      I would be really peeved to have to do damage control with Jane. I’m sure you could point out a few things about Jane that were less than stellar but to what end? You are her peer now. She should treat you differently. If she persists in poisoning your work, this might be an HR concern or talking to your manager.

      I would also be firm with Jane that no, this is NOT in good fun. She’s hurting your reputation at this company and you want her to stop. Period. People who say “oh, can’t you take a joke?” aren’t nice. They’re trying to cover for being jerks.

      1. MK*

        Frankly, I find it very weird that the OP’s coworkers are being influenced by Jane’s stories. If a new coworker shared “funny” anecdotes of longtime competent coworker messing up 7 years ago, I would probably think them in bad taste, but also I would think “ah, we were all young and clueless once” and “wow, they really have come a long way since then!”. I wouldn’t think that Jane’s experience from the mists of time trumps OP’s great record recently!

          1. Oakenfield*

            +1 What is wrong with the coworker who is now treating OP differently? That person is an ass too.

            1. Effective Immediately*

              This made me think that Jane might be exaggerating or talking about this more often than OP even knows. To have those stories override what people already know of OP, they’ve got to be pretty heinous/frequent.

        1. Anononon*

          I agree. I would think Jane was either trying to cause trouble, or was a jerk. But not everyone thinks things through very clearly.

    5. Lab Boss*

      That was my guess.. OP reports that Jane considers this “all in good fun,” if we take her at her word that doesn’t sound like anything malicious. I assume Jane likes the positive attention and influence that comes from always having a good story to tell, and there’s plenty of people willing to pay attention to a “scandalous” story from a colleague’s past. Jane doesn’t need to have it in for OP, she just has to not bother to think about/care what the aftershocks of her tale-telling are.

      1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

        But it’s so easy to tell stories about “someone I used to work with”! You don’t have to name names unless you really are making it personal.

        1. banoffee pie*

          I think the OP is bending over backwards not to see malice. It looks pretty malicious to me, especially since Jane continued to tell the stories after she was asked to stop.

      2. Effective Immediately*

        It’s rather Machiavellian (of Jane, not you) to totally dismiss the impact of her behavior in order to gain political capital, especially once she’s been made aware of it.

        I agree it’s not necessarily intentional on Jane’s part, but I don’t think this makes Jane any better, it just makes her bad in a different way.

  2. Murphy*

    Oh man. I don’t like Jane either. OP asked her to stop and she just…didn’t? What the heck? It’s really unprofessional to talk about a colleague like this.

    1. More anon today*

      Same. I once asked someone not to tell stories about me even though in that case I felt he was justified and I didn’t necessarily have the right to ask him not to, and he still apologized and stopped. If he could, Jane should be able to. (In my case he was telling amusing (?) things I did while drunk at a party at a conference we’d both just attended. I felt like yes, I was drunk and did do that, and if I don’t want people to hear what I got up to while drunk, the best way is to not get drunk at a professional event, rather than expect other people to keep quiet. Which is a lot of why I don’t drink much any more.)

      1. More anon today*

        Meant to put in there, my situation therefore different from Jane, who I think has a professional obligation not to discuss what is essentially a personnel matter from her previous job.

      2. The Rules are Made Up*

        In your defense I think you were well within your rights to ask him to stop. I don’t think it’s ever justified to tell embarrassing stories about someone that they didn’t give you permission to tell. If you say to yourself “Would this story be embarrassing to the person involved?” and the answer is “yes” a kind person would not tell that story. Me finding something amusing isn’t a good enough reason to embarrass someone else.

        1. GlitsyGus*

          Agreed. Unless it actually impacted their work, I wouldn’t humiliate a coworker by telling tales of their drunken exploits at a conference. Gentle light teasing of “long night last night” or something like that maybe? But nothing to other coworkers that would actually sully that person’s reputation or purposely embarrass them. That’s very childish.

      3. Betteauroan*

        Good idea. I was always very careful about drinking at those open bars some of these company events had available. I never wanted to be seen as someone who couldn’t hold my liquor. People remember that stuff and it reflects badly on you no matter how good of an employee you are.

    2. Rose*

      But she doesn’t need to, it’s so fun and funny when I tell everyone not to trust you and try to destroy your reputation here to make friends!! It’s all just FUN! OP just needs to lighten up and take her reputation being slowly eroded in stride! Lol! Comedy!!

      Jane deserves to be perpetually followed by a horrible fart smell everywhere she goes.

      1. It's Growing!*

        I was thinking more in terms of Jane needing a PIP for disruptive behavior and poor judgement. She’s messing with the well oiled machine that was this team to the detriment of the organization.

        1. Rose*

          Right?! Although lots of places they won’t PIP someone in their first month, they just say “this isn’t a good fit” which would be a super fun hilarious dose of irony.

      2. Aphra*

        Rose, that is the best ill-wish I’ve ever seen. I intend to steal it and use it whenever I need to. My thanks to you

      3. Nayo*

        “Jane deserves to be perpetually followed by a horrible fart smell everywhere she goes.”

        Thank you for a much needed laugh!

  3. Threeve*

    If you ever think someone is overreacting when they ask you to stop doing something that they think is harmful to them…it doesn’t matter an atom that you think it’s an overreaction. Stop doing that thing.

    1. EPLawyer*

      THIS.

      Something is only in “good fun” if everyone takes it that way. if someone asks you to stop — especially the butt of the “good fun” you stop.

      The fact that she did not stop tells you what you need to know.

      Talk to her again. If she STILL won’t stop, then you need to escalate this. It is actually impacting your work.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        I keep on thinking it might be good fun to respond with “well, don’t worry! My dad didn’t just die so I probably won’t flub it as badly!”

    2. kiki*

      Right!? Jane’s not being respectful of LW at all. If her intentions were 100% above-board, she’d be horrified to know she’s making LW feel bad even if she didn’t mean to and genuinely thought it was “all in good fun.”
      I feel like Jane is having a hard time accepting that LW is now at about her same level and trying to take her down a peg.

      1. Ground Control*

        YES!!! Everyone has the potential to say the wrong thing or be accidentally offensive or mean. I don’t judge people for mistakes, but I 100% judge them if they don’t immediately apologize and change their behavior.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Yes. Good point. I think Jane is coming in and feeling “off” because she’s new and taking OP down a little is a way to get an “in” with her new coworkers. But it’s a terrible thing to do.

    3. Missy*

      I’m currently having a problem with someone because I tried to explain this exact concept to them. They took it to mean that if they get upset with me about anything — no matter how unreasonable — I must immediately stop and apologize because it doesn’t matter if I was wrong, only that they are upset. Most recent example, I did not realize that a decision we made in a conversation from over a month ago would be implemented on a specific day, because we never said that it would be that specific day, but they think I should have known that anyway. I’m now trying to figure out how to explain how that’s different from saying insulting things to/about me that they “did not intend to be insulting.”

      1. Juneybug*

        Missy – that sounds draining.
        Apologies are important but so is communication and problem solving. You could apologize for all the “wrongs” you are doing but are they also helping to fix the problem? For example – calendar mix up. Are they willing to have a shared calendar? Are they suggesting weekly meetings to discuss what activities are coming up? Or are they only wanting apologizes but no changes to make the relationship better?
        I hope things improve with this relationship.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Well, if the concept you were trying to explain was about “all in good fun” / “take a joke,” you could point out that most situations actually have goals beyond fun/humor and in those situations you might need to do things that they don’t like.

      3. Sea Anemone*

        They took it to mean that if they get upset with me about anything — no matter how unreasonable — I must immediately stop and apologize because it doesn’t matter if I was wrong, only that they are upset.

        Well, that’s why blanket statements about “every time somebody thinks something is harmful to them, you must stop doing it” are not helpful. The natural conclusion is that every time they are uncomfortable, somebody else has done something wrong and must change their behavior. For the record, that is not true. Sometimes discomfort means they need to examine their own assumptions and sometimes it really does mean they need to be less sensitive.

        So I would use fewer blanket statements around her and address specifics of situations. Also, learn when to strategically cede a hill. So something like, “I don’t recall setting a date in that conversation. My takeaway was that the date would be set during later conversations. I’m sorry for the disconnect.”

      4. Sal*

        Is it your mom? It sounds like it might be your mom. (Projecting wildly over here.) Let me know if you figure out how to explain the distinction in a way that she doesn’t process as “Oh, so you’re always right,” or you being mean to her.

    4. Worldwalker*

      THIS.

      *You* may think they’re overreacting, but you can’t know how it’s actually affecting them, either personally or professionally. If someone asks you to stop doing something (assuming it’s a reasonable thing, not wearing jewelry asymmetrically) you do it because you’re a decent person.

    5. Miraculous Ladybug*

      Not to mention “you’re overreacting, it’s obviously just a joke! stop taking it so seriously!” and all the phrases like that can often be bullying tactics. It’s a way to make the person you’re bullying feel small for feeling bad, and to get yourself off the hook in your own mind and the mind of others.

    6. RWM*

      Agree! Especially because these stories are not…essential in any way? She’s just volunteering info that makes OP look bad, no one is asking for it!! Can’t think of something that would be easier to stop doing than this.

    7. Been There*

      Why has no one said anything to her? Surely someone she has told these stories to sees how inappropriate this is.

    8. Paulina*

      “If it’s so minor as far as you’re concerned, how about not doing it?”

      These things are only minor when they’re dismissing your concerns. They’re very important for them to do.

  4. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    Jane’s current actions are malicious, regardless of intent. Alison’s advice is spot on.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Whoops you stepped in a pet peeve…
      First let me agree with you: Her actions are malign, defamatory, catty, harmful, hateful, unkind, and simply bad for her new organization.
      But by definition “malicious” requires intent (“characterized by malice; intending or intended to do harm”) and our OP says that’s out of character.

      1. Nea*

        I submit that OP knew Jane’s character in a different industry at a different time with a different power differential.

        Whereas being told “please stop” and responding “can’t you take a joke” (no matter how phrased) plus continuing the behavior has zero non-malicious intent in any circumstance I can think of.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I’m only addressing the connection with ‘regardless of intent’.
          (Even though yes I happen to suspect she IS intentionally tearing down OP to make herself look important –which IS malicious.)

      2. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

        I actually didn’t know that – thank you!! I love getting precise with a fellow language nerd B)

      3. Oakenfield*

        Maligned, defamatory, catty, harmful, hateful, and unkind actions are malicious, full stop. This kind of meaning lawyering is unhelpful.

        1. Eden*

          They were responding to “malicious regardless of intent” specifically. It’s not “lawyering” to kindly let someone know that a word doesn’t mean exactly what they thought. They weren’t using it as an excuse to knock the original comment’s intended meaning.

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Agree. This part struck me: “I have asked Jane to stop doing this, but she feels I am overreacting as it is all meant in good fun.”

      How is that fun, Jane? In what way is that fun? Who is having fun, exactly?

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        I’d be tempted to start joking to Jane’s new coworkers that my previous bad performance must have been due to Jane’s horrible manager skills because my track record at New Company is so much better, and see how funny she thinks it is.

        1. AKchic*

          Petty Betty who lives inside me is screaming “DO IT”.

          “Yeah, Jane wasn’t a good manager, and that really reflected in my work at the time. This company and time away from Jane’s style has done me really good, don’t you think?”

        2. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Unfortunately, this would be rolling around in the pig sty with her. But, you’re not wrong.

      2. MistOrMister*

        Jane is having fun!!! She’s having fun saying how awful OP’s work is and doing damage to their current work relationships!! Jane seems to be having a damn ball, honestly.

        To be fair though, this also says something about OP’e coworkers. If someone new started at my job and started gossipping about another employee and how they had to fire them 7 years ago, I would be seriously questioning their motives. Sorry, but I am not going to take 7 years of good work experiences with someone and throw it all out the window b/c a newbie said they were fired way back when. I mean seriously? That guy decides OP’s work can’t be trusted b/c of something a brand new employee said? Based on things that happened almist a decade ago? Who does this? What is wrong with all these people?! It sort of sounds like Jane is telling about OP’s firing in a way to be holding OP up as an object of ridicule. How in the world are coworkers with years of experiencing working with OP 1) giving this so much weight that they have decided to start treating OP as incompetent and 2) happy to participate in harmful gossip directed towards someone they supposedly had a good relationship with?

        I think OP’s previous dealings with Jane might be causing some situational blindness here. Jane is doing something deliberately harmful, even after being asked to stop. It doesn’t matter how well she handled the firing 7 years ago, she is a jerk and should be labeled as one.

      3. Fiddle_Faddle*

        This is a classic move in gaslighting. The perp convinces the victim that what she sees isn’t what’s actually going on. I take the OP at her word that Jane behaved well in the past, but in the OP’s place I’d be revisiting my view of Jane’s past behavior in light of what’s going on now. There appears to be a disconnect that needs to be explained.

        1. Texas*

          In this case though it isn’t gaslighting. It’s Jane dismissing OP’s concerns because Jane is being a real jerk. Gaslighting is a pretty specific term, and often is used when in fact the person is just lying.

            1. Texas*

              Except by definition you can’t gaslight someone you’ve barely interacted with in the last seven years because you don’t have a relationship. This is a mean person either lying or she simply sees the situation differently (and incorrectly, I would argue, but that’s not gaslighting). Gaslighting is a very specific term about abuse, and it’s troubling seeing it get bandied about in a way that really waters down the actual meaning.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        Exactly. I try to have a sense of humor about myself but I would not find Jane’s behavior entertaining at all. OP sounds like they have great perspective and insight into their past firing and seems to have built a nice career for themselves – why she want to relive that firing OR have all her new coworkers know about it? I’d be ticked off at Jane for sure, especially if I asked her to stop and she didn’t.

