updates: the problem manager, the ghosting job candidate, and more

Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. Is my manager the problem … or am I?

After being fired, my job search was hard, but about six weeks and four interviews with different companies later, I was hired in a new role!

The new role has a 20% raise, fewer hours a week, more vacation, and better benefits. The company culture is much more friendly and warm, is entirely remote, and my new manager is wonderful. There’s also a healthy mix of men and women. While things are obviously still new, I feel like I know what I’m doing and have the room to make mistakes without having my head bitten off. When I broke a repository, I was panicking and anxious and called my new manager to apologize—but she laughed and told me that I shouldn’t’ve been able to edit it in the first place and I should put in an ticket. It could not have been more different from my previous manager’s reaction to me daring to use dark mode. I’ve also already been told I’m a valuable asset by both my manager and boss. I feel happy, valued, respected, and like I can really develop as a person.

As for my old manager… as I’m not a fan of LinkedIn, I leave my profile largely empty. I was, however, using it to job hunt when I was contacted by a recruiter. It was to fill my former job! As it turns out, they’d already been looking to replace me two weeks before they fired me! It doesn’t sting, now; it’s just funny. Even luckier for me—as they’re still trying to fill the job I can find the listing all over the internet. Out of a sense of schadenfreude-like glee I have the job bookmarked, and the closing date keeps jumping forward month on month. Ha ha.

I also mentioned in the comments on the previous post that I had a (male) colleague who my manager adored. Well, he was quit or fired too, because when I looked him up on LinkedIn he’s in a new role. I have the sneaking suspicion he started at the old company, worked out it was terrible, and basically immediately began to look for a new job. Equally, two other male developers who also started the same week I did with my HR induction have new jobs in other companies too. The company’s Glassdoor rating is currently hovering around a two, especially as when I wrote a scathing review, a dozen more flooded in also criticizing the company. Basically, you either stay for fifteen years or six months.

You (and plenty of commenters) were right. While terrible, this wasn’t the end of my career—or life! Now, comfortably on the other side of things, I can say it was just a bad time in my life where I got to play lots of videogames. Job searching was hard but I was very lucky to find somewhere quickly, and am infinitely grateful for my emergency fund. I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, but I’m much, much happier. My ex-manager was a terrible jerk and now I know what excellent managing feels like, my standards have definitely been raised.

2. Should I report my abusive former boss to her current employer?

First off, I don’t think I was quite as out there as many commenters did. Keep in mind that I’ve never contacted her and didn’t even want to at all. I know you read Carolyn Hax, and a couple of people have written in the past few weeks about telling their ex’s new partner about the ex’s abuse. I consider this to be the workplace equivalent of that. I’m pretty sure that people have thought about this same thing. They just never voiced it before. Plus, my boss was such a monster to me and really took every opportunity to undermine/complain/destroy me at such a foundational time in my career. Lastly, show me someone who never Googles people from their past, and I’ll show either a liar or someone who just doesn’t care about others at all. I also am not obsessed with her. I just always felt some comfort knowing (or at least knowing from what you can glean from online descriptions, which admittedly don’t provide a complete picture) that she wasn’t managing others.

In the end, I didn’t end up contacting her employer. I decided it was too much trouble and ultimately not my responsibility. Thank you for the clarity there. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still freaked out knowing she’s out there and is probably mistreating others. But that’s that, I guess. I did have a situation with someone that helped put everything in perspective. I was managing a project and found out one of the freelancers was mistreating my colleagues by harassing them, being condescending, unprofessional and being way too entitled. I was able to criticize and ultimately fire her. I was glad I was able to do the right thing–even in just a tiny way–has helped me put my former boss’ bad behavior to rest somewhat. Thank you for your advice! I’ve been reading you for years, and I think you do great work.

3. Job candidate ghosted us when we called with an offer … we think? (#4 at the link)

I wanted to provide a quick update on what happened with this candidate. After two phone calls, two e-mails, and about a week and a half of waiting for a response, we called it a day and moved on from her. We had a second candidate who we wanted to offer the position to, but she ended up accepting another job offer before we could get to her. We didn’t really have any other candidates in the pipeline, so we unfortunately had to start over from square one.

About two weeks ago, we were connected with an absolutely amazing new candidate! I knew within 10 minutes of our interview that she was *the* person for this role. I really didn’t want to lose her, so I worked with our HR manager to expedite the interviewing process. The applicant spoke to several other teammates over the course of about a week, and everyone loved her and raved about her. We offered her the job last Friday, and she accepted. She starts this coming Monday and I am so excited to have her on board!

I was legitimately worried about our original #1 candidate, so I had been keeping an eye on her LinkedIn profile just in case there was any new activity. I noticed she recently changed her profile picture and has been commenting on other posts, so it appears she’s okay. She hasn’t added a new job to her profile yet, and I’m still pretty stumped about what happened. At the end of the day, I think the person who accepted the role is a better fit, so I suppose it all worked out for the best!

{ 251 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I want to ask that we avoid a pile-on on someone who was gracious enough to provide an update. That doesn’t mean people can’t discuss the googling aspect of #2, but please be kind/sensitive in the way you do so. Thank you.

  2. Sir Freelancelot*

    Reader 2: “Lastly, show me someone who never Googles people from their past, and I’ll show either a liar or someone who just doesn’t care about others at all.”

    I don’t Google abusive people from my past because I don’t want to waste my time or my energy fueling sadness or old grudges. I have better (happier) things to do.

    I would suggest to consider that option as well.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Plus, not all of us know how to Google someone. I tried it once just to see if I could do it, and kept getting sent to paid sites. Then I got tons of spam after relating to searches. I decided I didn’t care that much.

          1. MistOrMister*

            Glad it’s not just me that isn’t great with that kind of thing! I sometimes look people up on Linkedin to see where they are and I do somwtimes fall down the rabbit hole seeing what all sorts of former work mates are up to now. But I pretty much don’t google people I know in real life. Bow howdy can I ever NOT find the right informayion when I try looking up people I know….just, ot worth the aggravation.

          2. Artemesia*

            google has really changed over the years. I used to be able to find long lost acquaintances and friends easily; it has been entirely reconfigured around monitizing. You can need a particular bit of information and you will instead get pages of places you can buy something adjacent. You used to be able to use quotation marks to focus the search but that doesn’t seem to work either. Someone I know in the software field has told me this has been intentionally -When traveling it is really important to pay attention to the web sites it tosses up because it easy to think you are dealing with an official site for a hotel or museum or whatever and instead be booking things through a middleman grifter.

            It is also easy when trying to get personal documents like birth certificates and marriage certificates to end up at commercial sites that look official but are expensive when dealing directly with the city govt or whatever is relatively cheap. In getting a wedding certificate I didn’t realize I wasn’t on the official govt site until they asked for my credit card for $120 and I knew that was too high. Found the official site finally and it was about $20 for the document. Google has become pretty useless alas.

            1. Books and Cooks*

              Google Maps will subtly direct your route to go past a particular gas station or store that pays them, telling you it’s the “fastest route” even when it’s not. At least IME.

            2. Crooked Bird*

              That’s interesting about Google, and I hadn’t really noticed it, which is odd since I do web searches quite a bit. They seem to still work fine for me. I puzzled over this for a moment, then remembered I don’t use Google. I use DuckDuckGo.

              There are probably a lot of other good search engines out there, I expect it’s worth having a look around, but anyway–DuckDuckGo is getting me where I need to go, so I’d at least recommend checking out that one.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        If I remember right, the comments on the original post weren’t very kind/positive, and there was a pile-on about the Googling in particular. I can understand the OP wanting to specifically mention it.

        1. Observer*

          A lot of people mentioned the Googling because it’s an indicator that the OP’s handling of the situation is not so healthy.

          Their comment now lends credence to that. Not because they mentioned it, but because of their specific response – including saying that people are either liars or just horrible people. That’s just not the case, but it’s such a heated and defensive response that it does raise some eyebrows.

    1. lyonite*

      I made a specific decision to never look up my terrible former boss because I knew I needed to get away from the place that job put me in, and the only way was to make a clean break. I’d like to suggest this to OP1 as well–now is the time to focus on your good present, and not whether or not fate has sufficiently punished the people who wronged you.

      1. Loredena*

        This. I have some toxic family members in my extended family. My entire immediate family cut them off. But my parent kept hoping they’d change and asking me to look at their social media and it was emotionally draining. Moving on with a clean break OP is much healthier for you long term, as hard as it is in the short term

      2. Antilles*

        now is the time to focus on your good present, and not whether or not fate has sufficiently punished the people who wronged you.
        I agree, especially since the blunt truth is that you’ll likely never get the satisfaction you’re hoping for. People don’t provide a complete view of their life on social media – instead you’re typically getting the highlights or generalities…and none of the real story behind it.
        There’s also the high risk that she’s actually doing just fine, which makes you feel worse. Basically the employment “to you it was the most important day of your life, to me….it was Tuesday”.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          There’s an episode of NCIS where Jimmy Palmer says that says something along the lines of “trusting what people post on social media is like trusting a red carpet. That is their A-Side, and all I see is the B-Side, there’s so much more to life than that.”

          That really stuck with me because it’s soo true. People aren’t going to put the bad stuff online, so are you really getting a full picture by Googling a person? And how healthy is it to continue to brood on the past by googling and looking at a person’s social media? Healing takes time and distance, and most of us need to give ourselves both fully – and can you really get that time and distance if you are still looking up the former person?

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Just realized that I should add for those not familiar with NCIS:

            Jimmy Palmer starts as the Assistant Medical Examiner, and works his way to Medical Examiner. He spends his day working in Autopsy, I can’t think of anything more definitely a person’s B-Side (which dates to old music industry term where when you bought a Single, there would be a second track on the other side that was essentially a throw away track that the record label felt wasn’t good enough to release),

            1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

              Off-topic, but the B-side of an old vinyl single wasn’t necessarily a dud track – it might just be one which musically didn’t fit into the flow of the album. Sometimes there were gems.

              And, to drag it back on-topic… sometimes people are funnier or friendlier than you’d be able to guess from their more professional or more guarded social media presence :-)

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        This is how I feel about my 2 terrible and abusive bosses who regularly made people cry. I don’t want to think about them. I don’t even want to hear bad news about them. I am not giving one more second of my life to them.

        1. Unaccountably*

          When I worked under an abusive boss I would have paid actual money to have him out of my life. (Not to a hit man, I mean. But to a recruiter, maybe.) Now he’s out of my life! Early Career Me would have been ecstatic to wake up every morning to an Abusive Boss-less job environment.

          Googling him or looking for information about him would mean pulling him back into my life, and just, ew, no. Not only would that be terrible, but it would be a betrayal of Early Career Me to escape something that brought her so much misery and then turn around and drag it right back in.

      4. turquoisecow*

        Yeah, I don’t have any idea what an abusive person from my past is doing now. Thinking about that person at all really stresses me out and raises my blood pressure, no reason to upset myself any more. I’ve done my level best to put that period of my life behind me and focus on happier times. I’m definitely not googling them.

        I’m not saying OP is obsessed but I think they could benefit from letting go of this situation a little bit.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, this. I wanted to know where BullyBoss from OldExjob was when I was job hunting after the layoff (and his getting fired! Mwahaha!), only so I didn’t end up working with him again. But the grapevine of former coworkers was sufficient to take care of that. Now that I’ve moved away from the area, I don’t care.

      6. Petty Betty*

        I’m also concerned that the poster is very much concerned with fate or karma NOT doing enough to punish the former boss to her satisfaction, and finding proxies for her (potentially skewed) sense of justice.

