update: my coworker says I bullied her … should I tell her boss she needs more of a backbone?

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager! All this week and next, I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker said she was bullying her, and who was wondering if she should tell her boss that the coworker needed more of a backbone? The first update was here, and here’s the final one.

Sending this in to close the loop on what happened. I expect to be eviscerated in the comments, but am writing this in the hope that someone can learn from this situation.

Sally resigned without another job lined up. She stated explicitly she resigned because she felt bullied by me and our boss would not make it stop.

HR investigated and I received a written warning. They specifically stated I would be immediately terminated if a single other incident occurred. I have always been an overachiever with great working relationships. I have never received anything but great performance feedback. It’s beyond distressing and every day I am terrified of losing my job.

Sally did not tell anyone on our broader team about feeling bullied, she only told our manager. Her resignation was a shock to everyone and people were very upset because she was popular. No internal candidates applied to Sally’s job because people are suspicious. It is a very uncomfortable environment right now.

I started therapy after Sally left. I have never done anything like that in my life but it’s been extremely helpful to me. My therapist helped me see everything that was happening in a different way and I now understand I bullied Sally.

There were two things omitted from my earlier letters. The first is that my marriage imploded soon after I started this job. I didn’t want a divorce, didn’t expect it, and two extreme life changes at once affected me more than I realized. The career transition on top of my marriage ending was unmanageable. I am still just trying to survive every day.

The second item: Sally was the reason I was hired for this job. Sally and I worked together in consulting years prior. I actually knew her as a college intern who converted full time after graduation. I watched her enter this industry. We stayed in touch after she left that employer, and Sally proactively recruited me for my role. She told me that it was the best job she ever had and wanted to share a good thing because our former employer was toxic. In the meeting with HR, my grand boss told me point blank they would not have hired me without Sally’s recommendation.

My natural sense of humor is snarky and sarcastic. Also, because Sally and I were friends, I felt like I did not need to censor myself around her as much. I didn’t feel the need to be as strictly professional with a friend. This is why I treated her differently when we were alone. Granted, the put downs (“I thought your updated procedures would be better” + other examples), were not acceptable. I should never make those comments to anyone. And I should have never dismissed her outright.

Also, the transition from consulting to administration was harder than I could have ever imagined. The learning curve was steep and I felt the walls closing in. I am used to the cutthroat consulting culture where people are fired early and often if they fail to outperform. Sally told HR that she felt I was unable to make a mistake and therefore made even the smallest thing someone else’s fault. As difficult as that was to hear, I eventually came to see how she felt that way. I blamed normal learning errors on her “bad” training instead of just fixing it and moving on. One example she provided was when I was asked to write an email, but her procedures said respond to an email and I told her that her procedures were inaccurate and asked her to update them and apologize. I genuinely do not know what I was thinking.

Watching Sally – someone I knew when she was a college intern – be a rockstar at a job I was struggling with really affected me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I bullied Sally because of her age and what I felt her success said about me. I dismissed her, put her down, and told colleagues she was bad at training to make myself feel better. I wish I could take it all back and do it over again. I wish I could apologize to her, but she has blocked me on every platform and even returned an apology letter I mailed to her house.

I am ashamed to admit this. I am ashamed of my behavior. I did not consciously bully her. I am a good person and I did not mean to do this. I knew I was not being overly nice to Sally, but was blinded by the pain of my marriage ending to see how my behavior was affecting her. This situation really snowballed away from me and I am committed to working on myself through therapy to ensure this never happens again.

I hope that if someone sees themselves in my first two letters, they will learn from my mistakes. Trust me, you don’t want to feel the way I feel right now. It is possible to bully someone unconsciously.

I am actively job searching. This could have been a great job, but I feel it would be honorable to resign.

{ 481 comments… read them below }

  1. Chicago Anon*

    It sounds like you’re working very hard to learn from this situation, and that it arose during a very stressful time for you. I wish you the best in moving forward successfully, and share your hope that your story may help other people recognize themselves before going so far down the road you traveled.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, wow OP you seem like you’ve really put a lot of work and thought into this. I don’t think anyone here is going to put you down for that. I know I’m impressed by how much you’ve grown since the past letters and I hope both you and Sally can come out the other side and go on to great things.

    2. Robin Ellacott*

      Seconding all of this.

      I’ve had to participate in discipline / firings for a few people who were, to varying degrees, bullying others. I didn’t see any indication that they would be able to learn from the experience as you have, or even consider to what extent the call was coming from inside the house re their feelings and actions.

      Good for you, and I hope all goes well for you.

    3. Beth*

      Agreed. OP, I haven’t read most of the comments yet but I hope you don’t get eviscerated. It sounds like you’ve done a lot of work, really owned up to your behavior, and committed to changing how you act moving forward.
      Good people do make mistakes, and while this was a big one and you did some serious damage, it sounds like you’re doing everything you can to keep it from happening again. If you ever run into Sally again, you owe her a heck of an apology. (I don’t think you should proactively seek her out, for the record–she left a job to get away from you. But if you’re in the same industry, you might well run into her again, and if that does happen, be prepared to show some serious regret.) But until and unless that happens, it sounds like you’re doing everything you can to improve.

    4. GythaOgden*

      Yup. The best part about these updates is it shows that people can grow in response to these situations.

      And that therapy, if you can afford it, is amazing. I use mine as a weekly check-in — an unburdening at the end of the week and a way of processing the stuff I can’t process with anyone else. It gives me a sanity check, but it’s also useful to analyse and deconstruct my responses to stuff I might not have handled in the right way, and how not to get myself embroiled in things due to my own sense of injustice getting in the way of others’. I’m working on finding the best way to advocate for myself while respecting others’ legitimate positions. It’s hard, and I fail spectacularly!, but it’s about trying to correct your course before that point of no return.

      The Christian paradigm (woolly liberal Anglican here and confirmed SJ ally: I don’t apologise for the sins of other Christians, but fully acknowledge the Church’s role in that deep sin of unacceptable behaviour and am trying to be an agent for change) is repentance, but that goes hand in hand with an acknowledgement of grace and mercy in God’s sight. Hate the sin, love the sinner in its original, non-homophobic :((( sense. My priest said, during one very enthusiastic session where a lot of us were talking excitedly about the campaigning being done over BLM etc, that as well as fighting for justice, we need to remember that God is also merciful. We were taken aback by the significant implications of that in the SJ world. You can’t handwave centuries of injustice. But he explained that welcoming people ///who are truly sorry for what they have done/// (emphasis was his) back into the fold is as important as calling out their misdeeds.

      It’s why posts like this make a lot of sense to me. It’s someone who was on the receiving end of righteous indignation — justice — asking us for mercy while acknowledging their actions, correcting themselves and submitting themselves for our full punishment. That is what mercy means — it’s not erasing the injustice done, but being accepting of a sincere apology and the attempts to put things right. For some crimes against humanity or egregious acts, that’s the acceptance of a long prison sentence or being unable to work in the field in which you abused others (Kevin Spacey’s main accuser was male) etc. But for things like this, punishment takes a more subtle form, but what matters is OP has submitted to it and is taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

      It doesn’t mean the victim can be ignored, but then in this case, the perpetrator wrote in, not the victim. We’d be pouring out love and support for her as she proudly says she has a new job. We’d be happy for her escaping a bad situation and commiserating with her that it was necessary.

      It’s important to use it to become self-aware and be challenged as well as just an outlet for all the things you wish you could say but don’t dare to. Therapy can be humbling as well as indulgent — my therapist said she wants to hear about me, not politics (since, long story short, my academic studies have often centred around Russia and so this is why my posts focus so much on that situation) and it helps to keep me from just becoming ungrounded and focusing the attention on things I can control, not some monster half a world away who is devastating two countries (including his own) and provoking economic crisis and hardship for the planet as a whole.

      So well done, OP, for writing this post. I hope Sally is well, but thank you for acknowledging your role in the whole fiasco and coming back to close the loop — knowing full well you’d have to submit to us. That is both classy and brave, and not the outcome of many of these ‘perpetrator side’ stories.

    5. GythaOgden*

      Yup. The best part about these updates is it shows that people can grow in response to these situations.

      And that therapy, if you can afford it, is amazing. I use mine as a weekly check-in — an unburdening at the end of the week and a way of processing the stuff I can’t process with anyone else. It gives me a sanity check, but it’s also useful to analyse and deconstruct my responses to stuff I might not have handled in the right way, and how not to get myself embroiled in things due to my own sense of injustice getting in the way of others’. I’m working on finding the best way to advocate for myself while respecting others’ legitimate positions. It’s hard, and I fail spectacularly!, but it’s about trying to correct your course before that point of no return.

      The Christian paradigm (woolly liberal Anglican here and confirmed SJ ally: I don’t apologise for the sins of other Christians, but fully acknowledge the Church’s role in that deep sin of unacceptable behaviour and am trying to be an agent for change) is repentance, but that goes hand in hand with an acknowledgement of grace and mercy in God’s sight. Hate the sin, love the sinner in its original, non-homophobic :((( sense. My priest said, during one very enthusiastic session where a lot of us were talking excitedly about the campaigning being done over BLM etc, that as well as fighting for justice, we need to remember that God is also merciful. We were taken aback by the significant implications of that in the SJ world. You can’t handwave centuries of injustice. But he explained that welcoming people ///who are truly sorry for what they have done/// (emphasis was his) back into the fold is as important as calling out their misdeeds.

      It’s why posts like this make a lot of sense to me. It’s someone who was on the receiving end of righteous indignation — justice — asking us for mercy while acknowledging their actions, correcting themselves and submitting themselves for our full punishment. That is what mercy means — it’s not erasing the injustice done, but being accepting of a sincere apology and the attempts to put things right. For some crimes against humanity or egregious acts, that’s the acceptance of a long prison sentence or being unable to work in the field in which you abused others (Kevin Spacey’s main accuser was male) etc. But for things like this, punishment takes a more subtle form, but what matters is OP has submitted to it and is taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

      It doesn’t mean the victim can be ignored, but then in this case, the perpetrator wrote in, not the victim. We’d be pouring out love and support for her as she proudly says she has a new job. We’d be happy for her escaping a bad situation and commiserating with her that it was necessary.

      It’s important to use it to become self-aware and be challenged as well as just an outlet for all the things you wish you could say but don’t dare to. Therapy can be humbling as well as indulgent — my therapist said she wants to hear about me, not politics (since, long story short, my academic studies have often centred around Russia and so this is why my posts focus so much on that situation) and it helps to keep me from just becoming ungrounded and focusing the attention on things I can control, not some monster half a world away who is devastating two countries (including his own) and provoking economic crisis and hardship for the planet as a whole.

      So well done, OP, for writing this post. I hope Sally is well, but thank you for acknowledging your role in the whole fiasco and coming back to close the loop — knowing full well you’d have to submit to us. That is both classy and brave, and not the outcome of many of these ‘perpetrator side’ stories.

    6. anon on this*

      Underlining how stressful this is for you. I also went through a job change and a divorce simultaneously, and it knocked me to the ground. Therapy is amazing, and meds if you need them (I got depression that manifested as pure exhaustion- I could barely function past 2pm. I dragged my feet on going to the doctor. The antidepressants gave me what I needed to get through and function).

      If you haven’t yet, apologize to Sally. No excuses, just “what I did was wrong, and I see that now. I was going through a difficult time and I took that out on you. There’s no excuse for that and I’m working on being a better person now and in the future.” Don’t expect a reply. If you feel comfortable mentioning the divorce, that can help contextualize it for her. An apology may be able to give her closure from what was clearly and awful time in her life.

  2. Beebee*

    OP this seems like a good update actually. It sounds like you are really working on yourself and understand your mistakes and it’s great to hear you are working on yourself!

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Yes, well done OP on seeking out a therapist and being able to learn from this situation. Since you are still at the company, I wonder if it would be worth letting your manager know that you have been reflecting on the situation with Sally, recognize now that you were out of line and deeply regret how you treated her. Something like that, said with sincerity, can go a long way to repairing relationships (whether you stay at the company or not).

      I wish the best for you, wherever your career path takes you from here.

      1. Observer*

        Since you are still at the company, I wonder if it would be worth letting your manager know that you have been reflecting on the situation with Sally, recognize now that you were out of line and deeply regret how you treated her.

        If you do it, direct it to HR. The manager was useless, to be honest. I wasn’t impressed with what the OP reported last time, and from the update it looks like the manager never did step up to the plate.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Seriously. This is a pretty amazing update. Some serious insight and personal growth with will benefit the LW in the future.

  3. Hills to Die on*

    While not ideal, I love that you proactively took ownership of this and admitted your faults. Not everyone has the humility or fortitude to do that and I really respect it. You did what you could to make it right with Sally so there’s nothing else to be done now but move forward with more insight and integrity.
    Good for you for figuring it out and best of luck.

  4. Purple Cat*

    Wow, this was an incredible update. Kudos to you OP. Although you cannot right the wrongs that occurred with Sally, you can do better in the future. It takes a lot of emotional growth to see where you went wrong (and fully acknowledge it) and bravery to come back and submit an update.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      So agree with this.

      OP, I wonder if it might be worthwhile to let your manager know you have done a lot of reflecting on the situation with Sally, realize now how drastically out of line you were, and that you deeply regret it. When said with sincerity, that can go a long way to repairing relationships. Whether you decide to stay at this company or move on, I wish the best for you.

      1. Nonnie*

        Yes, as a manager I would reallly appreciate this sentiment and it would go a long way to healing the relationship.

    2. Nameless in Customer Service*

      I completely agree, and I’m wishing you well, LW, as you continue your journey of self-construction.

  5. Jean*

    Major props to you you for getting help and doing the work. Best of luck in the future, whatever it is that you decide to do.

  6. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Its very difficult to admit that you were wrong and behaved so poorly. Kudos for getting into therapy, kudos for facing your behavior. I hope that you can move forward to be a better version of yourself.

    1. KC*

      Seriously, this cannot have been an easy update to write! Proud of you, OP. Sounds like you’re putting in the work on yourself.

      1. Working Hypothesis*


        OP, I have to admit, based on the second letter you sent, I never thought you’d be able to see the ways you were at fault in this situation. I am delighted to have been proven wrong. You’ve done a ton of growing in the time since your last letter, and I’m impressed with the way you’ve turned around your approach to the whole situation.

        I’m really glad to hear you’re in therapy and I hope it both helps to bring you the insight you need, and also helps you build a post-marriage life that you can enjoy. That was a hard situation you were in, and while it doesn’t excuse your actions (and I know you weren’t trying to use it to excuse them), it does help explain things.

        I hope life gets better for you, and you find a job where you can both thrive in your own right and be good for the people around you.

    2. ariel*

      +1. This update brought me to tears – it’s hard to get help and hard to admit mistakes (compouding on each other as these did). Congratulations on getting therapy and doing the work on yourself, OP. Not everyone does that! I hope Sallie is able to move past this too and is enjoying her new gig.

      1. Reluctant Manager*

        Me too, but mostly tears for Sally. How heartbreaking to want to share a great experience with someone and wind up so demoralized that you have to leave the job you loved. I don’t say this to pile on OP, whose growth and courage are to be commended, but sometimes we can’t undo harm

        1. Joey*

          Seriously. My heart breaks for Sally, who recruited someone she thought was a friend/mentor to a great job only to get actively bullied and be forced out of her job. Good for OP on changing and reflecting but this update only shows how awful Sally’s treatment was – it wasn’t just being bullied by a random new hire – it was being bullied by a friend who she had gone to bat for and gotten the job for.

          And in that context it’s probably why Sally’s manager didn’t support her – probably thought this was just a disagreement between friends who aren’t used to working together. OP screwed Sally over profoundly snd I think a little more eviscerating and less “good for you for growing” would be nice frankly. I’m just thinking of Sally and hoping she has landed in her feet and finds a new workplace to support her.

  7. WantonSeedStitch*

    Oh wow. OP, you have done some serious work, here. You’ve learned a lot, and it sounds like you’re still learning. Going to therapy is great. I’m glad you have someone to help you unpick the stuff that’s causing problems for you and work on it. It’s good not to have to do that work alone. I’m sorry to hear that both your work life and your personal life have suffered, but I have hopes for you to make the changes that will help you to have a future that is happier and better. I wish you the best of luck in all of it.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I second all of this – this is a level of self-reflection and self-improvement that you don’t often see. I am so sorry to hear of the underlying personal circumstances as well.

      OP, I really hope that you are getting what you need from therapy, find a new job soon, and find peace. Your progress is really impressive, and I hope that things go well for you on this journey.

  8. cubone*

    if this site awarded letters for “most emotional growth” I think this letter writer deserves it. I remember the comments were not gentle on this one (rightfully so, IMO). Nobody is all good or all bad and I think this is a really great example of how something might not be someone’s “fault” (in the sense that there is some explanation behind what was going on in the OP’s mind/life), but it’s still very much their responsibility.

    good luck in your journey and kudos on going to therapy.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Seriously. If Alison decides to do a roundup of “best updates” at year end, this would 100% be my vote!

        1. Lucy Skywalksr*

          Oops, I accidentally made a typo in my pseudonym. It’s supposed to be Lucy Skywalker (like a female version of Luke Skywalker.)

    2. Elle*

      I commend the OP on getting help, but a lot of this letter still sounds like she’s putting the blame on externals: her divorce, the new job, etc. Of course those are major life stressors. They’re still not an excuse to bully anyone. Particularly the person that got you the job and wanted you to have a great experience!

      It’s unfortunate that it took all of this happening for letter writer to see how awful their behavior was.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        OP seems to be completely aware that it is not an excuse — “and I am committed to working on myself through therapy to ensure this never happens again. I hope that if someone sees themselves in my first two letters, they will learn from my mistakes. Trust me, you don’t want to feel the way I feel right now. It is possible to bully someone unconsciously.”

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Therapy is great, but can only do so much. I kind of wonder if LW behaved like this in her marriage that led to a divorce, because some of this just comes across as someone with a very strong personality.

            This seems like an unnecessarily mean comment. I’m not saying the OP doesn’t obviously still have work to do in fully owning up to her actions, but I don’t think it helps to speculate on a part of this that was only tangentially related.

            1. works with realtors*

              Replying to this only because I think Alison should also edit the first part of the comment, as it’s a quote from the deleted comment.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            That’s a pretty cruel thing to say, especially to someone who just made themselves this vulnerable.

            1. Elle*

              It’s not intended to be cruel, so I do apologize if it came off that way. I rather meant to say that even from the tone of all letters, letter writer seems to have a strong personality and is intolerant of others not living up to her expectations. That would affect not only relationships with coworkers, but with those close to you. If she didn’t see a problem with how she treated Sally, I imagine there are other similar situations in her life.

              I just think this goes deeper than this particular situation with Sally. I wish OP the best, but as someone who had a coworker make my life a living hell, the impact her actions had on Sally can not be underestimated, even if OP has made changes for the better. I think OP should focus on moving forward as much as possible- I don’t think she needs to beat up on herself about this forever. Just do better going forward.

              1. Clandestine Timoraetta*

                Being cruel is always intentional. Your comment about her marriage was REALLY uncalled for.

                That’s a huge leap you made when this update was really great. Understanding why you acted in a way that was weird for you is important to making sure it doesn’t happen again. I personally did not think of it as an excuse. An excuse would have been that her behavior was justified.

                1. Elle*

                  I personally don’t think the comment was cruel, it was just speculating (which I shouldn’t have, it was wrong, and I apologize) that letter writer’s behavior and complete lack of self awareness prior to this letter would suggest she likely had problems with people aside from just Sally.