        Just last week, I was regaling a colleague with a story about myself and what a dumbass I was at my first job. But that was my story to share, and I’ve known them for years now and they have enough experience with my work to know I’m no longer a dumbass at work.

  5. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Got any embarrassing stories about Jane you can use to retaliate with?

    Okay, I know that’s terrible advice but ugh. My sympathies, OP.

    1. Bamcheeks*

      I mean, how about, “Jane is indiscreet and unprofessional in the stories she is sharing fro when she was my manager”?

      I mean this I’m absolute good faith, LW— it is completely legitimate to damage Jane’s reputation and credibility back if politely asking her to stop and explaining the impact this is having doesn’t make her quit. I don’t mean by making anything up or overtly slagging her off, but something like, “Yes, it’s true that I was going through some stuff when I worked for Jane! She was a great manager then— I’m disappointed that she’s not showing the same discretion and respect for me now.” Throw some shade! I don’t even mean this as a tit-for-tat— I t’s very, very legit to make people question why they are putting more stock in Jane’s Funny Stories than the good work you’ve done for years. She is behaving badly and I don’t think you should feel bad about pointing that out.

      Alongside that, of course, you need to make sure you ARE crossing all the ts and dotting all the is. I would also talk to your manager about this situation and the stress it is causing you, just so she’s forewarned. Unfortunately Jane has primed everyone to take any mistakes you do make as “proof” that you’re a bit of a chaos monkey, and that’s the kind of horrible pressure that sometimes makes it more likely you make mistakes. So just to cover all the bases, make sure your manager is aware of this and then really try and bring your A game to make sure that people aren’t seeing anything that’s going to play into confirmation bias.

      1. Sasha*

        This. You could just respond “you know, there are quite a few tales I could tell about Jane too, but I don’t think it would be very professional of me to dredge up old stuff from seven years ago. You know me, and you know my work, please trust your own judgement”.

          1. No longer working*

            I love this too. Even if there aren’t any tales you could tell, when it gets back to her, let her sweat it and wonder what you’ve got on her. Let her stew in her own juice.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yes. It’s pretty awful that people are taking more stock in stories of long ago that may not even be true (though you confirm that they are) than in the work they’ve seen you accomplish at your current org. So sorry, OP, Jane is behaving terribly unprofessionally here, and that’s a generous interpretation.

      2. Tupac Coachella*

        “Yes, it’s true that I was going through some stuff when I worked for Jane! She was a great manager then— I’m disappointed that she’s not showing the same discretion and respect for me now.”

        I love this wording, and actually see it as very low level shade at worst. Considering that OP has already tried asking Jane to knock it off directly, it’s professional and accurate. It meets my personal “would I say this if I knew they could hear me” litmus test as well, though that’s my level of comfort, others might not want to call Jane out so directly. But she does deserve it.

      3. Nea*

        “Yes, it’s true that I was going through some stuff when I worked for Jane! She was a great manager then— I’m disappointed that she’s not showing the same discretion and respect for me now.”

        This is a beautiful, professional, and classy script – but I would add three words: When I worked for Jane *seven years ago.*

        Factual yet also highlighting that work-wise, this was an eternity ago. It’s like someone tanking your reputation when you’re working full time as an adult for something you did at age 14 in junior high!

      4. Artemesia*

        How about ‘Jane is indiscreet about gossiping about personnel matters and I am worried how that might play out in a role that requires discretion like finance. I worked for her nearly a decade ago in a job that didn’t work out — it was a bad fit. She is now undermining me with the people I have successfully worked with here. ‘

      5. Amaranth*

        I’m also a little concerned just what, exactly, she is sharing or implying in her stories about OP. Not being a great employee is one thing, but it was years ago and not something I’d expect vendors or clients to put a lot of weight into *now*. If someone said ‘Amaranth was hopeless at taming gerbils and couldn’t ever get to work on time’ I’d hope people would say ‘thank god she’s now painting llamas, she’s fantastic!’ If I were OP I’d want to reflect on what she might be saying that could cause this weird crisis of confidence in people who have worked with me successfully. Maybe some of the old work habits really were alarming and good on OP to have turned everything around, but in that case it might be worth pointing out to clients as well that it was during a difficult time and obviously OP has moved on and its a bit odd that Jane has not.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          My guess from the details of the letter was something like, “LW made so many mistakes and was really disorganised”, but that was when she was in finance trying to keep track of numbers and transactions, and now she’s in event organisation and “Dan is in charge of the table cloths and Wakeen is bringing the plates and Phoebe is sorting the entertainment and on Thursday Sansa will be here and I need to ask them about the llamas dietary requirements and then pass that on to Xander” is a totally different type of detail-orientation that LW is much better at. But Jane is making it sound like LW os terminally scatty because she didn’t have the kind of brain that does numerical detail.

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      The cynical part of me thinks any unprofessionalism on OP’s part now would just be seen as reinforcing Jane’s gossip. Because Jane got her story out first she now controls the narrative. Bleh.

      Sorry, OP this really sucks. Especially when you’re forced to reevaluate the positive impression you had of someone.

    3. AC4life*

      Time for a Gina whisper. I heard Jane had to leave the financial side due to her…. problem. Poor Jane keeps misremembering things ever since her…. issue.

      1. wayward*

        I would have been tempted to start a rumor that Jane left her previous employer before they could fire her, maybe because of funny money stuff.

  6. Rodrigo*

    Jane doesn’t sound like a good person. It’s clear that having a little fun is more important to her than your reputation at your job. I’m sorry you have to deal with her now, OP.

    1. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      I’m not sure that “having a little fun” is actually Jane’s intention here, despite what she says. It sounds more like Jane wants to make herself look better by making the LW out to be worse. That’s the dynamic she was used to at Company A, and despite being peers with the LW now, Jane seems to be looking to maintain that edge she had before, where Jane was the benevolent boss and LW the sad screwup. But admittedly, that’s just my take and reading between the lines! Either way – I don’t like Jane and she’s definitely showing she’s not a good person!

      1. Anon for this*

        Bullies are always “having a little fun”. The fact that their little fun hurts people is entirely beside the point, in their minds.

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

          Naw, hurting people IS the fun to the bully. She’s having fun embarrassing the OP.

  7. The Smiling Pug*

    Wow. I don’t like Jane either. I understand telling funny stories to break the ice, but never about someone’s previous work performance, especially when you don’t have all the information. Yikes on bikes.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Right, this is the kind of thing where you’re hanging out with a friend of the friend and you break the ice by telling stories about the friend. Maybe not always the nicest stories, but mostly harmless. It’s not the same thing when someone’s job is impacted.

      1. The Smiling Pug*

        Exactly! There’s a fine line between “funny story” and “impacting someone’s work.”

        1. Worldwalker*

          Like at least a few of us here, I hang out over at Not Always Right. That’s an entire site devoted to mocking stupid things that customers, bosses, etc., do. The stories are heavily redacted and anonymized. (I know this for a fact because they’ve posted a few of mine) You can tell a funny story about “a place I used to work” and “someone I used to work with” without identifying either one of those. And if it’s NOT funny when it’s a generic “place I used to work” and “someone I worked with” then it wasn’t funny in the first place — just mean. Which is definitely the feel I’m getting from this.

          1. MistOrMister*

            I thought about this as well. If Jane was telling stories about “a former report” who OP recognized as herself, but no one else would know it was her….that would still be not great, but it you could sort of kind of maybe understand it. (Although Jane still refusing to stop if OP asked would throw that right out the window!). But this whole, I am going to tell everyone and make sure they know it was OP is just cruel and wrong.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Exactly. If it’s not funny unless it names (and shames) a specific person, then *it’s not funny*.

    2. Rainy Day*

      Exactly- when you tell funny stories to break the ice, they usually tend to be about yourself, or friends who *don’t mind* you sharing the story. Jane is an arse.

  8. Kloflow*

    My thought on reading this is that you are now her peer and perhaps she has lingering feelings attached to her own self worth about being on the same level as someone she perceives to be a screw-up. Not fair, not right but this screams of more about her reflections and beliefs about herself and trying to reclaim her “rightful place above you” than about you at all. Big yikes but hope you can take comfort in it saying more about her than you.

    1. Butterfly Counter*

      I wondered about this as well. “OP is now my PEER? THAT can’t be right! I’ll make sure everyone knows that I am, in fact, better at work than THEY are.” Maybe she’s not doing it consciously, but I bet there is something like this going on just below the surface

    2. Bernice Clifton*

      Maybe it’s not 100% true that Jane left the old org because she “wanted a change” and was afraid the LW would have heard rumors to that effect and figured she’d beat her to the punch.

    3. Threeve*

      I had the same thought–this is classic “make yourself seem better by bringing someone else down” behavior, which is super toxic.

      And normally in explaining to colleagues/escalating to superiors I would suggest only explaining the behavior, not the justification, in this case I would actually spell it out–“I don’t know if it’s conscious behavior, but I think Jane might be frustrated or embarrassed that she’s no longer my superior, and expressing some of that by trying to damage my reputation.”

      1. EPLawyer*

        I would not try to justify the behavior because you don’t know why Jane is behaving the way she is. Nor does it really matter. What are they going to do IF it is true that Jane feels bad she is no longer superior to OP, promote Jane, demote OP? Nope, the response is the same no matter the reason “Jane stop talking about how OP was when she worked for you. that is in the past, leave it there.”

    4. Sue*

      Professional jealousy was my first thought in reading this letter. It appears she is trying to build herself up by putting you down as others have mentioned. She sounds petty and mean. Stand up for yourself and make this reflect back on her. I would specifically say things like, “that is a very unkind thing to say” or “that is so mean, why would you say that?” Try to reframe as HER issue.

  9. Kat Malfoy*

    I’d address it one more time directly with Jane and if it continues after that or she continues to diminish it, I’d actually take it to her supervisor–because you are experiencint an effect on your work relationships at this job as a result of it, and that’s a genuine thing to need to address with the chain of command. She is hindering your work.

    Be firm with her. It’s messed up that she’s dragging something 7 years old into your current professional life. I’m sorry it’s happening to you.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think OP should have a frank conversation with her own supervisor. They need to be looped in lest they start hearing these stories circulating.

      1. Pants*

        I agree. Especially since now others are judging her work by the stuff Jane is yawping about. She’s undermining OP and whether on purpose or not, it needs to stop immediately.

        Jane is an asshole.

      2. Be kind, rewind*

        Yes. OP, be sure to let your boss know in that conversation that you’re handling it (had a conversation, Jane dismissed it, will try again).

      3. Bagpuss*

        I agree. I think OP should speak to her manager and include specifically the facts that:
        1. She has already addressed it with Jane, and Jane is continuing to behave this way
        2. Another colleague has explicitly confirmed that they have changed how they interact with her because of Jane’s claims
        3. While Jane is not, (as far as you know) saying anything which is not true, she is talking about information she had as OP’s old manager and which it would be reasonable for her not to gossip about, and that she is making claims without any context, and putting OP in a position where to give context she would have to divulge personal, private information and without it, Jane’s statements are misleading about OP’s abilities and capacity.

        I think that quite apart from the fact that Jane is behaving badly towards OP, it’s a fairly big red flag that she sees personal information about her coworkers or reports as suitable material for gossip – particularly if she now has any direct reports or any sensitive or personal information about clients.

        If I were one of her current reports and heard that she was gossiping about OP like this it would definitely damage my trust in her and my willingness to speak to her bout anything personal. (and even if she is only making the comments to her peers, not to more junior people, it’s very likely that word will be getting around.

        1. Amaranth*

          I’d also be light on details. OP doesn’t have to bare her soul and ‘confess’ all the things she did wrong in the old job, just calmly mention that it was a bad fit and during a difficult time and those problems are now resolved. Jane bringing them up repeatedly as ‘humor’ is causing clients to trust OP and the company less.

      4. PT*

        Yes, and I think OP should remember, Jane is not her boss any more. Jane is just the new hire, and OP has been an employee in good standing at this org for seven years.

        * OP* has the power here.

        The tables have turned. Don’t hesitate to use it (professionally of course.)

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Can we not add the asterisk after “OP”? It’s supposed to be used when finding a response from that particular user, not to call that user’s attention to a specific comment.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Asterisk’s are often used for emphasis, I don’t think they were trying to call for their attention.

      5. Betteauroan*

        Get the boss on your side. Explain what happened honestly and humbly. Remind the boss of your accomplishments here and the good working relationship they have had for 7 years. Then stop commenting on it. Ignore Jane. She will get bored and go away.

    2. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      The LW should have a conversation with her supervisor first, and then, if that does not resolve things, one with Jane’s supervisor and HR.

      Unnoticed legal issue: Jane likely has confidentiality requirements from her previous job that she is now violating. Companies generally do not let you go run your mouth about an employee’s performance, and they often require that you have ongoing confidentiality obligations. At the very least, it should be a huge red flag to the non-profit that Jane is publicly saying things about a former employee’s performance.

      1. Curious*

        Any legal obligations Jane has would run to the old job, not OP. That said, moral obligations are a very different story. I also agree that Jane’s discretion is … questionable at best.

        1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

          Yes, but if she’s violating the previous company’s confidentiality agreements, why would the current non-profit be confident that she will not do the same thing to them?

