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

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss got him fired got hired at his new job — and started joking about how bad his work was? Here’s the update.

Let me begin by saying I really appreciate of the support and advice you and your readers gave me. It was nice to know I wasn’t making too much out of it.

Two things maybe I should mention that I did not before. First, I am a pretty laid back guy, and when folks have a laugh at my expense, that usually doesn’t bother me if I think it is coming from a place of affection. I can laugh at myself, and Lord knows I enjoy teasing the people I love. I think I have pretty good boundaries generally, and I enforce them if I feel it’s not coming from a place of affection. But I think in this instance my boundary setting radar got confused because this generally has not been a problem at work, and because I so wanted to give Jane the benefit of the doubt.

Secondly, Jane’s behavior in all of this tracks, if you know Jane. She is, let’s say, hyperrational. Appeals to her emotions, or telling her how things make you feel, generally don’t work. But if you can quantify your point, if you can back up your argument with data, she is very persuadable, up to and including changing her behavior or backing off on points she’s made in the past.

As you advised, I took the issue up directly with folks who seemed to be treating me differently, calling out what I saw and asking them to please judge me on my record since they’ve known me. Most denied any change at all, and that was enough to shock them back into their pre-Jane behavior. A small number admitted Jane’s stories had made some impact, and agreed that maybe was not entirely fair. For the most part, they too have returned to pre-Jane behavior.

Then I went back to Jane and made my point; the stories were unflattering and unfair, they were harming my reputation with my co-workers, and it needed to stop. She again said she was just kidding and doubted it influenced anyone at all.. I conceded she was just kidding and had no ill-will, but that wasn’t the point. We went through some emails I had with co-workers that I had printed out (including the exchange with the coworker I mentioned in my first note). The point I made was even if it was just this one guy (and it wasn’t) surely she would agree that if the stories kept coming more people might start thinking like this guy.

Having seen the evidence, she agreed. She promised she would stop, and she has. She even went so far as to email a couple folks we discussed (and cc’d me) apologizing for her behavior and saying she should not have put me in such a bad light. That was good enough for me.

And that has been it. We’re pretty much back to normal. The guy from the first e-mail is still double checking me, but less than he was before. Personally I think he’s just trying to cover his tracks.

{ 152 comments… read them below }

    1. The Rules are Made Up*

      Yeah but sheesh I’m peeved that it even took all that. Someone should not have to build an airtight case to your satisfaction to prove that your actions have hurt them. It must be hell being an associate of her socially if it takes ALL this to get a simple apology. I would not want to be friends (or have any kind of relationship) with a person like that.

          1. Candi*


            I’ve been called hyperrational -but you don’t need to make a federal case to me to tell me I’m being a dingbat.

            Figurative smacks upside the head have been necessary, but not as much as they used to be.

      1. tinybutfierce*

        Seriously. If someone says “Hey, X thing you’re doing is harming me”, you don’t get to tell them they’re wrong or that you didn’t intend harm. Needing printed documentation from another source (!!!) to confirm that isn’t being hyper-rational, it’s honestly just pretty inconsiderate, at best.

        1. Three cats in a trenchcoat*

          Exactly. It’s not being rational or logical to pretend that human interactions don’t have emotions involved. She’s essentially throwing out half the data!

          1. Candi*

            I feel the need to point out the Vulcans include emotions in their calculations, even if they think emotions are illogical.

        2. Lacey*

          Yes, especially when it’s something so unnecessary as telling unflattering stories about the person!

          There are times when a person might say, “This is hurting me” and a person might push back with, “But it’s necessary” (performance reviews come to mind) but this is not one of them.

          1. B&R*

            Yes!! I mean, even if you are “unemotional” someone said something was bothering them and asked you to stop. It was something you could control and had nothing to do with the actual work that you do. She just wanted to make jokes. Not ok.
            OP should NEVER have had to print out emails for this. I’m glad it worked out, but Jane definitely doesn’t seem like a great person.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        I’ve known people of this stripe – if you don’t have the receipts, they won’t admit to being sh*tty or will question your memory. If you do have the receipts, they imply that you must be kind of obsessive to have put together all that evidence – even though you only did it because you know that’s what it takes with them. And yes, it definitely isn’t worth it to be friends with a person like this.

        1. Observer*

          Well, give her credit. When OP showed her the receipts she did NOT tell him he’s obsessive, and she even reached out to some people to back off her behavior.

