update: my awful former boss works at the new job I’m about to start

Remember the letter-writer whose awful former boss worked at the new job she was about to start? Here’s the update.

My update is kind of an update on both nothing and everything all at once. So for the specifics of my concern with my old boss: nothing to update there. I have not once yet run into my previous boss; I’m not even sure she knows I work there. About a week before we were supposed to go back in-person to the office, we were informed that due to the Delta variant, we will continue working offsite. I have only been actually at the office three times total for meetings, and I haven’t yet run into my old boss. Only one person has asked me if I knew her, and I played it off calmly.

The only time it’s even vaguely come up with my current boss is when we were discussing a cross-institutional team that I run the meetings for. My previous boss’s team has more representatives on this team than other teams do. When I asked my new boss why that structure existed, she mentioned that there was a lot of drama in the department, and we left it at that. So that’s it–the non-update part of my update. Sometimes, I still vaguely worry what might happen when our paths cross, but mostly I don’t think of it ever. I’m still nervous about going back onsite, but I’ve already established a really good relationship with my boss and a good reputation within my department.

Onto the happy part of my update, which is everything. I love getting up and logging into work every day. I like my boss, and the project I’m working on is a huge opportunity for me. My boss is a kind person, and she constantly brings up specific areas I am bringing value and insight to the team. Even better–during the first week, she asked if I wanted to be part of a new working group in a professional area that I studied but never got the chance to work in. My job is a three year position that will eventually come to an end, but I’m happy I took the risk of this job. I’ve noticed my larger worker group hires internally from “temporary” positions like mine, and being part of the new working group is leading to many connections and changing how I’m thinking about my career, in a good way!

I also didn’t mention it in my letter because it didn’t seem relevant, but some commenters were concerned that we were relocating without a support system. I want to clarify that the city we were relocating to is where I went to college, and where my spouse’s extended family lives. Since moving here, we’ve reunited with college friends, and I’ve become much closer with my spouse’s cousins. It’s a great city to be in, and we were able to rent a larger place with a backyard. It feels so good to not be in the same one-bedroom apartment with no outdoor space that we weathered the beginning of the pandemic in. I experienced a myriad of personal and professional losses during the pandemic, but with my new job and lifestyle, I am starting to feel like myself again for the first time since March 2020. I’m happy and healing.

I’m so glad I didn’t say anything beforehand about my former boss–it would have raised flags unnecessarily. If there are any more updates, I’ll be sure to send them along, but right now, things are as good as they can be. Thank you Alison!

{ 12 comments… read them below }

  1. Purple Cat*

    Such a great simple update.
    And a reminder that so many times the people/situations that are taking up enormous amounts of real estate in our brain, turn out to be no big deal.

  2. Antilles*

    My previous boss’s team has more representatives on this team than other teams do. When I asked my new boss why that structure existed, she mentioned that there was a lot of drama in the department, and we left it at that.
    Seems like Ex-Boss hasn’t changed a bit really. I’d continue just as you are and building up your own reputation with current boss/company and not worry about it.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Right, I picked up on that, it’s good that the LW has had no contact with the former boss. If things go South with the other team, she is removed enough from the situation to be dragged into it.

  3. Artemesia*

    Great update and nice to see a positive side effect of COVID here — getting to establish your reputation without running into your bad boss. And a real lesson here also — ‘don’t poison your own well.’ By not alerting them to problems with the boss you are now in a stronger position if anything comes up later with that boss. In my experience, this kind of complaint early is as likely to make them wonder about you as about them. Now, they know you and that you are effective.

    With any luck your boss won’t even remember you. I once consulted for an organization where a fairly terrible former student worked. She came up to me and apologized for how terrible she had been and asked me to please not mention it to her boss; I literally until she reminded me had no clear memory of her as a student. You have to be pretty spectacularly bad or good for me to remember one out of 10s of thousands of former students. It is why I always tell people to provide a little summary and a resume to former bosses and teachers they ask for references. That way they can attach specifics to ‘vaguely remember she was pretty good.’ (oh and of course I would never say anything to a boss that was negative.)

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This is an excellent point, OP.
      Please realize that your role as the object of her dissatisfaction, was simply that, an object. She probably never associated you as “Jane, the OP” but instead “Jane, the infiltrator” and won’t connect “Jane, the minor player* in new company” with the evil plant who came in to destroy her brilliantly constructed plans** for leading*** the department.

      *anyone at her level or below
      ***resurrecting the house of Medici

      1. Meep*

        Considering she seems to be drama-filled and always picking fights, it is a safe bet that she won’t remember the OP unless she needs a “reason” to.

        Our VP of Sales & Marketing always needs an adversary to hide the fact she was incapable of doing her job. I didn’t think it would be me until it was. Then when it didn’t work, she conveniently forgot she was trying to not only get me fired but kill me* because it didn’t help the image she had in her head about herself.

        *I say she tried to kill me because some of the things she did were not merely abusive/manipulative/gaslighting, she was trying to destroy me by making sure I would never work again.

        1. Happy New Year*

          Meep – I’ve been through something very similar. I hope you were able to come through ok.

    2. Antilles*

      I’m not sure if comparing tens of thousands of former students is really an appropriate comparison here. OP was the boss’ direct report – of which the boss probably has had a few dozen total over the past half-decade, maybe low triple digits at most. And the initial letter makes it seem like they interacted on a bunch of things. I think the closer academia-style comparison would be asking if a professor remembers other professors who were in the same department or even if the last chairperson of the department remembers you.
      That said, it’s certainly possible the ex-boss doesn’t really remember OP in detail – you’re a recognizable name with some vague feelings of whether you liked to work together or not, but no real details or focus on the actual drama/anger/etc she had at the time. And if she was really a bad enough manager that she had problems with a bunch of different subordinates (which it sure seems like), it probably made much less of an impact on her, in a “but for me…it was Tuesday” kind of way.

      1. Artemesia*

        Oh I am sure you are right, but I think we often over-estimate how memorable we are to others. I have had former social acquaintances be forgotten or forget me and have had friends mention former co-workers and I’ve struggled to remember them. Let’s hope the OP is a much smaller player in the former bosses drama than she fears.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, I agree. I’m always astonished when people recognize and remember me, because I almost never remember them. I probably wouldn’t even recognize my beautician or my hairdresser if I ran into them in the street or at the store (granted, mask make things even harder, but my beautician always wears a mask, and did so even before the pandemic. Granted, I haven’t seen my hairdresser for 2 years, but I get a monthly pedicure and facial (to remove facial hair and get my eyebrows done), and have done so throughout the pandemic.

          I ran into my former junior high homeroom teacher when I was a young adult in my first post-college job. I remembered her easily, but I was astonished that she remembered me, because she’d just recently retired (meaning that she’d taught thousands of teenagers after me), and I’d changed a lot more than she had in the intervening years (I’d gained weight and changed my hair and clothes completely, her hair had gone gray and she’d changed her glasses, but otherwise she looked much the same as she had done 10 years earlier).

  4. Bookworm*

    Although I’m sorry the professional part seems to have no real update, but am glad that on a personal level it seems like you are in a better place (literally and metaphorically).

    Thanks for the update!

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