    3. Willis*

      I agree about looping in supervisors at this point or following a second conversation with Jane. Quite frankly, if my new hire came in and starting disparaging an existing employee like this, I’d have some serious concerns about their judgement. If I talked to them about it and they continued with the stories, it’d be Adios Jane.

  10. Bookworm*

    WTF. I also have to add: if you have established yourself here, have been promoted, have had a good track record previously, why are your co-workers all of a sudden having doubts and double/triple/etc. your work because some rando is telling stories?

    As Alison says, you know her better than us but I’d be also wary of c0-workers suddenly believing this new person despite (presumably) working with or around you in some fashion since you’ve been where you are for awhile.

    1. JohannaCabal*

      Yeah, if I were you, I’d start putting feelers out. If you’re involved with putting together events, you probably can find similar work at another non-profit.

      Also, I’d be firm with your co-worker who keeps checking back on your work and tell them that you would appreciate it if they could remember your years-long track record with the org. Look them in the eye if you have to.

    2. Sleet Feet*

      It honestly doesn’t surprise me at all. Look at the letter of the company owner who had an employee do well for 10 years, then decided Miranda was a problem because Jane said so.

      It happens all the time

    3. KD*

      Yeah that’s what I was thinking too. Why is co worker not standing up for OP if he’s never had an issue? A simple that has not been my experience would suffice. I also think OP should start every sentence with ‘When Jane and I worked together SEVEN YEARS AGO….’

    4. CBB*

      Right? Your colleague is acting as if he learned something Very Serious and Concerning about you.

      I’d be tempted to say to the colleague, “what exactly do you think I did?”

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      Sadly, many people like to believe bad things about others and are more than willing to discard their own opinions and adopt the opinions of a loud-mouthed bully. (Example: Pretty much everything that happens in the world all of the time.)

      1. Artemesia*

        we live in a post factual world. The former Chicago police union president just died of COVID; today the current Chicago police union president went on a tear about how police should not be required to vaccinate or divulge their vaccination status. More cops in America died of COVID this year than gun shots or car accidents on the job. Just because the OP has been effective in her job doesn’t mean her peers won’t believe what someone with ‘secret inside information’ tells them about her REAL performance capabilities.

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          I mean, political agendas, propaganda and bullheaded zealotry aren’t exactly new phenomena. It’s just a lot easier to fact check now.

    6. Myrin*

      I agree with you in that this seems totally incomprehensible to me as the kind of person I am but on the other hand, I’m not surprised at all.

      I know a lot of people who simply… don’t have their own opinions. I’m not sure that’s exactly the right way to describe it but I don’t know how better to say it succinctly. It’s like they can only operate under “tell, don’t show”, they can’t glean information from things they’ve observed, often beause they don’t observe, period, and when you then tell them something out loud, even if it should be completely at odds with their actual lived experience, they’ll immediately believe it and go spouting it themselves.

      It’s wholly contrary to how I operate myself so I can’t really imagine what’s going in in the mind of someone who is like that but I’ve seen it very, very often. It’s just strange that OP’s workplace is apparently full of people like that. Shame on them (and on Jane, obviously).

      1. Sue*

        I actually talked to my kids growing up about this quite a bit. I can appreciate self deprecation but many people will just take your word for it that you’re (fill in the blank) even if it is 100% not true. I told them to be careful what they said, joked about as it could definitely affect their reputation going forward.

        1. PT*

          I had a friend like this in college, it was very eye opening. If you knocked over a glass of water onto your textbook and made a big mess and said, “OMG I’m so clumsy!,” completely offhand, four days later she’d be saying, “Well you can’t do come ice skating because you’re clumsy,” or “Remember, Tangerina is so clumsy, better let Lucinda cut the birthday cake!”

      2. Lunar Caustic*

        Yep. I’ve seen this happen in real time with a relative. I mention something I’ve observed about a person we know, and two minutes later this person quotes my observation about that person as if they have seen it themselves (they haven’t). They don’t remember that I said it first–they just absorbed it and spouted it out again as if it was their own idea.

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        This is very well put. It’s why things have gotten exponentially crazier with the proliferation of social media. People who won’t/don’t/can’t learn now can spout snippets they picked up from Facebook and Twitter, believing this is what passes for intelligence.

        Such people believe nonsensical hearsay over actual facts because, as Artemesia stated above, they think they are getting “secret inside information.” Secret information no one else knows about is prized by such people over observable data and provable facts. The thought process seems to be “I know something you don’t and that makes me smarter than you are.”

        Or something. I don’t really understand it either.

      4. Budgie Buddy*

        I wonder if this is the flip side to having very high social intuition—you can pick up on rules without having to think about them, but the downside is it’s harder to slow down and actually think about what information you’re taking in from others and why.

        I’m overly literal and often find myself out of sync with group consensus, but it does have it’s upsides because like Myrin pointed out because I’m more aware of how I reached my opinions.

      5. Gumby*

        I know a lot of people who simply… don’t have their own opinions.

        It was a key plot point in Runaway Bride.

      6. Anima*

        I’m kinda blown away by this comment. This makes *so much sense*. A part of my country behaves like that, and sadly it’s the part where I was born. It explains what’s happening there quite well.

    7. Library Lady*

      Maybe it’s because Jane was OP’s manager previously, and so her words carry more weight, even though she’s not managing OP now. I’m not excusing the coworkers – I think OP’s current (sustained) performance should trump whatever Jane is saying – but it might explain why they’re willing to believe Jane so easily.

      1. ecnaseener*

        That’s true. This is a person who could’ve been asked to give a reference for OP – if she had, she would’ve been trusted as a source. (Doesn’t mean people should throw out everything they know about OP, but hey.)

    8. Tinker*

      Some people seem to think that being a “good worker” or a “bad worker” is relatively fixed, context-independent, and clearly evident with exposure over time — that people have an essential nature inclusive of things like “detail-oriented” or “ambitious” or “proactive”, and that there aren’t likely to be major and long-lasting disparities between how these traits are exhibited (or perceived, which is another thing) and how the person “actually is”. The person’s “true nature”, good or bad, will ultimately be evident given enough time and attention, although it is common for errors to be made in the short term (particularly with regard to mistaking bad for good people).

      This is not actually how people work, but the differences between that and a more accurate model are often highly nuanced in a way that sounds like distractions and edge cases. Working environments are often complex (so it’s difficult to tell who really is contributing to the end result and who isn’t), there are considerable incentives to present oneself in a particular way (of course you’re not just going to say you’re dishonest if lying about that will get you a job), and there’s often a need to extend significant trust (my work depends on you doing something I don’t have the time or ability to do, hence I don’t have the time or ability to completely verify it either).

      So, in this scheme, LW has as an adult performed badly enough at a job that they were justifiably fired for it, and I’m going to guess that at least some of the resulting “hilarious” anecdotes relate to things like significant off-task behavior, attendance issues, egregiously missed deadlines, making mistakes at a rate or to a degree that are notably outside the norm, etc. Since these things happened in LW’s adult career and relate to common job expectations, this would indicate that LW’s fixed “true nature” is that of a bad worker… and hence their history of apparent good performance is perhaps actually a history of success at concealing their perfidy.

      This is why what Jane is doing is a real problem that LW can and should take action about — it could really cause them a lot of damage.

    9. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Yeah I kinda wonder what she is saying. Like is it so outrageous that they can’t help to think that. Like she’s saying that they thought everything was good until they found out the op was outsourcing stiff to kids or something.

  11. ChemistryChick*

    OP, it doesn’t really seem like Jane is as good a person as you remember. Or, as Alison said, maybe she’s going through some things herself now. But what she’s doing to you isn’t “good fun”. It sucks and I hope she understands that when/if you speak with her next.

    Alison, out of my own curiosity, if Jane doesn’t stop after the second conversation, is the next move to go to Jane’s boss?

  12. whistle*

    I think Alison’s closing point is key. OP, if you have any coworkers you’re particularly close with, I might pull them aside and give them the full story. You could even ask that they speak up in the moment to contradict Jane when she tells bad stories about you.

    If you are in a functional workplace, I believe Jane will be the one who ends up looking bad here.

  13. Rusty Shackelford*

    Jane is awful, and when someone repeats one of her stories, I would have no problem saying “Wow, that’s an awful thing for Jane to say about me. I don’t know why she would do that. Anyway, I hope my X years of working with you speaks for itself, and that you’re not paying attention to ancient gossip.”

    1. school of hard knowcs*

      Totally this. To Jane. Matter of fact tone. Huh, I’m not sure why you are talking about that still. (big pause) I always thought well of you. (big pause) If she throws its just a joke. Huh, talking about other people’s failures is … funny?
      To coworker. Huh I’m not sure why Jane is talking about that. All of us have the opportunity to grown and learn. (big pause) What did I currently miss in this process that concerns you?
      To supervisor. Oddly enough, Jane keeps talking about how things didn’t work out 7 years ago at my past job. I believe I have performed well here in this job. I hope she soon can start thinking and talking about 2021 and on our current business concerns.

  14. Felicia*

    “It’s all in good fun” is BS once the person who’s the target of the “fun” asks you to stop.
    This.
    What Jane is doing is the textbook definition of bullying, and she’s throwing some gaslighting in too.
    I think you are extending too much deference to Jane’s supposed good intentions.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, it’s not all in good fun if someone other than the person leading the “fun” is the one who loses.

  15. MissBaudelaire*

    If this was ‘all in good fun’, I don’t understand why it’s continuing when Jane is being aske to stop. You don’t get to do something hurtful to someone, decide they’re overreacting and then keep doing it. That’s not in good fun, that’s just bullying. And what is the point in these stories? Would Jane want someone to lay out a road map of every mistake she made at her last job and continuing jab and chortle about it? Probably not.

    I wouldn’t be overly sweet to asking Jane to stop again. “Jane, you are damaging my reputation. While you may not intend to do that, it is what is happening. Stop with the stories, thanks.”

    More important is dealing with the people who are now going over work and saying “Well, Jane says…” I like what Alison said. “Have I ever given you the impression that was an issue? In all the years I’ve been here? Great, then let’s move on.” or “And what will I need to do to make you more comfortable?”

  16. Nia*

    So Jane sucks and is terrible but what is up with your coworkers. Why are they taking what a new hire says as gospel when you’ve got a proven track record at this place? Why are they reacting any other way than thinking Jane is a weirdo who is way out of line.

    1. Pippa K*

      People like the feeling that they’re being let in on “special” information – everyone thinks X, but you’ve found out/are part of the select group that knows/have a source that tells you the “real truth” is Y. Works in lots of parts of life, from the personal to the political. It’s amazing how readily people will abandon the “conventional wisdom” and even the evidence of their own experiences in exchange for feeling like they know a hidden truth. Even when it’s petty, or implausible, or mean.

      I hope OP finds an effective way to shut this down, and I’d love an update someday.

    2. Percysowner*

      It depends on how Jane is telling “the truth”. There is stating that the LW failed in the ways that they actually failed in. Then there is, “we kept correcting them and hoping they would improve, but they never did. Once they left we found mounds of undone work in her desk and complaints she had misdirected”. If Jane is making the LW look like a sneak who covers things up, fellow employees may be gloming onto that.

    3. anonymous73*

      I don’t get it either. If Jane came to me telling stories about OP, I’d say “that hasn’t been my experience with OP” and walk away. She’s a gossip and a bully and I have zero tolerance for people like that.

    4. Spencer Hastings*

      When I read the letter, I wondered if this was (at least to some extent) an unconscious bias on the part of the coworkers that had been induced by Jane’s stories. So, less “I am actively making the decision to scrutinize LW more” than a sense of “gee, I should make sure I double-check this”…and they don’t realize where that thought came from until it’s interrogated. Maybe?

  17. Jenny*

    I’m also a little miffed about the colleague, especially since she’s proven to him that her work has been fine up until now, but Jane’s gossiping is overriding his common sense. If it happens again, I really encourage saying “I don’t appreciate being gossiped about and having you treat me different because of it. I would like it to stop and not revisit this issue again.”

      1. Raine*

        His reaction says volumes about him, which is that he’s more willing to believe someone else than what he’s personally witnessed/experienced.

  18. DW*

    It’s been a few years, sure, but she’s still telling stories with info that should stay between a manager and employee and not be shared with coworkers. Everyone loves to hear the detailed gossip of how someone’s being managed and disciplined…until you’re the one in the story. She’s still a manager, right? If I were working under her now, this would make me really doubt if she could keep details about my work behavior & quality private. I wouldn’t be able to trust her at all.

    1. KaloraKid*

      Seriously! I’m a manager with a few employees I’ve had to manage through performance issues. The only people I ever discuss that with is the employee in question, my manager, and the previous managers (but only so far as to gather information on any prior disciplinary action taken).

      A manager using employee prior performance issues as gossip would make me seriously question Jane’s judgement if I were her manager or coworker. I certainly wouldn’t trust her with any people management responsibilities.

  19. BigHairNoHeart*

    OP, I’m very impressed by your ability to view this as Jane making a mistake and giving her the benefit of the doubt based on your past experience with her–because what she’s doing now really sucks imo. I think it speaks well of your attitude and outlook that you’re willing to extend her that grace (and frankly, it’s something I have trouble with myself).