        She said she found about poor behavior within her own office and “was able to criticize and fire her” for it. Criticizing isn’t a corrective action, it’s more of a vindictive or punitive one. Without having a bad boss previously, how would the poster have handled this incident differently? A warning with time to course correct and more supervision for the poorly behaving freelancer? Who knows, since it’s speculation on my part.

        1. Mavis*

          I found that detail about criticizing concerning as well. Should have looked to coach them on being more profession, solutions focus, not to criticize. Fire if the problem persists after coaching or fire immediately if too egregious, but why criticize?

          Best possible interpretation is that she means feedback?

        2. Robin Jean Ridley*

          I totally agree with you, The comment that people who say they don’t google are liars, etc., puzzled me (no, I have never done it). But “criticize and fire?” What? Did you mean, manage and correct behavior? Very concerning because of the almost vindictive tone.

        3. Unaccountably*

          That was concerning to me too. It sounds like she fired that person AT her former boss, which would be… well, an abuse of her own power. You don’t right the karmic scales toward an abusive boss by passing the abuse on to your own reports, that’s not how it works.

      7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I dunno, I looked up ToxicBoss1 and I see he’s now in a job that previously he had shown a lot of scorn for, which is hilarious.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yes, that was a very odd and defensive comment. How does googling someone you despise demonstrate caring for others?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right on. If I am thinking of someone I care about, I send an email, give them a call, send a card etc.

        My thought is that in real relationships people talk to each other individually.

        But even IRL, I find that I can run into someone who can’t wait to tell me the latest update on toxic boss/cohort. So I am not seeking the information, it’s being handed to me and I STILL don’t want it.

        Good people can hit bad times and bad people can hit good times. And that’s reality.

        Gloating over a “bad person’s” misfortune does not ensure that the gloater will be forever free of misfortune. We can all hit a bad spot in the road at any moment and be stuck in that bad spot for a while.

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      Sir, I agree with you about not Googling folks from my past. The main people I will search for are obits for two family members whom I am estranged from. I’m sorry about the estrangement, but life happens.

    4. Gipsy Danger*

      Yeah, came here to say this. I have never Googled anyone I know, except for myself, and that was to see what comes up if a potential employer Googles me. I still care about others (!).

      1. Falling Diphthong*


        I’m not saying no one googles people from their past, but I think there’s a huge chunk of us who do not. It’s very normal.

        1. Rae*

          Agreed. I care about people, but I suppose I’m not overly curious? Or at least if its something I’m curious about I’ll ask them directly.

          I’ve never disliked someone enough to frequently search for them. I guess the defendent on a 3 week trial I was a jury member on. I looked up his name a few times to see what the sentencing was.

        2. Koalafied*

          Yeah, I don’t think it’s super weird or deviant behavior, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near universal either. Probably like, roughly the same percentage of the population that pays for cable vs cord cutters – neither one is that uncommon or that universal.

          I have some mood disorders that are reasonably well-managed – and in fact one of the ways I manage them is by being very intentional about how I spend my time, and always asking myself if what I’m doing right now is the best thing for me to be doing, or if I’ve been letting my impulses drag me on autopilot into spending time and energy on something that’s at best a complete waste of my limited free time, and at worst something that’s going to accept exacerbate my anxiety and obsessive tendencies, and to make a conscious decision to stop once I realize what’s happened and go play a video game or read a book or work in my garden, you know, all the stuff I always wish I had more time for so why am I spending ANY of my free time on whatever pointless Internet rabbit hole I’ve gone down instead of those things?

          That said… I’m almost 40. I was never really a googler of people, but I didn’t really learn how to manage my activities this intentionally until I was almost 30. I don’t know how old the LW is but it’s easy to forget sometimes how far we’ve come from our own former bad habits.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It’s a beautiful thing to be in charge of what we will take in, isn’t it?

            Life goes on no matter what. I can spend a half hour looking people up OR I can spend that same half hour enriching my life and/or doing activities that support my health and home. I have choices.

    5. Books and Cooks*

      Yeah, I have a few old friends I’m still looking for, and once every couple of years I’ll do a search and see if they’ve turned up so I can reach out. I can’t think of anyone I’ve “hate-searched” for. Why?

      And I care about other people plenty–I just don’t care about gossip. Which is why I wish even my old enemies well, and hope they have moved past whatever issues they or we had. Life is too short to spend it on grudges and schadenfreude.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        This. So much this.

        I did end up googling my second-least favourite boss (the kind of person who shouted at staff and intimidated people on purpose) once – I needed a name for a character, and his lovely wife was the same cultural background and I remembered I liked her name but was blanking on what the name was. So that was my entire intent. I have never looked up anyone else who wasn’t at one point a close friend I lost touch with, and where I’d have reason to think he reunion would be positive.

        I also think that there’s a big difference between a one time search, even for what might be seen as “gossippy/bad history” reasons, and doing it on the regular fo a decade.

        (As well as now being able to remember his wife’s name, I learned he’d died very suddenly of an aneurysm. I felt no joy at hearing that; as I said, he left behind a wife and at least one child.)

      2. Frickityfrack*

        You’re a better person than I am. I googled an old boyfriend once about 15 years after we broke up and I can’t lie, I experienced intense schadenfreude when I saw that his mom appears to have finally cut him off from her bank account and he’s still single because he’s mean and a liar. That said, I looked for about 3 minutes, then blocked his social media so I don’t accidentally come across it again, and moved on.

        That said, I have zero desire to relive some of my terrible jobs. It took me enough time to stop flinching every time the phone rings or to not be constantly expecting harassment, googling those people would likely only leave me feeling anxious for the rest of the day. My therapist would probably tell me this is progress.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I don’t think this is about people who do it once or twice. I think this is about the mindset that it creates if people make a habit of following people who were toxic to them. People can get way too interested in seeking other people’s failures.
          This is so very NOT you.

          I do think that in some cases, one last look can have some therapeutic value. “Yep, I was right, it wasn’t ME, I made a good call.” This is a very different mindset than a habitual hate googler.

      3. Just Another Techie*

        Every once in a while, like maybe once a year or every two years, I’ll be reminded of my evil ex from college and Google him. I don’t even know why, morbid curiosity I guess? From social media it seems he is not happy with his life which, well, is unsurprising and sad but also weirdly satisfying? I do make an effort too limit myself to no more than 5 minutes or so, so that it doesn’t develop into an unhealthy obsession.

    6. Dona Florinda*

      And it’s one thing to look someone up once because they popped into in your head and curiosity got the best of you, but to do so regularly, especially after ten years…

      But I’m glad LW made the right call, and hope they can move on from the toxic boss.

    7. just another queer reader*

      Yes, I’ve occasionally googled people from my past, but where there’s bad blood, I’ve found it easier to just move on.

    8. Siege*

      I have occasionally googled abusive people from my past (ie, I reconnected with a high school friend on Facebook that I thought might be connected with an abusive ex so I googled his Facebook and confirmed they were not connected and he would not see my posts as “so-and-so commented on…”) but either there is a specific reason for doing so, as above, or else it is a sign that I am entering a deep depressive stage, and chewing over ancient history and wishing for the ability to rewrite it or gloat or some other negative behavior. I would go so far as to say it is never, ever a healthy sign to spend time maintaining a regular connection to people who have treated us badly, no matter how badly, only because they have treated us badly.

      And, OP 2, your first paragraph is entirely defensive and justificatory of your actions. I was genuinely astonished that you didn’t contact the former employer with the tone of “I’m right and I don’t like that Allison told me I’m not right to do this” that your first paragraph (and much of the second, tbqh) has. I think you really need to take whatever steps are right for you to move forward in your life and leave this person behind. Currently, you’ve strapped yourself to an anchor, and it’s going to be awfully hard to grow and develop as a person when you’re strapped to it: it doesn’t care about you at all, it’s just going to sit there and be an anchor.

    9. AsPerElaine*

      I will occasionally google people I used to work with who I’ve lost touch with/aren’t on LinkedIn, but only ever people towards whom my feelings are something like “She was nice! I wonder what she’s doing now, and hope she’s okay!” And, tbh, it mostly isn’t even satisfying, because their name is too common or I’ll find, like, the the theater show they were in in college, but nothing from after I worked with them.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yup, that’s what I’ve done too. I found an old lecturer’s facebook and was tempted to message her and tell her how much I’d enjoyed her classes and how she introduced me to my favourite author, but I was too nervous to, as it’s been 20+ years.

        I did also google my work experience manager that I’ve mentioned here before, just because I’d like to know what she’s doing now, out of sheer curiousity, but again, I have no animosity towards her, even if looking back I can see she wasn’t the greatest manager; she was a good person, just not a good manager. But like you, I can’t find her. Heck, she could have married and be using her married name online for all I know.

        1. Practical Criticism*

          As a lecturer, please do go ahead and send that first message (though maybe to their work email if they’re still employed). As a lecturer, it means so much to me when past students get in touch like this. It doesn’t matter that its been 20+ years; they’ll be thrilled that their teaching stayed with you.

        2. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

          I do think that if you were to message that teacher, and tell her what you told us, it would make her day :-)

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            It would absolutely make their day. My sister did that with one of her professors and the professor wrote back a thank you message saying how much it meant to him. Telling people about the way they have positively influenced you is a very welcome message no matter how long it’s been.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        I’ve occasionally searched for old friends to see if we can reconnect, but it wouldn’t occur to me to look up someone I didn’t plan to get in touch with. I suppose that’s because I just assume people won’t have anything personal on public profiles. If someone were to google my name, the only things that come up are things I’d be happy to share with a total stranger at the bus stop… my line of work, what city I live in, artwork I’ve shown in galleries, etc. Nothing that would give any kind of emotional catharsis. I suppose I just assume that’s the case for everyone.

    10. Mockingjay*

      Yes, there are crappy managers. There are also crappy employees. I have been both of those things and had both of those things over the course of my life. I like to think that I have learned and grown from those experiences. But I don’t dwell on them to the point of tracking former staff.

      OP2, you did learn something and applied it to ensure your employees’ wellbeing. That kind of positive outcome is what you need to focus on. Keep moving forward.

    11. SongbirdT*

      Right. That call out really struck me. I can’t recall ever googling someone from my past. Maybe checking their Facebook once or twice for people whose futures I worried about and am not in touch with anymore. But the jerks from my past? They can stay there.

    12. Be Gneiss*

      I mean, Googling someone from *10 years ago* because you had a dream where you and Joan from accounting were wearing clown make-up and attending a workshop on performative basket-weaving and you wake up thinking “I wonder whatever happened to her….” is sort of normal.
      This, though? Doesn’t seem healthy.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          There is that… alas, while that makes it explicable, that doesn’t necessarily make it, now, the healthiest of responses. I do hope the OP can reach a point where they can let go.

    13. JB (not in Houston)*

      Also, she was googling her *every six months.* That’s more than one random day having someone pop into your head and feeling curious about what their up to.

      Plus, that’s just a really broad statement that assumes everyone is either just like you or a psychopath? I’ve kept in touch with most the people I was close to in the past, so I don’t need to google them. For the ones that I am not still in contact with, I’m at peace with them being part of my past and don’t need to know what they’re doing now. But that sure as hell doesn’t mean I didn’t care about them or that I don’t wish them well now.

    14. Meep*

      I am guessing this is a younger generation thing. I have had two highly abusive older women (twice my age) make my life a living hell at various points in the past 10 years, so I get wanting to “check-in”. Eventually, though, I did stop googling the first. (The other just got out of my life this year.)

      1. Dawn*

        I don’t think it’s a younger generation thing so much as it’s just a “different people are different” thing.