          But, I agree. It should not have been necessary.

      3. Meep*

        I was sitting here conflicted about how her response was both “reasonable” and “unreasonable” and chalked it up to I work with an absolute loon because the fact she backed off at all is something that is downright stunning to me.

        Like I have never received a single apology from my “Foot-in-Mouth” coworker over the gross things she said to and about me. She just denies she even said it at all. Even if you call her out immediately right then and there for something she just said, so Jane SEEMS reasonable to me. And that is still so wrong.

        1. FrivYeti*

          I have known folk like Jane as well. My experience is that there are many people who have difficulty parsing other people’s emotional responses, and they tend to go in one of two directions – either they are quite socially anxious, because they know that they could be putting their foot in it but that they won’t know for sure until someone tells them, or they decide that since they can’t parse it, it’s not real, and go ahead with whatever they were going to do anyway.

          In both cases, they’re not mean people, which means that if you do give them details they will usually back down. But I would much rather give reassurance to an anxious person that they’re doing okay than have to justify myself to someone who needs to be argued with every time.

          1. Candi*

            I have difficulty parsing body language and reactions. I run about 80% on scripts, 15% on backup scripts (humans are amazingly predictable), and 5% on “oh crap, the scripts didn’t work, okay, be very polite, then at least they can’t take offense.”

      4. Cat Lady*

        Yeah, if Jane still doesn’t get that sometimes it’s important to take people’s feelings into consideration for their own sake, even when there’s no “data” backing them up, that’s going to keep creating problems for her and her colleagues.

        1. The Rules are Made Up*

          And in general. “Oh I hurt you? Prove it!” is not a good way to live your life. If you plan on living it with other humans in any capacity, anyway.

          1. Candi*

            To roommate: “You have dishes in the cupboard. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t do the dishes in the sink today.”

            (One word: ANTS.)

      5. Candi*

        At that point, it reads less as “hyperrational and needs proof” and more like “will continue until you cut off every excuse I have not to stop.”

  1. M. from P.*

    So happy about this update. Frankly, I was worried that Jane was being passive-aggressive and (even if not consciously) trying to undermine you. So happy to have been wrong!
    Kudos for acting in such a classy way to you both.

    1. Yessica Haircut*

      Even if she wasn’t trying to actively undermine the letter writer, I’m still convinced that Jane (perhaps subconsciously) bristled at finding herself in her new job at the same level of a much younger previous subordinate, and was essentially wanting to “right” a perceived “wrong” about OP being considered her equal.

      I also don’t love that Jane needed “evidence” to “prove” she was harming OP. His word that he didn’t find her stories funny and that they upset him should have been more then enough.

      1. Yessica Haircut*

        (Apologies for the brutal abuse of sarcasm quotes in the above comment. Clearly I’m still worked up over the whole situation.)

      2. Shakti*

        I agree with you I’m pretty sure this is where Jane came from, but got shamed into pretending to be less petty

      3. Candi*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if Jane’s “prove it” attitude, regardless of reason, is part of why she’s at worker level rather than manager level now.

        Usually moving from manager level in one company to worker in another tends to be a big friggin’ deal to the receiving company -they want a worker, not someone gunning for a management position as soon as possible and trying to backdoor it to boot. That is not what most people making such a move are doing, but it is what our status- and rank-conscious society often perceive it as.

        But if Jane was demoted at a previous job, then a worker-to-worker move wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Me neither! The only pointer that it might not be the case is that Jane can’t possibly have *felt* jealous in that she doesn’t seem to understand what feelings are, in which case, surely she wouldn’t have any?

  2. Rainy*

    I wanted so badly to get this update! I’m glad it turned out well for you, OP, but jeez, what a bizarre situation to be put in, and how absurd for you to have to make a case that someone at work shouldn’t gossip about you!

  3. Personable Person*

    Can I just say, OP, that you come out of this looking impeccably professional and tolerant. You seem like you would be pleasure to work with and I imagine your co-workers must feel the same way. Well handled!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed. Two massive thumbs up for your calm and professional approach to a weird series of “joking around and stories.”

      1. beentheredonethat*

        Absolutely, impressed with you, you handled this so well. You will do well, because of speaking to Jane on her level and also getting the situation resolved.

    2. Threeve*

      And your coworkers will also probably come to loathe Jane’s “I-literally-don’t-consider-people’s-feelings” BS before long.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Oh yeah. She definitely got off on the wrong foot there. I imagine some other coworkers were side-eyeing her pretty hard—maybe not the ones who swallowed it, but they’ll be on the lookout from now on.