    Because of that, I’d especially recommend you use Alison’s suggested language “I was so grateful to you for how you handled the ending of my employment at Company A. I felt you really cared about preserving my dignity. I’m asking you to extend that same dignity to me now.” Sometimes this kind of language can be really helpful in getting someone to modify their behavior, because it feels like positive reinforcement rather than a critique. Good luck! I’m very hopeful that this will blow over and your reputation here will outweigh Jane’s comments, regardless of how your conversation with her goes.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      I think Alison’s language gives too much credit to Jane’s innate goodness. She’s already proven to be a bully, and rehashing her role in LW’s dismissal gives her more material for painting LW not just as a bad employee but a pathetic loser: “I was so sorry for her but she HAD to go!”
      You don’t show your soft side to a known bully; and while we all hope for the best from people, it’s prudent to expect the worst from that direction.
      I’ve seen how “casual” negative remarks can poison a perfectly good reputation in the workplace. LW should be alert and prepared to escalate.

  20. Junebug*

    Jane is jealous. She moved on and found the person she fired 7 years ago is now at her level with a good reputation, while her career hasn’t advanced. Her actions may be subconscious, but aren’t likely accidental.

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      That’s what I thought. I don’t think Jane’s doing this on purpose, but it might be an underlying factor.

    2. chickia*

      ding ding ding! I tell my daughter all the time to look out for “friends” that choose to lift themselves up by tearing down others. We can choose to lift ourselves up by lifting up everyone around us, it feels a whole lot better that way. Jane could be choosing to keep silent about whatever shortcomings happened in the last job and just say nice things like “it wasn’t a good fit and I’m so happy to run into her again doing so well now” or “what a pleasant surprise to see her again” but she’s not. Shut this down hard and be vary careful with her.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        Right? Jane doesn’t need to bust out Here’s Why OP Sucked! Just shrug and say “It was seven years ago, I really don’t recall what happened then, it doesn’t matter.”

      2. More anon today*

        She doesn’t even need to say it wasn’t a good fit. OP left that job, is all she needs to be saying if she needs to mention it at all.

  21. jm*

    it seems like jane is using you to gain leverage, for lack of a better word, in a situation where she has none. when before she was gracious because she was secure in her position and had power over you, now she’s in a new place with people who don’t know her. she’s ingratiating herself with these new colleagues by stepping all over you. that’s really inconsiderate and i hope you’re able to get a satisfactory resolution.

  22. Hiring Mgr*

    Jane sounds awful but your colleagues don’t come off so well either… You’ve been there for years, been doing great work (Promoted multiple times) and suddenly a couple of jokes from Jane change their perception of you? I don’t like that

    1. Phony Genius*

      I agree. If it was only the one colleague who was reacting as the writer describes, that would be one thing. But they are saying that several others have begun to act similarly around them, based on what Jane has said. There are too many people at this company acting badly toward the writer. The snowball is already rolling down the mountain. The writer may need to prepare to move on from this company whose work culture appears to be questionable at best.

      1. Nea*

        I’m going to cut OP’s coworkers a little slack in that it seems very much to me that they aren’t hearing one or two “jokes” about OP, they’re being subjected to a constant ongoing barrage in a gaslighting attempt by someone who doesn’t intend to stop and isn’t concerned that she’s hurting OP.

        Hopefully OP can snap them back with Alison’s suggested scripts; it’s one thing to listen to Jane and become concerned, it’s quite another to be point-blank asked “Are you going to believe old stories or your own years-long experience?”

        1. JB*

          Let’s just clarify: no part of what Jane is doing here is gaslighting.

          Gaslighting is a specific word with a specific meaning. Not every horrible thing that humans do to each other is gaslighting. Jane is not attempting to convince the LW or any of the coworkers that they’re suffering from psychosis, or, more broadly, that they’re suffering from memory loss or any other mental illness or disability. There is no gaslighting happening here.

          I’m all for the evolution of language but at this point it’s starting to feel like you all think the definition of ‘gaslighting’ is ‘any kind of emotional abuse or social mistreatment’!

          1. Nea*

            Gaslighting is getting someone to question their reality (wikipedia), to question the validity of their perception of reality (Websters). It doesn’t necessarily have an end goal of convincing someone that they have a mental illness or disability, as long as the victim rejects their own perceptions of anything and substitute the gaslighter’s.

            At least one of OP’s coworkers has substituted his perception of OP’s seven years of excellent work to “OP is unreliable” because “Jane said.”

            1. Metadata minion*

              But it sounds like the OP wasn’t a good employee when she worked for Jane. It’s because it was 7 years ago and a totally different position, so it’s an asshole move to bring it up now, but it’s not gaslighting to tell someone “my experience of this person is totally different from yours”.

              1. Me*

                Gaslighting means to manipulate someone into questioning their reality. OP’s reality is that Jane’s actions are harmful to her and have real professional and interpersonal consequences. Jane’s response is that it’s all a joke and not really harmful: consequently, that OP’s perception of reality is wrong. That’s gaslighting. Not because Jane’s perception of OP’s past work is wrong, but because she is distorting the very real effects of her sharing it now.

                1. MCMonkeyBean*

                  No, this is really getting pretty ridiculous. One “oh, lighten up” type comment is not what gaslighting is. It’s shitty and Jane is behaving very poorly. But that’s still not what gaslighting is.

          2. Sea Anemone*

            Since Jane did not marry OP under false pretenses in order to search her attic for the jewels belonging to her aunt, who Jane killed many years earlier, Jane is definitely not gaslighting OP.

        2. anonymous73*

          Nope, no slack. Are you seriously going to believe someone who is brand new telling stories, or someone that you have personal experience with for months/years? If you choose to believe the new person, that makes you a problem too.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I think there is plenty of room though between “fully believing Jane” and just kind of having a tiny little voice in the back of your head saying “okay, but what if…” I think OP is right to be upset that their coworkers are treating them differently, but I also can kind of understand a “better safe than sorry” impulse some of them may have unconsciously developed after hearing some of Jane’s stories.

            I would be very annoyed at the coworkers, but I would not write them off as being just as bad as Jane or anything. Hopefully they will realize they are being unreasonable and back off.

  23. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Also worth considering if your view of Jane back then wasn’t tainted by the failure you perceived yourself to be in comparison. A former colleague had to point out to me that what I perceived as generosity from a former boss was actually them trying to make up for a lot of illegal behavior and other generally unfair practices, such as them not addressing failures with me for a chance to remedy them and learn and but instead acting like “oh, I’m just trying to forgive you again for thi, you can owe me later” . Just something to consider

      1. BeenThere*

        I’ve had that wayyyyy too many times in my career. I was thinking today, oh I should reach out to previous boss because networking is good. Then I remembered he left me stuck reporting to yelling divorced man baby and attempted to brush my repeated to attempts to get him to address this bad behavior. I later found out was someone he shared a mutual friend with who probably go both of them hired into the company in the first place before taking is golden parachute and leaving us to deal with all his friends he hired before retiring.

    1. Cafe au Lait*

      The professional equivalent of “love bombing.”

      OP: I work with someone I once supervised in a previous job. They were a decent worker but several policies and training aids were developed because of situations they had a hand in. Want to know how many times those issues were mentioned at our current job?

      Once. They brought it up. We were working on a project that had parallels to something which happened in our prior workplace, and they said “Remember when I did ____ at Old Job? I was mortified but it worked out.” I chuckled and responded “Yep, and we (previous colleagues and myself) wrote a training aid on what to do in situations like that. We didn’t want it to happen to anyone else.”

      I’m also thinking back to the one person I fired early in my career. If I moved into a job where we were equals, and they were doing well while I felt my career had stagnated, I’d struggle. I’d feel threatened and have a desire to appear “more” than my previous employee. I also hope to deity-of-your-choice I’d keep that to myself and work through my feelings of inadequacy and jealousy by myself.

  24. BeenThere*

    I’m sorry for what you’re going through, OP. I have a colleague who publicly questions much of what I do, suggesting that I haven’t appropriately discussed or documented things for the team. For a long time I felt awful and believed that this person was speaking for everyone in the room. Eventually I realized that the other people were clear on what I was talking about and the resources I had shared, and were confused by this person’s criticisms and continued misunderstanding. So while some of your colleagues are taking Jane’s statements at face value, there are probably others who view what she’s saying more as a reflection of her than of you.

  25. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Lord of the Flies.
    Ralph is a likable enough kid, not imaginative. Go with the flow type of guy at heart but people tend to flock to him, follow him. He’s cute and easy to talk to. Enter bespectacled outcast child who makes an effort to befriend him. They get along well, and Ralph sympathizes with this kid, he can actually imagine how it feels to be bad at games, to be left out. He’s so kind that the boy shares the humiliating nickname given to him at his school.
    Cue the rest of the boys entering the scene.
    They are drawn to Ralph and he easily assimilates into the group. The others notice his friend holding back.
    Ralph has a choice:
    a) introduce his original friend into the group;
    b) gleefully announce to all that the boy is called Piggy and laugh with his new friends
    Ralph is a jerk.
    Jane is not a 12 year old child. Jane is not trapped on a desert island with no idea how to care for herself. Jane is a grown ass woman with life experience and an understanding of mature behavior.
    Jane is malicious.

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      Good reference! Didn’t make the connection between the book and this situation until you said something.

  26. mcfizzle*

    I realize this can’t happen in real life as Jane would know it’s you, but it seems like a good time to print out Alison’s response and the comments already pouring in, and “anonymously” leave it on Jane’s desk.
    Since that’s not actually a good option (sadly), I’d personally be just a little more direct than Alison’s great script. “Your continued actions are actively harming my hard-earned reputation at this company. I now have specific examples of how I am now being treated differently. This needs to stop immediately or I will escalate to management”.
    You’ve worked so hard, OP. All the best to you.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    Jane sounds awful but your colleagues don’t come off so well either.. You’ve been there for years, doing great work, promoted multiple times, and suddenly a couple of stories from Jane change their perception of you?

    1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      This! Jane gets major stink eye from be for her behavior but why are the people who’ve worked with you for years not defending you? Gossipy coworker tried to throw shade on someone I knew from a decades ago job and consider a personal friend. When Gossipy Coworker started talking about Former and Now Again Current Coworker I interrupted them mid sentence with “That doesn’t sound at all like NACC. I’ve known them for years and that doesn’t sound remotely like something they would do/say. If you have a problem with NACC maybe we should go address this with them” Que Gossipy Coworker suddenly backtracking on what she was trying to say and remembering she had somewhere else to be.

  28. CatCat*

    Does your supervisor know what is going on? Frankly, I’d clue them in in a matter-of-fact manner, especially since you have already asked Jane to stop. Jane’s behavior is poisonous.

    “Boss, many years ago, I worked for Jane. The job was not a good fit and Jane eventually let me go, which was appropriate under the circumstances. I found this job, a much better fit and you know I have a great track record here. However, now that Jane is working here, she has been regaling my colleagues with stories related to firing me. I asked her to stop, but she refused and has said it is fun. This has been hurting my reputation with my peers and having X, Y, and Z specific impacts on my work. I plan to talk to Jane again and ask her again to stop, but I wanted you to know what’s going on since it is impacting my work.”

    Your boss should be backing you up here.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Oh yeah. This. OP writes that Jane is a peer. So if they are at the same level, then OP’s manager should report this to Jane’s manager.
      Hearing that her “good natured story telling” is disrupting another department should help shut this down.

    2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      Is it wrong that I am hoping for a update letter where Jane gets told to stop it or get fired and does in fact not stop it and gets fired? Because I kind of forsee Jane doubling down on the bad behavior in the name of “harmless fun”

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        And OP’s long time coworkers sheepishly* apologizing for going against their own experiences, “um, yeah, so I got caught up and I should have realized…”
        Yes, you should have.
        (I’ve always wanted to use that word. Is it correct here, since they are following her like eager little lambs?)

  29. Roscoe*

    I’m not defending Jane here.

    BUT, I do think its an interesting logic that Jane is telling the truth about her previous interactions with OP IN A WORK CONTEXT, and yet its looked at as bad. While at the same time, we have letters about people bringing personal drama into the office and using that to say why so and so shouldn’t be hired, and its fine. I’m thinking about stuff like “X was mean to me in high school, which was 10 years ago”, which frankly has nothing to do with work. And again, I’m not saying all the situations are equal. However, I do wonder where the line is about telling factual stories of how someone was in the past will be? There are letters about people proactively going to bosses because they saw horrible former coworker was being interviewed. But since OP was there first, this is crossing some kind of line? Are you only allowed to share your experiences if you were in first, but if you come in later, you have to just keep your mouth shut?

    Now, I guess the motivation could be it, since Jane is using them as amusing anecdotes to bond with her coworkers. But again, it seems everything is true. Every one of these stories of people crossing paths down the line, people may not have full context, but it seems like sharing the information is ok with people.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I do think that Jane being the newcomer makes this more inappropriate. It’s not like Jane is being asked to share an assessment of OP’s previous work in the context of potentially hiring her. The person who is the known quantity in the workplace should have more standing to address potential issues.

      Also, the fact that OP is doing completely different work now seems to indicate that her previous work experiences aren’t relevant. If OP was in the exact same position with the new org, that might be seen as more relevant. Or if the bad behavior at the previous job was more subjective/ethical/whatever. Not being good at a specific task seven years ago just doesn’t seem like something that should matter now.

    2. Zezet*

      But it’s relevant if you are looking to hire, because it’s relevant and you don’t have much info.
      It’s not relevant if the OP already has a job there and has proven herself in *this* job.
      It would be relevant if Jane was saying this about the OP to contribute to a decision to be made about OP, in the absence of better/more relevant information, and with the necessary caveats.
      But it’s none of these things which just makes it gratuitous, and, once it’s pointed out that this is actually harmful, it’s not only gratuitous but mean at best and malicious at worst.

    3. Excel Jedi*

      There’s a BIG difference here.