                  Here’s the thing- Sally seemed to do everything she could to help and support and encourage the letter writer (which letter writer purposely left out until now) and in return got treated horribly for it. People that treat someone that way aren’t *generally* kind, good people, in my experience. They’ve got personal issues that they take out on others. Life stressors push people, absolutely, but they don’t bring out behavior and tendencies that weren’t already there. And a kind person, when originally confronted with this situation, would likely at least think: “wow, I had no idea Sally was taking my comments that way- maybe it’s my tone, maybe it’s specific words, but I’ll try to be more conscious of how I interact with her.” Not: she needs to grow a backbone. She had zero self reflection even when it was told to her face.

                  I’m glad OP is working on changing, and I genuinely wish her the best, but as someone who has been in Sally’s shoes, I don’t have a ton of sympathy for OP. Sally had to leave to get away from this. People’s careers, mental health, and lives are ruined by this kind of stuff all too often.

                2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                  I don’t think the adage “being cruel is always intentional” is helpful here. OP even discusses this. We can debate the semantics of “intention” versus “conscious and unconscious,” but in the end one of OP’s points is that you may need to think about your actions to realize they were cruel.

                  I agree 100% that Elle should not have brought up OP’s marriage (and I was expecting to agree with every comment that rebuffed that), but it is perfectly fine for someone who faced workplace bullying to continue to hold OP accountable after they drove a woman from her job for no reason. We don’t need to speak in absolutes around this, when the very topic is about someone slowly coming around and realizing their mistakes.

                  OP, congratulations on coming to understand yourself better and making a turn for the good.

                3. Jennifer Strange*

                  @Elle the comment was cruel, full stop, and it seems like you’re continuing to try and justify it.

                4. Julia*

                  @Elle, if I were you I might try a thought exercise just to give you a sense of how your comment came across: Imagine your spouse recently left you. You’re struggling with heartbreak and worry that they never really loved you and feelings of deep insecurity that the one person you trusted to know you fully has decided they don’t want to be with you. Your job isn’t working out, largely because of your own actions. And then you lay out your wrongdoing and your personal trauma for people online and see someone asking whether, essentially, you being a jerk drove your spouse away. Would that not be incredibly hurtful to you?

              2. linger*

                There are possibly dots remaining to be connected, if only by the saying
                The failure mode of “clever” is “asshole” — but only OP can evaluate that.

                1. Elle*

                  @Julia, I can’t seem to reply directly to your comment, but: I can understand why people were bothered by my comment, and my wording was not the best to express my point, but I’ve apologized multiple times and the comment was deleted, so I’m not sure what else you want? I’m not going to discuss further as we are avoiding that specific aspect of this, yet people continue to bring it up. So can we leave it at that?

                  My overall original point was that I don’t believe it’s taking full accountability to blame your behavior on your life circumstances at any given time, no matter how bad they may be. I see a lot of kudos going out to OP for her positive changes, which are great, but this has been quite a short timeframe for such a turn around, and I personally read her comments about going through divorce and being in a new job as just more excuses for her behavior. It’s great that she’s making changes, but I don’t know that she’s fully taking responsibility yet. And when you blame external things for your behavior, you aren’t going to make genuine, lasting change, which she seems to want.

          3. AD*

            I’d also add that it sounds like OP would have continued belittling Sally with no accountability if she had not quit unexpectedly.

            I think it’s great that AAM commenters are so willing to share praise for when people acknowledge their mistakes, but it’s also frustrating that it comes across as pretty binary sometimes. OP has grown and learned a lesson, and their behavior (as an adult professional) was wildly out of line and negatively impacted someone’s career. It’s fair and accurate to say both!

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              OP already faced the firing squad in the original letter/update, what’s the point of continuing to drag someone for what they did in the past and acknowledge as the exact bad behavior they were told it was. OP’s paid the price, personally and professionally, and is putting in the work to not be that person anymore. Most people never gain that level of self-awareness or regret, and it’s okay to praise someone for that without having to qualify it with what’s already known.

              1. A*

                Frankly, I don’t see what price OP paid for this behavior. A warning at work? Sally carries all the burden, and nobody at work even knows what OP has done.

                1. Airy*

                  OP says they’re constantly afraid of losing their job, and ashamed. That’s a consequence and a pretty heavy one to live with.

            2. Elle*

              1000% agree. Not only did this negatively impact Sally’s career, but likely her mental health as well. It’s great that OP is making progress, but that doesn’t do anything for Sally.

              1. Anon all day*

                But the commenters here can’t do anything for Sally either – we can only respond to who writes in.

                1. Elle*

                  Of course. And my original point was responding to the writer, because, in a way, she still seems to be making excuses for her behavior, and may not realize it. I could be wrong, that was just my read on it! And until you take full accountability, and say, “it doesn’t matter what was going on in my life, that was wrong that I did that, there’s no excuse”, it makes it hard to enact real, lasting change. Because the next time a rough life event happens and you behave badly, you’ll say “it was just because of that thing, that’s not who I really am.” And you stay stuck in that cycle, even though you really are trying and wanting to change.

                  I definitely do not think letter writer should beat herself up about this. It sounds like she’s doing and has done everything she can. I think her changed behavior going forward is essentially the “apology” she can’t give Sally, and that’s ok.

                2. Julia*

                  @Elle – I don’t think there’s any question that LW is taking full accountability. She mailed an apology to Sally. She says she’s ashamed of her behavior. She says baldly that she cut Sally down out of professional jealousy and insecurity.

                  The fact that she also discusses what was going on in her life at the time does not mean she’s making excuses. It’s actually an insightful move to discuss what personal circumstances might have contributed to our failings. It HELPS rather than hurts the process of learning to do better. It’s necessary introspection.

                  I recently realized I was being unpleasant to someone in my life out of misplaced anxiety over the health of my father. Knowing it’s really about my dad helps me to figure out how to tackle it. It’s not an excuse.

                3. Elbe*

                  @julia +1! I agree with everything you’ve said here. Mapping out how she got from point A (friends with Sally and kind to her) to point B (bullying Sally and feeling deep regret) is a painful but honest accounting that I think a lot of people could learn from.

                  @Elle The letter is actually one of the best examples of being accountable that I have seen recently. Making excuses is saying, “I was going through XYZ, so therefore my behavior wasn’t actually BAD. The people I hurt should be more understanding of ME.” Saying “I handled XYZ incredibly poorly and it let me to behave in hurtful, atrocious ways that I am deeply ashamed of” IS accountability. It’s acknowledging how a person’s internal state can contribute to behavior that is both out of character and misaligned with their values.

            3. Observer*

              Most people are not being binary about this.

              What the OP did was wrong – and they were told this EXTENSIVELY in the comments on the first two letters. But it *IS* genuinely hard to admit when you’ve messed up and commit to working on yourself to keep it from happening again, and the OP seems to be doing that. So, while they can’t undo the damage, they do deserve credit for moving forward.

              The fact that part of the change may have been precipitated by the threat of firing is not the greatest thing, but on the other hand, waking up and making the right kind of changes is a MUCH better reaction to being threatened with losing your job than doubling down.

            4. Working Hypothesis*

              Yes, it’s fair and accurate to say both… and mostly that’s what I see people here saying! It’s just that we have already said the part about her behavior having been totally unacceptable — at length and with considerable vehemence — and so we’re mostly concentrating on the part about her improvement in self-awareness and growth this time around.

              It doesn’t make any of the stuff we already said about her behavior being unspeakable any less true. It’s still true. It sounds as if she is starting to know it’s true, though, which makes it less necessary to rub it in at even greater length. You do that *until* the point appears to be starting to sink in.

            5. Not This Again*

              Can’t respond to Elle directly, but kudos to her for making a very reasonable, if unpopular, point. OP only had a come to Jesus moment because her bad behavior finally affected her when Sally quit. I think the Elle criticism is unfounded and OP supporters are blinded by OP’s seeming turnaround. OP offered information about their marriage, making it fair game for discussion. Frankly, bullies, especially non-self-aware ones, are seldom nice people.

              I’ve been a victim of workplace bullying, and it is horrible.

          4. Fluffy Fish*

            While I tend to agree regarding the bullying- it’s only been a very short time from OP making a turnabout at all.

            Admitting you were wrong is hard. Admitting you were a trash person in general is harder. OP has done both of those things and has stated they are committed to continued work. It takes a lot of time and work to unpack stuff in therapy. I think they’ll get there and unlike the first two letters, deserve a lot of grace here.

            So if you’re reading here OP – I’m proud of you for doing the work looking at an ugly side of yourself. It’s something many people never do. I hope you do keep up the work because I think you’ll find it will ultimately take you down a better life path than were you were.

          5. Insert Clever Name Here*

            WOW. You’re welcome to have opinions on if it’s possible to bully someone unconsciously, but that last sentence…WOW.

          6. Elbe*

            I think that believing that it’s impossible to do something like this without doing it intentionally (and, thus, invalidating the LW’s account of events) is exactly how things like this come to pass.

            People convince themselves that bullying always FEELS like bullying, so if you don’t feel like a bully you’re not doing anything wrong.

            I think that the takeaway here is for everyone to be more aware of the gap that can exist between our intentions and our affect on people.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I think “unintentionally” is a better word than “unconsciously”, actually. “Unconsciously” suggests, wow, I just tripped over and bullied someone! “Unintentionally” suggests, “wel, I never sat down and said, I’m going to bully someone! I simply took out my own insecurities and jealousies on another person in a way that made me feel temporarily better a d convinced myself it wasn’t a big deal”.

              I think the latter is how the vast majority of bullying happens.

              1. marvin the paranoid android*

                It’s a good reminder of how driven we all are by our emotions, whether we like to admit it or not. Whenever someone claims that they’re just doing the most honest, most rational, most professional, most pragmatic thing, it’s usually a cover for some messy emotional stuff that’s harder to own up to.

            2. Elle*

              But her affect on Sally was brought to her attention, and she still doubled down and insisted she wasn’t doing anything wrong. She knew she was having an affect on her in a negative way.

              1. Clandestine Timoraetta*

                But you are literally doing the same thing. Commentators thought your comment was out of line yet you continue to double down. How frustrating.

                1. Elle*

                  I’ve apologized for it several times, and have tried to explain that it was in trying to make a larger point, but it was still wrong. I’m not sure how that’s doubling down, but ok

              2. Empress Matilda*

                It was brought to her attention in the first letter, and she doubled down in the second letter – then she wrote the third letter to acknowledge all the mistakes of the first two. Including bringing up some details that she originally omitted, which she certainly didn’t have to do.

                I don’t see the point in responding to the first two letters here. It’s pretty clear to me that OP knows what she did wrong and is doing her best to improve herself. Why rehash what she clearly already knows – especially when the entire point of the third letter is to share all this?

                1. Poor Sally*

                  I think it is worth noting that it wasn’t the response to OP’s first 3 letters that lead them to therapy and self growth – it was Sally quitting her job. A job she loved and made the mistake of bringing OP into.

                  If OP had been able to do this self reflection after letter 1 (or even letter 2) I would have a lot more respect for them. Instead it took Sally’s career/life being demolished for OP to seek therapy. I feel so badly for Sally that I think OP should quit this job snd go far, far away where they are unlikely to negatively impact Sally again.

              3. Elbe*

                The LW acted that way because they thought it was justified, so when it they were called out they dismissed it… because they thought the behavior was justified. The same skewed mindset and lack of self awareness that caused the behavior in the first place is what caused it to not be challenged later on. People who are convinced they’re right will make the same mistakes over and over again.

                And I agree that with Clandestine Timoraetta that you’re kind of doing something similar here (although with significantly fewer consequences, of course). You can feel absolutely awful about the consequences that the LW’s action have had for Sally (the LW sure does!) and also feel sympathy for how someone who is trying to be good can go off the rails in ways they later regret.

          7. Melody Pond*

            I personally don’t believe it’s possible to bully someone unconsciously.

            Gotta disagree here – at least, in the specific way that things happened with our OP. For me personally, all it takes is the following ingredients:
            – Strong internal emotional reactions to external circumstances
            – Poor self-awareness of how those external circumstances are affecting me
            – Some difficulties with social interactions – i.e., how to say things that to me, seem factual, but seem to upset other people

            And with those ingredients, I have in the past definitely wound up unintentionally upsetting co-workers in a manner similar to how the OP describes with Sally. I had to learn (manually) how to understand a complex and confusing system of human emotions, and then devise and implement workarounds. It did not come naturally to me, and it was really hard.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I have seen this play out in my workplace. Usually the bullies were slightly more receptive to correction, but rarely have I seen the behavior resolve without strong interference from management – which was not in the mix here.

            2. Elbe*

              Yes! I agree with this.

              I would also add to that list:
              – an inability to take criticism or feedback
              – an inability or refusal to try to see something from another point of view (i.e., trying to see how someone could be right as opposed to trying to prove them wrong)

              1. Melody Pond*

                For sure! Taking criticism and feedback was always exceedingly stressful for me (unhealthy perfectionist upbringing), but I also had a deep-seated fear of disappointing authority figures. So, I was able to take feedback, it was just very panic-inducing.

                But, that’s also how I was able to make changes over time. It did take a LONG time to figure it out, because nobody laid out the social complexities for me in a way that made sense.

            3. Empress Matilda*

              Definitely! Not only a new job, but a new kind of job (from consulting to administration), an unexpected end to their marriage (which may or may not have meant moving house) and all this taking place during a neverending effing pandemic. It’s not hard to imagine how all this stress piled up and affected OP. I know I haven’t been my best self these past two years, and I doubt anyone reading this could honestly say that they have been.

              Stress affects us all differently, but you can’t say it doesn’t affect us at all.

            4. Minimal Pear*

              Yep, agreed with this and what Elbe added–I definitely feel like OP is just the much more extreme version of how I’ve been in some situations where I handled Life Stress poorly.

          8. Batgirl*

            It’s pretty clear that the OP is remorseful because they are aware that, yes, their stressors were excuses. They were excuses used *at the time* to prevent themselves from consciously looking at their behavior. If they had been simply and deliberately trying to bully Sally out of their way, they would have simply reached for the champagne at the conclusion, instead of going to therapy to understand why this happened. Besides, if therapy is only so much, then what alternative to remedying behavior is there?

          9. Stella*

            I come from and then married into families with very strong personalities. It’s definitely possible to bully someone unconsciously if you have a lifetime of deeply ingrained bad habits. Yes, there were divorces or near-divorces. It starts with a very confident individual, almost bordering on arrogant. He or she starts making unsolicited suggestions about everything, thinking it’s helpful advice, when it in fact gets perceived as criticism, even to the point of undermining the target’s confidence or happiness. When the target complains, the original individual is completely baffled. “I was only trying to help you avoid making a mistake because I care. If you’d only listen instead of misunderstanding me and immediately getting angry.” This pattern repeats until the target has had enough and wants to end whatever relationship and level of contact they had. The original person is completely stunned and still has no idea what he or she did wrong.

            1. Stella*

              Even tears from the target get interpreted as, “This person must be very sensitive and emotional,” instead of causing the bully to reflect on his or her behavior.

          10. JKateM*

            I believe that a lot of bullying behaviors (and similar hurtful behaviors that may or may not have occurred in this particular persons marriage as @Elle has assumed) result from the person’s own insecurities and not out a desire to harm others. While this in no way justifies or excuses bullying, we should extend grace to those people who truly want to do better (such as the OP) who take the difficult and necessary steps to confront those issues and overcome them so they can do better.

            1. si*

              Yes, this. Every behaviour meets a need. It’s usually not a cackling villainous need to delight in someone else’s pain. That doesn’t mean it’s an admirable reason either. It might very well be a need to boost the bully’s self-esteem by devaluing those around them, or (as LW has observed in themselves) to escape feeling bad about errors by finding someone else to blame. That’s pretty crappy. But we’re usually not aware of all the motivations behind our actions, we just do what makes us feel better in the moment and then repeat the pattern because it ‘worked’. Thank gods for therapy.

              1. Lab Boss*

                “Every behavior meets a need”

                I love that. So many times I’ve been accused of “what-about-ism” or “both-sides-ism” when I’m supposed to help resolve a conflict and want to dig into the WHY for the behavior instead of just saying “this person did bad because they are bad” and washing my hands of it. Understanding a REASON isn’t the same as accepting an EXCUSE.

                1. BethDH*

                  Yes, the key difference is that a reason is transitional — it helps you figure out what to do next to root out that response pattern. An excuse is (used as) an end in itself.

                2. si*

                  Absolutely. In so many situations, awareness of the underlying cause is your starting point for solving the problem. If you don’t track the issue to its real source, you’re missing crucial information for fixing it – you’re just playing whack-a-mole every time it pops back up. Excuse-making only happens when you find out the reason and then give up on changing anything.

              2. Lydia*

                So much this. When I worked with at-risk youth, one of the things that was repeated over and over was that some of their behaviors are what has worked for them in the past. They have a toolkit they’ve used successfully at home, and now they weren’t at home, we had to teach them other coping mechanisms that would work in the broader world.

      2. CM*

        I read these not as excuses, but as stressors that the OP did not realize were affecting her behavior. I’ve been there! Yelled at my kids and then went back to apologize later because they didn’t deserve to be spoken to like that, even though in the moment I blamed them. It takes some time and perspective (and sometimes outside help) to detect that pattern and to get past the shame and try to fix things instead, and that seems like where the OP is now.

        1. Lydia*

          Yeah. You can acknowledge things that were happening with you that may have affected your behavior without it being an excuse. The idea that the OP had a major life shift happening and then when she got to work, she neatly tucked it away so she could put on her Cruella coat and bully a coworker is weird.

      3. Liz*

        Agree. The phrase “I am a good person” always raises a red flag for me because it usually comes in the context of distancing oneself from problematic behavior — e.g. “of course I’m not [racist, sexist, a bully, etc.]… I’m a good person.” And Sally’s reaction (returning an apology letter) suggests there’s still more here than we’re reading about.

        I hope OP keeps up with the therapy, it does seem to be helping — but sounds like there’s more work to be done.

        1. NeedRain47*

          How does Sally’s reaction in any way imply there’s more? That seems like unfounded speculation. Sally cut off someone who was mean to her, why would she need an additional reason to continue keeping them cut off?

          1. Liz*

            Rereading my comment, it wasn’t clear — but none of the actions the OP admitted to in the first two letters seemed, to me, like “quit a job with nothing lined up and block OP on all platforms” worthy. Maybe it was the cumulative effect. Anyway, I thought Sally’s reaction, combined with the “I’m a good person — any bullying I may have done was totally subconscious — it just snowballed away from me” suggested that OP might still be downplaying their behavior

          2. Batgirl*

            Agreed, Sally’s reaction is self explanatory. It’s not her circus, or her monkeys. If you quit a job to get away from a dynamic, and your management then why would you become a correspondent on the topic?!

        2. Elle*

          In terms of Sally returning the letter, I would’ve done the same. I’ve had a coworker make my life a living hell. Once I got away from them, I don’t ever want anything to do with them again. I’ve moved on. I don’t care if they’re sorry or if they’ve changed- if they’ve changed for the better, great, but they don’t get to take up space in my thoughts or my life anymore. They got all they’ll ever get.

          And I don’t think letter writer yet realizes how fortunate they are that Sally only shared this experience with her boss and HR. She could have shared this with everyone and made things far more uncomfortable than letter writer thinks they are now. She could have probably put an end to letter writer’s career.