        1. Candi*

          Well, hopefully the ones we didn’t hear about had had the thought process -> OP does good work -> new worker badmouths OP -> new worker has an ax to grind or some other problem with OP.

          That’s where I would go, but I tend to have a highly logical mind. (But when people tell me “you hurt feelings”, I take that as “I hurt feelings”!!!)

      2. marvin the paranoid android*

        Yeah, I would definitely be wary around Jane if I heard her enthusiastically badmouthing a coworker to get herself some attention. I can’t imagine this is the only time she’s been willing to make life difficult for someone else for minor personal gain.

    3. Littorally*

      Agreed. Understanding how best to get through to Jane and implementing it calmly and rationally speaks really highly for you.

    4. WoodswomanWrites*

      I couldn’t agree more. OP, I am so impressed by your not backing down on an issue that was no doubt challenging to address as well as how beautifully you handled it. Great outcome!

    5. Yessica Haircut*

      Absolutely. If I were in OP’s workplace, I’d be majorly side eyeing Jane for gossiping, and OP’s consummate professionalism in the face of an awkward situation almost makes Jane look worse by comparison.

    6. Sunny*

      Agreed. It’s so impressive. He was able to speak to Jane in her own language to get her to stop the behavior. Kudos.

    7. Brightwanderer*

      Yeah, I’m very impressed by your correct reading of Jane and coming at the problem with data in a way you knew she would grasp!

  4. The Ginger Ginger*

    I’m glad you’re satisfied with the outcome, but I just want to add, if someone “jokes” about Person A in a way that makes Person A uncomfortable, the joker needs to stop when Person A asks, without being presented with “satisfactory” evidence. “Hey I don’t like this, please stop” is enough reason for a kind person to cut it out. You shouldn’t have had to present your case in a way that she’d agree with to make her change her behavior. Jane is still an ass.

    1. MysteriousMise*

      Couldn’t agree more. The fact that Jane required “evidence”?????

      Man, I still don’t like Jane.

      1. JB*


        The explanation that she’s hyper-rational doesn’t really help. No human is really rational; it’s something we strive for in the moment or when making a decision, but not something we can just be.

        90% of the time when someone considers themselves to be ‘rational’ what it means is they treat their own emotions as facts, while anything they don’t like to hear gets dismissed as emotional nonsense.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          90% of the time when someone considers themselves to be ‘rational’ what it means is they treat their own emotions as facts, while anything they don’t like to hear gets dismissed as emotional nonsense.

          This is a true statement if ever I heard one. I had never really considered it before, but this hits the nail right on the head. And more often than not they’re pretty smug/condescending about how rational they are, and how emotional and non-rational others are.

          1. Paris Geller*

            +1. When I was online dating, a profile that mentioned how much of a rational/logical thinker a man was made me swipe left. Nobody wants to be irrational, but if you want to brag about how rational of a being you are, you’ve probably just decided that your emotions are rational and everyone else is the problem.

              1. CoveredinBees*

                Yup. Like honesty and other qualities, if you start bringing it up and bragging about it then it probably isn’t as applicable to you as you want others to believe. A vague acquaintance asked me out on a date and kept talking about he’s an honest guy, even after I’d said no. The pushing for a “yes” after I’d said “no” was usual for him and why I’d said no. However, I’d never thought about his honesty…until then.

                1. Candi*

                  I usually hear “X is honest” in the same lines as “X is a good Christian.” The problem is these lines never contain examples of how they are honest or a “good” Christian, just that they are.

                  If you can’t give an example of how they return lost wallets or witness by example or something, you aren’t telling me anything with substance.

        2. Coder von Frankenstein*

          Exactly this. Why was Jane telling these stories in the first place? Because she enjoyed it. But that’s *her* emotion, therefore fact.

          A person who was actually behaving rationally would not be telling stories like this. If the ex-employee hadn’t changed, their current manager should have already noticed the problems and been dealing with them. Since they *had* changed, it undermined the smooth functioning of the organization to no purpose.

          It’s rarely rational to behave like a jerk.

        3. The Rules are Made Up*

          “90% of the time when someone considers themselves to be ‘rational’ what it means is they treat their own emotions as facts, while anything they don’t like to hear gets dismissed as emotional nonsense.”


