In late August, a guy wrote to a workplace advice website called Ask A Manager with "a conundrum," as he put it. And quite a conundrum it was. The guy's ex was about to become his boss, he lived in a foreign country without other employment prospects, and he had ended his relationship with that ex in probably the worst way possible.
Let's start with that.
Apparently, this guy had lived with his girlfriend for two years before he decided the relationship wasn't working for him. This is how he ended it:
"Over the Christmas break, while she was visiting her family, I simply moved out and left the country," wrote this dude, and you're getting happier and happier to know he's screwed now. "I took advantage of the fact that I accepted a job in [another] country and did not tell her about it."
More than 10 years later, he found out that his new director at the international school he worked at was going to be, naturally, the ex-girlfriend he just up and vanished on a decade ago.
The commenters, as well as the Ask A Manager columnist, had basically no sympathy for this unabashed doofus.
"Be aware that apologies are going to sound pretty hollow and self-interested now," went the response, "since you had 10 years to apologize and are only doing it now that she’s in a position of power over you."
Jeez. That is some absolute juicy drama. Well, guess what. Now there's more. The guy wrote back in to Ask A Manager, and provided some much-needed context and a much-anticipated update. From the mouth of the horse himself:
His ex-GF is doing fine.
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.
As far as work—well, there's plenty of updates on that, too.
HR is your friend.
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.
The meeting. Dear god, the meeting.
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.
And yet, despite the employers' decision not to immediately fire him for his ghosting behavior of years' past—the meeting ended with the same result. Here's where it gets a little vague and unbelievably intriguing.
What were the "measures"? WHAT WERE THE MEASURES.
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). I do not want to go into too much details but 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.
Luckily, the columnist reached back out to him. The guy had mentioned how badly his employers wanted to avoid workplace gossip and to that end, here are the "measures" they demanded he follow if he wanted to work with his ex:
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.
So basically, our anti-hero here had to promise not to gossip about his ex... and he refused. The whole situation would obviously be fraught with complications and would certainly be unbelievably awkward, but they agreed to let him stay on. That wasn't good enough for him.
"The internet craze just added an extra bizarre layer to it," the guy ended his update.
Well. Sure. You can read his full update here.
Commenters were typically unsympathetic:
"This was everything I hoped it would be, and more."
"The restrictions they wanted to place on you don’t seem that onerous to me, but I guess you’re the best judge of that."
"This person is alarmingly not self-aware of what his actions do to other people, and while it sucks to be without a job I’m having trouble garnering up some sympathy."
What do you think? And keep in mind that you will be reported to HR for commenting the wrong thing.