          1. Andie Begins*

            Especially with the added context that OP only got the job in Sally’s recommendation and Sally was trying to share a good turn with the OP! There doesn’t need to be any more here; that context makes the cruelty of the bullying Sally experienced sharper and more personal than the OP was comfortable revealing before this update. That more than adequately explains Sally’s cutting the OP off totally.

          2. Observer*

            And I don’t think letter writer yet realizes how fortunate they are that Sally only shared this experience with her boss and HR. She could have shared this with everyone and made things far more uncomfortable than letter writer thinks they are now. She could have probably put an end to letter writer’s career.

            This is true.

          3. Risha*

            I agree with this, and many of the statements you’ve made on this topic. OP, I commend you for recognizing you need therapy and taking the steps to get it. It’s really hard to admit that to yourself! I’ve been in that spot as well. But I’ve also been in Sally’s spot where a coworker was so horrible and bullying me, made my job a living hell. I was a single mom at the time and couldn’t even quit with no job lined up. I had to just take it until I found something else.

            OP, it’s great you recognize your personal issues contributed to this. But we all have issues in our lives and we can’t allow our stressors to affect others. Behavior/how we treat people is a choice we make. Believe me, I understand the stress of a marriage falling apart. It rips you up inside. But poor Sally. Who knows what personal stressors she may have been going thru as well. Sometimes work is a person’s escape.

            I wish you the best of luck OP. Keep doing the therapy.

        3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I think OP showed a lot of growth. As others said, it’s OK to acknowledge stressors and things that we now realize affected our behaviour. It’s the difference between explaining and making excuses. The explanation can be really helpful to understand those factors and to make sure we react differently next time.

          I do agree with you that “I am a good person” also raised my eyebrows a bit. If only because people will engage in mental gymnastics to maintain their perception of themselves as good people. I’d suggest that one of the reasons that some people get irrationally angry about seeing other people still wearing masks is that it reminds them that they are refusing to do something that’s pretty simple and easy, and not everyone is making that selfish decision. Rather than confront that realization, they’d rather come up with some kind of reason that the mask-wearer is an @ssh*le.

          My sense is that OP has made a lot of progress, but there is still a long way to go.

        4. Batgirl*

          I think it’s okay that more work is needed? It’s therapy, not fast food. I think your point about the problems with clinging to “I’m a good person” is a good one, but there is growth here too.

          1. Empress Matilda*

            Exactly. And I think it’s possible to acknowledge that more work is needed, and *also* to celebrate everything OP has done so far. They’ve come an incredibly long way, and they don’t owe us a perfect update before writing in. They don’t owe us an update at all, actually, and there’s nothing to be lost by being kind to them. We don’t need to keep harping on their past mistakes – I’m sure they’re doing plenty of that on their own.

        5. Observer*

          And Sally’s reaction (returning an apology letter) suggests there’s still more here than we’re reading about.

          Not at all. What the OP described is enough for Sally to not want to hear anything from or about them ever again.

          but sounds like there’s more work to be done.

          Well, DUH. The OP is doing the right things here, and has taken some of the most important first steps. But you don’t change patterns like this overnight. So, of course there is more work to be done. I would be much more concerned if the OP implied that it’s a done deal.

          1. Lydia*

            Exactly this. Sally isn’t required to justify her reaction and there isn’t an if/then chart of when it isn’t or is appropriate to return a letter of apology. There doesn’t have to be a deep, dark underbelly for Sally to decide that what did happen was enough of a reason not to read the letter. I’m also a little tired of people latching onto the OP saying they are a good person as if they aren’t allowed to think that about themselves. Their behavior is not justified, but are they supposed to go through life thinking they’re awful and they don’t deserve kindness? Growth comes when we realize we can make changes and it’s worthwhile to make those changes because we are worth being better than we were.

            1. allathian*

              I certainly don’t expect the LW to tear her hair out and wear sackcloth and ashes for the rest of her life, but I also see the “but I’m a good person” as a bit of an orange flag. All too often that is used as an excuse for racist, sexist, or homo- or transphobic behavior.

              There’s no good person vs. bad person binary. People are capable of doing both good and bad things for good and bad reasons, and pretty much anyone can fall into the trap of doing something they think is good for a good reason, but other people will experience it as something unpleasant.

        6. Jora Malli*

          This is a good point. I think it might help OP to stop trying to think of themselves as either a good person or a bad person. People are incredibly complex and we can all do both good and bad things for both good and bad reasons. Nobody is 100% a good person or 100% a bad person, and trying to find their place in that made-up binary is not going to be helpful.

          1. Lydia*

            I don’t agree 100%. That binary exists and it carries weight. In US society, being a good person also means being a valid, deserving person. If you aren’t good, you don’t deserve good things happening to you. If first centering herself as “good” means she sees herself as “worthy,” then it’s good for her.

        7. bamcheeks*

          Fundamentally, believing you are a good person is a pre-condition for understanding and owning bad behaviour. Like, I don’t know if you’ve ever been in an argument with someone who defaults to, “I’m just a terrible person” but it’s the MOST frustrating thing. Someone who doesn’t believe in their own inherent goodness (however that is defined) usually has limited ability to take ownership of bad behaviour and figure out how to do better.

          If you’re using it to deny the IMPACT of behaviour— I can’t have harmed someone, because I’m a good person, what I said wasn’t racist because I’m a good person— that’s a red flag. But “I harmed someone, I recognise that, it is at odds with my image of myself as a good person and I need to understand how and why I did that so I don’t repeat it” — that’s taking as much responsibility as is possible.

          1. marvin the paranoid android*

            I’m not sure that the framing of good vs. bad person is really very constructive in either direction. It doesn’t welcome the kind of nuance you describe, which is what is needed for actual growth. There’s a fragility in our perception of our own goodness, which makes it harder to see our own actions clearly. I think it’s more helpful to see goodness or virtue as an action rather than a state of being, something that we have the power to redefine for ourselves every day.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I don’t think “good person” and “bad person” are meaningful objective categories. But I think a belief that “I am a person who has value and is capable of doing good things” (however that is defined in your personal and cultural worldview) is a pretty fundamental human need.

      4. Meep*

        I agree, but I also think personal growth is a process that takes time. It goes back to the whole “mental disorders are an explanation, not an excuse”. As someone with bipolar, it is an explanation for why my mood alternates between gloom and full of energy. It is not an excuse if I snap at someone because I am in one of my depressive states or ignore someone’s feelings because I am manic. Does that make sense?

        Either way, OP needs to overcome the hurdle that going through a divorce and being jealous is the reason she acted so horribly, but not an excuse for it, but that will take a bit more time than two months.

        1. Jaydee*

          Yeah, that stuck out to me too. I think it reflects a very binary fixed mindset that there are good people and bad people. Good people do good things, and bad people do bad things. If you do good things, you’re a good person. If you do bad things, you’re a bad person. Nobody wants to be a bad person, so if they subscribe to this mindset and then do a bad thing, that creates cognitive dissonance, and their natural response will be to minimize or justify it so they can maintain their self-concept of being a good person.

          On the flip side, someone with a growth mindset will recognize that no one is wholly good or wholly bad. They’ll recognize that a “good person” isn’t someone who never does bad things. So they will be more inclined to acknowledge when their actions are harmful and try to rectify those wrongs (in a way that the person who was wronged finds valuable, and not just in a way that lets them save face) because doing so doesn’t damage their self-concept.

          It sounds like LW is making a lot of progress on that mindset change and taking responsibility for the effects of her actions even when those effects were unintended. That’s huge! Not surprising that a wholesale mindset shift wouldn’t be completed in just… holy shirtballs, that was just back in February?! Wow, this is a lot of progress in just a few months!

      5. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

        Sorry to say, every person alive has the capacity to be both kind and cruel, and most people are both to various degrees in different situations throughout their lives. “Bully” is not an inherent, immutable trait, and “it’s about me, not Sally” is a pretty important step in taking accountability. People who are hurtful to others are generally acting out of some hurt or fear of their own that they may not even be consciously aware of. Very few people wake up in the morning like “I am going to be mean for fun today.” This is also why people who dish it out are usually the worst at taking it! Identifying the root causes – like shame, insecurity, or fear – is the first step in short-circuiting the cruelty/rudeness impulse. It’s the opposite of putting blame on externals, it’s growing self-awareness in order to do better in the future.

        Doesn’t do much for Sally in any case, but Sally’s made it pretty clear how much she wants to hear from OP, which is not at all. So doing better in the future is really all OP can do.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Every person not only has the capacity, but actually is both kind and cruel. I’ve not yet met a perfect person who has never hurt someone else. And people who have been hurt through neglect, child abuse – that tends to be passed down to the next generation. We often hurt others because we have been hurt, and it takes a lot of self-awareness to break that cycle.

      6. Julia*

        Aw, man. I was really hoping not to see a comment like this. Every time someone writes in to say they realize they were wrong, someone in the comments nitpicks the wording to say it’s not enough. When someone screws up and then recants their former behavior to this degree and apologizes to the person affected, and writes an incredibly vulnerable and moving letter admitting their own faults, why do we need to assume the worst of them and nitpick it? LW is really putting herself out there. We could meet that with charity instead of small-mindedness.

    3. Lance*

      I’d put it up there with the beer run boss, with a similar overall pattern; original letter was horrible, first update was digging in heels, second update was them having started work on therapy and realizing otherwise they need to make some real changes to themselves and their paths.

      1. MEH Squared*

        I can see that. It also reminds me of the boss who was jealous of her employee with how important additional information came out with each update (OP’s addiction issues, a restraining order against her by the employee, etc.). With the bombshell in this update that Sally is the one who got OP the job and they were friends before this, well, I do wonder what else is being left out.

    4. Ally McBeal*

      100% agreed. I just went back and read her first two letters and hoo boy I was not expecting this level of growth, this quickly. Good on OP.

  9. Essentially Cheesy*

    You have made a lot of emotional progress and you should be proud of that! Not here to eviscerate anyone!! Please know that you’ve done a lot of hard work and that really is a big deal.

    1. I&I*

      Also, OP, a serious question to consider: were you really ‘eviscerated’ last time? You were told plainly by many people that you were acting badly, sure. But you’ve come to agree that they were correct in this: you were acting badly. That’s hardly evisceration. Painful to hear, sure, but actually, it was the kind of straight talk you thought you were giving Sally: blunt good advice.

      Things look very different on the giving and receiving end, no? All of us are prone to feeling more like it’s okay if we’re the one being blunt, and like it’s mean if we’re the one hearing it, so you’re far from alone here. But that’s an understanding you need to factor into how you treat people going forward. If in doubt, pull the punch!

  10. Delta Delta*

    This is one heck of an update. Bravo to OP for all the self-awareness and growth. it’s too bad it came at the expense of Sally, who, sounds like she was both good at her job and a friend of OP.

  11. Plebeian Aristocracy*

    Great job on owning up to your mistakes. I know you said that you expected to be eviscerated in these comments, but I think you should be praised for your progress instead. All that being said, I’d focus less on being a “good person” and more on treating others well. Your actions will speak more to others than your self perception.

  12. Ellen Ripley*

    OP it’s good you learned a lesson, but you messed up someone else’s livelihood in the process. Sounds like your company dropped the ball by not taking your poor behavior seriously as well. This is a sad story and I hope Sally is doing okay.

    1. AC4Life*

      Hard agree. I’m glad you’re taking responsibility for destroying the career of someone who helped you, but you’ve got a hell of a lot of red on your ledger.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I feel like there is a difference between realizing it initially and realizing it . . . and then doing the long-term work to change for good. We don’t know yet if the latter will happen, or if it will get glossed over because the uncomfortable reminder of Sally is gone and the slate is sort of wiped clean.

          1. Lorine*

            I mean, what else do you want the LW to do? She’s admitted she was wrong and is in therapy to address the underlying issues. That seems like “long term work to change for good” to me.

            1. LlamaDuck*

              I mean, ideally OP would actually do something to make it up to Sally– try to undo or mitigate the harm done.

              This could mean quitting the company, and then convincing the manager (grand boss?) to reach out to Sally offering her job back, now that OP is gone.

              Or, it could mean providing Sally with monetary compensation for damages — funds to pay for counseling or therapy, and money to recoup losses Sally incurred quitting her job abruptly.

              Actions speak louder than words. OP can say she’s sorry, but it’s not half as meaningful as taking concrete action to right the wrong done.

      1. Hi, Hello, Good Morning*

        Who says her career is destroyed? What makes you think she didn’t/can’t get another job? Just because she quit without one lined up doesn’t mean she’s going to be unemployed forever. In fact I bet she’ll even get good recs from her last job, plus she has her experience and successes.

        1. Reluctant Manager*

          Don’t we read all the time here about how working in a toxic workplace messes up your sense of what’s normal? This is a tragic story. It doesn’t mean OP is irredeemable, but this isn’t just an oopsie.

          1. Lydia*

            I’m not sure what your point is. Nobody said it was just an oposite. What they are saying is there seems to be some hyperbole surrounding Sally’s career prospects because she left a toxic situation to protect herself.

        2. amethyst*

          Sally had to resign from the best job she ever had because OP bullied her. It’s not about whether she’s going to be unemployed forever; it’s about the fact that she was knocked off of her trajectory at a place she loved with people she loved because of someone she tried to help.

    2. cubone*

      this is a good point. Yes, OP was (hugely) in the wrong but the fact that it took someone quitting to THEN give the perpetrator a written warning is abysmal HR and workplace safety. I’d love to say I hope the company does some deeper reflection and not just “woops, OP was a bully and there was nothing we could do!” but… I highly doubt it.

        1. cubone*

          HR should’ve stepped in to address the bullying BEFORE Sally quit. It’s not 100% clear but it certainly sounds like the investigation was spurred by Sally leaving. Someone shouldn’t have to quit for their claims of bullying to be taken seriously, investigated, and addressed. HR didn’t do their job to enforce a safe workplace.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            It doesn’t sound like HR knew until Sally left, though? OP says Sally only told their boss and the boss didn’t act on it. That’s not HR’s fault.

    3. The Original K.*

      Agreed. I’m glad the OP is doing some much-needed self-improvement work but I still feel terrible for Sally.

      1. Rainbow*

        Completely, this. It’s so horrible to be at a job where someone is being so unreasonable. I’m still very glad for OP though (so long as this new emotional intelligence continues).

    4. LunaLena*

      I agree, and I wonder if a public apology might help? If she knew Sally from before, perhaps they still have some mutual contacts. So putting a public “I now realize I wronged Sally and I am sorry for what I did to her and I wish her all the best” letter out there might get back to her. Sally may never respond, but it might feel better to know that it’s out there.

      Or maybe it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. I dunno.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Eh, I wouldn’t. It’ll look like posturing. If OP wants to reach out to Sally personally (and, more importantly, if Sally is receptive to that) fine, but I don’t think a public apology would help anything. Now, if someone in their circle happens to mention it offhand to the OP I think an acknowledgement of their error would be warranted, as well as stating that they’re working to better that part of themselves.

        1. taco thief*

          Since Sally already returned one apology letter I think she is not receptive and the OP should just let it go. That relationship is burned to the ground and won’t be coming back.

            1. I&I*


              OP, it’s clear that the need to feel like a good person is very strong with you – so strong that it may even be one reason why it took you so long to admit to yourself what you were doing. Delivering an apology may feel like the kind of thing a good person would do, especially if it was accepted.

              However, it’s very clear that Sally isn’t interested, so make sure you get the message and stop trying. You need to do what she wants, including living with a sore conscience if need be.

              And on a general point – I’d suggest you try to let go of the idea of a ‘good person’. Everybody’s a mixture. The more set we are on seeing ourselves as good, the more cognitive dissonance kicks in if we do something wrong, and then we end up where you were, making a mess because you couldn’t accept that you were acting badly. If you can become more able to see yourself as a mix of good and bad like anyone else, you may find it easier to stop yourself quickly next time someone isn’t happy with your actions.

              Also, at least at work, I’d watch the snarky sense of humor. It’s a high-risk way of joking, and doesn’t sound like you’re pulling it off. This might make good reading for you? https://captainawkward.com/2013/03/28/463-help-me-stop-being-mean/

              One more thing: I can speak from the receiving end when I say that ‘You’re my friend/relation so I don’t have to “censor myself” around you’ is … not actually a good idea. It translates to ‘I feel entitled to treat you badly.’ If someone’s close to you, you should be treating them *better*, not worse. As you’ve found out, when someone finds out that ‘friendship’ means becoming a punchbag, well, that’s how you lose friends.

              If you find yourself having a lot of mean thoughts, and it feels like censoring yourself not to just say them aloud, then that sounds to me like you have some issues with anger and negativity that therapy would be a good place to discuss.

              Lots of luck!

              1. Lord Bravery*

                I agree, it’s analogous to Miss Manners’ observation that healthy families aren’t ones where you don’t have to show good manners/kindness to your family, they’re ones where no one has to worry about family members being unkind/impolite to them.

                Being close friends doesn’t mean not censoring rudeness, it should mean you don’t have any rudeness toward your friend in the first place.

                And yes, many friendships involve some level of joshing/chops busting. But for that to work it’s essential that:

                -You’re close enough and kind enough that they would never think you’re serious
                -There’s some cleverness or point to the joke besides “it’s funny cause mean”
                -You’re paying attention to whether the other person thinks it’s funny, and if they don’t, you stop.

                This was not that.

          1. Minimal Pear*

            Agreed, I’ve been in a similar position to Sally (but with a friendship implosion instead) and if the person who hurt me has done a bunch of self-reflection and has stopped being terrible, great! (I doubt it’ll happen, but great!) I don’t want to hear about it though. The best way they can support me is by leaving me alone.

      2. Ellen Ripley*

        With the returned letter and all, I think Sally has made it clear she wants to move on with her life and not interact with OP anymore, so the best thing OP can do is respect her wishes and leave her alone.

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I see where you’re coming from, but I wouldn’t do this. It would probably come off as trying to bully Sally into accepting an apology via recruiting mutual contacts to tell her how sorry OP is. I’m not saying that would be the intent, just that it’s how this could be perceived.

        Plus, it sounds like Sally only mentioned the difficulties to their manager. So I’d imagine that it’s unlikely that she has been telling all their mutual contacts about it. Chances are, this would just stir up drama and force Sally to talk about the awfulness with a bunch of people when she may just want to move on. If I was OP and anyone ever asked me, I’d give a very vague response about how I was a jerk at that time, but not get into details.

      4. anonymous73*

        A public apology is too little too late. OP recognizes that she was totally in the wrong and is in the process of remedying that, but living with what she did to Sally is a consequence of her behavior.

      5. Jora Malli*

        Sally’s already blocked OP every way she can and refused delivery of the apology letter, so I think it’s best for OP to let this drop. Sally clearly just wants this to be over so she can move on with her life, so I would encourage OP to respect her wishes on this.

        Maybe someday down the line, Sally will feel ready to hear that apology, and if that happens she can reach out to OP or their mutual acquaintances. But unless that happens, I think OP should assume that Sally doesn’t want any communication. Going around the blocks she’s put in place to try and get a message to her would make Sally feel even worse than she already feels, and I know OP doesn’t want to do that.

      6. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! No no no no no no no no no no no. Sally doesn’t want to hear from OP, and that needs to be respected. There is nothing wrong with the initial apology attempt, but if Sally has blocked OP on everything that is blockable AND has returned a letter, then Sally has made it clear that she does not consent to contact and does not want to hear from them. Sally deserves to have that boundary be respected.