        4. marvin the paranoid android*

          “Rational” is a sign of a massive lack of self-awareness and critical thinking. The only way you can go around thinking you’re always logical and unbiased is by a) possessing a certain amount of privilege and b) spending zero time on self-reflection.

        5. allathian*

          That’s so true. Human decisions are driven by emotions, whether or not we recognize those emotions. People who say they only make decisions on rational grounds usually lack empathy and fail to recognize the emotions that drive other people’s behavior.

        6. Lacey*

          Oh 100%.

          I used to know a guy who would say horribly hurtful things to people and when called out would say, “I just value honesty” – but none of the things were facts. It was his opinion that he was treating as a fact.

        7. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          omg, this explains, like, 95% of the men I went to grad school with.
          Brilliantly phrased, thank you.

        8. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

          And when someone in a romantic relationship (or any close personal relationship) describes themselves as rational in that way, run for the hills as fast as you can. That’s a huge red flag for emotional abuse, which is basically what Jane was doing anyway.

        9. Candi*

          My mind is wired for rational and logical.


          Key points:

          I acknowledge other people’s emotions as valid, even if I don’t understand that emotion, or why they’re reacting that emotion.

          I spend a lot of time on internal analysis to understand my own emotions.

          I have worked hard to treat my emotions as subjective, and subjective to me, not as something objective others should acknowledge as correct.

          It’s not easy; it’s been a long journey. I still don’t always understand why someone has a specific emotion. But my reaction is what’s important, regardless of my understanding.

          The reaction is where Jane fails, hard.

          1. Candi*

            It’s really funny when you play wide-eyed naive didn’t get the joke. May as well just hand them a shovel; they never get that they should just. stop. talking.

      2. Littorally*


        My experience with people who are “highly logical” or “hyper-rational” or whatever is that really they’re just deeply self-centered and solipsistic. If something doesn’t match their personal (subjective, but they’ll never believe that) opinion or understanding of the world, they won’t believe it until you jump through eighteen thousand hoops to present the idea that maybe, just maybe, they aren’t fucking omniscient.

        1. GraceC*

          The Captain Awkward letter about the “hyper-rational” boyfriend who “refuses to obey society’s rules unless there’s a logical reason for them” had me climbing the walls to get away.

          He refused to get tested for STDs after an ex-partner said she might have given him one, because logically it was unlikely he had one. And then passed it onto his girlfriend. And didn’t clear up broken glass in his kitchen because apparently that wasn’t logical or rational either. It was horrifying.

      3. CalypsoSummer*

        I don’t consider a response that translates directly into, “I don’t care if you don’t like it, I’m not going to stop (because I think it’s fun)” to be particularly rational, hyper- or otherwise. I consider that to be mean and selfish.

        My suspicion is that Jane decided there was enough evidence in those e-mails to put her hindparts into serious hot water with the new company, and that’s why she decided to dial it back.

        Okay, it stopped, which is what LW had in mind, and God love him for being so easy-going and kindly, but I wonder what other nasty behaviors Jane is going inflict on her fellow employees.

    2. oirishgal*

      And you don’t need to justify that you have a good sense of humour in general etc. One has nothing to do with the other. Jane is a glassbowl.

    3. Threeve*

      YES. This update just makes her sound even more awful. My reaction would not be “I did some investigation and here is logical proof to convince you to stop.” It would be “Jane, keep my ****ing name out your ****ing mouth.”

    4. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Yeah, agreed. “Come to me with hard evidence of eternal damage, I don’t regard hurt feelings as an issue” is an attitude that’s real likely to blow up on Jane down the road.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Am I evil for hoping that the blast is truly spectacular and takes her and her reputation down permanently?

    5. tamarack & fireweed*

      This is true in the abstract. However, in a practical situation it is frequently more important to figure out how to make it happen. I’ll take someone who stops if presented with “evidence” over someone who gets defensive, doubles down, makes it into a personal thing etc. As the story unfolded initially, chances were stacked towards the latter outcome, so I’m glad it’s the former.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I agree with everyone that Jane sounds like a nightmare coworker (and possibly a nightmare person in general) and that it’s incredibly off-putting if she actually approaches everything like this BUT in this case OP did an excellent job in using this knowledge to his advantage and actually getting the behaviour to stop instead of insisting on getting her to see how his feelings are valid and should be enough to stop this on its own.

        1. Candi*

          He knew how to push her buttons to activate either the “Off” switch or the “crap, I’m going to get in trouble” alert.