      If you go to your boss about a candidate or new hire and explain that they were a bully or you have bad blood with them, that would be one thing. If you bring those stories into the break room and get people to ice that person out, that’s not ok at work.

      If Jane had real questions about OP’s work, it would be absolutely appropriate to bring this context into a conversation with HR or a boss. But it shouldn’t be gossip, and it’s super crappy that it is.

    4. EPLawyer*

      But OP is not being considered for hiring. She is ALREADY there. If Jane had been there and they were considering hiring OP, that is important context to know. Why does the employer need to know this about OP NOW? Jane hasn’t even been there long enough to know if OP is behaving the same way as before and therefore should bring it up to her boss that this might be a pattern. Which is also a key point about sharing — WHO are you sharing this with? It sounds like Jane is just blabbing all over the office. Not just making sure those who need to know have important information about how OP might be as en employee.

    5. JohannaCabal*

      I think the problem is that LW is in a different line of work and has had a track record of being a strong performer.

      I’ve fired people before, the majority were just not a good fit for the role or the position changed. They’ve since gone on to be successful in other areas and I honestly hope they are successful. I’ve also been fired and it was because I took a job that I shouldn’t have. I’m sure the people that fired me are happy that I’m somewhere else being happy.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      It’s a different line of work. If Jane doesn’t realize that her “funny” stories don’t apply in this context, she’s a doofus. And she’s still terrible if she waltzes in here and starts undermining the LW just to make herself feel like the cool kid.

      1. Metadata minion*

        I agree. And I think it would be a bit more of a grey area if the LW’s firing had been over ethical violations or being impossible to work with or something like that. People can absolutely change, but if it came out that someone had been undermining other people’s work at their old job, I might take a second look at their performance even if I thought they’d been excellent. But it sounds like this is a pretty clear-cut case of the LW being terrible at their old job and excellent at this new, completely different job. I don’t really care that my employee, the excellent graphic designer, is a terrible accountant.

        1. Amaranth*

          +1 I do wonder what on earth Jane is saying to make all these people suddenly concerned about OP’s skills. Just being a poor employee several years back in a different position doesn’t seem to warrant a crisis of confidence. I’d be suspicious there might be some embellishment.

    7. Bernice Clifton*

      Well, this isn’t my blog, but if it was and Jane wrote in saying “I just started a job and someone I had to fire for performance is now my peer, should I give people a head’s up?” I would say MYOB at least until you have evidence that she hasn’t got her act together.

    8. Jo in OKC*

      I feel like she could share with her manager, if she had real concerns.

      But regaling the whole office with the stories “in fun” (as she says herself) isn’t about protecting the work or the office.

    9. londonedit*

      If Jane was just saying ‘Oh yes, I worked with OP years ago! So funny that we’re both here now!’ then that wouldn’t be a problem. But she’s not doing that, she’s gossiping about how OP used to be really bad at their job and how she had to fire them. Surely if Jane had any decency and tact she’d realise that bulldozing into someone’s place of work and telling everyone how they totally sucked when they worked for her isn’t exactly the most helpful thing you can do? OP has moved on, got a job they’re happy with and has been performing well for years – now Jane’s come in and spread it around that they used to be so bad they were fired.

      1. Artemesia*

        Mentioning that she was fired is entirely 100% inappropriate; this alone makes her a total jerk. There was NEVER a moment when that would be ‘in fun’ or a thing a decent human would say in a job setting. UNLESS the OP had herself mentioned it and Jane had joked in response. EVERYONE knows that having been fired is not something that is not embarrassing to almost everyone.

    10. NoviceManagerGuy*

      Huge difference between being a high school bully and just earnestly being kinda crap at a job which is no longer your job.

      1. PT*

        Because “school bully” is just the euphemism we use to downplay criminal harassment, stalking, hate crimes, sexual harassment, and assault/battery/sexual assault, just because it happens among minors in a school setting.

      2. Pocket Mouse*

        Especially since the bully scenario would have a detrimental effect on the working environment for an existing employee due to their prior interactions, and OP had respect for and would have been perfectly happy to work with Jane *except for* the unnecessary and cruel current behavior.

    11. Me*

      The line is pretty clear. This is not a situation where OP is being considered for hire and Jane is an established employee who knows about very serious work concerns (not just that they kinda sucked at their job).

      Jane is undermining the OP’s existing record. To other employees. For funsies.

      She isn’t bringing concerns to her manager.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes, exactly. Jane hasn’t gone to have a quiet word with her manager about how she was surprised to see the OP here as she had serious problems with their work when they worked together. She’s gossiping and joking about it with her colleagues instead, and seems to think it’s ‘a bit of fun’.

    12. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I think this falls under the old three rules of gossip:
      is it kind?
      is it true?
      is it helpful?
      No, no and no.
      Sharing personal experiences a current employee had with a prospective candidate may not be kind, but if the experience is true, it becomes helpful when making a hiring decision. “Is my long term employee going to be miserable/want to leave?” is a factor to consider. They can choose to ignore it and hire anyway.
      If current employee is upset about that, I don’t think good management would let him/her bad mouth new employee. “We’ve made our decision. You have to work with this person. If you cannot treat this person with respect, you will have to decide if this job is for you.”
      Jane sharing that five years ago, OP sucked at teapot painting doesn’t help either one of them in their current positions. She is not painting teapots with OP. OP is selling teapots.
      There is no business reason for Jane to share her story.

    13. Esmeralda*

      No, it’s because
      (1 — and most important) the stories are not pertinent to the current situation (OP is not now a crappy employee who people should beware of)
      (2) the stories are about what ought to be a confidential situation (firing)
      (3) the stories are not going to someone who could actually take appropriate action if it were justified = OP’s manager or Jane’s manager
      (4) they are STORIES, being told for “fun” — so even if they are true, they are being presented for the purpose of…I dunno, bonding with other employees? Not for a WORK purpose, and not in a PROFESSIONAL, objective, factual way. But in a cantcha take a joke way. In a at someone else’s expense way.

      So, not at all the same as the situations you cite.

      Jane sucks. She’s been told to stop, her behavior is actively harming the OP for NO GOOD REASON. That’s the difference.

    14. jm*

      i think jane going discreetly to lw’s supervisor would be one thing, but she’s not doing that. instead she’s shouting out for all to hear how much lw messed up all those years ago and she’s claiming it’s harmless joking around. it’s difficult to see how that could be interpreted as acting in good faith. to my knowledge, allison has never advised people to do anything like this.

    15. Bamcheeks*

      I think if the problem here was that LW had been Jane’s school bully, the difference would be that LW should apologise to Jane, but then ask her to stop straight away. If LW didn’t get a job because someone you bullied at school is now part of the decision-making process, well, that’s shit, bad luck, move on. If Jane joins a company and discovers her school bully is already in place and well-respected, she can discuss it with her manager and see if there’s a way to do her job without interacting with that person. She can decide she doesn’t want the job. She can vent to her therapist about it. But spreading “funny” stories about how LW bullied her at school and trying to wreck LW’s reputation would still be a bad and unprofessional way to handle it IMO, and LW would still be entitled to ask her to stop.

    16. Kyrielle*

      It’s usually the established employee that favors, though, and usually when there’s reason to expect trouble/drama. Having trouble or drama in the workplace is not a good thing. Instead, what we have here is a new hire – one OP probably wouldn’t have worried about if they’d known in advance, given the history! – who is trying to trash the good reputation of an existing employee, when they are both employees and based on issues that are clearly not present in this workspace *because OP has a good reputation and has done well*.

      If I had a toxic ex-anything (romantic interest, coworker, whatever) and suddenly found they were working at my current company, I’m not sure they’d be fired but could probably arrange not to interact with them. But if they were trashing my reputation with other colleagues I would expect them to get in trouble…AND, I would expect to get in trouble if I were trashing their reputation with my colleagues. In both cases, I do not include “reporting the past history to my immediate boss and HR” as trashing their reputation. But gossip with other coworkers? Oh heck no! And refusing to stop when asked? Doubly so.

    17. pancakes*

      The question isn’t and shouldn’t be when someone is “allowed” to share their experiences — it’s not as if there’s some central authority that is going to say they are or aren’t. The question is, when is there appropriate context to share those experiences? The fact that the experiences did in fact happen is not the only relevant criteria for sharing them.

    18. CupcakeCounter*

      Its the spirit and the way she is telling these stories that make it not ok. If she was saying “OP and I used to work together and unfortunately it didn’t go well and I had to let her go for cause. I’m so glad to see she found her niche and is thriving” that would be one thing. But what she is saying is more like “OMG I can’t believe OP works here! I totally had to fire her a few years back because she was so crap at the job. She did this, this, and this…are you seeing those issues too?” It is undermining years of OP’s demonstrated good work for no reason other than gossip, a poor attempt at bonding with colleagues, or to purposely destroy OP’s reputation.

      1. banoffee pie*

        Yeah it looks like she’s just doing it to be malicious, especially since she was asked to stop and didn’t. It’s not like it’s illegal but it is pretty mean. I don’t think anybody is saying it should be against the law, but Jane should quit it voluntarily out of the goodness of her heart.

    19. CBB*

      I don’t think the takeaway from Alison’s advice should be, “you’re never allowed to inform your employer about something a coworker did at a previous job.” There obviously are possible scenarios where that would be appropriate. But that’s not what LW asked about here.

    20. Mental Lentil*

      “Roscoe used to wet the bed.”
      “Roscoe used to suck his thumb.”
      “Roscoe used to eat bugs.”

      Does any of that have anything to do with how you do your current job? No, because it happened when you were a toddler. It as a different time, and you were a different person. It’s all true, of course, but just saying those things out of context makes you look bad.

      The same thing is happening with LW. Have some damn empathy.

      1. banoffee pie*

        Also the OP is in a totally different job now, so it doesn’t even matter if the stories are true. It would be like somebody harping on about how I can’t draw to discredit me in a totally different job, say piano player. And then whinging ‘but it’s true, she can’t draw! I should be allowed to say it.’

    21. OutofOffice*

      The fact that OP had been fired from their work with Jane would have probably come out during the hiring process, and would have been kept as private information amongst the folks who needed to know (HR, hiring manager, etc.) and would not have been spread around the company to other colleagues. They hired OP with knowledge that OP had been fired in the past. It is no one else’s business, and spreading these tales (true or not) is damaging someone’s reputation unnecessarily. Jane also does not seem to profess to be uncomfortable working with OP, and OP has worked at this nonprofit for some time, building a positive reputation.

      During the hiring process, if someone has an issue with a potential candidate that can be tied to work, especially if that information wouldn’t come out during the hiring process (i.e. Bob did something terrible, but the company let him resign and didn’t fire him), then that person should go to the hiring manager to let them know – not spread it around to various employees of the company after Bob has been hired.

      Jane is also telling this to multiple employees as “funny stories” and not raising it to OP’s manager as a potential concern, which is a big difference.

    22. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I did something similar to what you are describing at an old job years ago. It was a newcomer who I’d worked with in an old job, and who’d had bad history there. First thing I did though, I spent a few hours with this coworker, to see if he’d changed and was no longer the horrible human I’d worked with at the old job. (He hadn’t.) Then I said something once, discreetly, to our boss, whose judgment I trusted at the time. Boss’s response was “this is hearsay, and something I wasn’t a witness to when it happened, so what I will do is I’ll keep an eye on Fergus” apparently Fergus went on to be his horrible self, because his contract was not renewed after it expired later that year.

      If I’d seen that Fergus had changed, I would’ve said nothing.

      If I was new at a company and Fergus had already been there for years, and was doing a great job and had a good rapport with coworkers, anything I’d say at that point would’ve only had the effect of sabotaging Fergus and undermining all the personal and professional growth he’d done, so I’d be happy for Fergus, and say absolutely nothing.

      If I did say something, I’d say it discreetly to one person only. If Jane had done that, then I’d at least be sure that she was speaking with the employer’s interests in mind. But as things stand, she’s just… gossiping for the sake of gossip? “There are letters about people proactively going to bosses because they saw horrible former coworker was being interviewed”, that’s true, but they are going to bosses. They are not shouting the former coworker’s story from the rooftops. They are not using it as a fun story to tell at happy hours *over and over and over again*. So, no, not the same thing at all to me.

    23. JB*

      Sorry, but when has Alison ever advised someone to spread around personal drama like your example at work? I’m drawing a complete blank.

      And are you actually unable to differentiate between the two scenarios of discreetly sharing your former experience of someone with a hiring manager, vs gossipping about them with people in other departments?

    24. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I consider all disciplinary situations I’ve been involved with as a supervisor to be confidential. There are a couple of really wacky ones that I’ve shared with friends in an anonymized way, but there’s no way I’d tell those stories to that employee’s current colleagues, whether I’m still that person’s supervisor or not.

      It would be one thing if a hiring manager came to me and said “we’re looking at a job candidate and their resume lists you as a previous supervisor, what were they like on the job?” But this? Storming into a former employee’s new workplace and spouting off confidential employment information to anybody who will listen? This is not okay under any circumstances at all. Jane’s behaving terribly.

    25. anonymous73*

      Completely different scenarios. OP was fired for her performance in previous position. OP is now in a new and different position, that is unrelated to anything Jane was hired to do. And a lot can happen in 7 years. You can’t assume that OP is the same person she was 7 years ago and neither can Jane. We don’t know what Jane is saying, but it sounds like she’s providing the information unsolicited. That’s not even a little okay.

