One of the most underrated platforms for bonkers content on the line is Ask A Manager. It’s a long-running blog operated by former chief of staff at a non-profit Alison Green, based around a Q&A format where readers send in their tricky workplace management quandaries and Green helps them unpack the situation.
Sounds pretty innocuous, but many of the questions Green gets sent represent the darkest imaginable underbelly of workplace culture – a shocking exposé of the human condition like no other. Seriously, I encourage you to find the gems in amongst the endless repeats of “someone is stealing pens, and I simply must identify them.”
But it all pales in comparison to this absolutely demented entry, which – if real – could be both the most incredible feat of ghosting ever documented, and also the purest instance of karmic retribution since the dawn of time.
Basically, this bloke has sent in a simple query: what do I do when a woman I ghosted is my boss now?
I have been an expat since graduating and have been moving a lot. More than a decade ago, when I was still young, I was in a relationship with a woman, Sylvia, in a country where we both lived. Sylvia wanted to settle down but I was not ready to commit so young. We clearly had different expectations from the relationship. I did not know what to do and, well, I ghosted her. 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.
Anyhow, fast forward to now. 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.
You might be thinking what I was thinking when I first read this. Sure, ghosting isn’t very nice, and you shouldn’t do it. If you’ve been seeing someone for a little bit, it’s good practice to either make it a real thing or tell them why it can’t be a real thing. But it’s not the worst thing, and Sylvia’s initial response sounds like a little over the top.
Well, uh, not so much. Green wrote back to find out exactly how long the relationship had been going on – y’know, for context – and the reply casts something a different light on the whole situation:
We were together for three years and lived together for two of those years. I know that ghosting is not a way to end the relationship but I cannot do much about it now. I appreciate the trouble you are taking with getting back to me.
Uh, my dude. Vanishing from someone’s life after cohabitating with them for two years isn’t called ‘ghosting’. It’s called ‘faking your own death’. No wonder this poor woman contacted your family.
As expected, Green comes down pretty hard on this fella – given that he’s asking for sympathy after inflicting the emotional equivalent of a hydrogen bomb on someone.
Normally I’m a fan of people putting aside personal emotions in order to conduct themselves professionally, but I don’t even know what that would look like for Sylvia in this situation. She’s most likely going to be shocked and horrified when she finds out that you work at her school, and that she’s supposed to manage you.
I don’t know that you can salvage this! It’s not reasonable to ask Sylvia to manage someone who she has this history with. You can try and see what her take on it is, but I’d be prepared to have to move on, whatever that might look like for you.
Seriously, read the whole thing. Nuts. If it’s a troll, it’s a damn good one.