          I think she is still a horrible person for needing the buttons pushed at all. The only button that should need pushing is “you hurt me” and the only alert should be “I hurt someone and should make amends.”

    6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I tell my two kids all the time “if I tell you to stop – you need to stop the first time” the same goes for anybody who asks you to stop. If kids in kindergarten can learn that lesson – why can’t adults in the workforce?

    7. Tenebrae*

      I consider myself a fairly rational person, to the level that I have trouble retaining information that I don’t see the logic of and rarely forget things that have a practical reason behind them. But also, “Because it bothers me” is a perfectly acceptable reason for something!

      1. Candi*

        I tend to chew over things that don’t make sense. But it doesn’t have to be a perfectly mathematical or logical sense -an emotional sense works too, as long as it connects the points.

  5. Lilac*

    “I’m kidding” allows so many bad actors to keep pushing such garbage behavior. I’m sorry it took Jane so much to see the frustration she was causing you. It’s too bad she could not have just taken you at your word the first time.

    1. Threeve*

      It doesn’t sound like she does see (or at least care about) the LW’s frustration; she’s just been convinced that her joking was doing actual damage–the fact that she was making the LW embarassed or unhappy was irrelevant to her.

    2. Anon to Avoid Outing*

      “I’m kidding.” was what a co-worker of my wife’s at a former job said after he slammed her into a shelf of products in an aisle at the local {insert supermarket here}. She ended up not reporting it because she felt that the risk of retaliation was too great, and she was trying to leave anyway.
      “I’m kidding” and the acceptance of that excuse is a gaping issue contributing to workplace harassment problems at some companies.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Ughh – reminds me of something I heard a teacher say to a student while chaperoning a field trip (fifth graders for the record):

      “It’s only a joke if 99.9999% of the people listening agree it’s both a joke and actually funny without being cruel. What you just said doesn’t qualify – so March over there and apologize to the teacher you were mocking and do better from now on.”

      Don’t know if it changed that kids behavior – but it made a real impact on my kiddo. I’ve even heard Junior Orchestra later spout a version of that at their classmates.

  6. Funbud*

    Jane’s an ass. Describing her as “hyperrational” was extremely gallant of you.

    Back where I come from, we’d just say “There is something f***ing wrong with her.”

    1. Momma Bear*

      “Bless her heart.”

      I also think that OP’s confronting her reminded her that this is isn’t Old Company and OP has some (possibly more) stake in this team than she does. I think that also needed to be clarified re: how she handled working with him.

  7. Emma*

    What a great update. Excellent way to advocate for yourself, set appropriate limits and maintain solid professional relationships. (jane was still a bit of jerk-but OP did just great)

  8. Hills to Die On*

    I still don’t like Jane. If it doesn’t make sense to me, then everyone else is wrong mentality has always annoyed the daylights out of me. She should not need proof to quit being a turd. But whatever. At least she stopped.

    1. Imaginary Friend*

      I think that “It hurts my feelings” is something a rational person can take onboard. They don’t have to understand why, they just have to accept it as a statement of fact.

      1. Candi*

        “I do not understand your emotion, but I understand that you are hurt. Therefore, I will stop the thing that caused the hurt.”

        Been there, learned that, lived that. It’s not that hard (especially with friends ready to correct you).

  9. LizB*

    Appeals to her emotions, or telling her how things make you feel, generally don’t work. But if you can quantify your point, if you can back up your argument with data, she is very persuadable, up to and including changing her behavior or backing off on points she’s made in the past.

    I have a really hard time with people who ignore “emotions” and insist on “hard data” — because in interpersonal relations, telling people how things make you feel is hard data. It’s data that can only be self-reported, but it’s not fake and it shouldn’t be dismissed. I’m glad you know this about Jane and that you happened to have quantitative information that could persuade her in this case, but she sounds very difficult to get along with if this is how she operates.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I really hope that Jane doesn’t have children if that is her philosophy in all areas of her life.

    2. Selina Luna*

      There are so many parts of my life for which I insist on hard data. And I will still change how I am behaving if someone tells me that my behavior is affecting them. They do need to tell me, but once they do, I try not to behave in that way around them again. I am trying to improve where I know I struggle (I’ve been called tactless before), but it’s so easy to just… not do something.

    3. Sea Anemone*

      I have a really hard time with people who ignore “emotions” and insist on “hard data” — because in interpersonal relations, telling people how things make you feel is hard data.