    26. Sleeve McQueen*

      You put the distinction in your own letter “there are letters about people proactively going to -bosses- because they saw horrible former coworker was being interviewed.” It’s information the boss may or may want to consider. The advice is “go the boss” not tell everyone in the breakroom. It’s like arguing “what’s the difference between me telling my boss that I suspect Steve is drunk on the job and me telling a group of co-workers”

  30. HugeTractsofLand*

    The fact that OP’s coworker is triple-checking her work indicates that this is NOT Jane casually mentioning “Oh, she used to be a dud!”. I think it would take in-depth, repeated examples to make me doubt a known quantity like OP. I really, really do not think Jane deserves the benefit of doubt in this situation. At best she is trying to process out loud the surprise of sharing equal leadership positions with someone she had to fire. At worst, she resents the equal leadership and sees herself as a messenger of “The Truth” that OP can’t be trusted.

    OP, after you’ve talked to Jane if this continues I would reach out to her manager. Jane is new and shouldn’t be focused on ruining reputations- never, but especially not this early on!

    1. HugeTractsofLand*

      **also in case it wasn’t clear, it’s already a jerk move AND incorrect for Jane to say they were a dud

    2. Ama*

      We actually had a new hire a few years ago actively try to undermine various staff he saw as having a lot of favor with the CEO and his claims were so outside the lines of anyone’s experience of their colleagues that for (probably) far too long people just assumed he was having trouble understanding our work culture (he came from larger and more hierarchical employers in our sector). I am also having a really hard time figuring out why this colleague is so willing to take Jane’s word over his experience of OP’s work and it does seem like Jane would have had to have said something extremely specific.

      That new hire did eventually get fired, by the way, probably six months later than he should have but no one misses him.

  31. BeenThere*

    I’m sorry for what you’re going through, OP. I have a colleague who publicly questions much of what I do, suggesting that I haven’t appropriately discussed or documented things for the team. For a long time I felt awful and believed that this person was speaking for everyone in the room. Eventually I realized that the other people were clear on what I was talking about and the resources I had shared, and were confused by this person’s criticisms and continued (willful?) misunderstanding. So while some of your colleagues are taking Jane’s statements at face value, there are probably others who view what she’s saying more as a reflection of her than of you.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I work with that person. I created a new template for the llama front feet document. I shared it with the group before I made the back feet document, to get feedback, let them know status. My negative nelly, announced, “so you didn’t do the back feet?”
      Normally, I’d come from a place of apology/explanation, like no, I didn’t get to that yet, I can only create one document at a time, I want feedback…but something inside me snapped.
      In front of the group of six, I turned to her and said, “you’re right! I did do a great job on the front feet document. Creating the back feet version WILL be simple. Thank you!”
      She turned appropriately red, “I wasn’t criticizing. I was just asking about it in case you forgot.”
      Everyone was laughing, but seriously. I know exactly what you were doing.

      1. AKchic*

        Taking feedback and making the appropriate edits on one document before creating a second document is so much less work than creating two documents and then taking feedback and changing both documents, especially if people decide that they need different edits for each document.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Thank you.
          The back feet and the front feet only have 75% the same. I could not just name one Front and the other Back. And she knew that! Grrr.

    2. Tuesday*

      That’s a really good point. This one coworker may have decided to disregard his own personal experience with the OP in favor of some seven-year-old stories from Jane, but I’d be surprised if there aren’t other coworkers thinking that Jane is gossipy and unkind and not someone to be trusted.

  32. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    Oh, wow. LW, Jane is trash. Please, for your own safety (mental and job-wise), re-evaluate your opinion of her. She is most definitely not your friend.

    Good luck to you and kudos for moving in and kicking ass now!

  33. Bernice Clifton*

    If Jane meant the stories to be funny and thought they would land that way, she would have told them when you were around, not behind your back.

  34. Fuzzyfuzz*

    OP-what is your relationship like with your boss? If someone I respected and valued on my team was having this kind of experience with a new hire, I’d want to know and be able to address it with his/her manager—supervisor to supervisor. It is really uncool to gossip about a colleague like this. And at this point, it is gossip. You’ve already tried speaking to her, and she refused to stop. It could be time to run it up the chain.

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

      I agree with this. The OP has already approached Jane directly and been rebuffed. I wouldn’t bother trying again. Escalate this to higher level managers, or HR. This isn’t just embarrassing, it’s impacting the work flow and breaking down morale already. Jane has poisoned the well.

    2. Daffy Duck*

      Agree. OP absolutely needs to bring this to her manager for damage control (at minimum) as what Jane is saying causes other employees to treat her differently. This isn’t one mention, one time and then forgotten, it has been enough for coworkers who have had good relations for YEARS to change their behavior. Many folks without a strong center will follow whatever strong personality is closest despite their experiences…the saying “An expert is someone from out of town with a briefcase” is still true and OP needs to stand her ground before management starts to believe it also.
      Some people put others down to make themselves look better – this is definitely what Jane is doing. The proof is where she pushed back when asked to stop instead of apologizing. Jane will keep this up until OP is sidelined/fired/leaves the company which will make Jane feel powerful…and then she will pick someone else to discredit.

  35. Dust Bunny*

    “I do not believe she is being malicious. I think she just wants to integrate herself with her new colleagues and thinks telling funny stories is a way to do so. “

    I’m skeptical, but we’ll assume you’re right. Even at that, Jane is at best a thoughtless clod.

    I assume you two are old enough to have a solid 10 years or so of working history under your belts. Jane should not have to be told that this is awful and you are well withing your rights to want to shut this down.

    1. Tuesday*

      Yes, I’m not sure anyone is that clueless. I agree with what people above are saying about how Jane is probably not happy about being a peer to someone she once supervised and fired. She might be trying to scramble up a few rungs higher than the OP.

  36. The Wall Of Creativity*

    If Jane’s only been around for a month, does the company have the option to dump her after three months? That’s pretty common in the U.K. Tell her boss about what’s happening (or get your boss to tell her boss). Get her fired. This is why we have these probation periods.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Everywhere I’ve worked (in the US) had a probation period, from large worldwide corporations to 100-employee startup companies. It can be done. Good idea.

    2. Me*

      Most places have a probation period, but that said the US is primarily at-will employment which means your job can let you go anytime that they want legally (discrimination against protected classes not included of course).

  37. Smithy*

    Getting fired certainly comes with a lot of shame, and when that is combined with other factors in your personal life it’s entirely understandable that this is leading to a lot of issues and feeling overwhelmed. All of which to say, this puts the LW in a highly vulnerable place and where Jane gets to hide behind “jokes” that may be masking her own insecurity in being at the same seniority level as the OP or other issues.

    Therefore, if saying all of the above scripts feel scary – please consider getting some short term therapy just to practice repeating them over and over until they feel more natural. Being both vulnerable and matter of fact will do a lot while counteract what is at best childish and worse manipulative bullying. And there are ways to make this feel easier and less (understandably) terrifying.

  38. Lily of the Meadow*

    I do not like Jane, either, and I am very doubtful she is as good hearted as this LW attributes her to being. I think she is actually very malicious, and I think her actions are very deliberate.

  39. Blackcat*

    I really wonder if OP’s performance at the old job was really as bad as she thought. Jane seems like a manipulator and gaslighter.

    OP, I would go to your supervisor and lay it all out and ask for help in coming up with a solution.

  40. animaniactoo*

    Me to Jane: It’s only fun if both people are having fun and I’m telling you that I’m not having fun.

    You are affecting my reputation at THIS job and I am asking you to stop. Immediately. I’ll fully agree that I was a problem then, but I’m not now and there’s a problem that you are creating – regardless of your intent – with my co-workers here.

  41. Me*

    Oh OP, you seem like a very nice person.

    Under no circumstances does someone have good intentions who is telling negative stories about a person, behind their back, for laughs or otherwise, at all ever and especially after being asked to stop by the person in question.

    I say this because you have tried treating Jane like she’s a reasonable person. She’s clearly not. Embrace that knowledge so you can move forward in a way to protect yourself.

  42. Trek*

    What Jane is doing is violating confidentiality from her former position. As a manager if I discipline someone this is not something I discuss with others except in rare instances when needed and only with other managers/HR and only under the strictest of confidence. Even when I leave I won’t share details but may chose not to hire or be a reference for someone based on this knowledge. Jane is sharing confidential information from a former manager position and I would point this out to others. ‘Remember Jane cannot keep things confidential, be careful what you share with her.’ And provide them with details of why that job didn’t work out. I would also tell coworkers that it’s interesting they believe Jane whose been here x weeks while you’ve been here x years.

    I would also loop in your boss and let him know that this becoming harassment and she’s impacting your reputation which borders on at least bullying but also liable and defamation. It would be terrible if you miss out on a promotion or a new job because of her running her mouth about something that is ancient history.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, her lack of confidentiality leapt out at me and I was a little surprised that Alison didn’t comment on that part of it. Even if she didn’t have any formal requirement of confidentiality it demonstrates really poor judgment and is something which is worth flagging with her supervisor. I wonder if she gossips about clients or service users as well?

  43. MattedTatted*

    Curious as to why no one has mentioned to go to HR? Jane is damaging OP’s reputation AND creating a hostile work environment, since now Jane’s bs is damaging OP’s relationships with her established coworkers & impeding her work. OP asked her to stop, she didn’t, and Jane continued the behavior. Jane’s new to the company. Be a real shame if she got labeled as a problem employee within her first 6mos. But I refuse to deal with drama or gossip as a manager-it has no place on my team bc it divides teams & creates hard feelings. We’re here to do a job. It’s not high school.

    1. Me*

      A hostile work environment isn’t just a bad workplace or someone being mean to you at work. It’s actually about discrimination against a protected class.

  44. EngineerDE*

    The OP has already suffered the proportionate consequences of poor work, and Jane sounds terrible. It made me reflect on an experience I had as a manager, where a direct report worked his 90 days, took all the vacation he was eligible as soon as he could (like 3 days), and then on the last day of his vacation which was a Friday, he called HR at 4pm to tell them that he was quitting with no notice and would not be in Monday. He went to work in sales for a vendor, and has come to do product demos for me twice. Once at the same company and once at another. He had the audacity to tell me once that he quit due to “ethical issues” he had discovered at the company that he would tell me about later (and didn’t), which was both highly unlikely given his low status and limited exposure to anything financial or HR-related, and hypocritical because I’m pretty sure he started working for the other company before he quit. He asked for and received super-flexible working hours including some work-from-home and since he was still new, his slow pace of work was not unexpected. I tell colleagues I’m close with what he did and joke about being careful not to trust him. I joke about it more than I probably should, but I’m not telling his current employer of about 6 years, and he really did burn a bridge.

  45. Pikachu*

    Seven. Years.

    OP, you could have gone to med school during that time and Jane would still be talking sh-t about Dr. OP.

  46. Corporate Cynic*

    Jane is being awful. One thing I’m curious about, assuming a PIP was involved for OP at her previous company: I’ve heard that one of the conditions of a PIP can be that, in exchange for severance, the departing employee agrees not to speak ill if the company, etc. I assume that this should apply on the other side of the table – as in, could Jane be violating the PIP’s terms by bad-mouthing the OP?

  47. Aquawoman*

    My additional thought: if this nonprofit is like nonprofits I’m familiar with, I’d use “harming the mission” language in every conversation. Including with colleagues, It’s not furthering our mission to slow down our work based on outdated gossip.

      1. Butter Makes Things Better*

        Me too — keeping it mission-focused makes OP even more on the side of professionalism and the angels than $&#^5 Jane is.

  48. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I’m sorry this is happening OP. I would, however, wager a bet that Jane did not treat you with the dignity you think she did back then. To your face, sure, but I would be that someone with this lack of discretion was not as good to you back then as you may think – and I’m sorry for that to.

    HR matters are supposed to be confidential. Shame on Jane for sharing them (for entertainment value? wtf), and shame on your coworkers for listening to them. She’s trying to fit in at your expense … she is not deserving of the credit you are giving her.

    1. Yessica Haircut*

      Given Jane’s obviously abysmal judgment, I would also encourage the letter writer to critically reflect back on that time. Was Jane really a good boss? Did she actually support you when you struggled in your former role, and fulfill her responsibilities as your manager? Did she really make a good faith effort to coach your performance issues?

  49. Essess*

    I would go to HR and let them know that Jane is deliberately targeting you and sabotaging your reputation at this job and is causing harm to your reputation. It is also impacting the work that your coworkers are doing with you, and causing unwarranted mistrust despite your years of exemplary work which impacts the company’s reputation as well.

  50. LifeBeforeCorona*

    “That job was 3 presidents and a pandemic ago. A lot has changed since then. Let’s concentrate on recent results.”

  51. Eye roll*

    Jane is not actually a good person. She was apparently good at acting empathetic towards direct reports seven years ago, but her current behavior makes it clear that was all an act. Jane is a gossip, who puts her own fun ahead of others’ comfort. Jane is self-centered and unable to actually apply empathy towards you, as illustrated by her continuing behavior. OP, you are viewing Jane in the wrong light, based on your perception of her actions years ago; the current story shows that her prior actions were not genuine.

  52. HigherEdAdminista*

    I am extremely suspicious that Jane doesn’t have malicious intentions. She left her old company and entered your organization to find herself basically your equal, even though before she had enough experience over you to be your managers. She is in “good fun” constantly maligning you to your colleagues, so much so that they have started to distrust you. She didn’t tell one story about something you screwed up; it sounds like she is regularly bashing you as a topic of conversation. Could she be trying to get her sense of superiority back? Is she just a nasty person, who actually enjoys hurting others?