      7. Batgirl*

        Er no, it’s Sally’s story to tell, and as the apology is due to her, it’s her call on whether or not she wants it. She has indicated that she does not. OP has to respect a desire to cut ties and drop it completely if that’s what Sally wants. It’s uncomfortable to sit with an unforgiven deed, but sometimes them’s the breaks.

      8. Observer*

        and I wonder if a public apology might help?

        No, I would not do that. It’s not going to help anyone. Sally chose to not tell anyone about the abuse. She also made it clear that she wants nothing to do with the OP, not even to hear an apology. The least that the OP could do is respect that.

        If it ever comes back to the OP, without the OP having done any digging, THEN the OP could respond by putting it out there that they realize how badly they messed up. Otherwise, yes, ABSOLUTELY “let sleeping dogs lie”

      9. JelloStapler*

        But they are doing it to make themselves feel better not actually to help Sally. Sally has shown she is not interested and LW does not need to keep pushing to assuage their own guilt.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          Exactly. For the OP to give a public apology would be essentially “centering” herself and making it all about herself, rather than considering the best interests of Sally to move on from the situation.

          This one of those things that you have to live with knowing you have done, and learn from it so you don’t do it again. No amount of public self-flagellation will either make it better or benefit anyone.

      10. RagingADHD*

        Certainly not. I can’t imagine that Sally would appreciate having such a distressing incident called out publicly.

        She has made it abundantly clear that she wants nothing to do with the LW. The least she deserves here is privacy.

        To make a public spectacle of her would be incredibly disrespectful. This is the kind of “flying monkey” triangulation that narcissists use to circumvent people’s justified cutting of contact. It’s manipulative and toxic.

        1. Important Moi*

          I learned a new expression today “flying monkey triangulation.”

          I’ve seen other comments saying that more apologies to Sally , the manager or a public apology would be good. I couldn’t articulate what was wrong with it. Flying monkey triangulation is what’s wrong with it.

      11. EmmaPoet*

        Given that Sally has not made the situation public, OP doing a public apology would create unneeded drama at best and at worst simply cause Sally more distress. Sally returned the letter sent to her home, and has blocked the OP on all platforms. Accepting that the bridge has been burned and that she needs to leave Sally alone is the best thing to do here. OP can use this as a spur to do better in future, but Sally is not going to be part of that equation.

    5. H.C.*

      +1 on hoping Sally is doing OK, and that this experience doesn’t “harden” her from opening doors for others, given how much she went to bat for OP before the situation went down.

    6. AD*

      Yeah, I’m glad there’s more self-awareness here but the people heaping praise on the OP are a little mystifying to me. She was the primary reason someone left their job *without anything else lined up*. And their letter and first update now feel evasive — why not mention there was a prior relationship there, and why not acknowledge that that’s likely why they treated Sally differently?

      Best of luck to the OP, but boy did you make some big mistakes.

      1. anonymous73*

        Because before therapy, she thought she was right and then doubled down on her rightness in the first update, so she felt those things were irrelevant. She now sees she was wrong, and is working to improve, so she’s disclosing more facts that she now realizes were an important part of the story.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Do you realize how rare it is to hear from a LW that has made this kind of progress? OP knows they made mistakes, and they’re owning that and improving. What more can we ask? They can’t change what happened they can only move forward.

        1. AD*

          I think it’s fair to say that OP has grown and learned a lesson while also acknowledging that the behavior was pretty lousy and seems like it would have continued if Sally hadn’t unexpectedly resigned. I think an adult continuing to belittle someone even after seeing how it’s impacting someone else is egregious enough to think about. Perhaps you don’t agree.

          Again, good for OP and I hope she continues to grow. I hope Sally finds somewhere better for her, too.

          1. Andie Begins*

            We all agree that it’s bad to belittle someone and this comment section went in hard, twice, on this letter writer. I dont think anyone is “not thinking about” the harm that was done. But OP can’t go back in time to undo it so what do you expect the OP to do going forward? Sounds like they are doing all the work one could reasonably expect someone to do to rectify this situation*.

            It doesn’t actually encourage people to change if even huge and deeply vulnerable steps in the right direction are derided as not enough, never enough to make up for the original harm. They can never undo it, so, what, they should stop trying?

            It also doesn’t encourage anyone to write in with updates when they’re wrong.

            *which, as someone mentioned upthread, is actually not entirely on the OP, who should have been disciplined for this behavior far before they were able to drive out a longer-tenured rockstar over it. There is a reason we have systems in place like conduct guidelines and disciplinary expectations, because sometimes one’s judgement is compromised (by mental health struggles, external stressors, greed, etc.) and you need a better system than “well I think X is reasonable” with no outside accountability

      3. Pony Puff*

        I’m with you AD. If circumstances were different I praise OP but after causing someone to leave “the best job they ever had” without anything else lined up…no.

        1. kaden*

          I’m on team Support Personal Growth, honestly. This is a really honest letter, OP can’t go back in time and do things differently, and Sally leaving without having something else lined up isn’t by definition terrible. Maybe Sally went on to an even better job. We’ll never know. But for OP, it feels unfair to still be dogging on them when they’ve admitted and accepted their crappy behavior, are doing the work to learn how to manage life shit better and not take it out on the innocent, attempted to make amends, and in general are trying.

          So many people double down when they screw up. Witness the Leap Year Birthday Boss. OP did initially, and then saw the light and is working to change it. That’s good. That’s positive growth.

          1. Batgirl*

            Me too, I admire progress no matter the starting point. What else are people to do after epically fucking up?

        2. Observer*

          but after causing someone to leave “the best job they ever had” without anything else lined up…no.

          That’s not saying much considering that they both were coming from a toxic background. Sally sounds like she’s good enough that she’ll be ok *job-wise*.

          Hopefully she’ll wind up in a place that is actually a TRULY good place to work, not just one that’s not toxic. Because the fact that Sally had to leave is not just on the OP (as bad as their behavior was.) The fact that the manager knew what was going, knew how distressed Sally was and did nothing to stop it while telling the OP how “valued” they are is also incredibly messed up. And the fact that Sally didn’t feel like she could go to HR before she walked out says something to.

          It’s not for nothing that no one internally wanted to take her job…

          *How Sally will fare emotionally is a different and more troubling question to me.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            Yeah, I think the boss holds a lot of responsibility here. It sounds like Sally was a well-respected employee and she made a serious allegation against a new employee and…nothing happened until after she left. I’m thinking of when I was training new people when I worked retail. I am pretty sure that if I had made even a minor complaint against them, like they were ignoring my instructions, it would have been noted and taken seriously.

      4. Nodramalama*

        Because someone recognised they did badly, sought help, is trying to grow from it, and humbled themselves enough to return to a community that strongly reprimanded her not once but twice to not only admit they behaved badly, but demonstrate how they’re trying to change and apologise. It’s what I hope everyone who has treated another person badly does. Is it so wrong to give that person a little grace?

    7. DC*

      Yes, Sally’s boss was majorly in the wrong here by not putting a stop to the bullying behavior when Sally raised it with the boss. Sally may not have been put in a position of quitting without another job lined up if her boss had done their job of shutting down the bullying and fully supporting Sally when she reported it.

      1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        Yep. This is what stands out to me now. And it seems that the boss also owes Sally an apology – and a “we determined the LW was not a good fit – and you would be welcomed back – you were an important part of the team and high producing, and we did not do what we should have to protect you from unacceptable behavior. And if you don’t want to come back here, we’d like to help in whatever way we can in making sure you land somewhere you can succeed.” They won’t, of course. Admitting they didn’t take action when they should opens them up to liability – particularly if there was a gender or racial component.

        Because it was obvious to everyone here that the behavior was unacceptable. Good for the OP for recognizing that, and yeah, the whole “my personal life sucks and its bleeding over into my professional life” adds context, but still…..

      2. Sylvia*

        I agree. In addition to resigning, it would be worth mentioning to HR that Sally was telling the truth and that while the OP takes full blame for the situation, the manager could’ve handled it in a way that had a better outcome for Sally. It’s shocking that this went on for months and the manager did nothing.

    8. Amanda*

      Comments like these are why people struggle to take accountability. Because other people heap more shame on them. OP is clearly contrite and taking responsibility. Of course we all feel sad for Sally and her employer messed up. But this pile on is really unkind.

    9. Observer*

      Sounds like your company dropped the ball by not taking your poor behavior seriously as well.

      That’s understating the case, in my opinion. OP’s manager should be gone, or on equally thin ice as well. There is a good reason that others were suspicious!

      1. Beth*

        I was thinking the same thing. It sounds like OP is owning up to their responsibility in this, and like they’re experiencing some level of professional consequences as well. But the manager had a responsibility too, once they heard about what was going on! It makes sense that this isn’t discussed in the letter–OP probably doesn’t have access to either the manager’s thoughts on the matter or whatever HR might be doing with them over it–but I hope someone’s putting additional oversight on that team.

    10. Ari*

      I hope Sally has an amazing new job. When I read that it was “the best job she ever had” that devastated me. To be forced out of your best job because you tried to help someone…

    11. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      Yeah, the boss in this story is not impressive at all. Poor Sally.

  13. Tobias Funke*

    Oh, OP. You will not be eviscerated in this one. You will not be eviscerated in this one because you have developed insight.

  14. Clever Alias*

    I had to read the comments before reading the update, because I didn’t want to ruin my good mood if it was the same as bs as the first two letters. I am pleased to see this update, have empathy because I know what its like to have worlds mesh in bad ways when you’re in a bad place, and second the nomination for most emotional growth. Best of luck OP.

  15. kittycontractor (new job new username!)*

    I hope no one eviscerates you as I would think this type of introspection and growth is what the entire point of this blog hopes to achieve. Good for you for being able to properly look at yourself, seek help, be objective and work on change. Those letters were rough and the comments even rougher. I’m proud of you, LW, continue to grow!

  16. Julie*

    I also applaud the growth, but I think it’s important to note that OP did not bring up the fact that Sally was his personal friend and cherrypicked him for the job in this story – this was no way to treat a friend and I imagine some of the intensity of Sally’s reaction was that from her perspective, she got an old friend a great new job and then was privately bullied for months from someone I’m sure she trusted. That’s pretty awful!

    1. Swiss Army Them*

      Agreed – that bit of info absolutely should have been included in the first letters. I think the fact that OP didn’t include that shows that, even in the depths of their crappy behavior, they knew it was an abhorrent way to behave.

      1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        As is the self awareness that they were taking out a failing marriage on Sally – that they didn’t bring that up also speaks volumes to their initial awareness

    2. Andie Begins*

      I truky believe that most deeply dysfunctional and toxic behavior humans indulge in is all deeply maladaptive protection of the self-image/ego – it makes sense to me that the OP did not include those details before they had done some real work excavating the reasons for their bad behavior, because on its face the additional context that the OP and Sally had survived a toxic workplace together and that Sally’s recommendation that got OP the job was Sally trying to do the OP a good turn in recognition of that shared history (as I mentioned in another comment above) makes the cruelty of the OP’s bullying even more sharp and personal. What a mortifying thing to have to integrate into your self-image – OP you really do have a lot of respect from me. The work you have described is hard and many people, advertantly or inadvertantly, design their whole way of life to avoid facing it.

    3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      I can’t even imagine how alone she felt in this situation. Someone you thought you had a good relationship with turns on you but keeps the cruelty for when you’re 1:1, your boss doesn’t have your back, and you don’t want to start an office gossip cycle or sound “crazy” or “dramatic” to third parties as a young woman so stay mum (been there on that last one). Totally miserable.

  17. Optimus Prime*

    Just chiming in to say thank you for sharing. Your transparency will help someone else take a closer look at their actions. If we were all transparent and took ownership of our actions, it would remove the stigmatism of making mistakes. Cheers to you.

  18. CatCat*

    You appear to have genuinely learned from how you have wronged Sally and have insight into what led to that. It is commendable that you are in therapy and proactively working on ensuring this never happens again.

    You are very, very lucky that Sally did not tell anyone other than your manager about your behavior as your reputation is relatively unscathed. It is unfortunate that poor Sally will now have to overcome however the treatment impacted her. It is clear that she wants nothing further to do with you and you should respect that boundary (not saying you are not, but noting just in case).

    I’m not sure what is “honorable” about resigning here though unless you think Sally would want to return to her old job if you were not there (and if you have any inkling that is the case, then I agree that it would be an honorable thing to do). You can devote yourself to self-improvement, which you are doing, and also being keenly aware of what workplace bullying looks like so you can be an advocate against it.

    I hope you will send a further update just to check in on how it’s going. People do not always learn from there mistakes and I think it is very helpful that you have shared your story here.

    1. Expelliarmus*

      I think OP meant that it would be “honorable” in the sense that it would save them (some) face.

      1. Lance*

        I read it more as it would help save the segment of the business OP is in, given the current rumors and difficulty in hiring for Sally’s old position.

        1. Meep*

          In that case, it would actually probably be harmful externally, because it will look like a department issue.

          I am also interested in knowing if OP is resigning without a job lined up or if she is staying in her job until she finds something else. That can also affect the image of this business.

    2. Jora Malli*

      I may be wrong, but my feeling on this is that OP feels like it would be wrong to stay in this job after having pushed Sally out. Maybe she feels like she doesn’t deserve to stay, and I totally understand if that’s the case.

      OP, I can’t tell you whether or not it’s more honorable to leave or if you deserve to stay, but I think you’re right that leaving this job might be better for your mental health. You’ve come a long way, but you still have a way to go yet and it may be hard to find the healing and self-understanding that you need if you continue to stay in a place that reminds you of the worst things you’ve ever done.

      1. AD*

        Starting over again somewhere new may be best for all involved, including OP. I can’t imagine it would be easy — or even possible — to truly recover in this same role and organization.

        1. Divergent*

          Just make very, very sure she doesn’t end up at the same organization that Sally just left for.

    3. Not Sally, but if I were...*

      If she thought it would be honourable to resign, she would have done it already. She’s working on herself – great – but there is still linger selfishness and “I don’t deserve to be punished for my actions”.

    4. Blue Moon*

      It’s not only the honourable thing to do, it’s the right thing.

      OP behaved horribly. They bullied Sally to the point that she quit her job without another lined up. It was unusual enough that apparently others in the company are now suspicious and don’t want to fill Sally’s position.

      They poisoned the well. Just because the problem seems resolved (Sally quit, HR gave a warning, OP started therapy and realized their mistakes), doesn’t mean things are actually fine.

      Behaving professionally with your colleagues is part of your job. OP failed spectacularly at this. It’s honourable and right that they take responsibility for this and fix it. Resigning is the way to do so.

      1. Kfish*

        If OP’s “natural” form of humour is “snarky and sarcastic”, people don’t need to be suspicious of why Sally left. They KNOW.

  19. Irish Teacher*

    Honestly, I think it takes guts to come on here and admit you were wrong. I think many of us, if we were in your position, would just want to pretend the previous letters never happened and certainly wouldn’t be willing to return and admit the commenters were right and we were wrong.

    I am sorry to hear of how things worked out for Sally and wish you both the best for the future.

  20. Lady Knittington*

    That’s an incredibly uncomfortable update. I can see why OP behaved the way they did initially and I’m sorry it’s ended up the way it did. I hope that both they and Sally can move on from this.

  21. Healthcare Manager*

    Well done on all of your growth. You’ve learnt a lot and being really humble to admit it shows you’re a great person. A huge lesson learnt. Thank you also for taking time to send an update so others can benefit too. Even admitting to internet strangers can be hard, it’s admiral you’ve done so.

    In case you’re thinking it, you most certainly need to never try to contact Sally again. It might come from a good place on your end, but it’s more about you feeling better by apologising rather than what she needs. The best thing you can do for her is to let her move on.

    1. MEH Squared*

      I agree with all of this. I commend the OP for thinking hard about what happened and doing the work to change their perspective (and hopefully, continuing to do the work needed to change and grow).

      But I really want to underscore the second paragraph of Healthcare Manager’s response. Do NOT contact Sally again. She has made it abundantly clear that she does not wish to hear from you (and I cannot blame her). The best apology you can give her is to leave her alone.

      Best of luck to you, OP.

      1. shedubba*

        So much this. In Sally’s shoes, I would have been super creeped out by the letter being sent to my home after blocking the sender on every other medium. LW basically just informed/reminded Sally that they know where she lives. I would be considering moving in her situation. (Disclaimer: I have some trauma around abuse I received from a family member as a child, and that family member engaged in some light stalking when I laid down boundaries. I have taken action to ensure they won’t show up on my doorstep unexpectedly, but part of that is making sure they don’t have my address. If I got a letter from them, it would send me into a panic.)

  22. NatKat*

    Whew Chile! AAM really could be a reality show. These rollercoasters sure do give perspective!

  23. Swiss Army Them*

    Wow. This is a really mature, accountable update. Good on you, OP, for taking steps to go to therapy and be better in your professional life. This took guts. I hope things even out for you soon.

  24. Empress Matilda*

    Wow, OP – this is a full 180 turnaround from your first two letters. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this! I love that you’re acknowledging your past mistakes, making a sincere effort to change, and even sending this update to a community that was pretty hard on your the first time around. Honestly, well done – none of this is easy, and you should be very proud of yourself.

  25. bamcheeks*

    I am genuinely in awe of some of the growth that posters on here go through, and their bravery in sharing it. OP, I wish you all the best.

    1. bamcheeks*

      (And I hope Sally is able to move on too, but it is the case that you’ve forfeited the right to follow her career.)

  26. ENFP in Texas*

    It’s interesting to me that the OP expects to be eviscerated for realizing his responsibility and acknowledging the effect his actions had on Sally, while I (and probably others!) are actually happy to see that he has learned and grown. “My therapist helped me see everything that was happening in a different way and I now understand I bullied Sally” was a huge admission, and so completely different from the first two letters, and it makes me feel like the OP is (finally?) on the right track.

    I hope the OP continues to grow and learn. And if the OP is able to find a new job, tell the company that it would be a nice gesture for the company reach out to Sally and offer her a new position once the OP has left.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think some people expect to be kicked if they show vulnerability and admit to mistakes, or not being perfect. I’m glad the majority of commentators have not taken the opportunity to do that. I hope OP now sees that they could have said “I’m sorry” and “I’m wrong” at the very first complaint.

    2. MistOrMister*

      Unfortunately, some of the comments here have been very unkind to OP, so I guess I see why OP thought they might be eviscerated. I find it shocking and very disheartening. It is clear that OP has really gone through the wringer and is working on their issues. Meanwhile people are berating them for having ever behaved badly towards Sally. Yes, it sucks that this ever happened. But we are human and people make mistakes. The fact that OP has realized they mistreated Sally and are trying to improve is cause for congralulations, not censure.

      If I was Sally, I wouldn’t want them to offer me my job back if OP left. They handled the situation horribly! Sally had a number of legitimate complaints that she made to the boss over the course of months and the boss did nothing. There is no way the boss didn’t see at the time how problematic OP’s behavior was and all they did was hold a couple of meetings where they had OP walking out thinking they agreed that Sally was too sensitive. If I was Sally I would never want to work under that boss again. The fact that OP did eventually get told if they mess up again, they’re gone – well what does Sally care at this point? I think the best thing the company could do for her would be to make sure they give her glowing recommendations if she asks for them and leave her alone otherwise.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Whether she would be willing to go back also depends on how easily Sally finds another good job. But knowing that the OP left and told the company that Sally was right – if I were Sally, that would be nice to know.