      OK, let’s tie this back to Jane vs Cat Parent LW from this morning. Cat Parent LW reeeeally hurt Jane. However, that doesn’t mean Cat Parent LW did anything wrong or needed to change anything they were doing. The hurt, or the impact, if you will, was entirely due to Jane’s beliefs and perceptions about the situation. Jane needed to do things differently in the sense of learning how to process her internal trauma so she wasn’t reading into innocuous things.

      So, emotions might be hard data, but they are not a good indicator of who needs to make a change.

      1. LizB*

        I never said they were a good indicator of who needs to make a change? Like all types of data, they need to be considered in the context of the situation before you can draw any conclusions from them, and sometimes they will turn out to not really be relevant to solving the problem. Nowhere did I say “consider emotions to the exclusion of all else.” I just said that people who categorically exclude other people’s emotions from their assessment of problems, like it sounds like Jane does, are not my favorite people.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          I agree with what both of you are saying. A lot of people in these comments are saying that if someone asks them to stop doing something, then they feel duty-bound to stop doing the thing. I think that’s going too far — sometimes someone is going to ask you to stop doing something that’s actually reasonable, and I think it’s OK to say no in those cases — and it sounds like Sea Anemone does too.

          1. Candi*

            Most people are probably responding from the context of hurting someone like what Jane was doing, and stopping hurting someone, which Jane only did when presented with evidence worthy of discovery in a court case, since that’s the focus of the letter and update.

      2. Observer*

        OK, let’s tie this back to Jane vs Cat Parent LW from this morning. Cat Parent LW reeeeally hurt Jane. However, that doesn’t mean Cat Parent LW did anything wrong or needed to change anything they were doing.

        That’s actually not true. Yes, Cat Parent did nothing they needed to apologize for. But they DO need to change at least one aspect of their behavior – they do need to not refer to their cat as their child to Jane.

        It is true that someone’s feelings about a behavior is not necessarily enough to require someone to change their behavior. But as a general policy “your feelings don’t matter” is a very, very bad idea.

    4. Evonon*

      I thought the same thing! Like if you need to quantify a situation how’s this: your dumb joke + my coworkers = people not trusting my job performance. That is literally a cause and effect!
      But you shouldn’t have to lay it out (WITH PRINTED EMAILS GOOD GOD) to change your behavior when you hurt someone’s feelings.

    5. Candi*

      I do Mturk surveys, questionnaires, and the like.

      Guess how many are about “how you feel”. Whether it’s a product, race, country, music, government… Emotion drives the world.

  10. Dhaskoi*

    Jane is hyper rational but also likes to kid around and leaned repeatedly on the same joke even after being asked to stop?

    Honestly OP I still wonder if this was a sabotage attempt that you have successfully defused through professionalism – possibly Jane hadn’t quite admitted to herself what she was really doing, possibly she had and didn’t expect to get called out so directly – but regardless full credit to you for handling it so gracefully.

    (If this was just a social blunder on Jane’s part you’ve responded in an appropriate way. If it wasn’t, the way you’ve approached it shows you to be very professional and level headed.)

    1. Me*

      I agree. I suspect Jane knew exactly what Jane was doing and only stopped when backed into a corner with evidence that refuted her excuse that it was harmless.

      1. CalypsoSummer*

        I also think (as I suggested above) that those e-mails had enough evidence in them to get her into trouble. They were clearly a collection that her new supervisor (or HR) would read over and say, “She was saying WHAT about you? And you asked her to stop, right? . . . and she did not? Did she say WHY not?”

        I don’t know if she was bad-mouthing LW just for the fun of it, or if she’d decided to take him down a few notches so she could move past him in the hierarchy again, or what. But she’d been a manager; she knew what was culpable.

  11. Jean*

    Glad she cut it out, but your description of her as “hyperrational” is too charitable IMO. What you’re describing is a person who lacks empathy, and they can be very risky to work with or to have in your life in any capacity. Watch your six around her.

  12. Meghan*

    Just my two cents, but if someone asks you to stop something because its affecting them and their work, you should. You shouldn’t need “evidence” to stop it. Ugh.

  13. The Smiling Pug*

    Even though I still don’t like Jane, it’s good that she stopped her harmful behavior. Also, OP, you handled professionally in this situation and I commend you for that.