    I don’t know, but Allison’s advice is great and I would follow that. I would also loop in your manager or someone trusted high up about her and what she has been doing because she might get sneakier about it or she might take it out on others.

    As for my petty self, I’m sincerely hoping that Jane will soon find herself fired. Honestly, if I was a boss and learned someone in my employ was doing this, it would be an immediately fireable offense for me. Her intentions don’t matter here; her actions are what matters and she is undermining the team and the organization.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, this is really sucky of Jane to be undermining the OP this way. In fact, it is the very definition of undermining!
      Honestly, since the OP asked Jane to stop and hasn’t, I would report this to HR and my manager.

      Unfortunately, I think the damage may have already been done given people are beginning to treat the OP differently. And no, the OP is not imagining this (so Jane is also trying to trivialize the damage she is doing, which is gaslighting). Terrible.

  53. cacwgrl*

    I rarely have a strong desire for a follow up, but OP, please follow up and let us know how this goes! My gut says you’re giving Jane so much grace when she doesn’t deserve it and I’m pulling for you to be able to salvage your reputation!

    1. dogmom*

      Omg yes I really hope this is one of those letters we get an insta-update on quickly! I’ve been coming back to the comments all day hoping LW pops in.

  54. Jessica Fletcher*

    I would definitely NOT tell Jane your personal life was difficult back when you worked together before. There’s too much risk that she’ll add that to her repertoire.

    Maybe she’s feeling insecure or jealous. Last she saw you, your work was sub-par. Now you say that despite being in different areas, you two are on an equal level. Maybe she feels you don’t deserve that, or it makes her insecure about her own career progress, and she’s doing this to take you down a peg.

  55. ENFP in Texas*

    “I have asked Jane to stop doing this, but she feels I am overreacting as it is all meant in good fun.”

    The fact that someone has directly said that Jane’s comments have negatively impacted his opinion of your abilities proves you are NOT overreacting, and it is NOT “good fun”.

    She needs to stop undermining you. Now. And she needs to be dealt with like any other co-worker who is undermining a colleague. You need to tell her point blank that it needs to stop because it is negatively affecting your ability to do your work. If she doesn’t understand and respect that, then escalate it to HR.

  56. Sparkles McFadden*

    Sorry OP, but Jane is being malicious. She behaved graciously in a situation where she was in charge. That’s what she was supposed to do. You owe her nothing for that.

    She is in undermining you now and, more importantly, she did not stop when you asked her to and brushed it off as making a joke. Decent people don’t behave that way.

    Document everything and use Alison’s scripts to talk to your coworkers when necessary. Is your manager supportive? If so, bring it up there too. Present everything in a matter-of-fact way: “Jane’s little jokes are interfering with my ability to do my job as I now have people like Bill wasting my time as Jane has been telling them to triple-check my work.” I wouldn’t bother talking to Jane again. I like Alison’s script and you sound like a kind person who wants to give Jane the benefit of the doubt but I wouldn’t give Jane any more ammunition. I’d be more likely to say “You behaved like such a professional in our former workplace. I don’t understand why that’s not happening here.”

    Don’t let Jane shake your confidence!

    1. KaloraKid*

      I think something for OP to keep in mind is that, as a manager, firing someone SUCKS! It feels so awful and comes with so much guilt and Jane was likely being so “gracious” to ease her own conscience. So OP is giving Jane a lot of credit for doing something almost every manager will do when firing someone to make ourselves feel better about it.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Jane may not have been as nice as she seemed at the time.

      My guess is that Jane will always think of OP in a negative light after that job…and then well, clearly wants to keep yakking on about it. She’s a shitty person.

  57. Ilovemess*

    Nah. Jane is using as a platform for herself to make herself be in a position of power again, even if it’s just socially (although I suspect the goal isn’t to stop there).

    She may have been nice back then, but she’s not now. Just as you have changed over the last few years, she may have as well. Do not mince words when you talk to her again.

    1. TheTruffle*

      Maybe Jane was never very nice. At my first post-college job, I thought my colleagues weres nice and professional enough. But with hindsight and work experience, I realize they were anything but. Jane may have been professional when she fired OP. But she was supposed to be. That was her job, and she had guidelines to follow per employment law. Doesn’t make her a good person.

      OP, watch yourself around Jane. Document all this and if necessary, take it to HR.

      1. Me*

        Yeah but you know, reading this and thinking about it, OP knows how Jane came across to her when she was fired. She knows absolutely nothing about what Jane said or did after OP was no longer with the company.

        People don’t usually develop completely opposite personality traits.

        I suspect you are right and this is who Jane always was.

        1. TheTruffle*

          There are certain things that may seem (thanks to lack of perspective, gaslighting, whatever) to be benign. But it isn’t until you leave and get more perspective elsewhere that you see things differently.

          I will give you an example: At one workplace, I decided to take the stairs down to my floor. There were different staircases throughout and I decided to use a staircase I hadn’t used before. This staircase was in the sales department.

          I walked down the hallway in the sales department, took the stairs, went back to my cubicle, and that was that. Someone called my supervisor and complained about that: “What is Truffle doing in this department?” My supervisor put it on my yearly evaluation: “You must cease wandering the hallways of other departments.”

          In retrospect, I realize how petty and stupid this really was, but at the time I was embarrassed. I suspect my then-boss would get along swimmingly with Jane.

  58. CB212*

    If I arrived at a new job and encountered, say, the most incompetent project manager or IT guy I ever worked with…. if I told our old work stories, they would be hilarious, but I’d be telling them to warn that I think those people are incompetent. I’d know this would undermine them. That would be my intention. Even if years have passed, I’d be saying that I don’t think they’re capable or reliable.

    And I could be the life of the break room for days, telling tales! But there’s no way I wouldn’t expect or perhaps hope it would damage their reputations now. I don’t see how Jane’s reminiscences could be other than deliberate sabotage.

  59. Wing N Wing*

    I’m on Team Get-Your-Supervisor-Looped-In, not in a tattling sense, but Jane’s behaviour is affecting your ability to do your job, and team productivity.

  60. learnedthehardway*

    OP – you need to reframe this – this was NEVER “in good fun” on Jane’s part. Consciously or unconsciously, she decided to tear you down in the eyes of your managers and peers. At best, it was unprofessional and indiscrete of her to do this.

    I would speak to HR about the situation. Point out that you have proven yourself at the non-profit, have been promoted, and have strong performance ratings/reviews, tell them what Jane did (ie. bringing up your challenges from 7 years ago), tell them what the impact has been (use your own manager’s behaviour as an example), and make a complaint about it. Ask them to discuss this with your and Jane’s manager.

    Personally, if I had a new hire who was doing this sort of thing to a proven employee, I would be VERY less than impressed with them.

  61. RuralJuror*

    If I were your supervisor, I would want you to tell me about Jane smearing your reputation. And I would want to address it with Jane’s supervisor. She’s new to the org and this should be documented and addressed at a level other than OP-Jane.

    1. TheTruffle*

      I agree. Jane sounds like an awful person. Even if she is just doing this in good fun (which I doubt), it is inappropriate and unprofessional to talk smack about colleagues.

  62. Lacey*

    OP – people can change a lot in 7 years. You changed for the better, but it sounds like Jane changed for the worse.

  63. The Ginger Ginger*

    OP, I know you said she treated you with dignity at the end of job A, but where is that dignity now? She’s no longer your supervisor, but she has sensitive performance related information about you from a previous job and is using it as GOSSIP. That is not the way a supervisor who values your dignity behaves, even years after the fact. She, at the very least, has very poor judgement and is incredibly rude. Maybe you just didn’t see this side of her in job A, but now that she’s removed from the role of supervisor, you’re actually seeing how she behaves with peers. It’s not a good look for her. Extend her politeness because you’re a decent human being, but I don’t think you need to continue to extend her the benefit of the doubt here. She’s actively and demonstrably harming your reputation.

  64. Mrs. Krabappel*

    I see this behavior at my work a lot – because I’m a middle school teacher. It’s called “selling secrets” – when an insecure person gossips about a former friend in order to fit in with a group with higher social standing.

    It’s bullying when it’s with twelve-year-olds, and it’s bullying now.

  65. KittenLittle*

    “…let yourself see her for who she really is right now.”

    OP, you’re not the same person you were all those years ago, and apparently, neither is Jane.

  66. Mannheim Steamroller*

    [“Yep, I screwed up in a job years ago. Different job, different work, different time. Can we go on what you’ve seen from years of working with me in this job?”]

    Definitely go to your coworkers with this.

    Also, you gave Jane a chance to stop; she flatly refused to stop and called it “good fun.” You are now fully justified in formally complaining to both Jane’s boss and HR.

  67. MissDisplaced*

    Oh OP, I’m feel so bad for you on this–it’s truly a nightmare. Jane is totally undermining you, and worse, when you directly asked her to stop, she trivialized what she’d done and this is a form of gaslighting. This is not trivial and it seriously damages your reputation when you’ve done nothing wrong.

    I would loop in your manager and HR at this point.

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

    [“Yep, I screwed up in a job years ago. Different job, different work, different time. Can we go on what you’ve seen from years of working with me in this job?”] This is giving Jane too much grace in my opinion and maybe too self-effacing for the OP.

    How about, “I worked in an apparently toxic work environment, with an unprofessional boss, that I didn’t thrive in, and I’m relieved that ultimately I found an organization where I do feel respected and passionate about the mission. It’s unfortunate that Jane has introduced distrust and disrespect to our culture here.”

    1. Yessica Haircut*

      This!! Jane’s horrid behavior here points to her probably not being a very effective boss. OP was probably also to blame for the PIP and the bad fit, but it sounds like she’s taking on 100% of the blame when it was probably closer to 60/40. Did Jane actually use effective coaching techniques to work with OP on her performance issues back in the day?

  69. Boof*

    OP, at this point I wonder if just asking jane to stop goes far enough, since Jane has clearly already done damage. I would at the least follow up with the person you know heard something and say “look, I hate to bring this up again but this has been bothering me – I don’t know why Jane is talking about what happened years ago, but I learned a lot since then and as I hope you’ve seen it’s not relevant to my work today. I’ve asked Jane to stop. I hope you will support me in this.” or… something. Not sure if it rises to “all staff email” level but wphew, I think it needs to go a little further – ideally Jane would tell people herself it was uncool and she takes it back, but can’t control what Jane will do.

  70. Auga*

    OP, Jane is gaslighting you. She refused to stop when you asked her to, and she made it out that you were the unreasonable one. Please don’t let your hopes about her positive intentions stop you from reporting her and this to management.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I do not think you understand what gaslighting really is. LW isn’t tricked into thinking this is OK. She’s asking Alison for advice on how to stop it.

      Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that occurs in abusive relationships. It is an insidious and sometimes covert type of emotional abuse where the bully or abuser makes the target question their judgments and reality.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        makes the target question their judgments and reality.

        That’s exactly what statements like “it’s all in good fun” achieve. They are intended to cause the listener to question whether she is being too sensitive–and sometimes they land.

        You don’t have to literally turn on a gas light during your search for lost family jewels to make someone question their judgement.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Jane told OP that OP is overreacting. That’s pretty much what gaslighting is. A more blatant form of gaslighting would be Jane telling OP it never happened (“I never talk about you behind your back, what do you mean?”), but, failing that, “you’re overreacting” is a classic example of how it’s done.

        1. Sal*

          Isn’t that just Jane disagreeing about the appropriate strength of a reaction here (b/c she’s being an a-hole)? It seems like a lot of “disagreeing on a subjective point b/c I’m an a-hole” gets cast as gaslighting. I think gaslighting is better reserved for intentionally trying to make people doubt objective facts (“I didn’t get here at 9:30, I was here at 9 on the dot”, even, rather than “I was on time,” which is mushier), so as to make them insecure in their ability to perceive similar objective facts. “Jane is being an a-hole” is not, ultimately, an objective fact, but rather an opinion.

  71. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

    OP, *if* you talk to Jane about it again and say something like “people have started double- and tripling-checking my work and supervising my progress on projects much more closely. I’ve asked why, and at least one person told me it’s because of what he’s heard from you”: don’t answer if Jane asks who said that. Because it doesn’t matter. You don’t even have to say that it doesn’t matter, you can just ignore the question. (And for that matter, don’t even use “he” in that sentence because it narrows down who it could be.)
    *IF* you talk to her again about it – and I agree with several commenters who say it’s actually time to talk to your boss or HR – it’s not a conversation. It’s you making statements to her. You don’t have to discuss any of it with her, you just have to say the things.
    (Also, consider going back to the person who “sheepishly said, “Yeah, but I hear from Jane …” ” and ask them if they’ll stand up for you the next time she starts telling stories. Even just saying “That hasn’t been my experience” is helpful.)

  72. Liz T*

    Oh god it’s maddening when people don’t realize their words have power.

    I wrote a bunch of short plays for this one actor–he was usually assigned to me, I liked him but it’s not like I chose him–and he always found a way for his character to take his shirt off onstage. My husband thought it was funny to pretend that *I* was writing this into the scripts, specifically for this actor. Later I find out he’s been making this joke to *other people,* who don’t know that it’s a joke. When another (male) playwright casually referenced to me how I “always have Actor take his shirt off” I had to have pretty strong words with my husband about his power over my reputation.

    1. Me*

      Oh I think most people are fully aware that their words have power. They just feign innocence when called out on it. Jane behaved textbook. “Its just a joke” is what people who know darn well they are making fun of someone say when they’re caught.