        1. ENFP in Texas*

          That’s what I was thinking – that at least she’d know and would have the option.

  27. Yellow*

    Learning isn’t always easy, but it sounds like this lesson is one you’ll be thankful for eventually. I’m proud of you for doing the hard work and admitting you were wrong.

  28. Violet*

    I am in my last week of my job. My coworker, has been at me for ages. After WEEKS of the silent treatment, and a list of behaviors I am trying to put behind me. I don’t want her fired. I know she is in a bad way and needs help, but in all of this, MY MENTAL health has suffered and I have been blamed over and over. At the end of the day, I just want to put this behind me. I thought I could work it out with her, but if she won’t deal with her actions, I cannot do anything further.
    Thank you so much for posting this update. It give me hope that in some cases, people do turn it around and do the right thing.

    1. LZ*

      I’m sorry that you had to go through this at your current job, I hope you are moving on to a much better opportunity!

  29. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I did not see that coming. The line “My therapist helped me see everything that was happening in a different way and I now understand I bullied Sally” should have had sound effects.

    I’m so glad you’ve come to a new understanding, LW. Who knows, in future there could be an opportunity for you to offer Sally a sincere apology, to close the loop for her too. I hope she is flourishing in her new job.

    1. allathian*

      Perhaps, but don’t count on it. Being able to offer a sincere apology would undoubtedly make the LW feel better, but that’s not the point. Sally has decided that she wants nothing to do with the LW, her former friend, up to and including putting “return to sender” on a letter of apology.

      The LW has made a lot of progress, and kudos to them for doing a 180 on their former attitude, but sometimes there’s no Hallmark closure and we just have to learn to accept that as far as the person we hurt is concerned, they literally don’t care if we live or die. It’s not a comfortable feeling, but sometimes it’s all we get.

    1. Lydia*

      I’m not sure it was the best job Sally ever had if it took her leaving for the manager to take her bullying report seriously. What’s sad is it did take Sally having to leave to make this behavior be recognized for what it was.

      1. Meep*

        I agree, but unfortunately the norm. I was in Sally’s position where I had to leave due to a nasty coworker bullying me for being younger and more “successful” than her. I spent months trying to resolve it and even filed several complaints about her outrageous behavior. It wasn’t until I quit an actual investigation was done. In her case, though, she was the VP and I was a low-level employee, but I had been there longer than her.

        It really woke her manager up. The surprising part was no one, and I mean, no one likes her, either. We had multiple people quit because of her up to this point. I hope OP can repair her reputation because I suspect no one likes her either. At least right now.

        1. Anon for this*

          I was at a company that was really dysfunctional – and I ended up in the psych ward of the hospital and never returned….and me ending up in the psych ward of the hospital drove a bunch of change – my manager was moved to an individual contributor role, my project team all saw their roles reassessed, a lot of people left to “pursue other opportunities” within six months including two EVPs and everything – from the PMO to the business unit – went through a drastic reorg. It wasn’t just my situation driving that, but some of the things that put me into that situation (like a two month delay on approval to progress on a time sensitive project because one senior manager wanted to play politics with another senior manager and screw him over – it was those two that were let go) suddenly had really harsh light shined on them and not everyone survived that light.

          I was told my one person that apparently “putting one of the best project managers we’ve ever had into the hospital” was the trigger for a massive reassessment. That person also said that a year later, it was still dysfunctional, but better.

          1. Lydia*

            That must have been so disorienting and scary. How did you start recovering from being in such an abusive environment?

        2. CommanderBanana*

          Yeah. I worked for an organization that promoted someone into a management position they shouldn’t have. Her department had 100% turnover THREE TIMES in three years except for me – as in, every single person quit, then the people hired to replace those people quit, then it happened again – and it took over three years for them to finally wake up and, not even fire her, but move her into a position without direct reports.

          The sad thing is she was pretty mediocre at her job. I have no idea why the company thought that having 300% turnover was preferable to moving one middling-at-best middle manager.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            Best guess on that, people didn’t cite this manager as their reason for leaving at the time? Something along those lines could have been written about my ex boss – enough people quit after less than a year that it became known as the Defence Against the Dark Arts Job, but in their exit interviews people were saying things like “This work’s not for me”, or “My old job made me an offer I couldn’t refuse”, rather than “Dolores Umbridge’s management is the problem”. The one person who did come right out and say Umbridge was her reason for leaving ended up returning after a few months when her new job wasn’t what she expected, so that could have come across as her not being really that bad. (What didn’t help was that Umbridge’s boss at the time was her neighbour/carpool/friend, which made it that bit more difficult to raise issues about her).

            After a change of grandboss, majority of the team jobhunting and resigning at once and one formal complaint, she went off sick and didn’t come back. I don’t know what the outcome would have been had she tried to return, but hopefully not having direct reports.

      2. Smithy*

        I agree with this. It might be that this employer is truly fantastic and had this single blind spot – but that just isn’t typically the case.

        It sounds like the OP and Sally came from a very dysfunctional employer and that this workplace was better. And often when you’re used to high dysfunction, “better” can paper over a lot of cracks but also help you regain a lot of self-esteem and normalcy. To be a little “silver lining” it may be that the employer was making slow moves to fix the situation with the OP, but Sally was actually in a really positive and high self-esteem place where she decided she didn’t need to wait for things incrementally or slowly get better.

        And yes, I do say all of this from personal experience. Where I was at a terrible place that made an average place seem like a utopia. While it wasn’t, it did allow me to re-establish my workplace norms, self-esteem, and confidence. When I realized that it wasn’t actually utopia, hearing talks of “we’re in process to make xyz changes….” – I was ready to just leave.

    2. Froodle*

      Removed. You need to be kind to LWs here, regardless of what you think of their actions. – Alison

    3. Elbe*

      Agreed. The details that she recommended the LW and was excited for the LW to be out of a toxic environment absolutely killed me. I feel so sad for her. I hope she lands on her feet.

    4. Observer*

      This makes me so incredibly sad for Sally who lost the best job she ever had.

      Actually, this makes me sad for Sally that *THIS* was the best job she ever had. Because a manager who won’t stop the kind of behavior that the OP was describing is not a really great job. Especially when the set up is such that you don’t feel like you have any way to get any help.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        That’s a good point. It also sounds like this was her second job, and the first (where she met OP) was extremely toxic, so it could just be a case of something being not-horrible and assuming it was amazing. I do hope Sally ends up somewhere better.

      2. HotSauce*

        I agree. And what kind of bumbling fools don’t come down hard on someone who is bullying a supposedly beloved employee? I mean it had to be obvious when OP was in the meetings with the managers and they casually stated that Sally just needed thicker skin and had to be treated with kid gloves. If one of my employees ever said that I would be taking very serious actions. You don’t get to dictate how people feel about something. If they say that you are upsetting them you take actions to correct that, not brush it aside that they’re being “too sensitive”. I honestly hope Sally finds a much better place with supportive management. I’m glad OP made progress, but this whole situation just reeks of gross mismanagement.

      3. Working Hypothesis*

        This is what I thought. Sally had a better job here (until OP arrived) than she’d had at a horribly toxic workplace, but how much is that saying? I really hope she finds a TRULY good place to work this time. She deserves it, after everything she’s been through (and also because she sounds like a kickass employee).

    5. LizB*

      And who went out of her way to share that opportunity with someone she thought was a trusted colleague, mentor, and friend, only to be relentlessly bullied into unemployment by that same person with no protection from management. Yeesh. I simultaneously think the OP has come an impressively long way (keep it up with the therapy, OP!), and I am even more outraged by their actions given the new information they’ve included in this update.

  30. Unkempt Flatware*

    I’ll forever be in awe of anyone who can come full circle like this and then come back and share with us. It takes serious humility and introspection and bravery. Hearing someone tell their tale like this is humanizing and powerful. Thank you for writing in.

  31. Schnapps*

    OP, this is an awesome update. You’re showing a lot of growth and insight. It’s very brave to reach out for help, and even more brave to share this update with us.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. I always say that these situations are like the best friend who says, “You know, that person you’re with is bad for you.” It hurts, but its the right thing and what exists beyond this journey will be better than you could ever imagine.

  32. Savvy*

    OP, you sound like a totally different person than the one who wrote that first letter. You should be proud of the progress you’ve made. Writing back in took a lot of courage as well, and I applaud you for that, and thank you for the update! I agree with others that it does really sound like your company dropped the ball on handling this whole thing, and I hope Sally has been able to recover from the horrible situation of having her livelihood threatened. I hope you carry this new insight forward as you move on so the people around you (friends and coworkers alike) will not have to worry anymore. Best of luck to you!

  33. ecnaseener*

    Thank you for writing in. Wishing you all the best on your path back to being the person you want to be.

  34. OrigCassandra*

    You’re doing pretty much everything you can do to have a better future than past and be a better person in that future, OP. Keep on the road you’re on, and good luck to you.

  35. Lydia*

    You’re doing the work, OP, and all we can hope for is that the insight and maturity your letter shows is reflected in your behavior moving forward.

  36. LittleDoctor*

    OP I’m saying this respectfully and because I think you want to grow:

    “I did not consciously bully her. I am a good person and I did not mean to do this. I knew I was not being overly nice to Sally, but was blinded by the pain of my marriage ending to see how my behavior was affecting her. This situation really snowballed away from me”

    It really sounds like you’re still full of defensiveness and reasons why this wasn’t really your fault and doesn’t really reflect who you are as a person. There is no who you are outside of your actions. Our actions are 100% of who we are, not our internal feelings.

    1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      Yes, for all the LW’s wonderful insight and growth, there is still more to do.

    2. Meep*

      That and the fact that OP was surprised Sally didn’t tell anyone speaks volumes to me that there is still a lot of growth to be had. But bettering one’s self is always a process I suppose.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Yes, it appears Sally was extremely professional about this, a fact that surprised OP. OP, as you work on your growth, keep in mind that if you are surprised when someone acts professionally, it says much about how you need to act more professionally.

    3. HLM*

      Strong, strong agree. To paraphrase Jay Smooth, how you identify matters less than your actions–if someone steals your wallet, you don’t care whether they don’t identify as a thief, you care that their actions have caused harm. More therapy, more work, more understanding that considering yourself a good person is not a free pass for lashing out.

    4. The Original K.*

      A friend and then-colleague of my mother’s went through a divorce that she didn’t want or expect and she lashed out horribly at work. My mother, who was years out from her own divorce at that point, pulled her aside and told her “I know you’re hurting and angry but you cannot behave this way at work. If you need to take time, you should, but you can’t act like this.”

      I sympathize about the divorce but while that may be a reason, it is not an excuse.

      1. Observer*

        Your Mom sounds like a really great person. I hope the other person listened to her.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        It’s a shame that the OP’s manager did not do the same. Might have served as a wake-up call and saved both Sally a lot of pain, and prevented a lot of the pain and shame that the OP feels now.

    5. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      I agree with this. It seems like OP has done SO much growth which is really, really commendable, and they should be proud, and keep going! AND also at the same time – what does it mean to be “a good person” if you’re not treating people the way that good people should treat them? A lot of really terrible people think they are good. Your self-conception is not as important as the impact that your actions and words have on people.

    6. anonymous73*

      This. “Actions speak louder than words” isn’t just an old cliché. I had to end a 40+ year friendship for my own sanity after reflecting on her actions over the years and realizing they had more meaning about her character than her words ever did.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        My mantra is that actions become habits and habits become character. Ultimately, your actions are your character.

    7. Elbe*

      A lot of commenters here have a similar take, but I don’t agree. I don’t see that paragraph as being defensive or providing excuses, but rather as describing the massive gap that can exist between our intentions & perceptions and our actual actions. It’s a cautionary description of how people can lose perspective.

      The LW says point blank, “My therapist helped me see everything that was happening in a different way and I now understand I bullied Sally.” It sounds like they’re 100% taking accountability. As long as they’re acknowledging that their perspective was warped and wrong (and they are), I think it provides valuable insight for them to describe that perspective and how it came to be.

      As scary as it is, people can have skewed or disordered thinking. And the actions that result from that can harm other people. It’s not comfortable to admit that people who consider themselves good people (as most of us probably do) are capable of doing these things, but it happens all the time. Not everyone who feels like a good person acts like a good person, or even recognizes that they’re behaving poorly.

    8. CommanderBanana*

      Yeah this is a non-apology “apology” and I’m frankly appalled that she’s still on the staff at this company, and that it was allowed to get this far.

    9. Not A Manager*

      “Our actions are 100% of who we are, not our internal feelings.”

      I disagree. There’s a difference between a career criminal and someone who shoplifts one time. Theft is wrong, but one incident of theft doesn’t make one “a thief”. I don’t know whether OP is a good person or not, but I think it’s possible that OP behaved in a bullying manner without being “a bully.” In either case, though, the important thing is that OP no longer wants to behave that way, and is doing the work to understand *both* who they are *and* what their actions say about them.

      1. LittleDoctor*

        “There’s a difference between a career criminal and someone who shoplifts one time.”

        Sure, and what’s the literal sole difference? Their actions, not whether they identify as a good person or consider themselves a good person.

        1. Not A Manager*

          That’s not my point. My point is, your actions define you when they are characteristic of who you are. They don’t define you when they are one-off. Which is why, by the way, people mistrust immediate personality conversions. Someone can *say,* “oh look I’ve changed I don’t do that stuff anymore,” but you need to see that the change is in their character before you start to trust it. And it’s also why we tell people to “fake it till you make it.” Because if you fake whatever it is long enough, eventually it becomes part of who you are. But it doesn’t start off as part of who you are.

          1. KAZ2Y5*

            I don’t know that I would characterize OP’s actions as a “one-off”. I think they went on way too long for that.

          2. Scarlet2*

            Yeah, but I’m not sure what difference it makes. I honestly don’t care whether someone is a “career criminal” or they just happened to steal my wallet that one time. I’m still hurt by their actions.
            Likewise, who cares whether someone “occasionally bullies people” or “is a bully” (and in this instance, I really don’t understand the nuance). Bullying is also by definition not a “one-off” thing, it’s a sustained behaviour. And if Sally had the time to complain, ask to stop training OP, had at least one discussion with the boss and OP, etc (if memory serves), it’s definitely more than one instance of bad behaviour.

            My point being that talking about whether someone is “a good person” or can be “defined as a bully by behaving as a bully” is irrelevant. It’s 100% about your actions. If you do something bad (which… pretty much everyone does at some point to some degree, no matter how hard we all believe to be “good people”), you need to recognize it was bad and then stop doing it. That’s it.

      1. anonforthis*

        I mean, yeah I think it likely is. I think a lot of therapists enable people and encourage them to focus on their feelings over the material reality of their actions. That’s why, for example, men who commit domestic violence tend to be worsened by typical therapy and only tend to improve in batterer-specific programs. Therapy is very often a tool people use to create justifications for their own abusive behaviour.

      2. Anon for this*

        100% agreed. I remember distinctly one of the things I was told early on in therapy was that “I am important and I matter”. I’d gone in thinking I wasn’t and didn’t, and my behaviour reflect as such (it was, frankly, selfish at times because, hey, I wasn’t important so why did it matter what I did?). At risk of speculation and projection, I wonder if OP has gone into therapy with a mindset of “Of course I do terrible things – I am a terrible person” and this is currently what is being unpicked.

    10. Lord Bravery*

      I’m also a little confused as to why OP noted that Sally didn’t “tell anyone on the broader team” that she was being bullied. This is 100% the purview of their manager and there’s no reason for her to have confided in coworkers instead of the person whose job it is to intervene.

      I note this only because, while it does seem like OP has done a lot of growth, notes like this still seem like possibly intended to downplay the situation or cast doubt on Sally’s response to it. Maybe that’s not the case, but it can sometimes take a long time to go from “accepting any responsibility for the situation at all” to “accepting an appropriate amount of responsibility.”

      OP, it seems like you’re on a good and much needed journey here, and I hope you’ll keep going.

    11. Lydia*

      This didn’t sound defensive to me; it sounded like they were acknowledging that whatever they intended at the beginning, it quickly became something else entirely. I feel like sometimes we have a need to point out how someone isn’t at some intangible destination even after they themselves have admitted they’re still working on things. At some point maybe they’ll use different language to talk about what happened, but this is the language they’re using now and I’m sure their therapist is working with them on the rest of it.

  37. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, your letter speaks volumes about you, in a good way. It takes integrity and maturity to even acknowledge the mistakes you made with Sally, let alone own them and seek help. Thank you for the update, and I hope you find fulfillment and peace.

  38. Jackie Techila*

    Glad you learned something but in the end you have a job and she doesn’t. A job that you would not have if it wasn’t for her. Cue the male protagonist growth trope off a side female character.

    I don’t think you should be penalized for the rest of your life because of how you behaved at one point since you’ve seemed to have changed. But how nice it is to have the opportunity to fail repeatedly at your job and keep it? My thoughts will be with Sally, who is a rockstar employee that was bullied by a sub-par colleague and now has to job search while he keeps a steady paycheck.

    1. immunorecovering*

      Absolutely. It’s immensely disappointing that the boss here didn’t do anything concrete (from what it seems) to protect a rockstar employee.

      1. Presea*

        +1 to this despite my comment directly responding to Jackie Techila. The boss here really, really failed Sally.

      2. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

        I said the same thing, the boss appears to have got off scot free.

      3. DC*

        Yes, exactly. Huge fail by the boss. Which shows that OP’s bullying was not the only dysfunction in that workplace. Competent management by Sally’s boss likely would have led to a totally different outcome.

    2. Kella*

      I believe we learned in the first update that OP is a woman. So, this isn’t a case of the male protagonist’s growth trope.

    3. Presea*

      This is real life, not fiction. OP is no more or less a “protagonist” than Sally. You’re certainly entitled to have your opinion on the situation and I’m not saying this comment section can’t or even shouldn’t have any critical voices towards the OP, but this comment reads to me to be in bad taste.

    4. MK*

      The post clearly states the OP’s female pronouns, but you know what? The point stands, the OP has shown some growth and is applauded in the comments, while Sally is unemployed.

      You know what I learned after 20 years as a woman in a difficult field? Men are x (insert derogatory and perfectly true assessment of male behaviour). Women are x too, but the patriarchy hasn’t let them express themselves fully these past millennia.

      1. Divergent*

        “Men are x (insert derogatory and perfectly true assessment of male behaviour). Women are x too, but the patriarchy hasn’t let them express themselves fully these past millennia.”

        Non-binary in a male field (also have occasionally been x, working on it) and wish I could stamp this into everyone’s minds.

      2. Gerry Keay*

        That’s because what we associate as gendered behaviors are often actually behaviors associated with having power.

    5. NvB*

      Exactly. I don’t get the enthusiasm behind some of the comments on here. The update just made me more sad for Sally.

  39. Cheap Ass Rolls*

    I think this letter is a testimony to several things: that many of the people we like to paint as villains are good people just trying their best in messed-up circumstances, that it is possible for people to redeem themselves, and that people can and do learn from their mistakes.

    OP, wishing you much more growth and peace of mind.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      All a villain usually is in the first place is somebody in messed up circumstances trying to do… something. But they’re not necessarily a good person, and OP was not a good person in this situation. I don’t mean that to be kicking OP when she’s down; she’s started her growth process and I’m impressed with her for it. But I’m also not going to act like what she was doing at the time was the act of “a good person just trying their best.” She may have been trying her best, but if so, then her best was not enough to allow her to be a good person at that time and in that setting.