  14. animaniactoo*

    So, this is a thing that I learned in therapy about how to advocate for myself and not be misunderstood: Know your audience. I had a very different approach than what the LW has done here – but he was able to analyze his audience and approach her in a way that set himself up for success – and he has succeeded.

    It is part of the idea that you can only control your OWN reaction to something – that knowing your audience means that you don’t expect them to be somebody other than who they are when you approach/talk to them, and you incorporate that into your own chosen response to those particular people.

    LW you have excelled at that here, really well done.

    1. Julia*

      Your suggested language on the last thread:

      “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.”

      I’m going to say I think the problem isn’t “know your audience”, but rather the fact that the above approach is way too harsh to use in a professional environment where preserving the relationship is important. It might be a flag to rethink your scripts generally.

      I think commenters here often become removed from the reality of the situation and suggest language they wouldn’t use themselves in real life – a sort of fantasy version of what they’d like to say to an annoying person if they had the chance to plan it.

      1. animaniactoo*

        This is language that not only would I use in real life, I HAVE used it in real life, and I think there is a question of tone of voice that doesn’t come through in the written word here.

      2. Resident Cripple*

        I don’t see that language as harsh at all. It’s direct but that is not the same as harsh. You’ve made several comments in this vein before about how people (and AAM) provide scripts that are “too harsh” without ever providing counter examples that would work for you.

        For the record, I *really* dislike people who equate direct with harsh. Direct language gets the job done without confusion. I value that a lot more highly than alleged attempts to spare feelings.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Thank you. Part of the reason that the direct language I suggested works for me is that it does two things in addressing this – it owns and acknowledges your own side of the issue and doesn’t try to pretend that it wasn’t in play in the previous situation, and it leaves benefit-of-the-doubt room for the other person to have a gracious out even if they were being as malicious as one might suspect in the current situation.

      3. Lance*

        ‘I think commenters here often become removed from the reality of the situation and suggest language they wouldn’t use themselves in real life – a sort of fantasy version of what they’d like to say to an annoying person if they had the chance to plan it.’

        But isn’t that just the thing for this site? LW’s are writing in to try and find a resolution to an issue; they are in a position to plan it, generally speaking.

      4. Candi*

        Different workplaces have different levels of expected and allowed directness. What was too stern at one place is mellow at another.

        Only the OPs and the commentators can judge their workplaces to know which suggested scripts work for them.

  15. Kate R*

    I am not impressed with Jane’s requirement that OP prove her words were actually impacting his reputation before knocking it off, but somewhat impressed that she actually went back and contacted the people she spoke with to admit her wrongdoing. Most impressed with OP for handling it as professionally as he did though. Great update.

  16. I should really pick a name*

    So Jane is hyperrational and doesn’t respond to appeals to emotion.
    Also, Jane likes to joke about how bad an employee the OP used to be, there for improving her coworker’s emotional response to her.

    Jane sucks.

      1. Leaf*

        Jane’s behavior was not just “blunt,” which is a neutral term, IMO. Her actions were actively undermining OP, whether intentionally or not, we do not know. I’m a skeptic so I think she probably knew what she was doing, on some level or the other.

        1. Imaginary Friend*

          In the original letter, OP said “I think she just wants to integrate herself with her new colleagues” and I wondered at the time if that was the word he meant to use? It’s a fairly neutral word but I assumed at the time that he had an autocorrect fail and meant to use “ingratiate” which is not neutral at all (and which fits what he was describing).

        2. Candi*

          From the quotes, I’m guessing Meep was snarking about how people who are downright rude claim they’re just being blunt, no frills attached. It’s along the same lines as “just being honest”.

  17. Jason*

    Assuming she was simply kidding, this is a good example of *intent* vs *impact*, and explaining it as such can be very helpful.

    Requesting that someone change their behavior because of its impact can result in dismissals like “I didn’t intend to …“, and that’s where we have to explain that their intent is not what’s in question, but the impact their behavior is having. A reasonable person will see the difference.

    Don’t let someone’s explanation of their intent derail the conversation you’re having about their impact.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      This is well said. My own experience with conversations about intent vs. impact have gone well, from when it was first explained to me as well as bringing it up with others. I couch it in my both my own and general human experiences, which tends to make the point about the important difference without it sounding like a personal accusation, and therefore having it be heard and understood.

    2. Candi*

      I think there was a conversation on this site a while back (a while back) about how the law doesn’t usually care about what the person intended, it cares about what happened because of what the person did, the impact.

