Last August, popular workplace blog and advice column Ask a Manager featured a question which was destined to become legend. The subject of the letter was “I ghosted my ex, and she’s about to be my new boss.”
Over the Christmas break, while she was visiting her family, I simply moved out and left the country. I took advantage of the fact that I accepted a job in other country and did not tell her about it. I simply wanted to avoid being untangled in a break-up drama. Sylvia was rather emotional and became obsessed with the relationship, tracking me down, even causing various scenes with my parents and friends. … I now work as a math teacher in an international school. I have been in other relationships since, so Sylvia is a sort of forgotten history. Sadly, till now. This week, I learnt that our fantastic school director suddenly resigned due to a serious family situation and had to move back to her home country over the summer. The school had to replace her. We are getting a new director. I read the bio of the new boss and googled her and was shocked to discover it is Sylvia. We have not been in touch and do not have any mutual friends anymore. I am not a big fan of social media and had no idea what she had been up to since the unpleasant situation a long time ago.
Ok, fine, whatever. Relationships are hard and sometimes things happen, yadda yadda yadda. EXCEPT, it later came out the he ghosted her by just up and leaving after three years of dating and two years of living together. Five years together and dude just BOUNCED LIKE THAT. The level of savagery is almost incomprehensible.
You know what they say, no truly horrific past relationship screwup you made the mistake of blasting on the Internet goes unpunished! The letter-writer gave us an update for seemingly altruistic reasons (“I promised to give you my update”) but I mean, can we trust this guy? How can we trust this guy?!
Anyway, he first goes on to express his surprise at his letter going viral.
I admit I wrote my original email in a state of panic. … I can say that in no way I expected that writing to a very popular but a niche professional blog would result in such Internet s*t storm. I am sorry for not engaging with your readers, but given the toxicity of many commentators, I did not seem much sense in doing it. I am still very much freaked out about the whole experience but since I promised to give you my update, here it is.
Well, that toxicity is something you should be well familiar with if you have any sort of moral compass bro. He goes on to Sylvia was doing perfectly fine without him (GO SYLVIA, GO!).
Those who blamed me for ruining Sylvia’s life for good were wrong. She has done very well for herself. She is married, with kids and her husband is originally from here. They relocated because of his business opportunity, not because she would be stalking me or would orchestrate this in some elaborate vendetta. It is a crazy coincidence but as some readers pointed out, our professional world can be very small.
He then wrote how he decided to take Alison Green’s advice, which first let him know he caused “serious emotional destruction” and to expect Sylvia’s reaction to be “shocked and horrified” and that she isn’t really sure it’s a salvageable situation. Sounds about right. But proactively, she told him to contact Sylvia ahead of time, acknowledge the devastation he wrought, apologize sincerely, and ask her what she wants to do.
I immediately reached out to Sylvia, along the lines of your kind advice and also offered to discuss the way forward in person. Here, I appreciate many useful comments from your readers on what to write. She did not get back to me. I was not sure she was still using her old email address and with a return to school day fast approaching, I re-sent the email to her new work email. I also dropped a short message to the HR, without providing full details. Next morning (Sunday!) I got a call from the chair of our board of overseers, asking me to meet him as soon as possible.
Here’s what happened next:
I met with him, together with Sylvia, the same day. As you can imagine, this meeting was incredibly embarrassing for me, personally and professionally. Fortunately, unlike some of your readers hope, they did not think the past failed relationship was a sackable offence. At the end, there is not that much interaction between the director and employees on daily basis. The chair was more worried about possible gossip and related implications for the organisation. Ours is an expensive enterprise, this is a conservative place and nobody wants any scandal. At the same time, they considered it was necessary —as they framed it — to put some measures in place to avoid possible problems in the future. I was also told in no uncertain terms that although the schedule for the year was already set, it was far more difficult to replace the director than an employee (me).
Dude goes on to list the measures:
The measures included things like we are never to talk to each other without a third person present, all meetings documented, no discussion about her and the management with my colleagues, not even in watercooler chat, limit our interactions beyond the school, meaning no socialising for me. I do not understand how this could work. It would be very much out of character for me and my colleagues and friends would get suspicious. Although not presented at such, it felt very punitive. … I found the proposed measures rather excessive. It would make my position unattainable, even in a short run. Therefore, I resigned on the spot. My resignation was later accepted.
So, at the end of the day, IT ALL CAME FULL CIRCLE:
In a summary, as many of those self-righteous people on the Internet hoped, I came out of this with no job, no severance and no prospect for another job in this city. Obviously, I have to leave as I need to make a living. I will be shortly moving back home for several months to work as a substitute teacher, with an agency. I will see what next later. So I had my comeuppance.
Oh and he lost his current girlfriend, too:
I am most certainly not asking for pity. I only wish there were not other individuals bearing the blunt of my immaturity in the past. (My partner cannot join me due to visa issue and family situation.)
Then he blames nepotism for the loss of his job, which probably played a role, but also let’s be honest dude. You had what was coming to you.
I do not know how it was for Sylvia. I have not seen her since. She seemed fine. She was not gleeful, very matter of fact, saying it was possible to work together and etc. The chair did most of the talking. I found out later that her husband comes from a prominent family here, everyone knows them. Nepotism is prevalent in this culture and family status really matters. The chair knows them. I just do not understand why she had to get him involved. We could have tried to sort this out between us first, no need to go to the top immediately.