        But also in this particular case this has become an unhealthy cycle where this person can’t let go of it and keeps refreshing the rage and impotence that they felt then.

    15. Foofoo*

      I’ve googled abusive people from my past, but it’s something I might do once every few years out of morbid curiosity and doom scrolling…. I don’t do it every six months, or even once a year.

      It’s one thing to look up someone from an awful time occasionally for shiggles, but if you’re consistently doing it on a timeline, you’re letting them live in your head rent free. Stop that.

    16. Jackalope*

      I interpreted this differently. The OP said nothing about googling abusive people only, just looking up people from your past. I could be wrong, but I think the point was that many people get curious and look up someone from their past so that in and of itself isn’t weird. I know that I personally haven’t looked up anyone who was hurtful or cruel to me but I have looked up friendly acquaintances from high school, distant family members, etc. I get how the rest of the letter would give you the idea that the OP just meant in this one arena but I think it’s a much closer to accurate if you consider it a broader statement.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        I think they’re making the broad statement (which is true and normal) to justify the specific behavior. Like “why is it okay to google your old neighbor/classmate once but when I regularly check up on someone I hate for over a decade people think I’m obsessed?”

    17. Butterfly Counter*

      I totally get why OP would want to do this. It’s a way of trying to continue to protect herself, knowing her abusive manager is still far enough away not to hurt her any more.

      I get why some might think OP would need to move on, that this feels like picking at a scab, and maybe she’ll get there in time, but I get it. It can be a relief to know for sure that a terrible person is still far away.

      1. Moo*

        I thought this as well… sometimes you want to make sure a person is nowhere near you.

        Maybe OP could look at other ways of feeling safe.

    18. Dark Macadamia*

      Seriously! I care about plenty of people… who are in my life now, and treat me well. Randomly googling someone from your past out of curiosity is VERY different from regularly googling someone who made you miserable, especially with a high emotional investment.

    19. to varying degrees*

      I will freely admit to googling people. I google the hell out of everyone; if I met you I probably googled you. I don’t do it every 6 months though (and not ten years after the fact) One and done. Okay, maybe twice.

      I’m glad the LW has found some peace with this part of her past. I’m also proud that she’s been able to help others who have experienced the same situation.

      1. paxfelis*

        Have fun googling me, I’m fictional.

        I will occasionally google someone so I can block them. I have finally stopped wanting to google someone I had an obsessive crush on. And I’ve moved several states, so some of the people I don’t want to run into are now far enough away that I don’t have to be careful about job crossovers, so I don’t have to google to avoid them. These are all normal things. So is google stalking. Normal is irrelevant here, I think.

        OP, why are you still polluting your life with your ex-manager? Don’t you think you deserve better than that?

    20. turquoisecow*

      I don’t think I’ve really ever googled anyone from my past, abusive or otherwise. At most I’ve checked LinkedIn or Facebook for old classmates or coworkers but not regularly, and I definitely don’t have anyone I check on every six months or anything.

      I think I might be in the minority in that I don’t usually Google people at all, but I don’t think I’m in the minority when it comes to regularly checking on individuals.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’d probably check LinkedIn or Google if I had any suspicion that my bad old bosses might work there. I haven’t run into the situation yet because in the time since I worked for the last one (about 7 years ago….dang I am old) I’ve only applied to organizations I knew. Granted, I have only had 2 jobs since then, so it hasn’t come up much.

        1. turquoisecow*

          Yeah, I’m in a fairly small industry so I might see who was working at a particular place before I applied.

    21. Hairdly Working*

      Please don’t criticize others for the way they handle their trauma. They were most likely defensive specifically because of this exact response! While it is likely healthier to cut contact, not everyone is in a place to do that especially when you have unresolved issues and feelings. They are probing the wound to try and figure out the damage.

      Also when LW said that you don’t care about other people I think they meant their opinions, not the warm and fuzzies.

      1. Wants Green Things*

        I mean, sometimes you *do* need to point out that a trauma response is unhealthy and causing more harm. It doesn’t do someone any favors to ignore the harm simply because “trauma.”

        And this is one of those times. This constant checking on exboss is letting her occupy brainspace that could be funneled elsewhere. Like healing.

        1. Lydia*

          I feel like the litany of “I don’t do that” on this particular thread is not helpful and is starting to feel like low key shaming. Especially after the OP feeling like they were piled on when they originally wrote in. I do still look up my abusive ex-boss occasionally because after I thought she was 100% out of my life, she washed out of her higher profile job on the other side of the country and ended up in the small city where my family lives. I am legitimately worried I will run into her unexpectedly. So yeah, this OP’s response completely makes sense to me.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Yeah, I dislike the puzzled “why would anyone do this?” air in the comments and people comparing their non abusive history to someone dealing with the fall out of abuse. It’s super understandable when someone has harmed you to want to keep an eye on that person. To latch onto caring about whether other people are, or could be similarly harmed. To be clear I don’t think this is a good way of healing! But I get it. If OP can resist scratching that itch, they will “care” less and less over time because this person will become less of a presence. It’s a bona fide temptation though, and people saying “Oh well I’ve never experienced that and therefore don’t ever feel tempted like this” are missing that.

        2. jasmine*

          I think there’s a line between pointing something out and a pile-on. Defensiveness is a natural response to the latter.

          A lot of these comments are also have this tone of “well *I* would never do something like this because it’s Bad”and I get part of that is in response to OP saying that everyone Googles people from their past, but some of it does feel holier-than-thou.

    22. Danish*

      I don’t Google people from my past either way. I care very much about the people in my life currently, but being able to move on is a life skill that I think OP 2 should probably work on a little more. It’s just a part of life, you leave people behind.

    23. NA*

      i google all sorts of people, those i know now and those i used to know. i found out my elementary school bully died, i found out a friend of mine had a mugshot on one of those predatory sites which they didn’t know about. i google myself just to see if there’s anything weird. you never know what you might find. i don’t obsessively google.. it’s just one of those things i do sometimes out of curiosity.

      1. NA*

        related, i also sometimes look up myself, my BF, my parents on unclaimed property sites. just in case!

    24. Wince*

      I used to go down a rabbit hole googling a childhood bully from time to time. Then one day I realized that what I experienced while I was being bullied by them was something they had done to me, but the distress I felt reliving it every time I googled them was something I was doing to myself. So I stopped.

      LW2, I hope you’re able to do yourself the same kindness. Good luck.

    25. Wenike*

      I had a bad boss in a previous job (but same company) that I would occasionally (every 6 months or more, depending on if I thought about them) that I’d check their status on instant messaging to see if they were still listed or had left the company.

    26. TeaCoziesRUs*

      To LW2, I have very little desire to Google anyone. Then again, I’m happily married, interact with very few people, and prefer those interactions to be in person and to trust my intuition. Call me old and naive, I guess? I enjoyed online dating in the late 90s and very early 00s – so I guess I never got in the habit of Googling people? I also interact with AAM ten times more in a week than any social media except YouTube – and YT is much more monologue than conversation. :)

  3. let it go*

    Isn’t there some life rule that the car’s rear view mirror is much smaller than the windshield for a reason? You got out from a toxic job, let it go and move on. Put your energy into the new position and don’t worry about old boss.

    1. RuralGirl*

      I heard recently that people who try to navigate life through the rearview mirror are sure to crash. I use it more to avoid worrying about what might have been, but I think it applies here, too. That said, if LW#2 was truly abused by this previous boss, that could easily have created a trauma that is hard to move past. I strongly encourage therapy anytime someone has been traumatized – coping skills are not inherent and if you weren’t raised to learn to cope with that kind of disfunction, you may need help to learn.

  4. Liz*

    Letter #2, I write this gently, stop Googling her. Yes, it is normal to Google people in your life and we all do it with people who are no longer in our live, like ex’s. But it has to stop at some point. 10 years is a really long time, and you deserve to move forward. By checking on her to make sure she isn’t managing others, you’re creating a false sense of reality that you have some kind of control over the situation. When we encounter bad actors in our lives, often the kindest and healthiest choice we can make for ourselves is to accept that we cannot control their behavior and to move forward with our own lives.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Is this really that common? I don’t look up people who aren’t in my life anymore and it sounds like a lot of people in the comments above don’t either. I had no idea this is something people were doing.

      Makes me kind of uncomfy and like I should look into what comes up in my google search…

      1. Smitty*

        It is fairly common. More in a “I wonder how they are doing now” sort of way. The way the OP is looking up her boss is obsessive. Every few years I may think, ” I wonder how Fergus is doing,” and look them up. It’s a bit unusual, in my opinion, to have those thoughts AND to actually Google a former boss from 10+ years ago every six months.

        If this were within a year of leaving the job, it would make more sense to be fresh in your mind, but the OP is very clearly holding onto this in an unhealthy way.

        1. Liz*

          This is a really common thing, although I’m thinking many of the readers here don’t partake in it, and that’s okay. But yes, people are looking other people up on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. all the time. It might be generational, more of a younger millennial/gen z thing. But there are countless TikTok’s, Twitter jokes, and internet memes about “stalking” people online. It is safe to assume that people have looked you up before, and if it makes you feel better, get a good idea of what you have out there on the internet. Usually it is harmless and infrequent.

      2. MsClaw*

        I think *some* people probably do. But there is dropping your kid off at a high school football game, remembering someone you went to a football game with when you were in high school, thinking ‘I wonder what old Vladdy Smith is up to these days’ and googling him. And then there’s googling Vlad on a regular basis when you haven’t seen him in a decade.

      3. Koalafied*

        I set up a Google alert for name when I was maybe 24 or 25 years old and starting out a career in a comms-adjacent field where I might have conceivably started getting media hits as a designated spokesperson type of deal. I don’t think I ever got a hit that was actually about me – but a few times a year I got an update on a name twin about ten years my junior who was some kind of soccer star and was frequently mentioned in her local paper when it covered her championship games. I used to joke that Google wanted to really rub it in that the younger version of me was already more accomplished than I.

      4. Liz*

        This is a really common thing, although I’m thinking many of the readers here don’t partake in it, and that’s okay. But yes, people are looking other people up on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. all the time. It might be generational, more of a younger millennial/gen z thing. But there are countless TikTok’s, Twitter jokes, and internet memes about “stalking” people online. It is safe to assume that people have looked you up before, and if it makes you feel better, get a good idea of what you have out there on the internet. Usually it is harmless and infrequent.

    2. MsClaw*

      I had a boss who ended me up in therapy many years ago. I would gently suggest LW2 work this out with someone. This old boss is taking up way too much space in her head and she needs some help moving on.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. At this point, it doesn’t change anything about the boss or the history, but being unable to move on for LW’s own sake is something LW should address. It will be good to be truly free of this boss by letting the googling go.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      You know, you make a really good point about control and it’s something I tell myself a lot (I have an anxiety disorder that means I ruminate on things longer than most people do, so this comes up a lot for me – I’m not in any way suggesting OP2 has one!). I can only control my actions, not other people’s. I find comfort in that thought now, rather than allowing myself to focus on what those other people are doing that I think is wrong or harmful. And OP2 has actually gone even a step further and focused on what they CAN control, which is their own actions and not allowing their reports to be abused by people under OP2’s management. That is awesome! Focus on that part OP2 and remember you are doing GREAT by your people in this way.

  5. Hills to Die on*

    I would send her a message:
    1. opening with how much I learned working for her and thanking her SO much for the firing.
    2. Tell her how good you have it now and it’s all because of her firing you. Give details.
    3. ‘Sorry to hear that your glassdoor reviews are so low, but please kn0w that if I know of anyone looking for a job that fits the criteria the company is looking for (or is interested in the company in general), I will definitely let them know you are hiring and tell them about my experience there! In fact, it’s a standing offer if you’re ever looking for a job somewhere else.’