      If something is such Serious Business the law has a legal specification regarding it, it’s really serious business.

  18. Anon Y Mouse*

    She seems very immature. One of my kids acts like this (failing to see that making smart-alec remarks or teasing people about their weaknesses or mistakes can be genuinely hurtful no matter if he means it fondly) and it’s a problem I don’t tolerate in him and am trying to help him learn to resist doing it. But he’s ten! He doesn’t mean it unkindly either (he only does it to people he likes and feels comfortable with) but intention really does not mean much in these circumstances.

  19. idwtpaun*

    Adding to the chorus of people who are happy with the update and impressed with how you handled it, OP, but still think Jane is an ass. “It makes me uncomfortable when you make jokes at my expense” is all that should be required from a coworker to stop. Even if everyone completely ignored her comments, your being uncomfortable with them would’ve been sufficient reason. Sadly, people like Jane, who say, “I meant it as a joke, therefore I can continue to do as I like,” are very common but also wrong. And at least a bit of an ass.

  20. Dust Bunny*

    I’m pretty sure “hyperrational” is in the same category as “tells it like it is” in terms of it mostly applying to bullies who don’t take responsibility for the effect their words and actions have on people.

    1. tinybutfierce*

      Yup. Reminds me of several folks I’ve known who made a big show of priding themselves on being “honest”, but really just tried to use that as a smokescreen for being an asshole.

      1. Candi*

        “Honest”: If a doctor can manage to tell a worried family incredibly bad news without being a raging glassbowl, anything more minor can be said gently, if it needs to be said.

        (Some doctors aren’t so diplomatic, but many are.)

  21. ecnaseener*

    LW, I’m so glad that you got what was pretty much the best possible outcome in the end. As others are saying, Jane’s behavior was really pretty crappy, so I hope you will remember this and not trust her as far as you can throw her in the future. Certainly don’t share anything private with her.

  22. Observer*

    OP, I’m impressed with your handling of the situation. I’m going to agree with the others who say that there is something very wrong with Jane. I don’t think that she was intentionally bullying you or trying to harm you. Nevertheless, what you describe is very disturbing.

    I would not call her “hyper rational”. There is nothing rational about making jokes about someone that inaccurately paints them in a worse light than warranted by reality. On the other hand, she seems to using “rationality” as a reason to never consider people’s feelings or emotional state. Someone like that should NEVER have authority over people. And I suspect that they can be difficult to deal with on occasions as well.

    Oh, and ABSOLUTELY also watch your back around the guy who still keeps double checking you. He’s trouble.

  23. Mongrel*

    “Secondly, Jane’s behavior in all of this tracks, if you know Jane. She is, let’s say, hyperrational. Appeals to her emotions, or telling her how things make you feel, generally don’t work.”

    I think my problem with this is that Jane appears to be “hyperrational” when it suits her, anything beyond a “We used to work together and came to the conclusion that OP didn’t get on with the industry, so we parted ways amicably”.

  24. Lady Blerd*

    I understand why many are put off by LW having to provide evidence of the impact of her words for her to apologize and change her behaviour but as AAM has stressed many times before, you sometimes have to meet people where they are to get the result you want. And in this case, LW needed Jane to stop and used the strategy that worked. It may not be as satisfying as her being contrite just from being told how her stories were impacting the LW but at the end of the day, she did stop when others like her would probably have dismissed both his concerns and his evidence and that’s what matters.

  25. Youngin*

    In the first letter, OP said that she wasnt malicious but I’m not convinced she isn’t.

    Its pretty messed up to have someone come to you and ask for respect and you just ignore and gaslight them and continue to ruin their hard earned reputation, just so they can form some sort of camaraderie with their new coworkers. Jane is not very nice, and its very sad the only reason she showed you respect is because of your “data”. I have to imagine any decent person that was approached by you like this would be immediately mortified and even rectify the situation. You should not trust her.

    There’s nothing “rational” or Hyperrational” about the way she was acting and i hope you see that

  26. AA*

    I can understand how Jane made that mistake, from not understanding what’s appropriate for joking around down to reacting well to evidence. I’m not saying that she didn’t do OP some damage and is probably difficult for most people to work with, I just feel like maybe her brain works the way that mine does and I can easily see how she went wrong. Thanks for meeting her where she’s at, OP.

  27. American Job Venter*

    I’m very impressed with your people management skills, and I hope someone in a position to positively affect your career notices as well!

Comments are closed.