      That happens sometimes. All you can do is try to do better. OP is doing that and I give her credit, but I don’t think it’s helpful to dismiss the badness of that she actually did, either.

  40. immunorecovering*

    I wish you all the best, OP. You have come a LONG way and that kind of growth in such a short time is surely painful, even if wonderful.

  41. Meep*

    I snorted at the comment about Sally not telling anyone because it definitely means she was professional if she only told your boss. As she should.

    Additionally, the part you left out at being her mentor makes a lot of sense why you were berating Sally and kept insisting she was “immature”. You were upset someone who was younger than you was more successful than you in every way.

    I don’t say this to be mean, because you seem to realize it, but it definitely adds clarity to the initial post and update.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I wonder if the fact that the OP and Sally were originally friends with a snarky way of talking to each other messed with Sally’s head, made her reluctant to open up about the bullying and is the reason she took a while to complain.

      I’ve been in situations where people I though were on friendly terms with me devolved into nasty bullying and it’s very confusing at first because your brain isn’t used to it. If someone’s crappy to you from the start, it’s almost easier to deal with it.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I think it probably also had to do with the fact that Sally helped OP get the job in the first place!! I would feel so horrible advocating for someone to get hired and then having to go back and say it wasn’t working out – plus I would feel like my credibility was shot.

    2. DC*

      Yes, if I recall correctly the comments to the original letter theorized that the OP was bullying Sally for being younger and more successful (at that age) than the OP, and taking out their own jealousy/insecurity on Sally.

  42. ThatGirl*

    While I get where you’re coming from, most people think of themselves as a good person, or want to be a good person. So let’s give OP credit for realizing that even though they thought of themself as a good person, what they did was not good. That’s a pretty big seismic shift, and they’re trying to live up to the image in their head now.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Whoops, this got stranded because the comment I replied to got deleted. But the point remains – emotional growth is hard! If your self-image is wrapped up in being a good person (whatever that means to you), it’s very hard to see yourself otherwise. (See also “I’m a Good Person” from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

    2. Ada*

      I think you might have been trying to reply to a comment but it didn’t nest? I agree with your point, though!

    3. Purple Cat*

      Yes, I’m a little sad at the comments claiming defensiveness on OP’s part because they say “I’m a good person” when so many comments are still berating OP and pointing out how terrible they were and that Sally is unemployed.
      What happened to Sally is terrible. Full Stop. But this letter isn’t about Sally, and all we should do in today’s update is comment on the OP. And they’ve shown growth. And acknowledged mistakes. And are seeking to improve. Let’s give them credit for that.

  43. H.C.*

    Thanks for sharing, admitting your faults, learning from it & trying to make amends.

    That being said – please refrain from trying to contact Sally further – even to apologize – until she takes the 1st step to engage with you + accepting the possibility that may never happen.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed, H.C. The bridge with Sally has been pretty thoroughly burned and any further attempts to impose on her will not be received well. And if you do run into her at work events, take her lead. Being cool about it and keeping some distance will do more for a détente than running over and apologizing ever could.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        I agree. Put yourself in Sally’s mindset. She is not a co-worker whom you criticized. She is a friend–one who put her reputation on the line to get you hired–whom you stabbed in the back and then doubled down and why she deserved that stabbing. Please leave her alone.

    2. Cat*

      As Captain Awkward says, sometimes being a better person has to be its own reward (i.e. forgiveness isn’t owed).

  44. Kella*

    OP, I think you are unlikely to be eviscerated in the comments this time because you did the one thing everyone was suggesting to you all along: Admit that you were wrong. I can hear how incredibly difficult it was for you to get to a point where you could do that and to admit it in a public space like this would be even harder. Congratulations on being willing to take a hard look at yourself and begin making changes you need to be a happier, healthier person overall.

  45. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    OP, that all sounds super difficult to handle and I’m sorry you’ve been through so much.

    I super appreciated getting this update from you. What you wrote shows real growth, especially acknowledging the ways that you were wrong in this situation. It sounds like you’re really doing the work to learn from what has happened and be a better person and colleague. I wish you every success on that journey.

  46. CoveredinBees*

    It takes emotional growth to look back at bad behavior and accept that you did something hurtful. Good job!

    I’d let go of the idea of contacting Sally (even with the best of intentions and sincerest of apologies). I’d imagine that she needs time and space to move on. After everything that happened, I can imagine that she knows that she has no idea what she’s in for with you. Maybe in the future, you’ll come into contact naturally and you can apologize then.

  47. Jess*

    This is a cautionary tale for all the “I’m just brutally honest” and “I have a sarcastic sense of humor” folks out there. Those are the kinds of things the rest of us learn the hard way are warning “toxic personality” labels.

    Grow as a person. I have regretted many of my words and actions in my long long life. I have never regretted a kindness or a kind word, or keeping my trap shut.

    Normalize not validating our own stank with some off the cuff remark about how edgy we are. Being a hard ass is not edgy. Its exhausting for everyone.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I worked in a place where people Knew how to throw a one-liner. It was a survival skill. It was also exhausting. While I know I can throw the one-liners, I also know that there are better ways to work.

      We aren’t hired for our brutal honesty. We aren’t hired for our snarkiness. We are hired for our ability to get along with others and get the job done. OP, you are well position on this road to actually come out on a higher plane that you ever could have achieved before. Chin up and keep going.

    2. I&I*

      Also, OP seems pretty clear that this *didn’t* come from a place of honesty. They weren’t honest with themselves about their feelings, and took it out on Sally.

      And really, I think a lot of ‘brutally honest’ nastiness comes from there. In my experience it’s usually a way of expressing anger, hostility or envy, just in a way that stops the doer from admitting it to themselves.

  48. Zephy*

    I’m glad OP is putting in the work and is starting to see how utterly out of line his behavior was. I hope Sally is thriving, wherever she is now.

  49. CPegasus*

    Thank you for coming back to update. Congratulations on your hard work. It sounds like it’s been very difficult but you’re doing great! Not everyone has the strength of character you do to face yourself this clearly and to grow and change.

  50. Ben Gadsby*

    I see lot of growth and ownership of your mistakes. Probably the right call to look to start over somewhere new but it is possible to recover from this in life if you learn to forgive yourself. That’s the hardest part. Sending love

  51. Dog Ate my TPS Reports*

    It took guts to submit this, and even more to do the work that made your revelations possible.

  52. Jennifer Strange*

    OP, I was someone who had some harsh words for you in the original posts, and I stand by those. However, I’m glad you’re doing some self-reflection here and I wish you success on becoming a better you.

    Tangentially, it sounds like the boss here isn’t a great manager either.

    1. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

      I agree. The boss seems to have left Sally out to dry and yet somehow escaped any kind of discipline.

  53. PennylaneTX*

    I echo the other sentiments (they’re all positive at this time, so this does not apply to a negative comment that pops up!). Your work on yourself and owning up to your responsibility is admirable. I wish you luck in the future and keep up with the therapy!

  54. bamcheeks*

    I think everyone needs to believe they are “a good person”. You actively need a self-concept of yourself as a good person in order to recognise, understand and (where possible) make amends for the way you’ve hurt another person. It doesn’t help anyone to simply classify yourself as a bad person.

  55. hmbalison*

    I appreciate the growth and insight you’ve achieved, but I hope you take to heart that you need to keep growing and as others have said, come to a place where you can see that in many ways you are still blaming outside conditions for how you acted. You weren’t a “good person” when you bullied Sally. Plenty of other people go through terrible things in their personal lives and don’t act out at work by belittling others.

    True insight, growth, and change all come when you can own your sh**t without the yes..but…at the end. I believe you’ll get there.

  56. idwtpaun*

    Thanks for sending in the update, OP, I always appreciate when a person who had to take their lumps and realize they were wrong still takes time to write one.

    It also explains to me quite a bit about Sally’s side of things since we now know you worked together before. You must’ve gotten on quite well for her to recommend you like this and she was probably thrown completely off-balance by how badly things were going this time.

  57. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

    Oh, OP, I’m sorry. You sound like someone who is used to not making mistakes and always being in control-and when a personal situation implodes, people try very hard to control what they can control-like work situations. I’m sorry you’re going through this, but I’m glad you’ve learned from it. The worse thing that could happen is not losing your job, but losing it and having no idea why. Learning from this is the best you can do right now and move forward.

  58. Professional Cat Lady*

    That must have been really hard to write, well done LW. I’m sorry everything imploded. I have confidence that you’re learning and will do better going forward!

  59. DrSalty*

    Hi OP, I wish you the best with your therapy journey and I hope things are brighter for you in the future! It takes courage and strength to realize you were wrong and try to learn from your mistakes. Best of luck!

  60. Elbe*

    This is heartbreaking. I feel a lot of sympathy for both the LW and Sally.

    We get a lot of letters here about people behaving badly and I’ve always wanted an explanation as to how someone could behave so poorly and still think that they’re a good person, the good guy in the story. So, this was a really interesting read for me.

    The comments here are going to split hairs between good people who do bad things and bad people who behave well sometimes. I hope it doesn’t distract too much from the main point, which is that the LW 1) had a mindset that allowed him to act cruelly without feeling like he was in the wrong and 2) came to realize that and work to fix it. The LW said that they hoped this would be helpful to someone else, and I honestly think that it might be.

    Maybe the main takeaway here is to really consider the feedback that you receive – even if you think it’s silly or it comes from a source you don’t really want to be right.

    1. Liz*

      I don’t think there are “good” or “bad” people. We are our actions and how they impact others.

  61. K Diehl*

    Like other commenters I am glad that you have admitted the wrong headedness of your actions. But I REALLY feel for Sally. She actively recruited you – and by your employer’s own words was the REASON you go the job – and then you treated her like dirt. If YOU feel stressed now how do you think SHE was feeling during this time? She vouched for you, and you repaid that trust with nastiness. While she reported to the boss, she was too ashamed to tell coworkers about your treatment of her. And it was so stressful, after getting little support from her boss on this issue, that she quit the best job she’d ever had without a new one lined up. Wow – I am so sorry it had to go that far before you realized the error of your ways. You are very lucky that well liked Sally did not spread the details of your treatment – or folks would be more than “suspicious”,

  62. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    It’s really hard to admit when you’re in the wrong, to humble yourself and say ‘sorry’, OP. So well done for doing that. Having your marriage end with no warning would be destabilising for anyone but I think you know that doesn’t excuse how you treated Sally. To hear that you were friends before this makes your behaviour even worse in my mind. I’m not surprised that she has blocked you on social media and doesn’t want further contact. Losing a friend is very painful but all you can do is acknowledge that it’s over and try to move on.

    I have to say it’s very disappointing that your boss didn’t support Sally and that she felt she had no option but to resign, especially given her reputation as a ‘rockstar’ at the company. Your boss should also have been reprimanded and given some kind of warning.

    I’m glad that you are in therapy and that it’s helping. I hope that you are able to find another job and your healing continues to progress.

    1. Doctors Whom*

      Yes, I’m surprised there were no consequences to the boss who *knew* Sally was being bullied and refused to take any action. That’s honestly even worse IMO than the bullying – knowing it was happening and failing to protect Sally to begin with. The manager should have been fired based on Sally’s exit feedback.

      I am glad to see OP has developed this important self-reflection and understands the full scope of their prior actions. I do think that moving on is in the best interest of everyone – because clearly the OP does not have a manager now who is capable of identifying and managing problems in the workplace. If OP is going to be successful at future work, a fresh start with a manager who actually knows how to manage is going to be an important part of that.

  63. mcfizzle*

    While I feel for Sally immensely and wish there was something (somehow?) that I could do for her, I’m proud of you for going to therapy and taking some very bitter medicine. It’s *so* difficult to take a hard look at yourself (at least, it is for me, guessing it is for most people) and I applaud you for your growth. Thanks for the updates.

    1. Elbe*

      “She told me that it was the best job she ever had”

      I wonder if the LW could somehow offer to leave the company if Sally wanted to come back. If this was really the best job she had and she was viewed as a rockstar by her peers, it’s a shame that she had to give that situation up (especially if similar jobs are hard to find) due to someone who now feels horrible about it and is planning to leave anyway.

      If she hasn’t yet found a job, maybe they could offer hers back? It would be a nice way for the LW to make amends.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’d be surprised if Sally wanted to come back after how management handled this, but I agree this is something to offer.

        1. Elbe*

          Agreed, but I would much rather it be her choice. At the very least she would have the satisfaction of turning down the offer.

          And we also don’t know to what extent the issue was described or how it was framed to management. It sounds like Sally was being heartbreakingly discreet about the problem. The severity of bullying is often hard to describe without actually seeing it in person, accumulating over time. Maybe management is horrible, or maybe they just miscalculated.

          1. Observer*

            Well, there must have been a fair amount of information to be had, since once HR did their investigation they put the OP on notice and threatened their job.

            1. Elbe*

              Yes, but it’s also possible that that information came out during the investigation and not all of it was something that management had access to up-front.

              Sally said that it was her best job ever, so I think it’s possible that management wasn’t a complete dumpster fire. Even if management has major problems, the other benefits of the job may outweigh it and she may want to come back.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        Honestly, if I were Sally I wouldn’t want to come back not just because of the OP, but because of the boss who let the issue continue.

        1. DC*

          Yes, totally agree. Competent management of the OP when Sally brought the bullying to the manager’s attention should have led to a very different outcome.

        2. KRM*

          Yes, I imagine Sally’s reason for leaving was about 70% OP’s bullying and 30% the complete failure of management to do anything about it. I would have been reassessing my characterization of the job as the ‘best I’ve ever had” to “great for me personally at first but actually not that great overall because my boss let this situation go on far too long” as I searched for another job.

      3. Important Moi*

        I don’t agree that offering Sally the opportunity to work with the same person who drove them out of the company is a good way for LW to make amends.

        1. Elbe*

          My suggestion was the the LW could leave the company so that Sally could come back. I didn’t suggest that Sally and the LW should work together.

      4. Nonny Mouse*

        Yes, this is what I can’t get past and why I can’t join in the communal backpatting of OP. It sounds like OP thoroughly screwed up this young woman’s life. She had a job where she was successful, popular, happy, and advancing well beyond what could be expected for someone her age… all according to OP.

        And OP came in, acted nasty; refused to believe he was being nasty; refused to understand his behavior was hurtful, destructive and over-the-top no matter how many people told him so, and kept it up until Sally decided she’d rather quit a job she loved than ever see him again…

        … and then he tried to contact her!

        I agree with you that OP should offer to quit if Sally will come back if he quits.

  64. Slightly Burned*

    I wanted to stand up and clap after I finished reading this update. OP, I want to say that I’m very proud of you! We all have stuff going on in our lives, and sometimes we take out our frustration/anger/sadness/insert-big-emotion-here on other people when we don’t know how to manage how we feel. That doesn’t make the behavior okay, but I want to acknowledge that life is just HARD sometimes. Taking the steps to adjust your behavior (i.e. therapy) is a very admirable thing to do.

    As for Sally, I think it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway, don’t try to contact her again. I believe that you feel awful about what you’ve done, but you can’t demand forgiveness (I’m not saying you’re “demanding” forgiveness per se, but as someone who has been on the receiving end of these sort of apologies it can start to feel like a demand if they don’t get the hint to back off). Sally was essentially forced to put up with bad behavior from a person she considered a friend, at a job she loved, her employer didn’t back her up, and this resulted in her needing to quit. The BEST BEST BEST thing you can do for Sally in this moment is to keep working on yourself so this never happens again.

    Onwards and upwards!

  65. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

    OP I’m glad that you have gotten the help that you need and that you see how horrible you were with Sally. If you ever get the chance down the road try and apologize. I wouldn’t reach out now, everything is too fresh and hurtful. But I think it would be nice at some point if you get the chance.

    1. Purple Cat*

      OP did try and Sally (rightfully so) returned the letter. Sally can hopefully get a new job and get her career back on track. OP just needs to focus on themselves, continue the therapy and get their life back on track too.

      1. KRM*

        I think the suggestion is more in terms of “if you ever see her in a professional context {IN A FEW YEARS}, you can say ‘I just want you to know that I’m terribly sorry about what I put you through at Job X, and I hope you’ve been doing well for yourself’ and then allow her to feel about that however she wants to feel” advice. Don’t reach out, don’t seek her out, but if you naturally see her, and she speaks to you, you can slide it in and then once again, let it go and let Sally drive her own response.

  66. CeeKee*

    Oh gosh. There’s just a whole lot of sadness all over this story. I’m glad that there are some lights at the end of everyone’s tunnels, but wow, this was a rough one.

    1. Tired of Working*

      I don’t see what the light is at the end of Sally’s tunnel. She quit her job without having found a new one. We don’t know if she’s managed to find another job. She has no way of knowing that the OP got into therapy and is sorry for what happened. What is the light at the end of her tunnel?

  67. A visitor*

    Yeah, I am not going to jump on the wagon with everyone congratulating this OP in the progress he has made. If you read his original letter and the first updated, this new info makes this situation so, so much worse. I am repulsed by this whole thing. I just hope Sally can put this person behind her and find a better place, with better bosses and co-workers.

    1. mcfizzle*

      I understand your sentiment, but to me, the “best case scenario” in any advice column is for the OP to show growth in these updates. Of course this was/is an ugly situation, but we should support people’s growth. This doesn’t excuse the terrible behavior, but at least may prevent future terrible behavior, both from OP and as a cautionary tale.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      I’m still baffled as to how this company can justify keeping OP on the staff after this.

      1. A visitor*

        Ultimately, Sally is probably better off away from this company and this boss who allowed her to be treated this way. A terrible way to learn this lesson though.

      2. Lemon Ginger*

        Agreed. The employer definitely handled this badly and it’s completely unfair that Sally is out of a job while the OP can keep hers. It makes me angry on Sally’s behalf. It’s great that OP is getting help and working on herself but how does this help Sally exactly?

  68. Asher*

    Speaking from personal experience, the world of consulting can be incredibly toxic, and it makes sense that you internalized that. Reading your comment about asking Sally to apologize for what, at worst, was a poorly/ambiguously worded instruction (and really was probably perfectly fine) gave me flashbacks to a PM I used to work with before I finally got out of consulting. She once left a comment in a document I was working on that said “didn’t you go to grad school?” With no further indication of what the issue was or what she wanted me to do differently (though the comment would be inappropriate even if that were not true).

    I’m so glad you’ve been able to acknowledge the issue and are working on detoxing. For me, the realization that a functional office means everyone is on the same team to create the best possible product, not people just pointing fingers at each other and demanding work be “more professional” without providing any actionable feedback, was a game changer. Reading this blog, which I only started doing once I finally buckled down and started seriously looking for a new job, had helped me realize just how abnormal and unproductive those types of behaviors really are.

    1. HA2*

      Indeed. This is also a cautionary tale about how toxic jobs can turn people toxic too. Quoting:

      “Also, the transition from consulting to administration was harder than I could have ever imagined … I am used to the cutthroat consulting culture where people are fired early and often if they fail to outperform. …. I genuinely do not know what I was thinking.”

      It sounds like in order to survive in a toxic environment (people are fired early and often, with little warning, if they make mistakes) OP internalized a toxic survival strategy – refuse to admit any mistakes, and proactively find ways to blame others. (It makes twisted sense. If you ADMIT a mistake, it might be used against you; if you force the other person to admit that it was their fault, then they’re the ones who will get fired for it.)

      For OP, perhaps thinking about where you learned these bad habits could help you reverse them, now that you’re not in that world. For everyone else, it’s a reminder that toxic jobs can change you as a person, for the worse, so to escape them ASAP if you find yourself in one.