    It’s petty af and I am not sorry.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      And I am being sarcastic – don’t REALLY do it. Unless you happen to see her out and about someplace. But the important thing is you are being treated better and I am happy for you!

      1. Seal*

        TBH, I’ve fantasized about doing this! Interestingly, while I’ve run into nasty former coworkers and abusive managers at conferences, I’ve never actually had to say anything like this. They’ll mostly either obviously avoid me or if they have to talk to me it’s hilariously and satisfyingly awkward. Living well is the best revenge!

        1. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

          They’ll mostly either obviously avoid me or if they have to talk to me it’s hilariously and satisfyingly awkward.

          I LOVE this. I worked in an office under a station manager who was convinced she was the biggest, baddest, meanest fish who ever flopped around a tiny pond. About a year after I quit, I saw her walking her dogs in my neighborhood (she lives just under a mile away, it turned out, upon Googling her name).

          I was all set to pretend I hadn’t seen her, since we were about forty feet apart and I was going to be changing directions in a second to get my mail. But when she saw me, she went pale and immediately turned and yanked her dogs back the way she came at a trot. We never had any nasty confrontations while I worked in that office–I am physically tiny, shy in general, always avoided trouble or office drama and gossip, and I never even spoke to her if I could help it because I saw how she abused others in the workplace. It was honestly hilarious to me to watch her run as if she thought I’d come up and kick her. Like, Debbie (I can’t even remember her name now, but I think it began with a D?) thought she was such a big shot bada$$ when she had the power to fire people, but outside of that setting, she knew she was nothing and had the cowardice to match.

          I don’t actually know her address, but sometimes on my walks I’ll see her old car she loves so much in the driveway of a particular home. Then I get reminded that’s her house (I always forget again by a few days later because I just don’t care about her enough to keep her personal deets in my memory). I’ll think, “I should totally come back here in the middle of the night during summer and plaster her car with rotten eggs.” I’m not gonna, but it says a lot about the kind of person she was at work, that I’m still tempted almost 20 years later. XD

          Oh, and I’ve never seen her or her dogs in my neighborhood since that day so many years ago. Since my neighborhood is along the main path walkers take to get to the park nearby, I can only assume she started taking the long way through the mosquito-infested swamp trail. Good. I hope she and the mosquitoes find one another despicable.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Have to admit I actually wrote that letter once. Then later that night I used said letter for kindling to start my barbecue grill (it was a charcoal one with no spark lighter at the time). I found watching the sparks floating up into the air very cathartic.

        Writing the letter isn’t the problem – sending the letter is the problem.

  6. ENFP in Texas*

    From the original letter:

    “When I first started my career about a decade ago, I worked under a boss who was totally abusive in very subtle ways. […] I’ve been googling her every six months since then.”

    LW2: Googling a bad manager every six months or so FOR TEN YEARS is obsessive.

    Holding onto and nursing a grudge FOR TEN YEARS is a problem.

    And still letting it influence you to the point that you want revenge AFTER TEN YEARS is not healthy.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I said this above, but it’s a trauma thing. Especially if OP already has childhood / family trauma. It’s hard stuff to heal and I wish I didn’t know that.
      Abuse does that though. OP, take care of yourself and if you find you can’t let it go pretty quickly, maybe consider therapy. I say it without judgement or malice because I have been there.

      1. ferrina*

        Seconding. Abuse changes our brains, and we pick up protection habits that keep us alive in the moment, but aren’t healthy outside of the trauma setting (because abuse is a trauma setting).

        Googling an abuser may be a way of keeping tabs on them to make sure that they can’t come close enough to abuse you again. While not a healthy behavior, it totally makes sense as a trauma response. This stuff is so, so hard to work past and it’s not unusual for it to take 10 years or more. Therapy did a lot to help me, and there are professionals that specialize in trauma (including workplace trauma).

        1. just some guy*

          It doesn’t even have to be “abuse you again”. Just bumping into somebody like that unexpectedly can be very upsetting even if there’s no risk of past painful events repeating themselves.

      2. Observer*

        I’m sure it’s a trauma response. But it still doesn’t make it healthy. Which is why I think that the suggestion to look into therapy is so valuable.

        OP, the people who are telling you that you are being obsessive and / or acting in an unhealthy manner are not being a bunch of callous sociopaths who gave no idea what abuse can do to you. In fact, if you look you will see that many are actually abuse survivors. And what they are telling you is that your behavior does fall out of the norm, and that it is maladaptive. No one here is worried about the harm that you might do to your old boss. They are concerned about the harm that you seem to be doing to yourself.

        1. jasmine*

          This is true but all the same I wish some of these comments were kinder. Showing empathy and understanding is the best way to ensure someone hears you, especially when they’re already defensive.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Oddly, if there is abuse, or even something that reminds us of past abuse, in current time, that can lead to avoidance behavior where our brains focus on previous abuse.

        There can be a huge sense of loss of power and loss of autonomy. It’s tough to get that back when current time isn’t so hot either.

    2. Beth*

      I have occasionally googled toxic people from my past. I’ve occasionally googled my own name (partly for the fun of seeing the lives of other people with the same name).

      I would guess I do either thing mayyyyybe once every 3-5 years. Twice a year for a decade? No way. None of them are paying any rent to be allowed to take up that much space in my head.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed – a healthier response would be to block the person on LinkedIn and all social media, and forget about them. I did that with a former manager who fired me (for what I was told later was empire building reasons), and who later tried to connect with me on LinkedIn. That was weird.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Blocking is a really good tip actually, especially if you make it really difficult to unblock and forget your passwords etc. Oh and keep a much better distraction to hand when you can’t log in like a stack of books, or chocolate, or a kitty.

  7. JB (not in Houston)*

    LW#1, I’m so glad you’ve moved on to somewhere better! I remember your original letter, and I felt so bad for you. Your boss was such a jerk!

  8. ENFP in Texas*

    Okay, I’m having serious tech issues – my kingdom for an Edit/Delete button. The comment about 10 years was for LW#2.

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

    “I know you read Carolyn Hax, and a couple of people have written in the past few weeks about telling their ex’s new partner about the ex’s abuse. I consider this to be the workplace equivalent of that.”

    There is no workplace equivalent of domestic abuse in this case; and there are rules of etiquette for social/personal situations, that don’t apply or aren’t OK in a workplace. This is a false equivalent.

    1. Siege*

      Yeah, that annoyed me. If that was a thing, then I would be in trouble for the place I worked where I wasn’t a good fit with the other workers. You can’t really call people up and badmouth former coworkers the way you can/possibly should share information about exes with current partners. By definition it’s your opinion and it’s not actionable – and actually, neither is it when you give info about a romantic partner. I had a friend who fled an abusive situation that she had been warned about by two different women when she got involved with the partner, and she dismissed their (accurate) information as opinions, exactly the same way an employer would except that your information may or may not be objectively accurate.

    2. Bernice Clifton*

      I’m not Carolyn Hax, but I actually wouldn’t recommend someone contacting an abusive ex’s romantic partner – too much risk of retaliation and pulling yourself into drama.

      1. Big Bank*

        Yeah, I think similar rules apply. If you’re asked for you opinion by employer/new partner, feel free to give it. If you have a valid current connection to the employer/new partner, you can consider proffering your opinion. Otherwise, not your circus anymore.

      2. squee*

        yeah, same. If the new partner is someone I am already acquainted with: possibly, especially if the history is recent. If not, it’s neither my circus nor my monkeys and all it does at that point is reinforce any badmouthing the abuser is doing about me to make me seem like the crazy one.

        For an employer: hell no. First of all: 10. Years Ago. People change. I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, I have had to grow up quite a lot. If someone from my past contacted my employer out of the blue? I’d be angry as heck, because I want my employer to evaluate me based on who I am and how I perform *now.* And if I were an employer getting contacted out of the blue, I would be more inclined to question the judgment and character of the person contacting me than my employee.

      3. Momma Bear*

        Some people think this is a good idea, but unless it was particularly egregious (like maybe they were in jail for attempted murder) I wouldn’t reach out to an ex and would wonder about someone who reached out to me. What was a deal breaker for me may not be for the next person and that’s her line in to draw in the sand.

      4. turquoisecow*

        Yeah if I knew the new partner well, and the relationship was really new, I might just say something, but honestly I can’t picture a scenario in which that goes over well. The new partner has probably been with your ex long enough to know what sort of person they are and if they haven’t, or they have but they’re in denial about the abuse, they’re not going to welcome “advice” from their partner’s ex. Lots of people will probably just assume that the ex is jealous or is trying to ruin their ex’s life (which is kind of what OP is trying to do – get their old boss fired) and will laugh it off or avoid you.

      5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I definitely wouldn’t do it because you know there is a high, non-zero chance that you have been described in very unkind terms to the new partner. Abusers know to call their exes “crazy”, “vindictive”, “vengeful”, “jealous”, etc..

      6. Wants Green Things*

        I can’t think of a time in recent history where Carolyn Hax has encouraged it either. Couched it in terms of “only if it is safe for you do so and please realize they likely won’t believe you” maybe, and usually followed by a recommendation to talk it over in therapy as well.

    3. Dark Macadamia*

      Yeah this was really weird. And if they really think it’s a valid comparison the LW should’ve been talking about contacting the people who would be managed by their former boss, not the person who hired them, so it doesn’t even make sense if you consider the situations equivalent!

    4. Nanani*

      There is definitely a genre of letter that comes through here where the problem is rooted in trying to apply social rules to work and finding it doesn’t work or makes everything worse.

      Also like, citing one advice column against another like its a precedent in a court of law, lol.

    5. Books and Cooks*

      All else aside, there is a difference between a person who actually physically abuses a romantic partner, and a manager who was kind of a Mean Girl.

      People who hit their partners don’t usually grow or mature out of it, to my knowledge. People who have a tendency to be kind of mean, rude, impatient, dismissive? They often do. It’s been a /decade/ here, OP. There’s a chance that if you worked with this woman today, it would be a completely different experience. (There’s also a chance it wouldn’t be, sure, but still.)

      And most importantly, people who get involved with physically abusive partners are in actual physical danger. A percentage of them literally end up dead. Working for a jerk does not carry anywhere near the same kind of risk.

      These two things are not analogous, at all.

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

        Even growing and changing aside, the betrayal of trust and shattered sense of security and self-esteem stemming from a close family member’s emotional or physical abuse is just a totally different beast from an abusive work environment. I’ve no doubt the OP suffered trauma, but they didn’t (or shouldn’t) have started from an expectation of love, respect, trust and protection from their manager.

      2. jasmine*

        OP said their former manager was abusive which is different than “a tendency to be kind of mean, rude, impatient, dismissive”. Also, domestic violence and relationship abuse are not confined to physical abuse. An emotionally abusive partner is still an abusive partner.

        Abusers of *all* stripes normally don’t change (some do, but it’s a rarity). Abusers tend to carry a particular mindset regardless of who they’re abusing or the type of abuse it is.

        OP’s analogy is flawed, as many pointed out you don’t reach out to an abusive ex or an abusive ex’s new partner either because it’s more likely to hurt you more than anyone else. But I feel like your comment minimizes OP’s experience. We’re supposed to take the LW at her word and she said her old manager was abusive. The level of mental harm done by emotional abuse goes far beyond having to deal with someone “who was kind of Mean Girl”.

    6. Summer*

      Yes! Thank you for this. The mention of Carolyn Hax’s column did not sit well with me and I’ve been scrolling and looking to see if anyone else had noted it. The situations are not at all similar and that LW thinks they are equivalent really makes me question their judgment. LW seems especially rigid – thinking everyone must google people or they are a liar, which is patently ridiculous, kind of raised my hackles.