      1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

        I think that it’s hard sometimes to remember that other people aren’t on the inside of your head and don’t have the same context you do. So you make a joke without a lot of obvious “joke” clues, but they may take you seriously. And then you don’t know they did, and they don’t know you weren’t serious, and stuff like what happened to Liz T happened. (And then the other male playwrite mentions to someone else entirely that Liz T has male actors take off their shirts, and it is taken as reporting by that other party, who has no context at all.)

        1. Me*

          Jokes should be funny and no one should be the butt of a joke and not be aware of it. If you are joking about another person and they are unaware of it, you aren’t funny and you are a jerk.

          I stand by what I said about people being aware of what they are doing.

          1. Sea Anemone*

            Are you saying that Liz T’s husband was deliberately undermining her? I guess that’s possible, but that wasn’t my take away at all.

  73. River*

    As soon as I read this I thought of Brene Brown. Her description of common enemy intimacy fits what the old manager is trying to do… build intimacy off creating a common enemy of the OP. Very toxic. It destroys trust (and I think she talks about this in her Anatomy of Trust talk where she explains The acronym BRAVING).

    OP, seriously suggest you watch the talk and pay attention to the idea of the “Vault.” Reflect on how not having a vault destroys the culture of the team and maybe use Brene’s framework as a construct to be able to talk with this person about their behavior.

  74. froodle*

    “I have asked Jane to stop doing this, but she feels I am overreacting as it is all meant in good fun. ”

    WOWw, Jane sssssssssuuuuuuuucccckkkkkkkssss!

  75. WantonSeedStitch*

    I agree with those who say Jane is jealous of the OP’s success after Jane fired her. I suppose it’s also possible that Jane is worried that the OP has told everyone “oh, Jane is a jerk who fired me at my old job!” and is trying to tell everyone how bad the OP was as a way of defending herself against imagined slights to her own reputation. But jealousy is simpler and even more likely.

  76. such heights*

    Oh OP, I feel for you. There are a couple of old managers of mine who could really mess with me this way (my days of admin work pre-ADHD diagnosis were a mess). The fact she didn’t take your request to stop on board is really bad.

    I think it’s very likely Alison and other commenters here are right about Jane’s intent and general character here. The most charitable possible version of events I can come up with is based on the fact this job is a sector move for Jane. She’s new to the field, and joining an org where you’re clearly doing really well. It is possible she saw this as a ‘before they made it’ type fun fact that would be impressive/interesting to her new colleagues and it didn’t occur to her that it could affect your current work relationships. So at *best* she’s been incredibly thoughtless, betrayed your trust in her and reacted poorly when you asked her to stop, which still really sucks, but it’s possible she hasn’t realised the damage she’s done. If you explain that to her and she reacts with anything other than total horror and embarrassment then that’s pretty unforgivable tbh.

  77. Almost Empty Nester*

    Jane is a bully. Full stop. She is not a nice person, and does not deserve to be referred to as such. You need to immediately tell your supervisor/manager, and hopefully HR as well. She is actively maligning you and actively working to destroy your credibility with your coworkers. Please, OP, advocate for yourself and bring this serious situation to your manager before it gets any worse for you. And it can get much worse if Jane gets more footing with her gossip. Also the dude who admitted he was treating you differently because of Jane’s gossip is an ass.

  78. anonymous73*

    Her intentions are irrelevant here (and in most cases IMO). Her stories are hurting your reputation, end of story. Have one more conversation with her to try and put an end to it, and if it continues, report her to HR or someone that can make a change. This is not okay and needs to stop.

    People always seem to think that because their intentions are good, or they meant no harm that all should be forgiven and you should just let it go. And in some cases that can be true (if the person who hurt you sincerely acknowledges it and apologizes). But it doesn’t give them a free pass just cuz “they didn’t mean it”.

  79. Office Lobster DJ*

    If you do decide to talk to Jane again, any chance of you saying something in front of another person, hopefully one she needs to impress? “Oh Jane, Teapot Inc. was a lifetime ago. I’ve always appreciated how kind and professional you were about my departure, but as I’ve said before: let’s not revisit those days. Thanks for understanding.”

    It’s softer than Jane deserves, but if she’s pulling the middle school nonsense I think she is, it may be enough.

  80. Maybe not*

    I really hope we get an update on this one. I hope your coworkers go back to the way they treated you previously!

  81. Elizabeth West*

    I’m willing to bet Jane talked about OP’s performance a lot after they left that old job. I once had a boss who badmouthed my predecessor endlessly. My work there wasn’t stellar either; it was a terrible fit and a terrible job, as I ended up doing completely different work than what they hired me for. I eventually quit after a couple of months, citing this as one of the reasons (among others; she also lied to me about doing sales). It would not surprise me in the least to know she was talking about me behind my back and/or still is.

    Jane’s crap is affecting your work with clients, OP. You asked her to stop and she blew you off. It’s time to move up the chain.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’m sorry, not clients; coworkers. Although eventually, this will affect clients, if operations slow down because everyone is triple-checking OP’s work.

  82. ElizabethJane*

    Does Jane’s boss know this is happening? I realize the politics of the non-profit sector may be different but if my new hire was trash talking and otherwise showing such poor judgment (and showing their crappy personality) I’d want to know. There’s a solid chance they wouldn’t be working for me any longer.

  83. agnes*

    She is not a nice person. She may be hiding behind a faux veneer of congeniality, but she is full of guile. Her behavior is unacceptable. In any universe, having fun at another’s expense is rude and terribly unkind, and in this instance I think it is also malicious.

    I’d be tempted to call her out on it…that probably wouldn’t go well, but it is tempting…

  84. None*

    Personally I would question anyone that choose to believe her little stories after 2 seconds of knowing her. I would be like “oh yeah, she obviously isn’t like how I remember. It’s just weird to start a job and already spreading stories about a coworker. Thought she had more respect for herself than spreading gossip from nearly a decade ago, kinda unprofessional, don’t you think? It’s like judging someone for what they did in high school, really do remember her being more mature than that.”

    1. None*

      Context: I have an old boss that personal mission in life is to ruin my reputation because how dare I quit working for her. (She does this to other old coworkers as well) We are in a gossipy industry so I had to learn to combat that in a way that made her seem crazy without calling her crazy.

  85. OhNoYouDidn't*

    I love how OP threw the change in behavior from her coworker right back in his face, stood up for herself with him, and called him out on his douchiness. I really, really, REALLY, hope we get an update about this. Jane sounds awful and toxic to work with.

  86. JaneLoe*

    Definitely talk to HR or a supervisor you trust. Jane has no right to invalidate you or your role at the new company. You worked together 7 years ago, you’ve grown and matured since then and its not fair to have mistakes from your past impact your job now. Loop someone else in, and lean heavily on the remarks you heard from your colleague when you bring it up.

  87. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    OP, if/when you decide to loop in your boss and/or HR (I would totally skip talking to Jane – she had her chance to be a decent human being and blew it) or if you address this with colleagues who are now questioning you, *please* don’t “soften the blow” by saying Jane is a nice person or that you don’t think she’s being malicious, or that she treated you with dignity as a manager. Let Jane’s sh*tty behavior and decision to spread gossip about you speak for itself. She is demonstrating extremely poor judgment and a mile-wide mean streak. She doesn’t deserve your grace.

    I frankly don’t even think you need to own up to past difficulties or whatever. It was SEVEN FREAKING YEARS AGO. You already paid the price for whatever happened back then by getting fired. You do not need to keep “owning” that sh*t to people who weren’t even there. It’s none of their god-danged business.

    Jane is an A-HOLE, and you absolutely DO NOT deserve this.

  88. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I so hope that the OP takes alison’s advice, talks to jane and anyone else and then updates us on how Jane is acting now.

  89. Anon1987*

    I’d be very tempted to take it to HR or someone else with the authority to do something about it and explain that, intentionally or not, she’s basically sabotaging you. She might not think that’s what she’s doing, but by bringing it all up like she is, she’s chipping away at your reputation one stone at a time. Whether she’s malicious or not, she’s causing you professional harm and is displaying poor judgement and a lack of discretion. You shouldn’t have to put up with it.

  90. Betsy Vane*

    I agree with those who are saying that OP is giving Jane way too much credit. As someone else pointed out, Jane’s kindness at the time is attributable to her wanting to make herself feel better about firing OP, and I think OP may be viewing it as extraordinarily gracious and generous because of how bad she felt over her poor performance. She is viewing Jane’s behavior through the lens of “I’m so indebted to her for treating me with respect” instead of “Of course I would be treated with respect, that’s what I deserved then and what I deserve now.” Take away that lens and what have you got? A new employee behaving unprofessionally toward a veteran colleague.

    Which is why I’m a little concerned about the wording Alison suggested starting with, which focuses on OP’s gratitude for Jane’s kind treatment in their old power dynamic. The new power dynamic is better represented not by gratitude but by a matter-of-fact expectation of mutual respect and professionalism — which Jane, who is now OP’s peer, is failing to uphold. I might suggest something more like “As you know, things were difficult for me at OldCompany, but I did leave with an impression of you as a model of grace and professionalism. So I’m surprised and disappointed to keep hearing that you’re running around undermining my reputation here, especially after I’ve asked you to stop. What’s going on?”

    If she protests again that it’s just in fun or you’re overreacting, you can say “Good — if it’s no big deal, then it shouldn’t be a problem for you to stop. It can’t possibly be as important to you to tell these stories as my reputation is to me.” You might even follow up with “You’re in a position to know just how difficult a period that was for me, and to hear you saying that you just want to have fun with that — it’s hard to reconcile with that idea of you as a gracious professional and colleague. But if it’s really just that you didn’t really realize what you were doing — well, I’m relieved to hear that and I’m sure that now you do understand, you won’t be doing it any more.”

    You deserve that respectful treatment from colleagues — and if they don’t provide it, it’s not because of any of your past or present failings. It’s because they’re failing to provide it. Give us an update soon, OP!

  91. fran*

    Alison has provided an excellent script here.

    Jane is either an idiot or a bully. What a horrible, vile thing to do.

  92. Bill Johnson*

    It really is bizarre that Jane would think this is anywhere near close to appropriate behavior especially at a new job. I’m not trying to be cynical, but it just seems like there’s more to the story. All of the OP’s co-workers are being grossly inappropriate in their actions towards OP. If there is upper management, I think they need to hear this and put a stop to it.

  93. Former Employee*

    OP should definitely tell her supervisor. I have to think that the OP’s supervisor would then have a chat with Jane’s supervisor.

    The fact that Jane is so unprofessional as to discuss what is confidential information is something that is likely to be of concern to a supervisor/manager. After all, the only reason Jane has this information is due to the fact that she was OP’s manager. She should not be talking about this with anyone other than people who were in the chain of command at her former place of employment.

    People who work in finance are generally supposed to be discreet. Jane’s gossiping about something that was confidential at her former job is something that would make me wonder if we made a mistake by hiring her if I were her supervisor.

  94. RightOnTopOfThatRose*

    Jane is doing this on purpose. I don’t have anything to back that up, other than experience and a gut feeling. She doesn’t like the fact that OP is now a peer, and is trying to re-engage the old dynamic by trashing OP’s reputation.

  95. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    If I were OP, I’d raise the issue to management.

    Not only to protect him/herself from “Jane” – but OP is being denigrated and undermined here, and THAT can harm company productivity and efficiency.

    “Jane” should be brought in, and reminded that what she’s doing is bringing unnecessary drama into the office… and “Jane, that’s not what we need or want here.” It has to be stopped. IMMEDIATELY.

  96. greycat*

    Jane is using these stories as a way of bonding with her new coworkers. It’s something she quickly realized that she has in common with them: you! She doesn’t want to give up telling them because she only sees the positives, namely how it helped HER feel more a part of the team, and downplays how you are being affected. And even gaslighting you about the severity and repercussions of her actions because she doesn’t want to cut off that social connection. It’s toxic and bullying, and I would be tempted to say that since you already addressed it once, going to her boss is the next move. Jane’s new there while you have a seven year track record. She doesn’t have the political capital yet to be this much of an ass. I would be horrified if I found out that one of my direct reports was causing this kind of damage to another staff person, and would give their place on my team a second thought.

  97. Bethie*

    I feel for OP. I was in an interview about 3 years after being fired from a job (wherein the person before me and the 2 after me were fired. It wasnt a paralegal issue, it was an attorney issue – and we were the paralegals). The guy in the interview stated he was good friends with old boss attorney. Knew right then I wasnt getting the job. Because my name was mud. In reality, I am really damn good at what I do then and now, and its been long enough that it wouldnt matter. But still makes me mad. And it took a long time to realize I am not a bad employee, I just had a bad boss.

  98. Tabby Baltimore*

    I’m not sure what could be gained from doing this, but it might be worth considering: In any future conversations with colleagues who tells you they changed behavior toward you as a consequence of listening to Jane’s stories, you have the option in that moment–and whether you do this depends a lot on the strength of your professional relationship w/said colleague, and on the way they convey their trust in Jane being a reliable reporter (e.g., humorous, sheepish, snarky)– it might be useful to point out that, given all these stories-from-the-past Jane is telling about you, “doesn’t it make you wonder what stories she’s going to be telling about you when she moves on to her next job?”

  99. Jane sucks big time!*

    >>>> but our job titles are approximately equal.

    This is a key factor. You and the person who fired you have titles that are in similar rank. The person who fired you cannot handle this. She is not your friend. You have grounds to goto HR for defamation.

    Also, I agree with Alison’s advice in directly asking the person who is asking to double check your work – to use their judgement based on your previous work history with them, and not hearsay.

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