  69. Ellena*

    I now just want to give LW a hug. What an honest, self-aware letter that she didn’t really need to write, but gathered the courage to. I wish you all the very best and I trust that with the lessons learned you will manage to have a better life ahead. You have a lot going on for you.

  70. nawfam*

    I am going to get eviscerated in the replies, I know, but this did not read all that sincere to me. This read like someone who is being forced to apologize and is saying what they have to say just to make it go away. I still don’t feel like there’s a lot of insight into their behaviors and actions, but they did find some external factors to blame their actions on in an attempt for sympathy and justification.

    I’m glad OP is in therapy and I hope they stick with it. They’ve got more work to do.

    1. A visitor*

      Same, and frankly, IDGAF about people like this. Yeah, excuses after excuses. But what actually happened, OP actively made someone’s life worse, life of a person who was his friend and supporter.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      I disagree. I’m not saying the OP isn’t still being defensive in some ways, and I do think they have more to work on to fully take ownership of their actions, but just admitting they were wrong is actually a huge step. I don’t see them blaming the external factors (certainly not for sympathy and justification), but rather using them to better contextualize the situation. They are still 100% to blame to how they reacted, but understanding the stressors can help them better control those instincts going forward.

      I called the OP out for trying to do damage control in their first update, but this reads pretty sincere to me. Improving oneself is a process. They’re not going to be 100% there right away.

      1. My heart is a fish*

        Yeah, that element read to me very much like it’s a part of the conversations they’ve been having with their therapist. I know when I’m working with mine, we deal a lot with a stimulus-emotion-response sort of framework, and working to recognize the stimulus, deal healthily with the emotion, and then improve the response. Given the background the OP laid out, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’re doing something similar.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yeah, I can totally understand empathising with Sally hear and not caring how OP is doing, but I don’t really understand the line of “you should take responsibility, repent and do better”, as if that is something else that doesn’t look like this.

          I think there are two different processes that have to happen for people to learn and move on from behaving on harmful ways. Firstly, you’ve got to recognise the reality of the other person: that no matter what your intention, understanding, insight, internal landscape, context, stressors, whatever—you harmed them. That fact exists as an external truth in the world, regardless of how you feel about it. But the second process is absolutely about understanding and recognising what those stressors / context / internal landscape etc that made it possible for you to do that. You’ve got to do that to not repeat it.

          If you use the latter to say the former doesn’t count, or to reduce or deny the harm you caused, that’s not taking responsibility! But nor is recognising the harm and just endlessly beating yourself up with how terrible you are without trying to understand what made it possible and how you avoid it in the future. “I harmed Sally” and “I have to put that into a context where I am a person who harmed Sally but I can recognise that as a set of behaviours and behave differently next time” are separate processes but they’re both important, and the latter doesn’t negate the former.

          Like— you don’t HAVE to care that someone who fucked up grows and learns to be better. You can entirely say that the fuck up was too big, and you don’t care about what happens to them or what they do next. But you can’t say you do want to see growth or repentance or whatever term you choose but that it is a process that doesn’t look like this.

      2. My heart is a fish*

        Well said. I agree. They’re not at the end of the road yet, but the difference between the original letter + first update and this update are pretty huge.

        They’re making strides in the right direction, and that’s something to celebrate, even if they’ve still got more ground to cover.

    3. Liz*

      Agree. The litany of “this isn’t me… this doesn’t represent who I am” in the third-to-last paragraph, to me, largely invalidates all the lip service throughout the rest of the letter. I’m a little baffled at the “this is the most personal growth I’ve ever seen on this site!” responses.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think it’s lip service. Remember, the OP didn’t really have any good reason to come back here and give us this update.

    4. Critical Rolls*

      This person seems like a very, very rigid thinker, which has been reflected in a stilted writing style in all three letters. They are unlikely to be comfortable with thinking about their actions in a negative light so soon. Considering the complete lack of insight and ownership of actions in the first two letters, there has been definite progress. But of course, that doesn’t undo the harm that’s been done, and it would be unreasonable to expect a complete journey of self awareness (or a personality transplant) in the time that has elapsed. I too hope they stick with therapy, and agree there is a long road ahead.

    5. Pocketgnome*

      But no one is forcing OP to provide the update or take ownership of anything. They could have just let it be forgotten or replied with something fake or minimizing. Seems genuine enough to me, but with room for further introspection and work. I mean, what else can someone say after realizing that they abused someone? They don’t have celebrity rehab for everything under the sun and apology tours for us regular folks.

    6. Lorine*

      How would she be forced to write an anonymous update to a workplace advice blog? I don’t think Alison went to her house and threatened to slash her tires if she didn’t update and apologize.

    7. J.B.*

      I have an alcoholic parent who is no longer actively drinking and has done lots of therapy but doesn’t yet really seem to get the impact of his behavior on others. It is a long road and I’m glad for the work while keeping my distance.

    8. KRM*

      Given the dates on these letters, it’s not like OP has been in therapy for ages. In fact, though therapy has allowed them to see that how they treated Sally was awful, it probably has not even started to address that directly yet. Let’s give credit where credit is due. This is no “I ghosted this woman ages ago, and now she will be my boss, and I refuse to accept reasonable restrictions when interacting with her so I quit in a huff” situation. But OP has started to put in the work to see where she’s gone wrong and how she can improve. She has realized that her approach was wrong, and that she hurt Sally deeply.
      FWIW I’d have a bet on Sally realizing in this process that it’s not actually the best job she ever had, because the boss was pretty unhelpful to her in this whole thing. A close friend quit my old company in large part because her boss was an a-h*le and did things like mess with her (highly deserved) promotion/raise, but HR didn’t help and tried to talk her into accepting the lower structure! So yes the boss was a huge reason to quit, but she realized that if the overall job was good, HR would have gone to bat for her, not tried to screw her out of the promotion and raise she deserved.

  71. WetPigeon*

    It’s good that you’re taking accountability, but there are still obvious things that need work.
    Much of what you wrote sounds like you’re diminishing your ACTIVE role in bullying.

    You are putting a lot of weight on your personal problems, spending a lot of time insisting you are a good person, and seem to imply your putdowns (your “natural sense”) is OK when it’s done with friends and family.

    It doesn’t matter if you think you did it consciously or that you believe you are a good person or if your friends tolerate it. You were (and maybe still are) a bully. Period.

    And even seeing you talk about it in terms of it being “honorable to resign” and alluding to how you know she blocked you on all social media + returned letters unread means that you’re still thinking of it in terms of *you* rather than in terms of *her*.

    Also, it’s really creepy that you sent a letter to someone that blocked you. Stop that. Take a hint.

    1. Elbe*

      I get that some people feel that the LW seems insincere or is trying to justify her actions, but I really don’t think that that is the case.

      She specifically states that she’s writing the update so that other people can learn from her mistakes, and she provides a lot of details to illustrate what her mindset was at the time vs. what she knows to be true now. If she had just written “I was a huge jerk, and I’m sorry” that wouldn’t have been helpful. The whole problem that she’s trying to illustrate is how people can behave very, very badly without thinking they’re a jerk. She’s trying to show how skewed perspectives and defensive thinking can lead to people doing things that they deeply regret, even among people who feel like they are otherwise good people.

      Look at what she writes:
      – She outright refers to her behavior as bullying multiple times, validating Sally’s perspective
      – She includes previously omitted details that she knows make her look way worse
      – “I should never make those comments to anyone.”
      – “I bullied Sally because of her age and what I felt her success said about me.”
      – “I dismissed her, put her down, and told colleagues she was bad at training to make myself feel better.”
      – “I am ashamed to admit this. I am ashamed of my behavior.”

      I mean… yikes. None of that is flattering. The LW doesn’t come off looking good here, even if she has made impressive progress from where she was.

      The inclusion of details about her motivations and frame of mind doesn’t automatically mean that she feels that those things make her behavior okay. In fact, it seems like it is the opposite. She’s very clearly acknowledging that her behavior was awful.

  72. Lilla*

    Great. Good for you. Keep it up. But “honorable” isn’t the word to use for your decision to look for a new job.

    One of you was compelled to quit before they had a new job lined up, and now has to navigate that experience and its repercussions in job searches and interviews.

    One of you is looking for work while you still have a job, is within the “not a good fit because made up reasons” phase, and never has to give the whole experience a second thought professionally (or financially).

    “Honorable” would be getting through crisis situations without putting someone who has nothing to do with your crisis in what might be their own crisis situation.

    I’d suggest “appropriate,” instead.

  73. Tee 3*

    To me, this is all a good reminder that the one perspective we hear from a LW is not necessarily the only -or the most reality-based – version of events. Jumping in to take sides against someone in support of a LW without knowing the full picture can leave an innocent other party on the receiving end of an unfitting response.

    1. Observer*

      On the other hand, the OP gave us plenty of hints in both of the other letters that their perspective was badly flawed. So, it’s worth keeping in mind that if someone show strong indications that there is more going on, don’t ignore them.

  74. TG*

    Although I know this was hard for you I’m glad you were able to see the things you were doing and are taking steps to be self aware and not repeat them. Therapy is a great help.
    You tried to apologize and I commend that. It’s a hard lesson you’re learning and I’ve had to up my game as well as I can be very direct and I’m working to be less directive.
    Divorce is hard and I can see how everything at once had an impact. You just don’t want it to be a trend where you “take out” the stress of things on others.
    You might want to say a form of this to your boss and HR to show you’ve reflected and learned a hard lesson. It might help ease things a bit.
    Good luck as you move forward and look to this site for help as you do!

  75. animaniactoo*

    No evisceration here, not from me. You are putting in the work and doing what you can. I’m sorry the situation with Sally can’t be fixed. I hope that she does well wherever she’s gone. I hope that you continue to grow from this and do well yourself. Thank you for taking the step back and listening – whether that was to your therapist, to Alison, to the commentariat, some combination of getting you to the point of questioning your stance rather than standing firm on it. That takes a lot to do when you’re as entrenched as you were, and it was clearly hard for you, but you did it. There are people who would still be blaming everything on Sally and everybody else who didn’t understand. You’ve chosen not to be one of them, and I respect that choice very much.

  76. My heart is a fish*

    OP, far from eviscerating you, I want to congratulate you. The difference in tone between your first two letters and this one could not be starker. It’s very plain to see that you really have dug in with your therapist on looking for the things that you were reacting to, analyzing why you acted the way you did, and what assumptions underlaid your choices in how to behave toward Sally and more generally at your new job.

    As someone who’s recently made a dizzying job change that often leaves me feeling really inadequate and embattled, I feel for you — I’ve certainly felt that same desire to lash out, to gather what feel like the tatters of dignity about me and find some way, any way, to insist that yes, I really am a competent professional, and yes, I really do deserve to be here. And it sounds like your therapist is also helping you see the conclusion of that temptation — the fact that you cannot do that. Lashing out never helps.

    Alison has talked a lot about how poisonous environments can destroy your sense of professional norms, and it sounds like your previous consulting atmosphere really did a number on your sense of appropriate behavior. I hope that your continued work with your therapist will help you recalibrate. Finding a mentor in this line of business specifically to guide you on a very different way of interacting with your coworkers may also be helpful.

    It sounds like you’re putting in the work, and it’s starting to bear fruit. If there’s one piece of advice I want to give you in your progress, it’s this: people are not D&D characters. “Good” is not something you are — it is something you do, a continuing series of choices that you make in one moment after another. You made some choices in interacting with Sally that were, for better or for worse, not good at all — but those choices do not need to define your future choices. You can change the choices you make. Take charge of yourself. Don’t say, “I am a good person” — that’s meaningless. Instead, say to yourself, “I will actively choose to do good things.” Even if it’s something so small as taking a moment to center yourself rather than responding impulsively to someone who is annoying you, that is a good choice. Make that commitment.

    I’m rooting for you.

  77. Triple Toe*

    Thank you for sharing and am so glad that you’ve taken responsibility for and learned from this.

  78. Goldenrod*

    Good for you! You made some mistakes, but you actually took the time (and made the effort) to learn from them. Most people never do this. And, man, life can be hard sometimes! I’m sorry about your divorce and the hard times you’ve been through. Wishing you happiness going forward!

  79. Audiophile*

    While it’s great OP has learned from this, OP really needs to leave Sally alone. Sally blocked them on every platform; that should have been a loud and clear message that Sally did not want to be contacted.

    When I encountered my childhood bully while working retail in college, she was ready to make jokes about it, and I was certainly not. I had no interest in speaking with her at all outside of what was absolutely necessary.

    Again, OP, it’s great that you learned from this and are trying mature, but give Sally the time and space she needs. If she wants to contact you, she’ll find a way to reach out.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I’m guessing they’re responding to where the OP says, “I wish I could apologize to her, but she has blocked me on every platform and even returned an apology letter I mailed to her house.” Obviously that doesn’t mean the OP is still trying, but I think it’s good to let her know (if she is) that she needs to stop.

        1. Audiophile*

          I’m not saying the OP is still trying to reach out, but they should not make any further attempts at contacting Sally now or in the future. Sally can reach out if they want to have any contact with the OP.

  80. Empress Matilda*

    Ooof, some of these comments.

    OP: I did some incredibly mean things, and I really hurt someone I cared about. I’m working very hard in therapy to understand why it happened, and to make sure it never happens again.

    Commenters: Yeah, but do you understand that you did some incredibly mean things, and you really hurt someone you cared about?

    Of course OP understands – that’s literally the entire reason they wrote in. Obviously they can’t fix things with Sally, and there’s still a long road ahead in terms of their personal growth. But so what? They don’t need to wait until everything is 100% perfect in their life before writing back in with an update – and in fact they didn’t need to write in with an update at all. So why not celebrate all the incredibly hard work they’ve put in so far, without pointing out everything they did wrong?

    Y’all are like a bunch of parents whose kid shows them an exam where they got 90%, and you’re telling them they really should have got 95%, so there’s still work to be done for next time.

    1. mcfizzle*

      I’m pleased the vast majority of the comments I’ve seen are positive, which is heartening.

      A few read as though they see OP as incorrigible, or unworthy of praise for trying / admitting / growing. Clearly OP is learning a really hard lesson!

      I keep thinking I wish we could all help Sally somehow. Of course her / OP’s profession and general anonymity means this can’t happen, but I hope our collective well wishes for Sally somehow sends her some much needed good karma.

    2. Leonineleopard*

      Yes, the fact that OP saw those negative reactions coming says something about how well OP knows how patterns in the commentary on this site (and/or on the internet in general, sure) play out. That she chose to learn & share her story despite knowing this is a huge testament about how Alison runs the site & interacts with letter writers!

      Thank you for sharing OP!

    3. Lorine*

      Thank you, some of these comments are very “there’s no redeeming you, here’s your hair shirt, I’ll bring the shame bell”. Not helpful!

      1. Nonny Mouse*

        Perhaps not, but a lot of us have had our lives screwed up by some insensitive person who know SO much better than us about everything, and that’s where the attitude is coming from.

        And it makes it even worse that Sally started out trying to help OP.

        1. Lorine*

          I have had my life profoundly thrown off track by an insensitive (and worse) person. Please don’t presume what people have and haven’t been through based on their ability to muster up some empathy for someone who seems truly regretful.

          1. Nonny Mouse*

            I can’t quite see where I presumed anything about you, but have a nice night anyway.

        2. Eyes Kiwami*

          I think that is actually the problem–people are drawing comparisons to their own experiences, identifying with Sally, and responding emotionally as if OP wronged them personally. But this update isn’t about Sally, that’s not who we are giving advice to! This is not the same situation that each commenter faced privately. This is about OP’s situation and about OP themselves.

    4. cubone*

      I think a lot of people have been Sallies. I definitely have been and I quit my job too. I think we want to defend the people we see suffering unfairly and that applies more to Sally here (yes, OP was suffering as well, but they acknowledge how much of it was also a self-inflicted response/unhealthy way of coping).

      But to your point, I just wish the people who don’t think OP is contrite enough could be clearer on what they think OP should be doing differently! If they said “everything is perfect now and I’ve fixed it”, it’d be so much worse I think. I just can’t see any other “ideal” way forward than the one we got (besides go back in time and not be a bully, and sadly that ship has sailed and that is not advice).

      I definitely don’t care at all about my workplace bully’s personal life, mental health challenges, or apologies (if they exist), but like…. I would obviously prefer they NOT continue being a bully than continue being one, if I had a say in the matter?

      1. Julia*

        “I just wish the people who don’t think OP is contrite enough could be clearer on what they think OP should be doing differently!”

        Oh, they’re discussing that – they’re pinpointing the phrases in her letter that make them think she’s still making excuses and deflecting blame.

        I’ve noticed a phenomenon where when someone does something wrong and then apologizes openly and fully, a lot of people nitpick the apology and find reasons to call it insincere or not fully baked or excuse-making. My theory is that people just aren’t ready to forgive, but the apology makes them feel pressured to make some statement of forgiveness, so they try to poke holes in the apology to make their continued outrage feel more morally acceptable. (This wasn’t an apology exactly since LW didn’t wrong us, but I think the same principles apply.)

    5. not a doctor*


      OP: Thank you for making yourself vulnerable and giving us this update. I know none of this has been easy, and you still have a lot of hard work in front of you, but I for one truly respect you for doing it.

  81. Liz T*

    Honestly, I don’t blame you so much as I blame the manager. He knew exactly what was going on, and for some reason wouldn’t listen to Sally. His rockstar employee!

    He knew you were a new employee making a career transition. I don’t know if he could have helped you, but he could have tried, and instead he pretended nothing was wrong. He failed both of you–and the whole company! I hope HR disciplined him as well.

    1. cubone*

      I think this is such an underrated point. OP should be contrite and take responsibility, but in the context of a workplace advice blog, it’s absolutely appropriate to acknowledge the other people that failed Sally too in this situation.

  82. Talk is cheap... please have exact change*

    OP, I’m glad you’re getting help from a therapist… and it’s clear that you’re really working on things. It sucks to realize that we’ve really messed up, and I’m so sorry you’re going through that. But kudos to you for doing so. You’ll come out better on the other side. Really sorry about the divorce too… that all just sucks.
    Keep your chin up and good luck to you.

  83. Chicago*

    I can tell you’ve done a lot of therapy and commend you for it. I’d also like to suggest that Sally’s gender may have played a role here, and I hope you are considering your future interactions with women in the workplace. Women get treated differently in the workplace, particularly when they are young. I’m not saying you bullied her BECAUSE she’s a young woman, but I do think it’s possible you are unconsciously treating women rather differently than men you work with.

    1. cubone*

      I don’t want to speculate, but did I miss OP stating their gender at any point? I feel like I am seeing both assumptions that they are a man or a woman and it’s a little confusing.

      1. not a doctor*

        I just reread and didn’t see any pronouns or other specific gender markers. I’ve been reading OP as a woman this whole time, but that doesn’t mean she can’t also be unconsciously looking down on other women (or younger women), so I think it’s good advice either way.

          1. Nonny Mouse*

            Yes, but Alison tends to use “she” as a gender-neutral pronoun, in the sense of “one”.

            1. Julia*

              Often, yes, but I’ve noticed over the years that when Alison explicitly uses a gendered pronoun to refer to a letter writer, it’s because she knows their gender through email communications with them. So this one is most likely a woman.