      Then writing about being able to criticize and fire someone else and having that somehow balance the scales? I’m sorry but the original letter and this whole update rubbed me the wrong way.

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        I had the same reaction. Unless the former boss did something objectively egregious (like sexually harassed you repeatedly or assaulted you), OP’s decade-long obsession with justice seems a bit over the top. OP, please listen to the commenters who are telling you this is maladaptive behavior and suggesting counseling. You’ve suffered enough at the hands of this person. Time to leave your old boss in the past.

  10. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    LW #2 I hope you are able to work through some of this with a professional or trusted person soon. It sounds like you’re still really hurting. Wishing you all the healing and happiness and best things.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Yes. It seems that LW#2 was upset that the commenters told her that her actions were “out there” for someone she had worked with 10 years ago. And she’s still defending herself in her update. I’m sorry to say that her reaction is not normal and googling someone every 6 months is out there. That doesn’t mean her feeling aren’t real and legitimate (it’s most likely trauma), but it does mean she may need professional help letting it go and getting over it. I think her life would be better if this bad work relationship didn’t dominate so much of her thoughts 10 years later.

      I had a bad boss around 15 years ago whose actions were a contributing factor to my career ending later. I think about him/his actions every few months at most and I do not google him at all.

    2. ferrina*

      Sending hugs and love to LW2! Agree that a professional may be worth looking into. You have experienced trauma in the workplace, and that deserves acknowledgement and healing. There are people that specialize in trauma (including workplace trauma).

      I’m concerned because it sounds like this trauma may have miscalibrated your sense of normal (like reaching out to an ex-manager’s new boss). This is super, super common in abuse situations- you develop strategies that keep you safe in the moment and are critical to immediate survival, but those strategies aren’t healthy outside of the abuse situation. I’m a childhood abuse survivor – it’s so common for folks affected at a young age, including as a young adult, to have to spend a long time recalibrating our reactions. We developed habits that we needed to survive, but once we’re out of the abuse situation those habits hold us back. Part of reforumlating habits is letting go of the constant sense of danger (something I struggle with- my brain equates stress with high intensity danger). A professional can be really helpful in helping navigate this process.

      1. ferrina*

        LW2, you may want to look into cPTSD and see if it describes what you are going through/went through. It’s a common reaction to long-term abuse situations. It’s a condition that’s only recently been getting researched, so there’s plenty of people – including professionals- that aren’t familiar with it.

  11. Johanna Cabal*

    LW#1, congrats on the new job.

    How did you explain the firing in interviews and applications? I was fired a decade ago from my second post-college job, and having been successful previously, I found it hard to explain.

    1. urguncle*

      Not LW, but I was fired from the company I worked at before my current company. I treated it the same way I would have treated it if I had left because of a bad boss. Ultimately, it wasn’t a good fit for me, and I can identify what I want to change in the future in my applications and interviews.

    2. Alternative Person*

      Not the LW.

      My experience was technically not a firing, but a contract non-renewal (we had actually agreed a new contract when management rug-pulled me). I focus(ed) on new management changes and the fit element, but the specifics of how I left that job haven’t come up when I’ve interviewed in a long while now, only the tasks I was doing that are relevant to my current work.

    3. Snagglepuss*

      I was fired from my first job out of college after working there almost 3 years. Ultimately, the company weren’t providing the opportunities I wanted to grow my skills and career, but I couldn’t get a into new position quickly enough, and got stuck in the spiral of malaise/depression that demotivated me, impacted my quality of work, and increased my tardiness.

      I explained to future employers that I was let go – the role/company wasn’t a good fit for me for what I wanted from my career, and I should have left the company before it negatively impacted my work.

      That way, I show ownership of my own actions and don’t project any of the blame (even if they sucked because they didn’t ever allow any input or questions from me in team meetings because I was “too young and inexperienced” to know anything valuable, nor did they actually want to motivate and help a young professional grow in a field I was very excited about…but that’s not the most professional thing to put out there).

  12. Dasein9*

    I’m confused by Update #2.
    What does getting someone fired recently have to do with an abusive manager from a decade ago?

    1. lil falafel wrap*

      It sounds like it’s a catharsis thing. Like, “I can’t change the past, but I can make sure that it doesn’t happen to myself or other people in the future.” What’s done is done with her old boss, and the way to move forward from that is not by trying to be involved in her old boss’s current job, but rather to make sure that if she has some say in the matter, she won’t let other people get treated like she was treated by her old boss, including having the person committing the bullying let go.

    2. DisgruntledPelican*

      She couldn’t do anything about the actual abusive manager, but she could project onto this employee and fire them as a proxy.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Yeah that was my take… especially framing it as “I got to criticizes them” as opposed to “I got to coach them.” LW 2 still has some baggage to let go of regarding this whole situation I think.

        1. Kella*

          I think it would be kind to give LW2 the benefit of the doubt and assume this was just awkward phrasing and that the firing was handled appropriately, while also being a source of catharsis in relation to the previous abuse. But this word choice also concerned me.

          What I’m *hoping* OP meant was, “when there was an employee acting in a similarly abusive and inappropriate way, I had the opportunity to actually take action and do something about it, rather than having to helplessly endure it.”

          1. Loulou*

            Yes, this is exactly how I read it too. I don’t think there’s any reason to think OP just projected all over a random person and fired them.

          2. DisgruntledPelican*

            There’s no moral judgement in my words. I don’t claim she erroneously or unfairly fired the employee. But she couldn’t get satisfaction from the first situation, and is now finding catharsis from the first situation in the second which she could get satisfaction from.

      2. ferrina*

        Wow, that’s harsh! Or she was able to recognize the behavior and take decisive action before a toxic individual was able to create a toxic workplace.

        We don’t have enough info to know which it was.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      I think you’re referencing this part of the update:

      I did have a situation with someone that helped put everything in perspective. I was managing a project and found out one of the freelancers was mistreating my colleagues by harassing them, being condescending, unprofessional and being way too entitled. I was able to criticize and ultimately fire her. I was glad I was able to do the right thing–even in just a tiny way–has helped me put my former boss’ bad behavior to rest somewhat.

      The fired freelancer and the abusive manager are connected because they both exhibited bullying behavior. OP2 couldn’t/can’t do anything about the past abusive manager, but they were able to fire the freelancer, and spare their colleagues from some of the harassment. The situation fits with the theme of the original letter and update.

      1. Which Wolf?*

        I don’t know if the OP is reading comments, but I sure want to lean to her experience of paying it forward being such a positive experience for her. That seemed like an effective step in healing the trauma-brain residue. Kudos.
        Anyone you treat well and manage effectively will have more internal fortitude to withstand other bullies, whether they run into ex-boss or anyone else. You got a harsh lesson in what not to do and took it very much to heart.
        And yeah, let karma and the rest of the world fight any future battles with ex-boss; wish her a boss with management skills that are as conscientious as yours that won’t put up with any of her crap. She’s on somebody else’s watch now, you can relax your guard. Leaves more energy to do All The Good Things for anyone (or situation) you manage.

    4. Observer*

      What does getting someone fired recently have to do with an abusive manager from a decade ago?

      It sounds like the OP is saying “I found out that this person was behaving in abusive ways that made me think of my former abusive manager. And I took action to stop it, including getting him fired.”

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      It sounds like she is saying she prevented the freelancer from bullying others like she was bullied.

  13. Bubba*

    LW #2, I am here to say I definitely know where you are coming from. I had a horrible boss 15 years ago. I kept making excuses for her because she had just had two kids in two years and family drama.

    She had set things up so I was running THREE departments (with no prior experience) and she refused to meet with me one-on-one. Meetings with her and my staff were pretty much just her screaming at me for not telling her things that we had discussed in the previous meeting and she had forgotten. Then she’d call me later (while I was in a cubicle and couldn’t speak privately) to talk about why no one respected me.

    I ended up getting therapy for PTSD after that job because I had panic attacks whenever I went anywhere near the old office or places where I could see her and my former colleagues.

    Yes. I Google her. Sometimes it’s so I can know where she is and prepare. Sometimes it’s to make sure she’s not working somewhere I want to work, and sometimes it’s just so I can quietly gloat that I look so much better than she does.

    You’re not alone, no pettier than I am, and it’s fine.

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      I’m sorry for what you went through, but this behavior is not fine. Do not normalize it as fine. You sound like you need more therapy to be able to put this finally in your past. I hope you’re able to do that some day.

      1. ferrina*

        Counterpoint- Bubba is doing pretty darn well, and it’s okay that this isn’t “put in your past”. Trauma doesn’t go away- it leaves scars and aches like an old battle injury. It crops up in really weird ways some times. I’ve long healed from an abusive childhood, but I also live on the other side of the country from my abuser for a reason.

        If the rare Googling is what allows Bubba to live the life they want and deserve, that’s fine. Especially if Horrible Ex-Boss may still interact with Bubba and their career, it’s fine to Nope out of that.

        And I’m definitely not going to judge some petty gloating :) A bit of well-deserved quiet arrogance ain’t a problem!

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Eh. We all don’t have to handle trauma in the absolute best, most perfect, most healthy manner. If the Googling works for Bubba it is fine. Where it is different for the LW2 is that they had wanted to Google and then try to get abusive ex-boss removed from a position where she managed people directly. That isn’t a good coping mechanism because: a) it would likely blow up in the LW2’s face because abusers new boss doesn’t know LW2 but does know the abuser making them more likely to favor the abusers take; b) lashing out in pain is never the right choice

      3. Lydia*

        This is starting to feel like when people say anger is not helpful. Like hell it isn’t. Anything can be a tool and what might not be a good tool for you might be a good one for someone else. I would recommend people stop telling the OP what she *should* do. You have no way of knowing what she *should* do, you can only speak to your own experience and what’s worked for you.

    2. Observer*

      You’re not alone, no pettier than I am, and it’s fine.

      No, it’s not “fine”. The issue here is not pettiness. But unless you have a practical reason for Googling her (eg you won’t apply to a job if she’s working there), googling people like that – especially on a regular basis is maladaptive and unhealthy.

      Please don’t discourage someone from getting the help that could really improve their lives by minimizing behavior that really is unhealthy for them.

    3. Limotruck87*

      I would somewhat agree with Bubba–Googling is a thing some people do. Not everyone does it, which I respect, but it is simply untrue to say only unhealthy people Google those from their past. I’m 8 years out of an emotionally unhealthy marriage where my ex-husband abused me in subtle ways. I haven’t seen him in 7 years. I have moved on with my life, and I, too needed almost two years of therapy to process what I went through and get myself to a place where I could engage in a normal relationship.

      Do I still Google him once or twice a year? Yes. Some of it is curiosity, some of it, as Bubba said, is a way to feel like I am protecting myself by knowing what he’s doing, and some of it is truly the less-noble part of myself checking to see if karma has come around in any form. I don’t think it’s minimizing to say that these are things people do; some of them are more emotionally healthy than others, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a catastrophically damaged person.

      Where I have concern that LW2 may not have fully moved on and may still be battling these old demons is the further step of feeling compelled to reach out to OldBoss’ new job to ‘warn’ them. If I saw my ex in a new relationship I might wonder how that would play out, and even feel a little bad for the new partner, but these are things that are not under my control and not my responsibility to fix. Any new partner would likely have the same view of the same red flags as I did, and if they were determined, as I was, to continue despite them, my input wouldn’t be likely to sway them.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Right. People are in charge of how much certain things affect them, and whether they need to curtail those effects. If googling someone occasionally doesn’t leave you feeling obsessive or drained, if in fact it actually feels pretty satisfying, then there’s no point telling people you know the resulting feelings better than they do. There are definitely times when it’s not great to look up people from the past. There are other times when it’s quite satisfyingly boring, but let’s please believe that people know what they’re about when there is no reason to doubt them.

    4. Alternative Person*


      The professional sphere in my area is quite small and I’ve worked in a fair few places, my contact list is pretty decent. If I don’t know someone directly, there’s a decent chance there’s only two or three degrees of separation between me and a proverbial rando at a potential new job. I’m fortunate in the sense I’ve reached a point where I’ve got a lot of choices in where I choose to work compared to some, but you never know who is going to turn up where and there is a very small list of people who I never want to work with again. A little googling saves a lot of trouble on all sides.

  14. I should really pick a name*

    Kind of jealous that six weeks and four interviews is considered a hard job search :P

      1. Not A Racoon Keeper*

        I don’t think OP was saying that the search was long or involved, but that it’s hard to do a search after someone has crushed your spirit and self-confidence, which….yeah.

        1. Johanna Cabal*

          From experience, I can tell you it’s hard to job search after a firing. I was laid off and then fired from my subsequent job. It was so much easier to explain the layoff (especially considering it was 2009) than the firing.

        2. aiya*

          yeah, I had the same thought (“How is a six week job search difficult??”) as someone coming from a non-tech background. But then I realized that OP works in software, and software interviews tend to involve a lot of long coding exercises and full day-long back-to-back interviews. My partner and most of my friends work as engineers, so I’ve seen how grueling the interview process can be.

          1. Wisteria*

            Depends on which part you are calling hard, I guess. I’m an engineer, and I wish it only took me 6 weeks to get 4 interviews, especially if you only count the full day interviews.

    1. MistOrMister*

      For my first office job….I found it on Monster, applied had one interview and got the job. Fastest process ever. Boy was that experience misleading. I had no idea job searching is not usually that quick and painless!! Every time I job search now I just want to cry knowing it us going to take forever and a day. I am ramping up a job search now and if I manage to find something before New Year’s I will be beyond shocked.

  15. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    For #3, I think the simplest explanation is that the original candidate decided for whatever reason she was not interested in the job, but didn’t want to actually talk to some and say that. I had to turn down a few offers and it did cross my mind to just ghost because I am a people pleaser, I hate saying no (working on that). Some of the people I interviewed with were really great, the job just wasn’t for me. That and few places wanted to know specifics and I didn’t have a polite way to say the hiring manager seemed like a dick. I didn’t ghost anyone, but I could see why someone who’s just not comfortable saying “No” found it easier just to drop the rope.

    1. Moo*

      OP describes a pretty involved recruitment process, so I wonder did the candidate get to the point of being fed up with it…. like sometimes you go along until a point and then you realise “actually I don’t want to work there”… a recruitment process has definitely made me feel like that about a place.

      1. installing updates (17%)...*

        MTE. The way the original letter was phrased, it wasn’t entirely clear if, when they reached out to the candidate, they left a clear message *stating* they wanted to extend an offer. I wondered if the voicemail was something vague, like, “Hi Candidate, this is Employer. We would like to move forward with this process, please call us back at your earliest convenience!” which the candidate interpreted as “We have more steps to our already long and burdensome process, please call us to schedule another interview!” and checked out.

        Or maybe there was some other reason. Same as when employers leave candidates hanging, they’ll likely never know. There’s not really much to do but introspect, evaluate if there’s anything that can be done differently, and move on.

    2. Fanny Price*

      I actually wondered whether the candidate didn’t want the job, but knew that unemployment would stop if she turned down a job, so thought ghosting was the most plausible way to keep payments coming for a few more weeks. That way she doesn’t have to check the “I turned down a job” box but also doesn’t technically have to lie about it.

  16. Hlao-roo*


    Thanks for the update! I’m glad that the ghosting candidate seems to be alive and well, and I’m very glad you found a great person to fill the open role!

    1. Momma Bear*

      I’d just want to know that the candidate was OK, too. I think that’s understandable. I’m glad it all worked out, even if the ghosting itself remains a mystery.

    2. Books and Cooks*

      Yes, I’m glad that OP was able to put her fears to rest there, and very glad she found the perfect employee!

  17. Dr. Rebecca*

    #2, I’m going to be a bit more sympathetic than most here because there are people from my working past who both literally and metaphorically are still following me around and I need to google them to make sure I’m safe, but I’m also going to agree with everyone in that if you’re not in danger from this person, this isn’t healthy.

    Do I google my exes? On occasion. Do I regret it? Every single time I get that sick-ate-too-much-candy feel. I’m indulging in something that brings no peace, creates no happiness, and doesn’t even relieve that much curiosity, and is the mental equivalent of picking at a scab. You are too.

    1. Sunshine*

      I agree with this. Maybe I just hold grudges longer than most, but it’s not that wild to me that someone would regularly Google people from their past, especially when it feels like there’s been no closure. I think it’s a very human instinct to want to see if justice will ever be served. Is it healthy? No, but I don’t think it’s particularly obsessive or stalkerish behavior as some are suggesting. But the LW would do well to find a way to move past it.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        I agree to a point. I can hold grudges for as long as the earth rotates around the sun (and probably longer, really). I’ll confess to Googling or Facebook stalking exes and ex-friends. It happens. Sometimes it makes me feel better, sometimes not.

        But the frequency vs time elapsed is what concerns me. Investing time twice a year for a decade to look someone up is excessive, especially since it causes you pain. I really hope OP is able to digest some of these comments and maybe seek someone to talk through all this with.

      2. Work is personal*

        Stalkerish behavior would be showing up in person to confront or talk to her abuser after Googling them. LW did not do that and to our knowledge hasn’t done anything with their information from Google other than think about their abuser for longer than is healthy. I don’t understand why some commenters seem to be so outraged by this. People are allowed to do whatever they want with public records.

        1. Observer*

          Most people are not “outraged”, but concerned. And, no the OP is not a stalker, although they came pretty close to it in considering to reach out to their old boss’ new workplace.

          The OP is not a stalker or a monster. What they are doing is perfectly legal and, as long as they stick to just googling probably doesn’t even present a moral / ethical problem. But that still doesn’t make it a healthy behavior pattern.

          1. Work is personal*

            Outraged might not have been the right word but there are plenty of people in this comment thread calling her unhinged or crazy. If this is crazy to them, then what do they think of people who actually act on their weird impulses rather than just reading public information online? It just seems like a disproportionate reaction to me, but y’all do you.

            1. Lydia*

              Agreed. Even calling it maladaptive and unhealthy is a bit of an overstep, in my opinion. Coping methods differ for people. The OP would probably get a lot out of therapy, but we don’t actually know if this is taking up a lot of space in the OP’s mind or if people are assuming that.

  18. Work is personal*

    LW2, while I don’t necessarily think your response is healthy, I sympathize. There are definitely abusive people from my past that I still Google occasionally, partly because I want to feel the schadenfreude of knowing things aren’t working out for them, but also partly because I don’t want to go through the trauma of running into them again. Therapy might be helpful for you in terms of learning to let go, but you are not crazy, and don’t let a bunch of judgmental strangers on the internet tell you otherwise.

    And to those insisting that personal situations are different from work situations – where does that boundary lie exactly? If you run into a former boss in a personal setting and they speak to you abusively, is that a work or a personal situation? If you have an ex that stalks you to the point of getting a job at your workplace, is that a personal or a work situation? Both of these things are actual situations I have been in, so I don’t think these things are as clear cut as people are making it seem. Sometimes work IS personal and LW2 is allowed to feel however they want about something as long as they aren’t engaging in illegal behaviors (which they are not).

    1. Wants Green Things*

      I can’t speak for everyone here, but it was googling every 6 months for almost a decade from the original letter that crosses the line for me. Every couple few years, sure. When starting a new job, sure. But twice a year for a decade is letting her exboss take up a lot of brainspace.

      1. Work is personal*

        I understand that and I’m not saying it’s healthy, but everyone deals with situations differently. Yes, every 6 months for almost a decade is more often than most people would Google someone from their past, but what line does it cross exactly? Certainly not a legal one since Google results are public record, and not a workplace one either since LW2 didn’t end up contacting anyone. This is purely their own issue, so I fail to see how this crosses any sort of line. It just wastes time and prevents the LW from moving on mentally, but that’s their call if that’s how they want to live their life.

        1. Wants Green Things*

          The line of healthy coping mechanisms? And originally, she wanted to reach out to her exboss’s new company, which would have crossed a professional line.

          I mean, she’s gonna do what she’s gonna do, but she wrote in to an advice column and people are going to pick, poke, and prod at the wording all day. And when that wording suggests at some unhealthy behaviors, a lot of people will try to steer them around.

  19. MBAir*

    “Don’t get me wrong: I’m still freaked out knowing she’s out there and is probably mistreating others.”

    You are letting this person live in your head rent-free, even now. And equating it with romantic partner/family abuse is kind of insulting to people in those situations.

    Coming from someone who has dealt with bad bosses before that she spent too much time thinking about long after the fact…I think some therapy might help.

    1. Sunshine*

      Abuse is abuse, and a boss can be abusive in many of the same ways that a partner could. We spend 8 hours a day, every day at work – someone can do a lot of damage in that time. I don’t think it’s fair to trivialize what OP has been through just because it wasn’t a romantic partner that caused this.

    2. Nameless in Customer Service*

      And equating it with romantic partner/family abuse is kind of insulting to people in those situations.

      As someone who had abusive parents and an abusive partner, as well as a couple of supervisors I’d call abusive, I don’t think there’s a big bright line between experiencing verbal abuse, manipulation, gaslighting, etc, at work, and experiencing verbal abuse, manipulation, gaslighting, etc, at home. Both can leave lasting impacts.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      It’s very, very difficult to leave a work situation the minute your mental health suffers, because of livelihood reasons and power imbalance and what’s going to happen to your future, and financial worries, and all the grooming. That is the reason that domestic abusers also like to create power imbalance, control the finances, and cut off avenues of escape; because it works. No, they’re not the same, and I wouldn’t say that they were on the same level, but people are being very dismissive of this situation, categorizing it with their own experience of “a bad boss” rather than an abusive one, and doing that thing where they assume an abuser can only work their ways in one context.

  20. Risha*

    LW 2, I really REALLY feel your anger and frustration. I understand wanting to ruin an abusive boss. But unless you end up working with her again, just let it go because it’ll consume your mind. These types of abusive people usually end up ruining themselves anyway since they will try that crap in the wrong place with the wrong person. I know payback is great, and it’s a small world, maybe one day your path will cross with hers again but you’ll be in a better position. But in the meantime, let it go. Don’t waste anymore of your mental energy. Don’t google her, don’t think about her.

    My boss at my former job was a nightmare. She took a disliking to me and no matter what I did, she hated me. I asked her if I did anything to offend her and what can I do to improve our relationship. She hated me and picked on me so much that people from other depts noticed it. She made sexual remarks to me, she made racial remarks to me, she made remarks that tied my race together with my body shape. She compared my parents dying to her dog dying, stating it was the same thing and then said I should be shot like a rabid dog (I’m still mad at myself for not going to HR about that comment). I’m telling you, I wanted to punch her in her face so badly. This was about 6 years ago and I desperately needed that job. I couldn’t tell HR, also all the higher ups liked her because she was a ‘yes’ woman to them. And no one would take it seriously because of course women can’t harass other women. Only men can harass women.