            2. londonedit*

              More specifically, Alison uses ‘she’ to refer to bosses/managers in her responses where she doesn’t know their gender, because it’s a nice flip of the usual assumption that boss=man. It’s not a blanket rule and in the case of the letter-writers themselves, more often than not Alison will know their gender and will use it accordingly.

      2. Nonny Mouse*

        I’m assuming man, because that’s the gender I’ve most often seen mistreat young women in the workplace, but both men and women are capable of doing so.

      3. moonstone*

        I think even if OP is a woman, Chicago’s comment is still accurate. Both men and women disrespect young women due to sexist beliefs about them.

  84. EmKay*

    The details added today make me feel even more sorry for Sally. That’s all I can say without getting myself banned -_-

    1. Jake*

      I agree, but I also think, OP is acknowledging wrong doing without venturing too far into excuse making.

      It’s possible to feel bad for Sally while also accepting and being happy that OP is taking positive steps.

      1. cubone*

        Exactly this. I don’t assume anyone here writing positive notes to OP DOESN’T also feel immensely bad for Sally. It’s not an either/or scenario.

        Reading this saga reminded me a lot of my workplace bully (different, but a similar tone of hubris and “buck up youngin'”). I also quit my job because of them and it sucked. I felt awful, experienced a ton of pain, paid for a lot of therapy, still hold some residual anger, etc. If they sent me a letter I would chuck it in the bin instantly and my anger wouldn’t dissipate if I knew they’d been having the worst personal issues in the world.

        But if I could choose between them continuing to bully people or gaining some self-awareness and making an effort to stop, like.. of course I am going to prefer the latter?? It wouldn’t make me feel “better”, but I mean, it would just objectively be better for the world? If the choice is between the two, I want more people like OP now than OP before. That’s all it is.

        1. mcfizzle*

          Well said! I’ve read most of the comments pretty closely so far, and nearly everyone talks very specifically about Sally and the horrible situation for her. I don’t think I’ve seen any that discount how Sally was terribly wronged, but as you very eloquently said, most people want improvement so hopefully there is at least one less Sally in the future.

          Sorry this happened to you as well. I have anger FOR you (and Sally, etc)!!

  85. Pocketgnome*

    It takes a lot of bravery to be willing to examine yourself and do this kind of work, and even more to take ownership of your mistakes. All you can really do now is continue to learn and grow. I think everyone should be in therapy, personally. I hope for Sally’s sake, you stop trying to contact her. You took enough of her time and energy. She doesn’t owe you closure or forgiveness. If she wants to reconnect, she’ll reach out. Learn to forgive yourself and move on. I think resigning won’t benefit anyone unless you just need a fresh start, which is also understandable, but I don’t think you should resign to punish yourself.

  86. Sparkles McFadden*

    Thanks for taking the time to write in OP. I am sorry to hear you have been having such a rough time. I doubt you will find the comments to be harsh this time around. You’ve obviously done a lot of work and are generously providing us with an update. Best of luck in the future.

  87. Ell*

    Thanks for updating everyone OP. Like most others here, I’m just really excited to read about your acknowledgement of the real situation. A lot of people never get to the point of really acnkowleding the harm they’ve caused, so this, to me is big.

    I wonder if you might consider at some point doing some work to lift up young women in your profession? Not as penance, but as an acknowledgement that sometimes they don’t get the support they need.

    Joining a professional mentor group, reviewing resumes for university grads, or something? That may not be something you’re ready for right now, particularly one-on-one mentorship (in fact, let’s just say give that one some time). But as you continue this introspection and work, providing some kind of support for young women in the field might be of value to you and to them.

    1. quill*

      Also it might be a good idea to steer your interactions into ones that can be scripted, if you decide to go that route, because it’s pretty clear that your presentation, OP, needs some work to be effective.

    1. Moo Boo*

      Same. I can’t believe she felt she had to leave and the OP has somehow managed to keep her job.

    2. Tired of Working*

      I feel bad for her, too. I would feel really really bad for Sally if, after she gets a new job, the OP “honorably” quits and then looks for a new job and winds up with a job at Sally’s company.

  88. CareBear4*

    I have been the Sally and it still affects me. If my “OP” was in similar circumstances with similar feelings, I would want to know and could even forgive. But much the same as your Sally having blocked you, I have done so, too, with my OP. I thank you for sharing.

  89. Danish*

    It’s really hard to take a look at your past behavior and admit that you were being a jerk for no actual good reason (or rather, OP has good ‘reasons’ to have been emotionally lashing out, but it’s not the same as “well I was a jerk but they kick puppies). Even just writing down “here are the things I did that were bad” is tough for a lot of people! I’m very proud of you OP for starting the effort and working with a therapist to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    I don’t see “I’m a good person” as a warning flag of any type – again, so many people can’t look at their own behavior at all, because they are a “good person”, so I think being able to identify and make the change from “my actions don’t line up with my self perception and so my actions are good, actually” to “my actions dont line up with my self perception *and so I am trying to change my actions*” is very admirable.

  90. By the Bay*

    Oh my gosh I put my hand on my heart about halfway through this letter. This is a very sincere apology. Good luck to you.

  91. Veryanon*

    I’m glad the OP recognized the issue. The only thing that troubles me is that OP tried to mail a letter to Sally’s home after having been blocked everywhere. That just strikes me as a little stalker-ish and I wouldn’t have recommended that. But I’m glad OP is putting in the work to fix themselves.

  92. quill*

    OP: first off, congrats on recognizing the consequences of your actions, keep going and learning. I do think that you have burned a bridge with Sally permanently, and I do hope you treated her much better when you originally met! If you’re going to resign (and frankly, you have burned some reputation at your current job) I would be VERY wary of your interactions with training, and colleagues in general at your next job. Getting in the habit of acting like a jerk does not usually disappear overnight, therapy or not.

  93. Regular Human Accountant*

    It feels rare these days for someone to take full responsibility for their actions, so this update is refreshing. I’m so glad you have found therapy to be useful, and I hope someday Sally will hear your apology–not for your sake, but for her own. Best of luck to you in working through your divorce; several of my own friends have gone through divorces that seem to come out of the blue and I know how they can affect your mental and physical health. I hope healing comes sooner than later.

  94. Pied Piper*

    It sounds like you’re still navigating some of the fallout and discomfort from this at work OP, but getting to the point where you can admit you were wrong – without flagellation, just taking responsibility – is IMO one of the most hardest and most fulfilling things a person can do in their own personal growth. And starting therapy – something I think everyone should do at least once in their lives – demonstrates extraordinary growth and maturity. Nothing more to say but you should be proud of yourself for this. I don’t even know you and (not to be patronizing, but) I’m proud of you.

  95. Moo Boo*

    ‘One example she provided was when I was asked to write an email, but her procedures said respond to an email’ — what does this mean? I don’t understand how this was an error that the OP could feel defensive / annoyed about.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I’m guessing OP was being super pedantic about whether to “write an email” (meaning composing a completely new email chain that, as of yet, doesn’t exist) or “respond to an email” (meaning writing an email specifically in response to en existing email chain). That’s my best interpretation.

    2. nodramalama*

      I read this three times and still don’t know what on earth the inaccuracy is meant to be

  96. Engineer with Breast Cancer*

    I’m really impressed by your emotional growth. I’m not sure I would have the fortitude to admit I made a mistake of that magnitude. Keep learning and keep growing. Being a good or a bad person isn’t a permanent state, so I think it’s admirable you are committed to becoming better.

  97. Minimal Pear*

    I just want to note that I feel like some VERY interesting things are going on in the comment section re: what people assume about OP’s gender.

  98. Anonomatopoeia*

    This letter is everything it should be, and I hope you are NOT eviscerated by any comments. I did not expect from the previous letters that you would take yourself to therapy and (honestly pretty quickly) get this far. I maybe did not expect that you EVER would. I hope the self-reflection and growth that’s apparent here are also helping you to make your personal life make sense again. Marriage implosion, especially unanticipated, isn’t awesome ever, but I am here to tell you you can come out the other side whole.

  99. Nonny Mouse*

    I feel really bad for Sally. She had a job she loved and now we don’t know what’s become of her.

  100. LilPinkSock*

    I feel so terrible for Sally. I hope she’s thriving in her new environment and her professional reputation hasn’t been permanently damaged. I’ve been in her shoes, and I have to say that all the apologies and rationalizations in the world didn’t make me feel much better about being bullied out of a job and a company I loved.

    LW, I’m glad to hear about the self-work. Please just leave Sally alone, though.

    1. Observer*

      I hope she’s thriving in her new environment


      and her professional reputation hasn’t been permanently damaged

      All things considered, I think it’s unlikely. People may not know the details, but it seems pretty clear that most people realize that Sally wasn’t the problem.

  101. MissM*

    I’m glad you’ve had a wake-up call about how out of line you were and hopefully with introspection and continued therapy, you’ll never be in a similar situation.

    Please leave Sally be. At this stage, you’re only contacting her to make you feel okay and she clearly doesn’t want contact. If that changes, she can find you

  102. OhBehave*

    You’ve come a looonnng way since February! You are on your way to being a better coworker, boss, spouse. I feel so bad for Sally. She must really be hurting. This may be a hard thing to recover from, but you will do that. It will color everything you do from now on. Snark and sarcasm are my way as well. I’ve learned where is works and doesn’t.
    So sorry about your marriage. I don’t know if it’s salvageable but hoping so. Wishing you the best.

  103. Thinking Out Loud*

    If we are to take the OP’s word as it is written:

    Then the one thing I do not understand is why Sally never stood up to the OP to begin with, especially if they had known each other for a while and would consider the other person a friend. We see time and time again on this blog how Alison teaches people to stand up for themselves, how to put people in their places diplomatically, etc. It does seem like Sally ran straight to the manager each and every time.

    I am neither condoning the OP’s actions nor the manager’s inactions. However I fail to understand the dynamic between the OP and Sally to where Sally couldn’t defend herself prior to taking it up with management. It just seems weird or perhaps we are still missing a part of the story.

    1. Happy*

      Sally tried to defend herself. Whenever Sally stood up for herself, OP either doubled down or thought Sally was too sensitive. Even in front of the boss, when Sally listed the put-downs she felt she had experienced from OP, OP went into self-defense mode and called them all factual observations!

      At the time, OP clearly was incapable of empathetically listening to Sally, so it’s bizarre to believe that Sally never complained directly to OP.

      1. Not This Again*

        THIS. Sally DID try to defend herself. Going to the manager is a form of defense. Bullying is never justified, don’t blame the victim.

    2. Elbe*

      I think Sally did stand up for herself. She pushed back on the treatment she was receiving and even walked away from a conversation where she wasn’t being treated well. When she voiced complaints to the LW, the LW just dismissed her as too sensitive.

      I’m not really sure what more Sally could have done, short of getting aggressive with the LW. It sounds like going to the boss was the appropriate, professional move.

    3. Unaccountably*

      “Ran straight to the manager” is a very strange phrase. This is not grade school. Escalating a problem is not tattling. It’s part of a manager’s job to keep nonsense like this from happening on their team.

      All we know about Sally’s reactions here come from the OP, who was the one bullying her. We know she ended at least one conversation when OP wouldn’t speak respectfully to her. Do you really think the same person who wrote those first two letters would also write “And then Sally diplomatically put me in my place and I understood the error of my ways”?

  104. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

    You’re not all the way there yet, but you’re making progress. Once you know better, do better.

  105. Sue Wilson*

    For the record OP, “it is possible to bully someone unconsciously” and you other denials of intentionality are not true in your circumstance. You are confusing your mental dodge with your intentional actions. You intentionally bullied Sally. You were unaware of your own delusion. But you full intended to continue your actions despite harm that you were made aware of, you just decided that if Sally deserved it, it wasn’t bullying. That doesn’t make your actions nor your understanding of their consequences unintentional or unconscious.

    For the record, when people are unsteady emotionally, it’s pretty common for all of us to delude ourselves of our own characters. That’s not unusual, and I’m glad you are working on awareness.

  106. Managing to get by*

    Agreed. It is good that the OP has recognized that she was bullying Sally, but that doesn’t change the fact that she pushed Sally to the point that Sally left her job without having another lined up, just to get away from OP.

    I sincerely hope Sally is doing okay and this wasn’t too major of a setback.

  107. Boof*

    Well, it’s really sad to hear Sally was driven out, and the extra context makes that sound all the more brutal for her. I hope she moved on to even better things than the job was for her prior to getting you in.
    I do thank op for writing in with this update and am also sorry to hear about their own life distress at the time. And it is heartening that op seems to finally be able to realize their behavior was unacceptable- in the end we can’t undo the past, only move forward. I wish you luck and continued progress op – since sally has made it clear she does not wish to be contacted, do your best to treat those around you well instead – that will respect her wishes and ultimately be the most profound apology,perhaps.

  108. Tiger Snake*

    OP isn’t apologising to us, nor should they, so I want to take this as a positive update.

    But I am still stuck in a very cynical “I’ll believe it when I see it” place.
    We have two sentences about what the OP is doing to prevent this from happening again, one line of ‘I can’t make amends’, but four whole paragraphs of ‘here is why it happened’ – and I feel like it really needs to be the other way around.

    OP, you signed out your letter saying that you believe yourself to be a good person – I wish you the best in your next work place so you can prove it.

  109. MassChick*

    It seems like you have grown as a human since your first letter.

    It is just so sad that it at the expense of Sally who was forced out of a job she loved AND recruited you because she wanted to share the positivity.

  110. Aunty Fox*

    I feel for Sally who stuck her neck out to bring you in and then ended up leaving because of you. That said I know first hand how divorce can make it hard to respond normally and throws perspective out, and I think the personal growth over the course of your letter and updates has been huge and you get props for that. I’m sorry it’s been such a rough time for you and hope you and Sally are able to repair your relationship somewhat if you come across each other in future.

  111. Great*

    I’m glad you’ve apparently seen the error of your ways. You need to offer, and give, Sally absolutely stellar references to ensure she doesn’t end up in financial dire straits because of your behaviour.

    Please do not ever behave towards anyone like this ever again, especially in the workplace. Do not ever fire anyone unless it is the absolute last resort. You have no idea how devastating it is to have a manager like you. I have just been illegally fired by a manager who went to the extent of fabricating documentation to make me look incompetent. I suspect she has done this because she is carrying similar damage to you. Having been bullied by her for several months, my health is now ruined, and I am facing homelessness because of this job loss.

    Your actions have consequences, not just for you, but for those around you.

  112. Arghhh*

    I’m glad you appear to be obtaining some self-awareness and are helping yourself to grow, OP, but please don’t manage people again. Sally didn’t deserve this, and I hope she hasn’t ended up in a difficult situation in terms of finances, health, relationships etc because of your bullying.

  113. Luna*

    You sought professional help and that made you see that you really did it, even if you have previously thought you didn’t need it. And you realized your behavior was wrong. I think you are doing a good job, maybe even using this as a way to make sure you do not act this way to someone again.

    It is likely hurtful to you that Sally is blocking any attempt you are making at apologizing, but if she even returns a letter you sent, I guess you will just have to see that as a bridge burned. It’s sad that you cannot personally apologize to her for how you acted, but that is a possible consequence with any behavior. It has happened, and you cannot apologize in person, so the best thing to do is to know that you are sorry, and to work on not repeating it.

    Maybe Sally reads this column and will see this. Maybe she will hope that you realized how things were and have improved. Maybe she will see you at some point at an event and see you changed.
    Maybe none of that will happen. But you are doing what you can to improve your behavior and make up for previous mistakes, and that is the main aspect.

  114. Cyrano*

    I’m glad the OP seems to have acquired some clarity and self-knowledge, and started to process their own stress and emotional pain. Shame it had to come at the cost of their friend’s career!

  115. Hapax Legomenon*

    Growing this much is so, so hard. It is so good of you to own your previous actions this way, dig into the reasons you did so, and admit you hurt someone else. You are on a better path. I hope you keep going this way.

  116. Hg*

    Agree with all of the kudos to the OP… the folks who really really failed Sally here are her boss, HR, and other levels of management. While OP doesn’t get “excused” for the bullying, all of the other people had a true responsibility to shut it down! They failed Sally big time, she might even have a lawsuit (maybe not, since workplace bullying without a protected class I don’t think is illegal, just awful). I hope OP moves on once they are fully in a better place and then follows up with HR to let them know that they need way better training in handling those situations.

  117. Busyness of Ferrets*

    I’m going to go again the grain here a little bit. Just a little bit.

    It’s WONDERFUL that you have seen your actions for what they truly are, LW. It’s wonderful that you can grow and learn and help other people with your story.

    But I’m afraid it came to late. It’s great you think it’s honourable to remove yourself. But it’s too late. sally is gone. I guarantee dealing with some sort of post-stress issues from this situation. Apologizing to someone isn’t good enough unfortunately. I’ve had to learn that myself. “Sorry” doesn’t give Sally her confidence back, or her job she loves so much back. Or the friend/ colleague she thought she had in you back.

    Sally’s not interested in your apology because it doesn’t fix anything.

    But it’s great that you are able to assess and correct your behaviour now.

  118. That One Person*

    I’m glad you’re seeking help and recognizing the problematic behaviors (such as the inability to make a mistake being that drastically harmful, never realized how different consulting could be). It is quite a blow to realize you only have the job because of Sally, but let that be a reminder too that connections are important and to not treat them so casually.

    While working on some of these issues I would like to recommend maybe taking some soft skills training to better help with growing self awareness and conduct at work. It can help build some better habits too. Finally remember that perfection doesn’t exist! Use it as an inspiration to strive for your best, but expect to stumble once in a while so you can forgive yourself as well as others (especially over the minor things).

  119. Ginger Dynamo*

    I really do commend you on taking steps to address and acknowledge the ways you hurt Sally, OP. It’s not easy to do, but it’s very important. I think a couple people above me have pointed out something similar to this, but I don’t think sending the apology letter to Sally’s home was a good idea. The goal of a true apology is to help the person you hurt start to feel whole by offering them closure. If the person accepts the apology, maybe you get some closure too, or maybe you can feel good just in sharing that you’ve made personal progress and acknowledged what you’ve done, but that is not the point of an apology. Apologies aren’t really appropriate if the person you hurt has made it clear they don’t want to have any contact with you. Sally blocked you through multiple sites in a pretty clear attempt to cut off all contact. Getting a letter to her home after all that would feel like the crossing of a very clear line—instead of making Sally feel whole, your letter may have violated the boundaries she set with you. It makes your contact look like an attempt to soothe your conscience at the cost of making Sally uncomfortable, even if you approached the apology with good intentions. Apologies can be hard to get right.

  120. A Pound of Obscure*

    This is an excellent and brave update! Someone who is able to ask for help, self-reflect and acknowledge what they see in that mirror is someone who can be a role model to others. Well done!

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

    Kudos LW. Therapy is such a helpful tool for all of us. Keep at it, even when it’s difficult.

    This situation really sucks for Sally. I’m glad you attempted to apologize to her, but please whatever you do next respect the boundary she has established. She doesn’t want to hear from you at all, so now it’s your job to reconcile your bad behavior without getting any feedback or release from Sally–you need to do this work alone and without bothering her while she deals with this fallout.

  122. fine tipped pen afficionado*

    Poor Sally. As others have said, if what she wants is separation from you then that is what you owe her so I hope you don’t press her any more on reconciliation.

    I’m glad you’re getting help and working to be better. You can’t undo the damage you’ve done, but you’re doing the right thing. Keep going, OP. Treat those around you well and if the opportunity comes up to speak well of Sally without being weird or suspicious or gossipy about it, do that.

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