    Her attitude/abusive behavior actually ended up affecting her professional and personally, which I feel happy about. So just let her go from your mind, no matter how difficult it is and she’ll find her own way to get her comeuppance. Use your experience with her to make you stronger, to know what to not tolerate, and to recognize abusive behavior from a manager so you can set your boundaries right away.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah my personal approach is to trust that the universe will take care of a person like that, because no one really needs another arsehole around and people eventually catch on and they run out of road. However I also decide not to watch the show until that shaudenfraude ending happens because the wheels of justice honestly do run slowly. I did hear about some horrendous former bosses who were walked out and fired, but they had a bunch of highs and lows before that point which I would not have enjoyed digesting. I heard about the finale without having to go looking for news.

  21. L-squared*

    #2. I feel like you are still acting like this behavior is normal. Do people google others? sure. Do they do it every 6 months for 10 years? No. That is not healthy nor is it something everyone does.

    I’m glad you wrote in, and glad you were able to update. But the way you are trying to act like everyone else is wrong based on the story you told just isn’t good

  22. Dr. Rebecca*

    To give OP3 a bit of attention, too, I’m so glad your candidate is alive! It’s always good to have confirmation of that, even if you may never get to the bottom of the mystery of what was up with the ghosting.

    1. Ness*

      I wish LW2 had provided more context on the “She once complained because I wanted my name on something I had created” comment from the original letter.

      The boss doesn’t sound great, but not having your name on something you created at work is super normal (as Alison mentioned in her original response).

      In my job as a project manager, I frequently write things on behalf of the higher-ups in my organization, and my (generally awesome!) boss would almost certainly complain if I insisted that my name should be on them.

  23. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

    Congratulations LW #1! Sometimes you’re just someone’s BEC, and the other person can’t tell you why they dislike you because they don’t really know why they dislike you. It’s irrational, and I’m glad you didn’t let it kill your self esteem.

  24. LW2*

    Thank you, Alison! At least you’re being respectful. I really have been through a lot and reading these comments is taking somewhat of a toll/more energy than I would like. Both people I’ve mentioned in my letter were incredibly abusive. I used that word, and I meant it. If you don’t take seriously, that’s not great. Abusive meaning many, many instances of mistreating people in ways that are cruel and grossly unprofessional. I find that many of these comments are incredibly judgmental. I did not mention “revenge” or “enemy”’ anywhere in my letters. Unlike some of you in your comments. Lastly, people seem very defensive about not Google-ing anybody, which makes you seem like you do this too.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      People are reacting to the tone of your update, which was itself very defensive of your practice of googling. I’ll repeat what I said above, then bow out: if you’re not in danger from them, this isn’t a healthy thing to keep doing. Do it if you want, but most people aren’t going to understand the instinct to keep reopening that wound.

      1. LW2*

        I don’t feel like I’m reopening a wound by occasionally looking her up. I also don’t appreciate commenters making assumptions about my psychology.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I think folks are bucking against this sentence:

          “Lastly, show me someone who never Googles people from their past, and I’ll show either a liar or someone who just doesn’t care about others at all.”

          It reads like you are calling a lot of people liars or people who don’t care about others or both. That might not be what you meant to say. I’m guessing it isn’t, but it reads that way.

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            I think this one has some hackles up, too.

            “I was managing a project and found out one of the freelancers was mistreating my colleagues by harassing them, being condescending, unprofessional and being way too entitled. I was able to criticize and ultimately fire her. I was glad I was able to do the right thing–even in just a tiny way–has helped me put my former boss’ bad behavior to rest somewhat.”

            LW, being abused by a boss is absolutely a traumatic thing. I think most commenters are coming from a place of kindness when they suggest that maybe some therapy can help you work through the carryover from that experience.

            1. Observer*

              I don’t really think that that was concerning to most people. In fact, it sounds a bit like a reasonably healthy response. The OP found out that someone was being mistreated and decided that they would take action to prevent the abuse they suffered from happening to someone else. Why is that an issue?

              1. Uranus Wars*

                This is the part I think is the healthiest!

                I think focusing on the fact she was able to spot and stop another employee from going through what she went through in her past could help point her towards healing from it. Different people heal on different timelines and in different ways.

                FWIW: I understand why OP is getting defensive, I am not reading concern in many of these comments. Just outright judgement. But others ARE offering suggestions that can be seen as concerning.

              2. Just Another Zebra*

                At face value, it’s not! But I’m reading it in context with the rest of the letter, and the previous letter. To me it sounds like OP used an opportunity against a direct report for catharsis. Whether that was consciously done, I obviously don’t know. But saying she got the chance to criticize someone and then fire then as a chance to put her boss from 10 years ago to rest… it rubbed me the wrong way.

                I know we aren’t supposed to nitpick, but LW chose “criticize” – not coach, not correct, or even speak with. Criticize. It’s a word that carries, for me at least, some real negative connotations.

                1. Quitting Quietly Since 1999*

                  I agree with this. Instead of criticizing and firing that person it was a chance to be what your bad boss wasn’t, it’s an opportunity for coaching, to see if they can become a better coworker to the current team and at future jobs, instead of using it as a proxy to fantasy fire the boss from a decade ago.

                  LW2 seems really hung up on getting validation about her Googling by goading people into admitting that they Google people, otherwise they’re liars. I had a highly abusive boss at an early job, and I’ve used that experience to be the manager I wish I had back then – and I’ve never wasted one second of my life googling them. I don’t care how or what they’re doing.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            That part. A belief that everyone must be just like you (and lying about it) or devoid of feelings is not realistic or helpful. OP, most people in the comments are disagreeing with you not because they enjoy criticizing you but because your reactions don’t sound healthy for you. You can disagree with that without calling them liars or people who don’t care about anyone. Sometimes it’s good to hear what people are different from you have to say about something. You might pick up a different way of seeing things–something that I’m very grateful to this site for providing me over the years.

          3. Antilles*

            Yes, it’s very much because of that sentence. Not only is it a very aggressive framing, it’s also extremely black/white which is also drawing a lot of the comments.

            There’s a huge range between “never Googled anyone ever because you don’t care about people” and “Googling someone every six months for a decade and counting”. And I think a lot of people in the comments are responding because they really are firmly in that level.

            When someone crosses my mind for the first time in years, I’ll Google them out of curiosity for a couple minutes, then move on to other things and don’t think about them again for years. That says nothing about whether I “don’t care about others” generally, it’s just the reality that we have our own lives and thousands of people have moved in and out of it over the years.

          4. Important Moi*

            “It reads like you are calling a lot of people liars or people who don’t care about others or both. That might not be what you meant to say. I’m guessing it isn’t, but it reads that way.”

            And if LW feels that way? I’m not sure the purpose…people generalize on the internet all the time…this strikes me as oddly sensitive.

            1. But what to call me?*

              Sure, and people call them out on their over-generalizations (which this definitely is) all the time, especially when the over-generalizations are accusatory. People aren’t obligated to ignore a statement like ‘if you don’t do this thing I think everyone does, you’re either this bad thing or this other bad thing’, when the thing itself is morally neutral.

              And it probably doesn’t put most people in a frame of mind to read the rest of the update very charitably, either.

        2. L-squared*

          I mean, no one is making assumptions about your psychology, we are saying that the behavior isn’t healthy. And maybe you are ok with that.

          Me drinking lots of whiskey isn’t healthy either. But I’m not going to get upset when people tell me that.

      2. Work is personal*

        Why do you all care so much though? What does it matter to you what the LW does in their free time if it isn’t hurting anyone else?

        1. Books and Cooks*

          LW is writing to an advice column, and specifically bringing up and discussing the behavior in a very defensive manner. It clearly matters to the LW, and LW wants to discuss it, so we are.

          Plenty of us also actually care enough about people to see in LW’s letter(s) a person in pain, who we feel could benefit from some help. We care about the LW’s behavior because we care about the LW. Most people are concerned when presented with a human being in pain or distress. Maybe LW’s Googling isn’t hurting anyone else, but it does appear to be hurting LW.

          (And if it’s so healthy and fine for them, why do they care so much what WE think about it?)

        2. Coconutty*

          If it were never okay for people to give their thoughts on what someone else is doing, there would be no point in having comments sections anywhere on the internet. People “care” because these are spaces to have conversations.

    2. Purely Allegorical*

      Googling someone once in a while is absolutely not a big deal. Don’t sweat what you’re reading here, I think people are catastrophizing it because the rest of your letter did seem a wee bit defensive and people are conflating the two things.

    3. Risha*

      I wrote above that I understand your feelings and I know first hand what it’s like to have an abusive manager. I also know the feeling of wanting to do something about it. But for your own mental health, just let it go. I mentioned above that maybe one day your paths will cross again and you’ll be in a better position over her. But it’s not healthy for you to google her or look her up. She will cause her own downfall, that’s what happened with my former abusive boss. It was actually beautiful how her professional and personal life crumbled due to her own abusive ways. I know it feels frustrating to know they are successful after all the hurt they caused, but believe me they will try that nonsense in the wrong company one day.

      Let these horrible managers be a lesson to you. Hopefully you’ll never have an abusive boss again, but at least now you know what to look for. And you’ll be able to notice the warning signs early so you can react/set your boundaries or even quit before it gets too bad.

    4. Wants Green Things*

      Only 3 people mention revenge anywhere in the comments, and one of those is “living well.” You’re also the only person to mention “enemy.”

      Look, obviously this is all still affecting you strongly, so maybe the better course of action is to just not read the comments instead of stroking the fire of indignant anger? You know you’re in disagreement with most people, so it’s only going to make you feel worse to keep reading.

      And no, some of us simply just don’t Google people. It’s not defensive but a statement of fact. I feel no urge to look up people from my past, especially those who abused – as in, trip to the ER abuse – me. They’re simply behind me.

    5. Lindy's Homemade*

      Girl, no. This type of obsession is not helping you. This job was OVER 10 YEARS AGO. 3 presidents ago now. I think you need to step away from the computer and go touch grass outside or whatever the TikTokkers say.

    6. Books and Cooks*

      “Lastly, people seem very defensive about not Google-ing anybody, which makes you seem like you do this too.”

      Once again:

      No. We are not defensive about not Googling people. I am not “defensive” about not Googling people. There is nothing to defend. If I did it, I would say I do, because there is no reason not to. Stop projecting your own insecurities onto other people, and insisting that anyone who claims they don’t do this thing you do is a liar instead of accepting that not everyone is you, not everyone does what you do or likes what you like, and you do not know everything. It is frankly rather ridiculous that you keep accusing people of Googling others and then denying it, as if anyone but you thinks it’s such a huge deal that we’d need to hide it.

      (I used the word “enemy” in my first comment. I said I wish even my old enemies well. That wasn’t any sort of accusation against you or a claim that you personally believe you have enemies, and made no judgments about you. I’m not sure why you apparently thought it did, but it certainly was not meant that way.)

      By the way: by your own definition, repeatedly accusing others of lying and of acting in bad faith is abuse. This repeated insistence that anyone denying something must be a liar, and if they deny they’re lying that only proves they are lying, over and over again, is pretty nasty, and is the kind of mind game abusers often play with their victims. Consider that, please.

      I genuinely wish you well. I sincerely hope you feel better soon, and I once again urge you to find a way to put the past behind you, whether that involves speaking to a professional or not.

    7. Summer*

      You said the old boss was subtly abusive in your original letter and the freelancer was harassing people, unprofessional, and acting entitled. That is far different than “cruel and grossly unprofessional.” Commenters only have your words to go on and when you use different words in your letters vs in this comment, that changes things. However, you’re still extremely defensive and really should read the comments with an open mind. People on here are going very easy on you.

    8. LW2*

      Chiming in here once again. If you feel that me Googling some twice a year for five minutes for a whole decade is strange, fine. Valid criticism. But telling me that you never, ever Google anyone, ever, even just for a few seconds is not something I’m willing to believe. You’ve never wanted to know where someone ended up? Never needed to contact someone for a reference and had to Google them? Let’s say you’re a hiring manager. You need to vet them. Googling them would be a part of that. It would also be smart to see how someone is representing themselves online. In my line of work, I am expected to vet people in this way.

      1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        There are probably still quite a number of people who’ve never yet searched for anyone even for a practical reason, e.g. needing a local plumber and looking at reviews. Not everyone is as online as we are, or thinks in those terms; some would ask friends.

        There are probably even more who’ve never done it out of sheer curiosity like “whatever happened to so-and-so”. I personally have, at least two or three times (not with great amounts of success – a name alone doesn’t get you far unless it’s an unusual name), but I can easily think of people in my life who probably never have. You’d have to both have that kind of curiosity and be techie enough to know how to go about it. Not everyone fits that description.

      2. Wants Green Things*

        Ah, goalpost moving by changing how you define “googling someone.” You know very well that looking someone up because you lost their contact information is different from looking someone up from high school because you randomly thought about them is different from looking up an exboss to make sure they don’t work were you’re applying is very different from constant and regular checking on a person who has caused you harm.

        Look, in the grand scheme of things, you won. You got out from under her, continued moving ahead in your career, and have learned how not to manage people through her abuse. So why are you still letting her have space in your brain?

        1. LW2*

          She is not occupying massive space in my mind. I already said that. You are making a huge assumption about how I feel under the total guise of actually caring. That is the totally uncaring.

          1. Liz*

            A lot of commenters here have been kind and expressed concern because they care. It is a completely fair assumption that this is taking up space in your brain, because that would be the case for anyone who writes in about anything. If you take the time to write in and ask for different perspectives, then the thing you’re writing in about is taking up space in your brain! That’s not a bad thing; it indicates thought processing and is human thing to do. In your letter, you said, “Don’t get me wrong: I’m still freaked out knowing she’s out there and is probably mistreating others.” Readers are just reacting to your language. That’s all we have to go on.

      3. M*

        I don’t feel that it’s strange. I feel that from another person’s perspective, considering that you’ve followed their movements and were going to contact their current employer, it is deeply problematic and had you gone through with it potentially would have even had legal consequences for you.

        A different person could write a letter of the perspective of your former boss and the comments would be on her side.

        Why is it appropriate in your mind for you to disbelieve that others don’t follow up on those they believe to have wronged them, to actively and unkindly call them liars, but is inappropriate to you for people to disbelieve your perspective of events in your story?

    9. Hannah Marin*

      LW2, I want to say that I am completely on your side, and I think people are being unfair to you. I had an incredibly abusive and manipulative boss about 8 years ago, and I still haven’t recovered. I don’t necessarily need to Google her because we’re in a small profession and her name pops up every few months, usually in a way that I find enraging (she thinks she’s a professive, nurturing manager, and it’s completely counter to everything I and others have experienced working for her.) But I am constantly worried about encountering her at conferences or in other contexts, and I do keep tabs on her so I can avoid her and her sycophants. I haven’t been able to find a good therapist, but I definitely have PTSD from her… and I’m not using that word lightly. I have flashbacks, anxiety attacks, etc. whenever I hear her name or have to deal with her.

      What’s amazing is that a couple of years ago, she applied for a job with my current employer. I completely flipped out when I saw that we were interviewing her. She would have been my boss if she’d been hired. I went to HR and told them about what I had experienced with her, and that if she were hired here, I would feel forced to leave. She ended up not getting the job, thank god! So while it didn’t bring about her downfall (she’s still powerful and somehow well respected in the profession), I did manage to avoid having to work for her again or look for a new job. And I’m SO glad my current colleagues don’t have to experience her abuse. So I completely understand where you’re coming from, and I don’t understand why people are piling on you at all.

      1. LW2*

        Thank you for this. Thank you. People are so not understanding about abuse in any way. It’s the sort of thing people have to experience to understand fully. Plus, they’re really projecting all these emotions/feelings on to me in ways that I’m deeply bothered by. I didn’t mention games, winning, enemies, revenge anywhere. It’s not about that at all. Stick to my words, and take them at face value. Plus, if your argument is that I’m hurting myself by Googling her, well, you’re hurting me by making all these assumptions about how I feel.

        1. Seashell*

          If you’re still suffering from your boss’ behavior from a decade ago, then therapy or other mental health treatment may be in order. Periodic Googling that brings you no joy and encourages you to stay in someone else’s business seems obsessive to me. I wish you luck and good health.

      2. LW2*

        Also, I’m really sorry to hear this happened to you. I feel your pain.

        I also didn’t think people would be so harsh with me when I literally took no action against my former boss who hurt me over and over again.

        1. Beer Me Some Common Sense*

          LW2, I think one of the disconnects is we don’t know your full story. People aren’t necessarily calling you out, but the little information we have to go with doesn’t totally line up with your responses and reactions. The hardest part is understanding tone in text. Unfortunately it’s easy to get the tone wrong, but a lot of your responses have coma across as defensive and ramped up. We don’t know all the things she did to you, we only know a couple small instances, so it’s hard on this side to equate all of that to heavy abuse.
          I do feel for you. I also had a past boss that was AWFULL. She literally screamed in my face while I was holding my 8 month old son. I don’t doubt your boss was horrible to you, and of course you don’t have to give us all the details, but i think people overall are trying to be helpful and want you to get to a happy and healed place.

    10. M*

      People are highlighting to you, deservedly, that it is not helpful to continually look up these people and is unhealthy.

      But as to your insuation that others are doing something wrong by not agreeing to your claims that these people were abusive, we are all the the main characters of our own lives.

      You could read someone else anonymously discussing that their boss fired them without notice, coaching, or appropriate lead up due to projecting their own past from their boss. You could read someone saying a former embittered employee was stalking them for ten years and tried to contact their current employer. Both of those people may use the word ‘abusive’ as you have here to describe their situation. But knowing that you are the person they are discussing, you would object to that. So you understand on some level that the mere word “abusive” does not make someones perspective of their situation above reproach.

  25. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

    OP#2: I would have been tempted to say something as well. It doesn’t matter how long ago the abuse happened (an infuriatingly dismissive thing idiots say all the time), the point is how impactful and damaging it was. This clearly was that, so I understand completely why you’d want to say something now, and why you keep tabs on her.

    I’m so sorry you went through this, and at such a foundational time for you. Take care!

  26. NNT*

    I was in a similar position to LW2, in that I had an absolutely horrible boss early in my career who made my life hell for years. I warned everyone I could to never ever work there- it’s been 7 years, and if someone reached out to me tomorrow and asked me about him, I would not hesitate to warn them to stay away at all costs. So I empathize! Truly!

    But I have never googled that guy, not even once. Because doing that does nothing but fuel my already too-high anxiety, and I can’t spend my time mentally going back there. It’s certainly not because I somehow don’t care about people (?). That said, people process trauma differently. I have known people for whom keeping excessive tabs on someone who caused them trauma in the past brings them the sort of peace that comes with knowing where everything is. It isn’t what I would do, but I do plenty of things that other people might find bizarre, so as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, YMMV.

    The most important thing here is that LW2 is taking those lessons forward in their career, and will not stand for that kind of abuse to employees being perpetuated in front of them. That’s a great legacy to come from a terrible situation, and Sometimes, that’s the best you can hope for. We don’t always get to have our revenge, even when it’s richly deserved. I’m glad they didn’t give in to that impulse and end up harming themselves in the process.

    1. All Het Up About It*

      I think this whole post comment is very much on target! I get why others are feeling defensive regarding the LW’s defensive sounding update. I think that if they had come at it as “while this might not be healthy for many of you, this is how I’ve decided to best manage my trauma” instead of essentially calling so many of the commentariat liars or uncaring, this thread would have taken a different tone.

      All that being said, I do hope that LW2 sees comments like yours here!

      1. But what to call me?*

        I think that’s it exactly. In general, readers are sympathetic to OP2’s situation, and while people might hold some concerns about managing it in that way it wouldn’t be hard to respect OP’s decision to do so if that was how it was presented. Instead, OP tried to normalize it specifically by saying that anyone who says they don’t do it is a liar or uncaring, and has since dug their heels in on that point. The accusation turned it into a big thing that people fixated on more than they otherwise might have. (I know it irritated me, who can’t even recall whether I’ve ever googled anyone.)

        I honestly don’t think it’s that bad to look up what the old boss is doing a couple of times a year. Maybe it would be better to let it go, but that’s probably not what’s keeping it fresh in OP’s mind. It might be something to work on while working on moving on in general, but it’s more of a symptom than a cause. The danger is when it comes to acting on whatever you find there, like with contacting the boss’s new company when you don’t have any connections there to vouch for you. What are they supposed to do with that information from a stranger? But googling the boss? Not the worst thing in the world, just by no means universal. (And also not correlated with caring, because why would it be?)

  27. Nevian*

    LW#1 and everyone, really – please don’t believe anything positive you read on Glassdoor. My previous HR person was happy to gloat about a contract with Glassdoor/Indeed to remove any negative reviews of our company. They’ll gladly take money to change some star ratings around. And they don’t even charge that much money for that service. It’s about as honest as Amazon/Yelp reviews.

  28. Julia*

    LW#2 I had a similar situation of Googling an abusive person and also some thoughts on how I navigated that.

    I had an abusive ex-GF who I used to Google periodically to see what was going on with her life. We were in the same social circles and I wanted to be able to avoid her. Another reason I did it was to see if she was abusing a new person. It helped me avoid her and it felt calming to see she wasn’t in a new (possibly abusive) relationship.

    Something I realized was that I wasn’t sure what to do if she was seeing a new person. Should I tell them? Would I have listened if someone had told me? How would I even have described it? I also felt like checking on her kept the awfulness front of mind. It was a good coping mechanism until it wasn’t helping me.

    I don’t think you have to stop but it might be worth reflecting on this with someone outside of the situation. I worked with supportive friends and therapist to slowly reduce my Googling. It was really helpful for me to think about what I would do if I thought she was abusing another person. I worked my way to Googling every three months and eventually decided to stop. Thinking

    You worked out what I think is the hardest part: how to respond if you saw her managing people again. That’s fantastic and I’m glad you were able to do that with help of AAM.

  29. Rowena*

    #2 With all the talk of trauma response I am shocked therapy or other mental health care hasn’t been suggested (at least not in the very long scroll I did). This doesn’t sound healthy simply because 10 years is a long time to be thinking regularly about someone you don’t like unless you have PTSD from it or are otherwise stuck in a trauma cycle. Add in the vengeful language and all I hear is pain. (That is looking for a new target based on the “criticize and fire” comment, which unless the OP is not a native US English speaker is a very odd and inappropriate choice of words.) I hope the OP is able to see beyond the pile-on and see that there are people who have gotten through things like this and that they can too, but that they may need to seek out some mental health care to get the tools to do so. Therapy, a support group, or whatever sounds doable to them could be a big step in helping them move forward. Best of luck OP, as someone else said, life os too short for this kind of negative emotional investment. Especially when it doesn’t seem to be offering you much comfort to continue to run this circle.

  30. Seashell*

    I have definitely Googled people from my past, including people I disliked, but I never planned to do anything with that information beyond perhaps telling someone else who knew them what I found if it was remotely interesting. I think that’s where the difference lies between the typical Googler and the OP, as well as the frequency and persistence of the Googling.

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